Category Archives: Throwback Review

A look back at old movies that deserve to be remembered.

The Best And Worst James Bonds

The Best and Worst James Bonds

With Spectre having been released and it all but certain that Daniel Craig will not be reprising the role of 007, it got me thinking. Who did the best and worst job as the coolest spy ever? And, who should play him next? Playing the part of James Bond has never been an easy task. Whoever decides to step into the perfectly crafted, expensive shoes of Mr. Bond has to inhabit a man who is suave, sophisticated, intelligent, extremely confident,strong and fearless yet has enough sensitivity to woo women in a more than superficial way. This has been the quandary of everyone from the first Bond to the last. Ian Fleming’s character was already pretty popular after his highly successful novels were adapted into movies with even the Kennedy brothers being huge fans. Therefore, this movie franchise has never been one without high expectations attached to it. So, given that fact and  without further ado, here is my list of the best and worst James Bonds of all time. (I’m excluding films where 007 was parodied like the original Casino Royal.)

The Best And The Worst…

sean conery bond

Sean Connery– This was a bit of a no brainer. Without Sean Connery’s brilliant performance in Dr. No there probably would have been no James Bond. From his first uttering of the phrase “Shaken not stirred,” to his cool demeanor when playing baccarat, he set the bar for everyone who would follow. Not to mention his on screen bedding of gorgeous women and some of the best one liners of all time. When he said,” I must be dreaming,” when he was first introduced to Pussy Galore it set the stage for more great ones to come. Although his movies may seem dated now, they were the most thrilling films around at the time and Connery was a big reason for that. From his first turn as the most famous driver of an Aston Martin in the first installment to Never Say Never Again, Sean Connery was James Bond. In some ways, he always will be.

 

Pierce Brosnan/Daniel Craig– I know that I might get a lot of flack for this choice, but  both of these men made Bond modern and exciting again in their respective eras.

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Pierce stepped on the scene in the mid and late 90’s playing the world’s most famous spy at a time when such people seemed obsolete and made him relevant. In the fool’s paradise that was the post Cold War pre 9/11 world, it was doubtful that the ultimate Cold War hero could mean anything especially since his predecessor’s last few films had been disappointing. But, beginning with the fantastic Goldeneye (The opening scene where he escapes from a Soviet nuclear facility jumps on a motorcycle then sky dives off a cliff and into a plane that is about to crash and then pilots it to safety remains my all time favorite Bond escape.) and ending with Die Another Day. He made the man with a license to kill the debonair, death defying juggernaut he was meant to be all while making it look easy.

 

daniel craig bond

Being upset at Pierce leaving the franchise and knowing very little of Daniel Craig’s work, I had low expectations for the former’s tenure. But, within the first few minutes of Casino Royale he had won me over. His Bond was an upstart strong man who relied more on brute force than charm, was less of a womanizer than his previous incarnations, and who possessed a sensitivity towards women and unease with killing that most of his previous Bonds lacked. This was a Bond for a post 911/Iraq War world. This was Bond rebooted and one that I had begun to think could not materialize. Craig’s interpretation has only been better with each film, Skyfall being a prime example. This is why I’ll miss him when he leaves the fictional MI6, downs his last Martini, and hands over the keys of his Aston Martin DB5 to another.

Both Brosnan and Craig revitalized and reimagined James Bond in  at times when his influence seemed at an end. As a result, they are tied for second in my humble opinion.

roger moore bond
Roger Moore-Taking over the role of Mr. Bond must have been a fairly difficult endeavor after George Lazenby’s turn. Aside from constant comparisons to Sean Connery, Roger Moore had to revive a franchise that appeared to be on life support after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Beginning with Live and Let Die and ending with A View To A Kill he did so admirably. His Bond and was a handsome, witty chap who got himself out of plenty of scrapes all with seeming ease. He was full of great one liners like the time in one film when an attractive female spy asked him, “Can I get you anything sir?” and he responded, “Well, I’ve had lunch. But I haven’t had dessert.” He was also able to show off the full brunt of Bond’s intrepid nature when he took him into space in Moonraker. In that film, Bond broke new ground not only in how he defeated an enemy, but in how he celebrated with a Bond girl. (All you need to do is see the last scene  and hear Q’s quip, “I think he’s attempting reentry,” to know what I’m referring to.)
Was Roger Moore a fantastic Bond? Maybe not. But, he was very good.

