Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Streetcar Named Desire

director: Elia Kazan
Starring: Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden
Writer: Tenessee Williams


“STELLLAAAAA!!!!!!”

Originally a play by the playwrite Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire has been parodied in popular culture on countless TV sitcoms, radio shows, improv skits and movies. Many a macho American male, seeking to demonstrate his masculine sensitivity and theatrical prowess, has belted this cry at one time or another. Usually to the mild perturbation of the opposite sex. But why? The answer is simple…

Marlon Brando.

Prior to seeing this film, the American public had no inkling of Modern Acting. While Brando had stared in another film The Men a year earlier, A Streetcar Named Desire is the film that put the young actor on the map. It was also a film that forever changed the landscape of American film acting grounded in dramatic realism.

Summary:

Blanche Dubois – a fragile, manipulative southern belle with a healthy streak of alcoholism, and a propensity for grandiose self-delusion– pops into the lives of her sister Stella and her sister’s husband Stanley Kowalski. She arrives on the pretense of taking a vacation from her job as a school teacher. It turns out that the real reason she is there is cause she was fired from her job after seducing a 17-year-old student. Underlying all her troubles is the emotional scar of the suicide of her girlhood fiancé. In short Blanche is a crazy crazy-maker who seeks to live in a world of fairytale southern hospitality.

When she arrives at her sister’s house, Blanche is immediately dismayed to see her sister in a co-dependant marriage with the brutal, earthy, emotionally and physically abusive Stanley Kowalski. She openly disapproves of Stanley’s treatment of her sister Stella. Stanley, who cannot stand the pretentiousness of Blanche’s manipulative ways, sees her as a threat to the couple’s marriage. He seeks to divest her of her delusions and this culminates in his raping Blanche who in turn suffers a total mental breakdown.

Why this movie is flipping awesome:

Ok. I still remember seeing this movie at 19 years old in my college film library and being thoroughly impressed. After seeing Brando’s performance I had a solid understanding of what good acting truly was. This was the movie that set the bar for modern American film acting and his name was Marlon Brando. It is important when watching this movie to keep in mind the fact that prior to this film, acting grounded in dramatic realism was not really seen much on films in the United States.

That said, Marlon Brando’s acting is simply genius. Brando’s acting is charged with raw emotional energy and firmly grounded in the reality of the moment. If there is a textbook performance for good acting, this is it.

Vivian Leigh is also annoyingly good as Blanche Dubois. Watching her act against Brando is like watching a caterpillar get mauled by a gang of army ants. She is nowhere as phenomenal as Brando, but does justice to her part and fits the role to a tee.

Kim Hunter is good as Stella. It’s a shame she was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era, as it seems to have tempered her career during that time. She is very nurturing as Stella and it is no wonder that she also played the benevolent ape, Zira, in the original planet of the Apes.

Karl Malden is pretty good as Stanley's friend who tries to get romantic with the Crazy Southern Belle Ms. Dubois.

Summation:

This movie is a must see for all actors and anyone who is interested in learning about acting. Great performances. Brando is a textbook for good acting.

Other movies I would recommend if you liked this one are:

Young Lions, On the Waterfront, The Wild One, Sweet Bird of Youth, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Harp of Burma(1956)

director: Kon Ichikawa
Starring: Rentaro Mikuni, Shoji Yasui,


The Harp of Burma aka The Burmese Harp is a Japanese anti-war film originally produced in 1956. It is about a Japanese soldier who travels across Burma disguised as a monk during the aftermath of the Japanese surrender. Based on a children’s novel by the author Takeyama Michio, it won many awards and accolades at the time of it’s release including an honorable mention in the Venice Film Festival and the first ever San Giorgio Prize after tying with the winner. The movie itself is kinda a tearjerker so if you like sad movies about departures you will like this one.


Summary:

The setting is Burma 1945. A platoon of Japanese soldiers is patrolling the jungles of Burma. Led by a Captain Inouye that used to be a music teacher, they are a rather strange bunch who enjoy singing English ballads in four part harmonies during their breaks. One of them, a corporal named Mizushima, accompanies them on the Burmese harp.

While camping out in a Burmese village, the soldiers learn that the war is over when their camp is peacefully overtaken by Allied forces. Most of the group is shipped back to a prison camp to be processed and sent home.
Before leaving Captain Inouye sends Mizushima on a volunteer mission to help negotiate the surrender of Japanese forces further north.

Mizushima goes on the mission, but when he arrives the soldiers refuse to surrender and, except for the private, they are all killed in the ensuing battle. The private flees the battlefield, traveling across Burma disguised as a monk. One day he spots his old platoon on the road returning to the prison camp from a work detail but he does not acknowledge them.

Back at camp, Captain Inouye is convinced that the monk they saw is Mizushima. He and his men organize an elaborate way to communicate with Mizushima asking him to return home with them using a parrot and song.


