The Orphanage

The OrphanageIt seems like no one can make a scary movie these days without spraying 12 gallons of fake blood from a rubber jugular. The Orphanage is refreshing, it is a true ghost story! It is about a woman, Laura, who has come back to an old orphanage that has been closed for many years, the same orphanage she was at as a little girl. She intends to reopen it with her husband, Carlos, and their adopted son Simon. Upon arriving at the rundown house, Simon all of the sudden has many new imaginary friends to play with. They begin to play games with Simon, and it isn’t until Simon is missing that Laura discovers the truth about the orphanage.

Laura, played by Belen Rueda, really is the backbone of this movie and gives a very good performance. The photography in the film is beautiful, taking place on a rocky coast with great scenic views. I am sure hardly anyone will recognize any of the stars, but will recognize the producer, Guillermo del Toro, who directed Pan’s Labyrinth and has been announced to be directing the new Hobbit film and co-writing with Peter Jackson.

In all I would recommend this film to anyone. This is what Ghost Stories are supposed to be. The only films I can think of comparing it to are The Devils Backbone and maybe The Lady in White. If you enjoyed those, you will love this one. Be aware this film is subtitled, if that turns you off then it won’t be for you. The Orphanage is a wonderful story with great acting and lots of spooky and creepy elements to give you a good scare! This one is worth watching for sure!

North by Northwest

northbynorthwestNorth By Northwest is a pure slice of of Americana, an absolute classic Hitchcock movie. For those who have yet to see this film, Roger Thornhill,  a advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent and wrongfully accused of murder. Believing it is the only way to clear his name, Roger goes on a quest to find the man he is mistaken for. In a nut shell, that is the plot line. There are many scenes that make this film a classic. The art auction is perfectly played out by Cary Grant, trying to get thrown out of the auction by bidding $5. Of course the climax of the movie all taking place on top of Mount Rushmore is well known, but one of the most recognizable and memorable scenes in cinematic history is the biplane chase scene in the field.

Thornhill is played by American icon, Cary Grant (To Catch a Thief). There is a lot of humor in Grants dialog, just listen for it. His one liners and comments on situations come across almost like Grouch Marx. “Patience is a virtue” Eve says, followed by a quick witted Thornhill reply “So is breathing.” Eve is elegantly played by Eva Marie Saint (Best Supporting Actress for On the Waterfront), and is able to stand tow to toe with an icon like Cary Grant and be perfectly believable as a love interest.

As for the villains, VanDamm is played by James Mason (Heaven Can Wait, The Verdict), who brings a little class to the  entire idea of being a villain, similar to a James Bond villain with a taste for fine wine and love for art. Yet still being rugged and ruthless enough to develop a certain amount of fear that he has the power to have someone filled, and not think twice about doing it. Also, look for Martin Landau (Best Supporting Actor Ed Wood) as Leonard, VanDamm’s main henchmen!

If you have never taken the time to see older films, this is one that you should seek out and see at least once in a lifetime. You will be glad you did. Also, if you are fan of bluray discs, I hear this will be released on bluray as a 50th Anniversary Edition on November 3 later this year. I highly recommend this film, it’s a must see!

Beetlejuice

beetlejuice

Where do you even begin to review a movie that has a freelance bio-exorcist in it? “Let’s turn on the juice and see what shakes loose.” To me this is one of Tim Burton’s (Edward Scissorhands, Batman) best film. This is a film about a young couple Adam and Barbara, living in a small New England town, spending their vacation in their house. While running an errand they are killed in a car accident and have to stay in their house…dealing with the living…as ghosts. Being new at hunting a house, they call upon Betelgeuse, the freelance bio-exorcist to help them run off the living from their house. And the zaniness takes off from there!

Back before the days of CGI and big budget special effects, it actually took some creativity to get special effects done. Tim Burton does a wonderful job of directing this film and seeing his vision come to fruition. Alec Baldwin (The Cooler) and Geena Davis (Thelma and Louise) both give very understated but true to life performances. Winona Ryder (Girl, Interrupted) is perfect as the goth teenager that is the only one who can actually see Adam and Barbara when they are ghosts. The best performance of course comes from Michael Keaton (Batman) who plays Betelgeuse. Keaton is an absolute riot and spouts off memorable one liners one after another! It is almost hard to believe it is Michael Keaton!

I am sure most out there have seen this as it has turned into a cult classic, but if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and watch it. Although I know everyone’s taste in humor is a bit different and Tim Burton seems to have a niche of humor all to himself, give it a chance. It is a ingeniously creative and very funny movie.

Gran Torino

Gran Torino

Walt Kowalski’s wife has just passed away, and he is the lone white person in a neighborhood of Asian people. Walt, having served in the Korean war, you can imagine some of the racist feelings he has. While defending his property, he is viewed by the families in the neighborhood as saving Thao’s life. Living next door to Thao, Walt has the services of Thao for a week as Thao works for him as a favor. Friendships and relationships grow from there, and Walt in the end has some interesting choices to make. (Not giving too much away here…..you need to see it yourself!)

Walt Kowaslki is played marvelously by Clint Eastwood (Bridges of Madison County, Unforgiven). In fact I was rather disappointed that he did not receive a Best Actor nomination for this his role. Eastwood playing a hard nosed war veteran, and lets the racial cliches and slang fly like it is everyday conversation, believe it or not, adds a touch of humor in the role. You begin to realize he actually has a good heart , and the way he talks…is well…just that, the way he talks. The few that get to know him, don’t seem to mind the talk and it really works for the film when they role with it, especially with Su next Door. “Get me another beer, Dragon Lady! This one’s running on empty.”

I just can’t say enough good things about this film. In fact, in my eyes, this was the Best Picture of 2008, and a shame it didn’t even get nominated. It is a wonderful story and a great piece of film making. Seeing the trailer for the first time, I was unsure of the film, since it looked like an aged Dirty Harry movie. Don’t let that stop you from seeing it. This film will make you laugh, cry, and think. It offers so much on every front. This one is a must see for sure!!!

Miracle at St Anna

Miracle at St Anna

OK, I have started sentences three time here and deleted them each time, not knowing quite where to begin. So I guess I will jump right in. This movie is about the Buffalo Soldiers in WWII and follows them into Italy fighting the Germans. That is probably the most truth you will get from this movie right there.

I would say lets talk about the characters, but Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing) didn’t even develop any. In fact, was more insulting than anything. Lee, known as a “Afrocentric” director managed to throw every cliche at blacks there are, instead of honoring them and their service. There is the huge black man that has strength beyond normal, yet portrayed very dumb. There is the black man with the gold tooth, and then there are the two that are fighting over the same white Italian woman that they just encountered….all complete even with a reference to penis size! And then conveniently, the commander at headquarters is a white man, that is portrayed more like a plantation owner barking orders at his slaves than a commander in the militaryy. I don’t think Spike Lee could be any more callus or insulting. By the end of the movie, the only characters that I ended up liking were the German soldier and the German commander that offers the gun in the end. That tells you you a bit of how bad this was.

As far as the story, I am sure there are hundreds of  interesting, heartfelt, nail-biting stories that came out of the Buffalo Soldiers. Yet does Spike Lee tell one of those, no. He comes up with this crazy story of men carrying around a statue head, and a boy. I won’t spoil anything should you choose to make yourself sit through this one….but the entire idea of the movie doesn’t unfold until the last 20 minutes. It is a very heavy handed, and contrived way to drive a movie, and it does not work at all.

Spike, do yourself a favor and don’t attempt a war film again. My advice to everyone, skip it…don’t even rent it.

Untraceable

UntraceableMuch to my surprise, this was a better movie than I expected. I am sure some of the enjoyment came from the fact that I did go in with such low expectations. Seeing the trailer initially, I was expecting a movie in the Saw 3 or Saw 4 range, a below average film. On the other hand it wasn’t ground breaking and you’ve probably seen the same movie before just with a different title and different characters. I was entertained though, which is about the only demand I put on a film. The story does have a few things that push the “stupidity zone” as far as I am concerned, you will probably notice it on bridge scene at the end.

This movie was directed by Gregory Hoblit (Harts War, Frequency) and stars Diane Lane (Unfaithful) and Colin Hanks (Orange County). None of the performances are in the outstanding range. Everyone just kind of does their job in the acting category. This movie did look great on blu ray since the film is very dark in color. In all, this is one you may choose to skip, or if you have some extra time to kill, it is by no means unwatchable.

Superman The Movie

Superman - The MovieGrowing up on this movie, it is refreshing to see this one on bluray. It was almost like seeing it for the first time again. The one sad thing about the disc is that it only contains the director’s cut. There isn’t a whole lot of difference between the two, but I still prefer the original cut of the movie.

To me, this is the best Superman movie out there and holds true to a lot of the original ideas in the comic stories. Richard Donnor (Lethal Weapon) does a great job directing this ground breaking film. This is the film that first made you say “Wow, a man can fly.” Also, my hats off to the director for actually setting up the story and history of Superman. Many would want to jump right into the action. The history is what made Superman what he is and having that understanding makes this movie.

As far as acting, to me Christopher Reeve is, and will always be Superman. He does a good job as Superman, and an even better job playing the bumbling reporter Clark Kent. He also carries a bit of truthful humor to both roles, especially the interview scene with Lois Lane.

The other actors, well this film is full of Hollywood greats and legends. Marlon Brando (Best Actor for The Godfather), who received an astronomical amount for his 10 minutes of work. Gene Hackman (Best Actor for The French Connection) makes the perfect Lex Luthor with his sidekick Ned Beatty (Network). Other great include Glenn Ford (Midway) as Jonathan Kent, Jackie Cooper (The Little Rascals) as Perry White,  Trevor Howard, Margot Kidder and Terence Stamp. A wonderful cast that has great performances overall!

Other than Star Wars, this is the movie I remember most fondly as a kid. It is one of my favorites, and will always have a special place on my movie list. Anyone who hasn’t seen this film should do so. It is Hollywood film making and storytelling at it’s best.