Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: 1989

Johnny Handsome (1989)

It kills to look so good.

Due to a disfigured face, John (Mickey Rourke) has spent most of his life either being ridiculed, or never understood. The only thing that he really knows to do in life is set up heists and have them to according to plan. And for his latest one, everything works out perfectly, with all of the money being taken, and very little casualties, until, well, he gets double-crossed and left to be arrested by the cops. John is soon taken into custody where a doctor who specializes in facial-reconstruction surgery (Forest Whitaker) wants to test something out on John and see, if at all possible, he can get him to look like a normal person. It works, but of course, John himself has a lot to get used to, with people not staring at him any longer. And then, sooner than later, John’s out of jail, back on the streets, and ready to be an everyday, law abiding citizen. But before he does any of that, he wants to get revenge on the two criminals, Sunny Boyd (Ellen Barkin) and Rafe Garrett (Lance Henriksen), who screwed him over in the first place.

Eric Stoltz?

Johnny Handsome is an odd movie because, as is the case with most of Hill’s movies, it seems like it wants to be two different one simultaneously. There’s one aspect that wants to be this goofy, high-concept heist-thriller with guns, action, violence, drugs, booze, and cursing, but then there’s this other, that wants to be a thoughtful, quiet and small character-study about this guy Johnny and how he learns to get along with life after finding a new lease on it. By no means has Hill ever been considered the most perfect director for heart-warming tales of humanity, so obviously, the later story doesn’t quite work out for him.

But at least the former does.

And yes, that’s exactly where Johnny Handsome works, in the grit and the action of the tale. As is usually the case, Hill knows how to craft a solid action-sequence, whether it’s a heist scene, or a brawl between two characters, and it just goes to show you what the guy can do, when the material is there for him to play around with. Sure, has he had better action movies on his plate than this one here? Sure, but it also helps that Hill gets a chance to revel in the sleeze that this tale sometimes promises getting to the nitty gritty of. Of course, it doesn’t quite go as far as it should with that, but it gets close enough to make it feel like a worthwhile effort, on the part of Hill’s.

It’s just that, once again, the movie also wants to be something of a stern, serious character-study that, at the center, does have something interesting to say about Johnny himself. But of course, it’s trapped in this wild and rather wacky B-movie that knows what it is, when it’s doing its thing, but when it’s getting away from that, it feels weird. It’s as if Hill knew that there was some true dramatic promise with this premise and did want to develop it a tad bit more, but also didn’t want to scare too many others away from how melodramatic he was able and willing to get.

It’s an odd mix-and-match Hill has to work with here and honestly, in the hands of a much better director, it probably would have worked. Not to say that Hill isn’t a good director, but you can tell his specialties do heavily lie on action, not drama.

I’d hang with them. Maybe not rob a bank, but definitely hang.

But hey, at least the cast is pretty great.

Mickey Rourke, in what would probably be one of the last performances for awhile where he actually seemed to give a crap, does a solid job as Johnny, even though, like I’ve said before, he may be in a tad bit of a different movie. He’s doing his usual cool, calm and collected brooding thing we’ve seen from him before, which may seem a tad dull, but makes sense in the general sense of the story and just who this character is. It would have been nice to see him play this character in a less messier movie, but hey, at least Rourke’s good here.

The real fun from the cast comes from the supporting side. Lance Henriksen is evil and detestable as one of the baddies who rip-off Johnny; Morgan Freeman plays a cop who is on Johnny’s ass from the get-go and seems to push him way too far at times; Elizabeth McGovern is very much playing it serious like Rourke, but is interesting enough to watch; Forest Whitaker plays his doctor character a little creepy, which works; and Ellen Barkin, well, steals the show as Sunny Boyd. As Boyd, Barkin gets to let loose, showing that she can be beautiful, sexy, and a little bit dangerous, never allowing you to fully trust her, but also kind of love her, too. She clearly came ready to play and it’s why her performance is the one worth remembering when all is said and done.

Consensus: Even despite the mess it eventually becomes, Johnny Handsome still gets by on its thrills and excitement given by its talented ensemble.

6 / 10

Oh, there’s the Mickey we all know, love and recognize. Basically, right before he started boxing, for some reason.

Photos Courtesy of: The Film Connoisseur
Advertisements

Mystery Train (1989)

trainElvis truly was the King, baby.

Memphis, Tennessee is known for a lot of things. Most importantly, the hotbed for a lot of early rock ‘n roll, featuring the one and only Elvis Presley himself. Over the course of one day, a bunch of random people will navigate through the city and do things their own way. There’s the kitsch-obsessed Japanese couple (Masatoshi Nagase, Youki Kudoh), who seem to love one another a whole lot, but the language barrier keeps them away from fully attaching themselves to Memphis fully. Then, there’s a trio of amateur robbers (Joe Strummer, Rick Aviles, Steve Buscemi) who take one night to roam free and act wild, crazy and drunk like they’ve never done before. And an Italian immigrant (Nicoletta Braschi), who has no clue of where she actually is, tries to survive Memphis for this one night only. Meanwhile, there’s a somewhat eccentric and creepy night clerk (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) at a hotel who seems to have a lot more to do with these folks than you’d think.

Look out, Memphis!

Look out, Memphis!

Writer/director Jim Jarmusch likes to take his time with his movies. That’s a known fact and in certain ways, it can make his movies feel like boring slugs, than actual slam-bang, fun and compelling thrill-rides. Those who expect the later, probably know not to go to a Jarmusch flick, whereas those who expect more time, consideration and care given, know exactly what they’re getting into with Jarmusch and it’s why so many people love and adore him.

That said, Mystery Train definitely shows Jarmusch taking as good a time as ever to tell anything resembling a story that, sometimes picks up its speed, sometimes lingers around, and other times, seems to meander without any sort of sense of direction that you wonder just where the movie’s going, or what the hell it’s even getting at. Yet, that’s also what’s kind of compelling about it – the movie literally could go anywhere, at any time, and while Jarmusch is never known for his shocking bits of violence, the way he makes Memphis out to be here, other than a pretty cool place to live, is that it can be somewhat dangerous and capable of taking down any person, at any time. Of course, Jarmusch wasn’t just focusing on the violence aspect of the whole story, but there’s that sense and feeling that makes however many small, quiet moments, still feel somewhat tense.

At the same time, though, Jarmusch is also taking his time with developing this story, which can sometimes make it an interesting watch, if not always fully satisfying picture altogether.

I'd hang with them for a night. And then some more.

I’d hang with them for a night. And then some more.

If anything, Mystery Train shows that Jarmusch can toy with his audience just as much as the next auteur, but sometimes, it can’t help but feel like he’s taking an odd detour for the sake of doing it. For instance, every chance it seems like he’s going to go somewhere with a clear plot-point, he switches things up, brings something random and cryptic into the picture, has us scratching our heads, and wondering just what it’s all about. It’s the same thing that Haneke does, but whereas his movies have a point for their sometimes sheer randomness and unpredictability, for Jarmusch, it can’t help but feel like he’s bored.

The only bit of this movie that feels like Jarmusch with a clear head on his shoulders, no tricks to be found whatsoever, is the final subplot involving the three buddies who go on something of a drunken crime-spree. Of course, this is the closest resembling Down by Law, so it’s obviously going to work in Jarmusch’s favor, but it also shows Jarmusch not pulling any punches and telling us a clear, concise, and rather straightforward story, with the occasional detour into goofiness.

But the goofiness doesn’t overtake the subplot, which is why it works best.

The rest of Mystery Train, unfortunately, runs into this problem. There’s a lot to like for sure, as the movie’s funny, interesting to see how it all connects, and well-acted by virtually everyone involved, however, it’s not asking all that much to expect a movie to follow some sort of pattern/rhythm, especially when said pattern/rhythm seems to actually be working for itself. Maybe I’m just not nearly as much as an indie-kid as I make myself out to be, but sometimes, I don’t mind convention and formula.

Oh well. Sue me.

Consensus: Even with his usual brand of goofiness and oddball charm, Jarmusch’s Mystery Train can sometimes detour too far into crazy town, losing sight of the sometimes very strong narrative it’s working with.

7 / 10

We've all got that feeling.

We’ve all got that feeling.

Photos Courtesy of:Media Life Crisis

Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

CVS, you better look out the next time I come through that front-door.

Bob (Matt Dillon), his wife Dianne (Kelly Lynch), Rich (James Le Gros) and Nadine (Heather Graham) are all a bunch of junkies who survive by robbing pharmacies in Portland, Oregon, in 1971. The natural leader of the gang, Bob, decides that it’s time to leave town after many, many scraps with the law and because of that, it brings about more and more problems with him, as well as with the rest of the group.

Writer/director Gus Van Sant has never really been a favorite of mine. Sometimes the guy does it for me (Good Will Hunting), sometimes he doesn’t (Paranoid Park), and other times, the performances are just so good that I don’t give a crap about his direction (My Own Private Idaho). This is one of those films that I’m sort of in the middle with – it’s not all that crazy or experimental, nor is it all that accessible, either. It’s somewhere between the two beasts we’ve come to know and expect from Van Sant and it’s why Drugstore Cowboy, as zany as it may get, is, at the very least, an interesting watch.

