Showing posts with label Terrence Stamp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Terrence Stamp. Show all posts

Friday, June 12, 2015

Review: Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz Shine in "Big Eyes"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 25 (of 2015) by Leroy Douresseaux

Big Eyes (2014)
Running time:  106 minutes (1 hour, 46 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language
DIRECTOR:  Tim Burton
WRITERS:  Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
PRODUCERS:  Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, Tim Burton, and Lynette Howell
COMPOSER:  Danny Elfman
Golden Globe winner


Starring:  Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp, Jon Polito, Delaney Raye, Madeleine Arthur, and James Saito

Big Eyes is a 2014 biographical drama from director Tim Burton.  The film is a dramatization of the complicated relationship between American pop-art painter, Margaret Keane, and her husband, Walter Keane.  Brothers Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein are executive producers on the film.

Margaret Keane is famous for her “big eyes” paintings, which are paintings featuring children as waifs with big doe eyes.  For a decade, Margaret's second husband, Walter Keane, took credit for the paintings because, as he told Margaret, people would take her paintings seriously if they were credited to a man.  Margaret's paintings became hugely popular in the 1960s and earned the couple a large fortune, but Walter became more domineering the more prominence “big eyes” art attained.

Big Eyes opens in 1958 in Northern California.  Margaret Ulbrich (Amy Adams), a painter, leaves her husband and takes her young daughter, Jane (Delaney Raye), with her.  Mother and child arrive in North Beach, San Francisco where Margaret's friend, DeAnn (Krysten Ritter), lives.  One day, Margaret in selling drawings in a local park when she catches the attention of Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), a painter who is also selling his art in the park.

Margaret and Walter marry, and Walter begins to try to sell both their paintings.  People ignore Walter's paintings, but the “big eyes” paintings of his new wife, Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), soon become a sensation.  Walter lies when people ask him and claims to be the creator of the “big eyes” art, and Margaret goes along with him.  The “big eyes” become a sensation, but Margaret cannot truly find peace of mind.  Can she ever break away from Walter and take credit for her work?

When director Tim Burton's 2003 film, Big Fish, debuted, some critics said that Burton had finally made an adult film instead of his usual, a fantasy film.  Big Fish actually had its share of surrealism and eccentricity, like practically all Burton's work.  I think Burton's first adult film was the fanciful biopic, Ed Wood, which was more humorous than dramatic.

One might call Big Fish an adult film, but I found it dull and stiff.  Burton's 2014 movie, Big Eyes, is a drama, and it is similar to Ed Wood in that both movies focus on an outside or cult artist.  Big Eyes simply plays the biographical matter in a straighter fashion than Ed Wood.  In that movie, Ed Wood and his band of merry filmmakers were weirdos (and I'm not saying this in a pejorative manner).  Margaret Keane's art may be weird, but the screenwriters, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, and even director Tim Burton take her life seriously.  Their movie is a fictional account of Keane's life that details the path she took to independence and to an awakening.

Since her coming-out-party in the indie film, Junebug, Amy Adams has been one of the best American actresses of the last decade.  As Margaret Keane, she gives one of her best performances, if not her best.  She embodies in herself and shows the struggle of a woman who is trying to break free of everything that holds her back – including herself.  In her face and in her emotions, Adams conveys the trials of the artist trying to claim her own work and of a woman living in an era when the wife must be “the little wifey” and little more.

It is a testament to Christoph Waltz's skill as an actor and a performer that he keeps Walter Keane from being burned in the radiance of Adams' performance.  Waltz makes it impossible to believe much of what Walter says, but he also keeps the fraudulent painter from becoming a caricature.  In his hands, Walter is a fully realized character, which I realized when I noticed that I was sympathetic to him (just a little) by the end of the film.

Big Eyes, which is essentially a low-budget independent film, is Tim Burton's first good movie in a few years.  With Ed Wood 20 years ago and with Big Eyes now, he shows that he sympathizes and identifies with artists who are off the beaten path, but who take their art as seriously as the “elite” artists.  Burton does indeed know how to let the best dramatic actors do some of their best work.  While I like a “serious” film (or Burton's version of it) such as Big Eyes, I do want more Tim Burton movies like Beetlejuice and Sleepy Hollow, which are both Oscar-winners, by the way.

