Month: February 2016

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Year: 1991
Directed By: Kevin Reynolds
Written By: Pen Densham and John Watson

RYAN’S REVIEW

Now to a more serious Robin Hood film. One I am quite fond of despite how much fun Mel Brooks had with it in his comical rendition. I enjoy Men in Tights as much as anyone but I don’t think it bears any credence to the merit of this film. I was an imaginative seven year old when this movie came out and it was an instant hit with me. I loved the chivalry and swordplay. I was specifically taken with the forest village and the battle with flaming arrows. Maybe it’s the kid that still lingers in the back of my mind but I still love this movie.

This is such a fun and exciting chapter in the never ending Robin Hood saga. There are already countless films dedicated to the character and yet another due in the next year or so. This one is far and away my favorite though. I never saw the Russell Crowe version in 2010 despite how much of a fan I am of Crowe. I think the reason was I didn’t want anything threatening my opinion of this film, because this is the one I know. This one has Morgan Freeman wielding a scimitar, this one has exceptional battle scenes, and this one has a bad guy that doesn’t get enough credit.

I was deeply sadden to hear the recent news of Alan Rickman‘s passing. He was such a talented and incredible actor. My favorite of his roles is undoubtedly that of Dr. Lazarus from Galaxy Quest, a silly movie but one he gave me plenty of laughs with. Personally, I think his Sheriff of Nottingham is a close second to one of his best roles. He kills it as a bad guy and he carries this movie on his shoulders. Yes Hans Gruber and Professor Snape are the popular choices for naming his best work and I would never challenge those roles. Yet, I love him in some of the overlooked things. In this movie he plays a great bad guy. The type of bad guy that cuts your heart out with a spoon, because it would hurt more. The type of bad guy that kills his number one henchman and cousin, because he is tired of hearing him bitch. The type of bad guy that uses gory torture punishments as flirtatious small talk when trying to woo a Lady. He’s the type of bad guy that demands your respect because you never know what he might do next. That’s Alan Rickman and if you give this movie nothing else you should give his performance your respect because that man knew how to be pull off bad guy.

It’s worth mentioning that said number one henchman and cousin was played by none other than Michael Wincott. That guy was born to play bad guys and has an evil and sinister facial structure that makes him perfect for such parts. I’m not going to ramble on about Wincott I simply think it is worth mentioning he is perfectly cast in this film in the henchman role and his presence makes Rickman an even better bad guy.

I suppose I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t discuss Kevin Costner. He is Robin Hood after all but while Rickman is sinister and legit I think Costner comes off as kind of cheesy. I like Costner in this part but I think he is easily overshadowed by many of his costars. As Robin Hood in this film he didn’t speak with an English accent but he did teach guerrilla warfare to the homeless and outlawed. That’s pretty cool if nothing else, and it obviously worked out well because they built a magnificent tree village.

Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood is cooler in fact because his right hand man is Azeem, played by a much younger but still old Morgan Freeman. As the sage of wisdom and wielder of the intimidating scimitar Freeman is as badass as he ever was throughout his career. Azeem can fashion tools and weapons, deliver babies, and scare witches before dispatching them. Is there a better man to have at your side whose sworn an oath to you? Achoo may have been pretty cool with his backwards Robin hat but he could never hope to have any validity in mocking Azeem. The man was just too much of a badass.

My brother and I play golf rather often, though neither of us are really any good. When we slice into the wooded area the same line is screamed by one of the two of us regardless who is at fault. “Too the trees!!!” is said multiple times on every outing and it’s this film that inspires that line ringing in my mind on a regular basis. It is fitting though because I appreciate a regular reference to such an awesome scene. The battle at the tree village is so ahead of its time and it came before so many others you must understand. This movie preceded Braveheart, as well as plenty of other films that offer great medieval warfare.  If there is no other reason to get behind this movie it is this battle. The one that rushes a wave of fur clad warriors on foot and follows with a volley of flaming arrows into the tree village. The only thing I remember being half so cool as a kid was Madmardigan in Willow and He-Man.

The early 90s were a time when it was the cool move to cast Christian Slater in a supporting role. I get it because there is a time and a place for nearly everything. I tend to think his role has always been a bit too much though. This movie does a really good job actually of depicting life during feudalism, but Will Scarlett’s opinions just sully the whole thing. He’s the bastard of House Locksley and thinks this entitles him to something. Nobody likes a guy who doesn’t know his place in the world.

I was a history student in college but admittedly never studied much of medieval history. I have always found it fascinating and the era has made for some of my favorite movies both as a kid and as an adult. I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones, the books not the butchering show, and I have read them multiple times in anticipation of the next installment, The Winds of Winter. Having read these stories so much I have become very acquainted with the customs of the time period. Even though the series is fiction it is so historical in itself that I trust plenty of it when it comes to the customs and style of the time period. In this movie without going into explanation it accurately depicts many of the same customs and practices that can be found in Game of Thrones. With the exception of Will Scarlet and his whining. The audacity this illegitimate son has to consider himself a rival of the true born heir would make the Lords of the Seven Kingdoms shudder.

This movie has a special place in my heart, as all movies that influenced my fledgling imagination as a child do. This one is way up there because in my mind I would recreate that battle in the tree village over and over again in different scenarios. As a kid my imagination was the only escape I had from the family that was dramatically breaking apart around me. Movies were what got me through those troubling times because they inspired the world I created to hide away in. That makes this movie especially more important to me but I think it is good enough for anyone regardless. If you haven’t seen this movie then it is easily worth your time. Audiences love the Robin Hood story and this one was as good as any of the adaptations have been.

NEXT MOVIE: Robocop (1987)

 

 

 

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Robin Hood: Men in Tights

Year: 1993
Directed By: Mel Brooks
Written By: J.D. Shapiro, Evan Chandler, and Mel Brooks

RYAN’S REVIEW

I have never been much of a Mel Brooks fan, but when I was nine years old this was just about the funniest thing I had ever seen. I didn’t understand at the time how the movie mocked the most recent rendition of the Robin Hood movie cycle, because I also loved that one too. When this movie came out I was still at an age when The Princess Bride was one of my favorite movies and it made this movie all the better that the Dread Pirate Roberts played the lead role. The sort of comedy this movie features has never normally appealed to me but it got me at the right age and hit my funny bone just right.

Mel Brooks has made a career out of a specific kind of comedy that really just isn’t my thing. I have always found most of what he does stupid rather than funny. I know that it is blasphemous to say so as a movie fan but I have never been a fan of The Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles. It’s partly because of the type of comedy I don’t like but more so because I really do not like Gene Wilder. I don’t know what it is about him but I just do not like the guy and can’t stand to see any of his movies. Spaceballs was cute but it’s a bit too much and the same goes for Dracula:Dead and Loving It. I think this movie just happen to catch me at the right age and I was a big fan of Robin Hood at the time. I think that this one is different than the others in plenty of ways too which make it exceptional, but that may simply be nostalgia influencing my opinion.

I love that this movie starts with the choreographed dancers with the rapper setting up the story. They have their Robin Hood hats on backwards, it’s just so funny. I also love that they use that classic “hey-na-ne-na-ne” song to create the beat. It’s this hilarious intro that immediately makes me accepting and willing to overlook all the typical Mel Brooks’ silliness.

The casts that Brooks assembled for this movie also makes it easier to overlook all the silliness going on. I have always been a fan of Cary Elwes and I think his knock on Kevin Costner‘s rendition of Robin Hood is one of the funniest jokes in the movie. “Unlike some Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent.” I have never understood what derailed the career of Elwes because he disappeared forever and never really hit it big. Whatever the reason I’m sure there is an interesting story there. I think Richard Lewis is hilarious and he is the most constant funny character in the film. He’s the type of guy that is just naturally funny and makes comedy seem effortless. Amy Yasbeck is great as Maid Marian with her Everlast chastity belt. Such a gorgeous redhead who Brooks’ must have been smitten with because he brought her back for his Dracula film a couple years later. Finally, in the last moments of this film it seals the deal with a fantastic cameo. When Patrick Stewart shows up as King Richard and declares all toilets be named after his brother John he ends the film on a terrific note. I have long sense been a fan of the ever-aged Stewart in so many roles. As Captain Picard, Professor X, or even as King Richard he is simply awesome and an audience favorite.

This was Dave Chappelle‘s first film role and like everything he does, he nailed it. Achoo, son of Asneeze, is a funny character and it got Chappelle noticed just enough to get him pointed in the right direction. I have always been a big fan of Chappelle. As a kid he caught my eyes with his roles in The Nutty Professor and Con Air, two household favorites of my family that are specifically left out of my own personal collection. As a teen he became a fan favorite of my generation with his hilarious pothead movie Half Baked. Then he blew up into mega stardom while I was in college with the groundbreaking Chappelle’s Show. I can never stress enough how huge that show was and if you weren’t around you could never understand. Walking through my college campus during the height of the show was like having it on as background music. You literally couldn’t walk 100 feet without hearing things like “I’m Rick James bitch!” or even openly spoken racially questionable jokes that suddenly seemed OK. It was unfortunate when Chappelle suddenly and dramatically pulled out of his very successful show and seemingly fell off the map. There were weird stories all around involving him running away to Africa and all kinds of stuff. He was due to be the richest television star in the world before the dramatic exit and opinions varied on the why of it all. I for one never judged him for it, though plenty of people did. As a true and longtime fan I assumed that he had his reasons, and I was willing to support him regardless what he did. Truth be told his show wasn’t really the type of show I generally get into. His was an exception and I enjoyed it but I didn’t miss it when it was gone. A couple of years ago Chappelle started a stand up show that was supposed to launch a comeback for him. He was “starting from the bottom” to get back to the top. Amber and I were fortunate enough to see his show when he quietly showed up in our home town for a venue. I thought he was really funny and it was awesome to see him live. Dave Chappelle is a legend and it was an exceptional experience simply to see him so close and after so long absent from common culture.

This is a movie that I would never give the time of day if it were to be released now. I would undoubtedly categorize it as “Don’t Waste Your Time” and would have nothing but negative things to say about it. I was nine when this movie came out though and that makes all the difference. Time is relative and perception correlates with it in such interesting ways. Our opinions are all the product of when and where we developed them and a movie like this reminds me of that. I love this movie but it is as contrary to my tastes as anything I watch. We call these things guilty pleasures but in truth is all about where and when we came across it during our own journey through life.

Despite my obvious bias towards this film that I fell in love with as a child I still think there are plenty of things that make it worth your time. The intro, Richard Lewis, the typically loved Robin Hood story, and of course Patrick Stewart’s cameo at the end all make this movie worth wild. If you are already a fan of Mel Brooks then this is one you should have already seen but if you steer clear as I tend to then this one is at least worth a shot because it’s funny. I would be really interested in the opinions of others on this film and how they contrast with my own. If you’ve made it this far in this review then stick around a little longer and let me know what you think about it.

The quality of this video is awful but it’s still awesome nonetheless.

NEXT MOVIE: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

 

The Walking Dead Mid Season Return

POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD

This year’s Hallmark holiday is a bit cooler because it features the return of the fan favorite Walking Dead series. Back before the official start of the Christmas season (as if weeks of subtle advertisement hadn’t subconsciously programmed us to spend money already) the show left off on a hell of a cliffhanger. With Rick and company goring up in bloody ponchos for a stroll through the zombie filled streets of Alexandria. Before the plan can even get under way the terrified son of Rick’s squeeze starts to draw attention right after stepping off the porch. This has left plenty with what must have been a tormenting wait of two months to see what will happen.

Well get ready, all hell is about to break loose. Not only is the horde walking through their home but they have a much bigger threat coming to pay a visit. I’m an obsessive reader of the comics and I am really excited about what is to come. What I regularly tell people about the show is that the good stuff hasn’t even started yet. The things that start unfolding this season will lead to some of the most exciting things the comic series has ever done. One of the most awesome bad guys of all time is about to be brought to life on screen and with him comes a conflict as exciting as any I have ever read or seen.

For the next couple of months we will hear an awful lot about Negan, but we will not see him until the season finale. I have had several people try to tell me he has already been on the show and we saw him in the mid season finale confronting Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham. That is not Negan, and trust me, when you meet the guy you will know it and there will be no doubt about who he is, and hopefully how dangerous he is.

These next eight episodes should all be jammed pack with action and we should see a large number of regular cast members killed off. They are going to have to kill plenty of people because they will be introducing too many new ones to the show. Negan leads a band of baddies called the Saviors, and there regular victims come from a settlement called the Hilltop. There will be new characters in both of these groups and room will have to be made to accommodate them.  It’s hard to say who will and won’t die because of the differences between the show and the comic. For example, Andrea and Sophia are still alive in the comic but dead on the show. Carol has long since been dead in the comic and was never the badass she is on the show. So there is no way to know who or what will actually happen but some things are pretty certain.

There are certain characters you can trust will not die. Rick being the number one example because the story is about Rick. Carl, despite what most likely happens tonight, is also safe. He is Rick’s reason for living and carrying on. Carl is one of my favorite characters in the comic and when I tell people this they always give me a puzzled look. That’s Chandler Riggs fault, and I agree that he totally sucks on the show. He’s a poor adaptation of the badass child of the apocalypse but it’s not all his fault. He ages at a normal stage and is already too old for the part. Tonight he will most likely get shot in the head by that kid that has it out for him. In the comic when he and Rick are walking through the horde a wild bullet catches him in the eye. He survives but is permanently disfigured. Michonne is also safe because she’s too vital to the series. Beyond the three of them it’s a toss up. Maggie should be safe, Eugene should be safe, but after that I’d expect a free for all.

