Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This movie has been on my "to-see" list for a while. Finally got around to it. It is the story of the forming of the C.I.A. seen through the eyes of one man Edward Wilson (played by Matt Damon) from the Agency's days as the OSS in World War Two through the Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961. It was directed by Robert DeNiro who also plays a small part in the all-star cast including Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, and many others. It has the cinematic look of The Godfather.
Okay, let's get down to it. This three-hour movie feels like a three-hour movie. I have grown to hate the "shaky cam" which is prevalent in so many films lately but this movie might have benefited from it. I understand this wasn't supposed to be a spy movie like James Bond or Jason Bourne. It was supposed to be like the way it really was. Or is. But this was a drag. There were several interesting bits like the adversary relationship between Wilson and his KGB counterpart and the mystery of Wilson's father's suicide. Overall, however, this was a slow-moving story with no fleshed-out characters worth rooting for. Or against. DeNiro should've gone back and looked at The Godfather 's characters. This movie really needed a passionate character like Sonny Corleone or even Fredo.

Friday, February 22, 2008

80th Academy Awards This Sunday
Hmmm… That means 79 Best Picture winners so far. I wondered how many of the Oscar winners I had in my much-too-large DVD collection. So I counted. I have twelve or roughly 15% of the Best Picture winners. They are:
One of my favorite movies of all time.
Bonnie & Clyde should have won.
Yep, another all-time favorite.
THE STING (1973)
I like this popcorn Newman-Redford movie but American Graffiti should’ve won.
ROCKY (1976)
All the President’s Men or the still powerful and creepy Taxi Driver should’ve won.
I like Kevin Costner and his film choices and I’m not apologizing for it.
Very cool thriller.
Not in my Top Ten of westerns but very, very good.
Shawshank Redemption should’ve won.
I like this movie but Saving Private Ryan (despite a soft center) should’ve won.
The appeal of this movie has faded for me.
This trilogy is incredible from beginning to end.

Saturday, February 16, 2008



Two more 2007 films. Thrillers both. Night has a better storyline but Gone has intriguing characters and a solid Boston atmosphere. Despite terrific casts in both, these films are just okay. Nothing special in either. Perhaps if they’d combined the two then we would’ve had one really terrific movie. With Night, I had problems with Joaquin Phoenix’s character getting a “special” assignment with the police before going to the academy (hey, it may happen in real life but it sounds like a writer’s trick) and the director James Gray needs to study some old gangster and western movies to see how a gunfight should be staged. With Gone, the “surprise” ending is no surprise at all and quite boring. Michelle Monaghan has second building but she’s really just the sidekick to Casey Affleck. I bet there was more to her to the Dennis Lehane novel than ended up on the screen. Oh, well.


The next 2007 movies on my list are: No Reservations, American Gangster, and Michael Clayton.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

5 Classic Movie Suggestions for Valentine's Day
Casablanca with Bergman & Bogart
Friendly Persuasion with McGuire & Cooper
The Quiet Man with O'Hara & Wayne
Roman Holiday with Hepburn & Peck
Singin' in the Rain with Reynolds & Kelly
5 Newer Movie Suggestions for Valentine's Day
The American President with Bening & Douglas
As Good as It Gets with Hunt & Nicholson
Notting Hill with Roberts & Grant
Shakespeare in Love with Paltrow & Fiennes
Shall We Dance? with Sarandon & Gere

