Jodie Foster

Sommersby

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

RYAN’S REVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEXT MOVIE: Southland Tales (2006)

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Silence of the Lambs

Year: 1991
Directed By: Jonathan Demme
Written By: Thomas Harris (novel) Ted Tally (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I distinctly remember the first time I saw this movie. I was about 10 years old and staying at some relatives house who were cool enough to let me watch the grown up movie. Unfortunately the grown up movie was this one and for some reason I thought it was based on a true story. My Uncle may or may not have told me as much. I will never forget lying awake afterwards in straight up fear. Lying in the dark just staring at the ceiling, my ten year old mind unable to process anything beyond the horrible Hannibal Lecture being lose in the world. Where else could he possibly be on a late summer night besides right outside the door wanting to kill me???

In less than 25 minutes of screen time Anthony Hopkins not only earned the Academy Award for Best Actor but he scarred my prepubescent self to a new level. I would feel foolish about my youthful fear but in truth Hannibal Lecter still scares me. Nothing is quite as intimidating as superior intelligence and Lecter brings more to the table than just that. Lecter won’t just outsmart you, he’ll bite your face and then cut it off of you. If he has enough time he might even eat you! Add that to the fact that the man never blinks and I challenge anybody not to be scared of the guy. Imagine thinking he was a real person, loose in the world with the freedom to kill and eat anybody he wanted, and maybe you can relate to the 10 year old Ryan who laid awake in fear for an entire night some 20 something years ago.

For somebody who was born out west, Jodie Foster has always been able to pull off a hell of a southern accent. Though she won the Academy Award for this movie and is the hero I tend to think she is overshadowed by her co-stars. I have also always held it against her that she didn’t return to the sequel with everybody else ten years later with Hannibal. Even though I think she was overshadowed I still think this is one of her finest performances but that is coming from a specific non fan. She has had a long and distinguished career but few of her roles have ever really gotten to me on a fan level.

The obvious person who overshadowed her was Anthony Hopkins who gave the performance of a lifetime but I also think Ted Levine stands out more than she does too. As Buffalo Bill he is a combination of several real life serial killers and he is absolutely terrifying. He has a voice that will haunt you in your worst nightmares and his dress up scene will make your skin crawl. Even scarier is the persona that goes with that villainous voice. A man who captures women and drops them into a pit is something to fear and he makes my skin break out in goose flesh every time I see him. Unfortunately I have never been able to separate Levine from this role and no matter what else he is in I keep waiting for him to say, “It puts the lotion in the basket.”

As bad as my fear was that this movie was based on a real story I think I have been more terrified to know about the men the movie was actually based on. Buffalo Bill is a combination of a few serial killers who actually did most of the things we saw in the movie. The skinning of victims was actually done by a serial killer so fearsome he has become legend. Ed Gein is the basis for not only part of Buffalo Bill but also Leatherface and Norman Bates. He would dress up in his dead mothers clothing, dig up corpses to steal skin, and the women he actually did kill were hung up and gutted in the same fashion hunted animals are. Ted Bundy would use a cast on his arm to lure women into his van and then use it as a weapon to knock them out. The scariest thing though, if not Ed Gein, is the fact there was a serial killer who had a pit he kept women in. Gary Heidnick terrorized six women during the 70s and 80s doing many awful things, including keeping them in a pit. The things he did were so awful and unbelievable that when one of his victims escaped and told police they didn’t even believe her story until seeing physical evidence. Each one of these men are terrifying in their own rite but put together they created a haunting villain in Buffalo Bill.

This movie went through pains to be legitimate with all the actors doing their due diligence in research. Hopkins studied several serial killers and even attended some trials for violent crimes when trying to get into character. The not blinking thing was his own idea as he knew a person who never blinked and it freaked out everyone that talked to him. Ted Levine also did plenty of research into both serial killers and the transsexual community. There was also an actual FBI Agent on set in a consulting role to help make sure everything went right. I think all these efforts went a long way to making the movie so great and memorable.

There were few lasting effects from my fearsome evening with this movie for the first time but I will never forget it regardless. It was simply the product of my youth but I still have doubts that just any other movie could have elicited such a response out of me. This movie is awesome hands down and it’s one that hardly needs my stamp of approval. The efforts to bank on its success afterwards including both a sequel and a prequel could not match what was done with this film. There are memorable parts in both Hannibal and Red Dragon but some things simply can’t be replicated and the same type of magic wasn’t present in those films. This is a movie that nearly everyone has seen but if you somehow missed it then you need to go back and check it out. This one is definitely worth your time.

