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A 'Home Run' - Entertaining and historical
Better known for is TV series directorial achievements, Reginals Hudlin, this movie's director, hit a home run by providing us with good story telling flick that is also one about an icon of Black History, not a small thing to do. An excellent script from co-writer Michael Koskoff has a great deal to do with that because of his own background as a nationally known attorney (if you know about that sort of thing) and one with experience arguing the kind of cases that Thurgood Marshall could himself have. Then Chadwick Boseman who plays the lead character delivered a spot-on performance, believable and convincing, as Thurgood Marshall. I would venture a guess that Hudlin, Boseman and Koskoff in particular would have known the Marshall bio through and through, and most importantly believed in the telling of the story.
A brief synopsis from IMDb: The story is about a young Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, as he battles through one of his career-defining cases.
No scene is wasted and all serve a purpose building toward the climax at the end.
There are actors who play important roles in the movie and they are as familiar to the viewers as one could hope to see, they deliver also excellent performances. Case in point, Josh Gad as Sam Friedman the co-counsel to Thurgood; I was glad to see him in this role, a versatile character role where we see a man develop before our very eyes, as Friedman did in real life with that case he defended. Sterling K. Brown as the accused Joseph Spell, brilliant casting. James Cromwell as Judge Foster; Cromwell, the veteran and consummate professional can practically guarantee an expert performance in any role and does just that here.
Kate Hudson, the always beautiful actress plays Eleanor Strubing, the accuser in the story and Jeremy Bobb as her husband. Bobb has impressed me recently with his performances in 'Manhunt: Unabomber', 'The Knick' and 'Godless'.
I have seen countless movies about court/law related stories in my days, but one of the scenes near the end is what I'd call a money shot of all money shots in such kind of movies, as it delivers a dramatic moment and one I've never ever seen before. I am certain future movies will borrow from that scene, I'm convinced of it. As much as I'm tempted too tell you more, I don't want to deprive you of that pleasure, you'll recognize it when you see it. Writer Michael Koskoff has to be extremely proud of that and he deserves it. Sterling K. Brown delivered the lines that will never be forgotten, and did so convincingly. See this movie!
The Post (2017)
Outstanding! All of press media should hail this utter rebuke of Trump's fake news mantra
I wanted to see this movie so badly that I was practically shaking with anticipation. A Spielberg directed and produced movie starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, OMG!
Some people can't get excited by a book or movie retelling of what everyone informed knows, but it's not the events or the people that made history that have me interested in such projects, it's the characters behind them, the things that made then tick and the enormity of the events themselves upon the legacy they leave behind.
The cast, in addition to the two lead actors, both multi Oscar winners, as is Spielberg, is a virtual who's who of big screen and small screen alike. Bob Odenkirk of fame 'Breaking Bad', 'Better Call Saul' and 'Fargo', Matthew Rhys of 'The Americans', Bradley Whitford of 'The West Wing', Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, Bruce Greenwood' of 'Star Trek', 'Double Jeopardy', 'I Robot' and hundred and fifty more (plus he's from Quebec, Canada, and you thought we only had Donald Sutherland and William Shatner as big screen names from my neck of the woods), the cast was great and motivated no doubt working on this movie.
For those too young to remember, the story is about how the Washington Post's rise in prominence when it carried on the story of 'The Pentagon Papers', from where The New York Times was forced to stop. Here's Kenneth Chisholm's (prolific IMDb reviewer) storyline; I didn't feel I could do a better job describing the movie, so here it goes.
When American military analyst, Daniel Ellsberg, realizes to his disgust the depths of the US government's deceptions about the futility of the Vietnam War, he takes action by copying top-secret documents that would become the Pentagon Papers. Later, Washington Post owner, Kay Graham, is still adjusting to taking over her late husband's business when editor Ben Bradlee discovers the New York Times has scooped them with an explosive expose on those papers. Determined to compete, Post reporters find Ellsberg himself and a complete copy of those papers. However, the Post's plans to publish their findings are put in jeopardy with a Federal restraining order that could get them all indicted for Contempt. Now, Kay Graham must decide whether to back down for the safety of her paper or publish and fight for the Freedom of the Press. In doing so, Graham and her staff join a fight that would have America's democratic ideals in the balance.
A few scenes of the movie were quite moving and just what I go see them for. When Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) tells her daughter about her struggle dealing with the change in her life to cope with a traditional role of 'the wife' to taking over their husbands work in a time when the perception of women was not what it is today and women had to be so much stronger just to be taken seriously; that was a moving scene indeed, and it's why Streep won so many Oscars. Then when Bradlee (Tom Hanks) meets Graham to explain to her that they both were risking prison for defying the courts' ruling on the US president's war on the press; Hanks conveys the gravity and is in awe of Graham decision to carry on regardless, for a greater cause, freedom of the press. Finally when Hanks brings a bag full of top newspapers from all over the country, following the Posts's lead to defy the president, we can feel a sense of both relief and victory, even before the Supreme Court ruled on the action of the press.
As we know now, but tend to forget, it was a pivotal moment in modern American history. Famous people are quoted by the hundreds on the press, among them these two: The press is a watchdog. Not an attack dog. Not a lapdogg. A watchdog. Now, a watchdog can't be right all the time. He doesn't bark only when he sees or smells something that's dangerous. A good watchdog barks at things that are suspicious. Dan Rather "A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad."Albert Camus In a time when again a president of the United States goes to war against the press, this movie is a reminder of why it is important to protect freedom of the press instead of the ego or reputation of that president.
The Mountain Between Us (2017)
The raw instincts of hope and love, the struggle for life
I was told and read this movie was one to watch and I trusted the two co-stars certainly could deliver a good performance and that they were not the kind of actors to sign on an unworthy project. Well that's absolutely true.
First, the premise as simple as it is, a plane crash in the snowy mountains of Colorado and surviving both it and the journey back to civilization is nothing new, there are several similar stories told, real life and fiction, and they can be found in movies of course. I watched 'The Mountain Between Us' anyway because my girlfriend recommended it and I trust her movie savvy.
What struck me, once I reflected on the experience, was the superb script by J. Mills Goodloe from a Charles Martin's novel (he worked on the script as well) and excellent directing by Hany Abu-Assad. Now I was not familiar with this director, something I'll be remedying now by watching his Oscar nominated and Golden Globe winning film of the past. Too often we forget what a good script can provide accomplished actors and it's why actors thank their directors and writers when they win their awards and even simply a nomination. In this case, watching the movie, I was focussed on the emotions and thinking process of the characters more than the superb special effects of the plane crash or the beautiful scenery the Colorado mountains one naturally would expect. Don't get me wrong the plane crash scene was flawless and absolutely believable, as well as thrilling, and the Colorado Mountains are breathtaking, but at all times we are drawn into the characters mind and that is a tribute to good writing, good directing and good acting all coming together.
The emotional journey the survival of such an event and of such circumstances is one filled with intense moments and adrenalin pumping peeks. It was during the more quiet moments that my own mind was running on overdrive because they were moments when the characters contemplated death, almost wish it and other times are simply resigned to it. Two such moments come to mind, when Kate Winslet stares down at a river at the bottom of a precipice and is thinking of jumping, the other when Idris Elba pauses, thinks and says to Winslet with the most honest of tone "I don't want to die". Those scenes triggered personal memories of like moments and like thoughts and brought me to tears, but not everyone has had those experiences.
Elba and Winslet's characters, Ben and Alex, form a bond no other life equivalent could foster and so their special love overwhelms them at that moment and as we learn in the later scenes, forever. I certainly recommend the movie because of its believable factor and the excellence of all involved in the project. I loved it and thank my girlfriend for recommending it.
A classic crime thriller, the kind I'll watch again
I don't get why so many rated this movie so poorly on IMDb (so far), I just don't get it. Okay, some may have been turned off by Pacino's performance and have mentioned he was passed his prime, but even past his prime he is still Pacino and he can do a better job than most, besides he has not much more, perhaps even less, screen time as Detective Archer than Karl Urban and Brittany Snow, the other main headlining actors. I was satisfied with Pacino's performance and I'll go see his next movie.
Director Johnny Martin has much experience in the movie biz even if this is only his fifth directorial foray; he has co-produced many more, has also a lot of experience in stunts. He got a good script from Charles Huttinger and Michael Caissie, then proceeded to make it happen in the best of traditional suspense directing, at least as good as I can recall. Thing is I don't see enough movies in the genre with this kind of suspense and textbook dramatic building to the final scenes. So I just eat it up if the director and cast don't screw it up; they certainly didn't here.
Karl Urban steals the show, as detective Ruiney, with an outstanding performance. His name may not be familiar to some but once they start watching the movie, his face will rapidly come back to mind thanks to his better known past characters in Star Trek, The Bourne Supremacy and many more, it no doubt will. He has one of those classic looks that can match directors specific needs. He is undoubtedly a lead character actor, so being paired with Pacino was a plus as far as this movie goes.
Brittany Snow rounds off the lead trio with a flawless performance as Christie Davies, and thankfully her character in 'Hangman' was no fluff, but rather one which provided richness to the story. She plays a strong journalist, embedded with the detectives. Her character has a fascinating backstory and she acquits herself splendidly. I'm glad the writers wrote this part as they have and it just wouldn't be the same without it. I looked up her filmography and she clearly had much experience as an actor; it shows. I hope she gets more parts like this because she can deliver.
The plot is simple but it's the suspense building and the development of the key characters that makes it a winner in my book. A serial killer, one calculating and sick criminal, sets out on revenge killing that involves both detectives, though one, Pacino, was retired early in the movie and the other going through a difficult period in his life. We do not know of their involvement until the story reveals it later, but the motive remains the intrigue, as much as who he is. His predetermined spree of seven intended victims reminded me of the highly successful 1995 movie 'Se7en' and another 1995 classic serial killer thriller 'The Usual Suspects'.
I stand by the rating I gave the movie and I highly recommend it, of course. Sorry for the spoiler, but I hope it makes up for the cumulative/average 4.9 rating (at the time I wrote this review) and get you to see it.
Bonjour Anne (2016)
Not a feast, but delicious nonetheless
A quintessential romantic break movie from another of the Coppola film family. Eleanor Coppola, wife of famous director Francis Ford Coppola, mother of Sofia Coppola (actress, writer, director) and aunt of Nicolas Cage decided to take the plunge to write and direct this movie at age 80. Sure she had short film experience directing, has also written and acted, and has been in the business for a long time but this is her first feature long movie and she did well.
The movie is an unpretentious light romance, not a full romantic movie because as you will see, it's about romancing more than it is about romance. There's a difference and if you must know the nuance between the two, the former is an engaging interlude between two people and what could be if the conditions were right while the latter is when two people develop a mutual attraction that leads to the inevitable love affair and maybe more.
That being said, what is delightful about this movie is, to put it simply, the characters, Anne, played by the queen of romanic movies Diane Lane, and Jacques, played by Arnaud Viard. Then there is France, food and wine, the supporting element-characters. Alec Baldwin plays the supporting role of Michael, a busy movie producer-director, Anne's husband. Baldwin in an interview I recall said he loved playing supporting roles, short performances and prided himself in becoming a celebrity doing exactly that, not that he hasn't performed main or principal characters, he has, but these roles, supporting ones, in good movies appeared to give him the satisfaction of participating in more movies and in good ones without the pressures or responsibility that come with carrying a movie as the star or co-star does. He of course assumes his Michael role perfectly.
So, Anne is in Cannes with Michael and they are set to fly back to Paris where they are staying in a friend's apartment for their vacation, one with many interruptions, but Anne is experiencing some ear infection or something and cannot fly on the private jet waiting for them, while Michael needs to make a detour to Budapest for troubleshooting a film in production. Jacques, a long time family friend and Michael's associate, offers to drive Anne to Paris, an afternoon drive, easily, but Jacques doesn't want to take a simple two hours drive, not in France where that would be a terrible waste of time not to enjoy his country. So he takes it upon himself to give Anne a truly scenic ride and have her enjoy the bountiful life's pleasure his country has to offer between Cannes and Paris.
They take a few slight detours, the kind that mean Anne won't be in Paris that day, but rather late night the next. Their ride takes them around Nîmes and Lyon, famous regions with much to offer in way of scenic venues and culinary delights. It's those culinary offerings that Jacques excels at picking and finding, not to mention providing background information to a reluctant passenger. Anne wanted to be in Paris soon but Jacques' charming ways and the venues he introduces to Anne soon sway her to accept some delay.
We are quickly experiencing an express tour of the regions and get to wet our appetite at the best France has to offer in way of food. I happen to like food related movies and books, the kind that do not spare what senses will be excited and how this happens. Of course Jacques has an obvious crush on Anne but he shows exemplary restrain and good manners, but he is romancing her. There are a few moments when the two long time acquaintances reveal very personal and deeply emotional events about themselves; those are the kind that are almost secret, what only very close friends do. The one moment that stood out for me was when Jacques asks Anne if she is happy. In Jacques mind Anne deserves to be and he feels love is all about making sure the one you care for is; the audience is left to wonder if Michael is not too focused on work and not enough on Anne.
I noticed a detail that only quality direction and writing would bother to subtly include in all the restaurant scenes; in the fancy restaurants in France the waiters always address the man for the decision about food and wine choice, not the woman. Perhaps it's remnants of chauvinist era, but it is something I certainly experienced and why I could not help notice in this movie. I liked that authenticity. Eleanor Coppola's experience with cameras, behind them, also showed in how Anne's photographing her trip used the Cannon PowerShot of hers and Jacques' comments about the pictures she took. That was another detail you might notice.
I chose to watch this movie because Diane Lane had the principal role. I was happily impressed with the performance of her co-star Arnaud Viar, with who's filmography I was not as familiar. I admit I am a fan of Lane and probably saw most of her 63 movies; my favourites being Nights in Rodanthe, Must Love Dogs and of course Under the Tuscan Sun.
