Tommy Lee Jones

Small Soldiers

Year: 1998
Directed By: Joe Dante
Written By: Four different people are credited with the writing of this film.

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a silly movie that only could have come out of the late 90s when technology was changing faster than the populace could keep up with it. A time when the internet was still young and it was vaguely plausible that the government made chips that could turn toys into tiny terminators. I was 16 when this movie came out and liked it enough despite how silly it was. When it made its way into our collection it did so for one reason. It was one of the last things Phil Hartman did before he died. In fact the movie was released after his death in 1998.

I was a big fan of Phil Hartman both from watching reruns of his time on Saturday Night Live and hearing him regularly as a voice on The Simpsons. He was such a talented comedian with such a fantastic voice. The circumstances of his death were so sudden and tragic. His death was so shocking that it floored the entire Hollywood community. He was shot to death as he slept by his wife, who had a sudden break down and committed suicide before police could take her into custody. Words can’t describe how unfortunate and shocking it was. The world was robbed of an exceptional entertainer for seemingly no reason and I still feel the loss if I watch The Simpsons and catch a Troy McClure episode.

This may be a silly movie but even into adulthood I am still a big fan of action figures. As a child I loved nothing more than working my imagination with my toys. Playing out various scenarios I had seen in movies or on TV I could occupy myself for hours with my action figures. I was a big fan He-Man and the Ninja Turtles until I graduated to G.I. Joes before discovering the X-Men toys and never quite growing out of those. To this day it is not unusual for me to display a cool toy I find in my office or around my home. I try to limit these things to my home but now as I sit at my desk at work I have a comic book Negan action figure standing before a mini replica of the Iron Throne right behind me.

So while this movie may be a bit childish I am still inclined to enjoy a film about action figures coming to life to do battle with one another. It’s even more up my alley as the toys in the movies were influenced by some of my favorites. The Gorgonites were heavily influenced by Masters of the Universe and the Commando Elite were obviously influenced by G.I. Joes.

I like the cast of this movie enough to think it noteworthy. Most of these characters didn’t mean much to me at the time but in hindsight it is fun to see younger versions of guys like David Cross and Kevin Dunn. I loved Cross as Tobias Funke on Arrested Development, and though I didn’t like him in this movie I thought Kevin Dunn was hilarious as the dad in the first Transformers film. Even before his awesome series Rescue Me I was a big fan of Denis Leary and I liked him in this film. Kirsten Dunst is nothing more than a typical female teenager in this film but I have always been a fan. Since she gave the fantastic performance as the child vampire in Interview with a Vampire, at some unreasonably young age she was able to stand toe to toe with the likes of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. It was impressive enough to set a lasting impression on me. There is also a small cameo here from the SNL star Cheri Oteri and I loved her because she always made me laugh.

I think Tommy Lee Jones was an awesome choice for the voice of Major Chip Hazard. The 90’s were the golden days for Jones and his voice lent some credibility to this silly film. Originally Director Joe Dante wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger and the cast of Predator to voice the Commando Elites but sadly that didn’t work out.  So they used Tommy Lee Jones as well as actors from The Dirty Dozen.

Also lending credibility with his voice was Frank Langella as the voice of Archer. The man who once brilliantly brought Skeletor to life in an equally silly movie, Masters of the Universe, is someone I can’t help but get behind. At nearly 80 years of age he is still going strong as an actor and that is impressive all by itself. He started acting in the mid 60s and is closing in on over 100 acting credits during his time.

This movie was directed by Joe Dante whose primary career was in television. He did manage to use this opportunity to drop several Easter Eggs from his most famous film within the movie. There are several references to Gremlins within the movie as Gizmo is both mentioned and seen throughout the film. I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of Joe Dante but he did helm a movie I sincerely love. Innerspace has been a life long favorite since childhood and I could never disregard something done by the creator of that film.

Before closing this out I think there is one more random fact about the movie that makes it noteworthy. This movie features the Led Zeppelin song Communication Breakdown. It’s noteworthy simply because it is so rare that Zeppelin songs appear in films. I am probably simply forgetting but I can only recall one other film that featured music from Zeppelin. Any Given Sunday had a really cool segment set to Fool in the Rain. If you can remember a movie that featured Zeppelin leave a comment because I would be interested in knowing.

This isn’t a movie I can ever recall recommending to anyone but I still think there is plenty here to make worth wild. If you are a grown up man child like myself who still has an affinity for action figures and toys then you might like this movie. If for no other reason it is worth your time simply to get a taste of a comedian and entertainer the world was robbed of far too soon. This isn’t an exceptional performance from Phil Hartman by any means but it’s what we were left with and that makes it worth it.

NEXT MOVIE: Smoking Aces (2006)

 

 

 

 

 

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No Country For Old Men

Year: 2007
Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen
Written By: Joel and Ethan Coen (screenplay) Cormac McCarthy (novel)

RYAN’S REVIEW

2007 was a big year for the Coen brothers.  They won 4 Academy Awards for this film including Best Picture, Best Direction, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Editing.  This movie was a big hit with the Academy and it was a big hit with the audience as well.  Despite that I am not the biggest fan of it.  I think it is a great movie but I don’t feel like it was their best movie.  This seemed to be the time that everybody realized who the Coen brothers were and that bothered me on some level because I had long since been a big fan of their work.  As good as this movie is I still wouldn’t even categorize it as one of their top 5 films and I’m always annoyed when something becomes trendy and people suddenly understand something that had always been there had they taken the time to notice.

I also think this movie drags a bit too much at times.  I think it’s the lack of music that makes it feel so slow.  Music helps a movie move at a specific pace and the absence of any score in this one slows it down for me.  Tommy Lee Jones is incredible and I think he is great in this film but during one of his monologues later in the film I wanted to scratch my eyes out with boredom. The lack of a musical score did nothing to inhibit the movie and in truth the first time I saw it I was so enthralled I didn’t even notice until the second viewing.  I think though, once the shocks have been taken in that attempting to watch this movie again seems mundane.  I loved it the first time I saw it but the more I see it the less enthused I am about it.

So much of the strength of this film lies in the performance of Javier Bardem, and he was absolutely terrifying in the part.  When watching this movie for the first time you literally never know what he is going to do.  He is so intimidating and brutal.  It’s a role that deserved to win the Academy Award and it will live on forever as one of the baddest of the bad.  With his sudden ferocity and unique weapons Anton Chigurh ranks right up there with the greats like Bill the Butcher or Heath Ledger’s Joker. Nevertheless as much as I respect the Coen Brothers and appreciate the performance of Bardem I don’t love this bad guy or this movie.  I bought into it all 100% the first time I saw it but I find myself short of lasting love for the any of it and that is unusual for a Coen Brothers film. I’m a guy that loves a good bad guy and can’t get enough of him, but this bad guy hasn’t stood the test of time for me.  Anton Chigurh is a ruthless and capable hitman but he isn’t the badass boss type of bad guy that I usually find myself shamefully pulling for.

Around this the time this movie came out Josh Brolin suddenly seemed to be in everything. He was in a number of successful films in 2007 and he continues to be a player in the industry today.  I was puzzled seven years ago about it and I’m puzzled still how and why this Goonie suddenly popped into the limelight seemingly out of nowhere.  In 2007 he had significant roles in this film with the Coen Brothers, as well as Planet Terror with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, and American Gangster with Ridley Scott.  How did this happen so suddenly? These are big time directors all of a sudden casting important parts to a guy who had been around but hadn’t done anything significant for over twenty years.  I suppose I have to be wrong, I must have missed some performance that stood out among the rest.  I’m not really a fan of his work so I haven’t ever made any effort to research the matter but sometimes in the back of my mind this mystery needles at me.  If anybody knows the story behind Josh Brolin’s sudden rise into success please let me know.  I would love to satisfy that curiosity without having to actually do any digging to find out.  There is something about him I just don’t like and can’t quite put my finger on it.  He is well cast in this movie though because I think he fits the part perfectly.

I like what Woody Harrelson and Stephen Root bring to the film because they are both two of my favorites but there just isn’t enough of them in this one. Root has his typical pinch hit of a role but as usual he hits it out of the park.  You just never know where he is going to be but you can always trust that when you see him he will be doing great at whatever he is doing. As for Woody Harrelson you can just never have enough of him, and I feel like his part in this movie is altogether too short.