Who needs rehab when you look this good?

Who needs rehab when you look this good?

Not perfect, but hey, that’s fine, right? Life isn’t, so why should a movie be?

What’s perhaps so interesting about what Van Sant seems to be doing here is that he cobbles up together a mixture of all these different sub-genres and moods. There’s a heist movie, a crime movie, a romance, a anti-drug message, and also, a very dark drama that seems to have some dark comedic moments in there as well. Sounds like it could have been a total and absolute mess, which it sort of is, but it works; the movie is about a bunch of drug addicts who don’t ever seem to have their lives together, so why should a movie about their trials and tribulations be any different?

Van Sant does a smart job by getting in these character’s heads and mind-sets, while also never judging them for the decisions and actions that they choose to make throughout the whole movie, as questionable as they may be at points. But really, what Van Sant does show about these characters is just how sad and miserable their existences actually are, despite all of the fun and wild times that they may be having when they’re high off their rockers. Van Sant definitely enjoys sitting around and watching as these characters try to live their lives in normal ways, but he also can’t get past the fact that they’re realities are pretty screwed-up.

But at the same time, Van Sant doesn’t get too down in the dumps, as he actually shows that there’s maybe a little more to these characters and their lives, as well as their drug habits.

In a way, yes, Drugstore Cowboy is definitely an anti-drug flick in that it shows no matter how deep down in drug addiction you may be able to get, you can still get out of it, but don’t think that for one second, it won’t come back and bite you in your ass eventually. All of these characters either need their fix, or they just need to get away from the fuzz, but either way, they’re going through some very, fast-changing lives that get shaken up at just about every second and this film shows you that the lifestyle may be able to change. It’s not an easy change, though, and that’s where the harsh truth of drug-addiction and the message of Drugstore Cowboy comes into play.

It’s not happy, but it’s as real as you can possibly get.

Naked, but not alone. Hey, what's so wrong with that.

Naked, but not alone. Hey, what’s so wrong with that?

These harsh truths also go all the way back to the characters because, for the most part, they’re all just about as unlikable and unsympathetic as you can get. But the actors in the roles are so good that it’s hard to get too upset about. Matt Dillon gives a wonderful performance as the main junkie, Bob, and it’s one of those performances where Dillon relishes in being a total a-hole, but also likes to show a bit of a human side to him. If there was anybody in this flick that I actually liked or even came close to giving my heart to, it was Dillon’s character just because the guy starts to show some humanity by the end and never really loses that edge to him that made him so cool in the first place.

His wife is played by Kelly Lynch, who is pretty good in this role, showing off her feminine beauty, as well as her own knack for making us think that we could fall in love with her as well. Maybe that doesn’t make sense but I guess it sounds pretty cool, which is what most of this film goes for as well. James Remar is also here totally chewing the scenery as the bored cop who seems like he has it all out for Bob and his junkie friends, but you soon start to realize that the guy cares more about him than you may suspect and it’s actually a nice touch. So often these kinds of movies like to get down on cops and law-enforcement for being a bunch of party-poopers who are such sticklers that they can’t help but lighten up a little and let people have their fun, but mostly, the reality is that these cops, aside from doing their job, just really want to make the world a better place and ensure that no more people succumb to the addiction that is drugs.

Sure, not all cops think that way, but there’s a solid majority that do and it helps put Drugstore Cowboy into perspective a whole lot more.

Consensus: Though Van Sant may stuck between his artistic side and actually telling a story, Drugstore Cowboy works for its unflinching, painful look at the world of drug-addiction, while also giving a heartfelt message that’s less corny than it sounds.

8 / 10

Trust me, Will knows.

Trust me, Will knows.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

New York Stories (1989)

Now that I think about it, New York’s kind of lame.

New York is chock full of interesting little lives and stories that are just waiting to be heard and seen. One concerns a passionate, but confused painter (Nick Nolte), who is struggling to come up with new and interesting ideas, none of which are made any easier when his girlfriend (Rosanna Arquette), walks back into his life without promising to be everything that he needs. Another concerns Zoë (Heather McComb), a little schoolgirl who lives in a luxury hotel and constantly dreams about her father (Giancarlo Giannini) and mother (Talia Shire) getting back together, once and for all. And lastly, one concerns a New York lawyer named Sheldon Mills (Woody Allen), who thinks he’s finally met the love of his life (Mia Farrow), even if his overbearing mother (Mae Questel), doesn’t think so. This brings Sheldon to wishing that she’d just go away once and for all; his dream eventually does come true, except not in the way that he wanted, nor did he ever expect.

Paint it black, please.

Paint it black, please.

The biggest issue with anthology films is that you always run the risk of one portion being way better than all of the rest. In the case of New York Stories, given the talent on-board, it’s honestly a shock that none of the segments are really all that good; there’s one that’s more tolerable than the rest, but honestly, it’s sort of like grasping at straws. And yes, just in case any of you were wondering, New York Stories is an anthology flick featuring three, 35-40 minute segments from Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Woody Allen, respectively.

Let me repeat them all one more time.

Martin Scorsese.

Francis Ford Coppola.

And Woody Allen.

So, why the heck on Earth is this movie incredibly lame? Honestly, from what it looks like on the outside, all three directors had been wanting to do something together for quite some time, however, just never had the right time, or package to do so. Then, a hot-shot, studio exec thought of a grand idea, in having them all contribute to a three-part anthology flick, where people would all get drawn in by the fact that these three directing legends are somehow, slightly coming together on a project for the whole world to see.

Except that this was all happening in the late-80’s, and not the mid-to-late-70’s, when they were all at the top of their game. And also, rather than waiting for them to all have something worthy of filming and throwing into the movie, it appears that each director picked up whatever script they had lying on the ground, had an obligation, was forced to direct something, and just decided to roll with that. Sure, I’m speculating here, but after seeing the final product, I couldn’t imagine New York Stories coming together or being put-together in any other way.

Pictured: The future heir to the Ford Coppola legacy

Pictured: The future heir to the Ford Coppola legacy

For one, Scorsese’s bit is “meh”, at the very best. He gets a lot of mileage out of a neat soundtrack that seems to intentionally ram “A Winter Shade of Pale” down our throats, but honestly, there’s no meat to whatever story was supposed to take place here. Apparently, Nick Nolte and Rosanna Arquette’s characters are supposed to have some sort of sexy, fiery and ruthless relationship, but they don’t have any sex, and then Steve Buscemi shows up, and uh, yeah, I don’t know. Nick Nolte paints a lot and that’s about it. It’s boring, nonsensical, and most of all, uninteresting.

Words I never thought I’d describe something of Scorsese’s, but hey, such is the case.

Then again, Scorsese’s segment isn’t nearly as terrible as Coppola’s.

Yes, Coppola’s segment is notorious for possibly being the worst thing he’s ever directed in his life and, well, I can’t argue with that. It’s really bad, in the sense that it seems like Coppola had no clue of what to film, or actually do with the time and money given to him, so he just decided to make a movie for his kids. Sure, the character of Zoe is cute, but it’s placed in the middle of two, very adult segments that really, it serves no purpose or place in this movie altogether. Why anyone thought this was a good idea in the first place, is totally beyond me.

Heck, I don’t even think Coppola knows what to make of it still to this very day.

But thankfully, the smartest decision of New York Stories is to allow for Woody Allen’s segment to be the very last because, well, it’s the best. Once again, that’s not saying much, but it works because it’s quintessential Woody – light, breezy, simple, funny, and most of all, entertaining. The other two segments, despite appearing as if they were fun to film, don’t really come off as such; Woody, working with a really silly, almost cheeseball-ish plot-line, gets a lot of mileage out of looking like he’s enjoying his time filming this goofy story.

Does it save the movie?

Sort of. But if there was ever a reason to not feel optimistic of any anthology feature, regardless of talent involved, it’s New York Stories.

Consensus: Despite Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese each having something to do with the final product, New York Stories sort of begins on a whim, continues with a snore, and ends on a somewhat likable whimper.

5 / 10

Every Jewish man's dream and/or nightmare, come true. It depends on who you talk to, really.

Every Jewish man’s dream and/or nightmare, come true. It depends on who you talk to, really.

Photos Courtesy of: Jonathan Rosenbaum

Roger & Me (1989)

Won’t be stopping by Flint any time soon. Or anywhere in Detroit, for that matter.

In the late 80’s corporate America is taking over and beginning to start a crack down of sorts on industrial inefficiencies. Meaning that some of the first casualties is the American factory worker, who live and breathe off of these factory jobs. Most importantly though, Flint, Michigan, where its residents would literally go to work at General Motors, build cars, bring home a paycheck and spend their earnings on food, rent and all the other expenses that people use in everyday life. However, it all began to change when General Motors decided that they could get more parts, and for cheaper labor, in other parts of the world like Mexico, which meant that they took themselves out of America and decided that it was time to close the factories down. This means that a lot of people lost their jobs, as well as their houses, and the city of Flint, overall, began to take a turn for the worse where the poor get poorer and the rich, when they aren’t having their Great Gatsby parties, are getting richer. While this is all happening, General Motors CEO Roger Smith is being praised by investors for helping out the bottom line, which is a point that Michael Moore does not stand by one bit.

Pictured: The devil.

Pictured: The devil.

Michael Moore clearly loves America and there is no problem with this. He’s one of the very rare people who will stand by his country, make generalizations about other countries, and all the while, still question his own country about what it is that makes us so wonderful. Is it our democracy? Is it our ability to do whatever we want, at any time, as long as they stay within the legal parameters? Or, is it that we brought places like Burger King and McDonalds to the world for everyone to enjoy and grow morbidly obese from? No matter what the question, nor the answer may be, Michael Moore will never stop loving America and while a lot of people would feel better off without having someone like him representing our country, it’s still nice to see someone still as patriotic as he is.

At the same time though, Michael Moore is very preachy and it’s one of the main reasons why most of his documentaries work, most importantly, Roger & Me.

Roger & Me is the first instance in which people found out about Moore, what he could do, and just what he was all about. This was way before all of his recent documentaries came out and shook up the world – nobody knew of his radical left stances, his overly melodramatic narrations, his constant hammering of random subjects, his wild antics just to get a hard subject for an interview, etc. Nobody knew what to expect and in a way, it’s nice to look at the movie as some sort of time capsule of the beginning where Moore’s voice came out for the whole world to hear.

And while there’s a lot to Moore’s style that can be considered “annoying”, there’s no denying that he makes entertaining movies and knows how to frame a story to where, no matter where he goes, you’re following him just about the whole way through. With Roger & Me, it’s interesting to see how Moore uses Flint as a fill-in for the rest of America, where everyone is equal and able to do what they want, but at the same time, are still being tied down and ruined by the richer of society. The picture that’s painted of America, and especially Flint, is a very sad and depressed one, however, Moore himself tries to focus on more than just the sad aspects of life and more or less, remind everybody about some of the joys of life.

At the same time though, it’s hard not to feel a slight bit of uneasiness when watching Roger & Me because, all of these years later, we know that nothing’s changed in Flint, or in America and, for the most part, has gotten worse.

That’s why, when Moore focuses on random people in the movie like a rabbit herder, a former policeman who now evicts people from their homes, 1988’s Miss America, the dirty and surprisingly perverted Bob Eubanks, and countless others, it’s hard not to feel sad. Of course, Moore is using a lot of these interviews as strictly comedy and to point the finger at some people for their sheer stupidity, but there’s an underlying sense of seriousness that makes it all the more shocking. We know that Moore doesn’t know what to make of the whole situation with Flint, or with America and because of that, the answers never seem to come easy, or ever around. Instead, there’s just a lot of beating around the bush of the question and times where it seems like Moore’s mind gets taken elsewhere.

Pictured: Hell.

Pictured: Hell.

This is all fine, of course, because where Moore takes us and how, can sometimes be exciting than anything anybody has to say here. For instance, there’s a small glimpse into the lives of the very rich people of Flint where, when they aren’t holding fancy, over-the-top Great Gatsby balls, they’re paying $100 to stay in the new, state-of-the-art jail. It’s actually quite shocking to see that people like this still exist, but at the same time, have absolutely no clue of what’s going on around them and it’ll make you wish that they’d just give their money away to either people who need it, or that they don’t have it at all.

Still though, Roger & Me always comes back to Michael Moore, which isn’t a huge surprise, but it also shows that he has a point with his movie. What Moore wants to say is that while the big companies may try to tear the American working-class down, it’s up to everybody in the world to not just depend on themselves, but find anyway that they can to survive and still make a profit. Sometimes, this can take one person down a very scary, almost immoral alleyway, but it’s the only way a person can survive.

It doesn’t have to be fine, it just has to be.

Consensus: As is usually the case with Michael Moore’s documentaries, most of them have an angle from the very beginning, but nonetheless, Roger & Me is still an entertaining, compelling and sometimes upsetting look inside Flint and most importantly, America, what makes it work, what makes it tick, and what makes it sometimes so sad to live in.

8 / 10

Pictured: A true patriotic nut.

Pictured: A true patriotic nut.

Photos Courtesy of: Pyxurz

Glory (1989)

Yes. People did go to war over the Confederate flag.

During the Civil War, the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was one of the more infamous troupes, due to the fact that they were, for the most part, filled with black men. Some were freemen from the North, others were slaves, but all of them were under the command of Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), a commander who is still reeling from the affects of the warfare he’s experienced in his lifetime. Already, before they even set out for battle, there was already plenty of trepidation towards the 54th, because some believed that blacks could not be controlled, or commanded in such a way that would have them prepped and ready for war. Despite this, Shaw, along with his second-in-command (Cary Elwes), try their hardest to not only discipline the soldiers, but even relate and connect with them, as hard as it may seem to do. Some soldiers, like John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman), are more than willing to go along with all of the problems they encounter fighting for a country that doesn’t accept them as human beings, whereas others, like Trip (Denzel Washington), aren’t and want the whole unit to know that they aren’t fighting for freedom at all – they’re just fighting to die. Obviously, this causes problems between each and everyone and all culminates in the disastrous attack on the Confederate fort in Charleston, S.C.

Goofy-looking 'stache.

Goofy-looking ‘stache.

Glory is, as most people say, a “classic war film”. Not to take any spit out of that statement, but that’s sort of true. It’s a very good movie, in fact, and one that shows both the humane, as well as harsh realities of the war. At the same time, however, it’s also a film about slavery, and how two races can simultaneously connect to one another, while also having to prepare for a war that they may not actually win and come away alive from. Edward Zwick clearly had a lot on his plate here and it’s one of the many things that makes Glory a solid war film that deserves to be seen by any person out there who either, loves film, history, or a combination of the two.

But, that doesn’t make it a perfect movie, as some may call it.

For one, its extremely dated in the way the story is told. What I mean by this is that rather than getting a story about black people trying to get by under extreme war-conditions, told by a black person, we are told the story through their white commander, as played by Matthew Broderick. It’s understandable that the reason for this is to show how the black soldiers are helping to make Shaw open his eyes a bit more to the realities that, well, believe it or not, African Americans are humans, too. Even though he lives in a world where slavery does exist (although, not for much longer), he knows that these black men are just as honest and humane as he is, which is why we see the tale told, in his own words, through his own eyes, and in his own way.

However, at the same time, it sort of feels like a disservice to the actual black folks in the story. Why are we being told that these fellas are all magical and lovely people, when we can clearly see that happening, right in front of our very own eyes? Did we really need to deal with Shaw’s voice-over to begin with? In all honesty, probably not, because it’s already understood that Shaw will start to warm up and grow closer to these black soldiers that are under his command. So, for anything else to be thrown on, makes it feel like stuffy and, well, a bit schmaltzy. Not saying that it didn’t happen in this way, but the way Shaw is used as our heart and soul of the story, makes Glory seem like it’s taking the easy road out – rather than letting the story be told by those who are most affected to begin with.

But, everything else about Glory, aside from that little nugget of anger, is great.

Like I stated before, Zwick clearly had a lot to work with here, and he does so seamlessly. He gives enough attention to the black soldiers that matter most and show how each and every personality can, at times, clash, while at other times, rub against one another to create a far more perfect and in-sync union. No character here is made out to be a perfect human being, and because as such, it’s easy to sympathize with these characters early-on – and makes it all the more tragic to realize that, in all honesty, they aren’t really fighting for much.

There’s one scene in which this is presented perfectly when Denzel Washington’s Trip goes on about the fact that even when the war is over and everybody goes home, he’ll go back to whatever slum he’s been forced to stay in, whereas Shaw and his white counterparts will be able to head back and relax in his big old mansion, and continue to live his life of total luxury. This scene, above all else, drives home the point that these soldiers may, yes, be fighting for their lives, but are doing so in a way because, quite frankly, they have nowhere else to go, or nothing else better to make up with their time. Most of the soldiers are slaves, so therefore, they have no freedom to begin with; however, even the ones that are free, don’t really have much to do except still be treated as minorities and non-equals, although not as harshly as slaves.

Mediocre 'stache.

Mediocre ‘stache.

So yes, it’s a very sad tale, if you really think about it. But Glory shows that there is some light to be found in the folds. There’s heart, there’s humor, and above all else, there’s humanity here that shows that each and everyone of these soldiers were, race notwithstanding, human beings. And because of this fact, the performances are all the more impressive by showing the depth to which these characters are portrayed.

Though Broderick’s Shaw didn’t really need to be the central figure of this huge story, he’s still solid enough in the role to make me forget about that fact. Ever since Ferris Bueller, it’s known that Broderick has always been trying to get past that image and, occasionally, he’ll strike gold. This is one of those times wherein we see Shaw as not only a clearly messed-up vet of the war, but also one that has enough pride and courage to still go back to the battle and ensure that each and everyone of his men are fit for the same battle he will partake in. Cary Elwes is also fine in showing that, even despite him being more sympathetic to the slavery cause, still has to push his men as far as he possibly can, without over-stepping his superior, obviously.

