Mike Kueber's Blog

July 14, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #37 – Last Night, The Pistol – Birth of a Legend, More Than a Game, and We Were Here

Rotten Tomatoes and I have never disagreed more about a movie – Last Night.  The Tomato critics gave it a 49% rating and the audience gave it 47%.  I give it four stars out of four as one of the best movies I have seen in a long time.  It reminds me of another favorite – Before Sunset.

Netflix gives the following thumbnail description of this 2011 drama – “During an evening apart, married couple Joanna and Michael encounter tempting opportunities to cheat on each other with sexy acquaintances.”  That’s fair enough, but only begins to tell the story.  The four lead characters – Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Eva Mendes, and Guillaume Canet – are outstanding, especially Canet.  And Griffin Dunne plays an important role as Canet’s side-kick. 

The two “tempting opportunities” are impressively realistic, with Worthington being tempted by a beautiful new co-worker (Mendes) while on a business trip to Philly, and Knightley being tempted back home in NYC by a lover from her Paris past (Canet).  Not coincidentally, neither Worthington nor Knightley had mentioned their tempters and this, of course, started them down the road of dishonesty.

One of Last Night’s negative reviews came from the LA Times, which declared that the movie lacked insights.  I disagree.  The movie, through its five thoughtful characters, provides a fresh look at the seven-year itch for a variety of perspectives.  The ending is especially thought-provoking.

Time spent watching Last Night is time well spent. 

The Pistol – Birth of a Legend is a 1991 movie that tells the story of Pistol Pete Maravich coming of age as an 8th-grade basketball player who makes the varsity.  Although the subject of the movie appears to be the precocity of Pete, the underlying focus of the movie is the great parenting done by his dad, Press.  This parenting reminds me of Mickey Mantle and his dad, Mutt, and I wonder how their relationships would have worked out if Pete and Mickey hadn’t been preternaturally blessed.  Although the movie is a dramatization, there is some similarity with actual facts – i.e., Pete did make the varsity as an 8th grader, and his team did advance integration by playing against an all-black team.  The movie reveals its out-datedness by including a scene where the 8th grader receives a mild concussion, and then is encouraged by his dad to return to action after halftime.  The Pistol has not been reviewed by Rotten Tomato critics, but its audience gives it a solid 75%.  I agree and give it three stars out of four.  It’s nostalgic for me to watch some slow white kids who can’t jump trying to play basketball.

My son Tommy has been after me to watch More Than a Game, a 2008 documentary of basketballers LeBron James’s high school basketball team.  He claimed that if I watched the movie, I would quit hating on LeBron.  Wrong, Tommy.  I watched the movie and was happy to see LeBron’s team lose an AAU championship game as 8th graders and the Ohio Division II championship game as juniors.  I was amazed to see how much the high-schooler LeBron resembles the current version.  Even as an 8th grader, he and his friends decided to take their nation-traveling, AAU-developed talents to St. Vincent-St.Mary’s Catholic High School and they intentionally carried themselves with the swagger they felt appropriate for their on-court virtuosity.  The Rotten Tomato critics gave it a score of 73%, and the audience rated it better at 84%.  Even though I am an active rooter against LeBron, I admit that the story of him and his four friends and the coach is a classic, inspiring American success story and that the documentary does an excellent job in describing the story, with lots of old footage for a high school basketball team (wink/wink).  I give it three stars out of four, although it’s like watching a romantic movie in which you don’t like the stars.  The coach is worth rooting for, however.  

We Were Here is a 2011 documentary that describes the AIDS crisis in San Francisco back in the 80s via extensive interviews with five individuals who miraculously lived through it – Ed Wolf, Paul Boneberg, Daniel Goldstein, Guy Clark, and Eileen Glutzer.  The movie shows that for a long period of time homosexuals were dropping like flies until a drug cocktail gave them hope for something akin a normal life span.  As I was watching the movie, I was stuck by how much the gay lifestyle, which was so controversial back then, appears to have dropped off the political radar, although there remains the issue of same-sex marriage.  Rotten Tomato critics gave We Were Here a 100% rating and the audience gave it 86%, and although that is a bit strong, I give it three and a half stars out of four.

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