Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: 1997

Lost Highway (1997)

Sometimes, you’ve just got to get off the road. Like, way off the road.

Cool and happenin’ jazz musician Fred (Bill Pullman) lives a pretty fine life with his lovely wife (Patricia Arquette). But for some reason, he constantly keeps on thinking that she’s having an affair, driving him to go a little bit nuts in the head. However, he is shocked when he discovers that she’s dead and is being framed for it all, without he himself knowing whether or not he actually did it. Meanwhile, I think, there’s a young mechanic named Pete (Balthazar Getty) who is suddenly drawn into a web of deceit by a temptress (Patricia Arquette) who is cheating on her gangster boyfriend (Robert Loggia). Are these two tales linked? And if so, by what?

Uh. I’ll take my chances at a Motel 6.

Lost Highway is, no surprise, another one of David Lynch’s mind-benders that probably takes more time to watch and decipher it, again and again, than is probably necessary. However, there’s also some fun to be had in that, what with the movie not forgetting to constantly throw small hints, clues and little bits and pieces at us that may or may not tell us the whole story, or may just lead us down a path towards more darkness and confusion than ever before. Then again, there’s some fun to be had in that, especially when Lynch himself seems to know of the maze he’s taking us on, rather making stuff as he goes along, as he can often sometimes seem to do.

And in Lost Highway, there’s some fun to be had, but also some annoyance, too. In a way, it’s hard to really pin-point what it is about this movie works and what doesn’t, as much as it’s easy to say what’s hitting its mark the way it’s intended to, and what isn’t. For Lynch here, it seems like he’s got the mood down perfectly; there’s a creepy air of neo-noir mystery, coldness, and darkness that actually makes it more interesting to watch, despite the slow pace and sometimes meandering story. But Lynch clearly put a lot of effort into the way the movie look, felt and sounded, with all aspects being top-notch and creating a very paranoid, sometimes eerie aura of danger lurking somewhere underneath, and it pays off.

Then, you get to the story and well, there’s a lot to be desired.

It’s not that Lynch made a mistake in telling these two different stories and demanding that we make the connection in our times, by ourselves, it’s just that they aren’t all that interesting to watch. Bill Pullman’s story has some interest-factor because of it seeming like an attack on the male-psyche, whereas Balthazar Getty’s seems to sort of go nowhere. It’s as if Lynch was so enchanted with Arquette in the first place, that he didn’t really care how much mileage he could get out of her – so long as she was willing to act in two, somewhat different roles, then so be it.

Like, is she even real?

And well, there’s not a problem with that, either, because Arquette is quite good in both roles, playing up her beauty and sweetness, as well as her possible viciousness and danger, too. Arquette’s dual roles, while showing her off as being both sleek and sexy, also give her a chance to fool around with the audience, not allowing us to know whether or not she’s a good person, a bad one, or even a person at all. After all, she could just be a figment of these two guys’ imaginations, as well as our owns. The movie doesn’t always make that clear and while it’s a solid job on Lynch’s part for keeping that guess up and about, it’s also a solid job on Arquette’s too for never losing our attention.

But it does deserve to be noted that Lost Highway, by a certain point, at least, does seem to have painted itself into a corner that it can’t get out of and when it’s all done, there’s a big question-mark left. While you can say that about practically every other Lynch flick, it feels more frustrating here, where it’s as if Lynch himself didn’t have the answers or conclusions, but instead, just wanted to take his good old time, going wherever he oh so pleased. Sure, that’s fine, mostly because it’s an entertaining and compelling watch, but sometimes, a little help here and there could definitely help.

Actually, I know they do. But hey, that’s why I am me and David Lynch is, thank heavens, David Lynch.

Consensus: Odd, creepy and downright freaky, Lost Highway highlights Lynch at his most subversive, but also shows that his knack for storytelling doesn’t always pan-out as well as he may intend.

7 / 10

Yeah, don’t ask.

Photos Courtesy of: Jay’s Analysis

Advertisements

Breakdown (1997)

Truck-drivers act as if they own the road and well, sometimes, they do.

A married-couple, Jeff and Amy Taylor (Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan), are leaving their regular lives from Boston, and moving to San Diego. Why? Well, I guess to get a fresh new start, but that all begins to change when they break down on the side of the road. Thinking that they’re going to be fine as long as Amy goes with a truck-driver (J.T. Walsh) to the local diner where she can call up for help and some movement, Jeff begins to get suspicious when she doesn’t come back for awhile. Now, Jeff who is all alone and without a clue in the world of what to do, decides to go out and look for her, and hopefully uncover clues and hints as to where she might be, and why the hell this kidnapping even occurred in the first place.

Sounds like a pretty standard thriller-plot, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is. Nothing really flashy here in terms of writing, directing, or even the plot – just a normal and average thriller that actually happens to be pretty damn tense as well. It starts off with a mystery that we’re totally left in the dark with and for awhile, there’s a lot of questions surrounding what’s going to happen with this plot.

Yeah, it don't look pretty, now does it, Kurt?

Yeah, it don’t look pretty, now does it, Kurt?

Director Jonathan Mastow knows what he’s doing to craft this sometimes very tense thriller, but he puts us in the same exact position as our lead character, Jeff. Everything that Jeff sees, hears, feels, or even thinks, we see, hear, feel, and think along with him. It gives us a better way of feeling for this dude, but also get into his head a bit, as he continues to look down each and every alley-way, river, and desert for Amy, wondering just what the heck truly happened to her. Mastow’s interested more in making us wait, rather than throwing each and every plot twist or reveal at us and making us feel like we know what to expect next. But rather than taking that latter, lower-road, Mastow keeps us confused, puzzled, a bit worried, and altogether, very tense.

However, it works well for about a good hour or so, and then it all begins to fall apart once more and more ideas come to our attention. I don’t know if that’s more of Mastow’s fault, or just our own. Since we know what to expect from thrillers such as these, it becomes pretty clear just where this flick is going to go and how, which sets it more and more out of the realm of actual possibility, unlike the rest of the flick that seemed to make plenty of sense, as if it could happen to either you or me, on a good day at that. Once the plot gets going and we figure out what’s really brewing underneath the surface here, the movie begins to answer questions and show us situations that could only happen in a movie, rather than in real-life.

Gone way too soon. Seriously. There were so many more psychos to be portrayed!

Gone way too soon. Seriously. There were so many more psychos to be portrayed!

Then again, I’m cynical and it’s kind of hard not to be in certain situations such as these.

At least Kurt Russell was around to save the day and keep things more and more interesting, as more and more of his true colors began to come out. Russell is good at playing these bad-ass characters that take no names, no prisoners, and sure as hell do not let-up for anyone, and is still able to show that, even with the yuppie-act he’s given here. It is a tad hard to believe that somebody as rugged and tough-looking as Russell could be this soft, wimp-of-a-man that all of a sudden has a change of heart once the love of his life is captured, but he at least milks it for all that he can, without ever resorting to the usual, snarling one-liners we tend to hear with his characters. He’s less of an action-hero, and more of a regular-dude who’s been pushed a little bit too far off the edge and it’s time for someone to pay.

In one of his last film roles ever, J.T. Walsh shows exactly why he was the go-to guy you needed when you needed somebody to play a evil and psychotic villain here as the truck driver that captures Amy. Walsh is good at the beginning because he gives you this wholesome, likable feel that you could only get with the country buck, but then changes things up once the going gets good and the devil horns begin to grow. The character Walsh plays is very one-note, but at least Walsh keeps him interesting and entertaining to watch, making us expect that he’s going to fully come out of his shell and show off a real person, underneath all of the cheating, lying, murdering, and stealing. However, we don’t get that and at the end of the day, the guy’s just another bad dude, who lives in the middle of nowhere, and does bad things because he can, and I guess that’s scary enough as it is.

But still, I wanted more. Is that so much to ask for?

Consensus: Breakdown starts off with enough juice and gas to keep it moving at a steady-pace for it’s hour-and-a-half run-time, but eventually hits the breaks by the end when it gets too silly, too goofy, and way too conventional for it’s own good.

7 / 10

Is this the part of the movie where they turn around and are absolutely horrified by what's coming at them?

Is this the part of the movie where they turn around and are absolutely horrified by what’s coming at them?

Photos Courtesy of: JMount’s Written in Blood

The Ice Storm (1997)

Cheer up, suburbia. Have some sex.

1973 is winding down and you know what? Maybe it’s time for a little break. It’s Thanksgiving break and those living in the suburbs of Connecticut, when they’re not dealing with the cold temperatures and snow on the ground, are also dealing with one another. Ben (Kevin Kline) is a frustrated father who doesn’t like his job, but also doesn’t know how to seek love or happiness from his wife Elena (Joan Allen). So rather than trying to actually solve it by talking to her like the old days, he’s currently seeking fulfillment from his neighbor Janey (Sigourney Weaver). Meanwhile, his teenage daughter, Wendy (Christina Ricci), has some issues going on of her own, too. She’s currently playing weird sexual games with Janey’s son Mikey (Elijah Wood), making him act out in the usual ways that young, adolescent kids do. And there’s the older brother, Paul (Tobey Maguire), who has a huge crush on some girl in his class (Katie Holmes), but doesn’t know how to go about it, nor does he quite know how to even talk to girls, but is going to try anyway.

When in doubt, trust daddy to carry you home.

When in doubt, trust daddy to carry you home.

Though it doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for this, the Ice Storm was actually one of the first “suburbia sucks” movies to start the boom that sprung in the late-90’s-to-early-aughts. Of course, a lot of the movies to follow were bland, unoriginal, and just downright depressing, but the Ice Storm, even without it being the starter-package, still sails above the rest. See, it does something with its message and its sadness, and it actually builds off of them; so many of the other movies that were soon to follow, seemed to just focus in on this aspect of suburbia and not go anywhere else.

It was just one emotion, the whole way through.

And sure, you could also kind of say the same about the Ice Storm, but it’s a much more deliberate mood-piece. It’s a slow-burner for sure, but it’s also a movie that takes its time for certain reasons, like building up characters and each of their relationships to one another; the fact that the movie has about five-to-ten core characters, really gives off that feeling of repression and suffocation, but in a way, draws us closer to these character. Ang Lee may be known for paying extra attention to the ways his movies look, but here, he shows that there’s a certain attention paid to characters that just can’t be matched.

What Lee shows is that, beyond all of the sadness, repression and claustrophobia, is that there can be some bittersweet moments of pure love and joy. At times, when it’s not trying to get us down in the dumps, the Ice Storm can actually be a funny movie, poking fun at both growing old and growing up, in a time and place where it seems like the experiences and feelings are almost identical. That’s not to say that the movie’s a dramedy in any sense of the term, but the movie isn’t just one long funeral – there’s bits and pieces of sheer happiness and joy, but because they are indeed so scattered, they truly do make those said moments all the more lovely and emotional.

And then, yes, there’s the ensemble who are all, as expected, pretty great.

Kevin Kline is so perfect as Ben, the upset and constantly nervous father who clearly wants the best for him and his family, but just also doesn’t know what to do anymore. With Kline, there’s always this feeling that he’s the cool and hip dad who never gets the respect he deserves and watching him here, you totally feel that – he’s just waiting to be noticed, recognized and if anything, appreciated. If he has to go out and find that for himself, then so be it.

