Poolhall Junkies

Year: 2002
Directed By: Mars Callahan
Written By: Mars Callahan and Chris Corso

RYAN’S REVIEW

Movies about hustlers are always fun. It’s interesting to see what new and interesting ways that they will con people out of their money. The catalyst for the con in this movie just happens to be pool, a game that is always fun. Pool is awesome because it is played in bars, a game you play while you are drinking. For me I always hit that magical stride between 3 and 5 drinks. Catch me early or late you might kill me but if you hit me during that stride I’m going to beat you. Now I’m no hustler, never been good enough at anything to put my money on the line, but I enjoy the game because it’s fun. It’s all about angles and if you understand geometry you can make anything happen.

I came across this movie back in 2003 in the most unlikely of ways. I was on a cruise ship and it was one of the movies they played on the ship repeatedly. Had I not been on that ship I never would have seen this movie but I did, and I liked it enough to track it down years later. It’s a movie that went low on the radar for several reasons but there is still plenty to like about it.

Reason this movie flew under the radar number one: the Ben Affleck wanna be that stars in it. Yeah maybe the guy was never going to win an Academy Award but the movie made up for it with Christopher Walken in the cast. I’m a huge fan of Walken and think he fully compensates for the poser that stars in this movie. The Ben Affleck poser in this movie even has a brother that reminds me of Affleck’s real brother Casey. They don’t look anything alike, but this movie makes me think of Good Will Hunting because of the way these two guys look acting along side each other. Check that, just realized that the Affleck wanna be is actually Mars Callahan, director of the film, who simply put himself into his own movie as the star, never a good idea. At least now it makes sense why the performance of the lead actor in the movie is what it is.

Another thing I find interesting about this movie is that it has the distinction of starring Clint Eastwood’s daughter who so badly wanted to be an actress. When it didn’t work out she simply took her clothes off for Playboy and I remember that too. Now having recently come to the realization that Clint Eastwood was always as awesome as everyone said he was I don’t feel right about having looked at his daughter naked. Alison Eastwood never got her acting career off the ground and it’s easy to understand when you see this movie. Clint made his career on being a badass, his daughter tried to make hers simply on being a woman, no different than any other. When she couldn’t get traction on screen she simply showed her boobs. That’s so disappointing, but nothing is ever as simple as it looks on the surface.

When Christopher Walken shows up this movie instantly gets better because that’s what happens with Walken. He has that strangely quiet toned voice that he can raise the decimal on at his own discretion. Walken is still out there powering on but he has aged so much now. Back in 2002 when this movie was made he still had all the awesome that was within him. The type of awesome that could take a mediocre movie and make it worth watching. He hasn’t let age slow him down and that only makes him more of an awesome actor. Walken will live on forever and can never be replaced in the future.

Geez, it’s hard to watch this movie without getting hung up on Mars Callahan. What was this guy thinking plugging himself into his own movie? It could have been so much bigger had he just cast an actual actor in lead role. He thinks too much of himself and he was trying too hard. That giant hairdo and his northern accent, it’s all just so annoying. Yet I like this movie despite all that. More than likely I think he told the only story he had to tell with this movie but at least it was a story worth telling.

HOLY SHIT!!! Just realized that the Asian guy in this movie was none other than Keno from The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze. I gotta say, that knocks this movie up a notch, for me at least. Keno was like Ruffio, a childhood hero. F-ing Keno! Is there anything else to say? Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch, Ernie Reyes Jr. doesn’t make this movie any better despite the nostalgic nature it offers anybody that was lucky enough to be 7 in 1991 when then ninja turtles took the screen for a second time.

Chazz Palminiteri leaves a lot to be desired as a main antagonist but he serves well enough in this movie I’ll grant him that. Rod Steiger is a bit of a saving grace but nobody brings it like Christopher Walken. I can’t say enough how Walken makes this movie. He comes in like the hero so our Ben Affleck wanna be can one handedly school the bad guys. What makes it all so foolhardy is that the prize is simply to get bail money so the Casey Affleck wanna be can get out of jail and in reality that is only the beginning of a long journey to freedom. Silver Spoons is playing a game for nothing and our hero is obviously going to win it all.

OK, I’ve finished this movie and I honestly can’t say it was worth my time. Maybe I own this movie for my own nostalgic purposes and it isn’t worth the time of anybody else. Nevertheless I like it just enough to qualify it for our collection.

NEXT MOVIE: The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

Poltergeist

Year: 1982
Directed By: Tobe Hopper
Written By: Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, and Mark Victor

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a movie I would have normally waited until Halloween season to review but I just wanted to watch it too much to let it wait till October. I didn’t see this movie until sometime within the last year and it left quite an impression on me. I never watched it growing up and can’t figure out why. I was much too young for it throughout the 80s and in the later 90s my teenage self probably turned my nose up at a horror film with a PG rating. It was actually ABC’s The Goldbergs that got me interested in it when an episode featured the film. When I watched it for the first time I realized I had missed out on something because I found it interesting for so many reasons.

