Monday, January 31, 2011

Casino Jack | Review

Sunkmanitu Tanka Owaci. Yeah figure that one out. Muahahahahah.
So what we have here is kind of an on and off again entertaining movie. For those who don't know the true story this movie it's based on, this is the story of Jack Abramoff played by Kevin Spacey who was once a super lobbyist in Washington D.C until he was involved in this huge corruption scandal involving swindling tens of millions of dollars from Native American casinos amongst other wonderful wrongdoings like political bribery and murder.
For the most part, Casino Jack is an enjoyable satirical comedy. The problem is that I followed this story quite closely two years back and I know what really went down so I couldn't get the thought out of my mind on how inaccurate this movie was. One being that this is a really emphatic movie about Abramoff. Kevin Spacey here is playing this total douchebag in real life as a sweet, movie loving, wise cracking guy who just did some fucked up shit.
I did find myself loving the character Spacey was portraying but that's not how Abramoff is in real life. I mean he's the scummest of scumbags people. But with a bit of belief suspension, you'll find yourself drawn to Kevin Spacey's character because reality aside.. he is one funny guy to watch. When you have a movie where the bad guy is the lead, the director and Spacey did a good job to make Abramoff lovable. Charming really. He reminded me of Jake Gyllenhall's character from Love And Other Drugs where he's this asshole that gets what he wants by manipulating other people, but at the same time, he has such a flair and style to doing it that you can't help but love the guy. Spacey's version is more goofy than flair and it was jackass awesome.
Great to see Jon Lovitz back to doing good comedy. He was an unmitigated disaster in this. But that's not really a bad thing if you're Jon Lovitz. I thought he was actually what Casino Jack needed at times just to point the film back on the goofy path when things got too serious. Sure, it's a brain dead performance and even more brain dead story development but hey, I was brain dead watching it and I was loving the sillyness.
On the other hand, there are some disastrously misguided casting choices, beginning with Kelly Preston as Jack's wife and even though she exhibits some swagger towards the beginning to the film, she is unable to keep up with Spacey, Lovitz and Barry Pepper who developed a great camaraderie of goody sillyness while she's stuck playing the one-dimensional wife.
The story was all over the place at times. Again, this is coming from a guy who knew the case and I can tell you that these guy's really took an artistic license when writing the story. They probably went, "Hmm.. how do I make this funny? Oh I know.. I'll put in some shit that never really happened and have Jon Lovitz turn to the camera and go, ACTING!"
I think I would have liked Casino Jack more if it was a simple television movie. Many of it's gaping flaws would have been forgiven because it's production value terribly fits that of a cinema format.
Ultimately, this is a movie for people who aren't that into politics to watch, have fun and learn a small fraction of something. It's a joy watching Spacey and Lovitz interact here but Casino Jack is gravely mediocre at best. Average, amateurish filmmaking.

RATING: 4/10

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Meet The New Superman: Henry Cavill

Zack Snyder's production of The Man of Steel finally has it's Superman. British actor Henry Cavill, known for his TV role on the period drama The Tudors among other screen credits like The Count of Monte Cristo and Stardust.
He has apparently been super close to playing numerous iconic screen characters. He lost out to Daniel Craig for the Bond movies, The Green Lantern, Batman and even Twilight. Lucky he dodged that bullet huh? From the looks of it, this couldn't have happened to a better guy after hearing all the misses he's gotten. Still not all too convinced he can pull of Superman. I liked Brandon Routh.

The Man of Steel is written by David S. Goyer of FlashForward, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight with producer Christopher Nolan attached, as well as Zack Snyder of Watchmen and Legend of the Guardians helming. Watch out for it in 2012. This should be good.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The King's Speech | Review

