Friday, July 30, 2010

He's Just Not That Into You

He’s Just Not That Into You is an odd movie for me. I love it, and yet there are things about the film I dislike. For instance, any scene with Anna & Ben I skip through on DVD, and I cannot watch half of the scenes with Gigi without being embarrassed.

I think what it comes down to is not that I dislike the film, but it’s actually well enough made that certain things the characters do actually activate parts of my personality. For the storyline between Anna & Ben that means the fact that I can’t tolerate people that cheat on their significant others gets kicked in and I can’t stand to watch their scenes – it literally makes me mad at Ben that he would cheat on his wife, and upset at Anna that she would be okay with taking a married man away from his wife.

The case of Gigi isn’t as severe. What resonates with me about Gigi, is that though she is much bolder than I there are parts of her character that I see so clearly in my personality that I literally become embarrassed for her. While I can watch all of her scenes, I literally become emotionally tense as she goes through situations with men. When she finally hits on Alex after the party I usually talk to the screen and tell her just to “leave!” – of course I know she won’t listen, but I swear to you my brain just wants her to avoid embarrassment.

You’d think as He’s Just Not That Into You isn’t really a relaxing film for me to watch, I wouldn’t enjoy it enough to watch a lot. Truth is, I do love watching it. I think it’s a well made film, and there are parts of the film that don’t make me embarrassed or upset. I think one of the best, most heartfelt stories about love is in the film between Beth & Neil. Theirs is a story line I would actually watch more of, but their place in the film helps to round out everything else that may make the film an “interactive” home viewing experience for me.

What can I say, this is one “chick flick” that I like.

Alex: I dunno... I like you
Gigi: You do?
Alex: Well, yeah, okay, don't start doodling my name on your binder, okay.

The Brother's Bloom

I think I’ve raved about Rian Johnson a lot, but that won’t stop me from raving about him again. The man may only have two feature films to his credit, but they are damn good ones. Brick and The Brother’s Bloom have secured his spot on my list of favorite young directors.

Simply put, I think the man has one of the most unique visions out there and I cannot wait to see what leaps from his brain, to page to screen next.

One of my professors once said that you could tell a directors talent by watching their second film; if their first film was fantastic and their second film lacking, it usually meant that the director was overwhelmed and didn’t truly understand how they put the first film together and made it what it was. Well,Brick was always going to be a tough act to follow, but Johnson hit his second film out of the park with The Brother’s Bloom.

This is a film where every visual is calculated to give maximum impact, color is used to create whimsy in what should be a dark world, and again, the writing shows the unique mind of the creator behind it. The Brother’s Bloom is a unique world or quirky characters, real danger, whimsy and intrigue. This is a film where gentlemen thieves exist and there is no damsel in distress, a witty narrator helps tell the tale, and when the credits roll none of the characters will ever be the same – yet it can still end on a hopeful note.

If you haven’t seen this gem of a film I emplore you to see it. You’ll be ushered into a world unlike any other, and at the end of the day I hope you’ll be awaiting Johnson’s next film as well.

Penelope: This was a story about a girl who could find infinite beauty in anything, any little thing, and even love the person she was trapped with. And i told myself this story until it became true. Now, did doing this help me escape a wasted life? Or did it blind me so I didn't want to escape it? I don't know, but either way I was the one telling my own story...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

NewsRadio: Seasons 1 & 2

NewsRadio has been one of my favorite sitcoms since I first discovered it as a teen. It’s the story of a New York news radio station that is filled with eccentric characters as they go through the running’s of their studio and they are owned by the eccentric billionaire, Jimmy James.

This is a show made by its characters. Dave Foley plays the stations new News Manager, who has to fire the man he’s replacing as his first act of business. Stephen Root is Jimmy James who you’ll find more often in the mens room or behind Dave’s desk than crunching numbers. Andy Dick plays Matthew, the reporter who apparently has no skill whatsoever besides annoying his coworkers. Maura Tierney is Lisa Miller, the straight edged reporter who though she was a shoe-in for Dave’s job and ends up entwined in a relationship with Dave. Vicki Lewis is Beth, the world’s most memorable secretary who would rather skip out on a bonus than get Dave coffee. Joe Rogan is Joe the handyman who makes things out of reclaimed parts and without an instruction manual instead of making a trip to the hardware store. Khandi Alexander is Catherine Duke, regal news anchor and office spitfire. And rounding out the cast is Phil Hartman is Bill McNeal the stations egotist news anchor.

