Joaquin Phoenix stars as Specialist Ray Elwood, who ostensibly assists Colonel Berman (Ed Harris), but in reality makes and sells drugs to his fellow soldiers and sleeps with the colonel's wife. When a much harder-edged new First Sergeant (Scott Glenn) comes in, Rya must change up his tactics, including seducing the sergeant's daughter (Anna Paquin). The movie's humor is fairly dark, but also lowbrow; it's hit and miss, but generally has more hits than misses. It received mostly positive reviews, but flopped at the box office.
Frankie & Alice
Based on a true story, Frankie & Alice (2010) may look like a blatant attempt to earn another Oscar nomination for Halle Berry, but the truth is that Berry really gives a grand-slam performance as a woman with a multiple-personality disorder. She's Frankie, who works as a stripper, but she's also "Genius," a 7-year old, and "Alice," a Southern, white racist woman. Berry flips back and forth between them through fits of rage, confusion, and fear, but always with an underlying strength holding everything together.
Director Geoffrey Sax emphasizes the lurid, soap-opera aspects of the story, without bothering to shape the movie's central relationship, between Frankie and her doctor (Stellan Skarsgard). But the movie also avoids a condescending, preachy tone that this genre sometimes has, and Berry's performance wins the day. The movie opened briefly for awards consideration in 2010 — Berry earned a Golden Globe nomination, but not an Oscar nomination — and then it sat on a shelf until 2014 before receiving a wide release.
Now streaming on Amazon Prime
In 1993, Steven Spielberg ruled the box office with the summer hit Jurassic Park, and then ruled the critics and the awards with his winter hit Schindler's List. Four years later, he tried to repeat the trick with The Lost World: Jurassic Park in the summer and Amistad in the fall, but neither one quite caught on.
Amistad (1997) tells the true story of a mutiny on a slave ship and a subsequent trial. It opens with an incredibly powerful sequence, and contains several more highly effective scenes, but these are intertwined with quite a few goopy, hokey moments. Djimon Hounsou stars as Cinque, the man on trial as the leader of the revolt, though his role is too noble to allow for much of a performance. The other actors, including Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oscar-nominated Anthony Hopkins as President John Quincy Adams, and Anna Paquin as the Queen of Spain, have slightly more to play with. The movie has Spielberg's typical professional polish, though, and with fine cinematography by Janusz Kaminski and music by John Williams (both nominated for Oscars), it's well worth a look.
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