Yeesh, it's been as bad as "The Playing Field" around here with the lack of posting. Sorry about that, readers. As soon as I knock out some pesky tests and things of that sort that stand in my way, I'm going to start cranking out mini-reviews on every movie that I watch, similar to what I did for March Madness earlier this year. How long will I continue this time? Only time will tell.
Anyway, here's the rundown for this post. I've seen a lot of movies lately: some good, some great, and some really mediocre. So in the spirit of what is to come, here's an appetizer of what things will (hopefully) be like around here for a while.
Gone Baby Gone
Writer/Director: Ben Affleck (co-written with Aaron Stockard)
Starring: Casey Affleck, Morgan Freeman, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris
The source material was written by Dennis Lahane, the author of Mystic River (really good movie. Check out my review of it here), so GBG definitely has the same sort of dramatic corrupt Bostonian vibe that made Mystic River such a cool film. If you liked Mystic River, you'll be slightly disappointed with Gone Baby Gone, but it was still really good. Who knew that Ben Affleck could direct? He seemed incredibly comfortable behind the camera, not at all constrained like you'd expect a first-time director to be. He had some great helicopter shots; overall, everything was great on that end. In front of the camera, his little brother Casey (blowing up all of a sudden in this and The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford in the same weekend) did a great job as a private detective on the hunt for a missing child. Jared and I were discussing this earlier; this movie is definitely a modern-day noir (neo-noir, if you want the real term), and Casey is great as the Bogart-esque character who gets sucked further and further into the unraveling story of a missing child. Everyone else's performance was pretty average with the exception of Ed Harris, who I thought was great. Oh, and Taggart from the Beverly Hills Cop movies was in this. No, not Eddie Murphy. Not Judge Reinhold, either. The other one. But seriously, go see Gone Baby Gone because apparently Ben Affleck's career depends on it. I for one would like to see him behind the camera more often that in front of it in the future. It's the only sure way we can avoid a Gigli sequel.
We Own The Night
Writer/Director: James Gray
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall, Eva Mendes
Everyone knows that this was marketed as if it were "The Departed 2," so naturally that's what everyone compares it to after they've seen it (myself included). The thing is, the movie wasn't bad on it's own; it just wasn't nearly as good as The Departed. If The Departed never came out, I think it might have resonated well with audiences, but since everyone thought it was trying too hard to emulate it, the film didn't do that well at the box office. If you'd give it a chance, you'd see that while it had some of the same elements as the aforementioned Best Picture winner, this movie was all about family. Joaquin Phoenix and Marky Mark are brothers on opposite sides of the law, mixed up in Russian drugs and police wars. Like I said, this was all about family: it follows Phoenix (who gave an extremely solid performance) as he tries to decide whether to side with his family or stay with the drug lords who have made him rich. I'm not going to say anything else about this, since I don't want to give away the one thing surprise that actually makes this worth watching, but check it out on DVD or something if you're bored in a couple of months and you're looking for a Robert Duvall fix.
Director: Mike Nichols
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Katherine Ross, Anne Bancroft
Good Lord, I hated this movie. I'd seen it on those stupid "Lists of The 400 Greatest Movies Ever That You HAVE To See Before You Die," so I checked it out and it was one of the biggest wastes of time I've ever experienced. The acting was absolutely horrific. I don't know why this "made" Dustin Hoffman's career. He sucked. Almost as bad as in Meet the Fockers. It was near-painful to watch at points because of how bad the script was and how bad ALL of the acting was. If the filmmakers were doing that on purpose then I completely missed the point. Speaking of that, the ending made no sense in conjunction with the rest of the movie. I'm not going to ruin it, because undoubtedly some of you won't believe me and you'll go out and rent it anyway, but for the entire duration the tone is set in one direction until it takes a slamming right turn in the last 15 minutes into freakin' Fairytale Cheeseball Central. Ridiculous. It's like everything they were working for (whatever deeper meaning I couldn't see because the movie SUCKED SO HARD) was undercut by this stupid ending that seemed as if they couldn't come up with a legitimate ending and had to just finish the production quickly before they were kicked out of their locations. I'm sure seeing this back in 1967 when it came out would have been extremely liberating or whatever, but it doesn't hold up at all today. And I can't tell you how much I hate Simon and Garfunkel, who exclusively do the music for the whole movie. They even repeat songs during different scenes because they couldn't come up with enough original material in time for the film's release, so they force you to endure three or four montages to "The Sound of Silence." I wish to the highest heaven it HAD been silence. Sigh. I beg you, don't waste your time.
Writer/Director: Oliver Stone (co-written with Stanley Weiser)
Starring: Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, Daryl Hannah
Really awesome movie. It came out in 1987 and I'd never seen it before, so I thought I'd give it a shot. This is basically the template for The Devil's Advocate, so if you liked the relationship between Keanu and Pacino in that film, you'll love Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas in this one. Douglas rightly won an Oscar for Best Actor for his performance, and it's one of the best in recent memory. He was fantastic. One of those "80's excess" movies in the same category with American Psycho and others like it, this one stands far above the rest as the best in the genre that I've ever seen. And I know it's hard to believe, but Charlie Sheen can actually carry a movie. He was on-screen probably 95% of the time, but you never got sick of him, and you always felt for him. This is the classic story of the young up-and-comer getting sucked into a world wildly beyond his expectations and the rise and fall of his career that comes with that cutthroat world. This film (like the last one mentioned) is also about family and the sacrifices one makes regarding priorities, seemingly pleading with the audience to make sure our capitalistic tendencies don't win out over general morality and ethics. Rent this now. Douglas's famous "Greed is Good" speech is worth the price of the rental. A quick side note: there's a lot of Wall Street jargon used here, but I still loved the movie even though I didn't understand any of it.
On a completely unrelated note, I just watched Shattered Glass for the first time. If you like journalism, it should be required viewing. It's like Resurrecting the Champ, but slightly better. See them both at your leisure.
All right ladies and gents, that's it for now. Hopefully I'll be back in full swing in a week or two, so get on me if I'm not. Until next time...