Month: July 2013

Lethal Weapon

Year: 1987
Directed By: Richard Donner
Written By: Shane Black

RYAN’S REVIEW

I think this is an action movie equally as significant as Die Hard was for the genre; the buddy cop action comedy film that would influence so many that followed. It was a very successful film that would lead to three sequels and countless knockoffs.  Were Mel Gibson still even vaguely marketable today we might still be seeing Lethal Weapon movies just as we are still seeing Die Hard movies being made.  I’m not really a fan of these franchises continuing past their time but studios will do anything these days to cash in on name recognition.  There has actually been talk of rebooting this franchise all together with new cast members and a new story.  I think it’s a shameful and pathetic idea.  Luckily this was an idea announced back in 2011 and nothing has ever come of it.  It would be a waste to do it now; not only would it probably come with  PG-13 rating today but there is no reason to think it would be successful at all.  It’s one thing to reboot superhero films but quite another to reboot an action franchise that’s formula has been copied time and time again.  There is no value other than name recognition and the market out there today isn’t going to turn out for a name that hasn’t really been popular in over twenty years.

I don’t think this was a franchise that had a lot of staying power in the industry but I do think it had its day in the sun.  The first two films are great.  They are action packed with witty dialogue and a cast that was spectacular at the time.  I’ll admit I had a difficult time trying to get into this movie watching it again last night because it is so hard to look at Mel Gibson and take him seriously again.  What a far fall from grace that man has had, to the point that I can’t even watch his older movies and enjoy them like I used to.  I used to think he was great in this movie and in truth he was but watching it now I’m thinking he didn’t do a whole lot of acting in it.  He plays a cop that might be a little crazy and this no longer seems like a convincing performance from an actor who might be seriously crazy.  Still, I can remember a time when I really liked the Riggs character. I liked that he was this cop who was sort of crazy and just really skilled when came to killing people.  The franchise lost me when they got away from that though.  Not only was it a bad decision to make the third movie PG-13 but in the fourth movie they went way out there.  Making the third film PG-13 was crazy and really limited the effectiveness of Joe Pesci.  Let’s face it, the guy just isn’t himself when he isn’t saying the “fuck” word over and over again.  In the fourth film Riggs was just any other cop.  What happened to the killing machine that knew Ju-Jit-Su and could snap necks with his ankles?  Every time he crosses paths with Jet Li he gets his ass handed to him in that movie.  I thought it really strayed from the character that chooses to close out this first film by fist fighting with the bad guy just because he can. Riggs was cool because he was a crazy killer, when they tried to make him family friendly they destroyed the character. Incidentally, Bruce Willis was first considered for the role of Riggs, oh how different the movie and action genre might have been had that happened.

I have always been a fan of Danny Glover and I like him as the “old school” cop in these movies.  Yeah his chronic complaining about how he has gotten too old for this shit got annoying from time to time but I still liked him.  Glover is 66 years old now and still very active as an actor but he hasn’t had any really significant parts in a long time.  In truth he never really had many significant parts outside of this franchise and The Color Purple but I still liked him all the same. Gary Busey got top billing as the villain and I thought he showed quite a knack for the role as Mr. Joshua.  Like Gibson, Busey is a bit of a crazy guy but the difference is that people never fell in love with Busey like they did Gibson.  I don’t know that Busey is really as crazy as he comes off either or if it’s all just a front to maintain some relevance in today’s media world.  Nevertheless he was great in this movie; cold and capable of killing anybody whenever he was on screen.  His career was on a downward spiral before he landed this part and credits it with reviving his career. Busey has developed into a more popular reality TV character than he ever was as an actor but I have liked many of his roles in cheesy action movies.  My favorite probably being his role as Commander Krill in “Die Hard on a Boat.”

This movie is as cool now as it was when it first came out.  It has everything you want out of a mindless action movie and actually set the tone for all action movies to come. It is a significant film that is worth your time and if you like action movies then this is a must see.

NEXT MOVIE: Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

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Les Miserables

Year: 2012
Directed By:  Tom Hooper
Written By: Victor Hugo (novel) William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg, and Herbert Kretzmer (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW 

I think this is one of the greatest stories of all time, yet I have never actually read the book.  About 15 years ago it was our assignment during my sophomore year in English class.  I specifically remember utilizing the internet for the first time to read the Spark Notes for the novel.  What I found to be so interesting was how much I loved the story simply reading the synopsis.  I enjoyed it so much I actually earned the highest grades in the class on all the tests even though I hadn’t actually read it.  I was very vocal during discussions too because I had a lot to say about the story back then.  I think I was about 15 at the time and I thought I was so clever but despite being lazy and cheating on the assignment I still felt I learned something from it.  It’s a great story with powerful characters in it, I hope it is still required reading today and kids are putting more effort into it than I did despite what I may have learned or felt about it.