8 of 10

Thursday, June 11, 2015

2015 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical: (Amy Adams); 2 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” (Christoph Waltz) and “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (Lana Del Rey and Daniel Heath for "Big Eyes")

2015 BAFTA Awards:  2 nominations: “Best Leading Actress” (Amy Adams) and “Best Production Design” (Rick Heinrichs and Shane Vieau)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: "Elektra," Well, It's Better Than "Catwoman"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 10 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Elektra (2005)
Running time:  97 minutes (1 hour, 37 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for action violence
DIRECTOR:  Rob Bowman
WRITERS:  Raven Metzner, Stu Zicherman, and Zak Penn; from a story by Zak Penn (based on movie characters created by Mark Steven Johnson and comic book characters created by Frank Miller)
PRODUCERS:  Avi Arad, Gary Foster, and Mark Steven Johnson
EDITOR:  Kevin Stitt
COMPOSER:  Christophe Beck


Starring:  Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic, Kirsten Prout, Will Yun Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Terence Stamp, Natassia Malthe, Bob Sapp, and Colin Cunningham with Jason Isaacs

The subject of this movie review is Elektra, a 2005 superhero film starring Jennifer Garner in the title role.  The film is based on the Marvel Comics’ character, Elektra, created by Frank Miller.  Elektra is a spin-off of the 2003 superhero movie, Daredevil, and Stan Lee, co-creator of the Daredevil character, is an executive producer on this movie, as well.  The new movie focuses on Elektra as she tries to protect a single father and his young daughter after being hired to kill them.

After dying in the 2003 film Daredevil, Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner) is alive and kicking in her own comic book based film, Elektra.  Elektra ain’t by no means great, but it’s far better than the lumbering, big budget blunder that was Daredevil.  And while Elektra isn’t worth a trip to the theatre for most moviegoers other than comic book fans and admirers of Ms. Garner’s figure, it’s worth a view of DVD.

The sai (a martial arts weapon) enthusiast Elektra is now an assassin for hire, and The Hand, the order of dark ninjas who trained Elektra and revived her from death, have hired her to kill Mark Miller (Goran Visnjic) and his daughter Abby (Kirsten Prout).  Abby is the “current generation’s” treasure, a gifted martial artist who can change the balance between good and evil.  Elektra is drawn to Abby and refuses to killer her, choosing to protect her and her father from The Hand.  Elektra’s refusal of The Hand’s contract and her subsequent interference sets The Hand’s master assassin, Kirigi (Will Yun Lee), and his quartet of dark super ninja after the trio.  Elektra seeks help from her first teacher, the blind sensei Stick (Terence Stamp), in hopes that he will take Abby and Mark off her hands.  Stick, however, has other plans, and forces Elektra to defend the girl and discover her own better nature, including dealing with her mother’s death and Kirigi’s part in it.

Elektra is a mildly entertaining action, superhero fantasy film with some nice fight sequences.  But even those action scenes ultimately seem forced and overdone; maybe it’s because only the fight scenes can save what is otherwise an exceedingly dry faux drama.  The acting is poor.  Terence Stamp is woefully miscast as Stick, and Goran Visnjic barely seems alive as Mark Miller.  Kirsten Prout’s Abby only elicits sympathy when the script places her in extreme danger.

A star on the hit television series, “Alias,” Jennifer Garner’s film career is mostly miss, except for a nice turn in 13 Going on 30.  There are moments in this movie when she assumes a pose as Elektra and looks like a clumsy, wall-eyed poseur.  Ms. Garner even walks as if she just learned that she has a nice ass, but still hasn’t quite got the rhythm using it in a provocative walk down pat.

Still, this film has some nice moments, and the fight scenes (which feature lots of wire-fu) are pretty good for an American film production.  To bad one of the (over extended) fight scenes uses CGI bed sheets as an obstacle for the hero.  It makes you wonder what the filmmakers were thinking.  It’s the eye-rolling stuff like this that ultimately hamstrings Elektra.

5 of 10

Updated:  Friday, August 23, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for syndication rights and fees.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Review: Christopher Reeve Still Shines in "Superman II"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 39 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Superman II (1980)
Running time: 127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Richard Lester
WRITERS: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman; from a story by Mario Puzo (based upon the characters and situations created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster)
PRODUCER: Pierre Spengler
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Geoffrey Unsworth and Bob Paynter
EDITOR: John Victor-Smith
COMPOSER: Ken Thorne

SUPERHERO/ACTION/DRAMA with elements of comedy and sci-fi

Starring: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Terrence Stamp, Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran, Valerie Perrine, Leueen Willoughby, Clifton James, E.G. Marshall, Marc McClure, and Susannah York

The subject of this movie review is Superman II, a 1980 superhero drama and action film from director Richard Lester. This movie is based on the DC Comics character, Superman, created by comic book writer Jerry Siegel and comic book artist Joe Shuster. Superman II is also a direct sequel to the 1978 film, Superman: The Movie.

There was some controversy surrounding Superman II upon its release. It was originally being film simultaneously with Superman: The Movie by director Richard Donner. Donner ended up being fired by the Alexander and Ilya Salkind, who controlled the Superman film franchise at the time. Some of the film Donner shot for Superman II was apparently re-shot and some of it reused. Donner’s replacement, Richard Lester, is credited as the director of Superman II. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz is credited as a “creative consultant” for his contributions to the screenplay for Superman II.

Putting that aside, is Superman II a good movie? When I first saw Superman II, I considered it to be a better movie than Superman: The Movie. I no longer think so, but more on that later.

Superman II opens by going back in time to Superman’s birth planet, Krypton, prior to its destruction. There, the criminals: General Zod (Terence Stamp) and his followers, Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O'Halloran), are sentenced by Jor-El (Superman’s Kryptonian father) to banishment into the Phantom Zone for insurrection and other crimes. After traveling through the galaxy for many years, the Phantom Zone, represented as a spinning, picture frame-like segment of space, is shattered near Earth by the detonation of a hydrogen bomb.

Meanwhile, Daily Planet reporters, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve), who is Superman, leave Metropolis for an undercover story. In Niagara Falls, Lois and Clark pretend to be a married couple, which brings them closer, physically and emotionally, than they usually are. Suddenly, Lois thinks she knows Superman’s secret identity. That leads Clark to make a monumental decision just when Earth most needs Superman.

I once told a friend that I preferred Superman II over Superman: The Movie and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn over Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He responded that people liked the sequels because they were “kick-ass.” That is true, to an extent, but Star Trek II is better than the first Trek film.

At the time I first saw it, I did like the fight scenes in Superman II, but there were many other elements that caught my attention. When I saw Superman II in a theatre, there was a woman a few rows in front of me who yelled, “Superman had sex,” when the film cutaway to a scene with Lois and Clark in bed, apparently post-coitus. I think what I liked about Superman II was that it confronted me with things I thought of has wrong in relation to Superman, especially Superman having sex with Lois, which also intrigued me. However, as a film critic said at the time of the film’s initial release, Superman and Lois should not have actual physical sex, because their version of sex was Superman carrying Lois in his arms as they fly over Metropolis.

Beside the sex, I found General Zod and company to be good villains, and, in a sense, they were the beginning of a series of things that endangered all that was great and good about Superman for me. They attacked the civilians that Superman protected, were disrespectful of the President of the United States of America, and they invaded Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. All these conflicts, dilemmas, and obstacles made for an exciting movie.

Years later, I find Superman II’s occasional campy moments and scenes a bit annoying, although its mostly those featuring Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman). There is quite a bit to like about this movie, but the main reason to like this is the late Christopher Reeve. Here, he is eternally youthful. As Clark Kent, he is humble and even sly. As Superman, Reeve is both a champion and a man for seasons.

Now, I think Superman: The Movie is the better film and a blueprint for what a superhero movie can be. Still, Superman II is memorable.

6 of 10

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2012 Satellite Awards Honor "Silver Linings Playbook"

The International Press Academy (IPA) chose Silver Linings Playbook as the "Best Film of 2012."  The IPA is an entertainment media association with voting members worldwide who represent domestic and foreign markets via print, television, radio, blogs, and other content platforms for virtually every notable outlet.

Each year the IPA honors artistic excellence in the areas of Motion Pictures, Television, Radio, and New Media via the Satellite® Awards.

Complete List of 2012 Satellite Award Winners and Nominees (Announced December 16, 2012):


Motion Picture
Silver Linings Playbook, The Weinstein Co. WINNER

Argo, Warner Bros.
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Les Miserables, Universal
Skyfall, Columbia Pictures
Moonrise Kingdom, Focus Features
The Sessions, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Lincoln, DreamWorks/Touchstone
Life of Pi, Twentieth Century Fox
Zero Dark Thirty, Columbia Pictures

David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, The Weinstein Co. WINNER

Ben Affleck for Argo, Warner Bros.
Kim Ki-Duk for Pieta, Drafthouse Films
Ben Lewin for The Sessions, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Steven Spielberg for Lincoln, DreamWorks/Touchstone
Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, Columbia Pictures

Actress in a Motion Picture
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook, The Weinstein Co. WINNER

Emilie Dequenne, Our Children, Versus Production
Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina, Focus Features
Emmanuelle, Riva Amour, Sony Pictures Classics
Laura Birn, Purge, Solar Films
Laura Linney, Hyde Park on Hudson, Focus Features
Jessica Chastain Zero Dark Thirty, Columbia Pictures

Actor in a Motion Picture
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook, The Weinstein Co. WINNER

John Hawkes, The Sessions, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Omar Sy, The Intouchables, The Weinstein Co.
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, Universal
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master, The Weinstein Co.
Denzel Washington, Flight, Paramount Pictures
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln, DreamWorks/Touchstone

Actress in a Supporting Role
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables, Universal WINNER

Amy Adams, The Master, The Weinstein Co.
Helene Florent, Cafe De Flore, Adopt Films
Helen Hunt, The Sessions, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Judi Dench, Skyfall, Columbia Pictures
Samantha Barks, Les Miserables, Universal

Actor in a Supporting Role
Javier Bardem, Skyfall, Columbia Pictures WINNER

Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master, The Weinstein Co.
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook, The Weinstein Co.
John Goodman, Flight, Paramount Pictures
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln, DreamWorks/Touchstone
Eddie Redmayne, Les Miserables, Universal

Motion Picture, International Film
The Intouchables, The Weinstein Co. (France) WINNER

Amour, Sony Pictures Classics (Austria)
A Royal Affair, Magnolia Pictures (Denmark)
Our Children, Le Films Du Losange (Belgium)
Kon-Tiki, The Weinstein Co. (Norway)
Pieta, Drafthouse Films (South Korea)
Beyond the Hills, Sundance Selects (Romania)
War Witch, Tribeca Film (Canada)
Caesar Must Die, Adopt Film (Italy)

Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media
Rise of the Guardians, DreamWorks Animation WINNER

ParaNorman, Focus Features
Wreck-It Ralph, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Brave, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, Twentieth Century Fox Animation
Frankenweenie, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, DreamWorks Animation

Motion Picture, Documentary
Chasing Ice, National Geographic WINNER

The Central Park Five, Sundance Selects
The Pruitt-Igoe, Myth First Run Features
The Gatekeepers, Sony Pictures Classics
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Sundance Selects
West of Memphis, Sony Pictures Classics
Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, Music Box Films
Searching for Sugar Man, Sony Pictures Classics

Original Screenplay
Mark Boal - Zero Dark Thirty, Columbia Pictures WINNER

Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache - The Intouchables, The Weinstein Co.
John Gatins - Flight, Paramount Pictures
Kim Ki-Duk - Pieta, Drafthouse Films
Roman Coppola, Wes Anderson - Moonrise Kingdom, Focus Features
Paul Thomas Anderson - The Master, The Weinstein Co.

Adapted Screenplay
David Magee - Life of Pi; Twentieth Century Fox (Based on the Novel by Yann Martel) WINNER

• Ben Lewin - The Sessions; Fox Searchlight Pictures (Based on documentary Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien, Directed by Jessica Yu)

• Tony Kushner, John Logan, Paul Webb – Lincoln; DreamWorks/Touchstone (Based on Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin)

• Chris Terrio – Argo; Warner Bros. (Based on magazine article “Escape From Tehran” by Joshuah Berman)

• Tom Stoppard - Anna Karenina; Focus Features (Based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy)

• David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook, The Weinstein Co. (Based on the novel by Matthew Quick)

Original Score (Composer, Film)
Alexandre Desplat for Argo, Warner Bros. WINNER

Dario Marianelli for Anna Karenina, Focus Features
Thomas Newman for Skyfall, Columbia Pictures
Jonny Greenwood for The Master, The Weinstein Co.
John Williams for Lincoln, DreamWorks/Touchstone
Dan Romer, Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fox Searchlight Pictures

Original Song (Title, Performer, Writer(s), Film)
"Suddenly, " Hugh Jackman, Alain Boubil, Herbert Kretzmer, from Les Miserables WINNER

• "Learn Me Right, " Birdy Birdy & Mumford and Sons, Mumford and Sons, from Brave

• "Still Alive, " Paul Williams, Paul Williams, Paul Williams: from Still Alive

• "Skyfall, " Adele, Adele Adkins, Paul Epworth, from Skyfall

• "Fire in the Blood/Snake Song, " Emmylou Harris, Emmylou Harris, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, from Lawless

• "Love Always Comes as a Surprise." Peter Asher, Peter Asher & Dave Stewart, from Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Claudio Miranda, for Life of Pi, Twentieth Century Fox WINNER

Ben Richardson, for Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Mihai Malaimare Jr., for The Master, The Weinstein Co.
Janusz Kaminski, for Lincoln, DreamWorks/Touchstone
Roger Deakins, for Skyfall, Columbia Pictures
Seamus McGarvey, for Anna Karenina, Focus Features

Visual Effects
Michael Lantieri, Kevin Baillie, Ryan Tudhope, Jim Gibbs, for Flight, Paramount Pictures WINNER

• Steve Begg, Arundi Asregadoo, Andrew Whitehurst, for Skyfall, Columbia Pictures

• Richard Stammers, Charley Henley, Martin Hill, for Prometheus, Twentieth Century Fox

• Bill Westenhofer, for Life of Pi, Twentieth Century Fox

• Dan Glass, Geoffrey Hancock, Stephane Ceretti, for Cloud Atlas, Warner Bros.

