25th Hour (2002) Film. Director : Spike Lee

25th Hour (2002) Poster

 

 

 

Time is running out for Monty Brogan – in 24 hours he will have to give himself up to serve a seven-year prison sentence for drug dealing. Monty was something of a big-shot in Manhattan but now it’s time for him to bid farewell to the bright lights for a while. Monty had been working for Russian dealers until one day the cops darkened his door,knowing exactly where to find the stash – in the couch. Monty decides to spend his last day in freedom visiting his nearest and
dearest, including his father, who runs an Irish pub and whom Monty has being supporting financially,and two old friends he has known since child-hood. Frank works as an investment banker on Wall Street whilst Jacob teaches literature at a high school. Monty’s two friends commiserate with their buddy during his last evening in freedom. Jacob declares confidently that“I’ll see him again”, but Frank is more pragmatic and understands that a seven-year stint in prison will change Montgomery for ever. “He’s gone”, he states flatly. Monty’s girlfriend, Naturelle, is also with them this night. However, Monty has his doubts about her loyalty – she just may have been the one to sell him out to the cops – and he’s determined to find out before his impending incarceration…

25th Hour is also a film about present-day New York. As Spike Lee comments: “People ask me what 25th hour is about, and I say, ‘Edward Norton plays a drug dealer who spends his last 24 hours of freedom in a post-September 11 New York City. Even though the novel and the screenplay were written before 9/11, we knew it had to be included in the film.We felt that we would be irresponsible artists if we shot this film in New York City and people were walking around like 9/11 never happened.” –Berlinale

 

25th Hour (2002)

FILM REVIEW; Confronting the Past Before Going to Prison

By A. O. SCOTT
Published: December 19, 2002

Spike Lee’s ”25th Hour” begins with an aerial tour of Manhattan at night, set to the gilded sob of Terence Blanchard’s lush, urbane orchestral jazz. It may not be the most original way to start a movie, but this visual and sonic overture, created by Mr. Lee with the help of Mr. Blanchard and the cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, has an unexpected emotional impact.

This particular skyline is dominated by the twin columns of light that illuminated downtown as a tribute to those who died in the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Watching the beams fade into the dawn on screen stirred up some half-buried sorrows, which I found a little jarring. The New York of the movies has always been an exaggerated, even fantastical version of the real place, and this division has seemed especially acute in the past year. Even in newer movies, the cinematic city has frequently offered a backward or sidelong escape from the post-9/11 real thing.

 

One of the first American movies explicitly set in New York after 9/11, ”25th Hour” is based on a novel by David Benioff (who also wrote the screenplay) that was published well before the attacks. In any case, their aftermath is not so much the topic of Mr. Lee’s movie as an important element of its atmosphere, at times an obtrusive one. In one scene, two characters talk in an apartment overlooking ground zero, whose floodlighted glare and somber activity make it impossible to concentrate on the dialogue: a case of reality overwhelming fiction.

For the most part, though, Mr. Lee approaches the overwhelming reality with sensitivity and tact. His model, unlikely as it may seem, could be ”The Rising” (Sony), the Bruce Springsteen album that supplies a song for the closing credits. An ambience of stunned grief and a slightly giddy, slightly guilty feeling of survival float through the film, which chronicles a midlevel drug dealer’s last day of freedom before the start of a seven-year prison sentence: a situation that could easily be the raw material for one of Mr. Springsteen’s hard-luck ballads.

Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) is the son of a retired firefighter (Brian Cox) who tends bar for his old comrades on Staten Island. The father’s patrons are played by real-life members of the fire department’s Rescue 5, and his establishment has become, like so many blue-collar spots in the city, a shrine to the fallen and a meeting place for the bereaved.

Monty’s woes are more particular. In his last hours of freedom he needs to tie up some loose ends, both practical and emotional. His dog, which he had found beaten and left for dead near the East River, will need a home. Monty also needs to say goodbye to his father and his two boyhood friends, to settle accounts with the Russian mobsters he works for and to find out if his girlfriend, Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), was the one who ratted him out to the feds.

