Now You See Me (2013)- Louis Leterrier

★★★

 

Everybody loves a good magic trick, right? In director Louis Leterrier’s latest film, “Now You See Me” (2013), there is enough magic, illusions and misdirection to make your head spin. The film centers on four ordinary street magicians (if there is such a thing), who are brought together by an unseen and mysterious hoodedNow You See Me (2013) man. The illusionists, all specializing in different areas, are played by Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco. A year after they are brought together, now known as “The Four Horsemen”, they are headlining in Las Vegas for the multi-millionaire, Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). The Four Horsemen are unlike other acts because they take a Robin Hood approach to the world- robbing the rich and greedy, and giving to those in need. One illusion shows them robbing a bank and giving the money to the audience, and another has millions of dollars being taken from a chiseling insurance company and handing their money to victims of Katrina.

The FBI (Mark Ruffalo) and INTERPOL (Melanie Laurent) are on the case, but unless they can figure out Now You See Me (2013)how the robberies are being committed, there is little they can do. Unless of course they want to admit that the Four Horsemen are actually using magic. Also on their trail is magic de-bunker, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who makes his living exposing how complicated tricks are accomplished. He is purely in it for the money, and will be providing his services to the highest bidder.

“Now You See Me” is an adventurous romp of a film that keeps you guessing and amazed, just as a film based in magic should. It is only after the film ends that you sit back and realize how little you’ve actually seen. The film is one large illusion, based on making you think you’ve seen something spectacular. ReallyNow You see Me (2013) there is very little under the surface. The cast, filled with highly enjoyable and recognizable actors, are a distraction of their own. None of the main actors in this film have much to give, because in a film running under two hours with eight major characters, there just isn’t enough time for character development. It’s quite a shame, as any of these actors could captivate on their own, and their assembly here is just wasted.

What could have been a spectacular film, quickly falls into the category of disappointing, but still entertaining. Choppy, quick-paced editing, misguided direction and a lack of character development make the film fall short, but you’ll hardly realize it until later. If you’re looking to have a smile plastered on your Now You See Me (2013)face because of plot twists, humorous dialogue and a mystery wrapped in confusion, then “Now You See Me” will give you exactly what you’re looking for.

One of the films tag lines for this film is, “Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you’ll actually see”. They couldn’t have been more right with that one.

After Earth (2013)- M. Night Shyamalan

 ★

 

In “After Earth” (2013), the human race has abandoned Earth after its living conditions have become too much to endure. After finding a new planet to call home, humans found a new problem in an alien monster that seems to enjoy killing the humans. Much like a T-Rex, the monsters can’t see, but instead of being attracted to movement, they can sense fear. This is a problem for most humans, but not for General Cypher (Will Smith), who has the ability to block out all fear- which they refer to as “ghosting”.

After Earth (2013)Cypher’s son, Kitai (Jadan Smith), is training to be a Ranger like his father, but his immaturity and lack of focus cause him to be passed over. At his wife’s request, Cypher takes Kitai on a mission to a nearby solar system as a bonding experience, but they hit an astroid field and the spaceship crash lands on Earth. Everyone on board is gone except for Kitai and Cypher, who sustained two broken legs and is barely able to move. There is a distress signal that will give their location to their home planet, but it is in the tail section of the plane that broke off upon entry. Kitai is forced to make the treacherous journey to find the tail, and he must deal with a highly evolved planet, that is determined to kill humans. The animals are blood thirsty, the weather fluctuates dangerously, and on top of everything else, their ship had been transporting an alien creature, who is now on the loose and hunting Kitai.

After Earth (2013)It’s not so much that “After Earth” is an awful movie, as it is uncharacteristic. Will Smith has been a blockbuster movie star for years, and anyone hoping to see him as his typical humorous and exciting self, will be bitterly disappointed. His character is very serious and stand-offish, so naturally the audience wants nothing to do with him either. He has no sense of humor and doesn’t even seem to have much of a personality. What appears as bad acting is really just a bad character, but that’s no excuse. He also spends most of the film sitting in a chair waiting to be rescued, which couldn’t be less entertaining. Jadan Smith is the real star of the picture, but he isn’t ready to carry this large of a film. He isn’t bad, but a film of this magnitude is too much to rest on a young up and comer.

After Earth (2013)The real downfall here, is in the film’s story and structure. The story is based on Will Smith’s own idea, and to be honest, it’s unexciting. The story arc is more what you would expect from a “B” science fiction TV movie. There’s no real depth or emotion, and any attempt to make something meaningful comes off as being cheap. Director M. Night Shyamalan continues to watch his career spiral out of control, and doesn’t appear to to have any kind of safety net. He made a name for himself in first rate thrillers like “The Sixth Sense” (1999), “Unbreakable” (2000) and “Signs” (2002). Now he has resorted to cheap scares, gore filled brutality and amateurish directing. Hopefully, both Shyamalan and Will Smith will soon find their way back to the movies we used to enjoy.

