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.
In a small town people will always suspect the worst of someone. But they’ll also suspect the best.
I would have never even thought to give the film Bernie a second glance had I not watched the 2013 Golden Globes. When announcing the nominees for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy, Jack Black’s picture flashed across the screen. I am quite a Jack Black fan and I believe that he is an underrated actor that doesn’t take roles that show he can really act. The moment I saw he had been nominated for a Golden Globe I made not of what movie it was for. Finding it was on Netflix Instant Queue, I decided to watch it and was quite surprised by the uniquely entertaining film.
Based on a true story, the film is not a full blown mockumentary but has many elements of one. The film tells the story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a man from Carthage Texas who is loved by one an all. An assistant funeral director, Bernie is also heavily involved in the church and the community. When her husband passes away, Bernie takes an interest in Marjorie “Marge” Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). A mean old lady whose family has tried to sue her and has lost all of her friends, the only person Marge is happy around is Bernie. For a while Bernie and Marge get along, spending every second together and going on trips. As time goes on, Marge starts to take Bernie for granted and starts to see him as her property.
Running the nicest man in the world to the bone and eventually to insanity, Bernie has no choice but to kill her. Prosecuted by Danny Buck Davison (Matthew McConaughey), the case makes history when it is moved from Carthage because the people of the town loved Bernie so much that Davidson did not believe the jury would make an impartial decision.
There were a number of things about this film that surprised me, the first being the fact that it was based on a true story. When something is based on a true story, it always makes you wonder how truthful the events in the film actually are. Jack Black’s portrayal of the charismatic Bernie Tiede had to be somewhat accurate because it was very difficult to dislike the character. He is famous for being the subject of one of the only cases to have a change of venue due to fear that the jury would be too biased in favor of the murderer.
Shirley MacClaine is one of my favorite female actresses and it does not surprise me that she was great in this film. Perfectly playing Marge, who can only be described as a bitch, MacClaine steals many of the scenes she is in. By the time Bernie actually kills her, you dislike her so much that its hard to feel bad for her death. What surprised me was Jack Black’s performance. The comedy came easy for the veteran but a number of scenes required Black to delve into drama and he easily rose to the occasion to make Bernie a well rounded and well done character.
This film was much funnier than I expected it to be, attacking what could have been seen as a very dark issue and making it oddly amusing. A lot of the comedy comes from the interviews that are interspersed through the story, showing the people of Carthage talking about the town, Bernie and the trial. As seems to be the case with many of my This Week on Netflix choices, you must like dark comedy to enjoy Bernie. I give this film a 7 out of 10. It is a funny film with a compelling subject with acting that will surprise and draw you in.
It always amuses me to finally see what is considered a classic movie scene and see where it fits into a film. Everybody knows the classic scene in From Here to Eternity, whether you knew it was from that film or not. The scene shows two people at a beach rolling around as waves wash over them. It is a classic, often spoofed scene and though it is very well known, it has almost nothing to do with From Here to Eternity. Set in a military base in Hawaii, this film follows three different ranked soldiers.
• Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift)- a recent transfer to Hawaii, Prewitt was a champion boxer and the best bugler in his battalion. Upon realizing that he was a champion fighter, Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober) attempts to get Prewitt to fight for them. Unable to get back in the ring after accidentally blinding an opponent, Prewitt refuses the offer. Upset by his refusal, Holmes enlists the help of other boxers and his own right hand man, Seargant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) to pressure Prewitt to fight. For months Prewitt is worked to the bone, given terrible jobs and forced to work more than the rest. The extra work and even the threats from the other soldiers could not get Prewitt to change his position. Eventually and begrudgingly, Warden develops a hard to see soft spot for Prewitt and allows him to go off base a number of times. Going with his friend Private Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra), Prewitt eventually meets Alma ‘Lorene’ Burke (Donna Reed) at a Gentleman’s Club and falls in love. The film chronicles Prewitt’s time in the army while he sticks by his principles and looks at his growing relationship.