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4. Timothy Dalton- What can you say about Dalton as Bond? He was just not that good. The Living Daylights and License To Kill were barely watchable. Furthermore, although he gave it his all, Dalton’s Bond just felt bland and too cliched. His time at MI6 seemed awkward like a suit that didn’t fit. I think this was a case of inappropriate casting. I could barely sit through his two films, which didn’t help. Furthermore, the names Timothy Dalton and James Bond just don’t meld. This all seemed to show quite clearly.

george-lazenby bond
5. George Lazenby- In all fairness to the youngest Bond ever, having to step in after Sean Connery must not have been easy. But, that does not excuse the Australian’s horrendously awful turn as the most well known British spy of all time. His portrayal in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is just terrible. It’s the only movie in the series (I’ve seen them all.) that I haven’t been able to watch all the way through. In fact, I was so frustrated that I stopped the movie and immediately started reading the novel, which was fantastic. (If you haven’t seen the film or read the book, you should do the latter. It’s excellent and one I wish they would remake and adapt today.) Lazenby’s Bond didn’t have a license to kill, but instead a license to bore.

And The Next Bond Should Be…
Now that I’ve described who I felt the best and worst Bond’s were, it’s time to look toward the future. It seems that the requirements for the character of 007 seem to be an actor from somewhere in the British Isles or a country with British roots like Australia. He must be handsome, athletic, and have a great deal of charm and likability and exude intelligence. Therefore, although he might be an older version of the icon, I think a great Bond would be… Clive Owen.

clive owen

He fits all the criteria on paper and is an absolutely incredible actor. Furthermore, having Bond be a little older might take the character in an interesting and different direction. The idea of Clive Owen as Bond is a nice prospect and one that I hope Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wison (The producers of the franchise will consider.)

(I should also add that having a female version of the spy like a Jane Bond be the next incarnation would be a great turn.)

So, there you have it. My feelings on the best and worst James Bonds of all time and who should step into the role next. As a huge fan of Mr. Bond, whoever joins MI6 next I hope that he or she is worthy and that James Bond in whatever form he or she takes next, lasts forever.

Who’s your choice for the next James Bond?

Malice: A Good Early 90’s Mystery Movie

Malice: A Good Early 90’s Mystery Movie

What I Remembered: Malice was a movie that I missed when it came out and because of that it took me a long time to see it. The main cast of Alec Baldwin, Bill Pullman, and Nicole Kidman had roused my curiosity since all were very good actors. Still, I put off watching it figuring that there must have been something wrong with it if I had avoided it for such a long period of time. But, a few years ago when I was desperate to see something new, I decided to give it a shot. Viewing it again recently, what I found was a good movie with an interesting story and a more than adequate plot twist.

 

The Story: Malice is centered around its main character Andy Safian (Bill Pullman) the dean of a prestigious all female college in Massachusetts. Andy is happily married to his wife Tracy (Nicole Kidman) with whom he is desperate to have a child. At the beginning of the picture, Andy rushes to the local hospital because one of his students has been attacked and sexually assaulted in her home. The attack follows the same pattern as those of two other students of the college who have suffered the same fate from a serial rapist that the local police have been unable to catch. It appears that the young woman is so badly injured the she may not survive, but after some near miracle work by Jed Hill (Alec Baldwin) the highly talented new hot shot surgeon at the hospital, she survives. Andy goes to speak with Jed after the surgery is complete to thank him for his work and they discover that they went to high school together. Jed is very cool and charming much like he was in high school and the best way to describe it is that Andy has a non-sexual man crash on him. As Andy is about to leave the hospital he runs into to Tracy who volunteers there, and he briefly introduces her to Jed.

malice nicole kidman

Andy and Jed then develop a fast friendship. When Jed tells Andy that he can’t find a place to live in town Andy who is strapped for cash, and in need of a renter in the spacious Old Victorian home that he shares with Tracy, offers to let Jed rent his down stairs bedroom. Jed accepts and after some slight resistance from Tracy, he moves in. The latter soon comes to find the living arrangement to be slightly annoying particularly one evening when Jed spends hours in bed with a nurse from the hospital which keeps Tracy and Andy from falling asleep. Tracy is also struggling with terrible stomach pains which are preventing her from getting pregnant and is resentful of the fact that Jed knows about her condition.

Later one evening when Tracy takes a serious turn for the worse and she is in need of surgery her, Andy and Jed’s path collide in a way that was not anticipated. What happens after this, will alter Andy’s life forever.

Technical Details: Malice was not an extraordinary piece of work, but it was good. Harold Becker did a satisfactory job directing especially with the film’s pacing as it moves along quite well. Another facet. of his direction was his ability to create the environment that all of the characters inhabit in an interesting and fairly realistic way. In addition to this, Aaron Sorkin, Jonas McCord, and Scott Frank delivered a very good screenplay. I think that one of the attributes of the script was that it contained all of the exemplary elements of a Sorkin penned work, but because there were other writers involved with it, the aspects of his writing that I find boring and slightly annoying were not present. His often overly sophisticated , staccato, vocabulary laden dialogue was barely there, which made the screenplay more enjoyable than I usually find his work. By the same token the subplot of the serial rapist further augmented the plot and flow of the story.

Finally, the acting was almost excellent, but there are unfortunately a few moments where it feels a bit contrived. Kidman and Pullman were very convincing and had good chemistry as a couple. Along with this, Josef Sommer, Bebe Neuwirth, and George C. Scott were great in supporting parts and Gwyneth Paltow and Anne Bancroft made two memorable, but brief appearances in their respective roles. However, in my humble opinion, Alec Baldwin was the star. He played the role of the cocky Jed Hill wonderfully. Seeing him in his heyday was a reminder that despite his vast personal problems he can be a great actor.

End Credits: Malice was not a great movie, but it was a good movie. It has an intriguing, original story and good performances. It is interesting and entertaining and it leaves you curious to see how it will end. You can’t ask for much more from a film in its genre. So, if you’re seeing it for the nearly two hours that it takes to do so, it will be time well spent.

Want To See A Movie On Halloween? Try The Vanishing

Want To See A Movie On Halloween? Try The Vanishing

What I Remembered: Being pretty young at the time The Vanishing was released in 1993, I vaguely remember seeing the trailer somewhere. That being said, the concept behind the film hooked me and I was eager to see it. Once I did, I saw a film that was extremely well put together, suspenseful, and genuinely scary. Having seen it again recently, I feel the same way as I did then. This is an excellent movie that can be seen at any time, but is certainly something worth viewing on Halloween.


The Story: The Vanishing is mostly the story of Jeff Harriman (Keifer Sutherland). As the movie begins, Jeff is a copywriter and aspiring novelist who is taking a brief vacation with his girlfriend Dianne Shaver(Sandra Bullock) to Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington. It is implied that Jeff and Dianne have ventured to the now dormant volcano to take a thrill seeking biking trip. But at the last moment, Dianne becomes fearful and asks Jeff to turn back. Jeff who is annoyed at her last minute change of heart, decides to drive back with her to their home in Seattle. As they are driving through a tunnel their jeep runs out of gas. They are now stuck in the dark tunnel and Dianne becomes terrified that they are going to be hit by another car and is angry at Jeff for not having stopped at the many gas stations they saw on the way when she kept notifying him that their gas tank was getting low. Jeff who is already upset with Dianne for canceling the trip becomes even more angry when she will not leave the car with him immediately in order to get a flashlight. Jeff then leaves a now almost hysterical Dianne to go get gas.

the vanishing sandra bullock

When he returns to the car, Dianne is gone and he is now worried. He eventually finds her completely unharmed and they make up after the incident. As they are about to begin their drive home, Dianne asks Jeff to pull into a rest area. After he promises to never leave her again she gives him a gift of a gold lighter that she wants him to use to help her light her cigarettes. Jeff is obviously touched by the gesture and it is indirectly indicated that for them this act is a step towards marriage. Dianne then states that she is ready to continue their trip home, but first she has to visit the bathroom. Jeff waits and waits and Dianne never returns.

Jeff will then spend years of his life struggling to find out what happened to her. When he is contacted by and then meets Barney (Jeff Bridges) a chemistry professor who claims to know everything that happened to Dianne, his life will never be the same.

Technical Details: At least from where I sit there is very little that is technically wrong with The Vanishing. George Sluzier did a superb job of directing this English language version of the Dutch film that he helmed, while Todd Graff delivered an excellent screenplay adapted from the first movie and the novel that it was based on. One exceptional key feature of this picture was it’s ability to remain suspenseful and compelling throughout. As a result of top notch editing and pacing, there was a never a dull moment. But for all of these attributes, the most important component of The Vanishing was the outstanding performances of its actors.

Sandra Bullock and Nancy Travis were excellent, but by far the standouts were Sutherland and Bridges. Sutherland played the tormented and haunted Jeff Harriman in such a realistic way that he engendered a tremendous amount of sympathy for his character. This was especially evident at the emotion he displayed when he first realized that Dianne was missing as the onset of panic began to grip him.

jeff bridges the vanishing

Similarly, Bridges was so incredibly creepy and frightening as Barney he made the hairs on my neck stand up and still does. It was a credit to his immense talent and range that the could play this character so well and later be able to play The Dude in The Big Lebowski and Jackson Evans in The Contender so convincingly as well. In fact, he was so good in the role of Barney that he is one of the reasons I’m very careful in rest stop and gas station bathrooms to this day.

End Credits: The Vanishing is an expertly plotted, well-acted exciting movie whose quality does not diminish with time. It can be watched any time of the year, but around Halloween it provides all the fright that you will need. It portrays one of the worst fears of many people so vividly that it is almost astonishing. Perhaps, most importantly with Halloween coming up, it shows that those whom we should fear the most are not ghosts or goblins or werewolves or vampires, but other humans who have no conscience and whose only intent is to do harm.

The Talented Mr. Ripley

the Talented-Mr-Ripley

The Talented Mr. Ripley: A Perfect Movie

What I Remembered: Based on its trailer and cast, I was eagerly awaiting the release of The Talented Mr. Ripley when I first saw it in the theater soon after Christmas in 1999. That had ended up being a particularly fantastic year for movies and with such jewels like American Beauty, Magnolia, The Insider, and The Hurricane having come out and I was anxious to see if it could match those great works. Furthermore, having just completed a marathon speed reading session of the novel that it was based on, I was champing at the bit for it. From the opening credits, I knew I would love it and have never stopped. To this day, I can’t claim much neutrality towards it as I thought every aspect of it was perfect. It solidified Matt Damon and Philip Seymour Hoffman as two of my favorite actors, deepened my respect for Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow,(Unfortunately, with the latter that has dwindled considerably in recent years.) and formed a love for the books of Patricia Highsmith that still remains. The Talented Mr. Ripley is one of my favorite films and probably will be forever.

The Story: The Talented Mr. Ripley revolves around its protagonist, Tom Ripley. It opens in the late 1950’s in New York City with Tom accompanying an Opera singer named Fran on piano during a party from some very wealthy, upscale people. After Tom and Fran finish their set he is approached by the host Herbert Richard Greenleaf (James Rebhorn) a shipping magnate and his wife who compliment his piano playing. Noticing that Tom is wearing a Princeton jacket Mr. Greenleaf inquires if Tom knows his son Dickie (Jude Law) since they would have attended the university at the same time. After a second’s hesitation, Tom asks how Dickie is and Mr. Greenleaf informs him that he has been living in Europe. (It is clear to the viewer that Tom and has never previously met nor heard of Dickie until this moment.) Mr. Greenleaf is impressed with Tom and promises to contact him after the party.

talented mr. ripley

Once Tom leaves the party, it is discovered that he is no Princeton graduate and that he and Fran were not a couple as Mr. Greenleaf had assumed. Tom had merely been filling in for Fran’s pianist boyfriend who has a broken arm and the jacket he wore was borrowed from the boyfriend. Instead of living a lavish lifestyle, Tom works as a bathroom attendant at the Metropolitan Opera and lives in a flea bag ground floor apartment in the meat packing district.

