Tag Archives: cinema

Review: The Shape Of Water

Two and half years ago I wrote a post about how the creativity in the movie industry seems to be all but dead. I still wholeheartedly believe that but, like I said before there are some exceptions to this. Guillermo del Toro is maybe the leader of the original filmmakers in Hollywood. His 2006 film, Pan’s Labyrinth was one of the most creative films to hit cinemas in quite some time. He then brought the futuristic sci-fi action movie, Pacific Rim to theaters. This year he gave us yet another truly original story to life with The Shape Of Water. With an all-star cast including a slew of Oscar nominees, Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer he brings his monsters back to life in beautiful style.

Set in the 1950s cold war in a highly secret government facility a mute cleaning woman who lives a small life who’s only friends are a fellow cleaning woman who looks out for her played by Octavia Spencer and her artist neighbor played by Richard Jenkins. When a secret project is brought into the facility by the nearly sadistic leader played by Michael Shannon. When Elisa (Hawkins) looks into the project too closely and discovers an amphibious creature which appears to be half man she finds herself unusually drawn to him and forms a friendship in secret. When the Russians begin trying to capture the creature she forms a plan with her friends to take him out of the facility and bring him home to keep him from being experimented on. They soon pull off an unlikely heist which brings the creature to her home and has the government on a search to bring him back to the facility and keep him out of Russian hands. Elisa soon forms an even deeper bond with the creature that leads them to attempt to flee from everyone they know.

The mind of del Toro is something of people like Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, George Lucas (early Lucas) and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, in our own time. It has been recognized by critics and award committees and fans worldwide. He has used the film medium to bring his creatures, or as he refers to them, monsters, to life. What makes it wonderful to experience is not just his creativity but the beauty in which he makes his worlds come to life. He is not just creative but he is a great filmmaker and has a unique vision. He has a great sense of character and emotion that all great filmmakers have, which is what makes them great. His mind and worlds can captivate every cinephile and bring them into a new place which is what movies are all about. The Shape Of Water is rightfully being recognized all over this year as one of the years best movies and rightfully so. While his style and worlds may not be for everyone, those with a desire for originality will find The Shape Of Water a refreshing new find. We can only wait for his next creation to be taken away to another fascinating world and time.

The James Bond Franchise Comes Full Circle 

IMG_4040For the last nine years, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have been on a mission to restore the James Bond franchise to the heights it knew When Barbara’s father and Wilson’s stepfather, Albert R. ‘Cubby” Broccoli, was the man in charge of bringing James Bond off the pages and onto the big screen. After some disappointing numbers and subpar films with Pierce Brosnan they decided to make a change. The new Bond would be entrusted with the responsibility of breathing life back into the world’s most famous spy. In step Daniel Craig, a blonde haired, blue eyed actor not enormously famous and not what every other Bond had looked like or been described like in the books. Needless to say the fan base was not happy. Jump to present day and it’s not out of reach by any means to give Daniel Craig the title of the best Bond ever. Rebooting the franchise with Casino Royale, the first of the books, fans would quickly be sold on their new Bond and the new look of the films. Casino Royale would be followed up by another franchise first, a direct sequel with Quantum Of Solace. Again fans were up in arms just with the title. Though not as strong as Royale, Quantum did successfully finish what Royale started.

Then came the crown jewel for Craig, Skyfall. Its massive success and incredible reviews, it was no question that Broccoli and Wilson were accomplishing their goal. Bond had a new look not only physically, but esthetically on film. With Oscar winners like Paul Haggis and Sam Mendes lending their talents to the franchise, there was no question Bond was back and better than ever.

On December 4th, 2014 when the title of the newest Bond film and its cast would be announced, it was the first time there didn’t seem to be any backlash from the faithful Bond enthusiasts. SPECTRE let everyone know that everything they loved about Bond was on its way back and in a big way. With two time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz as the villain and Sam Mendes returning to direct the anticipation was at a fever pitch.

Eleven months later the time has arrived. Would it deliver? Would it bomb? Or would it be exactly what it should be? The trouble is that Bond fans are almost always split one way or another when it comes to the films on first release. In the end, though, they love them all in their own way. This will be true even with SPECTRE.

SPECTRE is the culmination of the vision Barbara and Michael set out to deliver. Where it appeared that Quantum was the end of Casino Royale and Skyfall was a new stand alone Bond like all the others, SPECTRE would prove otherwise. The re-boot truly is complete now.

