Showing posts with label book adaptation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book adaptation. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Review: Stanley Kubrick's "THE KILLING" is Still Killer Noir

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 85 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Killing (1956) – B&W
Running time:  85 minutes (1 hour, 25 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Stanley Kubrick
WRITERS:  Stanley Kubrick with Jim Thompson for additional dialogue (based upon the novel by Lionel White)
PRODUCER:  James B. Harris
EDITOR:  Betty Steinberg
COMPOSER:  Gerald Fried


Starring:  Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Elisha Cook, Jr., Marie Windsor, Ted DeCorsia, Joe Sawyer, James Edwards, Timothy Carey, Joseph Turkel, Jay Adler, Kola Kwariani, and Art Gilmore (narrator)

The Killing is a 1956 American Film-Noir thriller and crime drama from director Stanley Kubrick.  The film is based upon the 1955 novel, Clean Break, from author Lionel White.  The film follows a veteran criminal who assembles a five-man team to help him pull off a daring racetrack robbery.

Mention Stanley Kubrick’s name and most film fans will immediately think of his films such as Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, or later Kubrick films like The Shining and Full Metal Jacket.  Not many will remember the film that first earned him the notice of Hollywood heavyweights like Kirk Douglas and Marlon Brando, a terrific little film-noir gem called, The Killing.

After spending five years in Alcatraz, ex-convict Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) decides that if he’s going to commit crimes, the reward should be worth the risk, and he’s found one that’s very worth the risk – a million dollar heist of a racetrack.  Clay masterminds a brilliant and complicated scheme to steal $2,000,000, and recruits several conspirators including track employees and a crooked cop.  The only flaw in Johnny’s near-perfect plan is that one of his gang members, George Peatty (Elisha Cook), tells his shrewish wife, Sherry (Marie Windsor), about the planned robbery, and she shares it with her boyfriend.  Add a little dog and things get complicated very quickly.

The Killing is one of the best heist films I’ve ever seen.  A superb cast of character actors, most used to playing tough guys, policeman, and shady types, gives this film a solid Film-Noir atmosphere and creates a edgy, taunt little thriller that you can’t stop watching until its concluded.  Sterling Hayden plays Johnny Clay as a firm, no-nonsense guy that any hood would follow, and in a quiet, subtle fashion, he gives this film added edge.

Stanley Kubrick shaped The Killing using a non-linear structure, in which the narrative moves backwards and forwards in time.  Many viewers will recognize non-linear structure as a Quentin Tarantino signature style in such films as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.  In fact, Tarantino credits The Killing with influencing his decision to shape his film narratives in a non-linear structure.

The film has a few problems that keep it from being a truly great film.  Art Gilmore’s narration is poor, delivered in that stereotypical monotone used for crime films.  Some of the dialogue is a bit too stiff, and the film drags much of the first half hour.  However, The Killing pays off the viewers’ patience quite handsomely in the form of an excellent crime film about small time hoods masterminding the perfectly plotted heist.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Original Post:  Sunday, June 03, 2007

EDITED: Wednesday, May 1, 2024

1957 BAFTA Film Award:  1 nomination: “Best Film from any Source” (USA)

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint or syndication rights and fees.


Saturday, February 24, 2024

Review: "MEG 2: THE TRENCH" is Truly Megilicious

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 13 of 2024 (No. 1957) by Leroy Douresseaux

Meg 2: The Trench (2023)
Running time:  116 minutes (1 hour, 56 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for action/violence, some bloody images, language and brief suggestive material
DIRECTOR:  Ben Wheatley
WRITERS:  Dean Georgaris and Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber; from a screen story by Dean Georgaris and Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber (based on the novel by Steve Alten)
PRODUCERS:  Belle Avery and Lorenzo di Bonaventura
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Haris Zambarloukos (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Jonathan Amos
COMPOSER:  Harry Gregson-Williams


Starring:  Jason Statham, Jing Wu, Cliff Curtis, Sophia Cai, Page Kennedy, Sergio Peris Mencheta, Skyler Samuels, Melissanthi Mahut, Whoopie Van Raam, Kiran Sonia Sawar, Felix Mayr, Ivy Tsui, and Sienna Guillory



Meg 2: The Trench offers the same fun as the original film, The Meg (2018), but with all new monsters, villains, and action.

Jason Statham's Jonas Taylor does not dominate the new film as he did in the first, but Statham is still at his action-movie best.

I like Meg 2: The Trench enough that I want a third film... as soon as possible.


Meg 2: The Trench is a 2023 science fiction, horror, and action film directed by Ben Wheatley and starring Jason Statham.  The movie is a direct sequel to the 2018 film, The MegMeg 2: The Trench finds a research team fending off giant sharks and also the murderous criminals behind a malevolent mining operation in some of the greatest depths of “the Trench.”

Meg 2: The Trench opens several years after the events of the first film.  Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), the diver who specializes in deep sea search and rescue, has been involved in fighting environmental crimes on the ocean.  He is also helping the underwater research facility, Mana One, in exploring a further deep part of the Mariana Trench where the Megalodon of the original film was discovered.

Following the death of Suyin Zhang (which is not show onscreen), Jonas has been raising her teenage daughter, now 14-year-old Meiying (Sophia Cai), alongside her uncle and Suyin's brother, Jiuming Zhang (Jing Wu).  Jiuming has acquired his father's company, X-Pletandum Technologies, alongside wealthy financier, Hillary Driscoll (Sienna Guillory).  Jiuming has also been studying an 80 ft (24 m) female Meg called Haiqi, who was discovered as a pup and trained by Jiuming, but who has been acting erratically of late.

Jonas returns to Mana One where he and the survivors of the first Meg disaster, Mac (Cliff Curtis), Mana One operations manager, and DJ (Page Kennedy), a Mana One engineer, join Jiuming's latest project.  He wants to explore more of the Mariana Trench, unaware that here are more Megs and also now human danger with which to contend.  Can Jonas save the day, again?

The first film, The Meg, is loosely based on Steve Alten's 1997 novel, Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror.  Meg 2: The Trench is based on Alten's 1999 novel, The Trench, one of six sequels to the original novel, with a seventh due in 2024 or 2025.  I have enjoyed the two films so much that I am considering reading, at least, some of the novels.

I gave The Meg a grade of “C+,” but in the years since I first saw it, I have come to love it.  It is one of my favorite films, and now I would give it a “B+.”  Meg 2: The Trench starts off slowly, but the film really kicks into gear when the story returns to Mana One, the central setting of the first film.  The Trench is not a retread, as most of the action set pieces are new.  There are a few references to the first film, but the writers of the original film return to offer new jump-scares, new monsters, and an added number of awful humans.

Meg 2: The Trench gives Jason Statham's Jonas Taylor the chance to show off his martial art fighting skills, which he did not do in the first film.  In fact, one of the other returning characters gets to kick some butt, and the sequel actually gives several characters their own set pieces so that they can shine.

Meg 2 isn't great cinema, but it is a great time at the movies.  It is upgraded, campy monster movie fun that will have you swept up, dear readers, if you are willing to be swept up.  I had a blast watching it, and I heartily recommend it to fans of the first film.  Meg 2: The Trench makes me hope we get to see more Megs and more Trench in a third film.

7 out of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Review: DreamWorks' "ORION AND THE DARK" Takes on Childhood Fears

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 12 of 2024 (No. 1956) by Leroy Douresseaux

Orion and the Dark (2024)
Running time:  93 minutes (1 hour, 33 minutes)
MPA – not rated
DIRECTOR:  Sean Charmatz
WRITERS:  Charlie Kaufman (based on the book by Emma Yarlett)
PRODUCER:  Peter McCown
EDITOR:  Kevin Sukho Lee
COMPOSERS:  Kevin Lax and Robert Lydecker


Starring:  (voices): Jacob Tremblay, Paul Walter Hauser, Colin Hanks, Mia Akemi Brown, Ike Barinholtz, Nat Faxon, Golda Rosheuvel, Natasia Demetriou, Aparna Nancherla, Carla Gugino, Matt Dellapina, Nick Kishiyama, Shino Nakamichi, Werner Herzog, and Angela Bassett


Orion and the Dark is a unique animated film that is about a child learning to accept fear as a part of life without letting it control him.

Orion and the Dark has an eclectic cast full of surprising characters, but Orion and Dark are this film's winning pair.

Orion and the Dark is a good family film, especially for parents and for children who are of middle grade age and younger.  I find it to be too deep in its feelies, but it will tug on the heartstrings of its intended audience.

Orion and the Dark is a 2024 animated fantasy-adventure and comedy-drama film directed by Sean Charmatz and produced by DreamWorks Animation.  The film is animated by French production company, Mikros Animation, and is also a “Netflix Original” that began streaming on Netflix February 2, 2024.

Orion and the Dark is based on the 2015 children's book, Orion and the Dark, from author Emma Yarlett.  Orion and the Dark the movie focuses on a boy whose active imagination causes him to be scared of everything and on the entity that takes him on an incredible journey.

Orion and the Dark introduces 11-year-old Orion Mendelson (Jacob Tremblay).  He is a severely anxious child with a long list of irrational fears.  He is a schoolboy with a fear of speaking in front of class, being bullied, ending up in a toilet, and a fear of speaking to Sally (Shino Nakamichi), the girl of his dreams, of course.  Outside of school, he also has a bunch of fears, including the fear of getting eaten by a shark, but at home its is worse.

Orion is afraid of the night, especially of the dark and of all the dark places in his bedroom.  Orion's father (Matt Dellapina) and mother (Carla Gugino) have a difficult time getting him to bed.  One night a giant, smiling creature slithers into his room.  He introduces himself as “Dark,” the embodiment of Orion's worst fear, the dark.  Tired of hearing Orion's constant complaints about him (the dark), Dark takes the 11-year-old on an adventure to help him overcome his fears and to appreciate the benefits of nighttime and of the dark.  But there are plenty of dangers along the way, including Dark's rival, “Light” (Ike Barinholtz), and Orion's own deep-seated fears.

Orion and the Dark is a beautifully animated film with simple, but evocative character and concept design.  It took me awhile to remember that Orion and the Dark reminds me of the 2014 DreamWorks Animation film, Mr. Peabody & Sherman.  Both films share a visual aesthetic, possibly because artist and designer, Timothy Lamb, served as the production designer on the two films.  Both films also convey their fantastical settings and surreal environments via eye-appealing art and design that have a children's picture book quality.  

I do have one gripe about Orion and the Dark.  The film does have a heart – a center – which is that both Orion and Dark have to learn something about themselves and to overcome self-doubt.  The film, however, also has sentiment, and it is, at times, exceedingly sentimental, which can be both heartwarming and saccharine.  Orion and the Dark is sometimes too much in its emotions and feelies, so much so that by the end, I thought the film was trying to give me an insulin attack.  Orion and the Dark pounds on its parent-child themes and dynamics with schmaltzy consistency.

I want to avoid spoilers.  Still, I will say that Orion and the Dark does have a time-travel subplot courtesy of screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind), who is known for creating elaborate, twisty, meta screenplays.  Orion and the Dark has several interesting supporting characters, especially Dark's fellow “Night Entities,” so many so that I could see it becoming an animated television series.  Orion and the Dark is unique and quite well made, and many may find its heartwarming insistence just what we need in these dark times.

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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Sunday, June 25, 2023

Review: Steven Spielberg's "EMPIRE OF THE SUN"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 27 of 2023 (No. 1916) by Leroy Douresseaux

Empire of the Sun (1987)
Running time:  153 minutes (2 hours, 33 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Steven Spielberg
WRITER:  Tom Stoppard (based on the novel by J.G. Ballard)
PRODUCERS:  Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, and Kathleen Kennedy
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Allen Daviau (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Michael Kahn
COMPOSER:  John Williams
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Christian Bale, John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson, Nigel Havers, Joe Pantoliano, Leslie Phillips, Masato Ibu, Emily Richard, Rupert Frazer, Peter Gale, Takataro Kataoka, and Ben Stiller

Empire of the Sun is a 1987 wartime drama and historical film directed by Steven Spielberg.  The film is based on the 1984 semi-autobiographical novel, Empire of the Sun, from author J.G. Ballard (1930-2009).  Empire of the Sun the film focuses on a young English boy who is separated from his parents and then, struggles to survive the Japanese occupation of China during World War II

Empire of the Sun opens in 1941 in the “International Settlement,” an enclave of British and American citizens in Shanghai, ChinaJames “Jamie” Graham is the only child of an British upper middle class couple, John Graham (Rupert Frazer) and Mary Graham (Emily Richard).  Jamie enjoys a privileged life in the International Settlement, but he keeps an eye on the activities of the Japanese who have encroached on Shanghai.  After their attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese begin their occupation of the settlement.  During the family's bid to escape, Jamie is separated from his parents.

Eventually, Jamie is taken prisoner and moved into an internment camp.  He survives by befriending the American expatriate and hustler, Basie (John Malkovich), and also the kindly Englishman, Dr. Rawlins (Nigel Havers).  Now, called “Jim” by everyone, he establishes a successful trading network that keeps him with food and necessities.  As World War II drags on, however, Jim realizes that he no longer remembers what his parents look like.

Last year, I began watching and, in some cases, re-watching early Steven Spielberg films, such as Duel, Jaws, and 1941, in anticipation of Spielberg's autobiographical film, The Fabelmans, which was released in 2022.  The film has long since completed its theatrical run, but there remained Spielberg films I wanted to see.  I had been putting off watching Empire of the Sun for 36 years, and my best resource to see it, DVDNetflix, is closing soon.  So why not see Empire of the Sun now?

What can I say?  Empire of the Sun is not one of Spielberg's better films.  It does not really have a narrative center, and the plot is unfixed.  The film plays like a series of anecdotes – many, many, many anecdotes – played over a film that runs nearly two and a half hours long.  Some of the scenes have great emotional impact, such as Jim's reunion with his parents and even that last shot of the suitcase in the water.  Still, overall, the film lacks dramatic heft and emotion.  It's too cold and is disjointed.  Instead of feeling like a narrative that flows from beginning to end, Empire of the Sun feels like individual pages from a children's picture book.

If Empire of the Sun is a coming-of-age story and a boys' adventure tale, then, the film needs a great boy.  That is what actor Christian Bale is for this film.  All of 13-years-old when filming began, Bale carries Empire of the Sun with the tenacity and acting chops of an actor more than twice his age.  Bale embodies the emotional depth and dramatic depth that this film lacks as a whole.  None of the other actors' performances approach his, not because they are bad, but because neither Spielberg nor Tom Stoppard's script gives them the space and material.

Spielberg makes this film seem as if its true purpose is to be about a boy and his wartime adventures.  Thus, none of the Japanese elements really feel as if they have the force of an empire behind them.  Still, the focus on Jim Graham works because Christian Bale is the child emperor of Empire of the Sun.

