March Summary

Another month has flown by. Time flies when you're watching movies all the time, I guess.
As mentioned in the previous month's summary, I will break down this month's movies, alphabetically, according to genre and then give my take for the best and worst of each genre.

Oz the Great and Powerful
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Hunger Games

Best: ?
Worst: It's ironic that three blockbusters that should have all been great were all fairly dismal. If I had to pick the best out of this unfortunate threesome it would have to be "The Hunger Games". I can't in good conscience place it as "The Best".

Little Miss Sunshine
Manhattan Murder Mystery
Safety Not Guaranteed
Seven Psychopaths
Shakespeare in Love
The Birdcage

Best: I was pleasantly surprised that this batch of comedies were pretty solid. "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Shakespeare in Love" are the best but mention must be made of "The Birdcage" and "Seven Psychopaths"
Worst: "Adaptation" is pretty frustrating but "Manhattan" gives it a run for its money.

Bonnie and Clyde
Mutiny on the Bounty
Seven Samurai
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
The Bridge on the River Kwai
The Silence of the Lambs

Best: This is hard, I have to say that the movie that I enjoyed the most was "Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans".
Worst: "Seven Samurai", absolutely...don't waste your time with this saga.

Big Fish
Cloud Atlas
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Glengarry Glen Ross
Les Misérables (2012)
My Left Foot
The Beaver
The King's Speech
The Tree of Life
The Trip to Bountiful

Best: "Doubt" and "The Beaver" really nail this category. They are both some of my favorites and they deliver so very well. Also I have to mention that I really loved "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" and don't understand what's the big deal with the movie...oh well.
Worst: This is a shockingly strong group of dramas, but for me the weakest was "My Left Foot"

A Separation
La Vie en Rose
Rust and Bone

Best: "A Separation" gives an eye to the finer details in life and crafts an entirely unique and artistic film.
Worst: Although it was eagerly anticipated, "Rust and Bone" didn't come through the way that I wanted it to.


Best: "Prometheus" was a film that I really, really liked so I have to pick that.
Worst: "Limitless"...I wasn't sure where to put this movie and it sort of fell into the science fiction category by happenstance and necessity.

Fatal Attraction
Shutter Island

Best: "Fatal Attraction"...two words—"Glenn" "Close"
Worst: "Shutter Island"

Saving Private Ryan
The Thin Red Line

Best: By far leaps and bounds, "The Thin Red Line" blows everything else out of the water. It was a staggering film and possibly the best I've ever seen.
Worst: "Saving Private Ryan" could have been really great if it had just stuck to the war and left the sappy-ness on the side.

Shakespeare in Love (1998) (R)

"Shakespeare in Love" is a delightful comedy that takes place near the beginning of the bard's career. William Shakespeare is a writer who's struggling to finish a play called "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter" before a theater owner named Henslowe gets in further debt and Will gets in more trouble. There are two theater houses in the town where Shakespeare is writing, the one that Henslowe owns and The Rose, which Richard Burbage owns.
As the debts pile on and play after play is put on at the Rose, Shakespeare decides that he needs a "muse" to get inspiration for his play. He has affairs with various women which is where he gets his ideas for his plays.
One such play is played before the Queen, a very stern yet childish Judi Dench. This is where we are introduced to Viola De Lesseps. All she wants in her life is poetry and adventure, she's a high-spirited daughter of the well to do Sir Robert De Lesseps. Her marriage is being arranged without her knowledge. This covenant will be passed with Lord Wessex, a greedy and selfish man who we have absolutely no trouble in hating.
But Viola wants to be an actress, which is forbidden (only men could act in Shakespeare's day), so she disguises herself as a boy, Thomas Kent, and auditions for "Romeo"—a play that hasn't even been written yet.
She instantly hits a gold spot with Shakespeare who decides that he/she is the only one to play the role of Romeo.
But there's a problem, she has fallen in love with the poet and on a chance meeting, him with her. She can't reveal her alter-ego to him and yet can't meet with him because of the ever looming Lord Wessex.
Hemslowe is in trouble with his debtors and hires a horribly ragamuffin group of "actors" as the cast to the unwritten play.
But then, love and other complications happen.
"Shakespeare in Love" is one of the best romantic comedies ever made because of its razor sharp and keenly witted script, penned by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. If you know Shakespeare you get more of the puns and the jokes but even if you don't, the movie stands on its own.
The cast is unrivaled: Joseph Fiennes plays Shakespeare and invents his own version of the famed man, Gwyneth Paltrow plays Viola and its a wonderful performance that brought her home an Oscar, Judi Dench's version of Queen Elizabeth won her an Oscar (one of the shortest performances to do so), Geoffrey Rush plays the eccentric Henslowe, Ben Affleck, Tom Wilkinson, Colin Firth, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter, and Rupert Everett also join the cast.
The chemistry between Fiennes and Paltrow is just so sensational...beyond compare even.
The film itself won seven Oscars and took the Best Picture category away from "Saving Private Ryan"...which has thus made it a very hated movie. Having recently seen "Saving" I can attest that "Shakespeare in Love" is a far better picture. It doesn't rely on cliches and sentimentalities to try to make the viewer cry, it's a much quicker and smarter picture. Not that "Saving" doesn't have its merits, its just a clunkier, clumsier movie.
The cast won a Screen Actors Guild award which was justly given, they all give fantastic performances.
"Shakespeare in Love" may not be the best movie ever made or the deepest movie, it certainly isn't that haunting; but like "Annie Hall" it's hilarious, entertaining, and loads of fun.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) (PG)

This review contains SPOILERS
"Oz the Great and Powerful" is pretty much a detestable movie. What brand of cigar were the producers smoking that convinced them to take the most beloved fantasy adventure of all time and make a prequel for it almost 75 years later?
Let me put this in perspective, The Wicked Witch of the West from "The Wizard of Oz" is one of the best villains of all time, invading the nightmares of children for decades. The movie itself is considered to the one of the best movies ever made, ranking #6 on AFI's list of classics.
So why would you not treat its prequel with the same reverence that people are surrounding with the new addition to the Star Wars franchise?
Oz, or Oscar, is a circus magician. He relies on cheap tricks and illusions to make his money. He's nicely what you would call a "lady's man". Women throw themselves at him here and there, but he only has eyes for himself. He's selfish and a pig and a liar and greedy and a pig and selfish and selfish....yes, I think we get the point. But he also wants to do something with his life. This desire to be someone great and powerful (irony intended) is overwhelming for Oscar. He really, really wants it.
So how does Oz get to Oz? Well, I'll tell you: he's chased by an angry muscle man into a hot air balloon after talking to his sweetheart who's getting married and then he's sucked into a tornado that no one saw coming until it was five feet away. It would seem that the writers couldn't think of a better reason.
The movie starts in black and white, much like the original, and then once in Oz, the screen widens and the color sets in. This is supposed to create a feeling of wonder at the amazing land of Oz, but just made me think, "BEHOLD! The mighty green screen!"
Honestly, there is so much CGI in this movie that it is unusual to see Oz fondle an actual prop.
So, now he's in Oz and he meets Theodora, a witch, who within five minutes is already making out with him. On a side note, I don't remember witches having skin tight leather pants that show off their butts, but they do if they're Mila Kunis. The lack of chemistry between Mila Kunis and James Franco is staggering. The movie takes a huge step backwards in their scenes together from an already suffering film.
Theodora takes Oz to the Emerald City with a little flying monkey named Finley (voiced by Zach Braff), who has pledged his life's servitude to Oz after Oz saved him from a lion by accident. Finley is treated like a bell-hop, just toting around Oz's bag. He struggles with the heavy bag and can't fly with it at first—then, magically, he's suddenly able to fly with the bag when the scene demands that he move faster.
Theodora's sister, named Evanora, who the audience immediately knows is bad, tells Oz that he'll only get to be king and fulfill the prophesy that is never told in full if he hunts down the Wicked Witch and breaks her wand. He believes her and goes into the Dark Forest, where the tress move and there is a surplus of fog. After one minute—aha!—there's the Wicked Witch. Then she sets her wand down to open a gate instead of  doing what everybody else in the entire world would have done which would be to tuck the wand under her arm or put it in between her teeth. Thankfully, opening a simple gate (remember that she's a witch so she could have opened it with magic) takes her two minutes. Enough time for Oz to steal the wand and realize that this woman in a dark cloak is not the Wicked Witch who lives in the Dark Forest surrounded by creepy trees and fog, but Glinda, the good witch.
Evanora—as we already knew but somehow this supposed to be a reveal—is the actual Wicked Witch....but not of the West....don't let that confuse you.
Theodora is heartbroken because the man that she danced with for three minutes and kissed disappeared in the night and Evanora convinces her that he never loved her—which is true.
Then Oz has to save the land...simple as that.
"Oz the Great and Powerful" is an exceedingly ignorant film. Not only is the timeline messed up (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) like Oz and Glinda being a couple even though in "The Wizard of Oz" the wizard was an old man and Glinda was still young (you can justify this with her being magic but it's still pretty weak) but some things are never explained. THE RUBY SLIPPERS! The single most important prop to come to film yet, are never mentioned....not the whole movie.
When the film is not exploiting its special effects team, it's making horrible dialogue with poorly crafted characters.
James Franco is horrid in this role. I guess that he thought that since he hosted the Oscars completely stoned it would be okay to act a whole movie seemingly high. Every single scene with him in it is sensationally boring. The only good parts of the movie don't have him in it and those are sparse. This is such a blip in his career.
Oh, and Glinda just can't hold onto that freakin' wand!
I wished that I had landed in the field of poppies and slept through this picture.
I hope that this movie cancels anyone else's thought of remaking or adding onto classic movies because I really don't want to watch "Casablanca 2: Rick's Revenge".