I have been too critical in this review and don’t get me wrong.  I think this is a great film, I’m not contesting that.  I just don’t particularly like it, anymore.  I felt then that it was a shame that most people came to know the Coen’s through this film because they already had a number of incredible films under their belt.  Despite their impressive filmography they weren’t well known by any means to the casual film watcher.  Their movies were never known in the past to be high grossing at the box office but they were often awarded for their work because despite the money it had made they were great films. When people talked about this movie I would tell them to go watch Fargo or The Big Lebowski. I would ask if they had ever seen Blood Simple or Raising Arizona.  I would mention classic scenes from The Ladykillers or Intolerable Cruelty. I know that I’m just an annoying know it all when it comes to films and I take stubborn stances on things from time to time but this one frustrated me.  I wanted people to know that they had been missing out on something great and that No Country for Old Men was only one of many incredible films from these two brothers.  They are smart filmmakers in a class all by themselves, and like many great filmmakers their movies don’t always reach the widest of audiences.  When things don’t involve explosions and special effects not enough people turn out to the theaters.

 

AMBER’S REVIEW

I think this film is incredibly original and extremely terrifying. It’s hard for me to watch a movie Javier Bardem is in because I think he just did such a great job of being a completely ruthless killer. So scary. Also, there was no music in this movie. That sounds like a crazy thing to do, and yet they did it, and it just adds to the creepiness of the whole thing. It takes a strong movie maker to make a decision like no music. I often think about the Coen Brothers and wonder if their creativity tank will ever dry up. I know that I get burned out doing creative stuff all the time, and it makes me wonder what their creative process is like. Wouldn’t that make an interesting documentary?

No_Country_for_Old_Men_poster

I like this poster. It’s very much in the Coen Brothers style. Most important…DO you see how freaking scary he looks? Those dead eyes. This poster is filled with symbolism. The mouth appears to be consuming the body of the running man, and this supports the movie’s tagline…”There are no clean getaways.” The stacked typography is also a symbol for this tagline, and the meaning of the movie. It is staggered and unsupported. It could potentially tumble at any moment. I love this poster and the idea it gives for what the movie is actually about. If you haven’t seen this film, do.

 

NEXT MOVIE: No Time for Sergeants (1958) 

Natural Born Killers

Year: 1994
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: Oliver Stone, the original screenplay that was picked up off the bottom of a pile of rejections was by Quentin Tarantino

RYAN’S REVIEW

It gives the wrong impression, it’s not something I generally admit to people openly, but this is my favorite movie of all time.  Since the very first time I saw it I was in love with it. It is unlike any movie I have ever seen and I think it is indisputably a work of art, despite its content.

As to the content of this movie. This isn’t violence it’s anger, pure unadulterated anger.  Anger at a world that isn’t right.  Anger that manifests itself in a violent response.  Mickey and Mallory are the response to what this world was in 1994 and still is.  It is a violent and evil world; there is no innocence, even among the good.  Everything is mainstream and we all do as we are told.  Mickey and Mallory came from the worse elements of this world and what they turned into was simply reactionary. The response from the world depicted  by the public in this film isn’t off base either, that’s the sad reality of the whole thing.

I don’t think this is a movie that should be watched by a younger audience and I don’t think it’s wise for unsettled people to watch it under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs.  Both of which have caused unfortunate problems in the past and the consequences were grave.  It is an awful thing when people watch a film and do something crazy afterwards. I like it even less when the film is blamed because the actions that follow are on the heads of the perpetrator and not film.  Those people were and are crazy.  If it isn’t the film or song they were listening to that triggered them then it would have been something else.

I myself watched this movie at too young of an age in truth. I was 15 or 16 the first time I picked it up off the shelf at the video store I worked at.  I specifically remembered that my step-father had watched it with my older brother and found it repulsive; saying that the rest of us were never to see it.  More than anything it was the look on his face I remember, and the tone in his voice. Something about this movie made it different. We were forbidden from in it a way that somehow surpassed other such declarations. It was years later when I broke the rules and tasted this forbidden fruit alone in my room.  I can say honestly that it had me from the opening scene and instantly became my favorite movie of all time. It claimed the spot early and has never been toppled.

