Sunday, November 29, 2009

"STAGECOACH" (1939) Photo Gallery

Below is a gallery of photos from the 1939 Western classic, "STAGECOACH". Directed by John Ford, the movie starred Claire Trevor, John Wayne and Academy Award winner, Thomas Mitchell:

"STAGECOACH" (1939) Photo Gallery

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"2012" (2009) Review

"2012" (2009) REVIEW

Once more, I found myself desperate to see any movie during this dismal Fall/Winter movie season. The opportunity to see a possibly entertaining movie arose last week when two of them - ”PIRATE RADIO” and ”2012” - were released in theaters. I had intended to see ”PIRATE RADIO” first. But it was not playing at the theater that we found ourselves attending. And we settled upon watching ”2012”.

”2012” turned out to be another one of those science-fiction oriented disaster films directed and co-written by Roland Emerich. This is the same man who had directed such films as (1996) “INDEPENDENCE DAY”, (1998) “GODZILLA”, (1999) “THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR” and (2004) “THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW”. Now ”2012” centered around a myth about the Mayan calendar, in which certain Western scholars claimed that the world will face a cataclysmic disaster in the year 2012. Mind you, I suspect that the whole world will end in 2012” scenario may have been misinterpreted. There are other beliefs regarding the Mayan calendar. Some believe that the Mayan calendar is supposed to interpret a positive physical or spiritual transformation for the planet, marking the beginning of a new era. And there are modern Mayan scholars who believe that 2012 is largely irrelevant, claiming that classic Maya sources on the subject are scarce and contradictory, suggesting that there was little if any universal agreement among them about what, if anything, the date might mean. Apparently Emmerich and fellow screenwriter, Harald Klaser, decided to explore the disaster scenario.

The story began in 2009 with a visit to India by American scientist Adrian Hemlsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who learns from his friend and colleague Satnam Tsurutani (Jimi Mistry) that neutrinos from a solar flare were causing the temperature of the Earth’s core to rapidly increase. This discovery set off a chain of events in which the world’s leaders – including U.S. President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover) – to collaborate upon a secret project that will ensure the continuity of humanity by choosing 400,000 people for admission aboard a series of large ships or hydraulic arks being constructed in the Himalayas. To help fund the venture, additional individuals were allowed to purchase passage aboard these arks for one billion euros apiece.

By the time the secret project near completion in 2012, a Los Angeles writer and part-time driver for a Russian billionaire named Jackson Curtis (John Cusak) learned about the Mayan myth and the possibility of the world’s future, along with the secret project from a hermit and conspiracy theorist named Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson), while vacationing with his kids at Yellowstone National Park. After Jackson returned his kids to his ex-wife Kate (Amanda Peet) and her live-in boyfriend Gordon Silberman (Thomas McCarthy), Jackson realized that Frost might be right about an upcoming apocalypse when he drove his employer’s twin sons to the airport. Jackson purchased a small plane and convinced Kate and Gordon to get the kids and escape from Los Angeles with him. Fortunately, Gordon turned out to be an amateur pilot and they escaped from a California sliding into the Pacific following a series of devastating earthquakes. The group returned to the Yellowstone Park in order to learn about the location of the secret project from Frost. After learning that particular information, Jackson and the others barely escape the destruction of Yellowstone and made tracks for Las Vegas and later, China and the Himalayans. Meanwhile, Adrian learned that the Earth’s destruction may come a lot sooner than he and Satnam had surmised. The world leaders and certain members of the population also head for China.

What can I say about ”2010”? Come on. It is a Roland Emmerich disaster film. Which meant that it had disasters of epic proportions, slightly cheesy dialogue and science that was probably more fiction than fact. A Roland Emmerich disaster film also insured a cast of . . . well, many roles in various subplots, including one that featured a fractured American family. And considering that I have seen these very same aspects in other Emmerich films, I should have been bored with ”2012”. Hell, I have read some posts and reviews on the Web that the movie lacked originality. And yet . . . I enjoyed ”2012” very much.

Both Emmerich and Klaser had created a solid script that provided detailed accounts of the three-year countdown to 2012, the disasters that unfolded and the major characters’ experiences in dealing with those same disasters. They also did an exceptional job in detailing the journey that took Jackson, his family and Gordon from Los Angeles to the Himalayas. I also enjoyed the clashes between Adrian and President Wilson’s ruthless and self-serving Chief of Staff Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt). Their quarrels focused upon one of the movie’s main themes that centered on humanity’s willingness for compassion toward others. One aspect of the movie that I really enjoyed was the scenes that featured intimate moments between some of the characters. These scenes provided some excellent acting from the likes of John Cusak, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Thomas McCarthy, Blu Mankuma, George Segal, Woody Harrelson, Osric Chau, Oliver Platt and especially Chiwetel Ejiofor. They included:

*Ejiofor and Mankuma gave wonderfully poignant performances as Adrian Helmsley and his father Harry, when the pair have their last conversation via telephone.

