Director: Ron Howard
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Solo: A Star Wars Story is the second out of time Star Wars movie produced by Disney which follows Han Solo as he grows and becomes the famed pilot he is. Though there were some moments that I did not totally agree with and I could never quite get over the difference in voices between Harrison Ford and Aiden Ehrenreich, the movie was the first Star Wars film that felt like one since the end of the first trilogy that feels like it was from that time.
The story is centered around Han Solo as he comes of age. He is aiming for two goals, to find and rescue his childhood love and to have his own ship, as he believes he is the best pilot in the galaxy. In an attempt to escape with his love, Qi'ra, Han manages to sneak through a transport depot but Qi'ra is caught. In anger, Solo enlists in the Imperial Navy in hopes of becoming a pilot. Three years on and he is in the infantry, having failed flight school for being to free thinking. He catches a group of soldiers planning on deserting but they rat him out and he is nearly killed by a Wookie, Chewbacca. He befriends Chewbacca and the two manage to get on board with the deserts, led by Tobias Beckett. After a failed attempt to steal expensive coaxium, a hyperspace fuel, the group is brought aboard a Red Dawn ship. Red Dawn had contracted Beckett to steal the coaxium. Aboard the ship, Han reunites with Qi'ra, who is now a high up official in Red Dawn. They agree to find another supply of coaxium and all set out to Kessel. Along the way, they stop and gamble with Lando to get his ship but Lando cheats, defeating Han. Lando owns the Millennium Falcon and agrees to go for a cut of the profit. In Kessel, they obtain unrefined coaxium which has to be kept cold or it will explode. Flying as fast as possible, the group manages to make it to a remote refinery where the coaxium is refined. As they prepare to deliver it to Red Dawn, a terrorist group, the Cloud Riders intercepts them and pleads that they don't help Red Dawn, who terrorize worlds. The Red Dawn ship arrives and Han, Chewy, and Qi'ra attempt to trick the captain but Beckett gives them away. In the ensuing fight, Beckett escapes with the coaxium, Han goes after him, and Qi'ra kills the captain and becomes the new leader of Red Dawn. She reports to Darth Maul what has accorded and she leaves Han. Han confronts and kills Beckett, who admires him in his final moments and tells him to go to Tatooine. Han and Chewy find Lando and defeat him at cards, winning the Millennium Falcon.
The story of the infamous Kessel Run is one of Star Wars lore. It was the obvious choice. The plot was intriguing and kept you guessing as to what was coming next. By having only three characters that we knew had to survive, it allowed for some controlled peril. However, I have one pet peeve that I will never be able to get over. When movies openly show that there is going to be a sequel or a franchise, it annoys me to NO end. This happened in Blade Runner 2049 and it completely killed the mode for me. Star Wars: A New Hope was done very well and allowed the movie to end and have no sequels or to have sequels. Rogue One could have been a great stand alone movie. Just like A New Hope, it leaves open the possibility for sequels without openly saying there will be. But the addition of Darth Maul and the dialogue around his short appearance made it so painfully obvious that there would be more movies. I have no problem with more movies, but I wish that directors and writers could find more nuanced ways of doing this. However, apart from this, I was all in on the plot. It was intriguing and fast paced and never once made me check what time it was. It had me all in.
The casting was...interesting. The characters all seemed very well suited to the actors, as though the actors had been pre-chosen and the characters molded around them. Han was obviously the most prominent character and, with this being the first time someone else played Han, he was always going to be under a microscope. It was always going to be weird trying to match Han's looks, voice, and attitude. Aiden got the attitude almost perfectly. He was a little bit less cocky than Ford. I felt like Aiden's cockiness was too tinted with humor. His voice was also a bit weird adjusting to. While Ford has a nice, deep, soothing voice, Ehrenreich's is higher. However, by the end of the movie, I was sold on him as Solo. He isn't perfect but he is still a great fit and has the confidence to play the part well. However, I have to give top marks to Lando above all else. Donald Grover IS Lando Calrissian. I even knew there was going to be a Solo movie, I thought they should do a movie about a young Lando and I thought Grover should play him. Like how Ryan Reynolds IS Deadpool, Grover IS Calrissian.
This movie was so nearly perfect for me. It had so many things right and only a few things wrong. I loved it.