I did enjoy this story when I was in tenth grade but hadn’t revisited it in the years that passed before this movie came out and had forgotten most of it.  I had looked forward to this movie at first because the cast was shaping up to be significant but when I heard it was a musical I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  I always tell people that there is no room for musicals in the movie industry these days and then something this great comes out and makes me look like an idiot.  What’s funny is it’s a mistake I continue to not learn from.  I should have learned my lesson when Chicago blew me away but I didn’t.  This movie too has made me take back a statement or two.  When we finally sat down to watch it I was really dreading it too; I couldn’t have been more surprised by how wrong I was.  This movie is incredible from beginning to end and every single one of the actors literally blows me away with the power of their performances.

Who knew Wolverine could sing? I literally had no idea and during that scene when he rips up his papers I was literally floored by the strength of his voice.  He put on a powerful performance all throughout the film but when he walks out of that house holding that note for what seems like forever my jaw dropped.  I hope he didn’t have to do too many takes for that scene because he looked on the verge of an aneurysm at a certain point.  I have liked Hugh Jackman since he first hit the scene playing Wolverine for the first of seven times, so far.  I have been a fan of most of the movies he has made and of course there is nobody out there that can bring one of the coolest Marvel characters to life like he does.  I think he did a great job as Jean Valjean and have a new found respect for an actor who already had plenty of my respect.

Surprising me even more than Jackman is Russell Crowe.  Seriously, who knew he was capable of this? I have said it many times now, but Russell Crowe always brings it.  Think he can’t do something? Don’t hold your breath because just when you count him out he is belting out these songs with a range that seems completely out of nowhere.  Javert is one of the coolest characters ever even though he is an antagonist in the story.  He is the enemy of Valjean but only because the two find themselves on other sides of the law.  Javert is noble and true to the point that he would rather die than dishonor himself.  I love that in the character, it’s an honesty worthy of respect and Crowe carries it on his face throughout the film.  Despite how much a dick Crowe is rumored to be in real life he pulls off noble and honest characters really well.  He didn’t get nominated for his role in this movie and I am surprised by that because so many were.

Anne Hathaway did win the Academy Award for her role and definitely deserved it. Her performance is so profound I nearly feel bad for all those things I said in our Havoc review.  She is too good and talented an actress to talk about so shamelessly. She is a rare actress who actually has the skills to match her flawless beauty.  I look forward to what else she can do as an actress; the sky is the limit for her.  I thought she would have a longer role in this film but that just goes to show how little I remembered about this story that had such an impact on me in my youth.  Sadly Fantine isn’t in the film for very long but the fact that she won the Oscar despite that is a testament to what she accomplished.

Amanda Seyfried is nice on the eyes but I didn’t think she was exceptional in the film, or maybe she was just drastically outshined by her peers.  Helena Bonham Carter is great in everything she does and this is no different.  She is seemingly ageless and bringing her talent to a wide range of films lately. I was a huge fan of Da Ali G Show and for a while thought Sacha Baron Cohen was a genius and probably one of the most incredible comedians out there.  Once the game was up and he couldn’t get away with his type of comedy anymore I lost interest.  He does a great job in this movie but I just haven’t been a big fan of him as an actor.  The rest of the cast is more or less unknown to me but I thought they all held up well and held their own next to these huge stars.

I am always pleased to be surprised by a movie and this one surprised me in many ways.  I went in with a bad attitude about watching a musical but found myself enthralled by the power of the film.  It captivated me immediately and by the end of the movie had earned my respect. I like the songs, I like the actors in the movie, and I think the story is incredible.  Hands down this movie earned its keep in our collection and I think it is without doubt worth your time to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is truly incredible. The way the music carries you through the entire film, but isn’t confusing at all is a work of genius. I don’t even know how they were able to sing an entire movie and I was able to keep up and understand. And the immense talent that this film has in it is remarkable. Anne Hathaway blew me away. I just think she is the bee’s knees when it comes to acting. She started in the silly little film about becoming a princess and here she is lighting it up on the big screen singing across from Hugh Jackman. She completely impressed me as well as the entire cast. This film is an amazing adaptation and it is well worth anyone’s time, even if you aren’t the biggest musical fan.

Cosette-Official-Movie-Poster-les-miserables-2012-movie-32280133-864-1280

I love this poster. The coloring is spot on for the mood of this movie. And this girl is almost the reason for hope. The hope to be something better and to live a better life where you can dream to be better. Her eyes are stark and draw you in. I love the proportions. She is a little off center to the right and her hair goes to the opposite direction. This creates a dramatic view of movement. The typography is great and almost has a bit of passion to it. I love this poster. I think the designers did an incredible job.

NEXT MOVIE: Lethal Weapon (1987)

Legends of the Fall

Year: 1994
Directed By: Edward Zwick
Written By: Susan Shilliday and William D. Wittliff (screenplay) and Jim Harrison (novella)

RYAN’S REVIEW

When this movie came out my dad was still manager of the Uptown in downtown D.C. and it was playing there on one of my trips to see him.  The Uptown only had one screen and I was stuck watching this movie over and over again while spending days at work with my dad.  I was ten years old at the time and in truth probably shouldn’t have been watching it at all but my dad was never one to pay attention to such things.  On my prior trip to see him in D.C. Jurassic Park was the film playing at the Uptown and this absolutely failed in comparison. I still thought Jurassic Park was the coolest thing I had ever seen and sitting through this was unbearable at my age.  I hated the movie then but one day found myself revisiting it at a much older age and liking it very much.  It’s an incredible story of love and loss made by a man who has a knack for making really emotionally deep films.