What I liked about this movie:

Acting-wise, there are some real gems. Shôji Yasui gives a very sensitive performance as private Mizushima, a man who is torn between his desire to return home and the fact that he is forever changed by the experience of war. Rentaro Mikuni is very likeable as Captain Inouye. He gives a moving speech at the end of the film while reading a letter from his fellow soldier and friend. There are many other performances that are quite interesting including the other soldiers in Mizushima's platoon and an old Burmese lady who helps the soldiers in the prison camp.


Summation:

The movie is really poetic in it’s storytelling in a way that is quite endearing and almost surreal at times.. The idea of a group of soldiers who sing in chorus while on break from patrol might seem pretty preposterous considering that they would be ambushed and killed in a second. However, if one is open to the fact that the movie is more of an allegorical piece than a realistic one a whole experience opens up. Early on in the movie there is a spectacular scene where the soldiers are serenading

Ichikawa is a very good storyteller and his visuals are very beautiful and ghostly. The movie is in black and white and I would love to see the color version that was produced in 1985.


Other movies I would recommend if you liked this one are:

In the Mood For Love, The Burmese Harp(1985), The Thin Red Line, The Deer Hunter.

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Dark Knight(Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Ekhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Garry Oldman, Morgan Freeman)

Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Ekhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Garry Oldman, Morgan Freeman


This movie is a dark action movie. It is also the best Batman film I have seen so far. It is a non-stop rollercoaster complimented with a heavy dose of good acting. While The Dark Knight is a long movie, the action scenes keep you on the edge of your seat throughout and the characters are all well acted. And on top of everything the story is quite good encompassing various themes-- mainly people's capacity for evil and heroism and the fine line that distinguishes the two. I myself am not much a fan for the superhero genre of movies that are popular these days, but I have to say this movie kicks ass

Summary:

So "The Batman" is a vigilante who is kicking all the criminals' asses in Gotham City. He is secretly the millionaire playboy business mogul Bruce Wayne. In their desperation, the criminals of Gotham hire a freakazoid mastermind named The Joker to assasinate "The Batman" so that they can roam the streets of Gotham once again. As the Joker's plot to eliminate "The Batman unfolds", so does the action!

What makes this movie so Bat-Great?!

One word...


HEATH LEDGER.

I say "one" word because this performance of the late Mr. Ledger is one that will no doubt secure his place in hollywood as a screen legend and icon. His characterization of The Joker is absolutely amazing. Dangerous, cunning, and definitely crazy, Heath Ledger's Joker is a very scary but at the same time likeable in a tragic and charismatic outcast freak sort of way. Ledger's performance hijacks the film like a viral infection and I after his first appearance in the film I found myself waiting and wondering what the Joker was going to do next. What impressed me most about this performance was the emotional intensity of his role. Ledger looks like he is really going crazy!

Not that the other acting is bad either. All the other actors are very good in their own right. Christian Bale is a good batman. His dark stoicism is a perfect foil for the Joker.

Michael Caine is a scene stealer as usual in the role of Alfred, Batman's butler. Gary Oldman is good and father figurey as the Police Commisioner Gordon. And Morgan Freeman is, well, Morgan Freemanish, in his role of Lucius Fox, the chief inventor and #2 of Wayne Enterprises.

Aaron Eckhart is very Geraldo Riveraesque in his role of Harvey Dent/Two Face and Maggie Gyllenhall is very expert at playing Batman's ex-girlfriend Rachel Dawes aka "that self-righteous arrogant hipster chick who thinks she's hot shit and broke your heart."

In Summation:

The Dark Knight is an awesome movie. The action and suspense is very gripping and entertaining and garaunteed to keep your heart pumping throughout the whole 2
hour and 32 minute length of it. This movie is filled with good acting and a great premise, but the main attraction is Heath Ledger as The Joker. Damn fine acting in a brilliant, action-packed
movie!!!

Other Movies You Might Like If you Liked This One:

Batman(1989), Batman Begins, Candy

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Last Tango In Paris(Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Starring: Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider


Ever wonder what goes on in the mind of a middleaged american expat as he goes through a midlife crisis? Then watch Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango In Paris and prepare to be blown away with awe and disgust. Not for the faint of heart, this movie delves into some of the darkest places of the post 50's American male psyche. Marlon Brando is simply so amazing in this movie in terms of his viscerality and unabashed emotional frankness.

Summary:

Paul(Marlon Brando), an aging american expat who lives in France is trying to figure out what to do with his life after his French wife has commited suicide. He is left stuck with the burden of living in their apartment building surrounded by everything that reminds him of his life with her. So monsieur Paul decides to rent out a flat across the street where he can get away. The only problem is that the flat is also rented out by a young french student actress named Jeanne(Maria Schneider) who is looking for a flat to share with her young filmmaker/fiance. Both Paul and Jeanne recognize the desire in eachother for human connection and an escape from life's realities and become lovers. The only condition is that, at Paul's insistance, they never reveal eachother's names.

