Tag Archives: Ned Beatty

Rampart

22 Dec

Title: Rampart
Year: 2011
Director: Oren Moverman
Writers: James Ellroy and Oren Moverman
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Ned Beatty, Ben Foster, Anne Heche, Ice Cube, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Wright, Steve Buscemi, Brie Larson
MPAA Rating: R, pervasive language, sexual content and some violence
Runtime: 108 min
IMDb Rating: 6.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Metacritic: 67

The streak keeps on living, so bear with me about this for a while right now because I’ll say it again. I’ve been stating that I love this time of year because it’s when the truly great movies (those that I grade an A-, A or A+) come out, and when you get the chance of watching two or three of them in a row. Considering that on Monday night I watched The Artist (an A+), and yesterday I watched both My Week with Marilyn (an A) and A Dangerous Method (an A-) I was at a streak of three that hadn’t happened in over four months. With Rampart, that streak of great films I’ve gotten to watch in a row hits four, which hasn’t happened since the period from January 11th to January 26th, two weeks in which the only four films that I saw were great: L’Ilusionniste (an A-), Another Year (an A), Blue Valentine (an A+) and Biutiful (an A), all late-2010 releases. So yeah, like I said, this is a great time of the year to watch films.

Rampart comes from Oren Moverman, a guy who in 2009 delivered his debut film, The Messenger, which I ranked as the 31st best of that year’s slate of films. A film that established him as a really strong voice, earned him an Oscar nomination for his screenplay, as well as a Supporting Actor nod for Woody Harrelson’s indelible performance as Captain Tony Stone. Now, for his sophomore debut behind the cameras, Mr. Moverman reunites with Mr. Harrelson, who will be trying for a darkhorse entry to the Best Lead Actor category, as well as with Ben Foster and Steve Buscemi, and adds a lot of really talented people around them like Sigourney Weaver and Robin Wright.

The result is a film that’s pretty damn exceptional. One that surely won’t be for everyone, as the dirty cop that Mr. Harrelson plays here is too hard to root for for you to really get behind it all, but his performance is so fearless that you’ll get sucked in and even if you don’t like the guy you’ll be plenty interested in what comes as consequences for his actions. The screenplay was written by both Mr. Moverman and the great James Ellroy, a guy who in his novels has been known to toy with historical accounts to create gripping works of fiction. In here we’re thrown into the Los Angeles of 1999, when the anti-gang unit of the Rampart division was marred with allegations of being corrupt, of dealing drugs on the job.

Dave Brown is the corrupt cop Mr. Harrelson plays here, probably the dirtiest officer I’ve ever seen on-screen ever, without a single redeemable quality, just thoroughly unlikable, a guy who probably doesn’t even realize just how wrong the stuff he’s doing is. He drinks, womanizes, pops pills, is incredibly racist, manipulative like crazy, cruel to the bone. It takes a really great screenplay to be able to make a film with this leading character work, and while it’s not as though Mr. Moverman and Mr. Ellroy wanted you to start liking Dave, they did make him human and not just a monster, and as such the film becomes an exploration of his character, and it’s a thrill to watch develop. He’s the kind of monster that can get away with it because he has charisma, a quality that made Mr. Harrelson a perfect guy to play him, and because he’s also terribly smart, a guy who went to law school and probably uses the knowledge he got from there to get out of more than a few sticky situations.

Rampart doesn’t concentrate at all on the real-life scandal it’s based on, but instead on the stuff, professional and personal, that led these cops to actually do stuff like that, to get the anti-gang unit of the LAPD become a gang all of its own. In Dave Brown it finds the man with which to channel all it wants to say about this world, a sick man in an even sicker world. He’s a guy with a family, actually, two daughters that come from two mothers, played by Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon, who are actually sisters themselves. He’s married to neither, but the dysfunctional family still lives in neighboring houses and Dave will more often than not try to charm his way into one of his ex-wife’s beds, or go to a bar to pick someone else up if that fails. A lot of stuff goes wrong for Dave, it’s not just one particular incident, but the one that really amps up the heat is when a video of him beating a suspect to near death comes up. That gets the DA’s office on his ass, which means we get to see Ms. Weaver rocking it as part of that team, she’s great here.

It’s incredible how Mr. Moverman observes the crumbling down of this man; not only is the performance by Mr. Harrelson truly outstanding, but the way the whole thing is shown, with a great use of color and great sound and image editing, makes you really experience his breaking down as he can’t get his shit together. Like I said, Rampart may not be for everybody, but what’s undeniable is the talent of Oren Moverman, a guy with a vision and a guy who really knows how to get his actors to dig into their roles. Just look at Woody Harrelson here; this may be the best performance we’ve ever seen of him, he’s raw and intense like crazy, but somehow manages to make Dave human, he doesn’t get us to sympathize with him because it’s too late for that, but he gets us to be interested about the things he cares for, and that he’s now realizing, way too late, that he’s pretty much totally destroyed.

Grade: A-

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Rango

14 Apr

Title: Rango
Year:
2011
Director:
Gore Verbinski
Writer: John Logan, based on a story by himself, Gore Verbinski and James Ward Byrkit
Starring:
Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, Ned Beatty, Timothy Olyphant
MPAA Rating:
PG, rude humor, language, action and smoking
Runtime:
107 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
7.7
Rotten Tomatoes:
89%

I saw Rango about a month ago in Rhode Island when I went to visit a friend there. And considering this year’s Pixar release is a sequel to Cars (which is the only Pixar film I haven’t given an A-range grade to) then this one’s definitely in the running to become the best animated film of 2011. Because, much like the Pixar films, Rango is an animated movie that will appeal tremendously to both kids and adults, maybe even moreso to adults actually, and one that has a really smart screenplay, and some incredibly gorgeous animation.

Not only was Rango truly outstanding, but it was also a film I didn’t really think would be this great, and as such it will definitely be amongst my most welcome surprises of the 2011 movie year. And you know what else is fantastic about Rango? It’s not done in effin 3D. Now, if you’ve read my reviews then you know I’m not a 3D detractor, because I like it when it’s done well, but you’ll also know that I usually don’t think it’s done well and thus end up disliking the effect the technology has on films, especially on how it dims the color in them, a fact that becomes painfully more noticeable in animated movies. By not having to deal with the depth issues 3D brings to the table this one pays more attention to the lots of other details and makes full use of the screen, and the result is pretty breathtaking.

I’ll honestly recommend Rango to everyone I can, that’s how much I liked it. It was a pretty special animated film, and it all starts with its stellar voice ensemble. And notice I use the word ensemble and not stars, because as far the voices and how they fit and succeed together in Rango, it was most certainly a team job. I mean, yes, Johnny Depp does indeed play the titular character and his name was the one being used to draw in the crowds on opening day, but the rest of the cast is just as amazing as him. Mr. Depp is so great at playing the chameleon because it doesn’t feel like Mr. Depp, this isn’t a character made to sound like him like so many of the ones he’s playing nowadays, but one in which he had to find a unique voice and create this terrific persona for the character, and the rest of the cast is just as amazing, and it’s how well they mesh with one another that makes this one stand out, from Isla Fisher to Alfred Molina to Abigail Breslin to Harry Dean Stanton, there’s no weak link here.

It’s about this chameleon who falls from the car of his suburban owners into the desert, where he finds a town that’s on the verge of running out of water. He pretends to be a hero (he’s a ‘trained’ actor, after all) and gets himself appointed sheriff, but when the day really needs saving he’ll have to prove just how heroic he can be. There’s a conspiracy plot about who controls the water in the town, and thus has the power over it, that’s straight from Chinatown and that’s really well crafted and developed.

And really the worst thing you can do when approaching Rango is think about it as a kids movie, because it’s really not, it’s very much a grown-up film, one full of references to westerns three decades old, complete with an appearance by a guy called the Spirit of the West which was modeled after Clint Eastwood as is voiced by the awesome Timothy Olyphant who of course plays TV’s most kickass sheriff in Justified.

Not to mention adults will really appreciate the whole look of this film. Not only was Roger Deakins on board as a visual consuslt, and he’s a 9 time Oscar-nominated cinematographer who has worked on both No Country for Old Men and last year’s True Grit so he definitely knows how to make this part of America look all sorts of gorgeous. And that’s for the cinematography part, for the actually effects of it, Rango was awesome enough to get ILM to do the visual effects, and they did the most beautiful job ever, not only is every single character designed to perfection and every single hair on them looks amazing, but literally everything looks breathtaking here, sometimes not even feeling like CGI at all which is truly something to behold, definitely one of the most arresting pieces of animation I’ve seen.

This has been me praising Rango non-stop, and it really deserves it, because it’s an animated film that in no point goes out of its way to have a huge sequence just to please the kids. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no way the kids won’t get a huge kick out of this, because there are a lot of funny and action-y bits to love in here, but they’re all there as part of the story, not as some cheap gratuitous plot point. So if you take kids to see Rango they’ll have a lot to be loving while they watch the film, the good thing is that you’ll probably have even more.

Please please please go see Rango, I cannot insist more on that. This is a film that in its photo-realistic approach looks like the best live-action film you could hope for, a film smart enough to desist on the 3D technology that would have taken so much of its magic away, one that will bombard you with all these awesome movie references and really rad pieces of dialogue. Just a tremendous experience I can’t recommend enough.

Grade: A-

Toy Story 3

22 Jul

Title: Toy Story 3
Year: 2010
Director: Lee Unkrich
Writer: Michael Arndt, from a story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, John Morris, Jodi Benson, Laurie Metcalf, Blake Clark, Whoopi Goldberg
MPAA Rating: G
Runtime: 103 min
Major Awards: 1 Golden Globe, 1 NBR Award, 1 BAFTA
IMDb Rating: 9.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%

This was one of five or so most highly anticipated films of all year to pretty much everyone I talked to, and the expectations were seriously high, the second sequel to a legendary franchise that started the biggest animation studio there is, which on top of that hasn’t made a single bad film yet, and trust me when I say they didn’t break that streak with this one, Pixar is still batting a perfect 1.000, all of their films have been commercial and critical hits and Toy Story 3 is the latest of them all, yet another masterpiece that blends comedy and adventure and a helluva lot of deep emotions, especially during the end that left me spilling a few tears, and it mixes them seemingly effortlessly.

Toy Story has been of special impact in my life, I was four years old when the first one came out, eight when the sequel came out and now eighteen with this one, by this I mean that I am of the same generation as the film’s toy owner, Andy, and I still have all my action figures from the first films in my room, with my name scribbled in black sharpie in their feet, just like Andy did in the films, I have grown up with these toys at the same time as Andy, and this was a film I wouldn’t have been okay with if it ended up being anything less than perfect, thankfully Pixar didn’t disappoint me, but then again, it’s not like they ever have.

Toy Story as a franchise is one that spans fifteen years, three films, over a billion and a half dollars in worldwide grosses and counting, an Academy Award and pretty much another guaranteed this year, and was arguably the one responsible for starting the whole animation film business that has been dominating the box office since, it’s a franchise that has marked the lives of many, one that has made us laugh a lot and cry a lot in the process, and one franchise that was made with a lot of love from the best people in the industry, and one that exudes just as much love to us the audience. And I could go on and on for thousands of words about the impact Toy Story and Pixar has had on my life, but that’s for another day, here I have to review Toy Story 3 and I’ll take just as much joy out of doing that.

In this third and closing act of the franchise Andy is, as I said, at the age when you have to leave home and go to college, and like so many guys his age at the point of their lives, his mother tells him to sort out his stuff, especially the toys we all know and love, which have been kept away in his room for some years now. But Andy loves his toys, especially Woody whom he initially wants to take to college with him, but the other toys however are scrambled up and accidentally sent to a daycare as donations. Woody obviously ends up going with them, but unlike the other toys he knows Andy wanted to keep them in the attic until he returned and would later give them to his kids, the other toys, thinking Andy actually wanted to get rid of them aren’t feeling that much love towards him in the daycare and just want to be played with by the kids there.

And that’s when we meet the other toys at the daycare, who are led by a fluffy huggable pink bear named Lotso, who at first appears to be super friendly but is actually an evil and sad dictator of the daycare, with most of the toys under his spell and command. And that’s the main plot, our beloved toys fighting to get out of the daycare and rule of Lotso, all of this is told with the typical care and humor of Pixar, with a great script by Michael Arndt who’s only other screenplay was the one for Little Miss Sunshine, which earned him an Oscar. The new characters in Toy Story 3 are as endearing as the original ones, I missed Bo Peep quite a bit but there are a lot of great new characters to keep us just as entertained, because that’s what this film does throughout, entertain, the hour and forty minutes pass you by really quickly, not to mention the customary short shown before the film, Day & Night, is a great as every other short Pixar has put out.

After the toys break out of the daycare center they suffer through a scary event, and you know that will turn out having a happy ending but it really is frightening to watch, and the ending of the movie is a happy affair, but it’s one filled with a lot of nostalgia and emotions that you can relate to and that really struck a nerve to every single audience member in the theatre I went to, and yes, tears were shed, but at least you have those 3D glasses to hide them under, finally those served a purpose, because the 3D in this one is as unnecessary as it always is, but still, this is a masterpiece, appreciate it as such.

Grade: A+