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Certainly one of the worst movies I've seen in years. Hammy, over the top acting (Bryan Cranston being the worst offender), silly story with so many plot holes that you feel like you've fallen into an illogical abyss. Godzilla only on screen for about 10 minutes and most of the time the monster looked like it was some guy in a suit. Just total, absolute drivel and not even very interesting drivel--I kept falling asleep even with all the explosions and Godzilla occasionally roaring. At least four Oscar-nominated actors in this movie---Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn and Juliette Binoche. They must've really needed a paycheck to stoop to this. Bryan Cranston's performance I thought was so amateurish I had to wonder, is this the guy everyone's talked about for being such a great actor in "Breaking Bad"?
Secret Honor (1984)
movies don't get any better than this
An adaptation of a stage play, "Secret Honor" is the tour de force performance of actor Philip Baker Hall. At the time he made it he'd had a distinguished stage career in New York but was barely known in movies and television. While he doesn't look or sound very much like Nixon he totally inhabits the character and rages around the set swilling Scotch and experiencing nearly every emotion you can think of.
The story is of course totally fictional but in some respects Hall and the writers may have gotten closer to the core of who Nixon was than any other film ever did. Nixon is without a doubt the most enigmatic man ever to be President and "Secret Honor" is a fascinating study revealing what made the man tick.
Even if you don't care for Nixon or political movies, this movie is worth watching for Hall's performance alone. There's never a moment in the movie, in which he's on screen every second, where he doesn't completely rivet the viewer's attention. The movie didn't make Hall a star but it started getting his name out. A young P.T. Anderson was a huge fan of the movie and later struck up a relationship with Hall which led to Hall appearing in a lot of Anderson's movies such as "Magnolia" and "Boogie Nights".
Solid science fiction
The fourth of the series, "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes" is the 2nd best of the entire run, after the original entry. It is also the basis for the recent re-boot "Rise of the Planet of the Apes". I saw this movie in the theater when I was a kid and the ending scared the wits out of me.
The movie had a very small budget but more than made up for it with the very solid writing and some excellent acting by the principal cast, Roddy McDowell, Don Murray, Ricardo Montalban, Severn Darden and Hari Rhodes.
Montalban sets up the story very well as Armando, the kindly circus master who has hidden the intelligent ape, Caesar, for a couple of decades. But when Caesar blurts out his anger at the humans who are mistreating an ape, he has to go into hiding while Montalban tries to cover for him, at the cost of his life. The "speciest" gov't is now determined to find the intelligent ape that they feel certain now exists. Caesar goes "native" by becoming a mute simian servant of the humans but fomenting revolution all the while behind the scenes.
Hari Rhodes' character is particularly interesting. An aide to the bigoted governor played by Don Murray, as a black man and descendant of slaves his heart is more with the apes than it is with his own people. He provides Caesar some crucial support at key moments in the show and then has to make an appeal to the ape's "humanity" at the end when the apes are about to massacre their human prisoners. But as Caesar points out, he's not a human and simian ideas of justice may not jibe with human concepts.
The "Ape" movies were well-known for their downbeat endings. Now nearly every story you see, no matter how grim, has to have some sort of hopeful ending but not the "Ape" series. In episode 1 Taylor discovers that he's on Earth all along in one of the most stunning endings in movie history; in part 2 the world is utterly destroyed in a final war between the humans and apes; part 3 has Caesar's parents being murdered; part 4 the apes have overthrown the human race. Only in part 5 do we finally have a "happy" ending of centuries in the future when men and apes have finally learned to live in peace.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
2 hours of sadism
I was hoping to really enjoy "12 Years a Slave" but wasn't expecting a 2 hr long movie of very long, ponderous slow camera shots of nature and hardly any compelling dialog or character development. This was then broken up seemingly every 10 minutes by a savage flogging or a vicious rape or some other sadistic cruelty being inflicted on the movie's hero, the hapless Solomon a freeman sold into slavery, and the other slaves. Except for Brad Pitt's Canadian abolitionist and a gentleman from Solomon's home town, virtually every white character in this movie is portrayed as the very embodiment of evil. No nuance, nothing but unremitting sadism.
A lot of people seem to be comparing this movie to "Schindler's List" although I can't understand why. In "List" you had the compelling story of Schindler who, for reasons known only to himself, risks his life to save as many Jews as he can. The Jewish prisoners are depicted as full characters, people you know and care about. Even the Nazi played by Ralph Finnes is given some depth, a man whose cruelty has been unleashed and sanctioned by his Nazi bosses but, you suspect but for the war would be a man who might be interesting to be around---a lover of fine food, good wine and a roving eye for the women. But the slave masters in "12 Years a Slave" don't have the slightest hint of anything human about them, just treating people with cruelty for cruelty's sake.
If filmmakers really wanted to make a powerful movie about slavery, they might consider boldly making a new version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and hew closely to the story that Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote. It's a powerful book and it gets far deeper into the immorality of slavery than anything like "12 Years a Slave" does. The memoirs that "12" was based on came out soon after the huge success of "Uncle Tom's Cabin". The opening scene of the slave-traders benignly discussing their "wares" in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was so chilling to read that I couldn't even bear to read it through in one sitting. "12" had a similar scene with the excellent Paul Giamatti as a slave-trader, but the movie never got any deeper.
Falling Down (1993)
I'm sure I'm not the only person who thinks this, but my favorite character in the movie is "Not Economically Viable Man." He's another version of the Michael Douglas character and they even dress the same---short-sleeve white shirt & tie. Both of them have been tossed aside by the system and at the end of the movie, D-Fens even adopts the title, calling himself "not economically viable." It's an example though of clever writing and proof that there's no such thing as a small part in a play or movie. The actor who is "Not Economically Viable Man" is unforgettable in this role and he plays a crucial part in advancing and explaining the story. You could have an entire movie just about his character and it would probably be just as interesting as the D-Fens character.
Don Jon (2013)
If you want to go to a movie where you are assaulted with 90 minutes of almost non-stop vulgarity, the characters (with the exception apparently of the Catholic priest who's never on camera) saying "f'ck" seemingly every alternate word, if you want to see a movie about a man unrepentantly absorbed with pornography and the relentless objectification of women, then you might want to see "Don Jon." The movie is no doubt a hit on the coasts but in fly-over country where I live (albeit, 250 mi from the coast) there was a grand total of four people who attended the viewing I went to. I was going to walk out after the first 30 minutes but managed to doze off for a bit.
The movie is probably going to be compared to "Auto Focus", the bio-pic about Bob Crane and his sex addiction and murder. "Auto Focus" is far superior and it shows how a man's life falls apart due to his obsession. "Don Jon" takes the attitude that sex addiction is just no big deal. By the end of the movie Jon seems to have found a woman he can connect with but you also know he has absolutely no inclination whatsoever to quit his porn obsession.
The Butler (2013)
Watching White House Paint Dry
Lee Daniels' The Butler" doesn't live up to the hype. First off, there's the ridiculous title, which, I know, wasn't the director's choice, but I doubt anyone else would confuse this movie with some other movie called "The Butler." The intriguing thing about the movie is supposed to be the portrayal of the Presidents and the odd casting. Actually Robin Williams did quite well as Eisenhower and he's the only Republican in the movie who is portrayed with any sympathy. I found the actor playing JFK unconvincing and looking 20 years younger than JFK really was. Liev Schrieber was interesting as LBJ but none of his blatantly bigoted talk was done on camera. When he makes a speech talking about "Negros" one of the butlers is amazed that he used that word since LBJ used the N-word more than he did. John Cusak plays Nixon like some weirdo, Alan Rickman as Reagan wasn't bad but the movie by then morphed dropped any pretense of being objective and portrayed Reagan as perhaps the most racist man ever to be in the office while the sun practically rises with a chorus of angels to greet Obama's election as President.
Knowing that most people won't fact-check, the movie misrepresents Reagan's stance on South African sanctions and then has the butler's radical son just baldly assert that Reagan has undone every program that has ever helped black people. Complete lie of course but by then the show had become propaganda.
Another unnecessary melodramatic touch was to have KKK members in full pointy-head regalia attacking the Freedom Riders' bus. Yes, the bus was in fact attacked but it was at a bus station, not in some highway ambush. Yes whites attacked the bus, set fire to it and pummeled the white and black Riders when they fled the bus. But none of the racists were in KKK garb and they didn't burn crosses. Frankly, they were so bold and so sure they'd get away scot-free that there was never any reason to hide behind the Halloween get-up. Just watch the excellent PBS documentary "The Freedom Riders." The Freedom Riders story would make an outstanding movie in and of itself. Lastly, I did feel that the lunch-counter sit-ins and training for the sit-ins was very well done and the most riveting moments of the movie. Oh, and the death of Cecil's younger son is laid at the feet of the Republican Nixon, not the Democrat LBJ when you see his tombstone saying he died in late 1973, in the last weeks of the Vietnam War and of course on Nixon's watch, not LBJ's.
