Monday, 29 February 2016

The Movies Of Marcia Gay Harden

All movies starring Marcia Gay Harden and reviewed on the Ace Black Blog are linked below:

The First Wives Club (1996)

Space Cowboys (2000)

Mystic River (2003)

Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

The Maiden Heist (2009)

Magic In The Moonlight (2014)

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.
The Index of Movie Stars is here.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Movies Of Abigail Breslin

All movies starring Abigail Breslin and reviewed on the Ace Black Blog are linked below:

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Definitely, Maybe (2008)

Zombieland (2009)

New Year's Eve (2011)

The Call (2013)

August: Osage County (2013)

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.
The Index of Movie Stars is here.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Friday, 26 February 2016

The Movies Of Toni Collette

All movies starring Toni Collette and reviewed on the Ace Black Blog are linked below:

The Sixth Sense (1999)

Changing Lanes (2002)

About A Boy (2002)

The Hours (2002)

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Hitchcock (2012)

Enough Said (2013)

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.
The Index of Movie Stars is here.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Movies Of Halle Berry

All movies starring Halle Berry and reviewed on the Ace Black Blog are linked below:

The Rich Man's Wife (1996)

Swordfish (2001)

Monster's Ball (2001)

Die Another Day (2002)

New Year's Eve (2011)

The Call (2013)

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.
The Index of Movie Stars is here.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Movies Of Laura Linney

All movies starring Laura Linney and reviewed on the Ace Black Blog are linked below:

The Truman Show (1998)

Mystic River (2003)

Love Actually (2003)

Kinsey (2004)

The Nanny Diaries (2007)

Sully (2016)

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.
The Index of Movie Stars is here.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Movie Review: Nights In Rodanthe (2008)

A romantic drama, Nights In Rodanthe brings two damaged souls together in an idyllic beachfront house, but the film overflows with frothy emotions at every turn.

Harried mom Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane) is separated from husband Jack (Christopher Meloni), who had an affair but now wants to get back together. Adrienne agrees to help her friend Jean (Viola Davis) look after a scenic beachfront bed and breakfast in Rodanthe, North Carolina. The only guest is handsome plastic surgeon Dr. Paul Flanner (Richard Gere), who is going through a trauma of his own. Paul had an elderly patient die on the operating table, and he is in Rodanthe to meet the deceased woman's grieving husband Robert Torrelson (Scott Glenn). Paul is also planning a trip to Ecuador to try and reconnect with his estranged son Mark (James Franco in an uncredited role).

With a storm approaching, Adrienne and Paul start to get to know each other, and then fall deeply in love. He reawakens her to life's opportunities, and she helps him to come to terms with the Torrelson tragedy. But Adrienne still has to sort out her personal life and Paul needs to embark on his South American trip, causing a painful separation.

An adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel directed by George C. Wolfe, Nights In Rodanthe enjoys decent production values but cannot overcome the weak source material despite a talented cast. This is a romance where characters scream at each other one moment then fall into each other's arms the next, where the storm outside mimics the histrionics inside, and all the men, women and children, from the major characters to the minor, are quick to overflow with a display of overheated fervor at every opportunity.

There are some positives. The scenery at the character waterfront house makes up for some of the runaway emoting, and the search for an ending that avoids the obvious is laudable. There are hints of good intentions in exploring a troubled but evolving relationship between Adrienne and her teenaged daughter Amanda (Mae Whitman). Viola Davis shows up as Adrienne's best friend Jean (owner of the bed and breakfast) and adds an element of flighty fun.

In the central roles Richard Gere and Diane Lane do their best with the material, but are hampered with a script that emphasizes the obvious and shuns any attempt at nuance. The moods of Nights In Rodanthe are either black and stormy or bright and sunny, in a vivid demonstration of filmmaking by thick crayons.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Movie Review: The Big Lift (1950)

A clunky cold war quasi propaganda film, The Big Lift focuses on the mammoth American airlift of supplies to Berlin between 1948 and 1949 that broke a Soviet blockade and kept the western-controlled sectors of the city alive.

Sergeant Danny MacCullough (Montgomery Clift) and Sergeant Hank Kowalski (Paul Douglas) of the 19th Troop Carrier Squadron in Hawaii are called back to Europe. The US Air Force is embarking on a massive airlift of fuel and food to sustain the civilian population of war-ravaged Berlin, after the Soviets blockade all road and rail access in an early Cold War confrontation. Kowalski carries deep emotional scars from his time as a prisoner of the Germans during the war. MacCullough is eager to experience Berlin, and more open to engaging with the population.

With the help of a journalist MacCullough gets his chance to explore the city, and finds destroyed infrastructure and a traumatized population. He meets and starts a relationship with beautiful war widow Frederica Burkhardt (Cornell Borchers), a seemingly resilient victim trying to recreate a viable life. MacCullough also befriends Frederica's neighbour Stieber (O.E. Hasse), a jovial Soviet spy. Meanwhile, Kowalski starts a relationship with Gerda (Bruni Löbel), a less sophisticated local woman who is nevertheless curious about the American way of life. Through a series of mishaps MacCullough finds himself stranded in Berlin without a uniform and identification, and experiences first hand the tension of the Cold War and the survival instinct created by post-war social upheaval.

Directed and written by George Seaton, The Big Lift is an uneven mix of pseudo-documentary, Hollywood adventure and blatant Cold War propaganda. Filmed on location in a devastated Berlin as it transitions from World War Two battleground to Cold War ground zero, the film features members of the US military playing themselves, supporting just the few professional actors.

For a film dedicated to the Berlin blockade, Seaton does quite the miserable job explaining the strategic context. After a narrated opening, the film drops into the tactical minutiae, with scene after scene of cargo planes taking off, flying and landing, and men scurrying around on airport runways loading and unloading the planes. The opening hour is excruciatingly slow, and often appears as an unscripted, badly edited series of machines-in-flight sequences. The wooden line readings of the amateur cast members do not help.

Things marginally improve when MacCullough and Kowalski start their on-the-ground exploration and romances. The political discussions prompted by Gerda's questions are interesting and provocative, but eventually err on the side of childish propaganda. Kowalski's emotional scars are close enough to the surface to make him an unpredictable boor, while in contrast MacCullough is naive, trusting and easily falls in lust with a stranger. The character of Frederica is by far the most interesting, but she is unfortunately compromised early into a two-faced corner. As any kind of drama, the film is overlong and inconsequential.

The better scenes are on the streets of Berlin, where entire neighbourhoods have been reduced to mounds of rubble. Residents hand-pick through the destruction, trying to clear away the remnants of the war, while simultaneously being re-victimized by the new dark clouds of a superpower conflict.

The Big Lift fails as entertainment, but finds a better purpose as a documentary chronicle of a city reduced to rubble with its literally shell-shocked residents lurching from one global conflict to another.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Movie Review: Looker (1981)

A hokey science fiction thriller with just a hint of smarts, Looker predicts the coming world of CGI but is an otherwise low-budget, low-brains mess.

In Beverly Hills, plastic surgeon Dr. Larry Roberts (Albert Finney) notices an increase in already- gorgeous models, including Cindy (Susan Dey), coming to him with requests for precise adjustments to their features, measured in millimeters. When three such models turn up dead, victims of badly-staged suicides, police Lieutenant Masters (Dorian Harewood) suspects Roberts as possibly having something to do with the deaths.

Roberts decides to stick close to Cindy to try and keep her safe, and starts to investigate the connection between the dead women. His probing leads him to tycoon John Reston (James Coburn), who runs a multi-billion dollar international conglomerate including a company called Digital Matrix run by his wife Jennifer Long (Leigh Taylor-Young). Roberts uncovers a nefarious plot to create perfect television ads by generating digital copies of attractive models, with a high-intensity light weapon called LOOKER (Light Ocular-Oriented Kinetic Emotive Responses) being used to clean up the residual mess.

Written and directed by Michael Crichton, Looker is a muddled little thriller that is never quite sure of its own plot. Due either to bad writing, bad editing or both, the plot borders on incomprehensible, with Crichton never fully explaining what Reston is up to, why it has to be illegal, and why the models need to die. Worse is Dr. Robert taking on all investigative and policing duties, the surgeon-as-hero proving to be as plastic as his profession. Other than suspecting the wrong guy and then showing up in the final scene, the real cops add little value.

Albert Finney and James Coburn go through the motions with minimal conviction, Susan Dey and Leigh Taylor Young deliver daytime soap worthy performances to go along with some atrocious lines of dialogue, and former pro football player Tim Rossovich zombies through the movie as an inept hitman. The much outed light pulse weapon that gives the film its name is inconsistently applied (its impact ranges from hours to seconds), its function never fully explained, and appears to significantly complicate rather than simplify the intended criminal acts.

In the absence of a coherent story Crichton passes the time creating another of his futuristic environments propelled by science-on-the-edge. The research taking place at Digital Matrix mixes measuring human psychology with computer precision, and defining the minutiae of what the brain responds do. The context of computers being capable of delivering on human desires better than humans themselves is compelling, with Cindy experiencing what it feels like to be digitized and copied. rendering the original specimen superfluous.

These are ideas worth exploring, but only in the hands of a better filmmaker. Despite a polish of sexy glitz, Looker's appeal and intellect are not even skin deep.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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