In their cloistered world, the two are able to explore and reveal themselves to each other in a way that is simply impossible to do in the outside world. They let it all hang out... the good, the bad, and the ugly. The question of this movie is whether or not this relationship will survive in the outside world. What will happen?

Why is this movie Flippin' awesome?:

OK. This movie is not for everyone. It is pretty slow, and rather dark. The overall tone of the story is sad, brooding and somewhat lethargic. Then there is that infamous "butter scene". The story is about people bearing their deepest, darkest souls to each other and these people are not exactly happy well-adjusted people.

BUT...

This movie has some of the most visceral, relaxed acting ever to be seen on film since the invention of the film camera. There is a monologue that Marlon Brando delivers to his dead wife where he just goes to pieces. It is quite rare to see such raw footage on film. I would have to say that it is the most emotionally raw speech I have ever seen delivered on film.

Maria Schneider is good too playing across Marlon Brando. She captures the spirit of a disillusioned precocious young girl who gets in over her head. Years later, she would say in interviews that she regretted doing the film, especially the "butter scene"(which was a last minute improvisation added to the film). She also said that, to her frustration, her professional acting career would never outlive her performance in that role.

In fact Marlon Brando, too, would look on the filming of that movie with ambivalence saying that it was the most painful experience he had to endure in his acting career and from which he learned to guard against investing too personally in a role. He too felt rather hoodwinked by the director, Bertolucci, saying that he felt raped and manipulated on set.

As awful as it sounds for the actors, this translates into really amazing performances for audiences to watch. Both Brando and Schneider give gritty performances that are more exposed and raw than you have ever seen in your life!

In Summation:

Last Tango in Paris is an ugly film. But it is a sorta ugliness mixed with beauty. The kind that you can see when you watch someone picking their nose unawares. The film is a milestone for cinema in the intimacy that is captured on screen. A must see for fans of film and acting alike!

Other films you might like if you liked this film:

Apocalypse Now, Streetcar Named Desire, The Libertine, 2046

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tom Hanks is an awesome actor..

Here is an amazing scene with Tom Hanks from Philadelphia. The man is a genius. He lets the music do the acting for him! Denzel's cool too...

like what you see? Never seen this one before? Then, go watch the movie!

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Man Who Cried(Christina Ricci, Cate Blanchett, John Turtturo, Johnny Depp)

Director: Sally Potter

Starring: Christina Ricci, Cate Blanchette, John Turturro, Johnny Depp

This movie is about outcasts and drifters. People on the fringes of society who are trying to find the place where they belong. If you like movies with Vagabond Gypsies, Jewish Refugees, Russian Ex-pat dancers and Italian Opera singers who are all trying to deal with the Nazi invasion, you will like this movie.

Summary:

Susie(Christina Ricci) is a Jewish refugee from Russia who wants to go to America to search for her missing father. She finds herself working as a chorus girl in France just in time for the Nazi invasion of Europe. Her only friends are a dancer named Lola(Cate Blanchette) and a Gypsy horseman named Cesar(Johnny Depp).

Why This Movie is Flipping Awesome:

There are some awesome performances with this movie. All the actors are superb in their roles.

Christina Ricci and Cate Blanchett both give great performances in this movie. Both are equally awesome but in different ways. Ricci is plays a very quiet Russian Jewish girl who is forced to assimilate into English culture but yearns to reunite with her long lost father. She is very beautiful in a mysterious way and her performance is quite subtle. Blanchett is a seductive dancing diva who befriends Ricci while also adopting the role of a sexual madonna to enrapture the Italian tenor Dante Dominio(John Turturro).

Turturro himself is quite the arrogant bastard as usual in most of his films. Ultimately he is a man who seeks station in life through his musical talents. So much so that he would do anything for it. Even at the expense of his moral integrity.
Johnny Depp has the least lines in the movie, but his performance is incredible. He alone is a reason to watch this movie from an actor's standpoint. What he conveys with a mere gesture or look speaks volumes.

Summation:

This movie is rather subtle, but it is quite good. Acting wise the cast is excellent. The story is good if you like romantic stories about people searching for lost loved ones. Another really strong feature of the movie is the soundtrack. The use of music in the film is masterfully done and heightens the sense of emotion and lyrical beauty in each scene.

Movies you might like if you liked this one:

Edward Scissorhands, The Libertine, Black Snake Moan, The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou, Chocolat

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?(Sidney Poitier, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy)



Director: Stanley Kramer
Starring: Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn

Released in 1967, when Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? was being filmed, marriage between African Americans and Caucasians was still illegal in 14 U.S. states. This was probably the first film to discuss the topic of interracial marriages openly and the possibility that they would eventually become accepted as mainstream. There are also lots of moments of good acting in it.

