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The Transformers: The Movie (1986)
"Of all the circuit-glitched, diode-blowing, dim-wittery - you left a piece out!"
The Transformers franchise began in 1984 with a toy line and expanded exponentially to include animation, comic books, video games and films. As an adult, I was an outsider looking in at the time, but my boys, aged five and seven, became total Transformers toy fans. They were ubiquitous on store shelves and every birthday and Christmas for a couple of years had to include at least some configuration of Transformer toys for presents.
I come by way of this picture only because it was an IMDb Top 250 selection in 1996, otherwise I wouldn't have any interest in it. Following the story line well enough, I was baffled by how the Autobot heroes were so easily and arbitrarily disposed of, like Optimus Prime (there's one I remember in my kids' collection), and Ultra Magnus, with the character Hot Rod finishing out the picture as Rodimus Prime. Another reviewer here makes sense of all this by stating that the merchandising for successive toy lines required new characters, so that kind of makes sense, but gee, what would have happened to Superman and Spider-Man if the comic book folks dispatched them that quickly. It took half a century for Superman to die and then he was brought back again!
What really floored me about the picture was some of the big name talent that signed on to voice the characters here - Orson Welles, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack. Even Scatman Crothers! Holy cow, I wonder what these guys were thinking when they signed on for the gig. It couldn't be for lack of money. I'd really like to have been a fly on the wall when they brought Orson Welles in to pitch the idea. That must have been some show.
As for the picture, I guess it's OK for a kids' product. The story moves along at a blistering pace, with colorful backgrounds and an almost anime-like quality. Keeping track of the characters can be an exercise in futility, with names like Megatron, Unicron, Galvatron, the Decepticons and Constructicons. Sounds like they'd need a panel discussion at the San Diego Comic-Con to put it all in perspective. If it all sounds like a lot of beryllium baloney, well I guess you just had to be there back in the day watching the TV show and movies. For my part, I'd be interested in a story about the Shrikebots on Dometron.
Up in Smoke (1978)
"The better the bust, the bigger the boost!"
Quite honestly, I don't see how even fans of this film can give it a '10' rating. It's funny in parts, but personally, I found the movie a chore to get through. There's not much of a story going on, and it's principal appeal seems to be in catering to the stoner crowd that gets it's kicks in the kind of moronic behavior exhibited by Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. Veteran character actors like Stacy Keach,Tom Skerritt and Strother Martin lower their personal standards to appear in this flick and not necessarily for the good, as they all present caricatures of the type of characters they're supposed to represent. For me, this couldn't be over and done with quick enough, but if you're a Cheech and Chong fan, have at it. Who am I to deny a meaningless hour and a half in your life?
Courage Under Fire (1996)
"She was a soldier."
This film's relatively low IMDb rating of 6.6 as I write this baffles me. I thought it was a compelling story centering on parallel narratives involving Colonel Nat Serling (Denzel Washington), himself conflicted over a friendly fire incident in which his best friend was killed, while investigating the merit of awarding the country's first Medal of Honor to a woman who died in combat. Meg Ryan portrays female Captain Karen Walden in the story, and I do have to say that her presence in a dramatic role seemed almost distracting considering the many romantic comedies she's appeared in. However she does comport herself well in the battle scenes that eventually lead to her character's death.
I've read some of the other user reviews making comparisons to "Roshomon", and although there are similarities, I would point out that in the Kurosawa film, there really is no resolution to the validity of any of the four characters telling their side of a story regarding the murder of a samurai and the rape of his wife. It's really left to the imagination of the viewer regarding who's story one believes is true, if any of them. In this one, it's left fairly certain that medic Ilario's (Matt Damon) final accounting to Colonel Serling is the definitive version that confirms Captain Walden's valor in the heat of battle. The one thing that isn't confirmed is the exact manner in which she died because it occurred after all of the soldiers under her command were evacuated from the scene of the battle at Al Kufan.