*Both Cusak and Harrelson were hilarious in a funny scene that featured Jackson’s attempt to acquire the location of the special project from an excited Charlie Frost.

*Another poignant scene featured performances from Osric Chau and Henry O as Tibetan monk Nima and his mentor Lama Rinpoche, as the former failed to convince the latter about the upcoming apocalypse.

*Danny Glover gave an excellent performance as President Wilson giving his last televised speech. Wilson’s last conversation with his daughter Laura provided as scene that allowed not only Glover to shine, but Thandie Newton as well.

*George Segal was solid as Tony Delgatto, Harry Helmsley’s singing partner, agonizing over the fate of his estranged son and family in Japan.

*Amanda Peet shone in an emotional scene in which her character, Kate Curtis, revealed the angst she had to endure during the Curtis’ marriage.

*And once more, Cusak had another wonderful scene . . . this time with Thomas McCarthy, as former rivals Jackson and Gordon finally make their peace with one another.

*And Ejiofor was superb in a scene in which Adrian attempted to convince the other G8 world leaders to allow those people left behind at the Himalayan dock to board the ship.

Emmerich and Klaser’s script also provided plenty of opportunity for cinematographer Dean Semler, production designer Barry Chusid and the special effects team supervised by Mike V├ęzina to provide some astounding visuals of world locations being destroyed by natural disasters brought about by the apocalypse. I found the scenes that featured the destruction of Rio de Janeiro, Las Vegas, Rome, a cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean and Washington D.C. astounding. But there were two sequences that nearly blew my mind. One featured the Curtis family and Gordon’s spectacular escape from the Yellowstone National Park after Jackson had acquired the information he needed from Frost. The other, which I believe proved to be the piece de resistance, featured Jackson, his family and Gordon’s initial escape from Southern California. Not only did I find it breathtaking, but also a little creepy. I happened to be from that particular area.

Did I have any complaints about ”2012”? Well, I have already mentioned a few. I agree with those critics who had complained about the movie’s lack of originality. There were many traits in the plot that I have seen in other Roland Emmerich films – traits that included cheesy dialogue, the role of the selfish and uncompassionate Presidential aide (this time being portrayed by Oliver Platt), the noble scientist (Ejiofor), a fractured American family pulled together by a natural disaster (the Curtises), the friendly non-American colleague/ally of noble scientist. Yes, I have seen them all in previous Emmerich movies. One day, perhaps the director/writer might be a little more original in any future disaster movie. Who knows? I was also annoyed by the movie’s big finale. It featured the series of incidents (including being struck by a wave from a tsunami) that left the hydraulic ark with the Curtises, Adrian Helmsley and Laura Wilson on board drifting helplessly toward a fatal collision with a half-sunk Mount Everest. Frankly, I found the entire sequence somewhat contrived and annoying. It was just a bit too much.

I suspect that many movie critics will continue to complain that ”2012” lacked originality. And they would be right to do so. And they are also right to complain about the questionable science featured in the movie. But you know what? I do not care. I thought that despite its flaws, ”2012” was a pretty damn good movie with an entertaining and nail-biting plot. The movie can also boast some solid acting by its cast – especially a first-rate performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor – exciting action sequences and superb visual effects. In other words, I enjoyed ”2012” so much that I hope to see it again. Oh . . . and I do plan to finally see "PIRATE RADIO" as soon as I can.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Favorite Movies of the 1950s

Below is a list of my favorite movies released during the 1950s:


1. "Some Like It Hot" (1959) - Billy Wilder directed and co-wrote with I.A.L. Diamond this superb comedy about two struggling musicians who witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and try to find a way out of the city before they are found and killed by the mob. The only job that will pay their way is an all girl band so the two dress up as women. Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon star in this classic comedy.

2. "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) - Here is another classic directed by Billy Wilder, who co-wrote the script with Charles Brackett; in which a hack Hollywood screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity. Co-written by Charles Brackett, the film starred Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich von Sroheim and Nancy Olson.

3. "The Searchers" (1956) - John Ford directed this Western classic about a Civil War veteran who spends years searching for a young niece captured by the Commanches. As the years wear on, his young companion finds his motivation increasingly questionable. John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Harry Carey Jr. and Natalie Wood starred.

4. "Gigi" (1958) - Vincente Minelli directed this Oscar-winning musical adaptation of Collette's story about a rich playboy, weary of the conventions of turn-of-the-century Parisian society, who enjoys a platonic friendship with a youthful courtesan-in-training. Leslie Caron, Louis Jordan, Hermioine Gingold, Isabel Jeans, Eva Gabor and Maurice Chevalier starred.

5. "King Solomon's Mines" (1950) - Stewart Granger starred in this Oscar-nominated adaptation of H. Rider Haggard's novel about hunter/guide Allan Quartermain who helps a married woman search for her missing husband in the unexplored regions of East Africa. Deborah Kerr and Richard Carlson co-starred.

6. "Singin' in the Rain" (1952) - Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly co-directed this classic musical about Hollywood's transition to sound in the late 1920s. Kelly co-starred with Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor and Jean Hagen.

7. "Friendly Persuasion" (1956) - William Wyler directed this adaptation of Jessamyn West's novel about a pacifist Quaker family in Indiana during the Civil War. Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire and Anthony Perkins starred.

8. "The Big Country" (1958) - Again, William Wyler filmed another adaptation of a novel; namely of Donald Hamilton's story about a feud between two ranchers in 1870s Texas. Gregory Peck is the Easterner who finds himself caught in the middle. Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston, Carroll Baker, Chuck Connors, Charles Bickford and Oscar winner Burl Ives co-starred.

9. "Pillow Talk" (1959) - Rock Hudson and Doris Day starred in this Oscar winning comedy about a New York playboy and a decorator who share a telephone line and despise each other. But then he has fun by romancing her with his voice disguised. Tony Randall and Thelma Ritter co-starred.

10. "Written on the Wind" (1956) - Douglas Sirk directed this adaptation of Robert Wilder's novel about a New York secretary who marries a wealthy alcoholic playboy and ends up regretting it. Rock Hudson and Lauren Bacall starred. Oscar nominee Robert Stack and Oscar winner Dorothy Malone portrayed the bad seeds of a wealthy Texas oil family.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"MAD MEN": Acts of Violence

"MAD MEN": Acts of Violence

The Season Three episode of "MAD MEN" called (3.11) "The Gypsy and the Hobo" featured a scene in which former Sterling Cooper office manager Joan Holloway had bashed a vase against the head of her husband, Greg Harris. He had been whining over failing to acquire a new job as a psychiatrist during an interview. Frustrated and angered by his lack of professional success and his bouts of whining, Joan took a vase and bashed it over his head. Then she marched into their bedroom and closed the door.

Ever since (3.11) "The Gypsy and the Hobo" had aired, many fans have been expressing glee over Joan's violent acts. And whenever someone protested against Joan's actions, many rushed to the redhead's defense. The more excuses I read, the more I find interesting that so many of these fans are drumming up excuses for what was obviously an act of violence perpetrated by Joan against her husband.

While thinking about it, I realized that Joan really had no excuse to attack her husband, anymore than Greg had for his attack upon her, last season's episode, (2.12) "The Mountain King". Both had been acts of violence perpetrated by the couple's emotions. Greg had felt threatened by Joan's sexual history and potential lack of control and raped her. Joan felt frustrated and angered by Greg's inability to become a professional success and his selfish whining and bashed him over the head with a vase. Both were wrong.

Yet, because Joan is a)very popular with fans, b) a woman, and c) had been attacked first; many fans have been condoning her actions, while continuing to condemn Greg's. I get the sense that many fans are taking an "eye for an eye" attitude toward Joan's attack, as retaliation for what Greg had done to her.

Frankly, I think Joan should have broken her engagement with Greg after he had raped her in "The Mountain King". She really had no excuse for failing to do this. She was not married to Greg. Another nine months or so would pass before she finally left Sterling Cooper. She was a 31 year-old woman at the time. Granted, society in general may have deemed her an "old maid", but she certainly had no problems with living with that stigma before 1962. Greg had not been the first man to propose marriage to her. And even at 31 years (last season), she was still young and beautiful enough to attract another man. Look at Duck Phillips' ex-wife. She managed to find another man and she must have been in her 40s at the time of their divorce.

I hate to say this, but Joan blew her chance at a better life or a better husband, when she went ahead and married Greg following the rape. Joan is supposed to be this smart and savy woman. And yet, she could not see that he might not be the right man for her after he had raped her? Had she been so determined to acquire a successful husband that she failed to realize there was something wrong with Greg?

Joan really had no obligation to marry him, after what he had done to her. And hitting him over the head with a vase out of anger and frustration was not going to change anything.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"COLD MOUNTAIN" (2003) Photo Gallery

Here is a gallery of photos from Anthony Maghella's 2003 Oscar-winning adaptation of Charles Frazier's novel called "COLD MOUNTAIN". The movie starred Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Academy Award winner Renee Zellweger:

"COLD MOUNTAIN" (2003) Photo Gallery

Friday, November 20, 2009

"2012" (2009) Photo Gallery

Below is a gallery featuring photos from the new Roland Emmerich disaster film, "2012". The movie stars John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson, Thomas McCarthy and Danny Glover:

"2012" (2009) PHOTO GALLERY