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Three Kings (1999)
For Once The Arabs Look Good!! and so does the film!!
I saw the trailer for this film and I couldn't resist rolling my eyes and expecting another ignorant expose of how the Americans are heroes, and the Arabs are monsters. I admit I was wrong to jump to such presumptions.
Movies like Navy Seals, True Lies, and Delta Force aim to disregard the facts and instead opt to use 100 minutes of screen time to make Arabs as ugly as possible, and make Americans as patriotic and righteous as can be. This is disgusting and neglects to tell tales the way they are meant to be told. 3 Kings, on the other hand, promotes the credibility of the Arab vs. America film genre.
The story is simple; 3 soldiers discover a map that leads to a trail of stolen Kuwaiti gold. The soldiers pursue the gold, predictably stolen from Saadam, but find themselves embroiled in a refugee war and must make a decision to sacrifice the gold for the people. The reason this film is so good, is that the 3 American soldiers (Clooney, Wahlberg, Cube) are not made to look neither intelligent, noroic, nor pro-American, nor any other typical association you make with movies like this. They are depicted as barbarians, who don't even know why they are fighting. They soon discover that President Bush' campaign is dodgy and begin to feel betrayed by their own nation. I loved the way this was captured because the men realize just how corrupt and seedy their politicians are and how the comparisons with Iraq's Saadam are not too dissimilar.
I really appreciated the consideration given to the Arab issue. It is a sensitive issue and should be respected. To mock it, reflects poorly on the filmmakers and the film. Incidentally, most anti-Arab films are disasters and flop at the box-office. This is re-assuring because it suggests that audiences are not taken in by the ridiculous stereotyping.
3 Kings succeeds because there grows a bond between the soldiers and the refugees. The refugees in fact ultimately humanize the soldiers and their characters. It is, as if to say, that the Americans can learn just as much from the Arabs, as the Arabs can learn from them. Even more!!
The Pro-Saadam soldiers are also given real character. There is a real point to made here. The soldiers emphasize that they are at the mercy of their President. They have a job to do and they must do it. If not, everything they hold dear will be taken from them. So their merciless campaigns are carried out, out of fear, not joy or satisfaction. Similarly the Americans are under orders. They are told to fight, so they fight. No questions asked!!! The only difference is that the Americans look nicer and are fortunate enough not to live under tyranny. Otherwise the comparisons are exact.
The action here is expertly handled; it's like a rock video with superb set pieces complemented by powerful musical montages. It's a unique action film; the shots and techniques will no doubt awaken the interests of thousand of people. Whether they like action films or not. Then you add the comedy angle and you have a really exquisite movie.
This film is one of the best and most underrated action feasts of the decade, and it earns bonus points with it's deep respect for the Arabs. Granted, there are moments that border on the precipice of banality, but no film is perfect
The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
Entertaining But Flawed
I don't know why just about every film on the market today is a remake of a 60's classic. It speaks volumes about the credibility of the film industry 30 years ago and not a lot about it's worth 30 years on. Steve McQueen in particular would have been so honoured that so much of his work is being redone and modernized today. To assess what he would have thought of this piece of re-modelling is debatable.
The film's premise is similar but not an exact rip-off. Bored billionaire Thomas Crown steals a Monet just for the sheer challenge. Everyone thinks an inept bunch of burglars are responsible until bounty hunter Catherine Banning comes on the scene. Banning pursues Crown relentlessly in order to recover the art work. Matters get complicated when a steamy affair develops between the two. The stakes have changed; the line between duty and love may or may not be crossed and as expected Director McTiernan makes everything look really cool and entertaining.
Brosnan is well able to take on the McQueen role; his efforts to pull off the debonair type sometimes go noticed but overall he fits and suits the bill. I couldn't imagine another modern day actor being able to demonstrate the sophisticated class and elegance that Brosnan can. Russo is another issue entirely. Before I get critical I will say that I appreciated the two leads being in the same age bracket for once in the 90's. I can't get over this obsession film makers have to cast male leads opposite female bombshells 30 years their junior. For once this was avoided. The trouble is Russo projects a dislikeable aura to her character. She is supposed to be Brosnan's equal but her personality fails to win over the viewer; she ends up getting on our nerves rather than impressing us with her wits. Denis Leary is the orthodox policeman who is predicatably made to look stupid, along with all the other cops, by Russo's perceptiveness and skill. He is very watchable, albeit when he is spitting out crude comments, but he is made to look so dense by Russo that his fans get annoyed. Imagine a police detective whose every idea (with regard to the crime)is wrong or insignificant or refuted. Just wouldn't happen!! And then imagine a female bounty hunter who bypasses all police procedure based on gut feeling, and not only gets away with it but mocks the ineptitude of her male counterparts!!! Never happens!!
Ultimately, Thomas Crown is an entertaining film because it's demands aren't excessive; we can sit back and enjoy the glamorous sets, slick dialogue, pretty actors, and crafty action set pieces. The finale is especially clever and the film is worth watching for the final heist alone. Dare I say it, but the raunchy dance scene is also a must see attraction because the intended erotic flavour ends up being overshadowed by laughable gesticulations on both the actors parts.
This film is hard leave alone; it's good enough but warrants the criticism. If you are not a person who nit-picks every detail, you may well love it. If you are, you may grow increasingly impatient and annoyed. I lie somewhere in between these two avenues; I do pick up on details but not enough for my enjoyment of the film to be marred.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
This movie is excellent. I hate using American High-school colloquialisms but this film, is actually awesome!! It's successor Clueless, is much more recognized, but never nearly as good! Fast Times, like Clueless is a high-school story filled with a range of different characters who try and live out their fantasies and ambitions as the high school time barometer ticks away.
To see Sean Penn in a doped out skater role is almost unsurpassed in terms of comic entertainment. To compare him then and now is amazing. Jennifer Jason Leigh is also amazing; Judge Reinhold is the main man on campus until he gets fired from the prestigious hamburger joint and loses his grip on life. This is a masterful touch. For the essence of a man's cool to be judged on his position in the fast food business is hilarious. In fact all these kids hang out at the mall, and they all have different jobs in that mall. But certain jobs have more cache to them than others. For example a waitress is not as important as a cinema usher, and so on!!
These characters are so endearing because, much like with Clueless, they go through life embracing all the wrong beliefs and ideas. They strive to be top dog, and each persons bid to attain supremacy is as superficial as the next. Of course, today every teen film is full of these people who try to win the high school popularity contest and who ultimately gain enlightenment against the odds (She's All That, 10 Things I Hate About You, American Pie, Clueless), but Fast Times was the first to bring these teen issues to the foreground.
Another unique aspect of Fast Times is that, unlike it's successors, it dares to be more direct and more crude in it's presentation. The sexual issues are more provocactive and the scenes are more racey. One might say that the film is much more realistic. This goes without saying because the characters are multi-faceted and their personalities never sway. The characters do not undergo some amazing metamorphosis by the end; they preserve their uniqueness and imperfection. This is why Fast Times is streets ahead of it's rivals.
The soundtrack is fast and furious, full of cheesy yet appealing rock tunes. Jackson Browne's "Somebody's Baby" is a particulary good track.
To conclude, I will say that fast Times at Ridgemont High is a fabulous film that has so many of today's big stars making fools of themselves in loveable roles. I loved it and those who have seen it would all vouch that it is the quintessential teen film.
Unpredictable Film That Could Go Either Way
You either liked Magnolia, or you loathed it. There is barely no one who sits on the fence and claims indifference. It's impossible to be neutral to a film like this because it plays itself out to the very extreme. Some will savor the experience; others will find it unbearable.
At over 3 hours, Magnolia comes with a lot of baggage. It is a mighty test of the audiences endurance and sheer stamina. Few films can put you through this type of journey. I found Magnolia to be a well-crafted expose of the lives of various people in and around the San Fernando Valley over the course of 48 hours. During that time, these people have to confront their inner demons and attain some sort of enlightenment amidst this bleak, harrowing life that they lead.
This idea is not original, in fact it smells particularly like an Altman dish. Altman's 'Short Cuts' followed a similar plot formula and also lasted 3 hours. The difference with this film is that, unlike Short Cuts, the film's various stories do have a neat and interesting conclusion. Magnolia doesn't end inconclusively; these people's lives will make sense and they will all come together by the end of it.