The movie then cuts to Tom meeting with Mr. Greenleaf at the shipyard where Dickie’s father oversees his empire. Mr. Greenleaf offers to pay Tom one thousand dollars to go to Italy where Dickie is living and persuade him to come back to the United States where Dickie will be groomed to take over the family business. Tom is appearently somewhat reluctant, but decides to undertake the task.

Tom then immerses himself in the life of Dickie with the little information that he has. This is includes training himself in the intricacies of Cool Jazz of which Dickie is an enormous fan.

Tom then ventures to Italy on the Greenleafs’ dime, traveling first class on a Cunard line ship. When he arrives he deceptively “bumps into” Dickie and his fiancé, Marge Sherwood(Gwyneth Paltrow) claiming that they had been friends at Princeton. Dickie is cool to Tom at first, but warms to him after Marge invites him to lunch. Tom, Dickie and Marge develop a fast friendship and he tells them of the real reason he was sent to Italy. What Dickie and Marge don’t know is that their life together will never be the same now that Tom has entered it.

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Technical Details: In my estimation, everything about this picture is technically perfect. Anthony Minghella penned a phenomenal script, which although it deviated slightly from its source material, kept its essence perfectly. Furthermore, his direction was first rate as through exemplary editing, extraordinary cinematography, the use of a great score and the ability to illicit pitch perfect performances from his actors he was able to create the atmosphere of Ripley’s world in an astounding way. This was clearly the case with James Rehborn, Jude Law, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchette, all of whom played their parts with exquisite realism.


By far the star of the film was Matt Damon. He played the psychopathic, manipulative, yet charming character of Tom Ripley so well it gave me goosebumps and still does. Based on this movie and his past work in School Ties and Goodwill Hunting, it is no surprise that he would later emerge as one of the best actors of his generation. His portrayal of Tom Ripley was one of the best I have ever seen and was everything that great acting should be.

The only hangup I have when it comes to this movie is that it was not nominated for more Academy Awards and didn’t win any.

End Credits: The Talented Mr. Ripley is a masterpiece. It is exciting. It is intriguing and technically proficient. It takes turns you would not expect and provides a wonderful escape for all those who see it. You are doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t seen it. So, you should.

The Virgin Suicides: A Haunting, Excellent Film

The Virgin Suicides: A Haunting, Excellent Film

What I Remembered: I didn’t come to truly watch The Virgin Suicides until a few years after it came out. I had seen some snippets of it on Showtime off and on, but I had never seen it from start to finish. In all honesty the subject matter made me a little uncomfortable. This was compounded by the fact ( I hope this doesn’t ruin it for those of you that have not seen it.) that although set in Michigan in the 1970’s a majority of it was filmed in my home city. It was only after seeing Sofia Coppola’s wonderful second film, Lost In Translation, did I feel compelled to sit down and see her first one in its entirety.

What I found was an original, exquisitely crafted piece of cinema that showcased a fantastic filmmaker who has her own voice.

The Story: The Virgin Suicides is told partly through a voice over by a male actor that recounts events presented in the movie through narration. The narrator tells the story of the Lisbon sisters in Michigan in the 1970’s. They are girls ranging in age from thirteen to seventeen and are the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Libson( James Woods and Kathleen Turner). Mr. Libson is the high school Math teacher for most of the boys in his neighborhood many of whom are entranced by and in love with his daughters. This is mainly due to the fact that they are all pretty girls and for the fact that the girls don’t often get to socialize with boys or friends from school outside of that environment very often, if it all. The Lisbon parents especially the girls mother, are very controlling. Thus, the girls have a mystery and mystique about them that the boys- all of whom are going through the confusing period of adolescence- find intriguing and exciting.
the-virgin-suicides
The movie opens on a dark note with Cecilia Lisbon (Hannah Hall) making an attempt at suicide by slitting her wrists. The attempt fails, but her parents take her to a psychiatrist who informs them that she did what she did not because she meant to end her life, but because she needs more of a social life than their strict household presently provides. They agree to let her and her sisters become more involved socially with the boys in the neighborhood by throwing a party. But, this action and subsequent ones after will have terrible consequences that will alter their lives and the boys who are interested in them forever.

