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ARGO

26 Oct

Synopsis: A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran. The film also satirizes the Hollywood film community and what it took for the CIA to get their help in the operation.

CAST

Ben Affleck…………………………………Tony Mendez (CIA Operative)

Bryan Cranston……………………………………………….Jack O’Donnell

Alan Arkin………………………………………………………..Lester Siegel

John Goodman……………………….John Chambers (make-up artist)

Clea DuVall…………………………………………………………..Cora Lijek

Kyle Chandler……………………………………………..Hamilton Jordan

Victor Garber……………………………………………Kenneth D. Taylor

Tate Donovan……………………………………………………Bob Anders

Michael Parks…….Jack Kirby (Comic Book/Story Board Artist)

Tom Lenk………………………………………………………………….Rodd

Christopher Stanley……………………………………………Tom Ahern

Taylor Schilling…………………………………………Christine Mendez

 Ashley Wood…………………………………………………………..Beauty

Sheila Vand……………………………………………………………..Sahar

Chris Messina………………………………………………………..Malinov

Richard Kind………………………………………………………Max Klein

Titus Welliver………………………………………………………Jon Bates

Rory Cochrane…………………………………………………..Lee Schatz

Devansh Mehta………………………………………………Matt Sanders

Omid Abtahi……………………………………………………………..Reza

Scoot McNairy………………………………………………..Joe Stafford

Kerry Bishé…………………………………………………Kathy Stafford

 Christopher Denham………………………………………….Mark Lijek

Karina Logue………………………………………..Elizabeth Ann Swift

Bob Gunton……..Cyrus Vance (United States Secretary of State)

Philip Baker Hall………………Warren Christopher (Deputy S.O.S.)

Adrienne Barbeau………………………………………………………Nina

Fouad Hajji…………………………………………………………..Komiteh

President Jimmy Carter…………Himself (uncredited voice-over)

Review:  The film directed by its’ star, Ben Affleck, is based on the true events that occurred during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Jimmy Carter was President when the American Embassy in Iran was seized during the Iranian Revolution by militants, taking sixty hostages as six American Ambassadors, barely made it out. The six Ambassadors took refuge in the Canadian Embassy and were stuck there hoping they wouldn’t get caught. The Ayatollah Khomeini, who was the leader of the Iranian people at the time, had blamed the ill’s of the country on American intervention.

Victor Garber plays Ken Taylor, the head of the Canadian Embassy in Tehran, and knowingly puts himself and his family at risk by taking in the Ambassadors before they are found out. The CIA works feverishly to intervene and even brings in Tony Mendez (Affleck), their chief operative in charge of hostage extraction to figure out how to get the six out.

Mendez calls on his friend the make-up artist for the Planet of The Ape movies, John Chambers, who has helped the CIA with cover identities, to help here. Chambers is the one who comes up with the idea that Affleck would go in an as a Canadian film location scout. He also came up with the idea that the six hostages can have fake Canadian passports and pose as production crew and director. Goodman introduces Mendez to aging film producer Lester Siegel, (Arkin) who buys into the lie and uses the Hollywood machine to fake a fake movie production.  The film they use is a science fiction script called ARGO and they even set-up a fake Hollywood production office with phone, movie posters and files. I might add the irony of all this is that it is paid for by the U.S. Government. Goodman and Arkin add a light-hearted and often hilarious touch to the art of Hollywood film makers and producers.

The film is a taut, edge of your seat drama, that recreates actual events as they happen. You have to ask yourself how taken by America’s Hollywood the Iranians are that they fell for the cover hook, line and sinker.  The film is a winner by any standard and Affleck possibly directed the finest film of the year. It will be a disappointment if this film doesn’t pick-up a nomination for best-picture or best supporting actor for Arkin. Arkin is brilliant at sarcasm, when a collegue asks him what ARGO is about he growls, “ARGO f*&%$k yourself!” Which does become a wink and a nod between Mendez and his Hollywood friends.

Stay for the end credits because there are pictures of the Actors and the their real world counterparts shown side by side as President Jimmy Carter, in Voice-Over, discusses the actual ARGO operation and the facts surrounding the events.

Recommended:

An American in Paris – Blu Ray

17 Oct

Synopsis:  Jerry Mulligan, a struggling American painter in Paris, is “discovered” by an influential heiress with an interest in more than Jerry’s art. Jerry in turn falls for Lise, a young French girl already engaged to a cabaret singer. Jerry jokes, sings and dances with his best friend, an acerbic would-be concert pianist, while romantic complications abound.

