Love & Mercy Shows The Beauty And Struggle Of Brian Wilson In A Masterful Way

There’s a term that has a tendency to be overused, and that’s “tortured genius”. It may never be more accurately used than when it comes to Brian Wilson, the man behind the success and great sound of The Beach Boys. The story of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys has been told many times before, in multiple books and even two different TV movies. The many stories of everything from their domineering father to the drugs and even Wilson’s bizarre behavior, have been well documented. With Love & Mercy, long time and well known producer Bill Pohlad goes behind the lens to Direct one of the most unique biopics in recent years. Pohlad simultaneously tells the story of the two most pivotal times of Wilson’s life. For these two stories, which are separated by twenty years, he chose two actors with very different styles and brought the best they have to offer.

For the 1986 version of Wilson, the choice of Hollywood veteran John Cusack may on the service, appear  an odd choice but clearly Pohlad saw something and struck gold. Cusack is much loved and respected throughout the industry. His movies are usually solid and entertaining, but his acting, while never bad, has never been praised… until now. Cusack turns in the greatest performance of his career. Playing Wilson and possibly the most downtrodden point in his life, was no easy task. Pohlad, Cusack and Paul Giamatti, who plays his psychiatrist, caretaker and guardian, re-create this time in his life that even Wilson himself felt overwhelmed when he saw the film, feeling that he was right back in that period himself.

  Paul Dano was tasked with the responsibility of showing Wilson during his most ingenious and creative period as he wrote the groundbreaking album, Pet Sounds. Dano is without a doubt one of the best young actors out there. He might not be the biggest name out there, but his quality and body of work speaks for itself. Love & Mercy will also go down as one of his greatest performances of his career.

Without question, Love & Mercy will be a feather in the cap for Cusack, Dano and Pohlad. It is a movie  that showcases the brilliance and struggles of Brian Wilson and how he reached through all of that and forged the second half of his life, career and brilliance. To see the creative process of a genius like Wilson is mesmerizing to watch and impossible to understand. It is the result of all of that we have had the privilege of enjoying and never growing tired of for over the last 50 years. The music he has left behind will never grow old and will be around and admired right along side all the other musical geniuses in history from Beethoven and Mozart to Lennon and McCartney. And hopefully this film will be remembered as the definitive telling of a tortured genius who is beloved.

Top 5 Non Tradition Romantic Movies

In my previous article I took Hollywood’s creativity to the whipping post. But I would like to clarify the fact that just because the big budget summer blockbuster films have lacked as of late, that doesn’t mean ALL originality is nonexistent. When it comes to matters of the heart, screenwriters have done some pretty wonderful work. In this post I am to set out to list my top 5 favorite love stories of the last 20 years. These are, of course, much more avant guard love stories. There are many others that I love, but takes a much more traditional path. These definitely do not go down that path. I don’t want to use the phrase Warning: Spoilers but things will be revealed if you don’t know them, but there are no flat out plot giveaways.

5. Good Will Hunting 

  This comes in at number 5 only because it resembles the more traditional romance movie. But it also deserves to be on this list because the romantic angle isn’t the main focus of the film. In fact, it isn’t even the main relationship in the film. The relationship between Will and Skylar ranks as the third most important relationship in the film, behind Will and Chuckie and obviously behind Will and Sean. But it is Will’s new understanding of the other two relationships and the fact he has learned things in a way he never knew existed or was possible that make the relationship between him and Skylar so special.

While the outcome of what happens between Will and Skylar is left to our own imagination, it is the line Will gives Sean at the end (which is Sean’s original line) that makes the love seem possible and works. I got to go see about a girl.

4. Midnight In Paris 

  A list about non traditional love stories would be incomplete without a contribution from, who is quite possibly our greatest living film writer and director, Woody Allen. Despite being a personal all time favorite. An all time list of this topic would be consumed by Allen’s work. None the less we are at a top 5 list of the last 20 years (which Allen still has a crap load of films in that period) I felt this was his best under this category.