Double Wedding (1937)- Richard Thorpe

★★★★

 

William Powell and Myrna Loy are always a great combination. Of course once you take out their six collaborations in “The Thin Man” series (1934-1947), their other movies seem to be incredibly less popular. Their romantic comedy “Double Wedding” (1937), however, is a too much fun to miss.

Double Wedding (1937)In this hilarious film, Charlie Lodge (Powell) is a vagabond style director who lives out of a trailer parked in his favorite bar’s parking lot. Margit Agnew (Loy) is a successful business woman who enjoys having everything a certain way. Margit also acts as “mother hen” to her fully grown younger sister, Irene (Florence Rice), and her fiance of many years, Waldo (John Beal).

Irene has aspirations of becoming a movie actress, so she and Waldo are always sneaking off to rehearse with Charlie. Charlie enjoys the misguided couple’s company, but is irritated by the way they let Margit control their lives. Irene wants nothing more than for Waldo to stand up to Margit the way Charlie does, but when Waldo proves less than up to the task, Irene announces that she is no longer in love with Waldo and now plans to marry Charlie.Double Wedding (1937)

Charlie, who gets a glimmer in his eye every time he sees Margit, takes advantage of the situation and pretends to love Irene as well. Now he will use this to his advantage and try to win his way into Margit’s heart, while re-joining Irene and Waldo.

The story is based on the play that translates as “Great Love” by Ferenc Molnar. Really the plot isn’t anything too exciting- just a lot of mixed up confusion as everyone seems to be professing their love in different directions. The screenplay by Jo Swerling is what makes the movie begin to click. The dialogue between Powell and Loy is fast, sharp and extremely entertaining.

Of course this is one of those films that had different actors taken the roles it wouldn’t hold up near as well. Double Wedding (1937)Although I can’t say Powell does some of his best work here, he certainly does some of his funniest. He brings this Charlie to life, and he is quite a character already! His smile is electric, his laugh is intoxicating, and when he walks in a room he has every bit of your attention. William Powell ‘s got “Yumph”!

In many ways it’s Myrna Loy who has the hard job in the film, as the “straight” character. Of course she pulls it off admirably because that is what Myrna always does for us. It’s a less obvious humor than her usual comedy roles, but equally fun to watch.

The supporting cast is real hit or miss, as you get the pleasure of seeing professionals like Jessie Ralph in a small, underused part, but then the scenes with John Beal and Florence Rice seem overacted and slow. Beal, in particular, is abysmal in this film. I assume he played this awful character this way on purpose, but it doesn’t work. It’s a good thing most of his scenes are saved by Powell.Double Wedding (1937)

It was during the filming of “Double Wedding” that Powell’s fiancée, Jean Harlow, suddenly died. Understandably, it was hard for him to continue filming, even after taking a break in production. Myna also had trouble continuing on with the production, due to her close friendship with both Powell and Harlow. Needless to say, “Double Wedding” was never a film that they wanted to remember, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate it today.

Escape to the Theaters This Weekend!

Movies Opening in Theaters May 31st, 2013

There are a couple of new releases this weekend that aren’t expected to be as huge as the past few weeks, but really how could they be? Neither of these larger films are sequels, which should keep their attendance down, but with some good word of mouth, who knows what could happen. There should be plenty of hold-over business from “Fast and Furious 6”, “The Hangover Part III”, “Star Trek Into Darkness”, “Iron Man 3” and what is really the only major children’s film so far this year, “Epic”, so it should be interesting to see how this weekend goes.

  • “After Earth” (2013) Rated PG-13, 100 minutes: Continuing what I have dubbed “The summer of sci-fi,” this futuristic adventure film takes place 1000 years after the human race has abandoned Earth. A General and his son (played by real life father and son Will and Jadan Smith) are travelingAfter Earth (2013) on a mission to Earth together when their ship crashes, killing everyone except for the two of them. Now stranded on a planet that has independently evolved without humans, these two men have become the prey, and must find their own way to return home.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense” & “Signs”), and based on a story by Will Smith, this film hopes to be able  to compete with the other science fiction films being released this summer. Shyamalan has had a stretch of unsuccessful films, with each one seeming to be received worse than the last, ever since 2002. With a budget of $130 million and a story that doesn’t seem all that original (especially after last month’s “Oblivion”), “After Earth” has an uphill battle to climb. However, it’s important not to underestimate Will Smith’s box office clout.