This is without doubt a deeply emotional movie too.  The story is told through the letters this family wrote back and forth to one another over a period of several years.  The letters came from a collection from all different members of the family that were kept by One Stab, a Native American warrior who was very loyal to Colonel Ludlow. The letters are full of raw emotion.  These people write about their pain and longing, they poured their hearts out in these letters and you can feel their emotions as if they were your own.  This was a well written story and it is very moving but I think the man behind camera has the most to do with how effective it is in invoking such an emotional response from the audience.  Edward Zwick has a knack for this kind of movie. I say that because I feel this movie so deeply.  It opens up my soul and brings all the emotion in there up to the surface.  I have a very similar feeling when I watch one of Zwick’s other films, The Last Samurai.  The guy makes very beautiful films and does a great job of getting his audience emotionally invested in his movies.  One of the things I love most about movies is when they get me like this, when they make me feel things right down to the core and get an emotional response from me.  I’m not an overly emotional person, but when it comes to movies my tears will fall.  This movie brings the tears out of me too; I feel the pain and loss of these people on such an emotional level that I love them for it.

I have always taken one specific lesson from this movie above all others.  Women can be so dangerous and destructive.  When Susannah Fincannon is brought to the Ludlow ranch she is just trouble waiting to happen, and as time goes on she single handedly tears this family apart.  She came engaged to Samuel, but the moment Alfred laid eyes on her he was in love with her, and in turn from the moment Susannah laid eyes on Tristan she was in love with him.  Samuel was a young and impressionable man, it was Susannah who encouraged him to be passionate about things and that is ultimately led him to join the fight in WWI. Samuel never really had a chance though, even if he hadn’t died in the war there is no telling what may have happened when he came home.  When Susannah met Isabel Two for the first time and the girl told her she is going to grow up and marry Tristan Susannah actually looked jealous, she already wanted him for herself despite who she was there with.  She couldn’t even wait till Samuel left for the war before falling into Tristan’s arms and nearly getting caught up in the moment.  Letting Alfred catch them together like that didn’t make things much better. That moment started the hate that would brew between those two brothers and Alfred is so dumbstruck in love he can’t see the writing on the wall.  He wasted no time after he returned from the war before snaking in on his brother’s woman, proposing to her at Samuel’s grave no less. A shameful and pathetic thing to do so soon after his death.  Despite his efforts he never had a chance; she wanted Tristan all along and wasted no time herself going after him when he came back. Making her move at the exact same grave site that Alfred made his pathetic attempt to marry her.  Tristan wasn’t right when he came back though and that was plain for everyone to see.  She ignores the obvious though and pursues her lust driven desires for a man who is clearly a little insane. When they are in that bath together she is blathering on and on about babies while he just stares off into space with the look of a man completely and utterly insane. Even after Tristan pulls a knife on her in bed and looks ready to kill her she still waits on him. What is it she even sees in this psycho anyway? When Tristan more or less tells her to get lost she finally settles for Alfred who is more than happy to continue being pathetic. Alfred was foolish though because for whatever reason she just can’t get over Tristan. Years later when she sees Tristan finally settled down with Isabel Two and living the life she wanted she nearly loses it.  After her last final effort to pursue Tristan fails she just can’t take it anymore and ends it all with a bullet to the head, but it is too late then.  The damage to the Ludlow family was already done.  Even if they sort of came back together in the end they will all still bear the scars from so much tragedy. Had Samuel came home alone their entire lives might have been different.  Maybe the three brothers don’t ride off to war, Samuel lives, Alfred and Tristan never grow to hate one another, and it goes on and on.  Women can be very dangerous, and men can be very stupid when they are around one like Susannah Vincannon.

I had an Uncle once who was a lot like Tristan and the character had always been more endeared to me because of him.  He was a really cool Uncle who always inspired love from everyone despite being the type of person that does selfish and inconsiderate things. Tristan could do no wrong in the eyes of certain family members and they were willing to forgive him every trespass.  My Uncle was also one to take off for long stretches of time with no consideration for those he left behind who loved him yet the love was always there when he returned no matter how long he was gone or for what reason. It’s an interesting character dynamic, sadly though the character in real life doesn’t always straighten himself out and the scars he can leave behind still run deep.  Tristan was an awesome character though and I still like him in this movie.  He goes completely crazy and never fully escapes the haunting feelings of failure over Samuel’s death.  The scene in which he cuts his brothers heart out is so intense; the anguish in his voice as he curses God is incredible.  It’s a testament to the acting ability Brad Pitt has.  I have always been a fan of Pitt but he has had his ups and downs over the years.  I had nearly written him off until he played the part of Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds, and I am interested to see his newest picture World War Z. I read the book and it was incredible, but I’m really not sure how it would work as a film because of how the story is set up.  Still it looks good and I can’t wait for the chance to see it.

