Make Your Picks

Gideon58's Reviews

→ in
Tools    





UNBREAKABLE
M. Night Shyamalan and Bruce Willis reunite for a disturbing little chiller from 2000 called Unbreakable that takes an offbeat look at the possible origin of the comic heroes and how much of it is predestined. Will do my best to talk about this one without spoilers.

Willis plays David Dunne, a security guard who is on a commuter train that derails and kills the other 131 people on board. Not only does David survive, but he comes out of the ordeal without a scratch. Shortly after returning to work, David receives a mysterious note asking if he's ever been sick. It is revealed that the note came from an Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) an artist who has suffered from a bone disease that has made his bones so delicate and easily breakable that he has been known as "Mr. Glass" all his life. Price forces David to look into his own health history, which seems to be the polar opposite of Price's...it is revealed that David not only has never been sick or injured a day in his life and that he has superhuman strength and that these attributes are no accident.

Shyamalan, no stranger to bizarre and stomach turning storytelling, takes a completely unforeseen look at the origin of a form of entertainment that defies cinematic convention as we are forced to look at the possibility that comic book heroes are more than a product of a writer's imagination and it is unsettling as the writer and director slowly moves to this conclusion that our tortured protagonist is being pushed toward.

Another disturbing layer is added to the story when what is coming to light about David is tearing his family apart. His wife (Robin Wright Penn), who sleeps in a separate room, is unable to believe what is happening while son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) is not only embracing it but forcing Dad to face what is going on in several startling ways.

This movie asks some uncomfortable questions and is a little too leisurely getting to a rushed conclusion, a staple of Shyamalan's work, but there are some stylish directorial touches with solid work from Willis, Jackson, and an absolutely breathtaking musical score by James Newton Howard. It's a wild ride, but it's worth a look.



THE BEST OF EVERYTHING
They don't make 'em like this anymore. The Best of Everything is a lavishly mounted 1959 soap opera that works thanks to an almost shockingly adult screenplay for the period and some terrific performances from the female cast.

The film is set at a fictional publishing company in Manhattan and is centered around three central characters: Caroline Bender (Hope Lange) has just gotten a job as a secretary at the company when her boyfriend, Eddie (Brett Halsey) leaves the country for a year and finds herself attracted to a handsome executive (Stephen Boyd) and in a battle of wills with her hard as nails boss, Amanda Farrow (Joan Crawford); Gregg Adams (Suzy Parker) is a secretary who really wants to be an actress and finds herself way too deeply involved with a slick Broadway playwright (Louis Jourdan); April Morrison (Diane Baker) is a virgin fresh off the farm who gets involved with a smarmy player (Robert Evans) who wants the milk without buying the cow.

Jean Negulesco, a director who helmed classic comedies and musicals like How to Marry a Millionaire. Daddy Long Legs, Three Coins in the Fountain and its remake The Pleasure Seekers, shows an unerring sense of the genre that is cinematic soap opera and treats it like he actually respects fans of the genre. He is aided by an often shocking screenplay by Edith Sommer and Mann Rubin, based on a novel by Rona Jaffee, that provides everything fans of the genre expect....women giving up careers for the men they love, women giving up the men they love for their careers, pre-marital sex, infidelity, even unplanned pregnancy, a lot of subject matter that had rarely been addressed onscreen in 1959, but is done with an element of discretion...there is some foreshadowing of certain plot elements, but its never overt and only true fans of the genre will see certain things that happen coming before they actually do.

The story also offers a very interesting dichotomy in the female characters presented here. The Caroline Bender character goes through an incredible transformation during this story that is such a pleasure to watch...her journey from insecure girl using a job to mend a broken heart to ambitious lady executive who doesn't need a man is the heart of the movie and completely winning. On the other hand, watching the downfall of Gregg, who is a smart self-assured woman as the film begins and the neurotic mess that she turns into is not pretty, but equally as compelling.

Hope Lange, fresh off her Oscar-nominated performance in Peyton Place proves to be an actress of substance here commanding the screen as she never had before. Lange even has a drunk scene and I kept thinking as I watched that I had never seen Lange do a drunk scene before ever, a real eye-opener of a performance that should have made her a superstar. I really don't understand the brief career that Suzy Parker had after watching this because I found her performance alluring and charismatic, completely defying the unflattering journey her character takes. As expected, Crawford made the most of her brief role. Where the film suffers is with the male actors cast here...Stephen Boyd was his usual wooden self and Robert Evans shows why he gave up his acting career to become a producer. I will admit that I enjoyed veteran Brian Aherne as a senior editor who likes to chase secretaries around his desk.

The film actually received Oscar nominations for its wonderful costumes and for the lovely title song written by Alfred Newman and Sammy Fain (dreamily crooned by Johnny Mathis). The rest of Newman's score was equally smooth and a bouquet to the set direction as well. An old fashioned soap opera with a garnish of adult gloss that was hard to resist. Fans of Valley of the Dolls will have a head start here.



GREAT review of Unbreakable Gideon58!
I really hope the sequel lives up to it!
__________________
Patrick Beatty Reviews
"See you, at the next review!"



THE BEST OF EVERYTHING
They don't make 'em like this anymore. The Best of Everything is a lavishly mounted 1959 soap opera that works thanks to an almost shockingly adult screenplay for the period and some terrific performances from the female cast.

Fans of Valley of the Dolls will have a head start here.
Sold! I'm going to watch it. I'm a fan of Joan Crawford and of 1950s soap operas....and Valley of the Dolls too. So this sounds just like my kind of movie.



Sold! I'm going to watch it. I'm a fan of Joan Crawford and of 1950s soap operas....and Valley of the Dolls too. So this sounds just like my kind of movie.
It is your kind of movie, Citizen, warning though, Crawford's role is a small supporting one.



APOLLO 13
Robbed of the Oscar for Best Picture of 1995, Apollo 13 is an often heart stopping docudrama that is, more than anything a testament to the directorial genius of Ron Howard, who managed to tell a compelling true story laced with an underlying theme I really didn't connect with the first time I watched it 20 years ago.

The presentation of the facts involved in this story actually begin to construct an uncomfortable but plausible idea that the Apollo 13 mission was doomed before it ever began. This is all laid out in elaborate but functional detail as it is revealed that Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Frank Haise (Bill Paxton), and Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) were originally scheduled as the crew of Apollo 14, but when one of the astronauts on the 13 crew developed an ear infection, our boys were suddenly bumped up to 13. There is a revealing scene at a press conference where several coincidences had come to light regarding the number 13's connection to this mission, a lot more than the number's tradition as bad luck. As the crew has finished all their pre-flight training, another health issues rears its head forcing Mattingly to drop out of the mission and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) to become the third man on the mission. And before you can say "Houston we have a problem" the spacecraft suffers severe damage that not only cancels their plan to actually land on the moon but threatens their ability to even return to earth.

Ron Howard, who incredibly didn't even receive an Oscar nomination for his work here, has accomplished something truly unique and fascinating. He has taken an extremely intricate screenplay (based on a book by the real Jim Lovell) filled with enough techno babble to make a viewer's head hurt but sounding so authentic it's hard to debate, but what the script doesn't tell us, Howard tells us through his camera lens and through his cast...I have rarely seen the camera utilized as such an effective storytelling tool. If the truth be told, the technical explanation of exactly what went wrong with this spacecraft was never made clear to this reviewer, but the danger it put these three astronauts was made clear through the director's eye.

The other thing that Howard did so effectively was he told the complete story of everyone involved in this story, the people on the ground as well as the three people in that space module. I love the scene where Jim tells wife Marilyn (Oscar nominee Kathleen Quinlan) about being bumped from 14 to 13 and even though she wants to share in her husband's happiness, you can see the concern on her face that they aren't ready but refuses to steal her husband's joy. The scenes with mission control brilliantly convey not only the seriousness of the situation but the moments when they had absolutely no idea what to do next and how Mission Control leader Gene Kranz (Oscar nominee Ed Harris) was just not having it. Howard's attention to small and telling moments of foreshadowing is just incredible...I love the moment before the ship takes off when the camera does a very quick shot of the "Abort" lever. Or when Marilyn Lovell is taking a shower in a hotel room and her wedding ring falls down the drain. Watch Jim's younger son as he worries about the broken door on the previous mission or his son in military school watching what's going on with his dad from a classroom...this is cinematic storytelling at its zenith.

Howard, always an actor's director, has assembled one of the best acting ensembles ever to deliver this story, an ensemble that serves the story and won the Screen Actor's Guild Award for Best Acting Ensemble. The film won Oscars for film editing and sound but all production values were Oscar-worthy, especially the man behind the camera, the most underrated director in the business...this is his masterpiece.



Great review and I love this movie! It gets better every time I watch it.
I agree.
__________________
Iím here only on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays. Thatís why Iím here now.



ZOOLANDER 2
Derek and Hansel return for another round of fashion insanity in 2016's Zoolander 2, an overblown, over the top sequel to the 2001 hit that suffers from the disease that afflicts most movie sequels...too much of everything in attempt to outdo the original film resulting in a film experience that's just exhausting.

As the story opens, we learn that the school that Derek (Ben Stiller)had built at the end of the first film has collapsed and fallen into the ocean two days after its opening, killing hundreds of students, his wife Mathilde (Christine Taylor), disfiguring Hansel (Owen Wilson) and causing Derek to lose custody of his son (Cyrus Arnold). Defeated and humiliated, Derek and Hansel quit modeling but are lured back into the business with an offer to model a new fashion line in Rome where Derek's assistance is actually sought by an Interpol agent (Penelope Cruz) who is certain that one of Derek's patented "looks" is responsible for the death of Justin Beiber and several other pop stars. While helping this agent, Derek is also reunited with his son, who is in an Italian boarding school, and unlike his father, is fat and smart.

I guess I'll start where I usually do, with the screenplay...Stiller, Justin Theroux, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg apparently poured a lot of sweat into this extremely complex screenplay that was, surprisingly, rich with gay subtext throughout...the relationship between Derek and Hansel resembled ex-lovers this time around, something I never got in the first movie, Hansel's relationship with his "orgy" seems to be primarily based on a relationship with Keifer Sutherland, who we are told is having Hansel's baby. The writers haven't forgotten that Derek is a brainless twit, but in the sequel, it would have been nice to have Derek actually admit it, which he doesn't, even after his own son tells him what an idiot he is. And I guess that was my primary problem with the story and I've said this regarding other sequels, if you're going to do a sequel, I think it's an important to see a change or some kind of growth in the characters to make the sequel a viable experience and that never really happens here.

As a director, Stiller went into serious overdrive here and apparently was given the budget to do so. The film features lavish world wide location filming that is quite striking at times but the story moves in such a manic pace and in so many different directions that it's hard to appreciate the production values. Truth be told, in an attempt to make a bigger and better sequel, Stiller has the genesis of about four really good movies here, but none of them are fully developed enough to completely engage the viewer. I think a little more concentration on Derek's relationship with his son and less on who killed Justin Beiber and Hansel and his "orgy" might have helped. Not to mention the fact that Stiller just waited too long to do this sequel...it's 15 years since the first film, and we just don't care about these silly people anymore.

Stiller and Wilson are still a solid onscreen team and the film earns half a bag of popcorn for Will Ferrell's return as Mugatu. The film really energizes and becomes funny when Ferrell hits the screen but that doesn't happen until the third act and by then our attention span is dangling by a thread. Like the first film, there are many cameo appearances including several real life fashion designers including Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs, and Tommy Hilfiger, but this film mainly comes down to is too much, too late.



SILKWOOD
The polished directorial hand of the late Mike Nichols is all over 1983's Silkwood, a gripping docudrama about everymen talking on corporate America that features another dazzling performance from Meryl Streep that earned her one of her 19 Oscar nominations.

It is 1970's Oklahoma and Streep plays Karen Silkwood, a worker at a plutonium processing plant with her boyfriend Drew (Kurt Russell) and BFF Dolly (Oscar nominee Cher) whose involvement with her union involving safety hazards for employees have gotten her in so much hot water with her employers that she may have been deliberately contaminated with plutonium in an attempt to stop her whistle blowing and when that didn't work, it looked like more severe methods were employed to silence her.

As this is a very true story involving real people and corporations, Nichols and screenwriters Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen had to be very careful about how this story was brought to the screen and I think they did an admirable job of providing a balanced look at what happened, a job that was rewarded with Oscar nominations for all three of them, presenting an extraordinary story centered around an extremely flawed and human protagonist who is not exactly painted in an angelic light, the way the subjects of a lot of these films are.

Karen is presented as a slightly promiscuous, no-nonsense, ball of fire who holds her tongue for no one and sometimes doesn't really know when to shut up. I love Nichols' initial introduction of the character to us as we see her in the plant beak room sticking her hands in everyone's lunch, obviously not having brought her own...haven't we all worked with someone like that? We then learn that Karen is the mother of three children but their father has custody of them. Custody decisions rarely go against the mother so your mind automatically races wondering what kind of behavior caused Karen to lose custody of her children, an element of backstory which isn't really revealed.

It is mostly through Nichols' direction that we see how Karen might have been instrumental in her own downfall. Once Karen comes on board as a corporate whistle blower, she is very sincere about what she's doing, but, if the truth be told, she just wasn't very good at it. I loved yet another scene in the break room where a co-worker mentioned something the union should know about and she whips out a notebook and starts writing and questioning the co-worker. A lot of jobs were going to be at risk because of what Karen was doing and she didn't care, evidenced in the fight that went out of her when even Drew walks out on her.