• Sergeant Milton Warden: Sergeant Warden is a hardworking, extremely underappreciated man. Warden is overworked, doing his job and most of the work his superior, Captain Holmes, should be doing. At first Warden enjoys this because he gets to pull most of the strings but eventually the lack of appreciation and recognition begins to get to him. Warden falls in love with and begins an affair with Holmes’ wife, Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr). In fact it is the two of them that are in the classic scene I mentioned earlier. Trapped in a marriage with no love, Karen is desperate to get out of it but can’t. Warden is a very interesting character. Though he has been put in an unfair position, he is fiercely loyal to his rank, his superiors and his nation.
• Private Angelo Maggio- One of Prewitt’s good friends, Angelo is not necessarily a main character in the film but I think he needs to be mentioned. A usually lighthearted, joking man, it becomes clear throughout the film that he struggles with a drinking problem. One night while on the town, Angelo creates a problem with the brutal and violent Sergeant Fatso Judson (Ernest Borgnine). Fatso promises that the conflict will cause future repercussions for Angelo if he is every court marshaled. A stupid decision causes that exact thing to happen, leaving Angelo at the mercy of Fatso.
This film has a lot of components to it, looking at love, loyalty and parts of the military in general. Though the majority of the film is set on a military base, there is little action expect for the film’s tragic end. I really like the character development in this film. The characters motives and personalities are uncovered by the dialogue in a way that makes it seem quite natural. Each character had their merits and their problems and they all dealt with them in a similar manner: alcohol. We see every main character abuse alcohol and it brings each of them some form of misfortune. Some characters learn from their mistakes and benders while others do not.
This film defeated Julius Caesar, the Robe, Roman Holiday and Shane for the 1954 Oscar Best Picture. I didn’t find the plot of this film to be mind-blowing but I certainly think the performances were strong enough to make this an Oscar Best Picture Winner. Frank Sinatra took home a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and Donna Reed took home a Best Supporting Actress. The film also earned Daniel Taradash a Best Writing Oscar and Fred Zinnemann a Best Director Oscar. It also won Best Sound Recording, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing winning a whooping eight Oscars in total. Overall I give this film a 7 out of 10. Don’t judge a film based on its “classic” scene because sometimes, they really have nothing to do with the rest of the film.
What originally drew my attention to the film Diggers was the cast. With Paul Rudd, Ken Marino (Ron Donald from Party Down) and Lauren Ambrose (Claire Fischer from Six Feet Under), I figured this would have to be a fairly amusing film. While the film did have its funny moments, it was much darker than I expected. Though it wasn’t exactly what I expected, I really enjoyed watching this film.
This film takes a look at a brother and sister duo as they attempt to deal with the sudden death of their father, played by Beeson Carroll. Hunt (Paul Rudd) was the one who found his father after he had passed away. He had been waiting for Hunt in his fishing boat where the two met often for their jobs, digging for clams. A funeral is quickly held and the audience is introduced to the main characters. We have Hunt’s sister Gina (Maura Tierney) who is very close with Hunt and even closer with her father whom she lived with. The other players are Hunt’s clam digging friends: the family man Lozo (Ken Marino) who is married to Julie (Sarah Paulson), the horn dog Jack (Ron Eldard) and the philosopher Cons (Josh Hamilton). While each of the side characters do have good side stories, the film is really about how Gina and Hunt handle the same situation in very different ways.
Both Gina and Hunt have lived in the same town all their lives and both have had a reason to stay there. They both had their father, they each have their own job and they have each other. After their father passed, both Gina and Hunt were forced to look at their reasons for sticking around. Gina realizes that she is happy where she is, with her own house, a job she enjoys and friends. Hunt on the other hand hates the town and hates his job. With no real reason to stay, Hunt tries to make up reason to force him to be anchored down. He convinces himself that Gina needs to be watched, protected and taken care of though she is perfectly fine on her own. He also begins a relationship with an out of town girl Zoey (Laura Ambrose). Hunt tries to convince himself that the relationship is getting serious but it becomes clear that for Zoey, it is just a summer fling.
