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Weekend!Movies: Film royalty, African refugees, a strange toy and a sharp shooter
Edited by Anne Marie DiStefano
In 12th-century Britain, King Henry II (Peter O'Toole) appoints his best friend, Thomas à Becket (Richard Burton) as Archbishop of Canterbury, hoping to ensure a convenient coexistence of church and state.
Unfortunately, Becket takes his duties more seriously than expected, setting up a fateful conflict between friendship and duty.
This 1964 adaptation of the play by Jean Anouilh (unavailable on DVD and nearly impossible to find on tape) is a generally successful attempt to transform a more intimate stage work into an epic film. But even opened up to include some handsome exteriors, it's stillBurton and O'Toole'sclash of the titans that powers the proceedings.
Following his star-making triumph in 'Lawrence of Arabia,' O'Toole roars as the flamboyant, headstrong Henry, while Burton broods and simmers as hediscovershis true calling.
They make a surprisingly briskbusiness out of what might have been pretty stodgy going, andthey're usually together in the frame(today, there'd be too much cutting between closeups).And those frames are part of a great new widescreen print that provides the perfect showcase.
- Pat Holmes
'God Grew Tired of Us' (PG)
Could you walk a thousand miles across the desert, stopping only to bury your dead brothers? If you didn't have enough food, would you share your rations with others, and tell jokes to distract from your hunger? Could you work three minimum-wage jobs to wire money to your faraway family?
These experiences, so alien to most Americans, are a reality for the African refugees featured in 'God Grew Tired of Us.' The documentary introduces us to the plight of displaced Sudanese boys, known as the 'lost boys,' who fled genocide in their homeland and grew up hungry and orphaned in a camp in Kakuma, Kenya.
The camera then follows several of the boys - now men - as they relocate to America.
The Africans experience Pittsburgh and Syracuse, N.Y., with, at times, a humorous naiveté - for instance, they initially eat butter packets whole, and are entranced by light switches.
But as the film goes on, they also display a heightened human sensitivity. Against a backdrop of blasé American life, they pose provocative questions about religion and traditions, and bemoan the fact that 'nobody talks to each other.'
The lost boys' struggle isn't alleviated by the promise of American prosperity - on the contrary, it continues throughout the film. But, remarkably, so does their humanity and hope.
- Anne Adams
'The Last Mimzy' (PG)
Sweet doesn't have to mean saccharine, and it's always refreshing to discover a movie for children that neither talks down to them nor drowns them in sentimental overkill.
Based on the 1943 short story 'Mimsy Were the Borogoves,' by sci-fi author Lewis Padgett, the film retains the story's premise while dragging it full-on into 2007, bringing with it a surprising amount of wit, thrills and intelligence.
As siblings who find a mysterious box from the future, young actors Chris O'Neil and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn are charmingly free of the usual kid-actor annoyances.
Their parents (Timothy Hutton, Joely Richardson) are neither stupid nor uncaring, as is usually the way with such films, and with the help of the boys' science teacher (Rainn Wilson) they actually help, rather than hinder, the kids' journey.
It's the rare film that keeps adults on the edge of their seats while still keeping younger viewers enthralled, and 'Mimzy' is truly a picture that the entire family can enjoy wholeheartedly.
- Dawn Taylor
Cinetopia, Pioneer Place, Lloyd Mall, Hilltop, Division Street, Stark Street, Bridgeport, Roseway
Hired to prevent a presidential assassination, master sniper Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) is instead framed for another murder and nearly killed by his employers. Needless to say, those employers (including Danny Glover) have greatly underestimated their hired gun.
In the '70s this would have been a Burt Reynolds project (it even has Ned Beatty on hand as a shifty senator) - in the '80s or '90s it could have been a Sylvester Stallone vehicle.
Wahlberg, who is best as part of an ensemble rather than in a lead, doesn't carry the film the way either of those guys would have, but he handles the running, jumping, punching, driving and, of course, shooting with acceptable muscle.
It's nice to see an action picture that avoids Michael Bay-style bombast, even if that's about all it does. It's such standard stuff that you'll be hard-pressed not to start forgetting it even before it's over.
The highlight turns out to be a brief appearance by Levon Helm as a wizened but chipper gun guru consulted by Swagger. It's not often you remember an action movie for a conversational exchange rather than an exchange of gunfire.
Cinetopia, Pioneer Place, Lloyd Center, Hilltop, Division Street, Stark Street
Also new this week:
The mystical and the profane collide in 'The Holy Mountain,' the 1962 head trip from cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky (Clinton Street Theater). 'Forty Frames: A Living History of 16mm Film' kicks off at the Northwest Film Center with three short experimental films by Ben Russell, who will be present to introduce his work (7 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, Whitsell Auditorium). And mark your calendar for the start of both the Faux Film Festival) and the Longbaugh Film Festival on Thursday, March 29.