Thursday, December 30, 2010
What makes this movie so special, is the same thing that makes any Muppet movie so special – the Muppets. These characters are serious, quirky, grumpy, hysterical and perfect in the extremes each one represents and even though they are inanimate objects, they feel as though life has been breathed into them and they would exist on their own outside of the worlds they inhabit despite what logic would tell you. The Muppets have a humor and method of storytelling that is uniquely their own and I want desperately for it to be presented to a new generation who can treasure them the way my siblings and I do.
Director: Brian Henson
Rizzo the Rat: Boy, that's scary stuff! Should we be worried about the kids in the audience?
Gonzo: Nah, it's all right. This is culture!
It’s no secret that I’m trying to become a film director, and I greatly enjoyed watching Jon Favreau react on twitter as everyone shared their Elf love this holiday season. I can’t imagine that there could be much cooler things in the world for a director that realizing that your film is beloved, and fulfilled the purpose you had for it.
I’d like to have that feeling some day.
Buddy: I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel.
I’ve grown up with Bruce Willis as an action star, but apparently, to my manager and everyone before me Bruce Willis pre-Die Hard was only known as the television star. My manager even talked about that when he and his friends went to see Die Hard they expected it to be dumb – that they couldn’t understand why Willis was cast. By the end of the movie, my manager, like the rest of the viewing audience was converted.
Now, I live in a world where I can’t imagine Bruce Willis not being an action star. It seems to go with him like peanut butter goes with jelly. And I am glad to live in that world. Where would action movies be without John McClaine?
Director: John McTiernan
Supervisor: Attention, whoever you are, this channel is reserved for emergency calls only.
John McClane: No fucking shit, lady. Does it sound like I'm ordering a pizza?
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
In this film Bruce Wayne begins to think that he wants to give up the bat and hand this job of saving Gotham over to someone else but he discovers that it’s a mantle he can’t shake. Batman & Bruce Wayne learn a great lesson in this film, one that comes at a price.
The theme of this film is stated by one of the characters – “It’s always darkest just before the dawn” – it’s a theme that I am hoping will influence the next installment as well. Perhaps, a glimmer of light will begin to break on Gotham again.
Even if I wasn’t a rabid fan, I don’t think many people could disagree with me that Christian Bale is the perfect choice to play Bruce Wayne. In the prior Batman film incarnations Bruce Wayne was played by good actors, but many had issues with the dual role; Michael Keaton played a great Batman, but didn’t look the part of Wayne, Val Kilmer looked great in the suit and as Wayne but just lacked a connection with either, and George Clooney Played a great Wayne but didn’t connect with Batman – not that the latter two were helped by the stories they were given. Bale however, connects with the entirety that is Bruce Wayne and Batman. He manages to pull of the two faces of Bruce Wayne – the batman, and the billionaire forced to live outside the batsuit. The difficulty with playing this character lies not in his dual identity, but the fact that if Wayne had his way, he’d never take off the suit; once he creates batman he becomes batman, and Bale captures that process in a very graceful way.
Christopher Nolan is living proof that creativity and studio blockbusters can go hand in hand.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Seven Samurai is not a small story by any scope. A small farming village uncovers that they’re going to be raided and rather than lay down and die, they decide to see if they can enlist the help of samurai – the only problem is they only payment they have is food. Due to this they can only seek out samurai of the more desperate kind instead of what they view as the cream of the crop. They end up with seven of the most noble, forthright samurai they can find, who return to the village to attempt not only to protect the village itself but attempt to teach the villagers how to protect themselves.
What makes Kurosawa’s film so significant in my opinion, is the closing lines of the film. The battle has been fought, the samurai have won, and as they prepare to leave samurai reflect on the battle and the victory that was “won”. It’s poignant, and a moment that both the characters and the audience must think about.
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Kambei Shimada: Go to the north. The decisive battle will be fought there.
Gorobei Katayama: Why didn't you build a fence there?
Kambei Shimada: A good fort needs a gap. The enemy must be lured in. So we can attack them. If we only defend, we lose the war.
Monday, December 27, 2010
When Harry Met Sally is a perfect commentary on male/female relationships and as I grow older this becomes ever more true. Women are from Venus, men are from Mars and Ephron & Reiner figured out how to capture this long before the mass population put it into pop culture. Harry & Sally are the perfect couple, the only problem is that like as in the case with more perfect couples – they’re the last ones to realize it.
I consider this a New Year’s movie because several of the key scenes take place on New Year’s Ever, so if you get the chance please check this out this New Year.
Harry Burns: And was it worth it? The sacrifice for a friend you don't even keep in touch with?
Sally Albright: Harry, you might not believe this, but I never considered not sleeping with you a sacrifice.
