Friday, September 30, 2011

The King of Comedy

There's no denying that Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese is one of the great film collaborations. After all, most of their movies land on many "greatest ever" lists.

One title that doesn't show up as much as it should is The King of Comedy. Why that is, I don't know. Perhaps it's too dark. Perhaps it was ahead of its time. Either way, it's not a movie to be avoided.

The three main actors play their parts excellently. De Niro's Rupert Pupkin is a bit like Travis Bickle and Jake La Motta in the sense that they'll act out without thinking through. Jerry Lewis, completely against type as fame weary Jerry Langford, is revelatory in his performance. He shows a darker side to fame. (Pay attention to when Rupert breaks into his home.) And Sandra Bernhard as Masha makes John Hinckley, Jr. look legally sane. (Just saying.)

The King of Comedy has to be, without a doubt, one of Scorsese's best. It may be too dark for some, but I really liked it. Just because this is underrated doesn't mean it should be overlooked.

My Rating: *****

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Eyes Wide Shut

Although I've seen a few of his movies, I'm not entirely won over by Stanley Kubrick. He's a very good director, but his movies take some time to absorb.

Eyes Wide Shut is no exception. Like several other Kubrick movies, it explores the mental deterioration of man (with the occasional sexual reference). I like how the story is set during the Christmas season when the tale isn't exactly cheerful. I mean, really. What better way to celebrate the holidays than through thoughts of infidelity?

And also like several other Kubrick movies, Eyes Shut Wide was no stranger to controversy. (Is there one movie of his that didn't?) Personally, I find that it wasn't needed. Believe me, there have been other movies that are a lot kinkier than Eyes Wide Shut.

An interesting note for Kubrick to end on. I thought that this was very good, a far cry from the usual consensus it receives. It has the usual Kubrick themes and motifs, though the darker ones were a bit of a bother to me. Still, it's worth checking out.

My Rating: ****1/2

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Grass Is Greener

Is it generally a bad thing if I won't watch a movie unless I've heard of at least one actor in it? That's usually the case with most of the movies I've seen, but I wouldn't consider it a major thing.

With The Grass Is Greener, it stars four actors I'm more than a little familiar with: Cary Grant (I saw 11 movies of his prior to this one), Deborah Kerr (5 movies), Robert Mitchum (5 movies) and Jean Simmons (3 movies). And all four play their parts well.

Grant is his usual suave comedic self and Kerr is her usual elegant casual self, but it's Mitchum and Simmons who stand out. You realize that both of them have a sense of humor. I personally liked Simmons the most as the zany friend. And this is the same woman from Elmer Gantry.

The Grass Is Greener is a cute movie, but the slow pace bothered me a bit. Again, I liked the performances but there's not much else to go by aside from that. It's worth a look at least.

My Rating: ****

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mysterious Skin

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is someone I've always liked. His work in (500) Days of Summer reminded me of Jack Lemmon in The Apartment. Gordon-Levitt is also well versed in dramas, as shown with Brick and The Lookout.

Of the movies I've seen him in, his best work is in Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin. As the movie progresses, we get a good glimpse of his personality as layers are peeled away like an onion. We see that he keeps his emotions and his past bottled up and hidden, hoping no one will find out about either.

His most vulnerable moment is after an attack on him. Alone, badly bruised and bloody, the memories of his past come rushing back, consuming him. He now knows of the extent of the damage on him. It's a scene I don't think anyone else could have done so well.

Mysterious Skin is a very good movie, but it's a very hard watch as well. It feels like a mix of My Own Private Idaho and Requiem for a Dream. But it's a good character study to better understand how victimizing abuse is. Watch it with caution.

My Rating: ****1/2

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Devil Wears Prada

Is there one role Meryl Streep can't do? Probably not considering she has like a million nominations and awards for her acting.

One's thing for certain: Streep can play a bitch pretty damn well, and she showcases that trait in The Devil Wears Prada. Her voice's tone never changes, she always gives an ice cold judging stare, and you can never tell if she's content. Almost makes Bette Davis look like a saint.

I also liked Stanley Tucci, who is practically Streep in male form. He spews out catty remarks like Streep, but he doesn't always mean what he says. He shows some concern, not much but enough to stop you from writing him off as a heel. Tucci is definitely a scene stealer here.

I did like The Devil Wears Prada. I thought it was cute, but that's all I really have to say about it. It feels like the typical chick flick to me, but I might see it again if I need to cheer up.

My Rating: ****

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Even great directors have underrated movies. You got Billy Wilder and Ace in the Hole, and Michael Mann and Thief, just as examples.

Of course, Casino is one of the very few movies in Martin Scorsese's resume that gets constantly overlooked. In a sense, it's like Goodfellas set in Las Vegas. After all, both are about men with mob connections that first rise to the top of the world then come crashing down to reality. That they both star Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci doesn't hurt either.

Like Goodfellas, Casino is based on real events. The difference is the narrative changes periodically. It shifts from Ace's (De Niro) calm demeanor to Nicky's (Pesci) profanity-spewing attitude. It may be a tricky move in other movies, but it works wonders here.

Casino is a ridiculously good movie. De Niro, Pesci and Sharon Stone play their roles to great heights. My only complaint is that it's a little too violent, even by Scorsese's standards. (The most violent scene is a toss-up between Nicky stabbing a guy's neck with a pen or Nicky crushing another guy's head in a vise. Either way, they're both fucking nasty.) It's definitely worth checking out.

My Rating: ****1/2

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I love movies with damn good dialogue. (Why else would Billy Wilder be among my favorites?) It's fun to quote it every now and again. Well, at least until you annoy the hell out of everyone because of it.

I say this in regards to Aaron Sorkin. Who can forget the witty lines of The West Wing or The Social Network? The thing with Moneyball, however, is that the dialogue isn't as memorable as those two. But there is that Sorkin smarm within it.

Moneyball is Bennett Miller's second contribution to Hollywood. (His first was the excellent Capote.) Both movies are based on real events but as stated before, Capote comes out on top. I'm not saying Moneyball is a bad movie. It's just it could have been improved just a hair.

All in all, I thought Moneyball was good. I didn't love in the strongest sense of the word because I'm not a baseball fan. I will say this though: I like how Moneyball doesn't end like the typical sports movie.

My Rating: ****

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Insider

Michael Mann always captures a certain grit in his movies. Most of them are crime movies set in Los Angeles, but in some cases they're set in various parts of the United States.

There are numerous movies about conspiracies and cover-ups. The Insider is one of those few movies that succeeds. We all know that smoking's a bad habit, but who would've guessed that cigarette companies were purposely making their products more addictive?

Of the many great performances contained within the movie, the best is from Russell Crowe as the mentally trapped Jeffrey Wigand. He knows his expose on his former employers is costly, but even that didn't prepare him for the many threats towards him and his family. Personally, I think Crowe's Oscar win for Gladiator was consolation for losing to Kevin Spacey the previous year.

I'm a sucker for journalism movies and The Insider is good proof as to why. It's hard-hitting and gets the facts of the case, just like a good story. And that's what The Insider is: a good story.

My Rating: *****

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fashion Trends in Film

Fashion is defined as "a popular trend, especially in styles of dress, ornament, or behavior". Of course, with movies being popular as well, they're bound to have an influence on some people. Here are a few trends over the years.

  • 1934: Clark Gable exposes his bare chest to unsuspecting audiences in It Happened One Night. Bear in mind, the norm back then was that men wore undershirts. After the release of It Happened One Night, allegedly undershirts sales dropped 50%.
  • Early 1940's: Women style their hair to resemble Veronica Lake's "peekaboo" haircut. But when World War II rolled around, Lake had to persuade them to wear their hair up since it continually got caught in the machinery.
  • 1953: You know the "aloha" shirts, those tacky shirts with the big flowers plastered all over them? Well, you can thank From Here to Eternity for them because after several of the actors wore them in the movie, they became more popular.
  • 1967: Along with it being her big break, Bonnie and Clyde also made Faye Dunaway a symbol of fashion with her 1930's wardrobe she wore in the movie.
  • 1977: Like Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde, Diane Keaton would spur a fashion trend for women with her wardrobe in Annie Hall.
Those are the notable ones I can think of. I'm sure there are other ones out there.

The Hollywood Revue

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rio Bravo

Howard Hawks was one of the more versatile directors of the Golden Age. He made comedies (His Girl Friday), dramas (To Have and Have Not), westerns (Red River) and film noirs (The Big Sleep). Probably one of the few names who could venture into many genres and do it successfully.

This was John Wayne and Hawks' response to High Noon, where Gary Cooper is on his own protecting the town. In Rio Bravo, Wayne has a ragtag posse consisting of a cripple (Walter Brennan), a drunk (Dean Martin) and a young gunslinger (Ricky Nelson). They may be a questionable group, but all of them are pretty handy with a gun.

I really liked Martin's work in Rio Bravo. It's not an exaggerated performance from him. He knows his drinking's a problem, but he finds it hard to control it. He also proves that when sober, he's quick on the draw.

Rio Bravo is different from other westerns I've seen. The others rely mostly on action; Rio Bravo only uses it in small doses. It also has to be the most fun I've had watching a movie. And to close this review, I shall use an excerpt from Peter Travers: "How many great movies do you know that blend comedy and tragedy and still have time for Martin and Nelson to sing a duet?" (That scene was the highlight of the movie to me.)

My Rating: *****

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ball of Fire

I've always liked movies from the 1940's. A number of actors I like had some of their more famous movies released during that decade. That, and several movies I like were from then.

I've always liked Barbara Stanwyck, especially since I saw her in Double Indemnity. She's just a personality that stands out from the rest. And in Ball of Fire, she's a force to be reckon with. There's no denying that she's a scene stealer.

Now with Gary Cooper, I'm not as certain with him. After all, I only saw him in High Noon. But I did like him in Ball of Fire. He seems right for the role of an intelligent but hopelessly square professor, but there's something that

Man, this was entertaining. I mean, can you really go wrong with a Howard Hawks movie written by Billy Wilder? I don't think you can at all.

My Rating: *****

Monday, September 19, 2011

Arsenic and Old Lace

The 1940's were definitely when the best comedies were made. Most of them were screwball, but no matter. They're still funny.

In the case of Arsenic and Old Lace, it's one of those comedies. It's directed by Frank Capra, who's better known for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It's a Wonderful Life. Both of which are more serious than Arsenic and Old Lace, but Arsenic and Old Lace stands out as much as those two.

One thing noted about star Cary Grant is that he's not one to take himself seriously. That's definitely the case with his work in Arsenic and Old Lace. I just love his many facial expressions and gestures throuoghout. Grant said this was his least favorite performance; I think it's one of my favorites. (My absolute favorite is either His Girl Friday or Charade.)

This is definitely something to watch when you need a good laugh. However, it got a little too silly near the end. Those moments aside, Arsenic and Old Lace is worth watching.

My Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Two of Michael Mann's best received movies, Heat and Collateral, are Los Angeles-set crime movies that rely more on people in the movies rather than the crimes committed in the movies. They may not be everyone's cup of tea, but there's no denying how good they are.

Mann's film debut Thief is no exception. It takes the now-tired cliche of the skilled criminal doing one final job, and shows it as if it were brand new. That's a good thing, mind you.

James Caan, in his best work since The Godfather, is absolutely electric as thief Frank. Like Sonny, Frank is more concerned about getting the job done. (Getting the job done and not get caught in the process is for his partners in crime to take care of.) But that doesn't mean he's sloppy with his work. He gets every detail about the location he's robbing down to a T.

Thief is really good. Hard to believe that this was Mann's first foray into film. Like Heat and Collateral, it's all about character rather than crime. Personally, I think Mann's the only one who can do it without overdoing it.

My Rating: ****1/2

Saturday, September 17, 2011


There's always that one role in an actor's filmography that stands out from the rest. Most of the time, that role puts restrictions on the actor's career. It's bothersome especially if the actor is quite versatile in other roles.

Ryan Gosling provides a solid example. He was a rising talent from Canada with several solid performances. Then came The Notebook, which put a damper on his career for a while. Such movies like Half Nelson and Blue Valentine showed his dramatic range and with Drive, Gosling shows he has an edge. More than once throughout the movie he channels Travis Bickle for both Bickle and Gosling's nameless driver are quiet loners whose actions speak louder than their words.

Drive shows that its influences are the works of Michael Mann (particularly Collateral) and Martin Scorsese (particularly Taxi Driver). One notable similarity between these three titles is that they may be marketed as violent movies, but in reality they rely more on character than carnage. Another similarity between these three is that no matter how lit up the cities are, they can't conceal the blood that flows from the many crimes committed within the underbelly of it all.

I was already familiar with Nicholas Winding Refn through Bronson, which I thought was too violent for my tastes. With Drive, violence is used sparingly. When it is used, it's done in glorious Tarantino fashion. And for performances, the best came from Gosling and an against type Albert Brooks. I would be beyond satisfied if they got recognized for their work.

My Rating: *****

Friday, September 16, 2011


Sometimes the best movies are those that most people ignore. Seriously, some of the most highly regarded classics were commercial failures upon their release.

Take as an example Criminal. How could a crime movie starring recognizable names like John C. Reilly, Diego Luna and Maggie Gyllenhaal get overlooked? Maybe poor publicity, maybe it just didn't appeal to everyone. Either way, it shouldn't be overlooked.

Perhaps the reason for why Criminal is so slick is because it's co-written by Steven Soderbergh (using the pseudonym Sam Lowry). Anyone who's seen any of the Ocean's movies can see that those movies had an influence on Criminal.

I love how instead of spanning the crime's plotting over a period of days, it takes place in a period of twenty-four hours. And if I wasn't clear enough, this is one slick movie.

My Rating: ****1/2

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I'll admit it. I'm one of those people who doesn't "get" Shakespeare. Look, I read Romeo and Juliet back in high school but even with SparkNotes, I still couldn't fully grasp it. In short, I rather watch the movie than read the play.

Believe me, I tried to read Hamlet but I couldn't get through the first act. I opted instead to see Laurence Olivier's take on Shakespeare's famous play. Safe to say I got through the movie easier than the play. That's because Olivier's direction makes the story flow with great ease.

Of the many excellent performances, my favorites came from Olivier as the tormented Hamlet, and Jean Simmons as the doomed Ophelia. A scene I liked between both of them has, minus Simmons' narration, no dialogue. It relies mostly on Olivier's mannerisms rather than his words. And I must say, it's quite a romantic scene.

Hamlet is fantastic. Personally, I think it would make Shakespeare proud knowing that his work was in such care. And it's safe to say that this rightfully earned its Best Picture Oscar (and Olivier's win for Best Actor).

My Rating: *****

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Long Goodbye

I'm trying to catch up on Robert Altman. I've only seen MASH and The Player, so I'm attempting to see his other works.

One of them is The Long Goodbye. Starring Altman regular Elliot Gould, it's based on Raymond Chandler's novel. Altman, however, tweaks Chandler's work to fit to 1970's life. Does it work? Indeed it does.

The protagonist of The Long Goodbye is noted private eye Philip Marlowe. Marlowe has been depicted on screen many times, more famously by Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep. Gould's Marlowe is a little different than Bogart's Marlowe. (One thing they have in common is that they both smoke a lot.) Gould is more aloof than Bogart was. Personally, I like that.

I did like The Long Goodbye but like The Big Sleep, the muddled plot made me lose focus. It's a good movie nonetheless. The way the plot unfolded is my only peeve.

My Rating: ****1/2

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nights of Cabiria

If you compare a movie with another movie from the same director's filmography, you'd be surprised at the similarities between them.

Take an example like Fellini's La Strada and Nights of Cabiria. Both star Fellini's wife Giulietta Masina as a woman who is never fully appreciated by her peers. In La Strada, she is abused by a circus strongman. In Nights of Cabiria, she tries to find love among her clients. The similarity? For both women, they always keep their spirits up no matter how bad the situation they're in is.

As Cabiria, Masina has us sympathizing for her at the very beginning. (After all, the first scene shows her getting robbed and pushed into a river by her "lover".) Throughout her hardships, we develop a bond with her. We also hope that maybe, just maybe, Cabiria will find love.

Although not my favorite Fellini (that goes to either 8 1/2 or La Strada), I did like Nights of Cabiria. The highlight of the movie is definitely Masina. And you have to love that final shot of her.

My Rating: *****

Monday, September 12, 2011

Die Hard

Even with all the movies I've seen, there are some that have eluded me. Some of them have people going, "You haven't seen that yet?"

That is the case with Die Hard. This is the action movie that everyone and their mother saw. Me? Haven't seen it...until now. And boy, was I missing out. Die Hard is awesome.

It has pretty much everything you want in an action movie. Over the top explosions, an evil villain (a very venomous Alan Rickman), a badass hero (can't go wrong with Bruce Willis) and awesome lines ("This time John Wayne does not walk off into the sunset with Grace Kelly." "That was Gary Cooper, asshole."). You gotta love it.

In case I wasn't clear in the beginning, Die Hard is a badass movie and I loved it. If you were to watch only one action movie in your whole life, why not make it Die Hard?

My Rating: *****

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

To quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a day that will live in infamy. Thousands of lives were lost, millions of them affected. Even if the perpetrator is now dead, that doesn't make up for the emotional damage that he caused. It could be another ten years before we can move on, maybe even longer.

A moment of silence for innocent victims of this awful tragedy in American history.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


The "virus outbreak" movie isn't generally a new concept. (28 Days Later, anyone?) By most counts, they don't always work but a few do.

With Contagion, it works. I give Steven Soderbergh points for giving his movie a Hitchcock feel to it, especially during the early scenes of the virus' spread. However, he loses points for the not-so-good ending (which shows what caused the virus).

The cast is quite good. The notable names include Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law (all we need is Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and then we got a reunion for The Talented Mr. Ripley), Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Laurence Fishburne. Of the actors, I particularly like Law who tries to make a quick buck off the virus scare.

Contagion is really quite effective. Seriously, more than once as I was watching it, I had an urge to reach in my purse and get out my hand sanitizer. But the ending cost the movie considerably.

My Rating: ****

Friday, September 9, 2011


Kirk Douglas is an actor I've always liked. (Sometimes his son Michael gets up there.) He may be a son of a bitch in most of his roles, but there's no denying the intensity in his performances.

With Champion (his first lead role), he showcases his trademark intensity with great ease. His character of Michael "Midge" Kelly appears to be a nice guy but when he's provoked or in the ring, he practically takes on a new personality.

He develops an almost murderous personality. At first, he keeps that behavior confined to the ring. But as he becomes more successful as a boxer, his pent up rage starts to affect those close to him.

Champion is quite good, but the plot waivers a bit. Douglas, pun intended, comes out fighting the minute he first appears. It's clear as to how he was boosted from supporting parts to leading man status after this.

My Rating: ****1/2

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Oliver Stone is no stranger to controversy. He made World Trade Center when the wounds of 9/11 were still healing, W. was released when George W. Bush's term was ending and JFK ventured into one of the biggest conspiracy theories in history.

Nixon isn't any different. As the title implies, it focuses on disgraced president Richard Nixon. It chronicles the many events of his life, from his childhood to his campaigns to his public disgrace following Watergate. Anthony Hopkins portrays Nixon not as a man of power, a pariah or a martyr, but as a man with visible flaws.

One of Hopkins' more vulnerable moments is towards the end after the weight of Watergate comes crashing down on him. His defenses have been broken down, his allies now his enemies, and now he is far from being the man that he was earlier. Just for a brief moment we sympathize for a man who lied to his nation.

Nixon is a very good movie that has its principal actors playing their parts well, though I would probably love it had Stone made it just a little shorter. (Three plus hours? No way.) Still, it's quite good.

My Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, September 4, 2011

College, hear I come!

Today I'm heading up to Massachusetts to begin my first year of college (!!!) and I'm both excited and nervous. Anyway, because of the first few days, blogging will be pretty minimal.

Will resume on Thursday.

(PS, I know I misspelled "here" in the headline. I blame lack of sleep.)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

An Unmarried Woman

A loving spouse and kids, good friends and a steady job are usually what makes for a good life. What happens if one of those things crumbles before your eyes?

Erica (Jill Clayburgh) experiences this the hard way. Her husband Martin (Michael Murphy) tells her tearfully (fake tears, of course) that he's fallen in love with a younger woman. Erica can't believe that her husband of sixteen years would on her.

Earlier, we get won over by Erica for a small scene. She's alone in her apartment, the radio playing "Swan Lake". She narrates as she dances through the apartment. Because of this scene and Clayburgh's charm within her part, we root for Erica from this point on.

An Unmarried Woman should honestly get more recognition than it receives. Same goes for Clayburgh. In a film era where the popular leading ladies were Jane Fonda and Faye Dunaway, Clayburgh was one of the more underappreciated names of the time. Safe to say her passing last November is felt immensely, more so to those who saw An Unmarried Woman.

My Rating: *****

Friday, September 2, 2011

Reversal of Fortune

I love movies. I love criminology. Combine the two and I am a happy girl.

Reversal of Fortune is about the Claus von Bulow case, where he tried twice to murder his wife Sunny. (The second attempt landed her in an irreversible coma.) The motive: to inherit her fortune. He was found guilty for both attempted murders, but after a retrial he was acquitted on all charges. It makes a person wonder: did von Bulow deserve to walk free?

von Bulow is portrayed by Jeremy Irons as someone who is arrogant, selfish and uncaring about anyone's well-being but his own. When describing the events that led to Sunny (Glenn Close) falling into her coma, he's remote. Is he truly heartless?

I very much liked the performances by Irons and Close, but I wasn't as enchanted by the movie. I found it in some parts to be slow moving. Still, I liked the criminology aspect of it.

My Rating: ****

Thursday, September 1, 2011

BOOK VS MOVIE: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?/Blade Runner

I've never been big on the sci-fi genre, but there have been a few books and movies that I managed to take a liking to.

Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a very interesting read. Very philosophical too. It floats through ideas of life and death while at the same time providing imagery of a decaying futuristic Los Angeles.

Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, in my honest opinion, is one of the best sci-fi movies I've seen. I admire how it resembles a film noir from the 1940's in most scenes, meaning such films were an influence on the production. The music also reminded me of noirs from the 1950's. Yet it doesn't overstylize the movies it's influenced by. That I like.

Even though there are several minor differences between Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner, they're still one in the same. Though personally, I like Blade Runner more. It has an easier flow, therefore making it easier to understand. Still, they're both great.

What's worth checking out?: I'd go with the movie.