Tag Archives: Movie Reviews

Captain America the Winter Soldier

7 Apr

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Synopsis: Captain America, Steve Rodgers, returns to fight a new world order, in a modern world. When a S.H.E.I.L.D. colleague is attacked, Rodgers joins forces with Natasha, The Black Widow and Sam Wilson, The Falcon, as H.Y.D.R.A., once again tries to dominate the planet.

 

CAST:

Chris Evans as Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as The Black Widow, Anthony Mackie as The Falcon, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce

 

Review: In the much anticipated return of Captain America, MARVEL has made one of the best movies so far, in their superhero war chest. The movie is non-stop action from beginning to end, the story is a tightly scripted action thriller, and there are enough laughs and back-story references to please any fan. In this sense the movie succeeds at bringing the old Captain America into relevance in today’s world.

The fun begins with a murder mystery, when Nick Fury is presumably assassinated; Captain America follows a trail with fellow agent The Black Widow. Along the way are many surprises and twists. His old friend Bucky Barnes returns as a ruthless assassin working for H.Y.D.R.A, with a mission to kill the good Captain. Steve Rodgers befriends a young soldier Sam Wilson, whom he trusts, and who admires him and his American values.

Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce represents S.H.E.I.L.D and is the money man who funds the operation through influencing a tight knit consortium of world leaders. Can he be trusted….? Is Nick Fury, really dead, will Bucky remember his friendship with Rodgers, will Stan Lee have a cameo?

In the bigger picture, Fury has built a secret arsenal underneath S.H.E.I.L.D headquarters. H.Y.D.R.A has been secretly funding the project through Pierce. When Fury figures this out, he confides in Rodgers and hands him a UBS storage disk that contains all of S.H.E.I.L.D’s secrets and in his presumably dying breath tells Rodgers not to trust anyone. The story continues along this line, as Rogers forms a team with Natasha and Sam.

There are cameo appearances by Gary Shandling, (comedian, The Gary Shandling Show) as a corrupt senator working for H.Y.D.R.A as well as the obligatory Stan Lee moment.

MARVEL stories always have a human touch and the relationships between the characters ring true. When The Black Widow flirts with the Captain, you can see what she is thinking inside. Rodgers is all about Truth, Justice and the American way and obviously thrives on trust and loyalty, Fury is all about distrust, protecting freedom and always ready to fight. The newbie to this scenario is Sam Wilson, The Falcon, whose loyalty to the Captain’s cause makes him a trusted and valuable friend.

This is a story loaded with intrigue; in fact some of the gadgets and technology are slightly reminiscent of James Bond films. The film has left enough loose ends to make a sequel, as with all good movie franchises, it also ties up the some unanswered questions from the first movie.

I must say, watching Robert Redford play the heavy, with his charm and understatement, makes him more insidious as opposed to over the top as most Bond villains are. He was perfectly cast and just how insidious he is, surprises you at various tense moments throughout the story.

I saw the 3D version of this movie and felt the effect never distracted, that said, the movie would be just as enjoyable with or without the 3D.

I hope MARVEL can keep up the good works and future movies in the franchise, such as the AVENGERS sequel, will live up to the bar as raised by this one.

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The Monuments Men

17 Feb

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Synopsis:  Directed by George Clooney and based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, The Monuments Men is an action drama focusing on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. It would be an impossible mission: with the art trapped behind enemy lines, and with the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell, how could these guys – seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, all more familiar with Michelangelo than the M-1 – possibly hope to succeed? But as the Monuments Men, as they were called, found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind’s greatest achievements.

 CAST

George Clooney (Frank Stokes)

 Matt Damon (James Granger)

 Bill Murray (Richard Campbell)

 John Goodman (Walter Garfield)

 Jean Dujardin (Jean Claude Clermont)

 Bob Balaban (Preston Savitz)

 Hugh Bonneville (Donald Jeffries)

 Dimitri Leonidas (Sam Epstein),

 Cate Blanchett (Claire Simone)

 Holger Handtke (Colonel Wegner)

REVIEW: George Clooney has directed a likeable film, in the old school, familiar style reminiscent say of a Guns of Navorone. George, (Frank Stokes),  leads his band of men through Europe during the last days of World War II. His job, as assigned by President Franklin Roosevelt, was to find and return the world’s art and cultural treasures, stolen by the Nazis under Hitler’s orders. It reminds us that Hitler didn’t just want to kill the Jews but destroy their culture and any knowledge of their existence off the face of the Earth. Most of the art was owned by private Jewish collectors, and Jewish families, past down generation to generation, the art priceless, the cost of lives, infamous, heinous and we must never forget the result of the Nazi holocaust.

In the telling of the tale, Clooney treaded the fine line of heavy handedness and lightheartedness. Given the implications of the subject matter these are hard issues to navigate and in this regard the movie becomes uneven. The film remains buoyant by the all star cast, Cate Blanchett as Claire Simone a Parisian who is forced to document every art piece taken by the Germans, also works for the French Resistance. Her performance transcends the material she is given and you understand her as she trusts no one, even Matt Damon, (James Granger), who tries to enlist her help for the Monuments men. Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban and Jean Dujardin add to the light heartedness of the characters, their mission is clear and they are all experts in their creative fields. Each one has an ironic sense of duty vs. reality.  Murray and Balaban are experts at playing irony and are a joy to watch. John Goodman is always winning and teaming him with Jean Dujardin works on so many levels.

