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|183 reviews in total|
I am avid movie lover and have seen more than 2,000 movies in my tome -
and remember most of them. The best male lead performance I have ever
seen is Paul Schofield in a Man For All Seasons. In second place, I had
Paul Lukas in Watch on the Rhine - until now. I've long liked
McConnaughy and found him very impressive in We Are Marshall and The
Lincoln Lawyer. Neither performance set me up for this. His every
mannerism, every nuance, every way of carrying himself in every scene
and every situation is utterly on target. This is a terrific movie and
almost the entire cast is flawless but the lead performance is truly in
a class by itself.
The next point I wish to make is that this is one of the few of the very many independent movies I've seen that involved HIV and the gay community without hitting the viewer over the head with it even though it was 100% central to the plot. What I mean is that there was none of the normal obligatory gilding of the lily just to make sure the viewer gets the message.
Also interesting is the fact that both McConnaughy and Leto (also 100% Oscar-worthy) manage to play larger-than-life characters convincingly without ever acting larger-than-life. It's a subtlety and rare that actors can play such characters without chewing up the scenery but both manage somehow to do it which speaks quite well for the director.
The pacing is considerably better than most indies or Hollywood non- action dramas. I only looked at my watch once. Griffin Dunne is noteworthy in his supporting performance. Jennifer Garner is far better than in the last movie she did about battling Big Pharma, Love and Other Drugs. She still tries a quarter-of-an-octave too hard, but that's really getting picky in one of the best movies I've seen in this century thus far.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This has a lot more suspense and is faster-paced than Neeson's last 3 films I saw: Taken 2; Unknown; and The Grey. In fact, it reminded me a bit more of Unstoppable in its pacing and tone. It is exciting and well- acted. Most of all, it's fun to watch. It all strains credibility at time. It's interesting to me that the denouement is not so much to stop the board on exploding but to get the plane down to an elevation where the pressure has a chance of stabilizing and minimizing the loss of life -a different twist. The way in which Neeson becomes everybody's prime suspect and then recovers - which is the bulk - of the film is clever and suspenseful. If you like Neeson and you lie heroic action-suspense movies - especially in the theater -yo will enjoy this. If you like neither Neeson nor his version of the genre which always calls for you to suspend a bit of credibility, then why did you bother to see this anyway?
The Tracy-Hepburn Woman of the Year is on my all-time top 10 list. This
80's attempt to modernize it doesn't hold a candle to the original, but
On it's own terms, this is an amusing way to spend an hour and a half. Although it is true that the age-old battle-of-the-sexes and fish-out-of- water jokes are no longer fresh and the supporting case and directorial prowess are nothing special, Lee Remick and Ralph Waite are seasoned pros who are well-suited to their roles and have great chemistry together. In her 25th year in acting, Ms. Remick still looked as scintillating as she did in A Face In The Crowd if much more mature. Her acting times each line perfectly for maximum effect. Waite's gruff teddy bear style compliments her perfectly. The result is enjoyable fun and seeing the two professionals bounce lines of f each other is pure pleasure. Worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was looking forward to what had been described to me as an offbeat
and whimsical independent romantic comedy. What I got was more Thirty-
something dramedy with Seinfeld-ish quirky mocking humor (at least they
spared me the ugly baby jokes), self-conscious direction and camera-
work, and no real plot. JLD's Eva was very similar to her characters
such as Seinfeld's Elaine and Old Christine, a pretty woman with a nice
smile whose pettiness and annoyance with everything undermines her
aspirations to make her life better. Gandolfini is perfectly cast and
delivers a solidly nuanced performance in the male lead.
Side note - Toni Colette is one of my favorite all-time actresses but she's horribly misused here in a character that starts out being mildly eccentric and is consistently photographed in close-ups that make her big head seem enormous. But what was really disconcerting was the way her Australian accent filtered in and out, mixed with something else, but not at all sounding like her natural Australian self in her early movies. Just one of many examples of missed opportunities with the talent at hand.
