Friday, July 27, 2012

The Queen of Versailles

Indiefest:  The Queen of Versailles (2012):  This film is a documentary about the Siegel’s, a billionaire couple who build the largest private house in the United States - a 90,000 square foot mansion inspired by Versailles. The economic downturn, however, and the banking crisis in 2008, may crush their dreams. This is a fascinating film that shows how out of touch the super-rich are with ordinary America and the film is full of great contrasts, such as when they go pick up McDonalds takeout in a stretch limo.  What really makes this an interesting film is that Jackie isn't your normal trophy wife.  She once worked as a computer engineer at IBM, so you begin to wonder what sort of life she would have had if she had stayed at IBM instead of pursuing a modeling career and later meeting her now husband at a beauty pageant.  This is one of those documentaries where you are constantly changing your opinion about the characters in the film.   My Rating:  Full Price   The Queen of Versailles Website
Indiefest:  Neil Young Journeys (2012): A documentary filmed on Neil Young’s solo tour to promote his album, Le Noise. The film follows Young as he explores his childhood hometown and is interspersed with concert footage from his performance at the historic Massey Hall in Toronto.  Young travels in an old four-door sedan, reminiscing about his early childhood, and the film footage is interspersed with songs from his hits of the late 60′s/70′s and music from his 2010 CD, Le Noise. Young did the concert solo and moved from electric guitar to piano to electric organ, singing in the classic Neil Young style. It wouldn’t be a Neil Young concert without a little message thrown in (since Young is a well-known activist), as the 1970 song Ohio is cut with footage and pictures of the four people killed in 1969 on the Kent State University campus during the height of the Vietnam War protests. I enjoyed the film which had a great sound track that perfectly captured the energy of Young’s performances and his music. I did get tired of the cute camera angles that Demme used to spice up the film, especially shots from the camera that was mounted on Young’s mic, which gave us an unwanted close-up of his nose hairs. Overall, the film presents Young's unique and intriguing story and what it's like to attend one of his concerts.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Neil Young Journeys Website

The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time)
#16 Worst Film
Sextette  (1978)  84 year old Mae West came out of retirement to make this move based on a play that she had written about a woman trying to consummate her marriage (to a 32 year old soon to be James Bond, Timothy Dalton).  Mae West was an accomplished actress and a big star on both the Broadway stage and the  screen and wrote much of her own material.  Unfortunately, for this film, her talented writing occurred in the 1930s, not in the 70's.  When released, the film made about $50,000 in the theaters where most of the money was earned at the two premieres where West appeared.    Sextette Info

Forgotten Film:  Get Carter (1971):  Jack Carter (Michael Caine), a notorious gangster based out of London, travels to Newcastle, England, for his brother's funeral.  While there, he determines that his brother's death was not caused by accident but, he was murdered by the local mob.  Carter then sets out to find out who killed his brother and why.  Caine is remarkable as Carter, showing us that once he gets an idea in his head, in this case revenge, he is determined to carry it out till the end, even if it may cost him his own life.  This film is a gritty, violent film that was shot mostly on the streets of Newcastle, giving it a sense of realism that British films before it had never seen.  Watch it and see why many feel this is one of the best British films of all time.   My Rating:  Full Price   Get Carter Info 

In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD):  Jiro Dreams of Sushi  (2011)  Incredible documentary on an 85 year old sushi master, Jiro Ono, who has the only three star Michelin rated sushi restaurant in the world.  The restaurant is an 18 seat establishment that is in the hallway of a Tokyo rail station, has a 2 month waiting list and where  a meal that only lasts 15 minutes can cost $600.  This is a beautiful film and a fascinating subject, with one guarantee:  Even if you don't like Sushi, you will crave it after seeing this film.  My Rating:  I Would Pay to See it Again   Jiro Dreams of Sushi Website

In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):  Sparkle  (2011)  This will be remembered as the late Whitney Houston's last film, but it sure looks like a Dreamgirls rip-off to me.   Sparkle Webiste

Weird Credit:  From the credits of Ted:  Duck Puppeteer

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Robot & Frank (2012)  Set in the near future, Frank (Frank Langella), a retired burglar, is given a robot caretaker by his son.  At first, Frank can't stand the robot, but he then sees that he just might be able to use to the robot for one last heist.  I saw this film at the LA Film Fest and thoroughly enjoyed Frank Langella's performance in this funny and touching film.   Robot & Frank Website 

Until Next Time!


Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

My View: The Dark Knight Rises (2012) It’s been eight years since Batman (Christian Bale) defeated The Joker and took the fall for Harvey Dent’s crimes. It left most of Gotham City convinced that Batman is a criminal. Bruce Wayne is in a dark state and feels that he is no longer up to wearing the cowl and the cape, but a new menace is hell-bent on destroying Gotham City, and he’s a terrorist called, Bane (Tom Hardy). Complicating things is Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a burglar who goes by the name of Catwoman and who works for Bane. The city seems helpless as Bane takes what he wants until Batman decides to get back into the game. But is Batman, even with the new gadgets that Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) has developed, up for this final confrontation? I thoroughly enjoyed this third and final film in the Christopher Nolan Batman series. Though it's a long film (165 minutes), it moves at such a good pace that you never feel its excess. This film has an impressive cast, and it’s led by Christian Bale’s excellent performance as the battered and tortured Batman, but it’s Anne Hathaway as the burglar, Catwoman, who steals this movie. She is picture-perfect as the tough as nails Selina Kyle, who can hold her own in a fight and steal you blind. There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot, and the action sequences are very impressive on screen. Be sure to see it in IMAX, as 73 minutes were shot on IMAX cameras, which makes the film even more engrossing. It’s almost as you are there and part of the mass of people living in Gotham City.  Let’s just hope Batman can save us. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   The Dark Knight Rises Website
The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time)
#17 Best Film
Rear Window (1954) Jeff (James Stewart) is a photographer who has a broken leg and is wheelchair-bound in his apartment. Lucky for Jeff, he has a big window in his top floor apartment that looks out into a courtyard and onto a large group of apartment units, all of which also have big windows.  Jeff spends his home-time looking out the window with his binoculars or his camera, watching all the people in the other apartments. One night, Jeff witnesses what may have been a murder and now is out to try a prove that it did happen. He is aided by his socialite girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly), and his physical therapist, Stella (Thelma Ritter). The director, Alfred Hitchcock, is a master of creating tension and suspense, something this remarkable film has plenty of.  Grace Kelly is incredibly beautiful, and I love that the relationship between Stewart and Kelly is treated as an adult one, as Kelly brings an overnight bag when she plans on staying the night to help Stewart catch the killer. The look of this film also helps create suspense and was shot in Technicolor, which brings out lush colors and creates incredible shadows. This is one of those films that you would watch over and over, and you would enjoy it each and every time.   Rear Window Info
Forgotten Film: My Brilliant Career (1979) Judy Davis plays Sybylla, a headstrong woman who has grown up in the rough and tumble world of 19th century Australia. She gets proposed to by a wealthy suitor who has known her since they were kids. Instead of marrying Harry (Sam Neill), she gets a job as a governess to a family that her father owes money to. After a time with the family, she returns home and decides to write a book about her experiences, which helps her keep her independence. Davis gives a smart, touching performance, and the film has a beautiful feel to it. Gillian Armstrong, the director, does a brilliant job of showing us the rough but magnificent countryside, which makes you appreciate the people who created a life there.  My Rating: Full Price   My Brilliant Career Info
In Case You Missed it (A Film Just Released on DVD): The Three Stooges (2012) I didn’t like this film about the three goofy guys who try to save their childhood orphanage. I felt that only children under ten would enjoy this film and that, at times, the film felt as if it were a bad 80’s sitcom.  My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   The Three Stooges Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea): Premium Rush (2012) A NYC bike messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is given a package, and now someone is willing to kill him to get the package back. This film looks like it’s arriving with two flat tires.   Premium Rush Website

Weird Credits: From the Credits of Natural Selection: Slaughter Patrol Tattoo

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: ParaNorman (2012) In this animated film, Norman is a boy who is picked on at school and has a curiosity about all things creepy. But Norman isn’t an ordinary boy - he can see and talk to dead people. Now Norman must try and save his town from a zombie attack brought about from a hundred year old curse.   ParaNorman Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ice Age: Continental Drift

