Archive for the ‘ Directors ’ 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.

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.

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.

Oscars

I wasn’t able to watch the Oscars last night, but they seemed to have mostly turned out as I thought they would. I was expecting The Artist to win big, and it did.

I’ve been finding it harder and harder to get excited about the Oscars. The last time I remember looking forward to watching the show would have been the year The Return of the King was up for thirteen awards.

I did miss watching it this year, but I also wish I cared more. I do hope the host was better than last year, because that was a bit of a disaster.

There and back again

This has been a long time in coming, but it looks to be worth the wait. I’m glad they didn’t go ahead with the project until Peter Jackson could be at the helm again.

It looks like the only bad thing about the upcoming Hobbit movie is that it’s not going to hit the theaters until next December. So until then, here’s a teaser for you!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903624/

Sherlock Holmes 2

Guy Ritchie’s second foray into the world of Sherlock Holmes, in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, opens with a bang. The first question one should ask about a sequel is if it lives up to the first one (actually, the first question should be whether or not to make a sequel). A Game of Shadows definitely lives up to the first Holmes movie, not the least because of Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law.

The villain is much realer and more sinister, in that he is a respected individual with a twisted soul. Moriarty is perhaps the most dangerous type of villain–the one who doesn’t dirty his own hands, but has minions to do his will.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is perhaps even more English than the first movie, and has even more intense fight sequences. The addition of Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes was brilliant, as well.

It’s a wonderful movie, made better by the excellent writing. One of my favorite quotes is, “Don’t be a dingy bird, bad people do bad things because they can!” The movie is full of lines like this, quotable outside the movie, yet even better in context.

Treat yourself to a Christmas present and watch A Game of Shadows.

Casting Issues?

I was rather confused when I first heard that Meryl Streep was cast to play Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.  I’m still confused, actually.  It’s not that I doubt Streep’s acting ability, it’s that I find it odd that she was chosen when there are brilliant British actors who could fill the role.  Then I discovered that the director of The Iron Lady is Phyllida Lloyd, who also directed Mamma Mia!  So perhaps Lloyd enjoyed working with Streep and got her cast as Thatcher.  I’m looking forward to the movie, but I still think it’s an odd choice.

Perhaps not as odd, however, as casting Tom Cruise to play Jack Reacher in the upcoming One Shot, which is an adaptation of one of the popular novels by Lee Child.  This is apparently causing furor among Reacher fans everywhere.  One of the reasons is that Cruise is about a foot shorter than Reacher.  I do think there are better people out there than Cruise, but then I might not be as huge of a Reacher fan as some other people.

All we can do as moviegoers is “vote” with our tickets.  If we like the movie, we will recommend it and maybe watch it again.  If not, we will tell everyone why they should avoid it.  But then again, I think that Hollywood exists in a parallel universe, rather out of touch with reality in many cases.

Courageous

The movie Courageous models its title in more ways than one.  In an age where many people seem to enjoy fluffy action-driven movies or vulgar comedies, Courageous tackles the issue of the importance of faith and fatherhood.

A movie that is driven by a message is often lacking in other areas, so I was not expecting much cinematically when I went to see Courageous.  I was agreeably surprised.  Although the movie takes a while to get started, it is generally well-shot and quite well written.  It has good progression and character development.  And there are a few quite dramatic and action-packed scenes.  After all, the movie is about a group of policemen!

The director, Alex Kendrick, was also the co-author and starred as one of the main policemen in the story.  Directing and starring in a movie can be a bad idea, but it works here.  Kendrick is a believable and sympathetic character.

I would recommend Courageous to anyone who wants to see a movie about taking a stand, trying to make a difference, and living with integrity.  It’s a refreshing change from the rather typical Hollywood hedonism.