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1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
2. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
3. The Warriors (1979)
4. Boogie Nights (1997)
5. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
6. L.A. Confidential (1997)
7. The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)
8. The Wages of Fear (1953)
9. The Long Good Friday (1980)
10. Breaking Away (1979)
I love all of these, despite (and in some cases, because of) their imperfections.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
When Spider-Man came out I was pleased to see that Sam Raimi handled the superhero story competently and delivered one of the better superhero films. Then he went above and beyond and gave us Spider-Man 2 which is a good candidate for the best superhero movie ever. The first Spider-Man gave us the line 'with great power, comes great responsibility' which was a good foundation for what the film was about. Spider-Man 2 had some much better and more thought-out themes - what is important in life, ambition, suffering. Sam Raimi had set the bar pretty high for anyone who wished to make a superhero movie. Apparently the bar was too high for even Raimi.
Everything that was special about the first two Spider-Man's seems to have been taken for granted in Spider-Man 3. I loved some of the humorous border-line gags that were present; they did a wonderful job of showing Spidey's pain and dedication and they certainly helped relieve some the dramatic tensions. But here, Raimi doesn't even take the characters seriously to begin with. Nearly every scene has some kind of cheap joke or reference that has you scratching your head. When Peter Parkers starts becoming more aggressive from the black goo Raimi never scares us or makes Peter even remotely threatening. Instead, it's a joke. We see Peter strutting down the street, acting cocky with a swagger that looks more pathetic than tempting. I understand that whole 'it's good to be bad' dynamic that Raimi is going for, but have some respect for the audience, geez. I would have been excited to see an angry, menacing Peter Parker for a few minutes and that would have made it all the more dramatic when he bounces back as a good-guy. Instead it leaves you groaning.
The script has managed to make every single character as one-note as possible. We've seen all these actors before, and they have had impressive roles, but here they are hollow. Dunst gets to be mopey and whiny, Franco gets to be a grinning doofus, Howard is pretty and nice. Part of that is Raimi's fault for reducing every scene to it's basics. You know you're in trouble when James Cromwell gives a poor performance. Maguire is passable as Spidey, but he too has very little to work with. The theme of revenge is there, but it's never touched upon in a convincing manner and so Maguire manages to pout, and cry and get angry - but never to any effect.
And that is what leads me to Spider-Man 3's biggest downfall. The Sandman. Ugh. Nothing against Thomas Haden Church - it's a good performance considering what little he had to work with. But there is nothing to the character. There is so little in fact that story elements from the first film are re-introduced just to give us something more about him. Other than that this guy is robbing banks to get money for his sick daughter...that's it. Considering that Spider-man was up against Harry and Venom, did we really need this extra stuff? The effects are some of the best I have ever seen in, but that doesn't make up for the feeling that this character is just filler.
Then we get to the good stuff; Venom. After watching an hour and a half of obnoxious characters and poor writing Raimi delivers a knockout scene in a church where we are introduced to Venom. It's a dark, violent scene and it's what Spider-Man 3 needed. Sadly it only lasts a bit and we're back to the standard damsel in distress/take on the villains finale that is so overblown and hokey - it's painful to watch.
Spider-Man 3 makes it very clear that everyone in the world loves Spidey. It is shoved down our throats so much - complete with a Spider-Man parade and a shot of Spider-Man oh-so patriotic in front of the flag - that the contrast would have been very effective. It would have taken some skill (and balls) to pull off a dangerous, evil Spider-Man and make us root for him still. But Raimi is never up to the task and as a result Spider-Man 3 is full of jokes...making it one big mediocre joke.
Raimi never has his eye on what matters. He is more interested in noisy/chaotic action scenes and poorly conceived attempts at humor than he is at developing characters and themes. I would have loved to have Sandman eliminated entirely from the film and just have Peter Parker explore his inner demons - and give more screen time to Venom. He manages to under-use every good thing about the Spider-Man 3, and give us way too much of everything that is filler.
It would be a shame to end the series on this low-point. Here's to hoping that Raimi acknowledges his mistakes and gives us a better (not bigger) Spider-Man 4.
American Dreamz (2006)
It's easy to see why American Dreamz flopped when it was released last year. It was marketed as an 'American Idol' film where the President makes an appearance. The 'American Idol' fans aren't going to dish out ten bucks to see a fake Kelly Clarkson when they can see the real Kelly Clarkson for free in the comfort of their home. Not to mention that politics and teen-movies don't always mix see 'Dick (1999)' which flopped big time too. That's to say nothing of how good the movie is, but man it must be hard to market a movie like this! With that said; I had very low expectations for American Dreamz. But, I also had no idea what to expect. And while I struggled through the first twenty minutes after seeing what Hugh Grant would do as a Simon Cowell-type and watching Dennis Quaid pull off a quasi-GW Bush impression I found myself getting comfortable shortly after. This credit is due to Paul Weitz who manages to strike a good comic tone early on and never stray from it, even when things could get a little more severe. Take for instance a plot line involving an sincere and aloof Arab terrorist who comes to the states and by accident is entered into the American Dreamz contest, only to have his mission be to blow up the Prez on live television. A lesser comedy would have made the character an outright villain, but Weitz sees comedy in this and makes him the funniest character in the film and the most real. That's right the most real and moral person in the film is a terrorist in training. Bravo, American Dreamz for having the balls to pull that off right! I think many people will find mostly characitures here; not characters. I was concerned at first too, but the problem with characters like these is that most everyone is slimy and underhanded it's hard to make you care about them. Bad people are often perceived as one-note, but as the film progresses even the minor characters are so dead-on (albeit exaggerated sometimes) that they are effective and credible, even if they are totally immoral. American Dreamz manages to hit upon almost every element of what's wrong with the United States and it's culture and it's damn funny too. It's no wonder that a film like this didn't find an audience. But, if you're open to it, it's a little lite, goofy satire that manages to pull off a few little twisted moments here and there. *** out of ****
There is something genuinely sweet and innocent about Willie Nelson even though he wasn't even fifty yet while filming Barbarosa he already has the worn, tough, aged face of a man twenty years older than he, and yet he has the eyes of a puppy dog. He is the perfect man to play the legendary thief Barbarosa, a man who is feared by many but whom the audience must like immediately. Gary Busey playing the farm boy Carl seems a little too old for this role (he was pushing late 30's) but is terrific as well.
Barbarosa is a light, easy-going film, with some occasional moments of violence. That's really the best praise aside from the actors that I can give it. It's obvious where the film is headed once the two protagonists meet up; every step of the movie has been mapped out. Luckily the film only runs 90 minutes so it's never dragged out. Quite the opposite; Barbarosa tends to dabble in so many little thoughts that they all seem meshed together.
Part of the film wants to have that mysticism about Barbarosa, that perhaps he is a ghost who cannot be killed, but the film never plays with it enough. The Spaniards all know of the the legend that they whisper his name with eyes wide as he rides by and yet nobody in Carl's town mentions Barbarosa once. Barbarosa gets shot by a group of Spaniards who are out looking for him and Carl is the one who has to bury him. It's not surprise when Barbarosa rises from the grave, but even Carl isn't all that shocked. Instead of a 'Wow, you really are invincible!' reaction, we get a 'Oh that's good, you're OK.' Maybe that's the point that Carl accepts Barbarosa as a person, not a fable or a legend. My problem is that Carl or his town never heard of this man before Carl meets up with him why not? They're only a few days away apparently does Barbarosa not like that part of the country do his people never leave town? Barbarosa is a lot of back-story and not enough of a friendship tale. The scenes with Barbarosa teaching Carl are trite and unbelievable. Carl seems to know too much too soon about being out in the wild.
Barbarosa is never exciting enough to be an adventure film and there aren't enough calmer moments for the film to develop the friendship between these characters. Instead of learning about the outlaws, each scene is about them being hunted or hated. You would think these characters would have a great deal to talk about! It's not until the very last bit of the film that we learn why Barbarosa became who he was, and it's no big surprise.
The very end of Barbarosa should have worked it's a obvious gimmick that's tried and true, but the friendship hasn't been solidified like it should and so the ending falls flat. Barbarosa isn't a bad movie, it's that so much of the movie is like the ending - it's a nice try, but it never hits the bullseye.
**1/2 out of ****
A sports movie is not a genre, it's a formula. Try to argue that if you want, but how many sports movies have you seen where the hero isn't victorious in some way. The hero has either learned something about himself/found true love or he wins the big game. Simple as that. So with that in mind most sports movies are predictable from the start, but that's why we watch them; to see a good ol' underdog story. So if you're the least bit sentimental, or better yet if you like the sport, you're in a goldmine. If you're a pretentious film snob who is not at all open to a by-the-numbers Hollywood movie; look elsewhere.
Invincible is a by-the-numbers Hollywood movie. Snobs: keep scrolling. It's also a Disney movie. Ouch. Two strikes right there. Snobs: you were warned. Does it have a paper-thin script? Yes. Does it have poorly fleshed-out characters? Yes. Does it have about a dozen too many shots of a lone Mark Wahlberg walking the streets at night? God, yes. Was there a moment every two or three minutes that I shook my head at for how poorly it was executed? Yup. Is it chock full of clichés? Yes. I'll stop asking questions now. But damn did Invincible get me choked up once or twice. Mark Wahlberg is a very likable actor, and while he doesn't have much to work with, he's just as likable as ever and he's good enough to root for. Even if the film does everything as we expect, in this case we want to expect the expected.
*** out of ****
The video box for 'Joyride' says "starring second generation superstars", and one can't help but feel sad. Granted, Melanie Griffith has gone on to bigger and better things...but who cares about the rest of the cast? So with that being the pathetic attention grabber on the box I was foolish enough to purchase the film for a dollar thinking I would be in the land of 'so-bad-they're-good 70's films' Eh, not so much. While so many aimless 70's youth films (or plain ol' 70's films for that matter) tried so hard to say something deep and meaningful, 'Joyride' doesn't even try. It's just aimless. It is devoid of any interest whatsoever. Each character is so poorly conceived that it's no wonder these actors look so listless.
In a nutshell the movie is about three 20-somethings who go to Alaska to start a business, but instead get robbed and then have to find work. They get beat up, eat dog food, steal cars, rob banks. It's all very typical but on top of that it's executed in the most mundane way possible. There are no surprises and the flow is so bad, and the actions of the characters so ambiguous that you can miss several scenes and not mind at all.
But if you're a fan of Melanie Griffith's breasts - then this is a must-see. That's still not enough to get this above the lowest rating I can give.
Best Line: "Jesus, everything is biology with you." * out of ****
Warlords of the 21st Century (1982)
It's very lucky that this film has such a cool 'Battletruck' or else it wouldn't be worth much at all. As it is, it's not a good movie, and yet it's not bad enough to moan and groan over - moan and groan in either a laughable or a bored way.
Within the first few minutes 'Warlords of the 21st Century' (isn't Battletruck the better choice?) it's unavoidable to make comparisons to one of the greatest films ever 'Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.' After all, both films take place in a post apocalyptic future where gasoline is a precious commodity; both have a giant Semi truck hauling around the Land Down Under; and both have a quiet, mysterious hero to fight for the people in danger! Battletruck isn't enough of a Mad Max clone to draw comparisons throughout the whole movie but the film doesn't have enough ingenuity to stand on it's own. Virtually every element of the film has been played out before.
So what's left to do? I was hoping for some good action; the back of the VHS box states that there is a 'terrifying chase' at the climax. And while the film does end on a high note with a little bloodshed and an impressive slow-mo explosive of the Battletruck, there is little else to cheer about. In the first hour of the 91 minutes, a few people get shot, there's a few explosions, a weak chase scene and, you bet, some Battletruck destruction! Mostly though, we get a bunch of aerial shots of bikes/cars/Battletruck driving through the wasteland. Hooray.
My pleasure stems from watching the hero, Hunter (played by Michael Beck of 'The Warriors' deliver the monotone one-liners while still having the physical charisma to run, dive, punch, kick, and shoot. 'The Warriors' is one of my favorite films, so for me shouting out "no Swan!" to the screen gives me some giddy joy - most other viewers may not get the same joy.
