Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pompeii




Don’t believe all the negative reviews you might have read about Paul W.S. Anderson’s Pompeii. 

I, myself, was wondering what kind of story was created around this terrible natural disaster.  But, Writers Lee and Janet Scott Batchler, along with Michael Robert Johnson have crafted an interesting story about a young gladiator, known as The Celt (Kit Harington), who, as a boy, witnessed his family killed by a, now, Roman Senator (Keifer Sutherland). 

Sold into slavery, the boy has, 17 years later, become the greatest gladiator in Londinium (Britain) and has been brought to fight in Pompeii, which is a first century holiday resort for Romans.  

Of course, timing is everything and this timing is ambivalent, at best.  The good news is that the Senator is in Pompeii, chasing after a noblewoman (Emily Browning), who becomes enamored with The Celt.  That provides an opportunity for vengeance.  But, the bad news is that it’s 79 A.D. and Mount Vesuvius is about to pop.
There hasn’t been a good gladiator movie since The Gladiator, so young (and old) thriller fans, who are interested in this genre, should enjoy this film.  The action is thrilling and the effects are excellent.  Plus, unlike many other 3D movies, Pompeii makes good uses of this medium.

I give Pompeii a 4 out of 5.

3 Days To Kill




Writers Luc Besson and Adi Hasak of 3 Days To Kill have provided Director McG an entertaining script he has turned into a film that is both exciting and fun-filled, as well.

A splendid Kevin Costner plays Ethan Renner, a CIA wet-work specialist, i.e., assassin, who has contracted brain cancer.  Given the prognosis he has only a short time to live, Renner quits and goes to Paris to try to re-establish a relationship with his estranged wife and 15-year-old daughter before he dies.

However, ruthless agent Vivi Delay (Amber Heard) has been given the task of terminating The Wolf (Richard Sammel), the mastermind of dirty bomb sales to terrorists, and tempts Renner to come back into the “game” with an experimental drug that may extend his life or even cure his cancer.

 The film blends funny situations …Renner finding his Paris apartment being squatted by an extended family of refugees from Mali, Renner interrupting extreme measures of interrogation with questioning his captive about how to deal with a teen daughter; tender situations…Renner teaching his daughter how to ride a bike, how to dance; and exciting situations…thrilling car chases through the streets of Paris, Renner passing out from his disease whenever he is about to take down his quarry.
There are plot holes, to be sure, but, if you like thrillers, Paris and want to be pleasantly entertained,  3 Days To Kill is worth a view.  I give it a 4 out of 5.

The LEGO Movie





As a marketing gimmick, Writers/Directors Phil Lord’s and Christopher Miller’s animated The LEGO Movie is an absolutely brilliant way to stimulate sales.  Note, however, the film has as many puns, platitudes and reference jokes as there are pieces in the movie play set. 




The film revolves around the totalitarian society run by Lord/President Business (Will Ferrell), who wants everything to be orderly, i.e., without change, and the revolt inspired by average citizen Emmet (Chris Pratt), who is mistaken for being the Master Builder  because he has found the mysterious piece of resistance that will end the President’s rule.

For pre-teens and Lego lovers, this film is heaven.  For the rest of us, the humor can be a bit tiresome.  However, the well-cast last 20-minute surprise should revive even the most sleep-induced members of the audience and does tie everything together in a very effective way.
Since the movie’s worthy message is that even the most average person can be creative, The LEGO Movie, at least, deserves an average 3+ out of 5.  But, for the LEGO fan-base, it gets a 4+ and, as I noted before, as a marketing device, it’s a 5.  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Winter's Tale




Writer/Director Akiva Goldsman’s Winter’s Tale is a wonderful Irish tale…a fantasy with a Pegasus, time-jumping, demons and magic.  It has been superbly shot by Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel.  Naomi Shohan has created fabulous production designs.  Michael Kaplan has fashioned top-notch costuming.  Rupert Gregson-Williams and Hans Zimmer have supplied a wonderful score.  And, of course, Goldsman, himself, has written the popular The DaVinci Code, Angels & Demons, Constantine, A Beautiful Mind and many other great works with this one joining the best of them.

Then, there’s the cast.  Though I’ve never been a big Colin Farrell fan, he is perfect in the starring role.  Russell Crowe is at his best in evil-rendering, Jessica Brown Findlay is enchanting as the ingĂ©nue and a young Mckayla Twiggs is beyond adorable as Findlay’s sister.  What’s more, Will Smith, William Hurt, Graham Greene, Jennifer Connelly, Ripley Sobo and Eva Marie Saint add to the feast of great performances.
 
So, I ask myself, why is this film not getting good reviews?  What’s wrong about it? It's simply beyond me.

I remember a mentor of mine once saying, “When you get right down to it, there are only two kinds of people in this world…those who love life and beauty and those who don’t.”  If you’re among the former, you’ll really enjoy this film.  If not, well, I guess you'll join the reviewers who haven’t.

I give Winter’s Tale a 4+ out of 5. See it.

PS: Although it is a fantasy, there are elements of it that are absolutely real. If you're interested, contact me.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Monuments Men




As World War II was coming to an end, a group of civilians was assigned to find art stolen by the Nazis and hidden in Germany.  Based on this true fact of history, The Monuments Men tells their story.

George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban make up the team, later joined by Dimitri Leonidas.  All are delightful.  But, the real standout is Cate Blanchett, who plays a curator at the Jeu de Paume National Gallery from which many of the greatest works were taken.
Tracking down the art before it is destroyed, forever hidden or confiscated by our, then, Russian allies is the thrust of the action.
 

Though Writer/Director George Clooney’s film moves a bit slowly and a bit too solemnly at times…all of which could have easily been cured with more adept editing…, the story is such a good one that the movie is well-worth seeing.

I give The Monuments Men a 4 out of 5.