Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit has an important story to tell, but what story is it?
Relate the plot of Bicycle Thieves in a few sentences, and a person who had never seen the film might be forever haunted by it.
“I like detective stories,” G. K. Chesterton once wrote; “I read them, I write them; but I do not believe them.” Chesterton put into his beloved Father Brown stories a great deal that he did not believe — exotic crimes, improbable methods, wiredrawn detective work — but also a great deal that he did believe, much of it on the lips of his moon-faced clerical sleuth.
Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg are two great tastes that taste great together. So why did this film leave a sour taste in my mouth? 2 Guns: my “Reel Faith” 60-second review.
Oscar Grant just might be the most memorable character I’ve encountered on the big screen this year.
The closer you look, the less you see? Now You See Me: my “Reel Faith” 60-second review.
How could anyone in Hollywood have known, as the current batch of movies went into development, that at least three different films about the greed and ruthlessness of the wealthy few and its devastating impact on the masses—the 1% and the 99%—would hit theaters more or less simultaneously in the middle of the Occupy protests?
In Time is a messier, more problematic film than The Adjustment Bureau, but I think I found it more interesting. It’s probably firing on about half the cylinders it should be, about par for Niccol. Still, I appreciate its ambition and ideas—qualities sadly rare in popcorn entertainment these days.
Though thematically similar to Dead Man Walking, Longford grapples more directly and thoughtfully with religious themes, and doesn’t glorify its eccentric, somewhat tragic protagonist the way Dead Man Walking extols Sister Préjean.
Sidney Gilliat’s Green For Danger is an overlooked gem that transplants the trappings of a droll British murder mystery in an unexpected WWII context, with Nazi air raids and an emergency wartime hospital set up in a rural manor home outside London.
Inside Man opens with a challenge from criminal mastermind Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) to the viewer to try to keep up as he lays out the labyrinthine details of his perfect crime. “Pay strict attention to what I say, because I choose my words carefully, and I never repeat myself,” he warns with smug complacency.
In Kind Hearts and Coronets, the driest, darkest, and arguably the best of Ealing Studio’s acclaimed British crime comedies, murder itself is a trivial offense compared to punctilious observance of the highest standards of Edwardian social rectitude, at least for the aristocratic protagonist, Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price), or Lord d’Ascoyne as he is styled after ensuring the deaths of each of the eight relations who once stood between himself and the peerage.
Tsotsi seems almost entirely severed from human values, and his seemingly total moral apathy rattles the conscience-stricken Boston. “Decency, Tsosti,” Boston harangues. “Do you know the word?”
Does Michel want to be caught? Does he taunt the inspector because he feels untouchable, or is there another reason? As always, Bresson examines actions but offers little attention to motives, an approach that here seems to suggest that Michel’s choices may be a mystery even to himself, his threadbare theorizing only rationalization.
Millions is a rare and special family film: a moral parable rather than a morality tale; a film that combines high ideals and hard realities; a story of hope and faith in something more than Santa Claus. Which is not to say that Santa Claus, or rather St. Nicholas, doesn’t show up. But when he pops on a bishop’s mitre rather than the familiar red Santa hat, it’s clear we’re not in Hollywood movieland here.
Hitchcock’s underrated I Confess may or may not not quite rank with his greatest masterpieces, but it offers perhaps the most compelling variation on the director’s favorite theme, the innocent man wrongly accused.
Now, with Red Dragon, based on the novel in which Lecter first appeared, the series has come full circle. In Silence, we saw Lecter escape from prison; here we see him captured by FBI profiler Will Graham (Ed Norton, The Score). While the humorous note introduced by Hannibal continues to be a factor, an effective prelude reestablishes Lecter as a frightening psychopath who’s willing to kill innocent and likeable characters.
Much of the comedy comes from reversal of stereotypes, with the mild-mannered, middle-class Holland aspiring to the role of criminal mastermind, and Holland’s elderly landlady (Edie Martin) knowledgeably conversing with bemused bobbies in street slang learned from dime-store crime fiction. And while the caper-gone-wrong comedy genre has been done to death in recent decades, The Lavender Hill Mob avoids most of what became the clichés of the genre.
“A Going My Way with substance” is how Elia Kazan’s classic, controversial On the Waterfront was recently described in a lecture at Boston College.