Summary:

A wealthy, white, liberal couple- Matt(Spencer Tracy) and Christina(Katherine Hepburn) Dreyton- is suddenly faced with the fact that their only daughter is determined to marry a
black doctor whom she has brought home to dinner. On top of it all Joey(Katherine Houghton) and Dr. Wade Prentic
e(Sidney Poitier) are determined to be married within the week. The Dreytons suddenly find that they are forced to live up to the liberal values they claim to espouse. Things get even more contraversial when Dr. Prentice's parents are added to the mix.

Why This Movie is Flippin Awesome:


Not only was this movie was revolutionary for it's time, it also has some good acting performances as well. Sidney Poitier gives a very masterful and dignified performance. He delivers a great speech towards the end of the movie to his father that sums up the frustration of post civil rights blacks regarding the racialist mentality of pre civil rights blacks. Poitier's speech is both filed with anger and love for his father and shows both passion and sensitivity. The clarity and specificity with which Poitier conveys his thoughts and actions are something any actor ought to pay close attention to.

Katherine Hepburn won the oscar for this particular performance and it is clear to see why. She is very sensitive and emotionally primed throughout every scene. There is an interesting story about this actually. She and Spencer Tracy were secret lovers for many many years. Although madly

in love, Tracy would not divorce his wife was because he did not want to break his Catholic vows of marriage. On top of all this, while filming this movie Spencer Tracy was a hardcore alchoholic and dying of cancer. He was to succumb six months after the filming of this movie. There is a speech that Tracy gives towards the end of the film that basically sums up their relationship. And Katherine Hepburn answers his speech with a display of feeling and passion that can only be brought forth on those rare occasions when art is mirrors life.

Another good performance was that of Beah Richards, Sidney Poitier's mom. She is very dignified and soulful in the role of a mother who wants the best for her son and who is actually much more forward thinking than her husband.

Summation:

This film played a groundbreaking role in bringing mainstream acceptance of interracial dating to american culture. While the drama of this film is a little hokey at times, the ideas discussed are what is important and are what make this film a landmark film. On top of that the acting between Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy is quite touching and adds a very intriguing element of drama to the whole story.

Other movies you might like if you liked this movie:

To Sir With Love, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Bringing up Baby

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Friday, July 4, 2008

The Flyboys(Tom Sizemore, Stephen Baldwin, Reiley McClendon, Jesse James)

director: Rocco DeVilliers
Starring: Jesse James, Reiley McClendon, Stephen Baldwin, Tom Sizemore
Writers: Jason DeVilliers. Rocco Devilliers, Richard Dutcher


Remember back in the day when you were a kid and rode bikes around the neighborhood with your best friend? Remember all the crazy adventures you dreamed up of being kidnapped by mafia goons and sneaking onto planes and being chased by thugs who want to kick your ass? Imagine if all of that stuff happened in real life in a believable yet amazing way. Combine it with good story writing and incredible acting performances and you have the independent feature film The Flyboys.

Summary:
The plot of this movie starts off pretty simple. Kyle(Reiley McClendon), the new kid at school, befriends a kid named Jason(Jesse James) after defending him from getting beat up by the school bully. The two boys develop an instant friendship and Jason shows Kyle his favorite hangout spot.. The local airfield. The two sneak on a private plane and a series of amazing adventures ensue featuring the mob, explosions, tons of action and adventure. This was a good movie.

Why this movie is flipping awesome:

I saw this independent movie at a special screening this past weekend at The Playhouse West Film Festival in North Hollywood. It was freaking awesome. In fact it was so awesome that I am writing a special review for it. This film is a film for all ages and has child stars, but it isn’t just a kid’s film. I would say this is a coming of age film about friendship, brotherhood and courage that can also be appreciated by kids. A film with a true heart and soul.


Reiley McClendon(right) gives a kick ass performance as the new kid in town who moves around a lot. He really captures the sense of bravery and independence that kind of childhood can cultivate in a kid. He tries to do the right thing even if it means pissing off assholes bigger than him. A scrappy kid, he doesn’t take shit from anyone.

Jesse James(left) is the perfect compliment to McClendon as the kid who gets picked on and wants to be brave but just doesn’t know how. The two boys make a good pair and they both are awesome actors.

Tom Sizemore and Stephen Baldwin play brother mobsters who mirror the main characters’ situations as adults. They bring the adult element to the whole story with sensitivity and soul. Both actors give some damn good performances and by the end of the movie I was moved to tears by the emotions and feelings their relationship evoked.

On top of the movie’s soulfulness is a healthy dose of action and adventure. The action scenes in the movie involve planes and cars and guns, etc… I was pretty impressed. The film makers involved in this project were able to put just enough action to skirt the outer edges of reality without making the movie totally unbelievable. Given the film’s indie budget, I was impressed cause the action scene’s are worthy of any multimillion Hollywood Action/Adventure movie.

Another surprise was the talkback with the Film’s creators. As awesome as this movie was, they were not able to get distribution by any major film studio’s. The impression was that the studio execs were stuck on the idea that this movie was a kids movie and the adult themes were a little too complex to market to kids. That was pretty amazing cause this movie is a good ass movie that could easily become a classic American adventure movie in ten years time.

