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Breaking Away does nothing for me

18 Oct

BREAKING-AWAY

Obviously, life was much different in 1979 when Breaking Away was filmed because I was shocked to learn it won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Picture.  Even more shocking was that it beat out, Manhattan and All that Jazz. I remember watching it as a kid and not being impressed. Today, it still doesn’t do much for me. The lack of self-worth by the teens is over the top, the Italians cheating was ridiculous, the ambiguous relationship between Dennis Christopher and Robyn Douglass was frustrating, and the prejudice against non-American life is so heavy-handed that you want to change the channel every time Paul Dooley opens his mouth.  However, this film does pave the way for the onslaught of 1980s teen films about social and class differences, but the formula sport story and the performances do not hold up over the test of time.

WORD COUNT: 150

Chuck’s Grade: C

Adam’s Grade: N/A

The Dark Knight is a diabolical masterpiece

29 Aug

THE-DARK-KNIGHT

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight raises the bar and turns the sequel to Batman Begins into one of the most memorable action films of all time. It exceeded most audience’s expectations because of its complexity, rich story, exhilarating action, and Heath Ledger’s legendary performance as The Joker. No one should ever put on the white make-up again after Ledger’s diabolical performance. Gotham will never be the same and Batman (Christian Bale) had to use everything at his disposal to combat his arch-nemesis.

Even at a running time of over two and a half hours the story and characters have no problem holding audiences’ attention. The visual effects combined with adept sound design/editing elevate the film and become an integral part of the unforgettable masterpiece. The Dark Knight is not only the best superhero film, but one of the most entertaining and satisfying films of all time.

WORD COUNT: 146

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A+

On the Waterfront contends for best all time

23 Aug

on-the-waterfront

Marlon Brando is a heavyweight actor that delivers a championship caliber performance that paved the way for actors to see the perfect execution of “the method.” Elia Kazan directs this masterpiece about dockworker and muscle for the local mob Tony Malloy (Brando), who witnesses the murder of a fellow dockworker. Malloy struggles with his conscience after he engages in a relationship with Edie (Eva Marie Saint), the victim’s sister while his brother Charlie (Rod Steiger) pleads with him to look the other way and forget about it, or else become the next “accident.”

On the Waterfront is one of the most important pieces of art in the 20th century.  The film is as relevant now as it was sixty years ago. The actor, the character, and the story continues to inspire artists and audiences to fight the good fight and to do the right thing in spite of the consequences.  It is a contender for the best film all time.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A+

Chuck’s Grade: A+

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Sleepy Hollow is lost in a Grimm-like fairy tale

10 Jul

SLEEPY-HOLLOW

Director Tim Burton’s imagination takes Washington Irving’s remarkable short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and changes the tale to fit his aesthetic leanings, but that is no surprise because Burton’s career has demonstrated his visual imagination is much stronger than his ability to deliver a narrative story from start to finish. The film is headless like its infamous villain because it is far from complete. The new direction is spooky, but the melodrama becomes too much to bear and Sleepy Hollow is lost in a Grimm-like fairy tale of witches and dark forests. Johnny Depp (Ichabod Crane) and Christina Ricci (Katrina Van Tassel) are the perfect actors for production designer Rick Heinrichs and set decorator Peter Young’s taste for the macabre, but their performances reminded me of porcelain figures stuck in a diorama.

WORD COUNT: 134

Chuck’s Grade: B-

Adam’s Grade: C+

Inception questions our understanding of reality

28 Jun

inception

With Inception, Christopher Nolan has established himself as one of the best writer/directors in Hollywood. His multi-layered plot filled with jaw-dropping visuals, adept acting from an ensemble cast, and well-paced action is like no other blockbuster to date. Nolan challenges his audience to think, as opposed to simply enduring one explosion after another. This has led to a love it or leave it response to this film.

Leonardo DiCaprio takes on one of his most complex roles as Cobb, a professional thief hired to commit corporate espionage by infiltrating the minds of his targets and leaving an idea that would benefit Cobb’s employer. Inception is an original film that successfully makes the “familiar strange and the strange familiar” by blurring the borders of the conscious mind with the subconscious dream world to the point audiences are questioning their own reality as they leave the cinema. We love it and hope to see Cobb again in our theater of dreams.

