Saturday, April 30, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
10/19/2010 review I came across a review of this film with the title "Saint Clint" and the article refers to the "heavy handedness" of this and possibly to some of his other directorial work. I would agree with that assessment if Clint Eastwood were not such a masterful storyteller and sure handed director with such a distinctive style and naturalistic approach to filmmaking (Is it fair to knock a legend because he is old-fashioned and in his 80s? Does every journalistic piece have to be politically slanted? Do the majority of movie critics even like movies?) Yes there are political undertones in the film, but down in its bare bones this is a nicely told story that is both literate and yes, moving. It tells the story of a medium and several people dealing with different stages of grief. It is leisurely paced, subtitled at parts, and I would not recommend it to the Jackass demographic. It is nicely written by the talented Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) and again wonderfully handled by Clint (while watching his films, I catch myself thinking, "in any other hands.") It also must be said of Matt Damon that he has grown as an actor, and if the trailers for True Grit are not misleading, I bet that this is the year he walks home with a Golden Statue (for acting).
Monday, April 25, 2011
Sunday, April 24, 2011
There has been ten years of peace in the London underworld, and now mob boss Harry (Bob Hoskins) has finally found his chance to go legit. With a lucrative deal with American businessmen where he hopes to build casinos along the waterfront, Harry will soon be able to enjoy a luxurious life with his stalwart wife Victoria (Helen Mirren). Just as the celebrations have begun aboard his houseboat on Good Friday, bombs begin exploding and members of Harry's faction are being taken out. Now as soon as Harry finds the culprits, swift revenge will be had on all responsible. The deeper he digs, he soon discovers the problem is more complex than it appears and that his enemy may be not quite as manageable as he had expected. The Long Good Friday is a gritty, very British film from director John Mackenzie, which has more in common with a top notch action thriller than an operatic mob film. Bob Hoskins made his mark on the film world with his performance as Harry, a quick tempered and ruthless little man whom we somehow sympathize with. Helen Mirren is great in an early role as his loyal and tough as nails wife. The Long Good Friday is a tough, violent, and complicated film that is entertaining but also challenging. It is a fine entry in the gangster flick genre.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
After doing a stretch in the joint, George returns to his boss who said he would take care of him with the expectations work. He is given the gig of chauffeuring a high end call girl. Although George is a tough talking thug who seems to know his way around the streets, he is taken aback by the sleazy world of sex for hire and seems surprisingly naive about what goes on there. As he gets to know his knew employer, he develops a contentious relationship at first but inevitably develops feelings for her. After developing a mutual trust, the girl asks George to find an old fellow call girl friend whom she has lost track of. While obliging, George is thrust down a path that will more than like end in misfortune. Mona Lisa launched the career of director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Interview with the Vampire) and is a noirish tale taking place amongst the underbelly of London. With shades of Taxi Driver, this is essentially a tale of loneliness. Bob Hoskins (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) gives a knockout performance as George, the role that earned him an Academy Award nomination. Cathy Tyson plays a difficult role as the prostitute. She isn't the heart of gold type, but is in fact independent and manipulative and Tyson handles the role nicely. Michael Caine is great as usual playing a ruthless cockney whom Hoskins works for. When watching Mona Lisa I would recommend using the subtitles to get the most out of the hard to grasp dialogue. This is a well made film elevated further by Hoskins powerhouse performance as a lonely soul looking for love in all the wrong places.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
As John Wilkes Booth carried out his monstrous deed in Ford's Theater on April 14. 1865, it was part of a grander plot that included the attempted assassinations of Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward. Following Booth's killing, as the war torn nation further grieved and sought closure on the matter, a group of conspirators were put on trial, among them Mary Surratt. She ran the boarding house where the men stayed at and was the mother of one other men involved in the scheme. A civilian, she was subjected to a military court which amounted to no more than a kangaroo court, with the tribunal making up roles as it pleased. In her defense she was assigned to Frederick Aiken, a young Northern war hero who was more than a little weary of taking the case, well aware of the damage it would due to his career and reputation. The Conspirator is a workmanlike film directed by Robert Redford, who has developed a film that nicely captures Civil War era D.C. with a tinted color texture. The film is well cast as well, with the exception of Robin Wright who I never thought had the makings of an actress and does nothing to change that opinion here. Her Mary Surratt character is one dimensional and bland, though thinking about it that's probably how she was. James McAvoy does his best playing the uninspiring Aiken, though he does have a well realized closing speech. Fine actors fill supporting roles as well: Tom Wilkinson as a Maryland Senator who finds the trial an abomination. Kevin Kline as the Secretary of War, willing to do anything to see the accused convicted. Colm Meaney as a stalwart general leading the trial and Danny Huston, perfect as the bombastic prosecuting attorney. The Conspirator is the first work of The American Film Company, a group that will release historically themed movies. This is a nice start and I look forward to the future films it procures.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
For someone who doesn't know a Buick from a Benz, I was expected to be totally bored with Cars, a film that definitely holds a high appeal for auto enthusiasts. However, I found myself pleasantly surprised with the movie, which really shouldn't be all that surprising since it is the product of the Pixar animated studio. Cars tells the story of Lightning McQueen, a brash and cocky rookie racecar who is on his way to super stardom and has little use for the help or camaraderie of anyone else. After being a part of a three way tie for the prestigious Piston Cup, McQueen makes his way to California for the tie breaking race where he plans on being lauded with gifts, praise, and women. On the way however, he makes an accidental detour in a small and forgotten town. As circumstances continuously prevent him from leaving, he gradually begins to warm to the residents of the town and the idea of friendship. I wouldn't argue that Cars is among the finest of the Pixar films, yet still it is an affable little film which contains great and inventive visuals. The film also represents the last film of Paul Newman, whose great presence is even felt here with voice work. It is fitting that Newman's last role is that of an old auto racing car, as Newman raced cars himself, even up until the final years of his life. Here, even in a lesser movie for his company, John Lasseter and his crew have fashioned another animated film which sets the bar for the genre and refuses to reduce itself to a childlike level.
