Once upon a time, there was a great actor named John… MoreOnce upon a time, there was a great actor named John Barrymore(Christopher Plummer) who while specializing in the classics, also appeared in quite a few early sound films of Hollywood.
By 1942, when this one person show was set, he was not the same person, years of alcohol abuse having damaged him beyond repair, ironically leaving him not unlike the character he played in "Dinner at Eight," a washed up actor who thinks he is still relevant.
In Barrymore's case, it involves a last chance audition for Richard III. But he cannot even remember the magical words every actor has drilled into him, instead going off on tangents about his famous siblings.
None of which is really that interesting or scintillating but the wonderful Christopher Plummer does what he can with such limited material. And that's got to be at least worth a look, right?
With this movie, director Ava DuVernay crafts a remarkable feat of… MoreWith this movie, director Ava DuVernay crafts a remarkable feat of telling the story of the protest marches in Selma, Al in 1965 that resulted in the historic Voting Rights Act from as many points of view as possible while keeping the issues that are still relevant front and center through some electric debate scenes. At the focus of the action is Dr. Martin Luther King(David Oyelowo, who is superb). But this not St. Martin we are talking about here. Rather, what we get is a rather human interpretation, with King having serious doubts and haunted by thoughts of mortality. So, it is no wonder that at the moment of his greatest triumph, namely about to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he confides to his wife Coretta(Carmen Ejogo) about the possibility to start over at a country parish. But even then, he still goes on to serve as an inspiration to so many, with the film also recognizing the acts of everyday courage and heroism that took to make the marches possible.
Where "Selma" falters is in the White House scenes and not in the way you may have been led to believe. Aside from the specifics, on the one hand, you can see the beginning of the rift between King and President Johnson(Tom Wilkinson) that would widen as Vietnam would consume Johnson's presidency and which war King would oppose vociferously. At the same time, these scenes are undermined by a woefully miscast Wilkinson who can never quite get the right Texan intonation. And the referred to, but never seen White House demonstrations, only serve to have the movie's modest budget serve as a distraction.
"Blackhat" starts with a hacker striking at both a nuclear power… More"Blackhat" starts with a hacker striking at both a nuclear power planet in China, causing a deadly meltdown, and manipulating soy futures on Wall Street. Captain Chen Dawai(Leehom Wang) of Chinese Interal Security recognizes code that he wrote with Nick Hathaway(Chris Hemsworth) back when they were both in college. The only problem is that Hathaway is currently in prison but Chen gets him sprung for his task force he has formed with the Americans and his opposite number, Carol Barrett(Viola Davis), on condition that Hathaway is tracked 24/7 by GPS tracker and accompanied personally by his very own federal marshal, Mark Jessup(Holt McCallany). That's not mention Chen's kid sister Lien(Wei Tang) being along for the ride.
Admittedly, "Blackhat" may not be the strongest plotted movie ever, with its adding nothing to the tried and true it takes a hacker to catch a hacker plot. Luckily, this smart movie has more going on than that, as Michael Mann's handheld digital filming style finally hits the mark. That might have more to do with it not being applied to a period piece or Mann's own past but instead towards the near future(unless, I'm wrong the first date stamp we see is for March 2015), that assumes a very globalized planet, for better or for worse. As such, there is no looking back, as especially Hathaway, the unlikeliest of hackers, has no regrets and can only look forward.
In "White Bird in a Blizzard," one day, Katrina(Shailene Woodley)… MoreIn "White Bird in a Blizzard," one day, Katrina(Shailene Woodley) finds her mother(Eva Green) sleeping in her bed. The next day, she is gone without a trace. So, Katrina and her father(Christopher Meloni) go to the police station to report her disappearance and speak with Detective Scieziesciez(Thomas Jane) who provides no leads but to whom Katrina warms up to. Before all of this, Katrina's life was normal, hanging out with her friends Beth(Gabourey Sidibe) and Mickey(Mark Indelicato) and losing her virginity to Phil(Shiloh Fernandez), her boyfriend next door.
