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My Dinner with Andre (1981)
Music to My Ears.
My Dinner With Andre is a movie anybody in the world could have made. Just place a camera in a spot and turn it on. Woop-dee-doo! Instead of the movie actually being a pleasure to watch, it is just two acquaintances eating dinner together and having a conversation. Less than ten minutes take place outside of the restaurant and less than fifteen minutes take place with the men out of their table. Very simplistic films like this have potential to fall hard on their faces and totally suck. In order for simplistic movies like these to succeed, the dialogue needs to be at an extra high calibre. My Dinner With Andre wasn't even close to sucking.
My Dinner With Andre is partially a true story. Before dinner, Wallace Shawn gives a voice-over of who he is and what he says is all true. He is invited by Andre Gregory to have dinner with him. Andre Gregory plays himself. I think that the only false things are some of the stories they tell. Also, their conversation must've been written and memorized. They couldn't just wing it. Good thing they wrote it and took the time to put lots of thought into a meaningful, provocative conversation.
Shawn and Gregory have dinner at a fancy New York restaurant and talk about a variety of topics. Some of what they talk about can be a bit boring, but not all of it is. Gregory returns from a trip and shares his experience with Shawn and tells him how to live life to the full. They talk about how downhill the world has come and people becoming pseudo-robots. So much of what they talk about is so exciting and intellectual. All of what they say results in automatic imagery: the audience gets a clear image in their heads of what they are talking about. So this movie can also trigger imagination as well as gaining an insight about the world we live in and how to enjoy life.
My Dinner With Andre doesn't have action, or car-chases, or profanity, or sex, just two men have a conversation at a nice restaurant.
Stand by Me (1986)
Quite Possibly The Best Coming-of Age Movie Ever Made.
Stand By Me is based on a novella by horror author, Stephen King. Although King is best- known for writing horror novel and short stories, he also has a knack for writing heartfelt dramatic pieces of literature. Enter Stand By Me. At the time, it was the best adaptation of a dramatic work of King and arguably still is. Director Rob Reiner brings a small story into a small-length film with large results.
Richard Dreyfuss briefly stars as writer Gordie Lachance who writes a story about the major turning point of his life in the summer of 1959. He narrates the movie from then on. We get to meet and know him and his three best friends very well. Earlier that year, young Gordie's (Will Wheaton) older brother (John Cusack) died in a car accident and his parents have been neglecting him. Gordie's best friend Chris Chambers' (River Phoenix) entire family are low-lives and Chris' self esteem is low because of how often he is associated with them. Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman) is the craziest of the gang who greatly admires his World War II father, despite him almost burning his ear off and being confined to a mental institution. Vern Tessio (Jerry O'Connell) is overweight and scared of everything, making his an easy target for bullying, especially by his older hoodlum brother Billy (Casey Siemazko).
One day, Vern is rummaging for his jar of pennies and overhears Billy and Billy's friend Charlie talking about the whereabouts of sought-after dead body, Ray Brower. Both are scared to tell the authorities because they happened to find the corpse when they dumped a car they stole. Vern tells his three friends and they begin a two-day trek to find the body in hopes of becoming heroes in their town's eyes. Their journey is both hilarious and heartfelt, where the boys discover exactly who they are and create memories that last forever. When they find out Billy and Charlie told their secret to the rest of the members of their gang, the leader, Ace Merrill (Kiefer Sutherland) is determined to find the body too, and Gordie and his friends must use all the loyalty they have to survive.
Although a drama, Stand By Me consists of hilarious scenes and moments of dialogue that will make you laugh out loud. There is also excitement created as the boys go along the train tracks and almost become mincemeat. But really, it is the reliability and chemistry that makes Stand By Me such an achievement. For instance, Gordie has a knack for storytelling and Chris persuades him to pursue it. At first, Gordie is strongly against it but becomes a writer himself as an adult. The boys think their small town of just over 1000 people is plenty, but their arrival back makes them realize how much more there is in the world.
An Emotionally Strong Movie I Can Never, Ever Forget.
Those that have not yet seen Room have not seen it because it is an independent film. Indies are usually hard to come by and are often expensive. Having seen that this was one of the highest rated films of 2015, I felt obliged to give it a watch. I was totally overwhelmed by how much of a psychological impact it had on me. Sometimes, psychological impacts are bad. Room is not one of them.
