Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Good Will Hunting" a contemporary classic

TITLE: "Good Will Hunting"
DIRECTOR: Gus Van Sant
STARS: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver, Stellan Skarsgård
EDITOR: Pietro Scalia
AWARDS: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Williams, Oscar), Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Affleck & Damon, Oscar)
BOX OFFICE: $138,339,411 (USA)
RUN TIME: 126 min.

When a troubled MIT janitor (Damon) is found to have the mind of a genius, a professor (Skarsgård) takes him under his wing. To fulfill a court order, Will Hunting must also see a psychologist (Williams). Little do any of them know how much they will effect each other's lives.

This film started as a thriller, before Rob Reiner suggested to Damon and Affleck (who share writing credit) to focus on the relationship of Will and his psychologist. That change made all the difference. Kevin Smith, who had directed both actors, brought their new script to Miramax, who bought the rights as soon as they could. Damon and Affleck were allowed to star, and make the movie their way.

They chose Gus Van Sant to direct, after Smith declined. Van Sant's previous work, especially "Drugstore Cowboy" (1989) helped cement the idea that he was the man for the job. His focus on character, with visually exciting imagery, was just the style needed for the emotionally charged tale.

While the script is wonderful, many famous lines from the film were ad-libbed. One notable instance was a humorous scene in which Sean (Williams) tells Will (Damon) about his deceased wife's idiosyncrasies. The camera can even be seen shaking, due to the camera operator laughing at the unexpected quips.

Van Sant's film is a character drama, filled with humor and emotion. His visual style brought Damon and Affleck's script to new heights, and helped the film to become a critical and commercial darling. The story is heartfelt, the actors are wonderful, and the complete product is sometimes breathtaking. This is a film that will continue to be a part of movie fans' repertoires forever, and deservedly so.

MY IMDb RATING:  9 out of 10

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Have a great few days everyone! And check back on the 29th for our next review!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Modern Times" a sound-synced silent classic!

TITLE: "Modern Times"
DIRECTOR: Charlie Chaplin
STARS: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard
EDITOR: Willard Nico, Charlie Chaplin
AWARDS: National Film Registry (1989)
BOX OFFICE: $8,500,000 (approx.) (USA)
RUN TIME: 87 min.
VIEWING FORMAT: 35 mm. Film Print

Chaplin's "Modern Times" revolves around his famous "Little Tramp" role, in the last appearance of the character. After losing his job in a Depression era factory, he must find ways to make due and achieve the American dream with his girl (Goddard) by his side.

This film is often considered one of the great pieces of cinema. This was Chaplin's first overtly political film, and was also his first "talkie," though he did everything in his power to limit that.

Chaplin addressed, in very humorous tones, the treatment of factory workers, the ideal of the American family, and the treatment of vagrants throughout the film. Almost everyone with money is portrayed immorally, while factory workers, bums, and street urchins are the heroes of the tale. Key scenes portraying these are: the famous feeding machine, the machinery scene where the Tramp plays a young assistant, and the final scene in the restaurant, where the tramp serves the aristocratic elite. This social commentary lead to Chaplin's later troubles with The House on Un-American Activities, who accused him of being a Communist. He left America, rather than become a further target of their behavior.

By 1936, "talkies" had become the norm in the movie world, but Chaplin thought his "Little Tramp" character would lose his charm (and international audience) if he were to speak. So, anyone who is heard speaking in the film, is heard through machinery, or off of a record player, and Chaplin's only speaking lines, are a song, whose words are gibberish, during the climax of the film.

"Modern Times" is a classic example of a comedy transcending its generation. Chaplin made a politically charges, situational comedy, laden with slapstick, that will never go out of style.

The politics are somewhat universal, fighting for the rights of workers, and lay persons. Fighting against authoritarian government. The motivations of the Tramp are easy to understand, and root for.

What continues to stand out through the film, and reach audiences today, is the slapstick situational comedy. It doesn't get out-dated, because it's always funny. This is generally considered the last silent film ever made, and it was a worthwhile finale to an incredible art form.

This is a funny film, and it will be able to find an audience for generations to come. This writer would highly recommend this golden age masterwork.

MY IMDb RATING:  8 out of 10

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How goes it?

Hello to the twelve or so people who regularly read my reviews (maybe we can make it a baker's dozen by the end of the year)! I hope this holiday season finds you well, and allots you much time to watch many great movies. Due to the crazy schedule of visiting families, working on a new film, and just being a bit busy at the tail end of the year, I have slacked on providing new reviews. Fear not! A new posted shall be available next week at its normal time. I hope you will all enjoy it!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a great Thanksgiving guys! Enjoy your friends and families, and let me know some of the movies you're thankful for!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Once Upon a Time in the West" quite possibly, the best western ever made

TITLE: "Once Upon a Time in the West"
DIRECTOR: Sergio Leone
STARS: Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson
EDITOR: Nino Baragli
AWARDS: National Film Registry (2009)
BOX OFFICE: $5,321,508 (USA)
RUN TIME: 165 min.

Three men's lives collide around the fate of one woman, during the railroad boom of the old West. Frank (Fonda), a merciless killer, Cheyenne (Robards), a tired crook, and Harmonica (Bronson), a quiet man with a dangerous past, must face off in a ruthless world of espionage, money, and women.

Sergio Leone's first American film, while a box office success internationally, did not fare well upon its initial release in the United States. This colored its critical reception as well, and the film was somewhat panned upon release. Throughout the 70's and 80's, many film historians, filmmakers, and cult audiences found the film again and fell in love. Like many a classic film, it took years to recognize how incredible it was. 

Leone took his signature style from his Dollars Trilogy (which starred Clint Eastwood as the Man With No Name), and created, perhaps, a better film. Quentin Tarantino, John Carpenter, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, and Baz Luhrman are among some of the directors that cite this film as a major influence. Many of their films show direct influence, including: "Kill Bill" (2003), "Inglorious Basterds" (2009), "Australia" (2008), and even Sam Raimi's "The Quick and the Dead" (1995).

One of the crowning achievements of this film is that is was included in the National Film Registry in 2009, assuring its permanent preservation in the National Archives.

The biggest challenge to get over in this film is its length. Perhaps it could be argued that it is overlong. This writer would disagree. The music and setting are almost as much of living characters, as the roles the actors play.

Ennio Morricone's score is iconic, and the breathtaking landscapes are beautiful. Both together add a flavor to this film that is not soon forgotten. Long scenes, filled with open shots, and little dialogue leave the viewer to discover the world within the film themselves. By the time it's over, they feel as much a part of the west as the railroads, or six shooters.

A complex plot, is made easy to follow by the no-less-than-iconic performances by Bronson, Robards, and Fonda (who was famously cast against type as the antagonist of this film). This is a nearly perfect movie, and is an absolute must for anyone to see. It would be hard to be considered a fan of westerns, if one had not seen this film yet. For all others, do yourself a favor and watch it immediately.

MY IMDb RATING:  10 out of 10