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A Single Man





(OUT OF 10)

Colin Firth scored a much-deserved Oscar nomination for his turn as George, a British man teaching college in America in 1962 who is having a hard time adjusting to the death of his partner (Matthew Goode). His sadness is so overwhelming that he doesn't even notice news of the Cuban Missile Crisis on the car radio.

Tom Ford's heartbreaking directorial debut is a devastatingly beautiful look at a man who has no desire left. Sleepless nights—and the pain of waking up after he's actually managed some slumber—have become too much for him to deal with, and he's come to some grim determinations about the future. But then he experiences a reawakening of sorts, a momentary healing that gets him to a point where he might be able to soldier through, one day at a time.

Firth is brilliant as he shows the inner workings of an intelligent man in severe emotional and physical distress, while a small fraction of him still yearns for life's gifts. Ford shows us the world through George's eyes, as colors become more vivid; faces become more beautiful; and hope begins to emerge.

Julianne Moore is excellent as a woman who has strong feelings for Christopher, but will never get to fully realize them. She only has one major scene in the film, but it makes a big impact. Nicholas Hoult is also very good as Kenny, a student who tries to get closer to George.

It's a real stunner, and Firth has never been better. I can't recall a film that conveyed the drunkenness of sleepless nights and emotional desolation like this one does. The world through Christopher's eyes is a sad dreamscape where tremendous things try to peek through.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A director's commentary and a making-of featurette. It's also available on Blu-ray.

Stones in Exile





(OUT OF 10)

I've been on a rock-documentary kick lately. I've watched a bunch of them in the last couple of weeks, and this one was my least-favorite.

It tries to tell the story of Mick and his boys putting together Exile on Main St., including drug-bust drama and Keith's massive reliance on chemicals. Because they didn't have enough archive footage for a feature, filmmakers utilize fake re-enactments—there are lots of shots of stand-in hands playing guitars, holding cigarettes, etc. That sort of stuff bugs the living shit out of me. Just use stills!

As for interviews, Mick and Keith do offer up some present-day insights, but nothing they say is all that mind-blowing. Jagger and Charlie Watts head to France where the Stones, exiled from London due to tax problems, recorded parts of the album. They have a couple of boring observations, and that's about it. The likes of Jack White and Sheryl Crow are also interviewed, and they are also uninteresting.

I've always thought the Rolling Stones were a little overrated. There, I said it. That said, I'm fully capable of enjoying a documentary about them. I can honestly say I like the album that inspired this movie, but the film is a mixed bag, at best.

Watch the new Rush documentary instead. Those guys are much more lovable.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Extra interview footage, and more footage of the band talking, and stopping by studios and one of Jagger's houses. Boring.

The Last Station





(OUT OF 10)

Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren are aces as Leo and Sofya Tolstoy during his last year on Earth. When a young Tolstoy fan (James McAvoy) gets a gig as Tolstoy's secretary, he gets close to the legend while finding some hot love of his own.

If I'm making the movie sound a little trite, that's because it is. However, Mirren and Plummer absolutely make the most of it, and elevate the picture to something worthwhile. They both got Academy Award nominations, and while I might have put a couple of performances before them, they were more or less deserving.

Paul Giamatti, as Vladimir Chertkov, is his usual great self as a man determined to change Tolstoy's will so that Tolstoy's properties are made public domains. The character is a great example of a heartless guy who seems to think he's doing something for the good of man, but he's really acting to satisfy his own political obsessions.

The ending of the movie doesn't seem to jibe with actual history, but few historical dramas stick close to the truth these days.

Seeing Plummer and Mirren share the screen is worth the price of admission. The Last Station is no classic, but it will do.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The special-features collection here is quite good. An audio commentary from director Michael Hoffman, Plummer and Mirren is a must-listen. You get outtakes and deleted scenes, too. This film is also available on Blu-ray.


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