In the new film Bond is on a private mission that is unsanctioned by MI6 and it couldn’t come at a worse time as the 00 division is under fire and being accused of being outdated and unnecessary. While making headlines in all the wrong places, Bond is grounded by M, played excellently by Ralph Finnes, and forbidden from leaving London. However Bond is ultimately fulfilling one last mission for M’s predecessor. With the help of Q and Moneypenny, he ventures out all over Europe to fulfill his mission without any idea what he will find. What Bond slowly uncovers is an organization unlike any he has seen before and a look into his past he never expected to find.

The return of the criminal organization SPECTRE makes true Bond enthusiasts more excited than can be described. As the filmIMG_4037 goes on, the things fans were wondering and predicting begin to unfold. I don’t consider this a spoiler because no Bond film has ever had many surprises because that’s not their goal.

I made a point to not read any critics reviews until after I experienced the film for myself. I was and yet I wasn’t surprised to see it get panned by most of the “major” or “expert” critics. They seemed to pick it apart bit by bit. Skyfall was repeatedly mentioned and one critic even mentioned Orson Welles. This is simply unfair to the film. To pick apart a Bond movie and analyze it so deeply like a piece of art is unrealistic. Bond films are not pieces of art, not to say they aren’t great, but they also aren’t Citizen Kane.

When reviewing a Bond film you need to look at the details as well as the ridiculous. SPECTRE really does deliver on all fronts. From the opening sequence, which has always been a staple of the franchise, is eye popping with every bit of action one could hope for. It will ultimately be as memorable as Goldeneye’s bungee dive off the damn and subsequent airplane dive.

The one truly great thing about SPECTRE are the very subtle and very slight recreations of moments from almost every Bond film ever. For example, a train ride is abruptly interrupted by a hand to hand combat battle with the muscle end of the villainous side. This is very much an homage to the classic battle between Sean Connery and Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love. Hardcore Bond fans will recognize many of these references.

If there is anything negative about SPECTRE it would be two things I noticed. The length of the film could have easily been cut down by half an hour. It is the longest running Bond film at 2 hours 28 minutes. The second disappointment would be the theme song which is only slightly saved by one of the most beautiful opening title sequences in Bond history. In fairness to the theme song, it did have very large shoes to fill following Adele’s theme for Skyfall which earned her the Academy Award (which had never been done before despite some memorable theme songs).

SPECTRE is one hell of a good ride and if you go into the film with an open mind and not the idea that it should trump Skyfall or Goldfinger, you will be engrossed and leave the movie feeling more than satisfied. Enjoy James Bond because he is… James Bond. He is not Hamlet and never will be.

Godzilla Roars On To The Scene

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Monster movies tend to lean towards the cult film crowd. There are exceptions though. Just about every movie fan and even quite a few casual fans have experienced the greatness of a Godzilla film at one time or another, whether it’s one of the classics (no matter how cheesy the graphics) or one of the terrible (1998’s debacle). They have a draw to them like disaster movies, superhero movies or even film noir.
Warner Brothers is the latest to take on the ultimate monster that is Godzilla. This marks the 60th anniversary of the 1954 classic that shook and even started the cult film phenomena. This was Japan’s political and social response and commentary on the bombings 9 years earlier of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The last Godzilla film was made 10 years ago when Toho productions announced they wouldn’t make another Godzilla for at least 10 years and through a peculiar series of events Warner Brothers came to make a 3D IMAX version of Godzilla. Let’s just say they used every day and every dollar over that 10 year span to nail it!
The film starts in Japan in 1999 with an American nuclear engineer and his wife (played by Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche) headed to work on a fateful day. When seismic activity draws Joe Body’s (Cranston) attention, the nuclear plant immediately becomes in danger. The trouble is Brody recognizes this is no normal seismic activity. He recognizes a pattern which leads to a 15 year long search for what caused the meltdown and the death of his wife. This draws his now adult son back to Japan to retrieve him after being arrested in the quarantined area. A series of events leads him to believe his father and eventually make his way back to his home in San Francisco to keep his family safe when a new beast named Mutos is discovered and headed for any nuclear source it can find. This eventually awakens Godzilla, who members of a company called, Monarch, have been tracking since the detonation of the atom bomb.
It soon becomes aware that Godzilla, despite his destruction and destructive ability, is not quite the enemy. Battles ensue and everything we love about Godzilla movies present themselves. A wild ride is everything short of an understatement.
The film has it all. It’s scary, it’s intense, it has story and perfect character development. It has enough to please hardcore fans, including a very small and brief Mothra reference, and enough to make newly introduced movie goers, intense vintage fans.
Godzilla takes quite awhile to make his first appearance, an homage to Spielberg’s Jaws. When Godzilla makes his first full appearance you can’t help but smile and be filled with excitement and almost want to cheer because Hollywood has finally lived up to what true fans have always hoped for. The battles are not over done and the 3D is used just right. The fades and everything is directed so well you can’t help but walked out satisfied.
Godzilla needs to be seen in IMAX 3D to be fully experienced but it will not at all be lost on a normal viewing screen. You will enjoy it at home, when it comes out, but you are doing yourself a serious disservice not seeing it in theaters. One thing is for sure, Godzilla is everything movie fans have wanted and is everything it should be. DON’T MISS IT!