Joan Allen plays his wife, Elena, and has a far more subtler role than him, but is still very effective in it. There’s this lingering sense of anger underneath everything that she does and it’s exciting just waiting around to see when she’s going to crack and lose her cool, once and for all. Sigourney Weaver’s Janey may also seem like a total villain at first, but the movie does humanize her in certain ways that’s not just surprising, but refreshing; here’s a woman, having sex with a married man, and while she doesn’t feel regret for it, she’s also not very happy about it, either.

Like everyone else, she’s just trying her absolute hardest to get by.

Sorry, Tobey. Don't have to go home, but can't stay here.

Sorry, Tobey. Don’t have to go home, but can’t stay here.

As for the kids, they all fair-off pretty fine, too, especially since most of them were the premiere young actors at the time. Christina Ricci is great as the sassy, overtly sexual Wendy; Elijah Wood is very fun to watch as the fellow teenage boy she constantly teases and plays around with; Tobey Maguire plays the older college student who isn’t sure just how to go about picking up girls and because of that, his awkwardness shines through in every scene; and Katie Holmes and David Krumholtz, in only just two scenes, really do come close to stealing the show, highlighting a great deal of adolescent sincerity that they were able to match in the following years to come, but not with the same amount of rawness.

But the real takeaway from the Ice Storm and these characters is that, yes, they’re performed and written well, but they’re also never judged. Because these characters are so sad and in such huge funks, they don’t always make the best, or brightest decisions – in most cases, they’re doing just whatever they feel will make them happy at that one exact moment in time. It would have been easy for a movie, let alone, its director to shine a light on them and frown, but instead, Ang Lee embraces them for all of their faults and realizes that they too, just like your or I, have issues and they’re just trying to wade through them all. They aren’t perfect, hell, they’re not even nice, but they’re real people and those are the kind that are very hard to find movies nowadays, or in general.

Consensus: With extra attention paid to its troubled characters, the Ice Storm is a sad, dramatic, but rather moving mood-piece about suburbia and all of those imperfect beings who inhabit it.

9.5 / 10

Cheer up! Your celebrities!

Cheer up! Your celebrities!

Photos Courtesy of: Moon in the Gutter, Awards Circuit

U-Turn (1997)

uturnposterNext time, wait for the rest stop.

While on the road to who knows where, Bobby (Sean Penn) has a bit of car trouble and has to pull over into the nearest gas-station/mechanic he can find. Of course, this leads him right into the lovely, yet wacky little town of Superior, Arizona, where he’s told that his car will have to stay around for a few more days so that it can get inspected and get all of the right parts it needs to continue to run. Bobby’s not happy about this, but he can’t do much about it, so he decides to set up shop in town for a short while, and in doing so, attracts a whole lot of unwanted and crazy attention from the local folks who clearly seem to be pretty interested in what a city boy like Bobby’s doing around their parts. One person in particular is the sexual and dangerous Grace (Jennifer Lopez), who decides that she wants to run away with Bobby and start out a new life for her. The only issue is that her husband (Nick Nolte), controls almost everything that she does and will not let her out of his sights, regardless of who stands in his way.

Even Sean knows neither of these kids have a career in showbiz.

Even Sean knows neither of these kids have a career in showbiz.

U-Turn is the perfect movie for someone like Oliver Stone to direct right after making something as loud, bombastic and overstuffed like Nixon. Because with U-Turn, you can tell that Stone’s getting back down to his roots, catching his breath, and enjoying this sick, dark and twisted world that he seemed to love and be so fascinated with in Natural Born Killers. And sure, while U-Turn is no way in the same league as that near-masterpiece, it’s still a fun little piece of noir-trash that reminds us what can be done when you have some good material, with a director who knows how to handle it all so well.

Of course, Stone has been better and worse before, but still U-Turn shows us that, once again, Stone knows a thing or two about these dark, gritty and messed-up tales about small people, in small towns, doing some pretty cruel and evil things to one another. Stone of course makes this little town of Superior all the more zany and crazy than we’d ever expect right away, but it works in the movie’s favor; every character we run into and get a glimpse of, despite seeming like over-the-top cartoons, still have this smallest sense of danger in their bones that makes it feel like they could step into the story at any second and cause all sorts of damage. It’s what most thrillers in the same vein strive for, but because Stone has a certain eye for these kinds of movies, it works a whole lot more.

Then again, it is a very disgusting movie that, at times, sure, can test our patience for what we’re capable of seeing and accepting for an upwards of two hours or so.

That said, Stone is having fun here and honestly, that can be sort of rare. There’s this small glimmer of a message about Native American tribes and the fact that they were kicked off of their land, but the movie doesn’t make it a top-priority to get on any sort of soapbox and preach to the audience – it’s rare for an Oliver Stone movie to do that, but it’s a welcome change-of-pace because it helps not take away from the cast and twisty, turny plot, and also allow for us to enjoy the movie a whole lot more, all its shortcomings with plot aside.

Wow. Is this the last time Billy Bob was actually engaged and/or enjoying himself?

Wow. Is this the last time Billy Bob was actually engaged and/or enjoying himself?

Sean Penn is a nice addition to the world of Oliver Stone and even though it’s not a more spirited and crazy performance like we’re so used to seeing from him, as Bobby, it almost feel like he didn’t have to be. In a way, he’s sort of the cool, calm and collected one in the middle of a group full of nuts, wacko’s and fools, which suits Penn a whole lot, even if it is also a whole bunch of fun to see him freak-out every so often. Same goes for Lopez, who is playing the typical femme fatale we see in these sorts of flicks and does a solid job playing up that sexy, vivaciousness of her, making us wonder if we can, or can’t, trust her.

But then, there’s the rest of the ensemble who seem to be a little more ramped-up than Lopez and Penn, which is perfectly fine because it suits them all so well.

Powers Boothe and his eyes steal every scene he’s in, because of how scary he is; Jon Voight has a few heartfelt moments in the middle of a wacky and wild movie; Joaquin Phoenix and Claire Danes seem as if they walked off of the set of a sitcom as two young lovers who constantly keep on running into Bobby; Billy Bob Thornton seems spirited and awake as the town mechanic who seems to be enjoying his chances of ripping Bobby off every chance he gets; and yes, Nick Nolte is as dastardly as can be, playing Grace’s husband, snarling and howling every line that comes out of his mouth. But you know what? It works. We’re supposed to be repulsed by this guy and Nolte is perfect at delivering it all.

If only he and Stone worked together more.

Consensus: As wild and as crazy as Stone has been, U-Turn also shows off his most vile and inhumane piece that is definitely not his smartest movie, but still a bunch of fun, if in the right mood for it.

7.5 / 10

Yeah, Sean can't be bothered because he's just too cool, yo.

Yeah, Sean can’t be bothered because he’s just too cool, yo.

Photos Courtesy of: DVD Dizzy, Horror Cult Films

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)

Yeah, I’m totally telling my high-school classmates I know Brad Pitt.

Romy and Michele (Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow) are two 28-year-old women who have been best-friends for life and have always been there for the other no matter what the situation called for. However, their ten year high-school reunion is coming up and they both come to the realization that they haven’t done crap with their lives other sit around, piss, moan, and talk about random stuff. In order to have people think differently of the wastes of life they’ve become, they decide to make lies about themselves and what they’ve been up to in the past years since high-school. Basically, it comes down to them being co-inventors of the “Post-it Note”, among many other glamorous lies.

What’s genius about Romy and Michele is that, sure, yeah, it doesn’t set-out to light the movie world on fire, however, it comes away more meaningful than most movies with that certain level of importance attached to itself from the very beginning. What it does is, essentially, show how these two have essentially done nothing new or cool with their lives since high school ended, but also doesn’t show that as such a terrible thing. They’ve always stayed themselves, have never really hid away from what they thought was cool, and actually have sweet souls, even if they do seem like the types of chicks who’d be out first in the spelling bee. And it’s not like I, or the movie is ragging on them either – they are pretty much those types of Valley Girls that talk, sound, and dress like they’re hot stuff, yet, have no clue what the result of two plus two is – however, the movie never judges them for this.

Those girls sure can dance!

Those girls sure can dance! They probably don’t know calculus, but hey, who cares?

If anything, the movie itself is almost too “nostalgic” to really frown on these two, nor should it have to.

Because honestly, Romy and Michele really do deserve their own movie, whether we know it right away or not. They may be dumb, but they have good hearts and are there for each other and whenever they aren’t thinking of what cool things they could do or say next to impress the hell out of the popular ones from school, they are just talking to each other and being the best friends that they can honestly be. If that doesn’t warm your heart a tad bit, I don’t know what will. It looks at high school as a joke and isn’t very serious when it comes to its depiction of what high school is and used to be, and shows that, honestly, that crap doesn’t matter; who you surround yourself around and care for is all that you need in life.

It’s all incredibly corny, but you know what? It works. If not for the script, but for the amazing chemistry between Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino. You get a sense that these two have been side-by-side for as long as they can remember and you also get the sense that they understand each other, in more ways then one. Though the movie has them doing a whole bunch of embarrassingly silly stuff, the movie also doesn’t forget that they’re also very happy to be with one another, even if they still don’t know what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

But what really makes these characters work is that they aren’t necessarily the same person, in and out, and both Kudrow and Sorvino show that off perfectly.

Oh, you 80's-looking-but-stuck-in-the-90's-gals.

Oh, you 80’s-looking-but-stuck-in-the-90’s-gals.

Kudrow is always hilarious in anything she does and even though I am always impressed with what she can do when it comes to showing her more dramatic side, her comedic side never seems to falter and it’s always a blast to watch. She has a lot of choice lines that make this movie any funnier than it has any right to be, but if you get to thinking about it, she’s just another-rendition of Phoebe, with a smaller-brain. That’s not even that much of a complaint either, because that character still works, no matter what!

Then, there’s Sorvino who really knew and understand just what it took to make someone as beautiful as her, look and sound so incredibly idiotic, yet, pull it off so wonderfully, that it was actually genuine. She’s more of the stand-out here because she really sets herself apart from the rest of the crowd for being so damn beautiful, but is also able to make us believe that a lot of people would just push her to the side for being a bit of a weirdo, as well as a bit of a dummy. Like Michele, she’s a not terrible person for being dumb and thinking she’s all that, and if anything, it makes us like her a little more.

Others like Alan Cumming and Janeane Garofalo, show up and do what they can, but really, it’s all Sorvino and Kudrow from the very beginning, to the end. In fact, the movie is so reliant that, after awhile, it can tend to be a bit obvious. No problem with playing to your strengths, but honestly, there was probably more within this movie that could have worked, had there been more polishing and focus. However, it doesn’t really matter, because the movie’s entertaining, funny and yeah, that’s all you need.

So I’ll shut up now.

Consensus: Thanks to a heartfelt, endearing and funny chemistry between Kudrow and Sorvino, Romy and Michele is a lot better than it has any right to be, showing that high school, ten years down the line or whenever, doesn’t really matter, so long as you’re happy and love the people you’re with.

6.5 / 10 

So, uh, sequel anyone?

So, uh, sequel anyone?

Photos Courtesy of: Cineplex, IFC, AV Club

Deconstructing Harry (1997)

Screw too many women, trust me, you get screwed, too.

