Posts Tagged ‘Steven Spielberg’

bfg“THE BFG” My rating: B-

117 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

Among the great gifts given by young Steven Spielberg to the movies was a  sense of wonder.

Films like “Close Encounters,” “E.T.” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” are plenty smart, but they work because of the childlike awe with which Spielberg approaches his stories.

A 69-year-old Spielberg brings back the awe with “The BFG,” a fantasy designed to tickle the kid in each of us.

Based on Roald Dahl’s 1982 children’s book, “The BFG” (it stands for “Big Friendly Giant”) soars on a couple of terrific lead performances, astonishing special effects work and a droll sensibility.

The film also represents the last screenplay by the late Melissa Mathison, whose kid-friendly credits include “The Black Stallion,” “E.T.”  and “The Indian in the Cupboard.”

Ten-year-old Sophie (a terrific Ruby Barnhill) lives in a London orphanage and dreams of escape. One night she spies an immense dark figure moving furtively through the streets.

Confronting this vision she soon finds herself in Giant Land where she is a guest/captive of The BFG (Mark Rylance), whose job it is to collect and redistribute children’s dreams.

The BFG is a benign eccentric who converses in his own brand of Yoda-speak, tossing around tongue-twisting words like “frobscottle” and “snozzcumber.”

BFG is a vegetarian, but the same cannot be said for the other giant inhabitants of the place. These skyscraper-sized Neanderthals have a taste for human flesh (especially children) and bear appropriately gruesome names like Bloodbottler and Fleshlumpeater (their voices are provided by Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement and Rafe Spall, among others). (more…)

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‘Bridge of Spies’ by DreamWorks Studios.

“BRIDGE OF SPIES” My rating: B+

142 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13


Tom Hanks’ singular status as this century’s James Stewart pays off big time in “Bridge of Spies,” Steven Spielberg’s recreation of one of the Cold War’s lesser known stories.

As the real-life James Donovan, a New York insurance lawyer pulled into the world of espionage and international intrigue, Hanks is wry, moving, and astonishingly ethical. He practically oozes bedrock American decency.

Which was precisely what this movie needs.

The screenplay by the Coen Brothers and Matt Charman runs simultaneously on four tracks.

In the first Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is arrested in NYC in 1957 by federal agents. As no lawyer wants to represent him, the Bar Association basically plays spin the bottle — and assigns the job to Donovan.

Jim Donovan believes that every accused person deserves the best defense possible. In fact, he alienates the judge, the feds, and the general public by standing up for his client’s rights and assuming that this is going to be a fair trial when everybody else wants just to go through the motions before sentencing Abel to death.

On a parallel track is the story of Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell), a military flyboy recruited for a top-secret project and trained to spy on the U.S.S.R. from a one-man U-2 reconnaissance aircraft.  Alas, on his very first mission in 1960 he’s shot down, fails in an attempt to commit suicide, and falls into the hands of the Commies.

Then there’s the arrest in 1961 of Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers), an American grad student studying economics who finds himself trapped on the wrong side of the newly constructed Berlin Wall and vanishes into the labyrinthine East German justice system.

All this comes to a head when Donovan, several years after Abel’s conviction, is dispatched to Berlin in an ex officio capacity to arrange a swap of the Soviet spy for Francis Gary Powers.  And if in the process he can somehow free Fred Pryor from a damp cell, so much the better.

The yarn is so big and dramatic that it seems improbable…yet it happened. (What’s more, a few years later Donovan was dispatched to Cuba to negotiate the release of anti-Communists captured in the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion.)


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“WAR HORSE”  My rating: C+ (Opening wide on Christmas Day)

146 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Visually rich and dramatically undernourished, “War Horse” is director Steven Spielberg’s attempt at a David Lean-style epic.

It’s big. It’s gorgeous.

And, unfortunately, it is largely uninhabited despite a deep cast of yeoman British thespians.

The source material, Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 book for children, already has become a hit West End and Broadway show. The dominant critical view of the stage version is one of indifferent material elevated by brilliant staging, with breathtaking life-size puppets portraying the equine characters.

The question going into the Spielberg film, then, was whether the yarn would still deliver in a “real” world without that awe-inspiring stagecraft. The answer: Every now and then the movie is magic. But too often it feels overplotted and plodding.


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“THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN” My rating: B- (Opening wide on Dec. 21)

107 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin” has so many jaw-dropping moments of visual splendor that it takes a while to realize that there’s really nothing much of interest here except the jaw-dropping visual splendor.

Employing the motion-capture animation techniques employed in films like “The Polar Express” and the Jim Carrey “Christmas Carol,” this screen adaptation of the late Herge’s universally popular comic book hero should please long-time fans. But it’s hard to imagine it winning many new converts to the Tintin brand.

Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell of “Billy Elliott” fame) is a perpetually boyish, carrot-topped newspaper reporter who goes nowhere without a tan trench coat, brown knickers and a white pooch named Snowy.

He’s sort of like a junior Sherlock Holmes who’s always up to his neck in one mystery or another.


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