Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Nobody needs to read a review about Casablanca.  It's the most famous and most critically lauded movie of all time.  That being said, I re-watched it recently and couldn't help but use my blog to get some stuff out there about a masterpiece of film.

What intrigued me most about this 1942 classic wasn't the brilliant set design, believable acting, or the perilous and utterly believable backdrop of an expanding Nazi empire, but it was the plight of Ilsa Lund.  Wonderfully played by Ingrid Bergman, Ilsa is the epitome of what the audience of the time could identify with and lust after.  She was the beautiful young woman who you always wished you would stumble upon in some subway station who you miraculously connect with.  Beyond that, she's open to experiencing life without any hang ups about her past.  Indeed, she prefers to ignore it entirely. 

Ilsa and Rick Blaine's (Humphrey Bogart) torrid love affair in Paris is cut short by the Nazi occupation, and the two are separated for years until they're reunited in Casablanca, Morocco.  Rick desperately woos Ilsa and begs her to leave her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), throughout the entire film.  Just at the end of the movie, when she finally agrees, Rick has a change of heart and all but commands her to leave with her husband literally for the good of all mankind.

I couldn't help but wonder at how love is portrayed in Hollywood and how that portrayal has changed since 1942.  In particular, I kept coming back to what is possibly the seminal love story of this generation, the Notebook.  It's fascinating to see contrast between the choices that Ilsa Lund and Allie Calhoun (Rachel Adams), the main character of the notebook.  In the latter film, the whole crux of the movie is centered around Allie's feelings, which are clearly delineated as the most important motivation for her actions.  By contrast, Ilsa is ultimately tied to the fate of her anti-fascist husband, and knows that if she leaves her husband for her own selfish wants she will crush him inside and doom the cause he advocates and the millions who depend utterly on the fulfillment of that cause.

The stakes of the two films couldn't be more different, but they're both portrayed as equally important.  In the notebook Allie's life is what hangs in the balance.  In Casablanca, it's the fate of the free world that love will ultimately decide.  The contrast between these two themes couldn't be more apparent, and it speaks volumes about what we crave as a people and how that's changed from the time since World War II.

There isn't one view that's clearly better than the other.  The argument over whether the personal or the universal is more important will rage on throughout the ages and good films will always be the markers on the landscape of that debate.

There's no reason to not see Casablanca.  It's not guaranteed that you'll enjoy it as much as you'd like, but there's no doubt you'll get something from it.  More often than not, it will be something important.

5/5 Play it, Sam.  Play "As Time Goes By".

Saturday, May 14, 2011

the Fighter

Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale team up to make this movie something to remember.

The story of Micky Ward and his lesser known older brother Dicky Eklund is wrought out of family conflict the likes of which most people will never have to know.  Micky Ward's (Wahlberg) family is introduced to the viewer in the opening scenes of the movie as having at least two fathers, with the possibility of a third father siring some of the 9 siblings who claim a relation to the boxer.  The family is tightly knit, though, evidenced by the fact that Dicky (Bale) trains his brother and their mother, Alice Ward, manages the pair of them.

Dicky spends most of the early part of the movie with a camera crew in tow, who are carefully filming what Dicky is calling his comeback.  At the bar when the crew settles down to talk to the family, Micky works up the courage to talk to a gorgeous bartender named Charlene (Amy Adams).  Micky and Charlene quickly bond over some early disappointments in his boxing career and Micky tries to introduce Charlene into the family at a time when Dicky's life begins to unravel.  The tensions that this creates becomes the core of the movie, which is bolstered by a strong backdrop of an extraordinarily interesting fighting career.

After watching this movie, the quality of the acting stands out above other films that I've seen recently.  It's easy to mistrust or despise almost every character at some point in the film, which is a real accomplishment considering that the overall story doesn't come out as a depressing biopic about an ugly, mean group of people.  The struggles of the family are equally as important as the boxing scenes, which are well done, believable, and engrossing.  The anticipation the audience constantly feels is paid off with bursts of anger, despair, and joy at different points in the story.

On a less emotional level, Amy Adams is fucking incredibly gorgeous.  Oh my God.  What I wouldn't give.

