Friday, November 30, 2012


Silver Linings Playbook

Directed & Written
David O. Russell

     It is so good to know that there are intelligent, gifted filmmakers out there like David O. Russell. He is a director that knows how to make a comedy that does not infuse itself with schmaltz and keeps honest laughs blended with heartwarming truth. Enough with the crappy, tell the audience how to feel romantic comedies and over-acted dramas that usually get released from the major Hollywood studios. Mr. Russell has directed an sincerely funny, heartfelt romantic comedy about real people, dealing with real issues. We can relate to these characters, there situations and the setting the film takes place in. This is why Silver Linings Playbook is such a joy to watch and is absolutely one of the best films to be released this year. 
     The film drops us into the world of Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), who has recently been released from a mental institute after a stint for bi-polar disorder. Pat moves back in with his parents Dolores and Pat Sr. (Jackie Weaver and Robert DeNiro) in Philadelphia and his main goal is to reunite with his estranged wife and live life with a constant, positive outlook. These plans go awry when he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who has lost her husband and has not been mentally stable either, as of late. The film is based on Matthew Quick's novel of the same name but this film is all David O. Russell's. He is complete control of this film and so honest with the story, acting and not force feeding the audience cookie cutter bullshit. He gets it. He knows exactly what he is doing and the blend of humor and drama are flat out brilliant. It is an astutely paced, beautifully and harmonically acted, and has a touch of sadness in its honest portrayal of two confused souls in a challenging world. The film is so perfect. So good.
     The real beauty and greatness of Silver Linings Playbook is the juxtaposition of these two mentally unstable and frantic individuals and there ability to find solace and peace in each others problems and desires. The film does not shy away from the instability of Pat and Tiffany or there use, or past usage of prescription drugs, and there inherent choice to attempt life's beauty and happiness without them. And it is not just these two people who have problems of there own. Pat Sr. is a bookie and an overtly obsessed Philadelphia Eagles fan. He is banned from going to any Eagles game since he was involved in a fight in a past home game. There is an odd connection between Pat Sr and his devilish Eagles fanaticism and his son's constant desire to find love again with his wife. Pat Sr. wants to patch his relationship up with his son, but Eagles obsession diverts him from that goal, as well as Pat Jr's desire to reconnect with his estranged wife, which diverts him from a chance to reconnect with his father. Will they find that relationship they each want or will they come together? Well, I don't want to give the answer away, but when I say this is a romantic comedy that defies all cliches, even when they are there, I think you can figure it out.
     The acting is perfect throughout the whole film. Bradley Cooper, after a series of big budget fare shows his depth, at not just serious humor, but drama as well. He showcases an honest and heartfelt portrayal of a man in the midst of transition and a chance to change his life. Jennifer Lawrence, with her previous Oscar nominated role in the brilliant, dark Ozark noir Winter's Bone (2010), has turned in a frenetic, energized role that not only shows her undeniable beauty and charm, but the flat out fact she gets it. She is wonderfully in control of this role and her face and eyes show a sense of understanding and intelligence that adds to her wide range of emotional changes and challenges in the role of Tiffany. And Robert DeNiro. This is without a doubt the best role he has had, and that he has delivered in I don't know how many years. He is funny, charming, eccentric and intense. He is that loving father and obsessed fan that expresses grave disapproval and also beautiful understanding and experience. He possesses his own bi-polar ways that not only shows his penchant for the good luck charm he believes his son to be for the Eagles to win, but also for the pure outlook and happiness he hopes his son can find in life. DeNiro is just outstanding in this film.
     The rest of the supporting cast is fantastic as well. Jackie Weaver is whole-hearted and tender has Pat's mother Dolores. Chris Tucker plays Danny, a fellow patient at the mental hospital with Pat who attempts numerous times to leave the facility with varying successful attempts. Tucker is relaxed and neurotic in his role as not just a patient, but a friend to Pat. Such a good role for someone who is usually considered just a comedic actor, but here he shows knowledgeable depth and courage in portraying an honest and caring friend. John Ortiz, Julia Stiles, Anupam Kher, Shea Whigham and Paul Herman round out an impressive cast that aids in the fantastic wit this film contains.
     David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook is that heartwarming, romantic comedy I've been waiting for. A movie that is honest and in control of itself. His direction is swift and the humor is so natural and right on point. It doesn't consists of long drawn out jokes or corny one-liners, but of sincere honest reactions and sentiment, or at times lack there of. He is not interested in forcing you to feel good, but he let his actors and the story lend itself to that. Silver Linings Playbook is movie any and everyone can enjoy and root for. All I can say is see this movie and we should be very thankful that we have a director like David O. Russell that just gets it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