If your wife or girlfriend asks you to watch this movie with her, you won't regret saying yes; and if you ask your husband or boyfriend to watch it with you, insist, it can't hurt.
Brilliant movie making.
Throw away all your preconceptions of alien movies, sci-fi and just absorb this movie when you go see it. The script was inspired, the directing like done by a maestro and the performances by Amy Adams, Jeremy Brenner and Forest Whitaker, flawless.
I've watched just about all the alien movies of significance in over 50 years and this one is unlike any of them. It is simply thought provoking. It does not make special effects the centre of attention, but instead those complement well a journey your mind must take. It brings out the human flaws, also the beauty of the human mind and greatness of having an open one, the fearless desire for understanding beyond.
The writer was not beneath using a tiny bit of humour to break tension and suspense and I like that. What you will get out of this movie may vary from one person to another but what I got out of it was a sense of hope and peace despite the always looming dangers of man's imperfections.
If good movies are suppose to instill strong feelings and make us think, then this one is definitely a good movie.
The Accountant (2016)
An action thriller love story, with a twist! What? You heard me, but I'm not saying romantic.
I won't repeat or adapt the IMDb story-line, you probably read it or should and that's enough said about that. I don't mean the one sentence movie pitch, but rather the detailed one that comes after the listing of the cast.
First it's hard to go wrong with Gavin O'Connor directing. With such credits as the TV series 'The Americans' and the 2011 film 'Warrior', O'Connor will make the best of what he has to work with. Second, it's an original story, one which shocked and impressed me all at the same time. I don't know how Bill Dubuque sold his script but he had a stroke of genius to come up with the most unlikely story-line. There is just enough flashback scenes to get the gist of the main character, Christian Wolf, played by Ben Affleck, and to make that character a believable one. Third, before the movie ends, O'Connor and Dubuque have tied up neatly those bits you had questions about and wanted to know, plus you almost think you've watched some sort of love story, not a romantic story but a love story of sorts. Is that possible? You'll have to watch it for yourself to see if I'm just pulling your chain or if this is deep analysis.
Affleck is as good a candidate for such a role as any I would think of. As far as I am concerned, such roles, calling for stoic lead are the kind made to measure for Affleck and he did not disappoint. I've watched many movies with autistic characters and critics are always tough on the actors playing those parts. I won't be. Let's keep in mind that this autistic Christian Wolf is an awesome, yes I'm saying awesome because I mean just that, martial arts fighter and a marksman, so that would limit the number of actors who can actually deliver that on screen; Affleck did it and did it superbly.
The cast included J.K. Simmons, an actor on my "A" list and that of many more movie lovers, and John Lithgow, same list. The under appreciated Anna Kendrick who you will appreciate here hopefully because I did, but then again I knew what she is capable of, said so much with few words, just like the top notch actors do.
For those who like movies a lot but are discerning, you will appreciate the fact the movie moves along, well flows really, with little that is predictable yet it flows as you hope it will. It has very good action scenes, not over the top, just very good, and that line which is supposed to define who is good guy and who is not, is one that is blurred as it is in real life, something I personally find most appealing. I don't think I need to say I recommend seeing it, this review speaks for itself.
Terrorists we don't hear enough about.
Timing, as they say, is everything in comedy and drama. Well, this movie's is no comedy, it's a drama, and a slow burning action suspense. Daniel Ragussis, the director and script co-write did a fine job with this movie but the timing of the release in the second half of this year and this week-end's Cyber Monday bargain DVD release will have a lot to do with it's success.
As other reviewers have mentioned, the advent of Trump's run for office and more recently his victory, as celebrated openly by the Alt-Right and White Supremacist groups will give you chills once you've seen this movie. That's what I call good timing.
The premise is basically how an untypical undercover FBI agent, Farsi speaking and on the anti-terrorism squad ends up being responsible for finding nuclear material destined for a dirty bomb, and the racist supremacists who were behind the attempt to use it.
Daniel Radcliffe plays the role of that agent, Nate Foster, and does so convincingly. We get to view a depiction of racists, be it real or dramatized, that is very believable. The ones who were not responsible for the dirty bomb caper are no surprise and sort of clichés in a way we have always perceived white supremacists and Nazis to be. The surprise is the regular looking, soft spoken, cultured racists have just as deep seeded hatred for people who are not like them or who don't share their heritage as the ones we are use to seeing.
While the task force for terrorism is focused on jihadists, it seems to be competing for resources and time with one very engaged female agent, Angela Zamporo played by Toni Collette, whose expertise with home grown terrorists, nationalists and supremacist militias. She has to not only convince Nate of her theory that it is the nationalists who have and will use the smuggled nuclear material, she has to get him to prepare for undercover work, a role no one including Nate himself believe he's suited for.
During the first half of the movie we are given a brief rundown of facts regarding homeland terror attempts; and those historical facts will no doubt remind many of the viewing audiences how we tend to forget jihadism is no bigger threat, likely a lesser one, than is racism in the US. I was given to reflect on how single minded the media and likely the security agencies are with regard to informing the public of the threat posed by the extreme right and how successful those, well some of them anyway, are at underplaying their efforts to create chaos and anarchy so they can take power. Again, the timing with current events in politics make this movie a chilling prospect. I've seen Radcliffe in other roles that have not yet managed to rid him of his Harry Potter persona, but should have; Imperium is yet another which I hope does the trick for him.
A superb companion movie to 'Citizenfour', which is still a must see
For those who saw the 2015 award winning documentary 'Citizenfour'by Laura Poitras, there is much interesting backstory in Oliver Stone's movie 'Snowden' you won't want to miss. And of course for those who have not seen it, you should, you must.
Is there anyone on the planet who has access to a TV or to the web, reads the occasional newspaper who hasn't heard about Edward Snowden? The subject of the movie is of course the world famous whistle-blower, but the movie has as much to do with cyber spying and mass data gathering as it does with Snowden himself. Oliver Stone illustrates well the awesome, and I do mean awesome, power of the US intelligence community and in fact the intelligence community of all the major powers. It is, dare I say it, scary as hell. The movie may be a dramatization, but it does not leave anyone doubt about the government agencies capabilities nor are we left wondering what they can do with it.
The dream role of any actor is to portray real people of great notoriety and Joseph Gordon-Levitt landed that title character's role. He did as good a job as any actor could; I was pleased with his performance but I knew what this guy can do so I was not blown away nor surprised. He must have studied Snowden well because all who have seen the real Snowden, in the documentary and in the several interviews he's granted in recent years, have been exposed to just enough of the personality to be able to compare. As I mentioned, Gordon-Levitt did as good a job as any actor could.
We learn of Snowden's military debut, his rise thru the ranks of the intelligence agencies, his superior abilities and skills and the personal life dilemma he had to struggle with. Even if you treat the drama part in disbelief, one can still get a sense of the man as he might have been or is now.