Director Anderson, who brought Boogie Nights to us, uses many of the same actors. Even though these characters are different from those in Boogie Nights, we still feel a certain affinity to them. Scorsese often uses this concept; he casts many of the same actors in his films, thus as the movie opens we already feel like we know them. Like in Boogie Nights, the subject matter dealt with, is not pretty. We have drugs, sex, death, homosexuality...you name it. From that description, many would say American Beauty springs to mind. It's true the issues confronted are often the same, but Magnolia is less subtle, and less sleek. Still, we should not write it off as a fine piece of cinema.
The structure of the film is also very similar to Anderson's previous effort. The first half is like the build up to an operatic chorus; the tempo gets more and more dramatic until it reaches fever pitch. There is bang that is designed to really move us and bring out our deepest emotions.
The second half starts with the tempo rescinding, but we slowly start to feel the momentum picking up again. And we know the final climax is gonna be even more explosive. This idea is always in fear of being ridiculed if it's not done right. The idea must be to have each climax genuinely meaningful and dramatic. Audiences today are rarely shocked because they've seen it all before, so to succeed in getting their attention, is a very tall order. I, for one liked the way the cookie crumbled; the bizarre denouement was especially memorable.
The acting here cannot be faulted. I am not exaggerating when I say that I can't recall a finer ensemble piece ever. The performances all round are dynamic in scope and the range and potential each actor shows is truly remarkable. Cruise, oscar-nominated, as he was, is astonishing. He has never before demonstrated this sort of on-screen captivity; his effort goes unnoticed, and he must now have finally cemented himself as a good actor by everyone's standards. If you are is still not convinced after this performance; you'll never be!!!
The stories here are often inter-connected as you may guess but they are far from predictable. This is good because the audience's attention does not wither. You ought to feel curious as to how it will all come together. If not, then the experience is likely to be dire, to say the least. As I said, Magnolia is like a roll of the dice; you don't know what you are going to get. Some will savor the experience, others will feel hard done-by. It is difficult to predict who will and who will not like it. It is certainly not a safe bet. It is a massive gamble that will not always pay off. From the entertainment standpoint, the odds of success are minimal. I say this because your average cinema go-er will be tired and bored and will have finished his popcorn box with 2 hours till to spare.
I, for one, managed to get through the experience with some energy to spare. Not a lot, mind you!! I did at times feel exhausted, but ultimately I profited from the experience. The roll of dice had my number on it. I don't even think about arguing with those that hated it because I see exactly where they are coming from. To argue this films worth would also feel like a real ordeal. With Magnolia there is a very fine line you walk between liking it and hating it!
The Karate Kid, Part III (1989)
Dear God, Please Rid Us Of Daniel!!!
What is Daniel Larusso's problem? Why after three torturous films is he no more a man than when he first moved to L.A? I just don't get it!! In the first installment he had an excuse to be a sissy; he was being bullied by the bad boys of his new school and he didn't know how to defend himself. I accept that! In the second one, he was in a foreign land and was being bullied by some oriental bad-boy. He gets his butt kicked throughout until the last scene when in the face of near death, he looks into Miyagi's eyes and gets the inspiration to overcome fear and win the day and the girl. I don't buy it but I can bear it!! In the third installment, he projects so much obnoxiousness and pathetic emotion that you hope that his clearly, superior opponents will kick his ass once and for all. No such luck!!
In this film Daniel is forced to defend his title which requires him to fight only the final match.(Easy enough no?) His opponent is some blonde punk who is being trained by Kreese (the disgraced teacher in the first film whose nose Miyagi twists to render him unconscious)and backed by the finances of Terry Silver, a smooth Karate kicking business man. Silver, played with nice slick touches by Thomas Ian Griffith is watchable as he disrupts Daniel's level of discipline and successfully convinces Daniel that he wants to help him defend his title after Miyagi refuses. Daniel, idiot that he is, can't see the charade and accepts his help. Griffith projects some air of smoothness but doesn't quite convince he's really all that cool. Still some Karate student that I know, Amir Hashim-Zada seems to think he epitomizes 21st Century Maleness. To each his own, I guess! The three of them have a business deal going that requires Daniel to fight the final and get beaten in order for their new Dojo's to be opened. Miyagi refuses to train Daniel because he feels Daniel's reasons for defense are wrong. Please excuse Daniel for getting beaten up throughout the film and being forced to enter the tournament!!. Sorry Miyagi, how unreasonable Daniel has become!!! Anyway enough plot....
