Posts Tagged ‘drama’

Argo

I recall going to see Apollo 13 as a teenager and being excited to come home from the theater and asking my parents what they remember about a story that surely was one of the biggest events of their youth.

They’d never heard of it. I was shocked. How could such a big story be such a non-event to most people? How was this even possible? How many other things are going on every day that we are completely unaware of.

Directed by Ben Affleck, Argo is based on the real life rescue of six hostages from Iran. Tony Mendez (Affleck) is brought in to sneak six hostages out of the country. The story was to pretend the six hostages were six Canadian filmmakers in Iran to scout potential film locations for a fictional sci-fi movie named “Argo.”

The movie is extremely well done. The story is fantastic, the look is authentic, and the dramatic moments were were almost perfect (I’ve got one small beef near the end, but I can’t go into it without spoiling big parts of the movie).

After making the brilliant “Good Will Hunting” in 1997, Ben Affleck has seen his stock rise and fall. He had his fair share of failed movies as well as some high profile failed relationships. It seemed that the tabloid media loved to watch this guy fail the same way they enjoy writing stories about Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan today. However, in 2007, he released the under-the-radar Gone Baby Gone. The masses weren’t expecting much, but it was critically acclaimed. Three years later, he released the ridiculously awesome The Town.

As a director, Affleck is batting a perfect 3-for-3 and has joined the ranks of Tarantino, Nolan, and Scorsese in the category of “must watch” directors. Like Clint Eastwood, Affleck’s directing style seems to be simplistic and a throwback to an older (better?) era of movie making which focused on the story. Unlike Gone Baby Gone and The Town, the characters in this movie actually wind up being almost underdeveloped. I appreciated this approach, though, because further developing the characters would’ve done very little to move forward the plot. In fact, it very easily could’ve been a distraction that caused the flow of the movie to feel almost clunky (see another Affleck movie Pearl Harbor for an example of how trying to develop characters can kill a movie). In a strange way, minor characters – played by big name performances such as John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, and Alan Arkin – are more developed than characters who spend more time on the screen.

Argo is one or two minor missteps from being a brilliant movie. As I mentioned before, there is one really minor scene near the end that I thought was a little overly cinematic, but it isn’t even close to ruining the ending of the movie (a la He Got Game). As someone who catches a lot of movies on dvd, I highly recommend getting out to a theater to check this one out.

9.0

out of 10

23

10 2012

Retro Review: The Breakfast Club

This review originally appeared at brenthanson.net on May 16, 2004

Movie
I can’t talk about The Breakfast Club without sounding like I have a non-sexual man crush on John Hughes. I’m not exactly sure if this is my favorite 80’s movie, but its probably the most fun to watch. They’ll replay this on TBS probably about 5-10 times a month (just a guess), and if I see it on, I’ll drop everything and watch the end of the movie. I’m still amazed that until this year, I had actually never seen the start of this movie.
Five high schools who have little to do with each other are forced to spend a Saturday in detention in the school library with only Principal Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason) to supervise them. Among the five students are the jock Andy (Emilio Estevez), the nerd Brian (80’s legend Anthony Michael Hall), the bad kid John Bender (Judd Nelson), the popular girl Claire (Molly Ringwald), and the outcast Allison (Ally Sheedy). At the beginning of the day, the five want absolutely nothing to do with each other. By the end of the day, they have a complete understanding for each other even though they may not go on to be the best of friends throughout the rest of their high school careers. Their day together in detention has taught them that even though they come from different backgrounds, they still are much more similar than they could have ever imagined.
I think the real beauty about this movie is the characters. As stereotypical as they might be, they all are very easy for almost anyone to relate to. I even found that as I grew older, I started to even feel sympathetic towards the principal and the janitor. Even if you yourself was more like Claire (the Molly Ringwald character) or Andy (the Mighty Ducks guy), you can still relate to both the nerdy Brian and the tough guy Bender.


Video & Sound
While it “looks good for an 80’s flick”, I definitely wouldn’t hold the re-release of the Breakfast Club up next to any of the new stuff being released on DVD these days. It is presented in anamorphic widescreen and it’s good enough that you can throw away your copy on VHS. The sound, while presented in DTS and Dolby DIgital 5.1, is average at best. You’ll never hear Simple Minds “Don’t Forget About Me” sound better, though!


