Tag Archives: Sean Penn

This Must be the Place

Cheyenne (played by Sean Penn) is a former rock star who’s had a pretty great life. He’s performed with the likes of David Byrne and Mick Jagger and has had a string of hit songs. But … that was all a while ago and Cheyenne now lives in Dublin with his wife of 35 years, Jane (by Frances McDormand). He’s pretty well set up … his massive designer house has all the modern gadgetry and they still live on the income from his music royalties. Cheyenne and Jane have always been a strong unit, there is no tension there – so he spends his days trying to find things to keep himself occupied. Now 50, Cheyenne’s usual dress is his favoured, once-popular ‘Goth’ style (big dark hair, pale skin, black eye make-up and lipstick). Life in Dublin has gone along as usual, until Cheyenne gets news that his father, from whom he has been estranged for decades, is dying in America. Cheyenne returns to his hometown and finds that his father, haunted by memories of an officer who tormented him during the Holocaust, has spent most of his years trying to find the Nazi responsible. Cheyenne decides to continue the search …

This movie really had to work hard to keep me watching, but I’m not sure why. There are aspects of it that are really great. Sean Penn is always strong and his performance here is remarkable. Cheyenne is such a gentle soul who exudes innocence and a low level of intelligence – but he’s actually neither, he’s quite worldly wise but probably mentally incapacitated as a result of his drug-riddled rock star past. He is reticent, he uses words with paucity and for this reason people constantly mis-judge him. But by the same token, he does behave completely eccentrically. Once again, this movie is billed as a comedy and whilst I could recognise where the comedy was, I found it more intense and sad than funny. I frequently had to remind myself that I wasn’t watching a Cohen Brothers or David Lynch movie, as the director has certainly modelled this production on that style. Both Judd Hirsch and Frances McDormand provide welcome relief and there are great scenes with David Byrne (from Talking Heads) and Harry Dean Stanton. In 2011, Paolo Sorrentino won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Cannes Film Festival. It is nothing, if not original.

Made in 2011. Directed by Paolo Sorrentino

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Posted by on April 28, 2013 in Movies


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Casualties of War

During the Vietnam War, a patrol of five men is on active operations to seek out and eliminate Vietcong from combat zones in the area where they are stationed. The patrol is led by young Sergeant Tony Meserve (played by Sean Penn) and his loyal men are Corporal Thomas E. Clarke (by Don Harvey) and PFC’s Hatcher (by John C. Reilly), Diaz (by John Leguizamo) and Eriksson (by Michael J. Fox). They follow his every order to the letter. While on “R’n’R” between operations, the patrol’s rest time is cut short and they are sent back out on a jungle surveillance patrol on foot. To maintain morale, Sergeant Meserve plans to arrange some “R’n’R” of their own so the squad are entertained while on patrol. At a village along the trail, they snatch Oahn, a terrified young Vietnamese woman (by Thuy Thu Lee) from her distraught family and bring her along. They arrive at their surveillance site and Meserve orders the squad to settle in then take their pleasure with the struggling girl. Most of the squad comply and she is repeatedly raped and beaten, but Eriksson is horrified by this atrocious behaviour and stands up against the indignant Sergeant and the ridicule of his fellow squad members. Meserve vows revenge against Eriksson for his disloyalty. This is the story of Eriksson’s grit and determination to speak out on behalf of the desperate girl and the cruelty inflicted by the soldiers.

This is based on an article by the same name by Daniel Lang, published in the “New Yorker” in 1969, which was written after he learned of a real-life incident in the Vietnam War. The movie is a compelling depiction of the daily horror played out in the jungles of Vietnam during that time. The drama, emotional turmoil, personal ethics and complex relationships in this story are portrayed marvellously and the viewer is really brought into the story from the start. It is excellent. Sean Penn is intense and stunning as the young Meserve, who is experienced beyond his 20 years and an unquestioningly strong leader. Michael J. Fox brings his own refreshing slant to the key role of Eriksson, who maintains his moral stance, tenacity and sensitivity towards the young woman very well indeed. Clarke is well played by Don Harvey and both John C. Reilly and John Leguizamo are perfectly cast as the obsequious Hatch and Diaz. Perhaps the only issue I have with the production is that the studio-based scene construction makes much of the environment seem a little too artificial and the same can be said for the characters – to my eye, they look a little too clean-cut, well fed and freshly shaven and I suspect that in the actual scenario they would have been far worse for wear than this. However, the movie is very good and although it won a Golden Globe in 1990 for Ennio Morricone’s Original Score, I am surprised it isn’t an Academy Award Winner.  Very well done everyone.

