The Old Man & the Gun

November 6, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck
Directed by: David Lowery (“A Ghost Story”)
Written by: David Lowery (“A Ghost Story”)

If legendary actor/director Robert Redford is really hanging it up after 60 years in Hollywood – he announced his retirement in August – his final film, “The Old Man & the Gun,” is just about as perfect of a swan song as any thespian could hope for. With “Old Man,” Redford has come full circle in his career and found his way back to playing the charismatic scoundrel he was known for in classic films like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting.”

At age 82, Redford hasn’t lost any of that appeal. In “Old Man,” writer/director David Lowery (“Pete’s Dragon”) has crafted a story that underscores Redford’s talents as someone who can command a screen even when portraying restrained characters. Redford has never been a showy actor, but he’s always been a showstopper.

He does the same in “Old Man” as Forrest Tucker, a notorious career criminal who spent his entire life in and out of jail for robbing banks until his death behind bars in 2004. The year before he passed, The New Yorker ran a profile on Tucker – which Lowery used as the basis for his screenplay – in which he said that during his bank-robbing escapades, he was able to successfully escape from prison a whopping 18 times.

“Old Man” introduces audiences to Forrest in the early 1980s doing what he does best – looting a bank and wearing a fashionable blue suit, brown fedora and wry smile. As most bank tellers and managers can attest while being held up, Forrest was polite and gentlemanly – the ideal target for Austin police officer John Hunt (Casey Affleck) to admire, but also track down.

While on the run, Forrest charms his way into the life of Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a widow who is quickly enamored by his nonchalant demeanor and mysterious air. Redford and Spacek, who surprisingly had never starred in a film together before, are wonderful in the few scenes they share. With the film’s old-school cinematic look and feel, Lowery takes moviegoers back in time to witness the noteworthy pairing as if it happened 40 years ago. It’s romantic, nostalgic and awfully adorable.

In Lowery’s hands, “Old Man” becomes more than just a biopic about an aging outlaw. It’s a tribute to Redford and the lasting effect he has left behind on the film industry. In one of the most poignant scenes of the year, Lowery packages all 18 prison escapes Forrest allegedly pulled off. During one of those escapes, viewers get a glimpse of a young Redford’s face, a scene borrowed from 1966’s “The Chase,” and edited flawlessly into the montage. It’s a bittersweet farewell to Redford and one that Lowery, as he does with the whole film, treats with the highest regard.

Ep. 98 – Ghost in the Shell, The Discovery, Power Rangers, 20th Century Women, and Cody’s tips on choosing the perfect meal from UberEATS

April 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Ghost in the Shell,” the new Netflix original film “The Discovery,” circle back to pick up “Power Rangers,” and take another look at “20th Century Women,” now on Blu-ray and DVD. Cody also gives listeners tips on what to order from UberEATS.

[00:00 – 18:21] Intro/Cody chooses his dinner

[18:21 – 30:16] Review – “Ghost in the Shell”

[30:16 – 40:15] Review – “The Discovery”

[40:15 – 54:20] Review – “Power Rangers”

[54:20 – 1:03:47] No Ticket Required – “20th Century Women”

[1:03:47 – 1:07:40] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

Pete’s Dragon

August 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley
Directed by: David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Body Saints”)
Written by: David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Body Saints”) and Toby Halbrooks (debut)

It might not be as magical as a couple of Disney’s other animated-turned-live-action films that have recently hit theaters (last year’s “Cinderella” was delightful as was this year’s “The Jungle Book”), but a revisit to 1977 for a remake of “Pete’s Dragon” is a charming enough way to prove to audiences that the studio’s decision to update its fairy tales is going in the right direction.

Although it’s evident “Pete’s Dragon” desperately wants to be the next generation’s “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial,” it feels more like an restructured version of the cheesy 1987 family film “Harry and the Hendersons” where a sasquatch is removed from his home only to be tracked down by a hunter who doesn’t recognize the creature is gentle by nature. It all leads up to a race back to the forest to release him before he is harmed. Replace the Bigfoot monster with a dog-like dragon and that’s basically what you get from director/writer David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Body Saints”), who does a fair job building the relationship between the fire-breathing dragon named Elliott (the same name as the kid in “E.T.”) and Pete (Oakes Fegley), the young boy he has protected ever since the child wandered into the woods after a car accident years prior (by the way, did that search party even try?).

