Shutter Island

Man, have I been the biggest slacker as of late as far as keeping up with reviews. It is really tough sometimes to find the time to write your thoughts on a particular movie, especially as many as I watch. I will try to do a better job, especially with all the good movies that seem to be headed our way, and some already here.

Lets’s get started with a film that I have been looking forward to for a very long time, one that I wanted to see since the trailer came out, and one I would see anyway just because it is the GREAT Martin Scorsese! (Goodfellas, Raging Bull, The Departed…lot to live up to huh!) Maybe some of this review is my very high expectations and maybe some of it has to do with the film making itself, but this turned out to be a very average film.

The film stars Leonardo Dicaprio (Titanic, Gangs of New York, The Aviator) as the lead investigator trying to solve the disappearance of a woman from an asylum for the criminally insane. Mark Ruffalo (Zodiac) plays his partner Chuck and they begin to dive into interviewing staff, patients and doctors of the asylum to locate the missing woman. During their investigation Dicaprio’s character experiences flashbacks, some intriguing and some stilted and very out of place. Ben Kingsley  (Best Actor Gandhi) plays Dr Cawley and is suspicious from the beginning. Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain), Jackie Earl Haley (Little Children) and Max Von Sydow (The Exorcist) are all in this film as well, but are rather disappointing with not much character development. So there really wasn’t that much to work with.

Martin Scorsese does a great job as a film maker and shows his craft with very artful scenes, but that is about it. I think as far as a director telling this story he missed some chances to make this movie very memorable. This is not a horror story or a ghost story as you might think from the trailer, it is a psychological thriller. Not to give anything away, but when the mystery is solved, the way they reveal it is very weak, again missing the chance to really have this film pay off in a big way at the end, instead it just limps along and things are revealed in about the only way information is given to the viewer, through a seemingly forced interview.

It may sound like I absolutely hated this film. It did have a few highlights, but on the whole, for me, a let down from what I was expecting. If you want my advice, just wait for this one on dvd and just rent it on a rainy Sunday afternoon, when there is no football on.

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The Aviator

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The Aviator, deservedly nominated for Best Picture, and in my opinion, a much better film than the winner that year, Million Dollar Baby.  This is a film about Howard Hughes and in particular his love for aviation. The film begins in Hughes “directing” era when he is making Hells Angels. While in production of his film Hughes is constantly pushing the boundaries of aviation and eventually buys TWA and challenges Pan Am’s monopoly on international flights. Of course the Hercules…more commonly known as the Spruce Goose…is included in the film as well as the congressional hearings and Hughes eventual demise due to his obsessive compulsive disorder.

This movie has a stellar cast highlighted by Leonardo DiCaprio’s (Titanic, Gangs of New York) portrayal of Mr. Hughes. DiCaprio is wonderful at having an attitude about not caring about money, when ever there is a problem, his solution is to “buy” it or hire someone to fix it. For example hiring Professor Fitz, played by Ian Holm (Lord of the Rings), to monitor clouds for in teh background in the movie  Hells Angels. DiCaprio is also great in slowly introducing the obsessive compulsive side of Howard Hughes. From being paranoid about washing his hands to the extreme side when he has locked himself in a room, totally naked, trying to avoid any type of germ. Personally, I thought Leonardo DiCaprio could have won an Oscar for this role. I though both he and Don Cheadle (nominated for Hotel Rwanda) were better than Jamie Foxx in Ray, but we all have our opinions.

The other outstanding performance, which did result in an Oscar, was Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth) playing Katherine Hepburn. She was incredible with her accent and the way she carried herself in general. As I mentioned this film has a great cast, and many very nice performances…..Alan Alda (MASH) was nominated as best supporting actor for his role as Senator Brewster, Alec Baldwin (Beetlejuice) as Juan Trippe, and even a small role for Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) playing actor Errol Flynn.

Behind the camera is Martin Scorsese (Best Director The Departed), and usually what ever he is involved with turns out nothing less than great. Again, another Oscar could have been won here as I thought for directing, he did a much better job and took more risks than Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby. (Although I never mind seeing Clint Eastwood win anything, he has become an American icon.) For instance, look at the first hour of the Aviator, there are no greens in the movie to reflect a look and tone of the time. No your TV does not need adjusting, even the green peas on the plate are blue. The Aviator with it’s grand scale and top notch cast needed a great director like Martin Scorsese, as where I believe there are a handful of directors that could have done Million Dollar Baby.

As much as I have mentioned the word Oscar here, it did take home 5 Oscars and deservedly so. If you have not seen this film, this is really a great movie and worth watching. It will give you an appreciation of what Howard Hughes did for the field of aviation and the airline industry. At least see this once.

Catch Me If You Can

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You can usually count on Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List) to deliver, and he does. This movie is a pretty good account of Frank Abagnale Jr., who takes being an impostor and forger to a whole new level. Leaving his house at an early age, he pretends to be be school teachers, airline pilots and doctors, and of course gets the hefty pay checks! Although he really never saw his father again, Chrispopher Walken (Pulp Fiction) plays Frank Sr and is a good sounding board for Frank Jr., played by Leonardo DiCaprio. (Titanic, The Aviator) After years of running from the FBI, Carl Hanratty played by Tom Hanks (Best Actor Philadelphia, Forrest Gump) finally rescues him from a French prison to take him back to the United States, just to be incarcerated there. Hanratty seeing his talents eventually recruits him to serve out his sentence helping the FBI as an adviser. 

Leonardo DiCaprio gives a very good performance showing love for his father, and the rest of his family as he is on the run. Christopher Walken was very good, but to me he seems to play the same character over and over again. Nice performances from those who had smaller parts, Amy Adams (Doubt) and Martin Sheen (The Departed).

I imagine most have seen this film, but if you haven’t, take the time to watch this one. It is a very well acted well crafted film, from the opening cut paper look title sequences to the soundtrack. The is great cinema storytelling!