Friday, November 14, 2008

Fall Commentary (2008)

The Reader

Earlier this year Hollywood gives us the movie "Elegy" about a relationship between a 60 year old man (Ben Kingsley) and 30 year old woman (Penelope Cruz) and now "The Reader" which begins with a relationship between a 15 year old German boy (David Kross) and a 30 year old woman (Kate Winslet). In the The Reader the movie covers a 30 year period so it is necessary to exchange Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient) for David Kross half way through the movie. Kross acts the character of (let's just call him the reader) from 15 all the way up to 25 years old before giving way to the older Fiennes. Why they decided to go from a boy with a German accent to a man with an English accent I'll never know. Other than that there are not many flaws in them movie.

This is a coming of age movie in a big way. Fot many of us our coming of age movie was the 1971 release "The Summer of '42) with Jennifer O'Neil and a little known teenage actor. A teenage boy with a woman in her mid twenties was a big deal back then but the movie left much to our imagination. I'm afraid the times are a changing because this one leaves little to our imagination. Just a word of warning there is full frontal nudity (big time) but it's not Kate. I assume this means Kross is closer to 25 than 15 in real life.

They do a really good job of developing the two characters and establiwhing a relationship between Kross and Winslet before her 8 year disappearance. When he runs into her again she is on trial for Holocaust War Crimes. The movie really gets heavy after that with plenty of moral issues to sort out. Yes she likes to be read to and yes it is a major theme in the movie but I'll just leave it at that as I don't want to ruin the movie for you. I will say that what he does for her in this regard in the later years is one of the more touching, and selfless things I have ever seen in a movie. It really is a love story.

The movie is very slow moving but in a good way. Very thought provoking. Acting was great and the movie was well produced so I'm going to give it 3 O's although this movie isnot for everyone.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Belive it or not I had an idea for this movie back in the early 90's. We were at a video convention (VSDA) in Las Vegas and we listened to a talk from Ted Turner. Ted is a quirky, off the cuff, kind of guy. At the end of the speech he told us to send him a post card if we ever came up with a good idea for a movie. On the plane back to San Antonio I came up with the idea of having something happen to an old man that reversed the aging process. Guess I should have mailed that post card.

Great idea, good acting, terrific "make up artist" but way too slow and way too long. Not only is it a run time of 2:47 but it was shot in slow motion if that is possible. Everyone talked low and slow. Very hard to hear what they were saying. The actors moved slowly (especially Brad Pitt) and the camera panned in slow motion. By the time the movie ended it seemed like we had been watching for 5 solid hours.

See it if you must but I only give it Two O's.


Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog is a film shot in India not necessarily an Indian film. The director Danny Boyle is British, however most of the actors and actresses are Indian. There are a few subtitles in the beginning of the movie but nothing you can't handle. Well produced with very solid acting but you won't recognize any of the actors. (Actually three of the main characters are cast by three different actors portraying three different periods of their life). The movie has a great soundtrack but the style of music will be new to you. Although this is not the same type of movie it reminds me of the old Spaghetti Westerns with Clint Eastwood. Movies made in Italy, with mostly Italian actors, great soundtrack written by an Italian but directed to appeal to the US Market.

In the movie Jamai Malik is an 18 year old Indian boy who grew up in the slums. He works his way onto the Indian version of "Who wants to be a Millionaire". Jamai is accused of cheating so the police bring him to the police station to interrogate him. The only way he can prove he knew the answers was to tell his life story which explains how he knew the answer to each specific question. Good thing Nancy and Troy saw Slumdog first because that story line never would have gotten me to the theatre even though I knew it was critically acclaimed. Although the game show is a big part of the plot I couldn't help but think the story of his upbrigning would have made an interesting movie all on its own. It wasn't until the end of the movie that I realized the game show carried its own weight and turned out to be an inaugural part of the movie.

If you were a fan of "Who wants to be a Millionaire" you will like the game show activity and if you always wanted to know what India was like you will get to see the good, the bad and the ugly. Nice one, huh! You will also get to see the taj Mahal. Stay for the credits and you will see the cast moving and gooving to music Bollywood style. In a strange way it will remind you of MJ's video Thriller.

Great film! I give it Three and a half O's.


Seven Pounds

This movie was a lot heavier than seven pounds. It has a very serious undertone that builds to the finish. The only problem is that it's a very, very, slow build. If you have attention deficit disorder don't even think about it. The director does a very good job of developing the characters which helps set the stage for "Seven Pounds" very powerful ending. He also does a good job of hiding Will Smith's intentions which leaves you very puzzled as to what Will's character is up to. In the end everything becomes crystal clear and on the way home you spend time thinking about the relevance of each characters action. It is similar to the movie "Crash" in this regard At the end of replaying the movie in my head it dawned on me the significance of naming the movie Seven Pounds. Of course I've been known to be a little slow at times. You may very well figure it out quicker.

Will Smith does a superb job of acting. I saw a side of him I've never seen before and I kind of liked it. He left the silly grin at home. His love interest Rosario Dawson did a good job as well. She just recently had a role in the movie "Eagle Eye". By the way be sure to rent eagle Eye when it comes out as the more I think about it the more I like it. I personally guarantee you will like it. You will also see a side of Woody Harrelson you've never seen before. He actually seems like a normal human being in this film. I guess he's not always quirky. Look for Tom Cruise and Niclole Kidman's 13 year old son in the movie and let me know if you spot him. I learned he was in the film after I saw it so can't remember spotting him.

Ok, on to the O thing. The ending and Will Smith's acting is worth a high rating but since I'm not really a movie critic , just a movie commentator, I only give it two and a half O's. It just took too long to develop the characters and make it to the finish line.


The Day The Earth Stood Still

If you are a Sci-Fi fan you will want to see this film. The movie is a remake of the 1951 original. I had a weird feeling when I realized this movie was being released while I was still in the womb. I'm sure nuclear weapons were the new hot topic of the time as the atomic bomb had first been dropped just 6 years prior to the movies release. I guess having an Alien accompanied by a big robot visit Planet Earth to warn mankind about the dangers of nuclear weapons was Hollywood's way of trying to save the planet. Knowing how Hollywood thinks I'm kind of surprised they didn't write in a few global warming warnings as well :>) Not much has changed on planet earth in regards to nuclear weapons but a whole lot has changed in regards to special effects. Hollywood's technical skills sure have come a long way in the last 57 years.

I enjoyed the movie even though at times it seemed more like time standing still than the earth standing still. The movie had some of those slow moving "2001 Space Odyssey" moments. If you want a guy to play an alien incapable of showing human emotions Keanu Reeves is your man. Personally I like Keanu as an actor. Not sure why that is but it may be a certain innocents he brings to his characters. Jennifer Connelly and Kathy Bates both did a solid job of acting. I really liked John Cleese in his short cameo role. Cleese had a very deep and serious role as a Nobel Peace Prize winner that represented the collective consciousness of all mankind. Of course it's impossible to watch Cleese act without thinking about his Monty Python roles. I think we could have used a knight with no arms and legs try to save planet earth don't you? All in all I liked the movie. Nothing earth shattering (no pun intended) but solid. I'll give it Three O's.


Nobel Son

This was a much better movie than I hoped for. I was not that enthralled with the lineup of movies this weekend and almost decided to take a pass until until I found out Cathie would be with Tricia at the Clark talent show and I would be home alone. I can't say "Nobel Son" has an all star cast of characters but they were all on the top of their game. Alan Rickman always plays the guy you love to hate. He must have filmed this movie right after the recently released "Appaloosa" where guess what, he plays the bad guy. Mary Steenburgen actually plays a serious role but was quite amusing and charming as well. It's nice to see she got (Ted Danson) her real life husband a cameo role as I'm sure he hasn't done much since the TV show Cheers. Danny DeVito was his usual quirky self and nailed his character, a recovering obsessive-compulsive gardener. Bill Pullman did his best acting since (Sleepless in Seattle & While you were Sleeping) playing a pretty shrewd detective.