What I like most about The Holiday is that this is the film that made Jack Black more than a crazy comic to me; here he plays Miles, a nice guy and a film composer who gets cheated on but ends up rescued by Kate Winslet. And who would have ever thought Winslet and Black would be a cute couple? Nancy Meyers scores points for that one.
Perhaps what makes the LA portion of the story all the more enjoyable is the addition of Arthur Abbott – a writer from the golden age of Hollywood afraid to venture back out into the world. He manages to reset Iris’s world view and in the process resets his own.
This might be a chick-flick, but I do enjoy this film.
Iris: Well, I just wanted to get away from all the people I see all the time!... Well, not all the people... one person. I wanted to get away from one... guy. An ex-boyfriend who just got engaged and forgot to tell me.
Arthur Abbott: So, he's a schmuck.
Iris: As a matter of fact, he is... a huge schmuck. How did you know?
Arthur Abbott: He let you go. This is not a hard one to figure out. Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend.
If you haven’t seen Memento before, stop reading this review now and go find the film and watch it – just make sure you’re alert and pay attention or you’ll be lost within the first twenty minutes.
Now, those of you that have seen the film, I’m sure you can agree with me that what makes the murder/revenge tale of Memento so engaging is that it’s told backwards. Normally, if watching this kind of tale, we wouldn’t care that Shelby Leonard can’t remember more that five minutes at a time and keeps notes on what happens as the people around him double cross him. However, instead of letting us watch Shelby’s lement stage by stage as it progresses to it’s ultimate end, Nolan puts the viewer into Shelby’s confusion by telling the story backwards – starting at the end and progressing to the beginning. Doing this makes the significance of what would have otherwise been at the end of the film (but is instead at the beginning) so much more potent – Shelby doesn’t understand the true meaning, and neither do we until we reach the beginning and see the event that led us there.
Memento also has something else that is the hallmark of a Nolan film – three incredible performances. Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss & Joe Pantoliano each give amazing performances in this film, which is an astounding thing. Guy Pearce has to master the art of approaching each scene as though he doesn’t know why his character is there, Carrie-Anne Moss is deceptively innocent until she briefly reveals her true nature, and Joe Pantoliano manages to play the line between smarmy and trust-worthy as though it were second nature.
While Memento isn’t a perfect movie, it excels because of it’s handling. A simple story told well, is always better than a complex story told poorly. Memento is proof of that.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Leonard Shelby: I always thought the joy of reading a book is not knowing what happens next.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
I think I’ve stated it before, but The Wedding Planner is seriously one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies – I just think that with a little tweaking you could take out Matthew McConaughey & Jennifer Lopez and drop in Rock Hudson & Doris Day – it’s that kind of movie. I think if you combine this with Never Been Kissed and perhaps He’s Just Not That Into You a group of girls could have a nice, man-free Valentine’s Day.
So watch this movie, preferably with a glass of your favorite girly drink and some chocolate and just think about the career Jennifer Lopez could have had if she hadn’t decided to sing.
Mary: Y'know, "those who can't do, teach"? Well those who can't wed, plan.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
This is a pretty similar to the original but adds to the mythos nicely. This time it’s Kevin Flynn’s son Sam that gets beamed onto the grid, after spending a lifetime wondering why his father disappeared. What he finds is that the world his father once told him bedtime stories about is real, and that his father’s creations have gone haywire – revolting against the users they once adored.
What I love most about the Tron films is that they are richly layered with a subtext that enhances what’s happening about the story – and in the case of these films that is a religious subtext about God and his creation. In the case of Tron, Kevin Flynn is an accidental God, but he attempts to step up to his duties nonetheless. This is why I love science fiction, the power of metaphor exists in this genre in a very unique way.
Jeff Bridges returns to Tron Legacy in two roles – Kevin Flynn and CLU, the villain of the piece. CLU is a much lauded visual effect as they managed to make him look like a 35 year old version of Jeff Bridges. While this was much needed for the story to work, and a rather cool gimmick, the effect didn’t thrill me. CGI is still not at the place where we can replicate the natural, involuntary things that human skin or eyes do; CLU’s skin doesn’t wrinkle correctly by the eyes, or pull quite right over his cheek bones and his skin is just a tad too cgi-looking. However, CLU is a fine villain and works perfectly as the opposite of Kevin Flynn.
Kevin Flynn is much matured in this film, something that makes sense as he’s been trapped inside the grid for twenty years. While Flynn is still free-wheeling and gifted he’s finally learned the price of being a creator, and what the price of perfection truly is. Bridges is in fine form and obviously enjoys playing the character he originated at another stage in life. Despite re-embodying Flynn, what stands out to me every time post-Lebowski that I see Bridges is how much Jeff Bridges truly is the Dude and Tron is no exception – Flynn has pieces of the Dude in him. He’s a great actor, and his own person, but I see the Dude come out somehow in every performance.