The acting, generally, was solid. Oprah Winfrey will probably get an Oscar nomination and probably deserves it. I was pleased to see Cuba Gooding, Jr. do so well in a much better project than most of the dreck he's been stuck in since he won an Oscar for "Jerry Maguire". But Forest Whitaker is just a cipher as the butler Cecil. He is required to mask his feelings all the time at his work and is pledged to confidentiality outside of his work. The only time Cecil is allowed to show much emotion at all is in his conflicts with his radical son, who, Forrest Gump-like, is of course at every major Civil Rights Era event---the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, Selma, the MLK assassination, etc.
Cloud Atlas (2012)
ponderous, pretentious and sleep-inducing
"Cloud Atlas" was the longest three hours I've spent in a movie theater in a long, long time. Twice I had to hold myself back from walking out. The theme, if you can finally figure it out, is that love and relationships endure throughout time and the heroes or the spirits of the heroes keep showing up in different times in history. But rather show things in some sort of sequence, the movie cuts back and forth from time and place without any warning. You have to keep track of about a half dozen different stories, multiple characters played by the same actors and finally you just throw up your hands and give up. Even if you could figure out the storyline, there's nothing original about it. Oh, and bring a translation book since about 25% of the dialog is in some sort of pidgin-English invented for the movie.
I don't mind movies occasionally trying to shake up the traditional narrative; "Memento" was an outstandingly original twist on the conventional storytelling. But "Cloud Atlas" is not only confusing, it's ponderous, grindingly slow, gratuitously violent, self-important and dull. It cost $100 million to make and it'll no doubt enter the ranks of one of the most expensive flops in movie history. It's not even forgettable---the story is so unintelligible that you really don't have anything to forget when you leave the theater.
I'd heard of this movie but had never seen it before yesterday. Given it was the movie that Andy Griffith made right after his hilarious "No Time for Sergeants" I expected it to be a comedy but after watching it I'm not sure if it was a comedy, a drama or what.
Griffith plays Al Woods, a lower-class guy from Oklahoma who is working his way through college as a waiter at a high-toned sorority at the college---and getting hot and heavy with one of the sorority girls. She ends up rejecting him because of his low-born status. Infuriated, he quits school and since this is early 1941, he decides to join the service and get as far away as he can. A literal coin flip has him ending up in the Coast Guard.
Though he had entered the Coast Guard to forget women, Woods is still a rake and the first chance he has to hook up with a girl he does, going for the luscious Stella played by Felicia Farr. Assigned to a buoy tender as a cook, even though he doesn't know the first thing about being a cook, you think the movie is going to be a comedy like "No Time for Sergeants" but it never gets there. Woods, despite his lack of cooking skills, becomes a pretty good cook in short order and wins over the respect of the top cook played by Walter Matthau. As it turns out, he and Matthau are vying for the same woman. Matthau marries her but when he ships out for sea, Woods learns that Stella is very much on the make.
The movie is uneven. It never makes up its mind about being a comedy, a drama or something else. The "onionhead" reference isn't explained until well into the movie when Woods is convinced by another Coastie to shave his head. The test of wills between Woods and the supercilious executive officer comes and goes. Woods isn't really all that likable a character but Griffith does a pretty good job with the role. Matthau does his usual fine performance. Felicia Farr went on to be married to Jack Lemmon for awhile. The rest of the cast includes Joey Bishop, Tige Andrews and James Gregory. You can probably count all the movies about the Coast Guard on two fingers---"Onionhead" and the very good Kevin Costner movie, "The Guardian".
The Three Stooges (2012)
Fortunately I didn't take my girlfriend to see this mess because I got up and left an hour into it and had she gone with me it would've been twice as much a waste of money. The movie is just a lame reenactment of some of the original Stooges' shtick but adding in a bunch of insults towards Catholicism and "updating" the routines with more scatological references than could've been done by the original Stooges. And Jennifer Hudson, an Oscar winner, consented to be in this mess?
Most of the anti-Catholic bashing is done by Larry David who is Sister Mary-Mengele (ha ha! Let's name a nun after a Nazi war criminal!). The Farrelly Brothers have had a lot of success with past movies like "Shallow Hal" and "Me, Myself & Irene" but they might've run themselves out of the business with this dreck.