Abolishing slavery by constitutional provisions settles the fate for all coming time. Not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come.
Daniel Day Lewis has received so much attention for his incomparable performance as Abraham Lincoln that we have somewhat ignored the other master stroke of this film. Rather than try to forge a sweeping biography of 16th president, something better suited to a television miniseries, director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner have chosen to focus on one critical interval late in his presidency, to show the full weight of his political genius brought to bear on the most critical issue of that presidency.
If I didn’t already know this was based on an existing graphic novel, I might have assumed that the title was a leftover “working” title, and no one could be bothered to come up with anything better when the film was completed. Despite the major-league production values and the marquee value of Indiana Jones and James Bond in the cast, this is a forgettable pot-boiler that does proper service to only one half of its title.
A nameless stranger (Daniel Craig) wakes up with no memory of who he is, a wound in his side, and a large and strangely unremovable metal bracelet on one wrist. He reaches the nearest town, where people recognize him as Jake Lonergan, notorious stagecoach robber. Awkward.
In some ways this movie is the cinematic equivalent of artificial insemination using a dead man’s swimmers. A.I. had been on Stanley Kubrick’s back, front, and middle burners at various times since the early seventies. For a while, it looked like it wouldn’t see the light of day until development hell froze over and, when Kubrick kicked it after completing Eyes Wide Shut, it seemed inevitable that A.I. would forever remain as Kubrick’s great “lost” project.
Beyond cleaning up at the Oscars, the true lasting impact of Gladiator is that it marks the beginning of the longstanding cinematic “bromance” between director Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe. It is also the high water mark for that creative team. They’ve done good work since but not on this level.
When Hasbro gets a production credit, you probably shouldn’t expect a deep, introspective, emotionally fulfilling cinematic experience. Combine that with direction by Michael Bay, and you have the movie-going equivalent of eating all of your little brother’s Halloween candy. It’s nutritionally empty and, after you come down off your sugar buzz, you feel guilty about enjoying yourself.
While everyone involved but the special effects teams will probably keep their Oscar acceptance speeches on ice for another year, the truth is that Transformers succeeds in being exactly what it tries to be. Of course, when you aim low, hitting your target is often just a matter of gravity.
Steven Spielberg’s lengthy rumination about the effects of revenge as a response to terrorism succeeds on the level of a thriller but falls short of its larger goals. Seeking to be evenhanded, Munich ultimately sags under the weight of its own equivocation.
Dreamgirls took a long time to make the trip from Broadway to the screen, so long that when this film appeared I had all but forgotten that it had first been a play. Big and glossy, this movie is very successful at entertaining you, even if it does seem to play it a little safe at times. The biggest impact of this movie may just be serving notice of arrival of a potent new singing talent.
Clint Eastwood’s companion piece to Flags of our Fathers is a tighter, more intimate film, focusing on a more sharply drawn collection of characters and following their story in a more coherent way than the first film could manage.
Media manipulation in cases like the rescue of Jessica Lynch and the death of Pat Tillman have somewhat cheapened the meaning of the word hero. This film attempts to look beneath what we think we know about our heroes at the real men beneath the image. It might have succeeded if the film weren’t such a disorganized mess.
Saving Private Ryan is almost two movies in one. The first is a short but intense 30-minute piece about the Omaha Beach landings while the second is a more traditional “unit” picture running about two-and-a-half hours. Only the presence of the same actors in both ties the two parts together. Each could probably stand separately but folded into the same film, the first part helps give the second, longer narrative layers of meaning and emotional weight that it wouldn’t otherwise carry.
Sired by Seabiscuit and Old Yeller, Dreamer is a journeyman pony with a lot of heart but not a lot of flash. Not showing us anything we haven’t seen before, it still runs a solid race and might even place or show on a good night. Okay, I think I’ve stretched that metaphor about as far as it will go without it snapping back and decapitating somebody.
Original Star Trek cast member George Takei has allegedly said that Galaxy Quest is more true to the spirit of the TV show than any of the other theatrical movies based on the 60s TV series. While I wouldn’t hold it up against Wrath of Khan, this affectionate 1999 spoof is definitely a better Trek film than any of the odd-numbered entries in the franchise.
Galaxy Quest fits a spot-on satire of virtually the entire Trek phenomenon, from the show itself to the actors and the fans, into a tight 102-minute running time. The designs of the ships, the costumes and the sets veers just far enough from the source material for the filmmakers to avoid being eaten alive by a horde of ravenous Paramount lawyers.