December 2012 posts
Here’s a quick rundown of 2012′s Best from your friends at Serious Movie Lover:
1-3. We’re going with a 3-way tie for first place.
Saw this movie three times in the theater and loved it every time. Special recognition to Alexandre Desplat for the music.
The Master– Mesmerizing cinematography and acting. A shame that it will not be rewarded in a major way this awards season.
Life of Pi–Amazing in every respect. Kudos to Ang Lee.
4. Bernie–Hilarious! Finally a good feature for Jack Black. Loved the locals featured in this fun flick.
5. Argo-–Nothing over the top here, just solid filmmaking from Ben Affleck.
Lincoln–Too stage-y for us but a tour de force for Daniel Day Lewis.
Pending / Still waiting to see…..
Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, Amour, On the Road
What are your favorites? Be sure to tell us in our comments section.
Thanks and see you in the New Year!
As we wind up for Christmas, it is one of the few times a year that we gather around the TV and force family members to watch holiday themed movies. So we thought that we would give you the guide to the best to watch with the whole family, and those which are best viewed after the kids and grandparents are in bed. Here is our Christmas movie countdown for the family and for the adults.
For the Family:
5 – White Christmas
This is really the one that started it all. Fun for the whole family, especially for the musical lovers. With a cast of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney; it is tough to go wrong with this holiday favorite. True, there are some fifties jokes and references that you might have to explain to kids, but then you can just have them sing along to every song and it won’t matter. All kidding aside, White Christmas is pretty much the standard for all Christmas movies, and it still stands the test of time.
4 – A Christmas Story
This may seem low on the list, but since it has begun to run for 24 hours on Christmas Day, the luster of the jokes are not as sharp as they used to. However, this should be used instead of a fake fire on your TV during the holiday. Thanks to TNT, this has become a part of everyone’s Christmas experience along with egg nog and family bickering. In addition, the best jokes never get old from “NOT A FINGER” to “Fraaa-geeley! Must be Italian.” this movie can never get old.
3 – A Christmas Carol
It seems every five years or so a remake comes out with some twist or all-star cast, so we cannot recommend which one is the best since there are over twenty versions. Whether is be performed by Muppets, Shakespearean Actors, or Mr. Bean; this story is a staple of the holiday season. Dickens’ model holds true to always provide an entertaining story of redemption and the holiday spirit. And lets face it, it is not the Christmas season until you hear, “God Bless Us Everyone.”
2 – Elf
The only recent recommendation on this list, but this contains everything that we have come to love in a family Christmas movie. There are jokes for kids and ones for adults. There is a story of redemption, and a story of acceptance. James Caan sings, and Bob Newhart is a tiny elf. A talking Norwal, and a surly Santa. All of this with Will Ferrell at his comedic height, makes for an original Christmas movie that seems to be inventive for Hollywood even outside the holiday season. If you don’t agree then you are a cotton-headed ninny-muggins.
1 – It’s A Wonderful Life
As if this wouldn’t make out list. This movie is great because it could fall on any day of the year, but it takes on a greater meaning that George Bailey finds out what his life is worth during the Christmas season. This movie is so ingrained in our sub-conscious that it has become the American Christmas Carol, and represents the American ideal greater than Dickens ever could. While it has been imitated several times from film to TV, there is no replacing the original. The fact that it is Jimmy Stewart‘s and Donna Reed‘s most recognizable parts over everything else they have done, shows how widely popular this film has become over the years.
So now that you have seen every hokey holiday film known to man, it is time to kick back and enjoy yourself. Here are our top five R rated, or close to it, movies.
5 – Scrooged
What could be better than a Christmas movie with Bill Murray. One where he is the part of Scrooge. While we admit that many of the jokes are dated, Murray turns in a great performance along with Carol Kane. Not to mention an appearance by David Johansen (apparently taking a break from his alter ego Buster Poindexter). Scrooged provides all of the highlights of A Christmas Carol with a wittiness of someone who is reacting honestly.
4 – The Ref
This forgotten gem is a classic for those with dysfunctional families. While the plot is implausible, the family fighting is priceless. From annoying in laws to the dominerring matriarch, this film shows that resolution can be achieved through fighting. Denis Leary was at his acerbic height, and was supported beautifully by Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis. Who all were still awaiting their big film roles, and were still willing to work on an independent film. In addition, it was one of the stronger showings from the late Ted Demme.
3 - Bad Santa
This has to be one of the oddest movies on the list, but it still remains a classic Christmas movie. Billy Bob Thorton pulls off some decent comedic acting with a kid. His frustrated rants are comic gold. Which is what makes the dynamic of the movie so funny. Different from most movies, Thorton treats the kid as an dumber adult not as a child, but the fact that it is a clueless kid makes the relationship so comedic. And in what other movie do you see the gift of a wooden pickle.
