John Candy

Stripes

Year: 1981
Directed By: Ivan Reitman
Written By: Len Blum, Daniel Goldberg, and Harold Ramis

RYAN’S REVIEW

When you got this core of Ivan Reitman, Bill Murray, and Harold Ramis together in the 80s they were going to make some magic. The men behind Ghostbusters had a specific quality that transitioned onto the screen and you can see it in this movie. Originally written to be Cheech and Chong join the army this movie worked far better than it ever had any business doing so. These guys took a bombed idea and turned it into a comedy classic.

This is one of my favorite examples of how funny Bill Murray is. I think the thing for Bill Murray is that he has to be paired with a director who will just let him do his thing. Bill Murray is notoriously weird and can be hard for some to work with. Harold Ramis had a great ability to work with Bill Murray that lasted for a long time. Up until their last collaboration, Groundhog Day, they had a fruitful relationship. Don’t know what happened to dissolve that relationship but it’s really unfortunate.

I think this movie runs a bit too long. I think if they had stretched out boot camp a little bit more and not been deployed into their protection detail it would have been better. There are plenty of scenes in this movie that look like hold overs from the Cheech and Chong intended script. With a deep cast of funny people including John Candy and Judge Reinhold they managed to make it there own.

This is a movie that speaks for itself. It’s a classic comedy like Caddyshack and it simply doesn’t need my stamp of approval. For me it takes me back to middle school when I was first introduced to it. I thought it was a really funny movie then and I still enjoy watching it today. It’s easily worth your time but like most people you have long since discovered that on your own.

NEXT MOVIE: Suicide Kings (1997)

 

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

Year: 1987
Directed By: John Hughes
Written By: John Hughes

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is one of those classic films that I just never got around to seeing. I grew up with John Hughes films but this one somehow eluded me. It’s lingered on my to-do list for a long time and when I finally decided to watch it I thought it would be better to watch and review in correlation with the holiday it is about. It just so happens that this Thanksgiving is a big one as tomorrow Amber and I will be hosting our families for Thanksgiving dinner for the first time.

I’m not quite sure how it is that I haven’t seen this movie at any point over the last 28 years. As a film fan who has seen such a wide variety this seems exceptionally weird for several reasons. First, I am a fan of John Hughes and have seen nearly every one of his films. Secondly, I am a big fan of both Steve Martin and John Candy. Coupled with the fact that I’ve seen so much this is just an unusual anomaly.

John Hughes movies are typical but we are endeared to them because they center on typical scenarios we can all relate to. Coming of age in high school, family troubles during the holidays, skipping class to have the greatest day of your life, or in this case, being stuck with an annoying man on a long and difficult trip. His movies have a timeless quality that will always be funny no matter how far we get from the 80s. They also feature life lessons that we can all learn from.

I think the oddest thing for me about this movie is trying to buy into John Candy as the obnoxious guy. Granted he plays the part well I just find him too likeable as an actor. I remember being sad when John Candy passed, he was an actor I had grown up watching and I was 10 when he died. He was probably the first celebrity I was attached to who passed away and I was consciously aware of it. John Candy was a really and truly funny person who was hard not to like. We should cherish every opportunity we have to see him in something.

I have always liked Steve Martin and I cannot figure out how I hadn’t seen this movie for that alone. When he loses it on the rental car lady with a barrage of fucks I laughed out loud and had to rewind it to see it again. I’ll never understand what happened to Steve Martin and why he failed to have long term success in acting. I think Martin is a really funny man and I love some of his classic films. He was particularly funny during the 80s when this movie came out.

This has been a fun and funny movie that I can easily foresee myself watching again come next Thanksgiving when I’m looking for a movie that fits with the season. I enjoyed watching it for the first time and have that feeling that it is the type of movie that will get better the more I watch it. Hughes movies have that quality too which is another reason they are always memorable.

If anybody out there is reading this now then wish us good fortune on our holiday tomorrow. With hope it will be the first of many Thanksgiving dinners at our home. If you yourself are looking for a movie to get you in the spirit of Thanksgiving this one qualifies and if you haven’t seen it take it from me that you have missed out. Don’t be like me and miss out on something really enjoyable like this.

