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Conan the Barbarian (1982)
A sharp, unique, and well-crafted adventure.
A very ambitious and serious take on the stories by R.E. Howard and the adaptation turns out better than one would expect.
"Conan the Barbarian" follows the long and difficult journey of Conan who seeks revenge for the savage massacre of the people in his village - including his parents and the theft of a sword that Conan's father took his time in creating.
Arnold Schwarzenegger (in one of the few roles) that made him a star portrays Conan who doesn't say a whole lot but makes up for it with simply being honest. Throughout the movie, Conan picks up a few friends (Sandahl Bergman, Gerry Lopez, and Mako) in his quest to find the one person who led the attack on Conan's village, Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), a cult leader who has a large legion of followers. Conan and his quartet certainly have their share of adventures that are nothing short of seriously intense.
The director, John Milius (who was the right choice to direct this movie) co-wrote the script with Oliver Stone and here, Milius lets the film go at a steady pace and the battle sequences are well done instead of being too violent and careless. Also, another issue of note, the movie's handling of the characters and humor is treated with care and going way over the top.
The performances by the cast in the movie are very respectable here and Milius' direction is excellent. If there's one thing that I can't forget bringing up in the review here, it's the magnificent musical score composed by the late Basil Poledouris. The music itself in the battle scenes reminded me of Elmer Bernstein's best composed work ("The Magnificent Seven", "The Great Escape"). For me, you don't hear composed music like this these days (and if there's a few noteworthy examples, then please forgive me).
A sharp, unique, and well-crafted adventure.
A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
Altman is in top form here.
Wonderfully off-beat and quite colorful take on the radio show that has lasted over three decades that follows the misadventures and ordeals that the cast and crew of a radio show face on a particular night.
The ensemble cast (Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, Virginia Madsen, L.Q. Jones, and Garrison Keillor - as himself basically) itself like in any Robert Altman movie is excellent here and perhaps one of the best assembled casts in years.
I've heard of the show although I've never listened to it before yet the music and humor here isn't exactly outlandish but rather straight-forward and simple, which works quite well. Some of the characters that I enjoyed were the two cowboys (Lefty and Dusty) who have a flair for making the lyrics in their songs outrageous, Guy Noir, who strolls around the stage for some particular reason, and a mysterious woman who stops by at the stage for reasons that I won't dare give away here.
"A Prairie Home Companion" is great because it shows Robert Altman in top form here.
R.I.P. Robert Altman
Where Eagles Dare (1968)
Crisp and very, very clever adventure
Crisp and very, very clever adventure based on a Alistar MacLean novel (and scripted by the author himself) where a commando unit consisting of mostly Brits and one American who are sent to the Alps to rescue an American general who is held captive in a castle that's swarming with Germans.
The movie is loaded with surprises most of which keep the viewer constantly guessing and the fireworks don't go over the top. Burton and Eastwood are both fun to watch here and like the two leads, the camera work is outstanding, and the direction by Brian Hutton doesn't over play his hand. Another thing, MacLean's script is so good in handling the details, characters, and so forth that Stephen King himself should be taking notes.
It's worth a look.
Surprisingly good and fairly entertaining thriller as Telly Savalas (who had appeared in the original as one of the twelve convicts not to mention one of the most menacing members of the group) takes over as Wright, the new officer chosen by General Worden (Ernest Borgnine) to recruit and train twelve convicts (Randall "Tex" Cobb, Gary Graham, and Bo Svenson among the bunch that are selected for the operation) to attack and destroy several containers of nerve gas hidden in a French monestary and bail out the six scientists who are developing the gas under the close watch of the German SS.
I'll admit that I did like the "Deadly Mission" a lot better than its' predecessor and there's a few reasons (the performances are respectable, the plot twists some of which are slick, and the characters are actually interesting) to back it up. This movie is worth a look.
Stick with the original
Flat and unconvincing follow-up to the original where Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) is ordered to lead another group of convicts into France to take out a German SS general who is planning to eliminate the Fuhrer.
Besides Marvin reprising his role here, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Jaeckel also return "nearly" two decades after the original came out.
It's almost impossible for me to decide which was worse, watching the three cast members (from the first movie) forced to carry the burden on their backs and/or how terrible the story (and the apparent lack of character development and humor if there is any). I bet a college freshman could come up with a far better story that anyone would enjoy.
Stick with the original.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Wildly entertaining and never misses a beat.
Wild and extremely interesting musical comedy based on the SNL skit where two brothers: Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) go out on the streets of Chicago to reunite their band in order to raise money to keep the orphanage (where the two men grew up) in business within two weeks.