6 of 10
★★★ out of 4 stars

Sunday, June 25, 2023

1988 Academy Awards, USA:  6 nominations:  “Best Cinematography” (Allen Daviau), “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (Norman Reynolds and Harry Cordwell), “Best Costume Design” (Bob Ringwood), “Best Sound” (Robert Knudson, Don Digirolamo, John Boyd, and Tony Dawe), “Best Film Editing” (Michael Kahn), and “Best Music, Original Score” (John Williams)

1989 BAFTA Awards:  3 wins: “Best Cinematography” (Allen Daviau), “Best Score” (John Williams), and “Best Sound” (Charles L. Campbell, Louis L. Edemann, Robert Knudson, and Tony Dawe); 3 nominations:  “Best Screenplay-Adapted” (Tom Stoppard), “Best Costume Design” (Bob Ringwood), and “Best Production Design” (Norman Reynolds)

1988 Golden Globes, USA  2 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Drama” and “Best Original Score-Motion Picture” (John Williams)

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site or blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



Saturday, April 1, 2023

Review: "THE BAD GUYS" is A.C.E. (Average, Cute & Entertaining)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 16 of 2023 (No. 1905) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Bad Guys (2022)
Running time:  100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
MPAA – PG for action and rude humor
DIRECTOR:  Pierre Perifel
WRITERS:  Etan Cohen (based on the books by Aaron Blabey)
PRODUCERS:  Rebecca Huntley and Damon Ross
EDITOR:  John Venzon
COMPOSER:  Daniel Pemberton


Starring:  (voices):  Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Awkwafina, Craig Robinson, Anthony Ramos, Richard Ayoade, Zazie Beetz, Alex Borstein, and Lilly Singh

The Bad Guys is a 2022 computer-animated crime comedy and adventure fantasy film directed by Pierre Perifel and produced by DreamWorks Animation.  The film is loosely based on the children's book series, The Bad Guys, by Aaron Blabey.  The Bad Guys the movie focuses on a gang of notorious animal criminals pretending to want to be rehabilitated until circumstances force them to really attempt to do something good.

The Bad Guys is set in a world in which humans co-exist with anthropomorphic animals (animals that talk and act like humans).  The film introduces “The Bad Guys,” a gang of five infamous criminal animals known for their numerous thefts and their uncanny ability to evade authorities.  The Bad Guys are Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), a cool and slick pickpocket who is the team's leader; Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), a safe-cracking snake who is Wolf's second-in-command and best friend; Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina), a sarcastic hacker also known as “Webs;” Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson), a sensitive and child-like master of disguise; and Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos), the sharp-tongued tough guy and muscle of the group.

Their latest target is the “Golden Dolphin,” a trophy to be handed out at the “Annual Good Samaritan Awards” being held at the Museum of Fine Arts.  The Golden Dolphin will be awarded to Professor Rupert Marmalade IV, a wealthy guinea pig philanthropist whose generosity is almost as good as that of Mother Teresa.  The event will also be attended by Governor Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz) and Police Chief Misty Luggins (Alex Borstein), a husky female law enforcement who is determined to nab the Bad Guys.

When the Bad Guys are nabbed, Mr. Wolf accepts an offer from Professor Marmalade, with Gov. Foxington's approval, to reform and rehabilitate the Bad Guys.  There are problems with that.  Mr. Snake is reluctant to be reformed.  Not everyone is truthful about their roles in this plan or honest about their identity.  But a part of Mr. Wolf secretly really wants to change his ways.

I created a new acronym for big studio, computer-animated (or CG animated) feature films aimed at the family audience.  It is “A.C.E.,” which means “Average, Cute & Entertaining.”  According to an April 2022 feature in the Los Angeles Times about The Bad Guys, the film's design is inspired by Sony Pictures Animation's 2018, Oscar-winning film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which mixed both a 3D and a 2D aesthetic in its design.  Honestly, I can't tell that just by watching the film.  I can tell that The Bad Guys also mixes 2D and 3D graphics and design elements, but The Bad Guys' animation lacks the spark of the highly-acclaimed Spider-Man film.

The characters are mildly amusing and interesting, but they seem more like types than actual characters.  The only character that I really liked is a kitten that is not anthropomorphic and does not talk.  Just as Disney/Pixar's Lightyear was uplifted by the robotic cat, “Sox,” The Bad Guys receive a jolt when this unnamed kitten appears.

Even the voice acting in The Bad Guys seems only kind of inspired.  Sam Rockwell is too cool for his character, Mr. Wolf's own good.  I can't believe that Zazie Beetz provides the voice for Governor Foxington because this distinctive performer sounds like a generic female voice performer.

So there it is.  The Bad Guys is average entertainment, but cute average entertainment.  There is a good chance that young audiences will adore it, but I kinda wish I hadn't bothered with it – except I would have missed the adorable kitty.

5 of 10
★★½ out of 4 stars

Friday, March 31, 2023

2023 Black Reel Awards:  1 nomination: “Outstanding Voice Performance” (Zazie Beetz)

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



Sunday, March 19, 2023

Review: What's Love Got to Do With It" - The First Time the Oscars Screwed Angela Bassett

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 13 of 2023 (No. 1902) by Leroy Douresseaux

What's Love Got to Do With It (1993)
Running time:  118 minutes (1 hour, 58 minutes)
MPAA – R for domestic violence, strong language, drug use and some sexuality
DIRECTOR:  Brian Gibson
WRITER:  Kate Lanier (based on the book, I, Tina, by Tina Turner and Kurt Loder)
PRODUCERS:  Doug Chapin, Barry Krost, and Kate Lanier
EDITOR:  Stuart Pappé
COMPOSER:  Stanley Clarke
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Jenifer Lewis, Chi McBride, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Pamela Tyson, Khandi Alexander, Penny Johnson, Richard T. Jones, James Reyne, and RaéVen Kelly

What's Love Got to Do with It is a 1993 biopic and music film directed by Brian Gibson.  It is an adaptation of the 1986 autobiography, I, Tina, by Tina Turner and Kurt Loder and is also based on the life of American music icon and Grammy Award-winning recording artist, Tina Turner.

The film takes its name from Tina's 1984 hit single, “What's Love Got to Do with It,” which was a Billboard magazine “Hot 100” #1 single.  What's Love Got to Do With It the movie is a fictional depiction of Tina's professional and personal life with her former husband, the late Ike Turner (1931-2007), who was a musician, bandleader, record producer, singer-songwriter and Grammy Award winner.  The film follows Tina Turner's life from her upbringing in rural Tennessee (early 1950s), through her rise to music stardom and her abusive marriage to Ike Turner (1960s-70s), and finally, to her career revival as a solo artist (early to mid 1980s).

What's Love Got to Do with It introduces Anna Mae Bullock (Angela Bassett).  In 1958, she moves to St. Louis where she reunites with her elder sister, Alline Bullock (Phyllis Yvonne Stickney), and her mother, Zelma Bullock (Jenifer Lewis). Not long after her arrival, Anna is taken by Alline to a nightclub at East St. Louis where she sees a performance by “Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm.”  Ike Turner (Laurence Fishburne) is a charismatic bandleader, and Anna, who likes to sing, wishes she could perform with his wild band, the Kings of Rhythm.

When she finally gets a chance to perform onstage with Ike and his band, Anna impresses him with her singing and her exuberant stage presence.  Ike offers to mentor Anna and to produce her music, and he gives her the stage name “Tina Turner.”  In time, Ike and Anna develop a close relationship and eventually marry.  The musical act, “Ike & Tina Turner” (the “Ike & Tina Turner Revue” when performing live) become stars, but Ike has a dark side.  He is addicted to narcotics and is violent and abusive.  And Tina feels the brunt of his physical abuse.  Will Anna/Tina find the courage to break away from him and forge her own career path?

