Jacob’s March 16-17th selection – The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King (2003)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167260/

Director: Peter Jackson

Staring: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Bernard Hill, Ian Holm, Ian McKellen, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, John Nobel, Miranda Otto, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Liv Tyler, Karl Urban, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Christopher Lee, and Brad Dourif

Jacob’s March 14-15th selection – The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers (2002)

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167261/

Director: Peter Jackson

Staring: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Brad Dourif, Bernard Hill, Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, Miranda Otto, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Liv Tyler, Karl Ubran, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, and Sean Bean

Jacob’s March 12-13th selection – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120737/

Director: Peter Jackson

Staring: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Cat Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis, Ian McKellen, Dominic Monaghan, John Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, and Hugo Weaving

Jacob’s March 11th selection – Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)

Before the Devil Knows you’re Dead (2007)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0292963/

Director: Sidney Lumet

Staring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, Amy Ryan, Brian F O’Byrne, Rosemary Harris, Aleska Palladino, Michael Shannon, Sarah Livingston, and Blaine Horton

May you be in heaven a half hour… The final film of the masterful director Sidney Lumet, and boy did he go out with a bang.

Hank (Hawke), is a divorced man struggling in the day to day grind. Andy (Hoffman), is a man who has fallen to all his vices. Feeling the world closing in on him, Andy hatches a scheme to solve the problem of him and his brother, to rob their parents’ jewelry store. Andy convinces Hank to come in on the scheme and that they would split the profits. Uncomfortable with pulling the job on his own, Hank gets a small time crook, Bobby (O’Byrne), he knows to pull off the job for him, while he waits in the getaway car. As the robbery is in progress, Bobby is shot in the back by the lady working at the store. Bobby turns and shots the lady in the abdomen. As he struggles to get up, the lady rights herself and fires another shot, killing Bobby.

The remainder of the film plays back and forth from before the robbery up to the robbery, and the aftermath of the robbery and how it affects the characters of the film. Twists and turns, motivations, and consequences play out as the film progresses. I would tell you more, but it would rob of the enjoyment of watching it all unfold before you.

What a career the late Sidney Lumet had. Has made some amazing films, and yet has some real stinkers to him credit. As does most directors I suppose if you stay in the game long enough. His work on BtDKYD is remarkable. A couple interesting choices in the film making process that I may not agree with, or personally feel could have been handled in a better way, is but a few nuanced problems I have, and honestly don’t think most people would even notice. His real achievement here is his amazing casting.

Hawke and Hoffman, as mentioned above, are joined by the talents of Tomei, Finney, Ryan, and Shannon. A lot of these actors are diversified in their roles in BtDKYD. Ryan, as known by most as the quirky love interest to Steve Carel, plays a bitter divorced woman who wants nothing more than to annoy and see her ex-husband squirm. Tomei is usually a very strong character in a lot of her films, plays a very timid and beaten down woman. Another star here is Finney, whom most know for his work in Big Fish and the over elaborate story teller, who shows the range of emotion from fear and sorrow to anger and compassion.

The story, and the way it was written, really give the characters a chance to show themselves and their motivations, as you watch them play out, without being too direct and spelling it out for the audience. The characters are believable people in believable situations that you hear about all the time, and more than likely see in your day to day lives. Told out of chronological order to bring more and more suspense as it all self destructs in a stunning finale that reminds me personally of great films such as Usual Suspects, Se7en, Heat, and The Town.

Carter Burwell lends his talent to BtDKYD with very emotional cues. I am actually a big fan of Burwell, and so are most of you, even if you don’t know it. He has scored every one of the Coen Brothers’ films and every one of Spike Jones films. His list of movies he’s written the music for more than likely has a dozen of your personal favorites on there. However, he has also score all the Twilight films, which is a huge black mark in my book, but I’m sure he got a sizable paycheck for them, so who can blame him. I digress. His work on BtDKYD was very solid, with aforementioned emotional cues, however I found that he never really deviated too much from his main cue, relying on it a little too much I felt. It’s very strong and talented, so it still works, but I guess I feel like a little more diversity was needed.

