Archive for the 'Doug Anderson' Category

West of Memphis

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

****

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (3 People gave this 4.67 out of 5)
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West of Memphis

West of Memphis is a masterfully pieced together documentary that tells a captivating true story. Despite the long run time, West of Memphis delivers the emotion and power every great documentary should.

West of Memphis tells the story of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin. At the ages of 18, 17, and 16 respectively, Echols, Misskelley, and Baldwin were imprisoned for the murder of three 8 year old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1994. Echols was sentenced to death, Misskelley was sentenced to life imprisonment plus two 20 year sentences, and Baldwin was sentenced to life in prison.

But what if these three boys weren’t the murderers? What if the real culprit (or culprits) are still out there? This is how the stage is set for West of Memphis. The film is about searching for justice. It takes us through every stage of the West Memphis Three investigation. From the day the children were murdered, through every day of trials, and every piece of evidence, West of Memphis opens our eyes to the real story behind the murder of Stevie Edward Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore; three 8 year old boys murdered in cold blood.

West of Memphis doesn’t leave anything up for interpretation, it lays out the tale of the West Memphis Three with the intent to prove their innocence. It makes a strong case by meticulously plotting out each flaw, exposing every hole in the prosecutions case. Witnesses who spoke before the jury in ’94 are brought back and interviewed. Did they lie on the stand? Were they even sober enough in the courthouse to be a reliable source when they gave their testimony?

Damien Echols’ wife Lorri was aided by producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh (Lord of the Rings Trilogy), along with other celebrities such as Eddie Vedder and Henry Rollins, to put money and resources into new DNA testing, further investigation, and public awareness to prove the innocence of Echols, Misskelley, and Baldwin. In addition to trying to debunk the wrongful imprisonment of the West Memphis Three, this further investigation starts to bring to light who may have really murdered those three young boys.

The downside to the film is that it tries to fill you in from square one then bring you all the way to the present. The film ends up with a very long run time that will test the patience of some movie goers. For me, however, I was kept engaged throughout the whole thing. As someone without any prior knowledge of this fascinating case, I was hanging on every word. That’s another point to bring up: if you have followed this story outside of the film, you’ve already been spoiled.

If you’re an avid follower of the West Memphis Three case, then you already know how the film ends and then some. This film has had real life implications. So, if you’ve read the news, you might know already what fate has dealt the West Memphis Three. If not, I highly recommend you see this film and find out.

 

The Impossible

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

*****

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (Give us your rating!!)
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TheImpossible

The Impossible defines powerful and emotional storytelling in film. It is a gut-wrenching true story told in a suspenseful and thrilling way which captivates from beginning to end.

The Impossible is the true story of one of the families who fell victim to the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. This film pulls no punches. The emotion is raw, the action is intense, and the performances are moving.

The Impossible is a story of human survival and the bond of family in the face of tragedy. It follows the family in the aftermath of being caught in one of the most destructive natural disasters in history. As with every film that is “based on a true story”, there are some aspects which I am sure were exaggerated for dramatic effect. The difference here is that every moment of this film is believable. Every struggle and every moment. It is because every moment feels real-to-life and presented with such an unflinching honesty that the emotion cuts so deep.

Every actor shines in this film. Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting, Star Wars Episodes 1-3) and Naomi Watts (King Kong, 21 Grams) put in Oscar worthy performances, but it is young actor Tom Holland who gives the tour-de-force. Holland’s performance isn’t great because he is a child, it is just simply a great performance. He deserves a nomination, without a doubt. Holland spends most of his screen time along side Naomi Watts and steals every scene. They say acting is reacting and Tom Holland puts the viewer there, in the moment, each time, responding in a truthful and gripping manner that sinks you right into the middle of his plight. The emotion is so raw you feel it as if you were experiencing it yourself.

All of the child actors in this film put in solid and honest performances. Credit must be given to both the actors and director J.A. Bayona. He managed to take very young, inexperienced actors and pull an engaging and moving performance from all of them.

The Impossible takes little time getting to the tsunami event which grounds the film. This sequence is heart racing and captivating. When Clint Eastwood’s snooze-fest Hereafter came out, critics applauded it’s presentation of a tsunami disaster. Hereafter has nothing on The Impossible. With films like The Avengers and The Life of Pi in competition this year, it is hard to say The Impossible has any chance of getting a VFX nom, but it absolutely deserves to. The VFX execution is subtle but flawless and deserves a mention, even if only in this review.

