Showing posts with label Man of the West (Movie Review). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Man of the West (Movie Review). Show all posts

Friday, November 28, 2014

"The Theory of Everything" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Theory of Everything," the DVDs "The Knights of Badassdom" and "A Most Wanted Man," and the novel (yes, a novel) "Leaving Time" by Jodi Picoult plus I get you caught up on my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project."]

The Theory of Everything

The story of Stephen Hawking's first marriage.
When Stephen Hawking was a young man working toward his Ph.d. in Physics at Cambridge University, he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) and given two years to live.  Since then he as become famous worldwide for his theories and his book "A Brief History of Time,"a huge worldwide best seller.  He is now 72. 
The movie begins in the early 1960's as Stephen is beginning his Ph.d. program.  He is a bit of a smart ass, but he is also a wunderkind in his field. He wins his doctorate applying space-time singularity in black holes to the whole universe, and when asked by the panel what he plans to do next, he replies that he hopes to find an elegant equation that will prove the theory of everything.
Soon, however, symptoms of what will turn out to be Lou Gehrig's disease begin to appear and he is given two years to liveHe has also met Jane and they are in love, so despite a death sentence, they decide to get married and Jane decides she will do whatever she has to do to keep him alive.  They have three children together (when a friend wonders about their sex life, Hawking jokes about how that function falls under a different system from the one destroying his other functions), but the strain of caring for Hawking starts to take a toll on Jane and she is drawn to a handsome local vicar.
This is not just Stephen Hawking's story, it's his first wife, Jane's story and the story of a marriage, based on Jane's recent book, "Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind The Theory of Everything (2014)."

I predict Eddie Redmayne will win an Oscar for Best Actor for his incredible performance as Hawking.  He did an amazing job showing the slow progression of Hawking's disease and capturing the man in the full force of his disease, yet maintaining his sense of humor.  I have been a huge fan of Eddie's ever since "Birdsong," and he deserves recognition.

Felicity Jones is luminous and lovely as Jane.  I am waiting for her to break out and carry a film on her own.

It's funny that "Interstellar" and this movie were released so close together since they are both about quantum physics.  But as a film, this one is closer to "My Left Foot," and "A Beautiful Mind."

Rosy the Reviewer the Brits say, bloody brilliant.  As I say, brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)


LARPS (Live Action Role Players) conjure up some demons from hell -- real ones!

Peter Dinklage and Steve Zahn play Hung and Eric, medieval role players. They have gotten their friend Joe, whose love life is in shambles, drunk and kidnapped him to their role playing festival in hopes of cheering him up. Eric, playing a wizard, uses a spell book to initiate Joe. What Eric doesn't realize is that the spell book is real and his spell conjures up a succubus and a monstrous demon.

This is part comedy, part horror film. The comic blood and gore is reminiscent of Simon Pegg's "Shaun of the Dead" and "World's End."  I loved the Simon Pegg films and I liked this one.

I will probably take some heat for giving this little film a good review when I didn't give a very good one to "Interstellar," especially since this film almost didn't get released. But, as "Interstellar" showed us, it's a matter of relativity.  And relatively speaking, this is a better comedy than "Interstellar" was a scifi drama.  I thought this film was silly and fun.  How can you not get the irony of Peter Dinklage pretending to be a medieval guy?  And a bunch of nerdy Dungeons and Dragons types running around in the woods fighting a succubus and a monster?  Skewing LARPS?  What's not to like?
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Simon Pegg's films or horror/comedy, you will like this one.

A Most Wanted Man (2014)

An illegal Chechen immigrant to Hamburg seeking political asylum becomes the focus of an anti-terrorist group that is still being blamed for failing to stop the 9/11 terrorists who were working out of Hamburg.

A half-Russian, half-Chechen man, Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) mysteriously turns up in Hamburg seeking asylum.  He has also come to take possession of his inheritance, millions of euros. He is aided by Annabelle Richter (Rachel McAdams), a human rights lawyer who tries to help him. However, anti-terrorist groups still smarting from 9/11 are also interested in him and his inheritance.  Is he who he says he is?  Or is he a terrorist who wants to use his money to fund terrorist activities?

Based on a John LeCarre novel, this film has all of the LeCarre touches.  His spies are not James Bond types. His stories don't contain a lot of action.  They are character driven and his spies are world weary seen-it-all types.  Even the cinematography and set design is dark and gritty.  This is not pretty Germany.  This is tough, dangerous and dark Germany. 

What makes this film significant is that it was Philip Seymour Hoffman's last starring role before his untimely death.  He plays Gunter Bachmann, a weary, rumpled spy more in the Colombo mode than James Bond.  For a man in his early 40's, Hoffman looked like he was almost 60, which suited the role but didn't bode well for what happened to him in real life.  But Hoffman is one of those actors who never seems to be acting.  And here he inhabits the role of the leader of a spy team who must prove themselves.

My one criticism of Hoffman is his German accent, which isn't very good.  I can never understand why actors use accented English to show us they are in another country.  We know it's Germany, we know people speak German there so get rid of the silly accent.

