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Funny, Cheesy, Disjointed
I think 6.0 is about right. Perhaps a 6.5. It is a cheesy movie, to say the least. But, that was But, CHIPS the show was fairly cheesy. By far not a great film. But, not altogether bad, either. There are some films that are just bad and unwatchable. But, this is the kind of movie that if you know it's going to be cheesy and that there will be some cringe moments, it's watchable.
It will probably disappoint original viewers of the show. But, had they boiler-plated the original, it would not have gone anywhere. It didn't have enough humor or drama to sustain itself as a film. And, I was a fan.
But, CHIPS the movie was fairly humorous - more so than the show. A number of funny lines kept one involved and it was the several side-story humor that kept the show going.
This film struck me as a bit of an attempt to be Lethal Weapon type - but didn't have the potent acting or writing.
The acting was below par and at times was atrocious. Not that the actors were bad but that sometimes they clearly just mailed it in. The scene where Ponch (played by Michael Pena) was confronted by his boss looked like they were reading lines off of cue cards. Literally. It had the feel of being slapped together the last minute, neither actor appeared to know his lines, and it almost seemed they were being fed lines, saying them for the first time, ever.
The film was disjointed in its plot line and various story lines.
One of the great things about Chips the show was that it was all about Los Angeles, and sunny, southern California. It was in that 70's Emergency family that also flowed out of Dragnet. And, the movie did not disappoint, showing many wide angle views of various parts of LA.
Would never have seen this film in the theater. But, generally, it was a watchable film and it is worth a rental on a slow night with someone who can get the humor and find enjoyment in the cheesy and lightness of the film.
FX is crushing it with their TV shows in the past few years (Fargo is as good as it gets). And Feud is doing a fantastic job keeping it going.
Jessica Lang is very good in her role as Joan Crawford. But, I have to say, I think Susan Sarandon is absolutely killing it as Bette Davis. I feel like I'm watching Bette Davis. I'd like to see Sarandon nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe as well.
It not only is a great program in dealing with the Davis and Crawford feud, but it's a wonderful homage to old Hollywood.
Well worth watching.
Big Little Lies (2017)
Soap Opera on Steroids
A movie (think Little Miss Sunshine) or show (think Shameless) that is fully of broken characters can be redeeming and beautiful.
Granted, this review is two episodes in (but, then, all the reviews up so far - 13 at this stage - are premature), nevertheless, Big Little Lies is anything but redeeming; it does contain a beauty that barely traverses skin depth. It is little more than a daytime soap amped up on steroids with a number of quality 'name' actresses. They are enough to lead to tuning in and watching. Beyond that, both the main characters and the bit parts are angry, vacuous in character, shallow and generally lacking in genuine compassion and love.
You're probably just as suited to tuning into Days of Our Lives. Even General Hospital may have more redeeming women than this show. Or, should I say, more real, actual human beings.
Aside from that, the show is full of negative, hate oriented (be it the subtle hidden kind or open, obvious) dialog.
Decent Start - Fizzled A Bit
The first two episodes held real promise for this show. Billy Bob Thornton with his usually great performance. A few new interesting characters coming on the scene revolving around Thornton. And some really solid actors in Maria Bello (she's always beautiful and really is a quality actress), William Hurt, Olivia Thirby, and Molly Parker (in a pretty similar role from House of Cards). And there were a number of unexpected twists and several explosive scenes early on.
The show does borrow heavily from House of Cards' cinematography (some of the dark blue tint as well as the time-lapse video (a clear rip off of HOC). Nothing wrong with that. It works. Might as well use it.
But, as the show moved on - it slowed down. The dialogue was slow and didn't seem to have any real sharpness in the rhetoric. For example, it doesn't match the rhetoric of a Mr. Robot or several other shows. The writing just isn't there.
It seemed to morph into a standard Network TV legal-drama - Law and Order has better courtroom rhetoric than this. There were moments of good legalese which was appreciated but generally arguments were weak on both sides.
Thornton's character in particular seemed quite inept - for a lawyer especially - at arguing his case in defending himself to various individuals. This is not Thornton's problem - but the writers - who are way too sparse on dialogue. Even in court, one is expecting fireworks or strong argumentation from both sides and I just found it rather weak.
