Showing posts with label Eric Bana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eric Bana. Show all posts

Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: Wahlberg and Berg Drive "Lone Survivor"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 8 (of 2017) by Leroy Douresseaux

Lone Survivor (2013)
Running time:  121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)
MPAA – R for strong bloody war violence and pervasive language
DIRECTOR:  Peter Berg
WRITER:  Peter Berg (based on the book by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson)
PRODUCERS:  Sarah Aubrey, Peter Berg, Randall Emmett, Akiva Goldsman, Vitaly Grigoriants, Norton Herrick, Stephen Levinson, Barry Spikings, and Mark Wahlberg
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Tobias Schliessler (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Colby Parker Jr.
COMPOSERS:  Explosions in the Sky and Steve Jablonsky
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Yousuf Azami, Ali Suliman, Eric Bana, Alexander Ludwig, Jerry Ferrar, and Rohan Chand

Lone Survivor is a 2013 war film written and directed by Peter Berg.  The film is an adaptation of the 2007 nonfiction book, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, written  Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson.  The film is a dramatization of a failed 2005 mission to kill a Taliban leader in Afghanistan and also of Luttrell and his teammates fight to survive after the mission goes bad.

Lone Survivor opens in Afghanistan at the Bagram Air Base.  There is an Afghan Taliban leader named Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami), who is responsible for killing over twenty United States Marines, as well as villagers and refugees who were aiding American forces.  The Navy SEALs are ordered to capture or kill Shah, and as part of the mission, a four-man SEAL reconnaissance and surveillance team gets the task of tracking down Shah and killing him.

That SEAL team:  leader Michael P. “Murph” Murphy (Taylor Kitsch); snipers Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) and Matthew "Axe" Axelson (Ben Foster); and communications specialist, Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), are inserted into a mountainous region near Shah's base of operations.  The team finds Shah, but the mission inadvertently goes awry.  The SEALs attempt to leave the area, but are forced to battle Taliban forces.  Injured, outnumbered, and at a tactical disadvantage, the SEALs begin a valiant struggle to survive.

Lone Survivor has visceral power, which it reveals in the way it brings the Navy SEALs mission to kill Shah to life.  Director Peter Berg and film editor Colby Parker Jr. bring the viewers deep into the action, so much so that I started to believe that the Taliban was also hunting me.

However, the film's first 34 minutes are largely about military jargon and also about forcing heavy-handed jingoism about the United States' military mission and presence in Afghanistan on the viewer.  Truthfully, Lone Survivor avoids any examination about the U.S. presence in that country.  The movie is strictly about  (1) the mission, (2) military courage, (3) the band-of-brothers ethos in the U.S. military, (4) how great the SEALs are, and (5) survival.  Lone Survivor is not so much a story as it is the depiction of a moment or perhaps, of a particularly memorable sequence of events in the history of the “War on Terror” in Afghanistan.

I think that writer/director Peter Berg attempts to dazzle his audience with muscular, physical film making and with a story of a grueling struggle to survive.  I think this makes the film light on characterization, but heavy on stereotypes and assumptions.  By the time the film presented friendly natives, it was hard for me to believe they were friendly because, except for a child character, everyone seemed like a dangerous brown person.

Still, I am impressed by Mark Wahlberg's performance.  Unable to show a deeper side of Marcus Luttrell, Wahlberg turns himself into a battered-and-bruised wounded warrior in order to make us like Luttrell.  It's like Wahlberg is channeling Mel Gibson in Braveheart (1995).  Peter Berg slyly sets us up for cathartic release when the cavalry shows up to rescue the lone survivor.  It's a cheat, but I guess you do what you have to in order to make a shallow script into a good movie.  And Lone Survivor, in its own way, is indeed a good movie.

7 of 10

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

2014 Academy Awards, USA:  2 nominations:  “Best Achievement in Sound Mixing” (Andy Koyama, Beau Borders, and David Brownlow) and “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Wylie Stateman)

The text is copyright © 2017 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Guy Ritchie's King Arthur Begins Production in the UK

Director Guy Ritchie’s New King Arthur Movie Now in Production

Charlie Hunnam Stars as Arthur, joined by Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, with Jude Law and Eric Bana

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Acclaimed filmmaker Guy Ritchie brings his dynamic style to an original King Arthur epic, a sweeping fantasy action adventure starring Charlie Hunnam (FX’s “Sons of Anarchy”), for Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures. Principal photography has begun at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, UK.

The bold new story introduces a streetwise young Arthur who runs the back alleys of Londonium with his gang, unaware of the life he was born for until he grasps hold of the sword Excalibur—and with it, his future. Instantly challenged by the power of Excalibur, Arthur is forced to make some hard choices. Throwing in with the Resistance and a mysterious young woman named Guinevere, he must learn to master the sword, face down his demons and unite the people to defeat the tyrant Vortigern, who stole his crown and murdered his parents, and become King.

Starring with Hunnam is Astrid Bergès-Frisbey (“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”) as Guinevere; Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou (“Blood Diamond,” “In America”) as Resistance leader Bedivere; Aidan Gillen (HBO’s “Game of Thrones”) as Goosefat Bill; Oscar nominee Jude Law (“Cold Mountain,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley”) as Vortigern; and Eric Bana (“Star Trek”) as Arthur’s father, King Uther Pendragon.

Guy Ritchie (upcoming “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”) will direct from a screenplay by Joby Harold (“Awake”). Ritchie will also produce the film, alongside “Sherlock Holmes” and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” producers Lionel Wigram and Steve Clark-Hall, Akiva Goldsman (“I Am Legend,” Oscar-winning screenwriter for “A Beautiful Mind”), Joby Harold, and Tory Tunnell (“Awake,” “Holy Rollers”). David Dobkin (“The Judge”) and Bruce Berman (“American Sniper”) will executive produce. Max Keene (first AD, the “Sherlock Holmes” movies) will serve as co-producer and James Herbert (“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” the “Sherlock Holmes” movies) as associate producer.

The creative team joining Ritchie behind the scenes includes two-time Oscar-nominated director of photography John Mathieson (“Gladiator,” “The Phantom of the Opera”), Oscar-nominated production designer Gemma Jackson (“Finding Neverland”), editor James Herbert, costume designer Annie Symons (Masterpiece Theater’s “Great Expectations”), makeup and hair designer Christine Blundell (“Mr. Turner,” the “Sherlock Holmes” films), and Oscar-nominated VFX Supervisor Nick Davis (“The Dark Knight”).

The film will shoot primarily at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, and on location in Wales and Scotland.

Slated for release on July 22, 2016, it will be distributed in North America by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review: The First" Hulk" Movie: I Like it More Now Than When I Wrote This Review

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 94 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Hulk (2003)
Running time: 138 minutes (2 hours, 18 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some disturbing images and brief partial nudity
WRITERS: John Turman, Michael France, and James Schamus, from a story by James Schamus (based upon the Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby)
PRODUCERS: Avi Arad, Larry J. Franco, Gale Anne Hurd, and James Schamus
EDITOR: Tim Squyres
COMPOSER: Danny Elfman


Starring: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliot, Josh Lucas, Nick Nolte, Paul Kersey, Daniel Dae Kim, Lou Ferrigno, and Stan Lee

The subject of this movie review is The Hulk, a 2003 superhero science fiction and action movie from director, Ang Lee. The film stars the Hulk, a Marvel comics superhero character created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee and first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962). The film explores the origins of the Hulk.

So is The Hulk a good movie, you might ask? And my answer is simply “no.” The film doesn’t even cut it as a second-rate summer thriller. This is not a joy ride. It’s a ponderous, lumbering…well, lumbering hulk of a picture, full of sound and fury signifying nothing – nothing on the screen and nothing left in the space in your wallet where that money was you spent to see this junk. There are a few good moments, emphasis on “few.”