Until recently, I had never watched What's Love Got to Do with It in its entirety.  I decided to watch it in anticipation of Angela Bassett hopefully winning the “Best Supporting Actress” Oscar at the recent 95th Academy Awards (March 12, 2023) for her performance as “Queen Ramonda” in Disney/Marvel Studios' hit film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.  Unfortunately, Bassett did not win, nor did she win the “Best Actress” Oscar for which she was nominated 29 years ago for her performance in What's Love Got to Do with It?

The shame of it is that in the case of What's Love Got to Do with It, it is Bassett's performance, along with Laurence Fishburne's, that carries this film.  Quality wise and in terms of production and execution, What's Love Got to Do with It is a theatrical film that plays like a television movies.  Had What's Love Got to Do with It been a TV movie it would have been a much-talked about “television event,” but the end result would have been an elevated melodrama.

The film's direction, by the late Brian Gibson (1944-2004), emphasizes spousal abuse as style over the substance of plot and character.  The screenplay, written by Kate Lanier (who is also one of the film's producers), suffers from what plagues many biographical films and celebrity biopics.  That is the problem with time.  Rather than focus on a specific and pivotal moment in time, What's Love Got to Do with It, like other biopics, covers multiple decades.  By my estimation, the film covers roughly 1950 to 1983.  The first depiction of Ike abusing Tina is about 55 minutes into the movie, but one of the supporting characters states that this particular incident isn't the first time Ike has hit Tina.  So basically, the film skips over key early moments in Ike and Tina's tumultuous relationship.  [Both Tina and Ike apparently were not happy with the accuracy of this film.]

What's Love Got to Do with It is elevated because of the performances by both Bassett and Fishburne, as well as those of the supporting cast.  Jenifer Lewis proves once again why she is a national film treasure as Anna's mother, Zelma.  The shamefully underrated and underutilized Vanessa Bell Calloway shines in important and key moments of this film.  Laurence Fishburne does more than just make Ike Turner a monster.  He deftly conveys Ike's bitterness and resentment and especially his sense that he has never really gotten what he deserves in terms of financial success, record sales, and industry credit for what he contributed to both the art and business of popular music.

The treasure in What's Love Got to Do with It is, of course, Angela Bassett.  The real-life Tina Turner's voice was dubbed into this movie for the scenes in which Bassett's Turner has to sing.  Still, Bassett offers a richly crafted fictional version of Anna Mae Bullock/Tina Turner.  Her emotions resonate, and her joy and happiness, love and pride, and fear and sorrow come across as genuine.  In this film's quiet, reflective moments, Bassett seems as if she is really thinking Tina's thoughts.  That alone should have earned Bassett an Oscar win back on March 21, 1994 at the 66th Academy Awards.  What should have made Bassett a shoo-in is the physicality of her performance and the way she transformed her body for the role.  It's all superb:  the dancing, posing, and movement on stage; how she mimics the real Tina Turner's facial expressions on stage and when she sings; and the way Bassett carries herself and moves through the trials and tribulations of her life offstage as Ike Turner's wife.

Let's be honest; What's Love Got to Do with It would work better as a TV miniseries.  Let's be real; if Angela Bassett were a white actress, she would have won an Oscar already, probably for What' s Love Got to Do with It.  Not having an Oscar does not change the fact that Bassett has been one of the most versatile and charismatic actors of the large and small screen.  Bassett has also given commanding performances and has been a dominating presence in a number of supporting and small roles in popular films released over the better part of the last four decades.  Although Bassett has not received her Oscar crown, her performance in What's Love Got to Do with It remains her crowning achievement … in a career that should have had more of them since then.

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Sunday, March 19, 2023

1994 Academy Awards, USA:  2 nominations:  “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Laurence Fishburne) and “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Angela Bassett)

1994 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” (Angela Bassett)

1995 Image Awards (NAACP): 1 win: “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture” (Angela Bassett); 3 nominations: “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Laurence Fishburne), “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Jenifer Lewis), and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Vanessa Bell Calloway)

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.



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Thursday, February 16, 2023

Review: Spielberg's "THE COLOR PURPLE" Still Wants to Be Seen (Celebrating "The Fabelmans")

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 7 of 2023 (No. 1896) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Color Purple (1985)
Running time:  154 minutes (2 hours, 34 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13
DIRECTOR:  Steven Spielberg
WRITER:  Menno Meyjes (based on the novel by Alice Walker)
PRODUCERS:  Steven Spielberg; Quincy Jones, Frank Marshall, and Kathleen Kennedy
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Allen Daviau (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Michael Kahn
COMPOSER:  Quincy Jones
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Whoopi Golderg, Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Avery, Willard E. Pugh, Akosua Busia, Desreta Jackson, Adolph Caesar, Rae Dawn Chong, Dana Ivey, Leonard Jackson, Bennet Guillory, and Laurence Fishburne

The Color Purple is a 1985 drama and period film directed by Steven Spielberg.  The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel, The Color Purple, by author Alice Walker.  The Color Purple the movie focuses on an African-American woman who suffers abuse from the men in her life, but finds strength in the women close to her.

The Color Purple opens in 1909, in rural Hartwell County, GeorgiaCelie Harris (Desreta Jackson) is a teenage African-American girl living with an abusive father who rapes her.  He has already fathered two children by Celie, both of which he sold shortly after Celie gave birth.  Celie's father eventually gives her to an older man named Albert Johnson (Danny Glover), who Celie calls “Mister.”

A widower with three children, Mister initially wants to marry Celie's younger sister, Nettie (Akosua Busia).  Now, Mister abuses Celie, while his children also mistreat her.  One day, Nettie arrives at Mister's door, thrown out after rejecting her father's advances.  Nettie eventually also has to fight off a rape attempt by Mister, who promptly throws her off his property.

In the years and decades that follow, an adult Celie (Whoopi Goldberg), grown meek from years of abuse, finds strength in two other women.  The first is Mister's daughter law, Sofia (Oprah Winfrey).  The second is a woman Mister once wanted to marry, jook joint singer, Shug Avery (Margaret Avery).  For Celie, however, there are still great secrets from her past that will eventually be revealed.

It had been nearly 37 years since I last watched The Color Purple.  I cried so much during the first time I saw it that I had not been able to watch it again until now.  Over the years, I planned to view it a number of times, especially during the twentieth (2005) and twenty-fifth (2010) anniversaries of its original release.  It is also one of my favorite directorial efforts by Steven Spielberg.  I forced myself to watch it again because of my “celebration” of the release of Spielberg's recent autobiographical film, The Fabelmans.

The film's themes of domestic violence, pedophilia, and sexism still resonate, and, for me, the themes of racism and sexism seem to have strengthen with time.  The screenplay does so much to emphasize these themes that it is as if it creates a world within the larger world where abuse and degradation are the natural order.  Over the years, I have encountered people, mostly black men, who say that the film makes black men look bad.  I say that the film makes an honest portrayal of the abuse that black women faced in the past – from both black and white men.  [Over time, I have spoken with African-American women who personally knew older African-American women whose experiences are of the exact kind of abuse faced by Celie, Nettie, Sofia and other women in the film.]

That aside, I consider The Color Purple to be one of Spielberg's most subtle efforts as a director.  Some contemporaneous commentary said that the film was overly sentimental, but I find that Spielberg allows the film's narrative and characters to grow naturally from the screenplay.  In collaboration with his longtime editor, the Oscar-winning Michael Kahn (nominated here), Spielberg creates the illusion that he is simply capturing the evolution of Celie's tale from its harsh beginnings to its golden-hued happy ending.  The Color Purple feels organic … although I don't think anyone would have described it as such when it was first released.

