Richard Gere

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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Chicago

Year: 2002
Directed By: Rob Marshall
Written By: Bill Condon and Bob Fosse

RYAN’S REVIEW

I remember taking Amber to see this movie back in 2002 when we were just a couple horny teenagers.  I took her to see it because I was probably trying to get her into bed but I actually ended up enjoying the movie.  I distinctly remember being really impressed with the film and telling many people how good it was.  This movie isn’t one I would have ever seen on my own because it really isn’t up my alley.  I did thoroughly enjoyed the movie despite all that and I think that’s part of what makes it such a great film.  I especially didn’t think a musical had any place in the film industry in 2002 but was proven wrong.  This movie got nominated for nearly everything and won many of the nominations including Best Picture and Supporting Actress for Catherine Zeta-Jones.  Renee Zellweger, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, and Rob Marshall were all nominated as well.

I have never been a big fan of Renee Zellweger but I cannot deny that she is fantastic actress.  She will be in a couple of our upcoming movies in the “C” section of our collection too.  I happen to like her roles in those movies better (Cinderella Man and Cold Mountain specifically) and I’d rather discuss her at more depth in those posts.  I do not like Richard Gere either, in fact I specifically don’t watch films with him in it, this film being a rare exception.  I think it’s because of Pretty Woman, that damn movie spawned tons of films with the exact same damn premise.  I typically avoid Julia Roberts for the same reason.  I can’t say Gere really brought much to the film. I suppose that it is something that he didn’t bring the film down, but a better actor could have been cast in his role. Catherine Zeta-Jones is great in this movie and really deserved her Oscar.  In this movie she explodes with talent that I don’t think many people even knew she had in her. She is singing and dancing with intensity and she is so seductive. I have always been indifferent to her as an actress though and while she is a beautiful woman she just isn’t really my type. Queen Latifah is great as well in this movie, this performance helped her career greatly at the time when her star was rising.  I am a big fan of John C. Reilly and like him in nearly everything he does.  I am not always a fan of his really goofy movies with Will Ferrell but he has made many great movies as a serious actor including this film. Lucy Lui also makes a great cameo in this movie, but I feel she has never risen to her full potential as an actress. Rob Marshall did a good job with this movie but I haven’t seen any other film he has made.  In 2009 he made what appeared to be a very similar film to this one, Nine, with Daniel Day-Lewis but it wasn’t not nearly as successful.

Amber and I actually took a vacation to Chicago this year and since we are reviewing a movie by the same name I would like to take the chance to say a little about the city.  Chicago can be intimidating because it is so large but it is very tourist friendly.  What really impressed me the most about the city, besides its beautiful architecture and never-ending buildings, was how traffic was handled.  For a town with so many people traffic seemed to be a non issue.  There is a unique network of roads in Chicago and traffic directors on duty during what would typically be rush hour and they direct both vehicles and pedestrians.  Chicago is unique because it is a city that was built to be a city.  Nearly the entire city was destroyed during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and when rebuilding started city planners and architects from all over the country came to help.  The city was designed by the best people available to be a great city and that’s exactly what they made.  We had a great trip and I would recommend it as a vacation spot to anyone looking for somewhere awesome to go.

Now back to the movie, I can attest that this movie can be enjoyed by anybody because I like it.  As I said before this is a movie that isn’t really up my alley.  It’s based on a Broadway show, there’s signing and dancing, it stars an actor I specifically don’t like, and actresses I’m not all that fond of. For all intensive purposes I should hate this movie but on the contrary I like it.  The songs aren’t bad, the choreography is very good, and the performances are great. This was a great movie and it is more than worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan’s crazy. I totally took him to see this to get him into bed. I really don’t remember if that’s the truth of it, or if I just really wanted to see this film. I was still in high school when this came out and I was taking a film critique class, in which we watched Guys and Dolls. I thoroughly enjoyed that one so much, that when I saw this trailer on television, I just knew that I had to go and see it. I am so glad we did. I remember being blown away by how good it actually was. The music fits so well into every scene so seamlessly. Most musicals just piss me off because it is just singing and dancing and no plot, a lot like the recent abomination on television: Glee. (My good friend Jessica would kill me for saying that.)

If you aren’t that into musicals, I get that, but this one is different. This one is worth watching. I even have the soundtrack and can sing all the songs, and that is very unlike me. Check this one out. If anything, you get to see a bunch of hot ladies dancing around in hardly nothing. I also want to mention the outstanding performances of Queen Latifah, Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere.

NEXT MOVIE: Chinatown (1974)