Sunday, August 28, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
despite these setbacks, we still have a pretty good film here with several fine elements. Young Mélusine Mayance delivers a wonderful performance as Sarah and Kristin Scott Thomas is good as the reporter. We also get some good though brief supporting work from Aidan Quinn and Niels Arestrup, an older and powerful French actor who has been showing up a lot lately in many strong parts.The film also has some beautifully photographs scenes of the French countryside. "Sarah's Key" being a mixed bag is really disconcerting considering how strong much of the material really is. If the film would have focused more on the past and less on the present, we could have had one of the great films of the year.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
ted by the fine auteur Alfonso Cuarón. Ethan Hawke who I have always found to be an erratic actor does nothing here to change my mind, sometimes hitting the right notes as the naive and innocent Finn and other times hitting notes that are so out of left field you wonder just how he came up with them. His character's narration of the film is unnecessary and does not add to the story. Gwyneth Paltrow does a nice job as Estella and is extraordinarily sexy and the great Anne Bancroft does a good job as Ms. Dinsmoor in a role that is written in all the wrong ways. Robert De Niro and Chris Cooper offer fine supporting roles as well. I wanted to emphasize Cuarón's excellent and beautiful direction, but when you adapt a familiar and beloved work such as this and mesh it with modern music, language, and locations, the result is jarring. Besides all that, there just seems like there is something missing from the picture and in the context in which it is presented, Dicken's timeless story simply does not work here.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
A cult leader who fleeces his members out of their money upon their deaths is set to inherit 1 million dollars from a recently deceased member when he finds out her only surviving relative is all that stands in the way. Desperate for a way to collect the money, he decides to kidnap The Fox, a radio personality whose crime program involves ingenious crime plots and their eventual unraveling. The leader tells The Fox to devise the perfect murder to bump off the heir, and that he'll be released after the deed is carried out. When he refuses, his girlfriend and the sponsor's daughter are kidnapped as well putting him in a position where he must concoct the murder, prevent it from being carried out, and escape with girls before they are inevitably murdered. "Whistling in the Dark" was the first starring role for Red Skelton and its the first movie that I have seen him in as well. I found his style of comedy to be extremely funny and his wisecracking style and brand of physical comedy can be seen in generations of comics down the line from Mel Brooks to Woody Allen to Steve Martin to Jim Carrey. The movie itself is kind of brilliant as well and the climax (spoilers) where Skelton and the girls try to warn the intended victim who's on an airplane by way of their radio program, which they pretend is an act, is pretty incredible and highly entertaining. Casablanca's Conrad Veidt also makes a very sinister and very amusing villain. "Whistling in the Dark" achieves something extremely difficult in taking a silly, zany plot and crafting an entertaining and very funny film.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
After being arrested for being drunk and disorderly, a Seoul businessman is kidnapped and imprisoned in a hotel room. While held captive, he is framed for his wife's murder, his daughter is sent to live with foster parents, and he vows retribution on his captor as he begins to study his television and turn himself into a killing machine. After 15 years of imprisonment, he meets a young girl who helps him find the man responsible. When he finally reaches him, he tells the man he has only five days to unravel the mystery of his imprisonment before the young girl, and everyone else he's ever loved will be murdered. "Oldboy" is a stylish, violent, energetic, devastating, and very Asian film from director Chan-wook Park. Min-sik Choi does an excellent job in the brutal role of Oh Dae-su and Hye-jeong Kang is just as fine in the equally harsh part of Mi-do. The film is largely off-putting, and at first is disjointed and hard to follow. However, when the plot threads begin to come together, the film really takes off, and there are many wonderfully realized scenes (I particularly liked when Dae-su was retracing his steps both in his memory and in the present during a revelatory scene). With the Hollywood machine, we become so accustomed to seeing the same product churned out week after week so that when something highly original comes to our attention, it can be jarring and startling. "Oldboy" is a unique film that shocks with its audacity and originality, and is highly entertaining once we regain are senses and start to keep pace.