Harry Block (Woody Allen) has had a pretty crazy and unfortunate life. He’s been with many women, has made many mistakes, and has a lot of opinions that don’t always make him the most popular guy in the room. And now, he’s gaining fame and fortune off of all of that by putting into a new book of his, one that people love, with the exception of the few he’s actually writing about. Most of the women from his past have disowned him, which depresses Harry to a great degree. However, the only thing keeping him alive and well is the fact that he has a son, who he knows will have a bright future. Also, Harry finds out that the university that once kicked him out, now wants him back for a ceremony to honor him and all of his accomplishments. This gives Harry an idea: Take his son with him on this trip and allow for all sorts of fun and adventure to occur. Little does Harry know that he’s kidnapping his son to go along for the ride with him, along with the likes of a friend (Bob Balaban) and hooker (Hazzelle Goodman).

Way more loyal than Annie Hall.

Way more loyal than Annie Hall.

Due to the fact that Woody Allen likes to make a movie almost every year, a lot of people tend to get on his case. Obviously, some movies are better than others and, especially as of late, it appears like some of them aren’t even worth watching, but because they’re movies by Woody Allen and feature great talent in front of the screen, people can’t help but see what he’s got cooking up next. After all, a bad Woody Allen movie is at least better than most of what we seem to get out there, right?

Well, either way, where it seems like some of the issues with Woody releasing a new movie every year is that the movies tend to all follow the same formulas, ideas and themes of all of his movies. They’re mostly all lighthearted affairs that have to do with dysfunctional families, Judaism, forbidden love, sex, writing, poetry, classical music, jazz, or anything else of these natures. They’re all very similar and it honestly makes me wonder why Woody himself doesn’t bother to go deeper and darker with himself, or his material.

Cause, honestly, Deconstructing Harry is that perfect example of what Woody Allen can do when he decides to throw all caution to the wind and just not appease to anyone. While some of themes and ideas may be the same from before, here, they’re much more darker and sinister; rather than appearing to play for the big and broad laughs, Woody’s going for something much more meaner and angry, where it appears that he does in fact have an ax to grind.

Who is he grinding it at/for?

Well, no one in particular, but it allows for Deconstructing Harry to be better than most of his other flicks, because it proves that the guy actually has a point. He’s not just making a movie because he’s got the budget, the stars, and an inchworm of an idea that he’ll decide to play around with after the first-half – nope, this time Woody is going for the kisser and not apologizing for it. This is all to say that Deconstructing Harry is quite funny, but in a far different way that makes me feel better about Woody Allen, the writer – his jokes aren’t necessarily played-up for the smarter people of the crowd, but more for anyone who appreciates a good joke when they’re given one.

It sounds so stupid in hindsight, but honestly, good, consistent humor in a Woody Allen movie can sometimes be hard to find. Sure, every once and awhile, you’ll get a sly or witty line passed by some character here and there, but here, Woody’s throwing out jokes left and right. Do they all work? Not really – the whole bit involving Billy Crystal as the Devil could have probably bit the dust in the editing-room – however, the moments where the comedy works, it really works and is worthy of a big, howling laugh.

Focus on the finer things in life.

Focus on the finer things in life.

Yes, I know, it sounds stupid, but trust me, it totally matters.

But it’s not like Deconstructing Harry is better than most other Woody Allen movies because it’s darker and funnier (although, those are two attributes that help it), but because what Woody himself seems to be talking about is interesting. Harry Block’s life is such a whirlwind filled with heartbreak, anger, resentment, and controversy, that writing about it, gets him into hot water with those around him and eventually, he alienates himself from the rest of the world. Clearly, Woody seems to be channeling his own, inner-most demons and it’s neat to see play-out, as Woody himself definitely feels guilty for hurting the people that he’s hurt in the past, but also knows that the same hurt that he’s caused, is the same kind that’s brought him so much fame, fortune and respect in the biz.

So yeah, Woody’s talking about himself a lot here, but it works. Woody himself is quite good in the movie, but really, he’s meant to let others do all the work for him and show that they’re worthy of being here. People like Tobey Maguire, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Robin Williams, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Kirstie Alley, and others, don’t have a whole lot of screen-time, but are still funny and well worth their short time here. Why none of these people have bothered to show up in a Woody Allen movie is beyond me, but then again, maybe they, too, don’t want to waste time on something that’s going to just be “mediocre”.

Then again, neither do I, and I still can’t stop watching his movies.

Consensus: With a darker, more energetic edge, Deconstructing Harry shows a meaner side of Woody Allen that we hardly ever see, that’s both funny and interesting.

8 / 10

Everyone loves Woody. Except obvious people.

Everyone loves Woody. Except obvious people.

Photos Courtesy of: A Woody a Week

In the Company of Men (1997)

Yup. This is how us dudes think.

Two male co-workers, Chad (Aaron Eckhart) and Howard (Matt Malloy), are both angry and frustrated with women. So much so that they get to a point where they feel the need to plot and toy maliciously with the emotions of a deaf female subordinate Christine (Stacy Edwards). Something that, at first, plays out like a terrible, mean-spirited game, but eventually, turns into something far more serious and romantic for Howard.

If you go into a Neil LaBute movie, chances are, you know what to expect. His movies are mean, nasty, and most of all, angry. However, you can’t hate them if they’re, well, for the most part, well-done and written.

And sadly, that’s exactly what In the Company of Men, his directorial debut, is.

He's terrible.

He’s terrible.

The premise, right away, will turn most people away. Yes, it’s a cruel joke that two guys literally come up with after a night of shooting the shit and coming to realize that maybe women are all terrible and deserve to be manipulated and treated like crap. This is something that will most likely have audiences out of the film before the ten-minute mark and as well as they should be. There is some real painful stuff to be had here and when you see the grand scheme of things, it’s even worse. But somehow, LaBute makes it work.

Granted, this whole film is basically just one whole conversation after another that just so happens to be stretched-out to an hour-and-37-minutes. That would seem terribly boring for some, but with a screenplay like LaBute’s, it’s anything but. Every character here has an agenda, an idea, and their own way of speaking to one another. Some are shy, some are nervous, some are dicks, and some are just plain and simple people, but either way, you’ll notice that in this film, everybody is different from one another by the way they act and speak to one another, but yet, still have the same thoughts on most things as well. In a way, it’s exactly like a play (something that, obviously, LaBute specializes in), but it never feels too talky or meandering like some plays-turned-to-movies can occasionally feel.

As for being a huge piece of misogyny at it’s finest, I don’t really think that was LaBute’s aim and it shows. This whole film is definitely considered as one big cruel joke that goes on for way too long, but it isn’t the idea of these two dudes manipulating a deaf girl is what gets me, it’s the fact that LaBute is still able to bring some heart and depth out of these characters while they are doing so. If you look at it from afar, everybody in this film gets hurt in one way or another, and that’s sort of how life is. No matter who you may hurt, another person always gets hurt, and you’ll most likely get hurt once again later in life.

It’s some deep stuff, even if there is a deaf girl at the center getting toyed around with.

And just to show you how terrible and disgusting men can be, ladies, just take a look at the finest specimen/example to-date: Chad. Aaron Eckhart plays the mother of all slime-balls everywhere as Chad and from beginning-to-end is exactly what all girls think they see in the quintessential dick-head. Full of himself, powerful, angry, never nice, rude, manipulative, and most of all, just plain evil. But you know what’s even worse about that idea? It’s actually true because there are guys out there in the world that are just like Chad, and are just as hell-bent on showing the type of control they have over somebody and their emotions. Eckhart is almost too perfect in this role because the guy always feels like he knows what he’s doing, never makes a mistake about it, and rarely ever apologizes for doing so. You’ll come to hate this guy’s guts, but you can’t take your eyes off of him and there’s something inherently compelling about that. We all know people that are just like Chad and you know what? As much as we may hate them, they still never cease to amaze us with just how far they’re willing to go.

He's fine.

He’s fine.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, playing his buddy/partner-in-crime is one of my favorite character actors ever, Matt Malloy. Malloy’s Howard is definitely the far more sympathetic one out of the duo as it seems like he genuinely does not care for this experiment, but is just participating in it to appear “cool ” in front of the eyes of Chad. It’s terrible to think that someone would actually want to stoop down to Chad’s level, but LaBute makes a pretty clear case in Howard; not just by showing that he’s still heart-broken over a recent break-up, but that he’s not exactly the one dude you call up for beers and to talk about sports. He’s much more sensitive and in-tune with his feelings, which makes his dates with Christine all the more interesting and, honestly, sad.

Then, slap-dab in the middle all these guys is Stacy Edwards as Christine, the deaf co-worker. Edwards is beautiful – there’s no denying that one bit. However, it works well for the character in that it doesn’t really matter that she is, or isn’t deaf; she’s still got something of a lovely personality and seems to genuinely care for those in her life. This makes it all the more painful and hard to watch when it becomes awfully clear that she’s falling for one of these guys more than the other and is just getting her heart tripped-up all the more. Edwards does a perfect job with this character (even despite not being deaf), but it’s LaBute who I definitely think deserves credit for the handling of this character.

LaBute catches a lot of flack for not writing his female characters as strongly as his male characters, but in this case, I think they’re wrong. For one, there’s more to Christine than just being “the deaf girl”. She’s fun to be around, enthused about life, and simply put, doesn’t ask for any sympathy concerning her situation. She’s just happy to be around people who make her happy and is taking full pride in having two men in her life, that are actually interested in her. That’s what makes it all the more upsetting to think about what’s to come.

Because we all know that there’s just no chance in this ending well for anyone.

Except for, well, Chad of course. That dick.

Consensus: In every sense of the genre, In the Company of Men is a horror movie without any murder, blood, or monsters, but with three solid performances and a whole lot of insight into how the human brain works for all sorts of different men out there, whether anyone’s willing to admit it or not.

9 / 10

She's great. But man oh man, do I just want to give her a hug.

She’s great. But man oh man, do I just want to give her a hug.

Photos Courtesy of: Werewolves on the Moon

Donnie Brasco (1997)

Forget about it?

New York mobster Lefty (Al Pacino) walks into his usual diner, starts talking up a storm with some guy named “Don the Jeweler” (Johnny Depp), figures out that the ring he just bought his girlfriend was a Fugazi, takes him out to find the guy, gets his money back, and badda-bing, badda-boom, the deal is done. However, Lefty doesn’t want to just say “bye” to Don and be done with him forever – he wants him to be apart of his mob, walk him through the ranks so that one day, Donnie will be the new crime boss that everybody obeys and looks up to. Donnie has those aspirations too, but the problem is that his real name is Joseph Pistone and he’s not all that he seems to be. Rather, he’s an FBI informant that’s been working the streets for about two years now, and he’s getting more and more tied into this underground life, and leaving his other life, the one with his wife (Anne Heche) and kids, on the back-burner as if it almost doesn’t exist.

I honestly could not tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie. I want to say the perfect, rounded-up amount is probably ten-and-a-half times, but I can’t be too sure because it’s probably a whole lot more than what I can remember. Hell, probably a couple of drunken-views may have happened in there as well. Either way, whatever the total amount is, doesn’t matter, because each and every time I’ve watched this flick, not only have I liked it even more, but I get to see more and more about it, especially since, as a film fanatic, my eyes have been opened a bit wider to what makes a movie work, and what doesn’t.

