Silver Emulsion

Film Reviews

The Indian Runner (1991)

The Indian Runner (1991)

Starring Viggo Mortensen, David Morse, Patricia Arquette, Valeria Golino, Charles Bronson, Dennis Hopper

Directed by Sean Penn

Expectations: High. I’ve really liked the other films of Penn’s that I’ve seen. How can you not be excited by that cast list too?


I don’t know the exact story of how Sean Penn came to be a director as well as a fantastic actor, but what it boils down to is this, the guy can make a movie. The Indian Runner is his first excursion into work behind the camera, and despite some minor flaws, it is a powerful and emotional film. Sean Penn heard the Bruce Springsteen song, Highway Patrolman (off the excellent acoustic album Nebraska), and was so moved by its story, that he wanted to write an entire film based upon it. The Indian Runner inexplicably does what it sets out to do and successfully translates the song into a film, expanding the narrative yet still remaining true to Springsteen’s two central characters, a pair of very different brothers.

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August 4, 2010 Posted by | 1990s, Drama, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goodfellas (1990)

Goodfellas (1990)

Starring Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Expectations: High. Love it, does it hold up?


If someone were to tell me that they thought Goodfellas was Scorsese’s best film, I really couldn’t argue with them. I might not agree but it is a completely valid position, as Goodfellas is one of the best films of the 1990s and still holds up today. The film is just as skillfully made as you remember it being, twenty years later. Goodfellas opens in the middle of the story, in the middle of a scene even, after some minimalist but effective Saul Bass titles. Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci drive through the dark of night when strange sounds come from the back of the car. They pull over and open the trunk, revealing a bloody mess of a man. Joe Pesci violently stabs him repeatedly before De Niro opens fire. Liotta chimes in via voiceover, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” This scene serves as an introduction to the film, but repeat viewers will recognize it also as one of the most important moments in these character’s lives, defining and shaping everything that ultimately comes to each of them.

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July 28, 2010 Posted by | 1990s, Drama, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Invictus (2009)

Invictus (2009)

Starring Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Tony Kgoroge, Patrick Mofokeng, Matt Stern

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Expectations: Low.


Another one I had been avoiding. I love Clint Eastwood, but I usually find his directorial efforts to be fairly slow and plodding. There are exceptions, but as a rule, his films are understated and meditative. This is fine, I’m just rarely in that kind of a mood so I tend to avoid his films unless I have a great interest in the subject matter. This was the case with Invictus, but I’m glad I dived in because this is a really good film.

Morgan Freeman is the definite star of the show, inhabiting the role of Nelson Mandela with ease. Freeman is recognizable as both himself and Mandela in the role, skillfully blending the two personas into a memorable screen performance that never feels like one. He gives a powerful speech early in the film on why the team name should remain the Springboks, proving why Freeman received an Oscar nomination for the role. Matt Damon is also great in his scenes, but he tends to fade into the background as a lot of his scenes are without dialogue on the Rugby field. When Damon is on-screen, his subtle performance feels natural and believable. The film is essentially broken into two halves with Freeman leading the charge in the first half of the film, and Damon taking over once the World Cup action begins.

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June 23, 2010 Posted by | 2000s, Drama, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Like Stars on Earth (2007)

Like Stars on Earth [Taare Zameen Par (तारे ज़मीन पर)] (2007)

Starring Darsheel Safary, Aamir Khan, Tisca Chopra, Vipin Sharma, Sachet Engineer, Tanay Chheda, M.K. Raina

Directed by Aamir Khan

Expectations: Moderate.


I’ve had this DVD sitting on my shelf for about two months. I kept putting it off because of its long runtime (165 min.) but when I finally put it in I found myself pleasantly surprised. The film slowly builds, introducing you to its world and by the end I was in love. It is incredibly multi-faceted but never feels stretched or forced. At its heart it is an uplifting drama, but it’s also a musical that features sequences of claymation, traditional animation and even a bit of 3d animation.

The film seeks to tell the story of Ishaan, a young boy who is having trouble keeping himself focused in school. He tends to look out the window and daydream more than actually study. He is an imaginative boy and the many forms of animation and art impart this to the viewer. The film reflects the colorful Indian culture beautifully, from flowing fabrics to intense watercolor paintings. Overall, the film is well-shot and nice to look at. There isn’t anything about the cinematography that stands out all that much, but it does have a general high quality.

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June 19, 2010 Posted by | 2000s, Drama, Foreign, Kids, Movie Reviews, Musical, Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Crazy Heart (2009)

Crazy Heart (2009)

Starring Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Jack Nation

Directed by Scott Cooper

Expectations: High.


Crazy Heart tells the story of Bad Blake, an alcoholic country singer played by Jeff Bridges whose career is on the decline. We enter his life as he pulls into the parking lot of his next gig, a bowling alley. The last time I saw Bridges at a bowling alley were the final moments of The Big Lebowski, so this was a nice place to start the film for me. I’m sure it wasn’t lost on a lot of other viewers as well. He eventually meets up with a young reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and strikes up a friendship. The heart of the film lies within this relationship. Maggie Gyllenhaal has never looked more beautiful on-screen than she does here and she displays a deep talent for creating a believable character.