Room focuses on two characters: Ma/Joy (Brie Larson) and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Very, very rarely are the two main characters of a film as good as Larson and Tremblay. One of the few movies where the main girl and the main guy are this good is Silence of the Lambs. Room is at that level.
After receiving her Golden Globe, Brie Larson is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress--a role which she WILL win for. Larson is one of those familiar faces seen in the backdrop of movies such as Trainwreck, but Room finally exposes her acting ability and lets her shine as she deserves.
The one that really steals the show is young Jacob Tremblay. He is a cute little Canadian kid who gives the performance of a lifetime. I was actually rooting for the kid to win or at least be nominated for an Oscar. Being nominated for an Oscar is a victory in itself. Say Tremblay did win, imagine how angry other people would be if a prepubescent beat them. When its good, its good. Tatum O'Neal was 10 when she won. Justin Henry was Tremblay's age when he was nominated for Kramer vs Kramer.
Room is a very depressing movie full of redemption that will make you cry sadness one minute then tears of joy the next. When Brie Larson's character was in her late teens, she helps a man find his dog. Unbeknownst to her, she falls prey to a kidnapper and is placed in a 10x10 foot shed and kept there for almost 10 years. She has tried multiple times to escape, but is never successful. She is raped and eventually gives birth to a baby boy called Jack. Jack has never been outside of the confinement and thinks that is all there is in the world. Joy loves her son and shields him from the horrors of the reality. Jack is a happy- go-lucky imaginative young man.
A few days after Jack turns 5, Joy tells him the realities and practices an escape plan. When Jack ventures out, he is completely overwhelmed. When they both get out, the adjustments to life outside seem almost impossible. Jack has never seen outside the Room and Joy's reconciliation with her family after years in captivity seems almost impossible.
Room is based on a book based on a true story of a Austrian father who kept his daughter locked in a basement dungeon for over 20 years. But the movie touches base with so much more. The very idea of kidnapping is depressing. But it also shows the importance of family. Joy and Jack love each other more than anything, and we feel it. Joan Allen and William H Macy play her parents, and we feel when they reunite. But perhaps the most important thing Room shows is how precious life is and how much there is in the world. Jack was a happy boy, living in a tiny space. His journey outside is the biggest treat of his life. And of course, the acting by all is superb.
Room really hits home. It is one of the very best, emotionally-charged movies I have ever beard witness to. One of the 100 best movies of my life.
Ignore the Bad Reviews.
Trainwreck is a very funny romantic comedy that caught a bad rap from non-hardcore movie-buffs. My 10-star rating is hope for the 6.4 rating to increase. (If the rating was higher, I'd give it a 9)
Before watching this, the only thing I knew Amy Schumer from was the Roast of Charlie Sheen. Her joke to Steve-O was a little harsh, but it's a roast. Since I was very unfamiliar with her, I had no idea what to expect from this. Would it be a dumb, brainless movie or a hilarious heartfelt film? The latter.
I think most people that didn't like this were surprised that there were no real "belly" laughs and the laughs did not pull the movie, it was just a side-effect. Well, for a romantic comedy to be realistic and work well, the laughs can't be in the centre leading the movie because the realism would be diminished and the seriousness and romance would't work as well. Instead, we get genuine humour that fits with the scene and makes us laugh to the point were it is "real" laughter. Maybe we are not howling, but what we get is enough.
Amy Schumer plays Amy. No, she does not play herself; just a character with the same name. Her playboy father (Colin Quinn) affects her judgement of relationships which leads her to develop a phobia for serious commitment in relationships. She mostly goes on enough dates with a guy until they have sex and she dumps them as they put their clothes back on. There's lots of sexual humour in the early part of the film. This is a little immature, but it works to the point where they are actually funny.
Her latest boyfriend is exercise nut, Steven, played to the full by John Cena. John Cena is a polarizing pro-wrestler who is hated by some for being too kiddie and too corny. John Cena abandons his kid character and develops a sexual, profane character that will catch his haters off guard. Him playing a purely adult-oriented role is not the reason why he is awesome. yeah it is a shock, but he was legitimately good. This will mark the beginning of a new John Cena that everybody will like again.
