Lincoln Review

“This isn’t usual. This is history.” This is arguably the most important moment in American History making this a completely necessary film. Not only was it a film the needed to be made, it was a fantastic film all around. Steven Spielberg tells an incredible interpretation of this powerful moment in our time and this is mostly in part to a flawless performance from the greatest actor living today as the titular, President Abraham Lincoln.

Stylistically, Spielberg doesn’t offer anything new or tricky, which works perfectly for the the film he was trying to make. What he does offer is simply a very straightforward and linear retelling of a historical event that deserved to be expressed in this, the greatest art form. Spielberg just does his job, does it well and allows his actors to do their job. You just have to expect greatness from Daniel Day-Lewis and yes it is his show and he is perfect in the role, but it’s also complete perdenent that I mention the other performances as well.

Sally Field does wonders as Lincoln’s neurotic wife, a performance that I feel must’ve been trying. John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson and James Spader play very well off of each other. Other great actors make up a fantastic supporting cast; Hal Holbrook, Jared Harris, Jackie Earle Haley, David Straihairn and even Joseph Gordon-Levitt is along for the carriage ride. Tommy Lee Jones is an actor who deserves undying praise for his vivid portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens.

Making a film is a collaborative project and in this case there were a lot of talented people collaborating, but it’s the performance of the Abraham Lincoln that makes this film truly extraordinary. Abraham Lincoln may be the most iconic historical figure ever and for him to justly be portrayed in a film would take an incredible performance. Daniel Day-Lewis offers that and more with a grand portrayal filled with subtleties and confident choices. He takes a great man, one we could only imagine actually being in the presence, and makes him utterly human.

Lincoln is just a great film through and through. It’s made by a man who still knows how to make a great film and it serves as a reminder and proof that Daniel Day-Lewis is the greatest living actor. This is a film where the drama and climaxes come from decisions and conversations. It’s a tasteful and mature film meant to bring us to a time and place and to tell the tale of one of the most important points in American history. It was a film that needed to be made and it was incredible.

Grade: A

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Skyfall Review

Skyfall is quite the film. I loved Casino Royale, it was just this perfect telling of James Bond’s first mission and I couldn’t help but think I’d never see a better Bond film. It was that good. I’m also one of the few who loved Quantum of Solace. Was it Casino Royale? No, and it wasn’t trying to be. It was Quantum of Solace, a fast-paced and precisely devised action film that continued the real and raw drama that began in Casino Royale. Skyfall was something completely new and not only is it the greatest 007 movie I’ve seen, it’s one of the greatest films ever made.

The film opens with a black and blurry silhouette of a man. The man walks towards us eventually having his eyes illuminated revealing the pearly blues of the greatest James Bond in 50 years and 23 films. The film jumps right into it with a thrilling chase sequence, the kind of action you have to expect from the Daniel Craig versions of the character. The scene is a better action sequence than any of the previous Craig movies and there were even better action sequences still to come. If one were to look at the film for its action elements it’s one of the best ever crafted, but action plays second tear in this epic of characters, emotion and the ways of old and new.

While no Bond film has ever cut deeper with such powerful themes, the true center of this film is James Bond. It’s his show and in this perfect 007 movie James Bond may go on his most spectacular mission yet, but that’s not all. Director Sam Mendes actually takes his time and asks questions about this character who has been going on missions for the past 50 years. For example, what makes James Bond James Bond? But more importantly he asks, how much longer can this man be doing this? In Skyfall, the greatest secret agent of all time must prove himself against the most formidable and sinister adversary he’ll ever face.

Raoul Silva (formerly Tiago Rodriguez) is a malevolent mastermind not bent on world domination mind you. No, he’s much more concerned with revenge against the person who means most to Bond in this world. A good villain usually makes for a good movie and Silva is one of the greatest villains in film. In the beginning, there is a mystery that is the villain of Skyfall, with only whispers of some evil menace plotting in the backdrop. Then Silva makes his grand entrance almost halfway through the film, his audience being a captive 007. Silva is a theatrical and confident man with a single agenda, he’s a former MI6 agent and now he’s a betrayer dedicated and bent on vengeance against M. James Bond is dedicated to his duty and in this case it’s very personal; the protection of M.

Judi Dench is given much more territory with M this time around and she excels with it. Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris are great. Ben Whishaw is a real delight to watch as Q, a new school tech guy who juxtaposes extraordinarily with Daniel Craig’s seasoned veteran. The Skyfall interpretation of James Bond and Raoul Silva are simply two of the greatest characters in film. Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem have their unique characters realized down to a “T” both giving tremendous performances.

Skyfall is a film that is very derivative of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Legend (or The Dark Knight Trilogy if that tastes better going down). Sam Mendes has openly stated that he was inspired by Nolan’s work with Batman. I can’t fault Mendes for being inspired by the best. Skyfall is a different film and it was made to perfection. It utilized an icon to delve into broader motifs and darker territory. This is a James Bond film made by people and for people who appreciate the beautiful art form that is film.

Skyfall is one of the greatest films I’ve ever had the pleasure to see. It’s a film that looks and feels beautiful. It emotes so much depth and artistry, while masquerading as a simple action piece. This is just an example of a film getting every single finite detail perfectly, whether that be a character arc, the film’s extraordinary structure or even something as simple as a one-liner. Skyfall is nothing short of a masterpiece of the highest caliber.

Grade: A+

Wreck-It Ralph Review

From the first time I saw the trailer for Wreck-It Ralph, I had to see it. An animated film about video game? How could I resist such a good idea. I didn’t have much expectations I just wanted see what could be done with it. I was completely blown away by this beautiful tale filled with vibrant characters, powerful moments and incredible imagination. Wreck-It Ralph won me over with its broad themes and its redemptive story reminiscent of the masterfully made Pixar films, in fact I honestly don’t think Pixar could’ve done it better themselves.

Wreck-It Ralph tells the glorious tale of Wreck-It Ralph, a video game villain who wants more out of life, to be a hero. He’s necessary to his game like any other villain, but he’s sick of getting no recognition and living in a dump next to the building that represents the setting of his video game. Ralph’s journey introduces him to vast new lands and faithful friends for there’s much more to the story than initially established.

This arcade world that the film is set in is spectacular. This world is just established perfectly with set rules and regulations that just make sense. Clever jokes are made along the way, but the story and the characters are always at the forefront. It’s a very mature film and it’s clear that a lot of care and time went into the plotting and the creation. While offering a brilliant story fit with subtle and potent morals, Wreck-It Ralph is also consistently supremely entertaining. You can’t keep your eyes off the spectacle of it all.

The images are vivid, the characters are unique and the story is innovative and completely captivating. The film is able to touch on such wide array of emotions that you forget you’re watching a children’s film. Wreck-It Ralph is a beautiful film about accepting who you are and finding the people who love who you are. It’s a wonderful film all around and if I had to guess, you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t find enjoyment in watching this film.

Grade: A

Argo Review

Argo offers more proof that Ben Affleck really has a lot to offer the film industry, but his talents lie behind the camera rather than in front of it. With Argo he offers up a true human drama about an attempt to extract and save six Americans trapped in revolutionary Iran. The film’s story delves into the kind of heroes that deserve to have their stories told. All around Argo is a very enjoyable film really keeps your attention through out.

The film follows CIA operative Tony Mendez, and his daring plot to establish a fake Canadian movie in order to look for locations in Iran so he can get the targets and get out alive. John Goodman and Alan Arkin are both great in their smaller parts as a Hollywood make-up artist and a film producer who aid Mendez on his little project. They offer a bit of light comedy in an otherwise very serious drama. Bryan Cranston is also fantastic as another CIA agent. Ben Affleck, however, is one of the few things that doesn’t work in the film, he gives an emotionless performance that just shows a complete lack of prowess on the acting front. It’s a one-note performance and it gets you through the film, but it’s just lazy.

