LONG WALK TO FREEDOM
The recent death of Mr. Nelson “Madiba” Mandela has the potential to draw many out to theaters world-wide, to watch director Justin Chadwick’s (The First Grader, 2010) nearly two-and-a-half-hour masterpiece biopic about the anti-apartheid activist and former South African president. On the other hand, with so many vivid eulogies and intricate documentary accounts in the news media, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom can easily be dismissed as just another effort to capitalize on the larger-than-life icon. In any case, any film that tries to encompass most of Mr. Mandela’s long life carries an enormous burden of expectation and would probably be better off in the format of a TV miniseries instead of a two and a half hour feature film. This notion simply begs the questions, how can one film do the man justice? And in attempting to do so, how can it be vital and compelling rather than merely well-meaning and educational? Well, having seen many accounts of Madiba’s life story through varying media outlets; arguably this latest effort is, by far, the best attempt to account for his life-story to date.
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me kick-off my critique by saying that we all know that we're able to
consume media content in many different ways, and that it’s almost a
chore in it of itself to decide which format to follow (and for some,
that's probably a good thing). However, I’ll do the leg-work here and
assert right now that there's only one truly correct way to experience
Alfonso Cuaron’s amazing flick, Gravity. That way is in a theater, on
a huge screen, in 3D. Did I mention 3D? Yes 3D, even for all you
“3D-naysayers.” Having said that, let’s not confuse my position
here, I for one will usually be the first to say not to waste the extra
money for the 3D version because most flicks are a misguided effort in
that format; However in this particular case, this is the movie you must
see in 3D. So much so, that I would advise against seeing it in any
other format. I’ve only said that about one other film of which many
of you might agree – that’s Avatar (2009).
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Here we go again, with yet another presentation of Hollywood’s never-ending parade of “fact-based movies.” Even with Tom Hanks starring in it, I was a tad bit concerned that with my knowing too much about the story from the news (the outcome, the details); the truth would get in the way and hinder my enjoying it. However, to the contrary, it is very much skillfully crafted by director Paul Greengrass (United 93, and the first two Bourne films), expertly drafted by writer William “Billy” Ray (The Hunger Games, 2012) and seamlessly executed with the likes of Tom Hanks, and newcomers Barkhad
Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, and Mahat M. Ali.
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The catch-22 for most sitcom or television stars who want to become movie stars is that the very thing that makes them TV favorites (the exaggerated qualities of the characters for which they have become beloved and wealthy), is precisely what strangles them on the big screen. David
Schwimmer, Ellen DeGeneres, Kelsey Grammer are perfect examples of folks that seems restrained by the success of their TV personas. Studio movies written for them inevitably turn out to be movies in which stars play weak variations of their TV selves, only just not as endearing. I’m not implying that it’s impossible to break out, of course and as a matter of fact we have many fine examples with the likes of Tom Hanks and others whom have done just fine.
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Marvel’s “Iron Man 3” pits
brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy
whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world
destroyed at his enemy's hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find
those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle.
With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own
devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest
to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the
question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or
does the suit make the man?.
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Well folks, it’s finally here! The long awaited third installation to Disney and Marvel’s Iron Man series. After a little research, I’ve come to find out what makes this super sequel extra special. It is most certainly exceptionally done this time around and I would attribute it to the return of legendary screenwriter/Director Shane Black (Lethal Weapon movies, 1987-1992). After the disappointment of 1996’s The Long Kiss Goodnight (one of the most expensive screenplays in history, according to
Wikipedia), and then making a mediocre return attempt with the 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Black is finally debuting his craft that once placed him atop the Hollywood’s A-list writer/directors. His take on this release is in-your-face obvious and is unmistakable. One of the most obvious traits is his comedic element that usually follows his characters and if you have ever seen any of his previous flicks, you’ll remember things like characters sitting on toilets, while the house explodes (literally being caught with their pants down).
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I think Brad Pitt has out done himself
with this latest “zombie” effort. Before the screening, it was quite
difficult to imagine a Brad Pitt character fighting off the catastrophe
of zombies taking over the world. However, boy was I in for a pleasant
surprise!?! Pitt and Director Marc Forster, et al, delivered above and
beyond expectations here. I guess Forster’s Monster’s Ball (2001)
and Quantum of Solace (2008) experience has prepared him for this action
thriller. Based on World War Z, a 2006 apocalyptic horror novel by Max
Brooks, this Hollywood blockbuster might be a bit late to the zombie
party, but it arrives just as everyone has gotten in to the whole
bath-salts and zombie craze. This, precisely it seems, is when audiences
are most receptive to a well-done Hollywood production as we have here.
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YEARS A SLAVE
Some may ponder what qualifies Steve
McQueen to bring us such an epic and historically relevant story;
however, some may exclaim that he’s the ideal director for the telling
of this extraordinary event, in American history. For reassurance, one
has to look no further than his 2008 Hunger flick which depicts the
martyrdom of Bobby Sands whom led members of the Irish Republican Army
on a hunger strike in a Northern Ireland jail. Simply put, McQueen’s
directorial voice gives us a cold, extremely unadulterated, and
deterministic, sequence of events that keeps it from attaining the kind
of elegance that we the audience have become accustomed to appreciating
and then forgetting, in short order. Nevertheless, in this case and
because of such focus on being true to Solomon Northup’s recollection
of events, this McQueen effort resulted more in playing out like a
crude, but well scripted documentary, rather than a big studio Hollywood
production. It’s simply a case of excellent material being presented
in the wrong format. I’d like to proclaim that it can be likened to
Steven Spielberg’s 1997 Amistad, about a mutiny on a slave ship in
1839, but it simply has too much a documentary feel to it.
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& FURIOUS 6
Who knew? Who knew that a series that seemed ‘fly-by-night’ and disposable, by the third installation, could find itself in to its sixth release and still setting the tone for what a bona fide, amazing and relevant blockbuster should look and feel like? Well, if you asked me, it’s a no-brainer. With elements of muscle car action, brawn, brain and comedic action, coupled with lots of super hot ‘chicks-on-chicks’ action (ok, not that type of action, but more of the female
MMA-type action), in some exotic locales, then I would say we have a recipe for longevity in the film industry. Kinda’ like that British-export series we have all come to know as “Bond, James Bond!” Needless to say, this franchise is evolving to stay relevant. They started with a “pimp-my-ride” type of appeal, then moved on to a racing phenomena, called drifting (this was the in-thing for a while), then on to the tried and true cops and robbers/drug dealers, genre. Now in 2013, we have moved on to international conspiracies and terror plots (which is very relevant, I might add) and teeters on the edge of infringing on triple “X,” the Vin Diesel original. That evolutionary style of film making hasn’t let them stray too far from what they know as their strengths. They still rely on big ‘smash-em-up’ car chases, lots of hand-to-hand close-quarters combat, and its characters' ‘go big or go home’ enthusiasm for all of the above. Great recipe for continued growth, I would say.
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Famed award winning director Ron Howard
teams up with Chris Hemsworth (Thor, 2011), and Spanish-born German
actor Daniel “Bruehl” Bruhl (who happens to star in one of my
favorite German movies called Good Bye, Lenin!, 2003 – Though most
might know him from Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds and in a
minor role in The Bourne Ultimatum), to bring us one of the year’s
most powerful rivalry-centric bio-pics. From a distance, Howard’s take
on the rivalry seems to be geared toward promoting Formula 1’s (F1)
history and presences in the automotive racing world, however, as the
two hour flick plays on, one quickly realizes that this movie is about
more than just racing… it has a real human side to it and it’s a
real story about real characters that had real life-changing rivalries.
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