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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Category Archives: 1970s

The Beguiled (1971)

Ladies just can’t help themselves around the Clint-man.

Out somewhere in the deep South, during the Civil War, lies a school for girls where, for the most part, the word of the gospel is spoken about. Managed by Martha Farnsworth (Geraldine Page), the girls all stick together, depending on each other to not just get by in a rough time like this, but remember that at the end of this dreadful war, there will be a life to continue on living. But being tucked away from the rest of the world and society, even during a time like this, can be awfully dangerous. And it all comes to head when an injured soldier by the name of John McBurney (Clint Eastwood) is found by the girls and eventually, taken in. He has an injured leg and rather than going right back out there into the battlefield, the ladies all decide to help him out, feeding him, bathing him, clothing him, and yes, allowing him to eventually heal up to near-perfection, so that he can be back on fighting the good fight. But McBurney’s got a little something more on his mind and considering that there’s about five or six women, all alone, in a house with him, he decides to take total advantage of the situation at hand.

Every guy has that look when they realize that they’re going to be trapped in a house full of horny schoolgirls, too.

The original Beguiled will probably always and forever be known as the first instance in which we got to see a new side to the ultimate bad-ass of bad-asses, Clint Eastwood. See, before the Beguiled, it was all tall, lean, mean, soft-spoken icons in Westerns for Clint and while he owned them like anyone’s business, they were also the kind of roles that would have had people turn on him for not really trying anything new and, well, getting pigeonholed. It could have happened to John Wayne who, unsurprisingly, started messing around with other genres here and there, while still staying true to his old nature that everyone knew and loved him for, but it didn’t. And it could have happened to Clint Eastwood, but thankfully, it didn’t.

And a part of me thinks why Eastwood is so good here isn’t just because he’s given something new to try on for size, but for once, he’s actually playing someone who could closely resemble a villain, so to speak. Granted, he was always perfect at playing the anti-heroes before this, but as John McBurney, Eastwood gets to shine a darker light on his good looks and charming ways, proving there’s something deeper and sinister going on than ever before. In a way, when McBurney is messing with these characters, Eastwood is messing with us, having us think and believe in him as the main hero, who’s going to come in and save the day, but it turns out, that’s not true at all.

In fact, he’s the sinister one this time.

See? All worth it!

But director Don Siegel, a constant companion to Eastwood and some of his truly good films, knows better than to lead with that. Instead, he keeps the simmering tension moving and constantly building, even when it seems like he can’t help himself from getting all worked up and snickering at the idea of sex, or better yet, nudity. You can call it childish if you want, but the Beguiled can be a pretty intriguing movie with how it depicts the battle of the sexes and, well, sex itself. There’s a far smarter movie stuck somewhere in here, but of course, it never comes out.

And that’s just because the movie’s also too busy being a little fun, which isn’t such a bad thing after all. Cause on the opposite side of Eastwood, there’s Geraldine Page’s Martha, who feels like the perfect counterpart to this sly devil of a man. While everything about this Martha makes it seem like she’s a totally stuck-up, boring pain, she finds ways to surprise us; she can be just as dark as McBurney and, in ways, even more sexual, too. Page is great in this role, as she often was in every role, because she not only shows how a woman can play a man’s game, but also do so, while still remaining to her true values and ideas.

Once again, the movie’s trying to say something. But it’s also enjoying it’s time on Eastwood’s perfectly-shaven body, so okay, whatever.

Consensus: Undeniably silly, the Beguiled is also a steamy, fun little erotic-thriller featuring a good performance from Page and a nice change-of-pace for the always exciting Eastwood who, even early in his career, was trying to figure out how to shock audiences.

7 / 10

Then again, maybe not.

Photos Courtesy of: Overdue Review | Better Late.

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Going in Style (1979)

Every person needs that one last score.

Senior citizens Willie (Lee Strasberg), Al (Art Carney) and Joe (George Burns) all lead relatively boring, mundane lives. Sure, while they’re fine with it, they also know that life has passed them by and, for the most part, they’re just waiting for the day until they pass. It’s a little sad, but hey, they make the best of it. Their lives all change once one of them gets the idea of robbing a bank together, getting stinking, filthy rich and of course, living out the rest of their days in total, absolute luxury. The only issue is that they have to go through with the heist itself, which may be hard for a bunch 70-year-old-men, neither of whom have a criminal record. But still, there’s a certain fun bit of excitement they all feel while planning this heist that makes them feel years younger again and reinvigorates their lives, and everything else around them. But then they pull off the heist, and well, things don’t go as perfectly as planned.

Or perhaps they did.

“1979 already? Sheesh!”

Going in Style, believe it or not, doesn’t have much style, much drive, or even all that much originality to it that makes it the kind of movie worth watching immediately. It’s a perfectly serviceable and fine piece of comedy-drama that, if anything, gets by solely for the fact that it features some of the best comedy-presences to ever grace a screen, together, in their later years, and yes, just having some fun. For most, it may be a bummer that it’s not funnier, or even as exciting as you’d think, but it’s still a movie that features George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, sitting in a room, talking and being, unsurprisingly, funny.

For that, Going in Style works and it doesn’t have to try too hard to work with that.

Burns is, as usual, sweet and sometimes mean; Carney’s the loudest, most obnoxious one of the bunch, but always seems like he has the biggest heart; and Strasberg is the more softer-spoken of the three, but definitely gets the most emotional movie in the whole scene. Altogether, they’re quite the package; there’s something joyous and absolutely lovely about watching a bunch of old-timers, who know exactly what they’re doing, do it together and act as if they’ve never missed a step. On some occasions, you’ll never know what’s actually scripted, or what they guys are making up as they go along – no matter what, though, they’re having fun working together and as a result, we do, too. It would be hard not to, but trust me, there are movies out there that have wasted a huge group of talented folks, and not given them a single thing to work with that would warrant their talents in the first place.

Think any Adam Sandler movie, for instance.

But regardless, Going in Style does work for the fact that it’s also a tale about aging, growing old, and trying to relive your glory days, when it seems like the rest of the world is there just to tuck you away and forget about you. Director Martin Brest gets some nice moments out of these guys who show us that there’s beyond the old, cranky facades that they often present, and instead, shows us three dudes who just want to bring some life into their later years, any way that they can. If it just so happens to be a robbery, then so be it.

No one will ever look for/find a guy who looks like George Burns, looking like Groucho Marx.

The only issue that the movie runs into is that it is quite uneven and for a movie that’s just a little bit over 90 minutes, it can often feel longer. Why? Well, it’s because the momentum is constantly changing itself, making you believe that it’s going to go down a faster, more exciting route, only to then slow things up and focus more on the melancholy of the plot. Maybe this was intended to work more along with our protagonists, but it could often be frustrating, considering that the heist scene, as well as a gambling scene later on, are both shot well and add a bunch of fun to a movie that can be pretty depressing.

Still, it is a movie about old people, getting older, and realizing that their lives are in fact passing them by and that they can’t do anything else about it, except accept it, move on, and try to make the most of it. So yeah, maybe it’s not the most joyous flick out there, but it’s still one that’s sweet enough, but maybe a little too sad for its own sake? I’m still not sure.

Oh well.

Yeah, just don’t listen to me.

Consensus: With three great talents in the lead roles, Going in Style works both as a comedy, as well as a sweet look at aging, but also can feel uneven.

6.5 / 10

Life is grand, so live it up fellas. For as long as is necessary.

Photos Courtesy of: Three Movie BuffsThe Spinning ImageIMDb

New York, New York (1977)

Frankie should have sued somebody.

It’s the end of WWII and the nation wants to keep on celebrating like there’s no tomorrow. One person in particular is Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro), an aspiring saxophone player, who meets a band singer by the name of Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli) during V-J Day celebrations. While she initially doesn’t appreciate his constant nagging, eventually, she gives in, realizing that the guy may not mean all that much harm and, in the end, may just want to become the greatest musical duo the world has ever seen. And the two do band together, set out on the road and tour with a band, picking up gigs left and right, as well as attention from those who can make both of their careers pretty big. However, what does end up happening, too, is that the two start to fall in love, leaving the important decisions of their careers to become even more serious and passionate than ever before.

Generally, when people think of New York, New York, they either never bring it up, because they don’t know it even exists, or they think of it as a failure because it’s a Martin Scorsese movie that barely anyone talks about, remembers, and absolutely bombed at the box-office when it came out. However, there’s something to be said about a movie that, nearly 40 years later, we as a society, are still trying to make sense of and answer. For one, what was the experiment Scorsese was trying to go with for here? Not to mention, what made him want to tell this story in the first place? Did it have to be a musical? Did it have to be over two-and-a-half-hours (in its original-cut and not the 136-minute version that was re-released into theaters)?

Close, but no Cabaret.

Close, but no Cabaret.

Honestly, there doesn’t seem to be many answers for those questions, but that’s sort of what’s interesting about New York, New York: It’s the kind of movie where you can tell that there’s a lot of inspiration and thought behind it, that even when it doesn’t quite work itself out together perfectly well, there’s still something compelling about. You could almost make that same argument about a lot of Scorsese’s other movies, but for New York, New York feels exactly like a director testing himself and his limits, seeing where he can go next, figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and what could possibly be worked on in the future to-come.

Does that make it a bad movie? Not really, but it can make it sometimes seem like a uneven mess of one.

Or basically, the only kind that Scorsese knows how to make.

For one, what it seems like Scorsese tries to do here is take the bombastic, colorful, glitzy and glamorous musicals of the 40’s and 50’s, and cross them with a down-to-Earth, raw and understated story of two people falling in love through each other’s own creative talents. The later is something we’re used to seeing from Scorsese, but the former isn’t, which makes this experiment all the more interesting to watch and see how it plays out; while a lot of the musical-numbers are fun and exciting, they do come in at random times, when it literally seems like no one’s saying anything and maybe, just maybe, Scorsese himself got bored. And it’s not like Scorsese favors one idea over the other – he genuinely respects the music, as well as the dramatic emotion, but at times, the two do combat one another.

A perfect example of this is the final-act, in which all of a sudden, the movie becomes an absolute, unabashed, without-a-doubt musical, channeling the likes of Singin’ in the Rain and Cabaret, among others. The number goes on for nearly 20 minutes, in which we sit and watch Liza Minnelli change up styles with the drop of a hat, which is all great and exciting to watch, but it feels odd and misplaced. It’s as if Scorsese finally found some time to really let loose on the music and did so, but chose to do so so late in the game that we mostly all forgot this movie was supposed to be a musical in the first place.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

Smoke ’em if you got ’em.

In fact, the movie would probably be better had it not been classified as that at all. Because with New York, New York, we really get a small, yet lovely love story about two people finding one another at the end of the war, realizing that anything’s possible, and both having a shared affection for music. In a way, it’s probably Scorsese’s most romantic movie, even if it does dive into the predictable areas where violence, drug-abuse and gangsters seem to pop-up, but it still works. If anything, Scorsese seems to be showing us that these beautiful and magical worlds that these musicals paint, don’t quite exist and instead, are a lot harsher than they attend to appear to be.

Or, something like that.

Once again, still not sure I’ve got all the answers here.

Still, if there is one thing I definitely know, it’s that Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli are quite great here and surprised the heck out of me, what with the chemistry they’ve got going on here. Of course, both are very much playing in their wheelhouse, but together, they bring out the best in one another; De Niro shows a much more softer, more vulnerable side than we’re used to seeing from him, whereas with Minnelli, we see someone who is sweet, but also not going to take any crap, either. Their characters may feel thinly-written, but because the performances are so good, it hardly matters. It makes you wish that the two worked together again, whether in another Scorsese movie, or just in general.

But yeah, definitely a Scorsese movie for sure.

Consensus: Clearly more of an experiment than a full-fledged, thought-out feature-flick, New York, New York finds Scorsese trying to mesh intimate-drama with musical-numbers, and while the results don’t always click, the performances do.

7 / 10

Love? Between these two?

Love? Between these two?

Photos Courtesy of: The Red List

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

Sometimes, you just need to start anew five times straight.

After her husband dies, Alice (Ellen Burstyn) and her son, Tommy (Alfred Lutter), leave their small New Mexico town for California. There, Alice is hopeful that she’ll be able to make it big there achieving her one true dream: Singing. However, the town is so small and dry, that there’s hardly any work for a bartender, let alone for a singer. So eventually, Alice and Tommy end up settling for Arizona instead, where she takes a job as waitress in a small diner and Tommy is left to make friends with some mischievous locals. She intends to stay in Arizona just long enough to make the money needed to head back out on the road, but her plans change when she begins to fall for a rancher named David (Kris Kristofferson), someone she can’t help but be drawn to, even if he’s got his own problems going for him as well.

Seeing Martin Scorsese’s name attached to this flick may seem odd, until you actually see the movie and totally get it. For one, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore has the same type of free-spirit, wild and rather chaotic energy that all of Scorsese’s movies seem to have, not to mention that the movie itself hardly ever seems to let-up. It’s part road movie, part romantic-comedy, but altogether, it’s an entertaining piece that would soon show the world what Scorsese could do out of wheelhouse.

alice1

Look out, world! Here’s Alice!

Which isn’t to say that this movie’s perfect, but it’s the first sure sign of Scorsese taking a risk and seeing it pay-off quite well. While I’m most definitely in the minority of feeling like Mean Streets is incredibly overrated, it’s still an enjoyable movie, considering that it’s showing-off what Scorsese could do with a story about crooks, gangsters, cops and all sorts of hectic violence – something that we would see him continue to make movies about for the next many decades. That’s why a movie like Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, while seeming like an unabashed and boring chick-flick on paper, moves like a fast-paced thriller, but still doesn’t forget that characters do matter here and they are what make the bulk of the flick so damn good.

That is to say that Ellen Burstyn, in her Oscar-winning role of course, is great.

Then again, when isn’t the gal?

Burstyn’s great here, but it does help that she has such a meaty character to work and play around with; Alice is a very challenging character because she doesn’t always make the right decisions, nor does she seem to apologize for them, either. Scorsese and Burstyn both present this woman as someone who knows that whatever move she makes next, probably won’t be ideal, but she’s constantly thinking about what’s best for her and her son, meaning that every once and awhile, she’s got to make a sacrifice and suck up the stupidity. Even the smart decisions that Alice seems to make, still end-up biting her in the rump by the end, making you wonder whether or not this woman should be trusted with the care of a pre-adolescent boy in the first place. But still, there’s something compelling about this woman, flaws, warts and all that junk, as well as Burstyn’s performance that make it all the more watchable.

The happiest diner in the world it seems.

The happiest diner in the world it seems.

And it’s actually very interesting to see this movie and think about it in retrospect, as we’ve come to see Scorsese’s career grow further and further away from female-led stories, making us wonder one simple thing, “Why?” After all, he handles this story with such delicate care, never shying away from showing this woman for all of who she is, that he not just respects her as much as we do, but he loves her, even. It’s a rare sign that even though Scorsese’s movies tend to gain all sorts of controversy for their violence, drugs and crime, mostly all involving and/or against women, there’s still this small glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, he was curious of taking this road even further.

It makes you wonder, really.

Regardless, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, all things considered, may be a bit too long for its own good, but in a way, that’s okay. We get to see and learn about more characters throughout Alice’s journey, some of whom are really fun and exciting to watch. Harvey Keitel shows up as a slimy dude Alice starts hooking up with; Kris Kristofferson’s is interesting enough of a dramatic-lead to make you want to see more of him around; Jodi Foster shows up in a very early role as one of Tommy’s friends and is very good; Diane Ladd steals just about every scene she’s in as Alice’s co-worker/best friend; and even as a young kid here, Alfred Lutter does a nice job as Tommy, mostly due to the fact that the kid’s not annoyingly written. He’s a little too smart for his britches at certain points, but that’s mostly because his mom makes him that way; there’s quite a few scenes where the two have heart-to-heart conversations about all things in life and while they may seem a little tacked-on, the chemistry between Lutter and Burstyn is so good, that you sort of believe in it.

Consensus: Not his best by any means, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore still presents a very bright and entertaining picture for the whole cast, especially Burstyn, and Scorsese, and the many years to come.

8 / 10

Keep on smiling, Ellen. You'll get that Oscar.

Keep on smiling, Ellen. You’ll get that Oscar.

Photos Courtesy of: The Soul of the Plot

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

It’s better to be an outlaw, than a conformist.

Back in the day, when he was a kind, fun-loving and good-natured man of society, Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) had to witness helplessly as his wife and child were murdered by Union men all led by Capt. Terrill (Bill McKinney). It destroyed Josey so much that he automatically set-out for revenge, joining the Confederate Army and lending all of the crazy and violent services that he had to offer. But when the war ends and all of his fellow Confederates decide that it’s the best time to lay down their arms and surrender, Josey outright refuses. Reason being? He doesn’t trust a man like Terrill and with good reason, because as soon as the Confederates their arms, their gunned-down and killed by Terrill. Now, Terrill sets out to take down Josey Wales, once and for all and make sure that he doesn’t spread his hate or anger any longer, or to anyone else in particular. But this is exactly what happens when Josey, along his trip, meets all sorts of colorful and lovely characters who ends up not just calling allies, but family, even.

Chief? And Clint? Wow. Words can't explain.

Chief? And Clint? Wow. Words can’t explain.

Westerns are sure to scare a lot of people away, mostly because of the time and attention they take to actually fully enjoy them for what they are. This is the case with a good number of Westerns, whereas other ones just plain and simply stink, are way too slow for their own good, and feel like the same movie we’ve seen before, just with more horses and gun-battles. But that’s why Clint Eastwood’s Westerns are things to be admired and loved, even – they’re the kinds of plays on the genre that you automatically assume is so calculated and precise, that anything against the genre would fall flat on its face.

But even in 1976, long before his Oscar win for Unforgiven, Eastwood proved that the Western genre was not at all dead and in a way, could still make all sorts of wonders. But what’s probably most interesting about what Eastwood does here, is that it doesn’t seem like he’s doing much, especially when it comes to his directing; all he really does is tell a story, keep the camera as still as possible, and yeah, just let everything happen as it should, in front of the camera. It sounds as simple as can be and definitely is on the screen, but it works so well because the story itself is a compelling one, going into places you least expect it to and doing certain things that you don’t expect it to.

Why is that? Well, it’s because Westerns seem so ordinary and plain, that yeah, it’s hard to get a really good one, right?

Well, incorrect. Kind of. What works best about Outlaw Josey Wales is that it has something to say about the nature of violence, murder and death, but doesn’t try to hit you over the head with it. The Native American shown here are all sympathetic human beings, not the usual savages we see in flicks such as these, but instead, mostly just people who want peace and love with their fellow man and women. Josey Wales, the movie as well as the character, shows that it’s possible, especially when the two sides have a common enemy and are more than capable of laying down their arms against one another and joining hands, whether it’s to frolic in nature, or to take down the white man, once and for all.

Either way, it’s a heartwarming message that’s actually thrown into a movie that’s chock full of violence, blood, gun-shots and rape. But does it still work? It surprisingly does, as the type of Western Eastwood here paints, isn’t a terribly endearing or lovely one, but mostly, one that would exist in the real world. As is the case with every society you live in, there are some bad apples and there are some good ones, too. Unfortunately, the bad ones do outweigh the good ones, but those good ones are around to take them down and make sure that no more wrongful deaths or murder occurs.

But all this said, when you get right down to it, Josey Wales isn’t a movie that’s all about the message or trying to prove a point  – it does do what every good Western does and that’s offer plenty of gun-slinging violence and action for each and every person to enjoy.

I bet he feels lucky.

I bet he feels lucky.

And as a director, Eastwood truly does know how to make these scenes pop and sizzle with the right amount of fun, but also heinousness that makes some of these callous acts of violence seem disturbing. While he is no doubt giving the gun-loving audience a taste of what they all want and oh so desire, he is also making it done in a way where you can tell that he’s not all for the violence and is, in a way, trying to also pass some blame and judgement on it all.

Either way, as a director Eastwood is terrific here, and yes, even better as an actor. Once again, he’s not doing anything we haven’t seen him do before, but he still owns it all so well, sometimes, without even saying anything. All he has to do is spit out his tobacco, glare at people, and give a little growl, and guess what? His presence is felt throughout the whole thing. It’s honestly why Eastwood is still considered such a bad-ass and why an iconic figure like him was always welcome in anything resembling a Western.

But while this could have definitely been Clint’s show from start-to-finish (after all, he did direct the movie), what’s perhaps most admirable about him as a director is how he’s able to lend the screen to the rest of the cast and have them show off all that they can do and bring a little bit more fun and fiery energy to the proceedings. Sondra Locke plays Laura Lee, a supposed love-interest that doesn’t quite work, but is still compelling enough to watch; Paula Trueman plays the cooky and always batty Grandma Sarah, who starts off as something of a caricature, only to turn out to be an honest, living and breathing person; and as Lone Watie, Chief Dan George is perfect, nailing every bit of humor and heart that this character has to offer, while also maintaining a pitch perfect odd-couple chemistry with Eastwood. In a way, they’re like the perfect, little, crazy family.

They all love one another, but man, they sure can shoot.

Consensus: As far as Westerns go, the Outlaw Josey Wales isn’t just action-packed and fun, but heartfelt, emotional and smart, offering a perfect showcase for what Eastwood can do as both actor, as well as director.

9 / 10

And that, my friends, is how a perfect friendship gets started.

And that, my friends, is how a perfect friendship gets started.

Photos Courtesy of: IMDFB, Quotes Gram

Superman (1978)

Those glasses really do matter.

After his mother and father (Marlon Brando and Susannah York) are killed along with everyone else on his home planet of Krypton, Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) lands on a farm in the middle of Kansas, owned by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter). While he’s on Earth, he finds out who he really is, what his powers are, what he’s supposed to do with them, and what could be made of them. However, those are just ideas and questions juggling around in his head, as he, nor anybody else that knows of his secret powers are quick to give the answers to any of them. So, in spite of the life-saving abilities he has as something that’s not from planet Earth, he decides to join the Daily Planet, a newspaper in the heart of metropolis, where Clark meets the wonderful, but vivacious and ambitious writer Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). Though Lois doesn’t really care much for Clark as anything other than a friend, he makes it his life’s mission to save her from harm, any chance the opportunity shows itself. That’s why, when evil mad scientist Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) begins to wreak havoc all over Metropolis, Clark can’t help but rip his shirt off, put those glasses elsewhere, and fly in the sky like, well, Superman.

Punching works, too. I guess.

Punching works, too. I guess.

There’s something so inherently goofy and charming about Superman, that even though it’s incredibly corny and silly, it’s still hard to despise. For one, director Richard Donner knows exactly what kind of material he’s working with and doesn’t make a single apology for it; good guys fly around in capes, bad guys wear ugly wigs, aliens roam the world without any of us knowing, etc. Superman never has, nor ever will be, material that we’re all supposed to take super, duper seriously, which is why Donner gives this a lovely taste of kitschy fun, as well as heartfelt adoration for Superman himself, what he represents, and just why exactly he still stands as a symbol for everything right and good with the world.

And even though it’s been nearly 40 years since it’s release, Superman is still a solid movie, even stacked-up against some of the great, nearly amazing superhero movies we have today.

Then again, it’s very hard to compare the two. 1978 was a very different time for cinema where there seemed to be a shared party between those who enjoyed both popcorn movies, as well as more artsy-fare, whereas nowadays, the line between the two has been clearly struck. Sure, there’s definitely big-time, mainstream blockbusters out there that can also be seen as a “serious films”, but there’s still an obvious difference.

With Superman, it’s clearly not trying to bring out the tears, nor is it trying to change anybody’s life – what it’s simply trying to do is re-tell the story of Superman, to the general mass public again and remind us that superheros such as this, can exist. Okay, maybe not actually exist in real life, but you get my drift. What Donner is aiming at here with Superman is that he is an icon for everything right, powerful and brave about the world we live in and we should be so lucky to have him around, constantly caring for us, saving us from near-death, and grabbing kitties out of trees. He’s the perfect man, if anything, but mostly, he’s the perfect superhero, which is why the casting of the late, great Christopher Reeve, was so pitch perfect from the ground-up, that it’s been nearly impossible to think of somebody else to take his place.

Sure, guys like Henry Cavill and Brandon Routh look an awful lot like Reeve, but it’s less about the good looks that made Reeve such a great Superman; there was this certain balance between earnestness and bravery, without ever seeming naive, that Reeve handled so well. He could, on one hand, be the most charming man alive, while on the other hand, he could also be the one guy you’d trust to kick the hell out of some evil-doer because they stole your purse. Even when Reeve puts on the glasses and becomes Clark Kent, there’s still a certain amount of charm to the way in how he heightens all of his character’s nerdy aspects and traits.

Marlon's probably very upset that the baby may not be "method".

Marlon’s probably very upset that the baby may not be “method”.

You could definitely say it’s still a tad ridiculous that all he has to do is put on a simple pair of bifocals to blend in with the rest of society, but hey, if the movie whole fully believes it, then guess what?

So do I!

And everybody else in the cast is pretty great, too. Marlon Brando shows up for at least 15 minutes in the beginning and definitely leaves a mark as Superman’s daddy; Margot Kidder seems definitely a lot stronger and smarter than your average damsel-in-distress that we tend to get in these sorts of movies; Jackie Cooper is absolutely hilarious as Perry White and just about steals every scene with every line he drops; and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, well, let me just say that I’ve got a lot to say about him.

If anything, I feel like the movie sort of drops the ball on him. Hackman is definitely more than willing to play along with this character’s sometimes weirder eccentricities, but after awhile, it makes us forget that he’s actually supposed to be an evil, mean, scary and despicable villain. Sure, we see and hear him do bad things, but none of them ever feel or appear to be actual threats; you could chalk a lot of this up to the fact that, with Superman looming in the background, we already get the sense that Luthor won’t achieve his dastardly plan of, uh, destroying the Earth for some reason, but still, with any movie, superhero or not, there should always be that sheer feeling of having no clue what the hell is going to happen next, or who is going to come out on top and save the day. We know that it’s going to be Superman no matter what, but hey, sometimes it’s fun to keep the audience guessing and give your superhero and equally-skilled and matched-up villain.

Consensus: Many years later, Superman still remains a great piece of superhero fiction, that not only balances the heart and humor of the original stories, but gives us an icon with the wonderfully talented Christopher Reeve.

8 / 10

It's love at first sight. Get it? 'Cause he's not wearing glasses this time!

It’s love at first sight. Get it? ‘Cause he’s not wearing glasses this time!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Blumhouse

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

I guess aliens really do like Simon Says.

Somewhere out in the rural lands of Indiana, giant UFOs sweep around and cover the sky, capturing everybody’s attention and imagination. One such person who is most definitely captured the most happens to be Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), a married father-of-three who, after witnessing the unidentified flying object, gets a “sunburn” from its bright lights. From here on out, Roy is hooked and will not listen to a single person who tells him everything he saw was nothing more than his mind playing tricks on him. And because Roy refuses so much, not only does he lose his job, but he also runs the possibility of losing his family, too. Meanwhile, a single mother, Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon), is having issues keeping her young son in line and in check, especially now all he seems to do is be chasing after the UFO, and now makes them, or better yet, him, a target for them. All while this is going on, French and American scientists get together to figure out just what it is that these aliens want and most importantly, how to communicate with them in a simple, but peaceful way.

