Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"Hustle" to a Theater When You Get the Chance

            “Some of this actually happened” is how David O’Russell’s latest film, ”American Hustle” opens up.  Instantly, skepticism becomes the mindset for audiences as we watch the next two hours of illegal dealings and con artistry gone wild.  The ensemble piece has gained much critical acclaim, and it’s no surprised how it has racked up seven Golden Globe nominations.  Voted as the Movie of the Year by the American Film Institute, “American Hustle” is a must see, considering its immense accolades. 

            “American Hustle” is based on a true story, as it pays tribute to the FBI ABSCAM Operation.  With its opening statement, unusual yet immediately gripping, we clearly see how the public’s trust in the government has decreased, considering the Watergate Scandal that happened a few years prior.  The ABSCAM operation was based in Long Island, and it originally targeted trafficking stolen property.  However, it evolved into a public corruption investigation. 

            The political figures involved in this scheme included a US Senator, six members of the House of Representatives, a New Jersey senator, members of the Philadelphia City Council, the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, and an inspector for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.  The codename “ABSCAM” is actually short for Arab Scam, or Abdul Scam, the name of its fictitious front company. 

            David O’Russell chose to take the story and fictionalize it rather than making a straight-forward adaptation.  This was an attempt to glamorize the climax of the scheming, as per usual of Hollywood’s artistic licensing.  The names have been changed, but the story is pretty close to reality. 

 In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, an FBI agent, Richard DiMasio (Bradley Cooper) coerces Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) and Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) to tee up and execute an elaborate plan to expose corrupt politicians. To get things going, Irving convinces one of his close friends to charade as an Arab Sheik looking for investments in American from politicians. 

            Irving and Sidney manage to con many powerful figures to get what they want, from transferring millions of dollars into a fake account to scamming one Irving’s close friends, the mayor of Camden, New Jersey (Jeremy Renner).  The amount of hustling and smooth-talking throughout this film is wild, as the elaborate scheming intertwines with the onscreen chemistry between members of the star-studded cast. 

            It’s no mystery why Christian Bale has been nominated for yet another Golden Globe, this time for his performance in “American Hustle.”  I’m not sure which has more personality, his character Irving Rosenfeld, or the elaborate combover he styles in the film’s opening scene.  His charismatic air can sell ice to an eskimo, as I can’t imagine anyone more fit for the role.  Bale can take any role on, and thoroughly exhaust it to the point where we really forget who Christian Bale is. 

Once more, Christian Bale prepared for his well in a hard core fashion.  This time around, he gained forty pounds and got a combover.  Bale went great lengths and slouched his posture so much for his character that he herniated two of his disks in the process.   His transformation is in fact so impressive that Robert DeNiro (who makes an appearance in this film!) didn’t even recognize him after being introduced to him onset. 

Per usual, Amy Adams delivers an excellent performance.  She and Bale have returned to work together under O’Russell after appearing in his 2010 film “The Fighter.”  Their excellent performance together contributes to “American Hustle’s” box-office success.  She too has received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. 

Bradley Cooper reunites with O’Russell as well reunites with director David O’Russell after being in his 2012 film “Silver Linings Playbook,” and has racked up yet another Golden Globe nomination under his direction.  The same goes for Jennifer Lawrence, who played Rosenfeld’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn.  Cooper really got into his role as DiMasio as he permed his hair for the occasion, and wore hair curlers in a couple of scenes.

The costuming, hair and make-up for this film are anachronism free.  It even uses the  1970's Columbia Motion Pictures logo at the film's opening.  Though outrageous at points, the clothes and styles of the time period fit in perfectly for the late1970’s.  From Adams and Cooper’s curled hair to Bale’s intense combover, we see the time period unfold before our eyes.  Even Renner fashions a pompadour that would impress Conan O’Brien.  The soundtrack was fantastic as well.  It effectively fits the mood.  Artists featured on it include Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Elton John and the Temptations.  Just to name a few of the incredible musicians featured in the film.

            Originally, “American Hustle” was titled as “American Bullshit,” and that script was written in 2010.  It was on the Hollywood Blacklist, until resurrected and rewritten.  After seeing it, I can only imagine what the original script called for, considering this one was written with so much eloquence and panache.  O’Russell had the actors and actresses that appear in this film in mind as he took on the script. 

The spontaneity of the scenes unfolding feel so real, and audiences can relate to the characters, no matter how much or how little.  For example, the argument scenes between Lawrence and Bale are improvised, as the actors were more capable to connect to the action without the limitations of a script. 

Things come very naturally to the screen, as a good portion of the dialogue is improvised.  This is no surprise, as the cast is brilliant, but the plot becomes difficult to follow at points.  Christian Bale even noted how this would effect the plot and could potentially destroy the film overall.  O’Russell responded with confidence “I hate plots.  I am all about characters, that’s it.”  This is no shock, as the characters in this film have such strong screen presence, you cannot help but to love every single one despite their tragic flaws.  They truly make up for what confusion audiences may be in. 

With the above listed Golden Globe nominations along with that of Best Director (David O’Russell), Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) and Best Screenplay (Eric Warren Singer and O’Russell), “American Hustle” is definitely worth checking out.  The styilistic aspects and execution of the story told wouldn’t have been as effective if it wasn’t for the efforts of O’Russell and everyone involved in “American Hustle.” 

Monday, December 30, 2013

An Effective Saving of Mr. Banks

                Regardless of how satisfying a Disney movie can be, they always seem to surprise me.  I really do manage to fall in love with them, whether it is upon leaving the theatre or letting them play to the last few seconds in my VCR.  “Saving Mr. Banks” is no exception.  I will never be able to watch “Mary Poppins” the same way again, as there is so much more to it than just dancing penguins and chimney sweeps.  John Lee Hancock directs this work of art, and it is no surprise why the critics are raving about Disney’s latest film. 

                “Banks” is a live-action picture, which is the story behind the creative process and struggle to create “Mary Poppins,” the 1964 Disney movie about a nanny who reunites the broken Banks family.  P. L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the author of the children’s book “Mary Poppins” has been entreated by the Disney Studios since 1938 for the rights.  After much effort to keep her book from being transformed into another “silly cartoon” of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and his studio, she finally agrees to meet him in California and will sign over the rights, provided she oversees the entire creative process.

                As she dives into the minutiae of “Mary Poppins,” Travers reflects on her childhood in Australia, especially on her relationship with her father.  He was the inspiration for the patriarch of “Poppins,” Mr. Banks.  His poor temper yet loving disposition played a major role in her childhood, and his battle with alcoholism didn’t make things easy.  Travers’ relationship with her father weighed a lot on her writing later on in life, especially when determining how Mr. Banks really should be portrayed.  Working with Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and the Sherman Brothers (Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak) was a long and grueling process.  However, once she realized the importance of bringing “Mary Poppins” to the silver screen, she makes the bold move of signing the rights over.  “Saving Mr. Banks” is an excellent interpretation of how difficult it can be making a film, from the storyboards and script to the music and costuming.   

                Thompson plays an anxiety stricken woman, whose proper nature and desperate need for a spoonful of sugar will make you love her, even though she is utterly disgusted by Disneyland.     She thoroughly prepared for her role as the uptight author.  Thompson styled her own hair similar to that of Travers.  She also listened to the tapes recorded from the scriptwriting process in which Travers dictated her many concerns of what Disney’s team dreamed up.  Overall, she is absolutely in this film (as expected) and it is no wonder why she has received a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Travers. 

                She wasn’t the only actor who did their homework for “Saving Mr. Banks.”  Tom Hanks grew his mustache out, causing the make-up and costuming team style it just like Disney’s.  He also listened to old recordings of Disney and practiced his Midwestern inflection while reading the newspaper.  Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak also had the pleasure of working closely with Richard Sherman, which was very beneficial throughout rehearsals and the actual filming. 

                This film will effectively transport you to Los Angeles in the 1960’s.  Disneyland, even though is much different from what it is now, is still enchanting.  The scenery will make you fall in love.  Costuming and the stylistic aspects of the film were approached in a most favorable manner.  Everything from the bag Emma Thompson carried around to Tom Hanks’ mustache was finely placed, avoiding any anachronistic nature.  Nuances everywhere made all the difference, as there was an authenticity to the film that is less common now than before. 

                “Saving Mr. Banks” was as heartwarming as it was heartbreaking.  Audiences get to see the struggle that comes along with creating a movie, along with the delights that make the frustration worth it in the end.  As soon as I got home, I put “Mary Poppins” on to get a better feel for what really is going on throughout the film.  The tribute it plays is respectable and appropriate.  For the story it tells, I couldn’t imagine a better interpretation.   

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Let "Frozen" Warm Your Heart

This Thanksgiving, Walt Disney Animated Studios has done it again.  In the past, they have pulled your heartstrings to follow along the paths of lovers.  They have made you laugh so hard you’re choking for breath.  They manage to break your heart and slip in tear jerking moments.  In the end, they (usually) satisfy with a feel-good ending that can make anyone forget their woes and become a kid at heart again.  Usually, a few of the above aspects are achieved in a film, but it is hard to achieve all. 

“Frozen” is able to do everything, and beyond that.  It leaves all audiences smiling and begging for more, even though the film is practically perfect as is.  Its ticket was the best  $12 I spent in too long. 

“Frozen” is a must-see this holiday season.  It may not be a film revolving around a holiday, as we would look for in seasonal animated features, but its winter wonderland to a fault is the perfect pull-in.  It is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale, “The Snow Queen.”  Ambitious princess Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell---who sings too!) embarks on a journey to rescue her estranged sister, Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) from herself.  Wow, Disney has hit everything on a deeper level.  Not only is this film wonderful in all its typical fashion for an animated feature, but now it has become more personal and psychological. 

Other voice talents in this film include Josh Gad as the dopey snowman Olaf, Jonathan Groff as the ice salesman Kristoff, who accompanies Anna on her journey, and Santino Fontana as the seemingly enchanting Prince Hans.  The film follows their journey trying to restore order in the kingdom, and it is as fun as it is intense.  It’s also filled with more music than your average Disney film.  Or any film for that matter. 

The score?  Fantastic.  The soundtrack? Even better.  It may be a drive-by musical, with characters bursting into song to express themselves every five minutes.  However, you cannot help but wish you knew the words going into the theatre to sing along with them.  Its upbeat and catchy music is wonderfully composed by Christophe Beck.  In fact, I made a Spotify playlist of the soundtrack as soon as I got home. 

Don’t bother with seeing it in 3D.  Save yourself the few dollars for a cup of Starbucks, along with the headache from the overwhelming and excessive effects coming at your face.  This film was so crisp in its normal definition that you don’t need anything else decorating the screen to enchant.  The special effects were impressive.  The snow onscreen looked so real you could almost feel the powdery whiteness sprinkling over you. 

Many critiques consider it the best movie musical Disney has released since their renaissance era, and it already has a rating of 8.1 stars on IMDb.  If you had liked “Tangled” (2011) and are looking for something to completely lose yourself in the semi-comfort of a movie theatre, then “Frozen” is the film to see.  Despite its icy cold title, its warm nature can and will melt anyone’s heart this winter.  It could potentially get the Oscar for animated picture of the year too, God willing.  Either way, go see “Frozen.”  Now. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Academy Award Preview---What to Watch

Along with the holiday season comes my favorite time of the year---Oscar season!  Filmmakers churn out films all year long and wait to premiere them between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, hoping to be noticed by critics everywhere in the most positive way possible. 

While the Academy is busy judging and choosing the nominees for the 2014 awards ceremony, we can go see these films and make our own Oscar predictions.  If you are a huge film fanatic like myself, you probably already have scheduled when you are making your cinematic pilgrimages for each of these films. 

CATCHING FIRE.  Although not likely to be nominated for the most prestigious Oscars, this film is making intense waves in the box office, and shouldn’t be left out.  Premiering on November 22 comes the second film adaptation in Suzanne Collin’s series “The Hunger Games.”  This film resurrects Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, and Liam Hemsworth as Gale.  Additions to the cast include Woody Harrelson and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  Definitely going to see for any die-hard Hunger Game fans, along with anyone seeking an intense film this holiday season. 

