Tag Archives: Movies

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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The Lone Ranger

7 Jul

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Cast

Johnny Depp-Tonto

Armie Hammer-John Reid, a k a the Lone Ranger

Tom Wilkinson-Latham Cole

William Fichtner-Butch Cavendish

Barry Pepper-Capt. Fuller

James Badge Dale-Dan Reid

Ruth Wilson-Rebecca Reid

Helena Bonham Carter-Red Harrington

Saginaw Grant-Chief Big Bear

Review: Being a confirmed baby boomer I remember the legend of The Lone Ranger and Tonto, with a mighty hi-ho silver away and the William Tell overture bringing nostalgic memories of television shows past. Before the The Lone Ranger was part of the television landscape his stories came on the heels of the great depression, and at the time was a popular adventure radio broadcast. The series in both cases were rife with cowboy and Indian stereotypes, despicable villains and reflected a time that many people today would consider politically incorrect. The question then remains how do you bring the archaic to modern audiences in a way that can be appreciated by today’s young demographic and please those of us who grew up with the legend? Perhaps the answer comes in the form of one Johnny Depp, in his role of Tonto, an aging Indian, with a dead crow on his head, telling a child at a western carnival side show the true origin of The Lone Ranger. The carnival is in San Francisco in the year 1933, not coincidently I presume, the year the radio show was first broadcast.

As the boy wonders into the tent to see western history come alive, he wanders passed the stuffed bears and animals and comes to a statue of a native American, the plaque on the front of the window reads The Noble Savage in his native habitat. Underneath the wrinkly prosthetics is Johnny Depp as Tonto, not unlike Dustin Hoffman’s old man in the film, Little Big Man. The boy hangs on Tonto’s every word as the story begins in flashback.

The story centers around the building of the Trans-Continental railway through the old west. There are corrupt officials, Tom Wilkinson as Latham Cole, bad guys such as the Butch Cavendish gang, warring Indian tribes, Cavalry officers, explosions, love interest, Ruth Wilson as Rebecca Reid, golden hearted prostitutes on the side of good, Helen Bohnham Carter as Red Harrington, Tonto as a crazy Indian excommunicated from his tribe who becomes a crazy mentor to John Reid a.k.a. he Lone Ranger.

Gore Verbinski directed from a script by, Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. The film mixes witty verbiage, cliché’ bashing, the William Tell Overture beautifully interpolated into the score at appropriate times, spot gags and plenty of eye candy. The film pays homage to such directors as John Ford in its use of Monument Valley for location shooting, Buster Keaton’s the General and of course to the mythos behind The Ranger’s physics defying horse Silver.

The film comes across as extremely entertaining but is in truth a mixed bag. With all the attempt to give the past versions of the myth a modern twist neither is really served. There were times that the film’s homage worked so well you can’t help but smile and say yes, but alas those moments are brief and the amount of well edited bloodshed mixed with witty banter distracts rather than invites.

In the end the film is a worthy attempt, and with all the Pirates Of the Caribbean movie sequels it is nice to watch Depp having the time of his life playing yet another eccentric outcast. So if the old question was “Who was that masked man?” the new question as written into the script is, “What’s with the mask?”

FYI: There is a scene of a child being hit across the face, it is well edited but still may be intense for younger children, be warned

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AFTER EARTH

2 Jun

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Directed by M. Night Shyamalan; written by Gary Whitta and Mr. Shyamalan, based on a story by Will Smith

SYNOPSIS: In After Earth, one thousand years after cataclysmic events forced humanity’s escape from Earth, Nova Prime has become mankind’s new home. Legendary General Cypher Raige (played by Will Smith) returns from an extended tour of duty to his estranged family, ready to be a father to his 13-year-old son, Kitai (played by Jaden Smith). When an asteroid storm damages Cypher and Kitai’s craft, they crash-land on a now unfamiliar and dangerous Earth. As his father lies dying in the cockpit, Kitai must trek across the hostile terrain to recover their rescue beacon. His whole life, Kitai has wanted nothing more than to be a soldier like his father. Today, he gets his chance.