While I think that Tron Legacy is much more accessible than the original, I do think it may end up suffering the same fate as the original and in the long run, confuse the masses. However, I don’t think that a cult following, and geek worship is a bad thing…
Director:: Joe Kosinski
Kevin Flynn: The Grid. A digital frontier. I tried to picture clusters of information as they traveled through the computer. Ships, motorcycles. With the circuits like freeways. I kept dreaming of a world I thought I'd never see. And then, one day... I got in.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Natalie Portman plays Nina, the lead role in Black Swan and though she’s been amazing me with her performances since Leon, she reaches new depths in this role; it’s one of the most devastating and brutal performances I’ve seen on screen – but that’s something Aronofsky seems to excel at fostering in his films. Portman literally breaks the boundaries of sanity before the audiences eyes as she transforms from shy core member, to dual-hearted lead.
Mila Kunis also stars as Lily, the free-spirited dancer who Nina envies as she outwardly embodies everything that Nina wishes to become. Over the past few years I’ve gained great respect for Kunis as an actor, as she seems to have grown with every role I’ve seen her in. In Black Swan she manages to be both daring, brash and domineering and yet she holds your attention on screen just as thoroughly as Portman.
Black Swan owes something very specific to Hitchcock – the ability to lie to the audience. Perhaps what makes Black Swan so tense and thrilling is that as the film progresses you are never sure if what is happening on screen is real, or if it is happening in Nina’s mind; it’s a powerful tribute to the director that we stay intrigued by this, because it brings us into Nina’s plight, we can’t trust what’s going on any more than Nina can. However, when the credits finally roll all that matters is that you’ve been pinned to your seat for the better part of two hours, anxious to see what will happen to Nina.
What I love about an Aronofsky film, including Black Swan is that you can tell every inch of every frame matters to Aronofsky. The smallest details are added together to be the most important, from the textures of fabric in wardrobe, to small visual effects that may go unnoticed by most of the audience. Aronofsky has as way of melding fantasy and reality in a way that makes the fantasy look absolutely real, and when necessary makes the reality look like the dream. Aronofsky has never done a film that hasn’t been powerful and dynamic – he’s a director with a clear voice and style, one that firmly belongs in cinema and I am sure his films will be some of the many that film scholars discuss for years to come.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Nina: I had the craziest dream last night about a girl who has turned into a swan, but her prince falls for the wrong girl and she kills herself.
Claudia: Nobody means what they say on Thanksgiving, Mom. You know that. That's what the day's supposed to be all about, right? Torture.
Friday, December 17, 2010
I’m pretty sure that I’ve blogged on this one a few times, so I’ll leave you with that.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
This was a time where movie stars were truly stars, bigger than life and flawless. You watch White Christmas and you think of the decade it portrays, and how uncomplicated life must have been for our parents and grandparents; a time when the movies were grand, girls got dolled up every day, and men opened doors. It’s a film that’s big, bright and above all else – happy.
So this holiday I recommend pouring a cup of hot chocolate, starting a fire, and snuggling up with White Christmas.
Phil Davis: How can a guy *that* ugly have the nerve to have sisters?
Bob Wallace: Very brave parents.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
I would be remiss not to mention Keira Knightly’s performance in this film. I think she embodied Lizzie and brought an era to life. If I had been born in the era of Austen I have a feeling I would have been very much like the Lizzie Knightly portrays in this film.
Joe Wright is an amazing director and he’s proven it even with his short filmography. I can’t wait to see where he goes in the years to come.
Mrs. Bennet: Have you no consideration for my poor nerves?
Mr. Bennet: You mistake me, my dear. I have the utmost respect for your nerves. They've been my constant companion these twenty years.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Manic was made before Zooey Deschanel or Joseph Gordon-Levitt were stars, so the big name in this movie at the time was Don Cheedle and rightly so – this is a performance that Cheedle hits out of the park. Cheedle plays shrink to the teenagers at the facility and his constant battle with himself at the teens mental state and attitude is captivating; at points I forgot I was watching Cheedle and began to think of him as Dr. Moore. This role could not have been an easy one, as the character is placed in the difficult position of having a natural state of pity for the events that caused these teens to become who they are, and facing the reality that they are still dangerous, damaged individuals.
Gordon-Levitt plays the main character in this piece, and watching him do his thing is pretty fascinating as well as Lyle expresses himself and his anger at life in largely non-verbal ways. While Lyle may scream, hit things, and do other attention getting stunts, more often than not Lyle speaks few words and says volumes with his actions. Gordon-Levitt seems to be acting right down to his very bones.
I have to give props to director Jordan Melamed. To get performances like these out of actors, even the great actors he has here, takes a talented hand. Without the guidance of a good director these performaces could stand alone as the only memorable points of this tale, but instead they blend beautifully into a larger picture and create a cohesive character piece. I’d love to see Melamed direct again.
