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.

Up In The Air

“Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically over a lifetime. Star crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not swans. We are sharks.” One of the many philosophies of Ryan Bingham, a man who lives his life on the road and literally calls Hilton one of his homes. Bingham works for a corporate downsizing agency that steps in and fires people, and his biggest aspiration is to reach the 10 million mile mark with American Airlines. He also prides himself on perks, earning all kinds of points and jumping to the front of any line at an airport or hotel. This film is a dark satire about business, relationships and being on the road.

George Clooney (Oceans 11, Michael Clayton, Burn After Reading) plays the man Ryan Bingham. Although his role seemed to be the type that Clooney is best at, and to me kind of  Clooney being Clooney, this just might be enough to earn him a Best Actor Oscar. I think he will for sure be nominated, and I can’t really think of a leading role that would beat him. He plays a go getter and on the move businessman, and is really top notch in his role. Of course part of what makes George Clooney so good is his surrounding cast, and the two women that are with him throughout the movie are very good. Vera Farmiga (The Departed, Orphan) plays Alex who is a business woman who has much of the same attitude as Bingham, proud of her plastic cards, hotel and airport perks. Bingham’s coworker and travel partner is played by Anna Kendrick (Twilight). Her character Natalie Keener is the antagonist of Bingham, standing for commitment and settling down in relationships, yet she is the very one pushing the cutting edge in business about to knock Bingham out of a job. Jason Bateman (Juno, State of Play), Sam Elliot (The Golden Compass, The Contender) and J K Simmons (Juno, Spiderman, Rendition) all make appearances.

All in all, I think Up In The Air is a terrific film. Director Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You For Smoking) has a wonderful style for satire. Already nominated for Best Picture in the Golden Globes, I can see this getting an Oscar nod as well. Especially with the new field of 10 nominees. With great directing and superberb charaters throughout the film, this is worth catching for sure.

After Hours

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After Hours seemed to start out a little bit slow for me, but I will admit, it was reeling me in for events about to happen. This film follows Paul Hackett, played by Griffin Dunne, through the events of an evening. Starting off trying to hook up with Marcy, played by Rosanna Arquette, Paul finally calls her and agrees to meet her at her friends house in Soho. Certain events happen (not giving too much away here…just check out the film) that evening and the only thing Paul wants to do is tell his story to the cops and go home. Anything that could happen to Paul, does happen. His world slowly crumbles and he seems to go to deeper darker places in the nightlife world of Soho. There are some great characters throughout the movie, Terri Garr (Tootsie) plays Julie the emotionally unstable waitress, Will Patton (Armageddon) plays a leather enthusiast and Catherine O’Hara (Best In Show) plays a plaster sculpture.

This film was directed by Martin Scorsese. After Hours is a very good dark comedy, something I wasn’t expecting from a director know for violence, having directed Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and more recently The Departed. The movie does seem dated in its style and music, but it still seems to work. Even though it seems a bit out of the norm for Scorsese, this is a very entertaining film. And if seems to start out slow for you, hang in there with it. This one is worth checking out when you in the mood for a black comedy.

–The Singing Hot Dog

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.