Archive for the ‘William Hurt’ Category

MOVIE: Robin Hood (2010)

February 12, 2011

I wasn’t expecting much from this film, to be honest  — figured it would be a fairly standard Russell Crowe/Ridley Scott action flick, like Gladiator set in England instead of Rome.  And while that is, in fact, pretty much what it is, I ended up really enjoying it, especially the fact it takes such a different approach to the standard Robin Hood yarn.

The story most of us are familiar with is the one about the bandit living in the forest of Nottingham along with his merry band of thieves, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.  But this film starts about a year before that more traditional tale.  It opens in Europe at the end of the Crusades, where an archer named Robin Longstride (Crowe) is fighting alongside King Richard the Lionheart as they pillage their way back to England, jubilant with victory.

When Richard is killed in battle, one of his most trusted knights, Sir Robert Loxley, is given his crown to return to the palace, where it will be passed on to Richard’s brother, King John the Foolhardy.  On the way to the ship that aims to take them home, however, Loxley’s group is attacked by a gang of Frenchmen led by a British traitor named Godfrey, who, it turns out, is in cahoots with the French king, planning to turn England against John, leaving the country vulnerable to invasion.

Godfrey manages to kill all of Loxley’s men, and fatally wound Loxley himself, before Robin and his pals stumble onto the scene and scare him off.  As Loxley lies dying, he begs Robin to take his sword back to Nottingham to return to his father, Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow).  Robin, an honorable sort, can’t refuse the wish of a dying man, and once Loxley has passed, he and his gang, including ye olde familiars Little John and Will Scarlett, steal the knights’ armor and gear, with plans to pass themselves off as king’s men to gain faster passage home.

When they get to the ship, Robin identifies himself as Loxley and shows the king’s crown as evidence, nervous that at any moment, they’ll all be found out and hanged.  But nobody suspects a thing, and when Robin successfully passes the crown to John without anybody recognizing him as a fake, he and his pals decide to maintain their charade all the way to Nottingham.

When they arrive, Loxley’s father asks Robin to pretend to be his son a while longer in order to strengthen Nottingham’s status in the growing unrest.  The only hitch?  Robert’s wife, Marion, who isn’t too keen on having a stranger passing himself off as her spouse.  Luckily, it’s not long before Robin has cause to take his shirt off, taming her resistance immediately, and the two begin to fall in love.  (Well, okay, but once YOU see him without his shirt on, I think you’ll understand.)

Back at the palace, Godfrey manages to Wormtongue his way into the king’s ear, convincing John to enact enormous taxes on all the land owners so he can become richer and more powerful.  John’s just dumb enough to believe that ruling with an iron fist is the best way to get respect — exactly what the French king was counting on.  As a civil war begins to brew in England, the French gather up their swords and set sail for its shores, ready to divide and conquer.

But Robin’s since learned a secret about his own past that has inspired him to take a stand against the king and unite the people against the French.   You want respect, he tells John, you gotta earn it, yo.  And the best way to do that is to give the people MORE freedom, not less.  (Magna Carta, anyone?)  The king reluctantly agrees, promising his people that just as soon as the French are quashed, he’ll sign a treaty that restores more power to the citizenry.  But, of course, as soon as the French are put down, John reneges on his promise and declares Robin a traitor.

Robin retreats to the forest of Nottingham, and the film ends just where most Robin Hood stories begin — with “Robin of the Hood” an infamous outlaw, teamed up with Little John, Friar Tuck, and Maid Marion to battle the forces of evil and mete out justice their own way. (Cue Robin Hood Daffy to complete the saga in the very best of ways — “Ho ho and ha ha, eh?  I’ll ho ho and ha ha you, fat friar. . .!”)

Though it’s exactly what you’d expect from a Ridley Scott movie, cheesy dialogue and silly romance times bloody battle and male bonding plus one, I still found it really entertaining.  I enjoyed the characters, especially Blanchett as Marion (to be honest, I mostly just appreciated that they cast an older woman as the romantic lead instead of, say, Megan Fox), and also the historical elements, which were surprisingly not that inaccurate.

All in all, a darn good time and well worth a rental.  “Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!”  (For those who have no idea what I’m talking about:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZEcSgGKfQg.  And you’re welcome!)

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Action/Adventure
Cast:  Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Mark Addy, Matthew Macfadyen

MOVIE: Vantage Point (2008)

July 28, 2008

First things first, I’d like to formally thank the person who recommended this movie to me, even though I rather lamely cannot remember which one of you geniuses it was. Not only is this movie an absolute blast to watch, but it’s a veritable EX-BOYFRIENDPALOOZA! Dennis Quaid! Eduardo Noriega! Matthew Fox! William Hurt! Heck, even Richard T. Jones is in this! If they’d thrown in a cameo from Sock Puppet, it would’ve been my Movie of the Year for sure.

This intriguing, gripping film is about what happens between 12 and 12:23 pm one afternoon in Spain. The short version of what happens is that the U.S. President, in Salamanca to announce his new anti-terrorism partnership with the Spanish government, is shot and killed while speaking to a large crowd in the town square. But instead of just telling us the story of how and why this happens, the movie instead tells us the story of the same 23 minutes told, told, and retold from the perspective of a variety of different characters: a television news producer (Sigourney Weaver), two Secret Service agents (Quaid and Fox), a Spanish police officer (Noriega), an American tourist (future BotW Forest Whitaker), the President himself (Hurt), and then finally, the terrorists responsible for his shooting and the subsequent bombings, kidnapping, and car chases.