While Gregg Araki is mostly known for the provocative material of his films, what people generally forget is how well he gets coming of age movies right. That's no less true with his latest film "White Bird in a Blizzard" which is actually equal parts evocative and provocative. So, as much as sex is a part of this movie and these characters' lives, memory becomes just as big a key, with the movie richly taking on dreamlike imagery along the way. But then the film suddenly ends, revealing the solution to the mystery it had been building all along, which makes sense but at the cost of any kind of ambiguity in the process.
In Istanbul, Cemal(Ushan Cakir) is engaged to marry a woman who he… MoreIn Istanbul, Cemal(Ushan Cakir) is engaged to marry a woman who he does not know well enough to know what her favorite soccer team is.(Seriously, dude?) So, as a sort of extended bachelor party, he accompanies his uncle(Guven Kirac) on one of his occasional party trips to Lviv, Ukraine. While hanging out in a nightclub, it looks like Cemal does get lucky when he is picked up by Sasha(Viktoria Spesivtseva) who had originally been primping for a night with her married lover when he called to cancel. Instead, she takes Cemal back to her place where she punches holes in condoms while he showers.
Apparently, things have gotten so bad in Hollywood that we now have to look so far afield as Ukrainian/Turkish co-productions for our romance movie fixes. Regardless, the touching and sweet "Love Me" definitely succeeds on its own terms. And even as warm as the movie can be towards its two flawed lead characters, it never ignores the realities of the setting or the characters' situations, especially as it relates to how the Ukraine is caught in between neighboring countries and the ethically troublesome area of sexual tourism.(Say what you will about the Soviets but they knew how to build a subway.) In general, that extends to any situation where anybody is on somebody else's turf, without realizing what the rules or maybe even the language is.
"The U" is a a breezy inside documentary about the rise and fall of… More"The U" is a a breezy inside documentary about the rise and fall of the University of Miami Hurricanes football team in the 70's and 80's that also takes a couple of righteous swings at the hypocrisy of the NCAA. That began with Howard Schnellenberger being hired as head coach, instantly changing the culture of the school by recruiting heavily from Miami's scarred inner city neighborhoods. Along with that, he installed an innovative play of style that the players embraced and celebrated.(The moral of which if you didn't like them celebrating, then simply just stop them from scoring.) As the documentary talks to plenty of former players and coaches(my personal favorite as a Cleveland Browns fan, being, of course, Bernie Kosar), it also does leave out that the Hurricanes' fall from national prominence might have had just as much to do with moving to the ACC as anything else, where they have been completely overwhelmed by Florida State in both challenging for national championships and controversy.
On the other hand, this is certainly a one-sided documentary.(What I wouldn't have given to hear from Dan Marino on the Hurricanes possibly overshadowing his Dolphins.) And I remain skeptical of any time sports are given a lead role in healing or uniting a city, no matter the case made here.
As much as "The U" also points out how many former players made it to the NFL, I find it kind of unusual that four straight head coaches(also including Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson and Butch Davis) tried to find their fortunes in professional football, with Schnellenberger having the bad luck to try and go to the USFL.
In "A Most Violent Year," Abel(Oscar Isaac), the owner of a home oil… MoreIn "A Most Violent Year," Abel(Oscar Isaac), the owner of a home oil businessin New York City, is on the way up. Not only has he moved into a palatial new home with his wife Anna(Jessica Chastain) and their three children but he has also just closed a deal to buy a distribution center that will greatly enhance his business. However, he has only a month to get the rest of the money, or not only will he lose his sizable deposit but the property will also go to his competitors. Complicating things even further is the DA(David Oyelowo) investigating him and hijackers targeting his trucks, with Julian(Elyes Gabel) being the latest driver victimized.
As he seeks to make movies on his own terms, J.C. Chandor has directed another movie that hits the mark with "A Most Violent Year" about a man seeking to fulfill the promise of the American dream, by making it as legitimately as he possibly can. That involves Chandor doing so with standout scenes including the one on the Queensboro Bridge and a lead character who seeks to avoid violence in the most violent of times, a message the movie handles well without resorting to being didactic.(It is either irony or penance that both Oscar Isaac and Albert Brooks were also in "Drive" which glorified violence to a sickening degree.) Of course, it helps when you have Jessica Chastain being no less than quietly effective and a nearly unrecognizable Albert Brooks stealing scenes left, right and center. Sadly, the Julian storyline does not work as well as it should, being as awkwardly shoehorned into the rest of the movie as it is.
In "Inherent Vice," Doc Sportello(Joaquin Phoenix), an occasional… MoreIn "Inherent Vice," Doc Sportello(Joaquin Phoenix), an occasional private detective, currently and usually in a drug addled haze, gets a visitation from his ex-girlfriend Shasta(Katherine Waterston). She is there to warn him about a nefarious plot aimed at a real estate developer. After checking in with his current girlfriend and ADA, Penny(Reese Witherspoon), Doc follows the leads to a massage parlor where he is knocked senseless. Waking up next to a dead body, he finds he has some explaining to do to Lieutenant Bigfoot(Josh Brolin) of the LAPD.
I would never argue with somebody who said that Paul Thomas Anderson is currently the best of American filmmakers. But at the same time, he has a tendency to over stuff his movies with both details and actors. Some times, it really works in creating a specific milieu(Boogie Nights), while other times it can be a rather bruising affair(Magnolia). Sadly, his latest, "Inherent Vice," lies in the later category, as Anderson replicates too closely the feeling of being stoned, just as the whole selective reality thing would probably work much better on the page. That's with a story and accompanying mystery that are so shaggy they come with fleas. All of which is set at a time when Nixon and Reagan were conspiring to ruin everybody's high and the fascist LAPD was trying to rewrite reality through television.
Recently orphaned, Mary(Maureen O'Hara) travels to stay with her Aunt… MoreRecently orphaned, Mary(Maureen O'Hara) travels to stay with her Aunt Patience(Marie Ney) but soon finds she lives in the kind of place that the coach driver wants nothing to do with. But luckily for Mary, Sir Humphrey Pengallen(Charles Laughton) makes up the difference and escorts her to the correct address. And then she almost wishes he hadn't. That's because Patience's husband, Joss(Leslie Banks), is the leader of a bunch of cutthroats, responsible for a bunch of deadly shipwrecks in the area, who have now turned on Traherne(Robert Newton), one of their own.
Riddle me this: When is a Hitchcock film not a Hitchcock film but in reality a Hitchcock film? The answer is "Jamaica Inn" which on the surface is just another period piece that gets off to an awkward start in introducing all the principal characters. But then it picks up steam, even with the dated material and primitive special effects, as there is more than one character who is not who he says he is. The fact that there is a little delusion mixed in is only icing on the cake, along with some excellent work from Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara.
"Poison" is set in a small, provincial town in France. It is the kind… More"Poison" is set in a small, provincial town in France. It is the kind of sleepy town where the townspeople complain about the lack of tourist business. Somewhat more atypical is Blandine(Germaine Reuver) buying rat poison at the local pharmacy, under the watchful eye of one of her fellow townspeople. So, even with him not knowing this, you maybe cannot blame her husband of thirty years, Paul(Michel Simon), from taking his time coming home for dinner, after talking to, if not exactly confessing to the local priest(Albert Duvaleix).
With "Poison," Sacha Guitry takes a darkly entertaining look at the institution of marriage. While maybe Blandine and Paul might have once loved each other, what is important is where they are now(possibly also being the ugliest couple on record), using the radio to cover their lack of communication with each other at dinner, pretty much the only time they see each other during the day.(See, you can't blame everything on television.) So, while Guitry takes his time with such observant details, including his patented opening credits sequence where he introduces the cast and crew(but otherwise not appearing), through most of the movie's length, he rushes in madcap fashion through the movie's climax, only stopping long enough to deliver some funny laughs.