James Wainwright, as the villain Stryker out to rule the world and collect fuel, is good although he could do this role in his sleep. And the rest of the cast is decent - even the beautiful girl of the story isn't awful, she's just so-so. So it's a bit of a relief/surprise that the acting is as good as it is for such a ho-hum film.
But the real star is of course Battletruck.
About Last Night... (1986)
About Last Night
The original title of the film was going to be 'Sexual Perversity in Chicago' from David Mamet's stage play that this is based on, and the name change is understandable. Sexual Perversity is an intriguing name but it's also a bit too harsh. My biggest guess as to why the name was changed is because the film itself is nowhere near as intelligent or perceptive as a film with that risky a title should have.
About Last Night explores the meeting of 20-something's Demi Moore and Rob Lowe and their relationship that follows. Moore is an advertising executive just getting out of a relationship with her boss. Lowe is working in a warehouse that ships restaurant goods. They meet during a baseball game and then again at a bar. Lowe invited Moore back to her place and they have sex and fall for each other, blah blah blah. Lowe's best friend (James Belushi) doesn't like this 'broad' - a phrase spoken constantly throughout; and Moore's roommate (Elizabeth Perkins) - is a cold hearted, selfish, cry-baby.
Yes, that whole synopsis was mundane for a reason. About Last Night is not an interesting movie. We've seen how relationships form and progress and fall apart - so what does this film have to offer that's fresh and new? Well it's certainly not perspective. What we get are four young actors who whine, shout at each other, deliver bad one liners, and plain aggravate the audience.
Who cheers for these people? There is no intelligence to these characters as in a scene when Lowe starts yelling at Moore because she won't throw her tampons away which 1 minute later results in Moore storming out of the apartment. Who acts like this?! Granted, I'm sure there is an audience for this movie as it currently has a 5.8 rating. I myself found no redeeming qualities in the characters, their actions, or in the film itself.
I'm sure there are people out there in the world who act this petty and childish - but it's awfully hard to put up with these people for so long. The film itself clocks in just shy of two hours. There are not one, not two, but SIX montages. Including;
The 'We're falling in love!' montage.
The 'We're moving in together!' montage.
The 'Our relationship is becoming deep and meaningful and full of sex clips' montage.
The 'I'm Robe Lowe and where did I go wrong?' montage.
There are two more. But I don't want to give away too much, although I'm sure most of you will be able to pick up on every little thing that will happen plot-wise after the first twenty minutes.
And for those of you who have seen About Last Night there are many scenes that had me scratching my head saying "Why is THIS scene in the movie?"...The scene with Elizabeth Perkins reading to the children in her kindergarten class and then discussing sex briefly...That scene is just plain awful. Enough to make me see what other horrific moments this film would put me through. An excruciatingly annoying film filled with repellent characters. Lowe and Moore are pretty to look at, and if that does it for you, rent it. If not, avoid at all costs.
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Mission: Impossible 3
*SPOILERS AHEAD* I don't understand why the world needs to have Mission Impossible 3. For that matter, I didn't understand why we needed Mission Impossible 2. I suppose that since the finale of the first film ended on a leftover gag from the 60's TV series that they felt it was okay to dish out another sub-par spy thriller. But Mission Impossible 2 was nothing like the first film. John Woo replaced Brian DePalma and instead of an intriguing premise with some sweat-inducing sequences we get a stoic Tom Cruise acting cool and casual and risking everything to save a girl he hardly knows. He jumps off moving bikes, he hangs from mountains, he takes on a dozen bad guys at once (all the while doves fly about for no apparent reason). Ehtan Hunt is super human.
