Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
An Unusual Review
If I ever have the pleasure of meeting Tom Hanks I probably owe him an apology. Often times a movie will be released and receives so much hype from critics and movie goers that if I don't see it within the first 48 hours of its release I won't see it for quite some time. I'm not sure there is any logical explanation for this. Perhaps I get tired of people quoting and/or talking about the movie. Perhaps I fear that the hype surrounding the movie will only spell disappointment for me as I sit in the theater. For this reason I didn't see Rain Man for at least 10 years after it was released in the theaters. For this reason I will probably never see any of the Austin Powers movies.
This has happened to me twice with Tom Hanks and I now own 9 of his movies. I didn't see Forrest Gump for the first time until a year or two ago. The second was The Da Vinci Code which I just finished watching for the first time. Now, this movie is still pretty recent and is actually still considered a new release on DVD. This is one movie I should have seen in the theater for the set pieces alone! I guess this is as good a time as any to mention that I have never read the book and probably never will (sorry Dan Brown). I don't read fiction, which is not to say I don't read. I know that much of the criticism this movie has received is based on how closely it follows the novel.
This is an argument that will never end and it's one I don't quite understand. We're talking about two completely different mediums that satisfy and stimulate two completely different parts of our brains. People that whine and complain about how much better a book was than the movie that followed are totally unrealistic. Books have an unlimited amount of time (pages) to discuss the smallest of details. The same people that bemoan movies for not being true to the book from which they were adapted would no more enjoy sitting in a movie theater for 4 hours watching the sincere version of the story that they were hoping to see.
All that being said, I think The Da Vinci Code is a superb movie. If you've read the book and seen the movie yet feel the movie was "lacking" ask yourself this. If you'd never read the book, how would you feel about the movie? How can you not enjoy this movie. I suppose that is the challenge a director like Ron Howard and an actor like Tom Hanks face when making a movie from a book that was so widely read as The Da Vinci Code.
There really isn't enough room here to discuss plot points and most of you reading this probably already know the gist anyway. Just know that this is a fantastic thriller. I'm not terribly religious so I had no personal objections to the content. The twists and turns keep you guessing until the very end as quality movies of this kind should.
As I said the set pieces are gorgeous. The directing is top notch (the ever reliable Ron Howard rarely disappoints) and the acting is everything you'd hope for and expect from one of our greatest actors, Tom Hanks. I firmly agree with those who compare Hanks to Jimmy Stewart as today's version of the "every day hero". Audrey Tautao stands toe to toe with Hanks in the role of Agent Sophie Neveu.
This movie is one that I am sure to view several times over the course of the next month trying to soak up all the clues and details that I missed during the first viewing. I'd also read several reviews that stated the movie was too confusing to follow. Not so at all. I had no problems following the movie or understanding what was going on. That being said, there is a lot to take in.
I think what confuses me the most about those who are fans of cinema yet did not like this movie is that The Da Vinci Code is a movie fan's movie. It's a thrill ride from start to finish that relies very little on special effects and when they are used they are used very tastefully to help further the advancement of the plot.
If you're expecting to be satisfied in the same way you were when you read The Da Vinci Code my advice is to wait for Dan Brown's next novel. If you are in the mood to enjoy a thrilling movie that excites on every level a movie should than The Da Vinci Code is sure to please.
American History X (1998)
Has Anything You've Done Made Your Life Better?
Asks Bob Sweeney, a former high school teacher of our main character, Derek Vinyard.
Derek is a white male who was brought up in a white middle class family and neighborhood. Derek is also the local poster boy for the skinhead white supremacists. Derek is evil personified.
At the start of our story we learn that Derek has been convicted of two brutal murders. He has just been released from prison after serving a little more than three years. All of Derek's disciples, including his younger brother, Danny, have been waiting for this day to come. They've been waiting for the return of their hero.
Derek has other plans, though. Three years and one prison rape gave Derek enough time and reason to rethink everything he once believed to be true. With the help of his former high school teacher turned mentor, Derek now fully understands the emptiness of his former beliefs. Derek simply wants a second chance at life, but it won't be that easy. Danny worships Derek and is stunned at his change in attitude. Not only will Derek have to remove himself from the life he once lead, he will now also have to remove his brother Danny. A task that proves to be much more difficult than it sounds.
Any movie covering the topic of racism is typically difficult to digest, especially when its portrayal is as honest as American History X. As the viewer we get to see it all from the brutal hate crime that landed Derek in jail to the irrational beliefs that fueled his rage. It's not an easy movie to sit through, but well worth it.
I have often felt that American History X could be used in high school to educate students about racism. It would take an incredibly talented instructor to tackle the subject using this movie as a tool because many people that harbor racist beliefs depicted in X may view Derek as a hero for all the wrong reasons. I say this because I have personally talked to people who "like" this movie for all the wrong reasons.
X does an excellent job of portraying the pent up anger and frustration of white middle class males that typically leads to these sort of beliefs. Even better, X shows that racism usually starts in the home. Derek adopted his beliefs from his father and were, in his mind, only justified when his father (a fireman) was killed in an all black neighborhood while attempting to do his job.
X brings up many social arguments including border control laws and the demographics of prison populations. The movie doesn't attempt to address those issues from a solution standpoint, rather it suggests that if we continue to use examples of societies problems such as these to justify our hate and unhappiness than we are only that much further from becoming happy.
