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.
"South Pacific: In Concert from Carnegie Hall"
The DVD world is ever expanding to include so much more than movie titles. Many of these discs do not fit neatly into an established SOFA CINEMA category. Voila! POTPOURRI is born.
Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific" has been filmed several times. There's a 1958 theatrical version starring Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi, a 2001 television adaptation starring Glenn Close and Rade Serbedzija and then there's the best of the lot, the 2005 concert version starring Reba McEntire and Brian Stokes Mitchell.
By its very definition, a concert version implies no costumes and no sets and the actors read from scripts while standing in front of a symphony orchestra.
How could this be better? "South Pacific: In Concert from Carnegie Hall" is the best version because:
• It allows the theme of James Michener's "Tales of the South Pacific" (the book on which the musical is based) to shine through.
• Of the many shows Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein collaborated on, "South Pacific" still is relevant today and the messages are honestly and engagingly relayed in song.
• As Emile de Becque, Brian Stokes Mitchell proves once again he is one of the best voices to grace the Broadway theater scene in years.
And most of all, the concert version of "South Pacific" is the best because:
• Reba McEntire is Nellie Forbush! Known primarily as a headlining country singer, McEntire brings just the right amount of Southern charm to the role, as well as a voice that never hesitates, even with the pressure of a New York audience and a live recording.
There is something magical about live performances, even those captured on tape. And this "South Pacific" is pure magic.
"Election" is a fictional movie and in no way relates to the current political climate and the shenanigans that accompany every actual election.
Reese Witherspoon was 23 at the time she filmed "Election" and has no trouble passing for the effervescent, bubbling, overachieving high school senior Tracy Flick. She wants desperately to succeed at any cost and her goal is to be student government president.
Mathew Broderick is Jim McAllister, a dedicated teacher and loving husband who strives not only to teach his students the difference between morals and ethics but tries to live by the high standards he professes. As Mr. M strives to be a good role model and loving husband, his standards become increasingly difficult to maintain. With the upcoming student election, his world starts to unravel.
"Election" is cleverly scripted and directed by Alexander Payne ("Sideways" and "Without Schmidt") and because of the various verbal and sexual situations is worthy of its R rating.
Whether that adds to your interest in a movie or causes you pause, it shouldn't get in the way of the irony of this film.
Turn off the campaign commercials and turn on "Election" for comic relief from the political actions that bombard the airways.
"Cool Hand Luke"
With a career spanning more than half a century, it is difficult to choose one film to review following Paul Newman's death. The film "Cool Hand Luke" is set in the South and centers around an odd mix of prisoners who spend their days on a chain gang.
Luke is not a typical inmate, if there is such a thing. Initially jailed for decapitating parking meters, his time "inside" keeps being extending due to his lack of conformity to prisoner procedures. He initially spends time in the "box," an isolated sweat box, for insubordination and his troubles with the authorities escalate from then on.
Revered by fellow inmates (including recognizable faces in George Kennedy, Ralph Waite, Dennis Hopper and Wayne Rogers), Luke was despised by the captain in charge, Strother Martin. The pace and intonation of Martin's delivery of "What we have here is a failure to communicate" is nearly impossible to shake long after the movie's end.
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg and based on Donn Pearce's novel of the same name, the cinematography of Conrad Hall so well depicts the sticky heat of the South, you might find yourself longing for a cool glass of lemonade at picture's end.
Unlike Luke, Paul Newman absolutely had the ability to communicate and "Cool Hand Luke" is just one of his films that always will remind us of that fact.
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 email@example.com.
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