roger ebert

Movie Monday: The Other Woman 2014

Posted on Updated on

The Other Woman Image One
Photo Credit: imdb.com

Five years ago, today, the #1 movie at the box office was The Other Woman, a comedy starring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Don Johnson, Kate Upton, Taylor Kinney and Nicki Minaj. Released April 25, it was directed by Nick Cassavetes (the son of John Cassavetes & Gena Rowlands). Melissa Stack was hired to write a screenplay that was based on the 1996 movie The First Wives Club.

IMDB Summary:

After discovering her boyfriend is married, Carly Whitten tries to get her ruined life back on track. But, when she accidentally meets the wife he’s been cheating on, she realizes they have much in common and her sworn enemy becomes her greatest friend. When yet another affair is discovered, all three women team up to plot mutual revenge on their cheating, lying, three-timing SOB.

Quotes
From Justin Chang (Variety):

[…] an ungainly, often flat-footed yet weirdly compelling romantic dramedy about two gals who become unlikely best friends when they realize they’re being screwed (literally) by the same man. Like a watered-down “Diabolique” or a younger-skewing “First Wives Club,” this latest mainstream rebound from director Nick Cassavetes taps into the pleasures of sisterly solidarity and righteous revenge. Beneath the wobbly pratfalls and the scatological set pieces, there’s no denying the film’s mean-spirited kick, or its more-than-passing interest in what makes its women tick.

The Other Woman Image Two
Image Credit: imdb.com

From Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter):

A female solidarity adultery comedy that’s three parts embarrassing farce to one part genuinely comic discharge.

From Christy Lemire (Roger Ebert):

Trouble is, Cassavetes, working from a script by Melissa K. Stack, veers wildly between cautionary tale, revenge comedy, scatological raunchfest and female empowerment drama. In theory, the joy of watching this kind of movie comes from seeing such a smooth operator squirm as his schemes are revealed and destroyed. […] plot contrivances abound […], along with not one but, two instances of characters, um, graphically relieving themselves at inopportune moments. The joke isn’t funny the first time and this kind of gross-out strain of comedy clangs uncomfortably with the feel-good message […]. Any semblance of intelligent humor or insight into female aging that may have existed gets tossed out the window of Carly’s high-rise office by the end […]

[There are, literally, NO good trivia bits for this movie. ~Vic]

Awards & Nominations

Movie Monday: The Passion of The Christ 2004

Posted on Updated on

The Passion of the Christ Image One
Image Credit: patheos.com

Fifteen years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was The Passion of the Christ, a biblical drama starring Jim Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci, Claudia Gerini and Sergio Rubini. Directed by Mel Gibson, the screenplay was co-written by Gibson and Benedict Fitzgerald. Released February 25, it was based on The Passion of Jesus in the New Testament and Clemens Brentano‘s The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the first volume of his records (notes) from conversations regarding meditations by Anne Catherine Emmerich, a canoness, mystic, visionary and stigmatist. John Debney was composer and cinematographer was Caleb Deschanel (father of Emily & Zooey Deschanel).

IMDB Summary:

The Passion of the Christ focuses on the last twelve hours of Jesus of Nazareth’s life. The film begins in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus has gone to pray after sitting [at] the Last Supper. Jesus must resist the temptations of Satan. Betrayed by Judas Iscariot, Jesus is then arrested and taken within the city walls of Jerusalem where leaders of the Pharisees confront him with accusations of blasphemy and, his trial results in a condemnation to death.

The Passion of the Christ Image Two
Photo Credit: imdb.com

Quotes
From Roger Ebert:

If ever there was a film with the correct title, that film is Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” The movie is 126 minutes long and, I would guess that at least 100 of those minutes, maybe more, are concerned, specifically and graphically, with the details of the torture and death of Jesus. This is the most violent film I have ever seen.

What Gibson has provided for me, for the first time in my life, is a visceral idea of what the Passion consisted of. That his film is superficial in terms of the surrounding message — that we get only a few passing references to the teachings of Jesus — is, I suppose, not the point. This is not a sermon or a homily but, a visualization of the central event in the Christian religion. Take it or leave it.