Technical Details: To me everything in The Virgin Suicides is as close to technically flawless as possible. Sofia Coppola wrote an incredible adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel. ( One of my great regrets is that I did not read it before first seeing this film. As I can’t read a novel a movie was based on after I’ve seen it.) Although it has a grim storyline, it was able to have humor and compassion in it as well. Furthermore, her direction was absolutely fabulous. By utilizing skilled editing, extraordinary cinematography and achieving good to superb performances from her actors the finished product was well done. In terms of the performances, nearly all of the kids in it played their parts impressively, which was no small feat and James Woods and Kathleen Turner were excellent as always. But, arguably the most admirable aspect of the film was that Sofia Coppola was able to create an environment that was extremely atmospheric. One felt the time period and the characters with enormous realism. In a way, the viewer almost inhabited the world Coppola made along with the Lisbon girls and the boys who loved them.

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End Credits: The Virgin Suicides was a truly exceptional film. It had all of the elements that make a picture great. Furthermore, it is unlike anything that I have seen before or since. It had a haunting, ethereal quality that will stay with you long after you see it. Seeing The Virgin Suicides is a journey you should take if you never have. If you haven’t taken it yet, take it now. You will not be disappointed.

Marie-Antoinette

Marie Antoinette movie

Marie-Antoninette: An Excellent, Interesting, Original Piece of Cinema

What I Remembered: Another week and another excellent Sofia Coppola movie. I was eagerly anticipating seeing Marie- Antoinette when it came out in 2006. Admittedly, being a huge fan of her other films, I was curious to see how she approached the subject of the life of Marie-Antoinette since based on the film’s trailer and what I had heard about it she was going to approach telling her story in a different way. Unfortunately when I first saw it on the big screen, the theater I was at was having terrible sound problems and I walked away disappointed. To my great surprise when after much prodding from friends, I rented it on DVD a few months later and came to love it. It was a piece of cinema that was unique, interesting and unlike anything I had ever seen before from Sofia Coppola or another director for that matter. Finally, what was most interesting about the picture was that it approached the genre of both a period piece or a biopic in such a distinct style that it forever altered how I see others of the same ilk.

The Story: Marie Antoinette recounts the life of the Austrian princess who at fifteen was sent to France to marry the French prince or dauphin, Louis XVI. By nineteen she would become the Queen of France after the previous King, Louis’s grandfather, died.

Her and her husband’s reign was revolutionary. The rest of the story can all be found in the history books or Antonia Fraser’s excellent biography that the film was based on.

The real talent in the story telling with this film lies in the fact that Coppola was able to do so by showing how young, alone and naive Marie-Antoinette was when she left Austria and when she became the Queen of France. As a result, thou feel tremendous affinity for this young woman and her husband that have been vilified previously by the forces of history.

Marie Antoinette movie 2

Technical Details: Like her previous two films, Coppola made this one to me, as close to technically perfect as possible. Once again she delivered an excellent script that made her interpretation of the world of Marie-Antoinette come to life. In addition, her direction was extraordinary. By being allowed to shoot in Versailles, using modern music in the score and having her actors speak in English and without accents especially the film’s star, she was able to humanize what prior to the movie had been for me a distant historical personality. Moreover, the film was beautifully shot with Lance Acord’s cinematography skills on such display that they could have been photographic art pieces in and of themselves. Finally, the acting in the film was first rate.

