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Best Films You've Never Seen: Adventure
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The Defiant Ones
The French Connection
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V For Vendetta
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The Maltese Falcon (1941)

1941 – NR – 101 min.
Director: John Huston
Primary Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Ward Bond, Barton MacLane, Gladys George, Jerome Cowan
Stars ***** (of 5)
Popcorn **** (of 5)
Film Type(s): Film Noir, Detective Story, Treasure
Synopsis: San Fransisco Private Eye Sam Spade (Bogart) is just a guy. He does what it takes to get the job done, but still has a sense of honor about him. One day a woman (Astor) comes into the offices of Spade and Archer Detective Agency, offering a lot of money for Spade and his partner Archer (MacLane) to protect her from a Floyd Thursby. Neither of them believes her story, but takes the case anyway with Archer taking the lead. This proves to be fatal, as Archer is found shot later that night nearby Thursby. When Spade begins to investigate the girl, her case, and his partner’s death, he soon finds out that the girl lied about a lot of things, like that her name was really O’Shaughnessey, and that she is really after a jewel-encrusted artifact shaped like a falcon. Spade soon encounters soft-touch Joel Cairo (Lorre) and the chubby intellectual Kasper Gutman (Greenstreet), who are also after the bird. How far will these shady characters go to get the Maltese Falcon?
Review: Lock, stock, and barrel, the best Film Noir ever (and arguably the first true Noir made). This is the third filming of the Dashiel Hammet book of the same name, with 1931’s The Maltese Falcon (aka. Dangerous Female) and 1936’s Satan Met A Lady coming before, but this is by far the most infamous take on Sam Spade and company. Maybe it’s the casting, with Humphrey Bogart in the role of Spade (a part that he became synonymous with and launched him into super-stardom) and “major” supporting players in the forms of Lorre, Greenstreet, Astor (who won an Oscar the same year for The Great Lie), and a just-off-Gone With The Wind Ward Bond. This was also the Directorial debut of Screenwriter John Huston, and would start a distinguished career that would later include pairings with Bogart in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key Largo, and The African Queen (although Huston had co-Adapted Bogarts preceding film, 1941’s High Sierra). In true Noir fashion, the story follows the simple, but episodically charismatic story line that Sam Spade, complete with trench coat and hat on, gets hired by girl, his partner gets killed working on the girl’s case, murder mystery ensues that includes multiple plot twists, double crosses, and mystery men with their own agenda; all with flatfoot Spade on the case. Like many Noirs made after this, everyone is after something for their own reasons, and even when the object of their afflictions is unveiled to be something other than what they thought it should be, they still cannot help but have it be “the stuff that dreams are made of.”

Marie Antoinette

2006 – PG-13 – 122 min.
Director: Sophia Coppola
Primary Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis, Rip Torn, Rose Byrne, Asia Argento, Molly Shannon, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston
Stars *** 1/2 (of 5)
Popcorn *** (of 5)
Film Type(s): Drama, Period, Romance
Synopsis: In the late 18th Century, a 14-year old Marie Antoinette (Dunst) is forced to leave her home in Austria in an arranged marriage by King Louis XV (Torn) to his 15-year old son Louis XVI (Coppola regular Schwartzman). In spite of being stripped of her former life, Marie tries to make the best of it, even if the marriage is never consummated. Rumor and innuendo surround her and her marriage about the possible reasons, including late night partying, that an heir has not been born. While Marie enjoys the pleasures of the palace, the pressure increases when the King dies in his mistress’ bed and Marie becomes the Queen of France. After finally conceiving when Marie’s brother, Joseph (Huston), coaches Louis things begin to fall apart in France with its disenfranchised public. In spite of Marie’s charitable work and efforts, rumor still spreads unfounded of exuberant spending and her telling the poor to “eat cake”. While she insists on no such thing happening, the public still wants their revolution. The film’s costume design, based on the deserts of the French court, won an Oscar for designer Milena Canonero.
Review: In Sofia Coppola’s vision of Marie Antoinette’s (Dunst) time in the French court she basically created Amadeus for teenage girls (especially the ones from the 1980’s). Some of it seems almost absurd it that some of it weren’t also true, here essentially combining Barry Lyndon, Amadeus, and The Breakfast Club. Coppola’s gimmick is that she makes Antoinette accessible by portraying her as a rock star of the day, complete with a soundtrack (in place of source music) that’s more likely to be heard in a John Hughes film than in 18th Century France. While this is a much better attempt at such a formula than previous attempts like A Knight’s Tale (2001), the gimmick actually works as a disarming tool. Don’t get me wrong, though. The scenery, costumes, and events are fascinating, but the all American cast doesn’t quite gel where they need to and, although all seem to be having a good time, one can’t help but feel that they should be in a modern comedy drama rather than a semi-serious period film. (Louis XV with a Texas drawl, anyone?) While the film leaves out the 11th hour finale, is does well in illustrating bad press and propaganda run amok. Filmed on location at Versailles, the film was also produced by Sofia’s father, Francis Ford Coppola.

