Thursday, October 27, 2011

In Time

"In Time" is a modern day, or futuristic, telling of Robin Hood. The film is written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who has had some moderate film success over the years as a director with "Lord of War" (2005) and "Gattaca" (1997); and greater success as a writer with "The Terminal" (2004) and "The Truman Show" (1998). Andrew Niccol is known for being over the top stylish in his films, and he doesn't disappoint with the dystopian society that he has created with Dayton and New Greenwich.

The story begins with a narration from Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) describing a future where people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year. Life is paid out a minute at a time and the rich can live forever while the poor die "young". The symbolism and metaphorical puns run wild in the script from how time is transferred from one person to another representing an hour glass, to the excessive use of the word time in nearly every conversation (e.g. "don't waste my time"). Will Salas is from Dayton (get it?), the ghetto, and finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage, Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried) who is from New Greenwich (another interesting time zone metaphor). The TimeKeeper (Cillian Murphy) is chasing after Will and Seyfried as they become a Bonny and Clyde couple stealing time from banks and giving it to the poor.

The society is filled with clichés of young attractive people that all appear to be 25, but are reminded through dialogue that they are older. Will's mother is played by Olivia Wilde, who has been 25 for 25 years. The interesting thing is that Olivia Wilde is actually younger than Justin Timberlake, but that doesn't matter in this film. We also are presented with a society where nobody is overweight and the electric car is used exclusively. As the story unfolds, you can easily predict each step along the way.

I have been surprised by Justin Timberlake in previous films where he had a more comedic role ("Friends With Benefits"). However, in a more physically demanding performance he is difficult to watch. Him running from scene to scene looked like he was in slow motion on a treadmill with a blue screen behind him. Other visual difficulties in the film include one of the car chase scenes where the vehicle looks like a toy car flying over the edge. I have been critical of Amanda Seyfried in the past ("Red Riding Hood"), but in a weird way she surprised me in this film. Even her running in heels was more believable than Justin Timberlake. Cillian Murphy as the TimeKeeper and Vincent Kartheiser as the Evil Industrialist, and father to Sylvia, are both unable to avoid the one-dimensional writing.

It is cliché to say it, but I want my two hours back from this film. There isn't much that is redeeming in the film. I didn't anticipate much going into the film, but I walked out with less than I expected. The film is the latest nominee of the BeavTrash with only 1 Quack.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rum Diary

Full disclosure, I love this book and just about anything written by Hunter S. Thompson. I thought Johnny Depp was brilliant in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (1998) and have been looking forward to "the Rum Diary" making its way onto the big screen since 2005.

The cast of the film has some of my personal favorites including Johnny Depp (Paul Kemp), Richard Jenkins (Lotterman), Giovanni Ribisi (Moburg), and Aaron Eckhart (Sanderson). Then there are the characters that I enjoyed in the book, such as Sala (Michael Rispoli), the glum photographer that only wants to go to Mexico and retire; and Chenault (Amber Heard), an attractive but slightly repressed young woman. Each character is eccentric and magnified through the drunken eyes of Hunter S Thompson. Together the entertaining cast stumbles through the discovery of the American Dream involving the pending real estate development (and despoiling) of San Juan and plenty of behind-the-scenes political wheeling and dealing and everything that is wrong with that dream.

The story is set in Puerto Rico in the late 1950s during the early years of Hunter S. Thompson's career before the heavily drug indulgences of Las Vegas. The events in the story are happenings that only someone as crazy as Hunter S. Thompson would find himself involved with. Whether it is cock fighting; a drunken night finished with fight the locals; or a night in prison, not many of us can relate to these indulgences. Much like the book, the film drags at times as Kemp balances his attempts at being a responsible journalist with the lucid indulgences of life on the island.

The biggest difference between the book and the film is that Chenault is the fiance of Aaron Eckhart’s character Sanderson, a charming but unsavory businessman. In the book Chenault is Yeamon’s girlfriend, but the Yeamon character is not included in the film allowing for Sala and Kemp to get into more trouble together. This also provides for more tension between Kemp and Sanderson, and makes Chenault even more unobtainable.

The performances from Johnny Depp, Richard Jenkins and Giovanni Ribisi are perfect, with Ribisi standing out even more than ever before. They balance off each other so perfectly that the polarity in their characters doesn't appear as jarring as they probably should. Don't expect to see a film like "Fear and Loathing", but instead treat it as a prequel of sorts. The events that created the guy you see in Las Vegas. With that in mind the film is easily a must see film and will require multiple viewings. I am going to indulge a bit with the rating and give it 4 Quacks.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


The creditability of William Shakespeare as the author of the plays and sonnets that he authored has been an interesting topic amongst scholars, but rarely discussed in popular culture. "Anonymous" tackles the controversial topic in a way that " Shakespeare in Love" (1998) hinted at. The theory with the most weight is The Oxfordian theory, which is the foundation for "Anonymous". The film is directed by Roland Emmerich who uses a political thriller model to cast doubt on William Shakespeare being the author of his plays.

The story jumps from the present day as depicted in the trailer with a scholar on stage discussing Shakespeare. Then the story picks up during the Elizabethan years leading to the reign of King James (of Scotland). The focus is on the Earl of Oxford and his relationship with Queen Elizabeth I while he was married to another woman and was a mockery within the Court for his passion for the written word. The performances by Rhys Ifans (Earl of Oxford) and Vanessa Redgrave (Queen Elizabeth I) are stunning as the older versions of their characters. Jamie Campbell Bower as the young Earl of Oxford doesn't provide a believable partner for Joely Richardson as the young Queen. The performance that stands out the most is Sebastian Armesto (Ben Jonson). I was fine with the jumps from the time periods and the use of different actors, however what will cause confusion for people is that the actor for Ben Jonson most notably is the same. Why have a younger and older Earl of Oxford and Queen Elizabeth, but only one actor assigned to Ben Jonson?

Other theories that have not been addressed by the film include the associations with Sir Francis Bacon, William Stanley the 6th Earl of Derby, and Christopher Marlowe. Turning Kit Marlowe into a backstabbing villain seemed a bit off for me especially with the allusion that he may have been killed by Shakespeare. While I can respect other theories from my own belief, the most glaring insult in the film is the depiction of William Shakespeare as an bumbling actor that cannot write, but is instead a blackmailing businessman. To make the character of Shakespeare so polarizing from the Earl of Oxford might be a stretch, and ultimately is what lost me. Albeit the portrayal is a small aspect to the romance and political intrigue that is the focus of the film.

Possibly the most confusing is the representation of the Earl of Southampton as the bastard son of Oxford and the Queen. Many scholars believe that this is the "fair youth" referenced in Shakespeare's sonnets and other theories even have suggested a more adult relationship between Southampton and Shakespeare.

I am not sure the performances, writing, directing, or the sort will earn the film any awards; however the cinematography, art direction and various technical nominations all seem plausible. I urge you not to go into this film to discover any truth about the authorship of the works of Shakespeare, but to view the history and romance of the film. The film is certainly something to see in the theater, and is a 4 quack film.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Three Musketeers

Alexandre Dumas is rolling over in his grave for shame of being associated with this film. Very few aspects of the 19th century classic, "Les Trois Mousquetaires", hold true in this film. The introduction of D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman), quickly becomes satirized for a modern viewing audience as he chases the Cardinal's guard. Through his cocky arrogance he is challenged to a duel by each of the three musketeers (Athos, Aramis and Porthos) who are then as a group attacked by the Cardinal's guards, the four unite and escape. A loosely based plot of recovering the Queens jewels ends any similarity to the classic.

The studio has built "Three Musketeers" with the expectation of making it a series and who better to guide this film than Paul W.S. Anderson who is really only known for making films into a series. This includes the four "Resident Evil" films (with a fifth being filmed) and two "Death Race" films (with a third in the works). The original writings of Dumas were published as a serial for the local newspapers and subsequent novels referred to as the D'Artagnan Romances. As such, turning the film into a trilogy is easily possible if the theater ticket sales support the concept.

The script was filled with cheesy one-liners; and the concepts employed in the film were nauseating much like the reference by Planchet (James Corden) to hating air travel. The film brought modern technology into the 19th century, most notably lasers, that were reminiscent of "Wild Wild West" and the most recent "Shirlocke Holmes" with their gadgetry used by the characters to complete their respective missions.

