Henry Thomas

Suicide Kings

Year: 1997
Directed By: Peter O’Fallon
Written By: Josh McKinney, Gina Goldman, and Wayne Allan Rice (screenplay), Don Stanford (short story)

RYAN’S REVIEW

One of my favorite scenes of all time features Chistopher Walken playing a mob boss, so naturally this has always been a movie that appeals to me. This is a fascinating movie where these rich kids get it in there head to do about the craziest thing possible. In order to rescue a kidnapped sister they decide to perform their own kidnapping. They pick the most outrageous and insane person to kidnap and the scene is set.

This group of rich kids really bite off more than they can chew when they chose a mafia don as a person to extort. The stakes raise dramatically when not only have they kidnapped a powerful and dangerous man, but they’ve cut one of his fingers off to boot. They have an outrageous justification for what they’re doing but truthfully it makes little sense. These guys think that the sister of one of them has been kidnapped and in order to rescue her they kidnap a man who has both the money for the ransom and the resources to get her home safely. It’s a crazy idea to begin with but they really go too far when they decide that any harm that befalls the girl will also befall the Don.

This movie pulls you in with a cool and interesting story but it keeps you with a really rich cast. Christopher Walken is the Don and he thrives in that role. He has that classy quality that works well for him when he is the dignified Don being shown to his usual table. He also has that cool quality that starts to make all the boys like him a little bit when they are holding him hostage. Making him an even cooler mob boss is his number one henchman played by Denis Leary. I’m a big fan of Leary and this movie is a great example of his talent as he improvised most of his own dialogue.

Of these rich kids you have Thomas Henry, better known as E LI OTtrying desperately to continue acting as a grown up. Jay Mohr is the muscle of the group, going against his typical comedy and playing the wanna be tough guy that insist on keeping the Don at gunpoint. Jeremy Sisto is the smarter guy of the group trying to keep the Don alive with his premed skills. Sean Patrick Flanery, the Boondock Saint himself, is the cool guy with all the secrets. Then rounding up this group of youngsters is Johnny Galecki performing in such a typical Johnny Galecki fashion. I used to like Galecki but he is such a whiney actor and no different here.

The scene was set, things are crazy enough with a kidnapped and slightly dismembered mafia Don, but the movie cleverly ups the stakes. Turns out once the Don starts exercising his resources he finds out this whole thing is an inside job. One of the rich kids has turned on and set up his buddies but you don’t know who. The entry of mystery into the story makes a film that has already sucked you in maintain your attention.

I think this is an interesting movie and I have always liked it. It doesn’t really inspire much to say in me but some movies are just cool to kick back and enjoy. This movie kept me on the edge of my seat the first time I saw it and I still find myself edging forward upon multiple viewings. I think it is easily worth your time to see.

NEXT MOVIE: The Sum of All Fears (2002)

Since I mentioned it earlier here is a clip of one of my favorite scenes of all time. Clever dialogue from a man who has made a career of writing clever dialogue. Written by Quentin Tarantino, Directed by Tony Scott, and performed by Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, and  with a young Tony Soprano looming in the background:

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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)

Gangs of New York

Year: 2002
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, and Kenneth Lonergan

RYAN’S REVIEW

I remember when this movie first came out in theaters, it was the year I graduated high school.  I didn’t see it in the theaters but I remember running into some friends coming out of the theater when they had just seen it and I was on the way to see something else. I had been reading about this movie and knew of it for some time.  It was delayed time and time again before its release, once because of the 9/11 crisis. It was the new movie by Martin Scorsese though and the delays only made me look forward to it more.  I was a big fan of Goodfellas and Taxi Driver so I was really interested in the film despite not being at the theater to see it then.  I asked them if the movie was any good and I will never forget what they said.  They looked at me with a disappointed expression and said “It was bloody” and another said “it was really violent.” What they said was all in their tone though.  I had not seen this movie but somehow I knew, I didn’t know how but somehow I just knew that they were wrong.  These guys weren’t good friends but they were friends and somewhere deep down I never looked at any of them the same after that.  Once I actually saw the film the verdict was in, these friends had no taste and they didn’t have enough sense to appreciate something so incredible. Not to mention that I found myself wondering before and after seeing it ‘what kind of guy finds something too violent or bloody?’ I have lost touch with those friends since high school and I’m OK with it, somehow it is all because of this movie.

I remember looking forward to the DVD release of this movie quite a bit since I never ended up seeing it in the theater. Our movie collection was young at that time and DVDs were quite costly then.  Not too expensive but much more so then they are now. What I mean by that is that at the time this collection was a slower work in progress.  I didn’t buy DVDs carelessly not only because I could not afford to but because it was much more expensive to do so back then.  Yet when this movie came out on DVD I went to the store and bought it on the day it was released without having ever seen it. It was a gamble that paid off well.  This is one of my favorite movies ever from Martin Scorsese, in my opinion it might be his best film.  That is a tough thing to say because there is a lot of steep competition.  Martin Scorsese is one of the men that made film making what it is today. He has been making great movies for over forty years.  His contributions to the industry will be studied 100 years from now and then some.  One day he will leave behind a legacy that will turn him into a legend.  This film is my favorite of the ones that make the legend that is Scorsese.

