Friday, May 24, 2013


This one is for my Dad, Mr. Powhatan Collins, because if it were not for him, this experience would never have happened.

Written and Directed by George Lucas

May 25, 1977 is a date that will forever remain firmly etched into my memory because that was one day, in particular, where my life was completely and irrevocably altered.

Dear readers, May 25th will mark the 36th anniversary of the theatrical release of George Lucas' "Star Wars," and I still marvel at the fact that on Day One, I was there! Throughout my life  I have often wondered what it would have been like to hear certain landmark pieces of music at the very point in time when those works were released to the world. I have felt the same over treasured books and of course, feature films. In the case of "Star Wars," I feel so fortunate and blessed that here was a film where I could experience it for the very first time with the rest of the world. If any kids today wanted to ask me about what that experience was like, here was indeed something where I would have a story to tell. And for now, on Savage Cinema, I am so, so happy to share that story with all of you.

For the purposes of this installment of Savage Cinema's Favorite Movies, I am actually not going to explore "Star Wars" through the eyes of an adult and one who has been seasoned on movies ever since that night in 1977 (at least I will try). I really do not think that more can be said on an analytical, overly intellectual, film criticism styled level about the story of which we all know so very well. The tale, set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away about a farmboy's adventures with a wizard, a mercenary, two robots and a giant, furry creature akin to a large dog or big bear to rescue a princess from the clutches of ultimate evil and to advance himself towards fulfilling his life's destiny has enraptured generations of viewers and dreamers like myself on a level that is nothing less than primal and a full expression of child like wonderment. And it is on that level with which I will attempt to celebrate this film. The exact level at which George Lucas has pitched his entire saga. I need to tap back into my eight year old self and recall that night as vividly as I am able  to remember and represent to you. I will not go into the subsequent five films or pose viewpoints on the upcoming "Episode VII" in 2015. For now, this entry is all about how on this date, at that time in my life, I saw the movie that made me immediately fall so hopelessly and passionately in love with the art and artistry of the movies. "Star Wars" is unquestionably the movie that drew the line in the sand in my life. Before "Star Wars," I was decidedly unaware and unemotionally indifferent to the movies. After "Star Wars," I wanted to see them ALL!

As a child, I carried a deep love for comic books, superheroes, the genre of science fiction as well as a constant curiosity about what possibly existed beyond Earth. I was fascinated with constellations, rockets, the seemingly inconceivable concept of anti-gravity, the idea of the existence or non-existence of aliens and the like, a love that was fulfilled tremendously by my consistent viewings of "Star Trek" re-runs on television. I had seen commercials advertising the release of "Star Wars" on television but those sightings were so rare, that they never left a lasting impression (other than wondering if the feathered haired blonde fellow in the ads was Shaun Cassidy). But, for some reason, of which I will never know, those advertisements made an impression upon my Dad and on opening night, he took me and my other to the movies to take in a screening of this new science fiction fantasy film.

I must remind you, especially those of you who may be too young to have known a world like the one I am about to describe, the release of "Star Wars" occurred during a time period where multiplexes essentially did not exist. I saw "Star Wars" for the very first time in Calumet City, IL at the River Oaks Theater, an establishment that housed only two screens, one slightly smaller theater and then, the main theater which presented movies in glorious 70 millimeter film and in Dolby Sound. When my family arrived at the theater, I immediately took notice of the long, long, long line of people who stood outside of the ticket booth, wrapped itself entirely around the theater and stretched into the parking lot. My Dad parked the car, announced that he was going to try and get tickets and that my mom and I should just wait in the car until he returned.

And man, did we wait...

What I do not remember for certain is exactly how long my Mom and I waited for my Dad in the car but what I do vividly remember is that the time was so very long that I began to worry about my Dad's safety and therefore potential return as he had been gone for such an exhaustive period of time. I remember uttering out loud if Dad was OK to which my Mom reassured me and to just remain patient. When my Dad, at long last, did return, he informed us that the showing that he had planned for us to see had been sold out but he was fortunate enough to have purchased tickets for the following showing. My Mom and I exited the car and off we went to go inside the theater.

What I next remember, other than being dazzled by the sight of the sheer massive amount of people waiting outside of the River Oaks theater, was the cacophony of sight and sound that was inside the theater lobby. I believe that we waited for the better part of another hour or so before we were even permitted to enter the actual movie theater. So, I spent my time inside the theater lobby people watching, taking in the delectable scent of popcorn and investigating the one sheet movie posters and the film still photo shots from "Star Wars" that decorated the lobby. All the while more and more people entered the lobby and while I had been to a few movies before this night, I had never seen anything remotely like what I was viewing, which did give my naturally cautious nature a sense of pause as to what exactly was I going to be in for once we actually got to watch the film.

At long last, for the second time, the theater doors opened and viewers flooded outwards into the lobby and outdoors into the open air, releasing a sound that was enormous. My parents took my hand and soon, we were permitted to enter the actual movie theater. At this point my memory is hazy as to how much longer we waited and how much longer I people watched and gazed around the movie theater decor. But once the house lights went down, and the 20th Century Fox fanfare blared through the sound system, I settled myself in for what was to come next...

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

I cannot express to you enough how the experience of seeing "Star Wars" for the very first time was one of intense spiritual connection where every moment was supremely instantaneous. Seeing those italicized words connected with me as easily as "Once upon a time," the tone of which eased my cautious nature. And once the iconic title card (pictured above) blasted onto the movie screen, to the accompaniment of John Williams' equally iconic theme, all of my senses sparked to attention. Then, there was the scroll, the written prologue which set the stage for everything we were about to see for the next two hours and my connection to the film was immediately so familiar that I think I had already forgotten that I was in a movie theater, and therefore, I had forgotten about movie theater etiquette.

As I have already stated, I was a devotee to the science fiction genre and I had seen several "Flash Gordon" and "Buck Rogers" black and white serial features as they had been broadcast on the WGN television channel. My Dad had fascinated me with tales of how he had seen those features as a child and we both chuckled at the completely archaic special effects. But my first major connection in viewing those words that scrolled upwards on the screen and faded into the furthest reaches of space, was that the exact same technique was used in those ancient serial films. From the very start, "Star Wars" was something that did not need to be explained to me. It communicated with me in a language I completely understood. And so, being eight years old, I wanted to communicate back to the movie, by reading the scroll aloud! My Dad politely tapped me and shushed me, bringing me back to reality for a minute and I ensured myself that my mouth was to remain silent.

When the massive Imperial Star Destroyer completely filled the movie theater screen, my mouth completely dropped open and I really think it remained agape to varying degrees for the remainder of the movie. All of the images, from the shoot outs, the spacecrafts, to Darth Vader's (played by David Prowse and voiced by the peerless James Earl Jones) nearly Satanic entrance through a cloud of smoke, to the effete and distinguished comic banter between the droids C3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2D2 (Kenny Baker), and the beauteous vision that was the brave, bold and soon to be captured and imprisoned Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), every image arrived with amazing velocity and all of them made complete sense, even when I had never seen (or heard--as the case may be with those unequaled sound effects) anything like this before.

The arrival of our hero Luke Skywalker (so endearingly and perfectly portrayed by Mark Hamill) made my entry inside this fantastical world complete. While he obviously was older than myself, Luke Skywalker was indeed the eternal child, the dreamer, the lonely and essentially friendless boy filled with a wide eyed wonderment and a level of melancholy that it also inherently understood by children. When he gazes longingly at Tattooine's twin setting suns, aching to one day be able to leave his desert planet to explore the vast universe, he spoke for every child and child at heart watching, without ever saying one word. In a film filled with astounding images from one end to the other, this moment and introduction was easily the most poetic.

As I continue, I have to express that I simply cannot stress the quality of instantaneous comprehension I had with the film that night. With "Star Wars," I (almost) never had to find my bearings. George Lucas presented everything with a matter of fact quality that did not have any traces of cynicism and fueled solely through a complete innocence making "Star Wars" a film which I was able to digest at entirely at face value. The film was as easily understood as every fairy tale that I had been told. And even when the sights did confuse or even frighten me, from time to time, the audience reaction of the adults assisted my navigation greatly.

I remember how I trusted and loved Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi (the great Alec Guinness) at first sight, and how his description of The Force mystified me.

I remember feeling the...ahem...force of sound in the pit of my stomach when Luke first ignited his father's lightsaber, still the greatest sword I have ever seen in the movies.

I remember feeling as if I had fallen through the looking glass or through a wormhole when presented with the iconic Cantina sequence, as the menagerie of saloon dwellers, plus that bizarre Benny Goodman styled lounge electronica was the most surreal sight I had experienced at that point. I remember being attracted to and simultaneously wary of the coolness contained in the interstellar space cowboy Han Solo (Harrison Ford, who just owned every scene that he was in). I remember being initially scared of Solo's trusty sidekick Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), due to his size and sounds and it wasn't until considerably later in the film where I felt at ease with him (just as I felt with large dogs in real life). The bar fights, the shooting of the bounty hunter Greedo, the ominous mention of gangster Jabba The Hutt, and the surprisingly detached nature of the bar patrons, which elicited much laughter from the audience, made the entire sequence reveal itself to me as being an otherworldy version of a western. And to cap it all off, the film reached its first crescendo during our heroes' escape from Tattooine inside of the great starship, the Millenium Falcon, a section that which culminated with the eye popping jump to light speed, an image so propulsive that I felt as if I was being propelled along with them.

I remember the intense fear I felt every time Darth Vader made an appearance with his horrific breathing, his ability to nearly kill a man via Force induced choking ("I find your lack of faith disturbing...") and accompanied by the sound of those TIE Fighter howls (they really sounded like wolves to me) in the distance.

The midsection of "Star Wars," with our heroes' journey into the proverbial belly of the beast, in this case, The Death Star, felt like a combination of the march into the Wicked Witch of the West's castle in "The Wizard Of Oz" (1939), the descent into the whale's mouth in "Pinnochio" (1940) and most certainly, Jack's repeated and increasingly perilous visitations into the giant's realm in Jack and the Beanstalk all rolled into one. It was an incredibly entertaining, thrilling and terrifying rescue mission and escape, that kept me continuously and literally on the edge of my seat. My favorite pieces during this part of the film by far, was the initial rescue of Princess Leia and the diamond shaped hallway shootout with the Stormtroopers which led to the trash compactor section where I remember feeling sweaty and breathing rapidly as I felt that our heroes were faced with certain doom. Irony was completely lost on me at that age, of course. So when Han Solo quipped "One thing's for sure! We're gonna be a whole lot thinner!" as the trash compactor walls slowly converged inwards, threatening to smash the good guys into oblivion, I was beside myself with terror and I could not understand how or why the grown ups in the audience laughed so hard at that moment. I mean--could they not see that our heroes were about to perish at any minute?!

Thankfully all was not lost for Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca as Lucas then pulled out all the stops with one exuberantly staged action sequence after another, including Luke and Leia's triumphant swing over the huge chasm and culminating with the intensely euphoric light saber duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan ("Obi-Wan, when I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am THE MASTER!"). The duel made me soar and then Lucas mercilessly pulled the rug out from under me with Obi-Wan's demise, an act that plummeted my spirit. And even then, George Lucas was not finished with me...

If you allow me to return to my forty four year old self for a moment, I just have to say that I firmly believe that the TIE Fighter dogfight sequence during which Luke and Han take to the Millenium Falcon's gun turrets for battle is truly one of the most exquisetly transcendent action sequences that I have ever seen in any film during my life time--perhaps with the truck chase from Lucas and Steven Spielberg's "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" (1981) as its equal. It is an absolute masterpiece of conception, staging, execution, movement, speed, intensity, humor, excitement, special effects, editing, film scoring and glorious elation. Every element is perfectly in place and without any one piece, no matter how seemingly insignificant, the entire sequence would not be what it is--a work of art in the tallest order, in my opinion. It is just so beautiful that I am nearly tearing up as I think about how it thrills me so to this very day and just how blessed I feel to have seen it for the first time when it first entered the world.

By the time of the Rebels made their X and Y Wing Fighter driven raid on The Death Star for the film's climax, I think that I had ceased trying to comprehend anything and "Star Wars" eventually became for me what the late and eternally great Roger Ebert once described as an "out of body experience."  George Lucas just kept it all coming as even the film's closing ceremony and coronation made me catch my breath as the cast appeared to be breaking the fourth wall by looking straight into the audience for their curtain call.

