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by Steven Rosen 03.27.2015 2 hours ago
at 08:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Cincinnati-Filmed 'Carol' to Premiere at Cannes?

Carol, the drama about a romance between a younger and older woman in 1950s New York that was filmed in Cincinnati last spring, may have its premiere in May at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France.

Variety, which closely follows the film industry, yesterday published a speculative report about what may be appearing at this years Cannes, the world's most important film festival. It said, in part:

"Looking to represent North America in competition are [Todd] Haynes’ Carol, a 1950s lesbian love story starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, and [Denis] Villeneuve’s Sicario, a south-of-the-border crime drama starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin. Slots may also be reserved in the official selection for Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special, a science-fiction chase thriller starring Adam Driver and Michael Shannon, and Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees, a suicide drama starring Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe."

Based on a novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, Carol has impeccable credentials for Cannes. The director is Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, I'm Not There), a producer is Christine Vachon, and it stars Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett and Oscar-nominee Rooney Mara. The film came here with the assistance of the Greater Cincinnati and North Kentucky Film Commission.

This year's Cannes Festival occurs May 13-24. The full official-selection lineup will be announced April 16.

 
 
by John Hamilton 03.26.2015 21 hours ago
at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Reel Redux: Top 10 Good Remakes

Today, whenever the terms “remake,” “reboot” or anything like that pop up in terms of film or TV, people automatically assume the worst thing imaginable. While I won’t deny the fact that there have been several remakes that have been pointless, there have been a lot of remakes that have been very good and, in a lot of cases, have improved on a few aspects.

Now, I’m not claiming that the 10 I’m listing off are “better” than the original. Instead, these films (listed by release date in chronological order) are evidence that a remake is not an automatic seal of sucking.

The Magnificent Seven (1960, John Sturges)

I’m sure some of you saw this coming given what my first "Reel Redux" was about, but none the less this is still a pretty good film. A remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, this version doesn’t do too much different from the original film but it is still holds up through its fine acting, amazing music score and story.

A Fistful of Dollars (1964, Sergio Leone)

Another remake of a Kurosawa film, this time a remake of his film Yojimbo. In this film you see the foundations of Eastwood’s most famous screen persona, many of Leone’s trademarks and an awesome final duel. A good stepping stone for anyone wanting to get into Spaghetti Westerns.

The Thing (1982, John Carpenter)

Yes, believe it or not there are some good horror remakes, and this was one. John Carpenter’s remake of the Howard Hawks-produced The Thing from Another World ups the ante with the suspense and gore. This is not for the faint of heart. But it’s more than just a gore-fest — it’s a film with amazing suspense and atmosphere.

Little Shop of Horrors (1986, Frank Oz)

This music adaptation of the Roger Corman B-movie is a genuine delight and definitely improves on a few aspects of the original, mainly the special effects. That glorious Audrey II puppet is a testament to how great practical effects can be. Also, Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops is a perfect voice for Audrey II.

Beauty and the Beast (1991, Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise)

This classic Disney animated musical actually has a lot in common with the 1946 French surrealist adaptation by Jean Cocteau. Both beasts have a similar design, both feature a castle of human servants that are also appliances, and both have a Gaston equivalent. But of course the animated version does do a few things differently, mainly musical numbers, funny side characters and, of course, being a cartoon.

Homeward Bound – The Incredible Journey (1993, Duwayne Dunham)

Here’s another Disney remake that proved its worth. A remake of the 1963 movie just called The Incredible Journey, this renditions seems to hold up for anyone because of the animals. All three have distinct voices and personas that make us love and root for them.