This show makes me miss Phil Hartman in a way I haven’t since he first died. This man was a comic of unparalelled skill and his star was only starting to shine when he was murdered. The only issue I have is that in hindsight the first Christmas episode, where Bill has a stalker that is trying to kill him is very hard to watch knowing how he actually died. When the stalker finally cuts his brake line and the episode ends with Bill unable to stop his care I was unable to laugh knowing that Phil Hartman was murdered.

Even with that tragedy hanging over the show, it’s impossible not to fall in love with NewsRadio. This show is one of the best written sitcoms that may have ever been on the air, and the fact that it was cut down in its prime still makes me a bit sad.

Dave: Have you thought about how this will make you co-workers feel?
Bill: Actually, one of the great things about the cubicle is not having to think about my co-workers at all.
~ The Shrink

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Brick scares me in a way I cannot describe to you unless you too are a young director looking to make their mark on cinema. Rian Johnson managed to make a low budget feature so awe inspiring that I cannot stop watching it as I think of what my next project might be. I can only hope that my next feature directorial effort will land somewhere in the ball park that Brick occupies, and yet the film intimidates me enough that I’m not sure how to pull something like that off on a lack of a budget.

If you haven’t seen Brick here’s why I think it’s so awe inspiring.

I’m going to start with the visuals, the cinematography. This film is fully planned visually, somehow balancing an Orange County setting with dirt and grit. As I live in Orange County, not too far from where Brick was filmed, I know what this local looks like and somehow Johnson and DP Steve Yedlin managed to make San Clemente look like a place I’d never seen before. On as meager a budget as they had, the duo put a consistent color scheme, texture and feel into their film that set it apart from so many low budget films. The cinematography tells the story as the characters go through it.

You can’t talk about Brick without talking about the cast. This is the film that helped launch Joseph Gordon-Levitt into the realm of a hard core indy actor and shake loose from the mantle of television he’d had on him. In a career that’s since spanned some of the richest roles in recent cinema, Brick still stands as one of his best performances. Getting that kind of performance out of your lead actor, and achieving riveting and genuine performances out of everyone else onscreen is a thing to be envious of. As a director it’s hard enough to get one outstanding performance out of your cast, but to get every actor to appear onscreen as if they were born into the roles they are playing is a thing of downright beauty.

One cannot watch even the trailer for this film without noticing the writing, again by Rian Johnson. The dialogue that drips off the characters tongues seems ripped from Dashiell Hammett and the plot could easily fit within any noir made in the era of Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder. This is a film so intricate that the audience gets lost with the characters and if any one element were out of place the entire film would come crashing down around us all.

Every single element that awes me about Brick comes back to one central element – Rian Johnson and his directorial style. Johnson manages to hit it out of the park from the opening shots of Brick; for a first feature he artfully merges tone, acting, dialogule, the visuals and the plot in such a way that his directorial stamp is clearly seen. Along with the story of Brendan Frye you can see the hand of Rian Johnson, and that is an incredibly difficult thing to achieve on a first feature.

Rian Johnson is someone I am both humbled by and inspired by because we’re young directors from the same county, and yet I have yet to be able to achieve what he has already artfully succeeded at doing.

Brendan: No, bulls would gum it. They'd flash their dusty standards at the wide-eyes and probably find some yegg to pin, probably even the right one. But they'd trample the real tracks and scare the real players back into their holes, and if we're doing this I want the whole story. No cops, not for a bit.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Originally uploaded by WarnerBrosMovies
Going into Inception a second time I was afraid the complexities of the film would not hold up now that I’d experienced the film once and would have time to think as I watched. I was genuinely surprised to find the exact opposite happen to me. Watching the film for a second time you begin to notice even more intricacies of what Christopher Nolan has done, and how finely polished it all is because it fits together so tightly. This film isn’t a rubik’s cube that’s been twisted out of shape, it’s a labyrinth that has been artfully carved with great detail.