The Grindhouse (aka. Planet Terror and Deathproof)

2007 – R – 192 min. (Planet Terror – 105 min.; Deathproof – 75 min.)
Director: Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror segment), Quentin Tarintino (Deathproof segment)
Primary Cast: (Planet Terror segment) Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Rose McGowan, Marley Shelton, Jeff Fahey, Bruce Willis, Naveen Andrews, Fergie, Michael Biehn; (Deathproof segment) Kurt Russel, Rosario Dawson, Vaness Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Marley Shelton, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth, Winstead, Zoe Bell, Omar Doom
Stars *** 1/2 (of 5) (Planet Terror / Deathproof segments separately: **** (of 5) each)
Popcorn *** (of 5)
Film Type(s): Drama, Tribute, Horror, Action
Synopsis: A double feature done in the style of many ‘70s era independent and low-budget thrillers from Directors Rodriguez and Tarintino. First, in “Terror Planet”, Rodrigquez shows us a group of people that have survived the terrorist release of a Zombie gas into the air by an insane General (Willis). Among the survivors are a tow truck driver with a mysterious past (Rodriguez), his Ex-Girlfriend Cherry Darling (McGowan), a doctor (Shelton) hiding something from her husband before he gets infected, and the former Al Queda turned businessman that designed the gas (Andrews). Can they save the world before it’s too late? And do they have enough ammo to do it? Next, Tarintino shows us in “Deathproof” just how sturdy cars are. Smart serial killer Stuntman Mike (Russel) has targeted his next victims of his tricked out stuntcar; but what happens when they fight back? Also featured are phony “previews” that appear before and between the segments, that are often as outrageous as the segments themselves.
Review: This is a tribute by ‘70’s ‘nostalgia’ Directors Tarintino and Rodriguez to the low budget, exploitation pictures of the 1970’s that featured bad language, nudity, and violence (often in the form of “Hee Ya!” Kung Fu and gun crazy heroes), complete with rough cuts, bad previews, missing reels, and bad sound throughout. The ‘gimmick’ for this film is that it is in fact a double feature, with Tarintino and Rodriguez serving as Director and Cinematographer for each segment (and Scoring in Rodriguez’s case), collaborating on producing and writing with the Weinsteins also serving as Producers. Rodriguez’s “Terror Planet” segment comes first, basically a Sci-Fi Zombie movie that would do George Romero proud, complete with gun / Kung Fu expert now mechanic ‘El Ray’(a hammy Freddy Rodriguez) that “never misses” and his Ex-Girlfriend and Go-Go dancer Cherry Darling (insert pun here) (played by a game Rose McGowan), who gets her leg eaten off by the zombies and replaces it with a gun. The actors in the villain roles have the most fun here, though, with Bruce Willis as a zombie-gas-infected General that did a unique service in the military and “Lost”s Naveen Andrews as an Al-Queda mad Scientist with a…unique fetish. Then comes Tarintino’s “Deathproof” segment that has all of the machismo elements of Tarintino’s past highlights but with a female twist. In fact, the only male in his segment with more than five lines is Kurt Russel as Stuntman Mike, which channels his Snake character from Escape From New York if he were a serial killer. He uses his rigged stunt car to kill his victims. First he targets radio DJ Jungle Julie (played by Sidney Poitier’s youngest daughter Sydney Tamiia) and her friends. Then he targets a second group of women that are Stuntwomen led by Rosario Dawson, though not before the ‘girls’ have a women’s point-of-view discussion not unlike the men’s point-of-view discussion in Reservoir Dogs, complete with sex and old film references about car movie, Vanishing Point versus Pretty In Pink. Not only that, but Tarintino tops it off with one of the best nail-biting car chases ever put to film. It’s only a shame that it comes buried at the end of the third hour of the film. The primary downside to this film is the overlength, which will serve as a deterent for those that enjoy this genre, as brevity is usually rewarded. This means that the film will likely see better success when, as planned, each segment is released on DVD separately. The “Previews” before and between features are a highlight, allowing cameos and guest Directors to come in. Among others, we see “previews” for the crazy Mexican assassin “Machete” ‘starring’ Rodriguez regulars Danny Trejo and Cheech Marin and “Fu Manchu” with Nicholas Cage. Guest Directors also come in for ‘Previews’, like Rob Zombie’s kitschy “Werewolf Women of the S.S.”, Edgar Wright’s take on bad ‘70’s previews with “Don’t!”, and Eli Roth’s hilarious Halloween spoof “Thanksgiving” (“No Leftovers!”)

