Tuesday, November 20, 2012


"Hitchcock" has a similar feel to it as "My Week with Marilyn" (2011) as the audience is taken behind the curtain of the making of a classic film with an icon of American cinema.  "Psycho" (1960) is the backdrop for the story between the 'Master of Suspense' and his wife and muse Alma Reville.  Director Sasha Gervasi works off a screenplay based on the book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho" by Stephen Rebello.

"Hitchcock" follows the same template as the television program "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" with Hitchcock (Sir Anthony Hopkins) introduces the film in front of the house where Ed Gein lived because if it wasn't for him we wouldn't have this story.   In this personal look into the man behind the classic film the audience is asked to call him Hitch, because you can hold the cock.  The story picks up in 1959 after Hitch releases "North by Northwest".  Searching for his next project with his wife Alma (Dame Helen Mirren) he comes across the "Pyscho" book written by Robert Bloch that was loosely based on the crimes of Wisconsin murderer and grave robber Ed Gein.  Hitch was confronted by Paramount Studios unwillingness to finance a film about a transvestite and his murderous relationship with his dead mother, which led him to finance the film himself and mortgage his home in an effort to get the film into production.  With the added stress of the film, his relationship with his loving wife, and un-credited screenwriter of "Pyscho", Alma begins to strain and pushes her to seek the attention of another writer, Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston).

The film takes us through all aspects of the production of "Psycho" including the casting interviews with Anthony Perkins (played dead on by James D'Arcy) and Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) and the fights with the ratings board (Kurtwood Smith).  Hitch didn't want to use music during the infamous shower scene but was convinced by his Alma. 

Anthony Hopkins plays Hitch with a touch of the arrogance and you see the emotional attachment to the story and his own personal history of abandonment with a voice that at times sounds like Hannibal Lecter.  Yet the playfulness of the character is captured through the signature profile and background "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" theme music.  Helen Mirren perfectly balances the performance with Anthony Hopkins notably in a scene where Alma is confronted about having an affair.  You cannot help but admire the two on screen together and know that they are both deserving of a nomination for Best Actor and Supporting Actress. 

Not only was the acting well done, but the screenplay was well adapted and the makeup was equally impressive and deserving of nominations.  The film is fun, suspenseful and Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of the film.  It is very deserving of 5 Quacks and hope that everyone goes to see this film.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


What can be done with the twenty-third Bond film that hasn't been done before?  Quite simply you can make him more human than any of the previous films.  Sam Mendes provides a delicate and emotional touch that is rarely seen in the Bond films, which usually specialize in action sequences that involve the chase and explosions.  But staying with the Bond template is a requirement and Sam Mendese delivers exactly what fans of the series are expecting.  The most notable signature for the Bond series is the opening title sequence which includes an original song by Adele (see below). 

The story for "Skyfall" begins in Istanbul, Turkey where James Bond (Daniel Craig) is on a mission to retrieve a computer hard drive that has a list of British agents.  As Bond chases the man who stole the hard drive through the streets, rooftops and countryside of Turkey we reach an ultimate moment on top of a train where another agent, Eve (Naomie Harris), is ordered by M (Judi Dench) to take the shot which leads right into the opening title sequence from Adele.

The more delicate side of the story takes over as MI6 is evolving with Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) telling M that the British government is upset with MI6 for losing the list; and that she'll be allowed to retire.  The theme of growing old runs throughout the film as a new younger Q (Ben Wishaw) is introduced as the story takes us to Shanghai, China and the discovery of who has the list of British agents.  The main villain is someone from M's past and who has it in for her and is intensely portrayed by Javier Bardem.

