Stalag 17 (1953): This classic Billy Wilder film covers some World War II POWs in a Nazi prison camp. They scheme to escape but there seems to be a Nazi informant in the prison barracks. It should be unthinkable that an American would inform to the Nazis on his fellow soldiers, but that is the belief of the prisoners because any escape plan or contraband is discovered. There is more humor and joking around with the Nazi prison warden than I found believable, but this was an otherwise excellent film with a fine performance by William Holden as a prisoner viewed with suspicion. It is clear that this is a movie from the 1950's because of how the men joked and sang Christmas songs and the overall behavior of the prisoners. It felt somewhat idealized, that the prison experience was not horrible. Overall: Good movie.
Tsotsi (2005): This film, set in South Africa, is a film about violence and redemption. Tsotsi is a young hood, a violent young man who will stab, shoot, or simply beat a man or woman for little reason or provocation. When he shoots a woman in a carjacking and later discovers that her infant son is still in the car. This leads a long path to redemption for Tsotsi. This is a moving, powerful film.
Duel (1971): This early Spielberg film gives the viewer a chance to see the director's work before he became the big time director he is now. Duel is a made for television movie with a man (Dennis Weaver) out driving to some sort of a business meeting. He passes a rusted semi-truck and the movie truly begins. The truck passes him back and then slows down and this begins a game of cat and mouse where the man is being terrorized by this truck driver. We never see the driver, so the menace is really just the rusted truck. I was impressed by how well crafted Duel was. The rusted truck is a great menacing villain and because there is nothing the businessman did to antagonize the truck, it is truly frightening because we never know just who is out on the road. This is far more an effective movie than, say, Joy Ride.
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001): This more recently Woody Allen movie is a comedic detective flick. Woody Allen plays a private detective who is hypnotized and is given instructions to steal valuable jewels, but at the same time he is investigating the crimes. The movie serves to allow Allen and Helen Hunt to trade barbs and wise cracks and like an early Woody Allen movie the cracks come fast and furious, at times overwhelming the story Allen is trying to tell. Not really worth it, but not a bad effort.
Ella Enchanted (2004): The opening of this movie describes it as a fairy tale and that is a perfect description for Ella Enchanted. Anne Hathaway stars as Ella, a young woman who was given the magical gift of obedience when she was an infant. This gift requires her to obey any command given her, no matter how ridiculous. She is a headstrong woman, but a decent person and when her father remarried and her step sisters learn that Ella will obey any command they make Ella's life miserable. Ella runs off to find her fairy godmother and joins with elves, the prince, ogres and giants and this being a fairy tale we know there will be a happily ever after. Ella Enchanted is a very cute and charming movie and Anne Hathaway does very well in family friendly roles like she does here and The Princess Diaries. Ella Enchanted co-stars Minnie Driver and Cary Elwes.