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The Birth of a Nation is a 1915 silent film. The movie is based on two
of Thomas Dixon's novels The Clansman and The Leopard's Spots. This
early film is noted for its innovative technical and narrative
achievements and is studied in virtually every Film History 101 class
in colleges and universities. Of course it also provokes controversy
due to its treatment of white supremacy and its positive portrayal of
the Ku Klux Klan.
Originally this film would have been presented in two sections with an intermission in the middle. The first half depicts a before Civil War America and introduces two families, the Northern Stonemans and the Southern Camerons. The Stonemans visit the Camerons at their South Carolina estate. The elder Stoneman boy falls in love with Margaret Cameron and one of the Cameron sons, Ben (Henry B. Walthall), pines for one of the Stoneman daughters, Elise. Of course the Civil War breaks out and the young men join their respective armies. A black militia (with a white leader) ransacks the Cameron house. The Cameron women are rescued when Confederate soldiers rout the militia. Meanwhile, the youngest Stoneman and two Cameron boys are killed in the war. Ben Cameron is wounded after a heroic battle in which he gains the nickname, "the Little Colonel," by which he is referred for the rest of the film. The Little Colonel is taken to a Northern hospital where he meets Elsie, who is working there as a nurse. The war ends and Abraham Lincoln is assassinated at Ford's Theater, allowing Austin Stoneman (meant to parody real life Congressman Thaddeus Stevens) and other radical congressmen to punish the South for secession using radical measures supposedly typical of this period of the Reconstruction era.
The second part depicts Reconstruction. Stoneman and his "mulatto" follower, Silas Lynch, go to South Carolina to observe their agenda of empowering Southern blacks via election fraud. Meanwhile, Ben, inspired by observing white children pretending to be ghosts to scare off black children, devises a plan to reverse perceived powerlessness of Southern whites by forming the Ku Klux Klan, although his membership in the group angers Elsie. Shockingly a former slave proposes marriage to the other Cameron daughter, Flora. She is scared by the former slave, Gus (Walter Long), and runs off into the forest pursued by him. Eventually she is trapped and then leaps to her death. The Klan hunts down Gus and lynches him. A crackdown on the Klan is then ordered by Silas Lynch (George Siegmann). The Camerons flee fro the black militia and hide out in a small hut which is home to two former Union soldiers who agree to assist the Camerons.
Meanwhile Lynch tries to force Elsie to marry him. Disguised Klansmen discover her situation and leave to get reinforcements. The Klan, now at full strength, rides to her rescue and takes the opportunity to disperse the rioting "crazed Negroes." Just then Lynch's militia surrounds and attacks the hut where the Camerons are hiding, but the Klan saves them just in time. Victorious, the Klansmen celebrate in the streets, and the film cuts to the next election where the Klan successfully disenfranchises black voters and disarms the blacks. The film concludes with a double honeymoon of Phil Stoneman with Margaret Cameron (Miriam Cooper) and Ben Cameron with Elsie Stoneman. The final frame shows masses oppressed by a mythical god of war suddenly finding themselves at peace under the image of Christ. The final title rhetorically asks: "Dare we dream of a golden day when the bestial War shall rule no more? But instead-the gentle Prince in the Hall of Brotherly Love in the City of Peace."
D.W. Griffith, the film's director, agreed to pay Thomas Dixon $10,000 for the rights to his play The Clansman. Since he ran out of money and could afford only $2,500 of the original option, Griffith offered Dixon 25 percent interest in the picture. Dixon reluctantly agreed. The film's unprecedented success made him rich. Dixon's proceeds were the largest sum any author had received for a motion picture story and amounted to several million dollars. The film is estimated to have cost Griffith a total of $112,000 causing him to seek out many different investors. At the film's premiere in Los Angeles the title was The Clansman but it was later changed to The Birth of a Nation to reflect Griffith's belief that the United States emerged out of the Civil War and Reconstruction, ended by the Klan, as a unified nation.
The films stars Lillian Gish as Elsie Stoneman and Mae Marsh as Flora Cameron. They must be credited for causing some of the stir that arose when the film was released. Not only is the film polarizing, but as the black men in the film are being portrayed as sex crazed and violent men after these so innocent white women had to bring about a response. To stir up this type of emotion in 1915 is an impressive undertaking by D.W. Griffith.