Family Faire: Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012) Things are changing, once again, with the gang in this fourth installment of the Ice Age animated series. Manny (Ray Romano), Sid (John Leguizamo) and Diego (Denis Leary) find themselves on a floating iceberg after they are separated from their friends and family as the continents begin to drift apart. Now, the trio must battle the sea and pirates to get back to their loved ones. This is a film that kids will love, due to the heavy action and the loveable characters, but it's also a film parents will hate, due to the lack of any sort of creativity in the storyline. This film has a number of singers who can carry a tune, such as Queen Latifah, Nicki Minaj, and Jennifer Lopez, but there is a song in the middle of the film that makes no sense (this isn’t a musical) with Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) singing. Young children will like this film, but adults will be bored out of their minds.  There is something to look forward to when seeing this film. There is a funny four minute The Simpsons animated short that stars Maggie, the baby, as she tries to save a butterfly from another day care kid.  My Rating: Cable   Ice Age Continental Drift Website
Indiefest: Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) A six year-old girl named, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis), lives with her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), in a community in the southern Delta called, “The Bathtub,” a low water area in front of levees. Wink knows that he is sick and probably is going to die from a bad heart.  Then, adding to his troubles, any sort of storm could wipe out his home.  Wink's stresses lead him to be tough on his daughter, Hushpuppy, but he feels he’s just trying to teach her how to survive on her own in this rough world.  It’s a magical film set partly in reality and partly in fantasy, and you never quite know if what you are seeing is real or not. Wallis as Hushpuppy is amazing in this film and gives such a strong and multilayered performance that some adult actors wouldn’t be able to do.  After seeing this film, you will feel richer for having experienced it.   My Rating: Full Price   Beasts of the Southern Wild Website
The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time)
#17 Worst Film
Dondi (1961) Based on the comic strip of the same name, Dondi is an Italian orphan who is adopted by an American G.I. (David Janssen). David Kory is in the title role, and I feel, is one of the worst child performers ever to appear on screen.  His performance is made even worse by a fake Italian accent that comes and goes throughout the film.  I think this line from the film sums up the quality of the writing: “How many people do you know who cross the Atlantic with only a hunk of Salami as luggage?”   Dondi Info
Forgotten Film: The Snapper (1993) After a wild night, Sharon Curley (Tina Kellegher), discovers she is pregnant.  She refuses to name the father which causes quite a fuss around the small Irish community where she and her father live.  Her family rallies around her, though, and her father (Com Meaney), who at first is outraged and embarrassed by his daughter’s actions, comes around to support her in the end. This is a funny film, full of quick dialogue, and Kellegher is fun to watch as the feisty, beautiful daughter.  It's Meaney’s performance, though, that adds a special quality to this film as he gives a brilliant portrait of a father who is willing to support his family in any way.  My Rating: Full Price   The Snapper Info
In Case You Missed it (A Film Just Released on DVD): Senna (2011) One of the best documentaries of last year about the Brazilian Formula One race car driver, Senna who won three world championships before he died at age 34. This film gives good insight as to what it takes to be a world class racer and also shows a man who was at the top of his game when he suddenly loses his life.   My Rating: Full Price   Senna Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea): The Babymakers (2012). After a guy fails to get his wife pregnant, he hatches a plan to break into a sperm bank to steal a “deposit” he made when he was younger.   The Babymakers Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Beasts of the Southern Wild: Pig adoption services

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouHope Springs (2012) A couple, after 30 years of marriage, decides to go to a weeklong counseling session to try and save their marriage. The actors playing the couple are Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep, and their counselor is Steve Carell.   Hope Springs Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