NEXT MOVIE: Silver Lining Playbook (2012)

 

 

 

 

 

Maverick

Year: 1994
Directed By: Richard Donner
Written By: Roy Huggins (TV series the movie was based on) William Goldman (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

When I sat down to watch this movie for review I already had many thoughts about what I would write.  Things along the lines of “really fun movie but not to be taken seriously” or something like that.  However having finished it now I find myself wondering why we ever owned this movie to begin with.  Yes it’s a fun movie to a degree but more of a product of its time than anything else.  I don’t think this movie really has any lasting power and on top of that it is about 30-45 minutes way too long.  This movie is light-hearted and fun but jumps between something silly and something serious far too often.  I found the experience of watching it again to be painfully boring at times and I doubt I’ll watch the movie again for a long, long time, if ever at all.

It probably comes as a surprise to any younger person out there but there was a time when Mel Gibson was the darling actor of this country.  In the 1990s, and for a while after, the man could seemingly do no wrong. America has always loved Australian actors and before the days of Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and the like Mel Gibson was that guy.  He had inspired us all with his “brave heart,” stole the heart of our famous Native American with his voice (despite how wrought with inaccuracy that Disney film was), and he….”knew what women wanted.” In truth, his popularity at the time is specifically why we own this movie and why I enjoyed it so much when it came out.  The mere fact that this movie was so successful is specifically because everyone loved Mel Gibson.  The movie brought in over 100 million in the US box office and that was nothing to sneeze at in 1994.  That’s crazy, trust me.  You might remember this movie fondly, just as I did, but this is no longer the era of “Mel Gibson is the greatest” and it really isn’t that good of a movie.  It’s cool to see Mel Gibson and Richard Donner reunite for something fun and the moment between Gibson and Danny Glover during the bank robbery is quite funny.  However that doesn’t make it a good film and as much as I liked this movie when it came out I still found it unbearable to watch this time around.

This film is specifically one of my favorite roles from Jodie Foster.  Foster has had a terrific career and has made many notable films but in this film I just thought she was smoking hot as the southern belle. I am not saying this is her best movie, it does not even come close.  Speaking in purely acting terms this movie isn’t even on the list of her best parts, but I just thought she was so good-looking in this movie.  To think that she made this film the same year she made Nell is crazy because the exact opposite can be said about how she looked in that film.  I am not really a Jodie Foster fan but she is such a fascinating person.  She recently officially came out as a lesbian and I think I may have been the only person surprised by that news because everybody else seemed to already know.  When I think of Jodie Foster I always instinctively think of John Hinckley Jr.  How insane it must have been to be her after that man shot the President.  For those who don’t know Hinckley was a crazy man who was in love with Jodie Foster and for some reason thought shooting Ronald Reagan would gain him the attention he wanted from her.  Seriously crazy guy that she had absolutely nothing to do with but still that realization must have affected her in some way or another.

The coolest thing about this movie, aside from the moment between Gibson and Glover, is that James Garner was cast in a significant part.  The film was based on the television show by the same name from the late 50s in which Garner starred as Bret Maverick.  I have never seen an episode of the show and don’t know how it correlates with the movie but having the original star involved gives it a certain level of credibility.  Beyond that I think there is little to say about this film.  It’s way too long at 2 hours and seven minutes.  After the big card game the film specifically drags out too far in an effort to set up a sequel that ultimately never happened.  As I said in my intro the tone of this film is all wrong as well.  It seems lighthearted and silly throughout most of the film but occasionally people are killed and it gets real.  It’s always confusing to “get real” during this type of film and I think it sullies the whole thing.  Granted it is only the bad guy and his associates that are killed but still, you can’t be silly when you are killing people even if they are the bad guys.

Having said all of that I don’t think this movie is worth your time and I wouldn’t bother seeing it if I were you.  It can be fun with all the card playing and the parts that are humorous but it’s not worth the time it takes to watch it.  This movie could have been cut by at least 45 minutes and been better.  It was all good in the Mel Gibson hey day but that day is over and now it has little to offer.  It does not even belong in our collection and I only took the time to actually review it because otherwise the time I spent watching it again would have been a complete waste.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I was not interested in this movie. I didn’t even know we owned it. Mel Gibson is not my favorite nor Ryan’s so I still don’t really get why we own this movie. I paid attention, somewhat to the movie, but I didn’t really like the plot, or the actors roles in the movie. Having said that, I really didn’t pay that close attention to it, so what I say isn’t really fair. It had a hard time capturing and keeping my attention.

maverick

There is just so much going on this poster. It has no focal point whatsoever. There is a background that fades into the skyline of the mountains? The are posed like they are in a photo featured on awkward family photos. They too are faded at the bottom into a mountain scene. There is nothing really good about the typography of the title. I don’t even want to give this one any more time. The poster does for me about what the movie does and that’s not much.

