It's more than a bit perplexing to ponder how The Spirit came to be. Not that one should wonder how another superhero film was greenlit, for that much is obvious. But how is it that Frank Miller got to direct and write his own film? Yes, he was the co-director (allegedly) on Sin City, but so what? How much directing did he actually do on Sin City? What did he learn? I would like to suppose that he didn't learn much at all. Take one look at The Spirit, and you could see why.
The Spirit, as this masked viligante is known, is a ghostly masked hero, the only man to have escaped the Angel of Death. Besides that one detail, he's just like any other hero. He has an arch-nemesis who goes by the name of The Octupus, played by Samuel L. Jackson. And just like any hero, he has women to love. One is a femme fatale anti herione, Sand Sarif (Eva Mendes) and the other is Ellan Dolan (Sarah Paulsen) the police commissioners daughter.
Sand Sarif was the one that got away. She loved Denny Colt before he was the Spirit. They were close childhood friends, until her father was shot by cops. She fled to Europe to earn those riches she desperately craved and rid herself of her own identity.
The biggest problem ( and there are many) is the shallowness of this effort. It's a nice film to look at, but not much else. Looking at this film with it's hyper-noir asthetic, overly reminiscent of Sin City, one get's the feeling that Miller may owe Robert Rodriquez a big royalty check.
The characters aren't interesting, and the performances range from stone-faced and wooden to shrieking and hysterical over kill. And while Miller attempts to replicate the noir of his early comics, it all feels like an empty pastiche with no geniune emotion to be found.
It's been 12 years since the Muppets last graced the silver screen, making the prospect of a new film unlikely. The Muppets had become an antique, and something of the older generation,; a bit of nastologia that had no place in the Apatow generation. It was then unlikely that Jason Segel, the same man to expose himself on screen, would be the man to bring back the group. What's more unlikely is how successful he is at not only resurrecting the old troupe, but adding a new life and vitality to a storied institution.
Segel plays Gary, a man in love with the Muppets. He and his younger brother, Walter, have that same devotion to the show as two fanatics with one uniting passion. Gary and his girlfriend Mary, played by Amy Adams, plan to spend thier anniversary in Los Angeles. Things become a bit more complicated when Gary invites Walter along with the intention of seeing the Muppets theater together.
After the theater, Walter learns of a plot hatched by the theaters new owner, a cartoonishly evil oilman,Tex Richman (Chris Cooper). Richman knows that there is plenty of oil to be drilled underneath the theater floor. If he were to purchase that theater he could make lots of dough. Walter and Gary go to Kermit with the details of Richman's scheme, begging him to get the old gang back together for another show. They need to raise 10 million to save the theater!
What comes across most clearly throughout the picture is the infectious joy that is shared by all the performers. Everyone is having a blast putting on a good, goofy show. Jason Segel especially is having the time of his life. He has spent most of his life watching the muppets on the small and big screen, and he relishes the opportunity to bring his childhood dreams to vivid life.
Amy Adams is very charming as his concerned girlfriend. This is not a challenging or nuanced role, giving her the chance to really let loose. Even Chris Cooper loves chewing the scenery the as the evil business man.
The script manages to deftly balance an innocence and joy with a bit of postmodern cynicism. It's a film that will easily to appeal to old and new audiences, and the fim itself is a triumph of laughter and song.
The French animated film, The Illusionist, is many things. It is a subtle animated masterpiece of warmth, humor. It is also a story of sadness and loss. It tells the tale of an aging magician who is maybe a bit past his prime. Traveling from theater to theater, he is often met by a nearly empty theater. The kids don't want to see magic anymore. They are too caught up in the magic of rock and roll and the sound and color that is modern cinema. His profession has become an antique, an interesting parlor trick to amuse the old timers.
Things begin to change when he meets a young girl, who is amazed by his small feats of illusionary magic. Together they encounter wild acrobats, sad clowns, and a deranged ventriloquist. There is a sort of magical spark between the two. Possibly, a hope that that there is hope.
A warm and poignant animated marvel, The Illusionist, is in many ways a modern silent film. This old man embodies much of what make the films of Chaplin so endearing for so many. Like the little tramp he often finds there is little to offer in this modern time. But despite all that, he always carries himself with a sense of confidence and optimism. There is always the hope that things will brighten, and a new day will come. So buck up, and keep on truckin' along.