First of all, this is a movie for adults. That seems like a lost cause in the horror movies of today made for teenagers and young dating couples. This movie catered to those of us in full adulthood with children and responsibilities. I love that about this movie because it makes it honest. These are normal and responsible parents who are drinking, getting high, and just trying to get their kids to go to sleep for crying out loud. Sometimes getting your kids to just finally go to sleep feels like a regular losing battle too and we see that in this movie. Despite great efforts, in the end the kids still sleep in their parent’s bed and it’s something most parents can relate to. For whatever reason I feel like I don’t see this honesty in movies today. Parents are either really good or really bad but never honest. In this movie the parents do so many things considered taboo today. At one point the mother watches her oldest daughter get heckled by construction men before the daughter gives them an obscene gesture in response.  The mother just smiles as she looks on without making a fuss herself and just lets her daughter deal with it and go about her day. Such a thing would never be seen on screen today, that mother is supposed to be angry, she is supposed to run out there and tell those dirty men to go straight to hell. Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200, just go straight into the fires of hell and burn. The PC world we live in today drives me crazy and it is all encouraged over time by the media. This movie shows us an example of how things were different before the media got into our heads with what we were supposed to think about things.

Another thing that gets me about this movie is simply that it doesn’t really try. So many horror movies that have come out since are trying to convince us that they’re scary. They are trying too hard and it’s obvious. This movie is scary enough without trying. It didn’t have to try, it didn’t need buckets of blood or even nudity to get our attention. It just told an interesting story that was scary and brought us along for the ride. This movie also didn’t need supermodels to fill in the cast. Aside from the stars we see in this movie we don’t see freakishly good looking children but simply children that you might see in any ordinary family. It all makes this movie strike home harder as it is just simply honest in a way that so many movies aren’t.

This movie is scary by being subtle. For me it’s all in that look on the face of Craig T. Nelson after everything gets started. As he sits behind the table smoking deeply on his cigarette and looking at these college people through very hollowed eyes you can see plainly they don’t believe him. They think he’s crazy but he doesn’t care, it continues as he leads them to his home. Beer in hand, he just has this look of exhaustion on his face that can’t go unnoticed, and he has tells them everything in this tired and nonchalant tone that conveys he doesn’t care if they are skeptical or not. I’m a big fan of Coach, and in this movie he is just the real deal. Not a fake dad like you might see in any typical film but the real life dad that you might see when you travel home. Mr. Incredible is as good as it gets for playing dads. I’ve never watched Parenthood but Amber has and I hear great things about it. I am actually excited at the news that Coach is coming back to TV and can’t wait to see it. The big time TV networks might be getting desperate these days in their efforts to combat Netflix and other channels that used to not matter but there has been a hit here and there. I think too much is being brought back but some of it has worked and if it is bringing Craig T. Nelson back to his keynote character I can’t complain.

This movie has been remade and the remake will be coming out soon. That makes me angry, as so many remakes do. There is no way this new movie will be able to scare or intrigue us like this one did. You can’t recreate Spielberg and it is foolish to try. This man was on a role in the early 80s, a mind exploding with all the creativity possible in his field. In this era he brought us Indiana freaking Jones, E.T. phone home, and in his spare time he wrote this, and The Goonies. Steven Spielberg was/is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. One of the men who shaped the industry into what it is today. A man who opened our minds to the possibilities of cinema and even until today continues to blow us away with what he is able to make.

Another thing I find interesting about this movie, fresh off the heels of the Reese’s Pieces success of E.T., there is product placement everywhere in this movie. Budweiser, Cheetos, Holiday Inn, and it goes on and on. I find it interesting to look back on a time when this was all a fresh new thing. Today product placement in films is just part of the process and a key element in advertising. Something done in everything, and excessively in something expected to be really big. It was different back in the early 80s but big waves had happened when E.T.:The Extra Terrestrial set records in the box office and was hugely popular. M&M’s had famously turned down a chance to be E.T.’s candy of choice and Reese’s Pieces was happy to reap all the benefits of that bad decision. Obviously, with so much product placement here, you can see how companies were flocking to Steven Spielberg with his next en devour.

This is a really cool movie and if you haven’t seen it don’t waste your time by seeing the crap coming out later this year. It’s a travesty to remake classic films. There is nothing to be improved upon in this story and it’s just a lazy effort to make a few bucks. I have made this argument plenty of times and won’t dig any deeper here. The remake disappoints me, as they all do, because all they do is make their source material forgettable. Movies like this shouldn’t be forgotten because there is too much to appreciate about them. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and it is worth your time to see it.

NEXT MOVIE: Poolhall Junkies (2002)

Point Break

Year: 1991
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow
Written By: Rick King and W. Peter Iliff (story) Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

When it comes to adrenaline fueled action films there are few that are as fun as this one. As I have always said, the cool factor is important in any film, especially in a mindless exaggerated action flick. Being cool in an action movie is as important as being scary in a horror film. This movie not only has the cool factor but all along the way there is shooting, surfing, and skydiving. What more could you want? With a cast that screams the early 1990s and a great filmmaking duo this film never fails to entertain. Despite being a household favorite while I was growing up this was never a movie I intended to own because I always considered it a bit silly. Yet it found its way into the collection anyway when I bought it as a gift for my brother a year or so ago for Christmas and just decided to assimilate into the collective instead. I specifically remember wrapping the gift for him and reflecting on the film as I did so. I thought to myself “this is a cool movie, why do I have a stick up my ass about it?” and before I knew it I was fitting it onto the shelf in the “P” section.

