Archives For December 2014

(I’m resisting the urge to call these “the Revvie awards”.)

Everything that follows is based purely on my subjective opinion. I can’t argue with you about the list because I’m not trying to persuade you to agree with me. These may not be THE best movies, moviemakers or movie-moments of 2014 — but they are some of my bests & favorites from the previous 12 months. I hope you enjoy the list. I’d love to see your alternate selections or a few categories of your own in the comments section. Thanks, and Happy New Year!

 

Best Popcorn Movie You Probably Didn’t See in a Theater:  EDGE OF TOMORROW

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Emily Blunt, Tom Cruise in EDGE OF TOMORROW (d. Liman, Warner Bros.)

Terrible title; uninspiring trailer; looks just like his last movie; and whatever else you want to throw at it aside, EDGE OF TOMORROW is smart, imaginative, fun, exciting and satisfying. Director Doug Liman deserves a lot of credit for all of that. Emily Blunt is fantastic and another reason the movie works so well. Cruise deserves kudos for his convincing — and not very movie-star-like — turn as a man with less-than-admirable qualities for the first 20 minutes of this movie. The working title for the movie (Live. Die. Repeat.) would have been a much better title for its theatrical release. But whoever thought creating confusion by going back to the original title for its VOD and home video release, deserves to be put on a transport and sent to the battlefront.

 

Best Thing I’ve Seen Tyler Perry Do: Supporting Actor, GONE GIRL

Granted the sample of what I’ve seen Tyler Perry do is not very big, but I thoroughly enjoyed his turn as Tanner Bolt in GONE GIRL. A TV series with Perry playing this role isn’t the worst idea I’ve heard.

 

Favorite Spoiler of the Year – Amazing Amy Makes a Mess (GONE GIRL)

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Favorite Example of a Writer/Director’s Self Esteem: Jon Favreau casting Sofia Vergara as his devoted ex-wife

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Emjay Anthony, Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara in CHEF (d. Favreau, Open Road Films)

 

Favorite Movie Featuring Food: CHEF

It’s not a good movie to see if you’re hungry. It’s a very good movie to see if you like beautiful food and seeing it prepared. Wonderful cast, great locations, straight-ahead story — all pulled together with confident images and sound.  You will be hungry after you’ve seen it.

 

Favorite 2014 Trailer that Made Me Not Care Whether the Movie Was Good or Not: INHERENT VICE

 

 

Best Review Of INHERENT VICE Whether Or Not You Saw It, Liked It or Hated It – Wesley Morris

Grantland’s Wesley Morris is one of my favorite people to talk with about movies — I had the pleasure of doing so last year in a couple of Film Forum panels and a sit down interview. I try to listen to and read as much of Morris’s work as I can find. His review of INHERENT VICE is one of the best pieces of film criticism I’ve ever read. It’s worth a read whether you’ve seen the movie or not —  or whether you intend to see it or not.

 

10 Best Experiences I Had in a Movie Theater This Year (in alphabetical order)

So far this year I’ve bought tickets 37 times to see a movie in a theater. It’s still my favorite way to see a movie and Tracy Jackson is still my favorite person to see a movie with. These movies provided my ten best experiences in a movie theater — but truth be told, I didn’t have a bad experience in 2014.

 

Best 4000 Words You’ll Read About Critics and Criticism by a Critic: Philip Martin

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Michael Keaton as Riggan with his alter-ego, in BIRDMAN (d. Inarritu, Fox Searchlight)

Philip Martin’s personal, long-form meditation on the “powder and spark” of creativity, the role of criticism in the process, and Birdman (among other works of art), is as thoughtful, thought-provoking, and fair as he is. There are portions of this essay that would serve creatives well to read, remember and return to periodically.

 

 

 

 

Favorite 2014 Movie AnniversariesGhostbusters (30 years), Beverly Hills Cop (30 years), A Hard Days Night (50 years)

The Little Rock Film Festival and Arkansas Times sponsored a 30th Anniversary Screening of BEVERLY HILLS COP with Judge Reinhold. (The event was held at the Ron Robison Theater in downtown Little Rock —  a great venue for watching a movie and the headquarters of the LRFF.) My intention was to drop in to say hello and catch up with Judge and Amy Reinhold. I was going to slip out after Judge introduced the film. Then I thought I’d just stay through the opening scene — 105 minutes later, I was still there. I was struck by the practical effects (when they wreck 50 or 60 cars in the opening scene they’re real cars) and the strength of the writing. Ok, maybe it’s not deep writing, but it’s strong. Because 30 years ago, when American studios were making movies primarily for American audiences — even the popcorn movies had to hold up to some scrutiny of plot and continuity. I don’t feel good about sounding crotchety and xenophobic in the same sentence. Thanks, Obama.

 

Best Place in Little Rock to See A MovieUA Breckenridge Stadium 12

It’s been our favorite neighborhood movie theater for 30 years. After this fall’s renovation it might be our favorite place in the world to see a movie. Top notch projection and sound, and every seat is the best seat in the house — leather recliners, lots of personal space, reserved seating. What’s not to like? The 2 hours and 20 minutes it took to watch THE JUDGE only felt like 2 hours in those seats.

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Harrison Ford as Deckard in Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER (WB, 1982)

BLADE RUNNER (R, 117 mins, Warner Bros., Jun 25, 1982)

“The studio insisted that we put the narration back in so people could figure out what was going on. I didn’t think that was especially important ‘cause I never figured out what was going on in all the time I was making it.” – Harrison Ford, introducing Blade Runner at an AFI event in 2013.

A Box Office disappointment and a film that confounded critics and audiences alike at the time, Blade Runner has gained respect and grown in stature for it’s stunning visuals and storytelling complexity. The movie comes in at #97 on AFI’s 10th Anniversary 100 Years, 100 Movies list, It was chosen for preservation and placed on the Untied States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1993.

Blade Runner sequel in the news: Ridley Scott comments on the script and Harrison Ford’s involvement.

Director: Ridley Scott, Writers: Hampton Fancher, David Peoples, Philip K. Dick (novel) Producer: Erich Pommer, Cinematographer: Jordan Cronenweth, Production Designer: Lawrence G. Paull, Composer: Vangellis Editors: Marsha Nakashima, Terry Rawlings

CAST: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah

Watched on DVD, The Director’s Cut

*Every Monday I watch a classic or historically significant movie that falls into one of these categories: 1) Have never seen it, or 2) Have never seen it uncut, or 3) Have only seen it once, or 4) Haven’t seen it in a very long time.

Some information from: IMDb Pro, BoxOfficeMojo

Happy Boxing Day!

December 26, 2014 — Leave a comment

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Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray in WE’RE NO ANGELS (1955, d. Curtiz, Paramount)

THE LION IN WINTER – PG (1968) – It’s the best ever dysfunctional-family-at-Christmas-movie. Peter O’Toole AND Katharine Hepburn? Come on!

WE’RE NO ANGELS – NR (1955) – A rare Bogart comedy and a winning one at that. Wonderful cast, dark and funny, hard to find but worth the search.

DIE HARD – R (1988) – What a ride! Like two hours in an amusement park at Christmas time – if you were being shot at by Euro trash-Terrorists the whole time.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING – PG (1995) – It’s my wife’s favorite romantic comedy of all time – and that makes it mine.

ELF – PG (2003) – Will Ferrell was never better before or since. (But STRANGER THAN FICTION came close.)

LETHAL WEAPON – R (1987) – Nothing says 80’s So Cal Christmas like Lethal Weapon.

A CHRISTMAS STORY – PG (1983) – A cable network runs it for 24 hours each Christmas – and we all still watch it.

HOLIDAY INN – NR (1942) – The film that gave us “White Christmas” and a better movie than WHITE CHRISTMAS. Another stellar cast and a quintessential American time capsule.

SCROOGED – PG 13 (1988) – A Bill Murray comedy that’s about something (before he did many of those). A fun take on a tired premise with lots of great little grace notes and a solid supporting cast.

LOVE ACTUALLY – R (2003) – Possibly the most equally loved and reviled movie on the list. Flawed and sappy; well made and deeply felt. The parts are better than the whole and some parts are much better than others. Bill Nighy is amazing.

Movie Monday* 12.22.14

December 22, 2014 — Leave a comment
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Paul Newman is Lucas “Luke” Jackson in COOL HAND LUKE (1967, WB, dir. Stuart Rosenberg)

COOL HAND LUKE (Rated: GP, Color, 126 min., Warner Bros., November 1, 1967)

In Roger Ebert’s 1967 review of COOL HAND LUKE, Ebert referred to Luke Jackson (played by Paul Newman) as an anti-hero. In this 2008 essay about the film for his Great Movie series, Ebert reversed his anti-hero position saying, “I think he’s more of a willing martyr, a man so obsessed with the wrongness of the world that he invites death to prove himself correct.”