The Musketeers provide every cliche to their characters. Athos (Matthew Macfadyen) appears as a poor-mans Brendan Fraser providing the calculated arrogant leadership to the team, Porthos (Ray Stevenson) provides the muscle and comedic banter to the team similar to his role in "Thor", and Aramis (Luke Evans) delivers the acrobatic agility and calming Zen-like persona.

As recently seen in "Inglourious Basterds" (2009) and "Green Hornet" (2011), Christopher Waltz enjoys playing the villain. However, his performance as the power seeking Cardinal Richelieu borders on being cartoonish. Perhaps it was his requirement of babysitting the fancy pants King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox) who has been cuckolded by the charming and innocent Queen (Juno Temple). Regardless, the character was more reminiscent of the evil Boris from the "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" with the equivalent of his Natasha being played by Milla Jovovich. The other villain in the film is portrayed by Orlando Bloom who is trying to give his best overacting performance reminiscent of "Pirates of the Caribbean" and Johnny Depp.

This film isn't going to blow you away with special effects or 3D wizardry (seriously see it in 2D). Certain moments of the film reminded more of a board game being of Risk being brought to life. The film isn't as bad as I probably make it sound, so 2 Quacks is still respectable enough for this film. There are a lot of good films hitting the theaters, but if you cannot find anything better you will at the very least be entertained.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Like Crazy

If you have ever had a silent moment in a loud room where you don't feel it is the place in your life that you should be at in the given moment then this movie is for you. "Like Crazy" is filled with moments where we try to fill the void that is missing in our heart only to pine for something else. Drake Doremus directed and wrote with his friend Ben York Jones in the follow up to their indie hit "Douchebag". Together they are able to express the pains of being in love combined with the difficulties of being an adult. For fun look for the cameo from Ben York Jones as Jacob's friend.

"Like Crazy" took on the Sundance Film Festival and walked away with the Grand Jury Prize. After seeing the other films nominated I think I can now safely say I agree. Those films are all spectacular films and picking just one as the best is near impossible, but this one stands out for its writing, acting and hits on an emotional level. Of the other films nominated I have already seen "Circumstance"; "Martha, Marcy May, Marlene"; "Terri"; "Another Earth"; and "the Art of Getting By".

The film begins with an introduction to Jacob (Anton Yelchin) as a teacher's assistant that is doodling in the back of the classroom while Anna (Felicity Jones) reads her essay on MySpace while slowly showing that she has a crush on Jacob. The audience is treated with their growing relationship from their first date to the memories that are forever a snap-shot of their love when nothing else mattered. Then suddenly the separation of two loved ones by the violation of immigration law forces them to recognize that they are adults in a long-distance relationship. The difficulties of starting and stopping their relationship grow on each of them as they find comfort in their work and others around them. Jacob with Sam (Jennifer Lawrence) and Anna with Simon (Charlie Bewley), but neither relationship is fully satisfying and there is little truth-telling. The decisions they make are painful at times, but the look in their eyes tells you how empty they are without each other.

The performances from Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones are near perfect as they become such a believable couple and you want to fight for them. The acting for these two goes beyond the written word and the direction from Drake Doremus is heartfelt. The symbolism that Drake Doremus plays on frequently throughout the film reminds you of how they are being forced apart.

The parents in the film steal the show as they are so quirky and reminded me of my parents. Anne's parents (Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead) who give the film a much needed lightness of tone. I wish that more was told about Jacob's parents and feel it would have come up in a real relationship. If that is my only bone to pick with the film I can look past it.

"Like Crazy" is every bit as good as the other nominees at Sundance, but stands out for me and deserving of another 5 Quack designation. I would like to see Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin receive nominations for their acting as well as Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones for the script. The film will get a limited release starting October 28th, but I highly recommend you find this film at a theater.

Monday, October 10, 2011


"Blackthorn" is a film that Paul Newman and Robert Redford can be proud of. It is directed by Mateo Gil who provides an amazing visual of the countryside in Bolivia that is rarely seen by an American audience. The film picks up several years after the final scene depicted in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) where the two bandits are in a shootout with the Bolivian Army in 1908. The facts surrounding the shootout have been disputed over the years providing for an alternative story to be told. Approximately 20 years later, Butch Cassidy is raising horses under the name James Blackthorn and living in the reclusive Bolivian mountains. Sam Shepard appears to be perfect in this performance as the one-time bandit who has the grit that Jeff Bridges portrayed in "True Grit". His wisdom is counter-balanced against the youth and deception of Eduardo (Eddie Noriega) who plays the engineer that has stolen from the Bolivian miners.

