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Conan the Barbarian (1982)
A sharp, unique, and well-crafted adventure.
A very ambitious and serious take on the stories by R.E. Howard and the adaptation turns out better than one would expect.
"Conan the Barbarian" follows the long and difficult journey of Conan who seeks revenge for the savage massacre of the people in his village - including his parents and the theft of a sword that Conan's father took his time in creating.
Arnold Schwarzenegger (in one of the few roles) that made him a star portrays Conan who doesn't say a whole lot but makes up for it with simply being honest. Throughout the movie, Conan picks up a few friends (Sandahl Bergman, Gerry Lopez, and Mako) in his quest to find the one person who led the attack on Conan's village, Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), a cult leader who has a large legion of followers. Conan and his quartet certainly have their share of adventures that are nothing short of seriously intense.
The director, John Milius (who was the right choice to direct this movie) co-wrote the script with Oliver Stone and here, Milius lets the film go at a steady pace and the battle sequences are well done instead of being too violent and careless. Also, another issue of note, the movie's handling of the characters and humor is treated with care and going way over the top.
The performances by the cast in the movie are very respectable here and Milius' direction is excellent. If there's one thing that I can't forget bringing up in the review here, it's the magnificent musical score composed by the late Basil Poledouris. The music itself in the battle scenes reminded me of Elmer Bernstein's best composed work ("The Magnificent Seven", "The Great Escape"). For me, you don't hear composed music like this these days (and if there's a few noteworthy examples, then please forgive me).
A sharp, unique, and well-crafted adventure.
A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
Altman is in top form here.
Wonderfully off-beat and quite colorful take on the radio show that has lasted over three decades that follows the misadventures and ordeals that the cast and crew of a radio show face on a particular night.
The ensemble cast (Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, Virginia Madsen, L.Q. Jones, and Garrison Keillor - as himself basically) itself like in any Robert Altman movie is excellent here and perhaps one of the best assembled casts in years.
I've heard of the show although I've never listened to it before yet the music and humor here isn't exactly outlandish but rather straight-forward and simple, which works quite well. Some of the characters that I enjoyed were the two cowboys (Lefty and Dusty) who have a flair for making the lyrics in their songs outrageous, Guy Noir, who strolls around the stage for some particular reason, and a mysterious woman who stops by at the stage for reasons that I won't dare give away here.
"A Prairie Home Companion" is great because it shows Robert Altman in top form here.
R.I.P. Robert Altman
Where Eagles Dare (1968)
Crisp and very, very clever adventure
Crisp and very, very clever adventure based on a Alistar MacLean novel (and scripted by the author himself) where a commando unit consisting of mostly Brits and one American who are sent to the Alps to rescue an American general who is held captive in a castle that's swarming with Germans.
The movie is loaded with surprises most of which keep the viewer constantly guessing and the fireworks don't go over the top. Burton and Eastwood are both fun to watch here and like the two leads, the camera work is outstanding, and the direction by Brian Hutton doesn't over play his hand. Another thing, MacLean's script is so good in handling the details, characters, and so forth that Stephen King himself should be taking notes.
It's worth a look.
Surprisingly good and fairly entertaining thriller as Telly Savalas (who had appeared in the original as one of the twelve convicts not to mention one of the most menacing members of the group) takes over as Wright, the new officer chosen by General Worden (Ernest Borgnine) to recruit and train twelve convicts (Randall "Tex" Cobb, Gary Graham, and Bo Svenson among the bunch that are selected for the operation) to attack and destroy several containers of nerve gas hidden in a French monestary and bail out the six scientists who are developing the gas under the close watch of the German SS.
I'll admit that I did like the "Deadly Mission" a lot better than its' predecessor and there's a few reasons (the performances are respectable, the plot twists some of which are slick, and the characters are actually interesting) to back it up. This movie is worth a look.
Stick with the original
Flat and unconvincing follow-up to the original where Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) is ordered to lead another group of convicts into France to take out a German SS general who is planning to eliminate the Fuhrer.
Besides Marvin reprising his role here, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Jaeckel also return "nearly" two decades after the original came out.
It's almost impossible for me to decide which was worse, watching the three cast members (from the first movie) forced to carry the burden on their backs and/or how terrible the story (and the apparent lack of character development and humor if there is any). I bet a college freshman could come up with a far better story that anyone would enjoy.
Stick with the original.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Wildly entertaining and never misses a beat.