As you watch the film you can't help be confused by part one and two as they look and appear to be two separate movies spliced together. Part two is the section with all of the disturbing material and does not match up with part one which has more cinema techniques. Watching the film without keeping history and film history in the back of your mind, one can easily find the film tedious and hard to keep your attention. It is like eating aged cheese, it takes a refined pallet. If you have an interest in film history and how we got from there to here with styles then this film is a must watch.
By far Star Trek is the greatest movie adventure of all time. The story
of Star Trek and its Enterprise crew should be well known by now, but
in case you were hiding in a cave... The Enterprise is a starship from
Earth's 25 century and the crew's mission is to seek out new life and
to boldly go where no man has gone before. Way back in the day, 1966,
came the Star Trek television series. Then in 1979 came Star Trek The
Motion Picture. Now in 2009 we have Star Trek which follows those
original characters of Captain Kirk and the Vulcan Spock, only this
time we're getting a fresh new batch of actors.
This film allows us to explore Kirk and Spock before they have become their legendary selves. We meet James Kirk and learn how he was challenged from his home in Iowa into joining Starfleet, equivalent to our NASA today. We meet Spock who is tortured between his Vulcan heritage and his human nature and emotions. The other characters also come into our view for "the first time" and even though the actors faces are fresh the characters are very familiar. This is quite a challenge to the actors playing them and an equal challenge to real fans of the series who have embedded themselves and love of the characters with those original actors.
For Trek fans you're going to love this movie. It is fresh yet familiar. There is lots of new material here to keep you going for two hours. It is great to see this reboot of the characters and see them unfold from the beginning again. You'll love seeing Spock and Kirk save the galaxy for the first time. However, also for Trek fans the reboot isn't going to be able to follow every reference or look and act the same as it did in 1966 or 1979. When the series first rebooted itself with the 1979 release, little was thought about making everything match the t.v. series thank god. It worked great. So hopefully Trek fans will see the choices made in 2009 as reasonable ones.
For normal movie goers this film is a marvel of modern CGI and everything looks so real that it is hard to believe that it is not real. It is a gorgeous looking film and that is hard to argue. J.J. Abrams, the film's director has done a remarkable job in getting this project off the ground and also pulling this movie together considering the special effects. It's almost like pulling a movie out of thin air. Just as the model making was incredible in the earlier films it is the computer imaging that makes this movie look breathtaking.
The acting in the film is a bit uneven and unbalanced. The actors certainly had enough reference material to pull from and while I wasn't looking for any type of impersonations from the actors, the characters are pretty much set in stone from the books and previous movies. This might be where Trek fans are most critical. From a non Trek point of view, the development could have been much deeper that it was. One of the surprise performances comes from Simon Pegg who plays Scotty, the ship's engineer. His delivery and skill takes many of the scenes that he is in.
As fir Chris Pine (James Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock), their chemistry together has a certain flair, but the spark never ignites fully. They play their parts very light without letting themselves go too deep into these characters. The tension of friendship is there but at times I just wasn't convinced that these guys had the bravado necessary to save the galaxy. If their chemistry doesn't do it for you, don't worry. There is still some sexiness to this geeky film. Just like its predecessors, this film finds a way to work in some sex appeal.
I am forced to admit that I am a Trek fan. Therefor I like the movie. I think I'm able to be unbiased enough though to say that non-Trek fans will like this movie too. It is a great sci- fi ride with some awesome graphics, great fighting, some twists and turns and all around good fun. If you're not a fan this movie just might make a fan of you.
I don't think it should be any surprise that this movie is merely a
quick vehicle to get Zac Ephron in a movie and making money as fast as
possible before, god forbid, he becomes a flash in the pan. If you have
seen a trailer for the film then you've pretty darn near seen the film
aside from the juicy bits that all the tween girls in America are
frothing to see.
Basically this is about a guy named Mike O'Donnell (Mathew Perry) who is having a rough time in his life. His wife is wanting a divorce, his kids are remote at best, he didn't get the big office promotion and let's just say his life has been going down the drain since his life at 17 when he was the big basketball star. And, let's cue the body swap movie.
In order to get us, the audience, where we need to be which is watching Zac play out this 17 again life while maintaining his middle aged knowledge, Mike (Perry) falls into a Twilight Zone type of vortex where the switch happens. Switch? Instead of being 17 again he should have asked to go back in time 20 years. Think of movies like Big (in reverse) or Freaky Friday, only in a good way. Perhaps Like Father, Like Son comes to mind. Maybe even a dash of It's A Wonderful Life is even thrown in.
Whatever movies you think of, and there are plenty to think of here, writer Jason FIlardi is responsible for the premise being rammed down our throat. I use the word writer loosely as do I also the word responsible. Filardi has brought us Drum and Bringing Down The House. As for responsible, well that should go to the executives that were determined on creating a Zac Efron project rather than looking for a project for Zac Efron.
The real question was why I was even attending a screening of this movie. Well, I have a just turned teen daughter who had to see this trifle so when the passes came up I had to take them. In attendance was also another 100 teenage girls sans boyfriends. Just as contrived as the movie itself is shirtless Zac, who when he took off his T-shirt, my hearing failed from the squeals that only teenage girls can make. And why does he have to play basketball again!!
I can tell you that this is harmless entertainment. We've seen actors stoop much lower than this though I can't tell you how we ended up with Matthew Perry cast as adult Efrom. I also can't tell you why we need to have Brian Doyle Murray as the janitor that just happens to have the magical ability to make vortexes appear at his whim. Seems like he could do better than the janitor gig.
Overall, I didn't throw up. I actually found a couple of the scenes funny and fresh. There was a lot that I didn't like that with a little work could have been made much better, but Hollywood is lazy that way and if they don't have to do the work, they won't.
Sometimes all you have left to play is attitude. With a lot more than
attitude to play, this film starts with attitude, stirs in some laughs
and then adds quite a lot of good actors. Based on the novel by Elmore
Leonard, Get Shorty is a delightful, well written, smart film with
loads of plots twists. The pace is deliberate and the character studies
are fun and well thought out. The character study for John Travolta
comes one year after his comeback role in Pulp Fiction with Quintin
The main character is Chili Palmer (John Travolta) who works as as loan shark and part of a group of mobsters out in Miami. Chili has become tired of his mob life and when a job comes to him that enables him to perhaps go to L.A. and try another line of work, he seizes the chance. There Chili meets up with B-movie mogul, Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman) who owes quite a considerable debt.. Zimm agrees to help Chili get a project off the ground with the help of his girlfriend, Karen (Rene Russo) and they suggest casting academy award nominee Martin Weir (Danny DeVito), while Chili also tries to get his immediate job finished.
Director Barry Sonnenfeld provides a film that takes the idea of loving movies and its tongue-in-cheek gangster characters in stride as if that idea is simply a starting off point. He doesn't rely on conventional clichés of the criminal underworld and tells this search for a new career in a refreshing new light. Even when the characters are not the most likable they are still very entertaining. The added bonus that Chili is such a movie fan makes him doubly likable in the film.
This film is a totally character driven film and everything in the film is for the characters. The combination of John Travolta (won Golden Globe, Best Actor), Barry Sonnenfeld and Elmore Leonard's words are a wonderful ebb and flow of comedy and drama. There are some terrific L.A. spots and locations that are also highlighted. The location which is also my favorite movie mogul office of all time is Harry Zimm's office.
Everyone would like to have a best friend or best man like Sydney Fife
(Jason Segel). Peter (Paul Rudd) is engaged to the girl of his dreams
and faced with an upcoming wedding realizes he has no male friends and
certainly none close enough to be his best man. That is where Sydney
comes into play. This movie strikes at the heart of all men who have
either had their own version of a Sydney or are still looking for one.
Sydney is a charming guy, he's personable, and opinionated, and before
long he and Peter have become inseparable. Of course none of this is
what Peter's fiancé has in mind.
While there are some laughs to be had, and I think you see where I'm going with this, this is your basic romantic-comedy which means that it is very formula based. The movie is like a dozen other films with just a little bit of new stuff thrown on top. Paul Rudd is good, as always, and give his standard nice guy act. It was also great to see Lou Ferigno without green paint though he still could not escape the Hulk reference and probably never will. Jason Segel provides one of the better performances in the film, but he has plenty of models to refer to in other films in order to get it right.
Certainly the movie can only be credited with all the great actors in the film. Rudd is joined by J.K. Simmons and Jane Curtain as dad and mom and little brother is Andy Samberg. It is always good seeing Jon Favreau on screen and he's paired up with Jaime Pressly. John Hamburg makes his leap from directing television with I Love You, Man and some great scripts.
