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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

Requiem for a Dream is a hard truth

24 Sep

REQUIEM-FOR-A-DREAM

Requiem for a Dream consumes your mind, body and soul like a drug and holds onto to you after the final credits are over. Your skin feels like something is crawling on you, but nothing is there. It is one of the most powerful films ever. Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of Hubert Selby’s novel follows the lives of four different people, Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), her son Harry (Jared Leto), his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) and his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). The film explores the direct and indirect effects drugs have on each of them and reveals their blossoming hopes turn into a state of moral and physical helplessness.

Editor Jay Rabinowitz perfects Aronofsky’s hip-hop editing technique. The drug scenes are ground-breaking and the downward spirals of each character is a gut wrenching experience that stays with you forever. Everyone in the cast gives powerful performances, especially Burstyn and Leto whose addictions are scary reminders of the hard truth.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A+

The Prestige is an underrated film

14 Sep

THE-PRESTIGE

Christopher Nolan has been known to trick and challenge his audiences to think, but he explores new ground in the underrated film, The Prestige. Two magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) have turned a friendly competition into a bitter rivalry that consumes each of them with obsession and jealousy. Both actors give convincing performances. Their preparation for the roles of magicians are obvious and not lost on the audience.

Magicians are not supposed to reveal their secrets and Nolan continues to amaze audiences with his ability to direct or should I say misdirect the obvious from the mind and eye. Wally Pfister’s camera work and use of dark-lighting sets the tone for Nolan and his brother Jonathan to adapt a story that is full of mystery from start to finish. Every great magic trick consists of three acts. The Prestige has all three parts and has audiences leaving the theater asking, “How did he do that?”

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: B

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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Into the Wild captures the spirit

16 Aug

INTO-THE-WILD

Sean Penn waited nearly a decade to make the  film about a driven young man’s desire to abandon his comfortable, civilized world and embark on an adventure that would lead him to the Alaskan wilderness. Into the Wild is based on Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction novel about the inspiring, but tragic story of Christopher McCandless. Penn assembles a thought-provoking film filled with refreshing messages about life, passion, and the pursuit of happiness.

The film intermingled a narrative that can become tedious and the 148 minute run time should have been addressed, but there is no denying Emile Hirsch’s hauntingly powerful performance as Christopher. It keeps the film engaging and on a personal level. His journey of self-realization is unforgettable and his decisions become a topic of debate concerning liberation and destruction. Love it or hate it, the film captures the life and death of young man trying to live life on his terms.

WORD COUNT: 151

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A-

The Truman Show is the master template for popular entertainment today

1 Aug

THE-TRUMAN-SHOW

The Truman Show is easily one of the most original ideas to emerge from Hollywood in the late 1990s. At the time, reality TV and manufactured amateur celebrities were in its infancy stages. Fifteen years later, the film’s subject material remains relevant because of the public’s obsession with watching this form of entertainment. Society has not degenerated to the level of The Truman Show’s unethical decision to buy the rights of a newborn child to unknowingly serve as the central character in a fake world of scripted characters and controlled events 24 hours a day. It is the perfect combination of soap opera melodrama, reality, and movie magic that will become the master template for popular entertainment today.

Writer Andrew Niccol’s brilliant multi-layered script is funny, dramatic, dark, and intelligent. Ed Harris (Christof) portrayal of a producer/director’s “ends justifies the means” position is powerful while Jim Carrey finally finds a role that allows him to demonstrate his range as an artist.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A

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+

The Impossible is an emotional journey

21 Jun

THE-IMPOSSIBLE

The Impossible is based on a true story about a family caught in the middle of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami devastation.  Director Juan Bayona’s storytelling brings this unreal event to a perspective that is rarely capture in a film. The personal moments between the characters are unforgettable and film’s emotional impact is long-lasting. Bayona balances  the story with strategic special effects and the choice to film sequences in real water allowed the cast to shine through and give some of the best performances of 2012. Watts garnered most of the attention with several nominations, but many would agree this little film showcased a formidable Ewan McGregor. Someone we have not seen for some time. Also, Tom Holland as Lucas (12-year-old) charisma and talent make audiences take note of great things to come from this young actor.

WORD COUNT: 135

Adam’s Grade: B

Chuck’s Grade: N/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+