Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Crash

Welcome back to another Film Friday.  This week’s film is the 2006 Academy Award winner for best picture, CrashCrash takes place over a period of 24 hours in Los Angeles and tells a story of racism and relationships between multiple people who have no idea that their lives are connected.

The film is told through different stories that overlap with each other.  The first story follows Anthony (Ludacris) and Peter (Larenz Tate) as they hijack the car of Jean Cabot (Sandra Bullock) and District Attorney Rick Cabot (Brendan Fraser).  When the call goes out to find the car, Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon) and Tom Hanson (Ryan Phillippe) pull over another car that matches the description.  Inside the car they find director Cameron Thayer (Terrence Howard) and Christine Thayer (Thandie Newton) coming home from an award show.  After Officer Ryan unnecessarily searches them, the officers send them on their way.  Throughout the 24 hour period you learn about additional characters such as Daniel (Michael Pena), a locksmith trying to make a good life for his family, and detective Graham Waters (Don Cheadle), who is investigating a crime with his partner Ria (Jennifer Eposito) which may frame an innocent man.   

This film has an incredible acting ensemble.  As with any ensemble cast, there is no true “lead character”.  Instead, it is comprised of many different supporting characters that interact with each other.  Three of the strongest performances in the film are Matt Dillon as racist police officer John Ryan, Sandra Bullock as Jean Cabot, the wife of the District Attorney, and Thandie Newton as Christine Thayer, the wife of the director which John Ryan pulls over.  Matt Dillon plays this unlikable character that seems to be jaded by the life that he’s lived.  Dillon plays him in a way that almost allows the viewer to sympathize with him.  He was nominated for an Academy Award for this performance, and just stole any scene that he was in.  Sandra Bullock was also outstanding in her role.  Similar to Matt Dillon, she starts off as an extremely unlikable character, but she redeems herself due to circumstances that transpire in the film.  She plays this character so vividly that I swear I grew up with her as one of the moms in my neighborhood.  It is a shame she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for this, because I think this was a great dramatic role for Bullock, who is mostly known for her comedic work.  The final outstanding role was played by Thandie Newton.  The scenes which she is in with Howard, who plays her husband, seem one-sided, with her acting skills coming out on top.  Although a great actor himself, Howard’s subtle performance is outshined in every way by Newton.  She steals the spotlight and refuses to give it up, and in doing so provides another performance overlooked by the academy.

 

The direction in this film is incredible.  Told as little vignettes which overlap, the stories feel like they could be their own films.  Many times films that have different perspectives or multiple overlapping stories focus too much on one story.  Each story in this film had the perfect amount of screen time, which allowed the viewer to get a feel for the overall storyline and understand each individual story’s importance to the central theme of the work.  Director and writer Paul Haggis had a way of making each story feel as important as the last one.

All and all, I think Crash is an Academy Award winning film that doesn’t get enough credit to it’s name.  From the acting, to the direction, to the screenplay, this film will be one that will make you think twice about the random encounters in your life.  Like always, I leave you with a question: do you think the people you encounter on the street are just random encounters, or do they serve a bigger purpose in your life?

5 out of 5 Stars

Crash (2005)
Lions Gate Films
R, 112 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday (Really Monday) – A Review of Newsies

Welcome back to another Film Friday!  This week, I am really excited to be reviewing another film within my favorite genre of films, the musical.  This film is truly a hidden gem.  Made in 1992, Newsies tells the true story of the 1899 newsie strike in New York City.  With an amazing musical score to help tell the story, Newsies also includes an amazing cast of young actors, including a 17-year-old Christian Bale.

