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Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken: An Imperfect but Indisputably Powerful Tale of War (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | January 4, 2015 | Add Comments

Angelina Jolie's Unbroken (2014)Unbroken, Angelina Jolie’s inconceivable based-on-a-true-story tale of WWII heroism and endurance, isn’t flawless but even it’s detractors must admit it is an indisputably wrenching epic. Jolie does fall into the cliche-pitfalls that plague the inspiring-biopic genre, but the film leaves a lasting sting that can’t be ignored.

It’s fitting that Unbroken opens with wonder that quickly dissolves into violence. The first shot, which begins with a lovely sky suitable for framing, is the start of a nerve-wracking plane battle that plunges us into World War II combat. For most of the men aboard these aircrafts, this is more than enough horror to endure. But one of the American bombardiers, Louis Zamperini, the film’s subject, is only beginning his story.

Interspersed with this jolting action set-piece are flashbacks to Zamperini’s conflicts with kid-bullies and police as a young Italian immigrant growing up in California. He’s hopeless and helpless, until his older brother gives him some inspiring encouragement. After that, he puts his liquor-swilling, money-swiping shenanigans aside, and commits himself to being a runner. By age 19, he’s achieving impossible feats of athleticism at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Later, at war, one of his plane’s crashes and he finds himself at sea, accompanied only by two fellow survivors, a few pieces of chocolate, and an ocean of sharks. 47 days later, help comes in the form of hell. Taken to a Tokyo P.O.W. camp, he’s beaten, bruised, and bullied by Watanabe, a barbarous guard known as “The Bird”. All the sweaty triumph of his youth is knocked out of him. “You are nothing” he is told.

“Stranger than fiction” only begins to describe the implausibility, inspiring story of Louis Zamperini (enough material for three films). Jolie and her screenwriters, adapting from Lauren Hillenbrand’s best-selling biography, were wise to focus on the most eventful decade of his life. Of course, all that running, fighting, enduring, and triumphing leads to the expected moments of swelling orchestral heart-tugging and brotherly words of wisdom, and the early scenes suffer especially from some expected triteness. The running sequences, while exciting, are devoid of any danger, and the slightly ridiculous Olympics scene has an unauthentic CGI gloss. Once Zamperini moves past his pre-teen mischief, Jolie finds little imperfections to show us in the character. And the final scene, meanwhile, ends on an overly positive note.

As a director, Jolie has a tough time avoiding conventionality though her filmmaking style is admiringly old-fashioned, brawny and sincere in ways that recall classic Hollywood tales of heroism. Yet it’s hard to imagine a 1940’s film with prisoner-camp scenes of such bitter brutality and unflinching power. Much criticism has been heaped upon the scenes of Zamperini taking a beating, and then another and another. It’s a hard thing to critique. Zamperini suffered through a few years of being tortured and we spend a couple hours watching a movie-version of his ordeal from the comfort of our comfy, cushioned seats. I think Jolie’s inclusion of such extensive scenes of savagery is an attempt to make us feel a smidgen of what Zamperini felt, and she might’ve worried that couldn’t have been achieved with tamer, shorter scenes of violence. Ultimately, the 140 minute Unbroken is overlong, not in specific scenes but as a tiring, weakening whole.

Angelina Jolie's Unbroken (2014)

Though it wouldn’t have hurt to have include some witty intelligence to even out the violence (what were the Coen brothers waiting for when they re-wrote the script?), there is much to admire. Jolie is as capable with tension-escalating action scenes as any seasoned male helmer, as proved by the rousing war set-pieces. But, amidst the not-too-amusing crew quipping, she also places in moments of uneasy apprehension to combat. And the sea-set scenes, which recall the recent Kon-Tiki and Life of Pi, are some of the most moving, thoughtful, and cleverly constructed in the whole movie. That’s due in no small part to cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose forceful frames beautifully capture the transition from sun-dappled optimism to watery isolation and later grimy gloom.

Jack O’Connell’s performance as Louis Zamperini, his first Hollywood lead after a few acclaaimed British dramas, has the charisma, grit, and sentimentality the role calls for. It’s a brazenly physical performance and we watch in awe as his taut physique, slick hair, and dumfounded smile fade away. The bones weaken, a beard grows messily, and his gaze loses it’s former spirit. But sheer commitment aside, O’Connell impresses most with his sheer acting chops. He’s cocky and troublesome, then thoughtful and tough, and eventually weak and frail and faded. Miyavi, as the vicious “Bird”, succeeds at getting us to plain hate him, without turning into an inane caricature. As Zamperini’s fellow survivors, Domnhall Gleason, Garret Hedlund, and Finn Witrock, bring heart-rending humanity to their vital roles.

Unbroken may be prolonged and predictably made, but Jolie’s unflagging commitment to this vast, incredible true story largely pays off. At once a predictably traditional Hollywood epic and a wrenching, undeniably powerful film of pulsing immediacy, it is an imperfect but inordinately affecting accomplishment.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | July 13, 2014 | 1 Comment

Caesar (Andy Sekis) isn't sure if he can trust humans in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, an inferior sequel to the surpassingly enjoyable 2011 reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes, truly pushes the boundaries of motion-capture (the process of using actors’ motions as the basis for creating animated characters) in ground-breaking ways. The scale is truly unparalleled: dozens of ape actors performing in the wild, not a green-screen box, and filmed in non-conversion 3-D. And the results are often extraordinary: a horde of running apes, a brutal simian showdown, facial performances with sentiment and humanity. “They’re just apes, man”, a human character tells another. “Do they look like just apes?”, comes the response. Thanks to a cast that stars Andy Serkis, as human-sympathizing ape Caesar, they look like apes, but also characters with thoughts and emotions.

It’s a shame, then, that director Matt Reeves doesn’t put the technology to use in a better movie. The action picks up long after James Franco has been wiped out by the Simian Flu, while what’s left of humanity congregate in a war-torn dystopia filled political metaphors. Power is running low, so a group of humans, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his new wife (Keri Russell) and son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), attempt to make peace with the apes and gain access to a hydroelectric dam that could restore electricity. Malcolm forms a bond with ape leader Caesar, but fellow chimp Koba (Toby Kebbell) wants to lead the apes to war against humans. Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), a human leader, also wants to protect his species in any way he can, which he thinks will lead his species to battle.

Reeves, a horror helmer known for Cloverfield and Let Me In, knows how to stage some rousing action sequences but struggles with making audiences care about his take on the end of the world disaster film genre. Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver’s obvious, unsubtle script is also to blame, with dialogue that rarely conveys that isn’t already clear, and human characters that seem plucked from disaster movie past. In action scenes, there are moments of laughably strained credibility. And the moments of human drama are nothing we haven’t seen in better, smarter movies.

The humans are torn against saving apes or killing them in Dawn of the Planet of the Planet of the Apes (2014)Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman, and the rest of the human cast do little with the lines they’re given. Clarke, bland as can be, seems entirely miscast as Malcolm, while Russel and Smit-McPhee do their best with characters that seem like forgotten strands from a poorly-drawn first-draft. Oldman is surprisingly tender in his brief scenes and lends some depth to a not-quite bad guy, though even he succumbs to the laughably overblown script in his final moments.

While the mo-cap animation is gorgeous, there’s simply too many apes to keep track of. Differentiating animated characters who speak in hand-gestures and look confusingly similar is not an easy task and the director and screenwriters are too busy dividing their time between two species to give either enough thought. Serkis and Kebbell, though, give phenomenally affecting performances, though their costars don’t get enough focus. The opening scenes, meanwhile, could’ve used a bit of cleanup from the animators.

Not everything about Dawn is awful. Michael Giacchino’s score is filled with eerily effective piano and stirring strings, while Michael Seresin’s cinematography is rough and real (and reminiscent of Wally Pfister’s work on The Dark Knight trilogy). If there’s one thing Dawn does better than Rise, it’s the sense that the characters are living in a fully-developed world, thanks to James Chinlund’s rough, real production design. Matt Reeve, meanwhile, makes a few daring directorial decisions: spending long stretches with the apes, killing off the first film’s lead characters before this movie even begins, and holding back on big acton for an hour. Speaking of which, the apes’ fiery attack on the humans is pretty thrilling.

Koba (Toby Kebbell) is ready to kill some humans in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)At the end of the day (or world, in this case), a few adventurous ideas and some neat technical tricks can’t save one of the most boring, bloated blockbusters in recent memory. Dawn of the Planet Apes is more clever than some action movies but it rarely makes us care about its characters without being formulaic. Yes, the motion-capture technology behind all those apes might create new opportunities for future films-but that doesn’t mean you should see this one.

Lincoln (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | December 2, 2012 | 6 Comments

Lincoln (2012)5 Stars

Lincoln tells the inspiring true story of Abraham Lincoln and his attempt to persuade the House of Representatives to vote for the 13th Amendment.   In doing so slavery will be abolished. If Lincoln loses the vote he will have to wait until the war is over. And if the Union wins and the South rejoins the US, the South will surely vote against the Amendment. You probably already know how the vote turns out but you don’t know how Lincoln, Secretary of State William Seward, and others try to persuade Democrats to help pass the Amendment. The time is mid 1860’s and the Civil War is almost over.

Steven Spielberg directs this movie. Along with the rest of the crew one of his greatest achievements in the film is accurately representing the mid 1860’s. The filmmakers create an impeccably authentic sense of time and place by vividly rendering everything from the way people talked to how African Americans were treated. All of the actors talk in a way that seemed surprisingly modern to me but since I didn’t live when the film was set I can’t criticize this aspect. Everyone who made this movie should definitely be commended for their historical accuracy. Clothing, a Civil War battle scene: the film is shockingly realistic. There are a few factual errors and goofs but none that would be painfully noticeable to a regular non-historian moviegoer. And at least Lincoln rides in a buggy rather than a VW Bug.

