Wednesday, April 30, 2014

12 Years a Slave

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2024544/reviews-515Amazing historical drama about Solomon Northup (Ejiofor), a freeborn African American man kidnapped and sold into slavery. The atrocity of Northup's story within the atrocity of slavery itself makes 12 Years a Slave a film that needed to be made. Emotionally difficult to endure and excellently acted, with not a single cast member holding the film back in any way. McQueen's trademark of long takes should put this one at the top of the list of any aspiring directors or cinematographers out there; however, there are a handful of shots that linger on close-ups with seemingly no other purpose than to force the characters' feelings on the audience even though it had already been successfully established moments earlier. Although well-acted, the A-listers playing minor roles is a bit unnecessary, not unlike fellow Best Picture Winner The Hurt Locker. Still, definitely worthy of Best Picture. Based on Northup's memoir of the same name.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Rain Man

Bitter yuppie Charlie Babbitt (Cruise) travels to Cleveland from Los Angeles to attend his estranged father's funeral only to find out that the family's multimillion-dollar estate will go to an older son, Raymond (Hoffman), an autistic savant whose existence had been unknown to Charlie. Although it is rightfully recognized for its superb acting, terrific dialogue, and perfect chemistry of dramatic and comedic moments; many people forget that it is the ultimate story of brotherhood. Aside from Golino being a little annoying at times, the movie is near flawless; it even dates really well, especially for being filmed in the 1980s. An unexpected success, with many involved in the project doubting its potential. Likely one of the last times Tom Cruise will ever get a second-billing.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Philomena

Spectacular adaptation of THE LOST CHILD OF PHILOMENA LEE by Stephen Frears (played by Coogan in a role that he will no doubt be remembered for) accompanying the title character's (played by Dench, in perhaps her best performance in a long career of excellent roles) search for her son that she was forced to give up fifty years earlier. Definitely funny, without a doubt touching, and thankfully ceases to cross that thin line of getting a little too serious that a lot of drama-comedies suffer from. Well-paced, with consistently smooth cinematography by Robbie Ryan and cozy set decorations by Barbara Herman-Skelding. One of 2013's best amongst a year of many great films.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Man of Steel

*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's a bird… It's a plane… It's a superhero that's responsible for more deaths than the villain!

The BATMAN BEGINS of SUPERMAN (with the former's director being one of the latter's producers), except half as fun and a quarter as good. The movie details the origin of Superman (Cavill), from the CGI infested planet Krypton to the CGI infested climax on Earth where the superhero likely causes more casualties than villain General Zod (Shannon) ever planned to be responsible for. And where to begin with the overblown A-list cast that's led (yet again) by the unknown actor playing Superman? Amy Adams is simply not spunky enough to be Lois Lane; Kevin Costner is as unconvincing as usual, what with his blank expressions and his monotone delivery… how does this guy get work?; Fishburne plays Perry White, and really serves no purpose to this particular story; Russell Crowe is replaceable; Diane Lane equals *yawn*. Would it be wrong to assume that the cast is unnecessarily comprised of all-stars in order to compensate for the lack of quality in the story? Hmm.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

GoldenEye

Probably the most underrated film of the series, with Brosnan inheriting the infamous code number 007 from Dalton. This installment certainly returned with a bang—rightfully so—after a five-and-a-half year hiatus from 1989's LICENSE TO KILL. Bond is assigned by M (Judi Dench) to prevent an arms syndicate from using a satellite weapon (the GoldenEye; titled as an homage to series creator Ian Fleming's Jamaican estate) to cause worldwide financial destruction. Despite not focusing too long on development, the cast does an excellent job bringing to life extremely interesting characters—which is quite a feat for an episodic spy film—such as: Brosnan, Bean, a sadistic Janssen, Dench, John, an underused Coltrane, Llewelyn (of course), and especially Cumming… even Billy J. Mitchell's death-face is classic. √Čric Serra's score is untouchable (save the ridiculous car-racing scene immediately following the amazing opening sequence). The plot is a little too complex for its own good… but why pry when there is never a dull moment? Spawned one of the greatest video games of all-time, bearing the same name and released two years later on the Nintendo 64 console.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Speed

"I saw this in a movie about a bus that had to SPEED around the city, keeping its SPEED over fifty, and if its SPEED dropped, the bus would explode! I think it was called… THE BUS THAT COULDN'T SLOW DOWN." - Homer Simpson

Classic 1990s thrill-ride about LAPD officer Reeves intentionally boarding a bus that is armed with a bomb that will take effect if its SPEED exceeds 50 MPH and will detonate if its SPEED drops below 50 MPH… or if any passengers get cute and try to disembark the bus. Dennis Hopper is excellent (as always) as the bitter nine-fingered bad guy who is bent on getting compensation for his service as an officer that left him jobless and thumbless, and only rewarded with "a cheap gold watch". Sandra Bullock delivers the perfect amount of wittiness before it crosses the overkill line; and Morton (who also shows up uncredited in the sequel) and Daniels are great in their supporting roles. Surprisingly intense despite the straightforward mindless action and lack of any kind of twists. Perhaps making the SPEED something like 35 MPH instead of 50 would've allowed just the right touch of realism to make this one a true gem, but more is apparently merrier to some. An all-in-all fun film that never slows down (it can't!) and is easy to follow—though no one will seek it out for its depth; even the supporting cast recognizes that Reeves' character lacks any sort of wisdom, with the villain even threatening: "Do not attempt to grow a brain". Followed by a sequel with Bullock as the hero… oh geez…

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fargo

Hands down, an undisputed modern-day classic about Police Chief McDormand unwittingly on the trail of kidnappers for a seemingly unrelated triple-homicide. Macy is terrific as the wannabe-mastermind behind the kidnapping (his own wife, no less, in an attempt to squeeze ransom money out of his wealthy father-in-law Presnell) but quickly becomes in over his head when the scheme gets more and more dangerous for the odd-couple kidnappers Buscemi and Stormare. Lots of great minor characters on both McDormand and Macy's sides of the story. A refreshingly unconventional crime story driven less by the plot and more by the black-comedy, making the movie as equally intense as it is funny without getting too melodramatic.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Non-Stop (TV)

If you're one of those people who loves to have 90 minutes (120 minutes with commercials) of their life completely wasted, you HAVE to see NON-STOP; another terrible Lifetime thriller that passes as close to a watchable movie as ground beef does to sirloin. A heartbroken and annoyingly anxious woman (overacted by the unconvincing Chabert) has a mile-high temptation with a stranger, who… you guessed it… is a complete psycho—what else did you expect?, after all, this is a Lifetime movie. What's even worse than this moronic plot are the characters' inexplicable actions, leaving the viewing thinking (or even saying) "This would never happen!"—case in point, the 9-1-1 dispatcher would NEVER get off the line with the caller. If you decided to spend four straight hours staring at a concrete wall, you'd probably find your time more fulfilling than if you wasted less than half that time on this "movie".

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective


Wacky 1990s comedy with Jim Carrey in the title role—a portrayal that is inarguably one of his most classic characters—a pet detective searching for a stolen dolphin that serves as the mascot for the Miami Dolphins, and clues indicate that the thief may have something to do with the upcoming Super Bowl. Definitely a film that put Carrey on the map, and is one of those movies that continues to be funny no matter how many times you've seen it. Unfortunately, the plot holes really start to show with age, so you might want to avoid replay too frequently—though restored footage found on TV-versions of the film help piece things together better. Level-headed Courteney Cox, believe it or not, pairs really well with the out-of-control Carrey. Dan Marino can't act… not even when he's portraying himself…

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

We're the Millers

Fun and clever little R-rated comedy about a group of four mismatched pot smugglers posing as a clean-cut middle-class family… with, of course, hilarious consequences. Poulter hits the spot with his take on the Lopes "Waterfalls" rap, and Helms is terrific as cannabis-kingpin Brad Gurdlinger. Even though the entire cast does a good job, the four core characters seem strangely underdeveloped, leaving the viewer somewhat apathetic towards their conflict. Ironically, no characters are seen consuming marijuana. Poulter deservedly received plenty of recognition for his part, including breakthrough/newcomer nominations from Empire UK and MTV Movie Awards.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese is a rare director. When it comes to overall filmography-quality, the guy lacks any middle-ground. His praise is either rightly deserved or incredibly overrated. MEANSTREETS, TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, THE KING OF COMEDY, THE LAST TEMPTATION, GOODFELLAS and CASINO, are just a few of his deservedly high-praised features; while GANGS OF NEW YORK, THE DEPARTED and SHUTTER ISLAND are all incredibly overrated. Notice how the rightly praised films are all pre-1996, while all his overrated films are post-1996. So, where, you might ask, does that leave THE WOLF OF WALL STREET? It appears Scorsese has climbed his way out of a slump to create a highly realistic portrayal of Wall Street corruption, with this tale revolving mainly around security-fraud. The memoir of the same name by Jordan Belfort (played by DiCaprio) was a huge inspiration to Ben Younger for his 2000 debut film BOILER ROOM, which is an excellent film in its own right starring late-1990s up-and-comers, but what WOLF delivers that BOILER ROOM lacks is what I'm coining as "genre gumbo"—and if you do yourself a favor and watch WOLF, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about… not to say that you shouldn't do yourself a second favor and also watch BOILER ROOM. Hilarious, cruel and intense; WOLF OF WALL STREET is an epic that is in full-speed from the very first shot, and ceases to slow down until the end credits. Easily Scorsese's best in almost 20 years! However, CASINO has had the privilege of having 19-years to grow on viewers; who knows what WOLF's replay value could be… for all we know, it could be the best thing Scorsese has done since RAGING BULL. Only time will tell where it ranks on the Scorsese-classics (definitely higher than lower on the impressively long list); but one thing is for certain, there is no denying it is an immediate classic and possibly the best film of 2013.