Newsies begins by following a bunch of newspaper boys going out for another day of work.  We meet the leader of the group, Jack “Cowboy” Kelly (Christian Bale), who, as one of the older newsies, takes newbies David Jacobs (David Moscow) and his younger brother Les (Luke Edwards) under his wing to teach them the proper way to be a newsie.  While teaching them he is introduced to their family, which is something Jack knows little about considering he lives on his own, claiming his family is out west in Santa Fe.  As I previously stated, Newsies tells the story of the 1899 newsboy strike, which was caused by rising prices charged to the newsies by companies for their newspapers to sale.  Their cause is aided with the help of Bryan Denton (Bill Pullman), who is a local newspaper writer who not only writes articles about their fight, but gives them inside information about the strike.  While this is going on, the viewer learns more about Jack’s back story and how the other boys look up to him as a leader.  You start to feel for the character and enjoy the story that transpires.

I am so upset that it took me so long to see this film, as this film was incredible.  From the story, to the music, to the choreography this film had me smiling from the opening credits to the ending credits.  The music, written by J.A.C Redford and Alan Menken, was extremely upbeat and very reminiscent of old school musical films.  Also one thing which was interesting about the music, was it sounded like it could have been written in that time era.  It had a very authentic sound to it and made the story really come to life.  Some of my favorite songs were King of New York, Seize the Day, and Santa Fe, which is a solo by Christian Bale.  The music has that Disney charm, which just gets stuck in your head and just stays there.  I watched this film five days ago, and I still have King of New York and Seize the Day stuck in my head.  Along with the songs, the choreography was outstanding.  A normal occurrence with musicals is that the choreography is too advanced, making it unlikely that normal people would just randomly dance like that.  However, the choreography in this film really fit the characters.  A lot of the dance moves, while technically graceful, really were suited for the characters.  There were also some street-esque dance moves that were incorporated to the choreography, which made the dances seem authentic and realistic.  One example to watch is Seize the Day, where there was an incorporation of martial arts in the dance moves, making the choreography just outstanding.

The cast, which predominately was made up of young adults, was shockingly strong (keep your eye out for some “Mighty Ducks”).  Christian Bale was cast perfectly as the tough but sensitive Jack Kelly, and David Moscow was outstanding as his sidekick.  The rest of the cast was so believable as newsies that I almost went out and got a job as a newsie.  It was just an all around enjoyable film.

All in all, Newsies was an enjoyable way to spend a rainy Saturday evening.  The cast of young adults was awesome, the music really helped the story, and the choreography made me want to take up tap dancing.  Like always, I leave you with a question: what do you think is worth standing up for in your life?

Until next time, Happy viewing.

4 out of 5 Stars

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Mean Girls

This week, I decided to go in a completely different direction and review a genre that may come as a surprise: the chick flick.  Mean Girls, is based on the book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman.  Written by Tina Fey, Mean Girls is a smart, sophisticated take on cliques and how to survive high school.  It features a cast of young, talented actresses and is, in my opinion, one of the smartest adaptations of the high school comedy genre.

Cady Herron (Lindsay Lohan) has never been to a regular school until the 11th grade.  She begins her first day at North-Shore High unsure if she’ll be able to navigate her way through the school and survive the taunts of her classmates.  On her second day, she meets Janice (Lizzy Kaplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese), who give her the 411 on the school and point out all the different cliques and groups.  They tell her that it’s particularly important to stay away from Regina George (Rachel McAdams) and her clique, the plastics: Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert) and Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried).  They have a reputation as the meanest girls in the entire school.  Everyone admires them, yet fears them at the same time.  They invite Cady to sit with them at lunch and eventually befriend her over time.  Everything seems to being going smoothly until Regina begins dating Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett).  This devastates Cady, as she told Regina that she had a crush on him and Regina agreed to hook them up.  Therefore, Cady, with the help of Janice and Damian, aims to bring down Regina from her reign as Queen Bee.

