Short Takes: In Theaters Now

THE DANISH GIRL

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Alicia Vikander gives a stunning performance as Gerta, a woman who as she reaches her artistic peak finds herself losing her husband in an unexpected way. Through it all she remains loyal, faithful and in love with a man who is no longer there. I know most will disagree with me, however, I felt Eddie Redmayne’s performance was too controlled and he never reached deep enough within himself to give any depth to his character. The film itself is photographically stunning.

YOUTH

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A look back ot life’s highs and disappointments through the eyes of two long times friends as performed by two legendary actors. Beautifully and poetically filmed.

DADDY’S HOME

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Will Ferrell use to be funny. Now he seems to think taking off his shirt (again) and revealing his flabby body is all that is needed.   In Daddy’s Home, he’s just plain predictable and perversely dull, and he needed Mark Wahlberg to help him out with it. One of the worst films of 2015.

JOY

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There’s a good story in the tale of Joy Mangano, unfortunately the film David O. Russell made is not it. I have liked most of Russell’s films, but other than some of the performances, Jennifer Lawrence, who may be the best young actress working in Hollywood today, and Robert De Niro this is disappointment.

THE BIG SHORT

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Scathingly funny look at what led up to the 2008 financial collapse as warned by four outsiders. The director and screenwriters manage to break down and present the complicated tale in a way the layman could understand. Steve Carrell gives a powerful performance. One of the best of the year.

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Short Takes: In Theaters Now

Spotlight

Spotlight

   Spotlight may just be the best film of the year, or it at least comes damn close. It’s certainly the best film on investigative journalism since, though not quite as good, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN. The film draws you in early on and keeps you locked in while managing not to exploit sensitive subject matter. SPOTLIGHT is intelligent filmmaking and a superb look at heroic journalism against powerful forces. Continue reading

Short Takes: New Films and Old

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Guy Ritchie)

uncleAn atrocity of one of the great TV shows from the 1960’s. Where to start? Well, the two leads, Henry Clavill and Arnie Hammer, have zero chemistry together as a team. Throughout the movie they just seemed uncomfortable in each other’s presence. Then there is the story which never feels menacing enough, though it involves the threat of a nuclear bomb being stolen. There are some good lines and droll humor here and there, but unfortunately, our two “heroes” cannot deliver the lines with any sense of ironic humor. The film is based on the 1960’s hit TV show, but the resemblance between the show and this film in non-existent. There is no T.H.R.U.S.H., no U.N.C.L.E. organizations and barely any camaraderie between our two spies who seem to hate each other for most of the film. The film is a complete bastardized version of the show. It desperately wants to seem hip and cool, of course it does, it has Guy Ritchie directing, It’s not. It’s just painful. The ending  clearly sets you up for a sequel which I suspect will never be made. Continue reading

Short Takes: Recent Viewings Take 2

I’ll See You in My Dreams

DreamsCalling all Baby Boomers! Finally, an honest, realistic,  touching, poignant  look at the boomer generation reaching the age of retirement. An endearing performance by Blythe Danner as a widow, able to retire and live comfortably thanks to an insurance policy on her husband who passed away twenty years ago. Her daily life is one of quiet routines; reading The New York Times, playing cards, bicycling, playing golf with the girls, all who live, unlike Danner, in a retirement community.  Danner’s performance shows how much this talented actress has been wasted in so many menial roles over the years. It’s a performance  that should be remembered come award season. I’ll See You in My Dreams is a bittersweet, emotionally rich film. A must see!  Continue reading

Short Takes: Recent Viewings

Here are five short reviews of some recent viewings that are all over the genre map.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

gunfightGunfight at the O.K. Corral is a beautifully shot big Hollywood version of the famed Tombstone shootout as the Earp Brothers face down the Clantons. Burt Lancaster makes for a stoic Wyatt Earp, a hard ass who totes the line. Kirk Douglas does his best impersonation of himself as the alcoholic, tuberculosis ridden, Doc Holliday. The story itself is pretty fictionalized.  Johnny Ringo, for example, died before the shootout, and the real life shootout only lasted only about 30 seconds. Then there is Jo Van Fleet, who only two years earlier played James Dean’s  mother in East of Eden, as Kate Fisher, Doc Holliday’s female companion. In real Earp lore, Kate was known as “Big Nose” Kate. But then who cares about all that. Watching the two stars interact makes this a fun watch. Continue reading

Short Takes: Recent Releases

Have not done a Short Takes in quite some time. For this edition just a few short reviews on some recent films I have seen in theaters. Continue reading

Short Takes: Six Films With Photographers as Main Characters

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Photography and filmmaking are brothers, or sisters, under the skin. Cinema would not exist without the birth of still photography. As a photographer, and someone whose has been drawn to celluloid dreams all his life, I thought I’d list a few of my favorite films that have characters who are photographers in significant roles. All six films are available on DVD.

Rear Window (1954)

Where else to start than with one of my top five favorite films. REAR WINDOW, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, stars James Stewart as a Life magazine photojournalist confined to a wheelchair after an accident during a photo shoot. With one of his legs in a cast, he spends most of his time looking out his window observing his neighbors until one day he comes to suspect one of them (Raymond Burr) has murdered his wife. Hitchcock not only gives us one of the greatest suspense/thrillers of all time, but exposes the essence of photography and a dark side of human nature…voyeurism. Continue reading