Robin Wright is good as a rather dodgy CIA agent, Margaret Sullivan, who is also interested in the immigrant. My one problem with Wright is the short black wig she chose to wear.  Why?  Not a good look for her.  But her scenes with Hoffman shine.

Rachel McAdams is a gorgeous actress, a modern day Natalie WoodWillem Dafoe does his usual good work playing the banker Issa and Annabelle are working with. He's not a bad guy for once despite, the fur collar on his coat which I always think indicates a bad guy.

I have always had trouble with spy films.  They are always so convoluted and detailed that if your mind wanders for a minute trying to get that last piece of popcorn, you miss something important.  This one isn't as bad as most but still, the plot can be hard to follow and it drags.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film is all about the performances.  Anyone looking for a Tom Cruise "Mission Impossible" style spy film will be disappointed.  This is more like "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold."


***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

297 To Go!

I want to preface these reviews this week by saying, it takes discipline to watch movies I probably would never watch had I not decided to embark on this project.  It is sometimes exhausting!

Man of the West (1958)
A reformed bank robber finds himself drawn back into his old gang (think a Western version of "Godfather III."
"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in." ) 
Why it's a Must See: "After making a series of exemplary Westerns starring James Stewart during the 1950's, Anthony Mann cast an aging Gary Cooper as a man forced to confront a past he thought he had left behind him.  As is usual in Mann's Westerns, personal history exerts a grip on the characters that only death can loosen...Mann's camerawork is as assured as ever.  Make sure you see this film in the full CinemaScope ratio!"
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"
I think I can actually do a better job of explaining why this film is a must see, and I don't even like Westerns.
The cinematography is gorgeous (filmed in Cinemascope and color by Deluxe) and so is Gary Cooper.  Even though  he was in the latter part of his life, he was still a handsome hunk of a tall drink of water.  He reminded me of today's Liam Neeson.

Julie London, a pop singer of the time (remember "Cry Me A River?") does an admirable job and adds a bit of sex appeal. She had a fairly successful TV career as an actress, but her movie career never took off.  This was one of her last big roles in the movies. 

It's ironic that Gary Cooper became such a huge Western hero known for his laconic characterizations.  In real life, he was an erudite, dapper ladies man with a taste for bespoke suits.

This is one of those films where the soundtrack plays constantly and highlights everything that happens - happy music for the comedy aspects, dramatic crescendos for conflict and anger - so that the viewers will know how they are supposed to feel.  That aspect dates this film a bit.

However, unlike earlier films, this was an adult Western that tried to bring the Western into the modern world.  I don't even like Westerns and would never have chosen it "off the shelf," but I liked this film.
Rosy the Reviewer adult Western that even people who don't like Westerns will like.

The Bank Dick (1940)

Egbert Sousè (W.C. Fields), a habitue of the corner bar to escape his nagging wife and unpleasant family, through a series of events,  finds unlikely jobs as a film director and then a bank guard. 

Egbert becomes a bank guard when he unwittingly foils a bank robbery and through a series of other gags becomes rich and reformed.

Why it's a Must See: "Fields was a rare comedian who could be funny while strangling a small child, and this seventy-five minute gem is among his masterpieces."

---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

This film shows how comedy has evolved. The running joke is his name, of course, since everyone pronounces it "sowse," as in a drunk, but they are corrected by Egbert - "Soosay, accent grave over the e."  He is a bumbling drunk, of course, because Fields made a career out of that characterization.  Not politically correct these days.  Likewise, his daughter hitting him over the head, him threatening her, pratfalls, black stereotypes and other violent acts that were considered funny back in the early days of film are now not so funny. 

I was never much of a Fields fan.  This kind of cartoon comedy was never my cup of tea even when I was a kid.  Don't like slapstick, don't like schtick.  But if you were a Fields or Three Stooges fan, you would probably think this was funny.  Shemp Howard is even in it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...This is 75 minutes I could have lived doing something else before I died.

***Book of the Week***


Alice Metcalf was a scientist investigating elephants and whether or not they experience grief.  She mysteriously disappeared and for over ten years, her daughter Jenna has been trying to discover why and what happened. She commissions a jaded private detective, Virgil Stanhope and a discredited psychic, Serenity Jones, to help her find the answers.

This is a Rashomon style story that flips back and forth from the perspectives of Jenna, Virgil, Serenity and Alice's journals.

This is prolific novelist, Jodi Picoult's latest effort and it's a well-written mystery with the poignant human element of the mother and daughter and poignant animal element with Alice's elephant research. 

Yikes.  I am actually reviewing a novel.  So fiction lovers, do not give up on me thinking I will only be reviewing nonfiction.  I am expanding my horizons so if you keep coming back, you can expect a novel every month or so, deal?

Rosy the Reviewer says...This is a page turner, and if you like Anita Shreve or Sue Miller, and if you like a moving stories of mothers and daughters you will like this book.

Thanks for Reading!


That's it for this week.


See you Tuesday for

"What if I Was a Real Housewife?" 



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