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Guardians of the Galaxy

In many respects, “Guardians,” directed and co-written by indie wit James Gunn, and starring buffed-up former schlub Chris Pratt and Really Big Sci-Fi Blockbuster vet…

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War Story

Director Mark Jackson’s drama is a chilly study in grief starring Catherine Keener as a war-zone photographer shattered by her experiences in Libya.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Cast and Crew

* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

Big Change for Moneypenny

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Rumors suggest the next Bond film will put Moneypenny in the field with James. Bond expert Jeffrey Westhoff has some thoughts on that.

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The Jackal takes aim

Fred Zinnemann's "The Day of the Jackal" (1973) is a great example of how a film can do a good job of creating tension and involving the viewer by sticking with the most basic cinematic elements. We have the benefit of comparing it with a remake ("Jackal," 1997) that went on the opposite direction and by wrongly doing everything that its predecessor got right, making he merits of the earlier version all the more evident. Both are distinctive reflections of how studios perceived audience tastes in their respective time periods. They are as different as two movies based on the same source might be and can hardly be classified in the same genre. The later entry is a brainless action flick; the original is a "thriller" in every sense of the word.

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Skyfall: Hey kids, let's put on a show!

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"Skyfall" is a theatrical film in the same way that its director, Sam Mendes, is a theatrical filmmaker. That is, its approach to organizing space for an audience (the camera lens) is noticeably stagey. I mean that in a "value-neutral" way. I just mean the frame is frequently used as a proscenium and the images are action-tableaux deployed for a crowd -- whether it's the designated audience surrogates in the movie (bystanders or designated dramatis personae), or the viewers in the seats with the cup-holders. That's not to say it's uncinematic (it's photographed by the great Roger Deakins!), but many of the set-pieces in "Skyfall" are conceived and presented as staged performance pieces.

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Growing up with James Bond

I find it mind-boggling that something as trivial as an action film series could become such a constant presence in my life but that's been the case with the James Bond movies. It's not so much that their span happens to equal mine (to the very week, by the way) as I didn't start following them until I was 9 years old -- but ever since, they've always been around one way or another: from big theatrical openings to re-re-releases in the beat up movie houses of old; from Betamax tapings of network T.V. broadcasts (pausing the machine to edit the commercials), to the great looking discs of today. Every couple of years or so they have made their appearance and I've watched each one dozens of times regardless how good or bad they were, an odd fact for which I've had no reasonable explanation.

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The Dark Knight Rises: A hero ain't nothin' but a knuckle sandwich

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"Gotham's time has come. Like Constantinople or Rome before it, the city has become a breeding ground for suffering and injustice. It is beyond saving and must be allowed to die. This is the most important function of the League of Shadows. It is one we've performed for centuries. Gotham... must be destroyed." -- Ra's al Ghul (Ken Watanabe), "Batman Begins" (2005)

"Over the ages our weapons have grown more sophisticated. With Gotham we tried a new one: economics.... We are back to finish the job. And this time no misguided idealists will get in the way. Like your father, you lack the courage to do all that is necessary. If someone stands in the way of true justice, you simply walk up behind them... and stab them in the heart." -- Ra's al Ghul (Liam Neeson), "Batman Begins" (2005)

"You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these civilized people, they'll eat each other." -- The Joker (Heath Ledger), "The Dark Knight" (2008)

"Terror is only justice: prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country." -- Maximilien Robespierre, 1794

"I am Gotham's reckoning... I'm necessary evil.... Gotham is beyond saving and must be allowed to die." -- Bane (Tom Hardy), echoing his former master in "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012)

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(You've seen "The Dark Knight Rises" by now, right? Good. I'm going to discuss a few things that I would consider spoilers, albeit mild ones, and then get to some pretty big spoilers later on, before which I will offer an additional warning, just in case.)

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The villains of Christopher Nolan's "Batman" movies don't think very highly of "ordinary citizens" (now popularly referred to as "the 99 percent"), whom they tend to view as mindless savages, slaves to fear who'll claw one another and the city of Gotham to shreds at the slightest provocation. The films themselves sometimes confirm that view (Gothamites get a little panicky in "The Dark Knight" when they fear that Batman is not keeping the crime rate down) and sometimes don't (they choose not to blow themselves up in the Joker's intricately planned ferry experiment). This isn't really a theme that's developed in the movies, but like most of the political and social references, it's something that's... there.