This is the short that played before the theatrical release of Cars, and is also available on the DVD. It is another nice little short that Pixar studios do so well and tells the story of two street musicians vying for the coin of a little girl
Mater and the Ghostlight
This is another short made for the DVD release that tells the story of the lovable tow truck from the feature and how he becomes wrapped in a myth about the eerie Ghostlight.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
In 1957 small town Maine, a mischievous and lonely boy is playing in the restaurant where his single mother works. He overhears the town cook being mocked for claiming he saw a metal giant fall out of the sky. Later that night the boy chances to meet the 50 foot creature, and the two begin to bond as the boy discovers the giant is capable of learning and showing emotion. The boy soon realizes that keeping his new friend hidden from the fearful townspeople will be a problem, but he soon befriends a beatnik junkyard dealer who reluctantly allows the boy to store his pal there. A bigger problem looms though in the form of a incompetent yet dogged government agent who has caught wind of the giant's presence and will stop at nothing until he is caught and destroyed. The Iron Giant is an animated science-fiction that also functions as a satire of 1950s atomic age America. The film wonderfully recreates the times and tells a greatly involving story as well. Brought to the screen by Brad Bird, who would later join the Pixar team and direct the fine films The Incredibles and Ratatouille, this is a wonderful and warm film made in the same vein as E.T. The creation of the giant is truly remarkable, and the responses and emotions he emits are touching. Here, Bird proves that animation need not only be for children, but, by being intelligent and involving, can also hold an appeal for adults as well.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Errol Morris has made a career out of documenting eccentrics, and it all began with this little film in 1978. Here Morris interviews people who are involved with pet cemeteries in Napa, California. We meet such people like Floyd McClure who was so stricken when his collie died, that he decided to devote his life to creating a respectable place to bury their beloved pets. We also meet the local manager of the rendering plant or "the glue factory" as McClure refers to it with great contempt, although the manager is a realist and presents a reasonable argument for his business while also offering a slight criticism of Americans regarding their pet priorities. Others show up including people who have their pets buried there, who describe their shock when McClure lost the land due to poor foresight and decided to move all of the interred pets to another plot! We also meet the proprietors of another similar burial ground, as well as their sons who didn't plan on a life doing what their doing. Gates of Heaven was hailed by many as a bonafide masterpiece by some, while I like to view it as a great start for a master filmmaker who was just beginning to hone his craft. It doesn't quite have the immediacy of his latter films, which are aided by his Interrotron and their Philip Glass scores. I also didn't understand why so much of this short film was devoted to the two sons, one constantly babbling on about business models while surrounding himself with pointless trophies. Still, this is an intriguing film by a director who immediately had an eye for the odd.