Streep gives one of her most vivid and entertaining performances in the title role, a character we immediately love, even if she isn't the brightest bulb in the row. Kurt Russell brings a little more substance to the role than I remembered other than a nice bare chest and Cher is an eye-opener as Dolly. Also loved Diana Scarwid as Dolly's girlfriend and Sudie Bond, Fred Ward as sympathetic co-workers, as well a surprisingly smarmy Craig T. Nelson as a not so sympathetic co-worker. A solid docudrama that, despite the known climax, still engages the viewer and makes us want to know the whole story.



AN EDUCATION
A luminous performance by the leading lady that earned her a Best Actress nomination is the centerpiece of 2009's An Education, an edgy but endearing melodrama that disguises the inappropriateness of certain story elements with proper British accents and lovely scenery.

It is London in the 1960's where we are introduced to Jenny Mellor (Carey Mulligan), a 16 year old, straight A student at an all girls school whose life has been mapped out for her, including college at Oxford. Her plans get derailed when she meets a handsome and charming con man named David (Peter Sarsgaard) who is almost twice her age.

Nick Hornby's Oscar nominated screenplay is based on Lynn Barber's memoir, who I assume is the inspiration for Jenny. .The story that takes us on a journey that if it had been in American film, probably wouldn't have gone as far as it does here because the English accents and the breathtaking London and Paris scenery distract to the point that we almost don't notice how inappropriate this relationship is.

Of course, having Peter Sarsgaard playing David greatly aided in suspending disbelief. Sarsgaard's David is sophisticated and very very sexy. He also has uncanny people skills that allow him to say exactly what anyone he encounters wants or needs to hear at the right time. The viewer is totally blindsided as David so completely charms Jenny's parents that they seem to have no problem with their daughter dating a much older man. If this had been a John Hughes film and Molly Ringwald was playing Jenny, David would have been shown the door during the first act.

The real attraction here is the absolutely enchanting performance by Carey Mulligan in the starring role. Her Jenny is extremely smart and funny, but never comes off as anything more than a smart and love struck teenager who knows exactly what she wants. I love when David persuades her to go away for the weekend with him and she insists that she is a virgin and plans on staying that way and, to my amazement, David not only honors her wishes, but still treats her like a queen.

Mulligan and Sarsgaard create a viable chemistry that almost makes the viewer forget how truly inappropriate the relationship is. They receive solid support from Alfred Molina as Jenny's father, Rosamund Pike as a jet setting pal of David's, and Oscar winner Emma Thompson in a stylish cameo as the uptight headmistress of Jenny's school. Bouquets as well to John de Borman's cinematography and Paul Englishby's lush musical score. A special cinematic journey for the discriminating film goer.



What I didn't know until recently is that the Mission Control leader has to be a former astronaut. And only he is allowed to speak to the spacecraft crew. Interesting I thought.

Brilliant movie. Seen it many times.



AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
As far as stage to screen adaptations go, 2013's August: Osage County is immensely watchable, thanks to some serious star power delivering solid performances that almost make you forget that you're watching a photographed stage play.

This film is a sometimes too up close and personal look at the female members of an Oklahoma family who are brought together when the family patriarch commits suicide. Violet (Oscar nominee Meryl Streep) is the widow, a foul-mouthed harridan dying of mouth cancer and addicted to her medication; Barbara (Oscar nominee Julia Roberts) is the eldest daughter who is separated from her philandering husband (Ewan MacGregor) and in a very strained relationship with her pot-smoking vegetarian daughter (Abigail Breslin), not to mention resenting her on again off again position as her mother's caregiver; Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is the spinsterish middle daughter in love with the wrong guy (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Karen (Juliette Lewis) is the flighty, self-absorbed younger daughter who missed a lot of the pain that her mother put Barbara through and is in denial about what a dog her fiancee (Dermot Mulroney) is.

The film is based on a Broadway play by Tracy Letts that hit the boards in 2007 and ran an unremarkable 648 performances which I think might have a lot to do with the lack of star power. The Broadway cast was rich with theater actors who probably brought these characters vividly to life onstage, but with that immense fourth wall called a movie screen separating the actors from the audience, something else has to come into play in order to turn a somewhat interesting theater piece into viable screen entertainment and frankly, star power was the way to go. If the truth be told, if I had seen this onstage, I probably would have been bored to death but TPTB somehow knew that star power could make this work on screen and their instincts were on the money.