It’s true that I do have a certain mentality about this type of movie today. I don’t even watch the mindless action flicks that are coming out anymore but I appreciate the ones that I grew up with. When our collection was smaller I had a smug attitude about the films that would be part of it and I felt it was too good to be sullied by silly action films like this. As the collection grew it absorbed plenty of movies that made that line of thinking moot and there was no reason to deny this movie. This movie is cool and it is fun. As entertaining as any cops and robbers film and plenty of films have since ripped off exactly what this movie did. As I started to wrap this movie up for my brother years ago I thought about all of this and decided there was no need to waste it on him. I had already bought the DVD, might as well just keep it for myself because I had a place for it. I had suddenly realized it belonged and I couldn’t send it away to collect dust on some other shelf as part of an insignificant collection of films that had no purpose. I am such an compulsive person when it comes to collecting things and would it not be for my wife I would most likely be the worst kind of packrat. I channel all that type of insanity into this movie collection and for me it embodies something that has taken on a life of it’s own.

This movie always reminds me of my stepdad. While we differ in this way, my stepdad and stepbrother have always been thrill seekers. I, as a naturally clumsy and accident prone person, steer clear of activities involving such obvious opportunity for risk and embarrassment. They on the other hand have always been fearless in the face of danger and when I was about 15 or 16 my stepdad went skydiving for the first time. This involved many nights both before and after where as a family we all sat down to films like Drop Zone, a few of the Roger Moore James Bond pics, and of course Point Break. It was much more fun before the actual skydiving because seeing these movies afterwards in round two consisted of nonstop talk about how unrealistic it was. First time around I had no idea that you didn’t have time for all kinds of acrobatics as you fell through the sky. I was completely innocent of how ridiculous the notion of jumping out of a plane without a parachute was. I knew deep down such a thing was ridiculous but it was still cool to see Johnny Utah jump out of the plane without a chute to chase down Bodhi through the air. After all, I had seen Roger Moore as James Bond do it several times when I was growing up. It was kind of a buzzkill to watch it in round two and hear all about how this wasn’t right and that wasn’t possible. Who cares what is and isn’t possible when watching a movie like this anyway? The skydiving scenes in this movie are about as cool as they get, and as a person who intends to always stay grounded I at least like to imagine such things could really be so cool.

The cast of this movie is like a snapshot of 1991. Looking at it today the young movie watcher might scratch his head and wonder but back in 1991 it all made so much sense. In 1991 Patrick Swayze still had his youthful good looks, Gary Busey wasn’t insane, and Lori Petty as a leading lady was something that happened. I have never been a fan of Patrick Swayze but I’ll give him credit where it is due. This was easily one of his best roles and he fit the part of Bodhi perfectly. I read somewhere that he was an actual accomplished skydiver prior to the making of this movie. If that’s true it’s not only pretty cool but made him an even better fit for the role. I wonder what young people today, who watch this movie for the first time, think about seeing Gary Busey play this part. The Gary Busey they know today is not the guy we had 24 years ago. I am told he didn’t become this crazy Gary Busey until some accident he had some time back when he sustained a head injury. I don’t know about that one way or another but I’d find it hard to believe Busey’s current persona isn’t just the result of having done copious amounts of drugs. I admire how well the man markets himself these days but I just don’t care for it. It seems fake and intentional to me. I much more preferred the Gary Busey of old like the one we see in this film. As for Lori Petty, well I have just never understood. She had a few significant roles in the early 90s but I have never really liked her. She has a really whiny tone to her voice and her persona always gets under my skin, especially in this movie.

Keanu Reeves is still finding success as an actor today but I can’t imagine how he got the role in this movie back in 1991. It seems like an awfully progressive idea to take Ted and turn him into an action star but it worked. I wonder if his obvious practice at using surfer type lingo played into the decision at all. Had he not done so well in this role so many things might have been different in the future with movies like Speed and The Matrix. One of my favorite actors from the time was in this movie as the over the top asshole boss. John C. McGinley is one of those actors who can do just about anything and I have always liked him in these types of supporting roles. If I remember correctly he went on to play nearly the exact same role from this film in one of the many films that followed in the footsteps of Point BreakSet It Off. After Point Break nearly all heist movies looked for new cooler ways to mask their bank robbers, and Set It Off was no different. Correct me if I’m wrong about Set It Off, it’s been almost 20 years since I saw it in the theater and I’m surprised I remember it as much as I do.

James Cameron served as Executive Producer for this film and his wife at the time, eventual Academy Award winning Kathryn Bigelow, directed the film. I read somewhere that they also wrote the final version of the screenplay together although weren’t listed because of a dispute over the credit. I have grown up as a huge fan of anything James Cameron was involved with and still marvel at his film making abilities today. We will all have nearly forgotten about how awesome Avatar was by the time the next one comes out and that will be perfect timing for Cameron to remind us who he is. I think the whole point of Avatar is lost if you try to watch it at home but that’s only part of what makes it so incredible. In an era when movie theaters are suffering, James Cameron made something that was necessary to see in the movie theater to get the whole effect of it. I don’t get out to the theater anymore like I did when I was younger and the same was true in 2009. Yet I made it out to see Avatar  times because it was something to make exception for. I will certainly do the same when the sequels eventually come out too because I have faith that Cameron will blow our minds ago. This movie doesn’t involve the same type of special effects he is known for using but Cameron has a great mind for action sequences. His influence undoubtedly played a role in this movie as it offers several action packed scenes that are exceptional. Incidentally, James Cameron is a filmmaker who appreciates the value of the “cool factor.” Of course this movie is cool, James Cameron had a hand in it. Whether the guy is dressing Arnold Schwarzenegger in all black leather or putting Sigourney Weaver in a giant robot suit he knows how to make something better by making it look cool.