This is Daniel Craig's third turn at 007 and every time I watch him I forget about Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton and Roger Moore (but of course not Sean Connery).  Daniel Craig provides a physical quality to 007 that is matched by his good looks.  Daniel Craig is an intense performer and watching the "Skyfall" reminded me of why I didn't agree with his casting in "The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" (2011).  He carries a brutal grittiness that is balanced by a suaveness that works so well as 007 and lesser so as a journalist.  Also returning for the seventh time is Judi Dench who is masterful in her performance as a "Bond-girl"  and after declaring it would be her last she is certainly sent off in a respectful manner.  Judi Dench will always be the quintessential handler of the 00 section of MI6 as she provides tough love yet remains motherly in the film as she gets to know James Bond better than she ever has before.  Javier Bardem does what he is best it, which is dominates the screen at all times as the ultimate Bond-villain, Raoul Silva.  His mannerisms and the most simple facial expressions provide a chilling sociopath that reminded me of the Joker from "The Dark Knight" as he leaves you completely uncertain of what extremes he is willing to go. 

I couldn't help but wonder if Sam Mendes was at all influenced by Christopher Nolan and "Batman Begins" or "The Dark Knight" or "Straw Dogs".  There are certainly similarities between the stories, but "Skyfall" stands on its own as one of the most entertaining films of the year and is easily worthy of 4 Quacks.  The film has an A-list villain, exotic locations and brilliant cinematography.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Steven Spielberg is a well-known history buff, and leaned heavily on historian Doris Kearns Goodwin who wrote the book "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" for which the film “Lincoln” is in part based.  The film is a portrait of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and some of the men who served with him in his Cabinet.  The film focuses on Lincoln's mostly successful attempts to reconcile conflicting personalities and political factions on the path to abolition and the events leading up to the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution.   
The film opens on the battlefield, but little more of the Civil War is shown beyond this sequence.  The words of the Gettysburgh Address are recited to Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) by soldiers establishing how powerful of an orator the President was.  As the Civil War continues to rage, Abraham Lincoln struggles with continuing the numbers lost in battle and fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.  President Lincoln and other Republicans was concerned that the Emancipation Proclamation would be seen as a temporary war measure, since it was solely based on Lincoln's war powers.  Working closely with his Cabinet notably including Secretary of State William H. Seward (David Strathairn) and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (Bruce McGill) the struggles to pass the 13th Amendment through the House of Representatives proved to be difficult.  The glad-handing mission to win votes from Democrats is taken on by Robert Latham (John Hawkes) and WN Bilbo (James Spader) while Preston Blair (Hal Holbrook) works as a civilian to help negotiate peace with Alexander Stephens (Jackie Earle Haley) and others.  In the House of Representatives the 13th Amendment is championed by Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) and others within the Republican Party who uses quick wit to provoke the opponents on the other side of the isle.  While the fight to abolish slavery takes place both in Washington and the battlefields there is also a fight at home between Lincoln and Mary Todd (Sally Fields) who are still struggling with the loss of their son and the appropriate amount of attention to give to their two remaining sons, Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Tad (Gulliver McGrath).  The assassination is well known, and in true Spielberg fashion we are left with the emotions of the event even though it is not shown specifically. 

The film has a theatrical feel to it that never allows the audiences to be fully engaged by the story.  Instead the legal procedural jumps from scene-to-scene requiring message boards similar to an episode of "Law and Order" to inform the audience just who each actor is and the date of this most significant event.  The film is a whitewash of Lincoln and slavery, instead celebrating the amazing man without acknowledging his political views.  With its drawbacks, the acting in the film is what really stands out.  Many are required to deliver long and memorable speeches, with just a small amount of humor delivered by James Spader in a performance that would make Falstaff roll in the isles.  Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field are very much deserving of a best actor and supporting actress nomination, but don’t be surprised if Tommy Lee Jones also receives a supporting actor nomination.  Everyone in the cast absolutely delivers a flawless performance that  

There are no vampires in this more honest telling of the 16th President of the United States, but the script leaves the audience wanting to know more about the actual individuals involved.   The make-up is amazing as you get lost in the faces of the actors to recognize who they are.  Not only was Daniel Day-Lewis transformed into Abraham Lincoln, but also Jared Harris into Ulysses S. Grant among others.  This is a 5 Quack film that will be the measure for Lincoln in the classroom for years to come. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...