Kevin Bacon

Stir of Echoes

Year: 1999
Directed By: David Koepp
Written By: David Koepp (screenplay) Richard Matheson (novel)

RYAN’S REVIEW

Back in the fall of 1999 everyone was still “seeing dead people” while I was hearing echoes. The Sixth Sense had come out in August and it was still all the rave by the time this film was released only a month later. I had heard all about The Sixth Sense but it was rated PG-13 and I didn’t think a horror movie with such a rating could be so good. Come September I found myself immediately engrossed in this R rated movie that was also about a kid who sees dead people. By that time nobody had any interest in another ghost story after they had seen that shocker at the end of The Sixth Sense.

It would go on to be years before I actually saw The Sixth Sense because somehow by not watching it I was being loyal to the film that had actually caught my eye. It wasn’t the first time two films of a similar premise have come out, in fact it seemingly happens all the time. Immediate examples that come to mind are Antz and A Bug’s Life in 1998, Volcano and Dante’s Peak in 1997, Tombstone and Wyatt Earp released in 1993 and 1994 but only six months apart, Armageddon and Deep Impact in 1998, and the list goes on and on. It still happens as I remember in 2013 White House Down and Olympus has Fallen both came out in the same year. By rule I only watch one of these movies when they come out, if either, and in the case of this film I watched Stir of Echoes over The Sixth Sense. I would eventually become a big M. Night Shyamalan fan but not because of his breakthrough film but rather Unbreakable and his work that followed.

This movie may have gotten lumped into this anomaly of films with similar premises coming out in the same year but they are much different actually. They weren’t featuring the same natural disaster or different biographies of the same men, but there are similarities that can’t be overlooked. Even after seeing The Sixth Sense I still prefer this movie. Yeah, Haley Joel Osment made for a cute as shit kid that could really act, but what does this kid have over Kevin freaking Bacon? In fact I think it is Bacon’s performance in this movie that gives it the edge in my opinion. I have always been a fan of Bacon and he even retweeted me once, which was pretty cool, pretty pretty pretty cool. Sorry, bingeing Curb Your Enthusiasm came to a halt swiftly at the turn of the month

Where this movie wins is that it is actually scary. The opening shot alone is spooky and it leads right into the kid talking to a ghost. Hypnosis is always fun to play with too, as a beginning to the horror to come. Hypnosis is one of those fake gimmicks that everybody wants to believe in and it is sort of real to a certain degree, but nothing like what we see in the movies. It’s ironic that Kevin bacon develops a “sixth sense” of his own after the hypnosis. Another place it wins is simply all the advantages that come with an R rating. I just think that as far as places where fuck is appropriate go, horror films are one of those places.

Now that my memory is thoroughly jogged I think these movies are far too similar. It seems as if this movie is a rip off of the one that came before but actually it could be the other way around. This movie was loosely based on a novel by Richard Matheson, who is one of Stephen King’s favorite authors incidentally. The movies are fundamentally different but when two movies about a kid seeing dead people come out within a month of each other something is wrong. This anomaly I discuss is odd and if anybody out there can explain it I would love to know your thoughts on the matter. I may be alone but I think this is a better movie and it was overshadowed and fell victim to the said anomaly.

It’s a shame because Kevin Bacon does give quite an exceptional performance. He isn’t alone either, being surrounded by a supporting case that I really like. I am a big fan of Kevin Dunn and like him in many roles he has played, including this one. Zachary David Cole wasn’t the actor that Haley Joel Osment was but he holds his own. I also like Kathryn Erbe and Illeana Douglas who play the two female leads. I don’t know who plays Neil the cop but he really reminds me of Halloran from The ShiningI wonder if that is a coincidence or an influence King got from Matheson.

This movie doesn’t end with the same kind of shocker as its anomaly but it keeps the mystery and excitement through to the end. I don’t think I’ll ever win over a fan of The Sixth Sense in the personal argument I have but I will always be on the side of Echoes. I think this is a cool movie and I’ve enjoyed watching it again. I think this movie is easily worth your time and it works for the Halloween season.

 

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Crazy, Stupid, Love

Year: 2011
Directed By: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Written By: Dan Fogelman

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a movie I never wanted to watch but simply couldn’t deny that it was good. It covers a topic that I usually steer clear from because it hits too close to home. In this case however I actually think the content is conveyed in an incredibly lighthearted and funny way. When a movie about something I don’t like to watch with actors I don’t particularly care for somehow overcomes all odds and impresses me I feel like I owe it a place in the collection. So one night I found myself up late and allowed Amazon Prime to wear me down with several recommendations and this was one of them.

There are some movies I steer clear of specifically because of content. I can’t stand movies about junkies, I don’t like movies about or involving rape, and I don’t like movies about divorce and affairs. The first two are just things I just don’t care to see because they only make ugly and awful stories. When it comes to divorce and affair it’s just something I, like so many others in my generation, had to suffer through in a time when kids got forgotten and parents simply didn’t know what to do. That’s not how it looks in this movie though as the kids are strong minded and the cuckolded father finds a new energy in life. It’s inspiring and endearing all at the same time. I can’t stand Ryan Gosling, but he is pretty damn cool in this movie and how he coaches the old dog to learn new tricks is awesome.