It’s a tough assignment to write a believable relationship between a child and a “make-believe” character. “The Jungle Book” did a satisfying job of it with the character Mowgli and his best friend Baloo, a CGI bear. Other more emotionally complex films like “Where the Wild Things Are” made a phenomenal case that their two main characters Max and Carol inhabited the same world without any doubt. With “Pete’s Dragon,” Lowery is able to explain that Elliott cares for Pete, but there’s not a complete sense of devotion one might hope to feel during the film’s build-up.

Aside from the boy and his dragon, not much of anything comes from the rest of the narrative, which wastes a perfectly good opportunity to flesh out a tangible father daughter relationship between actors Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard. Without it, much of the story falls to Elliott and Pete to keep it afloat. For the most part, the effort feels genuine albeit slightly generic. What we’re left with is a story about a boy and his dragon, which might be enough for some, but not for audiences looking for something a little deeper.

Truth

November 3, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews, Uncategorized

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Topher Grace
Directed by: James Vanderbilt (debut)
Written by: James Vanderbilt (“White House Down”)

In 2004, CBS aired a 60 Minutes report led by Dan Rather that investigated the military record of then president George W. Bush. When it was revealed that some of the facts may have not been entirely accurate, Rather and his producer Mary Mapes face a firestorm of criticism and are investigated journalistic political bias.

As an ensemble piece, performances are pretty solid across the board. As Mapes, Blanchett continues her streak of fiery performances with another dominant leading role. Since the film’s main focus is on Mapes, it gives Blanchett plenty of screentime to work with and create easily the most nuanced character in the film. Other supporting actors like Stacy Keach and perhaps most surprising, Topher Grace make fine contributions, with Keach especially adding a fantastic sense of vulnerability.

Any time you have a film that is based on “recent” history featuring people who are still in the consciousness of the general population, you run the risk of being thrown off by dissimilarities between the figure and the actor. Even though Robert Redford is solid as Rather, he strikes no physical resemblances to him, nor does he make an attempt to do a Rather impression, which can be distracting for those who are looking for that sort of thing.

The entire treatment of Rather, in fact, is a little odd. He’s essentially a background player, and mostly deified when he’s not on screen. It’s an interesting way to treat the character, especially considering his career was deeply affected by the investigation. It’s clear from the get-go that this is Mapes’ story, though one can’t help that Rather’s perspective may have been a more interesting one.

One of the main issues that plagues “Truth” is that it spends an enormous chunk of time in hero worship mode, almost as if it is trying to protect the legacy of Rather. While it isn’t doing that, it’s showing the investigation into Mapes, which somehow fails to strongly hammer the point that Mapes and her team (Rather included) are being investigated for allowing political bias to influence reporting, rather than just merely going to air too quickly.

“Truth” is at its best when it digs into the details, procedures and tough decisions that go into investigative TV journalism. The on-the-fly edits, the deal brokering, the mid-interview changes are all among the best moments of the film. Where the film falters, however, is keeping all of this interesting over the span of two hours. Losing much of its storytelling steam, “Truth” can’t quite make the grade, even with a very good Redford and Blanchett.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

April 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johannson, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Joe and Anthony Russo (“You, Me and Dupree”)
Written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (“Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Thor: The Dark World”)

Of the stable of Marvel Comics superheroes that make up the cinematic version of The Avengers, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is the one tinged with the most melancholy. Originally a shrimpy wannabe World War II enlistee, Rogers was transformed into the super soldier Captain America, accidentally frozen for 70 years, and revived to fight for a cause he’s not so sure he believes in anymore. While he hasn’t aged a day, his best girl went on to marry someone else and grow old and gray. He’s a man out of time, working for an organization, SHIELD, that seems more about intimidation than securing freedom. But Cap is a soldier, and he does what a soldier does:  follow orders.

Cap’s unease continues to grow as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” kicks off. Sent to rescue the crew of a SHIELD ship from Algerian pirates, Rogers’ trust in SHIELD is shaken when fellow team member Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johannson) ignores his orders to covertly retrieve data from the ship’s computers. Back in Washington, D.C., Rogers confronts SHIELD leader Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) about his suspicions. Fury comes clean, letting Rogers in on Operation: Insight, a system of satellites and helicarriers linked to eliminate threats before they happen. Cap isn’t reassured, and during a visit with his former love Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), he laments what has become of the country he signed up to fight for. Meanwhile Fury, after visiting with SHIELD official Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) about delaying Operation: Insight, Fury is attacked in the streets of D.C. by a mysterious assassin known as The Winter Solider.

A delicious mixture of superheroics and ‘70s-style political thrills, “The Winter Soldier” plants its flag firmly at the top of the Marvel cinematic universe alongside “The Avengers” and Cap’s first big-screen adventure. While “Iron Man 3” felt like it was laying the groundwork for Robert Downey Jr.’s eventual exit (presumably, anyway) and “Thor: The Dark World” kept most of its action in Asgard, “The Winter Soldier” feels like the first Marvel film since “The Avengers” dominated the box office to actually live in and shake up the world that film left behind. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo turn in a hard-hitting, exceedingly confident film that feels effortless, the same of which can’t be said for the latest adventures of Thor and Iron Man. Evans shines again as Captain America, playing it straight while not turning the part into a clichéd patriot/man from the past. Surprisingly, the veteran Redford comes to play as well, digging his teeth into the material instead of coasting on his decades of movie stardom. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” may not be flawless – once again, the standalone film conveniently ignores the fact that the hero has other super pals he could call on – but it’s close.

The Company You Keep

April 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie
Directed by: Robert Redford (“The Conspirator”)
Written by: Lem Dobbs (“Haywire”)

It might flaunt the most impressive cast top to bottom you’re likely to see this year on the big screen (21 Oscar nominations, 4 wins), but the script behind Oscar-winning director Robert Redford’s political thriller “The Company You Keep” can only lead its actors just far enough before they’re let down by the material.

It really is unfortunate since Redford, who earned an Academy Award for directing in 1981 for “Ordinary People,” comes into the project with a lot of the pieces already in place. This should be a more intriguing look into the radical leftist organization known as the Weather Underground in the late 60s and early 70s, but it falters. The revolutionary group, whose members were charged during that time for bombing a number of sites such as the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon, were hell-bent on overthrowing the U.S. government.

In “Company,” Redford stars as Jim Grant, a New York City lawyer and former activist of the Weathermen, who has been living as a fugitive for the last 30 years after a bank heist he is involved in during his heyday claims the life of a guard. Jim is flushed from his quiet suburban home when one of his former Weather Underground colleagues Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) is finally found and arrested for her involvement in the radical movement. Her arrest triggers a domino effect that leads to Jim’s participation in the crime. Now on the run with the FBI and media (Shia LaBeouf plays a scrappy newspaper reporter who cracks the case) on his trail, Jim hits the road in search of a way to clear his name.

Based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gordon, “Company” is a sort of slowly-paced road-trip movie where tons of characters join the fracas, but none are very important to the overall narrative. It’s great to see the likes of heavy-hitters like Julie Christie, Richard Jenkins, Chris Cooper, Nick Nolte and Stanley Tucci tag in and out like some kind of all-star contest, but the substance behind each of their individual connections to the story is thinly scripted.

The acting makes up slightly for the film’s lack of tension. We’re not looking for car chases and extensive getaway scenes here, but Redford’s inability to draw out more emotional conflict from the script is its greatest letdown. There just aren’t enough big moments the talent can sink their claws into. “Company” is never boring, but it also never shifts out of first gear, which poses a major problem when you have a fugitive on the run and a lot at stake.