A great hour of six fascinating talents and there insights on filmmaking. Gus Van Sant, Quentin Tarantino, Ang Lee, Tom Hooper, Ben Affleck & David O. Russell. Give it a look and listen. It is very informative to hear these great auteurs talk about the business, their craft and film in general.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


     To conclude the movie trailer theme this month, I will present two of Hitchcock's late color masterpieces:  Vertigo (1958) and North by Northwest (1959). Hitchcock was truly a director that was good from start to finish, well, maybe some of the films after Psycho (1960) were definitely not has good as the previous films, but the man had truly a great film after great film through the entirety of his career which lasted through five decades. Vertigo, where Sight & Sound magazine, which conducts a top ten film list of all-time every ten years with critics, directors and film historians, ranked it number one over the much studied and admired Orson Welles classic Citizen Kane (1945). The story revolves around a an acrophobic retired police officer, James Stewart, hired by an old friend to follow his wife who he believes has been possessed by a dead woman. As he begins to follow her, he becomes overwhelming obsessed with her and this leads him and the viewer down a road of obsession, romance, psychological intrigue and suspense. This is without a doubt a masterpiece on the highest order and shows a true master at the heights of his powers. In North by Northwest, we get the wrongly accused, innocent man thriller, in the vein of Hitchcock's early film The 39 Steps (1935). Cary Grant is mistaken for a government agent and is led down a path of foreign intrigue, lost identity and suspense. The film is not has serious or as personal as Vertigo but contains some of the most memorable scenes in film history, most certainly the shot atop the United Nations, the crop dusting chase and the conclusion at Mt. Rushmore. Both films are pure, honest and mesmerizing works from the Master of Suspense and undeniably masterpieces from the great Alfred Hitchcock.


