Reviews written by registered user
|18 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are not any real spoilers here but in discussing characters I
could reveal some plot points and the last thing I want to do is give
away any portion of the film's powerful message or ending.
Sidney Lumet gathered the cream of the film-acting crop (and Broadway for that matter) to make a film version of the play. The entire movie is basically twelve sweating men arguing in one room for an hour and a half. However, the dynamics of the script and the performances of the actors in this claustrophobic presentation are the key elements that make this film a classic. Not a shot in this film is wasted. Every moment is filled with tension brought about by actors who knew how to utilize every aspect of their bodies to portray emotion from their position to their expression. Each character is so unique, you'd think it was a complete slice of Americana minus African American representation. "12 Angry Men" is a must see movie not simply because it is an acting tour de force, but because as a film it works and as a piece of cinema history, it is a classic that must be seen, this version being the best.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Spoilers contained within:
If you intend to read the hype of those people who give this film an 8 or higher, then you shouldn't bother to read the review of someone who went to the premiere of this film, with all of the cardboard cut outs and Klieg lights in front of the theater. The film was originally presented in 3D and as we sat with our Polarized lenses on, the first problem presented itself - the cardboard cut-out syndrome. You had the feeling you were watching the film as it must have looked to the photographer as he looked down through the multi-plane animation stand with foreground and background mostly static and the middle plane made up of the character (also flat-looking) moving around. Second, the plot was far too close to the "Star Wars" films which had just finished dominating American cinemas in their three-film run between 1977-1983. You had Orin, who more than resembled Luke, with a sword that worked like a laser; you had Dagg (Han) a rogue space pilot with a vessel like the Millennium Falcon; a cute robot Silica (C3P0) and the evil Zygon who mirrored the emperor/Vader character. Did we mention the force? Those would be the legendary Ka-Khan whose mystical guidance are used by Luke, uh Orin. Confused? You will be. This is a cardboard movie, limited animation, corny predictable plot, and horrible score (far from John Williams). If you liked this movie, you don't know science fiction. If you loved this movie, you don't know cinema. Not recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you're looking for a title that shows off Katy Hepburn's talents, this should be at the bottom of the list. For MGM in the 1950's, it was easier and cheaper to rework an old script rather than write new material. Such was the case with this reworking of "Ninotchka" originally a vehicle for Greta Garbo. In this instance, Dore Schary, in trying to save money and put up a "big star" convinced Hepburn to take the part. To say her Russian accent is a cross between New England slang and bad British is to be kind. Hope was so dismayed over Ben Hecht's script, that he and producer Harry Saltzman conspired with outside writers to give Hope "ad libs" to punch up his part. This so infuriated Hecht that he went to Schary and demanded his name be taken off the project (which Schary did not allow). Slated to make its network premier this month on Turner Movie Classics I would encourage fans of Hepburn patience in watching this debacle between British director Ralph Thomas and two "prima-donna" stars who departed this film never speaking to one another again. An absolute turkey and not recommended except for the most die hard Hope fans who like his ab lib humor.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1981, New York's Times Square was filled with pawn shops, strip
joints, peep shows, drug addicts, and prostitutes. It seems worlds away
from the Disney stages and suburban mall feel that has taken its place.
For nearly fifteen years between 1965 and 1980, Americans watched the
hearts of their largest cities degenerate into havens for the
miserable, misbegotten, and mislead. Great theaters fell into disrepair
or were torn down. Unique specialty shops disappeared. The major
department stores that at one time drew people from hundreds of miles
away were sold off for real estate speculators. Small wonder we didn't
expect that trend to continue.
Writers/Directors John Carpenter and Nick Castle wrote a pessimistic future for New York. That one day, instead of trying to fix the mess, society would throw up its hands and walk away. We'd burn our bridges behind us, wall off the place and make it a large penal colony. Carpenter and Castle couldn't see that one factor prevented that scenario from ever taking place Wall Street had too much invested in its infrastructure to write off leaving their investment behind, which was then and is even more today, considerable. Therefore, the premise is not only dated but goofy. Still, the movie delivers on different levels that can be satisfying even without implausibility of its premise.
"Escape from New York" actually takes place in the 1990's and unlike the more plausible but equally pessimistic "Blade Runner" the entire island of Manhattan becomes a huge prison. Through some mishap of fate, the president's jet, Air Force One, goes down and the president escapes via a special survivor's pod that ends up inside the futuristic colony (picture New York City even more run down than it was in 1981). Enter the comic book superhero and sexy cross-over anti-hero Snake Plissken, played to sneering perfection by a youthful, slim and muscular Kurt Russell. Once a Disney goody-two-shoes, Russell cast that image aside the moment he strode onto the set with his eye patch slightly askew and a cigarette dangling from under his long blond locks. Sent in after the president with a built-in self-destruct timer, Snake must deliver the president or suffer a terminal end to his assignment. A great supporting cast helps this low-budget sci-fi thriller such as Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton, and Adrienne Barbeau (at her voluptuous peak).