David Ansen, a critic I respect, finds in Newsweek that Gibson has gone too far. “The relentless gore is self-defeating,” he writes. “Instead of being moved by Christ’s suffering or awed by his sacrifice, I felt abused by a filmmaker intent on punishing an audience, for who knows what sins.” This is a completely valid response to the film, and I quote Ansen because I suspect he speaks for many audience members, who will enter the theater in a devout or spiritual mood and emerge deeply disturbed. You must be prepared for whippings, flayings, beatings, the crunch of bones, the agony of screams, the cruelty of the sadistic centurions, the rivulets of blood that crisscross every inch of Jesus’ body. Some will leave before the end.

*David Edelstein with Slate Magazine
* Jami Bernard with New York Daily News

Trivia Bits
♦ On February 11, 2008, Benedict Fitzgerald filed a lawsuit against Mel Gibson and the production company Icon Productions, alleging the unfair deprivation of compensation and deception on the overall expense of the film production budget after the blockbuster box office success of the film The Passion of the Christ, including, but not limited to, “fraud, breach of contract & unjust enrichment” seeking unspecified damages.
Jim Caviezel experienced a shoulder separation when the 150lbs cross dropped on his shoulder. The scene is still in the movie.
♦ In an interview with Newsweek magazine, Jim Caviezel spoke about a few of the difficulties he experienced while filming. This included being accidentally whipped twice, which has left a 14-inch scar on his back. Caviezel also admitted he was struck by lightning while filming the Sermon on the Mount and during the crucifixion, experienced hypothermia during the dead of winter in Italy.

Nominations, Awards & Other Accolades


 


 

Movie Monday: The Matrix 1999

Posted on Updated on

The Matrix Image One
Photo Credit: imdb.com

Twenty years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was The Matrix, a science-fiction action film starringKeanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Gloria Foster and Joe Pantoliano. Produced by Joel Silver, it was written and directed by The Wachowskis.

From Wikipedia:

[The movie] depicts a dystopian future in which humanity is unknowingly trapped inside a simulated reality called the Matrix, created by thought-capable machines (artificial beings) to control humans while using their bodies as an energy source. Hacker and computer programmer, Neo, learns this truth and “is drawn into a rebellion against the machines”, which involves other people who have been freed from the Matrix.

The film is an example of the cyberpunk subgenre. The Wachowskis’ approach to action scenes drew upon their admiration for Japanese animation and martial arts films and, the film’s use of fight choreographers and wire fu techniques from Hong Kong action cinema, influenced subsequent Hollywood action film productions. The Matrix is known for popularizing a visual effect known as “bullet time“, in which the heightened perception of certain characters is represented by allowing the action within a shot to progress in slow-motion while the camera’s viewpoint appears to move through the scene at normal speed. The film contains numerous allusions to philosophical and religious ideas, including existentialism, Marxism, feminism, Buddhism, nihilism and postmodernism.

The Matrix Image Two
Photo Credit: imdb.com

Quotes
From Roger Ebert:

“The Matrix” is a visually dazzling cyberadventure, full of kinetic excitement but, it retreats to formula just when it’s getting interesting. It’s kind of a letdown when a movie begins by redefining the nature of reality and ends with a shoot-out. We want a leap of the imagination, not one of those obligatory climaxes with automatic weapons fire.

I’ve seen dozens if not hundreds of these exercises in violence, which recycle the same tired ideas: Bad guys fire thousands of rounds but, are unable to hit the good guy. Then, it’s down to the final showdown between good and evil…a martial arts battle in which the good guy gets pounded until he’s almost dead, before he finds the inner will to fight back. Been there, seen that (although rarely done this well).

“The Matrix” did not bore me. It interested me so much, indeed, that I wanted to be challenged even more. I wanted it to follow its material to audacious conclusions, to arrive not simply at victory but, at revelation.

From Darren Aronofsky:

“I walked out of The Matrix with Jared and I was thinking, ‘What kind of science fiction movie can people make now?'” Aronofsky says. “The Wachowskis basically took all the great sci-fi ideas of the 20th century and rolled them into a delicious pop culture sandwich that everyone on the planet devoured. Suddenly Philip K. Dick‘s ideas no longer seemed that fresh. Cyberpunk? Done.”

From M. Night Shyamalan:

[…] Mr. Shyamalan is not much of a cinema historian. Among the directors he admires are Peter Weir, Cameron Crowe, Alfred Hitchcock and the Wachowski Brothers. “Whatever you think of ‘The Matrix,’ every shot is there because of the passion they have! You can see they argued it out!”

