LEATHERHEADS

If you have missed this little gem you may have to wait until DVD. It got 2 weeks at the cinema I work at. Only 2 weeks. Indiana Jones has been on the “No Free Tickets” list for 2 weeks. Anyway, if you managed to catch the oddly titled Leatherheads you’ll know what I’m talking about, great wasn’t it? 

THE SET UP? Its 1925 and WW1 war hero Carter Rutherford (Krasinski) is rocketing to fame via college football. However with the professional game in a shambles it looks like his career will end when he graduates. Professional player and entrepreneur Jimmy ‘Dodge’ Connelly (Clooney) is trying to save the dying game and decides to somehow get the young star Rutherford to play in his team. Meanwhile reporter Lexi Littleton (Zellweger) has been commissioned to write an expose on Rutherford to discover the truth about his so-claimed WW1 heroics. In classic Hollywood style a love triangle develops between the three and so ensues a delightful romp.

 

THE CAST?

George Clooney – Dodge. He was great, without a doubt channelling the Hollywood leading men of yester-year (Cary Grant, Clark Gable etc). He does seem at times a little distracted – probably because he’s directing the piece at the same time.

Renee Zellweger – Lexi. She was gorgeous. A perfect leading lady opposite Clooney’s Dodge. The two have a winning chemistry that is just right for this kind of piece – not a sultry but a classic Hollywood love story.

John Krasinski– Carter Rutherford. Sigh. – A good sigh. I can’t really speak objectively here as I’m kind of in love with Jim from The Office. But his performance was good. He’s most definitely the 3rd player in thispiece and he knows it. Actually I’d go as far as to say he was the best in the film. Too bad he wasn’t discovered in the classic Hollywood era (too bad he wasn’t born then too). 

Jonathan Price is worth a mention too. He plays Rutherford’s manager. Typecast, again, as the rotten scoundrel who never had pure intentions, but he does it so well. 

 

WHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM?

Its just a fun film. A new film that really adheres to now-dead conventions, dialogue and shots. But that makes it rather brilliant. It’s like your watching a 1950’s or earlier film with actors you recognise because they were in Batman or Bridget Jones or License to Wed. Its just a cute piece, safe for the whole family and fun. 

 

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Anyone. Its really totally “safe”. Young kids probably won’t enjoy it so much basically coz the themes will go over their heads but there’s nothing unsavory at all.

 

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARS. 

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IRONMAN

I went into Ironman with average expectations, and the expectations I did have were mainly pinned on the casting of the brilliant Robert Downey Jr. as the “super hero”. Unexpectedly I thoroughly enjoyed this “super hero movie”.

SET UP? Ironman isn’t your average super hero. Similarly to Batman, he has no special powers and his heroic behaviour comes out of a personal experience.

At the start of the film we meet the cocky, arrogant Tony Stark, a weapons developer running the family business (Stark Industries) selling unmatched military “goods” exclusively to the US government. However when Stark is kidnapped on a routine Stark Industries demonstration in Afghanistan he gets up close and personal with the good and mostly bad of those he usually bombs from afar. In order to escape the clutches of his terrorist captors he develops a big “iron” suit. After his escape he seeks to change the face of his company and continues to develop the iron get-up with the administrational support of the peppy Pepper Potts.

CAST?

Robert Downey Jr is Tony Stark/Ironman – director Jon Favreau noted that in most super hero films the character of the protagonist defines the actor but with the casting of Downey, the actor would define the character. A keen observation by Favreau! – Downey Jr is great in this role. I love him as the puffed up, arrogant, rich geek who gets the puff taken out of him and becomes who he was meant to be – without losing too much cynicism. Although I couldn’t help feeling it was more or less Harry Lockhart.

Gwyneth Paltrow as P.P. (as I like to call her). Agh. Hmmmm…. Well lets just say she did an okay job considering the scope of the underwritten, yet deserving character.

Terrance Howard as Stark’s BFF Col. James Rhodes – I kinda love Howard so nothing bad to say here. His performance is good. Good! Unlike Paltrow he does wonders with the character written for him, and through his performance the audience develops a real attachment with the character – which I suppose was strategic as super hero movie is code for mega-movie franchise.

Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane. Bridges is nice in this role. I just like listening to this old guy’s wise and deep sounding voice. Not really a stand out performance.

WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THIS FILM? I’m tipping most of you have already but if you haven’t, can I suggest you do? Its far from a movie for everyone (still haven’t found one of those). But as far as a super hero movie goes, Ironman is pretty much as good as your gonna get (although I love Nolan’s Batman Begins).

I loved Downey Jr’s portrayal and the terrorist stuff wasn’t entirely black and white which is nice in such a mainstream film (especially one of this genre) and the dynamic between Downey Jr and Paltrow is somewhat endearing, or at least, different and interesting.