Wild and extremely interesting musical comedy based on the SNL skit where two brothers: Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) go out on the streets of Chicago to reunite their band in order to raise money to keep the orphanage (where the two men grew up) in business within two weeks.
Throughout their quest, the brothers have to deal with what seems like an endless slew of obstacles (cops, Nazis, etc.) that stand in their way. The script, written by Aykroyd and director John Landis ("Animal House") never fails in delivering one hilarious moment right after another whether it's a sight gag or a one-liner. Even the songs (if you enjoy music especially jazz, blues, or both), some of which are performed by Elwood and Jake and/or legends such as James Brown, Cab Calloway, John Lee Hooker, and Aretha Fanklin are just as entertaining as the film itself.
Belushi and Aykroyd are both wonderful yet unflappable in the lead roles and I still can't make up my mind in which who was better here.
"The Blues Brothers" is wildly entertaining and never misses a beat.
Sin City (2005)
Encore! Encore! Encore!
Absolutely stunning and extremely hard hitting urban thriller based upon three Frank Miller graphic novels and in return, you get "Sin City" (Miller, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino share the directing duties) and the title itself doesn't lie.
Three tales take place throughout the film, each one is excellent, very creative, the visuals are the icing on the cake, and considering which yarn stands out in my view, the one involving Marv (Mickey Rourke in his best role in years), a vengeful loner who sets to find out who was responsible for killing Goldie (Jaime King), a woman who Marv was with at night and framing him in the process. However, another tale, this one involving Hartigan (Bruce Willis), a former cop who vows to prevent a pedophile (Nick Stahl) dubbed "The Yellow B--tard" due to his appearance is literally frightening (and I mean more frightening than Freddy Krueger) from harming Nancy (Jessica Alba).
If the visuals and the music make the movie very creative, then you have to mention the cast for sure. Miller and Rodriguez deserve a lot of credit in getting the right actor or actress for each key part in the three tales. Another thing, when Golden Globe and Oscar nominations come out, this movie shouldn't be overlooked, period.
Encore! Encore! Encore!
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
It's different and I still enjoyed it.
Strange and wonderfully unique dark comedy that follows the determined attempt by two aging residents (Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis) who vow together to defend the rest home and their fellow inhabitants from a three thousand year old Egyptian mummy named Bubba Ho-Tep (Bob Ivy) who preys upon the old and uses them for reasons that I'm not going to describe.
A lot of thoughts and questions loom in my mind about the movie itself and I'm left partially puzzled yet it's different and I still enjoyed it.
What makes the movie worth watching is the strong, deeply honest performances by Campbell and Davis in the leads and writer/director Don Cosarelli's handling of the movie's pace and subtle humor. Also, the music and camera work both make the film even more entertaining.
One word: priceless
If there was one word that I could use to describe Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas": it'd be priceless.
A surreal and deeply fascinating take on life of Henry Hill who was involved in the Mob for three decades and his rise throughout the time span (and Nicholas Pileggi's book "Wiseguy").
There isn't a single moment in the movie where it doesn't miss a beat, you could only tell by the atmosphere of the time period and it seems so real.
The performances in this film simply make it even more memorable and how the characters are portrayed here especially by Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci (who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), and Paul Sorvino are believable and easy to understand that they were a family, very close and tightly knit to the core. Also, how director Martin Scorsese lets the movie pace itself and keeps the viewer off guard in what happens deserves a lot of credit.
The Lord of the Rings (1978)
Not an absolute mess nor Bakshi's fault.
Unfocused yet fair animation attempt by Ralph Bakshi to adapt the first two installments of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of The Rings" trilogy.
What Bakshi initially tried to do here by taking a big gamble in doing an adaptation of all three books into one movie - that he deserve some respect for that choice. Unfortunately, one of the problems with the movie is the script isn't clear where to go even it tries so hard to be faithful to its' original source, which is key.
As for the actors who supply their voices to the characters here, only Aragorn (John Hurt who seems right for the part) seems likable at best.
The other parts of the movie that did work reasonably well is the scenery and the appearence of the Ringwraiths and Orcs.
If there were two key moments that had to be redone - one is the battle at Helm's Deep and especially the stand that Gandalf makes a stand against the Balrog at the bridge of Khazad-dum, in which both scenes are rushed and lack the conviction.
This movie isn't an absolute mess nor Bakshi's fault.