COOL HAND LUKE makes an appearance on at least 3 of the American Film Institute’s “100” Lists. It charts at #11 on the 100 Top Movie Quotes (“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”). It logs in at #30 on the 100 Heroes/Villains List (Luke Jackson). And it lands at #71 on AFI’s 100 Years 100 Cheers – the most inspiring movies. The movie solidified Paul Newman as one of the top Box Office draws in the world.

The film’s rating is an interesting one. The MPAA had replaced the “M” (for mature) rating with GP (General Audience, Parental Guidance) in an effort to eliminate confusion. It mostly created more confusion – leading parents to believe that it was closer to “G” (General Audiences) than mature ones. The “GP” was replaced with “PG” in 1972.

Director: Stuart Rosenberg Writers: Donn Pearce (Screenplay & Novel), Frank Pierson (Screenplay) Producer: Gordon Carroll Cinematographer: Conrad L. Hall Composer: Lalo Schifrin Editor: Sam O’Steen

CAST: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, J.D. Cannon, Lou Antonio, Robert Drivas, Strother Martin, Jo Van Fleet

 

Watched on DVD from Warner Brothers Deluxe Edition

*Every Monday I watch a classic or historically significant movie that falls into one of these categories: 1) Have never seen it, or 2) Have never seen it uncut, or 3) Have only seen it once, or 4) Haven’t seen it in a very long time.

 

Some information from: IMDb Pro, BoxOfficeMojo

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Aaron Sorkin, creator of SPORTS NIGHT, THE WEST WING, STUDIO 60 and THE NEWSROOM

“Listen… I don’t think it’s any secret that this show, like a lot of things I’ve written, can be overly earnest and aggressively un-cool. None of these characters are hip. They are all – the men, the women, everybody – based in some way on my Father. He is a wonderful man and has always had one foot back in a time long ago. All of the Don Quixote metaphors are about my Father. And so to combat the earnestness sometimes you have to be silly.”

Aaron Sorkin, speaking about THE NEWSROOM

There are three simple reasons I won’t jump on the Aaron-Sorkin-Bashing-Bandwagon. Well, make that four. The first reason is purely subjective: I tend to enjoy what he creates. The 3 more objective reasons I don’t join the chorus of people who complain that he recycles, or argue that he’s too earnest by half, or who alternately mock him for being too idealistic and out of touch, are these:

  • He’s doing what he wants to do.
  • He knows what he’s doing.
  • He knows why he’s doing it.

If he was not self-aware… If he was just being lazy and thought he was getting away with it… If he wouldn’t acknowledge that his characters all basically speak in the same idealistic voice – then I might be inclined to be pissy and dismissive about Aaron Sorkin’s work. (I have no right to be pissy and dismissive about him as a human being. Or did we abolish the Golden Rule and no one told me?) But clearly he is in touch with what motivates him and he’s fortunate enough to make a living creating work that expresses his life experience, aspirations and worldview. Isn’t that what we hope artists will do? I have more trouble with people who cynically create content they don’t personally enjoy because they know there’s a crowd that will gobble it up.

I don’t want to overstate this nor do I want to understate it. I’ll just leave it at this — I’m grateful that I’ve gotten to see and hear a few people I would never have known if Sorkin hadn’t done his thing. The names Jed Bartlett, Leona Lansing, Jeremy Goodwin, Charlie Skinner, Jordan McDeere, Toby Ziegler, Sloan Sabbith, Charlie Young, CJ Cregg, Issac Jaffe, Josh Lyman, Matt Albie, Rebecca Halliday, Dan Rydell, Don Keefer, Percy Fitzwallace, McKenzie MacHale and Leo McGarry are just a few that come to mind.

Movie Monday* 12.15.14

December 15, 2014 — Leave a comment
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On the run underneath Vienna. THE THIRD MAN (1950) dir. Carol Reed

THE THIRD MAN (NR, B&W, 104 mins, Selznick Releasing Organization, U.S. Release: February 2, 1950)

“You know what the fellow said: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” – Harry Lime (Orson Welles), THE THIRD MAN

Director: Carol Reed, Writer: Graham Greene (Novel & Screenplay) Producer: Carol Reed, Cinematographer: Robert Krasker Composer: Anton Karas (uncredited) Editor: Oswald Hafenrichter

CAST: Joseph Cotton, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee, Paul Horbiger

 

Watched on Bluray from StudioCanal Collection 

*Every Monday I watch a classic or historically significant movie that falls into one of these categories: 1) Have never seen it, or 2) Have never seen it uncut, or 3) Have only seen it once, or 4) Haven’t seen it in a very long time.

 

Some information from: IMDb Pro, BoxOfficeMojo