I’ve heard the criticism that this film won’t appeal to a wide audience due to its graphic presentation. I would be inclined to agree, however, J.A. Bayona’s execution of this story is handled in a white-knuckle fashion that has you holding on at every turn. In the same way films like Cast Away find a mainstream groove, so will The Impossible if given the chance.

Despite the potential for wide success, not many people have heard of this film. This is one of those films that will need word of mouth to help bring it to the mainstream. It is a deeply affecting film, a human story, that will resonate with audiences if they get a chance to see it. See it and spread the word.

One of Bayona’s previous films, The Orphanage, is one of the best horror films I’ve seen in years. That talent for building tension and a taut, intense atmosphere, is definitely carried over into this film. In fact, much of the crew and creative players from The Orphanage helped to create this film, including the writer, cinematographer and composer.

I cannot recommend this film enough. It is a strong, dramatic piece, but one that I think any film goer will find a rewarding journey to take. Take that first step and see The Impossible.

Promised Land

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

**½

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (1 People gave this 1.00 out of 5)
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frack

Promised Land is a slow and un-affecting film. The acting is decent, the direction is good enough, but as a whole the film leaves no impression.

Promised Land follows the plight of Steve Butler, played by Matt Damon. Steve works for a natural gas company and travels to farming towns to lease land for fracking. The film isn’t too preachy, but the emphasis on “fracking is bad” is obvious.

Fracking, for those that don’t know, is a method for drilling and obtaining natural gas that lies miles deep. Its a controversial subject, one that many in Hollywood have taken a public stance against. There are many other social and political subjects the film could have used as its backdrop and be far more entertaining. Whether or not fracking is the next big environmental controversy, the fact is its just not a thrilling topic. Even something cliche, such as global warming or the economy, would have been far more engaging.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, screenwriter and star of Promised Land John Krasinski (The Office) said himself that when he was planning to write his first film he wanted it to be about an American struggle. There are many more prevalent subjects, in my opinion, that better exemplify the current American struggle. The intention was good, the execution falls flat.

Promised Land isn’t without its moments. There are a few laughs here and there for which you can thank Frances McDormand (Fargo, Burn After Reading). Her great comedic timing and lovable portrayal of Sue Thomason, Damon’s coworker, helps keep this film above water. McDormand and Damon have great chemistry and play off each other in a very natural way. Their character’s relationship is the most honest and real-to-life feeling aspect of this film.

Damon and McDormand’s characters each have an odd, half-baked love story worked in. Damon falls for a local farm girl named Alice, played by Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married). It is hard to even call them love stories, because there is no sense of relationship building. It could be argued that McDormand’s “love interest” was never meant to be much of anything, but the time spent on the relationship development does suggest otherwise. The film gives and takes in a way that is supposed to build the tension, but ultimately does nothing. Not for one instance did I feel any kind of emotional weight for either of these characters. The relationship between Damon’s Steve and Rosemarie DeWitt’s Alice was so unbelievable that it just felt like an anchor dragging down the film as a whole.

The script for this movie was it’s greatest downfall. For a movie that is 1hr 46mins, not much really happens. The film doesn’t feel excruciatingly slow, but it definitely drags its feet the whole way through, ironically.  There is never enough time spent on character development to make me feel significantly attached to anyone. The film doesn’t reach for very high emotions, but never even grips me to the point of interest in where the characters may end up.

All in all, I’d skip this one. Redbox it maybe. Just maybe. There are even better lazy Sunday alternatives than this.

Rust and Bone

Monday, January 7th, 2013

**

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (Give us your rating!!)
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RustandBone

Rust and Bone is a triumph in it’s performances but a slug in it’s narrative. Marion Cotillard (Inception, La vie en rose) and Matthias Schoenaerts give Oscar-worthy performances. The film sets up an interesting premise with engaging characters, but lingers on it’s second act for too long and grows dull.

Rust and Bone tells the story of Stephanie (Cotillard), a women who loses her legs in a tragic accident, and Alain (Schoenaerts), a single father down on his luck trying to support and care for his son. Alain is an ex-boxer who starts to re-enter the fight scene as a backyard street fighter as Stephanie struggles to readjust to her new way of life. The film follows the two as they grow together and adapt to the circumstances life has dealt them.

The film is executed in a very raw and intimate fashion. Handheld shots put us next to the characters, into the scene, walking beside them and watching every moment unfold. This is where the film throws up it’s first red flag. The pace of this film is so deliberate that interest begins to wane. The filmmakers play out every moment in such grueling, meticulous detail that the emotion and sentiment is completely sucked from the scene. There isn’t anything unique about the execution of this film either. We’ve seen this visual style in much better films such as The Wrestler, Biutiful, or Blue Valentine.