Cast

Gene Kelly……………………………………….Jerry Mulligan

Leslie Caron………………………………………..Lise Bouvier

Oscar Levant………………………………………..Adam Cook

Georges Guetary………………………………….Henri Baurel

Nina Foch…………………………………………..Milo Roberts

Review: This Vincente Minnelli directed, Gene Kelly/Stanley Donan choreographed MGM musical is a moving, ground breaking, love poem to artistry and romance. First off the clarity and color of the Blu-Ray disc is astonishingly clear. The restoration and high definition picture draws you in and you start to notice details such as the paint on the Parisian walls etc. in crisp detail.

This film won the Academy Award for Best Picture after it’s release in 1951. The winning score by George and Ira Gershwin sweeps you away with songs like, S Wonderful, Our Love is Here to Stay and I’ve Got Rhythm.  There is something undeniably sublime in watching everyman dancer Gene Kelly, painter Jerry Mulligan, at work here. His roots as a dance instructor in his family’s dance school is in evidence as he works with the children in the I Got Rhythm number. He is delightful and enchanting and the children follow him in grand amusement in hopes of getting some American Bubble Gum.

Leslie Caron a dancer who was trained in Ballet makes her film debut here and it is her charisma and dance craft that carries her through the film. She almost floats as she dances with Kelly in Our Love is Here To Stay. Her charm and warmth appeals every time she smiles.

Oscar Levant is hilarious as struggling self-proclaimed concert pianist Adam Cook. He describes himself in the opening sequence of the film: “It’s not a pretty face, I grant you. But underneath its flabby exterior is an enormous lack of character.”

Georges Guetary plays singer Henri Baurel, who is engaged to Lise,  he is unaware that his friend Jerry Mulligan is in love with her. Guetary’s big number Stairway to Paradise, showcases his singing talents amidst a large lighted staircase and a bevy of beautiful MGM girls. The song is done with artistry and never crosses the line into gaudiness.

Nina Foch plays suntan oil heiress Milo Roberts. She falls for Mulligan and wants to promote his paintings in a legitimate art show. Mulligan at first balks because he doesn’t want Robert’s affections. The relationship never really gets off the ground because Mulligan is truly in love with Caron’s character Lise.

The most celebrated sequence in the film is Kelly’s choreographed 17 minute ballet.  The uniqueness of taking famous french artist’s paintings and bringing them to life with Paris as the background, is contemporaryand brilliant. The ballet tells the story of Mulligan’s love for Lise. Kelly smoothly transitions from ballet, tap and jazz dance throughout the 17 minutes. One gets caught up in the sequence’s use of color, music and dance.

The disc includes a few extras such as the PBS produced American Masters Episode: Gene Kelly Anatomy of a Dancer a vintage MGM Fitzpatrick TravelTalk short, Paris on Parade and a classic MGM cartoon Symphony in Slang.  Overall this is a must have film for anyone’s cinema collection.

Recommended:

Robot and Frank

12 Oct

Synopsis: Set in the near future, Frank, a retired cat burglar, has two grown kids who are concerned he can no longer live alone. They are tempted to place him in a nursing home until Frank’s son chooses a different option: against the old man’s wishes, he buys Frank a walking, talking humanoid robot programmed to improve his physical and mental health. What follows is an often hilarious and somewhat heartbreaking story about finding friends and family in the most unexpected places.

Cast

Frank Langella……………………………………Frank

Susan Sarandon………………………………Jennifer

Liv Tyler………………………………………..Madison

James Marsden…………………………………Hunter

Peter Saarsgard………………………..Robot (voice)

Jeremy Sisto……………………………………..Sheriff

Jeremy Strong………………………………………Jake

Review: Jake Schieier directed this charming film using speculative fiction as his story telling device. For those uninitiated, speculative fiction takes what we already know exists in science and speculates what it would be like in the near future. Sort of not quite sci-fi but closer to scientific reality when applied.

The story centers around ex-cat burglar Frank, (Langella) who lives alone in his house, in a small suburban community. It is apparent he is beginning to lose his short term memory. His daily routine consists of going to the local library where he has a friendship with the librarian, Jennifer (Sarandon) then going to a local nick-knack store and swiping small things like soap shaped like a cat.