Director: Jordan Melamed
Friday, December 3, 2010
Agent Coulson: Good luck! We need you!
Tony Stark: More than you know.
Agent Coulson: Not that much!
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Director: Danny Boyle
Pinbacker: At the end of time, a moment will come when just one man remains. Then the moment will pass. Man will be gone. There will be nothing to show that we were ever here... but stardust.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Director: Michael Dougherty
Monday, November 29, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Director: Joseph M. Newman
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Director: Shawn Levy
Phil Foster: He turned the gun sideways! That's a kill shot!
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Howdy Dear Readers,
I'm WAY behind in my reviews...yet I keep watching movies and I know I'm not going to stop. In an effort to cut my losses I'm going to do some unconventional posts, that will more show you what I've been watching than go into detail about them.
I hope to return to my somewhat-traditional format soon!
a.k.a. The Director
I'm WAY behind in my reviews...yet I keep watching movies and I know I'm not going to stop. In an effort to cut my losses I'm going to do some unconventional posts, that will more show you what I've been watching than go into detail about them.
I hope to return to my somewhat-traditional format soon!
a.k.a. The Director
Sunday, November 21, 2010
As an avid fan of the books, when watching The Deathly Hallows Part 1 feels like the best adaptation of the books so far; Yates, Kloves and the cast are obviously benefiting from the added screen time that breaking Deathly Hallows into 2 parts allows them. I am thankful for that. This is a complex series, and the last chapter in the tale truly shows how proflic our villain is and how much our heroes have changed since they met as 11 year olds.
I will freely admit that this is the tale in the series that made me cry – many times – and the filmed version is no exception. What makes JK Rowling a great writer is that she did not put the “safety” of her characters above the end goal of the story she was telling. No one in Harry’s world is safe, and a good many beloved characters die in Deathly Hallows - every death is hard, as it should be.
What stands out the most about The Deathly Hallows is how good these child actors have become. When they were cast as 10 & 11 year olds it was a great gamble for many reasons. It was quite possible that through the years their talents wouldn’t progress, or perhaps it would turn out that they were just cute kids. Luckily, that is the one thing Chris Columbus got right. Rupert Grint, Emma Watson & Daniel Radcliffe have grown into phenomenal actors each in their own right, and I desperately hope that they can all find success after Harry Potter is gone and hopefully gain the needed distance from their characters.
I loved this movie. When it ended I wanted to stay in my seat and watch it again. I am both excited and sad as I wait for the summer to come. Because I truly believe that the series will be beautifully handled in it’s final episode, yet I will be sad to see it go.
Director: David Yates
Bellatrix: How dare you defy your master!
Dobby: Dobby has no master.
Friday, November 19, 2010
I am obsessed with this movie because it’s so artistically original that I want to pick the brains of the filmmakers and see how this entire project sprang to being frame by frame.
It’s beautiful. It’s original. It’s the best “romantic comedy” since When Harry Met Sally.
Rachel Hansen: Just because she likes the same bizzaro crap you do doesn't mean she's your soul mate.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I love this movie. I love Robert Downey Jr. I love Jon Favreau. I think this film is an amazing follow-up to the original, and I am excited to see where Marvel goes from here.
Soon I will be getting my Joss Whedon fix in the form of The Avengers. Can’t wait.
Tony Stark: My bond is with the people, and I will serve this great nation at the pleasure of myself. If there's one thing I've proven it's that you can count on me to pleasure myself.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
In my personal opinion, I think this film isn’t the most thrilling film noir I’ve ever seen, mainly because it was towards the end of the period, it was in Technicolor and it was a tad disjointed. While Black Widow had a definite point and edge to it, it lacked the willingness to truly go gritty – something the best noirs do. It’s something I can definitely learn from as I work on my own noir.
Director: Nunnally Johnson
Monday, November 15, 2010
The best thing about Due Date is the interaction between Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. Comedy chemistry can’t be faked and these two actors have it in spades. While I am partial to the talents of Downey, I have to say that this film would be nothing if Galifianakis couldn’t match him turn for turn. My single favorite scene in the film would have to be the acting exercises Downey’s Highman puts Galifianakis’s Tremblay through to prove his chops; it’s the kind of scene that you know the actors had to loose it in more than once during filming.
The one thing that Due Date suffers from is that it is Phillips follow-up to The Hangover. Too many critic’s and audience members have gone in expecting The Hangover 2 instead of this film, and that’s affected how they viewed it. Due Date presents a whole new sets of scenario’s and jokes than The Hangover and is proof that Phillips can turn out comedy, and not just one comedic film.
Director: Todd Phillips
Sunday, November 14, 2010
If you’ve ever had the urge to become a canyoneer or mountain climber and just haven’t acted on it, 127 Hours will stop that urge cold. It is a PSA for safe extreme sports and avoidance of the desert.