The Birdcage (1996, Mike Nichols)

A film by the late Mike Nichols and starring the late Robin Williams is a remake of a French-Italian film called La Cage aux Folle. With the combined comedic charm and brilliance of Williams and Nathan Lane, it’s no wonder why Nichols had a hard time holding his laughter during some of the scenes. My words won’t do it justice — you just have to watch.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003, Peter Jackson)

If we’re loosely defining the term remake, Jackson’s fantasy trilogy is technically a remake of Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings (1978) and Rankin/Bass’ Return of the King. If you’ve seen those animated films then you can see why Jackson’s are usually the preferred versions. Jackson's films create an epic fantasy environment, they have an amazing film score and feature some awesome battle sequences.

3:10 to Yuma (2007, James Mangold)

Many hold the original 1957 film as a classic and it is, but Mangold’s version doesn’t try to duplicate it. Instead he goes the action route, and it does not disappoint. The gunfights are stunning throughout the film. Also, the chemistry between Christian Bale and Russell Crowe is stunning, and it also has a great villain performance from Ben Foster.

True Grit (2010, Ethan & Joel Coen)

My first two listed were westerns and so we end with two westerns. The Coen Brother’s version of the manhunt of Tom Chaney is truly phenomenal. The Coens stay close to the tone and style of Charles Portis’ original book by sticking to the dryer tone, keeping it less romanticized and “Hollywood.” And it features some trying fantastic performances from everyone.

 
 
by John Hamilton 03.19.2015 7 days ago
at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Reel Redux: Ghostbusters and the Potential Cinematic Universe

In the first installment of "Reel Redux" I brought up the upcoming Ghosbusters reboot, so I figured I’d talk about it more in this edition.

I don’t think I need to remind you about what Ghostbusters is, right? Well, for the five of you who don’t know the plot, here’s a summary: The titular group of the franchise are scientists who go around New York City busting ghosts. There, that was easy.

How could anyone not love these movies, or at least the first one? You have the sarcastic Bill Murray, the enthusiastic Dan Aykroyd, the late Harold Ramis, who possessed great dry comedic timing (he also co-wrote the screenplay with Aykroyd), and Ernie Hudson as the Everyman. Not only that, but they’re given giant laser cannons for zapping and trapping ghosts of all shapes are sizes! What’s not to like?

Recently it was announced that a reboot is in the works, this time featuring an all-female cast. This version will feature Kristin Wiig (Bridesmaids), Oscar-nominee Melissa McCarthy and Saturday Night Live cast members Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon.

Right off the bat I’ll say it: I am not opposed to the idea of an all-female cast. Not at all. Although I was kind of hoping to see Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in the cast. To paraphrase someone on Twitter (I couldn’t find the original tweet) who said it best, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are today’s equivalent of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd.

But nevertheless I’m all for this cast. I mean, why not? Why not have an all-female cast? But there is one thing that makes me worried about it. I’m worried that all this movie will be, “It’s the Ghosbusters… but they’re girls!” And that’s it. I’m worried that the film will make jokes about the fact that this time around the group will be played by girls. For example, they’ll paint the Ecto-1 pink, or have one of the girls put a bunch of flowers on their proton pack. One can only hope they don’t resort to that.

There’s one other thing that has popped up involving the Ghosbusters franchise that is causing a bit of stir: Sony is planning on having an all-male cast in yet another Ghostbusters reboot, thus building its own cinematic universe to go along with it. Oh dear.

On the surface I have no problem with the idea of Sony wanting to build a Ghosbusters universe — it sounds incredibly cool — but Sony has a short but rather poor history of trying to build a universe with popular franchises. Mainly, their attempts at building an Amazing Spider-Man franchise. I’m not calling those films bad, mind you, but it’s obvious that Sony was trying a little too hard to compete with Marvel’s cinematic universe.

The concept of an expanded universe is nothing new to Ghostbusters. I’m mainly referring to the ending of the 2009 video game where the four original members hinted about opening another office in another city, which sounds awesome to me.

But again, my concern is with who’s handling it. If I was handling it, I would take it very slowly. Let the first movie come out, see how well that did and if it did well, then I’d work on the next film. Which seems like it should be obvious, but, whatever, I’m not the head of a major film studio.

