31 March 2011

The Vault: High Noon (1952)

Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) just hung up the badge and the gun belt and got happily married to a beautiful bride (Grace Kelly) when their honeymoon plans get jolted with horrible news. Frank Miller, a madman criminal that Kane himself put behind bars, has been pardoned.

To make it even worse, Miller threatened to murder Kane for what he did and it seems that Miller is planning to follow through on that threat. All of Miller's old gang is waiting at the station for him to arrive on the noon train. The friends of Kane urge him to leave while he still has a chance, and Will and his wife get out of town before Will turns the wagon around. 

You can run away from the problem, however long you can stay in front of it, but you can't run away from your conscience.

The town however, as well as his newly-wed wife don't agree with Will. The town is too cowardly to act and ignored the marshal's appeals for help. His wife was going to board the same train that could bring Will's death if he did not change his mind, but he was stubborn and noble.

As time clicked away on the clock, all there was left to do was prepare for Frank Miller and his gang, load the guns, and do what was right, no matter what it might mean.

This film is great. One of the best westerns of all time.  Not surprisingly, some people say that it's just a black and white "good versus evil" flick that was flabby and full of itself. Howard Hawks and John Wayne called it un-American.

Wrong. Completely wrong. First things first, Marshal Kane wasn't perfect. He had a slightly scandalous past that he had put behind him, true, and he's moved on, true, but that didn't make him pure. As for being un-American, well, it's the most watched film by the Presidents of the United States, so that doesn't make sense to me at all.

As far as I'm concerned he was the right man for the wrong job in the wrong town. Part of what makes High Noon so good is that it's not like other westerns. The ungrateful townspeople does not band together behind their marshal for one thing. If fact, a lot of the town wants Frank Miller back— he was good for business.

The emphasis on time is especially artful by director Fred Zinneman.  Constantly, the presence of clocks is emphasized, ticking down the time until Frank Miller's train rolls into town.  There’s also the frenetic theme of solidarity that is cringe-worthy.

This film is about the tension, the drama, the build up, and the determination to stick up for your principles against all odds.  Fred Zinneman was a wizard at that— the clocks, time, time, time; the camera shots of the long empty railroad tracks; Marshal Kane's look of anguish; and the one shot of the chair when Kane's talking with the judge that sentenced Miller...

"Why must you be so stupid? Have you forgotten what he is? Have you forgotten what he's done to people? Have your forgotten that he's crazy? Don't you remember when he sat in that chair and said, 'You'll never hang me. I'll come back. I'll kill you, Will Kane. I swear it, I'll kill you.'"

It's scenes like that that make a great film, along with great actors. Gary Cooper was fantastic as Marshal Will Kane, and he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for this performance. Grace Kelly was very dainty as Mrs. Kane... and it seems that the problem about Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly being very old and very young didn't really matter in the long run.  An especially great performance was by Katy Jurado as Mrs. Helen Ramirez, the ex-girlfriend of Kane.  Plus there was the little sneak Harvey, the power hungry former-deputy played by Lloyd Bridges.

This movie won four Academy Awards after its six nominations. The Oscar went to High Noon for...

-Best Actor: Gary Cooper
-Best Song: Dimitri Tiomkin's "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'" sung by Tex Ritter (a reoccuring tune)
-Best Dramatic Score and
-Best Film Editing

A lot of people say that it was a mistake that "High Noon" didn't win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Instead it went to The Greatest Show on Earth (which surprisingly, I'd never heard of before doing this review.) It would figure— but still High Noon is an immortal classic.

5 out of 5 stars

Everything Must Go Trailer

A return to Stranger than Fiction form for Will Ferrell perhaps? I certainly hope so. This looks like a great black comedy.

30 March 2011

Pulp Fiction by Tim Doyle

Artist Tim Doyle has created several prints to exhibit in his Quentin vs. Coens show for the Bold Hype Gallery in New York. This and his other works for Reservoir Dogs, Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill, Jackie Brown and more here.

27 March 2011

"Have a Good Day."

Frank comes downstairs after a very heated argument and - much to his surprise - April has breakfast waiting for him. She has forgiven him. Or so he thinks.