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It's a bird! It's a plane! It's the superhero genre!

May Contain Spoilers

Back then, I could watch Max Fleischer's Superman cartoons forever and never get bored. Today, the case is almost the same. Oh, those films have some of the finest animation I've ever seen--even by today's standards, the animation is phenomenal, right from the fluidity of the movements of the characters to the uncanny weight of the objects. The characters and objects had shadows too.

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How do you solve a problem like the Oscars?

Academy Award-winning Cher in her "serious actress" Oscar ensemble.

Almost every year for the last 20 or so I've had to think seriously about that question. I mean, what is there to write about the Oscars that hasn't already been done? I had a great time with my recent piece for MSN Movies ("Your Oscar speech: How not to blow it"), but I was fully aware I wasn't the first (or even, probably, the 1,000th) to write something similar in approach.

So, let's recap the angles: We can look at it as a horserace [check] and place bets on the odds [check]; as an election or popularity contest [check]; as a poker game [check -- I did that for MSN one year, with each nominee holding a "hand" based on previous awards-season honors]; as the "Gay Super Bowl" [check]; as a fashion show [check]; as Hollywood's version of "American Idol" [check]...

Some people would probably like watching the Academy Awards broadcast better if all the nominees gave speeches and the winner was decided by who gave the best one. (Maybe Academy members could call 900 numbers to vote for their favorites or there could be an Academy-approved panel of judges: say, Halle Berry, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Roger Moore.) I find the speeches to be generally excruciating. (But, then, I thought the best Oscars ever was the Allan "Can't Stop the Music" Carr-produced one with Rob Lowe and Snow White because it was so astoundingly grotesque that I laughed so hard I cried. The Academy has tried to deep-six all evidence of that one, and Disney even threatened to sue over the use of Snow White. C'mon, YouTube!)

Here's another idea: A former resident of Mexico wrote to me with the following proposal: In Older Mexican Award Shows, the recipient of the award was not allowed to speak. Each nominee was presented along with a few seconds of their song (or movie clip) and then the winner was named. The winner would walk on stage, accept the award, wave or blow kisses at the audience and then walk off stage. It was fantastic. The newer Mexican award shows are becoming more “Americanized” now unfortunately. Most now allow the winners to speak which just makes me long for the good old days. So I say Don’t Let Them Speak. We don’t care who you have to thank, who allowed this moment to happen, how much you love God, or how inspiring your parents were. All we care about is that you won…. And what you’re wearing. But that’s it!I kinda like that. They could stretch out the Red Carpet Walk of Shame if they want, or even require that the major nominees do interviews afterwards, with Rosie O'Donnell or Dr. Phil or Chris Matthews. Sort of like the publicity clauses in actors' contracts that stipulate they must do a certain amount of promotion in exchange for their salary on a given film: If you want an award, you're going to have to submit to a sit-down with Brit Hume or someone similarly slimy and daft (and, preferably, as humorless).

And if they need to make the show itself longer (to sell commercial time), they could make "In Memoriam" last ten minutes or so (more clips!) and do even bigger, more vapid and elaborate musical numbers -- not for the best songs, but for ALL the top nominees!

The Oscars are about the show. It's entertainment, loosely defined. Nominees, it is not about you. It's about we, the millions (not billions) who watch the satellite-cast on TV and have parties with our friends and laugh and cry and sigh and gasp and ridicule. (If we don't have to work.) That's the only approach that matters.

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Oh no! The secret is out!

A trio of guys try and make up for missed opportunities in childhood by forming a three-player baseball team.

A serious breach of security has ripped through the movie industry. Somehow, some way, a critic in Florida (of course) got in to see "Benchwarmers" -- and leaked it to the press! Well, OK, so maybe that shouldn't be considered much of an intelligence leak (more like a diaper leak), but it happened to Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel, and he's going public about it. On his blog, Frankly, My Dear..., Moore says he got an invitation to a screening Monday night at a local theater, where seats were saved for the press. It seems the regional Sony publicist had forgotten to inform him that the press had been uninvited. (He should have read Scanners last week!)

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Susannah York, "Gold"

"Gold" isn't exactly the best movie Susannah York has ever appeared in. But it brought her to Chicago on a promotional tour, and that was one considerable item in its favor. She sat cross-legged in a suite at the Whitehall, worked through a bunch of grapes and said "Gold" had been a good place to start again after two years away from the movies.

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