Cast

Jaden Smith-Kitai Raige

Will Smith-Cypher Raige

Zoë Isabella Kravitz -Senshi Raige

Sophie Okonedo-Faia Raige

Glenn Morshower-Commander Velan

Kristofer Hivju-Security Chief

Review:  This movie has its moments but should be entitled “Much ado about nothing” or a review headline should read Will Smith’s vanity gift to his son Jaden. Sadly the once promising young film director M. Knight Shyamalan co-wrote and directed this cliché, paint by the numbers sci-fi tale of a father and son’s journey to rediscover and renew their relationship.

The simple plot is about a post apocalyptic earth that has been invaded by aliens. Humans to survive relocated to another planet. The aliens can sense human fear by the release of pheromones and thus can hunt them down. When General Cypher (Will Smith) takes his son Cadet Kitai on a training mission their starship, carrying an enemy alien in a cocoon, gets caught up in an asteroid field and their only escape route, a wormhole, takes them to the off limits planet earth where they crash land. Needless to say only Kitai and Cypher survive. The problem is the ship broke in two pieces when it landed. The first section has  Kitai, Cypher and a working tracking system, the only working homing beacon is in the tail of the ship which fell 100 kilometers away. Since Cypher has a broken leg, he sends his son, Kitai on his first ranger mission.

The rest of the story is about Kitai’s survival in the wild as he tries to hike to the other half of the ship and launch the homing beacon. Many adventures and cheesy special CGI effects later the ultimate confrontation takes place. Will Kitai fight off the alien, find the beacon, and save his dad?  What do you think? The plot is shallow and predictable. To make matters worse Will Smith speaks in slow monotone syllables in every sentence he utters, so you know what he is saying must be important. He has a pseudo-Carribbean/Bostonian hint in his speech.

I will say there are some tender moments and some disconnected literary references, such as Moby Dick and “The Wreck of the Hesperus”. Their ship is called the “Hesper” and General Cypher chases aliens with no fear as Ahab chased the whale. Overall the film falls flat, the sentiment seems fake and the story disingenuous.

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Frances Ha

31 May

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Directed by Noah Baumbach; written by Mr. Baumbach and Greta Gerwig

Synopsis: Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives in New York, but she doesn’t really have an apartment. Frances is an apprentice for a dance company, but she’s not really a dancer. Frances has a best friend named  Sophie, but they aren’t really speaking anymore. Frances throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles. Frances wants so much more than she has but lives her life with unaccountable joy and lightness. FRANCES HA is a modern comic fable that explores New York, friendship, class, ambition, failure, and redemption.

CAST

Greta Gerwig -Frances

Mickey Sumner-Sophie

Patrick Heusinger-Patch

Adam Driver-Lev

Michael Zegen-Benji

Grace Gummer-Rachel

REVIEW: This delightful, interesting, black and white IFC film, starring the “Queen of Independent” films, Greta Gerwig, tells the tale of a twenty-something woman coming to terms with growing up. Frances is 28 and dreams of being a dancer with the dance company she apprentices with. It becomes apparent what she dreams and what reality is are two different things.  She shares her best friend Sophies’s apartment but as time moves on Sophie faces the real world while Frances is still stuck in her dreams.

There is a bit of Frances in all of us as we have to face adulthood and responsibilities. Frances is the child in us all and she is both reckless and joyous as she naively, almost blindly moves to attain her perceived goals. It is plain to see she is uncomfortable with convention and she knows, even with self-doubt that she must continue after her dreams no matter what other people think. In essence as her friendships grow apart and she builds new ones, they are made with the desperate hope someone will take her at face value. Gerwig gives Frances, humor, an adorable flightiness, charm, insecurity and an enormous amount of likeability. As people she meets see through her, she obviously thinks they are crazy for not taking her offbeat view of life seriously. She almost jokingly is labeled un-dateable, her dance mentor sympathizes with her but understands Frances is not a dancer.  Her adventures through New York City where she lives, are at once humorous and  soul searching. Gerwig gives a remarkable performance.

There is an interesting moment in the film when Frances, on a date, leaves the restaurant she is in, she offered to pay for dinner but the restaurant won’t take her debit card. She leaves the date in the restaurant to find an ATM to pay cash. While running back to the restaurant she trips and falls, when she returns her date notices her arm is bleeding. She was completely unaware of the damage she inflicted on herself.  It seems this moment is a metaphor for how she has lived her life, running from place to place, falling down and not realizing the consequences as she recklessly pursues her dreams.

The film overall has a light touch, and some laugh out loud moments. By the films end you can’t help but feel that Frances is just beginning to get it right. The title of the movie Frances Ha, is also a metaphor for who Frances is, you as an observer can’t take un-dateable Frances seriously, Francis Ha!  No spoilers on how the title becomes relevant. The film is about the search and Frances takes us along for the ride.

The film grew on me as the story progressed and I am sure all of us have met a Frances Halloway at some point or another. Gerwig makes this her own and shares a writing credit with the director.

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Star Trek

16 May

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Synopsis: In this much anticipated sequel to J.J. Abrams Star Trek 2009 reboot , the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis.

With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.

CAST

 Chris Pine – James Tiberius Kirk

Zachary Quinto – Spock

John Cho – Hikaru Sulu

Bruce Greenwood – Captain Christopher Pike

Simon Pegg – Montgomery “Scotty” Scott

Zoe Saldana – Nyota Uhura

Karl Urban – Leonard “Bones” McCoy

Anton Yelchin – Pavel Checkov

Benedict Cumberbatch – John Harrison

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OhTpsUKHTtc

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Review:  For the uninitiated among you, there are several elements in the Star Trek Universe, created by Gene Roddenberry, that have stood the test of time, in what must be close to 50 years of its’ existence:

1) The idea the universe is multicultural and must be celebrated, the first interracial kiss in broadcast history, a multi ethnic and species crew of the Enterprise, Klingons, Vulcans, Humans, Romulans etc, etc.

2) The Prime Directive of non-interference in a species natural development.

3) Most important the triad-relationship between Captain, James T. Kirk, Science Officer, Mr. Spock and Doctor, Bones McCoy. Against all odds and adversaries the three remain close friends.

Regarding the last, this triad can be seen in mostly all the Trek Spin-offs, Voyager for example it’s the friendship between Captain, Janeway and head of security, a Vulcan named Tuvok.. In the film versions of the original series we find Kirk, Spock, McCoy have become a close knit family.

J.J. Abrams changed the Trek Universe in 2009 with his Star-Trek reboot. Although he ultimately kept the Trek core values he eradicated several core Federation planets thus starting from scratch. In the end, that film as the new one was a satisfying  reboot for old trekkies as well as a nod the younger audiences Trek must embrace to stay alive. It is accepting change and going with it that has kept Star-Trek one of the most enduring sci-fi franchises this side of Dr. Who.

Into Darkness picks-up where the last one left off and brings us on a thrill ride of in-jokes, surprise appearances from the past, humor and most of all the development of friendship between Kirk and Spock.

Without giving anything away, the film brings us full circle as Kirk battles an enemy within Starfleet  and an old adversary that Kirk in this timeline, meets for the first time.

Once again Pike’s Kirk, Quinto’s Spock, and Urban’s McCoy, are spot on. Simon Pegg’s Scotty is frenetic, hilarious and polar opposites of James Doohan’s Scotty, which was wise, ironic and a miracle worker. When Nichelle Nichols first played Uhura, it was groundbreaking television, she was the first black woman to break the color barrier, Zoe Saldana’s Uhura, is not groundbreaking,  so as a twist she has been in a romantic relationship with Spock since Abram’s 2009 Trek Reboot. Unfortunately she is not given much to do here until late in the film when she gets involved in the action. Anton Yelchin’s, Checkov, is wide eyed and enthusiastic with extreme Russian accent intact, and John Cho’s, Sulu is also spot on.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays John Harrison, a terrorist that wants to destroy the federation. He is a great villain and his story holds true to Trek-lore and history. Nuff said.

Star Trek was always a mirror of our times, the use of metaphors and other species to depict the human condition, has always been a necessary component of the Trek Universe. J.J. Abrams has a good handle on this and the film is a nod to the past and a look to the future of the franchise. In today’s world the film debates the issues of genetic engineering, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. The film works on many levels and I hope it speaks to a younger audience the way the original series has spoken to me all these years. I look forward to Kirk and crew’s 5 year mission that lies ahead as we come full circle in this the second of Abram’s, Trek incarnations.

