Movie reviews and more

Joe Kleczynski is a fan of Martin Scorsese. He remembers the movie director’s break-through film, “Mean Streets.” I remember “Taxi Driver” and “Goodfellas.” Scorsese provided us with viciously merry, violent, high-wattage entertainment with speech as the most brazenly flamboyant element. “The Departed” may not be one of his greatest films but it has speed and volatility.The men commit obscene acts and there’s extreme violence and virtuoso cursing. It’s not the Queen’s English but every speech is complete in its profane eloquence (is that an oxy-moron?!). I was surprised to see Matt Damon playing the bad cop. He’s so sweet-looking. His opposite number is Leonardo Di Caprio and he’s the straight one. But it’s Jack Nicholson wearing a satanic goatee who sets the tone and his character is over the top. He returns to his villainous, scenery-chewing form. The story is highly improbable. In spite of that, I had to have my hands over my face with one eye peeking. It didn’t take long for me to become immersed in the mesmerizing cat-and-mouse game.

“The Departed” is loaded with guns and blood. It’s stuffed to the gills with testosteronic humor. A tale of epic deceit, nearly everyone is compromised and eventually comes to no good. For 2 hours and 40 minutes I sat back, felt tense and enjoyed the show. “The Departed” is murderous fun. However, if you’re a tender heart, hate blood and violence, you’d better skip this one.

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Hey, kiddies, do you appreciate the wonderful music of Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter and others of that era? If your answer is a resounding “yes” there’s a place for you to go and satisfy your musical soul.

Every Thursday at 12:30 p.m. in the spacious and comfortable auditorium of the Donnell Library Center (that’s 20 West 53rd Street, N.Y.C.) there’s a swinging group called the “Gotham Jazzmen.” These talented musicians have been playing together for over 30 years. If it’s true that practice makes perfect, perhaps that’s the reason these men make such great music together. The leader is drummer Dick Sherman who is a retired lawyer (who says lawyers don’t have rhythm?!).

Cornetist Lee Lorenz studied painting and if you read The New Yorker you’re likely to enjoy his humorous cartoons. For many years he served as the magazine’s Art Editor. Multiple talents – each of the Jazzmen has a claim of his own. Trombonist James Lincoln Collier is a professional writer. Bassist Dick Waldburger practices corporate law for a major advertising agency. Pianist Pete Sokolow orchestrates shows and films. I love his “stride piano” style because I grew up hearing my mom play that way – à la Fats Waller. Clarinest Leroy “Sam” Parkins produces classical and jazz records. Wow! What a group – and all that jazz – admission free – every Thursday at the Donnell. Who could ask for anything more!!

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Many years ago when my adult kids, Andrea and Andy, lived in New York City, I visited overnight. Two things happened: one good and one not-so-good. Let’s get the unhappy happening out first. My car, parked right in front of their apartment house was stolen (and, by the way, never to be found). The more pleasant event happened when we were enjoying breakfast in a local coffee shop (this was before Starbucks sprung up on almost every corner in the city). In the middle of chewing on some delicious pancakes a vision walked in. I took one look and was ga-ga. I had never seen such a suavely handsome man. I simply couldn’t take my eyes off the guy. “Who is he?” I asked my surprised kids. They laughed at my reaction, I guess, and told me he was the prolific, New York-born actor, Alec Baldwin.

Now fast forward to the present. Recently I tuned into a new sitcom on NBC television and, surprise, one of the cast members is, be still my beating heart, Alec Baldwin! Happily he still looks good even with added pounds. The real surprise is that the actor has developed a wonderful comic presence that is big and bright. Oh, by the way, the new show is “30 Rock,” a title taken from the studio’s address in Rockefeller Center. In the half-hour series, Mr. Baldwin (dare I call him “Alec?!) sparkles. He appears to be having a good time and he sweeps us along with him. “30 Rock” is mainly a romantic comedy about a 30-somethng single female writer in New York City. My heart-throb plays the new network boss and his wonderful madcap wit is in full bloom. Again be still my heart. Oh yes, there’s another big plus “30 Rock” has no grating laugh track.

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If you have no interest in politics I’m not sure the movie, “The Queen,” will appeal to you. I was interested mainly because actress, Helen Mirren, plays Queen Elizabeth II. I’ve admired Mirren’s exemplary acting since her acting in the TV series “Prime Suspect” in 1991. Her great talent is now on exhibition in her depiction of the current monarch. The film is a royal, darkly comic docudrama that takes place immediately after the death of the iconic Princess Diana. It shows the relationship between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the British Royal Family upon hearing of the death of Diana.

“The Queen” blends fact with fiction. It confused me. Was there really a clash of wills between Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Right Honourable Tony Blair, M.P., Prime Minister in Her Majesty’s Government?! The clash dates from 1997 (not that long ago – first from May when Blair came to power and then from August, when the Princess of Whales died. The British people, much to be consternation of their sovereign, behaved in ways that the Queen did not recognize as British. Questions went through my mind. Is it premature to dramatize the event? Is it tasteless? The fanciful reconstruction appears to be neither an exact facsimile nor caricature. We, of course, have no idea as to what actually happened.

The movie displays news reports from CNN. “The Queen” rises above kitsch. Perhaps I was entertained because of a great cast and the ability of Helen Mirren to expose the twin sides of the monarch: the warmth and the chill. She delivers an inspired study of royal restraint, rescuing the Queen form both satire and sentimentality. Dressed in sensible shoes, tweed shirts and sweaters I thought I was watching the real thing.

June can be reached at


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