Sommersby

Year: 1993
Directed By: Jon Amiel
Written By: Nicholas Meyer, Anthony Shaffer, and Sarah Kernochan

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is an odd one to have a place on the shelf I know, and the reason for it is never what you would guess. Once upon a time this was a movie I actually watched at a Drive-In movie theater back when they were still around. I was nine years old and didn’t really understand the movie at the time but I never forgot it. Certain scenes have stayed with me for over twenty years, though with little context due to my adolescent age.

I hadn’t seen this movie since that night over twenty years ago in the Drive-In movie theater. I bought it not long ago for no other reason than it reminded me of that great viewing experience that has faded into history. I always liked the Drive-In and in the early 90s there was one still in operation close enough to where we were living. I saw several films there during a real dramatic time in life, and while my memory of life in those days is hazy I have never forgotten any of the movies I sat in the car and watched on that giant screen.

This film is about a Civil War veteran who returns home after being away for six years. The interesting part is that he is not who he says he is, but he looks enough like the man he is pretending to be that everyone goes with it. Even his wife goes along with it as he is welcomed home with open arms. He makes a life for himself under this assumed name and everything is going great till the law shows up and serves him with a charge of murder. The man did not commit the murder, but the man he is pretending to be did. He has to choose between being outed as a fraud or suffer the penalty of a crime he didn’t commit. The story is actually loosely adapted from real circumstances that took place long ago in France.

Like I said, I was nine years old when I watched this movie and I was not in the target audience. I still found it interesting despite plenty of the themes and concepts flying right over my head. I have always wondered whether or not he was who he said he was or if he wasn’t. My understanding at the time said he wasn’t but why suffer the consequences if that was really the case? It left quite an impression on me as a nine year old to watch this movie where a man was hanged for something he didn’t really do.

The questions that have lingered in the back of my mind for over twenty were finally answered yesterday when I sat down to watch this movie again. I was not expecting much from a Richard Gere movie that I vaguely remembered from my childhood but I was pleasantly surprised. This isn’t the greatest movie I have ever seen and it’s far too much of a sappy love story at times but I found it thoroughly interesting.

I didn’t feel quite the level of nostalgia I was expecting when I watched it but I had forgotten enough to find myself invested and interested in the story. For example, I had forgotten all about the jealous rival played by Bill Pullman. I had also forgotten the presence of the Ku Klux Klan, and the plot always thickens when those hooded heathens show up.

I have never paid much attention to Richard Gere, his movies are not for me. In movies like this he’s a puny version of Fabio on the covers of all those lady novels from the same time period. He’s the romantic the woman falls in love with and blah blah blabbity blah. I’m not a fan but I’m going to admit it. I liked this sappy romance movie. Don’t expect me to sit down to Pretty Woman or First Knight any time soon but I’m willing to admit this is an interesting movie.

If you cut out some of the courtroom shenanigans at the end of the movie and that oh so typical “because I love you more” line from Jodie Foster on the stand then this is a damn good movie. It’s not going to keep you on the edge of your seat but it’ll keep your attention.

The only other thing I think is worth mentioning is the awesome nugget at the end that was Judge James Earl Jones and his glorious moment. The movie really tries to paint a picture of race during the time period but I would be really interested to know if an actual African American judge was brought south for a trial so soon after the Civil War. Judge James Earl Jones certainly sells it and does a fantastic job with all his mega voice glory, but I would love to know when such a thing actually happened for the first time.

I like this movie more than I thought I would and that counts for a lot. I don’t foresee myself ever suggesting this movie to anyone despite that, it is a Richard Gere movie, but I think it is worth your time nevertheless. I don’t own this movie for any reason pertaining to its value as a film but for what it ultimately reminds me of. I miss the days when we had Drive-In movie theaters and wish they were still around. I think my kids would get a kick out of it and enjoy it as I did when I was their age.