Before this movie I had a certain impression of Leonardo DiCaprio, and it wasn’t really good. I was a teen during the time Titanic came out I came to dislike DiCaprio the same way that most young men don’t like Justin Bieber now.  He’s the guy that all the teen girls go nuts over and it is annoying to the point you find yourself disliking them.  This changed all of that in the case of Dicaprio, I saw the value that in truth had been there all along I was just too foolish and immature to admit it.  DiCaprio is the best actor in the business hands down. He is great at choosing roles and he has an ability that is impressive.  With this movie he effectively became Scorsese’s De Niro of the 21st century as well with many more collaboration to follow. He can use a wide range of dialects and he has worked with many of the greatest directors out there. It was this film that changed my impression of him and I have since looked forward to every film he has made. I imagine that DiCaprio is the kind of actor that would learn from the greats when he had a chance and during this film he got to work with one of the best of all time.

Daniel Day-Lewis had been retired before this movie came out and was persuaded out of it by direct involvement from Scorsese and I think DiCaprio too. It’s a good thing he decided to get back in the game because he gave one of the greatest performances I have ever seen in any movie. He has since remained unretired and I am grateful for that because I think he has a lot to offer. Day-Lewis is a notorious actor as far as his methods go.  He stays in character at all times during filming and that kind of dedication clearly pays off for him. He gets to know his character on a different level and I think you can see that in his work.  As Bill the Butcher he scared me.  He was so intimidating in this role that his persona came through into reality and struck fear into my soul.  He was that good.  There is so much about films that is predictable, but when I watched this for the first time I had no idea what the Butcher might do at any time and it was thrilling.  There are only a handful of characters in film that can provoke that kind of feeling, the Butcher is one of them. The intimidation that he invokes, the power that he commands, and his strange sense of honor make him a character for the ages.  I think he was robbed of the Academy Award that year and I have never felt that Daniel Day-Lewis got enough credit for this part.  His accent  was really incredible, as I understand it he spoke in that accent throughout his time working on the film.  The character that he plays Bill “The Butcher” Cutting is based on a real man named William Poole but this movie isn’t necessarily an accurate portrayal of who he was. He was part of the Know Nothing political party that specifically despised Irish and German immigrants coming into the country.  There is some truth here, as with the Tammany Hall parts of the film but as with all films you need to do your own research to find the truth.

Aside from those two great actors there are many other talented people that brought something to this movie.  John C Reilly didn’t have the best part to play in the role of a character that doesn’t inspire a lot of love.  I like Reilly though and think this movie is one of the many examples that show his true value.  He has great range to be both serious and funny depending on what movie he is in.  I have never been a big fan of Brendan Gleeson but I can’t quite figure out why.  He is in many movies that I love and he played a great character in this one as well.  This was the first movie I remember seeing Henry Thomas in since his role as a child in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial so it was cool to see him still acting, albeit in a role as a weakling.  Liam Neeson had quite a good role in the beginning as well.  I read once that originally his character was hacked piece by piece to death during the battle but it had to be changed to get an R rating. However during the battle, right before the butcher attacks him you can see a quick shot of his arm being hacked off that wasn’t removed from the final cut.  It just appears to be someone else being cut because you don’t see this injury on him as the Butcher kills him.

The only role that I didn’t think was great in this movie was that of Cameron Diaz.  It isn’t anything against her either I think she is a beautiful and talented actress but just not right for this role.  I think she looked too pretty for the part.  A pick-pocketing hooker during that era wouldn’t have such a perfect looking face with such pretty features.  Originally the part was to be played by Sarah Polley, who I think would have been much better in the role.  I am a fan of Polley but she isn’t an A-list actress by any means and that was the problem.  The studio wanted a more bankable star in the role and the casting was changed at the last minute.  Nothing against Cameron Diaz but this decision hurt the movie.  That’s the biggest problem in most films.  Executives think in terms of what will make them the most money and not what will make them the best movie.

This is an epic movie, a wicked and amazing epic movie. It is violent, witty, and generally top notch across the board. If you haven’t seen this movie it is worth your time, because I can assure you that you will be satisfied when it is over.  If you aren’t and you don’t like this movie then let me know why because I would really like to know. I happen to have asked a few people about this movie this past week and they didn’t know it.  I counted it as an anomaly to what most people must have seen because it is so great but in the event that I am wrong there might be more of you out there.  In that case, see this movie, it’s great but brace yourself because it is violent…there will be blood.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is great. It tells an interesting story and keeps you interested throughout. The most notable thing about this film, however is the acting. This movie is filmed with A quality actors. I am sure that Ryan already mentioned all of the names in this film, so I won’t reiterate here, but when you put this kind of talent all together in one film, the result is bound to be incredible, and I think it definitely shows in Gangs of New York.

If you like a nice blood bashing then this is for you. It’s a great movie with a lot of meat to it and I definitely recommend it.

-A

NEXT MOVIE: Ghostbusters (1984)

E.T.:The Extra Terrestrial

Year: 1982
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Melissa Mathison

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is one of the highest grossing films of all time. It had an interesting box office journey in which it started out slow and grew stronger. It stayed a steady grosser for nearly an entire year at the box office and I think it actually holds the record for consecutive weeks in the theater. I would have to check my facts to be certain of that though. I have pondered about the success of this movie before, what was it that set it apart from the others and made it so special? I believe that it is because it feels so real, centering on a family in a domestic situation many of us can relate to. It reminds us of what it was like to be a kid again and gives us hope for the possibilities out there in the universe. This is a magical movie, it’s fun and funny, and above all else it is legendary.

When I was in high school I remember watching this movie in Spanish 2. I hadn’t seen the movie since I was a little kid, and remembered little from the plot. The version we were watching was in Spanish though so I understood little of the dialogue outside of “E.T. telephono mi casa.” My class period only allowed us to watch about three quarters of the movie. I saw up until the part when E.T. died and I was floored. I didn’t remember that happening, that couldn’t be right. I spent the entire day thinking about it, had this Spanish version somehow been different? The movie had me at that point and I hadn’t even been able to understand what the characters in the film were talking about, that is how good the movie is. When I got out of school that day I went to work at the video store and picked that movie out to play on the TVs. We had two televisions in the store that we would play customer-friendly films on during operation hours. It was that night after hearing it in my own language I fell in love with the film. It is a special movie, it touched our hearts and made us believe in and hope for life on other planets. It also made bike riding look so cool. I’m sure countless people found themselves in better shape after seeing it.

Steven Spielberg has had one of the most distinguishing careers of any filmmaker in history and this film is what he chose as the image of his production company, Amblin Entertainment. It is the image of Eliot flying across the moon on his bike, you will see it before many films that Spielberg was involved with. Spielberg added in many things from his own childhood and family life into this film. In fact I think many of Spielberg’s earlier work documents how his family life was when he grew up. I am speaking specifically about Close Encounter of the Third Kind but I’m sure more research would turn up more examples. He dictated the story of this film to the writer during the shooting of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It is so incredible the body of work he was putting together at that time, and the great movies he would continue to make for the next thirty years and then some. Spielberg shot this movie for the most part from the eye level of a kid, and outside of Eliot’s mom you don’t actually see an adults face until over half way through the film. That is part of the reason that this movie reminds us of what it was like to be a kid again. Spielberg has always had a great ability to work with children and get a lot out of them. This movie is a great example of that skill given the performances of a very young Drew Barrymore and Henry Thomas.

I referred to this film as legendary because it more or less created product placement in films. When Spielberg started making the movie he originally wanted to use M&M’s as the candy Eliot used to lure E.T., but the opportunity was declined by the makers of M&M’s. Spielberg chose Reese’s Pieces as an alternative and shortly after sales for the candy skyrocketed. Product placement in films suddenly became a very profitable opportunity for businesses and today it is an important process in the making of any film. So aside from being one of the highest grossing films of all time this film also started something that would affect all movies to come after it.

Since E.T. does die and come back to life in the film there have always been people that want to connect that to Christian symbolism. In case nobody figured it out when he made Schindler’s List, Spielberg is Jewish. He did not make this movie intending there to be any parallels with the religion and has even said that if he did so his mother would have scolded him. However there will always be people out there looking for these kinds of connections when they sometimes don’t exist and even when the connections are completely impractical. This is just a movie about a kid and a friendly alien. It was extremely popular though and undoubtedly was used frequently in efforts to relate religion to youths, albeit inappropriately.

I am always surprised when I watch this movie again how much I enjoy it. I have only ever watched the original version though. I refuse to watch the new editions where guns were taken out and CGI technology was used to give E.T. a waving and flopping tongue. Both Spielberg and his good friend George Lucas love to go back and adjust their older films. Lucas is much worse about it though. This is a stupid thing to do though and I am not a fan of it. The movies that they change were already classics, they also represent the technology of the time and I think altering them is a grave mistake. Movies should represent the time that they were made, eliminating smoking from a movie like E.T. (if that was done at all) denies the fact that people did that so heavily and I think it is important to remember how things used to be. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic movie that is appropriate for all ages and audiences. I think this movie is more than worth your time and I would recommend it to anyone.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Well…Ryan wrote a book! He keeps hounding me to write this post. Now that I sit down to do it, the baby is screaming and our three year old won’t stop talking.  So I’m going to keep it short. This was one of my favorite movies when I was little. It sticks in my mind because it was so magical when I was a little girl. I think that as little kids we all believed in E.T. and thought that he was real.  Ryan wrote pretty much everything there was to say about why it was so easy for us to connect with it as kids.

I love this movie, and it gives me a nostalgic feeling. It reminds me of when I was a little kid and went to Universal Studios with my family.  The E.T. ride was my second favorite ride of all time (the first being the Back to the Future ride, how badass was that one?) and it made it one of my favorite vacations when I was younger.  This is a really great movie and you should see it.

NEXT MOVIE: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)