*** out of ****
*** out of ****
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
Before Matt and Leo were moles playing cat and mouse games in dark movie theaters and abandoned rooftops in Boston, Andy Lau and Tony Leung played a similar game in Hong Kong in the 2002 film that was the inspiration for Martin Scorsese's The Departed entitled Infernal Affairs. The plots and turns of the two movies are nearly identical with Lau and Leung both being police recruits in the same class. While Leung is sent to infilitrate the local Triads, Lau is a mole for that gang. Soon the two are assigned with finding their respective counterpart, and soon ever increasing danger lies in their paths. This is a film that I regretted knowing what was going to happen, although the plot is so good and the film is so well made, I still found myself wondering what was going to happen during intense moments (particularly the two rooftop scenes). I would hate to take anything away from the original, but I do think The Departed is the superior film, with its fabulous dialogue from William Monahan distinguishing it. Still, this is a fine import, with the exception of an unnecessary flashback mechanism that mars the film, and a brilliantly conceived police thriller that inspired one of the crowning achievements of the previous decade in American cinema.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Friday, April 8, 2011
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Bratenahl Lamplighter May Review Mike is a middle aged attorney in
Win Win is a reaffirming yet not overly sentimental film from writer/director Thomas McCarthy who specializes in these kind of films that revolve around closed off lead characters who begin to open up through the kindness of strangers. In The Station Agent, Peter Dinklage played a reclusive dwarf who came out of his shell with the aid of a local vendor and a divorced woman. In The Visitor, Richard Jenkins was a lonely professor who went to stay at his little used apartment in
to found illegal immigrants squatting there, who in turn help him find himself. Now, we have Paul Giammati playing a man who rediscovers his passion thanks to the help of a young teenager. These kinds of stories hold a general appeal, and McCarthy knows how to handle them. New York City
Paul Giammati doesn’t have the look of a movie star, but when audiences started taking notice of even about ten years ago in films like American Splendor and Sideways, I think it was exactly that everyman quality that people responded to. Since he has evolved into one of our treasured actors, bringing humanity and believability to his roles, and this film is no different. His Mike seems like someone we know or maybe even ourselves, and has us rooting for him. Amy Adams, who came to viewer’s attention in Gone Baby Gone as a virulent racist, has since endeared herself in subsequent roles and does her best here with an underwritten part as Mike’s wife. Bobby Cannavale (who was also great in The Station Agent) and Jeffrey Tambor provide hearty laughs as Mike’s assistant coaches.
On a personal level, coming from someone who also wrestled for a ragtag team, Win Win is a film that demonstrates its knowledge of the sport, and that helped me appreciate it more. The film did seem overlong and when the high dramatics start to fly in the latter stages, it started to lack effectiveness. Still, Win Win is warm and funny and did not always go where I expected it to go. By the time this review is published, this movie may be in limbo, caught between the theaters and DVD. Before you are able to rent it, I encourage you to check out McCarthy’s other films.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
Woody Allen has been making a movie a year for over 35 years, many of them classics, so when his work doesn't quite live of to those standards, it seems as if critics pan those efforts instead of giving them the fair shake they deserve. This was one of those films, and upon watching it I was surprised was a nice little exercise in filmmaking it was, even if it wasn't a towering achievement. A man in his seventies has just left his wife of 40 years in order to regain his youth. This he does by tanning, working out relentlessly, and keeping the company of a young, ditzy call girl. The elderly couples daughter's marriage to a medical school doctor turned failed writer is failing. His latest book is about to flop and he has developed feelings for the pretty Indian musician across the courtyard while his wife has developed similar feelings for her boss at the art gallery she works at. All of this has been foreseen by the mother's fortune teller, who she believes wholeheartedly is the real deal. Allen returns to London for this film, and it is another combination of drama and his particular brand of humor. Anthony Hopkins as the born again father is a hoot, and I was laughing out loud watching him hit the weights in the gym and romancing his 20 something girlfriend at the dance club. Josh Brolin's character's resolution is quite humorous and inspired, and Naomi Watts is wonderful as his wife. The annual Woody Allen offering is something I await with anticipation, and when that old time music starts to play over those white on black opening credits, I know I'm in for something special.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Right off the bat I think it should be said that this movie is a direct ripoff of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and I don't think it could have been anymore similar. It stars Robert Downey Jr. as an architect making his way back to
for the birth of his son. On the plane he has a scuffle with a wannabe actor (Zach Galifianakis), is thrown off the plane, placed on the No Fly List and forced to make his way by car with the slob who got him booted off the plane. This results in a disastrous road trip in which the two will ultimately bond. From Todd Phillips, the director of other successful comedies, crafts a funny film for the first half before resorting to gross out childlike antics that aren't funny. Robert Downey Jr. does his usual schtick which works and Galifianakis is pretty uproarious, growing on me again. Due Date is unoriginal fare with some good laughs that could have been better if the filmmakers kept the bar raised. L.A.
Woody Guthrie was an American Folk hero who fought for worker's rights and entertained thousands of down on their luck Americans during The Great Depression. His life is captured in this wonderful song filled biopic by director Hal Ashby. The film opens in 1936
Pampa, Texas where sign painter Guthrie sees his fellow dustbowl folk pack up and leave their barren land for (there is a magnificent scene of a dust storm engulfing the city). Woody decides to follow their lead and make his way out west. As he meets folk by way of hitchhiking or train (the train hopping segment is spectacular) he becomes aware of the plight of the poor while playing his upbeat tunes. In California he falls in with some union organizers, gets discovered, sends for his family, refuses to bow to authority, and continues to uplift the poor, all the while retaining his infectious optimism. Bound for Glory features a wonderful performance by David Carradine who embodies Guthrie and does all of his own strumming and singing. The cinematography by Haskell Wexler of the Los Angeles Texas dustbowl, boxcars, and work camps is extraordinary and this is one of the finest looking films I've seen. This is a loving portrait of a man who saw hope in a time of despair and was able to inspire a country and a whole generation of songwriters. California