What the movie brilliantly conveys is the personal conflict undergone by Serling in his personal and professional life and how his search for the truth becomes a quest that almost tears him and his family apart. Turning to booze as many in his shoes undoubtedly would, I didn't get the sense that he ever really crossed the line into alcoholism as many viewers suggest, though his reliance on alcohol seemed to imply he became a plateau drinker with just the right amount of resolve to keep himself under control. He obviously walked a very fine line attempting to balance the duty he felt to uncover the truth of his investigation while maintaining a devotion to his wife and family. In another picture, his marriage might not have withstood the consequences of his loyalty to the military.
"The kid's gonna die when we don't need him any more."
The passage of time has not been kind to this film. It was an IMDb Top 250 member back in 1996 but has fallen to a 6.6 rating as I write this. Personally, I don't get the low ranking. There are a handful of reviewers here who knock it for plot holes left unnamed, whereas I concentrate on a film to look for them and I really couldn't detect anything in the story line that didn't maintain a continuity toward the eventual resolution. One might challenge Tom Mullen's (Mel Gibson) decision to up the stakes against kidnapper Jimmy Shaker (Gary Sinise), but if I were Mullen, I think I might have gone for the same gambit. The clue Tom Mullen picked up from Cubby Barnes (Donnie Wahlberg) convinced him that this wasn't a straight ransom demand and that his son was probably marked for death anyway. The surprise if any is that Mullen's wife (Rene Russo) went along with his decision after initial misgivings. The scene that could have been handled better was when Shaker showed up at Mullen's apartment and Sean (Brawley Nolte) recognized his voice. The cutting back and forth between Tom and his son didn't do enough in my estimation to tip Tom off that Shaker was the kidnap mastermind. It was Shaker's own greed that provided the tip-off, which goes to show that the desire for even more money was his own undoing. If one wants to criticize any aspect of the story, I'd look at Tom Mullen's commitment to honoring ten times the ransom demand; how much more would that have been than the bribe to avert a machinist strike at his company?
Better Off Dead... (1985)
"This is as bad as it will ever get."
Well it never gets that ominous for John Cusack's character. After getting dumped by his girlfriend (Amanda Wyss) for hot shot skier Roy Stalin (Aaron Dozier), Lane Meyer suffers the expected angst that goes with getting dumped territory. He survives a faux suicide attempt when his Mom (Kim Darby) inadvertently helps Lane hang himself, but that single attempt is outdone several times by Bud Cort's character in the 1971 flick "Harold and Maude". That film is even more hilarious than this one, though you have to pick your spots.
The picture thrives on an unrelenting volume of sight gags throughout. Can you imagine a high school class as rapt at attention as the teens in Kerber's (Vincent Schiavelli) math room? I got a kick out of Badger's (Scooter Stevens) "How to Pick Up Trashy Women" which he managed to follow through on, and the picture's nod to the original "Frankenstein" was more than evident with Lane working at Pig Burgers. And say, anyone else notice that Stalin hit his stopwatch a couple of clicks after his required fifty eight second time trial when Lane crossed the finish line? I don't know what Beth (Wyss) ever saw in the guy.
Well this is a fun movie if you're up for a teen comedy. The title actually seems to have more to do with the night club singer's song than it does with Lane Meyer's quest to kill himself. The chemistry between his character and Diane Franklin's Monique works well and Curtis Armstrong does what he can to channel Gilbert Gottfried as Lane's pal Charles De Mar. Aside from the vengeful two dollar paper boy and the rest of the principal players, my favorite was the Japanese Howard Cosell imitator. For anyone too young to remember Cosell, you'll have to look him up on Youtube to see what a great job Brian Imada did mimicking the famed sportscaster.
Hung fan kui (1995)
"Don't you know you're the scum of society?"
Probably the most impressive thing about "Rumble in the Bronx" is the choreography involved in Jackie Chan's fight scenes and general stunt work. Besides his acrobatic fighting style, one bears witness to the incredible use of props Jackie puts to use in the way he takes down bad guys. The other thing that's quite noticeable in the picture is how Chan gets to take his share of lumps as well as dishing it out. That's kind of commendable for an action star, who's ego isn't so large that he can't be shown messing up or getting beat up in a situation where he's overwhelmed. The scene that really floored me was when the black suit gang rigged up the New Wa Ha Supermarket with chains to tear the whole place down; that was quite outrageous. But probably no more outrageous than that hovercraft scene that seemed to come out of nowhere for a resounding finale. If you get a chance to watch the movie, stick around for the after credits that include some of the 'stunts gone bad' footage. You'll see Jackie Chan missing some of his marks and winding up hurt for real. What can you say about the guy, he puts every effort into making things look as realistic as possible.
