James Cromwell

The Sum of All Fears

Year: 2002
Directed By: Phil Alden Robinson
Written By: Daniel Pyne, Paul Attanasio (screenplay) Tom Clancy (novel)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I have never been a fan of the Jack Ryan movies, and I’ve never read any of Tom Clancy’s novels. I probably should though because they must be good. They sure won’t let the character die out of films as they’ve been trying to make him the American James bond for like thirty years including four different actors to play the part. This movie features the third Jack Ryan played by Ben Affleck who hadn’t yet seen his fall and rebirth in the industry back in 02. This movie made it into the collection much like Street Kings did, it reminded me of a TV show I loved. I am a huge 24 fan and this movie always reminded me of it.

It may have been a bit of a stretch to compare this movie to 24. While there are certain elements that do compare by and large it doesn’t. The Glossy haired Ben Affleck version of Jack Ryan is certainly no Jack Bauer, but nobody really measures up to Jack Bauer. He’s the greatest as far as I am concerned. It’s like the God of Action came down and had sex with a regular woman and made Jack Bauer, half God, half human, all action.  Ben Affleck isn’t an action guy at all in this movie. I never watch these Jack Ryan movies but I’ve been under the impression they were action films. I must have been wrong about this, Affleck’s Ryan just asked how to use a gun.

I thought Jack Ryan was an action hero but he turns out to be more of a political hero that gets lucky in moments of action. And here I was comparing him to Jack freakin Bauer, how embarrassing. It takes brains as well as brawn to fight the good fight and this Jack Ryan has the former if not the latter to go along with it.

Now I’m just confused, if this movie didn’t remind me of 24 then why do I own it? I think I saw this movie possibly 15 years and hundreds if not thousands of movies ago. Sometimes reaching them in the collection is like going on an adventure of rediscovery. I’m about halfway through the film now and haven’t yet discovered what it was that I had forgotten about it but it’s been an interesting if not slow film.

Ah there it is, what intrigued me most about this movie when I first saw it. Nazis turn out to be the bad guys and they pit Russia and the US against each other. A nuclear bomb going off in a Baltimore stadium so soon after the tragedy on 9/11 was a bold move. That must have been what reminded me of 24. Although the bomb would have never endangered so many innocent people on Jack Bauer’s watch.

It’s interesting in this movie how quickly the Cold War comes back to life. I have always found that conflict fascinating. One of my favorite movies is Dr. Strangelove and once upon a time when I was a student teacher I designed a whole lesson plan around the film. The Cold War was a conflict that never really got around to any action and so many on both sides were itching for that action. I think this movie shows an interesting scenario for how things would have unfolded under similar circumstances.

I think I have figured out why I added this movie to the collection. I think it was back when I was in college, studying history. Its portrayal of the Cold War roaring back to life was most likely what I liked about it. There, mystery solved and now I can sleep easier at night without a meaningless mystery needling the back of my mind.

This is a cool movie and it has only gotten more interesting as it has gone on. Despite Ben Affleck’s ridiculous hairdo he manages to hold up well in this excellent cast. James Cromwell is a great choice for President and Morgan Freeman has always made everything he was in just a little bit better. I like Liev Schreiber as the real spy. There is also a nice cast of background characters to support these bigger names.

So to sum up everything this movie was not at all what I thought it was but it’s been fun rediscovering what it was that I first found interesting about it. It’s vaguely like 24 if 24 was about the bureaucrats and not the action guys on the ground. I find it funny I that I was wrong about why I owned this movie but those are the little laughs I can only enjoy myself. If you come by this movie it’s worth your time. Not the best movie but interesting enough.

NEXT MOVIE: Super 8 (2011)

Star Trek: First Contact

Year: 1996
Directed By: Jonathan Frakes
Written By: Rich Berman, Brannon Braga, and Ronald D. Moore. Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is far and away my favorite Star Trek film. Watched it in the theater, bought the VHS, rode the ride (for a few years a nearby theme park, then owned by Paramont, had a premier roller coaster called The Borg Assimilater). When this film came out I actually felt OK admitting I was a Star Trek fan. Albeit I was 12 and dangerously close to high school so it was a short lived openness.

After an abysmally long intro where bluriness transitions into credits the film starts with a bang. The scariest enemy to date is attacking in this large cube shaped spaceship and the entire federation fleet can’t handle it. Captain Picard shows up and takes command to annihilate the enemy. The space battle is cool and I spy with my little eye a really young Adam Scott piloting the ship commanded by Worf, who promptly gives the order to ram the enemy. I’ve watched like seven Star Trek films in a row and I’m wondering why they didn’t all start with a space battle.

I watched a lot of Star Trek as a kid but I don’t remember ever seeing the episodes featuring the Borg. My mom probably deemed it too scary for me or something like that and I’ll admit it probably would have given me nightmares as a six year old. The episodes this movie are based on were a season three finale and season four premier that aired in 1990. The Borg are decidedly scarier in this film with all the budget that comes with a major motion picture. At times this movie almost feels like a horror film but if the bad guys are that scary it only makes it better.

This is the eighth Star Trek film in a row that I’ve watched and I can honestly say the stakes have never been higher. The very existence of Earth hangs in the balance and whales aren’t the answer this time. This time there’s a real threat, one that will infect you and make you one of its own. The Borg are like techno zombies before zombies became the craze of society.

I don’t take part in Star Trek fandom, but I am sure there is a debate about the original cast vs the next generation. I may be biased because I grew up with this one but I do not see how the two compare. The Next Generation cast is far and away cooler and this being the best movie to date only proves that. Yeah I’m saying it, this is better than The Wrath of Khan.  This crew has Data, it has Worf, and Captain Picard is far and away more badass than Captain Kirk ever dreamed of being. I hate that in this movie Geordi ditched the visor. Apparently LeVar Burton wanted to be able to use his eyes to act but I always thought the visor made his character cool.

The Next Generation movies continue to bring Data into the limelight. Generations introduced the emotion chip which brought about much conflict for the character. Here again his character comes into conflict with himself as he fights with his desire to be more human. The Borg try to reverse turn him into one of their own by adding organic flesh to his robotic body. Data is a total badass in this movie but succumbs to the weaknesses of flesh. For a while you have to fear whose side he is on but Data is very much the Spock of the Next Generation and he always comes through.

One of the specific things that made The Next Generation better was the Holodeck and I think it’s cool that they were able to utilize it in this film. They gave us that fun scene in Generations with the crew all decked out in old school naval gear and Worf getting promoted. In this film they do even better by putting Picard in a tuxedo and having him shoot the shit out of a Borg. Again, Patrick Stewart as Jean Luc Picard is just hands down superior to Captain Kirk. I can’t speak to the show but the last seven movies I just watched never had Captain Kirk rocking a Tommy gun.

“Mr. Worf, do you remember your Zero Combat training?” I love this scene because it’s the scene that features “the other guy.” That one Lieutenant whose name you can’t quite remember who comes along just so a non important character can be killed. You have Captain Picard, Commander Worf, and Lieutenant other guy walking on the hull of the ship. Anybody wanna take a wild guess on whose expendable on this particular mission? We get teased that something happens to Worf in this scene but he’s too badass to die. First he breaks out his secret Kingon melee weapon he just happened to bring along but when the Borg tear his suit he just ties that shit off with a severed Borg arm. Decompress this bitch, adapt to my blade #Worfissocool.

Speaking of how cool Worf is, anybody that wants to present an argument contrary to Picard being the cooler Captain should check the scene when Picard calls him a coward. One of the finest moments in this movie is Picard standing ground while Worf tells him if he was any other man he would kill him where he stood. Captain Picard tells a Klingon to his face that he is a coward and lives to tell about it. Not just any Klingon either but Worf, the silver band thing wearing Chief of Security Worf, who always has a blade in the era of phasers. Patrick Stewart is not only more badass as Jean Luc Picard but he’s just a flat out better actor than Willaim Shatner.

At this point in the series they’ve destroyed the Enterprise too many times. It was a big deal to plenty of people in The Search for Spock and it was a big deal to me in Generations but had they followed through with it in this movie it would have been overkill. It still makes for a cool scene when the ship is evacuated and Picard stays behind to save Data. It’s a good thing they were able to save the ship and get back home too. What was Worf going to do on Earth trying to blend in?

As this movie comes to a close I can honestly say I’ve gotten more entertainment out of this one than any of the seven that have come before it. Yes, The Wrath of Khan is fantastic, but not even the greatest achievement of the original cast can match up to The Next Generation. This is hands down the most fun I have had so far in this journey through Star Trek film.

There is so much more I haven’t even covered in this review. James Cromwell is great in this little future history lesson that serves as the other half of the story. That is only one thing in a movie full of many things to like. Having put down over one thousand words just while watching this movie I think I have said enough. To cap it off I think this movie is worth your time. Trekkie or not this is a badass movie and I dare you to watch it and not get sucked in.

NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) 

 

 

 

 

 

L.A. Confidential

Year: 1997
Directed By: Curtis Hanson
Written By: James Ellroy (novel), Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I consider this to be one of the best movies I have ever seen.  It is a perfect movie and that puts it in an upper echelon with only a few others.  I see this movie in the same light as The Godfather, Casablanca, or Full Metal Jacket. Movies this good suck you in and make you part of their world.  They leave an impression on you and every time you see them they get better.  This movie is a hit on all levels and it blows me away every single time I see it. I think our timing to reach this movie in the collection is awesome because coincidentally we watched Gangster Squad last night.  That movie has a very similar story line to this one and watching them back to back has given us the opportunity to accurately contrast the two. Gangster Squad wasn’t that great and specifically once put up next to this one it seems like a horrible movie. It wasn’t a horrible movie, it just simply doesn’t compare to this one in any way, shape, or form.

This movie takes place in such an interesting time and place for our country.  Having grown up and spent my entire life on the east coast I have always had a fascination with the wild wild west.  Things were always done a bit differently out there as the rest of the country and authority slowly made their way over through expansion and development.  The West might be different altogether but there is specifically something different and unique about Los Angeles, and the whole Hollywood world.  Right and wrong are different there; it’s a world influenced by corruption, glamour, and greed.  It is influenced by the people that built it and to understand that you have to understand the people that built it.  The men who built the west were men who decided to go for a hundred different reasons.  They went for opportunity, they went to build a new life, and they went for the promise of work, gold, oil, and even fame. They came from all over the country and from a large variety of backgrounds.  They built something out there and the minute others started to notice what they had done they began looking for ways to move in and take advantage of the opportunities now available there.  Well like I said, things are different in the west.  Why let mobsters move into town and run the rackets when the local authorities can simply make all that money themselves? I know that this movie is based in truth but admittedly don’t know enough about the accuracy of it.  Nevertheless it is an awesome story and one that really does garner some more research on my part, eventually.

Curtis Hanson really hasn’t made that many movies that I found impressive but his name always immediately grab my attention.  No matter what else he has done, he was the guy that made this movie and doesn’t that say everything you need to know about him? His camera work and storytelling are so incredible in this movie.  I have always admired how he leads you through the crime scene at the Night Owl and you take everything in together with Detective Exley as he investigates the crime scene.  I love what he does with these three diverse and different police officers and how he manages to make us emotionally invested in all three of them. I love the arc each one of them has as a character and I love the men who were chose to play the parts.  I think the story in this movie is fantastic.  It’s so satisfyingly violent and intelligent at the same time with a little bit of sex and scandal thrown in for good measure.  It is a story that never fails to captivate and hold my attention.  The only other movie I really liked from Hanson was 8 Mile, and that is liked only from an admitted biased opinion based on being a fan of Eminem. Like I said though, it doesn’t matter what else Curtis Hanson has done.  He did this, and that gives him credibility for a lifetime as far as I’m concerned.

When discussing the cast I want to start with Guy Pearce as Detective Exley. Not because I think he was the best, in fact I really don’t like him at all, but his performance is seriously one of the best I have ever seen.  Detective Exley isn’t a likable character and you immediately begin to despise him. As the movie progresses you can’t help but feel differently and the more you watch the more you begin to like Exley.  Pearce plays the part so well and I am literally shocked to find myself so impressed with it every time I see it. He is such a little weasel till he interrogates the Night Owl suspects.  He is such a badass in that scene he doesn’t just deserve but practically comes through the screen and demands your respect by force.  Once he establishes himself as a badass he just continues to keep it up for the whole movie.  Whether he is shooting all of the bad guys, throwing caution to the wind to do what is right, sleeping with his rival’s girlfriend, or manipulating a massacre to his own advantage he is doing it all as a badass.  I love the respect he develops for his rival Bud White and the ass whooping he accepts when he knows he has wronged him.  I have never seen another movie where I saw what Guy Pearce did and thought “wow, he really did a great job in that movie.” I simply don’t like the guy and think he brings nothing to the table.  I can’t deny him this role though; he should have been nominated for it and taken the award home with him.  If he ever showed up for work and really brought it, it was on the set of this movie.

