4 ½ STARS
16/February/2012 03:12 PM Filed in: The Wizard of Oz
Everybody loves “The Wizard of Oz,” the classic 1939 film about Dorothy’s (Judy Garland) spiritual journey down the yellow brick road. That’s right, I said spiritual journey. Read into the movie what you will, but her pilgrimage seems to have elements borrowed from Buddhism, New Age and Christian belief systems.
Could Glenda the Good Witch of the North, who sends Dorothy on her journey be a Zen Master? Possibly. Do her ruby slipper represent the Buddhist inner spark?
But even if the spiritual aspects of the story are coincidental, the fact remains that Dorothy takes a pilgrimage not unlike many who came before her and many who will come after… she went on a search to find her true home, she just did it with a lion, a scarecrow and a tin man.
I think the underlying spiritualism of the story is one reason the movie has endured for so many years. It is an intergenerational classic, or as Oz expert John Fricke says, “We always say the age range for The Wizard of Oz is from fetal to fatal.” It’s a funny line, but there is a ring of truth to it.
J. Edgar: Underneath the fine performances and craftsman like filmmaking is... not much. Or too much, depending on your point of view. The script is ambitious, covering fifty turbulent years, both politically and personally for the former FBI chief. But as the story jumps from decade to decade, interweaving old and young versions of the characters, you can't help but wish that director Clint Eastwood had chosen one aspect of the story and told it well instead of this scattershot approach. It's a case of too much information and too little insight.
Tower Heist: It's nice to see Eddie Murphy in a movie that allows him to drop his beloved family entertainer guise and bring back some of the bravado that we loved in movies like 48 Hours. It's just too bad the movie feels like it was made thirty years ago.
Cafe de flore: The idea of the uncompromising power of true love is the thing that connects the stories of a jet-setting Montreal disc jockey (Kevin Parent) and the single mother (Vanessa Paradis) of a downs syndrome child. The main pleasure here is watching Paradis throw glamour out the window—she is, after all the face of Chanel—and deliver a gritty, but lovingly rendered performance as a protective mother.
London Boulevard: Stars Colin Farrell, Ray Winstone and Keira Knightley headline this gritty British crime drama directed by the guy who wrote The Departed, William Monahan. Smart, surly and sassy, this one uses a great soundtrack and performances to sooth out an occasionally clichéd script.
06/February/2012 04:34 PM Filed in: Cache
The premise of “Caché,” a psychological thriller from German director Michael Haneke is unsettling. It explores how completely a couple’s lives can unravel when they are terrorized by an unknown voyeur who videotapes their comings-and- goings, revealing secrets about their lives.
Starring Oscar winner Juliet Binoche, it is not an easy film. No answers are offered and it emits an overwhelming aura of paranoia, but it does offer up interesting comments on the power of denial and guilt.
Great acting, unsettling subject matter and provocative filmmaking make Cache essential viewing.
30/January/2012 02:45 PM Filed in: Drive
The key piece of dialogue in “Drive,” a new thriller starring Ryan Gostling, happens early on before any of the hard core action begins. Bernie Rose, a shady character played by Albert Brooks extends his hand to Gostling. The younger actor stares at the gesture of friendship for a moment before declining to shake. “My hands are a little dirty,” he says. “So are mine,” replies Rose.
That quick conversation tells us that nobody in this movie is above boards and they don’t care who knows it.
Gostling is a man with no name, simply known as Driver, a movie stunt driver/grease monkey by day and get-a-way wheelman by night. Befriending his neighbors Irene (Carey Mulligan) and young son Benicio (Kaden Leos, who dials the cute kid factor way up) he makes a deal to drive get-a-way for some criminals to square a debt Irene’s husband ran up and safeguard the mother and child. When the deal goes bad he unwittingly becomes involved in a treacherous situation involving Irene’s recently paroled husband, one million dollars in cash and some angry mobsters.
“Drive” is an art house thriller. It’s stylized, with lighting effects, lots of slow motion and interesting camera angles that create a sense of unease that permeates every scene. For every instance of brutal violence director Nicolas Winding Refn (“Valhalla Rising,” “Bronson”) also escalates the movie’s sense of heightened reality. Very long pauses punctuate most every exchange of dialogue and how is it that no one seems to notice that the Driver is drenched in blood as he walks through a tony Chinese restaurant? “Drive” exists in its own world, and it is a fascinating place.
Here Gostling isn’t the easy charmer of “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” he plays Driver like a coiled spring. There hasn’t been a leading man this close-mouthed since Rudolph Valentino was the king of the silent screen. He’s a man of very few words, but his silence hints at an active inner life and his actions certainly speak to having a past. It’s a brave and strange performance, either emotionally shut down, or simply cool-as-a-cucumber, take your pick.
As for his co-stars, Mulligan isn’t given much to do except use her subtly expressive face to make physical whatever is going on in her head, but Albert Brooks, cast against type as a mobster and Bryan Cranston as an unlucky garage owner are stellar. Refn clearly loves his actors, stroking them in long close-ups, allowing the camera to luxuriate on their faces. It’s the exact opposite of what we usually find in thrillers, but here it adds atmosphere and star power.
“Drive” is long-on silence and big on anti-heroes, and is one of the most intriguing movies of the year so far.