Film Review: Bernie

Bernie written and directed by Richard Linklater (Castle Rock Entertainment, Collins House Productions, Deep Freeze Productions, PG-13, 104 min) Starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, and Matthew McConaughey. Justice and Utility If an action resulted in the happiness of an entire community, you would support it, right? Stated as an ethical position, this idea is utilitarianism. Utilitarianism suggests the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. If someone commits a crime, they have negatively affected others. Thus, the greatest good is to punish them for the benefit of others. But what if everyone likes the person who did the wrong? Should justice be distributed by order of how much we like the defendant? Most often, people don’t need… Read More →

Film Review: Les Misérables

Les Misérables written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, directed by Tom Hooper (Working Title Films, Cameron Mackintosh Ltd., PG-13, 157 minutes) Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. The Airing of Grievances Before I go into the general plot summary and the merits of this particular musical, I need to air my grievances Seinfeld style. I love music, but I don’t like musicals. Music is very genuine, raw, and emotion-filled by its very nature. To me (I realize most don’t feel this way), it feels very disingenuous and hollow-hearted when someone randomly bursts into song whilst talking the rest of the time. Musicals usually create a new kind of world where reality doesn’t permeate, where song is the standard,… Read More →

Film Review: Total Recall

Total Recall written by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, directed by Len Wiseman (Total Recall, Original Film, and Rekall Productions, R, 118 minutes) Starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Bokeem Woodbine and Bryan Cranston. Before and After In this film, unlike its predecessor, Earth is uninhabitable except for two areas: The United Federation of Britain and the Colony (Australia). Workers from the Colony travel to the Federation to provide cheap labor. Douglas Quaid’s (Colin Farrell) job is to tighten screws on robots that could probably do it themselves. They travel there through “the fall”, which is more or less a big giant tunnel through the middle of the earth. The trip includes a full-on gravity reversal. I’ve always felt that we live in an age where no new stories are being told in cinema…. Read More →

Film Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook written and directed by David O. Russel (The Weinstein Company and Mirage Enterprises, R, 122 minutes) Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro. Making Light of the Dark There’s nothing more difficult than creating comedy out of mental disorders, failed marriages, and gambling. These themes are dark; they force the viewer into introspective spaces. The narrative can’t make light of such scenarios because too many people have dealt with the deep pain associated with these occurrences. But Silver Linings Playbook gives it a shot, and it is mostly successful. To Starting Over—or Staying the Same Silver Linings Playbook follows Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) as he seeks to pick up the pieces of his broken life…. Read More →

Film Review: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi directed by David Gelb (Preferred Content and Sundial Pictures, PG, 81 minutes) Starring Jiro Ono and Yoshikazu Ono. Talent or Hard Work? What makes a successful person? It seems as if “born with it” is a common perception. We see unmatched athleticism in sports, celeritous musicianship, or a brilliant thesis, and we praise the talent behind such work. But do people rise to the highest levels of their profession on talent alone? I’m not convinced. As the great Seattle poet, Macklemore, proclaims in “Ten Thousand Hours”: “You see I study art / The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint / The greats were great cause they paint a lot”. As Macklemore implies, success… Read More →

Film Review: Lincoln

Lincoln written by Tony Kushner and Doris Kearns Goodwin, directed by Steven Spielberg (DreamWorks Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Reliance Entertainment, PG-13, 150 minutes) Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tommy Lee Jones. The Suspension of Disbelief There’s something odd that occurs for A-list superstars. There comes a point in the actor’s life where, no matter the role, the actor overshadows the character. When Brad Pitt stars in a movie, we are watching Brad Pitt playing a character. The real-world Brad Pitt seeps into the character. Pitt’s relationship with Angelina Jolie, his outspoken views on social justice, and his constant appearances in the tabloids become a part of the film. We can’t help ourselves. That’s what popular… Read More →

Film Review: Brave

Brave written and directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman (Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, PG, 93 minutes) Starring Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson. High Expectations The Pixar production company did it to themselves. They created a world of high expectations, of high groundbreaking moments one after another characterized by original films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E, and UP. Parents and adults have loved the cheeky stories which integrate a lovely plot as well as some slightly hidden adult humor. By setting the bar so high, however, they’ve set themselves up for failure. Brave, sadly, is the beginning of the failure. The Story Unfolds A traditional Disney storyline is presented in Brave, where a princess, king, queen, and three young princes are a slightly… Read More →

Film Discussion: Skyfall

Skyfall written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan; directed by Sam Mendes (MGM, Danjaq, and Eon Productions, PG-13, 143 minutes) Starring Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Bérénice Marlohe. We Meet Again, Bond Skyfall finds James Bond (Daniel Craig) presumed dead after a mission gone wrong. M (Judy Dench) makes the call to fire upon a mercenary whom Bond has tracked down. The catch, however, is that Bond is in the crosshairs of another agent. Battling this mercenary, there is no clean shot for Bond’s fellow agent, Eve (Naomie Harris). Upon taking the shot on M’s order, she hits Bond. A few months later and connected to the mission leading to Bond’s MIA… Read More →

Film Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter written by Seth Grahame-Smith, directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Productions, Bazelevs Production, Tim Burton Productions, R, 105 minutes) Starring  Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell and Dominic Cooper. “History prefers legends to men; it prefers nobility to brutality, soaring speeches to quiet deeds. History remembers the battle and forgets the blood. Whatever history remembers of me, if it remembers anything at all, it should only be a fraction of the truth, for whatever else I am, a husband, a lawyer, a president, I shall always think of myself as a man who struggled against darkness” – Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter Why Not? I watched Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter because it was close to Halloween, and it seemed like a not-so-serious movie that I could “enjoy”… Read More →

Film Review: Arbitrage

Arbitrage written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki(Green Room Films, Treehouse Pictures, and Parlay Films, R, 107 minutes) Starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth and Brit Marling. “When I was in fifth grade my favorite teacher was Mr. James. Mr. James said that world events revolved around five things: M-O-N-E-Y… It’s fifth grade econ. This is something we’ve seen over and over, time and time again. The competition for the limited amount of dollars out there can make the best of us manic. So, it’s not surprising that we have these asset bubbles, and when reality sets in they burst.” -Robert Miller (Richard Gere) in the opening scene of Arbitrage Wall Street Revisted A fraudulent hedge fund manager decides to stick it… Read More →