While I am incredibly impressed by the part played by Pearce my favorite is the most popular part played in this movie, by Russell Crowe.  This was Russell Crowe’s first major American role and it set the tone for his entire career.  He has been one of the best leading men of the last fifteen years because he is an outstanding actor. In this movie he burst onto the scene with aggression and brutality.  He plays the tough guy that is underestimated by everybody and proves to be much more than meets the eye.  As the movie progresses we see that he has the intelligence and detective skills to match his brutality.  The character then goes even deeper as we learn about his past and see his softer side when he is with Lynn Bracken.  When he confronts her after finding out about her and Exley you can feel his pain as his anger gets the best of him.  Another scene in which you feel his anger is that of the interrogation scene when Exley shines.  That scene showed us two things, one being that Exley was way more badass than we thought, the other being that Bud White is every bit the badass we think he is and more. This is one of Crowe’s finest roles and I think he also should have been nominated for the part.

I am and always have been a huge fan of Kevin Spacey.  The character of Lester Burnham he would play a couple of years later taught me quite a bit about life.  I do not know what has happened to him these days though.  He is an incredible and academy award winning actor who has simply fallen off the map for some reason.  The last thing I saw him in was Horrible Bosses and it wasn’t one of his finest roles.  As Jack Vincennes he is the sleazy cop that suddenly finds purpose in himself again.  He has been dirty for so long he forgot about all the right reasons he joined the force for in the first place.  As he begins to realize those things he starts to discover the skills that got him to the top and he uses them to do the right thing.  Until doing the right thing gets him killed that is.  That’s how it happens for the bad guy that decides to do good though, it’s an irony that is worth dying for to make that character a martyr. Vincennes became a martyr and a hero with his dying breathe by finding out the cleverest way to warn Exley. All past digressions forgiven, he died a hero and might have ended up with his name plastered somewhere in the city of Los Angeles. I don’t know what has been up with Kevin Spacey but I will always have my eye on what he is doing because within him are more performances of this caliber, I know it.

The rest of the cast was just as stellar and on point as the three most important I have already discussed.  James Cromwell is a fantastic actor and can play any part in any movie.  He can do it all pretty good but it turns out he can pull off mastermind villain pretty well as we see in this film. David Strathairn plays one of his best roles as Pierce Patchett. I have always liked Strathairn; he carries an air of dignity with him that makes him great for roles like this.  I am a big fan of Danny DeVito and like what he brought to the movie as well.  I have mentioned many times that I don’t like where his career has now led him but I think for the majority of his time in the business he has been very successful.

Kim Basinger won the Academy Award for this movie and was the only one to win the award for any of the performances in the movie.  I don’t understand that and practically consider it a crime.  I think she did a good enough job as Lynn Bracken but I don’t know how her performance warranted that kind of reward when some of the others weren’t even nominated. This movie was without a doubt her greatest performance as an actress but I don’t think she had much competition from her other roles.  Basinger is one of those women who made her career on her looks and not her talent and truthfully she has just never done it for me.

I honestly believe this movie is better each and every time I watch it.  As I already said I think this is a perfect movie and the fact that it seems better every time I watch it only reinforces that opinion.  As for Gangster Squad, it just didn’t have the raw and real element that this one had.  I knew things were going to be like that when we first met Josh Brolin’s character and he “Jack Bauer-ed” a room full of armed men. It’s just a bit too over the top and unrealistic.  When Bud White got angry he whooped ass on anybody within reach but not even he would have assaulted a crime base single handedly and walked out all hunky dory.  I think Sean Penn played an exceptional part as Mickey Cohen but even he was a bit over the top and exaggerated for effect. Gangster Squad is a film for the amateur movie fan but this movie is for those of us who really appreciate the art of film making.

This is a flawless movie and is without doubt worth your time.  It isn’t a movie that gets a lot of replay on TV and it isn’t brought up on a regular basis these days.  That is a crime.  This movie deserves its own three night weekend on AMC like The Godfather gets.  It’s that good of a movie and if you haven’t seen it I suggest you seek it out and take the time to watch it.  Incredible film that will always be one of my favorites.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan loves this movie and wrote a ton so in true Amber fashion, I will keep it short. This is a great crime movie. It captures your attention and keeps it throughout. The actors are perfect for their roles and do such a great job. It’s a really good flick that is definitely worth watching.

LAconfidential

Oh no. Another poster where they are trying to fit in way too many characters. This is not very successful either. Don’t miss the faded out guy right beside the word confidential. They also cut off Basinger’s head at the top with a solid black bar for the names. Bad call. The best thing about this poster is the marketing/advertising ploy behind the whole thing. Who is the target audience for this movie? Men. What do [some] men love? Boobies. That’s all any man really needed to see to want to see this movie.

