Category Archives: 5 Things

5 Things You Need to Know: LINCOLN

When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 

LINCOLN

1. Steven Spielberg’s transformative and triumphant Lincoln is a film that depicts the innermost inner workings of our nation’s government at perhaps the foremost of historical crossroads.  The question of slavery abolition legislation in January of 1865 (as proposed through the 13th Amendment) is the two hours and twenty nine minutes traffic of our stage.  Despite its essential historical record and human condition exploration, the traffic is slow-moving, dense, and not ready-made for the average filmgoer, but like the challenges faced by President Lincoln and the great legislative and citizen abolitionist pioneers, Lincoln could not be more well worth the struggle.

2. Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of the sixteenth United States President is simply the best performance in the career of the world’s best living film actor.  His full immersion commitment (staying in character throughout filming – on and off set, signing things “A” for Abraham) yields a revelatory cinematic experience.  From his first scene on a Virginia battlefield to his last moments at the White House before his fateful trip to the Ford’s theater on an April night in 1865, Day-Lewis is so believably this behemoth of a man and American icon that he creates the most personal relationship I have ever had with a real-life person on screen.  In one of the surest predictions I have ever had to make, Daniel Day-Lewis will win his third Best Actor Oscar at the 2013 Academy Awards.

3. In a brilliant career that has no equal in the medium, Steven Spielberg has never made a picture like Lincoln before.  Its subtlety, its delicacy, its courageous devotion to the processes that surround its subject as much as the subject itself, its commitment to the human detail in a mosaic of recognizable actors portraying historical figures and legislative players, and its ability to rely on words more than images stand out amongst his pantheon of great works.  This is the achievement of a director who has nothing left to prove, yet Mr. Spielberg has created another incredible journey to assert why he is the greatest living storyteller.

4. Tommy Lee Jones, triumphantly playing abolitionist congressmen Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, is at the centre of the most moving and inspiring moment of the picture (you will know it when you see it).  It reaffirms how big picture monumental changes and concepts (like the 13th Amendment) yield the most personal of consequences.

5. Lincoln is a motion picture (Spielberg’s first since Saving Private Ryan) that, like its subject matter, will be remembered as an all-time great.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  His weekly X Factor column appears on Afterbuzztv.com and his weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Power Rankings can be read on Derek Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.

5 Things You Need to Know: SKYFALL

When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 

SKYFALL

1. Skyfall is an 143 minute long movie that feels like an 143 minutes long movie.  There are eye-candied sequences of classic action cinema mastery whose shot by shot intricacy, visually stunning stunts, and pulsating pacing are compelling and brilliant, but inevitably exhausting.  There are also too many story elements, unnecessary villain plan complexity (although much of Javier Bardem’s sinister and campy performance is a joy to witness), and questionable character inclusions (let’s just say that Skyfall was not a good platform for the Bond girl) that could have been easily omitted.

2. Metaphorically and often in actuality, Skyfall is set at dusk on a gloomy and raw late November day.  Daniel Craig’s hair color is consistently the brightest thing on screen (the innumerable explosions notwithstanding).  His icy, flatlined, psychologically troubled and sharpshooting deficient, and cold-hearted James Bond isn’t having too much fun here (even his near death inspired beach vacation is curtailed by his devotion to and love of country).  It is quite possible that the events in The Dark Knight Rises, when Gotham City is under Bane’s wintry, bridge destruction filled occupation, occurred concurrently with much of Skyfall‘s third, fourth, fifth, and sixth acts (and yes, it felt like there were that many).  Be sure to pack your scarf and mittens or you may catch a cold.

3. Bond movies are often enhanced by their exotic locales and location shoots.  Beyond a classic, multiple vehicular chase sequence extraordinaire in Turkey to open the picture, Skyfall is all about London (again filled with sunless, cloudy skies) and its United Kingdom environs.  The traditional propensity of foreign locales will often provide a Bond movie distant and less consequential stakes (we are watching the train derailment but we are not wholly experiencing it because it is somewhere far away).  Skyfall takes the opposite approach and intentionally (and in some ways not, some MGM budget issues forced the scrapping of some additional foreign shoots) brings the consequences closer to the pond.

4. Judi Dench, for the sixth time portraying MI6 leader M, earns her Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire title in this movie.  At the remarkable age of 0077, she is very much a sight to behold.  In so many ways, Skyfall is Dame Judi’s picture.

5. Skyfall is a movie (a good James Bond movie at that), but not a transcendent cinematic force as some critics have suggested.  I was stirred, but not shaken.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  His weekly X Factor column appears on Afterbuzztv.com and his weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Power Rankings can be read on Derek Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.

5 Things You Need To Know: FLIGHT

When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 

FLIGHT

1. Despite a trailer that presents the movie as “an action-packed mystery thriller” centering around a plane crash, Flight is not a mystery, is not a thriller, and is not about a plane crash.

