Scribe & Green on the BIG screen

There are far too many people out there writing “reviews of movie-films & articles about them with absolutely no clue what the hell they’re talking about." Here are 2 more of them! (Well, one of us knows what the h___ we're talking about, but we'll leave it up to you to decide who that is...) Ultimately, can two people as opposite as Scribe and Green agree on anything?? That's where the fun begins. Won't you join us? (Every now and then we'll add a guest review, just for kicks.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bullitt

SCRIBE'S "YOU WORK YOUR SIDE OF THE STREET, I'LL WORK MINE" REVIEW:

It may sound strange for someone who is a Steve McQueen fan to say they’d never actually watched Bullitt until this past weekend but I’m saying it and it’s not as weird as what I watched right before it. Think midgets and Jell-O and you still haven’t come close!

Bullitt was McQueen’s iconic foray into cop films and it turned out to be a hugely successful move on his part. In fact, it’s safe to say this film is the reason we have the now all-too familiar young-ish, loner cop on a crusade to do the right thing in defiance of his superiors.

It’s odd that, on the extras DVD, co-star Robert Vaughn stated how he was initially uninterested in the project because the story didn’t make any sense. He jokingly added that it started making more sense the more money he was offered but said it still doesn’t make sense even now.

What doesn’t make sense, exactly? It’s pretty cut and dried and well-executed. The plot basically revolves around DA Walter Chalmers (Vaughn) recruiting Detective Bullitt (McQueen) to protect a witness so he can present him in court the following Monday and take down a vicious mobster (Vic Tayback). Naturally, things go awry as the supposed witness leaves his hotel room door unlocked for an assassination team to come in and kill his police protector and him.

Why would a man unlock the door to his own killers? That’s the driving mystery behind the film as Bullitt defies Chalmers’ attempts to take over his case and goes on a one-cop manhunt to find the killers and connect the dots before Monday morning.

McQueen is cool as ever in his signature role and his understated acting style commands the viewer’s attention even while great actors like Vaughn are emoting all over the place. McQueen was known for demanding a reduction in dialogue because he preferred to react to his fellow actors. What resulted was a study in minimalism in contrast to larger events, something few actors would risk these days.

It’s important to watch Bullitt in the context of the times. You’re not going to see a movie with Die Hard level action sequences here but you will see a moody, atmospheric film that attempts to build a real character whose actions result in dangerous moments. The car chase sequence is still thrilling, especially because it starts out slowly and builds, hitting its greatest moment with the rev of McQueen’s engine.

Most interestingly is the commentary on violence the film makes. A few years later, Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry would have no problem killing whoever he deemed bad and slept like a baby. He was, in many ways, equally psychotic to the bad guys he chased. Bullitt is not and by the film’s end, you can see just how deeply affected he is by what he had to do. Contrary to this moronic review of the film, that is an important and resonating portion of the story.

Not McQueen’s best but certainly a good film.

****1/2 out of *****


GREEN'S "DAY AFTER DAY, LIVING IN A SEWER" REVIEW:

San Francisco detective Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) and his men have been assigned to protect a star witness for the prosecution's case against a mafia like outfit called "The Organization" run by Chicago mobster Pete Ross (Vic Tayback) The prosecution is led by district attorney Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn). Watch a guy for about 40 weekend hours, and get him to the courthouse first thing on Monday morning. Sounds like a simple enough assignment, right?

Uh, no.

The witness' "secret location" in a hotel room is quickly discovered and compromised by "The Organization" and the witness and his police protector are predictably shot up very badly, and almost killed. Now Bullitt must find out who the killers are and stop them before they can finish the job, while Chalmers is up Bullitt's behind about his apparent lack of competence. Further complicating matters, the witness dies as a result of his injuries. But there are further complications...

I thought it was really cool that this film was shot entirely on location on the streets of San Francisco, and in locations within the city, like in a real hospital and at the airport. I also like the fact that McQueen did not use a stunt driver for the iconic car chase sequence, and was able to handle driving at speeds in excess of 110 MPH. Bullitt's car was a highland green 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 CID Fastback, which I mention only because I saw a similar car in a mall parking lot this weekend - sporting an antique license plate. For the automobile enthusiasts out there, the hit-men's car was a jewel black 1968 Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum (didn't see one of these, unfortunately.)

IMDb calls Bisset's performance (as Bullitt's girlfriend Cathy) in this film her breakthrough role, but I disagree. That is, unless you consider the scene where she walks around in nothing but a pajama shirt a breakthrough performance. That scene, I'm sure, was considered very risque back in 1968. If it were filmed today, I'm also sure we would have seen some nudity and gratuitous lovemaking. Sure, Bisset's performance is good for what screen time she has but that is not much at all. As Bullitt's girlfriend, Cathy provides Bullitt with an anchor and grounding in a non-violent reality unlike his own because she's afraid that she's losing him to the darker side of his job.

One thing I like about films like this is what became of some of the supporting cast, who would have notable film careers of their own, like Robert Duvall, or become popular television stars like Vic Tayback (Mel from "Alice") and Norman Fell (Mr. Roper from "Three's Company") and Georg Stanford Brown (TV miniseries "North and South"), whose career was mostly spent as a television actor.

This was veteran director Peter Yates' (who incidentally died in January 2011) fourth feature film and probably his most well known.

This film sets the precedent for our modern, moral cop vs. bad guy films and provides the car chase by which all future movie car chases are compared and occasionally, if rarely, equaled. The ending of the film was a bit of a letdown for me but I won't tell you what part disappointed me so I won't spoil it for you.

I had never watched this film in its entirety before but do believe I had seen part if not all of, the car chase scene when this movie was shown on television, probably in the 1980's. Unfortunately for me, my library did not have the two disc DVD edition, so my access to the special features was limited. I was pleasantly surprised to watch the 'making of' feature included from 1968 and voiced over by McQueen, at a time when not many such documentary shorts were made. Such features that have now become more commonplace than not on DVD releases.

It's too bad that McQueen died at such a young age (50) from cancer. One can only imagine and wonder what other films he might have starred in if he had lived into his seventies or eighties.

If you're new to McQueen's films, as I am, then this is an excellent place to start. Even if you're a fan, or haven't watched it in awhile this film deserves another look.


****½ out of *****

Bullitt (1968, NR, 114 minutes), starring Steve McQueen, Jaqueline Bisset, Robert Vaughn, Norman Fell, Robert Duvall and Georg Stanford Brown. Based on the novel "Mute Witness" by Robert L. Fish (aka Robert L. Pike). Screenplay by Alan R. Trustman and Harry Kleiner. Directed by Peter Yates.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Unreasonable Man

SCRIBE'S I SAW THIS SCREENED AT A COLLEGE REVIEW:

Its always been difficult to tell whether or not Ralph Nader is a complex man or exactly what we see on the surface. He’s always been a driven, passionate person whose strength of conviction is second to none. An Unreasonable Man attempts to resolve this conundrum.