The fantasy story of a writer fascinated with the past and the times and work of the roaring 20’s is mysteriously transported to that time, meets all his heroes and attempts to be a part of their world. As he begins falling for a woman in this time he discovers that those he admires are as unsatisfied with their times as he is with his. When transported to what they consider the most brilliant and romantic time, he realizes, the past is always more romantic. He makes it his goal to make HIS times more romantic and to do them justice.

He loses a relationship over his adventures with the thought that he had found everything that he wanted in friends and women in the past only to find that isn’t the case.

3. Up In The Air 

  A perfect storm of actors and a writer/director ALL at one of the peaks of their careers. Jason Reitman was without a doubt one of the directors who was skyrocketing to the top at the time this came out. He was coming off two highly acclaimed films in, Thanks For Smoking and Juno. Up In The Air brought him to the fore and everyone took notice. While all this happened, the film kept George Clooney’s brilliant streak going and made instant stars out of Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga. With 6 major Oscar nominations, including all three main principle actors and Jason Reitman for writing and another for directing, the movie was a serious force.

The greatness of the film is its reality and common ground with its audience. Set in the world of corporate America during a serious economic downturn as well as those that will live on the road and commit everything to their work as well as those who will do the same for what they think is the perfect relationship. When things don’t go as planned, it forces everyone to step back and analyze their lives and view of love.

2. Her 

  The newest film on the list is the work of such an underrated and even overlooked writer and director in Spike Jonze. The way Spike’s career has evolved is a wonderful story in itself. On Oscar night he got his just due with two nominations and a win for writing this film.

A slightly futuristic and even maybe a Sci fi film, it tells the story of the tract of human society and our dependence on technology and information. It asks two questions. The first question is, as technology develops, is it possible to find what we desire when it comes to matters of the heart in that world? The other question is, is it possible to love someone the right way on a purely mental capacity?

With brilliant performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and even from JUST the sultry voice of Scarlett Johansson. The emotions shown, discussed and felt throughout the experience of this film are as original as when the world was first given Romeo and Juliet. It is beautiful, inspiring and deeply heartbreaking all over the place.

1. Lost In Translation 

  Despite what his legions of fans already knew, this was the film that showed EVERYONE that Bill Murray can act and is possibly the greats cultural icon we have right now. He is almost larger than life, until you see him interact with everyday people, be it fans or not.

When Sofia Coppola decided to step behind the camera, she without a doubt was going to have a shadow cast over her that belongs to her iconic father, Francis Ford Coppola. With much acclaim and respect before this film, she garnered all that she would need and more with this film.

On the surface, the story of an actor passed middle aged forming a relationship with a young newlywed, sounds preposterous. But that is where the brilliance of every aspect of this film comes into play. The blatant sex, romance or anything like that is what gives it truth. The two, never use the word love when referring to each other. You can’t help but feel the way they understand, not only each other, but their situation. The film being set anywhere else but a place where they feel like the only two outsiders is another major factors that give the film credence.

The final scene is where everything you feel comes together and yet the understanding of everything is known. It leaves you with a mystery that makes you feel like the depth of their relationship is completely possible.

Hollywood’s Creativity Is Dead….But It Doesn’t Have To Be

It’s been 438 days since my last article. Lately I’ve been mulling over in my mind why it has been so long. Life has taken many turns and Hollywood has also. Two years to the day that I started this blog, we lost quite possibly, my favorite working actor in Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Not long after that, on August 11 another favorite in Robin Williams was gone. This was only less than 3 months after my last post. I considered writing posts for Williams and others who have passed in between then and now. I think the reason the motivation has left me is sad, because my belief that Hollywood could produce the imagination, it had and the ability to captivate its audiences with originality and grace, was gone. Two of the most ambitious and daring actors of our time were gone. With releases shortly after, that were not totally grounded in movie originality, the business of movies just continued on.  Things have not changed in all this time. The anticipation in films are not original. Not to say that I’m not looking forward to the new James Bond film or the new Star Wars film, but where has the imagination gone? Have we become content with mediocre novels and any comic book ever written?

I’m not trying to shoot down the comic book or super hero genre. And I’m all for finding books that translate well to film, but is that the only source left? That isn’t to say that the original films aren’t being made, they are. The fame and recognition have just been small. The depth of characters and franchises is also dissipating.

