Film Review: DUMBO (USA 2019) ***

Dumbo Poster
A young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly, helps save a struggling circus, but when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer.

Director:

Tim Burton

Writers:

Helen Aberson (novel), Ehren Kruger (screenplay) |1 more credit »

Everyone loves and remembers Disney’s 1941 favourite animated feel-good fantasy, DUMBO.  Dumbo, the baby elephant is born with huge ears that allow him to fly thus becoming the sensation of the circus.  Don’t expect the same with the live action film DUMBO written by Ehran Kruger and directed by Tim Burton.  Burton’s most famous films were BEETLEJUICE, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS all known for its darkness and nightmarish ideas.  It is not surprising then that Burton’s DUMBO is dark and gloomy. Dumbo rarely smiles, the scenes are mostly dark and the soundtrack is filled with loud and annoying sounds like chimpanzees screening, loud circus music and people yelling rather than talking normally.  Those prone to migraines best stay away from this one.

The films starts on a bleak note where a rundown train carrying the circus that is falling on hard times travel through poverty America.  Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) is returning by train home to his children after the war.  It is revealed that he has lost one arm.  His wife has also passed away from influenza.  Holt is out of a job because circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) sold his horses).  How more gloomy can the plot get?  

More!  Baby Dumbo is born and separated from his mother.  The circus is sold to a conniving entrepreneur, V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton) who is out to make money out of the new sensation of the flying elephant.  Dumbo’s act needs to be polished and creates havoc when Vandevere wants the bank to invest money in his amusement world.

The magic of the original DUMBO emerges only a few times in the movie – mainly when Dumbo soars into the air.  Even then, most of the flight takes place in the enclosed tent and if outside, occurs in the dead of night.

A lighter note is added with the characters of Max Medici and Vandevere’s French girlfriend Colette (Eva Green).  Both have the propensity to do good.  The end up taking Dumbo’s side.  Even the one henchman of Vandevere ordered to kill Dumbo’s mother tells on the deed, and quits his job out of disgust at his boss.  Keaton in full powder-packed make-up, hams up his villainous character to the extreme of being cartoonish.  His love for money ends up his downfall.

Nico Parker as Milly Farrier, Holt’s daughter and Finley Hobbins as Joe, Holt’s son are sufficiently charming reminding audiences that this is supposed to be a family movie.  The other circus performers are just there for show with little much to do except for Miss Atlantis (Sharon Rooney) who does a few mermaid tricks and the snake charmer (Roshan Seth) who gets to utter the magic words “Fly my little one!”

But for whatever is director Burton’s vision for the film, he does effectively capture the gloom of a struggling circus as he does on a world recovery from the war.  His mark is certainly stamped on this movie.

For all that it is worth in terms of gloom vs. feel-good, DUMBO does grab the audience into the adventure of the circus and one does feel sorry for the elephant when his mother is forced to leave him.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NiYVoqBt-8

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1997 Movie Review: LA CONFIDENTIAL, 1997

 

LA CONFIDENTIAL MOVIE POSTER
LA CONFIDENTIAL, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by Curtis Hanson
Starring: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, Danny DeVito, Kim Basinger
Review by Brent Randall

SYNOPSIS:

The corruption existing within Los Angeles police force of the 1950s is exposed in this crime thriller.

WON 2 OSCARS – Best Supporting Actress (Basinger), Best Adapted Screenplay

REVIEW:

From the opening scene to the final credits, L.A. Confidential keeps you on the edge of your seat as it weaves through the murky waters of the Los Angeles police force. Set in the 1950s, the movie opens with discussing the wonders of Hollywood by showing a series of shots of the beach, the grand strand, and Hollywood, and how life in L.A. is better than anywhere on the planet, much less America, and the Los Angeles Police Department is the pride and joy of the City of Angels. After about five minutes of praising the city with a marvelous voice over from Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito), Hudgens shifts gears and begins shedding light on the mobster, Mickey Cohen (Paul Guilfoyle), and how Cohen is pushing heroine through the city and causing chaos in a clean and pristine town.

At first, it seems that the police force is dead set on snuffing out the crime with the arrest of Mickey Cohen in the opening sequence with their brilliant detectives, Bud White (Russell Crowe), Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), and Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell). However, it is merely an illusion, and the corruption within the famous police department is quickly exposed. As the viewer, you get the sense early, all is not right within when a brawl breaks out between the inmates and the policeman on Christmas Eve. Personally, I thought it was brilliant to stage the fight on Christmas Eve, a time known for peace and joy, and the fight is one of the most vicious, realistic fights I have seen in recent films. Shortly after the fight, the event that sends everything in motion is a horrific set of murders that occurred at the infamous “Night Owl” restaurant. A blood bath that took place over a failed robbery attempt in Captain Smith’s account. Captain Smith, who is always trying to get justice, in his own words, “swiftly and merciless”, pins the murders on three young black men who had previous records . Smith feels no one would raise too many questions regarding these suspects, and they could shut the case for good.