NEXT MOVIE: Southland Tales (2006)

Snakes on a Plane

Year: 2006
Directed By: David R. Ellis
Written By: 3 credits for people I will spare the embarrassment of having penned this story/screenplay

RYAN’S REVIEW

Yeah, there is a copy of this gloriously ridiculous film sitting on the shelf of the collection I take such pride in. I would normally never give the time of day to such a film, but this one features Samuel L. Jackson. In 2006 I would have watched absolutely anything Jackson was in and this movie serves as evidence of such. This movie has sat on the shelf for ten years now and hasn’t gotten any better over time. I would look at its place on the shelf with shame if there wasn’t at least some humor to be taken out of this.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I liked this movie but as a long time fan of Samuel L Jackson I just had to own the movie where he dropped that silly line. “I’ve had it with these motherfuckin snakes on this motherfuckin plane!!!” That’s right up there with that scene in Deep Blue Sea when he is eaten midway through a compelling speech about pulling together to survive. In truth Jackson is barely even acting in this movie and obviously just going through the motions and cashing an easy paycheck. Still, he always gets his moment.

I’m not going to go too deep into this one because it isn’t worth any more of my time than it is any of yours. It’s a glowing example at just how much I liked Jackson 10 years ago. Not to say I’m not still a fan but at this point I’m not going to sit through a snaky version of Sharknado simply because he is in it. I think I can honestly say having watched this movie to write this review that I have officially seen it for the last time, and I’m OK with that.

NEXT MOVIE: Sommersby (1993)

Smokin Aces

Year: 2006
Directed By: Joe Carnahan
Written By: Joe Carnahan

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a movie I like but don’t love. A movie that caught me at the right place at the right time and I thought it was cool. It’s the kind of movie that reminds me of scenarios I acted out with my action figures as a kid. A lot of cool actors were brought in and they had fun making a movie that is a lot of fun to watch.

I’m a big fan of anything that kills off most of the characters it introduces. Such boldness creates a level of unpredictability that makes the whole experience more fun. This movie doesn’t kill off all its characters but a large number of them don’t survive this shoot out. Killed without a second thought are not just the small time actors from TV playing big parts but also bigger guys like Ray Liotta and Ben Affleck. It takes a lot of gusto to pull the trigger on so many characters, it’s what we love about Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. This movie doesn’t necessarily do it as well as those but the balls it took to do it still count for something.

How high Chris Pine has risen since this movie came out. Nevertheless, despite all of his success I still can’t see him in anything without thinking of the scene in the elevator when he licks his finger and touches the bush of the naked girl tattooed on his shoulder. It’s such an obscene gesture from a dirty and obscene character. Captain Kirk, Steve Trevor, Jack Ryan, or anybody else it doesn’t matter what role he is playing, the guy I see is the Tremor brother he played in this one. Not to say he wasn’t good in any of those roles, in fact I thought he was a terrific Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboot. His memorable role actually came late as he was a replacement for Michael Shannon who was fired after pissing someone off.

My opinion has changed in recent years but I used to be a big time Ben Affleck hater. It was one of the things I loved about this movie back in 2007 because it was evidence that his career was spiraling down. At a time when his buddy Matt Damon was on the high horse Affleck was having trouble getting roles. Here he was in an entourage film not even making it halfway through the movie. In 2006 I found this hilarious and relished in it as a hater. Like I said, I feel differently now. Ben Affleck’s star has risen again and this time much higher than it ever had before. I initially changed my opinion when I saw him in Runner Runner and then again when he showed such promise behind the camera. His rendition of Batman sealed the deal and I look forward to what else he does with that character.

I felt Ryan Reynolds proved dramatic acting capability with this film. That unplugging scene in the end is very intense and well played by Reynolds. I am a fan of Reynolds, even after his many failures prior to the success of DeadpoolHe’s a funny guy but I think in this movie he pulls off serious and angry pretty well. I thought back in 2006 that this was proof he could move beyond Van Wilder and do better things. He has stayed true to being a comedic actor and Deadpool is just the start of more to come.