I think the first death will easily be the kid that’s crying in the horde, followed by his mother and possibly her other son. In the comic when the boy starts crying he gets attacked and Rick tells the mother to leave him, but she won’t. Once she is absorbed by the horde she refuses to let go of Carl’s hand and Rick does not hesitate in chopping off her hand and leaving her behind. The following day her handless corpse is walking the streets of Alexandria. Abraham sees her and gets rid of her before anybody can see what obviously happened. There were not two boys in the comic, in the show I imagine it unravels in a similar fashion while the older angry kid takes a shot at Carl during the commotion. I hope they have Rick cold hearted enough on the show to cut the hand off of the woman he’s widowed and bedded but I have doubts about it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Daryl will be killed sometime in the next 8 episodes but I don’t know when or why. Daryl is an original character on the show but I feel like his presence holds back plenty of fan-favorite characters when they are introduced. He won’t be the end all be all death of the season finale and may survive till next year but I have a suspicion. I would really like to see Morgan swiftly dispatched because he is such a lame character. He was never the sudden bow staff ninja in the comic and I can’t stand the guy on the show. He was just a crazy guy Rick brought back from home and he hung around in the background until he died.

There should be a new character coming but I haven’t heard the first thing about casting for him so I have no clue what to expect. In the comic the first person Rick and company meet from another settlement is Jesus from the hilltop. His real name is Paul Monroe, he’s a homosexual, and he’s the Bruce Lee badass of the apocalypse. Jesus is a nickname given because of how he looks and it stuck. He ultimately becomes Rick’s top dog and right hand man in the coming conflict. His absence would really be unfortunate as he continues to be an intricate character in the series.

I’m probably wrong about most of this stuff but I don’t care. I like the show well enough but I only really watch it so I can join the conversation at work. More often than not I am alone in the world as I literally don’t know a single other reader. I encourage anybody that likes the show and wants more to simply pick up a compendium or a few volumes of the comic. It’ll be a much more exciting experience.

Road Trip

Year: 2000
Directed By: Todd Phillips
Written By: Todd Phillips and Scot Armstrong

RYAN’S REVIEW

Back at the turn of the millennium, if you had missed American Pie the year before or just wanted more of the same then this film was the one for you. The two movies are very similar, even featuring Seann William Scott in practically the same role, but they feature a formula that works. This is a really funny movie whether it was more of the same or not.

For those of us who remember it’s good for a laugh but just to clue in the younger generations there is something interesting here. Believe it or not there was a time when Tom Green was considered one of the funniest guys around. At least he was for my generation when I was 15 and 16. Maybe it was just my age at the time but MTV seemed like the center of the universe then and they thought Tom Green was a rare find. It was around the time this movie came out and that weirdo was literally everywhere. Odd as it is, at the time he actually gave some vague sense of credibility to a film featuring mainly unknown actors. At that young and immature age I thought Green was funny but good for me and the entire comedy genre that he was simply a flash in the pan. The man took it too far and anybody that questions or doesn’t know that need look no further than Freddy Got Fingered. An appalling movie to say the least and I saw it when I was 17, an aged that specifically had to be the target audience. If it was too much for me as the immature age of 17 I can’t imagine anybody else out there could stomach it easily. For anybody who ever wonders, “what ever happened to Tom Green?” you really only have to see part of what happened when a studio was foolish enough to give Green full control over a film. Nobody should ever see the whole thing, I did, and I can assure you that no matter where you stop that it continues to get worse.

I was 15 when American Pie came out so in 2000 I was more than happy to see more of Stifler in a film. In this movie Seann William Scott does little more than re-enact his prior role but I was and am cool with that because I like the character. In this movie he is simply E.L. but nobody ever did or will remember that name because he is simply Stifler. Not that there is anything at all wrong with that though. In the identical role Scott is very funny and helps carry the film.

This movie garners little discussion as it really doesn’t require any thought to enjoy. More importantly it does nothing at all to inspire thought so there is little to say. However, before closing up there is one more thing I would like to mention, DJ Qualls. What a funny guy who never had any hope to go any farther than these types of roles could offer him. The very awkward and ultra skinny Qualls could never hope to be more than a type cast actor but he is hilarious none the less. This was his first movie and he popped up in plenty of things over the years before finding more steady work in recent years on TV.

Little else to mention here. This is a movie you’ve seen before but it’ll get a laugh or two out of you all the same. If you find yourself in the mood for a good laugh that you don’t have to think about then you won’t be wasting your time with this one. There is nothing to love here but plenty to laugh at.