Throughout their quest, the brothers have to deal with what seems like an endless slew of obstacles (cops, Nazis, etc.) that stand in their way. The script, written by Aykroyd and director John Landis ("Animal House") never fails in delivering one hilarious moment right after another whether it's a sight gag or a one-liner. Even the songs (if you enjoy music especially jazz, blues, or both), some of which are performed by Elwood and Jake and/or legends such as James Brown, Cab Calloway, John Lee Hooker, and Aretha Fanklin are just as entertaining as the film itself.
Belushi and Aykroyd are both wonderful yet unflappable in the lead roles and I still can't make up my mind in which who was better here.
"The Blues Brothers" is wildly entertaining and never misses a beat.
Sin City (2005)
Encore! Encore! Encore!
Absolutely stunning and extremely hard hitting urban thriller based upon three Frank Miller graphic novels and in return, you get "Sin City" (Miller, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino share the directing duties) and the title itself doesn't lie.
Three tales take place throughout the film, each one is excellent, very creative, the visuals are the icing on the cake, and considering which yarn stands out in my view, the one involving Marv (Mickey Rourke in his best role in years), a vengeful loner who sets to find out who was responsible for killing Goldie (Jaime King), a woman who Marv was with at night and framing him in the process. However, another tale, this one involving Hartigan (Bruce Willis), a former cop who vows to prevent a pedophile (Nick Stahl) dubbed "The Yellow B--tard" due to his appearance is literally frightening (and I mean more frightening than Freddy Krueger) from harming Nancy (Jessica Alba).
If the visuals and the music make the movie very creative, then you have to mention the cast for sure. Miller and Rodriguez deserve a lot of credit in getting the right actor or actress for each key part in the three tales. Another thing, when Golden Globe and Oscar nominations come out, this movie shouldn't be overlooked, period.
Encore! Encore! Encore!
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
It's different and I still enjoyed it.
Strange and wonderfully unique dark comedy that follows the determined attempt by two aging residents (Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis) who vow together to defend the rest home and their fellow inhabitants from a three thousand year old Egyptian mummy named Bubba Ho-Tep (Bob Ivy) who preys upon the old and uses them for reasons that I'm not going to describe.
A lot of thoughts and questions loom in my mind about the movie itself and I'm left partially puzzled yet it's different and I still enjoyed it.
What makes the movie worth watching is the strong, deeply honest performances by Campbell and Davis in the leads and writer/director Don Cosarelli's handling of the movie's pace and subtle humor. Also, the music and camera work both make the film even more entertaining.
One word: priceless
If there was one word that I could use to describe Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas": it'd be priceless.
A surreal and deeply fascinating take on life of Henry Hill who was involved in the Mob for three decades and his rise throughout the time span (and Nicholas Pileggi's book "Wiseguy").
There isn't a single moment in the movie where it doesn't miss a beat, you could only tell by the atmosphere of the time period and it seems so real.
The performances in this film simply make it even more memorable and how the characters are portrayed here especially by Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci (who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), and Paul Sorvino are believable and easy to understand that they were a family, very close and tightly knit to the core. Also, how director Martin Scorsese lets the movie pace itself and keeps the viewer off guard in what happens deserves a lot of credit.
The Ladykillers (2004)
Not the Coen Bros. best work, but it's worth the money.
Colorful and decent attempt by the Coen brothers in remaking "The Ladykillers", a British black comedy made in the mid-fifties that starred the late Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, and Hebert Lom.
Tom Hanks is marvelously cast in the Guinness role as G.H. Dorr, a professor (with a weaselly charm and whiny laugh) who rents a small room (while leading a small quartet of thieves and plotting to rob a casino) in the home of a quiet elderly widow, Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall).
The only down part of the movie is use of the foul language in when and how it said takes some of the fun away from the film - notably one of the men in Dorr's team, Gawain (Marlon Wayans who was great in "Scary Movie", but very questionable here) delivers most of it.
Hanks and Hall both deliver great performances here and Hall presents of the same kind of charm and kindness that you see in anybody. Ah, yes, Marva's cat, Pickles, has a few good moments in the movie, too. The other key part of the film that I enjoyed was use the of gospel music.
"The Ladykillers" may not be the best work done by the Coen brothers, but it's worth the money.
The Lord of the Rings (1978)
Not an absolute mess nor Bakshi's fault.
Unfocused yet fair animation attempt by Ralph Bakshi to adapt the first two installments of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of The Rings" trilogy.
