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Posts tagged “film

MOVIES & MUSINGS

Skyfall (Nov. 9)

The 23rd entry in the longest-running film series ever returns after a longer than usual four year break (twice the normal gap) after MGM’s financial insolvency. After the poorly-received Quantum of Solace, Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson took the unusual step of hiring theater-turned-film director Sam Mendes to helm Bond 23. Mendes had spectacular success with his Academy Award-winning first film American Beauty (1999), then nothing of note since. In writing the script Mendes has said he was influence by The Dark Knight, with equal emphasis on character and action. Apparently, the Bond producers made the right choice as buzz is running extremely high on Skyfall – some call it the best Bond movie ever. Skyfall continues the series reboot with several traditional Bond characters reintroduced, including a young Q (Ben Whishaw) a new M and a surprise new/old character. After a hard drive containing the names of NATO undercover agents in terrorist organizations is stolen, Bond pursues the thief to Shanghai, but not before several agents are killed and MI6 attacked. Bond kills the thief and discovers he is working for Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a former MI6 agent now seeking revenge against M, herself under pressure from rival Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) to retire. Bond captures Silva, but he escapes and attacks M. To protect M and lay a trap for the pursuing Silva and his men, Bond takes her to his family estate in Scotland, Skyfall.

Lincoln (Nov. 16)

It’s the middle of awards season and Steven Spielberg has produced a likely Best Picture nominee with his portrait of the last months in the life of Abraham Lincoln. Although titled after the president, this is really a political drama about the passing of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution outlawing slavery. While slices of horrific Civil War battles are shown, the real battleground is the floor of Congress where debate rages about the controversial amendment which has splintered the Republican Party with uncompromising abolitionists like Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) for it and others who want to end the war but not slavery against it. Lincoln’s mission though, is threefold: to end the
war, end slavery and bring a divided nation together. To accomplish
this, Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) must use every bit of his powers of
persuasion, compromise and oratory along with the willingness to get
down and dirty if necessary. Against the backdrop of a nation in crisis,
is also the personal portrait of the man and his family – the first
lady Mary (Sally Field) and sons Robert (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt) and Tad
(Gulliver McGrath). Holding it all together is Day-Lewis, whose
performance is already being touted as an Oscar winner.

Life of Pi (Nov. 21)

Another
probable Oscar nominee arrives with Ang Lee’s film version of the
impossible to adapt bestseller by Yann Martel. A
fantasy/allegory/adventure for all ages, movie tells the story of Pi
Patel, an Indian boy who spends 227 days adrift on a raft with a live
tiger. As an adult Pi recounts his incredible story to a writer, we’re
introduced to the 5-year-old Piscine who lives in the lush, almost
enchanted-looking Pondicherry, India. Pi’s father and mother run a zoo.
Pi himself is a curious, mischievous child who is also deeply interested
in God. In no time, Piscine shortens his name to Pi and becomes a
Hindu, Christian and Muslim. However, as a teenager, Pi’s idyllic
existence changes when his parents decide to sell their zoo and move to
Canada. Pi and his family board a freighter with the few remaining
animals, but in no time the ship capsizes in a storm. Pi is the lone
human survivor in a lifeboat, but he soon finds he has company – a few
animals have made it onboard, including a 450 lb. Bengal tiger named
Richard Parker. Soon, due to the law of the jungle, there’s only Parker.
Thus begins Pi’s ordeal where he must battle elements and dwindling
food and water supplies while building a raft to separate him from
Parker, who starts out as a savage beast but transforms over months into
a curious interspecies friendship. Tobey Maguire originally played the
writer that adult Pi tells his story to, but his scenes were cut after
Lee decided he had become too famous and was distracting in the part.

Silver Linings Playbook (Nov. 21)

With
a successful venture into blue collar drama with 2010’s The Fighter,
director David O’Russell returns to more familiar territory with his
offbeat depression comedy Silver Linings Playbook, based on the Mathew
Quick bestseller. Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released from a mental
hospital where he’s spent 8 months for a violent episode caused by his
bipolar disorder. In the meantime his wife Nikki leaves him. He moves
back in with his parents, Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro) and Dolores (Jacki
Weaver) who do their best to help him readjust. But Pat resists, not
taking his meds and working out like to maniac in an effort to woo back
Nikki, while working his way through a batch of literary classics that
Nikki recommended. But he dismisses the stories as depressing. Pat
believes in silver linings, possibilities – “Excelsior!” is his favorite
motto. Pat Sr., a fanatical Eagles fan, tries to woo Pat back to
normality by focusing him on pro football. But Pat’s disorder reasserts
itself in hilarious, inappropriate verbal and physical outbursts. While
running one day, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) a self-described
“crazy slut with a dead husband” who is just as depressed as Pat is.
They bond in unusual ways, such as comparing which meds they take.
Tiffany, who has a dance studio in her apartment, starts working with
Pat as a dance partner to rehabilitate him which works too well – their
big performance conflicts with a crucial Eagles game his dad
and brothers insist he attend. Chris Tucker makes a rare non-Rush Hour
performance as Pat’s buddy from the mental hospital. Variety said Pat
was one of Bradley Cooper’s best roles yet, funny and soulful.

Hitchcock (Nov. 23)

Anthony
Hopkins stars as legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock in this peek
inside the making of his classic Psycho and also his unique partnership
with his little-know wife, Alma (Helen Mirren). Movie picks up with
Hitchcock restless and bored. Although coming off a massive success with
North By Northwest, he feels trapped by his success with studios only
interested in Hitchcock-type thrillers. In addition, he’s 60 and
terribly overweight. Then he chances on Robert Block’s book Psycho,
based on the true story of serial killer Ed Gein and filled with
“graphic elements of brutal violence, voyeurism, transvestitism and
incest.”

