By Ed Koch
Joyeux Noel (+)
This is a wonderful vignette of an event that occurred in 1914 on Christmas Eve during World War I. Sitting in the trenches, French, English, Scottish and German soldiers hear a gifted German tenor, Nikolaus Sprink (Benno Furmann), singing a Christmas song. Moved by his beautiful voice, the soldiers leave their trenches, fraternize with one another, and join in the singing of carols.
The film is based on a true event but uses composite characters. The German singer, Anna Sorensen (Diane Kruger), received a pass from the German Crown Prince allowing her to go to the frontline to visit with her lover, Sprink, and for the two of them to perform for the German soldiers. After performing, the two unintentionally cause great harm to the soldiers who left their trenches. Other scenes involve an Anglican chaplain, Palmer (Gary Lewis), being chastised by his superior, a Bishop (Ian Richardson), for conducting a mass for the soldiers of all three armies in Latin; a German lieutenant, Horstmayer (Daniel Bruhl), announcing that he is Jewish; and, a French Lieutenant, Audebert (Guillaume Canet), having a moving talk with his father, a general.
The movie contains little by way of melodramatics, but the story nevertheless is very interesting and the acting excellent. I had tears in my eyes several times during the performance. Regrettably, the theater was only about two-thirds full when I saw it at 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night, the day it opened.
16 Blocks (-)
I went to see this film because the New York Post gave it three stars and Manohla Dargis gave it a better than average review in The New York Times. She wrote, For the first adrenaline-spiked hour of this new action flick 16 Blocks, the filmmaker Richard Donner brings back the 1980s in high-concept style.
The underground audience is on to the fact that this movie stinks. When I saw it last Sunday afternoon, the theater was only about 10 percent full. Preparing for large audiences, several theaters had been set aside in the complex for this film. They are going to take a bath on this one. It is one of the worst cop-and-robber films that I have ever seen.
Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is an alcoholic cop caught up in a situation involving Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) a witness to corrupt police activity. We meet Eddie (aka the kid) in a bar the day he is scheduled to testify surrounded by the corrupt cops who may be indicted as a result of his forthcoming testimony. Jack, who had been a partner of the corrupt cops leader, Frank Nugent (David Morse), is also in the bar. Jack decides to save Eddie from death at the hands of the corrupt cops and deliver him to the Grand Jury where he can testify. Thus begins a chase through Chinatown and bus and ambulance rides during which all of the principals give ridiculous performances. Mos Def, usually a fine actor, performs his role as Stepin Fetchit might have played it.
When I left the theater, a woman asked me what I thought of the film, to which I replied, It is ridiculous. She responded, It was 15 blocks too long.A huge understatement.