Archive for the ‘ Actors ’ Category

Zero Dark Thirty – Movie Review

Kathryn Bigelow has done it again. In Zero Dark Thirty she manages to do again what most impressed me about The Hurt Locker–she tells the story of the “boots on the ground” people objectively, and without judgment. She has done the same thing in Zero Dark Thirty.

Zero Dark Thirty deals with the CIA intelligence work that led to the death of Osama bin Laden. Much of the work was done by Maya, a young, obsessed agent who believes that the key to finding din Laden is tracking down his courier. Maya is played by Jessica Chastain, who is able to show the character’s growing determination with humanity and depth.

The movie does a good job of showing the time it takes to gather important intelligence, and the toll it takes on those gathering it. It also shows the part played by those who act on the intel–everyone from cabinet members to the Seals who have to put their lives on the line.

Zero Dark Thirty is an engaging, interesting, and well-made movie. It is definitely worth watching, if only for the depiction of an important moment in history.

Les Miserables – Movie Review

As a general rule, I do not like musicals. The lyrics are often sappy, and it seems ridiculous how, in the middle of a life-changing event, the characters will burst into song and dance around. The new version of Les Miserables does not fall neatly into the musical category. Yes, there is singing; however, it is not typical. In some instances it’s not even that good. And yet I liked it, far more than most musicals I’ve watched.

What is good about Les Mis is that it follows the book fairly well,which is saying something, since Victor Hugo could be long-winded. But the heart of the story is intact in this movie. The cinematography and costuming are wonderful, too.

The singing is the part that most people are talking about, though. Most of the dialogue of the movie is done through singing, which has an interesting effect. It actually adds emotion in parts, like Fantine’s song “I Dreamed a Dream.” Anne Hathaway was brilliant in the role of Fantine, and her version of “I Dreamed” was heart-breaking.

Les Miserables may not be the easiest or most comfortable movie you could watch, but it’s an important one, and the story is well-told. I would recommend watching it in the theater, too, to get the grand scope that Victor Hugo had in his book, and Tom Hooper was able to keep in the movie.

The Hobbit – Movie Review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been a long-awaited movie, seeming to be often delayed by technicalities and other issues. At last, Peter Jackson and the LOTR crew reassembled and began filming.

What might take some getting used to for some people was actually one of my favorite parts of the movie–the fact that young Bilbo Baggins is played by Martin Freeman. Freeman brings a humor and depth to the character that is impressive, even if only because he had to follow in Ian Holm’s footsteps.

Thorin Oakenshield, played with all his stubborn pride by Richard Armitage, is an excellent and complex character. The other dwarf that really stands out is the kind and loquacious Balin, one of the older dwarves, and the one who particularly looks out for Bilbo.

There is a lot more that can be said about the movie, particularly what was changed or added, but I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it yet. I will say that the movie is cinematically up to the standards of the LOTR trilogy, and fans of those movies are almost sure to enjoy this one.

On top of that, Howard Shore’s music is excellent, as it was for the LOTR trilogy. The main theme is a song sung by the dwarves, which is a powerful moment that sets the tone for much of the movie. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was worth the wait. Now we just have to wait for the next installment!

Argo

Ben Affleck’s third movie, Argo, is his best so far. Argo is based on the true story of six Americans who escaped the hostage situation in Tehran (that begin in 1979) and hid with the Canadian ambassador. Those six people have to be flown out of Tehran, but the question is how to do that without the Iranians discovering they are Americans and not Canadians.

There are some flaws in the movie, namely the oversimplification (as Hollywood does so well) of the behind-the-scenes politics that had been going on for years to bring the whole situation to a head. Also, from what I’ve read, it seems that some of the scenes in the movie, especially toward the end, are over-dramatized to add more tension and slightly misleading.

Those flaws aside, the movie was captivating and quite thrilling. The drama, whether amped up for Hollywood or not, will certainly keep the audience’s attention. What is also fascinating is how well they captured the look of the era–the clothes, the hair, the tensions, and more importantly, the terror in the streets of Tehran. While all the hostages are eventually released, Tehran remained a dangerous place for those who wouldn’t toe the line. If you don’t believe me, read Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran. But I digress.

What was most surprising to me about Argo was the humor. I wasn’t expecting a movie about hostages and secret rescue missions to be so funny, but it was. Much of the humor is a dark humor, but it rings true to how people would have reacted in such a situation. Alan Arkin and John Goodman’s Hollywood characters add a lot of the humor, although the CIA agent O’Donnell, played by Bryan Cranston, has some of the best lines.

Argo is a thrilling and entertaining movie about a frightening time in American history. Even though the story is a little doctored, it is still well worth watching. This is a movie that, while it will be good on a TV, is worth the money to watch in theaters. The large screen of a theater makes the terrifying mobs in Tehran more realistic, and it makes the Hollywood scenes more opulent in comparison. I recommend you watch this movie in the theater if you get the chance.

