Sorry guys, no vampires this time around.
Daniel Day-Lewis stars as the sixteenth President of the United States of America, also known as Abraham Lincoln, and paints a portrait of him during the tumultuous final months of his life, during which he fights to abolish slavery by putting forth an amendment in the House of Representatives.
For over a decade now, we have all been waiting for Steven Spielberg to deliver on his promise of an actual, Abraham Lincoln biopic and for awhile there, it was going to happen. Actually, at one-point, Liam Neeson was supposed to star as Honest Abe but Neeson himself even declared he was “too old” for the role, even though Daniel Day is five years younger than him, but hey, if Oskar Schindler says no, Oskar Schindler means no. Thankfully though, after all of this time, Spielberg delivers on his promise and gives us a movie that isn’t quite the epic biopic we were all expecting out there. Hell, it’s the farthest thing from actually.
Instead of going for the full-scale, sweeping epic idea that he has gone with on such pictures like War Horse, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List, Spielberg takes a step-back and decides to play it down a little bit and make it a more intimate, focused piece of work that doesn’t focus on Lincoln’s whole life, but the last couple months of his life where he had to put up with all of these problems, that it’s a real wonder how the guy didn’t just die of a heart-attack right then and there. In a way, a part of me wishes that Spielberg went all-out here and tackle Abe through his life, but seeing him in the latter years of his life does seem like a better fit for Spielberg to play it safe, and not get way too in over his head, like he has been known to get in recent-years. However, that’s not to say that Spielberg still doesn’t have what it takes to deliver some the top-notch directing moments we all know and love him for.
I think what really intrigued me the most about this flick was how it shows just how hard it was, and probably still is, to get a bill passed and all of the twists and turns that come along with that mission. Abe had to talk to a lot of people, had to plan out a lot of ideas in his head, had to win over a crap-load of people, and most of all, had to still keep it in his mind to do the right thing. It’s a very hard, especially in today’s day and age of politics, to not only do the right thing but also keep with that idea in your head and never mess-up on that. Abe never gets dirty with where he gets with his mission to abolish slavery, and it’s really fresh to see considering this is a guy that America still reveres to this day.
We get a great glimpse at a guy, we can only read about in bore-fest books and Spielberg, for the most part, delivers on that spectrum. The story is as simple as they come, yet, Spielberg never loses sight of what he really wants to show and what he really wants to convey and we get that perfectly. It’s a slow-burn of a movie, but Spielberg keeps it surprisingly entertaining with a couple of nice touches here and there where we feel like we are placed in the same exact setting that the movie’s portraying, and also feel like we’re on the edge-of-our-seat, wondering just how the hell this bill is going to get passed. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all know that the bill gets passed and whatnot, but the film still kept me wishing and hoping that it would, considering there is so much anger and aggression against it, that’s a huge wonder how it didn’t continued to get denied until this very day.
However, I still can’t lie to you and tell you that I loved this movie, because I really didn’t. The problem I had with this movie was that it would go on for so long (it clocks in at 150 minutes, if that tells you anything already) with just talking, arguing, and political-jargon being used, that I actually felt myself dozing off a couple of times and wondering when they were going to get a move on with this story. Playing it subdued and intimate was a nice approach that Spielberg decided to use, but when your whole film is about a bunch of people just talking about a bill that we all know gets passed at the end of it all, well, it can be a bit repetitive, as well as, dare I say it, boring.
Another problem I had with this movie was that I wasn’t as emotionally-invested as I feel so many other people were with this movie. Ever since this movie came out, I’ve been seeing reviews from people that are just talking about how much they couldn’t handle their emotions during this film and just had to let out all of the tears. My question is, how the hell are all of these people crying at a movie that’s about a story we all know, a history-figure we all think we know, and features a screenplay, where everybody talks and hollers at each other in this sophisticated, political language that is rarely ever muttered in today’s day and age (thank god for that, too)? Seriously, I would get it if we all watched Lincoln from the start of his life, to the end of it but something just did not connect with me and have the water-works moving at the end. Instead, I felt like I knew the man more than I ever did before and I think that’s all I needed, really, a history lesson, not a life-changing experience.
