Friday, November 28, 2008


Utilizing archival footage and recreated scenes, director Gus Van Sant brings us the life and times of Harvey Milk (not to be confused with the documentary of the same name). Mr. Milk was the first openly gay official elected to public office back in the late 70's. His short time as San Francisco City Supervisor was a major victory for gay and civil rights.

Sean Penn, as Mr. Milk, adds another terrific performance to his portfolio. He is truly the best actor of his generation. Along with Mr. Penn, the film also features James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Allison Pill, Dennis O'Hare, and Josh Brolin. All are excellent in their roles with Mr. Brolin, especially adding another excellent notch to his belt coming off "No Country For Old Men", and "W.". James Franco, as well, has shown depth and diversity to every film he's been in this year and he does the same in "Milk".

While a fascinating and important time capsule of a turbulent time, "Milk" becomes a bit tedious with protest after protest and election after election. It is Mr. Penn's powerful performance that propels the film to it's inevitable end. Where "Milk" succeeds is in honoring the life of a remarkable man who helped bring change to a country very much in need of it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Oliver Stone has done a remarkable job documenting past Presidents. In "W.", he chronicles the life of a president while still in office and misses the mark of his earlier films.

W. is interesting enough, giving the viewer insight into what makes Mr. Bush tick and showing us the uneven road his life has taken to the White House but it is little more than a TV movie of the week missing much of the bombastic style Mr. Stone is best known for.

The cast is uneven. Josh Brolin as "W." is wonderful. He captures every nuance, every gesture, of Mr. Bush perfectly and at times truly resembles him. Richard Dreyfuss is a perfect Dick Cheney, also getting the mannerisms correct. Also well cast are James Cromwell as George Bush SR., Ellen Burstyn as Barbara Bush, Scott Glen as Donald Rumsfeld, and Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush. Missing the mark are Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell and Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice.

The script cherry picks important moments in Mr. Bush's life (did we need the pretzel choking scene?) and range from satire to drama with a little "fairy tale" thrown in for good measure.

Once Mr. Bush leaves office, I'd like to see Mr. Stone try it again and not hold anything back.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quantum of Solace

After a terrific debut as James Bond in "Casino Royale", Daniel Craig is shaken, not stirred into a mess of a follow-up. "Quantum" has one of the worst Bond plots ever (if you can even call it a plot). It is basically one long action sequence after another in order to distract the audience from realizing how ridiculous the whole thing really is.

Daniel Craig tries his best to live up to what he started in the previous film but there is only so much he can do when everything is literally falling apart around him. He makes a dashing Bond and certainly one of the best but he's never given a chance to develop the character beyond a human killing machine. Mathieu Almaric plays one of the lamest Bond villains in history. He should stick to what he does best, serious drama and eye blinking. Olga Kurylenko is the Bond "it" girl and while beautiful, can't decide if she is a damsel in distress or an action heroine. Judi Dench is back as M and has her usually fun with the role. And Jeffrey Wright also returns as Felix Leiter, with basically nothing to do except give Bond an address.

The action scenes are excellent but by the numbers. You can almost hear the writers..."Boat chase, check. Car chase, check. Foot chase, check. Airplane chase, check." Aside from a beautiful world tour, this is a bloated soulless Bond film. At the end of the credits, we are promised, "James Bond will return". He better be carrying a better script when he does.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Zack & Miri Make A Porno

Writer/Director Kevin Smith returns with a new comedy, that true to his nature will offend many and have others singing his praises. "Borrowing" Seth Rogan from his recent run of comedy hits, Mr. Smith has made a romantic comedy filled with the most vulgar language you can imagine.

Mr. Rogan stars as Zack and Elizabeth Banks is Miri, friends who find themselves beyond broke and looking for a way to pay the bills. Craig Robinson, from "The Office" is Delaney, Zack's friend who finances their attempt at a porno film.

Mr. Smith hides a sweet romance under mountains of offensive (to some) dialog, giving Mr. Robinson the best lines. He manages to also save some good stuff for Kevin Smith regulars, Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes. Actually, Mr. Anderson probably has the funniest line in the movie following a particularly graphic scene.

Mr. Rogan and Ms. Banks have natural chemistry and their "porno" scene is at first very funny and then turns into something unexpected. This is a fun, silly film that is not about porno (although casting Traci Lords does add credibility) but rather friendship and true love. If not for his trademark dialog and sight gags, you would think Kevin Smith has gone mainstream. If you enjoy the film, make sure you stay through the credits.