Posts Tagged ‘josh brolin’

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

“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” Review

October 10, 2010 Leave a comment

There’s no denying that Woody Allen is perhaps one of the most innovative and influential American filmmakers in the last quarter century, maybe of all time. Some of his films have changed the face of the way we view sex, love and the different sides of people, among other topics. However, I think it’s safe to say that this master is starting to lose his touch.

Shortly before seeing the film, someone asked me what it was about. I responded that I didn’t really know, but it’s Woody Allen so it’s probably about relationships. If the shoe fits, apparently. The film is, in fact, about a married couple, played by Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin, and Watts’ newly divorced parents, Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones. Both couples attempt to explore their lives inside and outside of their marital vows. Watts is tempted into a not-so professional relationship with her employer (Antonio Banderas), while her husband draws inspiration from the gorgeous muse who lives across the street (“Slumdog Millionaire”‘s Frieda Pinto). Seeking a fresh new start, Hopkins remarries a sultry ex-prostitute and his former spouse attempts to acquire romantic insights from a fraud of a fortuneteller.

Obviously, this is not one of Allen’s finest features. However, even the worst films of this man can stand as an achievement over the much cinematic work being done, these days. The story is a solid one, blending the pros and cons of each relationship, never passing over certain fantastic details which bring life to the characters. In many ways, the story is about the hypocrisies of marriage and the absurd ironies that the characters hold for their significant others. Allen still has a way of letting his stories unfold in an eloquent and timely manner.

The performances are good ones. Naomi Watts definitely shines, as she always does, and Brolin holds his own with his character’s matching frustrations. The standout, perhaps, is Gemma Jones, who’s absent-minded search for romance and redirection is always a joy to watch. Anthony Hopkins, however, really seems to have lost touch with his own greatness. For the last decade, he has, for the most part, floated through his films (“Beowulf,” “All the King’s Men,” “Fracture”). He’s simply there, no more, no less.

One thing that really stands out in the film is it’s fine use of contemporary costume design. The characters are, more or less, color-coated. And not only the harsh reds that always surround Frieda Pinto’s burning essence of sexual passion. Naomi Watts is always cloaked in somber tones of white, black or gray. Jones wears faded colors, such as a pastel blue or beige. And in nearly every scene, Brolin is almost entirely encased in brown or tan. In one shot, we even notice that the inner padding of his muddy-colored jacket is bright red flannel, and it disappears when he zips it up, when Pinto’s erotic overtones disappear from his life.

In spite of the fair amount of praise that I seem to bestowing on this feature, the truth is that it is not that great of film, quite simply because it is not an original work. It seems nowadays that if Woody Allen does not try something outlandishly different from his normal techniques (“Match Point,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), he ends up just combining the plots of his former films into a sloppy concoction of recycled genius. The synopsis should be listed like more of a recipe:

“For tonight’s screening, we will be serving up a mixture of ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ and ‘Husbands and Wives,’ with a dash of ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ for a garnish.”

In sifting through the remnants, the overall film loses not only its originality, but its significance and appeal, as well. The story becomes flat and the characters less interesting. By the end of the film, the conclusions may not seem predictable, but after the fact, they’re less impacting for you’ve seen them before. By no means should Woody Allen give up and stop making films (and even if he should, who’s gonna tell him?). However, he needs to keep thinking outside of the box or he’ll be the one needing a fortune teller to figure out what happened to his career.

GRADES:            B-             * * * / * * * * *             6.4 / 10.0

Full Length “True Grit” Trailer

October 4, 2010 1 comment

People are going to think that this is actually a “True Grit” FYC site, but trust me it’s not. However, I was very surprised to see a full length trailer for “True Grit” at an early showing of “The Social Network,” especially after the fantastic teaser was released only a few days beforehand. I’m over the mystery, however, because any fears that this film will not be everything that it can be, including an Oscar contender, should now be assuaged:

True Grit Trailer on Yahoo!

I will try to post a good HD copy as soon as it becomes available.

“True Grit” Trailer

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

So there’s a lot of organizational facets that I plan to get up and running soon. But I’ve got to address the story that has been occupying a large amount of my interest this week, and that is the long-awaited trailer for this winter’s release of “True Grit.” The new film by the ever-busy Coen Brothers is an adaptation of Charles Portis’ classic western (I’ve noticed now that many filmmakers have been avoiding the term “REMAKE” by citing the original source material as much as humanly possible).

This film has been a major contender flying very low under the radar. Until now, the only thing people have had to go on was a screenshot and a few production stills. Now that it has reared its ugly head, I think it’s safe to say that a number of nominations will headed its way this January. One thing in particular that a number of people I know can really cross there fingers for would be a long-deserved Oscar statuette for Roger Deakins, arguably the best director of photography working today. And if the images of this trailer paint an accurate picture as to the look and style of this film, then wishes might just be granted.

Enjoy this collage of visual and thematic splendor:

For better resolution get the hi-def at Apple Trailers: