Archive for Michael Caine

Interstellar (2014) Review (PG-13)

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on November 9, 2014 by Crash! Landen

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Film director Christopher Nolan’s latest silver screen offering is a thought provoking thrilling entertainment even if it’s not always logical. The movie stars Matthew McConaughey as Cooper, an ex-pilot turned farmer in an age of blight and famine. The human race is slowly starving, suffocating even, with no answers in sight. Cooper, a widower, is someone who is a bit disappointed by humanity’s state of malaise; no longer reaching for the stars. He doesn’t enjoy being a farmer other than to provide for his two children (Tom and Murphy), still yearning to fly.

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By an act of fate (or maybe not so much), he comes into contact with a reformed version of NASA (which was shut down after having been deemed as unnecessary). There he meets an old friend: the physicist Prof. Brand (played by Nolan favorite Michael Caine) who now leads the mission to save humanity. He has a plan to do just that, having been studying a wormhole that was ‘placed’ in our solar system by… fifth dimensional beings. My brain immediately went to Mr. Mxyzptlk (one of Superman’s arch-foes), but I remembered he was from the fourth dimension. Oh. We have more theoretical dimensions nowadays, I guess… But, I digress.

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A number of manned spacecraft have already traversed the wormhole to a galaxy far, far away. Brand wants Cooper to fly a new mission to find out if the worlds that the manned spacecraft have found are habitable. Cooper at first refuses (because he’s a father), until Brand illustrates that he’s offering a chance to save his children. With that, Cooper sets off with a team of scientists that includes Brand’s daughter (played by another Nolan regular: Anne Hathaway). And here… We…………….. Go!

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As with most, if not all of Nolan’s films, the running time is quite bloated with excessive content that allows for more ill conceived moments that momentarily take the viewer out of the story (And there are quite a few ill conceived moments). I say “momentarily” because another staple of a Christopher Nolan movie is that he knows what buttons to push to get the audience behind his protagonists’ journey as he does here. Even when a spaceship’s crew is lightening their load in order to attempt to escape the gravity of a black hole, I just ignored the utter ridiculousness of that particular idea and enjoyed the action. Nolan ‘sells’ the situations of his characters very well, even in the scenes that really added nothing except extra running time minutes. There are some black hole sized gaps of rationale that just don’t make sense, especially in who drops the wormhole near Saturn… Some cinematic time loops make sense. This one doesn’t if you think about it. But, anyway… There are also some revelations that didn’t seem to be properly set up (the one involving Anne Hathaway’s character in particular).

 

I’m not complaining about the extended length too much nor the movie’s coherence. I was never bored; never checking my watch. The story was as epic as something covering this kind of subject matter should be. It was the kind of spectacle that Hollywood films can be. The sound accompanying the IMAX visuals was worth the few extra dollars (to me). The story does offer up a little to think about with all of the concepts that get kicked around. Some of Nolan’s reoccurring themes make their way into the story, also. One such theme that I don’t think has been talked about much is the way  Nolan focuses on the way stories are told and the reliability of the truth of the story by the teller (as in ‘Following’, ‘Memento’, ‘The Prestige’, even the Batman films to some degree). That’s touched on a little in the beginning of the film (with Murphy’s teacher who talks about the ‘faked’ missions to the moon) and the theme makes itself evident later as well.

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I don’t think this is Nolan’s best work, but it was worthwhile to see at the movie theater. There are some real knockout scenes that echoed some of the films that probably directly inspired this one (especially Kubrick’s 2001) along with some head-scratchers (it’s not surprising that some of the people behind the VERY flawed 1997 Jodie foster vehicle ‘Contact’… which also co-starred McConaughey… were also behind this one). Some things like the extended epilogue should have probably been cut from the film, but on other scenes I can’t even come up with a description for (as in the ‘docking’ scene) other than that it was just really damn cool. The fact that it also reminded me of the fun but ridiculous Luc besson film ‘The Fifth Element’  in the ‘message behund the film’ didn’t help, either. There are parts in this that are better than what is taken in its entirety. Some of the best parts of the film involved McConaughey playing the brash pilot and also some of the obvious tearjerking scenes with his daughter (who I have failed to mention until now… played by Mackenzie Foy who maybe stole a few scenes from her adult costars). But the good parts far outweigh the bad (and I didn’t even get to the at first not very impressive robot comedy relief). Just go see it and make up your own mind, but if you like science fiction (or Christopher Nolan’s past films), there’s a really good chance that you’ll probably like this one.

4 of 5

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The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Review (PG-13)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2012 by Crash! Landen

The Dark Knight Rises, director Christopher Nolan’s (supposed) last foray into Gotham City, is long, loud, melodramatic to the point of overly serious, dark, violent, has at least two characters that were unnecessary and is maybe even a little illogical at times… and I loved every minute of it. Despite starting a little shaky (trying to establish a myriad of new characters) and much angsty hand wringing by the principal players… oh, the melancholy… Despite ll that, I left the theater with the same smile on my face that I had when I saw first Batman Begins (multiple times) and later The Dark Knight (even more multiple times). I’m sure I’ll be seeing this again (yes… multiple times).

The story begins where The Dark Knight left off, even if 8 years have passed in between the two films. District Attorney Harvey Dent, Gotham City’s ‘White Knight’ turned villain (as Two Face) is dead while Batman (Christian Bale) and Commissioner  Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) basically perpetrate a lie (that Batman killed Dent) in order to allow people to still believe that Harvey Dent was a symbol of hope. A law called the ‘Dent Act’ is passed and helps to eradicate crime in Gotham City while being somewhat controversial (does that sound familiar at all?).

Many miles away, the CIA is transporting (by airplane) a Russian nuclear physicist named Pavel (Alon Aboutboul) and a trio of terrorists connected to a violent criminal mastermind named Bane. The CIA agents uses some unusual tactics to try to get information about Bane. When it’s revealed that one of the terrorists IS Bane, the events quickly take a turn for the worst. Another plane appears and there is a fairly spectacular sequence where Bane’s men rescue their leader and take Pavel for their own purposes.

Bane (played by another Nolan favorite, Tom Hardy) is a thuggish lout that speaks calmly and eloquently (while brutally killing people with his bare hands). He is prone to speeches about his philosophy and politics. He very much reminded me of ‘The Humungus’ from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Hardy’s physical presence made Bane look like a guy that Batman was going to have a really long day with.

In the years since the previous film, Bruce Wayne and his alter ego have receded into the dark halls of Wayne Manor. He is spoken of as a Howard Hughes-like hermit who no longer has any contact with the outside world, making his way around with a cane and seen only in shadow even at fundraisers thrown at his home. At one such event, a mysterious woman (Catwoman, of course, played by Anne Hathaway… everyone knows that) posing as a maid attempts to steal a necklace that belongs to Wayne’s mother.  Bruce intercedes and she proves to be more than a match for the ‘out of the game’ superhero. The theft isn’t the real purpose for her being there, but I won’t reveal any of that. You can find out for yourself. In fact, I don’t think I need to go any further with the plot.

There is quite a bit crammed in here. Red herrings. Appearances by characters from past films. Some (expected) plot twists. There are several things in the film that will be predictable to comic book fans, but I was amazed that Nolan managed to squeeze some surprises out of the proceedings. And there was one ‘reveal’ that I KNEW was coming, but when it came and how it came felt like it was shocking. You’ll have to see the movie to understand that and see if you feel the same way. It has a little bit of a twist, too. A knife twist.

I do think there might have been a little too much here. A little editing might have made this a much tighter movie. I thought the characters played by Matthew Modine and Juno Temple were extraneous and unnecessary. And nothing against Temple, but her character especially was not needed. I’m struggling to remember anything pertinent that was said  or occurred when she was onscreen.

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle on the other hand… I was never one of her doubters. Hathaway’s actually a pretty good actress. People had problems with Katie Holmes, then Maggie Gyllenhaal and now Hathaway (I doubt anyone will have problems with Marion Cotillard, who probably would have made a great Catwoman herself). I don’t know what it is with the cattiness of some fans to the female leads in this series. I’m fine with all of ’em. Hathaway actually has enough of the aloof sexiness necessary for the character. She emotes. Her inner turmoil was believable. And she just looked good in all of the slinky outfits (I’m actually glad the director got rid of that dominatrix-style whip for the character, too).

Another Nolan favorite, Joseph Gordon-Levitt appears as a young, idealistic police officer who becomes a prominent player in Bane’s attack on Gotham by getting notice from Jim Gordon and for proving to have a talent for detective work akin to Batman’s. There was much speculation as to who his character would turn out to be. I won’t say anything about that, but he gets a significant amount of screen time and I never once was wondering why they were concentrating so much as his character rather than Bruce Wayne. It makes sense in the story and Gordon-Levitt is generally a likable actor (except in that damn Hesher movie).

What’s to say about Christian Bale? He probably plays a lesser role in this than in the last  two films. he doesn’t have as many of the great scenes between he and Caine or Freeman. His character lacks the lighter touch of the past two films, also, but I guess his ordeal and the circumstances in this one are far more grim.

I don’t know if he would be able to recover from the kinds of injuries he sustains in this, but he sells it. He is almost underrated (and understated) as the best big screen Batman. there will be more Batman films and other actors that play him, but the next actor is going to have big boots to fill.

The story itself is an appropriately epic finish to the trilogy. The stakes are raised ever higher than the previous two. If there was a fourth film, I don’t how Nolan could escalate things any more than he has without completely abandoning the semi-realism (for superhero films, leastways). He actually got a little further away from that anyway with this film’s events. Even the technology in this one is a little more into the realm of the fantastic than the past two Batman flicks.

Nolan juggles quite a bit with telling a fantasy story with a little substance behind it, servicing the character and this will certainly work a s a crowd pleaser even if it is a lot more somber in tone than what came before. There are some great action scenes, especially involving the latest Bat-vehicle aptly named The Bat. There are some Braveheart style battle scenes. I have to say though, one of the weakest parts of the film were the hand to hand fights. I don’t know if they switched out their fight choreographer, but this film wasn’t quite as believable to me when it came to the fistfights. And I’m not just talking about Catwoman’s fight scenes.The funny thing about those was that when I saw Get Smart, Anne Hathaway sold me on her character’s fighting prowess. I don’t think they sold Catwoman’s skills in this as well as she did in Get Smart. Based on that film, I figured she would make a great Catwoman and I think I was proven right after see this, but I digress. Having Bane and Batman reduced to a punch out with all the heavy machinery seemed like a little bit of an anticlimax, though. They were still enjoyable. I thought Nolan had a bit of trouble with the choreography/editing of the climaxes of each film, but The Dark Knight Rises possessed a lot more clarity when things were at their most chaotic.

Some might complain that there wasn’t enough ‘Dark Knight’ in the Dark Knight Rises, but there was a purpose behind that. Bane probably is more prominent than The Dark Knight, himself, but unlike Tim Burton’s Batman where Nicholson’s star power and persona pushed the main character into the background, Nolan imbues Batman’s appearances with greater impact. I think it actually made it a bigger event when Christian Bale finally shows up as Batman as opposed to Bruce Wayne. There seemed to be an intentional backing away from the main characters that audiences have come to love, almost like the characters are trying to move away from the business of this continued war against the criminal element.

The audience doesn’t get the level of involvement from Batman’s supporting cast of the past films. Alfred (Michael Caine) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) are benched to make way for newer members of the cast. Gary Oldman (thankfully) still has a very large role and in my mind is the trilogy’s MVP. All of the film’s characters seem to parallel the director’s desire to resolve the onscreen conflict and move on with their lives (and I don’t mean that in a bad way), but still leave with a satisfying end and maybe a wink at the audience.

I’m very sad that this franchise is ending (at least with Nolan if he stays true to his word). This trilogy ranks up there with the greatest trilogies of all time for me. The Star Wars films (the better, funnier original trilogy), the Toy Story films, Indiana Jones.. It ranks right up there with the best of them. I don’t where it ranks among the three films of this franchise. Seeing it again will probably give me a stronger opinion about that even if I feel like this one isn’t quite as good as the first two. I go back and forth, depending on the day, deciding which of those is the better film. I gave both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight my highest rating, despite feeling that both have flaws (I can do that). This one is no different and it brings the series to a close by coming full circle to its origins. I have to say I disagree PROFOUNDLY with criticisms that the film is ‘no fun’ for its lack of humor or for slow pacing (as critics like Roger Ebert  have stated). I felt it moved quickly and left me hoping that this isn’t truly the end for this cast and their director. If you liked the first two, I’m sure you’ll like this one, too. If you didn’t, you probably don’t care for superheroes no matter how well that they’re presented. For me, though, this is a strong contender for the top spot in my Best Films of 2012 List…

5 of 5. More please.

