Has it really been that long? Today marks this blog’s 10th anniversary since my very first post. I may not be all that popular compared to other blogs and I suppose my blog’s subjects are not that unique to grab a big audience, and well I don’t pay for advertisers to help boost my views either. Yet I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy writing this bog, sharing my opinions and what’s going on in my life. I hope whomever takes the time to read anything I post, takes something away from it, either interest for a movie they had been wanting to see, discovering a movie they may not have previously been aware of, or just enjoy my writing style and what I have to say.
A big thank you goes out to regular readers and subscribers for your continued support. I may be a small-time blogger but I’m dedicated and I appreciate every comment and view and like that I receive. Keep coming back and I’ll keep posting. Don’t forget you can also find me on Twitter and Facebook(<<< click)which you can also find on the panel to your right >>>
Throughout my movie viewing life, from time to time I have wanted to have seen some of the ‘greats’ of cinema. Movies that continue to be talked about, influential and be regarded as masterpieces, those titles any self-respecting movie fanatic should say they’ve seen. So I began trawling the celebrated IMDB Top 250 for movies and found there were many I didn’t recall having seen either partially or at all, much to my embarrassment.
Now let’s go back a few years to when I watched a movie called Glengarry Glen Ross, a movie that at the time was highly acclaimed and said to be a spiritual successor to this 1957 classic. So I’d always wondered if I’d like that movie’s supposed inspiration as I had Glen Ross itself. This tells the story of a jury who need to make a decision regarding the case of an eighteen year old guy who is accused of murdering his father. Their decision would mean the difference between this lad walked free, or facing the electric chair. Twelve men, all strangers to one another adjourn into a single room to discuss their verdicts and that is where the majority of the movie plays out. With the backdrop of a very hot summer’s day and the claustrophobia of the room, soon tensions are burning as these very different men spar it out and way up facts verses their own beliefs and the testimonies of witnesses. It proved thoroughly gripping, surprisingly so and with a cast of occasionally familiar looking actors (was that Quincy?) headed by the late Henry Fonda … I enjoyed watching it all play out.
At times some of the acting is a bit on the theatrical side, and it kind of ends abruptly … but for it’s time this must have been ground-breaking, free of much of the trappings of typical Hollywood fair. It made me feel like I was weighing up the facts and trying to come to a decision as much as these men were. I certainly get why this movie has endured and still gets talked about as it tackles a relevant subject, with the death penalty still around in certain American states. Also Sidney Lumet’s direction is like a study of human preconceptions and prejudices, bringing out subtle nuances of every character. I was left suitably impressed.
I have been an admirer of the work of sibling directors Joel & Ethan Coen for many years now and count movies like The Big Lebowski and Fargo amongst some of the best movies I’ve seen. However sometimes these talented guys seem to stumble upon an idea that for one reason or another just doesn’t work – and I’m surprised to say, this is one such movie.
The plot follows a day in the life of a movie studio exec (Josh Brolin), sometime in the early 1950s, where musicals and swords & sandals epics were all the rage. It’s certainly a fascinating setting and one I was hoping would be a great backdrop to an intriguing kidnap storyline, at least that’s the idea the trailer gave me. However following the mysterious abduction of their biggest star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), Brolin finds himself being forced to come up with a ransom whilst at the same time juggling a myriad of other issues at the studio.
Now you see here lies the problem … there’s a lot of things going on here; Scarlett Johansson appears as a tough-talking pregnant starlet whose lack of a husband puts her image (and that of the studio) in question. Also twin reporters turn up trying to dish the dirt on Baird Whitlock’s past and a dim-witted western star get’s the opportunity to do his first speaking part in a new movie. Oh and there’s some dancing sailors too, headed by Channing Tatum. Yet despite these admittedly colourful characters, along with Clooney they’re written so one dimensional that it was really hard to care about any them. Johansson, considering she’s one of the most bankable actresses around at the moment gets two redundant scenes, and Clooney’s plot is more perplexing and confusing than gripping.
The movie isn’t without it’s moments though. It looks fantastic (thanks to regular collaborator Roger Deakins) and behind the scenes segments of movies being made will always pull me in. The dialogue at times is also pretty comical (a meeting with various representatives of different religious faiths to discuss a biblical epic is a stand out). Yet the comedy isn’t strong enough to hide the fact the movie fails to go anywhere even remotely interesting and no attention to set design, costumes or musical numbers can make up for such a glaring flaw.
It’s nice to go into a movie with no other expectation than the thought it might be good. This Oscar winning drama stars (where has he been?) Michael Keaton as a former super hero movie actor turned has-been struggling to make a name for himself in Theatre. As opening night looms, he is plagued with various problems and misfortunes, such as a recovered drug addict daughter (Emma Stone), actors butting heads with each other (Naomi Watts & Edward Norton) as well as his own issues with being haunted by the presence of his Birdman alter-ego who is constantly telling him to get back to what he was famous for.
This is very much a come back vehicle for Keaton who’s own career seems to be purposely imitated here and he is superb, complex and bonkers in all the ways that made him a perfect Beetlejuice or Bruce Wayne. Aided well by a solid supporting cast who all get their moment, with an almost-upstaging Norton and a believably fragile Watts, not to mention a decent turn by the ever likeable Stone. Yet beyond the decent performances, this is also about the trials and tribulations of being a star, being a has-been or trying to stay relevant without making a fool of yourself. It’s scarily convincing. Add to this a script that juggles realism with fantastical surrealism (has Keaton’s character really got super powers?) and excellent direction by Alejandro González Iñárritu backed up by highly creative ‘how did they do that?’ camera work – and I’d say this is one of the most thought-provoking studies of celebrity and celeb-culture I’ve seen in a long time.
This is also a movie that should get people talking. The ending will get you talking. The whole fly-on-a-wall structuring leads you to certain conclusions and then still makes you question things (at least it did me). And I love that sort thing; clever but doesn’t try and be pretentious about it. Oh and yes, I’d love to see Keaton play Batman again.
Considering all the attention this has got recently, nabbing the coveted Best Picture award at this year’s Academy Awards, I was thirsty to see if it lived up to the hype. Ben Affleck stars and directs the true story of a CIA agent charged with the job of bringing home a group of American diplomats from Iran in 1980 following a political uprising. As it’s near impossible to step foot in the country, Affleck comes up with the idea of posing as a film maker, and smuggling the diplomats out as part of his film crew.
Co-starring Alan Arkin and John Goodman as a couple of Hollywood effects guys, this unusual concept proved thoroughly gripping, helped immeasurably by a topical backdrop of violence and conflict, which is still relevant today. The seventies / early eighties setting is done brilliantly, the movie boasting an very authentic look, even down to the grainy photography, and all the costumes, cars, locations etc transported me to the period. Affleck is very good as the CIA agent who put a very bizarre plan into action, and carries the film probably better than he’s done in years. It’s also not hard to see why this was right up the awards panel’s street – painting America / Canada and even Hollywood in a favorable light.
Despite some good lines I felt Alan Arkin was disappointing, considering his nomination, although (a very out of shape) Goodman as ever is enjoyable despite a limited role. This remains Affleck’s movie however and his directing is accomplished, gritty but still palatable despite the subject. The story is a little simplistic when all is said and done, but didn’t stop the movie being tense and thrilling at times, and with a good pace, I had a very good time.
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