(Compare this to Darlene in Mr. Robot matching wits with the FBI in the next to the last episode of season 2; and both sides provide stellar one-up-man-ship. This just doesn't happen in Goliath).
I started to feel like I was watching a maybe-better-than-average Network show from the 90's.
The show's overall narrative is a great one. And the setting is also excellent. Hard to beat seedy, coastal LA. But, the actual dialogue writing lacks a great deal. Further, characters just don't develop and many of the character relationships and interactions almost seem ancillary and unnecessary. The plot and character interaction just don't all fit well. It seemed like the writing is basically rushed.
This show held truly great promise. But by the last few episodes it just did not continue to flash nor live up to what could have been. It had the potential for greatness but falls well short. It reminds me of a stock with a great IPO opening ... spikes high ... then slowly ramps downward to reality.
Steve Jobs (2015)
This is a simple review. Perhaps it is most helpful to compare this to The Social Network (even though the two films are not technically parallel, Jobs being a partial-career-biopic). The Social Network emphasized the rise of the company Facebook, with the person, Mark Zuckerberg, as the central figure. Steve Jobs emphasized the person, Jobs, with the company he began, Apple. Both, however, relate to companies that are at the heartbeat of American society, technology and Silicon Valley today.
The Social Network was crisp, fast-paced, Sorkin at his best, fascinating tale of the explosive rise of Facebook.
Steve Jobs, on the other hand came across as Sorkin-esque, and had quality at a few points, yet seemed more appropriately Sorkin-exhausted ... as if he were just tired of writing and his pen finally capitulated to writing cramps a couple of hours in. The story struck me as an almost entirely negative portrayal without any true redeeming elements (except in the Steve Wozniak character - well-played by Seth Rogan). Perhaps that was intentional - to reveal a Steve Jobs who was a completely self-absorbed megalomaniac. Perhaps Sorkin was attempting to write a morality play on how some individuals are so focused on their own intelligence and power that they cannot relate to others on a truly personal level. Perhaps also that is what Jobs was really like. I have no idea. I'll leave that judgment to others.
How this won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay over Spotlight or The Big Short is beyond comprehension. Both of those screenplays were head and shoulders superior to Steve Jobs.
Nevertheless, while the acting was decent, and the film got off to an interesting start, I found that when the film ended, I felt short-changed and negative. So did those who viewed it with me.
As to the acting, you'll note that Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet both received Oscar as well as Golden Globe noms (and Winslet winning the Globe). Both are superb actors in general. And, both did quality work here. But, I found Winslet's character to be a bit up and down. I don't think it was her best role by far and don't believe she deserves an Oscar win for certain (it wasn't until her second main scene that I realized she was a foreigner - and her accent seemed to fade in and out - stronger, then blander - throughout the movie). Fassbender did a fine job but he is not close to the level of, say, Brian Cranston's work in Trumbo (which was genius).
Hail, Caesar! (2016)
Not Great But Not Bad
It's a 7. Plain and simple. It wasn't extraordinarily funny. It did have good moments. It had some fine quirkiness. It was very enjoyable.
But, it wasn't a great Coen movie. They've made better. The setting, the actors, the basic story line were all there. The problem was simply that the script was a bit slow moving and not excessively funny.
The film had a good message (as nearly all Coen brothers films do); but it just did not have the depth of humor that, say, O Brother, Fargo, or others did.
I thought that Clooney was okay - sometimes very funny other times cliché. Brolin was very good but he just didn't quite have the dialogue to make his role exceptional.
That's not to say there weren't some funny scenes nor that it was not enjoyable. It was, but it just lacked oomph! So, it's middling to good. Better than a 6. But no better than a 7.
Romanticism At Its Best
By Romanticism I don't mean a romance between a man and a woman (chick flick).
But the Romanticism of Ireland - it's people and beauty; and of the deep nostalgia of post WWII Brookly.
This is a beautiful film with several good characters - even with flaws.
The cinematography is fantastic. The acting is superb.