"I should be ruling the world by, oh, 6:00, 6:30 at the latest."
I'm a big fan of B grade sci-fi schlock like "This Island Earth" but have never actually seen that film yet, though it's been on my watch list for a while now. So imagine my surprise when this flick offers a two-fer, so to speak, with the Mystery Science Theater folks offering their hilarious send up of that movie. The only trouble is, I had a hard time focusing on the 'real' movie because of all the zany commentary offered by Mike Nelson and his robot cohorts, Servo (Kevin Murphy) and Crow (Trace Beaulieu). I can see how this might not appeal to a lot of movie watchers, but one of the things I enjoyed most about the spoof was the multitude of cultural references made regarding other celebrity figures and situations of the era, like Prince's bedroom, Salvador Dali, Baywatch, Ted Kennedy and the alien's resemblance to Leona Helmsley. The best was the Buddy Ebsen reference, I almost hit the floor with that one. The thing is, the movie is kind of hard to rate using IMDb's system because it's difficult to separate "This Island Earth" from the general mayhem afforded by Mike and his crew. If I were grading the original sci-fi classic itself, I'd probably go a '3' or a '4', while the added commentary makes it all the funnier, bringing my evaluation up to a '6'. So in the interest of averaging things out, I'll call it a '5' and leave it at that. With the understanding that I'll seek out "This Island Earth" to stand on it's own merits at some point down the road. I'll be ready to come up with my own one-liners by then.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
"I'm starting a new company, and the fish will come with me."
Unlike many films in which the central character has a career changing epiphany near the end of the story, this one occurs right at the start. Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is a highly successful sports agent who ultimately comes to grips with the empty life style and endless quest for money that takes over one's life when they find themselves at the top of their profession. The movie handles Maguire's transition with considerable skill without overlooking the doubts and fears one would expect when making a life altering decision. For those who had faith in Jerry all along, Cuba Gooding Jr's Tidwell learns a lesson in humility when taken to task for playing with his head and not his heart, while Renee Zellweger's own heart wears consistently on her sleeve for Jerry's time and attention. Their eventual marriage is tested when it becomes a question of love versus loyalty, but once again, Jerry Maguire returns to a principled conclusion that his new family is worth more than all the mega-bucks available in the fast paced world of celebrity sports and multi-million dollar endorsements. Here's a movie with a different kind of 'show me the money' message and well worth your time.
Dazed and Confused (1993)
"Fairly uneventful, huh?"
I think this movie may have gotten it's inspiration from the 'Seinfeld' TV show - it's about nothing. It's more clueless than "Clueless", and it's one of the few flicks I can think of where if you walk out on it for ten or fifteen minutes, when you come back you haven't missed a thing. Which may be one of it's good points because you can start the picture on any one of the jump scenes on your DVD and you won't have to worry about any kind of story continuity. Having gone to a private high school, I can't really relate to the antics going on here except for the occasional beer blast; drugs and casual sex weren't as prevalent on the scene back in the late Sixties/early Seventies from what I can recall, although I'm sure local public schools were just a tad more liberal, but not to the extent displayed here. Of the future celebrities in the film, I didn't recognize Ben Affleck one bit, and I thought Matthew McConaughey was Owen Wilson. Maybe I'm the one who was dazed and confused. Speaking of which, you would think a movie with that title would have as one of it's required songs the one by Led Zeppelin of that same title. I mean, really, they were one of the premier bands still going strong in 1976.
