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Accurate, Great Acting, Lacks Punch
Having just finished David McCullough's 900 page book on Truman (this movie is based on the book), I thought I'd check this out.
I'm a fan of Gary Sinise, he does a great job in this role. The movie is accurate to the book and history. Despite the challenges Truman faced, the movie script does not reflect the drama of the times - the decision to drop the A-Bomb, facing the Cold War, rebuilding Europe, the Red Scare are but a few of the things facing the Truman administration. The actors do the best they can, but the screen play comes off as wooden.
It's too bad because Harry was an interesting president during a rough time. Good history not well told.
I made two mistakes - selecting this movie to watch and getting the extended cut, which adds an additional 30 minutes to this already too long movie.
This is a movie that should be shown to all aspiring script writers - as an example of what not to do. The average script is 100-120 minutes making a movie about 90-110 minutes long. Perhaps with a revised, tighter script, this could have been something. Taking away the background dialog in many of the scenes would be helpful. We get it that in NYC, it's loud, there are always noises surrounding you.
The movie does not suffer from a lack of talent, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffo, Allison Janney, Jean Reno to name a few, it's just their skills are wasted in this movie that drags on and on and on and on and on and on - oh, I should write a shorter review? Good idea.
This movie is too long and squanders the talent of its stars. It needs more plot, a clearly defined conflict and resolution. 2 stars for the acting skills cleverly hidden in this movie.
Wild Target (2010)
Yes, there are silly moments in this film. Expect some clichés and of course the plot is predictable. While not usually a fan of this genre, I enjoyed Wild Targets.
Emily Blunt is sexy, funny and witty, pulls off her character of a con-artist very well.
Bill Nighy is uptight, OCD, understated and funny. Rupert Grint is daft, clueless, naive but still manages to be funny as the third wheel between Emily and Bill.
Great DVD Movie for a couples night out, no graphic violence (there are quite a few murders, but no blood).
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Annie Hall Again
I can see why so many people raved about Cate Blanchett's performance in this movie. Alex Baldwin (her husband) plays a cheating con man, no stretch for his acting abilities. The male supporting characters reminded me of the guys on Laverne and Shirley, slapstick characters from New Jersey.
To me, this was yet another Woody Allen remake of Annie Hall. A story of a neurotic woman trying to cope with life. Only back in the 70's Annie was funny and fresh. 40 years later, it's not.
The ending, which I'll not reveal to give away potential spoilers was a complete let down and showed no creativity whatsoever. 5 stars for Cate.
On the plus side, a lot of excellent special effects and scenes in this movie. Bullock does a very good job with a somewhat limiting script/dialogue, but creates tension & terror when needed.
Clooney is Clooney. A charmer, surface deep, wise-cracking character.
There are images that make you think of Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, 2001 Space Oddessy and the very end scene which really was bad.
***Spoiler alert*** Bullock emerges from a pond and crawls to the beach - really? Hit the audience on the head with that allusion of rebirth and a second chance.
There are "liberties" taken with the physics involved, to a purist that would be bothersome, but for the average viewer such as me, I can deal with that. It's good for 90 minutes of entertainment.
Captain Phillips (2013)
Good, Solid Entertainment
Based on truth, pirates off the Somalian coast hijack cargo ships and hold ships captive for insurance money. Sad, but true - it still happens now, it is often cheaper (in money) for the ships to pay the Ransom than sail out of the way. The owners of the ships, crews and pirates all know this creating a very dangerous environment.
Tom Hanks plays the captain of such a ship. A normal guy trying to fight off young kids who are given AK-47's and a few pennies for their efforts. Since the merchant men are unarmed, it's an unfair battle, but Cpt Phillips uses his wits and what few resources he has to save his crew and ship.
I found the movie to be balanced - it presents all sides of the problem; the crew who are put at risk, the Capitan and even the pirates. The ending is rips your heart out. Hanks really did an excellent job there.