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Brave One – Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard star in Neil Jordan’s film. The movie is the second vigilante-revenge story I’ve seen lately (the other was the dismal Death Sentence with Kevin Bacon). The actors are solid but this is just a well-dressed violent B-movie. Although it tries the movie lacks the ingredient that made you root for Bronson in Death Wish and Joe Don Baker in Walking Tall from a couple decades ago. But I figure it sold with the pitch “a woman turns Bronson on the streets of New York.” I vaguely remember an old drive-in movie (remember drive-ins) called Ms. 45 that had the same plot – that’s all I remember of that movie so it’s probably not very good. Anyway, The Bravo One could’ve been something but isn’t. Not recommended.
The Jane Austen Book Club – a romantic comedy-drama revolving around a group of women (and one guy) who are reading the six Austen novels and their lives are reflecting the stories in the novels. This is a popcorn movie – tasty and light but nothing memorable. I take that back, Maria Bello (The Cooler, History of Violence) stands out among this very talented group of actors. Anyway, nothing special here either but it’s a light easy-going movie.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Super Tuesday Primary is Coming
Go Vote
Just One Vote
Paul Harvey
One voter in each precinct of the United States will determine the next president of the United States. One vote. That’s a big weapon you have there, Mister. In 1948, just one additional vote in each precinct would have elected Dewey. In 1960, one vote in each precinct in Illinois would have elected Nixon. One vote.

One morning in 1844, a grain miller from DeKalb County, Indiana, was walking toward his mill. It was Election Day, but he had work to do and did not intend to vote. Before he reached the mill, however, he was stopped by friends who persuaded him to go to the polls. As it happened, the candidate for whom he voted won a seat in the state legislature—by a margin of one vote. Now, when the Indiana Legislature convened, the man elected from DeKalb cast the deciding vote that sent Edward Allen Hennegan to the United States Senate. Then, in the Senate, when the question of statehood for Texas came up, there was a tie vote. But who do you suppose was presiding as president pro tempore? Hennegan. He cast the deciding vote from the chair. So, Texas was admitted to the union because a miller in DeKalb County, Indiana, went 10 minutes out of his way to vote.

More? Thomas Jefferson was elected president by one vote in the Electoral College. So was John Quincy Adams. One vote gave statehood to California, Idaho, Oregon, Texas and Washington. The Draft Act of World War II passed the House by one vote. Over 200 million Americans are eligible to vote this year. Less than half will. Plato said it: “The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

So your vote is important. Historically, you use it...or you lose it. If you’re not sure for whom you should vote, turn to a newspaper you can trust. Because everything we’ve won in 10 wars at the point of a gun can be taken away one vote at a time.

Edmund Burke said it another way: “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in this world is for enough good men to do nothing.”

Friday, February 01, 2008

Rocket Science is a small film that has received a great deal of critical praise. The story is about a teenaged boy with a bad stutter who a teenaged girl convinces to join the school debate team. The movie has its moments but overall it didn't work for me. The biggest problem, among many, is that I never felt the "debates" had any weight. In the documentary Spellbound, I got caught up the contest -- the National Spelling competition was as important as the World Series, the Super Bowl, or a championship boxing match. The stakes and the competitors were clear. The chess movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer, is a great example. Rocket Science didn't come close and the characters didn't seem to grow or change.

* * *

I also saw Captain Blood (1935). This old swashbuckler with Errol Flynn, Olivia deHavilland, and Basil Rathbone was fun. Okay, it's corny at times and looks like the studio-bound film it is but it's enjoyable. It was Flynn and deHavilland's first film together and there is an obvious chemistry between the two. The cool sword duel between Flynn and Rathbone was filmed in Laguna Beach. (I've been to that beach.)

* * *

Grand Tour: Disaster in Time (1992) is with Jeff Daniels and is a low-budget affair. It's not a great movie but it's intriguing and watchable. The basic premise is that Daniels (owner of a bed-and-breakfast inn) discovers his guests are time-travelers from the future who are on a junket visiting great natural disasters. Fun stuff.

* * *

Croupier (1998) with Clive Owen is an anomoly. The noir story is just OK but the ending is terrific. The other thing that's cool is that Chandler set the standard for noir with his "a good man walking the mean streets" adage but Owen's character isn't a good man or, even, a bad man. He is a man who doesn't care. No matter what happens, that gene is missing from his character and that made the film different. An interesting rental.

(No reason for the Jennifer Connelly picture. Just cause.)