Still have no clue what this is.

Still have no clue what this is.

A part of me really wants to love Close Encounters because of the special place it holds in the history of film. It’s one of the first big-budget, mainstream extravaganzas to deal with aliens, UFOs, and science fiction in a realistic and humane way where we weren’t actually terrified that the aliens were going to take over our planet, kidnap our families, and ruin our lives, but wondering, quite simply, “What?” What do they want? What are they doing? And really, how can we communicate with them to where we can not only just get along, but build for a better future where, possibly, humans and aliens can live alongside one another in perfect peace, love and harmony.

For that, Steven Spielberg deserves a lot of credit.

He also deserves a lot of credit for not backing down when it comes to approaching the hard realities one person can face when they are absolutely, positively so willing to dedicate their lives to some sort of belief, that they grow mad. In the case of Richard Dreyfuss’ everyman, Roy, this happens when he believes that he sees a UFO and that they’re going to set up shop on their planet. However, because nobody around him believes him, he loses his mind and therefore, acts out in so many freakish, nearly insane ways, that you can’t blame anyone for wanting to pack up their stuff and leave as soon as he started making some sort of creation with piled-up mashed potatoes at the dinner table.

Then again, you sort of can. Spielberg is smart enough not to blame any character in particular, or make someone more of a villain than others, but what he does do is show that these characters don’t believe Roy, even if he most definitely is correct. Still, at the same time, none of us actually know what to expect with these aliens, or what their motives may be, so while we’re watching Roy loosen his grip with reality, we’re constantly wondering about the cost of it all and whether or not this is actually for anything. Even amidst of all the crazy, sometimes entrancing spacey sci-fi stuff, Spielberg never forgets that there’s a human heartbeat at the center of the story, no matter how crazy or whacked-out it may be.

And oh yeah, the visuals, even by 1977’s standards, are still pretty solid.

Having watched this on my flat-screen in the year 2016, it’s hard to really judge a movie’s special-effects based solely on what’s out and about in today’s day and age, but really, they still work. Not only does Spielberg seem like he’s having a lot of fun featuring huge, canvas-filling spaceships cover-up a solid majority of the screen, but he also enjoys the sounds, the bloops, the bleeps, and the brangs they make, even when it seems to take over every other sound in the movie. But really, that’s sort of the point; these spaceships are so ginormous, that they block out any sound, loud or not, to the point of where it’s the only thing you’re going to ever hear.

So yeah, the movie definitely deserves my respect, however, there’s a feeling that it maybe goes on way too long.

Uhh, what?

Uhh, what?

Most of this has to do with the fact that the scientist/government stuff, as well as Melinda Dillon’s character, really gets in the way of the meat of the story, which is Roy and his connection to the unidentified flying spaceship. I understand that it’s perhaps necessary and a nice add-on to tell these two subplots, along with Roy’s, but really, they get in the way of the emotion, the tension, and most of all, the impact that the final shot ultimately has. Every chance we get to spend with Roy, his middle-class family, and his slow, but sure descent into insanity, the movie breaks away elsewhere to either the government and Dillon’s character – all of which break the momentum the film’s clearly building on, all up until the final shot.

In fact, I’d say that you could have a very good movie without Dillon’s subplot altogether. Of course, this leaves Spielberg without something of a possible romantic love-interest for Roy by the end, but it wouldn’t matter because it would cut down on some time and not really interrupt the main flow of the movie. Nothing against Dillon, as she’s very good in this somewhat tragic role, but her character doesn’t offer-up much except a bunch of yelling and crying that’s not totally needed.

Same sort of goes for the scientist/government stuff, although not to the same certain extent.

This subplot offers up at least some interesting avenues into the way the movie approaches the idea of the UFO, without ever trying to get too conspirator-y. Of course, because this is a Spielberg film, the government can’t be trusted, which is fine to talk about, but really, this was an idea better explored in E.T. and it doesn’t always hit the kind of strong notes that Spielberg clearly wants them, too. That said, this inclusion is still pertinent to the story and helps with that powerful, but surprisingly majestic ending.

So yeah, hate me now. I guess.

Consensus: Close Encounters of the Third Kind may not be the ultimate Spielberg class it’s made out to be, but still features him in his element of blending eerie, but interesting sci-fi stories, with heartfelt, intimate ones about humanity.

8 / 10

"They're here!" Oh wait, wrong movie.

“They’re here!” Oh wait, wrong movie.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Badlands (1973)

Love will get ya sometimes.

15-year-old girl Holly (Sissy Spacek) doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life. However, when she meets the cool, calm, and rebellious boy in Kit (Martin Sheen), for some reason, she is absolutely swept off of her feet. Even though he’s a garbage man and doesn’t seem to really be able to hold a job down, there’s just something about Kit that takes over Holly’s mind, body and soul. However, her father (Warren Oates) isn’t too happy about this latest infatuation and makes it known that she will not be with him, nor will he be with her. That obviously doesn’t fly with Kit and it leads to a disastrous confrontation in which, now, Kit and Holly have to go on the run from the law. On their trip, not only do they fall more in love, but they teach each other about life and the more beautiful things about it. And, oh yeah, they also kill a lot of people, too.

Is this true love?

Is this true love?

It’s really interesting to see just where Terrence Malick’s career has gone as of late. Nowadays, it seems as if every picture he takes on and releases (regardless of how long they may actually take to come out), is as ambitious, crazy and unpredictable as the next, that it’s hard to ever get a full, crystal clear picture of where he’s going to go next, or just what’s going on in that noggin of his. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – some of the greatness to the Tree of Life is not having a clue just what the hell he’s going to do, or why, because he just does it.

But what’s weird, especially when watching Badlands, is how Malick, when he was first getting started, didn’t really seem to tackle these tales just yet. Sure, he definitely showed signs of it, more or less, but in all honesty, what he cared more about was telling a simple story that, yes, featured beautiful visuals, but also great acting. Badlands is, in the most simplest form, Malick’s most easygoing and accessible movie, however, it’s still got a lot of what Malick does best.

For one, it’s a heck of a beaut. While you can tell that Malick hadn’t quite mastered the art of the swooping camera just yet, Badlands still takes plenty advantage of that time when it’s so early in the morning, that the sun is hardly coming up and there’s nothing else in the horizon but clouds and the tops of mountains. I’m sure that having his movie set in and around South Dakota, as well as the mountains of Montana, helped in terms of making this movie look great, but it’s also just a true testament to the kind of eye he has as a director.

It’s nice to see that Malick hasn’t lost that ability since.

As for the story, well, yeah, it’s actually a very simple one, but what Malick does best is that he doesn’t really try to hit us over the head with saying anything big or important about it, but instead, just lets it all tell itself. While that may not seem like much and just a case of Malick sitting a round out, believe it or not, it actually works in the movie’s favor. Not only does it have us see these characters and their actions in an nonjudgmental, almost normal light, but it makes the brief, but shocking moments of violence and murder all the more disturbing.

Which is to say that Holly and Kit, given how easy it must have been to write them as, are still two compelling figures who you don’t really hate, but instead, think long and hard about. The fact that Malick portrays their actions as things that happen, rather than as huge moments that need to be shown and talked about, is why Badlands sticks around in the brain longer. Holly and Kit both seem to react to these acts of violence differently – he’s the one always doing it and not really happy about it, but knows that he can’t survive without it, whereas she has no clue of what’s going on, but is going along for the ride anyway.

Be prepared, suburbia!

Be prepared, suburbia!

The movie is clearly not in their favor, but Malick himself also doesn’t lose the appeal of these kinds of characters and why they’re worth watching. While he doesn’t glamorize either of their actions, he also makes it clear that they’re doing this, just because; sometimes, there’s no reason or rhyme for the things that us humans do. Sometimes, when we feel the need to kill, to survive, or to experience something, we go right for it. That’s exactly what Kit and Holly seem to be doing here, however, Malick isn’t telling us to think this and it’s probably one of the main reasons why this movie works a lot more than some of his others, later-period flicks.

Oh and yeah, Sheen and Spacek are pretty awesome in the roles, too.

Not only do they look young as all hell, but they also feel pretty legit as a real life couple of lovebirds who would latch up together and go on this wild goose chase from Johnny law. Sheen’s especially more riveting as Kit, someone who seems like he was just a bad seed from the very beginning, but always seemed to get by on his pure good looks and charm – something that the movie constantly makes a reference to, but never actually highlights as a positive. Instead, it works out for him because he uses his solid looks in a deceitful manner where he’s able to trick those around him, whether they expect it or not.

But maybe that’s why Kit’s such an intriguing character. He has no motive or reasoning for his shooting spree – he sort of just got started on doing it and thought, “Well, I’ve come this far”. For some reason, it’s hard to look at a character like this and not think of the countless, upon countless of those who shoot up public places every year, with the idea in their head of, “Well, why the hell not?” Once again, Malick isn’t trying to tell us to think this way, or have this in our minds, but it’s hard not to go there and it’s why Badlands is a movie that will surely stand the test of time.

No matter how many more movies Malick makes featuring dinosaurs.

Consensus: Simple on the surface, thought-provoking and compelling underneath, Badlands is a brutally violent, but beautiful-looking and acted movie that has Malick asking hard questions, without ever trying to answering them, and we’re all the better for it.

9 / 10

Sociopaths tend to enjoy lovely sunsets.

Sociopaths tend to enjoy lovely sunsets.

Photos Courtesy of: CTCMR

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

And nerds everywhere, were never the same.

A teenage farmhand who goes by the name of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has certain aspirations for greatness that go further than just collecting bots for his Uncle and Aunt, fixing them, and not reallly doing much else. However, through what seems to be a course of some life-changing moments and experiences in a very short span of time, he finds himself start to train to become a true jedi, one who can be trusted on to save the galaxy from the evil dark side. He learns all of his moves and skills from an older fellow named Obi-Wan (Alec Guiness) who, through his teachings, makes him understand how to control his force and not get carried away at all with it all. This then leads both of them to get caught up in a plot to rescue a princess named Leia (Carrie Fisher), forcing an alignment with two bad-asses of space called Han Solo and Chewbacca (Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew), and taking on perhaps the greatest force of all, Darth Vader (James Earl Jones). However, little does Luke know just how hard this task will be and what it will take for someone as unskilled as him to take down a whole empire.

Always trust in these three.

Always trust in these three.

What’s there to say about A New Hope that hasn’t already been said? For one, the movie’s an absolute classic, and that’s not just talking about the movie itself. More or less, the movie changed Hollywood and the movie-world as we known it; space operas had been done before Star Wars ever came out, but this one, despite its meager budget, list of no-name actors, and total cult-appeal, somehow destroyed the box-office and became the billion-dollar juggernaut that it is today.

And for that reason alone, George Lucas will always and forever have my respect.

Sure, the past decade or so has proven that maybe dear ol’ George has fallen a bit far from the cork tree, but regardless, nobody will ever forget just what sort of guts it took for someone like George Lucas, to make a movie like Star Wars, and then actually go somewhere with it all in the end. In a way, it’s the American Dream: Making an original movie, full of your own, crazy and unique ideas, doing everything your own self, and allowing for the rest of the world to see, only to have everyone accept it, love it and want to see more of it. Of course, along with that Dream, comes plenty of money, greed and vanity, but hey, none of that dark stuff now! This, my friends, is a happy story about how one George Lucas made a movie like Star Wars and ultimately, changed the movie landscape as we know it.

But seriously, aside from all the cultural significance this flick holds, it’s still pretty great in its own right. What surprised me so much about checking out A New Hope, even after all of these years, is how funny it actually was; people will mostly get swamped remembering the later movies and how corny Lucas’ sense of humor was, but honestly, the guy was actually a pretty nifty writer. Are the jokes silly? Of course they are, but there’s a sense of actual fun and play going on here that makes this movie such a better watch than some of the others; while Lucas may want his material to be taken seriously, he still can’t keep himself away from a witty line to deliver on. But still, it all works well with the rest of the movie and doesn’t feel just thrown in there for short measure.

Perhaps what has A New Hope stand the test of time, for as long as it has, is the fact that Lucas introduced so many iconic characters and seemed to actually do something with them.

Luke is, as made out to be, the quintessential hero of this story who may be naive and a bit bitchy, but also dreams for something more out of his life. While Hamill may get a lot of crap thrown at him for not being the best actor out of the bunch here, there’s still a certain amount of sweetness to his character-arch that makes him work and seem like more than just your ordinary hero. He’s on a quest, for sure, but because he’s so clean and good, it’s hard to hate the guy, either.

Then, of course, there’s Alec Guiness as Obi-Wan who, despite being the most acclaimed and skilled actor out of the bunch here, fits perfectly. Granted, Guiness doesn’t have much more to do here except go on and on about “the force” and how to control it, but really, he’s such a seasoned pro, he can make talking about rocks sound as compelling as they probably shouldn’t be. The fact that he and Darth Vader were, at one point in their lives, adversaries, makes it all the more interesting to watch, especially once they have that final duel between one another.

Speaking of Darth, James Earl Jones was perhaps the most perfect choice to voice this character. While we all know now that Darth Vader wasn’t actually played by Jones, it still doesn’t matter because his voice is so husky, rough and manly, that it’s absolutely terrifying to hear him get mad at someone, or just talk in general. The breathing’s scary, too, in that you don’t know why he’s doing it or where it’s coming from, but regardless, there’s just something awfully intimidating about seeing a man, dressed in an all black, nearly-identical Nazi-outfit, coming at you from afar.

One generation of cool-ass Jedi's, to another.

