Category Archives: Movie

Amour

Bill C’s review – 4 out of 5

Amour is one of the best movies that most people will want to avoid seeing. It’s a very well-acted and honest portrayal of a couple in their eighties dealing with the declining health of the wife due to a series of strokes. The husband lovingly takes care of her despite the hardships to keep his vow not to let her die in a hospital or nursing home. This movie doesn’t pull any punches in telling the story of slow decline of the wife.

This movie has deservedly received several Academy Award nominations. Emmanuelle Riva plays the wife and is nominated for Best Actress. This is a challenging role physically as she goes from healthy through various stages of post-stroke to near-death. Amour is also nominated for Best Picture and Michael Haneke is nominated for Best Director.  Haneke directed Cache a few years  ago—a movie that Bill I. recommended, but that I never got around to seeing. Jean-Louis Trintignant does a great job as the husband, and one of my all-time favorite French actresses, Isabelle Huppert, plays the daughter.

So this is another film that I like a lot, but but it is sad and depressing and not for everyone AND it’s French so it has subtitles.

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Les Miserables

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

This is another one of those movies where my opinion is totally irrelevant on whether or not you should see this.  If you’ve a) seen this on Broadway and liked it, b) if you’ve never seen a musical you didn’t like, c) enjoy lots of closeups of Hugh Jackman or Anne Hathaway (even though she’s most likely crying), or d) like movies that have a lot of crying or that easily make you cry (even though I didn’t), then you should go see this. Otherwise you might want to skip this one. The other reason why my opinion should probably be ignored is that I am not a good judge of singing talent (remember. . . I’m the guy who likes to listen to Craig Finn of the Hold Steady).

The performances were all very good. The actors needed to do two things: sing and cry profusely (and do both at the same time!). They all came through with flying colors. I even was surprised by Russell Crowe’s and Sacha Baron Cohen’s singing (who along with Helena Bonham Carter brought needed comic relief). The two main kids in the movie were excellent. Special kudos go to Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. Jackman also seemed to transform physically as the movie went on. I barely recognized him in the first scene where he was an emaciated prisoner (with incredible strength).

For me, there were a few things that detracted from the movie:

– I’m ready for the slings and arrows from all Les Mis fans—I didn’t like the music that much. I have never seen the Broadway musical. But for most Broadway hit musicals that I only saw in the movies or years after they were a hit, I have always recognized and liked some of the music. For a show that opened over thirty years ago, Les Mis should fit in that category. But I didn’t recognize/remember any of it, and I’m not humming any songs today.

– Too many closeups! I’ve never seen so many closeups in a movie, especially of people crying non-stop or from the 1800s with poor dental hygiene! The closeups were made especially annoying by me being in the third row of the theater. If you plan on seeing this movie, sit towards the back!

– My guess is the plot of the book fills in a lot of holes. SPOILER ALERT ON *** The love-at- first-sight of Cosette and Marius while the world is falling apart and Marius’ happy return to the bourgeois life surprised me (to say the least). But the movie was long enough as it was. SPOILER ALERT OFF  ***

This gets a marginally positive review due to the performances, but again, if you are a fan of the show, you should go (actually you probably have already).

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Zero Dark Thirty

Bill I’s Review – 4.5 out of 5

Best review of the topic I’ve read is this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-hoffman/zero-dark-thirty-terrorism_b_2421874.html

It’s a fantastic film, fact based combined with the best film-making from Kathryn Bigelow. The acting is superb, doesn’t ever seem like acting, just seems real. I loved Argo, but comparing the scenes from each film where the protagonists try to work their cars through angry mobs in Pakistan or Iraq, and you will see that Zero Dark Thirty takes it to another level, of realism, of feeling the threat, or what it must have been like. The subject of torture (“enhanced interrogation techniques”) is controversial but to me appears very well portrayed: the US did it, it wasn’t pretty, wasn’t effective in most cases, and damaged our reputation. It wasn’t the key to unlocking where Bin Laden was, and if you pay attention this film shows that. It yielded pieces of information, but it took sleuthing, bribery, technology and persistence to finally track him down. The capture exercise by the Navy Seals is a mini-movie in itself, one of the best, and I assume realistic, I’ve ever seen. The CIA is portrayed as comprised of some heroic, dedicated, career professionals who make it through (or don’t, in some tragic circumstances) the hell that is terror central. The CIA is also shown as home to some career bureaucrats, who are more concerned about their careers, showing some “wins” even if it means taking down low value targets, while not taking undue risks, more than succeeding at getting Bin Laden. But, Spoiler Alert…we got him!!!