With hope I find a Thanksgiving movie to watch on the eve of the holiday every year but there are little to choose from. The holiday is largely overshadowed by its bigger sibling, Christmas. Maybe next year we will watch Tommy Boy. Which is a movie I love but suddenly realize is practically a rip off of the concept we see in this movie. Fitting given I actually think of Chris Farley as a new age John Candy although Farley only outlived him by a few years.

 

 

 

 

JFK

Year: 1991
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: Oliver Stone and Zachary Skylar.  Based on books by Jim Garrison and Jim Marrs.

RYAN’S REVIEW

In my early years of being a serious movie fan Oliver Stone was my absolute and unopposed favorite filmmaker. There were others I loved but none I thought had the talent or brilliance of Stone.  He had made the movie that today still stands as my favorite of all time and his body of work was impeccable as far as I was concerned.  Stone did more than make great movies; he made epic stories that were woven together with great acting, intelligent scripts, and incredible editing.  This movie was part of what I thought made him so great.  This movie is perfectly put together and will undoubtedly convince any unaware viewer that Lee Harvey Oswald was not only not an assassin but possibly some very important man involved in the greater and deadlier game of high end politics and conspiracy.  Having done extensive research on the matter I can all but guarantee that is not the case but that does not take anything away from this movie.  This movie is 100% fiction, but that does not change the fact that it is both a significant film and a true work of art.

First and foremost, as far as any conspiracy theory goes, it is important to know two things.  Number one being that Jim Garrison was not the character Kevin Costner portrayed in the film.  He was a bully and borderline madman who was not fighting for justice but simply stirring up trouble.  Secondly, Lee Harvey Oswald was neither a government agent, nor any kind of patriot as the movie will lead you to believe.  He was not a patsy; he was a nobody that changed the world by doing something big.  Oswald was a sad and pathetic man that hated this country as much as he hated his life.  What he did he did on his own, and there is enough evidence to that effect to prove it beyond any reasonable doubt. Oswald was an interesting person, as all sad and slightly unhinged people are but the fact of the matter was he was a nut job.  Plain and simple crazy is all he was and anybody that thinks otherwise simply needs to do their own research and quit listening to conspiracy buffs. Yes the circumstances of his life, and death, can easily lead people to the conclusion that there must be more to the story but there isn’t.  He did it, we know he did it, and a conspiracy on the level this movie implies is simply not possible.  Michael Rooker’s character said it best in the movie when he pointed out they were building an investigation into a conspiracy involving all levels of government, the mob, and military yet they could not keep a secret among 12 people in their own office.  People talk, a secret on this level could never be kept. Especially 50 years later.  I know there are undoubtedly many secrets the government has from us as citizens but one thing to keep in mind is that we learn many of them as time goes on.  Today we know who Deep Throat was, we know FDR secretly manipulated events to lead us into WWII, we know that the U.S.S. Maine wasn’t sunk by enemies; we know that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was overblown to lead us into war, and the list goes on and on.  These secrets are revealed when the history books are written yet conspiracy buffs will have you believe that this major conglomerate of conspirators have managed to keep this one secret even until today.  I am simply telling you it isn’t there.  Occam’s razor applies in this case.  Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK, and things are not as dramatic and exciting as we would like to build them up in our mind.

This movie makes a really big deal about the “magic bullet” and that is what I hear most people mention when they insist there had to be a conspiracy.  The “magic bullet” does present a convincing argument but only because the facts are never all on the table.  This bullet didn’t make dramatic turns in midair or stop and start again.  It was simply one shot that traveled on a straight line and passed through both Kennedy and Connally.  What you don’t see in this movie or hear from conspiracy buffs is that the vehicle Kennedy and Connally were riding in was not typical.  It was built differently than most in which the front seat was lower and to the left of the back.  The bullet was a post Geneva Convention bullet that was specifically designed to pass through the body. There are plenty of diagrams online and in conspiracy books that will show you this strange pattern that no bullet could possible travel but they never take into account how the car was built or the exact positions of the passengers.  I have seen the true diagram in both the Warren Report, and in a very good book by Gerald Posner  called “Case Closed.” It’s not as dramatic as some would have you believe and it doesn’t leave much room for doubt if you understand the true circumstances of the shot.

