Movies and TV

SHARPE’S PERIL is to date the last of the series, following the premise of Sharpe’s Challenge that after the death of his wife, Sharpe winds up in India working with Harper putting down various threats to empire. In this case, it’s a renegade army using a supposed native uprising as the cover for murder and theft. This was one of the weaker entries—part of the problem is that without the battle against Napoleon to focus Sharpe’s efforts, this comes off as swashbuckling for its own sake (which is not a bad thing but lacks punch). And as Sharpe’s no longer regular army, there’s also none of the struggle to keep or advance his rank that fueled his earlier adventures. “A strong mind is as unwelcome in a woman as it is in a horse.”

Having made film noir and pastiched Preston Sturges, the Coen Brothers then gave the British Ealing Studio a shot in THE LADYKILLERS (2004), a remake of a 1955 Alec Guinness comedy. Tom Hanks plays a dignified Southern gentleman (the Guinness role) who rents a room from a black widow in a small Mississippi town so that he and his crew can dig a tunnel through her basement and rip off a local gambling boat. This falls thoroughly flat, with pretty much every character a stereotype (bossy black momma, foul-mouthed black hood), none of the Ealing charm and some real head-scratcher moments (why would a devoutly religious black woman give her money to Bob Jones University with its history of racial issues?). “I think our musicians just struck a gas pocket.”

GRAVITY (2013) stars Sandra Bullock as a scientist working on the Hubble Telescope alongside astronaut George Clooney when a storm of space debris leaves them drifting in space, struggling to find a way home—and before long, Bullock’s fighting the struggle alone. A real nail-biter and great looking, plus a spectacular performance by Bullock (it’s a one-woman show for much of the film). Although it’s often described as Open Water in Space, Bullock has much more to do than float helplessly, so Apollo 13 might be a better choice for a double bill. “Tell me what happened to the hairy guy.’

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