Fort Apache" and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon". "Rio Grande" is the final film in John Ford and John Wayne's Cavalry Trilogy. It is a beautiful film, reverting to black and white after the technicolor "Ribbon", and wonderfully captures Ford's beloved Monument Valley as well as the delicate human features not often seen in Westerns. Wayne is great and reprises his role from Apache, playing the gentler and more reserved character than we're used to. Maureen O'Hara is equally fine as his wife and Ford regular Victor McLaglen is back again amusingly playing his drunken Irish hulk. The movie also has some memorable music played by the group Sons of the Pioneers. The ending of the film, where the division must rescue a group of children kidnapped by Indians, is cliched and unsatisfying. Still, "Rio Grande" is an atypical Western and fine conclusion to a stellar trilogy by two of the cinema's greats.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Rolland Joffé based on an article by Schanberg. It is a well made film shot in muted colors that perhaps best capture the depicted detestable events. The first half of the film lacks urgency and seems to plod along with individual scenes being stretched on for more than they're worth. Sam Waterston's earnestness gets to be a little too much as well, and John Lennon's Imagine played during the end is a little hard to stomach. However, the second half of the movie with Pran in the camps is absolutely riveting and Dr. Haing S. Ngor, also a Cambodian who escaped Khmer Rouge savagery, is great in a brutal, Oscar winning role. John Malkovich also shines in one of his first film roles as a photographer. "The Killing Fields" is a long yet engrossing movie that tells such a terrible story that sadly seems to have faded in the memories of many people.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Terri is an overweight 15 year old who lives with his demented uncle in the woods near the marsh. Routinely picked on by kids at school, he wears pajamas to class because they’re comfortable, and is constantly tardy, lately due to his growing fascination with killing field mice and offering them up as a meal to a hawk. His behavior causes concern for his principal, so Terri is thrown into a group of school misfits who must meet with him on a weekly basis for counseling. Although apathetic at first, Terri forms a friendship with his principal, and a more unlikely friendship develops when he comes to the aid of a beautiful but troubled classmate.
“Terri” is an offbeat independent comedy that serves as both a tale of a loner as well as a slice of life film. Directed by Azazel Jacobs and written with Patrick DeWitt, the movie is warm and unconventional, containing sharply drawn characters who seem like authentic people. I was surprised by much care and detail had been given to not just the main characters but also to background players who would usually go unremembered in most movies.
The performances are wonderful as well. As Terri, Jacob Wysocki is a real find and must portray a wide range of emotions that his laconic character goes through. It is a difficult performance and he does a great job of pulling it off. I just hope there are more roles to come because he is not exactly a Hollywood type.
John C. Reilly turns in excellent, award caliber work as well. I think people often forget what a gifted actor he really is due to the silly nature of some of the roles he takes. Here, the chummy principal is a somewhat goofy concoction, but there is so much depth to the role that I have a hard time picturing anyone else portraying it just as fine.
I did have one problem with the movie: an extended scene where Terri, a friend, and the girl he has a crush on pop pills and get drunk in his uncle’s basement went on too long and ran counter to the tone the film had set up until that point. I also did not buy some of the character’s choices in that scene. Still this is a warmhearted and sharply observed film, and in an industry where movie characters come straight off of the assembly line, here is a movie whose characters have been handled with care.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Documentarian Errol Morris burst onto the scene in 1978 with "Gates of Heaven" and crafted a hypnotic and engaging documentary the likes of which had never been seen before. Since then, he has crafted the same kind of mesmerizing films, documenting intelligent oddballs. Through the use of his Interrotron, a device he invented which allows his subject to keep eye contact with both himself and the camera simultaneously. This device has resulted in films that are immediate and grabbing than most any other documentaries ever filmed. In 2000, he made a TV series lasting for two seasons and 17 episodes, with guests ranging from a man with an obsessive quest to see a giant squid to a man who lives his live entirely in front of the camera. Each episode is interesting in its own way as Morris stares down each person and uncovers the reasons for their peculiarities. Here is a short synopsis of each episode:
Season 1 (2000)
Mr. Debt The inaugural episode showcases a New York debt attorney who seems like he has made it his cause to take on and destroy the credit card company while trying to get consumers back on their feet. He explains how the credit system in America works and how people are systematically forced to stay in debt. He also explains how his business works and how he is able to fight the creditors, while dodging questions from Morris that some may consider him a huckster.
Eyeball to Eyeball A zoologist discusses his lifelong passion/obsession with coming face to face with a Giant Squid, something which is seemingly impossible to do. In the process of describing this hopeless quest, we hear about his career, his contact with a washed up dead Giant Squid, the nature of the beast, and his many futile attempts to make contact with the creature
Stairway to Heaven Autistic Temple Grandin, whose life story was recently told in an HBO television movie, tells how she gradually realized how to use her condition to her benefit and how her style of thinking allowed her to design a humane slaughterhouse, whose model is now used in 1/3 of all beef production in the United States. This is a fascinating segment, as Grandin takes us into her mind, explains how it works, and tells why she chose to use particular design ideas on her intricate slaughterhouses.
The Killer Inside Me In high school, Sondra London dated a charming man who ended up being a serial killer. Years later she met up with Gerard John Schaefer and decided to help him tell his story in book form. After a falling out with him, she moved on to Danny Rolling, another serial killer whom she likewise wrote a book with and had a relationship. This fascinatingly strange episode tries to get into London's mind and determine what drawsher to serial killers.
I Dismember Mama Saul Kent discusses his fear of death at how he became involved in cryonics during one of its early stages when it was simply known as freezing people. While discussing how the process works and how we will have the technology to bring frozen people back to life, he tells the story of how his mother died and wished to be frozen. Because her body was so worn down, he severed her head and then froze and hid it when he became the subject of a murder investigation and media frenzy.
The Stalker When Post Office supervisor Bill Kinsley was forced to fire carrier Thomas McIlvane for threatening a superior, Kinsley became the target of McIlvane’s threats. After taking means to protect himself, his family, and his work, the law told him there was nothing they could do. Then, one day McIlvane showed up at the post office with a sawed off shotgun and killed several of his former coworkers before shooting himself. Kinsley tells the story of the nightmarish experience while stating how his life was ruined due to scapegoating.
The Parrot One night a man broke into a Sonoma, California woman's house and suffocated her, leaving her parrot as the only witness. People involved with the case offer their takes on the guilt of two suspects and a pet store owner recounts how the bird's cries, which were declared inadmissible by the judge, implicate the man who was sent free and clear of the name of the man serving life for the murder.
Smile in a Jar Gretchen Worden, the director of the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, takes us on a virtual tour of the facility which houses human anomalies ranging from giants to dwarves to Siamese twins to horns and even includes famous people's body parts.
In the Kingdom of the Unabomber Psychologist Gary Greenberg desperately wanted to jump start his career and get published, and saw the best way of doing this was by striking up a correspondence with Ted Kaczynski. Greenberg tells about his writings to the Unabomber and how he became extremely close to landing the coveted first interview.
The Little Gray Man A CIA agent and master of disguise discusses the tricks of his trade, while discussing his early forays in infiltration, a well as missions in Laos and Moscow.
You're Soaking In It A woman's stepson killed himself and she was left to clean up the mess. Grief stricken, she was also inspired to start her own crime scene cleaning business, which she discusses here.
Season 2 (2001)
Mr. Personality Forensic psychologist Michael Stone discusses his system for ranking evil and talks about his fascination with serial killers and mass murderers.
The Only Truth A high profile defense attorney whose clients include gangster rappers and the mafia discusses his career, his various defense strategies, and the time he was indicted for a felony.
Harvesting Me As a child Josh Harris felt lost in his big family and spent hours in front of the television. As an adult, he decided to install cameras and microphones in his apartment so his every waking moment could be recorded, an internet venture that made him millions. Harris discusses what makes him live his life in public and the several downfalls that come with the highly intrusive territory.