Bottom line, for Downey Jr’s performance alone, this film is worth an entrance fee of up to $14 (or more if you don’t have to pay).

 

WATCH IT WITH… Anyone really. ‘Cept little kids, but you know that already.

ANY BITS? The trailer will spell it out for you, but beyond the expected violence, nothing much.

THIS FILM GETS 3.75 GOLD STARS.

TOMBSTONE

At our weekly movie night this week one of our party suggested we watch a western called Tombstone, I was like: never heard of it. Its kind of in that era from 1970-1995 where I was either not born, or not old enough to watch mature movies and then they kind of just disappear off into the abyss. Well we revived one of ’em last night! – To the great enjoyment of us all.

 

THE SET UP?  The Earp brothers – Law men and peace makers retire and head to the silver-mining town of Tombstone to seek fortune and a more relaxed period of life. Along with TB-suffering friend Doc Holliday, the brothers (along with their wives) prosper in the new town but gradually feel compelled to protect the town’s citizens from the cowboys who are the unofficial and violent powers of Tombstone. The results made the Earp brothers, especially Wyatt a legend. The main plot is buoyed by great one liners from Doc and a r(ather annoyingly realised) romance between Wyatt and Josephine Marcus.

 

THE CAST?  

A powerhouse ensemble with too many biggies to mention, but notably:

Kurt Russell as Wyatt – average performance (kinda the same character as Executive Decision)

Val Kilmer as Doc – brilliant! If I was ever in doubt as to Kilmer’s acting abilities this totally trashes that.

Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton as the other Earp brothers – both pretty good players in this piece (both receive considerably less screen time than Russell and Kilmer).

Dana Delany as Marcus – average, not helped by Russell. 

Check out IMDB for full cast. 

 

WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THIS FILM? Kilmer’s first-rate performance. The one liners. To have another western in your viewing resume – never a bad thing. The only real negative aspect is the woeful state of the soundtrack (not the music but the SOUNDS – voice, sound effects, etc etc.) but that shouldn’t stop you from seeking out this early 90’s western gem.

 

ANY BITS? Apart from subtle debauchery, reasonably excessive violence (but not gruesome – the state of the sound effects is likely to grosse you out more), and some addictive substance related behaviour, there’s nothing to worry about. Oh, come on! Its a western! -We all expect a bit of rough-and-tumble-type stuff – its all in context and true to the time.

 

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARS

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

poster(As you can tell I’m still having some difficulties with formatting – so i need help… ) I’m guessing most of you would have seen Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by now. Its either one of those films you get really excited about before its released and rush out to see it in the first week or so its out OR you’ve decided that even though you generally love the work of the holy trinity* (the name my yits friend Tom gave to the combination of Tim BurtonHelena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp) but the idea of horror meets musical loosely regarding the topic of cannibalism didn’t seem like your cup of tea so you decided to sit this one out and salivate over the knowledge that Burton will be directing the latest remake of Alice in Wonderland (due for release in 2010). SO! A gold stars review on the film may be largely superfluous so I thought I’d just jot down some thoughts I had about the film, based on MY tastes and then fling open the floodgates for you guys to let me know what you thought of the trinity’s* latest offering.  Firstly, I really didn’t like the film. I joyfully acknowledge that it was rather spectacular and another fantastic film by Burton but it just didn’t suit my tastes (I will stop using words with food connotations in the remainder of this post). The combination of music (as in sing-song music), a possessed barber, and human meat pies is a combination only Burton could bring to the screen. And its done well, the elements of the mise-en-scene come together beautifully to create the overall effect and draw the audience in.The stand out performance for me was the young lad Ed Sanders playing workhouse orphan boy Toby, his singing was reminiscent of choir boys in an old cathedral (although I suppose all pre-pubity males sing that way) and he was so sweet and ultimately takes on a form of righteous anger to combat the increasing alienation the audience feels from the mad barber.  Well, that’s all from me on this one.

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARSNow what did you think? Come on now, I know most of you fitted into that first category I mentioned……spill the beans. 

* I hope no one takes offense at this reference. If you do, blame it on frezned

RENDITION

posterNow I, once again, feel at pains (mainly a pain to me) to say that I missed the first little bit of this film and unlike 3:10 this film is directed by a non-american and therefore is arguably more intelligent (oh!) and refused to adequately recap for us tardy folk.So I’ll do my best to review this film, however it won’t be a wholly whole and accurate review…

The Set up? Egyptian born chemical engineer (Anwar) living in the US with a green card and am American wife and son is taken by officials at an airport as he’s returning home. Anwar El-Ibrahimi is suspected of being involved in a bombing that occurred in an Islamic country (that killed many including an American CIA operative). Under US legislation passed under the Clinton administration the American government give themselves the right to hold suspects indefinitely outside the US in order to extract terrorist related information. Anwar is stolen away to the country of the crime and his wife Isabella searches for answers. There’s also an intriguing subplot that I think you’ll get a lot more out of if I say – .