The movie is an honest look at an ugly part of our society. I think the movie does a superb job of portraying the story and issues without preaching to the viewer. That being said, it's impossible for an educated viewer not to see the flaws in the views that lead to Derek's hate crime.
I'd recommend this movie to anyone and everyone with the caveat that at times it can be uncomfortable to watch. I'd also add that if you are a fan of Edward Norton his performance was Oscar worthy.
Rocky Balboa (2006)
Growing Old Gracefully
I must say that it would appear that enough time has passed between Rocky Balboa and the last installment, Rocky V, that perhaps it afforded Stallone the opportunity to get in touch with what the original movie was really about.
He's written a fantastic movie.
In doing so he has also introduced us to a different side of the character he plays so well. Rocky was always a family man and always valued the truly important things in life. That theme was always obvious throughout the series. In Rocky Balboa Stallone plays the character exactly as I had hoped he would when I walked into the theater. Rocky is a man who was never terribly bright and often came off looking like a dufus. In Rocky Balboa we see a man who has been educated by life. He tries to keep things simple and understands that family and friends are the most important things in life. We also see that Rocky is a respected and truly adored man in his community.
Aside from the first Rocky, this was probably the most sentimental to watch. This being the sixth installment in the series, the character Rocky Balboa is truly a part of many people's lives who grew up when I did (I'm 32).
I know that this review hasn't said much about the movie itself. If you've seen the trailers you should have a good understanding of what to expect from the movie. It was a real treat for me to watch Stallone play the character that many of us have grown up with since we were kids. He did not disappoint or disrespect the legacy of the original movie. I've read several reviews that have stated that Rocky Balboa makes up for the mess of Rocky V. I would agree, and then some.
Congratulations and thank you, Sly.
Cop Land (1997)
Sly Gets Serious (About Acting)
For years Stallone's acting ability was criticized and most people felt he wasn't capable of much more than a, "Yo! Adrian," every 5 years or so. Critics weren't entirely wrong. Movies like Cobra, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Judge Dredd didn't offer much evidence of the actor trying to challenge himself.
Cop Land is an entirely different ball game. Perhaps you are or become the people that you surround yourself with. If so, then working with De Niro and Keitel in Cop Land certainly raised Stallone's acting standards. He is phenomenal in this movie as the complacent and simple Sheriff Freddy Heflin who has clearly been kicked in the ass by life. Stallone's body often does much of the acting in his movies, but for Cop Land he gained considerable weight for the role and let his acting take the spot light. Guess what? The boy can act! Stallone's A+ performance aside I am not sure why this movie didn't attract more attention than it did. It's loaded from top to bottom with talented actors in both lead and supporting roles. The story is a somewhat familiar one (police corruption), but because of the top notch performances it seems fresh.
It's a shame that this movie wasn't praised more by the critics than it was because Stallone certainly deserved it. If you're a fan of Sly's (be honest, who isn't?) do yourself a favor and watch Cop Land. It's a treat to see Sly's acting talents when most of us assumed we'd seen all he could offer.
10 to Midnight (1983)
There's No Reason I Should Love This Movie.....
But I do. For all practical purposes this is a bad movie. The best way that I can describe the overall tone is a cross between an early episode of the the TV show Hunter and one of the original Friday The 13th movies. It's a slasher flick with a 70's style rogue cop thrown in the mix.
The acting is fairly poor. Bronson plays the same type of character he played in most of his popular movies. There are some familiar faces from the era (Robert F. Lyons and Geoffrey Lewis). Andrew Stevens does a pretty good job playing Bronson's partner. Gene Davis is somewhat difficult to watch as the killer, Warren Stacy. Half the time it sounds as though he is reading his lines from a cue card.
The plot is a simple enough story about a deranged killer who runs through the city naked killing women who have scorned his advances in the past. Bronson plays Leo Kessler, a cop ready to do anything, legal or not, to bring Stacy in.
There really isn't much more to say about this movie. I've said it in several other reviews on this site and I will say it again. A movies primary function is to entertain. That being said I am always entertained when watching this movie. I tend to rate movies differently than other people do. Not every movie is an Oscar contender. Hell, most movies aren't. As much as I enjoy viewing masters like De Niro and Scorsese at work I thoroughly enjoy watching "B" grade trash like this (albeit for totally different reasons). What can I say? Sometimes I enjoy a big fat juicy steak grilled to perfection while other times I enjoy a McDonald's hamburger. 10 To Midnight satisfies the later desire.
Pretty Typical, But Very Good
If I recall, this was one of the first movies that enjoyed more success when it was released on video than it did during its original theatrical release. It came out in 1987 so VCR's were still a relatively new fixture in most people's homes.
That being said, the movie offers nothing terribly original. At its core Stakeout is a buddy cop movie. And guess what? The two cops in question (Dreyfuss and Estevez) are polar opposites. Original, right? Where Stakeout succeeds and other formulaic movies fail is that it is fun to watch. Isn't that really what we all hope for when we watch a movie? We want to be entertained. Stakeout doesn't break any new ground, but Dreyfuss and Estevez work very well together. There are some great one liners and although the buddy cop thing has been done to death, the plot is fairly original.
The only true downfall of Stakeout is the score which DEFINITELY dates the movie. There are some good songs from the time, but the background music is horrendous. Not enough to ruin the movie, though.
Have you ever been wandering through the video store having a difficult time finding something that catches your eye? Maybe the movies that you came for were out or maybe you're just not impressed with any of the new releases. You come across a movie that you sort of remember, but you can't remember too much. Maybe it has an actor you recognize. You take a chance on the movie and it turns out to be the surprisingly best rental you've made in quite a while. That's Stakeout.
Primal Fear (1996)
Norton's Explosive Debut
I understand that we all have different tastes when it comes to movies and that we all see greatness in a variety of ways. I will be the first to admit that I was totally lost when watching the Matrix and possess absolutely no desire to sit through the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. I am not trying to take anything away from those movies because I also understand that a large percent of the movie viewing population see the Matrix and LOTR trilogies as masterpieces.
That being said, it is beyond me why Primal Fear never made it to more people's "best" or "greatest" lists. It has received positive ratings on this website, but overall the movie enjoyed very quiet success. This movie is spectacular from start to finish. The ending is a doozy and Edward Norton's performance is Oscar worthy. Not only did his performance blind side me (who the hell is this guy?), but it was also a sign of great things to come from Edward Norton. He is one of our greatest actors.
The plot, an altar boy is accused of murdering a priest who as it turns out was molesting him, seems even more relevant 10 years later than it did in 1996. That is the basic plot, but there are so many subplots and side stories about political corruption and cover ups that make for one incredibly satisfying story.
The performances are top notch all the way down the cast. Richard Gere, Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Steven Bauer and even Terry O' Quinn turn in stellar performances. The movie takes place in Chicago and I believe it perfectly captures what I consider to be the Chicago mood or attitude (I live in a western suburb of Chicago).
Of course the movie is about more than an altar boy who may or may not have committed murder and political corruption. The movie's central character, Martin Vail (Gere), is a defense attorney who because of his high profile cases enjoys a minor celebrity status. His name is always in the newspapers and his face is always on the TV news. He can't get enough of this attention either. Martin is a great defense attorney, but he's definitely too arrogant for his own good. When a reporter asks, "When do you realize you have them? When do you realize you've won?" Vail responds without giving it much thought, "The minute I accept the case."
I saw this movie for the first time when it was released in the theaters. A lot of movies promise a "truly shocking ending" and that "THIS movie will keep you guessing until the very end." The trailers for Primal Fear said none of that. Sitting in the theater there was no expectation on my part for a twist ending. Perhaps that is why during its initial viewing it was more shocking to me than even the twist in The Sixth Sense. With The Sixth Sense you KNEW there was something to figure so for two hours that is exactly what you did. You tried to figure it out. Primal Fear's ending totally sucker punched me. The twist isn't revealed until the final minute or two of the movie, so up until the minute it is revealed the viewer honestly trusts everything they have just seen. There are no hints that what you are being told may not be true. It's a masterpiece. Hitchcock would have loved it and it's Edward Norton's performance that really makes it work.
All the President's Men (1976)
A History Lesson
I was born in 1974, so the events depicted in All The President's Men had just concluded. By the time I was old enough and interested enough to start asking, "What's Watergate," more than a decade had passed.
I can distinctly remember two events that throughout my schooling my fellow classmates and I were dying to learn more about, yet teachers were far too reluctant, to say the least, to consider discussing. The Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.
When asked teachers would often cite a lack of time as the reason why we couldn't discuss these topics. In retrospect my guess is that even 10-15 years after these events had concluded teachers, at least those teaching junior high and high school, were still uncertain as to how to approach these two subjects. They undoubtedly had an opinion and perhaps opinions were still so strong on both issues that administrators and those in charge of curriculum decided a hands off approach was best. For that my fellow students and I made it through high school graduation learning very little about a fascinating very recent slice of American history.
It wasn't until 1998 that I learned about a movie about the Watergate scandal called All The President's Men. Surprising to say the least since I am such a huge fan of film. It was the summer of 1998 and my then girlfriend and I were in Washington D.C. visiting some of my relatives. As always, my uncle was the ultimate tour guide. While touring the Library Of Congress he showed us the location of the famous over head shot that is seen in the movie. Once home from vacation I immediately went to the video store and rented All The President's Men. So good it was I actually watched it twice in one sitting.
I truly believe that the 1970's is perhaps one of the most interesting decades in our country's history. I can't even really explain why, but I am quite certain that the overall darkness and disappointment that surrounds most of the decade has something to do with my interest in those years. Those ten years were sandwich'd between the artificial self important idealism of the 1960's and the bloated larger than life fat cat life style of the 1980's. For many growing up in the 1970's Watergate was just one example of why they were on a daily basis losing faith in our country.
All The President's Men, I believe, captures this event perfectly. The story is told almost totally without any judgment whatsoever. You watch the movie from the reporter's point of view. Their job is to simply gather facts and report them to the public. It's not their job to make judgments. It's their job to present information so that we can make judgments. Of course that is a very idealistic view of the media, but I do believe that is what makes All The Predient's Men so special. We all know how the story ends. The movie is simply a presentation of the events surrounding Watergate and those involved with the scandal.
Even today the story holds up and is suspenseful to watch. It's also a sincere glimpse into the day to day workings of a newspaper (at least at that time). There is no effort to glamorize the lives or jobs of Woodward and Bernstein, two working class investigative reporters.