Bill C’s Review – 4.5 out of 5

I agree with Bill that this is an exceptional film. It draws us right in with actual, heartbreaking recordings of people in the WTC and responding to the tragedy. The film then does an amazing job of netting out a 10-year search into a well-told 2.5 hour movie.

I think part of the reason I liked this movie so much was that these events are so fresh in my mind. The events of—and since—9/11 had such a real and emotional impact on all of us. I think the strong emotions of the Iranian hostage crisis contributed to my strong feelings about Argo also.

As Bill points out, the search and successful mission was totally dependent on the sacrifice and dedication of many Americans. The film does a great job of showing how success came more from ferreting out the lies from captives and painstaking attention to detail and mundane detective work.  While this sounds boring, as presented in the movie, it is not.

Jessica Chastain and her supporting cast are excellent. She deserves her best actress Oscar nomination. I am surprised that Kathryn Bigelow was not nominated as Best Director. She won the Oscar a few years ago for The Hurt Locker (which I highly recommend).

Unless you will be turned off by the torture and violence, you should definitely see this film.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is Peter Jackson’s follow-up to the mega-successful Lord of the Rings Trilogy with J. R. R. Tolkien’s first book. To cash in on the success of the trilogy movies (3 books = 3 movies), Jackson is splitting this single book into three movies, with the first installment being well over 2.5 hours long. The movie is well made and the action sequences are good, but the movie could have been much shorter.

Bilbo Baggins takes off with a large assortment of dwarves and Gandalf the wizard on the dwarves’ quest to retake  their former home. With so many dwarves, I didn’t really come to care about their characters, and I felt that if they couldn’t win one of the battles, Gandalf (or someone/thing he summoned) would bail them out when necessary.

There was one sequence with Andy Serkis as Gollum, and for me, this scene was the highlight of the movie. Serkis was great and the scene was also excellent.

An Unexpected Journey did a good job of setting things up for the next two movies, but I was expecting more…in less time.

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Not Fade Away

Bill I’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

A coming of age film set in ’60s New Jersey, heavily reliant upon a rock’n roll backdrop and focused on a young Springsteen wannabe, I expected this film to be influenced by, and reminiscent of, American Graffiti, Almost Famous and The Sopranos (it’s written by David Chase) with a terrific soundtrack (produced by Steven van Zandt from the E Street Band, the producer of the Underground Garage station on SiriusXM, and of course Silvio on The Sopranos). It did not live up to my expectations, although it kept my interest and had some realistic portrayals, led by the under-acting John Magaro as the drummer/singer/lonely loser and by Bella Heathcote as his beautiful muse (here:

who, when she first spoke, made me think she was raised in another country (she is Australian). James Gandolfini, as the boy’s blue collar dad, does his Tony Soprano at home portrayal to perfection (David Chase must love to script scenes where Gandolfini digs into a plate of food while talking). The music didn’t blow me away, and the boy and his buddies actually don’t seem obsessed with doing whatever it takes to be the next Bon Jovi, while they stumble into opportunities, both music-wise and relationship-wise. There’s no deep friendships that you think will be the next Clarence Clemens and Bruce. Maybe Springsteen’s dad was like this, but the main message seems to be that you won’t fade away if you keep at it. There’s a side story about Bella’s offbeat sister that surprisingly dead ends unhappily. So, it’s a decent movie, but didn’t inspire me like Cameron Crowe did in Almost Famous, or even other niche films like Garden State. If you want to see a current film that does this perfectly, go see The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

 

Django Unchained

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

This is a unique film: quintessential Tarantino with gushing blood, provocative speeches from compelling characters, tongue in cheek humor, homages to spaghetti westerns, and incredible scenes of in your face violence, combined with a revenge fantasy cum morality tale that delves into life during slavery that you won’t see portrayed in too many places in film today or ever. I cringed during the bloody scenes of the worst type of brutality, and my first instinct is to reject such tastelessness, but then I think am I seeing scenes that would have never happened, or was this the unpleasant reality that no one likes to think about happened right here in the US? The current movie, Lincoln, is focused on passing legislation that banned slavery, but it never shows the reality that slavery entails. Django Unchained shows it in a way I’ve never seen. We all know that families were broken up by auctions, but have we internalized the implications of how awful that was? We’ve heard that slaves were treated like chattel, worse than dogs, but seeing it depicted here is something again that I have rarely seen in popular culture. We’ve read about the Uncle Toms, the “house” n***s, the “field” n***s, the “master” who treats his surrogate father who effectively brought him up like a, well, a slave. But watch Samuel L. Jackson’s ultimate Uncle Tom, wielding power over the plantation, watch Leo Dicaprio as the plantation master toying with his “mandingo” wrestlers as he goads them to fight to the death, watch the brutal treatment of the slaves who try to run away…just unforgettable scenes and portrayals. Christoph Waltz, who was terrific in Inglorius Basterds as the Nazi Colonel, is superb here as the cold hearted, sly bounty hunter. Jamie Foxx is a revelation as the newly freed slave who partners with the bounty hunter to find then free his wife, from whom he was forcible separated. I don’t know if any Tarantino film can be considered a serious treatise of an issue such as slavery,  but if you want to watch an engrossing story which depicts the brutality of our not-too-distant past, check out this film.

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Whether or not to see this movie should be a relatively easy decision.  If you like Tarantino movies you should go.  If you don’t you should stay away at all costs.

As Bill says it has all of the elements of a Tarantino film.  In some ways the violence exceeds some of his earlier films.  There is the usual violence for Tarantino – the over the top shoot outs, explosions, etc and then there’s the slavery inspired violence which unfortunately may not be over the top.

The dialogue is good although not quite as good as Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs.

The movies is very entertaining and despite it’s over 2.5 hour length the movie flies by.  Tarantino gets great performances from Foxx, Waltz, DiCaprio, Jackson and others.  There are also a ton of people making cameos or in smaller roles – Don Johnson, Jonah Hill, Bruce Dern, Franco Nero (from the original ‘Django’ movie), Russ (West Side Story!) and Amber Tamblyn, Tarantino (I love his final scene) and others.

While at times this took a serious look at slavery and how slaves were treated it was also very funny.  At times it reminded me of Blazing Saddles with it’s use of the ‘n’ word and with a scene with the KKK that could easily have been in that movie

For those seeing this movie in Austin you should see it at an Alamo Drafthouse and get their in time to see the pre-show.  It has some clips from some of the films that Tarantino is paying homage to and is also entertaining.  But I’m sure it would take a lot longer to go through all the movies he refers to and it would be interesting to know all that he refers to

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Lincoln

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Daniel Day-Lewis (or is it Daniel-Day Lewis?) is a tour-de-force in this Oscar-worthy performance confirming with me he’s one our the top actors in films today. He is Lincoln, and while I was prepared for a slow first hour (thanks to Howard Stern’s assessment) I was never bored. Spielberg directed this with incredible attention to period detail that fascinated, from the way Lincoln traveled around Washington (a driver who carried a rifle was his only protection while his neighbors didn’t give him a second glance), to his office (constituents were given 1 on 1 audience to plead their case, no matter how minor), to the internal political wranglings, reminiscent of today’s situation where a newly re-elected president tries to pass major legislation (in 1865 it was the 13th amendment banning slavery) while the opposing party controls the House of Representatives. Tommie Lee Jones is terrific as the fervent single-issue abolitionist, as is Hal Holbrook as the slick power broker who must be catered to. While keeping the story suspenseful (we know the outcome!) and entertaining, we learn how politicking was done, how Abe conducted his business, how his “crazy” wife (excellent Sallie Field) pushed him to be more relentless in winning his political battle, how the House was more like British Parliament is today with people shouting down and insulting each other. Most importantly, you get a glimpse of how brutal the Civil War was, with the hand-to-hand bayonetting and fighting to the death, and what a battlefield looks like afterwards. It’s hard to believe that Americans fought each other like this only 4-5 generations ago. You see how the southern states wanted to negotiate peace as though they were a sovereign nation, while the North treated them like individual rebels from within the one nation. I recommend this for all audiences.