What Bakshi initially tried to do here by taking a big gamble in doing an adaptation of all three books into one movie - that he deserve some respect for that choice. Unfortunately, one of the problems with the movie is the script isn't clear where to go even it tries so hard to be faithful to its' original source, which is key.
As for the actors who supply their voices to the characters here, only Aragorn (John Hurt who seems right for the part) seems likable at best.
The other parts of the movie that did work reasonably well is the scenery and the appearence of the Ringwraiths and Orcs.
If there were two key moments that had to be redone - one is the battle at Helm's Deep and especially the stand that Gandalf makes a stand against the Balrog at the bridge of Khazad-dum, in which both scenes are rushed and lack the conviction.
This movie isn't an absolute mess nor Bakshi's fault.
C'era una volta il West (1968)
It's one of those movies that you really treasure.
Sharp and visually stunning western (as a great director like the late Sergio Leone could create with his screen-writers, Dario Argento and Brenando Bertilucci) that it's one of those movies that really treasure so much.
The tale that Leone, Bertilucci, and Argento have served up here shouldn't be taken for granted, period. Set in the west, two men (Jason Robards and Charles Bronson) try to protect a widow (Claudia Cardinale) from a vicious gunman (Henry Fonda) who's dressed in black.
Out of the performances, Fonda and Bronson really stand out here like the landscape, editing, and Ennio Morricone's picture perfect musical score.
I had a fun time.
Colorful and clever satire where two stoners (Jay and Silent Bob) discover that two characters in a comic book that are based on them is adapted into a feature film and the bumbling duo head out to Hollywood from New Jersey to ruin the movie before it's finished. However, Jay and Silent Bob get some assistance from some people that they wouldn't normally expect not to mention they unwittingly become the targets of a goofy wildlife marshal.
Sure, most of the jokes and gags in the movie aren't too disturbing or cruel, but I had a fun time. "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" is one of the best Hollywood spoof and satire movies that I've seen in the last few years.
A fitting end to a great trilogy.
The last installment in the LOTR trilogy finally is here and it didn't let me down one bit. Out of the three movies in the series, "The Return of The King" provides a lot of entertainment and excitement for three and a half hours (not to mention worth the price of admission).
Hardly misses a beat.
Fun and excellent take on the '70s tv series where a wily SWAT sergeant returns to assemble, train, and lead a group of five officers who have to escort a notorious international criminal. Director Clark Johnson who has worked as a director ("NYPD Blue")or actor ("Homicide") on a t.v. police drama doesn't go over the top and lets the movie remain faithful to original source. The cast here is great with Jackson as "Hondo" and Farrell as Street and Olivier Martinez brings a weasel-like charm to his character. Even Steve Forrest, who portrayed Hondo on the tv series has a small role here which is nice to see.
Mystic River (2003)
Plays like a serious reality check.
Sad and deeply heart-breaking odyssey in which three men (in Boston)who seem to have partially recovered from witnessing one terrible incident as childhood pals are banded together when a loved one is found murdered in a park. The performances here are terrific - especially Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, both of whom have a very good chance of earning Oscar nominations. Also, the direction that director Clint Eastwood (who also handled the musical score) takes the movie in leaves you with second thoughts about what happens in the story. Overall, "Mystic River" makes you think about the decisions that people make in life and how they have to live with it. This movie plays like a serious reality check and has to be one of the best films this year.
Neat and respectable take on a classic
Neat and respectable take on a classic with thoughts given by those who were involved in the making of "The Wild Bunch". Smart move in casting Ed Harris to provide the opinion that co-writer/director Sam Peckinpah had on the movie. I also liked how Peckinpah described this movie just as "a simple adventure story" and mentioned that he wondered about what happened to the robbers in the west when he was young. It's probably an instinct that lives in anyone no matter how old they are.
The Sting (1973)
A colorful throwback to the '30s.
Slick and colorful throwback to the '30s in Chicago where a young grifter (Robert Redford) is determined to avenge the murder of a friend who served as his mentor and enlists the aid of a con-man (Paul Newman) to set-up a wealthy and ruthless gambler (Robert Shaw) from the Big Apple.
This movie has the feel and look of what life was like during the Depression and what it took to survive the hard times not to mention the film reunited Newman, Redford, and the director of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", the late George Roy Hill.
As for the film, it doesn't want to overwhelm you with nasty gags and lines that offend the viewer like a lot of comedies unfortunately do now. Here, you're along for the ride and that's something that taken into account and not for granted. The cast is like a cool breeze and nobody here misses a beat.
Grumpy Old Men (1993)
A solid and worthwhile comedy.