Dear readers, I was not just watching this movie. I was no longer sitting in a movie theater seat. I was flying right alongside Luke Skywalker, feeling The Force, so breathlessly so. I was inside of this movie. Living it. Breathing it. What I was watching was no longer a movie. It was an experience! And to this day, when I see movies and evaluate them for myself and for your reading pleasure, especially when I make my Year End Savage Scorecards, I always return to this night and remember that "out of body feeling." If I can recapture that feeling when viewing a film, regardless of genre, then I always know which films are my favorites of the cinematic year and that feeling has never once failed me. For "Star Wars," George Lucas was the ultimate magician as he weaved and held me in his spell for two full hours and once the end credits appeared, he released me.

Walking out of the theater, my family and I said not one word to each other. Through the lobby, past another seemingly endless theater box office queue and out into the night we walked back to our car in complete silence. And then, my Dad stopped, touched my shoulder, leaned down and said to me, as he smiled:

"May the Force be with you."

It was then, I realized that I not only had the power of speech, I realized that I could actually utilize it again. I then answered my Dad with the only word I could say that perfectly expressed how I felt after witnessing this life altering event:


Which was then followed by, "Can we see it again??????????????" Incidentally, the best words one can say after seeing any movie!

Today was the day. The day that ignited a life long passion and gave me my introduction into an artistic language that embraced me as much as I embraced it. And for that, I only have my Dad to thank. There was something in the air he tapped into that I did not and because of his decision, I am sitting here at this very moment writing to all of you about it. And to that, I can only say, and with the deepest emotion that I can muster...

Dad, May The Force Be With You...always!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

THE WRATH OF KIRK: a review of "Star Trek Into Darkness"

Based upon "Star Trek" created by Gene Roddenberry
Screenplay Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof
Directed by J.J. Abrams
**** (four stars)

I believe that Gene Roddenberry would be proud to know that his creation is currently resting in great directorial hands.

Aside from the awkward title (shouldn't there be a colon symbol in between the two parts of the title?), Director J.J. Abrams has stupendously hit the jackpot again with "Star Trek Into Darkness," his adrenaline injected, two-fisted, phasers set to BLAST second installment in his richly executed revamping of the "Star Trek" series. Abrams is a filmmaker who has taken the very best from all who have come before him and has so beautifully found a way to make each foray into someone else's artistic territory an experience that simultaneously serves as homage and a full expression of his unique cinematic voice as evidenced in all three of his previous features, "Mission: Impossible III" (2006), his tribute to the early films of Steven Spielberg with the triumphant "Super 8" (2011) and of course, his warp speed brilliant "Star Trek" (2009). 

Returning to the "Trek" universe four years later has only sharpened Abrams' skills as he has created a film that not only runs at a relentless pace and contains a level of action that will indeed shake the movie theater walls, in the best "trek" fashion, he has given us a deeply provocative cultural and political commentary that speaks to the precarious urgency of our times in the 21st century. I love how J.J. Abrams understands, above all else, that just having the special effects, a great sound system and a built in audience are just not enough. That a heart, soul, emotional power and concepts to mentally chew upon are absolutely essential elements and Abrams delivers it all in spades.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" finds J.J. Abrams and the crew of the U.S.S Enterprise in full "Indiana Jones" mode as we immediately catch them in a ferociously paced mid adventure that brings us the very themes that will come to haunt everyone involved for the remainder of the film, most especially the impetuously reckless Captain James T. Kirk (played with increased riveting swagger by an excellent Chris Pine), who soon finds himself demoted to First Officer after the film's opening escapades.

Terror strikes in the form of former Starfleet agent John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who has been the mastermind behind a bombing in London as well as a blistering attack upon a meeting of Starfleet Commanding Officers, which culminates in the death of Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), Kirk's beloved and trusted mentor and father figure. 

Fueled by revenge, Kirk is eventually reinstated as Captain of the Enterprise by Admiral Alexander Marcus (the great Peter Weller) and is instructed to take his crew to hunt down Harrison, who is reportedly hiding in Klingon territory, and utilize 72 brand new long range photon torpedoes to ultimately destroy him.  

"Star Trek Into Darkness" is as beautifully helmed and presented as anything you would expect from J.J. Abrams. Every penny of this budget is on the screen with its top flight production, including the tremendous special effects which offer surprise, excitement, breathless energy, horror and humor all along the way. The writing from Abrams team is uniformly excellent as they have crafted a new adventure strongly while also peppering it with nods from "Trek" folklore in most clever ways. The entire cast has slipped easily back into their roles from the first film and I have to say that Chris Pine, along with Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock, the eerily perfect Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy and the terrific Simon Pegg as Scotty have all even improved upon their already excellent work by making the characters even more of their own and not solely stationed into "Trek" reverence. As for Benedict Cumberbatch, well...without going into any sense of detail, let's just say that he makes his commanding presence known through a fearsome, formidable malevolence that is intensely watchable and places him in the upper echelon of "Trek" villains. 

Now, with all of the film's brief trailers and scant information that J.J. Abrams has provided, I would be very remiss to give you any more information about the film's plot as I firmly believe that what I have described is all you need to get yourselves into this film. But I will offer to you that aside from being an excellent space adventure film, "Star Trek Into Darkness" functions on a series of deeply compelling additional levels as the film is also a war film, a cautionary tale, a political commentary and even as its own version of a parable, clearly inspired by the Greek myth of "Icarus" with James T. Kirk as the young man who own sense of arrogance and hubris forces him to face some truly disturbing and dire consequences.

Some viewers and fans of "Star Trek" from the very beginning back in 1966, may bristle a bit with the large amount of action and spectacle on display in this new film as laser battles were never really the focus of the original series, which was, at its core, something more philosophical. But that said, Abrams has full knowledge of this conceit as he even has one of his characters wonder aloud if Starfleet has become militarized and aren't they supposed to function as explorers? Very true and very smart to include that story driven critique. But, one thing to also remember with "Star Trek," and the very best of science fiction, is its ability to mirror, examine and comment upon what is happening in the real world. In the case of "Star Trek Into Darkness," this quality could not be any more prevalent. 

As with Shane Black's "Iron Man 3" from this summer to Director Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight Trilogy" (2005/2008/2012), Steven Spielberg's "War Of The Worlds" (2005) and yes, I will still hold up M. Night's Shyamalan's "The Village" (2004) as an example, "Star Trek Into Darkness" wants us to take a close, hard look at our post 9/11 world, especially since the United States of America has been embroiled in some sort of war conflict for over the last ten years plus and our culture of fear has only continued to intensify. And in taking that close, hard look at ourselves, there is no better conduit to utilize as a guide than Captain James Tiberius Kirk himself.  