The story goes thusly. Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) and his on-again/off-again girlfriend/scientist Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) are scientists working on a method of using nano-technology to cure injuries. Banner and Ross use gamma radiation to activate their so-called nanomeds once they’re inside the injured test subject, but one day Bruce is accidentally exposed to the gamma rays. To make things worse, Bruce is the byproduct of his father David’s (Nick Nolte’s) bizarre experiments when he was a child.

Combine the radiation with whatever weird crap Bruce’s father put in him and whenever Bruce gets mad (you won’t like him when he’s mad), he becomes the behemoth force of nature, The Hulk, a big green brute with a muscular body cut along lines any bodybuilder would kill for eight days a week. Of course, there’s the obligatory greedy scientist, Talbot (Josh Lucas), who wants to study the Hulk DNA for possible military applications. Talbot is also Bruce’s rival for some of Betty’s booty. And one more thing, Betty’s father General Ross (Sam Elliot) has to hunt the Hulk – keep it in the family.

Director Ang Lee and his cinematographer Frederick Elmes from Lee’s great film, The Ice Storm, turn the film’s photography into a series of kinetic moving pictures. They happily cut and divide the screen into multiple pictures and frames that mimic the panel grid of a comic book; sometimes the movie looks like a photo album or a photo collage. At best this is purely superficial, adding nothing to the story.

The most ironic thing about The Hulk is the tagline, “You wouldn’t like me when I angry.” It’s quite the opposite. The only time we really like the Banner character is when he is the Hulk. That’s the only time this morose, sullen, humorless picture has any life. Lee literally buries his film in the rubble of boring psychological struggles amongst the characters, in particular between the Banners. I was literally climbing the walls of the theatre. No one gives a damn about Banner’s evil daddy! Show us the Hulk. Lee races through scenes of The Hulk madly and wildly destroying his environment almost as if he were embarrassed to be making a monster movie. It’s as if actually showing a rampaging CGI Hulk is an unpleasant thing Lee had to do to appease his studio; then, it’s back to the real people and their mental and emotional baggage.

Dammit, we came to get down on some mindless fun. Who’s gonna like this? The kids? Hell, no. Even adults are going to be bored. If we wanted this much therapeutic confession and angst, we’d rent a Woody Allen movie. The Hulk comic book concept was a metaphor about the inherent and potential dangers of the atom bomb, not about bad daddies and emotionally distant sons. It’s like going to see an Austin Powers' film and discovering that Freud’s really the star this time.

I’ve seen three of Ang Lee’s films (Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and they were brilliant. This effort is beneath him. I can’t believe that the director who had so much fun with Crouching Tiger couldn’t have fun with The Hulk. Even the effects are only okay, but in an age when the SFX is supposed to “blow you away,” the Hulk effects just blow. The most interesting and exciting scene isn’t until the end of the film, and the final battle is so beyond being ridiculous that I’m not articulate enough to tell you just how lame it is. I can understand Lee’s desire to do a big budget, Hollywood, effects extravaganza, but that doesn’t mean he should let the film do him.

4 of 10


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Review: Oscar-Nominee "Munich" Asks the Uncomfortable Questions (Happy B'day, John Williams)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 4 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Munich (2005)
Running time: 164 minutes (2 hours, 44 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong graphic violence, some sexual content, nudity, and language
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
WRITERS: Tony Kushner and Eric Roth (based upon the book Vengeance by George Jonas)
PRODUCERS: Kathleen Kennedy, Barry Mendel, Colin Wilson, and Steven Spielberg
EDITOR: Michael Kahn
COMPOSER: John Williams
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciarán Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Ayelet Zorer, Geoffrey Rush, Gila Almagor, Michael Lonsdale, Mathieu Amalric, Gila Almagor, and Lynn Cohen

Steven Spielberg’s Munich is set in the aftermath of the real life massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The story follows a secret assassination squad, led by a former Mossad (Israeli version of the CIA) officer named Avner (Eric Bana), assigned to track down and kill the 11 Palestinian terrorists and operatives, whom the Israeli government suspects of having planned the Munich attack. The film focuses on the personal toll this mission of revenge and retribution takes upon the team, and in particular, Avner.