As previously stated, this movie was extremely sophisticated and smart for a teen comedy.  Tina Fey wrote the screenplay, and although she had Wiseman’s book to adapt, the characters she wrote were completely made up and did not exist in the book.  She was able to create them based on the character types Wiseman wrote in her book.  Movies about high school often contain characters that don’t seem like high school students.  Whether it’s the way the characters speak or act, they seem to be filling a stereotype that was created in the 80’s with the advent of the high school comedy movie.  This was not the case with Mean Girls.  The characters seemed really fresh and added new flavor to the teen comedy genre; they genuinely seemed like high school students.  Whether it was Cady and her transformation from naïve home school student to next in line queen bee, or Gretchen as the former sidekick who has been thrown to the side, the characters felt like people I went to high school with.  The jokes were witty and the commentaries from different characters on different situations throughout the movie were really funny.  By far the funniest storyline was Gretchen trying to make “fetch” the next catchphrase.  The reactions from the different characters were priceless, and in turn Gretchen’s reaction to her rejection was even funnier.

Additionally, I felt that the acting was really strong for a teen comedy.  The main cast had incredible comedic timing, which is a skill that  is very underappreciated in the acting world.  The main cast was well picked: a pre-train wreck Lindsay Lohan was loveable as the newbie Cady, Rachel McAdams was the perfect mixture of Cruella Deville meets high school student, and Tina Fey was perfection as the math teacher trying to be hip.  Even the supporting cast and actors with cameos were perfectly cast.  However, the best performance by far was Lacey Chabert as Gretchen.  She was the disgruntled former best friend, and by far the most hysterical.  In every scene she was in your eyes were immediately drawn to her.  She stole her scenes and makes you root for her as the underdog.

All and all, this is one teen movie that anyone of any age would love. The writing is smart, the acting is top-notch, and even the soundtrack was awesome.  The movie definitely breaks the mold of teen comedies; it reinvented the genre and helped breathe new life into it.  Like always, I will end my review with a question: who were you in high school? Were you a plastic, drama kid, nerd, or someone who moved to the beat of his or her own drum?

Until next time happy viewing!

5 out of 5 stars

Mean Girls (2004)
Paramount Pictures
PG-13, 97 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Godfather Part III

Welcome to the third and final week of my Godfather trilogy reviews.  The Godfather Part III, is generally considered the weakest of the three films due to a poor storyline and sub par acting from some of the supporting cast.  However I feel that when looking at the film by itself, it presents a solid conclusion to the story we’ve become enthralled with in the first two installments.  It shows us how money, power, and greed can determine how/where people end up in the world.

Taking place 21 years after the conclusion of the second film, Michael Corleone (still played by Al Pacino) is all but retired from the family business and the once powerful Corleone family is a shell of its former self.  Michael, still wealthy from some gambling profits, is trying to make the family legitimate and starts a foundation with his money; it is led by his daughter Mary Corleone, who is played by director Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter Sofia.  Michael’s son Anthony has decided to quit law school and not go into the family business, instead pursuing a career as an opera singer.  This initially angers Michael, but eventually he comes around much to the happiness of his ex-wife Kaye.  While this is going on, Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia) appears on the scene.  Viewers come to find out that his is Sonny’s illegitimate child, making him Michael’s nephew.  With all these events, we see a regeneration of the problems and questions which permeated the first two films: loyalty, right vs. wrong, and now a new question of forgiveness. How will this journey end for the Corleone family?

Let me start off by saying this film gets a lot of unnecessary flack. Yes, it is not as good when compared to the first two, but it’s not a terrible film. It is able to do what it was meant to do: provide this trilogy and the story of these people’s lives with some sort of conclusion. The first two films gave us insight into the Corleone past, but this story filled in the blanks and gave us an idea of how some of our favorite characters end their journey. I think that was important especially after how much I loved the first two films; I wanted to see how Michael ended his journey, and how the decisions he made in his life affected him in the end.

