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Archive for the ‘Ron Howard’ Category

poster_infernoI love these Robert Langdon movies. And I love the story concept of waking up without knowing where you are or how you got there. I’ve even had a couple of moments like that happen to me, much smaller scale of course, and from those moments I’ve thought of my own screenplay and stageplay ideas from that concept vehicle. I’ve read a couple books and graphic novels with this concept. I think what attracts me to it is that situation creates an instant mystery  Without mystery, your thriller is worthless, I feel.

So, with Inferno, the latest film production inspired by a novel of Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons), we have not only one mystery but two. The first is figuring out why Robert Langdon awoke in a hospital in Florence, Italy. The second is locating the virus left behind by an unhinged idealistic billionaire. However, the film has faults and not as strong as one would think having a double-mystery thriller.

Langdon, once again played by Tom Hanks (Sully), wakes up in a hospital not knowing whom he is or how he got to Florence, Italy. However, after being shot at and rescued by his nurse, he finds a clue to the location of a deadly virus intended to wipe out the Earth’s population by 75-percent, using Dante’s notorious book Inferno as a guide.

Eventually, we learn who is after Langdon and his assistant, whom to trust and whom are the “bad guys,” and eventually we find ourselves in Istanbul for the exciting climax.

I will start with what I loved about the film. One, I loved the double mystery of the film, especially moments like when Langdon discovers he and a partner stole a mask of Dante’s from a museum, which he learned by watching the security video with authorities standing next to him. Scenes like that reveal were strong and excellent. There were several WTF moments in the plot which really kept me involved and caring about the next turn.

Two, I liked the pacing. It felt like a quality thriller with high intensity and always that sense of urgency Robert Langdon stories now need to have and bring that expectation. Director Ron Howard (The DaVinci Code, In the Heart of the Sea) did well to slow the film down in spots to allow the viewer to process certain information to keep up with Langdon and his assistant, Sienna, played by Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything).

Three, I enjoyed the locations. Who doesn’t enjoy chase sequences by car or on foot through European cobble stone streets? Seriously. IF you don’t, you’re dead inside.

However, the film isn’t perfect. The pace of the film got disrupted a couple times with a very weak storyline about Langdon’s not-quite romance with investigator Sinsky, played by Sidse Babett Knudsen (Tv’s Westworld). I really struggled to give a shit about lingering “what could have been” feelings between Langdon and this lady. I was okay with the writing establishing their backstory as such, but letting it linger, feeling some sort of closure or inner conflict was necessary to address was a mistake and took away from an otherwise exciting film.

**SPOILER ALERTS IN THE NEXT TWO PARAGRAPHS**

It also seems to me that the company responsible setting up Langdon with a memory lapse and creating this incredibly elaborate fake hospital just to get them to help them find this virus was overkill. Langdon isn’t exactly an FBI profiler. It seems he could have been much easily duped into helping the wrong people until he gets evidence to the contrary than having to kidnap him, distort his memory and pull all the other strings involved. The whole presence of this company was weak, I felt.

I also felt the sequences involving Langdon attempting to get his memory back and having loads of annoying frightful visions really got old. It seemed to occupy the entire first 20 minutes of the film and was really getting hard to watch until we the viewers starting getting hard clues about our mysteries. Until then, it was giving me a headache.

Next, I thought it was obvious Sienna was working for the wrong side. Langdon got played by the person standing closest to him. Maybe it’s easy to spot the double crossing character easier now that three of Brown’s novels have made it to screen, but between Ian McKellan’s character in DaVinci Code, Ewan McGregor in Angels & Demons and not Jones in Inferno, it’s apparent whomever is closest to Langdon is the bag guy or a part of them. I and others I know who have seen the movie saw this twist coming.

That being said, Seinna as a character was quite strong once we learn her entire back story. Between her and billionaire boyfriend Zobrist, played by Ben Foster (The Finest Hours), whom created the virus to kill most of humanity, presented a antagonist presence which truly felt they were doing the right thing for humanity. They felt by destroying 75-percent of it, they were saving humanity’s existence for the future. I’ve always said movies’ most scary villains are the ones who are convinced they are doing the right thing.

Overall, I felt the movie was worth the cost of admission and were not better or worse than previous Robert Langdon films from Ron Howard. This movie just makes me want to read other Dan Brown books awaiting their shot at a silver screen production.

To read the review of Inferno from my Movie Corner writing cohort, Brian G. Felts, click here.

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poster_heartofseaTalk about a let down. Ron Howard. Period piece. New England story. Whaling ships. Moby dick. And it was so misdirected with material, it didn’t know what to do with itself.