2 – Die Hard
Oh yes, this is a Christmas movie. And there is no better way to release stress than to watch Bruce Willis pull glass out of his feet while talking to the dad of Family Matters. While the premise of the Die Hard series is becoming an old one, this was and still is one hell of an action movie. In a way the film does show the Christmas tradition; a family coming together, and a man saving Christmas for a bunch of people to ensure joy for the holiday. Sure it is a stretch, but really think about and yippee ki yay.
1 – Christmas Vacation
This is the best Christmas movie since Bing Crosby tapped danced with Danny f’in Kaye. Leave it to the Griswolds to show us the true meaning of family. From office christmas presents to the Jelly of the month club, this never fails to generate laughs. There is Cousin Eddie, the boxed cat, and the Squirrel! Vacation shows us that no matter how horrible the holidays can be, it is best to laugh and manically drink egg nog. Just try not to get locked in the attic or over cook the turkey. Happy Holidays, and have fun.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY (2012/IN THEATERS) The trailers for this film had me seriously intrigued—Brad Pitt teaming again with Andrew Dominik, the down-under director who brought us “The Killing of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” with Pitt as Jesse James. That film is a true small masterpiece if I’ve ever seen one (check out my review on SML—I’m a big fan) and this one promised great actors—Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Sam Shepard—along with some snappy dialogue and some Johnny Cash tunes. Wow. That was the preview, mind you, not the movie. When you actually sit down to watch the film, what you get first are two talkative scuzzy hoods—Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn)—meeting with dry cleaner/mob guy Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) to plot a robbery. Sounds good, yes? The plan is to rob a card game run by Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta), a guy who not long ago confessed that he had robbed his own game and brought the law down on everybody. So the idea is that a second robbery will be pinned on Markie who will take the heat while the real robbers enjoy the cash. The robbery goes down as planned and this sets in motion the appearance of Brad Pitt as Jackie—a mob enforcer brought in by a suit (Richard Jenkins), who tasks him with taking out all parties involved in the robbery, including Markie and the two scuzz-bags. Jackie brings in his buddy Mickey (Gandolfini) to help but learns over time that Mickey has lost it to booze and broads, so in the end he handles it all pretty much by himself. The screenplay, written by Dominik, is based on a novel by George V. Higgins entitled “Cogan’s Trade.” Higgins famously also wrote “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” which was made into a terrific film in 1973 starring Robert Mitchum as Eddie. “Cogan’s Trade” was actually set in Boston but Dominik has moved the film to a bombed out New Orleans and insists on bringing in a message to us viewers about the downfall of America and our underbelly of money and selling out. So he updates the film to late 2008—just before Obama’s election—in the middle of the economic crisis and he adds endless over-voiced yammering about the state of our country on CNN or talk radio during scenes set in cars and bars. Do gangsters watch CNN? Is it running in your average mobster bar? Do mob guys listen to talk radio? Who knows? It seemed odd to me and off-putting. But lots in this film is that way—including rough editing, self-conscious dialogue, and plenty of slow-motion violence—a strange combination. So I can see why the film has a relatively low rating among viewers. Nonetheless, there are some fabulous performances in there (including a solo piece from Gandolfini about a woman in Florida) that make the film worth watching. Use your best judgment but don’t go out of your way for this one. Too bad. This is a seriously talented director. We’ll hope for better in the future.
ANNA KARENINA (2012/IN THEATERS) There seems to be no awards love yet for the latest film from director Joe Wright who also gave us Price and Prejudice (2005), Atonement (2007), and Hanna (2011). I happen to be a big fan of all those films and also of Keira Knightley, Wright’s favorite actress, who takes on the title role of Anna in this over-the-top artful rendition of the Leo Tolstoy classic. This time the screenplay is by no less than Tom Stoppard and the production is in a league of its own for creativity. The entire movie is set in a 19th century theater and every inch of that setting is used, including the catwalks and the orchestra pit. But unlike some movies in theater settings (remember A Prairie Home Companion?), in this film sometimes the walls fall away and we are transported straight out into a Russian wheat field or winter palace. Good grief! It’s a bit dizzying at the start, but soon you get into the rhythm of this artifice and begin to watch the story for what it is—a tale of tragic love. Anna is a good woman, married to the highly regarded and important Karenin (an excellent Jude Law) who is a good man but something of a bore. The two have a young son who is the apple of Anna’s eye. On the train to meet with her brother Stiva (played by Matthew Macfayden who was Mr. Darcy in Wright’s version of Pride and Prejudice) and his wife Dolly (Kelly Macdonald), Anna meets the Countess Vronsky and her handsome young son Alexei (a blond Aaron-Taylor Johnson–you may remember him from Savages or Nowhere Boy). Young Vronsky is attracted to Anna and courts her from that instant forward. Anna falls under his spell and eventually abandons everything—her son, her daughter by Vronsky, her life in public, her husband—to enjoy the passion of romance. Knightley is brilliant in the role, showing a wide range of emotion. And of course, she is positively gorgeous in the endless show of costumes which mark the period and the wealth of Russian society in those days. Of course, there’s a tragic ending—surely you know it. Does the movie work, amidst all the hustle and bustle of its staging? I think ultimately yes thanks to the strength of Keira Knightley and surprisingly of Jude Law. Catch it while you can—but only if you like period pieces done to excess!
So by now we have all read or heard the reviews of the newest Bond film, and we know where Roger Moore ranks this new one. Since this is the 50th anniversary of Bond films, we want to see how the new one stacks up against the previous films. However, one cannot just compare one bond film to another, there is a process that must be followed.
First, we have to look at all of the Bond actors and what their best are. Now for most there are the first three that are the stand outs. For example beginning with the best; Connery’s first three were Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger. After those first three came Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, and Diamonds Are Forever. While Thunderball was good, it was not up to par with the first three. Moving to Roger Moore; he began with Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun, and The Spy Who Loved Me. Moore then followed with Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, and A View To A Kill. Again, sub-par efforts after a strong beginning. Unfortunately other actors did not fare as well, George Lazenby had a strong showing, but gave up after just one. Brosnan had a phenomenal freshman effort with Goldeneye, but failed bigger than any other Bond before. And then Dalton was never given a chance and had a good showing with Living Daylights, but Liscence to Kill ended his run.
So where does this leave us? Well, we have to agree with the addition of Craig that the best all time Bonds now look like this: Connery, Craig, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, and Lazenby. Craig can move down, but Connery will always be the best. Now, Roger Moore has already said Skyfall is the best, so by his word, it comes down to just comes down to Connery’s and Casino Royale. Skyfall already beats out Quantum of Solace. We already know it beats Connery’s last three, so now where does Skyfall fit in with the rest. It is in the opinion of this writer that it falls as is, as the fifth best.
While Skyfall is very good, it does not beat the impact that Casino Royale had re-energizing the series. And it cannot be better than the Connery top three because simply that is where the movie leaves off. From the coat hanger in the receiving room to the leather padded door of the new M office, Bond has come full circle. In addition, this movie did a far better job at honoring the past through small winks and nods to the older movies instead of cheap gimmicks that Die Another Day used. The most important thing is that Bond is strong and still the bad ass he should always be, and that makes me happy.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012/IN THEATERS) The answer to the question above is a big Yes! Especially if the bipolar disorder victim is Bradley Cooper as Pat Solitano Jr. in David O. Russell’s “neurotic screwball comedy” which also stars a fabulous Jennifer Lawrence. The storyline goes like this: after an 8 month stint in a mental institution, Pat Solitano Jr. (Cooper), a former teacher, moves back in with his parents (played to perfection by Robert DeNiro and Jackie Weaver) and strives to regain the life he lost. His method? He’s looking for his “silver linings.” More than anything else, Pat Jr. wants to restore his marriage and he’s definitely got an uphill challenge there, since his wife Nikki has filed a restraining order on him. Pat is nothing if not determined and has adopted as his mantra the word “excelsior!” complete with the exclamation mark. Crazy! Invited to dinner by his friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) and his wife Veronica (Julia Stiles), Pat meets Veronica’s sister Tiffany (Lawrence), a young woman with her own problems following the accidental death of her young policeman husband. Tiffany offers Pat a way to contact Nikki, but she has her price—he must dance with her in a fancy ballroom competition coming up at the holidays. Pat agrees and this quirky film kicks into gear. All works well, thanks in equal parts to the fabulous cast of supporting characters who inhabit the Solitano world and also to the screenplay by David O. Russell (inspired by the book written by Matthew Quick). And did I mention that Chris Tucker is in this flick? He’s Pat Jr.’s mental buddy Danny and whenever he appears, the laughs are not far behind. The film has already won the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival—and remember that Slumdog Millionaire won that very award and went on to take the Oscar. The movie is also up for 5 Independent Spirit Awards including Best Director, Best Feature, Best Screenplay, and Best Lead Actor and Actress for Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. While I don’t see a Best Picture Oscar in the cards this year (too much competition), I’m definitely placing my bets on Lawrence for something—she deserves any win coming her way. And I’m also hoping for some well-deserved recognition in the Supporting Actor ranks for Robert DeNiro who gives his best performance in years. Well worth seeing and a great follow up to David O. Russell’s excellent film of two years ago, “The Fighter”—this time with a lighter touch. Enjoy.