Summation:

Because this movie is not yet widely distributed, you are going to have to check it out at special screenings until some lucky studio picks it up. To learn more about the movie go to their official website.

Other movies I would recommend if you liked this one are:
E.T., Forrest Gump, The Goonies, Saving Private Ryan.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Juno(Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Thirlby)

director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Thirlby
Writer: Diablo Cody

















POP QUIZ!!!

Let’s say you were a 16 year old highschool girl and you just discovered you were preggers by your best friend who is also your Chemistry Lab partner. Would you…

a.) try to hang yourself with a noose made of red-vines.
b.) drive your blue previa minivan to the nearest quickie mart and drown your troubles in a blue slushie
c.) stuff your baby daddy’s mailbox with $150 worth of orange flavored tic-tacs
d.) Wait for your baby daddy to come out of his house at 6am in an armchair on his front lawn while wearing a sweater vest and holding an unlit pipe in your mouth.
e.) All of the above.

If you chose e.), you are...

Juno MacGuff!

Summary:

Juno Macguff is a 16 year old Minnesotan highschool student that gets preggers by her nerdy track star boyfriend Paulie Bleeker(Michael Cera). After deciding she doesn’t want an abortion, Juno decides to give the baby up for adoption to a well to do couple who live in the same area. With the support of her father, step mom and bff, Juno learns what it is like to go through the experience of being a teenage cream-puff.


Why this movie is flipping awesome:

Ellen Page is brilliant as Juno. She acts her role with intelligence, sensitivity and maturity in such a way that she really captures the spirit of a bright young girl who is thrust into adulthood prematurely. Her acting choices are so interestingly unique and insightful. She does a great job at not just emotionally responding, but physicalizing her actions also. She is a real pleasure to watch. A very inspiring performance from an actor’s standpoint as well.

Michael Cera, who plays Juno’s baby daddy Bleeker, is the perfect foil for Juno’s sarcastic humor. He is so sensitive in his acting, every moment lands with him like a pool of mountain spring water freshness. He is a real gem to watch and the scenes between him and Ellen Page are very intimate, humorous, realistic, and heartwarming. Awesome actor he is.

Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner play the wealthy husband and wife couple who want to adopt Juno’s baby. They seem like a happy couple on the outside, but we see that their differences run deeper than first impressions would suggest. Their scenes are so excruciatingly human you really feel for them in their own separate ways.

J.K. Simmons and Allison Janey both pair up to play Juno’s father and step-mom. They are the awesomest parents in the world in their support for their daughter. And each of them brings a whole bunch of damn good acting to the table. J.K. Simmons does a fine job at playing a father who is deeply worried for his daughter and who strives to stay strong and yet emotionally available. Allison Janey is the best step mom in the world who supports her daughter as if she were her own child. Good down home folks.

Olivia Thirlby plays Juno’s BFF. She is so cute as a highschool teenager who has an obsession for older men. A very good performance capturing the innocence and general silliness of teenage girlhood. Her playful ways compliment Juno’s more serious demeanor. She and Page have awesome scene’s as well.

In addition to the above cast, there are tons of smaller roles that are interesting and yet truthfully played as well. It is clear that all the actors involved from the stars to the day players were brilliantly cast and highly proficient.

DVD features:

This DVD comes with some pretty cool features. There are plenty of extra scenes and also a bunch of hilarious bloopers. The commentary by director Michael Cera and Writer Diablo Cody is very interesting and entertaining. A large part of the commentary deals with little details that went into making the movie. It is clear the process was one of passion and fun.

Subtitles

Spanish

Summation:

I really liked this movie. There are some films you watch and you know just from watching them that the whole filmmaking process must have been a real special experience for all the cast and crew involved. Juno(2007) is one of these movies. Ellen Page as Juno as well as all the other cast team up to do some awesome acting and make a heartwarming and inspiring movie about family, love, and the joys of teenage pregnancy. This is a finely acted, heartwarming, independent family comedy that has a sarcastic, playful edge to it. The story and writing are really awesome too and all these components work together to create a truly superb film.

Other movies I would recommend if you liked this one are:

You Can Count on Me, Hard Candy, Forrest Gump, American Beauty, Terms of Endearment, The Cider House Rules

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Libertine(Johnny Depp, John Malkovich, Samantha Morton, Rosamund Pike)

director: Laurence Dunmore
Starring: Johnny Depp, John Malkovich, Rosamund Pike, Samantha Morton


“You will not like me. The gentlemen will be envious and the ladies will be repelled.”

These words are from the opening speech of the The Libertine. Seductively delivered directly into the camera by Johnny Depp, with these words you are his. This film is homuncularly craptacular.

