Tag Archives: Jodie Foster

Inside Man (2006) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Denzel Washington as Detective Keith Frazier
Clive Owen as Dalton Russell
Jodie Foster as Madeleine White
Christopher Plummer as Arthur Case
Willem Dafoe as Captain John Darius
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Detective Bill Mitchell
Director: Spike Lee

The mastermind behind a bank robbery in Manhattan (Clive Owen) has planned the heist in great detail. A detective (Denzel Washington) tries to negotiate with him, but the involvement of a broker worsens the situation further.

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I recall Inside Man being the first movie I saw from director Spike Lee, I remember from that first viewing finding it to be a really good heist movie. Revisiting it more recently, it still holds up really well today, even if I wouldn’t call it one of Spike’s all time best work.

Inside Man takes the familiar heist scenario and has a fresh take on it, with large parts of it feeling different from your average American heist thriller. The story structure is unique and keeps you guessing, with some clever plotting. The story itself was entertaining and I was gripped throughout, I was interested as to how things would play out. It effectively builds up a lot of tension over the course of the film, giving you just enough information to put you on edge throughout. There is even some humour sprinkled throughout, even though its first and foremost a crime thriller. While on the surface, Inside Man seems like one of the only Spike Lee movie that doesn’t have a political edge to it, the movie is full of little moments of social commentary that we’ve come to expect him to include. Themes of racism, corruption and greed are threaded into this story of cops and robbers seamlessly. There are definitely some issues, you can definitely tell this is a movie whose script wasn’t written by Spike Lee. Although I liked some of the more humorous moments, there were some moments that I thought were a little too silly and even annoying. There are some really cartoonish and stereotypical side characters just to be random for a scene or two, and I think they really could’ve been dialled down. There is also a bit of clunky exposition towards the end, but on the whole I thought the ending works well enough.

There is a tremendous cast involved. Denzel Washington is in the lead role as the main cop trying to deal with this heist. Washington has the on-screen presence and charisma you’d expect from him, and he delivers on his part as to be expected. Clive Owen gives one of his best performances as the main bank robber, even when his face isn’t really shown for the majority of the movie he really makes an impression. Other supporting actors like Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Plummer and Chiwetel Ejiofor also play their parts well. The only acting that wasn’t working as well for me was some of the previously mentioned ‘random’ side characters, and some of the hostages. They could be annoying at times but not enough to bring down the movie that much.

Spike Lee’s directing is great and gives the movie such a contagious energy, enhancing the already solid script. The film is well shot, with some great and dynamic cinematography. At times it looks a little dated, like its very much a mid 2000s movie, however at least it works as a movie from that time period. The camera effectively spins and moves around the bank, enhancing the anxiety of the situation and creating a tense environment. Much of the film’s style feels akin to that of a Tony Scott movie. However, it is still a very much a Spike Lee movie with his trademark filming style on display, even the classic Spike Lee double dolly shot makes a memorable appearance.

Inside Man is a clever, suspenseful and well-constructed heist thriller, and very likely Spike Lee’s most accessible movie. The writing, directing and acting are all really solid and work together to make a very entertaining movie. I wouldn’t say that it’s one of the best heist movies ever made, or one of Spike’s best, but it is still really good, and it’s one well worth checking out.

Panic Room (2002) Review

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Panic Room

Time: 112 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Jodie Foster as Meg Altman
Kristen Stewart as Sarah Altman
Forest Whitaker as Burnham
Dwight Yoakam as Raoul
Jared Leto as Junior
Patrick Bauchau as Stephen Altman
Director: David Fincher

Trapped in their New York brownstone’s panic room, a hidden chamber built as a sanctuary in the event of break-ins, newly divorced Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her young daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with three intruders – Burnham (Forest Whitaker), Raoul (Dwight Yoakam) and Junior (Jared Leto) – during a brutal home invasion. But the room itself is the focal point because what the intruders really want is inside it.

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Panic Room is generally regarded as one of David Fincher’s weakest movies, but that doesn’t mean it should be disregarded entirely. A tense and well made thriller, it’s likely his most accessible movie, and it’s well worth the watch for sure.

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Panic Room as its core is a pretty standard home invasion thriller, with the usual tropes and clichés that you’d expect from it. There’s not much to the story beyond the premise, there’s not really any depth to the characters or plot, and I wouldn’t exactly say its unpredictable or does anything special. Also, some of the characters also make some dumb decisions, although at times they do address some of this, and are a little ahead of the audience when it comes to that. What makes the movie work is that the material is elevated by the acting and the directing. With that said, despite the familiarity and the clichés, the written material with the script from David Koepp is surprisingly stronger than expected. Once the robbers get into the house, it’s tense and has you engaged all the way through to the end. I do have a bit of a complaint with the ending, as in the last scene. I generally liked where the story went, but the final moments of Panic Room feel tact on and don’t really work with the rest of the movie, the probably should’ve cut that last scene or replaced it or something else.

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The talented cast involved are pretty great in their roles. Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart do a great job at playing the mother and daughter duo, they are definitely vulnerable yet smart at the same time, and find ways to stay alive through the whole movie. The three thieves played by Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam and Jared Leto all work really well, with each character being quite different from each other. They do fit some familiar villain archetypes that we’ve seen before, but their performances manage to overcome that, making them quite effective antagonists. Whitaker particularly is great, giving this collection of thieves a little more depth.

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David Fincher’s direction is great as usual, and it was perfect for this thriller, it really encloses you in this house that the movie primarily takes place in for the whole movie. The cinematography is great, typically Fincher-esque, with the dark shadows and the like, all of it worked for this movie. One of the highlight moments of the movie is when it pans around the whole house in seemingly one shot. However it’s not just restricted to that one scenes, there are a number of the camera pans and transitions that really showcase the house and rooms effectively that work seamlessly. Additionally, the score by Howard Shore is quite fitting and raises the tension and keeps it going when it needs to.

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Panic Room is one of David Fincher’s weakest movies, but it is still quite good for what it is. While it’s pretty familiar, the script (despite some faults) is reasonably strong and entertaining throughout, if simple. Additionally, it is elevated by the acting from the great cast, and especially by David Fincher’s fantastic direction, making this an effectively tense thriller. Definitely worth seeing.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Review

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The Silence of the Lambs

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains content may disturb
Cast:
Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling
Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter
Scott Glenn as Jack Crawford
Ted Levine as Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb
Director: Jonathan Demme

Young FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is assigned to help find a missing woman to save her from a psychopathic serial killer (Ted Levine) who skins his victims. Clarice attempts to gain a better insight into the twisted mind of the killer by talking to another psychopath Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), who used to be a respected psychiatrist. FBI agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) believes that Lecter, who is also a very powerful and clever mind manipulator, has the answers to their questions and can help locate the killer. However, Clarice must first gain Lecter’s confidence before the inmate will give away any information.

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The Silence of the Lambs was a massive hit upon its release, it even won the big 5 Oscars with Best Picture, Director, Best Actor and Best Actress, and that was particularly special considering it was a horror movie, with those movies in the genre not being considered ‘award friendly’. Almost 3 decades later, it is still an absolute classic and essential viewing, with its acting, writing and direction being top notch.

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One of the aspects of Silence of the Lambs that works so well is that it’s so realistic and feels like it could happen actually happen in real life. Manhunter did a realistic sort of take on a different Hannibal Lecter story, however parts of that movie felt a little bland. The Silence of the Lambs however manages to make the investigation and overall story interesting. From start to finish you’re absolutely locked into everything that’s happening.

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Jodie Foster was really great as Clarice Starling, this ranks among Foster’s best performances. It’s quite easy to like Clarice as a protagonist, and her story arc was really good. There’s a reason that the movie focusses a lot of time on her face, Foster is very expressive, and the movie definitely took advantage of that to great results. Anthony Hopkins doesn’t get a lot of screen time but his less than 15 minutes of screentime was a multi award winning performance, and for very good reason. The movie doesn’t surround him a lot but he really makes an impression. Looking at it now, he does go a little hammy at times, and it does seem a little out of place considering that the rest of the movie is really realistic, and Hopkins’s Lecter is a lot more theatrical compared to everything else. Also I was never really unnerved or scared by the performance and the character. But for the most part, Hopkins nails the role and steals every scene he’s in. Foster and Hopkins were absolutely magnetic together, their interactions are some of the best scenes of the movie. While a lot of people found Hopkins to be scary, the scariest performance in this movie comes from Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill, the serial killer that Foster’s Clarice is hunting down. Buffalo Bill seemed like a real life serial killer, from the performance, to the character himself, everything about him is unsettling. Levine sadly doesn’t get enough praise, which he deserves especially considering all of the gruelling prep he had to do to prepare for the role. The rest of the supporting cast including Scott Glenn as Jack Crawford also do some solid work.