What I don't get is why Daniel complains and cries consistently about his circumstances and seems to have forgotten any skills that Miyagi has taught him over the past couple of films. That is until, in the heat of the moment, he looks into Miyagi's eyes and everything comes back!!(How realistic!!). I loved the first film, for although Daniel was predictably annoying, he was living out the zero to hero story we all love. And Miyagi became a household name that we couldn't not love. Incidentally, Miyagi remains good throughout the films. Without him the movie hasn't a leg to stand on. It's a real statement on the charisma of the leading man Macchio. He simply has none.
The trouble with Daniel is that he has the weakest personality that doesn't ever appear to develop, despite all Miyagi's wisdom, until the last 2 minutes of the film. I can accept that these films don't expect that much from the viewer, but come on!!, we should at least believe that Daniel is a worthy hero by the end. I find it really funny that Miyagi likens Daniel's spirit to that of a bonsai tree with a strong root. Daniel seems to make Miyagi's wisdom and teachings look meaningless. Daniel ought to be a man's man by this film, but he still walks like a girl, he talks like a girl, and BY GOD he still FIGHTS like a girl!!!Any sympathy you may have mustered for him from the past two films is quickly dispensed in this film because he whines and cries when things consistently don't go his way. For God's Sake Daniel, are you that dense, since when do things go your way??? By now you should be man enough to deal with the bad things in life!!!! Everyone else does and most haven't had the privilege of Miyagi's teachings!!
I must say the final scene is truly pathetic!!The bad boy is keen to win a point then lose a point thereby keeping the scores at 0-0. He wants Daniel to suffer (Don't we all?) so he claims a legitimate point then beats the life out of him to lose the point. The match makes it abundantly clear that Daniel is 5 belts worse than this guy. BUT the match tied at 0-0 thanks entirely to the bad-boy, goes into sudden death when Daniel searches deep inside of himself, giving the obligatory look to Miyagi, and pulls off one good move and wins the match. Then he has the arrogance to say "Yes We did It" as if he should have the audacity to think he deserved to win the fight. It could be poor writing or bad acting, or both, but it's a pity that even after 3 films, even my young girl cousin reckons she could beat up whimpy Daniel!!
The irony of all of this, is that this film is shamefully watchable. I like it because Daniel forces giggles from the audience and Miyagi is always watchable as he chants his pearls of wisdom and does his various spiritual mantra's that are meant to mean something!! Sorry Miyagi, I didn't quite catch their significance this time around, and as much as I like you, I fear Daniel has not learned a bleeding thing from you since you met him!!!
American Beauty (1999)
Very Good, Not Exceptional
American Beauty is a fictional depiction of suburban America with examinations of dysfunctional family ties, drugs, sex, homosexuality, self-identification, and almost everything else that comes to mind.
To say its good in it's presentation of 20th century values and concepts would be an understatement. To say it is one of the most exceptional modern day exposes of real life is exagerrated. American Beauty lies somewhere in between these two adjectives.
Beauty gains points from fluent character development. I appreciate films that can convincingly introduce us to characters, whose personalities end up developing in a manner that completely runs contrary to our initial perceptions. So many films today strive to play out their characters in ways that the viewer would never have imagined. The idea that the characters are so far from what we think them to be is an idea that everyone seems keen to use. If the idea is conveyed well, the film is likely to be a critical hit. If the end product smells banal, and cliched, the film is likely to be a disaster.
