Tag Archives: Oscars

Bond, James Bond PT2: Maurice Binder

7 Apr

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Maurice Binder (August 25, 1925 – April 4, 1991) was a film title designer best known for his work on 14 James Bond films including the first, Dr. No, in 1962 and for Stanley Donen’s films from 1958. He was born in New York City, but mostly worked in England from the 1950s onwards. The Bond producers first approached him after being impressed by his title designs for the 1960 Stanley Donen comedy film The Grass is Greener. He also worked with Stanley Donen in Charade and Arabesque, both with music of Henri Mancini (Pink Panther).

Binder created the signature gun barrel sequence for the opening titles of the first Bond film, Dr. No, in 1962. Binder originally planned to employ a camera sighted down the barrel of a .38 caliber gun, but this caused some problems. Unable to stop down the lens of a standard camera enough to bring the entire gun barrel into focus, Binder created a pinhole camera to solve the problem and the barrel became crystal clear. Binder described the genesis of the gun barrel sequence in the last interview he recorded before his death in 1991:

“That was something I did in a hurry, because I had to get to a meeting with the producers in twenty minutes. I just happened to have little white, price tag stickers and I thought I’d use them as gun shots across the screen. We’d have James Bond walk through and fire, at which point blood comes down onscreen. That was about a twenty-minute storyboard I did, and they said, This looks great!”

At least one critic has also observed that the sequence recalls the gun fired at the audience at the end of  The Great train Robbery (1903)

Binder is also best known for women performing a variety of activities such as dancing, jumping on a trampoline, or shooting weapons. Both sequences are trademarks and staples of the James Bond films. Maurice Binder was succeeded by Daniel Kleinman as the title designer for 1995’s Golden Eye.

Prior to Golden Eye, the only James Bond movies for which he did not create the opening title credits were From Russia with Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964), both of which were designed by RobertBrownjohn.

Binder shot opening and closing sequences involving a mouse for The Mouse That Roared (1959), a sequence of monks filmed as a mosaic explaining the history of the Golden Bell in The Long Ships (1963), and a sequence of Spanish dancers explaining why the then topical reference of nuclear weapons vanishing in a B-52 mishap shifted from Spain to Greece in The Day the Fish came Out. He designed the title sequence for Sodom and Gomorrah (1963) that featured an orgy (the only one in the film). He took three days to direct the sequence that was originally supposed to take one day.

Binder also was a producer of The Passage (1979), and a visual consultant on Dracula (1979) and Oxford Blues (1984).

Binder’s visual style and eroticism has made an indelible mark on Bond Films. His work was more organic in the way movement was portrayed, as opposed to the CGI look of later Bond films. Binder’s creative genius gave us the flavor and mood of the story that was about to unfold before us.

Binder, who never married, but loved his career, photography and women, died of lung cancer in London at 65 years of age.

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The Intouchables (Gamount) (DVD)

3 Apr

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“Every so often a film is written that pulls at your heartstrings and brings both a smile and tears to your eyes as we watch the human condition unfold.”

Synopsis:  The Intouchables’ tells the true story of a wealthy, physically disabled risk taker, Phillipe, the picture of established French nobility, who lost his wife in an accident and whose world is turned upside down when he hires a young, good-humored, black Muslim ex-con, Driss as his caretaker. Their bond proves the power and omniscience that love and friendship can hold over all social and economic differences. The Intouchables depicts an unlikely camaraderie rooted in honesty and humor between two individuals who, on the surface, would seem to have nothing in common.

CAST

Francois Cluzet………………………………………Phillipe

Omar Sy……………………………………………………Driss

Alba Gaïa Kraghede Bellugi…………………………..Elisa

Audrey Fleurot……………………………………..Magalie

Clotilde Mollet……………………………………….Marcelle

Cyril Mendy…………………………………………….Adama

Anna Le Ny……………………………………………..Yvonne

Alba Gaïa Kraghede Bellugi……………………………..Elisa

Christian Ameri………………………………………… Albert

Grégoire Oestermann…………………………………Antoine

Marie-Laure Descoureaux……………………………Chantal

Absa Dialou Toure……………………………………….. Mina

Salimata Kamate………………………………………….Fatou

Review: Released in the U.K. as Untouchable, the film since its’ initial release has become one of the highest grossing films ever in France. Written and directed by, Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano the film tells the true story of  two people whose lives intertwine in an unlikely way.