The movie is a psychological thriller with the big line in the film being "it is more cruel to eat the living than the dead". Instead of making a dark film the director chose dark humor. The plot is intelligently written and will keep you entertained, amused and always guessing. There is a thread of off-beat humor strewn throughout the entire movie. I liked "Nobel Son" enough to give it three O's but recommend you probably wait to see it at home on DVD.



MAJESTIC!!! ... The remote areas of Australia work well on the big screen. Beautiful country, brilliant star lit nights, yet desolate. "Australia" is a throwback to the Major Motion Pictures of the past. An Australian "Gone with the Wind" mixed with a little "Quigley Down Under" and "Wizard of Oz". The "Wizard of Oz" actually came out in 1939, the same time period represented in the movie. Even the credits had the look and feel of movies made in the forties. They should have gone all the way and had an intermission just like "Gone with the Wind" the movie was of Epic length. I recommend you see it at the box office as it is made for the big screen, but if you decide to wait for the DVD feel free to watch it in two parts on maybe a Friday and Saturday night. "Australia" is the original and the sequel all wrapped into one.

Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman have good chemistry even though Hugh was just awarded sexiest man alive and Nicole is still as pale as a ghost. Nicole is a great actress however and she gave her character great range. As good as they both were it was the 12 year old (local Aboriginal) Brandon Walters that stole the show. The kid was adorable with beautiful big brown eyes and an infectious smile. There was almost something supernatural about him. (maybe it's because he overcame leukemia in his real life at age 7). I've never seen a kid this young so natural (unless it's Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz). Because of this I'm going to make a bold predicton and say Brandon will actually get an Academy Awards Nomination even though he was only 12.

"Australia" was directed by Baz Luhrmann a Sidney born Australian, who directed the movie "Moulin Rouge". The 120 million is the most ever spent on an Australian film. Not only will the studios be rewarded for their risk they took I predict the movie will help Australia's tourism trade as well. I hope the Australia Tourist Bureau is smart enough to use this film in their advertising.

Australia is a movie for all ages. Yes John even for 11 year old Connor. It has adventure, romance, war scenes, beautiful scenery, cowboys, Indians (well Australian Aboriginals) and even a mob of Kangaroos. Because this movie was so well produced and had a great story line along with a great cast of characters I'm going to make Australia my first Four O's movie. It is truly fun for the whole family. (The movie almost makes up for a big island being designated a Continent)


Transporter 3

Juno, I really liked the original "Transporter" and am a big fan of Jason Stratham. After all, this world can use all the good looking balding men it can get, right? The original Transporter was unique and refreshing in the same way Boerne Identity was. Both movies were good enough to warrant sequels. After watching Trans 3 I think it may be time to give it a rest. Jason is still a good actor and the production quality of the action and fight scenes are getting better due to a larger budget but ... the plot was lame and the car chases and fight scenes are getting kind of old, no to mention unbelievable. Most of this could have been overcome if ... they had chosen wisely in regards to Jason's love interest. If Jason Stratham and Natalya Rudakoya had the same kind of chemistry Matt Damon and Franka Potente had in "The Boerne Identity" they may have been able to save the movie even with the lame plot. In one scene Natalya wanted Jason to kiss her and I was thinking "Dude, just say no". I tried to find out more about Natalya's acting career but came up empty. As far as I'm concerned they can send her back to anonymity. I can't recommend seeing this movie at the theatre but if you are an action fan and just want to see some mindless action scenes at home go ahead and rent it on DVD. Better yet, just rent the original Transporter. At the movie theatre I only give "Transporter 3" Two O's.