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The Great Gatsby

10 May

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Synopsis: Baz Luhrmann directs a lavish version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gasby. Leonardo DiCaprio, plays Jay Gatsby, a mysterious man who spends half a decade building a monument to the woman he loves.

Cast

Leonardo DiCaprio (Jay Gatsby)

 Tobey Maguire (Nick Carraway)

 Joel Edgerton (Tom Buchanan)

 Carey Mulligan (Daisy Buchanan),

Isla Fisher (Myrtle Wilson)

Jason Clarke (George Wilson)

Elizabeth Debicki (Jordan Baker)

 Amitabh Bachchan (Meyer Wolfsheim)

Review:  Considering Baz Luhrmann’s excesses in his version of Romeo and Juliet, also starring Leonardo DiCapro and his visual excesses on his film Moulin Rouge, we are also visually overwhelmed by all the sites and sounds of this version of Gatsby. The film runs 2 hours and 40 minutes and it is a long time to be bombarded with fireworks, stunning set design and loud music. On the other hand the same can be said for a Cecil B. Demille extravaganza. What Luhrman does do, and brilliantly I  might add, is let us inside the 1920’s world of Gatsby and his obsession for one woman, the excessive parties and fireworks are just a distraction. Luhrmann also has an apparent appreciation for the source material, when the film gets more serious there are certain moments of diologue and proes right out of Fitzgerald’s novel.

The story is told in flashback from the point of view of Gatsby’s friend, Nick Carraway, played by Toby Maguire. Maguire, as an actor, plays naive young men changed by extraordinary circumstances extremely well.  He is seen as a recovering alcoholic in a psychiatric hospital telling his story to his doctor. When Carraway reaches an impass and won’t talk about his dealings with Gatsby, the doctor encourages him to write about it. This is when the story unfolds as Carraway, who is writing a journal, narrates his writings.

DiCaprio is Gatsby, a mysterious, rich, quiet man owns an estate on Long Island. He throws extravagant parties, collects art, fills his house with strangers and music, but no one has seen him. Rumors abound about his background, he killed a man, his family was prominent and he inherited their fortune, he went to Oxford etc. DiCaprio has a boyish charm and a knowing smile that perfectly encapsulates the Gatsby of the novel.

Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby’s love interest is played by Cary Mulligan, she is both beautiful and complicated. She love’s Gatsby but is married to a bigot and a brutish adulterer, the rich, Tom Buchanan.

Joel Edgerton plays Tom Buchanan’s menacing bigotry and unfaithfulness with a frightening edge. He loves his wife, Daisy, but his brutish ways keeps her at a distance. It is here that the conflicts in their marriage arise.

There are many secrets to Gatsby as well as to Daisy and her relationship with him.  Each piece of the puzzle fits together as new revelations about Gatsby are uncovered or shared with Carraway. The story is fascinating and holds your attention.

The use of 3D was very effective in the story telling, from the beginning titles that literally draw you into Gatsby’s world, to Carraway’s typing prose that at times fill the screen with fonts that fall like snow. The 3D enhances the majesty of Gatsby’s mansion and well as the musical numbers that are reminiscent of Buzby Berkley.

I must say that as good a movie as this is it falls short of being a great movie.  The film, which takes us to a post WWI New York during the roaring 20’s, is visually recreated with style, mood and the design of the time. When you are taken into that world a big piece of the picture is the sounds and music of the time and place. Luhrmann chose to juxtapose jazz sounds with the loud beats of Jay-Z, covers by Beyonce and Andre 3000,.and Fergie. Frankly this is a distraction when you are mentally focused on the 1920’s décor, color and costumes.  For an example of the contrasts at work here, the scene where Carraway meets Gatsby for the first time, there are cross cuts from Carraway’s face, to the fireworks at the party, to Gatsby himself looking out over the Long Island Sound, the music is Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and the moment is a brilliant use of the language of film. On the other hand as the music swells at a huge Gatsby party, the musician who is reminiscent of the Jazz Great Cab Calloway, sings a hip-hop belter that is so out of place, you are immediately removed from the time and space the film represents.  Luhrmann understands everyone will not like his use of say Fergie singing, so you have to ask is he doing justice to the story or trying to sell us a mix we can find on ITunes, or a Blu-ray DVD version of a long music video?

The movie’s cast of actors more than makes up for the flaws in the musical soundtrack and the story is a classic of modern literature. So for today’s young audience I say, you know what a DVD is, they used to call them books. On the other hand, if this is what it takes to get a young audience to appreciate a novel like Gatsby, then go for it.

Recommended: camera-film-icon1camera-film-icon1camera-film-icon1camera-film-icon1

Iron Man 3

3 May

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Synopsis: Marvel’s “Iron Man 3″ pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible.

CAST

Robert Downey Jr……………………….Tony Stark/Iron Man

Gwyneth Paltrow……………………………………. Pepper Potts

Don Cheadle…………………………………. Col. James Rhodes

Guy Pearce…………………………………………… Aldrich Killian

Rebecca Hall…………………………………….Dr. Maya Hansen

Stephanie Szostak………………………………………Ellen Brandt

James Badge Dale………………………………………….Eric Savin

Jon Favreau ……………………………………………..Happy Hogan

Ben Kingsley……………………………………………the Mandarin

Ty Simpkins…………………………………………………………Harley

 

Review:  Iron Man 3 ushers in the official start to summer blockbuster season, and what a good way to kick things off.  There are three things to think about, other than the fact that this is the third installment:

1)      How solid the storyline is and how it has action, pathos and heart.

2)      How terrific the acting is with this top notch cast.

3)      Was the showing of  bomb blast that hurt the people Tony Stark loves, too soon after the Boston bombings. (More on this later)

Marvel media has been miles ahead of the competition in the Super Hero film genre, this film is another example of  their good story telling. I will start with the cast:

Robert Downey Jr. is perfect for the role of Tony Stark. He once again proves his charm and witticism as he narrates the story in flashback. In this film Tony moves away from being the playboy, millionaire, narcissist and starts to grow-up. The entire story centers on the demons he has created through the years, through his scientific research and his shallow callousness. Downey does this perfectly well; let’s just say he was born to play the part. Throughout the film you can see that Stark is fighting his own demons, he has been having PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) since the end of the Avengers and this is where the film picks-up his story. Stark is questioning his past as well what’s ahead.

Gwyneth Paltro as Stark’s girlfriend, Pepper Potts, who now runs Stark Industries, also changes but is steadfast in her love for Tony. She falls victim to a terrorist organization headed by The Manderin and the chase begins. Pepper is strong in many ways, she stands by Tony and puts up with his boyish behavior, worries about how the PTSD is effecting him and suffers through watching the Stark Mansion get blown to bits.

Don Cheadle plays Col. James Rhodes,former Stark employee, now working for the defense department. He still marvels at Tony and the two of them  ultimately are forced to work together due to circumstances. Tony always has the upper hand  as Rhodes watches in awe. Their on screen chemistry is great together.

Guy Pierce as scientist geek, Aldrich Killian, is spurned by Tony in a flashback from 1999. His experiments in genetic engineering are blown off by Tony and he spends the next 13 years, through research, plotting his revenge. How does this tie-in with The Manderin, played by Ben Kingsley, the answer  is told in the film, no spoilers here.

Ben Kingsley plays The Manderin, a terrorist who is hell-bent on teaching America and the President a lesson. The mystery lies in his bombing attacks that leave no evidence of a bomb or bomb parts at the scene of the attacks. Kingsley has many secrets and his acting as always is right on the money. He gets to play both serious and comedic and he navigates this brilliantly. He looks like he was having a good time.

This brings me to the question of the Boston bombing, was watching bombs go off  critically hurting Stark’s friend and former bodyguard Happy, a little too soon for most audiences?  Many people were critically wounded in the Boston tragedy and to see Stark seeking revenge for his friend, Happy, may be too uncomfortable for some. The filmmakers did not know in advance of the Boston events, it wasn’t anyone’s fault really that this film came out so close to the Marathon tragedy. I hope people will go to see it and just lose themselves into a good story.

On a lighter note, Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee does his Hitchcock cameo in this film. Can you spot him?…..

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42

26 Apr

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Synopsis: Hero is a word we hear often in sports, but heroism is not always about achievements on the field of play. “42” tells the story of two men—the great Jackie Robinson and legendary Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey—whose brave stand against prejudice forever changed the world by changing the game of baseball.

Cast

Chadwick Boseman (Jackie Robinson),

 Harrison Ford (Branch Rickey),

 Nicole Beharie (Rachel Robinson),

 Christopher Meloni (Leo Durocher),

 Ryan Merriman (Dixie Walker),

 Lucas Black (Pee Wee Reese),

Andre Holland (Wendell Smith),

 Alan Tudyk (Ben Chapman),

Hamish Linklater (Ralph Branca),

 T. R. Knight (Harold Parrott)

 and John C. McGinley (Red Barber).

Review: 42, written and directed by Brian Helgeland, is a glossy, well presented, old fashion, reverential, bio of the first major league great, to break the color barrier, Jackie Robinson. The year is post WWII, 1947 America. The Americans are home from war and baseball is “white” America’s national pastime. A young Jackie Robinson plays in the “Negro” leagues, and as talented as he was, back then, there would be no future for him in the majors.  Along comes Brooklyn Dodgers GM, Branch Rickey, played by Harrison Ford and the rest is history.

Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Rickey was honest, passionate and his love for baseball is apparent. His face lights-up when he discusses the game. Rickey understands in order to make money and fill the seats, he must bring up young talent in order to win the coveted pennant. He also understands that in order to do so he must recruit a player from the Negro Leagues. Even when his own staff disagreed him the search begins and it is Jackie Robinson he chooses.

Chadwick Boseman, new to films, brings life to Robinson. We see how much he loves the game and how devoted he is to his wife, Rachel. It is through her faith in him as well as Rickey’s that helps him through the bigotry and hatred he is to face in the majors.

The script tends to gloss over the real pain and anguish Robinson must have felt, and instead, looks at the bigger picture of Robinson’s contribution as the first black American to break through Major League Baseball’s color barrier. When the music swells, or the emotions flair, you know something important is happening, and you get swept up in the myth behind the probable reality. The only draw-back to this is that you never really get a sense of the inner man. That said Boseman does a pitch perfect job, no pun intended.

Nicole Beharie plays Rachel Robinson, a devoted wife, and mother. The story of the Robinsons romance is very sweet and the love they share is at times is so strong, you cry when she does, feel exuberance when she does and understand her concerns. Beharie does this very well in spite, again, of a slick Hollywood script. Even with her, you don’t get a real sense of who she is inside.

Throughout the film, bigotry is shown with liberal use of the “n” word, white bathrooms vs. colored only bathrooms, and fellow ball players losing their jobs over their prejudices. However, rather than portray this in a gritty, realistic manner, the filmmakers chose to give us the cliff note, high school version, of real events.

As history proved Jackie Robinson not only broke the color barrier, but was admired and revered by adults and children. He was a great player and as Branch Rickey points out, “It’s not about what color your skin is all they see is a great ball player.”

Overall the film had the potential to be a really memorable bio, in the end although you do get swept up in the emotional impact of the story, and it’s cultural message, a message that in today’s world, is sorely been missed, the film only scored a triple when it should have been a home run.

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Bond, James Bond PT 11 Daniel Craig

26 Apr

Daniel Craig - New James Bond movie Casino Royale

“I’d never copy somebody else. I would never do an impression of anybody else or try and improve on what they did. That would be a pointless exercise for me.”

Daniel Wroughton Craig (born 2 March 1968) is an English actor, best known for playing British secret agent James Bond since 2006.

Craig achieved international fame when chosen as the seventh actor to play the role of James Bond, replacing Pierce Brosnan. Though he was initially greeted with scepticism, his debut in Casino Royale was highly acclaimed and earned him a BAFTA award nomination, with the film becoming the highest-grossing in the series at the time. Quantum of Solace followed two years later. His third Bond film, Skyfall, premiered in 2012 and is now the highest-grossing film in the series.

In 2006, Craig joined the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Since taking the role of Bond, he has continued to appear in other films, most recently starring in the English language adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Craig made a guest appearance as Bond in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, alongside Queen Elizabeth II.

In 2005, Craig was contracted by Eon Productions to portray James Bond. He stated he “was aware of the challenges” of the Bond franchise which he considered “a big machine” that “makes a lot of money”. He aimed at bringing more “emotional depth” to the character. Born in 1968, Craig is the first actor to portray James Bond to have been born after the Bond series started, and Ian Fleming, the novels’ writer, had died. Significant controversy followed the decision, as it was doubted if the producers had made the right choice. Throughout the entire production period Internet campaigns expressed their dissatisfaction and threatened to boycott the film in protest.

The 5-foot-10-inch (178 cm) blond Craig was not considered by some protesters to fit the tall, dark Bond portrayed by the previous Bond actors, and to which viewers had apparently become accustomed. The Daily Mirror ran a front page news story critical of Craig, with the headline, “The Name’s Bland – James Bland”. Although the choice of Craig was controversial, numerous actors publicly voiced their support, most notably, four of the five actors who had previously portrayed Bond, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton, Sean Connery and Roger Moore, called his casting a good decision. George Lazenby has since voiced his approval of Craig also Clive Owen, who had been linked to the role, also spoke in defence of Craig.

The first film, Casino Royale, premiered 14 November 2006, and grossed a total of US$594,239,066 worldwide, which made it the highest-grossing Bond film to date. After the film was released, Craig’s performance was highly acclaimed. As production of Casino Royale reached its conclusion, producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli announced that pre-production work had already begun on the 22nd Bond film. After several months of speculation as to the release date, Wilson and Broccoli officially announced on 20 July 2006, that the follow-up film, Quantum of Solace, was to be released on 7 November 2008, and that Craig plays Bond with an option for a third film. On 25 October 2007, MGM CEO Harry Sloan revealed at the Forbes Meet II Conference that Craig had signed on to make four more Bond films, through to Bond 25.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences extended a membership invitation to Craig in 2006 . Craig sliced off the top of one of his fingers 12 June 2008, while filming Quantum of Solace. The accident was one of a string of incidents surrounding the shoot, including a fire at one of the sets in Pinewood Studios, a car crash that left the stunt driver in a serious condition, and an Aston Martin skidding off the road and plunging into Lake Garda while being transported to the set in Italy. I don’t think it should be confusing by the end of the film, but during the film you should be questioning who he is.”Craig has stated his own favourite previous Bond actor was Sean Connery, but says, “I’d never copy somebody else. I would never do an impression of anybody else or try and improve on what they did. That would be a pointless exercise for me.”

His own favourite Bond film is From Russia with Love. On a James Bond-centric episode of The South Bank Show, Connery divulged his thoughts on Craig’s casting as Bond, whom he described as “fantastic, marvelous in the part”. When told that Craig had taken particular note of his performances, Connery said that he was “flattered” and that Craig really gets the “danger element” to Bond’s character

Craig describes his portrayal of Bond as an anti-hero: “The question I keep asking myself while playing the role is, ‘Am I the good guy or just a bad guy who works for the good side?’ Bond’s role, after all, is that of an assassin when you come down to it. I have never played a role in which someone’s dark side shouldn’t be explored

I am of the opinion that Craig has left an inevitable but permanent change in the Bond character. The film Skyfall, I consider one of the best in the series. Here is a link to my review: https://cinemacommentary.com/2012/11/09/skyfall/

 

Here, also, is a link for the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kw1UVovByw

 

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Bond, James Bond PT8: Roger Moore

21 Apr

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“When ever a Bond film I was in opened, I never read my bad reviews.”

Sir Roger George Moore was on October 14, 1927, in a bourough of London. He is an English actor, perhaps best known for playing British secret agent James Bond in the official film series for seven films between 1973 and 1985, and Simon Templar in The Saint from 1962 to 1969. He is also a Goodwill Ambassador for the children’s charity UNICEF.

Worldwide fame arrived after Lew Grade cast Moore as Simon Templar in a new adaptation of The Saint, based on the novels by Leslie Charteris. Moore said in an interview, during 1963, that he wanted to buy the rights of Leslie Charteris’s character and the trademarks. He also joked that the role was supposed to have been meant for Sean Connery who was unavailable. The television series was made in the UK with an eye on the American market, and its success there (and in other countries) made Moore a household name – and in spring 1967 he eventually had reached the level of an international top star. It also established his suave, quipping style which he would carry forward to James Bond. Moore would also go on to direct several episodes of the later series, which moved into colour in 1967.

The Saint ran from 1962 for six seasons and 118 episodes, making it (in a tie with The Avengers) the longest-running series of its kind on British television. However, Moore grew increasingly tired of the role, and was keen to branch out. He made two films immediately after the series had ended: Crossplot, a lightweight ‘spy caper’ movie, and the more challenging The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970). Directed by Basil Dearden, it gave Moore the opportunity to demonstrate a wider versatility than the role of Simon Templar had allowed, although reviews at the time were lukewarm, and both did little business at the box office.

Because of his commitment to several television shows, in particular the long-lasting series The Saint, Roger Moore was unavailable for the James Bond franchise for a considerable time. His participation in The Saint was not only as actor, but also as a producer and director, and he also became involved in developing the series The Persuaders!. Moore stated in his autobiography My Word Is My Bond (2008) that he had neither been approached to play James Bond in Dr. No, nor does he feel that he had ever been considered. It was only after Sean Connery had declared in 1966 that he would not play Bond any longer that Moore became aware that he might be a contender for the role. But after George Lazenby was cast in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and then Connery played Bond again in Diamonds Are Forever, Moore didn’t consider the possibility until it seemed abundantly clear that Connery had in fact stepped down as Bond for good. At that point Moore was approached, and he accepted producer Albert Broccoli’s offer in August 1972. Moore says in his autobiography that he had to cut his hair and lose weight, but although he resented that, he was finally cast as James Bond in Live and Let Die (1973).

Moore played Bond in Live and Let Die (1973); The Man with the Golden Gun (1974); The Spy Who Loved Me (1977); Moonraker (1979); For Your Eyes Only (1981); Octopussy (1983); and A View to a Kill (1985).

Moore is the longest-serving James Bond actor, having spent 12 years in the role (from his debut in 1973, to his retirement from the role in 1985), and having made seven official films in a row. Moore is the oldest actor to have played Bond – he was 45 in Live and Let Die (1973), and 58 when he announced his retirement on 3 December 1985.

Moore’s Bond was very different than the character created by Ian Fleming. Screenwriters like George MacDonald Fraser provided scenarios in which 007 was a kind of seasoned, debonair playboy who would always have a trick or gadget in stock when he needed it. This was designed to serve the contemporary taste in the 1970s.

In 2004 Moore was voted ‘Best Bond’ in an Academy Awards poll, and he won with 62% of votes in another poll in 2008. In 1987 he hosted Happy Anniversary 007: 25 Years of James Bond.

During Moore’s Bond period he starred in 13 other films, including the thriller Gold (1974), an unorthodox action film The Wild Geese, and played a millionaire so obsessed with Roger Moore that he had had plastic surgery to look like his hero in Cannonball Run (1981). He even made a cameo as Chief Inspector Clouseau, posing as a famous movie star, in Curse of the Pink Panther (1983) (for which he was credited as “Turk Thrust II”). However, most of these films were not critically acclaimed or commercially successful. Moore was widely criticised for making three movies in South Africa under the Apartheid regime during the 1970s. Moore was shocked by the poverty he saw when filming Octopussy, his sixth film as James Bond, in India in 1983. His friend Audrey Hepburn had impressed him with her work for UNICEF, and consequently he became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1991. He was the voice of ‘Santa’ in the 2004 UNICEF cartoon The Fly Who Loved Me.

Moore was involved in the production of a video for PETA that protests against the production and wholesale of foie gras. Moore narrates the video. His assistance in this situation, and being a strong spokesman against foie gras, has led to the department store Selfridges agreeing to remove foie gras from their shelves.

In 1999, Moore was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), and advanced to Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) on 14 June 2003. The citation on the knighthood was for Moore’s charity work, which has dominated his public life for more than a decade. Moore said that the citation “meant far more to me than if I had got it for acting… I was proud because I received it on behalf of UNICEF as a whole and for all it has achieved over the years”.

On 11 October 2007, three days before he turned 80, Moore was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work on television and in film. Attending the ceremony were family, friends, and Richard Kiel, with whom he had acted in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Moore’s star was the 2,350th star installed, and is appropriately located at 7007 Hollywood Boulevard.

In 2008, the French government appointed Moore a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

On 21 November 2012, Moore was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Arts degree from the University of Hertfordshire, for his outstanding contribution to the UK film and television industry for over 50 years, in particular film and television production in the County of Hertfordshire.

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