The cast of characters from Zachary Quinto, to Nicolas Cage and the brilliant performance of Rhys Ifans will keep you interested. Lesser characters like that of the CIA agent in Geneva played by Timothy Olyphant, or the Trevor James character played by Scott Eastwood, whose resemblance to his famous father Clint is undeniable, or the Ewen MacAskill role played by Tom Wilkinson also add to the movie's plus factor.
You may have had an opinion about Snowden, whether you view him as a hero or a traitor, before the movie, but Oliver Stone's script and direction leaves no doubt as to what side he was on given his historical penchant. If you forgot about all the hype the true story gathered or about how serious a revelation the Times and The Guadian papers reported, you must see this film. Admittedly you may hate it if you strongly believe Snowden is a traitor, but you will like it if you are thankful for what we learned thanks to the man.
Un moment d'égarement (2015)
Didn't you see this before?
This 2015 French comedy is almost a copy of the 1984 'Blame It on Rio'. Buddies go on a vacation with their teenage daughters and one of the precocious girls gets a crush on her dad's friend and goes a bit too far. That's pretty much the storyline of both movies in a nutshell. Of course the settings are different, la 'Provence' vs 'Rio' and the original version of the more recent of the two movies is in French. Also, as one might expect from a French movie, there is more nudity because the French are not so hung up on censorship. The dads are younger and more fit as well, of course.
Now I happen to like the actors Vincent Cassel and François Cluzet so I don't want to sound as critical as I may have sounded in this intro description of the film. Both Cassel and Cluzet deliver as good performances as their counter parts Michael Caine and Joseph Bologna; Cluzet perhaps somewhat better than Bologna, but that's just my opinion. The daughters are played by lesser known Lola Le Lann and Alice Isaaz, though Isaac has already some acting awards in her profile while Le Lann hasn't but makes up for that with her main character juicy role as Louna, the lusty teenie. There's no doubt she will get more parts just as Michelle Johnson did after 'Blame It on Rio' because both women are gorgeous.
Cassel plays the dad who couldn't resist the charms of his friend's daughter and has to clumsily cover the affair, just as Caine had to. The antics of that role do not lend themselves to high drama but it is at least entertaining.
A major difference between both flics is the participation of the two dad's wives, make that one ex and one not, and also that the older movie featured the likes of Demi Moore and Valerie Harper is those roles, practically non existent in the French remake. Neither versions went so far as to be melodramatic, thankfully, so I simply describe the genre as comedy, but sure there's a bit of drama and romance but nothing impressive.
If you haven't seen the 1984 movie, then you can simply watch this more current production; I doubt you'll care to see the two. One is enough. I watched the second because I'm a movie buff, I like Cassel and I expected the French film (not dubbed because I dislike those ) to have a more liberal tone, which it did, of course.
The Sea of Trees (2015)
A Beautiful Tragedy, a Gem.
I've liked most all of Gus Van Sant directed movies, so I was more than curious to view this film. Also when your better half says she loves it, you tend to watch, so I did. Oscar winning actor Matthew McConaughey and Oscar nominated Naomi Watts and Ken Watanabe also guarantee the production will provide fine performances and they did, superbly.
Arthur Brennan played by McConaughey, is having marital problems; his wife Joan a borderline alcoholic yet successful business women resents the low paying job of Arthur, a science professor, who cannot contribute a fraction of what income she generates, but it's her lack of trust in him ever since he had an affair that fuels her alcoholism.
The movie toggles between current time and what lead to Arthur's near demise. One has to pay attention and not miss anything. The couple had a wonderful life up until Arthur quit, at the behest of Joan, a job he didn't much like and slowly the disparity in their contribution to the household income began to pull them apart.
Joan is diagnosed with brain cancer and Arthur's love showed itself to be steadfast just as love should be. In the hospital Joan made Arthur promise, because she too still loved him, that he would not go through what she was going through, that he should end his life in a beautiful setting where he could die with joyful memories rather than the ominous setting she was now experiencing, should he ever find himself faced with a terminal diagnosis. That was a touching and unexpected scene, rarely found in novels or movies that I can recall.
She has successful surgery and while being transported later from the hospital, the ambulance is hit by a truck and she dies in Arthur's arms. Overcome by guilt and his despair, he decides to join his beloved in the very way she had made him promise, though he was not terminally ill, just overwhelmed. He finds the best place to die searching the web, Aokigahara Forest in Japan, also known as suicide forest, and heads there.
Now keep in mind that the story is non linear and we watch his adventure in the forest whilst we see the marriage deteriorate and the love of the couple rise above it. As I mentioned, you can't miss a minute.
Arthur is in the forest when he encounters a man, Ken Watanabe, who is trying to find his way back to civilisation, having changed his mind about suicide; they are lost now in this sea of trees. Both men as it turns out recount their stories and find the will to live, but the environment gets the best of them and only Arthur makes it out. He tries desperately to find his lost friend, once having recovered at the hospital, but to no avail. The journey of the men is a reflection of life, the choices we make and how everyone has the same, more or less, attachment to a life of love.
The performances are the award winning kind and the original screenplay should have been, maybe will be, a novel one day. The direction of Van Sant, impeccable as usual, true to the list of works I love. You will not have blockbuster special effects here, no violence, no sexual scenes, just a cerebral journey; if you like that sort of thing and I do, oh do I recommend it.
The Tunnel (2013)
A Hidden Gem
The British-French crime drama television series, adapted from the 2011 Danish/Swedish crime series 'The Bridge' is a hidden gem. Reviews and user scores as well as critics have been fair to good for the first year but definitely good to better in the second for a reason, it's good.
I've seen the first season of the original Scandinavian 2011 series then switched to the American (US) edition in 2013 solely because of my language failures, I don't care much for subtitles, and because I was already a fan of Diane Kruger who has the lead in the second series. I watched both series and enjoyed the first season much more than the second. Now, why mention so much of 'The Bridge' in this review? Because of the female character in all three series, a common aspect. The female detective has one of the autism spectrum disorders, specifically the one that is emphasized by a lack of emotional response and detachment; however the character has a sense of observation and deductive reasoning that is beyond most other detectives except from some film and TV series detectives. That alone seems to be a key element that has fascinated viewers, it certainly did me. It is not the only commonality of the three series though.
All three series start with an attention grabbing scene where a body is found right on the boundary line between two countries, on the bridge over the Rio Grande (US Series), in the Euro Tunnel (French-British) whence two law enforcement organizations have to work together as the body turns out to be cut in two, moreover is actually two halves of different victims, a half in each country. Not is it two murders they must solve, but serial killing that continues. An English detective of impeccable moral and high likability is on one side, the male lead, and a quirky intense French detective on the other side are paired to work on the case.
That is where I would say the dominant similarities end, because the type of murders, the victims and the perpetrators are different and so is the storyline in the broad sense. In the first season of 'The Tunnel' we get to know the lead detectives, what makes them tick, we get to know the rest of their respective co-workers and supervisors, again I found the 'The Tunnel' more interesting.