All of this could have unfolded with the lumbering, schematic rhythms of a second-rate play, but Mr. Benioff’s script is supple and easygoing, and Mr. Lee’s direction has a relaxed, assured intensity perfectly complemented by the somber swing of Mr. Blanchard’s score. Monty is in no hurry to get to the penitentiary, and the filmmakers are not inclined to rush him. Mr. Lee gives the actors plenty of time and room to work, and their work is terrific. Mr. Norton, speedy and graceful, can talk a mile a minute while keeping his deeper feelings in check; he can, within a single scene, be almost sociopathicly controlled and terribly, childishly vulnerable. Monty is all of these things: an outlaw big shot and a messed-up kid; a dutiful son and a drug pusher who sweet-talks schoolgirls on the playground; a cocksure tough guy and a terrified pipsqueak.

Monty’s best friends are Francis (Barry Pepper), an arrogant investment banker, and Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a high school teacher with a stricken, shamefaced crush on one of his students (Anna Paquin). Mr. Pepper (who played Roger Maris in Billy Crystal’s HBO baseball movie ”61*”) has a wolfish grin and wide cheekbones that suggest a younger Christopher Walken. He and Mr. Hoffman, so anxious and sexually confused as to be almost inarticulate, are like a ”Sex and the City” vision of hell. If all the bachelors in New York were lizardy braggarts like Francis or tongue-tied shlubs like Jacob, Carrie and her crew would have long ago decamped for Pittsburgh and joined the cast of ”Queer as Folk.” Next to his pals, Monty the heroin dealer looks like a good catch.

The problem, though, is that while the lifelong friendship of these disparate examples of white Manhattan manhood is an enticing conceit, it never feels like much more. The relationship of the three men is both the movie’s dramatic center and its narrative weak spot. They seem not so much grounded in a social reality as inserted into one, and the psychology of their rivalries and affections is often blurred, especially as the picture moves toward its brutal climax. (In spite of fine performances from Ms. Dawson and Ms. Paquin, the women, perhaps inevitably, drift toward the margins of the story.)

The details of Monty’s fall from working-class striver to criminal are never filled in. We know he was kicked out of private school for selling marijuana, but half his life has gone by since, and we never see how he was able to sustain his ties to family and friends while pursuing his unfortunate career.

But if ”25th Hour” does not quite work as a plausible and coherent story, it produces a wrenching, dazzling succession of moods. Mr. Lee exercises his prodigious visual talents with unusual restraint, and keeps some of his more confrontational urges in check. Because the movie is so measured, so melodic, its bursts of wild invention, which might otherwise be irritating, are electrifying. The ending, narrated by Mr. Cox, is as bittersweet and sincere an evocation of the American dream as I have seen on film in quite some time, acknowledging both the futility of the collective national fantasy and its consoling, resilient power.

Almost as touching is a moment when Monty, staring into a men’s room mirror, launches into a profane tirade against his fellow New Yorkers (and everyone else). His rage is impressively ecumenical, encompassing blacks, brutal police officers, gays, Osama bin Laden, the rich, the poor and every other ethnic or social type you can think of: all of them put down with ruthless, scabrous precision. The rant recalls a famous sequence in ”Do the Right Thing” and also Eminem’s more recent invocation, in ”White America,” of ”so much anger aimed/in no particular direction just sprays and sprays.”

But like Eminem’s rhymes, Monty’s outburst, and the montage that accompanies it, contain tenderness as well as hate. Mr. Lee, an irreplaceable New York filmmaker, understands better than most that the true New Yorker’s deep, exasperated and unquenchable love for his city is sometimes best expressed in the language of rage.

”Twenty-fifth Hour” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has violence, sexual references, profanity and drug use.

http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9C01EFDD133DF93AA25751C1A9649C8B63

 

 

 

North Face (Nordwand) (2008) Film. Director : Philipp Stölzl

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Based on a true story, North Face is a suspenseful adventure film about a competition to climb the most dangerous rock face in the Alps. Set in 1936, as Nazi propaganda urges the nation’s Alpinists to conquer the unclimbed north face of the Swiss massif – the Eiger – two reluctant German climbers begin their daring ascent. (Imdb)

‘Because It’s There’ Is the Least of Their Reasons

By 
Published: January 28, 2010

As you watch Philipp Stölzl’s gripping survival drama, “North Face,”it is impossible not to put yourself in the boots of the mountaineers clinging to a sheer, icy rock face during a blizzard that threatens to send them into oblivion. The sight of the exhausted climbers fighting to stay alive after failing to reach the summit of the Eiger, a 13,000-foot peak in the Swiss Alps, is transfixing in the way that well-told life-and-death adventure tales inevitably are. It is the film’s more mundane elements — an awkward, under-nourished love story and half-baked politics — that are problematic.

The film, based on a true story, recalls the attempt of two German climbers, Toni Kurz (Benno Fürmann) and Andi Hinterstoisser (Florian Lukas), to scale the Eiger’s 5,900-foot near-vertical north wall, then unconquered, in mid-July 1936.

At that time, climbing the north wall, called “the last problem of the Western Alps” by Alpinists, was something of an obsession for the Nazis in the weeks leading up to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. (The Eiger’s summit had been reached by other routes as early as 1858.) Scaling the “death wall,” as it was nicknamed, would be a perfectly timed propaganda coup.

And as journalists and photographers amass at a nearby hotel, the event is portrayed as a cynical media circus in which fat cats, all but oblivious of the daredevils fighting for their lives hundreds of yards away, lounge beside an enormous hearth, stuffing their faces with gourmet food and fine wines.

“North Face” imagines the attempted conquest as a battle between Kurz and Hinterstoisser, from Germany, and Willy Angerer (Simon Schwarz) and Edi Rainer (Georg Friedrich), from Austria. The four actually belonged to the same team and did not join together midway in the climb, as the movie has it.

The two-hour film takes its time setting up the story. When Kurz and Hinterstoisser first appear, they are scrubbing latrines in an army barracks. Urged to undertake the adventure for the greater glory of Nazi Germany, Hinterstoisser, a rabidly competitive hothead, is gung-ho to meet the challenge; Kurz demurs.

Learning of Kurz’s doubts, Henry Arau (Ulrich Tukur), a Berlin magazine editor in pursuit of a hot story, dispatches a deputy, Luise Fellner (Johanna Wokalek), who is an aspiring photojournalist and former flame of Kurz’s, to persuade him to change his mind. When they reunite, his ardor rekindles, and he agrees. On the big day, Luise, who is very ambitious, accompanies Arau to the hotel, where he puts the moves on her.

The film’s underdeveloped subplots are really afterthoughts in a movie that doesn’t need them. When “North Face” is gazing at the Alps in constantly changing weather at different hours, your eyes are riveted to the screen. You see the climbers from a distance, like ants on a tree trunk, and from up close, where one slip of the foot can end in disaster. There are shots of Kurz dangling from a strand of rope over what looks like an endless abyss.

As an adventure story, “North Face” slowly builds in tension, not reaching its breaking point until after the four have made the painful decision to descend together because one has sustained serious head wounds. After the blinding storm strikes near nightfall, thick layers of ice accumulate on their gear; one loses his glove, another loses feeling in an arm, and the most seriously injured man becomes delirious. Pitons hammered into the rock come loose. Equipment slips out of their hands, and the roar of the storm nearly drowns out their voices as a rescue party, led by Luise, approaches.

One way they try to reach the climbers is by a train that runs inside the mountain and has a station on the north face. The moments in which Luise ventures alone onto the icy rock face are the only climbing scenes that seem blatantly faked.

But most of the time, “North Face” puts you where it wants you to be: in harm’s way. These scenes are so harrowing that you may question the famous rationale ascribed to the British climber George Mallory when asked why he wanted to ascend Mount Everest: “Because it’s there.”

Yes, we know that, but still …give me a better reason. Mallory disappeared on that 1924 expedition.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/29/movies/29north.html?_r=0

Take Me Home (2011) Film. Director : Sam Jaeger

take-me-home

 

 

 

 

In New York City, Thom is broke and jobless, illegally working as a taxi driver just to make some quick cash to try and pay his rent. Claire is a successful business-woman, but personally she’s in shambles trying to recover from a bump in her marriage and then comes the phone call that her distant father is in the hospital. Not knowing what to do, Claire hops in Thom’s cab and orders him to just drive. And so he does. The duo find themselves in Pennsylvania and make the rash decision to drive across the country. On the road to California, there are many detours, as the obstacles and secrets force them to learn about themselves and each other.(imdb)