"Ew, fugetaboutit!"

“Ew, fugetaboutit!”

However, I still have yet to call this movie a “favorite” of mine, and here’s exactly why: The problem I have with this movie is that, after all of the times I’ve seen this and plenty other movies of the same nature, I’ve come to realize that the “FBI-informant” story has all been dead by now. We get it; whenever you take a regular, FBI agent, throw him into a world where he has to have that one identity and nothing else, then most likely, that dude’s going to get thrown in there too deep. It’s what we see with every undercover-cop flick, and it doesn’t make it all the better or more original. It’s just there.

But there is that one aspect to this movie that makes that problem sort of go away: The drama involved here between the characters and the situation we have on our hands here. Everybody in this flick is essentially a cliché of what it’s like to be apart of the mob. Greased, slicked-back hair? Check. A bunch of Italian, mobster slang used that makes no sense? Double check. Paying for a coffee or a drink with a wad of cash? Way too many checks. An over-the-top scene of an act of violence to prove how much you do not want to get all tangled-up in with the mob? You got it. People getting whacked? Well now, would it be a mobster movie if it didn’t at least have one or two or more scenes that include that act?

I’ll allow for that last, hypothetical question to rest in your mind.

So, with all of that said, you see where I’m going with this? If not, follow through. The aspect behind this movie that makes it work, despite all of the obvious conventions and happenings of the usual mobster movie, is that there’s actual, real-life emotion involved with this story and the characters that inhabit it. Rather than making Joe, or “Donnie”, the type of FBI informant that’s way too in over his head, is a bit of a bastard for throwing his family to the side and focusing a little bit too much attention on the task at hand, the movie shows him off as being a troubled-soul, yet, one that knows what mission he has to complete, and to do it by any means necessary. Sure, he has to get his hands dirty a couple of times and may even have to pull off some risky moves of his own, but he knows that he has to get the job done and the movie paints him more as a regular-guy, who just so happened to stick to his guns, in more ways than one. I don’t want to call him a “hero” per se, but I do want to call him an inspiration to most people who feel like they can’t go through something because the shit’s too deep or too dangerous. And I’m not just talking about FBI informants – I’m talking about anybody, dammit!

Then, something strange with this movie begins to happen: You start to feel a bit wrapped-up in this world just as much as Joe does. Once Joe realizes that not all of these mobster-figures are as bad or as dastardly as they may seem from the outside, he begins to wonder whether or not he should fully go through with it, and if he does decide to actually say, “Yeah, arrest all their asses”, he still wonders whether or not it’s the right thing to do or if he should leave a couple people out of it. It’s a problem for us, almost as much as it is a problem for Joe, and it gets you more and more involved with the material, regardless of if you know how it all turns out. Obviously no major Hollywood production is going to fund a movie where the real-life protagonist gets killed, but you still feel like any chance the dude has to lose his cover, he will, and become a victim of it so.

Don't worry, honey. Just fugettaboutit.

Don’t worry, honey. Just fugettaboutit.

Very smart writing and directing on both sides of the camera, but in front of it all is the two stars we have on our hands here, none other than Johnny Depp and Al Pacino themselves. This was the first movie where I think Johnny Depp really broke-out of his shell, showed us that he could actually “act”, and, despite what his good looks may have you believe, make it seem like he’s a real person, with real problems, marital ones and whatnot. Depp’s character may go through the usual trip of where he gets in way too deep and can barely get out without keeping his hands clean, but it’s Depp himself who keeps his head above the water, allowing us to believe in him no matter how scary certain situations may get for him. There’s a real sense of likability and regularity to Depp here, that I wish he would just go back to, at least one more time. That is, before he gets back together with Gore Verbinski and starts acting all nutty and cuckoo again. Why Johnny?!?! Why not come back to the real world?!?!

As great as Johnny is here, though, he’s definitely not the one who walks away with the flick. Leave that recognition to Al Pacino, playing, yet again, another mob boss that has a bit of anger-issues and problems on the inside, but keeps them more bottled-in than what we’re used to seeing with this type of character, or even the way Pacino usually plays them. What’s so great about Pacino playing Lefty is that, we get that this guy is not perfect and definitely has some control issues that get in the way of his better-judgement at times, but we still feel like he’s a good guy, underneath the phis-age and all. In fact, we know it, it just rarely comes out in the most obvious, hackneyed way you’d expect from a movie such as this. Pacino yells and hollers at times, but he keeps it surprisingly subdued and quiet as well, and that’s probably some of the best parts of this movie. Actually, mainly the ones with Depp and Pacino together, because you can tell that they form a bond that’s like a father-son combo, but also one that feels like it could be best friends as well. It’s sad to see them together, but you can’t help but feel something for them both, especially Lefty, who feels like an old man who will just never, ever get it right in the world that he lives in. Poor guy.

Same can sort of be said for the rest of the rag-tag mobsters that these two hang with. Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, and James Russo all play members of their mob and all do great jobs with the roles, especially Madsen who gives us his bad-boy charm that we all know and love, but also shows a bit more sympathy underneath it all, as if he too has something to prove to the people he surrounds himself with and aspires to be in the same shoes of one day. They’re all characters you’d expect to hate right off the bat, but they surprisingly have more heart and charm to them then you’d ever want to see in a flick like this. Just like the character of Joe’s stay-at-home-wife, played to perfection by Anne Heche, who not only shows us a real hard-edged woman that isn’t taking any shit from her hubby, but is also easy to sympathize with, despite her being a bit of a nag for bothering her husband about a job that not only pays the bills and gets the kids to school, but she knew about when she married him. She should be the vain of your humanity, but she’s written very realistically and performed very well by Heche herself, an actress who doesn’t get as much credit as she should.

Consensus: Though on page, Donnie Brasco should not work and be considered as conventional and predictable as they come, it surprisingly becomes a more emotional, compelling trip about what happens when a man gets too deep, can’t quite get himself out right away, but still has the screws in tight enough to get through it all. Sounds corny, but in the hands of Depp, Pacino, and the rest of the cast and crew, it’s very far from.

8.5 / 10

"I'm serious. Just forget about it."

“I’m serious. Just forget about it.”

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Full Monty (1997)

FullMontyposterStill waiting for that actual “Full Monty”. Cheeky bastards. Pun intended.

Gaz (Robert Carlyle) is a struggling, recently-divorced father of one who’s trying to make ends meet. He’s unemployed, unable to get along with anybody outside of his comfort zone, very late on his child-support bills, and doesn’t hold much aspirations in terms of getting a job and making all of his problems go away. However, late one night when he and his son are walking around town, he finds a bunch of gals lined up outside of a club for Chippendale dancers, aka, male strippers. Seeing as there is good money in this type of odd profession, Gaz gets the rest of his unemployed, struggling-to-make-ends-meet lads involved with the nakey-dancing as well.

Back in the late-90’s, movies like this became the new “it”. Smaller, indies that had unique plots that could only happen in real life, to real people, not only reigned supreme at the box-office, but also with the Academy Awards as well. This flick is one of the most glaring examples of this as it not only had a movie where dudes got nakey and pursued the idea of becoming a male-stripper, but were also British and went through middle-to-low-class problems like all of us do. Parenting, making money, getting a job, satisfying your mate, staying in shape, looking good, staying healthy, and being yourself; these are all facts of life that this movie touches on, but with a more realistic sense that this is isn’t one of those big time, Hollywood-ized productions that could have only come from those corporate big-heads. Almost as if it was more down-to-Earth in its own way.

After this photo was taken, they played a nice game of craps and ate fish and chips. Total mates.

After this photo was taken, they played a nice game of craps and ate fish and chips. Total mates.

And that’s exactly why this movie is such a joy to begin with. What it does well is that doesn’t gloss over any of its character’s problems them with any sunny-side-up approach. In fact, it actually makes them seem better and more pleasant to watch and feel-through, with a smile, a couple of jokes, and a nice sense of hope and inspiration, lingering throughout the air. British comedies like this love to be cheeky and witty, but they also love to hit you where it hurts the most: You’re gut. And the way it’s hitting you isn’t in a violent or depressing way, it’s a way that makes you so happy you could smile and laugh all day. That’s what all movies should do, regardless of what region they’re coming from, but British comedies were, and in ways, still are the leaders in pulling this off with flying colors.

The harsh realities of life aren’t ignored here, but rather than focusing on them the whole time and having us feel as if we are in a Debbie Downer of a mood, the movie gives us enough chuckles and laughs to keep us busy, not realizing that these are probably the same thoughts and ideas that go through many, middle-age men who have come at a crossroads in their lives. But like I said before, the movie doesn’t harp on those aspects too much and reminds you that this a movie about a bunch of physically random and incapable men, trying to look and be hired as male strippers.

It’s very, very goofy, but the approach the movie takes isn’t one that comes cheap and easy. You have to search for the humor and while you’re at it, even search for your heart as well and feel like you really know these characters for the type of real people they should be. Most of them do feel stock and most of them do seem like they are easy to pin-point, within five or so minutes of meeting them, but at least they are still an enjoyable bunch to be around, which makes you feel like you’re part of the gang too. Just without the stripping and self-loathing and all that junk. Although, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to watch the movie and be going through those situations in real-life, simultaneously. It will probably make you feel a lot closer to the material, more than you felt watching those sexy, son of a bitches Channing and Alex running their sweet and fine asses up and down those women’s bodies.

Seriously, I’ll never forget about that movie. And not for the reasons some of you may think. If you want to know more about why I still do think about it, just read my review and realize it for yourself.

Where this movie does have its fault, is in the ways that you can see things coming a million miles away and knowing that this is a movie that was nominated for Best Picture and a whole slew of other awards, it does come off as a bit “overrated” in my book. Granted, I had a good time, enjoyed most of myself, and will never find myself listening to “Hot Stuff” the same way ever again, but at the end of the day: I still rarely think about it and my life continues on like it has before. Same old crap, different day, different movie, same ending. That’s all there is to it. I know it’s a weak element to complain about with this movie, but considering how obvious and hokey things were, it’s really no surprise that a simple-man like me would find something bothersome about this. The movie had me entertained, but it does leave something to be desired. And I’m not just talking about that ending, even though that is definitely were some of my frustration lies in.

If this blog doesn't get me laid or a job opportunity, that line might just be occupied with by yours truly. Okay, that's bull shit. I ain't going anywhere!

If this blog doesn’t get me laid or a job opportunity, that line might just be occupied with by yours truly.

But with a cast as British and likable as this, you can never be too frustrated. Robert Carlyle was a perfect fit as Gaz, and an even better fit to lead this group of older-scoundrels as they all made up their minds as to what the hell to do with their lives, because not only does he serve the same type of problems that each and every one of them do, but he too has a bit of spunk in his step. The man has always had that fiery-nature about his act that always seems to work for the dude, so it’s no surprise why it wouldn’t work for him here, especially for a character that seems as clear-cut as this.

