Wednesday, November 30, 2011
If you love movies, you'll love this one! It's about the transition from the era of Silent Films into the talkies. It is funny, and tragic, and fascinating! (Did I mention funny ?) The lead actor is fantastic, Jean Dujardin, playing "George Valentin" -- the silent film star who just couldn't be better as such! (The ultimate "ham" - not on rye, though he does drink a lot.) Pert, pretty, and definitely peppy, not in name only, is Berenice Bejo, perfectly playing "Peppy Miller," who starts as an extra in silents, and when sound kicks in, becomes becomes a big star. She talks, she dances, she falls for "George" - even though she is much younger. "The Artist" is an example of truly great film making. Congratulations to the casting director for giving John Goodman an opportunity to show his acting chops (as well as his jowels) silently! And there's also the always excellent James Cromwell as "Clifton," playing "Valentin's" loyal chauffeur. Unfortunately I couldn't catch the name of the terriffic dog who has a pivotal role in the story. Don't miss this film, expertly directed by Michael Hazanavicius.!
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Always charming and appealing, Antonio Banderas inhabits his "Boots" (except when the amazing and seductive "Kitty," voiced by Salma Hayek, steals them briefly -- just because she can!) Quite a drama, with sword fights, daring rescues, betrayal, redemption, and romance! (Plus more!) Exceptionally excellent animation, perfect casting (including Zach Galifianakis as "Dumpty," Billy Bob Thornton as "Jack," and Constance Marie as "Imelda." The story fills in the early years of "Puss" (before he meets "Shrek") and how he and "Dumpty" (as in "Humpty") became brothers. The cats' expressions are priceless. Chris Miller is given credit as Director -- but really, these cats surely seemed to be alive on their own.- They knew what they were doing, and how to do it! (Wait till you see the dancing! I really loved this movie. Great fun. (and I did NOT see it in 3D-- no need) Not just for kids.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Directed by Clint Eastwood (who also supplied the music!) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this biopic may not be what you expected, but it certainly held my attention and I found the history it included quite fascinating. I can remember, for instance, the Lindbergh kidnapping. As for J. Edgar's personal life, well, he was obviously a tortured soul, under the domain of his (I need an adjective here, but domineering is the only one I can think of) mother, whom he adored, played by the inimitable Judi Dench. This film co-starring handsome young Armie Hammer as his "constant companion" shows Hoover's determined, and certainly sincere (although obsessively fanatic) dedication to preventing crime and radical, communistic influences in America, his avowed 'mission." A power-hungry man, conflicted in his personal life, trusting hardly anyone, J. Edgar Hoover also wanted to be recognized and revered. Flashbacks are not my favorite thing, but I guess they were necessary to show what shaped the career and life of this controversial head of the FBI. Noteworthy also was the performance of his faithful private secretary, well played by Naomi Watts, who remained loyal to him, no matter what.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
George Clooney just keeps getting better and better, as if that were possible! In this drama, he plays "Matt King" - up until now --- mostly absent -- husband and father of two young girls. Preoccupied with business (very successful) interests, he comes home when his wife is severely injured in a boating accident. Masterfully directed by Alexander Payne, the story takes place in Hawaii and doesn't fall into the usual cliche of surfing, etc. There's history here, and superb performances, especially by 20 year old Shailene Woodley who plays "Alexandra" the older (seventeen) daughter. Deeply moving, full of heart (and when the heart is full, it can overflow into tears),this is a film worth seeing.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
I did not see these two on the same day! Just for fun, go see "Tower Heist" starring Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, and Eddie Murphy who work for the owner of the impeccable, luxury Tower hotel/residence. (Alan Alda, no more "nice guy," plays against type as the multi-billionaire , who has swindled his employees -- and a bunch of other folks -- who invested with him, out of all their money). This film is clever, funny, entertaining, and well done in every department. The employee/victims of the boss's greed decide to steal back their money they believe is hidden in his Penthouse dwelling. Change of pace: Going from the ridiculous to the sublime, "Pianomania" -- a brilliant, fascinating documentary showing the work of Stefan Knupfe, who is a genius at tuning pianos to suit the needs of the various (famous) artists and the various concert halls where they play. I thought it might be boring, but on the contrary, it was fabulous! With outstanding music, photography, and an insight into the extraordinary abilities of those who can hear the subtle nuances of tone, power, clarity, resonance of various pianos under the hands of brilliant virtuosos. This was one of the best documentaries I've ever seen! If you've ever played the piano, or listened to music on the radio, or attended a concert, you will be astounded (I certainly was) at the amount of painstaking work that goes into finding the "right" piano, (They number them!) and keeping it tuned before, during and after a performance. You get to go inside the Steinway factory and see the amazing intricacies and details of the multitude of moving parts that comprise a Piano. Flawlessly directed by Lilian Frank and Robert Cibis. I have to gush with exhuberance about this film!!
Monday, November 7, 2011
Did W. Shakespeare write all the plays, poems, etc. attributed to him? This question has been asked ever since I can remember. In "Anonymous," once again that controversy is presented against the background of Elizabethan England, with the always fine actor, Vanessa Redgrave portraying the elderly Queen herself. The main credits list her, David Thewlis and Rhys Ifans. But the most outstanding, memorable performance, and the scene I actually enjoyed the most, was the "Prologue," impeccably pronounced in stentorian syllables (no subtitles required!) by the inimitable Derek Jacobi. Excellent! His turn was worth the price of admission. The rest of the film was confusing. Too many characters with too many sub-plots (love affair of Queen Liz and Essex? Illegitimate offspring (or not?) I can't fault the acting, nor the photography, nor the costumes, all of which seemed fine, but in general, I didn't think it was a very good movie. But I didn't mind sitting through it. Whereas, when I went to see "Footloose" a few days later (silly me); I almost walked out. It was obviously made for an audience of mostly male, rebellious teenagers, which I am not. Yes, there were a couple of dance scenes worth watching, but the frantic group stomping around scenes were too wild for me. And the music, if you can call it that, was way too many decibels noisy! A remake of the story from bygone days was unfortunately just outdated. Poor Dennis Quaid cannot be faulted for the good job he did, valiantly portraying the Minister (in the town that had outlawed dancing) father of Julianne Hough (one of the rebellious dancers). She was really worth watching. The other excellent main dancer, was Kenny Wormald.