Jason Schwartzman was his usual quirky, charming self as Louis. Furthermore, Steve Coogan, Rip Torn, Judy Davis and Rose Byrne were all of high quality. But, without question the standout in the film was Kirsten Dunst in the lead role. She played the character of Marie-Antoinette with such humanity, charisma and empathy that one could not help feel great compassion for her. This was not an easy undertaking and for that she deserved enormous credit.

If there were any failings in the movie you could say that a little bit more of the historical context could be presented at certain times. For example, more dates could have been shown to delineate how old each character wad during certain points in the drama and as far as I’m aware it didn’t follow history exactly. But, those are little minor details that don’t diminish it. The beauty of the movie is its presentation of a specific mood and atmosphere that one gets caught up in. In fact, this was done so well that I can’t see any other movie that touches on the same subject and when I do think of that time period images from the movie come to mind. For instance, I know that The Cure’s tune,”Plainsong” was not being played in the background during Louis and Marie-Antoinette’s coronation, I still see it that way.

End Credits: As I wrote at the beginning, Marie-Antoinette is an excellent film. If you love the movies of Sofia Coppola and haven’t seen it, you should. If you have seen it, you should take another look. It is an original piece of work that is unlike anything that has been presented before or since. It contains all the aspects that make a piece of cinema great and if you appreciate great cinema you’ll appreciate it. (Not to mention, it also happens to have a killer soundtrack.) Watching Marie-Antoinette is a journey that you should go on and once you have, you’ll be glad you did.

Throwback Review: The Game

the-game movie

The Game is an Intriguing Ride Worth Taking Again

What I Remembered: I saw The Game several years after it came out. Being a huge fan of Michael Douglas, I was surprised that it had gone under my radar. Also, only knowing David Fincher through his work with Seven ( A movie that I found far too gruesome.) I was not sure what to expect. I ended up seeing a picture that was well plotted, well-written, and expertly acted. Every time I see it I find something new that I had previously missed and my enjoyment of it never seems to diminish.

The Story: The Game is the story of wealthy investment banker Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) When the movie opens Nicholas is a divorced heir to a family fortune that operates out of San Francisco. He’s obviously in a profound state of depression as his gloomy mood and rude attitude toward many of his underlings suggest. Nicholas is also haunted by the suicide of his father whom he saw jump from the roof of the Van Orton mansion when the latter was forty-eight years old and the former was just a young boy. Nicholas’s birthday has arrived and now that he is the same age his father was when he passed he is clearly going through some measure of inner turmoil.

micheal Douglas the game

Nicholas receives a surprise visit from his wayward younger brother Conrad (Sean Penn) It appears that Conrad has had issues with substance abuse and mental illness in the past. As a result, Nicholas has been forced to take care of Conrad and follow in his father’s footsteps by running the family business. It further seems that Nicholas is somewhat resentful of this fact. But, it’s obvious that the two rarely see one another as Conrad is unaware that Nicholas has been divorced from his wife for a few years and the last time that he and Nicholas were together was their mother’s funeral.

As a birthday present, Conrad gives Nicholas a subscription to Consumer Recreation Services. This is a company that puts together a kind of scavenger hunt or a real life game that its participants have to complete. Conrad informs Nicholas that he took part in The Game in London and that it was a “profound life experience” that was the “best thing that ever happened to him” and has left him feeling “great.” At first, Nicholas is dismissive of the idea, but his curiosity gets the better of him and one morning after a business meeting, he visits CRS and signs up for The Game.

Once The Game begins Nicholas finds himself facing situations that he never thought he would see in his privileged existence. Nicholas life will never be the same now that The Game has begun.

Technical Details: The Game was an artfully rendered piece of work by all of its participants. Fincher’s direction was top notch as he is able to create an environment and mood that was edgy and mysterious without being too bleak or overwhelming. The script penned by John D. Bracanto and Michael Ferris was well crafted with the some interesting turns to it. Furthermore, for a piece with some relatively heavy subject matter there were wonderfully appropriate moments of humor and great one liners throughout.

The cinematography was excellent and made the eerie goings on in the city of San Francisco come alive much like it did in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Vertigo.

The performances in the piece are absolutely stellar. Sean Penn is exemplary as always as Conrad and James Rehbhorn and Deborah Kara Unger were great in their supporting roles.

the game movie 2

For all of the greatness of its supporting cast though, Michael Douglas was the heart and soul of the film. His portrayal of the character of Nicholas and his transformation during the course of the movie was shockingly believable. This was particularly true in the way he demonstrated the moroseness of the character of Nicholas. Finally, it was done in such an effortless way (I always find Douglas acting to be effortless.) that it was breathtaking. In my humble opinion, this part can be ranked among some of his best.

End Credits: The Game is masterful piece of work. If you like Michael Douglas, you will love it. If you like Sean Penn, you’ll love it. If you like David Fincher, you’ll love it. If you don’t like any of them, but appreciate good cinema, you’ll love it. It is an intriguing ride that you will want to take again and again and again.

Throwback Review: Hitch

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What I Remembered: I first saw Hitch when it came out about ten years ago. It was not something that was on my radar as it seemed like just another romantic comedy. But, when the movie that I intended to see was sold out I reluctantly considered seeing it. Not wanting to return to my apartment on a bone chillingly cold New York City Winter night, I decided to give it a shot. I came away pleasantly surprised by it. I thought it was interesting, funny, and had some heart.

Seeing it again recently though my initial impressions have largely faded. Now, don’t get me wrong Hitch does have some good qualities. It has moments of humor, some characters that are endearing, and means well in what it tries to convey. However, in my estimation it does have some flaws too.

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The Story: Hitch centers around its main character Alex Hitchens (Will Smith) who goes by the nickname Hitch. Hitch is a charming, decent romantic who claims his profession is a “consultant” when in actuality he works secretly as the “Date Doctor.” This essentially means that men hire him to advise them on how they can woo a woman of their dreams. Hitch often puts together a plan based on the man he is consulting and the woman his client yearns to romance and has had a high success rate in the past. The “Date Doctor” is an urban myth around Manhattan and Hitch has yet to have been identified as being what he is.

One afternoon Hitch meets Albert (Kevin James) a hapless, but decent accountant. Albert is infatuated with Allegra Cole (Amber Valetta) a wealthy socialite whose account he works on. Albert has hired Hitch to help him win Allegra. Hitch knows based on Albert’s general social awkwardness and anxiousness that he has a long road of work ahead of him.

As Hitch is working with Albert he falls for Sara Melas (Eva Mendes) a somewhat cynical gossip columnist for a prestigious newspaper who seems to have given up on the idea of romantic love. Hitch uses the skills that he employs with his clients in trying to begin a relationship with Sara, but soon finds all his well laid plans backfiring.

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Technical Details: Hitch does not really stand out all that much in the world of romantic comedies. Andy Tennant’s direction is not bad, but not amazing. He was able to capture the feel of a film of its genre well enough along with social life in Manhattan, but in not too distinct a way from others like it. In addition, Kevin Bisch’s script had moments of humor, some good lines, and certain characters that are likable. However, there were other times where the dialogue was a little cringe worthy, saccharine, and Hitch’s nearly perpetual optimistic out look on life got kind of annoying.

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Finally, the performances in it ranged from good to slightly uncomfortable. Will Smith is the epitome of a confident cool guy who also happens to be nice and was great in the starring role. Similarly, Amber Valetta was good as Allegra and she had good chemistry with Kevin James, but Eva Mendes was inconsistent in the role of Sara which is problem I often find with her in a lot of her work. In some scenes her acting was more than satisfactory, and she and Will Smith were believable together. On the other hand there were others where she was was somewhat hard to stomach. This was especially evident during a scene where she and Hitch were having an argument. However, the real surprise for me was Kevin James. He was immensely hilarious and winning as Albert and the interplay between he and Will Smith was pleasant to watch.

End Credits: Hitch was not terrible, but it was not wonderful. It had aspects that worked and some that did not. Maybe my now disappeared youthful optimism and the fact that I came in with low expectations were what helped shape my original reaction towards it. Looking at it with different eyes now, I have lost my reverence for it. You could do a lot worse than Hitch, but don’t expect to be blown away.