Another Reason…

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2011 by Crash! Landen

… To see the Sherlock Holmes sequel… The Dark Knight Rises trailer!

I was not disappointed.  The regular cast all turn up, with Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) looking a bit disheveled. Tom Hardy, Matthew Modine, Marion Cotillard (I think), Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway (hubba, hubba) also make appearances.

Here’s a really crappy version of the trailer that somebody recorded with their cell phone. I’m sure it won’t be up long.

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Harry Brown (2010) Short Review

Posted in Reviews with tags , , on June 24, 2011 by Crash! Landen

WARNING: A SLIGHT SPOILER ABOUNDS: I had heard some things about this film that were not entirely true; mostly that the film embraces the idea of vigilante revenge killings as morally ‘right’ and I found that it did not. With Emily Mortimer’s character, the film does voice the opinion that you can’t have a civilized society with this kind of street justice.


I think it actually has a little in common, not with the Death Wish films, so much as Taxi Driver. Not in the respect that Harry is off his rocker, but that ultimately he does something that is unlawful, perhaps immoral, and by film’s end he hasn’t had to face societal repercussions and he’s in a better state of mind than he was at the beginning. So was I, though. There’s a bit of catharsis in seeing obnoxious deserving neer-do-wells (and they ARE obnoxious in this) get blown away onscreen, right or wrong.

The story is a direct one. Michael Caine’s haggard, weary Harry Brown is a former soldier, who had long left that sort of occasionally violent life behind him because of his wife’s influence. He is aging in an increasingly violent society, but chooses to look the other way like everyone else when it comes to dealing with the blatant lawlessness that goes on right in his own neighborhood.

But his wife dies. Then his only friend (another elderly gentleman) comes to him complaining about the young thugs that harass him on a daily basis. Harry tells him to inform the police of his problem, but he already has. They’ve done nothing (of course) and now he was hoping that Harry would help him deal with them (with the necessary violence). Harry will not… Until his friend is killed by the neighborhood drug dealing hoodlums. After the police and the court system prove futile, Harry decides to basically get even for the death of his friend.

Caine is really good here, but then, he always is. He’s one of those actors that can make anything sound good. The bad guys are convincingly repugnant. Loud. Arrogant. Defiant, yet cowardly. The director does a good job with making them seem worthy of being the victims of Harry’s vengeance. This is also different from other revenge tales of this variety, just from the fact that the one doling out the punishment is of an advanced age. Harry struggles with his physical limitations. There is a funny scene or two involving some of the stereotypical things you expect from someone up in age. Harry makes one of his victims work a cell phone for him.

I enjoyed the movie, but mostly just for Caine in the lead. He’s had quite an extraordinary career and its great to see him in a lead role again. He can still carry a film, rather easily. The story itself is predictable, except for one (slight) twist towards the end. It’s also ever so slightly over the top at times, but I didn’t mind that. It had the standard professional looking cinematography that’s common nowadays. Not a complaint, but there are an awful lot of movies that have this same kind of hyper-crisp look with the blue/green and amber-golds for the night scenes. Artistically speaking it was uninspired, but that’s minor for this kind of story. It’s well acted and a professionally made revenge tale.

4 of 5

Tom Hardy as Bane

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by Crash! Landen

The official site for The Dark Knight Rises is up, Matthew Modine was just added to the growing cast ( with Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway,  Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and now we get the first pic of the Bat villain Bane played by Hardy…

 Is there any way that I can just fast forward past the latest X-movie, Captain America, Green Lantern and any other comics related flicks and go straight to this one? Just asking…

Educating Rita (1983) Review

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on February 22, 2011 by Crash! Landen

Educating Rita is an understated story about an alcoholic professor that agrees to tutor a hairdresser that has decided to go back to school, not completely knowing why initially. The script is NOT predictable in my opinion. There was a period in the film that seemed it was going to run the course of normal romantic comedies; then it veers off on its own. Some have said that it’s not a happy ending, but I disagree. There is a tinge of the bittersweetness in where the film leaves the two main characters, but it gives a strong indication of where both are in life after the film ends. They both get what they might be wanting when they are introduced, but maybe not what they want where their minds are at the end. I’m not spoiling anything by saying that. As I said, it did not end how I thought that it would.

