30 April 2009

Marvin's Room (starring Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio and Diane Keaton)

I was going through a phase of wanting to see almost any film with Meryl Streep in it - she is so very good in every role she does. So 'Marvin's Room' went on my wishlist, and one of my relatives kindly bought it for me.

It's the story of two sisters. Bessie (Diane Keaton) is almost too good to be true, caring for her bed-ridden father, and her eccentric Aunt Ruth. Almost, but not quite...

Her sister Lee (Meryl Streep), by contrast, has made her own way in the world as a single mother. She has a rebellious 18-year-old son, and a quieter younger son who is something of a bookworm.

The two sisters have been estranged for nineteen years, but finally get together again when one of them receives bad news.

The production is good, and the acting excellent. Meryl Streep excels herself as Lee, by no means typecast yet totally believable. There are some moments of humour that made us chuckle, and some medical moments that were so realistic, they made us cringe. The family dynamics work well, and it was encouraging to see the potential for healing – no spoiler there; this is part of the blurb on the back of the DVD.

Unfortunately, we thought that the movie ended far too suddenly, leaving far too many threads wide open. It wasn’t a particularly encouraging ending, either, so despite an excellent film so far, it left us with a bit of a bad taste.

Rated 12 in the UK, PG-13 in the USA; this is probably because the subject matter is really unsuited to younger children, plus some fairly minor bad language.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

27 April 2009

Music of the Heart (starting Meryl Streep)

'Music of the Heart' is one of the many DVDs recommended to me by Amazon, possibly because of others which I had previously rated, or perhaps because I particularly like films starring the brilliantly adaptable Meryl Streep.

They certainly got it right with this particular movie.

'Music of the Heart' is based on a true story. Roberta (played by Meryl Streep) is devastated by her husband’s sudden departure, made all the more difficult because she needs to support her two young sons. She manages to persuade the headmistress of an inner city Harlem school to take her on as an extra music teacher, to teach children to play the violin.

The music teacher is highly cynical and the Head is not sure it’s possible… but Roberta has her own unique style, and over time she works what can only be considered as miracles in the most unlikely of children.

The theme is a bit like that of my all-time favourite film, ‘Mr Holland’s Opus’ and similar stories. It’s heart-warming, very moving in places, and extremely well made. The children are delightful, the sub-plots keep it moving, and the ending truly magnificent, with a text epilogue explaining what happened in reality. Meryl Streep, it need hardly be said, is perfect for the starring role.

Absolutely wonderful. I’m sure I’ll be watching this one again, and I don’t say that very often about any DVD.

Highly recommended.

Rated PG in both the UK and USA, probably because of some mild language and minor suggestions of intimacy. Unfortunately very expensive currently at Amazon UK, but often available used, or at other sites.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

23 April 2009

A Handful of Dust (starring James Wilby and Kristin Scott Thomas)

'A Handful of Dust' is one of many movies that was given away free in Saturday newspapers, and given to us by a relative. It sat on our shelf for a while, but finally we decided to watch it.

It is based on the book of the same name by Evelyn Waugh. have not read the book – and, having now seen the film, am not remotely inspired to do so.

The story begins by featuring an upper class couple who are reasonably content, living on a huge estate with one young son. Then the bored wife decides to have an affair. Disasters strike, and the action moves to Brazil.

While there is the occasional humorous moment, the general tone of the film is very depressing. I kept hoping it would get better, but it didn’t. I suppose the theme is that each of us is nothing but a handful of dust.

On the plus side, there are some high-profile names in the cast, all of whom played their roles believably and well. There are some attractive settings in the locations. But overall, I thought this film rather miserable, and don’t plan to watch it again.

Not recommended.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

07 April 2009

About a Boy (starring Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult)

'About a Boy' is is based on the novel of the same name by Nick Hornby, which I read about six months ago and enjoyed very much.

Hugh Grant is excellent - as ever - in the starring role as the non-working, rather shallow, but immensely likeable Will. Nicholas Hoult is his 12-year-old co-star, as the all-too-responsible Marcus who is loved but rather neglected by his strangely flaky mother.

Marcus is decidedly uncool and gets bullied at school. Will - who is something of a womaniser - comes into his life after inventing a two-year-old son, a ploy that allows him to meet single mothers...

As with the book, this movie is an interesting mixture of pathos and humour. Near tragedy in places combines with some highly amusing moments. Towards the end, the film did rather veer away from the plot of the book (unless I have entirely forgotten some parts of it, which is entirely possible) but as a story, it works well.

'About a boy' is rather more thought-provoking than a lot of modern films of this genre, and very well done.


Unusually, I even watched the extras that came with the DVD. The deleted scenes gave more that was in the book, although we could see that they were not necessary for the film. The 'making of' was reasonably interesting, but nothing special.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews