Special Collaborative Post: 10 Redeeming Films for Easter… or any other time of the year

EasterBanner
Image courtesy of River Valley Church Minnesota

Happy Easter everyone!

I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday. Fellow Christians all over the world are celebrating the resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… I’m forever grateful for His atoning sacrifice. So in the spirit of personal redemption, I invited two of my best blog pals Terrence and Keith to participate in coming up with 10 redeeming films we’d highly recommend.

re·demp·tion
an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.

So, what’s a “redeeming” film? The definition varies, but borrowing from this Christianity Today article , we mean movies that include stories of redemption—sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of them literally have a character that represents a redeemer; all of them have characters who experience redemption to some degree—some quite clearly, some more subtly.

So without further ado, I present to you our list…

[SPOILER ALERT: It should be obvious that in a list like this we’d be talking about some plot points about the film, so if you haven’t seen it, consider this a warning]

KeithIconKeith’s Picks:

Schindler’s List 

One of the most devastating and piercing movies about the Jewish Holocaust is Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”. The epic Academy Award Best Picture winner went to great lengths to offer the most transparent and realistic depiction of one of our world’s darkest moments. But as powerful and important as its historical focus is, there’s a lot more to “Schindler’s List” that just that. Within its brilliantly crafted 186 minutes lies one of the greatest stories of personal redemption you’ll find in cinema.

The lead character in the film is Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German business man and Nazi Party member using World War 2 as a means of financial gain. Schindler arrives in Krakow, Poland smelling profit. He buys a factory, hires local Jews for their cheap labor, and begins making supplies for the Nazi war effort. Schindler hobnobs with high-ranking Nazi officials and enjoys a comfortable lifestyle. But when a brutal Nazi Lieutenant arrives, Schindler’s eyes begin to open. A concentration camp is built and the Jewish ghetto roundup begins. Schindler sees first hand the murderous brutality of those he associates with and his heart is broken as he watches many who he’s grown found of victimized or slaughtered.
SchindlersList_LiamNeeson
Schindler makes it his mission to free as many Jews as he can from their certain death. He secretly uses his war profits and Nazi connections to save the lives of over 1,000 Jews. There’s no doubting his inner transformation. We see his life change before our eyes and even though his character would never say he has found redemption, I think it’s a beautiful picture of it. He does everything in his power to atone for his sins and not just with words but in deeds. And his sorrow for not being able to do more only verifies his genuineness.

Casablanca

If I had to list one movie that I would call my favorite of all time it would be the beloved 1942 classic “Casablanca”. It was one of the movies that introduced me to the magic of classic cinema as well as the starting point for the love I have of my favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart. The film is as close to perfection as you’ll find with Bogie oozing coolness and the gorgeous Ingrid Bergman lighting up ever scene she’s in. There’s an amazing love story at the heart of “Casablanca” but there is also a wonderful depiction of a man’s self-sacrificial redemption.
Bogart plays Rick, the owner of a popular nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco. He’s not beyond participating in a few shady dealing and he maintains a middle-of-the-road war position for the purpose of profit. We do get hints of a soft side to Rick but mostly he doesn’t stick his nose out for anybody but himself. Enter Rick’s old flame Ilsa (Bergman) who permanently damaged him when she left him at a train station in Paris a few years earlier. He’s mean and unforgiving to her until he finds out she and her husband are tied into the Allied war effort and are being hunted by the Nazis. Rick and Ilsa reconcile and their genuine love for each other softens his hardened heart.
Casablanca_endingscene
Rick turns away from the fence straddling and does the right thing. His redemption is shown through his personal sacrifice and it was all brought on by his willingness to love and forgive. Ilsa’s reappearance may have hurt him at first but the transformation her love brought is undeniable. Rick’s redemption may not be as profound as others in movie history but I think it’s a beautiful example of how true love can change even the hardest of hearts. What a great example of redemption and a perfectly fitting one as we talk about Easter.

3:10 To Yuma

Unlike the previous two characters and their stories of redemption, Ben Wade from the fantastic western “3:10 to Yuma” is undeniably a villain through most of the movie. Originally made in 1957, I prefer the 2007 remake starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Bale plays a father named Dan who is the only man willing to see that the captured murderer and thief Ben Wade gets on the 3:10 train to the Yuma prison. There’s a moving story about a father trying to prove his worth to his son. There’s also plenty of cool, well done western action sequences. But there’s also the story of Wade and his most unexpected shot at redemption.
Now let me go ahead and throw out a SPOILER WARNING here.As Dan is set to make the final push to the train station, Wade’s gang arrives to make sure he doesn’t get on board. All of the deputies and marshals skip out leaving this struggling father alone. But what folks don’t realize is that Wade has grown to respect Dan. Even more, Dan’s son and his constant belief that there is good in Wade ends up touching this wanted criminal. When its time to head to the station Wade’s gang comes with guns blazing. Dan is no match for them but it’s Wade who carries him all the way. Thinking they had made it, Dan is shot just as Wade is getting on the train. Wade, fully understanding the better man that Dan is, redeems himself by killing his entire gang and then boarding the train on his own just so Dan’s son can believe in his father once again.
310ToYuma
Now I suppose you could say Wade’s redemption wasn’t as pure or pronounced as Oskar Schindler’s or Rick Blaine’s. We are left to believe that he has no intentions of staying in Yuma prison very long. But you can’t deny his actions. Not only does his unselfish actions save a young boy’s life and rid the territory of some of its most brutal killers, but he also restores the love and admiration a boy has for his father. And he sacrifices his own freedom to do it. That’s where his redemption becomes clear. Sacrifice, true and genuine, often goes hand-in-hand with true redemption. We certainly get that from Ben Wade.


TerrenceIconTerrence’s Picks:

There are several films that deal with redemption as a theme, while the main story itself does not revolve around it. Everyone loves a story of redemption…that happy ending or fulfilling moment or triumphant success that appeals to the human heart and soul. Redemption movies tell great stories and are often more enjoyable due to the different levels of human emotion it reaches and touches. In my list of possibles were so many favorites (such as The Passion of the Christ, Ben Hur, American History X, Star Wars, A Christmas Carol, Shawshank Redemption, The Ten Commandments, etc), but I decided to go with a few different ones this time around:

Les Miserables

Up until a few months ago, I had never seen any rendition of this story (on Broadway, on TV, on VHS, etc) and this latest version of Victor Hugo’s classic story brought this tale, unknown to me, to my attention in such beautiful fashion. No one can deny that redemption is a thread throughout as Jean Valjean seeks and finds solace for himself through giving purpose to his life by caring for the young Cosette. But, not only does Valjean seek and find redemption, the same could be said for multiple characters in the story. So touching, so moving, I am now a big fan of this story and almost regret having never watched/read it before (but there’s something to allowing this beautiful version be my introduction to it.

LesMiz

The communication of the characters and their plight through song translates so well with multiple strong performances full of power and emotion. Everyone hoping to find some true meaning, yet few really finding it. Jean Valjean himself saw the biggest turnaround and redemption and expresses that in his song “Suddenly” which I love to listen to. (Fantine as well, in the end). Hooper does a fantastic job portraying the toil of the “sins” of each character and their journey to recompense for transgressions made. Every character fights for redemption of sorts and Les Miserables is now one of my favorites in this category.

One worthy of being on this list, Les Miserables shows the rewards of hoping for and seeking redemption. People who rose above that which was miserable and found redemption for their souls.

Road to Perdition

Perhaps not a film that would come to mind when thinking of redemption, but it strikes a chord with me in this light because of Tom Hanks’ character, Michael Sullivan. Sullivan, a “muscle” member of the mob, ends up on the wrong side of their favor and now faces the trouble that he has inflicted for so many years. Loss, redemption, family, protection and more flood his mind and influence his actions as he now fights against the “family” he’s protected and fought for for years.

RoadToPerdition

Sullivan finds redemption (and purpose as the collector of payment for sins) through his last surviving son who goes on the run with him. In one of the best mobster movies, his character gives a look at one man in the mob and his inner struggle with conscience vs. duty. When the tables are turned, so are his priorities and he learns what his life should have revolved around and makes concentrated effort to make up for lost time and the mob circles in on him and his son on the run. A gripping movie that keeps you interested all the way to the surprising ending. Road to Perdition is a must-see redemption flick.

Despicable Me

Not expecting this movie on the list? I know, but Despicable Me is so great and it does share a message of redemption and that even the most evil conniving bad guy can find a happy ending and change his way. What greater message is there to tell kids? :) And what greater way to do so than with Gru, the minions, and three of the cutest little girls in search of a home and happiness (and a fluffy unicorn)?

DespicableMePic

Stuck in his ways of evil and surrounding by an army of minions who obey his every whim, Gru is out to prove he is the villain of villains. But even the greatest of bad guys can be conquered by love. And that’s exactly what happens when Gru finds his heart torn between his unexpected growing love for three little girls that come into his life and his love for evil plans and the fulfillment of them. It gets complicated further when another villain threatens his title and makes Gru choose. Redemption is shown after a choice made for selfish reasons turns to a choice made for others and the reward is seen. From best villain to best dad, Despicable Me is such a fun film with other themes as well, but one of the main ones being that of attainable redemption.


FlixChatterIconRuth’s Picks:

Before I get to my picks for this year, I’d still want to include the three I’ve already recommended a couple of years ago. All three indie films are not widely seen as they perhaps didn’t even play in a theater near you, but now they’re available to rent. I’d see all of these again in a heartbeat as they’re beautifully-made and never fails to inspire me. Click on the posters below to read the post:

2011_EasterPicks

For this year, once again I choose films that are not box office hit (save for one). The first three are under-appreciated and overlooked films that should be seen by more people. Some are more obvious than others, but they all have strong redemptive quality despite the personal transgressions and vice the character(s) go through.

Everything Must Go

Now, people might not associate a Will Ferrell movie with personal redemption and neither did I. I thought the trailer was hilarious but there seemed to something more beneath the surface and it was. Nick Halsey’s a broken man, not only has he lost his job, he also lost his wife who left him and threw all his possessions all over their front lawn. He decided to hold a yard sale and ended up striking a friendship with two of his neighbors, a young boy (Christopher C.J. Wallace) and a pregnant woman (Rebecca Hall) expecting the arrival of her husband. His unlikely friendship with the two of them somehow helped him in a path to reclaim his life back.

EverythingMustGo

Ferrell is much more watchable to me in a serious role (like this one and in Stranger than Fiction) and I instantly empathize with Nick, a man who’s hit rock bottom and seemed to be without hope, wasting his life away drinking beer and lounging on the sofa. The journey to personal redemption isn’t always marked with dramatic or sensational moments, but the simple things such as a kindness from a stranger and going out of one’s comfort zone can transform one’s life. The film depicts how our excess baggage, more in terms of emotional than physical, that often hold ourselves back.  It’s a slow but  film that display a surprisingly quiet, restrained performance from Ferrell, which also boast wonderful performances from Michael Peña as Halsey’s cop friend, and a small–but–memorable turn by Laura Dern.

Machine Gun Preacher

It’s criminal how poorly-marketed this film was, making it look like a *Rambo in Africa* type of genre film (as Claratsi pointed out in his excellent review). It’s a shame as this film deserves so much better. Based on a true story about an ex-con and drug addict Sam Childers whose new-found faith in God drove him to build an orphanage in Sudan following a mission trip to the region. Based on his autobiography Another Man’s War, its tagline pretty much says it all: “Save the children, no matter the cost.” Seems extreme perhaps, but this film showed the brutality of what happened to these African children as they’re being recruited as child soldiers, forced to slay their own family member in order to *save* their own. Extreme situation calls for extreme measures. Childers’ battle his own personal demons, which did not immediately vanish at the moment of conversion as some people seem to assume.

Gerard Butler depicted Childers with such conviction. It’s a brutally honest portrayal, Childers’ not simply a one-dimensional *white man hero* but a fascinating man full of rough edges but with a stern, compassionate heart. It’s heart-wrenching to see such a tumultuous journey, warts and all, because we’ve all been there at some point of our lives.

MGP_pic

The script could have been more compelling and nuanced, yet the redemptive quality of it is not lost on me. Childers may have rescued the children and did his best to protect them, but it’s these very children who in turn *save* him and give him a new purpose in life. The one quote that struck me from the film comes from one the orphans living in Childers’ compound: “If we allow ourselves to be full of hate, they have won. We cannot let them take our hearts.” It’s a poignant moment and certainly a thought-provoking one, as even as we do try to do the right thing, we’re often so consumed by anger and sometimes hatred, which could lead us back to where we were before we found redemption. (read my full review)

The Visitor

Personal redemption doesn’t always take one to hit rock bottom, sometimes a docile existence is just as in need of a reformation. Walter Vale’s life is not out of control, in fact, the economics professor lives a comfortable, albeit boring, life that suddenly takes an unexpected turn with the arrival of two immigrants in his home. Richard Jenkins gave a wonderful, sensitive portrayal of Walter, and he’s got a nice chemistry with Haaz Sleiman as Tarek.

TheVisitor

In my review of The Intouchables, some people mentioned that the story reminded them of The Visitor and certainly the unlikely friendship has some similarities. Tarek, a Syrian immigrant and his girlfriend Zainab, a jewelry designer from Senegal ended up living in Walter’s apartment, having rented it from a swindler who claimed it was his place. Walter initially freaked out about the whole ordeal, as one could imagine, but a friendship slowly developed between them as they learn to trust each other. I love the scene where Tarek taught Walter how to play the drum and they played with Tarek’s drum circle in Central Park. There’s also a sweet relationship that developed between Walter and Tarek’s mother Mouna who lost her journalist husband in a Syrian prison. Their friendship give Walter a renewed joy and a sense of purpose, as he’s become determined to help Tarek and Mouna to stay in the country legally. The depth and humanity of the story is heart-wrenching as well as uplifting, even if the outcome didn’t turn out the way we wish it would be.

Gran Torino

Now, this film is not exactly overlooked. It’s grossed over $200 million worldwide so it was quite a box office hit, but I’d like to include it nonetheless as it has a strong redemptive theme.

Clint Eastwood has played more than his share of grump, taciturn protagonists in his lifetime, but few are as curmudgeon-like as Walt Kowalski. Mourning the death of his wife, Walt’s become embittered of and loathe the world around him. The Korean War veteran’s sole prized possession is a 1972 Gran Torino which he keeps in mint condition. He loves his classic car as much as he resents his Hmong neighbors. One day, their paths cross as a Hmong teenager Thao attempt to steal his Gran Torino out of peer pressure and their lives are changed in ways neither one could’ve anticipated.

GranTorinoPic

At 78, his quip ‘Get off my lawn‘ is still as intimidating as his ‘Make my day.’ Eastwood snarls, glowers, and growls like nobody’s business and his friendship with Thao doesn’t immediately soften him, which creates some amusing scenes. But there’s no denying that the personal redemption is real as Walt slowly opens up his life to his new friend and his family. He’s come to care deeply for them as well, to the point of laying down his life to save them from the threats of the violent gangs that frequent the neighborhood. It goes to show that even the most hardened hearts is not beyond the point of redemption, and the grace from those he discriminated against end up being his own personal savior as much as he become one to them.


THANK YOU Keith and Terrence for your awesome contribution!


Hope you enjoy our recommendations, we welcome your thoughts on our picks. Now, what other films with redemptive theme would you add to the list?

Advertisements

Everybody’s Chattin’ … LAMMYs 2013 Edition

Happy Good Friday everybody!

It’s Easter this weekend which is a very meaningful time of the year for me and I’ve got a special collaborative post with my pals Terrence and Keith, so stay tuned for that folks 😀

Well, in the spirit of giving, I thought I’d show my support to my fellow bloggers today. In case there’s a Lammy member out there that’s been living under a rock, y’all should know that LAMMY 2013 Awards has begun!!

LAMMYs2013Banner
Thanks Andina @ Inspired-Ground.com for the lovely LAMMY 2013 banner!

Before I go on, I’d like to give a shout out to LAMMY 2013 admin guys: Joel and David have done a smashing job organizing this thing, so well done and thanks guys!! Nomination Voting is now open – March 21 until April 3 – so get voting or check out this LAMB post for more details.

A bunch of bloggers have been very creative in creating their For Your Consideration (FYC) posters. Here are some bloggers I’ll be rooting for:

Surely you know these awesome bloggers and their work. Certainly the movie blogosphere are for the better since they’ve started blogging! Some of them have only been blogging for a year or so, but they’ve accomplished so much in such a short time.

So Andina, Chris, Dan, Lady Sati, Mark, Keith, Bubbawheat, and Bonjour… consider yourself nominated 😀

Now, just because they don’t have an FYC poster doesn’t mean they’re not on my mind when it comes to voting time. These bloggers are also on my regular daily rotation and more than deserving of multiple nominations!

Chris @ Movies & Song 365  | Castor @ Anomalous Material

 Eric @ The Warning Sign | Fogs @ Fogs Movie Reviews

John @ The Droid You’re Looking For | Josh @ Classicblanca

 Nostra @ My Film Views | 3Guys1Movie

Paula @ Paula’s Cinema Club | Terrence @ The Focused Filmographer

NewCommentI also want to take the time to say THANK YOU for those who’ve been such loyal supporters to this blog, either by sharing my posts via social media and/or dropping their comments on the posts. My eyes always lights up when the comment icon turns orange (you WordPress bloggers know exactly what I mean!) 😀

Ok, now check out the FULL ELIGIBILITY LIST and get voting!

Vote


Have a wonderful Easter weekend folks. Now, what’s your weekend viewing plans?

Rental Pick: Red Cliff (2008)

RedCliff_posterThough I’ve just blogged about Asian auteurs recently, I figure I should watch one of the Chinese films I’ve been meaning to see in a while. Glad to see that John Woo’s Red Cliff is on Netflix streaming.

Despite not really being a fan of far films, I was quite engrossed in this film which centers on the battle on a region called Red Cliff. The one I saw here is the 148-minute western version, truncated from 280-minute, two-part versions of the original that was released in Asia. Apparently, to appeal to western audiences, they trimmed much of the historical details of the story whilst still keeping the essence of the events set at the end of the Han Dynasty in ancient China.

The story is loosely based on the 14th-century Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. A megalomaniac Prime Minster Cao Cao somehow convinced his inexperienced Emperor Han to allow him to conquer the kingdoms of Xu in the est and East Wu in the south. In a way it’s kind of a David vs Goliath story not unlike how the Spartans fought the Persians in 300, but with a bigger army and more um, clothes on them.

Some of the battle scenes remind me of those in The Lord of the Rings trilogy in terms of scale. Though normally I don’t care about war films, I was quite engrossed in all the war strategies depicted here. The dialog is brisk but quick-witted, even poetic at times, combined with visual grandeur and exhilarating action set pieces. This film is absolutely beautiful to look at, the long shots of the naval armada and a legions of army in a tortoise formation are incredibly majestic. Yes there’s extensive CGI involved but some of the battle scenes still look pretty organic and gritty. Much of battlefield acrobatics and exquisite slo-mo scenes of Mr. Leung & co. in battle that are exciting to watch.

Woo’s trademark kinetic action style are put to good use here, including scenes where the hero wield two weapons—two swords in this case—whilst going ballistic (literally). There’s of course the flying dove that’s never absent from his movies. I must say he’s rather indulgent filming a lone dove flying across the ocean, but it’s so beautifully-shot that I don’t mind it.

RedCliffPhotos

The film starred the who’s who of Asian cinema, particularly Tony Leung (Zhou Yu) and Takeshi Kaneshiro (Zhuge Liang) who play shrewd military strategists. Both are wonderful to watch for their Zen-like grace and astute discernment, it doesn’t hurt that both are easy on the eyes as well. Zhang Fengyi was quite good as well as the villain Cao Cao, he’s power-hungry but Fengyi did not portray him as a repulsive monster. Leung is absolutely fantastic here, as the viceroy Zhou Yu, he is by far my favorite character in the film. One particular scene with a young flute player during war training depicts him as the ideal military leader: razor-sharp with acute sense, but wise and even-tempered. There is a sweet love story between him and Chiling Lin as his elegantly beautiful wife, and it’s nice to see that women also have key roles in the story instead of simply being pretty ornaments.

What I like most is the meticulous war strategies depicted here, the generals and war-experts must have been part meteorologists in the way they could use the weather, particularly in regards to the wind, into account in their plans of attack. Despite the 2.5 hours running time, I was not bored even for a minute. My hubby and I are even considering watching the 4-hour version and all the behind-the-scene featurettes. There’s more historical context in the full uncut edition, such as the background and motivation behind Zhuge Liang’s plan to obtain 100,000 arrows. That arrow scene is quite humorous and thrilling to watch, definitely one of the highlights!

RedCliffMainCast

It’s certainly John Woo‘s return to form after making a few American flops (Windtalkers, Paycheck), and his ambitious project seem to have paid off. At the time of its release and perhaps to this day, it’s the most expensive Asian-financed film to date with an $80-million budget. The film ended up being a huge hit in China and even surpassed the domestic box office of Titanic in that region.

If you’re into war films, I highly recommend this one. It astutely depicts that ancient Chinese military philosophy The Art of War that all warfare is based on deception. Its epic scale and visual prowess—down to the weaponry, lavish costumes and set pieces— made me wish I had seen this one on the big screen.


4.5 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on this film? Let’s hear it in the comments.

Classic Actor Spotlight: Walter Matthau – Showing his Chops

jackdethbanner

Greetings and all sundry!

Given the success of my earlier three article arc on the career of Jack Lemmon. And to steal a suggestion from Nostra. Allow me a few moments of your time to focus some attention and love towards a consummate character actor. Utilized and cozily comfortable as part of an ensemble or team. Who earned his stripes and reputation in the fledgling years of television. Gathering attention and notoriety. While honing his talents for the better part of a decade before his stars finally aligned. To that end. Allow me to introduce.

Walter Matthau: Finding What Works.

WalterMatthau

Not many actors can claim esteemed director, Nicholas Ray on their early Curriculum Vitae. Though Mr. Matthau can. Given a small but important role as Wally Gibbs. Concerned co-worker, teacher, friend and neighbor of Manic-Depressive, Bi-Polar and soon to be self medicating Cortizone addict, Ed Avery (James Mason). In a little 1950s, suburban ‘Fathers Knows Best’ from Hell masterpiece:

#1: The Fortune Cookie: (1966)

Mr. Matthau’s Wally is content early on to sit on the sidelines and watch as Mason’s Ed Avery grows ever more distant, manic and eventually dangerous to himself, his family and the “Ain’t life swell!” facade of the white picket fences, manicured lawns of the perfect suburban ‘Atomic family’.

Matthau_BiggerthanLife1

Granted, the film is Ray’s and Mason’s to build a slowly frightening, often shadowy foundation upon. And some may argue that Matthau’s Wally responds with too little and too late. Especially with an undercurrent of an evening dinner scene with Ed, his wife, Lou (Barbara Rush) and son, Richie (Christopher Olsen) that leaves the same seen used in American Beauty forty plus years later far in the dust. The Olsen family is afraid to breathe. Lest delusional daddy, Ed goes into an Old Testament shouting, dinner and silverware throwing and smashing tirade.

But that is what makes Bigger Than Life near essential viewing in the small, yet frightening  realm of ‘Suburban Horror’. All the parts mesh together. Humanly and with errors. Through confrontations, denials and lies stacked upon lies from Ed. Which makes you not believe for a second the triumphant, dried out and rehabilitated Ed’s joyous, tearful, family hugging, “Happily ever after” return to family, hearth and home before the film’s final credits!

Overall Consensus:

To be given even a small part in a memorable and ground breaking film that dared to mess with the well marketed and maintained myth of opulent “perfection” of Post War America would be any actor’s dream. Especially if that film’s director had just delivered Rebel Without a Cause a year earlier. A very heady task. To be a small cog inside a much larger machine.And Mr. Matthau delivers! Quietly and with reserve. Letting his concern and emotions show through his face and gestures. Until it is almost too late.

Matthau_BiggerthanLife2

Which may piqued director Elia Kazan to contact Mr. Matthau for another slightly larger supporting role. As Mel Miller. The quiet, smitten, unassuming assistant to roving radio radio reporter, Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) in Kazan’s Magnum Opus to the power of charisma and media in culture and politics.

#2: A Face in the Crowd (1957)

Which begins back in the Ouachita hills of Arkansas. Where roving reporter and hostess, Marcia Jeffries records her human interest stories for A Face in the Crowd. And finds smooth talking, itinerant hobo and spinner of yarns, Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith. Never better!) behind bars and sweating out a hangover from a night of carousing. “Lonesome” is also full of down home humor and charm. When not belting out Gospel tunes with the aid of his guitar. Which gets him out of jail and into popularity amongst the locals. And the hosting radio station. Where “Lonesome” starts to come under the scrutiny of Mel. Who knows bad news when he sees it. And tries to warn Marcia as Rhodes starts growing in popularity and starts believing his own hype. Marcia is swept away as events start controlling events and actions.

Matthau_FaceinCrowd1

A local Senator up for re-election, Worthington Fuller needs a bump in the polls and used “Lonesome”, radio and television to fill that void on stump speeches. Where Rhodes shows a proclivity for a naive, teen aged baton twirling Majorette, Betty Lou Fleckum (Lee Remick in her first film role). Things start going bad as “Lonesome” pursues Betty Lou. Indulges in too much booze and letting his mouth rum while his brain is not engaged. Marcia catches him after a fundraising soiree. Stupid drunk and showing contempt for all the hicks, hayseeds and rednecks that make up his audience. Marcia’s tide starts to change and takes a decision to ambush her creation after an episode of “The Lonesome Rhodes Show” featuring the Senator.

Mel watches from the wings as Marcia opens a microphone and catches Larry in the middle of a particular nasty vent aimed at his unseen, but listening audience. Who are flabbergasted and angered that their media idol would think so lowly of them. Massive numbers of complaining phone calls flood both the radio and television stations as Larry and his entourage head towards a victory dinner where the Senator is supposed to announce his candidacy.

Or not. While Larry is en route. The radio and television stations start calling Senator Fuller’s campaign workers. As contributors and backers turn their backs and abandon ship on Fuller and Rhodes. Who arrives at a spectacularly decorated, nearly empty and opulent penthouse suite. Crestfallen, rambling and confused. Larry lashes out at everyone and everything. Until Marcia arrive and tells him that she opened the off stage microphone and helped Larry commit Celebrity Seppuku.

Marcia leaves and Mel lays into Larry most prophetically. Giving him a heads up to his immediate future with an appropriate cool down period and anonymity. A change of name and venue. And the long lingering aftermath of fallen, faded glory.

Matthau_FaceinCrowd2

Overall Consensus:

In another role of quiet fortitude, Mr. Matthau wisely saves his best lines (And he has many quickly, dryly delivered lines in this film!) until the final reel. And the moment “Lonesome” Rhodes realizes that the curtain is quickly, finally raining down on his present career. Mr. Matthau delivers the soliloquy matter of factly. Yet devastatingly. Without well deserved malice. Just a prediction on how the media system works, Often fails. And quickly repairs and re-imagines itself for continued contented consumer consumption.

Under the masterful, sometimes creepy touch of Elia Kazan. In a far ahead of its time film that prophetically, scathingly screams to the rafters about the dangers of charisma, charm, celebrity and mass, instant exposure. A roughly sketched and filled in canvas portraying sweetly played out seduction and love between “Lonesome” and Marcia (Essential for it all to work). Egos, power, back room deals for more of the same. And the foretelling of insidious mass marketed “Info-Tainment” as news we all either enjoy. Or tolerate and endure today!

Giving Mr. Matthau a few years’ respite to hone his skills in television and lesser known films. Before signing on to what many (myself included) believe is the favorite, most personal film of Kirk Douglas.

#3: Lonely Are the Brave (1962)

With a screenplay by Dalton Trumbo. From the novel “The Brave Cowboy” by Edward Abbey. Directed by veteran, David Miller and set in the rough country and mountains outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mr. Matthau finds himself as Sheriff Morey Johnson. The over seer and protector of many, many miles of sun bleached desert, scrub and terrain better left avoided. And slowly drawn into the manhunt for John W. “Jack” Burns. One of the last great non conformists Cowboys (Who doesn’t even have a Drivers License!) rebelling against the onset of changing times. Flawlessly brought to life by Kirk Douglas.

Matthau_LonelyBrave1

It seems that Burns got himself arrested in a bar fight. So he could be put in the Duke City lock up to help his long time friend, Paul Bondi (Michael Kane) break out before being shipped to the penitentiary. The break out worked well enough. For Burns. With the aid of two hacksaw blades hidden inside his boots. After getting some payback for abuses delivered by Deputy Sheriff Guitierrez (George Kennedy) and discovering Bondi wants to just do his time. Burns slips through the weakened and pulled apart bars. Mounts his horse, “Whiskey” and starts riding towards the mountains and the Mexican border.

Sheriff Johnson is called to intervene. In a Jeep and with the help of his annoying, repetitive radio operator, Harry (William Schallert). A course is plotted. As far away, a semi tractor trailer full of toilets is driven by ‘Hinton” (Carroll O’Connor in full Archie Bunker mode) for an oblique date with destiny.

Burns uses every trick he knows to stay ahead of the law as he rides and walks Whiskey through soft soil, slick rocks and an ever increasing incline. To be glimpsed through binoculars by Sheriff Johnson. Who has Harry call the nearby Air Base (Kirkland, AFB) and ask to have a helicopter help out. Morey and Harry argument about everything and nothing as the glass bubble canopied Bell helicopter arrives on station, piloted by an uncredited, debuting Bill Bixby (‘My Favorite Martian’, ‘The Courtship of Eddie’s Father’). Who is too anxious by half. Flies too close and hovers too long dropping a rope ladder. And allows Burns to shoot at the helicopter’s tail rotor with his lever action Winchester rifle. Sending it screaming off to crash in the boonies.

Matthau_LonelyBrave2

The sun starts to meet the rugged horizon as Burns crests one range and walks Whiskey down towards the wide and imposing super highway. Knowing that freedom lay just a short distance beyond. He mounts Whiskey for the hesitant trip across. As Hinton and his semi full of toilets makes up for lost time and Morey and Harry and many unseen police units head towards the same location.

I’ll end it here. Lest I venture too far into Spoiler Territory.

Overall Consensus:

Mr. Matthau is given more free rein and lines to expound upon his character. A career law man, who kind of empathizes with his quarry, Burns. Half understanding what motivates him. And using that knowledge to help track and estimate Burns’ responses and actions. Slowly getting used to his hang dog, long jawed visage. And letting it become part of his persona.

Again, not a large, singular role. More a part of an ensemble. In a film that would a lot of future talent if not on the map. Then certainly under some serious scrutiny.

More than enough to be considered for a kind of out of line of sight referee for the many juggling balls and plot twists under Stanley Donen’s whimsical touch in a splashy, location filled Parisian romantic variant of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.

#4: Charade (1963)

An elegant, sophisticated and very cleverly written Cary Grant romance with Audrey Hepbuen filling in for Eva Marie Saint in and around The City of Lights. Where no one beside Ms. Hepburn’s recently widowed Reggie Lampert is who or what they proclaim to be. In a game of multiple easily forgettable names, low level treachery. And one goal in common. $250,000 in gold that had been bagged, tagged and slated to be delivered courtesy of the O.S.S.to the French Resistance in WWII. And never arrived!

Matthau_Charade1

The surviving members of the O.S.S. team (James Coburn, George Kennedy, Ned Glass) whose leader was the recently murdered Charles Lampert show up at the funeral and go through ways fair and foul to verify the death. And smart guys that they are, determine Reggie must know where the swag is stashed!

Add to this mix suave, smooth, debonair Cary Grant in full Irresistible mode and a delightful full court press is on! As Reggie flightily accompanies Cary to one new hotel and another. Names and characters change at the drop of a hat. More and more of Mr. Matthau’s master puppeteer, CIA station chief, Hamilton Bartholomew is more than a Federal Super Grade looking for ancient loose change to bring back to its rightful Treasury coffers. Suspense is heightened as threats overt and covert are made and Cary Grant gets to play the knight in shining armor between shard flirtations with Reggie. While distrust and impatience seems to boil up within the survivors of the O.S.S. Jedburgh team as its members start showing up dead. Suspects and clues are winnowed down as romance fills the air. The topic of stamps is broached. Rare stamps that may be hiding in plain sight. Purchased by Charles and the $250,000 before being shot and dumped from a train leaving Paris.