Score: 1 and a half stars out of 4

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011) (PG-13)

I've resisted writing this review for a while. The feelings that this movie evokes in me are very strong and quite the opposite for many other people.
The first time I saw "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close", I fell in love with the movie. Stephen Daldry's direction and Chris Menges's cinematography made this movie incredibly enigmatic and powerful to me. I was so swept up in the movie that I was shocked to find out that the people I had gone to see it with weren't as enamored with it as I was, nor the general public. There were cries of heartlessness, manipulation, and cliches, but I didn't see them. It was heralded as a mistake that this movie managed to eke out a nomination for Best Picture. It quickly become one of the most hated movies of 2011, crushing all of the movie's box office hopes. After a lot of critical reviews and hearing people scoff at the very mention of the movie's name, I wondered if I had missed something. After a while I decided to give the movie a second viewing, this time with a more critical eye...
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" is based on Jonathan Safran Foer's sensationally wide-published novel of the same name. Having viewed both mediums of story telling I can attest to the virtual impossibility of filming Foer's book. It's just not doable. Other books are said to be difficult to translate to screen (2012's "Life of Pi", for instance), but somehow filmmakers make them work. And "Extremely" is no exception to this.
The book is centered around the musings and prattling of a young, possibly autistic boy, named Oskar. Through the book we get inside his head, as well as the heads of his grandmother and grandfather. These three tell a story that is a loosing of innocence. Oskar cannot survive in a child's world if he is to cope with the horrors of adult life. This book reaches its climax when you realize that Oskar's father was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
The movie holds no such liberties. It's near the beginning of the movie that 9/11 occurs and the rest of the movie is Oskar trying to understand why his dad is not there. Also, the movie is exclusively told through Oskar's eyes.
His dad and he used to play games, extraordinary games. Thomas Schell, Oskar's father, is the best kind of father that a child could ask for. He's never angry and he's never harsh...always understanding.
The bond that forms between Oskar and his father is much stronger than the relationship with his mother, Linda. This makes it even more difficult when he looses his father.
In order to preserve this memory of his father, Oskar sets out to find what a key with the name "Black" written on it, that he found in his father's closet goes to. Oskar is sure that it has something to do with the last "mission" that his father gave to him.
So even on the second time of watching this movie, I was a complete mess. I tried, believe me, I tried to hate the movie but I just couldn't do it. It is so artistic and beautiful.
What other movie could make me weep just by seeing a water drop fall from a faucet or hear a message on an answering machine? None come to mind.
The simplistic nature of the movie is what makes it work. Life can be cruel sometimes; but in the same breath life can be beautiful and mesmerizing. This is what the films tries (and for me, succeeds) to do.
The acting couldn't be better. Thomas Horn as Oskar Schell is a bold and complex newcomer to the film industry—I'm afraid his career might be cut short because of the hatred directed towards the movie but it would be a shame to see that happen. Tom Hanks plays Oskar's father and isn't in the film much but is great in the moments that he is. The adult acting comes down to a powerful force of three: Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow, and Viola Davis. Each of them have moments of glorious acting, Sandra Bullock in particular. It should be noted that Max von Sydow earned an Oscar nomination for this movie, and his character is mute....that's pretty impressive.
Well I tried it again, and it tore me to pieces again. Throwing all caution to the wind I'm going to just say it—this was the second best film of 2011 and my favorite of all of the nominees for Best Picture. It's only topped by Jodie Foster's sensational film "The Beaver".
I loved this movie, what else can I say?

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

Seven Psychopaths (2012) (R)

"Seven Psychopaths" is the movie that "Adaptation" should have been. It's easier to follow and less depressing than Charlie Kaufman's mind-bending "comedy". This is the sophomore feature length work of writer/director Martin McDonagh who's first film, "In Bruges" was equally as great but less funny than "Seven Psychopaths".
The movie begins with a writer, Marty, (hmmmmm very strong "Adaptation" feeling here, since Charlie Kaufman was the main character of Charlie's Kaufman's movie) played by Colin Farrell, trying to find a way to write a movie that he feels he should call "Seven Psychopaths". There's only one problem, he can't think of any psychopaths. He's got one down, it's going to be a Buddhist psychopath who can't do anything because he's a pacifist. But after that, he's stuck. How can you have an action movie without your typical action stars?
His friend, Billy, steals dogs for a living with his friend, Hans. After stealing the beloved pet, the owners will issue a reward and then they will return the dog and collect the money—piece of cake. They don't expect trouble with this scheme, but trouble comes anyway. They accidentally steal the dog of a Mafia boss Charlie, played by Woody Harrelson in a bipolar role.
Charlie wants his little shih-tzu back and he can't take no for an answer. He goes on a man (or in this case, dog) hunt for his pet, wrecking havoc along the way.
Marin McDonagh really livens the screen up with his second film. Although "In Bruges" had its funny moments, it wasn't a comedy, per se. "In Bruges" also had a very pessimistic feeling to it, making you empathetic towards the characters stuck in a little Belgian town.
"Seven Psychopaths" ditches the mood and gloom and replaces it with puns, Sam Rockwell, and some blood.
As the name suggests, "Seven Psychopaths" isn't a family friendly film, but it is remarkably enjoyable. The beginning is weak, Woody Harrelson isn't always good as Charlie. Once the film finds its way, it never stops.
Although the performances are great and the cast is sensational—Colin Farrel, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish—the film belongs to Sam Rockwell as Billy and Christopher Walken as Hans.
Who doesn't like Christopher Walken? This role is actually quite good for Walken, easily coming close to being on par with his Oscar winning performance in "The Deer Hunter". Although that was much more dark, Walken seems to be the shining light of the picture.
Sam Rockwell, who is an actor that I really admire even though he's done some not so great things like "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", is superb as Billy. He rivals Walken and surpasses him in some scenes. It's a really fantastic acting job.
What "Seven Psychopaths" has that "In Bruges" didn't, is a little hope. The story ends on a high note and leaves the viewer satisfied.
"Seven Psychopaths" is hilarious, brutal, quirky, and smart.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

Rust and Bone (2012) (R)

Finally! I've been wanting to see "Rust and Bone" for many months. Regrettably, it's a foreign film and those take long enough to get to America so I was pretty excited that I got this movie today.
What's unfortunate about this situation is that "Rust and Bone" was not as good as its trailer was.
The film opens when Alain "Ali" (is it just me or is that heavily ironic and unoriginal because he's a boxer) hitchhikes his way to a new city with his kid to live with his sister. She's a cashier and money is tight. Once they get Ali's kid, Sam, in school; Ali tries to find a job. He gets a job as a bouncer at a night club where he meets Stephanie. She's been in a fight, for what reason we are not told, and she's drunk and completely out of her own head. He takes her home in his car and then invites himself in to get some ice for his hand. This is the man that beats the crap out of other people for a living and he needs ice for this little wound but when his teeth are knocked out he just looks slightly upset. Also on this ride home, Stephanie's cuts and bruises have magically disappeared.
It's a very forced and unbelievable meeting between the two that you instantly know are going to end up together by some strange circumstances.
And they are odd situations that place our two protagonists together.
Stephanie is an orca trainer at a water adventure land. When a freak accident leads her to loose her legs she reaches out to the only person who will talk to her, Ali. But when he shows up to her house she seems distant and depressed, well, that's explainable since she's just lost her legs.
And that's basically all that happens.
Until the ending, that is.
Watching "Rust and Bone" is like reading one very long sentence. It may be an attractive sentence and one that you enjoyed reading; but there's no diversity or plot. It just goes nowhere. Where was the conflict and resolution?
You would think with three screenwriters they could have come up with a better plot and a better ending. Although I enjoyed the closing sequence of the movie I was perplexed for why it was even in the movie. The last act of "Rust and Bone" is deeply predictable and cliche, but it was still well-done.
Matthias Schoenaerts plays Alian and it isn't a very good role for him. They seemed to have cast him just because of his sheer size and physique. He is supposed to be a hot tempered yet intensely passionate man and I just didn't get that feeling from him.
Marion Cotillard plays Stephanie and her performance is great. What's regrettable is that the highly artistic film brings her down.
"Rust and Bone" isn't bad, per se; it just doesn't go anywhere. It wanders aimlessly and though it may be a pretty walk to take, it may be one that you wished you hadn't taken.