But, as expected, the best performances come from the three cast-members who get the most attention out of all the other black characters: Andre Baugher, Morgan Freeman, and of course, the star-marking turn from Denzel Washington. As an educated, smart and free black man, Baugher’s character faces a lot more tension from the rest of the black soldiers, and his transition from being a bit too soft for all the training, to becoming a far more rough, tough and gritty one, is incredibly believable. Freeman, too, stays as the heart and soul of the black soldiers and proves to be the one who steps up the most when push comes to shove and a leader is needed. Freeman, in just about everything he does, always seems to become a leader of sorts, so it’s no surprise that the role here fits him like a glove.

However, the one that shines above the rest is, obviously, Denzel Washington as the rebel of the group, Trip.

And the reason why I said “obviously”, is because it’s well-known by now that Denzel was given an Oscar for his work here and understandably so; not only does he steal every scene, but when you get down to the bottom of the story, you realize that he’s the heart and soul of the whole thing. Without him, this would have probably been a normal tale of blacks and whites coming together, to fight the obstacles set against them, and fight a war, but it’s Trip who’s the one that hits everybody’s head and wakes them up to the harsh realities that is the world they live in. Denzel is, at times, hilarious, but also brutally honest, and it’s his voice that keeps this movie’s humanity afloat.

Now, if only the movie had been about him to begin with and not the white dude.

Consensus: Heartfelt, emotional, and well-acted on practically all fronts, Glory is a solid war picture, that also happens to have a message about racial equality that doesn’t try too hard to hit you over the head.

8.5 / 10

No 'stache at all and guess what? He's the coolest one.

No ‘stache at all and guess what? He’s the coolest one.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Say Anything… (1989)

That Peter Gabriel sure has a way with women.

The film follows the relationship between Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), an average student, and Diane Court (Ione Skye), the valedictorian, immediately after their graduation from high school and how they work out their social differences to become a couple. Problem is, Diane’s father, James (John Mahoney), seems to be going through some personal problems that get in the way of what they have. Still, they just so happen to be in love and know that no matter what kind of curveballs life throws them, they’re going to duck out of the way of them and keep on swinging. This movie has nothing to do with baseball, but I just felt like using that analogy.

The 80’s was a decade where high-school rom-coms ran rampant in the theaters, just about every single weekend. Some were great, and some were not so great. However, others made an effort to try and change the conventions of the rom-coms ways. Not only did they add an extra-amount of heart and depth, but actually gave us three-dimensional characters to root for as well. It’s a shame though that it had to happen during the last year of that corny-as-hell decade.

Cameron Crowe is pretty big hotshot now, but made his directorial debut here with this flick, which was a great way to start off a pretty good film-making career. There’s nothing real flashy or significant with what it is that he’s doing behind the camera that’s really worth noting in the first place, but what is worth talking about is his writing for this unlikely high-school flick. That premise up-top probably makes it seem like the same old junk where we see two little teens fall in love, have sex, do funny teenager things, run through a problem where they can’t be with one another, and end up being together by the end. That’s sort of here and sort of isn’t, but what does make this one somehow different is that it doesn’t feel fake and every single step is takes with it’s story, feels believable as if you’re watching a honest relationship bloom right in front of your own two eyes.

Teenagers having sex?!?!? NOOOOO!!!

Teenagers having sex?!?!? NOOOOO!!!

Right from the start where we see Lloyd call up Diane and ask her out, in a weird way, we are somehow hooked and from then on, it feels like these two are spending time with each other, getting to know one another, and becoming attached to each other, in a real way that any teenager would do. Hell, not even just teenagers, I’m talking about people in general, too! This is a timeless story that shows two kids, falling in love and facing the hard-ships that usually come with young love, but the film never seems like it’s taking any cheap-shots at us to make us feel bad for these two when things start to go wrong. You believe these two together and it gives you a little warm and fuzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach whenever you see them together. Maybe I’m the only one who felt like that, but that’s just me showing my hopeless-romantic side. We all have it, I’m just the first to admit it.

Despite being made and taking place in the 80’s, the film still holds up and doesn’t at all feel like it’s part of that, as I stated before, “corny-as-hell decade”, which is probably a good thing because you can still watch it to this day and relate just as much as kids were doing way back when this sucker hit theaters in ’89. There’s a lot of that pre-Generation-X talk that goes down here with all of the discussions about not having a set future or anything and that’s slightly refreshing to see in a movie that came from the days where John Hughes movies kicked ass. These kids sound like real kids and aren’t trying to be the next frickin’ Stephen Hawkins, Jane Goodall, or Bruce Wayne, they’re all just being regular kids that don’t have any set plans on their future. And when you think about it, who does?

The only real set-back to this whole film was that there are essentially two stories going on here at the same time, and even though they both feel believable and honest, one still took me away too much from the other. There’s this whole story about how Diane’s father is going through scamming-problem at work and even though it fits into the story and makes you believe everything that happens afterwards, it really takes you away from this sweet love story these two have going on and it bothered me because I was enjoying watching them the whole time. Honestly, if the whole film was just about them two having a relationship, going through all of the problems that normal teens do go through when “love” comes into play, I would have had no problems whatsoever, but when you start bringing in another story to distract us from that, then it’s a bit disappointing. Then again, life is random and it seems like that’s the exact point this movie’s trying to get across from the fore-front.

John Cusack was always doing his own thing back in the 80’s and the teen/high-school genre was his area to reside in, without having to move a finger. That’s not to say that the guy didn’t own those roles, but it did seem like he was getting pigeon-holed after awhile and was in need of for a change, which is why it comes as a big surprise that he didn’t annoy the hell out of us here with Lloyd Dobbler, a role that really made him break-out of that mold and start really taking his career seriously. Why? Well, it’s because Cusack is so lovable and understandable as Dobbler, and also able to give him a sense of maturity that showed a man at the top of his game who was getting a lot older than the characters he was playing. There’s this line of sincerity that comes out almost every second he’s on-screen, and you never lose sight of what he wants, even when it seems like he even has. What was so remarkable and lovable about this character was that Dobbler isn’t your ordinary, happy high-school kid that knows what he wants to do for the rest of his life. Hell, in fact, the kid makes a point about not knowing what to do other than try and take up a career in kick-boxing. He’s just one of those kids out there that doesn’t have any motivation to make up his mind now, but what he does want to do is love and to be loved by this one and special someone, Diane.

And what a special someone she is.

Show off.

Show off.

Diane is of course, at the beginning, a total priss that was valedictorian, barely talked to anybody outside of her richy-rich friend circle, and is even going to England for college. Basically, this girl does not fit Dobbler’s loner-type but they make it work through their chemistry, and mainly by how great Ione Skye is here by giving us a three-dimensional character that actually seems like a girl that would fall for this guy, even though everybody else around her has no idea as to why. It’s a shame that the last thing I saw Skye in that was remotely as big as this was a bitty-part in Zodiac, because I think she had some great skill as an actress and did very well portraying a character with so much heart and honesty that made us fall in love with her simultaneously with Dobbler.

Then again, it couldn’t have been too hard to fall for a dude that’s willing to bring out a freakin’ jukebox while you’re trying to sleep. It’s more creepy now, than it was then, but damn, if I was alive back in ’89 when this first hit the big-screen, I would have been using this on all the ladies. Heck, I still do, it’s just that the cops are more than likely to show up than the chick I’m playing the tunes for. Stupid love.

Even though his story-line did get a tad bit in the way of the actual story, John Mahoney still plays his role as Diane’s dad very well. Mahoney does a great job with this material because he plays her father, almost like a friend and the conversations they have together feel realistic and honest, just as many father-daughter relationships usually are. I would’t know because I’m not a girl (yet) but just by talking to my parents in a very honest way about my life and what I do in my off-time, I can see that a lot of this stuff feels real. Also, Lili Taylor is pretty good in her role as Lloyd’s bestie, Corey, and also made me wonder just where the hell she went with her bright-ass career.

Consensus: Say Anything… may have a few distractions here and there in its story, but Cameron Crowe’s assured-direction, honest script, and timeless story that always seems to ring true, makes it all worth it in the end and one 80’s teen rom-com you have to keep a hold onto, no matter how many times you hear that freakin’ song or some dude using it to pick up some chick.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Oh, and thanks to Cameron Crowe, we now have a quality-band who gives out quality tracks such as this and this. Thanks Cam!

Oh, and thanks to Cameron Crowe, we now have a quality band who gives out quality tracks such as this and this. Thanks Cam!

The Abyss (1989)

If this was remade today, it would just be called Aliens in the Water, and probably would have made more than Avatar. Don’t believe me? Fine! Just you wait and see….

A nuclear sub crashes on the floor of the Atlantic, and the motley crew of an underwater station attached to an oil rig prepare to investigate just what the hell is occurring. Obviously, as you could expect, problems do mount: a hurricane rages above, a loony marine is on the loose, and captain Bud Brigman (Ed Harris) is forced to work with his estranged wife, Lindsey (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Spousal-disputes aside, shit is still a little wacky under the sea.