The story  told entirely in flashback, starts At night in Paris, Driss is driving Philippe’s Maserati Quattroporte at high speed. They are soon chased by the police: when they are caught, Driss, unfazed, doubles his bet with Philippe, convinced they can get an escort. In order to get away with his speeding, Driss claims the quadriplegic Philippe must be urgently driven to the emergency room; Philippe pretends to have a stroke and the fooled police officers eventually escort them to the hospital. As the police leave them at the hospital, Philippe asks what will they do now, to which Driss answers: “Now let me take care of it.” as they drive off.

Through friendship, humor and respect the two, Phillipe a French millionaire, quadriplegic, who through tragic circumstances loses his wife. and Driss, black, Muslim,  ex-con, form a life-long bond. Phillipe, with the help of his assistant Magalie, looking for a  live-in caretaker, meets Driss, a candidate, has no ambitions to get hired. He is just there to get a signature showing he was interviewed and rejected in order to continue to receive his welfare benefits. He is extremely casual and shamelessly flirts with Magalie. He is told to come back the next morning to get his signed letter. Driss goes back to the tiny flat that he shares with his extended family in a bleak Parisian suburb. His aunt, exasperated from not hearing from him for six months, orders him to leave the flat. when Driss comes back to the next day Phillipe for his paper, he finds he has been hired on a trial basis.

He learns the extent of Philippe’s disability and then accompanies Philippe in every moment of his life, discovering with astonishment a completely different lifestyle. A friend of Philippe’s reveals Driss’s criminal record which includes six months in jail for robbery. Philippe states he does not care about Driss’s past because he is the only one that does not treat him with pity or compassion, but as an equal. He says he will not fire him as long as he does his current job properly.

Over time, Driss and Philippe become closer. Driss dutifully takes care of his boss, who frequently suffers from phantom pain. Philippe discloses to Driss that he became disabled following a paragliding accident and that his wife died without bearing children. Gradually, Philippe is led by Driss to put some order in his private life, including being more strict with his adopted daughter Elisa, who behaves like a spoiled child with the staff. Driss discovers art, opera, and even takes up painting. For Philippe’s birthday, a private concert of classical music is performed in his living room. At first very reluctant, Driss is led by Philippe to listen more carefully to the music and opens up to Philippe’s music. Driss then plays the music he likes to Philippe (Boogie Wonderland by Earth, Wind & Fire), which opens up everybody in the room to dance.

Driss discovers that Philippe has a purely letter writting relationship with a woman called Eléonore, who lives in Dunkirk. Driss encourages him to meet her but Philippe fears her reaction when she discovers his disability. Driss eventually convinces Philippe to talk to Eléonore on the phone. Philippe agrees with Driss to send a photo of him in a wheelchair to her, but he hesitates and asks his aide, Yvonne, to send a picture of him as he was before his accident. A date between Eléonore and Philippe is agreed. At the last minute Philippe is too scared to meet Eléonore and leaves with Yvonne before Eléonore arrives. Philippe then calls Driss and invites him to travel with him in his private jet for a paragliding weekend. Philippe gives Driss an envelope containing 11,000 euros, the amount he was able to get for Driss’s painting, which he sold to one of his friends by saying it was from an up-and-coming artist.

Adama, Driss’s younger cousin, who is in trouble with a gang, takes refuge in Philippe’s mansion. Driss opens up to Philippe about his family and his past in Senegal, where his then-childless aunt and uncle adopted him from his real parents, and brought him back to France. His adoptive parents later began having children of their own, his uncle died and his aunt bore still more children. Philippe recognizes Driss’s need to be supportive to his family and releases him from his job, suggesting he “may not want to push a wheelchair all his life”.

