Another entertainment news story I found interesting, other than the Kevin Clash, underage sex story, which not only doesn't seem to go away, it keeps getting worse, (There's a third kid now.) but the news that Disney Channel or ABC Family, one of them, I don't remember which, (They're both the same anyway) have chosen to make a sequel TV series to "Boy Meets World". Yes, that's the sound of all four people, who are incredibly excited, at the possibility of Cory and Topanga, and yes, Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel has signed on, being back on TV, however this time, they're the parents, or a nine-year old girl, who is now, meeting the world first-hand. Now, I'll make the confession here that I did indeed have that giant crush on Topanga for much of my puberty, but this is a questionable and strange idea, if I've ever heard one. However, if we're bringing back our kids' sitcoms from childhood, to see what the characters are up to now, I think I can speak for most everyone that, I'd like to see what "Clarissa Explains It All", is doing now, and if she can explain Melissa Joan Hart's career choices since that show, it'd be a load off my mind. Oh, and nobody, and I nobody, do a new "Family Matters"! I don't want to know at all, what Urkel is up to now.
Alright, enough memo work. I've got a lot of reviews this week, starting with a SPECIAL REVIEW of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," so let's get to the reviews!
LINCOLN (2012) Director: Steven Spielberg
There's a lot of things I envy about Steven Spielberg, but his ambition is not one of them. The daunting task of even attempting a film, any film on "Lincoln".... Spielberg has always been a far more ambitious filmmaker than most would like to admit, whether it's shooting a horror film, out on the water, or trying to portray the Holocaust as accurately as possible, (or WWII in general) everything Spielberg does is big and grand, and suddenly, with arguably his most daunting project yet, he makes a movie that's rather small and low-key most of the time. Spielberg is right to do so. There's no point in matching the grandeur of "Lincoln", the best you can do, is find the best actor you can to play him, and find just a piece of his story to focus on. He found the best actor for Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis), and he found his small story. The movie credits even note that it's only based on part, of Doris Kearns-Goodwin's "Team of Rivals". I tried reading that book, I can understand choosing to focus on only a part of it; I could only finish a bit of it. (Accordingly, he apparently only shot about 1/5, of Tony Kushner's 500+ page screenplay.) The time period he focuses on, is January 1965, they're winning the war against the Confederacy, and are about to take out Wilmington Port, which would cripple the South. It's a lame duck Congress in, right after Lincoln won reelection, and Lincoln takes this time, to rush through ratifying the 13th Amendment, despite too many Democrats and conservative Republicans in the House. His Secretary of Defense William Seward (David Straitharn), works on finding trying to convince some of the more unwilling members, by bringing in some lobbyists from the north, W.N. Bilbo (James Spader), meanwhile, unbeknownst to Steward, Lincoln, made arrangements for secret peace talks with the Confederacy through Preston Blair (Hal Holbrook), at the same time, although Lincoln wisely starts putting off the meetings and delaying their arrival in creative ways that involve everything from arriving to the wrong place, and sending in Grant (Jared Harris) to instruct them to rewrite their terms of agreement. In the house, they have to convince longtime Abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) to begin running back his boisterous rhetoric, as he gets in some amazing debates on the House floor, the kind that would make C-Span, the highest rated cable channel if they actually fought like that now. The most interesting part of the film is seeing Lincoln, the politician, making backroom deals, and strategizing, even at one point, getting into that little meeting with Bilbo and Seward, and really start maneuvering. He even promises a Congressman that his close reelection bid, which was in recount, that should've led to his defeat, would swing to his victory, if he came onboard, by convincing his Governor to let the House decide the results of the election. We do get to see a full side of Lincoln. There's one great argument he has with Mary Todd (Sally Field) that would've fit right in with any modern domestic melodrama. The movie is a smorgasbord of the best actors alive, even in the smallest of roles it seems. There's a very brief cameo by S. Epatha Merkerson, that couldn't have lasted more than two minutes of screen time that I couldn't imagine anybody else playing. I also can't think of any actor who could've tackled Lincoln better than Daniel Day-Lewis, who's sure to get an Oscar nomination, as should Tommy Lee Jones. There's small but pivotal roles for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Hawkes, Bruce McGill, the names keep going on an on. Lincoln has some flaws. The movie ends with his death, which is, in some ways, inevitable, but it wasn't done great, nor was it necessary. There's a perfectly fine ending to the film with Lincoln walking down the hallway, into the history books. I wonder if Spielberg thought he was obligated to end the film with his death? Even still, it's hard to deny the film up until then. It's intimate and small, with only occasional sidetrips into the wreckage of the Civil War. If there's another small criticism, it's that the movie has a few too many awkward exchanges of exposition dialogue. Normally a drawback on a film, but, if there's one thing I learned about exposition dialogue, it's that you make sure they're delivered by the best actors alive.
