Tag Archives: Tommy Lee Jones

Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’: Flawed but worthwhile Oscar bait

Film review

FILE - This undated publicity photo released by DreamWorks and Twentieth Century Fox shows, Daniel Day-Lewis, center rear, as Abraham Lincoln, in a scene from the film, "Lincoln."  Day-Lewis, who plays the 16th president in Steven Spielberg's epic film biography “Lincoln,” settled on a higher, softer voice, saying it's more true to descriptions of how the man actually spoke. “Lincoln” opened in limited release Nov. 9, 2012, and expands nationwide Friday, Nov. 16. (AP Photo/DreamWorks, Twentieth Century Fox, David James, File)

Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln talks strategy in regards to passing the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in Steven Spielberg’s fairly wonky and occasionally sappy but worthwhile “Lincoln.”

Steven Spielberg’s grand, sweeping, gimme-some-Oscars-already epic “Lincoln” starts with a schmaltzy scene and ends with a rather yawn-inducing, anti-climactic one, but between these two disappointing bookends is a film that’s worth watching despite its flaws.

Even though history no doubt has sainted him, or at least sanitized him, Abraham Lincoln probably was our most important president, and Spielberg’s and playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner’s Lincoln steps off of the pedestal now and then to get his hands dirty in the business of politics, and even utters the word “shit.”

Mostly, though, Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln delivers biblical-sounding language that, I surmise, your typical American moviegoer (who has some degree of poverty of language) often won’t even bother to try to comprehend.

Still, the anecdotes and parables that Day-Lewis’ Lincoln frequently tells, even during times of high crisis, are spellbinding, and Day-Lewis (whose win for Best Actor virtually is assured) nails it perhaps especially in these scenes.

Sally Field does a competent enough if not wholly convincing job as Mary Todd Lincoln, whose speech, strangely, sounds like today’s modern American English while her husband’s speech sounds literary.

I didn’t find the back-and-forth, woe-is-me dynamic of a misery competition between Mary Todd and her husband to be very interesting or insightful, but to be mostly repetitive, but the scene in which Field’s Mary Todd lets some congressmen who are visiting her home (the White House, of course) know who’s boss is one the film’s best and most memorable scenes.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt — who, as I have noted, I love — is a bit dull and therefore wasted as Robert Todd Lincoln, Mary Todd’s and Abraham’s eldest son, who comes off as a one-trick pony, primarily only whining about how much he wants to join the army and fight for the North.

Tommy Lee Jones steals the show as U.S. Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, portrayed as a “radical,” fervent abolitionist. (The last, pleasantly surprising scene with Jones in the privacy of his home probably should have been the last scene of the film.)

The floor fights in the U.S. House of Representatives over the proposed passage of the Thirteen Amendment (prohibiting slavery everywhere in the nation) provide most of the film’s drama, and if they are at all historically accurate, they make one long for the days when there was a lot more passion (and a lot less money to both parties from the same donors) in the House.

The Southerners (and their sympathizers) in “Lincoln” aren’t portrayed flatteringly, which probably will mean that the film won’t appeal to the “tea-party” dipshits, since the slavery- and treason-loving Southerners depicted in “Lincoln” are their true founding fathers, but perhaps “Lincoln’s” No. 1 flaw is the creepy feeling that one gets while watching it that the overriding spirit of the film is a bunch of whites repeatedly patting themselves on the back, repeatedly reminding us, “See!?!? We ended slavery!”

Indeed, the evil of slavery itself is barely portrayed in “Lincoln” — sure, Spielberg portrayed it in his 1997 film “Amistad,” but that’s a different film — and blacks are only supporting (and mostly subservient) characters in “Lincoln,” which gives the viewer of “Lincoln” the unfortunate impression that perhaps the film is asserting that slavery was more of a burden for liberal whites than it was for the actual slaves.

Unless Spielberg and Kushner meant that to be a commentary on today’s Democratic Party and its relationship to the suffering masses of today — and I don’t think that they did — that is, in my book, enough of a flaw in “Lincoln” (coupled with its dismal opening and closing scenes) to knock it outside of the realm of an “A.”