His son Hunter (Marsden) tolerates his father’s behavior but can’t let his father live alone. Hunter is particularly alarmed when Frank doesn’t remember him or his daughter Madison (Tyler). To remedy the situation Hunter, against his father’s wishes brings him a companion Robot. The Robot is specifically designed to challenge Frank’s mental abilities, keep Frank active in a positive way and cook Frank’s meals.  In short Hunter had the robot programmed to keep Frank out of trouble. The Robot even starts a vegetable garden in the backyard of the house.

We learn along the way Frank was indeed a convicted and did jail time on burglary charges. When Frank finds out a wealthy entrepreneur, Jake wants to convert the library into an interactive community space with no books just computers, he decides to start cat-burgling once again. He trains the Robot to help him case the rich Jake’s house in hopes of stealing a valuable diamond necklace owned by Jake’s wife. The Robot at first won’t comply, but sly Frank convinces the Robot that a burglary will be good to stimulate his mental faculties. The Robot acquiesces and the two of them go on a caper. The Robot/Frank bonding begins when Frank trains the Robot how to pick locks and avoid alarms.

We watch with a knowing smile as the relationship between Frank and the Robot turns to respect and friendship. When Frank’s daughter Madison suddenly appears to take care of Frank, she is against Robot technology, her shutting down the Robot causes Frank to freak-out as the heist date draws near.  When after some sly outmaneuvering by Frank, Robot gets turned back on and the heist goes as planned.

You wonder how far gone Frank really is when Jake and the town sheriff come to question him about the heist and the goods can’t be found in the house. The Robot shows the human sign of self-sacrifice when he suggests that Frank erases his memory so the police can’t access his memory of the heist.

The story is funny, heartwarming, quirky and a winner. Speculative fiction aside this is a fun movie with a great cast. Langella really knows how to maneuver between loss of memory and slyness. His performance was wonderful to watch.

Recommended:  

Arbitrage

12 Oct

Synopsis:  Nicholas Jarecki makes his directorial debut with this taut and alluring suspense thriller about love, loyalty, and high finance. Arbitrage buying low and selling high depends on a person’s ability to determine the true value of any given market. It’s a talent that has made billionaire hedge fund magnate Robert Miller the very portrait of success in American business. But on the eve of his sixtieth birthday, Miller finds himself desperately trying to sell his trading empire to a major bank before the extent of his fraud is discovered. When an unexpected bloody error challenges his perception of what things are worth, Miller finds that his business is not the only thing hanging in the balance.

CAST

Richard Gere……………………………………………………..Robert Miller

Susan Sarandon…………………………………………………….Ellen Miller

Brit Marling……………………………………………………….Brooke Miller

Tim Roth…………………………………………….Detective Michael Bryer

Laetitia Casta………………………………………………………….Julie Cote

Nate Parker………………………………………………………..Jimmy Grant

Review:  In his directorial debut Nicolas Jarecki puts together a tight, suspenseful, thriller.  The film is not only a throwback to the Hitchcock way of story telling but also reflects the Bernie Madoff’s of our modern society. The question becomes can billionaire investor Robert Miller, played by Richard Gere, get away with manipulating the books to make a 415 million dollar mistake disappear while not being accused for his involvement in an accidental murder on the eve of his corporation being sold?

The drama centers around the Robert Miller’s family run firm,  Miller’s daughter Brooke, played by Brit Marling is the firm’s chief accountant and the first to notice the 400 million dollar discrepancy in the books. Robert Miller of course has a second set of books and dismisses his daughter’s accusations by telling her this can’t be I’ll have to check in to this. The reason for the cooked books is to show the firm, which is about to buy him out, that everything is OK and they will pass all the Wall Street compliance rules.

Miller is also a philanderer, his much put upon wife, played by Susan Sarandon puts up with it by convincing herself this is just part of who her husband is. She is content to spearhead her charities  and live the life of mother and corporate housewife.  It is obvious that Robert Miller cares only for himself and his firm and has little feeling for his family or the consequence of his behavior.

Julie Cote, played by Laetitia Casta, Miller’s lover owns an art gallery set up by Miller Investments. She also lives in a corporate apartment owned by Miller’s firm.  On the eve of the corporate buy out  Miller and Cote have a tryst that ends up in a deadly car accident with Miller falling asleep at the wheel.  Not wanting to be caught, Miller leaves the scene of the accident with his dead girlfriend in the car. We see the car explode in flames as he walks to a pay phone, not wanting a trace on his cell, and calls a family friend to come and get him. The friend is Jimmy Grant the son of his former personal driver. Jimmy comes out of loyalty to Miller.