Despite Amy being pretty young, her immature antics are catching up to her. She is shocked when Steven breaks up with her after he discovers her infidelity. Plus there are family problems with her sister (Brie Larson) maturing faster than her with her own family and her father is placed in assisted living after being diagnosed with MS. Everything around Amy is moving so fast.
Amy is a journalist, and matters are made worse when she is assigned to do a story on sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader) because she is the only one in her job that hates sports. Conners is charming and he is not willing to give up on Amy that easily, but she is still very nervous and confused. It eventually, near, the end, becomes a standard rom-com, but it is still a good try.
Trainwreck reminds me of a Woody Allen movie: the characters are nervously romantic and sexually frustrated. The character of Amy is very funny and so deep. In fact, everybody in this movie is so well-written and likable. The subplot with sports is also a lot of fun because Amy's negative view of sports (which reminds me of me) clashes with others' in very smart ways. LeBron James is also in this playing himself, which is cool to see.
Everything in this movie works. The serious portion is awesome, the comedy is funny, the subplots are great and the characters are so fine.
My rating: 8.5/10. A-.
Overall, A Very Solid Film.
It seems to me that 1989 was the year of racial equality. Check out all the hit movies that came out that year: Glory, Driving Miss Daisy, and Do The Right Thing. Even Black Rain, Lethal Weapon 2, Henry V and Casualties of War dealt with racial issues in some form or another. But perhaps it was Glory that paved the way for more movies of its kind for years to come.
Glory stars Matthew Broderick in a 100% serious role as real life Robert Gould Shaw. I had my doubts with Broderick playing the protagonist in such a serious film and, well, I was satisfied. Usually when people break typecast roles, their anomaly usually automatically comes out great. With Matthew Broderick, this did not apply. I didn't think he was bad, just satisfactory. It wasn't that Ferris Bueller was stuck in my head or anything like that. For one thing, Broderick constantly switches from an Irish accent to a regular American accent. What the hell? But other than that, he wasn't captivating or dominant and there was a medium level conviction. If somebody else played the role of Shaw, I likely would have placed Glory higher on my Best of 1989 list.
So Matthew Broderick is not A-1 in this, but that's fine. There are many other redeeming qualities. Glory takes place during the Civil War and is about Shaw who quickly moves up the ranks as a soldier and is assigned to train a pure-black army of slaves in battle. Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman are part of his squad and they lead a cast of equally talented lesser-knowns. This was Denzel's first Oscar win and it still remains one of his best performances. He steals every shot where he appears on screen.
Probably the biggest flack given to this was that it is not from the point of view from one of the black people. This was the first all-black American army troop and a white man is the protagonist. Yes, Shaw does not know what it was like to be a slave in those times, but having Shaw as the main character is good because he is so unused to the cruelty inflicted on his men. Shaw is the character that changes the most, because he first thinks that the men are being mistreated for valid reasons, when it is really exploitation. The regular side of the coin really gets a chance to see how he and his people are and how he must change. He is scared about making the change, but knows it is the right thing to do.
Every good war movie needs to have great action, and that is exactly what Glory delivers, all the way through to its shocking ending. What I also liked was how much overall chemistry there was and how much the plot moved forward. The movie actually starts off a bit slow, but it keeps a constant pace of getting better and more rich. Maybe I will think more of this the next time I watch it.
Casualties of War (1989)
Goes Way Beneath The Surface of Animals In War.
Casualties of War will probably go down as the most underrated war movie ever. Maybe it isn't as good as Saving Private Ryan or Full Metal Jacket, but Casualties of War really isn't far behind it. What makes this hated by some it its subject matter, but in some cases you have to look past what is happening and apply the general circumstances to other things that may happen in other places. Do this with Casualties of War, and you see exactly why it is so good.
Michael J Fox abandons his comedic charm as Private Ericsson, a newcomer in the Vietnam War. Some people say that Fox was wrongfully cast and ones that did not see this were unsure of how he could pull off such a serious role. He may not be funny, but he is still like a little like he was in Family Ties. The role of Ericsson needed to be a young underdog, so casting Michael J Fox was good.