North by Northwest

Sunday, November 25, 2012



Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & John Logan

    In a film franchise that has been around for fifty years, new films can at times be redundant, boring or just complete misfires, but that is not the case with the new installment into the Bond lexicon, Skyfall. The James Bond franchise is legendary in its mass appeal, but not always significant in the quality of its product. Sure, film now, with the massive onslaught of corporate propaganda and product placement has aided in growing this franchise and others, like Batman, Superman, etc. into huge markets and conglomerates of there own, but these films have a history that goes beyond that and Skyfall has achieved an successful status in not just big budget filmmaking, but being a film that is made with quality, perseverance and respect for the history of the James Bond name. Sean Connery first four films as Bond and the one film, from the under appreciated George Lazenby On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), are the best films with the suave, sophisticated spy from the United Kingdom and with Skyfall, we can finally add another film to that list.
    Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty and Road to Perdition) revolves around the believed to be killed-in-action Bond (Daniel Craig) and an attack on the British MI-6. Once Bond returns to headquarters in London, he is rushed through reintegration and cleared for duty after being on the lamb, mainly drinking. M (Dame Judi Dench) believes the attack on MI-6 is directed at her by a former agent. Then we go on a typical Bond-like journey of world travel, ladies, lies, and one sinister evil ex-MI-6 spy agent Silva (Javier Bardem), an agent that comes back to track and kill M after a previous mission had gone awry leaving him close to his death but with a desire for revenge. Skyfall is a film that accepts the new, with cyber warfare being targeted towards M and England, as well as appreciating the old, with glimpses of classics Bond cars, the exquisite Aston Martin and acknowledging that Bond has aged and the world is growing at a fast pace around him.
     The qualities of this Bond film that set it apart from the previous ones is simple, quaility in the filmmaking and acting that is not full god awful oneliners and joe popcorn obsessed CGI action setpieces. Pierce Brosnan was a debonair, smooth Bond put never in his four films had a good script at all. Goldeneye (1995) was decent reintroduction for Bond after the weak efforts in Timothy Dalton's two film run. Daniel Craig's two previous films, the decent if at times overacted and too staged Casino Royale (2006) and the truly awful and muddled Quantum of Solace (2008) were overall not exciting and rehashes. Even though personally, as a lover of the Bond franchise, I've seen all twenty-three films and even the great ones, such as Dr. No (1962) and From Russia With Love (1963) and the terrible misfires like most, if not all of Roger Moore's films, although they still are guilty pleasure to watch, it was so pleasing to watch Skyfall turn out so well and feel like a classic Bond film.
    Director Sam Mendes avoided the corny lines of dialogue, the ridiculous stunts, not to say that the opening scene was not completely over the top, but the whole film was grounded in a good story and not one stupid stunt after another like the last two films of Pierce Brosnan The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Die Another Day (2002). He brought some balance and quality to this legendary screen icon and filmography. And most importantly he brought his cinematographer Roger Deakins. Deakins, who also works repeatedly with the Coen Brothers, brought forth a chilly, silky smooth palette to his visuals and him and Mendes continued this series of cold, action thrillers, in the vein of Christopher Nolan's Batman films, that resemble a culture and world that has seen the effects of mindless sadness through economic downfall and misguided wars. Also, the lensing is just breathtaking. It is so graceful and smooth that the movie was a joy to watch just for Deakins unbelievable talent.
     Skyfall also brought back some classic characters that were not introduced in the Daniel Craig reboot /continuation of the franchise. Ben Whishaw plays Q and brings forth is off beat quirkiness to the role of a tech wizard who knows the value and knowledge of an ever changing cyber world. Judi Dench is great as the steely strong head of MI-6 M and Ralph Fiennes is introduced as Gareth Mallory, a politician in the British government. As with all Bond films there must be beautiful woman. Skyfall leaves us no exemption in that category with agent, and assumed killer of Bond Eve (Naomie Harris) and the ex-sex slave Severine (Berenice Lim Marlohe), who leads Bond to his target, the blonde haired, effeminate and presumably homosexual Silva, played with fun and that classic want to take over the world kind of villain Silva (Javier Bardem). He may not be as evil as in the Coen's No Country for Old Men but he is just as demented and sinister, but with a bit more playfulness. It was a pleasure to see a villain being played by someone with the talent of Javier Bardem, but that seemed to be having so much fun with bringing to life a cruel and vengeful character. That casting was perfect. The aesthetics were there as well with a dark, bloody opening sequence alluding to death and chaos, and a wonderful, classic Bond theme song performed and written by Adele. Classic in the sense it was smooth and sweeping with a hint of demise and pleasure that correlate with any Bond film.
     The true joy is seeing the growth and maturity, not just in the character but in the actor Daniel Craig. He shows how Bond is growing older and how the past is not to be forgotten. The final scene is pure cinematic satisfaction, in that Bond leads Silva to his childhood home in Scotland where he means to kill his enemy and protect M. It is also where we meet the groundskeeper of his families estate Kincade (Albert Finney). We get a battle, but Bond shows his intelligence with not the use of technology, but of brute strength and history. Silva comes with a helicopter, machine guns and numerous men, but Bond sets booby traps in the house, uses propane tanks as bombs, and sawed off shot guns to fight off the enemy. This new Bond shows the growth and acceptance of Daniel Craig coming into his own as the character and taking complete control over being Bond. He has presented Bond with full force and grace, as well as an appreciation of the classic Bond mythos and action No more philandering and grandiose playfulness.
     The Bond franchise and name appears to be in good hands, especially if Sam Mendes returns to direct Bond 24 and the continuation and growth of a scruffy and physical Daniel Craig. Skyfall exemplifies that there is life in James Bond and as I've said before, it accepts the new and appreciates the old. That key fact is what will aid in extending this franchise, one that actually is fun to watch, and sees that the current Bond, Mr. Craig, is an actor with talent and finesse. Sure, Craig's Bond is not as suave as all of his predecessors but we live in an age of economic uncertainty and a cyber world that has taken over everything we think and do. In my opinion, Bond is finally back and I hope he will continue to express it in the upcoming films.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


     More Hitchcock. You can't go wrong. I'll bring to everyone two trailers from probably my two favorite Hitchcock films, Strangers on a Train (1951) and without a doubt my favorite Hitchcock film Rear Window (1954). The chance encounter of two individuals on a train leads to a mischievous account of playfulness, that leads to severe consequences in Strangers on a Train. A tennis star and a wealthy socialite meet and the socialite wants to plan and act out the perfect murder but the catch is he wants a murder for a murder after both men want to exit from their lives people that threaten their future. A maniacal thriller with fabulous performances and outstanding visuals. The best Hitchcock film is Rear Window. The film is the quintessential Hitchcock film that contains all his famous visual splendor and themes: guilt, fleeting romance, suspense, murder and that beautiful blonde. The film revolves around an injured photography, confined to his apartment, with no entertainment but being a peeping tom upon his neighbors. James Stewart, outstanding in this picture, witnesses strange occurrences in one of the apartments and with the assistance of his beautiful, and without a doubt the most beautiful actress on film ever Grace Kelly, go about solving this possible murder. The most amazing thing is that the movie takes place completely from Stewart's apartment and his view point. Technical and visual splendor!