One in a Million Trillion Highly intelligent and nerdy Rick Rosner explains why he chose to redo his senior year of high school over and over again. He also discusses his appearance on the first episode of the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" as well as his appearance on another show where he was eliminated on what he believed to be a poorly worded question.
Leaving the Earth In 1989 on a flight from Denver to Chicago, pilot and pilot trainer Denny Fitch was a passenger when there was an explosion on the plane and all hydraulic power was lost, an accident that had no precedent and almost guaranteed death. Fitch describes what happened as he assisted in the cockpit, the mechanics of the plane, and how he and three other pilots were able to save a majority of people on the plane.
The Smartest Man in the World Chris Langan has worked as a construction worker and now works as a bouncer. He also has one of the highest recorded IQs in the world. Here Chris tells of his oversized head while he divulges his theories on the universe and master plans for the human race.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Monday, August 8, 2011
Sunday, August 7, 2011
For over forty years, James Taylor has been the quintessential singer songwriter, expressing songs that wonderfully capture longing and sorrow with his resonating and memorable voice and guitar chords. Of all my favorite artists, he is my favorite to see in concert, not only because he is a consummate performer, but also engages the audience with humor and stories in between songs. Starting out as a solo act, he played with bands for many years until recently to decided to put out One Man Band, a concert at The Colonial Theater in his hometown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts with only pianist Larry Goldings. Starting out with a folksy introduction over footage of the surrounding Berkshire Mountains, the program commences with performances of classic favorites such as "Carolina in My Mind", "Shower the People". and "Fire and Rain" played over personal slides interspersed with stories and anecdotes. One Man Band is a wonderful concert film showcasing one of finest musical talents.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
In 1981, a French engineer living in Moscow begins a liaison with a disillusioned KGB agent who begins passing him secrets which can then be snuck out of Russia and passed along to French intelligence. Soon, it becomes clear that the secrets are in regards to American intelligence, specifically security locations and codes and the identity of Russian spies. The information is passed along to Reagan who has the agents subdued and uses the opportunity to pursue his Star Wars initiative, all of which as blowback on the engineer and rogue agent. Farewell, from the French director Christian Carion, is an intricately detailed spy thriller based on crucial real life events. Guillaume Canet and Emir Kusturica, as the engineer and the agent respectively, deliver fine performances and it is interesting to see Fred Ward play Ronald Reagan and William Dafoe as a high ranking CIA official. In a time when spy movies are associated with nonstop actioneers such as the Bourne or James Bond series, it is a pleasure to see a well made character driven film that takes its time and lets its story develop.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Denis Leary hit the nail on the head with the above quote about Oliver Stone's movie about Jim Morrison and The Doors. While Morrison was a talented poet and singer and The Doors had some hits and were a key band of the late 60s, Morrison was such an intensely unlikable figure and his life is not interesting enough to sustain a 140 minute movie. It begins with a childhood memory of Morrison regarding a dying Indian on the side of the road during a family road trip. Cut to Jim (Val Kilmer) in his early 20s where he wanders around Venice Beach and meets lifelong partner Pamela Courson (Meg Ryan). He attends UCLA film school where he makes nonlinear and dismissed films and meets future bandmate Ray Manzarek (Kyle MacLachlan). The two partner up with John Densmore (Kevin Dillon) and Robby Kreiger (Frank Whaley) and thus begins the rise of The Doors, which is actually just a gradual freefall as Jim engages in excessive drug use, sex, alcohol, witchcraft, indecent exposure, and an unhealthy fascination with death. Stone's film is extremely well made and vividly captures the aura of the 1960s. Kilmer, a Morrison lookalike to start, engulfs himself in the role and gives a mesmerizing performance, while MacLachlan and Ryan give fine performances as well as two of Morrison's long suffering partners. The film also makes great use of The Door's songs which play throughout. The problem with the film though starts with Morrison's polarizing effect and continues with Stone's attempt to drag the film out and stuff it with prolonged trippy sequences and unpleasantries. In the end, the film is kind of like Morrison himself, leaving us with some good, but ultimately bloated with excess.