Posts Tagged ‘Barry Pepper’

25th Hour – Lee’s Love Letter

Posted 25 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

25th Hour, USA, 2002

Directed by Spike Lee

25th Hour is a film I can watch over and over again, and always learn something new.I’ll be the first to say that I am not a Spike Lee fan. Outside of a few films, I think the man refuses to see past his skin color and the world in anything other than black versus white, but in 25th Hour, the story of a white drug dealer’s last day before seven years in federal prison, Lee pushes aside his normal agenda and shows us shades of gray that he’s ignored for the majority of his career. It harks back to his breakthrough film Do the Right Thing (1989), in that it asks its viewer a very important question: what do we do now? In what might be the first mainstream film to openly deal with a post-9/11 New York, complete with long shots of Ground Zero and open allusions to the late firemen who dealt with the evacuation and clean-up of the fallen Twin Towers, he reverses his stance and puts it, literally, in another color.

Edward Norton is a powerful actor, without ever doing too much; he lives in the simple parts of his characters and portrays very basic human emotions, but does so with such a natural swagger that you can completely forget you’re watching an actor. His Monty Brogan is the best example of this alternative approach. Here we see a drug dealer get touched and spend his last day of freedom with him. The city has changed, and so has Monty; the lifestyle is gone, and of all the filmmakers to propose a love letter to New York after her fall (we’re still waiting, Woody), in retrospect, Lee should have been the obvious choice. With his extremely candid points of view and the temper he gives all of his projects, it was the right move at the right time. I heard someone refer to the film as a bandage for the city’s wounds and I was insulted, as the point of a bandage is to cover up the wound. Lee’s film is a part of the healing process, for sure, but he never attempts to cover anything up, and literally tells it exactly like it is. Read More

True Grit – A Classic Western From The Coen Brothers

Posted 19 Feb 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

True Grit, USA, 2010

Written and Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Based on the Novel True Grit by Charles Portis

The Coens' True Grit is better than the original.

If I were going to direct a Western, I wouldn’t even consider any other cinematographer than Roger Deakins. A frequent collaborator of the Coen Brothers, Deakins shot two of the best films of 2007 – the Coens’ No Country For Old Men and Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (quite possibly the best Western ever made) – and it was his painterly eye and excellent use of light that created the mournful, elegiac and distinctly American feel of both those excellent films. Now he has reteamed with Joel and Ethan for their first true period Western, True Grit, and more than their wonderfully dry humor or the excellent performances by Jeff Bridges and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, it is his work that makes the film as good as it is.

Don’t get me wrong – the Coens have created a truly classic film here, a real Western with all the best parts of the 1969 original intact and amplified, and with a much stronger sense of the other characters besides Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn (whereas the original was mainly a vehicle to showcase John Wayne’s finest performance). Bridges is utterly believable and likable as the irascible Cogburn, and Steinfeld is a talent to watch in the coming years, imbuing young Mattie Ross with a steel resolve that makes me think the 14-year-old could probably beat me in a fight. As mentioned above, the script is full of wonderfully dry humor and startlingly realistic violence (I can’t imagine what they had to cut to whittle it down to a PG-13); there is much to praise about all aspects of the film, but for me it is definitely Deakins’ work that shines the brightest. Read More

Casino Jack

Posted 05 Jan 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Member Movie Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Scott Martin

Casino Jack, Canada, 2010

Directed by George Hickenlooper

casino jack George Hickenlooper movies i didnt getThe most unfortunate thing about this film isn’t that it degrades the importance of Jack Abramoff’s crimes down to a heist flick along the lines of 21 (2008), nor is it that its screenplay has all of the emotional depth and latitude of Shrink (2009). It’s that this is the late, yet formidable as ever, Maury Chaykin’s last film. Thankfully, his role let him go out in style, and with this film, style is just about all there is. Director George Hickenlooper passed on after filming this project as well.

Where the film’s complete failure begins is with its screenplay, though writer Norman Snider got a couple of things right. Everything he wrote about is ridiculous and, from an outsider’s perspective, kind of funny, if not incomprehensible. What he left out, though, was the weight of Abramoff’s actions, and just how important and destructive they were. He creates one-sided characters and injects them into a 3D labyrinth of movie quotes, political disdain, and Kevin Spacey doing impressions. So. Many. Damn. Impressions. I felt like I was watching another one of Kevin Costner’s movies that “just happened to involve baseball.” It got tiresome, and it wasn’t amusing the first time. Read More