Originally uploaded by myETVmedia
Originally uploaded by myETVmedia
Based on a true tale, 127 Hours is very nearly a one man play held together by the talents of James Franco and Danny Boyle. It’s the story of Aron Ralston, an adrenaline junkie who goes out for his usual weekend of canyoneering and rock climbing when suddenly the weekend takes a tragic turn as during a climb down into a deserted crevice Aron falls, followed by a boulder that pins Aron’s had to the canyon wall. What follows is a grueling, tense, and occasionally gory tale of one man’s survival instinct that ends with the headline that made the news – desperate and out of options Ralston cuts off his own arm using a Leatherman in order to escape.
This is a film that is truly helmed by one actor. Sure, there’s a beginning and an end with the people in Ralston’s life but the majority of this film is Franco, alone with nothing but a boulder and a camcorder to keep him company. It’s a tribute to Franco and Boyle that this film sucks you in and doesn’t let you go until the very end.
While I don’t expect 127 Hours to light up the awards this season, I do think that Franco could come out with more than one acting nomination. Boyle chose and directed his leading man right, helping him to navigate the waters from cocky adrenaline junkie, to desperate being and all the while the audience is never pulled out of his peril.
Director: Danny Boyle
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
For me Helen Mirren stole this movie. Perhaps, it’s because at Comic-Con she actually said she was having fun using bullets instead of words, but her hardened ex-MI 6 assassin was the standout. Frankly, if Mirren did a few more of these, I might be afraid to run into her in a dark alley.
I know there are a number of people out there that will be turned off when I say that the best part of this movie is that it’s fun, but that isn’t a slam to it’s craftsmanship. This film is filled with Oscar caliber (and a few Oscar winning) performers who made an action movie and are having fun doing it. From Karl Urban to Bruce Willis this film bristles with charisma, action and talent. I spent the majority of this film laughing – and that’s a good thing.
Director: Robert Schwentke
Marvin Boggs: I remember the Secret Service being tougher.
Victoria: Me too.
Friday, October 29, 2010
The only downside to Call Northside 777 is the confusing title. The phone number seems to have little to do with the movie, and been slapped on as a remnant of an era where titles didn’t always relate to the films they belonged to (I Wake Up Screaming is another film that comes to mind in terms of titles). This film is a gem – fantastic performance by Stewart, a inspiring true story I’d never heard of, and a marvel of writing and line delivery that was an identifier of the era in Hollywood. Needless to say, from start to finish, I was impressed.
I could immediately tell that I am a child of technology, as when I was watching this film, taking place in the 1940’s the thought of doing investigative reporting where your most high tech tools were a lie detector test and photo enlargement was confounding. All that popped into my head was the wonders of DNA testing and how the invention of photoshop could have killed McNeil’s new evidence. It was much harder to be an investigative reporter before the internet and cell phones.
Based purely on the fact that I didn’t know this film existed before I purchased it as part of the Fox 75th Anniversary lineup, I’m guessing it’s quite under viewed by today’s audiences. I think that should be changed. And so, I encourage you, give Call Northside 777 a watch.
Director: Henry Hathaway
Laura: What's the matter, won't the pieces fit together?
McNeal: Some of them, but they make the wrong picture.
Laura: Pieces never make the wrong picture. Maybe you're looking at them from the wrong angle.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
The Loveless is co-directed by Bigelow and Monty Montgomery and I have to say that it proves that from the get-go Bigelow didn’t concern herself about being a female director who should be concerned with woman’s issues – a rhetoric I hear quite a bit once the gender of a director is discovered by a critic. Instead, Bigelow concerns herself with the stuff of human emotion, namely conflict, rebellion, adversity and the hard to love hero. These are things normally placed within male protagonists and male-centric films, but the theme is universal to all.
In The Loveless, like The Wild One, the conflict comes from a group of bikers that head into town and stir up the prejudices and fears of the residents. The bikers are all ex-cons, unafraid of the locals disdain and willing to use the few residents who find them appealing, creating an end for their journey that ruins the town in a way The Wild One could not and the nomadic journey of Easy Rider didn’t allow.
This film is an exercise in the study of a rebellious character, but for those who want to see how Bigelow became who she is, or want to watch Willem Dafoe shine in his first major role this is a definite film to see.
Directors: Kathryn Bigelow & Monty Montgomery
Vance: You never can tell on a day like this- things could be goin' jake one minute, then, presto- before you know it, you're
What keeps Laura fresh, and easy to follow despite it’s complicated tale of murder and betrayal are the characters. Each character from minor to major all have a distinct voice and purpose in the tale that unfolds, right down to Laura’s housekeeper.
