Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Devil Wears Prada

STEVE - I’ll admit it. I like the Devil Wears Prada, it is perhaps my most embarrassing guilty pleasure. And I’ll also admit that there’s nothing really all that special about it. I mean it is your typical cliché chick flick. Except instead of guy meets girl it’s girl meets job… and Meryl Streep, (who is absolutely fantastic as the Devil in Prada) but still nothing special. No great script. No great acting (except for Meryl Streep… and maybe Stanley Tucci).

I was watching this again today and I think I figured out why I liked this movie. Execution. For me, execution is everything. Execution can make and break a movie. You can have a great script, and great actors, but a film just won’t work unless you have good execution. Examples:

Phone Booth, good actors, interesting premise, bad execution.

Cruel Intentions, good actors, great script, bad execution.

Eragon, interesting premise, pretty darn good book, horrible execution.

Star Wars I-III, great idea, great actors, THE WORST EXECUTION EVER!!!

Now execution isn’t everything, but it is very important. And that is one thing that The Devil Wears Prada does right. You put any movie in the right hands, and you’ll get something good. And that is why I enjoy this movie.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


STEVE - In perhaps one of the most interesting and disturbing films I have ever viewed, Kinsey is the real life story of Alfred Kinsey, a pioneer in the study in human sexuality. In his attempt to, at first, help married couples, and then others understand the act sex, Kinsey’s research draws attention from all areas of the globe and becomes one of the most renowned and hated researchers in the 20th Century.

A well performed and directed piece of cinema. Bill Condon does a terrific job as scribe and director. And Laura Linney gives a brilliant performance as the loving and understanding Mrs. Kinsey. Perhaps why she was nominated for an Oscar.

However, me being the negative one (and the one who uses improper grammar), as truly moving and controversial as the piece was, I don’t recommend it. It was a well-made film, though it did leave some storylines and characters open-ended (like Kinsey’s father and son). And Liam Neeson’s performance was nothing to be ecstatic about. But my biggest complaint, is that I felt that the film tried to be too preachy in what it had to say. Allow me to explain.

The film is all about Dr. Kinsey trying to tell the world the truth about sex, when the world chooses to ignore the issue. It was something that Dr. Kinsey felt he had to do and something that really needed to be done, and I agree. So Dr. Kinsey tries to research sex from a purely scientific standpoint, with no feelings. Which of course sex without feelings… well it just doesn’t work, not very well at least. And of course, colleagues and those close to him get hurt because emotion is taken out of the equation. Now the film does touch on some of those consequences, but the Mr. Condon brushes those repercussions aside to push his movies agenda/message along; which of course like most things in Hollywood is very liberal. Now I don’t have anything against liberals. I at times have tended to lean towards the liberal end of the spectrum on some issues. But if you are going to make a film, on a powerful subject, that has a message, don’t get caught up in your own agenda. Which is what I felt this film and its writer/director did. A well made film, but a little full of itself.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Good German

STEVE - Something you should know about me… I love noir. So imagine how I felt when I discovered that Stephen Soderbergh was making one of his own. I was excited to see it but poor reviews and warnings of bad tidings kept me away… until now.

It was an interesting film, but it lacked some of the suspense and wit that made the classics, classics. I think the script needed a good going over before they filmed. One or two plot holes and an anticlimactic ending left me feeling disappointed. But I didn’t think this was to blame on the writers part but more so the directors.

The Good German is Soderbegh’s homage to the movie making style of the 40’s… when the film noir was first invented (Maltese Falcon anyone?). He does a pretty decent job of it with the credits and the transitions and by making the film black and white. Not to mention the setting of last scene (which I won’t reveal, go watch for yourself). However his camera work was far too modern, which I think might have hurt him in this case.

As for the actors I’d have to say I’m a little disappointed. Cate (Blanchett) was good, but not her best, and I guess I could say the same for George (Clooney). Now as for Toby (Maguire), I’d have to say nice try, but it doesn’t work for me. Toby can’t play the bad ass, tough guy (which he does in this film). It doesn’t work for me.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Warning: Spoilers
- No Country for Old Men is one of the best filmed films I have ever seen. Perfect cinematography accompanied by a perfect underscore of mostly sound effects, And a perfect cast with arguably the most evil villain to haunt audiences on the silver screen. It is a delight to watch such a complete film.

However, (and of course with me there is always an however) I will admit that I was lost on the true meaning of the film. I hate to admit it, but I think the ending was lost on me. In the end the villain escapes after being mangled in an auto accident, and Tommy Lee Jones character has a powerful monologue at the end of the film that I don’t understand. What does it mean??!!

I really wish to see this movie again just so I can make another attempt to grasp it. Until then…

The Prestige

DAN - This was my second viewing of this film. The first time I saw The Prestige, I left the theater with a barrage of questions floating around in my mind. I knew it was a good film, but I gained more appreciation for it upon this second screening. This film about magicians is a magic trick itself, and it is performed almost flawlessly.

Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman each give intriguing performances that can be more appreciated the second time around. Bale in particular displays nuances that might go unnoticed if the viewer isn’t paying close attention. The film’s director, Christopher Nolan, has yet to let me down. His direction of this film is as good as any I’ve seen. I found that the film’s ending can be predicted before its reveal, but it’s the journey toward the conclusion that really makes The Prestige something unique.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Mighty Wind

DAN - Christopher Guest has a knack for creating faux documentaries with heart. He has somehow managed to assemble a group of actors who are great at improvisation, and their characters consistently come across as being genuine. A Mighty Wind is a film about three groups of folk musicians who unite to perform one concert together. Surprisingly, all of the music in this film is actually good; I suppose it helps that Guest has a history of performing folk music in real life. This film made me laugh, and at one point I almost even cried. Kudos to Mr. Guest and his troupe.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Empire of the Sun

DAN - I had seen this film when I was a child, though I could only recall one scene from it. Steve had told me that I should watch it, and I usually enjoy Spielberg’s movies, so I was looking forward to it. On top of that, I was interested in seeing Christian Bale as a child actor. I was surprised by Bale’s performance, which is really what makes Empire of the Sun a noteworthy film.

This is a traumatic film about a British boy struggling to survive in China during World War II. I’m surprised I was allowed to watch it when I was young; it could have given me nightmares. Spielberg’s direction and John Williams’ score convey a feeling of hopelessness that coincides beautifully with the story. Bale, though being only thirteen years old in this movie and without formal training, gives a stellar performance – a highlight of his career.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

American Gangster

DAN - In the past I have enjoyed the work of Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe, and Denzel Washington, so I was understandably looking forward to this film. I knew nothing about the subject matter other than what I had seen in the film’s trailers, but I trusted the talent involved. They did not disappoint. American Gangster is a well-crafted film about business, respect, and the law.

Washington plays Frank Lucas, a man who is willing to take advantage of others for his own sake and that of his family. Crowe plays Richie Roberts a non-crooked cop (a rarity in this film) who is determined to put an end to Lucas’ drug business. A good story, top-notch acting, and excellent direction make American Gangster an entertaining film that deserves repeat viewings.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No Country for Old Men

DAN - As a fan of several films by the Coen Brothers, I was hoping that this would be another one to add to my collection. The Coens have made some flops in recent years (Intolerable Cruelty, The Ladykillers), but based on this film’s trailers, I had a good feeling about it. The brothers exceeded my expectations, making No Country for Old Men one of my favorite recent films.

The film follows a man who, after finding two million dollars in a briefcase, must run to avoid being killed by the man who was sent to retrieve it. That man, Anton Chigurh, is one of the best villains I have seen in any film. He is a methodical killer who lets no one interfere with his determination. This film has its share of tension-inducing sequences as well as an ending that kept me thinking.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

DAN - I enjoyed the first two Bourne films, but they never amounted to anything more than good action films. Particularly in the second film, The Bourne Supremacy, there wasn’t enough character development for me to fully invest my interest. Director Paul Greengrass’ shaky camerawork is still present in Ultimatum as it was in Supremacy, but that never really bumped me out of the films. The Bourne Ultimatum finally reveals a good portion of Jason Bourne’s past, and it seems to contain a better sense of purpose than the previous installments.

Bourne is out for revenge at the beginning of this film, which picks up where Supremacy left off. The film contains several good action sequences, including a game of cat-and-mouse between a group of assassins and Bourne, who is trying to guide an informant to safety. The ending of The Bourne Ultimatum is more satisfying than those of its predecessors, giving some sense of closure for Bourne’s story.

Broken Flowers

DAN - This is the first film I saw that was directed by Jim Jarmusch. At the time, I wasn’t familiar with his style of storytelling, and I didn’t like the film. Upon seeing this movie for a second time, I was able to enjoy it much more. Broken Flowers took me on a journey with the main character that had me rooting for him beyond the ending.

The film follows Don Johnston, played by Bill Murray, who receives an anonymous letter in the mail informing him that he has a son. He travels across the country, visiting old flames in search for the one who sent the note. During his trip, he interacts with a number of unique characters that are portrayed by experienced actors who, once again, add something special to Jarmusch’s film. The film spends enough time with Don that the viewer gains an understanding of who he is, despite his introverted personality. Broken Flowers led me to sympathize with Don. It left me wanting to know where his life goes after the credits roll.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dead Man

DAN - This is similar to other Jim Jarmusch films in that it was filmed in black and white, but the story and the world in which it takes place are much different. Jarmusch doesn’t usually direct Westerns, but in this instance he does it well. Beautiful cinematography, intimate direction, and a list of cameo appearances by accomplished actors make Dead Man a memorable and enjoyable film.

The film features brief appearances by Crispin Glover, John Hurt, Gabriel Byrne , Billy Bob Thornton, and Alfred Molina, among others. In addition to this, Johnny Depp plays the lead role of a man who is lost in a world where he doesn’t belong. The presence of these experienced actors improved the quality of this film in relation to others by Jarmusch. His fade-to-black transitions are still present; they nearly made me want to fall asleep, but in this case they appropriately reflect Depp’s character as he drifts in and out of consciousness. After seeing Dead Man, I’m convinced that Jarmusch should make more adventure films like it.

American Psycho

DAN - Prior to seeing this film, I knew nothing about it. It looked like a cheesy horror flick, which isn’t exactly my favorite type of movie. I had seen Christian Bale in The Machinist, Batman Begins, and The Prestige, and I thought of him as a decent actor. I ended up seeing American Psycho with a couple of friends (one of them being Steve) as the result of a lack of anything better to do, and I’m glad I did. This film is horrific, gruesome, and twisted, yet I found it oddly appealing. (Hmm... what does that say about me?)

This film sparked my interest in Bale as an actor. As Patrick Bateman, he manages to seamlessly slip back and forth between being a charismatic perfectionist-yuppie and an insane murderer. The artistic direction of this film mirrors what I can only imagine is taking place inside Bateman’s mind, as there is something eerily off kilter in each scene. The mundane is made beautiful, casual conversation leads to murder, and reality is questionable. American Psycho is unlike anything I’ve seen, and though it’s not the most pleasant movie to watch, I couldn’t help but be drawn in.

(As a side note, is it coincidence that Bale has starred as Patrick Bateman and Batman? Think about it.)