Once again Francis Ford Coppola was able to direct a really good film, where the whole film built upon itself to reach the conclusion.  Every scene matters, and when you get to the conclusion you are truly stunned by what happens, although it fits in perfectly with the rest of the film.  Once again, Al Pacino plays Michael, this time as a man who has reflected on his life. Pacino gives a solid performance, but the best performance of the film has to be Andy Garcia as Vincent Mancini.  Mancini has a lot of the same traits as Michael from the second film such as being ambitious and willing to do what it takes, but Andy Garcia played him in a way that was more solid and you truly believe his motives.  He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and definitely lived up to his nomination.  When he is on-screen, you’re drawn to him and his character and you want to see where he ends up.  On the other hand, a performance that gets a lot of flack and is sometimes said to be one of the worst performances in cinematic history is Sofia Coppola as Mary Corleone.  I didn’t think she was terrible, but it’s clear that she was uncomfortable being on-screen.  I don’t know if she didn’t want the part, but she had said she never wanted to be an actress.  Her awkwardness on-screen worked in some scenes, especially given her character was a 21-year-old girl who loves her father despite all he’s done.  Was the worst performance in cinematic history?  No, I have seen a lot worse in other films.

All in all, The Godfather Part III was a perfect conclusion to the series.  In comparison to the first two it’s nowhere as good, but when you look at the film on its own it’s a good film with relatable characters and a story that has a satisfying ending.  As always, I leave you with a question: do you think the decisions we make today impact our relationships with people down the road?

Until next time, Happy viewing.

4 out of 5 stars

Adam’s Film Friday (Really Monday) – A Review of The Godfather Part II

Welcome back to another Film Friday!  This week will be a continuation of my three-week series of reviewing all of the films in The Godfather trilogy.  This week is The Godfather Part II.  Many film critics and film fans say The Godfather Part II is an even better film than the first, and knowing how much I liked the first one, I was eager to continue on my journey and learn more about the Corleone family.  Part II is told through two different stories: one that takes place two years after the end of the first film, and one that tells the back-story of Vito Corleone and how he became the Don.  Once again the filmmakers and cast take you on a journey of family, loyalty, and deciding between what is right and wrong.

As previously stated, The Godfather Part II is told as two distinct stories. The first story begins in 1901 in Sicily, depicting how Vito Corleone (played this time by Robert DeNiro) came to power.   Vito’s father and brother are being ordered to be killed by the local mafia. When his mother goes to confront the mafia, she is shot.  Vito is sent to America for his own protection.  From there, he begins to gain more power in his neighborhood and eventually vows to go back to Sicily to seek revenge on the people who killed his family.  Intertwined throughout this story is the story of Michael Corleone, who is now settling into the role as the new Don of the Corleone family.  He realizes the truth about the family business, and knows that his involvement as the leader of the clan is tearing up his own family.  Most of all, it is destroying his relationships with the people closest to him, mainly his wife Kay (Diane Keaton), who has never truly agreed with his decision to take over the family business.

Once again, Francis Ford Coppola , who won the Oscar for Best Director, was able to create a masterpiece.  The way he effortlessly intertwined the two very different stories was incredible.  The story of Vito Corleone made me appreciate the greatness of the first film because you learned more about the motives of his character.  I now understood that he had gotten to such a point at the end of his life and career that made him act the way that he did in the first film.  It was interesting, because many times you don’t get to see characters’ lives before the film starts.  Learning the story in this film helped me to appreciate the Don’s character more, and understand why he was the way he was.

Robert DeNiro was pure genius as the young Vito Corleone.  His performance is the thing that legendary performances are made of.  He took this character that Marlon Brando had played so memorably and really made it his own.  Granted he played him at a different point of his life, but he still retained some of the same mannerisms and speech patterns that Brando did without it seeming like he was copying him.  It’s no wonder he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.  Two other performances that were really strong, especially in the scenes when they were together, were Al Pacino and Diane Keaton.  They really advanced their character’s stories from the first film, and I wondered how these two people who were so in love in the first film got to this point.  You’re basically seeing their marriage unfold on the screen.  The scene where Kay tells the truth about her miscarriage with Michael’s baby was definitely the dramatic highlight of the film.  That scene was so poignant and powerful that I watched it twice!

