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Star Trek (2009)
AAA: Astonishing, Amusing, Amazing!
The plot will be repeatedly rehashed, so I'll skip straight to my take on it.
This reboot certainly takes a respectfully clear path of the original series - while still reprising the original characters. It's quite a tightrope to walk but Director JJ Abrams has done it.
Non-Trek Fans: It's so much better than you expect.
And Die-Hard Trekkies: Abrams actually did you proud, with a newness that gives the original a really fresh approach.
Lots of fun, lots of visual and a pretty snappy script. Much better than the summer films we'll see. Don't put it in the "Made only to sell toys" category. Go see it, and you'll be glad you did.
The New Star Trek Movie = Original Star Trek + Empire Strikes Back + Independence Day + Iron Man.
The Palm Beach Story (1942)
Zany, madcap romp!
This little jewel is a madcap romp in the mold of "The Philadelphia Story." Preston Sturges' impressive direction is just light enough to keep things hopping and technically savvy to pull off the zaniness.
There's a lot to like about this movie: the dialogue is both snappy and witty, the costumes are eye-catching, and the acting is inspired.
Now admittedly, a willing suspension of belief and even a temporary romantic bent does help one to enjoy this movie thoroughly. But this is a great result from a delightful blend of Sturges, Colbert and McCrea. (Ah, and the wonderful Mary Astor shines brightly as well).
Of course like many "forget the raging war" films, this one benefits from lots of anachronistic concentration. You almost have to park away the 21st Century to really get the fullest effect of "The Palm Beach Story." So Tune in, turn off the phone and ignore the Blackberry, and enjoy.
Friday Night Lights (2004)
Any Given Friday Night - but is that so bad?
One of the nicest surprises in the movie "Collateral" was an uncredited cameo (but pivotal) performance by actor Peter Berg. It was great because Peter Berg throws himself with unparalleled earnestness to any role he gets, even one as small as he had in Collateral. (If you're reading this and haven't seen "The Last Seduction" yet - get thee to a video rental store!) It also made me wonder if Michael Mann was a conscious or unconscious influence on Berg's direction of his cousin (H.G. "Biss" Bissinger)'s book, "Friday Night Lights." Well, no need to wonder. "FNL" is as all new directors' movies are, a hybrid blend of the movie masters he admires. This vertigo-friendly mix of Michael Mann + Oliver Stone + MTV + Cinema verity = a gripping, sports drama that grabs on like a linebacker on a face mask, and occasionally it hits as hard. Now as common with sports films, there is some definite "character abbreviation" here: we have the hard-drinking and take no prisoners father, the mentally-delicate mother that's a 21st century version of a Tennessee Williams character in a faded housedress, the gruff but lovable coach, the flashy knowitall star athlete who's just biding his time until his pro league checks start rolling in. Yes, we've seen these characters before. But triteness is not at fault here - Bissinger did not make these characters up, they are real-life people. Only a few plays and some events were changed to protect the innocent and the undramatic. So when we see shortcuts taken to show these characters, we understand that for our patience, the director rewards us technical creativity like more hand-held camera shots than a reality show, and more extreme close ups than an MRI. "FNL" owes a lot to the sports movies that precede it but it adds a modern sensibility, a directors deft hand at drama and almost-too-revealing cinema verity to the mix. The acting ranges from good to amazingly strong. One of the strongest performances is turned in by country singer-turned-acting newcomer Tim McGraw. McGraw is almost unrecognizable in the callous father who crawls out of a whiskey bottle long enough to chip away at his son's self esteem. It's clear McGraw's character is reduced to living vicariously through his son but then so is the entire town. From middle aged sheriff deputies wearing their old high school championship rings to menacing athletic supporters who accost the coach during a family shopping trip - it's clear that this town lives, breathes, and eats football. Billy Bob Thorton is totally on point as the Coach of the Permian Panthers and if he hadn't done "Sling Blade" or "Monster's Ball" then this would be considered his role of a lifetime. As it is it's damned good although Oscars are handed out quite stingily to actors who don athletic gear rather than executioners' gear or mental hospital uniforms. It's Oscar's loss, Thorton's turn as Coach Gaines will probably be one of the top male drama performances this year. Derek (Antwone Fisher) Luke seems to phone it in as the star player with as much ego as talent. Better is Lee (Jett Jackson) Thompson Young as the young hungry backup running back. One standout is Lucas Black who gives a heart wrenching turn as the overburdened young quarterback, Mike Winchell. Black plays Winchell with just the right touch of uncertainty, premature responsibility and stomach churning fear. Ironically Black's only major TV guest star appearance was an episode of "Chicago Hope" where he starred with "FNL" director Berg, and he's had no formal drama training. It's in this way that his aw-shucks persona adds depth and realism to this role. Would it be great if there were more Lucas Blacks in this film? Yes. It does still stand on it's own as a better than average portrayal of the life and death drama of Texas High Football. And if someone likes football, likes small town drama, and can well the tolerate the stylized *look* of "Any Given Sunday" - you can't make a better Friday Night Movie choice this season. 7/10 if you're open minded, 8/10 if you like fast moving, reality camera-work *and* love football. Give it a try!
My Beautiful Son (2001)
"Strange Relations" ( the cable version of this movie)
The cable version of this dramedy ( drama/comedy) is "Strange Relations" but they could have called it "Strange Bedfellows."
It's such a quirky, unique piece of work. It defies much description, and the plot summaries above tell the tale.
