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New Additions: “Sahara,” “Frantic” and “Stagecoach”

March 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Haven’t done one of these in a while. Once again, these are just some films that I’ve seen recently for the first time and added to The Mitchell List. I’ve featured them here, with a short review for each.

“Sahara” (Zoltan Korda) – 1943

No, I’m not talking about the Matthew McConaughey/Penelope Cruz turd that came out a few years ago. “Sahara,” starring Humphrey Bogart and Lloyd Bridges was not only a movie about World War II, but one of the first films ever made featuring Americans fighting in said war. It takes place in the deserts of North Africa and follows a diminished American tank crew, a handful of stranded British soldiers and their fight to protect a water hole from a Battalion of five hundred Nazis. The film features some good cinemtagraphy, excellent sound design and some riveting action scenes. However, I was kind of put off by the mean spiritedness of the American soldiers, tricking the Germans who are dying of thirst into coming to an empty water hole with the intent of slaughtering them. Overall, it adds to the central propagandist logic of the film of glorifying the G.I.s and antagonizing the Nazis as the real battle raged across the ocean, back at a time period when our soldiers really did have a cause worth fighting for.

GRADES:           B            * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           6.8 / 10.0

 

“Frantic” (Roman Polanski) – 1988

Roman Polanski has been known for a lot of things, both in the filmmaking world and outside of it. However, after seeing films like “The Ghost Writer” and now this, one facet that I can definitely accredit to him is perfecting the formula of the Hitchcock thriller. Harrison Ford is an ordinary man put into an extraordinary situation when his wife is kidnapped while both are on a business trip to Paris. Ford must go beyond his limitations as a private citizen to solve the kidnapping and ends up getting involved in a criminal conspiracy in the process. This is a great little thriller with some classic scenes. Polanski and Ford both do a fantastic job of never letting the main character tread into action-hero territory, keeping the suspense alive by allowing the audience to see themselves in the protagonist’s shoes by constantly asking themselves what they would do if put in said situation. My only huge qualm with the film is its technical quality. There’s some interesting shots and cutting work in play. Yet overall, the film looks not only plain, but boring. Still a successfully thrilling film.

GRADES:           B+            * * * * / * * * * *           7.8 / 10.0

 

“Stagecoach” (John Ford) – 1939

With this grand tale of high adventure, John Ford created, perhaps, the mother of all westerns. A true motley crew of passengers, including a marshall, a prostitute, an alcoholic doctor and an fugitive outlaw, must take a stagecoach through volatile indian country. They must put aside their differences, band together and survive the journey, together. Classic films from the golden age of cinema rarely display such excitement and raw adventure. Ford’s portrait of the separate characters forming a courageous bond, though certainly not without turmoil, is the strongest prospect of the film. The audience really becomes a member of the journey. It’s not difficult to understand why this film, among others, inspired an entire generation of kids playing cowboys and indians. The film also features some great performances, the standout being Thomas Mitchell’s Oscar-winning work as the comic and philosophical doctor struggling with his demons.

GRADES:           A-            * * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           9.2 / 10.0

 

 

Now, since it has been a time since I authored one of these posts, I’ve obviously seen a lot more than three films since the last one. Therefore, I thought I’d put up my ratings and simply say a few words on the other features that I viewed.

 

 

“The Last Emperor” (Bernardo Bertolucci) – 1987

Certainly a gorgeous-looking epic which has some well-directed scenes, however lacking a strong protagonist or a worthy third act.

GRADES:           B            * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           7.4 / 10.0

 

“The Beach” (Danny Boyle) – 2000

By far, the worst outing of Danny Boyle’s entire career. A true misstep from beginning to end, with flaccid characters that seek out a psuedo-“Lord of the Flies” style of Spring Break.

GRADES:           C-            * * / * * * * *           3.6 / 10.0

 

“Suspiria” (Dario Argento) – 1977

A true horror classic with some highly influential camerawork and one hell of an unorthodox and all together harrowing musical score.

GRADES:           B+            * * * * / * * * * *           8.0 / 10.0

 

“Flirting with Disaster” (David O’Russell) – 1996

O’Russell is definitely a director who has gotten better with age. This film is a lot of fun with an extensive cast, but is just too goofy to be taken seriously.

GRADES:           B+            * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           6.8 / 10.0


“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” (Alex Gibney) – 2005

The breakout film for rockstar documentary director, Alex Gibney, which uncovers corruption with excitement and poise.

GRADES:           B+           * * * * / * * * * *           7.8 / 10.0

 

“Iron Man 2” (Jon Favreau) – 2010

This sequel, lacking the wit and excitement of the original, doesn’t quite flush the franchise down the toilet, but makes it a lot less reputable.

GRADES:           C-           * * / * * * * *           4.0 / 10.0

 

“Catch-22” (Mike Nichols) – 1970

I’m usually always up for a good war/political satire, which this is. However, the plot is so insanely convoluted that it’s just downright confusing, but not in a good way.

GRADES:           B           * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           7.2 / 10.0

 

“Trade” (Marco Kreuzpainter) – 2007

A compelling, yet overly self-righteous, thriller about sex trafficking features Kevin Kline in a role with nearly no comedy and one really weird and unbalanced ending.

GRADES:           B-           * * * / * * * * *           6.0 / 10.0

 

“Cool World” (Ralph Bakshi) – 1992

Ridiculously bad on all accounts. This movie makes “Space Jam” look like an undisputed masterpiece.

GRADES:           D           * / * * * * *           2.4 / 10.0

 

“All the King’s Men” (Robert Rossen) – 1949

A true acting showcase. Obviously superior to the remake, yet still not coming close to grasping the depth and insight of the novel they’re both based on.

GRADES:           B           * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           7.0 / 10.0

 

“The Adventures of Robin Hood” (Michael Curtiz) – 1936

Definitely, the best film I’ve ever seen by Michael Curtiz. Like “Stagecoach,” it’s a source of pure inspiration for imagination and adrenaline.

GRADES:           A-           * * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           9.0 / 10.0

 

“Dodsworth” (William Wyler) – 1936

This early work by one of my favorite directors can be dry and unentertaining a times, but features great production value and an extremely satisfying climax.

GRADES:           B+            * * * * / * * * * *           7.8 / 10.0

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Darren Aronofsky has moved on from “Wolverine”

March 17, 2011 Leave a comment

I guess that one could react to this news in many different ways. I imagine that having an experienced and talented director taking on a comic book franchise would a refreshing change of pace. Jon Favreau aced the first “Iron Man” movie (though that was a surprise, if anything else). Christopher Nolan obviously knocked Batman completely out of the park. Seeing an edgy and dark personality tackle an X-Men film might be interesting.

Hard to believe I’ve been reading numbskulls on IMDB talking about how happy they are because Darren Aronofsky because he’s not talented enough and would have ruined the series. I shall refrain.

Honestly, I am happy about this news, as well. Yet, I am joyed for a different reason. Quite frankly, Aronofsky is too good for this. “Black Swan” is not my favorite movie of his, but it’s definitely a hell of a breakthrough for him. He has the potential to basically do whatever he wants with his career, at this point, and I’m sure he has some better ideas in his head then the sequel to a prequel of a comic book movie. Aronofsky is a brilliant and original mind and he should helm those qualities with pride and “Wolverine” would seem to put them on hold for a year or so. Quite frankly, I can’t wait that long.

Here’s to what hopefully comes instead.

Best Super Bowl Movie Previews

February 6, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m not always a loyal Super Bowl watcher, but for this time around, I had an even greater sense of malaise towards it than normal. I live in Chicago and grew up in Cleveland. Therefore, seeing the arch rivals of both of my teams battle it out wasn’t exactly generating any huge interest in my mind. No matter who won, I would be pissed. Therefore, I found my refuge in the ads of the night, in particular, the film previews.

Aside from “Battle: Los Angeles” (which I’ve already posted quite a bit of footage for, already), there were three teasers that I had me pretty stoked. “Cowboys vs. Aliens” upped their amount of footage on display from the teaser released last year. Still looks as fun as ever. We also got our first look at J.J. Abrams incredibly secret project “Super 8.” The film literally looks like a direct crossover between “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” and “The Iron Giant,” and that’s not a bad get. Having Steven Spielberg’s name plastered on it didn’t alter that perception.

However, there was one teaser that absolutely stood above the rest. Unbelievably, and I mean UNBELIEVABLY, it is “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon.” Let’s face it, that spot was awesome. Maybe it was the press release a few weeks back in which Michael Bay, himself, admitted that “Revenge of the Fallen” was a giant turd and he promised that this one would get it right. Maybe it’s the news that “The Dark Knight Rises” production might be pulling completely out of Chicago and it was amazing to see the second city featured so strongly in a film. Maybe it’s the fact that my girlfriend and about twenty of my friends worked on the film. Whatever it is, I have surprisingly, and possibly shamefully, become incredibly excited for this film. God help us all.

Check out the spots for all 3 films below:

“Cowboys and Aliens” Trailer

November 17, 2010 1 comment

I believe it was only a few days ago when I had said that I was loving the new resurgence of alien invasion-type movies. Now, we get the first trailer from Universal/Dreamworks’ insanely anticipated (by crazy sci fi and comic book fanatics anyway) film “Cowboys and Aliens” I think this flick might be a bit too silly for my taste, but it’s got a phenomenal cast and some great visuals. Good stuff.