A rather smaller, unknown actor of this movie that soon became a big name after it hit the box-office like a ton of bricks was one of my favorites, Tom Wilkinson and rightfully so because the dude’s got all you want to see from him here – he’s funny, smart, insightful, dramatic, and always interesting, no matter how cheesy his lines may get. Wilkinson is always the star of whatever show he’s trying to steal (and I don’t mean in the literal sense of the word “show”), and it’s to nobody’s surprise that he’s the one who walks away with it all here. Other actors like Mark Addy, William Snape, and many more all have their times in the spot-light, but not as much as Wilkinson does and it’s to no one’s surprise that the dude made a fine career after this.

Consensus: Most likely, The Full Monty, as a whole, will probably not last in your brain longer than it’s supposed to, but that’s fine because it’s still funny, entertaining, insightful, and heartfelt when it needs to be, even if it all does come off a bit in the “lighter” category than you’d expect with a movie with so much potential of having some real, saddening material.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Cause nothing spells "sexy" quite like a bunch of cops, unless you're drinking in the woods with your underage friends. Then, it's not so "sexy" after all.

Cause nothing spells “sexy” quite like a bunch of cops. Unless you’re drinking in the woods with your underage friends. Then, it’s not so “sexy” after all.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Event Horizon (1997)

Maybe it’s not the aliens we should fear, but ourselves? Then again, maybe not. They’re freakin’ scary!

Smart, but slightly off-kilter astrologist Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill) creates a ship called the “Event Horizon” which, for one reason or another, can create small, black gravity holes and do a whole bunch of other cool and fancy things. The first crew to go aboard the spaceship onto a mission for Neptune, somehow vanish into thin air. Nobody knows how, why or where – they just know that one day, everything went dead. This is when Weir decides that it may be his time to finally go and see what has happened to those crew-members, and most importantly, to his creation, but not without some much-needed, professional guidance first. Enter the spaceship called “Lewis & Clark”, commandeered by Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne), the type of no-nonsense guy you’d expect to see on such a high-class mission such as this. And for awhile, everything seems to be going all perfect, that is until some of the crew-members begin to see some weird images, that may or may not be actually “real-life” or just plain and simple “hallucinations”. Nobody knows, and yet they are all experiencing them, even Weir himself, who may be getting even more sadistic images in his head than the others.

"....well then you better go catch it!!!"

“….well then you better go catch it!!!”

So yeah, I bet you can already get your pen and papers ready and try to chalk this one up to being, yet again, just another carbon-copy clone of all sci-fi, lost-in-space movies like Alien, 2001, or hell, even Lost in Space itself. And to be honest, if you were to do so, you wouldn’t be wrong; everything that you see here doesn’t have much originality to it in terms of what new technology it introduces, or what sort of logic about its premise and high-tech gadgets it may make us try and believe. But there is something to be said for a movie that doesn’t really try to go out there and re-invent the wheel, but instead, just tries to keep things small, contained, claustrophobic, and straight-up in-your-face, like any good B-movie, you know?

Especially if that B-movie just so happens to be directed by this guy.

Yep, before Paul W.S. Anderson started forcing us to notice and pay attention to how hot his wife is, the guy was another ambitious, inspired and up-and-coming film-maker that had a predilection for big, loud and extremely dumb sci-fi movies. You could argue that his taste-preference hasn’t quite changed since then, but you also could, considering that it seems like he definitely put some thought into these movies, rather than just making the same damn video-game adaptation, time and time again.

I mean seriously, how many times can we honestly see Milla Jovovich blow-off some zombie’s head, while barely-clothed!??!?

But I digress. Mainly what I am trying to get across here is that Anderson is a bit of a joke nowadays (especially being that he’s usually considered “the lesser director Paul Anderson”), but back then, when he was just getting started, the guy showed that he knew how to frame a story, make it tense, make it go all-over-the-place and most of all, make it fun. While this movie definitely starts-off a bit too plot-heavy, eventually Anderson himself decides to throw most of that out of the window and just allow us to feast our eyes on a bunch of characters just losing their cool and not knowing what to believe and take-in as “real”, or “make-believe”. And needless to say, Anderson frames this idea perfectly and actually has us in the mind-set of not knowing just what the hell to believe, or what to expect next. Always fun when you have a movie like, no matter how original its plot may, or may not be.

I guess the "hard-as-nails, take-no-crap black lieutenant cliche" could work for a movie that takes in space.

I guess the “hard-as-nails, take-no-crap black lieutenant cliche” could work for a movie that takes in space.

As you could expect too, the dialogue is, at times, horrendous. The fact that it’s being delivered by some talented, and relatively substantial names, definitely gives it an extra-push to where it’s not as grueling as it may have been with lesser-people involved, but so is not the case here. Laurence Fishburne is definitely the stand-out in this movie because it’s quite clear that he knows exactly what he signed-up for, and lets there be a couple of moments of light in his eyes, shine through whenever necessary. However though, most of the time, he just stone-faces this material, and oddly enough, makes it work because of how strict and uptight this character is. Same sort of goes for Sam Neill who is able to make any sci-fi mumbo-jumbo sound the least bit credible, even if it is abundantly clear, right from the get-go, that he’s definitely a bit of a weird guy who, I for one, would not trust around me for a single bit on Earth with, let alone flying millions and millions of miles into space.

Everybody else that shows up here is fine, too, but I don’t really want to stress any of them all that much because this isn’t really an “actor’s movie”. It’s less concerned with them, and more concerned with how it looks, feels and entertains us as movie-goers, and with that idea taken into mind, the movie does a mighty fine job at doing so. You can clearly tell that most of this movie’s budget went right into the look that Anderson packs with all sorts of 90’s-CGI, that is dated, but then again, it’s the 90’s, so what else could ya expect?!?! And also, any movie that’s as up-front about its numerous amounts of blood, gore and violence as this movie is, always deserves a free-pass from me, especially since it is quite rare to ever get a sci-fi extravaganza that’s rated-R. Maybe that’s why this movie bombed in the first place, but that’s not the point. The point is that while the movie definitely may not have had everybody clamoring at the knees to see it on opening-day weekend, it still seems to have gain a pretty loving, and devoted cult-following; the same one I guess you could consider myself apart of, even though I probably won’t be going to any special events for it anytime soon. Or ever, for that matter. I think a Netflix watch is just enough for me.

Consensus: You can’t wholly expect greatness from Paul W.S. Anderson, but with Event Horizon, you can at least expect him to deliver the goods on a not-so original story that’s fun, exciting and a tad unpredictable, especially once crap begins to hit the fan for everybody involved. Including yourself, the viewer.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Less creepier than before, Sam. Nice job.

Less creepier than before, Sam. Nice job.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Amistad (1997)

Jack Sparrow definitely had something to do with this as well. I know it for a fact.

I think it’s safe to say that anybody who has ever took history in the 5th grade or below knows this story, but if not, here’s the gist of it all: Newly-captured African slaves somehow broke free and revolted against their owners aboard a ship called La Amistad. They eventually got brought into the states where they were tried for their wrong-doings, but thanks to their leader, Cinqué (Djimon Hounsou), they are able to have a voice and get a fair trial. Or at least they sure hope so, or else it’s back to the poop-deck for them!

Steven Spielberg is considered one of the greatest directors of all time, and that’s usually something I can never argue against No matter how schmaltzy and disappointing some of his pieces of work can be, you can still count on the fact that every once and a blue moon, he’ll come back in full force and shut our negative mouths up. The guy’s got a knack for doing that and he can do it especially well when he’s telling a true story of those who have suffered the most. Whether he’s focusing on the Jews, the horses, or the living robots from the future, the guy knows how to take one person’s side, show how wronged they are by the rest of society, and let them have their time to shine. Add African slaves onto that list, just not to the tippy-top.

What makes this material so hard-hitting and inspirational in the way that it plays out is the fact that it’s all real, and yes, even though some parts here and there may be fabricated for theatrical-purposes, the main idea of it all stays the same. These were real people who had to go through a real rough time to get their freedom, try to hold onto it for as long as they could, have it taken away from them, and (SPOILER, I guess) then, given right back to them with a full introduction of hope and happiness still in their hearts. It sounds like a sappy story, and the way that Spielberg has it all play out, it certainly can be, but the fact that this a true story, true case, and true. real-life people that went through it all, really touched me more than I expected. And I don’t mean in the Sandusky way, either.

"Why can't anybody understand me? I can speak English too, it's just that nobody's asked me."

“Why can’t anybody understand me? I can speak English too, it’s just that nobody’s asked me. Fuckin’ white people.”

However, this isn’t the type of Spielberg flick where you get all sunshines, rainbows, and a bunch of over-dramatic music-cues; there’s some real smug ugliness to this movie that will catch you by surprise. First of all, the beginning of the flick is quite gruesome where Spielberg shows us, in full-detail, jusr how the Amistad raid occurred, and how the owners of these slaves were killed. It’s a pretty disturbing way to start off with and when it was over, I was slightly relieved because I felt like Spielberg backed away from that dirty stuff and got back on with the emotional-core of the story.

Oh, but how wrong I was.

Somewhere, about half-way through the movie, we get to see what it was like for all of the slaves to be aboard the Amistad, before the raid even occurred, and I have to say, it’s 10-times worse than the opening. You see how all of these people were treated, how they were tortured, put to non-stop work, fed, clothed (if at all), put to sleep, and in many ways, killed. It’s some real, gods-to-honest disturbing stuff that still stays put in my head. Still, I have to give the benefit of the doubt to Spielberg because it never feels like he’s exploiting any of it in the least bit. He’s just showing us how it was to be aboard that slave ship, which means we get a lot of blood, nudity, and grittiness, almost to the point of where you feel dirty just for watching. Some people will rag on Spielberg for usually crapping-out from going all of the way with his nasty-material, but for those naysayers: Watch the beginning and middle-half of this movie and then come back to me saying the same thing.

That whole sequence actually helps the movie out in many ways, but mainly because it has you understand these slaves even more than ever before. Not only does it give them inspiration to take charge with their lives, but it also gives them the right amount of hope and clarity they should have in their lives, and makes us root for them even more. I also like how they weren’t all just portrayed as a bunch of wild, gibberish-speaking black folks; they actually had personalities, they actually had words, they actually had meanings, and in some ways, had more ideas than most of the white people they encounter throughout this whole flick. Spielberg definitely showed his balls with this movie, but when it came back to getting with the story and showing us all how we love to root for the underdog in any story, regardless of if it’s true or not, he’s always solid in my book.

But to be fair, Spielberg isn’t always the most grateful man when it comes to humanizing his stories and doesn’t always let everybody get the same treatment as the Amistad slaves he’s portraying. I get that he wanted us to fully feel the internal-strife that these African slaves were going through, and so by doing so, really put the hammer down on some of those opposed to it, but didn’t feel right to me. It felt like, to me, that Spielberg was a little too quick in his movements to start pointing the fingers at other people for being racist, bigoted, and all about making money, when that was just how the times were. To me, it felt like Spielberg could have taken his hand back and realized that it’s not right to point, no matter how wrong or immoral you thought a certain set of persons or people were. Didn’t your mother ever teach you anything, Steven?!?