However, Bud White and Ed Exley, while not choosing to work together for most of the film, know something stinks about The Night Owl investigation, and desire to find some air freshener to eliminate the “smell.” They employ the help of Detective Jack Vincennes, which is brilliantly performed by Kevin Spacey, and Lynn Bracken, a high class hooker, played by Kim Basinger in her best performance ever, in my opinion. We quickly learn that Bud White believes in justice, cares for women, has a major temper, and is loyal to the department. Exley, on the other hand, is a kiss up, but also believes in justice. Throughout the movie, it is easy to see why these two do not get along, but one quickly learns they have much more in common than originally thought, and they both prove to be honest and men of integrity. Russell Crowe (playing Bud White) and Guy Pearce (playing Ed Exley) both give brilliant performances, and makes one realize the line between right and wrong is very, very, complicated and sometimes justice is found on both sides of this proverbial line.

Bud White is probably, in my opinion, Crowe’s best roll to date. Not to take away anything from the movie Gladiator, but in L.A. Confidential, his character is not always right, he is not always wrong, but his quest for justice and righteousness gives the viewer a real sense of hope. Bud White is a character, as a human being, I can relate to. He is real, honest, has major flaws, but genuinely seeks the good in all and more importantly, the good within himself.

In fact, Bud White and the other character is what makes this film great. The story line is solid, but as the film progresses, you find yourself loving some, hating others, and not sure how to take the rest. Some represent the good in the world, Bud White. Others represent the evil in the world, Captain Dudley Smith. Some represent the people who look out for themselves as in Jack Vincennes, and then there is Lynn Bracken. In my opinion, she represents the hope we all have as humans for a brighter future, and that hope along with her brilliant acting might be why she took home the best supporting actress Oscar.

From scene to scene, and character to character, this film keeps probing deeper and deeper into corruption and darkness in search of hope, justice, and peace. It grips your the viewer’s emotions and takes you on a roller coaster ride. The acting is brilliant, and the stars (Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Danny DeVito, Kim Basinger -just to name a few) are even brighter. It is a film that makes you want to search within yourself, question your own morality, and makes people realize that some of the worst enemies are the ones who appear to be friends, and vice versa. While it did not win best picture, (it was nominated and in my opinion, should have won!) it definitely qualifies as one of the best crime thrillers of all time.

 

LA CONFIDENTIAL, 1997

Film Review: The Comedian. Starring Robert DeNiro

the_comedian.jpgDirector: Taylor Hackford
Writers: Art Linson (screenplay), Jeffrey Ross (screenplay)
Stars: Robert De Niro, Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito

Review by Gilbert Seah

THE COMEDIAN is, as the title implies about the story of insult comedian Jackie (Robert De Niro) who once found fame as Eddie in the TV sitcom Eddie’s Home. Jackie is now surviving on low-paying gigs in New York City but his audience wants to remember the Eddie routines that Jackie hates to be remembered for.

The trouble starts when Jackie assaults a heckler at one of his performances resulting in him being sentenced to community service at a homeless food shelter. But Jackie meets a fellow community service server, Harmony (Leslie Mann) who he has a relationship with.

Director Taylor Hackord (AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, RAY, THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE) treats his star and the material with respect. It shows. THE COMEDIAN turns out to be a likeable, respectable film despite some very lewd humour.

As in movies about stand-up comedians that pays homage to stand-up comedians go, the film contains worthy cameos provided by the likes of Charles Grodin, Jimmie Walker and Oscar Winner Cloris Leachman. Danny DeVito and harvey Kietel also deliver memorable performances. The comic routines on film are also well written and funny – garnishing laugh-out loud laughs. The best of these is the banter carrying on between the Jewish lesbian comic on hand and De Niro.

De Niro, no stranger to comedy being in comedies like MEET THE PARENTS and THE FAMILY, proves in this film that he can also do stand-up and insult stand-up at that. He is winning in his performance and though unlikely to win him another Academy Award, it is a performance that invokes both sympathy and laughter. De Niro looks good (with his hair probably dyed) and fit, and believable as the late 60 year old that can still become a father.

Where the film (both script and direction) succeeds is the difficult yet successful blending of vulgarity and sincerity. This is witnessed for example, in the one wedding scene when Jackie’s performance both delights his niece and infuriates her mother, Flo (Patti LuPone).

The film is a drama comedy with more laughs than anything else. As one late critic said, a funny film will allow a multitude of faults to be overlooked. The script is smart enough not to include any messages or uncomfortable sex scenes, to include the effects of modern technology (like viral youTube videos) and hilarious stand-up routines in the film.
The best film about a comedian remains Martin Scorsese’s satirical THE KING OF COMEDY that happens also to star a younger Robert De Niro as a stalker of a famous comedian played by Jerry Lewis. THE COMEDIAN is a light drama, played for laughs rather than insight or satire. The film succeeds in its lesser aimed goal.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALlj3RRF9h8

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