Hugh Bonneville, (Donald Jeffries) is the British counterpart who works with the Monuments Men, and is a friend of Clooney’s. Clooney enlists him as a way of saving him from a fall from grace he has had with bouts of alcoholism. Bonneville, who is so wonderful in Downton Abbey, adds certain class to the film as he tries to recover Michelangelo’s,  Madonna and Child statue.

The story becomes a race against time as the Monuments Men  must recover the last of the art before the Russian Army takes claim to it for war reparations caused by the lives lost by the war. The story could have been more involving, the pace perhaps a little quicker as the sense of urgency, however, the Monuments Men is a good story and deserves a look-see just to be reminded of what could have been, if not for brave men and freedom fighters, like these.

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GRAVITY

31 Jan

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Director – Alfonso Cuaron, Screenplay – Jonas Cuaron , Screenplay – Alfonso Cuaron

  Synopsis:  Gravity stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in a heart-pounding thriller that pulls you into the infinite and unforgiving realm of deep space. Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney). But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone – tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space. — (C) Warner Bros.

CAST

Sandra Bullock – Ryan Stone

George Clooney – Matt Kowalsky

Ed Harris – Mission Control

Orto Ignatiussen – Aningaaq

Amy Warren – Explorer Captain

 

Review: Gravity is a pulse pounding, thrill ride of a film that is less cerebral than say Kubrick’ s, 2001 A Space Odyssey , less fantasy visually  than Cuaron’s Pan’s Labrynth, and certainly not based in the Star Trek/Star Wars style mythology. Gravity is a visually stunning “what if” adventure concerning itself with survival, if faced with abandonment, in a routine space walk  and disaster strikes.  Sandra Bullock as Medical Engineer Ryan Stone, on her first venture into space with George Clooney as veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky are busy working outside their space shuttle when they get an urgent message from NASA, the Russians by demolishing one of their obsolete satellites, causing fragments of debris, metal parts, and various other satellite parts to fly at enormous speeds in the path of the shuttle. All hell breaks loose causing Clooney and Bullock to spin out of control. Clooney manages to stop his spin, Bullock, who is now spinning away from the shuttle is alone and out of touch with NASA.  The silence, horror and panic in the vastness of space is as terrifying and real a moment, in brilliant use of 3D yet, that propels the events that ensue.   In Bullock’s character we learn her back story and come to realize this is a woman who lost a child and is about to confront her maker, and the changes that take place as she manages to save herself. The movements of Clooney and Bullock are tense as they clock the time the debris will orbit back and hit them again. Bullock’s face beneath the helmet she wears shows the desperation as she listens for Clooney’s voice to talk her through it. With their colleagues dead, you can only hope that these two manage to save themselves.   Using a thruster pack Clooney and Bullock make their way to the nearby International Space Station (ISS) only to find it damaged and unusable. En route to the ISS, the two discuss Stone’s life back home and the death of her young daughter. As they approach the substantially damaged but still operational ISS, they see its crew has evacuated in one of its two Soyuz modules and that the parachute of the other capsule has accidentally been deployed, rendering it useless for returning to Earth. Kowalski suggests the remaining Soyuz be used to travel to the nearby Chinese space station Tiangong, 100 mi (160 km) away, and board one of its modules to return safely to Earth. Out of air and maneuvering power, the two try to grab onto the ISS as they fly by. Stone’s leg gets entangled in Soyuz’s parachute cords and she is able to grab a strap on Kowalski’s suit. Despite Stone’s protests, Kowalski detaches himself from the tether to save her from drifting away with him, and she is pulled back towards the ISS. As Kowalski floats away, he radios her additional instructions and encouragement. The rest of the story is about Bullock’s rebirth and survival as she confronts her own demons and past. Cuaron uses imagery to depict Bullock as baby in a womb as Bullock floats through the Soyuz.

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This is a first class adventure movie; the use of 3D enhances the story in a way I have never seen before. You feel the sense of insignificance as alone and floating in the silence of space can be. The film is up for 2013 Best Picture Academy Award and Bullock is up for Best Actress.

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American Hustle

28 Jan

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CAST

Christian Bale – Irving Rosenfeld

Bradley Cooper – Richie DiMaso

Amy Adams – Sydney Prosser

Jeremy Renner – Mayor Carmine Polito

Jennifer Lawrence – Rosalyn Rosenfeld

Louis C.K. – Stoddard Thorsen

Jack Huston – Pete Musane

Alessandro Nivola – Reggio

Michael Peña – Paco Hernandez/Sheik Abdullah

Shea Whigham – Carl Elway

Robert De Niro – Victor Tellegio

REVIEW:  Directed by David O. Russell and written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer is based on the ABSCAM sting of 1978.  The story concerns itself with Irving Rosenfeld a small time Hustler, sells fake art, owns a chain of Laundromats, and cons people out of thousands with fake investment scams. He is a genius at what he does and like most con-artists he has bigger dreams. He meets his match at a party, a woman, Sydney Prosser, played by Amy Adams. She is an ex-exotic dancer/stripper and is looking to reinvent herself.  Irving finds himself connected to her, and she with him, she falls for him and becomes his mistress.. He teaches her the con game and she reinvents herself as English noblewoman with Royal connections. The two swindle the desperate with bad investment schemes, until one of the investors turns out to be an FBI man named Richie DiMaso, played by Bradley Cooper.

DiMaso coerces the two into helping him put the finger on corrupt politicians like a New Jersey Mayor , Carmine Polito played by Jeremy Renner. Jennifer Lawrence plays Rosalyn Rosenfeld, Irving’s wife, whose son, Irving has adopted as his own. She gets involved much to Syndney’s dislike and almost ruins the sting operation. Irving is forever mending fences caused by his wife and DiMaso who wants to be in control but is at odds with Irving’s plans.

The look of the film, its’ colors and textures are very reminiscent of films made in that era. The music is strictly Disco and Jazz, giving the film its’ mood and setting. The script is a dark screwball comedy, and I found myself laughing at the situations as they grew more complex and absurd.

This is a fine film with an outstanding cast, all deliver solid and believable performances. Christian Bale is Irving Rosenfeld and delivers New York greasy with class and panache. He is balding, with a comb over from hell. that he meticulously puts into place with latex and hairspray to keep the illusion of being someone else. He is adorned with bling that includes a big Star of David on a gold chain and bracelets. He wears suits that look like they fell off a hanger . Bales performance is real, comical in a human way, and pathetic every time he downs a heart pill.

Amy Adams delivers a fine performance as Sydney Prosser, it is wonderful to see her in a role that is down and dirty as opposed to squeaky clean. You understand her as she looks for something real in her life, opposed to the fakery she has been living, in order to survive.

Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld plays her as ditzy, bored, scared, and looking for some excitement in her life. Every time she does something stupid, like accidently blowing up the microwave or causing a fire in her kitchen or some other thing it is obvious she is trying to get her husband’s attention. She is a very lonely and this is at the core of her performance.

The cast is rounded out by great performances by comedian Louis C.K. as FBI man, Stoddard Thorson and Robert De Niro’s cameo as mob boss(what else) Victor Tellegio, among others.

This comedic caper is one of the finest ensemble casts I have seen in a long time. The film is deservedly getting a lot of attention and rewards. Don’t miss it. I predict the film will walk away with Oscars.

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Flipper (1963)

3 May

“They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning, No-one you see, is smarter than he, And we know Flipper, lives in a world full of wonder, Flying there-under, under the sea!”

Synopsis: Filmed in the Florida Keys this family friendly story centers around Sandy Ricks, played by Luke Halpin, who played Sandy in the popular TV show of the same name, is a young boy living in the Florida Keys who befriends a dolphin injured by a harpoon. His father, fisherman Porter Ricks , played by Chuck Connors, TV’s Rifleman, is upset, as dolphins compete for fish, which jeopardizes the family income and is upset Sandy neglects his chores.

Sandy names his new friend Flipper, after Flipper recovers from the wound, the dolphin puts on a show to entertain the neighborhood children. Later, however, the animal devours Porter’s entire catch of pompano fish, Porter harshly berates Sandy for allowing Flipper to jump into the holding pen of valuable fish waiting to go to market, “What’s wrong with you boy? How old are you, 12, — almost in your teens, or are you five, — a child who doesn’t have the sense to know what his next meal depends on?” Reduced to tears, Sandy retreats to his bedroom as Porter’s wife Martha, played by Kathleen MaGuire defends Sandy by reminding Porter, “He is only a boy!”

Determined to make up for the loss, Sandy sets off to find more fish, and is led by Flipper to a large school of fish near a reef. Later, Sandy is rescued from a threatening shark by Flipper, and the grateful father draws closer to his son. Porter Ricks is finally convinced there are enough fish for both the local residents of the area and the dolphins.

The story was written by Richard Browning, known for his underwater work as “The Creature From The Black Lagoon.” Browning noting the success of Lassie decided to bring a story of a boy and his Dolphin to the big screen. No studio bit. He brought the idea producer Ivan Tors whom he worked for on Sea Hunt. The movie was a huge success and spawned (pardon the unintentional pun) a successful TV show with Halpin minus Connors and ran from 1964-67. Two movie sequels and a remake followed.  Flipper was portrayed by Mitzi a female trained at The Santini Training School. She lived for 13 years and died in 1972. Her grave is at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, Fla.  and it is the first stop on the tour.

This was filmed for family audiences and reminds us of a much simpler time.  Flipper is an icon of American culture and has been remembered fondly by us humans of a certain age.

The film is available on DVD and Netflix and can be seen once in a while on TCM. Recommended for family viewing.

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