This movie shares the tale which inspired Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick. At first, it examines a small power struggle between Owen Chase, played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor), and George Pollard, played by Benjamin Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). One man has loads of whaling experience while the later has no real experience but an established name in the whaling industry. By the way, did you know whales produce an oil that was a hot worldwide commodity during the early 1800’s? That much I learned. Anyways, Chase and Pollard bicker until they have problems even finding whales to kill until they are off the coast of Ecuador and learn of hunting grounds where hundreds of whales exist. However, there’s a large white whale protecting them all.

Eventually, Chase and Pollard’s ship The Essex is stoved by the whale and the remaining seamen are left adrift on the water for about 75 days. Meanwhile, the whale has been tracking them to finish them off.

My biggest problem was a lack of emotional connection to the story. There wasn’t a clear cut hero. There wasn’t a clear cut inner motivation for Chase or an outer motivation for Pollard. If this story inspired Moby Dick, I expected one of these characters to have the same obsession towards finding and killing the white whale as Cpt. Ahab did in Melville’s work. But that didn’t quite happen. It appeared it was about to go that direction with Chase, but it never did…not to an obsessive level.

At first the movie was a story of redemption for reflective character Tom Nickerson, a greenhorn swabbie, played by Brendan Gleesan (Braveheart) as the tale teller and Tom Holland (The Impossible) as the younger visage, as he attempted to confess the story to Melville in hopes of giving him material for Moby Dick. His confession eventually pinnacles with the fact that the surviving crew members after 60 days we’re forced to eat their dead to survive. That was the big reveal and to be honest it lacked luster. It’s a plot point you could see coming. How else would they have been rescued after 75 days?

By the end of the movie however, there was this stupid nonsense about an investigation as to how the Essex sank. That investigation turned into a redemption moment for the greenhorn captain Pollard who confessed a whale took down the whaling ship instead of what the owners of the ship pressured him and Chase to state. Nothing in the movie indicated this is what the movie was about prior to the last 10 minutes. I hate that. All that time attempting to understand the actual message of the film and it misdirects you to some stupid conventional ending.

This movie was below director Ron Howard (Apollo 13, The DaVinci Code). He has done so much better and I so wanted this movie to be better than it actually turned out to be. It was a combination of The Perfect Storm, Unbroken and Alive. It wasn’t great.

In lieu of performances, the accents were the worst part. Cillian Murphy as the Essex’s second mate maybe had the best accent representing Nantucket, Mass., but the rest of the cast had terrible vocal choices. Hemsworth was the worst, mostly because his accent was so inconsistent. It literally changed through different scenes. One point, it changed within the SAME scene.

Overall, like I said, this was a let down. I was on the fence spending money on this one but because it was directed by Ron Howard, I pulled the trigger. But that’s the last time. I now know Howard can misdirect a movie like anyone else. He’s not flawless and neither is his latest work.

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If you’re looking for a decent western drama involving cowboys heading off on a rescue mission, see “The Searchers” starring John Wayne if “The Missing” doesn’t do it for you. I did enjoy this picture. There were a lot of scenes I appreciated viewing in an otherwise spaghetti shadowed project, but “The Missing” had plenty of story points I felt were…well…missing.

Director Ron Howard left much of the picture’s style to his cinematographer for his latest movie project, following the release of his Academy Award® winning “A Beautiful Mind.” However, “The Missing” is far from that kind of comparison, and I suspect it will be far from the Academy Awards® stage come March (2004).

I enjoyed Tommy Lee Jones’ (The Fugitive) performance as an aged white man who left his family years ago and turned to the Native American culture for comfort. However, at times he simply looked silly. I was also impressed with Cate Blanchet’s (Elizabeth) performance as Jones’ daughter who enlists his knowledge of the Apache tribes after her teenage daughter is kidnapped. I’ve never heard Blanchet with such an “alto” voice before. It was refreshing.

Tipping the performance scale, however, was youngster Jenna Boyd (Dicke Roberts: Former Child Star) as Blanchet’s youngest daughter who played a frontier child very believably and at times almost frighteningly. I look forward to seeing what this youngster starts to turn out after she hits 30 years old.

Writer Ken Kaufman’s strength was in his character’s back story and did well keeping his audience interested on what drove Jones’ away from the life of the white man, while the rest of his characters’ motivations appeared stale. Kaufman’s only other writing credits are “Space Cowboys,” “Muppets From Space” and “In The Army Now” starring Pauley Shore. Even though the story is simple and at times mundane, “The Missing” is definitely the best writing notch on his cinematic belt.

As for Ron Howard, I think his approach to such a bland tale was just right, and he could not have done better than anyone else with the material. However, this is not his best project.

I’ll close by saying, I have not studied the Native American tribes or cultures, but I did find the rogue pack of Apache’s who steal Blanchet’s daughter a little too “F-Troop” like, for those of you old enough to know what I’m talking about.

I suggest seeing it. It’s interesting enough, and I’ll probably buy it when it’s out on DVD. However, I don’t see myself viewing it more than one more time. It’s okay at best.

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Finally, a movie to come out this year (2008) that is without-a-doubt deserving of the phrase Best Picture.

Three years after resigning the U.S. Presidency, Richard M. Nixon, played by Frank Langella (Good Night and Good Luck), agrees to a four-part series of interviews with popular British talk-show host David Frost, played by Michael Sheen (The Queen).

Frost looks to use the interviews as a way to put the screws to Nixon about his criminal acts during his final year in office and gain popularity among American TV viewers; however, Nixon, former Chief of Staff Jack Brennan, played by Kevin Bacon (The Woodsman), and the others in the former President’s corner have a few tricks up their sleeves to dominate the interviews and gain leverage for an eventual move back to Washington D.C.

This is certainly Best Picture all around. This project was interesting from beginning to end and remained exciting through the third act.

The movie, based on the Tony Award winning play by Peter Morgan, who also penned the screenplay, had great character writing for Frost, Nixon and Brennan. The outer and inner motivations for each of these characters were very clear and enjoyable.

That being said, there has to be great vehicles to pass on these motivations and conflicts, and there were three vehicles that rose far above expectations. Sheen, Langella and Bacon were amazing in their respective roles. Langella also won a Tony Award for playing the same role on Broadway. Sheen was also nominated. The pair were in the original stage cast as well.

Ron Howard, as director (A Beautiful Mind, The DaVinci Code), does adopt a docu-drama style which was jarring to me at first, but eventually I slipped into it; however, Howard brought this great boxing-match concept to shooting the actual interview sessions, which was super entertaining to watch.

Outside of all that, this is an important movie to see without being pretentious. I would say it’s one of my two favorite films that involve the U.S. Presidency, second only to JFK. I recommend, encourage and urge anyone to see this highly-entertaining and well-made picture.

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Here’s a very long pop-Irish movie that many people don’t know is based on a true story.

“Far and Away” is the story of two Irish dreamers, Joseph, played by Tom Cruise (Minority Report), and Shannon, played by Academy Award® winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours), who struggle to land on and make it in America, eventually after having to rely on each other so long, they fall for each other, despite their different class backgrounds.

The picture is really split into three stories. The first is how Joseph and Shannon meet. Joseph, blaming Shannon’s father for the death of HIS father, seeks to kill the man; however, Joseph’s gun backfires and the Christie’s–Shannon’s family–nurses him back to health.

The second is how Joseph and Shannon run away to America together and what they have to do to make a living. She works in a chicken stripping factory, while he becomes a bar brawler for betting cash. Eventually, the two are kicked out into the streets and Joseph send Shannon back to the family she ran away from, now in America looking for her.

The third part is the Oklahoma Land Race, where acres of Oklahoma were quartered off and hundreds of land seekers were lined up and released to claim acreage where they could. In this race, Joseph and Shannon finally establish their own place in America and begin the bloodline that eventually gave birth to this movie’s director, Academy Award® winner Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind).

Yes, the movie is the true romanticized telling of Howard great grandmother and father; a story told to him by his great grandmother personally and supported with press clippings she saved over the years.

The movie is a different kind of Irish coming to America story. The romance between the two main characters was very well paced; however, parts of the movie were not.

Transitions between the three portions of the films slagged severely. Especially going from the second to the third.

The movie is very much an epic, in that it’s storyline is about the continuing struggles of certain people, with a consistently changing storyline. So, simply put, it is long.

There’s a lot of great sequences in it, and probably the most beautiful shot of Nicole Kidman I’ve ever seen.

Composer John Williams’ score for the picture was also very well written, incorporating the traditionals of the Emerald Isle into his own style of excitement and triumph.

The only other thing I can’t stand about the movie is the cliched nemesis character, being Shannon’s intended fiancé, played by Thomas Gibson (Eyes Wide Shut). He becomes jealous and tries to kill Joseph, whom he sees as a peasant compared to Irish aristocrats like himself. Yeah, that’s never been done before.

I suspect Howard only put that in the script to add conflict to the story, but it was very far from being factual. That part of the story seemed contrived from start to finish.

Overall, this picture is very exciting in spots, REALLY exciting in other spots and extremely slow in a few spots, making it less than perfect. It IS one of my favorite works from director Howard, but not my absolute favorite.

If you’ve got some Irish in you, you may like this a little more than the next person; however, as Irish movies go, this is very pop. If you want to see a real green-blooded Irish film, watch anything directed by Jim Sheridan.

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This film was a lot of fun and in no way insulting to believers.

A murder inside the Louvre in Paris and clues left by its curator lead symbolist Robert Langdon played by Tom Hanks (Cast Away), and investigator Sophie Neveu, played by Audrey Tatou (Amelie), to the discovery of a theological mystery protected by a 2000 year old secret society surrounding the truth behind the Holy Grail.

The worst thing about this movie is it ruins “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” after the audience learns what the ‘holy grail’ actually is according to the big theory.

I’ve heard this theory of Christ having a holy bloodline since I was about 12 years old, so it being the big revelation of the story didn’t impress me. It’s a big deal, sure, but it wasn’t something I got upset over or even thought was any more thought provoking than when I first heard it.

I thought the film was well paced and was a lot of fun following Langdon and Neveu as they uncovered information, even though there were a couple of ‘commercial’ sequences i.e. when Neveu was driving her Mini at high speeds backwards, extremely well and through tight spaces. How did she learn to do THAT?

I loved how the film showed the theoretical history behind the secret groups involved, but I think it will ultimately be too much information for most viewers. Director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman did a great job of trying to explain so much information for their audience.

Paul Bettany (Wimbledon) and Tatou were great in their roles. Ian McKellen (X-men movies) also had a believable run with his time on screen.

As a believer, I’m no where near being insulted by this material. Even if Langdon didn’t have his little dialogue about prayer in the last of Act Three, I don’t think the film sets out to be politically volatile towards Christianity. It certainly presents this age-old theory in a fictional manner which ended up pretty entertaining. I think it’s worth seeing and maybe owning on DVD.

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Director Ron Howard isn’t exactly known for his comedies, but it’s movies like THIS one which makes me think maybe he should.

“EdTV” was a rival release to “The Truman Show,” but in my opinion “EdTV” is far more entertaining.

The plot behind this most recent of Ron Howard comedies is, a reality TV cable channel takes an interest in Ed Pekurny, a video rental store clerk who lives like he’s still in college. The channel decides to create EdTV, a 24 hour a day program where three cameras follow around Ed during his daily routine.

Well, EdTV starts off as a flop. That is until it comes out that Ed has a big crush on Shari, his brother Ray’s girlfriend. She in turn has a thing for Ed. They end up together, and Ray despises them both for it.

Suddenly, EdTV is a reality TV hit, bigger than “Survivor.” More conflict comes when Ed’s biological loser father comes out of the woodwork, as well as the real reasons why his mother threw him out.

The picture takes place over about five or six weeks. I completely bought the program as something the new wave of reality TV would try. I liked how EdTV only lasted like a flash in the pan. That is far more believable than “The Truman Show,” which wants us to believe this man in his thirties has been duped his entire life.

Matthew McConaughey (Sahara) makes the role of Ed loveable and real. His choices over his father issues and issues with Shari are dead on. Jenna Elfman (TV’s Darma and Greg) is absolutely adorable as Shari.

Woody Harrelson (The People Vs Larry Flynt) adds to the humor of the show as Ed’s obnoxious brother Ray. The rest of the cast is filled with an extremely heavy hitting cast including an Academy Award® winner in Martin Landau (Ed Wood), Oscar® nominees Sally Kirkland (Bruce Almighty) and Dennis Hopper (Hoosiers) as Ed’s real father.

Also in the ensemble are comedy some-what greats Rob Reiner (Dickie Roberts), Elizabeth Hurley (Bedazzled), Adam Goldberg (Saving Private Ryan) and Ellen Degeneres (TV’s Ellen).

Of course, since it is a Ron Howard directed movie, a cameo is made by his brother Clint Howard (The Waterboy) and that guy who played Ralph the Mouth from TV’s “Happy Days.”

The picture is also written by two of my favorite comedy writers, Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz (City Slickers, Heart and Souls). The last time they and director Howard has teamed up for a movie was “Gung Ho,” one of my favorite comedies of the 1980’s.

“EdTV” has a lot of great laughs, a lot of great well written characters and at many points, a lot of heart. Nothing about this movie felt forced. It was naturally well written, performed and directed; solid stuff. Rent “EdTV” if you’re in the mood for a good, smart laugh. The DVD has a bunch of cool extras including some pretty funny outtakes.

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