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08/13/2010

Short takes: 'Get Low,' 'Love Ranch'

Lowpicuse Every small town seems to have a legend bouncing around -- perhaps for decades -- about the town grump, or hermit or outlaw.

Felix Bush, portrayed without a flaw by Oscar-winner Robert Duvall in the period heartfelt drama "Get Low," however, is based on the real thing.

In the late 1930s, Felix "Bush" mostly stayed to himself in the backwoods near Kingston, Tenn.  His only companion was his mule.  Fearing death in his old age, Felix paid for a funeral "party" and turned the offbeat proceeding into a lottery, which attracted a huge crowd from miles around.

You should know going in that "Get Low" is not a happy-go-lucky story, despite the co-starring performance by Bill Murray as opportunistic funeral home owner Frank Quinn.

"Get Low" also features a solid performance by Oscar-winner Sissy Spacek, who plays a woman from Bush's past who returns to town just in time for his final, premature farewell.

Summing up:  Excellent acting; a heartfelt delight.

3 jalapeños out of 4.  100 minutes.  Rated PG-13 for some thematic material and brief violent content.

(Bill Murray, left, and Robert Duvall photo courtesy:  Sony Pictures Classics) 

Very little critical love for 'Love Ranch'

Ranchrevuse I'm not going to lie.  I had high hopes going into the based-on-truth drama "Love Ranch," and feelings of major disappointment once the closing credits rolled.

Question to self:  How can the rock-solid director of "An Officer and a Gentleman," "Against All Odds," "Dolores Claiborne" and the excellent Ray Charles musical biopic "Ray" let something like this happen.

Especially with his real-life wife, Oscar winner Helen Mirren (for "The Queen" in 2006), in the lead role.  Mirren and Joe Pesci attempt to portray Grace and Charlie Bontempo, the husband-and-wife owners of Nevada's first legalized brothel in the late-1970s.

The acting is flatter than the Nevada desert.  The dialogue by screenwriter Mark Jacobson is mundane and the production itself feels like something put on by a small-town theater group on an off night.

Summing up:  One of the worst films of 2010.

1 jalapeño out of 4.  94 minutes.  Rated R for sexual content, pervasive language and some violence.

(Joe Pesci, left, Helen Mirren photo courtesy:  E1 Entertainment) 

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