Another important part of the conspiracy theory to consider is Jack Ruby, played incredibly in this film by Brian Doyle-Murray, brother of Bill Murray.  There is absolutely no room for Jack Ruby to have been involved in any conspiracy.  Not only is there documented evidence that proves his crossing paths with Oswald before he killed him was coincidental, but Ruby did not attempt to kill Oswald. This movie would have you believe that Ruby was a button man for the mob making a hit on Oswald when he shot him but that simply isn’t the case.  Ruby is on record saying that he never actually intended to kill Oswald, only hurt him badly and this is obvious.  If Ruby was in fact out to kill Oswald why shoot him in the stomach? He shot him in the stomach in an effort to put him in a world of pain, but if he had truly intended to kill him he would have shot him in the head or chest.  Ruby was a small time nightclub owner/snitch who would not have been the choice for this type of kill if it was a planned hit.  Ruby was deeply upset over the death of JFK and the effect it would have on his beautiful wife and children.  When he coincidentally showed up right as Oswald was being led out he saw a smirk on his face he couldn’t live with. Pulling his gun and shooting Oswald was nothing more than a simple crime of passion.  I said that Ruby crossing paths with Oswald was coincidental because it was.  There is documented evidence that proves Ruby was across the street wiring money by way of Western Union only minutes before he shot Oswald.  He literally only had enough time to walk back across the street and be there at the right moment.  Had it been a planned hit this is not how it would have happened.  Not only that, but Oswald should have been long gone by the time Ruby reached the parking garage anyway.  He wanted a different sweater or something before being led out and in the time it took to get one Ruby had wired his money and was coming back.  Executions aren’t done this way and if it was set up then Jack Ruby was the luckiest assassin of all time, and that just isn’t the case.

What this movie does a great job of is convincing you that there absolutely had to be a conspiracy.  Oliver Stone may have been a great filmmaker but he has always had something personal invested in his movies.  He has an agenda and in this case it was to convince us that there was a conspiracy regardless of whether there was any truth to it.  In fact many of the things that Stone has in this movie aren’t false, yet they aren’t based on any credible evidence.  Most of the interviews taken and quoted were from people who either changed their story later or eventually came out with the truth of the matter.  For example, the character played by Kevin Bacon, Willie O’Keefe.  There was no Willie O’Keefe; he is based off a combination of real life people who had no credibility.  Most notably he is based on a man named Perry Russo, one of the key witnesses against Claw Shaw in the real trial.  Russo was lying though, and in order to get the testimony he wanted Jim Garrison in real life both drugged and hypnotized Russo. As I said earlier though, the real Jim Garrison was not the person we saw Kevin Costner play in the movie.  The real Jim Garrison was a bit unhinged and a little crazy.  In the case of David Ferrie, played brilliantly by Joe Pesci in the film, the movie would have us believe he was murdered to keep him quiet.  In real life things were much different.  David Ferrie was a sickly man already, and it is said that the pressure put on him by the offices of Jim Garrison was what finally put him on his death bed.  He was hounded day and night by the offices of Garrison and became very paranoid and apprehensive.  The stress proved to be more than he could handle, he died shortly after the news of his involvement in Garrison’s investigation broke. There have been reports that he was in the CIA but all reports have been conflicting. The conspiracy theories that sprang up in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination eventually took on a life of their own.  It’s a school of thought that is still growing today and it has always called all kinds of people out of the wood work seeking their five minutes of fame with “new information.”

Despite any truth or accuracy as to the content of this film it is still one worth your time.  It’s a significant movie because it convinced so many people with its message that the case was actually re-opened by the government.  What did the government find in that investigation? Nothing, new evidence was released and scheduled for eventual release but nothing was uncovered to change what we already know.  Still, when a movie is powerful enough to call for government action it’s something worth remembering.

So while its message is way off base it’s still an incredible movie.  The cast is so large it would take me forever to go through everybody involved but I will say they all did a terrific job.  Gary Oldman might as well have actually been Lee Harvey Oswald he fit the part so well.  Joe Pesci was on the spot as usual, nobody brings intensity to a role quite like him.  Tommy Lee Jones plays a great part but I don’t think it was his best role in an Oliver Stone movie.  John Candy has an incredible cameo that shows he had the potential to be much more than simply a funny guy.  Brian Doyle-Murray was a great choice to play Jack Ruby and he did great. Kevin Costner was a big draw when this movie came out having hit it big the year before with Dances with Wolves.  I have never been a big fan though, and I don’t think he was great in this movie, merely OK.  I probably like him less though because of his obviously forced accent and the fact he played a guy who was quite a bit crazier than he made him out to be.  Sissy Spacek, Wayne Knight, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Ed Asner, Michael Rooker, and Laurie Metcalf also should be mentioned because each of them brought something to the film on their own.  I also liked seeing both Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in the movie as well, the men were both legends and it is unfortunate that they are not with us today.