However, I don’t blame these people for getting emotional, either, because when you have Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead, it’s hard not to tear-up. As always, Daniel Day is perfect in a lead role that shows him off to be one of the finest actors we have working today but it’s not the type of role you’d expect from the guy. With roles like Bill Cutting and Daniel Plainview being some of his most famous in recent time, it’s a refresher to see him go back to his old-ways and play soft, gentle, and kind fellow that means no harm to anyone around him, but just wants to do what he thinks is right for the country and what feels right in his heart. He’s obviously a nice guy that you can tell has some real charm to him that wins everybody over that he meets, as well as a knack for story-telling that are some of the funniest, if not thought-provoking pieces of tales that I have ever heard. How many times did Honest Abe break out of regular-conversation just to tell a story about a man and his farm? I don’t know and I don’t care. All I do know is that they were lovely stories to hear, mainly because it was Daniel Day who was delivering them in his sweet, gentle voice that doesn’t even seem recognizable in the least bit.
Daniel day lights up the screen every time he pops-up on it and delivers one of the finest performances of the year, and really does have you sympathize and feel something for a man we rarely know about how he was in life. We read about it in books, but it’s all up in the air as to what or who this guy really was in real-life, but I think Daniel Day’s portrayal is the most accurate depiction we can all go along with and agree on. If Daniel day doesn’t get a nomination this year, hell will freeze over, but then again, I think it’s a pretty sure thing that no matter what the movie the guy signs up to do, he’s going to get an Oscar-nomination regardless and you know what? I have no problem with that because this guy is an actor’s actor, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. That was a pretty obvious statement though, because everybody looks forward to what the guy does next, it’s all just a matter of how long will it take this time around.
Even though Daniel Day is perfect in this lead role, he almost gets the spotlight taken away from him from an actor that could also be considered “an actor’s actor”. Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens in a way that we all know and love Jones for playing his roles. He’s cranky, he’s old, he’s witty, and most of all, he’s a bastard that you do not want to go toe-to-toe with when it comes to an argument. As Stevens, Jones allows this fact to be even more truer than we already know it to be and really gives us a glimpse at a man that may even want this bill passed more than Lincoln himself, and there’s an amazing, final scene with him that shows us why. Jones is on-fire in this role and I really do think that he’s a sure-thing for an Oscar nomination this year and I do not disagree with that one-bit because the guy is always spectacular, he’s just been wasting too much of his time as Agent K to really allow us to see what is so spectacular about him in the first-place.
Playing Lincoln’s wife, Sally Fields probably gives one of her best performances I’ve seen from her in the longest time. Fields plays Mary Todd Lincoln the same exact way you’d expect her to play her, she’s weird, she’s paranoid, she’s always angry, but yet, she’s always supportive of what Abe does and to see that play out in this film is a thing of beauty, considering her and Daniel Day have great husband-wife chemistry between the two. As opposed to Jones and Lewis, I don’t think Fields is a sure-shot for an Oscar nomination this year, but hey, if she does end up getting one I will not be pissed in the least bit. The gal is great with all that she’s given and it’s finally time that somebody’s given her a role to chew down on.
This whole movie is filled with a supporting cast that will probably shock you by how many names it really does have and to be honest, there’s a bit of a problem with that. See, there are so many damn people in this movie that even though they are all so good with each and every one of their own, respective roles, it becomes a bit of a waste to see such good talent in roles that sometimes don’t show-up on-screen for any longer than 5 minutes. Having a huge, supporting cast is great if you want to make sure every character is well-done, and every performance is good but after awhile, it sort of starts to tick you off once you realize that half of these people can do some quality work in their own flicks, they just aren’t given the chance all that much. Still, it’s great to see such big names show up in a production together and show how much people still want to work with Spielberg.
Consensus: Lincoln may take some people by surprise to how it plays-out, but if you can handle a bunch of talking, then it will definitely keep you watching from beginning-to-end with a spectacular lead performance from Daniel Day, and a message about doing the right thing, no matter who gets in the way that is still relevant today, especially in the world of politics.
Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch are back except this time, they’re robbing people!
Mark Wahlberg plays Chris, a former drug smuggler who must revert back to a life of crime when his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss (Giovanni Ribisi). To settle the debt, Wahlberg’s character assembles a team of crooks and does what he does best: smuggling contraband.
Icelandic director Baltasar Kormàkur seems like a pretty inspired choice for a flick that seems so simple and could have easily been done by a schmuck like Joel Schumacher or someone else of that kind. However, it doesn’t matter who the director may be, it still needs to work which is something this film kind of does and doesn’t do.
Kormàkur starts this story off pretty well with just the right amount of mystery, energy, and suspense to fill the air. The plot does take its time getting to where it has to go but the action scenes, when they come, are very well-done. Notice how I said ‘when they come’. Still though, they are used to actually to move this plot along and not just used as an action flick device that we usually come-and-get. Also, I love heist films so going into this, I wasn’t expecting much else other than some really cool and tricky heists which is what this film provided enough to satisfy me and keep me guessing.