As I go further back in time regarding IMDb's Top 250 lists, I find that I'm repeating myself in saying that I'm not part of the target audience for a picture like this, and that the early days of IMDb had to be heavily influenced by hordes of teenage viewers rating movies like "Clueless" so highly. Time has taken it's toll a bit by now, and for a pretty good reason; the movie just isn't that good, even for a teen comedy. It has it's moments of course, and Alicia Silverstone's character isn't as clueless as the title of the movie would suggest, but the picture offers a lot of fluff stringing together a variety of situations for Cher (Silverstone) and her cliquey friends. The one good takeaway is the way Cher befriended newcomer Tai (Brittany Murphy) into her circle and helped her become popular, in her own right. But throughout the cast, I couldn't come up with a single role model I'd point to as being someone I'd want a teenager of today to emulate. For what it's worth, my borrowed DVD copy offered up the 'Whatever' edition of the movie, which may or may not mean anything, as I'm not bothered enough to try and find out. Really, as if.
"Who wants to live forever?"
I seem to recall a lot of hype surrounding this movie when it came out, enough to spawn a number of sequels and a television series. I was never intrigued enough to see it until the other day and I can't say that it struck me as anything special. The film's back and forth between different historical eras is a little confusing at first until you get into the rhythm of the story, and then it's not too difficult to follow. As the principal character, Christopher Lambert doesn't project a very heroic persona, even less so as a civilian in the present day. I just didn't see any charisma in his portrayal of Highlander Connor MacLeod. In some ways I think he was outdone by his mentor Ramirez (Sean Connery) and the story's principal villain Kurgan (Clancy Brown). Even the romantic involvements with Heather (Beatie Edney) in the past and Brenda Wyatt (Roxanne Hart) in modern New York City seemed bland given the epic pretensions of the story. I don't know, maybe I saw this on a bad day, but given the picture's reputation, I found it nothing to lose your head over.
The Rock (1996)
"Welcome to the Rock."
Present day movie fans can be forgiven for thinking "The Rock" is a biopic of Dwayne Johnson. Back in 1996, pro wrestling's 'Rock' was just signing with the WWE, and he's pretty much everywhere on the celebrity circuit today.
I seem to detect a trend with a lot of these action/adventure movies. A lot of them start out with an intriguing, if not highly improbable premise, but after the preliminary build up, they turn into an endless escalation of gun blasts and explosions. This one pretty much follows the same formula, and if not for the formidable cast, might have been just another also ran. Actually, it is just another also ran, but Sean Connery gives the story some spark, and Nicolas Cage is acceptable in his role as an FBI toxicology expert. What's kind of odd though is that even though Stanley Goodspeed was a whiz regarding poisonous substances, it really didn't require that kind of knowledge to remove a detonator chip on a rocket carrying a poisonous gas. You just had to know where to find the chip.
Well folks, dispense with the critical thinking here and just sit back to enjoy the ride. Plenty of gunfire and over the top action to satisfy the action fan, and not a bad supporting cast that includes Ed Harris, Michael Biehn and John C. McGinley. This is also the second film in a row I've seen with David Morse where he's not playing some sort of wimpy character. That's got to be worth something, and when I figure it out, I'll get back to you.
Babylon 5: The Gathering (1993)
"Sooner or later everyone comes to Babylon 5."
For a movie that wound up on IMDb's Top 250 List all the way back in 1996, this movie only had nineteen user reviews posted when I came to this page. That seems rather odd and I don't know what to chalk that up to. Although I've never watched an episode of the TV series, it seems to me this series pilot ought to have had more of an impact on viewers to warrant a broader host of reactions.
Arriving a couple of decades after the Star Trek TV series, one can appreciate the improvement in special effects compared to some of the almost cardboard looking sets of The Enterprise. However much of it looked like video game quality compared to the incredible visuals of today. One can definitely measure the progress over time of how television adopted technology to achieve some of the stunning illusions and visual tricks we can witness today.
The story itself here is pretty much by the numbers for a sci-fi outer space saga. Much of the acting is a bit sketchy, and the Minbari and Narn prosthetics leave a bit to be desired. My understanding is that some of the pilot actors used here didn't make it into the series, and in the case of Tamlyn Tomita's character, Lieutenant Commander Laurel Takashima, one can see why. Some of her dialog and screen presence was downright cheesy. Even Commander Sinclair (Michael O'Hare) left something to be desired in the way of a forceful presence aboard Babylon 5. With Captain Kirk, you always knew who was top gun on the Enterprise crew.