2. Director Robert Zemeckis’ last live action picture before Flight was 2000’s Cast Away (since he has exclusively made motion captured movies like The Polar Express and Beowolf).  Like Cast Away (and Forrest Gump for that matter), almost the entire running time of Flight features a commanding (and perhaps career-defining) lead performance by an A-List actor.

3. The aforementioned lead actor, Denzel Washington as Captain Whip Whitaker, carries this picture in a way I am not sure another living actor couldFlight works because of his charisma, his complete stronghold of Captain Whitaker’s inner demons and battles, and through his commitment to the at times harrowing truth of Whitaker’s battle with alcohol and drugs.

4. Besides Mr. Washington, Flight features an array of supporting performances by traditionally strong actors that are either lots of fun but feel completely out of place (John Goodman as a hippy drug fixer), super compelling but come out of nowhere and go just as quickly (James Badge Dale as a cancer patient), or strangely subpar (I am looking at you Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, and Melissa Leo).

5. Flight is a MOVIE that dives deep into the soul of one man, but only inspires because of Denzel’s brilliant craft and not because of story or the telling thereof.  Flight and its mechanical failures kept a distance from my empathy and care and its brutal subject matter may cause many curious audiences to do the same.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  His weekly X Factor column appears on Afterbuzztv.com and his weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Power Rankings can be read on Derek Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.

5 Things You Need to Know: CLOUD ATLAS

Tom Hanks and Halle Berry from CLOUD ATLAS

When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 

CLOUD ATLAS

1. Cloud Atlas is an ambitious picture that spends almost all of its 172 minute screen symphony as a constant series of crescendos that all never seem to reach full fortissimo.  It is more about the connectivity between movements than about the sanctity of the movements themselves.  As usual, cinemetrician Zach Baron nails it here.

2. If you have read the book, listen to book critic, Kathryn Schulz: “Unlike the book, Cloud Atlas, the movie, is not groundbreaking and dazzling and brilliant and epic and all the rest of those other over-the-top reviewer words. But I also didn’t find it dreadful, or dumb. I’m glad I saw it. I’m inclined to tell other people they should go see it.”  If you have not read the book like me (my Nook Color has been housing the idle e-book of Cloud Atlas for several months now), Schulz contends there is “one massive, all important caveat. You know what that is. Go read the book first.”  Oops.   Prior to reading the book (I am definitely inspired to embark on the journey now), I have a feeling the following will be true: Often thought to be unfilmable, Cloud Atlas is all the better with both mediums in play, the movie would be better without the book as a comparison, and the book is likely even better now that there is a movie.

3. The directing units of Andy and Lana (née Larry) Wachowski (behind The Matrix, it’s troubled sequels, and the catastrophe that was Speed Racer) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, a one-hit wonder), each responsible for independently filming (completely separate crews, cinematographers, production designers) three of the movie’s six time period settings, make significant structural (telling all six stories simultaneously) and casting decisions (a company of actors playing different loosely connected roles in each setting) that will define the movie and it’s subsequent success.  Although I think they do successfully execute these decisions into a viable, beautifully shot and scored cinema experience, by taking this distinctive storytelling path, the final work is condemned to something less than the potential the broad scope of its source material valiantly suggests.

4. Despite some arguable truth to a few of the soul journeys in the actor/character connections (Jim “perhaps the film’s hero” Sturgess and Hugo “the frustratingly clear villain” Weaving’s through lines do succeed), the decision to cast the main cast in multiple roles was a forced convention that acted more as a hindrance, red herring, and distraction to continuity and connectivity than as an asset.  It was more about Tom Hanks (Look he is a cockney murderer from present day England!  Now he speaks an almost indecipherable language as a post-apocalyptic goat herder!) or Halle Berry’s (particularly super swag in her 1973 get-up, mostly forgettable otherwise) journeys as actors than about the journey of the soul.  By making these casting choices, team Wachowski and Tykwer lead the viewer down rabbit holes of inconsequence that are more about the wonders of modern-day makeup than about a well executed character through story.  In a movie in which the tagline is “everything is connected,” it is a cool effect (and do stay a few more minutes for the retrospective actor/character journey in the end credits that is a worthy summation of this convention) that is without real substance.

5. Cloud Atlas is unequivocally a movie (a pretty long one, at that, but worthwhile and enjoyable) that would have worked better as a linear, six part mini-series.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  His weekly X Factor column appears on Afterbuzztv.com and his weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Power Rankings can be read on Derek Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.