Going back to the early days of Nader’s consumer activism, all the way through the heyday of “Nader’s Raiders” and up to the 2000 Presidential election, the film leaves us with answers and some new questions.

The title of the documentary is derived from the following quote: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) Going on this definition, Nader is most certainly unreasonable, often to the extreme frustration of corporate America. His struggles with General Motors and their failed attempts to try and create a sex scandal with a man who may very well be without urges is rather entertaining.

In fact, the majority of the film is compelling and defies its two and a half hour running time. Crammed with interviews and archival footage, this doc literally covers all of its bases when examining its subject. We see Nader’s rise to prominence during the Sixties counter-culture movement and how his works paid off in the Seventies before politics finally caught up with him.

And that is where the film takes a decidedly darker turn. When in the late Seventies Nader’s friends start working for the Carter administration, we see how quickly his efforts were reversed. Carter didn’t live up to his promises but the arrival of Ronald Reagan and his pro-corporate, anti-government approach is nearly the death-knell for Nader. Once the Democrats begin accepting corporate donations on the same level as their Republican counterparts, Nader becomes a liability who is cast to the side.

The portion of the film that deals with Nader’s reinvention as a politician is often painful. He’s clearly out of his depth but he doesn’t seem to know it. His naiveté and perseverance would be inspiring if not for the fact that he sincerely doesn’t understand why he isn’t reaching more people. Even Pat Buchanan admires his ballsiness. Those who blame him for the outcome of the Bush/Gore campaign won’t find a repentant Nader here. What’s interesting is the split the election caused within his own camp.

Ultimately, Nader emerges as an essentially unchanged man, still an activist, still “unreasonable,” and still fascinating.


***** out of *****

GREEN’S “EVERYBODY ELSE’S DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK” REVIEW:

Recently, when I asked Scribe what he wanted to do next for this blog, he said he wanted to do another documentary. I rolled my eyes and asked him to give me a list of suspects. This one seemed to be the most interesting of a list of titles I had never heard of, so that‘s what I chose. Then there was the matter of finding a copy of the DVD, as I have been (and still am) without any library access all summer. Thanks to Amazon Marketplace, I was able to find a new copy for under $7 including shipping charges.

I must admit that I was less than enthusiastic about watching this documentary. Even when I finally watched it, I had to stop a few times to get up and walk around to keep myself alert. Blood running through the veins is a good thing, I told myself.

Vice Principal Wolters: “Corvair?”
Glenn Holland: “Yeah.”
Vice Principal Wolters: “I take it you didn’t read Ralph Nader’s book.”
Glenn Holland: “Well, unless Ralph is willing to buy me a new car, I’m going to have to stick with this one until the wheels fall off.”
Vice Principal Wolters: “Well, you might not have to wait that long. Heh, heh. Have a nice day.”

Mr. Nader, for better or worse, you are now immortalized in American cinema, forevermore. We now can proceed.

The quote above is from the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus is of course referring to chapter one of Nader’s book “Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile” which was published in the year that the film opens, 1965.

Thus begins the legacy of Ralph Nader and his rather sizable impact on consumer safety. Most of what he's done we don’t even realize and take for granted his efforts today as a matter of course.

I was surprised to learn how many organizations Nader helped to start and how many people he had working for him, at one time dubbed “Nader’s Raiders.”

You can hardly call this documentary objective in that the writers/directors are Nader's people. But that’s okay. This documentary is like Nader’s legacy piece. Something for future generations to understand what kind of man Nader was and what kind of passions drove him.

However, Darth Nader’s venture into politics as a third party candidate was an unmitigated disaster, even though the documentary puts a positive spin on it. Try as you might, you can’t solely put the blame of the failure of the Democrats losing the elections in 2000 and 2004 on Nader’s shoulders. But to deny his role in it is like denying that 2+2=4 or that the sky looks blue.

In this two party political system that we have in this country, in order to succeed within it you need to first conform to the rules before you can break them. If Nader had run as a member of either party first and won an election or two, who knows where his political impact would have been? Once you secure the nomination for an office, say that of President, then you can use your ideas and ideals to shape the party’s vision and focus. That a man of Nader's intelligence doesn't get this is baffling and amusing.

Watching this documentary, my respect for the man for his ideals, work, vision and impact has grown. I didn’t even have to watch the extra features on the second DVD to understand it. As well as the main documentary is assembled, I have no worries that the extras on disc 2 are equally as good and informative.

One thing that baffles me about the presentation of the first disc is that it contains deleted scenes. Why delete anything? It's not like these scenes were taking away from any dramatic effect. If you're going to invest two hours watching this documentary you might as well invest another 30 minutes or so. Length is irrelevant in a film like this.


***** out of *****

An Unreasonable Man (2006, NR, 122 minutes), starring Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, Phil Donahue, Howard Zinn, James Ridgeway, et. al. Written and directed by Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Swing Vote

SCRIBE'S "IF THIS IS ONE OF THE RICHEST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD, WHY IS IT SO MANY OF US CAN BARELY AFFORD LIVING HERE?" REVIEW:

I’m sad to say I put off seeing this movie when it saw a theatrical release because I was overwhelmed by politics at the time. My library has several copies and after having stared at them for the better part of a year, I decided to take one home and see if it was any good. It turned out to be better than that.

Swing Vote’s conceit is that the outcome of the presidential election comes down to literally one man, one vote. In this case, the vote belongs to Ernest “Bud” Johnson (Costner) a drunken yet lovable loser good ol’ boy who wouldn’t know a voting booth from a bathroom stall. Bud’s twelve-year old daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll, an incredible young actor) is a brooding, disappointed intellectual whose desire to see her father be more serious about life prompts her to talk him into voting. Sadly, he gets drunk that day, prompting Molly to sneak in and cast his vote just as a senile cleaning lady unplugs the voting machines and freezes the vote before its cast.

What results is a comedy about the political process that actually moves along at a steady clip. Bud is so damn likable that everything he does is fun to watch. The drama in the film is compelling as well, providing a nice counter-balance to a stretch of a premise. The scenes of the two political candidates portrayed by Kelsey Grammar and Dennis Hopper trying to woo him to their side are often hilarious and sometimes touching and depressing.

The best moments occur whenever Bud makes an easily misinterpreted comment to the press and the propaganda machines on both sides attempt to indulge what they think he meant. It’s a perfect showcase for the whoring involved in politics. The Democrats take a pro-life and anti-illegal immigration stance, while the Republicans take a pro-environmental and pro gay marriage stance. Eventually, both candidates realize just how far they’ve fallen to get this guy’s vote and that’s when the drama ensues.

The acting in the film is outstanding. Anyone who doubted Costner’s talent should be reassured by his performance in this one. The only weak link is a too-earnest performance by Paula Patton as a local reporter who breaks the story on Bud’s dubious voting experience, but she’s so pretty you can’t help but be drawn in by her enthusiasm.

This is one of those films with a smart screenplay that knows what to show and what to avoid showing. The somewhat ambiguous ending is necessary and works perfectly.


**** out of *****

GREEN’S “SCARING THE HELL OUT OF AMERICA” REVIEW:

What happens when one man has the power to decide the direction of America with his vote? Small town hick Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) doesn’t believe his vote will make a difference - until it does, thanks to his eleven year old daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll). See, Bud’s the only one who can break the election day tie between the incumbent Republican President, Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer), and his Democratic challenger, Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper). In order to court the voter, both candidates spend ten days in Bud’s small town of Texico, New Mexico, promising everything under the sun if Bud will vote for him. That Bud is the tie breaking vote is supposed to be a well guarded secret but is revealed by a local television reporter, Kate Madison (Paula Patton).

For whatever reason, this film slipped under my radar when it was released in 2008. My guess is that it didn’t get a whole lot of publicity, considering the ups and (mostly) downs of Kevin Costner’s career in the 2000’s. I’m not sure if this was one of Kevin Costner’s better roles and wonder if they could have chosen a different lead actor and still had a charming little movie. Even so, Costner's character is likable and the movie has a top notch supporting cast. What was surprising about this movie is the big screen debut of then eleven year old actress Madeline Carroll, who handles her role deftly and really steals the film from the glitz and accomplishments of the other cast members.

The script won’t wow you but it is good enough to keep you interested. You’d think the premise of the film is silly but after the silliness of the real life elections in 2000 and 2004, you just never can tell. I think the best line in the film is where Bud asks Kate "who is running, again (for President)?"

One thing about American films like this is that we have no problem lambasting our own political process and exposing the silliness that it contains. This film has three things going for it: no romantic scenes between Bud & Kate, though if the film were longer you could see it heading that way and two scenes in the final act, which I shall not reveal that a) we don’t need to see and b) because it makes you wonder…

This politically themed film will never be considered a classic along with the likes of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but what it gives you is two solid hours of fruitful entertainment. The DVD extras include a short, but enjoyable ‘making of’ featurette and some deleted/extra scenes.

This film slipping under the radar as it did was good in a way because it enabled me to buy a brand new copy of the DVD for a dollar. No kidding. Nothing wrong with that boys and girls.


***½ out of *****

Swing Vote (2008, PG-13, 120 minutes), starring Kevin Costner, Madeline Carroll, Paula Patton, Dennis Hopper, Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Lane and George Lopez. Written by Jason Richman and Joshua Michael Stern. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern.

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Time Traveler's Wife

GREEN'S "NEXT TIME BRING ME SOME CLOTHES" REVIEW:

For most of her childhood, Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams) has known Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana) as a friend and a man who comes in and out of her life at the most unexpected times. Now, as an adult, Clare discovers that she loves him and wants to spend her life with him. Against the advice of her friend Gomez (Ron Livingston), Clare and Henry get married. They live as happily as can be, considering Henry's "condition" which sometimes is hard for Clare to deal with emotionally.

I've always been fascinated with stories that have to do with time travel, in some fashion, and the various ways to accomplish it. In this movie, the questions of how and why Henry DeTamble travels through time are never discussed, dissected or analyzed in any great detail and it is not essential to the story, only that he does it and therefore becomes an obstacle to be overcome. Though I do like the idea that if time travel were possible, only living, animate objects would be allowed (as in the Terminator films.)

What this film is really about is how two people who love each other deal with difficulty and stress that any worthwhile relationship entails. In addition to all of the usual married stress, Henry's penchant for random and uncontrolled time travel adds another layer of problems.

Because one element of the story concerns time travel, the non linear format that the story takes works well, primarily because the story is told from both Clare and Henry's viewpoints at different times.

Rachel McAdams is captivating as Clare and gives a sparkling performance. She displays a good on screen chemistry with Eric Bana, who handles his role well. Ron Livingston (of Office Space fame) is excellent as the best friend of Clare and then of Henry too.

I had no problem with the direction of Robert Schwentke, meaning he did a good job of getting out of the way and letting his actors act. Bruce Joel Rubin did an admirable job adapting the novel into the screenplay, which never becomes too cliche or overly sappy.

As McAdams and Rubin point out in the lone DVD extra feature, there were challenges in adapting a 546 page novel into a roughly 107 page screenplay. McAdams stated love for the story and her desire to play the part of Clare comes through in her performance and is one of the reasons why I got my hands on a copy of the novel to read one of these days.

I watched this movie for the first time with my daughter and we both enjoyed it. When the price comes down to under $10, I can see myself eventually adding this movie to my DVD collection.


***½ out of *****

SCRIBE'S WERE WE WATCHING THE SAME MOVIE? REVIEW:

It’s so easy to dismiss The Time Traveler’s Wife as a useless, thinly plotted, emotionally manipulative chick flick...so let’s get to it, shall we?

What we have here is another in a strong of superficially rendered novels daring to utilize scientific speculation as a mere plot device for yet another banal tale of undying love. And if that’s not enough of a yawn-inducing concept, there’s the movie.

Frankly, too much has been made of the theory of pedophilia in this film. While it is true that the character of Henry (Eric Bana) appears to Clare (Rachel McAdams looking sumptuous as usual) when she’s a child to tell her they’ll meet again someday, anyone with the tiniest knowledge of time paradox theory would know he’s there because he has no choice. Much like in the vastly superior Somewhere in Time, what has gone before can only happen based on what happens next.

Henry and Clare fall in love and eventually marry but it’s a tough arrangement, considering he is unstuck in time due to a car accident in his childhood...yes, a crash causes him to...jump around....in time. Hmm, it’s even stupider when I see it in print.

Naturally, Claire is the perfect woman because the novel was written by a woman and she sticks by her unstuck man as he appears and reappears throughout her lifetime, sometimes looking older, sometimes younger.

The acting in the film is its saving grace. Both leads are better than the mediocre material and their chemistry feels genuine. The situations range from dull to interesting to riveting, like life, and that would be fine with a stronger central concept.

