This weekend there is a real intriguing group of films opening. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks team up again to try and solve the legal battles of the cold war, R.L. Stine's classic tales get the full CGI love of the big screen and Oren Moverman transforms Richard Gere into a homeless man in Time Out of Mind. Click through for my reviews of each film.
Bridge of Spies is a film has a tremendous heart but the slow pace really bogs down this harrowing story. James Donovan's interesting legal successes showcase an intelligent man who believed in the letter of the law. Tom Hanks holds the right stoic nature and delivers his usual quality performance, but the Donovan tale entirely engulfs the film. We only get snippets of the real "CIA spy" material and in particular the story behind Francis Gary Powers infamous U2 Spy plane being shot down. If the film had spent more time giving us the sympathy behind that failed mission it may have resonated more. Instead the films only shines when Mark Rylance is on screen. The cinematography, by Janusz Kaminsk, is beautiful and highlights both the bleakness of Berlin and the majestic halls of justice and mixed in with the Coen Brothers witty and fluid script is a real pleasure, but Mark Rylance's performance as Rudolf Abel, a KGB agent defended famously by Donovan, is utterly captivating. The above "Standing Man" story is the most jarring and powerful moment in the entire film and it takes place in a small room with no Spy planes or Berlin Wall in sight. The film is worthy your time simply because of the back and forth moments we get between Tom Hanks and Rylance. These two actors reveal so much with so little movement. The glances, the silence and the overall compassion flows off the screen with each of their interactions. This is a good film by anyone else's standards, but doesn't crack the top 15 films of Spielberg's amazing portfolio. The trailer houses the most exciting elements of the film. It just doesn't have the usual emotional pull of a Spielberg film. Still worthy of your viewing simply because of Mark Rylance and Tom Hanks performances.
Goosebumps surprised me in that I went in thinking it wouldn't come close to capturing the fun of R.L. Stine's horror tales. Jack Black's commitment to the character, amazingly well done CGI and perfectly timed sense of humor really makes this PG tale actually really enjoyable. The monsters are almost all there and there are even some nice nods to the Stine's twisted sense of humor. Slappy being the ultimate villain is wonderful and allows for a real introspective nature to Jack Black's performance. Overall the pacing is spot on as the film quickly gets to the love interest and than has no fear unleashing all the monsters. But the really made the film fully enjoyable even for a skeptical adult was the humor. Whether it's the scared moments with Ryan Lee, becoming quite the adorable fun goofy teen character (He stole ever scene in Super 8) or it is the utterly hilarious Jillian Bell as the corky aunt. Her one liners and pop up out of nowhere moments are just perfect. I even really enjoyed Amy Ryan's banter with her son Zach (Dylan Minnette). In fact, this might be blasphemous but I liked her performance more in this than as Tom Hanks' doting wife in Bridge of Spies! Odeya Rush delivers a good performance as well with a fun twist to her character. Overall this is a great film for the kids and adult will find themselves not bored at all. In fact adults might leave the theater feeling they should watch it again. Not necessarily as enjoyable as actually reading Stine's books, but damn fine effort in bringing the spooky tales to life.
Oren Moverman's films showcase the dark elements of stand up people. Whether it's the racists ways of a cop (Rampart) or the heartless nature of some military folks (The Messenger) or now the terrible father that is homeless Richard Gere (George) Moverman delivers complex figures that are more than just the darkness we initially notice. Richard Gere gives one of his finest performances as he fully dives into this role of a down and out George. His constant hazy confusion mirrors the amazing cinematography of Bobby Bukowski in the movie. We rarely get a perfect shot, rather each scene and sequence has barriers or elements distracting us from what is going on in George's life. Even the voices that are heard throughout the film come from off screen people never showcased or even important to George's journey. There are so many shots from a distant you find yourself losing George in the mess. This has become a real staple of Moverman/Bukowski partnership over the years.
These two fellas have made Time Out Of Mind tough to decipher. You don't know where they are taking us and you certainly don't have time to figure out some type of underlining moment of Zen. Instead we just see the spiral downwards and the confusion that is always present. The film comes across as real and you find yourself thinking is that an actor or a real person. The performances of the actors thus are pretty profound. Ben Vereen's character stand out in every scene he's in. His boisterous and fiery attitude is a real highlight of the film. A performance that even outshines Gere's transformation.
If a best supporting nod is worthy any actor it is Ben Vereen as this homeless former jazz musician. There is a scene with a piano that me at tears because of a simple quiet shake that Ben had in the moment. Take the time to find this film near you as it really showcases a director who touches reality with such a amazing stroke of darkness, fire and a enticing haze. For us DFW folks sadly the film is in limited release, only being shown at Premier Cinemas 14 in Burleson.
Search for this film when it hits online soon.