 

Earth (2007) Documentary Film. Directors: Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield

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Earth

Reviewed by Ann Kelly
Updated 11 November 2007

For fans of wildlife programmes, Earth will be nothing new – it is, after all, a re-cut version of the BBC series Planet Earth – but this is a wildlife film at the very top of its game. No shot is less than dazzling, most are beautiful and many are stunning. Astounding images of whales cavorting in the oceans, rivers crashing down mountain-height waterfalls, cherry trees blossoming in time-lapse and many other wonders are complimented admirably by the rich, authoritative tones of narrator Patrick Stewart.

Earth concentrates on a few animal characters in order to take us on a rough journey from the North to the South pole over a year. There’s a polar bear family, with cute fluffy cubs sliding in the snow. A herd of Kalahari elephants trudge through a drought and lions to reach water, and a humpback whale and her calf journey halfway across the world. This focus helps add drama and, while the voiceover does occasionally veer into the pompous, it manages to steer clear of anthropomorphism. Plenty of other creatures get a cameo moment in the spotlight too – one bizarre bird-of-paradise dance makes a particularly memorable sequence.

“IMAGES OF THIS BRILLIANCE ARE NATURALLY UPLIFTING”

Depsite various deaths amongst the animals featured, Earth is a surprisingly bloodless experience, presumably to ensure family-friendliness. The camera always cuts away before the final bite, and there’s not so much as a meaty bone to be seen. But despite this censorship of the nastier things in nature, there’s a serious message overlaying the pretty pictures. The damage mankind is doing to the earth is made starkly clear. Still, gloomy message notwithstanding, images of this brilliance are naturally uplifting – and if this doesn’t make it to IMAX, I’ll eat my sustainable eco-hat.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2007/11/12/earth_2007_review.shtml

From a National Catholic Register review

By Steven D. Greydanus

A 20-foot great white shark hangs in the air, its entire bulk suspended a meter or more above the surface, its jaws closing on a fur seal gulped from the surf in a mighty leap.

Time-lapse photography reveals exotic fungi extruding netlike, lacy veils, bright orange slime molds throbbing and quivering as they spread across the rain forest floor, and bare winter forests budding and flowering in waves of vibrant color as if catching fire.

In New Guinea, a male Superb Bird of Paradise pogos energetically up and down in circles around a diffident female, its head swallowed in a wide erectile cape — a bizarre, hopefully impressive oblong fan of black plumage with a slash of blue across the bottom, like a gaping mouth below its shining eyes.

A menagerie of African animals, struggling through the parched Kalahari to the Okavango river for the seasonal floods, luxuriate in the extraordinary abundance of water. Giraffe and zebra placidly wade, baboons clumsily wobble waist-deep on two feet, and exhausted, dehydrated elephants joyously cavort and even swim.

Welcome to Earth. Adapted by directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield from producer Fothergill’s groundbreaking 550-minute BBC miniseries “Planet Earth,” Earth offers an impressive selection of some of the most astounding images ever captured of the natural world. Many of the film’s sights had never been witnessed or photographed before Fothergill and the BBC Natural History Unit set out to create “the definitive look at the diversity of our planet,” as “Planet Earth” is not unreasonably billed.

Filmed in stunning high-definition digital video, the luminous imagery looks even better on the big screen — reason enough for “Planet Earth” lovers who’ve seen it all before on DVD to experience Earth in theaters. (That includes our family; “Planet Earth” is a favorite in our house.) For the uninitiated, Earth offers a terrific 90-minute tour of the nine-hour “Planet Earth” experience — one that will satisfy many viewers while sending others in pursuit of the complete package on DVD.

In distilling his acclaimed series to feature length, Fothergill repeats the approach he took with the predecessor to “Planet Earth”: the 400-minute miniseries “Blue Planet,” which likewise became the basis for a 83-minute feature film, the 2003 release Deep Blue. One might think, then, that just as “Planet Earth” exceeded even the impressive achievement of “Blue Planet,”Earth naturally ought to outdo Deep Blue.