Quantum of Solace

If you don't already know "Quantum of Solace" is a sequel and picks up where "Casino Royale" left off. It would be a good idea to watch C.R. before going to Solace but since I know a lot of you won't have time I'll give you a short refresher. At the end of Casino Royale Bond falls in love with Vesper Lynd who is played by (Eva Greene). Greene helps Bond win 120 million dollars in a high stakes poker game but winds up betraying him by delivering the money to the boss of a Crime Syndicate. Bond tries to rescue vesper from a cage that submerges underwater but can't get her to the surface in time. Bond then finds out that she had been blackmailed and stole the money to keep the Syndicate from killing her previous lover. Ok, you are up to date.

Isn't it amazing:

The world-famous James Bond theme is built around a suspense-filled movement up and down between three chords. The bottom two notes E and G stay the same, but above them the chromatically sliding B-C-C#-C creates that air of mystery.

Wow! Three cords have become the centerpiece of one of the most recognizable songs in our lifetime. It's amazing how they can make subtle changes to the soundtrack to keep it fresh 22 movies (to date). We just never seem to tire of the soundtrack although you will find they make it 2008 contemporary during the beginning credits. Good think I looked up the previous description because I would have described the cords as:

dumb la dum / da-da-da / dumb la dumb / da-da-da / do do / do da lu ....

Ok, on to the movie

Well, I've got good news and I've got bad news. The bad news is that the critics were not that high on Quantum and only gave it ratings between 2 stars and 2.5 stars. The good news is that in my opinion they are way off the mark. These are the same guys that gave "Role Models" 3 stars and "Rachel Getting Married" 4 stars. (what's up with that) As I was trying to figure out what these guys were smoking I came to the conclusion that they were comparing "Quantum of Solace" to the typical James Bond film and using a benchmark of what I will refer to as "sameness". Roger Ebert says: "A disappointment. No Q, no Miss Moneypenny, no suave and seductive Bond and a Bond girl under-named ... Camille". Our local guy Larry Ratliff bemuses the fact there are no gadgets. They want the "same" Bond film their father watched. I believe this is the 22nd Bond film and has become a Franchise just like McDonald's. Well movie critics I hate to break the news but McDonald's now serves Lattes. Until Daniel Craig came on the scene with "Casino Royale" Bond films had become repetitive. Gadgets are cool but the movies didn't break new ground. Although Daniel Craig doesn't break the mold (nor should they wan him to) he brings much more depth to the character by being a little more serious, sensitive, and vulnerable. Maybe the recent Bond's needed the gadgets but it's refreshing to see someone who can pull off the role without them.

Sequels have a tendency to disappoint but this movie is less of a sequel than part II of the original movie (with a one year intermission of course). Most of the characters have already been developed and the plot just thickens. Judi Dench resumes her role as Bonds boss named M or referred to in the movie as Mom. Her role in the movie was advanced to the point that i wouldn't be surprised if she gets a few best supporting actress votes. I felt the (pardon the pun) bond between M and James Bond was the thread that held the movie together.

I get a sense an effort is being made to make subtle changes to the Bond Franchise in order to attract more women as well as diversify the fan base. Being a guy I can be totally off base here but my sense is Daniel Craig's' sex appeal is enough to hold the attention of women all by itself. His combination of rugged good looks, well developed body, and mesmerizing blue eyes should move him ahead of all previous 'bond's with the possible exception of Sean Connery. Of course the true test is who can move on and become a major motion picture star without the Bond Franchise behind him and there is no doubt Sean Connery currently holds the record hands down. Time will tell whether Daniel Craig can do the same. A good indicator will be Craig's upcoming role in the movie "defiance" scheduled to be released January 16Th.

With the recent success of Matt Damon in the Boerne Identity series James bond movies have some competition. I feel Daniel Craig in the Casino Royale sequel is on par with Matt Damon in the Boerne Identity sequel. Time will tell if I'm correct. I'm going against the trend on this one and giving Quantum three ad a half O's.