True Grit has just about gotta be the most un-ironic thing the Coen Brothers have ever conjured. The Coens have explored the landscapes (No Country for Old Men) and themes (law and order in Fargo and the “man on the run” in Raising Arizona) of Westerns before, but this is their first stone-cold stab at the genre. They’ve done remakes before, too, lest we forget the travesty of The Ladykillers. Yet it is here where they play it completely straight and deliver a polished, hard to dislike, feature film liquored-up with top shelf quality right down the line. Continue reading
NOTE TO READERS on 7-16-10: Click here for the full Inception report and review.
In preparation for the release of Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated and much ballyhooed Inception this Friday (stay tuned for a full report following the Thursday night 11:59pm advance showing I plan to attend), I decided to hold a mini-marathon here at the ‘Spin and take a look back on three of Nolan’s non-Gotham related works: Memento, Insomnia and The Prestige.
I make no apologies, and it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, that Nolan is one of my favorite working directors. It’s been uncanny how well he has been able to work within the mainstream studio system and deliver the type of dark, twisted, psychologically complex, crowd-pleasing and zeitgeist-tapping films people crave in the new millennium. It’s always interesting to do retrospectives of auteurs as you can witness over the course of a few nights the birth of their art, the refinement of their techniques and the emergence of their recurring themes.
First, we shall look at his breakthrough film, Memento (2000). Continue reading
Finally…a horror film for old people. Remember back in the early 1990’s when Columbia (do they even exist anymore?) tried to revive the old Universal Horror Films by using Francis Ford Coppola’s gloriously trippy Bram Stoker’s Dracula as their flagship film? I can recall being a precocious kid and seeing the film with my parents when it opened in the theaters around Thanksgiving. And I remember the audience being half filled with senior citizens who were all enthralled, half achy with nostalgia and half scared out of their wits. My parents, the old folks, my friends and I…we all ate it up back then. It was a hip, fun, scary ride totally tricked-out with every old-fashioned cinematic trick Coppola could conjure, loaded with sex and gore and over-the-top scenery chewing performances. Dialed way down and about fifteen years late, but brimming with that same sense of fogged-covered nostalgia mixed with modern gore, Joe Johnston’s gleefully un-hip update of The Wolfman would’ve been the perfect follow-up film to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Heck, we even have Anthony Hopkins — Van Helsing himself — chewing more scenery than we’ve seen him chew in years as the senior member of the cursed Talbot clan. Continue reading
I’ve never tried to obtain the encyclopedic knowledge of music that I actively seek with film and literature, but I know what I like, and I’d like to think I know raw talent when I hear it. Amidst a busy weekend a-visitin’ and travelin’ to Atlantic City and then up to the Big Apple, the highlight was watching Robbie Gil perform at Rockwood Music Hall on 197 Allen Street in NYC on Saturday night. Live music isn’t typically my thing (in fact, this might’ve been the first live music act I’ve seen since college), but there’s certainly something to be said for the intimacy and communal energy at a small and eager venue, especially when you know the performer personally and are there mingling amongst not just his family and friends, but his fans, who swayed hypnotically, bobbed their heads, smiled and sometimes sung along with his powerfully lyrical and heartfelt songs. If you are a fan of live music (especially of the bluesy rock nature) and live in or visit NYC frequently, you’d be a fool to pass up the chance to see Robbie Gil perform. Continue reading
CAPTION: Keanu Reeves wonders if he stares at this sphere long enough, will this movie disappear?
The Day the Audience Shrugged Their Shoulders, 14 December 2008
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
The Day the Earth Stood Still is a stunningly inept remake of the 1950’s classic of the same name. It’s one of those big-budget films so unfathomably dull and inane, you wonder how it ever got made. Whereas the original warned of the dangers of nuclear armament, this modern update boldly chides us for being mean to each other and not taking care of the environment. Gee, Hollywood, thanks for the swell insight! This Christmas season Hollywood teaches us that people can sometimes suck, but only that special kind of film can suck totally.