Hitchcock
is attracted. In it he sees a way of breaking free from thrillers and
truly shocking the film establishment. “What if someone really good made
a horror picture?” he muses. But no studio will touch it and Hitchcock
takes a tremendous personal gamble and mortgages his house. It the movie
flops, the Hitchcocks lose the house. In the meantime, Alma who is
basically his filmmaking partner has gotten restless after decades of
her contributions being unacknowledged and has started a nearromance
with dashing screenwriter Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), putting Hitch’s
marriage in jeopardy as well. Hitchock is basically a lighter look at
one of the darkest pictures the master of suspense ever made, battling
censors and expectations all the way to completing his classic.


Movies & Musings


Argo (Oct. 12)

Ben Affleck continues his successful directing career with Argo, a ripped-from-the-headlines account of the Iran hostage crisis with a Hollywood twist. In 1979, after Iranian militants storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and take 52 Americans hostage, six diplomats manage to evade capture and hide in the Canadian Embassy. CIA exfiltration expert Tony Mendez (Affleck) gets the call to create an operation to remove the six Americans from Iran. Mendez has the reputation of never leaving anyone behind, but this is his biggest challenge yet – lives are at stake in the midst of a revolutionary hostile country. To this end, Mendez concocts a plan to pose as a film producer scouting locations for a film to be shot in Tehran. The six are to be smuggled out as part of the film crew.

Like a film producer, Mendez has to sell the idea to a roomful of skeptical State Department officials. Devoid of options, Mendez’s “best bad idea” wins out. Mendez goes all the way with the idea, enlisting Hollywood producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and makeup pro John Chambers (John Goodman) to form a fake production company for a fake scifi film Argo. Tension ratchets once the team lands in Iran and a game of cat and mouse ensues with Iranian intelligence. With the net closing on them, Mendez is given 72 hours by his superiors to get the hostages out.

Seven Psychopaths (Oct. 12)

Irish playwright Martin McDonagh made a splash with his debut feature film, the violent dark comedy In Bruge, about a pair of hitmen hiding out in Belgium. He returns with the Quentin Tarantino-esque Seven Psychopaths. Colin Farell stars as Marty, a blocked screenwriter who drinks too much while trying to write a screenplay titled Seven Psychopaths. Marty’s best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) an actor with too much time on his hands comes to the rescue with the inane idea to put out an ad for psychopaths. They get one response – Zachariah (Tom Waits) a serial killer who only kills other serial killers. Soon, Marty is pulled into another of Billy’s schemes which he and his odd friend Hans (Christopher Walken) have dreamed up – dognapping. After kidnapping a dog, they wait for a reward to be posted, then show up with the dog. Things go awry when they steal a Shih Tzu that belongs to dog-loving psychopathic mobster Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson), who sends his goons out to retrieve his Shih Tzu and inflict serious bodily harm on the culprits. Plot is basically an excuse for McDonagh to spin his delicious, threatening but funny dialogue and violent fantasy sequences that play out in the minds of the not-all-there characters. Gabourey Sideibe and Harry Dean Stanton make appearances.

Sinister (Oct. 12)

Director Scott Derrickson had a surprise hit with 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Now he returns with Sinister, a wellreviewed horror film. Ethan Hawke stars as true crime writer Ellison Oswald, who’s career has nosedived since his first hit book ten years previous. Looking for a hit, Oswald learns of a shocking family murder in a small town. Determined to solve the mystery, Oswald, who’s previously moved his family close to murder sites for his research, goes even further and buys the murdered family’s house and moves his family in without telling them. While his wife and two kids adjust to the new surroundings, Ellison finds a box in the attic containing 8mm films. One night he projects them for himself and discovers the home movies depict gruesome murders of families taken by the killer. As Ellison investigates, he learns that the families were connected in some way and that a white-faced figure can be glimpsed in all the films, leaving a distinctive mark on the scene. After consulting an occult specialist (Vincent D’Onofrio), he learns that the mark is that of the demon Bagul, an “eater of children,” and that his investigation has put his entire family in jeopardy.

Flight (Nov. 2)

In director Robert Zemecki’s first live action film since Cast Away (2000) Denzel Washington stars as Whip Whittaker, veteran airline pilot. Nothing phases Whip in the air. Even as a routine flight from Houston to Tulsa turns deadly when a mechanical failure puts the plane in an uncontrollable position, Whip manages to crash land the plane, losing only eight passengers out of a 102. Whip survives. Recovering in the hospital Whip bonds over cigarettes with Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a drug addict. But while lauded as a hero for saving the plane in an impossible postion, Whip hides a deadly secret: he is a substance abuser and was drunk when flying the plane. When the NTSB crash investigation ensues, the stakes are high as his friend Charlie (Bruce Greenwood), the head of the pilots’ union, informs him. Responsibility for the crash and the 8 deaths will cause the airline and pilots’ union to try to prove manufacturer error — “The plane fell apart at 30,000 feet,” Whip says – while the manufacturer will try to prove pilot error. Enter Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle), a slick criminal negligence lawyer retained for Whip who informs him that the toxicology report on him when brought to the hospital indicated he was drunk and stoned on cocaine – federal offenses that could put him behind bars for life. Is Whip a hero for saving the plane or a villain for flying impaired? Whip turns to Nicole to help him fight his substance abuse while under tremendous pressure, which usually drives him to drink. Washington could very well pick up an Oscar nomination for this role.