Altogether I'd give this an 8.4-8.5 (though that's not permitted so I give it an 8).
Two particular points that I find to be of great interest is how evil works in the world. Sometimes through particular individuals (not the over-the-top villain types as in Bond films; but just people who are filled with some bitterness that in turn make life more difficult for others around them). But, secondly, sometimes just through circumstances and timing in life that is bad - and creates both conundrums and moral challenges through no fault of an individual. Both of these (without giving away any of the film) are present.
I find that when films and stories are able to capture these truisms to life - without being films that have total despair and emptiness within them - they are the best. And, this points toward the hope and dream that all have within their life. Yet, also bring out the futility of life's circumstances - pointing ultimately in my view toward a yet-unfulfilled hoped for future that all long for beyond this world.
Pieces of April (2003)
Beauty amidst Brokenness
Out of deep brokenness, dysfunctionality, sadness and despair comes a moment of true peace and joy.
This is truly a fantastic film. Significantly underrated yet beautiful.
The acting is superb on all counts. Without a doubt in my mind it is Katie Holmes best role. These are the kinds of roles to which she'd do well to seek to return.
But, the other roles were also exceptional. Those who have seen Newsroom will recognize two of the actors as the younger siblings in this film - Allison Pill and John Gallagher, Jr. Their current acting skills are clearly recognized and on display.
And the roles played by the consistently sound Oliver Platt and the underrated but very talented Patricia Clarkson are superb.
My wife and I have watched this every Thanksgiving since 2006. It remains the best Thanksgiving movie ever made, in our view.
Maps to the Stars (2014)
No Redemptive Quality
There was nothing redeeming about this movie and that's why it ultimately fails as a film.
Praise where praise is due, however, the acting was exceptional. Any film with Julianne Moore is almost worth watching at least once (this might be the exception). Her role reminded me of Boogie Nights. Wasichowska was excellent and understated yet powerful. The dialogue was quality.
But the actual story is ridiculously over the top and has no redeeming value. There's not much else to say on that count. In fact it was borderline SciFi it was so over-the- top unrealistic. It seemed more like a "c" level knock off on an 80's David Lynch film.
Movies about true brokenness are of inestimable value - especially when they are both true to life and when they find realism in characters that have some redeeming quality - as most human beings do. But, this was more bizarro land from another planet. Not a single character was redeeming,
Ultimately, it failed on two major counts. First, the story was over-the-top evil. Second, the narrative never found a single human with any true humanity.
Murder on the Home Front (2013)
You know that commercial with the young adults trying to flee a murderer and the girl cries out, "There's a car, let's go!" And one of the young man says, "No, let's hide behind those chainsaws!" - mocking the utterly foolish decisions people make in horror movies (or, really, the poor storytelling of the writers)?
Well, that's part of the problem with this program. I don't dislike the actors and the plot line has potential (though it's a bit of a mimic of the great Foyle's War - except for a forensic expert).
But, there are far too many predictable features. Bad decisions as in the horror story pattern. The typical supervisory stupidity and skepticism and corruption in high places is also present.
I had high hopes with this. Great setting (WWII London). Decent acting. Plenty of potential but ultimately it is frustrating.
It's just a boiler-plate crime story-line copied thousands of times by one TV show after another.
I am normally not at all that critical about such programs. There was some enjoyment in the program. But, seriously is there no originality left?
As Real As It Gets
I don't know of many movies I've given a 10 to (other than The Godfather which I saw in theaters as a boy).
This movie is simply brilliant. Incredibly realistic. Has to be a major favorite to win Best Picture. One of the most unique films ever made.
Ethan Hawke is the most real person in any movie I've seen. Really all the actors reflect that reality (though Hawke is exceptional).
See this movie. It was a joy to watch. It will be a joy.
My only disappointment is that I want it to go on and on and never end. Maybe Linkater and the rest of the crew will continue the story? That would be fantastic.
The Internship (2013)
I go to the movies to be entertained - not to find ways to criticize. But, if a movie is bad or mediocre, it's bad or mediocre and I'm happy to say so.
This movie, however, was neither bad nor mediocre. It was just a very enjoyable film. Not a spectacular-fall-out-of-your-chair-laughing-hysterically comedy. But, a really good story and one that had plenty of solid humor, joy, entertainment and a few poignant moments. It simply worked.
What's wrong with that?
Vince Vaughn was his classic self. He has his own unique humor niche carved out and he had several of his classic, near stream-of-consciousness riffs for which he has become iconic. He also carries a humorous sarcastic-warmth to him that reminds me (in his own comedic way) of some other warm comedic greats who had a similar ability to be quite funny but generate some warmth in his films (John Candy comes to mind).
As the story writer Vaughn had a great little plot and very good idea. I'm very happy he wrote a generally good story. There are a couple of explicitly humorous scenes - some comedy is a bit over-the-top gross here or there - but otherwise it is pretty "feel good."
Owen Wilson is solid though not spectacular. But the Wilson-Vaughn combo is a great one. Not to the comedic level of Wedding-Crashers in this one, but still very good.
The bottom line is the movie entertains and while it may not appease the snobbery of many critics, it is an enjoyable film and I hope it does well. Worth seeing for sure.
One of America's Greatest Stories
If you are a sports fan - a must see.
If you are a movie fan - a very worthwhile evening.
Interested in social issues - another essential.
It seemed a bit light on some drama relative to our modern day over-the-top entertainment world, but I think part of the motive here was to appeal to a wide variety of older movie goers who remember this era to some degree. This was not a bad thing. I do think that it was a different era and seemed to capture that well. So, I thought it did real justice to this and is a great film in large part because the Jackie Robinson story is the greatest story in American Sports history. One of the great stories in American history, period.
You can't walk out of this film without a tear in your eye and a deep, deep respect for the great Jackie Robinson. A story that really needs to continually be honored and re-told - so that all athletes and all people in our culture see this man of deep courage, integrity and grace. An incredible human being.
The film also introduces two young actors who've had some decent roles but this will really bring them into the mainstream:
Chadwick Boseman - who played Jackie. Great role - really seemed to capture the class of Robinson, I believe.
Nicole Beharie - did a fine job. And, she is incredibly beautiful. I mean a knockout! A 10 in the face and not far behind everywhere else. She will be a much more well known name from here on out.
I thought this may have been one of Harrison Ford's best acting roles ever because you didn't think, "Hey, that's Harrison Ford doing his thing" as he has so often in the Indiana Jones' series and other films (not a bad thing, mind you, he does well at it), but - instead - you thought, "that's Branch Rickey." The actor was lost inside the character.
I would not be surprised and would really love to see Ford get a best supporting Actor nod for this.
A film that really should be seen for the quality and for the story itself. A truly important and great story.
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
As Good As Imagined
There is only one reason for giving this movie a lower than 8 or 9 star rating or an average review - political bias.
ZDT accomplished what it sought to do. Tell a story. Like the story or not, it told the dramatic story of the search for Osama Bin Laden - centering on the CIA female agent who stuck to the information and details. Leaving aside, again, all politically charged ideology, the search and finding of Bin Laden was an amazing feat in the face of deeply challenging opposition.
The movie itself captured the drama and the pain of the search in a powerful narrative. It is difficult to imagine a more realistic account - at the same time making a film in which everyone knew the ending - still come across as riveting and dramatic.
The last 30-40 minutes alone had both a realism and drama that I have never seen before in a film. Not even close.
Bigelow is a master of creating intensity and drama out of as realistic a political-military narrative as possible.
The only thing hurting this film and the only reason for a negative view is political bias in a negative political atmosphere.
If you watch this film, watch it with a lack of bias (politically; militarily; or otherwise). And, watch it through the lens of the powerful narrative following a great fictional-historical character played by Jessica Chastain.
Chastain clearly deserved Best Actress (and, yes, I loved SLP). Bigelow at least deserved a nomination for best director and should have won.
Sad that Hollywood - long promoting art over PC, this time chose PC over artistic value.