One generation of cool-ass Jedi’s, to another.

Not to mention the fact that, yes, he’s voiced by James Earl Jones.

But still, there’s so many more iconic characters to speak about that, honestly, it’s hard to go on about them without sounding like nothing more than just a cliche. Of course, Harrison Ford is the perfect anti-hero who, rather than try and save the girl because he’s a nice guy, would much rather do so to just get some sex (like most of us men out there); Chewbacca never makes sense, but it’s hard not to laugh whenever he and Solo communicate; C-3PO and R2-D2 are like a married couple and have the most charming love-hate relationship ever seen on the big screen; and yes, Carrie Fisher was not only as cute as a button playing Leia, but also worked well as the character because she’s not just a bad-ass gal, but one who can take care of herself and get stuff done whenever the men are just sitting around on their rumps, thinking of what to do next.

There’s more here (like Porkins), but yeah, you get the point – A New Hope has so many great, memorable characters to talk about, that to do so, would just be overkill.

However, what always has me coming back to A New Hope and remembering it for how great it truly was, and still is to this day, is the universal feeling of doing something that’s not only extraordinary, but better for the rest of mankind. It’s the kind of inspirational message that almost every movie made for young kids tries to tap into, but so rarely actually deliver on; however, without even trying, Lucas has our heads in the stars, dreaming for days, and wanting to do something special with what we’re given. Whether that’s making a billion-dollar-grossing movie, or saving the galaxy from evil clones, it doesn’t matter.

Continue to dream and you know what? Maybe it can happen to you, too.

Consensus: A New Hope not only changed the movie-business as a whole, but offered up iconic characters, an inspirational tale for the decades, and gave us reason to trust in George Lucas, even if he did sort of screw all of that up later on in his career.

10 / 10

Who shot first? Well, George, thanks to you, the world may never know.

Who shot first? Well, George, thanks to you, the world may never know.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

All the President’s Men (1976)

Can’t trust journalist nowadays. They’ll do anything for a quick dime!

Obviously based on true events, political operatives working for President Nixon broke into the Watergate Hotel to spy on the Democratic National Committee. Two low-level reporters by the names of Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) come upon the story and have no clue what to do with. Because one’s an experienced journalist, and the other one isn’t so much as so, they aren’t really gelling together well and therefore, the story is being left with a big question-mark. That is, until Woodward gets a reliable tip and, as their editor (Jason Robards) tells them, follow the money that they begin to investigate the event and the mystery surrounding it. Eventually, the two discover that there’s an elaborate scheme at hand that involves all sorts of political espionage, sneakiness, and illegal activity, all being directed from, none other than the White House. Being the dedicated journalists that they are, Woodward and Bernstein go the most extreme lengths to ensure that their story hits the presses and is able to see by the rest of the world. Even if that does mean, on many occasions, risking their own lives and safety in the process.

Yup, journalists are always on phones.

Yup, journalists are always on phones.

Being a journalist helps make movie like All the President’s Men all the more great to watch. While there’s no doubt in my mind that somebody else who may not at all be involved with the world of journalism could, and most likely already has, found something to love and adore about the movie, it’s still something special to me that has me connect to this movie all the more, each and every time I check it out. For example, that certain rush and adrenaline that goes all throughout your body when you stumble upon a story that, at first, may not seem like much, but eventually, turns into something far more greater and powerful than you ever expected it to be. Then, to go out, follow your sources, catch up with people, back-up facts, put more info in the story, edit it time and time again, try your hardest to get it published, have to edit it one last time, chop it up as much as can be, and publish it for you, as well as the rest of the world around you to see, is just one of the many lovely feelings I get as a journalist.

So with that said, yes, All the President’s Men is a great movie for journalists who love to write stories and all of the other extra work that goes into them.

However, in its own right, it’s also a great movie that deserves to be seen because, well, it’s so damn well-done.

For one, it’s a thriller that is, believe it or not, thrilling. The reason I say “believe it or not” is because for anyone who has ever picked up a piece of paper or passed 8th grade history, will now exactly what the historical significance behind the Watergate scandal was and the countless other, ins and outs surrounding it. And because of that fact, All the President’s Men could have been nothing more than a glamorized, Hollywood-retelling of the story, but it’s actually not; in fact, most of what the movie is actually about, has less to do with the breaking of the story itself, and more about what certain emotions and feelings the story actually brings along.

Though the suits aren't always that nice.

Though the suits aren’t always that nice.

Of course, seeing as how this is directed by Alan J. Pakula, it’s obvious that a lot of All the President’s Men surrounds that idea of being paranoid in a society where, whether you want to admit it or not, the government is always spying on you and everything you do. You may want to believe that they’re spending all of your well-earned tax money on institutions such as school, the army, and programs to help out those who need it the most, but really, they’re just screwing everybody over. While I know that I sound like the kid who has gotten stoned one too many times, this is the same kind of point that the movie brings up and in an effective, never-hacky way.

The scenes where Woodward and Bernstein are out, covering their bases, trying to get more info, and meeting up in some of the shadiest spots to do so, are all filled with a certain bit of intensity that makes you wonder what’s going to happen next even though, you know, you know exactly what is going to happen at the end. The story’s going to be told; Nixon is going to be made an example out of; and Bernstein and Woodward are going to become the legends that they so rightfully deserve to be. However, there’s a certain chill in the air that makes it seem like Pakula can, and most definitely will, switch things up at any moment he sees fit. And honestly, because the movie’s so interesting and compelling, I wouldn’t have had much of a problem with that; but because he sticks to the story and all the facts within it, makes it all the more of an impressive job of directing on his part.

Not to mention that, Redford and Hoffman themselves are quite solid here, as well. Though we’ve come to see Hoffman and Redford in more interesting roles in the time since they starred in All the President’s Men, it still goes without saying that these two are talented pros and make every second count. It also helps that their personalities allow for us to distinguish between the two and understand why they make the certain choices that they do throughout the majority of this flick; Hoffman’s Bernstein is a bit sneakier, whereas Redford’s Woodward, likes to keep things on the straight and narrow, even if he does begin to realize that that’s sometimes easier said then done in the world of journalism. And yes, that world is indeed one where even the most easy-going, level-headed dudes can, whether they intended to or not, break a person’s life in-half, all for the goal of telling a story the public needs to see.

So yeah, people. Start writing!

Consensus: Engaging and exciting, despite everyone knowing what happens at the end, All the President’s Men is both, a smart-thriller, as well as a nice bit of social commentary about the way our social climate worked and still does, even to this very day.

9 / 10

But yeah. Those phones, though.

But yeah. Those phones, though.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Mad Max (1979)

Drives to the supermarket just got a whole lot more intense.

In a savage, post-apocalyptic land, Officer Max Rockatansky (Gibson) is the law and runs it his way; whether people like it or not, is strictly their problems. Things got real hot and heavy, however, when a group of nomadic bikers led by the deranged Toecutter (Keays-Byrne) murder his friend and attack his family, forcing Max to unleash revenge the only way he knows best.

You got to hand it to director George Miller because this guy took a budget of only $400,000, used that cash to bring out some sick-ass looking cars, fashion statements, and guns, only to end up grossing nearly over $100,000,000 worldwide and influencing every piece of pop-culture from Saw to Chris Jericho. Yeah, this guy’s got a lot on his plate in terms of love and respect and with good reason, because this film still hits as hard now as it did back in 1979.

What’s solid about Miller’s direction is what he does with these car/bike chases. Nowadays we see onslaughts of CGI and special effects tamper with the image of what an automobile accident should look like, so it’s pretty refreshing to see a guy use not one piece of that and get some of the craziest, most realistic-looking accidents ever filmed. There’s a type of kinetic style and energy that Miller brings to this material that makes all of the action scenes that much more amped-up and intense than they probably already are, and it makes the crashes look even better, especially when in the first ten minutes you see one blow up into little, tiny pieces.

Max isn't mad? He's happy and romantic?!? Ew!

Max isn’t mad? He’s happy and romantic?!? Ew!

And when you have a movie where hardly any character drives below 65 mph, then you definitely need to make sure things are moving no matter what.

The way Miller uses the dead center of the Australian desert works too, in that it makes it seem like this flick is taking place in a Western town, where everything just went to shit because of some terrible apocalyptic happening. There’s not a lot of effort and money put into the set designs, but when you have gangs that dress like Judas Priest, sexy-ass cars that you can literally hear and smell a mile away, and have dudes who don’t shave but always look bad-ass, you don’t need to because you’re already set in creating a pretty screwed up and weird place to begin with. Just goes to show you that what you can do with little or no money at all and still make it look like hell on Earth.

Well, hell on Earth with a lot of gasoline and leather.

But despite all of this slick and cool style that Miller gives off, his story seems to falter. There’s nothing really flashy with this story that hasn’t already been done before but what bothered me is where it ends up going. The first act and the last act are both filled with insane amounts of cool action that keeps the flick moving at a brisk, fun pace, but then there was this middle act that just seemed to meander along without anything happening. What’s even worse is we get one of those sappy, happy montages that almost changes the whole mood of the film completely. Maybe Miller wanted to save up on all of his action and violence for the end (you know, for money purposes), but he could have really given me something better in the meantime to hold one’s interest.

How I like to drive. Especially during rush hour.

How I like to drive. Especially during rush hour.

Let me also not forget to mention that since this is in fact, a straight-up B-movie, there are the usual tendencies that all B-movies seem to go through. Some moments here are so freakin’ campy that it almost feels like the film is doing a self-parody on itself. One sequence in particular was when Max stumbles upon his partner in a hospital bed, being burnt to a crisp. For some reason, Miller thought that this scene needed that extra “oomph” to really gain our attention, so he adds a terribly loud and dramatic score that seems like it came right out of a Hitchcock movie. That wouldn’t have seemed so bad had Miller gone for that type of movie, but for the most part, it doesn’t seem like he is, so of course, some of this plays off as a bit more ridiculous than it probably intended on being.

However, at the center of it all is Mel Gibson; somebody who, despite all of the controversy surrounding his name, is incredibly talented in proving himself to be a total and absolute bad-ass. This isn’t something people knew about him back in the day, but his big-screen debut in Mad Max changed that and it’s no surprise. Max, the character, goes through a whole range of emotions that change up throughout the whole flick and it’s Gibson’s charisma and energy that he puts into this role that really makes it stand out. Sometimes this character can go into the usual conventions, but Gibson just about rises above that and makes this character cool, violent, and also one scary person you do not want to piss off. Gibson’s career as of late seems to be going in and out, but regardless of what happens next for him, we’ll always have this gem of his to remind us of the young up-and-comer that he once was.

That is, before he started drinking and telling cops how he exactly felt about them.

Consensus: Certain cracks here and there in the narrative, but overall, Mad Max still works as a solid, low-budget, B-movie that also has the novelty of featuring a very young, but very compelling Mel Gibson in the titled-role.

8 / 10

Big yellow taxis ain't got nothin' on Max.

Big yellow taxis ain’t got nothin’ on Max.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Play Misty for Me (1971)

Had no idea DJ’s were always getting so much nookie.

Dave Garver (Clint Eastwood) is a sly and cool California disc jockey that has an easy job, easy life, and is pretty easy when it comes to the women. But, it’s all fun and games with him until one lady he spends the night with (Jessica Walter), ends up wanting more than he expected and now his life is ready for a whole new shake-up. Which is to say that the lady herself is pretty darn coo-coo for Coco Puffs.

If there is one thing I have to give Clint Eastwood credit for, it’s that the guy decided not to make his directorial debut this big, expensive piece of mainstream trash that he could have easily gone crazy with because of all the money that would have been tossed his way. Instead, the guy went for a more low-key, smaller-scale type of film that doesn’t even really seem like he spent all that much money on in the first place so if there is anything I have to commend Eastwood for with this film, it’s that the guy knows how to save money and knows how to keep things low and small.

Sadly, none of that matters when you look at the final-product and realize that Eastwood made some junk. Big budget or not, garbage is still garbage.

"I told you! "All Request Saturday" on is, Saturday. Not Tuesday!"

“I told you! “All Request Saturday” on is, Saturday. Not Tuesday!”

One of the main reasons why this film sucks so hard is because nothing is shocking here at all. We have all seen this type of thriller done before, done in the same exact order – guy bangs girl, girl thinks it’s more than just a simple one time thing, girl starts stalking, girl starts to get even crazier, and by the time the guy knows it, she’s attacking him with a kitchen knife aimed at his throat. Basically, it’s the type of dream every dude wants to have, without actually having it be real, so I guess that’s what makes it somewhat scary, is that this could literally happen to any person who dips their pen into the wrong ink. That said, the movie’s so campy, it almost feels like a joke half of the time; like it literally is just coming from Eastwood’s own fantasies that he probably still performs to this day.

And honestly, if you’ve seen something like Fatal Attraction, or any erotic-thriller ever made, you know exactly how this movie’s going to get started, move on, and then end. There’s hardly any surprises here, nor are there actually any fun moments to be had. Sure, it’s sort of like a horror movie, and it’s even a little bit of a thriller, but there’s not much of either elements to be found here. For the most part, it’s just a whole slew of scenes in which Clint Eastwood tries his hardest to get out of having to have sex with this one gal, each and every night. May have been fun for Clint himself, but for the single, angry viewer looking on, it can be a bit irritating. Not because that viewer wants to be Clint, but because the movie they’re watching blows.

And also that they want to be Clint Eastwood.

Not talking about me, by the way.