  • “Now You See Me” (2013) Rated-PG-13, 116 minutes: This film is about a team of illusionists who, during their performances, also manage to pull off miraculous heists. Now the FBI and an INTERPOLNow You See Me (2013) detective are hot on their trail. Louis Leterrier (“The Incredible Hulk” & “Clash of the Titans”) directs an all-star cast, including Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Ilsa Fisher, Mark Ruffalo, Dave Franco, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine.

It’s hard to tell how audiences are going to respond to this film, as movies about illusionists don’t always fare well, but with some good word of mouth, “Now You See Me” could end up hanging around for a while. This film will be opening at 7:00 P.M. on Thursday, for those wanting to get an early jump on the weekend.

    • “The East” (2013) Rated PG-13, 116 minutes: Opening in a limited release is this thriller film fromThe East (2013) director Zal Batmanglij. The plot involves a former FBI agent (Brit Marling) who goes undercover and infultrates a radical terrorist group called The East. Once there, she falls in love with another member (Alexander Skarsgard), and begins to question whether or not the group might have some method to their madness. The film also stars Ellen Page, Julia Ormond and Patricia Clarkson, and received mostly positive reviews at the Sundance Film Festival where it premiered.
  • ” The Kings of Summer” (2013) Rated R, 93 minutes: Another limited release this week is a coming of age movie that is centered on three adolescent boys who run away from home and build aThe Kings of Summer (2013) make-shift dwelling in the nearby woods.  This film stars Nick Robinson, Gabriel Bassoo and Moises Arias as the three boys, and also stars Megan Mullally, Marc Evan Jackson and Nick Offerman as the parents searching for them.

“The Kings of New York” also had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and has earned positive reviews, particularly for the script’s humor. It is the feature film debut for director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, and looks to be one worth checking out.

Well, those are the major releases for this weekend. Are any of these films appealing enough to lure you to the theater this weekend?

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)- Guy Hamilton

 ★★★

 

James Bond #7: “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971)

After George Lazenby decided not to come back as James Bond, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were able to convince Sean Connery to return and give the role another try. (Although it cost them quite a bit of money.) As the film opens, Bond is savagely hunting down Ernst Blofeld (Charles Grey) for the events that transpired at the end of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969).

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)Once that is over and done with, and the real story is ready to begin, Bond is sent by his MI6 boss, M (Bernard Lee), to pose as a diamond smuggler and discover why a large batch of stolen South African diamonds aren’t resurfacing. Along the way he meets fellow smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), and together they go after billionaire Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), who appears to be behind the disappearing diamonds.

The formula for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” proved to be less effective than previous Bond films (at least in the popularity sense). For this seventh Bond feature, everything got right back in line with the first five films. Q (Desmond Llewelyn) provides Bond with an array of gadgets to make his life easier, Bond endures all kinds of close calls without ever seeming distressed, and above all, the light-hearted feel has returned, making Bond an easy going hero.Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Unfortunately, “Diamonds Are Forever” is a little weak on plot. Even Bond himself asks M, “But surely, sir, there’s no need to bring in our section on a relatively simple smuggling matter.” In that one sentence Bond illustrates the biggest problem that this film endures. Are MI6 agents really necessary for this kind of mission? It also appears that the whole idea of SPECTRE, and even Blofeld, have run their course by now, as each plot involving them seems oddly familiar.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)Originally, “Diamonds Are Forever” was supposed to have Auric Goldfinger’s brother as a villain, seeking revenge for his death. The story, however, was changed and Blofeld was exchanged in order to give Bond his favorite nemesis. The film would have been better served if they stuck with this other, more believable story. The mere appearance of Blofeld in the middle of this diamond escapade seems ridiculous, and then the fact that Bond happens to cross paths with him again makes the entire idea just ludicrous.

It is good, however, to see Connery back again, and even better to get Guy Hamilton back as director. After “Goldfinger” (1964), Guy Hamilton disappeared for the next three films, but now he is back, and his understanding of James Bond as a character, and the series in general, is much appreciated. Hamilton also has a sense of style that appears in his chase scenes. There are two separate vehicle chase sequences in the film, and they are extremely well made and completely fit into the spirit of the Bond series. Even the “climactic” final scene on the oil rig is less impressive than the car chase through Las Vegas.Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

My final thought (and frustration) on “Diamonds Are Forever” is about the two henchmen: Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint (Putter Smith and Bruce Glover). Bond henchmen are famous for their villainy, and these two insanely annoying characters ruin each and every scene that they are in. Their dialogue is quippy, their characters’ demeanor is abysmal, and the film would be significantly better if these two would just go away. (I do have to admit that it is fun to see how remarkably similar Bruce Glover looks to his son, Crispin.)