In the first season one single criminal is the object of the investigation, while in the second it is a criminal organization. There are the ever popular thriller sub-plots, when political influence and rivalling intelligence agencies' dubious operational practices come into play. By far the second season develops those criminal relations with stronger effect and fine suspense. One key development in the second season of 'The Tunnel' is the lead female's emotional breakthrough. On that last point I have to tell you Clémence Poésy's acting skills will make you a fan. She plays the role of Elise Wassermann, the female detective.
Her English partner in crime-fighting is Stephen Dillane who plays the role of Karl Roebuck, the CID's go-to man. He's a seasoned actor who delivers a performance second to none, just like Clémence Poésy.
There was a two and a half year waiting for season two and it clearly was not wasted time because unlike most series, the writers made that second season better than the first and it's the reason I'm writing this review. Get the snacks ready pull up the ottoman and binge watch this. You've got my strongest recommendation for a series this year, after 'Better Call Saul'.
From Psychopath to Caring Human Being, and a whole lot more
I know, I know the reviews thus far from popular ratings sites don't score this movie too high, but this is one you should judge for yourself.
Keep in mind the cast; this was my first reason to consider watching 'Criminal', my second and third as well. I'm not in the habit of repeating IMDb's full Storyline so I'll let you read that for yourself if you haven't already, and I'll add my take on that, at the risk of revealing some parts you really should discover on your own. But don't worry, I'll give you a warning just before the spoiler.
So, the cast includes Kevin Costner, the main character; some roles are good for him, some not, the role of emotionless psychopath in this movie is right up his alley. Then there's Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Ryan Reynolds, Jordi Mollà (oh you'll remember him when you see him), the gorgeous Gal Gadot who you should remember as Gisele from the Fast and Furious franchise and Michael Pitt as 'The Dutchman' who everybody is trying to catch in this movie.
You may think the storyline is that of a B movie, but the script by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg (they wrote The Rock) and direction by Ariel Vromen who directed the 2012 movie 'The Iceman', a movie you ought to have watched if you like tough characters, then you can start to understand why it is not a B movie. It is packed with action, suspense, twists and it will keep you engaged.
The part when Reynolds' memory is transferred to Kostner's brain is done effectively, thanks to Tommy Lee Jones credible acting as the doctor who devised the procedure. In fact Jones' participation, minimal as it may be, always comes just in time to add that credibility element throughout the movie, right to the ending scene, my favourite of the movie.
The movie lasts one hour and fifty three minutes, but it absolutely feels like a much shorter one. In my humble opinion this an important reason for the critical comments about 'Criminal'. Cook and Weisberg's story would have made a terrific novel because of the secondary sub-plot, the one dealing with Mollà's criminal organization and The Dutchman's role in that organization. In the near two hours movie there was simply no way to expand on that sub-plot. So, moviegoers have to piece together the relation of The Dutchman and Mollà's criminal organization. For those who enjoy a good novel as much as they do movies, that won't be a problem. But I feel those who didn't would have been left with what might be perceived as a messy story, but it isn't. Let me explain.
Here come the spoiler parts.
The Dutchman, Pitt, worked for Mollà who is an advocate of global anarchy, because he thinks he alone should rule the world, not unlike leaders of cults and such. When Pitt found a vulnerability in the US military arsenal control and developed a program to take over the control while disabling its failsafe measures, he knew he had in his possession the ultimate war device, one his boss Mollà would not hesitate to use for his mad quest. So of course Pitt negotiates with the CIA to sell them that program for lots of money and protection to hide from Mollà. That's the part that you have to piece together from bits of scenes throughout the movie.
Furthermore, at the beginning of the movie, Reynolds, the CIA agent who was charged with the mission to make good on Pitt's deal is killed by Mollà' himself, he having figured out Pitt's defection, and this is something Pitt didn't know and concluded he was screwed by the CIA. Again it's something you piece together during the movie, but not knowing this makes it harder to understand why Pitt turns to the Russian FSB for the same deal. See what I mean by the story making a better novel than a two hour movie!
So if you read comments that the storyline is messy, it's because it has a criminal organization, the CIA, The FSB, and a psychopath with no allegiance and a third sub- plot (my favourite) I'll get to just below, all in one movie.
When the CIA decided to move ahead a secret program to transfer memories from a recently dead person into another living human being, this suddenly having become a necessity for them to find Pitt, using dead Reynolds brain, Jones picked the best candidate for the procedure, but it happened to be Costner, a psychopath with no emotions. As Reynolds memories start to rebuild in Costner's brain, his personality also starts to change. It is a haphazard process as one should expect, and as Jones explains. Reynolds widow and child become as important to Costner as they were to Reynolds and in the end the psychopath has become a human being, worthy of a second chance. That aspect of the movie is the one I most liked, though the fight Costner puts up with all parties to get Pitt's money and break free turned out as well after all the twists.
It has a Hollywood ending, so those who don't care for such thing, don't bother; I wanted to be fair in my review, but I still think it's worth watching of course.
Child 44 (2015)
Not for casual viewing or simple entertainment; tragedies aren't.
This movie has a story to tell and it's a tragedy, so don't expect a thriller or suspense or simple drama. I was somewhat familiar with the theme because I remember vividly the 1995 Citizen X movie starring Stephen Rea and Donald Sutherland. I liked it and some did not. The same criticism was written about both movies; it's to be expected but it doesn't mean it's correct. Those who can't stand tragedies shouldn't watch them and ought not write reviews about them because they'll never be satisfied.
If you haven't read the synopsis for both movies, do; I'll not copy it, you surely can read it if you haven't already.
Daniel Espinosa did a fine job with this story. As I mentioned before it's virtually the same story as Citizen X(1995) insofar as the fact based serial killing goes as well as the political and law enforcement system is depicted. But in this 2015 version we are offered more background on the principal characters and instead of the solitary Lt. Viktor Burakov played by Stephen Rea and his wife played by Imelda Staunton we have Leo and Raisa played by Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace, the later figuring much more as the 2015 version gives us a sub-story right there and one that helps the ending tremendously. The counter to Donald Sutherland's Col. Mikhail Fetisov would be Gary Oldman's character if I can stretch the comparisons.
Child 44 simply has more characters and all have dark personalities. Tragedies don't have levity, there's not one bit of it in Child 44. I loved the cast, a virtual who's who of dramatic performers. Even the musical score sounded tragic in just the right measure. In order for this story to deliver, the pace is generally slow, slow works better because there's much to absorb from the characters and what ties them together; thus slow works best.
The movie is not a political condemnation of the system; history has taken care of that well enough thank you very much. The struggle to bring to light what the system tried so hard to burry could be told just as well in other countries and systems during that period, but the serial killing is one in particular so the Stalin era is a good choice, but that's just my opinion. The opening line 'There's no murder in Paradise' is something between irony and sarcasm but dramatically gets us off in a judgemental mode, one hard to leave. I think this was deliberate but I could be wrong.
I am a big Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace fan so my review can't be expected to be entirely objective. A Ridley Scott production also carries some positive weight for me. There are fine, I say fine supporting actors in this movie as well. I was not disappointed in the least. If you usually enjoy the genre you will undoubtedly like this film.
Ex Machina (2014)
An intelligent movie about A.I., nothing less.
Of the dozen plus movies on or about artificial intelligence and the likes, the latest I've recently seen is one which compelled me to write about it.
From 1968's '2001 A Space Odyssey', 1991's 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day', 1999's 'The Matrix', not leaving out 2008's 'Wall-E' and 'Eagle Eye', then 2010 'Inception' which are my preferred a.i. movies of the over dozen I've seen and last year's 'Transcendence' which did not fare that well at the box office nor with audience and critics but which plot by writer Jack Paglen I did relish, follows this year's 'Ex Machina'.
Like all good movies it is original and breaks new ground and that's the observation that compelled me to write another review. The basic premise being: A young programmer, Caleb, is selected to participate in a breakthrough week long experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I. and that's what the audience gets for maybe half the movie. Then the plot thickens.
Before I go further it is well worth mentioning that the location is in the wilds of Alaska, but filming took place in Norway's Valldal valley. In the early opening sequences a glacier provides a stunning intro and the home of Nathan, a main character, it begs you to imagine what comes next. The spectacular landscape adds a dimension of power to Nathan and it was, from what I found, intentional. You know from that point the production was not going to be anything less than high calibre and the rest of the movie bears this out.
There are three main characters, Nathan, Caleb and Ava, the latter being the stunning A.I being evaluated. The deliberate slow pace of the movie allows us to study each one while the suspense builds.
Nathan is the genius owner of the worlds dominant (by far) search engines and he has built the most human like A.I. yet. Oscar Isaac, principally known for his outstanding performance in 'Inside Liewyn Davis' is featured in the role of Nathan. Again Isaac displays his talent playing yet another character different from all previous ones. Perhaps some similarity would be in the character's unlikable personality, but that's as far as it goes.
Very little is as it seems; the mark of a good story is that it is unpredictable and most reviewers agree on that point where Ex Machina is concerned. Who is evaluating whom and for what purpose? Therein lies the source of the suspense; that and how each character outsmarts the other, which is to say the writer outsmarts the audience but still manages to leave it with a finale one viewer is bound to see differently than another. I enjoy those kind of scripts, the kind that get you involved and deliver a punch at the end, one you've earned but didn't guess.
The roles of Caleb and Ava, respectively played by Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander are seriously well cast. Their performances are so convincing I'm looking up their prior roles to select for viewing the films in which they played.
I can't usually figure how, not that I try hard, films are rated PG or R or such, but this is not what I'd call a family movie.
The special effects are wonderfully well done and should leave no one wanting, without being overdone. The reviews I've read and the scores from three most searched movie sites all are showing signs of this being a 'to see' movie. Writer Alex Garland also directed the movie, his first, and one could hardly ask for a better debut in my humble opinion.
Perfect Sense (2011)
An Apocalyptic Romance, or a romantic apocalypse; your pick
I was drawn to see this movie because of the cast and also because I rather fancy BBC Films productions. The synopsis was not what interested me as I would not normally care for any kind of apocalypse movie. However the slow pace of the epidemic, the subconscious hope for a cure to the cause of the epidemic and the at first mild inconvenience it seemed to represent kept me from calling quits.
The equally slow romance that developed between Ewan McGregor's and the stunningly beautiful Eva Green's characters did keep me interested enough to wait for that romance to bloom to its full love affair.
It was so sad it had to come at a time when the epidemic was reaching truly its depressing moments, the time when inevitability was no longer in question. The smart use of marrying what's great about love and awful about the end of times was I suppose what the writers intended all along. The perfect contrast. So I watched till the bitter end and felt of course depressed by the tragedy of the whole thing but encouraged at the same time to see how powerful love is.
How director David Mackenzie managed to keep us both hopeful and truly resigned at the same time is nothing short of genius, well at least he deserves high praise. I would only recommend it for folks who strongly believe in love or are currently experiencing the blissful torture of it.
The Gambler (2014)
The odds you'll like it are close to 50/50
This may be the shortest review I'll ever write. I had high expectations for this movie.
For some reason I could not wrap my head around what made the main character tick.
Hence, it's difficult to judge whether Mark Wahlberg did a good job or not.
I'm tempted to say Jim Bennett (Wahlberg's role) was a very smart, very spoiled rich kid gone rebel without a cause as he matured.
I hate to say this but I don't recommend the movie unless you're a die hard Wahlberg and Goodman fan.
Then again he seems to do his maturing in the latter scenes of the movie; and that was too predictable for my enjoyment.
You'd swear Bennett has a gambling problem, but that would be a understatement, only shadowed by what appeared to be a death wish.
The loan sharks, all three of them are not very credible for me. Even John Goodman's 'Frank' tip the scales in the unrealistic, but I still like the actor (who doesn't).
John Wick (2014)
A new action character to follow
In his directorial debut (sort of- it's a collaborative effort) Chad Stahelski shows his skills. He had the experience for just this sort of action movie and delivered the goods.
The script contained just the right amount of background play to set in motion the Taken, Rambo style 'you picked the wrong guy to f@ck with' adventure. Wick is a retired legendary hit man whose love for a good woman had rescued him from the dark side, that is until the dumb- ass son of a Russian mobster robbed his car and killed the only reminder of Wick's cherished wife.
After 47 Ronin, I was eager to see Keanu in this type of adventure. Now admittedly the cast of this movie with the likes of Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki, John Leguizamo and Ian McShane gives it panache if I may say so.
The only lovable character was the puppy, a gift from his late wife, received the day of the funeral. As another IMDb reviewer said, if someone killed my puppy under such circumstances... I'd go Boogeyman too; but who has skills like Wick.
There is much collateral damage in this movie and the body-count is in the neighbourhood of 80 (78 according to one source and 84, another).
On the downside, I thought Wick's resilience to gunshot wounds and knife injuries (one self inflicted, but that's complicated to explain) was a bit of a stretch.
Saw several good action movies in 2014 and this late October one was entertaining, if of course you like the genre; I like most all genres.
On a final note: Avoid hotels by the name of 'Continental'!
Romanticism is still alive in movies
Who was Ward Allen? That was a question I asked myself, reading the movie's cast and other credits. Based on a true story, uh! Oh well, it's worth a shot; I'll watch it. I did, and despite the script shortcomings, something I was easily able to get over, I discovered an interesting character and a story that reminded me why I enjoy movies with romanticism, not to be confused with romance.
The perhaps foolishness of pure thoughts, idealism, that is common to most romantic life stories, fiction or non, as in this case here, makes for good viewing and feel good moments. Annette Haywood-Carter's 'Savannah' did evoke those feel good moments. The scenery, set in the Savannah River marshes was well utilized in the movie's cinematography; that alone was reason for me to watch as much as I could.
The cast which includes such compelling names as Chiwetel Ejiofor, of '12 Years a Slave' fame, Sam Shepard and Hal Holbrook are another reason to consider 'Savannah'. Bradley Whitford plays Jack Cay, father of author John Eugene Cay Jr. who wrote the novel on which the movie is based. The main character is played by Jim Caviezel, who in this movie plays a loquacious intriguing character, atypical of Caviezel's past roles, but one he acquits himself of flawlessly. If you like Shakespearean soliloquy arguments and pleas uttered by lawyers in court as well as in bars, drinking kind, not legal, you'll appreciate the script's contributions in that respect.
The secondary character of Christmas Moultrie, played by Ejifor, is as compelling as is the main one, but brings an altogether different element, that of a first generation freed slave, and complements well the rapport of the two friends. Tieing the Moultrie, Allen and Cay's stories all in one movie is where the script falls short; it may be too much to feature in one movie and so the novel's story and perspective may well not have been done justice. The more reason to read the novel, something I'm eager to do now. I've not said much about the relation of Lucy Stubbs, played by the beautiful Jaimie Alexander, and Ward Allen, but it is pivotal to the development of Allen's life story, hence the late mention here. I didn't think a longer review would have help convince you to see the movie. If you appreciate romanticism, such as the genre is, I recommend the movie.
Still Mine (2012)
Absolutely a love story, and awesome acting
Director/writer Michael McGowan has done a brilliant job here, not that the seasoned actors James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold didn't make it possible; they will leave you in awe by their acting.
The story is based on true events and people, which makes it all that more compelling, but how simplicity and basic reality often needs no added flavouring and no dramatization as it alone can touch you at the core, is what McGowan made his script to be and let the actors do their thing. That is what and why I call it brilliant. Craig and Irene Morrison played by Cromwell and Bujold are as endearing as any couple of any movie you've ever seen, more so if it's possible. If you felt or believed seniors did not have a sex life, think again; but it makes for romance as it should be and love as it can and ought to, caring devotion being the driving force of their relation.
The key characters are sympathetic and embody all the great qualities one would want from people, real people. Even the children of Craig and Irene who at first may not seem so sympathetic, of course turn out to be just as caring and loving as their parents. The only unsympathetic character, if you discount the ambiguous relation Craig has with neighbour Chester, a friend and a very good one, also something you discover with time, is that of city bureaucrat Rick Daigle, played by Jonathan Potts. He's not evil by any means but just the typical face of bureaucracy as we expect it, too impersonal to be sympathetic and of course the foe a story needs. Potts does his portrayal as well as it needed to be, without turning the movie into what it's not; again what I also attribute to good writing. The IMDb full storyline, by Huggo, has all you need to know about the movie's plot (click the Plot Summary link, below the Storyline paragraph) and I suggest you read it. I'll just add one slight spoiler by saying it ends on a very positive note, one for which you'll breathe a sigh of relief. It's not the first movie to deal with the subject of Dementia, not the overwhelming 'motif' of the movie, but it was in my humble opinion a movie that showed the kindest and most heartwarming way actors have treated how their characters live with it.
Critics and moviegoers alike have given the movie good to high ratings and praise, justifiably so, to Bujold and Cromwell for their work. I could not agree more strongly. The camera work is done so well it seemingly draws you to the subtle craft of Cromwell. Now that I have mentioned it, you'll have a chance to notice it when you go see or rent the movie, and I recommend you do. You will not regret watching this movie, especially if you are doing so with anyone you care about. Try to hold back your tears if you can, but I expect anyone with an ounce of feelings will find that a challenge.
Closed Circuit (2013)
Conflict, Trust and Power, these prevail in the movie
What is the point we could and ought to draw from this movie: In this day and age, we have become all too familiar with how much terror is becoming woven in the fabric of our lives, so much so that we have become complaisant in accepting that the powers to be are given carte blanche as long as we don't have to hear or read about it, just like good old corruption always has. Perhaps it is a trade-off we accept and then maybe it is one we never should, because it leads to no better fate for us than that which we seek so hard to avoid, the loss of our freedoms.
The leader in the use of CCTV (closed circuit television from video cameras), London, has set the bar for that sort of privacy invasion. It is certainly debatable whether or not privacy ought to extend to public places, but the fact that we can be tracked and our lives outside our homes is fair game for security forces to use to such a high level of dissemination that it is likely innocents will be caught in the web, and thrown to the wolves, if only to give us all a sense of safety, a false one most likely. We have no more protection from power; and who benefits but the powers who are solely the ones protected. The irony is stark and the conflicts, ones we cannot defend against.
The two lead actors in the movie play the roles of pawns caught, as it were, in that web, by a system which they themselves are a part of, but it does not make them immune to the same precarious state we are all subject to, in addition to which they have an additional source of conflict, their past relation history, and that makes them even more vulnerable. Martin Rose and Claudia Simmons-Howe, played respectively by Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall, both have risen in the legal system and are believers in its fair and impartial practice. They however have never dealt with or confronted real power before the case they both are assigned. Their plight as well as the one of their client is sealed by the same inevitability and this makes for a damn good thriller in my book.
In order to better enjoy this movie, you should familiarize yourself with the English legal system, particularly the role of barristers, solicitors and the current sollicitor-advocat role, in the context of high profile criminal cases. I mention this because if you ever watched a French movie that dealt with court proceedings and prosecution, you most certainly found it frustrating or boring and missed out on the full experience such movie could have provided. The same applies here; you might still appreciate the thriller portions, but you'll have wasted a portion of the movie simply ignoring it or being left to wonder. If you follow my suggestion, you'll thank me later.
As complex as the details of the plot are, it is still easy to follow the development if you pay attention. The suspense and tension builds and builds from beginning to the end, when alas you reach the climax of the story, one that then makes sense and was, as you can deduce, inevitable even if surprising. You will not feel a warm and fuzzy feeling when it's all over and you should not; that's why I liked it.
Wide Sargasso Sea (1993)
A period piece, sensual and evocative; also great prequel to Jane Eyre
The movie is based on Jean Rhys' 1966 novel and is a prequel to Charlotte Brontë's 1847 classic Jane Eyre. Having read Rhys' book, I can attest that the movie is sufficiently true to the novel (it's always best not to expect too much in that respect). The first person account of Mrs. Rochester descent into madness is a tale from which you may find it difficult to pull away. It is set in the period of post 1833 Jamaican emancipation and it will immerse you in the life of British aristocracy living there at the time. The tension between Jamaicans and Brits, and even the riffs between the former and blacks from nearby Martinique is portrayed as I expected it to be, realistically. The Sargasso Sea is painted on screen as an ethereal place, one of almost psychedelic imagery, but quite pleasant though; it is in fact a very real region, not mystical nor mythical.