And as always with most of Spielberg’s flicks, the guy is always able to assemble a highly-qualified cast of characters and lets everybody do their thang, no matter how showwy or subtle it may be. Rarely does anybody ever go for the latter, but at least they keep it entertaining. Even though he has practically faded into obscurity now for no apparent reason, I was surprised to remember just how much of a powerhouse Djimon Hounsou was. What worked so much for him was that he had these eyes and this physical-prowess to him that showed you so much more than he could probably say or put into words. That’s especially true in this movie, because his character cannot speak English at all, but still gets the chance to show everybody around him what he’s feeling by expressions on his face, the tone in his speech, and the look in his eyes, no matter how cold or inspired they may be. The guy has been nominated twice for an Academy Award, and I was sure as shit surprised to find out that this wasn’t one of them. Still, the guy needs to come back and win something, because he’s a great actor and could also snap my neck with the twitch of his leg. No doubt about that.

Even Djimon is surprised by how over-the-top Anthony is.

Even Djimon is surprised by how over-the-top Anthony is.

The one who did get the Oscar nomination for this movie was Anthony Hopkins, playing former President John Quincy Adams, and does what he does best: Command the screen every chance he gets. Watching Hopkins just take this script, chew it up, swallow it, and spit it out, making himself a new one, was so exciting and entertaining to watch that it was no wonder why he was nominated for this. He shows up every once and awhile throughout the whole movie, but there’s this whole sequence at the end where he just tells it like it is when it comes to politics, living in the U.S., being a human-being, and just doing the right thing, that was compelling the whole time, even if it did seem like Hopkins may have went on some tangents a bit. Still, it’s Anthony Hopkins and the guy always give it a 110% so if anything, there’s always something to see.

Matthew McConaughey plays the lawyer that stands beside the African slaves in the first place and is very, very good, but it almost feels like his role from A Time to Kill, but dashed with some 19th Century apparel, and a goofy, Southern accent to boot. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, because the guy was pretty damn solid in both flicks, but it does show you that maybe more originality could have gone into choosing the right people for these roles. Then again, McConaughey’s career seems to have gotten a bit of a resurgence as of late, so I guess it doesn’t matter what happened to him 16 years ago.

The one out of this whole cast that I was really bummed to see play such a bland and mediocre role was Morgan Freeman as Theodore Joadson. He’s an Uncle Tom of sorts, but a man of color nonetheless, which makes it a great role for Freeman to just roam free with everything he has. However, he doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Freeman does what he can with this role, but it seems like one of those roles that was made for a small amount of time and only there to be the token black guy on the opposite end of the fence. A dull role that Freeman tries to save, but just can’t help but fall underneath the rest of the cast and story. There’s many more in this cast, as well, but as you can tell, I’ve pretty much exhausted myself talking about these four already, so just know that there’s plenty, plenty more.

Consensus: Steven Spielberg is the king of being schmaltzy and manipulative when it comes to his movies, and Amistad is no exception to the rule, but it still proves to be an inspirational, and very true tale of fighting for what you believe in and doing what we were put on this Earth to do in the first place. Corny, yes, but still gets you in the fighting spirit nonetheless.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Quick! Which one of these things does not look like the others?

Quick! Which one of these things does not look like the others?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Air Force One (1997)

I could see Barack being able to throw down when push came to shove.

On the most heavily-guarded aircraft in the world, President Marshall (Harrison Ford) is returning back home to the states with his wife and daughter. Everything’s running smoothly and calm, that is until a group of angry, pissed-off, Russian terrorists (lead by Gary Oldman) decide to take over the plane, hold the president and his family for ransom, and kill some other passengers as well. However, the President is lucky enough to get out of there as safe as can be as soon as the bad stuff begins to happen, and finds himself locked inside a air-pod that flies him down to safety, away from all of the violence and the terrorists. But that’s what they all think. See, what really happened here is that the President didn’t back down from this fight, and was going to stop at nothing, I do repeat, NOTHING to get the family and the country that he loves oh so much back.

Yeah, it’s pretty stupid: The President just so happens to kick just as much ass, if not more, than the heavily trained and tutored Secret Service members there to save and protect him, if the moment itself ever arose. But hey, so be it. When a movie is this fun, this goofy, and this tense, you just learn to embrace it rather than slap it in the face for it’s sheer showing of stupidity. Like I said, it’s fine and everything, but it is very stupid and one mustn’t forget about that fact when watching this movie. Or else, you may get a bit lost in your own self-seriousness. Don’t be ashamed though, because it happens to all of us.

"No need to call my agent. He already knows I'm doing this crap."

“No need to call my agent. He already knows I’m involved with this crap.”

The main reason being is that a lot of it is very, VERY patriotic. As much as Americans love to show how snobby other countries are with their ways of running themselves, and whatever it is that they hold sacred; trust me, we are just as worse, if not worse. And one of the main ways we get our patriotism out there for the rest of the world to see and (hopefully) latch onto is movies, and this is just the clear-cut example of that. Plenty of moments here feel like everybody involved was just ready to chant, “USA! USA! USA!”, after somebody said something considered “cool” or “tough” that had to be associated with the country they hail from. I mean, I’m an American, I love my country, and I’ll stand by it any day of the week, but this movie does push it a little too far, to where I feel like if I was out of the United States of America; I’d be very bothered. I was bothered, but that’s just because I’m an American and I’m stupid, right?

Anyway, so the movie. What works about this movie, despite it’s over-the-top, stars-and-stripes approach, is that it’s always a boat-load of fun. See, as the summer continues to roll on and die down, day by day, I start to see less and less of these big, loud, and unapologetic stupid blockbusters that aren’t made for our minds to be used, and more for our eyes. It’s very hard to come by a very solid blockbuster that doesn’t totally blow out the fun, or doesn’t totally blow out your brain-cells by the end of it’s run-time, and I felt like this flick found a nice breathing ground between both of those factors. Yup, it was very dumb to where I questioned what 2 + 2 equaled a couple of times; and yup, there were many moments where I felt like I didn’t know what was going to happen next, even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, and why. I’m a movie critic. I watch a lot of movies. So what can I say, eh?

Basically, where I’m getting at with all of this gibber jabber is that this movie, no matter what type of folk you are, whether you like your movies loud, big, action-packed, and implausible, or small, subtle, thought-provoking, emotional, and mentally-challenging; you’re going to have fun with this flick. Most people already have and even though I’m not to say “Go out there and follow the rest of the herd”, I do have to say that it does seem pretty obvious why people like this movie so much, and why it has a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, 16 years after it’s original release date. That goes to show you the type of movie this was meant to be: Big, dumb, and fun. That’s what’s worth seeing here, even if you can’t believe a lick of this plot. And if you don’t, I don’t blame you, because apparently Slingin’ Dick Billy didn’t either, and he still liked it!

"FOR MUTHA RUSSIA!!"

“FOR MUTHA RUSSIA!!”

As for the real reason why this movie did so well commercially and critically, well, let’s just say it’s because the President of the United States of America in this movie was portrayed by non other than Harrison Ford himself. Yes, as hard as it may be to fully take in Han Solo as the guy who would make most of the judgment calls behind the big desk, in the White House, Ford still uses that charm and general ruggedness to his act that works very well and has us believe in him. Not just as the President, but also as a bit of a bad-ass that would be able to chew bubblegum and kick ass, while also telling people to get off of his plane. Its obvious that around this time Ford was beginning to show his age and it was going to eventually catch up on him, but for the mean time, watching this movie; his older-age practically just leaves your mind and allows you to just soak up all of the ass-beating and whoop-downs that he commits to these terrorist scum-bags.

Speaking of those said “terrorist scum-bags”, the leader of the crew is non other than everybody’s most lovable villainous actor: Gary Oldman. And yes, Gary Oldman does plenty of the Gary Oldman tricks of the trade that we expect to see him pull off by now, especially with as much enthusiasm as he shows here. The character that Oldman plays is rather weak, because he’s one of those leaders of a terrorist group that has a plan so stacked into his head, yet, still can’t help but let his violent tendencies gain control over his mind and plausible-thinking, but Oldman’s too great of an actor to let that phase him in the least bit. Oldman chews up, spits out, and swallows back in the scenery, and seems to be having a ball while doing so. Therefore, we have a ball just watching him, even if we would have appreciated more screen-time between him and Ford. Oh well, I guess that’s why we have Paranoia coming out this Friday, right? Trust me, just as least excited to see it as you are.

Consensus: Implausible and idiotic to a fault, Air Force One definitely doesn’t have the highest IQ of all the other action-thrillers out there, but still has plenty of fun with itself, and allows Ford and Oldman to work their magic and do what they do best: Act their assess off.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

A woman in control?!?!? This has gotta be a movie!

A woman in control?!?!? This has gotta be a movie!

Mimic (1997)

As if the sewers weren’t disgusting enough.

After an insane roach problem threatened half of humanity three years ago, Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) and her husband Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) feel as if there is nothing else out there in the world to worry about, other than having a couple of babies and starting a family. However, all of those settling-down ideas are put to the side once some roaches stay alive and find a way to mutate into any species they oh so desire. Even humans! This means that Tyler and Mann have to get back into the groove of things, show up to work, and get ready to kill the roaches once and for all, but this time, they’re a little bit more powerful and hungry this time around and it’s going to be a lot easier said then done. Maybe.

This is the epitome of the type of creepy, gushy-flicks that Gulliermo del Toro loves to make. There’s oodles amounts of slime, creatures, people in distress, and even a couple of kids wandering around. It’s exactly the type of movie you expect from this dude, except for the fact that this one sort of blows. Okay, maybe it’s not as bad as I already have made it out to be, but you can already tell, right from the very beginning that this is the work of a guy who’s whining and dining at a bigger table than he’s used to, and eventually, the jig is going to be up and they’re going to ask for the check.

That means that del Toro bit-off a bit more than he could chew. Does that label it down for you out there?

Cool beans.

Scientists can get down and party too! Woo!

Scientists can get down and party too! Woo!

What I will say positive about del Toro’s direction is that the dude obviously loves the creatures and the havoc he has created for us to watch on screen. Most of the creatures are computer-animated, but each and every one has a fine line of detail that looks and feels real, as if you are almost right there. They don’t scare you like they should because they’re a bit corny to look at, but when they are all up in your grill here and show their violent-ways, I have to admit, even I was a bit freaked-out. Not because I thought I was going to get killed or anything, but because they were just disgusting-looking. Many horror movies do that with their monsters in order to have them be scary: the grosser, the scarier. It doesn’t quite work for me as much as it may for some horror-hounds out there, but I do have to admit that some of it does work, and some of it doesn’t. More good, than bad, but the bad does show.

However, the bad barely even shows because the whole freakin’ movie is dark. Seriously, practically the last 20 minutes of this movie is lit-up by a glow-stick and a small flashlight. That’s it. I get that, literally and figuratively, keeping the audience in the dark is supposed to keep us on the edge of our seats and even more scared with what’s next to come, but I need to see something, hell, anything in order to feel that way! I trust that del Toro really had some suspense to build on here, but it never quite latched onto me, mostly because I couldn’t tell what the hell was going on, and mostly, because I wasn’t all that interested.

Basically, the whole problem with this movie comes down to the script and how poorly-written it is. When I watch a horror movie, I don’t ask for a winning-screenplay about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness, but I do ask for a little something more than just the same old lines I’ve heard time and time again. Somebody saying to an on-looker, “Look out!”, right before they get all caught up by a monster and eaten alive, or a moment where people decide to split-up because “that’s what’s best for now”, all just piss me off to high heavens and make it obviously clear why the horror genre has failed me so much in the past. That’s why come every Halloween, I’m always packing on the quality horror flicks that I’ve most likely missed, and get on top of them so I can actually feel happy for the genre that will never, ever go away, not even as each and every one that came before it gets a remake.

Look out! It's a buggy/roachy thingy!

Look out! It’s a buggy/roachy thingy!

Yup, wasn’t a fan of that one either.

But at least the Oscar-caliber cast is good and here to save the day, right? Ehhhh! Wrong! Despite Mira Sorvino being about 2 years past her Oscar win, she still seemed to want to cash in on the money, and not the respect, especially when she took a role as cut-and-dry as this. I’ll give Sorvino some credit, the lady’s natural charm and cuteness to her look makes this character more interesting than your usual, heroine in horror movies, but she does fall victim to some pretty shitty lines and uninspired actions her character takes. Then again, the gal’s smokin’, so I can’t be on her ass too much.

Jeremy Northam is here as her dorky hubby and does what he’s asked of, even if that is being insanely hokey; Charles S. Dutton is meant to be here for comedic-relief, and because every horror movie is strictly in need of a black character to kill off, especially once the murder-toll begins to tally-up; Josh Brolin plays Northam’s hot-shot buddy that’s a bit too big for his britches, but gets by on wit and just being cool (as always); F. Murray Abraham plays an aging, college professor who knows a bit too much dangerous shit to walk around and not tell anybody about, even though he plays it with enough class to make us feel like he knows what he’s doing and talking about, even if it is completely idiotic; and rounding it all out is Giancarlo Giannini plays a shoe-shiner who works in the subway where all of these roaches are hibernating, and gives the movie some much-needed warmth and depth as we see that the dude obviously cares for his “special” son, no matter how “special” he may be. And by “special”, I mean that the kid walks around, playing tunes with two spoons and his legs, and calling somebody “Mr. Funny Shoes”. Wow, nice subtlety there del Toro!

Consensus: People who love del Toro flicks, as well as the creature-feature flicks that are obviously famous in the horror genre, will have a blast with Mimic, if they can get by the over-familiarity of the plot, as well as the sure dumbness of the script and characters.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Sooooo rad."

“Sooooo rad.”

Men in Black (1997)

These guys were facing off against aliens, before that was even cool.

Working for a highly-funded yet unofficial government agency, K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith) are the Men In Black, providers of immigration services and regulators of all things alien on Earth. While investigating a series of unregistered close encounters, the MIB agents uncover the deadly plot of an intergalactic terrorist who is on a mission to assassinate two ambassadors from opposing galaxies currently in residence in New York city.

So with Men in Black III coming out soon, I thought it would be a nice idea to go back and check out the first one that not only did I love as a kid, but so did every other kid around me. Sad to see how things change as you grow older, and then become a d-bag movie critic.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld did a pretty good job with this material, which is based on a comic book series that’s full of darkness and violence, by making it somewhat light and fluffy with humor and slime instead. There was plenty of jokes to go around in this flick and I liked that because it showed that the film didn’t really take itself too seriously, which was never more serious than it needed to be at all in the first place. I mean you have two guys dressed in ALL black, going around looking for aliens: how much goofier can you get? Liked the tone of this film because it could have easily fallen apart by taking a serious look at the world of alien hunting. It’s actually more cool than it is goofy, but I think it’s all in a day’s work and that’s all that really mattered to me.

What really took me away was the fact that Rick Baker‘s art direction was something only he could do. Baker is a dude that’s known for doing all of the make-up and costume features on plenty of films ranging from Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, The Nutty Professor, and the one he just recently won an Oscar for, The Wolfman. If you have watched any of those three, you will notice that this guy isn’t messing around when it comes to making some crazy make-up look real and this is probably one of his best examples. Whether it’s the giant bug Edgar, or the little worm aliens with the Mexican accents, or even Jack Jeebs, Baker’s detail to make-up and costumes look funny, scary, and surprisingly, very believable. This was one of the main selling points of the flick when it first came out and it’s understandable as to why because they still hold up in today’s day and age of constant IMAX 3D flicks filled with CGI out the wahzoo, coming out almost every weekend.

What I was a little bummed out by this film was that a lot of this just feels very generic, which is mainly due to the plot. The plot is so 1-2-3 that you can usually tell everything that’s going to happen within the first 5 minutes and even though it’s not as bad here as it is with plenty of other flicks of this nature, I still couldn’t get past that I wasn’t really going to see any surprises. Still, I think it’s Sonnenfield’s direction that kept my mind off of this problem for a short time anyway. Speaking of short time, the film is only 98 minutes long and it actually went by pretty quick, even though I do think they could have done a little bit more developing when it came to the characters and just what exactly their main objective was. I get that they were going after the one big, bad alien dude but I don’t know how he was going to tear down the galaxy. Hmmm, maybe it’s just a mystery I’ll never know about.

Where I think this film really worked well with was the two performances from Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K and Will Smith as Agent J. This is one of those polar-opposite, buddy-buddy combinations we see all of the time in these types of flicks but it’s so much fun to watch here because of the type of performers Jones and Smith both are. Jones’ sense of comedy (or lack thereof) is very dry and sometimes non-existent, while Smith is constantly up in everybody’s grill, making slang jokes at everybody he meets and is constantly just shoving his attitude in other peoples’ faces. They both make a good team together because they work well and you can tell that they both do have chemistry, even though the film doesn’t really focus on it all that much. But hey, at least they’re having fun.

Vincent D’Onofrio‘s performance as Edgar was pretty impressive when it came to his physical stature, like how he moved his body and neck in some crazy places, but he really just left me feeling uncomfortable every time he was on-screen. I don’t really think that was any problem with D’Onofrio at all, as it was more of the writing that made him look and feel like an uncomfortable, dirty slob that looks like he hasn’t bathed in years. It was also pretty bad to see Linda Fiorentino absolutely do nothing with the character she was given as Dr. Laurel Weaver. Yeah, I know that the female character in any action movie isn’t really supposed to be a big role by any means, but you could at least try and make it the least memorable instead of just making it seem like you obviously don’t want to be there with you dry deliver and “phoning it in” looks from start to finish. Never really been impressed by this chick and it’s really no surprise that she hasn’t done much in the past decade.

Consensus: Men in Black is what you would expect: funny, light, filled with cool-looking special effects and monsters from Rick Baker, and entertaining but is also very light on plot, which doesn’t really bring up many surprises as it goes along. However, it’s a flick that will always be in my childhood.

8/10=Matinee!!

The Rainmaker (1997)

This is what Coppola has done ever since his days of The Godfather. But that’s not so bad.

When Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon), a young attorney with no clients, goes to work for a seedy ambulance chaser, he wants to help the parents of a terminally ill boy in their suit against an insurance company (represented by Jon Voight). But to take on corporate America, Rudy and a scrappy paralegal (Danny DeVito) must open their own law firm.

Director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, etc.) is a guy known for making classics, but has recently fallen off the map. However, even an OK effort by him isn’t so bad.

Coppola does a very good job with this script because he just directs this the way it should be directed. He isn’t really trying to go for any big emotional punches with this story, he just shows what this court case is all about and how to win it basically. I actually found this more entertaining than anything else because I just want to watch a courtroom drama, and I don’t really need some big life-lesson out of it.

The screenplay is also very well done here and not only has a lot of good moments where their all in the courtroom “duking it out”, but there are also a lot of moments of actual comedy that had me laughing a lot much to my surprise.

However, there are still problems that lie here. The problems that Damon’s character has to go through to win this case, aren’t so deadly as the film makes it seem to be. His character is made to be looking like he’s struggling against all odds, when really he’s just a rookie lawyer going up a lawyer who’s been in the game for about 30 years. I mean yeah, that is pretty nerve-raking but the film made it seem like he would never be able to pull it off, when in reality, it was pretty obvious he could.

Another problem with the movie is the sometimes ridiculous names these characters were given. A major insurance company named “Great Benefit” seems just a little corny to me, as does a sneaky lawyer named “Deck Shifflet,” and a woman who is looked on by her insurance company as a piece of trassh, named “Dot Black.” I mean, come on, you actually expect me to believe these almost comic-book-like names.

The real benefit of this whole film is the cast that really brought these characters to life. Matt Damon is charming here as our hero, Rudy Baylor; Danny DeVito is perfect as this sneaky and shady para-lawyer named Deck Shifflet; Mary Kay Place is good and emotionally there as a mother; and Claire Danes is sort of chilling in her performance as Kelly Riker, who has to constantly put up with the assault from her hubby. There are also some nice little spots in here from the likes of Virginia Madsen, Mickey Rourke, Roy Scheider, and a randomly uncredited, Danny Glover as our judge. He was probably getting too old for that shit too! OK that was lame I know.

The best out of the whole cast though is Jon Voight as this smarmy and ruthless lawyer named Leo F. Drummond, who on paper seems like a totally cliche and predictable character, but the way Voight plays him makes this character a great guy you just love to hate because you can always see that he’s one step ahead of everyone else. The film brings no actual surprises but at the end of the film, there’s this little touch that the film provides and basically tells us that even when you win, sometimes you lose, and this is what Voight shows perfectly.

Consensus: The Rainmaker may not offer any real surprises, but the strong direction from Coppola and the good performances from this ensemble cast, keeps this film watchable and interesting as it goes along.

7/10=Rental!!

The Game (1997)

Who cares what Michael Douglas does on a regular basis anyway?

In honor of his birthday, San Francisco banker Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas), a financial genius and a coldhearted loner, receives an unusual present from his younger brother, Conrad (Sean Penn) — a gift certificate to play a unique kind of game. In nary a nanosecond, Nicholas finds himself consumed by a dangerous set of ever-changing rules, unable to distinguish where the charade ends and reality begins.

One night I was just hanging around when I found an old VHS of this and I have to say, I’m going to have to start watching my VHS’s from now on.

Director David Fincher is a great director as much of us know. He takes a lot of material and can make it incredibly more chilling, tense, and stylized like no other. He does not disappoint one bit here and just proves why he is one of the best mystery directors of all-time.

Fincher kept me guessing at every single scene just what was going to happen next, and what is real and what isn’t? I knew it was a game, because the title tells us that right from the get-go it was just so great to feel the claustrophobia from this film and being shocked at every single turn this film took. There’s a lot of twists and turns here that may confuse you, but Fincher makes it all seem pretty easy to follow. Also, Fincher uses this very bleak look to portray a lot of the emotions an ideas that are going through Nicholas’s head at certain points, and none of it ever feels too artsy-fartsy for my taking. Basically, Fincher is great, the story is where the problem lies.

I liked this plot and how it all came out on film, mainly because of Fincher but the problem with this story is that although it’s placed in the real world, it almost could never happen. Reason being that is because there are almost way too many co-incidences in this story to actually ring true. How do you know that somebody will get into this certain taxi cab? How do you know they will get into a room with a camera, where you will be seeing them all the time? How do you know that someone will be coming to the office at that exact moment? Also, how exactly do you know that someone will fall exactly off a roof, on the right side of the building, and not be killed? All of these questions and probably more will be raised when you’re watching the film and although I was along for the whole ride, I almost never thought that any of this could actually ever happen.