Matthau_Charade2

With the final piece of the puzzle in place (Or is it?). Reggie calls Bartholomew for a meeting on the Paris subway. I’ll leave it here, so as to not reveal and last minute spoilers.

Overall Consensus:

Director Donen may have out clevered and outdone himself in an attempt to tops Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. Coming very close with sublimely romantic locations. A light, often moody Henry Mancini soundtrack. And Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn at the tops of their games. In a story that may become a bit convoluted if not not paid attention to early on. A little too egg crated with a few too many names to keep track of. Though Mr. Mathau delivers quite well as the man in the shadows. Never really fully fleshed out until well into the tale. In a pivotal role that moves him as far away from his previous “Nice Guy” category as possible.

A trait master director, Sidney Lumet may have noticed when giving Mr. Matthau the chance to expand on break a bit. As Presidential Adviser Groeteschele. An eerie, close to emotionless mix of Henry Kissinger and Professor Edmund Teller, the Father of the Hydrogen Bomb. In the 1964 Nuclear Doomsday thriller.

#5: Fail Safe (1964)

Where Mr. Matthau’s Groeteschele holds court at Washington, DC cocktail parties that run into the morning. Tossing around “Throw Weights” and the destructive power of Soviet warheads that can destroy a major city in a millionth of a second. As easily as the young, monied socialites in attendance ask for their drinks to be freshened. A man who has the President’s ear and is completely attuned and comfortable with the inside the Beltway idea of “Power as an Aphrodisiac”.

Matthau_FailSafe1

While over at SAC (Strategic Air Command) Headquarters at Offutt AFB in Omaha Nebraska. A group of VIPs are visiting as a wing of B-58 supersonic bombers at put on alert. It seems that radar stations have picked up a UFO entering American airspace and the “Hustler” bombers are on their way to their “Fail Safe” points to orbit and waiting until the orders come to obliterate Moscow.

The UFO is revealed to be a non air breathing, reciprocating engine, propeller airliner strayed off course. The Recall Order is sent to the waiting bombers, but signal is scramble by either solar flares or something. And the bombers starts proceeding north towards Alaska. With every intent of turning west and doing what they’ve been trained to do.

The extended “Oops! Form” is sent to the Pentagon. The President (Henry Fonda) is called down to the Bunker. Three and four star generals start pondering the imponderable as fighters are dispatched to intercept. Communications are opened between the President and the errant wing commander. Even though SAC training and tenets demand radio silence once the bombers go beyond their “Fail Safe” points. Groeteschele shows up. Takes everything in. Starts discussing the numerical advantages of a First Strike and states the obvious. “Let the bombers to proceed their targets. And let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Which goes over as well as a lead balloon. Since US Nuclear Doctrine dictates that our weapons are only to be used defensively (Which is Iffy at best.) As a line of communication is established between the White House and the Kremlin. Where a young State Department translator named “Buck” (Larry Hagman) is on hand. While the intercepting US fighters are ordered to Afterburner. Only to fall from the sky and nowhere near missile range as their fuel expires.

Matthau_FailSafe2

The Soviet Chairman is wary at first as The President explains to the Kremlin’s translator. SAM batteries pick up the encroaching B-58s and MiGs are sent to intercept, but as always. Some bombers get through. And Moscow is the target.

I’ll leave it right here. So as to not unsettle one of the great Freeze Frame endings in film.

Overall Consensus:

Mr. Matthau excels in playing a cold blooded, inhumane SOB. So enthralled with his expertise, numbers and statistics that he does not see beyond his own massive ego. While Henry Fonda’s President is much more like Solomon when dealing the horrors and ramifications of Mutual Assured Destruction. In a much more dramatic and humane way that Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb only gives a humorous wink and a nod to. Courtesy of George C. Scott and his General “Buck” Turgidson.

Kudos to director Lumet in staying faithful to Eugene Burdick’s novel and staying in the realms of suspense and drama. Which his film seethes with. Even if the B-58 “Hustler” bomber was incredibly fast. It had short range and could not have hit its targets without at least one more mid air refueling. The fact is glossed over nicely by lighting, shadow and a taut sound score. High marks also to Mr. Matthau for his character’s ramrod straight posture. Slow gestures, measured speech patterns and inflection that heighten the tension. Holds the camera and gives Groeteschelle a less than human aura.


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews



Well, do add your thoughts on Mr. Matthau. And what’s your favorite film from his illustrious career?

Weekend Roundup: Oz The Great and Powerful review

It’s the last week of March already, but Spring is arriving VERY s-l-o-w-l-y here in Minnesota. By around the same time last year, we’re already in mid 60s, I think some people were wearing shorts on St. Patrick’s Day? This year, I’d be thrilled to see mid 40s by next weekend!

I did see a movie that made me feel quite Spring-y with the bright and colorful landscape filled with gorgeous colors and of course, a rainbow!

OzBanner

If you’re curious whether people who have not seen the original would enjoy this prequel, well I for one can tell you that YES, absolutely you could! In a way I feel that I actually have the advantage of knowing hardly anything of the story, apart from what the wicked witch look like and knowing some of the lyrics of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. You might be amused that the only time I heard this song being played in a movie is from John Woo’s action-packed Face/Off, ahah.

My friend asked me if I wanted to see a matinee showing and I went in with tepid expectations after reading the mediocre reviews. Well, I’m glad to report that I was NOT disappointed. Far from it, it really was a wonderful 2-hour escapist entertainment!

Oz_OpeningTitle

First of all, the opening title sequence is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s so beautiful and creative, definitely brings you right into the carnival world where Oscar works as a small time magician with dubious ethics. He soon gets into trouble, which leads him to a hot air balloon that transports him away from Kansas to the colorful Land of Oz. The movie turns from black and white to color and oh, what a feast for the eyes. I was truly mesmerized by the beauty of Oz. Sam Raimi truly turns the movie magic on with this one, I was practically ooh-aah-ing the gorgeous cinematography, special effects and spectacular landscape. Every creature is pretty amusing to look at, yes even the weird ones like the river fairies!

In this magical land is where Oscar meets the three witches: Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are all skeptical that he’s the great wizard everyone’s been waiting for. Oscar himself didn’t really want to continue deceiving them at first, that is until Evanora shows him all the gold he’d have if he becomes King. The inner struggle of choosing good over evil is something we’ve all identified with, and Oscar soon realized how high the stakes are for the people of Oz, though we’re never sure of his true motive until the very end.

Oz_Pics1

I’ve told you about the visuals, now acting-wise, I still think Johnny Depp would’ve been much better in the role of Oscar Diggs instead of James Franco, but he ends up being all right here. I know his character is supposed to be this egotistical smug, but Franco plays it far to literally that he comes across annoying instead of amusing. He has this weird, awkward grin that made me cringe, it just took me out of the movie as I wanted to smack him! I also don’t buy him as this irresistible man who could get all these stunning women to fall in love with him. Fortunately he redeemed himself as the film progresses, in fact I think he was quite good in the touching scene with the China Doll.  His fun companies on his journey on the yellow brick road certainly helps, I love Finley the flying monkey (voiced by Zach Braff) and China Girl (voiced by Joey King) who both owed their lives to Oscar.

The real stars of the film for me are the spectacular visuals and the three female actresses. It’s inspired casting to get Kunis and Weisz as sisters as they have similar features. Both look ravishing in their costumes, especially Weisz in the sparkly, feathered black frock. One particular scenes of them together is crucial to the story and I think both actresses acquit themselves well, though I can’t speak for fans of the original on this one. In contrast, Williams projects delicate beauty as the good witch Glinda. She practically looks like a cross between Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora and Cinderella in her silky white dress and crystal tiara. People might say it’s a boring role as she’s good through and through, but Williams is so effortlessly sympathetic and she did her best with what she was given.

