...The brightest spot in this summer of Hollywood's embarrassment...


An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            Boring movies are opening and languishing at the multiplexes for lack of any relief coming in from the bullpen.  Most of them are insults to audiences of any age.  Movies are peaking in popularity; People are trying to escape the steady heat, the economy, and the news; and yet Hollywood continues to treat summer as a dumping ground for films they wouldn’t think of releasing during the winter.  

What’s good?  There are a few to applaud.  Hallelujah for My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  Since opening in the spring, the year’s super sleeper film has been playing to packed houses all over the country by national word of mouth.  The brightest spot in this summer of Hollywood’s great embarrassment, it is an endearing family comedy that is likely to please everyone of any age.  There is a grand reservoir of gratitude for the spontaneous laughter created by writer/director/star, Nia Vardalos.  She telegraphs some of the lines and delivers others as surprises.  You will smile your way through this movie.

                What’s a movielover to do?

1)       See Greek Wedding again. 

2)       Take a child you love to see Stuart Little II.  The way of the Little family, “The Little Way,” is to be optimistic, and optimism is the operative emotion in this grand movie about a family that blends humans and animals in a way that envelops the theater in genuine kindness. 

3)       Steel yourself for sadness and go to Road to Perdition to remind yourself how absorbing good acting and good filmmaking can really be.  Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law and young Tyler Hatchling bring director Sam Mendes’ wrenching film to life.  Unfortunately, be warned that the violence essential to a story about hit men is a tough sight – more so, perhaps, because the actors have made you care about the characters.  No special effects gore, none needed when real life was bad enough. 

4)       Go quickly to see The Emperor’s New Clothes, opening in August with a lovely performance by Ian Holm.  Playing both the arrogant emperor and the humble fellow with whom he trades places, Mr. Holm is by turns poignant, funny, and wicked.  Take the whole family.

After this, resort to video rental.  Your own home can never mimic the cool peace of a darkened movie theater, but all of life is tradeoffs, right? 

If you want to reach for something really eccentric, rent Cold Fever, an oddly rewarding, warmhearted trip through the frozen landscape of Iceland with a young man on a mission.  Try In the Bedroom, The Dinner Rush, The Dinner Game, Unfaithful, About A Boy, Last Orders, and The Deep End.  Good movies, all of them.  In September, when Hollywood begins to send us films as good as these again, you can go back to movie going as it’s meant to be.  For now, enjoy cheap popcorn from your own kitchen along with some really good movies.           

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