This movie sports a great cast who most of which turned in very profound and incredible performances.  I have always been a big fan of Anthony Hopkins; he has had a long and distinguishing career.  To me growing up he always represented what a man should be in his later years, not in the role of Hannibal Lecture mind you but in plenty of his other work.  He carries himself with an air of dignity that simply demands respect in nearly every role that he played throughout the 90s.  In this movie he doesn’t play the most likable character yet I like him all the same because he seemed appropriate to me. Colonel Ludlow is a man who knows what he is talking about yet nobody will listen.  His sons are foolish in his eyes with the exception of Tristan, most of the time.  He knows what they are getting themselves into when they want to go to war but they don’t listen to him.  He knows what Alfred is getting himself into by running for office but Alfred is too proud to see it himself.  Colonel Ludlow is rough around the edges but he is a strong and powerful man just eaten up with disappointment.  He carries hatred in his heart from his days in the service, he has a wife that he loves but won’t stay with him, and he has three boys who he never quite knows what to make of.  I have always thought he was a great character and feel disappointed every time I see the film when he has that stroke.  It’s an awful thing to see such a man defeated by his body and forces out of his control.  Yet despite the disability he develops he is still a proud man and not afraid of doing what needs to be done in the end.

Another powerful performance in this film came from Aidan Quinn in the part of Alfred Ludlow.  Quinn has never had what anybody would call a significant career but he really brought it in this movie.  Alfred is such an interesting character even though he is the pathetic brother.  He is such a smart and capable man yet so foolish with his hopeless obsession with Susannah.  He may be misguided and thinking with the wrong head most of the time but you have to give the man props for having the balls to stand up to his father.  In the scene where Colonel Ludlow gets in his face I think people in the audience were likely to flinch at the anger coming off the man but Alfred didn’t. I also liked Henry Thomas in the part of the youngest brother Samuel.  Samuel was young and innocent, a part “EL-I-OT” pulls off very well.  In truth, from what I have seen it may be the only part the guy is capable of.  Even as a minor gangster in Gangs of New York he still came across as young and innocent. Outside of playing Guinevere in First Knight (another role in which she plays a really destructive woman) I have never seen Julia Ormond in another movie.  Despite what I think about the character she plays in this movie I still think she did a great job with the part.

In my youth this is a movie I never thought I would feel so strongly about but I grew to love it at an older age.  I always appreciate a movie more when it grows on me this way and this one did without doubt.  It’s such a gripping and powerful film that reaches right into my soul and pulls all kinds of emotions to the surface.  Some have made suggestions to me that this is a chick flick but I always dismiss them.  There is so much to this movie that raises it far above that category of film and those guys just can’t look deep enough to see it.  This is a great movie and all great movies are worth your time to see.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie will make you cry, and then ball, and then cry some more. I don’t care how many times I watch this film it makes me sad. I don’t even think you feel uplifted at the end either. It is all tragedy and sadness brought on my one single, slutty, horrible excuse for a woman. Brad Pitt looks gorgeous as always, and that might be the happiest part of this entire movie.

legends_of_the_fall_ver1

Oh c’mon people! This poster would be great if they would have just left out the damn floating heads. Guess what! Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins are famous enough that their names are all we need. And how much more intrigue would there be if they would have just let it fade to a dark color and let the image at the bottom speak for itself. You would probably be wondering a lot more about what this movie is actually about instead of who is in it. I like the typography. It fits together nicely and is positioned well, and I think it has almost become an iconic looking movie title. This is a mediocre poster that could have been great.

NEXT MOVIE: Les Miserables (2012)

Layer Cake

Year: 2004
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn
Written By: J.J. Connolly

RYAN’S REVIEW

What a cool movie, I don’t know that there is any better way to put it.  I wouldn’t really say there is actually anything new in this film.  It’s your pretty basic movie about organized crime as it operates on various different levels but doesn’t offer much in the area of provoking thought or inspiration.  It’s not short of its fair share of quality ass whoopings and clever twists but beyond being a really cool film there isn’t much here.  It has a very intricate story line with a variety of characters to keep track of.  It has a great cast but probably the most significant thing about this film is how it streamlined the career of Daniel Craig and put him into the spotlight.  He had been around forever and nobody really knew who he was but after this role everything took off for him.

Craig started acting in 1992 and played insignificant parts for nearly ten years until he got a large part in the first Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider movie. Stupid movie all around but it was a big deal for him.  I liked him in his next film Road to Perditionpossibly the last film Tom Hanks was in that was really worth a damn with few exceptions. Despite these parts I would still call Daniel Craig a relative unknown at the time.  It was his part in this movie that really made a difference for him.  While it was a completely different character, this role practically served as his audition to be the next James Bond.  It makes sense too; this movie centered completely on him and he did a great job. He’s British, wears a suit well, and looks remarkably natural pointing a gun on screen. Who else was there really to consider? Clive Owen was a popular British actor on the rise at the time but it’s easy to look back now and see how bad a choice that would have been.  I grew up watching the James Bond films and used to own every single one on VHS when I was a kid.  What young man doesn’t find himself interested in the badass super spy that sleeps with nearly every woman he encounters?  I eventually grew out of my interest in those films though, and quit watching the new ones altogether when Halle Berry was brought in.  I don’t even remember which Bond movie that was but I watched it up until a certain point and there is a joke I have always liked to tell about it.  I specifically remember Halle Berry, looking banging in a bikini, walking out of the water and onto the beach.  She walks straight up to Pierce Brosnan’s Bond and within a matter of minutes the scene has jumped to them in bed together.  Well this is what I think; when that happens, when Halle freaking Berry walks up to you in a bikini and you immediately get her into to bed there is only one thing you can do next.  Kill yourself, you have peaked in life and it’s going to be all downhill after that.  I think after you have her again and shoo her out of your room you take a long look in the mirror and accept that there really isn’t anything that will top that.  Might as well save yourself the boredom and go out on top while the sex is still in the air.  I’ve always enjoyed joking about that but for me at that time it was just too much and I was done with the Bond films.

After the success of rebooting the Batman franchise with Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale there was suddenly a lot of this on the table.  Studios started looking at characters that their audience had lost interest in and deciding to recreate them with a new approach.  I have not been a fan of every effort to reboot franchises and some of them have come so quickly off the heels of their predecessors. Most notably The Amazing Spiderman and the inevitable new Batman franchise that will be here before we know it. The Bond rebooting effort was a very successful effort and has now made a ton of money with no end to the sequels coming in the future.  I think Daniel Craig is an awesome James Bond and reminds me a lot of Roger Moore who was always my favorite (he always slept with many more woman than the others). However, I have never been able to get back into the Bond character and have just literally not been able to bring myself to sit through any of the new films or give them my full attention.  I can see all the merit on the surface, awesome Bond, great choice for M, lots of action, and more serious story lines.  Yet I just can’t do it and I’m going to accept this as my own fault because many people have told me how great these movies have been.  I have never been able to get into Casino Royale and because of this I haven’t even attempted to see either of the sequels despite what I have heard about them.  Nevertheless I am still a fan of Daniel Craig playing the part and have liked the other opportunities it has given him.  I think he is a good actor and he is a really big star now.  All of that started with The Layer Cake, a really cool movie that Craig really made the most of.

This film has many different characters in it and has a really great cast beyond Craig.  My favorite is without doubt Colm Meaney.  I have been a fan of Meaney since I was a little kid watching Star Trek with my mom.  I had no idea then that this guy would ever been more than that Irish guy beaming up Captain Picard and the landing party.  I have been completely blown away by him in recent years and love what he brings to the table as a badass.  Specifically I am thinking of his role on AMC’s Hell on Wheels, great show and great character for him.  Tom Hardy has a really big part in this movie but it’d be understandable if nobody noticed.  Despite his presence he doesn’t really say very much and when he does it’s not something you would remember.  Hardy is really on the rise now thanks in large part to Christopher Nolan for casting him so well.  I look forward to what lies ahead of him in his career. I am not really familiar with George Harris but he is such a badass in this movie playing the part of Morty.  His beat down of an old acquaintance in the diner is one of the coolest scenes in the movie and it was brilliantly filmed. I don’t know why but I can’t stand Michael Gambon and I’m not into Sienna Miller either.  Still both of them do well in this movie.

I am not necessarily a fan of Matthew Vaughn, although he is a very talented director.  After this movie, like Daniel Craig, he too started to get a lot more attention.  He had taken a large cast of many character and woven them together in an interesting story that everyone liked.  That quality made him really appealing to Fox when they were looking for someone to replace the departed Bryan Singer for director of the third X-Men movie.  Now I blame Bryan Singer for the disaster that X-Men 3 was, he had built something and then abandoned it.  Matthew Vaughn was initially chosen to direct but eventually pulled out of the project and it fell into the hands of the hack Brett Ratner.  I don’t remember why Vaughn pulled out, it may have been about spending time with his family, but I think he would have made a much better film.  I may never get over the disaster that the third X-Men movie ultimately became.  The first two films were great and on a clear cut pattern to only get better.  I have always been a huge X-Men fan and wanted so badly for the third one to be even better than X2. I have a grudge against many people I blame for the disappointment and loss I have had to endure over what happened.  It can never be fixed and I will never be able to forget about what it could have been and how great.  Shame on Bryan Singer for his awful mistake, and while Vaughn isn’t really at fault here I can’t help but hold it against him either. It’s an irrational judgment I know, but those happen in the wake of such devastating disappointment.

