Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Below are images from the 2007 comedy hit, "HOT FUZZ". Directed by Edgar Wright, the movie starred Simon Pegg and Nick Frost:
"HOT FUZZ" (2007) Photo Gallery
Monday, November 28, 2016
"SNOWDEN" (2016) Review
When I heard that director Oliver Stone was about to release a movie about tech whistleblower, Edward Snowden, I did not know what to expect. I still harbored memories of "THE FIFTH ESTATE", the 2013 movie about Julian Assange. Unlike many others, I did not dislike the film. But I did not find it particularly impressive. But curiosity won in regard to this movie about Snowden and I decided to watch it.
Structured as a flashback, "SNOWDEN" began three years earlier in Hong Kong, where Snowden had agreed to meet with The Guardian and Washington Post journalists and reveal the details leading to his decision to expose the National Security Agency (N.S.A.)'s illegal cyber-snooping on millions of unsuspecting American citizens. The flashbacks began with Snowden's departure from the U.S. Army due to a major injury and covered his years with the C.I.A. and as a contractee for Dell, which manages computer systems for multiple government agencies like the N.S.A. The movie also covered Snowden's profession and growing knowledge of the American government's illegal use of cybertech affected his tumultuous relationship with girlfriend Lindsay Mills and his health for nearly a decade.
Personally, I thought "SNOWDEN" was a pretty damn good movie. It is not the first biopic or movie with a strong historic background that Oliver Stone had directed. And if I must be brutally honest, it is not his best. I cannot put my finger on why "SNOWDEN" failed to rank up there with the likes of "PLATOON", "BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY" and especially "JFK". Was it the subject matter? One would think Edward Snowden's actions would generate plenty of controversy. An N.S.A. contractor exposing the U.S. government for illegally spying on the American public would seems controversial. Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald's screenplay even went into details behind Snowden's discoveries - details that left many Americans outraged when news of Snowden's leaks hit the newspapers and the Internet. The screenplay also detailed the emotional consequences that Snowden had suffered from his years with the C.I.A. and his employment as a N.S.A. contractor.
"SNOWDEN" also featured some pretty top notch performances from the cast. Performers like Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, Nicholas Cage, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Olyphant, Scott Eastwood, Keith Stanfield, Ben Schnetzer, Logan Marshall-Green and Joely Richardson gave solid, yet colorful performances. I was very impressed by Rhys Ifan, who have a subtle, yet slightly sinister performance as Snowden's C.I.A. mentor Corbin O'Brian. Shailene Woodley was excellent as Snowden's girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, who nearly became an emotional victim of his profession. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt gave an outstanding performance as the titled character, Edward Snowden. His performance was subtle, emotional and very skillful . . . worthy of an acting nomination.
So, why did "SNOWDEN" fail to impress me? The performances were top-notch. The topic of illegal government surveillance struck me as not only controversial, but also relevant. Or perhaps the topic had ceased to be relevant with American moviegoers. Society's taste in entertainment has grown disturbingly conservative over the past several years. It is possible that many moviegoers were more outraged over Snowden's actions, than the government's. Or perhaps Stone's timing for the movie's production and release was a year or two late.
But if I must be honest, "SNOWDEN" seemed to lack something . . . perhaps some touch of magic or energy that made some of his past films memorable to this day. In fact, the movie reminded me of the 2010 Best Picture winner, "THE KING'S SPEECH". Many recall that movie was a box office and garnered a great deal of accolades. True. But aside from Colin Firth's Best Actor win, I never thought it deserved its accolades. Both movies struck me as entertaining, yet unoriginal biopics. I suspect that the 2010 movie benefited from the public's growing conservative taste in entertainment. And it did not help that "SNOWDEN" ended with an appearance from the actual man himself. I dislike it when a filmmaker does this. For me, it is like tacking on a "behind-the-scenes"featurette at the end of a film, giving the latter a weak ending.
Do not get me wrong. I enjoyed "SNOWDEN". I found its topic very interesting and relevant. I was also impressed by the cast, which was led by the very talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role. Oliver Stone did a solid job in covering the years that led to Edward Snowden's whistle blowing. And thanks to him, the movie featured some interesting moments from a cinematic point-of-view. But overall, "SNOWDEN" struck me as a not-so-dazzling effort from Stone. It struck me as a bit too typical for a historical drama and biopic.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
In acknowledgment of the recent Presidential Election, below is a list of my favorite movie and television productions about U.S. Presidents - historical and fictional:
FAVORITE PRESIDENTIAL MOVIE AND TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS
1. "John Adams" (2008) - Tom Hanks produced this Emmy-award winning adaptation of David McCullough's 2001 biography about the second U.S. president. Directed by Tom Hooper, Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney starred.
2. "All the President's Men" - Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman starred in this award winning adaptation of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's 1974 book about the Watergate scandal. Alan J. Pakula directed.
3. "Lincoln" (2012) - Steven Spielberg directed this Oscar nominated biopic about President Abraham Lincoln's efforts to pass the Thirteenth Amendment. Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis and Oscar nominee Sally Field starred.
4. "L.B.J.: The Early Years" (1987) - Golden Globe winner Randy Quaid and Patti LuPone starred in this two-part television movie about President Lyndon B. Johnson's private and political years before becoming U.S. President. Peter Werner directed.
5. "Lincoln" (1988) - Sam Waterston and Mary Tyler Moore starred in this Emmy-nominated adaptation of Gore Vidal's 1984 novel about the 16th president during the U.S. Civil War. Emmy winner Lamont Johnson directed.
6. "The West Wing" (1999-2006) - Aaron Sorkin created this Emmy winning political drama about a fictitious Presidential administration. Martin Sheen and John Spencer starred.
7. "My Fellow Americans" (1996) - Jack Lemmon and James Garner starred in this political comedy about two U.S. presidents and political rivals who join forces to expose the corrupt current U.S. President. Peter Segal directed.
8. "The American President" (1995) - Michael Douglas and Annette Bening starred in this romantic comedy-drama about a widowed U.S. President who becomes romantically involved with an environmental lobbyist. The movie was directed by Rob Reiner and written by Aaron Sorkin.
9. "Eleanor and Franklin" (1976) - Edward Herrmann and Jane Alexander starred in this Emmy-winning television adaptation of Joseph P. Lash's 1971 biography about President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Daniel Petrie directed.
10. "Dave" (1993) - Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver starred in this comedy about an owner of a Washington D.C. temporary employment agency who is recruited to impersonate the U.S. President after the latter suffers a severe stroke, while having sex with his mistress. The movie was directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Gary Ross.
Honorable Mentioned: "Dick" (1999) - Kristen Dunst and Michelle Williams starred in this parody of the Watergate scandal. Andrew Fleming directed.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
Below are images from "THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN", the 2016 remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 movie, "SEVEN SAMURAI". Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the movie starred Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke:
"THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN" (2016) Photo Gallery