One of the most impressive things about The Color Purple is that two its best performances are by actresses who have little or no acting experience – Whoopi Golderg as Celie and Oprah Winfrey as Sofia.  Spielberg gets these performers to create characters that are unique in form and substance.  To me, characters like Celie and Sofia seem so genuine because they were utterly new to American cinema, and truthfully, there has been nothing like them since.

Truthfully, all the film's performances are unique and winning.  Margaret Avery amazingly makes her Shug Avery an oasis in the often relentless pain of this film.  Danny Glover is also brilliantly cruel as the awful Mister, and Willard Pugh is sweet and charming as his son and Sofia's husband, the hapless Harpo.

At the 58th Academy Awards, The Color Purple did not win in any of the 11 categories in which it was nominated.  In fact, Steven Spielberg did not even receive a “Best Director” Oscar nomination.  In the decades since its release, The Color Purple remains as relevant today as it was being a historical and monumental release in 1985 and 1986.  The films that bested it at the Oscars are largely forgotten compared to it.  Alice Walker's novel was also adapted into a 2005 Broadway musical, and the film adaptation of that musical is scheduled for release later this year (2023), as of this writing.

As a triumph in Spielberg's filmography, some may discount The Color Purple, considering the films Spielberg has made since then (such as Schindler's List).  Still, as a line in the film says (more or less), The Color Purple wants to be seen and loved … and it still is.

10 of 10

Thursday, February 16, 2023

1986 Academy Awards, USA:  11 nominations: “Best Picture” (Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, and Quincy Jones), “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Whoopi Goldberg), “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Margaret Avery), “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Oprah Winfrey), “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium” (Menno Meyjes), “Best Cinematography” (Allen Daviau), “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (J. Michael Riva, Bo Welch, and Linda DeScenna), “Best Costume Design” (Aggie Guerard Rodgers), “Best Music, Original Song” (Quincy Jones-music/lyrics, Rod Temperton-music/lyrics, and Lionel Richie-lyrics for the song “Miss Celie's Blues (Sister)”), “Best Music, Original Score” (Quincy Jones, Jeremy Lubbock, Rod Temperton, Caiphus Semenya, Andraé Crouch, Chris Boardman, Jorge Calandrelli, Joel Rosenbaum, Fred Steiner, Jack Hayes, Jerry Hey, and Randy Kerber), and “Best Makeup” (Ken Chase)

1987 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Menno Meyjes)

1986 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Whoopi Goldberg); 4 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Steven Spielberg), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Oprah Winfrey), and “Best Original Score – Motion Picture” (Quincy Jones)

1986 Image Awards (NAACP):  2 wins: “Outstanding Motion Picture” and “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture” (Whoopi Goldberg)

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site or blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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Friday, February 3, 2023

Review: "KNOCK AT THE CABIN" is Not Worth the Ticket Price; Stream It

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 6 of 2023 (No. 1895) by Leroy Douresseaux

Knock at the Cabin (2023)
Running time:  100 minutes
MPA – R for violence and language
DIRECTOR:  M. Night Shyamalan
WRITERS:  M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, and Michael Sherman (based on the book, The Cabin at the End of the World, by Paul Tremblay)
PRODUCERS:  Marc Bienstock, Ashwin Rajan, and M. Night Shyamalan
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Jarin Blaschke (D.o.P.) and Lowell A. Meyer (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Noemi Katharina Preiswerk
COMPOSER:  Herdis Stefansdottir


Starring:  Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn, Kristen Cui, and M. Night Shyamalan

Knock at the Cabin is a 2023 fantasy, thriller, and horror film from director M. Night Shyamalan.  The film is based on the 2018 novel, The Cabin at the End of the World, from author Paul Tremblay.  Knock at the Cabin focuses on a small family of three and the four armed strangers who take them hostage and demand that the three members sacrifice one of their own … in order to stop the end of the world.

Knock at the Cabin introduces Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and his husband, Eric (Jonathan Groff), and their adopted daughter, Wen (Kirsten Cui).  They are vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods, but during their first day at the cabin, terror strikes.  Four strangers break into the cabin and tie up Andrew and Eric.

The strangers identify themselves as Redmond (Rupert Grint), Adriane (Abby Quinn), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), and Leonard (Dave Bautista), the apparent leader.  Leonard explains that the Apocalypse is coming.  The oceans will rise, a plague will descend, and the sky will fall to the earth like pieces of shattered glass; then, there will only be unending darkness.  These horrors can only be averted if this family of three kills one of their own as a sacrifice.

Leonard tells Andrew, Eric, and Wren that if they do not chose, they will survive the Apocalypse, but they will be doomed to be the last people alive on a dead world.  Andrew and Eric believe that these people are delusional, and Andrew believes that this situation is rooted in bigoted hate against their family.  But bad things are starting to happen … all around the world...

I saw Knock at the Cabin just last night (as of this writing) at a Thursday night preview.  When the credits started rolling, I started laughing, not loud enough to draw attention, but I found that I had a hard time not laughing.  In Shyamalan's filmography, I have a personal favorite, The Lady in the Water (2006), and two films I enjoyed quite a bit, After Earth (2013) and Old (2021).  There are two movies that I thought were really good, but had ridiculous endings that ruined the movies for me, Unbreakable (2000) and The Village (2004).

Knock at the Cabin reminds me of 2010's The Last Airbender.  Both are films that are good concepts and that begin with good ideas.  Ultimately, however, both have something missing, or maybe a lot missing.  For instance, in Knock at the Cabin, Andrew and Eric are well-developed characters, and the actors playing them give performances that convinced me Andrew and Eric were in love and were a committed couple.  However, the flashbacks about their lives are more vague than they are informative.  Also, I was quite put-off by the fact that the couple lied to adopt Wen.

For an apocalyptic movie, Shyamalan is stingy with the apocalyptic imagery.  The tsunami was a little impressive; the plague was underwhelming; and the plane crashes were impressive … mostly.  When Leonard warn Andrew and Eric that not making a choice means that a hundred thousand people will die, it does not feel like a real threat.  And honestly, when a disaster is shown onscreen, it does not look like something that will kill a hundred thousand.  I think Shyamalan wanted to play it cute with Leonard and his companions for the audience.  Maybe, they are deranged and delusional.  Maybe, the disasters are a coincidence.  It's when I thought that maybe the Apocalypse is real, but Leonard and company are too crazy to do their part correctly that I knew this film had story development issues.

As an end of the world scenario, Knock at the Cabin doesn't have real traction.  Yes, the actors give good performances, especially Dave Bautista as Leonard and Nikki Amuka-Bird as Sabrina.  However, all the actors are mouthing nonsensical dialogue for a narrative that can't quite escape being ludicrous.  I think that the actors are more convincing about Knock at the Cabin's story that Shyamalan and his co-screenwriters are.  If not for the cast, I would give this film a lower grade that the one I ultimately gave it – maybe much lower.

There are better films about a small group of people trapped in a remote cabin and fighting off supernatural doom, such as The Evil Dead (1981) and Cabin in the Woods (2011).  Shyamalan has a reputation for revealing a big twist at the end of his films.  In Knock at the Cabin, the big twist is that there is no big twist.  I didn't want there to be one, but now I believe that a big twist would have made Knock at the Cabin feel like more than a meaningless story and empty cinematic experience.