Driss returns to his suburbs, joining his friends, and manages to help his younger cousin. Due to his new professional experience, he lands a job in a transport company. In the meantime Philippe has hired caregivers to replace Driss, but he isn’t happy with any of them. His morale is very low and he stops taking care of himself. Yvonne becomes worried and contacts Driss, who arrives and decides to drive Philippe in the Maserati, which brings the story back to the first scene of the film, the police chase. After they have eluded the police, Driss takes Philippe straight to the seaside. Upon shaving and dressing elegantly, Philippe and Driss arrive at a Cabourg, restaurant with a great ocean view. Driss suddenly leaves the table and says good luck to Philippe for his lunch date. Philippe does not understand, but a few seconds later, Eléonore arrives. Emotionally touched, Philippe looks through the window and sees Driss outside, smiling at him. Driss bids Philippe farewell and walks away.

Every so often a film is written that pulls at your heartstrings and brings both a smile and tears to your eyes as we watch the human condition unfold. This is such a film. The performances by Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy register in their faces the love and respect they have for each other. Cluzet can only emote through his face due to his character’s condition, for any actor this is difficult enough, Cluzet is brilliant. Omar Sy gives us a sense of humanity through his humor and light touch, you become drawn to these two likeable characters and get taken along for the ride.

There are some who feel that there is in fact an American Buddy Movie formula going on here, I didn’t feel that as the film progressed. Some have compared the racial differences to Driving Miss Daisy , I find in both cases this is not the case. You can become too critical at times and not just enjoy the story which is based on real events. The film is uplifting and soars with human connection.  The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2012.

The film is available on DVD, at Netflix, Amazon and Red-Box.

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Life of PI (Blu-ray) 3D in Theaters

31 Mar

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Synopsis: Based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, Ang Lee directs a magical adventure story centering on Pi Patel, the precocious son of a zoo keeper. Dwellers in Pondicherry, India, the family decides to move to Canada, hitching a ride on a huge freighter. After a shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a 26-foot lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, all fighting for survival.

CAST:

Suraj Sharma……………………………………….Pi Patel

Irrfan Kahn………………………………..Adult Pi-Patel

Adil Hussein………………………………..Santosh Patel

Tabu……………………………………………….Gita Patel

Rafe Spall……………………………………………..Writer

Gerard Depardieu………………………………………Cook

Review: Ang Lee brings us a spiritual journey that is breathtaking in its’ imagery.  The use of 3D enhances the time, place and literally brings you along into Pi’s journey, the same way Avatar’s use of visuals brought you into it’s world.

The spiritual adventure centers around the then teenage boy Pi Patel, who is on board an ocean liner with his family. They are on their way from India to Canada, with them is the animals from their Zoo, which they are selling to to a Zoo keeper in Canada.

After an altercation with a bigoted cook on the ship who refuses to cook for “Curry Eaters”, the boat sinks in a storm and only Pi, a tiger named Richard Parker, Orange the Orangutang and a Hyena survive. They are all crowded into a life boat. The journey begins here as the Hyena first kills Orange, then the Tiger Kills the Hyena. This leaves Pi alone on the boat with a hungry tiger. They will be adrift for 227 days and the two must learn to co-exist with each other. Pi has visions of the lord watching over him and protecting him. Pi’s determined fight for survival and to tame the beast is the magic behind the mystical connection they have.

The story is told in flash back by the adult Pi Patel to a Canadian writer who had heard Pi had a great story to tell. Indeed he had and the animals are actually metaphors that replaced the actual people in Pi’s head as he fights to survive being adrift.

The amazing images include an aerial shot of a whale under Pi’s boat, the water is transparent as the whale hovers underneath. At night the water becomes translucent and blue, jelly fish turn on their nocturnal lights and surround the boat like angels. The whale then breeches in front of the boat leaving Pi in awe of it’s majesty. The movie is loaded with moments like this.