Trivia Bits:
♦ For the cell phone conversation scene between Neo and Morpheus in the MetaCortex office, Keanu Reeves actually climbed up the window without a stuntman, which was 34 floors up.
Will Smith was approached to play Neo but, turned down the offer in order to star in Wild Wild West (1999). He later admitted that, at the time, he was “not mature enough as an actor” and that, if given the role, he “would have messed it up”. He had no regrets, saying that “Keanu was brilliant as Neo.”
♦ In an online interview when the film was first released, the Wachowskis revealed that they’d both take the Blue Pill when given Neo’s choice.

Four Academy Awards & Others
More Awards & Nominations


 

Movie Monday: Fletch Lives 1989

Posted on Updated on

Fletch Lives Image One
Photo Credit: imdb.com
Chevy Chase
Julianne Phillips
R. Lee Ermey

Thirty years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was Fletch Lives, starring Chevy Chase, Hal Holbrook, Julianne Phillips, R. Lee Ermey, Richard Libertini, Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb, Cleavon Little, George Wyner, Patricia Kalember, Geoffrey Lewis, Richard Belzer, Phil Hartman and Noelle Beck. Released March 17, it was a sequel to Fletch (1985), a movie about an investigative reporter named Irwin Maurice “Fletch” Fletcher, a character created in 1974 by mystery writer Gregory McDonald. It was directed by Michael Ritchie with music by Harold Faltermeyer.

IMDB Summary:

Fletch fans rejoice! The reckless I.M. Fletcher, investigative reporter, returns to the screen. This time, the chameleon-like reporter ventures to Belle Isle, a sprawling 80-acre Louisiana plantation which Fletch inherits from his aunt. Trouble begins when a lovely attorney mysteriously turns up dead, a neighborly lawyer warns him to leave town and a ravishing real estate agent comes calling with a persistent offer he may not be able to refuse. Fletch must unravel the reasons for the mad land scramble with his trademark bag of hilarious disguises.

Fletch Lives Image Two
Image Credit: imdb.com

Quotes
From Chris Willman:

[…] a movie with a hero whose every other line of dialogue is a snide wisecrack directed at a fool. In this meager sequel, as in its popular predecessor, Chevy Chase demolishes every easy target in sight with a quip of the tongue. Some of the lines are funny but, after a while, you just want to smack him. […] Chevy, who isn’t playing a character (least of all the character first created by novelist Gregory McDonald) so much as reprising his nonplussed, punchline-spouting “Weekend Update” anchor role. […] Ritchie lets sophomoric scatology predominate over satire at every turn and, […] the gags are more crass than corrosive. […] moviegoers might think twice about signing on as the film makers’ partners in put-down when they’re clearly also its targets. Beware: [the movie] may assume that all Southerners are dim bulbs but, it doesn’t think you’re so bright yourself.

From Roger Ebert:

[The movie] is one more dispirited slog through the rummage sale of movie clichés […] If you were writing a screenplay, would you think a movie involving […] pathetic clichés had the slightest chance of interesting anyone? Chase’s assignment is to bring an angle, an edge, to plot materials that are otherwise completely without interest. And it’s theoretically possible for that to happen […] But, Chase is wrong for this material because of the pose of detachment and indifference that he brings to so many roles. He seems to be visiting the plot as a benevolent but, indifferent outsider. […] sometimes he seems to be covering himself, playing detached so that nobody can blame him if the comedy doesn’t work. In this film he seems to have no emotions at all […] Chase is at arm’s length from the plot, making little asides and whimsical commentaries while his hapless supporting cast does what it can with underwritten roles. A mystery is concealed somewhere in the folds of the movie’s plot but, one that will not surprise anyone who has seen half a dozen other mysteries. The identity of the bad guy can be deduced by applying the Law of Character Economy, which states that the mystery villain is always the only character in the plot who seems otherwise unnecessary. It admittedly takes a little more thought than usual to apply the law in this case, since so many of the characters seem unnecessary.

Trivia Bits
♦ The original character from the novel was a Marine veteran.
♦ Though there were eight sequels, and prequels, written by Gregory McDonald that could have been used as the basis for the second “Fletch” movie at the time, Universal decided to write a completely new story.
♦ The last name of televangelist Jimmy Lee Farnsworth is the same as that of the widely acknowledged inventor of television, Philo T. Farnsworth.