I’ve managed to write a lot without saying much of anything about this film but it’s just not one that I think inspires a lot of thought.  It’s a good movie and I like the ending.  I think it’s a clear cut message that crime doesn’t pay and nobody ever wins.  It can completely blindside you too because it comes out of nowhere, great ending.  I like the fact that we never learn the name of Craig’s character and how you barely even notice that until he turns to the camera and acknowledges it. This movie is based on a novel I have never read but if anybody reading this has read it I would really like to hear how it compares if you want to leave a comment.

If you have ever seen a film about crime then you won’t really find anything new here, it’s fairly typical as such things go.  Despite that the movie is really cool and offers plenty to enjoy.  I am usually a fan of crime movies because it is such a fascinating world.  If you enjoy movies about organized crime then you will like this one.  While I may think it is pretty basic, it was made exceedingly well and I think it is without doubt worth your time to see.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is pretty entertaining, but isn’t anything new. I think the creator grew up loving action movies and did a pretty good job of incorporating those ideas and themes into this film. I think you should see it if you haven’t it is worth watching, but it isn’t anything really special.

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I actually think cool is a really good word to use for this poster. I like the color combination although it is used a little but too much for this type of movie. (Kill Bill, The Italian Job) But overall it’s pretty cool. The typography is my favorite part. Unbalanced and well proportioned. This poster is up there with some of my absolute favorites.

NEXT MOVIE: Legends of the Fall (1994)

The Last Samurai

Year: 2003
Directed By: Edward Zwick
Written By: John Logan, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz

RYAN’S REVIEW

For the second film in a row we have a movie about the last member of a dying culture, starring a white man.  The titles of the films and casting make great fodder for comedians but I do think both movies are great. When this film came out I specifically remember seeing Paul Mooney talking about this movie, his punchline was that he was going to make a movie called “The Last N**** on Earth” starring Tom Hanks.  In fact, with this movie much more than The Last of the Mohicans I hear people making jokes to that affect.  I think that has more to do with what people think about Tom Cruise than it does the actual movie though.  This is an epic movie and I am usually a fan of them when they offer such incredible battle scenes.  I love the portrayal of Japanese culture in this movie and love the specific time in history it covers. The invention of the gun changed warfare forever.  It was the end of the warrior and the ascension of the soldier.  There is a great History Channel special on the subject in the special features of the DVD. I think this film is a glowing example of what westernization can do to foreign cultures, and how in the end greed always wins no matter what is right.

I think Edward Zwick is a very talented director and specifically good at these period pieces.  I like his portrayal of other cultures and think he does an exceptional job of educating his viewers about them. I for one am not overly familiar with Japanese culture but fell in love with this films portrayal of it and hope that it is accurate. I think the character of Nathan Algren has an incredible transition that I have always admired.  He is very much the American man. A good man in truth, but haunted by his experiences and flawed with arrogance.  He is proud, as any heroic American should be, but he has lost his way.  Living with this foreign culture he grows to appreciate and eventually love it. Learning to appreciate this unfamiliar culture he finds a way to live with himself again. He learns to believe in something and he learns that there is more to the world, it’s a realization that humbles him.  There is nothing more riveting to me personally than to see a character in a movie humbled and for that character to learn from the experience to go on and redeem himself. It’s an incredible thing really, and I think the Algren character does it as well as any I have ever seen.

I am and always have been a sucker for a great battle scene.  I sincerely think this movie offers some of the greatest I have ever seen.  Not only are there guns but there is plenty of sword fighting, and sword fighting is always cooler. The Samurai were cool in so many ways, but there is one thing nobody can ever take away from them and that is their bitchin armor.  These guys are scary looking and they are attacking with a dizzying array of weapons with a speed that is unbelievable.  It’s shameful how they are gunned down in the end.  It was a coward that stood behind that gun giving the order.  A coward that sat on a pile of money and was motivated by greed more than anything else.  Not even half the man that any one of those riding after him were but it didn’t matter with the kind of weapons he had at his disposal.  He may be shamed in the end but he still won. and his winning cost the lives of so many incredible people.  He does lose when all is said in done, but only after winning and taking far too much in doing so. As much as what happened sucked, there really is nothing more heroic or powerful then seeing men ride to their death.  Knowing there is no hope but choosing to go anyway because you believe in something so greatly; it’s an inspiring thing to watch. It’s even more inspiring to see the Japanese soldiers bow down to them in the end.  These men were part of their heritage but they had become blinded and done something unspeakable in the name of expansion.  Their show of respect in the end is very moving.  It is a great way to cap one of the best battle scenes I have ever seen.

I think the character of Nathan Algren was incredible and very well written.  I think there are probably many great actors who could have pulled off the role with varying differences.  Yet Tom Cruise played the part and he did an incredible job.  I have said time and time again that I am no fan of Cruise but I thought he gave an incredible performance in this film. I think it is a bit much that Tom Cruise is the man to change Japan in the end of the movie but what are you gonna do? Sometimes you have to accept something ridiculous in light of so much that was great.  Ken Watanabe is really the greatest actor of the film.  I think Watanabe has been great in everything I have seen him in, he has a great voice and pulls off badass really easily.  As Katsumoto he was incredible and I think he was robbed of the Academy Award that year.  He was nominated but lost to Tim Robbins for his performance in Mystic River. It’s a shame but regardless I think his performance was one to remember.