Bryan Provides A Great Review Of Tom Hardy’s Locke

It was George Santayana who said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Though as far as I know he didn’t have an opinion about those individuals whom not only can’t forget the past, but who hold it so tightly to their chests that it defines them, and potentially leads to ruin.

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is such a person. When we meet him he’s just completed work, he’s a construction foreman in Britain, and is apparently on his way home.

That is, till he reaches a literal, as well as figurative, fork in the road; and we’re along for the ride. Locke seems like a decent man; he loves his wife and children and is good at what he does, which is why it’s interesting to watch as he makes his way down the highway, every mile bringing him closer and closer to his figurative, and perhaps literal, doom. In fact, part of what makes this movie so fascinating is that Locke seems to be deliberately upending his own life, as if his were a house built on a foundation of sand instead of concrete. And we’re powerless to stop him–even if we could–because we can see that Locke means well, even when he doesn’t necessarily act it.

Tom Hardy does remarkably well in a movie that he’s carries almost entirely on his shoulders. I write “almost entirely” because Locke at times received some very interesting phone calls. Some of them are frightening, others are hilarious, though all of them are interesting and act as exposition without making it obvious that a large part of their purpose is to help us understand who Locke is, and by extension, why he acts as he does.

It’s worth mentioning that the highway is as much a star of the movie as Hardy, as well as the car he drives, which I think is a BMW X3 (I am grateful that writer/director Steven McKnight somehow manages not to turn the movie into an extended BMW advert–we see their logo once early on, but that’s it–which is worthy of praise when you consider that for virtually the entire running time of the movie he’s in it).

Two other stars of the movie worth mentioning are Haris Zambarloukos and Justine Wright, the cinematographer and editor of the film, who are able to create the almost hypnotic feel of traveling long distances via car, with plenty of blurred headlights fading into the distance and reflected upon the windshield.

And as far as I could tell the entire movie was shot in a moving car, which shows how skillful a director Steven McKnight is because the whole film is simply Tom Hardy driving a car, yet it somehow manages to be interesting for most of its entire running time.

Locke Trailer

Jonathan Returns To Examine Another Hidden Gem

Our good friend and valued contributor, Jonathan of Robbins Realm has returned to once again examine the unknown and hidden classics you may have missed somewhere along the line.