With every film Leonardo DiCaprio seems to be getting better, and Inception is one of his finest performances to date. I heard someone compare Leo’s character in Inception with his character in Shutter Island stating that the two were far too similar; despite the fact that both characters are fathers separated from their families I really see no further similarities. While it’s coincidence that both films came out in the same year, Cobb is a very sane man wanting desperately to be a father again and Teddy Daniels sole goal is to break the case and exact revenge.

One of the most stunning things in this film is still the sequences with Arthur and the rotating corridor. The sheer skill and coordination that went into the scene is mind boggling and the visuals are flawless. Nolan created an action sequence that I think will be imitated in the years to come, the same way that other filmmakers stole bullet time from The Matrix.

With Inception Christopher Nolan manages to make a film that is both thought provoking and action oriented. It’s a story that sparks of craftsmanship and I will be quite interested to see if it remains on everyone’s radar when awards season approaches.

Cobb: Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Inglourious Basterds

Knowing the kinds of films Quentin Tarantino makes, it still shocks and stuns me on a few levels that the masses adore Inglourious Basterds. Watching it again, I have to say that this is the WWII fantasy film that every Jew in Hollywood has wanted to make since the war ended. Because while we may have defeated Hitler in the actual war, but there is nothing as cathartic as eviscerating him and the entire Nazi regime in fiction.

What I really love about the directing of Inglourious Basterds is that there are no lost performances. When I watch the film, every character that makes it on screen is memorable, rounded and worth paying attention to – with an ensemble cast as big as this, and numerous notable cameos that’s quite a feat for Tarantino to pull off. However, right down to Samuel L. Jackson’s voice over, there is nothing throwaway in this film.

I wish I could rave, rant and write about my favorite things in this film, but as I love this film enough that I want to keep the readers that haven’t seen it in the dark I won’t. Instead I will keep this short and say one thing: Inglourious Basterds is a film that you need to experience for yourself, so please, go experience it.

Lt. Aldo Raine: You didn't say the goddamn rendezvous was in a fuckin' basement.
Lt. Archie Hicox: I didn't know.
Lt. Aldo Raine: You said it was in a tavern.
Lt. Archie Hicox: It is a tavern.
Lt. Aldo Raine: Yeah, in a basement. You know, fightin' in a basement offers a lot of difficulties. Number one being, you're fightin' in a basement!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Blood Simple

One of my favorite young directors tweeted once that “Memento is a pretty goddamn humbling movie” and he’s right. Well, I just watched Blood Simple for the first time and I have to say that what the Coen’s did is pretty damn humbling as well. While the film may have “simple” in the title, the film is anything but; Blood Simple is a stark noir, filled with characters we can’t trust and is a downright exercise in minimalism.

I know that the Coen’s got Blood Simple made because of sheer determination. I’ve heard stories of where they showed clips of test footage in people’s living rooms as fund raisers, taped Frances McDormand into camera rigging for special shots, and just generally did everything short of selling their souls for their first feature.

The effort paid off.

I watch Blood Simple and I miss the days when independent film wasn’t its own market. When determination, style and talent could get your farther than a budget and a known cast. While that’s not completely gone from the indy market of today, the indy market is much more main stream now than it is independent. Watching Blood Simple reminds me of a much more pure way of making your passion films.

The single thing that characterizes Blood Simple more than anything else is how stark the film is. The setting are bleak, empty and harsh as is the situation they are all thrown into. While the plot may revolve around Abby having left her husband Marty, we never wonder which one of the two is more at fault for their rift – Abby is the adultrus wife, but Marty is the crazed, abusive husband and no one around them is clean.

It’s plain and simple to see watching this film how the Coen’s turned into Oscar winners. Their imagination and vision has always been unique and different. They are filmmakers that from the very start had great stories to tell.

Directors & Writers: Joel & Ethan Coen
Ray: John Getz
Abby: Frances McDormand
Marty: Dan Hedaya
Private Detective: M. Emmet Walsh

Private Detective:The world is full o' complainers. An' the fact is, nothin' comes with a guarantee. Now I don't care if you're the pope of Rome, President of the United States or Man of the Year; somethin' can all go wrong. Now go on ahead, y'know, complain, tell your problems to your neighbor, ask for help, 'n watch him fly. Now, in Russia, they got it mapped out so that everyone pulls for everyone else... that's the theory, anyway. But what I know about is Texas, an' down here... you're on your own.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Originally uploaded by there'snotime
For me, there are few things like the experience of a good movie in the theatre, it’s one of the reasons it’s my desire to make films for audiences. A great film is hard enough to do, but if you as a filmmaker can make a great film and suck the audience into its world to the point that the theatre comes under the films control – well there’s nothing like experiencing that. To this day I still remember what it was like when I first watched Jurassic Park and felt that dinosaurs were real, sat in Seabiscuit and realized audience members around me were cheering for a horse onscreen, and I know that the collective gasp and gleeful astoundment that came with the credits of Inception will stay with me as well.

I can’t tell you much about the actual plot of Inception, both because it’s so beautifully complicated I wouldn’t know how to begin, and because the film deserves to be watched for the first time with the freshest eyes you can, so that you too can be completely caught in the wonder. By saying the film is beautifully complicated does not mean it does not make sense, this is a film that is the complex, exquisite brainchild of master craftsman Christopher Nolan.

I do not throw the word auteur around much as I believe film is a collaborative process and auteur limits the results to one man’s contribution, but upon seeing this film I believe Christopher Nolan deserves the title of auteur. Inception could not be made without him completely involved in every aspect of the film – it reeks of an auteur’s hand.

With every film Christopher Nolan seems to be getting better. Even though the man makes giant films that make money hand over fist, I would in no way call him a commercial director, and I mean that as a compliment. Nolan makes films that achieve worldwide attention, steal the top stop at the box office, and gain critical recognition, yet they are by no means simple. Christopher Nolan has mastered the art of being able to tell a worthy, intricate tale in a compelling and entertaining way, getting the best performances possible out of his actors, and trusting the audience to come into his world instead of making his films fit into theirs. This is a balsy approach in a filmmaking era where tentpole films are generally more flash than substance and the audience leaves happy, but rarely thinking about what they actually watched for anything more than the adrenaline that it pumped through them. This is the reason it’s my desperate dream to have Christopher Nolan as a directing mentor – there could be no better hands to sit under and study.

Inception is worthy of all the critical praise it has received and I hope that it continues to surmass more critical and audience praise as it continues down it’s theatrical journey. I for one and excited to see what the visuals will look like on the IMAX screen, as they are already astoundingly visual on the standard screen. I can’t wait to go down the rabbit hole again and begin dreaming with Christopher Nolan one more time.

Director & Writer: Christopher Nolan
Cobb: Leonardo DiCaprio
Arthur: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Ariadne: Ellen Page
Eames: Tom Hardy
Saito: Ken Wantanabe
Yusuf: DiLeep Rao
Robert Fischer Jr.: Cillian Murphy
Browning: Tom Berenger
Mal: Marion Cotillad
Maurice Fischer: Pete Postlethwaite
Miles: Michael Caine
Mash: Lukas Haas

Cobb: You're asking me for Inception. I hope you do understand the gravity of that request.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Alien rocked what we knew about science fiction films, and when it came time to release the sequel James Cameron added an “s” to the title and Aliens proved to radically reinvent what we already loved in a spectacular way. With Predators Nimrod Antal adds an “s” to Predator but don’t expect the same results.

This has been an odd summer for me and the movies, there are far too few films I am excited about and very few of the films I have seen do I end up genuinely loving and excited about. Predators falls into the former category; while I genuinely like Arnold’s original, I can’t recall much about the sequel and wouldn’t touch the Alien vs. Predator films with a ten foot pole. However, knowing Robert Rodriguez was involved with Predators and the pretty slick trailer made me interested in Predators. I can’t say that Predators is a lackluster film, but what I can say is that Predators doesn’t deliver everything you would want it to deliver.

Set on a kind of alien game preserve, Predators follows a group of mercenaries and con’s who have been kidnapped off Earth without their knowledge – waking up only to find themselves parachuting through the sky and landing in a jungle. They eventually find each other and team up, discovering they are not in Kansas any more, and in fact they are being hunted by forces they can’t seem to find.

The concept is right out of The Most Dangerous Game but is nowhere near as well executed. Perhaps what’s the biggest issues for me is that Predators falls into the modern action film trap where many things are brought up, but apparently for no reason. Exhibit A would be when Isabelle recalls the CIA report about the special ops force that was ambushed by an unknown predator in the jungles in 1987 and only one member of the team survived, blocking the aliens infared by covering himself in mud. You’d think this would come in as useful information that perhaps the characters would file away for future use seeing as they get mowed down one after another but nope. It’s a throwaway.

However, possibly the strangest thing EVER is the sudden appearance of Noland, played by Laurence Fishburne, who appears to “help” our team of prey for no apparent reason besides the writer got tired of having the Predator’s randomly attack. The character is a mcguffin, in the film only to reveal one tidbit of information but take up fifteen minutes of screentime.

What makes the film a letdown as an action film is that even though the film has a R rating instead of PG-13 I watched the action sequences feeling like they were missing any substance that should make them R rated. It was as if Antal and clan assumed they’d have to be slapped with the PG-13 rating and shot some very simplistic action sequences because all the good parts would have to be cut for rating anyway. It’s either that or Antal has no idea how to either shoot effects or action.

What did surprise me about Predators is that I believed Adrien Brody as an action star. He was actually quite good in the role of a hardened mercenary who’s only out for his own skin. I would actually like to see him do something hard and action-like again.

While Predators is a decent watch, I think it’s going to end up like the rest of the Predator sequels – forgotten when the next installment comes out.

Director: Nimrod Antal
Writers: Alex Litvak & Michael Finch
Royce: Adrien Brody
Edwin: Topher Grace
Isabelle: Alice Braga
Stans: Walton Goggins
Nikolai: Oleg Taktrov
Noland: Laurence Fishburne
Cuchillo: Danny Trejo
Hanzo: Louis Ozawa Changchien
Mombasa: Mahershalalhashbaz Ali

Isabelle: We need to work as a team.
Cuchillo: Does this look like a team orientated group of individuals to you?

Coming Soon

Friday, July 9, 2010


The fact that Jaws used to scare me so much I couldn’t watch it is funny now that my film vocabulary and appreciation has grown to the point that I count the film as one of my favorite of all time. I can’t get through a 4th of July weekend without watching it.

If I were to teach a film class, and show examples of films that could be counted as “perfectly made” I know I would show Jaws & Annie Hall. Jaws may have had continuity issues once they got to looking through the footage, and the mechanical shark rarely worked, but Jaws is a lesson in suspense, good acting, story and the fact that less really is more.

As the sequels prove, in the hands of lesser directors, ones who aren’t afraid of showing us the big bad wolf or don’t concentrate on the emotions other than fear, a story about man v. shark is not all that appealing.

I’m glad Spielberg got the first go.

Brody: It doesn't make any sense when you pay a guy like you to watch sharks.
Hooper: Well, uh, it doesn't make much sense for a guy who hates the water to live on an island either.
Brody: It's only an island if you look at it from the water.
Hooper: That makes a lot of sense.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The Half-Blood Prince just might be the most emotional film in the Harry Potter series. Not to say that the joys, triumphs and tragedies of the other films aren’t emotion filled, but The Half-Blood Prince is the first time the characters we’ve grown up to have truly become adults themselves and realize all that this means.

While the entire school suffers at the death of Cedric Diggory during the Tri Wizard Tournament, and Harry is devastated by the death of Sirius Black, Dumbldore is the first real death of all hope for the entire wizzarding world. On top of an already bleak new war against Voldomort, this is a crushing blow and one that sets the entire last chapters of Potter, Granger & Weasley into action – a trio that won’t stop fighting because that’s what Dumbldore would have wanted them to do.

I have no idea how the scale of The Deathly Hallows will translate into a film. However, if the teaser and poster are any indication the films will leave audiences pinned to their seats and in the end, probably wiping away tears. If you thought The Half-Blood Prince was gut wrenching, just wait to see what lies in store in The Deathly Hallows.

Harry: Did you know, sir? Then?
Dumbledore: Did I know that I just met the most dangerous dark wizard of all time?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Searchers

Spielberg once said that before he begins to direct a film he watches four movies: Seven Samurai, Lawrence of Arabia, It’s a Wonderful Life and The Searchers. Since Spielberg is one of my idols, and it’s only four films, I figured I should see the ones that I’ve never seen. Even thought, The Searchers was referenced many times in film school, I’ve never seen the full film, so it had to be netflixed.

If anyone ever doubts that an epic film can be a character piece, I would tell them to watch The Searchers. While at just about two hours, the film does not have an epic length it has all the epic trappings – it’s a period piece with high drama, a central actor that’s bigger than life, a visual scope that’s unparalleled and a director that was in his day, one of the best of the business. While The Searchers may concentrate on the arduous, extended search for a young girl who was kidnapped by the Comanche’s, but the real tale is about Ethan Edwards, played by the formidable John Wayne in one of his best performances.

Ethan Edwards is a character that’s been hardened by life; he’s just returned to his family in the west, a decorated veteran of the Civil War, but he’s bitter about the war as he was a soldier for the confederacy. Edwards doesn’t like the armed forces, the north, or the Indians and makes no bones about it. The only thing that Edwards seems to like at all is his brother and his family so when the family is killed by the Comanche’s and Debbi is kidnapped something in Ethan breaks and a relentless hunt for her begins with pits and falls as the years stretch by and Ethan realizes if Debbi has survived at all, to him she will now be more Comanche than blood family.

The last shot of the film with Ethan Edwards framed in the dark doorway, looking into the house of his family, before slowly turning around and walking away is one of the most iconic shots in cinematic history and the perfect end note for the character of Ethan Edwards. Edwards has spent the better part of a decade tracking down his niece, after being first broken by the Civil War; even though Ethan is now victorious, his dedication to hunting down Debbi and making the world pay for the loss of his family has stripped the last vestiges of humanity away from Edwards, the last bits that would let him remain a part of society and his community. Edwards knows the darkness in him exists and he has no part in returning to a life he long ago left.

I can see why Spielberg would watch this movie for inspiration. The Searchers is a masterpiece of directing. John Ford knows that the power of this movie is not in the star power of Wayne, but the performance and delivers. Not only is this film visually stunning, but compelling on a story and character level in a way modern epics are still trying to emulate.

Director: John Ford
Writer: Frank S. Nugent
Ethan Edwards: John Wayne
Martin Pawley: Jeffrey Hunter
Laurie Jorgensen: Vera Miles
Rev. Capt. Clayton: Ward Bond
Debbie Edwards: Natalie Wood

Ethan: Injun will chase a thing till he thinks he's chased it enough. Then he quits. Same way when he runs. Seems like he never learns there's such a thing as a critter that'll just keep comin' on. So we'll find 'em in the end, I promise you. We'll find 'em. Just as sure as the turnin' of the earth.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Gun Crazy

Bart Tare was a good kid that got sent to reform school because of his love of guns. As an adult he returns from the army ready to start life clean until he meets Laurie Starr a carnival sharp-shooter, and the only gun as good as he is. When Bart & Annie eventually flee the carnival and marry they can’t make ends meet, and Annie’s dark nature comes out as she convinces Bart to pursue a life of crime with her.

Gun Crazy comes near the end of the classic noir period and it shows. While the film is enjoyable and intriguing, there is something about it that is not as purely noir as a film like Double Indemnity or Out of the Past. For lack of a better way to say it, Gun Crazy is a noir that feels like it’s trying to be sensational and dark; in earlier noirs this simply was an intrinsic part of the film, not the reason for which it was made. It is this reason that Gun Crazy isn’t as easy a watch as other noirs, simply because you feel as though you are being forced into the world of Bart and Annie.

