Monday, October 20, 2008
Director: Oliver Stone
Starring: Josh Brolin, James Cromwell, Elizabeth Banks, Toby Jones, Richard Dreyfuss
MPAA: Rated PG-13
When I first heard that Oliver Stone was making a feature length film detailing the life of President George W. Bush, I was alittle skeptical. I mean out of all historic icons to base a movie off, why do one based off George W. Bush? I just wasn't convinced that Bush had enough interesting material to make a movie out of. I also wasn't sure if the movie was even going to get released in theaters. I thought it could end up like those direct-to-home video films since it was obviously going to be pretty controversial. Seeing as how I'm not a big fan of Bush, I was sure that this was a film I was going to avoid. Soon after the trailers started rolling, I slowly started to give in. It just looked pretty interesting.
W. takes viewers through Bush's eventful life such as his struggles and triumphs, how he found both his wife and his faith, and of course the critical days leading up to Bush's decision to invade Iraq.
I'm not sure if everything in the film is true or slightly changed, but its very interesting nonetheless. Its told through a series of flashbacks that detail the life of Bush and how he came to be President of the United States of America. While the fact that Bush's earlier life may not sound interesting to people, but it actually is. The film details the early life of George W. Bush starting from the days of his alcoholism. You wouldn't expect someone like Bush to be partying and drinking when in fact he does...or at least he did when he was younger. The film also shows this father and son relationship that Bush had with his dad. This plays a key role in the film and is basically the main centerpiece of the films plot. It also works pretty well since we have wonderful actors playing these roles. While the film may be fascinating to understand, it can also tend to drag. I found alot of areas where the film dragged and became pretty dull to watch. The earlier parts of the film can be fun to watch, but later parts tend to drag. I know this is a heavy dialogue driven film, but even then I wasn't expecting this.
Josh Brolin plays as the main center piece of the film, George W. Bush. Brolin does a fantastic job playing this difficult part. No wonder Christian Bale dropped out of the film at the last minute, this isn't an easy role to take and I don't think Bale could have pulled it off. I think Brolin was perfect for this role and he definitely nailed it. James Cromwell plays as George Herbert Walker Bush a.k.a. George Bush. I think he played the part pretty great and I really enjoyed his presence, but I'm not particularly sure if he looks like the real George Bush. I thought Brolin somewhat resembled his character, but I just couldn't find any George Bush in James Cromwell. Elizabeth Banks plays as Laura Bush and she too is great. Even though she looks nothing like the real Laura Bush, I thought Banks played the part pretty smoothly and shes really gorgeous in the film. Toby Jones plays as Karl Rove and I generally enjoyed his role here. I also didn't detect any resemblance to the real Karl Rove, but at least Jones delivered a solid performance that wasn't distracting or bad.
The visual look of W. is simply great. The film was just released wide last Friday and its film source is pretty clean. I didn't detect any film grain and the image seemed generally smooth for the most part. Colors tend to be pretty vibrant from time to time. Darker scenes also tend to hold up pretty well with black levels staying strong with only a few scenes were it tends to look alittle muddy. Flesh tones are spot on and have that warm feeling to them. Detail is surprisingly good for a film like this. I wasn't expecting much from this film, but was surprised to see how good it looks. Close up shots show a good amount of detail and you can literally see the lines on Brolin's forehead. Their are a few scenes that are somewhat soft, but this is a good looking film for the most part.
The soundtrack for the film is somewhat lacking. The original music is done by Paul Cantelon and it really isn't that great. For a movie like this, I would have expected much more from the sound department. What we have is decent, but its hardly used enough. The film doesn't really consist of a score that's recognizable or stable. We do get many other music that is used often and sounds better than the films score. These different types of music go well with the film and are generally fun to listen to. W. is really really lacking in the bass department which doesn't come off as a surprise. For a film like this, you would have to be an idiot to expect much from the bass considering its a heavily dialogue driven film. What we get seems suitable and gets the job done, but it is by no mean reference material.
W. is an interesting film that sounded stupid on paper, but is actually better once you see it. I wasn't expecting much from this film since I'm not a big fan of Bush, but I was pleasantly surprised on how fascinating George W. Bush's early life can be. I thought the cast is great with Brolin delivering a performance that I thought was simply fantastic and maybe enough to earn an Oscar or two. The visual look of the film is surprisingly good for a film like this. Theirs a good amount of detail and clarity on most of the actors faces. The soundtrack is pretty disappointing since the films score just doesn't live up to what I was expecting. I actually enjoyed this film even though it was somewhat tough to get through simply because of how patient you have to be. Love him or hate him, but Oliver Stone's biographical film based on the life and presidency of George W. Bush is worth checking out.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Body of Lies
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani, Vince Colosimo
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
MPAA: Rated R
When I first saw the trailer for Ridley Scott's Body of Lies a couple months earlier, I honestly wasn't that impressed. While the trailer had its cool moments, it just felt like another espionage thriller that has been done many times before. Still, since it was Ridley Scott that was directing this upcoming thriller, I was somewhat interested in seeing it. I happened to enjoy his last movie "American Gangster" and several other films from him. I wasn't pumped to see it in theaters because I could have easily held off for the DVD release, but a couple of my friends wanted to see it so I caved.
Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an operative trying to gather Intel on Islamic terrorist cells to get to the head: Al- Saleem (Alon Abutbul). He works closely with local contacts wherever he goes, only to find that his boss, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) finds them useful, but disposable. After losing such a friend in Iraq, Ferris travels to Jordan to head up the U.S. Intelligence operations there. In Jordan he befriends Hani (Mark Strong), the head of Jordanian Intelligence, who places more value on patience and trust than speed and technology.
The story is based on the novel "Body of Lies" by David Ignatius. Having not read the novel, I cant compare whats new or whats been left out of the film. The film starts off pretty interesting with a building exploding like no tomorrow. From than on, we are put in the shoes of Roger Ferris who is tracking an Islamic terrorist who is supposedly linked to some bombings. The problem with Body of Lies is within its plot. The screenplay was written by William Monahan who also wrote the engaging Oscar winning 2006 hit film "The Departed". His script for the film is simply broken and at times, complex. It isn't easy to take in and will leave most audiences somewhat lost. The film also doesn't consist of much action scenes that will keep the audience tuned in. Their are a few, but hardly enough. Body of Lies also doesn't bring anything new to this tired genre and theirs nothing here that we haven't seen before in films including Spy Game which was directed by Scott's brother Tony. With all this said, Body of Lies is still a good movie. The film is shot and directed very nicely by Scott. The characters are interesting enough to watch and learn from especially when their played by people who know how to give a performance. Just like most of Scott's films, we also get some awesome explosions that are very cool and very well made.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays as Roger Ferris and he does a great job in his role. DiCaprio is honestly one of Hollywood's most talented actors and his work in his films show this. He gives a very believable performance as Ferris and one that I simply enjoyed. Russell Crowe plays as Ed Hoffman and hes more of a supporting role this time around. He gives a pretty good performance as Hoffman, but I'm not so sure he was the ideal person for this role. He pulls off the serious family man attitude, but I wasn't fond of him just feeding DiCaprio's character through the telephone almost 90% of the time. Mark Strong plays as Hani and he gives a great performance. I thought his character was interesting and very believable along DiCaprio. Golshifteh Farahani plays as Aisha and I thought she was pretty good. I have never seen or heard of her, but I thought she gave a pretty good performance especially for her first big budget film. We also have Vince Colosimo playing as Skip. I also haven't seen or heard of him before, but I thought he was entertaining in this film.
The visual look of Body of Lies is great. Director Ridley Scott shot this film with less film grain in mind. As a result, Body of Lies doesn't consist of much film grain compared to Scott's last film, "American Gangster". Their are a few scenes that do have some film grain, but these are mostly during the night scenes and I'm sure it was done intentionally to make it seem more real. Colors are somewhat vibrant due to the nature of the location they filmed the movie at. They don't necessarily pop from the screen, but their still nicely colorful. Black levels are pretty solid, but the night scenes can look somewhat flat. Flesh tones are mostly accurate and have that warm feeling to them. Detail is surprisingly strong and clear. Close up shots on Leo's face show alot of clarity and small pores. Their are a few special effect scenes, but even these look great.
The soundtrack in Body of Lies is fairly good. The film's score is composed by Marc Streitenfeld who also scored some of Scott's previous films such as A Good Year and American Gangster. I thought he did a good job with the score for the film. It sounded right and just went with the flow of the film. The film's score is also nicely used and spread out pretty widely. Were also treated to other music in the film that is mostly played during the credits. Body of Lies features a bombastic bass mix. Judging by the trailers, I had no doubt this film would deliver in the bass department. Every little gun shot and fierce explosions transitioned very well with the film's bass. I wouldn't go out and say its definitely reference material, but it damn well comes close.