"In the Church they say to forgive," one character observes dubiously. But in Creasy’s book, to forgive is divine, to mutilate and butcher human. "Forgiveness is between them and God," he says, conveniently overlooking the relevant biblical injunctions even though we know he can quote chapter and verse when he wants to. "My job is to arrange the meeting." We know we should agree with Creasy, because his murderous rampage is scored by a cool rock soundtrack and sanctified by a mother’s kiss. That’s got to be righteous.
Thanks to the skills of director Patrice Leconte, L’Homme du train (Man on the Train) would have made an excellent silent film, except that we would have missed the enchanting tones of Jean Rochefort’s retired poetry teacher, Monsieur Manesquier. Manesquier talks like a schoolboy who has yet to leave behind his school days — his rich words and phrases touch on his dreams and wishes, and are charmingly tinged with sexual innuendo and self-deprecation. Rochefort’s characterization is perfectly complemented by Johnny Hallyday’s stoic career criminal, Milan, who responds to questions with either silence or sapient, terse words.
The Cell gives imaginative and visual shape to as it were the very soul of misogynism, perversion, depravity, sadism, and the supreme nihilism and egotism of the damned. The film also has some images of beauty, peace, and serenity; even some Christian symbolism — but all this is quickly overwhelmed, even betrayed and subverted, so that the dark themes dominate the film.
As directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator), Hannibal is stylishly mounted and has its entertaining moments. Ultimately, though, it’s like most horror movies: repellent where it should have been frightening, and, in the end, uninvolving and hollow. So many characters suffer such ghastly things, yet none of it seems to matter much.
The dialogue is hard-boiled and crackles with wit, the plot is fast-paced and nearly impenetrable, and Humphrey Bogart is coolly unflappable in Howard Hawkes’s stylish noir classic The Big Sleep, based on the Raymond Chandler novel.
When his supply of meds unexpectedly dries up, Roy predictably disintegrates, much to Frank’s concern. Soon, though, Roy is seeing a psychiatrist (Bruce Altman, Changing Lanes), who not only provides the medication he needs, but gets him talking and thinking about his life — in particular the woman who walked out on him fourteen years ago, and whether or not she was pregnant at the time.
That book, with its breathless vignettes of the 19th-century lower Manhattan underworld, has no central plot or unifying storyline. Similarly, the most striking moments in Scorsese’s film come as glimpses into that time and place. When we see hordes of immigrants milling about in the unguessed catacombs beneath the Old Brewery of the Five Points neighborhood, or rival fire brigades brawling in the streets rather than fighting the fire, it’s easy to feel that here, surely, is a dark and strange world that would be interesting to explore, a world in which memorable stories must have taken place.
(Written by Robert Jackson) 8 Mile is the story of a cast of characters who were dealt a lousy set of cards by life and who then proceed to tear most of their cards in half.
(Written by Robert Jackson) Narc is trying to be something. Really hard. It’s obvious. The question is: What is it trying to be?
The only thing that makes this particular film worth noting is the melancholy milestone it marks in the career of the man who was once Hollywood’s biggest star: It has now been a full decade since Harrison Ford took on a role worth caring about.
Martin Lawrence rants endlessly against the White Man and Steve Zahn tries to endure him in the obnoxious odd-couple action-comedy National Security (Columbia), directed by Dennis Dugan.
Ultimately, Daredevil works best as a triumph of screenwriting redaction and well-utilized effects over weak characterization and generally uninspired casting. As super-hero movies go, I rank it below Spider-Man, but above any of the films in the Batman franchise.
(Co-written with Emily Snyder) Like Moulin Rouge!, Chicago involves sordid goings-on in a rather seamy milieu; but where the earlier film tried to contrast its dissolute ambiance with heart-warming sincerity and idealism, Chicago is cynical to the core.
Then, after three days of rehearsals, I thought it would be fun to actually graduate.
Though, what with jokes alluding to homosexuality and masturbation, a sequence with a man and a woman in their underthings bathing together and smooching under a waterfall (which one describes as "the most sensual, romantic moment of my entire life"), some fairly rough mobster violence, and odd talk about "testicles falling off" and "crazy-ass white boys," it’s not exactly family fare.
In the end, how you feel about Nurse Betty will in good part depend, I suppose, upon whom you agree with, Charlie or Wesley. If you find Betty as enchanting and remarkable as Charlie does, then you may be relieved and happy when her troubles are over and she is at last able to realize her dreams. On the other hand, if like Wesley you regard her as ridiculous and pathetic, then you will find this movie a contemptuously hateful tale of cruelty and delusion, devoid of any spark of sympathy or compassion.
Dissatisfied after the screening, I went out and bought the original 1998 graphic novel, written by novelist and "Dick Tracy" scribe Max Allan Collins and illustrated by comic-book artist Richard Piers Rayner ("Swamp Thing"), and read it in one sitting. ("Graphic novels" use comic-book storytelling for longer, and hopefully more substantial, stories than traditional comic books.)
Daylight floods Dormer’s life, relentless, ubiquitous — like the penetrating glare of the ongoing Internal Affairs probe back in LA, where Dormer may or may not have something to hide. Like the searching gaze of Alaskan local cop Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank) as she investigates Dormer’s account of a second killing that occurs when an attempt to catch the killer goes tragically awry. Like "the eye of God that will not blink," as Roger Ebert describes the Arctic Circle’s midnight sun in his review of the original film.
This is not a thought Tom takes to heart. Nor is it one he struggles with, or indeed ever thinks about again. The quest for revenge is at the heart of The Salton Sea, and although in this one scene the film fleetingly acknowledges the possibility of an alternative to bitterness and hatred, it’s not in the context of any larger interest in or exploration of the moral issues.
Only Jim Caviezel (The Count of Monte Cristo; Frequency) brings anything new to the table, displaying even more range and subtlety than in his recent starring turn in The Count of Monte Cristo. Other than his performance, High Crimes holds few surprises.
There’s some freshness here amid the formula, but mainstream audiences are liable to find The Mexican too long and slow, too violent, and too off-putting. A few film aficianados and critics, numbed by the present dismal spate of lousy Hollywood efforts, may hail it as a wonderful find. But only the absence of worthwhile competition — and a highly watchable performance by "The Sopranos"’s James Gandolfini (who gets far more screen time with Roberts than Pitt does) — qualifies this middling effort as a modest success by any standard.
This device — unfairly dismissed by some critics as a mere gimmick — creates an experience that in one way resembles that of the protagonist, Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce). Leonard suffers from a unique trauma-related condition that prevents him from retaining new memories. It’s amnesia in reverse: The amnesiac remembers only his life after his trauma; Leonard remembers only his life before. He knows his name, his past history, everything — up to a point. The last thing he remembers is failing to prevent the rape and murder of his wife.
It’s this dynamic that Altman is really interested in, not “whodunit.” Or, if Altman does care whodunit, it’s only insofar as the answer illuminates the film’s real themes of snobbery and resentment, exploitation and interdependence, privilege and privation.
This is a film about the legacy of fatherhood and the inheritance of sonship, about the unbreakable connection and the unbridgeable gap between one generation and the next. It is a celebration of masculinity, but it contemplates how men relate to women as an index of their manhood.
Along with Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, John McTiernan’s Die Hard defined a generation of action-adventure movies.
Guinness makes a delightfully enjoyable Father Brown, and the film’s dialogue sparkles with flashes of Chestertonian wit. … Alas, this well-intentioned and otherwise enjoyable film is marred by several serious missteps.
Tim Robbins argues his point fearlessly, not taking the easy way out, not stacking the deck by emotionally manipulating the audience, but instead taking a worst-case scenario: Rather than giving us a murderer who isn’t really so bad, merely misunderstood and mistreated and so forth, Robbins gives us a thoroughly revolting individual, one who spouts racist propaganda not because he believes it but simply because it is shocking and antisocial and hateful; who tries to humiliate the one person interested in his welfare with leering come-ons aimed at her consecrated chastity.
The Dead End Kids have dirty faces, all right — but they’re no angels. Tough-talking young hoods much given to slapping one another’s faces and terrorizing their lower East Side Manhattan neighborhood, they may tolerate sincere, savvy Father Jerry Connolly (Pat O’Brien) and his efforts to divert them from the dangers of life on the street; but it’s in Fr. Jerry’s boyhood chum, infamous gangster Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney), that the Kids find a mentor and kindred spirit.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.