• Chris Corbould, Paul Franklin, for The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Bros.

Film Editing
Jay Cassidy, for Silver Linings Playbook, The Weinstein Co. WINNER

Lisa Bromwell, for The Sessions, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Jeremiah O’Driscoll, for Flight, Paramount Pictures
Dylan Tichenor, for Zero Dark Thirty, Columbia Pictures
Alexander Berner, for Cloud Atlas, Warner Bros
Chris Dickens, for Les Miserables, Universal

Sound (Editing and Mixing)
John Warhurst, Lee Walpole, Simon Hayes, for Les Miserables, Universal WINNER

• Dennis Leonard, Randy Thom, for Flight, Paramount Pictures

• Craig Henighan, Chris Munro, for Snow White & The Huntsman, Universal

• Baard H. Ingebretsen, Tormod Ringes, for Kon-Tiki, The Weinstein Co.

• Drew Kunin, Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton, for Life of Pi, Twentieth Century Fox

• Victor Ray Ennis, Ann Scibelli, John Cucci, Mark P. Stoeckinger for Prometheus Twentieth Century Fox

Art Direction & Production Design
Rick Carter, Curt Beech, David Crank, Leslie McDonald, for Lincoln, DreamWorks/Touchstone WINNER

• Nathan Crowley, Kevin Kavanaugh, James Hambidge, Naaman Marshall, for The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Bros.

• Niels Sejer, for A Royal Affair, Magnolia Pictures

• David Crank, Jack Fisk, for The Master, The Weinstein Co.

• Sarah Greenwood, Niall Moroney, Thomas Brown, Nick Gottschalk, Tom Still, for Anna Karenina, Focus Features

• Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson, for Les Miserables, Universal

Costume Design
Manon Rasmussen for A Royal Affair, Magnolia Pictures WINNER

Colleen Atwood for Snow White & The Huntsman, Universal
Christian Gasc, Valerie Ranchoux, for Farewell, My Queen, Cohen Media Group
Jacqueline Durran, for Anna Karenina, Focus Features
Kym Barrett, Pierre-Yves Gayraud, for Cloud Atlas, Warner Bros
Paco Delgado, for Les Miserables, Universal

Mary Pickford Award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to the Entertainment Industry: Terence Stamp

Nikola Tesla Award In Recognition of Visionary Achievement in Filmmaking Technology: Walter Murch

Auteur Award: Paul Williams

Honorary Satellite Award: Bruce Davison

Newcomer Award: Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Ensemble, Motion Picture: Les Miserables

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Full Frontal" a Frontal Assault on Hollywood Sameness

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 134 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Full Frontal (2002)
Running time: 101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and some sexual content
DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh
WRITER: Coleman Hough
PRODUCERS: Gregory Jacobs and Scott Kramer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Andrews (Steven Soderbergh)
EDITOR: Sarah Flack
COMPOSER: Jacques Davidovici


Starring: Julia Roberts, Blair Underwood, David Duchovny, Nicky Katt, Catherine Keener, David Hyde Pierce, Tracey Vilar, Mary McCormack, Jeff Garlin, Erika Alexander, Enrico Colantoni with Terrence Stamp, David Fincher, and Brad Pitt

Steven Soderbergh laid down the law to his large cast of stars for his low budget ($2 million) film, Full Frontal, denying them the amenities that movie stars have come to expect on the sets of films in which they appear (star). Apparently, he really wanted the focus to be on actually making a film and less on the celebrity politics of Hollywood filmmaking. Full Frontal is one of those “meta” films like Spike Jonze’s two films, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, in which there is a film within a film within a film, a story within a story, and a play within a play. All the elements: filmmakers, actors, characters, settings, story and script blend together to create some kind of hyper fictional/documentary movie hybrid.