I have also, as a matter of fact, watched this movie under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs and I’m not afraid to admit that.  I was in college; a time long long ago in a town far far away.  Oliver Stone was under the influence of mushrooms at times before and probably during the filming of this movie.  The influence of psychedelics is obvious even to someone who has never experienced them. The scene when Mickey and Mallory eat mushrooms and get followed by a cop was actually based on something that happened to Stone and someone else while they were scouting locations.  Seeing this movie on mushrooms was like watching a different film and I have thought since that the movie was made to be seen like that.  Obviously it is not something I recommend to people and it’s not an experience I expect to have again as times are different now and youthful experimenting is a thing of the past.

I think this movie gets a bad rap, but it earned that in spades.  The content of this movie is harsh and it’s not for everyone.  I have just always seen through all of the violence and loved what is beneath.  Underneath it all is a relationship that I have always found inspiring.  Mickey and Mallory are two people completely in love and hopelessly dedicated to one another.  Their actions are fiendish and awful, but the connection they share is a beautiful thing.  When I was in high school I would tell people about this and tell them to look at the love story that was underneath it all.  I love their marriage over the river when they bond their blood and send it into the river.  I also love when they finally reunite in prison during the riot, great scene.  I don’t care for the implied rape of the hostage, and the very real allusion to it in the uncut version of the film.  These are really bad people, and these are the kind of things those types of people do.  I don’t condone any of the actions Mickey and Mallory take in the film. I love the characters but in no way think that anything about them is alright. It’s just a movie though, and rooting for bad guys is always a guilty pleasure. These bad guys happen to share a love that I admire and it is the love that gets me with this movie.  There is plenty to love and appreciate about this movie but for me it’s all about Mickey and Mallory.  They have a love for one another that is special.  Sure they are crazy, but they are crazy for each other in a touching way.

At the top of this review I credit Oliver Stone with the writing of this film and I want to explain why.  When Quentin Tarantino was trying to get started he sold two screenplays to earn enough money to get Reservoir Dogs started.  Those screenplays were True Romance and Natural Born Killers.  Both of which turned out to be good films. Good films both of which were about a couple that go on a wild cross country crime spree and kill a lot of people. Yeah the stories are different, but only by variation. Quentin Tarantino has loudly criticized this movie in the past because so much of what he intended was changed, and because…you know, his giant over bloated ego was wounded.  Tarantino is brilliant, but when he starts talking he rarely comes across as anything but an arrogant douche bag. Oliver Stone is an incredible writer in his own rite.  He picked up this screenplay off the bottom of a pile of rejected scripts and redid it in his own way. With all due respect to Tarantino, he is a great filmmaker, but he isn’t even half the talent that Oliver Stone was in his heyday.  I’ll be the first to admit things are dramatically different now and the exact opposite today but in his day Stone was hands down incredible.  He made some outstanding movies that, despite their content or political agenda, were works of art and most of them are absolutely unique in their own way.  This movie for example, is unlike any you will ever see.  If you can look past the surface and see it for what it really is you will see that this is more than a film.  It is the product of an artist who was in his element, with a camera as his brush and an editing room as his studio.

During his heyday Oliver Stone was the type of director that a lot of grade-A talent wanted to work with.  You only need to look over the casts of his films from the 80s and 90s to see that.  This movie was no different and the cast it offers is an outstanding one.  It starts with the lead roles of Mickey and Mallory.  Woody Harrelson is not only an interesting person personally but he is the kind of acting talent that it is hard to not like.  He has seemed to only get better with age and this day in age he is just so flawlessly cool.  He is excellent as Mickey Knox. Mickey is uneducated and ignorant but sly and cunning despite that.  He is vicious in the ways that only a man of lifelong repression can be yet he wins you over with that charming quality that can only be embodied by Woody Harrelson.  Harrelson has the benefit in this film of having an outstanding counterpart in Juliette Lewis. To cast Mallory Knox they had to find someone who could be sexy yet batshit crazy at the drop of a hat.  They couldn’t have chosen better.  Nobody pulls off batshit crazy like Juliette Lewis. She is such a badass, she actually broke Tom Sizemore’s nose while filming their scene in her prison cell. I don’t know what has happened to her lately as she only appears in the most random of films these days and always as a cameo.  She doesn’t capture the big roles anymore and I don’t know why because I have always thought she was an outstanding actress.  Like Harrelson she also has a really interesting back story personally.

Tom Sizemore brings his own element of crazy to this film.  I have always been a big fan of Sizemore but his personal life has loudly been problematic.  He has had significant struggles with drugs as well as anger issues that have led to problems for him before.  I do not condone his personal actions but I have always liked him in the supporting roles he is famous for.  In this movie he fits the part like no one else could have and I think he is really good as Jack Scagnetti.  The name of his character specifically is part of this movie that shows its roots from Tarantino.  Scagnetti is a name Tarantino has used before.  In Reservoir Dogs Mr. Blonde mentions his parole officer is named Scagnetti.

This was one of the last significant acting roles Rodney Dangerfield had as his career came to a close.  That is unfortunate as it was a very unsavory role but like Sizemore he just fit the part so well.  I was never a fan of Dangerfield’s loud style but in this movie he did something dramatic and different.  He plays a sick and depraved man. The type that makes you feel sorry for the daughter that grows up to be a psychotic killer. This was Rodney Dangerfield’s first and only performance in a dramatic film and I think he did an excellent job. Despite the role he plays in this movie Dangerfield deserves the respect and recognition of comedy fans.  He was a one of kind comedian who helped pave the way for those who would follow him.

Rounding out the big names in the cast is none other than Oliver Stone’s good friend Tommy Lee Jones who he shares a birthday with.  Jones is a bit over the top in this film but he did so on purpose.  As a Harvard graduate Jones is a highly intelligent actor who in fact was never schooled in his trade.  Jones never took an acting class but that has never inhibited him.  He has had a long and distinguished career as an actor that he continues to build on.  Jones was hot during the time this movie came out having hit it big winning an Oscar for The Fugitive the year before. This role is a much different part and that only highlights his talent as an actor.  He became a beloved actor playing straight laced types like we saw in The Fugitive or The Client but in this movie he is much more uncouth and heinous. It’s not my favorite role from Jones by any means but I still like what he brings to the table as McClusky.

This movie makes a statement about society, the media, human nature, and American culture in the mid nineties.  I think by and large it is misunderstood, but with good reason.  There is a lot more to this movie than meets the eye at first approach.  If you don’t see anything but the worst in it then you are missing out on what makes it the best.  I love this movie and I have never been afraid to admit it.  I have never been one to broadcast it because it sets the wrong impression but I will gladly mention this movie every time the question of favorites comes up.  This movie is my favorite because it is different, because it is bold, and because it says something about the world.

I don’t generally recommend this movie to people, because it isn’t for everyone and I fear too many just won’t understand.  I don’t argue about it either, the content is too controversial and strong opinions come with it.  A movie like this comes with certain preconceived notions and assumptions that can give people the wrong idea about a fan.  People will think what they think but anybody who doesn’t look deeper into this one is missing out.  It has been my favorite movie of all time since the first time I saw it and I love it just as much every time I see it again.  Watch this one at your own risk, it is what it is and not to be taken for granted.  It’s not like other films but that it part of what makes it special.

 

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan made me watch this when we were in college. I wasn’t allowed to see anything like this growing up. I didn’t know a movie like this even existed until Ryan showed it to me. I have seen it many times now over the years, but even today it sucks me in and intrigues me. The story is incredibly different than anything else I had ever seen, and still today is a great take on the media. It’s even worse today than when this movie was made. Imagine this movie set in today’s world, with social media the way it is today. It was ahead of its time, not even knowing what the monster social media would become.

Natural Born Killers PosterThis poster is cool. I don’t think it does the film justice, but for its time in history, I think it’s pretty cool. The image is set in all black and white, with the exception of his glasses, which also have the reflection of Mallory. There could be so many connections drawn here about the color and the image of Mallory, but I feel it’s all too cliché now, and probably wouldn’t work today. I just don’t feel like this poster is memorable or as special as the movie is. It really gives no allusion to what the movie is at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEXT MOVIE: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

 

 

 

Captain America: The First Avenger

Year:2011
Directed By: Joe Johnston
Written By: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (screenplay) Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (comics)

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was a film Amber and I actually ventured out into the theater to see a few years ago which has been a rarity since 2008 when our first child was born.  We still get out to the theater as often as we can but are very selective on what we go see because opportunity is more limited now.  This was an easy decision as I spent many years waiting on The Avengers and specifically made a point to see every film that led up to it.  When we went to see this film we made the mistake of going to see it in 3D.  After the phenomenal success of Avatar  every film under the sun was “converting” to the 3D format whether it was a good idea or not.  In this film it was not a good idea and so much of it was blurry on-screen as opposed to being three-dimensional, despite the fancy shot of Cap throwing his shield right at us.  That experience initially gave me the impression that the movie was only so-so and because of that it was never added into our collection until now. In preparation for the sequel, which looks awesome by the way, I finally broke down and bought this film to give it another shot.  I can attest now that my initial reaction to the movie was incorrect and I found the second viewing to be a drastic improvement over the first.

I did not like the casting of Chris Evans in the part of Steve Rodgers.  It’s not that he isn’t right for the role because in fact I think he is but I think it was an awful decision to reuse an actor who had already been used in the Marvel film universe.  Of course the big difference is that FOX owns the rights to The Fantastic Four while Marvel owns Captain America.  Nevertheless I thought Chris Evans was great as Johnny Storm and one of the few highlights to an otherwise weak film in general.  Using him again as a different character meant that we wouldn’t see his Johnny Storm again and despite how bad those movies were I still held out hope for a successful sequel in the future.  It all matters little now as The Fantastic Four is in the process of being rebooted and Chris Evans is entrenched as the leader of the Avengers.  As it goes with playing the part of Captain America Evans has everything required.  He couldn’t look more all-American and he is a physical powerhouse.  So while I wasn’t happy about the casting when the news first dropped years ago I feel much differently now.  Evans has won me over and I look forward to seeing his next portrayal of the part in The Winter Soldier.  

When you cast a bad guy for a movie you simply can’t go wrong when you choose Hugo Weaving for the part.  I thought his portrayal of the Red Skull was awesome and he looked really villainous in the make-up, which was done perfectly.  I have never been a big follower of Captain America but I have always been a fan of Marvel comics and you can’t be such without knowing a little bit about the Red Skull.  As far as Marvel villains go he is one of the biggest and baddest so casting the part was a difficult thing to do.  However, as I said, you just can’t go wrong using Agent Smith as a bad guy.  I always like a movie that utilizes Nazis as bad guys because nobody is easier to root against.  These guys aren’t just Nazis either, but a much worse off shoot of them in HYDRA.  I absolutely love the scene in which Cap chases down the HYDRA assassin only for him to lick one of his front teeth out and kill himself with it.  I have seen examples of bad guys killing themselves in this fashion before by crunching a planted poison caplet in their mouth but never quite like that and I thought it was awesome.

I miss the days when Tommy Lee Jones was a bankable star that appeared in many films on a regular basis.  So I was really happy to see him cast in a significant role for this film and I really liked what he brought to it. He has made a bit of a comeback in recent years from the time when I thought everything was going downhill for him.  When he made Space Cowboys in 2000 I took it as a sign that he had already resigned himself to the “old man parts” that his co-stars in the film already had locked down and I thought it was too soon for him.  I think Jones is awesome and consider it unfortunate that we won’t be seeing him again in any Captain America sequels.  Speaking of the sequel I do look forward to seeing Sebastian Stan in The Winter Soldieror (brace yourself for a possible spoiler) I suppose I should say as the Winter Soldier.  For those who don’t know, Bucky survives the fall we see in this movie and is systematically brainwashed over the years by bad guys to be a bad version of Captain America so to speak. I’m sure we are in for an emotional and troubling scene for Cap in the sequel when he realizes the bad guy he faces is his long-lost friend Bucky, who probably for some reason blames Cap for what happened to him.