Lincoln (2012)
The story and events in the film are also highly factual (despite some inaccuracies). But the story itself is what makes the film so great. Anyone who knows a single thing about history will know how the climactic final vote turns out but it’s hard not to be wrapped up in the suspense. Steven Spielberg directs the film like the pro he really is. Many people are saying it’s the best film he’s made in a decade. While he is my favorite director, many of his films I haven’t seen (not because I don’t want to) simply because I’m not allowed to watch them yet. Apart from Lincoln I’ve only seen three of his films of the 2000’s. They are in chronological order: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), The Adventures of Tintin (2011), and War Horse (2011). Lincoln is definitely better than the first two (albeit respectable films) but I might need to see the criminally underatted War Horse again to compare. It’s a simpler movie that you can enjoy without knowing all about the politics of a century and a half ago.

But back to the direction of Lincoln. Spielberg puts together all of his pieces in a way that reminds me of Ulysses. S. Grant commanding all of his Union soldiers. Everything is carefully constructed with the kind of precision I imagine this film must have been some very hard work for Spielberg. He has said he can direct Indiana Jones-type action flicks in his sleep. That can’t be true. Even for one of the most advanced filmmakers of all time every project comes with a new challenge. But I made an educated guess that he meant only action films like nothing he’d ever done before (an IMAX 3-D motion capture family film like the animated Tintin)  will from now on be added too his resume. Maybe that’s a good choice, though I’d love to see a fifth and final, nostalgically fun and Mutt-free, new Indy movie of course starring Harrison Ford. But for Lincoln Spielberg spent 12 years doing researching (while making other movies). I’m surprised it took that long though he wasn’t studying nonstop. Nonetheless his research shows. But was this film fun to make for him? I’d need to ask myself to find the true answer (something I’d love to do) but I’m guessing yes, in a way. The film was probably difficult and stressful at times yet rewarding and fascinating at others. And yet no matter how hard it is to create celluloid gold when a director is on the red carpet for their film’s premiere I am sure they are undeniably happy because it is at a time before people have had a chance to say their opinions of the new film. When Lincoln premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 8th  I’m sure Spielberg was a bit nervous but boy did it pay off.

Research, overseeing, and orchestrating all tiny parts were probably the three most important parts for Spielberg on this film. But every other department on the film is equally great. Most notably of course are the actors. Daniel Day-Lewis is fantastic in a part originally intended for Liam Neeson but was changed to Day-Lewis when Neeson was considered too old, though only five years his senior. Day-Lewis is perfect as Lincoln. Many critics have said he’s the real thing, so to speak, but no one knows the truth. If I’m not mistaken there aren’t any living film critics from a little over 150 years ago. But based  what historians have told us and photos have shown us Day-Lewis is really the real thing. He nails the part. And in fact he might be a better way to study Lincoln than any 100% factually correct history book. Every muscle movement just seems right. Only a few flaws of Lincoln are shown. Was he really so perfect? Probably not. But no one wants to create fake bad things to say about the man and that’s a good thing. I can’t imagine anyone else playing this part as well as Day-Lewis does. This is the first film I’ve seen him in and I can already see why people are calling him our greatest living actor. He’s won two Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscars: first for Gangs of New York (2002) and then for There Will Be Blood (2007). He’s also been nominated for two Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscars: first for his breakout role in My Left Foot (1989) and then for In The Name of the Father (1993). He’ll definitely get nominated as Best Actor for Lincoln and surely win.

Mary Todd Lincoln (2012)
As for the rest of the cast there are plenty accolade deserving turns. As Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd, Sally Fields turns in a quietly understated performance much like Day-Lewis’. She doesn’t get alot of screen time but is memorable in her scenes. The only other female in a promininent role is Elizabeth Keckley Gloria Reuben, who has only done B-movie action films and ER up until this point. Entertainment Weekly’s Oscar predictor Anthony Brenzican listed her as a “Consider This” possibility for Best Supporting Actress. While she has two big moments her work in the film was a little too supporting for my taste and I think Fields deserves the Oscar.

The rest of the cast is dominated by talky male politicians: David Strathairn as William Seward, Secretary of State and Lincoln’s right hand man with conflicting ideas; Hal Holbrook as Preston Blair, another older helper in stopping slavery; James Spader, John Hawkes, and Tim Blake Nelson, hired hands and drunken lobbyists; Michael Stuhlbarg as George Yeamen, a quiet politician with beliefs that transform; and many more nameless characters. These are all great performances.

But then there’s Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, a fierce fast talker of an all out abolitionist. Jones plays the character as a man who isn’t afraid to get across his point. In a scene of verbal jousting with Mary Todd Lincoln, Stevens surprised me by being rather confrontational with the First Lady. After the two moderate summer smashes (for their expectations) Jones is back in Oscar form. He is great as K in the Men In Black trilogy, and critics liked him for reprising that role in Men in Black 3, and playing Arnold in Hope Springs. But the pure energy Jones gives this character makes him a top contender for Best Supporting Actor.

As Lincoln’s children we see Joseph Gordon-Levitt finely playing Robert and Gulliver Mcgrath turning in a wonderful small role, though I wish he had one big emotional moment to show off his acting chops. Since it’s such a long and packed movie there’s not really any space for extra character development. That’s okay; there’s nothing I’d cut and I’m not asking for a 3 hour movie.

I hope the movie will win the Best Ensemble Cast award at the SAGs. But for individual Oscars Sally Fields may win Best Supporting Actress and Tommy Lee Jones has an even better shot at winning Best Supporting Actor. And in a busy Best Actor race Daniel-Day Lewis will claim that prize for sheer historical accuracy alone.

The script of the film by Tony Kushner is undeniably brilliant. The sharp Congress arguments, the solemn presidential speeches, and the funny “stories” are all terrifically written. Kushner does a great job and he’s already started a new Spielberg script that nobody knows about. Perhaps he could be Spielberg’s new great collaborator.

Walking Lincoln (2012)I’m now going to not technically spoil anything but those who have never heard of the death of Lincoln should stop reading! As for the final scene I was surprised we didn’t see Lincoln get shot. There’s already plenty of other disturbing scenes and you’re expected to know about the horrors of war and death going in. But the part that bothers me more is the flashback choice. In a well spoken and written speech we see Lincoln adress fellow politicians. But I already forget what he said. The Gettysburg Adress would have have been a good one to use, considering it’s perhaps his most quotable. But that could be a little over the top. Maybe a flashback to the scene a minute before where Lincoln hauntingly walks down an empty hallway to the theater. The film could’ve ended there. Another bothersome image is when the scene transitions from the candle to Lincoln’s face because it looks awfully weird. A much better ending would be after we see Willie screaming at the theater we then cut to a quick shot of people remorsing over Lincoln’s body. Then we see Lincoln walking down the corridor. And then a cut to a shot of Lincoln’s face. Then the credits roll.

Lincoln Clock (2012)There’s also no special effects and only one minor battle scene. And even the battle scene is less than a minute not an unnecessarily overlong set-piece. In fact the fight is more of a blurry flashback and probably took a day to shoot during the film’s 3 and a half month production (rather short, I feel). Meanwhile, the sounds are mainly real. The ticking of Lincoln’s clock is the real ticking. But of all of the sounds blend in which shows that the audio mixers did a great job because they didn’t draw attention to realistic noises during dramatic scenes. One type of sound that is often under the spotlight is John William’s seriously subdued score. Many have complained it’s too loud and annoying but apart from the terrific theme song William’s blends the music in with everything else.

My favorite scene is the voting climax. It’s thrilling even though I (and all decently educated people) knew what was going to happen. All of the elements blend together adding up to a thrilling whole. My other equally favorite scene is the opening. It’s very well put together. We see the horrors of the Civil War, preparing us so that we understand what people are talking about for the rest of the film. We also watch Lincoln baffled by strong minded African American soldiers and some vain white ones as well. And then finally one of the African Americans walks away reciting the Gettysburg Address. This scene is a perfect summation of why the film makes history down to earth, fascinating, and enthrallng. And that music doesn’t hurt either.

My favorite character is…..hmmmm. Oh yes! There’s a guy named Abraham Lincoln in the film. He’s portrayed as a magnificent man by Daniel-Day Lewis and we also get to see his sad side as well.

The MPAA has rated Lincoln PG-13 for a scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language. Anyone studying Lincoln, slavery, or the Civil War will not see anything worse than what they’ve studied. Kids watching the film might be bored if they’re expecting an action fest (so don’t). Everyone will be occasionally disgusted by the horrific images of war. Some kids and adults will be glued to the screen thanks to the constant debating, historical significance, and gloriously old fashioned spectacle. Anyone over 12 is probably fine. I’d rate it PG-13 for the same reasons as the MPAA as well as a little more than brief strong language.

Lincoln debating (2012)Combine the witty, fascinating script by Tony Kushner, John William’s stirring score, the wonderful adaption of Doris Kearne Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, a mindblowingly magnificent cast, and the epic direction of Steven Spielberg and you’ve got an excellent historical drama. I think it’ll be Argo vs Lincoln for Best Picture and for now I can’t decide which I love more. Go see this movie if you want to know why 2012 is a great year for movies and why Spielberg is our greatest living director. See it to discover the reasons Lincoln is still remembered today. He was smart, savvy, truthful, inquiring, sophisticated, and gave everyone a chance to talk. He was our 16th President. He was Abraham Lincoln. Go see this movie. To be honest I haven’t seen a more classically cinemactic movie all year.

Movies To Be Thankful For (Flack’s Article)

Posted on | November 22, 2012 | 4 Comments

A Charlie Brown Thangsgiving (1973)This Thanksgiving is going to be a great time for going to the movies. Here’s a rundown of what’s opening this week as well as if I think they’re worth seeing.

Red Dawn (2012)I’ll start off with the most lowbrow of the new releases: Red Dawn. The film is about a group of teenagers trying to save their town when North Korean Soldiers invade. The movie is a remake of the 1984 film of the same name (and which tells the same story). “It was fun to shoot, you know. That was what the plan was. The plan was to create chaos.” That’s what Chris Hemsworth, the star of the film, (a.k.a. Thor himself) says about the production. And based on the trailer and featurette it looks like they have succeeded in doing so. Except it seems there is only one slight step they forgot while making the movie: write a good script. Once the story gets going Red Dawn seems to be a nonstop action film with explosions, guys jumping through glass, teenagers blowing up everything they possibly can, a massive bus crash, and much, much more. If you want mindless action spectacle this is the film for you! Otherwise only Razzie members will want to see this film. Ages: The film is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language. There is also likely a bit of kissing.

Life Of Pi (2012)Now for something a little more Oscar friendly… Life of Pi! Based on the big time bestseller by Yann Martel this film tells the story of a boy named Pi. He recounts his tale to a writer as an adult. What is this tale? As a teenager Pi and his parents decide to move from India to Canada but while traveling on a freighter they get shipwrecked. The only survivors are Pi, a zebra, an orangutan, and a 450 pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. And soon Richard Parker has dispatched everyone on the lifeboat except for Pi. Will Pi survive despite the odds? Will he run out of food? Will he find land? Will the tiger get hungry and…? Find out in Life of Pi, a visually beautiful mix of religion, adventure, tragedy, and a feel good story. The film took a while to get made. The book was considered unfilmable by readers but the rights were optioned in 2002 and since then names such as M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Cuaron, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet were tossed around. Eventually Ang Lee was chosen to direct. Lee took two big risks by casting unknown Suraj Sharma as Pi and shooting the movie in 3-D, even though it wasn’t a movie that typically seemed 3-D. However these risks payed off when Life of Pi premiered at this year’s New York Film Festival (which also celebrated it’s 50th birthday this year) to great applause. I’ve read the book. It’s a good read but there are some odd scenes and chapters where nothing happens. While the book was aimed for adults the movie has been rated PG and seems like it could be a hit with older children and adults alike. Roger Ebert says the film has the best use of 3-D he’s ever seen and I’ll definitely be seeing the movie with the extra dimension. Of all the Thanksgiving releases Life of Pi is the one that will please the whole family. Ages: The movie is rated PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril. There could also be some swearing but anyone over 10 (maybe younger) should be fine.

Hitchcock (2012)Anthony Hopkins stars in this biopic about one of the most beloved directors of all time. The film is titled Hitchcock. The drama focuses on the making of Psycho and Hitchcock’s relationship with his wife Alma Reville (played by Helen Mirren in the movie). Reviews have been mixed and Anthony Hopkins seems to be the only shot that the movie has at an Oscar. Even though the title is Hithcock the tagline is “Behind every Psycho is a great woman.” I’m not expecting Mirren to get an Oscar (or in such a jam packed year, Hopkins for that matter) but she might get a nomination. If she does I was expecting it to be for Best Supporting Actress but the reviews have forced me to reconsider. Could a Best Actress nom be in the bag? Probably not but we’ll see when the Oscar nominations are announced. Another surprising fact about the movie is that it’s only 98 minutes long, a shockingly short length for a film that is about the making of a classic film. That isn’t a bad thing just an interesting one. Anyway, the film will probably be the My Week With My Marylin (which was one minute longer, was put into limited release last November, and got two Oscar noms). And it should also be a good evening at the movies, as Rex Reed of The New Observer said in his review. If you want to see evry Oscar contender possible go see this movie but if not it’ll probably be a good rental. Masters of old movie trivia will enjoy learning more about The Master of Suspense. Ages: The movie is rated PG-13 for some violent images, romantic content, and thematic material. It’s likely appropriate for anyone who has seen Psycho (which is also rated PG-13). Teens are probably the youngest age group that will be allowed to see this movie.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)The most Oscar friendly, Silver Linings Playbook, of the group was actually released into 16 theaters last week but will continue it’s arthouse run by opening into 367 theaters this week (it will likely have a wide release soon). The film tells the story of Pat, a man just released from a mental institution. A former teacher, Pat wants to try and rekindle with his former wife but he soon gets attracted to another woman, Tiffany. And then things get complicated. The film is a mix of romance, drama, and comedy. Critics are calling it one of the best movies of the year and Entertainment Weekly’s Oscarologist Dave Karger calls it the best film of the year so far. Perhaps reminiscent of classic Woody Allen movies this rom-com has shots at winning Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay (the film was based on a 2008 book by Mathew Quick), Best Picture, and quite possibly more. For adults looking for a great new movie to see that can promise laughs and tears this is the Thanksgiving film to see. Ages: The movie is rated R for language and romantic content/nakedness. It’s most likely appropriate for older teens and up.

Rise Of The Guardians (2012)Rise of the Guardians will certainly appeal to children. It’s the latest animated family film to hit our screens since Wreck-It Ralph became a surprise hit with critics, a smash at the box office, and an unstoppable crowdpleaser with audiences. Now Guardians is looking to reach those same heights. Though I haven’t seen Ralph one thing that helped make it a blockbuster was the something for everybody trailers. They featured jokes for young and old ones, tons of videogame action and references, and some amazing animation. Guardians has action and stunning visuals but one thing it doesn’t seem to have in abundance: lots of laughs! However it still looks like a fun time at the movies and as it gets closer to Christmas expect more and more money to be made by Dreamworks. Another sign that gives me good hopes for the film’s success: slim competition. Last year The Muppets, Hugo, and Arthur Chritsmas. All three were family films that got great reviews, but none of them made over $100 million. In fact, none of them made back their budgets (apart from The Muppets) in the US. Nonetheless no matter how good Guardians does at the box office and even though critics are saying it’s fun but uninventive I’m still looking forward to seeing the film. Ages: The film has been rated PG for some thematic elements and mildly scary action. Anyone who’s seen other animated blockbusters should be fine as they will be used to the intense yet silly action sequences. However this one looks like it has nonstop battle scenes.

Don’t forget there are many films that have been already released that are still playing. Argo is a must see and I can’t wait to watch Lincoln, which I will be seeing very soon. For adults only Flight looks good and for kids Wreck-It Ralph seems fun. And for anyone looking for an action movie go see Skyfall, and be thankful for 50 years of James Bond!

Here’s Box Office Mojo’s predictions for the weekend. I agree with most of them. Don’t forget to comment on which of these movies you want to see or have seen! Anyway have a great time at the movies, the dinner table, and with friends and family (and a boy on a lifeboat with a tiger)! Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks to evreyone who has read and commented on Flick Flack Movie Talk.

Lawrence of Arabia (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | October 22, 2012 | 1 Comment

Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)Lawrence of Arabia tells the epic true story of T.E. Lawrence, who is serving in the British Military during World War 1. It opens with him riding on a motorcycle, crashing, and getting himself killed. At his funeral men comment on the legend and the movie goes back in time to tell his tale. At first he is seemingly expendable but he is then acclaimed as a hero and a leader, and is worshiped by the British and Arabs alike. But Lawrence’s adventures are dangerous, life threatening, and (for him) exciting. He pushes himself by doing unimaginable things such as extinguishing a match with his fingers, not drinking water while in the desert even though he is being offered some, and traveling long distances in the desert. He meets many people during the war: Sherif Ali, a fellow fighter, Auda Abu Tayi, a tribe leader, Prince Feisal, a thoughtful leader, Turkish Bey, an evil man who tortures him, General Allenby and Colonel Brighton, two English officers, Mr. Dydren, an English leader, Jackson Bentley, an English journalist and photographer, and many others. As he goes mad, how long will Lawrence last in the tiresome, treacherous, and explosive war?

Lawrence Of Arabia is simply masterful. And that’s why 50 years after it’s worldwide premiere in London on December 16th, 1962 it’s still a classic. On Thursday, October 4th this year, the movie was re-released for special one day only showings in the US. Despite this terrible scheduling (it should have shown for many months or at least a special weekend) I got the chance to see the film on the big screen. And in a way you have never seen it before. The movie was restored looking better than any of the previous restorations. In addition there was behind the scenes footage including a few words (literally) from Omar Sharif one of the stars, an introduction from Martin Scorsese in which he talks about his experiences viewing the movie, footage of the crew shooting in the dessert, technicians telling about the process of 4K, and a video of stars arriving at the premiere of the film. And lastly I had only seen the movie once before, earlier this year at home on a TV, but no matter how terrific your TV is there is absolutely nothing that rivals seeing Lawrence Of Arabia on the big screen.

Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)The movie was incredibly difficult to make. It was shot in the desert and there wasn’t always a script when it was being shot. Peter O’Toole, who plays T. E. Lawrence, nearly got killed when he fell of his camel and extra’s horses almost trampled him. He also hurt his hand and needed a bandage. During production I’m not sure if the cast and crew thought it was worth it just to make a movie. Many of the lead actors had other films they were also appearing in that were being released the same year as Lawrence and might have been wondering what would make this one so special. Peter O’Toole was the lead of a movie for the first time after acting in bit parts in a few films in the early 1960’s. But O’Toole wasn’t the original choice for the part. Antony Perkins and Montgomery Clift were briefly considered, Marlon Brando was offered the part but said he didn’t want to spend two years of his life riding a camel. Alec Guinness (who played Lawrence in a play titled Ross) was asked but then thought of to be too old, and Albert Finney, an unknown at the time, was the first choice. But after seeing O’Toole in The Day They Robbed The Bank Of England and viewing his stunning screen test, David Lean proclaimed “This is Lawrence”. In fact there were many things that made this production unusual as well. David Lean has been quoted as saying that most movement in the film is from left to right to emphasize that the story is about a journey. Lean also called Omar Sharif “Fred”, during the shooting phase because he told him “No one in the world is called Omar Sharif. Your name must be Fred.” Lean never watched dailies until editing and missed only one day of work even though many cast and crew members endured illnesses. There isn’t a single woman who speaks a line of dialogue in the entire movie. To discover more about the making of Lawrence of Arabia go to the IMDB trivia page  to learn more about one of the most fascinating productions of all time. It would be great if someone made a movie about the making of this one (documentary or otherwise).

Despite this odd, harrowing, and difficult production, I’d say it was all worth it. Especially on the big screen. Never has a film been better on the big screen. The desert visuals, sweeping train explosion, beautiful panoramic shots, and the loud, terrific, catchy score all combine to create a movie going experience unlike any other. Oh and it doesn’t hurt to throw in a bucket of popcorn, some nonpareals, a nice salty pretzel, a couple chocolate chip cookies, and a bottle of nice cold water, in case you get stuck in the desert watching the movie.

Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)David Lean is undoubtedly one of the finest directors who ever lived and this film proves it. Though I haven’t seen any of his other work, except for the 1946 Great Expectations, he is also famous for The Bridge On The River Kwai, A Passage To India, Doctor Zhivago, Brief Encounter, Oliver Twist, and more. Lean does a great job handling all the elements of Lawrence of Arabia: the action scenes, stunning visuals, and existential pondering as well as the script, acting, music, cinematography, editing, and other mandatory parts of a movie production. There is an epic train explosion and stunning visuals but the story about the heart of Lawrence is what drives the film. In the introduction by Martin Scorsese he says that David Lean was quoted as saying that he never felt he finished editing the movie but when I watched it the movie seemed complete if not rock solid, masterfully finished. Everything about the movie seems definite and planned out. That’s a good thing. However I do understand Lean’s comment. In some respects because the story is focused only on Lawrence’s time in the War. He may have deemed it incomplete because it is not a full biopic. Rather it only focuses on the most important part in Lawrence’s life and maybe that was the right choice. The screenwriters Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson might have thought the rest of this legendary man’s life was uninteresting and boring. Although based on the film that ended up being made, I doubt that any unused ideas were anything less than thrilling pieces of exemplary cinema.

The cast is incredible. The supporting actors are mostly seasoned professionals, if not at the time big stars in the US: Alec Guiness, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, and more. The cast is great and the film simply wouldn’t be the same without them. But this is a character study of one man. Lawrence. And O’Toole delivers. If you didn’t know that this was his first starring role you certainly wouldn’t be able to guess when you’re watching the movie. He dissolves into the role, embodies the character, and brings great depth. It’s a realistic and iconic performance.

The musical score captures the rousing, heroic feeling that Lawrence feels and makes you feel it too. Without the music the film simply wouldn’t be the classic that it is. Maurice Jarre, the composer, demonstrates what music can do to movies. It can enhance them. Sear them into your mind (that’s a great thing in this case). How could you forget Lawrence running across the desert with hundreds of other men about to plunder a train that has just been blown up as the theme is playing loudly and magnificently. These stunning images solidify the film as classic.

My favorite character is Lawrence. There’s really no other choice, despite the great acting and interesting complexities of the supporting characters and cast. Peter O’Toole is, as previously mentioned, amazing, but there is much to be said about the character as well. Is he good or bad? Well it’s not that simple in this kind of movie. Which is what makes it so great. Amongst the beautiful desert vistas is a study of a man’s soul.

My favorite scene is when Lawrence and one of his two young helpers return, after going back to find a lost man who turns out to be dead.  The cinematography is stunning and the theme song is once again excellently used here.

The film is rated PG by the MPAA. I would rate it PG-13 for some war violence, bloody images, brief bad language, complex situations, and a scene of intense torture. Anybody 9 and up with a long attention span and a strong love of history and movies will enjoy this film.

Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)Anchored by a whirlwind central performance and peppered with a superb supporting cast, this is a film that still holds up after half a century. David Lean ingeniously assembles all of his pieces for this one of a kind masterpiece. One of my favorite movies of all time Lawrence Of Arabia is epic, exciting, excellent, existential, and extremely entertaining. The trick is not minding that it’s long.

Stay tuned for an interview with a Political Science Professor (our grandfather) who we interviewed about this movie.

Lincoln Trailer Premieres Tommorow

Posted on | September 12, 2012 | 4 Comments

LincolnOn Thursday September 13th go to Google Plus to view a live chat with Steven Spielberg and Joseph Gordon-Levvitt as they talk about their new film Lincoln at 7:00pm, based on the book Team of Rivals. You will also be able to see the premiere of the trailer. I’m not sure if it will be archived so don’t forget to watch it live. Lincoln stars Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sally Fields, and Tommy Lee Jones in other roles. It will be released in limited release November 9th and wide release on November 16th.

War Horse (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | December 26, 2011 | 1 Comment

War Horse (Flack’s Review)
5 Stars

War Horse is about Albert and his beloved horse named Joey. Joey is taken off to World War 1 but sadly,Albert is too young to join. Many lives are touched as the miraculous horse goes through various yet kind owners. Eventually Albert is allowed too enlist but amidst the horrors of war the two wonder if they’ll ever see each other again.

The latest film from Steven Spielberg came out yesterday and it will be a classic that won’t be forgotten. I had high expectations. I’d read the great book by Micheal Morpurgo and I’d seen the Tony- winning Broadway play. However nothing can prepare you for the stunning ride Spielberg takes you on. Both visually dazzling and emotionally powerful, this movie is excellent. This is the first non fantasy or action movie directed by Steven Spielberg I’ve ever seen. And boy, is it just wonderful.

Although it will definitely be remembered as a modern classic it seems as though the movie could have been made in the 50’s. One of the final shots looks just like Lawrence of Arabia and the epic battle scenes seem nicely old fashioned. Jeremy Irvine in his big screen debut is only in about less than half the film yet still delivers an Oscar worthy turn. Everyone else is great especially Tom Hiddelston. He was rather mediocre as Loki, the villain in Thor but makes you really care for him when he plays Captain Nicholls here. The score by John Williams is his best since the Jurrassic Park theme, back in 1993,19 years ago. Januz Kaminski’s cinematography especially captures the war battle scenes nicely.

Many of the scenes are very memorable including a long battle scene involving gas bombs and No Man’s Land. I would however be lying if I didn’t say that the middle was a bit too long but I do disagree with most other critics who thought that the beginning was boring. The scenes in which Albert and Joey must work together to plow the field is exciting,suspenseful, and eventually very cheerful. In fact, the only part of the film that should be cut out is when Joey is pulling the tanks, a sequence that comes two quarters of the way through. Other than that however I couldn’t have wished for a more Spielbergianly emotional movie that has both jump out of your seat and cheer parts as well as sad and gloomy yet epic war sequences.

My favorite scene is at the end of the film(SPOILER-FREE!!!) It involves a hospital and I absolutely love it because it’s one of those times when you want to just scream yay.

My favorite character is Joey because of how compassionate he is. I also think the horses playing him is pretty brave.

This movie is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for intense sequences of war violence and I definitely agree. It’s good for kids ten and up.

If this movie wins the Best Picture Oscar (which I hope and think it will) it will be the second time in the row that I’ve seen the winner, after The King’s Speech in 2010. This movie is a must-see. You’ll walk out of the movie theater with a smile on your face, a tear in your eye, and the feeling in your heart that Steven Spielberg has created a masterpiece.

War Horse (Flick’s Review)

Posted on | December 26, 2011 | 2 Comments

5 out of 5 stars

Albert, a farm boy lives with his no nonsense mother and drunken father. When his father buys a horse for thirty shillings the family’s farm is at stake. The family really needs a farm horse to plow their fields. Joey, the horse is not trained to plow and it will take time for him to learn. Just after Albert and Joey start bonding and Joey is trained World War I starts. Joey is sold off by Albert’s father. Joey becomes a captain’s horse. After the captain dies Joey is taken by two horse loving brothers. Joey is passed down from owner to owner mainly because his owners are killed.

The story of War Horse is excellent. I have now read or watched the plot unfold three times. I have read the 1982 novel, seen the Broadway play and as of today I saw Steven Spielberg’s film. I’m not quite sure which interpretation is my favorite because they are all so good. Each version tells the story in an entirely different way. The book as all books do lets you imagine the story. The play tells you the story in a very limited amount of space. The film tells the story with effective effects in a very unlimited amount of space. The horse is real and I think Spielberg’s decision of using a real horse is a much better choice than using a CG horse. I can imagine in this world full of computerized characters many directors would have gone with the wind. Wait no not the wind, the CG. If the horses were CG the war scenes would look fake and the idea of aliens attacking would reach your brain pretty soon. In the film the war scenes are very real. In one scene Albert is in a trench with other solders. Bombs are going off all around them. When the solders charge the result is grueling. Although the scene is not extremely bloody or gory it is very intense. The manner in which Spielberg articulates this scene is astounding. The replacement of blood is taken by intensity. Jansuz Kaminski’s cinematography is astounding.

Every actor in the film is great. Yes I mean every one of them. Yes I mean Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Tom Hiddelston, Niels Arestup, Bennedict Cumberlatch, Celine Buckens and many, many more. I have not heard a John Williams score that I have disliked yet and this definitely keeps the record going. Williams is known for using brass as the lead instrument. In War Horse he uses flutes and strings as the lead in songs such as Dartmoor 1912 and Seeding, and Horse vs. Car. He also uses the piano as a lead instrument which is rare. Alright those are the reasons I give War Horse five stars. Add them together and a masterpiece is born. And now draw swords and charge to the Oscars.

My favorite character is a tie between Albert and Joey because their friendship is unbreakable. They’re like Han Solo and Chewbacca. They go together. To say which one I like better is impossible.

My favorite scene is when Albert is in the trench with Gunther, David and the other British troops because the cinematography is brilliant and the actors act as if they really are battling in World War I. The bombs that explode all around them are very real.

War Horse is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of war violence. I agree with the rating.