This movie was the featured film debut of both Common and Alicia Keys. I have never listened to either’s music but I thought they both gave great debut performances. Alicia Keys is cool as the sexy assassin and Common is a bad ass hit man to have at your disposal. I am a big fan of Common from his role on Hell on Wheels. An awesome show that if you haven’t seen then you’ve been missing out, it’s worth binge watching.

Without delving into the rest of the large ensemble cast I’ll simply say I liked the cast overall. It’s a really cool blend of popular TV actors, musicians, and movie stars. I love a big cast and I like it even better when you never know who among them will survive the adventure. I liked that about this movie and I enjoyed watching it again. I think this is a fun movie that is worth your time to see but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.

NEXT MOVIE: Snakes on a Plane (2006)

 

Small Soldiers

Year: 1998
Directed By: Joe Dante
Written By: Four different people are credited with the writing of this film.

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a silly movie that only could have come out of the late 90s when technology was changing faster than the populace could keep up with it. A time when the internet was still young and it was vaguely plausible that the government made chips that could turn toys into tiny terminators. I was 16 when this movie came out and liked it enough despite how silly it was. When it made its way into our collection it did so for one reason. It was one of the last things Phil Hartman did before he died. In fact the movie was released after his death in 1998.

I was a big fan of Phil Hartman both from watching reruns of his time on Saturday Night Live and hearing him regularly as a voice on The Simpsons. He was such a talented comedian with such a fantastic voice. The circumstances of his death were so sudden and tragic. His death was so shocking that it floored the entire Hollywood community. He was shot to death as he slept by his wife, who had a sudden break down and committed suicide before police could take her into custody. Words can’t describe how unfortunate and shocking it was. The world was robbed of an exceptional entertainer for seemingly no reason and I still feel the loss if I watch The Simpsons and catch a Troy McClure episode.

This may be a silly movie but even into adulthood I am still a big fan of action figures. As a child I loved nothing more than working my imagination with my toys. Playing out various scenarios I had seen in movies or on TV I could occupy myself for hours with my action figures. I was a big fan He-Man and the Ninja Turtles until I graduated to G.I. Joes before discovering the X-Men toys and never quite growing out of those. To this day it is not unusual for me to display a cool toy I find in my office or around my home. I try to limit these things to my home but now as I sit at my desk at work I have a comic book Negan action figure standing before a mini replica of the Iron Throne right behind me.

So while this movie may be a bit childish I am still inclined to enjoy a film about action figures coming to life to do battle with one another. It’s even more up my alley as the toys in the movies were influenced by some of my favorites. The Gorgonites were heavily influenced by Masters of the Universe and the Commando Elite were obviously influenced by G.I. Joes.

I like the cast of this movie enough to think it noteworthy. Most of these characters didn’t mean much to me at the time but in hindsight it is fun to see younger versions of guys like David Cross and Kevin Dunn. I loved Cross as Tobias Funke on Arrested Development, and though I didn’t like him in this movie I thought Kevin Dunn was hilarious as the dad in the first Transformers film. Even before his awesome series Rescue Me I was a big fan of Denis Leary and I liked him in this film. Kirsten Dunst is nothing more than a typical female teenager in this film but I have always been a fan. Since she gave the fantastic performance as the child vampire in Interview with a Vampire, at some unreasonably young age she was able to stand toe to toe with the likes of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. It was impressive enough to set a lasting impression on me. There is also a small cameo here from the SNL star Cheri Oteri and I loved her because she always made me laugh.

I think Tommy Lee Jones was an awesome choice for the voice of Major Chip Hazard. The 90’s were the golden days for Jones and his voice lent some credibility to this silly film. Originally Director Joe Dante wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger and the cast of Predator to voice the Commando Elites but sadly that didn’t work out.  So they used Tommy Lee Jones as well as actors from The Dirty Dozen.

Also lending credibility with his voice was Frank Langella as the voice of Archer. The man who once brilliantly brought Skeletor to life in an equally silly movie, Masters of the Universe, is someone I can’t help but get behind. At nearly 80 years of age he is still going strong as an actor and that is impressive all by itself. He started acting in the mid 60s and is closing in on over 100 acting credits during his time.

This movie was directed by Joe Dante whose primary career was in television. He did manage to use this opportunity to drop several Easter Eggs from his most famous film within the movie. There are several references to Gremlins within the movie as Gizmo is both mentioned and seen throughout the film. I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of Joe Dante but he did helm a movie I sincerely love. Innerspace has been a life long favorite since childhood and I could never disregard something done by the creator of that film.

Before closing this out I think there is one more random fact about the movie that makes it noteworthy. This movie features the Led Zeppelin song Communication Breakdown. It’s noteworthy simply because it is so rare that Zeppelin songs appear in films. I am probably simply forgetting but I can only recall one other film that featured music from Zeppelin. Any Given Sunday had a really cool segment set to Fool in the Rain. If you can remember a movie that featured Zeppelin leave a comment because I would be interested in knowing.

This isn’t a movie I can ever recall recommending to anyone but I still think there is plenty here to make worth wild. If you are a grown up man child like myself who still has an affinity for action figures and toys then you might like this movie. If for no other reason it is worth your time simply to get a taste of a comedian and entertainer the world was robbed of far too soon. This isn’t an exceptional performance from Phil Hartman by any means but it’s what we were left with and that makes it worth it.

NEXT MOVIE: Smoking Aces (2006)

 

 

 

 

 

Slumdog Millionaire

Year: 2008
Directed By: Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan
Written By: Simon Beaufoy (screenplay) Vikas Swarup (novel)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I’ve ruined movies by reading the book before but I don’t know that any have been quite as dramatic as this one. I loved this movie when it came out and was so happy when it won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Yet I came across the book, Q&A, sometime later and everything changed. I thought this was a beautiful movie until I realized it was just a chopped up and completely rewritten version of something better.

This movie is a love story, and the source material is not even close to that. The book is a story about revenge, and love is simply an afterthought that is only touched on. This movie that I thought was so great changed everything from the theme to the main character’s name. When I read the book I found this appalling and have since barely been able to sit down and watch the movie.

No movie adapts a book perfectly but the thing is I didn’t just like this book I loved it, actually reading it three or more times before all was said and done. When I went back to this film and really got to see it for what it was I was just so disappointed. I wish I could go back to loving it as I did the first time I saw it but I simply couldn’t.

When I first saw this movie I found it eye opening but my eyes were still closed. As rough and hard as this movie seems it doesn’t hold a candle to what was within the book. The book is so much more tragic and dark. If you think you can imagine horrible things happening in your life I challenge you to read Q&A and see how you measured up. The book is one devastating tragedy after another but it still manages to be entertaining and interesting.

It’s been several years now since I read the book and I admittedly can’t remember a lot from it even after multiple readings. I love to read and I loved this book but it was several dozen books ago and I could use a refresher. The change that annoyed me the most at the time was the name of the main character being changed to simply Jamal. It annoyed me because in the book the name of the character was such a focal point for the story.

In the book the character’s name is Ram Mohammad Thomas because as a child he was left on the doorstep of a church and a priest was left to name him. The priest was unsure what to name him because he did not know the religion of the parents whether it was Hindi, Islam, or Christianity. To prevent conflict from the rivaling religions within the country the priest named him with a combination of all three. This was interesting to me because I didn’t realize how religiously diverse India was. It seemed like an awful thing to scrap from the movie because it was something the American audience could learn from.

This movie is rare in that it is a movie that takes place in India and received a wide release in the US. India has their own film industry and there are few American made films that take place there. That gave this movie an interesting opportunity to enlighten a new audience to life in India. The movie does that to an extent but I feel like the renaming of the main character left out an insight that could have been beneficial.