Don’t expect much in the way of philosophical speculation in this Harlequin Romance of a movie. Never do we get an answer to the conundrum created by Henry’s contacting Claire as a child nor any plausible theory as to why a car accident...A CAR ACCIDENT...causes him to jump around all Quantum Leap style.

Oh, and of course there’s a touching ending involving a child at the end because the female audience hasn’t been properly manipulated until that takes place. A pile of melodramatic rubbish masquerading as more.


** out of *****

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009, PG-13, 107 minutes), starring Rachel McAdams, Eric Bana, Ron Livingston, Arliss Howard and Steven Tobolowski. Based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger, screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin and directed by Robert Schwentke.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Battle for Terra

GREEN'S TOXIC ATMOSPHERE REVIEW:

I had seen previews for this movie on television and in the theater but never went to see it. I really didn't think it would be the kind of film that the scribester would want to review, knowing his previous disdain for kids movies and slightly less disdain for animated films. Much to my surprise he suggested that we review it, probably as a gag reaction to Avatar.

This is a movie that made its way through all of the various independent film festivals starting with Toronto in September 2007 and all throughout 2008 but didn't gain wide release in the US until May, 2009.

My kids and I liked this movie, but we liked Avatar much better. They are essentially the same movie, though Battle for Terra is less than half the length. Of course there are differences in the two stories but it comes down to this in both films: Humans have a problem and want/need something real bad in order to fix it. And they don't care what alien life form is in the way or what they have to destroy to get what they need.

Aside from the obvious live action vs. animation difference, Battle for Terra doesn't give as much in the way of developing the world the aliens live on or the relationship between the human Jim Stanton (voiced by Luke Wilson) and the tadpole like Terrian Mala (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood) like Avatar does between its major characters. Terra also doesn't rely as much on the musical score than Avatar does to set the tone and emotional levels.

The remaining voice cast actors are all good, though none stuck out to me as outstanding.

The animation is stunningly rendered throughout the movie. Watching the animated space battle sequences reminded me of watching the "live action" battle scenes in the Star Wars films.

I didn't have time to watch the bonus features included on the DVD. Perhaps if the price comes down to the $5 range, I'll add this movie to my DVD collection.


***½ out of *****

SCRIBE'S JAMES CAMERON OWES THEM MONEY REVIEW:

Not only did this film share a concept with the bloated, misdirected epic Avatar, but it got the job done in less than half the running time. What sets this movie apart from most of the American animated film coming out nowadays is its adult storyline.

The film centers around the last humans who are desperately searching for a new world to ruin since Earth is no more. Unlike Avatar, the humans in this film are not all mindless idiots obeying a greedy corporation/government. They're people, some of them assholes, some of them, good, all of them afraid for their survival.

Unfortunately, like all folks of Western European descent throughout time, their solution is to take land from an indigenous population regardless of its effect on them. The humans seem to be more advanced than the peace-loving and adorable floating beings currently residing on their intended new home.

The voice talent is superb as are the visuals. These aliens are much more fully realized than Cameron's over-sized, obnoxious smurfs. It's hard to dislike these guys and soon the viewer finds himself conflicted as far as who to root for. The twist during the battle scene at the end and the final solution make this a much more satisfying film than Cameron's preachy sequel setup.


**** out of *****

Battle for Terra (2007, PG, 84 minutes), starring the voice talents of Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, Brian Cox, James Garner, Chris Evans, Danny Glover, Amanda Peet, David Cross, Justin Long and Dennis Quaid. Written by Aristomenis Tsirbas. Screenplay by Evan Spiliotopoulos. Directed by Aristomenis Tsirbas.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Final Cut

Another review written for later release this summer on SNMR transferred here as filler.

GREEN'S PERCEPTION IS NOT ALWAYS REALITY REVIEW:


A cutter is one that assembles a feature length "rememory" of a loved one's life when they die, based on video obtained from their Zoe chip, which is implanted in the brain. These rememories are made with the assistance of a machine called the guillotine.

When it comes to cutters, no one is better than Alan Hakman (Robin Williams). He is asked for specifically by the widow of a top Eye Tech exec and given the assignment of cutting a rememory for him. Eye Tech is the company that makes the Zoe Chip and what makes this assignment so dangerous. If this exec's chip falls into the wrong hands, it could mean disaster... Then, while cutting, Alan learns a few secrets that could reshape the course of his life.

Once again, this is a movie that I had never heard of prior to borrowing it from the library. I had high expectations for the movie based on what I understood of the premise but they weren't quite met, probably because the story was more character driven than I'd expected and less sci-fi.

Robin Williams has become a very good actor and is wonderful in the lead role but then the problems begin. Mira Sorvino is fine as Williams' girlfriend and James Caviezel is good enough as the bad guy, but these two characters seem woefully underwritten. The other supporting cast were fine. I would have also liked to see more development of the story regarding the chip and it's history and why opposition to it was so fierce.

For a first time writer/director, Omar Naim does a relatively good job with his story, despite the elements I see lacking. Even so, his future as a director looks bright.

The DVD extras include an excellent "making of" feature as well as short features on production and special effects that added to my enjoyment of the overall movie experience.

This movie is a worthwhile rental, even better if you can borrow it from the library for nuttin'.


*** out of *****

The Final Cut (2004, PG-13, 95 minutes), starring Robin Williams, Mira Sorvino, James Caviezel, Mimi Kuzyk and Stephanie Romanov. Written and directed by Omar Naim.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bangkok Dangerous

It's been a while since we posted something and I apologize that we've been neglecting y'all. Here's a review that was going to be tentatively posted sometime this summer on the SNMR column over on my regular blog. Perhaps Scribe will add something to this review at some point but we'll see.

GREEN’S "THERE'S BIG MONEY IN MISERY" REVIEW:

There are four rules to being a successful paid assassin:

1) Don’t ask questions. There is no such thing as right and wrong.

2) Don’t take interest in people outside of work. There is no such thing as trust.

3) Erase every trace. Come anonymous and leave nothing behind.

4) Know when to get out. Just thinking about it means it’s time. Before you lose your edge, before you become the target.

Joe (Nicholas Cage) knows Bankgok will be his last. Four more targets and he’s done. To facilitate the jobs, Joe hires a Thai runner named Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) to help. Reluctant at first, Joe and Kong form a tentative friendship, with Joe mentoring Kong. After a tough scrape, Joe meets Fon (Charlie Yeung) , a beautiful Thai woman who works at a pharmacy. After a few dates, things seem to be going well until a botched mugging causes the relationship to splatter. When the third job nearly goes bad, and the fourth job really does go bad, Joe becomes the target of his former employers, who have taken hostages…

It seems to me that Nicholas Cage always plays dark, brooding, moody characters who battles with the moral implications of their career choice. Guess what? This film is no exception as Cage plays another dark, brooding, moody character who battles with the moral implications of his career choice. I'm never sure what to make of Cage's work. I think I'd have liked this movie better with another actor in the lead. The rest of the cast is excellent, especially Shahkrit Yamnarm.

