Films Review June


Jack Nicholson delivers a heartfelt performance as Warren Schmidt, a 66-year-old insurance salesman trying to adjust to retirement and spending every waking moment with his wife Helen (June Squibb). Looking for meaning in his life, Warren decides to sponsor a Tanzanian boy, hoping that his letters and money will provide him with a sense of responsibility. When Helen suddenly dies, Warren uses the recreational vehicle he bought for his retirement to drive cross country for his daughter Jeannie’s (Hope Davis) wedding to Randall (Dermot Mulroney), a waterbed salesman, in Denver. Warren’s trip is filled with life affirming encounters and revelations, ending with the meeting of Randall’s divorced parents, the free-spirited Roberta (Kathy Bates) and sour-on-life Larry (Howard Hesseman). Directed with precision by Alexander Payne (“Election), and co-written by Payne and his partner Jim Taylor, “About Schmidt” is a smart and funny character study that never disappoints. Nicholson and Bates received Academy Award nominations for their performances, opposite ends of the spectrum who eventually arrive on neutral territory. (New Line Home Video)


Most milestones are marked with a party, and even though the champagne loses its fizz before the final reel, “Die Another Day,” is still cause for celebration. The twentieth film in the James Bond franchise, “Die Another Day” arrives forty years after the release of “Dr. No.” “Die Another Day” also marks Pierce Brosnan’s fourth appearance as Bond, and he has matured nicely into the role. After three films, Brosnan brings just the right amount of personal and professional baggage to the role. He’s still easy on the eyes, but this Bond is more rugged and assured. The screenplay by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade is equally rugged, but nearly as assured. In many ways, they bring out the best and worst of Bond. They stick to the popular formula of espionage, babes, bad guys and close calls, but in an attempt to attract teenage boys, pump up the action to the point of idiocy. The action in Bond films has always bordered on the absurd, but in “Die Another Day” it becomes comical. However, those willing to suspend disbelief will be in for a grand time. “Die Another Day” isn’t the best Bond film, but it sure is a lot of fun, especially for fans, who will appreciate homages to previous entries. Please click on title for complete review. (MGM Home Entertainment)


“The Guru” is one of those goofy little movies that seems to come out of nowhere and totally charm the pants off you. Jimi Mistry stars as Ramu, an Indian dance instructor who loves American movies, and decides to leave India for New York with the hopes of becoming a star. In the Big Apple, Ramu learns that the American Dream isn’t free, and must pay his dues with low-paying, menial jobs like working as a waiter. Looking for work as an actor, Ramu stumbles into the adult film business, where he meets star Sharonna (Heather Graham). Sensing Ramu’s reluctance, Sharonna agrees to teach him how to become comfortable with his body in front of the camera. When Ramu and his cousin are hired to serve at a party, he agrees to stand in for a drunken swami, using Sharonna’s life lessons as his mantra. Before long, Ramu finds himself in high demand, dispensing Sharonna’s wisdom as his own, becoming a celebrity in the process. Director Daisy von Scherler Mayer mixes Bollywood with Hollywood and comes up with a winning combination that riffs on everything from “Grease” to New Age gurus. Mistry is adorable as the sincere Ramu, while Heather Thomas shines (as always) as the porn star keeping her day job a secret from her firefighter fiancee. Marisa Tomei co-stars as an insecure socialite who uses Ramu’s advice to blossom. (Universal Studios Home Video)


After a ten year absence, director Werner Herzog returns with “Invincible,” a fascinating and compelling film about Zishe Breitbart (Jouko Ahola), a Polish-Jew blacksmith whose great strength attracts a talent scout for the evil and sinister Hanussen (Tim Roth), who runs the Palace of the Occult in Berlin. Set in 1932 just as Hitler and the Nazis were coming into power, Herzog’s film follows Breitbart’s transformation from a simple man to the perfect Aryan specimen, forced to change his name to Siegfried and wear a blonde wig. The naive Breitbart enjoys the attention, but slowly begins to understand his position as a propaganda machine for the Third Reich, finally exposing himself as a Jew. The true story is filled with memorable performances, from Roth’s menacing businessman who exploits every opportunity with the hopes of becoming a member of Hitler’s cabinet, to Anna Gourari as Marta, the woman Breitbart loves from a distance. Strongman Ahola brings a sweet, naive innocence to his performance, doing exactly what is required of him. (New Line Home Video)

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