220px-CompanyofwolvesposterA young man waits with an anxious expression written across the contours of his face as a cream-colored, chauffeur driven, Rolls Royce makes its way along a path through a dense forest. The attractive female chauffeur, dressed all in white, steps out and opens the back door to the automobile. The young man looks into the Rolls. Sitting inside the car is an impeccably dressed older man who is staring at a tiny skull; the man turns his head to the side and beckons the teenage boy to come closer. Next, the man extends his arm outward giving the teenager an ointment, but at the same time issuing a warning “waste not, want not.” The teenager rubs the substance on his chest, the result of which…well, I don’t want to spoil that particular scene of the film “The Company of Wolves” (1984). It is one of my favorite moments, of which there were several peppered throughout the movie, that caused an eerie feeling to take hold of me. This was thanks to Bryan Loftus’s captivating cinematography in this little gem directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) and was just the second feature film that he helmed up until that time.
Let me state unequivocally, from the outset, that the film “The Company of Wolves” is not a horror movie. It does have several thematic elements which can be found in numerous horror films, especially those produced by Hammer Film Productions from the middle of the 1950s until the 1970s, but, due to its lush story book imagery, it would be better served if it were placed in the category of gothic fairy tale. I feel it should also be stated that the movie is both witty and psychologically insightful when one takes the time to reflect on the film, especially after multiple viewings.
The Company of Wolves was given its world premier on September 15, 1984, at The Toronto International Film Festival in Canada. Its intriguing premise is based on a short story by author Angela Carter (who collaborated with director Neil Jordan on the screenplay) in her book, “The Bloody Chamber.” The film uses the myth of lycanthropy (a human who has the ability to transform themselves into a wolf) as a metaphor for the young character of Rosaleen, who is on a journey of self discovery, resulting from her body’s natural progression into puberty. In turn, she is forced to confront her sexual awakening, which is a bit oxymoronic considering the viewer is first introduced to her character while she is dreaming. Students of psychology would probably view this film through a Freudian interpretation. The re-imagining of the time tested fairy tale, “Little Red Riding Hood,” immerses itself in subtly hinting at sexual elements, such as: the potential for Rosaleen’s loss of virginity, due to the advances of different males both her own age and older; the nervousness associated with someone’s first sexual experience; and the self-consciousness most people feel about their naked body being viewed by another person. In addition, the film asks the question, “what can a young female do to thwart amorous advances from the opposite sex, the monsters that walk on two legs and present a human face to the world at large?” At first some of the film’s message might not be overtly apparent, but whether what is attempting to be conveyed is evident upon one’s initial viewing or not, “The Company of Wolves immerses itself in sexuality as it pertains to the central character Rosaleen’s transformation from childhood into adolescence. I think it is particularly important in regard to the aforementioned subtle sexual aspect of the film that actress Sarah Patterson, was chosen to portray Rosaleen, and, although it was her screen debut and despite being very young, she played the part with just the right ti103975_largedegree of ingénue vulnerability. As an interesting aside, Patterson, for reasons that are unknown, has only worked on one other film since The Company of Wolves, which was Cannon Movie Tales, Snow White (1988)
Rosaleen’s first dream is about her sister being trapped inside a nightmare, replete with an atmosphere that is foreboding from the outset; and as with all of the other vignettes in the film, it involves the presence of wolves. Cinematic trivia buffs take note, that due to budgetary constraints, the majority of the wolves that appear on screen are actually Belgian Shepherd dogs (mostly Groenendals and Tervurens) whose fur had been dyed to make them look like wolves. I applaud the direction taken by Jordan in regard to having the tales spring forth from Rosaleen’s subconscious dream state. Rumors abound that Neil Jordan modeled the structure of the film after the Polish movie The Saragossa Manuscript (1965) directed by Wojciech Has, which both Carter and Jordan had seen and equally admired.
There are numerous noteworthy aspects of the movie. For starters, the cast is a strong mixture of veteran English and Irish actors such as: Angela Lansbury (Murder She Wrote), David Warner (Time Bandits), Terrance Stamp (Superman II), and Stephen Rea (Interview with the Vampire.)
The film contains no scenes depicting graphic violence. Gore is kept to a bare minimum, as is blood, which is used sparingly, and it is utilized only if it is germane to serving the story. The budget which director Jordan was given to work with was $2,000,000 dollars, and it is apparent that he made every penny company_of_wolves7count. The special effects, sadly, pale in comparison, when measured by today’s standards, thanks to the wizardry of CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) technology. Nevertheless, for the time period of the early 1980s, the effects were quite powerful. For example, I felt the transformation sequences from man to werewolf were both deftly handled and strongly convincing. It was only years later, that I was made aware that those particular scenes didn’t just employ special makeup and stop action techniques, but in addition, were also using animatronics (the use of electronics and robotics in mechanized puppets to simulate life).
Overall, the film offers the viewer a wealth of visual delights that are not short on symbolism. In 1985, Neil Jordan won the Director of the Year award from the London Film Critics Circle for The Company of Wolves. According to an interview Jordan gave, he discussed that he and novelist turned screenwriter, Angela Carter, wanted to work together again on a future project, but due to Carter’s failing health (she died of lung cancer in 1992), nothing ever came to fruition. The movie is available for purchase on DVD on Amazon.com, and also on-line at Netflix; a soundtrack of the film’s music was released on February 15, 2000. I recommend this film to any and all of you who are seeking a movie with a good gothic feel and who are not fans of extreme violence that oozes blood and guts at every turn.

Robert De Niro’s Best Of The 1980’s

Robert-De-Niro-robert-de-niro-25487050-1493-1000By the time 1980 hit, Robert De Niro was a true star in Hollywood, in every sense of the word. He had multiple Academy Award nominations under his belt. He had teamed up with Martin Scorsese and started a legendary partnership. Some of his greatest success was yet to come.

