Friday, July 29, 2011
Killer Instinct, is really the second half of one whole, shot in the same style as the first film. The difference though is that in this film Mesrine is devoid of all humanity and what remains in a convoluted delusional psychopath who rationalizes his atrocities and even finds good in them. Vincent Cassel's portrayal is again riveting, embodying the complexities of the infamous gangster. I also liked the work of Mathieu Amalric, who plays Mesrine's partner in crime but is quiet, reserved, and essentially his opposite in every way. The film is intense and nicely filmed as well, particularly during a manhunt scene following a casino robbery. I felt there were some mistakes in the film with structure, namely the extended shootout scene at the end of the film which we already know the outcome of as it was shown at the beginning of both films. Still, Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Public Enemy #1 tell the story of a brazen gangster with flair and contain a virtuoso performance from Vincent Cassel.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
An ant colony spends its days gathering food for the grasshoppers who provide protection. When an accident prone ant named Flik accidentally sabotages the offering and the evil grasshopper leader threatens to kill the colony if they do not have double the food by the end of summer, Flik sets out on a mission to find heroic ants to protect his kind from the grasshoppers. Instead of heroes he comes back with a band of misfit circus performers who endear themselves to the ants and come up with a crazy plan to rid the colony of the grasshoppers. When I decided to revisit the Pixar films and looked over the digital movies they made, I was surprised that A Bug's Life was an output of that studio. Now having rewatched the movie its no shock that I had disassociated it. A Bug's Life is kind of a lame movie, the type of animated film that blends in with the rest of the crop and doesn't meet the standards that Pixar has set, those standards being endearing characters, intelligent plotting, and material that appeals to adults as well as children. On top of not meeting these criterion, I didn't even find the animation to be very inspired. Also insects are simply off putting and this movie just can't make them likable. I did like some of the sequences in the film, particularly some of the circus scenes and the segment with the manufactured bird. I also enjoyed some of the voicework as well, particularly by Kevin Spacey and Richard Kind as two of the grasshoppers. Still this is not the kind of work indicative of its makers, and considering that it was written and directed by Pixar titans John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, this one really is a disappointment.
This was the short that played before A Bug's Life during its theatrical run and is also available on the DVD. I've posted it below as well. It is a nice little Academy Award winning short about an old man in the park contesting himself in a chess game.
DVD Extras: There is an excellent documentary in the Special Features called "Murder in Scottsdale" which interviews detectives and attorneys involved in the Bob Crane murder investigation and explains how poor police work and lack of evidence allowed John Carpenter to be acquitted.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
(Q'orianka Kilcher), the beautiful and beloved daughter of the mighty Chief Powhatan (August Schellenberg). When he returns to the settlement, his pacifistic nature upsets the settlers who begin to engage the natives in war. Smith continues his love affair with Pocahontas until he is sent on an exploratory mission. At this point, she is brought to live in the settlement and eventually marries John Rolfe (Christian Bale), an admirable plantation owner. The New World was Terrence Malick's fourth film since his career began some 33 years prior and contains all the beauty and wonder we have come to expect from his films. Shot on location in Virginia, The New World almost casts a spell with its stunning imagery and trademark Malick laconic narration. The film also contains a spectacular and should have been breakthrough performance from Kilcher as the intelligent and playful Pocahontas. Although the film is typically light on narrative, Malick once again crafts such a hypnotically spellbinding wonder that makes it difficult to harp on its shortcomings.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
the attache which not only draws the ire of the jilted photographer but also endangers the girl when he decides to write a story which will blow her cover. From a novel by C.J. Koch, The Year of Living Dangerously was directed by the great Australian director Peter Weir who makes a nice use of color, location (particularly during a scene where Gibson journeys to the country), and score by Maurice Jarre, as well as two fine early performances from Gibson and Weaver. Although it is clear that Weir is a great director, I find that he often keeps a distance between his films and the audience, not fully engaging them in the story, and I think it applies here. Also the idea of casting Hunt, who won an Academy Award for this performance by the way, to play a male half Chinese dwarf is ludicrous and extremely distracting. I don't understand why someone who fit the bill wasn't cast, which would have made more sense and been more effective. The Year of Living Dangerously has many fine elements but its languid pacing, Weir keeping the audience at arm's length, and the disastrous casting of Hunt make this a near miss.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Fort Apache which starred Henry Fonda playing a Custer like military man and ended with him leading his troops into a precarious battle. Although the bulk of this second film takes place during the unit's patrol where not much is going on, it contains one of the finest performances The Duke ever committed to film, commanding the screen as he always did while showing his jovial side as well playing a character years beyond his age. John Ford and his Oscar winning cinematographer Winton C. Hoch wonderfully capture Ford's beloved Monument Valley in all its beauty and color. There are also two wonderful scenes toward the end, one involving Victor McLaglen's drunken Irish behemoth giving his farewell and Wayne's response to receiving a retirement gift from his men. Although there are some lulls in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, there are many great elements that subside the negative ones and help make this a fine picture.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Saturday, July 9, 2011
