Showing posts with label Kevin Spacey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kevin Spacey. Show all posts

Thursday, 17 January 2013

American Beauty

The winner of five Oscars including Best Picture, American Beauty is a film that covers a lot of the problems of Middle America in just two hours. Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) is an average man in an average town, working an average job. Lester is married to the pushy, cold and career driven Carolyn (Annette Bening) and is in the midst of a mid life crisis which is heightened with an infatuation for his daughter Jane’s (Thora Birch) friend Angela (Mena Suvari).

I thought I’d seen the film years ago and remembered the stand out scenes but had forgotten an awful lot of the plot so ended up unsure if I had actually seen it. American Beauty is a fascinating film which cuts to the heart of the suburban American psyche, bringing up some uncomfortable ideas about sexuality, infidelity, violence, mental illness and incest. Despite a compelling story, some very good performances and fine direction I wasn’t always able to get totally on board with it.

Friday, 11 January 2013

L.A. Confidential

Intertwining the stories and cases of three LA Cops while also managing to focus on both the glamour and seedier side of 1950s L.A., L.A. Confidential is a fantastic and gripping neo-Noir thriller set towards the end of Hollywood’s Golden Age. With Micky Cohen in jail, L.A. finds itself free of Organised Crime and the LAPD wants to keep it that way. On the front line are three very different Detectives; the brutish Bud White (Russell Crowe), book smart and career orientated Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) and Jack ‘Hollywood Jack’ Vincennes (Kevin Spacey). The three inhabit different worlds within the same department and a run in between White and Exley causes mass tension amongst the whole of the force. A murder at the Night Owl CafĂ© one evening sparks an investigation which involves all three officers, corruption, racism, organised crime, prostitution, glitz, glamour and grime.

I saw L.A. Confidential several years ago and it didn’t really have an impact on me. I can only assume I saw it too young because yesterday I saw it again and thought it was spectacular. Director Curtis Hansen and Cinematographer Dante Spinotti create a realistic version of L.A. full of bright, soft light and period detail but the film avoids going for an all out Noir feel and incorporates more of a modern feel in amongst its 50s setting. The setting and fantastic design are a mere backdrop however for what is essentially a character study. The film may look beautiful but it is in its characters where it truly shines.

Saturday, 18 February 2012


Outbreak came at a time before infection type disaster movies were the mainstay of Hollywood. Since 9/11, film makers have shied away from the terrorist type disaster movies of the 1980s and 90s and films such as 28 Days Later, Rec and Contagion have taken over from the likes of Die Hard and The Siege. So Outbreak was perhaps slightly ahead of its time. I am too young to remember its initial release in 1995 but I can imagine that its actors were as big a draw as they are today with some of them at the height of their careers. Morgan Freeman features, a year after The Shawshank Redemption, Cuba Gooding Jr was a year away from his Oscar win for Jerry Maguire and Kevin Spacey had appeared in Seven and The Usual Suspects in the same year. With the additions of Dustin Hoffman and Donald Sutherland, this film is the definition of an all star cast.

The film is about a virus that is found in Zaire which later turns up in a small town in California. It has mutated and infected the town’s population and a team of military scientists which includes Dustin Hoffman and Cuba Gooding Jr must battle both the virus and the military to save the town and possibly America itself.

The plot is fairly formulaic with few surprises. Due to the nature of the story there is also little peril. At one point, the President orders the infected town to be bombed but you know this will never happen in a mainstream Hollywood movie. In another scene, Hoffman and Gooding Jr are in apparent danger when a plane is on course to hit their helicopter but again, you know this won’t happen. I think this is where films such as 28 Days Later and Children of Men have an edge as the danger feels more real and the characters more at risk. The film also features a lot of plot explanation which gave me the feeling that the writers thought the audience was too dumb to understand certain parts of the script. There was one very good plot device in which the outbreak of the virus in the Californian town happened in a cinema which I thought would have increased a cinema audience’s fright/enjoyment.

Kevin Spacey after being shown the finished film

Considering the film contained such an esteemed cast I didn’t feel like any one of them excelled. Either they cancelled each other out, weren’t trying very hard or the script and direction didn’t allow for any great performances. I have a feeling it is down to a mixture of the last two.

The film hasn’t aged too badly considering it is now seventeen years old and one of the two countries in which it is set no longer exists but this is a nuts and bolts disaster movie with a cast that promises a better film than it delivers.