Score: 2 and half stars out of 4

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

"Mutiny on the Bounty" basically spoils the whole plot of its own movie in its title: it's mutiny on the ship, the HMS Bounty..........maybe should have thought of a better title.
The opening title sequence of "Mutiny on the Bounty" lets us know precisely what's going to happen. In order to show the harsh and unfair treatment by officers to seaman, a man led a revolt and took over the Bounty from a tyrannical captain.
Fletcher Christian is our man who leads this rebellion, although it takes him almost the whole movie to work up the courage to do so.
The Bounty is a ship governed by regulations, traditions, and Captain Bligh. While Christian forces some men into a two year service, he still empathizes with them. They are prisoners and thieves, criminals; but Christian feels that they should be treated fairly.
Captain Bligh, on the other hand, is all for the school of hard knocks. He thinks that he can intimidate the men into obedience and for much of the movie it works. But the viewer knows that a rebellion is coming and it boils and churns in the back of your mind until it's almost frustrating.
Captain Bligh is a cruel man, whipping a dead man just to make his point, thrashing men for just giving the wrong answer, taking food away from the men while he grows fat on their meals, and stealing from the provisions and blaming it on other people.
The Bounty's mission is to sail to Tahiti to find some trees and bring those back to grow. Once in Tahiti, things change...
There's a man on board named Roger Byam, he translates the Tahitian language into English and vice versa.
But once the Captain acquires the trees that they came for, they start to sail back to England and Christian has to make a hard decision that will not give him the outcome that he expected.
This movie has several things that work for it: Clark Gable as Christian, the footage shot at sea, Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh.
But this movie also has things that work against it: Clark Gable, the sea footage, and Charles Laughton.
Gable is supposed to be British, very British. He's surrounded by English actors yet the man sounds incredibly American. In fact, there's no accent to fool us otherwise. He character is also a little muddled. He's got a hot temper yet he can tame it at all the right moments...convenient script writing.
Captain Bligh is the most well-thought out character but I was unhappy with Charles Laughton's portrayal. The man is obsessed with the rigor of himself. He loves to be controlling for the sake of command and power. He's an addict and Laughton gives us a good show, but he's just not crazy enough. Also, this man is supposed to be imposing but Laughton only stands about five feet and six inches tall. He has to be extra-cruel to make up for his lack of height, but he just doesn't pull it off.
This movie could have been so powerful. When the mutiny actually happens, large ethical questions are raised, addressed and then laid flat and trampled over by large herds of migrating sentimentalities.
The ending is so fluffy and devoid of any merit that it could best be described as trite.
Filming "Mutiny on the Bounty" must have been a gigantic pain. The camera rolls and pitches and can't quite focus during the more intense scenes, but it is a valiant effort.
This is one classic movie that I can see benefitting greatly from a remake that doesn't include Marlon Brando.

Score: 2 stars out of 4

The King's Speech (2010) (R)

Tom Hooper's instant classic "The King's Speech" is a work of sublime beauty and great dignity. The movie, keenly written by David Seidler, follows the ascension to the throne of George VI.
Albert Frederick Arthur George, the Duke of York at the movie's opening, has a speech problem. He can scarcely get a sentence out without stuttering or stammering. It's the late 1930s and the invention of the radio is propelling a need to be in constant contact with those in power. The current king, King George V (Albert's father) is recognizing that need and sending out radio broadcasts on Christmas. He tells his son that the radio will change the monarchy forever.
But there's a problem with the throne. As George V is dying, the monarchy will fall to Albert's older brother, David.
David is in the middle of an affair with a married woman named Wallace Simpson. As king, he is the head of the Church of England and as such cannot be expected to be received if he's seeing a married woman. David decides that he wants to marry Wallace and she's going to get a divorce from her husband. But it is still unacceptable for a king to be married to a divorced woman so David abdicates the throne and Albert takes it, taking the title 'George VI' when he does.
As war looms with Germany, this unwanted throne is thrust in Albert's lap causing great pressure to be placed on the king's shoulders.
But Albert can't deliver speeches. He's tried all sorts of therapies, from smoking to trying to hold seven marbles in his mouth while reciting the prose of famous authors.
He swears that he will never see another therapist again, but then his wife stumbles across a man named Lionel Logue.
Lionel's approaches are radically different from Albert's other physicians. He's got a wicked sense of wit, which he never tames, not even in the future king's presence. Logue believes that the source of Albert's stammering is an internal one. Something that may have happened in the past but is unknown to Albert. This slightly Freudian viewpoint lets Logue gain a relationship with Albert. Alas, politics comes along and complicates matters.
"The King's Speech" isn't just about George VI, for a biopic, it's very relatable. The story of Albert is one of gaining courage and speaking out, even when it's hard.
Colin Firth plays Albert/George VI and his performance is one of the best ever. The way he carries himself and moves from scene to scene with effortless ease is staggeringly impressive. He's such a troubled man, yet Firth doesn't overplay him. It's sensational and riveting, very much deserving of the Oscar it garnered Colin Firth.
The supporting cast is Helena Bonham Carter as Albert's wife Elizabeth and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue. Both of these actors are known for choosing bizarre and cooky roles but here they both show remarkable restraint in front of the camera.
The direction is fabulous and won Tom Hooper an Oscar.
All-in-all, "The King's Speech" is a crowd pleaser. It's light and happy but smart enough to carry itself.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) (R)

As soon as "Glengarry Glen Ross" opens, it's plain to see that the movie was based off of a play. The limited number of characters and the depth that each one has instantly, the quick-fire dialogue, and then lack of sets—all characteristics of plays. What helps this movie is that David Marnet wrote the screenplay based off of his own play.
A tiny real-estate firm is struggling during hard times in Chicago. Four men (Ricky, Shelley, George, and Dave) are working to try to close deals but nothing is really happening. They need better leads, but they'll only get better leads if they close and they can't close without better leads—see the conundrum?
Their  boss, John, invites a man to come in a talk to them. Enter the very motivated Blake. He's the diamond in the rough of real-estate. He tells them that he could have closed all of the deals that they are working on right now for double the price. Then he lines up a competition with prizes. Whoever makes the most money will get first prize: a Cadillac. Second prize is a set of cheap steak knives and third prize is getting fired. Supposedly this threat will make the men work harder and for some it does but for others it just makes them resent John and the company they're working for. Ricky is the only man who's out of the running for the competition, he's the best closer the company has.
Corruption soon sets in and a few of the men decide that it would be a good idea if they stole a set of good leads, the Glengarry leads.
Chaos soon set in and the men are scrambling to close deals.
This film is noir at its finest. It's cheesy and corny and still lovable. Smoke and rain permeate the city of Chicago and you feel trapped inside the world of the four men.
James Foley, the director, knows what it will take to make this movie work and he evokes powerful performances from his cast.
It's doesn't hurt that his cast is some of the most seasoned and diverse actors of the age: Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, and Ed Harris. It's hard to find a better cast than this.
"Glengarry Glen Ross" is a man's movie, slightly misogynistic to convey that real-estate is not a career for wimps.
This is where I had a hard time believing the movie.
It tries to make a gangster feeling....but it's real-estate. I fail to see what's so gritty and manly about the career and it's hard to overlook that.
"Glengarry Glen Ross" may not be perfect but it does have some great performances and wonderful lines.
Everyone winds up in a shouting match with some other person...most notably the small yet pivotal performance by Alec Baldwin as Blake.
It's enjoyable if a bit absurd.

Score: 3 out of 4 stars

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

This review contains SPOILERS.
While movie aficionados and the common thought alike will tell you that "Wings" was the first Best Picture winner, it would be not entirely correct without mentioning "Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans". See "Wings" won the Oscar for 'Best Picture, Production'; but "Sunrise" won for 'Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production'. And it is more unique and artistic than its counterpart "Wings" which is more of a straightforward war story.
"Sunrise" has no genre that you can put your finger on. It starts very dark and there is a dark undertow that remains throughout the movie. At the beginning of this silent movie, we are told that this film is representative of a marriage and how two humans interact. Much of this film is symbolic, not in the language, but in the actions of the characters. In order to condense an entire life's marriage into one hour and thirty minutes, some poetic liberties had to have been taken.
No names are given to the characters and there are only really three main figures in the film: a man, his wife, and the other woman.
"Sunrise" begins with summer time, a vacation time. Many people are frolicking and having great times, but then they need to return home. One lady stays behind, a woman from the city we are told. She has fallen in love with a farmer who is unhappy with his marriage.
He slogs through his daily life, seemingly depressed because he can't justify his dissatisfaction.
The lady that he's having an affair with is desperate to have him all to herself. She suggests that he drown his wife and then sell his farm and return to the city with her.
At first he's shocked at this suggestion and angry because he thinks that it's wrong and ridiculous. But the idea sits at the back of his mind and nags at him. Eventually, it becomes such a powerful thought that he can't do anything but attempt to kill his wife.
His wife is a lonely woman who still loves her husband very much. When he comes to her and asks her out on a boat ride, she is thrilled at the opportunity. But once she's out on the lake she realizes that something is wrong, very wrong.
The music swells and he steps over to her side of the boat—but he just can't do it.
He quickly brings the boat to shore and she runs off, scared of him.
Immediately he knows that he made a mistake, but how can you make it up to someone you just tried to kill?
Here is where the movie is symbolic. The rough times are over-exaggerated to the point where it's murder and the good times are sweet and sugary.
But something happened while I was watching "Sunrise"—I was very much enthralled with the characters.
The idea behind the movie is stupidly simple and yet uncharacteristically effective.
"Sunrise" is indeed a song of two humans.
Life is hard, life is good, life is love.
Marriage isn't a walk in the park, it's hard but it's also satisfying.
"Sunrise" is more emotional than "Wings" and more intimate than hundreds of movies to follow it. It's a great classic—a sheer work of art.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

Limitless (2011) (PG-13)

Eddie Morra is a failing writer. He suffers from writer's block, as many do, and he lacks the ability to concentrate himself on the task at hand. Going from day to day, he is forced to resort to drinking to try to stimulate his inspiration but it fails.
Everything starts to go downhill for him—his girlfriend leaves him, the company that he has a contract with is loosing their enthusiasm, and life itself is starting to crumble. Eddie resembles your run of the mill hobo, his hair is long and unkempt and his beard is untrimmed and starting to become scraggly.
On a chance meeting, he runs into his ex-brother-in-law, Vernon, from a marriage that lasted for a very short time. Vernon was a drug dealer but he's out of that now, or so he says. When Eddie confesses that he has yet to write a single word of the book that should have been done a long time ago, Vernon tells him that he may have a solution.
A little clear pill called NZT.
After some debating, Eddie takes the pill and wham, he's instantly smarter. See, the thing about NZT is, is that it supposedly lets you harness all 100% of your brain at any given moment. This supposedly makes Eddie's IQ go up to the "four digits".
Eddie goes home and pumps out forty pages of the book that he wasn't writing. Turning it in, his company thinks that it's great. But then, like all highs, he drops.
NZT made Eddie clean and fastidious, the best possible version of himself. He's Superman and Spiderman combined.
So, as is the case with many pills, NZT makes you realize how boring your life was before you took it. Eddie needs more and goes to find Vernon. Once found, you soon realize that Vernon was in this business way over his head.
Instead of going into thriller/conspiracy mode here, which the movie should have; "Limitless" makes a half-hearted poke at comedy. It's either that or Bradley Cooper as Eddie was a far worse decision than I originally thought. Instances happen like sitting next to corpses on a couch like they were still alive and random flashbacks that are supposed to be amusing but come across as trying too hard.
Now Eddie is immersed in the world of the underground of NZT. But it doesn't become about that. Instead, it's about Eddie's very quick rise to fame.
He trades stocks and plays the market, all while slowly becoming addicted to NZT. But naturally, things come with a price.
"Limitless" has many things wrong with it. It glorifies the drug while simultaneously trying to shame it. When Eddie is on NZT, everything is more colorful. Before, the world the dull and gray but now it's yellow and blue and green and all sorts of appealing, bright colors. It seems like NZT was based right off of Ritalin, the drug used to treat ADHD.
While the movie tries to stay true to science and medicine by inserting random facts and statistics that are supposed to give it credibility, it comes across as hasty and not thought through.
Once "Limitless" gets its feet, it does take off running at a reasonable speed.
Bradley Cooper is really not the best pick for this role, it would have been better with a more diverse actor like Guy Pearce, or a young Kevin Spacey.
Robert De Niro, as usual, is the best part of this movie. Unfortunately, his character isn't given enough lines.
The ending is unsatisfying and leaves several questions unanswered including a whole side-plot device that appears to be nothing except some extra time to make the movie longer.
"Limitless" is not boundless as its title would like to lead you to believe. It struggles to reproduce the success of the previous movie that it seems to resemble, "Inception". Sadly, no movie can be what "Inception" is.
It may not be the best or the most well-written, but "Limitless" is entertaining. By the end of the movie you may wonder why you watched it, but hey, it passed the time for almost two hours.

Score: 2 and half stars out of 4

Crash (2004) (R)

What happens when you live in Los Angeles and you can't touch another person? When you walk in the streets of New York, you brush up against other people, bumping into them, feeling the wind as they walk by. But in a city where you always are incased in a cocoon in glass and metal you get deprived of that touch. You forget that you are a community and just focus on yourself as a individual. Yet people are supposed to feel touch so to compensate for this lack of feeling, people crash into each other and set off a chain reaction, the outcome of which is unknown.
This is what Detective Waters tells us at the beginning of "Crash" right after he and his partner are rear-ended in their car. Immediately you can see that "Crash" is going to be a movie about racism and bigotry although it's never really preachy.
Like many movies before and after it, separate stories connect together to from of web of a film.
A couple of movers and shakers get their car stolen, the thieves accidentally hit a man trying to get away, a detective is trying to solve a crime and deal with his drug addicted mother, a cop is wearing a tough facade but is really dying on the inside, and another couple struggles with the law and the stereotypes surrounding them—these are just a few of the stories that intertwine in "Crash". There's also a locksmith and a family of Middle Easterners who set up shop in the city of angels and a policeman who thinks that his morals will hold him afloat. Each one of them encounters racism of some kind but how they choose to deal with it always differs.
"Crash" likes to place situations that seems a little absurd in the viewer's lap. They seem absurd until you realize how true they could be. How many people to you come into contact with daily and what ramifications do your actions have? This is the question at the core of "Crash" and what a great sentiment its trying to convey.
The movie isn't trying to change history or personal views toward other people (though if it did either of those I'm sure the producers would be happy). But it is attempting to point out how what we think are internal feelings can be externalized without us even knowing. Be careful, you don't know how you will affect other people.
Regrettably, "Crash" is one of the more hated Best Picture winners. Many people argue that "Brokeback Mountain" should have taken home the statue. I just don't understand what the huge deal is. There is a long list of these hated titles and they range from "Chicago" to "Rocky". But "Crash" is as  deserving of the statue as any of its predecessors and its successors. It's easy to miss the subtleties of the movie—a look one woman gives to another, the actions of a rookie cop, and a man who's father is sick's anger.
"Crash" is a great movie, but definitely not for all.
The script is fluid and impossible to predict. The score is pulsating and riveting. The acting is spot-on and the message is clear.
"Crash" is not an enigmatic film, but it does cause the viewer to analyze themselves after exiting the theater...and whether or not it has an Oscar or not, it is a great film because of that.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

Saving Private Ryan (1998) (R)