Strangers on a Train

Rear Window

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


     The trailers I'm going to be featuring today are two of Alfred Hitchcock's early films once he came to America from the United Kingdom. In 1940, when Hitchcock came to America to work with producer David O. Selznick, his first film was an adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca. The film starring the legend Laurence Olivier and the beautiful Joan Fontaine revolves around her marrying the rich, widowed Olivier. She moves into his enormous mansion and his deceased wife continues to haunt the servants and his new bride. An eerie, completely engrossing American debut for Hitchcock. Also, I have the trailer for one of, if not my favorite Hitchcock film, Shadow of a Doubt (1943). Joseph Cotten plays a mischievous uncle who is not what he appears to be after he moves in with his sister's family. A suspenseful film on American life and the search for excitement in the wrong places. Two fantastic films from the "Master of Suspense."


Shadow of a Doubt

Tuesday, November 13, 2012



Directed by Sacha Gervasi
Written by John J. McLaughlin

    "Good Evening." What more can be said about the legendary "Master of Suspense." Well, I'm sure quite a lot has been said and with newer generations of film geeks, historians and cineastes, much will be delved into this masterful king of all directors. On the Mt. Rushmore of directors, at least in my opinion, its Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock. That's a tough call by leaving out the greats such as John Ford, Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick and Jean-Luc Godard, just to name a few. But, Alfred Hitchcock is a giant in the cannon of filmmaking, technique, history and creating masterpiece after legendary masterpiece. And he did not do it alone. In the new film Hitchcock, directed by Sacha Gervasi (Anvil: The Story of Anvil), we see that the relationship between him and his now well-known and legendary wife Alma Reville, was the most important relationship in his life. Not just in a romantic, married couple way, but in the fact that without her, these remarkable and influential films of likes we will never see again, Rebecca, Vertigo, North by Northwest and Psycho, would have never been as great as they were without this loving and heated marriage.
     Hitchcock is based on Stephen Rebello's book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho" and is mainly based on the relationship and love between Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville. The film focuses on Hitch's attempt to make is now renowned, slasher introducing masterpiece Psycho (1960) after the immense success of the Cary Grant led North by Northwest (1959). Paramount studios did not want to make a movie that was loosely based on Wisconsin serial killer and eerily mother dependent Ed Gein. Hitchcock, played by a delightful Anthony Hopkins, is influenced by Robert Bloch's book "Psycho," that told of Ed Gein's murders and mental instabilities. At first, his wife Alma, played by the always riveting Helen Mirren, is skeptical, but supports her husbands desire to make this book into a film. The Hitchcock's decide to finance the film themselves and deviate from there expensive lifestyle to produce and make this movie.
     The cast of characters put together in this film is marvelous. The sly and romantic Danny Huston plays writer Whitfield Cook, a screenwriter on Hitchcock's Stage Fright (1950) and Strangers on a Train (1951), who also persuades and is a possible love interest to Alma and instigator of Hitch's dark insecurities. Scarlett Johansson, who plays Janet Leigh and is funny, lively and its without a doubt one of her better performances in recent years. Well, for me its the best and least annoying acting she has done since Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation (2003). There is also the dependable and really excellent Michael Stuhlbarg as Hitch's agent Lew Wasserman, Toni Collette as his sarcastic secretary Peggy, Jessica Biel as actress Vera Miles and James D'Arcy, who doesn't have much screen time but nails his role as Anthony Perkins, who played Norman Bates in Psycho. My favorite performance comes from the understated and crackly voiced Michael Wincott, who turns in a disturbing appearance as Ed Gein. The acting is great from this insanely talented cast, but the film is owned by the leads,  Hopkins and Mirren. They bring so much discipline, history and experience to these legendary figures of movie lore and make you become engrossed in the lives of these two individuals. They encapsulate the roles of Hitch and Alma with gravitas and humor that eases the film along at a funny and intense pace.
     Hitchcock is a film that through trailers and TV spots made the film feel like it was going to be an almost documentary, historical account of the making of Psycho, but this film at its core is a love story. A love story about two friends, spouses, collaborators and obsessives. The relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Hitchcock, even though Alma kept her maiden name of Reville, is about Hitch's, and yes, he liked being called "Hitch," hold the "cock" as his joke goes, insecurities toward woman, sex, his physical appearance, and Alma's love, misery and support through the tough and happy times. Alma, in the movie, sacrificed all of there sophisticated lifestyle to make Psycho, which was such a huge success, Hitch's biggest, but in reality it was there success. Without Alma, there wouldn't have been the master Alfred Hitchcock. She helped make and, this is not to diminish the immense talent, craft and wisdom of the "Master of Suspense," but she made sure the script was smooth and flowing, the editing was where it needed to be and if music was necessary in a spot to effect the overall affect of the scene, she was there with the correct advice. Hitchcock was an intense director who knew how to push the right buttons with his actors, as a scene with Johansson's Leigh expresses, and made stars out of his trademark blonde's, but was also undeniably funny and was always telling jokes and riddles on set. Sacha Gervasi gracefully catches these two parables of Hitch's filmmaking and relationship with Alma, along with a sustained and acute score from Danny Elfman, a fluid script from John J. McLaughlin and, as usual, crisp and beautiful lensing and cinematography from Jeff Cronenweth.
     Sacha Gervasi's Hitchcock is a satisfying film, especially being shot in just over a month and put through and finished post production in early October. It is not a wildly innovative or knockout film that completely blowed me away, but it felt like a pleasurable account of the relationship, personalities and love between Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Reville during the making of Psycho. Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren are at the top of there game and give nuanced, grand performances as the legendary couple. The mix of humor and drama, well, heavily the film is heavy on the humor side, gives a very slight view into the minds and acts of Mr. and Mrs. Hitchcock. Sacha Gervasi, in his first narrative feature, has developed a successful film that is a pleasure to watch for any fan of Alfred Hitchcock and of cinema.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


