Monthly Archive for June, 2015

Big Eyes

Big Eyes (6/29/15) British Airways: LAX -> LHR (2014 ***) Directed by Tim Burton, written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, starring Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz and Danny Huston. Margaret Keane has a talent for painting images of wobegone waifs with exaggeratedly-large eyes; her husband Walter, on the other hand, has an equally impressive talent for claiming credit for his wife’s creations. On the surface, this seems like a surprising project choice for Tim Burton. After all, it’s the first biography he’s directed since Ed Wood (1994), which is quite possibly my favorite of Burton’s films. The logic for the choice becomes a bit clearer when you learn that Big Eyes‘ screenwriters were also behind that earlier movie. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite on the same level, and I think that the reason why boils down to the fact that the story and personalities involved aren’t nearly as interesting. The film’s dramatic climax takes the form of a painting demonstration in a Hawaii courtroom. Just not compelling source material.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (6/29/15) British Airways: LAX -> LHR (2014 ***) Directed by Shawn Levy, starring Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais and Rebel Wilson as Tilly. When The Museum of Natural History’s animation-bestowing Tablet of Ahkmenrah goes on the fritz, Larry Daley and the “we come to life at night” gang travel to London to search for a fix. There is an element of pure fun to the Night at the Museum movies that is undeniable. They don’t ask their audiences for much, other than to sit back and enjoy the ride. This one offers a few nice touches, like (A) a caveman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Ben Stiller and… (B) Rebel Wilson, who — in my humble opinion — didn’t get nearly enough screen-time. This film was released a few months after Robin Williams’ suicide, and so it was impossible to watch his scenes without that in mind. He will be sorely missed.

Finian’s Rainbow

Finian’s Rainbow (6/28/15) TCM (1968 ***1/2) Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, based on the musical by E.Y. Harburg, Fred Saidy and Burton Lane, starring Fred Astaire, Petula Clark, Tommy Steele and Don Francks. When Finian McLonergan steals a leprechaun’s pot of gold and travels to America’s deep South, it doesn’t take long before the rightful owner shows up and demands its return. While it certainly doesn’t seem that long ago, I’d previously watched and reviewed this film back on 3/1/06, and described how it became one of my sentimental favorites. While it’s not a perfect movie, I’m so glad to report that its place in my heart hasn’t changed much since childhood. I haven’t much to add other than this time around I noticed some similarities to The Muppet Movie (1979). Specifically, compare the Muppets’ “Moving Right Along” to Keenan Wynn in “The Begat.” In addition to that, I also began to wonder if Finian‘s original musical was influenced to any degree by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Curiously, googling the obvious search terms shed absolutely no light on the matter. (Favorite)

Inside Out

Inside Out (6/25/15) Burbank AMC 16 (2015 ****) Directed by Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen, starring the voices of Kaitlyn Dias (Riley), Amy Poehler (Joy), Phyllis Smith (Sadness) and Richard Kind (Bing Bong). When a pre-pubescent girl’s family moves to San Francisco, her emotions get all mixed up. I really have to hand it to Pixar: When it comes to creating unabashedly emotionally-manipulative movies that are wonderfully crafted… well, they’re pretty damned hard to beat. And more power to ’em. Is there really anything more to add? Not really, other than, “Well done.”

Boyhood

Boyhood (6/24/15) TMC (2014 ****) Directed by Richard Linklater, starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Lorelei Linklater. A young Texas daydreamer named Mason grows to manhood before our eyes. I’d previously watched and reviewed this film on 2/9/15, a bit prior to it losing the Best Picture award to Birdman (2014). Not surprisingly, Boyhood remains my choice for best picture. Watching it for this second time, I was further impressed by the loving touch that went into this film. Given the variety of projects he undertakes, I don’t know if Richard Linklater is ever going to be able to top this accomplishment or not, but I sure as hell wouldn’t bet against him, and I hope to see him someday holding a Best Director and/or Best Picture Oscar in his hands. In my previous review I wrote that I would likely watch it again. Guess what? I’m going to repeat that same prediction this time around. Let’s see how long it takes before I do. (Favorite)

Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland (6/22/15) DWA Screening (2015 ***) Directed by Brad Bird, starring George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie and Raffey Cassidy as Athena. A teenage girl discovers a lapel pin that gives her a glimpse of a Utopian futuristic world. By now the verdict on Tomorrowland is already in: It’s a dud, both critically and at the box office. This is unfortunate, especially since Brad Bird (Iron Giant, The Incredibles) is such a beloved figure. And while we may never get to see his San Francisco earthquake film 1902, he had proven his ability to helm a big-budget action film with Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (2011). For me, Tomorrowland started strong, with a good first act and the first half of the second, but then at the midpoint its fuse fizzled out and it ended weakly. I loved the message: That there was a time not so long ago when the future was seen as an amazing place, filled with wonders limited only by the imagination. On an intellectual level, I appreciated the elegance of pitting Utopian versus dystopian versions of the future against each other. Unfortunately, for Tomorrowland, that conflict was presented almost too literally, and what action there was in the film’s climax didn’t feel especially meaningful.

Evita

Evita (6/21/15) SHO (1996 ***1/2) Directed by Alan Parker, based on the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, starring Madonna, Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce. When Eva Duarte marries Argentina President Juan Peron, she finds a level of adoration few women ever dream of. It had been years since I’d watched this film, and it remains a distinct pleasure. I think Alan Parker, who had directed Pink Floyd The Wall (1982) and The Commitments (1991) was a perfect choice to helm this film based on the musical by the team behind Jesus Christ Superstar. It could be argued whether Madonna was the best choice as the film’s lead, but I thought she brought a voice and real gravitas to the role. Ultimately, however, I think the real star of Evita is the music, and it has a soundtrack that will continue playing in your head long after you’ve watched the film.

JFK

JFK (6/21/15) MAX (1991 ****) Directed by Oliver Stone, based on the books On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison and Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy by Jim Marrs, starring Kevin Costner, Sissy Spacek, Ed Asner, Jack Lemmon and Gary Oldman as Lee Harvey Oswald. New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison decides to expand his purview to include the assassination of the 35th President of the United States. I had not watched JFK for more than a decade. I saw it when it was first released and its visual style blew me away, immediately becoming my favorite of Oliver Stone’s films. It’s still hard for me to believe that JFK is nearly 25 years old. Of course, because of its subject matter, the film was controversial when it was released, but it seems like that aspect of it has softened somewhat over the years. The question of whether there was or was not a conspiracy to assassinate John Kennedy doesn’t seem to be as poignant in a post-9/11 world. (Favorite)

Jurassic World

Jurassic World (6/21/15) Glendale Pacific 18 (2015 ***1/2) Directed by Colin Trevorrow, starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio and Jake Johnson. Decades after the original Jurassic Park fiasco, gene-splicing efforts to create a new attraction (and species) prove… regrettable. I still remember how turn-paging Michael Crichton’s original novel was and the thrill of sitting in a packed theater in the summer of 1993 to see Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park. After two somewhat disappointing sequels in 1997 and 2001, the Universal franchise lay dormant for a decade and a half, yet never quite going away. I went to Jurassic World with limited expectations. Quite frankly, I didn’t expect anything more than a fun roller coaster ride, and that I got in abundance. In a way, the film’s core premise — that in order to boost the audience they had to genetically design a pretty freaking horrifying dinosaur — was the story of this film too, which looks to break all kinds of box office records. Also, you get to see Chris Pratt ride a motorcycle through a jungle with his velociraptor buddies!

Multiplicity

Multiplicity (6/20/15) Encore (1996 **1/2) Directed by Harold Ramis, starring Michael Keaton, Andie MacDowell and Michael Keaton. A stressed-out contractor meets a crazy scientist with the answer to his time-management woes: Cloning. Back in the mid-1990s, the late Harold Ramis’ looked for a concept worthy of following up his beloved Groundhog Day (1993). His solution was to use the relatively new motion control technology pioneered in the Back to the Future sequel in 1989 to give the world multiple (I won’t reveal how many) Michael Keatons. Plus, at its heart was a theme nearly everybody living in the busy modern world could identify with. Yeah, on paper it must have seemed like a good enough idea, but somehow the execution left something to be desired. Possibly the problem was that not enough was done to exploit the premise, with too much relying on Michael Keaton’s various performance(s) and the gimmick itself.