The Best Offer Is One Of 2014’s Best New Movies

Courtesy:  IFC Films

Courtesy: IFC Films

IFC Films’ new drama The Best Offer is one of the most original stories to be released this year. The movie, which stars Geoffrey Rush (The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy, The King’s Speech) and Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games, The Dirty Dozen, Backdraft) sees Rush as a devious art appraiser and auctioneer. The film, which was written and directed by legendary director Giuseppe Tornatore, is another masterful work from a master filmmaker. In an era in which Hollywwood’s major studios are relying almost one hundred percent on prequels, sequels and remakes to bring audiences into theaters, Tornatore has crafted a work that is original. That is the foundation of why any true movie buff should take the time to see this movie at least once. The original script is the foundation of this film’s success. Resting comfortably on that originality is the story’s pacing…at least to a point. Rounding things out for the reasons for the movie’s overall success is the acting on the part of the cast. Rush is the true star of the story. Though co-star Sylvia Hoeks deserves her own kudos for a job well done, too. The pair’s acting will keep viewers mesmerized through the course of the movie’s near two and a half hour run time. All things considered, this drama proves to be one of the year’s most original works and one of the year’s best movies overall.

The Best Offer is more than deserving of being called not just one of the most original works, but also one of the best movies of the year. The very first reason for this is the story’s originality. It is not a prequel. It is not a sequel. And it is not a remake. On another level, it isn’t even another of the seemingly countless overly embellished movies based on actual events. It is an original drama centered on an art appraiser and auctioneer named Virgil Oldman (Rush) who has spent the better part of his life secretly deceiving others. Writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore deserves a standing ovation for having crafted the story. That’s because every time that viewers think they have everything figured out, Tornatore throws in a twist that leaves them guessing in the best way possible. Not to reveal too much for the sake of those who have yet to see this masterwork, but by the story’s final minutes, audiences will find themselves torn as to how to feel about what happens to Virgil. The only downside to the entire story is that (again not to reveal too much) it could easily have been shortened. And that leads to the next aspect of The Best Offer worth discussing. That aspect is the story’s pacing.

The run time on The Best Offer just barely tops the two hour mark. To be more precise, it comes in at roughly two hours and eleven minutes long. Over the course of that two-hour plus mark, Tornatore manages to keep the story’s pace relatively solid. At least that is to a point. It would have been so easy to let this story drag considering everything that occurs throughout the story in terms of character development and relationships. But much as with fellow legendary director Martin Scorsese, Tornatore manages to make that run time pass by almost effortlessly. The only time that the pacing suffers is the movie’s final act. It suffers because again as audiences will see, that final sequence is unnecessary. Other than that though, the movie’s overall pacing is spot on and will keep viewers fully engaged. To that extent, the story’s overall pacing becomes another positive to the presentation. It’s flanked by one final positive—the acting on the part of the entire cast.

Writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore’s original script and the story’s pacing both play important roles in the overall success of The Best Offer. The very fact that this movie is neither a prequel nor a sequel, and not even a remake or a piece based on actual events is a major plus. That instantly pulls in any viewer looking for something original. The story’s pacing helps keep viewers engaged. The acting on the part of the cast—specifically that of co-stars Geoffrey Rush and Sylvia Hoeks—makes this work even more worth the watch. Rush breezes through the story. He makes viewers believe in Virgil’s growth, thus leading viewers to be so torn at his final outcome. On the other hand, Hoeks is just as believable as the rather emotionally unstable Claire. There is such chemistry between the pair. It’s obvious considering the believability of the character development between the pair as its relationship grows. That development is another part of what makes the story’s final outcome so surprising in turn leaving viewers torn in the absolutely best way. That feeling of being torn will lead to quite a bit of discussion. And that it could generate more discussion than any major motion picture just goes to prove once more why The Best Offer is one of the best independent movies of 2014 and one of the best movies of 2014 overall.

The Best Offer is available now on DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Best-Offer-Geoffrey-Rush/dp/B00GS08Y3Q/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1400892448&sr=1-2&keywords=The+Best+Offer. More information on this and other releases from IFC Films is available online at http://www.facebook.com/IFCFilmsOfficial and http://www.IFCFilms.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Hyde Park On Hudson One Of The Worst Historical Works In Years

Courtesy: Universal Studios/Focus Features

Courtesy: Universal Studios/Focus Features

Hyde Park on Hudson is one of the least enjoyable movies of 2012 and just as uninteresting now that is has been released to DVD and Blu-ray.  The problem with this attempt at a semi-biopic is the lack of balance between the story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s relationship with his mistress Margaret “Daisy” Stuckley and that of the visit by King George and his wife, Queen Elizabeth.  The script attempts to tie the two storylines together.  But in that effort, writer Richard Nelson and director Roger Michell have instead crafted a story that ends up plodding along at a near snail’s pace all while not really amounting to anything by the time it ends.  The story is narrated by what is supposed to be Margaret Suckley, explaining her relationship.  Herein lies another issue with the story.  Because it is told from the vantage point of “the other woman”, there’s no way to ignore the comparison to the Madonna helmed W./E.  Just as the latter was an art film, this movie comes across the same way, eventually amounting to nothing.

The initial comparison to W./E. is only one problem with Hyde Park on Hudson.  Anyone that has any knowledge of presidential history or even the slightest interest in said history know that Roosevelt was just one of so many political figures that has been anything but faithful in their marriage.  Keeping this in mind, it makes the storyline of FDR’s relationship with his mistress–and only certain people knowing about it—all the less interesting.  Had the story been more focused and aimed perhaps at the political relationship between the British royals and the President, it might have actually had more substance about it.  But sadly, Nelson opts instead for the more dramatized side of things, going more for the intended soap opera that surrounded FDR and his mistress, again causing the story’s pacing to drag along slowly, and thus leave audiences feel robbed of their time.