Movie Monday: Blazing Saddles 1974

Posted on Updated on

Blazing Saddles Image One
Image Credit: imdb.com

Forty-five years ago, today, the most popular film at the box office was Blazing Saddles, a satirical Mel Brooks-directed western starring Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, Mel Brooks (three on-screen characters), Alex Karras, David Huddleston, John Hillerman, Dom DeLuise, Count Basie (as himself), Rodney Allen Rippy (as a young Bart), with uncredited appearances by Anne Bancroft, Aneta Corsaut (Helen Crump) and Patrick Labyorteaux (JAG TV series). Released February 7, it was produced by Michael Hertzberg and based on a story by Andrew Bergman. Bergman collaborated with Brooks, Richard Pryor, Norman Steinberg and Al Uger to craft the screenplay and, John Morris (The Woman in Red & Dirty Dancing) was composer.

An IMDB Summary:

The Ultimate Western Spoof. A town where everyone seems to be named Johnson is in the way of the railroad. In order to grab their land, Hedley Lemar [sic] (Harvey Korman), a politically connected nasty person, sends in his henchmen to make the town unlivable. After the sheriff is killed, the town demands a new sheriff from the Governor (Mel Brooks). Hedley convinces him to send the town the first Black sheriff (Cleavon Little) in the west. Bart is a sophisticated urbanite who will have some difficulty winning over the townspeople.

Quotes:
From Vincent Canby (The New York Times):

“[…] comedies, like Mel Brooks’s “Blazing Saddles,” the best title of the year to date, are like Chinese food. A couple of hours later you wonder where it went. You wonder why you laughed as consistently as you did. [It] is every Western you’ve ever seen turned upside down and inside out, braced with a lot of low burlesque […]. The trouble is that [it] has no real center of gravity. Harvey Korman, a gifted comic actor who is so fine as Carol Burnett’s television co‐star, tries very hard to be funny as a crooked businessman and sometimes succeeds. But, it’s apparent that he’s hard put to keep up with the movie’s restless shifting from satire to parody to farce to blackout sketch. [It] has no dominant personality and, it looks as if it includes every gag thought up in every story conference. Whether good, bad or mild, nothing was thrown out.”

Blazing Saddles Image Two
Photo Credit: hollywoodreporter.com

From Roger Ebert:

“It’s a crazed grab bag of a movie that does everything to keep us laughing except hit us over the head with a rubber chicken. At its best, his comedy operates in areas so far removed from taste that (to coin his own expression) it rises below vulgarity. One of the hallmarks of Brooks’ movie humor has been his willingness to embrace excess.”

From Mel Brooks (Interview at Creative Screen Writing):

“The writing process on Blazing Saddles was the complete opposite of the writing process on Young Frankenstein. Blazing Saddles was more or less written in the middle of a drunken fistfight. There were five of us all yelling loudly for our ideas to be put into the movie. Not only was I the loudest but, luckily, I also had the right as director to decide what was in or out.”

Trivia Bits:
James Earl Jones was to be the original Sheriff. Richard Pryor was next in line but, the studio wouldn’t finance it due to Pryor’s background.
Gig Young was originally cast as the “Waco Kid” but, collapsed on set and was replaced with Wilder.
♦ Warner Bros. almost didn’t release the film. The executives thought it too vulgar for the American public.
♦ Governor William J. Le Petomane (Brooks) was a take-off on the stage name of a French Flatulist.

Nominated for three Academy Awards and two BAFTAs. It won three awards. Recognized by the American Film Institute, it is listed as #6 of the 100 funniest American films.

Flick Friday: The Fugitive 1993

Posted on Updated on

Harrison Ford Fugitive Image
Photo Credit: rogerebert.com

Twenty-five years ago, today, the number one movie was The Fugitive, a suspense film that was based on the TV Show that ran from 1963 to 1967 on ABC starring David Janssen.

Tommy Lee Jones won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and, the film was nominated for Best Cinematography, Film Editing, Best Original Score, Sound, Sound Effects Editing and Best Picture. Jones reprised his role of U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard in the spin-off U.S. Marshals.

Some trivia: The bus/train wreck is a tourist attraction in Dillsboro, North Carolina.

The television show started before I was born and I was just an infant when it ceased production. I have picked up a re-run or two over the years. Harrison Ford managed to capture the intensity that David Janssen displayed nearly 30 years earlier. ~Victoria