5 Things You Need To Know: ARGO

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When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 

ARGO

1. Argo will be adorned with many Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Director.

2. Ben Affleck just took THE LEAP as a filmmaker.  After the two Boston/crime-centered definite successes of Gone Baby Gone (slightly underrated) and The Town (it may be slightly overrated), Argo is a high caliber movie that delivers in every scene, every detail, every performance, every nuance, every beat, every 1980s period hair piece and costume, and every shot of original Kenner Star Wars figures.  My fast-becoming go to film purveyor (and rightly self-professed movie cinematrician) Zach Baron, chronicles a career comeback for Mr. Affleck who has been to the bottom of a fiery pit (GigliDaredevil) and has come out as a filmmaker of skill, artistry, and unquestionable talent.  Argo is a crowning achievement and, unlike the distance that Paul Thomas Anderson creates between most viewers and The MasterAffleck gives the masses a front row seat to a movie of both unquestionable weight and brilliant execution. 

3. There are a staggering number of great film and television actors in small supporting roles in this movie that amount to consistent scene stealing and unheard of structural support.  The list includes Victor Garber (Alias as Mr. Affleck’s beautiful wife’s television dad), Bryan Cranston (the breath of this man’s ability ceases to amaze), Titus Welliver (who I remember fondly as the Man in Black on Lost), Kyle Chandler (Coach Taylor is a television icon), Zeljko Ivanek (always good for some intense power sneering), Chris Messina (a scene stealer from Fox’s ready for primetime new comedy, The Mindy Project), John Goodman (having a blast), Alan Arkin (having even more of a blast), Christopher Stanley (freed from the marital hell that is Betty Draper), and Bob Gunton (the warden from Shawshank who I have yet to have forgiven).

4. When a movie is “based on a true story” that is both actually worth telling and not so ubiquitous that it feels fresh, I am elated.  Argo is an incredible tale that fits the cinematic medium oh so well.  Declassified by President Clinton in 1997 almost twenty years after the actual events, this lost CIA triumph resonates in 2012 with vitality and ease.  It works for those who lived through the 444 day Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979-1981, or, if you are like me and were not yet born during the late Carter administration, Argo is a most effective way to experience this essential modern American history.

5. Argo is a movie (disguised as a film), but, if the Academy Awards bring more than just nominations for this “based on a true story” work of genius, Argo could become a motion picture by February/March of 2013.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  His weekly X Factor column appears on the Afterblog at Afterbuzztv.com.

5 Things You Need to Know: LOOPER

When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 

LOOPER

1. Although Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets top acting billing on both Looper and Premium Rush, his best, most compelling, and most significant performance of 2012 thus far (Lincoln opens November 16) was as John Blake in The Dark Knight Rises.  Looper is the most “Joseph Gordon-Levitt” movie of the bunch, but the movie that least stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the difference is striking on screen – kudos to the makeup artists).

2. Looper is a brainy, creative concept executed quite well, but it is awfully cold emotionally.  Johnson does not ask us to care about much (especially JGL’s protagonist Joe or his Bruce Willis future self) and we don’t.  Zach Baron, Grantland’s cinematrician says it so well: “This is all smart and postmodern and thrilling, but at the same time, Looper is never more than smart and postmodern and thrilling — there’s no moment of transport, no unself-conscious moment of release.” 

3. Emily Blunt’s character, Sarah, may make some choices that challenge our sense of earned motivation, but her performance is a revelation and my favorite of the film.  Her interview with Colin Bertram has some incredible nuggets particularly about how she signed on after reading twenty pages of the script, well before her character was introduced.

4. Sometime in his career, Rian Johnson will have a moment as film director when the moviegoing world will converge on his work and recognize him as a transcendent auteur.  Looper is not this moment, but it was a valiant attempt.  Emily Blunt on what may makes Rian so special: “Best director I have been lucky enough to work with, I think. His material is so strong and so unique, rife with originality…Nothing he does feels derivative of what you have seen, yet he has seen every movie under the sun. So I think that is very inspiring to work with someone like that. He’s such a humble, sweet person yet he seems to have quite a dark imagination to be able to create these incredible, complex movies.”  He will be one to look out for.

5. Looper is a film and it appears that Rian Johnson seems to strive to make films (see: Brick).

5 Things You Need to Know: THE MASTER

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When I see a movie (in this case a motion picture) in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.  This is my first such piece.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 

THE MASTER

1. Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is not accessible to the masses.  Should you go see it?  Read this first.  Listen to this second.

2. Joaquin Phoenix gives a physical acting “master” class (pun intended), but Phillip Seymour Hoffman, America’s best living male film actor (to Daniel Day Lewis’ best living film actor), gives his best performance.

3. This is less a movie about Scientology than There Will Be Blood was a movie about oil, but The Master is more about masters than There Will Be Blood was about blood.

4. While viewing, I cared more emotionally about the director’s journey in making the film than I cared emotionally about any of the characters portrayed on film.

5. The Master is a motion picture.  Period.  (Note: the second of the year after The Dark Knight Rises).  What does this mean?  All will be explained in a future column.