What makes All The President's Men so affective to me is the incredibly slow pace at which the tension builds. Especially by today's standards it's a very slow moving movie, but by the end of the movie the tension is nearly unbearable. For over two hours the tension builds and not once does it let up. Again, keeping in mind that we all know how the story ends. That being said, you can genuinely feel the fear that Woodward and Bernstein are experiencing as they unfold one of this country's most devastating political scandals.
It's clear that everyone involved in the filming of All The President's Men (Redford, Hoffman, Pakula etc) were committed to giving it their all. It's a joy to watch a political thriller that doesn't seem hellbent on force feeding a point of view down the viewers (deep) throats. Knowing the outcome it's impossible to sympathize with Nixon and presenting the movie that way would have been an injustice, regardless of your political stance.
I highly recommend All The President's Men to anyone who is a fan of political thrillers or anyone who is interested in this period of American history. Actually, I recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of film because it is one of the best.
I read the user comment that accompanies the movies statistics (actors, directors, awards etc.) and the user commented that this was the worst movie ever made and that it handled the subject of racism in a childish manner. The user went on to say that if you'd like to see a "real" movie about racism than you should see American History X.
First of all, American History X is a phenomenal movie. It tackles the subject of racism like no other movie, but I do believe it explores racism at its worst. I think Crash explores the subtle racism that exists on a much more prevalent level. The true hate crimes that are depicted in American History X are horrific, but I believe racism exists in a larger number of people the way it is portrayed in Crash. Racism is based upon fear and ignorance and that is what we see in Crash. People that are afraid and ignorant. Every day people if you ask me.
A woman (Bullock's character Jean Cabot) sees two black men walking down the street and she instinctively draws herself closer to her husband. A Lebanese store owner calls a lock smith because his door will not close. The Hispanic lock smith tells the store owner that the problem isn't his lock it's the door. The store owner tells him to "Just fix it," and the lock smith informs him that he needs to call someone who sells doors. The store owner insists that he fix it and accuses the lock smith of trying to rip him off because he probably has a friend that sells doors. Does this sound irrational? That's because most of the characters in this movie are, but to me they are real.
Most of the characters in Crash are flawed to some degree which makes them even more real. Not only does Crash explore racism amongst several different cultures it also explores how people deal with racism within their own culture. As the movie clearly demonstrates, racism exists in every culture and none of us deal with it intelligently. In Crash a man is accused of not being black enough by his wife. That same man tells another black man that, "You embarrass me," because he is living up to many of the stereo types placed upon black people.
More than racism I think Crash explores another problem in our society. Our culture has become much more diverse over the years and it would appear that communication between the many different cultures is a HUGE problem. This of course can ultimately lead to racism.
The Break-Up (2006)
The Not-So-Romantic Comedy
It's amazing to me that this movie received such poor reviews. I saw it today and loved it.
The standard romantic comedy is to women what action movies are to men. Totally unrealistic mind candy fantasy BS. I believe that the reason The Break Up was not received very well is because people were expecting a romantic comedy yet what they really got was a movie that is very realistic in it's portrayal of a relationship gone seriously wrong.
This movie is about the ugliness that comes out in all of us when we are confronted with a relationship that is destined to end. Good people behave very badly at the end of romantic relationships and that is what we see in The Break Up. Two relatively decent people acting totally irrational toward one another. Even in the midst of their behavior they know it's wrong. It's not until it's far too late do either of them realize what they've ultimately let pride destroy.
The question remains, "Yeah, but is it funny?" It's very much a dark comedy in the same vein as War Of The Roses. It's not touchy feely in any sense of the word. That being said, you still get your classic Vince Vaughn moments. There is no other actor who can play terribly flawed yet too charming to resist the way that Vaughn can. He didn't overwhelm the movie though. Aniston does a superb job of playing the emotionally exhausted and completely disappointed significant other.
My favorite role in the movie is Gary's/Vaughn's friend Johnny O, played by Jon Favreau. It's actually a speech that Johnny O delivers regarding how he feels about his bud Gary that is my favorite scene in the movie. Johnny O tells Gary that he loves him just like everyone else, but he's accepted that the friendship is strictly dictated by Gary's wants and desires. He asks Gary, "When was the last time you did something you didn't want to do? We never do anything I want to do." Again, this is why I loved the movie. This on-screen friendship is real to me. It rings true.
If you want a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan style romantic comedy....... than rent one. If you can stomach or Even worse if you feel you might be entertained by two people behaving very badly then perhaps you'd enjoy The Break Up.
It Would Be A Sin To Miss Se7en
Movies, like music, often help to define the decade in which they originate from. I am 32, so I happen to love a lot of movies from the 80's. Movies like Top Gun, Breakfast Club, St Elmo's Fire, Die-hard and Lethal Weapon very much define the 80's for me.
In my opinion the three most defining movies of the 90's are Pulp Fiction, Silence Of The Lambs and Se7en. Those three movies best capture the mood of the 90's. Smart, dark, cool, gritty and witty. Everything, after all, that the 80's were not (young, dumb and full of cum).
I can best describe the movie Se7en as a combination of Taxi Driver and Silence Of The Lambs. It is a close look at the ugly underbelly of society. The people and things we look away from when we pass them by on the streets. More than that, it is a disturbingly close look at the ugliness that we all possess on some level.