When "Saving Private Ryan" began it stated that it was rated 'R' for "intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence". Great....I just ate a sandwich.
The reverence around this film is so tangible it could be described as an extra coating of war. Keep in mind that this film brought Steven Spielberg his second directing Oscar but lost the Best Picture category to "Shakespeare in Love". I have read articles that condemn "Shakespeare in Love", because it took the statue away from "Saving". I was interested in the film because it pops up on so many lists of best movies ever made.
"Saving Private Ryan" begins with an old man tottering along a path in a war cemetery. His family stays behind him. As he walks you can see that something's bothering him. When he reaches a certain grave that isn't shown to the viewer he falls to his knees and begins to cry, then the camera focuses on his eyes and we travel back in time to June 6, 1944.
American troops are just about ready to storm the beach of Normandy and if your history serves you well you realize what you are about to get yourself into. If you don't know are about to find out.
Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) is leading his men up the beach to try to overtake the Germans. As soon as the doors are open and the men start to walk out, they are gunned down. Heavy casualties in the first few seconds. They fall over board and tumble out in heaps of corpses and then the camera goes haywire.
In order to convey the confusion of what was going on, the camera leaps here and there pausing for only seconds so you can see some poor man get killed. There starts to become a pattern...if it's not Tom Hanks, he's probably going to die. What I would have liked to see (no one else would have), is have the big name actor get it right at the beginning, then you convince your audience that nothing is sacred. But the movie goes on.
The storming of the beach takes about 25 minutes and after that it's hard to immediately cut to a roomful of ladies writing condolence letters to families who have lost sons; but that's what happens. After D-day, a certain Private Ryan is killed, the camera zooms in on his back before cutting to the ladies. One woman finds out that in a family of four brother (all of whom are serving in the war), three of them have died. This fourth brother of the Ryan family, it is decided, should come home.
After leading the attack, Captain Miller gets assigned a few men to go and find this Private Ryan and bring him home. Why spend all this effort for one man? Because General Marshall has a letter written by Abraham Lincoln that is addressed to a lady who lost all five of her sons in the war. So he decides that Private Ryan should come home....I'm not sure that I completely bought his reasons, but let's move on.
The rest of the movie is trying to find Private Ryan which Captain Miller describes as "trying to find a needle in a stack of needles."
So the search is on.
Captain Miller recruits the help of Corporal Upham, a man who's never been in the actual war, he makes maps and translates. Miller needs someone who can speak both French and German and Upham is his man.
You should know that "Saving Private Ryan" is a war movie...duh. So you would think that there would be serious moments that would (hopefully) make the viewer cry. Spielberg puts all his effort into making the war scenes themselves as realistic as possible and doesn't focus on the little things that needed attention.
For example: we are supposed to believe that Upham, a man who has served in the Army for many months if not years and speaks three languages, maybe more, is too dumb to figure out what the acronym FUBAR means. Even I knew what it meant; but it becomes a running joke in the movie—how Upham can't understand what everyone's talking about.
This and other half-pokes at humor really detract from the movie itself. They should have been omitted, plain and simple. There are other ways to convey that soldier aren't just killing machines, but that they are still human.
So we travel from here to there and a conflict between sympathy/the right way and revenge is brought up. German you shoot them or just let them go? The way this question is answered and how the resolve comes around in "Saving Private Ryan" is not good. I won't say anymore except that it was heavy handed and artificial.
Tom Hanks is good in this movie as is Jeremy Davies as Upham and Edward Burns as a Private Reiben. Matt Damon, who is rarely in the movie yet seems to be remembered the most is at his low point in this role. You aren't convinced of the anguish and sorrow that he's supposedly facing.
And then there's the ending. It's corny and full of cliche. It was such a let down.
So all-in-all, what's the big deal with "Shakespeare in Love" winning?
Spielberg does a good job and it's interesting to note that both times he won Oscars for directing it was for WWII movies. Maybe he should stick to this time period.
"Saving Private Ryan" is relentless and firm in the fighting scenes and flimsy and full of overblown sentimentality during the 'tear-jerker' scenes.
It's a good attempt but Tom Hanks and Spielberg's later collaboration, the WWII miniseries "Band of Brothers" is far superior in every regard.

Score: 3 stars out of 4

Les Misérables (2012) (PG-13)

"Les Misérables" is a movie that is not without fault. Taking one of the most beloved plays from stage to screen and then trying to make it extremely intimate by filming basically the whole film in close-up was a risky maneuver, but I think that it paid off.
"Les Misérables" is based on Victor Hugo's work of the same name. It would be presumptuous to assume that, even though it's a musical, it's a happy time. Keep in mind that the name is literally translated from French to "The Miserables".
The film is set in the 1800s during time of revolution. The opening scene reveals a clearly CGI ship being pulled by a group of criminals that include our protagonist Jean Valjean. He's haggard and his cheeks are sunken and his eyes are bloodshot. He looks exhausted, yet he's still able to carry a large wooden beam that must weigh a large amount a length of distance to impress his prison supervisor, Javert.
Jean Valjean and Javert are the two ends of the spectrums, good and evil, light and darkness. But Javert is just doing his job and Valjean has been treated unfairly. There are opposite forces that are forced together by odd circumstances.
The reason Valjean was in jail in the first place was for stealing a piece of bread to feed someone in need...not exactly a cold-hearted criminal.
He's released and soon dedicates his life to Christ and helping others.
Eight years later, it's 1823 and France is rising in a turmoil. The lady Fantaine works at a factory that is owned by Valjean. She's representative of the average person during this time period: abused, under-fed, and desperate. She's sending the money that she makes to her daughter Cosette. Eventually she has to become a prostitute to make any money and complications soon arise from that.
Many years later Cosette has grown up during the time that an idea of revolution has reached its climax in the mind of the people.
"Les Misérables" has many characters and many stories that all intertwine and weave together to form the tapestry of the film itself.
While I'm not entirely enthralled with some of the decisions that were made I was impressed by the movie itself. Possibly the most bizarre choice to me was casting Russell Crowe in the film to begin with. Does he really do that great of a job? Couldn't they have found someone who could have brought a little more drive to the character? I would think so...but it's not a bad acting job, he just pales in the light of his co-stars namely Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Eddie Redmayne.
For those who didn't know, "Les Misérables" is a musical without end. There is no break in between songs in which characters talk and then break out into singing. It's constant. This could be off-putting to some if they were expecting something else.
The things I had a problem with were picky, I'll admit that. I thought that Valjean was too quickly turned around to religion, I thought Jackman hit some notes that weren't perfect....that goes for Amanda Seyfried as the grown up Cosette as well.
But these are small fries compared to the magnificence that the rest of the film produces.
The epic ensemble cast songs are some of the most powerful moments in film from 2012. It's emotional and well-done. You forget the bland parts when some of the more sensational scenes are playing and that's hard to accomplish. The action is surprising, it is a film about revolution after all, but it is a musical as well. Guns and singing....not your usual combination when there's not beer involved but it really works for "Les Misérables".
The cinematography and costumes are both sensational, as are the sets but what really makes this movie work is its head. It's not a dumb, wandering musical that could have worked if someone had pointed it in the right direction. It's got an intelligence that's impossible to fake. There is much to glean from "Les Misérables". It was certainly one of the best films of 2012, maybe not my favorite or the best...but still worth the watch.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

The Trip to Bountiful (1985) (PG)

I had only one reason for watching "The Trip to Bountiful"—to find out what was so great about the performance that beat out Whoopi Goldberg for Best Actress for "The Color Purple" at the 1986 Academy Awards. I was convinced that there was no possible way anyone could top Goldberg's stunning performance, but after seeing "The Trip to Bountiful" I see why the Oscar was given elsewhere.
Miss Watts lives with her son, Ludie, and his wife, Jessie Mae. She gets along for the most part, but she likes to do things her way and she doesn't adhere to her daughter-in-law's whims. Jessie Mae is a proud lady, she's the character that we're supposed to hate, and it's really easy to hate her.
Ludie and Jessie Mae are under financial pressure, Ludie was sick for two years and is just recently getting back into working. After being at his job for six months he wants to ask for a raise. Jessie Mae is just plain selfish. Instead of congratulating her husband for getting back on his feet and gaining momentum in the work, she sees more opportunities to go to the movies.
Miss Watts is stuck in the house all day with Jessie Mae. Old Miss Watts has a heart condition and she needs to be with her son. They fear leaving her alone for more than a few hours so she is confined to their apartment with a daughter-in-law who is overbearing.
But Miss Watts would like one thing—to see her hometown of Bountiful once more before she dies.
And so when the opportunity is given to her, she sneaks out of the house and sets off on an adventure to see Bountiful once more.
Ludie and Jessie Mae scramble to find her but she has taken long pains to ensure that they won't catch her this time.
Bountiful is no longer on the map. It's run down and forgotten, a town that once was the center of a bustling community is now overrun and desolate. But whether or not there's anything left of it, Miss Watts is determined.
Along the trip she bonds with a young woman named Thelma and the two share a number of intimate moments. Although the chemistry between them is instantaneous and quick, it doesn't feel fake.
There's something magical about this movie that makes you forget that there was ever a camera involved.
It's based on Horton Foote's play and taking that to screen is a real challenge. You don't want to loose to personality of the play, and it isn't lost.
Geraldine Page plays Miss Watts and it is a grand performance indeed. She's everything that this role demands at exactly the time that it's needed. One of the best moments is when she's so overcome with the joy of being close to her home town that she bursts out in hymn. As she's singing tears start rolling down her face, but she's too bent on getting home to notice. It's a really great performance.
The picture itself is good as well. There are a few moments when the acting of the others is over exaggerated and a few quick cuts detract from the films sentimentality but all-in-all I liked it much more than I thought I would.
It's not a perfect movie but it stands on its own feet in a solid way.
I'm not sure that I would say that Page's performance is better that Goldberg's; but then again I have a soft spot for "The Color Purple". But I can see why the Oscar was given to Page and I don't begrudge her that.