Here are the statistics from “Diamonds Are Forever”, including a running tally from all seven films:

  • Number of people killed by James Bond: 7-This includes three different people playing Blofeld, which is rather impressive. Total kills through first seven movies: 87
  • Number of times we hear “Bond, James Bond”: 1 Total thus far: 5 1/2Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
  • Number of women who succumb to Bond: 1-Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) is the only girl for Bond this time. (How did that happen?) He gets close with Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood), but they don’t quite make it all the way. Total women: 18
  • “Diamonds Are Forever” theme song: ★★★★★ With provocative lyrics by Don Black, sensual music by John Barry and the great Shirley Bassey providing her voice talents once again, “Diamonds Are Forever” is a highly entertaining romp of a theme song. It remains one of the most toe-tapping, smile-producing songs in the series, and is definitely one of my favorites.

James Bond will return (and so will Lasso the Movies) in “Live and Let Die” (1973).

For more James Bond fun, be sure to check out:

“Dr. No” (1962)

“From Russia with Love” (1963)Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

“Goldfinger” (1964)

“Thunderball” (1965)

“You Only Live Twice” (1967)

“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969)

“Live and Let Die” (1973)

“The Man with the Golden Gun” (1974)

“The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977)

“Moonraker” (1979)

“For Your Eyes Only” (1981)

“Octopussy” (1983)

“Never Say Never Again” (1983)

Hulu Tuesday- Things to Come (1936)- William Cameron Menzies

 ★★★★

 

“Things to Come” (1936) is a science fiction film based on the novel “The Shape of Things to Come” by H.G. Welles. The story opens in the appropriately titled “Everytown” in the future year of 1940. A global war is on the horizon and the residents of Everytown are sharing Christmas together, and discussing the prospects of war and its effects on the world. John Cabel (Raymond Massey) is worried about the things to come, but his friend, Passworthy (Edward Chapman), thinks that a war will help to progress their own technology.Things to Come (1936)

War does come, but not in a good way. Beginning in 1940, through a series of montages and a few interspersed scenes, we see the effects of the war and how it has destroyed most of civilization. By the time we pick the story back up it is 1970. Between the deaths from fighting, the dropping of gas bombs, and a horrific, zombie like disease, civilization has reverted back to a medieval time. Technology hasn’t advanced, but reverted.

Things to Come (1936)A dictator of sorts (Ralph Richardson) is now tyrannically running Everytown, and has ambitious goals of restoring his planes and conquering a nearby group of “hill people” who possess the coal that he needs. A mysterious, futuristic plane lands in Everytown and out steps a much older Cabal (still played by Massey). He explains that he has come from a technologically advanced group who call themselves the Wings Over the World. The mission is to end the problems of the world and unite everyone in the common goal of progress.

Through another series of montages, we advance from 1970 to 2036. Now Everytown has finally succeeded in making progress, but the people have grown tired of not resting and enjoying their lives. With everything focused on progress, the people revolt and attempt to stop their leader (once again played by Raymond Massey) from launching the first space ship to the moon.Things to Come (1936)

“Things to Come” has its share of ups and downs. The futuristic look at war and the extremely horrific portrayal of air raids are incredibly haunting. To watch the fictional Everytown fall apart is terrifyingly similar to the actual bombing that would devastate Europe just a few years after this film’s release. The part of this film that takes place in 1940 is captivating to watch.

Unfortunately, after this first act, the film slows down quite a lot. There are still several aspects that are fascinating to see (especially considering the power of hindsight), but because of the drawn out dialogue and endless speeches about progress, “Things to Come” moves from a captivating action film to a slow moving drama.

Things to Come (1936)I do, however, have endless amounts of praise for the production of this film. The art-design in unbelievable, and the visuals are quite impressive. Director William Cameron Menzies and H.G. Welles (who also wrote the screenplay and was on the set for most of the shooting) truly created a world of the future, full of possibilities and danger.

“Things to Come” is not a film for everyone. It does offer some powerful insights, but because of the way it is presented, the film could end up boring many. The characters aren’t even interesting, as we don’t attach to anyone- just the ideas that they symbolize.Things to Come (1936)

“Things to Come” is available for streaming now on Hulu, and will also join The Criterion Collection on June 18th, 2013, on both blu-ray and DVD. If you are not yet a Hulu subscriber, I obviously would recommend you give it a try. I am a huge supporter of The Criterion Collection, and encourage you to give some of these lesser watched classics an opportunity.

Memorial Day Movies You Don’t Want to Miss

Happy Memorial Day Everyone!

Memorial Day is the day in which to remember the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Since Lasso the Movies is a site dedicated to honoring the cinematic world, and Memorial Day is a day to remember America’s fallen soldiers, what could be more appropriate than to countMemorial Day down the Lasso the Movies top ten American war movies of all time.

When I set out to put this list together I soon discovered a much greater challenge than I had expected. There are so many amazing war films, and to pick only ten became quite difficult. In order to help make my job easier I set out one major rule.

