24th Jan2015

The Gambler – Film

by timbaros

images-329Mark Walhberg proves again that he is one of the hardest working men in Hollywood by starring in yet another film – this one is called “The Gambler.”

Wahlberg is Jim Bennett, a college lecturer who also has a gambling problem (hence the name of the film). Bennett doesn’t gamble small, he gambles big, and ends up owing a couple powerful people huge amounts of money. He owes $260,000 to the owner of an illegal Chinese gambling hall, and another $50,000 to a loan shark. So Bennett decides to get advice from another loan shark – Frank (John Goodman). Bennett meets Frank in a man’s bathhouse – with Frank wrapped up in a towel. Ladies, if you ever wanted to see John Goodman half naked, then this film’s for you. With no other way to get the money he owes, he decides to ask his rich mother for money (a very tired and unglamorous looking Jessica Lange). She reluctantly gives him the money, literally handing him a bag of cash right outside the bank, and giving him an ultimatum that he better pay his debts with the money or she never wants to see him again. So what does Bennett do? He takes the money, and instead of paying back his debts, he decides to take one of his students – Amy (Brie Larson) and gambles all the money away. One last hope for him is if he can get one of his other students, who happens to be a star on the college’s basketball team, to fix a game. Needless to say,and either way, Bennett is screwed.

The Gambler is a remake of the 1974 film of the same name which starred James Caan which got very good reviews. This version will not be as lucky. While Wahlberg is good, we’ve seen this type of movie plot before oh so many times: lonely man with a problem who romances a much younger woman and then tries to redeem his life. However, nothing can redeem this movie. The scenes between Walhberg and Lange and Wahlberg and Goodman look forced. Wahlberg is not believable as a literature professor, his character looks too gruff and unprofessional – he even ridicules some of his students in class. Lange is not at her best, but John Goodman does do a good job in the few scenes that he is in (towel or not). Director Rupert Wyatt brings nothing new to the theme of the movie, we’ve seen it all before. So don’t gamble with your time and money to see The Gambler.

15th Feb2014

The Monuments Men – Film

by timbaros
images-102The Monuments Men was originally scheduled for release in December, 2013 in order to qualify for the awards season, but due to problems in the post-production (editing) process, the release was pushed back to February in both the UK and the U.S.
What were the problems? Trying to balance the dramatic element of the film with the comedic element. Did it work? In my opinion (and in the opinions of other film critics), it did not.
The Monuments Men, with the tag line of ‘based on a true story,’ is about a group of men during World War 2 who set about saving valuable works of art form the hands of the nazis towards the end of WW2.
George Clooney, star, director, co-screenwriter and co-producer, plays the head savoir of the art team, and got together his posse of friends to be in HIS movie. These friends include Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and John Goodman. Other actors drafted to be in this film include Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and English actor Hugh Bonneville. The men play the team enlisted to find the works of art – some of older men were drafted because they were historians and architects and thus were drafted for their expertise.
The dramatic element of the film works fine: Men in the middle of a very dangerous war in occupied countries are tasked to retrieve stolen art. Deaths happen, scenes of fighting all around them, and the realistic looking art and set direction would’ve made for a good movie. It’s the comedic element that just does not work.
What you have onscreen is a mish mash of actors of different ages who are playing characters, but its the older ones who are the brunt of many jokes. Goodman has a hard time in basic training and just generally getting around due to his weight. Dujardin has a thick French accent this is made fun of, but is it funny? No. And Balaban is completely blind when he doesn’t have his spectacles. There is one strange scene where Balaban’s character has a standoff with a German soldier – nothing really happens in that scene but we are supposed to find it funny that both Balaban and the soldier don’t know what the other is thinking or going to do, until the soldier goes away, happy with the cigarette that was given to him. Huh?
Also, there seems to be a separate movie going on between Damon’s character, who is tasked with actually delivering the art to the rightful owners, and Blanchett’s character – lonely and vulnerable Claire Simone – a curator who is forced to allow the Nazi’s to steal valuable art. Simone pines for Damon, but he’s a married man, and his duty is to deliver art, and nothing more. Damon’s character pops back to the team from time to time to remind us that he is in that part of the film as well, in a way to connect his and Simone’s storyline to the rest of the men’s storyline.
The problem with The Monuments Men is that the film just does not work. Even at the end, when a very valuable and sentimental piece of art work that was stolen is found hidden away in a cave, there really is no emotional impact for the viewer. And in the final final scene, Clooney employs his father to play him as an older man to try to tweak some kind of final wrung of emotion, but it fails.
The Monuments Men was made for a whopping $75,000,000. It has so far grossed a paltry $30,000,000 in the U.S. It has just opened up in the UK. Clooney, in acting as the film’s driver, needs a wakeup call in that everything he does does not turn into gold. In this case, The Monuments Men turns to dust. No team will ever be able to save this piece of art.


24th Jan2014

Inside Llewyn Davis – Film

by timbaros

images-81Inside Llewyn Davis is a quiet, downbeat, and different type of movie about a musician who can’t get a break, neither in his musical career nor in his life.

Oscar Isaac excellently plays Davis, a talented folk singer/songwriter in 1960’s Greenwich Village who always seems to have a dark cloud over his head. Loosely based on a book by American folk singer Dave Van Ronk (“Mayor of MacDougal Street”) and directed and written by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis tells the simple tale of Davis as he tries to navigate life with his guitar as his best friend.
Davis, who is practically homeless and will jump at the chance to take perform at any gig for money, lives from sofa to sofa, including one that belongs to his ex-girlfriend Jean (Carey Mulligan) and her new partner Jim (Justin Timberlake). Together on the music circuit they are known as Jean and Jim. However, Jean informs Davis that she is pregnant, and that the kid could potentially be his. In another apartment that he sleeps in, he, along with the house cat, both get locked out, so he takes the cat (Ulysses) with him on the subway to gigs and to other people’s apartments, including Jean’s, where the cat slips out the window. His sister, who has lent him lots of money, doesn’t have much faith in his singing career. So in the quest to get some money and to get himself heard, he hitches a ride to Chicago (with a cat that may or may not be the cat that was lost) with musicians Johnny Five (Grant Hedlund) and Roland Turner (John Goodman) to meet a club owner who doesn’t give much hope to Davis and his career. And such is the life of Davis. He returns back to New York only to face more bad luck, enough bad luck that he plans to abandon his music career and join the merchant marines.
Davis (who was previously seen in W.E. and Drive) is excellent in this role. He has won several film critics awards for this film, including the National Society of Film Critics Awards for Best Actor. Sadly, he was not nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. More shocking is that the music for this film was ignored by the Academy. The true star of Inside Llewyn Davis is the music – a mix of old and original folk songs by the legendary T-Bone Burnett. The BAFTA’s got it right – the film is nominated for Best Original Screenplay (deservedly so), Best Cinematography, and Best Sound (but shockingly again, nothing for its music). The film itself won the Grand Prixe at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Although in color, Inside Llewyn Davis has a smoky hazy look about it, almost like a reflection of dark clouds over a man who goes from rags to rags and no riches. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel perfectly captures this mood. Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the most memorable films you will see all year.