The movie was filmed on location in Bangkok and in Prague, according to IMDb and that's a good thing, lending a level of authenticity to the story, since it is supposed to take place in Bangkok.

I like the premise of the story but the screenplay, by Jason Richman, is decent at best and won't wow you. It is adapted from a previous short film by the Pang Brothers, who also direct. The best part of the movie is the last 20 minutes or so, a scene which sort of reminded me of a scene in The Matrix. The whole movie also sort of reminds me of a darker version of Grosse Pointe Blank.

Unfortunately, my library only had the single disc edition. I might have felt better about this movie if I'd had an opportunity to see what the extras were all about in the two-disc version.

I really hate it when studios skimp and print both full and wide screen versions of a film on both sides of the DVD to save money. Sorry, this is a pet peeve of mine that I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before.


**½ out of *****

Bangkok Dangerous (2008, R, 99 minutes), starring Nicholas Cage, Shahkrit Yamnarm, Charlie Yeung, Panward Hemmanee, Nirattisai Kaljaruek, Dom Hetrakul and Tuck Napascorn. Based on the 1999 film by Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang. Screenplay by Jason Richman. Directed by The Pang Brothers.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA

SCRIBE'S TRIBUTE TO SERGIO REVIEW:

Once Upon a Time in America is one of those films that justify the phrase “They was robbed, I tell ya!” How in God’s name this movie didn’t get nominated for just about every Academy Award known to man is not only baffling, it’s downright infuriating!

Spaghetti Western director Sergio Leone has three definite masterpieces in his resume, and this is the third and final of them. (The other two are The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West) The film, based on a novel called “The Hoods,” offers a unique perspective on the American gangster era as it focuses on four young Jewish boys rather than Italians.

Told from the perspective of “Noodles” (Robert De Niro) we get to see three eras in this film, going back to the early Twentieth Century, the 1930’s and culminating in the 1960’s.

Noodles is a tormented soul, a character with a past that is etched into every line on his face by the sixties and we are slowly shown why through a series of emotionally charged flashbacks. Leone wanted to create an epic, magnum opus of a film that rivaled “The Godfather” in its scope and drama. Dare I say he surpassed it in every measurable way?

So why was the movie ignored by Oscar? Simple: While its original version was seen in Europe, where it was hailed as a masterpiece, American film studios in the Eighties still thought we were all too stupid to follow a lengthy, non-linear drama. So they did what they always did back then: The created an “American version.” In this case, that version shaved off over and hour and removed the flashbacks so everything was in sequence. Not only did this destroy the dramatic impact of the film but it made the conclusion predictable and pointless.

Now that the original version has been restored, its greatness has been reaffirmed, albeit too late for any awards. Leone died devastated by what had been done to his film. I try to honor his memory every time I watch it.


***** out of *****

GREEN’S “DON’T KNOW NUTTIN’ ABOUT NOBODY NO MORE” REVIEW:

David Aaronson, (Robert De Niro) or "Noodles" as he’s better known, comes back to the ‘hood of Brooklyn in 1968 as an old man. The very same ‘hood where he made his mark as a Depression Era gangster and where his career began in the days before and during Prohibition. Now he's been tracked down from a life of anonymity to complete one more job. But who hired him? Who knew him from the old days?

Let’s call this film The Godfather Lite because for a gangster flick, there was surprisingly little violence. There was some, to be sure, but not nearly as much as I’d expected.

I wasn’t allowed to watch many R rated movies in 1984 when this movie was released. Thus, I never even knew that it existed until recently when I was taking some quiz about movie directors over on Facebook, and this movie was one of the answers to one of the questions. Naturally, it looked good, so I signed it out of the library. I also included it on a recent list of choices I gave to the scribester to review for this blog, thinking he wouldn’t pick it. Naturally I wondered what I was getting myself into when I discovered that Once Upon a Time in America had a run time 11 minutes shy of four hours long!

It is always interesting to me to watch a movie with familiar actors in their much younger days. Such is the case with this film, with such a great cast of contemporary heavyweights in the acting biz. How can you go wrong with Robert DeNiro, James Woods, Tuesday Weld, Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci, among others and the feature length film debut of Jennifer Connelly, who must have been twelve when this was filmed in 1982 or 1983. I found it a little disturbing how close in resemblance Connelly was to McGovern, who played younger and older versions of the same character.

As a side note, I wonder how many actors, besides De Niro, have portrayed both Italian and Jewish gangsters on film? And done each very well...

This was longtime Italian director Sergio Leone’s final epic masterpiece, for which he was nominated Best Director (but didn’t win) at the 1985 Golden Globe Awards, BAFTA Awards and (not surprisingly) actually won a silver ribbon for his directorial effort from his native Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists.

The hauntingly beautiful music, by Ennio Morricone, adds depth and texture to the story and is almost like an additional character. The script itself must have been a monster to organize a shooting schedule around. There are a few dead spots in the screenplay and probably an equally good story could have been told in about three hours.

I was a little disappointed in the library DVD I borrowed, which froze near the end of disc two, even though I cleaned the disc, and made watching the extras about Sergio Leone impossible.

I’d buy a copy of this film if I could find it for around $10.


****½ out of *****

Once Upon a Time in America (1984, R, 229 minutes), starring Robert De Niro, James Woods, Tuesday Weld, Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci, Burt Young and Treat Williams. Based on the novel by Harry Grey. Screenplay by Leonardo Benvenuti, Piero De Bernardi, Enrico Medioli, Franco Arcalli, Franco Ferrini, Sergio Leone, Stuart Kaminsky and Ernesto Gastaldi (uncredited). Directed by Sergio Leone.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Lost Boys

GREEN'S "DEATH... BY STEREO" REVIEW:

Recently divorced Lucy (Dianne Wiest) and her boys Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) have just moved from Phoenix to the quaint little town of Santa Clara, California - which just happens to be the murder capital of the world, to live with Lucy's eccentric old father (Barnard Hughes). While getting to know their new hometown, Lucy meets Max (Edward Hermann), owner of the local video store and gets a job there. Michael sees a very attractive woman called Star (Jami Gertz), who introduces him to David (Kiefer Sutherland) and his gang of hoodlums. Sam, a comic book lover, runs into the Frog brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) in a comic book store, where they recommend a few vampire comics as required reading necessary for survival.