The problem with most of these action scenes, as fun and exciting as they truly may be, for some reason it’s filmed with the annoying shaky-cam that we always see and hate, but is used to create a feeling here that doesn’t work. Whenever action hits this flick, the camera always moves around at a rapid and paranoid pace, as if it kept constantly looking around each corner, making sure not to get caught pulling off the heist itself. The shaky-cam is obviously something I hate no matter what the film may be, but here it didn’t seem needed considering how slick the action sequences are in the first place.
I also think another problem with this film is that for some reason the direction and screen-writing never really seem on the right page at all. The film is marketed as a silly and dumb action flick but it’s a lot much more smarter than that and sometimes teeters on drama. When I mean drama though, I mean the kind of drama where they try to really discuss some real issues about family, betrayal, and alcoholism. Let me remind you, I am talking about the film called ‘Contraband’. The film could have honestly been a thriller, heist, drama, and action flick but for some reason, the film doesn’t know how to jell all of that together in the right way in order for it to seem reasonable and not so uneven. It also doesn’t help that the plot stops and starts so many times to the point of where I just wanted the damn boat that they were in to blow up just for the action to stay constant.
Mark Wahlberg is pretty reliable as an actor here to pull of this good-guy role as Chris, to where it isn’t an obvious attempt at making a former criminal seem like a hero. Actually, he doesn’t really do much here that we haven’t seen him do already but watching Wahlberg play in his comfort zone isn’t so bad in the first place. Kate Beckinsale plays his wife, Kate, and she really does try to give some weight to her character but she doesn’t really do much here and just comes off as a plot device for Chris to have a race-against-the-clock situation.
Giovanni Ribisi seems like a strange choice for the villainous role here as the thug Tim Briggs, but he’s actually very good with his eccentric and sometimes crazy acting style to make this bad guy a bit more menacing than I was expecting, and always entertaining; Ben Foster is also great as Sebastian, Chris’s best friend, who has a battle with alcoholism and always strides in these kind of roles; and it was also nice to see J.K. Simmons doing a role that was humorous but also never made you forget that he was a total dick-head as Captain Camp.
Consensus: Contraband features many problems with its script, tone, and annoying camera issues, but the cast somehow rise above the material and make this crime/thriller/action/heist/drama flick a very entertaining, if flawed one to say the least. But hey, it’s January and I was at least entertained rather than feeling depressed.
I don’t mind to sound corny or anything, but this movie really is a dream come true.
Inception deals with the concept of sharing dreams with Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb, a conman who enters the dreams of others and steals ideas from their subconscious (known as “extraction”) for unknown employers. After a lengthy career in dream thefts and being away from his family, Cobb is offered a job of the seemingly-impossible task of “inception,” the crime of implanting an idea instead of stealing one, and he assembles a crew (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Wantanbe, Ellen Page, and Dileep Rao) to pull off the perfect crime with hopes of being able to return home.
Christopher Nolan, would probably be known to your everyday person, as the guy who directed The Dark Knight. That is true, but he is also the director of plenty of other movies, that the everyday person may not know about, that totally mess with your mind. Films like: Following, Memento, The Prestige, and Insomnia. In this, he combines both of his different styles together, and gets my favorite film of 2010 thus far.
The script itself has all the elements of The Matrix. There’s a lot of talk about life, and how we are living a dream-world, and our minds create illusions for ourselves, and all that other hickory-doo. However, it comes out in such a good way, that it’s too hard to ignore. It never shows us the “What if…” side, but always brings up the side about dreams, and our illusions, and how we make things up in our world, just to make ourselves feel better with the life we have, and what would we do if someone was to take them away from us. It makes you think a lot, almost too much for a damn summer blockbuster, and I might just think twice about my dreams when I wake up the next morning.
The plot, at first, may confuse the crap out of so many people, hell, it confused me, but after awhile you start to get a whole feel for the film, and you understand what’s going on, how everything happens the way it does, and although the answers may never be fully explained to you through words, you kind of make assumptions as the film goes along. It doesn’t hold your hand the whole time, but yet, it doesn’t let you go, and fall behind, creating a wall between the material, and the audience, which is hard for any psychological thrillers in today’s film world.