One thing the director is obviously trying to do is show us the good and bad of all her characters. This is admirable, but like the camera-work, alternately jarring and brilliant - but more former than latter. The attraction to the creators of doing an independent film is the ability to express yourselves artistically bu doing jarring things different from the norm. As Keener's Marianne alluded with her poetry, art is open to interpretation but only idiots don't get her poems. I think the filmmakers may feel the same way, As art, draw your own conclusions, as entertainment, there was enough enjoyable and thought-provoking here to watch it all the way through, but not enough to enjoy doing so very much.
The movie is not without its interesting insights. Some reviewers saw Keener as one-note; I vehemently disagree - she got the nuances of her talented poet character whose only other friend was Joni Mitchell very well. Nothing is universal but poets tend to be prone to introversion and depression. They feel misunderstood by the masses. The scene where she is obviously unmoved by the adoring fans who recognized her and tell her how their poems changed their lives is perfect. Keener could not have been more dead-on with her portrayal - more interested in witching about how her ex-husband was uncouth and couldn't get her poetry than noticing how uncouth she was being with young women whose lives she had affected. That's what's so frustrating about this movie - it has wonderful moments such as this but focuses more on the dysfunctional way Eva runs her life. Building resentment from what she's not wants but is not getting without knowing how to give - except to equally dysfunctional women such as Maryann and Chloe (another subplot that went nowhere). Interesting observations that stop short of being insights and turn out to be more frustrating paths leading nowhere than entertainment for the viewer.
Back to the Seinfeld comparison, in the end, this is a movie about nothing. It has some witty humor but more ridicule humor and misanthropy. In the end, Enough Said leaves its characters pretty much in the same place where they started. Enough said about Enough Said.
This movie lets you know the concept from the start and rolls it out in
wry style. The Flatbush Four had been together from High School. The
wealthiest and most conniving Billy (Michael Douglas) was the only one
who had never gotten married. But that changes in the beginning of the
movie when he proposes to his shapely 32 year old live-in girlfriend
Lisa - while giving the eulogy at his mentor's funeral - following a
couple of tasteless sex jokes that evoked reactions from the mourners
like the Springtime for Hitler musical evoked from the audience at the
The rest of the movie never lives up to that start - and it as predictable as a well-planed day - but it is an exceedingly pleasant romp with old friends. Kevin Kline's opening bit with wife Joanna Gleason when he's trying to determine whether water aerobics biddy Ira is still breathing is hilarious. He carries his character with charm and aplomb and even though we know what will happen when he finally gets his big shot, he still makes it work for us somehow. Morgan Freeman's character, Archie, is probably the least interestingly written but he's played by Morgan Freeman so he shows us a wonderful time as usual. Somewhat surprisingly to me, DeNiro gives the most restrained performance and it works wonderfully. Even though it is ostensibly Michael Douglas' film, his character is the most clichéd and the least surprising - but he's still enjoying being with his friends and so are we. The bits surrounding rapper 50 Cent fit in well with the decadent venue. A cameo by 70's Harrad Experiment star Elliott Street is a real treat as a Vegas minister who knows that his clients don't take his services seriously but still does his job devotedly. In a fantasy comedy world where the septuagenarians have no real money problems, the decadent-but-still-doing-its-thing-for-as-long-as-it-lasts Vegas they show is surprisingly real. That said, the scene where Morgan Freeman bribes the Deejay so the Flatbush Four can be the celebrity judges works wonderfully as we get the same T & A cheap thrills the boys do - harmless lower case titillation and what's wrong with that?
So, I've taken a long time to say that Last Vegas is an unchallenging lowbrow entertainment with a few wry twists. If you are looking to be amused for two hours and don't take yourself or your morals very seriously, you'll probably smile as much as I did and even chuckle out loud two or three times.
This is a very British movie. To the gentry, the inconvenient hit-and-
run death of a commoner is too messy to allow it to tarnish their lives
even if that commoner happens to be the spouse of their servant
(wonderfully played by Linda Bassett).