The film has to get in line with a lot of other very similar movies but that doesn't make it too much less funny. The film would do a lot better to have relied on its original material rather than the heavily formulated script. Given Hamburg's ability to turn out a decent script it is too bad that he could not save an entirely new script for himself to direct here.
"Greed is good." Gordon Gecko proudly offers that idea or perhaps way
of life lived by the elite of the stock market. Gecko explains it best
when he talks about making nothing except wealth. Gecko signifies for
many what they believe New York and the financial markets to be which
is one big sham. The movie is not a burning question or even a quest
for the truth as much as a hypothesis and then argument for the truth
of excess. Right from the beginning of the movie Oliver Stone shows
what he thinks of the tainted system and the superficial people in it.
The story follows Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), a young, struggling stock trader, looking for shortcuts in the market and ways to get rich quick. He works the phones, trying to find new clients who have the money and the where with all to make him wealthy without getting old in the process. Gordon Gecko is the man in this world of make believe and money. Gecko has it all and more importantly has it all to offer. Gecko teaches Bud Fox just how the world works, how people like him gobble up entire companies. He provides Fox with a tall, blonde girlfriend by way of Daryl Hannah and even manages to make him balance his best friend (James Spader) by way of his slight of hand business dealings. The most prominent theme throughout Oliver Stone's film is greed and it is what binds everyone in the film.
Charlie Sheen carries the movie along with veteran Michael Douglas. Douglas won Best Actor for his portrayal. There are some very corny scenes that involve Martin Sheen but thankfully they are lost in the body of the film. Generally the film holds up under scrutiny and is very easy to understand which is something that can't always be said of stock market pictures and stories. The world of high finance is always easy to follow since everyone knows what greed is and that is always the way the film is framed.
I confess it took a couple of viewings of the film to come around to my good side. Stone manages to put the entire financial system on trial rather than just those manipulating the system. He shows the system for what it is and how the corrupt few at the top keep getting richer on the backs of those at the bottom.
Nosferatu is one of our earliest films and certainly one of our most
entertaining of earliest films. The film is shown in virtually every
film history class throughout universities around the globe. It has
been picked apart from every angle of meaning from that of pure
expressionism to political nuance. The film did not win any awards
after all the Oscars were still 5 more years away from creation.
The film is German and actually titled Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens which translates to Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. The film was instantly paired down to just Nosferatu. Directed by F.W. Murnau and staring Max Schreck as the vampire, the film was shot in 1921 and released in 1922. The story is an adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula but the names and details were changed in the movie because the studio was unable to buy the rights to the novel. Items like "vampire" became "Nosferatu" and "Count Dracula" became "Count Orlok."
We're lucky to have this film at all. Nosferatu was the first and only production of Prana Film company which was founded in 1921 by Enrico Dieckmann and Albin Grau. Albin Grau was an artist and specialized in the occult. Due to lawsuits by the Stoker estate the film company had to declare bankruptcy and evades the lawsuits altogether. Grau had the idea to shoot a vampire film during his wartime experiences. During the winter in 1916 a Serbian farmer told Grau that his father was a vampire and an Undead. Of course this gave Grau several ideas for movies. On Nosferatu he was not only the producer but he was also the production designer and responsible for how the entire film and characters look.
Henrik Galeen was sought after and wrote the screenplay for the film. He was especially experienced in dark romanticism and had worked on other screenplays. He set the story in a fictional North German harbor town named Wisborg. It was also his idea for the vampire to bring a plague to Wisborg when rats follow Nosferatu off the ship from which he lands in the harbor. It was his decision to leave out the character of Van Helsing, the vampire hunter.
The film is very engaging for 1922. The establishment of the alternate vampire that came to be known as "Dracula-type" this more rat-like depiction is very believable. This adaptation of Dracula is as positively hailed as the original Dracula itself. The movie is in public domain and because of that most of the copies of this film are of poor quality though it is easy to find the film. There are some very nice quality of film in release and it is well worth it to view one that is high quality so as not to miss any of the fine details of the film.
The film was remade in 1979 by German director Werner Herzog. Like all remakes that film is a film unto itself and should not necessarily be compared though it is also worth time to be viewed. Nosferatu is a part of film history but aside from what grade history may give, the film is scary and well made. It is a wonderful film and Max Schreck as Count Orlok is terrific to watch.