The handful of reviewers for this pilot seem rather mixed in their appreciation of the show. Again, with no basis for comparison against the actual series that followed, I'd have to say it was generally okay with an intriguing story line that got muddled a bit along the way. It wasn't enough to get me interested in the program that it introduced, although I can't say I'll never get to it at some point. Maybe one day.
Ba wang bie ji (1993)
"The river's course is twisted, but in the end it flows to the sea."
The changing political fortunes of Beijing, China and it's opera is examined in this ambitious dramatic piece, focusing on a pair of theatrical stage brothers and a woman who comes between them. Realizing that a good portion of modern day China's history has been spent under Communist rule, it's nevertheless distressing to witness the type of torture aspiring actors had to go through in order to perfect their craft. The scenes of beatings and personal insults, especially when the principal characters were very young, seem altogether too brutal in the effort to make them remember their lines and deliver them effectively. It would seem more of a detriment to me to have that kind of pressure inflicted on someone. Perhaps the most distressing aspect of the story has to do with Xiaolou (Fengyi Zhang) and Cheng (Leslie Cheung) declared traitors and enemies against the People during the 1966 Cultural Revolution, when all they were doing was what they had always done, performing their roles to the applause of an appreciative audience. It only goes to prove that one's fortunes are largely dependent on those in power governing in their own self interest.
Little Women (1994)
"We all grow up someday. We might as well know what we want."
Winona Ryder seemed to have scored a major coup by having her name appear above the title of the picture during the opening credits. Granted, she already had a pretty good body of work behind her, but there were quite a few significant members of the cast in this picture. It's true that at a certain point, her character Jo March takes center stage in this tale of four sisters growing up during, and following the Civil War era. She did a credible job, though the film and story were greatly enhanced by the gorgeous camera work by cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson. I have no quarrel with the movie per se, but as a male senior citizen, there's not much I was able to relate to regarding the story. Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, it's fairly transparent that the author is represented by Ryder's character in this largely autobiographical story. It follows the fortunes of the four March sisters on their way to maturity and adulthood along with the attendant rituals of courtship and marriage that they experience, save for young Beth (Claire Danes) who succumbed to the ravages of scarlet fever. Reading several of the reviews on this board, there seems to be a dichotomy between those who feel the movie followed the novel fairly closely and those who thought it did a terrible job. Not having real Alcott's novel, I'd have to leave that impression to each viewer to decide.
A Time to Kill (1996)
"Ain't nothing more dangerous than a fool with a cause."
Another reviewer on this board made a comparison of the film with "To Kill a Mockingbird", and although the same thought came to me while watching it, the similarity is never fully realized. In the earlier movie, a black man was found guilty of raping a white woman, and the stereotype of redneck Southern justice is essentially carried out. The better comparison I think, can be made with another film I just recently viewed, that being "Sleepers", in which a pair of thugs murder a former reform school guard who physically abused them while they were in their teens. The whole idea of social justice is stood on it's head in both films, and if the thought behind each movie is to make viewers feel conflicted about their outcomes, then they both succeeded.
Just like Gregory Peck's character in 'Mockingbird', Jake Brigance approached his job via a one on one relationship with the accused, a man who's ability to reason is shattered when his ten year old daughter is assaulted and raped by the side of the road, and left to die when a couple of degenerates decide to partake in some demented version of what they consider fun. However the character who perhaps straddles the line best between blacks and whites in the story is Sheriff Ozzie Walls (Charles S. Dutton), a black man who has the same keen sense of justice as does Brigance. He's unafraid to arrest the guilty perpetrators of the horrible rape of the ten year old Tonya Hailey (RaéVen Kelly), nor is he troubled about taking her father (Samuel L. Jackson) into custody for the shooting at the courthouse. I had the sense that he was a well respected man of Canton who saw his job as color blind in the eyes of the law.
In a way, the picture's most defining moment might have been saved for the very final scene. Following Carl Lee Hailey's (Jackson) impassioned dialog with his lawyer, one which inspired Jake Brigance to revamp his closing argument, we see Brigance and his family arrive at the Hailey home, as jubilant neighbors celebrate the acquittal. Taking to heart what it means to be truly accepting of others different from themselves, Jake confidently comes to terms with Carl Lee's persuasive suggestion by stating, "Just thought our kids could play together".
"It only took a minute..., but in that minute..., everything changed."
This is a revenge film of a different kind. Characters who have been wronged in childhood band together as adults to mete out punishment to their tormentors under the pretense of the legal system. The story flows fairly logically and consistently right up though the courtroom's closing arguments when a pair of thugs are found not guilty of murder when in fact they did kill a man. The story weaves it's way through childhood escapades in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen, a boys reformatory where horrible physical abuse takes place, the back room manipulations of a Mafia kingpin, and a courtroom drama in which nothing appears to be what it seems.
For the longest time the title of this picture held a different connotation for this viewer. For some reason I though it was a sci-fi film dealing with dream experimentation gone bad. I don't know where that idea came from, perhaps another movie that I can't properly place. The 'sleepers' here refers to anyone who spent any time at all in a juvenile facility like the four young friends we meet here. As a result of a terrible accident resulting from a prank gone way out of control, the boys wind up at the Wilkinson School for Boys and the beginning of a personal nightmare for each of them. More than anything, the story line points to the randomness that can occur in someone's life that will eventually forge a person's future for good or bad, in this case, definitely bad. And I'm not even referring to the murder trial, but to the aftermath as depicted by the closing scenes detailing the fate of all concerned.
Robert De Niro portrays perhaps the most conflicted character in the story, that of neighborhood priest, Father Bobby Carillo. In a way, he reminded me of Pat O'Brien's Father Jerry in the 1938 film, "Angels With Dirty Faces". Father Bobby is there for his troubled boys, but is asked to put his priestly obligations on the line in order to clear two of his former charges from a murder rap. The complex issue is handled skillfully by the screenwriter, though many will question the credibility of a priest not only lying, but lying under oath after swearing on the Bible.
The one nit-pick I have with the story relates to Father Bobby's testimony when he produced the three Garden basketball tickets. That clearly came so far out of left field that it put a knock on the credibility of the defense argument. How would it have been possible to backtrack the availability of those tickets so long after the events at the restaurant occurred? Had the picture found a different way to corroborate the phony witness story, I might have rated the movie a perfect ten.
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
"These times of woe afford no time to woo."
The passage of time has not been kind to this film as far as IMDb's rating system goes. But can you picture the love struck couples who went to see this in the theater when it was originally released? I can just imagine the weeping that occurred at the end of the story, teenage girls clutching their boyfriends' arms in shocked and swollen grief. Ah yes, the saga of Romeo and Juliet.
I actually had a pretty good time with this flick and I'm not really a Shakespeare buff. The modern day updating has a weird sensibility to it, pitting two warring families against each other - the Montagues and the Capulets. The only thing is, it's never really mentioned what started the feud off in the first place. It seemed kind of senseless, and appeared to be almost ethnic in nature, something I don't think will ever be overcome by people who see others as different from themselves. Shakespearean dialog in the hands of these hip-hop oriented thespians sounds oddly anachronistic, but serves well, especially during the comedic moments. I got the biggest kick out of the Montagues 'biting their thumbs' at the Capulets. I don't know if that was in the original play but I thought that scene was hilarious.
Leonardo DiCaprio is far from a favorite of mine but he did a decent job here as Romeo, as did Claire Danes as Juliet. I'm pretty sure Shakespeare would not have envisioned Romeo in a shootout with the cops near the story's finale, nor would he have envisioned much of what else goes on in this latter day tale set in Verona Beach, with players attired in Hawaiian shirts and gang-banger threads coming at each other. But the essence of Romeo and Juliet is there, and if you've been predisposed to ignore the famous bard, a picture like this might just have you picking up a copy of Shakespeare.
Withnail & I (1987)
"We are not drunks. We are multi-millionaires!"