Letts was allowed to adapt her own play into a screenplay, which nails family dysfunction and brings out just the right amount of secrets throughout the story, unfortunately the gaps between these reveals were a little too long, but when you have a cast like this, you tend to forgive.

A big bouquet to John Wells, primarily a television director, for getting the performances from this clearly hand-picked cast that he did. Meryl Streep gives another post graduate acting class here and I loved the way Wells took sex symbols like Ewan MacGregor and Benedict Cumberbatch and cast them totally against type, concealing the sexy behind horn rimmed glasses and bad hair and allowing the men to prove they are more than pretty faces. Also loved Margo Martindale, an actress who is no stranger to playing bitchy characters, doing what she does best here and Oscar winner Chris Cooper as her very patient husband. But the acting honors here have to go to Julia Roberts, an actress often maligned as being attractive but unable to act, who carries this film with the most explosive and intense performance of her career as the eldest daughter and family referee who is begining to crack under the pressure of her position in the family. I can't remember the last time I saw an actor, any actor, give Meryl Streep a run for her money the way Roberts does here.

The film is a little talky, but the stars will hold your interest. The film is beautifully photographed and features beautiful music. Fans of Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill will have a head start here.



Just a little aside, Gidg. This morning one of my friends texts me that he is 1/2 way trough Tootsie and loves it. I notice it's 6:30am. This dude watches Tootsie at 6:30, before work, on a Monday morning. Funny thing is that I never engaged in a convo about Tootsie with him but had just queued it in my ebay shopping cart for the Criterion blu ray.



Just a little aside, Gidg. This morning one of my friends texts me that he is 1/2 way trough Tootsie and loves it. I notice it's 6:30am. This dude watches Tootsie at 6:30, before work, on a Monday morning. Funny thing is that I never engaged in a convo about Tootsie with him but had just queued it in my ebay shopping cart for the Criterion blu ray.
I have never seen Tootsie & intend to keep it that way.



I have never seen Tootsie & intend to keep it that way.
Stirchley, why are you so hung up on Tootsie? Talk to me..is it a Dustin Hoffman thing? I don't think Sean Connery is in Tootsie, if that's what you're worried about.



Stirchley, why are you so hung up on Tootsie? Talk to me..is it a Dustin Hoffman thing? I don't think Sean Connery is in Tootsie, if that's what you're worried about.
Am I hung up on Tootsie? Have I mentioned it before????



Am I hung up on Tootsie? Have I mentioned it before????
No, my mistake. But I do rmember you saying that you've never seen a Connery film and "intend to keep it that way" so I'm trying to figure out why?

Is there something about Tootsie that turns you off, I mean, other than the fact that Dustin Hoffman is dressing like a bleachy toothed red-head?



BLUE VALENTINE
Some stylish directorial strokes and a pair of charismatic starring performances make 2010's Blue Valentine worth your time.

This is the story of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), a long married couple with an adorable daughter named Frankie. Dean has just begun a job with a moving company and Cindy is a nurse who has been offered a job with her boss that would involve moving and uprooting her family. Dean and Cindy take Frankie to spend the night with her grandparents because they have decided they need some time alone. They check into a hotel and as they hit the sheets, we see that this marriage is not everything it initially appears to be.

This film then takes us on a Tarantino-like journey through scenes of Dean and Cindy's marriage, told out of sequence but still peeling the layers away of this decaying marriage which could not be held together by the sexual hit that ignited the relationship. The story moves back and forth between the beginning and the end of Dean and Cindy's relationship and provides answers as to why these people feel the need to check into a hotel to bring something back to their marriage that is missing.

Director and co-screenwriter Derek Clanfrance has mounted an intricate story that requires complete attention from the viewer as the story is told out of sequence, but not just out of sequence, these scenes from a marriage almost overlap at different points and might have the viewer questioning what is the present and the past, but where Clanfrance really scores is in his creation of these two characters who we come to immediately care about and want to learn what's wrong.

The other primary reason this story stays interesting is the riveting performances from the stars. Ryan Gosling is quite convincing going the De Niro route as a sexual beast who isn't the brightest bulb in the row, but is passionate about what is important to him. Michelle Williams received another Oscar nomination for the sexually charged character she creates in Cindy, a woman who sometimes thinks below her waist a little too much and finds pain because of it. But it is the chemistry between the two that keeps this one sizzling. I also loved the subtle music score by Grizzly Bear which Clanfrance felt didn't need to frame every single moment in the movie. It takes a minute to get going but I liked this one.