Monday, March 31, 2008

London Calling: A Fish Called Wanda

A crazy, witty, and hilarious classic comedy from Charles Chricton and John Cleese. Perfectly timed and deviously funny, this semi-heist, semi-law, all-fun flick has great acting, from Jamie Lee Curtis as the sexy Wanda, John Cleese as the lawyer Archie Leach (Cary Grant's name), Michael Palin as the stuttering Ken (which proves for some rolling-on-the-floor laughing scenes), and, best of all, Kevin Kline in an Oscar-winning role as Otto, the painfully funny Neitzsche-reading weapons master. Anyways, the plot revolves around a jewel heist that doesn't take very much planning and the main characters are able to pull off (except Leach isn't involved, George Thomaston is, and Leach is his lawyer). When Otto and Wanda turn George in and plan to escape to South America, they realize the jewels are gone, and Ken is working with George against them. The fun begins when Cleese enters, and sets off a storm of jealousy in Otto. The funny scenes start then, with hilarity after hilarity, playing off of Ken's stutter, Otto breaking in when Wanda and Leach are making love, and so on. Bottom line: this is great entertainment, with great comic timing all around, and great screenwriting, too. See this movie, and don't call me stupid. A

A Fish Called Wanda has a lot of inappropriate humor, best saved for those entering adulthood.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

L.A. Law: Blade Runner: The Director's Cut

A great, futuristic science fiction thriller with a couple rough spots that the film skirts. I have never seen the original cut of Blade Runner, which had Richard Deckard's (Harrison Ford) narration, and an upbeat ending, but I heard that it was not worthy of a view, so I checked out Ridley Scott's version. The movie's take on Los Angeles is pretty amazing, as a sort of beautiful hell, somewhat like a moderately tuned down version of London in George Orwell's 1984 (no thoughtcrimes). But that's only the beginning. The plot, involving 5 replicants (Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah, Brion James, and Joanna Cassidy), sort of android slaves that are almost exactly like humans that need to be tracked down, is good, but there is simply not enough action to keep the movie going. I seem sometimes to be hypocritical about substance and too much substance. For instance, take Slipstream and Crash, two relatively mediocre movies, with absolutely no substance. Just either insanity or emotion, respectfully. With this movie, though, the action is not as plentiful as a viewer would hope for. But when there is action, it is good. The executions of the replicants are all very well filmed and are amazing. About the acting: Harrison Ford, who has less screen time than advertised, is pretty good, but the best performances in the movie are delivered by Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah. These two are creepy in these roles, and succeed very much. The best part of the movie: the abrupt and thought-provoking ending set up by Edward James Olmos' oragami: Is Deckard a replicant? All in all, this movie is a great look into the future with good performances and great cinematography. A-

Friday, March 21, 2008

Love and Death: The Savages

A sad but funny film that is a joy to watch, not only because of the chemistry between Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Philip Bosco, but because it is as witty and smart as Juno, but with an semi-depressing edge. Linney and Hoffman star brilliantly as two siblings whose father needs to be transfered to a nursing home. The chemistry between these two is great, but add Bosco to the mix and wham!, instant hilarious dramedy. Linney is great in this role, as a frantic playwright who a married man (Peter Friedman) is having an affair with, and Hoffman is perfect as the Bertolt Brecht expert brother (he is a doctor of the theatre of physical unrest, or at least Laura Linney's character says he is), adding the right amount of remorse to the movie. Bosco is great, but the movie isn't extremely deep on his character, but I guess it would have been sappier if it had. Anyways, the movie plays out like an American version of Away From Her (another great film about nursing homes), but more upbeat, wittier, and filmed better (the cinematography conveys an brilliant uneasiness). Bottom line: Tamara Jenkins' film is a masterpiece, written and directed to perfection, with great performances all around, and with great heart. A