My View:  The Amazing Spider-Man (2012): In this re-telling of the origin of Spider-Man, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a teenager whose parents abandoned him at an early age. He encounters a genetically altered spider that gives him his spidey powers. Parker sets off to discover what really happened to his parents while he tries to win the heart of his high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). I enjoyed this film, and you should see it in 3-D as all the shots of Spider-Man flying through the city are spectacular. Garfield does an admirable job as the nerdy Parker, but what makes this movie worth watching is the wonderful Emma Stone as Peter's true love, Gwen.  Emma Stone plays her perfectly.  What I didn't like about this film was how long it was. There is too much time taken setting up the story, and I felt the bad guy in the film, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), was too cartoony of a villain. As long as Stone is in the Spider-Man films, I’ll keep going to them. Be sure to stay through the first part of the end credits as with many Marvel films, there is a bonus scene that sets up the next film.   My Rating: Full Price   The Amazing Spider-Man Website
Indiefest:  To Rome with Love (2012) Writer/Director Woody Allen brings to the screen a story of love and relationships set in one of the most romantic cities in the world, Rome. This film has multiple storylines with a large ensemble cast that includes Roberto Benigni, Alec Balwin, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig and Penelope Cruz. This is the first film that Allen has acted in since 2006, and his character has some of the best lines in the film. Not all the stories work, as some are rather silly, and the film feels a little scattered as some of the scenes take place over one day and others over a period of weeks.  This makes the film confusing.  To Rome with Love is beautiful film with a number of shots showing how much Allen loves the city, but I felt that the script wasn’t up to par with the great cast that Allen had assembled.   My Rating: Cable   To Rome with Love Website 
Family Faire: Brave (2012) In this animated film, Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), is a princess in a Scottish kingdom. A contest is held to decide who will wed Merida, but she defies the custom, and chooses not to follow her parents’ wishes. She decides to use a curse to change her parents’ minds about the marriage, but that curse goes terribly wrong, and Merida has to be her bravest to break the spell and save her kingdom. Children five years old and younger should not see this film.  The villain of the movie is a very large and scary bear, and when I saw this film, a child started crying and had to be taken out of the theatre. The animation of this film is beautiful, and Pixar revamped their animation process to give better detail on-screen to visuals such as Merida’s hair, an amazing sight of curls intertwined with different lengths. The storyline, though, made me feel as if I were watching an ordinary DreamWorks or Universal animated picture and not the Pixar magic that we have seen in the past with films such as Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo or WALL-E. I also wanted Merida to be more heroic, as she comes off rather mischievous than brave. While this isn’t a bad film, it just doesn’t live up to the Pixar standard of excellence that we have come to know and love.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Brave Website
The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time)
#18 Best Film
It Happened One Night  (1934):  The winner of 5 Academy Awards, including Best Director for Frank Capra, Best Picture and Best Actor/ Actress for Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. It is the story of an heiress, Ellie(Colbert), who runs away from her family to her husband whom she just married and a man her family disapproves of. She gets help from Peter (Gable), a man she meets on a bus. But Ellie doesn't know that Peter is an out of work reporter who sees Ellie's story as a way to get back into the business. This is the quintessential screwball comedy, one with incredible dialogue that Gable and Colbert rattle off with surprising skill, speed and grace. When I first saw this film, I kept looking at my watch, not because I was bored, but because I didn't want the film to end.  This film has become one of the greatest romantic comedies ever made.   It Happened One Night Info
Forgotten Film:  Murphy's Romance (1985) Emma (Sally Field) is a divorced mom who with her teen son, Jake (Corey Haim), moves to a small town to open a horse ranch. She meets Murphy (James Garner), the town druggist, and a budding relationship begins. Things get complicated, though, when Emma's ex-husband (Brain Kerwin) shows up, and Jake wants more than anything for his parents to get back together. What I love about this film is the chemistry between Field and Garner. They give such warm, real performances and Garner has some great, folksy lines.  My Rating: Full Price   Murphy's Romance Info
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD):  21 Jump Street  (2012): This is a comedy, based on the TV series with the same name, where Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum go undercover, posing as high school students, to bust a drug ring. While I like the rapport that Hill and Tatum have, I didn't like how the film went for the easy joke too many times.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   21 Jump Street Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Seen Only in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):  Total Recall (2012) Why does Hollywood keep making remakes of films that weren't that good to being with?    Total Recall Website

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Amazing Spider-Man: Boy Soprano

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Bourne Legacy (2012) Jeremy Renner takes the reins of a film franchise that Matt Damon thrived in. After Renner's great performance in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011), I think the series is in good hands.   The Bourne Legacy
Until Next Time!