NEXT MOVIE: Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

Road to Perdition

Year: 2002
Directed By: Sam Mendes
Written By: Max Allan Collins & Richard Piers Rayner (graphic novel) David Self (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a movie I was very excited about back in 2002 when it came out. I had been a huge fan of American Beauty in 1999 and found it very influential. This was the first film the director Sam Mendes had made since and I was really excited to see what else he was capable of. This movie was not as powerful and inspiring as his first film but I liked it all the same. It’s an aesthetically pleasing film with impeccable performances and an interesting mobster story. The movie is more visual than most with limited amount of dialogue but it manages to convey everything it needs to with each shot in every scene.

One of my favorite things about this movie is the performance of Tom Hanks because he plays such an un-Hanks-like character. I have been watching Tom Hanks for his entire career and this movie was the first time I had seen him play anything close to a bad guy. Yes in this movie he is the honorable hitman with the respect of his peers but a hitman none the less. I found it so interesting to see Hanks in a role where he was killing people and I thought he did well. He is a quiet and somber man who carries the weight of reputation with him, but when he has to act he does not hesitate. It’s so weird to see Tom Hanks shoot people after a lifetime of playing nice guy parts, but I like it. What I find most interesting is that even when Hanks is playing a ruthless killer out for revenge, he still comes across as a nice guy somehow. As Mike Sullivan he is gruff and curt but something about him being the victim in it all and a father as well still makes him seem like regular old Tom Hanks.

This was Paul Newman’s final role in a live action motion picture and I think he went out with a bang. Newman was a legendary actor and he is nothing short of fantastic in this movie. As the well respected and stoic leader of a criminal organization he is torn between what he wants and what he is obligated to. He knows that his son is up to no good and he damns him for the sins he commits but holds true to his responsibility as a parent throughout it all. I love his final scene in which he is resolved and accepting of his fate, such a classy way to be murdered. He was nominated for his role in this film but lost to lost to Chris Cooper for his part in Adaptation. An unfortunate loss but fitting given that both Cooper and the film were fantastic.

It took Daniel Craig a while to reach the star status where he didn’t have to play weaselly characters like Conner Rooney. Back in 2002 he was still a relative nobody and willing to take whatever part he could get in a big budget movie. He is a terrific actor but I think this is one of the worst characters I’ve seen him play. I like Craig too much to appreciate him in the part of such a douche bag.

I love that just when you think this movie is over and the happy ending is unfolding the most sinister character in the film pops back up to ruin the moment. Looking even worse for wear after his last encounter with Hanks’ Mike Sullivan the scarred and forgotten bad guy is waiting to finish his job. I have never been a big fan of Jude Law but he is simply great as the morbid photographer who works as a hitman on the side. I love when we first meet him and the music is reminiscent of American Beauty as he finishes the job on the victim he is photographing, the one that isn’t quite dead enough for him. That first scene immediately shows us how wicked this man is and he doesn’t disappoint as the movie carries on. He is a dedicated hitman who does what nobody else can by easily finding his victim, and no one will stand in his way. I love how a cop tries to stop him when he first meets Sullivan and he simply shoots the cop as an afterthought, as if the officer is nothing more than a nuisance to be dispatched.

I think the greatest strength this movie has is how beautiful it is. The scenes that take place in Chicago are exceptionally magnificent. The beauty behind this movie is a credit to the director Sam Mendes, who really doesn’t work enough. He only has seven directorial credits and the last two have both been James Bond films. I’ve heard he isn’t returning for the 25th Bond so I can only hope that in the aftermath of that franchise he does something else that makes us marvel at his abilities.

I had not known until sitting down to do this review that the movie was based off a graphic novel by the same name. Knowing that know I feel like I should have known as soon as I saw it. The look and feel of the movie clearly has a graphic novel vibe and makes the movie a fantastic adaptation. This is definitely not your run of the mill mobster flick but you still have a fantastic noir feel to the movie. It’s visual qualities do justice to scenes that probably came right off the page from the source material. I don’t know however as I have never read the comic and don’t know how closely it may or may not have followed it.

This movie isn’t one that received a lot of notoriety when it was released and it seems generally forgotten thirteen years later. When I mentioned to people I was watching it I got mostly confused looks as even the people of my generation struggled to remember it. I think that is a shame and hope it was simply a reflection of a small group of people who simply didn’t know. I really enjoy this movie and think it deserves a bigger place in our hearts and memory. If for no other reason that the qualities that make it exceptional. As the last rodeo for a legend and a rare opportunity to see the 90s nice guy go full on bad guy. This movie is worth your time to see for those reasons and because it is really an entertaining film.

NEXT MOVIE: Road Trip (2000)