Summary:

The Libertine is a period piece written by Stephen Jeffereys who also wrote a play with the same title. The story is about a 17th century English nobleman and poet named John Wilmot aka The Earl of Rochester(Johnny Depp). A close friend of King Charles II, The Earl of Rochester was known not only for his satirical verse, but also for his pornographic writings, outrageous acts of debauchery, hedonism, and general contempt for courtly manners. He was married to Elizabeth Mallet(Rosamund Pike), a beautiful and intelligent heiress, with whom he spent a domestic life on a pastoral estate in the English countryside. Rochester also had several mistresses at Court, including the famous English actress Elizabeth Barry(Samantha Morton.) In his spare time he fucked a ton of whores, drank copious amounts of alcohol, wrote raunchy and satirical poems, and went to see lots of plays. At the age of 33, he died of syphilis.

Despite his roguish ways, The Earl of Rochester was admired by many both in life and in death as a poetic genius.

Why this movie is flipping awesome:

The acting is quite the wibbly wobbly. i.e. Totally Amazing! I love Johnny Depp, and there are many movies of his I adore, but this has got to be Johnny Depp’s greatest performance to date. The emotional depths and levels of visceral intensity Johnny Depp reaches in this role are the deepest I have ever seen. At the same time he looses none of the technical craft that sets him apart as a virtuoso among actors. Why Depp was not at the very least nominated for an Oscar baffles me. His performance easily rivals that of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s in Capote(the Oscar winner for best actor in 2006.)

In Rochester, Johnny Depp portrays a very sensitive and thoughtful man who has been perverted by an unnatural, compulsive lust for debauchery and hedonism. Depp explores the psychology of a self-destructive personality with flair, passion, sensitivity and humor. As we watch The Earl of Rochester’s downward spiral, one wonder’s what drives this man to do what he does. We see his physical appearance reflect his spiritual state until, by the end of the film, Rochester is a walking, syphilitic corpse. Throughout this gradual transformation we come to see the Libertine as a man who is ultimately trapped by the role he has chosen to play in life. The cost being his own humanity.

In addition to the acting genius of Johnny Depp, there are several other actors that give formidable performances in their own rites:

Samantha Morton displays a talent that is crazy awesome as she plays Rochester’s willful and talented mistress Elizabeth Barry. Rochester takes Barry’s raw talent and, through his tutelage, transforms her into the greatest actress of the London Stage. She and Johnny have several scenes that are both passionate and expertly acted. There is one scene that actually goes into a little of the craft of acting itself. It’s as if one is witnessing a master acting class given by Johnny Depp himself. The Earl and Barry are cut from the same mold. Surrounded by a world of filth, both seek too feel passion for life in the theatre. Samantha Morton's talent as an actor is quite apparent. In one particular scene, her playing an actress who gives a bad performance on stage for the camera is a technical feat in itself. Morton also shows she can cut a good Shakespeare when she gives an awesome performance of Ophelia from Hamlet during a play.

John Malkovichis first rate as King Charles II. His scenes with Johnny are very humorous in their depiction of a man who is alternately concerned and irritated by his friend’s rebellious antics. The chemistry between the two is very entertaining and depicts an underlying spirit camaraderie shared between the two actors offscreen.

Another actress that is crazy awesome is Rosamund Pike who also played Jane Bennet in Pride & Prejudice(2005). She plays Elizabeth Mallet, Rochester’s beautiful, intelligent, and dutiful wife. Where Barry is a fiery London actress one step up from a street wench, Mallet is a beautiful and courtly lady who is simultaneously Rochester's saviour and ball and chain. Rosamund Pike acts as a powerful foil for Johnny Depp in one of the most emotional and intense scenes of the film. She shows rock solid strength and resolve as a wife determined to prevent the love of her life from sinking further into self-destructive oblivion. A real awesome woman and fine actor that she is! I hope to see more of her in future roles.

Another gem of the production is the actor who plays the role of Rochester’s valet, Alcock. Richard Coyle takes a rather small, minor role and makes it quite a human character. The interactions between Johnny Depp and Richard Coyle are both subtly hilarious and full of natural chemistry. First rate acting that there too.

DVD features:

Lots of cool behind the scenes footage and making of documentaries.

Several extra scenes and blooper reels are included as well.

The commentary by director Laurence Dunmore is very informative. Not only does he provide historical insight into the character of Rochester, but he also gives one a look into the whole process of filmmaking and working with a cast of incredible actors.


Summation:

While showcasing a ton of fine acting all round, viewer be warned, The Libertine is not a movie for everyone. The subject matter deals with a main character who is basically a syphilitic sex addict trapped in a world of apathy largely caused by his own doing. The scenes are at times very graphic and brutal in their depiction of hedonism, falling just short of actual pornography. However, if one has a sense of humor about it all and can see past the surface profanity, The Libertine is really the story of a man with a very sensitive and gifted intellect tragically flawed in his pursuit of Love and Admiration. Some of the finest acting by Johnny Depp occurs in this movie. I believe this is the most emotionally raw and exposed performance by such an amazing actor and for that reason alone I would recommend it as a must see.

