OVERLORD (2018) – World War II Actioner/Horror Movie Generally Entertaining

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MOVIE 'OVERLORD'

Jovan Adepo and Wyatt Russell in OVERLORD (2018).

A horror movie set during World War II, hours before the Allied invasion of Normandy.

Sound like a pretty good combination to me!

And OVERLORD (2018) is just that: an action/horror hybrid that isn’t half bad.

In the battle of Normandy, code name Overlord, it’s the mission of a select group of allied soldiers to land behind enemy lines and destroy a Nazi radio tower to give the allied planes protection as they provide cover for the invading ground forces. The battle zone is insanely chaotic, and the plane carrying these soldiers is shot out of the sky, with only a few soldiers successfully making it out of the plane via parachute. Fewer still survive once they hit the ground in Nazi territory.

Only a handful of soldiers remain. OVERLORD is their story. Ranking officer Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell) leads this group to the radio tower which is located on top of a church. Among these soldiers is Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo), a black soldier who’s been called out for not being much of a soldier, mostly likely because of the color of his skin.

On the ground, they meet a young French woman Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), and since Boyce is the only soldier there who speaks French, suddenly he’s a bit more valuable. Chloe provides shelter for the soldiers at her aunt’s farmhouse, which she shares with her sick aunt and kid brother. While Ford and company prepare for their mission, they have to lay low from the marauding Nazis, led by a particularly nasty officer named Wafner (Pilou Asbaek).

While at the farmhouse, the soldiers hear rumors of strange scientific experiments being conducted by the Nazis underneath the church, experiments that are killing many of the townspeople.  While fleeing Nazi soldiers, Boyce accidentally finds his way inside the bizarre underground lab, and what he sees there horrifies him.

He reports back to Ford, who tells Boyce and his fellow soldiers that the stuff happening inside the lab is not part of their mission, but when events bring the horrors from the lab onto their doorstep, they suddenly find themselves with no choice but to confront the monstrosities head on.

The best part of OVERLORD is its combination of World War II adventure and horror tale is a good one and for the most part works. The World War II story is exciting on its own, which is a good thing because the horror elements don’t really come into play until the movie’s third act.

And that’s one thing I didn’t like about OVERLORD. It takes too long to get to its best part, the stuff with the Nazi experiments. As such, it really isn’t much of a horror movie. In fact, even when it’s revealed just what those experiments are, and things get a bit gruesome, the subject matter really isn’t all that horrific. OVERLORD plays more like a violent action science fiction adventure than a horror movie.

That being said, I had a lot of fun watching OVERLORD. I just wished its genre elements had been darker.

I fully enjoyed the cast.  Jovan Adepo is excellent as Boyce, the character audiences will relate to the most.  He’s both the voice of reason and caution, and his decisions throughout the film are spot on and in tune with what audiences expect from a movie hero. One problem here, however, is with historical accuracy.  While the notion of having a black character here as the lead is a good one and one I really enjoyed, the U.S. military was still racially segregated during World War II. Oops!

Wyatt Russell is also very good as Ford. Now, Russell is the son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, and there are times when his mannerisms and dialogue delivery really resemble his father, which is a good thing. Russell makes for a likeable action hero.

Likewise, Mathilde Ollivier is also thoroughly enjoyable as Chloe, the fiery French woman who assists the allied soldiers. She’s smart, tough, and terribly sexy.

And Pilou Asbaek makes for a sufficiently nasty villain as Nazi officer Wafner. Asbaek has starred on GAME OF THRONES (2016-17) and in the movies GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017) and THE GREAT WALL (2016), among others, but this is my favorite role I’ve seen him play so far. He was fun to hate.

OVERLORD was produced by J.J. Abrams, and early rumors were that this film was going to be part of the CLOVERFIELD universe. It’s not, although at times it certainly felt like it. The only thing missing was any reference to the word “cloverfield.”

OVERLORD was directed by Julius Avery with mixed results.  The World War II stuff is exciting and nicely paced, though nothing audiences haven’t seen before. The horror elements which finally show up in the film’s third act, are violent and energetic, but hardly scary.  This one is rated R for language and bloody violence and science fiction style mutilations, and it plays like OPERATION: FINALE (2018) meets A CURE FOR WELLNESS (2016).