There is an amazing sequence of flying fish that fly over and onto the boat. Pi must keep the Tiger at bay to be able to catch the fish for both of them to eat. It is a constant struggle for food and water. There are many amazing adventures that follow showing how Pi tames the beast and survives. His inner struggle with God and spirituality vs his reality is palpable and thought provoking.

The movie has two endings, one is Pi’s fantastic story of animals and survival, the other of people the animal’s represent, it is up to you to decide which tale rings true.

The Blu-Ray disc has lot’s of interesting extras including interviews with Ang Lee, a making of documentary and a documentary explaining all the CGI Imagery.  This is a masterful film and a story well told.

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Desert Sand PT 2: The Ten Commandments (1956) (Blu-Ray DVD)

30 Mar

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Synopsis: Cecil B. Demille’ epic remake of the film The Ten Commandments. Charlton Heston plays Moses in this sweeping telling of the freeing of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt from the Pharaoh Ramses. This lavish production was Demille’s last and has become a classic. The all-star cast includes Edward G. Robinson, Yul Brenner, Charlton Heston, Vincent Price, John Carridine, Anne Baxter and Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Yvonne De Carlo.

Cast

Charlton Heston……..Moses/Voice of the God of Abraham

Yul Brenner…………………………………Pharaoh Rameses II

Sir Cedric Hardwicke…………………………….Pharaoh Seti I

Nina Foch……………………………………Bithiah, Seti’s Sister

Anne Baxter……………………………………………….Nefretiri

Edward G. Robinson……………………………………….Dathan

Yvonne De Carlo………………………………………….Sephora

Debra Paget………………………………………………………Lilia

John Derek……………………………………………………Joshua

Martha Scott……………………………………………….Yoshabel

Judith Anderson…………………………………………..Memnet

Vincent Price……………………………………………………Baka

John Carradine…………………………………………………Aaron

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Review: The Egyptian Pharaoh fearing one day the Hebrew slaves may rise against him orders the death of all firstborn Hebrew males. Yoshebel, a Hebrew Woman, sets her infant son adrift on the Nile in order to save him. The infant is rescued from the Nile by an Egyptian princess Bithiah, (Nina Foch), who decides to adopt the boy even though her servant Memnet, (Judith Anderson), recognizes that the child is Hebrew and protests.

As a young man, Moses becomes a successful general, claiming victory in a war with the Nubians of Ethiopia and then entering Egypt into an alliance with them. Moses loves Nefretiri,(Anne Baxter) who is the “throne princess” and must marry the next Pharaoh. An incident occurs when an elderly woman, who is greasing the ground for the pillar of stone to move easier, is almost crushed to death when her scarf gets caught under the slab of stone, prompting Moses to scold overseer Baka, (Vincent Price). Moses frees the elderly woman from her dangerous chore, not realizing that the elderly woman was his natural mother Yoshebel. While working on the building of a treasure city for Seti’s, (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) Jubilee, Moses meets the stone-cutter Joshua, who tells him of the Hebrew God.

Moses institutes numerous reforms concerning the treatment of the slaves on the project, and eventually Rameses, (Yule Brenner) charges Moses with planning an insurrection, pointing out that the slaves are calling Moses the “Deliverer” of prophecy. Moses defends himself against the charges, arguing that he is simply making his workers more productive by making them stronger and happier and proves his point with the impressive progress he is making. During this time, Rameses has been charged by his father with finding out whether there really is a Hebrew fitting the description of the Deliverer.

Nefretiri learns from the servant Memnet that Moses is the son of Hebrew slaves. Nefretiri kills Memnet and reveals the story to Moses, who goes to Bithiah to learn the truth. Bithiah evades his questions, but Moses follows her to the home of Yoshebel and thus learns the truth.

Moses spends time working amongst the slaves to learn more of their lives. During this time the master builder Baka steals Liliah, who is engaged to the stone-cutter Joshua. Joshua rescues Liliah but is captured himself; Moses frees Joshua but strangles Baka. Moses confesses to Joshua that he too is Hebrew; the confession is witnessed by the ambitious Hebrew overseer Dathan, (Edward G. Robinson). Dathan uses the information to bargain with Rameses for Baka’s house, a post as Governor of Goshen, and the ownership of the slave Liliah, (Debra Paget).

Based on Dathan’s information, Moses is arrested and brought before Seti. Moses tells Seti that he is not the Deliverer, but would free the slaves if he could. Bithiah tells her brother Seti the truth about Moses, and Seti orders his name stricken from all records and monuments. Moses is banished to the desert, but not before, he receives the word that Yoshebel had died before she delivered the piece of a Levite cloth, and Rameses is declared the next Pharaoh.

Moses makes his way across the desert, nearly dying of hunger and thirst before he comes to a well in the land of Midian. At the well, he defends seven sisters from Amalekites who try to push them away from the water. Moses finds a home in Midian with the girls’ father Jethro, a Bedouin sheik, who reveals that he is a follower of “He who has no name,” whom Moses recognizes as the God of Abraham. Moses impresses Jethro and the other sheiks with his wise and just trading, and marries Jethro’s eldest daughter (“Sephora”, the Greek form of her name used in the film).

While herding sheep in the desert Moses finds Joshua, who has escaped from the copper mines that he was sent to after the death of Baka. Moses sees the Burning Bush on the summit of Mount Sinai and hears the voice of God (Heston, who was not credited for this secondary role). God charges Moses to return to Egypt and free His chosen people. In Egypt, Seti dies and Rameses succeeds him as Pharaoh.

At Pharaoh’s court, Moses comes before Rameses to win the slaves’ freedom, turning his staff into a snake to show Rameses the power of God. Rameses decrees that the Hebrews be given no straw to make their bricks, but to make the same tally as before on pain of death. As the Hebrews prepare to stone Moses in anger, Nefretiri’s retinue rescues him; however when she attempts to resume their relationship he spurns her, reminding her that not only is he on a mission he is also married.

As Moses continues to challenge Pharaoh’s hold over his people, Egypt is beset by divine plagues. Moses warns him that the next plague to fall upon Egypt will be summoned by Pharaoh himself. Enraged at the plagues and Moses’ continuous demands, as well as his generals and advisers telling him to give in, Rameses orders all first-born Hebrews to die. Nefretiri warns Sephora to escape with her son Gershom on a passing caravan to Midian, and Moses tells the Queen that it is her own son who will die. In an eerily quiet scene, the Angel of Death creeps into Egyptian streets in a glowing green cloud, killing all the firstborn of Egypt, including the adult son of Pharaoh’s top general, and Pharaoh’s own child. The Hebrews who have marked their doorposts and lintels with lamb’s blood are eating a hasty meal and preparing to depart. Broken and despondent, Pharaoh orders Moses to take his people, and cattle, and go. The Hebrews begin their exodus from Egypt.

Nefretiri goads Pharaoh into a rage so that he arms himself and pursues the former slaves to the shore of the Red Sea. Held back by a pillar of fire, the Egyptian forces watch as Moses parts the waters. As the Hebrews race over the seabed, the pillar of fire dies down and the army rides in hot pursuit. The Hebrews make it to the far shore as the waters close on the Egyptian army, drowning every man and horse. Rameses looks on in despair. All he can do is return to Nefretiri, confessing to her, “His god is God.”

The former slaves camp at the foot of Sinai and wait as Moses again ascends the mountain. During his absence, the Hebrews lose faith and, urged on by the evil Dathan, build a golden calf as an idol to bear before them back to Egypt, hoping to win Rameses’ forgiveness. They force Aaron to help fashion the gold plating. The people indulge their most wanton desires in an orgy of sinfulness.

High atop the mountain, Moses witnesses God’s creation of the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. When he finally climbs down, Moses beholds his people’s iniquity and hurls the tablets at the idol in a rage. The idol explodes, and Dathan and his followers are killed. After God forces them to endure forty years’ exile in the desert wandering lost, to kill off the rebellious generation, the Hebrews are about to arrive in the land of Canaan. An elderly Moses, who, however, is not allowed to enter the promised land, because he disobeyed the lord at the waters of strife, not shown in the film, then appoints Joshua to succeed him as leader, says a final good bye to Sephora, and goes forth to his destiny.