Full Frontal follows a day in the life of a group of men and women in Hollywood as they approach an evening birthday party for their friend Gus/Bill (David Duchovny). If you’re wondering why Duchovny’s character has two names it’s because this is a movie within a movie, and some of the film’s characters have dual identities: one is a “real person” and the other is a fictional character. If this is confusing, it is because Full Frontal can be very hard to follow, unlike the aforementioned Spike Jonze films which were both written by Charlie Kaufman and which were both very easy to follow.

Julia Roberts and Blair Underwood (an under appreciated and underutilized actor likely because he is Africa-American) play dual parts and it’s a doozy to separate the lives of four characters that are so alike both professionally and personally. The script by Coleman Hough has that thing we all look for in a story that’s supposed to engage us – pathos. It is a fine dramatic presentation of several slices of several lives ably put to words, and Soderbergh expertly captures the sometimes-farcical nature of life and the sometimes quiet, sometimes manic nature of the beast that is romance.

Full Frontal is a movie within a movie and a film about filmmaking for people who really like movies. Yes, it’s sometimes confusing and following it is occasionally arduous, but numerous excellent performances, sharp film editing, and some neat star cameos make it worth the effort. Steven Soderbergh is a gifted, imaginative and inventive director who really loves to play around with the process of making movies, so anything he makes is not just interesting; it’s damn interesting. Plus, Full Frontal is such an absolute pleasure to watch, even if it bends the mind one too many times.

8 of 10

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Review: "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" Retains Its Innocence"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 31 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
Running time: 136 minutes (2 hours, 16 minutes)
MPAA – PG for sci-fi action/violence
PRODUCER: Rick McCallum
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Tattersall (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Ben Burtt and Paul Martin Smith
COMPOSER: John Williams
Academy Award nominee

SCI-FI/FANTASY/ACTION/ADVENTURE with elements of a thriller

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Pernilla August, (voice) Frank Oz, Ian McDiarmid, Oliver Ford Davies, Hugh Quarshie, (voice) Ahmed Best, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Terrence Stamp, Brian Blessed, Andrew Secombe, Ray Park, (voice) Lewis Macleod, Steven Spiers, Silas Carson, Ralph Brown, and Samuel L. Jackson

The 1999 film, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, is the fourth release in the Star Wars film franchise. It is also the first film in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, a series of three movies in which the stories take place before the events depicted in the original Star Wars trilogy: Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Return of the Jedi (1983). The Phantom Menace has been recently re-released as a 3D feature.

Back in 1999, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was highly-anticipated release, and although it was a tremendous success at the box office, the movie received mixed reviews from professional film critics and reviewers. The Phantom Menace received criticism from Star Wars fandom, some of it intense. However, I am a fan of The Phantom Menace, and it is my favorite of the three prequel films. My feelings about it are similar to a statement that Ewan McGregor, who starred in the film, made, and that is that The Phantom Menace is just a little fairy tale about a group of people running from one side of the galaxy to the other, having adventures. And I like going along with them on these adventures.

Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) are two Jedi Knights who must help Queen Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) save her planet Naboo from the Trade Federation, which is determined to take it. Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) is a Naboo outcast who joins the Jedi on their quest. After the group escapes from a Trade Federation-controlled Naboo, they land on the planet Tatooine, where they meet Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), a boy with the potential to be a powerful Jedi. Dark forces, however, hunt them in the guise of Darth Maul (Ray Park), an apprentice of the Sith, the Jedi’s ancient enemies.

Directed by George Lucas, The Phantom Menace is the first of three prequels to the original Star Wars movies (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi). Lucas doesn’t give his cast the room to stretch their characters, and his dialogue is mostly wooden and awkward. It is often painfully obvious in how unpolished both the acting and the writing is. Neeson has the most room to roam, but McGregor’s talent is sadly wasted. The driest performance has to be that of Lloyd as the young Anakin Skywalker, he his moments. Jar Jar Binks is a computer-generated character, and while Best does excellent work in creating a unique voice for the character, Jar Jar is an annoying character.

Other than that, TPM is a blast. In a way, it is like a fairy tale in which the cast runs from one hot spot to another, barely staying ahead of the bad guys. In the pod race sequence that occurs in the middle of the film, one can see Lucas’s ability to craft scenes of breath taking intensity that match the best car chases and chase scenes with the flair of the movie serials of Hollywood’s bygone era. Maul’s attack on Qui-Gon and, later, the final battle between the two Jedi and the Sith apprentice are exciting and beautifully staged. In fact, the action sequences are so good that they make up for TPM’s duller moments.

Although it doesn’t recall the excitement of Star Wars or have the dramatic impact of The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is fun. It doesn’t try to be quality filmmaking so much as it dares to be quality, lightweight entertainment. And at that, it is very good.