V for Vendetta

2006 – R – 131 min.
Director: James McTeigue
Primary Cast: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Rupert Graves, Roger Allam
Stars **** (of 5)
Popcorn *** 1/2 (of 5)
Film Type(s): Action, Science Fiction, Thriller, Vigilante, Comic Book Film
Synopsis: In a future dystopia Great Britain, 21-year old Evey (Portman) is assaulted by several vindictive policemen (or “Finger Men”) for being out after curfew only to be saved by a man in a mask. He says his name is V (Weaving) and offers to take her home after a stop, a stop which turns out to be blowing up a government building. Now the obsessive dictator Sutler (Hurt) wants V and Evey found and ‘taken care of’ (in spite of knowing Evey’s innocence). Soon Evey becomes aware of just how far it is that Sutler has gone and is willing to go to attain and keep his power. Only Inspector Creedy (Pigott-Smith) is both aware and able to follow V’s plan as it happens, but he also finds out things about the government he works for that he’s not sure that anyone should know.
Review: “Remember, Remember, The Fifth of November / The Gunpowder Treason And Plot / I Know of No Reason, Why The Gunpowder Treason Should Ever Be Forgot.” This rhyme (the British equivalent of “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”) provides the main theme and begins this adaptation of Alan Moore’s classic Graphic Novel of the same name. Here the makers of the Matrix films adapt the story with the Wachowski brothers scripting and Producing and is the Directorial debut of their former Assistant Director McTeigue. A misnomer as an intelligent mindless action-thriller, the film is essentially about a 1984-like Great Britain’s disfigured Robin Hood (with some Matrix-like Messiah complex moments thrown in). The man, V, wears a Guy Fawkes mask (the subject of the aforementioned rhyme). The acting is fair and over the top (particularly by “innocent” Portman and dictator Hurt), but Hugo Weaving’s performance is well done, emoting very well (especially since we never see his face). He also delivers his soliloquies with great wit and elegance. The film’s script narrowly skirts being overall over-the-top, but manages to be intelligent and thought provoking. The fits of violence, while only somewhat unnecessary to the plot, are not always of taste. Among the changes from Moore’s novel are that it was updated from a Cold War future to Post-9/11 future, Evey is ironically changed from a 16-year old prostitute on her own in the world to an ‘innocent’ 21-year old TV network intern, and the wonderful use of Rolling Stones lyrics for wit is eliminated (although “Street Fighting Man” does play over the end credits). Look fast during the finale to see Weaving among the crowd. Moore and the Wachowski’s had a very public falling out over the publicity of this film and plans to adapt several of Moore’s other works, The Watchmen in particular, were reportedly placed on hold indefinitely.

The Lion In Winter

1968 – PG – 135 min.
Director: Anthony Harvey
Primary Cast: Peter O’Toole, Katherine Hepburn, Jane Merrow, John Castle, Timothy Dalton, Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Stock, Nigel Terry
Stars ***** (of 5)
Popcorn **** (of 5)
Film Type(s): Drama, History, Middle Ages, Period

Synopsis: In 1183, King Henry II (O’Toole) decides to have Christmas at Shenon with his whole family and King Phillip of France (Dalton) so that he can decide who will succeed him as King of England. The only problem is that no one in this family trusts or doesn’t backstab one another, especially his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Hepburn), whom he has had imprisoned for ten years. Henry uses his mistress, Philip’s sister Alice (Merrow), as a bargaining chip to shift power between himself and Philip and his eldest son Richard (Hopkins), who now owns the Aquitaine and to whom Alice is engaged. Meanwhile, Henry also presses for spoiled brat John (Terry) to become King, while Eleanor presses for soldier Richard, with middle son Geoffrey (Castle) taunting them all and moving his allegiances as it suits him. Meanwhile, Philip uses the disharmony to advance his own agenda with a secret of his own. This was the first film for both future James Bond Dalton and Oscar winner Hopkins (who credited Hepburn as his greatest teacher in acting).

Review: This powerful adaptation of James Goldman’s play of the same name is a rarity in Hollywood: a period drama that is highly entertaining to all. More fascinatingly so because it is, effectively, a true story. A royal battle royale of wit, betrayals, madness, and cunning ensues, all to great affect to us as the audience, like Hepburn’s delivery of Eleanor’s greeting to her sons that is a zinger that sums up the ‘role of sex in history’ and Henry’s wonderful line that sums of the film: “What shall we hang? The holly or each other?” Director Harvey chose to show how life in winter was really like in the Middle Ages: Lots of heavy clothing in freezing dark corridors with pageantry only occurring briefly in public before the warm clothes are re-dawned. For those that have enjoyed stories of Robin Hood or 1995’s Braveheart, this is an excellent opportunity to see how the royals of those pieces (King Richard the Lion Hearted [aka. Longshanks], greedy Prince John) came to be in the places they are now known to have been. One of this film’s piece of infamy comes from the fact that Hepburn tied (with Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl) for Best Actress for this role. John Barry’s haunting Score and James Goldman’s script from his own play also won Oscars.


2007 – R – 116 min.
Director: Zack Snyder
Primary Cast: Gerard Butler, Lena Headley, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender, Tom Wisdom, Andrew Pleavin, Andrew Tiernan, Rodrigo Santoro
Stars ** 1/2 (of 5)
Popcorn **** (of 5)
Film Type(s): Action, History, Stylized, War
Synopsis: Based on Frank Miller’s Graphic Novel of the same name, we see the events that eventually lead Spartan Warrior King Leonidas (Butler) to lead a reluctant war / battle with only his 300 strong personal guard against the million man Persian Army, lead by the tyrannical Xerxes (Santoro). While Leonidas fights to keep his lands safe and free, his loving Queen Gorgo (Headley) works to prevent some home grown reluctance and sabotage from preventing aid, since the very democratic process Leonidas is fighting for is preventing him from getting aid as well. 300 also features a cast of relative unknowns, with only Butler, Headley, and Wenham having done any major international films prior to this.
Review: A gory and bloody adaptation by the director of the remake of Dawn of the Dead of Frank Miller’s Graphic Novel stylizing the Battle of Thermopylae, an ancient Greek Alamo pitting 300 Spartans against the million men of the Persian Army. Although we are presented with some stunning visuals and a strong sense of duty and levity from the characters, especially Butler’s King Leonidas (not surprising, since he had previous held the title roles in Andrew Lloyd Webers’ Phantom of the Opera, Beowulf, and Dracula 2000), we are primarily presented with a lots of gore, mindless violence, and MTV editing (hurry up and slow down). The real confusion comes from the scripting. Although women are presented as strong and warrior-like in their way, they are confusingly presented here also as sexual, rather than sensual, as is the villain. In fact, Xerxes I (Santoro) is like something out of Science Fiction tyrants (an artificially deep voice, over sized, over sexualized) rather than a historical one; though, this is par for the course for Santoro, “The Tom Cruise of Brazil” who has been used to similar effect in Love Actually and Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle. The Script also suffers by over using terms like ‘Freedom’ and ‘Democracy’ without backing them up and misses opportunities to do so (such as the scenes in the Acropolis, choosing instead to focus on the ‘strong willed woman scorned’). Though very similar in many respects (especially the production values) to Sin City, Frank Miller took only a minimal role behind the scenes in this adaptation of his work. Indeed, Millers writing skills are full of excellent concepts if not always adaptable (ie. 2005’s Elektra) and, hold great potential. His ‘Batman Year One’ proved full of concepts that were eventually partially adapted into the critical hit Batman Begins. The point is that though historians may balk at this film for its inaccuracies (The Spartans were only a PART of the force against the Persians) and it certainly isn’t for all tastes, it never claims to be history and is indeed only stylized history if anything. So if you want a gory fight film, this may be the one for you.

Review Hiatus Is Over
Hello all.

