Monday, January 31, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
In the opening minutes of Coffy, Pam Grier's star-making role, she blasts the skull of a sleazy drug pusher into pulp like a watermelon and shoots his junkie assistant with an overdose of heroin. Jack Hill knows how to open a movie, and he never lets up on the down-and-dirty action. Coffy is an emergency room nurse by day and vigilante by night, targeting the dealers who made her sister a comatose junkie. She works her way up to the Italian mobsters muscling into the ghetto drug trade while she's romanced by glib, smooth-talking politician Booker Bradshaw and wooed by nice-guy cop William Elliot, whose refusal to sell out to the corrupt force earns him a crippling beating.
There's plenty of sex, a catty girl-fight that leaves the losers topless, and car chases and shootouts galore, but what makes Coffy a blaxploitation classic is Grier's Amazonian presence and fiery charisma, and the gritty, low-budget action scenes marked by visceral, wincing violence. Mob strong-arm Sid Haig (Spider Baby) cackles while dragging his victim (a strutting peacock pimp played by Nashville's Robert DoQui) behind a speeding car in a sadistic lynching, and Grier runs down one bad guy with a speeding car and takes care of another with a shotgun to the groin. Hill had previously directed Grier in The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage. Their next and last picture together, Foxy Brown, was originally written as the sequel to Coffy (synopsis provided by Amazon.com)
directed by Jack Hill
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Arguably the greatest of American films, Orson Welles's 1941 masterpiece, made when he was only 26, still unfurls like a dream and carries the viewer along the mysterious currents of time and memory to reach a mature (if ambiguous) conclusion: people are the sum of their contradictions, and can't be known easily. Welles plays newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, taken from his mother as a boy and made the ward of a rich industrialist. The result is that every well-meaning or tyrannical or self-destructive move he makes for the rest of his life appears in some way to be a reaction to that deeply wounding event. Written by Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz, and photographed by Gregg Toland, the film is the sum of Welles's awesome ambitions as an artist in Hollywood. He pushes the limits of then-available technology to create a true magic show, a visual and aural feast that almost seems to be rising up from a viewer's subconsciousness. As Kane, Welles even ushers in the influence of Bertolt Brecht on film acting. This is truly a one-of-a-kind work, and in many ways is still the most modern of modern films from the 20th century. (synopsis provided by Amazon.com)
Monday, January 24, 2011
Thursday, January 20, 2011
This quietly daffy comedy should have been an indie hit, but ended up ignored by audiences. Too bad; it's a wonderfully sustained caper movie about friends whose career choice is all wrong. Low-key Anthony (Luke Wilson) and high-strung Dignan (Owen C. Wilson--the two actors are brothers) are brought into a life of crime by Dignan's ambition to be a small-time thief. After a few amusingly laid-back trial burglaries, they (and a third buddy) find themselves over their heads when they hook up with an experienced crime boss (James Caan). Because this movie is so relentlessly deadpan, you really have to be dialed in to its brand of humor--but once there, Bottle Rocket shoots off plenty of sparks. Above all, Owen Wilson's portrayal of Dignan is a terrifically original comic creation; Dignan is so sincerely focused on his goals that he can't see how completely absurd his ideas are. Owen Wilson, who went on to supply similarly knuckle-headed performances in Armageddon and Permanent Midnight, wrote the screenplay with director Wes Anderson. (synopsis provided by Amazon.com)
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The film delves into the creation of the popular social networking web-site Facebok – via the lawsuits stemming from the web-sites creation - against its “creator” Mark Zuckerberg.
It’s bold and interesting – due to the fact that all these events happened just a few years ago – it’s also a matter of timeliness that really helps give this film a lot of weight. I’m not sure if this film was to come out in 10-years and Facebook isn’t as relevant – that the film would mean the same.
The story isn’t as interesting as the Zuckerberg character and the expert portrayal by Jesse Eisenberg. You present Zuckerberg into these situations – and his actions and motivations are what really carry the film. The obvious question is how can such a socially inept person go on to create the biggest phenomena in social connection since the creation of the internet?