I typically feel like Steve Carell is too typical and simply redoing his 40 Year Old Virgin/Michael Scott character but that’s not the case in this film. It’s probably time to evaluate that opinion again as he has now undoubtedly moved on from those roles. In this movie he plays such a down to earth guy in an honest situation like any typical guy might find himself in. It is awesome to see him make his transition from middle aged dad to confident ladies man with the help of an unreasonably cool new friend. To see him become cool again gives hope to any person who finds himself in a similarly unfortunate situation in life.

Emma Stone is such a delightful actress and she makes everything she is in better. She brings the greatest element of surprise to this movie and her role comes together in a great and hilarious scene.  As the adult daughter of Steve Carell and Julianne Moore she brings the movie full circle by connecting all the characters. Stone is an actress that shocks me each and every time I see her on screen by being so much better than I expect her to be. She is very funny and very talented as an actress. She has the privilege of working alongside another great in this movie. I have never been the biggest fan of Julianne Moore either but for the life of me I don’t know why. She is a fantastic actress whose star continues to shine brighter with every new performance.

For me, this movie captures love as it actually is. Crazy and stupid. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense, but the heart wants what the hearts wants. Love can cause more pain than anyone can imagine but can also inspire forgiveness and understanding in a way that we can’t anticipate. Love can confuse and frustrate us, but that is the nature of it. It is an emotion with a mind of it’s own. Some people will never figure that out and are doomed to a lifetime of befuddlement when it comes to dealing with personal relationships. I appreciate and respect love because I recognize it as something that is beyond our understanding. With love the why never matters but all that needs be considered is what “is.” The only hope you can have is that the love is mutual and not one sided. There is no reasoning with love and no denying it. It is an emotion that can build or destroy us. It is a mystery that brings intrigue or disaster to lives all across the world. It has an energy all on its own and it is different for all of us. I can say with true honesty that the only reason I understand love is because I was lucky enough to find it with Amber. It can be crazy and it can be stupid, but it is what it is and my love for her is what makes my life whole.

When it comes to people I don’t think you should ever expect much. In my experience people will follow their own mindset regardless how reasonably you try to persuade them to a more practical mindset. I don’t think you should ever expect any one person to change but be wise enough to recognize it if it actually happens. People can change, but it isn’t something that happens easily. It’s far easier for a bad person to weasel themselves back into a relationship on the pretext of change that is only temporary. That isn’t real love. Real love is the crazy, stupid madness that engulfs a person and makes them capable of doing what they were never able to do before. It’s a sad reality that in plenty of relationships only one person feels true love and that person is doomed to suffer in wanting for something that they can never hope to actually have. Real love does happen though, and it does exist. I hate to admit it but I love this movie about people who are truly in love.

Amber and I watched this today simply as a means to checking it off the to do list and getting another review in the bank. What I didn’t expect was how much the movie would actually get to me. I didn’t expect when we started it that I would love it when we were finished. I had my same stubborn preconceived ideas about this movie before we watched it again but it won me over again despite that. To me that makes it a great film. I think this movie does an excellent job of really capturing what love is and it does it in a fun and funny way. That makes this movie worth your time and I hope you give it a chance.

Final notes on this film. I think John Carroll Lynch is awesome in everything he is in. In a supporting role he brings a lot to this movie. I don’t like the part that Kevin Bacon plays but this movie offers another great chance at getting through a game of “six degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Also, Marisa Tomei is always delightful and beautiful despite age. My father met her once during a premier of Only You at the Uptown Theater in Washington D.C. when he was manager there. She came out of the theater at one point during the viewing and shared a cigarette with him in the lobby. He said she was a really nice person and easy to talk to.

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)

Flatliners

Year: 1990
Directed By: Joel Schumacher
Written By: Peter Filardi

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is an interesting movie about five medical students who start a daring experiment to learn more about life after death.  Together the five of them meet with the necessary equipment to kill one of them for a specific amount of time and then bring them back to life to explain what they saw. It starts with just one of them wanting to do the experiment but after it is successful they all want a turn, and chance to raise the stakes.  To the horror of all of them they find that while they are successfully brought back to life, they don’t come back alone.  All of them soon find something from their own past haunting them in the real world.

To go along with such an interesting story was a really great cast of actors who were all on the rise at the time. Julia Roberts made this the same year she made Pretty Woman. She quickly became a superstar over night with that one so this film probably got overshadowed as far as her performance goes. This was a good movie for Kiefer Sutherland at this point in his career but things seemed to go downhill for him after this. He really struggled to have a hit or significant role until he landed the part of Jack Bauer on 24. I was a really big fan of that show and stuck with it even when everything went to hell during the writer’s strike.  So naturally I am a big fan of Kiefer and I think he was good in this movie.  I have always liked Kevin Bacon as well but he has had an up and down career too.  I do think that of all the performances in this film his was one of the strongest but no one does anything specifically distinguishing in this film.  The other two doctors are played by William Baldwin and Oliver Platt.  Platt has been able to survive as an actor for all these years but I have never been a big fan.  I’m not sure what it is that the other Baldwins are lacking next to their incredibly talented brother Alec, but you can’t say none of them made an effort.  They all had roles in one movie or another but somehow can’t get anything going.  Things weren’t always so rosy for Alec either though, my daughter does own his Thomas and the Magic Railroad movie, and he must have been really desperate when he did that one.

This movie was made by Joel Schumacher, and like Sheldon Cooper I also loathe the man for ruining the Batman franchise during the 90s.  What he did to the Batman character and film franchise is unforgivable, but fortunately this movie predates that disaster.  That being said I can still enjoy this film by him, as well as The Lost Boys that he did with Kiefer a few years before this one.  A viewer with a watchful eye can easily see Schumacher’s style in this film. He likes gothic images and the glowing use of colors and fancy lights that we saw so much of in his Batman films.  It all works in this movie though and he made a great film.

This movie starts off with a great cast and an awesome story but does get a little silly near the end.  The tone of the film doesn’t have much continuity to it, but I don’t think it really takes anything away from the movie. I do really like the cast too but I don’t think any of them specifically offered a fantastic performance.  They do their jobs well enough though and their names do enough to bring attention to the film and give it an audience.  I have heard before that there might eventually be a remake of this film and that wouldn’t surprise me at all.  A cool idea like this is an easy choice to make in this world of rehashed movies we now live in.  I think this one is good though and I would recommend it to anyone.  This movie is worth your time and if you give it a chance I think you will enjoy it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I kept telling Ryan that I had already seen this movie. Apparently, he was right. This movie had me intrigued from the get-go. The whole idea of the afterlife is an interesting aspect; I don’t care who you are, we have all thought about what happens to you when you die. The idea that doctors are going to kill themselves and bring themselves back to life is amazingly interesting. I was in to the movie the whole time, while little by little each doctor kills themselves and then has the others bring them back to life in order to see what the afterlife is like. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should. It has some really key actors and is based on an interesting subject. Sometimes the movie gets a little cliché, but overall I really enjoyed watching it and would watch it again.

NEXT MOVIE: Forrest Gump (1994)

Movies Not To Watch

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS

This was too little too late from Bryan Singer, who destroyed this franchise himself over five year ago when he dumped X-Men 3 for the hopeless Superman reboot.  I had high hopes for his return to the franchise but I have been gravely disappointed.  I think Bryan Singer is a great filmmaker but I have hated him since he ruined this franchise.  X2 was an incredible movie and a great follow up to a pretty good first film, there was no reason the third film shouldn’t be just as good as the second. Out of no where Bryan Singer decided to abandon the series and it passed through a handful of people before landing in the hands of the hack Brett Ratner.  The movie was awful, despite a very good cast it was poorly made and a completely ridiculous story. X-Men: First Class is just as bad I’m afraid, I seriously doubt there will be any follow-ups to this reboot.

X-Men is part of a universe with so many exciting characters, it makes no sense to me for there to be movies made about X-Men with made up characters in it.  The third X-men movie did this exact same thing and it was ridiculous then too.  There are literally hundreds of characters to chose from and the writers are making up a girl with fairy wings that spits fire balls? This movie is dumb, but it is especially bad for the comic book fan because it’s not even remotely what it should be.  The script was very generic, the actors were awful for the most part, and it didn’t engage me at all.  Michael Fassbender was a great Magneto but honestly, I thought he was over acting at times.  Why was Havok in the movie? January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence were both bad and poorly cast.  James McAvoy seems to be under the impression that Professor X had some kind of button on his temple that activated his powers.  I think Kevin Bacon looked good on paper, but come on, were they really taking this thing seriously?

I don’t expect a movie made about a comic book to follow the story line perfectly, but it should at least remotely follow the story that its actually based on. The third X-Men movie was just like this, no respect for the original storyline.  I knew within the first five minutes of this film that I wasn’t going to like it and I suffered through the whole thing.  Don’t make the same mistake I did, I cannot get that time or money back, go see Thor (not in 3D) instead, it’s a good Marvel movie.  X-Men: First Class did offer one scene that was awesome, and it involved an incredible and unexpected cameo. I cannot stress enough how much that was the only good part, and that doesn’t make the movie worth seeing.

UPDATE: I have made a mistake, the girl with the fairy wings, Angel Salvadore, is in fact a real character from the X-Men universe.  I don’t know this character and didn’t recognize her in an origin movie because she wasn’t created until nearly 40 years after that origin.

UPDATE 2: I am leaving this post up because it does represent my initial impression of the film but my opinion has changed since.  I wrote an updated review a year or so later after watching the film again on TV.  You can read that review here.