Since I have always been a film nut and everything about the movies has
drawn my attention, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) is
one of those things that has fascinated me even though I didn't
understand it. Movies like Jaws received PG rating. I remember
Clockwork Orange being rated X; it was always a mystery what those
ratings board guys were thinking. Kirby Dick's film This Film Is Not
Yet Rated tries to explore how the ratings were figured in the past and
how the MPAA is working in today's film world.
The documentary is about the once corrupt MPAA and also and education on the procedures or rules that are applied to movies in order to obtain a rating for them. Director Kirby Dick apparently figures that he is teaching a classroom or making a 16mm how to film instead of making a documentary film for adults and film enthusiasts. Unfortunately his directing style is just too juvenile for such a savvy audience and had he stuck to just a boring talking head style documentary the film would have been better for it.
This film takes on a lot of complaints against the MPAA board and tries to explain them rather than taking on definitions of the MPAA and its purpose head on. The members of the MPAA are anonymous as to keep feature filmmakers from appealing to them directly. Originally the ratings was the way to keep government from censoring the movies and Hollywood, but at least the government would have created solid rules to follow rather than the random and often conflicting way the early MPAA handled the film industry. The MPAA insists that it applies its rules evenly but the procedures are secret so nobody can tell what they are. If something is not allowed it is simply against the invisible rules.
There is some good work in the film. Not a lot of history and not a lot of making sense of the nonsense, but some good work. There is Matt Stone from Southpark, Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry), Wayne Kramer (The Cooler), Allison Anders (Grace of My Heart), John Waters (Hairspray). While there is interest, especially to film geeks everywhere, the storytelling needs some censoring of its own. There is also a bit of one-sidedness the the film which is to be expected from any documentary except when that one side needs the other to hold the attention of the audience.
After watching This Film is Not Yet Rated you'll no doubt be mulling the questions of censorship, government involvement in the Hollywood machine, how power can be misused and all that big machine power sort of stuff. Or you may more likely be wondering why this movie wasn't any better with such a topic to be trounced. *
* The poster holds my attention and not because of the naked model. In some, if not all, the postings of this advertisement the butt has had to be censored by a black box. Sometimes the irony does make its way through.
From the trailers of Knowing you'd be convinced that you're going to
watch a cheesy, try to save the world picture with a wound tight
Nicolas Cage at the center gritting his teeth and ducking his way to
the perfect ending. Well, you'd be partially correct. Cage is
definitely giving his wound tight hero routine that he's worked so hard
to develop over the last half dozen films. As for the cheese factor,
that's where you'll be surprised. Director Alex Proyas manages to
deliver a rather decent sci-fi flick that has plenty of suspense and
The plot turns around John Koestler (Nicolas Cage), an MIT astrophysics nerd turned Indiana Jones when a time capsule is discovered at his young son Caleb's (Chandler Canterbury) school. Inside are drawings from students in 1959 predicting what things would be like in 2009 some 50 years later. The drawing that Caleb comes home with isn't a drawing at all but a series of seemingly random numbers. Koestler becomes obsessed with the numbers and their meaning or what they seem to mean. The whole thing shakes him to his scientific core and a quest has begun.
The film is very lucky to have director Alex Proyas from films such as Dark City which is his true geek film and critical acclaim as well as I, Robot and Garage Days. The visual and special effects are outstanding. It was surprising how much suspense was in the script (Ryan Douglas Pearson and Juliet Snowden) which gave the film a real thriller atmosphere which continues to build in tone as the mystery is unraveled.
I admit I went into this film expecting a rehash of National Treasure on a more global scale. The sci-fi aspect of the premise is very well thought out and told. The acting by co-stars (Chandler Canterbury, Rose Byrne and Lara Robinson) are solid performances and stand in complementary contrast to that of the tightly wound Nicolas Cage. The geek factor of Knowing is rather high with lots of number configurations and what-if scenarios which is great for the sci-fi fans. At times your brain may have to turn on in order to follow the film, but that is what made Knowing such a pleasant surprise to me.*
Rolling is perhaps what you might be able to gather by looking at this
poster. This documentary-style film is about the L.A. Ecstasy-riddled
underground party scene. What attracts me to the film is that the
location does not have to be CA, it could be any U.S. city. Rolling
takes as entertaining a look as one can of this odd drug phenomenon.
Here's the downer. This film would have been so much better had director Billy Samoa Saleebey attempted a genuine documentary of the subject matter. There is certainly enough in the film to draw the interest of the audience, but the hokey script and low budget 16mm just doesn't hold the attention for feature length.
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