Other movies I would recommend if you liked this one are:

Dangerous Liaisons, 2046, Bad Lieutenant, and Edward Scissorhands, The Man Who Cried, Last Tango In Paris

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Friday, June 13, 2008

The Champ(Jon Voight, Ricky Schroder, Faye Dunaway)

Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Starring: Jon Voight, Ricky Schroder, Faye Dunaway


If you ever want to make a room full of grown men cry, make them watch The Champ starring Jon Voight, Faye Dunaway, and a 9 year old Ricky Schroder(the son from the 1980s sitcom Silver Spoons). This is a boxing movie, but it is no ordinary boxing movie. This particular boxing movie is probably the most emotional movie ever made by mankind.

With the tag line:

The most poignant love-triangle of al
l - a father, his son, and the woman who came between them

I guarantee The Champ

WILL MAKE YOU CRY!!!!! Period.

I am so confident of this fact that, if you don't end up crying during The Champ, I promise I will personally go to your house and lick your dog’s hairy ball sack. That’s how freaking EMOTIONAL this movie is! I myself saw The Champ when I was a wee lad of 5 years old and then again when I was a full-grown man of 25 and both times I cried like a little bitch.

Summary:

The story is about the relationship between a former light heavy weight boxing champ(Jon Voight) and his son, T.J.(Ricky Schroder). TJ idolizes his father whom he calls "Champ" instead of "Dad" like any other normal kid. Jon Voight as The Champ is anything but a champ. He's actually kind of a loser as the only thing that he's really got going for him is his job as a horse trainer and the fact that he has a son who absolutely adores him. In fact in a lot of ways, T.J. is The Champ's caretaker rather than the other way around as evidenced early on in the film when TJ brings The Champ home from the bar after a heavy night of drinking and gets him ready for bed. One day Jon Voight has a chance to redeem himself by making a comeback in the world of professional boxing and using the money to secure his and his son's future. Everything is going good for The Champ. He's training hard and making progress, but then things get turned upside down for the father and son when The Champ's ex wife(Faye Dunaway), who deserted the family and married a rich old fogy, wants to reestablish ties with her son TJ.

So what is so good acting-wise about The Champ?:


Jon Voight and Faye Dunaway both give brilliant performances in this film, but the real "Champ" is little Ricky Schroder who steals the picture. Schroder should have seriously won the Oscar for his performance. Meanwhile director Franco Zeffirelli should have been charged with tormenting a child because there are some pretty intense emotional scenes for little Ricky Schroder. And the little kid acts his little heart out! In fact, in the commentary of the DVD, John Voight admits to an adult Ricky Schroeder that he, Jon Voight, pretended to be upset with Ricky the day before shooting a key scene in order to enhance the little tyke’s performance in a scene that required TJ to think The Champ was mad at him! Poor Ricky Schroder...! But the ends were achieved as seen in the movie. Schroder’s commitment to believing in the circumstances of each scene is just incredible.

Jon Voight himself shows off his acting talent as the Champ. All the scenes with Jon Voight and Ricky Schroder are timeless. It is heart-wrenching to watch the father who knows he is undeserving of the pure idolatry given to him by his son. A kid who doesn’t call him “Dad” like any other normal kid but “Champ.” Voight also has a few very well acted scenes with Faye Dunaway who plays The Champ's deadbeat ex-wife. The former couple's challenge is to reconcile their past in order to do what is right for their son.

Faye Dunaway herself gives a very awesome performance in this film as The Champ's old flame. Dunaway really captures the agony and love of a mother who desperately wants to repair the relationship to her abandoned child.

DVD features:

The Champ DVD comes with the standard behind the scenes documentary, trailer, photo gallery, etc. But the real gem is the commentary section which actually has Jon Voight and an adult Rick Schroder in the same room discussing the movie. At several points Schroder actually begins to weep at the memory of the filming. Just goes to show you how real and traumatizing the whole process must have been for the little kid.

Summation:

This movie could very well be the MOST EMOTIONAL MOVIE EVER MADE. And I’ve seen a lot of movies. The acting is very good and the highly emotionally charged nature of this movie ensures that The Champ will definitely become a classic.


Other movies I would recommend if you liked The Champ are:

Kramer vs Kramer, Blood Diamond, Terms of Endearment, Road to Perdition

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2046(Leung Chiu-Wai, Faye Wong, Zhang ZiYi, Gong Li, Carina Lau, Takuya Kimura)

director: Wong Kar-Wai
starring: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Faye Wong, Zhang ZiYi, Gong Li, Carina Lau, Takuya Kimura

Have you ever been in love, or had a romantic relationship, with someone who was totally flippin’ awesome? Like the best in the world? And then broken up with them only to find that, for years afterwards, every person you are involved with is merely a vain attempt to recapture the craptacular experience of that original person? If so, you will definitely like the movie 2046, because that is basically the dilemma of the film’s main character Chow Mo-Wan, played by veteran Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-Wai.