There are quite a few chuckles. It is funny, but it is a more reserved humor. I found a few moments in the film that were very poignant, but not necessarily in the places where you might think. I was surprised how emotionally involved I was in some of the smaller quiet instances. It’s a film that largely relies on the actors to succeed, especially when it comes to the slightly bubble headed character that Julie Walters plays. She is quite a believable character even with her tendency to say and do the absurd. Michael Caine is Michael Caine. Hes typically fantastic in this in the role of a reserved, cynical professor. Both characters exhibit a degree of self loathsomeness in the film.


Caine manages to hide the characters feelings even when what he is feeling is right in front of you onscreen. Director Lewis Gilbert does a very good job presenting the screenplay by Willy Russell. There is a stretch at about the three quarter mark where the movie starts to feel like its going off course to meander a bit, but it resets and recovers. Its maybe just a little long and has a subplot or two that seems forced, but overall it manages to satisfy just enough in its denouement.

4.5 of 5

It also made my Best of 1983.


Inception Review (4.5 of 5)

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2010 by Crash! Landen

In a summer sea of deficient sequels, bad CGI franchises, TV show retreads and remakes, Christopher Nolan’s Inception is a beacon of hope for what movies can be if the effort is made. Nolan has always made movies with big ideas (even if the movie had a small budget like Following or Memento) and Inception is surely his most audacious undertaking yet.

Literally this is a movie about dreams and more specifically ideas.

There are elements of many other films… Dreamscape, The Matrix, Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, Total Recall, Nightmare On Elm Street III: Dream Warriors, various heist films and even Citizen Kane. There were even some shots of a crumbling cityscape that reminded me of the old manga/ anime Akira. As a whole, though, Nolan has managed to create something that hasn’t come before.

The premise (or my attempt to explain it properly) revolves around psychological espionage where there has been a method developed that allows someone to enter the mind of  someone else to steal their ideas and secrets. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb who for some reason is no longer able to return home to the US to see his family.

Early on in the film, a man named Saito (Ken Watanabe) offers to fix things for him to be able to return home if he does something for him that was thought not to have been possible before.

Instead of stealing secrets and ideas, he wants Cobb to implant an idea in someone’s head (Cillian Murphy’s to be exact).

He agrees to this and assembles his team to carry out the mission. And the rest you should just see for yourself. The movie has been described as labyritnhine (and it is) with it’s many twists and turns and dreams within dreams within dreams.

Some will find Ellen Page’s Ariadne character aptly named if they know their Greek mythology. There were many set design elements/details that added to the maze motif throughout.

The story at times was dizzying. The major drawback (for me) of the film was that usually in films exposition is considered a bad thing. Inception is one continuous dialogue of exposition.

Okay, there;s MORE than enough action, too...

The characters explain and explain and explain and explain. There are times when it almost seems like an episode of Lost where they’re just making it up as they go along.

In this case, I found in a lot of instances it was reinforcing a point (or plot point) that might’ve gone over the viewer’s head. It has been said by many that if you go to the restroom at any point in the film you will have a hard time catching up, so I feel for those with weak bladders. On the other hand, it may be purposeful to getting the viewer a little lost.

I don’t know if I would call this a flaw, but one thing that bothered me in the performances of the cast was Ken Watanabe’s Saito. I think he did a great job in the film, but when you combine Watanabe’s heavy accent, his ‘low talking’ to outright mumbling, and the fact that he was acting ‘wounded’ through a large segment of the film, it was very difficult to make out what he was saying. Someone mentioned subtitles could have been a solution, but that sounds sort of demeaning for some reason. I picked up most of what he was saying, but at times it was distracting.

My last minor little quibble is in the dreams everyone is still bound by he laws of reality for the most part. There are no flying people, monsters or anything else too much out of the ordinary. As far as dreams go these are pretty pedestrian. I read somewhere that Nolan has the same problem depicting the  fantastical elements of dreams as much as Hitchcock did.

But in this case, judging by the film’s final moments, the lack of too many fantastical elements in the dreamworld was deliberate. You’ll have to see for yourself. There are nice touches throughout. I’m sure details such as the Edith Piaf song that was played in the movie (at least twice) was deliberately placed.

Marion Cotillard played her in La Vie En Rose of course, so there was some reality being blurred in the filmmaking aspects as well.

4.5 of 5 whatevers. Inception is just an excellent film. It’s the best live action movie that I’ve seen all year, if not just the best film.