This was a very tense movie offering some very dramatic scenes that put you on the edge of your seat, this can’t be said about every scene that attempts this tension. If I had one other problem with the film it would be just a couple scenes (I don’t want to give them away if you haven’t seen the movie) that felt overdramatic and more like a movie, scenes that were trying to make you worry about the innocent characters. I understand where the filmmakers were coming from, but I felt like just a few moments were trying way too hard when the rest of the film was a taut thriller that seemed to accurately depict an event and period.

All in all, Argo was very enthralling film and one I’d certainly watch again regardless of my very slight issues with it. It was the kind of true story that should be told for two reasons; it was a story I’ve never heard of and it was quite the amazing story. Argo was able to throw a lot of elements into its story from very dramatic moments to very comedic and satirical (hollywood-wise) moments. Argo, all together, was a rather excellent film and offered more evidence to the fact that Ben Affleck should continue directing movies.

Grade: A-

My Best Friend’s Top 25 Movies

Recently, my best friend took some time, thought for a while, and eventually performed the liberating task of making a list of his top 25 favorite movies. I made one a while ago, Top 25 Movies. It’s quite the experience to establish to yourself exactly what movies you love and just how much you love them. My friend made his list and I thought it would be fun to post his list of favorite movies just to show a differing opinion. Part of the fun of movies is discussing them and what they mean and it’s all subjective so why not look into someone else’s cinematic opinion?

25. The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs is a modern classic. It’s a dark and thrilling movie about murder and the mind. The Silence of the Lambs tells the tale of an ambitious FBI in training as she tracks the whereabouts of a psychotic killer. However, the killer you become more fascinated by is the intelligent, charming, and sinister, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. In order to catch her killer, Clarice Sterling gets into the mind of a one through Anthony Hopkins’ chilling Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter.

24. The Shining

The Shining is a masterpiece of a horror movie and an epic as only Stanley Kubrick could make. It’s a fascinating haunted house story that makes you feel as isolated and uneasy as its main characters. As the evil that is The Overlook Hotel subtly consumes a family, you can’t help but be enthralled by the madness and the drama. The Shining offers an unreal and completely memorable experience that makes for arguably the greatest horror movie ever made.

23. Schindler’s List

It’s a hard task to deny that Steven Spielberg is an incredible director. There may be movies he’s made that you don’t enjoy, but the man has made many movies. Schindler’s List is “the beard’s” greatest feat. It’s a dark and poignant masterpiece that tells a story as inspiring as they come while enveloping a definitive story of the darkest point in history. It’s some how able to be realistic and operatic. It’s a flawless and prominent film that was crafted by a man who knows how to make good movies.

22. Amadeus

Amadeus is just one of those classic art house films. It has all the makings a masterpiece in it’s beautifully epic tale of rivalry, obsession and artistry. Structured to perfection, an old, bitter rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart recounts the “murder” of Mozart himself. It’s a vast excursion into music through mystery. It’s also about a devotion to one’s craft. Behind this dark drama of murder, there’s quite the witty side to Amadeus, but more importantly a thrilling side. You really become consumed by the magic of it all.

21. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of the most inspirational pieces of cinema ever crafted. The futile, yet necessary battle between the free spirited R.P. McMurphy and the tyrannical Nurse Ratched is a thrilling one. It is very much a story about freedom and a fighting the want to simply conform. Randle McMurphy is quite the fish out of water when it comes to the tight shift the Mildred Ratched runs. He sure as hell isn’t going to stand idly by and let the man get him down and change him or his new friends from the fun-loving people they are.

20. Skyfall

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Skyfall is tells the greatest story that will ever be told about one of the most iconic characters in all of fiction, James Bond. This is, in part, due to the fact that Skyfall touches on so much more than just a story about 007. Skyfall tells a beautiful constructed tale of duty and betrayal, past mistakes and future consequences, the old and the new, but in its simplest form Skyfall is a movie about a hero and a villain. Daniel Craig’s raw and perfect turn as a grizzled Bond proving his worth even after so many missions really meets his match against the slithery and savage, Silva (Javier Bardem in another flawless portrayal as a villain).

19. Kill Bill

Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill is one the most memorable epics ever filmed. It’s a blood-soaked masterpiece about love and revenge. Any chance he gets as he tells his most epic tale of all, Tarantino pays homage to the samurai, kung-fu and even spaghetti western movies that he loves and respects to no end. Kill Bill is exciting and poetic. It’s a simple enough tale of vengeance and it’s told to perfection. We are brought on a very hectic journey and we know where it will lead but it’s hard not to enjoy the ride until you get there and when you do get there, there aren’t that many movies that are as satisfying.

18. Gladiator

Ridley Scott is often associated with the science fiction genre. He has defined and redefined the genre with some of the masterpieces he’s made. Scott’s sword and sandal epic, Gladiator, is arguably his greatest feat. The general who became a slave, the slave who became a gladiator and the gladiator who defied an empire is quite the striking story. Maximus is the kind of hero you want to watch prevail while his nemesis, Commudus is the kind of villain you want dead. Gladiator is a through and through a story of not just revenge, but justice.

17. Boogie Nights

Through a timeless tale of rise and fall, Paul Thomas Anderson explores the porn industry (70s through 80s) and its own rise and fall. It was with Boogie Nights that Paul Thomas Anderson began his reign of masterpieces. Boogie Nights was the first of five flawless, and very different, films. Boogie Nights is filled to the brim with vivid characters and memorable moments. It’s a colorful, yet dark film that’s hard not to be consumed by. Paul Thomas Anderson is just a man who knows how to make extraordinary movies and Boogie Nights is a perfect example of his expertise.

16. Inception

Inception is a masterpiece through and through. With a fantastic cast on his side, the brilliant Christopher Nolan tells a beautiful story of grief and redemption all while crafting an exhilarating science fiction setting where true reality is always in question. The setting for Inception is that of dreams and this world that Nolan has confidently explored is one that’s hard not to visit and revisit over and over again. Inception is a beautiful drama filled with vibrant characters and perfectly executed action sequences. It’s a compelling film that both entertains and makes you think from beginning to end.

15. The Social Network

2010 was an incredible year in film and arguably the greatest movie to come out of that year was The Social Network. Using the story of Facebook, David Fincher delves into broad themes of morality and betrayal what is easily one of the greatest films ever made. The Social Network tells a compelling human story that’s unmissable. Fincher defines a generation of technology and punks. It’s a film that manages to establish itself as a classic before it even passes the test of time. There’s no question I’ll be watching this movie in years to come. The Social Network is masterpiece in every way.

14. The Godfather (Part I +II)

The character arcs of the father and son that make up for the masterpiece that is The Godfather (Part I + II) are two of the greatest in film. The Godfather just tells this perfect story about family, while The Godfather Part II is more about character and the tragedy of Michael Corleone is fully realized. It utilizes the gangster genre, yet it’s so much more. Francis Ford Coppola was just ahead of his time in terms of how good he could make a movie, he proves that with this dark and operatic drama. The story is a powerful one and worthy of every bit of praise.

13. The Departed

Martin Scorsese is simply one of the greatest filmmakers to have graced this planet. He’s made countless masterpieces and The Departed is his greatest feat. The Departed tells a flawless intertwining tale of cops and criminals. It’s completely gritty, it’s relentlessly enjoyable and poetic. Leonardo DiCaprio gives an extraordinary performance while Jack Nicholson chews through every scene he’s in. Martin Scorsese has told many stories of crime, but never did he tell one so masterfully. The Departed is an unforgettable masterpiece through and through.

12. Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic is the greatest film he’s ever made. Captain Benjamin Willard is a sent to kill Walter E. Kurtz, a rogue Colonel who has fancied himself a god among the aborigines in Cambodia. We’re brought down the river with Willard and we learn more and more about Kurtz along the way, the anticipation to his first appearance is palpable as we go deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. Apocalypse Now is a masterpiece about life’s journey and madness.

11. There Will Be Blood

The dark, emotive and gorgeous There Will Be Blood just barely misses his top ten movies of all time. There Will Be Blood was created by a movie mastermind. Paul Thomas Anderson hasn’t made that many movies, but every time he does he manages to make completely captivating masterpieces. He also manages to get the best performances out of his actors which is quite the accomplishment when your main character in this case is played by the great Daniel Day-Lewis. There Will Be Blood is a beautiful and archaic excursion into greed and the american nightmare as it studies the ruthless and despicable oilman, Daniel Plainview.