 

CAST? 

Omar Metwally is Anwar – though he doesn’t feature in the film’s propaganda and doesn’t get billing I rate him as the stand out in this film. He also plays the character the film is based around.walking and talking

Resse Witherspoon plays his wife Isabella. I used to love Reese but ever since the Oscar she seems to be dawdling. She’s good in this but not great. She doesn’t hit the my-husband’s-been-taken-away-by-my-government-on-the-basis-of-exactly-no-hard-evidence-and-I’m-“cheesed”-off nail on the head. She was probably distracted by her new love interest…(not that I buy into all that crap)

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Douglas Freeman, the CIA agent who takes over from his colleague who was killed in the bomb blast. He oversees the ‘interrogation’ of Anwar resulting in self-loathing but ultimately compassion. Gyllenhaal pulls this off well. He’s proving himself to be quite a fine actor, but similarly to his sister – he often plays abnormal characters – they’re always the same shade of abnormal.

Peter Sarsgaard plays Alan Smith, assistant to Senator Hawkins and formal college mate of Isabella and Anwar. He’s the first person Isabella comes to when she seeks to find out what happened to her husband. It is plain to the audience that Alan still holds a torch for Isabella. As usual, Sarsgaard pulls out the good stuff – hitting the perfect pitch in his performance.

Alan Arkin plays Hawkins,  the left-wing sympathising Senator who seems keen for social change but only if and when it will actually work.And of course we can’t forget the ever-bloody-brilliant

Meryl Streep who is Corrine Whitman, head of the CIA and defender of the greater good. Streep is icy cold and straight down the line as Whitman – did I mention brilliant?! (But when isn’t she?).

German posterWHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM? Well if I’ve got my timing wrong – which I think I do on this occasion – you’ll either already have seen it or will have to wait until DVD by now. But you should see this film if you enjoy/get something out of looking at the politiking and state of current events in our world. Although you might not get that much out of it. Without wanting to give it away – I agree with David Stratton (of At The Movies – oh, totally podcastable!) that the movie would be far better if it was less ambiguous as to the guilt (or lack thereof) of Anwar. It makes it too neat, too perfect in the end and therefore true blue lefties won’t like it. Its a bit too one sided in the end – doesn’t give the other side of the argument a proper hearing – narratively speaking.

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Doesn’t really matter so much for this one. But save it for the over 16’s would be my suggestion.

ANY BITS?  Ummm….did I mention “interrogation”? Put on Uncle Sam’s hat and use your imagination.

 

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARS.

AUGUST RUSH

poster I had high expectations from seeing the trailer for this film months ago. It finally came out in Australia on Thursday and we went and saw it last night.

To say the film peaked at the trailer wouldn’t be an overstatement.

THE SET UP? Evan Taylor is eleven years old and he lives at a boys home in New York state. He doesn’t want to be placed with a family because he is waiting for his parents to find him, deep down he believes that they always wanted him. He stays sane in the face of rejection and bullying through music. He doesn’t have an ipod or anything but he finds music in everything, the wind, footsteps, etc etc. The audience soon learns the genesis of this budding music protege is his parents. A Juilliard trained classical cellist mother and a blue-collar irish rocker father. And their musical romance is a one-night-stand. Evan leaves the boys home and travels to New York to find his parents. The rest of the film is the journey of Evan, his mother and his father to finding each other, unsurprisingly, music is their guide.

THE CAST?
Freddie Highmore is Evan Taylor (a.k.a August Rush). The London native does well in a near flawless American accent and few actors of his age are able to encapsulate pure joy as Highmore does in most of his roles, but excellently in August Rush. Surprisingly for a young actor, even if he is the central character, Highmore gets top billing and it is well deserved.
cellistKeri Russel plays Lyla Novacek, the cellist. I’ve had a girl-crush on Russel ever since Felicity. Just to look at her onscreen is a joy, but in this she actually pulls off the Juilliard trained cellist well. And in most parts, the seeking mother is well realised too. On a side note, there is something ridiculously sensual about cellists that I find totally alluring (in a 100% platonic way).
I wish I could say the same for Jonathan Rhys Meyers. (I’ve had the opposite of a crush on him since Bend it but I’m not letting that little thing get in the way of an objective assessment of his performance). Meyers falls short as the irish front man, Louis Connelly, and love interest to Russel’s character. Something about him seemed like it didn’t fit – a round peg in a square hole type situation. It seems Meyer’s is trying his best but it just isn’t working for him. I personally believe they needed a slightly more masculine ‘leading man’ opposite Russel’s sweetness. But Meyer’s isn’t the only mis-cast actor in this film.
Another is Robin Williams. Though I haven’t mentioned his character in the set up, Williams plays Wizard – a kind of Fagin (from Oliver Twist) who fosters Evan’s budding musical gift (for his own gain). Its kind of hard to express how Williams is a mis-cast here, but saying he is ‘faganesque’ would lead you to see my point.
Terrence Howard with his beautiful, dewey eyes plays the child services officer handling Lyla’s claim. Howard is not a mis-cast here and brings great depth to the amount of screen time awarded to his character.

