The Thin Red Line (1998)

The Thin Red Line
Director: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Based on: James Jonesnovel
Cast: Nick Nolte, Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, Elias Koteas, Ben Chaplin, Dash Mihok, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Miranda Otto, Jared Leto, John Travolta, George Clooney, Kirk Acevedo, Mark Boone Junior, Nick Stahl

Plot:
The Guadalcanal is an important strategic point in World War II. Therefore a group of soldiers is brought in to battle for an airfield held by the Japanese which quickly turns into a slaughter with pressures from within and without rising for everyone.

I never liked Malick movies. I wanted to watch this one anyway because it’s a classic and so I decided to jump at the chance when it was shown at the Filmmuseum in Vienna. Now that I have seen it, I can say: I really don’t like Malick movies.

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Director: Ben Stiller
Writer: Steve Conrad
Based on: James Thurber‘s short story (which you can read here)
Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Kathryn Hahn, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine, Adrian Martinez, Sean Penn, Patton Oswalt

Plot:
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) works for Life magazine, handling their photo negatives. It’s not the most exciting job and Walter has a tendency to drift off in daydreams. Recently his dreams have been dominated by Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). And then Life gets taken over. For their last issue they are supposed to have star photographer Sean O’Connell’s (Sean Penn) self-proclaimed best photo on the cover – but Walter can’t find it. So he makes his way through the world to track Sean down.

The Scret Life of Walter Mitty was an incredibly sweet, funny and nice film that won me over with its sense of humor and its beautiful images.

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Gangster Squad (2013)

Gangster Squad
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writer: Will Beall
Based on: Paul Lieberman’s book Tales from the Gangster Squad
Cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, Michael Peña, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Nick Nolte

Plot:
1949 in Los Angeles: former boxer Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is taking over the city with his criminal empire. The police is mostly bought by him and those who aren’t are too few to do anything about it. That is when Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) asks Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to form an unofficial squad of police men to destroy Cohen’s operation – with any means necessary. So O’Mara gathers some men around him and gets to work.

Gangster Squad is astonishingly bad. You’ve got this excellent cast and a potentially stylish setting, and it’s all ruined by a script that is so stupid it’s practically negligent and a particularly inept direction.

Gangster-Squad

[SPOILERS]

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This Must Be the Place (2011)

This Must Be the Place
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Writer:  Umberto Contarello, Paolo Sorrentino
Cast: Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, Eve Hewson, Kerry Condon, Harry Dean Stanton, David Byrne, Shea Whigham

Plot:
Cheyenne (Sean Penn) is a rock star in retirement living in Ireland who divides his time between  his wife Jane (Frances McDormand) and his fan Mary (Eve Hewson). But when he hears that his father is about to die, Cheyenne makes his way to the US – only to find out that he is too late. But he finds out that his father has been hunting a Nazi who has been tormenting him during WWII. And suddenly Cheyenne finds himself on the same hunt.

The movie is much like its protagonist: charming, funny and peculiar. But the whole Nazi-hunting story feels tacked on and runs too long. Still, it’s all worth it for Sean Penn in that role.

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The Tree of Life (2011)

The Tree of Life is the newest film written and directed by Terrence Malick, starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler and Tye Sheridan.

Plot:
The film centers on Jack (Hunter McCracken) who grew up in the 1950s with his family. He has a very difficult relationship with his dominating father (Brad Pitt) and his mother (Jessica Chastain) can’t really protect him or his two brothers (Laramie Eppler and Tye Sheridan). Having the story as the centerpiece, the movie also goes way backwards and forwards in time.

The Tree of Life is an absolutely gorgeous movie. It is really, really stunning to watch. Unfortunately it’s also about an hour too long, boring and just way too esoteric-spiritual for my taste.

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Into the Wild (2007)

Into the Wild is a movie by Sean Penn, based on Jon Krakauer‘s book, starring Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, Hal Holbrook and Zach Galifianakis.

Plot:
Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch) has just finished university and decides to drop out. He is fed up with the dishonesty of the lives around him, his parents’ (Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt) loveless marriage, the unfairness of capitalism. So he packs his things and takes off on a cross-country tour of the USA. Without any money and avoiding any contact with his parents and sister (Jena Malone), he sets off with the big goal to go to Alaska, encountering various people along the way.

Chris McCandless story is interesting and touching and Sean Penn found himself an amazing cast to tell it. Unfortunately he is not the world’s greatest director and the cinematography could have been better, too (he’s very lucky that Emile Hirsch is as pretty as he is, because that camera spends an inordinate amount of time shoved in his face). But despite that, it is still a very good film to watch.

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Fair Game (2010)

Fair Game is Doug Liman‘s newest movie, based on the story of Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.

Plot:
Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) is a CIA operative, working on Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Middle East at the beginning of the Iraq war. Even though her department is adamant about there not being any WMDs in Iraq, it’s their information that gets cited for the reasons of the Iraq war. When Valerie’s husband Joe (Sean Penn), a former ambassador, speaks up, suddenly Valerie’s cover is blown and she finds herself caught between a rock and a hard place.

Fair Game has excellent actors, a mediocre script and abysmal directing. That makes for a watchable, but also missable movie. The politics are interesting, but I didn’t feel like we got to hear something new. Maybe I’m too much of a cynic to be impressed by the utter assholery of the American government.

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Milk (2008)

Milk is the biopic about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office. Directed by Gus Van Sant, the movie stars Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch and Diego Luna and got the Oscars for best screenplay (Dustin Lance Black) and best actor (Sean Penn).

Plot:
The movie chronicles Harvey Milk’s (Sean Penn) life from the point where he meets Scott (James Franco) and moves to San Francisco aka the start of his political life to his assassination by Dan White (Josh Brolin) 8 years later.

The movie has a very strong cast, but unfortunately the screenplay is weak in some parts, giving the actors little to work with. [While I think Dustin Lance Black is really cute and his Oscar speech was great and go gay community!… I don’t hink that he deserved it. I’m really sorry to say that… Really. But it’s the truth.]

milkposter

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