What seperates a film like Reservoir Dogs from any other heist noir, is it's strangeness. Tarantino had written a script where the criminals could about anything and everything. In just the opening scene alone, there is lively discussing involving big dicks, Madonna and the virtues of waitress tipping. The typical crime film would only include dialogue which gives us information. The criminals would carefully plan out the prodecure for their heist. But our thugs seem far more interested in other things. Maybe that's why things go so horribly wrong. Maybe they should have planned a little more.
Reservoir Dogs was the first directorial effort from Quentin Tarantino, a colorful and very violent heist film. There is a clear love for the crime film, a love that he would eventually extend to the blaxpoitation and Kung Fu, and the Spaghetti Western. Reservoir Dogs is a film that overflows with love for the movies. Tarantino loves this shit. And rather than just give us the typical heist picture, he's going to mess with us just a bit. He will never show the heist itself.
The film is a sort before and after crime picture. We first meet our gang in the restuarant, presumably just before the big show. We then cut to the aftermath in which Tim Roth (Mr. Orange) is bleeding like a pig in the back of a car, as Harvey Keitel (Mr. White) is just trying to comfort the poor guy. Mr. White brings Orange back to the meeting place, an abondoned warehouse, with full knowledge that poor Mr. Orange is doomed. Accusations and double crossings fly across the screen as the action ensues until the bloody finale.
Like all Tarantino's films there is a wild juxtaposition of brutal violence and humor. The same film which contains a wild explanation behind "Like A Virgin", also contains one of the most brutal scenes of violence put to film. Some may find this to be a bit disturbing, a very flippant way of treating screen violence, but the violence is taken very seriously. It's important to take note of it's graphic nature, which gives an indication of the seriousness with which Tarantino deals with violence. He always makes a point of showing the full effects of all that gun play, which is never pretty. This isn't all just fun and games
If I were to make a complaint about the film, is that it's very much an exercise in style. There isn't that depth that Tarantino will reach with Pulp Fiction or Inglorious Basterds. But it's stunning to see just how assured Tarantino is with a camera at such a young age. This is only the second picture that he would direct himself, and he is clearly in control with his skills as a writer and his typical visual flair. And he would only continue to improve with each film. Reservoir Dogs gives evidence of someone who was about to become a master of cinema.
The Killer Inside is a chilling piece of pitch black film noir. Based upon the Jim Thompson novel of the same name, it's a portrait of a man with many dark secrets. Casey Affleck plays Lou Ford, a deputy sheriff of Central City, a small texas town. Lou is given the thankless task of paying off a local prostitute, Joyce Lakeland, played by Jessica Alba. Chester Conway (Ned Beatty), Central City's big wig, wants her payed off and run out of town after word leaks out that she's been carrying on with his son, Elmer Conway. Lou, however, has plans of his own.
What lies behind Lou's kind eyes and southern gentleman exterior is a cold blooded killer. His simple task of paying of a whore leads to murder and cover up. Casey Affleck perfectly portrays a man who is slowly coming apart at the seams. As in his previous role as Robert Ford in Jesse James, he exhibits that great ability to portray men of potentially violent unbalance. Something is not quite right with this Lou character, and no one can quite place thier finger on it, until it's too late. His kindly facade is coming undone, slowly revealing the killer that lies beneath.
Most of the cast gives good performances here. Even Bill Pullman is effective in his very few minutes of screen time here. Kate Hudson, taking a break from her typical rom-com dreck, is good here as well. The only weak spot is Jessica Alba, who is typically unconvincing as Miss Lakeland.
There was much hysteria upon the films release concerning the film's depiction of violence. I will aknowledge that the violence is at times disturbing, but I think it's extent has been widely overstated. Much of the worst violence takes place off screen. You never really see the infamous beating, but I think it's done so effectively that people are convinced they have. Like Pyscho and Reservoir Dogs have shown before, the most effective use of violence is simply suggested and not shown.
It's clear that much of the controversy has been the violence that is inflicted on women. One claim that the film is misogynist, but that's missing the point. Portraying people who hate women, does not make the film misogynist. If that were true, then any film portraying racism would have to be racist. Critics have to seperate the film's content from it's point of view. There is a difference that should be recognized.