One thing I’m hoping for at some point in the franchise, which may not happen, is I’d like to see a New Generation kind of movie. Recruit Aykroyd and Hudson as their characters and have them train a new group. Make it a mixed group of people of various backgrounds. I’m not asking for a Captain Planet kind of thing, but have this be about  the old guys passing the torch onto the next group. It could be good.

In the meantime, I will wait and check out the new installment and hope for the best and I will, of course, check out the originals and enjoy them because no matter what happens those films will still be there.

 
 
by John Hamilton 03.11.2015 15 days ago
at 01:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Reel Redux: 'The Magnificent Seven' Remake

In recent movie news, there has been an announcement that a certain classic film franchise will be given a remake with a whole new cast. No, I’m not talking about Ghostbusters; I’m talking about the remake of theThe Magnificent Seven.

For those unaware: The Magnificent Seven was a 1960 western directed by the very underrated John Sturges. The story tells of seven gunmen who are hired by members of a poor Mexican village to chase away a bandit named Calvera (Eli Wallach) who has been harassing people and stealing their food and crops.

The movie was not just a traditional shoot ‘em up western; it was a film that took advantage of having seven characters and giving them all unique backstories. It’s also a film that is along the lines of George Stevens’s Shane, in that it’s a movie that doesn’t glorify the gunfighter’s life. It shows that each of them lead a rather unfulfilled life as a constant weary traveler.

The film also boasts a cast of legends. There’s Academy Award winner Yul Brynner as the cool and collected leader Chris; Steve McQueen as the drifting gunman Vin; Charles Bronson as the penniless and kid-friendly hired gun Bernardo O’Reilly; the voice of Mr. Waternoose in Monsters Inc. James Coburn as the silent knifesman Britt; and the late and great Wallach as Calvera the bandit.

It also has one of the best scores ever composed for a movie by Elmer Bernstein. Even if you’ve never seen the film you’ll recognize the music.

Now, like any film being remade, there will be a small crowd of people crying havoc and wanting to let slip the dogs of war, because there have been a lot of cases in which remakes haven’t turned out too spectacular. But many people often forget that The Magnificent Seven was actually a remake itself. It’s a western version of Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai. It would technically later be remade by Pixar in A Bug’s Life.

I’ve long since went astray from being the angry Cinephile who went on long rants about how “Hollywood sucks,” and “Movies aren’t as good as they used to be,” and other such nonsense. Now these days I keep an open mind and to wait and see the film before I say anything.

Attached to direct the film is Antoine Fuqua, whose resume includes: The Equalizer, an adaptation of the hit 1980s show; 2004’s King Arthur; and Training Day, the film that earned Denzel Washington his second Academy Award win. Not a bad choice. I won’t claim he’s the best director, but he’s far from terrible. It could be worse; they could have Jonathan Liebesman directing it.

There have already been a couple casting choices made, including the aforementioned Denzel Washington, his Training Day co-star Ethan Hawke and even Star-Lord himself Chris Pratt has apparently signed on. That’s a pretty good cast in my book. But I’m just trying to imagine who else would be involved: Maybe they could get Jeremy Renner for one of the seven, and maybe a great character actor of today like Jon Bernthal, Steve Zahn or Barry Pepper. There are loads of possibilities.

I also see no problem in having Washington play the part of Chris the leader. In the original film, Chris is very calm and collected but just as intense, and a one-liner from him can let you know things mean business. I think Washington is perfectly capable of that.

The plot? From what I’ve heard, the plot is slightly different from the original. Apparently it’s about a widow (Haley Bennett) who hires Chris to help avenge the death of her husband who died at the hands of a gold baron and his thugs who have taken over her town. It could work and it’s a nice update to the original story.

To conclude: I’m sure the original 1960 film will remain superior, and a favorite of mine, but I am kind of looking forward to seeing this film and what it has to offer. Let’s not lose our heads and let’s see what the film has to offer. I hope it’s at least better than The Magnificent Seven Ride (1972).