While Kirk is indeed armed with the best of intentions, move for move, he builds his own road to Hell, which is eventually paved with regret, sorrow and tragedy. Despite the constant presence of Spock, mere logic is rendered to be irrelevant to Kirk as his sense of honor, friendship, loyalty and love is fueled by his wrath, rage and punishing retribution, which in actuality gets him absolutely nowhere (as evidenced in a terrific and tense moment as Kirk valiantly attempts to beat the stuffing out of the terrorist Harrison to astoundingly no avail). 

Captain Kirk is ruled by his emotions, making one terribly fateful decision after another until he has boxed himself and his crew into a trap he just cannot find a way out of without making monumental sacrifices. In many ways, we can see that Kirk's reckless "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality makes him the perfect pawn for other's duplicitous behaviors, again mirroring our country's own driven march to war with Iraq based on pretenses that have been proven to be wholly false. "Star Trek Into Darkness" is the story of Kirk's evolution into true manhood and leadership, which then places the glimmer of hope in this surprisingly grim installment. For if Kirk can just grow up, perhaps he may be able to represent the best of us as we try to untangle ourselves from a fear driven society to one of increased understanding and the ability to find new ways to achieve the goals that we have always wanted. These concepts ensure that J.J. Abrams has given us a summer movie that has a brain and conscience while also having the massive ability to knock our socks off. 

I will admit that for much of the film's running time, and as much as I was enjoying myself, I was feeling that maybe I found the previous film to be a tad better as I remembered that I was enthralled from the first moments, while in this second installment, there was a familiarity with the setting, universe and some plotting that perhaps held me back from being completely on the edge of my seat. But then, the themes, concepts and emotional resonance of the characters congealed masterfully for the film's final third which utilizes and echoes crucial "Trek" mythology and flies into warp speed to elevate this experience into the first film's equal with one outstanding set piece after another. 

"Star Trek Into Darkness" is a sensational piece of work that again shows how summer movies can be consciously artful as well as enormously entertaining. With the success of this film, I feel even more that J.J. Abrams is the perfect filmmaker to take the reins of "Star Wars" from George Lucas as his "Episode VII" arrives two years from now. 

I just hope that Disney stays completely out of his way and allow him to work his movie magic on his own terms.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

COLD BLOODED: a review of "Jack Reacher"

Based upon the novel One Shot by Lee Child
Written For The Screen and Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
*** (three stars)

Just because a film is recommended as being a good home video rental does not necessarily mean that it is a bad film.

As I have expressed to you in the past dear readers, I have not even one connection to the film industry, therefore when I go to the movies, there are no private screenings and I utilize my hard earned wages to purchase a ticket just like you. When it comes to my decision making in regards to what I will choose to see, please allow me to give you a little window into my process. 

There are the films that I will see regardless as it could be a treasured filmmaker's latest project or just some title that I have been anxiously awaiting. Then, there are the ones that I already know that I would not spend one cent or one second of my time over. In between to opposing ends, there are all of the films of which I am on the fence. Some I may be unsure about and I may wait to see what the tenor of reviews will be to see if they can sway me one way or the other. (For the record, since beginning Savage Cinema, I purposefully do not read reviews in full before I write so as to not influence my own thoughts or writings but I am able to capture a flavor of what critics are feeling.) Others may be films that I just had not thought of but something inexplicable pushes me towards trying it out. Then, there may be some films that I am curious about but they just get lost in the shuffle. In the case of "Jack Reacher," Director Christopher McQuarrie's adaptation of author Lee Child's highly popular and prolific thriller series starring Tom Cruise in the titular role, was such a film as all of the holiday film releases just happened to eclipse this particular film. As hard as I try, I sometimes just cannot see them all when I wish to and this film did go unseen months ago despite my curiosity. 

Now that I have seen "Jack Reacher," I must say that I was actually glad that I did not see this film in a movie theater. Let me first assure you that it was not because I though that it was a bad film. In fact, and while it's not great, it certainly is not bad at all and I quite enjoyed it. I am just glad that I didn't see this film in a theater because, in some ways, "Jack Reacher" never struck me as being all that...cinematic. Incidentally, as I watched, I found that the film seemed to be better suited and at times, absolutely perfect for the television screen due to the film's modesty, and overall downplayed nature that actually goes against the cacophonous films that are typically being released currently.  In fact, as I ruminate over the film while I write, "Jack Reacher" kind of feels like a throwback, the very kind of thriller being made in the very kind of way that thrillers are just not being made anymore.

Set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania  "Jack Reacher" opens in a most chilling fashion as we witness a sniper (played by Jai Courtney) pull his car into a garage across from a park, pay for parking, load his rifle and then, randomly murder five innocent people before driving away in his van. The police, led by Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo), soon locate the shell casings which leads them to the van and the identity of James Barr (Joseph Sikora), a former U.S. Army sniper, whom the police apprehend but are unaware that they have arrested the wrong man. While Barr is being interrogated by Emerson and District Attorney Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins), Barr responds by only writing "Get Jack Reacher" upon a notepad.

After seeing a television news report about the shooting and the incarceration of James Barr, we meet Jack Reacher (played by Cruise), a highly decorated yet volatile former U.S. Army Military Police Corps officer who has voluntarily slipped completely off the grid and lives his life as a drifter. Reacher quickly arrives in Pittsburgh and forges a tentative partnership with Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), the District Attorney's daughter as well as the defense attorney who has been saddled with the seemingly impossible task of saving Barr from the death penalty. As Jack Reacher and Helen Rodin gradually uncover the mystery behind the sniper murders and the killer's real identity, their lives invariably fall into mortal danger and can the twosome solve the mystery in time?

The good news is that McQuarrie has ensured that "Jack Reacher" is a taut, tight, cleanly simple and economical action thriller that is executed with no frills or superfluous material from needless CGI effects, over reliance upon fancy editing or visual tricks, blessedly no usages of the dreaded shaky cam, and even a surprisingly minimal amount of music. There is nothing about "Jack Reacher" that could be considered over-bearing and in these times during which movie after movie is bludgeoning us with sight and sound, there is something about McQuarrie's approach that is thankfully welcome. His creative restraint is most notable during perhaps three or four extended action sequences, including one car chase and the extremely effective opening sniper shooting sequence, which is disturbing without ever descending into any stretches of gratuitous gore and violence. McQuarrie has essentially figured out how to visually render all of the action, stunts, fights and mayhem to their most essential elements. He has even rejected the usage of any extraneous dialogue during those actions sequences as well, making all of them function as near Hitchcock-ian pieces of work due to their crispness and efficiency. 