4 of 10
★★ out of 4 stars

Friday, February 3, 2023

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Friday, December 30, 2022

Review: Pam Grier is Radiant in "JACKIE BROWN," Tarantino's Best (Maybe) Film

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 77 of 2022 (No. 1889) by Leroy Douresseaux

Jackie Brown (1997)
Running time:  154 minutes (2 hours, 34 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong language, some violence, drug use and sexuality
DIRECTOR:  Quentin Tarantino
WRITER:  Quentin Tarantino (based upon the novel by Elmore Leonard)
PRODUCER:  Lawrence Bender
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Guillermo Navarro
EDITOR:  Sally Menke
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro, Michael Bowen, Chris Tucker, LisaGay Hamilton, Tom Lister, Jr., Hattie Winston, Sid Haig, Aimee Graham, Tangie Ambrose, and T'Keyah Crystal Keymah

Jackie Brown is a 1997 drama and crime film from writer-director Quentin Tarantino.  It is based on Elmore Leonard's 1992 novel, Rum Punch.  Jackie Brown the movie focuses on a flight attendant who schemes with an aging bail bondsman in a bid to defeat both the ATF and her boss who smuggles guns into Mexico.

Jackie Brown introduces 44-year-old, Jackie Brown (Pam Grier), a flight attendant for the low-budget Mexican airline, Cabo Air.  She smuggles money from Mexico into the United States for her (kind of) boss, Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), a gun runner in Los Angeles.  One day, Ordell's courier, Beaumont Livingston (Chris Tucker), is arrested, and he snitches about Ordell's business.

Acting on that information, LAPD Detective Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agent, Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton), intercept Jackie while she is returning with some of Ordell's cash, with a small bag of cocaine thrown in.  Dargus and Nicolette use the cocaine to threaten Jackie with serious criminal charges and hard prison time.

Ordell hires bail bondsman, Max Cherry (Robert Forster), of Cherry Bail Bonds, to bail Jackie out of jail.  Feeling trapped between Ordell and the law, Jackie conspires with Max to pretend to give both sides what they want – Ordell the money and the ATF Ordell.  If this heist works, Jackie and Max will secure her future with half a million dollars of Ordell's money.

Jackie Brown is obviously writer-director Quentin Tarantino's ode to 1970s blaxploitation films.  The film is also a star vehicle that Tarantino created for the actress playing the title role in Jackie Brown, the great Pam Grier.  She starred in some of the most fondly remembered and popular blaxploitation films, most notably Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974).  The roles in those two films obviously inspired the role of “Jackie Brown,” although “Flower Child Coffin” a.k.a “Coffy” (of Coffy) and Foxy Brown are action heroes.  Instead, Tarantino makes Jackie Brown a world-weary woman, not an action hero, but a working woman willing to take the action that will help her make her way in the world.

Grier plays Jackie Brown with subtlety and grace, making Jackie comfortable in her skin.  Her sexiness is not forced, but radiates from her, buoyed by her confidence.  Grier makes it seem quite genuine that Brown would one day finally have enough with getting the crappy end of the stick in life.  Jackie takes a chance, and with nothing to lose, she works her magic.  Grier also works her magic, and the audience can believe that she is going to pull off this implausible heist of Ordell's money and also trick the ATF and LAPD by giving them only some of what they want.  Here, Grier gives the best performance of her career, and it is a shame that Hollywood has under-utilized her amazing talent and screen presence.

I have not seen enough of his performances to say that Max Cherry is actor Robert Forster's best performance of his career.  Playing Max revitalized Forster's career, which was mostly stalled at the time.  With charming stoicism, Forster perfectly plays the calm, wise, and a little weary, Max Cherry, one of the most perfect characters that Tarantino ever wrote.  Forster also convinces us that he has so totally fallen for Jackie Brown that he is willing to do everything she wants even if it is everything that he should not do.

I also think that Ordell Robbie is Samuel Jackson's best performance.  Ordell is an example of what would become the stereotypical Samuel L. Jackson character – the menacing, bad-ass Black man who loves to shoot people and curse up a storm.  However, Jackson makes Ordell a man full of angles and twists.  He is coarse with a trashy sophistication; he is menacing, but sentimental in odd ways.  He is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, so he is ultimately a cheap hood with enough low-rent ambitions to make himself a doomed idiot.

Tarantino uses Grier, Forster, and Jackson's performances and those of several others (Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, and Michael Keaton) to give his usual style, wit, humor, and rapid-fire bravado traction and depth.  Jackie Brown does not have the snappy banter nor the nonlinear antics of Tarantino's previous film, Pulp Fiction.  Jackie Brown's narrative is a straight story, Tarantino's most substantive film to date.  It may be an ode to blaxploitation and also a smooth heist film, but most of all, Jackie Brown is a character drama.  With a superb soundtrack behind it (focusing on “The Delfonics” 1969 classic song, “Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”), Tarantino uses a slow pace to weave a delightful Los Angeles crime story about the criminal things people do when they are desperate … or in love.

I think that Quentin Tarantino and Pam Grier are a match made in cinematic heaven.  2022 is the twenty-fifth anniversary of Jackie Brown's original theatrical release (December 8, 1997).  Jackie Brown has aged well, and for me, it gets better every time I watch it.

10 of 10

Friday, December 30, 2022

1998 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Robert Forster)

1998 Golden Globes, USA:  2 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical” (Pam Grier) and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical” (Samuel L. Jackson)

1998 Image Awards (NAACP):  1 nominations:  “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture” (Pam Grier)

The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint or syndication rights and fees.



Saturday, December 10, 2022

Review: Netflix's "THE POWER OF THE DOG" is Certainly a Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 74 of 2022 (No. 1886) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Power of the Dog (2021)
Running time:  128 minutes (2 hours, 8 minutes)
MPA – R for strong sexuality and language
DIRECTOR:  Jane Campion
WRITER:  Jane Campion (based on a novel by Thomas Savage)
PRODUCERS:  Jane Chapman, Iain Canning, Roger Frappier, Tanya Seghatchian, and Emile Sherman
EDITOR:  Peter Sciberras
COMPOSER:  Jonny Greenwood
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Genevieve Lemon, Peter Carroll, Frances Conroy, Alison Bruce, Keith Carradine, Thomasin McKenzie, Ramontay McConnell, Adam Beach, and Maeson Stone Skuggedal

The Power of the Dog is a 2021 Western drama film from writer-director Jane Campion.  It is based on the1967 novel, The Power of the Dog, from author Thomas Savage.  The Power of the Dog the movie focuses on a charismatic rancher who torments his brother, his brother's new wife, and her son.

The Power of the Dog opens in rural Montana, 1925 and focuses on Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch).  Phil is, along with brother, George Burbank (Jesse Plemons), wealthy ranch-owners.  George meets Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst), a widow and inn owner, during a cattle drive.  The kindhearted George is quickly smitten with Rose, but Phil, always coarse and volatile, dislikes her and considers her nothing more than a gold-digger who wants George's money.

Phil also belittles Rose's teenage son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), whom he derides as weak and effeminate – a sissy.  George and Rose soon marry, and Rose comes to live at the Burbank brothers' isolated ranch estate and manor home. However, Rose withers under Phil's torment.  Sometimes later, Peter comes to stay and things begin to change...

The Power of the Dog is a ridiculous title for a film, but I like it for a novel.  The film is a psychological drama dressed in the rags of a Western.  Its narrative focuses on two despicable characters (Phil and Pete) and two meek, but lovable and sympathetic characters (George and Rose).

I would not describe any of the characters as vague so much as they reflect a narrative that is oblique, which in turn reflects on characters with pinched personalities.  Benedict Cumberbatch's Phil Burbank is mean and spiteful, but just like that, one day, he turns all … gay over a weirdo kid he only hated just a few seconds ago.  Kodi Smit-McPhee's Peter may be the film's most well-developed character; it is obvious that there is a lot going on with him.  He is more than the audience can imagine and apparently quite the litle psycho-sociopath.