Sam Mendes' tale of domestic drama entails many betrayals. The most important being trust. April (Kate Winslet) believes Frank to have betrayed her trust. In fact she knows it. His promises of leaving their quaint and cozy existence on Revolutionary Road have all turned out to be lies.

 What she is really about to do will rock his existence. Winslet's performance during this scene alone should have warranted her Best Actress Oscar. The way her eyes embody the solemness of the scene is beyond words. We know something is wrong, but we have no idea how bad.

25 March 2011

Your Thoughts on 'Sucker Punch'

Zack Snyder's girl power/Alice in Wonderland shoot-out hit theatres today. Love it, hate it, or somewhere in between? Leave your take in the comments below.

Review: Jane Eyre

In terms of literary prestige there are few names as valued as Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. There have been at least eight adaptations of the book starring various stars of screen and stage, but with any classic tale, there is fresh air waiting to be taken in by a new audience. Director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) accepts this challenge and doesn't disappoint us with his vision.

From the get-go Jane (Mia Wasikowska) battles against her surroundings. The whipping winds and pouring rain of the moor as she attempts to brave her way to St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell) residence. Fukunaga starts off Jane Eyre with Jane as an adult sharing her traumatic upbringing in flashback. It's a nice subversion and one that introduces a stylish aesthetic quickly.

Jane suffered a great deal of abuse in her childhood, it starts at the Reed household at the hands of her aunt and Mr. Brocklehurst and continues in her mind for years afterward. Yet in her new position as governess, Jane has found happiness in Thornfield Hall. That is, until the lord of the manor makes himself known. Rochester (Michael Fassbender) is gruff and minces no words in the company of others, not his faithful servant of many years, Mrs. Fairfax (Judi Dench), nor his ward, Adele.

A man who delights in putting others at unease, Rochester's profile takes a more devilish glee in the flickering light of the fire. This is not Jane and Rochester's first encounter, but their fireside chat is easily one of their most memorable. He aims to put Jane on the spot and she refuses to relent. He was not granted his own happiness, so what delights Rochester may take in are not for consumption by the faint of heart. His calm stare sears straight through Jane, but she meets his glare. A man known for cruelty meets his match.

Gothic romances like these are built on restrained performances from leads with believable chemistry and the "plain" Jane and Rochester have it. These two share forbidden moments the audience knows probably shouldn't happen, but there is an electricity in the air that rivets throughout the film. What Rochester allows Jane to see is a painfully acute self-awareness that he shelters from everyone else.

The entire film is a masterwork of composed shadows and landscapes cloaked in darkness. Cary Fukunaga may not have seemed the ideal candidate to make Jane Eyre, yet given the opportunity, he creates one of the most illustrious and compelling adaptations of all-time.


23 March 2011

Mr. Popper's Penguins Trailer

Jim Carrey is just the kind of guy to pull off interacting with fake penguins. He could really use a big win and I hope Mr. Popper's Penguins can give it to him.

Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011)

Actress Elizabeth Taylor has passed away today of congestive heart failure at the age of 79. The star of such films as Cleopatra, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Taylor was a mega star of her time and had a great run of films in the 1950's.

Turner Classic Movies has scheduled a memorial marathon for April 10th.

22 March 2011

This Post Was Converted Into 3D

Well 3D certainly hasn't turned out the way I thought it would. Following last year's impressive effects in How to Train Your Dragon, Tangled, Tron Legacy, 2011 has been, well let's be honest, complete and utter crap. Drive Crazy's promotional marketing refused to let any one go through watching television without having filmed in 3D carved into their eyeballs. Sanctum had all of the questionable dialogue of Avatar without any of the splendor. The Green Hornet seemed like it had a reasonable excuse for post-converting; Michel Gondry's visual flair hasn't failed before, but it did this time. And as for Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. I won't dignify this film's existence with a remark.

Sucker Punch will leave some kind of mark in the next week, but even if that, Harry Potter 7.2, and Captain America all do well. This season looks like it won't be saved. Film purists will likely be overwhelmed with joy over the growing discontent with high theatre costs and poor product for that high cost.

Maybe 3D is just a fad, but with every spectacular failure like Drive Crazy there will be just as many blockbusters like Justin Bieber: Never Cut My Hair. It won't go away, yet I continue hoping that Pixar and Disney can make up for the rest of the terrible schlock that lurks around every Friday release.

