Cast: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie, George Tobias, Stanley Ridges, Margaret Wycherly Review by Pamela Miller
A hillbilly sharpshooter becomes one of the most celebrated American heroes of WWI when he single-handedly attacks and captures a German position using the same strategy as in turkey shoot.
Biopics have the been the back bone of filmmaking since films started to be made. There have been countless films about actual people dating back to the silent era with films like The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) and going through recent years with films like The Aviator (2004) and Walk the Line (2005). We’ve seen everyone’s life displayed on the big screen, from sports stars to musicians to political figures to biblical characters. Howard Hawk uses this genre to show the life of a military hero in Sergeant York (1941).
This biopic proved to be a hit, earning 11 Academy Award nominations and it couldn’t have come at a better time. World War II was right around the corner and America was swelling with national pride. So, what better way to honor our fighting soldiers than to show us a film about one of the most famous and award winning soldiers of World War I, Alvin York. The real Alvin York handpicked Gary Cooper to play himself, knowing he was the only actor who could give him justice. Hawks was hesitant to make this biopic, having never ventured into that genre, but jumped at the chance to work with Gary Cooper. All the cards fell into place, and the production began, ending with one of the most well known war movies in film history.
Cooper stars as York, a naïve country boy with a bit of a drinking problem and occasional temper issues. He’s also a terrific shot, winning shooting contests in his small mountain town. When he gets into a bar fight, he decides to change his life around and become a born-again Christian with the help of Pastor Rosier Pile (Walter Brennan). He also has the hots for a local country girl, Gracie Williams (Joan Leslie), who shies away from his advances. World War I is soon in full swing and York is drafted into the Army. However, this conflicts with his new moral integrity, as he does not want to harm or kill another human being. This doesn’t fly with the United States army and he’s thrown into basic training before being shipped over seas. His dead on aiming skill is soon recognized and he moves up the army ladder. Still conflicted with his religious beliefs, he is sent home to think about killing a few as a way to save more lives. He is swayed by this thought and reports back for duty.
However, his troop finds themselves in a bit of a pickle when the enemy kills a large portion of their company and backs the remaining ones into a corner. York sees the light and decides it’s time to show the enemy what he’s really got. He fires back at the Germans and his incredible marksmanship frightens them all into surrendering. He proudly marches all 132 German soldiers back to his base, much to the surprise of his superiors. When he returns home, he returns a national hero and is given the Medal of Honor. His newfound recognition convinces Gracie that York is the man she wants and the two live happily ever after.
Sergeant York is another feel good, war hero movie. Like in Mr. Deeds, Cooper plays a naïve small town bumpkin and, with his innocent, boyish eyes, he pulls the role off well. He basically mastered the naïve look while also showing off his manly side. There’s always a deeper, more complex thought pattern going on behind those eyes than what he lets on. It’s what has come to be expected of Gary Cooper. As an actor, Cooper is just plain memorizing to watch and York is no exception.
Hawks plays this movie pretty safe. It’s a wholesome, prideful tale, released at a time when war was glorified. It completely shelters us from the reality of the situation but for the sake of what film audiences wanted to see in 1941, it works. In today’s world, it would be interpreted a bit differently. Today’s audiences seek more realism and the truth as opposed to obvious sugar coated falsehoods. This is still not always given to us, but with more modern war films like Platoon, The Thin Red Line, and Saving Private Ryan, Hollywood attempts to recognize the maturity growth of audiences of this genre.
Starring: Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, Anthony Anderson Review by Surinder Singh
New recruits: Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) join the Boston State Police Department. Costigan is sent undercover to be a mole in the Irish Mafia led by fearsome mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). But Costello has a man working in the Police Department… Detective Colin Sullivan! As both Costigan and Sullivan pass information over to the opposite sides both the Mob and the Police start to realize they may have a “rat” in the house! A deadly game of hide and seek ensues with both cops and mobsters trying to flush out their informants. And as the body count raises the line between criminal and cop begins to blur because: “when you’re facing a loaded gun… what’s the difference?”
After the internationally successful Alan Mak and Wai-keung Lau thriller Infernal Affairs (2002) Hollywood decided to make one of it’s own! Remakes are by definition problematic in popular cinema. The most common problem that arises is that people find the original to be stronger making the remake pretty much obsolete. Gus Van Sant’s Psycho (1998) is a prime example of this problem, it was widely rejected despite having an accomplished director and cast behind the project. Making a movie is hard enough, but making a movie in the shadow of another that already has a strong following makes the job arguably less of a commercial risk for the backers but much more of a risk creatively for the filmmakers.
When you look at the cast sheet for The Departed you have to be impressed! Why has so much talent lined up to be in just one movie? The answer is simple… it’s a Martin Scorsese picture! Leonardo DiCaprio had already been forging a strong creative relationship with the director but The Departed welcomed a host of actors old and new onto their first Martin Scorsese film! Veterans like Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen and Ray Winstone take hold of their roles with a clear sense of relish, they are working with one of the greatest “actor’s directors” in Hollywood. Scorsese has always displayed a passion for screen acting in his process; understanding how important character and performance are to film drama. Scorsese is the director who famously discussed in detail with De Niro how the character Travis Bickle would tie a knot in Taxi Driver (1976) and with The Departed he delivers a master class in how to direct an ensemble cast.
Nicholson’s Costello opens the movie with a reverent voice-over that clearly states his worldview. One can instantly see Costello’s kinship with the Scorsese mobsters of Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995). Like many other film fanatics I had been waiting feverishly for Nicholson and Scorsese to get together and Costello is the right character for the collaboration! A father figure to both Costigan and Sullivan, Costello repeatedly reminds both men of his threat: “Don’t disappoint me on this or some other guy will be putting their fat cock up little Miss Freud’s ass.” Nicholson spruces up every line with devilish style that quite literally allows him to get away with murder! Nicholson fits perfectly into a Scorsese movie and let’s face it, it’s hard to go wrong when you cast Jack Nicholson!
As opponents, Damon and DiCaprio are nothing short of remarkable on screen. Taking into account the acting royalty that surrounds them; both actors (the operative word) are always the most compelling characters on screen. DiCaprio really shines in his scenes with police shrink (and mutual love interest) Madolyn (Vera Farmiga). Acting as the emotional go-between of Costigan and Sullivan she is the one person we see the hard-faced Costigan open up to. DiCaprio gradually peals back Costigan’s tough outer layers showing us how vulnerable he really is. He has to play the tough gangster when undercover, but inside Costigan is fragile and very lonely. It’s clear to see why DiCaprio has worked so hard at building a creative partnership with Scorsese as this allows him the best possible working environment to advance further in his career as a screen actor.
Then, there’s Matt Damon’s Sullivan. Perhaps the least glamorous role in the movie: a smug, impotent cop that’s betraying everyone in his life. Sullivan could quite easily be off putting to an audience. It’s a testament to Matt Damon’s ability that he makes Sullivan an entertaining not to mention compelling character to watch. Damon plays Sullivan’s all-important smarts magnificently, he shows us that Sullivan is a person that is well aware of his strengths and gets a real kick out of being able to outsmart those around him: “Just trust me Frank. Hey, it fucking involves lying and I’m pretty fucking good at that. Right?” Damon is an actor who can play opposite any other actor and hold his own. His scenes with heavyweights like Baldwin and Nicholson show what an assured and controlled actor he is.
Martin Sheen plays the honest Captain Queenan with a near saintly good nature. He’s the centre of justice and morality that constantly reminds us what a cop should be like. Baldwin plays up to type as Captain Ellerby, there’s something instantly commanding about Baldwin when he walks onto screen as the boss of the operation. But the real star in the supporting cast is Staff Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg). The script gives Wahlberg some real gems to work with, his cynical and unconventional approach to his work are brilliant: “If you had an idea of what we do, we would not be good at what we do, now would we? We would be cunts. Are you calling us cunts?” Like Queenan, Dignam is a rare breed that’s incorruptible to the end. You have to admire Wahlberg’s ability with the material although having grown up in Boston he was able to use his real-life background to inform the role and play Dignam with authenticity.
The Departed moves at an exciting pace with plenty of action and suspense to validate its one hundred and fifty one minute running time. While Scorsese is famed for his personal approach to the cinema, he does deliver the goods when making straightforward genre pieces like this. Take the scene where Costigan follows Sullivan out of the cinema to get a visual identification. Scorsese constructs a wonderful chase sequence with added brains as both men use their senses and smarts with equal measure. The scene is pure cinema: a story told in images and not merely dropped into the film to avoid audience boredom. Rather, it’s an integral part of Costigan and Sullivan closing in on each other. Both men are within an inch of making each other that puts us on the edge of our seat!
It’s worth noting that The Departed was the film that finally gave Scorsese the Best Picture and Best Director Oscar. Many still believe that the Oscar should have been given to Goodfellas (a film that single handedly defined nineties Hollywood cinema) and/or for his work in the seventies. But if you look closely at The Departed there are a great many references to his past work. To use music as an analogy, if Scorsese’s earlier works were the “great albums” containing the peak of his talent, then The Departed is like the ‘Greatest Hits’ album of his career that revisits all his best songs. In The Departed we see many references to Scorsese’s past films: the young boy aspiring to be like the neighborhood gangster and then being recruited by him (Goodfellas). The scene in the porno theatre: a clear nod to Taxi Driver. Costigan’s initiation into the gang by way of a fight in the bar: Gangs of New York (2002) and of course the (unspoken) connection Sullivan has to the Catholic Church which brings to mind Mean Streets (1973)… to name just a few.
In the end, the more I watch the movie (and it does demand more than one viewing) the more I appreciate what I love about so much about Scorsese movies: the humor. Tarantino once commented that if you were to listen to the sound of an audience watching Raging Bull (1980) you might think they were watching a comedy! The Departed does contain tragedy and brutal violence all of which is not funny, however around the corner from violence and conflict you can normally find humor. The little comic routines run thick and fast as relief from the more intense parts of the movie. Take the comic routine between Baldwin and Wahlberg:
Ellerby: Go fuck yourself!
Dignam: I’m tired from fucking your wife.
Ellerby: How is your mother?
Dignam: Good, she’s tired from fucking my father.
The Departed is nothing short of a great movie. A piece of work that celebrates some of Hollywood’s best filmmakers (meaning everyone who worked on the film) and is a testament to one of the greatest directors ever to work in Hollywood… see it, see it again and again and again!
The Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon, and race against the Decepticons to reach it and learn its secrets, which could turn the tide in the Transformers’ final battle. Against the backdrop of the space race between the U.S.S.R. and the USA, the alliance between Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) and Optimus Prime is put to the test against a common enemy: Shockwave.
Before we get into it, I would like to open the floor and directly ask you, Good Reader, the following question: Who is the Worst Director of All-Time?
Keep in mind that a studio film director is in charge of their movie’s artistic elements while orchestrating the technical aspects of the production crew. Therefore, the most effective directors know how to handle the people in front of the camera as well as they can coordinate the machinery behind it. Essentially, it is their job to translate the plot exposition created by the screenwriter into an engaging and entertaining narrative.
While Ed Wood has been described as the Steven Spielberg of bad filmmaking, it is this reviewer’s opinion that Michael Bay has descended unto a level of cinematic “storytelling” that is even more unholy and god-awful than the cross-dressing Wood could have ever imagined. Bay’s undeniable failure of telling his audiences a coherent story that is not super-saturated in shapeless and indiscernible violence could be forgivable if the man had any talent for composing interactive human drama.
Alas, he is as hopeless at working with real live humans as he is with computer-generated robots. It is like watching two bad movies at the same time.
In describing the tone behind “Dark of the Moon”, Bay’s first-ever threequel, he called it “a homeland version of ‘Black Hawk Down’ with giant alien robots.” And if I were Ridley Scott, I would call Bay’s agent and demand an immediate apology and promise to never again mention any of my movies while promoting his.
If the film were in any way geared towards an appropriate demographic (kids, for example), the corniness of the dialogue and incomprehensible plotline could, by parental mercy, be overlooked. You could say, “Yeah, I saw the third Transformers movie. Didn’t understand a word of it. It gave me a headache. But my kids loved it.”
The problem is that your kids shouldn’t like this movie. They shouldn’t even go to it. Borrowing on exhausted stereotypes now from every minority, the Autobots and Decepticons are depicted as annoyingly racist garbage-mouths who boast crude language as tastelessly and humorlessly as their weakly developed human counterparts.
Since the majority of rubberized dialogue is inappropriate for children under thirteen, the identity of his target audience remains elusive. Kids should find it offensive. Adults should find it stupid. Presumably, the answer must be that sacred age group caught in the middle: the conflicted teenager in all of his confused glory and disposable income. They are too young to know that the Transformers were once a beloved line of contortionist toys introduced by Hasbro in the early 1980’s.
And on behalf of the age group that previously enjoyed this franchise, whether it was in its toy, comic book, or animated form, let me suggest that we stop wearing these unconvincing smiles of phony acceptance and finally declare that the “Transformers” movies completely suck.
After a fairly entertaining opening sequence surmising that the Apollo moon landings were motivated by a UFO crash landing that was kept on the down-low by National Security, human hero Sam Witwicky takes the initiative to . . . oh, who am I kidding? If you have seen the previous two “Transformers” movies, you know as well as I that the storyline is a convoluted mess of robotic jargon and juvenile, delinquent chatter. An alien MacGuffin is once again employed to somehow motivate the Autobots upon their endless war against the ravaging Decepticons. Even with the entire might of the United States Armed Forces and Homeland Security on the side of the Autobots, it is up to young Sam (Shia LaBeouf, who is systematically desecrating my childhood) to help his transforming friends reach the moon spacecraft first. Apparently, this means he must do a whole lot of yelling.
Ridiculous supporting characters played by graceful and worthy actors (Frances McDormand and John Malkovich!) are wheeled onto the set only to be yanked away from the story entirely, suggesting that their inclusions are overly whimsical and completely irrelevant. Kevin Dunn and Julie White reprise their unrealistic roles as Sam’s parents, Ron and Judy, for no reason whatsoever in regards to the overall story structure.
And Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is probably already running back to the catwalk due to early criticisms about her newly developed “acting” abilities. Yes, her portrayal of Sam’s new girlfriend Carly is laughable and absurd. But to single her out for this apocalyptic mess would be like trying to blame Watergate solely on H. R. Haldeman. Let’s get back to the Richard Nixon responsible for this travesty. Through the years, Bay has apparently learned nothing about the importance of skillful editing or fundamental choreography of action. Watching one of his action sequences is like listening to a six-year-old make up a story as he goes along. None of the action reflects the slightest interest or focus on strategy.
There are enough missiles fired and bullets shot into the air to make Afghanistan look like a playground. Explosions, gunshots, more clips of Shia yelling, someone goes flying through the air, a robot beheads another robot, was it a good robot or a bad robot? Doesn’t matter, because we’re on to the next explosion. More gunshots. More shots of Shia yelling. Now he’s yelling while flying through the air. More explosions. And how is it possible for rocks to burst into flame like that?
Bay and his obedient team of production yes-men appear to have put a ton of effort towards making these battle sequences appear dramatic and realistic. But despite their best efforts, these scenes are exhausting instead of interesting. No matter how many buildings are destroyed or bodies are blown into the atmosphere, there is no emphatic impact felt by the audience members, who are mercilessly held hostage to watch this entire debacle at a punishing 153 minutes.
The first two installments of this doomed series were at least tolerable due to the fact that we got to watch Megan Fox handle the hideous dialogue and improbable storyline with her trademark seduction. His failure to acknowledge his female star’s power and importance in this over hyped franchise is still yet greater evidence of Michael Bay’s inability to competently undertake the role of a film director.
According to LaBeouf, his former co-star compared the trendy mullet-headed director to Hitler because she “never got comfortable” with Bay’s style of filming “women in a way that appeals to 16-year-old sexuality.” LaBeouf also said, “When Mike would ask her to do specific things, there was no time for fluffy talk. We’re on the run. And the one thing Mike lacks is tact.”
Well, you’re wrong a couple of times there, Shia. There is plenty of fluffy talk. It’s all over the script. Maybe you couldn’t hear it over the horrendously cheesy music on the soundtrack (at times, the movie feels like an afterschool episode of “Dawson’s Creek”). And Michael Bay does not lack one thing; they are several. The ability to direct his young actors to portray believable characters with developing story arcs is only one of them.
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Starring: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Grey, Lana Wood, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Glover, Lois Maxwell Review by Jesse Ryder Hughes
A mysterious diamond smuggling operation is being carried out from Africa to Las Vegas and everyone who touches the diamonds is ending up dead. M sends Bond to investigate and what Bond finds is the furthest thing he could’ve imagined, involving an old foe using of the diamonds to destroy the world.
What happened? My real disappointment in Diamonds are Forever is the complete lack of regard of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which is by far a superior film than Diamonds are Forever. That being said Diamonds are Forever can be enjoyed for its extreme camp value, which is the types of Bond you get through the 70’s. The producers seem to want to make the next Goldfinger, which proves that the franchise became about the money in a lot of ways. Connery was paid an enormous amount to play Bond again, they brought back Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton, had huge set pieces, crazy chases and a Las Vegas location. It all worked, because it was a big box office success.
The film itself is very thin compared to the others. A diamond smuggling ring is discovered and it ends up tracing back to Blofeld who is making doppelgangers of himself through some type of mud and clay moldings. He uses the diamonds to install into a satellite he has, and using the power of the diamonds he can shoot a lethal laser beam from space to blow things up. Pretty crazy and absurd. Fun to laugh about though.
Connery himself seems to be going through the motions. It does not feel like a man that just lost his wife. You can tell that Connery is ready to move on from the role. I do enjoy Blofeld’s gay henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. I find they get a lot of flack, but every time they are on screen I laugh or have a good time. They are the weirdest Bond villains in the series and I really enjoy them for that reason.
Despite the craziness of Diamonds are Forever there is a great car chase through Las Vegas in a mustang. There is also a scene where Bond gets chased while driving a moon buggy, with arms!?!
It is just as crazy as you could imagine.
As you can probably tell Diamonds are Forever is one of my least favorite of the films. If you set your brain aside you still have a good time. It is fast paced and entertaining, and it is an audience pleaser. Audiences wanted a Bond to win and it is what they got and producers took note of that fact. The filmmakers completely put Flemings books to the side and started doing things there own way. They completely rewrote the film with a few things, like characters, kept in. I believe this is partly to do with the least successful On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This is the dawn of the new Bond with Diamonds are Forever. Big bad guys, more gadgets, and more action. Fleming’s novels were more beyond this point until For Your Eyes Only.