30 November 2008

MILK



I went to see Milk because the wife and members of her family we going to see it. I really did not know what to expect. I have read only good things about this film and Sean Penn’s acting, so I was a bit curious to see it. I was hesitant to see it because I tend to find bio-pics about people that I do not know boring. I knew the basics, Harvey Milk was an openly gay man who was elected to public office and was murdered. That was it. So, with a running time a hair over the two hour mark, I was worried I would keep looking at my watch.

Now, I consider myself an educated person, but I was completely in the dark about the whole gay-rights fight of the 1970’s. The beginning of the film shows archive footage of police raids on gay bars and nightclubs; something I knew nothing about. Then we get our first glimpse of Sean Penn’s portrayal of Harvey Milk. He is recording a tape only to be played in the event of his assassination. He starts telling his story from the beginning with his meeting of Scott Smith, played by James Franco. Milk confesses that he has done nothing significant with his life. So, Scott and Harvey travel together and end up in San Francisco, California. Here, they set up shop in an area known as the Castro.

From this point, Harvey and Scott help the gay movement in the area and people from all over the country come to this San Francisco haven. Harvey is then convinced to run for public office to get one of their own in power. He is not successful his first outing, or second, or even third for that matter. His adamant mindset keeps him going, but costs him the love of his life. Later, Jack, played by Diego Luna, enters Harvey’s life. Also along the campaign trail, he meets many people that help him finally succeed, including Cleve Jones and Anne Kronenberg, played by Emile Hirsch and Amanda Pill. Harvey finally figures out how politics work, and that helps his political career.

Newly elected, Harvey then meets his other elected city supervisors. Dan White, played by the busy Josh Brolin, is not fond of Milk or the company he keeps. They start an alliance that is quickly dissolved, and a feud starts instead.

When gay rights are being taken away throughout the country, Milk wants to bring it to California, to his territory. Prop 6 is formed to have all homosexual teachers and those who support them removed from their jobs. It would also repeal their protection from prosecution at work based on sexual orientation, among other things. State Senator Briggs for the state of California is the supporter in the state. Harvey, Mayor Moscone, played by Victor Garber, and their supporters go to war with Briggs on this topic.

One of the movie’s apexes is the vote on this proposition. The other is Dan White not being able to handle his humiliation as a supervisor. The sad ending is already told to you at the beginning with the actual footage of the news report.

Gus Van Zant uses archive footage of actual news reports to heighten the realness of his film. His direction is amazing in the fact that all the major actors are at the top of their games. Penn, Hirsch, and Scott could easily be nominated for their roles in this film, along with Van Zant himself. I also really enjoyed and appreciated the footage before the credits of the actual people and what happened to them.

This is only the second film this year that I feel has any chance at Oscar buzz, the other being The Dark Knight. There are only two other films I am looking forward to seeing this year that have Oscar Buzz. Mickey Rourke’s The Wrestler and Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino. Verdict: When I left the theater, I was shocked at how much I not only enjoyed the film, but also by the amount I learned. I would recommend this movie to anyone who was on the fence about seeing it. This was a great movie going experience, and worth the full $9.00 price of admission.

20 November 2008

Role Models

I Wish They were My Big's



Well, once again, I waited until the last possible day to use my free ticket from the AMC Movie Watcher card. So, I had to decide what to see on short notice. I went with the crude humor comedy Role Models. I thought I knew what to expect, and well, I was right. While the movie had little to offer in the way of originality, it was still quite hilarious.

Role Models opens with Danny Donahue, played by Paul Rudd, waiting on Wheeler, played by Stiffler, or Sean William Scott if you are not familiar with American Pie. Danny is a motivational speaker for Minotaur, an energy drink similar to Red Bull. Wheeler is his motivational mascot. We see them going from school to school. Finally, they return to the office, and there is a surprise party for Danny’s 10 years with the company. At this moment, he realizes that he is not happy with his boring mundane lifestyle. The next day, everything goes wrong for him, and he brings Wheeler down with him. They end up arrested, but luckily, Danny’s (ex) girlfriend Beth is a lawyer. Elizabeth banks puts in here typical role as Beth. Elizabeth Banks is quite possibly the busiest actress in Hollywood. She has been in 22 movies since being in Spider-Man, plus had a recurring role on TV’s Scrubs.

Anyway, Beth swings them 150 hours of community service instead of 30 days in jail. They are then sent to Sturdy Wings, a Big Brothers Big Sisters-esque program. The founder of the organization is Gayle Sweeny, played by always funny Jane Lynch. She gives them two kids that are not the typical kid because they do not want to go to jail.

Danny is partnered with Augie, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse better known as Superbad’s McLovin. He is a fantasy role player in a live action world called L.A.I.R.E. Wheeler is given Ronnie. He is a stereotypical gangster wannabe. From their meeting, it is obvious that some cliché situations will arise.

As the movie progresses, Danny and Wheeler find the errors of their ways and try to make things right. Along the way, they create a bond with the little kids that at first they cannot wait to get away from. It culminates in the final battle of the L.A.I.R.E. players. Augie is determined to kill King Argotron to be ruler of the game and impress fellow player Esplen. A joke comes full circle at the beginning of the Battle Royale.

So, ninety-five minutes later, Role Models is over. I enjoyed myself, and I kind of wish that it was a bit longer. I found many of the situations funny, but sadly, my wife did not. So, I was quickly reminded of the horrendous decision I made to see Hot Rod. Apparently, I have not served my two movie sentence, yet. Verdict: If you are a fan of crude humor, this is a movie for you. I loved it, but I am a fan of said humor. If you are easily offended, then this is not for you.

17 November 2008

Quantum of Solace

Bond's Chase Movie

After the huge success of 2006’s reboot Casino Royale, the next movie really has a big pair of shoes to fill. Does Quantum of Solace fill those shoes? Let me get it out of the way now. No, it falls short. But, was it a fun, entertaining movie worth the price of admission? Without a doubt. Daniel Craig returns as the MI-6 agent James Bond for his second go around. That puts him tied with Timothy Dalton for fourth for most time portraying the suave secret agent. He will need one more to take fourth and two more to tie Brosnan for third.

Quantum of Solace opens with a car chase that ends in a quarry, and the destruction of yet another Aston Martin and an Alfa Romero. This is the first of many chases in the film. We then see Jesper Christensen’s Mr. White return and mention that he is a member of a secret society that is so large they were afraid the CIA and MI-6 were looking over their shoulders, but it turns out they do not even know the society exists. This scene ends with another chase, but this time on foot. Bond chases a suspect on foot over roof tops similar to the opening foot chase in Casino Royale, but not to that caliber. It ends with a fight on ropes hanging from scaffolding. That was a unique touch. Bond then travels across the globe following a lead. This ends with another fight and then leads to another chase, followed by another chase, this last one on boats. So, we have had a car, foot, motorcycle, and boat chase. Along the way we meet Camille, played by Olga Kurylenko from Hitman. She plays a Bolivian agent on a revenge mission of her own. She is in bed with villain Dominic Greene, portrayed by French actor Mathieu Amalric.

From here, pieces of the puzzle are slowly put together between scenes of action and more chases. Dominic Greene and Mr. White, I do not know why they are all colors, are members of this secret society called “Quantum.” This seems to be the new SPECTRE or SMERSH. Greene’s sinister plot is to overthrow governments not willing to pay his company for services and replace them with ones that are. His final one is to hold the Bolivian water supply hostage. We discover this after a plane chase/dogfight.

Quantum of Solace shows Bond is still a reckless killing machine that needs much more refining. He still makes mistakes that require M, played again by Judi Dench, to cover for him. She is also put in places that require her to make decisions that Bond might not like. She sends Miss Fields out to bring him in, but she is disposed of in homage to Goldfinger. Gemma Arterton had the honor of playing the short-lived character. According to IMDB, she name was Strawberry Fields, but I do not recall her full name being used.

The climax takes place in a desert in Bolivia in a hotel that I am not sure exists or not. But, it looked amazing. First time action director Marc Forster did an amazing job with the action. That is why I was disappointed with the plot being so erratically dispersed. The movie seemed to focus on the action and the plot was second fiddle. With Jeffery Wright returning as Felix Leiter and Giancarlo Giannini as Mathis, I expected to have a better plot. Haggis and Purvis wrote the screenplay. They were the ones that wrote Casino Royale. Again, another reason the movie should have had a better plot. It was not like they were under any time restriction. Casino Royale is the longest movie in the franchise ad 144 minutes. Quantum of Solace is now the shortest in the franchise at 106 minutes.

Verdict: Well, I hope that this is the film that finally allows Bond to become Bond. I would also like to see some of the classic characters brought back. I miss Q and Moneypenny. I do not think that they need to have all the crazy gadgets, but Q was just the head of the armory. Monneypenny could easily be written in after the events of this film. M could use the secretary. Should you see it? OF COURSE! Why not? I am thinking 2 or 3 viewings of this should do me fine. Enjoy!

10 November 2008

Pride & Glory

Short on Both

Well, when it comes to Pride & Glory, I should have known it was going to be bad when I first saw a preview for it over a year maybe a year and a half ago. This is one of those movies that I am sure sounded good on paper, but just became more ridiculous as the filming went on. From the director of Miracle and the writer of Narc and Smokin’ Aces, I did expect more, a lot more.

The movie opens with a football game between the police department and fire department. It reminded me of the hockey games in Rescue Me. We first meet Colin Farrell’s Jimmy Egan in football gear rallying his troops to make the defensive stop to save the game. We are also introduced to Edward Norton’s Ray Tierney and his older brother Francis, Jr., played by Noah Emmerich. From here, we go right into the story of cops killed in the line of duty. The Chief of Police is Jon Voight as Francis Tierney, Sr. He talks Ray into heading up a task force to look into the circumstances of the cop killings.

There is really not much more to say. If you have seen the preview, then you know what happens. Jimmy Egan is a dirty cop and Ray is a clean cop. They have a showdown while all the other dirty cops are being taken care of in various ways. There are multiple subplots that just did not need to be there. Ray is getting a divorce. Does that matter? No. Francis, Jr.’s wife is dying of cancer. Does that ever come into play? No. Francis, Sr. is an alcoholic. Again, does that make a lick of difference in the movie? No. This movie was 130 minutes and every bit of 50 minutes too long.

The climax was a let down. There is a good fist fight between Jimmy and Ray, but that is about it. The direction was bad. All these great actors, and the director was unable to get anything out of any of them. This reminded me a lot of James Grey and his two movies The Yards and We Own the Night. There is a lot of potential that is just never tapped or played out. Verdict: I do not advise wasting the over two hours it would take to watch this atrocious waste of talent. There are plenty movies that have done the dirty cop theme better.