 
 
by John Hamilton 03.09.2015 18 days ago
at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Forgotten Classics: Zulu

Reviewing lesser-known films that stand the test of time

When I mention war films, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably titles like Saving Private Ryan or, more recently, something like the controversial and much-debated American Sniper. But what if I ask about British war films? Maybe you’d think of Lawrence of Arabia and one or two others. What about the 1964 film Zulu? I’m going to guess that not that many are familiar with this one, let along the actual Anglo-Zulu War. But you don’t really need to know all the ins and outs of the conflict to enjoy and appreciate this movie.

The movie is based on the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift, in which roughly 150 British and Welsh soldiers faced off against an overwhelming number of Zulu warriors at a mission station in southern Africa. In a lot of ways it’s almost the British equivalent of the Battle of the Alamo — the difference in this case being the British soldiers won their battle, whereas all the defenders of the Alamo died.

Let’s get this out of the way: Yes, there are a lot of historical inaccuracies in the movie. But anybody who has ever seen a “Based on a True Story” movie should be aware of that by now.

To me, some of the best war films out there are not the ones that are overly patriotic and about ‘us vs. them,’ but ones that show us who the people are on both sides or, at the very least, films that don’t broad-brush the other side. With Zulu, we get that. Neither side is portrayed as the hero nor the villain; they’re two powerful forces, in their own way, who duke it out in combat. Both are proven to be worthy adversaries who don’t give up without a fight.

One thing I love about this film is the use of sound. The movie seems to use chats, songs and sounds as a motif about the sides. Probably the most effective use is when the Zulus arrive, coming over the ridge making a huge clatter with their assegai (short spears) and shields. One of the officers in charge, Gonville Bromhead (played by Michael Caine in his first film), says that it sounds, “Like a train…in the distance.” This comparison works rather well. It’s this constant clamor created that gives the audience an idea that the British are up against an almost unstoppable force. And when the near 4,000 Zulus pop up on the ridge, it seals the envelope.

Along with the drumming, the Zulus also have their own war chants which are another form used to intimidate the defenders, but on the morning of the second day the defenders reply with their own battle cry, the military march “Men of Harlech.” I see this as director Cy Enfield’s way of showing that even though these men are in a war against each other, they do have similarities. But the beautiful medleys of the British and Zulus are disrupted with the continuous roar and volley of rifle fire. And at the end of the battle many lay dead; although they are victorious, there’s no cheers to be shouted. But the Zulus do offer a final chant of respect to their worthy adversaries.

At the end, Bromhead is asked by the more experienced officer John Chard (Stanley Baker) what he thought of his first action. Bromhead replies with “Sick,” and Chard follows it with, “You’d have to alive to be sick.” A clever indication of the creative team’s thoughts on war.

There are many other great things to say about the film. The dynamic between Baker and Caine is fantastic, and supporting performances from James Booth as the drunk, petty thief Henry Hook (one of the controversial inaccuracies) and Nigel Greene as the tough but kindhearted Colour Sgt. Bourne are great. The performances from then-Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his people are impressive. Also the cinematography by Stephen Dade is gorgeous, he makes every shot interesting. It almost reminds me of a John Ford Western.

 
 
by John Hamilton 02.26.2015 28 days ago
at 11:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Forgotten Classics: Hook

Reviewing lesser-known films that stand the test of time

On Aug. 11, 2014, the world lost one of its greatest entertainers of the last century — Robin Williams. I can remember where I was when I heard about his passing. I just got home from my day job as a security guard at King’s Island, logged onto Facebook and the first thing I saw was the headline reading “Robin Williams dies at 63.” To say that I was upset would be putting it lightly.

I think I can say with confidence that the whole world loved Williams because he touched us with his movies, television shows and stand-up specials. Of course anyone who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s will list off countless movies that left an impression on them, be it his game-changing performance in the Disney classic Aladdin (1992, directed by Ron Clements and John Musker) or his heartfelt and inspiring role in Dead Poets Society (1989, directed by Peter Weir). But the movie I’ve singled out this time was a go-to rental for me when I was a kid, when video stores were still a thing. That film is Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991).