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5. Once Upon A Time In America
De Niro was at a point in his career where working on projects he wanted to and working with anyone he wanted was no doubt his choice. De Niro was the first person cast in Sergio Leone’s final film. He had enough clout to have input on many aspects of the film, including his fellow cast members. It would receive mixed reviews, but as time went on it has become a more respected and even definitive film.

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4. The King Of Comedy
A rather dark comedy directed by, once again, Martin Scorsese, makes for another great De Niro performance. His portrayal of Rupert Pupkin is torturous and almost painful. A comedian who so desperately wants in on show business he stalks his idol, late night talk show host, played by iconic funny man Jerry Lewis. De Niro’s methods were in full swing and his ability to draw out great performances from fellow cast mates really came through.

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3. The Untouchables
Having made a name for himself playing mafia gangsters and gangster types lead Brian De Palma to cast him as the most notorious gangster of all time, Al Capone. Being as method of an actor as possible, he became Capone right down to the underwear. He would again receive an Oscar nomination for a spot on portrayal.

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2. Midnight Run
A more straight up comedy, Midnight Run was a popular a more of a box office success than the 3 previous film. De Niro proved he could play straight up comedy alongside other great comedic actors, including his co-star, Charles Grodin. It is unmistakable that De Niro put his whole talents in the film, adding to the character and really making it his own. It is still a popular film and often showed movie all over TV and there is no doubt in my mind that De Niro has quite a bit to do with that.

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1.Raging Bull
The Scorsese/ De Niro teaming would prove its most prolific to date when Scorsese would come out of his comfort zone with a sports film, all at the urging of De Niro. De Niro is even often credited with saving Scorsese’s life by visiting him in the hospital after a cocaine overdose. By urging him to make the film and get back to work is what brought him straight. It would prove valuable on all fronts as De Niro would win a best actor Academy Award and the film would go down in history as one of Scorsese’s best and one of the best of all time.

Robert DeNiro’s Top 5 Of The 1970’s

robert-de-niro_110389-1600x1200There is no doubt that Robert DeNiro is one of the most talented, fearless and ferocious actors of the last forty plus years. It is with this in mind that has lead me to my most recent top 5 list, or should I say, lists. I have decided to break down DeNiro’s career, decade by decade with a top 5 list for every decade he has been relevant in the business.
The top 5 list will begin with the decade in which DeNiro blazed on the scene and quickly became one of the most respected actors, the 1970’s. DeNiro’s work was fairly limited in the 70’s but not at all to be forgotten as some of his most moving and unforgettable films would be made in the 70’s. Without any more build up, here is Robert DeNiro’s best films of the 1970’s.

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5. Bang The Drum Slowly
DeNiro plays a baseball player with a fatal illness who forms a strong bond with one pitcher on the team. This was the first film in which people really took notice of DeNiro and his acting ability. Based on a New York baseball team, it would be a fellow New Yorker that would cement him and begin his legacy.

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4. Mean Streets
This would prove to be one of the most pivotal films in DeNiro’s career. It aligned him with a young visionary director named Martin Scorsese. The marriage of Scorsese and DeNiro would prove to be one of the most prolific in Hollywood history. This pairing will appear many more times as these lists are written. Mean Streets is a raw, real look at life and crime in early 70’s New York City.

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3. Taxi Driver
The second film made with Scorsese is the second film on the list. Playing Travis Bickle was a total master performance. DeNiro is absolutely terrifying and intense as the outcast cab driver who has crazy intentions and lives an odd life. Set in New York City it again portrays a scene in New York at the time it was filmed that people were not used to seeing and became afraid of.

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2. The Godfather II
Playing one of the most iconic characters in film history, Vito Corleone, DeNiro would take home his first Academy Award. As a young Vito his role would be spoken almost exclusively in Italian, which DeNiro learned just for the role. This is the first and only time, two actors won Oscars for playing the same role. The Godfather II would go on to make DeNiro a household name and star.

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1. The Deer Hunter
The character of Michael and the film are quite possibly the most emotional in film history. DeNiro is nothing shy of brilliant and fortunate to be surrounded by maybe the best performance by an ensemble cast ever. With memorable scenes like the Russian roulette scene and when Michael visits Steven in the hospital, he quite possibly became the greatest actor of his time. DeNiro was never so emotional talking about a film as he was when he received his AFI life achievement award and spoke about his scene with John Savage when he visited him in the hospital, DeNiro broke down in tears. That was enough to place this film at the top of all the movies he made in the 1970’s.