The performances are solid, Demille’s imagery is grandiose and the film is a classic becoming the 8th highest grossing film in cinema history.  The Blu-Ray restoration is brilliant and you can see the grandeur in every frame. Demille understood the importance of the work and instilled this in every actor and all the crew that worked on the film. the film literally had thousands of extras. The Blu-Ray disc bonus features include rare interviews with cast members, reminiscing from Demille’s granddaughter who was on the set and a making of documentary.

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Desert Sand Pt 1: Lawrence of Arabia (Blu-ray)

30 Mar

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Synopsis: Directed by David Lean, the film takes on an epic journey by telling us the story of complex man, Thomas Edward Lawrence. Lawrence has been labeled everything from hero, to charlatan, to sadist,  blazed his way to glory in the Arabian desert, then sought anonymity as a common soldier under an assumed name. The story opens with the death of Lawrence in a motorcycle accident at the age of 46, then flashbacks to recount his adventures.  As a young intelligence officer in Cairo in 1916, he is given leave to investigate the progress of the Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I. In the desert, he organizes a guerrilla army and–for two years–leads the Arabs in harassing the Turks with desert raids, train-wrecking and camel attacks. Eventually, he leads his army northward and helps a British General destroy the power of the Ottoman Empire.

Cast:

Peter O’Toole………………………………………….Major T.E. Lawrence

Alec Guinness……………………………………………………Prince Faisal

Claude Raines……………………………Arab Bureau Chief-Mr. Dryden

Donald Wolfit………………………………………………..General Murray

Omar Sherif…………………………………………………………..Sherif Ali

Anthony Quayle…………………………………………..Colonel Brighton

Anthony Quinn……………………………………………….Auda abu Tayi

Jack Hawkins………………………………………………..General Allenby

Arthur Kennedy…………..US war Correspondent – Jackson Bentley

Jose Ferrer…………………………………………………………Turkish Bey

 

Review: Originally filmed in Super Panavision  70, the film was meant to be seen in a theater. Thanks to blue-ray, you can now appreciate every sweeping image in detail, beautifully restored to its’ original splendor. For starters the filmed garnered 7 Academy Awards in 1962, including best picture and is considered one of the most influential films of all time.

Peter O’Toole coming from the British Shakespearean stage, makes his film debut as T.E. Lawrence a misfit British Army lieutenant, who is assigned by Mr. Dryden (Claude Raines) of the Arab Bureau, during World War I, to asses the prospects of Arab Prince Faisal’s revolt against the Turks. Although Lawrence’s commanding  General Murray (Wolfit) objects Lawrence is sent straight away.

It is important to note that Lean’s use of sweeping desert imagery, makes the landscape a major player in the film. The desert becomes a supporting character as the very nature nature of the heat and sand brings out the survival instincts of every major character, strengthens their belief in God and even kills the unsuspecting.

Lawrence wins the trust of Faisal and his band of warriors as they win battle after battle against the Turks. he becomes a legend among the people who refer to him as L…Awrence. As a symbol of the trust, Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) gives Lawrence the white robes of a prophet and a gold handled dagger. When he puts them on, he walks around a sand dune and looks at his shadow as he realizes the role he must play. In essence as he studies his reflection in the dagger, he feels he is pure and must lead the people for he is been chosen by God to do so.  A similar image is used later in the film as Lawrence bloodied and no longer pure looks at his reflection in disgust. It is a brilliant device that immediately let’s us understand who Lawrence really is. The dagger reflection was purely O’Toole, improvising at Lean’s direction when he was asked, “What would a young man do first with his new found leadership and dressed in the prophet robes?”  O’Toole first looked at his shadow in the desert sand then took out the dagger and looked at himself in it. Lean’s only comment to O’Toole was “Good Boy” and used the dagger again as described above.