Wow, it has been a long time since I last watched this movie, probably at least ten years or more I'd say. I wanted to review it due to the recent death of Corey Haim. I was going to do it on my regular blog but first thought I'd see if the Scribester wanted to review it here knowing his general disdain for vampire films.

I think that this fun movie was one of the two best vampire films made in the 1980's, Fright Night being the other. It's always interesting to see actors back in their younger days, when they were still relatively unknown and trying to make their mark in the biz. Balancing out the youngsters are the grizzled veterans of the cast, such as Edward Hermann and Diane Wiest. Both young and old, excellent performances all around, especially by the far out taxidermist Grandpa (Barnard Hughes) who steals most of his scenes.

The Lost Boys was director Joel Schumacher's fourth feature film, in what has become a rather solid career. I think he does a decent, workmanlike job of keeping the story moving. The screenplay is good overall but I would have liked to see more scenes with the Frog brothers, the film's comic relief duo. Notable that Richard Donner served as Executive Producer for this project.

The Lost Boys has an upbeat, rock and roll music soundtrack which adds to the enjoyment of the movie. To this day, every time I hear People Are Strange by The Doors on the radio, I think of this movie - even though the song was covered by Echo and the Bunnymen for the movie.

I watched the single disc version containing both full and wide screen formats where the only extras were text screens that give some of the behind the scenes info about the development of the story. Now that I've watched the film again I'm interested in possibly buying the two disc edition and seeing what extra goodies have been included.

I wouldn't classify this as a strict blood and guts horror movie, more horror/suspense with a twinge of comedy, if there is such a genre. Anyway, I like this movie. Always have. I think you will too, especially if you haven't seen it in a while.


**** out of *****

SCRIBE'S "YOU BETTER BUY YOURSELF A GARLIC T-SHIRT" REVIEW:

Remember when there were still interesting stories to be told about vampires? How about when teenage angst in a vampire film was something startlingly original?

The Lost Boys could be seen as the first and last of the truly great vampire films that dealt with the themes of hormones and the need to belong. Before Twilight embraced female insecurity in the form of stalker/rape fantasies, this film gave us teens who had formed their own clique in a world that didn't necessarily embrace them.

This is also the film that introduced us to the acting duo of the Two Coreys, a pairing that works really well here but never really did again. The adults in the film, like most Eighties films, are seen through the eyes of the children as odd, quirky characters that come in and out of their lives at inconvenient times. But unlike those other films, it is the adults, both alive and undead, who ultimately determine the fate of what happens in the final moments.

As part of what I consider the unofficial trilogy of groundbreaking Eighties vampire films including Fright Night and Near Dark, this one isn't anywhere near as dark and disturbing but it is a whole lot of fun wrapped around a really scary concept, namely what an undead creature would do to recreate the feeling of family.

A great film that holds up.


**** out of *****

The Lost Boys (1987, R, 96 minutes), staring Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, Dianne Wiest, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Edward Hermann, Barnard Hughes and Jamison Newlander. Story by Janice Fischer and James Jeremias. Screenplay by Janice Fischer, James Jeremias and Jeffrey Boam. Directed by Joel Schumacher.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Blood Simple

SCRIBE'S YOU GUYS MADE MILLER'S CROSSING??? REVIEW:

Every so often, I am truly baffled by a film's critical reception and this was one of those times. It is hard to believe that this is the film debut of one of the finest fim making teams in movie history.

Simply put, it's a barely watchable student film project filled with loathsome characters whose only virtue seems to be advancing the skeletal plot along to its limping climax.

Contrary to Green, I didn't find the acting horrible. In fact, M. Emmet Walsh was suitably creepy in his role as the hired killer whose experience is questionable. But the film drags and drags, lacking all the trademark witty and philosophy of later Coen Bros. films like Fargo and The Man Who Wasn't There.

The only reason this film was so awe-inspiring at the time is because the Eighties was a dumping ground for safe, sanitized movies that made people feel good...Reagan era, anyone? Anything that appeared gritty and anti-establishment was embraced with welcome arms back then.

Thank God this film didn't stop the Coen Brothers from being among my favorite film makers but I really, really wish I'd never watched this one.


* out of *****

GREEN'S "I'M GONNA WANT THAT PICTURE BACK" REVIEW:

Marty (Dan Hedaya) doesn’t like that his wife Abby (Frances McDormand) is sleeping with Ray (John Getz) who was working for him at his bar. So what’s a man to do? Hire Loren Visser (M. Emmett Walsh), a sleazy hit man, to kill his wife and her lover. But when blood is involved, nothing is ever simple, especially when the unexpected happens.

This not so subtle film debut from some dudes named Coen really put their names on the Hollywood map, and they’ve built nice little careers on this foundation. The movie is watchable, but I still have some issues with it, even after seeing it twice.

The acting is flat out horrible. The characters' dialogue sounds wooden and hollow. Are we given a reason to care about these people? I couldn't find one.

Are there intelligent people living in Texas or are they all hicks? From this movie you wouldn’t think so, except for Meurice (Samm-Art Williams) and he has only four or five lines of dialogue in the whole movie!! Seriously, if you come across a man who has obviously been shot and has been bleeding all over the place for gawd knows how long, do you try and clean it up and move the body into the back seat of your car so you can have incriminating blood stains all over it? I don‘t think so. No, if you’re smart, you either turn around and walk away, call the police or both. Instead you decide to put your fingerprints all over the room snooping around.

How exactly does Ray know where to find the gun that shot Marty? Why weren’t there any flies or maggots around the dead fish sitting on the table after a few days? If you’ve been shot in the chest, have lost a lot of blood and have been tossed into the back seat of a car like a sack of moldy potatoes, are you really going to have the strength to get out of the car and start crawling away? Are you even going to be alive after all of that? *shakes head*

I have no issues with the premise of the story, which is not new or unique. The screenplay is seriously lacking in character development and drags in several places. The most entertaining sequence of the whole movie is at the very end (last 15 minutes or so) and I won’t spoil it for you.

I did find it interesting to see a young Frances McDormand, the most well known of the cast, who doesn’t look much older than 22 or 23 in this film - but was actually 26 at the time of release, a mere quarter century ago. M. Emmett Walsh (who I agree is very creepy here) and Dan Hedaya have built solid if unspectacular careers. John Getz has spent the majority of his career in bits and pieces of television roles rather than focusing on the big screen, so it’s not surprising that I did not recognize him.

For a first writing and directing effort this film is okay. I'm not a huge fan of the Coen brothers but I do respect their later work. Fortunately, they have gotten much better as film makers with age and experience, which is a good thing.