British humor can be very deceptive. You have the outright nonsense of the Monty Python crew, and then you have the biting witticism of a screenplay as is found in "Withnail and I". It's difficult to say whether you can enjoy a film like this or not; it's just a bit too dark and seamy for entertainment purposes, but it finds it's rewards in other ways. There's a sense of rambling about with the story line, introducing deficient characters along the way to complement the antics of Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and friend Marwood (Paul McGann), the celebrated 'and I' of the picture. For a couple of characters having to operate from the wrong side of the tracks, their fate is virtually all down hill from there, thereby counterpointing the understated humor with a very real sense of sadness and melancholy. The pacing of the film may be somewhat slow and tedious for some viewers, not to mention the paucity of a plot, but for those with the patience, this is a movie that satisfies the discriminating viewer with it's prescient dialog and incorrigible wit.
Empire Records (1995)
"I guess nobody really has it all together."
This film would have been a whole lot better if every character in it wasn't a caricature. Store clerk Mark (Ethan Embry) and shoplifter Warren (Brendan Sexton III) were the worst. There might be teens that clueless and arrogant respectively, but in this film, they were just plain annoying. And the record shop manager Joe Reaves (Anthony LaPaglia) spent an awful lot of time deliberating over what he'd do about the missing nine grand. Seemed pretty simple to me, but in keeping with the one big happy family concept, he presided over the madness going on with the serenity of a Buddhist monk. Maybe I'm just a little too far removed from the target audience for this picture but it did nothing for me. The story was fairly predictable about how the missing money would be replaced, while the teen angst aspect of all the employees wound up pretty much resolved by the time the closing credits rolled. Not very comparable to real life, but I guess the picture had it's time and place, which is to say, it's a good thing the Nineties are over.
Evil Dead II (1987)
"Who's laughing now?"
Oh man, why do I even bother? Well, there's an answer to that. I watch junk like this because I've set a personal goal of watching and reviewing every movie that's ever made an IMDb Top 250 list, and this one appears on one going all the way back to 1997. I watched Bruce Campbell's turn in "Army of Darkness" not long ago and at some point in this picture it started to look like the same movie again. I don't know much about Campbell so I took a look at his bio here on IMDb and it seems like he has some talent, so I can't figure why he would devote a good part of his career to something like this 'Evil Dead' series. Seems to me he could have been a leading man with the right breaks, but that's based on his looks and not on his talent. You wouldn't know if the guy had any talent by watching this flick. Hey, I know there are fans for stuff like this, and if that's your thing, go for it. If not for earning an IMDb merit badge, I'd never come near something this stupid.
Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
"Mess with the bull, you get the horns. You know what I'm saying?"
The story itself is fairly predictable - the rich, good looking guy who's a manipulative jerk is going out with the school's hottest chick, while on the other side of the tracks, a loner works as a mechanic and hangs out with a tomboy who finds it hard to hide her feelings about him. It all plays out in a fairly realistic high school setting, as writer John Hughes explores teenage angst once again in a milieu he's come to be identified with. What's different about this story, and it's kind of refreshing, is that the teens aren't hopping in and out of bed with each other, and wind up going through some personal self analysis before they rearrange their relationships to ones that make sense.
Watching this film some three decades after it's original release, and with all the emphasis in the current culture on equality between the sexes, it was somewhat jarring to hear egomaniac Hardy (Craig Sheffer) refer to Amanda (Lea Thompson) as his 'property'. I know there are guys who think like that but to actually hear him say it was more than enough to merit a trashing. I thought all the principal players did a fine job in their roles, with Mary Stuart Masterson particularly effective as the overlooked tomboy who's patience and integrity is rewarded in the end.
One thing about the closing credits puzzled me, in as much as the would-be bully who turned out to be Keith Nelson's (Eric Stoltz) friend had the name of Duncan, but the name that appeared in the credits was 'Skinhead', and his pals were referred to as Skinhead's friends. I think it's the first time I've seen a corrected credit here on IMDb that doesn't reference the actor's character as it appeared in a movie's credited cast list.
"Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker."
I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie but I'm pretty sure it wasn't what I wound up viewing. I thought I would like the general feel of the thing but something about the movie felt off kilter. Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) seemed mean spirited at times, and almost indifferent at others, giving me the impression that the picture over all wasn't that kid friendly. I mean, four out of the five Golden Ticket winners wound up transported to some never never land never to be heard from again, while Charlie (Peter Ostrum) had to take it on the chin with his grandfather (Jack Albertson) for swiping some of the fizzy lifting drinks. That he wound up inheriting the Chocolate Factory seemed almost like a consolation prize given the tenor of the story.