The police arrive and from the get-go Police Detective Michael Bryer, played by Tim Roth, is out to incarcerate Miller with any means at his disposal. Roth plays hard-boiled and frustrated to the hilt.

Gere is cold and calculating and plays the part with precision. Susan Sarandon plays her role with conviction, when she learns the facts, her disillusionment is real and telling.  Brit Marling plays the trusting daughter and her feelings of being betrayed are palpable. Marling has to navigate between love for her father and her duty to turn him in for fraud. Laetitia  Casta has very little to do here but serve the role as lover, which she does. Nate Parker is the breakout star here and plays Jimmy Grant the possible fall guy for Miller. He holds in his hands the confession that would convict Miller.

Recommended: 

Now Voyager

14 Aug

                                                            “The untold want by life and land ne’er granted,
                                                              Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.”
Summary:   Based on the novel Now Voyager by Olive Higgins Prouty this is a classic Story about a Boston spinster, Charlotte Vale, who under therapy breaks from the heavy hand of her mother and finds romance with a married man. 
                                                                                                    CAST

Betty Davis……………………………………………………….. Charlotte Vale

Paul Heinreid……………………………………Jeremiah Duvaux Durrance

Claude Raines…………………………………………………………. Dr. Jaquith

Gladys Cooper………………………………………………… Mrs. Windle Vale

Ilka Chase…………………………………………………………………..Lisa Vale

Bonita Granville………………………………………………………….June Vale

John Loder……………………………………………………….Elliot Livingston

Lee Patrick……………………………………………………………Deb McIntyre

James Rennie……………………………………………………..Frank McIntyre

Mary Wickes…………………………………………………Nurse Dora Pickford

Janis Wilson………………………..Christine “Tina” Durrance (uncredited)

David Clyde……………………………………………………………………..William

Review:  This 1942 film classic starring Betty Davis as Boston spinster Charlotte Vale, is best known for it’s then controversial depiction of a spinster falling for a married man. Paul Heinreid, (think Casablanca) falls for Vale as well after they meet aboard an ocean liner headed for Rio. The sexual innuendo abounds as Heinreid’s character, Jeremiah Duvaux Durrance so famously lights two cigarettes with one match and gives one to Vale.

Charlotte Vale an unattractive, overweight, repressed, unmarried woman is dominated by her over bearing, dominating mother, an aristocratic Boston widow whose verbal and emotional abuse of her daughter has contributed to the woman’s complete lack of self-confidence. Fearing Charlotte is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, her sister-in-law Lisa introduces her to psychiatrist Dr. Jaquith, who recommends she spend time in his sanatorium.

Away from her mother’s control, Charlotte blossoms. The transformed woman, at Lisa’s urging, opts to take a lengthy cruise rather than immediately return home. On board ship, she meets a married man, Jeremiah Duvaux Durrance  who is traveling with his friends Deb and Frank McIntyre. It is from them that Charlotte learns of Jerry’s devotion to his young daughter, Christine (“Tina”), and how it keeps him from divorcing his wife, a manipulative, jealous woman who keeps Jerry from engaging in his chosen career of architecture, despite the fulfillment he gets from it.

Charlotte and Jerry become friendly, and in Rio De Janerio  the two are stranded on Sugarloaf Mountain when their car crashes. They miss the ship and spend five days together before Charlotte flies to Buenos Aires to rejoin the cruise. Although they have fallen in love, they decide it would be best not to see each other again.

When she arrives home, Charlotte’s family is stunned by the dramatic changes in her appearance and demeanor. Her mother is determined to regain control over her daughter, but Charlotte is resolved to remain independent. The memory of Jerry’s love and devotion help to give her the strength she needs to remain resolute.

Charlotte becomes engaged to wealthy, well-connected widower Elliot Livingston, but after a chance meeting with Jerry, she breaks off the engagement, about which she quarrels with her mother. Her mother becomes so angry that she has a heart attack and dies. Guilty and distraught, Charlotte returns to the sanatorium.

When she arrives, she is immediately diverted from her own problems when she meets lonely, unhappy Tina, who greatly reminds her of herself; both were unwanted and unloved by their mothers. She is shaken out of her depression and instead becomes interested in Tina’s welfare. With Dr. Jaquith’s permission she takes the girl under her wing. When she improves, Charlotte takes her home to Boston.

