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Rocky IV (1985)
Rocky officially dies
I know that it was tempting to Sly to keep making Rocky movies. They made money and people liked the character. The character made Sly. Sure, he had the Rambo character to fall back on, but this was his original love. However, Rocky IV is so horrible, that it momentarily causes us to forget how much we loved the original. It could be said that other than the original and maybe Rocky III, this series has been a disaster. In Rocky IV we have singing robots, more friends dying, plenty of red-baiting and final fight that is so unrealistic, that the WWF would have never aired it. Rockey literally is beaten to a pulp. He is knocked down more than eight times and takes twenty shots in the head before being able to get his hands up. No person could ever survive that beating and no referee would have ever let that beating continue. I guess, the pro-American Rocky vs. the Dirty Communist Drago was good red meat in 1985, with Reagan's America. But looking back at it now, you have to wonder how Sly had the nerve to come back with one more movie?
The Birdcage (1996)
Robin Williams is Incredible !
This was not the kind of film that I generally seek out. Just does not appeal to me, seems kind of "Broadway." However, I have to admit, this was funny. What makes it go is just the comedic brilliance of Robin Williams. The man is so versatile. Couple that with the over the top lunacy of Nathan Lane and the reserved Gene Hackman, and you just have a rip-roaring good time. The story centers around a gay father's son marrying the daughter of a right wing Senator. The father of the girl (Hackman) insists on having dinner with his fellow in-laws before the marriage can take place. The gay Robin Williams character does not want to ruin the marriage of his son, but he no longer has a wife. In order to try to do him a favor, William's partner (Nathan Lane) decides he will impersonate the mom at the dinner. Well, most of the movie deals with the dinner from comedic hell. It is a real thrill watching these Hollywood heavyweights battle it out. Good stuff!
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
What a truly great film! I have not laughed more loudly at a film since I saw "The Big Lebowski." What is so refreshing about this film, is that it is physical humor, not silly gags. Napolean Dynamite is a bit of a mess as a person. He is not cool, even though he thinks he is. He does not have any friends, until Pedro shows up. His family defines the term "losers." His lone hobbies are drawing (badly) and playing teatherball. Moreover, Napolean's failures in life make him a constant target from other bullies, which leads to Napolean taking a very hostile approach to many things. The movie opens with a young kid asking Napolean "what are you going to do today?" Napolean's response, "whatever I feel like doing, Gosh!" There is something about seeing movies about small town life in abstract places like Preston, Idaho. Moreover, there is something very special about seeing a film that takes so many detailed steps to providing the audience with both an enjoyable and sweet film. I laughed at Napolean, Pedro, Kip, Rico, Deb and Rex. I did not laugh at them because I thought they were dorks, but because I just found them interesting and amusing. This is good entertainment and goes to the top of my list for 2004.
Me, Myself & Irene (2000)
Very Strong and Very Funny
Jim Carrey is a comedic genius, period. I don't care if you dislike him or hate his guts. If you deny his talent, you are kidding yourself. The Farrelly Brothers obviously realize this. So they did the smart thing, they turned him loose to go absolutely wild. And does Carey go wild. This film deals with a softy cop (played by Carrey) that has been dumped on his whole life. Moreover, everybody in the town treats him like a chump. One day, this softy cop just snaps, and an alter-ego is unleashed. This alter-ego is vile and sick, the complete opposite of Carrey's real character. Of course, like the Incredible Hulk, Hank (evil persona) is brought out whenever Charlie (good persona) is mad. Now, I know why some people dislike this film. Charlie's three African American sons use more curse words than Tony Montana trying to start an old lawn mower. There are numerous scenes with things placed into certain openings of the human body and well, some strong stuff. However, if you accept that this is just a silly comedy, everything is OK. I have laughed out loud all the way through this film, every time I have seen it. So, brace yourself and enjoy.
Io non ho paura (2003)
Almost a Perfect Film
I don't know what it is about Italian directors, but it just seems that they are more interested in making classic movies than their American counterparts. They don't rely on body counts, car crashes and pyrotechnics. Instead they tell stories and use beautiful images and scenery to enhance it. In "Io non ho paura" we are treated to a coming of age fable that indeed makes one feel young again. We see the world through a ten year old's eyes and sadly, we see how reality starts to over take the innocence of youth. Michele lives in an economically depressed part of Southern Italy. He has a father that is often absent and surroundings that come straight out of Dickens. However, even with very little, he manages to entertain himself and little sister. One day while retrieving something for his little sister, he makes an odd discovery, a child, living in a hole, far away from anywhere. He soon comes to see that this child is being held captive. Of course, being a ten year old, Michele has many wild ideas about why the child is in the hole. However, as the film progresses, Michele starts to grow up and realize what a harsh world it can be. What really makes this movie are the beautiful shots of Southern Italy, where golden fields go as far as the eye can see. And although the film's ending is a slight letdown, overall it is still a wonderful film. Here is hoping that some American directors might find their souls and start trying to emulate this type of cinema. Bravo!
Helter Skelter (2004)
"Helter Skelter" the comedy
Oh man! What was CBS thinking? Were there no top level executives screening this thing beforehand? Not since Bob Odenkirk have I seen a Charlie Manson played for laughs. In 1976, there was made for TV movie called Helter Skelter and it starred Steve Railsback. It was one of the scariest and spookiest movies ever put on TV. When you saw Railsback on screen, you felt uncomfortable. His eyes, his look, his voice. The movie had a long lasting effect on anybody that saw it. Well, CBS felt they could do a re-telling of the story. However, it glossed over so many key issues from the book and the case, that you just have to scratch your head. This movie chose to focus on Charlie and the family leading up to the trial. However, the family looks more like extras from an Old Navy commercial. Charlie looks as intimidating as Michael Jackson, wait scratch that, he looks as intimidating as Janet Jackson. Since the actor does not have scary eyes, he tries to do this same rehearsed stare in every scene. It was, dare I say, almost funny. Look, I could trash this movie all night long, but I won't. The real tragedy is that they took a significant event from American History and rushed out a poor re-telling of it. Moreover, the edit is so bad, we do not get to see any of the trial. This was horribly flawed. Watch the original from 1976 or read Bugliosi's book if you want to know what happened and why, oh yeah, and if you want to be scared.
Mean Machine (2001)
Really Quite Awful
This was a really bad movie. Not very creative or funny. All the director did was watch "The Longest Yard" and then re-write it for soccer. He changed very little and added nothing. I like the actors that were assembled here, but they are wasted. If in fact you have ever seen the movie "The Longest Yard," you already know ahead of time what is going to happen next in this movie. What I was hoping for was that the director would try to enhance the story, but he did not even try. Some of the commentary used by the prisoner announcers during the big game was amusing. However, overall, you have a tired screenplay and actors trying way too hard to overcompensate for it. Weak effort.
Can you erase fate ?
It seems like Hollywood is fascinated with the question of whether things are destined to happen or whether freewill determines our actions. Donnie Darko delved into that issue in a brilliant, but somewhat complex way. In "Eternal Sunshine" we are treated to an examination of the stated issue, but in a clear and rather easy to understand way. Joel has had a both wonderful and difficult relationship with Clementine. However, after the fun has ceased to be, Clementine decides to call the whole thing off, actually, she attempts to erase all memories of the relationship. By using a new type of medical procedure, one can remove all memories about something you no longer care to remember. Just think of it, taking your most traumatic memories at getting rid of them forever. Of course, Joel is not aware that Clementine has done this. When heartbroken Joel finds out, he decides that turn about is fair play, so he will cancel his memories of her out. However, as Joel soon discovers, relationships might always end badly, but they were not always bad. Can Joel keep the good times in his memory? If meeting someone is fate, can two people destined for one another really be prevented from meeting or forgotten? I enjoyed this film and although the story might seem complicated, it really is easy to follow. Nice story, great performances and interesting things to think about after you have left the theater. **** out of ****.
Strip Search (2004)
When Adolf Hitler solidified his hold on Germany he asked Germans to give up little things so that he could make them stronger. He slowly took more and more freedoms away until there was no freedom at all. As Americans we believe that this could not happen here, we are too democratic. However, many totalitarian governments start slow. In this play, two suspects are being put through a degrading interrogation. One is an American woman being interrogated by a Chinese officer. The other is an Arab being interrogated by an American agent. As the interrogation takes place, the two interrogators become interchangable, saying the same lines. It is a not so subtle way of saying we in the US have become what we had always spoken against. Of course, we can use the argument that we are doing it to protect our way of life. But can't the Chinese use that same excuse? I thought the film was rather blunt, but the message effective. If we are truly the most humane and democratic country in the world, if due process is still alive, then we must show it, not just say it.
Damn you Quenten Tarantino! You have inspired too many of these hackneyed caper movies. First of all, it would be nice if some of these screenwriters had experience that went beyond just having watched other movies dealing with cons. It would be nice if directors could come up with some original scenes, instead of slow-mow shots of the crew walking down the street. It would be nice if Edward Burns could learn to act. HOWEVER, what would be really nice, is if people would proof-read these lame scripts and realize how truly lame they are. I mean, this is the worst dialog and story I have seen in a long time. I mean, the actors must have known this was crap as it was being filmed. The story is a rehashed tale. A group of grifters pulls off a con on someone big. So, they have to pull another con to make it right. Sound familiar? So they must have the eccentric bad guys. The witty crew members. The tacked on love angle. The blah blah blah. * out of ****.