WORD COUNT: 159

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A+

Young Frankenstein is a much different monster

20 Jun

young-frankenstein

Rarely can parodies transfer meaning from one generation to the next, but director Mel Brooks with the help of comedic actor Gene Wilder create one of the funniest films of all time. The 1974 film, Young Frankenstein balances satire with originality to transform the 1931 Universal classic horror film into a much different monster that makes audience laugh until hurts.

Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson (Wilder) inherits his grandfather’s castle begins conducting experiments with the help of his lab assistants Igor (Marty Feldman) and Inga (Teri Garr). The next thing you know, Dr. Frankenstein is screaming, “It’s alive!” and the creature (Peter Boyle) with the abnormal brain escapes.

Brooks and Wilder understand how to bring a good story back from the dead. Their attention to detail and their passion for the project separates them from the long list of ordinary comedic artists. Brook’s characters become part of pop culture and the film remains relevant to audiences forty years later.

WORD COUNT: 155

Adam’s Grade: A+

Chuck’s Grade: A

Life of Pi

6 Jun

LIFE-OF-PI-FILM

Ang Lee has done something most directors are incapable of doing. He took one of the popular and beloved books and turned it into an amazing film. The film, Life of Pi does the original source justice. Lee, similar to the story, makes the impossible believable with the use of adept computer effects that create the most life like beasts ever seen on the big screen while at the same time making sure the story stays at the forefront of the drama. He is simply the most diverse directer working today. Every project is another challenge he conquers. Lee is a tiger among young men and his film, Life of Pi makes everyone a believer in his Oscar award winning talent. If you are not, then you will be by the end of the film.

WORD COUNT: 135

Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: B+

Silver Linings Playbook scores

24 May

SILVER-LININGS-PLAYBOOK

After a brief stint in a mental institution, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) moves back in with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) to reconcile with his wife. Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who has her own issues, but agrees to deliver a message to his estranged wife if he agrees to her conditions. As their friendship grows, it seems that a silver lining starts to grow in each other’s lives.

Writer/Director David O. Russell captures all of the right emotions, and although the story seems overwhelming at the beginning, it shifts once we are introduced to Lawrence’s character. The acting is sensational. Lawrence deservedly won the Oscar while Cooper would have won if it wasn’t for Daniel Day-Lewis. Also, De Niro gives his best performance in over a decade. Silver Linings Playbook sounds like a film that shouldn’t work, and yet it does to perfection because of its brilliant writing, acting and portrayal of mental illness.

WORD COUNT: 158

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A+

Lincoln passes the bill

3 May

Lincoln-the-movie

Director Steven Spielberg takes on the enormous task of dramatizing President Abraham Lincoln’s quest to pass the Thirteenth Amendment through the House of Representatives. He employs Tony Kushner to develop a screenplay about the most pivotal moment in the United States’s history. Like most political films, the negotiation process can be tedious, but Kushner and Spielberg find a way to keep the story moving, although at times some of the scenes feel deliberate and staged. The cast is an assortment of Hollywood’s most respected actors playing some of America’s most polarizing figures. Daniel Day-Lewis is brilliant as the Commander in Chief and his performance, as well as his stature dwarfs everyone else in the film. Tommy Lee Jones as Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens makes his mark in the film and casts his vote with authority. In summation, I would like to use a quote from the character Schuyler-Colfax in regards to Lincoln, “This isn’t usual, Mr. Pendleton. This is history.”

WORD COUNT: 160

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: B+

Jurassic Park

11 Apr

JURASSIC-PARK

Once again, Steven Spielberg changed the cinematic experience by bringing  old and  young audiences together to witness the ground-breaking special effects created to bring Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park dinosaurs to life. I remember the original King Kong fighting and killing a T-Rex. At the time, it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen, and in 1993 many young people share that same feeling when they saw their generation’s T-Rex.   John Hammond (Attenborough), creates a theme park on a remote island that feature living dinosaurs spawned from prehistoric DNA. Before opening the attraction, he invites a paleontologist (Neil), paleobotanist (Dern), a mathematician/theorist (Goldblum) and his two grandchildren to visit the park. During their visit, the security system fails and the dinosaurs are free.

Though the story lacks developed characters and the absurdity of the security system is far-fetched, no one can deny the impact that it had on revolutionizing CGI technology. Jurassic Park is adventure and suspense at its finest.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A-