The best scenes are the World War II fight scenes. While the blood and gore increase towards the film’s finale, the suspense doesn’t.  I will say the special make-up effects were very good.

Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith wrote the adequate screenplay.  It’s filled with serviceable dialogue and situations, but nothing that pushes the envelope all that much. In all honesty, I expected to be more horrified by the film’s revelations, but that wasn’t the case. The horrors revealed here do not rise above the comic book level.

At least the tone remains serious, and  never deviates into campiness, and I liked this. No surprise here, really, since Ray wrote the screenplay for the Tom Hanks film CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013), while Smith wrote the screenplay to THE REVENANT (2015) the film in which Leonardo DiCaprio won the Academy Award for Best Actor, two very serious movies.

OVERLORD, incidentally, refers to the Normandy invasion code name, and not the popular Japanese novel series and anime.

I liked OVERLORD well enough, even though it didn’t fully deliver with its horror elements. The World War II scenes provide plenty of adventure and excitement, while the whispers of bizarre Nazi experiments generate interest throughout. It all leads to a bloody conclusion that is more action-oriented than frightening.

The end result is a movie that generally entertains even as it falls short in the horror department.

—END—

 

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YOUR MOVIE LISTS: MOVIES SCORED BY JAMES HORNER

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Oscar-winning composer James Horner

Oscar-winning composer James Horner

YOUR MOVIE LISTS:  Movies Scored by James Horner

By

Michael Arruda

Oscar-winning composer James Horner has died.   Horner passed away tragically on June 22, 2015, the victim of a small plane crash.  He was 61.

Horner composed music for countless movies over the years, many of them in the horror and science fiction genre.  According to IMDB, Horner composed scores for 156 movies beginning in 1978.  He won two Oscars, both for TITANIC(1997), as he won for Best Original Score and Best Original Song, “My Heart Will Go On.”

We remember Horner today with a look at the movies he scored.  It’s a partial list, with the genre films listed in bold.

THE WATCHER (1978) – James Horner’s first movie score.

THE LADY IN RED (1979) – Gangster film about John Dillinger starring Robert Conrad as Dillinger and Pamela Sue Martin as the Lady in Red.  Horner actually scored this film before THE WATCHER, but THE WATCHER was released first.

HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980) – classic low-budget 1980s horror movie starring Doug McClure in a tale about mutated sea monsters who kill men and rape women.  This is the first movie scored by Horner that I ever saw.

BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980) – STAR WARS wannabe/clone/ripoff starring Richard Thomas, Robert Vaughn, George Peppard, John Saxon, and Sybil Danning.

THE HAND (1981) – Horror movie about a severed hand that comes back to life and goes on a murder spree.  Starring Michael Caine.  With a screenplay by Oliver Stone!

WOLFEN (1981) – Stylish horror movie starring Albert Finney about Native American wolf spirits.  Based on the Whitley Strieber novel.

DEADLY BLESSING (1981) – Wes Craven horror film starring Sharon Stone.

STAR TREK II:  THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982) – Probably my favorite James Horner score.  It’s certainly the film where I first noticed his music.  The music he wrote for the space battle scenes between Kirk and Khan are particularly effective, in this superior STAR TREK film, the second and arguably the best in the series.star_trek_ii_the_wrath_of_khan poster

48 HRS (1982) –Action/comedy by writer/director Walter Hill was Eddie Murphy’s feature film debut.  Co-starring Nick Nolte.

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983) – Very stylish horror/fantasy based on the Ray Bradbury novel.  Bradbury also wrote the screenplay.  Starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce.  Not as effective or chilling as it should have been, perhaps because it was a Walt Disney release.

KRULL (1983) – science fiction fantasy by director Peter Yates.

BRAINSTORM (1983) – Science fiction thriller directed by Douglas Trumbull and starring Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood.  Wood’s final movie.

STAR TREK III:  THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (1984) – The third film in the STAR TREK movie series, directed by Leonard Nimoy, about the search for the reborn Spock after his death at the end of STAR TREK II:  THE WRATH OF KHAN.  Not bad, but not nearly as good as it predecessor.

COMMANDO (1985) – Arnold Schwarzenegger actioner is a guilty pleasure.  Contains some of Arnold’s best movie lines.

ALIENS (1986) – Probably my second favorite James Horner music score in this ambitious, entertaining sequel by writer/director James Cameron.  With Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, a conniving Paul Reiser, a whiny Bill Paxton, and an army of vicious aliens.

THE NAME OF THE ROSE (1986) – Well-made period piece thriller with Sean Connery as William of Baskerville, a monk investigating a series of murders.  Featuring a young Christian Slater.

RED HEAT (1988) –Arnold Schwarzenegger teams with James Belushi in this buddy action flick by director Walter Hill.

FIELD OF DREAMS (1989) – If you build it, they will come.  Iconic baseball movie starring Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Ray Liotta, and James Earl Jones.

GLORY (1989) – Civil war drama starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, and Morgan Freeman.

ANOTHER 48 HRS (1990) – Forgettable sequel with Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, once more directed by Walter Hill.

THE ROCKETEER (1991) – Amiable adventure yarn set during World War II about a secret jetpack, the young man who uses it, and the Nazis spy who wants it.  Timothy Dalton makes a nice baddie.

PATRIOT GAMES (1992) – Harrison Ford takes over as CIA analyst Jack Ryan in this Tom Clancy tale.

CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (1994) – Ford returns as Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.

BRAVEHEART (1995) – Mel Gibson steals the show as Scottish rebel William Wallace.  Gibson also directed.

APOLLO 13 (1995) – Superior movie by director Ron Howard about the ill-fated Apollo 13 moon mission, based on the book by Jim Lovell.  Phenomenal cast includes Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris.  Another memorable score by James Horner, one of my favorites.

RANSOM (1996) – Action thriller starring Mel Gibson about a father who takes the law into his own hands after his son was kidnapped.  The sort of movie Liam Neeson would have starred in if this had been made ten years later.

THE DEVIL’S OWN (1997) – muddled thriller starring Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt.  Pitt’s not who he seems, and Ford finds out.

TITANIC (1997) –  The biggie, the iconic James Cameron movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.  Horner won two Oscars for this movie, for original score and for best song.

DEEP IMPACT (1998) – science fiction disaster film about a meteor about to wipe out Earth stars Robert Duvall, Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, and Morgan Freeman as the President of the United States.

THE MASK OF ZORRO (1998) –Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins in this so-so tale of Zorro.

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1998) – Disney remake of the classic giant ape movie features topnotch special effects by make-up wizard Rick Baker.  Starring Charlize Theron and Bill Paxton.

THE PERFECT STORM (2000) – Nonfiction sea tale starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg.

A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001) – Russell Crowe steals the show as brilliant mathematician John Nash, directed by Ron Howard.  Co-starring Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris

THE FORGOTTEN (2004) –Decent horror movie starring Julianne Moore about false memories and sinister enemies.

FLIGHTPLAN (2005) – thriller with Jodie Foster dealing with bad guys on a plane.

THE LEGEND OF ZORRO (2005) – Antonio Banderas returns as Zorro.

AVATAR (2009) – James Cameron classic that put 3D movies back on the map.  Superior film with yet another memorable James Horner score.  With Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012) – Inferior Spider-Man reboot, made way too soon after the Tobey Maguire series which only ended five years earlier.   Andrew Garfield as Spidey— meh.

James Horner wrote the music for so many of the movies I’ve watched over my lifetime.  Often writing scores for multiple films per year, Horner provided music for more movies than are listed here, as again, this is just a partial list.

Sadly, his life was cut short while he was still very active in his career.  His musical talents will be greatly missed.

James Horner.  August 14, 1953 – June 22, 2015.  Age – 61.

Thanks for reading.

—Michael

SECOND LOOK: THE GREAT GATSBY (2013)

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The Great Gatsby Blu-RaySECOND LOOK:  THE GREAT GATSBY (2013)

By Michael Arruda

 

THE GREAT GATSBY was one of my favorite movies last year (see my post from May 12, 2013 for my full review).  In fact, it made my Top 10 List for Best Movies of 2013 coming in at #9. 

 

I liked it so much I decided it was already time for a second look, and so I checked it out again the other day on Blu-Ray.  How well did it hold up? 

 

Pretty well, actually.

 

The biggest difference between seeing it at the movies and watching it at home was the quality of the visuals.  I saw it in 3D at the movies, and I was very impressed with the 3D effects.  The visual splendor of the film is lost somewhat in 2D on the living room screen.  Also, the fast moving camerawork which appeared smooth and perfectly natural at the theater was somewhat jarring on the smaller screen at home. 

 

Bottom line:  even though the Blu-Ray print was crystal clear, the film was nowhere near as visually stunning and impressive as it was in the theater.

 

The living room setting didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the controversial modern soundtrack, however.  I still thought it worked.

 

The strong acting performances hold up as well.

 

I appreciated Tobey Maguire’s performance even more the second time around.  His Nick Carraway is exactly the way I pictured him in Fitzgerald’s novel, and he really nails Carraway’s disillusionment with the people around him, as well as his growing affection towards Gatsby, a man he didn’t know what to make of at first.

 

And while I still enjoyed Leonardo DiCaprio’s interpretation of Jay Gatsby, admittedly I was somewhat less impressed with DiCaprio’s performance during this second viewing. I didn’t find him as spot-on as I did the first time around.  Don’t get me wrong.  DiCaprio is still excellent.  I just wasn’t wowed as much the second time.  Maybe it was because of his more recent and even better performance as Jordan Belfort in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013).

 

Carey Mulligan is just as adorable at home as Daisy Buchanan as she was at the movies, and Joel Edgerton is just as shamelessly confident and coarse as her off-the-charts rich husband Tom. 

 

And the parties are still just as vibrant and fun.

 

However, I still didn’t like the way director Baz Luhrmann handled Gatsby’s first appearance in the movie.  I didn’t like it the first time I saw it, and I liked it even less the second time. It’s probably the phoniest part of the movie, one of the few times the film doesn’t ring true.

 

I still like this version though, and prefer it to the 1974 Robert Redford version.  Its biggest strength is that it does a good job bringing THE GREAT GATSBY to life for modern audiences, without sacrificing the integrity of the story.

 

It’s full of energy and oomph and really puts a charge into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel.

 

THE GREAT GATSBY was a must-see film at the movies, and it’s still highly recommended, even at home on Blu-Ray in the comfort of your own living room.  The visuals may not translate as well, but everything else about this vibrant production still rocks.

 

So, go ahead and visit Jay Gatsby.  Like the rest of the guests at his mansion, you don’t need an invitation.

 

—Michael

BEST MOVIES OF 2013

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out of the furnace posterBEST MOVIES OF 2013

By

Michael Arruda

Here’s my list for the Top 10 Best Films that I saw in 2013.

For a more detailed list and a more explosive column, in which you’ll be able to find out what fellow author and movie critic L.L. Soares had to say about his best movies of the year, and what we had to say about each other’s picks, be sure to check out our comprehensive BEST OF 2013 column coming soon at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT at cinemaknifefight.com.

Before we get to my Top 10 List, here are a few movies that made it as Honorable Mentions.  They didn’t make my Top 10 list for the best films of the year, but they were pretty good nonetheless.

Honorable Mentions:

NOW YOU SEE ME – Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine in a fast moving energetic tale of one FBI agent’s quest to bring down a group of magicians who may or may not be pulling off bank heists.  Did they just do that, or was it an illusion?  A very entertaining, very clever movie, that’s ultimately a lot of fun, as long as you don’t think about it too much.

MAMA – Neat horror movie that I actually found creepy and scary.

THE HEAT – My favorite comedy of the year, starring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock in a laugh-out-loud comedy that’s funny from start to finish.

WORLD WAR Z – It’s not THE WALKING DEAD, but this zombie thriller generates enough suspense to make it worth your while.

THE CONJURING – From the director of INSIDIOUS (2010) this was my favorite horror movie of the year.  I really enjoyed the husband and wife paranormal investigative team played by Patrick Wilson and Elena Verdugo.  Full of creepy images and a few good scares.

Okay, now on to the Top 10.  Here are my picks for the Top 10 Best Films that I saw in 2013:

10.  GRAVITY – Sandra Bullock as an astronaut stranded in space after a freak accident wipes out her ship and the rest of her crew.  Bullock is excellent, but the CGI effects are the real star of this one as this movie plays as if it were shot on location in space.  Things look that authentic.  The filmmakers also got the silence of space right.  When all hell breaks loose around Bullock, it occurs in a creepy silence.  Very neat.

Tight direction makes this one all the more claustrophobic.  When Bullock is fighting to preserve her oxygen, I found myself struggling for air as well.

9. THE GREAT GATSBY – Baz Lurmann’s flashy interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel features yet another topnotch performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, this time as Jay Gatsby.  Tobey Maguire is also well cast at Nick Carraway, as is Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan.

This version of THE GREAT GATSBY possesses more energy and pizazz than the stoic 1974 Robert Redford version, highlights the bawdiness of the 1920s with colorful flair, and really does a nice job getting to the heart of what’s behind one Jay Gatsby.  With a modern soundtrack, quick editing, and vibrant colorful photography in eye popping 3D, this GATSBY was built with modern audiences in mind.  I loved it.

8.  DON JON – Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s creative and off-beat tale of a man so obsessed with internet porn that it gets in the way of his relationships.  Main character Jon loves porn so much that he finds it more satisfying and rewarding than the real deal.

A thought-provoking movie, well-written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and featuring a strong cast, led by Gordon-Levitt himself in the lead, as well as Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, and Tony Danza as his overbearing father, DON JON is that rare kind of movie that is so full of blunt honesty it’s embarrassingly funny.  And for a movie that spends a lot of time talking about porn, it really has a lot to say about the value of real relationships.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut.

7. DEAD MAN DOWN – Many people considered this a misfire, but I absolutely loved this dark tale of crime, murder, and revenge, directed by by Niels Arden Opley, the man who directed the original THE GIRLWITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009).

Starring Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace as a pair of lovers who start off as anything but, this adult tale of revenge and more revenge pushes all the right buttons, is full of intriguing characters who I cared about, contains first-rate dialogue, and tells a compelling story.  Dominic Cooper is also on hand to deliver yet another first-rate performance in a supporting role.

DEAD MAN DOWN is both an intense actioner that goes for the throat and a love story that is as sincere as it is offbeat.  I loved it.

6. AMERICAN HUSTLE-  Director David O. Russell’s critically acclaimed film about con artists and government scandals set in the 1970s featuring a powerhouse cast that includes Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner.  None of these five disappoint, as they all bring their “A” game to the table.  That being said, my favorite performance here probably belonged to Jennifer Lawrence, as her character’s over-the-top unpredictability was certainly the easiest to like.

My only complaint is that when you strip away the glitz and the style, you’re left with a story that is average at best, and way below the quality of the acting in this movie.  In short, the characters in this film deserve a better story.

It also didn’t fully capture for me the fear and anxiety that existed in the troubled decade of the 1970s.

However, it does contain a marvelously effective soundtrack, full of classic songs from the 1970s.

Not the grand slam I thought it was going to be, but still an amazing movie nonetheless.

5. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET –   Director Martin Scorsese pulls out all stops in this tale of greed, sex, drugs, and good times, based on the true story of stockbroker Jordan Belfort who was indicted in the 1990s for defrauding his investors.  It features a tremendous performance by Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, a guy you wouldn’t want to know, yet you can’t stop watching him and the things he does in this movie.

It also features a great supporting cast, which includes Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Rob Reiner, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal, Jean Dujardin, and Margot Robbie.  It paints an ugly picture of Wall Street, as Jordan Belfort is no role model, but perhaps that’s the point.