This movie has been remade and that is a travesty. I don’t think the movie has come out as of this post but I remember a few years ago when the idea was announced I was incredibly disappointed. I don’t know which asshole in the movie industry is pitching these awful ideas but I wish he/she would get fired. I specifically remember that this movie was referred to as a “timeless classic” in the announcement that it would be remade. Who thinks it is a good idea to remake a “timeless classic”? It’s timeless because it will always be entertaining. Why sully its name with some kind of knock off version that will never live up to what people have already enjoyed for over 20 years? It’s ridiculous and lazy. These executives are reaching when they can’t do anything better than remaking or rebooting something just to capitalize on the name recognition. They think we, as the audience, are stupid and they treat us as such. They are ruining movies in vain by making foolish efforts to sell more tickets. They want to sell tickets to kids so they pussify something to get the PG-13 rating. They’ll abandon new ideas because we are too stupid to be interested in something new and instead they simply remake something with a name we might recognize and turn out for. On one end I get it, home entertainment is killing the industry and these guys got to do what they can to make a buck. I think it is the wrong way to do it. Don’t ruin classics by remaking them but find new and inventive ways to get people in the theaters, like James Cameron did when he made Avatar. That kind of thing costs a lot more money though, so the studios cheap out and do what is easy. Ruin something to make more money or make a weak effort to format it into 3D so the ticket prices are higher. What a waste. Bottom line: don’t waste time watching the remake of this movie people, just watch the original because it’s a good movie and there’s nothing wrong with it.

I have seen this movie more times than I can count. Yet when I sat down to watch it for this review I found myself just as sucked in as I was the first time. That says everything about how good this movie is. It’s a fun movie that doesn’t get old, it’s a “timeclass classic.” After everything else that I have said it goes without saying that I think this movie is worth your time. I am even happier now than I was before that I decided to keep this movie for the collection. There is no reason to turn your nose up to something when it’s something you will enjoy. Some movies are made to make statements and teach lessons but others do only what movies were originally intended for, they just entertain and there is nothing wrong with that.

NEXT MOVIE: Poltergeist (1982)

 

A Fistful of Dollars

Year: 1964
Directed By: Sergio Leone
Written By: Several people are credited with both story and screenplay

RYAN’S REVIEW

Having just seen this movie for the first time in my life I’m ashamed to have had such a high opinion of myself as a movie fan. How is it that I see nearly everything for my entire life and make it 30 years without seeing this? I have always been aware of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western trilogy but never took the time to sit down with it. I have never been a big fan of westerns and I never really took to Clint Eastwood when I was younger. What a fool I was. Having seen this movie for the first time I now have a whole new perspective on all the movies that followed. This is an incredible movie, Clint Eastwood was a certifiable badass, and it set the bar high for the movies that would follow suit.

I have mentioned before that I was a late comer to appreciating Clint Eastwood. I grew up watching men like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone play the part of the hero and I never understood what people was in Eastwood. It was lost on me in my youth how this skinny man, who old even when I was young, was perceived as a badass. When I got older I remember watching Dirty Harry with inexplicable preconceived notions about Eastwood and not being impressed. It wasn’t until 2008 when I saw Gran Torino that I understood what everyone else already knew about. Older old man Eastwood was intimidating as hell in that movie and I grew a new appreciation for him. It lead me to decide that I would eventually watch his “Man with No Name” trilogy and I have finally gotten around to starting it. One thing I want to make clear, now I understand.

I understand now why everyone saw something in Eastwood that I did not. It all started here, 20 years before I was even born, back in 1964 when he and Sergio Leone started a three year journey together. This movie not only opens my eyes to what I was missing in Eastwood but it gives a whole new perspective for me to all the action movies that followed. How Eastwood’s drifter strolls into town and starts playing two sides against one another was awesome. It’s the type of idea and the kind of film that influenced everything that followed.

I have never been much of a western fan and probably never will be, but I admire what is awesome. This movie is really awesome and I hope I can encourage others to check out what I somehow missed for 30 years. I look forward to watching the next two installments of this trilogy. Thoughts will follow with each film.

Pleasantville

Year: 1998
Directed By: Gary Ross
Written By: Gary Ross

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was a recent addition to the collection and didn’t happen until after we had started this blog. I always liked and appreciated this movie but never liked it enough to add it into the collection. Though, given an opportunity to write my thoughts about it, Pleasantville suddenly had a significant reason to be part of our collection. I think the problem with this movie is that it is incomplete. It’s a movie that I think could have been so much better. I think it’s a great idea and great concept trapped between the bookends of a bad story. I think the beginning and end is where this movie fails. Had it been written differently it may have been great as opposed to being somewhere between good and just alright.

This is such an interesting movie. I like to think of it as a representation of the simplicity of innocence. In this society where everyone is completely innocent of the world we see that ignorance really is bliss. In Pleasantville everything is pleasant because the citizens are completely and hopelessly unaware of anything beyond their normal routine. They go about their days as complacent as cattle chewing grass in the pasture unknowingly waiting for their inevitable slaughter. Not that these people are heading to the slaughter, this isn’t a horror movie. However, the people in this movie are just as empty headed as those cows. Completely innocent of knowledge, curiosity, sexuality, and even the basic elements in some cases. It’s so perfect in Pleasantville they’ve never even had a fire, or rain for that matter. Everything in Pleasantville is pleasant until real life people come into the little town and put ideas in the heads of those complacent cows. It starts with something as simple as sex and moves on to the much more dangerous threats to pleasantness, knowledge and awareness.