Many have argued that Munich has taken both sides in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but I must have missed something because I didn’t see it that way. I viewed the film as a narrative that with medical precision shows how much it costs men to engage in one act of murder after another. This isn’t about a war where the fighters kill (mostly) faceless men. Avner and his associates (which includes the new James Bond, Daniel Craig, playing a gung-ho, American cowboy-type, Israeli named Steve) have to hunt these men down. In that way, they get to see them as more than targets. Yes, they may be murderers, and clearly they involve themselves in operations aimed at killing Israelis in terrorist attacks, but these aren’t dogs that Avner and his team are hunting. Eventually, killing people and endangering innocents (collateral damage) gets to be too much for them. The explosions, the gore, and most of all the finality of death – always watching, knowing, and talking to people they have to kill.

Avner misses his wife and child, and he begins to mistrust his Israeli bosses, in particular Ephraim (the truly astounding chameleonic actor Geoffrey Rush). Eventually, Avner and his team find themselves competing against American interests, the CIA, and Soviet interests, personified by the KGB, who protect and provide both material and financial support to some Palestinian terrorists. So many of the parties involved see Avner’s mission as some kind of game, a war game for sure, but still a game of capture and defend territory. There are platitudes galore about striking back and sending a message, but in this narrative, only Avner understands that this is dirty work, expensive dirty work. The costs will run into the millions, and will also cost many lives – lives that must often be violently snuffed out if one side is to win and/or survive. One has to wonder what the result of terrorism and the retributive answer to it will be. As one of the characters concludes, “There is no peace at the end of this.”

Still, through Munich, one can tell that Spielberg clearly believes that Israel had to answer the Munich murders with retribution (as do I). He also clearly loves Israel. At one point in the film, Avner’s mother (Gila Almagor) says of the founding of Israel that they (Jews) had to take the land because no one would give it to them, and that they needed a place on earth where Jews could live with other Jews. Spielberg may very likely believe this, but in Munich, he uses film to question Israel using swift retribution for every attack against it, although I don’t think that Israel has always answered every attack against it.

Perhaps, that is why the film meanders. It’s too long, and on just a few occasions it is too preachy – a few of those being embarrassingly preachy. Munich’s resolution is also soft – if there is one. I get the point that the director wants to say that there are no easy answers for this situation, but in saying that, the movie lumbers towards the end like an out of shape and slightly over weight athlete. Munich does indeed take a side (Israel), but the movie wonders about the other side (the Palestinians). Spielberg doesn’t really try to have it both ways, but he muddles the water enough with differing points of view. Still, what is one the screen is outstanding, powerful, and mesmerizing. I could have an adjective field day, but with its engaging performances – Eric Bana is rugged, handsome, and shows his soul with this performance – and taut action (the assassinations are as riveting as anything in the best war and action movies), Munich is must-see cinema for any Spielberg fan and any fan of cinema.

8 of 10

Saturday, January 07, 2006

2006 Academy Awards: 5 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg, and Barry Mendel), “Best Achievement in Directing” (Steven Spielberg), “Best Achievement in Editing” (Michael Kahn) and “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score” (John Williams), and “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Tony Kushner and Eric Roth)

2006 Golden Globes: 2 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Steven Spielberg) and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Tony Kushner and Eric Roth)


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cool "Star Trek" Reboot All About Breathless Adventure

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 15 (of 2009) by Leroy Douresseaux

Star Trek (2009)
Running time: 127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence and brief sexual content
WRITERS: Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (based upon the television “Star Trek” created by Gene Roddenberry)
PRODUCERS: J.J. Abrams and Daniel Lindelof
EDITOR: Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey
Academy Award winner

SCI-FI/ACTION/THRILLER with elements of drama and comedy

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Karl Urban, Zoë Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, and Tyler Perry

The new film, Star Trek, may be the 11th film in the movie franchise launched from the much-beloved 1960s television series, but it’s not just some sequel. Under the guiding hand of director J.J. Abrams and writers, Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman, this stunningly clever and wildly imaginative reboot is a fresh take on a venerable science fiction classic.

