Gentlemen to bed! For at daybreak I will breakfast!
Sire, sire! Tis a continental breakfast. Will only take twenty minutes max.
Take two impressionist, stand-up comedians, put them in a car together and send them on a food tasting trip across Europe and you get the film The Trip. The Trip is a funny yet oddly sad film. Most of the film consists of dialogue between the two main characters as they flex their impression skills and seem to try and verbally outwit one another.
Michael Caine was not in the film The Trip but without Mr. Caine, the film would have been about an hour shorter. The film’s main characters have the ability to impersonate many people but their favorite is obviously Michael Caine. The titular trip that main character Steve Coogan, playing himself, takes was originally supposed to be between Steve and his girlfriend Mischa (Margo Stilley). The trip is a result of Steve getting a job at a magazine to impress his girlfriend. With their relationship on the rocks, Steve does not want to waste the trip so he invites his friend Rob Brydon, also playing himself, and suddenly the romantic trip becomes a sarcastic trip between friends. The two travel across the country on a restaurant tour, trying exquisite food and examining their lives at the same time. While the majority of the film revolves around the witty banter between Steve and Rob during their dinners and car rides, it also took a serious look at being lost in life.
Steve and Rob balance each other out perfectly in this film. While Steve is in a quickly failing relationship, Rob is happily married. Steve needs to go on the trip to get away while Rob is going on the trip for fun and is missing his wife and life back home. The film is hilarious and most scenes are laugh-out-loud but Steve’s character in it is very depressing. Not working and with a failing relationship, Steve is somewhat lost in life. The trip offers a slight break or escape from his life but ultimately it only accentuates what is happening to Steve. The entire film is spent on the road, moving from hotel to hotel and restaurant to restaurant. In fact we don’t even see Steve’s house until the very end of the film. What is disconcerting is that Steve seems less at home in his house than any place he had visited during his trip.
This film was originally made to be a television show but was changed into a film and a very funny one at that. Watching two smart men try to one up each other using only impressions and wit leads to some very funny scenes. Though this film was funny it was also very strange. The characters were not really developed and their back stories were rushed and swept under the rug making the film feel muddled and disjointed. The Trip, a 6.5 out of 10, is certainly worth watching for the humor but as far as the rest of the story goes is nothing better than mediocre.
As I told my roommate the other day, Oscar night is my Super Bowl night. It is a night of glamour (well that word kind of ruins my Super Bowl analogy) and glory that I look forward to every year. I do understand that a fair amount of the Oscars is a popularity contest and that the list of nominees are not always the best representation of a year in film. Snubs happen all the time and this year was one of the worst years as far as snubs go. Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow were both passed over for Best Director, Moonrise Kingdom was not giving a Best Picture nominations and Leonardo DiCaprio did not earn a nomination for his outstanding performance in Django Unchained (the D is silent you racist mother…..). Despite all the snubs and drama I counted down the minutes until the Oscars started and watched every single moment live, even when it dragged a half an hour past its advertised end time. Ultimately it was a great year for the Oscars with some fairly large surprises. I was nervous about Seth MacFarlane as a host but he ended up giving a hilarious and fairly charming performance. I’m not going to talk about every category, just the big ones.
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz as Doctor King Schultz in Django Unchained. This year the Best Supporting Actor category was absolutely stacked with each actor in the category a previous Oscar Winner. I could not be happier with the result in this category. While Philip Seymour Hoffman was outstanding in the Master and I am always a fan of Alan Arkin, who was nominated for his performance in Argo, Waltz was my pick for Best Supporting Actor.
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les Miserables. I will go on the record in saying that I did not like Les Miserables. I do not understand how it was nominated for Best Picture. I agree that there were some stunning scenes and some good performances but ultimately I thought it was over-hyped and overrated. One aspect of the film that did not disappoint was Anne Hathaway’s performance. Absolutely heartbreaking as the street prostitute who would give anything and everything to support her daughter, there is no doubt in my mind that Hathaway deserved this win more than any of the other Nominees.