Jerry and Dr. Jaquith visit the Vale home, where Jerry is delighted to see the changes in his daughter. While he initially pities Charlotte, believing her to be settling in her life, he’s taken aback by her contempt for his initial condescension. Dr. Jaquith has agreed to allow Charlotte to keep Tina there with the understanding that her relationship with Jerry will remain platonic. She tells Jerry that she sees Tina as his gift to her and her way of being close to him. When Jerry asks her if she’s happy, Charlotte finds much to value in her life and if it isn’t everything she would want, tells him, “Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars,” a line ranked #46 in the A.F.I.’s list of the top one hundred movie quotes of all time.

When Bette Davis learned about the project, she campaigned for and won the role. More than any other of her previous films, Davis became absorbed in the role, not only reading the original novel but becoming involved in details such as choosing her wardrobe personally. Consulting with designer Orry-Kelly, she suggested a drab outfit, including an ugly foulard dress for Charlotte initially, to contrast with the stylish, “timeless” creations that mark her later appearance on the cruise ship.

Not surprisingly in 2007, Now, Voyager was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

The film is on DVD and may be found on Amazon, Netflix and most major DVD outlets.

Recommended:    

 

Hope Springs

9 Aug

Synopsis:  After 30 years of marriage housewife Kay, (Meryl Streep) pays for a marriage counseling retreat  in Maine to save her mundane marriage with her emotionally detached husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones).

Cast

Meryl Streep………………………………………………………………………………..Kay

Tommy Lee Jones…………………………………………………………………….Arnold

Steve Carell……………………………………………………………………………Dr. Feld

Jean Smart……………………………………………………………..Eileen, Kay’s friend

Ben Rappaport……………………………………………………………….Brad, their son

Marin Ireland……………………………………………………….Molly, their daughter

Brett Rice……………………………………………………………Vince, Arnold’s friend

Becky Ann Baker……………………………………………………….Cora, the waitress

Review: Hope Springs, the name of a small town in Maine, is really a metaphor for the famous quote “Hope Springs Eternal”. In the town is a therapist Dr. Feld (Steve Carell) who helps married couples rekindled their marriages after the flame has long burned out in their relationships.

Kay, a housewife, and husband Arnold have been married for thirty years, for years now they have slept in separate bedrooms, have the same daily routine of Kay devotedly cooking bacon and fried eggs for Arnold’s breakfast before he commutes to work and watches Arnold fall asleep while watching golf tips on ESPN. This is Tommy Lee Jones’ movie and he gives a remarkable performance as an emotionally detached husband who is comfortable with his detachment and mundane routine in his life.  Arnold is so out of touch he really doesn’t acknowledge how hard Kay is working to make him find her attractive again. When he does acknowledge her he usually talks about himself, golf or his day at the office.  Kay, so devoted,  just listens or agrees with any decision Arnold makes.

Streep, who is a national treasure, plays Kay as a woman whose dogged devotion turns to desperation until she finally takes matters into her own hands. She finds a self help book written by Dr. Feld about how to save your marriage and decides to book a week of intensive marriage counseling with the doctor in Hope Springs, Maine. Needless to say Arnold does not want to go at all but finally gives in when he realizes Kay will go anyway with or without him.

Steve Carell plays the soft spoken doctor with patience and becomes the perfect straight-man to Tommy Lee Jones’ comical yet sometimes angry remarks and self realizations. It is here the character study of the emotionless Arnold takes off and we begin to wonder how much is he really trying to understand his wife or how much he is just placating her. Jones brilliantly navigates from being self conscious and angry to trying to resolve his true feelings for Kay. The sexual innuendo and  comic sensibilities of the story ring true as  does the depiction of long term relationships. This is truly a film aimed at the rest of us who are not in the typical teen to twenties demographic.

If you enjoy well told small stories about people, relationships and life go see this film. Like the film, Marigold Hotel, it is a story about people who seek to improve or change their current circumstances making this an interesting, fun and satisfying movie going experience. I highly recommend you and your “significant other”  take a visit to Hope Springs especially to see Tommy Lee Jones give this outstanding Oscar worthy performance.

Recommended: 

Total Recall (2012)

7 Aug

Synopsis:  A factory worker, Douglas Quaid, begins to suspect that he is a spy after visiting Rekall – a company that provides its clients with implanted fake memories of a life they would like to have led – goes wrong and he finds himself on the run.

Cast:

Collin Farrel…………………………………………………………Douglas Quaid/Hauser

Kate Beckinsale……………………………………………………………………..Lori Quaid

Jessica Biel………………………………………………………………………………..Melina

Bryan Cranston………………………………………………………………………Cohaagen

Bokeem Woodbine……………………………………………………………………….Harry

Bill Nighy……………………………………………………………………………….Matthias

John Cho………………………………………………………………………………..McClane

Will Yun Lee……………………………………………………………………………….Marek

Review:  Based on the 1966 Philip K. Dick short story We can remember it for you wholesale” this remake of the 199o film which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger begs the question, “Was this trip necessary?”  Major differences in this 2012 version vs the 1990 version stick out like a sore thumb.

1) Shwarzenegger’s Quaid was riddled with confusion and deep emotion over his predicament. Collin Farrel is thinner leaner and not as emotional in fact at times he just seems like he is going along for the ride.

2) No Mars involvement in the remake it all takes place on Earth.

3) The humor and satirical points made in the 1990 version are completely gone making the 2012 version less appealing.

4) The 1990 version used auto-animatronics to great affect where as the remake creates a CG I world a little too close in resemblance  to Blade Runner.

5) Both films are well crafted Sci-Fi stories except the noise level and chase scenes in the 2012 version make the last half of the film seem mundane.

In all it was like watching a long video game fun perhaps for the fan boys but a less than satisfying experience for those who appreciate say the headiness of Prometheus or the intelligence of Minority Report. The action takes place in a post WWIII world in  the United Federation of Britain a part of the world that has been divided by war. There is an elevator than runs through the earth’s core that goes to The Colony the other part of the world divided by war. Quaid becomes tired  of his monotonous life in The Colony as a factory worker and spurred by his recurring violent nightmares,Quaid decides to visit Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories. Rekall employee, McClane (John Cho), convinces Quaid to be implanted with memories of a secret agent. Quaid is tested to ensure compatibility but fails and McClane accuses Quaid of really being a spy. McClane and his co-workers are suddenly gunned down by a squad of armored police officers. While Quaid is being arrested, he instinctively reacts and kills the officers before escaping.

Kate Beckinsale plays Lori Quaid and spends too much time chasing and shooting her husband. Like in the first version she is not really Quaid’s wife but an incredible simulation. Give me Sharon Stone anytime, legs crossed or otherwise.

The plot although suggests both political and social intrigue lacks the emotional impact of the original. This film left out all the fun touches such as the Jiffy Cab, and the creepy mutants and replaced them with Star Wars like storm troopers who are in effect idiotic and a complicated cityscape that distracts rather than draws you in. Of course there still is the three breasted woman here as well, her part has been expanded in the remake. It seems the suspense, blood, humor and Schwarzenegger’s indelible performance have become so Iconic that a remake just seems like a waste of time.

Recommended:

The Dark Knight Rises

24 Jul

Synopsis: After an eight year absence and now an outlaw accused of killing Harvey Dent in the last installment, Batman returns to Gotham City to save it from sure destruction by the evil terrorists and their leader Bane.

Cast:

Bruce Wayne/Batman……………………………………………….Christian Bale

Selina/Catwoman…………………………………………………..Anne Hathaway

Commissioner Gordan………………………………………………..Gary Oldman

Alfred……………………………………………………………………….Michael Caine

Bane…………………………………………………………………………….Tom Hardy

Blake…………………………………………………………….Joseph Gordan-Levitt

Fox……………………………………………………………………..Morgan Freeman

Miranda……………………………………………………………….Marion Cotillard

Daggett………………………………………………………………..Ben Mendelsohn

Review:  The third part of this Christopher Nolan directed trilogy makes you pause and consider the nature of the relentless terrorist Bane in light of the tragedy that befell the midnight movie-goers at the now infamous showing in Aurora, Colorado. I couldn’t help but get the eerie feeling that this film could become a landmark in pushing our politicians into  passing new gun control laws, one can only hope. That said The Dark Knight Rises is the most timely and emotionally felt  story of the Nolan Batman films.

Bale’s Batman is the most multilayered of the three films as seen in his struggles going from recluse into hero. As Bruce Wayne watches his beloved Gotham City become under siege by Bane and his group of terrorists Wayne wrestles with his past and wonders if Gotham needs him to return.

Anne Hathaway plays Catwoman and she is an enigma fighting both her good side and her jewel thief/dangerous side. Catwoman is intrigued by Wayne/Batman who has been living as hermit for the past eight years and finds that she and Wayne have more in common that she needs to deal with. They are both driven by good and bad and she has to decide if she should walk the fine line and become allied with Batman.

Marion Cotillard has the least to do as Miranda a rich business woman who is also intrigued by Wayne. She is the only woman Wayne trusts to run his company after Bane using software stolen from the stock exchange wipes out Wayne’s fortune.

Michael Caine plays Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler/father figure. Caine’s portrayal is real and sympathetic once again proving how excellent an actor he is. He portrays Alfred as an unsung hero.

Morgan Freeman is the gadget inventor Fox, at Wayne Enterprises, who develops secret military projects such as specialized armed tanks, a black one that becomes the Batmobile and a new source of energy buried miles beneath Gotham that Bane is after as an integral part of the plot.

Gary Oldman is so believable as Commissioner Gordan, his understanding of the Batman and the city’s need to have him return is undeniably ingrained in him in a way that makes you realise he wishes he could be more like Batman. Oldman does this with understatement and this drives him to save his captured police force.

Joseph Gordan-Levitt plays Officer Blake who also had lost his parents and is an orphan like Wayne. His character is also relentless in saving people’s lives and is driven by circumstance.  Holy Robin Batman……although not in this movie it is alluded to perhaps for a future installment.

This film is very dark and serious compared to the first installment and some remarks the Catwoman makes about preferring to use guns as opposed to Batman who would rather fight without them becomes a poignant reminder of the tragedy that played out at the theater in Aurora. Is this a case where life imitates art or the other way around given the class warfare in our country today and the extremism of politics going on. The movie depicts Bane and company stripping the wealthy of their money and possessions and putting them on trial for their misdeeds to the public.

Should you go see it, I would say yes and keep a prayer in your hearts for the victims in Aurora and their families.

Recommended:

BRAVE

22 Jun

Synopsis:  Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.

Voice – Cast:

Kelly McDonald…………………………………….Merida

Billy Connolly………………………………………..Fergus

Emma Thompson…………………………………….Elinor

Julie Walters………………………………………The Witch

Robbie Coltrane……………………………..Lord Dingwall

Kevin McKidd……………Lord MacGuffin/Young & Old

Craig Furgeson………………………………Lord Macintosh

Review:  Pixar/Disney’s new animated adventure Brave is upon us, as all Pixar’s films, it is breathtaking in it’s artistry.  Is it is as groundbreaking as say Toy Story, Wall E or Up were in story telling, no, however that said it is a solid story with Celtic mysticism and strong female role models.  The story takes it’s nod from Disney’s princess stories and turns them on their head. Princess Merida is shown at first as a young child, on her birthday her father Fergus gives her a bow and arrows and she becomes determined to be the best archer she can be. She is strong willed and as her mother Queen Elinor tries to give her lessons on how a Princess is supposed to act Merida will have none of it.

The day comes when Merida is old enough to get married and her mother arranges a competition between the sons of the other three Scottish clans to win Merida’s hand. Merida reluctantly goes along with it, protesting along the way.  Merida now a master archer decides which contest the three first born (following tradition) son’s will have to win, she chooses archery. When it becomes clear all three sons are not worth her time Merida decides to break tradition and she hits the bulls-eye and decides to go her own way. King Fergus is sort of a Celtic Tevya (Fiddler on the Roof) and the situation is reminiscent of Tevya’s daughter Tzeitle wanting to marry her true love not be forced into an arranged marriage.

Fabulous imagery abounds in the Celtic woods, the Willow-the -Wisps stand out as an obvious nod to the sprites and spirits of the films of Japanese Master animator Hayao Miyazaki, think Spirited Away. The story of bonding , mending relationships and finding your own fate also are Miyazaki themes.

This is a story about mother-daughter conflict, love, bonding and resolve. Like Disney Princess films there are funny gags, secondary characters for comedy relief and a selfish prince who was transformed into a angry bear. Merida wanting to change her fate and not follow in her mother’s path that has been set before her, runs away into the woods and meets a witch who givers her a spell that will change her mother. Too late Merida finds out the spell is the same Bear spell she cast upon the prince. Only mending the broken bond between Merida and her Mother before the second sunrise will break the spell and restore harmony in the family.

Brave is a mix between Pixar story themes and Disney Princess themes and sometimes things get a little lost, solid entertainment none the less. The film does make up for the awful Cars 2 and the flowing hair of Merida is amazing.

Two footnotes: There was a terrific Pixar short subject called La Luna, it was clever and beautifully animated. There was also a trailer for Monster University that makes me worry if Pixar is going to dilute their product by adding so-so sequels to their cannon.