Them British and their stupid royal movies again. For once I just want them to make one bad royal movie. Oh do one about Prince Harry and get Simon Pegg to play him. Now that would be awesome.
So The King's Speech. The frontrunner of the Academy Awards with 12 nominations. Personally I loved this movie for everything it is but I don't want it to win Best Picture for several reasons. I'll talk about them later. But I can't deny that Speech is a beautiful film. Lovely. Wonderful. Masterpiece, really.
In the film, Colin Firth plays the soon to be King of England who is in a lot of ways fit to take up the role as leader of the nation. He's caring, responsible and always answers the call of duty. The only problem is he's a stammerer. I mean he can't talk for shit. He can't even tell his daughters a bedtime story without choking himself. So his wife played by Helena Bonham Carter seeks the help of a speech therapist played Geoffrey Rush and the three embark on a task to cure his speech impediment as the weight of responsibility to his family and nation becomes heavier and war with Germany draws closer.
This is a great movie. Wonderful testament to the subtlety and artistry of British filmmaking. There are many things I loved about The King's Speech. Every part was well envisioned, written, acted, shot and executed under the keen direction of Tom Hooper, who has succeeded in turning a 5 minute speech into a lighthearted and endearing buddy movie on top of a serious family soap opera drama.
Watching Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush play off each other was such a privileged to see. A buddy movie is really the best way I can describe The King's Speech because here's just such a great sense of camaraderie between these two and the film earns that with great development and acting from both these guys.
Colin Firth is going to win the Oscar for this role. He was phenomenal in this. I already felt he deserved to win for A Single Man if it wasn't overshadowed by Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart but he was absolutely wonderful playing a tormented, frustrated royal with such control and subtlety. People may say that it was easy for him to play a stammer but even the way he stutters through the dialog had such great emotion in it. You an literally feel his frustration, his disappointment in himself each time he chokes on a word and it's hard to watch sometimes.
Geoffrey Rush on the other hand is the Dickey Ecklund to Colin Firth's Micky Ward. He's just such a powerhouse maverick in this as the speech therapist who shoulders the King of England through one of the hardest times for him and his country. And he is so laugh out loud to watch. I think it's a shame Rush has been typecast-ed as a supporting role because this is also very much his movie.
But it's also hard to overlook the grand supporting performances in here. It's nice to see Helena Bonham Carter do something that isn't all Tim Burton-y like in Alice In Wonderland. You almost forget what a warm person she could be. Guy Pearce is wonderfully casted to carry on this whole side story of the royal family's struggle between protocol, love and duty in a great yet sublime soap opera drama. And Timothy Spall who surprised me the most playing a very convincing Winston Churchill.
Also great kudos to Tom Hooper who has matured as a director who really knows how to frame shots. The beginning of this film was amazing. It captures the feeling of stage fright right down to a T. And there's so many elements in here that usually would never work in a British period piece like the whole comic area of Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth's interaction. So good job Mr. Hooper. Now lose to David Fincher next month.
Now, why I say The King's Speech shouldn't the big gold is because quite frankly, it is just another generic, dry Oscar movie. The problem with The King's Speech is that, though it is a great film.. it is going to be forgotten in next year's Oscar. Just like The Hurt Locker. People are going to be talking about Avatar and District 9 for years to come but no one is going to remember that movie because it doesn't have that long of a shelf life. And the same applies to The King's Speech. I don't see this movie outlasting The Social Network or Toy Story 3.
But I can't deny t is a great film. And for what it's worth.. It does add another name to the list of great cinematic films. And as a final word to it, I say, "FUCK ASS. BALLS. BALLS. FUCKITY. SHIT SHIT. FUCKING WILLY. WILLY SHIT AND FUCK and…. tits."

RATING: 8/10

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Howl | Review

Oh how I missed weird art movies like this.
Now I'm one of those who appreciate the odd, stylishly weird art films that come around every now and then. But with Howl, there's just a lingering feeling of "I really don't see the point to this,' that's going over my head as the film babbles on cool sounding bullshit in my ear.
So for those who don't know, back in the 50's, Allen Ginsberg, famous American poet wrote an epic poem called Howl. Now for me personally, I always felt that Ginsberg was probably stoned when he wrote it but apparently it's contents were so awesome it broke ground for new modern literature. See how easily people are pleased with "art" these days. Anyway, the film inter-cuts between 3 stories.
The first is the poem itself which is depicted through animation and Ginsberg reading it to an audience for the first time, the second being Ginsberg himself who we see giving an interview with a faceless reporter and lastly the obscenity trial that tried to ban the publication of Howl and prosecute its publisher. All three aspects run the length of the film and are separated stylistically.
The blend between the three segments were beautifully done and was incredibly ambitious and I really felt the risk paid off. The variety helps when jumping between storylines and periods of time. The animation sequences in this isn't Pixar quality but it does it's job in bringing to life the whirlwind and bohemian underbelly tone of Ginsberg's poem. The one-on-one interview with Ginsberg was played brilliantly by James Franco who is continuing to impress me with every role he takes.
Franco is the star of this movie, his performance of a subdued, young Ginsberg is nothing short of refreshing to watch. I'd compare his performance in Howl to Ben Whishaw in I'm Not There who's just sitting on a coach and rambling off with a whirlwind of words and every now and then, he'll say something profound that blows your mind. I am only slightly disappointed that the courtroom segment took up most of the film when all I really wanted was to know more of Ginsberg's back story, because at times I felt Franco's segment was just a fancy transition scene between the courtroom and the animation.
But I did love the courtroom segment. David Strathairn and Jon Hamm provide a highly comical and exciting court battle, and yes Jon Hamm is essentially playing Don Draper but it does work well. There are cameos within the court scenes by Mary-Louise Parker and Jeff Daniels; Parker is fairly forgettable but Daniels’ brief performance is excellent.
All three segments work well and stands alone perfectly even out of the context of the film. Unfortunately, they were made to be intertwined with one another, going back and forth between segments that ultimately leaves the audience underwhelmed in the grand scheme of things.
I blame the pacing of the film. Though stylistically well done, the editing left the segments fragmented and disjointed; not allowing the audience much time to let it all sink in for them. We jump from dark animation with weird narrations to a James Franco speech to a comedy courtroom scene in a matter of minutes each time that it doesn't give you much time to process what you are suppose to be understanding or feeling about the movie. The segments in Howl were great, they just weren't that good together as a whole movie.
I wouldn't recommend Howl to general readers, because it does take that level of interest in art films and an open mind. But I still enjoyed it for the contemporary, smorgasbord mess it is.

RATING: 5.5/10


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