BERNIE (2012) Director: Richard Linklater
3 1/2 STARS
Jack Black has a bit of an outside shot at getting an Oscar nomination for his work in "Bernie"; he got a Spirit Award nomination earlier today actually. I'm actually a little more torn on Richard Linklater's latest film however. This black comedy, which is based on an true story, surprised me with the way the movie was told, using a mockumentary approache similar to some of Woody Allen's work in "Take the Money and Run," and "Zelig", where the majority of the film is told through interviews of the townspeople as they discuss Bernie (Black), the local mortician's assistant, who moved to Carthage, Texas years ago from Louisiana, and absolutely delighted and charmed the town. He was an amazing mortician, who would do everything from dress the body to sing Loretta Lynn at the funeral to comforting the relatives. There's a funny scene explaining where Carthage, Texas is, and how Texas has about five different states inside it. (6 if you count the panhandles, which apparently doesn't) Nobody could be more helpful or thoughtful or helpful to people than Bernie. Everybody likes him, even Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), the town's local cranky rich old woman who everybody hates. Her kids never come to visit her. Her grandkids have sued her in the past to try to get ahlod of her money. Nobody particularly likes her, and for good reason, she's a mean old bitch, but Bernie tries smothering her with niceness. Soon, they're seen hanging out together a lot, even vacationing together often. Some in the town wondered whether or not he was romantically involved with her. Others swear that Bernie was gay. He does become very helpful running the high school theatre department, acting, directing and even writing some of the plays. He's extremely cultured for someone in the area, but he's also very nice. Soon, she starts working part-time from Mrs. Nugent, helping to run her life, where she begins to get quietly on Bernie's nerve. He's more than willing to help her out, on everything from talking to her pesky stockbroker Lloyd (Richard Robichaux), to accompanying her to trips to New York. Soon, she writes in her will that she bequeths her money to Bernie. He already has a habit of spending it, but even when he spends it, he usually gives much of it away. He even buys houses for people. He is a compulsive shopper who buys everything in stock of something he likes, and then gives them away. Suddenly, Bernie kills Mrs. Nugent, and the camera-hungry town D.A., Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey), who's naturally suspicious of everyone and extremely tough on crime, is determined to convict, but frankly, nobody like Mrs. Nugent, and everybody in the town liked Bernie, and maybe their okay with him shooting her in the back and stuffing her in a freezer. Apparently, the case marked the first recorded incident in which the D.A. asked for a Change of Venue, because he didn't think he could try him fairly. "Bernie" is a good film, but I'm not entirely that the mockumentary format worked here. I think the movie tended to work best, when it just showed regular scenes of day-to-day life, like when Bernie first comes to town and comments on the mortuary's new green pews, or the musical numbers he directs, or even the subtle moments with Mrs. Nugent, and how he wins them over. I think it would've been funnier to actually see Bernie doing these things, then to hear others talk about him doing them. I still like the movie, and I'll say this, this might be the first time where we get to see, all of Jack Black's acting range in one movie. That is something I appreciated, 'cause I think we all like Jack Black, and he's great in a lot of movies, but we really haven't seen him in a really tricky part before, where he really had to completely create a character. You know, now that I think about it, you know what I'm really I'm complaining about with the film's structure is that, I didn't see enough of Jack Black's performance. I wanted a lot more of Bernie than "Bernie" gave me. I can't fault the film too much for that, but at least they gave me some, so I'm recommending it.