All and all, the hype about this being better than the first Godfather film is definitely true.  Once again, solid performances from the cast, beautiful direction by Francis Ford Coppola, and the way the story was told through the two separate plot lines made this film an amazing follow-up to the first.  As always I will end my review with a question: based on his actions in the film would you consider Michael Corleone a villain, a hero, or a victim of his circumstances?

Until next time, happy viewing!

7 out of 5 stars

The Godfather Part II (1974)
Paramount Pictures
R, 200 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Godfather

Hello all and welcome back to another film Friday.  For the next three weeks, I am going to be reviewing the Godfather trilogy, which in my opinion is the greatest trilogy in film history.  Winner of three Academy awards: Best Picture, Actor, and Adapted Screenplay, this tale of family, mafia, and loyalty is considered to be a classic of the late 20th century.  I am ashamed to say as your esteemed film reviewer that I hadn’t seen any of the Godfathers until a month ago.  However now that I have, I had to review them!

The Godfather begins at the wedding of the Don Vito Corleone’s daughter.  Don Vito (Marlon Brando) is required to take requests from the wedding guests since it the Don’s daughter’s wedding.  Also at the wedding we meet his youngest son Michael (Al Pacino), who is just home from fighting in World War II and is reluctant to take part in the family business; Sonny (James Caan), his eldest son who is a bit of loose cannon; Fredo (John Cazale), his middle son who is generally considered to be the weakest; and last but not least his adopted son and business lawyer Tom Hagan (Robert Duvall).  After a failed assassination attempt on Don Vito, questions of loyalty and power are thrust onto this family, and an unlikely candidate stands to hold the future generation of the family business.

Like I had previously stated, I am quite ashamed that it has taken almost 25 and a half years for me to see the Godfather films. However, I will say that it was definitely worth the wait.  Part one was a perfect introduction to the series and an all-around amazing film.  From the story, which is based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same title, to the acting and music, everything in this film screamed masterpiece.  The acting was superbly top-notch.  Not many films cast every role perfectly, but this film somehow did it.  Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, who is the glue that holds this family together, was unbelievable.  He is one of, if not THE greatest actor of the 20th century.  Every character he played he became, and this role was no different.  Two other standouts, were Al Pacino in his breakout role as Michael and James Caan as the hot-headed brother Sonny.  It was really interesting to see these two actors play brothers, seeing how different their characters were and how they portrayed the differences between themselves.  Al Pacino’s performance was much more quiet and reserved, which really worked for the character, as Michael is the cautious brother, the quiet thinker of the family who is also very apprehensive about being a part of the family business. On the other hand, Sonny acts off of his emotions making James Caan’s performance a lot flashier and louder.  How neither of them won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor is beyond me.

Francis Ford Coppola is a genius behind the camera.  He has a way of making even the smallest shot count in really making the film.  Whether it was a pinnacle moment of the film or just a scene which showed people walking or eating, Coppola really made that scene feel important.  Every scene in the film counts and the finale is really a culmination of the entire piece.  Sometimes in films, little things happen and the director throws them to the side and kind of forgets that they happen.  The finale of this film really showed the progression of the characters and the story, and set up Part II outstandingly.  You really understand each character’s motives and how they got to the point in which they did.

All and all, The Godfather is one of the very few films that actually deserves the title of masterpiece.  The acting, director, screenwriting, score, and everything else about this film is perfect.  Like always, I will end my review with a question, and this one is based on a decision Michael has to make in the film.  Do you think it’s more important to stay loyal to the family, despite their wrongdoings, or do you think it’s more important to be good and lead the straight life? Until next time, happy viewing!

5 out of 5 stars

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Hello all and welcome to another Film Friday.  This is my first Film Friday living back in New York, and as such I figured I would review a quintessential New York film that showcases some of the famous sites the city has to offer.  That film is Breakfast at Tiffany’s, based on the novella by Truman Capote and starring Audrey Hepburn as the somewhat naïve Holly Golightly.