In point of fact, all the acting is excellent and takes us in-depth into the shallowness and fecklessness of its three leads. Emily Watson is one of my favorite actresses and her eyes and smile send my heart a- flutter. She is fascinating plumbing the depths of the soul of well- meaning wife who kills her beloved servant's husband without taking legal responsibility and cuckolds and deserts her husband. She earnestly regrets all but does nothing about it - even to the point of forcing the cuckolded husband to lie in support of her lover's lie. Rupert Everett is so perfectly cast as the feckless and ne'er-do-well- but-charming son of A Lord (wonderfully played by John Neville)that it almost seems as though the part were written for him. Tom Wilkenson plays the influential barrister who allows himself to be disrespected and depressed but never quite disgraced enough by the private humiliation to show his embarrassment in public. To say that this is a balancing act for an actor of titanic proportions is an understatement. But, after all, this is Tom Wilkinson, one of the greatest living actors on the planet and he pulls it off with grace and aplomb.
So, why just 4/10 for this drawing room drama? it buckles under the weight of its own clichés and the script fails to compensate with any type of droll wit, just bitter irony -and not enough of that. For a glimpse of how this should be done, see the marvelous 1950 adaptation of J. B. Priestly's An Inspector Calls starring Alistair Sim or the film adaptation Terrence Rattigan's Separate Tables. Both interject their characters with enough self-effacing and ironic droll wit that the tawdry situations seem fresh and new. Here they are simply tawdry clichés. This is especially true of Wilkinson's obligatory affair with office-mate Hermoine Norris who welcomes the boss into her bed and still supports him after he unceremoniously dumps her. The obligatory rants against the gentry's disregard for the working class by the Police Detective (the always-excellent David Harewood) to the servant just adds to the viewer's shrugs of "Again?"
I'd pay good money on the West End to see Wilkinson, Watson, Everett, Harewood, and Bassett read the phone book. The trouble is that I think they would be able to improvise more interest, originality, and droll lines from the phone book than from this script. Ultimately, I found this a disappointing deployment of a half dozen amazing performances.
In summary, if you wish to see Separate Lies as a canvas for excellent British acting to study and hone your own techniques, it is well worth renting. If you watch this as entertainment, you will find yourself looking at your watch and ultimately be disappointed.
This movie is one of the very few to use the dual-narrator device to make it work - and magnificently so. Hugh Grant's unabashed self-assessment of his shallowness and why he did what he did is refreshing and fits him so perfectly as an actor, it should be a requisite. Young Mr. Hough's performance for a juvenile actor is stunningly perfect and drives the character. Toni Colette's vegan grown-up-hippie and chronically depressed mother is brilliantly conceived and executed by one of the best actresses of our era. Around this perfectly conceived and believable exposition are terrific supporting performances including Rachael Weisz and a terrific eye for detail from the director. I just love this movie more every time I watch it and I've seen it five times.
This was a satisfying movie that actually took me back to one of my
favorite old TV movies, My Sweet Charlie, without the racial angle. The
story is well-told and well-developed. Josh Brolin is excellent as
always (outside the Coen-Brothers films where they are intent on
casting him as a moron) playing the convicted murderer who is quite
different than the public warnings would suggest. Kate Winslett never
ceases to amaze me with her acting. This is right up there with her
best work. Gattlin Griffith is very good as her son and Clark Gregg
gives added dimension and insight with what ordinarily have been the
thankless role of the ex-husband. J. K. Simmons appearance seems to be
an obligatory cameo to keep Reitman's lucky streak going by casting him
in all of Reitman's movies and Tobey Maguire's cameo seems even more
perfunctory. The first quarter of the movie takes a bit too long to get
things going and the narration abruptly cuts out midway through the
film and then returns at the very end to complete the story in a
breathless 30-second wrap-up.