Monday, March 17, 2008

True Grit: The French Connection

The unique crime drama that won Best Picture in 1971 is really all that. Gene Hackman won an Oscar for Best Actor for starring as Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle, the classic narc cop for the NYPD, slightly racist and very determined. Roy Scheider plays Detective Buddy Russo, not an extremely deep character, but nonetheless a good one. Fernando Rey, Tony Lo Bianco, Marcel Bozzuffi (the three frogs), Arlene Farber (the woman), Harold Gary (Weinstock), Fredric De Pasquale (the actor), Pat McDermott (the chemist), and Benny Marino (the mechanic) are the players in "The French Connection", a heroin trade for tons of cash, and the plot revolves around Doyle and Russo trying to stop them. Two particularly brilliant sequences are the lesser train "outsmarting" sequence with Hackman and Rey, and the famous train/car sequence with Bozzuffi and again Hackman (this one especially outstanding). Overall, this movie was too brief, even though it topped out at 104 minutes (1 hour and 44 minutes), and some of the French interactions were boring. The ending was a low point, because you think the movie ends with a gunshot, which is great, but they added on 15 seconds of epilogue footage that was unnecessary and damaging to the flow of the movie. Disregarding that, this movie is great, with outstanding performances from Hackman, Scheider, and Rey. A nice portrait of New York at it's grittiest. A-

Monday, March 10, 2008

Good Cop, Bad Cop: L.A. Confidential

A sizzling 1940's-style film noir from director Curtis Hanson that was adapted from a James Ellroy novel. Det. Bud White (Russell Crowe) is the badass detective who is pretty violent in his justice, Sgt. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) is the technical advisor or something behind a Dragnet-like show, and Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is the lieutenant detective who is trying to follow in his father's footsteps. What links these three men? They all are a part of the LAPD. Co-starring is Danny DeVito is the writer of the Hush-Hush magazine which Vincennes does stints for, Kim Basinger as a call girl who likes White, James Cromwell as the crooked head of the LAPD, and David Strathairn as a millonaire who makes his money styling prostitutes to look like movie stars. Anyways, one robbery and murder at the Nite Owl Cafe sets everything in motion, partnering up Vincennes and Exley, and, eventually, White and Exley. A brilliant score punctuates the movie, and a good script flows through the character's mouths. A genuine film noir, with a gritty feel with a good sense of irony, especially the contrast between the perfect city that L.A. is advertised as, and what it is. A-

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Prison Break: The Shawshank Redemption

Beautiful. Everything about this movie is beautiful. Forrest Gump is a shrimp bucket of emotional crap compared to this great drama. Tim Robbins is Andy Dufresne, a man who is convicted wrongly of murdering his wife and the man his wife is having an affair with. Morgan Freeman is Red, a veteran at the Shawshank Prison, another man who was convicted of murder, but he did it. These performances are outstanding, some of the best in the history of cinema, and they root one of film's great masterpieces. Bob Gunton supports as Warden Norton, a ruthless man who uses Andy's education and banking expertise to his advantage to scam hundreds of dollars. The sheer brilliance of this movie is blinding. Everything is seamless, especially the way time passes. Frank Darabont, the man who directs most King adaptations, mixes the amount of prison content just right with sentimentality (very little). The movie's last 45 minutes are pristine cinematic gold, from Andy's prison break/rain scene, to Andy's scam of the Warden, to Red making to Andy across the Mexican border. A classic film. One to be hailed for ages. A

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Missing: Gone Baby Gone

A heavily violent and disturbing abduction pic that is thought-provoking. Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan play Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennero, two private investigators hired to get a kidnapped girl named Amanda back to her foulmouthed, drug abusing mother (Amy Ryan). Morgan Freeman co-stars as the Boston Police Department head, and Ed Harris co-stars as Remy Bressant, a detective. The twists are relatively easy to figure out, but I won't spoil the biggest one. This movie's ending is mind-blowing and thought-provoking. It's extremely hard to decide what's right and wrong. This movie is mesmerizing, and a great first effort from Ben Affleck. The script sizzles and is funny in some moments. But this movie is dead serious. It hits its target right where it needs to, hitting on one of the biggest topics of all: is the law more right than the moral? What is "right" and what is right? That's the question that this movie pushes into the minds of all viewers, and does well. A-