Score: 3 stars out of 4

The Thin Red Line (1998) (R)

"The Thin Red Line" has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time. It must have been months ago that I bought a special edition of the movie for a really cheap price and then fell into procrastination about watching it. The movie itself runs about three hours and after binging on epic movies like "Gone With the Wind", "Ben-Hur" and "Lawrence of Arabia" back to back, it seemed like shorter comedies might be the best thing to watch for a long time. Then came "Seven Samurai" and "Doctor Zhivago" and "Bridge on the River Kwai"....needless to say I was ready for some lighter and absolutely shorter material. But today, I had a long break and "The Thin Red Line" was looking very lonely up on the shelf so I pulled it off, dusted it off, sat back, and hit play.
The movie starts when Pvt. Witt goes AWOL, adding on to his record of disappearing. He seems to live in the moment and appears to love to disobey direct orders. His commanding officer 1st Sgt. Edward Welsh decides not to court martial him and assigns him to help carry the body stretchers out to the battle field and bring in the wounded. He accepts the 'punishment' and tells Welsh that he's twice the man that Welsh is. Welsh just shakes his head and leaves the room.
Outside the men are getting wound up because the ship they're on is about to land.

"The Thin Red Line" is set during World War II, specifically around the time that the Americans tried to seize Guadacanal.
Terrence Malick's hand in direction I thought would be too much for a war movie. The random nature shots and the merciless editing (I presumed) would destroy the picture's integrity and the point. But if anything Malick's hand is exactly what this picture needed to succeed.
How can you just show a soldier's face and expect it to convey everything going through the man's head? Malick takes all the little thoughts and indescribable emotions that are whizzing inside a man's head during battles and somehow generates a way to show that to the viewer. It's stunning, bold, and wildly effective.
While war is horrendous and there was much more action then I expected from the philosophical director, those nature shots mean something else—war cannot stop life from continuing. While all this destruction and violence is happening, nature is finding a way to still thrive, it's surviving.

There are a host of interesting characters in "The Thin Red Line": a captain who is empathetic with his men, a lieutenant colonel who's wearing a thick facade, a private who pines for his wife, and a corporal who finds himself getting sucked into the thick of things.
Let me just sidetrack from the plot and the characters, I don't think that I could do either of them true justice—"The Thin Red Line" is a extraordinary film, one of the best I've ever seen.
It doesn't fall into the cliches that so many other war films do, it makes you empathize with both sides, but it's not too heavy handed with it. It doesn't linger on the enemy's side. It is an anti-war film, though. But instead of condemning the soldiers who fight (each and every character is relatable), the movie condemns the act of war itself.
War is an affront to nature—the thought that cries out constantly as the movie keeps rolling.
The philosophy throughout this movie is constant and you should expect nothing less.
The cinematography, as usually with Malick films, is marvelous and unparalleled.
The cast is sensational: Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, Adrien Brody, John Cussack, Nick Nolte, Jared Leto, John Travolta, George Clooney, and Jim Caveizel.
Caviezel plays Pvt. Witt and he makes the best protagonist I have ever seen. He's such a dynamic force on the screen that it's hard to believe sometimes. He's enigmatic and simple all in one breath, it's a radical and breathtaking performance.
The movie itself is sensationally beautiful, but not only that, it has more coherence than the average Malick film. The voiceovers are tamed and necessary and the editing is spot-on. I am infinitely glad that I decided to watch it today, I will certainly be watching it again.
"The Thin Red Line" is a devastating picture. The best war film I've seen yet and maybe the greatest film ever made.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

Manhattan (1979) (R)

Oh, poor Woody Allen.
I hope that you could tell the sarcasm with which I wrote the previous sentence, but if not I'm going to assure you that it was most definitely present.
"Manhattan" is one of Woody Allen's crowning acheivement. Critics site it as one of his better, if not his best works. But "Manhattan" to me just seemed like a pity party for the director/screenwriter.
"Manhattan" was the next critically acclaimed Allen film to follow the only one of his films to win Best Picture, "Annie Hall". But the difference between these two movies is striking, much more so than the simple fact that "Manhattan" was filmed in black and white. "Annie Hall" was revolutionary, experimental, and vastly entertaining. "Manhattan" is twisted, not funny, and bleak.
Isaac (Woody Allen) is a comedy screenwriter. He's a self proclaiming neurotic who just happens to be in a relationship with a 17 year old girl named Tracy. Now Tracy is old beyond her years but no one can see that but the viewer. Just because of her youth, Isaac assumes that she can't comprehend what true love really is. He knows that the relationship will end eventually but she's hoping for much more. Even at her young age she's ready to settle down and start a healthy lifestyle with someone, and Isaac appears to be the best candidate. Isaac is trying to start writing a book and after realizing that the puff scripts that he's been pumping out don't really amount to much, he quits his job to focus solely on his book.
Then there's Isaac's best friend Yale. Yale's been married twelve years to his wife but he's having an affair with Mary (the usual Allen suspect, Diane Keaton). When Isaac first meets Mary he absolutely despises her. She contradicts everything he says and randomly remarks about her birthplace of Philadelphia, like that has any bering on the conversation.
But as time wears on and as situations come about in peculiar ways, Isaac starts to fall in love with Mary. He realizes that he's going to have to cut things off with Tracy so he does.
This all piles up, plus the fact that his ex-wife Jill (Meryl Streep), who left him for another woman, is writing a book about their marriage.
(From here on out, there are SPOILERS)
Isaac's relationship with Tracy seems to be a carbon copy of Allen's own relationships with Harlene Rosen, who was only sixteen when Allen married her.
Let's face it, it's hard to feel anything else than a little bit uncomfortable during the scenes in which Tracy and Isaac are passionately kissing and discussing their sexual encounters. Nothing explicit is shown but everything is heavily implied by dialogue in latter scenes.
So after Isaac dumps Tracy and Yale and Mary break it off, he feels free to start things up with Mary. But things don't go according to plans.
After many weeks of great passion and love, Mary decides that she's still in love with Yale and returns to him.
Isaac is left stunned, and realizes that the biggest mistake he ever made was leaving Tracy who he returns to just as she's leaving the country to study abroad. She leaves and we see Manhattan once more before the ending credits.
Rather than the usual quirk and kick that I get from Allen films, this one seemed way too much like an autobiography and a preachy one at that. It's clear that Allen was trying to justify all the things that he had done but it didn't entertain me. I felt bogged down by all the relationships and all the let downs.
For a comedy "Manhattan" has no laughs is rather depressing.
Rather than feel empathy for Isaac, I just wanted him to get his life together.
He never does and I came out of the movie disappointed.

Score: 1 and a half stars out of 4

Airplane! (1980)

"Airplane!" is a comedy that shouldn't work. It's actors stupidly go bumbling around with cheesy dialogue riddled with puns and horrible visual monstrosities.
It centers around an airplane, hence the name.
Ted is an ex-military fighter plane pilot who's in love with one of the airplane's stewardesses Elaine. She's very soft spoken and naive but she can get the job done and follow orders, much like a "typical woman" should. This is added onto the already long list of offenses that "Airplane!" had piling up—the misogynistic phrases, the racist moments, the double entendres.
The gags made it feel like an American version of a Monty Python shtick. Every person that Ted sits next to kills themselves after hearing his story. During the first flashback, the lady sitting next to him hangs herself—then, at a new seat, a man runs himself through with a sword—finally, a man douses himself with gasoline and is about to set himself on fire when Ted is distracted and the man's suicide is prevented.
Elaine wants to leave Ted, she's not happy with their relationship anymore; but Ted is willing to fight for her. So at last minute, he buys a tickets for the plane that she's working on and heads to Chicago, hoping that this one trip will get her to change her mind.
But there's a problem on board, all the people eating fish are getting sick, violently sick. They're vomiting and sweating, loosing control over their flatulence, drooling, and having muscle spasms.
Elaine and her co-worker Randy rush to find a doctor. Then both pilots and the navigator pass out because all of them had fish. Elaine activates the auto-pilot which is just a blow-up man. While out of danger for the moment, they need to find a real pilot. News reaches the ground and soon the media is all over the story of the sick people in a plane destined to crash.
Ted can't fly the plane because of the horrible memories it would bring up from the war.
The ground crew is assembling a hasty team of experts that will help the plane reach the ground in one piece. Among them are a seasoned pilot, a hard-as-nails grounds specialist, and an obviously gay secretary. This adds another few layers onto our "offense cake".
"Airplane!" is ridiculous. It relies mainly on its fast-paced pun filled script to evoke laughter. From a random bar fight between girl scouts to a spoof of "Saturday Night Fever" in the same scene, this movie never holds back and never apologizes.
"Airplane!" is incredibly stupid, filled with over-acting and some jaw-dropping moments of horrid realization.
I wished I could say that I hated it, but Lord help me, I laughed a lot. "Airplane!", while offensive and beyond bizarre, is unquestionably funny.

