Frost/Nixon – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies, Politics, Presidency  Comments Off on Frost/Nixon – A Movie Review
May 252009
 

Frost Nixon Movie PosterFor three years after being forced from office, Nixon remained silent. But in summer 1977, the steely, cunning former commander-in-chief agreed to sit for one all-inclusive interview to confront the questions of his time in office and the Watergate scandal that ended his presidency. Nixon surprised everyone in selecting Frost as his televised confessor, intending to easily outfox the breezy British showman and secure a place in the hearts and minds of Americans. Likewise, Frost’s team harbored doubts about their boss’ ability to hold his own. But as cameras rolled, a charged battle of wits resulted. Would Nixon evade questions of his role in one of the nation’s greatest disgraces? Or would Frost confound critics and bravely demand accountability from the man who’d built a career out of stonewalling? Over the course of their encounter, each man would reveal his own insecurities, ego and reserves of dignity — ultimately setting aside posturing in a stunning display of unvarnished truth. Frost/Nixon not only re-creates the on-air interview, but the weeks of around-the-world, behind-the-scenes maneuvering between the two men and their camps as negotiations were struck, deals were made and secrets revealed… all leading to the moment when they would sit facing one another in the court of public opinion.

Genres: Drama, Adaptation and Politics; Running Time: 2 hrs. 2 min.; Release Date: December 5th, 2008 (limited); MPAA Rating: R for some language.

Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell, Toby Jones, Matthew MacFadyen

Directed by: Ron Howard

A posting a couple of weeks ago by a friend on Facebook reminded me that I had failed to write a review of the movie Frost/Nixon which Lay and I watched as an Amazon download nearly a month ago.

Kudos to Peter Morgan for his skill as a writer and Ron Howard’s ability to take a story based on real events and a widely known outcome. Howard has created a compelling “what will happen” drama (as he did with Apollo 13) that succeeds as a film.

This is a film based on a play that neither felt trapped in staginess nor weakly expanded with just the stage dialogue delivered exactly but in a variety of locales. Morgan gets a lot of credit here. What is so impressive about Morgan’s work is that in adapting his own play he didn’t try to force his already successful stage-play onto a film director – he has wholly reworked it from beginning to end and yet retained all the gravity and drama that the play elicited. If you saw the play everything key is here and yet you can feel the difference – the pacing is changed, the power achieved in different ways. The staging capabilities of a Hollywood production enables Howard to gussy up this event with such accoutrements as the luxury suite of a 747, Nixon’s seaside villa at San Clemente, and the impressive, downright menacing sight of a presidential motorcade. As the train of glittering, dark limos approach the Nixon friend’s house where the interviews were shot it feels like a battalion of tanks.

For this Howard also deserves credit. To have filmed the play as it was would have been disastrous on film – one long two-hander scene after another, duelling narrators. Howard knows when we need quick cuts, when a long drawn out piece that worked on stage needs to be reduced to a couple of lines and a post-scene reaction, and when he needs to hold with a scene and let it play between the two leads. This happens in several impressive moments in the latter half of the film.

For some this might constitute the films biggest flaw however. Morgan and Howard can’t escape the fact that in the final stages of the film it is the head-to-head scenes of Frost and Nixon that are key and they must stay with them more. This is necessary, but it sadly means that the supporting players, so well established and broadened out to expand the scope in the first half, fall be the wayside. A superb Toby Jones as Irving ‘Swifty’ Lazar, Matthew Macfadyen as John Birt and always reliable Oliver Platt as Bob Zelnick all but disappear and only Kevin Bacon and Sam Rockwell play any significant role beyond the two leads in the final stages. This is a shame.

Frank Langella and Michael Sheen are superb, as they were on stage, and Langella will take a lot of beating for the Oscar this year. There are many moments here when I was so involved I forgot I wasn’t watching the real Nixon. It’s not that he looks that like Nixon but he is so real you believe it completely and have to remind yourself you’re watching an actor. Frank Langella morphrd more successfully into Nixon than his physicality would otherwise permit. Michael Sheen as Frost already seems to look and sound like his character, and the blue blazer outfits add the final touch. Langella’s performance on camera brims of with melancholy, aggression, and self-pity; Michael Sheen’s as frost glitters with a muted, hysterical cheer mixing childishness and fear.

Platt is reliably Platt. Bacon is also his typically understated solid presence doing a lot with little. Toby Jones is fantastic in a small role – instantly memorable; and Rebecca Hall builds on a series of strong performances. But in the supporting cast it is Rockwell that stands out. Sure, he has the most to do but he is completely in this role, he manages to sink into the role which is something he rarely does. He matches the skill he showed in Lawn Dogs and Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind here and it is great to see him back at his best.

I thoroughly recommend this film.

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Angels and Demons – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies  Comments Off on Angels and Demons – A Movie Review
May 172009
 

angelsanddemons_smallposterWhen Robert Langdon discovers evidence of the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati — the most powerful underground organization in history — he also faces a deadly threat to the existence of the secret organization’s most despised enemy: the Catholic Church. When Langdon learns that the clock is ticking on an unstoppable Illuminati time bomb, he jets to Rome, where he joins forces with Vittoria Vetra, a beautiful and enigmatic Italian scientist. Embarking on a nonstop hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals and even to the heart of the most secretive vault on earth, Langdon and Vetra will follow a 400-year-old trail of ancient symbols that mark the Vatican’s only hope for survival.

Genres: Thriller, Adaptation, Politics/Religion and Sequel; Running Time: 2 hrs. 18 min.; Release Date: May 15th, 2009 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material.

Starring: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgard, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and Armin Mueller-Stahl

Directed By: Ron Howard

This film delivers well as the book was written in a fashion that reads like a international action thriller touching on the intellectual and spiritual.

The film takes off with the development in sciences that would have significance in proving the big bang theory but a crime is committed and a sample of the proof is stolen from a large lab in Europe. As the story progresses, they realize there may be a tie to a group who claim to be the Illuminati and who are seeking to bring down the Catholic church with the truth of science. This somehow involves deeply delving into the history of the Catholic church, it’s security concerns, hidden treasures and the bits of truth that may be stored away that they don’t want the public to be aware of.

From there, the film just gets thicker and faster. Ewan McGregor does a great job and is a refreshing face in the film along with some other good names that round out the cast, unlike Da Vinci Code which had only one mode to the film. Angels&Demons is much more watchable and theatrical. The performances are much better because the book has many bigger than life characters and events. It followed the book better as in the way it didn’t water down the controversy and graphic details. The Angels&Demons film is definitely worth a watch and will wash out any of the bad taste left from Da Vinci Code.

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The Da Vinci Code

 Movies, Religion  Comments Off on The Da Vinci Code
May 302006
 

The Da Vinci Code (2006)A murder inside the Louvre and clues in Da Vinci paintings lead to the discovery of a religious mystery protected by a secret society for two thousand years — which could shake the foundations of Christianity.

Directed by
Ron Howard

Genres
Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Cast
Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina, J?rgen Prochnow, Jean-Yves Berteloot, Etienne Chicot, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Marie-Fran?oise Audollent, Rita Davies, Francesco Carnelutti, Seth Gabel, Shane Zaza

We saw this movie Monday night,

I can’t say I was blown away by The Da Vinci Code – as is often the case, the book was far superior. I generally like Tom Hanks in almost all his roles. it was a thoroughly enjoyable, occasionally slow moving thriller. Having read the book, I did have a knowledge of the various groups and factions involved – Lay had not read the book, yet he was able to follow the story pretty well. The casting of the movie is surely one of it’s stronger points – Paul Bettany is almost unrecognizable and plays the menacing single minded Silas to utter perfection. Sir Ian McKellan too, is totally fantastic, and really steals most scene’s he appears in. He delivers some great one liners too – a real character actor playing a real character. Audrey Tautou is as we have come to expect, just lovely, and who else could have played Bezu Fache – Jean Reno was made for the role. As you’d expect from a Ron Howard Production, there is a good amount of cheese, especially towards the end. Langdon’s “Godspeed” caused me to awake in the night sweating!

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