Carpenter never really directed a large budget film until "Halloween" which made millions in its first release. After that, he directed several hits, including "Starman" and "The Thing" both which had respectable box office. As strangely out of date as the film is in regards to predicting the future, it works as a storytelling device in creating a film that has suspense, action, drama, and some wonderful characters worth watching. "Escape from New York" eventually achieved cult status in the sci-fi "con" world, and if you can forget the opening premise, is entertaining fare for those who love dark comic book anti-heroes like Snake Plissken, more or less a precursor to "Batman." Russell so impressed audiences at the time that he could never completely shake the persona he had created. For those of us who became fans of Russell from that point on imagined the tattoo of a snake on his front that ended well, you know where it ended. I always thought Goldie Hawn was the luckiest Hollywood bride during the decade that followed that film, partnered with a man's man, whatever that is. Years later, Russell reprised the same role for the even more fantastic but slightly more humorous "Escape from LA" also directed by John Carpenter.
If you've never seen "Escape from New York," watch the supporting cast for some surprising levels of excellence. If you haven't seen "Escape from New York" in a while, I suggest it's time for a second, third, or fourth look.
Futurist Syd Mead (design stylist who started with Ford and moved into
film with his first feature, Star Trek the Motion Picture) gave
director Ridley Scott a blueprint by which he could formulate a world
of the future, an apocalyptic or apocryphal vision of the future where
humanity would struggle to survive in a dirty, dusty, polluted world
dominated by oil and where most species of animals had gone extinct.
The object being, we'll just clone them and everything will be OK. It was easy to believe such a world would come to pass in the late 1970's when the Arab oil embargo woke America up to the fact that oil and money, not the military, would call the shots for the people of planet Earth.
The story of "Blade Runner" is only loosely based on Phillip K. Dick's novel, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" whereby Dick envisioned a time where cyborgs (combinations of humans and robots) would merge into androids and become as intelligent as people begging the question, "Would they dream?" Scott gave the weight of the film to special effects supervisors Richard Yuricich, who had already proved his worth on "Star Wars" and Douglas Trumbull, who had set the groundwork for special effects with his early work on "2001" and then later on "Close Encounters." Trumbull loved to use miniatures while Yuricich's approach was to use opticals and traveling mattes. Combined, the two men created some dazzling special effects that hold up even after forty years and the advent of CGI. Of course, it helps to have perpetual darkness and constant rain to mask any deficiencies. Still, we can suspend our disbelief and take in this once possible vision of a world now just seven years away. We can believe in the flying cars and pyramid shaped buildings that rise out of old LA because they help to tell this dark story and its tale of a future world run by corporations run amok.
The problem with predicting the future is that most people, most authors, never look at the practical side of the equation. While it would be nice to have a flying car, the idea that the sky is filled with flying objects that could crash into one another over a school yard or a hospital or a city park is even more frightening than a robot that walks, talks, and looks human. Meanwhile there is the practical side of creating replicants, the so-called "cheap labor" used to help create offworld colonies. The cost of even one such creature would be astronomical compared to the cost benefits derived. The idea a corporation could crank them out like car parts in a world already filled with seven billion people is downright silly. Why build a robot when plenty of cheap labor is readily available for one one-hundred-thousandth of the cost? Predicting the future is tricky business.
In the end, it is the "film noir" side of "Blade Runner" that is exciting to watch along with its versatile cast of players. Scott employs his actors to perform as Humphrey Bogart might in the "Maltese Falcon" say little, express more with the eyes and appearance. Scott's use of score is questionable. Vangelis purely synthetic sound at times grates on the nerve when it overwhelms a scene and takes getting used to. However, what has made the sci-fi offering a classic perhaps falls upon the steadiness of actor Harrison Ford, who emotes even less than the entire cast combined. His universal appeal comes from his common sense of humanity which he brings to every role that sort of wise handyman who can fix whatever is wrong. Scott was wise to cast Ford, who manages to keep one foot of this whacko fantasy on the ground long enough for us to relate.