Holly Golightly is a socialite who gets paid money to keep company with lonely men.  After sleeping off a particularly bad date, she is introduced to a new neighbor, Paul Varjak, who is a writer.  She rushes out because she has to go to Sing-Sing to visit a mob boss, another client, who she gets paid to keep company for.  Upon her return to The City, she runs into Paul again, as she is trying to escape another bad date via a fire escape.  Due to her gratitude towards Paul for helping her escape the date, she invites him to a party she is hosting later that day.  At the party are all the rich men and women who Holly socializes with.  Holly tells Paul that she is going to marry one of the men there for his money despite not being attracted to him.  A couple of days go by and she finds out that the same man is set to marry someone else.  Attempting to cheer her up, Paul takes her to Central Park, a thrift store where they steal some masks, and finally Tiffany’s, which she states is the only place that truly makes her happy.  She then states that if she found another place like it, she’d consider starting her life again there.  Will Holly find that place, or will she continue to wander aimlessly through her life alone, surrounded by her “friends”?

One of the most beautiful and iconic shots is the opening shot of Holly getting out of a cab, walking down 5th Avenue at 6 am in the morning with a Danish and coffee, while looking into the Tiffany’s window.  The emptiness of the city and the serene nature of this shot is exactly how peaceful Holly finds Tiffany’s. Despite the craziness of her life and how hectic New York City can be at times, when she’s at or near Tiffany’s all that matters is the current moment.  An instrumental version of the Academy Award winning song “Moon River” is playing n the background, and it just adds something to the scene.  While it is a gorgeous song and its lyrics are so peaceful the instrumental version really enhances this beautiful and poignant scene. You can’t help but be intrigued by this mysterious character standing at the Tiffany’s window.  You want to learn more about her and inevitably you become drawn to the scene; it’s a great film introduction.  In my opinion its one of the best openings in cinematic history.  Fun fact of the review: Audrey Hepburn hated filming this scene because she hated pastries.

The chemistry between Hepburn’s Holly and Peppard’s Paul is outstanding. In many of the scenes, they played off of each other really well and I felt like they had a genuine friendship while filming this film.  Hepburn’s character has so many sides to her and she played the part perfectly.  She’s someone who never settles down and hasn’t thought about staying in one place, yet still realizes there’s so much happiness in the world, especially at Tiffany’s.  One thing about the film that I really disliked and in fact made me extremely uncomfortable watching was Mickey Rooney’s performance as Mr. Yunioshi.  The character is played in a way that is very racist and stereotypical of Asian people.  It was very awkward, and every time he was in a scene I really wanted to fast forward.  This isn’t anything against Mickey Rooney, he’s a great actor, but I felt like his character was unnecessary and didn’t add to the film.

All in all, I thought Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a great classic film. The acting was strong, the story was really unique, and the translation from book to screen was really well done. The music, particularly “Moon River”, was really beautiful and added to scenes where it was used.  Like always, I will end with a question: what’s your Tiffany’s?  Where in the whole wide world do you go to feel like the outside world ceases to exist?

4 out of 5 stars

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Paramount Pictures
PG-13, 115 Minutes
 
(Late last year some of us on the blog answered the question I asked at the end of the review.  To see our responses click here)

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Shining

Hello all and welcome back to another week of Adam’s Film Friday.  For this week’s review, I will be reviewing one of my favorite genres of films: horror.  This week’s choice is the classic horror film The Shining, based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King.  This film provides chills, thrills, and even a scream or two.

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a retired school teacher and now author, gets a job over the winter to be the watchman of a hotel that is closed for the season.  He moves his family, wife Wendy (Shelly Duval) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd), to this secluded hotel to live in from October until May, when the hotel will open up again.  Danny has ESP, and begins to have terrible premonitions and visions about what will happen to the family at the hotel, particularly regarding room 237.  Everything seems to be going perfectly fine until Jack begins to slowly unravel as the months of seclusion start to get to him.  He begins to see ghosts in different locations, mainly the bar (Jack is a recovering alcoholic), and repeats the mantra “All work, no play makes Jack a dull boy”, until he snaps.  Will Danny’s premonitions prove to be true, or will the family not make it out of the hotel alive?