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Jonathan Demme’s direction was really great, and he put this movie together very well. The story and writing itself was quite realistic and the way everything looks complements this. There are many close up shots that are done from Clarice Starling’s point of view, I really noticed it particularly on my latest viewing. It really does a good job at making you feel uncomfortable, even if it’s not a grisly scene or featuring Hannibal or Buffalo Bill. The only aspects that are little lacklustre is that occasionally some set designs that aren’t special and might not be that interesting but that’s it, it works for the more grounded take of the movie anyway. The soundtrack from Howard Shore is iconic and excellent, really adding adds a haunting atmosphere to this film.

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The Silence of the Lambs is a classic and for very good reason. It’s a gripping thriller with Jonathan Demme’s great direction, an interesting story, and some great performances, mainly from Foster, Hopkins and Levine. I’ve now seen it 3 to 4 times and it’s gotten better with every viewing. If you haven’t seen The Silence of the Lambs yet you definitely should, it’s a fantastic film.

Taxi Driver (1976) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle
Jodie Foster as Iris “Easy” Steensma
Cybill Shepherd as Betsy
Harvey Keitel as Charles “Sport” Rain/”Matthew”
Albert Brooks as Tom
Leonard Harris as Charles Palantine
Peter Boyle as “Wizard”
Director: Martin Scorsese

Taxi driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is an ex-Marine and Vietnam War veteran living in New York City. As he suffers from insomnia, he spends his time working as a taxi driver at night, watching porn movies at seedy cinemas during the day, or thinking about how the world, New York in particular, has deteriorated into a cesspool. In nearly every phase of his life, he remains a complete outsider, failing to make emotional contact with anyone. He’s a loner who has strong opinions about what is right and wrong with mankind. For him, the one bright spot in New York humanity is Betsy (Cybil Shepherd), a worker on the presidential nomination campaign of Senator Charles Palantine. He becomes obsessed with her. After an incident with her, he believes he has to do whatever he needs to make the world a better place in his opinion. One of his priorities is to be the savior for Iris (Jodie Foster), a twelve-year-old runaway and prostitute who he believes wants out of the profession and under the thumb of her pimp and lover Sport (Harvey Keitel).

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Martin Scorsese at this point in his career had shown himself to be quite a good director, after his first two movies with him starting off, he then progressed a lot more to deliver some very good films with Mean Streets and Alice Doesn’t Live Here. After those movies however came Martin Scorsese’s first masterpiece with Taxi Driver. Over 4 decades later it’s still an absolute classic and absolutely holds up.

Paul Schrader’s script for Taxi Driver is fantastic, with some great dialogue and overall is just really well constructed. The movie is just under a couple hours long, I guess it slowed down in parts, but I was invested throughout the entire runtime. The thing that really drives the movie is the main character, and his journey and descent; it’s much more of a character driven sort of movie than a plot focussed one. The lead character of Travis Bickle is one of the most fascinating protagonists I’ve seen in a movie. One of the things that make him so compelling especially with discussions of the movie is that everyone has their own thoughts about him. Some see him as a flawed anti-hero that is trying his best to do the right thing, others see him as an unstable psychopath and a time bomb waiting to go off. Taxi Driver puts you really inside his head and it really is seen through his perspective, and it made me uncomfortable being stuck there, so I think it did it’s job. The movie is definitely not necessarily endorsing his actions, even if there’s not active character saying that they are wrong. It’s a cautionary tale about violence, and thematically it really was ahead of its time, it’s still quite relevant today even. The most recent viewing was the 3rd time I saw it, and there are plenty of details that I picked up on repeat viewings. This film can be seen in many different ways, especially the final scenes. The ending definitely leaves room for many different interpretations, as this is definitely a movie with an unreliable narrator.

Robert De Niro is at his best here, embodying the character of Travis Bickle completely. He does well at being very deranged and unstable in an effectively subtle way. The narration throughout the movie could’ve just been exposition and an easy way for audiences to hear his thoughts, but it really works here as it’s like we’re trapped in his head with him, as this dialogue is what he’s writing in his diary. No matter what Bickle does, you can’t stop watching him. Personally I think it’s best for you to go into the movie and decide for yourself what you think of him. A fantastic performance and character. The supporting cast don’t get a ton of screentime, but they nonetheless do add quite a lot to the movie. Jodie Foster here is in one of her early roles as the underage prostitute that Travis eventually comes across, and she is really good. Other actors like Cybil Shepherd, Albert Brooks and Harvey Keitel also do great in their parts. Even Martin Scorsese is effectively unsettling (intentionally) in a one scene role, as a very disturbed passenger that Travis Bickle encounters during his job.

