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Quartet

“Ah, Bach!” If you’re a fan of M*A*S*H, you’ll get the reference. Hawkeye advises classical-music neophyte Radar to use the phrase as a catch-all to impress a nurse. Still cracks me up. That said, here we go:

“Ah, Verdi!” If that means anything to you at all, then it’s quite possible you’ll like Quartet. For what it’s worth, my mother was lukewarm about it; Arty Chick’s mother loved it. Both know their stuff when it comes to classical music. The film is about a home for retired musicians who put on an annual concert/fundraiser to celebrate the birthday of Italian composer Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi. Think The Golden Girls meets The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, only never quite as fun or funny, despite excellent performances by a bevy of British royalty of stage and screen.

Review: Incitement

Talk about a film that is hard to watch! In this political thriller, you’re watching the evolution of assassin Yigal Amir (Yehuda Nahari Halevi), a law student who decides that it is religiously justified to murder Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin because he is signing a peace treaty with the Palestinians. It was in September 1993 that Rabin sat down with PLO Chairman Arafat and President Clinton and hammered out the Oslo Accords, sending the Orthodox Israelis into the streets to protest the agreement because it was giving up territories they believed were theirs by God-given right. Incitement is a film that takes you inside the ultra-Orthodox community where all question of right and wrong are vetted by rabbis, and their view is that Rabin is a traitor to the Jewish people and murder is justified. And while it may take place a couple of decades ago, it doesn’t seem like much has changed in Israel or many other places around the world where extremist ideology can subvert democracy. It’s a scary movie.

Mainstream Chick’s 2013 Year in Review

I don’t particularly like lists – especially where movies are concerned because so much depends on what you’re hoping to gain, and the kind of mood you’re in. I generally want to be entertained. If I leave a theater happy, or at least content with what I saw, then the movie did its job. With that said, here’s my list of the best, worst and not bad flicks from among the dozens I happened to see in 2013. Click on the titles to see the full review (don’t worry – they’re short and sweet).

THE BEST:

1. The Way, Way Back 2. Rush 3. Side Effects 4. The Conjuring 5. 12 Years a Slave 6. American Hustle 7. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 8. Saving Mr. Banks 9. Man of Steel 10. A 10-way tie among the following: Frozen, Philomena, Captain Phillips, Gravity,Enough Said, The Butler, The Kings of Summer, 20 Feet from Stardom, The Book Thief, Prisoners

Unfinished Song

Unfinished Song isn’t exactly a comedy – unless, perhaps, you’re comparing it to the likes of Amour. Then sure, it’s a hoot. The film tackles a rather sensitive subject – death – with poignancy and humor and a heavy dose of melancholy. So let’s call it what it is – a melanchomedy. It’s a slow, sweet and funny indie in the vein of a Quartet or Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Now You See Me

So I had a choice of overlapping screenings: After Earth (a sci-fi adventure with the father-son team of Will and Jaden Smith) or Now You See Me, a heist movie involving a quartet of illusionists. I chose the latter. That was probably a wise choice given the less than stellar buzz I’m hearing about Earth. But Now You See Me isn’t all that great either, despite having a few good tricks up its sleeve. Overall, it’s a decent movie for anyone in the mood for a moderately entertaining mind-bender with a solid cast. Or, if you’re a fan of magic and illusion and need to get The Incredible Burt Wonderstone out of your head. If Wonderstone had gone down a somewhat dark and twisty path, this is where it might have led.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of those movies to which close attention must be paid. It is a dense story full of twists, turns and quiet intrigue. There are no car chases, explosions, or running gun battles. It’s a cerebral and still spy thriller; a nice change of pace from what so often falls into the “thriller” genre these days.