To say anything more than that is to spoil all the twists for you, which, I’m sorry to say, the movie will do a fine job of all its own — the one thing I was greatly disappointed by in this film was the fact that my Mom and I had just about every twist figured out LONG before they were revealed, including a very significant one I had pegged five minutes in. I hate it when that happens. It’s the work of shoddy writing, too much “telling” instead of “showing,” and some too-transparent, sub-par acting on the part of one of the aforementioned ex-Boyfriends, though I won’t say who.

Interestingly enough, however, despite the fact I think we both found this movie a bit too much on the predictable side, we were also COMPLETELY gripped by it, and very, very entertained. The constant rewinding and replaying from another point of view was clever in a Lost sort of way, and it also reminded me a little bit of Denzel Washington’s fine thriller Deja Vu, both because of the timeline stuff and because it also had a very fun car chase scene in it (though not one as creative as the comparable scene in Deja Vu, of course — that one is still tied for first place in Awesomeness with the car chase scene through the mall from the Blues Brothers (“Man, this place has got EVERYTHING!”)).

All in all, it was two hours we thoroughly enjoyed. And I’m really looking forward to A) seeing it again someday soon and B) seeing more of Eduardo Noriega in anything, although Spanish movies are so much better than American ones, it’s hard to wish he’d move to Hollywood. Even though I secretly want him to.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Thriller, Action
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Eduardo Noriega, William Hurt, Matthew Fox, Richard T. Jones, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver.

MOVIE: Into the Wild (2007)

March 18, 2008

Both my mom and I read the Jon Krakauer book upon which this movie was based recently — I read it for the second time last November (read my review here — it’s the second one from the top), and she just finished her first reading of it a couple of weeks ago.  So, we were both eager to see the film — and to see it together.  Happily, we finally got our chance to this past weekend.

For those that don’t know, the movie (and Krakauer’s book, of course) is based on a true story about a young man named Chris McCandless who, after graduating from college, donated all his money to charity, hopped in his car, and headed for parts West.  His idols, Jack London, Henry Thoreau, etc. inspired him to slip the surly bonds of everyday life and to live free from responsibilities to anyone but himself.  Part of this was a rejection of his parents — rich and miserable — and part of it was just the typical wanderlust and idealism of youth.

As he traveled, he met a variety of people — two hippies (Catherine Keener and newcomer Brian Dierker), a farmer/criminal named Wayne (Vince Vaughn), a teenaged girl who falls in love with him (Kristin Stewart), and an elderly man who, until meeting Chris, had pretty much given up on life (Hal Holbrook, in an Academy Award-nominated performance). 

Though he’s clearly a social guy, Chris believes that he doesn’t need people in order to be happy.  And so his ultimate goal becomes to travel into the Alaskan wild, alone, and spend some time living off the land.  Unfortunately, he makes a series of either naive or careless (or both) mistakes, like refusing to take a map or proper gear with him.  And, ultimately, those mistakes  cost him his life.

First things first, I thought this film was absolutely stunning.  Visually, it’s just gorgeous.  It’s been a while since I saw a movie that was so pretty it made me wish I’d seen it in the theater — actually, I think the last one was Hero in 2002 — but this was certainly one of those kinds of films for me.  And it’s a very well-organized movie as well.  I felt like it did a great job at laying out Chris’s story, as well as at demonstrating the impact that he had on the people he met — not to mention the impact they had on him, an impact Chris didn’t realize the value of until it was too late.

But I also had a problem with this film, and that was that it tells a very, very selective version of Chris’s story.   When you turn a book into a movie, of course you have to pick and choose the pieces that work best for the two-hour version you want to share, and that’s what Sean Penn did here.  But it’s also QUITE obvious that Penn didn’t just select those pieces because they worked best in the film, but also because he saw Chris in a very specific light (modern-day prophet/Jesus, would be my guess, based on a couple of scenes in the movie) and rejected the parts of the book that didn’t perfectly fit in with that interpretation or ideal.  I love Sean Penn and I think the man is a genius, but I also think he can be passionate to the point of being unable to see alternative points of view (as can we all, of course), and this movie is a pretty good example of that. 

You should also probably know that the way Chris dies in the movie is only one of about four possibilities — nobody knows for sure what killed him, only that that whatever it was (wrong plant, right plant but contaminated, stupidity, etc.) led to his gradual starvation and demise.  Penn also greatly expands the role of the teenaged girl in the movie — for very “cinematic” reasons — and leaves out a lot of stuff that I really think could have, and should have, been included. 

Say, for example, the OTHER note found at the bus after Chris’s death — the one in which he was clearly terrified of dying and was begging whomever found his note to please stay at the bus until he came back from picking berries because he so, so, SO did not want to die there alone.  Instead, Penn only shows one of the two notes found — the one in which Chris seems at peace with his death and thanks God for his wonderful life.  Do you see what gets lost in that omission?  Frankly, I don’t even know that I can say that was a good cinematic choice, as I can tell you I’ve read the book twice and I didn’t even remember the “hooray for my awesome life, God!” note.  The note I DID remember — the one that made such a heartbreaking impression on me — was the one in which it was so evident that poor kid was terrified to die.

However, regardless of my sense of uneasiness with the way the movie Chris differs from the book Chris, I still thought this film was excellent.  Yes, it has a very sad ending and I will confess I found it extremely hard to watch Chris’s demise (for the record, Emile Hersch is incredible in this and I was surprised when I looked him up to find I’d seen him in several other things and never noticed him), but this is a film well worth watching even if you don’t like unhappy endings.  Tough it out and rent it anyway, okay?  Just make sure you ALSO read the book (which too is excellent), so you can have all the pieces of the story when you’re done.

By the way, great soundtrack by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, though I think it was a bit obtrusive in places. 

Finis.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Drama
Cast:  Emile Hirsch, William Hurt, Vince Vaughn, Marcia Gay Harden, Catherine Keener, Hal Holbrook