But once you get to thinking about the decade it was made, things get a whole lot worse. Everything from the music, to the lines, to the wardrobe, to the look of it in general, are all dated and at times, incredibly laughable. The gal that gets all nutso after Clint has sex with her and leaves her, has some of the most ridiculous lines in the whole film, just so that we could see how deranged and unstable she truly. Personally, I got it pretty quick: Lady’s crazy, so beware. But the movie did not stop there and just kept on giving poor Jessica Walter, horrible lines to work with.

Love to wake up to that every morning.

Love to wake up to that every morning.

Granted, it’s pretty neat seeing Jessica Walter, pre-Lucille Bluth days, but her performance here is insane. That’s clearly the point, but after awhile, it becomes to turn into something of a parody; almost as if Clint just told her to keep yelling at the top of her lungs and stick her tongue out as much as possible. Maybe it worked for those who saw this way back when, but now, it’s excruciating to watch. Like most movies from the 70’s, except that this one features literally a five-minute montage of Clint and an old-flame of his, kissing, making love, skinny-dipping, and doing it all to sweet tunes that sound exactly like a poor-man’s Kenny G. Honestly, I think I could have gone a whole two hours or so without seeing Clint Eastwood’s bare-naked bum, but hey, I guess the guy really wants to get his point across: He’s a hot mofo.

Speaking of Clint, as an actor, the guy is fine and does a nice job with his d-bag character but after awhile, you don’t really care for the guy. He’s just a dick that stuck his thing in a woman, decided that he didn’t want it from her no more, and then gets stuck with the fact that he may get killed for that one night stand. Yeah, it’s a sucky situation for the dude but it didn’t make me care about him any more and just left me with an empty-protagonist that didn’t have much to him other than a stern, smooth voice, and a body that ladies just die for. Notice how I am talking about Clint Eastwood in the early 70’s. Now, in the year 2014, not so much. But hey, he is somehow capable of reeling in the ladies, despite his age or what he may have turn out to be.

Consensus: It may have chilled viewers back when it first came out, but in the 21st Century, Play Misty for Me has not aged well one bit, which is mostly thanks to most of Eastwood’s lazy decisions as director and how conventional the material turns out to be, without ever being just simply put: “Fun”.

1 / 10 = Crapola!!

Clint be like, "don't curr."

Clint be like, “don’t curr.”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

NOT-SO-SECRET SANTA REVIEW SWAP BLOGATHON: Black Sunday (1977)

I just thought that the Good Year blimps did would tell us that “Ice Cube’s a pimp”. However, I was a dead wrong. It’s apparently a WEAPON OF DESTRUCTION!!

After stumbling upon a possible terrorist plan, Israeli anti-terrorist operative Major David Kabakov (Robert Shaw) decides that it’s time to take matters into his own hands and catch who exactly it is that’s behind this, what their plan is and when exactly their going to pull this all off. Even though he doesn’t know yet, we do, and it just so happens to be a very angry, very evil Dahlia Iyad (Marthe Keller) who’s been setting up this plan of her own for awhile, but hasn’t gotten the “go-to” just yet. But once almost every person that’s above her in the food-chain perishes, gets found out, or simply backs away from this plan, she too decides to take matters into her own hands, enlisting a Vietnam vet (Bruce Dern), who also happens to be a frequent pilot for a Good Year blimp that goes over football stadiums on the day of the games, just to get a couple of nice action shots here and there. And heck, the Good Year blimp is so awesome and handy to have around, they even enlist it to do its job on the most special football Sundays of all time: The Super Bowl. See where this one’s going?

Get your head in the game dammit!

Get your head in the game dammit!

What may have seemed like a pretty illogical and nutso idea to have back in the days of 1977, gives off a very creepy, slightly eerie feeling watching it now, in the 21st Century. For instance, back in those days, the idea of a group of terrorists taking over the same Good Year blimp that hovers over the Super Bowl, where all sorts of fans, players and even high-ranking politicians go to sit back and relax, and attaching the bomb to it with all intents of a mass murder, seemed like one of those Hollywood, big-budget movie-making “what if” ideas. It would have been the same idea some guy probably made to a hot-shot executive saying how the people would love it and totally venture out to go and witness just what it’s all about.

However, in the year 2013, where things like 9/11, school shootings, the Afghanistan war and the Boston Marathon Bombings, seem to pop-up in every U.S citizen’s minds on a day-to-day basis, not only would it not be played for such a “gee, wouldn’t this be crazy?”-feel, and more of a “this could actually happen” one, and therefore, never get made. That’s why movies like these, no matter how dated they may actually be or feel, still hold plenty of thoughts and ideas that can be looked at in a current-mind, rather than one that’s just looking at it as if it was 1977 all over again. That’s not the type of world we live in now, and that’s why, at times, this movie was definitely a little hard to watch.

All of that thought-provoking yammering aside, this movie is still a movie and it should definitely be taken in as that, regardless of when it was released and the subject content it involves.

If you’re going to have a movie that’s all leading-up to a huge, bloated and disastrous climax, it makes sense to want to build-up to it by creating characters, spending time developing them, as well as the situation, what’s at stake here and why everything we are seeing and hearing now matters, especially when we know that everything’s going to blow up into itty bitty pieces during the last 20 or so minutes. And for the most part, the movie does a relatively effective at job at doing that, however, it does take quite awhile to get going and even when it does actually get its foot moving, it never really escalates to much.

Actually, that’s incorrect, because there are quite a couple of cool, tense and action-packed sequences that happen here, and made me feel like it was working to something big, while also still giving us tiny pleasures in between. There’s a chase-sequence between a terrorist member and the whole police squad that starts off in a hotel, then spills out onto the gritty streets of L.A., and then, for one reason or another, ends up on a beach in the most ironic scene of all. It’s a nice scene that practically comes out of nowhere, however, it grabbed me by the throat and took me for a ride. There’s even another scene like that in the form of a boat chase that doesn’t look half-as-bad as it sounds. So yeah, there are some moments where this movie really kicks into high-gear, before going balls-out crazy in the end, and it kept me sticking with this all, even though I felt like there was nothing really interesting happening underneath this at all.

Mainly though, I have to discredit the writing for that, because while these characters do seem pretty standard in terms of their motivations for doing the things that they do, there’s never really much more to them. The late, great Robert Shaw is the determined agent who doesn’t take crap from anyone, and dishes out more violence and pain than the actual violence and pain he’s trying to stop from happening, and has a couple of scenes where you get that he’s trying to stop these terrorists because it’s his right as a citizen and as a human being, but it doesn’t go much deeper than that. We know he had a wife, two kids and has a daughter that he rarely so often sees, but there’s not much more to the guy other than that he wants to stop this terrorist attempt from actually happening. It does make him a great guy and all, but not a very interesting one to watch, despite how hard Shaw tries to make this guy practically jump-off the screen at us. Instead, he’s just jumping onto Good Year blimps, but more on that second.

Pen exploded I'm going to assume?

Pen exploded I’m going to assume?

Same that I say about Shaw’s character, can’t quite be said about our two terrorists for the whole two-hours-and-a-half, although they do seem pretty standard in their own rights as well. I’ll give credit to the writers for at least giving us bad-ass chick that not only screws her way to the top, but makes the most of her time looking down on those beneath her and doesn’t piss and moan about how she doesn’t get as much respect as the dudes. Yeah, she’s a terrorist and all that’s trying to kill thousands of innocent people, but the movie does make it seem like she’s basically doing this to gain some street-cred for the d-bags that authorize her what, and what not to do. Bruce Dern probably gets off a bit better as the disgruntled vet that, wait for it, wants to get back at his country and teach them a lesson that they’ll never forget. Dern does find some real heart and humanity within this character and we get the sense that underneath all of the disturbing memories and PTSD, that he was actually a nice, kind, gentle and warm-hearted man; it’s just that the war beat it all out of him. Literally.

But while we’re waiting for this climax to eventually happen, we’re all subject to these people just doing the usual chit-chat where they say what they’re going to do next, why and when exactly. It all feels like exposition, and rarely ever feels like actual human beings talking to one another; let alone human beings that are about to be apart of something as big and as terrifying as the Good Year blimp running into a football stadium and killings thousands of people. Even when the climax does come up, it is the fun, exciting and tension-filled spectacle you expected to get, but then, it suddenly becomes a bit goofy. I know it was 1977 and all, but the special-effects for this were just a bit too cheesy and after awhile, it began to take me out of this story that was supposed to be happening up in the air above thousands of football fans, and just made it seem like I was watching something that happened in an L.A. sound-stage with only 15 or so more people watching. Also, to top it all off, we have one of John Williams’ first scores and while it can be a doozy at times, it feels wrong for the material because of how dark, cold and brutal events we’re seeing on screen. But to him, it was just another battle between Luke and his daddy. Oh, the days of vintage-Williams.

Consensus: While it holds a very scary, threatening light in today’s society, Black Sunday is still a supposed “epic” that’s not as thrilling as it should be, nor is it as interesting either. It just moves along a steady-pace, telling its story and has us all awaiting for the huge, bloated and over-the-top climax that delivers, and then somehow, doesn’t.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sunday3

Quite fitting, don’t you think?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

To see all of the other various reviews and picks going on with the Not-So-Secret Santa Review Swap, check out my buddy Nick’s site, the Cinematic Katzenjammer! It’s a good time, no matter what the occasion may be!

Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

Yes, they may have been debunked it, but I still like to think that these three are somewhere out there right now, just sippin’ on Pina Coladas, with a couple of honeys by their sides.

Lifer Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood) has just landed his ass in The Rock for apparently trying to break out of his last prison-stay in Atlanta. The Rock is Alcatraz, and apparently nobody can escape it, no matter how hard many have tried and seemingly failed to do so. Frank finds this almost as a challenge as he, and a couple of other fellow inmates pick out every little clue that they can find to bust them out of the joint. Some of it’s a bit ridiculous, but it’s all they got and it’s all that they’ve got to live for, unless they want to rot away in a place that could care less if they were even around.

We all know the story about the dudes who escaped from Alcatraz, and were never to be found again. Some think they survived and lived under scrutiny for the rest of their days; while others, well, they think they just drowned, died, and got their remains eaten by all sorts of creatures of the lake. Nobody knows what the truth really is since they never found any bodies of any sorts, however, the fact of the matter is that these men did escape out the prison that was deemed “inescapable”, and got by without ever being noticed until 12 hours later. I don’t know about you, but that deserves it’s own movie, especially one starring everybody’s favorite leading-man: Clint Eastwood.

"Can't wait to get home and tell those kids to get off my lawn."

“Can’t wait to get home and tell those kids to get off my lawn.”

But what makes this movie pretty good, even after all of these years, is that everything in it seems reasonable as if it was meant to be put in the film, only to further on the emotion and the intensity of the prison escape itself. With a movie like this, for something that actually happened, there needs to be feeling, heart, and depth with these characters and the situation, so that when they do get the hell out of jail (literally), you feel more and more towards them and whether or not they’re going to make it out alive. We all know how the story ends and it all depends on what side of the boat you’re on as to whether you believe that they’re dreams were fulfilled or not.

For me, I think the dudes lived and are still having a grand old time to this day, but that’s just me. You know me, the type of person who believes that the human-spirit who can overcome anything. Even the deep, dark, and freezing waters of San Francisco, on a very cold night. Yup, even then, the human-spirit overcomes all, baby.

And that’s sort of the idea that this movie taps into, but not too much to where it feels like it’s preachy or overly-dramatic. It keeps itself subtle, steady, and relaxed, as if you are along with these guys, just living out the nights and days as they continue to wait and wait until their time to go bye-bye comes around. It also allows the movie to pick itself back up once the prison escape actually begins and really get you involved by making you wonder if they’re going to make it, how, or if they’re going to get caught by somebody. Like I said before, you and I all know how the story begins, continues on, and ends, but the fact that it might just go against expectations and really take you for a loop still shows up in your mind many times. That’s when you know you have a good movie on your hands, albeit, a very tense one as well.

If anything, the tension does swell back up what’s a pretty straight-forward story, especially one that I’m not too sure I believe in after seeing it a couple of times already (3 to be exact). The reason why Morris decides that he wants to get the hell out of the prison and be free is a bit cheap. There’s this character Doc, who’s the usual harmless and innocent dude you’d see in any prison movie, who has a bit of a problem that Morris apparently takes notice to and gets upset about. So upset, that he decides it’s his time to flee from serving his life-sentence. Let’s all forget though, that the dude has an IQ of “Superior”, as they show early on in the movie, he looks around everywhere he goes, and also has broken out of the last prison he was in, hence why he’s in this one. Yup, forget about that. Nope, just add the old cooky guy that the warden throws his power and anger on, to seal the deal and give Morris some inspiration. I thought this way of making Morris more human and giving him a reason to break out was sort of stupid and didn’t fit well with the rest of the movie, as it didn’t seem to really go with the over-the-top dramatics of what a usual movie such as this goes for. There could have been somebody like Doc in prison when these guys decided that they wanted to get the hell out, but I highly doubt it.

The thought inside everybody's minds right at that moment, "Shit, he gonna finish that?"

“Shit, he gonna finish that?”

But at least Morris is given some sort of levity as a human-being, due to Clint Eastwood playing him, or, essentially playing himself. When it comes to Clint Eastwood, you don’t get much else different other than him playing himself. I can’t say that’s a bad thing because the dude’s pretty damn good and charming at playing it, while also being able to give him a smarter attitude towards certain situations and predicaments that makes it seem understandable as to how he figured out how to break out, and why. I mean, the movie does tell us early on (remember the IQ level thingy?), but even if it didn’t, we would have already known that this dude was one smart cookie that was not to be messed with. Why? Cause it’s freakin’ William Munny! That’s why!