In a port in the Pacific, two countries are at war. One purchases the title ship and the other plots to cut its lines and set it adrift. Before they do so, a millionaire's son and the ship owner's daughter whom he had just been rejected by are stranded on the ship. Now the hapless couple are in for adventure on the high seas, and must learn to fend for themselves for the first time in their lives. Silent film legend Buster Keaton's The Navigator contains his usual stunts and gags, one involving a picture over a porthole being particularly funny. However, segments in the film seem to stretch out with very little payoff. This however is redeemed by a fantastic finale involving Buster in scuba gear scaring off cannibals who have abducted the girl, retreating to the boat with the girl treating him like a boat, and warding off the attacking natives with roman candles and coconuts. The climax elevates the entire movie and proves what a genius Buster Keaton was at physical comedy.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Part I: Join or Die
Struggling attorney John Adams (Paul Giammati), with the love and support of his wife Abigail (Laura Linney) takes the case of the British officers accused of firing upon the colonists during the Boston Massacre, much to the chagrin of the rebellious natives, especially his cousin Sam (Danny Huston) who is a volatile anti-British advocate. After much persuasion, John finally takes the side of the colonists and is elected to the First Continental Congress.
Part II: Independence
As the Massachusetts colonists take up arms against the British at the Battles of Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill, Abigail Adams shields her family from war and disease while faces opposition in his attempts to have the Continental Congress take action against the Crown. While in Philadelphia he sees George Washington (David Morse) appointed leader of the militia while forming alliances with Benjamin Franklin (Tom Wilkinson) and Thomas Jefferson (Stephen Dillane), as they move closer to war and independence.
Part III: Don't Tread on Me
As the war with the British rages on, John and his his son journey to Paris in an attempt to secure funds and a stronger naval fleet. Much to Abigail's dismay, the two depart on an arduous voyage across the Atlantic where they encounter enemy fire. In Paris, John finds himself unaccustomed to French manners and finds himself displeasing the French government and diplomat Benjamin Franklin. After being removed as minister, he travels onward to the Netherlands where he again finds no help in securing funds becoming deathly ill, at around the same time that General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington.
Part IV: Reunited
After receiving the triumphant news of British surrender, John travels from Holland back to Paris where he is finally reunited with his loving wife. While starting a rivalry with Thomas Jefferson who is replacing Benjamin Franklin as foreign minister, John is appointed ambassador to England and becomes the first American to address King George III. Unhappy as outcasts in London, John and Abigail return home to enjoy their retirement until he is encouraged to take place in the inaugural election, where he comes in second to George Washington and becomes the first Vice President of the United States of America.
Part V: Unite or Die
John finds himself the office of the Vice President to be utterly useless, as he is excluded from cabinet meetings and Senate debates where he is openly ridiculed by its members. He also finds his relationship with Thomas Jefferson strained over their differing opinions on what America's role should be in the war between England and France. When George Washington declines to run for reelection following his second term, Adams as well as Jefferson, face opposition from Alexander Hamilton who strongly backs a third candidate, Thomas Pinckney. When John is finally elected the second President of the United States, he finds depression has washed over him as well as a ransacked presidential mansion.
Part VI: Unnecessary War
Alexander Hamilton's men in John's cabinet leftover from George Washington's administration are pushing for war with France in that nation's conflict with Britain, although John fervently tries to remain neutral. His relationship with Vice President Jefferson is further damaged when he takes defensive measures against the French such as signing the Alien and Sedition Acts. Following the death of George Washington, John and Abigail move to the newly formed municipality of Washington into the newly built White House. A family crisis occurs when John disowns his alcoholic son Charles for leaving his family penniless and matters become graver when he dies and John is unable to forgive him. A peace is soon negotiated with France, much to John's delight, but he loses reelection to Thomas Jefferson, thanks in part to a smear campaign by Alexander Hamilton in response to having his army disbanded. Disappointed yet relieved and proud for keeping the country out of war, John returns to his Peacefield home in Massachusetts.
