Monday, October 11, 2004

Recent Movie Rentals

With the start of the fall TV season and the general busyness of my life recently, I haven’t rented as many films and have thus gotten off track with my “Weekly Rentals” blog entry. To make up for some lost time, here is a rundown of the movies I have rented over the past few weeks:

ANGELS IN AMERICA (2003): This six-hour miniseries from HBO recently swept the Emmy awards---justifiably so. Featuring a crème de la crème cast, this drama based on Tony Kushner’s play follows three interconnected stories set in Regan-era America at the outset of the AIDS epidemic. The screenplay is also by Kushner, and I found myself awed at the electric, high-caliber dialogue. While the “marquee” names Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson definitely shine, the performances of actors Justin Kirk, Ben Shenkman, Jeffrey Wright and Mary Louise Parker carry the film. Angels in America does require a major time commitment—2 discs, each 3 hours in length—but it is well worth it.

SWINGERS (1996): I needed a lighthearted antidote after Angels in America, and this comedy featuring John Favreau and Vince Vaughn hit the spot. Swingers follows a group of hipster guys as they struggle with life and love in modern day Los Angeles. Favreau and Vaughn are so “money” in a film that sparkles with witty dialogue and hilarious moments while showing a lot of heart. This is one of those films that I just never got around to seeing when it came out—and I can’t believe that I’ve waited so long to do so!

THE STATION AGENT (2003): This independent film features Peter Dinklage as a dwarf named Fin who moves into an inherited train station in rural New Jersey. The film quietly follows Fin as he forms an uneasy friendship with a gregarious Bobby Cannavale and an emotionally damaged Patricia Clarkson, and attempts to make his place among the townsfolk. I have not seen Dinklage in other roles (although his Internet Movie Database profile shows he has several films in the works and a solid resume of stage roles), but his brooding, introspective performance here points toward a long and stereotype-shattering career.

THE LADYKILLERS (2004): I was very disappointed I this film. I recently viewed the original British version and loved it, and since this re-make is in the hands’ of the Coen Brothers, I had reasons to be optimistic. The 2004 version transfers the action to the rural South and employs Tom Hanks in the role of the dandified leader of a bumbling gang of crooks. It just doesn’t work. The biggest flaw for me was turning the Louisa/Marva character from a sweet innocent to a sassy force of nature. The Coen Brothers are usually so reliable, but this was definitely a misfire.

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