Released in 2004, and taking a whopping 4 years to complete, 2046 is the 3rd chapter in a series of romantic films written and directed by acclaimed Hong Kong film director Wong Kar-Wai. The other two movies in the series are Days of Being Wild(1991) and In the Mood for Love(2000).

Summary:

A womanizing writer of pornographic fiction serials, Chow Mo-Wan(Tony Leung Chiu Wai), tries to recapture the memory of his lost love by pursuing various women all of whom vaguely remind him of his old flame and former neighbor Su Li-Zhen(Maggie Cheung Ho-Yi). The new women include Chow Mo-Wan’s new neighbor, Bai Ling(Zhang Zhiyi) who works as a beautiful nightclub singer and also a high-class prostitute; Chow Mo-Wan’s landlord’s strange love-sick daughter Wang Jing Wen(Faye Wong) who is herself totally smitten in love with a sensitive emotionally awkward Japanese business man(Takuya Kimura); and a mysterious Cambodian card hustler also named Su Li-Zhen(Gong Li). During the course of his romantic pursuits Chow Mo-Wan writes the various people he encounters into his own fictionalized future world, 2046-- which happens to be the same number of the room he secretly shared with his lost love.

Why this Movie is Freakin Good:

Ok So… In addition to beautiful cinematography and an outstanding soundtrack- that are pure eye and ear candy… 2046 features stellar acting performances by the entire cast. Very real acting that is both subtle and viscerally passionate. One gets the voyeuristic feeling of peeking into reality.

In 2046, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai demonstrates his acting talent by playing a role that directly contrasts with the character from the previous film. The protagonist from In the Mood for Love was an endearing, cuckold who had a platonic love affair with his hot, cheong-sam wearing neighbor. In 2046, we see the character has degenerated into a slimy, seedy, womanizing asshole with a moustache. He is both desperate and pathetic in his predatory pursuit of women in order to quench his desire to relive the memories of his past love affair. Despite this huge asshole surface factor, it is an underlying yearning for this faded love that makes Chow Mo-Wan’s character pathetically human and romantically endearing to the viewer. Through the demonstration of this remarkable character transformation and the fact that he is able to command a storyline while playing across several actresses of immense acting talent and physical beauty Tony Leung Chiu-Wai proves his supremely 733T abilities as an actor.

That said, the actresses in 2046 are simply outstanding.

Zhang ZiYi gives a very human and thoughtful portrayal of Bai-Ling, a young independent woman who is in love with the main character in spite of herself. A glamorous nightclub singer/call girl, she starts off as playing the upper hand of seductress in a little game of platonic friendship, but winds up another victim of the game of lust and love as perpetrated by the main character. She tries to hide her feelings for Chow Ho-Man, but every time she makes some stupid mistake that belies her true feelings. All the while one gets the impression Chow gloats secretly in triumph.

Faye Wong plays the eccentric daughter of Chow’s landlord and also an android in the imaginary world of 2046. She is the one woman that is impervious to Chow’s desires. Her immunity is because she is already in love with a Japanese Man played by Takuya Kimura. Their scenes, which take place both in real life and in 2046, are very tenderly acted and quite moving. Faye is very convincing while at the same time very lyrical as an android and Takuya Kimura shows himself to be a very sensitive actor. First rate performances by both.

Gong Li gives a wise and deep performance in her role as “The Black Spider” Su Li-Zhen. She’s basically a femme fatale with a heart of gold. She seems to know Chow better than he knows himself. A rather tragic figure.

Carina Lau reprises her role as the nightclub singer Lulu from Days of Being Wild and also plays an android in 2046. She offers an example for Chow of the consequences of staying in trapped in the past.

DVD Features:

Subtitles

This DVD has a lot of cool extras. There are a couple of documentaries that have behind the scenes footage. It’s really interesting learning about the process that went into making the movie especially the interviews of the various stars. In addition there are three deleted scenes that add to the viewer’s experience including an alternate ending. Finally there is a section featuring some pictures of posters and even a section devoted to the soundtrack.

Trailer:



Summation:

Director Wong Kar Wai’s storytelling style is rather unorthodox compared to other movies. It is a very poetic movie that has an interweaving storyline that jumps around creating a very dreamlike experience. The only criticisms I can think of are that some of the finer points of the story might be lost on the viewer if they haven’t seen the first two movies before hand. Plus, the pacing of the film might feel a bit erratic to people who are used to more traditional story development structures. In this sense, 2046 feels almost like a novel rather than a film. Regardless, this movie kicks ass. And if you like tortured romance type dramas you will love this movie. The cinematography is awesome. The soundtrack rocks. And the acting is of high quality.

Other movies I would recommend if you liked this one are:

In the Mood For Love, Chun King Express, Days of Being Wild, Dangerous Liasons, and The Libertine.

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