Where are the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back To The Future and Terminator type stories and depth? Granted 2 of those involved George Lucas, who is highly regarded. But that’s not to say he was the only one. And I certainly don’t want to say creativity has disappeared. But where is it to be found?

I have one major selective group of imaginative people that could be suggested. Video game creators could be hugely responsible for the next franchise of domination in film. I’m not talking Resident Evil or even making Halo or Call of Duty into major motion pictures. I’m suggesting that before the stories are created and before the games are submitted to the gaming companies, they are considered by studios.

Since the dawn of film, writers have been the underpaid group. This has been proven by multiple strikes and outcry from the writing community. A little coin and recognition could really change the game. Hollywood claims to be losing billions in the theater market to pirating. There is no debating this topic. But the question is why?

The biggest franchises, action and fun films, in the last 10 years have shattered box office records. People and fans are willing to go and pay for the experience. Star Wars and Bond will once again prove this, come winter time.

It’s not impossible to bring these magical, wondrous times back to reality. Fans are not above accepting re-vamped stories, but we also want originality that we can get behind and embrace. It’s out there it just needs to be given the right voice!

Godzilla Roars On To The Scene

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Monster movies tend to lean towards the cult film crowd. There are exceptions though. Just about every movie fan and even quite a few casual fans have experienced the greatness of a Godzilla film at one time or another, whether it’s one of the classics (no matter how cheesy the graphics) or one of the terrible (1998’s debacle). They have a draw to them like disaster movies, superhero movies or even film noir.
Warner Brothers is the latest to take on the ultimate monster that is Godzilla. This marks the 60th anniversary of the 1954 classic that shook and even started the cult film phenomena. This was Japan’s political and social response and commentary on the bombings 9 years earlier of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The last Godzilla film was made 10 years ago when Toho productions announced they wouldn’t make another Godzilla for at least 10 years and through a peculiar series of events Warner Brothers came to make a 3D IMAX version of Godzilla. Let’s just say they used every day and every dollar over that 10 year span to nail it!
The film starts in Japan in 1999 with an American nuclear engineer and his wife (played by Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche) headed to work on a fateful day. When seismic activity draws Joe Body’s (Cranston) attention, the nuclear plant immediately becomes in danger. The trouble is Brody recognizes this is no normal seismic activity. He recognizes a pattern which leads to a 15 year long search for what caused the meltdown and the death of his wife. This draws his now adult son back to Japan to retrieve him after being arrested in the quarantined area. A series of events leads him to believe his father and eventually make his way back to his home in San Francisco to keep his family safe when a new beast named Mutos is discovered and headed for any nuclear source it can find. This eventually awakens Godzilla, who members of a company called, Monarch, have been tracking since the detonation of the atom bomb.
It soon becomes aware that Godzilla, despite his destruction and destructive ability, is not quite the enemy. Battles ensue and everything we love about Godzilla movies present themselves. A wild ride is everything short of an understatement.
The film has it all. It’s scary, it’s intense, it has story and perfect character development. It has enough to please hardcore fans, including a very small and brief Mothra reference, and enough to make newly introduced movie goers, intense vintage fans.
Godzilla takes quite awhile to make his first appearance, an homage to Spielberg’s Jaws. When Godzilla makes his first full appearance you can’t help but smile and be filled with excitement and almost want to cheer because Hollywood has finally lived up to what true fans have always hoped for. The battles are not over done and the 3D is used just right. The fades and everything is directed so well you can’t help but walked out satisfied.
Godzilla needs to be seen in IMAX 3D to be fully experienced but it will not at all be lost on a normal viewing screen. You will enjoy it at home, when it comes out, but you are doing yourself a serious disservice not seeing it in theaters. One thing is for sure, Godzilla is everything movie fans have wanted and is everything it should be. DON’T MISS IT!

Bryan Provides A Great Review Of Tom Hardy’s Locke

It was George Santayana who said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Though as far as I know he didn’t have an opinion about those individuals whom not only can’t forget the past, but who hold it so tightly to their chests that it defines them, and potentially leads to ruin.

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is such a person. When we meet him he’s just completed work, he’s a construction foreman in Britain, and is apparently on his way home.

That is, till he reaches a literal, as well as figurative, fork in the road; and we’re along for the ride. Locke seems like a decent man; he loves his wife and children and is good at what he does, which is why it’s interesting to watch as he makes his way down the highway, every mile bringing him closer and closer to his figurative, and perhaps literal, doom. In fact, part of what makes this movie so fascinating is that Locke seems to be deliberately upending his own life, as if his were a house built on a foundation of sand instead of concrete. And we’re powerless to stop him–even if we could–because we can see that Locke means well, even when he doesn’t necessarily act it.

Tom Hardy does remarkably well in a movie that he’s carries almost entirely on his shoulders. I write “almost entirely” because Locke at times received some very interesting phone calls. Some of them are frightening, others are hilarious, though all of them are interesting and act as exposition without making it obvious that a large part of their purpose is to help us understand who Locke is, and by extension, why he acts as he does.

It’s worth mentioning that the highway is as much a star of the movie as Hardy, as well as the car he drives, which I think is a BMW X3 (I am grateful that writer/director Steven McKnight somehow manages not to turn the movie into an extended BMW advert–we see their logo once early on, but that’s it–which is worthy of praise when you consider that for virtually the entire running time of the movie he’s in it).

Two other stars of the movie worth mentioning are Haris Zambarloukos and Justine Wright, the cinematographer and editor of the film, who are able to create the almost hypnotic feel of traveling long distances via car, with plenty of blurred headlights fading into the distance and reflected upon the windshield.

And as far as I could tell the entire movie was shot in a moving car, which shows how skillful a director Steven McKnight is because the whole film is simply Tom Hardy driving a car, yet it somehow manages to be interesting for most of its entire running time.

Locke Trailer

Jonathan Returns To Examine Another Hidden Gem

Our good friend and valued contributor, Jonathan of Robbins Realm has returned to once again examine the unknown and hidden classics you may have missed somewhere along the line.