Oz_ThreeWitches

I find the story to be quite absorbing and even hilarious at times. I could see how the L. Frank Baum’s cretion has become a pop-culture phenomenon, not only with the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, but also the smash hit Broadway play Wicked. One of the primary keys to a great tale is memorable characters, and this movie is full of them. The wicked witch and how she became that way is certainly the main draw, but the supporting characters are entertaining as well. Finley delivers a lot of laughs, the scene of him mooing had me in stitches. Though I’ve never been into dolls, China Girl is so adorable and cute I wish I could take her home for myself!! The citizens of Oz are full of quirky bunch as well, though I had the same reaction as Oscar when the munchkins started to burst into song, ahah. Ah well, this is a Disney movie after all.

Danny Elfman‘s beautiful score definitely helps transport you into another world. I really think Raimi and co did a great job here, and perhaps the fact that I couldn’t compare it to the original gives the film an advantage. But I wonder if having seen the original would make me like this less, I don’t know if that’d be the case.

Oz_EmeraldCity

Final Thoughts: If you want to lose yourself in a fantastical world for two hours on Sunday afternoon, you could do a lot worse. I was massively entertained and the few corny scenes (those romantic scenes between Franco & Kunis came to mind) did not derail the film for me. I didn’t see the 3D version and whilst I thought the visuals was still splendid in that format, I’d think the 3D version would’ve been worth it for this one.


4 out of 5 reels

Thoughts on this one? Anyone else love it as much as I did?

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: Danny Boyle’s TRANCE & Advanced Screening Giveaway

James McAvoy is a bit on an action roll these days. He’s starring in two British crime thrillers out in the same month in the UK. One is Welcome to the Punch, and the other is TRANCE, directed by Danny Boyle. This is Boyle’s first film since the Oscar-nominated 127 Hours in 2010. As you know, he was busy directing the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony last year.

If you live in the Twin Cities area, register below to get your advanced screening tickets!

TranceUKposter

An art auctioneer, who has become mixed up with a group of criminals, partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.


ADVANCE SCREENING TICKETS for Twin Cities Moviegoers!

Advance screening on:
Wednesday, April 10 – 7:30pm @ Landmark Lagoon Cinema

Download a pair of screening tickets on gofobo.com

Seats are first come, first served and the theater is overbooked to ensure a full house – so arrive early!


Boyle worked with Glasgow-born screenwriter John Hodge once again, their fifth collaboration after Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach (interestingly, three of them starred Ewan McGregor). This time, Boyle chose another talented Scot, with Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson as McAvoy’s co-star.

Check out the trailer:

Looks like a pretty bloody crime noir judging from the trailer! McAvoy is quoted by DigitalSpy.com about the torture scenes “[It did affect me] a little bit. The torture stuff got to me, actually. It never usually does… I’m usually fine with all that stuff, and love being covered in blood and having my face bashed in, but I felt quite bad about myself for a couple of days on this one.” He added: “It starts as an art heist like ‘Thomas Crown Affair,’ but it’s not really about that. It’s noir-ish at times. There’s an essential idea of crime, but it’s not really about money.”

Thompson on Hollywood also noted that this marks the first time Boyle’s put a woman at the center of one of his movies, which the director himself admitted that they tend to be “boyish.” The article says he likes the film noir femme fatale premise: “Wouldn’t it be scary if a woman behaved even worse than the men?”

Hmmm, I’m certainly intrigued, especially with the talents involved! I just hope it won’t be too violent as much of Boyle’s movies tend to be.

TRANCE opens in limited release in the US on April 5 (Minneapolis release date is April 12).


Well, what are your thoughts on this film? Will you be seeing it?

FlixChatter Review: Olympus Has Fallen

OHF_banner

I was wondering the other day if it’s possible to find a review of this movie that does not mention the words Die Hard. Seems that the comparison is inevitable and it seems that Olympus Has Fallen is begging for a comparison. In fact, perhaps it’s an homage to that action franchise, as it’s more akin to the spirit of the original Die hard movie than its official sequel (and if the latest one is any indication, much less banal)! Surely this movie will make you nostalgic about 90s bombastic action extravaganza (whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you).

If you’ve seen the trailer, or even a poster, then you’ll know the plot. The White House is being attacked by a group of North Korean terrorists and hold the president hostage. As is with a lot of 90s action flicks, there is only one person who could save the day and that man is Leonidas Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). The first ten minutes or so of exposition reveals a tragic event during his day as a Presidential guard. Again, if you’ve seen the trailer, you know exactly what happened, but in case you haven’t I’m not going to mention it here. In any case, Banning is now confined to a desk job and even as time passes he’s still consumed with regret that he let his boss and friend, that is President Asher, down. So naturally, he’s more than eager to redeem himself when the chance presented itself one sunny Summer day. The attack comes hard, fast and vicious. The first attack came from above, but instead of a space ship, practically the entire Washington DC is sprayed with bullets from an air carrier, and within 13 minutes (yes the terrorist leader was counting), the supposedly most secure building in the entire free world is reduced to rubble with dead bodies piling up on its grounds.

OHF_pics1

The words fresh and original aren’t likely to be associated with this film, but it certainly stays completely true to its title. Olympus indeed has fallen, and Antoine Fuqua doesn’t pull any punches with the brutality of how it goes down. It’s rated R for a reason, it’s violent and bloody. I lost count how many people getting shot in the head at close range, not to mention all the severe stabbings. Both the good and bad guys deliver all kinds of ways to send people to their Maker. Banning himself has no qualms in *taking care* of the enemies. He seems to subscribe to the same “No mercy! No surrender!” motto as his most famous role in 300, but with a bit more humor thrown in. Some of the one-liners did deliver some laughs, especially his defiant quips at the Pentagon folks, though Butler’s character not quite as charismatic as Bruce Willis’ John McClane as the script lacks some serious wit.

Unfortunately it’s lacking in common sense as well. I mean, granted the believability factor depends on whether you’d believe a group of extreme terrorists could deliver such a blow to the United States. The thing is, I don’t know how such a big aircraft could enter our airspace, passing through Andrew Air force Base, without being shot down?? The security forces are so quickly rendered powerless by the enemy, it’s as if they’ve never been trained to respond to emergency attack whatsoever. But the biggest plot blunder of all to me is how Banning is still able to get security clearance once he’s inside the President’s compound as he’s technically no longer part of the Service. Yet could still use his thumb print to gain access, has the right code to open a safe, etc. as if he’s never left!! I mean, they didn’t change authorization codes every time there’s a shift in the security personnel? WOW, some *security* huh?

OHF_pics2

Now, I can’t possibly write this review and not mention the cheesy special effects. I get that this is a throwback to 90s action blockbuster, but do they have to throw in 90s SFX as well?? It gets distracting at times, especially during the ambush scene in broad daylight. Fortunately things get better and grittier as the day progresses, and the action gets more up-close with more hand-to-hand combat between Butler and whoever is unlucky enough to get in his way. Butler is utterly believable as a bad ass special forces (is there any other kind in the movies?), he’s definitely credible in action flicks and as a one-man army. Yet he’s not wooden or vacant like many action stars, he still brings a touch of humanity to the role as the mission is a personal one for his character. There’s some emotional resonance in his scenes with Aaron Eckhart as the beleaguered POTUS, and also with his young son.

The supporting cast are stellar but not really given much to do. We’ve seen Eckhart and Morgan Freeman in far better roles, but their presence are more than welcome and add gravitas to the project. Melissa Leo got more screen time than I thought, though it’s curious what made the Oscar winner sign on to do THIS particular role. I’m disappointed that Angela Bassett — who still look beautiful and athletic — didn’t get to do any butt-kicking in this movie! I was sure she would get to do some of that when she was cast as the head of Secret Service. Rick Yune pretty much rehashed his role as Bond villain in Die Another Day as the villainous mastermind Kang who’s hellbent to get his hands on US nuclear missiles. I guess he’s serviceable but nothing more, a far cry from the iconic performance of say, Hans Gruber, as Kang is neither menacing nor entertaining. I’d say the characters of Dylan McDermott and Radha Mitchell could’ve been left in the cutting room floor and they won’t make a dent.

OHF_pics3

Well, this movie doesn’t exactly put Butler back in my good graces just yet. He still needs to be much more selective in his role choices and most importantly, seek out decent scripts! A lot of his projects have potential but suffer from poor writing. I do think he’d be better off doing more action thrillers than rom-coms, though I do wish he balance things out with dramatic roles, too.