I love the scene when the dashing young Paul Walker drops off Reese Witherspoon after she just blew his mind on their first trip to Lover’s Lane. The chain reaction that is started can be seen coming by that dopey look on his face as he drives away. Lost in the magic of first time experience he comes to a stop sign and notices a rose that is no longer black and white but suddenly brightly colored. Something new has been introduced into the world of Pleasantville and change has already started on some levels. When Tobey Maguire’s character shows up to basketball practice the next day the whole team is getting the scoop from Walker and there is a terrific scene where suddenly they can’t play basketball very well anymore. Before learning about sex the boys on the Pleasantville basketball team had not only never lost a game but they had never even missed a shot. The natural order of things in the town was immediately disrupted by carnal knowledge. In fact when the mother, played by Joan Allen, touches herself for the first time she not only turns from black and white to color but when she has an orgasm the tree outside her home bursts into flames. For the first time in the history of the town there was a fire. The firemen literally have to be called to action by “cat!” and then have to be shown how to operate the firehose to put out the blaze.

It’s not long after the people of Pleasantville become aware of themselves that they begin to ask questions about everything else. They start to wonder about the world beyond Pleasantville which until this point had never even existed (geography classes consisted of lessons on Main street). They open their minds with books and begin broadening their horizons on many different levels. As the characters change emotionally so do they physically because when they awaken new things within themselves they turn from black and white into color. As the people begin to change so does the world around them. Now, there is nothing pleasant about this change to the black and white folks of Pleasantville. The men that hold dear the never changing status of the town as a representation of innocence and values do not take kindly to seeing their young people walking around in live action colors and filling their heads with new ideas. It was bad enough when these kids were screwing around with one another on Lover’s Lane but when they start going there just to read to one another things progress to a new level. There is a scene where Tobey Maguire takes his girlfriend to Lover’s Lane and the kids there aren’t screwing around anymore but simply reading from the newly available books in the library. As they further broaden their minds the innocence they had in them dwindle more. There is an obvious allusion in this scene to Eve and the Serpeant when Maguire’s girlfriend offers him a red apple as they read together. It represents the loss of innocence and the end of paradise.

When the characters change from black and white into color they have become enlightened to something. Something inside of them has awaken for the first time and it manifests in their change to color. It can be different for all of them. For some of them it’s as simple as becoming sexually aware but that’s not the case for everyone. Reese Witherspoon’s character doesn’t change into color until she begins to learn and experience new things through reading. Tobey Maguire changes when his character finds his courage and stands up to some black and white boys harassing his “colored” mother. The Mayor of Pleasantville, played well by J.T. Walsh, is forced into change when he breaks his pleasant demeanor and exhibits actual anger in front of everyone.

I feel like it’s in the climax, after the Mayor turns to color, when everything in this movie had built up to something but it just didn’t deliver, or simply missed its mark. This is a fascinating movie with awesome ideas but they don’t deliver when they need to. I like how the change resonates with society as a whole in this movie and what that says about society in general. For example, as more people become “colored” the town finds itself divided almost as if in a race war. I like watching the effects of sexuality being introduced into an innocent society and the change that awareness creates. The problem is it all goes nowhere. After the entire town fulfills the change from black and white to color the story stumbles to an ending. It’s vaguely suggested that Pleasantville is no longer an isolated town but now part of the world as a whole, which makes no sense at all. Tobey Maguire goes back to reality, without his sister, and then understands how to help his mother deal with the disappointments of life. It concludes a separate story from the beginning of the film and has no real barring on what went on through the majority of the film, which hadn’t properly been concluded already. The conclusion doesn’t make sense in so many ways, it isn’t even mentioned in reality that Reese Witherspoon’s character is practically gone forever. Not only that but what difference does it make how the story concludes in the real world? The story is about Pleasantville, it’s a waste to end a movie like this with son and irrelevant mother bonding in reality. What happens in reality seems insignificant to all of the themes presented while the movie is taking place in Pleasantville. That’s why we never owned this movie before and what makes this movie a miss when it could have been a hit.

Despite the problems I see in the beginning and end of the movie I still like the film. I grew up watching shows just like Pleasantville because that was what my dad was into. Before the days of TVLand and the streaming opportunities of the internet I remember when shows like Pleasantville were seen regularly because they were the shows played in syndication much like more current shows are now. The Andy Griffith Show, Leave it to Beaver, Happy Daysand the list goes on and on. These shows were the background noise of my life as I grew from a child into a small person. Some of them I couldn’t stand but there are a few classic shows I really do hold dear. The Andy Griffith Show and The Honeymooners are two that I specifically love. So the fact the Don Knotts has a part in this movie makes it especially endearing to me. Knotts was an incredibly funny man and I grew up laughing at his antics. He continued to act in some capacity for the entirety of his life working both in voice and stand in acting up till 2005, only a year before his death in 2006 at the age of 81.