In any case, this is a great movie to watch and you won't be sorry you took the time.  Even if you don't like boxing.  Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't remind everyone that Mark Wahlberg is famous because he used to pull down his pants on stage.  That was his thing.  He's a great talent, though.

4/5 possibly sock-stuffed briefs

Friday, May 13, 2011

Someone to Watch Over Me

Double posting today.  ENJOY!

Someone to Watch Over Me is the story of Detective Mike Keegan (Tom Berenger) and the difficult situations he has to deal with as part of the protective detail for a high profile murder witness in 1980s New York City.  Claire Gregory (Mimi Rogers) is a high class woman who witnesses firsthand the murder of a club owner at the hands of unbalanced mobster Joey Venza (Andreas Katsulas).

Joey Venza is as dangerous as he is crazy and he promises to take Claire's life if she identifies him in the course of his trial.  Mike takes the night shift guarding Claire at her apartment and quickly becomes too close to the case.  His wife Ellie (Lorraine Bracco) urges him again and again to leave get reassigned and their marraige eventually suffers. 

The attraction Mike feels to Claire is driven by his role as her protector and amplified by Claire's need and desire to have somebody close by, always looking out for her at night.  Mike's feelings get in the way and he ultimately makes decisions that threaten to destroy his family.

Throughout the film, the idea of protection and its complex mix with love is explored and ultimately, the movie suggests that the two are intertwined, though not in the way that we always expect.  Towards the end of the movie, Ellie is teaching her son how to shoot a pistol because, as Tommy explains to his recently estranged father "Mom says we gotta get used to being alone in this neighborhood".  I think that one of the main points of the movie is the ways in which our love protects and comforts the people we choose to share it with, and the effect that with holding that love can have on people.

The love story exterior may prevent some people from enjoying everything this movie has to offer, but this is a solid all around movie with plenty to offer besides mushy feelings.  The ending in particular is desperate and intense.  I was captivated by the story throughout and the film won't disappoint anyone who takes the time to watch it.  In the end, I guess it was a better Tom Berenger movie than Major League 2.

4/5 deep emotional feelings

Fast Five

Fast Five was not a good movie.  Add to that fact that I have to rewrite my review of it because of blogger being weird and that makes it a horrible movie.

Seriously though, this movie franchise has made a ridiculous amount of money since the first filmed dropped in 2001.  This film does the best job of recapturing the feel of the original and has received generally positive reviews from other critics.  I personally don't care for these action films too much, but these people know their audience and this time, at least, they've delivered exactly what they were expected to.

In contrast to the other Fast and Furious sequels, this movie returns a good deal of the cast from the orignal movie, with Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster reprising their roles as Dominic, Brian and Mia respectively.  This film is almost entirely focused on action--as expected--and the opening sequence sets the tone for the rest of the picture when Brian and the gang try to rescue Dom from a prison bus at blazing speed.

Later on, the crew pulls a job to steal cars from a train but one car becomes particularly important to one back-stabbing individual (who will go unnamed in this review) who sets up the rest of the gang for multiple murders as he makes off with a microchip.  Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is assigned to track down the group of thieves and bring them in at all costs. 

The plot drags noticeably around the double-cross scene and it never fully recovers, but I guess this is a decent way to waste 2 hours.  Plus, if you're a fan of the franchise then you already know what you're getting and you're going to love it.  The audience gets a happy ending for Brian and Mia, Dominic's long-suffering self-sacrificing character doesn't dissapoint and, unsurprisingly, there's a twist ending that sets the stage for yet another sequel.

By the way, the number of deaths in the USA for automotive accidents and gunshot fatalities are almost the same every year.  So the whole idea that a loveable pack of thieves being set up for murder is horribly unfair is a little thrown out of whack when you consider that these people race down city streets in speeds in excess of 140 mph.  Drive safe out there.

3/5 NOS tanks, DOG!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Inaguaral post

Let's talk films. A new blog, for a new age. Basically, there are a trillion other blogs like this in the world. I started mine because I'm sure that my witty humor and my keen grounding will attract readers to this blog.

Let's talk films isn't really a place for you to talk about films. It's a place for me to tell you what to like and not like. The title is ironic. Imagine me saying "Let's talk films" before every post, and then briskly reciting an entire post in your face with you having no chance to respond whatsoever. It's that kind of in your face journalism that I'm really going for.

Hope you like it.