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Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
A Very Funny, and Truthful, Film
In the years since it's release, 'Mrs. Doubtfire' is now not known for being a very good film, but instead the "Robin Williams in Drag Movie". Yes, Williams is in drag and dons lots of funny voices but the film is actually a heartbreaking and sometimes painful look at divorce but is still laugh out loud funny at many points and a highly entertaining film.
Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) is an eccentric dad who does voices for cartoons. After being fired and throwing his son a huge over the top birthday, his wife Miranda (Sally Field, in an excellent performance) decides it's time to do what she's been putting off for a long time... Divorce. Heartbroken at not being able to spend time with his children, Daniel uses his voice impersanation skills and a little make-up from his brother to become Mrs. Doubtfire, an eccentric English maid. But can he keep his guise for long enough?
What really is great about 'Doubtfire' is the performances. Robin Williams and Sally Field are on top form and play very well as both Daniel and Miranda, and Mrs. Doubtfire and Miranda. It's also a good sign when even supporting actors deliver excellent performances. Not only do we have three amazingly talented child actors, but Pierce Brosnan, Harvey Fierstein and others all impress in their small but memorable roles.
The remarkable thing is that the film doesn't dumb down divorce. It is divorce as it really happens, not a softened up version, but a warts and all version. This quality alone makes the film an even stronger picture. The directing is carried out by Chris Columbus (Only the Lonely, Home Alone, Harry Potter) who shows a real care for the characters. It's once in a blue moon when you can actually say that a children's film has excellent camerawork and dialogue. The writing is based on the children's book 'Alias Madame Doubtfire' by Anne Fine. It is expertly adapted by Leslie Dixon and Randi Singer. They also show a love of the characters and write great dialogue.
Overall, 'Mrs. Doubtfire' isn't just a Robin Williams vehicle, but a hilarious and touching look at the real pains of divorce...
The Definitive James Bond Film
There are few novelists like the late Ian Fleming. His books weren't just collections of words wrote over a couple of months, they were masterpieces and excellent books. After writing the so-so 'Dr. No', he wrote his longest and most fantastical book: 'Goldfinger'. Whereas all his other books were very real and had real situations, 'Goldfinger' had gold girls, a raid on Fort Knox, a woman called Pussy Galore and a Korean henchman with a deadly bowler's hat. Sadly, 'Goldfinger' is actually one of his weakest and seems to have took some life out of Fleming but he made up with it by writing several better books afterwards. However, after the first two James Bond films were hits, 'Goldfinger' was chosen as number 3. Was this a good or bad choice? We'll see...
Starting off with a real whopper of a pre-credits scene featuring everything we've come to know and love about the legend that is James Bond, we're thrown into Auric Goldfinger's (Gert Grobe) plan to raid Fort Knox with the help of henchman oddjob (Harold Sakata) and lesbian Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). It's up to 007 (Sean Connery) to stop his devious plan!
First of all, this film has good performances all around. Connery is at his peak here and is helped along by the deliciously evil Frobe. Blackman is also deliciously evil and just plain delicious as Pussy Galore. Add to that the menacing Harold Sakata and even small players like Cec Linder and you've got yourself a superb cast. There's not one bad egg in this lot.
Veteran Bond writer Richard Maibum with Paul Dehn has wrote a mostly faithful adaptation to Fleming's book with a few realistic plot changes for the better. On the directing side, Guy Hamilton is truly the best. It's thanks to him this film looks so good and is so re-watchable.
Of course, this film is the ultimate Bond film. It may have several faults and isn't as good as some of the other films but it's a definite improvment over the book and it's Bond, and everyone else, at his best.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
"Greatest Hits" package or not, It's an Excellent Film...
In a book about the James Bond films, 'The Spy Who Loved Me' (or TSWLM) was, in a negative review, called a slick, greatest hits package. Well, greatest hits package or not, it's a fitting 10th film for 007.
Roger Moore returns in his 3rd performance as 007. 'Live and Let Die' was a good film but Moore was a little uneasy picking up from Connery after Lazenby had came and went. In his second outing, 'The Man With The Golden Gun', he was let down by a bad script but this film brings together all the elements for a brilliant Bond film. Exotic locations, great girls, a good baddie, an even better henchman and amazing stunts. It was also the first Bond film to have a fully original story. Author Ian Fleming siad not to use any of the story of his TSWLM book which is very different not only to the finished film but to any other Bond book or film mainly because Bond is only in it at the end.