The Newsroom (2012)
West Wing - Different Setting
Part of me wanted to give this a 5 or a 6. Another part of me wanted to give it a 10. So, I settled on 8. The opener was riveting and attention getting. I've watched it four times now (not purposefully - it keeps coming on with not much else to choose!). West Wing - the early years - were great and unique. Newsroom is basically West Wing 2.0 except the setting is a newsroom. The one negative with Sorkin is also his strength - the rapid-fire dialogue. Sometimes it is too perfect and too fast (who thinks that quickly? When has anyone been in a real room with that many quick responding people? It just doesn't happen that way in real life). On the other hand, that's what makes it so fascinating.
With Sorkin it is almost always about one thing: great dialogue.
That said, there were some poor lines. The whole "Wait, I have a blog?" Line was just too forced an attempt at humor (From a character that showed little real humor or for whom such a line was simply not within the personality). THere are natural lines and there are unnatural/forced lines. That was the latter.
Will be interesting if the future programs have a similar feel (very likely) and level of drama / intrigue (going to require a great deal of work to reach that).
Another underrated British film. In line with the subtle humor and beauty of Room with a View (thought it doesn't quite reach that height of humor or greatness as a film). And, appropriately so with Judi Densch and Maggie Smith in a lineup together. This really is in line with a great run of British films since the 80's (Room with a View; Four Weddings; Notting Hill; Bridget Jones; Love Actually; etc., etc.).
Densch's narration is exceptional. The actors are superb - these are some of the finest actors of this generation - and the writing is, though not brilliant, exceptional. Certainly better than 99% of American made films.
The India setting is perfect. It is both modern and ancient and anyone who loves international cities will understand the love for this.
I loved the film and love this genre. The film industry and movie world would be a better place if a well-done British film like this were put out every year. Having to wait three or four years for such films is just too long. I will have to return to see it three or four more times just to get my fix in and hold me over until the next classically British film.
Simply The Best
Far and away the best film of the series. Very emotional and moving - great action; tension; and a phenomenally well done ending. Very, very satisfying in spite of the melancholy of the fact that a movie series many fans have followed faithfully for the past 10 years.
I was not a fan of the early movies but went to all of them anyways simply because my kids enjoyed them so much - they ostensibly grew up at similar ages as the Potter - and had read every book.
The films have generally improved but there is no doubt this last film was great. Unlike the other films, part 2 of the deathly hallows was actually, in my view, better than the last half of the book. I found the action in the book difficult to follow and maintain coherency. Perhaps it is that fast paced and complex action is easier seen on the screen than penned on the page.
Nevertheless, this is head and shoulders the best of all eight Potter films. It brings to a close what is, really, a very powerful cultural phenomena in western society.
The themes of redemption; of imperfection of characters; of love; of justice; and self-sacrifice all play a part. I felt that Rowling had made the teen characters too foolishly flawed and emotional - far more than many are at that age. But this particular film - while not neglecting that feature - presented the characters in a stronger light. Especially Harry. Well done Daniel Radcliffe.
Enjoy The Ride
The secret of a film like this is to keep your attention, not be boring or cheesy with the dialog, and keep your on edge during the action.
This movie simply does that. It's not a super profound philosophical mystery; it doesn't go deep into a challenging story line (like, say, Dune or Lord of the Rings) - but it works.
I felt tension and engagement with the characters throughout. The action and video were excellent. Perhaps it helped that I watched it at an IMAX in 3D. But, the sound, the music, was exceptionally powerful and really made for a powerful movie experience.
If you want some good sci-fi action, a few interesting characters, and powerful music - you'll like Tron.
Olivia Wilde was the real star. Her gorgeous eyes and drug-like beauty were in full force, but she did a great job selling the character. Typically when you know someone from another role it is difficult for them to play such a narrow character role (a kind of vulnerable and not quite so computer-like Data). And, there were times I thought - this is Olivia Wilde of House - and my brain had to adjust out of that. However, for the most part she did a great job with a really key character.
Beau Garrett - in a lesser female role - was also quite good.
I was not a Tron "freak" with respect to the original film - liked it but didn't get into it as a fanatic. So, I don't know how some who are obsessed with they mystery of this will do with the film (I suspect they will like it fairly well). Nevertheless, I think it deserves a solid 8 as a movie that simply entertains with great special effects, music, and some solid character acting.