What I like most about James Cameron is what he is able to do with any premise. Yeah, he may be a little nutty with his love of the Titanic and Avatar sequels, but the guy knows what can, and just might come out of a simple premise, if you give it the right amount of creativity and fun. Here, he takes what is essentially another boring and lame submarine movie, and somehow turns it into a tense and eerie sci-fi flick that gives you the sense of just how menacing the ocean can be. But the ocean is also a place that Cameron can still let it all hang loose in, no matter what the limitations may be, as you will see with this movie.

After I saw this flick, I did some research on it and found out that the majority of the film was actually filmed underwater in an abandoned nuclear reactor. That’s right: Cameron actually got his whole cast and crew, and made them go underwater to shoot this whole film. Sounds a bit risky when you take ego’s and all sorts of other personalities into consideration, which would also be another example of how crazy and inspired Cameron can be. However, he makes it work. He makes the ocean his own little personal playground where he’s able to do what he wants, when he wants and no studio can stop him because seriously, how are you going to say no to the dude who just did The Terminator and Aliens? Yeah, didn’t think so.

On second thought, maybe the guy isn't so original after all.

On second thought, maybe the guy isn’t so original after all.

This film can be very fun at points but what I liked most about this film was how original Cameron could make it at points. In this flick, we get a cool look at some neat-o ideas that Cameron obviously has had rolling in his head for so long and finally got a chance to reveal to the public. Little details like the cool spacesuits that look like a mixture between the ones from Alien and actual spacesuits themselves, or the concept of having oxygen-infused water that you can just sip on, in order for you to reach superhuman lengths in the ocean, or how the aliens in this flick, aren’t actually mean or evil creatures, they’re nice and love to help out fellow humans. Not only do they look freakin’ cool, but they also show a lot of compassion, sort of like fellow human-beings. It’s a surprise that more people didn’t hop on the bandwagon after this and make more “alien friendly sci-fi movies”, because they could have really worked and turned-on a new generation to making sci-fi movies. Because just juggle this idea in your heads: are they really that mean and terrible?

As usual with all Cameron films, no matter when they were filmed, the visuals are absolutely outstanding. I knew that this film won the Oscar back in 1989 for Best Visual Effects, but that’s 1989 and that doesn’t really mean diddly-squat now. Surprisingly though, the visuals still hold-up today and every time the aliens would show up in the story, everything just started to look so much more beautiful and blue. Probably best combination to have out there: beautiful and blue. It’s something that Cameron works best with, obviously.

As is always the problems with other Jimmy Cameron films, the action and special effects may be rad and awesome, but the scripts always seem to suck, therefore: taking everything else down with them. This film is no exception to that convention, which meant that the eyes rolled pretty much after every single line these characters uttered out their mouths. Every piece of dialogue that tries to sound funny, hip, or cool, just comes off as terribly corny. And even whenever the film does try to get sentimental and show certain relationships between people in this submarine, it fails at bringing any emotions whatsoever. It all just felt so damn 80’s to me (no-brainer), to the point where I just wanted them to be able to do something cool and exciting, without them opening up their mouths. Sadly, they did and that’s when I started getting annoyed.

Probably the worst, and most memorable scene out of this whole flick has to be when a character, not giving away who, tries to revive another character by using CPR for over 10 minutes and then comes back to life, only after that same character yells “FIGHT!” to them. It was such a terribly corny scene and it made me laugh my ass off the whole way through because this film was so serious and even though Cameron knows how to direct: he sure as hell can’t write. Then again, I guess it doesn’t matter to him because the dude freakin’ takes showers in $100 bills everyday, without giving any damn whatsoever. Lucky son of a bitch. Practically stole my life over there.

"Anybody want to start drinking?"

“Anybody want to start drinking?”

It was surprising to see Ed Harris not only play a lead role in a movie, but also play a character that’s likable and considered a hero. Nonetheless, the guy’s still solid as Bud Brigman and makes it easy to root for him whenever he seems like he’s done for good. You need that in a hero, even if it never seems like he makes any drastic-decisions that could potentially harm the rest of his crew in anyway. He always seems to know what to do next, and it kind of got bothersome after awhile, since we pretty much knew that nothing could stand in this guy’s way. Not even a shark. Then again, highly doubt they would be able to do anything to a submarine. But I digress.

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is fine as his ex-wife, Lindsey, but her character is so annoying and bitchy that I got to a point of where I wanted her to just get killed off somehow. And trust me, there were a couple of close calls for her character in this movie. Not close enough in my opinion, but that’s just me. Cameron-regular Michael Biehn is also here as the completely psycho head SEAL and it makes me wonder just where the hell this guy has been after all of these years. Dude needs to team-up with Cameron again for these countless Avatar sequels that were apparently getting, as it will probably get his career back on the high-rise. All of the performances that I’ve already mentioned, along with plenty of others, are good but the script tears them down to pieces after awhile, and makes it seem like everybody just got out of a stage-play for Shakespeare.

Consensus: The Abyss suffers from some terrible writing (that’s James Cameron for ya), but still has plenty of inspired ideas straight from Cameron’s goofy head, exciting scenes that seem to all take place underwater, and a bunch of beautiful visuals that still hold up today, even against Avatar. Actually, no: Avatar looks better. Lot better.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Well, if we die soon, wanna rekindle the marriage and go out swinging?"

“Well, if we die soon, wanna rekindle the marriage and go out swinging?”

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

I really do hope that none of my lady friends know the real reason as to why I always answer their late calls at night.

Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) debate during a trip from Chicago to New York about sex and friendships between men and women. Eleven years later, they’re still no closer to finding these answers but are a lot closer to each other than they ever expected.

Can a man and a woman be friends? Or does sex get in the way of that? These are two obvious questions that this flick brings up and I think the solution of it all is pretty clear: yes.

Director Rob Reiner and writer Nora Ephron were definitely on the same page here when it came to meshing these two elements together, because it’s just about perfect. Ephron’s script is very good as it covers a lot of questions and themes that usually come up between a man and a woman, especially with relationships as well. There’s plenty of insight into the minds of two normal, everyday human beings that just feel very true and believable even if it does come from the minds of a whole bunch of Hollywood heads. The film is also very funny and made me laugh a whole bunch because it focuses on relationships in a funny way, but also shows them in a way that makes you rethink all of the relationships you’ve ever been in and may soon be in for the near future.

At the heart of this film though, is the friendship between Harry and Sally. At first, they both hate each other and make it obviously seem like they could never be friends but we stop by on them every time they spot each other every once and awhile, and each time the conversations are funny as well as biting. They both start to become friends, even best friends at that, and I think that’s where the film really won me over with was that I could believe these two as friends and maybe even as lovers. The conversations these two have with each other about relationships, sex, divorce, ‘Casablanca’, and so many other things, all feel real and what would be discussed between two people that are very good friends and will tell each other anything and everything. Reiner definitely did a great job with focusing on these two throughout the whole movie but also not forgetting let the points about relationships from Ephron hit as well.

What I did think was a bit strange about this direction from Reiner was the little interviews from elderly couples that have their own love stories to tell. For some reason they would just pop-up in this flick out of nowhere and some stories would be funny, sad, and even a little heartwarming but they didn’t really need to be here. I get that Reiner was trying to show how love can just come up and find you and your muse at any time in life, but I didn’t feel like it was suited well for the material they had here and instead it just showed that Reiner didn’t know how to transition between scenes very well. It’s my only complaint though so I can’t be too hard on him and this film.

The reason why this film works so well the way it does is because of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan‘s performances as Harry and Sally. Crystal is very, very funny as Harry and uses a lot of the sly humor he uses in ever film and also when he hosts the Oscars. His dramatic chops may not be the best skills he has to offer, but he at least gets by on showing us a very funny and believable character that you could probably walk by on the street and talk to for hours on end about anything. Ryan also is very good here in her own way as Sally and she shows a great divide between humor, heart, and beauty that fits together so perfectly. I don’t usually like Ryan in a lot of stuff (except for ‘In the Cut’, which is for obvious reasons ;)…..) but she won me over here with a female romantic lead that wasn’t stupid and knew just how ridiculous and over-dramatic she could be at some points. Together, they’re a perfect pair because they have such funny and believable interplay that it’s hard to take them as anything else but best buddies. This script was great to begin with but because of these two, it got a hell of a lot better in my book.

Consensus: When Harry Met Sally may fall for the same rom-com cliches we always get, but the smart and true script, mixed with two honest and likable performances from Crystal and Ryan, make this one of the better rom-coms I have seen in quite some time.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

RIP Nora Ephron, you will truly be missed.

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

If I ever need someone to drive me around, I definitely would want Morgan Freeman as the dude.

A genteel but strong-willed Southern matron (Jessica Tandy) is an old-crochity lady who wants to do everything herself. That is all until one day when her son (Dan Aykroyd) hires a driver for her by the name of Hoke (Morgan Freeman). She’s displeased with this, but she soon starts to form a bond with him.

Adapted from the 1988 Pulitzer Prize winning play, ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ is a film that I have been wanting to see for a quite awhile now considering it’s the last PG film to win Best Picture. To be honest though, there were better films that year.

