Archive for October, 2009

Year: 1947

Writer: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger (The Life & Death of Colonel Blimp)

Director: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger

Cast: Deborah Kerr (The King & I, Casino Royale (1967), From Here to Eternity), Jean Simmons (Howl’s Moving Castle, Inherit the Wind, Spartacus, The Blue Lagoon, Guys and Dolls), and Sabu (Jungle Book (1942), The Thief of Bagdad)

This film is about the weakness of humanity in trying times. I don’t want to say it’s about the weakness of faith even though that’s what it may be about. I might just be wanting to see past it. The film is absolutely beautiful with a cast that does everything they can to correctly portray these characters that were once only words on a page (it’s based on a novel of the same name).

Deborah Kerr’s Sister Clodagh is forced to lead four other sisters to the Himalayans where they attempt to set up a school at a former palace. The loneliness as well as the presence of Mr. Dean, a masculine government agent, lead to the sisters breaking apart and turning on each other. Honestly, I would have to see this film a second time and read the book to properly break it down. I highly recommend seeing this film, perhaps as a companion piece with Doubt. This film represents, to me, a time in our film history that is gone, only seen faintly in recent films. Its subtlety in the way it’s acted, the way the story unfolds and the way it’s shot, not only the cinematography but also location and on-set shooting, is rarely seen. It reaches to the deepest of the human experience to the core of what happens when our faith is challenged.

Grade: B+

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Year: 2009

Writer: Mike Reiss (The Simpsons Movie, Ice Age 3)

Director: Donald Petrie (Just My Luck, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Miss Congeniality, Richie Rich, Mystic Pizza, Welcome to Mooseport)

Cast: Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Connie & Carla), Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, What About Bob?, American Graffiti, Mr. Holland’s Opus), Harland Williams (Dumb & Dumber, RocketMan, Meet the Robinsons, Half Baked), Rachel Dratch (“SNL,” “30 Rock,” Spring Breakdown, Dickie Roberts: Former Childhood Star), Caroline Goodall (The Chumscubber, The Princess Diaries, Schindler’s List, Hook)

Opening Shot: Largely forgettable and meaningless shots of Greek ruins. I know it’s supposed to be that Nia Vardalos’ Georgia’s life is in such disarray that it’s like the Greek ruins where she decided to stay after she lost her job teaching at some college. I wonder if you can already sense my distaste for this movie. Georgia’s life sucks. After losing her teaching gig she is now, at the beginning of the movie, about to lose her job as a tour guide and she hasn’t “had sex in like forever.” “Forever is a long time.” That’s what this movie feels like. The cast is filled out with a few great comedians and character actors. Harland Williams and Rachel Dratch have both done far better things. Caroline Goodall and Richard Dreyfuss have both done better things. All four of these aren’t given much to work with. Even Dreyfuss who is the lead male actor, as Irv, isn’t given much to do but go on and on about his dead wife and be a mentor character to Georgia. There is one actor who does a lot with the little he’s given. That’s Jareb Dauplaise from such fine films as Transformers 2 and Epic Movie. He overacts like a pro.

Let me break it down. The scenery is beautiful. It’s shot in places that have rarely been seen in movies. The movie isn’t that bad, it’s just wearing because it’s been done before. In order for a comedy to work there has to be a certain level of unpredictability, but the “jokes” are fill in the blank typical jokes that I’m assuming Mike Reiss stole from other romantic comedies. Look at Donald Petrie’s oeuvre thus far. Miss Congeniality and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days were both pretty enjoyable films and so was Richie Rich (when I was 10). But Just My Luck and Welcome to Mooseport? Well My Life in Ruins joins those in the “meh” category of movies. By “Meh” I mean why bother.

Grade: D-

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I am nearing seeing one thousand five hundred different movies in my life. I’m at 1495 and will review the last few films until I reach the milestone of 1500. The first on the list The Escapist. A little gem of an Irish Film.

Year: 2008

Writer: Rupert Hyatt & Daniel Hardy

Director: Rupert Hyatt

Cast: Brian Cox (from X2, Bourne Supremacy, Adaptation, The Ringer), Joseph Fiennes (Running with Scissors, Shakespeare in Love, Enemy at the Gates), Seu Jorge (City of God, Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), Dominic Cooper (The Duchess, Mamma Mia!, The History Boys)

Opening Shot: Medium Shot of Brian Cox. It’s lit from above. It cuts between this and black for the first 30 secs. Cox is looking down, rather forlorn.

Let me put you in the right mood to watch The Escapist. It takes place in a prison and is about a few of the prisoners’ attempted escape. It will immediately draw comparisons with Shawshank Redemption, but Shawskank it is not. We’re dropped into what we find out is the escape attempt. Jospeh Fiennes’ Lenny Drake waits ready to swing a pipe to dig through a shower drain with Seu Jorge’s Viv Batista and Liam Cunningham’s Brodie. The mood is tense based on the music and the handheld camera shots. We’re then thrown into the prison where Brian Cox’s Frank Perry, Damian Lewis’s Rizza, Lenny, Viv, Brodie, along with others all have certain roles and relationships with each other that change when the new prisoners arrive. The new prisoner we focus on is Dominic Cooper’s Lacey who becomes Frank’s cellmate after his cellmate dies. The basic plot is that Frank Perry must escape from his life sentence because he has just found out that his little girl has fallen deathly ill.

Every so often the mostly static shots of the prison give way to the handheld suspense of the breakout. This keeps up the pace and makes the ending so much better. Some of you who see it may be able to call the ending outright but I went along with the yarns of the story and was pleasantly surprised. The ending, without giving anything away (except by drawing attention to it), works on its own and makes the movie better like a good ending should. Even without the ending the movie would be enjoyable. The acting is pretty solid. It’s well shot and the cinematography adds to the differing parallel plots. The time period is very pastiche. There is no way to tell the time period because of the lack of windows in the prison.

Grade: B-

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In writing about The Court Jester, my favorite movie of all time, I feel like I should write a preface discussing a little further on people’s favorite movies or films. That will need eventual further discussion as well; a film versus movie, what’s what and why I think they should be separate subgenres within the world of motion pictures. But right now: Favorite films.

Based on the name, one’s favorite film (or movie, heretofore represented by just “film)” is a subjective matter based on what an individual brings to the table when encountering and experiencing the art form of motion pictures. What people bring to the table are previous perceptions and experiences. This means when someone experiences a film is of utmost importance. At a younger age, at the height of one’s innocence, a person is most likely more optimistic. This optimism makes it more likely to remember only the good parts of a film. This will come into effect later in life when one looks back on that innocence, and the involved experiences, with nostalgia. I have watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the show) within the last few years, near two decades since the last time, and it doesn’t live up to the fond memories.

Without being entirely conscious of it, people choose to weigh this nostalgia over and against other things valued in choosing one’s favorite films. It varies from film to film, but in general people judge films based on a criteria of the following (in no particular order):

  • How has this film affected me?
  • How has this film been influential?
  • How relatable is this film?
  • How enjoyable is this film?
  • How original is this film?
  • How does film match up to what I expected? (In regards to genre as well as what the trailer made it look like)
  • What is my history with this film?
  • How does this film stand up to repeat viewings?
  • How beautiful is the film? (This includes the cinematography, music, acting, production design, costume design, et al)

Sometimes if asked for a top five movies of all time one doesn’t know how to answer that because the external criteria wasn’t limiting enough. In my top five I have a variety of criteria weighted differently.

  1. Court Jester (based on: my history, how enjoyable it is, how relatable it is, how it’s changed me, repeat viewings, met expectations)
  2. Modern Times (based on: my history, how enjoyable it is, how it’s changed me, how influential it’s been, repeat viewings)
  3. Seven Samurai (based on: how influential it’s been, repeat viewings, my history, how enjoyable it is, it’s beauty, it’s originality)
  4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (based on: how relatable it is, how enjoyable it is, repeat viewings, met expectations, it’s beauty, and it’s originality)
  5. The Royal Tenenbaums (based on: how relatable it is, how enjoyable it is, repeat viewings, how influential it’s been, it’s beauty)

Despite these criteria, sometimes people just plain choose to like something. From there they can fool themselves into legitimately defending the film. I saw this as I wrestle with potentially trading The Royal Tenenbaums out for Rushmore, another Wes Anderson film, or even Sullivan’s Travels, as I can now look at it after digesting it and seeing it multiple times.

I should also note that this is based on personal reflection and choice overall and doesn’t mean judging a film as being the best. I can see the difference between one of my favorite films and one of the best films, I hope you do too. For example, Citizen Kane is one of the best films ever made (based on the films influence, originality, and it’s beauty), but Citizen Kane is not one of my favorite films (although it does make it into my top twenty-five, at least).

Even though there’s more to say on the subject from this I will continue on to my movie review of The Court Jester. <[(being posted ASAP)]>

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