Search This Blog

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bang The Drum Slowly Film Review – DeNiro Baseball Movie

A below average Major League Baseball catcher, Bruce Pearson (Robert De Niro) learns that he is dying from Hodgskins disease. The only other player on the team that knows of Bruce’s illness is the star pitcher, Henry Wiggins (Michael Moriarity). Together they conspire to keep the illness a secret from the team and to keep Bruce playing what may be his last season of baseball.

“Bang The Drum Slowly” not what I would call an on-the-field baseball movie. This isn’t “The Natural” or “Bull Durham” where actions on the field are very relevant to the plot. The baseball scenes in “Bang The Drum Slowly” are very subdued, relatively short and feel like watching a bunch of guys going to work every day. Much of the movie is set in the locker room or the hotel where they stay (which unfortunately never seems to change).  None of the players or coaches gloat about the joy of playing baseball. Baseball is their job and they revolve their lives around it.

This blue collar feel to this film is refreshing and feels in stark contrast to fast riches and prima donna elements seen in real pro sports today. The lack of game day melodrama made it feel more original and sets Bag the Drum Slowly apart from sports flicks that have a more on-the-field formula like films “Any Given Sunday” and “Major League”

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Disturbia Movie Review – Shia LeBouf

A teenager , Kale (Shia LeBouf), is sentenced to three months house arrest for hitting a teacher. During his house arrest he wanders the house alone all day and is desperate to fill his time with some sort of activity.  To break the monotony he begins spying on his neighbors through his bedroom window. His voyeuristic focus is on the beautiful teenage girl Ashley (Sarah Roemer) and their mutual neighbor who may or may not be a serial killer (David Morse)

There is nothing unique about this film. This flick is a collage of so many of the teen thriller movies you’ve seen so many times in the past. Nerdy, somewhat outcast types stumble upon exceptional circumstances that break up the monotony of their otherwise affluent, posh, suburban lifestyle.

Along the way a gorgeous, popular, teenage girl moves in across the street and begins an implausible relationship with the socially awkward young man.

Like so many thrillers, he bad guy is big, brooding and somehow manages to be everywhere at once. He moves slowly but keeps up easily with the light speed, reckless pace of the fleeing good guys. It is as if the bad guy has the ability to teleport himself everywhere at once without breaking much of a sweat.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cowboys and Aliens Film Review – Olivia Wilde Daniel Craig

“Cowboys and Aliens” was kind of fun to watch but ultimately this was just another shoot ‘em up action movie that plays the same old angles and recycles the usual alien film cliches.

The film is set in the post American Civil War Wild West. Jake (Daniel Craig), an outlaw, wakes up in the middle of the desert seriously wounded and suffering from complete amnesia. It turns out Jake has enemies after him like Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) and along the way he has to figure out why. Sound familiar? It should. Hollywood is full of amnesia films already. Total Recall anyone? Bourne Identity? Memento? Arguably we could throw the Matrix in there too. Do we need another I-can't-remember-a-thing-flick?

While Jake is getting his wits back, outer space aliens attack the Earth. The aliens are nothign new. I can’t help but think Cowboys and Aliens just used the same space creatures from Battle Los Angeles. It seems all aliens are thick skinned and very difficult but not impossible to kill with bullets. That is unless you hit them impossbily deep in their chest cavity and then they die instantly. Aliens in both films love our natural resources as well. In the case of Cowboys and Aliens, the aliens want to steal our gold. Go figure. Not food or water or fuel but gold. Why do they want gold? Apparently it is rare on their planet too. Very exciting reason, not.

Limelight – Peter Gaiten Documentary

"Limelight" is a documentary about the rise and fall of club owner Peter Gaiten. Gaiten opened a series of night clubs throughout the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. He was highly successful in attracting millions of customers over the course of his career. He succeeded by offering cutting edge music and innovative club themes. The film presents him as being responsible for introducing hip-hop and rave music to the New York scene.**

Much of the movie focuses on his two most popular New York City night clubs, Limelight and The Tunnel. Both were wildly successful due to Gaiten’s strategies I mentioned above but were also blamed for rampant drug dealing and introducing the drug called ecstasy to New York.

Limelight is shot like an Mtv rockumentary / documentary. The footage is highlighted with subtle light effects, camera angles and animation. Much of the film’s interviews are dominated by insiders of the club and music scene as well as a few celebrities (Moby, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, etc)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Take Shelter Movie Review - Jessica Chastain

Curtis(Michael Shannon) and his wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), live a settled down, rural, blue collar life with their young daughter. Curtis begins experiencing intense nightmares that seems to suggest the end of the world. Are these dreams real or are they early signs of mental illness?

The pace, setting, style and atmosphere of "Take Shelter" reminded me so much of M. Night Shyamalon's "Signs" (Mel Gibson) that I jumped up and checked IMDB to see if Shyamalon wrote the film. It turns out Shyamalon had nothing to do with this movie. Jeff Nichols wrote and directed but the film's rural setting, slow suspense, apocalyptic signs and family-centric plot all smack of "Signs" I even thought there was a strong resemblance between Michael Shannon's character, Curtis, and Joaquin Phoenix's character Merrill, in "Signs"

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Days of Heaven – Terrence Malick Richard Gere Film Review

Bill, a troubled, unemployed 1900’s steel worker (Richard Gere) travels with his girlfriend Linda (Brooke Adams) and much younger sister Abby (Linda Manz) to the south where they work as farmhands during the great depression.