Director Bruce Beresford does a great job here of giving us a story that is initially slow-paced but feels real by the way it moves and by the way characters act. The film starts off by showing these two characters who talk their own way, act their own way, and basically live their own way but soon start to change after they continue conversations with one another. Beresford really down-plays a lot of the changing moments between these characters and it almost feels like something that would happen in real-life is two people of different races and backgrounds were to come together and realize something about each other.

The film also has a great deal of love and warmth in the air, which I think is a real testament to Alfred Uhry’s screenplay. Beresford and Uhry make a great team because the smooth direction almost goes hand-in-hand with this very charming but very real screenplay that not only addresses a lot of the racial problems that were going around the time-period (1948 to 1989) but doesn’t over-do it and does it more subtle than I expected. I think it’s the way that Uhry is able to combine heart, humor, and race issues into this film is the reason it won so many Oscars and why I actually enjoyed listening to these characters talk.

The problem with this film is that even though it may talk about these racial issues, it never seems like anything we haven’t heard or seen done before. We never really get any insight on how these characters feel and even though we get glimpses of them changing, there’s never any real moment where we really see these race issues tackled up-front and center. Don’t get me wrong, I liked what the film was trying to show me but there isn’t anything really new or surprising that this film has to say other than old white women should not drive.

Also, I like the film for being very relaxed and warm with it’s direction and writing but I never actually felt involved with the emotion of this story. Yes, it does have a nice little friendship between two different people that is at the heart of this film but we never actually feel any certain type of heart-wrenching moments towards either of them until about the last 20 minutes. Before these 20 minutes actually happened though, the film brings up little snippets of these two actually getting along and becoming very close but there was not enough of that for me to fully get into the emotion that this story was trying to make me feel.

What really saves this flick is the performances by everybody in this small-cast of characters. Morgan Freeman gives an incredibly likable performance as Hoke and probably the one that put him right on-the-map. Hoke is just one of those Southern bumpkins you get that is always happy about something and finds joy in making others happy but is also true to himself no matter what may come his way. Freeman plays this up perfectly and he uses a lot wit to great advantage and makes us feel so much more for his character. Dan Aykroyd is also here and gives a very quiet and subtle performance as Boolie, and even though it’s a little too hard to forget who’s playing the role, it’s still great to see him actually watch him doing something that makes you laugh considering he doesn’t do much of that nowadays.

Jessica Tandy was absolutely perfect in this film as Miss Daisy and deserved the Oscar she got that year. Tandy is playing a Jewish woman and even though she may never seem Jewish her role as this old and grumpy old woman who complains about anything and everything, still somehow made me feel a lot for her. We see little moments in this film of her being alone and being very scared to be alone but as soon as somebody is there with her, she goes right back to her old and grumpy self. These moments were very moving as we see an old woman who starts to see not only the world changing, but her life as well and the way Tandy plays it all up works perfectly for this character. Her and Freeman actually work perfectly together using moments of silence to actually convey more emotions rather than when they actually are speaking.

Consensus: Though Driving Miss Daisy doesn’t have anything new or biting to say about its subject material, the performances from Aykroyd, Freeman, and especially Tandy and the warm screenplay will make you feel something for this story even if you won’t be crying your eyes out by the end of it.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

My Left Foot (1989)

Christy Brown makes seem like a real lazy dude.

My Left Foot tells the true story of Irishman Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis), who was born with cerebral palsy, only allowing him to only control only his left foot. The film follows Christy Brown over time where he soon becomes a writer, artist and builds strong relationships with his mother (Brenda Fricker) and the rest of his working-class family.

Director Jim Sheridan does something with this pretty generic story, and make it actually very interesting to watch as if we’ve never seen this type of plot ever done before. One of the main reasons being is the fact that it is not told like the regular Hollywood biopic where you get a whole bunch of cheesy montages, sentimental scenes, and moments that seem only made-for-film rather than sticking straight to the realistic approach. Sheridan is able to linger away from these conventions and I think that is why this film mainly works.

Even though the film does try to set itself apart from what we usually see, the film still has great moments of inspiration mainly because this man, Christy Brown is such an extraordinary human-being, even if he was a little hard to handle. How a person can create beautiful paintings, write a whole book, and still be able to play soccer by only using only his left foot is really something remarkable especially since the doctors told his parents at birth that he would be nothing but a vegetable.

The film not only shows him as an inspiration to everyone, but also a person that had many anger issues and was very smart even though he could be sometimes very hard to work with. Rarely will you ever really get a film, let alone biopic, that shows the person they are portraying in a relatively dark light. Christy Brown was a gifted human-being (although some may disagree) but he was also a person that did not appreciate a lot of the things and it’s not that it made him a bad person by any means, it’s just the fact that he was very hard to be friends with or even work with.

However, the film did have its fair share of problems. I felt like the score that was played throughout the background the whole entire film, not only took away from a lot of the more emotional scenes but also were annoying because they didn’t really do anything for the scenes themselves. There are some great moments of silence but to be honest, I wish the whole film could have been played with silence considering it would have made the film seem a lot more realistic, which is obviously what the film was trying to go for.

The last part also feels rushed and ends on a pretty weak note. There were a lot of aspects of Brown’s life that were sort of left out and other parts that were random. We randomly get short bits of Brown holding a paintbrush as well as typing away on his type-writer, but never anything else added on to those scenes. This may seem like a strange complaint but I just wish they at least took their time with showing Brown’s later-life, instead of just getting past all of this in a hurry so they could at least say that they tried to end the film on a solid and emotional note.

The real reason why this film works is because of the perfect performance from Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown, who also won an Oscar for his performance. To say Day-Lewis is amazing, would be understatement, this is probably one of the best performances of a handicapped person in any film, and that is a long long list. Every chance he gets, Day-Lewis just brings out the raw emotion that seems to have always be built up in Christy Brown and takes what we usually see of mentally/physically handicapped person and make him seem more like a human-being that won’t stop doing whatever he wants to do against all odds. I honestly don’t think they could have gotten a better performance if they casted another person who actually had cerebral palsy. He is THAT good.

Brenda Fricker is also great as his mom and gives her performance a lot of depth and warmth that all mommy roles should have no matter what. Did I keep on thinking about the pigeon lady from ‘Home Alone 2: Lost in New York’ whenever I saw her? Yes, but it still didn’t mean her performance didn’t deserve the statue that she got.

Consensus: There were moments in this film that seemed a bit predictable, but thanks to Sheridan’s way of creating a realistic, precise, and inspirational story, mixed with the amazing performance from Day-Lewis, is what makes this film a must-see. In other words: I liked it.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Countdown to Claus: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

I’m definitely not having half of my family over for Christmas now.

Hapless Clark (Chevy Chase), exasperated Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and their ever-changing kids (Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki) gear up for Christmas. As usual, all the good intentions in the world can’t save them from disaster … or Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid), whose unannounced visit throws the house into further disarray.

Since it’s “the most wonderful time of the yeaaaaarrr” I thought it would be cool to do a little Christmas-movie marathon starting with a film that I loved when I was a kid, but now realize that it’s not as funny.

John Hughes wrote this screenplay and has a great blend of some real silly humor that gets mixed in with a lot of the cartoon mayhem that occurs around the time of Christmas. Hughes is obviously not afraid to get a little goofy with this film as he throws a lot slap-stick in our faces with Clark Griswold getting hit in the chin, then falling down a ladder, then falling through the ceiling, and then basically everything else catching on fire. I like how Hughes is able to have a little fun with this screenplay and is able to show his goofy side.

My problem with the script though is that there surely is a lot here in this script that is pretty annoying and not very funny at all. The slap-stick at first was funny but then there were scenes that went on way too long that seemed too cute to actually be considered funny. There’s a long-ass scene with a squirrel running rampant throughout the whole house-hold and everybody is running around like a bunch of goons to bring out some sort of laughter, when in reality, this was just a lame way to get some laughs. This isn’t the only scene that tries a little too hard to be funny but I can easily say that it’s the one I remember mostly rolling my eyes at.

Although I may rag on this film for not being terribly funny, like it was trying so hard to be, I still think it captured a lot of the fun, warmth, and joy that goes into the holiday season. I mean you got you’re whole family right there with ya’ to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and the whole “getting the perfect Christmas tree” to the “lighting of the lights” is what really will make you feel all happy even if the comedy can’t do that much all for you.

Chevy Chase is great as as always as Clark Griswold who always seems to have everything figured out, until something changes right away to completley terrible. Chase has mastered this role and he shows no signs of a bad performance but it’s also a real shame considering that this guy doesn’t really do much now. The last time I probably saw him was actually in ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ and to be brutally honest, he was the most forgettable part of that forgettable film. That’s saying something.

Randy Quaid seems to be having a lot of fun as Clark’s cousin, Eddie, who is a total country bumpkin which is where the majority of the jokes for this film come from. I’m not saying Quaid is bad or anything here, because he’s actually one of the more delightful performances in this flick, it’s just that all of the jokes here centered around him just being this total red-neck that can’t pay for anything or even use his head right. They pulled this joke about 15 times and wasn’t funny once so I have to say that Quaid kind of got pulled under the neath the crap-shoot here.