If I had any complaint about Laura, it would be that it ends too abruptly. The killer is revealed, and then the end credits immediately roll. I can attribute that to a style that fit the films of the era though and remember that after seeing the original The Italian Job - any ending is less abrupt.
Waldo Lydecker: Love is eternal. It has been the strongest motivation for human actions throughout history. Love is stronger than life. It reaches beyond the dark shadow of death.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
The Wild One is about a bike gang in the 50’s that roll into a small town out of boredom and discover the divisive nature of the town. Within 24 hours they manage to overrun the town, getting neighbor to turn on neighbor until they inspire a modern day mob ala Frankenstein out to get Johnny and his gang to either kill them or get them out of town. The films really as simple as that, it feels as though it was trying to do for leather jackets and motorcycles what Reefer Maddness did for MJ.
As always, the one saving grace of this film was Brando. That man could light up a silver screen when he turned it on, and even in a very Rebel Without A Cause kind of phase, he ignites here. Brando was a man that could do and would do anything he wanted in the industry and it’s evident here that he was a cinematic force to be recokened with.
Director: Laslo Benedek
Mildred: What're you rebelling against, Johnny?
Johnny: Whaddya got?
Monday, October 18, 2010
Let me start by saying that Brando is amazing in this film. What should have been a really simple character is given depth and a soul by the life Brando breathed into him and I can’t imagine how gleeful that must have made the director during filming.
However, the single favorite element in this film for me had to be Father Barry; the priest moved out of the abbey and into the streets because of some harsh words from a parishioner is a picture of the church that I rarely see in the movies. Father Barry gets shaken out of apathy, thinking he can only work God’s work inside his four walls only to remember that God and His people exist outside those walls too, and perhaps he can help them. Barry becomes a champion for the dock workers, taking on their challenges and their dangers in the hopes that he can make a difference.
There is a reason this film is lauded by historians and critics alike as one of the best. It simply is. On the Waterfront is a film that has a soul that’s lived on long after it’s initial audiences sat in a darkened theatre and watched 24fps go before their eyes.
Director: Elia Kazan
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Pickup on South Street is a classic noir crime tale, but mixed with the paranoia of the Cold War – a brilliant idea. Instead of the local crime lord or good guy gone bad, we get cops and communists and the American fear of the unknown enemy. What makes the fear, the item stolen, so daunting in this movie to all of our players is that none of them know who the enemy is or who to believe.
While Pickup on South Street is a great noir, it is not a traditional one. However, for any noir lover it should be on their list of movies to see.
Director: Samuel Fuller
Skip McCoy: You boys are talking to the wrong corner. I'm just a guy keeping my hands in my own pockets.
FBI Agent Zara: If you refuse to cooperate you'll be as guilty as the traitors who gave Stalin the A-bomb.
Skip McCoy: Are you waving the flag at me?
Monday, October 4, 2010
This still mystifies me.
Mean Streets is a different Scorsese than we would get if we walk into a theatre today. It’s more raw, chaotic and carefree – yet it is in essence the very thing that led up to Travis Bickle and even the men of Scorsese’s modern work. This is a film about a New York that’s crumbling but loved, affluent but poor, artistic yet visceral, masculine and familial. All of these things are the very essence of what makes a Scorsese film Scorsese.
As you would imagine, the real standout element to Mean Street is the element that most people remember Scorsese for in his films even now – his leading man. Scorsese’s muse may now be Leonardo DiCaprio, but DiCaprio’s way was paved by none other than Scorsese’s original muse Robert DeNiro. Mean Streets was the first collaboration between Scorsese & DeNiro and it’s immediately evident why they worked together for so long. In a film where Scorsese knows exactly what he’s doing, DeNiro is the one element that absolutely shines as though he were made for that world.
I really can’t say a lot about Mean Streets because I truly believe it’s a film that should be discovered by the viewer. It’s a film that helped define one of the most prominent directors of the Hollywood pantheon and a film that entices you to see more.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Sunday, October 3, 2010
I wish I could praise You Again because the cast is one I adore – Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigorney Weaver, Kristen Bell and Victor Garber – but I can’t. There was very little in this film that worked…in fact, as I’m trying to come up with things to say about it, I’m blanking badly.
Perhaps where this film suffers the most is somewhere between the writing and editing. I do believe that this film was cut down for a rating. For some reason, because the trailer wouldn’t leave you to believe this, the film is PG and I don’t think the film was shot PG. Yet it was edited that way. The jokes end up feeling truncated, watered down and more than anything there’s no flow to the entire film.
The saving grace of You Again, the only good thing I can say about the movie, is the cast. Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis & Kristen Bell are wonderful leading ladies and they try very hard to knock this film out of the park.
This is a film that needed to be let loose, and it suffers because it wasn’t. But that’s okay, at the end of the day this is a pretty generic film – someone else will make it again in the next decade.
Director: Andy Fickman
Saturday, October 2, 2010
The hardest challenge with The Social Network is the fact that these events all transpired starting only seven years ago. Most of us in our twenties remember accepting myspace, then slowly hearing about this other site that was catching on like fire called Facebook and slowly adopting to that as we were granted access and hearing all these rumblings of the young creative genius and his lawsuits – but most of us were too busy enjoying the site to care. Thanks to Aaron Sorkin, we care now.
Rather than turn The Social Network into a run of the mill rags to riches story, Sorkin, Fincher and the cast create a story of young people struggling to matter for a variety of reasons – Zuckerberg wants to fit into a world he feels outside of, Saverin wants to be a successful business man with his best friend, and Parker wants revenge on the older generation that brought him down. The Social Network is a tragedy of being careful what you wish for, and a beautiful commentary about the ongoing society we are all apart of that seeks instant gratification and has replaced physical contact for electronic voyeurism.
Jesse Eisenberg gives a performance worthy of recognition as Mark Zuckerberg. He’s keeps Zuckerberg on the precipice of intellectual headcase, ass, and confused, innocent savant. Never once can you blame Zuckerberg for the issues that surround him, but instead you see him as a victim to the tragedy he may have helped create.
However, the real revelation in the film is Justin Timberlake. I’m beginning to never care if Timberlake records another album as long as he continues to act. Timberlake plays Sean Parker, the genius madman behind Napster who latches on to Zuckerberg and if anything is the one who can be blamed not only for the radical success that Facebook enjoys, but the troubles that will eventually enfold Zuckerberg. Placing Timberlake in the role of the man who helped begin the death knoll on the pre-digital music industry is a brilliant and gutsy choice on the part of Fincher and I would be interested to know who approached who in the casting process.
The only problem The Social Network may suffer from is the mere fact that it is too current. Like Up In The Air last year, the issues being dealt with in this film are a part of the current American psyche and while for a few months they may be very relevant, the film will likely not fully be praised for the true beauty and message it holds until a decade or two has passed.
Director: David Fincher
Lawyer: Okay - no. You don't think I deserve your attention.
Mark: I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try - but there's no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention - you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing. Did I adequately answer your condescending question?
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Easy A sets out to crib John Hughes in a very obvious way. Not only does Olive mention Hughes and the most popular teen films of the 80’s, but Will Gluck seems to be intent on cribbing Hughes in every way possible…and it works. While Easy A may not be a blow-for-blow Hughes film, the viewer is left with the same feeling they would be in a Hughes film – the feeling that these characters are really human, and the story has a heart.
Emma Stone is no Molly Ringwald, but by this I mean no disrespect. Ringwald grew to fame by playing the delicate, pretty girl that was either too popular (Breakfast Club) or overlooked (Sixteen Candles) but no matter what character she was, she was always delicate and understated. Emma Stone is not. Emma Stone is the Huges character for a modern generation – when situations arise that challenge her, Stone’s Olive makes the situation more obvious and pushes it to the next level attempting to throw her peers folly back on them.
What struck me most after watching Easy A was something I didn’t expect; I was struck by how Easy A could be a commentary for how a generation of teenagers is so vastly different from the teens of the 80’s. While our parents always tell us the differences between our struggles and theirs is only circumstantial, this film proves that wrong. In Sixteen Candles the worst thing that can happen to Samantha in Sixteen Candles is that a freshman pays five bucks to see her underwear, but in Easy A the worst thing that can happen to Olive is that men pay money to date her.
Director: Will Gluck
Olive: Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in 80's movies? I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey. I want Jake from Sixteen Candles waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an 80's movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason. But no, no, John Hughes did not direct my life.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Thursday, September 9, 2010
A Decade Under the Influence is a must-see for anyone that has a love of the films from the 1970’s; the documentary is told in three parts, but could easily have been stretched to many more by IFC as the pool of talent and films they have to draw on is seemingly endless. The 1970’s are the years that gave us Scorsese, Spielberg, Bogdanovich, Coppola, Dennis Hopper, Clint Eastwood, George Lucas, counter-culture in film, the first summer blockbuster, the decline of the dying studio system, the rise of the independents and more than can possibly be covered in just three hours.
One thing that A Decade Under the Influence covers beautifully is the story behind the rise of the great filmmakers in the decade, and how they ended up becoming the establishment they were fighting against. So many of the artists working in the 1970’s wanted to tell stories that were avoided by the studios, and to be allowed to do it on their own terms. When their films proved to be viable the artists were granted slow access to the studios, until the “gritty” way they made films ended up becoming a studio norm and the anti-establishment became the establishment. While none of this discounts their artistic credibility, it does explain how after a decade of turbulent fighting for the art of filmmaking the artists managed to win the battles but loose the war.
Perhaps what makes A Decade Under the Influence so memorable is that the people whose works are lauded in the series are the ones that populate it – there are interviews with Scorsese, Coppola, Dennis Hopper, and anyone that would get in front of the camera and talk about what they remember from their filmmaking experiences in the 70’s. It’s in their own words and you can feel the passion and the vibrance they remember experiencing as it was all happening for them.
Watching A Decade Under the Influence makes me hope that we will currently be undergoing another succession of artistic change in the film industry; one that doesn’t care as much about numbers as it does about viable art and the long haul process to get an audience to accept it.
Directors: Tedd Demme & Richard LaGravenese
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Now, when I tell you The Expendables is thin on plot, I mean it. The actors move around and interact as if there is a plot, but in fact all there is to this is one script page after the next that must be played out in order for the action sequences to evolve in grandeur and eventually reach their denouement. I don’t mean this as an insult, in fact this is probably why the film works in the manner it intends – it’s a fun romp of gunfire, fist fights and explosions provided by people that the audience wants to see do what they do best.
What doesn’t work so well is the random bits Stallone throws in there to try and give these action stars a chance to act…most of them are action stars for a reason… The most legit actor of the bunch, Mickey Rourke, even has a scene where he manages to squeeze out some tears, despite the ham handed dialogue that accompanies it. Perhaps, I’d see more merit in the acting segments if the dialogue were given another pass – but again that’s not what you see a movie like this for.
The Expendables really settles into its groove in the final act of the film. Why? You guessed, because the last act is nothing but car chases, fights and explosions –one exhilarating romp after another. It’s so fun to watch you cease to care that the coup Eric Roberts character helped fun was apparently for profits from cocoa beans, or that the General/Dictator has made all of his soldiers wear face paint to show loyalty (seriously?), or that Stallone and Li manage to survive and Bonnie & Clyde style ambush in their car – it looks good on film and so begins a sequence of activities where every one of the stars gets their moment.
If you’re looking for an action movie that has it all from this past summer then you should see Inception. However, if you’re looking for a throw-back from the good old days when explosions ruled action films, see The Expendables.
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Writers: Dave Callaham & Sylvester Stallone
Barney Ross: Sylvester Stallone
Lee Christmas: Jason Statham
Ying Yang: Jet Li
Gunner: Dolph Lundgren
James Munroe: Eric Roberts
Toll Road: Randy Coture
Paine: Steve Austin
Gen. Garza: David Zayas
Sandra: Giselle Itie
Lacy: Charisma Carpenter
Hale Caesar: Terry Crews
Tool: Mickey Rourke
Church: Bruce Willis
Lee: What's he sayin'?
Hale: He said we're dead, with an accent!
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Thank God for the films of Rian Johnson.
I realized part of what I love about Brick, part of what makes it so real and visceral is the sound design. This is a film that is visually sparse and distinct, and the sound design matches that in every way possible. There is little to no background noise that can’t be called “generic”, the only things you hear are what you see, and yet everything is distinct and clear. That may not sound like a lot to those of you that have ever thought about sound, but if you’ve ever been subjected to a film that has had the sound over designed or under designed I am sure your brain picked up that something was very off – even if you couldn’t figure out what that was. Never assume that what you’re hearing along with the picture, was simply what the sound peeps recorded while filming.
My favorite random bit about the sound design of Brick? [Yes, I am a geek that has a favorite part of the sound design in this film.] I adore the fact that everyone’s run/footsteps sound distinct. I remember reading an article that Rian Johnson had taken his characters shoes into account when plotting what they would be like, and I think this extends right down to how they sound. Normally, this is the kind of thing that isn’t readily apparent, but where I noticed it the most was the sequence where the thug is chasing down Brendan at school. Ws they run through the corridors Brendan’s step is lithe and quick and the thug is heavy and significantly slower – the sound comes more into play when Brendan realizes he can be heard running and discards his shoes to double back on the thug as he hears him approach.
My point is, from script, to production to post every element of something as “simple” as how the shoes would work in this film was fully planned, thought out and executed to maximum effect.
I am both astonished and inspired by this. This is the kind of craftsman ship I aspire to, and while I know I subconsciously do add touches like this to my works, I’m still working to make it a conscious effort. I would love to one day be compared to Rian Johnson, the Orange County director with an eye for artful details.
The Brain: See the Pin pipes it from the lowest scraper for Brad Bramish to sell, maybe. Ask any dope rat where their junk sprang and they'll say they scraped it from that, who scored it from this, who bought it off so, and after four or five connections the list always ends with The Pin. But I bet you, if you got every rat in town together and said "Show your hands" if any of them've actually seen The Pin, you'd get a crowd of full pockets.
Brendan: You think The Pin's just a tale to take whatever heat?
The Brain: Hmm... So what's first?
Brendan: Show of hands.