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.