The spirit of patriotism is so high in this movie, there’s absolutely no room for subtlety. But seems like in the screening I was in, the audience ate it up, I could tell people were rooting for Butler as the lone hero. A torn down American flag being thrown by the bad guys from rooftops falls in slow-motion as a patriotic score comes on, there are plenty of moments like this and I can’t help but feel a bit emotional despite its inherent corny-ness. Btw, Lincoln also makes an appearance here, and you’d cheer when he [sort of] shows up on screen.

Final Thoughts: Despite all the flaws, I still think this one is not a bad movie. In fact, it’s actually quite entertaining and action fans should be pleased to see the relentless combat scenes and countless shootouts. Apart from the rather sluggish start, there’s not a boring moment as the action never stops. There’s also a decent level of suspense overall, and I definitely feel a pang in my gut seeing our leaders being violated in such a way. The subject matter of terrorism is sadly still relevant to this day, and at times it really hit close to home. Fuqua said in an interview that he sought to show America’s post-9/11 vulnerability and he certainly achieved that.


3 out of 5 reels


Those who’ve seen this one, what did you think? And for those who haven’t, are you going to check this one out?

Happy Birthday Timothy Dalton & Gary Oldman – 5 Fave Roles of two of my favorite British thespians

It’s a double birthday special folks!

It’s been ages since I’ve done a birthday post. The last one I did was nearly a year ago was for Gabriel Byrne! Well, today happens to be the birthday of TWO of my favorite British thespians, Timothy Dalton and Gary Oldman! Born on March 21, fourteen years apart. Both are extremely talented, known for playing diverse roles convincingly, yet neither one has won an Oscar (what a travesty!). At least Oldman was nominated once for his role in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Interestingly enough, both of them have played a British spy, though James Bond and George Smiley are on two opposite spectrum in terms of realism, though Dalton did strive to make Bond as grounded as possible.

So for this post, I’d like to celebrate their birthdays by posting five favorite roles from each actor. I’m throwing in TV miniseries as well for good measure.


DaltonBanner
Dalton67NAME: Timothy Peter Dalton
BIRTH DATE: March 21, 1946 (Age: 67)
HEIGHT: 6’2″
EDUCATION: Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London
PLACE OF BIRTH:
Colwyn Bay, Wales, United Kingdom

Personal Quote [on playing Bond]:

“You can’t relate to a superhero, to a superman, but you can identify with a real man who in times of crisis draws forth some extraordinary quality from within himself and triumphs but only after a struggle. Real courage is knowing what faces you and knowing how to face it.”


FIVE FAVORITE ROLES:

James Bond, The Living Daylights & Licence To Kill

Yes this one is entirely predictable, but can you blame me? I’ll always be a card-carrying member of the Dalton-Best-Bond brigade and make no apologies for it. I admire his dedication to the role, his determination to keep Ian Fleming’s vision in his portrayal, and ultimately, his top notch portrayal. I think the fact that he’s so grossly underrated makes me like him more. I think his fans care more about this than he does, he always comes across like he couldn’t care less what people thinks, naturally his Bond is the same way. I love his defiant remark after deliberately disobeying his boss’ order in The Living Daylights:

“Stuff my orders! I only kill professionals. That girl didn’t know one end of a rifle from the other. Go ahead. Tell M what you want. If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.”

Dalton_BondPics

Nevile Sinclair, The Rocketeer

If one looks up ‘charming villain,’ Mr. Sinclair’s face ought to pop up. He’s the quintessential seductive bad boy with delusions of grandeur. He’s channeling classic swashbuckling movie star Errol Flynn here and his performance is just so spot on. Effortlessly stealing the spotlight for the supposed lead actor Billy Campbell, really with a villain like Sinclair, who needed a hero?

Dalton_RocketeerPics

Mr. Rochester, Jane Eyre

The fact that Dalton could convincingly play someone who couldn’t be more different from each other is a testament of his incredible versatility. This is another role where a bunch of thespians have brought into life, but Dalton’s version remains my favorite. He showed such vulnerability as the ultimate Byronic hero with mercurial moods. I love that the 1983 Jane Eyre version stayed true to Charlotte Brontë’s novel, as Dalton delivered the lines so perfectly and with so much emotion. The proposal scene remains one of my favorite scenes of all time, in fact, I rewatched parts of it over the weekend and fell in love with his Rochester all over again. I’ve done a tribute of his performance in this post, so I invite you to check out some of the clips from that miniseries.

Dalton_RochesterPics

Eddie Myers – Framed

TVminiFRAMEDdvdcoverThis 1992 British TV miniseries is so massively underrated you’d be lucky if you could even find the proper dvd to watch it! The only one available in the US is the Americanized version which is edited down to about half of the 4-hour version. I couldn’t even find any photos of him in that role, only this from the dvd cover but with him sporting that wet shirt, I’d think that’d suffice, don’t you? 😉

Dalton played a con-man turned informant in this crime thriller.Though production quality is far from stellar, I love the manipulation game between his character Eddie Myers and a young, ambitious police officer played by David Morrissey. You’ll be amused to see a very young Penelope Cruz in a small role as Dalton’s lover. There’s an exhilarating heist scene towards the end of the series that shows Dalton’s Bond-esque action prowess.

Someone made this clip on Youtube that’ll give you an idea what the show looks like:

Simon Skinner, Hot Fuzz

Dalton seems to enjoy playing bad boys. He relished at the opportunity to play a slimy supermarket owner, playing up the creep factor to the fullest, complete with thin, black mustache! Who says Dalton can’t be funny, his comic timing here is excellent! His super villain Simon Skinner paired with Simon Pegg as super cop Nicholas Angel adds up to massive hilarity, everything in this movie is intentionally over-the-top, but it works! He seemed to have a lot of fun with the role here, and he lights up the screen every time he came on screen.

Dalton_Simon_HotFuzz

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Prince Barin – Flash Gordon

He kind of looks like Errol Flyn here again didn’t he? I’m surprised he hasn’t actually played Robin Hood in his career! I used to have such a huge crush on him as a kid, and I had no idea who his name was and that he was going to be Bond, I was like ‘who’s that dark haired prince??’ It’s another case where I couldn’t care less for the hero, I thought Flash Gordon looked like a blond Ashton Kutcher!

Dalton_PrinceBarin


OldmanBanner
Oldman55NAME: Leonard Gary Oldman
BIRTH DATE: March 21, 1958 (Age: 55)
HEIGHT: 5’10”
EDUCATION: Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, London
PLACE OF BIRTH: London, United Kingdom

Personal Quote [on playing George Smiley]:

“George is a man of few words. He doesn’t need the karate and the fast car and the gun. That’s what makes George dangerous, is the fact that he does blend in and he disappears. He’s the one to watch. He’s the leopard camouflaged by the jungle, ready to pounce, so its nice to play someone like that. He operates from a very unseemly passive position.”

FIVE FAVORITE ROLES:

Norman Stansfield, The Professionals

As the pill-popping corrupt DEA agent, Oldman was psychotic perfection. He’s the quintessential dirty cop, practically an evil incarnate in the way he tormented Leon and Mathilda. Yet he’s still mesmerizing to watch as the character’s so driven by his madness. It’s the kind of performance that made your skin crawl, but one you won’t soon forget.

Oldman_TheProfessionals

James Gordon, Nolan’s Batman Trilogy

It’s interesting that Christopher Nolan turned to an actor with a knack for playing bad guys for the role of a wholly decent cop, the only one left in the entire Gotham. It’s brilliant casting as another actor might make the character a boring decent cop, but not so with Oldman, Gordon is an intriguing character as the sole policeman the hero could trust, with his own share of dilemma as he’s torn between his loyalty to the force and his sincere desire to serve the city and its people. It helps that he’s got a great rapport with Christian Bale, too. Gordon made the role his own as he got to do more with the role than in previous films, complete with fun one liners. “I have to get me one of those,” he quipped as Batman rode away in his awesome Tumbler!