The supporting cast in this movie is pretty solid, especially Paul Benjamin as “English”, the worker from the library that Morris befriends. Together, they share a nice dynamic that’s not just playful, but full of respect and touched my heart a bit more once they get their final scene together. It’s a good one, so just wait for it. Also, be on the lookout for a very young and dashing Fred Ward in a role as one of the escapees. Nice to see when the dude was such a young whippersnapper!

Consensus: Some may consider Escape from Alcatraz “slow” and “boring”, but if you’re in the right mood for a prison movie that takes its grand old time to develop characters and tension, then you’ll be watching the right flick. Not one of the best, but definitely one of the more definitive ones.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

A beaut, ain't she?!?

A beaut, ain’t she?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Carrie (1976)

Come to think of it, all of my proms would have benefited from some pig blood.

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is your typical teenage outcast that has no friends, is a bit weird, a bit shy, and seems behind the curve in terms of her sexuality. However, what separates Carrie from all the other hot-shot bimbos in school, is that she has telekinetic powers, which gives her the ability to move anything or control anything with her mind. That means that anybody that fucks with her, might want to look out next time they go too far. And that warning doesn’t just apply to the kids that pick on her at school, it also goes without saying to her bible-thumping mama (Piper Laurie) who believes everything her daughter does in order to grow up and be apart of the rest of the world, is a sin. She may be right, she may be wrong. Who knows? But once Carrie gets asked to the prom by the studly, popular Tommy Ross (William Katt), well then, her mom settles down a bit. However, once Carrie and Tommy do get to the prom, something happens that not only changes Carrie’s life, but everybody else around hers as well. Remember those powers?

"Have you been out mudering hundreds of your fellow-student body tonight, Carrie? Hmm?"

“Have you been out mudering hundreds of your fellow-student body tonight, Carrie? Hmm?”

With the remake coming out this weekend and looking like nothing more than another cash-grab that Hollywood churns out at least 2 or 3 times a year, I thought now is as good a time as ever to give this one another watch, my 7th altogether. And even after seeing it 7 times, I have to say that I’m more impressed than I’ve ever been before. Not because I realized that Brian De Palma was a great director at one time that was so full of beauty, style and sensibility to spare, but because the movie still freaked me the hell out in ways that I didn’t expect to. Because, in case you forgot, this is the 7th time I’ve seen Carrie by now, and I thought that may have been 7 times too many.

How wrong I was.

But like I was saying about De Palma, knowing all about what he does with his flicks and the sense of style, look and feel he brings to each of them, I appreciated this one a hell of a lot more. Of course every time something scary or shocking happens, we get the same old Psycho, screeching piece of score music he seems to love the heck out of so much that he uses it in just about all of his movies, but the Hitchcock-similarities can only go on for so long until you start to forget about them and just realize that De Palma is really putting all of his might into making this material work more than just your standard, horror movie, and it pays off in the long run.

Take for instance, that infamous opening sequence which yes, seems a little perverted to be mentioning but seriously, all nudity aside, the opening sequence is really something of a beauty. De Palma films it as if it were a dream, or hell, a man’s dream where all of these young high school girls are running around naked, whipping one another with towels and doing every other intimate act that isn’t full-on banging. And then, we get the full show where we see a girl all by herself in the shower, really feeling herself up and getting her rocks off like this is her first time, as it most likely is. For any dude who saw this back when it first came out in ’76, I can only imagine what the hell was running through their minds and their pants at this moments; just like I can only imagine what the hell was running through those same minds and pants when, seconds later, this horny girl’s period-blood starts to come dripping down. This not only ruins the dream-like feel that De Palma gave this movie, but it also ruins any preconceived notion you may have had that this movie is going to play by-the-rules and give you what you want.

After this opening sequence, it’s a full-on terror fest from De Palma who gives every frame an ounce of beauty that sticks with you and makes you feel as if you’re really watching a high school right in front of your eyes. The bullying; the gossip; the hooking up; the underage drinking; the mischievous acts in the middle of the night; the stealing of daddy’s car; etc. It all makes you feel like you’re watching a normal teen, high school movie, except that this one is filled with more horror than any high school I’ve ever attended. And yes, I am talking about the other memorable sequence in this movie: The prom scene.

Once Carrie gets all of the pig’s blood poured onto her, is made a mockery in front of every one, and loses her shit, then this is where De Palma really takes advantage and feeds on our attention. His constant use of the split-screen format during this sequence really gives you a full feel on what sort of damage Carrie is doing to these people and this area, and it really sticks with you. You hear the people shouting, screaming in pain, terror and agony, and yet, you know that there’s nothing you or anybody else can do about it. Their time has come, Carrie has decided so. And in a way, so has De Palma since he gives us all the pleasure of seeing the most despicable characters go out in some of the nastiest, most disturbing ways possible, and yet, we still can’t help but feel a bit bad when it actually does happen. Is this De Palma’s own sick, twisted way of trying to shove all of the hatred we’ve had for these people right back in our faces? Or, is he simply giving us what we want? If he was, then wouldn’t the reward feel much greater, and less depressing?

It’s strange that one could think about this type of stuff with a movie like Carrie, but all of these years later, it still brings up plenty of questions and ideas that may not always get answered or be fully fleshed-out, yet, by the same token, still toy with your mind and have you thinking a lot more than you feel like you should of a movie about a possessed-teenager. However, something also tells me that we the same thought-process won’t be needed for this remake neither, no matter how interesting it sounds to me that Kimberly Pierce is directing it.

But anyway, back to the original. I think what also allows Carrie to stand the test of time is not just De Palma’s approach to the material in terms of his style, but how he approaches the character of Carrie herself. You see her as a bit of a weirdo who can’t socialize with people, and says some weird stuff out of the blue, that only gets followed-up with laughter and more heckling towards her. Yet, you can’t really blame her for being this way since her mom is such a nut-job by the way she raised her, and also, the fellow kids she goes to school with are as evil as she actually is. So, that’s why when she pleads with her mama about wanting to “fit in” and “be normal”, you can’t help but sympathize with the girl and hope her dream actually does come true, even if you already know plenty beforehand that they don’t in fact come true. This makes the movie feel like the classic tale of Cinderella, mixed with Satan, and it makes you feel even worse for Carrie, because all she wants to do is be accepted among her fellow class-mates. Don’t we all feel like that, huh?

Wait for it...wait for it...wait...for....it...

Wait for it…wait for it…wait…for….it…

And you got to give a bunch of credit to Sissy Spacek for going to the extreme lengths she went to in order to make this character, which couldn’t have been all that hard to begin with since you know that she’s the one you should care for the most, despite her “ability” to do bad things. However, she does those said bad things to bad people, so that ain’t so bad, right? Right! Anyway, Spacek is really good in this role by the way she just carries herself from scene-to-scene without saying too much at all, yet, totally demands your attention, especially in that iconic prom scene. Once those eyes open-wide and you see the real demon within her come out, then you know its payback time and it adds even more insult to injury to the that whole sequence. As if that was even humanly possible in the first place.

Then of course we have everybody’s favorite (or not-so favorite) bible-preaching mama, played so terrifyingly by Piper Laurie that it will surprise the heck out of you when you realize that this was her first performance in a movie in 15 years. However, what’s so shocking about that fact is that she doesn’t show a single bit of rust and commands the screen every time she shows up on it. Of course it definitely helps that all she has to do is be all over-the-top, shout and be irate about any decision that her daughter makes, but she still makes it compelling, as if this lady really is THIS nuts, and does love her daughter THIS much. The last scene she gets is very, very odd and may scare people, but for all of the wrong reasons. You be the judge of that.

It’s also nice to watch this movie to see all of the young and familiar faces that would soon become big stars that would stand the test of time, whereas others, well, they have a solid couple years or so, and then fade away once time simply forgets about them. As poorly-acted as he was in his role, it was still fun to see John Travolta play the hick behind the whole “pig blood” fiasco, who also doesn’t like to be called “dumb shit”; Nancy Allen is less annoying than usual and makes a high school you love to hate, especially since you know that there were so many like her at your own school; William Katt is a bit corny as Tommy Ross, but I think that was kind of the point, I could be wrong; Amy Irving is good as the most sympathetic one out of the catty-girls club who actually cares for Carrie and wants her just to have an “experience worth remembering” (needless to say, she gets what she wanted); and Betty Buckley was also good as the gym teacher, Ms. Collins who cares for Carrie and looks out for every step of the way, even though we’re never quite sure if she’s totally on her side by the end. Overall, great cast and it’s nice to see where most of them got their foots in the door. Except for Nancy Allen. I could have done without her.

Consensus: May be dated in some spots, but overall, Carrie is a horror flick worth seeing not just for the numerous slayings of every kid you ever wanted to teach a lesson back in high school, but because De Palma gives this movie all of his creative-power and it pays off well in the end, and in a way, for Carrie herself as well.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!! There it is!!!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!! There it is!!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Manhattan (1979)

I guess you can’t fall in love in Brooklyn?

A neurotic writer named Isaac (Woody Allen), who was just recently dumped by his ex-wife (Meryl Streep) for another woman, is finding love in all the strangest places. Take for instance, the new gal he’s going out with: 17-year-old Tracy (Mariel Hemingway). Together, they surprisingly share a nice connection that’s built more upon the fact that she has plenty to learn with her life, but will spend whatever life she has now with him, that is, until she gets bored of his old-ass and goes for somebody younger and more nimble in the sack. However, it may take some by surprise that Isaac is in fact the one getting a bit bored with his jail-bait and is finding himself more and more attracted to his best friend’s mistress, Mary (Diane Keaton).

Here’s the quintessential, Woody Allen comedy that everybody loves and considers a masterpiece and yet, I have no idea why. Is it because I’m not from New York? Is it because I’ve never been involved with a person that’s 25-years-younger than me? Or simply, is it because I’ve already been spoiled by Annie Hall so close to this movie? I think it’s more of the latter, considering I watched Annie Hall literally two nights before I popped this in the VCR, but still, something doesn’t seem right with me and this movie, and I’ll try my hardest to explain why, even though it probably won’t come out the best way imaginable.

"For some reason, I feel a slight attraction to girl's way, way younger than me. Oh well, no reason to worry. It's probably just a phase."

“For some reason, I feel a slight attraction to girl’s way, way younger than me. Oh well, no reason to worry. It’s probably just a phase.”

Woody Allen’s knack for turning an actual issue like human-beings, the way they interact with one another, and best of all, love one another, into a thinking-piece as well as a bit of a joke, never loses it’s bite no matter how many years go by. It’s been 30 years since this flick came out, and you’d think that we’d all get bored and tired with the same old, richy-rich, New York-types that go way too into depth about art and philosophical ideas, and don’t think enough about other people’s feelings at the most opportune moments, but it surprisingly doesn’t. In fact, it’s still fresh and edgy even by today’s standards, which is mainly because I couldn’t tell you who “our version of Woody Allen” is right about now. I mean, the dude’s still making movies and whatnot, so I guess we sort of have to wait till he croaks in order to crown the new leader in Jewish, neurotic comedies, right?

As with most of Woody’s flick, it’s always interesting to listen to these people talk, no matter what the subject may be, and to see how each and every one respond to the other, which is used to great effect here. The movie isn’t as big as you may think, with maybe 6 or 7 actual main members of the cast getting more than a couple lines of actual dialogue, which means that there is plenty time for us to just get involved with these character’s lives, understand them, their problems, and what they’re going through whether it be a broken heart, broken mind, writer’s block, or a simple, mid-life crisis that can’t be solved by an inordinate amount of drugs. And that was all fine with me because Woody’s writing is always snappy, always entertaining, and always worth a listen, even when he seems to be reaching a bit farther with this material than you’d expect.

There’s a lot of talk about love and how it makes people lose their minds and the essence of reality, and nobody’s more guilty of that then Woody himself. Most of his movies, in fact, feature him swooning over the idea of love, making things up in his mind about it, and getting a bit too carried away. However, that’s the darker side of love that Woody is more than happy to explore, but here, he’s surprisingly a little less cynical about love and probably more hopeful. Rather than leaving us on a depressing note that makes us question the person we lay next to be with every night, it makes us wonder whether we should have more faith in love, or human-beings for that matter. We’re always so used to blaming others for being so idiotic with even the most simplest tasks like keeping a relationship afloat, when we always forget to hold out some hope just in case they don’t screw it up. Woody’s always a bit mean with his views and opinions about the idea of love and whether or not it’s ever-lasting for all of the reasons we may think, but he shows that he was growing softer in his older age and better yet, was getting a little sweeter as well.

Because come to think of it: It was only a matter of time until he met a little lady named Mia. And then, shortly after that, it was only a matter of time until he met another little lady, this time, named Soon-Yi.

Nothing strange here at all. It's just a dude and his granddaughter out and about.

Nothing strange here at all. It’s just a dude and his granddaughter out and about.

Some of you may be wondering why I chose to bring this up, considering that it’s all been done to death by now whenever the name “Woody Allen” gets mentioned anywhere, but seeing this plot and realizing that it was about 13 years earlier before what actually happened in real-life, takes it on for a whole other spin that’s very, very disturbing once you get to thinking about it. Woody’s character gets mixed-up with this 17-year-old, and it’s never explained how or why, we are just dropped-down in the middle of it occurring/blossoming and are told to accept it for what it is. If it was any other writer/director at work, it probably would have been way too creepy to even get by, but somehow the man makes it work because he has a certain amount of grace and skillfulness to showing it that’s more about the actual love part, and not about the age part, even if it is too hard to not think about the latter when you think of the former. Or maybe it’s just me, I don’t know.

