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Galaxy Quest (1999)
Great Satire, Great Fun
14 May 2004
This is the rare film that brings together a great ensemble cast (Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Allen Rickman, Sam Rockwell, Tony Shalhoub, etc.) and elicits excellent performances from everyone: of particular note are Rockwell (who has since become a much more expensive casting choice), and Shalhoub (who, through the excellent series "Monk", has earned some much-deserved recognition). Rockwell plays the doomed other guy--the "Ensign Jones" character from Star Trek--and delivers one of the funniest lines in recent memory, "Did any of you even WATCH the show?"

Galaxy Quest is a keen parody of science fiction in general, and of Star Trek in particular, and it pulls off the impressive feat of poking fun at the genre without ridiculing or belittling it. It is, in an oft-used phrase, an "affectionate spoof", and a great one at that. Galaxy Quest is intelligent, funny and touching without being maudlin, and it manages to accomplish all of this without a hint of crudity. Comedies of this quality are rare, so ENJOY.

(By the way, the bizaare, mushroom-like rock formations on the gremlin-infested planet are real--they are found in the appropriately-named Goblin Valley, Utah.)
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Underrated, Underappreciated, and Misunderestimated
14 May 2004
5 reasons to love this film: 1. The sight of Ned Nederlander (Martin Short) telling the incomprehensible, self-indulgent story of when he met Dorothy Gish ("you know, Lillian's sister") to a bunch of patient, albeit bored Mexican kids. 2. Lucky Day (Steve Martin) trying to get his buddies' attention as they break into the studio--progressing from an owl's soft "hoo" to a crowing "LOOKUPHERE...LOOKUPHERE" 3. The opening song and Elmer Bernstein's great score (he also scored the classic comedies "Animal House" and "Stripes") 4. The Three Amigos singing "My Little Buttercup" in a Mexican cantina 5. The Amigos fighting back tears as Lucky Day informs his buddies that, in fact, they have been summoned not to perform, but actually to fight the evil El Guapo--Martin Short's tearful line, "Why am I in Mexico?" is hilarious, almost as funny as Steve Martin's follow-up, "I've been shot already!"

This is an intelligent comedy, one that pokes fun not only at the mythology of the Hollywood western, but at Hollywood itself. The three Amigos is a delight to watch, and a great addition to any family's film collection.
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Good, but not Great
19 December 2003
Clearly, the Lord of the Rings fanatics are taking over ImDb. They have managed to voted "The Two Towers" into the number 4 spot on the all-time list. Ridiculous. Certainly, "Two Towers" is a good movie, but it has several problems that prevent it from attaining the greatness of its predecessor, "Fellowship of the Ring".

First, all those useless, lingering shots of Liv Tyler make me conclude that Peter Jackson, as great a job as he has done on the series, could not resist the Michael Bay-like tendency to use his film as a platform for admiring the goddess-like qualities of some members of the fairer sex. Second, the slow-motion, close-up shots of the women and children cowering in the shelter of helms' deep, anticipating a gory fate. I certainly understand their fear, but all of these sequences seem manipulative and heavy handed. Frankly, I was plenty worried about the fates of the defenders without having to be reminded (repeatedly) by Mr. Jackson that there were mothers and children present, too. Finally, in "Fellowship", Mr. Jackson had a little less confidence in the patience of his audience, and he was therefore much more economical in his translation of Tolkien's narrative onto the screen. In "Two Towers", he throws economy out the window, and the film suffers as a result. When your film exceeds three hours AND you find yourself cutting in numerous slow-motion sequences, a little self-examination is in order. I am not calling for elimination of crucial elements of Tolkien's story, but successful adaptation from page to screen requires some clever narrative devices to truncate long passages into digestible visual material. In this regard, "Two Towers" is far inferior to "Fellowship". I hope that Jackson, in "Return of the King", shows more self-control.

Still, Mr. Jackson is on the verge of one of the most extraordinary achievements in film history. He deserves all of his success.
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Red Dawn (1984)
Just because it's propaganda, doesn't mean it's bad
15 December 2003
Anyone who has seen Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph Des Willens" (Triumph of the Will), the documentary about the Nuremburg Rallies, understands that even the vilest propaganda can attain the status of great art. Without a doubt, Nazism was a force to be despised and resisted, yet "Triumph" remains a fascinating, even great film.

That said, I will not put "Red Dawn" on the same plane as Riefenstahl's work. It is neither as good a film nor as vile propaganda. But it does underscore a point I see running through many of the criticisms of "Red Dawn" that have been posted here. Many of the movie's detractors reject the film out of hand because of its undeniably conservative overtones. This, I believe, is lazy criticism. The movie has an excellent pedigree. I suggest you search on ImDb under John Milius' name to see what other films he has been involved in. Some of his more notable accomplishments include the screenplays of "Jeremiah Johnson" and co-authoring "Apocalypse Now", as well as the notably UNconservative adaptation of "Clear and Present Danger". Basil Poledouris' score is fantastic, with its Copland-esque homages. The touches of authenticity in the film are also admirable, including the indoctrination camp (see the recently published "Gulag" or Koestler's "Darkness at Noon")and "Radio Free America" scenes, not to mention the efforts the filmmakers went to to make the military hardware look Russian (as opposed to Russians flying American aircraft in dismal movies like "Iron Eagle II" and "Rambo"). Yes, Red Dawn is propaganda, but just because it may be, from your perspective, the wrong kind of propaganda, you are not justified in invalidating the whole enterprise. It is slick, well-made, and memorable.
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