Although the entire production is horrible from top to bottom, the inert direction of Scott Derrickson and the randomly asinine script from David Scarpa bear most of the blame. The screenplay clearly went through arbitrary rewrites, perhaps after being focus-grouped to death, and shows not a single breath of imagination. Around every turn, it wastes opportunities and insults the intelligence of the audience and gives us not one authentic character or moment to connect to. Even when it thinks it’s being cool (like the lame reveal that those alien spheres are actually “arks” trying to save animal life before the world is annihilated) the script fails miserably. One sphere that is shown on the back of a pick-up truck being attacked by flame-throwers in some foreign desert town inexplicably contains squid, because, well, the shadows of squid inside a giant sphere look kinda neat, that’s why! At least the script teaches us one thing. Apparently all you need to do in order to survive an apocalyptic robotic alien insect attack that devours everything in sight is to hide under a bridge in Central Park!
The saddest part of the film is how the director wastes his talented cast. The always wooden Keanu Reeves was perfectly chosen to play the alien Klaatu, but even he seems to be disbelieving the words that are coming out of his mouth. Poor Jennifer Connelly, an immensely emotive and alluring actress, appears to be in physical pain or constipated for most the film, obviously stunned she agreed to star in this junk. Kathy Bates and John Cleese apparently showed up only for their paychecks and sleepwalk through their lines, and at one pivotal moment where Bates’ Secretary of State attempts to show regret for some bad decisions made, she actually appears to fall asleep in her chair. And then there’s poor little Jaden Smith, who appears bored to tears throughout the film and is given no direction from Derrickson except when he is asked to cry on cue in the supposed emotional climax of the picture that left me feeling sorry for all involved.
However, if anyone should be hung for this travesty, it’s the producers, who must’ve run out of money at some point and filled the gap in funds with some nauseating product placement. How else do we explain Klaatu’s trip to McDonald’s for an important meeting with another of his kind?
The Day the Earth Stood Still is easily the worst film of the year. At least The Happening had its accidentally humorous moments. This clunker offers no such relief. Even the special effects are done in a lazy and unimaginative manner. It’s so awful, I was stunned into stillness while the rest of the audience seemed to shrug their shoulders.
Originally Posted on the Internet Movie Database:
The Train Has Left the Station, 9 September 2007
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
A down-on-his-luck rancher (Christian Bale) attempts to restore some honor to his name, regain the respect of his young sons, and put some money in his pocket by escorting a murderous criminal (Russell Crowe) to the 3:10 train to Yuma prison in James Mangold’s update of the 1950’s Western of the same name based on a short story by Elmore Leonard.
Westerns are a hard sell these days. Unless taking the radical deconstructionist route like the neoclassic “Unforgiven” or the bold avante-garde take of last year’s vastly underrated “The Proposition,” the genre often comes across as stale and unwelcome. The only other film to play it straight recently was Kevin Costner’s “Open Range” in 2003, and that movie was only a moderate success. “3:10 to Yuma” lacks the reverent and epic scope of Costner’s piece, but makes up for it in grittiness and a valiant attempt at psychological complexity.
Unfortunately “3:10 to Yuma” is awash in genre clichés from the robbing of a stagecoach, to the stoic wife/mother at the homestead (Gretchen Mol), to the depiction of Native Americans as mythical phantom threats ready to scalp and kill anyone in their path. Also distracting are the “cameos” that range from a welcome Peter Fonda as a morally questionable bounty hunter to an unwelcome Luke Wilson complete with green teeth as an unnecessary mining posse leader. Likewise the supporting cast is hit or miss with Logan Lerman showing some decent range as Bale’s eldest son while Ben Foster fails miserably at being method as the insane sharp-shooter hellbent on rescuing Crowe from the gallows.
The film’s saving graces are director Mangold’s traditionalist leanings in pacing and Western iconography and the lead performances from Bale and Crowe–two great actors who sometimes resort to scenery-chewing and are shockingly subdued and nuanced here in their multiple physical and mental face-offs. “3:10 to Yuma” culminates in a fantastic finale at the train station that is entertaining enough to forgive the cattle cars of clichés, buy not enough to make the audience wish they would resurrect the genre more often.
Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database