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Home movies

By Philip Martin

This article was published April 16, 2010 at 2:56 a.m.

— Recent DVD releases:

Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh: (Not rated, 86 minutes) It’s hard to know what to make of this perhaps inadvertently demythologizing documentary about poet Hannah Senesh. Senesh, a martyred saint often compared to Joan of Arc by many Israelis, was an ardent socialist-Zionist who emigrated from her native Hungary to Britishcontrolled Palestine at 17. She joined the British army and, in 1944, volunteered for a desperate mission that had her parachuting into Yugoslavia with the intention of crossing the border back into her homeland to rescue Jews. Almost immediately she was captured, and for weeks she was imprisoned and tortured by Hungarians collaborating with the Nazis (who wanted radio codes she never revealed) before being executed for treason. Based on a memoir by Senesh’s mother (whowas imprisoned along with Senesh), Roberta Grossman’s film gracefully integrates tasteful re-enactments into a straight-up documentary approach, but, deliberately steers away from the more interesting questions of Senesh’s character - she apparently was an aloof young woman who had difficulty connecting in her private life - and leaves the details of her mission, presented as the only military operation specifically designed to rescue European Jews from the Nazis, irritatingly vague.

Grade: 83

Pirate Radio (PG-13, 116 minutes) An amiable mess of a period piece about an interesting time in British pop music history when, in the mid-1960s, the BBC’scontrol of the airwaves was threatened by offshore broadcasters beaming the sounds of England’s newest hitmakers into British bedrooms and parlors. A wonderful film - documentary or otherwise - could likely be made about the exploitsof Radio Caroline and Wonderful Radio London, the two most popular stations based aboard ships floating just outside British territorial waters. But this is not that film, although it does provide a serviceable excuse for a killer soundtrack album. With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Kenneth Branagh, January Jones and Emma Thompson.

Grade: 80

Tenure (R, 89 minutes) A mild, likable, “film festy” dramedy about academic politics with a solid cast, including Luke Wilson, Gretchen Mol and David Koechner.While the appeal of writerdirector Mike Million’s first feature is probably limited to those who have a visceral reaction to its title, it’s smart and well-made.

Grade: 86

We Believe (Not rated, 105 minutes) While it’s more a souvenir for long-suffering (some would say masochistic) Chicago Cubs baseball fans - some of whom have acted as enablers during the team’s long nightmare of futility - director John Scheinfeld’s (The U.S. vs.John Lennon) We Believe has its moments, some insightful and entertaining interviews with celebrity Cub fans like Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, actors Bonnie Hunt, Jeff Garlin and Dennis Franz and the archbishop of Chicago, Francis Cardinal George. There’s also some fine archival imagery, including a glimpse of the 1909 team. Pretty much the whole sorry history of the Cubbies is recounted, as Scheinfeld argues for a special relationship between Chicago and its Cubs, although the movie might be better received by fans as an attempt at slump-busting - the Red Sox had theirdocumentary, We Still Believe, come out in 2003, the year before they snapped their 86-year World Series drought. We Believe had its theatrical premiere in Chicago on Tuesday, and the DVD is available from virgil filmsent.com. Grade: 86

MovieStyle, Pages 39 on 04/16/2010

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