Body of Lies is a good film that I fairly enjoyed. The story doesn't do anything new to separate itself from many other clones in the same genre and its plot can be somewhat complex at times simply because of its many layers to its story. While I thought the story wasn't as great as I was expecting it to be, I still thought it had some cool moments that were entertaining. The cast is great with many of them giving out good performances that are very enjoyable to sit back and watch. The visual look of the film is simply great with the film featuring some bold colors and strong detail all around. The soundtrack is engaging and well used through out the film. It also features a kick ass bass that easily handles some of the films cool explosions. I cant say I loved this film, but I did fairly enjoy it enough to recommend it.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Flash of Genius
Director: Marc Abraham
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Dermot Mulroney, Jake Abel, Tim Kelleher
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA: Rated PG-13
I honestly didn't know about this film until couple days ago when I heard my friend talking about it. I then decided to look up the trailer for this film and see what its all about. I liked what I saw from the trailer and the film looked very interesting. I wasn't pumped to see it on day one, but it looked like a film that I wouldn't mind watching. So when the film came out Friday, my friends and I decided to watch it simply because their weren't other major films that looked interesting to watch.
Robert Kearns (Greg Kinnear) submitted an invention to each of the big three auto companies about the modern intermittent windshield wiper. The companies each promptly rejected his idea then turned around and put the device to use. The enraged inventor spent several decades attempting to collect on his patent, and mounting lawsuits that traveled all the way to the Supreme Court; he eventually collected over 30 million dollars for his obsession.
The story for Flash of Genius is pretty good. The film is based on the fact that Robert Kearns invented the intermittent windshield wiper and how a powerful automobile company like Ford tried to steal his invention. The movie seems pretty accurate with what I read about on the real Robert Kearns maybe with some minimal changes. The plot is simple and very straight forward. If you read about the film than you will obviously know whats coming next. The film is also not for everyone as I can see alot of people calling it boring and I will admit that their are a few dull moments, but still an enjoyable film to those with enough patience. As much as I enjoyed the films story, I cant help but think this film would have been better suited as a mini-series or direct-to-home video film. I mean their really isn't enough material here to push out a 2 hour film and yet that's exactly what this film is. Other than that, I really don't have any issues with the film. I thought the dialogue was interesting and mixed a good amount of humor that worked nicely. I also enjoyed the ending and thought it closed the film just the way it should have.
Greg Kinnear plays as the main character of the film, Bob Kearns. He does a great job here and one that I enjoyed very much. I thought his character was interesting even though hes somewhat stubborn most of the time and thought Kinnear played Kearns wonderfully. Lauren Graham plays as Phyllis Kearns and shes alright in her role. I haven't really seen her in a new role in awhile and I only saw one episode of Gilmore Girls in which I thought she was average at. I think shes pretty average here, but still enjoyable in her role. Dermot Mulroney plays as Gil Privick and he too is good in his role. I thought he was a good supporting actor in the film and fairly enjoyed his performances here. Jake Abel plays as Dennis Kearns and I thought he was very good in his role, probably the second strongest in the film in terms of acting. He was pretty serious and smooth in most of his on screen time. We also have Tim Kelleher playing as Charlie Defao and he was just plain funny.
The visual look of Flash of Genius is simply great. The movie has this 1960's look to it that really makes the film look really nice. I think the production crew did an awesome job for the films setting. The film was just released a couple days ago and its source is an excellent condition. I didn't detect any film grain in the day or night scenes. Colors look good for the most part, but the contrast seems alittle too hot. It makes the film look somewhat orange in the day scenes, but I think this was to make the film seem more 60-ish. Black levels are pretty good, but don't hold up too well in darker scenes. Detail is mostly great with alot of close up shots revealing alot of clarity. The film is never razor sharp, but its got a good amount of detail from beginning to end.
The film is somewhat of a mixed bag in the sound department. The films score is composed by Aaron Zigman who also composed music for other low budget films such as Alpha Dog and Good Luck Chuck, but his score here feels wasted. Theirs hardly any music in Flash of Genius. I know this is suppose to be a biopic, but even then I would have liked some music to break away from the many silent moments. The film isn't music-less and their are a few scenes where the films score catches on, but their aren't enough and they ain't loud enough. The films bass is pretty much nonexistent, but that really doesn't come as a surprise considering the films story and pacing.
Flash of Genius isn't for everyone and it never was. The films story isn't going to cut it for everyone simply because its plot doesn't sound interesting on paper. The films story is pretty good if your patient and really pay attention to whats going on. The cast is great for the most part with everyone delivering slightly above average performances. The visual look of the film is very accurate to the films time period. It also features a good amount of detail and some good colors. The soundtrack is pretty much useless since we hardly get any music in the film. I really wish this film was made as a mini-series or a direct-to-home video film. Its just tough forking out $10 bucks for a film like this when it clearly doesn't have enough material to justify that money. Still, this is a good film that I enjoyed and would recommend it to those looking for slow movies or have $10 bucks to burn.