21 March 2011

10 Words or Less: Zodiac (2007)

Obsession takes many forms and many faces.

20 March 2011

Levitt is John Blake in 'Dark Knight Rises'

UPDATE: Levitt will actually be playing, “John Blake, a Gotham City beat cop assigned to special duty under the command of Commissioner Gordon”.

Variety has reported that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is confirmed to play Alberto Falcone in The Dark Knight Rises. For those of you who are familiar with The Long Halloween graphic novel Alberto Falcone is the son of Carmine (Tom Wilkinson) and also the infamous Holiday Killer.

Whether the Holiday Killer plotline will make it into the film, or Alberto poses more of a minor threat to Batman has yet to be seen. But pieces are coming together and it seems like we have a better idea where The Dark Knight Rises is going.

The Vault: The Red Balloon (1956)

The Red Balloon (Le Ballon rouge) begins with young Pascal walking to school alone in gritty inner-city Paris. he finds a large red balloon attached to the top of a lamp post and rescues it.

The balloon is then his companion. Everywhere the balloon goes, it causes Pascal trouble. It shortly becomes apparent that the balloon is sentient, and appreciates Pascal; it waits for him outside his apartment and reluctantly obeys his command.

The balloon is a metaphor for the whimsy of childhood. Regardless of any problems it may cause, the viewer always knows that Pascal is better off for having its company.

The Red Balloon won the oscar for best short film in 1959, and is a delight to see.

19 March 2011

Review: The Lincoln Lawyer

Attorney Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is not your typical lawyer, he operates his business out of the back of a black Lincoln. Mick's driver rumbles across Los Angeles, while he dabbles here and there representing biker gangs, drug users, and various court room occupants.

Mick's reputation precedes him in the court room, prosecutors and judges know him to be the heavy hitter working for big bucks, clients know him to be their saving grace. What most don't know about Mick is his biggest fear is an innocent client. He came across one once and that didn't go well, apathy has proven to be Mick's best friend since. In a lot of ways McConaughey and his Lincoln Lawyer character Mick Haller are quite similar. Both are very talented, but have skated by for the last several years doing lesser work.

With Mick's latest client, the stakes are higher now. An opportunity for major money has presented itself in the form of a Newport yuppie charged with attempted murder. Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) refuses to take a deal, plea out, or go to prison. His innocence is proclaimed early and often.

When facts come to light that Louis is not what he seems the film could take a predictable path, but to the film's credit, the cliche'd revenge tale is avoided. What we are offered instead is a much more interesting presentation of consequences.

Matthew McConaughey. For many years the tagline of his films could have been "have abs, will travel." His performances in Lone Star and A Time to Kill were something to file under Actor to Look For, but then the Kate Hudson team-ups happened. He was still charismatic in those films, but the interest just wasn't there.

It may just be because McConaughey is getting older, but he seems to want the challenge of stretching himself as an actor again.

A majority of Lincoln Lawyer's success is also due to the other actors of the supporting cast (veterans Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy and Josh Lucas). Tomei is particularly entertaining as Mick's ex-wife and frequent verbal sparring partner.

The Lincoln Lawyer is based on Michael Connelly's series of novels by the same name, but this isn't just another bestseller adaptation. This is solid entertainment. Legal thrillers are rarely as entertaining as this and watching McConaughey embody a character battling through the moral greys of the legal system leaves hope that his career resurgence holds course.


18 March 2011

Review: Limitless

Post-modern consumers are all about the quick-fix: lose weight instantly, bulk up immediately, six hours of energy drinks available in the time it takes to drink a shot. Life is moving at a much faster pace now and we need supplements that will aid that. There is no time left for those who can't keep up. Which brings us to the central character of Limitless, Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper). His girlfriend, Lindy, is moving up in the world and Eddie's life is stuck in stasis as of the moment. She loves him, but he has to make drastic changes though they are slow to come. The novel that has languished unfinished on his laptop sees no signs of being completed. Eddie is watching his future run out.

A chance encounter with his former brother-in-law leaves Eddie an opportunity to change everything. A tiny pill called NZT has provided him with everything he needs. Initially, Eddie is hesitant, his brother-in-law was always a screw-up how could that have changed? There is only one way to find out and down the hatch it goes.