I’m sure many people are calling shenanigans on this being a “forgotten” film mainly due to Robin Williams in the lead role and Steven Spielberg being the director. I would be amongst those crying outrage as well, but when I began to think about it I realized most fans know of it only because of the nostalgia factor.

When it comes to listing the best of Spielberg or Williams, there are other films that would’ve been listed before this one. Even Spielberg himself had stated that the final product isn’t what he wanted and that he basically wants someone to remake it. But I can say that the product we have is a more than suitable film: the story of the workaholic lawyer Peter Banning (Williams) who ventures off to Neverland to rescue his children who have been captured by villainous Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman). In that quest he discovers why his children were kidnapped — Hook did it to draw Peter Pan back to Neverland and fight him, and it turns out that Bannings is Pan. The catch is that Peter has forgotten who he is. Throughout the film Peter goes on a spiritual journey to rediscover who he is and rescue his children with the help of his ever faithful Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) and the Lost Boys.

Williams is absolutely flawless in this role. He perfectly conveys both the uptight and work-centered lawyer and the childlike energy of the boy who refused to grow up. The lesson he learns in the end is something that is very logical and is something that should speak to anyone — while we all must grow up, we mustn’t lose our sense of adventure and wonder.

Peter’s journey to that conclusion is drawn in comparison to his archenemy Captain Hook. Ironically enough, it’s the adult who stays at a more immature stand point. In the original J.M. Barrie story, one could says that Peter is the hero not only because he rescues his friends from the villain but also because he lives in the moment and doesn’t oppose over anything, while Hook is all about revenge and will not rest until he has it.

At the beginning of the film Peter has his mind set on only one thing and that’s being a lawyer. That singular mindset leads Wendy (Maggie Smith) to say, “Peter, you’ve become a pirate.”

Peter’s son Jack (Charlie Korsmo) almost becomes like Hook as well when all he seems focused on is bitterness and hatred towards his father. Hook focuses on Jack’s anger and uses that as a weapon against the now aged Peter. But this ties in with another reason why Hook can be a considered a villain — he lets his anger control his life. Peter and Jack soon realize how petty and how unfulfilling holding a grudge is.

While I do see a couple problems in the film, mainly in the script department, I can’t deny the fact that I still find this film enjoyable and well made to this day. This was also a film that truly displayed why Williams was so beloved: He made us laugh, cry, and gave us that warm feeling that we all pine for. I guarantee that in years to come, this performance — among many others — will be fondly remembered.

 
 
by John Hamilton 02.19.2015 35 days ago
at 12:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Forgotten Classics: Harry and Tonto

Reviewing lesser-known films that stand the test of time

When I started doing this blog series I promised myself that I would avoid covering movies that had won an Academy Award, especially those that were awarded Best Picture, Director or Actor. When most people decide to look up “classics” to watch, their go-tos are often Oscar winners. But there is a 1974 film that I think has been unfairly ignored and dismissed, despite its Best Actor win. That film is Harry and Tonto.

Co-written and directed by the late Paul Mazursky, this movie follows the eponymous duo — Harry (Art Carney) is a retired widower who looses his apartment building when it is condemned; his only companion is his pet cat, Tonto. The two go on a cross-country odyssey meeting many colorful characters along the way, including a health-food salesman (Arthur Hunnicutt), an elderly Native American (Chief Dan George) and an underaged runaway (Melanie Mayron), among others. Harry eventually reconnects with his three kids who live all across the map.

Just based on that plot, many would think that it’s just a basic road trip movie with a quirky old man and his cute little cat. While it is enjoyable in that respect, it is a truly great film that should be truly appreciated and given another look.

Let’s go ahead and begin with the obvious topic: Art Carney winning Best Actor. Many have found that to be a bad decision. Especially since that year the other nominees included Al Pacino for The Godfather and Jack Nicholson for Chinatown. Many feel that picking Carney for the award was just a sympathy win given Carney’s long career and status as a comic icon.

While I will admit that the other nominees that year were all very good — 1974 was just a great year for movies in general — I will forever be an apologist for Carney being the winner.

Carney’s performance as Harry seems so natural. He never gets overly dramatic with his line reading, and he adds the right amount of comedic charm to his role without reverting back to his Ed Norton character from The Honeymooners.

A great example is in the beginning, when Carney and Tonto are relaxing in the apartment and he reminisces the old days in New York. “There were trolleys, Tonto. Cobblestones. The aroma of corned beef and cabbage. The tangy zest of... apple strudel.” He slowly starts to fall asleep during this monologue, but what really makes it great is that it does sound like a real person. Carney isn’t being overly dramatic, he’s not trying to make it all sentimental — it sounds normal. It is because of that tone that makes the lines powerful and Harry such an endearing character.

With that note, Harry’s arc is a subtle but great one. Through the film and with every encounter he comes across on his odyssey, he begins to change and become more open-minded. The changing of the scenery is a big motif. He starts out in a cramped, confinded and lonely apartment, then he ventures out west like a pioneer to open and warm California. It can be seen in wardrobe changes as well and with those elements we see him go from being a “Things were better in my days” guy to a man who lets go of the past and looks to the future.

It’s a movie that will make you smile, laugh, think and even get teary eyed. I promise you’ll adore this film and Art’s performance.

 
 
by John Hamilton 02.10.2015 44 days ago
at 03:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Forgotten Classics: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

Reviewing lesser-known films that stand the test of time

There’s no denying it: The British TV drama Sherlock is popular — ridiculously popular. So popular that one could say that it’s what launched Benedict Cumberbatch’s status from actor to superstar. Thankfully, his talent is still intact.

But I’m not here to talk about Cumberbatch. I’m here to talk about Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes is, of course, a legendary character. Even if you’ve never read a book in your life, you’ve at least heard of this famous British detective.

A lot like the famous miser Ebenezer Scrooge, Holmes has had several versions of himself on the big screen. There’s The Hound of the Baskerville (1939) starring Basil Rathbone. Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars) starred in Hammer Film’s 1959 remake the same story. Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective (1986) had a Holmes-like mouse character named Basil of Baker Street (nice little reference to Rathbone’s version). Then, of course, there’s the newer films with Robert Downey, Jr. which are surprisingly enjoyable, plus countless others with many legendary actors portraying Holmes and his loyal friend Dr. John Watson. There’s far too many to list off.

But the one I want to highlight was made in 1976 by Herbert Ross — The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. The film tells of Dr. Watson (Robert Duvall) luring Sherlock (Nicol Williamson) to Vienna to meet the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin) in an attempt to kick Holmes’ cocaine addiction. But a kidnapping caper soon presents itself, and the trio joins forces to solve the mystery.

The mystery aspect of the film, while interesting, isn’t the main focus. This story concentrates on an aspect of Holmes stories that really hadn’t been explored often — Sherlock’s cocaine addiction. Through the books it is noted that Holmes did recreational drugs but, to the best of my knowledge, this film is the one version that takes a look at what made him do it.

At the beginning of the film we see Holmes become totally obsessed with trying to find a way to outsmart his arch-nemesis, Prof. Moriarty (Laurence Olivier), and catch him in the act. But here’s a twist: It turns out Moriarty isn’t the criminal mastermind the stories portray him as. He’s this aging and timid mathematics teacher. It’s this that gives Watson and Sherlock’s brother Mycroft (Charles Gray) the idea that Sherlock may need help.

That’s not to say that Moriarty doesn’t have a role in the film. He does, but that would lead to a big spoiler and I’ll let you discover that for yourself.

The detoxing of Holmes, while it does last a bit longer than it should, is a very impactful scene that shows this usually confident character in a different light. It’s nice change of pace from the typical Holmes story.

The film is also full of spectacular performances. One of the main reasons I wanted to check this film out was because I saw Robert Duvall played Dr. Watson, which, despite Duvall being one of my favorite actors, seems like bizarre casting. But he was surprisingly good in the role. Alan Arkin was more than perfect for the role of Dr. Freud, combining a stern professional persona and a man who cares about his patient.

But, as one would suspect, the guy who stole the motion picture was Nicol Williamson as Sherlock Holmes. He gives a performance that is so great it’s almost indescribable. Just check him out and be amazed by his spectacular portrayal.

Here’s interesting little connection between this film and Sherlock: In 2013 J.J. Abrams directed Star Trek Into Darkness, which featured Benedict Cumberbatch as the main villain Khan, who was also the villain in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). That film was co-written and directed by Nicholas Meyer, who also wrote the screenplay for The Seven-Per-Cent Solution which was based on his book of the same name.

 
 
by John Hamilton 02.03.2015 51 days ago
at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Forgotten Classics: Silverado

Reviewing lesser-known films that stand the test of time

As planet Earth drew closer and closer to the new millennium, the American cinema scene started to see a decline in a genre that was born here: The Western. That’s not to say there haven’t been any new Western films released — there have been quite a few. Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven was a hit in 1992 and even won Best Picture at the Oscars that year. But before that, in 1985, Lawrence Kasdan directed, co-wrote and produced a Western that deserves to be viewed in celebration of its 30th anniversary. That movie is Silverado.

Some of you are probably tilting your head at the name Lawrence Kasdan and wondering who he is. Well, he is responsible for movies like The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist and for co-writing the screenplays for a couple films you might know of, like The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark. He is also the co-writer of the upcoming seventh Star Wars film. Basically, this man’s work should be a delight for anyone to watch.

Silverado tells the story of four roaming misfits who come together to battle elements of each other’s past in the small Western town of — you guessed it — Silverado. There’s the mysterious gunslinger Paden (Kevin Kline) trying to escape his past; Mal (Danny Glover), a prodigal son trying to rebuild his family’s farm; and Emmett and Jake (Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner, respectively), two brothers who do what it takes to protect their loved ones from a cattle baron (Ray Baker) that’s avenging the death of his father at the hands of Emmett.

While each plotline works wonderfully and ties perfectly into one other, for me the strongest of them is the one involving Paden. While it doesn’t fully expose everything about Paden and his past, you get just the right amount of information to stay invested in him, and you want to continue with him and see where he goes.

When Paden is first introduced, he’s left for dead with nothing but his long johns. As the film progresses, you get clues to his past and what may have happened to him. The biggest hints are in the form of an acquaintance of Paden and Silverado’s corrupt Sheriff Cobb (Brian Dennehy). Cobb tries to lure Paden into joining his posse and every time he rejects or tries to stop the wrongdoing, Cobb knows what buttons to push. He continually makes threats regarding Paden’s new friend Stella (Linda Hunt), the owner of the local saloon.

Stella is also an incredibly strong aspect of the film. She’s a strong and fierce woman who helps Paden on his journey to redemption. One of her best moments is when she becomes fully aware of Cobb using her, and she hates it. “So good people are being hurt because of me,” she says. “That makes me mad. Some people think because they're stronger or meaner, that they can push you around. I've seen a lot of that. But it's only true if you let it be.”

This film is also a real spectacle when it comes technical aspects. It features marvelous cinematography with gives the audience shots that add so much more to the story and offer great symbolism. It also features a great music score by Bruce Broughton that is very reminiscent of the works of Elmer Bernstein and the stuff he composed for Westerns.

The film was only nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Original Score and Best Sound. The sound work done for the film is brilliant. The one thing that stands out is the sound design for the guns’ sound effects. Each gun is given a distinct sound that is only associated with that particular piece. Mal’s Henry rifle sounds booming and powerful over the regular rifles of the villains. And Jake’s dual nickel-plated pistol’s sound is quick and short to show how fast he is on the draw.

Silverado is a real treat full of great characters, great set pieces and a great sense of adventure. And if none of this sold you on the film, then maybe this will: Monty Python’s John Cleese plays a Western Sheriff. Yes, you read that correctly.

 
 
by John Hamilton 01.28.2015 57 days ago
at 04:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
the_dark_crystal_film_poster

Forgotten Classics: The Dark Crystal

Reviewing lesser-known films that stand the test of time

“Another world, another time, in the age of wonder…”

It’s with that mystical and somewhat haunting quote that the audience is set up for something truly special.

In the 1980s Jim Henson, maestro behind the creation of the lovable and hilarious Muppets, decided to expand his creative mind and came out with two non-Muppet movies. In 1986 there was the cult classic Labyrinth, which featured the man who fell to earth himself, David Bowie. But there was one film he made earlier, in 1982, that many seem to overlook — Henson’s fantasy epic The Dark Crystal.

Along with fellow Muppeteer Frank Oz and illustrator Brian Froud, Henson managed to create the enchanted and wonder-filled world with terrific looking creatures, an interesting mythology and a movie with a cast made up entirely of elaborate animatronic puppets. That should sell you on the movie instantly.

The story is rather basic: Jen, one of the last remaining members of the race called Gelflings, must embark on a quest to heal the titular Dark Crystal. The crystal in question is missing one chard and Jen must find it and go to the dark castle where it is held. On his journey he meets another Gelfling named Kira and a cranky, eccentric yet wise, old hermit named Aughra (voiced by the late Billie Whitelaw). In the castle Jen must confront not only his fear and self-doubt but the inhabitants of the castle as well — the cruel buzzard-looking Skeksis and their giant beetle bodyguards called the Garthaim.

The movie very obviously has the common theme of good vs. evil. When the film begins, the narrator points out that when the Crystal cracked two new races appeared, the aforementioned Skeksis and their gentle, almost dragon-looking Mystics. As the film progresses it hints at that it wasn’t just a coincidence that these groups just happened to appear when the Crystal cracked. The movie is saying that we all have to battle and come to terms with our inner demons, whether it’s rage, greed or even something like self-doubt. Of course, like any fantasy story, there is a ton of expanded universe stuff that gives more details to this story. While every story should stand on its own, acknowledging these details explained in this universe may help the story a tad and it does add a good extra flavor to this awesome buffet of a movie.

When Jen finally gets the Crystal chard, his caretakers, the Mystics, find out about his discovery (through some spiritual connection, I’m sure) and they start their long journey to the castle. Now their trek almost rival that of Lord of the Rings, but it could very easily represent what it takes to confront your evil or the part of yourself you don’t want to confront. You may be willing to face it and come to terms with it, but who knows how long it’ll take, or if it’ll be successful at all?

This film also features probably one of my favorite movie characters of all time, Aughra the astronomer. She helps Jen find the missing chard and gives him some knowledge about why this journey is important. The reason she’s amazing to me is because she’s just so unique looking and her characteristics are not what you usually imagine when you think of the wise old mentor characters. She’s just splendid, and Billie Whitelaw’s voice fits perfectly.

This is a film that has an entire puppet cast, no humans in sight. That’s what makes the film so incredible. Jim Henson and his entire production pretty much started their Creature Shop just for this film alone. Every creature has an amazing amount of detail put into it. The craftsmanship is displayed in the clothing for the characters, in their faces, their sounds and even in the background. This is a movie where almost every scene has something to offer. Henson stated in the “Making of” special of this film that the first thing he thought of was the creatures and the world they were inhabiting. I think that displays what kind of creative mastermind Jim Henson was and a good reason why his non-Muppet related work should be appreciated.

 
 

 

 

 
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