Thursday, January 22, 2015
Review: American Sniper, Dir: Eastwood, Clint. Starring Bradley Cooper 7/10, with that being said I do believe the accolades it has received and been nominated for are justly deserved. This is a movie that does NOT glorify war. With that being said, it shows war without its spit and Hollywood polish. To call this a propaganda film is simply being simple. In fact to use the term glorification belittles the film, the people who made it, and mostly important the people, the real flesh and blood persons, portrayed in this piece of celluloid. Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle shows the conflict of being a sniper and being a husband and father. While he is tremendously successful in Iraq, the same cannot be said for home life with Taya. The chemistry between Sienna Miller as Taya and Cooper's Chris is almost palpable especially when he is struggling with PTSD and caught between home where he was wanted, and Iraq where he was needed. The reason I'm not grading this higher is for one reason, and one reason only. The damn use of the doll for the newborn daughter. I'm not sure what the set designer, UPM, Line Producer, AD, and Eastwood were all thinking? Singlehandedly this was the hokiest thing I have seen in films in a long time. And how anyone let this get through the system of checks deserves every facepalm, derisive youtube showing, and ugly comment. American Sniper shows quite graphically the fatal costs of war. It doesn't candy coat it, no long winded dying speeches, it shows war. It shows the rash decisions made out of personal sorrow. It has good characters who make bad decisions, and bad men who make the right decision; soldiers who hate the war and those that just want to kill some “ragheads”. It also shows growth from a young kid with a borderline abusive parent to a rodeo rider who has no direction in his life to a married SEAL / sniper whose life is more at home in a fire fight than at home. It is also a personal story. One man, one woman, and two kids navigating the decisions made by politicians who don't have to experience the aftermath. Currently it is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Screenplay from an adapted source, sound design, and sound editing. While I do not think it will win Best Picture (I still hope that Imitation Game receives that award), it should receive the sound design/editing awards. In the end, its a movie that is actually anti-war. It shows that women and children are often victims of violence. It also shows that women and children are capable of violence. It puts a face on PTSD which not only affects the soldier but those around him. I say this unequivocally: This is a movie that everyone needs to see.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Into the Woods: 7/10 If you've seen the original source material, not bad. Since I have, I really can't comment about it as a stand alone event. It is your standard musical, with some dancing, and using many of the fairy tales we learned as children: Jack and the Beanstalk, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, etc. But it is a pretty standard musical. Meryl Streep and Anna Kendrick are fabulous singers and really work well in their respective parts. James Corden and Emily Blunt are nothing to write home. With that being said, James Corden will always be Stormaggedon's father. Always. End of story. The first number was a bit long, and by a bit I mean, extraordinarily long.... We get it, they are all going into the woods. After that, it picks up and is enjoyable. So, Chris Pine almost pulls a Pierce Brosnan. Neither of them should EVER do a musical. Seriously. Eye candy? Yes. Solid actors, by all means. Singers.... Nope. NOT. AT. ALL. He is a convincing Prince Charming, full of charm and lacking a monogamy gene. Tracey Ullman has an appearance as Jack (and the Beanstalk)'s mother. I was quite surprised by that. Annette Crosbie from Calendar Girls has a bit part as Red Riding Hood's mother. Again, we see Christine Baranski in a musical with Meryl Streep (Mamma Mia). What I loved about her being the evil step mother to Cinderella is that the writers stuck with the original story of Cinderella, including the bloody foot mutilation to fit in the slipper. With that being said, Johnny Depp was not nearly used to his full potential and is only in just a few scenes. I know that he's a headliner but seriously, the emphasis that has been placed on him in this was over the top for the small amount of screen time. Pros: The real story of Cinderella's evil step sisters. Make up and costuming, top notch. And James Corden is getting some well deserved accolades. Cons: Longish, Chris Pine should NOT sing, under utilization of great actors such as Tracey Ullman, Mackenzie Mauzy, etc Take away: This is not the movie to see if you like musicals. If you're not a fan, don't go. If you are, you probably won't be disappointed. Oscar Noms: Adapted screenplay, best makeup, best costuming.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
The Imitation Game: 9.5/10 The movie balances reverence and reality of Alan Turing's life with kindness and gentleness. Alan Turing was not the most amicable of men, being both brilliant and a keeper of his own secrets. He's almost a properly British version of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. Please, don't let this scare you away. Professor Turing really was the smartest man in the room and lacked a sense of humor. He obviously has trouble relating to the people around him and Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal is subtle yet caring. With that being said, keeping his secret was the item of utmost importance which is understandable considering the climate around homosexuality at the time. He attempts to be asexual which obviously doesn't work, the confirmed bachelor type. And it should be a lesson for those who say that gays should hide their sexuality lest the children or others who might disagree see it. By having to hide it, a man of brilliance took his own life rather than live with forced chemical castration. Who knows what the world would be like today if Alan Turing had just been accepted as who he was? He also understood the importance of bucking the authority and expected societal roles. He treats the one woman in his life with kindness and as an equal even though he really had no equals professionally. The film balances three points in Alan Turing's life: prep school, work with Christopher (the Turing Machine that he invented to crack the Nazi code machine: Enigma), and post war life. Each point has a significance and is intertwined beautifully. The use of war news reels gives the war a prominent spot but it remains in the background as Turing, his colleagues, and Christopher are firmly seated in a precarious position of failure is not an option. The discovery of the final bit of information to make Christopher be able to crack the code is one of the most moving scenes in the entire film. Add in the aftermath of cracking that code, what they would have to do with the information is powerful because its not what is expected. In the end though, the invention of Christopher saved an estimated 14 million lives and probably shortened the war by 2 years. Just let that rattle around in the head for a while... In short, if it wasn't for Alan Turing, we would not be as connected as we are today. We take for granted the work he did and who knows what the world would look like if it wasn't for Professor Turing. In the end he was simply one of 49,000 men who were charged with gross indecency for simply being gay in the early 20th century England. Pros: Actors (all of them, there wasn't a poor performance amongst anyone), the writing, and the use of news reel footage. Cons: The reality of his life. We live in a time where being gay is being more and more accepted. We live in a time where marriage equality is rapidly becoming a reality. No one should have to hide like he did. Takeaway: Our modern world is courtesy of Alan Turing. Oscar Noms: Best Screenplay- adapted, Best Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch, Best Supporting Actress: Keira Knightley, Best Supporting Actor: Charles Dance/ Mark Strong. Best Costume. Best Cinematography: Oscar Faura (also did Transsiberian, The Orphanage, The Machinist), Best Director: Morten Tyldum.