If you haven't seen the 1969 film, it is highly recommended. If nothing else you should watch the final scene that is considered one of the best endings in cinema. I have included the scene below for your enjoyment.

The film includes flashbacks throughout to provide an introspective view of how James Blackthorn became the man he is today. Included in these memories is the last time he saw his one-time love Etta Place (Dominique McElligott) before she left for San Francisco and the connection he has to his nephew that he has been writing to over the years. The casting for these flashbacks is very impressive in how similar Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Young Butch Cassidy) and Padraic Delaney (Young Sundance Kid) resemble the classic western depictions of Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The bond that the two bandits had was stronger than the love for the same woman and lives with him in his memories.

The acting from Eduardo Noriega is okay, but it is the performance of Stephen Rea as a former Pinkerton man that has never given up in his belief that Butch Cassidy didn't die during the shootout. Stephen Rea offers the same wisdom as well as the years of suffering that goes with his character. More could have been done with his character, but not sure it would have made the film better.

I don't anticipate this film getting much of an audience in the theaters as it is already getting an unusual distribution by being available on-demand at home first and now in limited theaters. I think that Sam Shepard gives one of his best performances since "The Right Stuff" in 1983. Given the distribution on this film, the normal scale doesn't exactly fit, however it should be a 4 Quack film.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ides of March

With a cast that includes Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood it is no wonder that the early buzz around "The Ides of March" is so favorable. Combined with a quality script it is not a surprise if this film will be highly regarded come award season. The film is coming off a successful festival run and is finally hitting theaters on October 7th.

The film hits on every major political hot topic including the death penalty, abortion, religion, adultery, and the dirty politics where under the table agreements are made for voter support. The film takes off days before the Ohio Democratic primary focusing on Mike Morris (George Clooney) as his campaign begins to unravel from the inside when Stephen (Ryan Gosling) makes a poor decision. However, once politics begin to get dirty what will Stephen do with the information that he has about the campaign and the political future that he has control over.

This is by far the year of Ryan Gosling with "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and "Drive" already making their rounds. This is coming off a snub for his role in "Blue Valentine" and I think that the Academy finds a way to include him on the ballot this year. His performance as the idealistic staffer, Stephen Myers, working on a Presidential campaign is an absolute homerun. He is perfect in the subtle scenes where he says very little, but you can see in his expression how Stephen is calculating his options.

Not to be outdone is the performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman as the senior campaign manager, Paul Zara, that values loyalty above all else. He knows who his friends and enemies are equally, but will not sacrifice loyalty for either. Everything I wanted to see from Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Moneyball" is present in this performance. Every bit his equal in this film is his calculating opponent Tom Duffy, played by Paul Giamatti, who has the same "whatever it fucking takes" approach as his character in "Win Win". They should both receive a nomination for supporting actor.

Most impressive might be Evan Rachel Wood who has really matured in the last several years with her roles on "True Blood", "the Wrestler" (2008) and "Mildred Pierce" (2011). As the young intern, Molly Stearns, she has to carry the emotional baggage of the film. For such a young actress this shows her amazing skill and is deserving of a supporting actress nomination.

Being a resident of the DC area the references to working at a consulting firm on K Street and Farragut North made me laugh, but I wouldn't expect the rest of the country to get those references. Then I learned that the script was based on the play "Farragut North" written by Beau Willimon and the framing of the film made more sense to me. This is the second time that Philip Seymour Hoffman has been involved with taking a widely successful play ("Doubt" in 2008 where the play won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play) and helping to make it an equally powerful film. There could be more connections like this, but it was the first that jumped at me.

Along with the acting nominations identified above, the film will also deserve an adapted screenplay nomination and I wouldn't be surprised if George Clooney gets nominated as the director. While he wasn't convincing as a presidential nominee, he didn't have to be. Every bit the 5 Quack film of the other nominees this year and likely deserving of a Best Picture nomination as well. Go see this film!

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