Director(s): The Russo Brothers
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Finally, a movie that so nearly did what I wish happened more often. Infinity War focuses on the struggle between the Avengers and Thanos, who is trying to commit mass genocide (yaaaayyyyyy).
Infinity War starts out with a shock as Thanos, having obtained two of the six Infinity Stones, kills Loki in the midst of his attempt to kill Thanos. From here, Infinity War jumps around between various groups of Avengers and Thanos as they fight each other over the fate of the Universe. Towards the end of the movie, the Avengers seem to have defeated Thanos. They had destroyed his army attack Wakanda and Vision, who had the last remaining Infinity Stone, had survived numerous attempts on his life. However, with victory looking assured, Thanos arrives having defeated Spiderman, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Peter Quill. He makes light work of the remaining Averngers and approaches Vision who has convinced Scarlet Witch to destroy the Infinity Stone, and in doing so, killing him. She succeeds just as Thanos seems poised to take it. Thanos, not accepting the feat, merely uses the Time stone to reverse time, and take the stone. In one last dash attempt, Thor throws his new ax, which lodges in Thanos' chest. As Thor gloats over his victory, Thanos laughes and snaps his fingers. People being to fade into nothing and many Avengers die. The movie ends with Thanos, looking as though he is in retirement, living with peace in his conscience.
OKAY so I have a small problem with movies. SOOOOOO many times, the good guys win and the bad guys lose. And like, it makes sense but I wish there was more variety. So recently the only film that comes to mind that does this was the Amazon film The Wall. This war film was very different and ended with the good guys losing and the bad guy winning and I remember it left me with a very weird feeling. Infinity War so nearly does this. With many Avengers dying (along with half the universe), and Thanos looking to have won, it should have given me a similar feeling. However, I guess that knowing there would be other movies with these same characters and another Avengers movie and a seemingly obvious solution to the genocide, I didn't quite get the same feeling. Had the Avengers movies been a straight trilogy and the ending modified a bit, I think it would've satisfied that itch but this is the wrong movie movie series for that.
The movie itself was pretty good. I didn't really enjoy how much it jumped around, but that is my only main complaint. It was just a good, entertaining movie and not a lot stood out to me. The music was nothing special, so nothing special I can't even remember what it was. The cinematography was very good and I am a sucker for good, bright colors. Overall, pretty good. Thumbs up.
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Arguably Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey represents a truly beautiful piece of cinema. Unlike almost any other movie, it shows how Kubrick could bring total control over a movie and shape it to tell a story in a completely different way than other movies.
Millions of years ago, a group of apes struggles to survive in the African wilderness.They feud with a rival group of apes over the local watering hole. One morning, the apes awake and find a tall, black monolith. Curious, they hoot and holler and move up and cautiously touch it. The next scene shows one of the apes amid a pile of bones. The ape picks up a bone and swings it around and starts breaking other bones. The next encounter with the other group of apes results in one of them being clubbed to death by bones and a significant victory of the apes. The lead ape throws a bone into the air and as it comes down, the scene shifts to an orbiting satellite (implied to be a nuclear weapon) above earth. A Pan Am space ship drifts towards a massive rotating space station. After docking, Heywood Floyd, Chancellor of the National Council of Astronautics, departs and encounters some soviet scientists. They question him over mysterious news coming from the American moon base, but he lets on nothing. Floyd then travels to the moon. There, he has a conference with other scientist on the base about a magnetic anomaly in the Tycho crater, TMA-1. Upon excavation, it is discovered to be a black monolith. When Floyd arrives on site and the sun touches the monolith, a strong radio signal is sent out. In the year 2001, Discovery One drifts towards Jupiter. David Bowman and Frank Poole operate the ship with an artificially intelligent computer, HAL 9000. David and Frank believe their mission is to explore Jupiter and the Jovian satellites. However, the true purpose is to explore a massive monolith like that on the moon that orbits Jupiter. One day, HAL reports an imminent failure of a crucial piece of hardware and Poole goes out to change the component. Nothing is found to be wrong with the unit. Questioning HAL, David and Frank become concerned about HAL and plot to disconnect HAL. However, HAL learns of this, and in a scripted “accident,” Frank Poole is killed. When David tries but fails to rescue Poole, he finds himself locked out of the ship. After barely making it aboard alive, David disconnects HAL. He learns of the true purpose of the mission and continues with it. When he arrives at Jupiter and goes to explore TMA-2, he is sucked and transported across the Universe, observing strange things. He then ends up in a normal looking hotel room where he sees himself age before being “reborn” as a starchild, like the E.T.’s that created the monoliths.
Even though it is classified as a sci fi film, it is more of a scientific speculation. There is very little fiction compared to the other sci fi movies of the time. Kubrick went and made a movie that felt like the near future, not some wild fantasy. To show how future spacecraft might simulate the effects of gravity, Kubrick had a massive centrifuge built. The scene where Frank is running around the edge of the living area is only possible because of the centrifuge. He also took a new approach to the design of the spacecraft, taking inspiration from NASA and having engineers design them instead of artists. Whereas in movies like Star Trek, ships are made to look cool, Kubrick had his vehicles made to look like what was going to be built. Kubrick wanted 2001 to feel real and every little detail was made to be as realistic as possible. Without this, the movie would lose some of its effect.
Kubrick filmed the movie very much as if it were from a book. The shots are very long, sometimes borderline ridiculously long. Kubrick is allowing the viewer to become a person in this time period, immersing them in the surroundings the characters find themselves in. There is minimal dialogue and the images speak far more than the characters do. While it would be slightly more difficult to follow, it would be completely possible for all the speaking to be removed but the plot of the film still understandable. Apart from Kubrick’s brilliant visuals, the most decisive feature was the audio. Kubrick was very considerate when he chose what the music played would be. It underlines a subtle shift throughout the whole of the movie. As the movie progresses, the music starts out very happy and whimsical. As the movie progresses, this becomes gradually deadened and drab. In the final moments of the movie, the music yet again shifts to being psychotic and disturbed. All of these transitions corresponded with the plot progression and help to change the tone and emotion. Accompanying this was the long periods where all you could hear was the breathing of the astronauts. This made it feel like you too were in space, which is very eerie and somewhat unsettling. These all come together at the Star Gate scene where every form of understanding is thrown out the window. With flashes of Dave’s face or his blinking eye, it is deeply disturbing. All of these features are to make the audience feel as though they are with the characters but the characters are not aware of them. Like being a fly on the wall, everything is known and felt, but the characters will never know.
Stanley ends the movie in a rather curious way. He shows life going through various stages, from late adulthood to elderly to bedridden. Starting with the apes, he shows humanity in its absolute infancy. These ancient ancestors are what humanity is to become. When the scene changes to space, it is humanities prime. It appears that humans have the solar system at their fingertips. However, once on Discovery One, humanity is aging. A computer needs to help take care of things and look after the men. Man can still put up a fight, but only just. Once Bowman is through the Stargate, he is know being fully looked after, no longer having influence. Once he arrives in the room, the process begins again, except this time, it is visually showing the aging process, with each older version of Bowman discovering the next. Then at the end of it all, David passes on and is reborn anew as the Star Child.
Possibly even more incredible is who Kubrick is able to make you feel sympathy for. All the human characters lack much personality. From Heywood has the most emotion but it is rarely seen. David and Frank are both very dry. From their voices to their day to day actions are very subdued. They keep their emotions very much in check. HAL on the other hand is rather intriguing in who he acts and behaves. When HAL kills Frank, there is not so much sadness at his death rather than shock. You can feel the emotion in his voice almost as much as the humans, if not more. There is an incredible sense of innocence when Dave is disconnecting him and spite and, almost hate, when he tells Dave why he will not allow him back on board. However, as Dave is de-activating HAL and HAL begins to sing Daisy, which slowly becomes more and more disembodied, it feels like an old friend or a relative dying, it’s incredibly saddening. Kubrick manages to get you to feel sympathy for a misunderstood computer that killed four innocent men. It is almost inconceivable that you could feel for this sold hearted computer, and yet those final moments of HAL’s life are full of emotion and sadness. Dave’s reaction to what HAL is saying magnifies this. Hearing only Dave’s breathing and HAL’s dying voice feels so intimate, it feels as though Dave is pulling the plug on a dear relative. This moment is the most emotional of the entire movie.
Kubrick’s ability to completely dominate and control the audience is what makes 2001: A Space Odyssey his finest work. Simply beautiful.
Director: Stanley Kubrick
The first act of Stanley Kubrick’s directing career, Fear and Desire was a rough cut of what was to come. With strong acting and clever cuts, Kubrick was able to bring emotion out with limited funds.
Set in a fictional valley, four men are stranded behind enemy lines. The leader, a pilot, decides to go to a nearby river and make a raft to get back to their side of the lines. However, the group is discovered by a local woman. The group decides to tie her up and interrogate her. However, finding she can’t understand them, they leave to work on the raft, leaving the youngest, Pvt. Sidney behind. He falls in love for her and raves over her, begging her to love him. He frees her, hoping she will embrace him, but she attempts to flee. Distraught, he shoots her. When the oldest of the group, Sgt. Mac, returns to find him having gone completely crazy. Sidney, hysterical, runs into the river, claiming its blood. The group soon discovers that an enemy general is nearby and decides to try and kill him. Mac sacrifices himself so that the pilot and the other soldier can kill the General and escape in an enemy plane. As Mac, badly wounded, floats down the river, he comes across Sidney, standing in the river.
With an incredibly limited budget, Kubrick made the best of a tough situation with superb actors. The strongest part of the movie, the actors drove the emotion and the plot. With only a very short period of time in which to develop character traits, the actors had to work hard to be able to develop their character in the beginning in order to have the majority of the time for the plot. While the pilot overacted and was obviously having to actively try, Pvt. Sidney and Sgt. Mac played their parts beautifully. From the beginning it is obvious that Sidney was nervous and fearful. Everything seemed to add to a mounting stress. When he snapped, he snapped and it was so brilliantly played it was almost worrying. Mac, while not fanatic and crazy like Sidney, was very strong from the off. If anything, the editing and cuts almost detracted from his performance. These two performance really made the movie.
Apart from the acting, Kubrick was able to help enhance the emotion of the film through cuts during two important scenes. When the men go into a cabin and stab the men inside, food is flung everywhere. The dying men, food in hand, squeeze it to mush. In between cuts of food falling and going everywhere is scenes of the men stabbing and killing. The quick cuts help emphasize the frantic nature of the attack while the food is representing the blood and gore of the action. When Sidney goes crazy, the shots are all more or less the same but there are numerous fast past cuts of Sidney. This helps show what is happening to Sidney. Everything is happening so fast and it is disorienting and confusing. The sound editing also lends a small part to the film. Faintly in the background, there is a drum beat. When focused on, it is obviously a drumbeat acting as a musical accompaniment. However, when simply watching the movie, it sounds like distant cannon fire, booming away. It is a reminder that the film is set in a war and that fighting is ongoing, even when the action on camera is calm.
While very rough and showing a clear lack of funds or maturity, Fear and Desire is a standout debut film for Stanley Kubrick and shows how, even at a young age, he has a natural talent for directing.
Director: Woody Allen
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris gets much of its emotion through the tones, making extensive use of color and music to help highlight the plot.
Revolving around Gil Pender, a famous screenwriter and budding writer in a tense relationship, he discovers an odd characteristic about Paris. One night while his fiance is out dancing with a man he dislikes, he finds that he can time travel. He goes to a time in adores, the 1920’s. There he encounters famous writers, painters, and philosophers from the era. Every night, he goes back in time. However, he falls in love with a woman from the time and his fiancee becomes suspicious of him. She is convinced he has gone crazy and has an affair with the man Gil dislikes. In the meantime, Gil discovers that everyone has a soft spot for a time before them and that the extraordinary can become ordinary. Having realized this, he breaks up with his fiance and decides to stay in Paris.
The movie is very focused on the idea of being in love with a “Golden Era.” To Gil, that golden era is the 1920’s with people like Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Pablo Picasso. To suit this theme, the color palate is full of yellows and golds and soft colors. There is a very warm feel for much of the movie. However, it moments when Gil’s enemy, Paul, is around, there is a slight shift towards some cooler coolers such as green and blue. The mood never goes fully cold, but it does provide a clear shift in emotion. Music also helps to shape the tone of the movie. The music is very pretty and soft but not omnipresent. It shows up in moments when the movie feels magical or something special is about to happen. It follows Gil’s mood, and is around when one could imagine Gil would have butterflies in his stomach.