     I want to keep on going with presenting movie trailers every Wednesday. I'm going to have either different themes, genres, directors or actors that will be presented each month. Since a new film by Sacha Gervasi titled Hitchcock will be coming out this month, what better reason to present trailers from the "Master of Suspense," the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. The master of macabre humor and enthralling suspense is one of the most recognized, studied and appreciated directors of all time. Films that range from his early British works such as The Lodger, The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes, to his work in Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s with films like Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious and Strangers on a Train, to his legendary technicolor masterpieces in the latter part of his career which brought us cinematic perfections like Rear Window, Vertigo and North by Northwest. The man is someone I admire has a truly great storyteller and master of cinema. I've seen over twenty of his films and none of them seem old at all and are such a pleasure to watch every time. To start off, I will give everyone a couple of trailers of some of his early works that I really enjoy, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and The 39 Steps (1935).
     The Man Who Knew Too Much, the story of a murdered British spy in Switzerland, who confides in his married friends to bring secret information back to Great Britain only to have their daughter kidnapped. The film is truly funny and contains a fantastic shootout and a mysterious, sinister performance from Peter Lorre. The next film is one of my personal favorites, The 39 Steps. The film follows a man who learns of a conspiracy and is thrust into a chase across Scotland in this wrong-man thriller and is one of the most entertaining of Hitchcock's great thrillers. Enjoy.

The Man Who Knew Too Much
Not the best quality but its a fan made trailer

The 39 Steps



Monday, November 5, 2012

Finally the trailer is here.

     One of my most highly anticipated films of the last two or three years has been Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmasters. The film is the story of martial arts legend and trainer Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee and many others. The film has been in post-production, reshoots and I'm sure a lot of tinkering and detailed editing for over two years and this trailer looks supremely epic. Lets hope this martial arts film from one of the most stylistic and progressive filmmakers turns into the epic I hope it can be. From the director who made Chungking Express and In The Mood For Love, expectations are high.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Must-See DOCUMENTARY of the Year

     This will and definitely is the must-see documentary film of the year. The story of wrongfully accused West Memphis three out of West Memphis, Arkansas. They were imprisoned for 18 years for being falsely accused of the murder of three young boys in 1993. The film is an examination of truth and justice, and the lack of both in this case and murder investigation. Directed by Amy Berg and produced by Peter Jackson, West of Memphis is something that is going to be thought provoking and incendiary of the justice system in America.