THE DICTATOR (2012) Director: Larry Charles
The genius of Sacha Baron Cohen's earlier films, "Borat..." and "Bruno," were that they weren't far more pointed in their satire, which has immensley helped by the documentary-style shooting that combined improv with more tightly scripted scenes. That's not to say that "The Dictator," isn't funny, I think it is actually, but it rather scales down a lot of it's satire. Who exactly are they making light of in this movie? Other outrageous dictators maybe? Our behaviors towards them? Dictatorships vs. Democracies, specifically the American democracy? That's what I thought about after watching "The Dictator," although, most of the time, I was laughing, even at times when I know I really shouldn't be. General Admiral Aladeen (Cohen) is the ruthless dictator of Wadiya. Raised by the previous dictator, after his mother died at childbirth, when she was smothered to death. He spends his days paying for sex with the most famous of women, and building nuclear weapons, and basking in the greatness of being a dictator, and occasionally sending a few pesky people to their death, including a lookalike who was a victim of a failed assassination attempt. His older brother, and Premiere of Wadiya, Tamir (Ben Kingsley, a nominee for the what-the-hell's-he-doing-in-this-film Award) is the one preparing the assassination, and all seems to go as planned, as he recruits Aladeen's newest lookalike, Efwadh, (Cohen, again) to pretend to be the General as declare the signing of the new Wadiya Constitution in a few days, after they get hire a torturer, Clayton (an uncredited John C. Reilly), who manages to shave off his beard and steal his clothes, but fails in killing him. Aladeen is now unrecognizable on the streets of New York, with no money and power. He manages to reluctantly find some work at an uberfeminist vegan store run by Zoey (Anna Faris). He finally wanders into Little Wadiya, where he finds his Nuclear Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas) at a Wadiyan restaurant filled with everybody who he sentenced to death. Apparently, none of them were ever killed, and were just, sent to America. Nadal, was sent away after an argument over whether a missile should have a round tip or a pointy tip. Anyway, he promises to try to help Aladeen out, in exchange for getting his job back. He finds an opening as the vegan place is doing the catering for the hotel where the Wadiya delegation is staying, as Premiere Tamir begins working on a new Constitution to help sell their rich oil reserves to China. I don't think "The Dictator" is as biting as his other films, nor is the comedy as long-lasting, however, there's a lot of good humor. There's one funny speech about all the things that a dictatorship offers, which is really good satire, although it lasts too long. The movie's helped by having a lot of different kinds of comedy, the physical comedy was quite funny, including a couple jokes about Anna Faris's boyish appearance. (She's almost unrecognizable in this role actually) It's definitely worth recommending, but I kinda missed the unpredictability of the other two films Cohen and his director Larry Charles did. This movie is almost classical, a combination of the Marx Brothers' "Duck Soup," and Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator". It's not as great compared to those films either, but you know, you have make some really funny movies for me to be disappointed at one that only, not-as-funny as the others.
TAKE THIS WALTZ (2012) Director: Sarah Polley
3 1/2 STARS
It seems a little strange to me that Sarah Polley's second directorial effort, "Take This Waltz," would somehow not get a proper American theatrical release. Not only does the movie star such great and big actors as Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, and Sarah Silverman, but Polley, who is herself an underrated but more-than-well-established actress and name in her own right, had gotten an Oscar nomination for writing her previous film, the wonderful "Away From Her". I wonder if the worry was that, "Take This Waltz," doesn't exactly have a storyline that can easily be promoted or advertised. The movie begins with Margot (Williams) at one of those Colonial Williamsburg-type places, called Louisbourg, which is in Nova Scotia. (Polley is Canadian, and this film, mostly takes place in Toronti). She's there to write the planners for the place, which she does, after participates, unexpectedly in a flogging of one of the townsfolk. On the plain, she runs into a man she saw at Louisbourg, Daniel (Luke Kirby). On the plane, she asked for a wheelchair, because she has major panic attacks about traveling. It's clear that there's an instant connection between them, and that both of them, seem to think that they know the other from somewhere else before. They both learn later, that they live right across the street from each other. At her house, Margot's husband, Lou (Rogen) is busy cooking chicken every night for a cookbook he's working on. There's nothing wrong with Lou. He's sweet and charming, and Margot really is in love with him. However, she's quickly falling for Daniel. She doesn't want to cheat, but she starts meeting Daniel for numerous non-dates, where they discuss their obvious attraction. In a coffeeshop, she recommends one scenario where they'll meet thirty years from now, back in Louisbourg, where despite being unequivacably faithful, she'll kiss him, thinking that, after thirty years of faithfulness, she will indulge in one kiss. Soon, she finds herself snapping unexpectedly at her husband, and unamused by his jokes and his constant cooking of chicken. "Do you know how much courage it takes for me to seduce you?" she tells her husband, after a failed attempt. He's almost puzzled by her question, as he should be. During an anniversary dinner, Daniel, who Lou only sees as the neighbor at this point, gives a ricksaw ride, which he does to earn money when not working on his art, to the restaurant for an exquisite dinner. At the dinner, Margot wonders why they haven't talked for minutes. Lou thinks it's natural. They're married, they know each everything about the other, and they know what's happening in their lives. At least he thinks he does. Rogen has a wonderfully sad speech later in the film, involving a prank he pulls on Margot every morning, where she throws cold water on her while she's in the shower, that subtlely reveals just how much he loves her, and thinks about her. Yet, it's not enough for Margot to be admired and loved. She needs a passion that Lou seems to give her. There's an old saying that a woman marries a man, thinking she can change him, while a man marries a woman, thinking that she won't. Well, neither Margot or Lou married each other, thinking the other wouldn't change, they married each other hoping to evolve, but it still didn't work, at least not for Margot. Michelle Williams, I am convinced, is the best actress of my generation, and her willingness to take such challenging roles, only convinces me I'm right. This film is almost all inner conflict, and nobody is able to play a part like this, better or more convincing than Williams. Also, you'll notice, I've avoided mentioning a supporting role that Sarah Silverman plays, as Lou's sister Geraldine yet, and I want to focus on it a bit. She's a recovering alcoholic who for most of the movie, is sober. She's married, with a kid, but her character, comes in and out of the film, periodically. There's a party thrown for her to celebrate a year of sobriety even. Now, I don't want to give anything away, but there's a scene, late in the movie, where she falls off the wagon, and she's clearly drunk. Now Silverman, is one of the funniest women alive, a unique and revolutionary stand-up comic, and she's known for being outrageous, but a lot of people don't realize, she's a trained actress, first, by the way, she's also a comic, and she plays this character, in a very particular way, especially at the end, when she's drunk, that's really amazing. This is a different drunk character than we've seen in most other films, and it's a really tricky acting job and she is very good in these scenes. I think people who don't realize how good an actress she is, are really gonna be surprised by this performance of hers. Now her character is really there to be a parallel Margot's as she struggles with fidelity and she struggles with sobriety. It's subtle, but both performance really play off each other well. "Take This Waltz," is a true actors film. The story is simple, the plot's almost non-existant, the conflict isn't even a grand conflict, Margot's stuck between two fairly good guys, but really strong performances, elevate all the material, to make a really wonderful little film. This is one of those movies, where you can tell, there's an actor behind the camera, as well as actors in front.
THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLE (2012) Director: Rob Reiner
If you were ever wondering, just how far Rob Reiner has fallen as a filmmaker, well, let's start with the fact that I wasn't even aware he had made a new movie, nor had I heard of "The Magic of Belle Isle," until it entered my Netflix. I went to check Roger Ebert's website to see if he had written on the film, which is something I sometimes do anyway, but this time, instead of finding a movie review, I found he had posted, apparently a review by Chicago-are DVD reviewer, and occasional Huffington Post contributor Donald Liebenson. I don't normally do this, but I'm re-post everything Liebenson wrote on the film in the paragraph below.
Rob Reiner's "The Magic of Belle Isle", is an Easy Button of a film, as generic and conventional as its title. If you ever wondered what a Hallmark Channel original movie would be like if you threw some A-list talent at it -- namely Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen instead of, say Jeffrey Nording and Kristy Swanson -- here's your answer."
After seeing "The Magic of Belle Isle," that Mr. Liebenson, has seen the movie. There's nothing in this movie that's remotely offensive, and everything in the movie is relatively mundane. Saturated beyond reality, and existing in a world that's too perfect to be credible. Exactly how old does a daughter has to be, before she stops getting annoyed at her father's inability to come to her birthday party? Depends, I guess, on the amount of kids who's parents are divorced, over the age of, let's generously say 10, who've apparently never seen another movie before. On Belle Isle, which, I don't know where that is, but on this little island, an alcoholic old westerns writer, Monte Wildhorn (Freeman) is dogsitting for some friends of his son, Henry (Kenan Thompson), for the summer, who's hoping that he'll start writing again, instead of drinking himself to death in his wheelchair. Monte, has only one good hand, and since his wife passed away, he's had little interest in writing. Next door to him, is a beautiful single mother, Charlotte (Virginia Madsen) and her three daughters Finnegan (Emma Fuhrmann), Willow (Madeline Carroll) and Flora (Nicolette Pierini), who all start to get acquainted with the odd new neighbor. They help him with the dog, and then run into at a gathering for a funeral after one of the other residents died playing basketball. He's constantly asked about his books, by everyone, including his agent, Joe Viola, (Kevin Pollak, and I'm almost certain there's an actual agent named Joe Viola btw. How can there not be?) who's trying to convince Monte to sell the movie rights of his books, and there main character. He begins by helping out the daughters. He tries teaching one to tell her own stories for instance. "The Magic of Belle Isle," and this was an interesting fact to me I might add, marks the first time in a 50-year plus+ career where Morgan Freeman has a romantic relationship. Virginia Madsen apparently bragged about that, and now that she said that, it is something that's rather remarkable. I watched "The Magic of Belle Isle," and that's probably the most anybody will do regarding the film. It's amazing to me that the same guy who brought up "This is Spinal Tap," "When Harry Met Sally...", "Misery", "A Few Good Men," "The American President," to name a few, can make such a cliched and dull, and frankly boring movie, as "The Magic of Belle Isle", and saying that as someone, who relatively enjoyed the film. There's nothing even in the film, that's worth not liking, and maybe that was a problem. I can't imagine such a passionless film by Rob Reiner. Even his bad movies could stir us with hatred. (If you don't know that story, go read the aforementioned Roger Ebert's review of his film "North".) Now, Rob Reiner has become, bland and ordinary.