Looper

If people didn’t know the name Rian Johnson before, they will probably remember it from now on. He is the writer and director of the new action thriller Looper.

Looper is not a perfect movie, but it is a rather fascinating one. There are some moments when the story is confusing and the plot a little muddy. However, the premise is interesting, and the combination of action and violence is tempered with ethical dilemmas.

And the acting was good. Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt were great, and Jeff Daniels makes a superb villain, but the real stand-out role in the movie belongs to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, mostly because of his ability to emulate a young Bruce Willis. He gets the facial expressions and the voice so spot-on at moments that it becomes a little eerie, which adds to the depth of the movie.

Looper is a movie worth watching. Rian Johnson is someone to keep your eyes on, even if you’ve never heard of him before now.

Trouble with the Curve

When I heard about the movie Trouble with the Curve I was excited about watching it for two reasons: I generally like Clint Eastwood, and I genuinely love baseball. The movie did not disappoint. There were definitely predictable parts, but the story was well-told, so anything predictable fit in and enriched the story.

Trouble with the Curve is about a lot more than baseball. It’s also about family relationships and the conflict between working at a good job or working at a job you love. The writing is witty and cohesive, and the acting is excellent. Clint Eastwood is excellent as the old-style, anti-technology scout, Gus. But the real standout is probably Amy Adams as Gus’s daughter Mickey. John Goodman does a good job of portraying Gus’s long-suffering friend Pete, and Justin Timberlake is good as the new scout Johnny.

The pace of the movie might be a little slow for some people, but it seems to mirror the pace of many baseball games. There is a somewhat methodical pace, punctuated by moments of high tension and excitement, and yet the viewer’s interest and attention is held throughout the movie.

Trouble with the Curveis a thoroughly enjoyable, well-made movie, and I would recommend it to anyone, even someone who is not a baseball fan.

MCD

The movie world lost something great on Monday, with the death of Michael Clarke Duncan.

He was a wonderful actor, and from all accounts a wonderful person when he wasn’t acting. I will always remember him as John Coffey in The Green Mile.

Rest in peace, Mr. Duncan.

Hope Springs

 Hope Springs might seem like a typical romantic comedy, even though it has some atypical, older-than-average stars.

Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones portray a couple who have been married for over thirty years. The wife, Kay, decides she wants something more for their marriage, so she signs them up for a week of “intensive therapy.” Let the movies of hilarity and awkwardness begin!

One interesting thing Hope Springs does is illustrate that issues in marriages, while perhaps appearing to be caused by one person, in reality have their roots in the behavior of both people. The real surprise of the movie, however, is probably Steve Carell as the therapist, Dr. Feld. He’s an excellent actor, so I was curious to see how he would play a character that wasn’t driven by comedy. He nailed it. He sits in a chair for most of the movie, but still maintains the necessary gravitas and empathy for the character. Both Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep were excellent, but we shouldn’t expect any less from them.

Hope Springs was an engaging and enjoyable movie, sometimes painful in its realism. If you don’t get a chance to watch it in theaters, I recommend you watch it when it’s available on DVD.

The Dark Knight Rises

Batman has always been one of my favorite superheros, since he (along with Ironman) has to use other means of fighting than actual super powers. Batman uses training and technology, mostly, in his drive to ride Gotham of evil-doers.

I was wondering how Nolan would wrap up his Batman trilogy, since The Dark Knight Rises was billed as the “epic conclusion.” There were many rumors about the outcome, but I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it.

One thing I noticed were the allusions to and use of themes from Dickens A Tale of Two Cities. It was an interesting and powerful idea, especially the illustration of what a modern-day French revolution might look like. Frightening and horrific.

The Dark Knight Rises is an example of what can be done to make a movie both an excellent action movie and a movie with plot and character development. The movie showcases many of the previous stars–obviously Bale as Wayne/Batman–but also Gary Oldman as Gordon, Michael Caine as Alfred, and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. Some excellent new additions were Anne Hathaway as Sabrina Kyle/Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Officer Blake, and Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate. And then, of course, there was Tom Hardy as Bane. He was the opposite kind of creepy from Ledger’s Joker–he was quiet and powerful instead of loquacious and sly.

The Dark Knight Rises was an excellent way to wrap up the trilogy. The conclusion was done well–it wasn’t sloppy, quick, or easy, but rather thoughtful and intriguing. It is well worth watching, even if you haven’t seen the others.

Andy Griffith

I watched a lot of Matlock with my Grandma. I’m pretty sure she also liked to watch The Andy Griffith Show. Both were pretty good quality TV shows, and far from a lot of the fare one can get today.

Andy Griffith died yesterday, but we can still watch his work, which is nice. What is also nice is that he remained a classy guy. Here is a short video of him being interviewed after receiving an award.

http://www.wimp.com/andygriffith/