The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Depending on your source for DVDs, they may or may not be available that particular week, so you may want to clip the SOFA CINEMA column for future reference. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.
"Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day"
If you saw "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" in the theaters, you were one of the few. One of the benefits of DVD viewing is that the opportunity to watch nonblockbusters at a reasonable cost lessens the level of disappointment. Not that "Miss Pettigrew ..." isn't worth renting. It is.
Frances McDormand stars as the hapless governess who has difficulty enjoying lasting employment. Set at the start of World War II in London, the times are dire for this inept Mary Poppins. But, as luck or fate would have it, Miss Pettigrew steals a business card that opens doors for her. Actually, in particular, one door swung open with great abandon by Delysia LaFosse played deliciously by Amy Adams.
What unfolds in this one-day drama is hardly believable. Outside of some clever exchanges of dialogue, the script lacks plausibility and the predictability of events is as challenging as a game of checkers with a 3-year-old.
And yet? There is McDormand, one of the finest, most under-used actresses of the day. And there is Adams, who enchanted viewers as the princess in "Enchanted" and promises to be one of the finest actresses of her generation.
"Miss Pettigrew for a Day" is a fine DVD rental for one of those lazy, rainy days when you don't want to think too hard.
"The Conscientious Objector"
Unrated: suitable for teens and older
It is hard to remember a time when the United States was not at war somewhere. It also is hard to remember when our soldiers returned home with, for want of a better phrase, the "thrill of victory." Many World War II veterans are interviewed by director Terry Benedict in "The Conscientious Objector," and their recollections from more than 50 years ago stir emotions long forgotten.
These veterans were called upon specifically to share their experiences with Desmond Doss, a fellow soldier in their unit.
Doss was unique. He worked in the shipyards and could have received a deferment but insisted on enlisting and serving his country. He was also a Seventh-day Adventist and his religious beliefs were such that he could not and would not carry a weapon. The Ten Commandments were strictly followed by Doss.
His life's beliefs as a conscientious objector during months of boot camp and training were challenged daily, but he never wavered and insisted he didn't want out of the service. He wanted to serve with his fellow soldiers as a medic in combat.
The movie business has profited greatly depicting great battles and portraying heroism with violence. Desmond Doss, because he didn't carry a weapon, was the antithesis of that glossy image and yet, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic acts in battle, the only conscientious objector to be given that honor.
"The Conscientious Objector" is not a slick piece of filmmaking, but it is the most real, the most honest, the most eye-opening example of courage in the face of the terror of combat.
"Legends of the Fall"
The theatrical tagline for "Legends of the Fall" is, "The men of the Ludlow family. A woman's grace brought them together. Then her passion tore them apart."
That three-sentence tag pretty much sums up this 1994 epic drama set in the wilds of Montana, but if you used taglines like Cliff notes, you would miss the "meat" of the story.
The Ludlow boys are as different as three stray pups in the pound. But these lads are all fathered by Colonel William (Anthony Hopkins) whose wife exits the Northwest for the big city in the opening five minutes of the film. She left behind Alfred (Aidan Quinn), Samuel (Henry Thomas) and Tristan (Brad Pitt). The lads quickly are introduced to beautiful Susannah (Julia Ormond) and the saga begins.
Director Edward Zwick is no stranger to expansive storytelling, having been at the helm of "Glory" five years prior. He has a way of adding the expansive horizon almost as a cast member, drawing the audience into the love affair not only of the lads, but of the land. Cinematographer John Toll contributed beyond measure, and James Horner's musical score runs the gamut of emotions.
Period pieces like "Legends of the Fall" have the ability to transport us to another place and time. Lifestyles may have been different then, but it's amazing how the qualities of human nature ring true for the present time.
Rebecca Redshaw worked in the film industry in Los Angeles for 25 years. A novelist and playwright, she has published in numerous magazines and newspapers in addition to teaching fiction. She is the Arts & Entertainment critic for the international entertainment Web site NotesFromHollywood.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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