As I said, Kirsten's Dunst's Rose and Jessie Plemons' George are lovable, but are slight characters.  They both received Oscar nominations in supporting acting categories; whether they deserved them or not is a matter of opinion.  I will say that Dunst spends most of the film crying and sniveling and yelling and stumbling around.  Jesse Plemons is barely a whisper in the wind as George, and sometimes it seems as if George's entire screen time amounts to only a few minutes.  Of course, he is onscreen more than that; it's just that he seems to be on it much less...

I can see why actor Sam Elliot questioned The Power of the Dog's credibility as a Western.  The film lacks a central, focused voice, and girl, Westerns have voice.  It is not a bad film.  The Power of the Dog does indeed have some power and some powerful moments, but director Jane Campion sublimates the passion and the urges she says define this film.  The film lacks heart and is unhurried to the point of being meandering.

My original plan was to write a review of The Power of the Dog that was comprised of a single question mark.  However, the film's shock ending gave me a reason to say more.  I guess I'm one critic who is not buying into The Power of the Dog.

5 of 10
★★½ out of 4 stars

Saturday, December 10, 2022

2022 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Achievement in Directing” (Jane Campion); 11 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Jane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, and Roger Frappier), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Kodi Smit-McPhee), “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Jane Campion), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Jesse Plemons), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Benedict Cumberbatch), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Kirsten Dunst), “Best Achievement in Production Design” (Grant Major-production design and Amber Richards-set decoration), “Best Sound” (Richard Flynn, Robert Mackenzie, and Tara Webb), “Best Achievement in Cinematography” (Ari Wegner), “Best Achievement in Film Editing” (Peter Sciberras), and “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures-Original Score” (Jonny Greenwood)

2022 BAFTA Awards:  2 wins: “Best Film” (Jane Campion, Iain Canning, Roger Frappier, Tanya Seghatchian, and Emile Sherman) and “Best Director” (Jane Campion); 6 nominations: “Best Screenplay-Adapted” (Jane Campion), “Best Leading Actor” (Benedict Cumberbatch), “Best Supporting Actor” (Jesse Plemons), “Best Supporting Actor” (Kodi Smit-McPhee), “Best Cinematography” (Ari Wegner), and “Original Score” (Jonny Greenwood)

2022 Golden Globes, USA:  3 wins:  “Best Motion Picture-Drama,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and “Best Director-Motion Picture” (Jane Campion); 4 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Benedict Cumberbatch), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Kirsten Dunst), “Best Screenplay-Motion Picture” (Jane Campion), and “Best Original Score-Motion Picture” (Jonny Greenwood)

The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Review: "THE INVITATION" is the Movie Invite You Don't Want

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 70 of 2022 (No. 1882) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Invitation (2022)
Running time:  103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes)
MPA –  PG-13 for terror, violent content, some strong language, sexual content and partial nudity
DIRECTOR:  Jessica M. Thompson
WRITER:  Blair Butler
PRODUCER:  Emile Gladstone
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Autumn Eakin (D.o.P.)  
EDITOR:  Tom Elkins
COMPOSER:  Dara Taylor


Starring:  Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Sean Pertwee, Hugh Skinner, Carol Ann Crawford, Alana Boden, Stephanie Corneliussen, and Courtney Taylor

The Invitation is a 2022 supernatural horror, mystery,and suspense thriller from director Jessica M. Thompson.  The film focuses on a young woman who is swept off her feet by the chance of meeting members of her long-lost family, who are mysterious and odd.

The Invitation opens in New York City and introduces struggling artist, Evelyn “Evie” Jackson (Nathalie Emmanuel), who is still dealing with the recent death of her mother.  She and her best friend, Grace (Courtney Taylor), make a living freelancing for a catering business.  Evie takes a DNA test from an online company called “UnlockYourPast” and discovers that she has relatives in England.  She meets one of those alleged distant English cousins, Oliver L. Alexander (Hugh Skinner) of London.  Oliver tells Evie that she is related to him via her great-grandmother, Emmaline, who created quite a scandal decades ago.  He also invites her to an upcoming family wedding in Whitney, Yorkshire, England.

Evie and Oliver eventually arrive at New Carfax Abbey where several connected families: the De Villes, the Billingtons, the Klopstocks, and the Alexanders, have gathered for the nuptials.  Evie meets many family members, including the alluring Walter De Ville (Thomas Doherty), who seems to be the focus of everyone's attention.  However, Evie does not meet the bride and groom.  Before long, Evie discovers that not only is New Carfax a strange place, but also that the gathered family members are both eccentric and full of mystery.  It is a mystery that Evie must solve before she falls prey to the four families' darkest secrets.

The Invitation is a vampire movie and not a very good one.  The main reason is the vampire characters.  The film is inspired by author Bram Stoker's 1987 Gothic novel, Dracula.  Film vampires can be alluring and attractive, and they can often be the audience's favorite characters, although they are monsters and are often film villains.  The Invitation's vampires are not alluring and are mostly caricatures of the British upper class or assorted versions of Euro-trash.

The Invitation is not a very good horror movie simply because it is not scary.  Bumps in the night, shifty shadows, random yelps and screams, etc. are more annoying than chilling.  Evie is way too careless and clueless.  I understand that there are plenty of people in the real world who are not wary, who don't understand that when things seem too good to be true, they usually are too good to be true.  In this movie, the extent of Evie's lack of common sense is simply too much; it's irritating.

Also, I don't think that it is a coincidence that Nathalie Emmanuel, the actress who plays Evie, really resembles American actress Meghan Markle.  You know Meghan, right?  She married into an old British family that has its share of conspiracies and family members who are snobs, crypto-racists, and monsters.

The last twenty minutes of The Invitation – before the credits – are actually quite good, but by then it is too late.  I get why the studio and filmmakers would try to hide the fact that this film involves vampires as deep into the running time as they could.  Vampire films generally under perform at the box office, even good ones, which The Invitation is not.  Honestly, the last few minutes of this film could be used as the starting point for an even better film.  I cannot recommend The Invitation, and I want to discourage you, dear readers, from watching it if you have to pay to do it.

3 of 10
★½ out of 4 stars

Tuesday, November 16, 2022

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Saturday, October 29, 2022

Review: Wild, Uneven "BULLET TRAIN" Has a Killer Last Act

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 66 of 2022 (No. 1878) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bullet Train (2022)
Running time: 127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes)
MPA – R for strong and bloody violence, pervasive language, and brief sexuality
DIRECTOR:  David Leitch
WRITER:  Zak Olkewicz (based on the novel by Kotaro Isaka)
PRODUCERS:  Antoine Fuqua, David Leitch, and Kelly McCormick
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Jonathan Sela (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Elisabet Ronaldsdottir
COMPOSER:  Dominic Lewis


Starring:  Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Sandra Bullock, Benito A Martinez Ocasio (Bad Bunny), Logan Lerman, Zazie Beetz, Masi Oka, Kevin Akiyoshi Ching, Johanna White, and Karen Fukuhara with Channing Tatum and Ryan Reynolds

Bullet Train is a 2022 action movie from director David Leitch.  The film is based on the 2010 novel from author Kōtarō Isaka, Maria Beetle (which was titled Bullet Train for its U.S. and U.K. Editions).  Bullet Train the movie takes place aboard a swiftly-moving bullet train where five assassins gradually discover that they have several things in common.

