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Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
I've seen this movie hundreds of times. It only gets better.
I actually had the pleasure to see this film in the theater on opening night. Granted I was only 6 years old at the time, but it's an experience I'll never forget.
Something happened. It might have been the thunderous roar that came over the audience after the opening sequence. Maybe it was the cheering, the yelling, people going insane. Shook the whole damn place. Now I can't explain to you what actually happened, I wasn't born a poet, but it was just incredible. Something that I have yet to see happen again with any other movie. Something only a Rocky or Rambo picture could ever do. It made me a believer.
One of my favorite scenes is when Stallone is slapped by one of the Vietnamese pirate's. "He sold us out The bastard." Slap No reaction, just a look that could cut through steel. And that's what Rambo is all about. He is every man. Or what every man wants to be. Not simply a hero, but a winner.
"Like you said Colonel, he went home." This picture basically invented the action hero. Why do you think the 80's were filled with the blood and guts routine. Countless spin offs would try to recapture the glory. All but a few would fail. I've even seen movies with direct quote rip-offs that actually steal several direct lines from this movie.
Is it Casablanca? No. Is it Apocalypse Now? No. Is it supposed to be? No. Stallone already made his miracle picture in 1976. It's called Rocky and it's one for the ages. Rambo: Does only one thing. Simply put, kick ass.
White Heat (1949)
Go down in a Blaze of Glory, if you have too.
I tried to deny the hype. Convinced myself that "White Heat" wasn't really that good. I even went out of my way to avoid the film. I had nothing against the man, I just never saw any of Cagney's films. I made quite possibly the biggest mistake of my film buff career. I simply ignored this film as a defining picture.
That is until I caught a film called "Angels with Dirty Faces" on TCM late one night. Hey anything with Bogie it can't be bad, right? Than something surprised me, for the first time in my life I wasn't paying attention to Bogart. Considering how I regard Bogart as the greatest actor of all time, this isn't an easy task. The unbelievable happened, James Cagney stole the show. With that dangerous quality and infectious smile. The man has Character and knows how to use it.
In 1949 there was a change going on in Hollywood. An out with the old mentality, ushering in the Brando's and the Dean's. But WB and Cagney got together and said one more round. Slip the audience with "White Heat" as a convincer. And what they brought to the table was truly one of the greatest performances that I've ever seen. Cagney at his best and never a dull moment. And just when I think it can't get any better, they went and hit me with it. Quite possibly, the greatest ending ever.
When a man is put to the test. I mean really betrayed and at a loss. No east way out. No escape. Nothing is fair and everything is not what it seems. You either give up and go quietly or you simply just check out. What would you do? Go down in a blaze of fallen glory if you have too.
The hero that was a villain. The admirer that was a coward.
Beautiful cinematography and direction. Some people say the storyline is misguided and sometimes dull, but I say with good reason. They are building something here. We all know the story. The American lure. Even though it's history and could be no other way, I didn't see it coming. I never expected the actual assassination to be so forth carried out.
It was interesting to find that Pitt wasn't the focus of this film, instead we find Affleck deviling deep into the depths of desire and madness. The tension building with each disappointment or insult. How he did not win Oscar gold for this performance is beyond me. Instead it went to the methodic killer in "No Country for Old Men" and not the reluctant one in Jesse James.
Pitt gives one of his finest performances in one of his most challenging films. He didn't really need to say much. His presence captured all. Pitt may very well be remembered for this film, even with an ever-growing impressive category of work. The supporting cast also did a great job, with an outstanding showing by Sam Rockwell as the sometimes not so evident meeker Ford brother.
In short, a psychological thriller that never fails to conspire.
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
You can take your Oscar and shove it.
"The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers."
With that, let me ask you this? Does this film lack any of the requirements. Stone, Cruise, Kovic? Obivioulsy, Oliver Stone won the Oscar and deservingly so, as did Best David Brenner and Joe Hutshing for film editing. This leads us to Cruise and the man he became.