THE INVISIBLE WAR (2012) Director: Kirby Dick
I remember shortly after 9/11, me trying to run into my friend _____, so I could talk her out of joining the military. I knew she'd be stupid/crazy enough to join, as sure enough, by the time I got her, it was too late. She had signed up for the Marines. She's still in the Marines by the way, currently stationed in Japan. She's had multiple tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, and there's no probably no person I'm more prouder of. When I first tried to stop her from joining the armed forces, it wasn't only because I didn't want her getting swept up in post-9/11 hysteria and go off and fight in a war, it was because I was afraid of what some of the other soldiers might do to her. I had heard horror stories, even then about how prevalent rape was in the military, and how poorly it was handled. There had been a few major rape scandals in the military, including the nighthook scandal involving the Navy, back in '91. The great Documentarian Kirby Dick, interviews one of the victims as well as numerous others for "The Invisible War," a powerful and disturbing documentary about just how poorly and inadequate the military is at fighting off the rape epidemic, and talks with some of the victims, and how their have been changed. One that really stuck with me was Kori Cioca, a member of the Coast Guard, who was the only woman stationed at her base. She was beaten and raped by one of her fellow coast guarders. Later, it turned out, he had displaced her cheekbones and broke her jaw. Even with that, she's a pretty young girl, a mother who's married to another former Coast Guard member, who soon quit after seeing the crap his wife went/goes through. Her rapist is still in the Coast Guard, and despite the fact that she was injured, she was denied V.A. insurance for her medical claims. That stern facial expression that's permanently emblazened on her face won't get out of my mind, as you can tell how much it hurts her to talk. She's hardly the only one, members of every branch, going back decades, are interviewed, rarely do their stories end well. Often, they end with them being court-marshalled and accused of some crime like filing a false report, or adultery of all things. (Usually adultery gets added on, when their assailant is married.) Rape kits, mysteriously disappear, and cases are often closed too early, too often. The military structure is clearly inadequate to deal with rape cases. They often have to file the complaint with their C.O., who often is friends with the assailant(s), or may be the assailant, and with the structure of the military, the higher in command, the more respected an officer's word is, and it's not like they have the detective skills to even properly investigate rape claims to begin with, even within NCIS. Some of the statistics are frightening. 20% of women in the military become victims of rape, 15% of the military have committed rape. A lot of them still live near their assailants. One of them mentioned that he assailant was recently promoted to Lt. Colonel. Male victims are even starting to come out. What little the military has done to prevent this, is comical at best. Companies seem to spend money on ludacris advertising, like "make sure you're walk with a buddy", PSAs, as though the only way to assure a woman doesn't get raped is that she's got a bodyguard. One court recently ruled that rape, was an "occupational hazard" in the military. Just another one of dozens of facts that are frankly outrageous at how the military's macho attitudes have dismissed rape. "The Invisible War," is startling, and should be mandatory viewing for any teenage who even thinks about joining the military, particularly girls. I have to say though, the movie has a hopeful ending card which says that 2 days after Leon Panetta say the movie, he made a direct order that all rape charges, will now not go through the military chain of command. It's a good first step into ending this travesty. Oh, one more thing, a lot of these victims had in common. A lot of them, have a second story about the traumatic effects of rape that goes something like, "I took a bunch of pills, and to my surprise, I woke up." Oh, P.S. as far as I know, my friend _____ has never had anything like this happen to her. I'm sure she doesn't think about it, but I consider her lucky, on top of every other adjective I can use to describe her.
