It took five horses to portray Secretariat in the Disney movie about the great champion thoroughbred.
Any of us who may have seen the horse on the track during 1973, when he became the first Triple Crown champion in 25 years, knows how breathtaking his performance was. So it's surprising that it took only five horses. The red chestnut Secretariat set records in two of the three events - the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes - that still stand today.
The Disney movie, for all its shortcomings, in some ways captures that excitement. Director Randall Wallace ("We Were Soldiers") takes a straight-and-narrow approach to the story.
We were a country divided then - war and social issues. Animal rights groups were beginning to grumble that horse racing was inhumane. All of that is pretty much ignored in "Secretariat."
Secretariat was owned by Penny Chenery (Diane Lane), who had recently taken over her ailing father's (Scott Glenn) horse farm. She gets the horse when she loses a coin flip on the choice of foals sired by a former champion horse. The rest, as they say, is history - but not necessarily the history here.
What the movie comes down to is watching this magnificent horse run.
We love the idea that Secretariat raced out of pure joy as we project ourselves on the moment, but we know also that there was a whip and reins, not shown in the movie and forgotten in an unforgettable moment.
Assassin turned target
Mary-Louise Parker seems to be having the most fun in "Red," even if we are supposed to believe that the fun being had is by veteran actors playing veteran assassins who have come out of retirement for a last hurrah.
Parker, as Sarah, plays the innocent swept up in the action plot. She is a customer-service representative who processes pension checks for ex-CIA assassin Frank (Bruce Willis). They flirt and are about to go off together for some hanky-panky when a kill squad shows up at his house, forcing them to flee. Frank looks up old friends - John Malkovich, Brian Cox and Helen Mirren - to help him get to the bottom of why he's suddenly become a target.
Based on a series of comic books, "Red" plays like one. There are a few intermittent bits of wit, but it ultimately succumbs to the usual excess of explosions. When her life is suddenly turned upside down, Sarah admits she's had worse dates. That kind of goes for anybody who watches "Red."
End of Swedish trilogy
The Swedish versions of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy were aimed for television. They are not bad, but with "Social Network's" David Fincher directing the first American adaptation, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" (due in December), there is hope for something as exciting as the books.
Still, the performance by Noomi Rapace as the genius computer hacker and pint-sized whirlwind Lisbeth Salander is going to be hard to top. (Good luck, Rooney Mara.)
In the third of the trilogy, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," Rapace's Lisbeth once again endures some horrible travails as the story concludes.
Unfortunately, as superb as the actress is in the role, the film feels like it's trying to tie up too many things. Directed by Daniel Alfredson, it plays like a police procedural, especially when Rapace is offscreen. It's worth watching if you've seen the other two, but it would have been nice to see the actress showcased in a better production.
The Spitzer scandal
In Alex Gibney's documentary, "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer," hubris is seen as a key reason why the former governor of New York and rising star in the Democratic party would hire a number of high-priced call girls.
There is some new information in the sordid tale, though it's more along the lines of private tidbits. (Gibney hired an actress to enact lines from interviews he did with Spitzer's supposed favorite playmate, who wouldn't go on camera.) And the documentarian explores the theory - not new - that the pol's enemies, especially those on Wall Street, conspired to take him down, which doesn't seem farfetched. Watching people fall is one of America's favorite pastimes.
"Nowhere Boy," the story of John Lennon's youth, boasts some interesting moments for fans of the rock legend. It also has good performances by Anne-Marie Duff as his mother, Julia, and Kristin Scott Thomas as his Aunt Mimi - the women who influenced his life. Before Yoko, that is.