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Arty Chick’s Seven Picks: Week 10

This week is heavy on movies about couples. They include rom-coms and complicated relationship stories, and the characters range from criminals to musicians to politicians, from kings to bakers. The genres include classic dramas, and film noir, and brilliant satire. And there’s a good dollop of sex, for good measure.

They’re mostly from the 80s and 90s, though one is from the 60s. And something they all (except one) have in common is that they were nominated for a lot of Oscars, and won quite a few.

 

The films are: Moonstruck, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Body Heat, Nashville, Out of Sight, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and The Lion in Winter

Review: Rebecca

If you haven’t seen the classic version of Rebecca, you might be entertained by this latest melodramatic take. But that 1940 film starred Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine and was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and it won an Oscar for Best Picture. This new version won’t be up for any awards. It stars Lily James (Baby Driver, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) as the young wife who is never named and Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name, On the Basis of Sex) as her husband Maxim, the haunted widower-owner of the storied Manderley estate. Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Gosford Park) takes on the role of the sinister Mrs. Danvers. And it’s a fairly plodding take on what should be an absorbing psychological drama.

Review: Military Wives

Military Wives is a fairly straightforward feel-good film that offers up a bittersweet salute to military families and their sacrifice, just in time for the long Memorial Day weekend. It’s a dramedy that takes place primarily on a British Army base and focuses on a diverse group of women whose partners are deployed to war-torn Afghanistan for six months. To help pass the time, and keep themselves distracted from the daily stresses of juggling family and fear, the women form a singing group that leapfrogs from a small practice room on base to the glaring spotlight of a globally-televised event at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall. The film is inspired by true events surrounding the formation of the very first Military Wives choir that started a decade ago and led to a popular BBC docuseries and dozens of other Military Wives choirs around the world. The characters and much of the story is fictionalized – which likely accounts for the formulaic rhythm of conflict, humor, tragedy and triumph – but the spirit of the film is authentic, and a lot of real military families were used as extras in an emotional send-off scene that sets the stage for the drama to unfold.

Quickie Reviews: Annihilation; Game Night; The Party

Annihilation is interesting and weird, slow and methodical, and dare I say, bordering on boring. Hyper-sensitive fans of the film may ream me for not fully grasping or appreciating the deeper meaning, the metaphors, the beauty in the bizarre, yadda yadda yadda. But that’s okay. I didn’t love Arrival either. Annihilation is a cerebral sci-fi horror flick from Alex Garland (Ex Machina) based on the “Southern Reach Trilogy” by Jeff VanderMeer. If you’ve read the books, you’re probably ahead of the game and more likely than most to love this movie. Here’s the gist: Natalie Portman plays Lena, an Army veteran and cellular biologist whose husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) was believed killed in action during a secret military mission. He reappears a year later, extremely ill, with no memory of what happened. Government agents nab the newly-reunited couple and take them to “Area X”, an unspecified locale that borders a mysterious “Shimmer” that’s been expanding along the U.S. coastline.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen may sound like a boring documentary, but it’s actually a rather charming chick flick that will likely need strong word of mouth to expand its audience beyond the indie/art house crowd. So check it out and talk it up! Trust me, there’s a strong chance you’ll like it, even if you can’t find Yemen on a map or couldn’t care less about fly fishing or the migration patterns and ecological needs of salmon.

Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria, The Devil Wears Prada) plays Harriet, a British public relations executive who is given carte blanche to help a wealthy sheik realize his dream of bringing salmon fishing to the desert. She turns to the UK’s leading fisheries expert, Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) for help, but he finds the entire project completely absurd. So does the British government – until the Prime Minister’s press secretary (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) decides that the salmon project is just what the government needs to divert attention from another Middle East ‘project’ that isn’t going so well – the war in Afghanistan.