Soon, Eddie finds out NZT can not only make you smarter, but a more perfect being. The novel that had plagued him for months is finished in a matter of hours. Problems are solved without delay, philosophies dissected easily, maneuvering the treacherous stock market is now like child's play. Eddie Morra has everyone's attention now, he's hailed as the next modern-day Michelangelo, even mega-tycoon Carl Van Loon (Robert DeNiro) has taken an interest.

By the time Limitless builds up the benign problem Eddie encounters into a dramatic conflict, the audience questions why small things weren't solved by the world's smartest man. Remember to pay the loan shark, keep your supply of pills flowing, don't lose face in front of Van Loon. These things are easy enough to remember even for those of us who aren't geniuses.

Neil Burger conveys what the world may look like to an accelerated being and he does so very well. When Eddie is at his highest the screen glows with a golden aura and when he isn't the dirt and grime of New York City is all too apparent.

Limitless does a lot of things well, but the film never builds upon the intriguing premise of "should you take a pill that makes you smarter?" Bradley Cooper is given a chance to excel outside of the bro-roles that he has played so often and he doesn't disappoint. His challenges with living and (perhaps) dying by NZT are a great deal of fun even if Limitless doesn't soar to the heights that Eddie does.


17 March 2011

10 Words or Less: Snatch (2000)

Don't stake anything on a man named "One Punch Mickey".

15 March 2011

Tron 3 Teaser

This isn't a teaser by any stretch - it's ten minutes long - but if you want to know where the Tron franchise is going, or fill the blanks between Tron and Tron Legacy, here you go.

14 March 2011

Super 8 Trailer

So this will be what we will all be talking about this summer.

10 March 2011

First Time Freebie

If this is your first time renting a movie using Redbox online you could get a free DVD/Blu-ray rental!

09 March 2011

Listen to Rango Soundtrack

Reminiscent of all those western scores from yesteryear this soundtrack aces its purpose. The eclectic mix of Hans Zimmer, Rick Garcia and the Los Lobos really hit the spot. Best of the bunch is "Rango" and it will probably be nominated for Best Original Song.

07 March 2011

The Vault: Wesley Willis: The Daddy of Rock 'n' Roll ★ ★ ★

say RAH!
You say RAOW!
Anyone with a passing familiarity with Wesley Willis' music has heard stories about the man who made the music. Tales of the 400 pound behemoth who has a permanent welt of his head from headbutting the people he likes are contrasted against his mental illness and the tough life he lived.

Willis' music would be described as outsider art. Music was his passion, and he wasn't in any way classically trained. Many of his songs are little more than a few repetitive lyrics set to a digital keyboard playing in demo mode. The simplicity of the music and the humourous lyrics make for very accessible music, which led to its popularity. However, it's easy to feel that you're being exploitative when enjoying one of these songs. After watching the film, I no longer feel like this is correct.

Wesley Willis: The Daddy of Rock 'n' Roll tells Wesley's story. He lived a hard life that was punctuated by some of the worst that humanity can deliver. He also fought a battle with schizophrenia that started (as is often the case) early in his adult life that he wrestled with until his death (shortly after this documentary was released).

So many people with severe mental illness end up living on the streets. Cultural stigmas against mental illness culminate in a situation where physical health is considered to be an asset to the community, but mental health is a personal liability. It's a false dichotomy; the mind and the body are one. Health is health, and illness is illness. We shouldn't have a society where certain illnesses go untreated because of prejudice. We should strive for a society where people with mental illness aren't ostracized. Luckily for Wesley, he had an artistic gift that enabled him to succeed in spite of these hurdles.

The film is not the best documentary ever produced, but it succeeds because of the source material. Upon seeing the film, it's apparent that Willis' rock career was a triumph of his character (with a lot of help from friends) over unbelievable odds. We also learn that his confrontational, profanity-laced songs (e.g. Suck a Camel's Ass) are his way of confronting "his demon." It's inspirational.

The Daddy of Rock 'n' Roll shows that a severe mental illness can be overcome to reach success, with perseverance and the right environment. It also shows the remarkable story of a lovable giant winning the fight.