It’s no surprise that Martin Scorsese’s direction is fantastic, his work here on this movie is timeless. It’s got such a great look throughout but it really shines during the night time moments, I really can’t get over the use of colour. Scorsese perfectly captures New York City, really giving it a dirty feel throughout the movie. Throughout the movie you really get this feeling of disconnection and loneliness, just like how Travis Bickle is feeling throughout. Overall this movie has been really well put together. The score by Bernard Hermann (which is also worth noting is his final score) is great, ranging from calm and jazzy to intense and screeching, and had a bit of a sleezy tone that fits perfectly with the film.

Taxi Driver is a fantastic movie and still holds up extremely well today. Martin Scorsese’s direction is pretty much perfect, Paul Schrader’s screenplay is very well written and constructed, and Robert De Niro is absolutely outstanding here. There’s honestly not much more that I can say that hasn’t been said already, hence why this review isn’t longer or more in depth. Much of the gratness must be experienced for yourself. Absolute essential viewing.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Ellen Burstyn as Alice Hyatt
Alfred Lutter as Tommy Hyatt
Kris Kristofferson as David
Diane Ladd as Florence Jean Castleberry
Jodie Foster as Audrey
Harvey Keitel as Ben
Director: Martin Scorsese

When Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn) is suddenly widowed after years of domesticity, she decides to travel to Monterey, California with her 11-year-old son Tommy (Alfred Lutter) to resume a singing career. In Phoenix, Arizona she gets a job singing at a piano bar and begins a relationship with Ben (Harvey Keitel), who turns out to be married and a spouse abuser. In Tucson, she puts her dream of singing on hold and becomes a waitress. She meets a farmer, David (Kris Kristofferson), and begins to think about a new life of domesticity.

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Fresh off the success with Mean Streets, Martin Scorsese would take on a different kind of movie that he’s not typically known for with Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. It’s a genuine family drama that’s well written and directed, with the excellent lead performance from Ellen Burstyn that ties it all together and makes it all work.

The script by Robert Getchell was really great. The plot follows Alice and her son as they go from place to place. The plot meanders for sure, and occasionally it may have the odd section not being that interesting but otherwise I was generally invested throughout. There is plenty of emotion packed into this movie, but it’s delivered in a way that feels gritty and genuinely real. The more humorous moments bar a number of gags surrounding one character also fit in well with the movie. It is a movie where you just watch the main characters live their lives, and most of it held my attention.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is really Ellen Burstyn’s movie as the titular character. She is great and although I haven’t seen a ton from her, I think it would have to be one of her best performances. The film gives Alice a ton of depth throughout the plot, and she’s very easy to like and understand over the course of the whole movie, especially given everything she has to handle and deal with. This remains the only female led Scorsese film to date, and given how well this turned out, I’d like to see him do another. Alfred Lutter is Alice’s son Tommy, and I’ll just go ahead and say that he’s one of the most annoying child characters I’ve seen, but I guess he was intentionally annoying. They are convincing as mother and son and share great chemistry together. The rest of the cast play much smaller roles but their strong and memorable and work well in the movie. Diane Ladd plays a waitress who provided a lot of effective comic relief whenever she was on screen. Harvey Keitel also has a small role as a man who Alice becomes interested in at an early point, he’s good as always and especially great and very intense in his last scene. Kris Kristofferson also added a lot to the movie when he came on screen in the latter half of the movie. You even get Jodie Foster in a minor role here before she starred in Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. There are only couple of weak links when it comes to the characters. One is the husband character at the start of the movie, you don’t really like anything about him and then he just dies. I know that Scorsese originally had a longer cut where it fleshed him out more beforehand, but given that the movie is about the mother and son dynamic really, I guess maybe it’s just better how it is. There’s also another waitress character used for comedy in Valerie Curtin’s character, but she’s just used as the butt of so many jokes and it just really didn’t work. She didn’t even really feel like a character and they could’ve done without creating so many unfunny jokes scenarios surrounding her, it distracted more than anything and belonged in a way worse movie than this.

With this movie being a family drama, Martin Scorsese’s direction doesn’t really provide many opportunities to be showy, but it’s still great and fittingly restrained. There were even some shots, camera movements and editing choices at times that you really noticed and helped make the scenes even better. He really captured the story very well.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is a solid family drama, with the performances being the highlights, especially from Ellen Burstyn. Now if you were starting off with the aim of watching a bunch of Martin Scorsese movies, I wouldn’t necessarily say to start with this one. However in any circumstance, I do think it’s worth watching, even just on its own. It’s one of his overlooked movies that definitely should be getting a lot more attention.