Saturday, July 27, 2013

"The Hunt" - Review

“The Hunt” - Review

Starring Danish actor Mad Mikkelsen “The Hunt” is a brilliant, disturbing story of how a simple innocent lie can not only become a life devastating truth, but a false truth that takes rapid flight on nothing more than a baseless gossip that is allowed to continue to flourish endlessly without anyone making the minimum effort to working with all due diligence to getting to the real truth.

Written in subtitles, The Hunt takes place in rural Denmark where we see Mads playing a day care school aid named Lucas whose life from on the very onset of the film has been turned upside down due to a recent divorce and custody battle. But his circumstances are made even worse when he is clearly falsely accused of having inappropriate contact with one of the children at the school.

The brilliance of this film is the stellar performance of Mikkesen who delivers an Oscar worthy performance as a kind, earnest decent, somewhat lonely but personable man who only wants the minimum joys out of life, that being the respect of his friends and colleagues, the love of his son and the comfort of his loveable dog Fanny who walks with him to work each day.

This film showcases many traits of human nature. For one the subtle strength of how an unfounded lie can move brutally quick through the minds of supposedly adults with an unrelenting cancerous affect on the collective conscience of that community, as well how it can attempt to strip away the decency out of an innocent man’s life. It also a reaffirming story  about the importance of how many people routinely and casually  proclaim in their life how many multiple friends they have or think they have.

Specifically, the film magnifies the fact very succinctly that Lucas as well in real life for many of us as well, when a dire and awful circumstance arises, when times truly test friends commitment to you, it is then you may discover, dramatically and even disastrously so that you may be only lucky to having just one person in you in your life that you deem worthy to refer and truly to believe is your friend.

The Hunt clearly examines down to its marrow how rare it is for someone to stick with you in the ups and downs of life; unflinchingly against all accusers and false claims with a profound display of reverence for unbridled loyalty to you above all others.

Finally we see very meticulously the many ugly sides to human nature when a brazen lie takes hold. But what it also does is give greater appreciation for the perseverance of one’s own inner fortitude, the quiet strength to maintain your decency and the need to hold to on to ones dignity when life deals you with things that put you in a very lonely struggle.

This is really a very good film, fabulously acted all around and led masterfully by Mads Mikkelsen who won the Best Actor Award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival for this role.

4 Stars

"Fruitvale Station" - Review

“Fruitvale Station” – Review

I own an hour glass and when I first bought it several years ago, I do what everyone does who has ever owned one would do. I flipped it over to watch those perfectly tiny shaped grains of sand slowly filter through from the top glass receptacle to the bottom, wondering if it will take an actual hour to empty from the top; does it keep good time. Watching the true story of 22 year old Oscar Grant’s last 24 hours of life on New Year’s Eve reminded me of my hour glass, but not about time so much. I’ll come back to explain later.

Fruitvale Station, an actual Subway Station in Oakland, CA is the title to the film of Oscar’s story where in the first 120 seconds you see the actual Oscar Grant being filmed by a passenger from the train’s door with Oscar laying on the stations platform floor and two Oakland area police men kneeling over him in a bit of a struggle when you hear a single gun shot.  Actually what happens is Oscar is shot fatally and it at that point the film starts to reverse to it’s beginning of his last 24 hour of his life leading up to that tragic conclusion.

There is nothing profoundly unique about Oscar. You see him in various pedestrian situations through out the film; scenes where he appears to be for the most part a good and decent young man with a good heart, who loves his immediate family and who also loves his daughter and girl friend passionately. He also seems to be very personable and charming with a genuine desire to correct what even he recognizes as a chaotic path of poor decisions that some young men are prone to make early in their adult lives regardless of race.

Early in the film he comes to grip with these poor decisions he has made that have clearly hindered his ability to make progress in his early life, especially in those intimate and personal weight matters regarding his relationship with his girlfriend and their future together. But what uniquely shines out about Oscar’s story is largely for the benefit of the viewing audience. Watching this young man with all of his best intentions on that day was in fact a man living his last few hours of life like those tiny grains of sand in that hour glass mirroring the last of everything he will ever do or ever say in his brief life.

Like a laser to my consciousness I looked at the film uniquely through the prism of those grains of sand in that hour glass with each speck representative of the last time Oscar would have a conversation with his mother, the last time he kisses his daughter, the last time he says I love you, the last time he does a compassionate deed. And with that perspective in mind you have to ask that while Oscar did nothing wrong in his life that night, it still comes down to the theme of the seemly subtle steps we consciously and subconsciously make in our brief lives.

I won’t say too much about the pivotal scene on that station’s platform, clearly Oscar is needlessly shot and killed that night, but I could not stop wondering if just one person on that fateful night had reacted just a bit differently, if anyone including police officers had chosen another type of strength just for a moment to hit pause, to lower the temperature just a bit would Oscar still be alive today?. Would so many lives have not been devastated?

To me “Fruitvale Station” is a very good film about the choices we make; even seemingly insignificant choices should never be taken for granted as being meaningless. And while the rendering of the legal verdict to Oscar’s murder trial did have some comparisons to a recent high profile Florida murder trial, the larger aspects to his story and his last 24 hours of life did not. Oscar life and death was a stark reminder to making every effort to live and to move in the absolute right direction each and everyday even when it’s so, so hard and even when the rewards of those choices do not offer any of its reward immediately.

Oscar was more typical than not. He like some young men, sometimes, somewhere, on some occasions seem to struggle with an awkward juxtaposition dance that at moments in life, the actually living part in that moment he felt he was invincible; indestructible to all things and the consequences of his actions he took in the moment are no more than short term, ephemeral at best. Fruitvale Station hauntingly offers us the reverse to be true, that it is our choices, decisions, actions that can have an invincible lasting impact and its life itself by any general measure of time that is always all too brief.  

So just like the sand, I was reminded as cliché as it may sound, that every thing we do matters, all the time, everywhere, no matter what we say, who we say it to,  no matter who we love and no matter who professes to love us back, live life fully, but work to live it wisely.

3 – 3/4 Stars

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Lone Ranger - Review

“The Lone Ranger” – Review

Taking the time to stop and watch someone damn up over flowing water. Checking the time at least  12 times a day on your new wrist watch. Reflecting with a sense of accomplishment at your freshly cut lawn.  Spending some quality time on your lunch break looking upward with wonder at new high rise construction. Making due with water on your breakfast cereal instead of milk. Singing casually to a song on your radio at a gas pump. Making your coffee differently this time with no cream or sugar. Asking your dog questions as if he will finally answer you this time in English instead of with a bark. Reheating spaghetti in a frying pan instead of a microwave because you saw someone else do it once and it looked like it might taste better. Drinking a pilsner size glass of beer through a straw. Locating those 6 cents you lost under your car’s floor mat. Finding a $10.00 off food coupon to some item you will never need.

Oh, oh, I apologize, I am completely sorry, I digressed for a moment. You  see what happen is I started to sit down to write my review on “The Lone Ranger” and for some unexplainable reason I just started to wander off listing all of the many things that could be potentially far more interesting to do than spend money to see “The Lone Ranger”.

Now to be fair, it is not horrible. But what it is, is completely both story wise and directorially incoherent right from the beginning and remains so through out its 2 hours. Why? I think the director, writer or producer; who ever green lighted this finalized script wanted it to be a movie to all things and to all people. It wanted to be a western; a drama, a comedy, have some satire, show some romance, provide some suspense, have some historical context and even a bit of slap stick included that would be all etched and hopefully held together with some timely and highly choreographed action. The problem is you can’t have these genres meandering in and out of each other and hope the story feels real, sensible and honest. Midway through the film I felt the only thing I had not seen that was missing from this goulash of a film was a Broadway musical scene performed by the cast of “A Chorus Line”. Actually, I did step out for a minute so I am not sure they didn’t.

You want more incoherence? Besides the Ranger stating early in the film he doesn’t want a gun because he doesn’t believe in them (What – huh, this is a western right?) there was one scene I will never forget where the Ranger is in a Tipi talking to a solemn looking acutely silent Native American Chief making a case to the Chief that he should not take his tribe into war with an approaching US Army Calvary. When the Chief finally moves from his mode of silence to respond to the Ranger’s verbal pleadings, he uttered his lines not within the historical context style where English might not have been his first language, he instead recites his lines with the resonance of some mob boss with a New Jersey accent from the movie The Godfather.

As far as the acting, well Johnny Depp played Tonto similar to the grumbling sounding voice of his Jack Sparo character with at least an appropriate effort to recite his somewhat broken English lines tastefully. We also see him incorporate his trademark self invented odd ticks of rolling eye balls and uniquely unusual Depp-ish acting gestures to round out his vision of Tonto. His co star Armie Hammer to me was a mess who devised to playing the Ranger so submissively it was as if they’re roles had reversed and it was he who was subordinated to the needs and plot interest to his companion Tonto. From what I saw in the theater I began to wonder if this movie shouldn’t had been entitled “The Lone Tonto” and his masked man side kick named “Ranger”.

Armie Hammer has delivered solid work in past films such as in the Best Movie nominated film “The Social Network” and as the implied paramour Special Agent Clive Tolson to FBI Director Hoover in the film “J. Edgar”. But here he seems so overly affected in his manner, so emotionally self involved, so stripped of any masculinity and so prissy whimsical I thought I was watching someone doing their rehearsal interpretation of The Lone Ranger for the show “America’s Got Talent”.

So, what was good about “TLR”? Well, I liked the humor and talent of the white horse. I also got a bit stirred up and excited at the famous theme song of The William Tell’s Overture originally composed by Rossini. And finally given the movie was clearly shot digitally, the cinematography and the backdrop of the American west was just breath taking to look at in all of its majestic beauty of rock laden Monument Valley with its wonderful isolation and other rolling mountain range vistas. That area of the country is always a joy to see in the big format of a movie screen.

Is there anything else to mention? Nope, that pretty much sums it up. A lot of millions of dollars of technical wizardry went into making this film entertaining such as watching Tonto taking a running 100 foot leap off of a moving train down onto another moving train filled with huge rocks and not be injured, so I will never tell anyone not to see that amazing feat. But if this movie has you drawn to it for what ever reason whether its part of your youth, you like Westerns or Johnny Depp, you be advise to place this on your rental list. Way down on your rental list. Ah, maybe more so, like when it’s free on your basic cable viewing night.

1 – 3/4 Stars