Oldman_JimGordon

George Smiley, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Finally Oldman’s got an Oscar nomination! He could’ve easily nabbed at least several nods for his earlier roles. It’s another transformative role like he did as Ludwig Von Beethoven in Immortal Beloved, where he’s practically unrecognizable playing a much older character. It’s what I’d call the anti-Norman Stansfield as there’s nothing over the top about his understated performance as the cool, composed and astute British spy. He’s NOT a super spy mind you, just a very good one and his grounded performance worked as he anchored the whole film. Even amongst a stellar British cast, Oldman still stands out far and above the rest.

Oldman_Smiley

Count Dracula, Bram Stoker’s Dracula

When Fogs asked about favorite movie monster this past week, I immediately thought of Oldman’s role in as as Count Dracula. He’s a monster to be sure, but yet he’s quite romantic with an elegant swagger, plus he’s got such scorching chemistry with Winona Ryder. He’s seductive yet utterly terrifying prince of darkness that it could easily be one of the best Dracula ever. He looks good in period garb as well, ok so maybe the princess Leia hairdo is a bit tough for anyone to pull off, but I like his long, dark, wavy locks under that top hat.

Oldman_Dracula

Sirius Black, Harry Potter series

I was torn between putting Beethoven or Sirius here as I love both performances. I do love the father/son relationship between Sirius and Harry and also because there’s a dualism in him. We don’t know whether he’s a good or bad guy, perhaps both, and an antihero is always an interesting character. He’s sporting that long, dark, wavy locks again that suits him so well. Of course what he did to save Harry in the Deathly Hallows made me like him more. It’s no surprise he’s one of my top 10 favorite Harry Potter characters.

Oldman_Sirius

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Beethoven, Immortal Beloved

This seemed a tailor-made role for Oldman, playing a mad musical genius. It’s a travesty that Oldman wasn’t nominated here as he not only transformed himself physically for the role, he also captured the composer’s inner turmoil, passion and madness. The scenes of him going deaf is heart-wrenching, it’s as if we could feel his world turning silent.

Oldman_Beethoven


Check out my previous individual tribute post for each:

Timothy Dalton Birthday Tribute  |  Chat-worthy Thespian – Gary Oldman


Well, it’s your turn to wish them a happy birthday! Now, what’s YOUR favorite role from each actor?

Question of the Week: What’s your favorite White House movie scene?

OlympusHasFallenPosterI’m set for an advanced screening of the white house actioner Olympus Has Fallen tomorrow. Surely you’ve seen the pretty aggressive promos of that one all over the place. Interestingly enough, the marketing for the movie has been putting the White House itself as the main STAR of the film. I mean there are some posters that feature the actors, but the white house is always featured prominently on there, as if we’d forget what that iconic POTUS house actually looks like! Now, that’s perhaps saying something about the lead actor of the movie, don’t you think?

Anyway, early reviews I’ve read so far have been surprisingly decent. Of course we shall see come Thursday what the actual RT score would be, but right now it’s sitting at 67%. WOW! Though this movie was on my radar, I didn’t even put this one on my most-anticipated list, as you know how I feel about Gerry Butler these days. It’s amusing that many reviewers are saying that it’s the best Die Hard movie of the year, ahah, take that Bruce Willis! I’m not expecting much, but I can’t imagine this one would be worse than A Good Day to Die Hard, besides I think Antoine Fuqua is a pretty decent director.

Anyway, it made me think of memorable movie scenes set in the White House (regardless of whether it’s actually shot on location or on a made-up set). Then I’ll turn it over to you folks to give me YOUR pick of memorable White House scene. It doesn’t have to be action-related, in fact the idea here is to give and take movie recommendations to fellow cinephiles.

So here are three that came to mind right away:

Pardon the quality of the video, but this is an awesome intro scene in X-Men 2, my favorite of the whole X-Men saga.

Terrence Stamp and one of his most iconic Superman lines, “Kneel Before Zod!” I’m curious how Michael Shannon would fare in that role in Man of Steel!

Of course who could forget this one. I’d say it’s perhaps the most iconic scene involving the White House to date, and ID4 is what Roland Emmerich will always be remembered for.

Now, not all of memorable scenes are about an attack of the White House of course. In fact, I always remember this scene from Clear and Present Danger where Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) confronted the President. Too bad the clip cuts out the part when Jack defiantly said, “I’m sorry Mr. President. I don’t dance!”

,,,


Now your turn folks. Give us your favorite movie(s) and/or movie scenes set in the White House.

Weekend Roundup: The Intouchables Review

Happy Tuesday! Hope y’all had a great St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Did you see any Irish film? I was thinking of watching Leap Year which takes place in Ireland after seeing Matthew Goode in Stoker, but maybe next time. Well, it ends up being a foreign-cinema weekend for me with two excellent films from France and China, The Intouchables and John Woo’s epic military drama Red Cliff,  on top of more Downton Abbey episodes 🙂

Well, here’s my review of one of one of the films, I shall have Red Cliff review as a rental pick post.

The Intouchables (2011)

Intouchables_posterI’ve always loved stories of unlikely friendship. Phillipe is a French aristocrat who becomes a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident. Driss is a troubled French-African young man in need of a job. Their lives could not be more dissimilar, yet somehow, they connected in ways neither one of them could’ve predicted.

The movie begins with an exhilarating car chase with Driss on the wheel of a Maserati Quattroporte, with Phillipe in the passenger seat. In no time the police are behind them, but what happens next set up just how they end up in that situation in the first place.

The moment Driss is hired by Phillipe himself to be his caretaker, the film just grabs me. I love how brutally honest this film is in depicting Phillipe’s handicap, as Driss pulls no punches in his reaction to Phillipe’s condition. It’s not mean-spirited mind you, even if some of the stuff he does to Phillipe definitely raises an eyebrow. Some of the blatantly irreverent scenes are amusing and touching because it’s not done in a gimmickry manner, instead it dares us to look at physical handicap in a different way. Phillipe likes Driss because he doesn’t pity him or look at him as if he’s a lesser human being because he has no movement from his neck-down. In a way, the film asks us not to pity Phillipe either.

I read that some people/reviewers complain about racism in this film and I agree with my friend Keith’s review that the idea is absurd. Yes of course there are racial issues depicted here, but so are social issues and the stark contrast between the posh Paris society and the poverty-stricken suburbs. I’d think anyone who is not an aristocrat would identify with Idris, such as his reaction seeing an Opera for the first time.

IntouchablesPics

Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano wrote and directed the film, which is based on a true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, the white, quadriplegic millionaire, and Abdel Sellou, the young ex-con born of African immigrant parents. Based on this Huffington post article, the filmmakers changed Abdel’s Arabic origin to a Senegal-born African because Omar is black, but they essentially share a similar background as French immigrants. I could see that this film is a personal project for the filmmakers and they handled it with care. Both François Cluzet and Omar Sy—as Phillipe and Driss respectively—are wonderful and they have such effortless chemistry. Driss is often impudent, even downright rude, but he has a good heart and he genuinely cares for Philippe. Sy is just so charming you can’t help but being drawn to him. Cluzet reminds me a bit of Dustin Hoffman with his mannerism at times. Portraying a disabled person is inherently tricky, but his careful portrayal is heartfelt and pleasant, without overplaying it.

There are plenty of honest dialog between the two leads that contribute to such a strong character-development. Their journey to self-healing is wonderful to watch. Though their circumstances perhaps don’t change much in the end, their friendship certainly is life-changing.

IntouchablesParagliding

I love films that celebrates the human spirit and explores the relationship between people of contrasting backgrounds. The Intouchables treads ethnic and socio-economic tensions that may be a hot button issue for some. For me, what makes the film works is the sincere and incredibly moving depiction of human relationship. It helps to have two characters who are so easy to root for. We are emotionally-invested in both men, as well as the people around them.

I’m surprised this film was not nominated for Best Foreign Language at this year’s Oscar. It’s certainly worthy to be included. The script is nary of over-sentimental melodrama that films with this subject matter could easily fall prey to. Instead, it’s full of humorous and heartfelt scenes that makes you laugh and cry throughout. The cinematography is gorgeous too, that paragliding scene just took my breath away. It’s definitely a charming film I don’t mind watching again. Highly recommended.


4.5 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on this movie? What did you see this weekend, anything good?