The collective stories from the life of Ram Mohammad Thomas make for a really interesting book and I would encourage anybody who likes to read to give it a whirl. However if you love this movie then I would suggest staying away from it because the movie will never be the same afterwards. I don’t find this movie worth my time anymore but I would still suggest it to anyone else. I enjoyed the movie enough to add it to the collection before reading the book so there is still plenty to enjoy for the ignorant.

NEXT MOVIE: Small Soldiers (1998)

Iron Man 3

Year: 2013
Directed By: Shane Black
Written By: Drew Pearce and Shane Black

RYAN’S REVIEW

I have been a little obsessed with the MCU lately. Along with Iron Man 2 I revisited this film too as it is the only other movie within the MCU that we didn’t own a copy of. Having not added the second film to the collection I didn’t add this one either because I can’t stand gaps within trilogies even if one of the films isn’t very good. When this movie came out I didn’t think it was good enough to warrant purchasing both films. I thought it was OK when it was released and I’ll maintain that impression after seeing it again. This movie is just OK and far from the best of the bunch when it comes to the 14 movies now within the MCU.

I remember when this film came out the tagline was something like “does the suit make the man or the man make the suit.” That was a huge theme within this movie as Tony again spends far too much time as Tony and not enough as Iron Man. It’s cool that Tony Stark can still be heroic without his armor but I didn’t go see the Iron Man movie to see Tony in James Bond mode outside the Mandarin’s house. I wanted more Iron Man after feeling like the second movie didn’t offer enough Iron Man action either. While I like the second film more now than I did years ago I still feel like this one had a lot more problems.

The problem with the scope of the MCU now has to be making these individual movies when they aren’t all together. For example where is Captain America when the President’s life is being threatened? Where was Iron Man when S.H.I.E.L.D. turned out to be heavily infiltrated by Hydra? Yeah it’s all about budget and contracts and you can’t have every character in every film but that doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t really make sense. We are seeing that change as there is far more crossover with characters these days. I’m totally psyched for the third Thor film as it will feature appearances from both the Hulk and Doctor Strange.

I have always been a fan of Shane Black’s action films from the 90s. While usually credited with writing he has had a hand in many classic action films like Lethal Weapon, Last Action HeroThe Last Boy Scout, and one of my household favorites growing up The Long Kiss Goodnight. He was also the writer for one of my childhood/lifetime favorites The Monster Squad. So I’m a big fan of his work, but I don’t know that this Iron Man film lived up to some of those classics. Getting behind camera this time around Shane Black gave us a cool enough movie but nothing spectacular.

This movie doesn’t have the feel of a real MCU movie barring the presence of MCU characters. For example it doesn’t have a mid credit sequence that alludes to the coming films or future of the MCU. Its setting during the Christmas season for a summer release seemed an odd choice, out of place in the MCU which is usually has no association with holidays.

I think the problems with this movie in general starts with the story. It just isn’t big enough and too isolated to Iron Man specifically. After the second film there should have been more cross over with other characters. For example, Captain America’s third film featured an iconic comic storyline and turned into a huge spectacle. I think they could have put more thought into what to do for Iron Man’s second sequel. Granted you have Don Cheadle on board as War Machine/Iron Patriot but it just doesn’t seem like enough. After introducing Black Widow and featuring Nick Fury in the second movie this one is just too absent of other characters.

I also hate that Ben Kingsley was wasted as a pretend bad guy. He could have been much cooler than what they ultimately got with Guy Pearce. I don’t really care for Guy Pearce and nothing about that changed with this movie. I liked Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2, but felt another rival weapons manufacturer for this movie to be redundant. I did like James Dale Badge as the top henchman. I have been a fan of his since he played Jack Bauer’s partner in season 3 of 24. Ben Kingsley isn’t just a top grade actor but he is capable of playing a great villain, if in any doubt check out this. This movie could have used a little Don Logan if you ask me, such a waste.

I consider this one of the weakest installments to the MCU, not a bad movie but simply not up to par with the other films. It just feels too isolated for a third installment. Tony has too many friends at this point to take on this problem on his own. Even if they couldn’t include other characters somebody else should have at least been referenced with the President’s life at stake. I think this movie is worth your time but it’s far from the top of the pack in the 14 movies now within the MCU.

 

Iron Man 2

Year: 2010
Directed By: Jon Favreau
Written By: Justin Theroux

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie has long since been one of the few Marvel films that didn’t have a place in our collection. I saw it in the theater when it came out back in 2010 and I wasn’t overly impressed. I thought the lack of action and story direction was a problem for a sequel that didn’t live up to my expectations at the time. However, having recently watched Grace Randolph list it so high in her ranking of Marvel movies I decided to give it another chance. I found that I enjoyed it much more this time around and think I’ve been too critical of it over the last several years.

I think I was just too impatient as a viewer back in 2010. I wanted more from this film than it offered and the disappointment overwhelmed the whole movie for me. I always think a sequel should be bigger than the original and by extension have more excitement as well. This movie is a bigger story as Tony Stark struggles with the life threatening nature of his power source as well as trying to maintain what he has created with the Iron Man. Yet the movie is seriously lacking in action. The action scenes on hand are all great but there is a long lull in the middle with little actual Iron Man action baring his in house fight with War Machine. The fight between Whiplash and Iron Man on the race track was incredible and I think the climax battle in the end really pays off well.

I never care for a storyline in a comic book film when a character loses the ability to be the hero. Same thing in Spiderman 2 when Peter Parker loses his power and gives up being Spiderman for a while. For me, when the hero ceases to be a hero and becomes a regular person it takes away all the excitement. You know they will eventually get their powers or abilities back and the time in between is just something to wait out.  This is a different situation but when I watched this movie back in 2010 I felt like Iron Man slowly being poisoned to death took away from what could have been more actual Iron Man action. Watching it this time around was different though and I could find more appeal to the film.

I initially hated the scene in which Tony gets hammered, pees in the suit, and then fights his newly cast best friend. It was just such a low point for our hero that it rubbed me the wrong way. Yet weighed against potential death it makes much more sense. Wouldn’t we all lose it a little bit and get crazy if we knew we were going to die? I can appreciate it more this time around too knowing that it echoes a story line in the comics in which Tony Stark was struggling with alcoholism.

I am not a huge Terrance Howard fan by any means but I didn’t care for the recasting of Rhodey. In truth I am a bigger fan of Don Cheadle but his casting breaks the continuity of the films. I didn’t care for the recasting of Edward Norton in the MCU either but that proved to be a success as Mark Ruffalo did a fantastic job with the part of the Hulk. I think it’s impressive how Marvel can do that and maintain success. Guys like Terrance Howard and Edward Norton were cast early in the process of building a cinematic universe. Hindsight is 20/20 though and given a chance to go back I think both would have done whatever necessary to make the relationship work.

I am a big fan of Sam Rockwell and liked him in the role of Tony’s rival Justin Hammer. I think it was really cool that the character was name dropped recently on Netflix’s Luke Cage and hope that means there is a potential return to the MCU in the future. Don’t know how he would be utilized but the MCU is really in need of more recurring villains. There’s no chance of return for Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash but he made waves with some really cool scenes within this movie. The fight on the race track with Tony’s briefcase suit was specifically awesome.

This movie was critical in the advancement of the MCU on the road to The Avengers. By introducing Black Widow and giving more screen time to Nick Fury they started laying the foundation for the connective tissue of these movies. There is also a reference here to Captain America’s with Tony using a prototype version of his shield at one point. It expanded the role of S.H.I.E.L.D. and gave it more history with Howard Stark being one of the founding members.

I don’t think this movie measures up to its predecessor but I do think the movie is better than I gave it credit for when it first came out. This movie led directly into The Avengers as arguably the most important stepping stone in creating the MCU. I don’t know that I agree with how high it was ranked by Grace Randolph but I can at least see now why she had it so high. This movie is worth your time if for no other reason than if you see one movie in the MCU you should have really seen them all. Marvel has made history with their creation of a cinematic universe and everyone is trying to copy them now.