Mortal Sins: Absolution (1978, directed by Anthony Page)


Father Goddard (Richard Burton) is a stern and repressed teacher at a Catholic boys school.  Goddard is strangely obsessed with two of his students.  The intelligent and athletic Arthur Dyson (Dai Bradley) is a favorite of Goddard’s.  However, Goddard cannot stand Arthur’s best friend, Benji (Dominic Guard).  Benji wears a leg brace and takes a sarcastic attitude towards Goddard and the Catholic Church in general.  When Goddard finds out that Benji has been hanging out with a drifter named Blakely (Billy Connolly) and that Blakely is camping near the church, Goddard calls the police.  After the Blakely’s camp is destroyed and the drifter mysteriously vanishes, one of the boys goes to confession and tells the priest that he has murdered Blakely and hidden the body.  Is the boy telling the truth or is Goddard the victim of an increasingly complicated prank?

Written by Anthony Shaffer (who also wrote the classic The Wicker Man), Absolution is an extremely complicated mystery that sometimes seems like it’s trying to do too much at one time.  It starts out as a character study of an out-of-touch priest and then it becomes a coming of age story about Benji and his friendship with the free-thinking Blakely.  Then it turns into a murder mystery and a horror movie before finally settling on being an anti-Catholic tract.  The story does hold your interest because of the actors but that does not mean that it always makes sense.  The film’s central conspiracy is clever and complicated but also thoroughly implausible.

The man reason to watch the film is that Richard Burton gives one of his best performances as the self-loathing Father Goddard.  Burton had a famously mixed-record as a screen actor but Absolution makes good use of his tendency to ham it up.  Much of what motivates Goddard is left unclear in the movie, though it is subject of much speculation among his students.  Burton fills in the screenplay’s blanks with an intense performance as a man who has convinced himself that he has complete control when he actually has none at all.

A Quick Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (dir by Peter Jackson)


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It seems kind of weird to do a quick review for a 144 minutes film that not only serves as the end of one epic trilogy but also as a prequel for yet another epic trilogy.

Well, so be it.  I hate to admit it but I really don’t have that much to say about The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies beyond the fact that I saw it on the day after Christmas, I enjoyed it, and I thought Aidan Turner was really hot.  It’s not a perfect film but then again, The Hobbit has never been a perfect trilogy.  As opposed to the Lord of the Ring films, The Hobbit told a story that could have easily been told in two films.  As a result, whenever you watch one of The Hobbit films, you’re aware of all of the filler that was included just to justify doing three films.

But so what?  The Hobbit films are fun.  Despite the cynical economic reasons behind turning The Hobbit into a trilogy, director Peter Jackson’s love for the material always came through.  In the title role, Martin Freeman was always likable.  Ian McKellan and Christopher Lee made for properly enigmatic wizards.  Though apparently his inclusion caused some controversy among purists, it was nice to Orlando Bloom as Legolas.  I also liked Evangeline Lilly’s elf character, even if everyone else seemed to dislike her and her love story with Aidan Turner.  And then there was Benedict Cumberbatch providing a perfectly evil and self-satisfied voice for Smaug.

I have to admit that, with the exception of Aidan Turner, I was never a big fan of the dwarves.  They were all so surly and bad-tempered and it didn’t take me too long to get tired of Richard Armitage showing up as Thorin and acting like a jerk.  However, in the final part of the trilogy, Armitage’s surly performance started to make sense.  As Thorin grew more and more paranoid, I saw that The Hobbit was actually using both the character and Armitage’s performance to make a much larger point.  Power corrupts and most conflicts are ultimately all about money and property.  It was a good message.

When the Battle of the Five Armies started, I was shocked to discover how little I remembered about the previous two Hobbit films.  It took me a while to get caught up on who everyone was and why they were all fighting over that mountain.  As opposed to the LoTR films, it’s not always easy to get emotionally invested in The Hobbit films.  But, Jackson is a good director and he’s a good storyteller and, even though it took me a while to get caught up, I was still often enthralled with what I was watching on screen.  The images were so stunning and the battle scenes were so spectacularly done that I could handle being occasionally confused.

Battle of the Five Armies is a fitting end for the Hobbit trilogy.  It’s not a perfect film but it is exciting and fun and that’s really all that matters.  At the end of it, the audience in the theater applauded, not just for the film but in recognition of everything that Peter Jackson has given us over the past 14 years.

It was a good way to spend the day after Christmas.

Embracing the Melodrama #42: Indecent Proposal (dir by Adrian Lyne)


This one is just dumb.

First released in 1993 and something of a perennial on AMC, Indecent Proposal tells the story of David (Woody Harrelson) and Diane (Demi Moore), two kids who meet in high school, get married, and end up living what, in Hollywood, passes for an average, middle class lifestyle — which is to say, Diane is a successful real estate broker, David is an architect, and they’re in the process of building their dream house on the beach.  (Just like everyone else you know, right?)  However, the economy goes bad, David loses his job, and they find themselves deep in debt.

Desperately, they decide to take a gamble.  Literally.  They go to Las Vegas and, at first, it seems like everything’s going to be alright.  David has a run of luck and makes a lot of money.  They make so much money that David and Diane end up having sex on top of it.  Now, I have to admit, if I ever won $25,000 dollars in Vegas, I would probably spread it on a bed and roll around naked on it as well.  But only if it was paper money.  Coins would probably be uncomfortable and I’d hate to end up with a hundred little impressions of George Washington’s profile running up and down my body.

But anyway, David and Diane make the mistake of sticking around in Vegas for a second day and they end up losing all of the money that they previously won and you better believe that when the chips are pulled away, Diane is shown trying grab them in slow motion while going, “Noooooo!”  Soon, David and Diane are sitting in an all-night diner and trying to figure out what to do next.  A waitress overhears them and sadly shakes her head.  Obviously, she’s seen a lot of movies about Las Vegas.

Anyway, this movie is too dumb to waste this many words on its plot so let’s just get to the point.  David and Diane meets John Gage (Robert Redford), a millionaire who offers to give David a million dollars in exchange for having one (and only one) commitment-free night with Diane.  David and Diane agree and then spend the rest of the movie agonizing over their decision.  Eventually, this leads to Diane and David splitting up, John Gage reentering the picture and proving himself to be not such a bad guy, and David eventually buying a hippo.

It’s all really dumb.

Anyway, I was planning on making quite a few points about this set-up but, quite frankly, this film is so dumb that I’m getting annoyed just writing this review.  So, instead of breaking this all down scene-by-scene, I’m just going to point out a few things and then move on to better melodramas.

1) Every character in the movie has a scene where they eventually ask what we (the viewing audience) would do if we were in a similar situation.  “Would you have sex for a million dollars?”  Well, let’s see.  Basically, the deal seems to be that you have safe, non-kinky, missionary position sex with a millionaire who you will never have to see again after you get paid.  And you’re getting a million dollars in return.  Would I do it?  OF COURSE, I’D DO IT!  It’s a million dollars, it’s just one night, and it’s not like you’re being asked to fuck Vladimer Putin or something.  If the film wanted to create a true moral dilemma, they should have cast someone other than Robert Redford as John Gage and they should have had Gage propose something more than just one night.  If Gage had been played by an unappealing actor (or perhaps if the film were made today with Redford looking as craggly as he did in Capt. America or All Is Lost) or if it had been a million dollars for Diane to serve as a member of Gage’s harem for a year, the film would have been far different and perhaps not any better but at least all of the subsequent angst would have made sense.

2) What really annoyed me is that, after Diane returns from her night with Gage, neither she nor her husband ever cash that million dollar check.  If you’re going to agree to the stupid deal, at least take advantage of it.

3) Finally, why would you accept a check for something like that?  Did Gage write, “For letting me fuck your wife” in the memo line?  Why not get paid in cash so, at the very least, you don’t have to deal with IRS?

Seriously, this movie is just dumb.

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

 

Trailer: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2nd Official)


It just a littleunder 3 months before Peter Jackson takes us back to Middle-Earth with the first of three films that will make up The Hobbit trilogy.

There’s not much else to say other than this latest trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journeyjust continues to whet the appetite for all things Middle-Earth. It’s much more action-packed with some nice new scenes instead of just rehashing what was in the original teaser trailer from year ago.

Enough words. Just watch the trailer below and decide for yourself whether another trip to Middle-Earth (before all the War of the Ring brouhaha of the first trilogy) is worth your monies.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey premieres worldwide on December 14, 2012.

Quick Review: Brave (dir. by Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman)


Brave already has a great review by Lisa Marie, check it out to get another insight into the film. One of the great things about the Shattered Lens is that even if a movie’s been reviewed once, another review can create a review as well.

Before Brave starts, Pixar presents their Oscar Nominated short film, La Luna, directed by Enrico Casarosa. La Luna is a simple piece about a little boy (Bambino) on a tiny boat who is taking on the Family Business. Sitting with his father and grandfather, they watch as a full moon rises high in the sky above them. Setting up a ladder, Bambino heads up to the moon, to find it littered with tiny glowing stars. The trio act as cleaners of the Moon. It’s a cute little story that for me, anyway, makes me smile when I look up at the Moon. I’m hoping Pixar maybe considers making a best of video with all their mini stories.

Brave is the story of Merida (brilliantly voiced by Boardwalk Empire’s Kelly MacDonald), a young princess in what appears to be Scotland, who is due to be married off to one of the children of her area’s neighboring lands. Granted, this isn’t something she’s looking forward to, as the wedding plans are being set up by her mother. Honestly, in watching Brave, I got the feeling that Merida really wasn’t into any of the Princess things she was supposed to be following (“No weapons on the table.”, “A princess is proper”, etc.), she seemed to just enjoy her freedom of being a young woman, of just living her life.

Brave marks the second film that wasn’t directed by one of the Pixar Majors (Pete Doctor of Monsters Inc., John Lassiter of Toy Story and Cars, Andrew Stanton of Wall-E, Finding Nemo and John Carter, and newcomer Brad Bird  of Ratatouille and The Incredibles), the first being Toy Story 3. With all of the staff that Pixar has, it makes sense that eventually, the Pixar Babies would have to step up and try their hand at feature films – even if this means that Pixar breaks their streak of great animation and filmmaking.

If Brave is any indication, Pixar is in very good hands. Directors Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews carry Chapman’s story far better than Lassiter did with Cars 2. It’s the story of a daughter, her mother and the connection between them. It’s of wanting to follow your own path vs. the paths that others want us to follow, and it manages to do all of this effortlessly. Like Tangled, our heroine takes charge of her own path, even if it means stumbling here and there. What makes Brave even better (and what my Mom would personally enjoy) is that Merida, much like Drew Barrymore’s character in Ever After, doesn’t need any guys rescuing her from her situation, save for perhaps one key moment that doesn’t count only because it’s family oriented anyway. There’s a great sense of strength in the character.

When Merida decides to fight for herself in an Archery test to ward off the would be suitors,  she gets into a huge argument with her mother (Emma Thompson), that ends up with some harsh things being said. Merida eventually finds her way to a witch who lets her change her fate. Like Disney’s Brother Bear, the change in question is that her mother is turned into a bear. With Merida’s father (voiced by The Boondock Saints’ Billy Connolly) swearing vengeance against the black bear that took of his leg, Merida and her mother have to both keep away from him as well as fix the relationship between them or else the mother will stay a bear, forever.

This is where Brave shines. Between the communications between the Mama Bear and Merida and the gravity of their situation, Chapman creates some great emotional opportunities for them. An added touch was the notion that the longer the mother stays a bear, the more she loses her humanity and becomes a real bear. I took this to be similar to someone suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s in a way, and that was where Pixar really got me on this one.

If there’s anything about Brave that I would change, it would be that there could have been a bit more back story on the legend that the mother told Merida (on the villain). I would have liked to know more about all of that, but in hindsight, the movie tells you all you really need to know, because the focus is still just on Merida and her Mother. There’s also just a hint of nudity, nothing terrible at all, but it’s a different route than other Pixar films have went. Additionally, kids may also find that the bear attack sequences may be a little too scary (at least the younger viewers might).

Overall, Brave’s a wonderful film and I’m ready to pick up the Blu-Ray the moment it comes out.

Lisa Marie Gets Brave (dir. by Mark Andrews)


I want to make one thing very clear before I start this review:

I LOVED BRAVE!

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

2011 was something of a disappointing year for me because it was the year that I discovered that the people at Pixar Studios are as fallible as any other filmmaker.  Cars 2 was cute but, ultimately, rather forgettable and it was the first Pixar movie that failed to move me tears.  Certainly, Cars 2 was not a terrible film but, when it comes to Pixar, moviegoers just naturally expect more and it was difficult to watch those expectations dashed.

Well, last night, I saw this year’s offering from Pixar, a little film called Brave. I’m happy to say that Pixar has redeemed itself from Cars 2.  I loved Brave.  It not only kept me entertained but it made me cry as well.  In short, Brave is a film that earns its place in the Pixar library.

Set in a beautifully animated version of the Scottish highlands, Brave tells the story of Merida (voiced, quite brilliantly, by Kelly MacDonald), the red-haired daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson).  Merida takes after her extroverted, stubborn father and can’t understand why her refined mother isn’t as enthusiastic as Merida is about things like archery, hunting, and exploring the wilderness. 

When Merida finds that, by tradition, she is to be married off to the first-born son of one of the kingdom’s three lords, she devises a plan to prove just how unfair this practice is to her.  She announces that the winner of an Archery competition shall be her suitor,  However, during the actual competition, Merida announces that she will compete “for her own hand” and proceeds to out-shoot all three of her moronic suitors.  After an argument with an enraged Elinor, Merida flees the castle in tears. 

Merida eventually meets a witch (voiced in perfect busy-body style by Julie Walters) who offers to cast a spell that will change Elinor.  Merida impulsively agrees and then returns to the castle where Elinor is eventually transformed into a gigantic bear.

I have to admit that Brave nearly lost me when Elinor turned into that bear.  Pixar’s trademark has always been that they make animated films that feel like live-action films and Elinor’s transformation felt almost too predictably cartoonish.  However, as close as the film came to losing me at that moment, the important thing is that it didn’t.  That’s due to both the impeccable animation (which managed to give the bear some very recognizable Elinor-like facial expressions) and the strength of Kelly MacDonald’s  vocal performance, which brings a true sense of reality to a very unreal situation.

(Perhaps my favorite moment was when Merida hastily explained to her three younger brothers, “Mum’s turned into a bear but it’s not my fault!”  That’s exactly the same thing I would have said if I had been responsible for turning my mom into a bear.  And yes, I have to admit that as a stubborn redhead, I very much identified with Merida throughout the entire film.)

Merida and the Elinor Bear flee from the castle (and from King Fergus who doesn’t know that the bear is actually Elinor and who is known as the Bear-killer) and start to bond as Merida tries to find a way to turn Elinor back into a human being.  It was here that Brave turned into a rather emotional experience for me and it didn’t take long for the tears to come.  (What’s a Pixar film without plenty of tears?)  So much of Brave hit home for me, from Merida’s desire to be independent to her complicated relationship with her mom and the fear and regret that she feels when she realizes that she might lose her mom forever.  Like the best fairy tales, Brave uses a fantastic situation to tell a story about some very basic and simple human truths. 

Whenever you review an animated film, there always seems to be one question that has to be answered: will boring old adults get as much out of the film as kids?  Well, I know that I certainly enjoyed it but I’m not sure if I’m ready to admit to being an adult.  The main thing to remember about Brave is that it’s not Toy Story 3 and it’s not Up.  At the same time, it’s not Cars 2 either.  Instead, it’s a heartfelt film for kids (and girls, especially) that won’t transform adults into bears. 

Finally, I have to note that between Brave and the Hunger Games, 2012 is turning out to be a pretty good year for girl power.  For once, we’re actually seeing films where girls can be heroes without being cast as either emotionally damaged refugees (like in the David Fincher version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) or as perpetual virgins just waiting for the right man to come along and give their life meaning (like in just about every other movie that comes out of Hollywood).  This is a good trend and I hope it continues.