I have recently talked about books a couple of days ago, so to make things more fun, I thought of randomly picking up some of my favorite movies this time, and share it with you all. It’s the weekend (at least in my part of the world) – it’s the best time for slowing down, and enjoy some popcorn and couch potato. Have fun!
The Shawshank Redemption, is the directorial debut of Frank Darabont, the same guy who gave us Green Mile (1999), and The Walking Dead (2010-2011). The film, adapted from Stephen King Novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, but don’t let the idea pit you off – it’s not a horror film. It tells the story of a banker, named, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robins) who was shipped to the gothic wind-swept corridors of the Shawshank Prison for life after being found guilty of double murder of his unfaithful wife and her lover. Quiet and introspective, he gradually strikes up a friendly relationship with another lifer Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman). Soon Andy is put to work in all manner of financial activity, exposing him to the ugly realities of prison life. A corrupt warden (Bob Gunton) cannot afford Andy paroled since he knows too much and is too valuable of an asset. The Shawshank Redemption remains a first class example of how to approach potentially weighty issues with conviction, style, lightness and wit, which earned a reputation as one of the most effective prison movies in cinematic history.
How many people would stand up, and stay firm to his conviction in the defense of such an idealistic belief? Not all people who do great things for great reasons are great people. The People vs. Larry Flynt is about a man who did what was allowed under the First Amendment, and was picked on by the people who didn’t like what he did. It is a film about pornography and sleaze, and summing it up, it’s an epic romance that casts Larry Flynt (Woody Harrelson), and underage, bisexual stripper-junkie Althea Leasure (Courtney Love) as lovers and inseparable soul mates in the grand tradition of Tristan and Isolde. The movie is a lot of fun for long stretches. Based on my research, most of the nudity in the movie is in still photos. It was penned by the team of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszweski who made the wonderful Ed Wood biopic. I loved the scene where Woody Harrelson, who performs the absolute bang-up job, gives a speech about how explicit depictions of death, murder, and war are considered appropriate while sex is considered filthy. Squeezing into Harrelson’s spellbinding centerfold was wildly entertaining. He was incredible! Director Milo Foreman made this based on a true story of an American publisher, Larry Flynt, who as well acted as Judge Morrissey in the film. Forget about Playboy and Penthouse – Hustler Magazine is considered more explicit as it frequently depicts hardcore themes, such as the use of sex toys, penetration and group sex.
Here’s an interesting fact, The Count of Monte Cristo was one of Mark Twain’s favorite books, that when he toured in Europe, in 1867, he made a special stop to see the prison, Chateau D’if. The 2002 version of the film was a contempo back-to-the-basics treatment of a Dumas novel for new generations. It spins its tale of revenge with all the glory of the melodrama of Hollywood’s golden years. Perhaps it transcends generations and time frames because it is a story and contempt that we can all relate to. It is an ultimate tale of revenge. While Caviezel is a serious actor, Guy Pearce obviously loves the role as dastardly Mondego, hamming and camping it up with a glee that is delightful to behold – he steals the screen every time he’s on it. If you can divorce yourself from the book for a while, (considering “Artistic License” as they call it) and take it as an entertaining movie, it will deliver just like that: love, hate, affection, contempt, mystery, suspense, defeat, victory and triumph.
As the stagnant state of motion pictures in the 1980’s was on its inevitable decline, the emergence of a new breed of American independent directors saw this as a moment of full opportunity. Gus Van Saint decided to turn his camera on the outcasts of a small Portland neighborhood and created an intimate portrait of three young men at an important turning point in their lives. Mala Noche is based on an autobiographical novel by Walt Curtis (Tim Streeter), the young manager of a liquor store who fell in love with a Mexican lad (Dough Cooeyate), an illegal immigrant who doesn’t speak English. Shot in black-and-white 16MM, this is one of the very few gay-theme gay films that is so cool, and not embarrassing to watch. When most films present gays in a typical stereotype, feminine looking, and acting men appearing foolish and camp, Van Saint made the surprising, and a wise determination to make Walt a totally normal, straight-acting, straight-looking guy. In spite of the below par actors, and extremely low budget, he managed to create some beautiful scenes, already demonstrating his raw sense of street-life poetry. A must see!
To this day, the Trunchbull lady, (Pam Harris) still freaks me out. The scene where she throws the girl over the fence is burned into my brain. The film best represents the themes behind Roald Dahl’s rather subversive children’s literature. It follows the continuity of both The Witches and James the Giant Peach, casting repulsive Trunchbull into the roles of the Grand High Witch and repulsive aunt. I enjoyed this flick, which celebrates Matilda’s (Mara Wilson) love for books and learning. It is a tale of a young girl who was born into the wrong family, and goes to the most depressing school run by the most Nazi-like Principal anywhere, but has the nicest teacher anyone could wish for. Not to be taken seriously, mostly a fun comedy where we can cheer when the bad guys get what is coming to them. The filming technique used lots of wide angle close up shots, which distorts features, especially the bad guys. Danny DeVito was sort of trying to put a one-man act in the film. His narration was nice and in stark contrast to his role as Matilda’s dad. Here we can see the elements of childhood shine through as he touched on the viewpoint of children and their imaginations through his over-the-top performance. The film captured the feel of Dahl’s book, it is different as far as the setting goes, but they’ve kept the ideas quite intact, which contained some of the same kind of dark, wacky elements of his books that have been made into films, e.g., Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Matilda is a real treat!
Here’s a little teaser, Joel Schumacher originally offered the lead role to Val Kilmer during the production of Batman Forever (1995), but Kilmer declined. The premise of A Time to Kill, based on the book of John Grisham is relatively simple: a young African-American girl, Tonya Hailey (RaéVen Larrymore Kelly) was raped by two backwoods white men. Bigger father, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is vexed by the said rape, and in retaliation kill the offending men, injuring a white officer of the peace in the process, while the media, the DA, and Ku Klux Klan, descend upon him like vultures. As the small town becomes a hot-bed of controversy as murder trial starts to receive national attention, Jack Brigance (Matthew McConaughey), a hot lawyer who doesn’t play by the rules, came to Jackson’s rescue. This is a really strong movie that works because of the screenplay that pulls no punches and revolutionary direction of Schumacher. The film is thought-provoking, hard-hitting piece, you will watch it with a clenched fist. Among the numerous actors considered for the lead like, Alec Baldwin, Brad Pitt, Bill Paxton, Ralph Fiennes and Aidan Quinn – Matthew McConaughey was an incredibly lucky shot of an acting debut that he took and ran like the wind, heart-stopping, which prove to be one of the crowning achievements of his career.
This is one hell of a film about the mobsters, based on a true account, and coming from one of the greatest directors of all time. Martin Scorsese is a brilliant director, and his work here was fabulous. He has created a motion picture that is right next to Francis Coppola’s Godfather film, but whereas the latter was an epic, and somewhat romantic view of gangsters like and mob family. Goodfellas took a much different direction and gives its viewers a darker, less romantic view of the mob world. His direction was masterful and brilliant, with Scorsese, always moving the camera, and giving the film a great pace and visual style. It was grounded on a true-crime memoirs of the real-life story of Henry Hill, whose novel with Nicolas Peleggi, Wiseguys, was adapted into a screenplay. Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), the narrator of the story, an Irish simple person who gets involved with the Mafia at a very young age, continued his life through it, and as he pulls you into his world, you will be introduced to numerous criminals he gets mixed up with such as Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) who portrayed with a lot of intensity that brings out a lot of brutal elements in the film. There is no major plot in the movie, just isolated incidents, one of which was the turning point of Hill’s life. Robert De Niro gave one of his best performances–ever– as Jimmy, even if he’s not in the film as much as you might be lead to believe in the front cover. Ray Liotta was perfect as Henry Hill. He captured a sense of innocence, yet at the same time, a feeling of violence. The sense of sentimentality is non existent in Goodfellas, and offers a bare bones, raw insight into the crooked lives these criminals were leading, and with that, you get a story that is sharp like a knife that when it hits you, you know you’ll never forget it.
Although infamous for its utterly sex scenes, there is more to Last Tango in Paris than just steamy eroticism. Bernardo Bertolucci’s controversial drama is actually a dark, torrid masterpiece about love and grief. Marlon Brando plays Paul, an American in Paris, who deals with his wife’s suicide by shacking up with Jeanne (Marie Schneider) in an empty apartment. Like the dance, that it’s named after, it is a film of passion and violence as Brando’s character pirouettes towards self-destruction. Released after The Godfather, this film gave Brando his last greatest role. His performance was both terrific and terrifying. Aside from all the emotional, sexual jumble of a movie, it contains interesting ideas, and some gorgeous cinematic poetry, you can’t afford to miss.
Who can ever forget that famous fight scene inside the house, where Bard Pitt and Angelina Jolie tried to wipe out each other? Well, here’s what, “Forget about Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and let me introduce to you the original war freaks Mr. and Mrs. Rose!” The War of the Roses is a strange film in a way, because it starts out as a love story and slowly builds, as little signs that all is not well in the paradise begin to emerge. Once the ugliness starts, there is no stopping it, as the picture rapidly becomes a black comedy. This is the stage in the film where things really pick up a steam. Oliver Rose (Michael Douglas) and Barbara Rose (Kathleen Turner) refuse to leave their magnificent, opulent mansion, and it sets a stage for what will become a battlefield between the Roses (except for the shotguns, which we’ve scene in Mr. and Mrs. Smith). A fight that rotates between spite, barbs and eventually attempted murder. Here’s a little trivia: The make and model of the unique sports car that Douglas owns in the movie was a blacktop crème colored 1960 British Morgan Plus 4 convertible known to collectors as Morgan 4/4, was really crushed in the film. The War of the Roses is the kind of movie that makes you chuckle as you watch it. The visual feat of the Roses’ home, the horrific divorce battles, the philosophizing of Danny DeVito, and of course , the plentiful supply of the not-so-subtle literary themes; the glorious rise and tragic fall of classical theatre, with Michael Douglas as the tragic hero. DeVito is heavily influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, and that is very clear in the final sequence, which is reminiscent of Vertigo and Rear Window. This movie has the directorial perfection of a good Hitchcock thriller, but is neither a thriller nor a comedy; it is a unique mix of elements from several genres, that does contain some laughs and sardonic wit.
This film is based on a true story, so there are no car chases and great shooting scenes here. Book lovers would surely agree with me when I say, “When a book is being adapted for the big screen, the directors usually do their own version onto the screen.” The Donnie Brasco film is somewhat 97% Hollywood and only 3% of the book, (just like the short story 1408, which was adapted from one of Stephen King’s horror) and no film adapted from it is 100% of the book, since the information provided in it is often mixed, and not always the truth. So when people see a film based on a true story, they think everything that happened in the film was real. Donnie Brasco might just look like another mafia movie, but it is not. It tells the story of an FBI agent, Joe Pistone (Johnny Depp), who in the late 1970s was hired to infiltrate the mafia, and got acquainted with hitman Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero (Al Pacino). But lo and behold! Brasco got too much into the mafia lifestyle, to the point where it dominated his life and kept him from his family. Depp is good and his performance was solid, even if it doesn’t really rank up with his best. Pacino is of course, wonderful. His character is a far cry from his Godfather work and he managed to bring such pathos to Lefty that it is impossible not to feel for him. Gangster movies reach far and extensively throughout cinema these days. The genre goes back a long way, and has shifted its tone and changed its course many times throughout cinema history. Gangster movies can stretch from some of the best movies the world has ever seen, to some of the worst. There are many that are must see films, and then there are those that aren’t worth bothering with. Donnie Brasco is one the worth watching.