Consensus: While Christmas Vacation isn’t funny the whole time, there is still enough silliness and warm moments to make this a great seasoned treat for anyone wanting a nice little laugh right next to the Christmas tree.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

This is what happens when you get old, and you just need more things to do.

Respected ophthalmologist Judah (Martin Landau) faces an ugly dilemma when his mistress (Anjelica Huston) threatens to expose their affair. Meanwhile, married filmmaker Cliff (Woody Allen) falls for a TV producer while shooting a documentary about an arrogant comedian (Alan Alda).

Woody Allen always knows how to convey emotions within his films no matter what genre that may be and I have to say that he still hasn’t lost his touch many many years later. This is one of those minor works.

Allen’s strategy here is basically showing two different films, one a comedy, the other a drama, but have them both convey the same emotions, and it really works well. Allen goes into detail about the idea of evil and why do most get away with it, while others simply cannot and have grief over their evil actions. We don’t understand the consequences of sin, but we still do it anyway and how we can get over that is a hard part of life as well.

This film is very brutal but at times very funny and it was great to see Allen tackle such a dark subject without getting too schmaltzy and light with it all, which is probably why some people would not like this that much. And although his best way of getting “dark” was probably Match Point, this was one of his first times he started to fall into a bit of a dramatic mood, which is very cool to see.

My problem with this film is that I felt like even though the central theme works incredibly well, however, the story itself doesn’t really live up to it that much. We get these little signs of Judah’s past with his family, and being a little Jewish boy so it can give us some sort of reflection on his life before all of this evil happened, which kind of felt forced to me so it could get me to care and understand more about his character rather than seeing him as a sinner, and that being the end of it.

Another problem with this film is that it brings up so many questions but never seems to answer them, until this dark ending where we never fully understand what the answers to those questions were, or even if we get any in the first place. Also, why didn’t Judah just let things happen if he really had something for this mistress? It seemed like there were many times that they were actually in love together and then when he has to, he just has to try and get rid of it? I didn’t understand this nor did the film really try to answer what my questions were in the end.

The cast is very good as they always are with any Allen film. Allen is great as his usual neurotic self as Cliff; Alan Alda seems like he’s having a total ball with his role as this snobby, and full-of-himself comedian, Lester; Anjelica Houston is very compelling as always as Dolores; and Mia Farrow plays the meek writer, Halley, to perfection, as she always does. The best bit of casting in this film is Martin Landau who is terrific as Judah, and conveys so many emotions by just moving his eyes and mouth. He is so very good in this role and doesn’t let loose of his dark character, and shows us a person in moral crisis very well. Good thing the guy won that Oscar for being a vampire.

Consensus: Though it’s not Allen’s best, and has too many questions left unanswered, Crimes and Misdemeanors is a dark meditation on evil and how deal with it everyday, that still has plenty of comedy, and good performances to keep any viewer riveted as well as searching for answers to the questions that are brought up.

7/10=Rental!!

Batman (1989)

The one that started it all, and gave us the beautiful masterpiece that is Batman & Robin.

Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) starts to make a name for himself as a masked enemy to the criminal set just when the flamboyant Joker (Jack Nicholson) takes over as tops in the mafia and eventually the world.

In the 21st century, everybody’s favorite superhero film is probably The Dark Knight, but rarely do you hear people talk about this one. This is the film you can also thank for all the non-stop superhero flicks we have come out during the summer.

Director Tim Burton knows what he wants to do with this material and doesn’t stray away from making this a total dark and creepy superhero flick, that at the time was almost unheard of. The set pieces are beautiful and Burton’s keen eye for art and style really works here and make Gotham City a more demented place that the comic books made it seem rather than the campy TV show.

Burton also does a great job creating not only a dark atmosphere with the stunning art job he has, but also keeps this film going with enough entertainment and funny moments to cool you over. There’s not a huge sense of big-budget crazy explosions here but with any real Batman film, you see all this awesome action happen without it getting out-of-hand.

However, the real problem with this film in the end, is with it’s script. As a whole, this is not a very compelling story of a boy who’s parents were killed by this very same man because it doesn’t really focus on both evenly. I could tell that Burton really wanted to focus more on The Joker rather than Bruce Wayne himself and it’s a big problem since we get about three scenes in a row of The Joker, and probably one of Wayne/Batman all in a sequence.

I just felt like there was no real dramatic focus here as to who I was supposed to care about more and just seemed less and less of an actual story and more of just a bunch of random set-pieces that Burton thought would be cool to show. I also can’t recommend this film that much because the romance here for the most part kind of blows, but that’s the case with a lot of superhero flicks so it’s OK here.

Now the real reason’s to see this film are the performances from the two stars; Nicholson and Keaton. Jack Nicholson is perfect as The Joker because he has that total goofiness but at the same time evil and mean look to him to have you laughing at him, but also realizing just how much of a threat this guy actually is. Nicholson plays almost every scene to perfection and has so many memorable scenes here just mainly because Jackie knows how to play crazy oh so well.

The film is also best remembered because it showed that Michael Keaton can play a really good Batman, which is something nobody expected from Mr. Mom. I liked the type of wimpy angle that this film took on Batman and made him seem more like a dude with actual fear rather than just a dude who didn’t give a shit and to cast Keaton in the main role is what really made this Batman amazing. People will say that Keaton was the best “movie Batman” we’ve ever seen, and to be honest, I can’t really say I disagree.

Kim Basinger is pretty weak here as photojournalist Vicki Vale because she just doesn’t seem like an actual journalist by any chance with her model looks and model attitude. Her romance with Keaton is bland which takes away from the film overall but I guess every superhero needs one.

Consensus: Though it isn’t as emotionally involving as you would expect from such a dark and atmospheric superhero flick such as this, Batman benefits from some beautiful set-pieces from Tim Burton, great performances from Nicholson and Keaton, and some fun summer blockbuster entertainment to hold you over.

7/10=Rental!!

Casualties of War (1989)

A poor man’s Platoon. But that ain’t so bad.

In director Brian De Palma’s Vietnam-era war drama, a young soldier (Michael J. Fox) suffers a crisis of conscience when the men on his patrol callously rape and murder a Vietnamese girl and then try to cover up the crime.

This late 80’s gem is actually based off a horrific event where 4 soldiers actually raped and then murdered a Vietnamese girl, but the 5th one chose not to.

Director Brian De Palma is most known for taking his style over substance in most films, but here he actually stays on track and goes for a bigger understanding. I expected this to be a huge, big-scale, Vietnam war epic, but instead it’s a small, singular story that’s more about the themes instead of the glitz and glamor of most war films.

The bitter lesson of this film is that its not always enough to have morality on your side, you also have the power to back up your beliefs and what you stand for. The film is about this small group of sliders where they have become so angry, and so vicious, that they don’t even consider any Vietnamese person, human beings. The film shows the harsh effects of what all this hardened violence can do to a person, and sometimes make them turn for the worst. You also have to wonder how you would act if you were put in the same situation, as I still do not know what I would exactly do.

My main problem with this film that really took away from my overall experience was the beginning and end of this film. It starts off with Fox on a subway, visibly alive, and having a flash-back as to what happened during his time in the war. This already has us know that Fox is alive throughout the whole story, and ultimately takes away from the film’s tension that it tries so hard to go for. The conclusion is also so up-lifting, gentle, and unconvincing that it really does seem tacked on to this film and took my self away from the harsh reality of war that this film gives off.

It must have been hard for some people to actually believe Michael J. Fox here as Pfc. Eriksson, even though he’s always known as Marty McFly. As the film goes on, you understand how courageous he is in standing up for what he knows is right, and doesn’t once back down from any of these guys, as intimidated as he may be. Sean Penn is amazing in this role as Sgt. Meserve, the vindictive squad leader who is filled up with so much venom and hatred from all these months in the jungle, that he is able to absolutely oppose his will on the others, and he convinces us that he can do that. We also get some very early roles from the likes of John Leguizamo, John C. Reilly, Ving Rhames, and the evil Don Harvey.

Consensus: Casualties of War has a poor opening and beginning that may take away from the film, but it soon becomes a morality tale, heightened by great performances from the cast, and themes about war that will stay in your mind.

6/10=Rental!!

Tango & Cash (1989)

If these two were actual cops in real life, the world would be a safer place.

When Ray Tango (Sylvester Stallone) and Gabe Cash (Kurt Russell) are framed and wind up in prison, they’re tortured by the thugs of the drug lord who put them there. But watch out — the partners are sure to escape and exact revenge.

The 80’s was a special time for big-budget, action comedies like this. And for two stars of this genre to be in one movie, is a dream come true for any huge fan of this genre.

For me, I’m not a huge lover on this genre, but I will watch some movies that are like that, just for a good time and to enjoy myself. This film has a lot of that fun to enjoy yourself. The action is comes at you right away, and doesn’t really stop coming. There are loud explosions, guns blasting, people dying, punches, kicks, and this all equals up to you having fun.