The Shining was a horror film masterpiece, all the way from the acting performances to the brilliant direction of Stanley Kubrick and the music.  One of the greatest shots is in the very beginning of the film where Jack is going to the inn for his initial interview.  It is an aerial view of his car going up the mountain and  around the curves of the cliffs.  It was just a beautiful shot and an eerie way to start the film.  Stanley Kubrick had a way of making every shot count, and filmed everything in such a way that made the film have a lot of these gorgeous shots that make you think that just maybe you weren’t watching a horror film.   Kubrick often showed the full size of a room or a hallway in his shots, making the viewer feel that he/she was right there with the characters.  It made for a creepy experience for most of the film.  He also used music very well, adding to the suspense of the film and playing off of the character’s emotions.

The acting MUST be discussed as well.  Jack Nicholson was pure psychotic genius in this role.  As the film progresses, you see his character break down and slowly lose his sanity.  As a viewer watching this you truly feel like Jack Nicholson has also lost his mind.  As his character loses touch with reality, you see Nicholson’s mannerisms change bit by bit.  In the beginning he accurately portrays a man who is very excited about the job he has, but at the end he has all the touches of someone who has truly lost his mind.  Danny Lloyd was a very strong performer as the son Danny, and I truly think his voice chanting “red rum” will haunt my dreams for the next month.  He did very well despite the mature subject matter of the film, and in my opinion was a lot stronger than most child actors of the day.

All and all I thought the film was really well done.  From the strong performances, to the beautiful direction, to the eerie music, this is a film that people should watch every Halloween to get them in the mood.  Like always I leave you with a question: do you believe that all work and no play makes someone snap?

Until next time, happy viewing.

4 out of 5 stars

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The DaVinci Code

Hey all! Welcome back to another Adam’s Film Friday. I hope you have all been reading about Kim and Todd’s European vacation and have been in awe over the gorgeous pictures. This week’s movie is based on one of my favorite books, The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. This movie was made in 2006 at what I would consider the height of the DaVinci Code hysteria, and it stars Tom Hanks as the genius symbologist Robert Langdon, who finds himself involved in an international conspiracy where he is a main suspect.

The movie starts off with a hooded man named Silas (Paul Bettany) chasing Jacques Sauniere, the curator of the famous Louvre Museum, through its Grand Gallery. Before Silas kills Sauniere, Sauniere admits that the keystone, an ancient artifact that Silas is searching for, is found “beneath the rose” at the Church of Saint Sulpice. Silas is a member of the Opus Dei, a super secret religious group whose aim is to protect the secrets of the Catholic church. Sauniere was a member of the Priory of Sion, a group that is charged to protect the location of the Holy Grail from those who have sought it for centuries. The Priory counts among its former members Leonardo DaVinci, Isaac Newton, and Victor Hugo. Now, both groups are at odds over the location of the Grail, with the Priory trying to keep it a secret while Opus Dei is determined to find it, no matter the cost. Robert Langdon enters this puzzle when he is asked by the French Chief of Police, Bezu Fache (Jean Reno), to come solve a cryptic puzzle in the Grand Gallery comprising of Sauniere’s body and his blood, which can only be seen under a black light. While he is there, Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tatou), a cryptologist who works for the French police, comes in stating that she has a message for Robert Langdon. The message instructs Langdon to call a phone number and enter a code. The message is actually Neveu’s voicemail telling Langdon he’s in danger and needs to run. It turned out that there was a part of a message, covered up before Langdon arrived, asking for Langdon to be found. The message was meant for Neveu, who is revealed to be Sauniere’s granddaughter. Langdon and Neveu are able to avoid capture, and set off to solve the mysteries left by Sauniere for both of them. Will they be able to escape the French police?  Will they be able to find Silas and find out what Opus Dei’s true intentions are with the Grail?