Cruise is brilliant in this film Period. He is at the pinnacle of his career and his realest performances to date. Later, with only "Eyes Wide Shut" being a close second. After "The Color of Money" Newman gave him pieces and Cruise put it all together. Ron Kovic, the man America almost forgot. I remember the first time I saw this movie. I must have been about 11 or 12. I was sitting home bored out of my mind on 4th of July. Flipping through the channels, I stopped on a Tom Cruise movie I've never seen. So I sat on the couch and watched the entire movie. And than something hit me. Something that I thought a movie could never do to a young man. I found myself in tears by the end.
My favorite scene, what I consider one fo the defining moments of the film, occurs when Kovic/Cruise is drinking at a bar and tries to dance with a young girl. But he can't because of his chair and ends up on the floor. Everyone laughing. Nobody really ever cares. Has got to be one of the saddest things in the world, life is.
Even if the fine gentlemen and women at the Academy refuse to say it, I will. Thank you Ron Kovic for sharing your story. Thank you Tom Cruise for making me believe.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Why don't we just not end the picture and say we did?
I paused it and I went to eat dinner.
After seeing the first half of this film, I began to praise it. With tremendous efforts from Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones, I thought I was settling into a memorable picture. Even the Oscar winning mommas boy, Javier Bardem, was giving everything he had. (Who is this guy again and why do I care?) The cinematography was beautiful. The drama was wonderful, building excitement with every minute. All was falling into place.
Then I turned it back on.
Big mistake. I should have thrown my Blu-ray player out the window. It should have froze up on me again. Then I might never know how terrible this film would become. How artsy and weak it truly was. But I'm not going to sit here and try to convince you that the film is horrible, it's not. Just unfinished and I want it to finish.
I'm not inclined to review films I don't like. I do not feel the need to knock someone's vision because I was disappointed with it. But with all the praise and Oscar nods this film received, I felt the need to say well hey this was lousy. At first I thought it was just a flash-forward sequence and was comfortable with it. Then time started to run out and I was beginning to get nervous. I kept waiting for it to happen, but it just never did.
This is not a great movie; this is a bad movie with great acting, which is almost becoming a clique in Hollywood these days. Terrible direction and no storyline. This movie could have been above average, but instead the directors got caught being too cute. Trying to make some sort of statement, which had no meaning to the picture itself? Instead of just ending the film, I was left with nothing. Don't get me wrong, questions for the sake of being mysterious is good. Questions that leave me saying what the #@*^ was that, is not good. It's really, really, really bad. In any event, I give it a 5 out of 10. For what they gave me, half a movie. And why do I want to see the so-called "bad guy" win? The answer is I don't!
Why don't we just not end the picture and say we did? I'm still waiting. Why don't I just not end this review and say I did?
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
I often asked myself this question with mixed responses. Did Brando make Streetcar great? Or was he just great in it?
Vivien Leigh is simply haunting and never not shocking. There is more going on there than just a performance. She appears out of herself and hovering ever so softly above. As for the rumored mental illnesses, I can only speculate. I do know for sure that her visualization of Blanche DuBois is the single best performance by an actress I've seen. Well that might not mean much, but I've seen a lot of movies.
Brando made On the Waterfront a classic, but Leigh made Streetcar unforgettable. I always felt like it was a continuation from her most timeless role as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. Like what would have happened to Scarlett, if she was allowed to grow old. Maybe I'm just crazy. But I think the billing says it all; Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden. I don't think you could dream up a finer cast. Brando might have been the sexiest thing alive, but it's obvious that Leigh made this film great with some memorable help from some movie icons.
Brando may have sent an Indian to receive his second Oscar, but Leigh used her second as a doorstop to her bathroom.
Dial M for Murder (1954)
What does Hitchcock know about women?
Hitchcock brings the successful play, Dial M for Murder by Frederick Knott, to life in a shocking new way. Adapted by use of the amazing 3D technology.
This movie is unique for Hitchcock in many ways. It is shot entirely in one room, yet there is never a moment of claustrophobia. As for many movies in the early 50's, it was shot in 3D. And you will at times notice scenes that play into that, but are done with the greatest of expertise. Also he chose not to change the play at all, but rather ride it out.