The rest of this cast all did well but it was a one time deal as they all played characters in a timeline we won’t be seeing again.  Stanley Tucci is a relentless worker who appears in nearly everything these days, and he was good as the wise doctor who created Captain America.  Toby Jones was good his role as the Red Skull’s sidekick Arnim Zola.  I am a fan of Neal McDonough because he was phenomenal in the season three of Justified and while his role in this movie was small I think it was good.  Dominic Cooper was good at acting like Robert Downey Jr while playing Tony Stark’s father but I wish they has used John Slattery again for the part as the did in Iron Man 2.  Not only for continuity reasons but because I specifically like Slattery. Hayley Atwell did nothing wrong in her performance but I don’t give it much thought because she is just filling in that role of “necessary love interest.” These comic heroes always have to have some woman they are in love with whether there are practical reasons for that love or not.  In this film Atwell was simple the pretty face who got called when one was needed.

I do think this movie could have been a bit better but overall I think it was a great beginning to something that can be much greater.  I think the preview for the coming sequel looks awesome, so awesome in fact I felt I had to buy this movie simply to have the right reference in place for it.  The sequel has a different set of directors in Anthony and Joe Russo.  While I am not familiar with their work I feel like they have to be better than Joe Johnston.  Nothing against Johnston, he has made a few films I thought were good but I think he was over his head with a film of this magnitude. He doesn’t have the longest track record and nothing else he has done has been as big as the first film in a franchise that is something as big as Marvel has going on now. Still, he made a good film and he does deserve credit for it.

I use to rate comic book movies against one another and tell people which were the best in my opinion.  Now there are so many of them that I couldn’t even begin to consider where they stacked up against one another.  These days the big budgets go to the films about super heroes.  It become so dominating in the movie industry that the dust can’t even settle on a specific character before he is thrust (“rebooted”) out there again.  The immediate examples being Spiderman, The Hulk, and Superman.  They are not alone though because we already have a new Fantastic Four on the way and it’s only a matter of time before Ben Affleck takes his Batman into solo features. Yes it is a comic book movie world we are living in but I’m not complaining.  I comic book guy at heart and I can never get enough of them.  I would say this film is exactly what I have come to expect from the growing genre.  The movie is fun, exciting, and interesting.  I wouldn’t call it better or worse than what I think is a standard for a great group of movies.  This film did exactly what it was supposed to do and it gave us more to look forward to.  I genuinely enjoyed watching this movie again and I cannot wait to see the next one.  This movie is definitely worth your time and you should probably see it before Winter Soldier comes out this summer.

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)

The Client

Year: 1994
Directed By: Joel Schumacher
Written By: John Grisham

RYAN’S REVIEW

The Client is the film adaptation of John Grisham‘s novel by the same name.  It’s just one of several movies that were made during the 90s based off of his books.  Some of the other movies being The Pelican Brief, The Firm, A Time to Kill, The Chamber, and The Rainmaker. I do think this one was one of the better of those films, although A Time to Kill was also particularly good.  I read most of these books when I was a teenager as well, I don’t remember much about them now but I do remember liking this book.  It’s hard not to like such a great story though.

I was almost of an age with the Brad Renfro character the first time I saw this movie and that was probably what got me interested in reading John Grisham’s books to begin with. The cast of this movie was obviously really well thought out because so many stars are in it, the casting of the Mark Sway must have been challenging because of his age.  Brad Renfro came out of no where and blew everybody away, he seemed to have a lot of promise but has practically been a one hit wonder.  He has starred in a few other notable films but his performance has never matched this one.  It was a tough role for such young inexperienced actor because the film centers on him.  He was surrounded by a lot of talented actors and actresses in the movie though.

Tommy Lee Jones is great at this kind of role.  He fits in nicely as the powerful man who like to monologue as he leads his subordinates around like geese in a flying V.  He played similar roles in The Fugitive and U.S. Marshalls.  I am always in favor of Susan Sarandon being the female lead in any movie. She is not only beautiful but very talented.  She had an interesting ability to get more beautiful the older she got.  This movie is literally loaded with stars in smaller parts after that.  Mary-Louise Parker, William H. Macy, Kim Coates, Anthony Edwards, Will Patton, and several others.  The cast alone makes the movie worth seeing but you should see it because the story is awesome.