  • The films must center around American soldiers. Some of my favorite war movies like Paths of Glory (1957), “Das Boot” (1981),The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and “Army of Shadows” (1969) are primarily about those fighting from other countries. Since Memorial Day is about honoring the Armed Forces from America, these films became ineligible.

With that being said, here is Lasso the Movies official Memorial Day watch list:

10.) “Mister Roberts”  (1955) Not Rated- 122 minutes: Sure this film has flaws, but there is something very special about the way it all comes together.  Lt. Douglas Roberts (Henry Fonda) is stationed on a Navy cargo ship in the Pacific Ocean during WWII. Roberts desperately wants to escape his mundane life here,Mister Roberts (1955) and continuously is requesting for a transfer. However, his superior, Lieutenant Commander Morton (James Cagney), refuses to endorse Roberts’s request. Much of the film is spent with Roberts’s two closest friends, Ensign Frank Thrlowe Pulver (Jack Lemmon in an Academy Award winning role) and Lieutenant “Doc” (William Powell in his final film). The dialogue is inspiring, the performances are enthralling, and the spirit and determination of Roberts to be a bigger part of war is exactly why this is a perfect Memorial Day film.

“Mister Roberts” was based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Heggen, and the play written by Heggen and Joshua Logan. The film (directed by Mervyn LeRoy and John Ford) was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

9.) Platoon (1986) Rated R-120 minutes: No list of any kind of war films would be complete with Oliver Stone’s Best PicturePlatoon (1986) winning “Platoon”. Charlie Sheen stars as a college drop-out who volunteers for combat duty during the Vietnam War. While there, he is not only forced to deal with the horrific trials and tribulations of war, but also the divided and dysfunctional Bravo Company where he has been assigned. This gritty and unflinching film is powerful, enthralling and one of the most honest looks at the life of a soldier during war.

“Platoon” also stars Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Keith David and John C. McGinley, and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning four (including Best Picture).

8.) “Buck Privates” (1941) Not Rated-85 minutes: Just because we are talking about war moviesBuck Privates (1941) doesn’t mean there can’t be a few laughs along the way. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello star in this film about two sidewalk peddlers who, while trying to avoid a policeman, accidentally enlist in the Army.

Short on plot but long on laughs, “Buck Privates” is a wonderful film, and remains among the most popular and successful films in the Abbott and Costello series. In addition to the humor of this film, The Andrew Sisters appear and perform four songs, including their hit, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. If you still find yourself looking for more fun after this one ends, you can always check out “Buck Privates Come Home” (1947) as well.

7.) “Glory” (1989) Rated R-122 minutes: No list of Memorial Day films would be complete without Edward Glory (1989)Zwick’s unforgettable Civil War film, “Glory”. Starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes and Andre Braugher, this film is based on the true story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, made up completely of African American soldiers.

“Glory” is truly a “must see” film, and has been praised by critics and audiences since its initially release. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning three, including Best Supporting Actor for Denzel Washington.

6.) Saving Private Ryan (1998) Rated R-169 minutes: Steven Spielberg’s WWII drama about a group of soldiers searching for one young man with a free ticket home has quickly become one of the mostSaving Private Ryan (1998) watched and talked about war films of all time. It is intense, realistic, and at times, almost too much to endure. Tom Hanks gives one of his finest performances, and he is surrounded by amazing actors with smaller, but equally impressive portrayals including Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Adam Goldberg, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Gibisi and Jeremy Davies.

There is no denying the realistic portrayal of the invasion of Normandy in this film, and because of that, “Saving Private Ryan” is sure to be a highly watched film this (and every) Memorial Day. “Saving Private Ryan” was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

5.) “From Here to Eternity” (1953) Not Rated-118 minutes: Directed by Fred Zinnemann, this amazing film based on the novel by James Jones tells the story of Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) and aFrom Here to Eternity (1953) series of events that take place at the Schofield Barracks in Oahu, leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. What is most amazing about this film is how much happens in under two hours. There is plenty of action, drama, romance and suspense as the film moves at a brisk pace, keeping viewers enthralled for each and every minute. Every member of the cast is absolutely perfect, including Deborah Kerr, Burt Landcaster, Donna Reed, Ernest Borgnine and Frank Sinatra in his Academy Award winning performance.

“From Here to Eternity” was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning eight (including Best Picture).

