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5 Flights Up

It’s the mid 1970’s … Alex Carver (played by Morgan Freeman) carries his new wife Ruth (by Diane Keaton) over the threshold of their new apartment. It’s in a dodgy part of Brooklyn, it’s run-down and up five flights of stairs with no elevator, but it’s home. Alex, an artist, makes himself a perfect studio in the bright spare bedroom and Ruth, a teacher, fills the rest of their living space with books. Since then, they’ve made a very happy and settled life for themselves and love the neighbourhood. These days, it’s starting to get very trendy to live in Brooklyn and Alex and Ruth realise their lovely apartment may be an attractive investment for young buyers wanting to move into the area. Besides, time is marching on and those five flights of stairs are a challenge for them both these days – as well as their little dog, Dorothy. Although they are now both retired, Ruth and Alex still love their life together – Alex has his art and still actively paints, while Ruth loves her books. They are still deeply love with each other too. Ruth’s sister had some health problems last year and her real estate agent niece, Lily Portman (by Cynthia Nixon), has since taken on the task to list Alex and Ruth’s property to remove them from the “five flights of stairs”. Alex and Ruth are interested to see what their property might be worth on the market so they go along with Lily’s plans. They open their beloved home to interested buyers and watch with dismay as strangers trudge critically through their apartment. At the same time, Dorothy undergoes some expensive surgery at the animal hospital. Ruth and Alex go apartment hunting in Manhattan, where they actually find something they like and can afford. Maybe a move isn’t such a bad idea after all?

This is a very sweet movie. As artist Alex, Morgan Freeman is strong and thoughtful – which makes him a very interesting character. As young Alex, Korey Jackson is very nice. Similarly, Diane Keaton brings her best quirky and lovable performance to the role of Ruth – she has marvellous style and is a sweet caring person. The “nerdy” young Ruth is very well portrayed by Claire van der Boom. It is also great to see both Cynthia Nixon and Carrie Preston here. Nixon has the relentlessly positive real estate agent Lily, down to a tee – she’s perfect for it. For me, Carrie Preston has most recently been seen in television’s “The Good Wife”, and she is just as likeable here as Miriam Carswell, Lily’s peer and would-be competitor in the New York City real estate game. The movie has been released in the UK as “Ruth and Alex” – it’s based on the novel Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment. It’s not deep or terribly meaningful, but it’s a good movie. It has been awarded in the 2016 AARP Movies for Grownups Awards as the Best Grownup Love Story and that’s true. I enjoyed it.

Made in 2014. Directed by Richard Loncraine.

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Posted by on June 27, 2016 in Movies

 

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Invictus

Francois Pienaar (played by Matt Damon) is a rugby player – but not just any old rugby player – he’s the captain of the national rugby team of South Africa – the Springboks. In 1993, his team faces a challenging time ahead. South Africa is to be the host nation of the 1995 Rugby World Cup in only eighteen months’ time and the Springboks currently languish at the bottom of the world’s elite league. At the same time, Nelson Mandela (by Morgan Freeman) has just been released from prison after 27 years as a political prisoner who challenged and fought his entire life against apartheid. Mandela has quickly ascended to become the democratically elected President of the nation and he is focussed on radical change for South Africa. This is a significant challenge for such a divided country He loves rugby and endears himself to many through his support of the national game. One day Mandela meets Pienaar – through his wisdom and courage developed over years of hardship and incarceration, he inspires Francois to work hard to lead the team back to world class rugby standards once again, to really put South Africa on the global stage – both in sports and the broader political landscape. The 1995 World Cup arrives and the entire country holds its breath in the hope that the Springboks can do it for South Africa …

This is a good sports movie – if you’re expecting a political drama, you won’t get it here – but you will get an excellent introduction to this highly complex nation and the issues surrounding their political landscape. As Nelson Mandela, Morgan Freeman takes on an almighty challenge, but he really does it justice. His performance is excellent. To have the courage and confidence to emulate such a great man in world significance is marvellous and to be applauded. As Francois Pienaar, Matt Damon is good here too, thankfully his character shows a lot more depth than the grit and determination required to become an elite footballer, which is appreciated. Overall, the story is lightweight on the political issues, but you get the idea. The drama is in the sport, which is done quite well. There are interesting sequences of rugby, but – being a Kiwi and an All Blacks fan from birth – it doesn’t really seem authentic to me. However, the majority of the audience should find it interesting. The interactions between the other staff members who are getting to grips with the new ways of the Mandela Administration are interesting to watch and several performances are worthwhile here – but again, the outcome is more worthy of a television drama than a movie. It’s okay, but it wasn’t until later I realised that this was directed by Clint Eastwood. I have seen several other movies that demonstrate better work from him in my opinion (such as Mystic River“, “The Changelingand “Million Dollar Baby”). For their performances, in 2010 Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon earned Academy Award (Oscar) nominations for their leading and support roles. They also received Golden Globe nominations for this work and Clint Eastwood was nominated for Best Director.  Oh, and … in case you are wondering … Invictus is Latin – it means unconquered, unconquerable and undefeated – it might refer to the state of overcoming and taking control of a place or its people.

Made in 2009. Directed by Clint Eastwood.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2013 in Movies

 

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Million Dollar Baby

Frankie Dunn (played by Clint Eastwood) is a boxing trainer of many years. He now owns a gym but he has very few proteges as his training approach is cautious. In fact, we watch as a fighter with potential leaves his charge in favour of another trainer prepared to take more chances. Maggie Fitzgerald (by Hilary Swank) has been interested in boxing for some time and she calls into the gym hoping to get an opportunity to box seriously. Of course, at first Frankie won’t take Maggie on – he thinks she’s too old and he doesn’t train female boxers! His boxing mate, former fighter and his gym manager, Eddie Dupris (by Morgan Freeman) sees potential in Maggie’s eagerness and ambition and he supports her. Gradually, Frankie reluctantly agrees to help her and Maggie transforms into a successful boxer.

This movie is much more than just another “boxer makes good” story. Once the plot is developed, the movie actually takes quite a significant turn – one least expected by me – which creates a completely different aspect to the characters and the story.  These three actors are marvellous – Clint Eastwood plays a vulnerable character, alienated from his only daughter – he is so wonderful here. Hilary Swank is usually good and here she is exceptional,as a girl searching for more than just boxing success and Morgan Freeman is as subtle as ever in his support – very well done. The “mood” is very well captured and depicted throughout.

Once again, this confirms that Clint Eastwood has marvellous talent as a director. The film is beautifully directed, shot impeccably and supported by a great musical score that underscores the humanity in the intensely moving conclusion.  Very very good movie.

(Made: Feb 2005)

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Movies

 

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