Part VII: Peacefield
John is unsatisfied is retirement, bitter and resentful at his career which is made worse by the revelation that Thomas Jefferson smeared him behind his back when he served as his Vice President. Writing his memoirs to set the record straight, he is beset by personal tragedy, first when his daughter Nabby dies then when his dear Abigail passes. John extends an olive branch to his old friend Jefferson and the two exchange letters for the rest of the their lives until they both expire on July 4th, 1826, the 50 year anniversary of the birth of America.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
I watched Source Code for a second time and again found it to be an effective thriller that creates an alternate reality and succeeds in demonstrating it. I also enjoyed the heartfelt elements of the story involving Jake Gyllenhaal's character's relationship with his father. I also appreciated the acting more the second time around and was impressed with the work of Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, and the particularly endearing Michelle Monaghan. I look forward with great anticipation to the next film from Duncan Jones.
4/3/11 A man wakes up on a
Chicago bound passenger train not knowing who he is, and claiming he is an Air Force captain on tour in . As he tries to come to terms with what's going on, he talks to a pretty young woman who seems to be smitten with him. Then suddenly an explosion rips through the train, engulfing everyone aboard whereupon the captain wakes up in a chamber as himself. He is informed that he is part of a secret mission by a secret branch of the military where he can be sent back in time into another person's body to live out their last 8 minutes with the hope that he can find the person responsible for the bombing and prevent a series a terrorist attacks. Source Code is another complex sci-fi film about multiple realities made by Duncan Jones who also brought us the fine film Moon. Here we have a high concept plot that is executed really well. We get some nice performances from Vera Farmiga as the no nonsense mission operator who may have a soft spot. Jake Gyllenhaal is effective as the captain and his short lived relationship with Michelle Monaghan is surprisingly poignant. Like Groundhog Day and Run Lola Run, films dealing with repeated time travel (though here we learn that it isn't exactly what this is) are fascinating to watch because as we become familiar with the setting it is intriguing to see how different choices affect that reality. This movie understands that and takes that to a new level. Afghanistan
4/3/11 A man wakes up on a
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Three friends all have unimaginable employers, each a beast of a different nature: Nick (Jason Bateman) has been expecting a promotion from his anal retentive boss (Kevin Spacey) who ultimately decides to fill the position himself. Dale (Charlie Day) is being sexually harassed by the maneating dentist (Jennifer Aniston) he works for. Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) actually has a boss (Donald Sutherland) he respects, but when he kicks the bucket his coke addled son (Colin Farrell) takes over with the intention of running the business into the ground and milking the profits. Now the trio decide it is time to take the ultimate step and off their bosses. Hiring a dubious criminal (Jamie Foxx) they meet in a local dive to give them advice, they partake in a Hitchcockian plot that has unintended and unexpected results. I thought that Horrible Bosses never soars and is never the uproarious movie it thinks it is. Jason Bateman does his usual straight man bit, and Charlie Day does his Always Sunny routine, and I thought Jason Sudeikis, an actor who I'm not familiar with, was funny. Supporting players, including Spacey, Aniston, Farrell, Foxx, Sutherland, and even Ron White all have good roles but are way too underused. I would attribute the problem to a movie written by two many people (three screenwriters credited), starring too many people, that tries to give them all fair time. On top of that many of the jokes fall flat and the result is a mildly diverting film with a few laughs that probably isn't worth the price of admission.
Just before his quest for the lost Ark, Indy narrowly escaped a melee in China with an evil crimelord with his new friends a ditzy nightclub singer and a young Chinese boy. They then narrowly escape the crimelord's plane which they've mistakenly boarded and has been set to crash. Surfacing in India, they come across a local village which has been stricken with disease which they claim is due to a Satanic cult stealing their sacred rock and their children. Now, Indy and crew embark on a deadly mission to retrieve the rock and kids and restore prosperity to the village. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a downright laughable sequel, containing none of the wit or sense of adventure from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The story is uninspired, the jokes are terrible, and Kate Capshaw and the little Chinese boy are cringe inducingly terrible. This would have been a complete loss if not for a spectacular mine chase sequence followed by a remarkable rope bridge segment, comprising the last twenty minutes of the film. But when only one sixth of a movie is great, how can you recommend it. This Indiana Jones installment is a colossal failure much worse than the recent Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls entry, and the blame should not only fall on Steven Spielberg, but also equally on George Lucas who wrote this lackluster story.