The movie, although nowhere near as good as the book, was highly entertaining and suspenseful. The casting was nearly perfect, with Tom Hanks becoming this Langdon character that I had read so much about and was fascinated by his story. Audrey Tatou was the perfect choice for Sophie because she walked the fine line between smart girl and adventurous sidekick. Hanks and Tatou played off of each other really well and had really good chemistry. The casting of all the characters are exactly how I imagined when reading the book and thought the way the story was told was really good.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie was its adaptation from book to screen.  Dan Brown wrote the book in such a vivid manner that the pictures he paints come automatically to your head.  These images were rendered and transferred to the screen as best as the adaptation could make them.  You’re probably surprised that I just said those last two sentences considering I said earlier that the book is better than the film.  The book had this certain spark and urgency to it as you were reading, that I think no matter who starred in the film or who directed it, it would still be an almost impossible feeling to recreate.

All and all I thought the DaVinci Code was a fun movie experience. If you want the full story, I would say check out the book and then see the movie: you won’t be disappointed. Between the direction of Ron Howard and the strong performances of Tom Hanks, Audrey Tatou, and Paul Bettany, this story really made a great translation from page to film.

4 out of 5 stars

The DaVinci Code (2006)
Columbia Pictures
PG-13, 149 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

This week’s movie took me on adventure to a place I thought I knew. This amazing place is the land of Narnia, from the movie Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, sequel to Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

The story takes place 1,300 Narnian years after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which corresponds to only one year in the real world. Narnia has changed profusely since the Penvensie children left. The Pevensie children: Peter (William Mosley), Susan (Anna Popplewell),  Edmund (Skander Keynes), and Lucy (Georgie Henley), have returned to England and their everyday lives from their previous adventure in Narnia. Narnia, which started off as a magical land where animals are anamorphic and magic reigns, has now become a dark, evil place after having been taken over by the Telmarines, who now reign with an iron fist.

The story begins with the birth of a baby boy that sets a series of events in motion, the goal of which is to kill the heir to the throne of Narnia, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes). Miraz, Prince Caspian’s uncle, is behind the plot to kill him to ensure that his newborn son will ascend to the throne. Realizing this, Prince Caspian’s professor rushes him out of the castle and into the woods. There he is picked up by two dwarfs and a badger, who are representative of Narnia from the past. They take Caspian in, but not before he blows a horn, sending Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, who are currently in a subway station in London, back into Narnia. No longer the magical place they remember, it has a dark and depressing aura that permeates the land. When they save the life of Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) from the Telmarines, they learn the truth about what has happened to Narnia and the changes since their last visit. After meeting some of the ex-rulers of Narnia who ruled before all the changes occurred, they decide to reinstate Prince Caspian as king in order to hope for a better future.

This movie was a lot darker than the first Chronicles of Narnia, but just as interesting. It showed how things change, but also how things aren’t as perfect as we remember them. I especially enjoyed the interactions between animals and humans because they make me think of fables and Greek mythology.  A lot of the characters were similar to mythological characters, even physically as some were half man, half beast.

Another great aspect was the music used in the score. A great film score should be able to enhance the movie viewer’s experience, and have them close their eyes and still be able to see the action in his/her mind’s eye. This score allowed the viewer to do so: when there was fight scene, the music had the viewer’s heart pounding. When there was a sad or emotional scene, the music played ever so softly. I thought that the score, even being as diverse as it was, was extremely well put together.

All in all, I felt The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian was an extremely entertaining movie. Although not a part of my favorite genre, I still really enjoyed the story and was for a few hours taken into Narnia, and kept on the edge of my seat. Like always, I leave you with a question. Do you believe that a magic world with talking animals and mythological creatures exists, or is that merely a figment of one’s imagination?

4 out of 5 stars

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)
Walt Disney Pictures
PG, 150 Minutes