As the aging tennis pro or the jealous husband, Ray Milland is solid all the way through. And what can I say about Grace Kelly. Behind only Ingrid Bergman and Donna Reed, as the most beautiful and talented actresses of all time. She never fails to impress. She can be quite a darling and at the same time a spectacular bitch.
Probably my favorite Hitchcock film, since it is the first one I saw. I was introduced to him very early in life at the age of 7, by my wicked older sister. For years Psycho haunted me and Vertigo confused. But I do thank her for Notorious and Rear Window. Dial M for and North by Northwest.
Seems to me that Hitch was not the most attractive guy, yet like all of us he favored beautiful women. Especially blonde's. This leads me to the question of, what does a guy like Hitchcock know about women? Maybe simply, how to kill them.
The Color of Money (1986)
"It's something that you never think about, but it can make your day like electricity."
By far my favorite Newman movie. He's electric, returning as Fast Eddie. Cruise also shines in this film. Although Newman's acting was beyond approach in the "Hustler". The Color of Money is a completely honest sequel that is in some ways far better than the original.
Sometimes I watch this movie over and over again, trying to figure it out. Who is the hustler and who is really getting hustled. It's been years since I first saw it and I'm never be bored with it. It's not just about what's going on surface, which is obviously pool. There's so much more too it. Life lessons.
Some of the best lines you'll ever hear come out of this movie. I'll leave that for you to figure out. Cruise is one of my favorite actor's alive. I've never really seen a Cruise movie I didn't like. It really makes me sick what the media is doing to him lately. If you don't love this movie the first time you see it, just think about it. "Take your time, I'll give you about 5 seconds."
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Who are you, really?
Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like It's A Wonderful Life.
Does it take me back to that place in my heart, that makes me long for everything that once was great and it could be again? Does it remind me of my childhood, Christmas in my home? No. Maybe it's just simply what I always wanted from life and every man I want to be.
Everything about this film is well for lack of better words, perfect. No question to it any longer, the best performance by an actor I have ever seen. It's more than just beautiful, timeless or fair. All of Stewart is revealed. Everything coming together for Capra. Lionel Barrymore at his best, which seems to be his worst.
Sometimes I think there is a reason why somethings happen. And I'm pretty sure there is some magical reason why this film was made. I'm 27 years old and saw it for the first time Christmas Eve of this year. I've watched it 3 times since. The only movie to ever make me cry. I probably wouldn't have all the answers for you, if you asked me why. I'm still trying to figure Stewart out and just how beautiful was Reed.
What can I say? This movie is a life changing experience.
Makes me feel good to be alive. What a wonderful little world it is. And if I waited my entire life, it would not be a waste of time.
"I should never have switched from scotch to martinis."
The Petrified Forest convinced the world Bogart was a bad guy. And for years he shocked and awed the audience with roles fitting that image. The Maltese Falcon showed a new kind hero, one with an edge. Bogart, with all the right things to say and seemingly never losing his cool. Then came Casablanca and the ages. The man's man comes with a heart. Arguably, three of his best pictures. All showing a change in a man's character and the depths of what acting is supposed to be. Maybe it was Warner Bros all along. Maybe Bogart was simply Bogart.
What can I say about this film that hasn't been said in over 60 years since its release. Is it a great film? Yes. Is it a showcase for Bogart? If not, than what else. Was Bogart the coolest guy to ever live? Absolutely. Casablanca is a different kind of love story, more likely to infect rather than effect.
She almost makes me believe it every time. When she says, "You're very kind." Bergman was more than just beautiful. And with Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorre, cinema magic was created. But to me, Bogart was the greatest actor of all time. It's hard for me to believe he died almost 50 years ago. Every time I watch his films, it's like they were made yesterday. And that's why he is timeless. I'm still trying to figure him out.
"I should never have switched from scotch to martinis." Is said to be Bogart's last words. A legend, indeed.