This film had more layers than I anticipated, giving the characters room to grow and develop. Not only are Gina and Hunt going over their reasons to stay in their hometown, they are also forced to think about their time with their father. Gina pretty much knew where she stood but a little investigation shows Hunt that his father appreciated him more than he previously thought. On top of that, a commercial clamming company has moved into town and started buying up the surrounding water. Losing places to dig for clams, Hunt and his friends are left to try and fend for themselves while making enough money to support their own lifestyles, which in turn forces them to consider if their freelance digging is something that can support them forever.
While there was nothing particularly special about this film, I found it to be oddly compelling and enjoyable to watch. What really drew me into the film was the characters. There was a sarcasm and grittiness that existed in the dialogue, the set and the personality of the film that made it easy to connect with. I felt as if I were watching real people deal with real problems. The film’s ability to draw me in could be attributed mainly to the acting as most of the actors acted like real people. I give this film a 7 out of 10, it’s not a must see but it is certainly worth watching.
If I didn’t know any better I would have thought that Rise of the Guardians was made specifically to make me happy. A film featuring some of history’s greatest childhood legends, Rise of the Guardians was a beautifully animated, action-filled, cleverly written film. I will admit that other than my parents, I was the oldest person in the theater but I in no way thought the material was too childish for me, in fact at times it got quite dark.
Though this film features a number of different characters, the main character is Jack Frost (Chris Pine). A young man who awoke one day as Jack Frost with no memory of his past and no sense of his purpose in life. Existing as a legend that nobody believes in, jack Frost can create snow storms and ice but no human can see him. To be seen, Jack must be believed in. The film’s true plot beings with the film’s villain, Pitch Black (Hugh Grant), starting his plot of revenge. Also known as the boogieman, Pitch is tired of being forced to live under beds in the shadows. Spreading fear and terror through nightmares, Pitch means to create a world where he can rule supreme and only one thing stands in his way: the Guardians.
Made up of Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and the nonverbal Sandman, the Guardians are called together by the Man in the Moon whenever the children of the world are threatened. Pitch poses enough of a threat to not only gather the Guardians but to chose a new one to join their ranks, Jack Frost. Reluctant to join, Jack is pulled into the battle against Pitch when it may lead to some answers about his past and his purpose in life. Even with the added power of Jack Frost, the Guardians struggle against Pitch who has prepared for their intervention. Doing more than just striking fear into the hearts of children, Pitch also attacks each of the Guardians. He attacks them physically but more important mentally, taking great lengths to destroy children’s belief in the Guardians which saps them of their power. To defeat Pitch, Jack must trust himself to be a Guardian and the Guardians must pull their power together to defeat Pitch.
This film was beautifully animated, filled with creative landscapes and incredibly detailed characters. Seeming to be more realistic then cartoony, the expressions and faces on the characters were crafted with exceptional detail and skill. The landscapes mirrored the detail of the characters and overflowed with creativity. The film’s plot traveled to the North Pole, the Tooth Palace and the Easter Bunny’s home. Each new place was a fully developed environment crafted to fit the personality and legend of each guardian. The visuals continued to impress as the film moved into some fairly impressive battle scenes. Santa whirls around with blades while Pitch summons waves of black, nightmare dust. Jack Frost summons waves of ice and snow and the Sandman attacks with an endless supply of golden sand. The battles will leave those that crave action satisfied; especially if a fantasy style of fight floats your boat. Ultimately the visuals are what make this film but the writing and idea is extremely clever as well.
I had high hopes for this film going into the theater and I was more than happy with what I saw. Spectacular visuals accompany a clever story line to create a film that is fun for all ages. With enough comedy to keep children happy, the jokes are not so immature that they overtake the plot of the film. I cannot stress enough how clever this film was, tying together a number of different great characters and genres. My only complaint about the film was that you could tell it was made for 3D. I didn’t see it in 3D but the camera was wild the entire film, constantly moving in an almost dizzying fashion. Other than that I thought this film was stunning and a blast to watch. I give Rise of the Guardians a 7 out of 10 and hope that they will rise again.