Larry Crowne works at a Walmart type superstore, is exceedingly friendly and seems to know the lay of the land. Then one day he is called into the break room where he is informed that he has been downsized due to not having any college experience (plot convenience). He attends the local community college, befriends a beautiful free spirited young woman (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and draws the attention of his alcoholic speech teacher who has lost her passion. Larry Crowne is the second directorial effort from Tom Hanks working from a script he cowrote with collaborator Nia Vardalos. The film strives to be an upbeat recession tale in the same vein as a Frank Capra/Robert Riskin film, but oozes so much niceness and cuteness it doesn't quite achieve its goals. Stars Hanks and Julia Roberts elevate the material as best they can, but its cloying nature which I suspect can be attributed largely to Vardalos, and the fact that their attraction isn't fleshed out at all whatsoever, gets the best of them. Also, fine supporting actors are grossly underused including Bryan Cranston, Taraji P. Henson, and Pam Grier. I did go along with some of this movie and found the scenes in Roberts' classroom to be amusing as were the scenes in George Takai's economics' class. Larry Crowne is an overly earnest film that could have benefited from dialing down the cuteness and creating more authentic, well realized characters.
The title character (Jason Statham) is a hitman who does his job so thoroughly that his work can never be traced and always appears to be an accident or the work of someone else. Now, he sees an offer to knock off his colleague and mentor(Donald Sutherland) and the slick politician (Tony Goldwyn) who posted it claims that the old man had bungled a job and turned his back on his men in a secret operation. See no other options, The Mechanic kills his boss then realizes he's been set up. Now on his own mission of revenge, his boss's son (Ben Foster) throws a wrench in the mix and insists that he be taken on to learn his ways and achieve the same vengeful goal. Directed by Simon West and remade from a 1972 Charles Bronson film, The Mechanic starts out fairly intriguingly, with Statham drowning a drug lord, making his escape, and returning to his secret compound where the entire house seems dedicated to his work, with photos, maps, and strategies relating to his targets on the wall. Soon, though the film regresses into a mindless and senselessly violent action picture, and the early fun is taking out of the movie. Sutherland is fine in his early scenes and Foster gives another solid performance in his young career, but Statham does his usual boring one not thing and does not bring anything to what could have been an interesting character. The Mechanic is a film that has all the right ingredients that the filmmakers have decided to overcook leaving it without any flavor.
Still reeling from the loss of the colonies five years later, King George III seems to be losing his marbles. He's throwing fits, becoming forgetful, and making lewd comments to a chambermaid. As his discontented son, the Prince of Windsor, sees this as an opportunity to seize the throne, the King is whisked away to a nearby locale where he is subjected harsh and ineffective treatment. Then, with only his queen and prime minister looking after his interest, a modern thinking psychiatrist's methods may help restore the King to his normal self and reclaim the throne. From a play and screenplay by Alan Bennett and helmed by theater director Nicholas Hytner, The Madness King George is a literate and bawdy film. Featuring a brave and fierce performance from Nigel Hawthorne, reprising his stage role, he keeps the film going through periodic lulls. Also wonderful in the film is Helen Mirren as his lovely wife and Ian Holm as the strict psychiatrist, who is probably the first person to talk down to the King. The Madness of King George is worth seeing alone for Hawthorne's fearless performance. What, what?
Lawrence of Arabia is a spectacular movie bristling with greatness in everything from its visuals to its acting to its individual moments. David Lean's desert epic spares nothing, and at almost four hours in length, when it is finish we think that we would gladly sit through a few hours more. It was the star making movie for Peter O'Toole, who is magnificent in the title role and their are wonderful supporting performances throughout from Omar Sharif, Alec Guiness, Anthony Quinn, Claude Rains, and Arthur Kennedy. The movie tells the story of T.E. Lawrence and begins with his death in a motorcycle accident. At his funeral, a group of men wander why he is being eulogized as such a great man, and an officer who knew him begins to tell his story. During World War I, while stationed in Cairo, Lawrence is sent on a mission to meet with Prince Feisel (Guiness). There he meets Ali (Sharif) and convinces them to unite with rival Arab nations against the Turks and march through the desert through thought to be uncrossable terrain in order to achieve this. Forming an alliance with Abu (Quinn), the Arabs defeat the Turks and continue their rebellion by engaging them and blowing up their trains. Lawrence encourages the Arabs to be independent which enrages the British and his behavior baffles both groups. Flamboyant and enigmatic, Lawrence questions his own greatness then in turn insists upon it to get his way. Again, Lawrence of Arabia features a superlative performance from Peter O'Toole in a role as complex as about any I've seen. David Lean, a man of great vision, creates his masterwork, beautifully capturing the desert and mounting great moment upon great moment. Lawrence of Arabia is a great film and the kind that is not seen today.
