Archive for September, 2011
Set in the 1860s era of New York, Martin Scorsese constructs a rich, gritty, intense atmosphere of a city in the early stages of formation. The streets and the people are dirty, the elite over-indulge, and the gangs fight everyone for control, including the police who are equally as corrupt as the politicians running the show.
At the heart of this is a gang that runs the Five Points area of New York led by Bill the Butcher played by the awe-inspiring Daniel Day-Lewis. On the opposing side, is Leonardo DiCaprio’s Amsterdam Vallon who shows up to take revenge on Bill for killing his father and eventually claiming his role in running a rival gang.
There’s too much that goes on for me to continue to describe the plot. The overview is that there’s some great character development on the part of DiCaprio’s character while the Butcher gets only more intense and a bit more off-hinge. In the world surrounding these characters, Cameron Diaz’s beguiling pick-pocket keeps the story on it’s toes while John C. Reilly as the police chief and Brendan Gleeson as the former thug for hire and current local hero keep the bar raised with engaging performances. Noone quite manages to shadow the masterful Day-Lewis, but his character (and DiCaprio’s) are the most grandiose ego-wise anyway, so the other performances compliment without exceeding the bar raised by the former.
Visually, the movie is a stunning re-creation of the era. The clothing, wardrobe, props, cars, and all the rest of it is a visual testimonial of a budget well spent. It’s all well crafted, even the dock where the irish immigrants landed during this time. Remarkable.
Scorsese is one of the greats for a reason and everyone and I mean everyone brings their A-game. It’s great to see all the actors put in command performances to keep up with one another. Cameron Diaz is fun to watch out of her usual bombshell persona, she’s tough, gritty and still manages to be alluring. DiCaprio is passionate as always and knows when to turn the dial up as well as when to make it subtle. And then there’s Daniel Day-Lewis who is in perfect form and makes the Butcher both someone you’d follow into battle but also fear as a formidable enemy, both charming and fierce.
An excellent movie, totally worth seeing.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
You can tell a movie is generally effective when you want to change your lifestyle somehow after seeing it. This is one of those movies.
I walked out of the movie wanting to make sure I knew everything about my wife’s health information. It made me feel concerned about her and those close to me. The intensive research that went into this movie really paid off, it’s very well done and creeped me out.
As you may have guessed it’s a movie about a virus. A particularly nasty one that kills people within a very short period of time and is highly infectious, spreading by touch. The rate it kills and how quickly it is spread puts it way ahead of the CDC and everyone else that’s trying to deal with it’s consequences. The viral attack starts with Gwyneth Paltrow and a number of others in a Chinese casino. A number of whom are traveling through other cities and countries on their way to their home. Before ya know it, marshall law is declared and things are getting out of control.
But that’s where Steven Soderbergh puts on the brakes. He takes you right up to the edge of the cliff, walks you alongside it so you can get a good look at it, and then lets go of that tight grip he has on the back of your neck as you relax again. Nerve-racking but still with a strong sense of reality. I appreciate this style a bit more compared to Rupert Emmerich who loves to blow up the planet in all it’s apocalyptic CG glory whenever he has a disaster film going on. Soderbergh doesn’t go quite that far, he lets you and your imagination build it’s own fear on what if that actually happened and maybe more importantly, what would happen next?
The story is told from different viewpoints including the immune husband, the doctors trying to find the cure, the CDC that’s working to contain it and the media that’s spreading information, like, well, you know… Each scene from the different perspectives has it’s own look and feel. Soderbergh does a lot with color and pacing that make him distinctive amongst his peers. The sound and music (which can be discordant) also lend themselves nicely to the tone, which is jarring at times.
The actors here are all on their game and includes Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, Eilliot Gould, Demetri Martin, and Matt Damon who puts out an especially passionate performance. I have to say that Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, and Laurence Fishburne are also compelling to watch.
Wash your hands and don’t touch ANYTHING in the theater when you go see this.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
I was looking forward to seeing this but unfortunately was disappointed.
A little behind-the-scenes first, which I think is ultimately the problem with it. This film is rumored to be the beginning of a replacement franchise for the Harry Potter series. Not sure if that’s happening now since the film failed to wow critics or fans alike and didn’t recoup it’s 95 mil dollar budget at the box office. I’m guessing this is the only installment in the book series that will make it to the big screen.
