Occasionally, I'll be asked "hey, have you seen anything good lately?" Well, yeah probably. There's always stuff that
I've recently watched or rewatched and am willing to commit to the suggestion for folks to check it out if they hadn't
seen it or even heard of it. So maybe you'll find something here that peaks your interest.
If you would like to see some more of my reactions to a variety of films, you can find more short reviews,
along with a variety of ramblings
at my blog.
My BLOG...Right here!
Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are two hitmen from London. They're instructed by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to lie low in the town of Bruges in Belgium until they hear from him with further instructions. Ken is the older, wiser veteran who has workd for Harry for a long time. Ken is the younger, inexperienced hitman who just had finished his first job for Harry. Unfortunately it didn't go as smoothly as it was supposed to, hence this unexpected time spent in Bruges.
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, In Bruges is a black comedy set in a very picturesque town. Our two main characters are as different as they can be. Ken is the quieter, more reflective of the pair. Bruges begins to grow on him and he genuinely enjoys his time sightseeing, learning the history of the city, appreciating the arts and the views. He falls in love with the 'fairy tale' aspects of this midieval town. Meanwhile, Ray is despondent over his botched hit and has no interest in his surroudings. He's surly, rude to tourists and has to get dragged along like a difficult child. He's filled with guilt and being stuck in Bruges just adds to his depression. He views this trip as a punishment.
Things perk up for Ray when he meets Chloe (Clemence Poesy) who is working as a production assistant on a movie - which is filming a midgit! Ray is smitten by Chloe and is intrigued by the diminutive actor Jimmy (Jordan Prentice). They both now have him more captivated than anything in this city. However, he doesn't have too much time to enjoy himself as Harry calls and reveals why he sent the pair to Bruges in the first place.
The relationship between Ray and Ken is what makes In Bruges so special. This could simply have become the cliche of the older hitman schooling the younger rookie in the ways of life, but it becomes much more special than that. There is a relaxed back and forth bickering between the two and both the actors excel at delivering some very good scenes together. Not to mention the film is incredibly funny. The laughs don't exactly come from the situation they're placed in, but more from how these two characters are reacting to it and each other. It started to remind me of the dynamics and chemistry DeNiro and Grodin had in Midnight Run.
There's an emotional core to the film as well. In Bruges doesn't simply focus on this odd couple relationship, but also gives each character hefty decisions and motivations that run throughout the film and the sacrifices that each man must make. At points it's a heartbreaking story. When things get violent, they really do get violent. In Bruges does get graphic when the situation intensifies.
It's a very well made film. It looks gorgeous, the story and characters both suck me in - including the supporting characters they meet. The actors, especially Gleeson and Farrell are both very good. This is unquestionably my favorite performance by Farrelll I've seen. Plus, Fiennes is hysterical and menacing as the guys boss. In Bruges should certainly have gotten and should get more attention than apparently it does.
The year is 1954 and the most popular television program in American is preparing to have swashbuckling movie star Alan Swann (Peter O'Toole) appear on its latest broadcast.
Unfortunately, Swann is not exactly the emblem of class and sophistication that comedy writer Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker idolizes. Benjy admires the onscreen Swann who saves the damsel in distress, says the perfect line and be someone to aspire to be. However, the Swann who shows up to the Comedy Cavalcade television show is a notorious aging alcoholic, troublemaker and womanizer who doesn't seem to care about anything other than satisfying his own carnal urges. He doesn't seem able to cross the street on his own let alone work on a live television program.
Benjy gets assigned to look after Swann for the week and make sure he's ready to perform in front of the twenty million people who will be tuning in. Getting to spend time with his idol isn't what Benjy ever imagined.
My Favorite Year is one of those movies that always makes me feel really good while watching it. I have a smile on my face from the opening credits all the way to the end. There's a bunch of reasons for this.
First, the whole setup. The world of 1950's live television presented here is so much dang fun! Decades before Tina Fey made 30 Rock a popular address, My Favorite Year used it to tell this entertaining story. This is my ideal vision of how working on a television comedy show would be. There's this excitement and glamor associated with being on television at the time. Television is a young medium, there's a freshness and enthusiasm by the audience for it and an innocent charm by the sketches the show presents.