10. American Beauty

Kevin Spacey expertly portrays Lester Burnham, the father and center-piece of American Beauty. As he goes through a midlife crisis he slowly begins to realize how beautiful life is and how it deserves to be appreciated. Lester is just one in an assortment of characters that make up for a fantastic story of the lives of others. The film opens and you learn that Lester will die by the end, but it’s the journey that matters. The film got a well-deserved Best Picture Oscar back in 1999 and it lives on still as one of the greatest films in history. American Beauty asks you to look closer and what you find is something quite beautiful indeed.

9. Pulp Fiction

Told through vignettes, Pulp Fiction offers a mosaic of the lifestyle of criminals. Genius in its execution, Quentin Tarantino offers up the greatest gangster movie ever made. Whether you’re watch diner thieves, hitmen, a prized boxer or a crime boss’ coveted wife, it’s hard not to find endless enjoyment in the oddity of it all. Tarantino has crafted a puzzle piece of a movie filled with imagination and innovation. Many have attempted what he did, but nothing ever came close to Quentin’s vastly original and gorgeous masterpiece.

8. Fight Club

Fight Club defines a bored generation and the insanity that can result from that boredom. Our narrator needs something more out of life. He can’t just go through the motions anymore, he’s lifeless and he can’t take it anymore. Thus begins Fight Club and a chance meeting with the charismatic Tyler Durden. Tyler Durden is chaos incarnate. What begins as brawling to release angst eventually leads to rising anarchy. There’s a Tyler Durden in all of us and to attempt to hide that fact is futile and only serves to drive yourself crazy. Fight Club is cerebral, pertinent and entirely fascinating.

7. Django Unchained

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Quentin Tarantino can do no wrong. With his seventh directorial outing he makes what he was always meant to make, a spaghetti western. Django Unchained also happens to be a rollicking and epic excursion through the south when slavery was still at large. The film follows a freed slave on a journey to rescue the woman he loves, now tell me that’s not a story everyone can get behind. Props also goes out to Leonardo DiCaprio for his first and riveting performance as a villain, a sadistic and slimy plantation owner. With Django and his new friend, Dr. King Schultz, Tarantino has crafted a pair of heroes of mythical status. We’re just left to enjoy the ride as in their wake the bodies pile up, villains who represent clear symbols for exactly what was horribly wrong with that point in American history.

6. The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings is the ultimate in fantasy. It has dragons, wizards, goblins, magic, a giant flaming eye on a tower and an evil ring that can only be destroyed in the dark fires of Mt. Doom where it was forged. The epic journey that unfolds and the vivid characters you meet along the way leave you awe-struck and breathless. There’s just so much to the film to appreciate; the friendships, the battles, the countless inspirational moments, the creatures, the monologues, etc. The Lord of the Rings is simply one of the greatest stories ever told and it’s told masterfully and with grace.

5. Inglourious Basterds

With Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino takes the darkest period in history and tells an epic fantasy filled with blood and bullets. Every moment is so important to the story as a whole, while each scene just commands your attention. We get to know three very different characters before their adventures culminate in a glorious final chapter that solidifies Inglourious Basterds as one of the greatest movies ever made. It’s a movie made by a man who knows what a movie can be and what a movie can be is whatever the director wants it to be. It’s a story that deserved to be told and it was told to perfection. Inglourious Basterds is just as much a piece of art as it is one of the greatest times you’ll ever have at the movies.

4. Barton Fink

Barton Fink is the unspoken Coen Brother masterpiece. Most think of Fargo, No Country for Old Men or The Big Lebowski, but Barton Fink deserves to be held right up there as one of their masterpieces. As Barton’s writers block consumes him in the Hotel Earle a friendship begins to take shape between Fink and his next door neighbor. Charlie Meadows offers a little distraction in the form of innocent conversation. This is that everyman that Barton tries to capture in his writing. Little does Barton know that there’s more going on than he initially thought. Barton Fink is a thought-provoking masterpiece.