Overall, the movie is pretty good and entertaining. The plot is solid and interesting and Woody Allen controls the tone and emotion of the movie very well. I would watch it again.
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Verdict: Thumbs Up
You know a movie is really good when it makes you cry tears that aren’t the “I’m about to slit my wrists this movie is so bad” tears. The Notebook, inspired by a book of the same name, uses a beautiful plot with well placed narration and symbolism to create a truly moving film.
The plot is a story within a story. It begins with an old man telling a story to a woman with dementia. The story is of a young man, Noah, in South Carolina in 1940. He sees a beautiful young girl, Allie, who comes from a wealthy family. The two fall in love and spend the summer together, becoming more and more romantically involved. While Noah’s father likes Allie, Allie’s parents do not accept Noah as he does not come from a wealthy family. This comes to a head when Allie and Noah attempt to make love before being told the police are looking for her. After a fight instigated by Allie’s mother, the two break up and Allie moves to New York. However, Noah writes to her every day for a full year before believing that Allie is over him. In reality, Allie’s mother had intercepted all the letters and kept them from her. During the war, Allie falls in love with a soldier from a rich southern family and the two become engaged. Noah buys the house he had promised Allie and fixes it up just as she requested. When Allie learns of this, she visits Noah and the two fall in love again. Allie’s mother explains why she kept the letters from Allie and gives her blessing if the two wish to be together. The story cuts back to Noah reading to Allie, trying to get her to remember him. She suddenly remembers but only briefly. Noah has a heart attack, but when he comes back to the old people’s home, Allie remembers him and the two fall asleep together and are found dead together. During the story, the scene would cut back to Noah reading to Allie in her old age and occasionally you would hear Noah narrating the story.
The use of Noah as a narrator adds a great deal to the story, as simply telling the story as it is loses a majority of the emotion. The backstory of Noah and Allie is touching but it lacks that emotional punch, that moment that puts your emotions up against a wall. Seeing how torn Noah is over Allie in her deteriorating state makes the audience feel real pain. When Noah’s children confront him and ask him to leave, it’s a painful moment knowing that he is still fighting for this woman who doesn’t even remember him. That he cares that much physically hurts because you know that know matter how hard he tries, little will come out of it. That love touches the soul so deep down. When finally Allie remembers in her room and they dance, that moment is touching, but what is more emotional is when he calls her darling and she steps back and says “Why did you call me darling?” In that moment you know that the beautiful thing that had just occurred is over and that all his hard work is gone. Seeing her screaming at him and for help is genuinely painful and if it doesn’t bring tears to your eyes then you have no heart! After that moment, that emotionally shattering moment, the tone changes. The movie comes quiet and subdued. Even when Noah returns from the hospital, there is still a very gentle feel, like the world is now made of glass. When Noah and Allie lie down in the bed together, it feels like a very nice, quiet goodnight. It is the ending the movie needed, as anything else would be to harsh in that delicate land that Cassavetes created.
The Notebook is filled with symbolism that helps to make emotional connections that make the events even more rooted in the viewer's mind. When Allie and Noah sleep together following her return to Noah, there is a scene when the two are lying down talking, and Allie puts her hand on his shoulder. While out of focus, the engagement ring is clear to see on her ring finger. It shows how her love for her fiance is becoming blurred and shows how she must choose between Noah and her fiance. Another instance is the rainstorm that hits while the two are out on the water. Like the rain releasing from the sky, suddenly all the pent up emotion that the two had been holding back to that point are let loose as first they fight, then make love. Moments like this are all reminders of what is happening, adding emphasis to the moment. While not a show stopper, without these little moments, the movie would just feel somewhat forced, the plot would be pushed along instead of flowing at its own rate.
Undeniably one of the most well crafted and beautiful love stories of all time, The Notebook stuns and engages the audience in a way that can only result in emotional reactions as the viewer watches love begin, flourish, and end.
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Verdict: Thumbs Up
The 1958 classic The Hidden Fortress is a movie that is basically the template for Star Wars and is a great Kurosawa film. The plot is beautifully developed and the characters are well played.
