Archives for September 2012

Weekend Top 4

Here’s a look at what I would consider the “Top 4” (in terms of profile) openings this weekend:

Looper

 

Hotel Transylvania

 

Won’t Back Down (see yesterday’s review for my thoughts on this one)

 

Pitch Perfect 

 

In all honesty, this does not look like too bad of a weekend, especially after the past few weeks. I would not actually mind seeing Pitch Perfect myself. Based on what I have read in the blogosphere, I suspect that many of you will be catching Looper 😉

Share your thoughts and plans below in the comments section.

Have a great weekend!

A Quick Reaction To “Won’t Back Down” (2012)

I must admit that I did not go into this Won’t Back Down with the highest of expectations and unfortunately, that target was met. What I suppose was to be a powerful statement on the current state of the education system had a decidedly afterschool special feel to it.

Inspired by ‘actual events’ the story goes a little something like this: a hard-working, dedicated single mom in Pittsburgh, PA (Maggie Gyllenhaal) whose daughter has dyslexia. The school she is currently in is essentially a poorly managed holding cell that has no intention of providing the resources that her daughter needs, not to ay anything for providing a basic education for her or any of the students. Elsewhere in the school you have a teacher (Viola Davis) from the same school who has her own obstacles to overcome – among them: fighting her own apathy at her present vocation, dealing with her own child (who may or may not have learning disabilities) and marriage hanging on by the narrowest of threads.

After the hopes of reaching the Utopia of a charter school where there are too few spots available there is the  “just in time” revelation that there exists “parent trigger laws” that essentially permits parents (with the support of the community and a majority of teachers) in a failing school to take it over. After some back and forth, our heroines decide to join forces and now we  have the perfect recipe for a fight-the-system story that takes all of its characters on a “journey,’ the end of which is a catalyst for change. I guess that is the point anyway – to leave its audience inspired. I felt anything but inspired; I felt this was an insincere attempt to manipulate my emotions. This is not even to speak of the film’s thinly veiled political message.

It all begins with the statement on the film’s official website:

Putting aside partisan divides and political agendas, WON’T BACK DOWN takes a raw and unflinching look at the current state of our country’s education system, and provides an optimistic and actionable point of view for parents, teachers, and community activists alike.

What it appears we have here is a classic case of  “the lady doth protest too much.” The story DOES have a strong statement to make, if not an outright agenda, concerning teachers’ unions as stalwarts of the status quo. There is one particularly vile portrayal of a teacher who shops on an online website while her students run amok and terrorize Gyllenhaal’s daughter. In more than one instance, this teacher even seems complicit in giving the unfortunate girl a hard time.

Putting politics aside (please), as far as the acting is concerned, Viola Davis, for all of her acting prowess , turns in what has become her standard solid performance. She really does the best she can with the material. For her part, Maggie Gyllenhaal is also making the best out of a clichéd and hokey script.

In the end, given the current state of education in this country, I imagine that there are many stories out there to be told – indeed, some of them are probably even destined for the silver screen. Hopefully, these future tales will spin a more balanced and naturally uplifting narrative.

Revisiting E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

Although all the films that I have watched as part of my ‘celebration’ of the 100th anniversary of Universal Studios, this one really has particular is one that registers quite emotionally for me. Yes yes yes, I, like most sentient beings, cried my eyes out when I first saw E.T.

Unfortunately I did not have the pleasure of seeing it in the theater. For whatever reason (maybe due to my age) my dad took one of my brothers. So for the next few years, my only connection to the movie was in my father recalling how he was moved by the impact the film had on my brother. Of course, I would never fully appreciate just what that experience was until my dad brought home the “special edition” VHS tape years later.

As for the film itself, it always amazes me that such a wonderful fairytale comes from the grown-up mind of Steven Spielberg. Or maybe it shouldn’t surprise me – this is after all a man who created CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, another family favorite, and is obviously, a wonderful companion piece to E.T – the adult who is convinced that there is something out there and decides to explore (CLOSE ENCOUNTERS) and the child who stumbles upon an alien creature through happenstance and is forever transformed by the experience (E.T.).

In the case of E.T., the story of love, loss and everlasting connection is timeless and one that spans the generations.

 

As part of the 100th anniversary, E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL is being released on a remastered BLU-RAY video disk (October 9th) and, in cooperation with Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events, there will be a one night only viewing of the film in cinemas nationwide (Wednesday October 3rd).

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Red Eye (2005)

Today’s entry for Todd Mason’s ongoing blogging series (Overlooked Films) is the 2005 thriller Red Eye, directed by Wes Craven and co-starring Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy.

On what appears to be a routine flight to Miami, Florida our heroine, Lisa Reisert (McAdams) finds herself sat next to one Jackson Rippner (Murphy), who is certainly not all that he appears to be. In fact, he has very ill intentions and Reisert’s at the center of his devious plans. I know the statute of limitations on spoilers is probably well over, but I hate giving away “twisty” plot details, even if many of you are clever enough to figure out where this story is going (it is a Wes Craven film after all).

And sure, it gets a little bonkers towards the end of the film, but with such a premise, how could it go any other way? Sometimes your brain must check out and just go with what you are seeing on the screen. With talented thesps such as the ones on offer in this film (supporting help from Brian Cox et al), the experience of watching this film is made all the more enjoyable.

I remember when this film came out and the marketing surrounding it was rather misleading – which resulted in my thinking that this would be a rather lame film indeed. Boy was I pleasantly surprised!

Besides, it’s only 85 minutes in length and for my money (although I saw it on cable TV) it was time well spent.

What I Learned This Week …

As this week draws to a close I have decided to take a look back at my observations into the week’s cinematically-related news.

1) Seeing The Birds on the big screen is an impressive experience. Well I have already waxed poetic about the virtues of the Hitchcock classic earlier this year so I will not go into great detail here. But this past Wednesday I had the privilege of seeing the horror classic as part of the ongoing Fathom Events/TCM collaboration. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who were in my screening – in fact, I had to sit very close to the screen.

 

2) In other Hitch news, the newly released poster for the upcoming Anthony Hopkins-starrer has been in full circulation. The film is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film Psycho. Best news yet — it is coming out in November!

 

3) I catching Bond Fever! – I do not consider myself a huge 007 fan but since securing my place at an Opening Day screening at the BFI IMAX cinema next month, I can hardly contain my excitement. I am even in the process of looking back and seeing what I missed (primarily the Sean Connery years). Any audience recommendations at this point are greatly appreciated.

 

4) Speaking of Bond … LOVING the fact that my girl Adele will be belting out the signature theme for the film! Hooray!

 

5) Hobbit Day is awesome! And we get a new poster in addition to the new trailer released earlier in the week.

 

6) Like me, Angelina Jolie is a Sam Riley fan.

 

7) I had a great deal of fun watching the indie Brit flick, Fast Girls.

 

Until next week …

Trailer O’Day – ’42’

Happy Friday all and sundry. Be on the lookout for a recap of the week’s events.

In the meantime, feast your eyes on the first trailer to the Jackie Robinson biopic, ’42.’ As the child of a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, and a fan of sports history in general, I am personally looking forward to this one.

After the trailer, let me know what you think:

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” Trailer — Thoughts?

By now, many of you have probably watched, re-watched and processed the latest “The Hobbit”, Part I trailer. Well, that is, unless you are not a Tolkein fan — if that is the case, feel free check it out now (or just bear with me 🙂 ):

 

Anyways, I would like to get your reaction(s) to it. When I watched this last night, I was rather surprised with the moments of whimsy which it contained. That initial observation aside, it looks absolutely vibrant and lovely!

Share your thoughts below.

Are you looking forward to it?

Tuesdays Overlooked: The Wood (1999)

Today’s title is a coming of age story from 1999 called The Wood.

It is about a trio of friends (Taye Diggs, Omar Epps and Richard T. Jones) from Inglewood, California, known as “The Wood” of the title. Diggs’ character is about to get married but experiencing cold feet; it is up to his friends to pull him out his uncertainty.

Being a coming of age story set in the present day means that we see the story of the group growing up in flashback. I liked that aspect of the film; in fact, it really took me back to bits of my own childhood in the 1980s – even though I was brought up on the East Coast. The other aspect I enjoyed about the film was that given its setting, Los Angeles in the 1980’s, does not follow the convention and narrative arc of similarly set films, a la Boyz in the Hood and Menace II Society (good films in their own right).

The Wood was the debut feature film for writer/director Rick Famuyiwa.


Be sure to read up on other Overlooked Films on Todd Mason’s blog, Sweet Freedom.

Stars in Shorts (Not THOSE Kind)

I was amused by this trailer for the theatrical release Stars in Shorts – a collection of short narratives. On a brisk Sunday morning, I thought I would share this with you and get your thoughts.

While some of the vignettes do seem kind of interesting I must admit that the trailer guy makes it sound a bit cheesy. But looking past that fact, it does feature some of my favorite actors – namely Dench, Firth, Knightley, Hiddleston, Branagh and the grossly underutilized Sarah Paulson.

Visit the website, Stars in Shorts, for a listing of venues showing the film nationwide (scheduled release date: September 28). And for those of you who choose not to cinema at your ‘local,’ it looks like the film will also be available on iTunes and VOD.

 

 

Weekend at the Cinema!

STOLEN (TAKEN 1.5?) …

ARBITRAGE

10 YEARS

THE MASTER

RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION

FINDING NEMO (again) …

LIBERAL ARTS.

With the exception of LIBERAL ARTS, THE MASTER and RESIDENT EVIL, I had no idea of these other new films. That may just be me though (for shame Iba, for shame).

So based on that , I would say my ‘picks’ for this week are rather week. Also by saying ‘picks’ I would provide the following disclaimer: I obviously have not seen any of these movies so my ‘picks’ are merely those films I have some prior knowledge of that have piqued my interest and that I might see sometime in the future.

So of the three films I have heard of, my go to would be THE MASTER. In my opinion, PSH can do no wrong (best part of ALONG CAME POLLY; actually made that film watchable IMO).

How about you?

HAPPY WEEKEND EVERYONE!