Is it the petty jealousy’s that drives Mark Zuckerberg’s motivations? Is it a complete social incompetence/ignorance that he displays that allows him to do these things seemingly unaffected of consequence? Or is he really a tortured genius that has such a drive that he would steamroll anyone to get to his ends? I think it’s a bit of all of it – which is what makes him such an interesting character that we aren’t treated to such blatant explanations – only hints and innuendos – no sad sack speech explaining it all in the end.
Jesse Eisenberg gives an amazing performance – and though I’m not usually one to pick a favorite in the acting categories during award season – but he’s my pick for every acting award he gets nominated for. The portrayal was frenetic – pitch perfection when it comes to the realistic awkwardness of a nerd – he plays Zuckerberg as motivated, focused and confident - but such a dangerous way – that he seems one step away from being a lunatic that would have a compound out in the woods of Montana. He’s unsympathetic – a true anti-hero – but love him or hate him – he is who he is and he obviously embraces himself – which makes the character portrayal so very interesting.
My only real complaint is with the nothing the film is at fault for. I disagree in quite a few ways with some of the praise I hear regarding the film – not that I didn’t find it to be a great character study film – but in regards to how much it’s compared to the film Citizen Kane. Sure, both films are about a present day mogul – who would be quite embarrassed about how unflattering the film portrays them to be – but only portrays them to be so unflattering because it’s true – but the calls of “revolutionary” as a film, The Social Network is not.
I think that the web-site whose creator is this film’s focus – is revolutionary – so I hope we have the two separated in our minds when critics are spouting this praise. Orson Welles rewrote the handbook of filmmaking with Kane – his use of camera angles, lighting, editing, montage, music, distance – these days you’ve really got to look for these things and realize that this was not commonplace techniques back then – today a massive crane single shot that takes you from the street – up the side of a building – then into the skylight is nothing! Back then, groundbreaking! Films have not been the same since Kane – David Fincher on the other hand gives a tight – well paced - interesting film that is a great movie watching experience – but doesn’t redefine the art of filmmaking itself.
Lest we forget Kane was the work of one man, Welles, who dared thumb his nose at Hearst probably the biggest media mogul of that time – he fought and fought and fought – not only to make the film but to make it the way he envisioned. Not once have I heard of reports that the real life Zuckerberg was gunning for this production – and with how spineless and unoriginal studios seem to be these days – they probably would’ve accepted a bribe to bury this film – and Zuckerberg could afford a tidy sum. The Social Network may be a bold film – but not on any level as bold, groundbreaking or revolutionary as what Kane ended up being.
Fincher directs the film that could easily been a complete lambasting of Zuckerberg into a film that really explores the character and compliments Eisenberg’s performance. The film is fast paced – keeps it entertaining – finds surprising areas for humor to come up naturally – but keeps it bold and serious – but works best with the characters.
Compared to some his previous works – I find the film to be much of the same in deeply exploring a character – but different in the execution. He’s adept at letting the characters tell their own tales – but usually in a slower pace that allows the viewer to walk along with them – in The Social Network – you’ve really got to hang on and if you miss something – that’s all right – it’s not the point – it’s all about the characters telling the story and since it’s intercut with the court proceedings and told in flashbacks – it’s a film of the journey of said characters not so much of the story.
All in all - this is a great film - interesting and fun - I'm giving it full marks and it lands in my Top 5 of the year.
For more on why I don't think this film is justly compared to Kane - please check out my fellow bloggers post who takes a look at the plot - and how it doesn't match up.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Away We Go has an incredible mix of ingredients: A script co-written by Dave Eggers (author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road), starring the not-hugely-famous-but-always-excellent Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live) and John Krasinski (The Office), and featuring an astounding supporting cast that includes Catherine O’Hara, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney, Jim Gaffigan, and more. What’s even more incredible is that all these ingredients blend together into a truly marvelous but very non-traditional romantic comedy. For one thing, Burt (Krasinski) and Verona (Rudolph) are already a couple and expecting their first child. What they don’t know is where they’re going to live--so they set off on a tour of disparate locations (Tucson, Montreal, Miami) where they have friends or relatives, sampling not only different cities and climates but also different families. The social and emotional collisions that follow are sometimes very funny and sometimes heartwrenching. Away We Go starts quietly and, through subtle yet consistently delightful scenes, builds to a surprisingly potent end. This is a gem of a movie, not to be missed. (synopsis provided by Amazon.com)