The plot and screenplay in Se7en are superb. The best there is. The story is simple yet that of genius. A veteran cop (Somerset/Freeman) serving his final 7 days of duty is paired up with a younger cop (Mills/Pitt) who is ready to kick the world in the ass and they are both after a maniacal serial killer who is completing his masterpiece offing 7 victims for 7 deadly sins. Somerset is jaded and cold while Mills is eager and hopefull. A perfect match. Somerset is black and Mills is white. Absolute genius.
I can remember being in absolute awe when I first viewed this movie in the theatre. Nothing I'd seen since Taxi driver compared. It's unabashed view of society is unparalleled. Even our two "heros" aren't terribly admirable. I am actually embarrassed to admit that I understood the serial killers disgust with society during his explanation of his masterpiece to Somerset and Mills. That's not to say I justified his actions. And the casting of the serial killer? Again, absolute genius. Especially because the actor asked that his name not appear in the movie's advertisements or billing.
Se7en is not for the faint of heart, but it IS thoroughly enjoyable for fans of cinema. It satisfies on every level.
American Beauty (1999)
It's Like I've Been In A Coma For 20 Years And I'm Just Now Waking Up
Note to self: The next time you see a movie and hate it watch it again. Like Swingers and Sideways I detested this movie upon first viewing. Something drew me back for a second viewing and, ironically, I now watch it every time I need to be cheered up.
I can't think of a movie since Ordinary People that captures white upper middle class America as perfectly as American Beauty. In Ordinary People a family is torn apart by a tragedy. A son's death. In American Beauty a family is slowly being torn apart by a different kind of tragedy. Every day life.
Lester Burnham is a 42 year old white male who has been completely sedated by the rut of every day life. His wife Carolyn seemingly has everything a person could want, but is totally miserable. Together they have raised one daughter, Jane, who they are clearly out of touch with.
What makes this movie work so well for me is how close it is to reality for a lot of people. There seems to be an abundance of people who clearly seem disappointed by life (Lester) or are chasing the next thing that will make them happy (Carolyn). Lester chooses a more dramatic solution to the problem. He quits his job, black mails his former employer, trades his family car in for a Firebird, starts smoking pot with the kid next door and begins to lust after his daughter's best friend, Angela. Carolyn takes her frustrations out by having an affair and blows off steam by going to the shooting range to pop off a few rounds.
The tag line for the movie was "Look Closer" and I couldn't think of a better way to pitch this movie. Upon initial viewing the characters seem typical if not familiar. The movie truly requires multiple viewings to see the depth of the story and the characters.
Like a lot of movies that have seemingly basic plots what makes American Beauty rise above the rest is a phenomenal cast. Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening play the roles of the miserably married Lester and Carolyn perfectly. Chris Cooper does a superb job of portraying the ex military gay bashing homosexual neighbor, Col Frank Fits, USMC. A man so disgusted with his own desires that he projects them on to his son, Ricky. No one overacts their roles and all seem to understand the characters they are supposed to be playing. One of those movies that is a "treat" to watch.
I live in Naperville, Illinois. One of the largest suburbs of Chicago and possibly the most white upper middle class community in this country. I find myself driving through neighborhoods looking at gorgeous homes with seemingly happy families thinking, "There's a lot more going on behind closed doors than people think." And I do believe that is one of the points American Beauty is trying to make. That and life is what you make of it.
Corvette Summer (1978)
I read several reviews about this movie before writing mine. I always do for some reason. The one common thread throughout a lot of the reviews is a point I definitely agree with. This movie oozes 70's cheese. Keep in mind, I happen to love the tackiness that only the 70's could offer.
Aside from that, this is a fairly simple, yet entertaining movie. Does it break any new ground? Certainly not. But how many movies do? Our main character, Kenny Dantley, builds and falls in love with a custom Corvette in his high school shop class. Not long after it is built the car is stolen. The cops tell Dantley and the rest of his shop class that the car most likely will never be recovered. Dantley refuses to accept this and heads to where he heard the car was last seen. Vegas. Along the way he falls in love with Vanessa, a wannabe hooker headed to Vegas to "go pro".
There is no doubt that this is a "B" grade drive in movie. That being said, if you are a "car guy" (as I am) this movie should prove to be worth watching. Anyone who has ever fallen in love with a car will understand Dantley's obsession. It's NOT "just" a car. Car guys know their obsessions are irrational, but that doesn't stop us. Call me crazy, but the attraction a car guy has to his favorite model isn't THAT much different than the one he feels to his dream girl.
Corvette Summer offers a few laughs and a return to a part of the 70's a lot would like to forget. The disco van scene. There are some familiar faces from the era and a great chase scene at the end of the movie. Not every movie is Oscar bound. Let's not forget a movies most important purpose is to entertain.
I Love Goodfellas More Than The Godfather
I'm sure I am not the only one on this web site who gets into arguments with their friends about which mob movie is the best. Ultimately it always comes down to The Godfather and Goodfellas. It's like debating over who is better, The Beatles or The Stones?
Both are fantastic movies, but offer two different view points on the same subject. I do believe that The Godfather offers a more romantic point of view of the mafia. Perhaps that is because it focuses more on the early years of the mafia. The good years. Goodfellas covers a longer period of time.Including the early 80's when the mafia began to fall apart due to its involvement in drugs.
Regardless of whether you prefer The Godfather to Goodfellas there is no denying that Goodfellas is an amazing film. Total perfection. From the directing to the acting to the soundtrack. This movie is flawless.
As much as I think The Godfather romanticizes the mafia, when you watch Goodfellas you'll find yourself drawn to the characters and lifestyle depicted in the movie. Goodfellas is THAT powerful. Are these "good" people? Hell no. But it's all relative. Yes, they are all scumbags, but some are worse than others. When you finish watching Goodfellas, ask yourself this: Are you ticked that it's over? Are you angry that Henry got busted? Do you want to punch the cop in the face when he licks the cocaine off of his fingers smiling at Henry as if to say, "Busted!"
Stellar performances throughout make this a must see for anyone who considers themselves a fan of film. How powerful are these performances? I happen to think De Niro deserved an Oscar simply for the way he smoked a cigarette. The scene where Henry confesses that he knew Jimmy was going to "whack" Morrie. Sunshine Of Your Love by Cream begins to play as the camera zooms in on Jimmy (De Niro) standing at the end of a bar, smoking a cigarette, pretending to pay attention to someone who is talking to him as he stares off into the distance in anger. THIS is my favorite scene ever captured on film and it lasted less than 30 seconds. This scene is why De Niro is the best living actor. Without saying a word his facial expressions are Oscar worthy.
De Niro aside, the movie is loaded with talent. Hell, even Martin Scorsese's mom, Catherine, steals a scene.
The plot follows a "crew" in New York. In the beginning they ruled the neighborhood and ran all the schemes. When it all fell apart "one of their own" sold them out in court to save his own ass. It's not a movie for the squeamish. The f bomb is dropped constantly and the violence is real and raw.
It's been said that when watching The Godfather you almost feel as if you are watching a family's home movies. If that is true, then Goodfellas is like watching the home movies the family didn't want you to see. These are not admirable people. But like I said, Scorsese is so good at what he does, you will be heartbroken when it all ends.
The Original "Slasher" Flick That Isn't A "Slasher" Flick
There are a few movies credited with starting the slasher flick genre. Some claim that it was Psycho. Others feel that The Texas Chainsaw Masacre was responsible for starting one of the most hated film genres of all time. Most would agree that it was the movie Halloween that started it all. Halloween became the template for all of the slasher crap of the 80's. Not until Scream came along in the mid 90's would you see a fresh take on this genre.
All that being said, Halloween really ISN'T a slasher flick. Slasher flicks tend to satisfy (or dissatisfy, depending on who you are) the same type of person that prefers a gross out comedy over a more intelligent comedy. Slasher flicks rely on making movie goers squirm in their seats by showing them blood, guts and gore. Something Halloween lacks completely. Director John Carpenter approached the film the same way Hitchcock would have. Less is more. The less you show an audience in a horror film the more scared they are bound to become. Peoples imaginations tend to run wild when they aren't spoon fed all the details. People will walk away from a movie like Halloween thinking they saw things that they really didn't see.
The plot of the movie is as simple as it gets. An escaped mental patient (Michael Myers) returns to his home town to continue the killing spree that started with his sister when he was a young boy. Laurie Strode is his main target/obsession (watch Halloween II to find out why).
Carpenter succeeds in scaring the living hell out of viewers by dwelling on our most basic fears. Those things that lurk in the shadows. Things that go bump in the night. That house in every neighborhood across America that children warn each other to stay away from (usually because of some false urban legend). For the most part the movie is a ghost story told just as a master story teller would tell it to a group of people sitting around a camp fire.
This movie was made to be viewed in the dark and I encourage you to try doing so alone. All of the sudden your own home becomes a bit too spooky. That long dark hallway seems longer and darker. You will undoubtedly hear noises in your home you've never heard before.
In addition to top notch directing, John Carpenter also contributed an unforgettably chilling score. As the story goes the movie was originally tested without the score and tested poorly. It wasn't until the addition of Carpenter's basic, yet spooky piano work that audiences felt the full impact of this horror masterpiece.
Up until The Blair Witch Project Halloween was the most successful independent movie of all time. Studios didn't believe in it, but movie goers loved it. It's ironic how that works. Studios don't believe in something as powerful as Halloween, but after witnessing its enormous success begin churning out senseless copy cat versions that aren't anywhere near as good.
If you haven't seen Halloween, I highly recommend it. That is if you're ready to know what it really feels like to be scared.
The Dukes of Hazzard (2005)
Two Hours I'll Never Get Back
This is without a doubt THE worst movie I have ever seen. I gave it one star because there isn't a selection for zero.
I have never in my life walked out on a movie, but came damn close with this steaming pile of crap. I saw it for free because I picked up the third season of the original show and received a free pass to see the movie. That being said, I still felt cheated.
I LOVE the TV show. When you say that people tend to look at you as if they have overestimated your level of intelligence. It was a fun show. Simple humor with a plot that they successfully recycled for every episode. A smokin car and an even hotter girl.
The movie was an insult. The Dukes boys were simple, not mentally retarded as portrayed in this flick. Catherine Bach was irresistibly charming as Daisy. Jessica Simpson played the role like a bitch. In the show Jessie Duke had a strong sense of family. In the movie he was sneaking away to the shed to smoke weed.
The Dukes Of Hazzard movie is one of those movies where you sit there and wonder, "As a professional (I know none of the actors in this movie were thespians) how would you let yourself get involved with something like this?" It's that bad.
Believe me, I wasn't expecting much. I knew it would not live up to my expectations. I entered the theater hoping to see some good shots of the General Lee flying through the air. I should have stayed home and popped in DVDs of the original show.
Would You Like Some Cheese With That Whine?
I will be the first to admit that I HATED this movie the first time I saw it. I should also add that I no longer rent movies. With the price of DVDs being as low as they are I buy all the movies I want to see. I tend to buy a lot of movies that I've never seen before. Since I am a fan of many genres I rarely get "burned" but when I first saw Sideways I felt barbecued.
But this movie received so much praise from critics and movie goers that I had to give it another shot. The first time I saw it I was totally hung over (how appropriate considering the movie) so that may have affected my experience. It was around the third or fourth viewing that I fell in love with this gem and finally "got" it.
My mother hated this movie. My mom is one of those people that has a difficult time watching a movie that is about, well, losers. And that is precisely what the main characters, Miles and Jack, in this movie are. People want to escape when they go to the movies. Sideways might be a little too close to reality for people like my mother. The reality being that there is nothing terribly unique or admirable about Miles and Jack. One steals money from his mother and the other wants to get laid one last time before he gets married. I got news for you. The world is made up of morally corrupt people like Miles and Jack.
Miles and Jack embark on a week long journey of wine tasting to celebrate the fact that Jack is getting married. Jack has other intentions. For the entire trip Jack is chasing women. It's obvious that the idea of marriage isn't sitting to well with him.
Miles on the other hand is still wallowing in sorrow over his marriage that ended two years ago. Perhaps one of the reasons I disliked this movie so much when I first saw it is because throughout my life I have met people exactly like Miles. People who are intent on being depressed. People who truly dislike life. People who embrace misery. People who would complain about paying taxes if they won the lottery. To his credit Paul Giamatti does an excellent job of playing a totally unlovable loser. Oscar worthy.
The one character that touched me in Sideways was Maya. Miles and Jack end up meeting two women, Maya and Stephanie, during their journey. Not only does Jack want to get laid, he wants Miles to get laid as well. Jack succeeds, but Miles refuses to acknowledge the fact that Maya is very interested in getting to know him. He doesn't want to believe that a woman could actually be interested in who he is. Virgina Madsen does a superb job of playing Maya. A woman who it would appear has made a few mistakes in her past but has learned from them. Maya is very much in touch with herself and, for lack of a better word, at peace with who she is. As interested as she is in Miles, she also seems to understand that he is a terribly unhappy person.
I also love the way the movie portrays Miles as being a self proclaimed wine snob. Someone who honestly believes that his knowledge of wine actually means something more than it does. As if people actually hang on his every word when it comes to wine. Maya asks Miles why he is so into Pinot (his favorite wine). Miles explains that Pinot requires so much care and the grapes can only be grown in certain parts of the country yada yada yada. Miles isn't talking about wine so much as he is talking about himself in this scene. It's a classic. Even better is the scene where we see Miles and Jack enjoying their first taste. Miles of course explains in excruciating detail how wine tasting is to be done. The rolling of the glass to check for color, how you hold the glass up to the light to check for density and clarity and the sniffing of the wines different aromas. Finally Miles and Jack taste the wine. Miles looks over at jack and shouts, "Are you chewing gum!"
Sideways definitely requires multiple viewings. It's a movie about real, flawed people. It's a movie about us.
True Romance (1993)
Pick Up Some Beer....... And Some Cleaning Products
Tarantino. With all the Elvis freaks in this world how brilliant is it to write a screenplay where your main character summons The King whenever he needs advice? True Romance is one of those best kept secret type movies. There is no way The Accademy would honor a movie with such gratuitous violence with an Oscar.
The best way for me to describe this movie? Whenever I meet a fan of the cinema and we start discussing what we consider to be "the greats" I get excited, hell I get jittery when I learn that this person HASN'T seen True Romance. Why? Because I remember what it was like viewing this movie for the first time, expecting nothing, yet being totally in awe while watching True Romance for the first time. I get excited because I know that when I insist that THIS be the next movie this person watches, they too will soon be enlightened.
While Tarantino should receive credit for knocking out an incredibly original screenplay, it's the cast that makes this movie so special. No one tries to steal the show. No one tries to make it "their" movie. Believe it or not, there are times in Hollywood when an ensemble cast so special is assembled that the end result truly is magic. This is one of those times.
The big scene, of course, occurs between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken. A scene that True Romance is known for. But standing toe to toe with these two Hollywood veterans are actors like Bronson Pinchot (yes I said Bronson Pinchot), Michael Rapaport, Brad Pitt (responsible for the summary title), Patricia Arquette, Tom Sizemore and Saul Rubinek.
There isn't a dead spot in this flick. It flows perfectly. It's safe to say that most of the characters are unlikeable, yet we love them all.
For me to describe the plot would be pointless. It's a waste of time. This is the type of movie where, even though the plot is superior, it doesn't matter because this is a movie made for people who love movies.
If you haven't seen True Romance, do yourself a favor and BUY it. I am getting jittery already.
Death Car on the Freeway (1979)
The Freeway Fiddler
Or so the killer in Death Car On The Freeway Was Called.
I have a soft spot for good car chase movies and this one was as good as it gets. Directed by Hal Needham (ex stuntman who brought us Smokey And The Bandit and all of Burt Reynolds subsequent smash em up movies) this movie is dated in many ways.
First of all, the movie has some definite you go girl I am female hear me roar undertones. The movie came out in 1979 and the feminist movement was in full swing. There isn't anything wrong with it, but because it is so obvious it dates the movie.
Secondly, if you have ever seen an episode of CHiP's you should have an idea of what the stunts in this movie look like. Spectacular, if you ask me. The stunts are real (not CGI) performed by real stunt men, risking their lives not over paid actors sitting in front of a blue screen.
Okay, so the acting is a little cheesy. The movie is over acted to say the least. Made for TV movies rarely satisfy on the same level as a big screen picture, but then again you don't have to pay for them. This one fires on all cylinders. But, perhaps that is because I have a taste for the tackiness that only the 70's could offer.
The plot? A psycho in a van decides that women have over stepped their boundaries and begins stalking and killing them on the highways of California. Shelly Hack is a television news reporter willing to risk everything including her career and life following the story.
We never see the killers face, just his hands and feet. When the movie ends we never learn who the killer is. Just who he could be. I think the movie does a good job of implying that it could be anyone. The movie also has a message that still holds true today. Automobile manufacturers advertise their products in a completely reckless fashion. In their commercials they show their cars being driven in a way that will either land you in court or in the hospital.
This is one of my favorite movies of all time, probably because it reminds me of my childhood (I was 5 when it first aired). I would classify it as a guilty pleasure.
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
I Don't See Anyone Givin You A Raise Down At Unemployment
I am 31 so I was 3 when this movie came out. The first time I saw Saturday Night Fever was the "Edited For Television" version probably when I was 6 or 7 years old. At that point, it was about the music, the dance scenes and the clothes.
It wouldn't be until years later that I understood what a great story this is. It's a coming of age movie. It's a modern day tragedy. It's a love story.
The first thing that people think about when they hear Saturday Night Fever is disco and bell bottoms, but the story is timeless. Travolta plays Tony Manero, a loser in a nowhere job who only feels alive when he is on the dance floor at the local disco. There he is adored by his friends, by women and by strangers. There he is king. Everywhere else he is nobody. Even at home.
Tony becomes infatuated with a woman named Stephanie. On the surface Stephanie appears to be much better off than Tony. For the most part Stephanie is a big talker, but Tony is bothered by her observations.
"Let me guess. You work all week long at some dead end job and then you go and blow it at all at 2001 (the disco) on the weekends. You're a cliché. You're no one, going nowhere." As much as Tony is upset by her words he can't argue with them. Soon Tony becomes frustrated with his "station in life" and tells Stephanie he wants out (of Brooklyn).
What makes Saturday Night Fever work so much for me is Tony is very typical of a lot of males who would rather have a good time and party now than build something toward the future. Bars are full of guys like Tony. Guys who are super stars in their local drinking establishments, but have no life outside of the night life.
And of course there's the superb dance scenes that most people remember Saturday Night Fever for. The soundtrack is also one of the best out there.
For whatever reason, Saturday Night Fever also has my favorite closing shot of all time. It's really nothing special, but I get choked up every time I see it.
Saturday Night Fever is also a snapshot of a period in recent American history. The movie took place in 1977. The country was a mess after the Vitenam war ended and before Reagan stormed Washington and once again instilled a sense of pride in Americans. There was no longer a war to protest, but the average American didn't have much faith in our country. I think Saturday Night Fever does an excellent job of capturing what was probably a common attitude among young adults during the late 70's. Live for the moment because the future is pretty bleak.
Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
The First Thing I'm Gonna Do When I Get Home Is Punch Your Momma In The Mouth
As you can tell by my screen name, I love this movie. I do regard this movie as my favorite of all time. Oscar material? Certainly not. But who cares.
The basic premise of the movie is a simple one. The Bandit (Burt Reynolds) and The Snowman (Jerry Reed) are trying to deliver a truckload of bootlegged Coors beer in 38 hours or less for $80,000 (big money back in 1977). All this while trying to shake a bloodhound sheriff (Smokey played by Jackie Gleason) and his bonehead son, Junior. Oh, and during all of this Bandit falls in love with a hitchhiker named Carrie (Sally Field).
As much as this is the movie that Burt Reynolds is known for, it's Jackie Gleason that makes this movie for me. His are my favorite lines in the movie. Don't get me wrong, Burt and his ohhh so 70's mustache do a fabulous job of smiling and laughing, but it's Gleason who has me in stitches every time I watch this movie. I received my first copy of this movie somewhere around 1986 (Christmas present). At some point I tried to figure out how many times I have viewed this movie. A conservative guess would be somewhere around 300.
It's simple fun, but there is a little bit of magic in this movie that was absent in Smokey And The Bandit II. Both Burt Reynolds and Sally Field claim that the reason the movie worked so well is that you are watching two people fall in love, for real, on film.
Aside from the love story and Gleason's portrayal of Bufford T. Justice, the movie has some fantastic and real (not CGI) car chases and stunts. This is a must own for anyone who loves a good car chase.