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Prometheus

13 Jun

Synopsis:  Millions of years ago In the distant past, the spacecraft of an advanced humanoid alien race arrives on Earth. One of the aliens consumes a dark liquid, causing its body to disintegrate and fall into a nearby waterfall, thus seeding Earth with the building blocks of life.

In the year 2089, archaeologist couple Elizabeth Shaw and her boyfriend Charlie Holloway discover a star map among the remnants of several otherwise unconnected ancient cultures. They interpret this as an invitation from humanity’s forerunners. Peter Weyland the elderly founder and CEO of the Weyland Corporation, funds the creation of the scientific deep space research vessel called the USS Prometheus to follow the map to the distant moon of LV-223 several light years from Earth.

Cast: 

Noomi Rapace………………………………………….Elizabeth Shaw

Michael Fassbinder………………………………………………….David

Charlize Theron……………………………………….Meredith Vickers

Idris elba………………………………………………………………….Janek

Guy Pearce………………………………………………….Peter Weyland

Logan Marshall-Green………………………………Charlie Holloway

Sean Harris……………………………………………………………….Fifield

Rafe Spall………………………………………………………………..Millburn

Emun Elliot………………………………………………………………..Chance

Benedict Wong……………………………………………………………..Ravel

Kate Dickie…………………………………………………………………….Ford

Patrick Wilson……………………………………………………Shaw’s Father

Lucy Hutchinson…………………………………………………..Young Shaw

Director: Ridley Scott

Screenplay: Jon Spaits/Damon Lindelof

Review: I have often pondered the question of human existence. Who hasn’t asked the question “Why are we here?” or “Who is our creator?”  Ridley Scott’s uses these themes in a number of his films such as Blade Runner where the androids question their mortality and wish to meet their creator to question him about the very reason they exist at all.  Scott’s films always draw you in by use of imagery as is the case of Prometheus with it’s H.R. Geiger designed aliens and spacecraft. The film is both intelligent in it’s search for answers to human creation and solid as a Sci-Fi horror/Adventure. The combination is sure to please most audiences and fans of the Alien franchise as well.  Prometheus is so well crafted a tale that if you have never seen the Alien films it doesn’t matter because this film stands apart.

Another running theme in Scott films is the tension between corporate funding and scientific discovery where human life is incendiary to the corporate mission.  *(Spoiler Alert)*  This plays out well in this story as Peter Weyland the head of the Weyland Corp. is old and dying and funds the trillion dollar mission to find immortality by meeting his creators. Scientists Elizabeth Shaw and her scientist boyfriend Charlie Holloway had thought they recieved the funding to find the origins of mankind as created by a human species who planted DNA as an experiment on Earth. (Read the Synopsis).

Michael Fassbinder plays an android named David who studies ancient languages and human civilization was brought aboard the ship to communicate with the aliens and run the ship while the crew is in stasus for the two and a half year journey to the alien planet. His detachment/souless nature is played well by Fassbinder for he too is on a journey of discovery and lives to serve his creator. (Weyland) It occured to me the name David may be a homage to 2001’s Dave, played by Keir Dullea and to the detached HAL computer of the same film. David also has a curious fascination with the film Lawrence of Arabia and has a similiar hairstyle and physique of a young Peter o’ Toole as Lawrence.

Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers, plays corporate detachment to the hilt. It is her job to explain to the scientists that this is the Weyland corporation’s mission not theirs. She is ruthless in her self-determination for survival and making sure the mission goes as planned. There seems to be a secret she and David share, which no one else knows, that drives her loyalty to the company and her anxiuosness for the mission to end ASAP.

Noomi Repace who plays Shaw, is as strong and driven as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from the other Alien films. Also the film asks more questions than it answers but who said the question of creation or “engineering” as it is referred to in the film, has an easy answer. Is human – kind an alien experiment in genetic engineering?  The film does question this and shows us what might go wrong if you try to play God with DNA. The film deserves a sequel and perhaps this will answer some of the questions that were left unanswered.

The film has a horror element that like the other Alien stories is a neccessary component of an Alien film. Scott seemed to be more interested in the tough questions of God, creation and man-kind’s existence making the combination of horror and intelligence elevate the film, tho at times I felt the gratuitus horror moments ditracted rather than enhanced. I am drawn to intelligent stories and I have to say it is nice to see Scott directing Sci-Fi with his knack for realism and provoking thought over violence. Had a great time viewing this movie and you will too.

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