As a newcomer to war, Ericsson quickly sees how scary battles can be. Luckily, his loyal platoon has his back 100%. The leader of the platoon is the insane Sgt. Meserve, played disturbingly well by Sean Penn. Most war movies focus on how war changes people for the worse, ultimately turning them into sadistic killing machines. Meserve and some other members of the platoon personify the different levels of this, ranging from scared to animalistic.
Just as Ericsson begins to question why he is there, the platoon kidnap the most beautiful woman in a Vietnamese village and aspire to use her as their sex slave. Ericsson and Diaz (John Leguizamo) want no part of it, but Ericsson is the only one willing to stand up to his men. The rape is briefly shown, but all the implications and extreme fear in the girl makes the movie disturbing enough. Ericsson is bullied for his refusal and he eventually tries to help her escape. It eventually leads to her extremely brutal death that is heartbreaking. Ericsson is haunted by the events and is determined to prosecute the men that protected him but murdered her.
Yes, the movie deals with a soldier trying to stop rape. I saw it as a young man who was faced with a dilemma to stay loyal to the men that protect him and his own country, yet preventing such barbaric acts. It is about a man who must go against the crowd for his own principles. The torn loyalty could be applied to many different real-life situations, not just war.
The Butterfly Effect (2004)
The Butterfly Effect is a home-run scored in accordance with how smart and compelling a movie can really be. Sometimes with a great script and great concept, lousy actors can really screw it all up. Having Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart in the leads really caught everybody off guard. It showed that they can do more than just comedies.
In the best performance of his career, Ashton Kutcher gives the very well-created character of Evan. As a boy and teenager, Evan suffered from blackouts that would erase his memory from certain events. Doctors advise him to keep a journal as a way to deal with his growing disability. Throughout his childhood, he's always had a thing for Kayleigh (played by Amy Smart). Kayleigh grew up in her abusive father and violent younger brother. She had the opportunity to live with her mother, but she chose to live with her father to be close with Evan. This first chunk of the movie explores Evan's childhood and his relationships with those around him. Although dark and sometimes depressing, the story and characters are so well done that your eyes are glued to the screen. Each blackout Evan gets keeps the viewer wondering what he missed.
Eventually, Evan moves away. From then on, he gets no more blackouts and he is a successful college student studying psychology. When he stumbles upon his old journals, old wounds upon up and blackouts start happening again. In a turn of events, Evan discovers that by reading his journals, his memory can skip back to that time where he was on autopilot and change things-- ultimately time-traveling. Now the plot really takes off and the characters we are growing to care about will be transformed in unimaginable ways. As Evan changes the past, good and bad arise. Evan is a very caring man, so he tries to change the past for everyone around him.
What really makes this so awesome is its unpredictability. The viewer has absolutely no idea how Evan will change the past and how different the present will be. I was kept on the edge of my seat the whole time. Yes there is great acting and great filmmaking, but it is the character and plot development that really make this a huge treat.
Terms of Endearment (1983)
The Worst Movie To Ever Win The Majors Oscars.
Crash, The English Patient, and Dances With Wolves are generally regarded as some of the worst movies to win the Oscar for Best Picture. At least those movies were good. The Right Stuff, Scarface, Return of the Jedi, and The Outsiders were so much better than this! I tried watching Terms of Endearment twice and I could barely handle it. My hopes were not high when I watched this. I didn't even know how many awards it won until recent. I didn't even make it past the first hour the first time and felt like I should've gotten a medal for sitting through the full 131 minutes the second time.
Terms of Endearment uncovers three decades (which the movie certainly doesn't show well) of a mother and daughter, played by MacLaine and Winger. Each want romance and happiness. Winger marries Jeff Daniels who becomes a college professor and they have some kids together. MacLaine falls for goofy astronaut played by Nicholson. There's really nothing more to it. A movie that documents these many years of somebodies' lives should give us a general sense of who these people are. What do they do? What are their personalities? What do they do in their spare time? What are their ambitions? And none of these general questions are ever answered for any of the characters! Well, I shouldn't say "ever." The only things I find out about any of the characters are that Winger and Daniels like to cheat. She cheats with John Lithgow yet is furious when she find out her husband is trying to get out of the same predicament. Karma's a bitch!
If found it really shocking how underdeveloped the whole movie was and I took a great amount of pity on the writers who created completely blank and careless characters with no plot at all. Why this movie won so many major awards is beyond me.
The Right Stuff (1983)
Not Just a Clever Name.
The Right Stuff. The name alone will make anyone want to go see this. It uses enough generic pronouns and adjectives to sucker the viewer into watching this. I bet that many people had no idea it was about aviation and space travel. Is it bad to have an unclear title? Of course not. As long as it sounds good and fits in with the story. The Right Stuff fits so well with the story because that is what it is about and what it has.
The Right Stuff is generally said to be the second best film of the 1980s only behind Raging Bull. I disagree, only because there were other movies that I thought were better. But I do think that The Right Stuff is one of the true great American films that achieves the status of excellence.
The Right Stuff follows a group of pilots over a course of several years and their journeys as astronauts. Right off the bat, the filming of the flying is done to a high calibre. We get a first- person look during some of the missions that's intense and beautiful. This stuff happens in many different parts of the movie that can make any movie ignoramus like those particular scenes.
Yes the flying sequences are first-rate, it is the character development that really makes this stand above other movies of its kind. We get to know and like some of the pilots. The first one we get to know is Chuck Yeager (Shepard) who lives a peaceful life and perseveres to break the sound barrier. He lacks a college degree, so he is not chosen to be an astronaut like some other pilots he knows. Seven pilots are chosen to compete with Russia's space program and they and their families are written very well. Alan Shepard and Gordon Cooper (Glenn, Quaid) are my favourite characters though. All their wives don't want them to go out on suicide-missions and become widows, but the men love what they do. The media attracts them, making them international superstars who believe they have " the right stuff". The men eat it up and think they are super-humans. As the movie goes on, their egos get to them and there are malfunctions with the rockets. These serve as symbols reflecting their personalities. Eventually, they get better and everything becomes a success. Hallelujah!
The Right Stuff is an avant-garde, patriotic film. So cheesy how everything is overcome and they defend the honour of one's country. But I can't really say that's a bad thing. The only real flaw I can give this would be that at 193 minutes, it is dragged out. I know that it wanted to reflect the years the actual people spent and keep anticipation, but it just got a little old after a while. That is the only reason I'm giving it 9/10.
Patch Adams (1998)
UnFunny, Empty, and Blah. But Thank God For Robin Williams.
I saw Patch Adams long ago. Only once so long ago I don't even remember it. I felt like watching it on Netflix and I can see why I would forget it. I don't regret seeing it, but it is not good. I, for one, wouldn't call it "bad." But I can see why others would.
Patch Adams is based on the true story of a zany doctor of the same name who broke all the rules and used humour to treat his patients. Aside from loving Robin Williams, this movie has a great premise. When people are terminally ill will little hope for survival, that's depressing. Luckily, Patch Adams comes in and makes the death less painful. Maybe I used poor word choice, but you get the idea.
The movie opens up with Williams in a mental institution and it is unclear why he is there because he is seemingly normal. After seeing that he has a knack for making fellow patients happy, he enrols in medical school. Patch just wants to help people, only people in their third year and above can actually do the hands-on practise. So Patch breaks all the rules and becomes a clown for the hospital patients to enjoy. When he is being funny for this sick cancer children, they are enchanted by something glorious entering their lives. I personally didn't find it funny, but the whole concept was great.
The hospital likes him, but the school doesn't as he is constantly disobeying procedures. As he uses his comedy more often, the realism tends to slip. Hospitals are full of grouchy and mentally ill people. Sometimes, humour doesn't work with certain people. I know that if Patch were trying to use his goofy comedy on me that I wouldn't like it. That's the problem with this: Patch uses too much goofy kiddie humour.
He builds a free hospital in the wilderness and it is not shown very well. He eventually sees that his humour is not 100% useful, but people love him anyway. Good thing some sense was knocked into him, but it was too late!
As I said, the movie has a good concept but is not executed well. I wasn't underwhelmed, I really do think that this movie was simply an empty bore. Plus, the movie isn't funny which is a shocker. The only thing remotely funny was when Patch entertains the children. He isn't an out of control wild man and that's why he isn't funny, Robin Williams was just given a blah script. And that brings me to the star of the film: the late great Robin Williams. He does a great job of acting. He shows a wide range of emotions and the audience gets to know that character well. That is the only thing good in the movie that is well executed.
I liked it and I didn't like it.