However, behind the scenes there's a biting, cynical edge to all of it. Benjy is walking down the halls and he's constantly trading wisecracks with a weary wardrobe woman, worn down comedy writers and an egotistical star. This might sound routine today, but the juxtaposition with the excited wide-eyed 1950's live-television atmosphere makes it all funnier to me.
Then we have the characters. I love watching and spending time with all these people. This was one of Linn-Baker's earliest roles and he's very good here. He immediately establishes his funny put-upon-everyman persona that would define his most popular roles in his career - Perfect Strangers.
The supporting roles are all memorable and well played by the actors. The cast in this are all really good! I'm not even going to waste the time listing them all, but everyone from Benjy's co-workers to his family in Brooklyn to Swann's limo driver are all given their own nice little moments. My Favorite Year could have easily just focused on our leading characters, but it spreads the quality around with the smaller roles as well and I think that's one of the key things that makes it so enjoyable.
And yes - O'Toole. He seems to be having a lot of fun spoofing this respected movie star image and doesn't hold back. He's more than happy to flail around in his underwear and drop to the floor drunk. I still find it hard to believe his performance was actually nominated for an Academy Award that year. It's the complete opposite of the heavy-duty dramatic performance that the Oscars love to take notice of. It's nice to see they actually acknowledged how good O'Toole was here.
Between all the laughs there's also some very touching little moments throughout the film. Alan Swann dancing with an elderly woman (Gloria Stuart) celebrating her 40th anniversary at the Stork Club, Benjy having a late night date in the offices of 30 Rock with K.C. - the fellow staffer he's sweet on. Swann paying a silent long overdue visit to his daughter. Some heart to heart scenes between Swann and Benjy. Really nice little scenes that make the movie richer than just a straight out belly laugh comedy.
Fans who know their television history should have fun thinking of all the influences that inspired My Favorite Year. Obviously, it's a Your Show of Shows-type of show. Swann is clearly meant to be Errol Flynn. Linn-Baker is perhaps a young Woody Allen. With Mel Brooks being an uncredited executive producer these connections become obvious.
However, even if you have no idea about any of that you should still enjoy My Favorite Year. It's just a very entertaining comedy with some heart to it. It's pretty refreshing to watch a comedy that doesn't have to get by with gross out gags and annoying characters. A good story, likable characters and some very funny dialogue is what continues to make My Favorite Year an ageless comedy to go back an rewatch.
Quentin Tarantino's newest western film Django Unchained, or as the director refers to it 'a southern', has some referring to it as another masterpiece on his resume. It's garnered a lot of attention, a bunch of award nominations and a decent sized box office take.
I'm not sure I would call it a masterpiece, but it is awfully entertaining.
Going into a Tarantino film by now you should know what to expect to get. Some style, witty dialogue, good performances, tributes of films past and sudden shocks of violence that punctuate scenes. And that's all here.
Jamie Foxx stars as Django a slave in Texas who is bought by Christoph Waltz's Dr. King Schultz, a former dentist now bounty hunter. Django can identify some prospective bounties, so being such a good-natured affable fellow Schultz offers Django a deal - help him find these guys and he'll give him his freedom.
Soon this partnership turns into a friendship and after having a successful run of knocking off bad guys and collecting the cash, they set about tracking down Django's wife and to free her. They're led to notorious Candie Land, owned and operated by the evil Calvin Candie (Leonard DiCaprio). As our two heroes formulate a plan to free Django's missus, they're faced with dangerous adversaries who will play hardball to protect their interests.
The film plays out like another comeuppance revenge tale. Similar to Inglorious Bastards where WWII-era Jews were allowed to get payback against their Nazi persecutors, here it's the black slaves who get a taste of justice. Tarantino really makes you hate the villains. They're heartless, brutal and the whole time I was itching for our bounty hunters to give them what they deserve.