The ending also was pretty lame probably because I was expecting a big twist at the end, and I never got it. But saying that, I was disappointed that at the end of the film, we don’t learn anything or nothing really has changed about the character’s involved. I don’t want to give too much about this film away but I really did feel that we deserved a way better than what we got and some actual lessons learned at the end. Maybe it was just don’t be a little rich dickhead, and you’ll be fine. Well that’s at least what I took from it.

Although I don’t really like much of Michael Douglas in many films, here I actually kind of cared. This guy is such an asshole at times and when all this starts to happen, you start to see him actually lighten up about things because he doesn’t know what to do or who to trust, so I kind of actually stood behind him. He’s good in this role because he looks angry when he’s angry, he looks confused when he’s confused, and he always knows how to solve everything the right away. I think this is one of Douglas’s better performances mainly because Fincher directed him so well. Sean Penn is here as Conrad and is pretty good for what he does. Nothing special really, just sort of there I guess.

Consensus: Sparked by an incredibly dark and tense direction from David Fincher, The Game will have you guessing at every turn but as a whole the film seems too coincidental, and although by the end you feel a bit satisfied you never quite feel like you wanted to end on the note that it did.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Shows that the dudes who clean the toilets in my school, aren’t as dumb as they seem.

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) spends his days as a janitor at MIT, but the aimless young man is also a mathematical genius. So when his talents are discovered, a therapist (Robin Williams) helps Will confront the demons that have been holding him back.

Good Will Hunting is directed by Gus Van Sant and right away you can tell that there’s going to be a little quiet, and subtle indie-feel to this film, but since it’s not written by him, it doesn’t go in that direction it goes plenty of other places you wouldn’t expect.

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon both wrote this screenplay, which actually won an Oscar, and it was their first script ever written! I like the script because there is a lot of great one-liners and quirks here that will have you laugh with this story and enough truth about life here as well that will open your eyes to a lot of what is being said here. My problem with this script and the film as well, is that it does get overly sentimental at times and gets too carried away with it’s dialogue.

It’s hard to describe but there are times here that a lot of the things that are said here, just feel like long speeches that just seem overlong and not needed. This is about over two hours and for that time limit I was entertained but I have to say that there were many times where some of this could have gotten knocked down, because there were just too many speeches that didn’t need to be used, mainly because they didn’t feel like it was actual conversation between these characters, it was more of just verbal diarrhea. But for a rookie job at writing a screenplay, these two kiddies do a great job of creating a story that keeps you glued in.

Many times with plenty of Van Sant’s films, I feel like his direction and style can sort of get in the way of his story, but here it’s different. He just lets the story tell itself off for once and provides beautiful images of Boston during the “falling leaf” season. Let’s not also forget to mention Elliot’s Smith’s amazing score/soundtrack that adds perfectly to the overall feel and nature of this film. If you’ve never heard of him before, watch this film and you’ll see why he’s a great musician.

The characters in this film are fleshed out so well here and the performances add a lot to that reason too. Matt Damon is perfect as Will, the troubled working class man who needs to address his creative genius and with almost every scene shows why he is the real reason why Will is so likable. Damon has that cocky and smart attitude that makes Will seem so witty but he also has that emotional depth within his acting that makes him so damn vulnerable as a character. Robin Williams won an Oscar for his performance as Sean and shows why he should just stick with dramatic roles. The scenes he has with Damon are just about perfect and fully add up to the whole drama effect that this film gives off. Ben Affleck is good as Wil’s best buddy, Chuckie, and Stellan Skarsgard ain’t that bad either as Will’s math professor at MIT, Lambeau. Minnie Driver is good here as Will’s main squeeze, Skylar, and although her accent isn’t that good, she’s still equally as likable as the rest of the dudes here.

Consensus: Some toning down was needed here and there, but Good Will Hunting is still an emotional and at times witty tale of being the best to your ability, anchored by great performances from the cast, as well as a great first-time script job from Damon and Affleck.

8/10=Matinee!!

L.A. Confidential (1997)

Not as amazing as everybody says it is, but still awesome.

In 1950s Los Angeles, three wildly different cops (Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey) form an uneasy alliance to ferret out deep-seated police corruption. But some people will do anything to land their faces in the pages of trashy Hollywood tabloids such as Hush-Hush magazine.

This is one of those films that almost every film geek has as one of their all-time favorites. I wouldn’t really put it in mine but I will say I had a great time.

The best thing about this film is it’s overall feel is just very cool and slick. The story is your typical detective story that you would see in any neo-noir film, but there are little twists and turns that really keep you involved with it. But this is also a great “whodunit” as well because you have to pay attention real well to the story as it moves along because all the little clues, double-crosses, and twists come when you least expect it too. The whole time you’re constantly wondering just what’s going to happen next, and the script really adds to that suspense level well.

Curtis Hanson does a great job here as director because he takes this pretty enjoyable script, and makes it even better on-screen. This is a great detective story, but also a very fun one because it just looks beautiful, with the 1950’s look and the action is great too. You have a lot of great shoot-outs here, to add to the mystery appeal of this film, and the pace is very taut and gives enough detail to the story so we’re not totally lost.

However, my only problem with this film is that something just didn’t fully glue me in like I was expecting it too. Something was just not there and I don’t know if it was the script that kind of left me hanging, or the direction that was just a little too taut for me, I don’t know what it was but I just couldn’t get fully involved with this story, even though I liked the angle on police corruption. Not much really has changed in the past 50 years, and that is a real damn shame.

The ensemble cast is what really had me going with this film. The best thing about this cast is that they do so well with characters that are so fully fleshed out, that they could have had about dozens of spin-offs of each and every one of these cool characters. Kevin Spacey is great as Jack Vincennes and plays that cool, but slick cop so well. Guy Pearce is very good as Ed Exley because he starts out as this smiley-faced, bright-eyed rookie who just wants to do the right thing and make sure justice is served. However, he starts to get a little more vicious as he soon starts to realize all the corruption within the force, and he does a believable transition too. This was probably the first introduction of Russell Crowe to the world, and with good reason because he’s awesome as brutish, brawling and self-righteous police “Bud” White. Crowe is great at playing those big and bad characters who have a lot more to them then meet’s the eyes. Kim Basinger won an Oscar for her role as Lynn Bracke, which is OK, but she didn’t do an amazing job here, just pretty good. Danny DeVito is perfect as the slimy and snarky gossip magazine writer Sid Hudgeons, James Cromwell is ever so evil and corrupt as Dudley Smith, and David Strathairn is only in a couple scenes as Pierce Patchett but does a good job as well.

Consensus: Though there was something that just didn’t compel me as much, L.A. Confidential is still a well-directed, perfectly scripted, and fun detective story, that keeps you guessing with it’s smart story and will just entertain any popcorn-friendly watcher.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

Blame Canada! And the bus driver!

Director Atom Egoyan’s adaptation of Russell Banks’s novel follows a grieving mountain community in the wake of a tragic school bus accident that takes the lives of numerous local children. A lawyer (Ian Holm) arrives in town to persuade the survivors to initiate a class-action lawsuit, driving apart the once tight-knit hamlet. Meanwhile, a teen crippled in the crash (Sarah Polley) must choose between mourning and moving on.

I have to say that I was really looking forward to seeing this film, knowing that almost everyone who has seen it, loves it. But for me, I didn’t love it as much as everyone else did.

Atom Egoyan does a great job here with telling this story in such a meaningful and powerful way. He plays up the subtlety of this story very well and doesn’t try to smash what he’s trying to say over our heads. Instead, his brisk pace creates a sense of anger and underlining tension between all of the townspeople and let all their decisions be their own, rather than have us drop-down into crappy soap operaish material. Egoyan also did a masterful job of filming this in Canada, because I have to say that some of the visuals here are absolutely beautiful I don’t know if this is the real way Canada actually looks, but this place is empty, sad, and overall just a depressing place to be around, which totally worked for this film when it came right down to it’s overall mood.

Egoyan also examines tragedy in such a great way because he shows plenty of insight and shows us some real dark places that are inside the human soul. People change as grief hits us, and it’s hard to cope with the loss of loved ones especially after an accident as tragic and shocking as this. I also have to say that this film does justice to the novel that this is based off of because when you have simple story like this, it’s hard to make it as effective as it would like to be. But somehow it just seems to work very very well.

My main problem with this film is that I didn’t feel any connection to these characters that I really wanted to. I think the fact that these people were so messed up after the tragedy, but before it, they all seemed like not-so likable people and I have to say that I didn’t enjoy watching these characters. Something here just didn’t grip me like I was expecting it too, and I don’t know what it was but just took away from my whole experience of watching this film. Also, the medieval score music really bugged me and made me feel like I was watching something like The Shining or a really old horror film.

The cast is filled with a bunch of total unknowns that I have probably never seen before, but a couple of them are worth mentioning. Ian Holm plays the lawyer and made me realize how much of a great actor he is. There are a lot of scenes that rely on him to bring out these heart-wrenching moments and I have to say Holm does a great job. Bruce Greenwood plays one of the townspeople who has the worst problem of coping with this accident and does a good job being one of the most interesting townspeople to watch. Sarah Polley is good in this very early role as a young girl who was crippled in the crash and makes use of her great screen presence.

Consensus: Though it may be too dark for some viewers, and may or may not grip you, The Sweet Hereafter still has some effective material about coping, or not coping with grief and the loss of loved ones.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Liar Liar (1997)

I never ever tell a lie, so if this happened to me, it wouldn’t much matter…

Lawyer Fletcher Reede’s (Jim Carrey) mendacious ways destroyed his marriage and alienated his son, Max (Justin Cooper). But when Max makes a birthday wish that magically comes true, Fletcher finds himself incapable of telling a lie for 24 hours. That’s great news for Max and his mom (Maura Tierney), but terrible timing for Fletcher, who’s due in court to try a major divorce case.

I don’t know how many times I have actually seen this film, but it’s been many, many times. Somehow, it still never gets old.

The premise here is actually very good and scores plenty of laughs to go along with it. There are many moments in this film where it almost seems like the plot will actually run dry, however, the comedy keeps on going. Kind of like lying itself, sometimes it’s nice and sometimes it’s mean, the comedy from the plot keeps you laughing.

There’s a whole heap of froth and bubble which is unfortunately spoiled by traditional American family values as interpreted by Hollywood demographic doctors. The whole film just gets very sentimental and cheesy at many points and especially towards the end, to give off a great message about being a father and staying true to your family. This was all done on purpose to stay with it’s family audience, and kind of bothered me because the comedy here is sometimes so mean that it seems strange that they would actually have these little sweet moments about family.

The premise is good, but the only real reason this is funny, because of that man at the top right there. Jim Carrey is a guy that a lot hate, but others love. I’am one of those others. Fletcher Reede is one of his best comedic performances because everything he does here from the goofy faces, the weird exclamations, and non-stop craziness work so well. Carrey is one of those guys that will do anything for a laugh and here he is no different, bringing out some well-deserved laughs with everything in his might.

Consensus: The sentimental value may be a little bit annoying, but Jim Carrey brings Liar Liar’s good plot, to becoming a hilarious time.

7.5/10=Rental!!