So why does Mission Impossible 3 start off with Ethan Hunt battered and bruised struggling and hoping that his wife will not be executed right before his very eyes. Why is he know a married man with a normal life and normal friends. What made him stop doing impossible missions? I suppose it's because he met a woman and fell in love blah blah blah - but what happened to the woman from the first? By this point I'm sure some of you are thinking that I'm digging too deep into this. Hear me out; Ethan Hunt is a caricature - not a character. With each of these films he is somebody different - so why should we care about his new adventure if the character isn't consistent? The premise of the film is that Ethan Hunt has been out of the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) for some time and has fallen in love and is settling down. He his called back into duty by his a former teammate (Billy Crudup) to rescue an old protégé of his, Lindsay,(Keri Russell) who has been kidnapped by an very nasty arms dealer (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Lindsay dies immediately after the rescue and Ethan Hunt takes on another mission; to track down the arms dealer and recover a top secret device called 'The Rabbit's Foot' It's futile to make Ethan Hunt a living breathing human being. The movie tries, but we just never get passed that fact that there really is no story or character to care about. It's easy to pull the wool over the audiences eyes and claim that this good guy is now the bad guy or vice versa when we hardly ever see that character. Mission Impossible 3 is a series of plot devices centered around ideas for action sequences.T he film is another attempt to deliver some over-the-top thrills - all of them hopelessly contrived and silly.
When Tom Cruise is running after Philip Seymour Hoffman on the bridge he jumps what looks like a 15 foot gap in a bridge (barely makes it) - even though minutes ago he ran around it...
When swinging from one building to another Tom Cruise has his teammates distract the guards so he can land and slide down the building whilst he shoots the guards...couldn't't his teammates have snipered these men off? When trying to break into the Vatican, Tom Cruise causes a traffic jam to distract the cameras so he can leap up a wall, climb down the other side and dress in costume to meet up with Ving Rhames - who swam underneath and then blows up a wall and enters the Vatican too.
I scoffed at the film every 5 minutes because of the lack of reasoning.
As for the Rabbit's Foot; this is what the movie is about. This is the reason Ethan Hunt's life is in danger; this is the reason his wife is kidnapped; this is the reason he has to fly across the world to retrieve it. Yet, it's never explained to us what exactly 'The Rabbit's Foot' is. It is a cheap, gimmick just to keep us on board. At the end of the film just ask yourself one question. Why? Because if you put the pieces together it's a jumbled mess.
Educating Rita (1983)
I'm always upset when I start watching a film that seems like it has the potential to be something really special and moving and by the time it's done it leaves me angry. Angry because I hate to see the good in a movie go to waste by the bad. Educating Rita is one of the best examples of this that I can think of in recent memory.
I think Educating Rita has very good intentions - it's trying to make us believe that people can change for the better if they really put their minds to it. It's a nice thought, but one that is pounded needlessly into our head for nearly two hours. I like a good triumphant story as much as the next person but it seems like the scenes never cover any different ground than the first two scenes. Much of the dialogue seems like filler - instead of letting us experience these characters each scene feels like it has an agenda to further the story to that final moment that we've been waiting for. This makes Educating Rita sometimes poignant, but often hollow. By the time the film ends, we haven't experienced much.
But credit is due where credit is due and that honor goes solely to the performances of Michael Caine and Julie Walters. Their chemistry (when the script isn't feeding them useless dialogue) is wonderful. Sadly though, this isn't enough to evoke much emotion. We only get to be with these characters for one or two scenes are different points in her education and there are so many time lapses that it rushes right by. Which is to say, that I think Educating Rita moves by much too fast! This is a film where I would have loved to spend more time with these characters. Given a better script, I would have been able to sit through another hour with these two people.
There is a marvelous scene where Julie Walters runs to Caine's class just because she wanted to tell him that she saw and loved a Shakespeare play and Caine is touched that she told him first. It's one of the few scenes that evoke any emotion and it's a moment so great that the rest of the film doesn't even come close. If only Educating Rita had more honest moments and less filler.
** out of ****
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
I am awe struck. I am in awe. I have just witnessed 'Snakes on a Plane' at a midnight showing and fallen in love with a bad movie. Rarely have I enjoyed a film so much and yet hated myself for liking something so much. What a gloriously, delightful film. What a horrific, poorly directed, piece of trash. What a great title for a film. What a stupid, obvious title for a film. I can't believe how much I enjoyed seeing a man's genitals get bit by a snake. I can't believe how incredibly stupid the opening of the movie is. I can't believe the amount of product placement for Red Bull. I can't believe the ending of the film doesn't resolve any conflict. You are not allowed to hate a movie this bad; all you can do is love it.
From now on, I live by a new code; Snakes on a Plane.