So what’s wrong with it? First, it lacks the charm and endearing characters that helped to make JK Rowlings universe so compelling. The characters here just seem kind of manufactured more out of necessity than with any real care or attention to detail. There’s not much depth to them, they’re just kind of how you might expect them to be without any real surprises. Not to say there aren’t character arcs in here, but the only one that seems to be of concern is the main character, the support not so much. Percy Jackson is a teenager who has daddy issues, finds out that he’s not who he thinks he is, and comes to terms with seeing himself more as a leader than follower. Been there, done that, many, many, many times now. With Harry Potter, you had numerous characters on an arc, all with distinct personalities, all fun to watch and grow. The characters in this film didn’t suck you in the same way, especially the lead. Logan Lerman is ok but comes off like a generic teenage type A personality while inhabiting the body of a Justin Bieber clone.
The story ultimately revolves around the gods bickering over god stuff with our hero getting stuck in the middle as he’s accused of stealing the weapon of Zeus. Speaking of which, I find it hard to believe that the king of gods would just leave this thing laying around, that premise was definitely pretty lame. Hades kidnaps Percy’s mom as bait to get the weapon and steal Zeus’ thunder (ahem, cough, cough, pun, pun). Percy then embarks on a journey into the underworld (the entrance to which resides in the Hollywood sign naturally, kind of makes sense after seeing this film) in an effort to restore his innocence, rescue his mom and make the world safe from a war of the gods.
The plotline isn’t too bad but it’s not great. The way it’s pieced together feels more like a patchwork of things that happen then an organic storyline that flows from one moment to the next. It feels rushed when they could’ve had a lot more fun with it. The “training camp” is a good example. The camp is supposed to be a place for demi-gods (someone who’s born with a mortal parent and a parent who is a god), but it comes off as a bunch of people swinging swords around. Where’s the lightning? The fire? The cool, god-like stuff? Aside from Percy, most everyone else comes off as regular people, pretty uninteresting. The only other indication of this camp being special is in some of the decor and the fact that centaurs run the joint, oh and Percy has a satyr side kick. That’s about it though.
There’s some serious talent in here: Sean Bean, Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman, Steve Coogan, Rosario Dawson, Catherine Keener and Joe Pantoliano. Great lineup but they come off kind of forced at times (Zeus) and cartoony at others (Hades). It’s like Chris Columbus (who ironically directed the first 2 Harry Potter films) wasn’t sure where to go with the tone and the actors just kind of fumbled their way through it. Awkward directing and a confused tone overall.
The effects look great mostly but come off very CG at times (the hellhounds being one example, the river Styx looking like an amusement park ride being another). They probably should’ve directed some of the budget back towards the story development and less on the bells and whistles.
I wouldn’t go out of my way to see this, check out Clash of the Titans instead.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
I write openly once again to AMC to bring about another topic – parents and small children coming to movies that are not for children.
I sympathize with parents, I really do. I don
I was really looking forward to this movie as I was a big fan of the original. Then I heard this film getting a bad wrap from the critics and I’ve learned that no matter what the critics say, it’s always good to form your own opinion.
Let’s start with the shortcomings and get those out of the way…
I like Sam Worthington and he’s a decent Perseus, but not great. He comes off a bit too wooden at times and lacks the character that Harry Hamlin brought to the original. Worthington is doing it his way, a bit more militant. Unfortunately he’s just not as likable as you’d want for Perseus. Even when his family dies, he still seems a little stone faced, lacking passion and intensity or raw emotion. He’s better than this, he’s either trying too hard or not hard enough, it seems to change from scene to scene.
The CG is great at times (the Kraken sequences are epic) but falls short at others as with some of the Medusa segments looking distractingly CG. The palace of the gods (Zeus’ pad) looks a bit cheesy at times too, like they were running out of budget and did the interiors a bit lazily. On the upside the battle with the scorpions, the Kraken and the Pegasus segments make the movie worth seeing, very well done. Excellent detail and design.
There are some fine performances in here as well. Seeing Ralph Fiennes as Hades squaring off with Liam Neeson’s Zeus is classic and consistently enjoyable. Those two can do anything although I thought Liam Neeson held back a little when he should have amped things up more. I wanted his Zeus to be giant and grandiose as the king of the gods, but he comes off a little tame at times. In terms of character my only complaint is that there should’ve been a stronger actor to play Neptune who’s barely in here. Otherwise, the characters and how the story interacts with them works well with the subtle nips and tucks that were made to guide the plotline.
The good thing is they didn’t try to re-do the first movie, they brought their own version to the table, although they cleverly give a nod to the mechanical owl from the original. The part that’s lacking versus the other is the charm and wit that made the first feel more light and adventurous at times where this version is more serious and action-oriented.
Overall a feast for the eyes and fun to watch, thrilling at times, I wish I had seen it in the theater.
reviewed by Sean McKnight