For those that read this site on a regular basis, I apologize for the unannounced haitus. It was necessary due to A) some Post-Oscar down time and B) I needed to get a new computer. And now that both of those have occurred, I will be posting again on a regular basis. As soon as I have them coded I will be posting several new reviews and a new series of Posts on "The Best Films That You've Never Seen", which I'll be breaking down by genre. Until then, good viewing!

("So It Goes" - Thank you, Kurt Vonnegut)
Live Oscar Results 2007
Live Oscar Results 2007

As we go into the Oscars I'm going to give some live commentary as the show goes on!

Ok...I don't do commentary on dresses (this in response to an email asking me to comment on that!)

Ellen isn't doing real great, but I loved Steve Carrell's reaction to her jokes and the gospel choir was a nice touch.

Best Art Direction: The Oscar goes to Pans Labyrinth
Movie Guy Said - Dreamgirls or Pans Labyrinth

Ok, i'm loving the Will Ferrel / Jack Black / John C. Reilly song. (Oh, brother)

Best Makeup: The Oscar goes to Pan's Labyrinth
Movie Guy Said - Pans Labyrinth

Best Animated Short: The Oscar goes to The Danish Poet
Movie Guy Said - The Little Match Girl (the kids presenting were cute)

Best Short Subject: The Oscar goes to West Bank Story
Movie Guy Said - West Bank Story

The sound effects Choir thing was cute. Not great, but cute.

Best Sound Editing: The Oscar goes to Letters from Iwo Jima
Movie Guy Said - Even odds for all, but Letters from Iwo Jima had a slight edge.

Best Sound Mixing: The Oscar goes to Dreamgirls (a great acceptance speech)
Movie Guy Said - Dreamgirls

Best Supporting Actor: The Oscar goes to Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine (!)
Movie Guy Said - Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls
(a well deserved win!)

The bit with Al Gore WAS pretty funny at the end (if off-beat).

Best Animated Feature: The Oscar goes to Happy Feet
Movie Guy Said - Cars

Nice short film on writers in film.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Oscar goes to The Departed (Great Speech! Go Boston.)
Movie Guy Said - The Departed (Borat as Spoiler)

Best Costume Design: The Oscar goes to Marie Antoinette (I love the Devil Wears Prada parody in presenting)
Movie Guy Said - Marie Antoinette or Dreamgirls

Best Cinematography: The Oscar goes to Pans Labyrinth
Movie Guy Said - Pans Labyrinth

Best Visual Effects: The Oscar goes to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest
Movie Guy Said - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest

Wonderful collection of clips from past Foreign Language films!

Best Foreign Film: The Oscar goes to The Lives of Others (Germany)
Movie Guy Said - Pans Labyrinth

Snakes on a Plane!!

Best Supporting Actress: The Oscar goes to Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls (Turn on the waterworks!)
Movie Guy Said - Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls

Best Documentary Short: The Oscar goes to The Blood of Yingzhou District
Movie Guy Said - Recycled Life

Best Documentary Feature: The Oscar goes to An Inconvenient Truth (Great Comic bits by Jerry Seinfeld in presenting)
Movie Guy Said - An Inconvenient Truth

Lifetime Achievement Oscar goes to my favorite composer: Ennio Morricone!!! (Wow!!) - The song Celine Deon is singing, Morricone wrote as a Score piece for Once Upon a Time in America. (Didn't know Eastwood spoke Italian, did you?) Maestro! Provicimo!

Best Score: The Oscar goes to Babel (That's two in a row, winning last year for Brokeback Mountain)
Movie Guy Said - Either The Queen or Babel

That was by far the SHORTEST President's speech ever (I like it!)

Best Original Screenplay: The Oscar goes to Little Miss Sunshine
Movie Guy Said - The Queen or Little Miss Sunshine (but a tight race overall)

The songs nominated from Dreamgirls as sung by the cast (less Eddie Murphy), Zowie!

Best Song: The Oscar goes to I Need to Wake Up from An Inconvenient Truth
Movie Guy Said - Patience from Dreamgirls

Great film clips on 'America through it's movies' from Michael Mann

Best Editing: The Oscar goes to The Departed
Movie Guy Said - The Departed (with Babel as a spoiler)

In Memorium

Best Actress: The Oscar goes to Helen Mirren for The Queen (very generous speech and funny bit with the statue aka. "The Queen")
Movie Guy Said - Helen Mirren for The Queen

Best Actor: The Oscar goes to Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland (Wonderful speech and long overdue for a wonderful Supporting player making good.)
Movie Guy Said - Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland with DiCaprio a spoiler

Best Director: The Oscar goes to Martin Scorsese for The Departed !!!! LOOOOOONNNNNGGG overdue win and a wonderful speech.
Movie Guy Said - 3 way race for Letters, Babel, and Departed
Great presentation by the original 3 amigos Coppola, Spielberg, and Lucas to the 4th Amigo (Scorsese).

The Big One, Best Picture:
And the Oscar goes to.......
The Departed !!!!

Movie Guy Said - Babel Vs. The Departed
Letters From Iwo Jima

2006 – R – 141 min.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Primary Cast: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Shidou Nakamjure, Nae Yuki
Stars **** 1/2 (of 5)
Popcorn **** (of 5)
Film Type(s): Drama, World War II

Synopsis: Upon his arrival there, General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Watanabe) walks the entirety of the Japanese Holy Island of Iwo Jima with his Officers. He had been reluctant to go there, but it had become imminent that the Allied forces that caused him to come. Much to the bewilderment of the older Officers and many of the enlisted men that had been on the island before him, he began to change their entire strategy for their defenses and instead began to dig deep foxholes and caves into the mountainside. Many believed his judgment was clouded from having been to the United States years before, but some like former Olympian Lt. Col. Nishi (Ihara) realized what he was doing. When the battle begins enlisted men like the drafted Saigo (Ninomiya) must deal with dysentery, battle fatigue, and how he can keep the promises he made at home and Kuribayashi must deal with dissention among his Officers in addition to keeping the enemy at bay. Their letters home tell the tale, but what connection do they have to Iwo Jima in 2005? Steven Spielberg and Eastwood served as Producers and Oscar winning Director Paul Haggis (with Iris Yamashita) scripted this film (from the book Picture Letters from Commander in Chief) and served as Executive Producer, just like they also did for its companion piece, Flags of Our Fathers.

Review: Originally conceived as a follow up companion piece to Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers, this film tells the story of the Japanese side of the Battle of Iwo Jima, giving their perspectives on the war, the holiness (or not) of the island to them, and their home life in the form of letters going to and from home. In fact, the letter sequences are all well crafted proper flashbacks (as opposed to Flags extended ones), showing us the true motivation for each character. If there was a fatal flaw in Flags of Our Fathers, it was the decision to give each character, even the peripheral ones, equal importance, making it hard for the audience to follow. Letters does not have that flaw, instead choosing to focus primarily on two characters, one from each side of the Japanese forces, which was split much like the Japanese caste system. We see the enlisted man, a poor baker named Saigo (Ninomiya), who we see through the flashbacks had everything taken by the government and has promised his pregnant wife that he would come home when drafted to go to Iwo Jima and told to “Kill ten of the enemy before you are killed yourself”. But then we see the flip side of that in the General’s (Watanabe) flashbacks of him writing home to his well-to-do family not only during the battle but also during an ironic trip to the United States several years before the war. The Direction is well done and never heavy handed, which instead of focusing on the battle Eastwood focuses on the reactions of the characters to the battle. This technique of allowing the actors rather than the scenery in whichever scenario to dictate the story and how it is told has become his trademark, working to great effect for him in past efforts like Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. All of the actors are excellent, with Watanabe, Ihara, and Ninomiya standouts. For those that saw it first, we see the reuse of visuals and flip sides of scenes done in Flags of Our Fathers during the battle (though no actors / characters from either film interact). Among the highlights are Saigo’s last act (which ties in with the opening sequence in 2005) and Lt. Col. Nishi’s finding a letter on a dead Marine. Another perspective to take on this film overall is that it is an overall journey come full circle for Eastwood. Many scenes are reminiscent of Akira Kirosawa’s Yojimbo, which was remade as Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western A Fistful of Dollars starring Eastwood, which introduced him to Don Siegel, with whom he did Dirty Harry, and both Leone and Siegel informed Eastwood’s work as a Director on Unforgiven, which (arguably) allowed him to make more films like Flags of Our Fathers, and in turn this film, returning to the Japanese culture and inspiration for the film that made him a star in the first place.
Awards Likely: Oscar Nominations for Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and Sound Editing. It’s got very good odds of winning Director and Sound Editing. Fun Fact: This is the first Eastwood film (he’s had three before) to be nominated for Best Picture not to receive a nomination for Acting.

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