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook. Again, I thought this award went to the right person. Another very strong category, including Helen Hunt for her performance in the Sessions and Sally Field for her role as Mary Todd in Lincoln, Jennifer Lawrence gave the performance of a lifetime. Playing a broken, young widower, Lawrence proves her true acting skill time and time again throughout the film. There was one scene in particular that could have been enough to win her the award in which she goes head to head with Robert De Niro in my favorite movie scene of the year.
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln. I actually did not see this film but I am not surprised that Lewis won. I would have really liked Bradley Cooper to have won for his performance in Silver Linings Playbook but I do not doubt that Lewis deserved it. He is an outstanding actor and does not take a role unless he can make it Oscar worthy.
Best Director: Ang Lee for Life of Pi. In my opinion this was the biggest shock of the entire night. If I had to cast my vote I would have voted for David O. Russel for Silver Linings Playbook. I am not upset that Lee won, I am just very surprised. The reviews for Life of Pi were mixed and as Oscar night approached, there wasn’t necessarily a strong vote of confidence for Lee to win. After his win I will have to see the film and see if he truly deserved it.
Best Picture: Argo. I am very happy that Argo won. I like Ben Affleck, I have always liked him and am glad that a film he worked so hard on won such a high honor. I think it was quite the shock that Argo won not because it was a bad film or didn’t deserve it but because the film didn’t win any other Oscars throughout the evening. It is very rare for a film to win Best Picture but not take home any other Oscars. I thought Affleck’s speech was heartfelt and true, one of those speeches that makes you realize the Oscar recipient is truly and genuinely honored by the award. In a year of amazing films I have to say I am not at all upset that Argo came through victorious.
I thought this year was a great year for the Oscars, despite them going a half an hour past their end time but hey, its the Oscars, what do you expect? Seth MacFarlane turned out to be a pretty great host and the smattering of performances were very well done. A strong year of Oscar nominated films has come to an end leaving me only to wonder what does 2013 have in store for us?
I always feel the compulsive need to remind readers that there is a different between a bad movie and a movie that I don’t like. A prime example of this is my review of the English Patient. It took extreme talent to create the film and was very well done; I just didn’t enjoy watching it. The 1985 Oscar Best Picture winner Out of Africa is another example of a good film that I just did not like.
The film follows Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep), a Danish woman who is dealing with the death of her lover when the films opens. Forced into a marriage of convenience to Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke (Claus Maria Brandauer), Karen moves to Africa, to a colony in what is now Kenya, to be married and live on a farm. What should have been a very profitable dairy farm quickly turns into a risk when Karen’s new husband decides to plant coffee instead opening a dairy farm. Struck with wanderlust, Bror spends all of his time on safari leaving Karen home to work on the farm, meet the natives and get to know Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford), a war veteran. As Karen is left alone more and more, she gets more involved with members of a neighboring tribe (helping as much as she can), her farm (annoying the man who actually runs it) and Denys. The film focuses on Karen’s life on the farm as she deals with person tragedy, interacting with the natives and a budding relationship with Denys.
Shot on location, nearly every shot and frame of this film is a work of art. Peppered with shots of natural wildlife, the beauty hits its peak during a biplane safari, showing sweeping shots of the wilderness from the plane. Mixed in with this beautifully shot film is the uncommon love story that exists between Karen and Denys. Meeting at odd times and in odd places, the two slowly grow to know and love each other. While the slow moving, fictional biopic film did not grab my interest it is almost impossible not to be enthralled by Meryl Streep and Robert Redford whenever they are on screen. The film features two charming leads but also dances through and touches a number of issues including social classes, racism and gender roles.
Out of Africa received seven Oscars out of its eleven nominations, beating Kiss of the Spider Woman, Prizzi’s Honor, Witness and surprisingly (for me at least) the Color Purple for Best Picture. The beauty of and artistic skill that went into shooting the film was recognized as David Watkin won for Best Cinematography. Sydney Pollack, the film’s director, won Best Direction and the film also earned writer Kurt Luedtke an Oscar for Best writing. Its other three wins were in Best Music, done by John Barry, Best Art Direction-Set Direction and Best Sound. I found the film’s plot and story to be somewhat dry but the two lead actors as well as the stunning set worked to hold my attention throughout the two hour movie. I give this film a 7 out of 10, another film that I appreciate immensely but can’t really say that I like.
I believe in a God with a sense of humor. I would find it absolutely intolerable not to be able to blame someone for all this.
When I first considered watching the Sessions I asked my mother if she wanted to watch it with me. At first she thought I was joking. Upon realizing I was not, she nicely said “I think that would be a little awkward.” Needless to say I went into this film without much knowledge about it. After my mother’s reaction I expected some raunchy material. What I did not expect was an extremely uplifting and heartfelt film.
The Sessions is the true story of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a 38 year old man that is almost completely immobilized by Polio. He is not paralyzed, his muscles just don’t work right. A poet at heart, Mark lives with the help of a number of different attendants. He sleeps in an Iron Lung, is wheeled around town on a gurney and he has decided he would like to have sexual intercourse for the first time. After falling in love with on of his attendants Amanda (Annika Marks) and losing her, Mark works with Vera (Moon Bloodgood) and Rod (W. Earl Brown). A religious man, Mark confides his desire to have intercourse with Father Brendan (William H. Macy). With the reverends permission, Mark contacts a professional sex surrogate named Cheryl Cohen-Green (Helen Hunt). A married woman whose husband knows what she does, Mark goes through sexual therapy with her and Cheryl helps Mark to have sex with her for the first time. As Cheryl and Mark work together they are forced to deal with the feelings that develop between them.
This was a brilliantly acted film, running through a range of emotions. Both leads were outstanding. Helen Hunt is an emotionally strong woman that has a job that demands sex without getting too attached to the sexual partner. We watch however as Mark’s attitude and outlook on life breaks her down and draws her to him. John Hawkes is outstanding as Mark and I am absolutely outraged that he did not receive a Best Actor Nomination. Unable to really move, Hawkes creates his character with voice and expressions. Hawkes shows that Mark was a gentle man, a man who had all the reason in the world to be angry but just was not. William H. Macy was perfect as Reverend Brendan, a man who started as Mark’s religious adviser and ended up being his friend.
The Sessions was filmed and shot with a slightly odd timeline. Everything did not necessarily happen in a linear order. A scene will suddenly evaporate into Mark sharing his experience with the Reverend or Cheryl’s voice will reveal that she is taking verbal notes on a tape recorder. We are never sure if what we are watching is a recalled moment from one of the character’s memories and when it is a recall scene, we don’t know who is recalling it. This storytelling method allows us to get unique perspectives on all the characters and really works to fuel character development. Though the film is only an hour and a half and seems to go very quickly, we get to know the characters extremely well.
This film was full of some very sexual material but was somehow sweet and uplifting. We follow a man who turns out to have one of the most uplifting outlooks on life and the woman who derives so much pleasure from helping him that she can barely let him go once their time is up. Helen Hunt certainly deserved her Best Actress nomination but I do not think she has much of a chance at winning nor should she. John Hawkes should be among those nominated for Best Actor , giving an outstanding performance. This is an 8 out of 10 film, a great film but not one that should have been nominated for Best Picture (which is was not). I do highly recommend it but know there is a lot of sexual content so be careful who you watch it with.
At this point in time, I have gotten the chance to watch and review almost every type of movie there was. I have reviewed funny, serious, old and new movies but the other day I realized that this blog is oddly absent of any movie involving martial arts. The day has come for that unfortunate absence to be changed and the catalyst for that change was a film called The Raid Redemption.
The entire film, save the first five minutes, are on the grounds of the same apartment building. The building is owned by the notorious crime lord Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy) where he allows his hordes of murderous mobsters to live. Wanted by rival gangs and the police alike, Tama’s building is prepared for the constant threat of a raid. The events of this film follow a police task force that raids the building, focusing mainly on a man named Rama (Iko Uwais) who has a pregnant wife waiting for him. The team, led by Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim) under the guidance of Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno), encounters complications as was bound to happen and they suddenly find themselves stuck in a building full of psychopaths trying to kill them. As team members are picked off and their numbers dwindle, Rama finds himself stepping into the leadership role of a very small group. With help from a member of Tama’s gang that Rama knows from his past, Rama battles his way through the building to try and complete their mission and survive.
I found it surprising how few lines of dialogue there were in the film but ultimately, this film was not about dialogue. The first fourth of the movie was made up of intesnly suspenseful scenes where not much happens, the rigid calm before the storm breaks. After an unbearable amount of stealth and suspense, the team gets spotted and the battle begins. The early action sequences featured very few hand to hand combat scenes and derive most of the action from some impressive gunshots. Eventually the ammo runs out and hand to hand combat is the only option. Starting with a fight in hallway where Rama takes out twenty-some armed gangsters, the film delivers some of the most impressive fight scenes I have seen in a while. The hits are hard and the film is very violent but action fans will not be disappointed as the action sequences feature guns, knives, fists and anything in the environment that could serve as a weapon throughout the film.
Originally filmed in Indonesian, there are two different versions of the film that you can watch: the subbed version or the dubbed version. I watched the dubbed version and I can honestly say, the dub work was not the best but it never is. Though it was a fault in the film, it didn’t bother me that much because this wasn’t a film that you went to listen to, it was a film you went to watch. The story line was nothing overly unique; it wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t groundbreaking. Without the brilliant action sequences, this film would be average, not bad but average. What makes this film a must see are the fights. I give The Raid Redemption a 7 out lf 10 and recommend it to anybody that lives for those long, drawn out fight scenes.
“They call me Mister Tibbs”- Virgil Tibbs
In 1967, the bold and racially charged film In the Heat of the Night won the Oscar for Best picture. When all the meaning is stripped away from the film, In the Heat of the Night is a fast moving, well written murder mystery but the film is much more than just that. Pairing a Southern white police chief with an African American homicide detective from the North, the film takes an in depth look at racism as the title characters attempt to survive and solve a murder.
The film begins in Sparta, Mississippi with the discovery of the body of Mr. Colbert, a prominent business man who moved there to open a factory. Immediately the pressure is put on Police Chief Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger) to solve the somewhat high profile murder. Meanwhile, the racist attitude of Sparta is exemplified early in the film as African American Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) is arrested while waiting for a bus simply because he has a large amount of money in his pocket. Arresting officer Sam Wood (Warren Oates) is embarrassed to find out he arrested Philadelphia’s number one homicide detective. Reluctant to help the racist police chief, Tibbs is convinced to stay in Sparta and help when asked by the victim’s wife.
Forced to work together, Tibbs and Gillespie try to get along but it is difficult for Tibbs to trust the racist Gillespie and for Gillespie to believe in Tibbs. Their first and prime suspect is the wealthy plantation owner Eric Endicott (Larry Gates). During an interrogation, Tibbs manages to turn the entire town against him with a single slap, striking Endicott after Endicott slapped him. With Endicott seeing Tibbs as an enemy, Gillespie and Tibbs must solve the murder while dealing with relentless physical attacks from the racist inhabitants of Sparta.
Every portion of this film, from dialogue to directing, worked to make a number of strong statements about racism. Sometimes it was as simple as the use of a single word: boy. Gillespie was the main character that used the word the most. Originally it was what he called Tibbs as a racial slur but as the film went on and Gillespie came to respect Tibbs, he began calling his own men boy. The camera is also used to show the power struggle between Tibbs and the rest of the town. The first shift in power is shown when Tibbs examines the victim’s body. The camera stays tight on Tibbs’ hands throughout the scene, showing a close up of the African American hands examining the Caucasian body. From that point on the camera follows the shift in power as Gillespie begins to respect Tibbs.
By taking what is a first a very racist character, Gillespie, and pairing him with a brilliant African American homicide detective, In the Heat of a Night makes strong and sweeping statements about racism. A brilliantly put together film, In the Heat of the Night beat out Doctor Dolittle, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and heavy hitters the Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde for Best Picture. Stirling Silliphant won Best Writing for the film and Rod Steiger received a well deserved Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Gillespie. Every aspect of this film was brilliant, working together to create a thrilling crime drama as well as a scathing expose on the truths of racism. This is a 9 out of 10 film for me, a classic that should be seen by all.
“I’m taking the reins, I’m crossing the bear, just like Jesus I’m growing a pair”- Elder Cunningham
In 1997, they took television by storm using nothing but construction paper, a pair of scissors, their wit and their voices. Now, after Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny have pissed off every parent and poked at every issue possible, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have set their eyes on Broadway. The play the Book of Mormon has been out for over two years now. It started in Broadway with a premiere date in 2011 and came to Chicago in 2012. I was lucky enough to get a ticket, though they have been sold out for months, and got to see one of the greatest musicals ever put on stage.
Now, those of you who don’t know much about Trey Parker or Matt Stone may be wondering why these two men think they have the ability or right to try and create a musical. Anybody that thinks that has written South Park off without trying to understand or appreciate it. Parker and Stone are perhaps two of the most brilliant and creative people creating television right now. There is no denying that their material is crude and offensive but they also send some very strong messages about the state of the nation and the world. Nothing is safe from ridicule and everybody gets called out. Parker and Stone have proven their musical ability throughout the show South Park, filling their episodes with original songs. What made me realize that they would be able to write a musical was their film, South Park Bigger Longer and Uncut which contained nearly a dozen full-blown, show-stopping musical numbers.
The play is called the Book of Mormon but Mormonism is not the only thing that is targeted. The play follows two young Mormons, Elder Kevin Price and Elder Arnold Cunningham, who have reached the age where they are sent from the Mormon Academy out into the world to embark on their mission. Each Mormon Elder is paired with another Elder and sent to an area in the world to recruit people to the Mormon Church through Baptism. The two main characters could not be more opposite. Elder Price is SuperMormon, the one who knows everything about Mormonism and never sins. Elder Cunningham on the other hand has a habit of making things up when under pressure and has not even read the Book of Mormon. The two a pared together for and sent to Uganda for their mission where there meet a psychotic warlord general, a AIDS ridden tribe obsessed with circumcising their women and a group of Mormons that don’t know how to help the area. Trying to work together, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham try to save the tribe.
This play is a brilliantly written work of art, filled with cleverly crude humor and a light hearted feel. Beyond being a hilarious, good story The Book of Mormon was a well produced musical. I have seen a number of different musicals in my time and this is easily among the top three I have seen on stage. Parker and Stone have an obvious talent for writing, easily and cleverly working humor into their dialogue and song. The two create songs that spoof other well-known musical numbers, following the songs general outline but with an entirely different purpose and message. When the play opened on Broadway, Elder Cunningham was played by Josh Gad but in the Chicago production Ben Platt took over the role and Nic Rouleau played Elder Price in Chicago. Being asked the take the role after appearing in the film Pitch Perfect, Ben Platt stole the show, using every move and mannerism to tell the story of the awkwardly lonely and nerdy Elder Cunningham.
Parker and Stone do great work on South Park and I know a lot of people are not going to agree with me when I say this but I think that their real home is on the stage. The Book of Mormon was the most fun I have had at the theater since I saw Ana Gasteyer as Elphaba in Wicked and even then, I would rather see Book of Mormon again. I hope that the Book of Mormon is not Parker and Stone’s last visit to the Broadway world, I hope they return over and over again. I give the Book of Mormon a 10 out 10. If you live in the Chicago land area and don’t have a ticket, book one. NOW.