THE PEOPLE vs. GEORGE LUCAS (2011) Director: Alexander O. Philippe
Well, clearly the timing of my review of "The People vs. George Lucas," is just coincidental, and somewhat eerie. I couple days before I finally viewed this film, it was announced that Lucas had sold "Lucasfilm," and herein, "Star Wars," to Disney, for $4.5 billion dollars, which I'm sure, none of these, Lucas superfans and superhaters will approve of. I've lost count of how many digitally redone photos of Darth Vader at Magic Mountain I've had posted on my Facebook at this point. However, this love-hate relationship Lucas has had with his fans, is strange. Now, before I continue any further, personally, I like "Star Wars," but I would not consider myself a fan. I haven't seen the last three prequel movies for instance. Probably should at some point, I actually have some still-in-their-case action figures from the three movies, somewhere in my garage, that are probably worth, (Shrugs) maybe $20 each to the right collector. (They were a gift, I think they were originally about $50 each.) Anyway, "Star Wars" fans really love "Star Wars", and love George Lucas, and they all seem to hate what he's done to his own franchise. The movie takes a look at the fans' complaints, and give the opposing view, approaching this like a court case. They make some interesting points about Lucas's hypocrisy at changing the original movies, in ways that do drastically alter the original films, while he himself testified before Congress against colorization of old films. They think, and possibly rightly so that he's become dismissive of the fans reactions, for instance, the use of Jar Jar Binks in the second run of "Star Wars" films. They're a little sympathetic to him. He is one of the few filmmakers who is totally okay with people creating and mocking his work, even making sure everything like sound effects are available to them. There's no more bigger fan fiction overuse than there is in "Star Wars". Everything from Lego recreations, (and let's not forget the famous shot-by-shot recreation of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," that teenagers in Mississippi took seven years to complete, Lucas and Spielberg created Indiana Jones) to highly sophistocated parodies and satire. He also pretty much invented movie franchising. At one point, Star Wars products were so popular and in demand, they couldn't make them fast enough, so they sold boxes with a I.O.U. notes instead of the toys. While I think some of their points are valid, I think I tend to not be so sympathetic to the fans. For one thing, there was nothing that said that they had to become fans of "Star Wars", and that the fans seem to be cultlike into their absolute devotion. Just because they're fans of Lucas's work, doesn't inherently mean that Lucas owes the fans anything. It's his vision, whatever that vision is. I think that the fans loyalist nature to "Star Wars", more or less could never be adequately made, and that they're outspokenness against Lucas, is more their rage that they devoted so much of their life to a movie franchise, that ultimately disappointed them. Maybe they'll appreciate the fact that Disney promising to make three new movies and having already signed Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt to the projects will satisfy them. Maybe not. This might be an interesting panel discussion at ComicCon, but I don't think it really adds up to a movie, so I can't really recommend "The People vs. George Lucas".and if this really was a court case like the title indicates, I'd say the evidence is about even, and I'd give the advantage to Lucas, the defendant. Sorry, "Star Wars" fans.
3 1/2 STARS
I've been told that "Dilwale Dulhania La Jayenge," might just be the biggest of all Bollywood movies. It apparently broke numerous records, including the world recording for longest initial theatrical run, lasting over 11 years. I've seen a few films from India, I especially am partial to the films of Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair (Although Nair works overseas about as often as she does in India) I haven't seen too many Bollywood films. The structure of Bollywood is curious, especially from afar; they seem to make movies the way Hollywood did back in the Studio System era. When a couple are popular onscreen, they make lots of movies together, and there's a lot of music and musicals. In fact, at that time, movies were made, with the intention of appealing to everybody, so movies would tend to have a little bit of everything in them. Musical numbers, love stories, comedy, romance, That kind of movie-making, outside of Bollywood, isn't too popular now, we tend to appreciate a more independent voice, and vision. Plus, it really only works when everything is up to the same level as everything else, and that can be difficult. Like watching a later Marx Brothers movie, where you have to sit through some teenage romance interludes, while we're waiting for the Marx brothers to come back on. (Well, normally now I just fast-forward, but you get the idea). Another thing I've noticed is that, the few Bollywood movies I've seen, are really, really long. Like, they have an intermission, long, and that's not just limited to Bollywood either. The must also be inspired by the classic Hollywood epic. Well, some of those are my initial thoughts after finishing "Dilwale Dulhania La Jayenge," I'm having a little trouble translating from Hindi, but I think it means, "A Generous Man will Bring a Bride"?, or something along those lines, begins in London, where Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) and Simran (Kajol) have a meet-cute during a Eurorail trip through Europe Simran is taking, that turns into the two, going on a catastrophe-filled comic journey through Europe. Eventually, they end up falling in love by the end of the journey, however, back in India, Simran's father, Chaudhry (Amrish Puri) has already arranged Simran's marriage back in India. Raj, decides to press on, and try to win her over and crash the festivities, and they restart their affair in secret, however a previous meeting with her father, at the convenient store he owns in London, could make his attempts to marry Simran, even tougher. Marriage is really important in India by the way. Nearly every Indian film I've seen deals with it, and not just the marriage, the wedding in particular. There's a lot of songs in the movie, got to be at least a dozen, maybe two. On the DVD, they had a section where you could just skip to the songs, I wish I took more advantage of it. Some of them were better than others, but all of them were well-shot, sometimes they felt like more traditional movie dance numbers, othertimes, some of them resembled the editing style of a music video though. I liked the first half of the movie, with the two youngsters falling in love while stumbling over Europe, and not-so-much the second half, which almost seemed like a second movie entirely. Still, a lot of good music, enough of it was good on it's own, and for importance, I guess it's a mandatory viewing. Still need to study up on Bollywood a bit more, but, it's fair to say that "Dilwale..." is a good introduction to Bollywood.