Fairly amusing movie where two aging neighbors (Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau) in a small Minnesota town whose on-going feud goes to another level when a widow (Ann-Margret) moves into a house across the street. The cast is good especially Burgess Meredith as Lemmon's dad who says some things that I wouldn't expect to hear from my grandpa and the humor here has plenty of zip to it. The lone weak spot that "Grumpy Old Men" (like the title) has is the story which drags at times and alive and upbeat in other moments. Besides that, it's a solid and worthwhile comedy.
The Guns of Navarone (1961)
A first-class adventure.
Absorbing and effective adaptation of Alistair MacLean's novel where a small team of Allied commandoes is sent to an Greek island that's occupied by the Germans and destroy two massive batteries that cover a crucial area in the Aegean Sea. The cast is pretty good all-around with Gregory Peck and David Niven are the standouts and the smooth direction of J. Lee Thompson make this movie an absolute gem that seems timeless. A first-class adventure.
Blade Runner (1982)
Solid and near perfect science fiction thriller.
Solid and near perfect science fiction thriller of a Philip K. Dick novel where a physically (and emotionally) worn-out former L.A. cop/blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is ordered by his superior officer to find four androids who may be in the city and "retire them".
What makes the movie (that's directed by Ridley Scott) work so effectively is the set direction and the view of Los Angeles in 2019 and that's just one of the few standouts here, the other two being Vangelis's smooth and haunting musical score and the superb and chilling performance from Rutger Hauer and Sean Young who does the opposite.
The lone problem that I have with "Blade Runner" is the script which isn't completely sharp and clever as the scenery is, but despite that flaw, I still enjoyed the movie.
Cross of Iron (1977)
Solid yet rough around the edges war epic.
Solid yet rough around the edges war epic (the only war movie that Sam Peckinpah made) that closely examins a soldier's ability to deal with life, death, and other issues while fighting on the front lines in any war.
In the movie, a bitter and war weary German staff sergeant, Rolf Steiner (the late James Coburn) is forced to deal with another dilemma besides trying to keep the moral of his recon unit up instead of down on the Eastern Front. The dilemma being is his new superior officer, Captain Stransky (Maxmillian Schell), who is a Prussian and is determined to get what Steiner already has - The Iron Cross (the highest military award that a German soldier can earn for those who don't know) at any cost.
The film is marvelous although it has some areas where it's weak yet the harsh battle scenes depicted here would give another WWII movie a run for its' money. Coburn and Schell are good here and so are the supporting performances turned in by James Mason and David Warner who both portray high-ranking German officers. Plus, the camera work of John Coquillion and Ernest Gold's musical score does make the movie much more effective.
Anger Management (2003)
A major let-down.
Somewhat effective yet mis-handled feel good comedy where a New York businessman (Adam Sandler), trumped up on a charge of assaulting a stewardess on an airplane is ordered to take anger management sessions with a maverick shrink (Jack Nicholson) who doesn't do it by the book.
I was hoping that the pairing of Nicholson and Sandler as a comedy team would work? It partially worked, but that's not the problem here. "Anger Management" was better off in the hands of Mel Brooks or someone who knew what they're doing.
This movie had a great chance of becoming a classic and what a major let-down.
Impressive adaptation of the first Harry Potter novel as the boy himself is surprised to what he inherited from his deceased parents and heads off to the Hogwarts school to solve the mystery and who was responsible.
Director Chris Columbus deserves a lot of credit for keeping the movie itself belivable yet creative. The three young leads (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint) are pretty good here just as the supporting cast, consisting of mostly well-known British actors and actresses.
I don't mean to offend any of the die hard fans of the series by saying this, but this movie didn't deliver the same punch veilocity as "The Lord of the Rings" did.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Dark, bleak, and deeply sarcastic take on the life of a real estate rep.
Dark, bleak, and deeply sarcastic take on the life of a real estate representative in "Glengarry Glen Ross", based on a play by the always reliable David Mamet ("The Untouchables") and wonderfully directed by James Foley ("At Close Range").
The story takes place in a real estate firm, where three out of the four salesmen are forced by a big-mouth hot-shot into taking part in a sales contest to sell a worthless plot of land to the highest bidder in two weeks just to save their jobs.
As for the cast here, which consists of Al Pacino, the late Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin, Jonathan Pryce, and Alec Baldwin. You couldn't have asked for a better performance from each one - especially Lemmon and Pacino.
Until I saw this movie, I thought working in a cheese factory was crazy enough, but now I might reconsider that opinion.