Finally, the DVD version I watched was labeled as the Director’s Cut and was released in 2008, yet the run time of this version was shorter by three minutes (99 minutes down to 96 minutes) - according to IMDb. What about extras? Well, there weren’t any!! Not a one. Isn’t the intention of a director’s cut to include loads of special features, extended and deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews, etc? This was disappointing to say the least.


** out of *****

Blood Simple (1985, R, 99 minutes), starring Dan Hedaya, John Getz, Frances McDormand, M. Emmett Walsh and Samm-Art Williams. Written and Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

RELIGULOUS

SCRIBE'S MORMON MAGICAL UNDERPANTS REVIEW:

Bill Maher takes on religion with the same fervor he normally uses on politics with often hilarious and always thought-provoking results.

True believers will be offended and perhaps even hurt by many of the assertions Maher makes in Religulous, but it’s doubtful he’ll be losing any sleep over it. Maher’s mission, quite simply, is to wake people up from the mindless observances of religion and get them to start embracing rationality before we destroy ourselves.

It’s a lofty aim and one that shouldn’t be funny, but Maher is a brilliant satirist and be brings his incisive wit to full bear when dealing with the hopelessly devout.

Maher does what any good documentarian would do, he hits the road in search of answers. What he finds is a combination of equal parts hilarity and tragedy, the human comedy displayed raw and stupid for all to observe. From the Bible Belt to Israel to Western Europe, Maher’s travels reveal a world populated by people that are seemingly otherwise intelligent providing straight-faced affirmations of the most ludicrous beliefs.

There’s a Jew for Christ who believes the story of Jonah is plausible because the Bible didn’t say it was a whale but a big fish. There’s a New Zealander in the Southern U.S. who believes the only way to reconcile the Bible and science is to show humans and dinosaurs living together at the same time. When Maher remarks that this was only true on The Flintstones, the man finds no humor in it.

And there’s more: A “formerly gay” man who believes he cures gays of their affliction while undressing Maher with his eyes. A former R&B singer who believes Jesus wore fine linens which justifies his expensive suits. A Latino male who believes he is the risen Jesus and there is no longer Sin in the world. And that’s just the Christians! Shall I mention the Jewish man who has devised a way to still sue technology during the Sabbath because God wants people to find loopholes in the Bible? How about the Muslim who believes Mohammed actually came to Israel and sat down with Jesus, Moses and all the prophets for a big power meeting?

Through it all, Maher maintains his non-believer status and even admits when the Jesus at a Bible-themed amusement park throws him off his square for a second.

Religulous has been naively criticized for only presenting fringe types that are easily insulted. Maher jokes in the commentary that those were the only ones who would talk to him, but more importantly he is using these lunatics to show that even moderate acceptance of outdated beliefs is dangerous.

The final monologue is one of the most sobering and effective summations in film history. Glad I saw this one when it came out in theaters. OK, Green you may now freely disagree with me and slam the movie.


***** out of *****

GREEN’S TWO SPANISH GUYS NAMED ‘ANGEL’ REVIEW:

I will wholeheartedly admit that Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous is funny and irreverent. And I must admit, did enjoy watching it, more than I thought I would.

If you take what Maher says during the opening credits at face value, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t, then you believe him when he says he’s gotta sort this religion thing out for himself. I can respect that. A journey of faith, or more precisely to faith, [The more important question to me is: faith in what (or who?)], is an extremely personal experience. If you belong to no faith at all then I can see where the bewilderment comes from in trying to sort it all out, because it can be confusing (but even no faith is a type of faith, if you really think about it.)

Maher opens with the statement that in his early stand up comedy he’s not ever questioning God but making fun of things within the religions - a gentle poking fun of, if you will.

I also don’t have a problem with that. There are many religious belief systems that truly are screwy - Scientology and Mormonism spring readily to mind. And, it must be said, there are elements of Christianity that at face value are odd, but only because I don’t understand them as well as I should or that I need to get a better grasp of. Elements that non-Christians just can’t understand without a basis in faith. Hard to explain otherwise.

I do get the sense, at the beginning, that Maher is seriously trying to reason out this religion thing, but you can also sense his skepticism for religion as a whole.

Some of the funniest moments in the documentary come when he is talking to Muslims or Jews and he’s trying to be funny but the people to whom he’s telling the jokes just stare blankly back at him because they don’t understand his humor or plainly are not amused.

You might think I’d be offended watching this documentary, but I wasn’t. I certainly don’t agree with some of his statements and conclusions but I can’t fault the guy for using the forum he has to express his opinions.

True, some people of faith may be offended by Maher’s documentary. If that’s the case, then don’t watch any more of it than you already have, or skip it all together. If you can appreciate Maher’s humor then you’ll probably enjoy this movie.

I can tell you confidently that I've taken this DVD off of my wish list at amazon.com. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it but it’s not one I need to watch again or own because I feel very comfortable with my faith and don't have the questions Maher does.

I think you’ll enjoy this DVD, but take it for what it’s worth. One guy’s opinion and that’s all.


***½ out of *****

Religulous (2008, R, 101 minutes), starring Bill Maher. Written by Bill Maher. Directed by Larry Charles.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

SCRIBE'S WHO ARE DEM CHARACTERS S'POSED TO BE? REVIEW:

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is an interesting failed experiment whose failure is not so much in the film itself as in its attempt to connect with a modern-day audience that probably had no idea who the literary figures that made up its cast list were.

It’s a sad state of affairs to admit that but the average moviegoer isn’t a reader nor are they interested in Dorian Grey or Captain Nemo. However, the filmmakers wisely added lots of spectacle to compensate, no doubt one of many reasons League comic book creator Alan Moore refuses to allow his name on films made from his work.

The film is surprisingly entertaining. Once the “wow” factor dies down from seeing all the well-known (to some) literary figures, the action can commence. This is another one of those steampunk tales where technology similar to what we have now is secretly being developed with existing machinery of the time.

Sean Connery makes a great aging Alan Quatermain in what may well turn out to be his final on-screen appearance. Many fans of the comic series objected to the inclusion of Tom Sawyer as a move that panders to American audiences. Truthfully, it makes little sense in the context of the story, especially when we find out he’s a secret agent, but his presence is effective enough.

The plot is intelligent and the action clips long without any significant lulls. Sadly, the film did not perform to expected box office results, so it joins films like The Shadow as a great start to a series that never happened.


*** out of *****

GREEN'S "INDESTRUCTIBLE...NO, JUST ARMOR PLATED" REVIEW:

Legendary adventurer Allan Quatermain (Sir Sean Connery) has been lured out of retirement to lead a ragtag group of literary "heroes" to save Queen and Country from the forces of evil brewing in Europe, circa 1899. The evil comes from 'The Fantom' a mysterious figure whose goal is Armageddon and world domination. A secret meeting of world leaders is to take place in Venice, Italy, one in which our heroes believe the Fantom will try and disrupt. Problem is they don't know what his ultimate goal is and what it is may surprise you.