This is a movie that I felt I learned from and it has lesson I do my very best to carry with me everyday.  The lesson I take from it is to not judge other cultures.  We see the Americans in this movie completely disregard the Samurai, referring to them as savages with bows and arrows.  Yet there is so much more to these people than meets the passing eye of an arrogant nation.  Algren learns that because he had no other choice but to take the time to do so.  Had Algren not been captured he might have just as easily continued seeing them as savage people but when he is held in captivity he has nothing to do but study the people holding him.  I think we all have the capacity to judge people we don’t understand in this way and far too often we fall victim to that judgement.  We won’t all have the opportunity to see what Algren saw beneath the surface, but we should all be aware that there is always more than meets the eye.  Foreign cultures always seem confusing and aloof to people who don’t know any better and too often those people have no interest in knowing any better.  I think the kind of arrogance that leads people to be judgmental is shameful.  I do my very best at all times not to be that kind of person and this is one of the many movies that taught me that. Another lesson, one I’ve also taken from several movies, is the danger and shameful nature of arrogance.  We all fall victim to it now and again but it does us no good in any facet of life.

This movie can be easily dismissed because the title and leading star can make it seem ridiculous but I am telling now that isn’t the case here.  This is a rich and beautiful movie with plenty to appreciate about it.  I love this movie as I love any movie I feel I learn from. Aside from all of that is the great action the movie has to offer, the battle in the end is epic and emotionally moving.  Having said all of that I think this movie is without doubt worth your time to see it and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

AMBER’S REVIEW

O, yay. Another last of something that isn’t even the something. I think you guys know my stance on these types of movies already, and if you don’t please read The Last of the Mohicans. I am not going to go and elaborate again on how stupid it is to have a movie where a white guy is the last of something he can’t possibly be the last of. So sorry Tom Cruise…you can’t be the last samurai! You. are. from. New. York

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Oh my god. Are you serious? Let’s just kern the shit out of the top billing so it stretches across the entire top. And let’s be lazy as possible and just center the typography, and cheese it up by putting a chinese symbol behind it. I understand you have to put Tom Cruise on the front, and there isn’t anything wrong with it, but do you see my point? He can’t be the last samurai  GAH, SMH.

NEXT MOVIE: Layer Cake (2004)

What Causes the Dome?

I read a quote recently in which Stephen King talked about the show Under the Dome and how it differed from the book.  More importantly he mentioned that the ending was completely recreated for the show.  This was something I suspected and mentioned on my last post about this show. It was obvious really because what causes the dome in the book is a bit out there.  It doesn’t really matter though, what makes the book so awesome isn’t what caused the dome but what the dome itself caused.  Nevertheless now that I know the ending will be different I don’t have any qualms about telling you what it was in the book that actually caused the dome.

This is a scene that keeps coming to mind when I think of how to explain what causes to dome:

Yep, in the book aliens are what cause the dome.  There is no real reason for it.  They are alien children playing with technology meant for their parents.  They are just being cruel and watching the action going on within the dome.  Like little boys looming over an ant hill burning ants with a magnifying glass.  In the end Julia Shumway pleads for compassion and finds one alien child where there were usually many.  Alone the one alien is convinced that she is real and decides to lift the dome.  I always felt the ending was a little weak but it was good enough to finish up the story. I have no idea what they will do to explain the book in the show but it will be something more down to Earth I suppose.  A government experiment or something maybe, who knows?

I didn’t watch the second episode of the show and don’t intend to watch it again at all. I loved the book and don’t care to see a different version.  I hope anybody watching the show now enjoys it but also encourage you to read the book yourself.  It’s one of the best from Stephen King and it’s worth the time to read it.

Flash Gordon…..aaaAAAAAHHH

Year: 1980
Directed By: Mike Hodges
Written By: Alex Raymond (creator) Michael Allin (adaptation) Lorenzo Semple Jr. (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a movie that has stayed in the back of my mind for probably as many as twenty five years now.  I don’t know specifically but I believe I probably watched it many times when I was around 4 or 5 and haven’t seen it since.  Yet there have always been specific scenes from this movie that left a big impact on me because I have never forgotten them.  When I bought it recently and watched it again I now think this movie may have played a significant role in my love for this genre.  I wouldn’t call myself a big science fiction fan but I do have a sincere fondness for campy movies and comic related things.  Looking at this the other night I am wondering if this was in fact one of the first comic book movies and the world just wasn’t ready for it. It was preceded by films about Superman and Batman but let’s be honest, “savior of the universe” or not, Flash aaaAAAHHH could never compete with those guys.