3. No Country for Old Men

A man finds drug money, while another man pursues him. It’s a simple story of cat and mouse that used to touch on important ideas of violence and malevolence. Llewellyn Moss attempts to get away with the money, while the cunning and emotionless killer, Anton Chigurh, is hot on his trail. Wise, old Sheriff Ed Tom Bell feels helpless on the sidelines as he watches this onslaught of blood unfold. No Country for Old Men is the Coen Brothers’ magnum opus. It is directed flawlessly, every choice made with such purpose. Nothing is out of place; each shot, line, performance, scene, etc. All of them are simply perfect. No Country for Old Men is a masterpiece in every sense of the word.

2. Drive

Drive is proof that the way you tell your story is just as important as the story itself. It’s just this perfect clash style and substance. It’s honest, it can be brutal and it’s consistently satisfying. Our nameless and quiet protagonist progresses along in stylishly sleek and cool tale. Drive is a spectacular film about what it means to be a hero and about what drives a man to do the things he does. Ryan Gosling and Albert Brooks steal the show, but everyone is on their A-games and the includes off screen. Nicolas Winding Refn hasn’t done much, but he could’ve only made Drive and it would be hard not to consider him an extraordinary director. Drive is a masterpiece and one of the highest caliber.

1. The Dark Knight Legend

The Dark Knight Legend (or The Dark Knight Trilogy if that tastes better going down) is the greatest movie ever made. It’s filled to the brim with characters of the elemental variety to tell a vibrant, exciting and deep tale about heroism, villainy, legends, good, evil, despair, but above all else, hope. If I had to describe this single story in one word, that’s what it would be; hope. At the end of both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight there is still much work to be done, but there is hope for a better tomorrow. In The Dark Knight Rises, hope in the form of the greatest hero in existence, triumphs in the face of despair.

In Batman Begins, you get the perfect hero’s journey with a tale of how Batman became Batman. In The Dark Knight, you get the perfect story of good (Batman) and evil (The Joker (Heath Ledger gives the greatest performance in the history of film)). Then the trilogy is defined flawlessly in its last chapter as, like I said before, hope triumphs over despair. This icon is utilized to perfection to tell a real story with so much meaning and emotion. What Christopher Nolan and friends have crafted isn’t just the greatest movie in existence, but the greatest story ever told.

Cloud Atlas Review

Cloud Atlas is a project that, as a whole, deserves admiration if only for the fact that it was such an ambitious project to undertake. It deserves even more admiration because, for the most part, they accomplished what they set out to. It’s gargantuan film and it’s hard to really take it all in, but the result is a good film.  Cloud Atlas is a movie I’m very glad was made and it’s one I’m certainly glad I saw. However, I’m not sure I’ll ever feel the need to watch it again anytime soon.

The film opens with a grizzled and tattooed Tom Hanks monologuing, the film then jumps to another story and then another and another, you get the picture. The spans thousands of years involving a handful of different characters. You begin to recognize Tom Hanks playing characters in other time periods and other actors playing numerous characters as well. “Everything is connected” is the fitting tagline to this broad film about time, creation and us.

As you could expect, this film that travels through thousands of years is quite long. Honestly, it was a bit overbearing at times. I felt very involved and excited during a few of the stories whereas others just weren’t as important. This was the problem. Of course it’s hard not to have favorites when the movies said and done, but I found myself often wanting more of one story while another one was playing. This was probably the biggest risk in undertaking this daunting task and the funny thing is that the stories that felt the most useless were probably the best ones so what does that say about the movie as a whole?

The Wachowskis have made something to be remembered here. Some of it is completely riveting and if the entire film was as good as some of its parts then we would really have something of a marvel. As I stated before, they did accomplish what they set out to, at least that’s what it felt like. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the extraordinary film it wanted to be or could have been. I’m not going to down grade it for what it could’ve been though, I’m going to grade it for what it is and it was good. Although, I feel as though I could’ve gotten what I wanted out of it from simply watching the trailer.

Grade: B