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS.  The Coen Brothers’ latest film hits theaters December 6.  It takes its audience back in time to 1961, as they follow a folk music singer-songwriter in New York.  As far as the storyline goes, according to Joel Coen, "The film doesn't really have a plot. That concerned us at one point; that's why we threw the cat in."  The cast features the talents of Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake and Oscar Isaac as the titular character.  “Inside Llewyn Davis” made a splash at the Cannes Film Festival with its winning the Grand Prix.  With the Coen Brothers directing it, all film fanatics will be expecting something great (which seems to be the case). 

OUT OF THE FURNACE.  Christian Bale’s first film this holiday season comes out December 6.  Directed by Scott Cooper and produced by Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio, the crime drama has a predictable story line.  Two brothers, Russell and Rodney (Bale and Casey Affleck), wish to escape their run-down town in search of better lives.  However, things take a turn for them, as Russell (Bale) winds up in prison.  Now, Rodney must make the decision of whether seeking freedom or justice for his brother is the path to take.  Even though the people in and working to put this film together are rather notable, I would pass on seeing this film in theaters. 

SAVING MR. BANKS.  Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson star in this film, premiering December 20. It is has a good chance of being one of the most lucrative films this holiday season, as it is directed by John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side”).  This autobiographical film follows Pamela Travers (Thompson), the author of the novel “Mary Poppins.”  The film takes place in Los Angeles, as Travers visits Walt Disney (Hanks), looking for the rights to adapt her novel to the silver screen.  Throughout the film, Travers also revisits her difficult childhood and recalls her father, who was her inspiration for the character Mr. Banks.  Collin Farrell, Paul Giamatti and B. J. Novak also star in this picture.  Hanks and Thompson certainly did their homework, intensely researching the characters they were to portray.  According to Rotten Tomatoes, the fantastic reviews coming in definitely move this film up on my must-see film list. 

AMERICAN HUSTLE.  This film is by far my biggest must-see coming out (hopefully my high hopes aren’t disappointing, but the people involved in “American Hustle” explain my excitement).  Directed by David O. Russell, the man who brought us the feel-good film of 2012 (“Silver Linings Playbook”), the crime drama “American Hustle” brings together another phenomenal cast.  Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in this motion picture, alongside Christian Bale, Michael Fassbender and Amy Adams.  The FBI ABSCAM operation of the 1970-80’s becomes the central plot, as Rosenfeld (Bale) and Prosser (Adams) are pushed into its dark yet mesmerizing nature.  I’ll be counting the days till I can see “American Hustle,” and I wish I was kidding.  Mark your calendars---this one comes out December 20. 

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.  Adapted from Jordan Belfort’s book comes Martin Scorcese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s fifth cinematic collaboration.  Anyone who has read the novel and loved it as much as I have is pretty pumped for its Christmas day premiere.  The film follows Belfort (DiCaprio) throughout his time moving up on Wall Street, laced with drugs, illegal dealings and more excess than you can imagine.  The memoir was such a page-turner; I can only imagine how excellent the film would be.  Even though the Academy doesn’t seem to favor Leo, there is a good chance that this movie could let him finally get his well-deserved Oscar.  With a star-studded cast and the talents of the brilliant Martin Scorsese, who could ask for anything more?

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY.  The leading roles in this cast are estrogen laced in this film coming out December 27.  Directed by John Wells and produced by George Clooney is the film adaptation of Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize-winning play.  Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Juliette Lewis star in this drama about a group of confident women who reunite in their childhood Oklahoma house.  Here, they stay with their entire family (which includes Abigail Breslin and Benedict Cumberbatch), and like all family reunions, it turns into utter chaos.  It has already won the Hollywood Film Award of Ensemble of the Year, and Best Supporting Actress (Roberts), so we can only expect it will be a big contender this February. 

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY. Ben Stiller stars in this film and directs it too, coming out December 27.  This film is adapted from the 1939 short story and the second film adaptation (the first being in 1947). “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” follows a man (Stiller) who escapes his mundane lifestyle through daydreaming in exchange for romance, heroism, and all things fantastical. However, when his real job requires he go on a real adventure, he must take action, real action.  Kristen Wigg, Sean Penn and Adam Scott are part of the cast.  Provided the adaptation is adequate, this adventure comedy shows some signs of surefire potential. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Is Once Enough? Contemplating the Sequel

                Scrolling down my Twitter feed recently, I discovered that filmmakers are looking to resurrect the 2011 R-rated comedy, “Horrible Bosses” with a sequel. While it received mixed reviews from critics, I personally liked it.  It was hilarious, with some memorable lines which I endlessly quote with my family and friends.  The film had closure at the end as well.  All was resolved, and I was satisfied with the run of events.  Does it really need a sequel?  As much as I loved it, I think that its originality would be lost if they tried to take the film a step further.  Even the best movies out there don’t need more to them; they are best left off as is.  Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case.
Often, when a film becomes a box office smash, is popular among critics and audiences alike, and renders a lot of profit, filmmakers consider a sequel.  Extending the alleged end to a film can be a great idea.  Who needs closure to a storyline when you can have more!  In theory, this is a great idea.  Given there is enough money to be spent and film makers have a team willing to resurrect such a great story, what is there to lose?  How about originality, closure, a timeless story, or even simply the up-keeping of a director or an actor’s reputation?
                Originality is a key factor for a good film.  A fresh storyline that no one has heard of before can make or break a film.  If brilliant enough, a film can receive positive recognition that ranges from a simple film critique to a nomination from the Academy.  Films like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Inception” are quality original films.  John Hughes wrote the script for “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” in a week, and over time it has become a cult classic.  “Inception” brought a new concept of planting thoughts into the mind of a CEO’s son; with layers of dreams and an ending that still has me thinking, it has definitely stood the test of time.  Plots and concepts like these are important for any good story or film.  If ideas are being recycled, there is a slim chance that a film will be successful. 
                Closure is an important aspect of a film.  It is the defining factor of a stand-alone film. If you can watch a film and in those two hours (or whatever the length may be) and let the credits role feeling the story came full circle and resolved anything that wasn’t right, then there is closure.  Closure comes in many forms, whether it is morals taught, people falling in love, or the unfortunate death of a significant character.  It is what makes a film worth watching to the end.  How many of us have watched one (good or bad) just to see what happens at its conclusion?  I have, just to know how things end up.  Without this element, it would be hard to distinguish what the really important parts of a film are. 
                One may argue that the lack of closure is a good thing.  For example, television series, book series, films that require two or three motion pictures overall to serve their purpose.  When there is originally intent to make another film after the first, directors and screenwriters choose to leave windows of opportunity.  By taking advantage of their position early in the game, successful sequels can and will (potentially) be the result.  The Christopher Nolan “Batman” films are an excellent example, as each film got better and better upon release.  The endings to the first and second left me on the edge of my seat, filled with excitement to see what was to come next. This is not the case with every film, sadly. 
There are some good things that come out of sequels; all should not be put down.  Superhero sequels, for example, are usually satisfactory.  Picking up from where the vigilante left off and continuing their saga can make a great picture.  With a strong enough first film, given it introduces the struggles and the lifestyle that evolved from ordinary to extraordinary that each hero goes through, a platform for a sequel is easily set up.  The same applies to book series, like Harry Potter, or film series, like Star Wars. 
On the other hand, some films are better off left alone.  If directors keep recycling plot lines just for the sake of raking in a lot more money, then they have lost the idea of what makes a film worth watching.  Let’s take “The Prestige”, for example.  Christopher Nolan’s film about two feuding magicians looking for the better trick has a fantastic plot line, though it can get confusing with the constant twists.  It is one that will make you replay the film as soon as the credits begin to role.  The ending provides closure, and although our mind is blown, we are happy with the fact that all had come full circle.  Is there potential to squeeze in a sequel and extend the story? Sure.  But will Nolan continue it? Absolutely not.  Getting it right (and then some) the first time is good enough to leave all happy at the end (more or less). 
Unfortunately, directors find that they can push their luck and spend more money in hope that their next film will rake in more cash. Films can make a director or an actor (or anyone involved in a film, really) have their reputation skyrocket into infinite fame and fortune.  However, a film can also break them apart and keep them from ever being A-listed again.  Once a bad sequel comes along and a high-profile actor bandwagons onto it, their career can potentially be destroyed.  It's a sad thing, but it has happened a few times too many.
How many times have you highly anticipated a fantastic sequel to one of your favorite films? Let’s take “the Hangover” for example.  Wildly inappropriate, hilarious, and quickly became THE R-Rated comedy of 2009, this film took audiences by storm.  Upon the release of its sequel (which everyone thought was going to be as top-notch as the first, if not better), it was a disaster.  It recycled the plot of a drug-induced tirade, and began to lose its luster.  Clearly the Wolf Pack didn’t learn their lesson the first time around and just not get involved in anything risky.  That’s what made the first one so bold.  Last Memorial Day, a third film was released, which wasn’t even worth seeing. These films could have potentially destroyed the reputations of Bradley Cooper, a well-respected actor who has received nominations for various prestigious awards. Fortunately, it didn't.
Fellow moviegoers, be weary next time you consider buying a ticket, purchasing a Blu-Ray, or simply hopping on Netflix to view the movie that follows one of your favorite films.  Unless the first one left doors open for a potentially awesome second part, then don’t become upset upon your two hours of cinematic letdown.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Don Jon Film Review

This September, Joseph Gordon-Levitt publicly released his film, "Don Jon," in which he starred, wrote, and directed.  It offered an original storyline with the talents of Julianne Moore, Scarlett Johannson and Tony Danza. Originally opening at the Sundance Film Festival this past January, "Don Jon" has been successful in box offices and among critics.
The message offered is an interesting one, and JGL takes an edgy route to convey it. Jon (Gordon-Levitt) takes few things in life seriously, one of them is pornography.  He finds that no matter how wonderful being with a woman can be, nothing comes close to the synthetic sex he finds online.  all this changes when he meets Barbara (Johannson).  Convinced he is in love, he takes it slow with her at her request.  She changes him, for what may seem the better, but he soon loses track of himself.  When she finally stays the night, however, she catches him watching porn and freaks out. 
Jon now must figure out what really matters to him.  Julianne Moore presents herself as a new window to his world.  She understands him, and with her unexpected help he discovers living vicariously through porn isn't the same as making love.

Is something easier to come by better than the actual thing, which may take time and effort to achieve?  Going beyond simply love, anything that is easy to obtain can leave your grasp just as easily.

The cast for "Don Jon" is superb.  JGL is an excellent protagonist, and though Johannson's New Jersey accent was nauseating, she fit the role.  Tony Danza, who portrays Jon's father, was hilarious and mercurial in nature, creating an erratic atmosphere.  As far as casting goes, the only change I would make was Julianne Moore.  Although she is a wonderful actress, I felt that she was too old for the role she was cast in, especially as the film progresses.  Perhaps someone ten or fifteen years younger would have been a better fit.  Someone like Emma Stone, or even Zooey Deschanel would be a better candidate for the role.  The concept behind casting her makes sense as the film progresses, but its effectiveness wouldn't have made a difference with a younger actress.  
 
As cinematography goes, the camera angles were repetitious.  This was important to show how monotonous his everyday life was.  Once Jon's life starting taking twists and turns, the camera work seemed less robotic in nature and more free-flowing and natural.  Overall, it was effective for what was being conveyed.  

Unfortunately, if you had seen the trailer for this film, you essentially saw the entirety of the picture.  Minus the ending, which seemed rushed.  Nevertheless, the ending caught me off guard.  The lack of predictability here makes the film so refreshing.  Up to the last fifteen minutes of "Don Jon," the film became a elongated version of  the theatrical trailer.  If the two-and-a-half minute clip wasn't so revealing, I'm sure I would have enjoyed the film much more.  Witty, smart and laugh-out-loud funny, "Don Jon" is worth the watch, and the trip to the theatre for those JGL fanatics, like myself.

I am confident that this isn't the last we will see from the cinematic renaissance man anytime soon. Supremely talented, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is sure to go places in the world of film, whether he is acting, directing or screenwriting (or all three simultaneously).  For his first film where he balances all three, this is a job well done.  His film company HitRecord was in charge of "Don Jon." Started in 2010, HitRecord works to bring together people passionate about film production and makes films and books.  After the great success of "Don Jon," there is much more to come from this company (at least I hope so)!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Alfred Hitchcock: The Master of Suspense

Every year, an increasing number of directors take on the ultimate challenge of creating a movie that will pull at your emotions to the most extreme points a film is capable of.  Comedy makes you laugh till you can’t breathe.  Tragedy makes you cry until your throat aches from being choked up.  Then, there are suspense/psycho thriller films.  There is nothing like gripping the edge of your seat, scared to watch what happens next, yet simultaneously dying to know where the twists will take you next.

 

Many filmmakers have strived to create good thriller films, but no one has done it quite as well as Alfred Hitchcock.  He didn’t focus on gore, like many contemporary directors did.  Hitchcock went for the shocking, the twists that had audiences more dumbfounded than grossed out.  A poll from Britain’s Daily Telegraph said Hitchcock is “Unquestionably the greatest filmmaker to emerge from these islands, Hitchcock did more than any director to shape modern cinema, which would be utterly different without him. His flair was for narrative, cruelly withholding crucial information (from his characters and from us) and engaging the emotions of the audience like no one else."

 

His plots focus on crime, violence and murder and ushered in techniques directors even use to this day.

 

Voyeurism is when an artist takes a figure and focuses on them in a private setting, like a bedroom or a dressing room.  Often known as “keyhole paintings,” this technique gives us the feeling that we are looking at the audience through the keyhole of a door.   The camera angles Hitchcock used were similar to this.  He would pan over scenes similar to the way a person’s gaze would. Audiences felt like they were part of the film, standing in the room beside Jimmy Stewart or Grace Kelly.  These angles emphasized the fear, anxiety and terror characters in the film would feel, and create everything to be more tangible to us.  For example, in “Rear Window,” the main character sits by his window throughout the film looking through his camera’s zoom lens, observing his neighbors. 

 

The MacGuffin Factor is a motivator (whether it is an idea, a person or an object) that pushes the protagonist to behave the way they do.  Oftentimes, it wouldn’t be verbally mentioned.  In horror films, as Hitchcock has used, it is the film’s main focus in the first few scenes, but it loses its importance.  It will still drive the main character throughout the film.  However, by the end of the film, so many twists have jumped out at audiences that often it is forgotten about.  For example, the suitcase full of money in “Psycho” becomes forgotten by the middle of the film, if not sooner as the characters hunt for Marion. 

 

Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense, an appropriate name for this man, as he will live on in film history forever.  The English film director and producer established many precedents and techniques for the genres of film he focused on.  His filmmaking lasted for over half a century from the 1920’s up until the later 1970’s.  In all 53 of his films, he has made a cameo, whether it was boarding a train or walking past a shop window. 

 

There are several films (some more well-known than others) that I like to revisit as autumn and Halloween rolls in.  These are my top five favourites:

 

1. Psycho (1960): among the most mainstream and well-known horror films, “Psycho” Is very high up there.  It is based on the book written by Robert Bloch.  A secretary (Janet Leigh) takes $40,000 from a client and rides all the way to the Bates Motel.  There, she meets a strange man, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) who lives with his mother.  Upon her visit, she is murdered and the hunt for the money (and Marion Crane) begins.  How about some useless knowledge about this film?  The blood in the famous murder scene?  Hitchcock used chocolate syrup, since it has the same consistency as blood.  “Psycho” was also the first film to have a toilet flushed onscreen.  The more you know. 

 

2. Rear Window (1954): The film that inspired the Shia LaBeouf film “Disturbia,” “Rear Window” is sure to increasingly keep you on the edge of your seat as the plot progresses.  Injured sports photographer L.B. Jefferies (Jimmy Stewart) sits in his apartment during the heat of the summer.  As he watches the people who live in his apartment’s courtyard, he discovers that a man who lives across the way is a murderer.  With the help of his girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly), they spy on him as he tries to cover up the evidence of his murdered wife.  As the film progresses, you will find yourself further and further on the edge of your seat.  My heart pounded upon my first viewing, and even though I know how it all ends, I cannot help but have panic attacks during the climax of the film.    

 

3. Rope (1948): Not only does it offer a good storyline and Jimmy Stewart, but it has cinematography that shouldn’t go unnoticed.  The film opens with a murder scene, as two college students strangle a classmate.  They proceed to hide the evidence before a dinner party in their apartment, but constantly fight to keep their cool. What they believe is the perfect crime isn’t, as their professor (James Stewart) smells a rat.  Audiences will be as nervous as the criminals throughout the film.  Now, for the cinematographic aspect.  At the time, film reels could only hold nine minutes of film at a time.  In “Rope,” Hitchcock moved his camera around the scenery for the entire film as though to make it look like it was all one continuous shot.  Today, this wouldn’t seem like such a fantastic feet. In his time, it required patience and smart camera angles.  Viewers think that the film was filmed in one shot, as the camera pans the rooms and actors.  You feel as though you are walking throughout the set alongside the cast members. 

 

4. The Birds (1963): well-known for its strange plot (which was inspired by a short story), this film is more than enough to get under someone’s skin.  The film stars Tippi Hedren, as she searches for a pair of lovebirds for Mitch Brenner’s (Rod Taylor) sister’s birthday.   As the movie progresses, they develop a relationship, and the birds begin acting increasingly strange.  Many people fear in San Francisco that the apocalypse is approaching in the form of birds.  Everywhere.  They perch on fences, injure people and are just plain old creepy.  After seeing “The Birds” I would not be surprised if you refuse to leave your house for a week.  As all the birds migrate south for the winter, paranoia will take over your mindset, as they flock in bountiful packs overhead. 

 

5. Vertigo (1958):  Once more, Jimmy Stewart stars in this Hitchcock film, this time alongside Kim Novak and Barbara Bel Geddes.  The plot follows Scottie (Stewart) as an acrophobic retired cop. Scottie becomes obsessed with a friend’s wife (Novak), and follows her around only to find out she may be suicidal.  “Vertigo” is dark, and keeps the audience on their toes.  The film introduced the camera technique known as the “zolly,” or dolly zoom.  Irmin Roberts conceived this idea, as the image appears to stretch.  It is essentially the opposite of a zoom. 