This film has everyday people trying to come to terms with themslves and their desires and dislikes. Director Mendes manages to sidestep the traditional cliches by packing it with insightful dark humour. The film aims to juggle comic elements with disturbing elements; this ensures that the film does not end up suffocating us with it's extremely dark subject matter. Scenes that involve drugs, sex, masturbation, and violence are given extra-special dimension beacuse they are given light touches. Without these touches, the film might have proven unwatchable.
Critic Amir Daftari hated this film because he felt that the twists and contradictions of the film were predictable; the sex bomb is a virgin, the drug dealer is a pure seed, the conservative wife is an adultress....etc. Many have said that this film suffers from it's near-predictable ironic developments. That is to say that the evolution of these people doesn't shock the audience; it ends up being a pretentious effort that fails to hit the target. I disagree with this!! Beauty didn't shock me as much as it did many others but it's cinematic proficiency is undeniable.
The acting here is outstanding; Spacey is particularly excellent because he shrugs off all the normal Spacey stereotyping. He isn't cool, or debonair, or devilish. He's a loser who slowly tries to muster the courage to confront his fears and desires. We can't not love him because he's so human and when he finally acts on his impulses, he makes us all believe in ourselves and the strength of the human spirit. If he can do it, then anyone can!!! He makes us all want to break free and live free and not care about anyone but ourselves!!
The other characters also need to be just as powerful. This film relies heavily on it's characters and their actions. Each persons actions affect the lives and status of the others. In order for this to be realistic and effective the actors must deliver powerhouse performances. They Do!! "Every action has an equal and positive reaction". Beauty lives by this law and it is never in fear of disproving it.
Beauty was the best oscar candidate at this years ceremony and deserves it's reward but I reject the idea that it's message is profound like no other film, or that it is th best piece of cinema to have graced our screens in the last 10 years!! It's very Good, Not Exceptional!!
The plot is simple; two men, considered as paragons in their respective fields find themselves on opposite sides of the law, and must use their expertise to outwit each other. Pacino is the driven detective, with a sixth sense for secong-guessing his nemesis, DeNiro is the brilliant thief, always one step ahead of the law. In terms of plot premise that's it, so 'Let the games begin' This film received mixed reviews; some felt the dramatic once in a lifetime on screen pairing of Hollywood's two greatest actors was a masterful stroke. Others felt the film was overly pretentious and too long to sustain the interest of the viewer. I side with the former; Heat is, if anything underrated as a film because many can't accept it's brilliance on the cinematic level. People seem to be drawn to it because of the actors and the action setpieces and nothing else.
To begin, the idea of pitting the 20th century's two greatest actors against each other was a splendid idea. The film plays out like a contest; each demonstarting their vast expertise as characters and actors. Only one can stand supreme, but the finale still leaves us questioning as to who the taller man actually is. What makes Heat even more absorbing is the contrast in acting styles. Pacin o loves loud gesticulations and likes to scream a lot. He has made the overacting thing his forte and we love to imitate him. DeNiro, conversely likes to keep quiet. He seduces the audience with the looks that tell a million stories. He likes to underact if you like and this allows the two actors to play off each other superbly.
I beg to differ that this film is half as good without the two leads. I found the script to be exquisite; the characters are so profound and the shape and evolution of the plot is determined by these people. There is so much emphasis on the work ethic of these men and how this drive makes them more and more alienated from their families and love lives. It is a strong undertone that is being expressed here; we realize that juggling work and family is impossible. You must do one at the expense of the other. The more committed you are to one, the more you distance yourself from the other. In Heat this is expertly conveyed!
Timing is everything in Heat; there has to be a balance between Pacino and his brigade doing the investigating and DeNiro and his crusaders getting away. The fluency of the direction and the writing ensures that the tempo doesn't falter for a minute. My only complaint is the one you'd least expect. The big street fight between the cops and robbers is over elaborate and goes on for too long. This scene was intended to break the film in two; it divides the initial story (the build up to the job) with the second story (the getaway) and Director Michael Mann intended it to be the big butter knife that divides the two. However, he drags the scene on for too long. I always feel one should leave the audience gasping for more rather than suffocating them with everything you have to offer. It's not a big detail because the rest of the film plays out like a beautiful symphony; every note is perfectly timed and executed.
What is worth appreciating is, as cited, earlier, the character development. These people could have been in any number of other movies, in any number of genres and they would still have preserved their essence. It doesn't have to a a cop movie; it could be a film set on Wall Street, on a desrted island, on Mars, whatever.....It's characters are so 3-dimensional that they could be as effective and productive playing in almost any other movie. Hats Off to the writing!! It shows that this is not your run-of-the-mill formulaic cop thriller.
Long movies are always in fear of exhausting the viewers patience. If you are going to be long, you must make sure that every scene is worth it! This is a golden rule! Heat makes no mistakes in this area; each scene goes a long way in maintaining the integrity of the script. The musical score composed by Elliot Goldenthal is very imaginative. It's hard to descibe it and why it so efficiently complements the movie, but it does!
I don't know if the two leads actually like each other, but I would like to think that their relationship in the film is akin to their relationship off it. They are in competition for who is the greatest of his time, the battlefield is not big enough for both of them so only one can stand alone. Despite the conflict, they have the deepest regard and respect for each others styles and commitments. In another lifetime, they would the best of pals, in this one they must fight to the death. Fortunately, Hollywood continues to recognize the both of them and they still appear to be neck and neck in the race.
Tequila Sunrise (1988)
Many perceive Tequila sunrise to be a routine, formulaic cop thriller with some nice sets, pretty actors, some guns, some sex....etc. Cynics go on to say that Gibson has never acted worse, that the plot twists are predictable and the love triangle is overly cheesy. I, on the other hand, feel that the film profits greatly from expert cinematography, fluent storytelling and convincing(albeit rather undemanding)acting. Pitting Gibson (the now-retired drug dealer lured back for one last deal) and Russell (the reluctant sheriff assigned to bust him) as best of friends on opposite sides of the law was a strong premise, made even more compelling by the fact that the drug dealer (Gibson) is the sympathetic character and the cop (Russell) is the sly, manipulative sort. There is an apparent sense of irony and it goes a long way to making an otherwise average story, interesting and very watchable. Pfeiffer is the glamorous love interest whose character does a lot to intensify the rivalry between the two men. Much of the drama and strength however comes from the late J.T Walsh as Russell's superior, hell bent on bringing Gibson down and his Mexican drug counter-part who nobody has ever seen. A special sense of irony presents itself at the denouement for Walsh unknowlingly becomes a pawn in the drug ring that has now become the talk of the town thanks to his vendetta.
The also late Raul Julia never disappoints as the charismatic yet enigmatic Mexican law enforcer. Julia and Walsh complement the film beautifully as side characters with dubious intentions. They are multi-faceted and like all the other people in this film are torn between what they should do and what they want to do, and in fact what they end up doing. Nothing is black and white in Tequila Sunrise; it's a very grey area. With every development we learn more about the people and how they are so far from being what we originally perceived. Hats off to to Robert Towne for his writing. Tequila Sunrise may lack the inventiveness, vision, and dynamism of Chinatown (Robert Towne wrote both scripts), but it should, by no means be discarded as a mediocre cop thriller.It is a very slick piece of cinema with fine acting, glamorous sets, and great dialogue. Furthermore, unlike some of it's predecessors it's a film that can be seen repeatedly without losing it's cutting edge. Under appreciated and underrated, Tequila Sunrise is an excellent film
Top Gun (1986)
Trend-Setter of the Highest Degree
I have been told that my reviews have a tendency to over elaborate the points of discussion. I cannot yet determine if this is because of my love for movies, or an arrogant assumption that what I write needs to be read. Or even a pompous self love for the flow of my own writing. In any case, with Top Gun I have decided to be as to the point as possible. I won't talk about the story or it's characters too much because, I can't think of anyone who hasn't seen this film.
Top Gun is one of those powerhouse films whose impact is unparalleled. It profits from repeat viewings and it's stylistic touches often take the breath away. Most go on to say that it's effects on the cinema screen enhance it's entertainment value by a a factor of 10. I wouldn't know; I was only 7 years old when it came out.
But Top Gun is a more important film that it's ever been credit for. I say this because, to date it remains the defining achievement of the Bruckheimer/ Simpson production team. This production team reshaped the face of the slick action film almost single-handedly. I would like to work the stretch and say that they almost created a new genre of film, but that would be pushing it.
