Lincoln (2012)

Classic-looking poster, gorgeous, really.

Classic-looking poster, gorgeous, really.

Directed by: Steven Spielberg (kinda hard to pick his best movie, as he has numerous candidates.  However, none since Munich)

Written by: Tony Kushner wrote the screenplay, based on “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” written by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and many, many more.  Check the tags.

What it’s about: a biopic of Abraham Lincoln’s last four months alive

B-Movie Alternate Title: Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation

What I liked: The movie hangs on Daniel Day-Lewis to portray a believable Abraham Lincoln, and of course he rocks it out of the park.  There are so many wonderful character actors throughout the movie in little parts, that half the movie I was mentally making notes to double-check IMDb.  It appeared to be lovingly made by Spielberg, with an attentive eye to details, but what do I know for sure?

What I disliked: Goddammit, there is a way to make an Oscar-friendly picture without pumping up the running time minutes.  Two and a half hours is about half an hour too many for this movie.  It lags, and while Day-Lewis is mesmerizing as Lincoln, the subject matter is fairly dry and honestly, it was a bit more tedious than Zero Dark Thirty was.  And we were all waiting for the assassination scene, and you don’t even put it onscreen?  BOoooooo.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Not really, it is pretty much one of those Oscar movies that exists to vie for Oscars and will rarely be brought up again.  It is long and informative and most people don’t want those things in their movies.

Rating: 3 / 5, and if it weren’t for Daniel Day-Lewis, it would have been 2 – 2.5.

Best Picture Nominations Rankings (so far): 1. Silver Linings Playbook 2. Django Unchained 3. Argo 4. Zero Dark Thirty 5. Lincoln

I would like to see Abraham Lincoln argue with Daniel Plainview or Bill the Butcher.

I would like to see Abraham Lincoln argue with Daniel Plainview or Bill the Butcher.

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Django Unchained (2012)

Gorgeous poster, though probably not in the category of previous Tarantino films.  Argue about that.

Gorgeous poster, though probably not in the category of previous Tarantino films. Argue about that.

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino (we could argue over what his “best” movie is, but the safe bet will most likely always be Pulp Fiction)

Written by: Tarantino

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Remar, Kerry Washington, Laura Cayouette, Walton Goggins and Samuel L. Jackson.  Also, check the tags for many actors that basically filmed cameo roles.

What it’s about: in 1858, a former slave becomes a bounty hunter and searches for his wife

B-Movie Alternate Title: It’s a pretty B-Movie title already

Movie Mash Up: Inglourious BasterdsTombstone + probably hundreds of blaxpoitation movies that Tarantino has watched

What I liked: I have to admit, Jamie Foxx ruled in this movie, and I hate having to say that.  Tarantino wrote such a great character in Django, and knew exactly how he wanted the character to appear and succeeded on all levels.  I would argue that Christoph Waltz deserves to be nominated in the Best Actor category, rather than the Supporting Actor category for his performance in this movie, but whatever.  It is a fun movie, dealing with some super serious themes, and it may be Tarantino’s funniest movie yet.  Argue some more about that too, if you want.  The movie looks gorgeous, and flows fairly well (see below), so well that at points it doesn’t exactly feel like a near three hour-long movie.  DiCaprio was amazing in it as well, particularly the scene in which he actually accidentally cuts open his own hand, bleeding profusely all over himself, and continues acting.  Don’t know how Kerry Washington felt about having his blood smeared all over her face, though.

What I disliked: The running time of nearly three hours is fairly daunting, Tarantino movie or not.  You could make arguments about trimming the fat and lessening the homages to whatever obscure movie Tarantino was referring to with whatever camera angle or sound cue, but you don’t have the same movie then.  I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable movie fan, but I probably don’t know half of the references Tarantino is making, even in regards to certain actors and actresses he ends up casting for whatever reason.  There were some scenes throughout that I thought were misplaced or came from some wacky sitcom script (the Jonah Hill cameo scene springs to mind), and while they weren’t terrible, they did put me off a little.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: While it is pretty great, the exceedingly long running time and excessive (but totally in context) usage of the word “nigger”, probably means it isn’t for everyone.  Tarantino fans will eagerly lap it up, though.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

I am surprised this .gif hasn't been Hasslehoff'd.

I am surprised this .gif hasn’t been Hasslehoff’d.

The Bourne Identity (2002)

Way back when I first saw the trailer to The Bourne Identity, I thought it looked pretty cool and since my mom was a big Robert Ludlum fan, found the original book version of it and read it, then was super stoked for the movie.  Then I saw it, and having read the source material, was deeply disappointed in the end result.  It took several years for me to come to terms with the fact that they were essentially two different stories that had only one thing in common: the origin of the character Jason Bourne (Matt Damon).  Once I had accepted that fact, well my enjoyment of The Bourne Identity increased and I later came to view the movies as a great Trilogy.  Oh, spoiler alert on that, I guess.

Directed by Doug Liman with a screenplay provided by Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron, The Bourne Identity is a modern day spy thriller, minus all the technical gadgetry that the James Bond movies have popularized.  It’s a stripped down, hard-hitting and visceral “smart” action movie, one that puts more emphasis on the characters and story than the action scenes.  It’s not a bloated and moronic ’80s-style film, with massive explosions and bodies littering the street after every encounter with Hero Guy.  The action scenes instead focus on what should be the m.o. of every spy: quickly, quietly and efficiently taking down your opponent.  Other than a super intense, white-knuckled car chase scene, the entire movie operates on that premise.

I don’t want to say that Matt Damon was perfectly cast as Jason Bourne, because back in 2002, we probably all had doubts that Will Hunting would be able to be believable as a kickass action star.  Damon delivers in what – at the time – was his most physically-demanding performance to date, but also rating highly as an actual actor.  There aren’t any quippy-one-liners after he dispatches his aggressors, and you can thank Gilroy and Herron for writing a believable screenplay that could probably take place in our real world.  There’s some other decent performances throughout the movie, namely Franka Potente, but this is Damon’s film to carry and he does it admirably well.

It’s not a perfect film, as many of the details and government agency scenes are somewhat bland and technical for my liking.  However, if you grant the movie your patience and attention, you’ll be rewarded with a movie that helped shape the modern day action movie into something less stupid than it once was.

4 / 5

Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

When the budget for your movie is around $163 million, there is going to be a lot expected out of box office returns.  While a $174 million dollar return is nothing to sneeze at, it’s not exactly what the numerous big time producers expected from Cowboys & Aliens and I think I have narrowed down where they went wrong.  If you’re going to have a movie starring Olivia Wilde and have her naked at some point but not show it, well that is going to turn off a lot of your potential audience.  Hell, even straight women want to see Olivia Wilde naked.

Directed by Iron Man‘s Jon Favreau, Cowboys & Aliens is all about an amnesiac cowboy named Jake (Daniel Craig) and putting together the mystery behind how he found himself out in the country with a weird bracelet on his wrist.  Jake goes to the nearest town, stirs shit up and finds himself at odds with the local rich cattleman, Woodrow Dollarhyde (Harrison Ford).  Then even more shit happens and Dollarhyde’s son Percy (Paul Dano) is abducted by aliens and a mission is launched to rescue Percy and all the missing townspeople.  Olivia Wilde is the mysterious Ella, who may be more than she appears which is a pretty phenomenal thing in and of itself.

It’s a textbook high concept popcorn movie, based on a graphic novel.  It is everything that a summer blockbuster should be, but a bit grittier than something stupid like Independence Day or Armageddon with high quality actors.  I enjoyed it, though while the concept is fairly unique, it’s an altogether predictable picture.  Definitely worth a watch.

3.5 / 5