 Made in 1989.  Directed by Brian DePalma

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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Movies


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The Tree of Life

Jack (played by Hunter McCracken) is the eldest of three boys growing up in Texas in the 1950’s. His is a traumatic and difficult life – his father (by Brad Pitt) is deeply religious, distant and cruel, and although his mother (by Jessica Chastain) is loving and sensitive, she is constrained in demonstrating her love for her boys by the strict, pious life her husband insists the family leads. We mostly observe the boys’ life through the eyes of childhood Jack. We also meet Jack as an adult (by Sean Penn) who is deeply scarred by his life experiences and struggles to keep a grasp on reality.

When a movie boasts the Hollywood royalty of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in its cast, it’s natural that the audience would have an expectation that it has much to offer. This movie does offer a lot … but I am sure its offerings will be interpreted differently by every viewer. For me, the movie demonstrates Malick’s impression of a person in adulthood still going through deep trauma, conflicting emotions and mental illness due to their experiences decades before. It presents endless images with little dialogue or structure and the viewer must interpret as they go. It is beautifully crafted – the vision is stunning and the score complements this marvellously. However, where it does appear, the dialogue is difficult and sometimes inaudible. I am not really sure what I watched – so this ambitious movie is sure to polarize the audience.

Made in 2011. Directed by Terrence Malick

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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Movies


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She’s So Lovely

Eddie Quinn (played by Sean Penn) is a loyal and caring but unpredictable, violent and disturbed young man. He is married to the love of his life, Maureen (by Robin Wright Penn) and they live together in a rough part of the city. As he does from time to time, Eddie has disappeared and Maureen is alone. In her boredom and loneliness, she shares a couple of drinks with her neighbour, Kiefer (by James Gandolfini), but they drink too much and he rapes her. Maureen is spaced out and doesn’t care about anything except that Eddie will freak out if he sees her all beaten up. This is the state of their turbulent and volatile relationship. When he turns up, they easily get back together and return to their violent and emotion-charged lives. Eddie wants to get to the bottom of the bruises but as he can’t accept Maureen’s explanation he becomes violent and manic. In fear for her life, Maureen calls the authorities and Eddie is taken away to a mental institution. Ten years later, Eddie is due to be released – in the meantime, Maureen has divorced him, married Joey (by John Travolta) and had children. Eddie doesn’t realise how long he’s been away and all he wants is Maureen and his old life back.

This movie presents an interesting dilemma. The premise is fascinating, but the way the movie is presented makes it all seem like a fluff piece and a bit of a waste of time. However, it isn’t – don’t dismiss this movie on the basis of the seemingly pointless plot … there is excellent emotion, complex dialogue, simmering violence and unpredictable actions throughout the drama, with outstanding performances by all three key characters. In particular, Sean Penn is outstanding as the disturbed Eddie Quinn – he is truly awesome. Robin Wright Penn is stunning as the drug addled, confused and earnest Maureen, she brings such passion to the role, it’s amazing – and John Travolta’s Joey is exactly how Travolta is when he is at his total best … he’s a New Jersey would-be thug, who’s slick and well groomed, short on brains, but long on bravado. Eddie’s two best friends – Tony “Shorty” Russo (by Harry Dean Stanton) and Lucinda (by Susan Taylor) – are marvellous and totally entertaining. They both behave exactly as you would expect New Jersey sidekicks to behave. There is comedy in all these performances which is great – but the relationships, emotions and passions are authentic and they are what make the movie quite a stunner. However, I would note that some of the verbal interactions between the adults and Maureen’s eldest daughter are a surprise and some viewers may question their appropriateness.

Sean Penn was awarded “Best Actor” at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for his performance in this movie which comes as no surprise.

Made in 1997. Directed by Nick Cassavetes

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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Movies


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Mystic River

Jimmy Markum (played by Sean Penn), Sean Devine (by Kevin Bacon) and Dave Boyle (by Tim Robbins) were childhood friends near Mystic River in Boston. Now adults, Jimmy and Dave both still live locally – Jimmy runs a local grocery store and has had a stretch in jail but he’s been out for a while now – he’s raised his three children in the area; Dave is living with his wife and son nearby; but Sean has moved away and is a detective in the NYPD. The apple of Jimmy’s eye, his 19 year old daughter, Katie (by Emmy Rossum), is brutally murdered in the neighbourhood and Jimmy is heartbroken. Sean is assigned to the case with his partner, Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne). As the investigation unfolds, Dave appears to be the prime suspect and receives more and more focus from the police. His world begins to crumble as the attention brings painful memories from his youth to the surface once again – 25 years before, the three boys were playing in the street when suddenly Dave was abducted by two men with police badges. He was subjected to days of sexual abuse before he escaped and the trauma has haunted him ever since. Dave’s wife Celeste (by Marcia Gay Harden) has supported him through all his troubles but she’s frightened by his moodiness and depression. Jimmy’s wife Annabeth (by Laura Linney), is devoted to Jimmy but is dealing with her own grief, so she is a bit keener to see a resolution. Sean has moved away from the area to get away from the psychological stress surrounding Dave’s abduction but he has an estranged and emotionally damaged wife, who calls him but never says anything. He loves her and vainly hopes they might be able to reconcile. Jimmy is enraged and is not dealing with any of this very well – he is determined to find his daughter’s killer and deal with him before the cops find him.