7 of 10

2000 Academy Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing” (Ben Burtt and Tom Bellfort), “Best Effects, Visual Effects” (John Knoll, Dennis Muren, Scott Squires, and Rob Coleman), and “Best Sound” (Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Shawn Murphy, and John Midgley)

2000 BAFTA Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects” (John Knoll, Dennis Muren, Scott Squires, and Rob Coleman) and “Best Sound” (Ben Burtt, Tom Bellfort, John Midgley, Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, and Shawn Murphy)

2000 Razzie Awards: 1 win: “Worst Supporting Actor” (Ahmed Best, the voice of Jar-Jar Binks); 6 nominations: “Worst Picture” (20th Century-Fox), “Worst Director” (George Lucas), “Worst Screen Couple” (Jake Lloyd and Natalie Portman), “Worst Screenplay” (George Lucas), “Worst Supporting Actor” (Jake Lloyd), and “Worst Supporting Actress” (Sofia Coppola)


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Steven Soderbergh Tries Noir in "The Limey"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 14 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Limey (1999)
Running time: 89 minutes (1 hour, 29 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence and language
DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh
WRITER: Lem Dobbs
PRODUCERS: John Hardy and Scott Kramer
EDITOR: Sarah Flack
COMPOSER: Cliff Martinez


Starring: Terence Stamp, Leslie Ann Warren, Luis Guzm√°, Peter Fonda, Barry Newman, and Nicky Katt

Director Steven Soderbergh’s (sex, lies, and videotape) style probably took a radical turn when he saw Quentin Tarantino’s film Jackie Brown. The juxtaposition to time and scenes that made Jackie Brown so engaging is very evident is Soderbergh’s excellent 1998 film, Out of Sight (which shared the same production company as Brown), but this isn’t a knock on him, like accusing him of merely coping. Artists absorb from their experiences. Soderbergh just happened to find another way to tell a film story that would not only force the audience to pay attention and follow the story, but that would also add a dimension to the time, setting, and characters.

He breaks into this new style with a stride in the neo-noir flick, The Limey. He uses flashbacks and flash forwards that might be flashbacks. He has dialogue that overlaps into the present or that runs over a scene that happened in the past. It is not at all confusing, but it is rather bracing. This is beautiful and delicious eye candy. You could find yourself wanting more of this time slippage, indeed, eagerly awaiting each new time shift in the narrative. I really liked how dialogue that is read in one scene, actually belongs in another, but relates to both. Soderbergh uses this not only to establish the story’s timeline, but to establish character and motivation. This seems to give a better understanding of what each character means to the story, whether his part be large or small. It brings so much depth to the film and makes it all the more interesting.

Soderbergh has previously worked with The Limey screenwriter, Lem Dobbs, in Kafka from 1991. They have something special together although Dobbs had complained at the time that Soderbergh had taken liberties with the Kafka script that Dobbs didn’t like. Together they create something that isn’t just different; it’s also a kind of cinematic storytelling that takes advantage of all of film’s visual possibilities.

The story, about an English father who comes to the United States to confront the man he considers responsible for his daughter’s death, is very good. Things aren’t what they seem because what starts out as a hardboiled tale becomes a study of two men’s past and how that shapes their relationship with the same woman. Terence Stamp (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), as the matter of fact rogue, is endearing in an odd sort of way, and the supporting cast, including Lesley Ann Warren, Luiz Guzman, and Peter Fonda, serve the story and the lead quite well.

This is a little film that passed people by, but fans of Soderbergh or Stamp’s work shouldn’t miss it. The Limey is a quality film on a landscape that is covered with too many movies that leave you with an empty feeling.

7 of 10

Monday, August 8, 2011

"The Adjustment Bureau" Has Slightly Christian Take on Philip K. Dick

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 67 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
Running time: 106 minutes (1 hour, 46 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image
DIRECTOR: George Nolfi
WRITER: George Nolfi (based upon the short story, “Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick)
PRODUCERS: Bill Carraro, Michael Hackett, Chris Moore, and George Nolfi
EDITOR: Jay Rabinowitz
COMPOSER: Thomas Newman


Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Terrence Stamp, Michael Kelly, and Anthony Ruivivar

The Adjustment Bureau is a 2011 fantasy drama and romantic thriller starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. The film is based upon “Adjustment Team,” a short story by Philip K. Dick first published in 1954 (in Orbit Science Fiction magazine). The film tells the story of a romance between a politician and a ballerina imperiled by a group of men determined to keep them apart.