Extras
Nope… nothing other than trailers for the other John Hughes movies.


Closing Thoughts…
You’re not going to find a nicer slice of 80’s nostalgia than this! I’d imagine almost everyone has at least flipped through this movie on TBS at least once. If you’re a fan of the 80’s, you’ve gotta buy this up on DVD!


Movie – 8
Video & Sound – 5
Extras – 0
Overall – 6

18

10 2012

Retro Review: The Spanish Apartment

This review originally appeared on brenthanson.net on September 22, 2004

Movie
Xavier (Romain Duris) is a graduate student from France who is trying to find his place in life. His parents sort of boss him around and his girlfriend (Amelie’s Audrey Tautou) isn’t the most pleasant towards him. He’s at a crossroads in his life and he’s confused at to what to do next. After taking some of his father’s advice, he decides to move to Barcelona to finish up his economics degree with an emphasis in Spanish.
On his way to the airport, he runs into Jean-Michael (Xavier De Guillebon), a brain surgeon, and his new wife Anne-Sophie (Judith Godrèche). After figuring out he doesn’t want to live with a friend of his mother, he gives Jean-Michael a call and moves in with them temporarily sleeping on the couch.
Eventually, he finds an apartment along with a few other “Erasmus” students all from different countries. Wendy (Kelly Reilly) is a quiet redhead from England. She’s also joined later by her loudmouth brother William (Kevin Bishop). Isabelle (Cécile De France) from Belgium is probably Xavier’s best friend in the house and also is studying economics. Alessandro (Federico D’Anna) doesn’t seem to do a whole lot other than hang around the house, but he’s from Italy nonethless. Rounding out the house is Lars (Christian Pagh), who is from the Netherlands, and Soledad (Cristina Brondo), who is from Spain, are a couple living together.
To be honest, not a whole lot happens in term of plot. The group of people get closer. There are fights, cheating, crushes, and just about everything else that goes along with any good episode of the Real World. Actually, the Real World analogy is almost appropriate for this movie. Much lke the Real World, most of the characters will be forgotten as soon as you turn the movie off, but it still is a cute, fun movie. I found myself relating to Xavier quite often. I’ve oftened found myself questioning if what I’m doing with my life is right. Part of me wishes I would’ve went over to Europe for a full year during college. Think of this movie as a European version of the Breakfast Club. It’s smarter than your average teen movie, but it keeps all the fun of one.

Video & Sound
While it didn’t look unbelievable, the look of this film was good. It actually looks like a well-shot indie film. Both 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1:33 full screen are available on this flipper. The language is in 5.1 French, but there is also quite a bit of Spanish and English thrown in as most of the characters are bilingual.

Extras
Nothing… not even a trailer.

Closing thoughts…
The movie tries to spit some knowledge on the viewer about how Europe needs to be more unified. In the end, it’s not an unbelievable movie or anything, but it’s better than 95% of movies you’ll see in theaters here on this side of the pond. It reminds me about the memories I have just hanging out with friends not doing much of anything.

Movie – 8
Video & Sound – 7
Extras – 0
Overall – 6

11

10 2012

50/50

In 2009, Joseph Gordon-Levitt somewhat randomly showed up on the biggest little movie of the year “(500) Days of Summer.” I used to know him as the other squinty guy on “3rd Rock from the Sun”. I hadn’t seen him for about 10 years since he starred in a movie that remains one of my favorite guilty pleasures – “10 Things I Hate About You.” I found the movie maybe not quite as good as a lot of people had built it up to be, but was really impressive with his performance. Since that movie, he’s been in movies that have hauled in nearly $1 billion at the box office (around $2.3 billion if you account for overseas). Needless to say, I’m not the only person that has taken notice.

50/50 is a story about Adam Lerner (Gordon-Levitt), a 27-year old radio journalist who finds out he has a malignant tumor. After doing a little research on the internet, he finds out his chance of survival is 50% (hence, the movie title). The story is based on Will Reiser (writer), a friend of Seth Rogen (who plays Adam’s friend Kyle) who was diagnosed with cancer at a young age. Upon the diagnosis, Adam is referred to see a young and inexperience therapist Katherine played by Anna Kendrick.

Everything about this movie looks and feel real. From the emotions (and sometimes outward lack of emotions) displayed by Adam to the nervousness of Katherine to the overbearing scenes involving Adam’s mother (Anjelica Huston), every single interaction between characters seems firmly rooted in reality. Seth Rogen, who in other movies has been a little over the top, was a perfect comic relief release valve from this movie that could otherwise be emotionally draining.

The fact that 50/50 was largely ignored by the major awards is criminal. I haven’t seen all of the 2011 Best Picture nominees, but I challenge anyone to watch The Descendants, War Horse, The Artist, or Midnight in Paris and claim it’s a better movie than this. I just don’t see it. Bottom line, especially given how many of us are personal touched by cancer all the time, 50/50 is a fantastic movie that is more than deserving of a watch.

9.0

out of 10

09

10 2012

Retro Review – Boyz N The Hood

This review originally appeared on brenthanson.net on September 14, 2004

“Increase the Peace”

Movie
Boyz N the Hood came out of nowhere and became the buzz movie of 1991. Premiering at Cannes Film Festival, eventually Boyz N the Hood would produce a best director nod for John Singleton who, at the age of 24, was the youngest director ever to be nominated.
Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is a troublemaker as a young man, so his mother sent him to live with his father in the hood to learn how to be a man. Tre’s father, Furious (Laurence “Larry” Fishburne), is a strong-willed father who doesn’t want his son to end up like so many young men growing up in the slums of LA. Doughboy (Ice Cube or O’Shea Jackson as I like to call him…) and Ricky (Morris Chestnut) are brothers who live with their single mother across the street from Tre. Doughboy is constantly on his way in or out of jail. Ricky, on the other hand, is a star football player who is probably going to get a scholarship to play football and get up out the hood.
The temptations of the streets haunt Tre and his friends. Tre is sick of all the drugs, alcohol, and violence, there really was no way to avoid it. While Tre is sick of all that, Doughboy is caught up in the game… dealing drugs and drinking 40s all day long. Boyz differs from other movies though in showing the realistic side to people who do ill. I’ve come to learn that everyone who gets in trouble with the law isn’t sneaking around town like the Hamburgler. Doughboy has some bad qualities, but he is a likable character.
The ending of this movie is very moving and very intense. If you aren’t crying like I nearly was, you’ll be affected. The whole movie feels real – the characters are based on real people, the places where (and still are) real places. The events may not have happened exactly like that in real life, but they are believable.
The main reason this movie is so believable is because of director John Singleton. In a time when Hollywood was dominated by old, white males, Singleton (a young, black male) brings a very youthful enthusiasm to the sometimes uppity art that is directing. It’s kind of unbelievable that this movie ever got made considering Singleton was only months out of college when it got greenlighted.

Video & Sound
Anamorphic widescreen – always a plus! Boyz N the Hood has a realistic look. Actually, much of the movie seems like a documentary shot like a big budget movie. The video quality could be a little better. The colors are nice but that’s mostly because of the locales and the costumes. This flick definitely looks aged though, which is disappointing because certain movies like the Wizard of Oz are much older yet look a little better. The sound is a little disappointing since it’s Dolby 2.0. I think a movie like this would’ve benefited from a new audio transfer. The music and the ambient noise are something that add a lot to this movie, so I guess I’m kinda bummed.

Extras
The audio commentary features just Singleton, but it’s not disappointing whatsoever. He has a lot to say about the movie since it is very personal to him. His stories are entertaining – listening to this track enhances the viewing of Boyz N the Hood quite a bit. Another gem that’s on on the second disc is Friendly Fire: The Making of an Urban Legend which is a 45-minute documentary which brings almost all of the main characters back to talk about their thoughts on the movie and how it started most of their respective careers.
Also on the disc are two deleted scenes (meh!), two music videos (meh!), and about ten trailers (which I really liked!).

Closing words…
One of the most moving films that I’ve ever seen… I think it’s one of the best films of the 90s even though imdb (my favorite website!) users don’t even have it in the top fifty! Should be top 10 material… top 100 overall. But, anyways, if you are a fan of Menace II Society, which I think is the only comparable movie quality-wise of the same genre, you should check this out. Actually, if you’ve never seen it, you *should* check it out.

Movie – 9
Video & Sound – 6
Extras – 9
Overall – 8

04

10 2012