Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Station Agent

The Station Agent
2003 -- Rated R
Director: Thomas McCarthy
Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Paul Benjamin

This jewel of a film is one of my top movies of 2003. Peter Dinklage (from TV's Threshold) is Finbar McBride, a man born with dwarfism. McBride leads a quiet life in the city until his best friend dies. Inheriting a small abandoned train depot in Newfoundland, NJ, he is determined to live an isolated existence. As the film progresses he encounters a small group of local characters from whom he tries to keep his distance, both physically and emotionally, but to no avail and eventually he befriends the quirky ensemble.
Though this film would lack its punch without the dwarf storyline, it does not pander to silly stereotypical short jokes. In fact, the story rarely touches on McBride's size, choosing instead to delve into the intricacies of the different characters personalities and relationships. Dinklage's performance is stunning. His skill at conveying every emotion with just an expression is remarkable. Add to that a powerful storyline and a quality supporting cast and you'll begin to see why this film was nominated for just about every film award there is and won Dinklage a Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role.
Light at times, sad at times and perfect from start to finish, The Station Agent is well worth renting, but even more so it is a powerful addition to anyones movie library.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mystery, Alaska

Mystery, Alaska
1995 -- Rated R
Director: Jay Roach
Russell Crowe, Hank Azaria, Burt Reynolds

    Before Russell Crowe took the world by storm in Gladiator, he was a star in his native Australia. I first noticed him as the gunslinger-turned-preacher in 1995's The Quick and the Dead with Sharon Stone. I went to see Mystery Alaska because I wanted to go see a movie that night and I had already seen everything else at the theatre, so I said what the heck and bought a ticket. Sometimes serendipity is fortuitous because this is a gem of a movie that almost got by me.

    Mystery, Alaska is a town that revolves around it's weekend ice hockey matches. In a town that is snowed in for much of the year, the townspeople talk of little else and find their identity in the weekly matches amongst themselves. When Charles Danner (Hank Azaria), who has left the humble burg for the big city arranges to have a professional hockey team come play a match against the Mystery team it requires the townspeople to set aside their differences and pull together to beat the big league boys who aren't taking them seriously.

    Burt Reynolds as the towns judge and stoic critic of the home team has a engaging performance. Alongside Crowe's role as the town's police chief and the team's captain is a bevy of character actors that really flesh out this movie and make it an enjoyable experience - even if you are not a hockey fan!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Master and Commander - The Far Side of the World

Master and Commander - The Far Side of the World
2003 -- Rated PG-13
Director: Peter Weir
Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany

   One of my many loves is the ocean and anything to do with the ocean, be it sailing, swimming, diving, fishing... it doesn't matter, I've got salt in my blood. Add to that the appeal of a swashbuckler and it's got to be a winner in my book. But Master and Commander - The Far Side of the World goes so much further than just a swashbuckler or sailing movie, it introduces the past to the present in a way few films can. Based on the series of novels by the late author Patrick O'Brian, the film is actually a masterful melding of two of O'Brian's stories, the first in the series, Master and Commander and the eleventh, Far Side of the World.

    The film covers the life aboard a Royal Navy ship captained by Jack Aubrey played to perfection by Russell Crowe. Also in the ships company is Paul Bettany who once again teams up with Crowe as the ships doctor Dr. Maturin. Master and Commander does on film what O'Brian did on paper. An erudite writer, O'Brian captures the nuances of life onboard ship, nuances that Crowe and company beautifully capture on film, whether it be the almost poetic language of the time or the conscription of boys to serve in the Royal Navy. Master and Commander is without a doubt the most serious and deliberate work to ever emerge concerning life at sea.


2006 -- Rated PG-13
Director: Frank Coraci
Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken

    When Adam Sandler first came on the scene I didn't get it. I didn't get it with Saturday Night Live, I didn't get it with Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore. But then came The Wedding Singer and I began to get it. Then The Waterboy, Mr. Deeds, and 50 First Dates and I was a fan. When 2004's Spanglish came out I wasn't sure I was ready for a serious Adam Sandler but the movie, storyline and characters won me over readily. Then came Click. I wasn't sure what to expect with this film but I figured it would be more of the comedic Adam Sandler. It was, but what I wasn't ready for was the serious message this film gets across. By the middle of the film, no one is laughing. Instead I hear sobs as the audience realizes that Sandler's character is trapped in a whirlpool of events that are spiraling faster and faster out of control. When the film ends and the audience is packed away in their cars and heading home I wonder if they like me have been made to reflect on their own lives and the choices they have made. The films message is clear - family MUST come before career or we will be looking back on our lives in the end with sadness and regret.

    Yes, there is comedy in Click but it is used sparingly and artfully. Sandler has made a giant leap ahead as an actor to be taken seriously.

    I would be remiss if I didn't also point out the stellar performances by the enigmatic Christopher Walken and the stunningly beautiful Kate Beckinsale who oozes a mature sexuality in every scene.

Monday, January 02, 2006

King Kong

King Kong
2005 -- Rated PG13
Director: Peter Jackson
Adrien Brody, Jack Black, Naomi Watts

I went to see this movie solely because I loved the work director Peter Jackson did on the Lord of the Rings trilogies and I wanted to see how he treated Kong. I was deftly afraid I was going to see another horrid remake of the 1933 black and white classic. Now weeks later I still feel an ache in the pit of my stomach as I recall the great ape's loneliness and demise. Jackson (and even more-so Andy Serkis, who played the ape for the computers) has crafted a worthy retelling of the story. Not once did I ever think about the time during the 3+ hours of the film. This is likely the best remake of a movie ever made.