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WNM Movie Night Liner Notes

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Search Title: Search Director: Year Seen:  


Title: Director [Year]
"The Zero Theorem" Terry Gilliam [2013]
"Locke" Steven Knight [2013]
"Nightcrawler" Dan Gilroy [2013]
"Birdman" Alejandro G. Inarritu [2014]
"Odd Man Out" Carol Reed [1947]
"Dean Spanley" Toa Fraser [2008]
"Interstellar" Christopher Nolan [2014]
"Blue Jasmine" Woody Allen [2013]
"Blue Velvet" David Lynch [1986]
"Into the Woods" Rob Marshall [2014]
"Closed Circuit" John Crowley [2013]

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Liner Notes.

© 2015 WNM and the respective authors. "All Rights Reserved."

"The Zero Theorem" [Terry Gilliam] 2013

"The Zero Theorem is a fantasy film directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Pat Rushin.

"Christoph Waltz plays the character Qohen Leth in a distopian future that bears a strong resemblance to "Blade Runner" [1982]. Leth works as a poorly paid tech worker for a ‘big-brother‘ type of corporation.

"This film is visually very attractive and amusing, which is what one expects from Gilliam, but it takes far too long for its plot to be made clear. This movie wanders, never fixing one‘s attention long enough to consistently hold viewer interest. The plot revolves around the ultimate meaninglessness of life, which is how I felt about this film unfortunately."


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"Locke" [Steven Knight] 2013

"Locke is a suspense film written and directed by Steven Knight. The central character, in fact almost the only character, is Ivan Locke, a construction supervisor at a massive skyscraper that leaves the site just prior to a key event he needs to supervise. Locke is played by Tom Hardy, who does an admirable job. Most of the film takes place inside Locke‘s car, making this essentially a one-man play.

"Locke leaves the construction site late at night due to a moral conflict that he cannot ignore and has finally decided to face squarely. The suspense arises from trying to fight inevitable small fires that arise on a huge construction site with many sub contractors just before the single key scheduled event -- the foundation concrete pour. Locke has to do this while driving away, using his cell phone, trying to get his poorly-trained assistant up to speed while explaining his absence and trying to reassure his management and the project‘s investors.

"The key comment to make regarding this film is that it holds your attention for the most part. That is quite an accomplishment when you consider that almost the entire film takes place inside a car. Both writing and acting had to be good for that to occur.

"Steven Knight has written some good screenplays. The most notable is Eastern Promises [2007]."


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"Nightcrawler" [Dan Gilroy] 2013

"Nightcrawler was written and directed by Dan Gilroy. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. The plot revolves around the intense competitiveness of local news programs in Los Angeles for viewer share and what lengths they may go to increase that share.

"Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom. Bloom is young, bright and extremely ambitious, but surprisingly ignorant. It is clear from the first scene that he uses violence casually to get what he wants. As his character develops it becomes clear he is a high-functioning sociopath.

"A chance encounter on a highway demonstrates to Bloom that he may be able to make money easier as a news stringer for local television stations. Bloom soon starts to sell his clips of bloody car crashes and crime scenes to a struggling local station whose news editor is Nina Romina, played by Russo. Nina is willing to sacrifice traditional limits on what should be shown on TV for higher ratings. In Bloom she finds a partner who is only too happy to feed her ever more shocking scenes. What she does not realize is that Bloom is a sociopath who is capable of almost anything.

"The performance given by Gyllenhaal is so good that Bloom makes your skin crawl. When he is on screen, suspense builds, not knowing what he will stoop to next. This actually makes watching him distasteful.

"This is not a satire about what local TV news will do for ratings, but rather how unprincipled individuals can exploit that need. Will you enjoy this film? Probably not. But it should still be seen for the strength of performances by Gyllenhaal and Russo."


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"Birdman" [ Alejandro G. Inarritu] 2014

"Birdman was directed and co-written/co-produced by Alejandro G. Inarritu. This was the big winner in 2014, winning Academy awards for Best Picture, Directing, Original Screenplay and Cinematography. It stars Michael Keaton, Edward Norton and Emma Stone, who were respectively nominated for Best Actor, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress.

"The film revolves around Riggan Thomas, played by Keaton. Riggan is an actor who was typecast as a superhero. His career has stagnated for years. To restart he has written a play and mortgaged his future to bring it to Broadway. Riggan is a stressed out mess with little patience. He has just replaced his play‘s costar with Mike Shiner only a day or two before the preview. Norton plays Shiner. Both Riggan and Shiner clash, but it is clear that Shiner improves the play. Meanwhile, Riggan has a difficult relationship with his daughter Sam, played by Stone.

"This is a quintissential ‘insider‘ film and while the acting is superb, the film feels and looks like a documentary about a play, most of it shot backstage. This is certainly its directorial strength. However, like many plays the lead characters are a little overwrought. Knowing these people in real life would be a strain and viewers might also be strained a bit.

"For an outsider, the key to enjoying this film is whether you like Riggan and hope that he succeeds.

"Editor Note: ‘2014 Best Picture?‘ Not likely!"


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"Odd Man Out" [Carol Reed] 1947

"Odd Man Out [1947] was directed by Carol Reed and based upon the novel and screenplay of F. L. Green. It has a fine cast of British actors, notably James Mason in the leading role, with Robert Newton, F. J. McCormick, Kathleen Ryan and Cyril Cusack in supporting roles, two of which are truly standouts. Mason believed this was the best performance of his career.

"Carol Reed is one of Britain‘s best directors, who was quite consistent in producing well-above average films. This film and the two that followed, The Fallen Idol [1948] and The Third Man [1949] would crown any director‘s career.

"The setting is Belfast just after WWII has ended. The IRA is not mentioned by name, being instead called the Organization. Mason plays its local leader, Johnny McQueen. Having recently broken out of prison, he is responsible for carrying out a payroll robbery to get funds for the Organization. Against advice he decides to take part in the robbery even though he is not completely healthy. The robbery does not go well. The balance of the film follows McQueen as he tries to escape capture although wounded and alone, slipping in and out of delirium, while his devoted girlfriend Kathleen tries to find and save him.

"This is generally considered to be the first film that took a serious look at the ‘Troubles‘ in Northern Ireland. Although we tend to think of that as a conflict of the late 1900s, it was simmering ever since the country was partitioned, with the Catholics being a minority in a majority Anglican part of Ireland that remained part of Great Britain.

"It was also a film with a large budget. Much of the film was shot in a sound stage. In particular the bar scenes were shot in a very good replica of Belfast‘s most famous pub, The Crown Bar, which is an ornate saloon. The outdoor scenes were primarily shot at night and required a good deal of expensive lighting. But many of those were also stage shots, especially the rain and snow scenes, and so skillfully done that you almost don‘t notice. Robert Krasker as cinematographer did a fine job. Working again for Reed, he got the Oscar for The Third Man [1949].

"Of note: The film was originally to end with McQueen dying of cold and blood loss and Kathleen committing suicide. However, it was discovered that US censors would not allow a suicide to be seen on screen. As a result the ending was changed to have her shoot at the police so that she and he would be killed.

"This film was nominated for Best Film Editing and it won the BAFTA for Best British Film of 1948. It is a classic of British cinema."


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"Dean Spanley" [Toa Fraser] 2008

"Dean Spanley [2008] is a small period film directed by Toa Fraser and based on a work by Lord Dunsany. It stars Jeremy Northam, Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, Peter O‘Toole. As expected, each give solid performances.

"Lord Dundany‘s writing is often fanciful. The subject in this case is reincarnation. The setting is Edwardian London. O‘Toole plays an aging, irritable and unlovable father Fisk Sr., who is set in his ways. His son Fisk Jr. is played by Northam. Fisk Jr. visits his father on Thursday evenings out of responsibility rather than love. He convinces his father to accompany him to a talk on reincarnation, where they meet Dean Spanley, played by Neill. Fisk Jr. later discovers that when Spanley gets slightly drunk, he begins talking in the guise of his previous life, which is that of a Cocker Spaniel.

"This film approaches the subject matter slowly and in an oblique, humorous and unexpected manner that draws in the viewer. Through an unusual circumstance of this particular reincarnation, the relationship between father and son is healed.

"Definitely not a film for everyone, but a worthwhile one due to its unusual subject and surprising treatment."


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"Interstellar" [Christopher Nolan] 2014

"Interstellar [2014] was directed by Christopher Nolan and co-written with his brother Jonathan. It is based on ideas of Kip Thorne, the CalTech physicist. It stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway with a supporting cast of Michael Caine and Jessica Chastain.

"Interstellar is in effect a combination of two films. The first half takes its cues from the Dust Bowl. The setting is a rural dystopia. Earth is dying quickly due to crop disease. In one generation technology is being pulled back to the 1900 era. National government has shrunk almost to inconsequential. Pockets of technology survive, but it is made clear that humanity is dying out.

"In this world a former astronaut Cooper, played by McConaughey, struggles to raise his son and daughter. Trained as a high-tech engineer and shuttle pilot, circumstances have turned him into a corn farmer.

"Due to a mystical communication that his daughter has alerted him to, Cooper finds a secret NASA base where a core of scientists and engineers are trying to unravel the mystery of a wormhole that has appeared near Saturn that they believe provides the possibility to save humanity by relocating some of it to a new planet if a hospitable one can be found.

"The second half of the film has Cooper taking command of a space mission to that wormhole in what may be humanity‘s last hope. This transition, which requires him to leave his family behind for many years, is the initial dramatic confrontation. The struggle to finish the mission and return provides the balance of drama.

"Interstellar is not a space opera. It takes depiction of science and technology seriously. However, the mystical communication and the way it came about is not convincingly explained. That constitutes this film‘s primary weakness. But Interstellar is well acted, looks spectacular and the story keeps you interested.

"Nolan is known for his love of film as a recording medium. As with his recent films Interstellar is largely shot on 65mm. The last half of this film is an effects extravaganza and it won the Visual Effects Oscar."


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"Blue Jasmine" [Woody Allen] 2013

"Blue Jasmine [2013] was written and directed by Woody Allen and it is one of his best films. The central character is Jasmine, played by Cate Blanchett. Solid supporting roles are provided by Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay and Sally Hawkins.

"Jasmine was until recently married to a very high-flying financial manipulator played by Alec Baldwin. They had a mansion in the Hamptons and a son. She lead an extremely privileged life, doing charities, knowing all the ‘right‘ people and so on. What she eventually discovers is that her husband is both a con man and a philanderer who wants to divorce her for a much younger woman. Her life is destroyed, her husband commits suicide in prison, her son never wants to see her again, she loses almost all her possessions, has to take work at a shoe store and has a severe nervous breakdown from which she has not recovered. She decides to throw herself on the charity of her sister Ginger, played by Sally Hawkins, who leads a blue-collar life in San Francisco.

"This film is a tragedy, and although a fine film, it is not pleasant to watch. To a great extent this is due to its characterizations. Foremost is Jasmine, doomed by fate, but also Ginger, whose life is a daily low-paying grind, trying to raise two young boys. Both are desperately searching to find someone suitable to marry, so that she can live a more normal life to improve their situations.

"It is clear why Cate Blanchett won Best Actress Oscar for her role as Jasmine French. Her portrayal of this tragic, doomed figure is realistic and almost too much to take."


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"Blue Velvet" [David Lynch] 1986

"Blue Velvet [1986] was written and directed by David Lynch. The principals are played by Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini.

"Nobody would accuse David Lynch of being run-of-the-mill. This is a film that exposes the deep differences between small-town life in America and its hidden underbelly. These two themes mix uncomfortably.

"It contains intense emotional scenes portrayed by deeply disturbed individuals. Dennis Hopper in particular gives a strong performance as a violent psychotic. Do dangerous and unpleasant people like those here exist? Unfortunately, yes. Do we want to see them on the screen though? Only if the story that involves them is thematically whole. But here it just does not jell properly.

"Some people think this is a masterpiece. I agree that Blue Velvet stands as a work of skilled visual cinematic art. But as a movie it does not quite convince. It will definitely not put you asleep. But when it is over, will you go out and tell others that you enjoyed watching it? Probably not.

"For myself, if you want to see David Lynch at his best making a ‘movie‘, watch Mulholland Drive [2001] or of course Elephant Man [1980]."


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"Into the Woods" [Rob Marshall] 2014

"Into the Woods [1914] is a musical created by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim that was adapted for the screen by Lapine and directed by Rob Marshall. This film has a good cast who all give good performances. Maryl Streep as the witch is particularly good and the cameo by Johnny Depp as the wolf is enjoyable. The central character is the baker‘s wife, well played by Emily Blunt.

"This is a fresh take on the Grimm fairy tales, artfully combined into a narrative. It is a fairly expensive film. You see that displayed in its brooding, complex sets. Streep was nominated for Best Actress. The film also got nominations for costume and production design. It should have gotten the production design award.

"Some may find it a bit long. Nevertheless, it is a fine musical that can be enjoyed by all but the very young. These days that is a singular accomplishment and the director is to be congratulated."


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"Closed Circuit" [John Crowley] 2013

"Closed Circuit [2013] is a conspiracy thriller directed by John Crowley and written by Steven Knight. The cast includes Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Jim Broadbent and Ciaran Hinds and the performances are good ones.

"Critics did not like this film. What went wrong here? Not that much really. True, it isn‘t nearly as good as other Knight efforts, such as Eastern Promises [2007] and Dirty Pretty Things [2002]. Paired against those it suffers some, but not as much as critics claim. The big problem is that the sting was taken out of the plot by reality. The Edward Snowden disclosures emerged only two months before this film was released and they were a hot topic at the time.

"As a modern government conspiracy film, this is a reasonable piece of entertainment and it does have a good cast, but it does not rise to compete with a classic conspiracy films such as Three Days of the Condor [1975] or the superb Seven Days in May [1964]."


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Last update on Jan 15, 2010 at 12:15:10.