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Rudderless - Billy Crudup, Miles Heizer, Anton Yelchin, Felicity Huffman, Laurence Fishburne, William H. Macy, Jamie Chung, Ben Kweller,Ryan Dean, Selena Gomez, Kate Micucci

Rudderless: after his son dies in a school shooting a grieving father finds his musical demos; learns them, plays them live and inadvertently ends up in a band that’s becoming successful. It’s all about the music, kind of like that film Once, but doesn’t suck hairy Irish balls. The musical aspect of this is solid; with believable songs and a good portrayal of gigging, jamming, the minutia of band life etc. The plotline is also an interesting take on taboo/sensitive material, and runs along nicely – if a little slowly – until the last act where it becomes more of a paint-by numbers affair, as the loose ends get tied up. Performances are top drawer too; Crudup is strong, and pulls you right in to his situation – it helps that he can play guitar and sang. Fishbourne steals all his scenes, and it’s clever casting Selena Gomez in despite being in 2 just scenes. Some would probably point out that the characters are thin, but it feels deliberate, in order to force the audience’s interest – enough subtle hints are laid out in the script for you to piece things together, and only key elements are eventually explicitly mentioned in the dialogue. The only major thing that bugged me was the continuous non diegetic music trying to manipulate you in to feeling what William H Macy wants as each scene plays out. As far as directorial debuts are concerned, WHM couldn’t have done much better; an interesting and compelling story, well acted, shot and edited – but was just a little too low-key / indie / shoe-gazing to fully enthrall.

Score: 7.5/10

 

 

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The Heist The Maiden Heist Christopher Walken, Marcia Gay Harden, Morgan Freeman, William H. Macy, Breckin Meyer

The Heist (aka The Maiden Heist): three security guards plan to steal artworks that they’ve become too attached to over the years, before they’re shipped to a new museum in Denmark. The three lead actors are all great: Walken does his Walken thing in all of its Walken-glory, William H Macy does an ex-para caricature, and Freeman leads the pack as a flamboyant eccentric. The wife unfortunately feels like she’s in the wrong movie – played far too slapstick / old-timey, and really emphasising the play/theater direction and campy vibe of the movie. Famous and respected actors serving up some good acting, which is unfortunately counter balanced with weak script and pale direction. The story also feels quite familiar, and plays out exactly how you think it will. Although it’s a straight-to-DVD film, it’s still better than much of the mush that gets properly released, and with a cast like this, I’m surprised it never hit the big screens. The Heist is a perfectly fine, inoffensive, light-hearted, upbeat movie – but with Walken and Freeman on the box, the bar’s perhaps set a little higher than what the film delivers.

Score: 4/10

PFR is marking the 500th post by putting up a bunch of DVD extras this week. This guest paragraph review is from Fogs at Fogs Movie Reviews; an awesome review site that generates a LOT of discussion about films.

Searching for Bobby Fischer: Directed by noted screenwriter Steve Zaillian (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Moneyball, Schindler’s List), “Searching for Bobby Fischer” is an intimate look at the challenge of growing up “gifted”. It’s the story of young Joshua Waitzkin (Max Pomeranc), and what happens when it’s discovered that he’s a chess prodigy. Joe Montegna and Joan Allen play young Josh’s parents, and the two do a great job of showing the pride, anxieties, and inner conflicts involved in raising a brilliant child. How far do you push him? How much time do you have him dedicate to his gift vs a “normal” childhood? As they begin to train Josh and enter him in competitive events, he meets two very different mentors. One is a “speed chess” hustler in Washington Square Park (Lawrence Fishburne), and the other is a very exclusive, private, traditional tutor (Ben Kingsley). The two clash over the boy’s training, as you might imagine, but the true conflict of the film revolves around just how hard a child should be pushed to grow up, to compete, and to hone a killer instinct that might jeopardize the innocence of youth. With such a great cast (it also features small roles by William H. Macy, Dan Hedaya, and Laura Linney), and such a compelling story, “Searching for Bobby Fischer” winds up being a very moving, heartfelt film. It’s sitting at 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert gives it four stars, and I myself recommend it very highly.

 

Score 8/10


The Lincoln Lawyer: follows a defense attorney that will represent any scumbag if the money’s right, but his latest case isn’t all it seems. First off, this is way, way better than the trailer makes the film look. Being based on a successful novel, the story’s rock solid, and stands up to the best court-based dramas out there at the moment (i.e. The Good Wife). There’s plenty interesting developments as the story moves forward. It’s also quite slick and really well made; the standout shot being the long revolving one in the courthouse. From out of nowhere McConaughey’s is excellent as a streetwise southern lawyer and Phillippe rises to the challenge with an equally believable performance. It’s a little slow in the 3rd quarter, and could have probably done without the last 15 minutes (everything after the major verdict) but hey ho, it still works well. Sack the casting director too; putting in two of the three most obvious latino typecasts working today. I was pleasantly surprised walking out of the cinema after this, well worth your time if you like your legal-flicks, topped off with a superb bluesy/R&B soundtrack.

Score: 7/10