NEXT MOVIE: Lady in the Water (2006)

I, Robot

Year: 2004
Directed By: Alex Proyas
Written By: Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman

RYAN’S REVIEW

With a movie like this it’s all about the effects. Also, as yet another movie in the typical sci-fi story line of machines becoming aware and taking over it’s important that the robots are cool.  Not only are the effects in this movie really good but the robots are more than cool, they are freaking awesome. This movie offers a sci-fi theme that has been done to death, but it’s an acceptable recycled story line so long as the special effects make things worth wild right? This movie does all those things and it is a lot of fun along the way watching it.

I have always really liked this movie but I have never really thought there was anything special about it.  This movie offers us a story that has been told to death but like I said, the appropriate effects are in place to make it worth wild.  Aside from that it is simply another Will Smith vehicle and those tend to be hit or miss.  Will Smith is a great actor that has enough swagger to carry a movie on his shoulders all by himself.  His movies are always huge but I haven’t liked many of them.  I never liked the M.I.B. movies, I thought Independence Day was a huge disappointment, Hancock was superhero overkill, and don’t even get me started on Wild Wild West. However I did grow up watching Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and I think he was awesome in the Bad Boys movies, as well as Enemy of the State.  Now I haven’t mentioned all of his movies but looking back over his track record I didn’t skip too many and I am surprised by that.  I really thought he had been in more movies but that is probably because he is such a multi-talented entertainer.  When he wasn’t acting he was still in the limelight for a while as a “rapper.” I put that in quotations because I was young during his big time rapping comeback and sided with Eminem in the feud that they had. “Will Smith doesn’t have to cuss when he raps to sell records, but I do, So F#*% him and F#*% you too.” I thought that was hilarious and topped Smith’s line in one of his songs when he said something like “write one verse without a curse.” I can’t fault Smith for being appropriate though and now that I’m older it makes me appreciate what he was trying to do more.

Smith is good in this movie but every time I see Will Smith I feel like he is just playing the same character and this is no different.  He always has something wise and clever to come back with, he is stylish, and when the action heats up he kicks ass.  Isn’t that more or less what he does in every movie he is in?  I have to be careful here because my sister absolutely loves the guy and she would consider it blasphemous to say these things about him.  Smith is starring in a new movie this summer that I am really looking forward to from M. Night Shyamalan.  The movie is called After Earth and the preview looks really promising. It’s a sci-fi thriller in which he stars alongside his son.  I haven’t seen them work together before because I refused to watch Pursuit of Happiness. I have a personal rule that I do not watch a movie if the preview makes me cry, and the preview for that one had me bawling like a baby. So I look forward to the opportunity to see how the two do working together in this one.  Smith’s children with Jada Pinkett-Smith have been incredibly successful in their own right and his son Jaden is beginning to look like a little Will Smith clone.

Aside from Smith I don’t think there is much to be said about the rest of the cast in this movie. I think James Cromwell is awesome but he has one of the smaller roles of the film and everything we see from him is after his character has already died.  Bridget Moynahan does not offer much as the female lead and I think they really could have gotten someone better.  Alan Tudyk “plays” the part of Sonny and I like Tudyk but would have never known he was the voice or motion operator of the robot if I hadn’t seen it listed on IMDB. Bruce Greenwood fits his role nicely but still leaves much to be desired as far as a guy that is kind of a villain.  The supporting cast often doesn’t matter in the Will Smith vehicle though because these movies are all about him.

There has been talk of a sequel to this movie but I don’t think it’s been given a green light yet.  If it ever is made I’ll give it a shot when it comes out.  I liked this movie and would be willing to sit down and see what else these robots might get into.  This movie might be simply more of the same as far as sci-fi goes but it’s still a fun and entertaining movie.  If you find yourself with an opportunity to see it your time won’t be wasted by checking it out.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I think this movie is great. Ryan is right, the story is so overdone…but for some reason I really like the fighting scenes and the action scenes, especially the one where Will Smith beats like 200 robots.

irobot

Check this one out! There is a scene of Will Smith and Bridget Moynahan inside another scene of Will Smith inside a scene of robots and then…wait for it….inside and big image of Will Smith and Bridget Moynahan. Wow. The font choice looks like the “designer” said “hmmmmm, it’s an action film so Oh! I know I will make the font techy with a silver gradient and then I will italicize it to make it look like it has action.” I just threw up a little in my mouth.

NEXT MOVIE: Iron Man (2008)