Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Artist

If you went to your favorite cinema today, you might have trouble finding a movie that wasn't playing in 3-D. Most days, you'd never even dream of finding a black and white silent movie. Before it even came out, The Artist was getting attention for being different. I wanted to find out if it was more than just a gimmick.

"Silent movie" doesn't just describe the way this film was made. It also describes the content. The movie focuses on a silent movie star living in Hollywood during the late-twenties and early-thirties, played by Jean Dujardin. His entire career changes when he's introduced to the concept of "talkies." Interestingly enough, Dujardin didn't have much fame as an actor until he starred in a silent movie.

Dujardin's acting is perfect and very expressive. If I were giving out awards, he would definitely be nominated for best mustache and best smile. Seriously, that's the sharpest pencil-stache I've ever seen. It's incredible. And his smile just lights up the entire screen. His co-star, Berenice Bejo, looks like she's walked right out of the twenties just to star in this film. She's a very classic beauty. Uggie the dog also provides a great performance.

Director Michel Hazanavicius provides excellent cinematography, emphasizing on mirrors, shadow, and smoke. All of these things work even better because of the lack of color. The soundtrack is phenomenal. Despite the silence from the actors, the orchestra is not playing the entire film. There are pauses in certain places to help accentuate the seriousness of the scene.

The Artist is a unique film that celebrates the glorious style of the twenties and thirties while examining the pride and struggle of one man. I really hope that this sparks a silent movie revival similar to vinyl in the music industry.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Red Tails

"This is the closest you're ever going to get to Episode Seven." George Lucas said that on the Daily Show a few weeks ago. Obviously, I was very excited to see Red Tails in theaters the weekend it was released.

This movie tells of the Tuskegee airmen in World War II. Considered incompetent because of their race, they had to fight just for opportunities to fight. They were hated by some pilots and generals in the same way that the Nazis were hating the Jews, a terribly ironic parallel. However, this is not necessarily the entire focus of the film. All of the characters battle with other personal problems that are incredibly relatable for today's audience such as alcoholism and language barriers just to name a few. These characters are so real that I found myself actually fearing for their lives during the combat scenes. I swear, my heart was racing at some points.

The cast is perfect, each one completely owning their character. It should be noted that Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. both have great performances (I didn't even think of Radio ONCE through the whole thing.) I expect some great things from all of these actors in the future. It should also be noted that this is one of the first blockbuster action movies to feature an all-black cast.

Special effects? What special effects? As far as I'm concerned, everything in that movie actually happened. It is a George Lucas movie, after all. Industrial Light and Magic does it again. The cinematography, as well, was spot on. The aerial battles were filmed in a way that completely made sense. I always seemed to know where everyone was and who was on what side; not an easy thing to do with plane fights.

If you like action movies at all, go see Red Tails. If you like Star Wars, definitely go see it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg, somehow manages to mess up one of the most basic movie genres: action. It seems to lack all story and interest. Let's start by examining the hero.

Chris Farraday, played by Wahlberg, used to be a great smuggler until he quit the business. Now he installs security systems and has a family. His stupid brother-in-law is still a smuggler and people want to kill him. That's about all we know about him. There's nothing about how he got into the business in the first place, met his wife, or when he decided to stop smuggling. Basically, he's really good at hide-and-seek and he's boring.

For an action movie, there isn't really a lot of action. There was one car crash that was pretty good and Kate Beckinsale got her ass kicked for about three scenes. Pee-wee's Big Adventure had more action sequences than this poor excuse for an adrenaline rush.

The dialogue in this movie was hardly believable. The characters don't explain how the operation normally works. The hero is never faced with any tough decisions except "get back into smuggling or we'll kill your family" which isn't really a decision at all. In a good heist movie, I like to know a little bit about everyone on "the team." I had no idea who these people were.

The movie poster for Contraband asks the question "What would you hide to protect your family?" I would hide the fact that I starred in Contraband, Wahlberg. This is the kind of thing that people will bring up at celebrity roasts, high school reunions, etc. for the rest of your life.