I had never heard of Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, even up to and past the point it was released on video. When I first saw the video on clearance at Blockbuster, I was taken aback by the number of names attached to it. When I turned the case around and saw it was a film directed by Sidney Lumet, who had recently passed away by the time I had seen this, I was shocked more that I had never heard of it. It took me a little while to even get my hands on a copy and even longer to watch it. After it was over I couldn’t help think to myself that I am very surprised that no one had ever talked about this film. It’s amazing in just about every facet of film making. Little things here and there that those like me would notice and nit pick about, but nothing that takes away from the film, just preferences one way or another. Amazing cast delivering amazing performances in a tight script that is very engaging and emotional. A massive sleeper hit in a year of massive sleeper hits. I don’t know what people were doing in 2007, but let me tell you, they were definitely not watching good movies and sure as hell not talking about them. For this and the large list of other movies in 2007 that no one saw or talked about to go unnoticed is a damn shame.

Final rating: 9.1/10

For poops and giggles, I’ve decided to print my list of movies from 2007 that most of you probably never saw, or heard of, but you should watch as soon as you can.  Enjoy

Alpha Dog – Smokin’ Aces – Breach – Bridge to Terabithia – Black Snake Moan – Zodiac – The Lookout – Hot Fuzz – Waitress – Mr. Brooks – Rescue Dawn – Sunshine – Stardust – Shoot ’em Up -Eastern Promises – Michael Clayton – Gone Baby Gone – Things we Lost in the Fire – Dan in Real Life – No Country for Old Men – August Rush – Enchanted – Atonement – There Will Be Blood – The Orphanage

Jacob’s March 10th selection – Cyrus (2010)

Cyrus (2010)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1336617/

Director: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass

Staring: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener, and Matt Walsh

 

John (John C. Reilly) finds out his ex wife, Jamie (Catherine Keener) of 7 years is getting re-married, bringing his inability to get over her to the forefront. Jamie convinces John to come to a party to help him attempt to move on. At the party, John gets more and more drunk and starts to open up. In his drunken stupor he meets Molly (Marisa Tomei), who takes to his drunken awkwardness as he opens up more and more. John and Molly go home together. Waking up in the middle of the nigh John finds Molly has gone, but has left a note with her number. They start seeing each other and things seems to be going very well.

Enter Cyrus. Molly’s fully grown, and fully emotionally infantile son. Cyrus’ connection and dependency on his mother is enough to make most people cringe. So as the couple become closer and closer, Cyrus fights more and more to keep them apart.

I can’t think of a movie that has a bigger block of tension to cut through more than Cyrus, and there, in that tension, lies the true strength of this movie. As unrealistic as some people may find the timeline to be in the film, the actions and reactions of the characters in the film are frighteningly real, if slightly over dramatizes for the sake of entertainment. Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly have wonderful chemistry together, despite the chemistry being about how much they hate and want to punch the other in the face. Backed up by the recently re-found acting powerhouse that is Marisa Tomei, caught in the middle of her son and best friend, and a man that she has found a true connection with and will grow to love very quickly. Everyone makes horrible mistakes to keep the thing they want the most, at the cost of destroying that very thing and throwing their entire worlds into upheaval.

The plot is very simple. The film is pretty short and to the point. The fights are brutally real, and you feel it. You want to grab the characters and just slap them for being so stupid, but at the same time you understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. It’s a very real situation about very real characters, all of whom are realistically damaged.

The Duplass brothers use their go to camera guy Jas Shelton, who uses a lot of handheld shots, off center framing, unusual close up shots, pan and zoom shots that most camera guys don’t touch with a ten foot pole, and usually for good reason. But this awkward visual style lends itself very well to the awkwardness of a new relationship, and the bizarre awkwardness of the battle between John and Cyrus.

I really enjoyed the score, and I was actually very surprised to find that Michael Andrews was the mind behind it. Now, granted I haven’t actually done a lot of research of Andrews work, but what I do know of him is his first feature film score, Donnie Darko. Since then he has really done a lot of dramedies, Funny People, Bridesmaids, Me and You and Everyone We Know. Donnie Darko’s score was dark and brooding, so it was interesting to see him working on something uplifting and relatively normal. Several of his other films are on my list of movies to watch throughout the year, so I’ll be keeping and open eye on his work as I go.

Cyrus is a really fun film full of awkward moments that most of us can probably identify with in some way or another. Great characters, portrayed well by great acting in a fun story that is really well put together, all in all a great film.

 

Final rating:  7.4/10