fagan and oliver WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THIS FILM? As to be expected the music is rather spectacular. There is some likable rhythmic editing around the better musical pieces. The performances, with the exception of Howard, all lack something, the something is less in Russell and Highmore than others. The characters are developed but Highmore’s character in the middle and towards the end seems to clash with what the audience has learnt thus far about him. Also SPOILER ALERT the ending is too abrupt, as the audience we have journeyed with these characters as they seek to find truth through the whole film and the moment where they find each other is over practically before it begins.
Its not a must see, let me put it that way. But it is a rather cute fairy tale style story of love.

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Preferably someone not like me, who will laugh inappropriately and snicker at the tragic lines.

one night thangANYTHING TO KNOW ABOUT? Not really. Although, just on a personal note, it bugged me how they totally romanticised and glorified what was a one-night-stand between Lyla and Louis. -But this is true to the fairy tale template.

THIS FILM GETS 3 GOLD STARS.

THE KINGDOM

posterI finally saw this film on DVD the other day. When I first saw the trailer I was intrigued. I love movies that explore topical issues, especially if they are coming from the Hollywood machine.

Then there was the thing that Michael Mann was one of the producers. As a director I have really appreciated his work so I started to get excited about The Kingdom.

Then I heard it was basically a action film so I lost interest and, yeah, only saw it the other day on DVD.

I wished I had seen it on the big screen.

THE SET UP? After an attack in an American compound by radical Islamic suicide bombers in Saudi Arabia, four FBI agents head to the Kingdom to find the masterminds behind the bombing(s) and bring them to justice (read: killing them). Things get complicated when they end up in harms way.

THE CAST?
Jamie Foxx is doing his thing as Ronald Fleury, the FBI division leader who takes the team to Saudi Arabia.
farisAshraf Barhom – I wanna give guy the billing he deserves, in the film (and consequently on IMDB) he got billing after the four actors playing FBI agents. This actor you’ve never heard of is exceptional in this film. I had never seen him in anything before The Kingdom but look out for more from this talented actor in the future. Barhom plays Colonel Faris Al Ghazi, the Saudi police officer charged with ‘babysitting’ the FBI agents. Barhom is able to invoke such empathy in the audience for his character and his character’s situation – more than any other actor in the film.
the crew> Chris Cooper is near his Adaptation-best as bomb expert Grant Sykes.
Jennifer Garner does her best to be un-Sydney Bristow -like as CSI type Janey Mayes. Garner is quite good in this, she shows that she is capable of acting outside of her type-cast, though that may sound hard to believe (considering the genre of this film) and not be the central character.
Jason Bateman plays computer/analyst geek Adam Leavitt. I like Bateman, he can practically do no wrong – he does seem slightly out of place in this film because of his comedic and irreverent recent past, but he still does the job well.
Jeremy Piven does HIS thing as fast talking US diplomat on the ground in the Kingdom, there to get the FBI agents out and back on home asap.
Piven has the best line in the film: [to Janet Mayes while preparing her to meet the Saudi Prince] Can we dial down the boobies? [Mayes is wearing a cream tank top (presumably with t-shirt bra) and cargo pants].

WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THIS FILM? While this film could be described as primarily an action film, it was never intended that way – it was intended to be an exploration into Middle Eastern politics and the extent of US involvement in the oil riddled lands. This film shows both sides to the issue, looking at what it all means for the Americans and the muslims (this is the Middle Eastern perspective shown in the film). The final lines of the film are exquisite in their irony and respective selfish perspectives. Merely as an exercise in learning more about the world we live in I’d recommend The Kingdom. All technical aspects of the film are also well done.

poster 2 WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Anyone who likes controversial films or action films. However it would be better to see it with people who enjoy controversial films so you can have a debrief about it afterwards.

ANY BITS TO KNOW ABOUT? Lots of action – bombs, gunfire. There is a reasonable amount of swearing thrown around – but it is highly amusing to see how the Saudi police officers react to the ‘profanities’.

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARS