The director, writers, producers must have suffered a meteoric meltdown to think that this sophomoric drivel qualifies as entertainment. An ageing, once renown soccer player, "George" (Gerard Butler) returns to a town of desperate housewives (Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta Jones, Judy Greer), to reconnect with his ten-year-old son, "Lewis" (an enchanting Noah Lomax)) and ex-wife, "Stacie" (Jessica Biel). Predictability ensues: ups and downs of a father/son relationship; out-of-work George tackles the challenges of coaching a beleaguered, winless, little league soccer team, hoping to garnish the esteem and affection of Lewis (and still loved ex-wife, Stacie).
If the script would have stayed true to this saccharine scenario it might have been modestly successful; the only scenes of value were on the soccer field and the discourse between Lewis, George and Stacie. Instead, the plot sinks into the salacious behavior of the "soccer moms", beautiful, bored predators, praying on the uninitiated, primate; testing his off-the-field skills; George becomes a tool, a foil, lending supposed legitimacy to women devoid of morals or purpose; their "Stepford" vapidity render characterizations that are repugnant, pitifully embarrassing. It is a conundrum, anomaly as to why fine actors would sink to the level of shallow, superficial, chauvinistic roles.
ONE & 1/2 STARS!
Which was precisely what the audience suffered through 97 minutes of this brutal, taut expose where all are nefarious; just varying degrees of separation. The once, remarkably handsome Brad Pitt, plays philosophical "gun-for-hire", "Jackie Cogan" who "kills" from a distance, so as not to get too personal, sentimentally involved; his creed is ambushed by circumstances and his assassinations spread blood as intensely as water in post-Katrina , New Orleans.
Director Andrew Dominik features a seasoned cast (Pitt, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, Scott McNairy) in a glum, lugubrious plot, revolving around the financial woes of dismal, droll, untoward individuals.
It is 2008, and the strokes of visual and audio irony, referencing the waning days of the Bush administration, the implosion of the housing bubble and the platitudinous, prophetic rise of Barak Obama, lend minimal humor and legitimacy to the oh-so-sorrowful-scenario.
There is nothing, or no one to champion; just insignificant, worthless, unwashed villains (whose redolent, imagined pungent scent, triggered olfactory hallucinations), focusing on the indelible code of the underworld; it is a business, rules known and ruthlessly enforced; ambitiously, erroneously, paralleled with the United States, "Killing Them Softly" could not conclude fast or hard enough for me.
Eleven years ago I read and relished Yann Martel's irresistible, allegorical "Life of Pi"; many pivotal books gradually sink into the vast recesses of one's mind, titles fade, but in this instance Pi's journey sunk its literary teeth into a comfortable corner of my memory; took up permanent residence, and in gratitude to Ang Lee's profoundly beautiful, visual production, a substantive, realistic vibrancy emerges as the tale unfolds.
"Life of Pi" is a technological jewel: impeccable, magical cinematography (Claudio Miranda); 3-D intensely engaging, the viewer is embraced by nature's ferocity and enchantment. Underwater and celestial sequences, positively pregnant with the wizardry of man's imagination and skill.
The novel resonated as a metaphorical journey, each animal an anthropomorphic example of the human condition; every obstacle bested, resulting in one more sunrise, sunset; addressing why some thrive while others languish. At the powerful core was the mystical, metaphysical belief in a higher being, and Pi's acceptance of three primary religions: Hinduism, Catholicism and Islam; all protected him from demoralization, cloaked him in hope for 227 days; ship-wrecked in the Pacific Ocean; water and its curative, cleansing attributes play a key role in these diverse faiths and purge Pi of any incidentals, illusions as to himself and his insignificance when confronted with the daunting, unrelenting magnitude of nature. His sole companion, "Richard Parker", a glorious, wild Bengal tiger; Pi's nemesis to be trained, fed; a reason to fight the inevitability of death.
Suraj Sharma is genuine, refreshing, riveting, as "Pi" (shortened from, "Piscine Molitor" a swimming pool in Paris); at sixteen he is cauterized from all he knows: family, country, stability; levity, anguish, enlightenment inform his characterization. "Richard Parker", mistakenly named after his captor, is a metaphor for tackling one's eminent fears; Nietzsche thought that what does not fell us, fortifies our resolve. From the onset we know that Pi survives; the narrative is spun by the adult " Pi" (pure, arresting portrayal by Irrfan Khan) who tells his remarkable story to an inquisitive writer ( Rafe Spall).
Life is about choices and in conclusion "Life of Pi" leaves the choice to the reader/viewer. Herein, lies the greatness of this immaculately wonderful book and film.
It is a rarity, but it is nothing short of stupendous when a film exponentially gets better and better; David O. Russell's ("The Fighter") rocks the charts with this winner. Anticipation eliminated: "Silver Lining Playbook" garnishes five sterling STARS!!!!! I loved it.
From its tragic-comic commencement: "Pat Solitano" (herculean performance by Bradley Cooper) is picked up from a stint in a mental institution; he went berserk after discovering the infidelity of his wife with a fellow teacher; his mother "Dolores" (quiet, sensitive, masterful performance by Jackie Weaver, "Animal Kingdom") gingerly brings him home to "Pat, Sr." (Robert De Niro is pungently powerful as the obsessive, superstitious Philadelphia Eagles fan); from one raucous moment to the next, Pat's life is a cacophony of unexpected experiences; disjointed, misinterpreted dialogues with friends and strangers; lacerating honesty springs from his uninhibited mind; his inhibitions, boundaries have vanished; what spews off his tongue results in hilarious "truisms" that perpetually hit the bulls-eye on the reality scale.
The plot soars and sizzles when he meets "Tiffany" (Jennifer Lawrence at twenty-two has hermetically cornered stardom; palpable genius shimmering on the screen) a woundedâ€“widow, with the "mouth" of a stevedore and a will molded by devastation, she's a force that "Pat", bereft of innate defenses, challenges, but any victory, pyrrhic.
"Silver Lining Playbook" is profound in addressing life's cruel interruptions: loss of the known, love, and self; wounds heal but scars remain sacred, reminders of what's past but not determining, forecasting the future. Resonating with redemption, every character evolves, wordless introspectiveness morphs into rejuvenated, revived genuinely likeable even loveable individuals; striving, struggling within their natural sphere, all achieving their "personal best".
Minor roles by Anupam Kher, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker gift layer upon layer of rollicking richness to this fine, joyously entertaining, uplifting film: signifying everything; leaving, believing the silver lining was always there, within reach, illusive but attainable.
Daniel Craig is an incredible actor but I felt was totally miscast as the dashing, elegant special agent "007,James Bond"; he lacked the debonair, savoir faire, Lothario charm and beauty of his predecessors; his female interactions hovered at the wham/bam level. He excelled as the robotic, mechanical slayer of evil miscreants, but lacked the instincts of a man who felled women with a single glance.
"Skyfall" is one of the finest action films in recent years: magnificently, thrillingly filmed; award-worthy cinematography; gone are the ubiquitous cliches, dated double entendres, casual, blase intimacies (one exception that is justified); now audiences are treated to a playing field where men and women are on par with each other.
The success of "Skyfall" lies in the contemporary and stunning portrayal of a more human, wounded, flawed and ageing "James Bond" and Daniel Craig is dazzling, brilliant in the role; magnificent commencement leading to his demise, resurrection, reinstatement, compellingly, realistically depicted; empathizing and rooting for the lacerated, crestfallen hero.
"Skyfall" triumphs in the relationship between "M" (another iconic performance by Judi Dench), "Silva" (Javiar Bardem, corners the market on unctuous, slimy, blazing villainy), and composed, mysterious Bond. Their relationships, history bleed wonderfully into each other; they are masters of their trade and with each hair-raising, surprising scene, reveal the essence, core of their nature, morphing into an intriguing, mesmerizing menage a trios; a triangle for the ages.
"Skyfall" (only at the conclusion does one learn its meaning) is titillating, scintillating, tauntingly innovative; minor roles of "Q" (Ben Whishaw), "Eve" (Naomie Harris), "Gareth Mallory" (Ralph Finnes), "Kincade" (Albert Finney) change previous conceptions of archival Bond films; Sam Mendes has directed a twenty-first century gem, a fascinating genesis destined to be exploited throughout the millennium.
FOUR & 1/2 STARS!!!!