Two peasants are seen running across a plain before a group of armed men appear, chasing a samurai. The samurai is cut down and the peasants are left alone. Having just left a local conflict, the two split after an argument, only to be captured separately and sent to work in labor camps. However, during a prisoner uprising, the two reunite and escape. However, the two have heard of a hidden fortune of gold from the defeated clan. As the two are looking for firewood, they discover gold hidden in a stick. They also meet a mysterious man who reveals himself to be a legendary samurai general of the defeated clan. He enrolls them as manual labor as he needs people to help transport all the gold from the defeated clan, along with the princess who survived. The samurai informs the princess that she will have to remain silent or she could give herself away. This upsets the princess, who is very stubborn and headstrong. However, she agrees and the four travel off to the safety of a nearby realm. On the way, they are discovered and are chased through the opposing territory. The samurai, while chasing enemy soldiers, comes into an enemy camp where he fights a great enemy general and wins. However, contrary to practice, he spares the general's life and rides away. After many days on the run, the princess and samurai are captured while the peasants run away. Before the princess is about to be executed, the defeated general arrives and rescues the two. They ride off to safety and begin rebuilding the clan. Back to the peasants, they find the gold that they lost trying to escape, only to be immediately captured. However, they are captured by the princesses troops, who releases them with a piece of gold.
The plot is the strongest part of the film, with it being carefully throttled and guided. The plot was not especially quick, but more meandering. There were no sudden turn of events during the first part of the film, just a very subtle steer towards the main points of the plot. The existence of the princess was teased before fully revealed, as was the identity of the samurai and the existence of the gold. However, as the film progressed, the tempo gradually increased with the mounting tension of the fugitives being hunted down by the other clan. The pace was kept up for much of the remainder of the film, with only slight slumps when appropriate. It is not until the very end of the film when the tempo finally dropped in order for the audience to fully reflect on what had just happened through the film.
The characters of The Hidden Fortress were what pulled together the film. The two peasants, Tahei and Matashichi, were the highlight of the cast. The chemistry between the two and the comedic relief that they provided was able to keep the film in a very good balance. They were a constant through the film and were the only characters who you could predict. Without them, the film would have been a bit far on the serious side. While Tahei and Matashichi are a perfect balance for the film as a whole, the samurai, Rokurôta, and the princess, Yuki are a perfect balance for each other. Rokurôta is a very calm, cool, and collected individual who is very much a father figure. Yuki is a headstrong and stubborn woman who was mistreated by her father. While she is implosive and ready to go, Rokurôta is more level headed and keeps her in line. This chemistry is very warming to the audience as it strengthens the emotional connections the viewer makes with characters.
While not a very challenging movie or a cinematic masterpiece, The Hidden Fortress is a highly entertaining movie that captivates the audience and is thoroughly enjoyable.
Director: Bill Condon
The 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast is a live action version of the animated classic. With a revised plot and a different focus, the film has made its own special spot in the disney princess world.
The plot is largely the same as that of the original. However, there are some new additional pieces that help make the story feel more complete in some aspects but are a bit redundant in others. The main change is to characters. Belle’s dad, Maurice, is portrayed as a crazy yet genius inventor in the original version. However, he is now shown as a very sensible old man how is a master clock maker and accomplished painter. This change was largely for the better, as it helped keep the tone of the movie more uniform instead of being silly. Another major character change is the portrayal of LeFou, Gaston’s sidekick. In the animated movie, he is a flamboyant and silly character much like an excited dog. In the new version, he is slightly less flamboyant, but the real change is that he is overtly homosexual. While this is a lovely change of pace from most movies, it is slightly overplayed at times. However, as a whole, I did enjoy this change, it just helped keep the tone more uniform. In terms of the story, there are some minor additions that help tie up some loose plot ends but are not entirely necessary. Chief amongst these is that we learn what happened to Belle’s mother. This is seen in the movie as the moment that Belle and the Beast seem to solidify their relationship. The story would be completely fine without this detail, but it works.
The movie seemed to be in an odd superposition between ultimate artist beauty and the plot and story. There were times when the movie seemed so focused on making the images so beautiful that other aspects suffered. A major issue for the whole of the film was the singing. Emma Watson’s voice was obviously auto tuned and synced, as was the case with many of the characters, it just doesn’t feel right. In comparison to a movie such as Singin in the Rain or La La Land, it feels crude. Whether it has to do with the casts singing abilities or just how they decided to film, they should have made greater consideration to the fact that the movie is a musical.