This sexy and new Star Trek is not a replacement for anything that has come before it. This is more than a facelift, tummy tuck, breast enhancement, etc. meant to make an old lady (or man) look as shiny and as new as all the other new fangled sci-fi franchises with whom Star Trek now shares the pop cultural landscape. This Star Trek is something new made from familiar ingredients, and it’s a damn good movie to boot!

Star Trek 2009 takes the audience back to the early days when future Captain James T. Kirk was a hot-rodding, delinquent. Actor Chris Pine plays Kirk with all of a young actor’s bravado, presenting Kirk as a tow-headed, rebel without a cause, but smarter than his actions indicate. Although the pre-captain Kirk acts like a loser, Pine’s performance makes sure that the audience marks Kirk as exceptional, even among the big brains at Starfleet Academy.

There’s no fun in having a cocksure Kirk without a Spock. In the hands of actor Zachary Quinto, Spock – all shiny bangs and elfin ears – is the control freak as proper gentleman, but beware the volcanic temper and impulsive streak that bubbles underneath. Not only is Spock smarter than everyone else (and lets them know it), he ain’t afraid to get his swerve on with the ladies!

Refusing to merely slink in the background as eye candy is this enchanting new Uhura, whom the gorgeous Zoë Saldana plays as super smart, super sexy, and super don’t-put-up-with-bullshit. This lovely lady ain’t too grand to show her soft and caring side with the man in her life, but she’ll go toe-to-toe with impulsive Starfleet officers. In this era of Oprah Winfrey, Condoleeza Rice, Beyoncé Knowles, and Michelle Obama, it’s great to see such a strong, complicated woman of color like Saldana’s Uhura in pop culture, especially science fiction.

Star Trek’s plot revolves around a time-traveling, revenge-seeking, shaven-headed Romulan named Nero. Played with a kind of wrathful quietude by the exquisite Eric Bana, Nero is a Star Trek villain worthy of Khan and the Borg Queen. Piloting a giant, squid-octopus-like, planetoid drill, Nero is the Everyman turned murderous thug, and every time Nero unleashes his killing machine, this movie exudes the kind of special effects grandeur previous Star Treks never had. On the maiden voyage of the U.S.S. Enterprise (all shiny and Macintosh-ed), this new, but elite crew must rescue its Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) from Nero’s clutches and stop the Romulan from destroying Earth. Oh, and the original Spock (Leonard Nimoy) plays an integral part in the story.

Everything about this new Star Trek is bright, sparkly, and cutting edge; it’s as if the film is constantly generating new visual effects every few seconds just to dazzle your eyes and blow your mind. The battle scenes remind me of the ones on the Sci-Fi Channel’s recent Battlestar Galactica series (itself a re-imagination of an old sci-fi franchise). Sometimes, this film even feels a little like a Star Wars movie (of which J.J. Abrams is fan). Even Simon Pegg’s hyperkinetic take on chief engineer Scotty is a joy to behold. Yes, this new Star Trek delivers the good. It’s not like most popcorn movies – practically gone from your mind within a few hours of leaving the theatre. Watching this Star Trek left me with good feelings, and it made me believe that Star Trek is once again ready to keep going boldly into the future.

9 of 10

Monday, May 18, 2009

2010 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Oscar Best Achievement in Makeup” (Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, and Joel Harlow); 3 nominations: “Best Achievement in Sound” (Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson, and Peter J. Devlin), “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Mark P. Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin), and “Best Achievement in Visual Effects” (Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh, and Burt Dalton)

2010 BAFTA Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Sound” (Peter J. Devlin, Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Mark P. Stoeckinger, and Ben Burtt) and “Best Special Visual Effects” (Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh, and Burt Dalton)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Review: Brad Pitt Shakes Money-Maker in "Troy"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 84 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Troy (2004)
Running time: 163 minutes (2 hours, 43 minutes)
MPAA – R for graphic violence and some sexuality/nudity
DIRECTOR: Wolfgang Petersen
WRITER: David Benioff (inspired by Homer’s The Iliad)
PRODUCERS: Diana Rathbun, Colin Wilson, and Wolfgang Petersen
EDITOR: Peter Honess, A.C.E.
Academy Award nominee

ACTION/DRAMA/HISTORICAL/WAR with elements of adventure and romance

Starring: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Brendan Gleeson, Peter O’Toole, and Garrett Hedlund

Paris of Troy (Orlando Bloom) steals Helen (Diane Kruger), the wife of the Spartan King, Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson). Agamemnon (Brian Cox), Menelaus’ brother and the king who united the varied Greek kingdoms, suddenly has a reason to invade Troy. Paris’ brother, Hector (Eric Bana) stands ready to defend his kingdom, but that means he may have to face the greatest warrior the world will ever known, Achilles (Brad Pitt). This old tale gets a retelling in Warner Bros.’ Troy.

Anyone who is familiar with the legend of Troy from Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad (or Virgil’s The Aeneid) or countless retellings, documentaries, history lessons, etc. will already know how this film ends. But trust Hollywood to make just enough changes to surprise or, at least, infuriate purists. In my case, I was deeply troubled by a number of issues (especially the absence of the manipulations of the quarrelling Greek gods’ who played a large role in the literary story of Troy), but it wasn’t enough to keep me from enjoying this movie.

Director Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy is an epic war story that is equal parts costume drama and big budget, Hollywood historical epic. It’s goofy, but serious enough to past muster. The dialogue is wooden and stiff, and the speeches will sometimes make you cringe. However, there are enough times when the characters speak with equal measure of weight and pomposity and clarity to sell the story. And at the end of the day, this movie is just fun to watch.

Like those historical epics of the 1950’s and 60’s, Troy has some secret allure to it. For some reason, these crazy dramas, with their high fallutin’ faux Shakesperean-lite speeches, are entertaining. Of course, there are always the battles, and Petersen (another very talented film director who has an impressive filmography of entertaining macho movies) stages the slugfests and bloodshed with brilliance. Granted, I’ve seen the massing of large fleets and armies on the big screen before Troy, but Petersen also smartly focuses on individual, man on man fight scenes, especially those with Achilles.

Regardless of what one might think, there’s no way you cannot not treat yourself to the sight of Brad Pitt throwing it down Greek thug style. I loved his fight scenes, and while he may not be the world’s greatest actor, he may be one of the most sincere. He looks great on screen, and the camera loves him. Pitt throws himself into the role of Achilles with such relish that I can’t help but be awed by him. And no matter what others might say, he more than holds his own in a really nice scene he has with Peter O’Toole. Yes, he may not be the greatest actor, but he’s one of the great movies stars, and he’s a better actor than for which he’s given credit. For him alone, I recommend Troy.

7 of 10

2005 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Achievement in Costume Design” (Bob Ringwood)


Monday, June 28, 2010

Review: "Finding Nemo" Recalls the Drama of Disney's "Bambi"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 84 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Finding Nemo (2003) – animated film
Running time: 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Andrew Stanton with Lee Unkrich
WRITERS: Bob Peterson, David Reynolds, and Andrew Stanton, from a story by Andrew Stanton
PRODUCER: Graham Walters
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Sharon Calahan (director of photography) and Jeremy Lasky (director of photography)
EDITOR: David Ian Salter
COMPOSER: Thomas Newman
Academy Award winner


Starring: (voices) Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Austin Pendleton, Stephen Root, Vicki Lewis, Joe Ranft, Geoffrey Rush, Andrew Stanton, Eric Bana, and Elizabeth Perkins

Marlin (Albert Brooks), a clown fish, and his wife Coral (Elizabeth Perkins) live in an underwater suburban utopia for fish. They are about to be new parents as they await the hatching of over 400 eggs, when suddenly tragedy strikes in the form of a natural predator. After a horror that recalls the Disney classic Bambi, all that is left to Marlin is one tiny egg.

As the story moves to the future, Marlin has never really recovered from his loss. He is overprotective of his son Nemo (Alexander Gould), who was born with an underdeveloped fin (formerly known as a handicap), so he doesn’t swim well. Naturally, Nemo hates his father coddling him. One day he rebels by approaching a shipping vessel where a human captures him. Devastated, Marlin begins a desperate quest to find his only child. A blue tang fish named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), who has short term memory loss, joins Marlin on the search for the boy. In the meantime, Nemo has found himself in the aquarium at an Aussie dentist’s office. He befriends a group of fellow captives who plot to help Nemo escape before he ends up an unfortunate gift to the dentist’s niece.

This is the fifth Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios co-production, and the union has produced five beautiful films. Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are two of the best animated films ever made. A Bug’s Life was a big hit, and I adore Monster’s Inc. more every time I see it. Finding Nemo ably stands with its brethren as another very fine achievement in the very short his story of computer animated feature films. I can say this without hesitation: Finding Nemo is a great animated film. I’ll save you the time reading this unless you really want to know what I have to say – rush out and see this film. It’s not perfect, and I can forgive the filmmakers the awfully syrupy fish suburbia that they created for the film’s opening scene; still, excellence must be noticed.

Directed by Andrew Stanton (co-director of A Bug’s Life) with Lee Unkrich (Monster’s Inc. and Toy Story 2) the film has the emotional resonance of the Toy Story films. Yes, it is inspired wacky fun for the kids, and they’ll laugh at lot; adults will probably laugh more than the tykes. Yes, the film has a gorgeous color palette that just dazzles the senses; it’s a colorful, visual treat on par with the great Technicolor films of yesteryear. However, the most important thing about the film is how it touches upon the relationships between people, both entertaining and connecting with the audience. You know there is something special about using animals to tell human stories. People have told these “anthropomorphic” tales since we could tell stories. It is easier for people to laugh at human foibles when we see our foolishness copied by cartoon animal-people. Animated films, cartoons, and comic art stories use this genre extremely well and through this animators and cartoonists take the craft of storytelling and make it an art.

The central story is about the protective bond between parents and their children, in this specific case, a father and his son. Marlin lost so much when he seemed about to have it all that he is way too overprotective of Nemo, essentially the only person he has left in his life. Marlin can’t deal with the fact that the older his son gets, the harder it is to micromanage the boy’s life. He can’t stop every bad thing that may happen to his child from happening. He’s also afraid of the environment in which he lives, the ocean, so he doesn’t really enjoy life. Nemo wants to be independent, but buried in the back of his mind is that he may be as physically inadequate as his father treats him. There are also many notable subplots: friends overcoming obstacles, learning to accept the differences in others instead of prejudging negative traits on them, people joining together to help a stranger in need, and of keeping hope alive.

I know that this might seem to be a bit heady for a cartoon, but this ability of a Pixar film to entertain and delight and to teach and to inspire simply continues that which is a tradition of the best Disney animated films. We’ve often considered classic Disney animation to be amongst the best films ever made (well, at least some of us), and Pixar just shows audiences that an animated film can be just as fun as the funniest comedy, that a cartoon can mimic the drama of humanity as well the best “real” movies.

9 of 10

2004 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Animated Feature” (Andrew Stanton); 3 nominations: “Best Music, Original Score” (Thomas Newman), “Best Sound Editing” (Gary Rydstrom and Michael Silvers), and “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Andrew Stanton-screenplay/story, Bob Peterson-screenplay and David Reynolds-screenplay)

2004 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Screenplay – Original” (Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, and David Reynolds)

2004 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy”


Monday, May 31, 2010

Review: Ridley Scott Delivers Another Great Film in "Black Hawk Down"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 18 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux

Black Hawk Down (2001)
Running time: 144 minutes (2 hours, 24 minutes)
MPAA – R for intense, realistic, graphic war violence, and for language
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
WRITER: Ken Nolan (based upon the book by Mark Bowden)
PRODUCERS: Jerry Bruckheimer and Ridley Scott
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Slawomir Idziak (director of photography)
EDITOR: Pietro Scalia
COMPOSER: Hans Zimmer
Academy Award winner


Starring: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Jason Isaacs, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, Eric Bana, Sam Shepard, Ewen Bremner, Tom Hardy, Ron Eldard, Charlie Hofheimer, Hugh Dancy, and Tom Guiry

On October 3, 1993, just over 100 American Delta units and Ranger infantrymen were dropped by helicopter into the city of Mogadishu, Somalia to abduct two of Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s lieutenants. Aidid had been stealing food provided by relief agencies for the Somalis; Somalia was suffering through a devastating famine, and images of the dead and dying filled the American television screens. By stealing the food, Aidid was using starvation to make his rivals submit to him.

The mission to capture his aides was only supposed to last an hour. However, a firefight between American military and Aidid’s forces led to the downing of two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, and that was the start of a prolonged and bloody fight. When the last American finally reached safety, the mission had lasted 15 hours. Nineteen Americans were killed and 73 wounded, and hundreds of Somalis were dead.

Directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator, Hannibal), Black Hawk Down focuses on the efforts of the Rangers and Delta forces to rescue the men of the downed helicopters. The story follows different groups of American servicemen. In two of the stories Staff Sgt. Matt Eversmann (Josh Hartnett) and his Rangers engage Aidid’s forces in prolonged street fighting, and Lt. Colonel Danny McKnight (Tom Sizemore) leads a group of rescuers that gets lost in the maze of Mogadishu’s streets, where Somali gunmen and snipers rain gunfire upon the Americans.

Black Hawk Down is some of the best work Scott has ever done. While it shares the intensity of Saving Private Ryan, in particularly the hair-raising reenactment of D-Day landings on Normandy beach, much of Black Hawk’s impact comes from its dramatic structure, which emphasizes character and story. In addition to Sgt. Eversmann and Lt. Colonel McKnight’s group, the film also follows the plight of the only survivor of the second downed Black Hawk, Chief Warrant Officer Durant (Ron Eldard), who was a prisoner of Aidid’s forces for a few weeks after The Battle of Mogadishu. Staff Sgt. Ed Yurek (Tom Guiry) leads his decimated Ranger group through gunfire to safety. Scott follows the beleaguered Americans, moving deftly from one group of servicemen to the other, keeping the intensity of the drama very high.

Though very violent and occasionally quite gory, Black Hawk Down is the story of these brave men and their struggle to not only survive, but to also rescue and to save the lives of their fellow soldiers. Beyond issues of patriotism and bravery is the strength of dedication and skill of these men. Scott’s war movie is a movie about the camaraderie of soldiers.

While Scott is at the top of his craft in this film, the acting is also of the highest quality. The cast is quite convincing in their roles as soldiers, and the Somali extras aren’t bad either. Tom Sizemore delivers his usually quality work in a supporting role, but the surprise here is Josh Hartnett. A pretty boy in the Tom Cruise tradition, Hartnett hit his stride in this performance. His concentration and intensity in delivering on his role as Sgt. Eversmann is fascinating to watch. If the film’s ideas and intentions must, in the final analysis, hang upon the shoulders of one soldier, Hartnett ably supports the story.

Black Hawk Down will rise above many other war films because it is something more – a war story, a soldier’s story, and a combatant’s story. One cannot help but be impressed by how the storytellers and the cast convince us that in the face of the greatest of dangers, these men will not stick to their credo “Leave no man behind,” be they dead or alive. Black Hawk Down is special.

8 of 10

2002 Academy Awards: 2 wins: “Best Editing” (Pietro Scalia) and “Best Sound” (Michael Minkler, Myron Nettinga, and Chris Munro); 2 nominations: “Best Cinematography” (Slawomir Idziak) and “Best Director” (Ridley Scott)

2002 BAFTA Awards: 3 nomination: “Best Cinematography” (Slawomir Idziak), “Best Editing” (Pietro Scalia), and “Best Sound” (Chris Munro, Per Hallberg, Michael Minkler, Myron Nettinga, and Karen M. Baker)