Once again, Clint Eastwood delivers a magnificent movie here. The performances are marvellous and the depiction of these damaged characters is superb. Sean Penn is brilliant as the intense Jimmy, Kevin Bacon brings the isolated Sean to life and Tim Robbins is magnificent as the quiet and secretive Dave. Very well done Laura Linney also. Mystic River seems a scary, moody and risky place to be and the entire movie (cinematography, music, characters and dialogue) permeates this into your senses as you watch. It is totally compelling and just haunting.

The movie is based on the 2001 bestseller by Dennis Lehane,  At the 2003 Academy (Oscar) Awards, Sean Penn won the Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Tim Robbins received the Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. 

Made 2003. Directed by Clint Eastwood

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Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Movies


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Bobby Cooper (played by Sean Penn) is headed to Las Vegas in his slick, red convertible. He has to pay off a gambling debt to Russian gangsters and he’s behind in his payments – he’s already had two fingers cut off by the mob, one for each of the two weeks he’s late. While travelling down the Arizona highway, his radiator hose bursts and he must find somewhere to get it fixed. He finds Superior, a tiny desolate mining town and tracks down Darrell (by Billy Bob Thornton) – a greasy, rather unsavoury looking mechanic at the only gas station within 50 miles. Darrel cheerfully suggests Bobby “check out the town” while he fixes his car. So Bobby takes a look around.

Of course, this town is populated by some strange characters – he meets a wise, old Native American (by Jon Voight) who sees the world through blind eyes, the innocent teenager Jenny (by Claire Danes), Toby N Tucker [TNT] (by Joaquin Phoenix) a youth itching for a fight and the sexy but lonely and desperate Grace McKeena (by Jennifer Lopez) – who entices Bobby into a liaison which develops into a sticky situation with her rich husband Jake (Nick Nolte). The mobsters manage to track Bobby down while he is in Superior and when things get tricky, Superior’s Sheriff (by Powers Boothe) is on hand, These bizarre people each interract with Bobby in their own way, even though he tries to keep to himself. But then things take an even stranger turn when Bobby realises he doesn’t have the money to retrieve his fixed car and unless he gets money somehow he’s virtually trapped in Superior …  then as the stakes and tensions rise, things only get worse for him.

This really is a great movie. You can feel the tension from the minute Bobby steps into Superior – and practically taste the dust in your dry mouth when you watch him explore this bizarre town. Each of the strange characters evokes a particular emotion or moral dilemma for Bobby and Sean Penn plays this role marvellously. Billy Bob Thornton is totally unrecognizable as the strange Darrell and Jennifer Lopez is at her alluring best as Grace. Nick Nolte plays her rich husband running his own agenda magnificently too  The twists and turns in the plot are developed well and clearly depict Bobby’s building frustration and desperation. The excellent cinematography takes you right into the desert with Bobby and you feel hot, dry and sweaty right along with him. As you watch, you really do hope the movie is going to end well but somehow you also know that just might not happen. It’s a very good movie.

Made 1997. Directed by Oliver Stone

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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Movies


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Harvey Milk (played by Sean Penn) is an active political figure in 1970’s San Francisco, who became the first openly gay person to hold significant public office in America. Harvey moved to San Francisco from New York after he met his partner Scott Smith (by James Franco). Together they opened a camera store in Castro Street which became a popular meeting spot for the gay community and was also the activity hub where Harvey managed his attempts to run for public office.  Throughout these times, he became known as the Mayor of Castro Street as he amassed an effective campaign team, managed by Scott Smith and supported by Cleve Jones (by Emile Hirsch). As his loyal supporters grew in number and his activities gained more notoriety, so did his awareness of the possibility of achieving real change for people who up until that point had led rather secretive lives.

Using flashbacks from a statement Harvey recorded and current affairs archival footage, the film traces Milk’s career from his 40th birthday to his death in 1978 when he was assassinated by fellow San Francisco Supervisor Dan White (by Josh Brolin). It provides us with a dramatisation of the efforts and challenges Harvey went through to achieve significant change in America.

Sean Penn and James Franco are really great in this movie. Penn totally becomes Harvey Milk, his appearance is strikingly similar and his performance clearly and accurately portrays Harvey’s gentle nature, his canny understanding of politics, his courage and his determination for change.

It’s very good.

(Made: 2009)

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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Movies


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