Bullet Train opens in Japan and introduces “Ladybug” (Brad Pitt), an assassin turned “snatch-and-grab man.”  In Tokyo, he enters a bullet train bound for Kyoto.  He is initially wary of accepting this job from his handler, Maria (Sandra Bullock), which involves him retrieving a briefcase that contains ten million dollars.  Also on the train is a young woman known as “Prince” (Joey King); the assassin brothers, “Lemon” (Brian Tyree Henry) and “Tangerine” (Aaron Taylor-Johnson); and the revenge-seeking Yuichi Kimura (Andrew Koji).

They are all passengers on this particular bullet train, directly and indirectly, because of “The Son” (Logan Lerman), the kidnapped son of the Russian-born Yakuza boss known as the “White Death” (Michael Shannon).  Ladybug, who is begrudgingly working this job, believes that it is bringing out the worst of the bad luck that he believes plagues him.  Gradually, he finds himself fighting off an ever-growing gathering of killers and miscreants.  And waiting for everyone at their final stop in Kyoto – at least for those that survive – is an ultimate showdown with the White Death and his hired killers.

Directly or indirectly, Bullet Train is a movie influenced by the films of Oscar-winning filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino.  The dialogue – full of chatter, threats, and banter – is supposed to come across as cool, but it is merely blather from a third or fourth or fifth generation take on a Tarantino screenplay.  The characters are also Tarantino retreads, and so are their actions and inaction.  Still, I must admit that I like some of them, especially Brad Pitt's Ladybug.

So is Bullet Train any good, you might ask?

Well, two-thirds of it is uneven and moves in fits and starts of violence and murder.  I was mostly uninterested, but there are some surprising cameos that captured my interest.  For instance, Zazie Beetz is the assassin, “The Hornet,” and recording artist, Bad Bunny, is the Mexican assassin, “The Wolf.”  Both, however, are barely in the film.  I think they would have improved Bullet Train a good bit had their roles been enlarged.

However, the first 80 or so mediocre minutes of this movie are worth it for the last 40 minutes.  It is as if Bullet Train suddenly explodes in its last act to reveal a much better movie that had been hiding inside the fairly awful movie.  Everything is better, even Brad Pitt, who keeps this movie from being an absolute disaster.  Sometimes, it is worth having a genuine movie star, like a Brad Pitt, star in a genre movie.  The first two-thirds of this movie deserves a grade of “C-” at best, but the last third deserves an “A.”  So I'll average that out to a “B,” and I will recommend Bullet Train because of its last act.  It really is spectacular, and it is a pay off for your patience.

6 out of 10
★★★ out of 4 stars

Saturday, October 29, 2022

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Friday, September 23, 2022

Review: Steven Spielberg's "JAWS" is Still Hungry For Your Ass (Countdown to "The Fabelmans")

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 54 of 2022 (No. 1866) by Leroy Douresseaux

Jaws (1975)
Running time:  124 minutes (2 hours, 4 minutes)
Rated – PG by the Classification and Ratings Administration
DIRECTOR:  Steven Spielberg
WRITERS: Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb (based on the novel by Peter Benchley)
PRODUCERS:  David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Bill Butler (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Verna Fields
COMPOSER:  John Williams
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb, Jeffrey Kramer, Chris Rebello, Jay Mello, Lee Fierro, Jeffrey Voorhees, Robert Nevin, and Susan Backlinie

Jaws is a 1974 adventure drama and thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg.  The film is based on the 1974 novel, Jaws, by author Peter Benchley, who also wrote (with Carl Gottlieb) the screenplay adapting his novel. Jaws the film is set in and around a beach community that is dealing with a killer shark and focuses on the police chief who leads a team to hunt down and kill the creature.

Jaws opens in the New England beach town of Amity Island.  During a nighttime beach party, a young woman, Christine “Chrissie” Watkins (Susan Backlinie), goes skinny dipping in the ocean.  While treading water, something unseen attacks Chrissie and pulls her under the water,  The next day, local police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) and Deputy Hendricks (Jeffrey Kramer) find the partial remains of Chrissie's body on the shore of the beach.

The medical examiner concludes that Chrissie died due to a shark attack.  Still, Amity's Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) is more concerned with the town's summer economy, which is wholly reliant on tourism, and does not want the beaches closed.  Then, the fact that a shark, specifically a “great white shark,” is hunting the waters off the island becomes reality when the shark attacks and kills a boy named Alex Kintner (Jeffrey Voorhees).

After another attack, Chief Brody takes matters into his own hands.  He joins Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), a marine biologist who specializes in shark, and Quint (Robert Shaw), a crusty old shark fisherman, on a seafaring mission to hunt and kill the shark.  But that mission proves more difficult than any of the many realized.

I have seen Jaws so many times that I have lost count.  Still, the movie seems eternally fresh to me, in a semi-sepia tone kind of way.  Jaws fascinates me because it seems to me, at least, to be like three short films merged into one film.  The first section introduces the shark attacks and Chief Brody's misgivings and investigations.  The second section pits Brody against the town fathers, led by money grubber, Mayor Vaughn, who want the beaches open at all cost.  The film's final section focuses on the boys' adventure of Brody, Matt Hooper, and Quint going shark-hunting and ending up being the hunted.  As much as I enjoy the film's final act, I find the first section of the film to be the most intriguing because of its sense of mystery.  What is really beneath the waves, coming up to chomp on young folks?

Jaws is essentially the prototypical summer blockbuster, a kind of film that is designed to get as many people into movie theaters and chomping on popcorn and guzzling soda.  The blockbuster, especially the summer kind, is the cinema of the sensations:  thrills and chills to make the viewer's body tingle and get the heart racing.  The bracing action scenes keep the viewer on the edge of his or her seat.  Steven Spielberg turned out to be the perfect director of summer blockbusters – at least for awhile.  He could press all our emotional buttons and ensnare our imaginations so that all we thought about was what he wanted us to think about – for two or so hours.

Still, Spielberg's prodigious skills as a filmmaker are evident.  He is a superb film artist and a consummate cinematic entertainer.  He gets the best out of his cast and crew and creatives – from composer John Williams' iconic and ominous shark-presence theme to Bill Butler's expansive cinematography that turns this movie into a vista of natural wonders.  Plus, Spielberg allows his talented cast to really show their dramatic chops, especially Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper and Richard Shaw as Quint.  Even Lorraine Gary gets to make the most of her moments as Ellen Brody.

If I am honest, however, Spielberg has a co-captain on this ship.  Roy Scheider (1932-2008) brings the film together and at times, holds it together.  Steady as a rock, Chief Brody epitomizes the small town law man who has to save the town not only from the bad guy – a shark in this instance – but also from themselves.  I think serious movie lovers and film fans recognize both the breath and depth of Scheider's talent and that he was a mesmerizing film presence.  If Jaws is the film that shot Spielberg's career into the stratosphere like a rocket, Scheider can certainly be described as the rocket booster.

9 of 10
★★★★+ out of 4 stars

Friday, September 23, 2022

1976 Academy Awards, USA:  3 wins:  “Best Sound” (Robert L. Hoyt, Roger Heman Jr., Earl Madery, and John R. Carter), “Best Film Editing” (Verna Fields), and “Best Music, Original Dramatic Score” (John Williams); 1 nomination: “Best Picture” (Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown)

1976 BAFTA Awards:  1 win: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (John Williams for Jaws and also The Towering Inferno); 6 nominations: “Best Actor”(Richard Dreyfuss), “Best Direction” (Steven Spielberg), “Best Film,” “Best Film Editing” (Verna Fields), “Best Screenplay” (Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb), and “Best Sound Track” (John R. Carter and Robert L. Hoyt)

1976 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win: “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (John Williams); 3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” (Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb), and “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Steven Spielberg)

2001 National Film Preservation Board, USA:  1 win: “National Film Registry”

The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site or blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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