For all of the negatives surrounding Hyde Park on Hudson, it does have at least one positive.  That positive would be its backdrops and associated cinematography.  The beautiful countryside backdrops of the story are beautiful.  And thanks to the expert work of the movie’s film crew, those backdrops became the real stars of the movie; even more so than lead star Bill Murray who did quite the job of portraying the late President.  Murray’s portrayal leaves one wondering if he did so well, then how much better could this script have been had Nelson and Michell come to terms on which story was more important.  But because of Hollywood’s seemingly insatiable appetite for prequels, sequels, and reboots, one can only hope that should the story of Roosevelt’s “secret” ever be retold, it will star Murray again, but actually have more worth seeing.

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Les Miserables Not So Miserable In Its Home Release

Courtesy:  Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Universal Pictures

Adapting classical literature for the big screen is one of Hollywood’s most time honored traditions.  Countless books have been adapted for the silver screen since the industry’s Golden Era.  Just as common for movie studios to do is to adapt stage plays that have themselves been adapted from books.  So as common as this practice is even now in Hollywood’s modern era, it takes a lot to make a movie of this fashion stand out in today’s overly crowded movie market.  Enter the newest big screen adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic story, Les Miserables.

The latest adaptation of Victor Hugo’s timeless story of redemption is one of the best movies of 2012.  And now that it has been released to BD/DVD/Digital combo pack, it has proven to be one of this year’s best home releases.   It isn’t the year’s best.  But it does come close as it struggles with at least two glaring issues.  Those issues are the movie’s scene transitions and its general cinematography.  Much of the cinematography issue goes hand in hand with the problematic scene transitions.  Though there’s just as much problem with this movie’s shooting style not directly linked to the transitions in question.  Despite having issues with shooting and scene transitions, the movie’s positives far outweigh its negatives.  And those positives are many.

The primary positive to the home release of Les Miserables is its abundance of bonus features.  The bonus features included in the movie’s new home release offer lots of interesting tidbits that make the movie more worthy of respect.  For starters, viewers learn through the bonus features that star Hugh Jackman actually went through a rather rigorous diet and exercise regimen in order to obtain a specific look of a convict who has spent much of his life in prison.  It definitely worked as he looked every part the convincing character.  Just as interesting to learn in watching the bonus features is the vocal work that went into singing each scene.  Most audiences know by now that the entire movie was sung.  It shows how seriously those behind the movie took its creation.  The bonus features expand on the musical aspect of the movie.  Jackman and company explain the training that was undertaken and how the cast and crew balanced the noise of the cast and instruments with the cast singing.  Part of that balance came in the form of carpeting on the scenery floors to cancel out footsteps and keeping the pianist in a soundproof box, just to point out a little bit.  One could go on for quite some time discussing the role of the bonus features in the new home release of Les Miserables.  But viewers would be better left to check out the remaining bonus features for themselves.  That’s because there is so much more to cover in this new home release.

The bonus features included in the new home release of Les Miserables go a long way toward making the movie better at home than it was in theaters.  So what else could help elevate the movie?  How about the director’s commentary?  Director Tom Hooper discusses a variety of topics throughout the course of the movie.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of his commentary is how he and writers Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil adapted not just the famed stage play but also the original literary work into one full big screen work.  Those who have read the novel likely recognize the combination.  But those who are more familiar with the stage presentation will appreciate this little nugget of information.  It explains away the order of events in the movie in comparison to the stage work.  This is just one more factor that makes Les Miserables better than it was originally given credit for in theaters.  And yet again, it’s more proof of the value of special features on a movie’s home release.

Speaking of the movie’s audio commentary, the commentary involuntarily points out one more positive to the movie.  That positive is the movie’s casting.  Experienced fans will recognize both Samantha Barks and Colm Wilkinson from the 25th anniversary performance of the musical from London’s O2 arena. Samantha Barks reprises her role here as Eponine.  Wilkinson on the other hand actually plays the bishop.  This role is just as important as that of Jean Valjean in that it is the bishop who first helps Valjean turn around his life.  He showed in his performance here that his vocal chops are just as sharp as ever.

Just as interesting as Wilkinson and Bark returning for this adaptation of Les Miserables is the mention by [Tom] Hooper that casting Eddie Redmayne was quite the choice considering so many of his fellow actors had also played the role of Marius.  One can only imagine how nerve wracking it had to have been for Redmayne to have been so new to the role and surrounded by those who were so experienced in his role.  He pulled off the role quite well though.  This little piece of information, along with everything else that Hooper discusses in the audio commentary makes the movie that much more enjoyable.  Though, it should be pointed out that while he does discuss the camera work, there is no apology for his shooting style.  It is that shooting style that is really the movie’s one major downfall.

The music, acting, and scenery make this latest adaptation of Les Miserables a huge hit, as do the bonus features and audio commentary.  For all of this movie’s shining positives, there is one glaring negative that none of the positives can erase.  That negative is the general cinematography.  It, along with some of the scene transitions, makes things a little bit difficult to handle; so difficult in fact that they could leave viewers feeling slightly dizzy and even confused.  The problem with the cinematography is that throughout the movie, Hooper tries too hard to catch the emotion of his cast.  The resultant effect is that it makes it seem as if the cast is over emoting, thus making the acting seem a little bit campy. On the other hand, the rough scene transitions do eventually make way for smoother transitions, thus making the movie that much more bearable and more worth the watch, whether one is an experienced fan of this classic musical or not.

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