Thursday, May 29, 2008
The latest film from writer/director David Mamet has him returning to the world he loves best...doubling dealing and the art of the con, this time set in the world of Martial Arts. I believe I read somewhere that Mr. Mamet practices Martial Arts and so it was only a matter of time, he explored that world in one of his films.
Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Mike Terry, A Jiu-Jitsu instructor who is struggling to keep his school up and running. An accident on a rainy night puts into motion a series of events that drastically alter his life , forcing him to compete professionally for the first time.
While the background is Martial Arts, the real story is typical "Mamet". An innocent finds himself thrust into a wolf's den of con artists, double crossers, and everyone on the make for something. The supporting cast features many of Mr. Mamet's regulars including Ricky Jay, Joe Mantenga, David Paymer, J.J. Johnston, and of course his wife, Rebbeca Pidgeon. The film also stars Emily Mortimer, Tim Allen, and Alice Braga. It's a great cast doing what they do best, interpreting Mamet's rhythms and dialog.
"Despite a rather abrupt ending (that does manage to satisfy to some degree), the film didn't get it's just due for a theatrical run and will probably be out on DVD soon. If you are a Mamet fan, don't miss it.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Director Tarsem, coming off his debut film, the visually interesting but empty, "The Cell", returns with another visual stunner. This time with a much more fulfilling story.
The film is about a young child recuperating in a Los Angeles hospital who befriends another patient, Roy, who begins to tell her a fascinating story filled with romance and adventure. He fills the story with characters taken from people in and around the hospital.
Shot practically all over the world, "The Fall" is breathtaking to watch. Apparently most of all the visuals were real and not CGI and they are amazing. This is a visual treat. The swimming elephant alone is worth the price of admission.
Tarsem paints a beautiful canvas but as a director needs to work on his pacing and action sequences. "The Fall" is a big improvement over his last effort and it's good to see him growing as a director without losing his flair for visual imagery.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
A French comedy that has been on the Indie circuit for a while now, OSS is a very funny satire of early '60 spy films. The film takes place in 1955 Cairo but has a look and feel of Sean Connery era James Bond meets Maxwell Smart by way of Napoleon Solo. If you aren't familiar with these names, this isn't the film for you.
A suave yet bumbling secret agent, OSS 117 manages to do everything wrong but come out on top. Much of the comedy is based on the history of the times but even if you have no idea of 1955 Egyptian politics, there is still plenty to laugh at.
Jean Dujardin stars as 117 and he is terrific in the role. The cinematography and direction gets the look and feel of the film just right. I hope this is the start of a franchise. If you miss it in a theater, catch it on DVD.
Monday, May 26, 2008
"Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the blah blah blah...."
After twenty years, it's fun to have Indiana Jones swing back into our lives but shortly after a rush of nostalgic adrenaline, the film quickly turns to a bloated rehash of pieces of The "Indy" trilogy with a little "Stars Wars" and "Close Encounters" thrown in.
Harrison Ford still makes a striking hero but even he looks bored in certain scenes. There is way too much exposition to explain the convoluted plot and how many times do we have to go into scary caves and wipe away cobwebs?
Shia LaBeouf was cast to attract a younger audience and possibly keep the franchise going. Cate Blanchett vamps it up as a Russian villain but keeps misplacing her accent. Karen Allen is a nice addition if only to remind fans how much fun and magical "Raiders of The Lost Ark" really was compared to this retread.
There are some exciting moments but unfortunately the magic is gone. Enough with the sequels. It's time for Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Lucas to really thrill us again with something new and original.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Anchored by a terrific performance by Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor" is a gem of an Indie film buried among the arriving Hollywood blockbusters. This is the second film from writer/director Tom McCarthy, who's previous film, "The Station Agent", was an Indie hit a few years back.
This is the story of Walter Vale, a character worn by Mr. Jenkins like a second skin, a college professor sleepwalking through his life. An unusual encounter with two young immigrants begins a journey of discovery for Walter, jumpstarting his life.
"The Visitor" has a lot to say about second chances, friendship and even Immigration laws but is never heavy-handed about any of it. The film moves at a leisurely pace constantly surprising us with little moments of clarity.
Much like "the Station Agent", "The Visitor" is filled with memorable characters and a story that will linger with you for days.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
It is so satisfying when they get a superhero movie right. Director Jon Favreau must be a fan as the plot and direction are very faithful to the original comic and as a fan myself, I really appreciate the effort. The best thing about Iron Man, aside from the special effects, is the brilliant decision to cast Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark aka Iron Man.
Robert Downy Jr. brings an edge to the character that other actors would have missed. He is perfectly cast as are much of his co-stars. Gwyneth Paltrow not only brings "Pepper" Potts to life but he actually resembles the way Pepper is drawn in the comics. Terrence Howard plays Tony's friend Rhodey who we should see a lot more of in the sequel. And as the villain, Jeff Bridges does a great job without being too over the top (even when he's operating a monstrous version of Iron Man ).
Since this is an origin story, there is much to fill in about how Stark becomes Iron Man but rather than boring back story, the early part of the film is rich in character and detail, only updating the location from Vietnam to Afghanistan for a more contemporary connection.
The story is fast paced, filled with humor and suspense, and some excellent CGI work, particularly when Pepper sticks her hand into Stark's chest. The recreation of Iron Man's armor should win an academy award by itself. It's a perfect rendition of the comic book brought to life.
I can't wait for Iron Man 2.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Basically a 90 minute Saturday Night Live skit strung together with pieces of "Baby Boom" and "The Odd Couple". I was disappointed by the weak script which gave us all the good parts in the coming attractions. While the film was written by an ex-Saturday Night Live scribe, it wasn't Tina Fey and that's pretty clear throughout the film ( a mushy sentimental ending, oh please).
As if to overcome the script, "Baby Mama" stuffs itself full of well known co-stars. Steve Martin plays Ms. Fey's new age boss. Sigourney Weaver is the owner of the Surrogate Service that tries to help Ms. Fey and Greg Kinnear plays her love interest. Mr. Martin is amusing, Ms. Weaver is over the top and Mr. Kinnear sleepwalks through the film. And of course, anything with Tina Fey has to have cameos by some of her SNL buddies, which is distracting and makes it feel even more like a TV skit.
Amy Poehler is probably the funniest woman on the planet right now and she does her best with the flimsy material. Tina Fey plays smart funny and the two women make for a great comic duo. One day they will make a truly funny buddy movie (if Tina Fey writes it). "Baby Mama" isn't it.