This is a campy movie, and maybe more than was actually intended.  I do think the film was specifically made to be campy but adding to the effect is the fact that we don’t actually hear the voice of Sam J Jones through most of the film.  I read that things got really bad between Jones and the studio as production was winding down and he walked before finishing all the looping of his lines.  In his absence the producers had no choice but to dub over all his dialogue with somebody else’s voice.  Jones’s departure from the film also cancelled out two potential sequels that probably never would have come to fruition anyway.  In hindsight I’m sure Jones probably would have reconsidered his decision to leave as his career produced nothing significant afterwards.  Still, whether we actually hear his voice or not I hardly think it matters.  I think this guy is awesome in the movie. As a teen I spent many years watching That 70’s Show and watching this movie the other night couldn’t get past the “blonde Kelso” playing the hero. I specifically love the scene when he is getting beat up until a ball shaped object rolls towards him and he is able to overpower the aliens with football style fighting moves. His only fault was that he was the quarterback for the New York Jets, currently a pathetic and doomed franchise (sorry Jets fans, but you have to see the truth in that).  We would all be screwed if a Jets QB was tabbed to be savior of the universe today, Mark Sanchez would never get it done. If Sanchez was taken, all Prince Barin would have had to do during the fight to the death was turn around and attack him with his ass.  Sanchez would have fallen off the platform and into oblivion; Earth and the Universe would be screwed.

I think this movie is incredible because of costume design and production.  While it fails by comparison to today’s standards I think it was pretty incredible for 1980.  I love Emperor Ming, Klyus, Prince Vultan, and all of his birdmen for that matter.  To the developing imagination of a four or five year old I don’t know that there was anything cooler then the way these guys looked. Klytus with his metal face was everything I thought a top henchman should be: loyal, wicked, and badass looking.  Prince Vultan was an annoying character every time he opened his mouth but he looked cool, and he had an army of equally cool looking hawkmen to lead into battle.  Emperor Ming; what can I say about this guy? What a great villain right? Cold, calculating, and evil to the core. I love the look of this guy too, everything from the crazy eyebrows to his bitching outfit. The outfit actually weighed something like 70 pounds and could only be worn by the actor for short periods of time. Max von Sydow was great in the role and was even nominated for a Saturn Award for the part, whatever that is.  Von Sydow was actually nominated for an Oscar recently for his role in a movie I will not see. I have a specific rule that if the preview of a movie makes me cry I do not watch it, this was the case with the movie in question, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I know the role he played in this movie and from the preview it looked very profound, but the preview shamed me with glimpses that had tears rolling down my face.

The scene from this movie that stayed with me for over twenty years was this one (click the link to check it out).   The idea of the fight to the death was something new to me at my young age the first time I saw it and it left an impression on me.  Soon my action figure scenarios entailed fights to the death between my G.I.Joes, X-men, or He-Man figures.  I would even take empty boxes and poke pencils through them to emulate the spikes rising from the floor as Flash and Prince Barin fight each other with whips.  The wounds they leave on each other with the whips also left an impression.  I would often take a red washable marker to these action figures to draw blood from the wounds they were giving each other. It’s a scene that might not seem as cool to a younger person today who has grown up with so many incredible fight scenes from tons of different movies. This was one of the first significant fight scenes for me as a child and that makes all the difference as far as I’m concerned.  It was awesome then and it is still awesome now.

I have had the strangest urge to buy this movie looming over me for years now.  A few years ago I came across a used collector’s edition in a store and picked it up.  As I stood there with it in my hand I felt compelled to buy it but talked myself out of it because it had a fairly significant price tag to it for a used DVD.  I had since regretted not buying it and always had my eye out for another copy.  Surprisingly this isn’t a hot item in many DVD retail stores where sales have continually dropped over the years, shocker right?  When it eventually popped up as an Amazon recommendation recently I just couldn’t resist and finally got a copy. I didn’t really know what to expect when I watched it because outside of that one fight scene I remembered very little about it.  I literally enjoyed every bit of it. Maybe it brings back some of the excitement I felt as a child, or maybe it’s just because this movie is freaking awesome.  Amber would argue the first point because she said it was stupid but sound off in comments and let me know what you think.  I’m sticking by the fact that this is just an awesome movie and she is crazy.

I really can’t close out this review without mentioning the soundtrack by Queen.  I would never call myself a Queen fan but I have liked a few of their songs, such as Bohemian Rhapsody.  This song knocks them all dead; in fact I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since seeing the movie.  You can check out the video below:

Something else I keep coming back to since seeing this movie is the idea that it must have been a heavy influence on the guys from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Maybe I’m wrong but I think these examples speak for themselves:

Specifically the input from Dennis, and the outfit he is wearing, seem heavily influenced by Queen. There is also this:

birde-of-warThis is what they did….

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But this is obviously what they were going for right? Maybe I’m just looking into it too much but when watching this movie I kept finding myself thinking about these connections to the show.

To close this review I just want to finish by saying I love this movie and really enjoyed watching it again.  If you were born in the 80s or before I think you will both remember and have a chance to enjoy this movie. If you were born ten or twenty years after this movie came out then I simply hope you approach it with an open mind.  I think this movie is worth your time, and I would love to hear some thoughts from other fans.