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Africa: The Serengeti (1994)
It's okay... nothing special
Like any nature-log you might see on Animal Planet. But bigger.
The photography is stunning, but somehow I left the theater thinking that they could have made a much more exciting film. Despite the killing scenes, it overall had a serene feel.
And what was up with the balloon people and the tribesmen? Quite tangential and not really belonging with the animal stuff. There wasn't even really much of a connection. At not least one that we saw depicted.
I think films like this are a waste of the IMAX medium. I would never knock natural beauty, but why do you need IMAX for that? For REALLY BIG natural beauty? No, the wonderful thing about IMAX is the ability to make you feel like you're there. So SCARE me! Put my heart in my mouth! To see the medium utilized to the fullest, see "NASCAR 3-D."
The Straight Story (1999)
Lynch makes a family film
David Lynch is, simply put, the greatest film director ever to put body and soul together.
He started off with the weird and disturbing, yet very artistic, "Eraserhead," which I won't even try to describe, went on to direct the incredibly stupendous, "Blue Velvet," which, in my jumble opinion, is the greatest feature film ever made, anytime, anywhere. It's a crime film, but to even say that, lowers it to the realm of stuff like "Pulp Fiction" (which was great in its own right, but it was no Blue Velvet). Don't watch any of these with your kids, though.
It's true though, that David Lynch directed a horribly bad adaptation of "Dune." You could show this one to your kids, (if you don't mind boring them to death.) The problem with "Dune" wasn't really Lynch, though. It was the script and the fact that Lynch was way too faithful to it.
He also directed the critically acclaimed (but nonetheless box-office failure) "The Elephant Man." A damnyankee good film. But don't see it with your kids.
And OF COURSE, he directed (AT THE SAME TIME!) the greatest TV series ever made, "TWIN PEAKS!" AND the Wizard of Oz spoof movie, "Wild at Heart" with Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern. But don't watch either one with your kids.
Which (finally) leads me to my point. One David Lynch movie which you MUST see with your kids is THE STRAIGHT STORY. (A Walt Disney film, by the way.) David Lynch goes straight. Which is the first of the several thousand explanations of the title of the movie.
"The Straight Story" is, first and foremost, the story of a man -- Alvin Straight. A good man. An old man. A man, who some ten or twelve years prior, had some harsh words with his brother of about the same (advanced) age, a man (Alvin I'm still talking about) who scoffs at his doctor's advice to stop smoking and to eat right. Both brothers are now in ill health. In fact, brother Lyle has just suffered a stroke.
Alvin receives the bad news about Lyle's stroke, and despite Alvin's and Lyle's harsh falling-out of several years ago, and at least partially because of both their frailty and mortality, now must see him. (I mean, hey, wouldn't you?) He kisses his daughter (played by the ever-incomparable Sissy Spacek) goodbye and since he is a diabetic and his eyesight is failing and he can't drive a car anymore, gets on his LAWNMOWER and commences to drive three hundred miles at just about five miles an hour to see his poor, old, sick, estranged brother.
The rest (and the most) of the movie is his incredible and so, so moving journey to see brother Lyle.
I won't tell you everything that happens, but watch out for the (dear) deer lady, she's IT! And I won't tell you about the ending, except to say it's just what it needs to be. It's not overdone or underdone. It is just what it needs to be.
But Lynch, he is such a devil. He can't help but include, in his first and only Disney movie, subtle references to his other (way more grown-up) movies, particularly "Blue Velvet," (like the water hose flailing around, unmanned.) But see both and you'll know what I mean.
I saw the first week it came to my city. The theater was PACKED. Mainly, I think, because of Richard Farnsworth, who played Alvin Straight. He got an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for this movie.
He was a big star back in the forties and fifties. A lot of old people came out to see him in what was his swan song. I never saw so many wheelchairs in a movie theater. But the front three rows in the theater were all kids, there to see the next Disney movie. A mix like that I never saw before. (And of course, Lynch fans like myself.)
Finally.... David Lynch makes a movie that is not only an artistic success, but is actually popular.
I laughed till I cried (really)
I always thought the phrase, "I laughed until I cried," was just an oxymoron. Until it happened to me. I watched Dogma: the funniest movie I have ever seen. The movie seemed designed specifically for my warped sense of humor. It was an incredible mesh of the high-brow and the low-brow.
It had one character who was extremely foul-mouthed, and kept making up hilarious obscene phrases. It also had a lot of perceptive, biting (and very funny) theological and social commentary.
For me, it was sort of like being tickled hard in the ribs for about an hour. When I reached the breath-taking climax of the film, the resolution was such a shock and was so unexpectedly emotional and I was so sore from all the laughing, I actually burst into tears. Now, dammit I am a grown man. I never do that. Not even for anything real, much less a movie. But it happened.
NBC News Overnight (1982)
Hard-hitting, in-depth news show
If only we had a news show like this today! NBC Overnight circled the globe with footage of what was going on at every hot spot. It went on at length about what all was REALLY going on there. Even for its time, it was amazing that they were allowed to be that honest. I can't imagine a major network showing us those sorts of things today. Perhaps WE CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!!
Cost me some credits in college. I'd stay up way too late watching the blasted thing. I couldn't turn away.
The Lady or the Tiger? (1942)
Modern retelling of the story
It was set in modern-times. (They had cars.) But still with ancient Roman brutality. This gave it a sort of post-apocalyptic feel. The characters did not speak, only the narrator did. Short and simple, reasonably well done. Good for schoolkids.
Get a Life (1990)
Wow! As much as this show is only for a certain type of warped sense of humor (like mine!) I can't not notice that every single reviewer of this semi-controversial show (so far) has sung praises. And all deserved! I so agree! I only wish they'd put a few more on DVD.
So cool that Rosanne's name in the movie was RUTH! Do you know what that means --- the common noun "ruth"?
I thought this movie was really funny. Not a great, mind you. Not a classic. I am not lamenting the fact that it got no Oscars. But I am deploring its abysmally low rating on imdb. I just don't get it.
Spice World (1997)
Good clean fun
People hate this film because it is fluffy and because it features a bubble-gum band. I am not really a fan (my kids are) but I think that musically The Spice Girls are as okay as any other bubble-gum band. However, what could have been really a stupid boring movie, actually WASN'T. It was really quite tight (proving that fluff can be tight). It was cute, funny, fast-moving and had several worthy gags.
Rather reminded me of "Stop Making Sense" (which of course featured a MUCH greater band).
The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979)
I was a senatorial intern in the 70's. (Fortunately never seduced.)
But this film accurately depicted the City of the Time.
Watch for the two or three second bit that depicts the "auto-pen."
When I was an intern, I was interviewed by my small-hometown-newspaper, and instructed by my supervisor that I could discuss anything, I could even disagree with the Senator, but I WAS NOT TO MENTION THE AUTO-PEN!!!
The auto-pen was a device that manipulated an actual felt-tip pen to produce a signature replica to make it appear that the Senator had actually signed a letter.
Sha Na Na (1977)
A bunch of never-weres from the fifties dug back up to make a boring, poorly-written show in the seventies. The leader had a dog's name. They were obviously on a sound stage. They were nowhere near as funny as they thought they were. Its dumbness was only comparable to the "Brady Bunch Hour." It was very adolescent. I tried to avoid it, but my little brothers had to have it on sometimes.