Bill C’s Review 4 out of 5

Bill has not left me much to say. What makes this movie so worthwhile is Day-Lewis’ performance, the realistic view of what the U.S. was like in the mid-1800s, and how our government worked so long ago.

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This Is 40

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

This is 40 is the latest directorial effort by Judd Apatow.  It is the story of married couple  Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) as they deal with the current state of their lives as they turn 40. As in previous Apatow films, such as Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin, Apatow tried to meld a raunchy comedy with a touching story that has heart. While this movie had many funny moments and some emotional heart, it was not as consistently funny or as moving as either of the previous movies and does not live up to those previous efforts.

Apatow pulls together a great cast including Melissa McCarthy (who was great in Bridesmaids too), Albert Brooks (another excellent performance coming off of last year’s performance in Drive), Jason Segal, Megan Fox, John Lithgow, and others. This was a family effort for Apatow as Mann is his wife and his two kids also starred and gave good performances in the movie.

While this is an ok movie, it did not live up to my expectations and is not one of Apatow’s best.

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

I agree it’s not consistently funny, but Apatow is not going for that. He’s got a serious mid-life couple’s drama at the center, and with some funny parts sprinkled throughout, you never forget the real-lifeness going on, from the bitter arguments, to the kids’ reactions, to their co-workers’ indifference, to their selfishness, as well as their lovingness. It’s real life, some of it embarassing, some of it not cool, and some of it to be admired in that they get through it and carry on. The fathers (Lithgow and Brooks) lend context and history to the characters. Leslie Mann has her best role here, as the glue that holds the family together, and enough attractiveness (personality and otherwise) to lend credibility to why Paul Rudd’s character loves her. The film is too long, and could have been edited down to eliminate some of the slow parts, but I don’t know what scenes I would want chopped. It’s hit and miss on some of the comic scenes (Mann berating a 12-year old boy is uncomfortable and not funny). Stay tuned for an outtake early in the credits where Melissa McCarthy riffs on her scene in the principal’s office, funniest of all. If you’re an Apatow fan, you need to see this. If you are married, you should see this, both to learn what to avoid and how you can persist through the tough parts. If you hope to be married in the future, you might want to wait till you’ve been hitched for a few years. Finally, if you ever thought Megan Fox had potential, you will see it realized here in a small but memorable part.

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Anna Karenina

Bill C’s Review – 2 out of 5

Anna Karenina is the third teaming of director Joe Wright and actress Keira Knightley. I liked Atonement, the one earlier collaboration I saw, and his directing of Hanna. His Anna Karenina was a very stylized adaptation of the Tolstoy novel. It’s the type of thing you’ll either love or hate. In my case (as  I was told by Janis afterward), I laughed or snickered at inappropriate times due to the directorial choices. I guess that means I am in the hate category. Despite this, I am sure that this film will win all sorts of awards for things I am not capable of judging, like cinematography, musical score, costumes, and art direction. If they have an award for hair styling, they might win an award for that, as I could tell how depressed Knightley’s character was supposed to be by how bad her hair looked.

I thought Knightley and Jude Law were good. I was not as impressed with Aaron Taylor-Johnson who played an impassionate Vronsky.

A lot of people will love this movie. I just happen to not be one of them.

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Hitchcock

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Hitchcock tells the story of great filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock during the making of Psycho and his relationship with his wife Alma Reville during that time.

Alma was a great filmmaker in her own right who subjugated her career to Hitchcock’s.  Helen Mirren is excellent as Alma. Initially she plays the neglected, nagging  wife trying (and failing) to help Hitchcock keep his weight down, but eventually she helps to save the day by re-writing key sequences and helping to edit the final product. The movie-making aspects and Hitchcock’s dealings with the studio are interesting, as Psycho represented a departure and a crossroads in his career.

I had mixed emotions on Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock. His performance seemed to be a caricature of the Hitchcock from his TV show and his cameos in the movies. I think Hopkins almost smiled once in the movie. Hopefully Hitchcock was more than just his caricature.

The director also made some interesting choices in starting and ending the film as a Hitchcock TV episode. He also had some scenes with Hitchcock and the real life character that inspired the  Norman Bates character to show Hitchcock’s psychological state of mind during this time.  I don’t think these choices really added to the movie.

Hitchcock was ok, but isn’t a movie that will stick with me for a long time.

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