This is also like a window into 1994 too, that makes it interesting. You can see the style of clothing on several levels of society. You see smoking in a hospital and smoking by children, two things that are rarely if ever seen in media today.  Mark’s mother mentions her minimum wage pay as $5.00 an hour, that gives us insight into the  economics of the year.  There are plenty of things that this movie can remind some of us about and give others insight into what life was like 17 years ago.

This was a popular movie when it came out and I think it will stand the test of time for years to come.  I am not typically a fan of Joel Schumacher, he ruined the Batman franchise, but he managed to not screw this one up.  This movie is worth your time and I would recommend it to anyone.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I had never seen this movie before, heck I didn’t even know that we owned it. I was immediately sucked in. The story follows 2 kids that accidentally witness a mobster’s attorney’s suicide. However, before the suicide he confides in the boy that he know where some bodies are buried. I would hate to be this kid. He is put into a horrible position. The kid is a great little actor and is a badass kid that isn’t very well off. He wears Led Zeppelin cut off t-shirts and cusses. He isn’t a stupid kid, however and when he feels like he is being pressured by the FBI he decides to find an attorney to take care of things for him, played by Susan Sarandon. (Ryan is hopelessly in love with her, I think it’s the red hair.)

This movie is worth your time. It is interesting and holds your attention well and has some really notable people in the film. I know I wouldn’t want to be in this kids position.

NEXT MOVIE: Cliffhanger (1993)

Batman Forever

Year: 1995
Directed By: Joel Schumacher
Written By: Lee Batchler

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is where it all went horribly wrong.  The studio wanted a more family friendly Batman and they made a movie that Adam West must have admired.  I remember when this movie came out and remembered it fondly.  Watching it now I see that it was only cool then because I was only eleven years old.  This movie is ridiculous from beginning to end and I can not vouch for it.

Tim Burton was still on board as a producer but I can’t see much of his influence in the film.  When Warner Bros gave the keys to the Batman franchise to Joel Schumacher they deserved all the embarrassment and failure that he bestowed upon them. Schumacher took the dark Batman that Burton had created and he made it flamboyant, Batman should not be flamboyant. Why didn’t anybody take a step back and ask themselves if it was really a good idea to put nipples on the batsuit?  I have always wanted to know what the hell the studio was thinking, this was one of the worst ideas of all time.  The cast was ridiculous, alot of big names inappropriately cast or out of place.  I guess Jim Carrey was ok as the Riddler but I wouldn’t call him great.  Why did Tommy Lee Jones look so pink and colorful? I don’t really get the casting of Kilmer as Batman, I am a Val Kilmer fan, but as Batman? Who was responsible for that decision.  Chris O’Donnell wasn’t that bad but the circumstances of his character are a little too stupid.  First of all, why would a criminal organization hold up the circus to rob the pockets of the audience? Also, why would the unarmed acrobats think they were qualified to deal with the situation?

I have always said that the 4th Batman film, Batman & Robin was one of the worst movies of all time.  While it is still easily the worst of all the Batman films it does merely follow the footsteps of this movie.  This movie is much worse than I remembered it being and I do not think you should waste you time watching it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ugh, I don’t even want to write about this one. It is extremely hard to even sit though this one. Why do we even own it? Ryan said it is so different because they went towards a more family friendly Batman. But come on, crime fighting just isn’t family friendly. Jim Carrey was in his prime of his comedy career at the time of this film, but I thought he was misplaced and was annoying throughout.

Since I am the woman voice on this blog, I also must add that Val Kilmer makes an AWFUL Batman. He is not sexy as Batman, and what is the point if Batman is not a sexy hero? I mean, he only has to be sexy from the nose down really. His lips are all pouty like a woman’s.

This film is just a no-go for me. Anytime you add in Robin I automatically think back to the cheesy Adam West stuff, and I can’t take it seriously. Watch the others, skip this one and Batman and Robin, and then pick it back up Batman Begins.

NEXT MOVIE:  Batman Begins (2005)