I need to stop myself now because I have already said much more than I intended to in this review.  I have of course been very critical of the content of this film and I understand how controversial those opinions may be to the “believers.” Feel free to argue with me if you like but I encourage anybody unsure to simply do their own research and ignore all the people that would have you believe they know something about something that proves there had to be a conspiracy.  Nevertheless this is still an incredible film despite any objections I may have to the conspiracy theory and I can certify that the movie is still well worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I thought this movie was so amazing and intriguing the first time I watched it. I think we were in college, and being young and naive I believed it for true history. You know the ol’ conspiracy theory stuff. But then, my incredibly smart husband wrote an in depth paper on the assassination of JFK. I listened to him talk about it, watched him read these massive sized books about it until he finally came to the conclusion that there never was a conspiracy at all it a lone gunman doing something crazy and succeeding. Having said all of that, I don’t believe there was a conspiracy, but I do think this a great movie. He sure can make you believe there may have been one.

JFK

NEXT MOVIE: Judgment Night (1993)

Home Alone

Year: 1990
Directed By: Chris Columbus
Written By: John Hughes

When we reached this movie in the collection months ago we tried to watch and review it but it just didn’t feel right.  It can be difficult to get into a Christmas movie as Halloween season approaches so we decided to postpone this review.  The season has arrived now and with Christmas just days away the time to review this movie has finally come.  This movie has everything needed to set the tone for the holiday.  Family frustration, lights, snow, Christmas songs, and a smoking Santa are all on board here.  What gives this one an edge over others is that it also has bandits, and the most bad ass kid of all time.

I was six years old when this movie came out and at my age Kevin McCallister was practically a God.  He did something that all kids around my age dreamed of but in reality would never be able to handle.  I specifically remember my mother telling me one time that could never do this after pointing out a major mess Kevin had made and then telling me I would never have cleaned it up as he appears to have done later in the film.  To that I now say “Ha! Yeah, that’s the thing I couldn’t have handled….” Kevin McCallister was a kid with the where with all to not only survive on his own and keep his house clean, but he also thwarted criminals. They may have been two of the dumbest criminals in the world but that just made the movie more fun. The criminals may have been stupid, but Kevin had some master planning skills when it came to setting booby traps.  Something else I think all kids at my age strived for in the early 90s.  The Goonies had seen to that.

When this movie came out it was an instant hit and went on to gross over $285 million. It topped Ghostbusters as the highest grossing comedy of all time. I don’t know that this movie was better than Ghostbusters but it is a pretty awesome movie in a completely different way.  John Hughes was a great filmmaker and had a knack for making movies that made their mark on society.  What I think is interesting in this movie is how you can see John Hughes in it.  The scene where Kevin is looking at himself in the mirror and talking is so similar to the one we saw in Ferris Bueller when Ferris is getting ready. Specifically the combing of his hair while giving a monologue to himself, and singing with the comb as a microphone. It was really unfortunate to lose Hughes back in 2009, but he left us plenty to remember him for and this movie is high up on that list.

I love the cast for this movie.  Macaulay Culkin was incredible in the role of Kevin McCallister.  He had a lot on his shoulders as the center of the film and the kid handled it with what looked like all the potential in the world.  America fell in love with him in this role but things never really panned out for him.  I am aware he has an unfortunate story to his career but I do not know enough to write about it.  I do remember once hearing that My Girl was what destroyed his career.  In that movie he played a part in which he died and I remember hearing somewhere that dying in that movie turned the audience off of him.  I don’t know if that is true or not but I think it sucks that things worked out for him the way they did. I saw a couple of his efforts to come back years ago in the movie Saved and the show Kings but those didn’t get him anywhere.  No matter what happens though he will always be remembered for this film and the role he played.  He is the biggest reason for how successful this movie was really.  I honestly couldn’t imagine any other kid playing this part and having the same kind of charisma and comedy that Macaulay Culkin had.