These are all minor quibbles in a romantic tale in 1970's New England, exquisitely photographed and woven taking you into the region and era with great skill One of the great all-time romances - not quite, but possibly in the top 200, still not bad.
I found the story compelling and the acting excellent with perhaps two
exceptions. Ejiofor and N'yongo both delivered breath-taking and heart-
wrenching performances that deserve their many accolades and then some.
The supporting work from Woodard, Oduye, Brown, and especially Topsy
Chapman who does more with her face, body movements, and singing than
anyone else does with dialog also kept the film poignant. Cumberbatch
and Dano deserve the credit they have gotten for solid supporting
performances of characters with layered dimensions. Brad Pitt also
executes well the plum supporting role he gave himself. Berry, Chalk,
Giamatti, McConnell, Dilahunt, Evermore, and Dylan all score in the one
or two scenes in which they are featured. The cinematography and score
are both terrific and give the film vitality to take us through the
torturous moments. The costume design also deserved its Oscar
nomination. I found McQueen's direction compelling throughout save two
scenes I found extraneous just showing weary facial expressions.
Unlike others, I was less than impressed with the performances by Michael Fassbender & Sarah Paulson (an actor whose accolades I've never understood) as Mr. & Mrs. Epps. They seemed jarringly out-of-era to me in all expressions and mannerisms. Owners of large and profitable plantations of that era, even evil ones, would have more of an air of dignity - especially when dealing with the Judge and the Sheriff. Instead, Epps makes no apologies for being rough-hewn, petty, cynical, and bitter in front of the Judge and others. Evil, believing his slaves to be no more human than baboons, sure. Displaying less couth than an overseer with his fellow planters and in front of other whites? Not a chance. His biblical interpretation for his slaves was probably his best scene. But he is just too banal and vulgar "in public" in the others.
And you'd have to comb deep and far to find a planter's wife as emaciated and as publicly shrill as Sarah Paulson. Her bearing is just all wrong. I also would have liked to have seen some speculation on what Northrup's family was doing during those 12 years. That may not be covered in the memoir but this is a work of fiction based on a true incident - not a documentary (Why the sudden critics of the excellent MOVIE Captain Phillips could not see that and why they got to wield so much influence, I'll never understand - as good as McQueen's direction is here, Greengrass surpasses it in Phillips).
Anyway, 12 Years a Slave is a worthy enough candidate in its own right. Not perfect but certainly very good, possibly excellent.
Closing the Ring features complex and scintillating performances from
Shirley MacLaine (as Ethel Ann), Christopher Plummer (As Jack) with
solid support by veterans such as the late great Peter Postlethwaite
and Brenda Fricker. Neve Campbell in a sort of third lead is also
terrific as the daughter who is frustrated and nonplussed over being
shut out by her mother.
As you might expect, the young people in this film get a bit more of the screen time (although not nearly as skewed as usual - see The Debt, etc.). Mischa Barton as the young, high-spirited, and willful Ethel Ann, supplies the energy and marvelous acting to make these segments work along with the chemistry with the young man playing Teddy (her soul- mate). For me, the other young actors in these segments, the fellow who played Chuck (Arnell) was supposed to be sturdy but quiet; he was quiet but the sturdy art was never reflected by the actor - he just seemed pathetic. Gregory Smith who played young Jack, had lots of personality and complexity, but there is no way that person grows up physically or emotionally to be Christopher Plummer's Jack. On the other side of the pond, the young actors playing tartly Eleanor (later Fricker) and callow young Quinlan (later Postlethwaite) were perfectly cast and acted in their tiny roles. The head-turning performance to me was by the irrepressible Jimmy (Martin McCann) who took the role of the romantic and impetuous naif far beyond the script in his mannerisms and energy.
Overall, this is a bit overlong with some unnecessary sequences and a bit too much melancholia. But, that's my opinion and mostly nitpicking. If you like epic WWII romances and as a romantic love to say their present-day resolutions, this movie is well worth your time.
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