Great movie!

4. OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL –   This was a film I had no interest in seeing, yet I loved it from start to finish.  From its opening scene in black and white, mirroring the style of the 1939 classic THE WIZARD OF OZ, to the colorful and extravagant world of Oz, filled with amazing special effects, I found this one to be a keeper.

James Franco is perfectly cast as the young magician and con- man Oscar Diggs who eventually becomes the Wizard of Oz, and he receives fine support from Michelle Williams as Glinda the Good Witch, and Mila Kunis as Theodora, the wicked witch.

I thought the little China Girl was one of the more stunning CGI creations I’d seen in a long while.

3. IRON MAN 3 – This third film in the IRON MAN series gets nearly everything right and was by far my favorite superhero film of the year.

I found it nearly as good as the original IRON MAN movie, much better than the second, and much better than some of the other recent Marvel superhero movies.  The biggest reason for this is the presence of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark.  He has made this role his own, and his Tony Stark is one of the more dynamic characters in the movies today.  He has played Stark four times now, and he has been excellent all four times.

I also really enjoyed Gwyneth Paltrow here, as she had more screen time this time around as Stark’s love interest Pepper Potts,   I thought she and Downey really clicked in this movie, more so than in the previous films.

IRON MAN 3 joins the top ranks of other Marvel superhero movies, films which include THE AVENGERS (2012), the first IRON MAN movie in 2008, and X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011),

Grand entertainment throughout.

2. ELYSIUM – This science fiction flick from writer/director Neill Blomkamp, the man who gave us DISTRICT 9 (2009), is a superior science fiction film that I liked even more than DISTRICT 9.

Its story of two different societies, the “haves” on the space station Elysium, and the “have nots” back on Earth really resonated, and the adventure of Matt Damon’s character Max who needs to reach Elysium in order to save his own life, but in turn ends up changing the entire world as they know it, is as compelling as they come.

This is a hard hitting edge-of-your seat science fiction thriller, a film that earns its “R” rating.  It also features a knock-out performance by Sharlto Copley, the same man who played the lead in DISTRICT 9, as one of the more relentless and brutal screen villains I’ve seen in a long time.

 

ELYSIUM is an adult science fiction thriller that will knock your socks off.  It’s not to be missed.

1. OUT OF THE FURNACE – This one tanked at the box office, but for me, it pressed all the right buttons.  I thought the cast was brilliant, led by Christian Bale as a man searching for his missing brother, and Woody Harrelson as the most brutal disturbing villain in a movie this year.  He and Sharlto Copely from ELYSIUM would make quite the pair.

Casey Affleck stands outs as Bale’s younger brother Rodney, and the strong cast also includes Willem Dafoe and Sam Shepard.

OUT OF THE FURNACE is a very dark very grim movie, and that’s one of the reasons I liked it so much.  It kind of got lost in the blitz of movies that came out at Christmas, and was overshadowed by the huge hype surrounding films like AMERICAN HUSTLE and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, but what I liked better about OUT OF THE FURNACE was what it had to say.  To me, its story resonated better than the tales told in AMERICAN HUSTLE and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

 

Writer/director Scott Cooper’s story has a lot to say about American life in the first decade of the 21st century.  The dark things that happen in OUT OF THE FURNACE are a direct result of the conditions of our country during the past ten years.

OUT OF THE FURNACE is much more than a revenge film or an action film.  It’s a dark drama that takes its time telling its story.  It’s not an edge-of-your-seat thriller because the revenge plot takes a back seat to the bigger story here, which is, how these things have happened right here in our own country during the past decade.

OUT OF THE FURNACE was my favorite film of 2013.

Okay.  That wraps things up here.  I hope you enjoyed my picks for the Best Movies of 2013 and get a chance to see some of these movies.

To all my readers, thanks for reading this blog during 2013.  I’ll be writing more content right here— same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel— in 2014.  So, be sure to keep coming back, and if you like what you read, don’t forget to tell your friends.  Thanks!

Happy New Year everybody!