I had hoped that Spielberg’s “Lincoln” would be “War Horse” meets Abraham Lincoln — I thought (and still think) that Spielberg’s 2011 film “War Horse” got screwed at the Oscars — but alas, it was not to be.

The Academy of  Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (which is chock full o’ guilty white liberals), however, most likely handsomely will reward “Lincoln” nonetheless.

My grade: B+

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Chris Evans can’t save ‘Captain America’

Film review

Chris Evans stars as Captain America/Steve Rogers in "Captain America: The First Avenger" -- Paramount

In “Captain America,” the talented actor Chris Evans (shown in and out of uniform) does the best he can with the material that he was given.

Actor Chris Evans, from "Captain America", poses for a portrait at the LMT Music Lodge during Comic Con in San Diego, Thursday, July 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

Associated Press photo

“Captain America: The First Avenger” is widely said to be the best of this summer’s crop of super-hero movies. I disagree.

While better than “Thor,” which isn’t saying much, “Captain America” falls short of “X-Men: First Class.”

The best thing that “Captain America” has going for it is the charismatic Chris Evans, who engagingly played the “Fantastic 4”’s smart-assed Johnny Storm and who did a great turn in the sci-fi film “Sunshine.” Like “Sunshine,” “Captain America” isn’t worthy of Evans’ talents, unfortunately.

“Captain America” in a post-Abu-Ghraib world doesn’t woefully overdo the nauseating patriotic crap, but doesn’t give the good captain an awful lot to do that is very interesting once he finally meets and far exceeds his goal of fighting for the U.S. military against Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

In the action Captain America repeatedly loses his one-of-a-kind, impenetrable shield, which he always gets back, we quickly learn, so that trick gets old fairly fast — seriously, the character of the patriotic, skinny, sickly pre-Captain-America Steve Rogers is more interesting than is the fairly invincible hulk that he is morphed into — and the Red Skull, the villain, played by Hugo Weaving, is captivating for all of about five minutes.

True, a friend of mine who had seen “Captain America” before I did had told me that the Nazi-accented Red Skull sounds just like the Austrian-born former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and so every time the Red Skull spoke I heard not the Red Skull, but Baby Daddy Schwarzenegger, and I have wondered if maybe they’d wanted Schwarzenegger to play the role but couldn’t get him, and so they asked Hugo Weaving to do his best Schwarzenegger.

In any case, the glowing blue cube that is supposed to be the source of the Red Skull’s power is not very interesting and not very creative. I’m sick of movies in which we’re just supposed to accept some mysterious power, whether it glows a pretty blue or green. (On that note, I haven’t seen “Green Lantern,” since it roundly got shitty reviews, but just about everyone for some reason has said how great “Captain America” is, which is why I saw it.

And I don’t care that something was in some comic book first, by the way. Something works in a movie or it doesn’t, regardless of its source.)

And we’ve had plenty of movies about Nazis and about Nazis interested in occult powers — “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Hellboy” come immediately to mind. Did we really need another? The retro (World-War-II-era) look of “Captain America” is fairly cool, but didn’t we kinda already see that in the unfortunate “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”?

Tommy Lee Jones does a great job as Steve Rogers’/Captain America’s commanding officer, but it’s the same role of the cranky old man that Jones has been playing for some years now, unfortunately.

And the time-traveling twist at the end of “Captain America” is more likely to make the viewer feel a bit ripped off rather than ooohed and ahhhed — and feel way too rushed to be prepped for Captain America’s next cinematic appearance, which, presumably, will take place in the present. (Again, even if it was in a comic book first, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be good for a film.)

In a nutshell, with “Captain America” it’s been there, done that. It’s a fairly technically well done rehash, but it’s a rehash nonetheless.

Love Chris Evans. “Captain America” — not so much.

My grade: C+

P.S. The showing that I attended was in 3-D. Oops. I hadn’t even known that they’d released it in 3-D. The 3-D effects make no difference, though, as nothing comes flying at you. Not even the shield. Why they released it in 3-D, other than for increased profits, eludes me.

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