From the opening frames I was immediately struck with the fact that Gun Crazy was shot primarily on a soundstage, something earlier noirs broke out of, and it adds an artificial feel to the shots onscreen – the depth of field is too shallow, the rain too intense, and the lighting too pretty. Then there is the fact that we are forced into the back story of Bart, a back story I feel like I could have done without – he would have been a stronger, more mysterious character without it. Perhaps, the films only real flaw is that it tries to focus on Bart, when the real fascination of the piece is Laurie.

From the moment we meet Annie she is fascinating; a carnival cowgirl in her costume, shooting blanks at the audience with a manic look in her eye – that introductory shot is actually the entire reason I put Gun Crazy in my Netflix queue, it’s that strong. Annie is a dark tangle of a woman, a femme fatale who for a few brief moments tries to be the angel of the piece only to discover she’s better at being tarnished. What never becomes clear, and perhaps makes Annie most fascinating is that you can spend the whole movie wondering if she truly loves Bart or is simply manipulating Bart using his love for her.

Gun Crazy may not be the best noir I’ve ever seen, but that doesn’t discount it’s place in the genre. This is one heck of a tale, one that undoubtedly inspired Bonnie and Clyde and a slew of crime films since. It’s a pretty striking view of the era, and how women were looked upon and I would say that Annie herself is a rejection of the female norm. And now that I’ve gone all film scholar on you, I’ll come back out to the real world and say this: Gun Crazy is a pretty entertaining film, even if it’s not pure noir.

Director: Joseph H. Lewis
Writers: MacKinlay Kantor & Dalton Trumbo
Annie Laurie Starr: Peggy Cummins
Bart Tare: John Dall

Annie: Bart, I've been kicked around all my life, and from now on, I'm gonna start kicking back.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Knight and Day

I’ve been in love with the Tom Cruise in movies since I fell in love with Top Gun years ago, and it broke my heart while I was in college and in star began to tarnish. Thankfully for me, his star has been glowing a little more in the past few years, first Les Grossman and Valkyrie and now it can continue with Knight and Day. Knight and Day is the kind of Tom Cruise movie that I adore watching, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why this movie is not burning up the box offices. Knight and Day is a spy romantic comedy for lack of a better description of the genre, and it works on every level.

June Havens accidently gets caught up in the path of government agent Roy Miller, who is trying to protect young genius Simon from a rogue agent – a rogue agent who has pegged Miller as the bad seed and has the agency tracking him, and now June, down. While June is the resistant passenger on Roy’s journey she begins to fall for Roy even though she’s never sure if his tale of conspiracy is a lie or the truth.

The reason this film works so well is because of James Mangold. This director has put to huge stars together with Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise and yet neither outshines the other, and their chemistry is fun to watch whether they are sparring verbally with one another or being attacked.

I’ve complained a great deal about directors that can’t handle tonal shifts in their films, and Mangold deserves praise because the tonal shifts in Knight and Day are imperceptible. As a viewer you go from laughing to anticipating onscreen gunfire without ever noticing that the mood suddenly changed in the film, simply because the writer, actors and Mangold did their job well – so well it looks easy and forgettable.

This movie is built around the chemistry between Cruise & Diaz. As a director I don’t know if I would have put the two onscreen together simply because I would have been afraid one star would eclipse the other, but thankfully that doesn’t happen here. Even though the tale is told from June’s perspective Roy is never sidelined or forgotten, and Roy’s character never makes June’s seem less important. This is a marriage of perfect characters and actors and the film is much better for it.

As I stated, Knight and Day is a movie that makes me happy to be a Tom Cruise fan again. This film is a throw-back to adult comedies, action films and stories. It’s a good film that masquerades as a popcorn film and the best part about it is that Knight and Day is fun, and makes you want to spend another two hours at the movies just so you can see it again.

Director: James Mangold
Writer: Patrick O’Neill
Roy Miller: Tom Cruise
June Havens: Cameron Diaz
Fitzgerald: Peter Sarsgaard
Antonio: Jordi Molla
Director George: Viola Davis
Simon Feck: Paul Dano
Rodney: Marc Blucas
April Havens: Maggie Grace

June: The pilots are dead.
Miller: Yeah, they've been shot.
June: By who?
Miller: By me. No, actually, I shot the first pilot then he accidentally shot the second pilot. It's just one of those things.