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Time After Time (1979)
interesting idea needs a bit more sharpening
It's 1893 London. Jack the Ripper is on the loose. Futurist H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) reveals his time machine invention to his friends. Dr. John Leslie Stevenson (David Warner) disputes his happy Utopian vision of the future. Scotland Yard tracks the Ripper to his home pointing to Stevenson. However Stevenson is gone and Wells realizes that he took his time machine. The machine returns to Wells because he has the "non-return key". He travels to 1979 to track down Stevenson and stop him from infecting his presumed Utopian future. He finds himself in San Francisco but the future is not as peaceful as he expected. He is helped by Amy Robbins (Mary Steenburgen) who works at the bank.
I'm not sure all the time travel makes sense. Why does his machine travel to an exhibit of him landing right at his machine? It's questionable how the machine works once they let it travel from London to San Francisco. It's also silly that Wells just walks into Ripper's room. He's not simply naive but really the quintessential clueless egghead. However I do like his unbridled optimism being supplanted as he tries to adjust to the modern world. The romance with Steenburgen is really cute. She's great. Nicholas Meyer's directions are functional but nothing spectacular. It is also questionable that the police would let Wells go even if they don't think he committed the murders. This would be a great movie to remake. It has great potential for an intense thriller.
fun sexy soccer-mom drug-dealing black humor
Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) is trying to maintain her suburban life after the death of her husband and pay for her housekeeper Lupita. Her oldest son Silas (Hunter Parrish) is rebellious and her younger son Shane (Alexander Gould) is weird. She's dealing weed and her biggest customer is her unscrupulous accountant Doug Wilson (Kevin Nealon). Her brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk) is supposedly helping her. Her neighbor Celia Hodes (Elizabeth Perkins) is nosy. Celia has long suffering husband Dean (Andy Milder) and willful daughter Isabelle Hodes (Allie Grant). (There's also another daughter.) Nancy struggles against the law, other growers, dealers, gangsters, Mexican cartel and anyone else as she discovers that she's actually a great drug dealer.
This is a great mix of characters in a fun twist on the American dream. It's 'Breaking Bad' except wacky and sexy. I love Kevin Nealon and Elizabeth Perkins but it's Mary-Louise Parker that makes the show what it is. She has a sly humorous side which makes her the best part of Red. The dark humor of the show is a perfect fit for her.
Never Say Never Again (1983)
love the video game
James Bond 007 (Sean Connery) is suffering under the new M (Edward Fox) who keeps the double Os out of action and orders him to get rid of his 'free radicals'. SPECTRE Blofeld (Max von Sydow) and Maximillian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer) orders Fatima Blush to force Jack Petachi to steal nuclear weapons. Bond sees the suspicious meeting and is attacked. SPECTRE uses the weapons to extort NATO. Blush kills Petachi. The double Os are reactivated. Jack's sister Domino Petachi (Kim Basinger) is the possessive Maximillian Largo's girlfriend. Bond is joined by CIA Felix Leiter.
This Bond movie is release a few months after Roger Moore's Octopussy. Connery is still sharp and has the rough edges that Moore simply doesn't have. The story meanders a bit as most Bond movies sometimes do. This is a throwback to the older Bond that is different than the slick campy Moore Bond. It has its moments like fighting with sharks and a good car chase. I really love the video game with Largo. That is the best part of the movie. The last act never gets to a big extravagant action sequence. It has a few cute touches like the personal rocket pads but it's simply not big enough. This is a nice throwback to a Connery Bond.
Alice Adams (1935)
Katharine Hepburn good
The Adams family is struggling while father is ill. Alice Adams (Katharine Hepburn) is the young daughter and mother sees father as a failure. Older brother Walter is a gambler and an embarrassment for hanging out with blacks. Mother pushes Walter to escort Alice to a big dance given by Henrietta of the wealthy Lambs. Father's employer Mr. Lamb still pays him despite his lengthy illness. Alice meets wealthy Arthur Russell (Fred MacMurray) at the dance who likes her despite her lack of status. Mother pushes father to take the glue formula he developed for Mr. Lamb and start a risky new glue factory. Mr. Lamb is angered by father's leaving. Mother and Alice try to put on airs by throwing a lavish dinner for Russell but it goes all wrong.
Katharine Hepburn is a little wrong to be this insecure young thing. Nevertheless, she makes it work and is the best aspect of the movie. The parents' arguing keeps them from being too funny. Fred MacMurray is a bit stiff but Hepburn acts her heart out.
Strange Magic (2015)
Stop the karaoke
On the border between the Fairy Kingdom and the Dark Forest, Primrose flowers grow that are used to make love potions. The Bog King orders the flowers be cut and love be ended. Fairy princess Marianne is engaged to the vain Roland and she catches him kissing another fairy. She vows never to fall in love again. Her sister Dawn is a social butterfly who has many possibilities for the ball. Roland tricks Dawn's elf friend Sunny who is secretly in love with Dawn to go into the Dark Forest and get Sugar Plum Fairy who has been captured by the Bog King to make him a love potion.
There is a reasonable story buried here somewhere. Too many of the characters are annoyingly silly. I like Marianne but that's all. The most annoying thing is the karaoke. It's like 'Rock of Ages' except so much worst. RoA knows its campiness at some level. The saddest part of this is Lucas probably spent a fortune getting all the rights. The animation is top-rate. The jokes are bad. George Lucas really needs other people to write his stories because he's lost his strange magic.
The Expendables 3 (2014)
lots of stuff gets blown up
Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) leads Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) and Toll Road (Randy Couture) to rescue old-time Expendable Doc (Wesley Snipes) from foreign prison. Ross is shocked that old nemesis arms dealer Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) is still alive after assuming to have killed him. Ross ends the Expandables and recruits newbies to take down Stonebanks.
It starts with overwhelming explosive mayhem. The mistake in this one is to sideline the regular team to introduce a bunch of newbies. The middle section is missing the old team comradery. It's missing the light humor from Statham. Harrison Ford not understanding Statham is funny. Arnold's chopper is fine but it needs a punchline from somebody else to make fun of it. Antonio Banderas is nowhere as funny as the movie thinks he is. The body count in the final section gets ridiculous but I don't necessarily mind that. That's what everybody is known for. Mel Gibson is pretty good as a bad guy. This is not a particularly good movie but a lot of stuff gets blown up.
Diarios de motocicleta (2004)
a little bit funny but mostly meandering repetitiveness
In 1952, 23 year old medical student Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (Gael García Bernal) later known as Che Guevara decides to spend 4 months to ride around South America with 29 year old biochemist friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna) on an old beat-up motorcycle. There are girls, fights, breakdowns, sickness and most importantly Che's discovered connections to the people.
Gael García Bernal is a real charmer and a convincing ladies man. He is handled with reverence. The country is beautiful. The story meanders like their trip. The relationship is not that compelling and they have no deep revelations. They are mostly a bickering couple. It's a little funny but repetitive. It's like a travelogue without much tension. If not for Che, this would be a rather unremarkable road movie.
Un amour de jeunesse (2011)
not that dramatic realism
It's Paris 1999. Camille is 15 and Sullivan is 19 and they're in love. He's dropping out of school to go off to South America without her. After awhile, he stops writing to her and she falls into a suicidal depression. Years later, she's in love with her professor Lorenz. She has an intense relationship with him and then Sullivan returns into her life.
This is a lot of young love without limits. This is a very french movie. The young leads play their part like any random young lovers. This is semi-realism. I don't particularly like the guy. The fact is that he leaves her behind which puts into question how much he truly loves her. He's callous to her feelings and she's an overwrought young girl. Their original romance is not that dramatic since the movie is just waiting for them to break up. I'm just not particularly in love with their love and it's a passable romance.
Young Adam (2003)
confused storytelling muddies up tension
It's the 50s Scotland. Joe Taylor (Ewan McGregor) and Les Gault (Peter Mullan) find a dead body in the water. The cops come and start an investigation. Joe starts flirting and having sex with Les' wife Ella (Tilda Swinton). The movie has many flashbacks which reveals that Joe was sleeping with the dead woman Cathie Dimly (Emily Mortimer).
The confused way of storytelling is deliberate and I wonder if it would be better to be a little clearer. Even a little thing like the year would be helpful. They need to explain that Joe is staying with Gaults. I thought they were related until Joe starts flirting with Ella. It would also be helpful to directly identify the dead body as Cathie Dimly right away. The flashbacks are not obvious at first which just leads to more confusions. If the connections are made more clear, the tension wouldn't be so muddied. The story does take a very compelling turn and finishes with a good ending.
Catherine the Great (1996)
Catherine Zeta-Jones on the verge of stardom
It's 1745. Catherine (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is a 15 year old princess of a small German principality pushed into an arranged political marriage to Grand Duke Peter by Czarina Elizabeth. After 7 years, they still haven't consummate the marriage and Elizabeth arranges to get an heir at all costs. Catherine learns to play politics and maneuver the palace intrigue. She has a son but Peter continues to be abusive. She joins forces with Bestuzhev (Brian Blessed) to continue the war against the Prussians while Peter and Vorontzov (Ian Richardson) are pushing to end it. The Czarina wants victory but she dies. Peter is crowned Czar and ends the war. Catherine falls for military man Potemkin (Paul McGann). She seizes control with military and church support. She kills Peter and expands the empire by defeating the Ottoman Empire. She aims to end serfdom and reform society but is pushed back. When Pugachev (John Rhys-Davies) pleads for reforms, he is imprisoned. He escapes and eventually takes on the identity of the deceased Czar Peter leading a revolt.
This is slightly before Catherine Zeta-Jones attains her full stardom. She shows quite a lot of charisma and some sexuality for this TV movie. However there is limited style and a less-than-dramatic script. It's a historical costume drama of highlights of a great ruler. It tries to be a romance melodrama but the audience can never buy any of her relationships. She tries her hardest but this is not great romantic material. She and Paul McGann have limited chemistry. They mostly yell or overact in a romantic melodrama. There are other great actors in this and they do some good work especially Ian Richardson. The action is limited and staged amateurishly. The main bright spot is Zeta-Jones and it's interesting to see her lead this.