I’m very glad that the Bill Condon did decide to not make a carbon copy of the animated version and decided to make their own variant. To have made an identical movie with people would have felt more like a gimmick than a different movie, a collectors item. However, by changing characters, modifying the plot, and playing with the artist side of the film, Condon was able to create a movie that has it’s own special place in the disney universe.
Director: Billy Wilder
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Ace in the Hole, 1951 film starring Kirk Douglas and directed and produced by Billy Wilder, is an under appreciated classic. The film keeps the audience on the edge of their seats all the way through to the very end. Its strong plot plays a major role in pulling the film along. Married with a brilliant performance by Kirk Douglas, Ace in the Hole is a cinematic masterpiece.
Chuck Tatum is a newspaper report who has been fired by major newspapers all over the country for inappropriate behavior. He arrives in New Mexico and gets a job in a small newspaper company. After a year of slow work, he learns of a man, Leo Minosa, who is trapped in a cave. Tatum jumps on the story and begins playing it up, making it a bigger story than it is. He manipulates the Sheriff and the contractors to make more of a show of the rescue and to keep other reports away. Meanwhile, Mr. Minosa’s wife falls for Tatum but he rejects her to help keep his story alive. Thousands come to the town to witness the rescue and a fair ground is set up. Tatum is rehired by his former New York employer. However, with a mere day before Leo will be able to be rescued, Tatum learns that Leo is going to die before he can be rescued. Tatum tries desperately to save Leo in order to save the story. Leo’s wife, having been bullied by Tatum yet again, stabs him with a pair of scissors. He rushes to get a priest to administer Last Rights to Leo. Moments later, he dies. Tatum announces to everyone that Leo is dead. Grief stricken, out of his New York job, and dying, he tries to confess what he did to his former boss in the New Mexico paper. However, as he is about to tell all, he falls on the floor and dies.
Kirk Douglas plays the difficult role of Chuck Tatum to perfection, keeping the character in a very trick emotion for the audience. Tatum is a very complex character in how he acts. He is obviously a very confident, cocky, bold man who will do whatever it takes to succeed. This is what led him to his situation in New Mexico. Douglas must hold his character in a trick spot between being the real Tatum and the Tatum that must show he is trying to reform himself. When the plot develops into the story around Leo Minosa, we see the real Tatum as he sets about making the story as large as possible. He deliberately sabotages the rescue effort by allying himself with the Sheriff and using him to have the workers drill for Minosa instead of just shoring up walls and pulling him out. Tatum abuses Leo’s wife, Lorraine, as to keep up the role of a distraught wife. She wants to leave town and get away from Leo, whom she despises. Tatum receives offers from newspapers all over the country but decides to get his old job back in order to spite his former boss. However, things fall apart when Leo begins to die. Kirk Douglas balances Tatum’s need to keep the story, and therefore Leo, alive while also seeming genuinely concerned for him. He gives Lorraine a gift the Leo had been saving up for and becomes incredibly upset when she tries to get rid of it. This leads to him getting stabbed. It is unclear where Tatum’s true allegiance lies as he gets the priest for Leo upon his request but seems desperate to keep him alive at the same time, which he has stated is for the story. This juggling act by Douglas is a true masterpiece.
The plot of Ace in the Hole keeps the viewer always wondering as to what will happen next and what Tatum’s true intentions are. Tatum is an incredibly complex character and the plot goes a long way to help shape him. It is always unclear as to what will happen next. It can be somewhat surmised, but the way it comes about is a constant surprise. The sudden change of direction with the sudden stabbing of Tatum, the deteriorating of Leo, and the ruin of Tatum, happens a pace that doesn’t blow away or confuse the audience, but is well timed so the hits just keep coming. The plot is a perfect build up of an unstable building that the viewer watches soar higher and higher before crumbling and falling apart at a greater and greater rate. However, the plot is a bit to focused on Tatum. The it seems that the plot is tailor made to move Tatum through a situation rather than a situation that the character works his way through. While this does feel a bit limited, it is not a problem at all, just a note.
Kirk Douglas as Chuck Tatum makes the film with his fine balancing act. Billy Wilder set the film up perfectly so that Tatum is in a situation where he can not just exist, but must act. This is what makes Ace in the Hole so good. It makes the story intriguing as the viewers find themselves watching Tatum’s every move.