Anyway, age problems aside, Woody’s great in this role because he does everything we know and love him for, and it never gets old. Mariel Hemingway, on the other hand, really gets us going because she’s so good and so interesting as a female character, that it’s a shame we don’t get much more of her in this flick. Obviously Hemingway has that whole “young, innocent”-presence about her going on that works and makes us care for her, especially when Isaac shows a slight sign of boredom in their adventures as a couple, but she also shows some adult-like sensibilities in the way she acts and speaks that has me wondering just where the hell this dude found her, and why was she so attracted to him in the first place. I believed that they were a couple and could actually be together for awhile, but I didn’t understand why she was so naive when it came down to realizing that she has a full-life to live, but still shows that she’s smarter and more capable of making smarter decisions than half of the adults in this flick. I didn’t quite get it, and I think it was more of a screen-writing trick that Woody tried pulling so we wouldn’t pay too much attention to the creepiness of what was going on, but I latched on pretty quickly. Hemingway is still good, and so is everybody else, but maybe this is where Woody’s tricks started to show a bit more obvious now. Then again, maybe it’s just me. I don’t know.

Consensus: Though some consider Manhattan to be Woody Allen’s end-all, be-all masterpiece, some of it still rings a bit too false for me to really get engaged like everybody else, yet, the true and sweet sentiments are here for us to take in, and they work even after all of these years, if you can believe it or not.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

We've all seen the picture 100 times, but isn't just so damn pretty?

We’ve all seen the picture 100 times, but isn’t just so damn pretty?

Annie Hall (1977)

Thanks, Annie. All we needed in this world were Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Thanks a lot.

Meet Alvy Singer (Woody Allen): He’s a neurotic, 40-year-old living in New York who’s had a pretty undefined life so far. He was born underneath a roller-coaster, has been married twice, and has yet to understand the meaning of what makes you happy in life. He’s never met a person that’s really took him by surprise and he’s never really been able to look on the bright side of things; always negative and always downing those around him. But that all somehow changes when his buddy (Tony Roberts) introduces him to a spunky gal named Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The rest, as they say, “is history”.

Yes, this marks my first viewing of Annie Hall and before any of you jump down my throat right as soon as I open the gate, I have a reasoning for doing so: The time just never amounted itself. See, there’s a little something you folks out there may not know about me and my movie-viewing that I’m going to let you in on right about now, I have a weird thing about me where I need to watch a movie that I hear is “perfect” and “a masterpiece”, in the most perfect way possible. That means not on my computer, not on some lap-top, and sure as hell not in the middle of the day. It needs to be done in a way where I can watch it on my own, personal television (that’s rather huge), and needs to be done during the night, especially when I’m thinking of it the most. Hence why it took me over 2 years to actually crack-open the old VHS tape and actually watch this bad boy.

Don't drink too much, Woody. You may cause holes in your body.

Don’t drink too much, Woody. You may cause holes in your body.

Thankfully though, in the 2 years that it’s taken me to view this, has also lead me on to leave 2 years of my life that I feel were necessary enough to fully “get” just what exactly this flick was all about, for better or worse. I’ve been through a couple of “get-togethers” in the past 2 years and I’ve come to the realization that most relationships are exactly what you make of them and how much effort and love you want to put into it, but then my brain also gets raddled-around when I begin to think about all of the other aspects of a relationship like the people involved themselves. I begin to wonder, “well, maybe it was supposed to happen like that”, or, “it’s her, not me”, and you know what, that’s absolutely, positively true. So why the heck do we always go through with the same old stuff like relationships, even if they begin, go on, and end, mostly all the same?

That’s the type of question that Woody Allen brings up perfectly here not just once, but more than a couple of times but it never feels preachy or annoying; it feels like there’s really a man trying to get behind all of the stupidity and sappiness about what makes relationships loving and caring, and figuring out what the hell’s the point of it all. Allen himself seems to have had that problem many times in his life, but this time it was the most drastic-change for him where he needed to get his word out there, for all of the rest of the world to see, hear, and feel as well. It worked, and 4 Oscars later, Woody Allen will never, ever lose that cliché of his that “wasn’t better than Annie Hall“.

I can’t disagree with that statement, but that’s more of a positive than a negative because Allen has had his fair share of blunders in the past, but also his fair share of wonders as well, and this one only showed the world that he was more than just a satirist who was ready to make an easy joke out of any situation. This time, he showed a compassion and feeling towards the things that he was making fun of, as well as a reasoning behind all of the mucking it up. He shows us that humor is the quickest and best way to making a person happy, and is able to get them away from all of the hard-ships they may, or may not be happening in their life at the present time, even if it’s only for a second. Sounds like a sappy thing to say, but it’s the truth and it’s present in just about every frame here when Allen’s script comes out hitting us like a ton of pins and needles.

The one-liners the guy has to present are hilarious, regardless of if you don’t get them or not (and trust me, you won’t, but neither did I so it’s okay). But with every situation and happening this story goes through, the movie always finds the lighter side of the equation, even if the man himself who’s telling it, is a pessimist himself. Everybody knows that about Woody, and especially about Alvy the “character” in this movie that he’s playing, which brings us more of a real-world glimpse at the world of love, happiness, and sadness, without ever seeming like it’s the Hollywood-ized version or anything of that nature. It’s the way that Allen sees the world and everything that inhabits it, and it’s such a pleasure to see, for many more reasons than one, but the most important one being that it’s as real as you’re ever going to get and ever going to need, especially with a subject like love and relationships.

There’s a reason why every rom-com that’s any percent above the usual cookie-cutter, conventional rom-com, always seems to find itself compared to this flick, which is reasonable because this is one of the first rom-coms to ever really scratch the surface with such an attending eye as the one that Allen himself has. It touches on relationships in the way that they don’t last forever, just like love as well, and it’s up to us to decide whether we want to go through with any of it anymore, or just give up it all entirely and save ourselves some pressure and some time. However, there’s also this idea that one may need love, no matter how desperate it may actually be.

See, couples can have fun and be happy. It just doesn't last forever. Wah.

“Yeah, take a picture of me doing this so I can remember the happy time we had every time you piss me the hell off, woman!”

Love is like a must one person has to have in their life, if only for just a short amount of time. It can either be the first person who said “hi” to you on your first day of Junior High; your ex who left you for the best man/bridesmaid at your wedding; or it can even be the significant other you’ve stood by after all of these years, even if you do get tired of hearing their dreaded snoring, night and night again. It doesn’t matter who you felt love for, it’s as long as you’ve felt it, if just for one time. Love is what people constantly throw themselves into, time and time again, regardless of if it comes out negatively or positively. It comes out in a way that reminds you what life is all about and even if you lose that person you love, well, life still goes on and you will continue to meet more and more people, experience new things, and may eventually come to realize that that person you held an affection for, maybe wasn’t the best person who deserved it in the end. Just maybe.

As you can tell, this movie made me think a whole lot and it still will, even after I finish this review. That’s the sign of a great movie, and dare I say it, “a masterpiece”.

However, no film at all would be complete without great performances from it’s cast, which is exactly what this movie has, but benefits more from the wonderful chemistry by it’s two leads, the same two that were rumored to have been out and about during the time of this movie’s release and filming. Many people considered this work to be “autobiographical” in the sense that everything that Annie and Alvy go through and experience together, is exactly what Woody and Diane did as well, but something tells me that that’s only taking credit away from the perfect jobs these two did together, especially by actually getting us to believe in this couple right from the get-go. Except I’m still mad at Diane Keaton for giving us this. Why, Diane! Why?!?!?!?!?

Woody Allen still plays-up his usual, neurotic-shtick that never gets old or annoying, it’s always hilarious to see him react to the others around him, even if it comes from a source of a mind that’s a bit too miserable to be around. Then again, all of the problems this guy has with the world around him seems reasonable and understandable, especially considering the way he was brought up in the world. Woody Allen has always been a bit of a charmer in his movies, but his comedic-timing and wit was on fire during this movie, and rarely ever kept me from laughing. It’s an act that some people thought would have been done to death by now, but has yet to have over-stayed it’s welcome. Don’t ever change, Woody. No matter what all the nay-sayers may, ahem, say.

Only thing that's dated about this movie is her: No man, neurotic or not, would think she's the end-all, be-all of relationships. Hate to say it.

Only thing that’s dated about this movie is her: No man, neurotic or not, would think she’s the end-all, be-all of relationships. Hate to say it but times have changed, my friends.

Diane Keaton though, all jokes aside, really gave it her all with this performance and is absolutely loving and cute as our titled-character because she feels real. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been mixed-up with a couple of cooks back in my day, but I felt closer and closer to this relationship because I could see why somebody would want to be together with someone, break-up with them, and get back together a couple of days, hours, or seconds later. As a human-being, some of us are prone to making mistakes and trying to undo them as soon as possible, which is exactly what Annie tries to do throughout the whole movie. She tries to cater to Alvy’s own needs and wants, yet is keeping herself away from something that she herself wants to do; she allows herself to be made fun of and criticized for the way she talks and acts, even if she’s still not sure why she does or says certain things, it’s just who she is; and she continues and continues to go through with a relationship that’s more than shaky at times, all because she needs somebody in her life, especially somebody like Alvy.

It’s a beautiful relationship these two form and one that I felt more of a connection to, being that I’ve been through a couple of crazy relationships of my own. Together though, Keaton and Allen make a wonderful screen-couple because they feel real, honest, and as heart-breaking as ever, even if you may want to punch the other in the face sometimes for being such a ding-bat to the other’s emotions and feelings. However, that’s just how relationships go. You can’t always satisfy the other, from beginning to the end of your relationship; your always going to mess up and have to kick yourself in the ass for doing so. But then, you get back up, continue forward, and work at it. If the relationship doesn’t work out as you or the other may have planned, then so be it. Life goes on, relationships will come and go, and love will continue to find itself back into your soul, whether you want it to or not. Case closed.

Consensus: Annie Hall is considered “one of the greatest rom-coms of all-time” and well, with good reason: It’s beautifully-told tale that’s honest, hilarious, perfectly-acted by Woody and Diane, and leaves room for plenty of thought and discussion, even if it all comes through one’s life experiences and own ideas. Still though, you’ll feel the bug of love eating at you long after the credits roll.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

"Hi. I'm Woody Allen and I hate everything that's good and right with life. Now, watch my movie."

“Hi. I’m Woody Allen and I hate everything that’s good and right with life. Now, watch my movie.”

Days of Heaven (1978)

Farming has never looked so pretty, except for when you have to shovel cow manure. Then, that’s when things start to look shitty (pun intended).

During the early 20th century when every person is just trying their hardest to make ends meet and keep that dough rollin’, two poor lovers, Bill and Abby (Richard Gere and Brooke Adams),  travel to the Texas Panhandle to harvest crops for a wealthy farmer (Sam Shepard). Because is a little bad boy, he encourages Abby to falsely-marry the farmer, for the sole reason that the dude is dying and you know what that means: bring on the riches! The plan starts to unravel for all three as real, hurtful emotions come in and people can’t control what they do, nor what they say.

In case you didn’t know, this is writer/director Terrence Malick’s second flick and it features all of his trademarks that film-goers love (and sometimes hate): beautiful visuals, over-the-head narration, sometimes incoherent story-line, and characters that you spend a lot of time just watching and waiting for them to do something. These are all good things if you love Malick and what he’s able to do with a camera. However, if you’re one of those notorious haters (and there are plenty of them); then this will most likely be a total bore-fest from beginning-to-end. For somebody that loves what Malick is usually able to do behind-the-camera; it was an amazing watch. Then again, I know there are others.

"I looooooooveee goooooold." - Terrence Malick

I looooooooveee goooooold.” – Terrence Malick

No matter what I do with the rest of this review, I know that I still have to start it all off just by mentioning one of my favorite aspects of this flick: the visuals. It pretty much goes without saying that a Malick film just oozes beauty, but this film really does considering how much time and effort it seems like he really put into these carefully-handled shots. Many of the scenes that Malick filmed, seemed as if he filmed them during the “golden hour”, which gives every single shot a big shade of gold and makes you feel like you’re actually watching these characters work their asses off in one long-ass piece of farmland. Speaking of the farmland, almost every shot in this flick has the long, sweeping farmland just laying in the background, which makes everything else surrounding it it just so damn beautiful to look at that I caught myself not even paying attention to what was going on right in front of me with these characters and this story. Instead, I just kept diverting all of my attention to the plowed land. I’m no Farmer John, but I do love a beautiful landscape, when I see one.

I don’t know what the hell goes through Malick’s head when he’s thinking about filming these types of images, but what I bet is that he just looks up and says “Hurry up! Get my camera because it’s time to film some works of beauty!” Either that, or he’s got Mother Nature on speed-dial. Regardless of what his style of filmmaking is, the guy deserves to be called an artist in every which way. Granted, he does make movies, but he makes one that are as beautiful as you’re ever going to in a artsy-fartsy museum  This is real-life, actual videos of the world around us and it will make any person, including myself, happy to know that natural-beauty still does exist out there. Not this, or this, or hell, not even this; but THIS. Okay, maybe that last one was pushing it, but you get my drift.

But even when he does try to make everything gel with the story, it still comes off as the weakest part of the whole flick. I don’t know what it is about most of Malick’s films, but his stories always end up starting out weak, then get better but with this flick it sort of just started off as mediocre and kept that same pace throughout. The love triangle did have its jumps and humps here and there, but it seemed like Malick was more concerned with the visuals and how purrty everything looked. It’s not really as terrible as it might be for some directors that don’t have as much ambition or beautiful-imagery on-display as Malick, but you can totally tell what his strong-suit is and isn’t. The story did end up surprising me by the end and I like how Malick didn’t try to reach for any big, Biblical metaphor that just makes the whole hour and 30 minutes seem like one, big allegory for the world we live in. People do bad things, they screw up, they ask for forgiveness, and then they start all over again. That’s the way people work and sometimes, how the world works. Leave it at that, and show me pretty things.

