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Flight

Judging from the commercials, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is the story of Denzel Washington heroically saving a plane full of passengers from certain death, but the film’s barn-burning crash sequence is over by the 25-minute mark. What follows is an intense portrait of a self-destructive man in what seems like a death spiral.

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Zero Dark Thirty

This is what defeat looks like, bro. Your jihad is over.

It was kind of ballsy to make a major motion picture about a story which had been told to death on basic cable by the time this film was released. The search for Osama bin Laden and the daring Navy SEAL raid that killed the terrorist kingpin were as familiar to Americans as the romantic misadventures of the Kardashians. Most of the events portrayed here have been detailed in Discovery channel documentaries, so what does Zero Dark Thirty have to tell us what we didn’t already know?

The answer is not much, but it doesn’t really matter. Continue reading

Argo

Sir, exfils are like abortions. You don't wanna need one. But when you do, you don't do it yourself.

As I have said before, whatever my opinion of Ben Affleck the actor, I have yet to be disappointed by Ben Affleck the director. In my review of The Town, I jokingly suggested that he could have a fine career as the John Ford of the Boston-based crime story. Apparently, he didn’t agree. I won’t argue, so long as films like Argo are the end result.

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J. Edgar

The crimes we are investigating aren't crimes, they are ideas.

Back in 2004, Martin Scorcese released The Aviator, a biopic about a larger-than-life, but enigmatic 20th century figure, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Unfortunately, while that movie was handsomely produced and impeccably acted, it failed to get inside the head of Howard Hughes.

Seven years later, Clint Eastwood releases J. Edgar, a biopic about a larger-than-life, but enigmatic 20th century figure, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Unfortunately, while that movie was handsomely produced and impeccably acted, it failed to get inside the head of J. Edgar Hoover.

Seriously, when major directors are shooting biographical movies about major figures and failing to come to grips with their subject, it appears that their first instinct is to call DiCaprio’s agent.

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The Road Warrior

The Road Warrior

Three or four career meltdowns ago, Mel Gibson was still a fresh face on the scene when he went into a bar the night before his audition for a little film called Mad Max. The brawl that temporarily battered his youthful good looks actually helped land him the role that would launch his career. The first Mad Max was a hit worldwide but made a negligible impression in the States, partly due to a lousy dubbing job the studio inflicted on the film because the suits thought Yanks weren’t ready for a real Australian accent (This was a few years before Crocodile Dundee).

As a result, the sequel was called Mad Max 2 everywhere but the U.S., because you can’t have a sequel to a movie no one had heard of. Call it Mad Max 2 or The Road Warrior, it was like a jolt of adrenaline right into the eyeballs.

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Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Now don't take this the wrong way, but you're a terminator, right?

You have to hand it to James Cameron. He knows how to spend money. Not only did he spend $300 million on Avatar without blinking, but he was the first to sink $200 million into a picture, that being Titanic. Even before that, T2 was the movie to break Hollywood’s $100 million cherry. Considering the results, none of that money was wasted, but do we really want to keep encouraging this sort of behavior? What happened to the James Cameron who could make the first Terminator movie for less than the loose change he found in his sofa?

It’s hard to argue with the results when they look like this. Terminator 2 takes the lean, stripped-down muscle car that was the original and straps on a couple of booster rockets from the space shuttle. It’s sci-fi action filmmaking at such a level of relentless professionalism that it just wears you down and makes you hand over your skepticism like it was your lunch money.

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The Men Who Stare at Goats

The Men Who Stare at Goats

Like its protagonist, Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) this movie can’t decide if it should mercilessly mock the idea of an Army unit researching psychic phenomena as an alternative to war or cheer for the collection of oddballs who threw their lives into the endeavor. Director Grant Heslov tries to have it both ways and comes close to pulling it off.

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The Damned United

When Brian Clough (Michael Sheen) takes over as manager of the Leeds United football club in 1974, he seems less interested in preparing them to play and more focused on punishing the team for the sins of its previous coach, his personal bête noire, Don Revie (Colm Meaney).

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Ms. Jolie deals with some paparazzi on her way to adopt another child.

Wanted

Wanted is the ultimate vacation movie, meaning that first your brain takes a vacation, followed by the laws of physics. Finally everything resembling logic just sort of buggers off and joins them on holiday. It’s bloody, sexy, brutish, noisy fun.

Yeah, that’s right. I said fun. As pleasures go, this one is guiltier than O.J.

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Frost/Nixon

Frost/Nixon

Maybe it’s a side-effect of just watching The Fighter, but the title Frost/Nixon makes this film sound more like a prize fight. The comparison is not wholly inappropriate. David Frost (Michael Sheen) was a media bantamweight trying to move up in class while Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) was a political heavyweight looking for an easy tune-up for his eventual rehabilitation from the Watergate scandal.

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The Fighter

The Fighter

I think we’re wasting money on all the “Just Say No” programs we think are going to keep kids off drugs. Two hours with someone like Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) should convince anyone that drugs are a one-way ticket to nowhere. The first time we see him in The Fighter, the ex-boxer is living for two things: his rose-colored memories of the time he knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard and his next vial of crack.

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