Friday, December 26, 2014
Night at the Museum III: 5/10. Great family flick. Had me in tears because Teddy Roosevelt aka Robin Williams, in one of his final performances, gives a speech about letting go and moving on with life. So yeah, there I was a 40 something year old woman, crying like a baby over Robin Williams. Pros: Clean, good for kids, some cool CGI and an awesome guest appearance that I wasn't expecting Cons: telegraphed story, nothing especially of note, bland. Take Away: They wrote the ending with a possible return but really ended it. Please let them just end the series rather than continue with a money making proven schematic for cinematic schlock. It really is a movie that has nothing to write home about, but this is not a movie where one is looking to be particularly impressed or wooed by.... It is a great way to spend time with your son and daughter, enjoying family time. Parents won't be bored and kids will enjoy.
The Interview: 4/10 This is your typical gross out movie. It goes unabashedly for the cheap laugh, and gets it. Every. Single. Time. If your humor is more high brow than fart jokes and anal probes, then this movie is not for you. It serves its purpose perfectly, which is comedy. You will laugh. You will laugh at stuff you probably shouldn't be laughing at. You will wonder if they are going where you think they are, and they do, and then about 37 steps past that. With that being said, this is not everyone's cup of tea. If you want 90 minutes of escapism, its great. If you want relevant social commentary, go see The Imitation Game. Pros: Kick ass soundtrack. Randall Park as Kim Jong Un--awesome actor. Short enough to not bog down, long enough to keep one entertained. Cons: James Franco/Seth Rogen's typical comedy, Robocop Proctology exams, excessive to the point of ridiculousness violence at times. Take Away: You're not patriotic for seeing the Interview. You're not patriotic if you don't. You probably just need a good laugh and this movie has some for you.
Thursday, December 25, 2014
Foxcatcher, starring Steve Carrell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum 6/10 Pros: Interesting characters, cinematography, superb writing, MUA=10/10 Cons: Long, slow, lack of use of Mark Ruffalo/Sienna Miller Take Away: Rich people are cray-cray. Apparently "ripped from the headlines" of John Du Pont who was not exactly the picture of sanity. And with that being said, Steve Carrell deserves every accolade he has received thus far for his portrayal of a man who not just falls down the rabbit hole, but tumbles with great abandonment. John Du Pont buys his way into lives of people he wishes he could be. Rather than be happy with his amass of wealth, accumulated by his family and his heritage, he wants fame and notoriety more than anything else. Add in some screw you to his family and obvious issues with personal space and probably a little denial of his true nature, we have a recipe for disaster. When its combined with a person who lives in his brother's shadow, who can't make it in the real world without a life line, you have what could have been an award season darling. With that being said, the story which is well written, drags. For two and half hours, it lurches through the snow of Foxcatcher Farms like a lamb to slaughter. I imagine we could have cut this by a 1/3 and still had a great movie. By the two hour mark, I was asking for death because it just slowed to an unbelievable pace. The final act comes and leaves in such a hurry that the audience is shaking their head in shock and disbelief without time to recover before the credits roll. Sienna Miller has maybe three words in the entire film and really only two scenes where she is used in any capacity. Channing Tatum does prove that he has some acting chops as the lumbering little brother.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
This is my corner of the world. I'm not your typical movie fan or critic. I come from a background of anthropology and statistics so I think I have a unique perspective. I don't just like movies and television. I live for movies and television. I watch bad movies and enjoy them. I watch great movies and love them. I watch classics and sometimes I'm ambivalent about them. I have been known to watch a documentary about orioles followed by Real Housewives of ________. Yeah, this is my corner. Love it, hate it... Its me.