Posts Tagged ‘Denzel Washington’

This week’s releases include: a bird watching adventure; a Canadian hockey movie; a quality prison drama; a spy thriller; an exceptional haunted house story; a look at crime in L.A., a fantastic sci-fi narrative; a grown-up bully; a cold war documentary; an extraordinary biopic; a mischievous monkey finds a new way to make trouble; a baseball movie; and a band of misfits. (more…)

This week’s releases include: a captivating tale of envy and ambition; the epitome of love stories; a single location murder mystery; the third chapter in a Muay Thai extravaganza; a missile on rails; the latest Woody Allen picture; and a gorier sequel to a serial killer flick. (more…)

JUNE 1
Life (Blu-ray)
From the BBC and the Discovery Channel, producers of Planet Earth and The Blue Planet: Seas of Life, comes the newest landmark natural history series, Life. In Planet Earth, they brought you the world as you’ve never seen it before. Now, get closer with Life. Four years in the making, filmed over 3000 days across every continent and in every habitat, with breathtaking new high definition filming techniques not available for Planet Earth, Life presents 130 incredible stories from the frontiers of the natural world, 54 of which have never been filmed before. This 11-part series narrated by Oprah Winfrey captures unprecedented sequences and demonstrates the spectacular and extraordinary tactics animals and plants have developed to stay alive.

Special features include: “Life on location,” a collection of 10 behind the scenes video diaries showing efforts of the filmmaking team; deleted scenes; and “music only” viewing option. (Warner Home Video)

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This is the third incarnation under this title: the first was a book by John Godey and the second was a 1974 film starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, which became a cult classic. The following will attempt to avoid quality comparisons.

Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) is a MTA administrator who was recently demoted to dispatcher pending an investigation of bribery allegations. Without warning, the Pelham 123 train stops between stations and detaches while reports of gunshots surface. Then a voice that doesn’t belong to the motorman comes on the line announcing he has hostages and he’ll execute one for every minute that he doesn’t have $10 million after a one-hour deadline – and his name is Ryder (John Travolta). As the deadline counts down, Garber, the hostage negotiator (John Turturro) and the NYC mayor (James Gandolfini) scramble to prevent any unnecessary loss of life.

The time is referenced and posted on the screen continuously, emphasizing the ticking clock factor. However, the best conveyance of the time limit is the money run between two ends of New York during rush hour. It’s fast, exciting and the best sequence of the film. Cut with tense attempts to distract Ryder and bide time, the shots of six motorcycles and one police cruiser racing through crowded streets is impressive. Even better are the predictable mishaps.

The actors involved are recognized and accomplished with three Academy Awards between them. But director Tony Scott tends to attract high calibre actors; he’s also previously worked with Washington and Gandolfini. These men make quite a formidable combination, but the female presence in this picture is near inconsequential. There’s a hostage with her son, a girlfriend on the outside of the situation, a female dispatcher and Garber’s wife – they’re tools more than integral characters in the plot.

In the end, everything was done right but the film doesn’t always deliver. At times, the dialogue is trying too hard without effectively conveying the criticalness of the fast approaching deadline. The rising body count is slightly better in this respect. Ryder’s unstableness is on a hair trigger but Travolta’s played this role before, as has Washington with respect to a normal guy in an intense situation.

Overall, Scott’s produced a very talkative action flick that works part of the time.

The Great DebatersHistory is filled with individuals that achieved great things both for themselves and for others. There are names that have been immortalized and are known by many while others are buried until someone sheds a bright light upon them. This time, someone is director/actor Denzel Washington and executive producer Oprah Winfrey.

Melvin Tolson (Washington) was a professor at Wiley College, an all-black school in Texas. In 1935, he brought together a debate team that would make history by challenging and defeating all-white colleges and eventually beating Harvard in a debate broadcast across the country. In addition, to leading his team to victory, Tolson was also helping local crop growers unionize.

The young actors brought together to tell this story (Nate Parker, Denzel Whitaker, Jurnee Smollett and Jermaine Williams) are very talented and while interviews focused on the great find Whitaker was, I think he is equally matched by Parker. As the two key characters that propel the story, they provide very different perspectives: Whitaker’s character is a boy in an adult’s world forced to come to terms with the realities of his environment, while Parker’s character is somewhat older and all too aware of the injustices faced because of the colour of their skin.

The extras include deleted scenes that are not missed and a feature containing interviews with the real-life people on which the film is based. However, an inconsistency is revealed when filmmakers say no ones knows what happened to the man Henry Lowe is based on even though the epilogue writes that he studied theology and became a minister. The second disc explores the elements that make up a period piece, such as music, costumes and design. The most interesting inclusion on this disc is samples of Tolson’s poetry, which is powerful and insightful.