Even the insects don't like his acting all that much, either.

Even the insects don’t seem to really care for his acting all that much, either.

As many of you loyal readers probably know by now, Richard Gere is not one of my favs (even though he does represent my homeland of Philadelphia, PA) but he’s actually pretty decent here. Once again, Gere brings out that rebellious side within him to give his character some depth and also mess around with what he thinks is right and what is wrong. Nothing too amazing to write home about, but it’s still a performance that didn’t make me cringe every time he popped up on-screen, which is what plenty of his other performances have done to me in the past. Sam Shepard is also here and is good as the rich, and slowly dying farmer that you can’t help but feel bad for considering that this guy is being scammed so easily and he doesn’t even know it. Nice to see Shepard play a likable guy for once, too. Brook Adams plays Gere’s lover, Abby, and gives off a good performance even though I wish her character had more to her rather than just standing there, smiling and looking pretty. Then again, those aren’t bad to have in the first place.

Actually, the stand-out in this flick in terms of the cast, has to be Linda Manz as the factory worker’s little sister, aptly named Linda. Her performance as the little girl is pretty solid but it’s her fly-on-the-wall narration that really kept me going with this story and if it wasn’t for her, I probably would have not known just what the hell was going on. Every little line of dialogue that she speaks to the audience feels genuine, almost if she wasn’t even handed a script and Malick just told her “to talk about what you see, other than utter beauty.” Malick is always able to draw some amazing performances from his cast-members and his way with Linda is no different, which is why I think that the narration really saves the day at the end of it.

Consensus: Days of Heaven may not feature the most intriguing or compelling story that needs to be seen, but still looks like an actual painting brought to life, courtesy of the art-master himself, Terrence Malick. It also gives you a sense of what type of setting you’re in, people you’re around, and what each of them have on their minds. Also, got to give it to Malick for giving me a Richard Gere performance that didn’t bother me up to high heavens. Yay!! (There was a pun in that last sentence but I’m not even going to bother).

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Oh, Richard: being creepy as usual.

Oh, Richard: being creepy as usual.

Rocky II (1979)

“Yo Adriaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!! I’m baaaaaaaackkk!!”

Beginning right where the first left off, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) marries Adrian (Talia Shire) and promises never to fight again. But when the two run into a bunch of moolah-problems and find out that Rocky can’t make a living any other way, he agrees to a rematch with heavyweight champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), who wants to prove Rocky going the distance with him in their first match was nothing more than a fluke. However, there’s more skill and smarts in Rocky, but also in Apollo. Ding ding ding!

Much like other films such as Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and plenty other flicks, Rocky may have been a classic film by all-means, but it’s reputation still gets hurt a bit by the endless need of unnecessary sequels that were made after the original. It’s already been six movies later, and I think it’s safe to say that everybody, and their mothers have had it up to here with Rocky, Adrian, Paulie, and all of the other, over-the-top villains they could pick-up next. Thankfully, this one didn’t do too much to ruin the legacy, but instead: just repeated it. Doesn’t hurt, but doesn’t help much either.

Rather than bringing the awesome John G. Avildsen back to the director’s chair, Stallone takes his own shot (pun intended) at writing and directing this flick and it isn’t as bad as you would imagine from this big baffoon. Stallone redoes everything here that we saw and loved from the first one, but this time, adds a little bit more drama and character development to it. I liked that approach because it not only showed us just how Rocky would grow-up as a father and a husband, but also as a guy that’s trying to make a living with whatever he can do other than knocking out other dudes. You never know what it’s like for these dudes after they hit their peak and realize that they have to live in the real-world, with real families, real people, and make real money, so that was pretty interesting to see from a sequel that was all about the hustle, the bustle, and the glam of being a pro-boxer and being stuck in that world. There’s also more development between Rocky and Adrian and it’s sweet to see, as we all know that they love each other, but never fully got the sense of it until now. It’s great to see them live together, inter-act with one another, and try their hardest to live in a nice home and not chop each other’s neck’s off. It’s a hard thing to do as a married-couple, but it can work.

It was getting relatively close to the 80's, so red head-bands seemed reasonable by then.

It was getting relatively close to the 80’s, so red head-bands seemed reasonable by then.

Then again, this direction isn’t anything all that special because it’s basically the same, exact movie, just done again with more character development. This wasn’t something that bothered me as much but it didn’t really offer me up any surprises that much either. You could practically put this and the original back-to-back and not really notice a difference at all: Rocky starts off like a bum, then focuses on jobs, then focuses on Adrian, then gets ready for the big fight *cue training montage*, and then the big fight at the end. That’s pretty much the same formula done for both movies and it seemed like a lazy-job on Sly’s part, mainly because we all know what happens, and aren’t thrown many surprises or curve balls to take us off-guard.

It was also kind of a problem that I didn’t really feel any true tension or excitement going into the big rematch with Creed, I was sort of just like: “ehhhh”. The first movie, regardless as to whether or not you actually saw it when it first came out, was a movie that people were just hyping up and up and up for those last 15 minutes, all because of the big fight. Not only was it bloody, gruesome, and ultra-violent, but it was also very unpredictable as nobody had any clue whatsoever as to who the hell was going to pull this off in the end. However, it’s pretty obvious where Sly is going to go with this story, which makes it even more obvious as to who the winner is going to be. I get that you don’t see these types of flicks to see something terribly new or original, considering that it’s all been done before, but you gotta give me something to chew-on here, or I’m going to lose my leg. Don’t know what that is even supposed to mean, but just go with it for now.

As much as the movie’s final-bout may not be as invigorating or compelling as the first’s, it still helps the movie gain some much-needed steam and end in the sort of way we’d be happy to cheer on. The ending fight in the first flick was a lot better, but this one still stands on its own two feet with a lot of close-calls that actually kept me on-the-edge of my seat, even though it’s pretty obvious you know what’s going to happen. It’s a good fight and definitely brought a lot more energy to the end of the film, but it was almost a bit too late in the movie to play up. Then again, it was entertaining so I’ll give it that.

No matter what though, Sylvester Stallone is definitely the main reason to see this flick because he does everything he did as Rocky in the first movie, and adds a lot more sincerity and heart onto him here. Stallone is such a likable character that the whole 1 hour and 59 time-limit could have been dedicated to him just making corny jokes to Adrian and slurring every single sentence, which he does show a lot of that here, but once he starts to hit the emotional moments, it may actually take you by surprise. Stallone has never been a Oscar-caliber actor by any means, but he definitely shows that he has the chops to pull off plenty emotional moments and have you believe in him as his character learns more about life. But like the rest of the movie, you could pretty much say that about the first one, just with a few more added-elements.

Deja vu maybe?

Deja vu maybe?

As for the rest of the cast, they’re all fine and pretty much doing the same thing they were doing with the first, just a tad different this time-around. Just a tad, mind you. Talia Shire is great to watch as Adrian as her and Rocky inter-act with one another and figure-out ways to get their marriage to work. The two have good chemistry and shines through in almost every moment they share the screen. Carl Weathers bothered the heck out of me with the first one, but does a fine job here as he keeps that annoying, showmanship-thang going on, but still gets to the human-aspect of his character as well. Ain’t so bad once the guy dials it all down, I see. Burgess Meredith is yelling at Rocky again and having a ball doing so, and Burt Young is being a drunk d-bag, that beats-up his sister, makes d-bag jokes, and bothers the hell out of Rocky. The typical, Philadelphian-bum. Gotta love ’em.

Consensus: Rocky II has the same heart, look, feel, and entertainment from the original classic, but that’s just it: it’s practically the same movie. Yeah, it’s more character-based and features development of those said characters as they move-on with their lives, but it isn’t anything special when you take into consideration how land-mark and iconic the original was, where this just seems to cash-in on that name and love. Sadly, it would continue on for a couple more years, only to be deceased by Sly himself. Thank heavens for that.

6.5 / 10 =Rental!!

So. Many. Autographs!

Beautiful shot of the city I love, and a bunch of people running away from it. Oh, sweet, sweet Philadelphia.

Love Story (1970)

Regardless as to whether or not you are in love, you still have to say sorry for the bone-headed things you do.

Young Harvard-bound lovers, Jennifer and Oliver Barrett IV (Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal), manage to stay together through college despite family warfare, class differences, and money issues. However, none of those problems stack-up against the truest power of them all: love.

In today’s day and age where we have teenage girls running out to the theaters with their moms, cell phones, and Kleenex boxes in-hand, all to see another Nicholas Sparks adaptation where everything happens the way you expect it to (fall in love, are happy, then bam, somebody has a disease), it’s pretty nice to see that same formula done, yet, done before them all. I know back in 1970, a story about two different people, from two different walks of life, getting together and falling in-love, was nothing new or refreshing, but seeing it in a way that’s actually heartfelt and realistic in a way, made it all the better. It’s just a shame that after 33 years now, we still haven’t been able to capture the same look and feel of love, quite as well as this movie. Yes, continue to make fun of me you bastards. You just aren’t in touch with your romantic-side like I am.

Let’s get something straight: I do not love this movie, but it isn’t all that bad. See, I enjoy a nice, simple story about love as long as it stays within the boundaries of reason. Many times, this movie crosses those boundaries that I’ve set for so long but that’s not the point of this movie, the point is getting the romance right and that’s what really saved the day for this movie, from my stand-point. The film starts-off with these two meeting each other, obviously realizing that they are very different, but also realizing that they have something between one another that’s worth sticking with, if only for a tad-bit.

Hey, what would any love story be without a little sexy time?

Hey, what would any love story be without a little sexy time?

Then, after awhile, the two begin to fall in love, get whispers of marriage, actually go-through with it, get a house, get jobs, make livings, and all before a big, final-act twist, it’s all fine and dandy. Does it sound obvious? Hell yes! Does it sound predictable? Oh you got it! Does it seem contrived? What other way could there be?!? However, does it work? Somehow, yes. I wasn’t in any type of mood to be swooning over a young, blissful romance, but the movie made me feel more for these characters and their romance together, especially when it seemed like they were at their happiest. It does go into those sappy moments where it’s a bit too hard to believe, but to be honest, that’s sometimes how love is and the flick never really shies away from that.

The main reason why I actually did believe in these two together was because the performances from the two are so damn good. Ali MacGraw pretty much ran-away from the spotlight after her and Steve McQueen divorced, but here, she shows some real talent as an actress that’s quick-witted, funny, honest, realistic, and altogether, very three-dimensional. This definitely seems like the type of girl you try to hit on at the bar, she turns you down, and before you can leave, makes you feel like the biggest idiot by throwing it all back into your face so you never forget her, what she said, or what your dumb-ass just said to her. She’s all fun and games, but there is also a very real person underneath all of that smarty pants stuff that works, and by the end, we begin to see a real person come out, rather than just one dude’s fantasy of the not-so typical girl that you can bone, talk long walks on the beach with, cuddle with, joke around with, and even share a beer or two with. I never understood why MacGraw left the spot-light before the 70’s was up because the girl was a pretty solid actress and could show these leading-ladies in sappy, romantic-dramas a thing or two about acting your ass off, but also being believable while doing so.

Ryan O’Neal gets a lot of shit nowadays for practically falling-off the map, getting into trouble with the law, looking like a slob, and apparently being a pretty, terrible father, but make no means about it, the guy’s a pretty solid actor. O’Neal does a nice-job at giving this somewhat spoiled, jock-of-a-guy a heart and sense of vulnerability that makes it easy to latch onto, especially when it seems like he’s just doing stuff to be cool and rebel against his richy-rich familia. O’Neal has a lot of moments where it seems like he’s doing a bit too much of one look (the sad, but determined look in his eyes), but he also has a lot of other moments where he feels like a real person, that’s really in love, and really just wants to do all that he can to keep it and keep himself happy and alive. Like MacGraw, it’s a shame that O’Neal hasn’t really been able to capture the same type of excellence he was able to capture here, but at least we all know the guy will still show-up and act, even if his last credit for acting has been Malibu’s Most Wanted. Poor guy.

Nothing shows love, quite like two people, no matter how old or young, just playing in the snow and making a snowman. Oh, the love.

Nothing shows love, quite like two people, no matter how old or young, just playing in the snow and making a snowman. Oh, the love.

Together, the two feel real and have a great chemistry that never really loses steam, even if the film itself, does. Although it’s a change-of-pace for me to finally get a romantic-drama that feels real and has me believe in the love once again, it still cannot go without saying that the flick still does it’s moments where it is absolutely corny and schmaltzy, almost to the point of laughable. Yes, it was the 70’s, and yes, things that happened, were said, or were done back in those days, may not be as cool as they are in the year of 2013, but still, it’s a bit distracting to the performances from these leads.

Then, of course, comes the final-twist that is probably as obvious and as contrived as you can get with a movie, but yet, if you look at it from one-view, it was sort of the first time a movie has ever used it. Nowadays, it seems like a piece of dry meat whenever a filmmaker pulls out the whole, “disease card”, by the end of the movie that it’s just eye-rolling and lacking in any type of originality, but this was one of the first movies to do such a thing so if anything, it should be at least applauded or booed. Either way, it’s one of the first of it’s kind and it’s ending, as depressing and as sad it may be, was slightly different for it’s time. However, as time went on, as we all know, things changed and so did the sappy romances between two teenagers. Boo!

Consensus: Everything and anything that happens in Love Story is obvious, predictable, and conventional, almost to the point of where you can even start a drinking game while watching it, however, the leads chemistry/performances make-up for the rest of the flick and at least make the romance more believable, rather than contrived, as we see more of nowadays. Oh yeah, and that quote is fuckin’ stupid.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Somehow, this is influential to romantic-drama filmmakers.

Somehow, this is influential to romantic-drama filmmakers.