But Deep Blue, as top-notch as it is, made less than $20 million worldwide, and wasn’t even an asterisk on domestic box office charts in limited release. With Earth, the filmmakers are determined to reach a wider audience — and they’ve made compromises to do it.

In true BBC tradition, both “Blue Planet” and “Planet Earth” are extensively narrated in the warmly professorial cadences of Sir David Attenborough, who provides a wealth of context to the images on the screen. (For some reason “Planet Earth” was redubbed for U.S. broadcast with Sigourney Weaver, though the DVDs feature the original Attenborough narration.)

Deep Blue’s approach is very different, but equally effective: In the tradition of wordless or nearly wordless nature documentaries like AtlantisMicrocosmos and Winged MigrationDeep Blue largely eschews narrative altogether, allowing the imagery to speak for itself. Like these other films, Deep Blue is more a nature art film than a traditional educational documentary. (What narration Deep Blue does have was originally done by Michael Gambon; the U.S. DVD features Pierce Brosnan.)

With Earth, on the other hand, the filmmakers went a route closer to a much less distinguished 2007 documentary-esque nature film, Arctic Tale. Many critics noted Arctic Tale’s similarity to Disney wildlife adventures of the 1950s, and Earth, the premiere film from Disneynature, the Disney empire’s new big-screen nature documentary label, is consciously in that same tradition.

In aiming squarely at family audiences, both Earth and Arctic Tale have their eye on the March of the Penguins dollars, hoping for the same success with family audiences that powered the Morgan Freeman–narrated documentary to hit status in 2005. Arctic Tale’s breezy, laid-back narration by Queen Latifah, and Earth’s sometimes humorous narration by James Earl Jones, seem intended to imitate the appeal of Freeman’s work in March of the Penguins. (Prior to its U.S. release, Earth was originally narrated by Patrick Stewart. For that matter, Freeman’sMarch of the Penguins narration was also added for that film’s U.S. release.)

Arctic Tale purported to tell a pair of stories about a polar bear family and a walrus family. Earth is likewise structured around three family stories: a tale of a polar bear family with striking similarities to that of Arctic Tale; the trek of a herd of elephants through the Kalahari, and the migration of a mother humpback whale and her calf.

Earth begins on a sonorous note similar to the miniseries, but popular accessibility is clearly a top priority. One can hardly imagine Attenborough tossing in lines like “Get down, baby,” for instance. There are even a couple of Mouse House allusions: a comment about the “circle of life” (a phrase with even more Disney resonance when read by Jones, the voice of The Lion King’s Mufasa) and a punchline about Mandarin duck chicks “falling with style” from their hollow-tree nests to the forest floor below. (Actually, there’s not much style to it.)

Despite similarities, Earth is far superior to Arctic Tale, and presents the animals’ stories much more authentically. Where Arctic Tale fabricated entirely fictional narratives by dovetailing unrelated footage — even creating named fictional characters (“Nanu,” “Seelah”) embodied by different animals in different shots — Earth doesn’t fictionalize, or not much.

The filmmakers really follow the migrations of one elephant herd and one whale mother and calf, and as far as I know they follow the same four polar bears throughout (a mother with two cubs and a male — though whether the male is really the cubs’ “dad” is anyone’s guess; their stories don’t overlap).

While a definite vibe of climate-change awareness-raising runs through the film — more so than the miniseries — it’s nothing like the public-service infomercial that Arctic Tale finally becomes.

Like Arctic TaleEarth isn’t particularly “red and tooth and claw” for a nature documentary — but also doesn’t shy away from the harsher realities of life in the wild. Among Earth’s most riveting sequences are a high-speed chase in which an arctic wolf runs down a fleet-footed caribou calf and a nocturnal sequence with a famished pride of lions desperately takes on a panicked elephant — and there are those breaching sharks scarfing fur seals whole — though there’s never a killing stroke or a bloody feast afterwards. (The miniseries isn’t so squeamish.)

Earth emphasizes the cosmological distinctiveness of our planet: just the right distance from our sun, with a crucial 23.5-degree tilt that creates seasonal change and contributes to the planet’s hospitableness to such a staggering diversity of species in so many different environments. In a sea of Hollywood formula, artifice and escapism, here is an invitation to wonder, awe and gratitude.

http://decentfilms.com/reviews/earth