GODS AND MONSTERS (2012) Director: Bill Condon
3 1/2 STARS
Bill Condon won an Oscar for the screenplay to "Gods and Monsters," so far, the only one he's ever won, and now, he's known for being on something of a losing streak since then with "Kinsey", his best film, and "Dreamgirls," both underperforming at the Awards, and Condon. He also lost for writing "Chicago," too. "Gods and Monsters," is a touching tale about the last years of Director James Whale (Oscar-nominated Ian McKellan), who was most know for directing the "Frankenstein" movies, although he made others as well, like "Showboat," but didn't make a movie for the last fifteen years of his life, after his last one bombed. He was one of the few people in Hollywood who was openly gay. He was born in England, very poor, from a broken family, and fought in World War I, from which he still has nightmares. Occasionally, he takes an interview with some young film scholar/fan, who he mostly likes to amuse by making him strip in exchange for answers. His longtime maid, Hanna (Oscar-nominated Lynn Redgrave) seems to be the only person that looks over him much of the day. They hire a temporary gardener one day that catches Jimmy's eye. His name is Clayton Boone (Brendan Fraser) and he's tall, muscular and attractive. He's straight, in he has a girlfriend, Betty (Lolita Davidovich), but soon, they start connection as Jimmy convinces Clayton to start posing for sketches and paintings for him. Whale pained and drew for much of his life. He's attracted to him. Clayton is curious about him. He's no longer the capable man he once was, and now he just spews off occasional ramblings of George Cukor's (Martin Ferrero) pool parties, He ends up invited to one last one late in the film, which he can't understand why, but he takes Clayton along, who seems as fascinated at Hollywood lifestyles as anything else. "Gods and Monsters", is a good film, but I often found myself detached from it. There are powerful scenes, especially near the end, after Whale has suffered from many strokes that can't seem to be able to stop his mind from racing from one thought to another. There's a minor parallel that seem to insinuate that he's trying one last ditch effort to create a lover for him, using Clayton as his Frankenstein monster. He did also direct, "Bride of Frankenstein," which a lot of scholars consider the best of the films. (The title is from a famous line from that movie) I enjoyed "Gods and Monsters," but it didn't really stick with me, the way I thought it would, especially considering the great praise and awards it originally got. That's disappointing, but their are strong performances, and the Jimmy/Clayton back-and-forth friendship is rather intriguing. I guess as a Gay Icon, in Hollywood, James Whale probably should be more well-known and appreciated, but other than that, I'm not quite sure, why this movie had to be made. I'm glad it was, and I'll recommend, but I wonder if I could've gone about my day without seeing it, would it have bothered me.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (2006) Director: J.J. Abrams
I mentioned a little bit about "Fan fiction," in my earlier review of "The People vs. George Lucas," well, there's something similar among pro wrestling called "fantasy booking". (Guys, just hang with me on this, I'm getting to my point, but it's got a couple weird detours so, just stay with me, you're gonna like where I'm going, I promise.) This is when, fans take a scenario in pro wrestling, preferably one that wasn't really done that well, the 2001 WCW Invasion comes to mind pretty quickly, and they would rewrite the wrestling angles, with the same wrestlers and talent, available, and try to come up with better matches and payoffs, then what actually happened. Now, I think the "Mission: Impossible" movies, are actually a filmmaking equivalent to this, let's call it "Fantasy Filmmaking". You see, let's bring in a talented director/filmmaker, and give them a scenario, and see how they would make that movie. Then, they give the same scenario, to another director, see how they would make that movie, under the same exact conditions. It's a little bit like the Auteur theory, but that's more of a philosophical idea, you don't really ever get to see this play out. So, here are the conditions, #1: It has to be "Mission: Impossible", based off of the original TV series, now you can be as faithful or not, to the original show as you want, but it has in some way, recognizable as "Mission: Impossible". That's condition #1. Condition #2: You have to use Tom Cruise, as IMF member Ethan Hunt. That part's non-negotiable. You're stuck with him, and his salary, but he's a good actor, he's box office, and he's a good hero. There's a probably a couple other conditions, X amount in the budget, maybe have a fake face that comes off, I don't know all of them, but this is essentially the scenario. Okay, now first we asked, Brian De Palma, and he did one of filmmaking exercises, where a lot of things we're confusing, kinda close to the series, but he was mostly on his own, running from IMF, I think. It was entertaining, but it was kinda jumbled. The second person, to tackle this was John Woo, and really deconstructed it. Through in a lot of action, a very simple plot, change the Ethan Hunt character into a free-spirited action-loving loner, and a lot more action and special effects, didn't resemble "Mission: Impossible" that much, but it was "Mission: Impossible". Okay, "Mission: Impossible III", the third attempt. This time, J.J. Abrams, creator of "Lost," "Fringe", and a few other shows that sucked. You produed "Armageddon," you're next up on this fantasy filmmaking scenario. What is your version of "Mission: Impossible"
(Pretend I'm J.J. Abrams for most of the rest of this review.)
Okay, here was one of the big problems with the first two films, is that, they started in the middle of action. First one, they're in the middle of a sting or whatever they call it, the second one also,- basically their wasn't any character development in the first two. That was a real problem, because you couldn't care about any of the characters really. Tom Cruise basically just played Tom Cruise the movie star, and that's not that interesting. So, it's been a few years since the last film, we might bring some stuff in from them, but what we need to do first, is establish a realistic normal world, for Ethan Hunt, and that way, we can't start caring, when the really unrealistic crazy explosion things happen. So, in this version, Ethan is newly married.
Yes, not to the chick in the second film. That 2nd film Ethan Hunt, doesn't exist anymore. He's been dating, being normalized, modernized, whatever-you-want-to-call-it,-
Who's gonna play the wife?
Good, question. You don't need a big movie star for that role, but you need a good actress, good-looking, but one who can play, anywhere from 20-45, and do anything we need her to do. Cause it'll seem like a thankless role in the beginning, but we'll tie her into it. I was gonna say Jennifer Garner, and she'd do it, too, but let's get Michelle Monaghan. Now that normal life, is gonna be interupted, and he's gonna reluctantly, go on another mission. That's another change, it's a little reluctant, but he's really good, and it's an emergency, they need him. And, we're bring back, Ving Rhames and Billy Crudup, from the 2nd film. It's interesting, 'cause he's on, on-hand, trying to walk away from IMF, but he's started essentially, getting comfortable with his crew. So, on one, hand, he got Rhames, and he's got Crudup-
Yeah, maybe another guy or girl has joined his crew, but they're really, starting to form a real group, but it's at the same time, that Ethan's wondering whether to keep going with IMF at all. Anyway, they're gonna go on an emergency mission, to save another agent let's say, from the bad guy, don't know who yet they're saving a yet, probably a girl, but it's gonna fail. And we're get inside IMF headquarters this time, and there's gonna be a boss, who may or may not, be a double agent, or he might be a red herring. Somebody really, known by the audience, who's presence seems established as trustworthy, so it could be a real shock, when "Oh, fuck, he might've screwed him over,"-type reaction. Okay, my first thought was Morgan Freeman, but I can't waste extra money here, for a superstar actor, 'cause I'm gonna use it somewhere else.
This actor will be, I think we can get him too, will be Laurence Fishburne.
That'll work. I haven't decided yet, if he's actually a double agent or just a red herring, but we do need a recognizable person there, who the audience would instinctively trust.
Is there going to be, a lot of action and special effects in this one? Where is that money going?
We are, but not as much as before. Definitely, not as much as "...II", because here's the other thing, the series has been missing, it needs a villain. A good villain. Yeah, the first had Jon Voight, but that was more about the style and look, and not the acting or the story, but what we really need, is somebody who can go head-to-head with Cruise. Be as powerful as him, be as conniving, really get under his skin. Literally and figuratively, 'cause I do like the masks, and the masks-ripping, that'll be in there somewhere, but a really vicious villain, for him to go against, and this is where I'm spending my money. Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Ooh! That's good.
Whatever it takes, we're getting Philip Seymour Hoffman, the best actor of this generation, against the biggest movie star of this generation. Now, it's not just a complicated, breaking-and-entering, it's not just a good scheme, or something, it's having to do all that, and beat, this guy, this vile, evil, mastermind, who really could just might knock out Ethan Hunt. Obviously, he won't but you gotta make it believable, and Phil Hoffman, is believable. I don't have all the details yet. Hoffman will probably kidnap Ethan's wife at some point, there will be some globetrotting, and other stuff like that, but we haven't gotten it all, figured out, but you put all these pieces in place, and you should be able, to get a really good movie, that really is "Mission: Impossible", and a lot better than the other movies
(Okay, I'm back to me now)
Well, now I've caught up, and I can't wait to get to Brad Bird's fantasy filmmaking experiment of fantasy filmmaking "Mission: Impossible", later, but so far, I like J.J. Abrams's version, the best so far, and by a mile. Next time, I want Ron Howard to do this. I'm told it's Christopher McQuarrie instead, that might be interesting to, but still, let's get Howard to this, I bet he'd be good with it.