Okay, enough synopsis stuff.

This is one of the many DVD's that I found several years ago in the $5 bin and bought solely based on the reputation of Sir Sean himself. Yet it is one that I had never gotten around to watching - but wanted to - which is why I suggested it for the return of Scribe to this here blog, your favorite source for movie reviews!

I'm not big into graphic novels, so obviously missed reading that on which this movie is based, so I can't say how much the movie veers from the source material. Even so I found this movie to be entertaining and interesting, though I think too much time was spent at the beginning of the film about the gathering of the League that could have been better used in detailing more of the bad guy's evil schemes. However, as Scribe points out, that may have been necessary to introduce the literary figures to today's dumbed down audiences.

Stephen Norrington's directorial efforts are few and far between but was chosen to helm this film based on his work on Blade, which I can't find fault with.

Aside from Connery, who turns 80 later this year, and perhaps Peta Wilson who was a year or so removed from a successful five year run on the television show La Femme Nikita, the rest of the cast has no major stars in it but still is a talented group of up and comings. The inclusion of Tom Sawyer probably was to appease American audiences and supposedly passes the torch from the 19th century's greatest adventurer to the 20th century's next great adventurer but I'm not sold on it.

I think the costumes and sets were well done, though I must say that Sir Sean looked an awful lot like one Henry Jones, Jr. of another film series in his garb.

The extras on the DVD are excellent and take you through costuming, location, make-up and special effects and are very informative. It's extras like these that help me to feel better about a movie that I'm not quite sure what to make of. (That's where the ½ star comes from.)


***½ out of *****

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003, PG-13, 110 minutes) starring Sean Connery, Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West, Jason Flemyng and Richard Roxburgh. The screenplay was written by James Robinson (based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill) and directed by Stephen Norrington.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thank You for Smoking

For the fourth guest review, I asked my friend "Movie Man" if he'd be interested in writing a guest review for BIG SCREEN. As I had with the other guest reviewers, I told him he could pick whatever movie he wanted. I had never heard of the film that he chose, so I was interested to see it for myself.

MOVIE MAN'S "ONE HABIT YOU WON'T WANT TO QUIT" REVIEW:

Before Juno, director Jason Reitman made a film called Thank You For Smoking. This is a satirical comedy about a lobbyist for a tobacco company named Nick Naylor played by Aaron Eckhart. He is a real spin doctor who will say anything to get the general public smoking. He is, however, very good at his job, and is able to talk people into doing anything. However, not everyone falls for his stories that he spins. One of whom is a Vermont Senator, beautifully played by William H. Macy. Nick finds opposition with this senator, who apparently would do anything to keep the public from smoking, including having Nick kidnapped and have tobacco patches placed all over his body. A sequence which has a very funny ironic twist. At the same time, Nick has a 12 year old son, whom he is trying to remain a role model to.

Aaron Eckhart really turns playing a sleazy character into an art form here, as he did in his debut film back in 1997, In the of Company of Men. You would not want any other actor playing this role. Eckhart just does it so well, and yet somehow remains to be a likable character. It’s a brilliant performance that should have earned him an Oscar nomination, especially since he did earn a Golden Globe nomination for this performance.

There are also an all-star cast of supporting characters that are just as good. Some of whom include Macy, as the Senator from Vermont, Robert Duvall, Maria Bello, Katie Holmes, Rob Lowe, and Adam Brody as Rob Lowe’s over-caffeinated assistant in yet another very funny scene.

The film’s script, also written by Reitman, is smart, clever and witty. The kind of writing you don’t always see in comedies. All the comedy comes out of the dialogue and situations. He writes his characters with the same wit and cleverness. It’s so refreshing to see such an intelligent comedy as this is when there is so many dumb movies out there that talk down to the audience. One thing I found shocking was when it came to Oscar time, not only wasn’t this film nominated for a screenplay award, but the academy actually wasted the nomination on the dumb, and pointless, Borat. What a crime that was!

Overall, Thank You For Smoking is a smart, intelligent comedy with smart, intelligent characters. This is definitely a film you do not want to miss.



**** out of *****

GREEN'S "EVERYONE'S GOT A MORTGAGE TO PAY" REVIEW:

It was hard to choose a title for this review. There were so many good lines that I could have used.

There are some movies that you watch with zero expectations going in. I had none as I had never heard of it before. There are also movies that you can tell are going to be really good right from the opening music and credits. I had that vibe with this movie right away.

Turns out that this movie is much better than I anticipated. So much so that I bought it after I watched the library copy I borrowed in order to write this review and have watched it a few times since.

This movie is all about spin and how modern society can twist the facts to make them say whatever you want, even if it's unrealistic. It even spins the fact that you want to root for the "bad guys" and hate the"good guys."

One of the great things about this film is that not once do we see a cigarette lit up. No one smokes in this movie.

Aaron Eckhart is absolutely perfect for the role of tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor. In fact the whole cast is excellent, right down to The Captain and the ex-Marlboro Man, played by Robert Duvall and Sam Elliott respectively. The script was brilliantly adapted from the Christopher Buckley novel of the same name, which I now want to read.

Jason Reitman is proving to be one of Hollywood's brightest young (under 40) writer/directors. After this film he directed Juno, which was excellent and he has received a lot of praise for his current film, Up in the Air.

This film is irreverent and sharp and delivers a serious message in the funniest possible way. It was shown at the Toronto and Sundance Film Festivals before its wide release in 2006. Unbelievable that the run time is only 91 minutes.

The extras on the DVD are also very well done and will enhance your enjoyment of this movie. The cast and crew interviews are very insightful and they have a lot to say regarding the nature of spin. For example, William H. Macy says that the "notion of spinning the truth is totally relevant. Part of what's happening in this country is 'where's the truth?' And now people are willing to accept no truth or a substitute for truth." Dennis Miller, in his famous tongue in cheek way, adds that "a little BS goes a long way. It makes us feel better."

If you're having trouble deciding what to watch some night, this movie will not disappoint. Even if you've seen it before you will still enjoy it. It's the kind of movie that is so good that it lends itself to multiple viewings.


***** out of *****

Thank You for Smoking (2005, R, 91 minutes), starring Aaron Eckhart, Cameron Bright, Katie Holmes, William H. Macy, JK Simmons, Maria Bello, David Koechner, Rob Lowe, Adam Brody, Robert Duvall and Sam Elliott. Screenplay written by Jason Reitman. Adapted from the novel by Christopher Buckley. Directed by Jason Reitman.

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