Category Archives: Drama

Meditations on Movies: James Cameron and ‘Titanic’

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Release Date: December 19, 1997
Runtime: 194 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox / Paramount Pictures
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio; Kate Winslet; Billy Zane; Kathy Bates; Frances Fisher; Victor Garber; Gloria Stuart

In the spirit of Oscar season, I thought I would revisit some previous Academy Award winners in the days leading up to the 85th Annual Academy Awards ceremony. This won’t be so much of a “review,” since this particular film has ingrained itself so thoroughly in the public consciousness, but more of a treatise on the merits of James Cameron’s 1997 disaster epic-cum-love story. Continue reading

Zero Dark Thirty*

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Release Date: January 11, 2013
Runtime: 157 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Columbia Pictures (Sony)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Jessica Chastain; Jason Clarke; Kyle Chandler; Jennifer Ehle; Chris Pratt

[POSSIBLE SPOILERS, I guess…]

Goooooooood movie!!

The search for Osama Bin Laden took a really long time. While most of the American public wasn’t aware of the actual behind-the-scenes military machinations of what truly went into the search, “Zero Dark Thirty” attempts, and very much succeeds, in giving us an insider look into what is, undoubtedly, one of the most fevered manhunts of all time. Continue reading

Silver Linings Playbook*

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Release Date: December 25, 2012
Runtime: 122 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Director: David O’Russell
Cast: Bradley Cooper; Jennifer Lawrence; Robert DeNiro; Chris Tucker; Jacki Weaver

This movie is faaaaantastic!  A romantic movie for grown-ups, teeming with brave, brilliant performances from the leads right down to the support.  I was astonished by some of the acting in this film, particularly from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, whose chemistry together practically seeps from the corners of the screen.  It is an absolute joy to watch. Continue reading

Hitchcock*

Hitchcock

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Release Date: December 14, 2012
Runtime: 98 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Cast: Anthony Hopkins; Helen Mirren; Danny Huston; Scarlett Johansson; Jessica Biel

A behind-the-scenes look at the making of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho,” set against the backdrop of Hitch’s relationship with wife Alma…..and therein lays the problem.

This movie, I proffer, wants to be a study of a relationship between a high-profile movie director and his collaborator-wife, who mainly stays in the background.  The problem is the execution is backwards. Continue reading

Inserts

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Release Date: February 13, 1976
Runtime: 117 minutes
Rating: NC-17
Studio: United Artists (MGM)
Director: John Byrum
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss; Bob Hoskins; Veronica Cartwright; Jessica Harper; Stephen Davies

This early Richard Dreyfuss starrer is essentially a chamber piece centered on an alcoholic former film director in the 1930’s, now reduced to making quickie silent-movie porn. A feel-good movie, to be sure, yet not without its pleasures, namely the sublime performances from all five actors.

Dreyfuss is a former great movie director, now an alcoholic recluse in his Hollywood home. Once known as the Boy Wonder, he is in the midst of production on his latest quickie skin flick, starring the drug-addicted Harlene (Veronica Cartwright – she’s the one who puked cherries in “The Witches of Eastwick”) and Rex, the Wonder Dog (Stephen Davies), a dim bulb wannabe heartthrob. Showing up to check on his investment is the film’s financial backer Big Mac (Bob Hoskins), who totes his trophy girlfriend, Cathy Cake (Jessica Harper), along with him. Before dusk sets on this fateful day, the porno will be finished, but dreams will be shattered and one person will end up dead. Continue reading

Inchon

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Inchon

 

Release Date: September 17, 1982
Runtime: 140 minutes
Rating: PG
Studio: MGM/UA
Director: Terence Young
Cast: Laurence Olivier; Ben Gazzara; Jacqueline Bisset; Richard Roundtree; Toshiro Mifune

Hooooo-boy!! This is the infamous 1981 money-loser, partly financed by the Unification Church and its founder, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, which, to this day, continues to hold a place on ‘Most Expensive Box-Office Bombs’ lists. Pretty much everything that could go wrong on a movie shoot went wrong on this one: unusable footage, inclement weather, budget overruns, you name it. The only thing that emerges with its dignity intact from this waterlogged mess is Jacqueline Bisset’s cleavage. Continue reading

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

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Release Date: November 13, 1992
Runtime: 128 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Columbia Pictures/American Zoetrope
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Gary Oldman; Winona Ryder; Anthony Hopkins; Sadie Frost; Richard E. Grant; Tom Waits; Cary Elwes

This is a faaaaaaantastic movie!

Francis Ford Coppola’s opulent 1992 take on the Dracula story is a sumptuous film, oozing with rich colors and eloquent language…a real work of art.  Gary Oldman assumes his place alongside Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee as one of cinema’s most-identifiable Counts. Continue reading

Gigli

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Release Date: August 1, 2003
Runtime: 121 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Columbia Pictures (Sony)
Director: Martin Brest
Cast: Ben Affleck; Jennifer Lopez; Justin Bartha; Missy Crider; Al Pacino; Christopher Walken

I admit, I went to this film out of morbid curiosity; to see what all the bad buzz was about. Maybe I would see something that the rest of the world did not, something that may redeem this feature, at least in my eyes. Alas, I did not. This has to be one of the worst pieces of celluloid crap ever inflicted upon the mainstream movie-going public. I was actually groaning as I left the theater. Continue reading

Contagion

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Release Date: September 9, 2011
Runtime: 106 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Studio: Warner Bros.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Matt Damon; Kate Winslet; Jude Law; Marion Cotillard; Gwyneth Paltrow; Laurence Fishburne

“Outbreak” for the new millennium.  Steven Soderbergh’s mysterious virus-that-decimates-the-population movie has a great first hour, when people mysteriously begin coughing and having headaches, but then plateaus in the second half once research and politics begin to take over. Continue reading

The Oscar

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Release Date: March 4, 1966
Runtime: 119 minutes
Rating: N/A
Studio: Paramount
Director: Russell Rouse
Cast: Stephen Boyd; Milton Berle; Elke Sommer; Jill St. John; Tony Bennett; a slew of other Oscar winners/nominees

While watching this train wreck of a film, a number of questions occurred to me. The first came to me five minutes into the film: Why does the strip club owner almost immediately pull a knife on Frankie and Hymie when they ask for the remainder of their money owed to them? Doesn’t seem like the most productive, not to mention professional, way to do business. That scene pretty much set the tone of the picture: that everything would be over-the-top and have little or no connection to the real world. (Comparisons here to “Showgirls,” made about thirty years later: in the first five minutes of that pic, a hitchhiking Nomi (the lead nutjob) almost immediately pulls a switchblade on the guy who picks her up …all because he asked her her name!) Anyway, having realized what kind of movie this was doomed to be, I settled in to watch the rest. About 20 minutes in, another question occurred to me: Why is there this constant, almost nagging melodramatic music underscoring the entire film? Not just specific scenes that may justify it, but ALL THE SCENES!!! Someone gets up from a chair, the music swells; someone crosses a room, there’s the music again, incessant and irritating. And the music’s so cheesy you need a lactose pill to listen to it!! Continue reading