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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Finally, AVATAR! Can’t believe that James Cameron finally has a new film out after a long wait from his last movie….that  little film called Titanic. The Director of True Lies and Aliens delivers again. The film follows an ex-marine, Jake Sully, who is wheelchair bound, to Pandora. His twin brother was recently killed and Jake has the same DNA, a necessity to take over his brothers Avatar. The Avatars are used by the marines to attempt to infiltrate the local natives, the Navi. The Navi are living directly above a large deposit of valuable minerals, and Jake’s job is to try to get the Navi to relocate in order to mine the region. Of course once Jake has infiltrated the Navi, he finds himself more a part of the Navi than he realizes.

As far as performances, to me there were no really outstanding performances. Everyone in the film was solid, but nothing that is going to stir up the Academy for an Oscar. Jake Sully is played by Sam Worthington who was in this past summers Terminator Salvation. Sigourney Weaver (Aliens, Death and the Maiden) is once again teamed up with Cameron as Dr. Grace Augustine, the local scientist and expert on the Navi culture. Giovanni Ribisi (Saving Private Ryan) plays company man Parker, and Stephen Lang (Gettysburg, Public Enemies) is the macho-over-the-top kill the natives colonel.

On to the special effects, and yes they were special! My opinion, Oscars all around for the special effects team. The entire film is visually stunning and well worth catching on the big screen. In fact it is a must to catch on the big screen, with such sweeping shots, and panoramic scenes, definitely a must! I might also mention the 3D, well worth seeing it in 3D as well. It never is distracting to the movie, it enhances the film and does not take away at all. It was nice to see this element used in this way, and not have the cheap 3D gags throughout, like a sword being pointed at you or items coming at you for no other reason than to remind you that you are watching a 3D movie.

To sum it all up, this is worth going to see for sure. It has already been nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes. Even though I think this is a must see on the big screen, by no means is it a fresh storyline, which I really wanted from Cameron. The movie really played out like Dances With Wolves or The Emerald Forest. And I was even reminded of other Cameron films, the Ribisi character Parker seemed like a company man right out of Aliens with the same agenda. The military ships even reminded me of the landing craft in Aliens. Ok, even the score done by James Horner was even a bit too much reminiscent of Titanic. So by no means is this film perfect in my eyes. It is jawdropping beautiful and it is something like you have never seen before. The only thing I can compare it to is seeing Star Wars for the first time as a boy in grade school. The imagination and creativity put into this film is something to see for sure!

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.