Anthony Quinn as Adu abu Tayi, finds Lawrence admiring himself and through Lawrence s audacity gets in Tayi’s good graces. Sherif Ali and Tayi distrust each other but through Lawrence’s logic and intelligence convinces them to join forces in the battle against the Turks.

As things progress US war Correspondent, Jackson Bentley arrives on the scene and interviews Prince Faisal to get an idea where to find Lawrence. He follows Lawrence on his campaigns and makes Lawrence a living legend in the media.

It isn’t until Lawrence is brought to The Turkish Bey played by Jose Ferrer, that he understands his own humanity and mortality. Ferrer manhandles Lawrence, strips him,prods him and pokes him, obviously the Turkish Bey would sexually abuse Lawrence if he could. Lawrence strikes Ferrer and is flogged and thrown into the streets for this. Lawrence is humiliated and feels defeated.

Eventually Lawrence completes his mission for the British Army and is sent home as Major Lawrence. The film is a powerhouse of imagery and complex characterizations all navigated by brilliant actors at the peak of their craft. This film has become a modern classic and well worth your time. Running time is 216 minutes. The original restoration of the film was spearheaded by Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.

Extras on the Blu-Ray include an interview with Peter O’ Toole who reminisces about the amazing adventure the film was and the role he played in it. His anecdotes are thoughtful and humorous. There is also an interview with Steven Spielberg, and a multi-part making of documentary.

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Zero Dark Thirty

23 Feb

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Synopsis: Based on actual events the film chronicles the decade-long hunt for Al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May 2011. The film has been nominated for The Academy Award for Best Picture 2012.

Cast

Jessica Chastain…………………………………………………………..Maya

Joel Edgerton…………………………………………………………….Patrick

Kyle Chandler……………………………………………….Joseph Bradley

Jason Clark……………………………………………………………………Dan

Chris Pratt……………………………………………Justin, a US Navy SEAL

Review: Jessica Chaistain, plays Maya, a newbie CIA operative in search of leads to track down and eradicate Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The ten year search after 9/11 is the basis for the events that follow and haunt Maya. There are gruesome scenes of water-boarding, a torture technique used by the American Government under George W. Bush, to extract information from terrorist captives, as to the whereabouts of bin Laden. You do get the sense of how wrong this technique is, how the Bush administration used this more as an excuse to show the world, see we are doing something to get bin-Laden. A case can be made against water-boarding, its use, and the Bush administrations abuse of authority at the time. There are those who agree with its use, and those who don’t. The film has no particular view one way or the other, like with any good work of fiction, it let’s the audience have their own opinions.

It is Maya’s feisty determination, played believably by Chaistain, a new Meryl Streep, yes she is that good, that forces the CIA to follow the hunches and leads she brings to the table. Although we know the outcome, it is the suspense of the build-up that makes this a riveting film. There are those that believe that Maya is being naive in her pursuit of obvious leads. She believes that bin Laden and his operatives are hiding in plain site, living life as an average citizen, more overt than covert. The powers that be are trailing the more covert, it takes Maya’s relentlessness to duty to make them see things the way she does. Was she right about bin Laden living in the big compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, was her leads to the compound a mistake. There are two points of view at odds here, Maya’s and everyone else’s.

The actual raid of the compound brings the action and suspense to its peak. The Navy SEALS, clandestine air craft are brought in and the raid proceeds on Maya’s hunch. The moment is so real, that when bin-Laden is found and shot, Maya’s decompression in the aircraft waiting to take her home brings tears to your eyes. She checks bin-Laden’s body bag as the SEALs are celebrating. They are in awe of bringing bin-Laden down, this is contrasted against Maya’s own personal feelings after ten years of frustrating pursuit. Chaistain alone in the aircraft before she departs home will bring tears to your eyes. You feel through her all the agony she is releasing through her silent yet emotional tears. This film directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who directed The Hurt Locker, has the look and feel of a documentary and this plays well especially during the raid sequence. The hand-held camera effectively brings you into the action.

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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.

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