I did like the idea of the Golden Ticket contest, and have to wonder why more companies didn't follow up on the idea after this movie came out. It seemed like it would drive a lot of business and create excitement about a company's products. There's no denying the sets are colorful and imaginative, yet they seemed strangely surreal and fake at the same time. When I think back to the creativity on display in a film like "The Wizard of Oz" made three decades earlier, it's like this film didn't put the era's technology and artistry to any kind of use to look more polished.
The thing is, the movie held out a lot of promise with the opening scenes of chocolate candy being made on a variety of assembly lines pumping out bars and candy kisses. And the scene in the candy shop took me back to the good old days of my youth when penny candy was the rule. I kind of feel sorry for today's youth who can't ever experience the thrill and/or frustration of making such a fateful decision with just a few available pennies in the sweaty palm of their hand. If you could pick up four of five pieces of penny candy today for under a buck you'd probably be lucky.
"We have to live in a glass house where there are no secrets."
I can't tell you how many movies I've seen in which the principal characters wind up in bed together at the drop of a hat after just meeting each other. Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis) by far had the most direct and uniquely creative approach - he asked women he was interested in to take off their clothes. And they did! Just like that. It's not a technique I've ever tried but I have my doubts that it's as simple as that. Maybe for Harvey Weinstein but look where it got him.
The 'lightness' of the title was referenced a number of times in the picture and it referred to the way Tomas approached life and relationships with the opposite sex. To him, there was a 'lightness' that permeated his actions and thinking, never carrying things out to their ultimate conclusion. Whereas Tereza (Juliette Binoche) represented just the opposite, one might say the 'heavy' approach to dealing with potential romantic partners. That is, it had to mean something, and her recognition of Tomas's infidelity caused her much psychic harm - "But how can someone love without being in love?" This may be the age old question in the male/female dynamic, explored in this film as the married couple attempt to reconcile their relationship while in the midst of a corresponding affair with Tomas's worldly mistress Sabina (Lena Olin).
Set against the backdrop of the Prague Spring of 1968, the political element didn't seem to be entirely necessary in the telling of the relationship story. However it did provide a measure of conflict for Tomas who was called upon to retract an earlier published piece taking the Soviet Communist regime to task for the way it dehumanized people and placed them under the thumb of an overreaching government.
Notwithstanding the title of the picture, the film's resolution is anything but light in the sense that it spelled doom for the principal characters. It's perhaps the story's dramatic irony that Tomas and Tereza finally found their true happiness outside the confines of the city where they could be as free as possible to pursue life on their own terms, if only for a short while.
"Are we going to the prom or to hell?"
Interestingly, there are some films that were wildly popular at the time they were released, but today seem like they should never have been made in the first place. Such a movie is "Heathers", when viewed within the context of massive school shootings and rampant suicide by disaffected members of society. I really couldn't get into the spirit of this picture, if spirit is even the right word. Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) seemed like the only responsible girl in her clique of multiple Heathers, yet succumbed to the fake charm of outsider Jason Dean (Christian Slater). That J.D.'s last name was Dean ought to give one an indication that in matters of high school decorum, he truly was a rebel without a cause.
As a satire and parody of teenage disaffection the story has some merit, but when the principal characters take it to it's ultimate extreme, it ceases to be funny. So much so, that it's easy to come away with the impression that J.D. and Veronica wound up killing all three Heathers when in fact it was only Heather Red (Kim Walker) that got the Drano treatment. Heather Green (Shannen Doherty) surfaced to take her place as Westerburg High's resident queen bee, while Heather Yellow (Lisanne Falk) was ignominiously dumped from the script following her bathroom meltdown attended by a supportive Veronica.
Besides the understated James Dean connection, I also had to do a quick double take when the story line introduced Veronica's former best friend. Taking place in the fictional town of Sherwood, Ohio, I was quite expecting Archie, Reggie and Jughead to show up from nearby Riverdale, because when all was said and done, why else would you introduce a couple of your principal characters as Betty and Veronica?