If you just want to enjoy a unique sci-fi action-drama - go see it. If you are nit-picky and don't like sci-fi, don't.
The Tourist (2010)
Light, Fun Fare - Could have Improved
I thought The Tourist was close to what I expected. Interestingly, a woman sitting near us after the film said she expected another "Salt" or "Lara Croft." But, that really wasn't warranted given the previews.
This is a film, as one LA Times writer noted, in the vein of the old Cary Grant thief dramas. I like this genre. And, both Jolie and Depp were quite good in their roles. Paul Bettany, a quality role actor, played a character that was a bit too grading and not quite endearing enough.
Depp was exceptional at communicating the vulnerability of the American Tourist. His acting skills are not lacking and the character was fairly well written. Acting - 8.5-9.0; Writing - 6.5-7.0.
Jolie - was, as usual, gorgeous. She is among the most beautiful and elegant looking women in the world. Just showing up on screen with those lips and eyes is worth a 7 without a word uttered. Incomparable. But, she pulled off her role as a beauty who is confident, toying with vulnerable & insecure Depp, yet also not entirely in control of her circumstances.
I do wish, without giving anything away, that things had ended just a bit differently. The final outcome - never really in doubt given it was essentially a two-character film with supporting cast - was what one wished. But, this film could have been improved with a different twist than the director put on the movie. It actually disappointed me a bit and knocked it down to a 7 out of 10 range. Had the writing been a bit more imaginative than it was - I think this would have been a film worthy of an 8 to 8.5 range film.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
This is easily Wes Anderson's finest film. I've enjoyed his films in the past but I never thought any of them were truly 'fantastic'! But, this one is extremely amusing, mesmerizing, and an absolute joy to watch.
Much will likely be made of the quality of special effects. Yet, that will dramatically miss the point of this great film. The actors voices are perfect for their characters. But, regardless of the actors or special effects, what ultimately makes a movie rise above others (as evidenced by the greatness of the first three Star Wars films, for example, as opposed to the droll final three) is writing and dialog.
The combination of Anderson's best dialog of any film he's written or directed with excellent interpretation and the great original story line from Roald Dahl and voilà - a fantastic film about a fantastic fox.
This simply has not been a banner year for films. In fact, there haven't been many great movies in recent years (one wonders - did all the writers simply quit permanently?). But, this is easily the best film of 2009 released to date even if it was animation. Go see it, you will not be disappointed.
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
When A Great Film Goes Bad (spoiler)
Let's just cut to the chase: the writing in this film was top rate and smart - probably the smartest and most well acted romantic comedy in several years. The acting was excellent. But, the ending brings this down from a 9 to a 7.
The ending was just a downer and overly unrealistic. Sure, most romantic comedies have some lack of realism but Summer's character became very inconsistent; her personality just changed. From a fun-loving person to being bummed out about who she was with - to then enjoying their company again - right before they get engaged?
If you are dating someone (which I'm not, I'm happily married) and go to this movie - it will put a lot of pressure on a relationship if people get into this. I would not have been comfortable if I had been dating a girl and took her to this movie.
Ironically, the very thing the character in this film criticized ("falling in love") is what happened. And, it is ultimately unrealistic. Marriage is not sustained by the feeling of love or that "one moment where you know that is the person." But, Hollywood continues to propagate this message. Love that makes a marriage last is commitment in spite of one's lost "feelings" - feelings fluctuate all the time (of course, in Hollywood, when feelings fluctuate - well, it's time to move on to the next girl or guy).
Star Trek (2009)
Loyal Yet Updated
I've been watching Star Trek since I was a young boy back in the early days (late 60's) and I loved everything about this movie. The characters were exceptionally true to form and the updated action as well as some much needed additional personality (to Ohuru in particular) was exceptionally well-suited but not overdone. The narrative itself was entertaining, suspenseful and intriguing. Exceptionally well written, in my view. Let's hope the collaborators can come up with another one like this. I feel confident it will be a massive hit.