While I gave the film an overall rating of 10 because I believe you should see it, the film has fallen from grace in my mind and is no longer the "Wow" movie I saw in LA at its premiere years ago.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Limitless Limitless - directed by Neil Burger
If you could take a pill that would make you smart no, let's change that premise. If you could take a pill that would increase your intelligence a distinct difference would you take it? Of course, you would. Who wouldn't? That is the ultimate temptation to the ignorant world. We look around and see ignorance and complacency all around us. Consider ignorance as you would a plague. Mankind has suffered under its yoke since its inception, when we stood upright and some of us chose to build things rather than swing in trees only now, you know the tree thing is silly in comparison. The pill makes it possible to possess the highest form of intelligence without any kind of hindrance. Remove all obstacles to reason, and you've created the ultimate moment in gathering disparate facts, putting them together, and making intelligence a tool for advanced development. You would be vastly superior to nearly everyone else around you. This is the premise of "Limitless" and the goal of scientists for many generations.
To say we use twenty percent of our brain is a misnomer. We use all of our brain constantly to walk, to eat, to breathe, to see, to hear, and memorize most of what we experience. Much of that experience is not stored for recall later only packets of what we read, what we see, what we hear is actually stored for our use. We compartmentalize our experiences. However, we use only twenty percent of what we know at any one time to make informed decisions based on our memory. What if you could take information you learned, say, thirty years ago, or seven years ago, or even three months ago, and apply it to a present situation. That would involve more of your brain's capacity to reason. Some people can use more than twenty percent to make informed decisions. But no human uses one hundred percent of their mind's capacity all of the time.
In "Limitless," washed up "science-fiction writer," (why do they have to be washed up science fiction writers, damn it!) Eddie Morra, encounters an old friend, an acquaintance really, who gives him a sample of an experimental drug (AZT, NZT, something like that its name is not important). He also happens to be Eddie's ex-brother-in-law from a failed marriage. He sees how Eddie is down on his luck and could use a hand only he fails to tell Eddie everything about the drug he offers Eddie, only that it will transform his life.
What does Eddie have to lose? His girlfriend left him. His publisher cuts him off. He's about to be evicted. So, he takes the drug. In a wonderful bit of make-up and lighting special effects, Eddie changes. His skin takes on a certain healthy glow. His blue eyes now sparkle. His facial affect has that tone of wisdom about it (kudos to actor Bradley Cooper for making the facial transition so convincing. Without his ability to perform this interior transformation, the film would lose its credibility). Eddie goes home and rattles off forty pages to the book he had hardly touched. The next day, the publisher is beating down his door for more. Eddie is thrilled with the prospect he could become successful. Yet, Eddie makes a horrible discovery, one that drives him back to his brother-in-law's apartment the drug has an addictive quality to it. The down side, in a nutshell stop using it and it will kill you! Driven to near madness, Eddie realizes he needs to keep going. He agrees to do what is necessary for his brother-in-law and goes to run his errands. When he returns, he finds the apartment turned upside-down and his brother-in-law assassinated. What he also realizes is that, in the middle of this intrigue, the burglars failed to find what Eddie also wanted, the drug. He finds the "stash," avoids the pursuant police investigation, and begins a meteoric rise in society.
"Limitless" is a wild roller-coaster ride, a movie on caffeine; no car chases, explosions, or emphasis on CGI. It's just good plain storytelling. Without a good director at the helm, Brad Cooper may have overplayed his hand. However, thanks to director Neil Burger (The Illusionist), character Eddie Morra has all the subtly needed to pull off the weighty role convincingly. We believe Eddie's transformations, which continue throughout the film, from street bum, to smart savvy jet-setter, to intellectual, to driven drug addict and beyond. Had this film come out in December, I would suggest Cooper's portrayal as Oscar-worthy. It is that good. He has help along the way with a great supporting cast, that includes Robert DeNiro as a corporate fat cat bad guy and a pretty but gullible girlfriend in Abbie Cornish as Lindy. However, most of the film is dependent on Brad Cooper. He is in every scene and dominates every shot. This is his film to sell or lose. He comes off with panache.
The opening "credits" shot is one of the most unique in cinema history. It appears as one continuous zoom shot (used again later to suggest the passage of time), which takes us from one end of New York's Manhattan to its opposite end in a matter of seconds. The unique blend of forward movement, kept in focus, while adding continuous motion has never been put on the screen in this way. I applaud both the camera work of Belgium DP Jo Willems, along with Editors Tracy Adams and Naomi Geraghty, whose camera work and seamless cuts place the audience right in the middle of the action. Veteran makeup artist Janeen Schreyer also gets mention for the expert job of helping to transform Cooper through his constantly changing personality.
"Limitless" is unpredictable, exciting, compelling, and thrilling. I would also venture to say that "Limitless" is the best film I've seen this year, easily. Highly recommended.