Only God Forgives (2013)
Hope God Forgives Director,Cast & Writers
There are only 2 reasons I watched this film until the end. To see if the ending was as bad as the rest of the movie (it's worse, if possible) and to review the whole movie fairly.
Wooden acting, lousy script writing. Predictable and tired plot. No suspense.
Ryan Gosling runs a fight club which is really a front for drug operation. Possible spoilers: His brother gets killed, Ryan does not avenge the death and mommy flies in from the states to set things right. Only she doesn't. It gets worse and worse and finally it ends.
Nothing redeeming about this one.
The Italian Job (1969)
Does Not Stand Test of Time
The original Italian job is supposed to be campier & funny than the remake. I know some of this is British humor, which tends to be more dry, but I did not chuckle or laugh at all.
The plot was good but poorly executed. Cheesy sound effects at the Turin Motor Vehicle control room to help the audience "get" the fact the computer is messed up? Perhaps.
The British mobster behind bars but running the prison was too heavy handed.
The ending was horrible. I won't give it away.
I prefer the remake.
Apollo 18 (2011)
Aliens meets Blair Witch Project
Forgot all of the plot holes in this - there is no sound in space, the astronauts are walking, not bouncing on the moon, the astronauts loose their cool, the temperature on the moon is always cold & the space suit would automatically adjust, how did they get the film back to earth? I can deal with goofs in exchange for a good thriller.
If you're not a fan of the hand held camera technique, which I think is a cover-up for poor plot, skip this movie.
The primary reason to skip the movie is that it is dull, slow, the ending is predictable, no surprise and worse, the 'monsters' ***SPOILER ALERT***** are crabs. In a low budget movie such as this, I did not expect some ground breaking new super bad cool alien, but a crab?
Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
Bad to the Bone
Thank heaven I saw this on cable & did not pay for it. Holy smokes, this was predictable, already done, clichéd.
**Spoiler Alerts**the character played by Oliva Wilde is an alien - it is so heavily foreshadowed, it clunks you on the head. She's there because the bad aliens killed all of her species & she wants to stop them (Uh, Star Trek, the Borg?) Speaking of foreshadowing, whatya think happens when Harrison Ford gives the boy his knife - gosh, is the kid gonna become a man when he kills an alien? You betcha! Native American guide is able to unite cowboys and Indians to fight together against the aliens. Together, they dodge, out run and out smart the aliens who have laser blasters. Since movies like this need a sacrificial victim, the guide gives his life to say everyone else.
The alien weakness? They don't see so good in the day time (Predator, anyone?).
Oh, and a LSD like trance induced by the witch doctor helps Daniel Craig remember where he got the killing bracelet and what happened to his wife that will lead to save the day.
The climatic attack on the alien spaceship frees the hostages and everyone is able to outrun a spaceship blowing up.
Cowboys Vs Aliens deserves to be on a short list of worst movies ever, but won't become a cult classic like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes or Planet X.
Character Movie, surprise ending
I can certainly see where some people would be disappointed in this movie. *** possible spoiler** the movie does not have a tight, wrapped up ending. It's loose, sloppy, ambiguous, open ended. To me, that is refreshing, because that is far more realistic - but this is supposed to be art, yes? So it should have a meaning - or must it? Is it better left open to the viewer, or must the movie's meaning be crystal clear?Is it sufficient enough to make you wonder? The movie was at its most intense when Ed Norton and Mila's characters were trying to con Bob DeNiro. My wife asked - can't Bobby see that his actions cannot end well? Watching Mila's seduction of Bobby - the coy, teasing way. The use of her body to gain power and manipulate a man. Of course Bobby knows what s going on in his mind, but his heart, his life has been so empty to that point, he'd rather be taken for a ride until it all crashes down.
Ed Norton character changes - from a con trying to find leverage on Bobby to actually believing what he is learning about religion, belief and life. Ironically, he is the one who grows and learns the most. The movie has its flaws, but I enjoyed watching the slow boat go down the river and over the falls.
The Open Road (2009)
Predictable, but enjoyable
Maybe 6.5 or even a seven - yes, it's been done before - rouge, selfish father who leaves wife and child - (Jeff Bridges and Justin Timberlake, respectively)and contrived circumstances unite father and son on a road trip.
Not very subtle, but it works - there's just enough humor and the screen play is just good enough to pull it off. I rented this primarily to see if Justin could act. Neither he nor the movie will go down in movie making history for this, but I thought he did fine.
Kate Mara plays Justin;s girlfriend/lost love and Maureen Steenburgen is the ex-wife who never lost her love for Jeff Bridges. Cameo's by Ted Danson (Maureen's real life hubby), Lyle Lovett, Harry Dean Stanton also keep it interesting.
**Spoilers** A feel good movie with a happy ending, redemption, lost love found, acceptance, forgiveness.
Don't look up - at the movie screen
There are not many good things I can say about this movie. I am very glad it was a rental. Space creatures that look like a cross between something in Alien and a Venus fly trap. Nothing original or scary here.
Three hot chicks and one guy for eye candy. Donald Faison (from Scrubs) trying to break typecast and be a tough guy. That does not work. I have no problem with aliens from space eating humans. But creatures smart enough to travel in space cannot find humans hiding behind a kitchen counter? Guess they cannot hear very well, 'cause the barking yip dog did not give away the humans either.
The US Air Force sends everything in to shoot down the aliens, reminding me of Luke Skywalker attacking the Death Star.
If they made this movie for 10 mill and made 6x that at the box office, it's no surprise they're making a second one. Maybe they can use some of the profits to get a screen writer. The characters were cardboard, annoying one dimensional. The whole movie was just an excuse to put some CGI up on the screen for vapid viewers to go "wow dude".
Death Defying Acts (2007)
Fiction from Fact, Very Enjoyable
I really did not care that this was not a factual account of Houdini's life. There are some truths in the depiction of Harry (some actual B&W footage is used of his acts and his debunking of mystics). It was enjoyable, had beautiful cinematography, elements of humor a story of love and life...however implausible it may be, it does not detract from elegance of watching Catherine Zeta Jones(Mary McGarvie) try to support herself and her daughter, matching wits with the great Houdini.
Catherine displays a grace and style combined with fire and drive. Her daughter provides moments of comedic relief and there is tension between Catherine and Guy Pearce - should she win the money at any cost, allow herself to fall in love, what is in the afterlife? This was entertainment based on Houdini, a platform to tell a story which I thought was well done.
The Square (2008)
A lot of people who commit crimes are caught because they are stupid. Many others get away with crime. The folks in this movie fall into the first group. In this sense, the movie is frustrating, because you want to yell at the characters - don't do that! How can you be so stupid!
I won't give away the ending, but I thought it was rather complicated and convoluted. I thought the acting was solid, little bit slow in some parts, but that accentuates the action. The moral of the story is pretty clear - suburbanites do not make good criminals. If you're going to be a bad guy, you have to be all in. Oh, and it pays to watch CSI before committing crimes. At least you'll have some ideas of what not to do.
A good video/rental movie. Not the best of its genre, but certainly not the worst.
Space Cowboys meets CIA
RED (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) has an all star cast of, um, veteran actors who are cast as super spies who have been put out to pasture reunite to save the US from super villains. It is a way, way over the top outrageous parody of spy thrillers and cold war movies.
Bruce Willis survives an assassination attempt against him, kidnaps Mary-Louise Parker and is off to save the world! It's ridiculous, funny, one liners going back and forth, predictable, campy and a lot of fun to see some of these older actors get together. Bruce is Bruce, if you've seen him in any of the Die Hard movies, you'll know the character. John Malkovich, Richard Dryfuss, Morgan Freeman are all funny. Part of the fun is just seeing who's in the movie. I did not know Ernest Borgnine was still alive, but there he is! Mindless fun, something to laugh at as much as with.
Crossing the Line (2006)
Stranger in a Strange Land
I rented this to get a glimpse of what life in North Korea was like - anything at all - as with much history, when you start off with one journey, you find another. I did not know 4 US Army soldiers defected to North Korea in 1962-63. That was a huge embarrassment to the US and a propaganda windfall for the DPK, who not surprisingly, exploited these four soldiers. They made speeches denouncing the US, were wined and dined by the North Koreans and even starred in North Korean movies (as the bad guys, of course).
This documentary centers on the one of first to cross the border - James "Comrade Joe" Dresnok. The story is told from his perspective. Since 2 of the others died and 1 escaped to Japan, only Joe is left in North Korea. Does he have regrets? Does he wish to return to the west? Has he been brain washed? How did he enjoy his life in a gilded cage? He learned the language, culture and to say the words, but does he mean them? About the only thing you can be sure of is that Joe does not like fellow defector Charles Jenkins who managed to get to Japan in 2004.
One suspects that Joe is saying literally, the party line. He knows in order to eat in a land where natives are starving; he must continue to defend his decision and North Korea. Since the four defectors tried to escape North Korea in the late 1960's (by going to the Soviet Embassy - duh!) and spent the next 10 years being're-educated', Joe's statements of loyalty to the North Koreans rings hollow.
This is a good documentary, not excellent - it can be slow at times, and one tires of hearing Joe defend himself and his actions. He comes off as disingenuous at best, not someone worthy of hate, but pity. 6.5 stars
Tense, suspenseful, well done caper film
Michael Caine is an excellent actor, and proves it once again here. True, he's given a great script and some strong talent to work with. Not a big Demi Moore fan, but she did a great job portraying a woman in the 60's trying to break the 'glass ceiling' Stylish, without being flashy. Proves once again you can have an entertaining movie without huge explosions and tons of flesh. Of lot of themes are explored here - love, loneliness, greed, revenge, giving back. I enjoyed this, even though I'd seen it before and knew the ending. Caine and Moore make an unlikely, but great team. Highly recommended viewing if you like bank heist movies, caper flicks, witty dialog and of course, a few plot twists here and there.
The Expendables (2010)
Collection of over aged action stars
Jason Straham is the only redeeming thing about this movie. I felt bad for him. Obviously, he wants easy money and more recognition. He looks pained throughout the whole movie - or is that look one of guilt for having agreed to be in it? Perhaps he had a clause in his contract that the movie could not be shown in his native land? I generally like action films, and understand pop corn films. But this was just awful. Stallone cannot write a decent script - and since he directed and produced the movie, it's his fault. Over the hill action stars - Bruce Willis, Mickey Rouke (who I have never found good), The Govenator, Arnold, of course, Sly himself.
Some over the hill athletes refuse to retire - same can be said about these actors. Cheesy, predictable, unrealistic, and those are the good qualities. Yechhhhhh.
Because I Said So (2007)
Mandy Moore plays a looser chick who can't find the right guy. Thanks to her Mom, played by baby boomer Diane Keaton, she winds up with two guys to choose from. Both hot, of course, she has to choose between wealth and stability and zaniness and happiness. I won't spoil the ending coz you know how it ends.
What scars me the most about this movie is there may actually be families out there that are like this. Interfering Moms - frantic, overly critical of their daughters, interfering, trying to be best friends with daughters. Oh, and annoying little kids who zoom around out of control. Everyone thinks that's cute? Mandy Moore and her sisters are good eye candy for the poor guys who get dragged along by their dates to see this tripe.
The movie on the surface has all of the right ingredients - beautiful woman, rags to riches, sex, drugs, sensationalism, spiral downwards and tragic too early death.
But it just misses the mark - I did not feel a real connection to any of the characters. Perhaps because in real life they do not evoke any sympathy? It's almost like they had a check list for a script and failed to flesh it out A few scenes mandatory scenes of naked flesh to scandalize, titillate? check. Gia shows up stoned for a photo shoot? Check - next.
I thought that Angelina Jolie was a good pick for this part. She has the looks to play a super model and talent to explore the dark side of our inner selves, which you catch glimpses of in the film, but not enough to make this a disposable, easily forgotten movie. Kinda like some of the super models themselves.
Harry Brown (2009)
Death Wish Does London
Well, I do like Michael Caine, which is why I watched this movie. I continued watching it to see how much it was like Death Wish. The answer is - a lot. And I watched all of the Death Wish movies because I liked Charles Bronson. I felt bad for him doing those movies, as I felt bad for Sir Michael Caine doing this movie. Clearly, stars have to eat too.
The vigilante theme has been done a lot - and perhaps to get audiences to be sympathetic to the good guy who's doing bad things, the real criminals have to be so over the top. The plot is very predictable, nothing really funny in the dialog. I gave it four stars because there is really nothing new here, Michael Caine is about the only redeeming thing in this whole movie. Oh, and I do like British accents.
Best seen backwards
I've seen this movie twice in the original format (backwards) and once in the chronological sequence. It is much better as released in the theaters, because it really keeps you involved, trying to figure out who done it, what happened, what is going to happen (opps, you already know that).
OK, how he got to where he is. This is probably one of those like it or hate it types with not much room in between. Seen in the theatrical version, you don't realize at first who is helping who and what is going on. It takes several viewings - or, you can read multiple reviews and then watch the movie (if you have the two disc set) in chronological time). Then, it really becomes much more clear. Still OK as it is, but I prefer the intrigue and mystery. I agree with some folks, the constant cuts back & forth do get tiresome, but there is a reason for it all. Well done. Shows how directing & editing can change a movie...and perception...and memory....and reality...which is the whole purpose of the exercise....and entertain.
Green Zone (2010)
Bourne Conspiracy Pt 4
So, Matt Damon is once again in a movie where both sides are trying to kill him, just like his Bourne Series. This time, as a Warrent Officer in the US Army looking for WMD in Baghdad in 2003. One of the good guys in this flick is a CIA agent? Hmm, THAT's Hollywood.
**Possible Spoiler** plot hole - Damon's character is looking for the truth. I don't think the military and CIA and politicians would let him get this far, and if he did, he would not get away with it. If you're a conservative, you will be seriously annoyed that this movie portrays US Politicians as having a hidden agenda and lying to it's people. If you've read history, you know that this is possible. (Watergate, Iran-Contra come to mind).
There are also jabs taken at the press, rightly so, for not checking sources and seriously investigating stories.
If you approach this as a Pop Corn movie, an action thriller that does have plot holes/flaws, it's OK. I happen to be a Matt Damon fan and enjoy action flicks. Everyone has an agenda - the press, politicians, Hollywood. Relax and enjoy.
Mixed messages and Hollywood ending
Good points - Michael Douglas returns as greedy Gordon Geckko, **Spoilers ahead ** and the plot is laced with revenge, a lot of truth about the problems & collapse Wall Street has had recently. There were some special effects & cuts I enjoyed weaving in and out of the plot and there were elements of humor taking shot at the rich fat cats who manipulate the market for profit. Charlie Sheen has a cameo playing Bud, who helped put Gordo away....it's a stretch role for Charlie playing a womanizing, boozing lazy rich person I know, but he somehow pulls it off.
Bad points - how they got the main character (Jake played by Shia Debouf) near Gekko - by dating his daughter. Mixed messages - is Gordo still motivated by greed, or does he want reconciliation with his daughter? She loves her daddy, she loves him not. She loves her fiancée, she loves him not.
Major spoiler - after Gordo steals 100 million from her daughter, she reconciles with daddy and fiancées and the all live happily ever after. Cheesy ending. I think a grittier, more truthful ending would have made this much more credible and hard hitting. Instead, Oliver Stone sold out for the easy ending.