Thursday, October 14, 2004

DVD: Pieces of April (2003)

I avoided this one for a while because the plot raised every schmaltz alarm. A wayward daughter prepares Thanksgiving dinner for her dying mother and her family. Stuffing? I’m staying!

But writer/director Peter Hedges steers clear of sentiment, investing his energy in the characters. Katie Holmes’ April comes across as selfish and genuinely unpleasant to deal with, which gives her incremental transformation weight. Patricia Clarkson deservedly received an Oscar nod for her performance; the scene where she lashes out at her ‘good’ daughter (Alison Pill) over her singing is heartbreaking. But it’s Oliver Platt who scores most strongly as the largely reactive husband and father, doing what he can to hold his family together.

The first few DV features were difficult to watch on television. The limitations of shooting on video were all too apparent on the screen. But this is the latest such film to look just fine at home.

Book: Persuader, by Lee Child (2003)

I read Child’s 1998 novel KILLING FLOOR in paperback. I liked the Jack Reacher character and loved the plot mechanics, but the book was fatally overlong. Since then, Child has become a name to conjure with among thriller writers – and his books have gotten shorter. I welcomed the chance to take a look at his more recent work for my column in Mystery*File.

Reacher, an ex-MP now drifting from job to job, gets recruited for an off-the-books DEA sting. The book’s lean, with nary a wasted word. And Reacher remains a potent lead. Here he is in action:

“I caught him with a wild left in the throat. It was a solid punch, and a lucky one. But not for him. It crushed his larynx. He went down on the floor again and suffocated. It was reasonably quick. About a minute and a half. There was nothing I could do for him. I’m not a doctor.”

Cold, baby. That’s just cold.

I’ll be reading another one soon.

Miscellaneous: Links

I’ve about had my fill of TV shows ending up on the big screen. But here’s a movie I can completely get behind: Michael Mann writing, producing and directing a feature film version of his series MIAMI VICE, with Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx as Crockett and Tubbs.

And I may have to concoct a reason to go back to New York in December if this is going on. Double features? I must be dreaming. Thanks to Aaron at Out of Focus.