Entries tagged with “John Goodman”.

The vice of gambling inspired quite a number of literary and cinematographic works, starting maybe with Dostoevsky’s novel which shares the name with the films that inspired it until the almost masterpiece movie “House of Games” written and directed by . “The Gambler” directed by  is not an adaptation of the great Russian writer’s short novel but rather a remake of a 1974 film that featured in the lead role. There are enough reasons to watch this 2014 version of the story with in the lead role, even if you have seen or not the older film.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2039393


The film history does not lack heroes (or anti-heroes) who lead a more than honorable life and/or have a respected profession at day, while spending their nights in vices of all sorts. Most of the characters of this kind are women, but there are also men like Jim Bennett, a decent and passionate professor of literature and novel writer who spends his free time in gambling crazily money that he does not have, borrowing from all possible bad guys, ruining the trust of his mother and of his girlfriend. At some point in time the viewers ask themselves whether he is playing a survival or a suicidal game, as he invites trouble and seems immune to the any danger or concern as soon as he walks the door of a gambling place. The response is in the character of gamblers which escapes reason (there are a few lines that I suspect were borrowed from Dostoevsky). His chance to survive depends upon getting rid of the addiction.


(video source Movieclips Trailers)


‘s “The Gambler” is written more like an action movie than as a character study. At some point in time the hero borrows money from three different mob groups, and uses the cash to cheat each other in order to try to save his skin. The influence of the gangsters movies of the 70s and 80s is visible, with reverences to  or Sidney Lumet. The atmosphere, the darkness and even the humor are present in the right doses. While the action is quite satisfying the quality of the film derives mostly from the actor work of who succeeds in this film to deliver one of the best roles in his career, with an intense rendition of the combination of the emptiness and despair of the intelligent hero who is aware about the falling spiral path of his life, but has a hard time fighting to prevent it. Supporting roles are played by fine actors like , , and (his last movie!). I liked less the very final which may be a little to conventional cinema relative to the rest of the film, but the overall impression is better than expected.


Some films deserve a better fate. This is in my opinion the case with ‘In the Electric Mist’ which is totally unknown to most of the cinema fans because it seems to not having been released in cinema theaters in the US. This is a very hard to understand decision, as this is a much better than the average detective movies, better than many other similar films released around that date, it’s well acted, beautifully filmed, directed by a well-known French director (Bertrand Tavernier) and with supreme star Tommy Lee Jones as lead actor. What do I know about the art of film distribution, though? Probably not too much.


source www.imdb.com/title/tt0910905/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0910905/


The story is set in the swamps of Louisiana and features detective David Robicheaux which some may remember as having been played by Alec Baldwin in Heaven’s Prisoner more than a decade before this film was made (the character is inspired by the same series of novels). The atmosphere of the Cajun country with its fogs and smells, legends and collection of unique characters makes for a good background for mysteries and hidden secrets and Tavernier makes a good use of it in a way that predicts Beasts of the Southern Wild. Nobody is surprised when generals and soldiers from the Civil War fought more than a century before show up from behind the fogs, and the phantoms of the older conflicts of race and class mix with the personal daemons the heroes have to face.


(video source Image Entertainment)


Watching Tommy Lee Jones playing the justice-driven detective (although his means are not always really orthodox) is always a pleasure, and to a large extent the film relies on him. He is helped by an excellent supporting cast, with John Goodman featuring as one of the lead bad guys, and Mary Steenburgen as the classy wife of Robicheaux. While the script does not really close perfectly every corner of the story, there is cursive story  telling in the style of the big detective American novels of the 40s, and the heroes have the same naive faith that the good cause of justice is worth risking everything to have it prevail. Bertrand Tavernier has filmed with European lens a very American story in a very American landscape, and despite the relative low-key ending (maybe the weak part of the movie) it’s a good film to look for and watch.

The Artist is a good and entertaining film, and it may deserve the handful of Oscar prizes that it received. I missed it in the theaters, then I bought the DVD when I was in Paris, and it’s only now that I got to see it. My conclusion is that it’s good, but slightly over-hyped and something is missing for it to be the great film some people talk about.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1655442/


Let me start with what I liked most.  It’s a film about cinema and specifically about Hollywood and it may be or it may be not surprising that it’s been written and directed by a Frenchman and the star is another great French actor. After all it’s the French who are the most respectful to the tradition of the great American cinema, and this is not something new, this lasts for more than half a century. While the American themselves criticize and change all the time the face of Hollywood (and it’s good that they do it), the French seem to be permanently fascinated by the legends of the American cinema and the silent movies is the one picked to be the subject of The Artist, or better said the death of the silent cinema and the fate of its stars. The story of George Valentine (Jean Dujardin), the star of silent cinema in 1927, who refuses to acknowledge the revolution of the ‘talkies’ in 1929 and finds himself rejected and abandoned by almost everybody in 1931 is well and simply written and filmed with elegance by director Michel Hazanavicius. Dujardin gets fine replicas from Berenice Bejo as the growing star of the new era and James Cromwell as the faithful driver of the falling star. The two and the cute dog, who would have deserved an Oscar for canine performance if there was one, never abandon the hero, they actually all love him and cause us to love him despite perceived character problem. Eventually even the shark-producer acted by John Goodman will give to George Valentine a second chance in life.


(video source trailers)


So yes – it’s a well written story, a respectful reverence to a crucial period in the evolution of cinema and its heroes, an interesting format which makes the story different. Why is it ‘good’ and not ‘great’? It is good because the film could not have been possible in a different formula – the silent film that describes the transition of the world of cinema from silent to talking movies. It is not great because the formula is too obvious in a few places (when the film less creates emotions and more tries to show how smart it is) and because the ending contains a ‘deus ex machina’ type of solution that goes in the contrary direction than the whole film. But maybe I am wrong. If more great silent films will follow I definitely will prove to be wrong. I would be happy to be wrong in this case.