Thumbnails Jan 15
by Tony Medley
American Sniper (10/10):
If this true story of Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle isn’t the best war
movie ever made, it’s right up there. Director Clint Eastwood and
Producer-Star Bradley Cooper show what war in Iraq and Afghanistan is
really like with uber-realistic battle sequences. Highlighted by
award-quality performances by Cooper and Sienna Miller it also deals
with the effects the war has on wives and families. In a less political
Hollywood, this would sweep the Oscars®.
Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles (10/10):
An absorbing, riveting look at a man who has become a legend, with
copious interviews with people from his life and clips of the great man
himself on talk shows and in films he made.
As wonderful as Reese Witherspoon is in portraying the story of Cheryl
Strayed, the Pacific Crest Trail, over which she walked 1,000 miles, is
as much a character as Cheryl and the others. The film was shot on the
trail in the Mojave Desert and in Oregon. Some of the vistas are
Yves Bélanger used only hand held cameras with no lighting, tripods,
dollies, or cranes. It was all shot on location on the trail with
available light. In fact, although there are lots of flashbacks to
Cheryl’s life back home, 2/3 of the film takes place on the trail.
Big Eyes (9/10):
Amy Adams shines as a wife-painter shockingly exploited by her
psychopath plagiarist husband, played by Cristoph Waltz, in this true
story of the woman who created the Big Eyes paintings which achieved
amazing popularity in the ‘60’s.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (8/10):
I was so much not a fan of the first one and thought the second
even worse, that I can’t remember when a movie has surprised me as much
as this. Director Shawn Levy got two new writers, David Guion & Michael
Handelman, and the result is a funny, laugh out-loud film highlighted by
a wonderful performance by Dan Stevens as a perplexed Sir Lancelot who
just doesn’t understand what’s going on.
Into the Woods (8/10):
Bringing a loved-by-some (but to me, prosaic) Steven Sondheim musical to
the screen in which every song sounds like the same un-hummable melody
(even though it won a 1987 Tony for Best Score over Phantom of the
Opera, go figure), this is still an entertaining combination of
disparate fairy tales with outstanding performances, cinematography, and
Oscar®-quality production design by Dennis Gassner’s magical locations
in one of England’s oldest forests and other atmospheric locales. Too
bad it isn’t in 3D.
The story of USC Olympian Louie Zamperini was not unique because of what
he went through and survived. Admirable as it was, more than 27,000
American POW’s endured similar torment from the brutal Japanese in WWII.
What set Louie’s ordeal apart was the fact that he came to forgive his
tormentors through religious inspiration by Billy Graham. Director
Angelina Jolie completely omits this from her 137-minute movie except
for a one sentence graphic at the end that doesn’t even mention Graham.
She could have cut ten minutes each from the too-long, albeit
efficacious, scenes on the lifeboat and in the prison camp, and devoted
those twenty minutes to Louie’s renaissance, which is the point of Laura
Hillenbrand’s bestselling book.
Burdened by mediocre music, uninspired choreography, and a hackneyed
screenplay, why would this pedestrian musical (first filmed in 1982) get
another shot when there are much better Broadway plays that have been
made into rotten movies, like “Camelot,” that are crying to be remade?
Exodus: Gods and Kings (2/10):
Fox ignores its ignominious history in which it teetered on the brink of
bankruptcy because of “Cleopartra” in 1963 and devotes $140 million to
one of the silliest costume movies ever made. With one ludicrous scene
after another, this film isn’t even faithful to The Bible, much less