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Please don’t take the commentary on the movies and TV shows too seriously, as they’re meant not to be reviews but rather previews that include the general thoughts and ramblings of a twice-committed DVD addict. The categories represent solely the author’s intentions towards the DVDs at hand, and are in no way meant to be a reflection on what he thinks other people should rent or buy. So if he ends up putting a movie you like in the “Skip it” section without having seen it, please keep in mind that the time you could spend leaving a spiteful but ultimately futile comment could instead be used for more pleasant things in life. Like buying DVDs.
I want to love W. a lot more than I actually do. The concept is great, attempting to satirize the most hated president the US has ever had by painting a sympathetic portrait of the man and allowing his own actions to speak for themselves. It’s not very successful though, never seeming to know exactly what it wants to be. Sometimes it feels like a straightforward biography; at others it feels like an unfunny SNL sketch (e.g., every scene with Thandie Newton). The finished product is less a movie and more a flimsy amalgamation of random moments from Bush’s life. Since the film (having been made before Bush was even out of office) already lacks any sort of historical perspective, I really think it would’ve played better had it focused more on its narrative structure, telling its story chronologically as some sort of absurdist fantasy where this drunk college kid with a rich dad ends up controlling an entire country (and then subsequently subjecting the whole world to complete chaos). You could kind of already get a sense of that basic concept in the film, but like so many of W.’s ideas, it eventually gets lost in the shuffle. Josh Brolin is great in it though.
Notable Extras: Audio commentary with director Oliver Stone, a “Dangerous Dynasty: The Bush Presidency” featurette, a “No Stranger to Controversy: Oliver Stone’s George W. Bush” featurette, and deleted scenes.
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Spike Lee‘s Miracle At St. Anna is definitely not the type of movie you want to see tired, in the early morning hours. But that was my experience. I’ve seen many World War II films over the years, and Anna is distinctly a Spike Lee Joint. It has the obvious race perspective war story you expect, mix one part combined murder mystery (which is used as a framing device), and the obtrusive bass-y grandiose score (ala Inside Man).
If you’ve seen the trailer then you know that it all begins with a random murder at the post office, with a teller who kills a customer with a German Luger. Joseph Gordon Levitt plays an eager fast talking reporter, who along with a murder detective (John Turturro), wants to get to the bottom of the mystery. Burried in the teller’s closet is the head of a 450 year old statue, which has been lost since WWII and said to be worth more than $5 million if sold on the black market. And that’s just where the story begins. We flash back to 1944, and we are told the story of four black Buffalo soldiers (Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller) who are led to slaughter by a newly appointed dimwitted Caucasian leader (of course).
They come across a slightly traumatized 9-year-old Italian boy named Angelo, who has been hiding in a barn during an attack. He talks to an imaginary friend and bonds with one of the soldiers, who he calls “the chocolate giant”. They bring the sick child to a nearby Italian village, where they are taken in by an Italian family. I won’t go much further because you must experience the rest of the story yourself.
The film drags greatly at 166 minutes, and some of the race discrimination scenes seemed forced, out of place, and sometime dispensable (for example one flashback which shows the group being told to leave an Ice Cream parlor), even if they might be historically accurate. The action sequences are both gritty and violent, everything you expect from a post-Private Ryan war film. But it is the smaller character moments which make up Anna’s strength. I think I need to see the film again outside of the film festival, hopefully later in the day when I’ve had more rest. I’m going to reserve giving my usual /film rating until then.
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Spike Lee’s big screen adaptation of James McBride’s Miracle at St. Anna chronicles the story of four black American soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division who get trapped in a small Tuscan village on the Gothic Line during the Italian Campaign of World War II. The film deals with the Sant’Anna di Stazzema massacre, but is structured with a Titanic/Saving Private Ryan flashback plot device involving a priceless Italian artifact, which is discovered in a murderer’s closet. The sculpted head from Ponte Santa Trinita, valued at $5 million, is a clue to a mystery that began 39 years earlier, when the soldiers found themselves trapped behind enemy lines and separated from their unit after one of them risks his life to save an Italian boy.
Miracle at St. Anna stars Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller, Matteo Sciabordi, John Leguizamo, and Joseph Gordon Levitt. Judging from the trailer, Spike Lee might be heading for an Oscar nomination with this one. Tell me what you think in the comments below.
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You can watch the trailer in High Definition on Yahoo. Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna will hit theaters on September 26th 2008.