Monday, January 28, 2013

'Hitchcock' bio-pic a winner with Anthony Hopkins

HOLLYWOOD, California, USA - Alfred Hitchcock's movies have always fascinated me. And one episode of his popular television series once scared me sooooo badly when I was about 10 years old, I would wake up screaming in the night.

The real Alfred Hitchcock
I forgive him for that episode. But if I wake up tonight in a cold sweat because a creature is coming up my stairs, I'll post something in this space tomorrow. Unless the creature gets me, of course.

The picture stars Anthony Hopkins in the title role with Helen Mirren as Hitchcock's wife, Alma. The rest of cast is dynamite, too. And I challenge any male who watches this film to avoid being smitten by Scarlett Johansson. She plays the role of Janet Leigh who, in turn, played in one of Hitchcock's most famous films, Psycho.

Scarlett Johansson
Psycho is the template around which the entire movie revolves. How Hitchcock and his wife work as a team is fascinating. And the movie script for Psycho gives plenty of insight into who Hitchcock himself was.

A tortured genius is a gross understatement.

Hitchcock is well worth seeing. But unlike his television series, it's unlikely to keep you awake at night. I think.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Film 'Argo' a winner - great actors, great directing

TEHRAN, Iran - The movie 'Argo,' directed by and starring Ben Affleck is a tour de force of moviemaking.

I am not entirely sure what a tour de force is, but is certainly sounds impressive.

Ben Affleck as a CIA agent
The script and directing are as tight as can be. It's one of those movies you don't want to look away from the screen for even a second - you will miss something. I did, and replay is really hard on a computer.

Lots of CIA intrigue in it. Mostly it shows that our government can get things done, but largely in spite of itself. The top dogs of the government don't come off well. Only the misanthropes, like the character played by Ben Affleck seem to navigate it well.

All the actors did a great job in this film, though John Goodman and Alan Arkin really went over the top in their performances. More of that tour de force stuff.
Arkin and Affleck

The story line is dramatic - U.S. hostages during the Iranian crisis of 1979-80 need to be rescued from the Canadian embassy where they are hiding out.

But beyond that, no spoilers here. Watch Argo instead. It's worth it, especially the final few scenes.
Getting past the Iranian guards

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

"Hope Springs" - a painfully funny film

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - Last night I watched Hope Springs, a film billed as a romantic comedy with a great cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Meryl Streep and Steve Carrell.

With those three, how can you miss? Really.

Steve Carrell
Still, I am not much of a romantic-comedy fan. Seen too many Jennifer Aniston and Sarah Jessica Parker films bomb.

But Hope Springs is funny, in a painful sort of way, depending on how many years you have been married and what you think about couples counseling. I would say it's a dark comedy.

And worth watching.

Elizabeth Shue
Tommy Lee Jones stole the show with his acting, though Meryl Streep's portrayal of his wife was Oscar-caliber, too. And Steve Carrell? Carrell played it sooooo straight and in doing so, was far funnier than in any schtick he could have come up with.

I would recommend the movie without reservation but with one caution - watch it very carefully.

This is not a movie that allows you to work in the kitchen and just listen. If you don't watch for all the visual cues, you miss a lot. The facial expressions alone are amazing.

Also starring in Hope Springs in a cameo roll as a bartender is Elizabeth Shue. She's steals her scenes without effort.

Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Street