This movie has a terrific cast. The leading duo of Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon are good enough and supported by a great group of actors. The Pleasantville parents are played by Joan Allen and William H. Macy. The late Paul Walker played the popular jock in the Pleasantville high school. Jeff Daniels gives a great performance as the soda shop owner who finds new meaning to life in making art. I have always specifically liked J.T. Walsh as the town mayor and antagonist in the film. Walsh was any many movies I grew up watching throughout the 90s and this was one of his larger roles. Unfortunately Walsh died nearly right after making this movie in 1998 of a sudden heart attack. It’s a shame because he may have just been hitting his stride as an actor but we will never know now.

There is plenty more to say about this movie but I have said enough already. I like Pleasantville despite how I feel about the beginning and end. If I were to consider this movie by listing pros and cons it would be an easy decision because no matter how it tallied up the side that counts Don Knotts is gonna win. I’m glad we own this movie if for no other reason than he makes his last appearance on screen in it. When it comes to whether or not this movie is worth your time I’m iffy. I like it but I’m excusing plenty of problems for various reasons. Despite that I think there is enough in this movie to more than make it worth your time. It’s interesting and offers plenty to think about with a few laughs thrown in the mix.

NEXT MOVIE: Poltergeist (1982)

Platoon

Year: 1986
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: Oliver Stone

RYAN’S REVIEW

Back in 2003 I was 19 years old, in college, and aggressively involved in the world on a larger scale for the first time. At that young adolescent age my mind was exploding and I was hungry for all the knowledge in the world. For the first time I had stepped out of the world of Ryan (high school years) and started paying attention to the world around me. I was heavily invested in the Iraq War, both politically and emotionally. I was inspired and full of ideas in a way that only the young can be. I’ll never forget the feeling of despair I had when I sat in front of the TV and watched as the Iraq War officially began. I remember that once it had ultimately started I went to my tiny movie collection and put in this movie. I no longer wanted to see the reality of what must be taking place on the other side of the world. Instead I chose to watch the only thing I had that remotely related to the conflict, which was this movie.

Now there are several similarities between the Vietnam and Iraq wars but that had nothing to do with why I watched this film that night. I not only watched this film that night but I watched it every night after for probably as long as two months. This movie drew me in, it taught me something. It was real and a representation of the consequence of such actions. I watched it so much I knew every character in the film and when their character perished. This movie was made by a man who knew, a man who gave up his cushy life to fight alongside the common man who had no choice. This movie was based on the real life experiences of the man who made it, a man who lived through war. That meant something to me as my country entered another war that would undoubtedly lead to dire consequences for so many.

This is the movie that helped me understand war. The movie that taught me that war is more than action and wrong on several levels. There is “the way of war” and it’s an awful thing. No matter the circumstances that bring it about, when war becomes an option it is the innocent that suffer. In the way of war people are fighting for their lives. You have two sides pushed to the extreme and you have people caught in the middle. Who is to blame when horrible and awful things happen? The circumstances are a recipe for mayhem. When war is established life becomes dog eat dog for the people involved. It sucks but that is “the way of war.” Once the point of no return has been crossed the consequences that follow are inevitable.  Wars are fought by the young, especially this war because most of the men serving were drafted. Teenage boys carrying guns through the jungle can’t be held accountable for when they snap under the pressure. The people caught in the middle can’t be to blame because they are just trying to stay alive. There are so many unfortunate circumstances created by war. These things can never be lost on the men making the decision to go to war. People are going to suffer when war becomes necessary, it has to be for good reason or else it is just wrong and there is no justice to it at all.

When I was 19 years old I thought Oliver Stone was a God. Not literally of course but I thought he was head and shoulders above other filmmakers. He was the number one director in my mind and I felt his career was one of the greatest. Those illusions came crashing down a year later when the much anticipated, to me at least, Alexander came out. I had eagerly awaited that movie only for it to claim the highest echelon in the ranking of movies that crushed my soul. That is neither here nor there though as a year prior when I was watching this movie night after night I still had all my hopes and dreams for films invested in this man. Oliver Stone was Private Taylor from this film played by Charlie Sheen. Stone had dropped out of Yale to fight in Vietnam, something admirable that I respected then and still do today. Oliver Stone may be a bit of a conspiracy nut and like all conspiracy nuts he will bend the truth to serve his own purposes but there is still plenty the man deserves our respect for.

I had become infatuated with Stone for the wrong reasons prior to 2003. Like most young adolescent boys I was rebellious and as a movie fan I was drawn to the films that inspired my wild and immature inclinations. I liked to walk the fine line between good and bad and experimented with an aggressiveness that was encouraged by the movies I loved. Stone came into the picture with films like The DoorsAny Given Sundayand of course Natural Born KillersThese movies fueled my endeavors into rebellion, drug use, promiscuity, and profanity. There were several films and filmmakers that had this affect on me but it was Stone I stayed with as I matured from a boy into a young adult. With films like Platoon, Wall Street, Nixonand JFK Oliver Stone inspired me in new ways that molded my personality during the developmental years that continue in college. I have since grown out of the stage I was in when these films inspired me and I no longer see Stone in the same light I did back then. Nevertheless I still hold most of his films in high regard and I will always respect the man. A man that lived the life he does and did the things he has done deserves respect. I know better as an adult than to take everything he made at face value but there are still plenty of things I took away from his films and I appreciate the lessons that they taught me.

