River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018

River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018
River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Movie Reviews: November Man and Pleasantville - Sunday, Sep. 7

Friday night our Netflix selection was "Pleasantville," a comedy/drama/fantasy movie from 1998 starring Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon and a host of other acting greats. I wasn't sure what to expect, but thought maybe a movie along the lines of "Blast from the Past."

Let me tell you, Pleasantville is a fascinating movie from the get-go. Bob and I were sucked into the story like 1990's movie brother and sister David (Tobey) and Jennifer (Reese) were sucked into a 1950's sitcom TV show called "Pleasantville." Think of Pleasantville as a "Leave it to Beaver"- or "Donna Reed"-type TV show.

David, in his 1990's life as a nerdy teenager obsessed with all things "Pleasantville," wants to watch a 24-hour marathon of the show on TV so he can enter a Pleasantville Trivia Contest to try to win $1,000. Meanwhile, his sister is putting the make on a hunky guy at school. Their mom is going out of town so the two teens will have the house to themselves.

Jennifer invites the object of her desire to come to their house to watch TV that night. BUT David wants to watch "Pleasantville." A fight over the remote control ensues and they break it.

A knock on the door makes Jennifer think it is her date arriving. Instead, a TV repairman mysteriously tells them he is there to fix the TV. No one had called him, but since they each have an agenda of their own (TV repairman included), the siblings let him in to fix the remote. The repairman (excellently played by the late Don Knotts), matches wits with David over Pleasantville plot trivialities. The repairman then makes a decision and gives them a new remote with extra-special power.

As soon as the repairman leaves, the teens again fight over the remote. In their living room, on the TV behind them, you see the teens on the TV show also fighting. Next thing you know, the two kids are transported into the black-and-white world of Pleasantville. David feels right at home because, after all, he has watched every episode and knows the townspeople and their stories. He tries to explain it all to Jennifer on the fly as they are integrated into the lives of the TV town.

In the TV world of Pleasantville, everything is the same. The world is black-and-white literally and figuratively. There is no depth of feeling or thought. As the two modern kids go about their lives in this sleepy, innocent town, the books in the library go from being filled with blank pages to having all the words magically fill in. When the townspeople begin feeling emotion, they change from black and white to Technicolor. Some people see color and others don't.

The film deals with the discovery of knowledge and emotion, prejudice, feminism, censorship, societal roles, relationships and bullying. In many ways, this film could have inspired scenes in 2014's "The Giver."

Both of us enjoyed this movie and its satire along with the symbolism the director included in the movie. You can see so many things. One example, the Pleasantville Fire Department goes to rescue a cat from a tree. As they set up the ladder they assume a pose of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima. One scene is very reminiscent of the courtroom scene in "To Kill A Mockingbird."

Sunday night, we watched the movie with commentary by the director, Gary Ross. It was quite fascinating, but he is long-winded. He talked through the whole movie. You couldn't really watch it for a second time because he was so chatty. I intend to watch the movie again tomorrow before I send it back. We give it 4-1/2 stars.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Today Susan, her neighbor Lynn, Bob and I went to see "November Man" starring Pierce Brosnan. What a tightly wound spy thriller this is from start to finish. The movie is based on "There are no Spies," the 7th installment of The November Man series of books by Bill Granger. (I have never read any of the November Man books, but it looks like I'll have to get into them because this movie was so darned good.)

As the movie begins, CIA agent Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan [swoon]) is working with his partner whom he trained, David Mason (Luke Bracey). It is 2008 and they are trying to protect a U.S. ambassador in Montenegro from being assassinated. David sees the assassin and wants to shoot him. Peter tells him no because there isn't a clear line of fire. The assassin fires and hits Peter. At this point, David kills the assassin, but also kills a young boy who was in the line of fire. Peter retires to Switzerland and opens a coffee shop.

Six years later, Peter's former boss contacts him to extract a deep-cover operative from Russia, saying it was at the express request of the operative, Natalia Ulanova. From this point on, the movie becomes a complicated spy thriller with:
  • Many twists and turns, 
  • Another assassin, 
  • A mysterious young girl with a bleak history (now an adult) who is missing and has information that can expose the 2nd Chechen War crimes of a Russian General and presidential candidate,
  • Duplicate missions, and
  • A surprise ending.
I can't tell you any more without giving away pertinent plot pivotal points. It would be a crime to mess up this movie-going experience. 

There is action galore, quite a bit of violence, sexual encounters, and adult themes. It all adds up to a tense, well-acted spy movie. Even though the critics dissed it, I give it five stars. All four of us agreed it was an excellent movie.


  1. Thanks for your comments on November Man. I was pretty sure I wanted to see it. I rarely agree with the critics, so I was hoping to hear or read about it from someone else. Sounds like I will be treating husband to an afternoon date soon.


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