It was recently announced that Denzel Washington is set to star as Det. Zachary Garber in Tony Scott’s remake of Joseph Sargent’s 1974 thriller, The Taking of Pehlam One Two Three in a role made famous by Walter Matthau. I am sure that those of you who have seen the original are, like me, asking WHY!?! Way the hell would anyone do this? Of the many films from 70’s Hollywood, this is one of the most stylized and so obviously set in that time period. It takes place in a pre-Ed Koch, early 70’s New York that was undergoing a severe budget crisis causing the freezing of city wages and the slashing of the city’s workforce. It’s a period piece, pure and simple.
Besides, it’s really a stupid premise.
Don’t get me wrong, this is one of my all-time favorite films. it’s brilliant in almost every way, including that the idea of hijacking a train on a closed system is patently ridiculous. I mean, where they gonna go? As one famous exchange in the film puts it:
Lt. Rico Patrone: Wait a minute. I just figured out how they’re going to get away.
Lt. Garber: I’m listening.
Lt. Rico Patrone: They’re going to fly the train to Cuba.
This one of dozens of bit of dialog that are bound to be removed or altered unless it’s a period film (which you know it won’t be) because they won’t make sense in 2008. How many of today’s audience would know that in the 60’s and 70’s there were dozens of US flights that were hijacked and flown to Cuba? It was so common that in a Monty Python episode a man tries to hijack a Cuba-bound plane to Luton (an airport outside London) and eventually ends up hijacking a double decker bus that changes its destination sign to read “Straight to Cuba.”
The thing is, without the period touches, this is just another heist thriller and one with an absurd premise, to boot. The bankruptcy of New York, the oddly Ed Koch-like Lee Wallace as the Mayor of (3 years prior to Koch’s election!), the grimy look of the city and the completely un-PC dialog:
Caz Dolowicz: Oh, come on. If I’ve got to watch my language just because they let a few broads in, I’m going to quit. How the hell can you run a goddamn railroad without swearing?
All of these things serve to make the original what it is, a gripping, tense and occasionally very funny period thriller. See the original, please!
Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Allison Janney, JK Simmons, Olivia Thirlby, Rainn Wilson with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner
While the tendency might be to lump Juno, the sophomore feature from director Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking) and first-time writer Diablo Cody into the group (new genre?) of quirky comedies, a la I *Heart* Huckabees, Napoleon Dynamite and Rushmore, don’t. The thing is, while it contains elements of those oddball-laden films, Juno is its own animal in that it’s smart, funny and above all, real. The film should mark the coming out of several major talents, including writer Cody and Juno herself, Ellen Page. While I won’t shoot myself if Cody doesn’t get an Oscar nomination, I will be gobsmacked. While we’re at it, how about one for Page, too?
Juno MacGuff is 16 and almost too precocious. She’s smart, funny, curious and so adorable that “cute as a button” might have been coined with Page in mind. (At 5′ 1″, according to the IMDb she was apparently given the nickname “The Tiny Canadian” by some American roommates.) Well adjusted and comfortable in her own skin, Juno is the kind of kid every parent would love to have…except that she’s pregnant, the result of a one time romp with her best friend Paulie Bleeker in a living room chair. Bleeker is played perfectly in another example of deadpan wonder by comedy god of the under 30 set, Michael Cera (Superbad) as a charmingly nerdy track star with an addiction to orange tic tacs.
Continue reading TIFF 07: Juno Review
The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez, 90 mins.
Directed by Kieran Fitzgerald
Produced by Brendan Fitzgerald
On May 4th, 1970 four students were shot dead and nine more wounded at Kent State by poorly trained Ohio National Guard soldiers who clearly over reacted to a relatively small protest against the Nixon administration’s recent bombings in Cambodia. The response to the tragedy took the nation by storm and, one could argue, that event turned the tide of American involvement in Viet Nam.
It would be twenty seven years until another American citizen is shot by the U.S. military, on U.S. soil, May 20, 1997. Only this time, the nation’s reaction was far less severe. Perhaps that’s because hardly anyone heard about it. An explanation for this may be found in the new documentary, The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez, which I was fortunate enough to catch at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Ballad is the first feature-length film by director Kieran Fitzgerald and his brother, producer Brendan Fitzgerald. Kieran was 17 years old when Esequiel, a young Mexican-American was shot by the team leader of a four-man US Marine unit that was patrolling the border in search of drug traffickers. The 18 year-old Esequiel was herding goats close to his home when he was mistakenly taken for a hostile. The director heard about the incident for the first time in the fall of 2004 from actor & director Tommy Lee Jones who himself was preparing to shoot The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Jones’s narrative film was inspired by a number of real life border tragedies including the Hernandez shooting and Jones ended up providing the voice-over for the Fitzgeralds’ documentary.
Continue reading Tribeca 07 Review: The Ballad Of Esequiel Hernandez