I have always found the Vietnam War to be fascinating and prefer the war movies from that era as opposed to the ones from before. There are different themes from those differing generations that I think are important. WWII left Americans with the impression that they were the greatest country in the world and could do no wrong. Many WWII movies I find enhance this theme. As a young man I whole heartedly believed in these all-American ideas as well but when I grew up I felt differently. Vietnam was like a slap in the face to Americans because it reminded them that not only were they not the unbeatable super power who could do anything but they were not even the good guys in some circumstances. Vietnam happened during a time when the children of the Baby Boomers were coming of age and they had different ideas about the state of the union.  The things happening in Southeast Asia were being broadcast on television every evening for the first time and the news was rarely good. It left an impact on the younger generations not only because it was in their face but because many of them were being recruited to fight in the conflict. Vietnam was going on during a cultural change in America. It was not a time where the country united to protect the world for the greater good like in WWII, but a time when the country was bleeding at home and divisions among the public were fueled by the conflict at hand. I feel like WWII films tend to represent the propaganda age of America while Vietnam films represent the realism that the country had to face. Vietnam films usually focus on the reality of war, the consequences that it creates, and the truth that we all need to understand as a people.

This movie taught me many of those truths, and I took them more seriously because the man teaching was one who knew. He was there and had firsthand experience in what he was trying to explain. I still find this film just as inspiring as I did when I was watching it for the first time and I still find lessons in it that we can all learn from. I am no longer the diehard Oliver Stone fan I was in my youth but that is by and large due to growing up. As an adult I am not as infatuated with the stoned and suspicious mind of Oliver Stone. The man’s work is on screen and he made some incredible things, but in the grand scheme of things they spoke to a younger version of myself that went into hibernation years ago before my kids were born. There is often a fine line between brilliance and insanity and Stone danced that line till he fell over into the insane side a long time ago. I am no longer the young and impressionable adolescent who believed in such grand ideas as the JFK conspiracy and believed that with a strong enough voice things in the world would change for the better. The world is what it is; you can only accept it at face value and keep moving forward. Delving into the larger scheme of things is only going to bring you disappointment and amount to wasted time.

There is something from this movie that I always used as an example to suggest Stone’s abilities and it had nothing to do with his take on the war. In this movie Oliver Stone got an impressive performance from Charlie Sheen in the role of Private Taylor, and again a year later in Wall Street. Charlie Sheen is an incredibly interesting person, but that aside, he has never been a particularly good actor. In the years before all his crazy antics in the press I used to wonder how it was that this man was such a celebrity and made such a good living at it. There were so few performances aside from the two already mentioned that I thought were worth anything. Point being, he was not a very good actor. However, I have always believed that a bad actor can be made great in a film by the right director. Hence the impression of Stone I had grew because of the performance he was able to get out of Sheen. In contrast I felt that in 2004 the opposite was true. Despite all the time he had invested in the film Stone made a horrible movie with his Alexander and specifically got an awful performance out of another bad actor, Colin FarrellAlexander, as far as I am concerned, was the end of Oliver Stone’s career for me as a fan because it signified a decline in skill. A couple years prior to Alexander one of the greatest directors ever, Steven Spielberg, had gotten a good performance out of Farrell in Minority Report. If Spielberg could do something that Oliver Stone could not it suggested to me that Stone had lost something, and I still feel like that holds true because in the last 10 years nothing he has done has impressed me as it did prior to Alexander.

Beyond Charlie Sheen this movie offers a very rich cast of actors. Tom Berenger gave one of the best performances on his career playing Sgt. Barnes. The role of Barnes was initially meant for Kevin Costner, who I think could have pulled it off well but Berenger made it his own. Willem Dafoe gave an equally good performance as Sgt. Elias. Dafoe is such an interesting actor and continues even until today to show a range and diversity as an actor that is impressive. Stone intentionally cast Berenger and Dafoe in roles contrasting what the public was used to seeing them play. Berenger, who usually played good guys, was cast as the ruthless and cruel Sgt. Barnes while Dafoe, who usually played villains, was cast as the crusader Elias. An interesting idea that worked well and brought more diversity to the careers of both men.

In the roles of other Sergeants were long time Stone collaborator John C. McGinley and the scariest man ever, Tony Todd. McGinley never reached that upper echelon of stardom but he played so many terrific parts over the years. Tony Todd plays a small part in this movie but his presence in anything should never go unnoticed because when you fail to notice Candyman he comes up behind you with a hook and kills you. Johnny Depp played the translator Lerner in one of his first roles ever. Stone reportedly met with him during casting and immediately predicted his future fame. In fact he considered casting Depp in the lead role of Taylor but didn’t because Depp was so young and unknown at the time. Keith David plays one of the biggest parts of any of the grunts in King. I am a big fan of Keith David and like just about everything he has ever done. Also as another grunt was future Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker whose part was small but shouldn’t go unnoticed.  Kevin Dillon played Bunny, the sadistic grunt who by the end nobody knows what to make of. Dillon probably had high hopes for his career in 1986 but he turned out to be the less famous brother of his not so famous older brother Matt Dillon.

