Tag Archives: Alan Arkin

[Oscars 2013] – Predicting The Nominations

9 Jan

An actual Oscar statuette to be presented during the 79th Annual Academy Awards sits in a display case in Hollywood

I still have a few 2013 releases to catch up with, and I though I wanted to make my Oscar nominations predictions post having seen all of them, the nods are due early tomorrow morning so I’ll have to post them now.

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[Trailer] – The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

21 Dec

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

We’ve seen movies about the old school of something going against the new school of something, but we haven’t seen that done all that much in the world of magic. Well, that’s what next year’s The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is going for, and there’s now a trailer for it, which you can watch below.

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[Review] – Stand Up Guys

19 Dec

Stand Up Guys

Title: Stand Up Guys
Year: 2012
Director: Fisher Stevens
Writer: Noah Haidle
Starring: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Julianna Margulies, Mark Margolis, Lucy Punch
MPAA Rating: R, language, sexual content, violence and brief drug use
Runtime: 94 min
IMDb Rating: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 46%
Metacritic: 41

Right, so, as you may have gathered over the past few years, movies starring older actors tailored for their contemporaries have been doing some real solid business. From The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to Red (both of which have sequels already in development) there seems to be a nice niche for movies starring older actors and targeted to older audiences. As a result we now have Stand Up Guys, a crime comedy starring a trio of acting greats that will be properly released early in 2013, so we’ll only know how this one does on the business side then, but that’s getting limited run now.

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[Review] – Argo

22 Oct

Title: Argo
Year: 2012
Director: Ben Affleck
Writer: Chris Terrio, based on the article by Joshuah Berman
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Clea DuVall, Kyle Chandler, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Michael Parks, Taylor Schilling, Chris Messina, Richard Kind, Titus Welliver, Kerry Bishé, Philip Baker Hall
MPAA Rating: R, language and some violent images
Runtime: 92 min
IMDb Rating: 8.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Metacritic: 86

In 2007 there was an article called ‘How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran’ written by Joshuah Berman and published in Wired magazine. I say this first because, if you have or haven’t seen Argo, the masterful new film by Ben Affleck, please Google that article, it’s a fascinating read. So fascinating, in fact, that George Clooney and his business partner, Grant Heslov, were drawn to it and set it up as Mr. Affleck’s third directorial effort after Gone Baby Gone and The Town.

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[Trailer] – Argo

8 May

When Ben Affleck decided to start directing films people were quite doubtful about the prospect. After all, the stench of Gigli still surrounded the guy’s name. But then his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone came out in 2007 and it was an absolutely brilliant film. Then The Town came out in 2010 and it only extended his streak (I gave it an A and ranked it as my 14th favorite film of that year). So, because of that, his follow-up, Argo, has always been one of my most anticipated films of 2012, I want him to go 3-for-3. And if the just released trailer for it, which you can watch after the cut, is any indication, we’re in for another winner from him.

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[Review] – A Thousand Words

7 Apr

Title: A Thousand Words
Year: 2012
Director: Brian Robbins
Writer: Steve Koren
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Kerry Washington, Clark Duke, Cliff Curtis, Allison Janney, Ruby Dee, John Witherspoon, Steve Little, Ariel Winter, Jack McBrayer
MPAA Rating: PG-13, sexual situations including dialogue, language and some drug-related humor
Runtime: 91 min
IMDb Rating: 4.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 0%
Metacritic: 26

Eddie Murphy‘s been angling at a comeback for quite some time now, and the fact is that it just seems like it won’t happen for him. This man was once one of the most unique and freshest voices in comedy; a vital part of the SNL cast in the early eighties, the star of 48 Hrs. and Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop, and a truly undeniable force as a stand-up comedian. And yet, I think it’s safe to say that, with the exception of the first couple of Shrek movies in which he voices Donkey, Eddie Murphy hasn’t been funny since Bowfinger. And that was in 1999.

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Thin Ice

7 Mar

Title: Thin Ice
Year: 2012
Director: Jill Sprecher
Writers: Jill Sprecher and Karen Sprecher
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, Billy Crudup, Lea Thompson, Bob Balaban
MPAA Rating: R, language, and brief violent and sexual content
Runtime: 93 min
IMDb Rating: 6.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Metacritic: 61

Thin Ice is a good film, one that could have potentially been far better, granted, but that’s still pretty good in its own right. It stars Greg Kinnear as Mickey Prohaska, small-time, financially-down insurance agent in a small town, desperately wanting to jump-start his business, get back together with his estranged wife and get out of the horrible Wisconsin weather. And like I said, I liked it a fair bit, it’s just that, at first viewing, you get the sense that this is a film that could have been more coherent. Because there will be times throughout it that you’ll think it’s tough to really make something out of this movie, but then at the end you’ll get a series of flashbacks showing other parts of previous scenes to make it all make sense. And that’s cool in the sense that at least you get answers and maybe seeing the film again after knowing that would be kind of cool, but it still feels cheap that the film would have been super messy without those final bits. Though, to be fair, the film goes through its many twists with an underlying sense of logic that I seriously appreciated, since that pretty much never happens in these kind of films.

Academy Award winner Alan Arkin co-stars with Mr. Kinnear here, playing a lonely and absent-minded farmer, who owns a rare violin unbeknownst to its actual value. Mickey thinks that violin may be his way out, he knows someone willing to offer up enough money fort he violin so that he could cover a nice part of his debts as well as maybe go to his company’s annual convention in the Caribbean. He thinks he’s a spin master, but as he gets greedier and greedier trying to con the old man the situation gets out of control. In comes Billy Crudup’s character, a nosy, volatile ex-con who installs security alarms a gets the sense that Mickey is up to something here, and decides he wants a piece of it, upping up the stakes of the situation and setting the table for a story full of twists and turns.

I’ve been hearing people making comparisons between this film and Fargo. It goes without saying that the Coen brothers are masters of their craft and that Fargo is close to being a masterpiece while Thin Ice is just fine, but the comparisons are bound to happen; the funny kind of noir, with the twists and turns and the very cold weather, you could say Billy Crudup’s performance in this one has a bit of Steve Buscemi’s in Fargo, and certainly Greg Kinnear tries to play desperation much like William H. Macy did in Fargo, though of course Mr. Macy got an Oscar nod Mr. Kinner won’t, you just didn’t sense the terror in him when things started to get out of hand as much. The comparisons to Fargo are both a compliment and a criticism I guess; you can see the potential this has, but you can also see how it could have been done much better.

Not to say Thin Ice is bad though, the twists are still super fun to watch happen, and it’s funny seeing Mickey, a guy who makes a living out working the angles, not being able to see the amount of shit that’s about to come down on him from doing just that. And I really don’t want to give more of the plot away because the script, written by sisters Jill and Karen Spencher, the former of whom directed the film, is all about being super deviant and offering up darkly comic surprises one after the other, you get the sense that they must have spent a good deal of time just planning this whole thing out. So I feel kind of bad for criticizing what obviously took a lot of effort to get done, and get done mostly right, but there’s a point in which they just go over the top, and the whole film starts feeling like a series of twists and turns, one upping the stakes of the other, but not really having that much of a point. And even when that final moments of explanation I mentioned above arrived, it’s not as though they’re of the “damn that all fits perfectly, it’s awesome” variety, but rather more like “oh, okay, that explains it”.

I realize I’ve been going back and forth praising elements and going hard on others, but that’s just how this film left me feeling. On one side it’s a pity that it got sort of pointless in its twists, and that it got a bit too dark and lost some of its original charm; but on the other side it has some pretty damn effective and funny performances (Mr. Crudup is especially good here), and it’s thoroughly entertaining, and it’s certainly very well-made, and there’s a logic tying together the many twists of this film, a really nicely crafted screenplay by the Sprecher sisters. So Thin Ice certainly was worth my time, even though it could have been far, far better than it ultimately was.

An added aside: After writing this review I went online to read reviews from other (far more famous, articulate and respected) critics that I respect, which is what I do after I write the reviews (though never before it so I don’t get biased by people I admire). I found out that many critics had similar problems with this film as the ones I had. When I was reading Roger Ebert’s three-star review he raised a lot the same points as I do here, but he had a footnote saying that Jill Sprecher sent him a letter explaining that the producers and distributor of the film re-edited it without her, cutting nearly twenty minutes, rearranging the structure and taking away many important elements from it, and that she and her sister don’t consider this film to be their work, even though their names are contractually still on the film. So yeah, maybe that explains a lot, maybe this was indeed poised to be far greater than it was, and it’s horrible when filmmakers go through this. Still though, even though it was tempered (presumably for the worse) I though Thin Ice was still a pretty good film.

Grade: B