He wasn’t alone in being great in this movie.  I think Catherine O’Hara was terrific as the mother.  She has graced so many movies I loved and given the influence this movie had on me I always tend to think of her as a mother.  That same influence made me always think fondly of John Heard as a father too but the only other thing I have seen him in was The Sopranos and his role in the show killed that image. I think Joe Pesci is awesome and respect the fact that he can star in a family comedy like this.  That man has played some of the most savage characters ever and he drops the F-bomb like nobody else, except maybe Billy Bob Thorton. Pesci was great in this movie but Daniel Stern should not go unmentioned.  He is the goofier of the two idiot criminals and he was very funny in the role.  Speaking of people who shouldn’t go unmentioned, John Candy had a role in this film.  John Candy was a great actor and a very funny personality.  He died when I was a teenager and every time I see him now I wish he had lived longer and given us more movies.

This is not my favorite Christmas movie but nevertheless it is one of the best.  I think it is right up there with A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, and Die Hard. All of those movies are really old now and that says something about the Christmas movies they make these days.  If you are looking for a movie to get you into the spirit of the holidays I strongly suggest this one, or any of the others I just mentioned.  It takes a special movie to get you in the spirit for this holiday and this one does that in spades.  This was a movie that set the tone for the decade to follow and it will be remembered for all time. You don’t need me to tell you this movie is worth your time because you undoubtedly already know.  I hear that the younger generation is confused by the movie because today we are all so connected through technology that it would never happen and that is a shame.  I hope today’s youth can still find something to appreciate about this movie because it is awesome and deserves to be appreciated.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I have always loved this movie. This is the first film I remember watching when I was a little girl and I remember laughing the hardest that I had ever laughed at the time. This is a classic Christmas movie and very close to my heart, along with almost every other person my age.

homealoneI actually really like this poster. It has the window in the back, with the robbers peeking through, and then Kevin is front and center in his signature hands-to-the-face scream pose. They even created a very recognizable logo for this movie. That doesn’t always happen, but I do like when it happens and it works.

1941

Year: 1979
Directed by: Stephen Spielberg
Written by: Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale

RYAN’S REVIEW

A truly fantastic film that is far too often forgotten about.  Stephen Spielberg has had such a successful career that a film like 1941 tends to get lost in the mix. This film is fast, funny, and star studded.  The only problem is that this day in age the typical viewer would probably need a history lesson to really appreciate most of the humor in the film.  The film plays off the fear and pandemonium that struck California following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  In reality this wasn’t something that was very funny, but over 30 years later it was something everyone was ready to laugh at.  This film has great roles performed by John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Slim Pickens, Christopher Lee, John Candy, and Tim Matheson.  My personal favorite scene in the movie is when the Japanese force, made up of descendants of “ninja assassins,” invades the mainland and encounter the Slim Pickens character Hollis Wood.  The Japanese look so goofy dressed as Christmas trees and Slim Pickens steals the scene.

Stephen Spielberg has been making hits for over 30 years now, he is still one of the greatest filmmakers in Hollywood.  1941 is a great movie and it’s really funny, but honestly it is low on the totem pole of many great Spielberg films.  When you are great at what you do it isn’t hard to amass a career full of fantastic films.  When your resume lists titles like Jaws, Indiana Jones, E.T., Jurassic Park, and Saving Private Ryan a comedy about a time period people are starting to forget just doesn’t measure up in the eyes of some.  I still love the film and encourage anybody who has the opportunity to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW:

I had a tough and long week you guys. I’ll be honest, I fell asleep during this flick. However, this is what I will say about this film. It has all of the elements for a great comedy, Dan Akroyd, John Candy (I miss you), John Belushi, however this film’s comedy is outdated. By 2011 all of it has been seen before. It has it’s moments like the scene where the Japanese dress up like trees and try to blend into the scenery while Hollis Wood is trying to cut them down. I laugh every time at that scene. However, this movie goes on and on and on. I know this post is short, but like I said I fell asleep, that may say something about the movie, or my week…you decide. It is still worth seeing if you haven’t ever watched it before.