The making of this movie was quite an incredible thing that went a long way with how the final product came out. As a veteran Stone didn’t just cast actors and put them in the jungle. He went farther and put them through an actual boot camp in the Philippines that ended the day before shooting. He didn’t want them to have any down time after the camp because he didn’t want them getting soft again before shooting the movie. It was a rigorous shoot that had some actors feeling like they had actually been in the war by the time they got home. Charlie Sheen reportedly kissed the ground upon his return to the States. These guys went into the jungle and did it the hard way; the way it should have been done to get it right. Even the fun stuff during this shoot was hard on the actors. In the scene where King takes Taylor to “meet the heads” the actors had been actually getting high all day on potent Filipino weed. By the time they actually shot the scene they were all stoned out of their minds and some were even feeling sick. An interesting story that I’ve always figured had to play into the long term drug use of the young Johnny Depp and Charlie Sheen. I don’t know but if I had to guess I’d wager Oliver Stone was the guy who introduced Charlie Sheen to his favorite drug of choice, cocaine. I imagine the Filipino weed was merely a stepping stone for Sheen as he moved onto coke and ultimately…tiger blood.

This movie is important to me because it taught me something that I will never forget. However this movie is important for many more reasons because it was a great movie and it accomplished what it intended to. The screenplay for this movie was written back in the 70s when Stone returned to America and didn’t appreciate how the war was depicted in John Wayne’s The Green BeretsIn that sense it succeeded in depicting a more realistic view of what the war was actually like. It wasn’t alone in trying to send that message as a few films about Vietnam came out around the same time. Most notably, Full Metal Jacket came out the following year. Both are great movies but they should not be compared because they are so different. Platoon was a film about the Grunts while Full Metal Jacket was a film about the Jarheads. The significant difference there was that men were drafted into the army while the marines are a branch made up of volunteers. That makes all the difference as one film is about men who chose to serve while the other is primarily about men who had no choice in the matter.

The Vietnam War was a fascinating chapter in American history and a true example of how history is never used enough going forward. Had the powers that be reflected on history during the development of the conflict in Vietnam the whole thing may have never happened. On the flip side, had the lessons from that conflict specifically been learned the US may not have entered another long war to force democracy down the throats of people who had no interest in it. It is difficult to fight a war on the other side of the world for reasons that mean little to the inhabitants. Guerrilla warfare is hard to combat, the British learned that over 200 years ago but somehow the lesson seems lost on the US. When the enemy can be anybody and can come from anywhere bad things will happen all around to everyone involved. The soldiers fighting under the pressures of their lives being on the line can’t be held accountable for the things that happen nor can the inhabitants who at some point may just get fed up and take up arms against the foreign soldiers in their country. It is the “way of war” and war never goes well. It’s not an action movie and it’s not a video game. When it happens people are going to suffer and someone’s hands are going to get dirty.

Movies are made to entertain but they are so much better when they can actually teach us something at the same time. This movie can do that and I appreciate it more for that very reason. This is a great film and it doesn’t need my stamp of approval on it because it has plenty already. If you haven’t seen this movie then you are missing out. If you don’t know the incredible history of the Vietnam War you are missing out, but you’d need a lot more than a movie to learn about that. As time moves forward things get lost behind us but it is important to never forget the lessons the past has to offer. This movie, for me at least, represents such a lesson and that makes it worth everybody’s time. This is an awesome movie and I think everybody should see it.

NEXT MOVIE: Pleasantville (1998)

The Return of Negan!!!!

I’m going to deviate from our typical theme of movies to talk about something else I’m into. I am an avid fan of the comic book The Walking Dead. To the point that I spy out the covers of upcoming issues hoping for a glimmer of what might be to come. As of yesterday I saw something so awesome I can’t contain myself and I have literally nobody to talk to about it that would even begin to know what I was talking about. “I like The Walking Dead too, you are talking about the coolest character? You mean Daryl right?” AHHHH!!! These fans of the TV show (the show is different and I do like it) drive me nuts, much like the hardcore fans of HBO’s version of Game of Thrones who know nothing about what they are missing out on. Blah blah and so forth but the reason for all of this is the issue coming out in two months. The cover of the May issue displays an image of Negan standing before an open jail cell.

225px-Issue_141_CoverFor those of you who don’t know. This is Negan, the greatest bad guy ever. The TV show will ruin him because he is way too cool for the limitations of network TV. Any fan of the show should start reading now so they can see how awesome the baddest bad guy really is. Nevertheless he has been locked away for years following the war in the comic book. This cover implies that Negan is finally getting out.

When the war was ongoing I actually found myself hoping Negan would kill Rick, claim Carl as a begrudging protegé, and we would follow him through this world of the apocalypse. Sadly that wasn’t how it panned out but I was content with the fact that Negan at least lived and still had the potential to wreak havoc again.

After seeing this cover I am going to be antsy for two freaking months while I wait to see what happens. I miss this guy; I need this witty badass whose capable of anything. I need the profanity, I need the violence, I need Lucille, I need the pure unadulterated understanding of the world he lives in, I need the control he has over everything, and I need more of his story. Life is a bitch but something about this guy helps make it easier once, sometimes twice and month on “Walking Dead Wednesday.”

I love this story and as agonizing as it is to wait month by month for the story to progress it never fails to let me down. Now that I know Negan is getting out of jail sooner rather than later I am excited. It’s like a motivating force somewhere in the back of my mind constantly reminding me I have something really cool to look forward to, in a couple of months.

I cannot wait to see what Kirkman has in store for Negan as he gets back out into the world but one thing is for sure. I have absolutely no doubt that he is going to do something awesome. Is there anybody out there with me on this? Where are the other fans who can appreciate conversation about how awesome Negan is? I literally have a Negan action figure on my desk at work and I am constantly making references from this awesome bad guy that nobody gets. Who else is as excited as I am at his possible return to action in the comic? I need some dialogue.