Director: Peter Collinson
The British classic The Italian Job makes brilliant use of British humor along with a clever plot and fantastic stunts to captivate and entertain the viewer. Strong performances by Michael Caine and the supporting actors help to pull the film together into a memorable classic.
Criminal Charlie Croker (played by Michael Caine) a has just been released from prison and immediately sets about a to do a big job in Italy. However, when he learns about his former boss being killed in Italy by the mafia, he starts to worry. However, determined to carry out the job, he sets about preparations. Charlie breaks back into prison to ask Mr. Bridger, the leading crime lord, for assistance. Outraged at the intrusion, Mr. Bridger has his henchmen give Charlie “a good going over,” but is interested in the plan. He then decides to help Charlie after learning of a new Fiat factory to be built in China. With the support of Mr. Bridger, Charlie assembles his team and prepares for the job. They go through driving courses, test explosives, and modify three Mini Coopers to carry $4,000,000 worth of gold. However, when the team leaves for Italy, they encounter the mafia who destroy three of their cars and threaten Charlie about the plan. However, the team press on. They infiltrate the traffic station and sabotage the system as to produce a massive traffic jam to trap the gold convoy. With everything set and the traffic jam stopping up all the cars, the team assault the convoy, steal the gold, and begin the getaway. With the police in hot pursuit, the three Minis race down alleys and over rooftops and finally through a sewer pipe and over a weir to escape. After unloading the gold onto a bus and disposing of the cars, everyone is celebrating until the bus skids on the narrow alpine road and rests precariously on the edge of cliff. There it is balanced between the weight of the gold on one end and everyone else on the other. The film ends on a cliffhanger with Charlie exclaiming “Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea.”
The Italian Job makes extensive use of humor as a means to make a film that could easily be very car, quite comedic. The film is a comedy, with Michael Caine driving much of the humor, with the plot setting up the situations. The humor is not conventional but very British. To someone who is not paying attention or is not used to British comedy, many of the jokes can be easily missed or seem crude and pointless. However, to those who are accustomed to British humor, it is hilarious and very gets old. One scene is a test of an explosive charge in a van. When Charlie counts down, the explosives go off, completely destroying the car. Charlie turns to the man who set them and exclaims “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” Moments such as this lend themselves greatly to the movie and make it a unique crime movie were it isn’t just dumb comedy but an intelligent movie with funny qualities.
The use of stunts during the car chase adds extra excitement to the moment and captivates the audience at the skill displayed. As the police chase the gold laden Mini Coopers, Charlie and his boys use a series of routes leading through sidewalks, buildings, and rooftops to escape and evade capture, At one point, a police car follows the Minis down a flight of stairs and jumping between buildings by driving on the rooftops. Finally, the Minis drive up the ramped roof of a massive building and go in three directions, circle back, and go back down the roof while the police car stalls. The final act of evasions has the minis driving through a sewage pipe with only their headlights as illumination. Coming out of the pipe, the cars carefully drive over a weir and see the last of their pursuers stall in the middle of the river. In a show of driving skill, all three minis proceed to drive up a makeshift ramp on the back of the team's bus in order to offload to the gold. The final mini encounters some trouble doing such, just to highlight the difficulty of the task while also providing another comedic moment. All of this comes together when the bus spins out on the alpine road and is precisely balanced on the edge of the cliff, leaving the men in an awkward predicament.
Michael Caine and the accompanying actors help pull all this together into a classic movie. Michael Caine as Charlie Croker, a cockney man who is a seasoned criminal, plays a perfect balance between a cunning criminal who can execute a carefully planned out job and a playboy who will badger someone until he gets what he wants. He is backed up by strong performances from the supporting characters. Mr. Bridger, played by Noёl Coward, acts as a steady force throughout the movie. An intimidating character, he acts as a god like figure whose approval is the final word. Other smaller parts like the men who help Charlie pull off the job add extra humor and their own little part to the movie without pulling it off course.
The Italian Job shows how a crime movie does not have to be strictly comedic or serious, but can involve humor without going over the top with it. Combined with Michael Caine’s acting, brilliant stunt performances, and an enticing plot, The Italian Job has made a spot for itself in history.