We follow young Antoinette Cosway, played by Casey Berna on her journey from the time her mother, played by the beautiful and talented Rachel Ward, retreated from the outside world and went mad, till the time of her passing, which Antoinette claims happened in the burning of the family mansion. Then the mature Antoinette, played by the exquisite Karina Lombard, is forced to find a husband to retain and rescue the family estate from a plutonian demise. In comes Edward Rochester (yes, that's the Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre) played by Nathaniel Parker, who by marrying her assumes the land owner status he was destined for. The two have an idyllic honeymoon at home; we get to view Lombard's grace and beauty in sensual scenes with Parker, but this happiness is short lived as the couple's distrust of each other is fueled by Antoinette's entourage and Edward's new acquaintances on the island. The novel did not lead me to expect the level of sensuality you'll find in the movie, but I'm thankful it went that way.
The cast includes characters such as Christophene, Amelie and Young Bull, who play an important part of Antoinette's life; they are played respectively by the mysterious Claudia Robinson, the seductive Rowena King and intimidating Paul Campbell. You should enjoy the cinematography, as the scenery is a nice escape from modern settings. The one thing that I always felt I wanted to know more about concerning the novel Jane Eyre, was the backstory of Mrs. Rochester; Jean Rhys' novel satisfied that thirst and if you don't wish to read it, only care to see the movie, then by all means see this one, go rent it if you can still find it. I liked it enough to buy it and I don't regret that one bit. By the way, the novel is really a short read so why not go for that if you care, as I did, for Mrs. Rochester's backstory; you'll find Rhys' style most pleasant (you can almost hear the period accent).
Mr. Morgan's Last Love (2013)
A romantic, eloquent tale of life and yes last love
Sandra Nettlebeck wastes no time getting to the hard drama in the first scene of the movie and that's the way to give the audience a glimpse of what's to come, right off the bat. Michael Caine was the man to deliver that gripping attention grabber and he did it well. The movie is unpredictable but not shocking; despite your best efforts to see what's coming, you won't, but it's not for effect, I don't believe, it's just life, and director Nettlebeck does her best to make that point.
Mr. Morgan, played by Michael Caine, lost his wife; the movie introduces her to us via the images in his mind throughout the movie, while he struggles through what is no longer life, no longer that is till a chance encounter on a bus with the almost reincarnation of the dear departed. He meets Pauline, played by Clémence Poésie, again on the bus not long after and a perplexing relation ensues, one hard to define and it would be futile to try. What the aging retired professor of philosophy had not come to terms with before the passing of his wife, Pauline helps him find it eventually, him and his son Miles.
The story is sombre in many scenes, hopeful in others and always thoughtful thanks to nice writing and fine performer's use of body language when mere words can't be enough or just too much. That is what I liked most about this movie, beautifully simple as it should be. Emotions will be triggered if you have an ounce of sympathy or empathy, but it's not over the top. Michael Caine's performance is one I'll remember as long as I remember him.
The setting, Paris mid autumn, made me fall in love again with that city. The cinematography is perfect and it reveals a bit of why the city of sights, sound and forgivable sins is so attractive; it doesn't overshadow humans, it provides for them. Ending on another fine note with the song 'Not too Late' by Norah Jones sealed it for me. This is a serious movie for serious people, about life and I recommend it because of that for those who want to hug you'll feel like hugging after this movie.
The Family (2013)
I liked Luc Besson's work and still do; this was just fun with some extras you can expect from Besson.
I've read several reviews only after watching the movie and all I hope you can take away from them is that you just might find it delightfully entertaining. The ending salvages whatever gripe you have held during the movie's earlier part if any, and it's best if you leave your preconceived notions about 'another De Niro movie' at the beginning and just let the film roll.
Of course there are clichés; you watch a lot of movies, you'll get clichés. It doesn't make for weak dialogue over all; I thought the dialogue worked just fine. No, better than fine, well calculated to enhance the action and interactions.
It's a cast of more than just Robert De Niro, though he's the focus or central point from which every talented actors involved play to. Michelle Pfeiffer is still hot in my book, and when her character gets intense, well she's just a pleasure to watch. She had this look in her eyes when she kills, and she kills. Tommy Lee Jones' character, the federal agent assigned to manage the protection detail of the Manzoni family, is kept to adding most of the serious part of the movie and he does quite well with that.
The team of John D'Leo and Dianna Agron, play the son and daughter of Giovanni Manzoni to perfection; it was a pleasure to see them play their roles and here the writing was not wanting in the least.
If you guess the family's tribulations and the faith you think awaits them, you may not be far off, this is not a Nobel prize piece of work, but you'll still enjoy the way Besson slowly builds to the action at the end and the pay-off much of the goings on did not quite prepare you for. Lastly you will gain a new appreciation for the F word, not unlike the S word so smartly used in the movie Haywire. If you like EuropaCorp productions, and I do, you'll like this one.
2 Guns (2013)
A little bit of sexy, a little more violence and a whole lot of fun action
First, a note about the director, Baltasar Kormákur; he's a busy guy, very, and he's been so for a while. Had him on my radar since the 2005 film 'A Little Trip to Heaven' which I liked a lot. He did 'Contraband' with Mark Wahlberg last year, and that might explain how they are reunited in this production. In any event, directing in this movie, loaded with talent could not have been arduous.
SPOILER REMINDER; You've been warned. The full plot is somewhat complex but not convoluted. I'd capsulate it as: Homeland Inter-agencies debacle, run amok with corruption.
DEA, Naval Intelligence and CIA, not to mention the drug cartel, are all out to catch DEA's Robert Trench and Naval Intelligence's Michael Stigman, played respectively by Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlber, but mostly, they're after the $40million the two robbed from Cartel King-pin Papi Greco (Edwards James Olmos), though only a small fraction of that was Papi's. Stigman is under orders to get the money first and foremost; again, he thinks it's only about $3million. Bobby Trench is after Papi and has been for a long time. Neither Stigman nor Trench knows the other is undercover; they had recruited each other, buying in the other's cover. Turns out the loot belongs to the CIA, whose been scamming it from the Cartel and that's why Naval Intelligence is after it; well not officially, just a corrupt officer, Quince, played by James Marsden, is. Quince had managed to turn Deb, played by Paula Patton, girlfriend of Trench to the dark side by setting him up for the fall so they could get the money for themselves, but the CIA doesn't let that sort of thing slide and hard case Earl, played by Bill Paxton, the guy responsible to get the money back is in no mood to be nice to anyone.
Denzel and Wahlberg do a terrific job with their respective characters; the dialogue works very well for them and they know how to exploit it. I remember Denzel working with the luscious Paula Patton in 2006 in the movie 'Déjà Vu', which I enjoyed enough to recall to this day.
There are a few serious dramatic moments in this movie but they are kept in check and are not overplayed, just as the humoristic ones are restricted to that which the dialogue by itself brings out, quite nicely. The action binds the whole thing and that's why it was so much fun to watch this movie. You get intrigue, double cross, romance and ass kicking, all neatly tied together and well balanced, not to mention a great Mexican stand-off in the end. No talent was wasted in the making of this movie and so I recommend it if you are okay knowing all I wrote ahead of time.