—Michael

DiCaprio Shines In Early Role in THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (1998) -Streaming Video Review by Michael Arruda

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the-man-in-the-iron-mask-movie-poster-1998-Streaming Video Review:  THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (1998)

by

Michael Arruda

Today, with a so many movies available at the drop of a hat thanks to streaming video, one of the things I like to do is go back and catch early performances of some of today’s most popular performers.

With that in mind, as a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, in such recent films as THE GREAT GATSBY (2013), DJANGO UNCHAINED (2013), and THE DEPARTED (2006), it was fun to turn back the clock and catch one of his earlier performances in THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (1998), now available on streaming video.

In THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK, Leonardo DiCaprio plays the dual role of King Louis XIV and his twin brother Philippe, the titled man in the iron mask.

Young King Louis XIV (Leonardo DiCaprio) rules France with an iron fist, keeping the country poor, starving and miserable.  The now retired three musketeers, Aramis (Jeremy Irons), Athos (John Malkovich) and Porthos (Gerard Depardieu) understand that a change is needed in order to save the country.  Only D’Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne) remains loyal to the king.

It’s discovered that the mysterious imprisoned man in the iron mask is really the king’s twin brother, and Aramis hatches a plot to free the man and then switch him with the real king in order to restore sanity to the crown.  And of course, young Philippe (Leonardo DiCaprio) is everything his twin brother is not:  sensitive, caring, and thoughtful.

As the three musketeers reunite to carry out their plan to replace the king with his identical twin in order to save France, D’Artagnan finds himself pitted against his former friends, with orders from the king to do whatever is necessary to stop the plot from happening, even if it means killing his former associates.

THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK is a decent enough movie, and it’s fairly entertaining, but I didn’t find it anywhere near as fun as the Richard Lester’s 1970s romps THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973) and THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1974).

I watched it specifically to catch an earlier DiCaprio performance that I had missed the first time around way back when in 1998, and in this regard, I wasn’t disappointed.  While I prefer the DiCaprio of today, he’s actually quite good here in the dual role of King Louis XIV and his poor brother Philippe.

Of the two roles, I preferred him as the evil king, as his performance is a nice foreshadowing of things to come, specifically his role as the sinister Calvin Candie in DJANGO UNCHAINED.  He’s good as Philippe as well, but Louis XIV is certainly the meatier role, and much more satisfying to watch.

The rest of the cast is decent, as they should be, considering the quality of the actors involved here.  Jeremy Irons makes a respectable Aramis, and he’s strong throughout the movie, but I could give or take Gerard Depardieu as Porthos.  Only John Malkovich truly stands out in a very sincere and riveting performance as Athos, who’s anguished in this story because the king had his son murdered.

Gabriel Byrne isn’t bad as D’Artagan, but I’ve seen him better in other movies.

THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK was written and directed by Randall Wallace.  Wallace also wrote the screenplay for the Mel Gibson epic BRAVEHEART (1995).  His screenplay for THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK, based on the novels by Alexandre Dumas, is adequate enough.  It tells an entertaining story but falls short of accomplishing anything grand.  It’s not hopping and humorous like the Richard Lester films from the 1970s, nor is it riveting enough to be considered a rousing adventure in its own right.  It plays like a straightforward historical drama, and there’s nothing wrong with this, but in the same breath, it didn’t wow me either.

THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK looks fine— it’s a great looking period piece with excellent sets and colorful costumes— but don’t expect many exciting action sequences.  While there is sword play here and there, none of it is all that electrifying.

The film is driven by its acting performances, and is carried by the presence of an ensemble of veteran actors.  Among these actors was an up and coming youngster- Leonardo DiCaprio- who probably, with the exception of John Malkovich, delivers the best performance in the movie.  It’s a nice precursor to DiCaprio’s future roles which so far, have taken him along the very successful road to stardom, where now he’s the one who is the accomplished veteran actor.

While I can’t say that I loved THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK, I did enjoy it, and I did have fun watching the Leonardo DiCaprio of a decade ago begin to strut his stuff.

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