The film kicks off with one of the best "for real" stunts in the history of motion pictures as 007 skis off a cliff with the safety of a parachute painted like the union jack. This firmly establishes us in the surreal yet familiar world of secret agent 007. Good girl Anya is played with considerable charm by Barbara Bach who is very sexy and the first Bond girl to really be competent and not have to shout "James!" every 2 minutes. The villain is Karl Stromberg played by Curt Jurgens. The character was originally intended to be Blofeld but due to legal wranglings with Kevin McClory and his rival Bond film, he didn't give permission for them to use the character. Stromberg is a fairly competent villain, a little over the top at times but truly ruthless.
A good baddie always has a good henchman and Jaws (Richard Keil) is a great one. Although a little too dumb at times, he's very threatening in early scenes and is the only element used from the book as he is loosely based on the character of Horror in the book.
The writers and director have crafted a very good Bond film despite some over the top scenes and a over long climax. This has everything: The cars, Moore in his element, a great baddie, a strong Bond girl and an interesting Bond girl. This is what all 007 movies or even all action movies should be like.
Die Another Day (2002)
Happy 40th Birthday, 007!
After finishing 'The World is Not Enough', the filmmakers realized instead of having the next film ready in the next 2 years as usual, they would wait 3 years and be able to celebrate both the 20th film and the 40th anniversary of Bond's introduction (And, I believe, 50 years since Fleming sat down to write the first book). With that came 'Die Another Day', a film surrounded by hype and rumours spreading from a lesbian kiss between Halle Berry and Madonna to fatal injuries on set. No matter what's true or not, this is an exciting Bond film perfect for Bond being thrown into the new millenium.
Plot? Well, Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is accused of being a traitor after being held captive for a whopping 14 months and once he is released, tries to find out the link between a North Korean terrorist (Will Yun Lee) and a snooty diamond broker (Toby Stephens) with help from Q (John Cleese) and an exciting girl named Jinx (Halle Berry) along the way.
So, how does this film turn out? Is it worthy of it's hype and status as the all holy 20th film in the franchise? Well, yes. It never lets you go for two hours straight and is simply one of the best Bond films. There have been many complaints: Bad theme song (I like it), bad CGI (Distracting at first but what CGI isn't?) and just a general bad quality but this film is enjoyment from start to finish.
Brosnan is a delight from start to finish and obviously loves playing 007. Halle Berry is very good as Jinx, the female agent, and plays it both sexy and intelligent. Rosamund Pike is very nice as Miranda Frost (Oh, chilly!) and Toby Stephens makes for an excellent and ruthless if deceiving villain. A mention goes out to Rick Yune as diamond faced Zao, the best Bond henchman since Dario in 'Licence to Kill'. The MI6 team is here with one absence. Desmon Llewelyn who died in his 80's due to a car crash shortly after the last film. May he rest in peace. John Cleese takes over as Q after his amusing turn as R, Q's assistant, in the previous film. He suits up Bond with his gadgets and gets some amusing lines along the way. Judi Dench is brilliant as M and even better than the last 3 films. Samantha Bond returns as Moneypenny and it's her most amusing yet.
Neil Purvis and Robert Wade are screenwriters here and very good ones as well. They manage to keep the film enjoyable yet have interesting characters and story too. Director Lee Tamahori has a difficult time picking up from the impressive Michael Apted but he proves to be an excellent and fitting choice for director.
So, 20th film, 40th anniversary, what's the verdict? It wins on all counts. A great film, although it has flaws, with great performances all around and obviously a fun film to make. It's very different from the much more character driven 19th film 'The World is Not Enough' and it provides a nice breather for two hours.
A Fitting Re-Start To The Bond Franchise
As hard to believe as it is, there was a time when we thought Bond would never return despite what the end of his films always said. In 1989, screenwriter Michael Wilson (With help from Richard Maibum) decided to bring Bond back down to life with a much grittier, realistic movie which was 'Licence to Kill'. Although it did make money, it was only a small amount by Bond standards. Audiences didn't want to see Bond bleed and be in pain while fighting sadistic drug dealers in Mexico, they wanted to see him in exotic locations with sexy girls and, as good as 'Licence to Kill' is, audiences were not satisfied and wanted the Bond they know and love. It would be a six year wait.
In 1995, audiences finally got a glimpse of not only a new Bond movie, but a new Bond. Pierce Brosnan slips on the tuxedo and he couldn't be a better choice. Although not as good as Dalton, who is my favorite by far, he suits the role perfectly and knowing we have a good Bond is enough to make a good Bond film but the filmmakers were determined to give us something good and they do!
To try and discuss the plot to a Bond film is like trying to convince people Shakespeare was an alien who secretly lived in California. The plots help but no matter how good, they don't matter. In this film, a main "gimmick" is the fact that 007 had been away so long and times had changed which this film weaves into it's story perfectly. No more cold war and, believe it or not, Bond is being bossed around by a WOMAN. Yes, times have changed. Having a woman as M bossing 007 around in 1962 would have been unheard of. Judi Dench fits into the role perfectly and has some brilliant scenes with Brosnan proving she is every bit the former M's equal despite being a woman. Cast as Moneypenny is Bond, Samantha Bond who teases Bond just as he teases her and tries to prove she has no interest in him at all. Of course, you have to have at least one friendly face and it's lovable old Q played by Desmond Llewelyn. His scenes with Brosnan are very funny although Q is once again just a cameo despite having a large part in the plot in 'Licence to Kill'.
Now that you've got the MI6 team out of the way, there's the ever so famous role of the Bond girl, this time it's Izabella Scorupco playing the beautiful and intelligent Natalya Simonova. With a good Bond girl, you need a good Bond villain and this film is definitely no exception. Sean Bean plays the good-turned-bad Alec Trevelyan aka 006 (Cue dramatic theme) who Bond believed to be dead after an incident during the cold war. Sean Bean is an excellent villain and is quite good because he could be James Bond which makes it believable that he's 006 and he and Brosnan have some excellent chemistry in the pre-credits sequence. Famke Janssen plays bad girl Xenia Onatopp who has a very unique way of killing people. Cast as a slightly inferior henchman is Alan Cumming as Boris. This role is often criticised but I quite liked him and, for once, a non-Russian puts on a good Russian accent.
The script by Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein is a great piece of work but it is slightly over complicated sometimes which means you get detatched from the film once in a while but Martin Campbell's direction brings you back in.
Overall, a flawed Bond film (Russians speaking and writing in English is a noticeable mistake) but it re-starts the Bond franchise after an agonizing 6 year wait and everything here is nearly spot on making an enjoyable experience for Bond fans and casual viewers alike.
Pink Flamingos (1972)
An Exercise in Bad Taste: A Look at 'Pink Flamingos'
John Waters is a man I could listen to forever. He can repeat the same story over and over and it never gets boring. He can hold your interest in any one of his DVD commentaries and growing up as a gay man in Baltimore, has a very interesting life. He also wrote some of the all time funniest films. There are three sections of his life that you have to take note of. There was some black and white shorts and feature length films in the 60's but I will leave those out of this review. The first section of his life was his early, angry, gross out work which went on from 1972 to 1977 (Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Desperate Living), 1981 to 1990 was the transition period where his work changed (Polyester, Hairspray, Cry Baby) and then there's the more mature big budget Hollywood films from 1994 to 2001 (Serial Mom, Pecker, Cecil B. Demented). These films are all uniquely different and hold different styles of their own and all are important pieces of filmmaking but no matter what, 'Pink Flamingos' will be John's most famous work (with the possible exception of 'Hairspray'). Even Waters has said that if he came up with a cure for cancer and died the next day, 'Pink Flamingos' would still be his biggest achievment. Made in 1972 for a small budget (People say different things so I'm not going to put an exact budget on it), it starred the infamous drag queen Divine who performed the infamous final scene (But unlike other reviewers, I'm not going to say what it is) along with "Dreamlanders" Mink Stole, David Lochary and Mary Vivian Pearce. I'm going to run along the story even although you will most likely know it already. Divine is the filthiest person alive but the FBI is hot on her tail so she hides out in a trailer near the woods under the alias Babs Johnson. She lives with her egg obsessed son Crackers (Danny Mills), retarded mother Edie (Edith Massey) and her travelling companion Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce). Many papers call her the filthiest person alive but evil couple Raymond (David Lochary) and Connie (Mink Stole) Marble want that title will not stop at anything to hold that title for themselves. I could easily just talk about everything that goes on in the film as many reviewers have chosen to do but I feel this is a very original film which is actually a satire on modern family life. The Divine clan are trailer trash. They have incestuous relationships and do very sick things but the Marbles are the exact view of suburban life. Clean houses, well organized and in the end they turn out to be the failures. They consider themselves filthy yet are disgusted at Divine's accomplishments proving that Divine and trailer trash win out and that modern day families are basically just clones of each other. The film improves with repeat viewings as you see just how sharp the wit on display is. John Waters' script is filled with some of the most quoted lines in film history. Although nobody is really a trained actor, their performances far surpass any modern day oscar winner. Divine is, as always, perfectly cast in his role and has some of the best lines on display. Edith Massey presents her very unique style of acting and, believe me, she's a real talent. Mary Vivian Pearce (The only person to appear in EVERY John Waters film) once again provides some laughs even if she doesn't always get the big roles she deserves. Mink Stole and David Lochary are hilarious as the perverted couple who want to steal Divine's title to no avail but it is truly Danny Mills who stands out. John Waters discovers a new male talent in each of his films starting from here going right up to 'Cecil B. Demented', all of whom rarely appear in any other John Waters movie (In fact, I don't think any of them ever have). Danny is very real in this film which makes his gross out scenes stand out but, unlike a lot of other people, I did not once cringe at this movie. I found it's situations funny but I was more impressed with the sparkling satire on display. Divine's infamous last scene is much less shocking than an oral sex scene earlier in the film. Not to take away from his brilliant performance though. Although his later films are even better, Waters first color film is a brilliant black comedy worthy of repeat viewings. Two things though, I want to see more! Waters has said there is about an hour of deleted scenes but only 15 minutes were on the DVD and were only small snippets of deleted scenes (The Marble's earlier attack on Divine's trailer had much more to it than we see in the deleted scenes section). Mind you, Waters said he found the footage in his attic so maybe all the other stuff is lost or too old and ruined to be seen today. Also, there was a sequel planned for this film. The script is widely available but will never be seen due to the deaths of main actors. It's a shame, the script seems even better than the first 'Pink Flamingos'. I would also like to see what Danny Mills is doing these days. Overall, I love this film and couldn't say more about how much I love it. Well written and directed, it's brilliantly staged and is one of the best comedies of the later half of the century. Much better than any gross out movies today, it is pure genius of the highest order. A must see for any self respecting film viewer.
Oh, What a Brilliant Show!
It certainly seems weird that low budget black and white foul mouthed dark comedy would be the basis for a colorful animated TV show but it proves to be true in this strange case. Shortly after 'Clerks' was a big hit, Kevin Smith was working on his follow up 'Mallrats' and heard they were producing a live action TV show based on his film, he looked into it to see what it was about and found that it was perhaps the worst thing ever. Barely having any resemblance to his film, it was more in the style of 'Saved by the Bell' than the grittier 'Clerks' and the actors were fresh faced teens as opposed to the more real looking faces of 'Clerks'. After one pilot episode, that show dissapeared into obscurity never to be seen again except on the occasional auction web site. However, 5 years later, Smith came up with the idea for an animated show of 'Clerks' and it died after two episodes. Luckily, DVD gave the show the praise it deserved and fans rushed out to buy it. It's certainly a good show and could have been brilliant if it was allowed to grow but sadly we are left with six episodes that only hint at the greatness the show could have been. It's not that the show is bad, it's brilliant but we are left with only six episodes that could have been so much more. Interestingly, the cartoon has the same characters and locations as the film and is voiced by all the same people but is quite different than the film. The characters here are different, especially Randal, and in the end, they are superior to their live action buddies. Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) are no longer the drug dealers they are in Kevin Smith's movie but rather two illegal fire work salesman. The locations are certainly the same but everything is much more eccentric and colorful. However, I think the show went wrong because it never really pushed the barrier of good taste. Since it came from such a "dirty" film you would expect lots of in jokes etc. which never really appear until the last episode, proving once again that the show would have been great if allowed to grow. Luckily, there have been inklings of another series in the future and there is certainly a cartoon movie on the way so we know that this show isn't that dead yet.
Family Guy (1999)
The Smartest Show That Was On TV
'Family Guy' is my all time favorite show. But I'm going to admit that the family does bear some personality resemblances to 'The Simpsons' especially mom and dad Peter (Seth MacFarlane) and Lois (Alex Borstein) but when you get past these obvious comparisons, 'Family Guy' is a brilliant show on it's own. Sure, it has toilet humour but that's paid off with a very smart joke soon after. Although on the outside it may look stupid, like the show 'Jackass' the brains behind it are smart and this show especially is the wittiest of satires. The story of this show is the seemingly normal Griffin family. Father Peter is a loud mouthed idiot (Even more so than infamous Homer Simpson) who's racist, sexist and increasingly vulgar. His wife Lois is just trying to relax among all the madness and dreams of becoming a famous piano player. The youngest in the family is adorable baby Stewie (Seth MacFarlane again) who is rather vulgar, speaks with a comical accent and is planning to kill his mother and rule the world. Their son Chris (Seth Green) is, like his father, potty mouthed and has an intense fascination with the opposite sex yet he seems to be very child like underneath and always tries to proves that there's an evil monkey operating in his closet. Daughter Meg (Lacy Chabert) is slightly smarter but hates her family and is the biggest geek in class. To top it off we have talking dog Brian (Seth MacFarlane... yet again) who is the smartest in the family but does get a bit drunk once in a while. Add to that, the former Batman Adam West as a neurotic Mayor who's convinced people are stealing his water in the sink and a whole town filled with dim wits and strange faces including the violent news anchors Tom and Diane. What does that give you? 'Family Guy' of course! Seth MacFarlane is mainly to thank for creating such an accomplished show. The humour is always to do with the moment and there are frequent parodies of current events. Sadly, this show was cancelled way too early mainly because Fox was always changing air dates and never gave it a proper time slot causing it to fade off the radar but as the sales of the new DVD have proved (Most stores were sold out on the first day), there is a huge audience for 'Family Guy' and, as of late, creator MacFarlane has hinted that we may see a big screen adventure in a few years time. R.I.P. Family Guy!
The Best Movie of 2000, It May Be...
Contains spoiler The first time I saw 'Vulgar' at Kevin Smith's New Jersey film festival "Vulgarthon", I was captivated. While other people were puking in the aisles and running out screaming, I thought it was one of the most effective movies ever committed to celluloid. It's truly a love it or hate it movie and less happy Friday night material and more depressed Monday night material. The story sees down on his luck clown Will Carlson (An effective Brian O'Halloran) take on a new role. He will appear at bachelor parties as a clown in drag for a laugh and then the real stripper will come on. It's a funny idea for a bachelor party and will ensure laughs for the soon to be husband but on his first night, he finds himself a helpless rape victim in one of the best rape scenes in history. Powerful and emotional, all the actors strike the right cord and make it an unforgettably powerful experience. Upon returning to his normal life and trying to settle back in, Will finds himself the subject of media attention after saving a little girl from death. The public love him so much that he stars on a very succesful show called 'Flappy's Funhouse' (A reference to 'Pee-Wee's Playhouse', perhaps?). As the movie deals fly in, he gets a call from the people who raped him who then reveal they have a tape of the night that looks less like a rape and more like gay pornography. They say they will give the tape to the media if Will does not pay them quickly and so begins a very exciting plot. Bryan Johnson proves himself to be an excellent first time writer and director and provides much needed comic relief in the form of best friend Syd. I have to admit, a lot of the film is actually more light and colorful than other reviews would have you believe. Yes, there's the notorious rape scene but there's always some very funny moments in here courtesy of supporting actor Kevin Smith as Martin Ingram. The film actually ends up being more of a comedy drama than a pure out rape horror film. 'Texas Chainsaw' is much more shocking than anything on display here. The rape scene isn't glorified or there to make your stomach churn, it's a very emotionally complex film with three dimensional interesting characters. The most effective scene is played amazingly by O'Halloran as he returns from the rape, confused and feeling disgraced with himself. I never thought I'd say this about any actor but he should have really got an oscar for that amazing performance. Overall, 'Vulgar' is a powerful film enhanced with excellent performances and sharp black comedy. Although I felt the plot wasn't as fully developed as it could have been, it is one of few films that I could watch multiple times in a row. A genius piece of film.
Mission: Impossible (1996)
A Smart Effective Thriller
In days when big budget violent action films seem to captivate the world in the big screen it's nice to see an action blockbuster that has more than great stunts and effects to support it's weight. Adapted from the highly succesful TV show (Although it bears few similarities), this film sees IMF team betrayed and murdered leaving only agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) to solve the case and discovers more than he expected along the way. Brian De Palma crafted a really great film and Cruise delivers one of those "Great Tom Cruise Performaces" that he perfected in 'Risky Business', 'Cocktail' and 'Jerry Maguire'. It takes a while to get going with a promising first scene let down by several boring ones until the plot really kicks in leaving us with a good feeling as we leave the cinema at the end. It had the chance of being a simple James Bond rip off but, in the first few minutes, proves itself to be a very different kind of film although less complex than some of the Bond adventures. It wasn't until I finished watching it until I realised that there isn't a large amount of action at all in the film. It relies more on it's characters and plot than any action and as the film goes on, Cruise and De Palma pulls us into the increasingly complicated plot but without ever getting us too confused. The supporting cast are a miracle too. Jon Voight proves he's a walking bag of talent and surprises and Jean Reno stands out in his fairly small role. Add to that the likes of Emmanuelle Beart and Ving Rhames and you have an effective hi-tech intelligent thriller that grips you from the familiar theme tune at the start to the reprisal at the end. An excellent peice of filmmaking with an interesting sequel.