Philip Marlowe is in his hotel room in LA eagerly following DiMaggio's hit streak while ducking the police who want him on questioning for a handful of murders. He tells us about a big galoot client and how the search for his girlfriend has led him down a path involving blackmail, prostitution, and murder, all leading to the beautiful young wife of a wealthy older judge. Farewell, My Lovely is the third filmization of the hard boiled Raymond Chandler novel following 1942's The Falcon Takes Over and 1944's Murder, My Sweet. Here Robert Mitchum is an ideal Marlowe, just as frank and rigid, but maybe a little worn and more compassionate. He was significantly older than Humphrey Bogart and Dick Powell when they played the roles, and it is a pleasure to see how he plays it at his age. The story here is just as engaging as the 1944 version (haven't seen the '42 one) and director Dick Richards nicely captures 1940 Los Angeles as well as the noir atmosphere. Farewell, My Lovely is a fine detective story and a wonderful showcase for Robert Mitchum who fits into Philip Marlowe's shoes like a glove.
Enjoying his time away from racing in Radiator Springs, Lightning McQueen is goaded by his best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) into entering the World Grand Prix, which takes place in Tokyo, Rome, and London. At the first event Mater embarrasses McQueen and then goes on to cost him the race. Depressed, the lovable tow truck soon meets two secret agents (Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer) and soon becomes involved in a complex espionage mission. The original Cars was probably the weakest link in Pixar's titanium chain, but it still offered a story that adults could enjoy. With Cars 2, the animation company breaks their string of sturdy offerings that appeal to adults and children alike, and makes a feature that is just like every other inane computer animated film. Yes, the visuals are of the highest quality and the company was wise to hire Michael Caine for voicework to replace the late great Paul Newman, but the story is not strong enough to maintain interest and the jokes are geared towards little kids. This isn't so much of a sequel to Cars as it is a spinoff of that movie for the Larry the Cable Guy's character, whose in it for so much and whose voice is only tolerable for so long. Although this is not on the same level as the other Pixar work, it is a modest and watchable entry, and with three new interesting titles in the work (a fourth Toy Story, a second Monster's Inc., and Brave, an original) I'm sure the studio will be working at the same level it made its reputation on.
The movie opens with a short featuring the Toy Story characters called Hawaiian Vacation where Ken and Barbie aren't taken along with the family for their vacation, and are treated to a holiday anyways courtesy of the other toys. It is well made and funny and made me long for some of the other Pixar titles while the feature played.
Monday, July 4, 2011
The Doors created hypnotic and lasting music that captured the spirit of the 1960s. When You're Strange documents the band's fairly quick rise to stardom, and their alienation of their fans and much of America due to the perplexing antics of their talented lead singer Jim Morrison, who not only remained enigmatic until his 1971 death at age 27 in a Paris bathtub, but up until this day. The film focuses a lot on Morrison, including his childhood and his years before the band formed. This really is a fine assembly of The Doors' music as well as a documentation of the band's history. Narrated by Johnny Depp, his casual voice works nicely calling attention to the material rather than himself. The Doors and Jim Morrison's story is a strange and complex one indeed, and it is nicely captured here in a film that paints a fine picture of a troubled man and a great band.
Oliver has always lived a maudlin life. Now his father has passed away and he has met a young French actress and has really taken a liking for her. He begins to reflect on his relationships with his free spirited mother and his father, who announced he was gay after her death and began living a fully engaged lifestyle. Hopefully his parents' examples can guide him to not push away his new girlfriend as he has done with all his other relationships. Beginners is Mike Mills sophomore effort as writer/director following Thumbsucker, and is told in the same light and whimsical way. Mills' style can be a little fanciful at times, but the movie is carried throughout by the strength of his cast. Ewan McGregor does fine work in another strong performance as Oliver and Melanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds) contributes nicely as his girlfriend. Mary Page Keller is wonderful as Oliver's mother and Christopher Plummer, who has had a career rebirth in his later years, is great as Oliver's father who has spent most of his life concealing his true nature and blossoms when he is finally allowed to be himself. Beginners is pleasant entertainment where you can sometimes appreciate the auteur's sensibilities and can always admire the acting.
A set of Canadian twins, male and female, of Middle Eastern descent, learn at their mother's will reading that her last wishes include both of them delivering letters to their thought to be dead father and a brother they never knew they had. Separately, the siblings embark on a journey that will reveal dark secrets about their family's past, and as these discoveries are revealed we see the tumultuous path their mother's life took up until her passing. Canadian export and Foreign Film Oscar nominee Incendies is a powerful film from director Denis Villeneuve that wonderfully tells a harsh story through the use of a complicated dual narrative structure which it pulls off well. Lubna Azabal is excellent as the mother and must undergo a wide range of emotions on her brutal journey which she conveys superbly. It's been quite awhile since a film's twist has taken me aback, yet this film's secret is shocking and unexpected. Incendies is an example of filmmaking that tells a great story yet challenges at the same time.