220px-CompanyofwolvesposterA young man waits with an anxious expression written across the contours of his face as a cream-colored, chauffeur driven, Rolls Royce makes its way along a path through a dense forest. The attractive female chauffeur, dressed all in white, steps out and opens the back door to the automobile. The young man looks into the Rolls. Sitting inside the car is an impeccably dressed older man who is staring at a tiny skull; the man turns his head to the side and beckons the teenage boy to come closer. Next, the man extends his arm outward giving the teenager an ointment, but at the same time issuing a warning “waste not, want not.” The teenager rubs the substance on his chest, the result of which…well, I don’t want to spoil that particular scene of the film “The Company of Wolves” (1984). It is one of my favorite moments, of which there were several peppered throughout the movie, that caused an eerie feeling to take hold of me. This was thanks to Bryan Loftus’s captivating cinematography in this little gem directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) and was just the second feature film that he helmed up until that time.
Let me state unequivocally, from the outset, that the film “The Company of Wolves” is not a horror movie. It does have several thematic elements which can be found in numerous horror films, especially those produced by Hammer Film Productions from the middle of the 1950s until the 1970s, but, due to its lush story book imagery, it would be better served if it were placed in the category of gothic fairy tale. I feel it should also be stated that the movie is both witty and psychologically insightful when one takes the time to reflect on the film, especially after multiple viewings.
The Company of Wolves was given its world premier on September 15, 1984, at The Toronto International Film Festival in Canada. Its intriguing premise is based on a short story by author Angela Carter (who collaborated with director Neil Jordan on the screenplay) in her book, “The Bloody Chamber.” The film uses the myth of lycanthropy (a human who has the ability to transform themselves into a wolf) as a metaphor for the young character of Rosaleen, who is on a journey of self discovery, resulting from her body’s natural progression into puberty. In turn, she is forced to confront her sexual awakening, which is a bit oxymoronic considering the viewer is first introduced to her character while she is dreaming. Students of psychology would probably view this film through a Freudian interpretation. The re-imagining of the time tested fairy tale, “Little Red Riding Hood,” immerses itself in subtly hinting at sexual elements, such as: the potential for Rosaleen’s loss of virginity, due to the advances of different males both her own age and older; the nervousness associated with someone’s first sexual experience; and the self-consciousness most people feel about their naked body being viewed by another person. In addition, the film asks the question, “what can a young female do to thwart amorous advances from the opposite sex, the monsters that walk on two legs and present a human face to the world at large?” At first some of the film’s message might not be overtly apparent, but whether what is attempting to be conveyed is evident upon one’s initial viewing or not, “The Company of Wolves immerses itself in sexuality as it pertains to the central character Rosaleen’s transformation from childhood into adolescence. I think it is particularly important in regard to the aforementioned subtle sexual aspect of the film that actress Sarah Patterson, was chosen to portray Rosaleen, and, although it was her screen debut and despite being very young, she played the part with just the right ti103975_largedegree of ingénue vulnerability. As an interesting aside, Patterson, for reasons that are unknown, has only worked on one other film since The Company of Wolves, which was Cannon Movie Tales, Snow White (1988)
Rosaleen’s first dream is about her sister being trapped inside a nightmare, replete with an atmosphere that is foreboding from the outset; and as with all of the other vignettes in the film, it involves the presence of wolves. Cinematic trivia buffs take note, that due to budgetary constraints, the majority of the wolves that appear on screen are actually Belgian Shepherd dogs (mostly Groenendals and Tervurens) whose fur had been dyed to make them look like wolves. I applaud the direction taken by Jordan in regard to having the tales spring forth from Rosaleen’s subconscious dream state. Rumors abound that Neil Jordan modeled the structure of the film after the Polish movie The Saragossa Manuscript (1965) directed by Wojciech Has, which both Carter and Jordan had seen and equally admired.
There are numerous noteworthy aspects of the movie. For starters, the cast is a strong mixture of veteran English and Irish actors such as: Angela Lansbury (Murder She Wrote), David Warner (Time Bandits), Terrance Stamp (Superman II), and Stephen Rea (Interview with the Vampire.)
The film contains no scenes depicting graphic violence. Gore is kept to a bare minimum, as is blood, which is used sparingly, and it is utilized only if it is germane to serving the story. The budget which director Jordan was given to work with was $2,000,000 dollars, and it is apparent that he made every penny company_of_wolves7count. The special effects, sadly, pale in comparison, when measured by today’s standards, thanks to the wizardry of CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) technology. Nevertheless, for the time period of the early 1980s, the effects were quite powerful. For example, I felt the transformation sequences from man to werewolf were both deftly handled and strongly convincing. It was only years later, that I was made aware that those particular scenes didn’t just employ special makeup and stop action techniques, but in addition, were also using animatronics (the use of electronics and robotics in mechanized puppets to simulate life).
Overall, the film offers the viewer a wealth of visual delights that are not short on symbolism. In 1985, Neil Jordan won the Director of the Year award from the London Film Critics Circle for The Company of Wolves. According to an interview Jordan gave, he discussed that he and novelist turned screenwriter, Angela Carter, wanted to work together again on a future project, but due to Carter’s failing health (she died of lung cancer in 1992), nothing ever came to fruition. The movie is available for purchase on DVD on Amazon.com, and also on-line at Netflix; a soundtrack of the film’s music was released on February 15, 2000. I recommend this film to any and all of you who are seeking a movie with a good gothic feel and who are not fans of extreme violence that oozes blood and guts at every turn.

Trailer Trash: The Drop

The Drop Movie (2)The next few installments of Trailer Trash will be rather bitter- sweet. We will start with James Gandolfini’s final movie, The Drop. It is based on a Dennis Lehane short story entitled, “Animal Rescue”. Lehane also penned the screenplay.
The film stars Tom Hardy caught in the middle of a botched robbery that threatens to tear apart his small, tighknit neighborhood. Cousin Marv is a former tough guy fallen on hard times whose former bar is the scene of the robbery. Longing for a taste of his former life, Marv finds himself embroiled in the mess and aftermath of the robbery.
If the film is anything like the previous Lehane based films, look for a real and gut-wrenching story that will leave you captivated from the very beginning to the very end.