Score: 3 and half stars out of 4

Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) (PG)

The murder mystery is a tried and true branch off of crime and mystery movies and books; and it is a remarkably well-enduring branch off at that. Leave it to the quirky Woody Allen to make a funny and remarkably well-scripted film about a nosy neighbor and a suspicious older gentleman.
Carol and Larry have a good working relationship. She goes to the hockey games with him and he goes to the plays and the operas with her. She enjoys making desserts and talking to people and he seems to like his solitude more than she.
One evening they run into their next door neighbors in the elevator. After some small talk, Larry and Carol get invited in for coffee. Their neighbors who own the apartment down the hall, the Houses, are very forward. They share everything with their newly acquainted friends, from stamp collections to hysterectomies to diets to exercise. Larry is clearly uncomfortable in their company, he doesn't like all the very quick intimacy; but Carol gets along fine with them.
The next day they come home from the opera to find that Mrs. House is dead. She died of a heart attack, the couples living in the building are all shocked. She seemed to be in such good health. Larry feels sorry for the poor man who lost his wife but Carol seems to think that something's out of place. Mr. House seems way too cheerful for her, it isn't helping that a writer friend just moved to Manhattan and he's fueling her desire to see something evil in Mr. House. Carol recruits herself to become a private detective and begins snooping in the man's life and quickly finds some inconsistencies.
A murder mystery has never been this entertaining. Woody Allen's dialogue is pure genius. The characteristic of his scripts that sets him apart as a writer is when and how the characters speak. It's not dialogue in the stage sense, it's over-talking and over-shouting and trying to make your opinion heard over everyone else's chatter. There are few moments when only one person is talking, usually they're talking over each other in a mad shout-off festival. It's very realistic, if a bit exaggerated.
But this movie has its moments of humor, mainly coming from the fast-paced dialogue. There are a few instances when Allen relies on his own physical humor to get the jokes coming across and sometimes those can be a bit too much. But his cast including regular conspirator Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, and Anjelica Huston are in top form here, making up for some of his down falls. One particularly delightful scene includes tape recorders and much chaos.
There are not many things that I would change with this movie, it's wonderfully enjoyable.
"Manhattan Murder Mystery" is not a seamless as some of Allen's other movies like "Annie Hall" and "Midnight in Paris"; but no one expected it to be. You can see vague instances that would become predecessors for Allen's thriller "Match Point". But "Match Point" is decidedly dark and and "Manhattan Murder Mystery" is much lighter and more carefree.
Diane Keaton is great, maybe even one-upping herself from her Oscar winning turn in "Annie Hall".
"Manhattan Murder Mystery" is full of laughs and (surprisingly) suspense. If you're looking for a movie that will entertain but not burden, look no further...this is your movie.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) (PG-13)

The last note of the critically acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of incredibly, immense power. It's sentimental and moving, epic and haunting. Who would want to mess that up? The film was astonishingly well received at the Oscars, taking home eleven statues. Tying for the most Oscars ever won by a film with "Titanic" and "Ben-Hur", "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" is movie making at its finest. Then Peter Jackson decided to ruin it all with a horribly, incomprehensibly stupid prequel.
Remember the last scene of "The Return of the King"? Powerful, right? Now think about this....a man, his head half-covered in bird crap, being pulled through the forest on a sled by bunnies. That's right...BUNNIES! What happened?!
"The Hobbit" begins much like "The Fellowship of the Ring" did, with a voiced over narration. Bilbo Baggins is an old man recording his life's journey down in a book which he plans to give to Frodo. He recounts all of his adventures, many of which deal with dwarves. The dwarves used to live in a mountain that had many riches. The king was a proud man who became greedy really quickly. As soon as the "heart of the mountain", a rare gemstone, was found, he immediately assumed that he had irreversible power over a large section of Middle Earth. But pride comes before a fall, or an attack by a dragon, whichever.
The real time is sometime before Bilbo's birthday party from "The Fellowship". Elijah Wood is there as Frodo and he tells Bilbo that he's going to go look for Gandalf. Then Bilbo spirals into a memory of when his adventures start. Gandalf decides that he wants Bilbo to go on an adventure, we are never really told why and when we are supposed to realize why Gandalf picked Bilbo it only makes us more confused. Gandalf was scared? He's the only one with fighting skills in the whole movie! Do you remember the scene from the original trilogy when he's wielding two swords and becoming a hard-core orc killer? And we're supposed to believe that he's afraid of a little dragon? No, I think not. I smell something afoul in the writer's room.
But Bilbo refuses after having his home torn apart and his pantry destroyed by a pack of ravenous dwarves. They smell, they have no sense of decency, and they sing while they wash dishes.....wait, what? Yes, that's right—they may belch and fart and scratch their bums...but by golly, they can rearrange a kitchen.
Bilbo is cut of the cloth that his doily is made of, he's full of holes. He's weak and cowardly, but he knows this. So when given the chance to go on this adventure to claim back the dwarves's kingdom, he declines. Then he wakes up the next morning and we're supposed to believe that a hard night's sleep has changed his mind...not so, I feel.
So he signs a contract and goes with the dwarves. Before this point, the movie drags, like really drags. But when Bilbo sets out, for the first time in a while we see a glimpse of the Peter Jackson that we learned to love. Then it falls back again in a horrible scene in which the company of dwarves encounter trolls. The troll from "The Fellowship of the Ring" was scary. The drums signaling that he was coming are haunting. That scene in the depths of the mountain is chilling, one of the best scenes in film history. Then we flash forward (or backwards, rather) to "The Hobbit"'s trolls. They're British, stupid, and incredibly ugly—not scary at all. The film's script relies on booger jokes and more butt scratching to try to get didn't work.
Finally, after what seemed like the time it took to make the movie, the scene ends and we can get back to questing.
I'm not really sure what happened in this movie besides a lot of horrible script and walking and a vendetta with an albino, giant orc. By the end of the movie, they can see the mountain way off in the distance which is supposed to inspire us to watch the next one but instead made me think: "Oh Geez, there's going to be two more."
The visual effects are good in the movie, but they are so misguided and mistreated. The most obvious offenses are the trolls and a goblin king who has a giant, bulbous, warty, gelatinous, sickening double chin.
If "The Hobbit" was trying to be an adult's failed. If it was trying to be anything else, it failed as well and here's why: there was way too much violence to be a kid's movie (decapitations and borderline disembowelments) and way too many bland conversations around tables. Where was the lightning dialogue of the original trilogy? Where was the power that glued you to your seat and forced you to watch? Where was that je nais se quoi that made the movies so irresistibly good? I don't know, but it certainly traveled as far from "The Hobbit" as possible.
During the opening scene when the line is given: "Where there is sickness (referring to the greed of the dwarf king) bad things happen." I guffawed in the theater. That was it? No epic, poetic dogma on the evils of greed just "bad things happen". That was the moment that my heart sank into my stomach and I realized that I was going to have to ride out a very long, unpleasant wave.
"The Hobbit" is pretty much awful. It lacks story, heart, and war. I think that J. R. R. Tolkien just turned in his grave.
The script is so bad that you are not convinced in the slightest that you are in Middle Earth. I was half-expecting one of the dwarves to whip out a cellphone.
My suggestion: ditch the horrible script, belch jokes, and singing dwarves.
The ending is set up for a couple of good things: Smaug, the necormancer, and more of Cate Blanchett.
I really hope it raises its standards because there's not that much ground beneath it.
The thing about "The Hobbit" is that it felt like leftovers. Not delicious, juicy roast beef leftovers; but dry,  overcooked, poorly seasoned, gritty's not a very appetizing movie.

Score: 1 and a half stars out of 4

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) (R)

If ever a movie has been the quintessential film of its genre it is "The Silence of the Lambs" for the thriller/horror genre. No movie before and none after have had the impact and critical acclaim that this movie has seen.
The appeal of the movie lies in the two leads and the story itself. It's a mystery and a suspense movie but what carries the movie with an astounding momentum is the double acting force of Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.
Clarice Starling is a rookie FBI agent who has been assigned to meet with the sociopath Dr. Hannibal Lecter, "Hannibal the Cannibal", to gain knowledge about a killer on the loose which the media has deemed "Buffalo Bill". Her boss, Jack Crawford, is confident that she'll manage to get some information out of him. You see, Dr. Lecter was a psychiatrist, before he started killing and eating his patients, and the FBI suspect that he will give a profile on this Buffalo Bill character. When she meets with him, she has to travel down in the depths of a mental prison. She passes all sorts of twisted men, clutching the prison bars and thrashing around until she comes to the last cell that holds the famous doctor. He's standing perfectly still, like he was waiting for her. When she started to talk to him he tears her apart, taking in her appearance and accent and telling back to her, her own life story. From the get-go, you can tell that Dr. Lecter is extremely discerning. He's smart beyond smart. Clarice realizes that Dr. Lecter can help her find Buffalo Bill but the good doctor concocts a cat-and-mouse scheme. He only gives her a few pieces of information and those are composed in riddles.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Bill has kidnapped another victim and has nefarious plans for her. It becomes a race against the clock to get the girl back.
This movie was based on the book of the same name by Thomas Harris and this is one of the few instances in which the movie exceeds the book. In the book too much time was spent developing characters that were rarely used, like Clarice's boss. There's a whole backstory in the book about how the man's wife is dying and how he feels sorry for her and whatnot; but it doesn't serve that much of a purpose.
In the movie, everything is condensed to exactly what it needs to be.
Jodie Foster is great as Clarice and earned her second Oscar for the role. She's determined to catch the Buffalo Bill, or die trying.
But the show belongs to Anthony Hopkins, who is iconic in his role. Every villain ever is compared to him. AFI lists him as the best villain in film ever. It's hard to come close to his unflinching and charming performance. The thing about Hannibal is his warmness, you feel like he would be your best friend. A bizarre and frightening friend and even if he was a murderer, let's face it—you wouldn't care.
It's impossible to talk about this movie without detracting from its artistry. It's horrific but not horrifying. Grotesque but not gory.
It's a fantastic film that will never be forgotten.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

Traffic (2000) (R)

"Traffic" is a tale of drugs. People who want drugs, people who hate drugs, people who are forced into the world of drugs and have to swim or drown. It's not a very flattering tale but it's one that needs to be told.
"Traffic" is divided up into three main color schemes: yellow, blue, and natural. The yellow color scheme, shot grainy and stylized is for Mexico, where the drugs are coming from. The blue color scheme is used for Chicago were a certain judge is advocating the war on drugs. And the natural color scheme is used for everything else, mainly San Diego.
There are a few story arcs that intertwine and interweave throughout "Traffic". There's the judge who thinks that drugs are the bane of humanity. There's the wife of a man who get convicted of drug running. There's the judge's daughter who is quickly becoming an addict. There's two DEA agents who are investigating the drug activity in California.  And then there's the two cops in Mexico who are trying to get a handle around things.
The movie begins with the two cops in Mexico who bust a couple of drivers that are carrying illegal drugs. These cops are quickly pulled over and the drugs and criminals are confiscated by a higher police power.
Then we flash over to Chicago where judge Bob Wakefield is hammering down on people who are evading the law. He's a good man, but he can't see beyond his own morals. He's blind to the fact that his daughter is slipping away into the world of drugs. He learns this fact when one of her friends overdoses and the rest of the group try to dump the body by a hospital and run. They quickly get pulled over by a policemen and then her father is taken into the picture. It's heavy with irony, the fact that his daughter is constantly high and that he is the United States's 'drug czar'.
The DEA agents have their hands full with a suspect drug dealer who agrees to turn on his boss. Too bad his boss is a very powerful man. Setback after setback line up and fall like dominos.
Then there's the wife who is trying to juggle the sudden loss of friends and the plummet of her finances. She's slowly loosing her mind, it doesn't help that she has a sleazy lawyer friend who is only on her side because he thinks that now that the drug dealing husband is gone, he has a shot with her.
But the most compelling story line is the two cops down in Mexico. This is where the action happens and where the ethical questions that are raised in "Traffic" begin.
What good is the war on drugs? Is it really doing anything at all? Would it be better just to leave it where it is?
Remember that "Traffic" was made in 2000, over a decade ago and still these questions having incredible relevance.
"Traffic" isn't preachy. In fact, it may have a different ending then you would expect.
The acting is good, great performances are given by Catherine Zeta-Jones, Benicio del Torro, and Don Cheadle; but that's where it ends. Michael Douglas is particularly bland as Bob Wakefield, a character that should be filled with complexity and inner wrestling, but instead comes across as a man reciting lines for a role. But the worst acting comes from Erika Christensen as the judge's daughter, Caroline. She resembles the much made fun of Kristen Stewart's "acting" face when she's high, which is most of the movie. When she's sentimental and her character is supposed to be creating emotions, it falls flat on its face.
Steven Soderbergh directed "Traffic" and he won an Oscar for it, well deserved I think. Even though the movie isn't flawless and once did fall to cliches, it's still very impactful.
"Traffic" is dark and poetic. It reminded me a lot of "Crash" which is unfortunate because "Crash" was much better.

Score: 3 and half stars out of 4

Rebecca (1940)

Alfred Hitchcock is famous for movies that have a darker tone. His more famous works include "Rope", "Rear Window", "North by Northwest", "Vertigo", "The Birds" and "Psycho". He is credited with being the master of the thriller and mystery movie. He certainly paved the way for today's directors like M. Night Shyamalan and even Christopher Nolan. But the legendary director never won a single Oscar, in fact, only one of his movies has the honor of being included in the Best Picture list— "Rebecca".
It says a lot about a movie when an idea is more prevalent than some of the characters. Particularly when this idea is a person that never appears on screen. The title character of "Rebecca" never makes an appearance, yet nearly every scene is filled with her and her alone.
Joan Fontaine plays the leading lady, a woman filled with nervousness and anxiety. She's a down to earth kind of person, relying on her roots to propel her along life's path. She's a little bit of a dreamer but she's too sensible to chase her dreams down. She meets a certain Maxim de Winter when she is vacationing in Monte Carlo. She's a paid travel companion for Mrs. Van Hopper, who is a boorish nag of a woman. Soon after Mrs. Van Hopper becomes ill, our lady falls into a whirlwind romance with Maxim. He is a different sort of person, he has a temper but he's also very British so when he gets mad it seems like all his anger is driven into the ground, making him stand in one spot. The couple themselves are very bizarre, they don't exactly mesh or fit the way that one would think that they should, but they do love each other.
Maxim is very rich and after he has married the girl he takes the new Mrs. de Winter to his mansion, named Manderley. The mansion is manned by an even more evil version of the cast of "Downton Abbey". The most notable of all the staff is a Mrs. Danvers, the head maid. The woman is control, she is always poker-faced and she rarely talks to the new Mrs. de Winter.
You see, Maxim was married once before, to a lady named Rebecca. This Rebecca was glamorous and beautiful and died in a tragic drowning accident. No one speaks of her anymore.
Mrs. Danvers is obsessed with the late Mrs. de Winter and takes you into her mad world as she explores the memories of the past. The new Mrs. de Winter is left trying to collect all the pieces of a shattered story in order to simply be able to keep her head above water at Manderley.
Everything she does seems to set off Maxim's temper because she reminds him of Rebecca. It's been a year since Rebecca's passing and the new Mrs. de Winter can't help but try to find out what happened to Rebecca and why no ones talks of her.
Laurence Olivier plays Maxim and reminded me of a young Omar Sharif. The one problem I have with him in this movie is his garbled diction. He slurs out every word like he's gargling mouthwash and talking at the same time—I exaggerate, of course, but it was still somewhat unexpected from the famous actor. He's a stone-faced man in "Rebecca" giving his co-star Joan Fontaine more light as the new Mrs. de Winter.
The most notable acting jobs in this movie are from Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers and George Sanders as Rebecca's cousin, Jack Favell. Sanders would later win an Oscar for "All About Eve" and it's the same type of character he plays here. He's slick, cool, and never flustered. 
Mrs. Danvers is one of the best villains yet. She's so controlled yet over-the-top, like a mellow version of Jack Torrance from "The Shining".
"Rebecca" has a killer ending. Hitchcock became famous for his endings and this is no exception.
It's a shame that the great director didn't win an Oscar but I think that's what adds to the man's mystique and attraction.
"Rebecca" is a great film, a sharp thriller that will keep you guessing.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars