Premium Rush is a David Koepp film which combines his high tension action like his Jurassic Park and Angels & Demons with his bent towards NYC films like Ghost Town and Panic Room. This is a fast-paced bicycle messenger film ala Quicksilver with a more complex chase story and a bit more multi-dimensional bad cop bad guy. It is particularly fun for New Yorkers who are constantly plagued by traffic and how to get from here to there since we all want to fly through the streets like Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
I really enjoyed the cinematography approach of combining fast panning, slow motion while we contemplate and visualize ones disastrous traffic weaving alternatives and Google Earth-like hybrid arrows through streets to show directionality. This was hip and fun and added to the excitement.
We all know that New Yorkers and Wall Streeters both think the world revolves round them and that everyone wishes they could be them. This film captures that in two juxtaposed ways…. We want to be bicycle messengers who follow no laws but the laws of survival…..and we want to be like Wilee (yes, like coyote-man) and not care about a career in law (Columbia must NOT have paid for THAT. Placement), but just living in the moment…..or more accurately the next 5 moments.
Gordon-Levitt is always, good and compelling in his seriousness and with his crooked grin for the ladies. Michael Shannon is an inspired character actor who plays tough,confused and cynical roles. Here he is the bad cop who is in hock to the Chinatown gambling mob and needs this score. What Shannon or maybe Koepp add to the role is a devil-may-care humor that is always fun like in Get Shorty or A Fish Called Wanda. In fact, this was a role a Dennis Farina could have played well but never would you be as scared as you are when Shannon stops joking.
Fun, fast-paced and all about NYC and the 99% crowd…..what’s not to like?
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a Peter Hedges movie. He directed it and wrote the screenplay and it is right on par with my other favorites of his; Dan in Real Life, About a Boy and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Hedges really is one of the more creative yet mainstream writers and directors out there in the “poignant comedy” space (I think I just coined a new space!). I really liked this film and I was expecting it to be goofy, which it was not.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a lot less like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (for which I simply could not suspend disbelief sufficiently) and more like Jack with Robin Williams in the way the viewers must suspend disbelief a bit and open their hearts to the message. In many ways this was a less perfect version of Forrest Gump. The gaps were not in the script, theme or acting, but in things like the score and the cinematography, which were OK, but not special.
What I liked was the sentiment and the mechanism of unfolding the story. You know it has a happy ending because Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton survive the trauma and look happy as they recount their story (think Forrest Gump sitting on the bench with the box of chocolates). The messages are clear. We are here for a short time and we must all do our best to live well and be happy. We are all imperfect and there’s nothing wrong with that….in fact, it’s what makes us special. Life goes on and is a beautiful thing.
Investing is imperfect and it is the mother of all opportunity. You can be a hedge fund manager without losing your soul. One bad trade does not a disaster make…tomorrow truly is another day and the sun will rise in the East and set in the West….and there is nothing you can do to stop or alter that….which is a good thing.
The Expendables 2 is another Stallone-written action film, except unlike the original, directed by Sly himself, this one is directed by Simon West and something gets lost in translation. Don’t get me wrong, seeing every action star you can think of in one place is fun, but that’s simply not enough these days. Take Sly, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Terry Crews ….. Take away Micky Rourke (what a shame) and add back Schwarzeneggar, Willis, Chuck Norris (really?) and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Now THAT’S an action-packed cast. I gotta say, one of them is tougher than the next except Norris, who seems like a pussy cat with a beard.
The script is your basic bunch of unruly mercenaries who kick ass around the world trying to get even. Van Damme is tight and believable. Sly is OK, but the snuggle-tooth grin is getting old. Arnold is just not believable any more….too many cigars in his Sacramento tent I guess. Willis has a bit part and he’s not menacing enough any more for a vignette. He was great in RED,but only passable here. Statham is a favorite and always menacing, so he held up his end even though he’s written as hen-pecked.
The biggest problem here is that the action sequences are only so convincing (compared, say, to a Bourne film). RED already did the old guy bit….and did it much better. So the predictable plot and campy old mercenary theme was just plain boring.
Imagine hedge fund managers who outstay their welcome. Some, like Meryl Streep, just keep on going (think Dalio) where others just outstay their audience like Travolta (think Falcone) and still others know when to quit like Damon as Bourne (think Soros) and go out on top.
Robot & Frank is a small, relatively unknown film that won an award at Sundance. It was written by relative unknown Christopher Ford and directed by relatively unknown Jake Schreier. But what a great cast…..Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden Peter Sarsgaard and Liv Tyler. And what a fun yet touching script.
What I like most about this film is the combination of futuristic theme (it’s not only a 1% world, but it’s dominated by yuppie techies) with an old world realism and humanity of an aging cat burglar (we usually never think about what happens to crooks when they age) who has the next great plague of the baby boom generation…..Alzheimer’s dementia. As the pension crisis comes upon us, so will dementia and the need for geriatric caregivers. If only Robot VGC-60L existed and worked as well as Peter Sarsgaard’s version.
What is so wonderful about this film is that it takes a very real and generally intolerable situation and brings humor and humanity to it. Langella can’t remember recent daily things, but he can still pick a lock and plan a heist. He takes a dehumanizing robot and humanizes it by teaching it how to help him burgle. The most touching and yet subtle act is that Frank refuses to erase the memory of his robot to save himself even though the robot says it means nothing to it. It is this act of selflessness that reclaims the old crook Frank’s soul. And, to keep our economic issues straight, the robot allows Frank to orchestrate some eventual wealth transfer, which his children do not appear to need, but which reality says they WILL need.
I think the quality of acting, especially by Langella and Sarandon take a very cute and creative idea and turn it into a great film.
The Bourne Legacy is the latest installment of the Tony Gilroy legacy, which has consisted of some of my favorite action films: The Bourne Identity, the Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, Proof of Life and Michael Clayton. For a fourth film in the series, it’s amazing how entertaining it is to see familiar details and snippets from the last Bourne film, the same exciting score that evokes action and excitement and has come to scream international espionage.
What is perhaps most intriguing about this film is that the formula is mostly unchanged. This is about a rogue agent who is chemically and genetically enhanced both physically and mentally and who is targeted by his handlers for termination. He inadvertently involves a pretty woman and they kick and punch their way to redemption, while building their relationship. As repetitive as this seems……it works. The other strange thing is that what was a 28 year old hero when Matt Damon began as Jason Bourne….gets replaced by a 42 yer old Jeremy Renner…..and it still works. How does that happen and still work. Great writing and directing.
Renner’s squeeze is played by Rachel Weisz…a real pro at this sort of role and both very talented and young enough to fit the role. I consider both Renner and Weisz to be casting risks that payed off, so agin, more power to Tony Gilroy.
The Bourne franchise is the Bridgewater of film. It is a global franchise that produces year in and year out. There is no series I will ALWAYS make time to watch like a Bourne. Institutional I vectors can’t get enough of Bridgewater and moviegoers can’t get enough of Bourne. Neither will win any awards or want any, but both will do the job and mint money.
The Campaign is a timely risk by director Jay Roach. I guess the nature of comedy writing is to push the envelope and take risks. Roach succeeded with Austin Powers and Meet the Parents……and failed horribly with Dinner for Schmucks. But how much risk is there is casting Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis? That would be a monolithic idiot and a poofy imbecile……a sure winning combination.
Full disclosure…..I am not a Ferrell fan though he has a few decent films. I generally like Galifianakis, but like him in limited quantities and generally diluted down by other good actors….like with Robert Downey Jr. In Due Date or, obviously, with the original Hangover ensemble. Ferrell and Galifianakis simply don’t work well together. Ferrell + Galifianakis = boring overkill. The real test is that if you get bored in an 85 minute comedy, there is something not working.
The story is simple, a political campaign for a North Carolina congressional seat where an unchallenged philanderer gets set up by some big money guys (think the Duke brothers from Trading places played not by Bellamy and Ameche, but by Lithgow and Aykroyd). There are several reversals and changes of heart, but this is basically a dirty-tricks campaign that has very sophomoric humor even for Washington.
Hope Springs is the name of a small town in Maine where Steve Carell practices marriage counseling on Meryl Streep (voluntarily) and Tommy Lee Jones (involuntarily). So it is a double entendre name like Bountiful and this is as subtle as David Frankel the director can muster. Frankel brought us The Devil Wears Prada, but that seems more and more like a fluke after this, The Big Year and Marley & Me.
Who doesn’t love Streep and Tommy Lee? And then throw in Carell as a straight man (not a laugh to be found) and Elisabeth Shue in a bit part as a barkeep for the benefit of us older guys, and this should have been a winner. But alas, this script by Vanessa Taylor and weak or timid direction by Frankel make this as flat a film as these great stars will ever play in. I am guessing that the stated and over-riding reason for Streep and Tommy Lee’s involvement is their desire to play opposite one a other. That’s nice, but not enough.
First of all, no one from the Sixties that was a beauty queen like Streep is so unfamiliar with sex. Then there is the goofy dialogue between them….right out of Revolutionary Road in 1955. And finally, this is the storyline: couple gets tired of each other, wife seeks counseling, husband resists then relents, couple tries to re-engage and eventually succeeds. They live happily ever after. Yawn.
Investing done by the best alpha seeker goes nowhere without the underlying research and execution tools to create the vehicle. It may be a poor workman who blames his tools, but no workman can turn dross into gold with his bare hands.
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] T [/dropcap] otal Recall is remake of the 1990 Schwarzenegger classic co-starring Sharon Stone. To begin with, I watched the original this week in preparation and have to say that as much as I like the movie, the chase scenes and effects are certainly lame by today’s standard (except for the Martian eye bulge, which will never get old). So I went in feeling there was room for improvement and 22 years is enough time for a remake. I am even a fan of Colin Farrell and both Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel are good substitutes for Sharon Stone even though I tend to feel NO ONE beats Stone even though she does take a beating nicely. But, try as I might, I cannot be positive on Len Wiseman’s “Underworld” version of Total Recall.
My big problem was that the writer/directors wanted to invoke the memory of the original and played with us in numerous scenes and with some specific dialogue, but here’s the thing….they left out the best lines (“Consider this a divorce”) and left the storyline in the dust by turning this into a blend of Blade Runner and Star Wars. The Colony, while clearly emblematic of the 99% borough, looks like the oily, metallic, Asian, rainy world of Blade Runner…..not like Mars…..remember Mars? And the white armor-clad robotic storm troopers….what is that? Is it iRobot or Troopers from the Empire?
Look, I sort of liked The Fall that transports workers to the UK (1% land…..get it…..the Empire) in 17 minutes. But the time and attention paid to making everywhere in the world look like piled junk from Wall-e where high tech lives next to wash on the line, seems wasted. This film alternatively tried too hard and then fell back on old bits.
What I found most interesting was the socio-economic message here for the future. Sure, the 1% still rule, but in best concentration camp style, the commuting workers are the fabricators of their own destruction by doing labor-intensive assembly line work not worthy of a Mexican machiladora worker…..just so the Republicans can send the robots to kill the workers. Someone needs to review microeconomics with Mr. Cohaagen. Even hedge fund managers know not to mess with a good system.
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] R [/dropcap] uby Sparks is a delightful film directed by Dayton and Faris, who brought us Little Miss Sunshine. This film was written by Ruby herself…..Zoe Kazan. This is particularly amazing because as I watched this surreal, but charming movie, I thought how hard it must be to find an actress who could play Ruby with her guileless innocence and wonder. There are lots of characteristics that lend themselves self-awareness, but I would never have thought someone would see themselves as a clueless neophyte conjured up by the literary imagination of a modern version of J.D. Salinger.
Paul Dano, one of the homeliest actors since Tobey Maguire, is the once famous author prodigy who can’t get a life beyond his Hollywood Hills house and effeminate dog. So his writers’ block turns to an exercise suggested by shrink Elliot Gould….to write the girl of his recurring dreams. That becomes Ruby, without hocus pocus or fanfare, and just appears. Both Dano and his brother Chris Messina have some fun thinking through what they could write into Ruby’s “program”, but mostly, the humor comes in the challenge he has in getting Ruby stabilized. Like all magic, it turns out it’s not as easy as it looks. I guess the message is that love is never easy, even when you’re making it all up yourself.
Another fun bit is watching Annette Bening play Dano’s Big Sur Earth Mother. I can buy that. But Antonio Banderas as Mort, the chainsaw wielding chair sculptor? I can’t suspend disbelief that far, but it was a fun scene.
I find myself wondering how people can live such good lifestyles with such little work. Who invests their money and pays their bills. I’m clearly doing something wrong.
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] C [/dropcap] eleste and Jesse Forever – this is a Rashida Jones film in which she stars and which she wrote. It’s a modern film about an apparently modern problem. It’s like Take This Waltz in that it’s both about an arrested development underachieving guy and the overachieving confused girl who loves him / loves him not.
Jones is a fine actress, who wrote a good script that is very believable (all except the part where a half marathon runner goes cheese puff gorging couch potato.). I’m not a Samberg fan here or on SNL (and CERTAINLY not in The Watch or That’s My Boy). Not everyone from SNL is a natural film star even if everyone from The Office is.
Now let’s talk about the economics of the movie. Jones is a successful entrepreneur with style guru partner Elijah Wood (too bad he wasn’t on SNL), but she screws up a teen idols logo. She then makes lemonade out of the lemons by courting the gay community. Meanwhile Samberg dabbles in art and he and his pregnant dancer wife live quite nicely, Jones is dismissive of the financial analyst who wants to date her. This is the ultimate evidence that the financial crisis has been complete….style, art and dance rule and live the nice life while finance tries and fails to get the girl. Next thing you know, engineers will be back on top.