However, this script is sosososo dumb. It tries way too hard to be cool, hip, and funny so they just keep on bringing cheesy one-liners to this film. Some one-liners work, others don’t but the fact of the matter is, is that they use too many for the sake of being funny, and by doing that, just make it annoying and less funny.

I did like seeing Stallone and Russell paired together as the opposites-attract, buddy pair. They both play well off each other, and actually make a lot of the bad lines, better cause of their machoness, as well as their comedic timing. They also both play riffs on characters they have played in the past, and that actually works cause who doesn’t like seeing some major film figures make fun of themselves? Exactly. Also, who doesn’t want to watch Jack Palance as the main bad guy, delivering lines so bad, that they would make

Consensus: Tango & Cash tries too hard to be cool, and funny, but fails at doing so, instead is a fun, action comedy, with two of the best action stars playing off each other well. Put this in the “so bad, it’s good” category.

5/10=Rental!!

Lean on Me (1989)

Does bringing a bat to school organize a school? I guess it does, in this movie.

When tough-talking principal Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman) takes over decaying Eastside High School, he’s faced with graffiti-covered walls and students wearing gang colors. But he’s determined to do anything in his power to turn the school around. He begins by expelling drug dealers and padlocking the doors to keep the riffraff out. But he also demands maximum effort from the students and staff inside in this uplifting drama based on a true story.

The whole story is very predictable, you can already tell where all of this is going to turn out. In ways that’s an OK thing, but at the same time, the film has two conflicting sides. The performance from Freeman vs. the story itself.

The performance from Morgan Freeman, is what really keeps this film’s on its toes. He is very strict, powerful, and he is very believable as this guy that just comes in, and takes over the place, leaving no prisoners.

However, questions are raised about him being very egotistical, and too much of an hard-ass. You can see times when they start to talk about this in the film, but never are the questions fully brought up, or even answered for that matter, and your disappointed cause you know that this guy, wasn’t the best person to keep everything in line. We never do see any actual learning going on as well. We just see Freeman yelling, and demanding, but never any of the actual learning.

Although the film may have its problems with the general message, it still does have a lot of powerful scenes. Mostly due to the fact, that Freeman goes for the gut in a lot of his scenes, but the scenes do get to the core of you, and you do have a good watch.

Consensus: Lean on Me is highly predictable, with too much questions unanswered, but Freeman’s performance, and a couple of moving scenes, make this one work.

5.5/10=Rental!!!

Do the Right Thing (1989)

A title in which nobody in the film does.

On a sweltering hot day in a Brooklyn neighborhood, everyone has their own issues to deal with and tensions between Blacks and Italians rise. Issues of pride and prejudice, justice and inequity come to the surface as hate and bigotry smoulder–finally building into a crescendo as it explodes into violence

Spike Lee’s films are ones that I thoroughly enjoy, as hard as they are to get through, their enjoyable. This is probably one of his most challenging ever, but also his best.

Lee’s screenplay is what really makes this film click, mostly cause it’s all so real. You have comedy, drama, racism, tension, political justices, all of these things are talked about or happen in one day, and it all seems too real.  I mostly like how Lee controls the camera to keep up with all the stories in one day. You see all these people in one close-knit community, how they react with each other, and what their differences are as people. Everybody has something to say, and I enjoyed hearing almost every word of it, because this is how real people actually speak, especially when it comes to the subject of racism.

The main reason why Do the Right Thing is so memorable, is because of its final 30 minutes, and main message at hand. The huge ass riot at the end, is filmed so well, you can just feel the intensity coming off the screen, and you feel like this is how a real riot would ensue and end. Also, Lee ponders the question that hits us many times throughout this movie: “who does the right thing?”. To be brutally honest, it may seem like an easy answer, but after watching this film, you can’t really tell who does, or who should have, everything is just based on first instinct. Lee also does something that almost never happens in race films such like this, he shows us both sides of the story. Lee doesn’t always back up black people, and with this you can see that he shows the white people, as good people too. Lee raises us with a lot of questions, and instead of just having us answer them right away by what he shows us on film, he makes us keep pondering the questions to ourselves, even after the film is over.

Spike Lee as Mookie, is good, because the guy is so laid back, so chill, and so cool, that he really is a great character to watch, as he basically walks through the streets of Brooklyn, delivering pizzas for about 2 hours each. Danny Aiello as Sal, is also very powerful here, playing a guy that seems so tough with his work, but then you see the people that come into his place, and you can understand why he is, like he is. There are just so many more memorable characters in this film, like Ossie Davis, playing the neighborhood drunk, or John Turturro, playing the son of Sal, who is just a total d-bag. So many more characters but I would be taking forever if I had to explain every single dynamic one.

Everything about this film will just make you understand racism a whole lot more. Even though it is about 20 years old, it still holds up today showing us a look at just a small little neighborhood, that can still have racial tensions, as much as any other place. Just remember to be ready for a second viewing, and always raise the question: “who does the right thing?”.

Consensus: Lee’s masterpiece, although about 20 years old, is just as powerful as it was then, with it’s powerful performances from memorable characters, and a direction and script from Lee that shows the many people that live in the world, who deal with racial tensions, just almost every day.

10/10=Full Pricee!!!!

Sea of Love (1989)

Good ole’ Al Pacino doing what he does best.

Lonely, burnt-out NYPD detective Frank Keller (Al Pacino) is on the hunt for a serial killer who uses personal ads to attract potential victims in director Harold Becker’s taut, suspenseful thriller. Unfortunately, Frank falls hard for Helen (Ellen Barkin), the alluring top suspect in the case. Now, their white-hot attraction could save him — or kill him.

Pacino, during the 80’s, was basically doing nothing. He made starred in crap-fests like Cruising, Author! Author!, and the even worse, Revolution. So when this film came out, it was quite a relief to get a film that had Pacino doing something, other than just collecting paychecks.

The film works really well, especially when it comes to its suspense/mystery feel. Everything starts out as your typical thriller, with the murders happening, then when Pacino and Barkin start dating, the slight suspicion in the movie, is that the person you are with, might just possibly be the killer themselves. I liked how they fell in love, because it wasn’t a generic way, they both started out as opposites, and then soon realized there was this sexual attraction between each other, that they both wanted. This is all fairly predictable stuff, but the scenes between Barkin and Pacino are steamy and sizzling.

I have a feeling though that now seeing this, I probably won’t remember it too much after a week or two. I mean it is a good popcorn flick, however, that’s really all it is. It does work as a good “who done it” thriller, but overall, nothing amazing happened. The climax too, felt really dumb, and just totally implausible. We never get any clues, or even an idea, that the person who is actually doing these crimes, actually is, and when it pops up who actually did do it, I didn’t believe it all.

Al Pacino gives off that great, funny man charm, that is Al Pacino. He plays this cop, that at first you feel bad for, cause he hates his life so much, then you realize that this guy is cool as ish, and you want him to prevail in finding the killer. Ellen Barkin is good as this steamy, sexy lady, that steals Pacino’s heart, mostly cause she is just a fire in bed, and who can’t resist that. These two make a good piece of chemistry on-screen, which helps the film in the end. Also, John Goodman, is well, good here, and brings a lot of comedy to the film.

Consensus: Sea of Love has two great performances from Barkin and, the ever so cool Pacino, along with some good mystery, but in the end is just another meaningless pop-corn flick, with an ending, that just doesn’t mean much.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Say Anything (1989)

Very first Gen-X romantic comedy.

A budding romance between noble under achiever Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and high school valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye) is threatened when Diane’s overly possessive, disapproving father (John Mahoney) interferes with their relationship. With a prized scholarship to study abroad hanging in the balance, Diane must find a way to make both men happy.

The one thing that I first realized about this film was that the whole love part of the film didn’t feel exploited or shown in any wrong way.

The film was written and directed by Cameron Crowe, who also made one of my other favorite high school comedy films, Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Crowe shows us with his screenplay that he knows how young people talk, interact, and even how their moods change from time to time. Crowe also shows the randomness of life, with the uprising things that happen in life when you have fallen in love.

The one thing that really touched me about this film was it’s sense of realism. It all seemed so real with it’s underlying messages about the future, and the little father-daughter relationship. All of it felt so real and not so much of as it was a really dumb film.

Unfortunately for me, this film flopped like a dead fish. It tripped over its own heels, alternately over-dramatic and sappy love story. One minute were on the edge of our seats with her father under investigation, the next minute Lloyds sobbing over her in the rain. Sometimes I felt like the film moved away from it’s comedy element and just stayed a little too much on the romantic element.

I do have to give a lot of props to John Cusack who is so good at playing that lovable loser that we all know and love him for. He makes this character a lot more likable because of his desperate attempts to have this girl like him, and also his little insight on how he interacts with his family. I also enjoyed John Mahoney and thought he gave a very good portrayal of a father trying to come to terms with his own life and his daughter’s life.

Consensus: One of the best Generation X films. Though it’s not perfect it shows a great realistic look on love with a fresh screenplay and a very likable performance from Cusack, Say Anything is one of the best modern romantic comedies in a long time.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!!