4.) “Sergeant York” (1941) Not Rated-134 minutes: Gary Cooper gives an Academy Award winningSergeant York (1941) performance in this drama about the most decorated soldier of WWI, Alvin York. The story is actually more about York’s personal beliefs as a pacifist versus his desire to be a patriot. Directed by the great Howard Hawks and co-starring Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie and Ward Bond, “Sergeant York” was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

3.) “The Hurt Locker” (2009) Rated R-130 minutes: This Best Picture winner from acclaimedThe Hurt Locker (2009) director Kathryn Bigelow left critics and audiences pleasantly surprised in 2009, and it might be even better today than it was then. Jeremy Renner plays the head of a three man bomb disposal team during the Iraq War. The film also stars Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty, and opened the doors for a new kind of war picture. “The Hurt Locker” was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning six including Best Picture.

2.) “They Were Expendable” (1945) Not Rated-135 minutes: Another film that takes placeThey Were Expendable (1945) surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor, but this time John Wayne and Robert Montgomery are using their PT boats to defend the Philippines from a Japanese invasion. This joyous action film is filled with intensity, and is one of director John Ford’s lesser watched masterpieces. Jack Holt, Donna Reed and Ward Bond all give wonderful supporting performances, but this is clearly Montgomery and Wayne’s show.

“They Were Expendable” was nominated for two Academy Awards, one of which was for its magnificent visual effects.

1.) The Thin Red Line” (1998) Rated R- 171 minutes: Over the years I have had to argue this one with many people, but I still find Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line” to be the most amazing and beautifully filmed war movie in history. During WWII, C Company lands on Guadalcanal, where they embark in an epic The Thin Red Line (1998)battle against the Japanese.

“The Thin Red Line” stars Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, Ben Chaplin, Elias Koteas, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson and Jared Leto. There are also several smaller roles in which big name actors appear, but I hate to throw those names out there because it will just disappoint you when you see how small of roles they have.

Based on another James Jones novel, Malick poetically combines the horrors of war with the inner feeling of his characters, with the greatest of ease. “The Thin Red Line” was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film is powerful, emotional, mesmerizing, and above all, perfect. John Toll’s breathtaking cinematography, Hans Zimmer’s emotionally gripping score and Malick’s always impeccable directing make this film a must see film, and the perfect movie to watch this Memorial Day.

The Thin Red Line (1998)Well, that’s my list. 21 hours and 46 minutes of great war films is enough to make anyone appreciate the sacrifice of so many. Have a great Memorial Day everyone, and thanks to those who have given so much and have inspired all of these (and so many other) films.

Sunday’s New Release Round-Up!

New Releases to blu-ray and DVD for Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Alright, so I didn’t get the “Sunday Round-Up” out as early this week and I know that some of you won’t see this until Monday, and for this, I apologize. This week is a good week for classic film releases, but if you’re looking for something newer, you’re going to be disappointed. This week also features a good variety of more obscure titles. (With the exception of “Cleopatra”, of course.) There certainly are plenty of titles that I wouldCleopatra (1963) love to get around to eventually. How about you?

  • “Cleopatra” (1963): 50 years later, and it’s still just as epic (and long) as ever. Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison star in one of the largest films ever produced, and now it is being released for the first time on blu-ray. This film is far overdo for a remastering of this quality, and is a film that everyone should see. Even if you have to break it into two (or three) sections.
  • “Father Goose” (1964): Cary Grant stars in this romantic comedy set during WWII. This film alsoFather Goose (1964) stars Leslie Caron and Trevor Howard, and won an Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay. This highly entertaining film is about a beach-comber who becomes a coast-watcher for the Allies. He eventually comes across a woman and a group of children who are stranded after an air raid. Reluctantly, he looks after the group, until of course, he is given proper time to fall in love.
  • “Life is Sweet” (1990): Joining The Criterion Life is Sweet (1990)Collection this week is this family drama from the always brilliant filmmaker, Mike Leigh. The film stars Alison Steadman, Jim Broadbent, Claire Skinner and Jane Horrocks, and is about a pair of twin 22-year-old sisters who couldn’t be more different from one another if they tried. Although this movie is still relatively unknown, it has received praise from both critics and audiences alike since its first release.
  • “The File on Thelma Jordan” (1950): As an enormous Barbara Stanwyck fan, the release of The File on Thelma Jordan (1950)one of her more obscure films is quite exciting. In this film directed by Robert Siodmak, Stanwyck plays a mysterious woman (which she does better than anyone), who involves herself romantically with a married district attorney (Cleve Marshall) right before her Aunt ends up murdered. Now she becomes the prime suspect and he will do anything to keep her out of harms way.
  • “The Grass is Greener” (1960): Another Cary Grant comedy this week, this time directed by The Grass is Greener (1960)Stanley Donen. An Earl and Countess (Grant and the great Deborah Kerr) find themselves in need of money, so they open their home up for tours. When an American oil man (Robert Mitchum) arrives, he becomes enamored with the Countess. Instead of acting jealously, the Earl invites the man to stay with them, but also invites an attractive American heiress (Jean Simmons) to entertain himself. You can see where this one is going, but that doesn’t take anything away from the enjoyment of this wonderful film.
  • “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (1986): Alright so it’sJumpin Jack Flash (1986) not the greatest film, but there is something about this 80’s comedy from director Penny Marshall that still makes me smile. Perhaps its just Whoopi Goldberg’s uncanny ability to make me laugh at every available opportunity, but despite the cheesy story and uninspiring film quality, this is still one movie that I find to be entertaining.
  • “The Numbers Station” (2013): John CusackThe Numbers Station (2013) and Malin Akerman star in this action film about a CIA agent who is assigned to protect a code operator at a remote numbers station, in England. Things soon go wrong, and the unlikely pair are forced to go on the run. This film was released for streaming on Apple TV even before it hit theaters in late April. It has received horrible reviews, although some critics has noted that it’s just the story that is old and tired, but both the acting and the work by Danish director Kasper Barfoed make this a film worth watching.Dark Command (1940)
  • “Dark Command” (1940): John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Walter Pidgeon, Roy Rogers and George “Gabby” Hayes” star in this seldom seen western set just before the Civil War. This isn’t your typically Wayne movie, though, as the twisting plot develops to show a different kind of Wayne character. Raoul Walsh masterfully directs this surprising film that ends up being as much a drama as it is an action film.
  • “Blowing Wild” (1953): I know very littleBlowing Wild (1953) about this film, but from the looks of it, this is a film that I should see. Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Anthony Quinn, Ruth Roman and Ward Bond all star in this love triangle film, set on the oil fields of Latin America.
  • “Lady From Louisiana” (1941): This John Wayne picture is labeled as a disaster film, as Wayne plays a lawyer who goes up against the corrupt Louisiana State Lottery. This film is directed by Bernard Vorhaus, and also stars Ona Munson, Ray Middleton and Dorothy Dandridge.
  • In Old California” (1942): An east coast pharmacist (once again John Wayne) relocates to Sacramento, California, during the Gold Rush.In Old California (1942)

Well I think that’s it for this week. What are you going to watch?

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)- Leo McCarey

★★★★★

&

My Hall of Fame

 

Few films are as emotional stirring as Leo McCarey’s “Make Way for Tomorrow” (1937). It’s not a movie you can watch without becoming involved in the sweetness of the story and the love that these characters share.

The story for “Make Way for Tomorrow” is actually quite simple. A 70 year old couple, Ma and Pa Cooper (Beulah Bondi and Victor Moore), who after 50 years of marriage have lost their home to the bank, gather four of their five children together (the fifth lives on the other side of the country) and they explain the situation to them. Immediately there is hesitation in the children’s attitudes. One daughter has enough room, but says her husband won’t allow them. The children decide that the best thing to do is split up the parents at two of the children’s homes until a more permanent solution can be found.Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)

Ma goes to live with her son, George (Thomas Mitchell), his wife (Fay Bainter) and their 17 year old daughter (Barbara Read). Pa lives with their daughter, Cora (Elizabeth Risdon), and her husband (Ralph Remley), but because they don’t have an extra room he is force to sleep on the couch. It doesn’t take long to figure out that these living arrangements won’t work for long. The families are irritated with the “hassle” of having another person around. Ma and Pa are constant interruptions into their children’s own lives, and in no time at all, the children are making new arrangements for their parents’ final years.

Orson Welles once said of “Make Way for Tomorrow”, “It would make a stone cry”.  That is probably the shortest and most accurate description of this film. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you are in the world today, this poignant story will work it’s way into your very soul, and touch you in ways you didn’t know possible. Few films can fill you with such a desire to love, and be loved, the way “Make Way for Tomorrow” can.

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)So why is this simple film so deeply moving? Because director Leo McCarey knew what he was doing. The first third of the film is pretty easy going. McCarey intersperses comedy and drama by showing the lighter side to the Coopers’ predicament. As both Pa and Ma begin to get on their children’s nerves, we , as the audience, completely see why they are so bothered by the eccentricities of this older couple. Both Ma and Pa can be irritating and difficult, but don’t fall for the trap. The moment you start to think about how you would feel the same way that the children do, that is when you’re stuck. And boy will you feel sorry later.

They are irritating. They annoy almost everyone, they interfere where they don’t belong and worst of all, they make their children’s lives more difficult to endure. Of course the only thing they want- their only request is that there is some hope, even a meniscule chance, that one day they will be together again.