The cast are all excellent. I've never been a big fan of Foxx, but here he makes it easy for you to root for him. He's a sympathetic character and you can understand the anger he has inside him that's he's very willing to unleash. DiCaprio delivers another great performance as the sadistic Candie. I think it's the first time he's played a bad guy in a film and he delivers the goods on all levels. Samuel L. Jackson I thought was fine as Candie's elderly house slave, although it was hard for me to accept that he was this crochety old man. I just kept hearing Jackson and all the violent, showy roles Jackson has done in the past coming out of this guy. He's got such a strong onscreen personlity he'll always be Sam Jackson to me no matter how much old age makeup they put on him.
All the supporting actors are very well cast in their parts. It's funny how Tarantino can sprinkle in actors who most filmmakers seem to ignore and they end up having indelible little scenes. I do however think Tarantino showing up in a small part was distracting. He wasn't very good and it might be better if he just stayed behind the camera.
The real star, the one actor who really made me love this movie and I couldn't take my eyes off him the moment he non-chalantly moseyed on screen was Christoph Waltz. He was such an interesting, relaxed, articulate character I couldn't get enough of him. Naturally he's good with his gun, but he's also awesome with his words. The calm way he talks while whether pouring a beer or being surrounded by an entire agitated town, won me over.
The violence is extemely brutal. The dialogue scenes range from touching to suspenseful. There's a self-referential sense of humor the film has. Tarantino's affection for old spaghetti westerns is clearly on display from everything to the soundtrack to the images unfolding onscreen. It all ends up being a real fun Tarantino ride.
Humphrey Bogart is WWII veteren Major Frank MCCloud. He arrives in Key Largo, Florida to see the widow and father of his friend George who died during the fighthing in Italy. Nora (Lauren Bacall) and James Temple (Lionel Barrymore) are anxious to hear whatever information Frank can tell them about George and welcome him with open arms.
As luck would have it a hurricane is approaching and the hotel Nora and James run have a handful of suspicious men who have rented the entire hotel. As they are preparing for the storm they learn that the men are in fact criminals led by the notorious gangster Johnny Rocko (Edward G. Robinson). They all plan on riding out the storm together, after which these thugs are planning an escape to Cuba. And so begins one of the best hostage movies ever made.
Directed by John Huston, Key Largo is one of those classic films where everything seems to work. The casting, the story, the writing, the direction. It all adds up to simply a great ensemble movie. Frank McCloud isn't a typical Bogart tough guy. He's a fallen idealist who has to determine if it's worth risking his life to stop these guys. He's scared and has to swallow his nerves to try to figure out a way out of this. For most of the film he has guns pointed at him and he's much more a passive character than we're used to seeing Bogart. He's just a witness letting things play out. But as he gradually stands up against these bad guys, even with small gestures or comments it's a thrill. It's sort of Bogart's Die Hard.
Bacall and Barrymore are both good. This was the final film Bacall would make with Bogart. Here she's not the sultry leading lady she was better known for co-starring with Bogart, but here's she plays a much more modest character. Barrymore gives an excellent performance as the invalid hotel owner, who ranges through heartfelt quiet moments to loud cantankerous tirades even with a gun pointed in his face. The supporting bad guys, along with Claire Trevor who won the Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Rocko's lady who is dying for a drink. But it's Robinson who really owns this movie. He plays the mighty Rocko who thinks he's completely untouchable and truly believes he's as great as his underlings think he is. He also kind of enjoys playing with peoples heads, having fun at their weaknesses and is a cold bastard who will kill without thinking twice.
Everytime I catch Key Largo I end up watching it until the end. I always thought of it as one of Bogart's best films. It's intelligent, suspenseful and has a terrific cast. It's just overall a great movie.
One of the joys of the 1980s was turning on your cable box and reveling in
gratuitious, teen, sex comedies. Most were very poorly made, but that didn't
stop a generation from tuning in and watching them countless times.
I take a look back at that nostalgic period of movie watching
and revisit some of the movies the genre gave us
BACHELOR PARTY - BLAME IT ON RIO - HOT DOG THE MOVIE - MISCHIEF -
PRIVATE LESSONS - PRIVATE SCHOOL - REVENGE OF THE NERDS -
SCREWBALLS - ZAPPED!