I was shocked to learn that this is the début feature from Scott Cooper. It is a very well made film with crisp, beautiful cinematography. The film is set all across the American Southwest and it looks gorgeous. The wide, expansive landscapes made me long for a good road trip and the bar interiors perfectly captured the heartbroken neon feeling that local bars always gives me. I look forward to what he comes out with next, because if it’s as well shot as this was, it’ll be something special.

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June 12, 2010 Posted by | 2000s, Drama, Movie Reviews, Musical, Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Starring Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, James Earl Jones

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Expectations: High. I adore Kubrick and I’d only seen this once before.


Stanley Kubrick is one of my favorite directors, but this film has always been something of an enigma to me. I only saw it once, about ten years ago or so, and at the time I enjoyed it but I just didn’t think it was as amazing as everyone else seemed to think it was. It had been built up as one of the great screen comedies, but for me it didn’t deliver at that level. I got the satire, but it’s more of a slight smile throughout kind of movie, instead of a raucous laughter kind of movie. I was really into Billy Wilder comedies at the time so I guess subconsciously I went in expecting something in that vein. This time around, obviously, I knew what I was getting myself into. That helped quite a bit and my second viewing of Dr. Strangelove was a much more pleasant experience.

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June 5, 2010 Posted by | 1960s, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Cove (2009)

The Cove (2009)

Starring Ric O’Barry, Louie Psihoyos

Directed by Louie Psihoyos

Expectations: High. I’ve heard nothing but good stuff.


The Cove is an interesting documentary. It seeks to expose the fishing practices of the Japanese village of Taiji, specifically the capture and killing of dolphins that goes on there. The practices are legal due to a few loopholes, but are definitely not right. The fisherman capture hundreds of dolphins at a time. Trainers from amusement parks and “Swim with the Dolphins” places come and select the dolphins they want. The fisherman kill all the unselected dolphins and sell them for meat. The film follows Ric O’Barry, who became famous after capturing and training the dolphins used in the 1960s television show Flipper. He now crusades to stop any and all wrongdoings against the creatures, feeling somewhat responsible for their rise in popularity. Ric worked with the dolphins on a daily basis and realized that they are not only incredibly smart, but that they are also self-aware.

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May 18, 2010 Posted by | 2000s, Documentary, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pickup on South Street (1953)

Pickup on South Street (1953)

Starring Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Thelma Ritter, Richard Kiley

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High. Sam Fuller. He’s good.


Sam Fuller knew how to shoot a movie. He’s under the radar for a lot of people, which is a shame because his camerawork is undeniably fantastic. In one of the DVD extras Fuller states, “The power of the camera…is exactly like bold-face type. You cannot compete with it.” Sam Fuller is the perfect example of a director that focuses on showing and not telling.

The film opens with Jean Peters on a subway. Quick cuts establish that she is being watched by two men. There is no dialogue. A third man enters the scenario. He is a pickpocket (Richard Widmark). He lifts the wallet from Jean Peters’ purse and exits the subway car. The two men push their way to the door, only to have it close in their faces.

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May 4, 2010 Posted by | 1950s, Action, Drama, Film Noir, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Lovely Bones (2009)

The Lovely Bones (2009)

Starring Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon

Directed by Peter Jackson

Expectations: Moderate. I heard bad things, but I love Peter Jackson so there’s no way I’m not watching this.


This is a tough movie for me to review. Emotionally, I loved it. It hit me hard and continues to resonate in the days following. Technically, I have some issues with it. Ultimately, for me, the emotional weight of the movie is far greater than any technical problems I had, and I am judging it a bit harsher anyway because of my Peter Jackson fanboy status. I’ve seen every one of his films and I enjoy them all. Yes, I even like Meet the Feebles.

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April 28, 2010 Posted by | 2000s, Drama, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Red Cliff: Part II (2009)

Red Cliff Part II [赤壁] (2009)

Starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen, Zhao Wei, Hu Jun, Shidō Nakamura, Lin Chi-ling, Tong Dawei, Hou Yong, You Yong

Directed by John Woo

Expectations: Moderate to High. I enjoyed the first one a lot and I hoped that Part II was as good.


So the question is, does Part II live up to the expectations built up after watching Part I? Yes, yes it does. I liked this 140 minutes of Red Cliff more than the first 140 minutes, not necessarily because it’s better, but because of familiarity. Part II opens with a brief rundown of what happened in Part I over the credits. The first new shot is of troops opening the gate into Cao Cao’s camp. The music swelled and I broke a smile. It reminded me of how I felt when I first saw Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Both films (Rings & Cliff) were made as one movie and then chopped into parts for release. So instead of the feeling of watching a sequel, with a slightly different production style, you are watching more scenes from the same movie. It’s a good, nostalgic feeling of revisiting something you love and finding treasures you had never seen before.

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April 16, 2010 Posted by | 2000s, Action, Drama, Foreign, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments