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Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
I wanted to like it...
I really did! I love Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart. But this movie just wasn't very good.
It was filled with clichés that we had seen hundreds of times, the dialogue was unrealistic, and the plot devices were predictable. I am willing to suspend some disbelief when watching a movie, but this one asked too much of me.
I imagine the meeting for this movie went like this:
Studio head: "We've got Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman on board for a big budget action movie. We need ideas, go!"
Hack writer 1 "How about Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart dress up as black women to try and infiltrate Morgan Freeman's evil crime ring? We'll call it "Black Chicks"!"
Studio Head: "Nah, too cerebral. Midwesterners wouldn't get it"
Hack writer 2 "How about terrorists take down the white house and only the disgraced secret service agent can save the day/country?"
Studio Head: "That sounds great! Get me a script in 2 days"
Hack writer 2: "I'll have it done by tomorrow!"
Save your money or Netflix queue spot...
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Great showcase of talent
"The Dude" Lebowski just wanted to get his rug replaced. After a couple of thugs mistaken "The Dude" for a big shot millionaire of the same name and urinate on his rug. This simple act of degradation starts the Dude on a path of absurdity involving a trophy wife, German nihilists, a crippled millionaire, a neo-expressionist feminist artist, kidnappers, a Vietnam veteran and porn producers, all vying for a million dollars in cash. To further complicate matters, the Dude has to deal with a "good ol' boy" police system and a bumbling private eye.
Complications, idiots, schemes, cons and double-crossing are all ingredients needed to make a successful Cohen brothers film, and that is exactly what this is. One of the Cohen brothers biggest hits, The Big Lebowski is considered one of the best "cult-classics" of all time. In true Cohen brothers form, this film is packed with big name stars that all turn in superb performances. Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julliane Moore, Steve Buscemi, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Peter Stormare, and David Huddleston are all on top of their game and the Cohen brothers bring out the best in them.
The Dude Lebowski, who wants nothing more than to bowl with his friends in a local bowling league, gets wrapped up in a kidnapping plot involving a million dollars. Of course, there are several other players that are interested in obtaining that cash. A true anti-hero, the dude is a remnant of the late sixties counter-culture movement, living in the late 90's as he lived back then, smoking weed, drinking white Russians, and just taking it easy. As the Dude stumbles throughout the film in his own lovable way, he starts to figure out all the ins and outs and "what-have-you's" of the current game being played by the players in the film.
Very, very loosely based on the Raymond Chandler novel "The Big Sleep", The Big Lebowski pays a certain amount of homage to the original source material, without being an obvious portrayal of the novel. The Cohen brothers have successfully transformed the gritty, hard-boiled detective's novel into their own unique form of comedy and entertainment. And as in other Cohen brothers works, the mystery doesn't ravel in a traditional form, with all the answers being given to you at the end with an exposition. Instead, each sub-plot ends at some point in the film and you, the film-viewer, are responsible for picking up that fact. One of my favorite aspects about the Cohen's is that they respect the audiences intelligence a bit more than most, thereby, not patronizing with endless exposition.
A smart, slick comedy, this film is highly recommended for those who enjoy films that fall under that category. The excellent acting and directing by all involved have truly formed a "cult-classic".
"The Dude abides. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners. Shoosh. I sure hope he makes the finals." The Stranger
Based off a novel of the same name, One flew over the cuckoo's nest provides an interesting look at the lives of a group people living in an insane asylum. Life in the asylum changes when Randle McMurray, a memorable performance from Jack Nicholson, arrives and turns the place on its ear.
The central piece to this story is the performance of Jack Nicholson. It is almost easy to forget that Nicholson was such a great actor in his prime. Some actors, unfortunately, sometimes become caricatures of themselves as they age under the Hollywood spotlight, with Nicholson falling into this category at times. This film, however, highlights the wonderful acting ability that Nicholson possesses. Playing the charmingly deranged Randle McMurray, Nicholson gives the character a level of likability that makes us forget, at times, that his character is actually a criminal guilty of violent crimes, which ended up earning Nicholson an Oscar win for Best Actor.
Director Milos Forman stated that he wanted to use unknown actors in the parts of the asylum inmates, with the exception of McMurray, who he wanted to use someone with some star power. His reasoning being that it would make the film more believable as the inmates started rallying around McMurray. While much of the cast may have been unknown at the time, some well-known names emerged from this film such as Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli, Michael Berryman, and a superb performance from Brad Dourif as the troubled Billy Bibbit. Louise Fletcher also turns in great performance as the disciplinarian Nurse Ratched.
With a run time of over two hours, Forman did a great job of never letting the film sag or bog-down due to its length. He did a great job of keeping the audience engrossed in the movie throughout its entirety. There are several memorable scenes throughout, such as when McMurray is "calling" the baseball game when Nurse Ratched forbids them from watching it. A fantastically crafted movie, is one of the few to sweep the major categories at the Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay, and on top of that, had several other nominations. After viewing this film for the first time, I can understand how this has stood the test of time and is still a relevant film today.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
This film is based on a 1906 Joseph Conrad novella titled "Heart of Darkness". I would suggest to everybody that enjoyed this movie, to read this story. It's not very long, about 80+ pages, but well worth the time. Reading the novella actually increased my enjoyment and understanding of the film. Obviously, the film is "loosely-based" on the novella. The time period, setting and circumstances were completely different in the film than in the story. Coppola, and the screenwriters, however, managed to capture one of the most important aspects of the story in the savagery that exists in the jungle and the effects it can have on the human psyche. I found Marlow's growing fascination with Kurtz in the book to be an interesting parallel to Willard's , played by Martin Sheen, fascination with the colonel. As both men travel up their respective rivers, getting ever closer actually meeting the man that inspired the admiration and obsession in both of these men, they come to start to understand the reasoning's and methods to their respective Kurtz's insanity.
As Willard sets upon his journey, he encounters obvious examples of the Army's hypocrisy in their wants to remove Kurtz from his post. Was Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore's insanity more excusable than Kurtz's? From the brutality of war that he witnessed in his prior tours of Vietnam, to the savagery that plagues his current mission, he starts to see the world as Kurtz does, understanding the inner machinations of the man's mind. There is a contrast here to Conrad's Marlow, in that Willard starts out as a jaded character, and judges Kurtz from different point of view than Marlowe does. As Marlowe is just a steamboat captain that works for "The Company", his interpretation of Kurtz is different. Both, however, come to realize their own inner darkness that occupies a hidden corner in their heart. With Willard, his transformation at the end of the film after he kills Kurtz and is standing in the doorway of the temple(?), covered in mud and blood is a perfect allegory to the darkness that filled his heart.
Kurtz is the most powerful character here. As in the novella, Colonel Kurtz is a man shrouded in mystery. As Willard learns more about him, we start to see a different side of the man than the man Army Intelligence portrays. They portray him as a monster, whereas, we start to see the multi-talented, enigmatic side of Kurtz as Willard starts to learn about him. Even though he is in less than 10% of the film, much like the novella, his shadow casts a darkness over the entire jungle and his presence is felt throughout the entire movie. Marlon Brando turned in another excellent performance as the mad colonel, with his philosophical ravings and soliloquies being some of the best he's put on film. A large part of the success of the portrayal of Kurtz does definitely have to go to the film's director though. Coppola does a fantastic job of keeping Brando in shadows and Brando uses the shadows to his advantage, almost wearing the darkness like a thick blanket. He is often portraying Kurtz as hunched over, as if weighted down by the darkness in his heart. This performance left no doubt as to why Coppola would want to work with this genius again, after previously working with him on The Godfather.
This is one of the finer films in film history and certainly deserves its place as a classic piece of cinema. Both the novella and the film go to lengths to warn us of the darkness that exists in all of us, and what may be madness to most people, may just be enlightenment.
The horror... the horror...
The African Queen (1951)
Showcase work of Bogie, Hepburn and Huston
The African Queen is a fantastically told story of a gin-swilling riverboat captain and an uptight Methodist missionary. When the movie begins, we are told that the First World War is about to begin. Two Methodist missionaries, a brother and sister, are forced to deal with the German forces that invade the village at which they teach, as it is a British colony. The confrontation ends up killing the brother, leaving his sister, Rose, played marvelously by the always enjoyable Katharine Hepburn, to fend for herself. She takes in with a riverboat captain, played by the immensely talented Humphrey Bogart, named Charlie, who captains the smallish steamship, the African Queen. Their journey takes them down the Ulanga River in Africa. At the beginning of their journey, Rose devises a plan to retaliate against the Germans, for her country, and also to avenge her brother's death. Initially hesitant, Charlie agrees. They decide to turn the boat into a torpedo of sorts and destroy the German gunboat, the Queen Louisa, which is effectively blocking British forces. It is at this point in the film that their respective journeys begin.
As the uncouth Charlie and the prim and proper Rose first embark, they are essentially night and day in comparison to one another. Bogart and Hepburn both turn in career performances in their rendition of this odd couple. Rose's strong will and unrelenting attitude convinces, Charlie, who didn't want to get involved in the first place, thinking her plan was suicide. The two actors do a fantastic job of keeping the audience's attention, as it is just the two on screen for a large majority of the movie. As the pair travel down the river, they first gain a begrudging respect for one another. As they traverse and survive the dangerous Ulanga River, that respect slowly starts blossoming into love. While Charlie had been traveling that river for years, he never noticed the natural beauty until he found himself falling for Rose. The pair also grow as individuals, with Charlie becoming more mature and Rose shedding a little of her inhibition.
John Huston does a wonderful crafting this story. He gets the best out of his actors and knows how to work with pace and timing. He does a great job of leading us down the path of their relationship without it feeling forced or campy, as happens in so many films today. He masterfully crafts a certain mood to the film; silly, dramatic, and high tension, all at appropriate moments. When the pair is trudging through the marsh, for example, you feel a real sense of doom and despair, as if they might not get out alive.
This film just goes to show the incredible talents of the actors and director. Every moment felt genuine and authentic. This film certainly deserves its place in cinematic history as a classic.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
A must see for those who take themselves too seriously...
Fame is fleeting. This eye-opening "rockumentary", as the film's director Marti DeBergi, calls it, chronicles British rock band, Spinal Tap, self-proclaimed as "the world's loudest band", as they embark on an American tour, and come to find out that hard truth. Being the biggest band in the world during the 1960's, this documentary follows the band during their 1984 tour, and DeBergi captures the raw truth of what it is like to be a rock band in decline.
Of course, that is just the storyline of the film. This is Spinal Tap pioneered the "mockumentary " movement in American film, and actually had quite a few people fooled into thinking that this was a real band. The band members, David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel, and Derek Smalls (played by Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer, respectively), come to find out that their fame isn't what it used to be, as they plod along the tour dealing with small half-filled venues, canceled shows, being second billed to a puppet show, and even playing to an army base on leave that was more reminiscent of a bad company Christmas party.
Lampooning is in full effect here as the film is a parody of gigantic, over-the-top rock bands and their pretentious lyrics, overblown stage props, and overall inability to see the truth about themselves and their level of cultural importance.
Just about every scene is memorable and quotable (i.e. the famous "it goes to 11" bit, Derek Smalls getting trapped in a stage prop, the Stonehenge concert scene, getting lost backstage, etc.). The clever writing is actually credited to the stars of the film and all act their part wonderfully. It was due to their acting ability, coupled with Reiner's ability to make a fake documentary, that people actually believed that the band was real. June Chadwick also turned in a great performance as Jeanine Pettibone, the proverbial "Yoko Ono" of the band. This film was also filled with cameos from Bruno Kirby, to Billy Crystal, to Fred Willard, all of whom contributed their own unique style to this film. The direction by Rob Reiner was also great in this movie. Even though I knew that this was a fake band, I couldn't help feeling sorry for them at times as their reality "caves-in" on them and the band is faced to force the reality of their situation.
This is Spinal Tap did pioneer the "mockumentary", as several others followed in its footsteps, however, I don't think that any will have the impact that Spinal Tap did. The success and fanfare following this film is so large, that the fake band has even released music albums, gone on tours, and the actors have reprised their roles several times in the last 27 years, including a guest spot on the Simpsons, of which Shearer is a regular cast member.
This is Spinal Tap is a wonderfully made film that most should take the time to see. I say most, because, I believe that as a pre-requisite to watching this film, you have to be somewhat familiar with rock music and rock stars. But overall, I would definitely recommend this film for those that need a good laugh, or maybe those that take themselves just a little too seriously
Into the Wild (2007)
movie about a spoiled kid...
I personally did not like this movie. I am talking strictly from a story point of view... The direction was good and cinematography worked well.
No, I am giving this movie 3 stars because of the "plight" of the main character, Chris. This kid was given life on silver platter. Most college age kids would kill to be his position. Instead, he abandons his family, who, despite what he says, cares deeply about him. And along the way, he meets several people with whom he creates deep relationships with, all of whom he abandons for his own selfish reasons.
I just could not sympathize with Chris, considering everything that happens to him, including his death, was his own fault...
not any good
this film failed on many levels...the acting (other than Bettany) was well below par, Lucas black was particularly bad, and Dennis quaid delivered the level of performance that I expected of him (crap)
the writing was fairly bad...to many cliché's, the overly religious black guy, failed single father, the noble son, the gang-banging black guy, the dysfunctional rich white family with the smokin hot daughter. It was all too much for me. when gabriel said "You chose to live like them (dramatic pause)", you could see the line "now you will die like them" coming from a mile away...very disappointed...in the final scene, when jeep (what the hell kind of name is that anyway) tells Gabriel "F#ck you!", i cringed at the lack of creativity by the writers
and the story itself was terrible. As a person who studies history, particularly religious and Christian history, the film misses on many cylinders.
Bettany was the only saving grace of the movie, as he is a fine actor.
don't waste your time like I did...
The Happening (2008)
Environmentalist propaganda movie
Spoilers! Before I even put the movie in the DVD player, I looked at my wife and said "I hope it's not aliens". Well it wasn't. And I somehow wished it was. The plants! Really? As soon as the plant theory started to surface, I started thinking "I hope not, that's retarded". But it was a M. Night movie so I was waiting for the twist to tell us what it really was. Unfortunately, it never happened.
Don't get me wrong, the premise of the movie was a good one to start, but I would've preferred the ending stay a mystery with a lot of different theories.
And towards the end, the movie started to get really condescending. When I watch a movie, I don't want some director getting up on his soapbox and tell me what a terrible person I am or how screwed up the human race is for "wrecking" the planet. It just turned into a greeny, environmentalist propaganda piece and suffice it to say, I am telling everybody to skip this movie.