Everyone writes how great Heston is in this film. William Wyler nearly fired Heston the first day. He said, "Chuck you'd better bring your game up or I'll have to replace you." It was Wyler who set the standard for this and all of his films (his movies garnered more Oscar nominations than any director in the history of film). Greer Garson called him "ninety take Willie." He demanded perfection and usually got it. From Miklos Rosza's score to the incredible performances from all of his actors, "Ben Hur" was a screen classic the moment it debuted. Contrast that with other religious epics and few compare. Wyler purposely did not show the face of Jesus. He felt "christ" should reflect all of humanity, and so refused to typify any image, regardless of the studio pressure to do so. Wyler won the Oscar (his third) and capped a crowning career with more hit films, more best picture nominations, and more accolades than any director before or since. Highly recommended on blue ray disc for details not present on previous versions, especially the DVD special feature on Yakima Canutt's second unit who made the chariot race scenes possible.
Anyone still impressed by CGI after we've had Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and hundreds of other fairly decent films thrown at us needs to get a life. Please stop talking about how good the special effects are. Impressive explosions or magical events on the screen do not a Jedi make, or a good movie. Any good movie or film has two key elements, story and direction. In this case, you have no story and a very convoluted plot. The story is a made up fantasy based on a video game that is only partly successful. Strike one. Secondly, let us consider director Mike Newell and his mostly television career. The small screen is one form of entertainment. When you take an image and blow it up to seventy feet across, you'd better put something interesting up there, because people will see every detail. Unlike television that shrinks a world to sameness, film is an art form that examines details. A good director can use even limited actors and make something work. But a bad director will fall back on things like special effects to sell a bad scene. This film is an example of directing at its worst. The stumbling pace, the up and down tempo, the failed execution, and the poor acting I lay at Newell's doorstep. This film is about to lose about a hundred million dollars or more for Disney at a time when their Magic Kingdoms have seen dramatic fall off in numbers, and I would not want to be in his shoes when they start adding up the loses.
Peter Davis tried to help us see our purpose in Vietnam with use of
cinematic juxtaposition. In that regard, this film is extremely
successful. On the one hand you hear the callous remarks of an aloof
man far removed from the intricacies of everyday life in the country of
Vietnam. He casually states that life in the orient is "cheap" in his
own words. In the next scene, we see the pain and misery (I should say
we feel it) that villagers who have lost children experience. It is
agonizing to watch. The arrogance on the part of some Americans reduced
the enemy to stereotypes carried over from World War II and was made to
apply here by over simplistic politicians. The lessons from Vietnam are
hard to forget for my generation, who lost so much: our innocence, our
trust, and our brethren. When we watched those mistakes take place in
Iraq, it pained many of us to relive them all over again. War enacts a
terrible toll in terms of lives lost and wounded. Those wounds extend
This review comes at a time when politics once more plays a new important role in the Academy Awards. On the night of his acceptance, Peter Davis complained that the Vietnamese people still suffered at the hands of the American military and pleaded their case during the Oscar telecast. Frank Sinatra came out next and excused the speaker as not being a voice for members of the Academy. Warren Beatty, who next presented, thanked Sinatra as "you old Republican, you!" It displayed the bitter divisions that fracture our democracy along political lines, all started with Vietnam.
War has a terrible impact on the people who live in the area of conflict. While soldiers comprise a very small percentage of those involved, it is the citizens who suffer and die the most (most unreported), and whose lives are forever affected. Peter Davis simply tried to help us see the impact of what we do in places so far removed from this "peaceful" nation.
I attended the 70mm premiere of "The Black Hole" in Hollywood in 1979.
The pre-publicity for this film was huge. Buena Vista Studios pulled
out all stops and published full page ads. The house was packed. I
never saw so much disappointment in an audience. You could hear the
audible gasps in certain scenes along with muffled snickers, it was
that bad. Everyone was polite when the house lights came up, but you
could tell... it flopped in a big way.
This was also the year of "Star Trek - the motion picture" and "Alien." During that 70mm premiere at the Egyptian, the film jumped the track and the 70mm film burned up before our eyes. A woman actually screamed which sent a wave of very loud gasps through the crowd. Fortunately, a friend of mine had other friends in Westwood (showing it 70mm later that day). We ran over there and they managed to squeeze us in. Compared to the "Black Hole" whether that comparison is fair or not, "Alien" was then and still is a sci-fi masterpiece, and complete pushed the "Black Hole" off the page for the year. No one associated with sci-fi would even mention "Black Hole" at the cons.
"The Black Hole" tried so hard to be legit Sci-fi. But in the end, a great roster of seasoned actors had a poor script (TV writer Bob Barash's only feature film), poor direction (TV director Gary Nelson's only feature film) and all the wonderful special effects or sweeping score cannot save an inherently bad movie. Disney has yet to make another attempt at Sci-fi that has or will be considered successful.
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