As Jack Reacher, Tom Cruise surprised me once again as I was terribly unsure as to how he was going to differentiate this character from his work as Ethan Hunt in his "Mission: Impossible" series, most especially, his feverish and ferocious performance in Director Brad Bird's stellar installment "Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol" (2011). Additionally, for fans of the book series, much has been written about the physical differences between the hulking figure of Reacher in the novels and the comparatively diminutive Cruise. On both counts, Cruise has succeeded once again. In regards to his own past performances, like Ethan Hunt in his most recent adventure, Tom Cruise cuts a menacing figure with absolutely no traces of his "boy scout" persona from his past work. As far as what makes the two characters different, where Ethan Hunt is a daredevil with a wild physicality, Jack Reacher, like McQuarrie's directorial approach to the film itself, is intensely patient and only strikes when necessary. And when Reacher strikes, may the universe have mercy on you! 

With regards to Cruise's size in relation to the character...well, I have not read the book series, so I just didn't have that considerable difference to contend with as I watched the film. That said, what Tom Cruise may lack in height, he more than makes up for it with a commanding and darkly charismatic presence that instantly lets the audience know that he means business, will not suffer fools lightly and that he should never be crossed. Additionally, and like the character, Tom Cruise also elicits a punishing sense of justice that possesses no regards for the law, just the unforgiving, unemotional and cold blooded sweep of what is morally right and wrong...kind of like television's "The Equalizer."  

I had previously mentioned that "Jack Reacher" felt to be like a bit of a throwback to an earlier era--maybe the 1970's as it carries a hard boiled, pulpy, film noir quality. But as I also previously stated, and for all of its assets, "Jack Reacher" is not terribly cinematic. It is a film that often feels like the pilot episode of a TV series where Jack Reacher, the solitary ex-military drifter who never carries a gun but unleashes swift justice against any tormentors, travels from town to town and gets into adventures like "Kung Fu," or "The Incredible Hulk" or even better yet, those old detective programs like "McCloud," "The Rockford Files," "Mannix," or any show that boasted the pedigree of being "A Quinn Martin Production." 

Because of that quality, "Jack Reacher" feels tailor made for the small screen instead of the big screen, a characteristic that does make me question its validity as a feature film. Beyond that, for everything about it that works (Cruise's performance, the curt, snappy dialogue, the surprising presence of celebrated documentarian Werner Herzog in a highly enjoyable acting performance), there are other elements that do not (the film's hefty 2 hour and 10 minute running time, Rosamind Pike's fairly wooden performance) and the movie overall feels rather inconsequential. All of that being said, I did enjoy myself... 

...and for a rental, that is not a bad thing at all.

Monday, May 13, 2013

CAN YOU SEE THE REAL ME?: a review of "The Great Gatsby"

Based upon the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Screenplay Written by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
**** (four stars)

As I have stated over again ever since the inception of Savage Cinema in regards to film adaptations of literature, books are books and movies are movies  When I say that, I am just expressing that when it comes to film adaptations, it is up to the filmmaker in question to determine exactly how to simultaneously represent and honor the source material through the language of the movies and through their own creative voice. This is indeed a profoundly difficult feat as I have also said that when you read a book, you have already made the movie inside of your own heads and hearts, therefore anything that doesn't quite match up will always feel inferior at best and completely false at worst. 

Typically, if I do read the source material on which a film is based, more often than not, and if I have not already read the book, I will read the novel after the film. I am very able to keep the two experiences wholly separate quite easily that way. But when I have read the novel beforehand, my relationships with the film versions can fluctuate, regardless of the film's overall quality. For instance, and believe it or not, I absolutely hate, hate, hate Director Robert Mulligan's 1962 cinematic adaptation of author Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. My distaste actually does not stem from my love for the novel. My distaste exists entirely through the Mulligan's presentation, which altered the story's perspective from the child Scout to the adult Atticus Finch, which for me completely changed the overall point and vision of the source material into something the story is not really about in the first place. While this film has been long celebrated as being one of the GREAT films, and a point I am not trying to debate anyone about, that stylistic change was indeed a filmmaker's artistic choice in rendering the written material visually and for generations, that vision has held steadfast, while for me, it has not.

I understand the conflict and difficulties at hand of literary film adaptations and because of that, I am not and will not be surprised to see how film critics and viewers may cry foul at Director Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, a book that is not only a generational standard in High School English classes, but is also a novel that is considered to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest piece of literature ever realized. Like so many of you, I have read and adored the novel and Fitzgerald is indeed one of my favorite writers. That being said, I have not read The Great Gatsby in, perhaps, nearly 25 years, so my memories of it and feelings towards it are scant at best. Because of that, I believe my lack of literary recall placed me at a cinematic advantage when heading into a screen of Baz Luhrmann's film this afternoon as I could just walk in without any pre-conceived notions of what I was going to see and what I thought I should be seeing and feeling. I could walk into the film prepared to witness Baz Luhrmann's interpretation almost unfiltered and for me and my sensibilities, I was deeply enraptured by the experience as Lurhmann not only honored the source material greatly, he defiantly executed his vision, his way and through his cinematic voice with high style and voluminous emotion. This has been one of the most impressive films I have seen so far this year and I think that if you really give this film an honest chance, I think that you will be as equally impressed, dazzled and as moved as I was.

As with the classic source material, Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" is set during the roaring early 1920s, just outside of New York on the fictional locale of West Egg. We are introduced to Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire),Yale graduate, World War 1 veteran and aspiring bond broker who takes up residence in a small cottage on West Egg and a job in New York as a bond salesman. Nick quickly re-establishes a friendship with his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), who lives in the exuberantly wealthy East Egg with her husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), a businessmen who is secretly philandering with Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher), a woman who lives in the dilapidated industrial area between East Egg and New York City. 