Bill and Linda are lovers but they travel through life posing as brother and sister simply because, as the narrator states, “people will talk.” Because they keep their relationship a secret the terminally ill owner of the farm (Sam Shepard) lets himself fall for Linda.

Bill and Linda notice his interest and concoct a scheme where Linda marries the farm owner believing the owner will die in a year and they will inherit the farm.

Terrence Malick wrote and directed this movie. “Days of Heaven” is loaded with great scenery and intimate shots of life on the farm. The scenes of buffalo, wild horses, wolves (or was that coyote), and birds thriving among the flowing wheat fields felt like I was looking back in time. Like other Malick films such as “The Tree of Life” and “The Thin Red Line”, “Days of Heaven” is more of a visual experience than other conventionally shot films. Malik’s experimentation with close ups, camera angles and use of sweep makes this movie feel more grandiose in spite of its compact setting.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Incendie Great Foreign Language Film Review

A woman (Lubna Azabal) dies and in her will she tasks her twin daughter (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and son (Maxim Gaudette) to deliver a letter to their father and brother they never met. To find them they first must learn about their mother's mysterious life before, during and after the Lebanese civil war during the 1970's.

As far as famous actors go, there are none. I've never seen a movie so beautifully acted by a cast I did not know by name. This is a heavy film with moments of desperation, determination and despair. Desperation, determination and despair can easily be over dramatized. The cast handles the weight of their roles so naturally that it not only underscores their talents but makes the characters so believable.

This film moves between the 1970's and present time but the messages of the film are timeless. In a novel way "Incedies" examines the cycles in life that will affect humankind forever. The never ending cycle of birth and death, pain and revenge, peace and war, hate and forgiveness all culminate into a reap-what-you-sow theme throughout this film. Pay careful attention to the consequences of family relationships, good and bad, when watching this film.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Meek's Cutoff Film Review - Will Patton and Michelle Williams

Three small families are headed west along the Oregon Trail. They are travelling in covered wagons in search of a better life. The film is set in the Wild West days of 1845. This is not a typical western ‘cowboy’ film. At least not kind I grew up watching. While I profess to know nothing of the old west, Kelly Reichardt (director) and Jonathon “Jon” Raymond (writer) do a nice job of convincing me that this is what the ‘cowboy days’ were really like.

There is no sheriff on a white horse or villain wearing a black hat in "Meeks Cutoff". There is no epic battle between cavalry and Indian tribes. The conflict in Meek’s Cutoff is limited to believable, realistic differences of opinion relayed mainly through civil, terse, conversations. These debates feel natural and creates the suspense of waiting for something bigger to happen.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Old Joy Film Review - Kelly Reichardt Jon Raymond

Friends Mark and Kurt meet up to spend the night camping in an Oregon forest. They are grow men in their 30's or 40's.  You sense that they have grown up together and once experienced a care free, road trip, spiritual, hippie-esque  lifestyle during their younger days.   These were the kind of guys that likely followed the Grateful Dead during the day while spending nights in their cars or camped in local woods nearby.

Mark (Daniel London) has clearly accepted or at least resigned himself to the responsibilities of adult hood. He has a stable job teaching carpentry and a baby on the way. He feels attached to Kurt but has other priorities that prevent the two from spending more time together.

Kurt (Will Oldham) does not accept growing up as readily and lives more in the past than Mark. He pines for the older days. Have you ever met an adult that can not seem to escape childhood? A grown up that has no stable home, refuses to hold down a job, talks about how great the past was, and has no plans for the future?  He or she might be like Kurt.

If I made these characters sound too one-dimensional I must apologize. The characters are more complicated than this. This film is written by Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond. Two writers that bring terrific subtle complexities to characters (see Wendy and Lucy.) This is a movie that says so much about these two characters without saying much at all. Kurt does not want any part of growing up but he doesn't stand in the way of others that do. He is non judgmental and very kind. This is not a self absorbed partier that disrupts people's lives. It is as if he quietly, desperately wants to live in the past but he also embodies a tiny, envious attraction to the mature adulthood he'll never attain.

Wendy and Lucy - Michelle Williams Will Patton Movie Review

I have been lucky. I’ve never lived a life of poverty. Not that I’ve been wealthy, but I have had a wealth of friends , resources and good fortune that has prevented me from ever falling through the cracks of society.

Wendy is travelling from Indiana to Alaska in hopes of finding a job. With her is her dog, Lucy.  Lucy I am convinced is her only friend in the world.. The film doesn’t tell you this directly but you somehow know she has left nothing behind in Indiana. Her cash, car and dog are her only possessions and all she has to rely on.

She winds up broke down in a depressed town in Oregon. She loses her dog. She is has no place to go, no place to stay and not much money in her pocket. She has nothing and is in a town that has nothing to offer.

I mentioned that I have never been poor. I have never fallen through the cracks into a transient, impoverished cycle with little opportunities out. While I cannot speak from experience, it is due to great writing, acting and directing that convinces me “Wendy and Lucy” is all about falling through the cracks.