In one sense this film is an unexpected gift. I would never have imagined such intense, mesmerizing human drama could be culled from the story of two rival magicians trying to destroy each other personally and professionally around the turn of the century. Of course, in another sense the success of a film made from such a talented pool of people on both sides of the camera shouldn't seem surprising at all.
It's a big credit to this film that its subject matter is something that has not only been done, but been done very well many, many times. In fact, the film it reminded me the most of, in many ways, is the excellent if not great Truman Show. Yes, like that movie this one highlights the dramatic skills of a genius-level sketch comedy actor, only this time around it's Ricky Bubb-eee himself Will Ferrell. Instead of the being the unwitting subject of a reality TV show, Ferrell's Harold Crick finds that he's the subject of a novel being written by a self-and death-obsessed writer played wonderfully and obsessively by Emmma Thompson.
It would take a much better film writer than I to do justice to this film, so I'll limit the damage by being brief. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel brilliantly intertleaves the lives of four families across three continents, and links them in way that are mostly believeable and emotionally captivating and compelling from beginning to end. Almost like Jim Jarmusch meeting Robert Altman in the Int'l terminal.
Extras: 4 V for Vendetta is the heartwarming tale of a near future where the government has taken an Orwellian turn for the oppressive extreme. Ironically, this time, John Hurt plays the oppressor instead of the oppressed. His government subdues all, except for the “terrorist” V, who decides he’s mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore. Adapted from the graphic novel of the same name, V is decent, but it’s disappointing in that it could have been a lot better.
Extras: 4 M:i:III is the first film to be released simultaneously on HD DVD, Blu-ray, and standard DVD. Underachieving at the box office, this is nonetheless a lavish and worthy entry in the franchise. Philip Seymour Hoffman steals the show as a vile weapons dealer, but there are plenty of action sequences, stunts, and disguises to support Cruise. So what if it feels like we’ve seen it all before? Director J.J. Abrams adds a few fresh twists, and it’s still good fun the third time around.
Unashamedly, this is my favorite movie of all time. From the dialogue, to the acting, to the story, everything about this movie is awesome. If you never have, you owe it to yourself to see it. The story centers around hardened bar owner Rick, a lost love, and sticking it to some Nazis, which always make for good entertainment. As usual with a superior movie like this one, it’s about all that and more.
It was with some trepidation that I watched this movie. After all, Joel Schumacher and Akiva Goldsman did their incompetent best to ruin the franchise for anyone who can sound out the word h-a-c-k-s. I shouldn’t have worried. Christopher Nolan knows his stuff and made a movie that is the equal to if not (dare I say it) better than Tim Burton’s classic. Unlike Brian Singer’s passable rebirth/continuation of the Superman franchise, Nolan starts fresh and does as the title says, showing the beginnings of Batman.
Tim Burton spins a tale of love and marriage in the worlds of the barely living and the hardly dead. Using stop-motion animation, Burton creates a world that is visually stunning and unlike anything else out there (except for his other creations). The voice acting, from the likes of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Tracey Ullman, is excellent.
In an effort to outperform the original, sequels invariably spend more money, have more explosions, more action, more stunts and more special effects. In this spirit I suppose it's inevitable that Kevin Smith's Clerks II would turn to bestiality (er, "interspecies erotica") in an effort to go where even the original Clerks hadn't gone before. The original did feature necrophilia as a set piece after all. And there's also a hilariously wrong homage to Silence of the Lambs here that anyone who sees this film will never forgive Kevin Smith or Jason Mewes for.
OK, AVP's concept, such as it is, of pitting two of cinema's most known monsters against each other in mortal combat (not Mortal Kombat) began back in the day as a graphic novel. A graphic novel is a comic book of allegedly higher aesthetic and narrative value not necessarily aimed at little kids. However, even a comic book would be embarrassed at the setup here in which these two cinematic make-up and effects legends duke it out. Any teenager who reads Fangoria magazine could have dreamed this one up. And hell, who cares what he excuses are, we just want to see the Aliens and Predators run amok, which they do.
With all due respect to director Ridley Scott's other efforts, including Black Hawk Down, this medieval crusade drama may well be his finest work to date. The theatrical cut was seriously compromised when it was cut down from the director's preferred length, but this version is far more coherent.
The Last Samurai is a movie that succeeds more than I expected it to in spite of Tom Cruise giving one of the worst performances of all time by an actor of his stature (and I’m not referring to his diminutive height here). I didn't see Samurai in the theater because I was repelled by its marriage of subject matter and star. And no, I'm not a Tom Cruise hater at all. I just had a hard time imagining him in a Samurai picture of any kind. And even my lowered expectations didn't prepare me for how laughably unconvincing Cruise is here as the adrift Civil War hero Nathan Algren. Cruise's performance is all the more frustrating because the man can be nothing short of brilliant when he wants to be (see Born on the Fourth of July, Magnolia and even Interview with the Vampire for proof positive).
Before there was Rocky there was, in real life, James J. Braddock. Braddock was a respectable fighter and contender in the late 20's who fell on extremely hard times during the depression. He was reduced to poverty like so many millions of Americans and barely put food on this family's table between boxing and working the docks. In the mid-30's he went on the right winning streak at the right time, culminating in his capturing the heavyweight title in 1935. Offering some idea of what an underdog Braddock was in his title bout with Max Baer, he entered the ring that night with the very pedestrian record of 44 wins and 23 losses. The "Cinderella Man's" story inspired millions, not to mention the impact it's had on sports movies over the decades.
"It was whiskey done it, much as anything else." So says William Munny (Clint Eastwood), a man of notoriously vicious and mean disposition, when asked how he killed so many men so easily in his younger years. Unforgiven deconstructs the myth of the western gunman, a character Eastwood himself played to such great effect earlier in his career.
This is a bleak film to be sure, one in which the kindest characters are inflicted with the cruelest fates. In westerns we typically see some rough form of justice meted out by the gunman/hero, and we cheer when the bad guys "get what's coming to them." According to Eastwood's Munny, "we all have it comin."