I'd probably give this movie about a 9.6 out of 10. The one thing that was slightly disappointing was the voice of the young Spock. He just was far too boyish. He did a fine job with the part - but I think they could have scored an actor with a bit more richness, even though still youthful. I had a deeper voice at age 13 than this guy. I think that adds to the richness of Spock's character and logic - and that is central to the character. If that had been better, it would have been a 10 for me.
The beauty of this film is that it was extremely intense and exciting - I suspect it would be enjoyable for even new viewers who do not know the back story.
Yet, it threw plenty of 'bones' (literally and figuratively) to viewers in the characters of McCoy, Kirk, Spock, Sulu and the rest. Many classic phrases from the Doc, Kirk and Spock.
The added centrality of the role for Ohuru was more fitting for our culture as well as extremely entertaining. Zoe Saldana - whew! She is gorgeous. And, she was an excellent Ohuru.
In Bruges (2008)
Dramedy in Bruges
An excellent film. Extremely subtle and humorous. Not everyone will like this film. It's not fast paced or action packed. However, the acting is exceptional and it is filled with both humor and sober thoughts on life, death and guilt.
Colin Farrell has undoubtedly offered up his finest performance in film. Farrell has been decent in other films but this role was filled with humor and vulnerability. The acting during a conversation at breakfast with Brendan Gleeson in the hotel is priceless; so, too, Farrell's attempt to get a date with the lovely and wonderfully attractive Clemence Poesy.
Gleeson himself is excellent as well as a brief but very poignant role by Ralph Fiennes. The Golden Globe nominations of Gleeson and Farrell for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy were well deserved. In my view, Farrell should get a Best Actor nomination for the Academy; it is not a winning role. But, it is phenomenal acting. I doubt he'll get a nomination given the Academy's melodrama fetish. However, I will guarantee that Farrell's role is better than two or three of the roles. Farrell takes small scenes with good dialog and makes it exceptional.
The various views of Bruges are very nice; the movie captures very well life in a mid-sized European town. The main square the hotel and its breakfast area all are captured quite well.
The screenplay is equal to Farrell's acting. There are great statements about life and choices one makes - as well as great humor. To be able to explore both with equal aplomb in a film is quite an achievement. The screenplay for this movie is also quite deserving of an Oscar nomination. The one slight negative I would have is that I might have changed around a couple of scenes near the end, but that's always the writer's prerogative.
Finally, the language is pretty rough at times. However, this seems essential for a legitimate portrayal of the characters.
Unless you can only handle mindless action films (don't get me wrong - those have their place!) or fast action dramas - you should enjoy this movie.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Best Bollywood Film Ever
Slumdog Millionaire was arguably as good an ensemble cast drama as any in years ... going back to LA Confidential.
It does have a Tale of Two Cities feel to it. But, most haven't read Dickens so that's fine. It really captures the poverty of India but also has humor, excitement, sadness, terror and genuine sacrificial love.
The screenplay is lucid and articulate in a way few movies in modern times have achieved. The acting is captivating. This film takes one on a long and winding narrative. I realized after it was over that I had lost myself in this movie - a sign of a great screenplay and great acting.
With literally hundreds of superficial, mediocre films in 2008, this film was fresh air. If there is one movie to see - see this one! You will not be disappointed.
Mamma Mia! (2008)
Too Campy & Over-the-top
I can handle good quality "chick-flicks" - even enjoy them a great deal. And, I can get into the Musical film (Chicago was excellent).
But, the problem with this movie - in theaters - is that it was just way too over the top. The acting by the daughter was far too campy - even for a musical. Her facial expressions and excitement were almost embarrassing to watch. It's one thing for there to be songs thrown in with quality acting otherwise, but no one acts like that.
Streep was very good with her songs at times; other times, again, far too campy. The scene where she is just writhing and rolling on the rooftop - please!
There were some decent song scenes that were very entertaining. But, at times, it was just too much.
The male roles were solid.
At the same time, the blatant homosexual encounter at the end (non-sexual, but still...) was too "in your face." If Hollywood wants to make a movie with that in it, that's fine. It's their choice. But, those scenes took away from the film. Sorry, but I'm not going to put homosexuality on the same level as heterosexual encounters.