David Norris (Matt Damon) is a rising political star who hits a bump on his road to glory, but this disappointment causes him to meet, Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), a contemporary ballet dancer. Entranced by her, David is sure that he and Elise were meant to be together. It is then that he meets a group of mysterious men in hats conspiring to keep them apart.

The men work for The Adjustment Bureau, and these agents of Fate want David to quit Elise and accept a predetermined path they have set for him. They are going to do everything in their considerable powers to stop David and Elise from being together. But David is willing to risk everything to be with Elise, and an unusual member of The Adjustment Bureau named Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie) may be the only one who can help David determine his own fate.

The Adjustment Bureau has some interesting ideas, being part metaphysical science fiction with religious themes throughout. Philip K. Dick’s original story was a parable about how defenseless and helpless man is when he goes up against the “Grand Design” or fate. The Adjustment Bureau takes that idea and gives it a somewhat Christian spin and pits that age-old battle of man’s free will against the grand design of God, called “The Chairman” in this movie.

For all its philosophical ambitions, The Adjustment Bureau is a film that seems to be going through the motions for much of the movie. The film doesn’t spring to life until the last half hour when the central conflict stops being philosophical and theoretical and becomes actual conflict. In fact, it is that last half hour that takes this film from average to good.

The Adjustment Bureau has a talented cast. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt not only deliver solid performances, but they also actually have good chemistry and are a convincing screen couple. Anthony Mackie gives a layered, thoughtful performance as Harry Mitchell; whenever he is onscreen, The Adjustment Bureau is at its best.

6 of 10

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: Michael Douglas' Performance in Original "Wall Street" Still Amazes

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 104 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Wall Street (1987)
Running time: 126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Oliver Stone
WRITERS: Stanley Weiser and Oliver Stone
PRODUCER: Edward R. Pressman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Richardson (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Claire Simpson
COMPOSER: Stewart Copeland
Academy Award winner


Starring: Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Darryl Hannah, Martin Sheen, John C. McGinley, Hal Holbrook, James Karen, Terrence Stamp, Sean Young, James Spader, Saul Rubinek, and Tamara Tunie

Although I was hot to see it when it was first released, I finally watched director Oliver Stone’s Wall Street – 23 years after it debuted in theatres. The film, which follows a young stockbroker’s adventures with an immoral corporate raider, is certainly one of Stone’s most popular films.

Wall Street opens in 1985, as Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), a junior stockbroker (salesman) at Jackson Steinem & Co., struggles to get out of a rut and make it big. Fox wants to become involved with his hero, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), the corporate raider and Wall Street player who is legendary for both his ruthlessness and his success. Bud’s father, Carl (Martin Sheen), an airline maintenance worker and union president, inadvertently provides his son with the information that captures Gekko’s interest. Gekko takes on Bud as a kind of apprentice and co-conspirator and helps him to become wealthy. Bud also gets a new girlfriend, an interior decorator named Darien (Daryl Hannah), a close friend of Gekko’s. Bud, however, begins to lose himself the deeper he goes in with Gekko.

Michael Douglas’ performance as Gordon Gekko is one of the best of the last quarter of the 20th century. Simply, it is magnificent. It is hard to believe that at the time of the film, Douglas was apparently considered a mediocre actor – more of a film producer than a performer. In Douglas’ hands, Gekko not only personifies “Wall Street greed,” but also the nature of greed and the competitive urge in humanity. Douglas as Gekko could make you think the phrase, “tour de force,” was created specifically to describe such an awesome and awe-inspiring performance. Like Raging Bull, Wall Street is a movie that enters the rarefied air of remarkable dramatic films made important because of great performances by lead actors.

Still, Wall Street is not completely about Michael Douglas. Charlie Sheen’s stiff-acting style actually makes Bud Fox the perfect dupe/foil for Gekko. Sheen’s (then) exceedingly fresh-looking baby face embodies America’s youth (relatively speaking), and his facial expressions are all about lust for success and money. At other times, Sheen depicts in Fox that inherent guilt that keeps our gluttony and baser appetites in check, for the most part.

Oliver Stone even draws out Wall Street’s religious subtext in scenes where the devilish Gekko mentors (or tempts) Fox on how to get ahead the unethical and illegal way. Stone and Douglas are quite good at presenting their vision of greed. Wall Street makes it look sexy – as if greed were really good, as Gekko says in his legendary monologue. Wall Street is still fantastic, and it may make you remember just how good Stone and Douglas were when they were at the top of their respective games.

8 of 10

1988 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Michael Douglas)

1988 Golden Globes: 1 win: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Michael Douglas)

1988 Razzie Awards: 1 win: “Worst Supporting Actress” (Daryl Hannah)

Monday, December 20, 2010