After being befriended by the glamorous yet romantically cynical golfer Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debecki) and strongly encouraged by Daisy, Nick and Jordan begin dating and Nick soon discovers that he is living just next door to the monstrously wealthy and mysteriously enigmatic Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), another war veteran who habitually stages the grandest and most elaborate parties exclusively for the hoi poloi. Nick soon receives an invitation into one of Jay Gatsby's parties, eventually meets him and begins to build a friendship where he learns that Gatsby and Daisy shared a brief affair just before the war and were separated due to Gatsby's military duties. Now, five years later, Gatsby continues to carry an inextinguishable torch for Daisy and has created these wild events with the hopes that one day, she will return to him.

And now, as Jay Gatsby attempts to reclaim his past, Nick Carraway finds himself at the center of a collective of facades, unspoken desires and motives, painful secrets and revelations which build to a tragic climax which may unravel the identities and perceptions of everyone close to him, and perhaps even himself.   

As I stated at the outset of this review, books are books and movies are movies and while there is no question whatsoever as to the greatness of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, I am here to say that I felt that Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation was truly terrific, and easily one of the brightest lights of cinema that I have seen in this otherwise dismal cinematic year so far. There has already been copious amounts of criticism launched against Baz Luhrmann for his extravagant directorial style overall and especially in regards to this material and to that, I denounce all of it as I find it as ridiculous as it is completely disheartening. As with detractors of filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino, Baz Luhrmann is being criticized for utilizing his personal, signature filmmaking style and I just have to question exactly what is so wrong about Luhrmann having a personal stamp over the films that he chooses to make. Are people actually suggesting that he had directed "The Great Gatsby" as if he were someone other than himself, perhaps like Woody Allen or Noah Baumbach?! I do not mean to digress but I just do not understand how we have arrived at this point in cinematic film history where filmmakers are actually being encouraged by some to become impersonal and even anonymous. Why was Tim Burton not raked over the coals for being absolutely nowhere in sight with his abysmal "Alice In Wonderland" (2010)? Or how about Sam Raimi, who was also rendered nearly invisible with his bloated, impersonal "Oz The Great And Powerful"? Or worst of all, what about Joseph Kosinki, who with the horrendous "Oblivion," has essentially decided to emulate every science fiction filmmaker before him without placing even one idea of his own into the mix?  

What I am getting at is the following: When Baz Luhrmann chooses to make a new film, then I want to see Baz Luhrmann make his film! And with "The Great Gatsby," Luhrmann's vision is front and center, just as it should be. While the allure of the novel has been powerful enough to have inspired past filmmakers to try and adapt it, what I did not realize before heading into this film is that Baz Luhrmann is now the sixth filmmaker to tackle F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel and for my money, he handled the entire proceedings with high confidence, stupendous style, "don't-look-back" velocity, an enormous heart and completely without apology. As with his past films, which have included "Strictly Ballroom" (1992), "Romeo + Juliet" (1996) and of course, the outstanding "Moulin Rouge!" (2001), you will either go with the experience or you won't. And also as with his past films, I went with it completely. 

Also, and despite some of the criticism you may have already seen, "The Great Gatsby" is not nearly as hyper-kinetic and helter skelter as "Moulin Rouge!". Yes, your senses will be assaulted but I firmly believe that Luhrmann is truly one of the few filmmakers working today who can elicit this grandiose style of filmmaking with a full adherence to the story he is trying to tell and assure the audience that none of his razzle dazzle will exist at the expense of the story, the characters and the soul of the piece. With "The Great Gatsby," I feel that Luhrmann is completely within his element as he makes daring cinematic choices that all felt to be emotionally true even they seem to be at their most synthetic. 

The controversial usage of hip hop music in combination with jazz music to represent the style and decadence of New York during the "Jazz Age" for instance worked perfectly and never felt to be out of place. The costume and set designs and the eye popping visual effects rendered the kaleidoscopic carnival of the story heroically, giving us one of the rare movies this year where the special effects are indeed special and nothing to yawn at. Luhrmann works his film's color scheme like that of a painter, utilizing tools of the movies and the the silver screen as his paints, brushes and canvas. The yellow of Jay Gatsby's car, for instance sparkles like the sun. The green harbor light, which Gatsby longingly stares at across the waters, an act which houses his eternal devotion and hope for Daisy's romantic return, perfectly captured his heartache. Throughout the entirety of "The Great Gatsby," you can see every penny upon the screen and every moment feels thought out and helmed with the fullest of intent and purpose. 

As I watched "The Great Gatsby," The Who's classic song "Eminence Front," periodically ran through my mind as Luhrmann crucially captured one of Fitzgerald's key theme's very effectively as essentially every character in the film is living a life through a wholly conceived and cultivated filter, a public persona of an imagined creation, something that masks their true feelings as desires for what they really want out of life. Therefore, they are all living lives of illusion. Jay Gatsby's facade takes things further. Even though he may have built his persona through something that is as seemingly pure as true love, is the woman he is in love with a person who actually exists or is Daisy just a memory or even nothing less than a long running perception of the woman he used to know before the war? 

Leonardo DiCaprio is absolutely perfect in the titular role and again shows why he is one of the finest actors of his generation as he so brilliantly displays a sense of public aloofness, elegant attractiveness and high class which increases his public status as an enigma yet hides not only his true identity but also his deepest pains, darkest fears and repressed rage. His entrance into the film is as spectacular spectacular as you would hope to see as he is surrounded by blasts of fireworks and the blaring music of George Gershwin. And as the film continues, DiCaprio beautifully peels back the layers, revealing bits and pieces of Gatsby's identity like bread crumbs and we all sit at attention just waiting for more. But it is through his private pain, his awkwardness, his increasing romantic desperation and pie in the sky optimism that brings out Gatsby's tragic nature and DiCaprio handles it all with his usual excellence.   

Carey Mulligan may initially seem as if she has little to do but to be the trapped butterfly under glass, but in Luhrmann's film, that is indeed who Daisy Buchanan happens to be and the tragedy of her fate rests completely with the fact that her sense of imprisonment is one of her own making. Daisy's desire for money and splendor has clouded and even eclipsed her true spirit and love for Jay Gatsby making her a character who has chosen to sacrifice her own sense of happiness and ultimately her sense of self-respect for the luxury and imagined security of her life with Tom. Luhrmann utilizes the love triangle of Jay, Daisy and Tom to create a love story that is not only doomed but more expansively one of being unrequited as well as one of possessiveness, obsessiveness and of pure imagination.

The theme of imagination rises over and again throughout the film, which again serves to validate Lurhmann's directorial choices and artistic vision. For all of the characters, this 1920's New York is indeed nothing more than a dream world viewed through the lens of alcohol and excess and why should it not look as such? As unknowable as the real new York is in this context and the questions of who is Jay Gatsby runs abound, I felt that the film's larger and even greatest question and almost unanswerable question is the following: Who is Nick Carraway?

The Nick Carraway character and Tobey Maguire's strong performance of him actually gives Luhrmann the opportunity to make his most daring interpretations as he has made Nick psychologically unstable and he is even described as being "morbidly alcoholic" and given to "fits of rage." This decision to imagine him as someone whose psyche is damaged, makes Nick Carraway a completely unreliable narrator as we are witnessing his memories as if they were nothing more than dreams from his past, which can be altered and re-shaped depending upon which way his mood swings. We discover early on that he had housed desires to be a writer but gave them up for the pursuit of riches. Yet this ability to create, to weave, to imagine fuels his re-telling of his time in 1922 New York and we must ask ourselves exactly how true is what he is telling us and how true is what we are seeing. How is it that he is not terribly complicit in the fates of these characters? Was he really essentially nothing more than an observer to the decadence of a society or was he the primary catalyst for the characters collective destruction and is he burying that guilt through the flashy descriptions of Gatsby's parties and New York lifestyle? What Baz Luhrmann has performed so wondrously is to create a film that is entirely about the unreliability of memories and our ability to re-contextualize those memories for no other purpose than to maintain our own sense of self preservation, an act which makes Nick Carraway probably the most enigmatic figure of all within this story. 

While I am certain that Baz Luhrmann desires to have his film appreciated and loved by as many people around the world as possible, just like any other artist, I am also certain that "The Great Gatsby" is not for everyone. And frankly, why should it? This desire for mass appeal at the expense of a personal voice and artistic vision is a painfully misguided one and I am thrilled that Luhrmann did not temper his tastes, style and artistry in the pursuit of box office dollars. When we go to see a Baz Luhrmann film, we all know what we are getting from him and if his style is not your cup of tea, then that not only should be perfectly fine, he should be celebrated for it as well as a creative voice that is as idiosyncratic and as individualistic as his is sadly of increased rarity these days.  

"The Great Gatsby" is not only a welcome addition to Baz Luhrmann's filmography, for me, it is one of the finest films of 2013. 

Just a word of curiosity and caution. The screening that I attended at my local Sundance Cinema was one that was excessively LOUD to the point of being painful. After speaking with an usher, I was told that many patrons have complained about the film's loudness and they were having difficulties trying to regulate the sound. Now, I have no idea of whether this was how the film was mixed, if this was Luhrmann's intention or if it was just due to this theater but when you do see this film, you may want to take some ear plugs, just in case. 

Let me know how it was for you...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

YOU KNOW WHO I AM: a review of "Iron Man 3"

Based upon the Marvel Comics series created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby
Screenplay Written by Drew Pearce & Shane Black
Directed by Shane Black
***1/2 (three and a half stars) 

It's great to have you back again, Mr. Stark!

The high flying success rate with the film adaptations of the adventures of the Marvel Comics superheroes continues in terrific style with the addition of "Iron Man 3," the first installment in what has been dubbed "Phase 2" of the expanding Marvel Comics film universe. Taking over the directorial reins from Jon Favreau, who helmed the first two installments in the saga of billionaire playboy, scientific genius Tony Stark and his metal clad alter-ego, is Shane Black, Writer of the original "Lethal Weapon" (1987) and Writer/Director of the slyly comedic film noir "Kiss, Kiss Bang Bang" (2005). 

Most thankfully, the change in directorial leadership has proven itself to be simultaneously seamless and creatively invigorating. Usually, as film series continue onwards, they begin to lose steam and fall into a collection of the same old tricks that were wondrous the first time around yet have grown more tiresome over time. With "Iron Man 3," while we do certainly receive everything we have come to expect from an Iron Man movie, Black has smartly raised the stakes by making this new film considerably darker, grittier, tougher, and surprisingly riskier and even politically subversive as well. Now that is not to say that the Marvel films have taken a page from the Christopher Nolan playbook and decided to make their films lean more towards adult sensibilities.   That being said, I do think that this one, while upping the provocative nature of Tony Stark, the fun and entertainment quotient has been diminished a bit. While the film is not as grandly magnificent as Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" (2012), "Iron Man 3" is a film that does get under the skin more than its predecessors and in doing so, it leaves some hard bruises.

"Iron Man 3" begins some time after the events of "The Avengers" and our hero Tony Stark (again played to perfection by Robert Downey Jr.) has become a profoundly changed man as he is now suffering from chronic insomnia, occasional panic attacks and has taken to hiding himself away in his laboratory, endlessly tinkering away on his projects and building new Iron Man suits for sleepless days at a time, therefore neglecting the love of his life, Pepper Potts (a sassy Gwyneth Paltrow). 

Yet a new threat on the horizon arises in the form of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), an international terrorist responsible for a string of horrific bombings and who promises to unleash catastrophic destruction by Christmas Day. Additionally, Stark faces technological and scientific competition from Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a disabled and rival scientist who was once spurned by Stark when he rejected Killian's wishes to join forces with the development of Extremis, a revolutionary and deeply experimental regenerative treatment  designed for people recovering from debilitating injuries. Even so, Tony Stark remains in his stupor.

When one Mandarin staged bombing places Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), Stark's one time bodyguard and current Head of Security for Stark Industries, into a coma, Tony Stark springs into action as he recklessly challenges The Mandarin on live television. This act unleashes an unprecedented and personally driven wave of consequences, violence and destruction against Stark, and worst of all places his beloved Pepper Potts into the greatest danger she has faced to date. Is Iron Man up to the challenge of facing his darkest inner demons to save the woman he loves?

One factor that I have always found to be a bit frustrating when it comes to comics as well as the television and film versions of those comic book characters is that there typically never seemed to be any sense of continuity from one adventure to the next. It usually felt that when one adventure was completed, it was never thought of or referenced ever again. With "Iron Man 3," Shane Black does not fall into that trap as he very wisely added some psychological depth to the proceedings by essentially making this film an exploration of fear, and in several facets and levels.

For Tony Stark, we are witnessing a man within the throes of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and for those few critics that have complained that Robert Downey Jr. is just performing his same old bag of quick witted tricks certainly were not paying attention in the least, as far as I am concerned. Downey Jr., while still able to keep our heads spinning with his quicksilver tongue and three steps ahead intellect continues to amaze me as he keeps discovering new layers to reveal in a character that could otherwise be painfully one note. How easy it would have been for Downey Jr. to just wisecrack his way to the bank and how thankful I am that he dug deeply to unearth a newfound sense of pathos and even tragedy within the character of Tony Stark. 

While in the second film, Stark harbored a cavalier death wish for a spell, in "Iron Man 3," he is in survival mode as he is struggling to make sense of everything he has experience thus far, including the life altering events of barreling through a wormhole in "The Avengers." Tony Stark has now gained the realization that actions do indeed have grave consequences and now that he has revealed a more vulnerable side in declaring his love and commitment towards Pepper Potts, he also now realizes exactly what and how much he has to lose, and in "Iron Man 3," Black goes to great lengths to strip Tony Stark of all of his emotional shields and the physical manifestations of those shields, including his mansion, his laboratory, and most notably, his constantly malfunctioning Iron Man suits.

I found it to be a great touch that for most of "Iron Man 3," Tony Stark is rendered without much of his technology, kind of like James Bond in last year's superior effort "Skyfall." By taking away the toys and technology, Tony Stark and the audience are given greater opportunity to explore the humanity of the piece as a whole and therefore, the film doesn't fall into the tired rhythms of most summer movie special effects cataclysms. I would even argue that this installment is the series at its most Shakespearian or existentially philosophical as Tony Stark essentially spends the entirety of the film questioning exactly what kind of a man he is and who he wishes to be. Is he a hero or even a man solely because of the Iron Man suit? Does the better part of himself arrive only when he places himself inside his costume and who is he if that element is divorced from himself? Robert Downey Jr. plays this crisis with such skill and subtlety that "Iron Man 3" becomes more emotionally turbulent and daring. 

On a larger scale, we do have the characters of The Mandarin and Killian to deal with and I was extremely surprised and pleased to see how Shane Black injected a sharp political commentary into the film that goes as far as to question the real consequences within our country's on-going "War On Terror." Yes, the violence and bloodshed cannot be dismissed and it isn't within "Iron Man 3," but Black is arguing that by becoming a culture of fear, terrorists may have already won the war whether they are real or not as well as providing public distractions from more dangerously subversive threats. With this element, Black also shows some daring risks with the Iron Man comic book mythology which may disturb some fans but I felt worked extremely well to both comic and seriously minded effects. 

And yet, and especially after "The Avengers," "Iron Man 3" is a little bit of a fall from the top. Maybe this just has to do with how masterfully Joss Whedon was able to spin a myriad of conceptual plates in the air and produce a motion picture that was intimate, epic, and out of this world fun. Frankly, "Iron Man 3" was not that much fun, so to speak. That gee-whiz excitement I have felt in the past gave way to something that felt to be more claustrophobic, perhaps mirroring Tony Stark's inner state. And while I didn't feel that the new darkness was out of place, I did, at times, tend to feel that something was a bit missing. I think I noticed it most during a spectacular sequence where Iron Man has the daunting task of saving 13 individuals from a mid-air plane explosion. That sequence was just a sensational feat of action, stunt work, special effects, terror, excitement and outlandish comic book derring do. Afterwards, those elements seemed to subside and I missed them. Again, this is not to say that "Iron Man 3" suffered in quality. I am just noting how I felt and if this is signaling a bit of a new direction for the Marvel films, then so be it as upping the emotional stakes can only help this series of films thrive and survive strongly.

Even with that minor criticism, ensuring that the special effects and spectacle remain secondary to strong writing, direction and performances is exactly why all of the Marvel films thus far have been so successful and "Iron Man 3" is no exception. Now, there is a bit of a hurdle to jump over for any future solo installments for Iron Man. It turns out that Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow's contracts have expired and aside from appearing in Whedon's "The Avengers 2" in 2015, there has been some question to whether either of them will return to their roles. I seriously hope that the powers that be understand exactly what Downey Jr. has done for them as well as this character. To think that he was really an extremely unlikely figure to play this role and now, he has made it his signature character! To me, and like Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, Robert Downey Jr. is irreplaceable and if that means that "Iron Man 3," which does contain a sense of closure, is the last film in this particular series then perhaps that's the way it should be. None of the Marvel films have felt like a money grab so far and I hope that whatever integrity they possess they continue onwards in this vein. But, I do understand that I am getting far, far ahead of myself, dear readers. Because honestly, why would I ever want a superhero to fall and crash to Earth for any reason, especially one as pathetic as lust for box office gold? 

Take a note from the terrific artistic risks taken in "Iron Man 3" and keep aiming high!!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


As always, with the arrival of the month of May comes the official beginning to the Summer Movie Season and this month in particular looks to be front loaded with must see material!

1. Opening in the first weekend of the month is "Iron Man 3," with Director Shane Black taking over the reins from Jon Favreau who remains on board as Executive Producer and even appears in the film as Tony Stark's (again played by Robert Downey Jr.) loyal chauffeur/bodyguard. After the wonderment set last year with "The Avengers," the bar has been re-set even higher and I sincerely hope the creative powers-that-be are able to deliver the goods and then some.

2. The following week Director Baz Luhrman's anxiously awaited adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's eternal classic "The Great Gatsby" starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire hits the screens and you know I have to get myself to that one--especially as it was originally set to open this past Christmas and I feel that I have been patient enough!

3. And then, the weekend after that, Director J.J. Abrams returns with his long awaited sequel, "Star Trek Into Darkness"!

4. And even then, Writer/Director Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reunite to bring us "Before Midnight," the third installment in their on-going series involving the lives and love story of Jesse and Celine.

5. Beyond even that, Writer/Director Noah Baumbach returns with his new film "Frances Ha." While I was more than underwhelmed with his previous two features, "Margot At The Wedding" (2007) and "Greenberg" (2010), Baumbach has long been a filmmaker whose creative voice has spoken to me loudly in his earlier features, most especially "The Squid And The Whale" (2005) what I feel to be his best film so far.

Now, all of this would certainly be more than enough for me to chew upon and I hopefully will have the ability and time to take them all in plus continue onwards with a new installment of my "Savage Cinema Revisits" series and any other potential surprises.

May life and the universe allow me to steadily push forwards and I'll see you when the house lights go down...