Rock over London. Rock on Chicago.

06 March 2011

Review: Rango

Rango (Johnny Depp) fell off the wagon, that's not to say he is an alcoholic, I mean he literally fell out of a station wagon and has become the newest resident of I-15. He bumbles into the saloon in Dirt, a small town located precisely in the middle of nowhere. Rango is out of his element in the desert, he's a pet used to living in a cage, he will have to find some shelter quickly if he wants to survive.

Fortunately, Rango comes a small town called Dirt. Not a lot happens in Dirt, the big happening when Rango arrives is a discussion about the upcoming delivery of water. The discussion turns to the new stranger in town and he brushes some black hats the wrong way.

After being thrown out of the bar, through sheer luck and happenstance Rango encounters the hawk preying on the town. After making short work of the predator, Rango is named Sheriff. Rango is a natural actor so taking the part of lawman comes easy to him. He likes the attention, the people like his stories, what could go wrong?

Well, for starters, the water shipment goes missing, partly due to Rango's "eagle eye". The townfolk were waiting for the water to come, but something fishy has been going on with delivery of the supply and now the water doesn't come. Now, with the drought killing every bit of land and the people going thirsty, Rango has to prove his mettle.

Rango features several mainstays of the genre: the outsider looking to break his way into town, the corrupt mayor - Ned Beatty please get work other than villain parts - and the parched and hopeless citizens of a small town.

Gore Verbinski has done something no one really imagined possible, making a mainstream financially successful Western. By presenting Rango under the guise of a kids' movie, the filmgoing public responded.

Westerns in general are drying up - much like the water in Dirt. If it takes dressing them up as children's films to get them into theatres, that's fine. There are countless references to classics of yorn strewn throughout the film (the most fun being a cameo featuring Timothy Olyphant that I will not spoil), including others like Johnny Depp's own Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Depp has a lot of fun with his role as Rango, and you will have just as much watching.


04 March 2011

'Super' Trailer

This looks absolutely insane. Kick-Ass was supposed to be the send-up of comic book movies everyone was looking for (turned out to be formatively standard), but Super might actually be it. Or it could fall flat on its face for being deranged. Only time will tell.

03 March 2011

Review: Paul

Nostalgia tripping is risking becoming it's own subgenre of film. It's a golden age for nerds: comedic geniuses like Simon Pegg riff on 80s pop-culture for hours and make watching it enjoyable. This is old hat for Pegg, who starred with Paul co-writer and co-star Nick Frost in Spaced so many years ago. Spaced pulled from the same bag of "Wars and Trek" references, and like in Paul, it didn't let the in-jokes ruin the comedic chemistry, plot and character development. Contrast this with Fanboys, another exercise in sci-fi reverence that was steeped too deep in arcana and lacked comedic wit. Fanboys featured a cameo by Seth Rogen, who gives the charming the voice to the titular alien.

Paul is the story of two aging nerds taking a road trip through some of the more alien lore rich states after a visit to comic-con. While stopped to see The Black Mailbox, a car crashes nearby that contains a lovable extra terrestrial who needs help to escape. He is being chased by pursuers from Area 51, led by an agent played by Jason Bateman (who plays a convincing tough guy). On the lam, the three amigos meet up with a charming, if not somewhat misled, RV park supervisor, played by Kristen Wiig in her best role to date.

As with all of their projects, Paul thrives on the interactions between Pegg and Frost. It's really nice to see these guys working together again, and it gives me hope to someday see a conclusion to the Blood and Cornettos trilogy.

10 Words or Less: The Usual Suspects (1995)

Who is Keyser Soze?

02 March 2011

Due Date Dash Winners

Due Date Dash is officially over and congrats to those of you who have won! My blog companion was Critic Approved.

Swright88 - Grand Prize Winner
Dbooghier0303 - Free Rental
Amderemer - Free Rental

I will be contacting you in order to ship your prizes.

For those of you who didn't win click here to download the film, or visit the official site.

"Is This Gonna Be Our Time?"

Desperation. Anger. Revenge. All loaded conveniently into Teardrop's hands. The glare says it all really. The message he is sending with his eyes is absolute and is not up for interpretation. He knows his brother is dead. He knows who got him that way. And he's willing to die to right that.