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Cinematic Evolution of Batman

                From the advent of the Batman comic books in May 1939, this caped crusader has taken over the big screen through the decades. Originally created by Bob Kane, Bruce Wayne was orphaned as a child, as he watched the brutal murder of his parents by a mugger.  He was then raised by his butler, Alfred Pennyworth and left with a fortune beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.  When Gotham City becomes filled with crime and villains, Wayne takes on an alter ego and becomes the Batman, looking to restore justice and peace.

 Several actors have had the utmost honor of portraying Batman, each bringing their own personality to it.  Interpretations change, depending on the plot of the film, the super villains being juxtaposed with the hero, and the directors piecing it together.  Some actors and films have been more successful than others.

Adam West.  The 1966 film that preluded the television series on TV Land, West brings a whimsical interpretation of Batman. Filmed in the style of the comic book, all the camera angles focused on villains are on a slant.  Plus, the colors stand out and we cannot help but feel the comics come to life.  West is a fun Batman as he parades around with Robin getting rid of bombs.  The slapstick humor throughout is light and fun.  The transition from comic book right to the film and television series, however ushered in a desire for a darker Batman, one to be taken seriously.  Hence…

Michael Keaton. From 1989 to 1992, Michael Keaton came to the forefront to take on the challenge of resurrecting the Batman.  In these two films directed by Tim Burton and starring alongside Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito and Jack Nicholson in these films, he moved away from just playing Batman as the main focus.  Keaton was able to bring in the playboy millionaire side of Bruce Wayne into play.  As important as the hero himself is, the hero cannot exist without the balance of having a secret identity.  His performance of Batman was pretty stellar as well and this phase in Batman’s evolution was important.  It turned West’s almost dopey Batman into a sophisticate extraordinaire.

Val Kilmer.  There isn’t too much reason to even mention this actor.  His portrayal in the 1995 film “Batman Forever” was terrible.  The film itself was god-awful, too.  Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey co-starred in this picture as the villains Two-Face and the Joker.  They parade around Gotham City in attempt to drain the brains of the citizens.  This movie had very little to offer for audiences.  It was a feast for the eyes with bright colors and unique cinematography, along with a killer soundtrack.  Kilmer’s performance does Bruce Wayne justice, but does very little for Batman.

George Clooney.  1997 marked the year for the fourth Batman film in the 1990’s, this time with George Clooney as our hero.  Clooney has been good for only the playboy aspect of Bruce Wayne.  No one is as suave as him, after all.  He wasn’t a very effective Batman.  Chris O’Donnell costarred with Clooney as Robin, this being the first time since the 1960’s.  The film is two hours of dumb show as the super pair try to stop Bane, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy from destroying Gotham City with ice and plants.  “Batman and Robin” also attempts to work on the chemistry between superhero and sidekick, but unfortunately fails to do so. It was anything but well-received by critics, and wasn’t taken seriously for something that was trying to go for that kind of tone.  Clooney himself had said, “I think we might have killed the franchise" and called it "a waste of money."

Christian Bale.  The most recent of the Batman films, Bale has brought a darker side to Batman.  Christopher Nolan’s film trilogy has brought in millions of dollars in the box office, teaming together all-star casts for each film.  This series of films focuses on the backstory of Batman, leading up to what he became.  Audiences learn about his past, and the mysterious air that Bale gives off is perfect for what Nolan is trying to convey.  Bale has achieved the greatest balance between playboy Bruce Wayne and stealthy Batman.  His suave appearance makes it so, along with the grace he uses in his bat suit.  He brings a distinct scratchy voice to his interpretation, which is a great contrast against the soft-spoken Bruce Wayne.

NOW, Ben Affleck.  In the “Man of Steel Sequel,” Superman is teaming up with Batman.  However, Christian Bale has opted out of this film in order to avoid being branded as Batman eternally.  This past August, Affleck has been announced as the next caped crusader.  He will be a subpar Bruce Wayne, but when it comes time to put on the bat suit he will be too awkward, as far as physique goes.  Especially in comparison to Henry Cavill, the current Superman whom he will be costarring with.

As far as I'm concerned, Michael Fasbender, Ryan Gosling or Jake Gyllenhaal should have been chosen to play Batman.  They would have been good as Bruce Wayne and as Batman.  Although the focus of the film will be Superman, and Batman will be more or less a sidekick for all the happenings on screen, that shouldn’t distract us from who Batman is played by.  Don’t get me wrong;  Affleck is a great actor.  I loved him in “Good Will Hunting” twenty years ago, and thought he was swell in “Argo.”  However, he shouldn’t be parading around at Batman at this point in his career.

Originally when Michael Keaton had been chosen to play Batman, hundreds of thousands of disgruntled Batgeeks had written letters to Warner Bros. Studios, complaining about this decision.  Ben Affleck, you have been warned.  Unless you can surprise us as an adequate disposition of both Bruce Wayne and Batman, prepare yourself for disapproval from fanboys and critics alike.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Resurecting Romeo and Juliet

After only three years, a new film adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragic play of star crossed lovers is returning to theatres.  The story is timeless.  Two feuding families from Verona experience reconciliation that is only achievable through the deaths of their own children.  Mixed with complications, miscommunication, and classic lines, this play is one of the scripts with the highest rate to be turned into films.  
In the past, there have been countless film adaptations of this play.  Here are some of the past adaptations that have stood out compared to others:
Romeo and Juliet: This multi-Oscar nominated film was directed by George Cukor in 1936.  It had only become a true consideration after seeing how successful Warners’ adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was.  The film features the talents of Leslie Howard as Romeo and Norma Shearer as Juliet, and also featured John Barrymore as Mercutio.  The film received nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Art Direction.  Producer Irving Thalberg's stated intention was "to make the production what Shakespeare would have wanted had he possessed the facilities of cinema.”  Elaborate research on Verona and Shakespeare’s time was done to make sure this film would avoid being anachronistic.  Overall, the film received indifferent feedback.  Although not too many people disliked this adaptation, many people didn’t love it.  Cukor even said in an interview 24 years after the film was made that if he could go back in time to change any film, this one would be it. 
Romeo and Juliet: This 1968 film directed by Franco Zeffirelli is a classic, and probably the best one.  Unabridged and staying true to Shakespeare’s air, this accurate adaptation is a true masterpiece.  It is the closest film to the play that we have.  Zeffirelli is also known for his adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.”  Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey starred as the young lovers, and it made an impression at the Academy Awards.  The film won Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design, and also received nominations for Best Director and Best Picture.  This film is definitely the best adaptation to check out if you are too lazy to read and is looking for something accurate to the play. It is a complete feast for the eyes.
West Side Story: This play tells the tale of Tony, a “Jet” and native New Yorker, who falls in love with a Puerto Rican lady, Maria.  Their love ensues, and they cannot be together because of cultural difference.  Set in the West side of Manhattan, the two social groups are unable to coexist peacefully, as gang fights erupt and the plot  follows the events our two lovers of Verona become entangled in.  Filled with music, dance, and passion beyond the norm, “West Side Story” is an effective adaptation.  The storyline stays the same, as two opposing forces can’t be together without pleasing everyone else.  The film adaptation of the play came out in 1961 starring Natalie Wood as Maria and Richard Beymer as Tony.  Even though the dialogue isn’t early Modern English, the dramatic changes of incorporating song and dance turn this piece into an entirely different animal. 
Romeo + Juliet: This 1996 film was aiming to please the “MTV generation.”  The only reason this film is mentioned on this list is because it stood out in such a horrific way.  Baz Luhrmann took this classic Shakespeare play and tore it apart with his modernization.  Taking place in contemporary Verona Beach, Florida, this version does very little to foster the spirit of Shakespeare’s time.  The film tore apart Mercutio, one of the key players, and everything else going on distracted from the beautiful language. Gang fights isn't what we think when Shakespeare comes to mind, and unfornatelty Luhrmann makes this so.  However, we do need to give credit where credit is due.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes played the pair of lovers, and their performance would have been enough to appreciate without all the dumb show Luhrmann creates in the background. 
Gnomeo and Juliet: One cannot set their expectations high for a Disney version of a Shakespeare film. If you are looking for an accurate adaptation, here is not where you would find it.  Especially 3-D animated ones with talking lawn decorations.  In this adaptation, two neighbors, Mr. Montague and Ms. Capulet absolutely hate each other.  Their hate spreads to their garden gnomes, as the opposing yards dislike each other.  This 2011 film is cute, but it is no more than dumb show.  The cast includes the talents of Emily Blunt, James McAvoy, Michael Caine and Maggie Smith.  Filled with the musical talents of Sir Elton John, this film is lighthearted and very whimsical.  The last thing you should do is take this film seriously, as the ending has been altered along with significant plot details. 
These notable adaptations have taken Shakespeare’s tragedy into many different directions.  Though the story is still the same, the environment in which the players interact varies.  We go from Shakespeare’s time in Verona, Italy to Verona Beach in the 1990’s and even to front lawns with garden d├ęcor.  In this latest adaptation, director Carlo Carlei sets the scene in Renaissance era Verona.  However, this film is unlike any other that has been done in the past.  The language used isn’t the same as what Shakespeare has written.  The story line stays constant, but that’s about it.  This is controversial because the film may lose meaning overall.  It will go from Many critics believe that this film has the potential to be unsuccessful.  However, it can go really well.  By maintaining the plot-line and incorporating tasteful contemporary elements, the play may have a successful adaptation.  This will be something for critics (such as myself) will have to look into. 
We can only hope that Carlei does this screened-play justice.  This is the first time he is taking on the silver screen in over 20 years.  The cast includes Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth as the infamous pair, along with Paul Giamatti as Friar Lawrence.  As we await its release on October 11, we should mentally prepare ourselves for a modest attempt at Shakespeare, for “there has never been a tale of more woe, than that of Juliet and her Romeo.”

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Successful Films and Fabulous Soundtracks

The soundtrack to a motion picture can make or break the work a director and his team scrambles to put together.  There are many films out there that have perfect music to go with the film and its ideas that are being conveyed.  On the other hand, many films fail to have music that reflects what is going on, whether it is anachronistic or just doesn’t fit the tone presented.

Without soundtracks and music in film, it is difficult to comprehend the overall feel of a piece.  I find that when I listen to the soundtrack alone and then go back and watch the movie I become more attuned to what is going on.  It makes for better interpretation of the story of a motion picture, along with the work as a whole. 

Here are some films that have soundtracks that are perfectly coordinated for the films they are coupled with:

“The Aviator” (2004): Probably one of my all-time favourite movies.  Even though Howard Hughes’ struggle with OCD isn’t exactly a feel-good film, the biopic is a cinematic masterpiece in every aspect.  The soundtrack is perfect for conveying the mood of the 1920’s into the post-war 1940’s.  Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare” was a recurring piece, and it was perfect for the mental deconstruction of Hughes.  Upbeat jazz pieces, even though performed by our contemporaries, were incorporated into this film’s music as well.  Just because they are modern artists, however, doesn’t mean that they lost the flare for the Roaring Twenties.  Even though this film may be on this list because of my passionate feeling for all things 1920’s, this soundtrack really does make the film.  If you don’t believe me, just watch the movie and stay attuned with the music. 

“When Harry Met Sally” (1989): This movie is beyond heart-warming.  The story of two best friends who slowly fall in love may be chick-flick in nature, but it is first and foremost a romantic comedy.  Harry Connick Jr. sets the mood for this film with his solo piano pieces, vocals and the accompaniment of a big band.  The music in this film gives off warm vibes.  The big band version of “It Had to be You” gets you off your feet to dance around your kitchen.  On the other hand Connick’s piano rendition of “Winter Wonderland” is soft and delicate, like snowflakes falling in Central Park.  If I had to give it a season, I would make it an autumn-into-winter soundtrack.   

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986): There are very few places where you will get eclectic eighties music in a good film.  There is no better place to find it than this John Hughes classic.  As soon as I managed to put together the songs onto a CD, I drove around blasting it, celebrating the care-free attitude that Ferris has.  Originally, John Hughes didn’t want to realize a physical album, because he thought the music didn’t “go together.”  However, that is the beauty of these one-hit wonders being combined into one killer soundtrack! If anyone is looking to Save Ferris, I highly recommend checking out IMDB for the full soundtrack list on this movie’s page.  It is still one of my favourite albums to jam out to.

“Gangster Squad”(2013): Alright.  Although this movie was a lot of dumb show, violence and Ryan Gosling’s face, it did have a fantastic soundtrack.  Featuring the talents of Peggy Lee, Mel Tome, and Johnny Mercer, the music here is phenomenal.  The pieces chosen definitely set the mood well for the crime scenes, mob fights and momentary positive vibes.   It is anything but anachronistic, and I was pleased to find that if any contemporary artists were featured, they once again kept the spirit of 1950’s Los Angeles alive.  Much better than certain films that incorporate rap into the 1920’s (Jay-Z, cough, Gastby). 

“Ocean’s 11” (2001): David Holmes compiled a fantastic soundtrack for this film.  As though the talents of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and many other A-Listers weren’t enough, the music makes the film even better.  The tone Holmes sets is perfect for the heist of a Las Vegas casino.  Reminiscent of a James Bond soundtrack, the music here is great for driving around on a mission, whilst wearing ultra-slick sunglasses.  The same goes for the soundtracks of Ocean’s 12 and 13.  Good films and good music overall, completely worth the watch and listen. 

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001): John Williams has done it again.  The composer of the iconic “Raider’s March,” Star Wars theme, and Jurassic Park piece gives us one more reason to love him.  I couldn’t imagine anyone else writing pieces for the films of the beloved Harry Potter series.  Slowly, “Hedwig’s Theme” has become more and more iconic overtime.  This piece is the sound of Harry Potter, as far as this generation is concerned.  All the films in the series have excellent music, even though it isn’t for everyone.  My personal favorite is the soundtrack to the third film, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” It is the transition of darker aspects into this magical series, and the music follows this trend with intense pieces. 

“Sherlock Holmes” (2009): There is little I dislike about the latest Sherlock Holmes films.  They have an all-star cast, great scenes and locations to film at, and awesome music.  Quirky in nature, composer Hans Zimmer understands the mysterious feel and unorthodox personality Robert Downey Jr. brings to the silver screen.  If anyone is looking to unlock their inner Sherlock, you should definitely check out the soundtracks to these films. 

“Big Night” (1996): This film has everything; Italian people, Italian food, Italian Italian.  Most importantly, its soundtrack.  Pieces by Louis Prima, Rosemary Clooney and Matteo Salvatore highlight the music in this film.  Music that is stereotypically Italian is a major part of the film, especially since the film revolves around the premise of Louis Prima (a Sicilian musician) is supposed to come to the restaurant where the bulk of Big Night takes place.   If this music doesn’t sweep you off your feet to your kitchen to make a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs straight away, I’m not sure what will!

Friday, July 26, 2013

"I Had A Heart Once" (2013) Review


 
Directed by Josh Lewis, Metal Owl Films’ latest short film “I Had A Heart Once” is an artistic piece sure to make an impression on film festivals all over. 

The seven minutes are impressionable, as John (Rohan Mead) reminisces over his alcoholic past.  It begins in a dark apartment, as John lights up a cigarette.  The scene shifts from John’s apartment and him walking around New York as he speaks.  John becomes more and more emotional as he realizes what his life has become. 

The cinematography can be a bit distracting from his story.  However, his retellings are poetic and hold your attention effectively, regardless of how ADD the camera switches can be.  The erratic of an alcoholic’s experiences is what makes the scene changes relevant to what is being said.  The fourth wall is broken as John shares his thoughts with others.  This will draw audiences in, making his past more tangible to us, even though we only get to know him in such a short amount of time. 

Overall, “I Had A Heart Once” is a passionate and bold piece.  Though existential in nature, the emotion builds at the perfect incline to the end of the short film. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Flight" (2012) Review

                 Last year, Robert Zemeckis released “Flight,” a drama about a bad combination of a drunk pilot and a malfunctioning airplane.  Denzel Washington stars as the victim of circumstance; alongside him are John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly and Bruce Greenwood.  The director of “Cast Away” brings us a film with an interesting concept, but predictable end. 

                After a night with a flight attendant, alcohol, and illegal substances, Captain Whittaker (Washington) boards his 9 am flight from Miami to Atlanta.  Still influenced by drugs and experiencing extreme sleep deprivation, he flies the plane, and it malfunctions midflight.  The worst-case scenario becomes reality for him, as he lands the plane.  However, some lives are lost. 

                After waking up in a hospital bed with a few injuries, he learns the crash is being investigated.  With the help of an attorney and a representative from the airline union, Whittaker undergoes the investigation, knowing what he did was wrong, but does little to express this till the very end. 

The film has a steady first half-hour, but once the crash scene comes and goes (as you sit on the edge of your seat), it begins to drag a bit.  However, this was expected.  The first scene becomes the foundation of the film.  The events on the aircraft are analyzed.  Throughout the remaining two hours that fatal flight is dissected, as everyone tries to figure out what happened.  Whittaker attempts to cover up his alcohol problem, which is difficult.  It does a pretty effective job on holding one’s attention. 

The intense opening is just enough to hold you over for the rest of the film, as you wait to see what happens in the end.  If you have seen the trailer for “Flight,” you basically have seen the film at its highest points.  Except the ending, of course. 

It is difficult to get back into the film once the crash scene is over.  The beginning is the focal point, and the rest of the events aren’t exactly elusive.  As an audience, we know what happens.  It becomes a matter of whether or not everyone else can piece the puzzle together. 

                The concept of “Flight” was very interesting.  When I originally saw the trailer for it, my pulse was racing, even though I knew for a fact that the plane crash was completely fictitious.  It made me beyond uncomfortable.  However, last year was a big year for films.  It is no surprise “Flight” got lost in the midst of “Argo,” “Lincoln,” and “Django Unchained.”  It did not receive as much recognition as it should have.   Washington shines in the film, but his supporting cast does little to add to the film overall. 

                The subplot of Whittaker’s romance with Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a recovering drug addict does just enough to add to the film, since her problems make Whittaker fully realize his own. 

                With a two nominations from the Academy, including best actor in a leading role (Washington), “Flight” is worth the watch.  If you can sit through nearly three hours of “Lincoln” knowing he will get shot in the end, you can sure as hell view “Flight” not knowing the outcome.