But any film can have a good script, and cool plot, but still boring as shit. This is where this film is different from all others of the same kind. The action scenes were also very good. They were more stylized and tense than bombastic, something along the lines of James Bond, where Nolan obviously draws inspiration from, and I thought that it worked perfectly well for a film with this kind of concept. The tense situations the characters get into toy with the minds of the audiences without throwing them out of the film, and when bullets and fists start flying, you get treated to some of the most unique action scenes. But it’s not just the fight sequences that make this film fun, it’s the visuals, and all the tricks Nolan has up his sleeve to make things unique. The visual aspects in this film will take your breath away. I liked how Nolan, in a world where 3-D is on every the big screen every damn weekend, he sticks it straight, with the original 2-D visuals, which I think I loved more than any 3-D film I’ve ever seen. He uses a lot of CGI, but it doesn’t look like it at all, it really does look these people are walking around in a world, that they have created themselves, and as they start to change it around, it looks even cooler, cause your wondering, just how they made this seem all realistic. My favorite scene that rightfully shows how great of a director Christopher Nolan can be with the setting, and many tricks, is the fight scene in the hall-way. If you saw the first trailer, you have seen what some of it looks like, but the whole scene with that makes you think: “How in the hell did they do this?”. It is literally the greatest film sequence I have seen in awhile, probably one of my favorite Top 5.
The whole ensemble cast is what really lifts this too. Leonardo DiCaprio, is well, what you would expect him to be, is great as usual. He plays that sort of troubled, straight-forward guy in almost all of his movies, but it’s never really seem to have worn out. The film may be advertised as the Leo show, when in reality, its the rest of the cast, that keeps us in. Ellen Page ditches her smart-ass teen days, and actually shows some good acting skills, giving us a look at the potential she has, as a serious actress, although she will always be remembered as Juno. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is one my favorites, is showing up in more stuff, and is good to see on-screen cause he handles a lot of the big dramatic scenes, really well, almost showing up Leo. Yes! I said it! Gordon-Levitt vs. DiCaprio on PPV. That’s something I would always pay to see. Tom Hardy is good here, bringing a lot of funny moments to the film, but not without showing he is still a bad-ass, and can whoop some booty. Ken Watanabe is also good, however, I couldn’t understand him a lot, he still doesn’t lose his composure while on-screen. Cillian Murphy, another one of my favorites, shows up and gives some more good scenes, with an American accent, that actually seems real. It was also good to see Marion Cotillard, playing a different type of role, than the strong female lead. She is playing a crazy chick, and is shown in some pretty dramatic scenes, but she still holds her own, and I have to give her props for that, cause I could see plenty of actresses messing that up. I was disappointed to see Lukas Haas, Michael Caine, and Tom Berenger, get little bitch roles, but it’s whatever, I was glad with the cast they got.
The film is not perfect, the film doesn’t show us a glimpse into these characters lives. They don’t have enough in their roles to show how great they are or how great they can really be. But despite that, I still had a good time watching these actors perform all together.
Consensus: Inception is the rare summer blockbuster that has almost everything you could want in a film: fun action, interesting plot, original screenplay, unique and stylish visuals, inspired direction, and wonderful performances from an ensemble cast. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn sure as hell close to it.
A different type of gimmick.
When a secret crush turns up dead and the murderer is anyone’s guess, teenage loner Brendan Fry (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is forced to navigate his school’s social network through intense interactions with thespians, band geeks and druggies (including a grown-up Lukas Haas).
The film has all the elements of a noir: dark atmosphere, creepy score, and haunting visuals, but the twist here is that its set in a 21st century high school.
In my opinion this film has one of the best writing-directing debuts of all time from Rian Johnson. The screenplay is just filled with so much humor, bleakness, and so much mystery, that it almost all feels to realistic. You watch those old noir films and you will realize that nobody else really talks like they do, and in this film, you get the sense of how real people talk in this, especially with all their hipster dialogue. Some of the parts in this film are actually tongue-in-cheek, and I liked that separation from old noirs mostly. The direction from Johnson is very inspired, because there are so many parts where this film could have just did the cliche route of being too corny, and obvious, but instead delves more into its plot and how much its characters become even more rich.
The one problem I had with this film was the handling of the ending, and its message. The end could have been set up so well, and so intriguing but it only goes for the slow ending and a not very effective one to say the least.
Brick has one of the best protagonists in a film played by the great Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The reason why this person is so great is because we step into the movie having no idea who he is other than just your typical loner at school, but as the film progresses we get to see him as a person more and more, who will stop at nothing to find the truth. Gordon-Levitt is what you would call your anti-hero, because he doesn’t strive to be great, he just is crazy and your everyday person, and that’s what makes him great. I also liked Lukas Haas as “The Pin” who plays a wonderful parody on the old mobster leaders, from those films, and probably gives one of the best supporting performances.
Consensus: Brick is short of an effective ending, and has the look, touch, and feel of a noir, but with a twist, great writing and direction, and a superbly acted cast.