NEXT MOVIE: Meet Joe Black (1998)

Inside Man

Year: 2006
Directed By: Spike Lee
Written By: Russell Gewirtz

RYAN’S REVIEW

Let’s face it; the bank robbery movie has been done to death.  This movie quickly gets the regular things out of the way and then distinguishes itself quite nicely. Early on we see a time jump that clearly lets us know that the police are clueless; they have no idea who perpetrated the crime.  So we are left to wonder as the robbery unfolds how exactly the criminals manage to succeed and what exactly they are after.  This one will keep you guessing and intrigued all throughout. It has an excellent cast and a wild story that threads a great web of mystery.

I have never really been a fan of Spike Lee, although I do like that all his movies are referred to as “A Spike Lee Joint.” I do not think he is a bad director; I have just never been a fan of his specifically.  In fact I think this is the only movie he has made that we own.  I have never seen Malcolm Xbut it has been on my list of movies to watch for over ten years now.  It is completely possible I have just not seen enough of his work; I just haven’t liked the few that I have seen.  This one was incredible though, he did an excellent job in putting the film together.  His camera angles are all great, his sets look good, and more importantly his movie kept me interested and guessing the whole time.

I’m not a big Denzel fan either but I cannot deny his talent. He has a great track record and will be remembered forever for his talent, but I have just never been a fan.  Personally I feel that he brings too much racism into his films. I specifically hate racism and it always bothers me.  He has always had a knack for playing the black man being persecuted, a role that needs to be played.  My problem comes specifically from his role in Remember the Titans.  He was great in that movie but there was one scene where he got into a confrontation with Will Patton.  It bothered me because Patton played a character that was on Denzel’s side, yet Denzel treated him like he was being judged.  I know that is how the character was probably written but still feel Denzel overplayed the part and was trying to get a specific point across.  For whatever the reason it bothered me. I can’t think of any other immediate example but that one is specifically the reason I don’t like him.  He has also made many movies I have enjoyed and this one is one of them.  Denzel fits the part well and delivers his performance as a seasoned pro.  I am not a fan of his but my opinion should not matter because his talent speaks for itself.

This was another good role for Clive Owen in 2006 but for whatever reason I find myself wondering “what happened to Clive Owen?” in 2012.  I have always like Owen but his career seemed to fizzle out somewhere over the last few years.  In fact, looking over his track record it is arguable that this was the last movie he made worth any salt.  He is listed as filming the sequel to Sin City and I am very hopeful for that. (Check that, in the time it has taken to publish this post -waiting on my wife’s input- Clive Owen’s part in Sin City 2 has been recast. Josh Brolin is now playing the part that Owen played in the first movie. It makes sense because in the first movie he is said to have a new face, but it still blows. I’d take Owen over Brolin any day.) Despite Owen’s drop in popularity I think he undoubtedly has more to offer as an actor. Speaking of actors who have fizzled out, I think this was a great role for Jodie Foster as well.  I have always liked Foster and I think she was really badass in this movie.  I am a really big fan of Willem Dafoe and I like any movie a little bit better when he is in it.  I spotted Daryl Mitchell in a small supporting role and wanted to mention him because he was awesome in Galaxy Quest

Movies are always a little bit better when they center on Nazis somehow and I love how this movie brought that into the story line. As the story unfolds things only get more interesting. The cops don’t know what was going on, they know who did it but can’t prove it, anybody can be a suspect, and no money was taken.  This is a crazy mystery for a long time and then it all comes together so perfectly.  There was a larger game being played in this one and it kept us all on the edge of our seats.

I think this movie is worth your time because it is awesome.  There is something deep down inside of all of us as movie fans that undeniably make us love the bank robbery movie.  This one manages to bring something new to the table so it is something we should all be in to.  The bank robbery movie may have been done to death but this movie proves there is still something great to be offered in the scenario.  If you haven’t seen this movie then you should give it a chance and I hope you enjoy it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This is a really cool movie. Denzel is such a likeable actor. What I mean by that is even when he is playing an unlikable character, you still like the job he did acting that part. He is that good. I am aware that Ryan doesn’t like Denzel Washington, but here we split and disagree. I really like this movie and I think you would too.

insideman

This movie poster is SUPER cool. It looks like the designer had free range to do something really creative. They have all of the needed information, but it is arranged in such an unusual manner. Love it. I love the colors, I love the fonts, and I love the grid. LOVE IT.

NEXT MOVIE: Interview with a Vampire