Director Jacques Audiard’s previous film “A Prophet (Un Prophete)” is a film I love, so my expectations were very high going into Rust and Bone. The two films almost feel like they were made by a different filmmaker. A Prophet was tense and engaging. Everything felt necessary and contributed to the building of the world within the frame. However, with Rust and Bone, I felt very much the opposite. Entire scenes felt redundant or just completely unnecessary.

The huge saves for this film are the performances. Cotillard and Schoenaerts are both stunning to watch. They ground the film in a way the writing fails to. Whatever honesty and genuine heart the film fails to bring through the screenplay, both actors offer up.

Although the second act is a drag, the first and third act are almost entirely successful. The first act does well to establish characters that we would like to follow throughout the film, but the end feels completely unearned. As I felt the film coming to a close, everything began to feel tacked on. Its as if they knew nothing interesting had happened for the whole body of the film and needed to compensate by raising the tension with random plot points. That being said, the climax was successful in raising the tension and piquing my interest after a lazy second act, but it was not enough to redeem the film as a whole.

If you are interested in becoming an actor, I’m sure watching this film could be a masterclass. If you are looking for engaging cinema, look elsewhere.

Anna Karenina

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

***

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (Give us your rating!!)
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At the screening for Anna Karenina, there was a large pamphlet on the chair covered in quotes praising the film up and down. Some stated lead actress Keira Knightly getting Oscar nominated for her performance, the art direction, a directing nom for Joe Wright, etc. Well, don’t believe the hype.

Anna Karenina is a love story. Love stories have been played out over and over since the beginning of art. This isn’t even a very original love story at that. Anna Karenina falls for Vronsky, played by Aaron Johnson (Kick Ass), while still married to her husband Karenin, played by Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes, Cold Mountain). This love triangle pulls at the three of them, tensions rise, and slowly drives Anna Karenina into madness.

There are a few subplots to this film that did nothing more for me than drag down the pace of the film. Throughout the movie, I found myself fading in and out of interest. Every side story seemed to be lingered on 10 minutes too long. This was also a detriment to the main story as I felt there was never enough development for me to remain emotionally attached to Anna and her plight.

The biggest save this film has is the art direction and direction by Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement). Essentially, the film is setup as if being performed on a stage. Backdrops are meant to appear as hand-painted set extensions. There are only a handful of moments where we see establishing shots of the outside world. Curtains are pulled up, doors are opened to move us on to the next scene. Joe Wright is known for his single-take shots, and this film shows them off with a nice touch of movie magic. Seamless cuts and sudden set changes within the frame were always a welcomed visual treat. This unique, creative decision to do the film this way is really what saved it from being unbearable.

The film seemed to want to reach for an epic scope and heavy dramatic weight, but fell short of that. Anna Karenina is the type of film that could be studied for its unique execution, but narratively it leaves a lot to be desired. Anna Karenina does have some beautiful moments placed throughout the film that do live up to the expectation I believe the director had for the film as a whole. A dancing scene that is fairly early on in the movie, stands out in my memory.

I believe that the art direction definitely deserves lots of attention. The attention to detail and the effort, both creative and physical, it would take to pull off a film like this is insurmountable. But will general audiences really have enough appreciation for the art direction to enjoy this film? I don’t believe so. That being said, the audience I saw the film with was fairly receptive. Later on during the film, I felt the audience begin to lose interest. There were theater-wide laughs at moments that weren’t meant to be funny; even moments that were considerably dramatic. There was a certain kind of anxiousness from the audience. They wanted the movie to move along.

The third act of the film does pick itself up in an almost redeeming way. The story lines come to their logical end which isn’t wholly satisfying, but also not necessarily disappointing. That is the sort of grey area the entire film sits in. As a whole, the film is pretty forgettable, but not a regrettable experience. I wouldn’t recommend this film to the average movie goer, but there are worse options out there.

Silver Linings Playbook

Friday, November 16th, 2012

****

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (2 People gave this 3.50 out of 5)
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Silver Linings Playbook follows Pat, a bi-polar man fresh out of the looney bin, who struggles to collect the pieces of his life that was shattered 8 months prior to his committal. This film is about family. This film is about facing demons. Silver Linings Playbook is a moving piece of cinema that digs at your deepest emotions with honesty and reminds you where the bright spots are even in the darkest of times.

Bradley Cooper (A-Team, The Hangover) puts in a great starring turn as Pat Solitano, a man trying to hold on to the life he had before being committed to psychiatric care. Since Cooper came to mainstream fame with The Hangover, he has been afforded many new opportunities, but Silver Linings Playbook is the first time I’ve seen him in the type of challenging role I’ve been waiting for. He nails it. The film teeters back and forth between comedy and deep dramatic moments, but Cooper never plays too camp or emotionally over the top. I liken his performance to something similar to Ellen Page’s in Juno in the sense that they handle a serious subject with great comedic timing and nuance that never allows you to forget the emotional weight behind it.

Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Games, Winter’s Bone) also puts in a wonderful turn as Tiffany, Bradley Cooper’s troubled friend. Is it enough to earn her a second Oscar nomination? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she got awards recognition for it. Her character is complex, with great emotional highs and lows, but playing with big emotion isn’t anything new from her.

For Robert De Niro, who stars as the father of Bradley Cooper’s character, this felt like just another role he was coasting through. De Niro’s roles of the last few years have let me to assume that the golden age De Niro is behind us. There is one key scene for De Niro that gives us a glimpse of him working his acting muscle, but the rest of the film is an effortless shuffle for him.

The film features great supporting performances all around. From Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom, Five Year Engagement) to Chris Tucker (The Fifth Element, Rush Hour). Tucker pulls out a very welcomed and warm performance as Danny, Bradley Cooper’s friend from the ward.

Silver Linings Playbook is a crowd pleaser. There’s more comedy and big laughs than I had expected. In addition to Cooper’s performance, I find many parallels between this film and Jason Reitman’s Juno. The story focuses heavily on dark themes such as mental and emotional illness, but with a certain light and humorous touch. It is so well crafted that neither the humor nor emotional depth is lost in the film. You will be laughing out loud one moment then wiping the tears from your cheek the next.

My main issue with the film is it’s script. The film executes its written material very well, but what’s there are old, overused devices of exposition and predictability. Particularly in the beginning of the film. It was feeling cookie cutter which made it slightly tedious. The film picked up its momentum in the second act. As obvious as moments in the third act may have been, they were played out so superbly that I simply gave in to the emotional manipulation and enjoyed the ride.

This movie may have been held back from a certain excellence by its slightly underwhelming screenplay, but the performances, direction and heart are what saved it. They are the silver lining.

Flight

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

****

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (2 People gave this 4.00 out of 5)
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“Flight” is a return to form for Robert Zemeckis, director of films such as Forrest Gump, Cast Away, and Back to the Future. The performances are solid and captivating. Denzel Washington shines. His turn as alcoholic and drug addict airline pilot Whip Whitaker, is gripping and moving. “Flight” plays it’s themes of alcoholism and drug addiction just broadly enough to not be preachy but with such tact that every emotional beat hits home.

There are some directors and actors in Hollywood that begin their careers on high notes of innovation and creativity. Every so often we see one of the filmmakers fall from grace. Actors that come to mind immediately are Cuba Gooding Jr. and Christian Slater. Gooding Jr. over the course of just a few years went from Oscar winner to starring in a slew of direct-to-DVD films. Two directors that have had a crushing fall from grace are George Lucas and M. Night Shyamalan. Shyamalan was heralded as “the next Spielberg” at the release of his 1999 film “The Sixth Sense.” Now, he is easily one of the most ridiculed directors working today.

So, where does Flight’s director Robert Zemeckis fit in to all of this? Zemeckis is in a special category all to himself. Zemeckis, although not everyone may agree with this, has already had his fall from grace. In 2004, Zemeckis turned his focus to creating films with the use of motion capture technology. That is tracking an actors movement, sending that information to computers, and then applying that information to a computer generated character. Most were not happy about this look, saying it fell into the “uncanny valley”, a sort of awkward in-between of looking photo-real and horribly fake.

His first foray into motion capture was with “The Polar Express”. The film wasn’t well received by critics, earning a 56% “rotten” rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. It garnered a slightly higher 65% approval rating by audiences. So, the film was deemed pretty mediocre by audiences and critics alike. Despite the reception, Zemeckis continued for over a decade making these kinds of films. The innovator of such films as “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Back to the Future” was all but completely gone.

Just as the limelight was dimming, Robert Zemeckis pulled a rare feat: he recovered. Flight is the comeback film any director would ask for. It doesn’t push the boundaries of technology like Zemeckis’ earlier films. It doesn’t take us to a place we’ve never been before. It leads us through a story, a human story, with powerful emotion, humor, and honesty.

Denzel Washington deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance in this film. Without a doubt. What impresses me more in a performance than someone crying, tears and snot running down their face, is someone who holds back the tears. Someone who conveys a sense of holding back. Remember how violent you thought that one movie was? How scary you thought it was? Now go back and watch those films. Not as violent or with as many scares as you remember. This is the art of storytelling. It is making you feel more than you are actually experiencing. Flight plays this with great execution.

The story of “Flight” starts with a gripping, edge-of-your-seat airplane accident. Precisely edited and directed, this scene sets the tone for the film. This is where the film first had me and never let go. This is a scene that will be talked about the most, I believe, aside from Denzel’s portrayal.

John Goodman is another talking point. His character is small but brings the humor in a big way. Goodman steals each scene he is in and had the crowd roaring with laughter. If the character had a little more screen time and depth, this could have been another performance to remember come awards season. Goodman takes what little he gets and does it the best it could be done.

I feel like this film is somewhat of a spiritual successor or “cousin” to Zemeckis’ last, live-action feature, the 2000 film “Cast Away.” Both follow a protagonist that survives a life-changing plane accident. They both have personal struggles to face and overcome. Without giving any spoilers, there is even a certain screenplay device that is used at the end of both these films. It is fitting that they would be connected. Cast Away was the note I think everyone wanted Zemeckis to continue playing, but instead he moved on to more computer generated pastures. It is poetic, in a way, that he would almost literally continue on the same note he left off on over a decade ago.

I don’t have much bad to say about the film other than a couple of less than thrilling performances by some of the supporting actors. Namely, the female lead Kelly Reilly (Sherlock Holmes) as Nicole, a heroin addict and Washington’s romantic interest. The musical score was also very underwhelming and forgettable. There were many missed opportunities to elevate the moment with a strong score.

There were some pandering moments. Moments that were just there to make the audience moan at Whip Whitaker’s constant return to alcohol consumption. Those moments became redundant after a point and failed to have the impact they intended. Overall; however, the script was solid.

See this movie. This is the Robert Zemeckis that can make the films we all remember. This is the Zemeckis we need to support.

“Flight” is the type of film that takes you away, rides you through human struggles and emotion, then lands you safely back home, changed for the better.

Whatever Works

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

***

Whatever Works 

In Woody Allen’s latest film “Whatever Works” Larry David (Curb your Enthusiasm) plays Boris Yellnikoff, an eccentric old man with an estranged view on the world who finds himself roomed with a beautiful young girl from Mississippi named Melodie; played by Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler, Across the Universe).

Larry David’s character, Boris, is a character audiences are more familiar being played by Woody Allen. What Woody Allen has written is a character we’ve seen before, but here the circumstances are a little different. Boris Yellnikoff‘s major hang up is that he is the only one who can see the “big picture,” but a lot of things change when Melodie comes in to that “big picture.”

Melodie St. Anne Celestine is a homeless runaway who Boris, though hesitant at first, invites into his home but just for the night. One night turns into a few days, days turn into weeks, and eventually Melodie is living there. The two get to know each other and a romance is brewed. Young, naïve Melodie starts to fall in love with old Boris and, over time, Boris finds feelings for her.

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Public Enemies

Monday, June 29th, 2009

****

Dillinger!





Public Enemies is a film riddled with great performances, an excellent plot, and some amazing direction. Michael Mann has pieced together a beautiful picture.

Public Enemies follows the story of bank robber and notorious gangster, John Dillinger; played by Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean, Sweeny Todd). Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, Terminator Salvation) plays Melvin Purvis, the cop whose main objective is to capture and arrest John Dillinger. The film is based on the true story of John Dillinger and is actually an adaptation of Bryan Burrough’s book Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34.

Every single person in this film gives a fantastic performance. Some of the actors are barely recognizable. The cast includes: Billy Crudup (Watchmen) as J. Edgar Hoover, Channing Tatum (Step Up) as Pretty Boy Floyd, Giovanni Ribisi (Saving Private Ryan) as Alvin Karpis, Stephen Dorff (Backbeat, Cecile B. Demented) as Homer Van Meter, and David Wenham (Lord of the Rings) as Harry ‘Pete’ Pierpont.

Johnny Depp is as great as usual. This won’t garner him any Oscars or even a nomination but he delivers a very subtly, powerful performance. Depp’s performance of Dillinger makes you root for him despite the innumerable amount of crimes he’s committed. There’s not much to say about Depp’s performance other than, if you’re a fan of his work then here’s another one for the books.

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