Today, all action films cannot survive without various essential components; handsome stars, pulsating soundtrack, powerful cinematography, new and inventive action shots, exotic locales.......Top Gun was the first on the scene to adequately and successfully combine all these elements into one film. It is a trendsetter and has, needless to say, inspired the production of thousands of other films. Top Gun is a film everybody knows, and it carries with it an incredible subliminal effect. I say this because, even if your not conscious of it, Top Gun and it's influence is consistently at play in the back of our minds when we talk about film. Almost any film!
Today Bruckheimer (Simpson passed away 2 years ago) and his team are the paragons of this field. Most producers go unnoticed by the average audience; a huge number however, recognize and acknowledge Bruckheimer as a huge player and I can vouch for many who are just as eager to watch a Tom Cruise film as they are a Jerry Bruckheimer production. His influence is immense and this is all thanks to Top Gun being the revolutionary action film that is is.
As with many of Tony Scott's films (Days of Thunder, Last Boy Scout, True Romance) this film is about a cocky sure-fire character who thinks he has all the answers until he gets a whiff of the real world and it's responsibilities and undergoes a major character change. He experiences various heartaches; from love and love lost to the loss of those dear to him, and he must overcome all this and find the strength to win the day and thereby prove his real mettle and evolution. This story has been used ad infinitum but in this case the hero-zero-hero story is so well complemented by the 80's slickness brought to the foreground by Bruckheimer/ Simpson. Cruise should consider himself the world's most fortunate actor; Top Gun is one of the most important films of the 20th century and Tom Cruise was it's star. If the man did nothing else, he would have attained God-like status as an actor and continue to be lionized by an adoring public.
Many film-makers will despise this film; it has made it near impossbile for small budget productions to make a deep impact. Sure there are a number that make it, but Top Gun ensured that lest an action flick carry a budget of over $100 million, it would never survive. That said, all the things that make the hairs stand on the back of our necks today have been inspired, to a large extent, from this film. Even the cinema trailers today need to pack a whopping punch to make the audience eager. If you notice, movie previews today, look like they cost as much as the actual film. This genre of film packs a lethal punch. Only the big fish can swim; the small will be devoured!!
Make no mistake about it, Top Gun is a vital contribution to modern day cinema. Our appreciation for sound quality in film, adrenaline-rushes, sex, action, cinematography have crucially been enhanced by this film.
After all I've said, I cannot help frown when I consider that this film is merely about fighter jets!!
The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)
Anyone familiar with Milos Forman's work will know how much he likes to discuss and examine controversial real-life characters and make them the focal point of his films. Amadeus for one was a powerful expose of the legendary composer; Forman was able to extraordinarily add so much spice to the script that the end result was a harrowing documentation that genuinely moved us. We didn't need to know anything about the composer or even like his work or personality; Forman craves on these sorts of challenges. He likes to make films about characters that the audience may not identify with because it heightens the overall achivement if the film is a hit. With Larry Flynt he's done it again.
Flynt is the story of Porn magazine chairman larry Flynt who amidst an era of overwhelming decadance launched Hustler magazine, a porn magazine that broke all taboos and crossed all boundaries. The magazine was a huge hit that transformed Flynt into a powerful figure in the American Community. Needless to say though, Flynt (superbly played by Harrelson) faces insurmountable odds from everyone to keep the business running. Politicians, reverends, mass public opposition et.al.. Flynt is accompanied along the way by his junkie wife (played with real panache by Courtney Love) and a reluctant lawyer (dependable performance from Edward Norton Jr.). At the midway point of the film Flynt is shot and paralyzed and consequently the fight to stay on top is made even more challenging.
This story is intriguing because is dares to break universal taboo's. It shows Flynt disassociating himself from the norms and traditions of society and really willing to take genuine risks that could blow up in his face. Before Hustler was formed, Playboy was the porno pioneer. Playboy was subtle in it's nudity, preferring to call itself a REAL magazine rather than something trashy. We notice that Playboy was afraid to overstep the barrier. Playboy was a magazine that was restricted in it's disclosure of barenaked ladies because of the shape of society at the time and the values the society had come to embrace. To call yourself a porno magazine was unthinkable with unthinkable consequences! Hustler dared to step over those lines and bear all the consequences. Flynt was not necessarily a likeable man but he cannot not be admired. He was a risk taker, an enterpeneur, a man with a vision, and a man who believed that oe should act on one's desires and ambitions.
The mass hysteria the swamps the society as a consequence mainfests how powerful yet dangerous a little "acting on ambition" can bring. Flynt's idea is impossible to resist; the public cannot stay away from the controversial impact of the magazine. As the fan base grows, so does Flynt's empire, and so do the forces determined to suppress him. Flynt's meteoric rise is unprecedented, and made all the more shocking by the fact that the evnets are real. His opposition ranges from hypocritical politicians to dubious religious figures, all of whom are hell-bent on the abolition of Flynt and his tremendous reach.
The film earns huge plaudits on the entertainment level. This is undisputed!! The acting demonstartes tremendous range from all involved and Flynt is an offensive yet endearing, and very funny figure. We grow to really love and root for him as the film develops. The points that necessitate discussion however are the legal and moral issues that are debated by Flynt, his lawyer, and the opposition. The freedom of press, of speech, and the freedom to exercise your FREEDOM are all fiercely debated. Flynt vehemently defends his position because he feels that the world is afraid to agree with him, that the world is afraid to speak out. The world is polluted by hypocrits; he's the only pure seed. This presents tremendous irony because Flynt is a low-class pervert up against scholars, and politicians, and bureaucrats, and yet he's claiming that he's the real deal and they are all phonies. He has a point; what's the point in looking presentable and being well-educated if you are banal, hollow, and insipid and cannot open your mind to new ideas?? The film asks that question; we see how closed off the men in power are to Flynt's ideas and we grow to hate them. Then we are torn because we are reluctant to accept the values of a porn fiend. The fact that we cannot resist Flynt's pulling power is the sign of the film's success. We start off opposing Flynt, unable to identify. Then we try and take a neutral stand as we discover the ugliness of Flynt's opponents. Finally, after Flynt is paralyzed and yet continues to defend his honour, we can no longer resist the seduction.
The film has Flynt giving amazing speeches about why he is doing justice to himself and the people. He's giving them what they want,they are taking it,and yet they are determined to censor him. He debates this point to manifest the outstanding hypocrisy that lies at the heart of society. Flynt is such an important character because he speaks for all of us. On countless occasions, we all seek to expose the two-faced ugliness of those around us. We just can't because not enough people are listening. Flynt however gets eveyone's attention and defends his honour, preserves his integrity, and succeeds in winning over the justice system. The final speech given by Issacman, his lawyer is very insightful and very powerful for it argues this very point: 'We don't need to like what Larry Flynt does, but we should like and appreciate the fact that we have the right to make that decision on our own, and that's what makes our society great. We have the right to accept or reject the offer on hand. We may well reject it but we and we alone need to have the choice made available to us. If that right is taken away, then we wither away as a people and our individuality is nullified' The speech is amazing because it demonstrates how the right to accept a porn fiend and his work preserves the democracy of the Western World. Truly Shocking but brilliant!!!
I haven't discussed the other characters all that much and I'm not going to except say this: All the characters are multi-dimensional because what we see on the outside is never what we get on the inside. Flynt for all his crude, perverted behaviour is an admirable, likeable, highly identifiable personality. His wife, for all her vulgarity and drug addiction is an endearing, loyal,intelligent personality. Issacman, the lawyer, for all his traditional, stiff boring work ethic, is an idealistic, shrewd, and deeply committed man....The list goes on and on
I loved this movie because our hero is not perfect; he's anything but!!! Movies that depict the hero as a flawed individual stand a better chance of being embraced by critics and audiences alike. Flynt thrives on this! And exposing hypocrits for their true selves is every cynics (and I happen to be a huge one) dream. Flynt's journey is whopping emotional tour de force!!!! You don't have to like Larry Flynt as a film, but I love the fact that I had the right to make up my own mind!! Society, you ignore that at your peril!!!