Posts Tagged ‘Robert Zemeckis’


screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-3-57-41-pmRichard and CP24 anchor George Lagogianes have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the new Brad Pitt wartime thriller “Allied,” the new kick-ass Disney princess in “Moana,” the Oscar hopeful “Manchester by the Sea” and the Warren Beatty rom com “Rules Don’t Apply.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-10-40-15-amRichard sits in with Erin Paul to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the new Brad Pitt wartime thriller “Allied,” the new kick-ass Disney princess in “Moana,” the Oscar hopeful “Manchester by the Sea” and the Warren Beatty rom com “Rules Don’t Apply.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!

ALLIED: 3 ½ STARS. “despite the bullets and bombs this is a love story.”

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-04-40-amShowbiz old timers believed any publicity was good publicity. Song-and-dance man George M. Cohan once famously bragged, “I don’t care what you say about me, as long as you say something about me, and as long as you spell my name right.” Brad Pitt is a pretty easy name to spell and the press has been using it a lot lately but will the news surrounding his break up with Angelina Jolie and subsequent stories of FBI investigations (no charges were ever filed) have any effect on the box office appeal of his new movie “Allied.”

Casablanca, 1942. Pitt plays Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan, a deadly spy paired with French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard). They are to pose as husband and wife, infiltrate a high level Nazi gathering and assassinate the German ambassador. “Odds of surviving are 60 to 40%,” he says, “against.” They survive (not a spoiler: if they didn’t make it there’d be no movie), fall in love and are soon sharing the same next of kin in London as Max takes on a less rigorous and much safer desk job. Despite Max’s boss’s (Jared Harris) warning that “marriage made in the field don’t work,” the couple settle in, the very model of a nuclear family until a high ranking official (Simon McBurney), who calls himself “a rat catcher,” confronts Max with the words, “We believe your wife is a German spy.”

Pitt and Cotillard like they just walked out a 1942 issue of Silver Screen magazine. Add to that high end period details in the costumes and sets and you have a handsome movie, almost as good-looking as its two leads. That being said, it’s a shame the first hour doesn’t have the pop it needs to really make us care about the characters when the story swerves from wartime romance to personal espionage thriller.

Director Robert Zemeckis keep things interesting with several memorable action scenes. He may be making a war film that frequently feels like a homage to the classic movies of yore but he’s done it with a modern flair, including rougher language and sexuality. Marianne giving birth on a London street as bombs drop around her has the melodrama of an old time picture but a contemporary sensibility.

Anchoring all this beauty are strong performances from Pitt and Cotillard.

At its heart “Allied” a love story despite the bullets and bombs. Pitt plays Max as a stoic but lethal—watch him choke someone to death then shove a biscuit down his throat to make it look like and accident—but most importantly, he’s a man in love. When he is told his wife may be a spy he says, “It’ll be OK because it’s not true,” but the moments of self doubt that wash across his face tell the real story. In his third war flick (following “Inglourious Basterds” and “Fury”) he’s torn between love and duty and Pitt infuses the performance with an appropriate amount of pathos.

Cotillard has the less flashy role, particularly in the second half but gives this femme fatale a real live beating heart that elevates her from stereotype to thoroughly current and exciting character.

“Allied” is really two movies—a “Casablanca” style romance and a spy thriller—bound together by Zemeckis’s adherence to classic filmmaking and the love story that provides the heart.


Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 2.27.05 PMRichard’s CP24 reviews for Matt Damon in “The Martian” and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Pierre Petit in “The Walk.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 5.39.15 PM“The Walk,” a new film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as French high-wire artist Philippe Petit, harkens back to an era when Evel Knievel was a superstar and human achievement wasn’t measured by how many Instagram followers you have. Even though we know how it ends—it’s a matter of historical record in the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary—the last half hour packs some vertiginous thrills.

Unsurprisingly of the story of a man who became famous for staging a 1974 tight rope walk between the world’s tallest buildings is unabashedly theatrical. When we first see Petit he’s setting up the story perched atop the Statue of Liberty with the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center looming in the background.

His narration is as straight and taut as a tightrope strung between two poles, walking through the narrative step-by-step. The story begins with the young Petit learning his trade at the feet of high wire maestro Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), through to meeting his beautiful muse Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) and hatching a plan to illegally string a wire between the two towers and perform a walk on “the most spectacular stage in the world.”

“It’s impossible,” he says, “but I’ll do it,” and he does, with the aid of several accomplices, in spectacular fashion.

“The Walk” is based on a true story but presented as an urban fairy tale, the story of a man determined to show the world that anything is possible. It’s a tall but true tale. Gordon-Levitt swings for the fences with a big, exuberant performance. He’s high strung, charming and arrogant, the kind of guy who says, “For me to walk on the wire is life. C’est la vie.” He’s also a dreamer, a man whose passions demonstrate for the rest of us that art still has the power to instil wonder. It’s a lovely message told in a shambling way.

Director Robert Zemeckis takes his time getting to the walk. He treats the story as a procedural, although a whimsical one, that tries to slide by on charm for two thirds of it’s running time. It’s certainly the first major movie of the year to future mime, and just to make sure we get the dreamy, mischievous feel he’s trying to portray, lilting snippets of the “La Dolce Vita” soundtrack can be heard in an early sequence.

When he gets to the end, the ascent to the top of the tower and the walk itself, the film becomes a thriller with 3D visuals that should come with a vertigo trigger alert. Anyone with a fear of heights be warned, “The Walk” has a ‘You are there’ feel as soon as Petit takes his first step on the rope. It’s a beautiful, lyrical and visually stunning sequence that is worth the wait through the film’s slow start.

“The Walk” takes too many tentative steps in it’s first hour and is a bit on the money in its storytelling—for instance “I Want to Take You Higher” blares on the soundtrack when Petit sees the Towers in person for the first time—but Gordon-Levitt’s relentless charm offensive, Le Bon’s charisma and a breathless climax provide a tribute not only to the power of art to elate but also the to the buildings that set the stage for Petit’s feat.


Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 9.46.06 AMRichard’s “Canada AM” reviews for Matt Damon in “The Martian” and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Pierre Petit in “The Walk.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


denzel-flightNervous flyers will not enjoy the first half hour of “Flight,” the new film from “Castaway” director Robert Zemeckis and star Denzel Washington. If the nervous nellies can make it through the highflying plane crash that serves as the catalyst for the personal story of a troubled pilot (Washington), however, they are in a more earthbound tale of excess and expectation.

When we first meet Whip (Washington) it’s 7:14 in the am and he is hours away from piloting short haul flight Southjet 227 from Orlando to Atlanta. He’s also simultaneously arguing with his ex-wife on the phone, drinking beer, snorting cocaine and watching his girlfriend, a flight attendant get dressed after a wild night in a generic hotel room.

Hours later he’s behind the wheel of a jet, piloting it and the 102 on-board souls. After successfully navigating around a patch of brutal turbulence a mechanical malfunction threatens to down the plane. It is Whit’s expertise, and the audacious move of inverting the plane so it can glide to relative safety, that saves 96 of the 102 passengers and crew.

Hailed as a hero at first, soon his unsavory personal habits bring him under suspicion. Was it a malfunction of a mechanical or personal nature that brought the plane down?

Is there another a-list leading man who explores the dark sides of their characters as often as Washington? Will Smith and Tom Cruise will occasionally let the heroic side of their on-screen personas take a back seat, but Washington revels in mucking around in the mud. From “Training Day” to “American Gangster” and “Safe House” he crafts complex characters you wouldn’t want to sit next to on the bus.

Whit is a different take on this theme, however. This time around the anti-hero is functional in day-to-day life despite his predilection for wine, woman and cocaine. He’s charming one minute, enraged the next and passed out on the floor the minute after that.

Denzel manages to subtly capture the ego and hubris that allows Whit to present a sober face to the public, even though the film’s visual language is frequently not as refined. A close-up of Washington’s hand grasping a mini bottle of vodka and the accompanying swoosh sound looks like something that should be in a commercial not in a film about the effects of alcoholism.

“Flight” is a quiet movie about troubled people, acts of god, ethical questions about accepting responsibility and the callousness of business in the wake of tragedy. It’s about a lot of things, many of which Zemeckis simply flits around before moving on, but at its core is Washington, who despite an unnecessary redemptive ending, effectively brings us into the messy world of addiction.


christmas_carol_mBefore I saw the Jim Carrey version of “A Christmas Carol” I wondered why remake a story that has been done so often and so well in the past. I’ve seen it and I’m still wondering.

There have been at least 21 versions of the story made for the big screen and dozens more for television. Director Robert Zemeckis and his high tech bag of motion capture tricks don’t add anything to the story, in fact, occasionally his CGI actually gets in the way.

Zemeckis wisely hasn’t toyed around with the 166-year-old story. Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) is a miserly bah humbugger who doesn’t believe in the spirit of Christmas until he is visited by three spirits—the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future—and finds salvation in their terrifying visions.

“A Christmas Carol” is Zemeckis’s third attempt at creating a film using motion capture—filming the actors and using their motions as a template to create a computer generated film—following “Polar Express” and “Beowulf.” “Polar Express” was meant to be a heart warming Christmas tale but exposed the problem with Zemeckis’s technique—dead CGI eyes. The weirdly lifeless animation was creepy, akin to a Christmas story performed by zombies. “Beowulf” was an improvement but like “A Christmas Carol” there are still kinks to be worked out. Chief among them is: Why bother with this at all?

On the plus side the CGI allows for camera moves that would otherwise be impossible—endless dolly shots through a Dickensian cityscape for example—and the Ghost of Christmas Present death scene is a spectacular scene of gothic creepiness, and is actually enhanced by the use of computer animation. On the minus side the Ghost of Christmas Future, a stand-out in the 1951 Alastair Sim version, is reduced to a show-offy platform for Zemeckis’s 3-D CGI magic.

My main complaint though, is the medium itself. Much of the animation looks great—the texture of Scrooge’s leather chair for instance—but there are enough artificial looking things—the flame in the fireplace or the steam from people’s mouths—that remind us that we’re watching flashing binary code and little else. Some of the characters are well animated but the work is inconsistent, occasionally looking photo realistic, but often not. Unlike live action or even hand drawn animation, there’s nothing that feels organic about motion capture, so the moments that are supposed to strike an emotional chord—like young Ebenezer dancing with his beautiful bride to be, or old Scrooge watching Bob Cratchit’s family deal with the loss of Tiny Tim—have little resonance.

Whatever impact the movie has, and it does have the occasional moment that engages not only the eye but the heart, could have just as easily achieved with a live action cast.

Perhaps Zemeckis should have taken the lead from one of the more famous lines from the story, “Mankind was my business,” and made the movie’s business more about mankind and less about technology.