Posts Tagged ‘john goodman’

10CLOVERFIELDLANE

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a woman on the run from an abusive relationship, when she gets into a car accident.  She wakes up in a bomb shelter, handcuffed to the radiator.  The man who handcuffed her is named Howard. (John Goodman)  Howard tells Michelle that there has been some kind of chemical or biological strike against the U.S. and he’s rescued her and brought her to his basement to save her.  Howard gives her the keys to the handcuffs, and while exploring the shelter, she also meets Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) who actually fought to get in the shelter after seeing red beams from the sky and seeing explosions. Emmett helped Howard build the shelter and is completely comfortable living in the shelter with Howard.  Michelle, however, is not comfortable with the regimented, quick tempered Howard, and she is less comfortable with him the more she learns about him.  She wants to escape, does Emmett help her?

10 Cloverfield Lane is a suspenseful character study for about one hour and 20 minutes.  Little details emerge about each character as the suspense build.  I also like how Winstead’s character evolves from a woman running from dange r to a woman ready to face whatever is in front of her.  There is just the right amount of comedy to break up the tension.  As long as it stays with the three main characters, it is a focused, tension-filled, thrill-ride of a movie.  The last 25 minutes gets sloppy with the details, and a big reveal, but overall, this is a pretty good suspense thriller. I had low expectations given JJ Abrams’ similarly titled Cloverfield, but this story goes in a totally different and more satisfying direction.

John Goodman is one of the best character actors making movies today, and he just enriches that opinion with this role.  He plays the obsessive compulsive, survivalist, with a “black belt in conspiracy theories” with absolute ease.  He modulates his voice in the beginning of the movie making it higher and thinner than usual, and then the voice drops, and it is masterful. Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives her character lots of complexity, and makes the character’s transition believable. She also switches from the comedic scenes to the dramatic scenes with ease, and that’s not easy. John Gallagher Jr. is mostly in the film for comedy relief, but is effective in that capacity.

The director is not well-known, but he achieves the necessary claustrophobic feeling to heighten the suspense, and keeps the pacing going strong.  He gets great performances from the cast, and shoots the film from some interesting angles.

10 Cloverfield Lane:  A great performance from a Good-man.

Trumbo

In the mid-1940’s Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was the most highly paid screenwriter in America, and a card carrying member of the Communist Party.  In 1947 Trumbo and 9 of his friends were summoned to testify to the House Un-American Committee, but refused to testify to Congressman J. Parnell Thomas. (James Dumont) Trumbo and his friends were charged with contempt of congress, and jailed.  When he came out of jail, Trumbo and his associates were blacklisted by Hollywood heavyweights John Wayne (David James Elliot) who was aided by gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. (Helen Mirren) Despite the blacklist, Trumbo was determined to work, re-writing low budget movies for B-movie maven Frank King. (John Goodman) Sometimes, Trumbo wrote uncredited scripts sometimes he wrote with a front name.  Trumbo stopped writing B-movie scripts long enough to write The Brave One under a pseudonym, Robert Rich, for which he won his second Oscar.  Would Trumbo ever be allowed to come out of the shadows, and use his own name to write a Hollywood screenplay?

I first learned of Dalton Trumbo in a film class I took in college, and I thought it was an interesting subject.  Somehow Hollywood took this interesting intersection of film and politics, and turned it into a dull melodrama with too much focus on Trumbo’s home life.  Also, the writer couldn’t decide whether this was a comedy or a drama, the comedic scenes work, the dramatic scenes come off as preachy or treacly.  The ending is predictable.

This is a case where the acting exceeds the material written on the page.  Bryan Cranston does a superb job as Dalton Trumbo, and handles the comedic and dramatic scenes with equal aplomb. He received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and deserved one. Helen Mirren is also incredible as Hedda Hopper, Trumbo’s chief nemesis.  Mirren clearly enjoys playing someone who makes the Hollywood studio execs and Trumbo himself squirm.  John Goodman is fantastic as smarmy B-movie king, Frank King.  Goodman uses his gifts of physical intimidation, deadpan delivery, and perfect comedic timing to deliver a great performance.  Louis CK also turns in a surprisingly good performance as fellow blacklisted writer Arlen Hird.  Michael Stuhlberg also deserves mention here for a great performance as Edward G Robinson, he doesn’t do an impression, but tries to delve deeper to explain why Robinson did what he did. On the other end of the spectrum was Elle Fanning as the older version of Trumbo’s elder daughter, she was robotic and unemotional.

The direction, by Jay Roach is inconsistent, he clearly knows how handle the lighter scenes, but the pacing of the drama is slow and boring He did get many good performances, but that’s not hard with a cast like this. Roach is mostly known for light comedies like the Austin Powers movies, and Meet The Fockers, which could explain the trouble with the more serious scenes.  Roach ties to imitate Robert Zemekis’ groundbreaking work in Forrest Gump, by having actors in the foreground asking questions while the actual HUAC hearings are going on in the background.  Somehow it’s less effective, because it’s been done before.

Trumbo:  A lot of mumbo-jumbo.

monsters university

When he was a young monster, in elementary school, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) took a field trip to Monster’s Inc., the company that powers a city by scaring children.  Mike wants to be a scarer, but he isn’t very scary.  By the time he gets to college, Monster’s University, Mike knows all the theoretical ways to scare children, but he still isn’t scary.  James P. Sullivan is the opposite of Mike, big, hairy with legendary lineage, he should have a cakewalk at Monster’s U.  But both Mike and Sully run into an intimidating Dean, Dean Hardscrabble, (Helen Mirren) who kicks both of them out of the Scare program, Mike for not being scary, and Sullivan for using only one technique, roaring.

On the verge of heading for an exciting career as a scream can designer, Mike discovers a flier for the Scare Games, where fraternities compete to see who the scariest monsters are.  He joins a fraternity of outcasts called Oozma Kappa, which finally has enough members after Sullivan joins.  Mike and Sully are still rivals because of their different approaches to scaring, but can they put aside their rivalry to win the Scare Games?

This is a funny movie, but it’s far too derivative of movies like Animal House and especially Revenge of the Nerds to be considered original.  The writers even steal a scene from Carrie.  That’s what happens when a sequel gets made 12 years after the original. Monster’s University is about a half hour too long, and suffers from a sudden shift in tone, when the movie turns serious.  The story tries to be heart rending, but it’s not even close to the authentic tearjerker that Toy Story 3 or Despicable Me are. The animation is wonderful, bright and colorful, but there are some dark scenes, both in tone and content, and some scenes might be too scary for younger children.

The movie is funny, but unfortunately, not because of Billy Crystal and John Goodman, who sadly are playing the same characters they played in the first movie, only younger.  This is a movie that is saved by its secondary cast.  Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, and Charlie Day were very funny, as were lesser known actors Peter Sohn and Joel Murray.  I don’t think there will be another sequel, but Pixar made Cars 2, when I didn’t think there should have been a Cars 1.

Monster’s University: Funny, to a degree.

Movie Review: Flight (2013)

Posted: December 8, 2013 in Drama
Tags: , ,

flight

Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is an airline pilot with a complicated life.  He is divorced from his wife estranged from his son, and is in a sexual relationship with one of the stewardesses who he works with, Katerina Marquez. (Nadine Velasquez)  In addition, he drinks to excess and snorts cocaine, which he does on the morning of a particular flight.  He pulls the flight out of some tough weather, and then drinks while the plane is on autopilot.  The plane then starts to dive for some unknown reason and Whip Whitaker miraculously lands the plane, saving 96 of 102 people on board.  But the NTSB is doing an investigation and, and despite airline lawyer Hugh Lang’s (Don Cheadle) success in killing the toxicology report from the NTSB hearing, they still find out that there were two empty vodka bottles on the plane. Will the NTSB find out the truth about Whip’s drinking, or will a heroic act by a flawed pilot obscure the truth of his alcoholism and drug use?

I did not like Flight.  This is an example of a very good premise that goes awry, a hero pilot with very big personal flaws, must face his addictions or possibly face jail time.  This is an excellent starting point, but the movie gets so weighed down with its overwrought melodrama that it forgets to answer one of the basic questions posed in the film.  Why does Whip Whitaker drink?  In over two hours of what becomes a tedious morality play, the central question is never even addressed.  Many of the movies subplots are simply unnecessary, and add nothing to the central idea in the film.  Once again Hollywood has a strange take on religion, and the way down the plane clips a Pentecostal church, and the crash was somehow God’s will.  Instead the movie should be saying that all of us despite our many flaws are capable of heroic things, and that is through God’s grace.  The movie of course makes the co-pilot a fundamentalist Christian, whose wife’s every utterance ends with the phrase, ‘Praise Jesus.’  It’s sad that Hollywood wants to pigeonhole an entire religion as judgmental Bible thumpers , but they do. If that’s not bad enough, the ‘evidence’ that the movie hinges on is silly.  The plane is destroyed, people died, but two vodka bottles are unscathed.  Really?  Finally, this movie has an interesting take on alcohol detox, take drugs.  Not a good idea.

The acting is not great.  Denzel Washington, who I like, and think is an excellent actor, has gotten into something of a rut lately, playing a grizzled anti-hero a tough talking guy with all the answers. This take no-prisoners attitude was first and display in the movie Training Day, and it was eye-opening. Denzel could really play a bad guy with the face of a movie idol, but he played a similar role in American Gangster, Unstoppable and now Flight.  It’s time to put this character away for a while.  Don Cheadle plays a lawyer in the dullest, most uninteresting way, I’m really tired of seeing Cheadle give another lifeless, bland performance.  John Goodman was at the very least funny, but totally unnecessary . Goodman essentially serves  as Washington’s drug supplier.

Flight is very slowly paced and inexplicably long.  The director Robert Zemeckis, who made the very successful Back To the Future films and writer John Gaitains are responsible for the pacing and length of this film, a lot of editing was required to get to the essence of the film, but that was not done. The movie has nudity and numerous scenes of drug taking.  This is absolutely not a movie to watch with kids.

Flight.  Never takes off.

the_big_lebowski

“The Dude”(Bridges) is a California slacker/stoner, who is unemployed, has no prospects for work and doesn’t seem to care. He likes to bowl with his friends Walter (Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi) Suddenly, The Dude’s life takes a bizarre turn when two thugs break into his house, and one starts urinating on his rug.  The Dude’s name is Jeff Lebowski, and he is a victim of mistaken identity, the crooks wanted The Big Lebowski,(David Huddleston) also named Jeff Lebowski a millionaire philanthropist whose trophy wife Bunny is busy spending money all over town.  The Dude doesn’t care about the Big Lebowski or his philanthropy or his trophy wife, he just wants his rug replaced.  Well, the Big Lebowski tells The Dude to go peddle his papers, he’s not interested in compensating The Dude in any way.

No sooner does The Dude leave The Big Lebowski’s house then he gets a call from the Big Lebowski’s sycophantic assistant, Brandt, (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) saying that Bunny has been kidnapped and the kidnappers want 1 million dollars in ransom. The Big Lebowski wants The Dude to make the drop to the kidnappers.   The Dude brings Walter to make the drop, Problem:  Walter is a high strung Vietnam vet with a plan of his own, which The Dude knows nothing about.  Walter switches the million dollars with a suitcase full of underwear, so the kidnappers now have dirty underwear.  Soon thereafter, someone steals the Dude’s car.  After the car is stolen, Maude Lebowski (Moore) the Big Labowski’s daughter calls the Dude, and says Bunny is faking the kidnapping and is a porn star, and that this is a plot with Bunny’s boyfriend and fellow porn star Jackie Treehorn. (Ben Gazarra) Who stole The Dude’s car? Is Bunny really kidnapped?  Who ends up with the million dollar ransom?

This is a very funny movie, the jokes come from the finely drawn characters, and rapid-fire dialogue.  “The Dude” could have been a stereotype. The California slacker stoner has been played by Keanu Reeves and Owen Wilson has made a career out of playing.stoner/slacker dudes, but Bridges plays him so naturally with such ease, that he doesn’t seem so hackneyed. The Goodman character also could have been a stereotype, the psycho Vietnam vet character has been done before as well, but Goodman is clearly having fun, so the audience has fun too.  Speaking of fun, Julianne Moore has plenty of fun with her character, affecting an aristocratic accent, and playing a avant-garde artist type.  This is a difficult comedic role, but Moore plays it with flair.

The Big Lebowski.  Big laughs.

Barton Fink

It is 1941, and Barton Fink has just written a successful play.  Hollywood is now beckoning.  Barton is conflicted, he believes that he writes to echo the feelings and attitudes of the common man, and he feels as if he hasn’t tapped into the source of his best work yet.  Despite his inner turmoil, Baton decides to move to Los Angeles, into a fleabag hotel, and begin writing a wrestling movie for studio boss Jack Lipnick. (Michael Lerner) Lipnick asks Ben Geisler (Tony Shaloub) to oversee the writing process.  Baton, try as he might, can’t get past the first paragraph of his movie script, he has writer’s block.

Barton runs into influential writer WP Mayhew (John Mahoney) at the studio and asks Bill, as Mayhew is known, if he could stop by Bill’s hotel room to ask the prolific writer any questions to help resolve his writer’s block.  When he stops by, Barton sees that Mayhew’s best days are clearly behind him, he drinks heavily and beats his secretary, Audrey Taylor (Judy Davis).  Barton is clearly attracted to Audrey, but she tells him that she is involved with Bill. Unable to meet with Mayhew, Barton is stuck having long conversations with insurance salesman Charlie Meadows (John Goodman), who Barton perceives as being a common man.  His conversations sparsely help his writers block, and under pressure from Geisler, Barton reaches out to Audrey for help.  They make love, and the next morning Audrey is dead in a pool of her own blood, lying next to Barton.  Who killed her?  Why was she killed?

This is a very enjoyable movie for the first hour and a half.  It feels very much like a noir film from the 1940’s and reminded me a lot of LA Confidential.  The character of Barton is a hard one to like, because he thinks he’s writing in the voice of the common man, but he has a very grandiose, self important image of himself, as creator of art.  So he writes for the common man but sees himself as above the common man, as illustrated by a fight Barton has with a member of the Navy as a USO show.  The story moves along nicely until the big reveal, which in my opinion, ruins the entire film, and the theme of common man versus artist, unless the Cohen Brothers were trying to build some kind of metaphor about the hellishness of the creative process, I missed the point of the ending completely.  What makes this movie better than most is the liberal use of comedy to lighten the mood of what could have been a tediously dark film.  Turturro is fantastic as the geeky nebbish , Fink who is literally struggles with writing for the common man, although that’s what he purports to want to do.  The viewer can see the struggle on his face. Goodman gives a stellar performance as the common man, who’s not so common after all.  His performance is both comedic and tragic and comedic.  This is his best performance since the Big Lebowski, also a Coen Brothers movie.  This movie is good, not as good as Fargo, or The Big Lebowski or O Brother Where Art Thou.

Barton Fink:  A badly written ending, sinks Fink.