The acting is surprising good.
For once, Paul Reiser is not exactly playing Paul Reiser.
Julie Walters is phenomenal, as always.
Ann Robbins (a cousin of Paul McCartney, and sister to Brit actress Kate Robbins) is excellent, and some might remember her from "Casualty".
The setting is primarily Liverpool, and it's both an unflinching and romantic view of the city, in my humble opinion.
All in all, this is worth 2 hours of your time, and if you spend 120 minutes with it on cable - it won't be time wasted.
Kicked in the Head (1997)
This movie really is a kick
I stumbled across this movie on satellite cable last one night. I was mesmerized - it was SO funny, so well written, and so underplayed. This little independent film has a lot going for it. Michael Rappaport has one of his best roles, James Woods plays a weasel like only he can... this movie is "Pulp Fiction" meets "Slacker" but a lot funnier... Guns, drugs, a lost dog, stolen cars, and LOTS of beer. Check this one out - if you like whimsical "small" films then this one is one for you.
The Life of David Gale (2003)
This movie might deserve the death penalty
Where to begin? This movie is too long, too ambitious, too raw, and too illogical. What it lacks in plot, it makes up for with overacting and ridiculous scenarios. Bad script, bad editing, and bad cinematography? Even decent acting by Kevin Spacey (who gives 110%) can't save this turkey.
Don't bother to run and see this one, folks, it'll be on cable IN DAYS.
P.S.--- As a Texan I can dispel some myths the filmmakers chose to ignore:
1. Texans have dental care, and we utilize it. (See #2) 2. Texans don't generally sound like or look like extras from "Deliverance" 3. Texas is the second biggest state. You can't drive from it's major cities (Houston To Austin To Huntsville) and back within minutes - try hours. 4. The major cities of Texas all look different. When you try to use the Houston skyline & freeways for Austin - it doesn't work. We do notice! 5. In colleges/universities in Texas (like most places): bells don't ring to let us know when the class is over. Try high school for that. 6. We do have cell phones in Texas - all major cities have cell service. 7. Texans, like others state's residents, notice a lack of plot.
Wire in the Blood (2002)
Taut, suspenseful drama.
This is a taut British crime drama very much in the "Cracker" mould. In this case, our lead character is Dr. Tony Hill. It features a crime-weary psychotherapist who is part profiler, part detective, part forensics expert. (Think "Cracker" meets "Inspector Morse" meets "CSI").There is a bookish, academic quality to Doctor Hill, without him being tweedy and standoffish (he's more human, and less lofty than Morse).
Dr. Hill is well played by actor Robson Green, who played another complex Detective in the British miniseries "Touching Evil."
In "Wire in the Blood" the stories and the crimes often unfold slowly, with just enough bits of clues and hints to make the slow development seem satisfying.
WARNING: The crime scenes can get a bit grisly, but are never gratuitous.
If you like the aforementioned "Morse" series, and enjoy the psychological gymnastics by Robbie Coltrane's "Cracker" then you will not want to miss "Wire in the Blood."
Old school sci-fi: Excellent
This sci-fi classic may seem, on initial inspection, to be a cliché. But the heartfelt acting, the not-so-buried message (a prescient warning about the excesses of the Cold War and nuclear science), and the (for the time) special effects raise this one above the rest. Yes, the government is the fall guy, and the scientists beg the rest to heed their warnings: but THEM! is a science fiction classic, despite it all. There are some tragi-comic lighter moments ("Make me a sergeant, charge the booze." is one misguided dipsomaniac's mantra). But all in all it's sci-fi noir at its most suspenseful. The most chilling aspect of the movie is that the nemesis is UNSEEN until nearly the end. We know something very, horrible is out there, but we never see them. Their absence is as scary as their later presence... and the sound? You'll never find the nighttime sound of crickets to be innocuous again. Don't miss this one, as several of the retro-movie channels have added THEM! to their lineup. Check it out.
A Newly Single Mom At A New Record Company
This syndicated show followed the ups and downs of a new single mom played by Diana Canova (of the short-lived "I'm A Big Girl Now" TV series) as an employee of a small fledgling record company. She juggles life as a divorcee while juggling responsibilities at her new job at a small record company.
If you can ever get a chance to view an episode of this mid-eighties series, you can see an improbably young Jane Leeves (fresh from her stint as a "Benny Hill Show" Girl) as "Blue," the de rigueur British import.
The big hairstyles, 80's wardrobes and '80s music would probably make this series seem even more dated now, but not quite seem old enough to be a classic.
It was partly a poorer-man's "W.K.R.P in Cincinnati" mixed with a less-ambitious "Mary Tyler Moore" but wasn't much worse than other 80's syndicated shows. No ground was broken here as the plots were as formulaic as they were predictable, but it had a certain scrappiness.
My Blue Heaven (1990)
Zany, tongue-in-cheek comedy that's an overlooked classic
"My Blue Heaven" should be mandatory viewing for any fans of mob movies and shows from "GoodFellas" to "Wiseguy" and "The Sopranos."
Steve Martin indeed gives one of his funniest portrayals ever as a transplanted Mob guy who is a big fish out of water in a suburban town.
Don't miss the many tongue-in-cheek references to "GoodFellas" as "My Blue Heaven" is a humourous take-off on the real-life mobster that inspired that classic movie. It picks up exactly where "GoodFellas" ends, and that's where the humour starts.
Give this one a try, and you won't be disappointed.