Beulah Bondi and Victor Moore give the best performances of their careers, hands down. They completely feel like a real couple who have spent the last 50 years together. Each of them does more brilliant acting in this film than the rest of their career combined. Bondi was only 49 at the time and Moore was only 61, yet they pull off the 70 year old couple look and demeanor with the greatest of ease.Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)

Leo McCarey is famous for many of his wonderful films. Whether making a drama like “An Affair to Remember” (1957), or a musical like “Going My Way” (1944), or even a great comedy such as “Duck Soup” (1933) or “The Awful Truth” (1937), McCarey always seems to know and understand how to evoke the proper emotions from his audience. He is truly a masterful filmmaker, and deserves to be regarded much higher than he is today. For those of us how spend countless hours in the make believe world of movies, “Make Way for Tomorrow” will remind you that you’re human once again.

When McCarey won his Best Director Academy Award in 1937 for his work on “The Awful Truth”, he said in his acceptance speech, “I want to thank the Academy for this wonderful award, but you gave it to me for the wrong picture,” showing his own appreciation for“Make Way for Tomorrow”. He even went so far as to call it his favorite among his many great and successful movies. And do you know something? I think he was right.

Make Way for TomorrowIn 1937, “Make Way for Tomorrow” was not one of the highest grossing film of the year. It was nominated for zero Academy Awards. There was much praise from critics for the quality of the production, the acting, and even the beauty of the tender and emotional story, but the fact that the movie has a serious tone kept the audiences at bay. Now, more than 70 years later, it is considered a landmark of depression era cinema by critics, audiences, and even other filmmakers, as Frank Capra, John Ford, Orson Welles and Jean Renoir all considered this one of the greatest films of all time. It also served as the inspiration for Yasujiro Ozu’s highly acclaimed “Tokyo Story” (1953). “Make Way For Tomorrow” is included in the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, as well as being a part of The Criterion Collection. “Make Way for Tomorrow” is also a part of the Lasso the Movies “Hall of Fame”. All of this I am sure would make Leo McCarey proud; even if it did take us so long to understand what he already knew in 1937; “Make Way for Tomorrow” is quite simply, perfect.

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)- Justin Lin: Crazy, Action-Packed and Almost Too Much Fun for Words

★★★

 

When the original, “The Fast and the Furious” (2001) was released, I never thought that the series would make it so far. However, thanks to exciting chase scenes, enjoyable, recognizable characters and enough high-octane thrills to keep everyone smiling, this sixth installment, “Fast and Furious 6” (2013) proves that there is no limit to how far these films could go. This band of hard-driving misfits sure has come far- and fast.Fast and Furious 6 (2013)

“Fast and Furious 6” commences a couple of years after the successful heist that made all of Dominic’s (Vin Diesel) crew incredible wealthy at the end of “Fast Five” (2011). DDS agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his assistant, Riley (Gina Carano), track Dominic down and ask him to help in the apprehension of a highly trained crew of car racers, headed by a former Special Forces soldier, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Dominic agrees because Hobbs has a recently taken photograph of Dominic’s supposedly dead girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who is now working with Shaw. Dominic recruits members of his old crew to help him, including O’Conner (Paul Walker), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Han (Sung Kang) and Gisele (Gal Gadot). They are all promised full pardons for ALL previous criminal activities if they assist Hobbs in taking down Shaw and his crew.

Fast and Furious 6 (2013)

I expect that is about all the plot that is necessary to understand and appreciate this movie. Let’s be honest, “Fast and Furious 6” is not going to be winning any major awards, especially in the story department, because it’s not meant to be that kind of a picture. It’s entertainment, and very little more. But doesn’t that just make everything better anyway? You don’t go to see a movie like this unless you’re looking for entertainment, which this film delivers in Fast and Furious 6 (2013)abundance. If the filmmakers tried to throw in more substance, we would just complain that the film lacks high-speed action.

The car chases alone make this film worth seeing. The skill of the stunt drivers and the ability with which the filmmakers capture the never ending parade of action is monumentally impressive, and needs to be appreciated in its own right. Car chase scenes in films have fallen by the wayside in recent memory, but in the “Fast and the Furious” series it really is the frame on which everything else is built.

Fast and Furious 6 (2013)Unbelievable precision driving scene after scene, filled with hand to hand combat and plenty of light-hearted laughs, create the perfect movie to help anyone escape from the real world. Of course, you have to take the cheesy script and impossibly unrealistic stunts along with the ride too, but we (as fans of this series) have come to expect these things and would be disappointed if they weren’t included as well. What is great about this film is that because of the success that this series has already obtained, the story could pick up right in the middle. It also sets up the next film in the series, which should be coming along sometime in the next year.

Director Justin Lin will not be returning to direct the next film and it is really a shame. He has directed Fast and Furious 6 (2013)numbers three through six, and each film seems to step things up even more. (I don’t even know how things can get larger at this point.) When he came into this franchise it was at its lowest point, but Lin pulled it back and made the series what it has become. Here’s hoping the entertainment and fun of these films isn’t walking away with him.