The Terminal

The TerminalA Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks pairing is pretty hard to beat. This film is about traveller Viktor Nivorski who has landed at JFK airport. Going through customs, his country has had a coupe and the United States does not recognize the new leadership, and the result, Viktor cannot be admitted to the U.S., nor can he return home. He is stuck to live at the airport being unable to speak very much English at all. This makes for a very interesting plot, his dealing with people and where he sleeps and eats. There are some really good side stories in this film too, which gives everyone a nice mental break from being stranded.

Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Apollo 13) does an exceptional job in his role. Although he has become such an icon, it is hard to let it sink in that he can’t speak English since we have seen him do it so much. Not o let that worry you, he is such a great actor that it doesn’t take long until you are completely absorbed in the character and you really don’t notice it. He has some very memorable scenes, pushing benches together to try to make a bed, squeezing ketchup packets onto crackers, and picking out his suite from the store window. The unnoticed performance has to go to Stanley Tucci (Big Night, The Devil Wears Prada) who plays Frank the head of the customs office, who really wants to get rid of Viktor and let him be someone else’s problem. Catherine Zeta-Jones (Best supporting actress Chicago) is basically in the same role she seems to play. She is still attractive and endearing, which is why she was cast for the part to begin with.

Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List), what else can you say about him. He can basically direct what ever he wants, and does a marvelous job at it. The mentioned “suit shopping” scene, was great work, as Tom Hanks is seeing what suit to buy by looking at his reflection in the window superimposing himself over the suits on display. This isn’t ‘ best, but it doesn’t have to be his best  to get a top notch film. This is magical film almost with fairy tale qualities about it. I would recommend this film for anyone to see.

The Narrow Margin

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If you thought Narrow Margin was simply a Gene Hackman film, you are missing the original and the better of the two films. The original is a B movie film noir classic. Charles McGraw plays on edge cop Walter Brown who travels to Chicago to escort a key witness back to California to testify against the mob. McGraw is escorting Mrs. Frankie Neall played boldly by Marie Windsor (Support Your Local Gunfighter). Boarding the train for California, the plot thickens as the mob is attempting to find out who the witness is and have her “bumped off.” Along the way Detective Brown meets another woman and after several communications and run ins with her on the train he feels she may be in danger being seen with him. Not to give any more away here…if your curious check it out.

Charles McGraw’s role is really nothing new for him, playing a hard nosed cop, although he does it very well. The outstanding performance of the film has to be Marie Windsor, she is very outspoken and has a very strong character, especially for a woman in film in this era.  She has some great dialog and doesn’t mind standing toe to toe with the guys. One of the great lines is when McGraw informs her that she makes in sick at his stomach, and her quick reply is “Well, use your own sink.”

Hats off to director Richard Fleisher (Soylent Green, Tora, Tora, Tora) who does a wonderful job making a suspenseful film with practically no budget. Something a few directors these days should pay attention to, actually making a film that is story and performance driven rather than inserting massive special effects to cover up the fact that there isn’t much plot to work with. If you enjoy Hitchcock films, this is one you are sure to enjoy as it has plenty of suspense, drama, and a plot twist here and there. At a mere 71 minutes in running time, you can afford to put this on your watch list. I highly recommend this film, a film noir classic!

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

DVL2LNLPra3XPO_lAfter seeing this movie, well, I wasn’t that impressed at all.  Advertising executive Benjamin Barry, played by Matthew McConaughey (A Time to Kill), in order to pitch a big diamond account, Ben has to make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days. Of course the woman that is chosen is Andie Anderson, played by Kate Hudson (Almost Famous), who writes the “How To” beat for Composure magazine. Her friend has recently been dumped and she happens to be writing a column on “how to loose a guy in 10 days.” All of the humor is supposed to come from Ben trying to get a girl to fall in love while she is trying to get rid of him, both not wanting to give in.

I honestly didn’t see much comedy in it at all. To me the movie became very mean spirited and wasn’t very funny, especially with the Andie character.It did have a few cute moments, but not enough to save the film for me. Andie’s friend that got dumped was not in the film enough to care that much for the payoff with that character in the end. The climax of the film on the bridge is muddled up with a very cheap throwback line to a card game they were playing earlier.

As far as acting, I am sure you have seen Matthew McConaughey’s character a minimum of 3 ties before since this seems to be the only character he can play. I did think he had a better character than Kate Hudson, not her fault though. She seemed to play her part OK, it was what she was asked to do that I didn’t like. The one character I did like was Adam Goldberg’s (Saving Private Ryan) role of Tony. I wish he had a bigger part because there was potential to lighten the mood and make the “mean spirited” things a bit funnier.

Overall this is a film with a few funny parts, but really fails for me. My advice is to skip this one. There are so many other movies with the same theme and style done so much better.

After Hours

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After Hours seemed to start out a little bit slow for me, but I will admit, it was reeling me in for events about to happen. This film follows Paul Hackett, played by Griffin Dunne, through the events of an evening. Starting off trying to hook up with Marcy, played by Rosanna Arquette, Paul finally calls her and agrees to meet her at her friends house in Soho. Certain events happen (not giving too much away here…just check out the film) that evening and the only thing Paul wants to do is tell his story to the cops and go home. Anything that could happen to Paul, does happen. His world slowly crumbles and he seems to go to deeper darker places in the nightlife world of Soho. There are some great characters throughout the movie, Terri Garr (Tootsie) plays Julie the emotionally unstable waitress, Will Patton (Armageddon) plays a leather enthusiast and Catherine O’Hara (Best In Show) plays a plaster sculpture.

This film was directed by Martin Scorsese. After Hours is a very good dark comedy, something I wasn’t expecting from a director know for violence, having directed Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and more recently The Departed. The movie does seem dated in its style and music, but it still seems to work. Even though it seems a bit out of the norm for Scorsese, this is a very entertaining film. And if seems to start out slow for you, hang in there with it. This one is worth checking out when you in the mood for a black comedy.

–The Singing Hot Dog

Botched

botched-dvd-coverReading the DVD case, it compares this film to Shaun of the Dead, so I was going into this film with high hopes. Which is why it probably disappointed so much. Ritchie (Sephen Dorff) has botched a diamond robbery, and has a chance to make good on it by doing one last heist for the boss. Of course things go awry and things get strange as this film turns into a hostage/zombie flick. I think BOTCHED really tries to deliver the same style of humor as Shaun of the Dead, but just can’t seem to get most of the laughs right. The laughs for me were few and far between, and thought the plot of the movie was not very well thought out.

This film stars Stephen Dorff (Blade), who has the few highlights in the film. His plain deadpan performance works pretty good as the movie and his surroundings seem to fall apart around him, his character seems unflappable and dry.Most of his performance as well as everyone else, is well…..just forgettable. 

My advice, if you want to take a chance on this one, go for it. Everyone’s taste in humor can be so different, you might find this one really funny. Personally I found it very average in about every category. When I want laughs like Shaun of the Dead, I will just watch it again.

Strange Brew

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It only takes about 2 seconds to let you know what type of movie you are in for as the MGM lion comes up and burps! Panning around, the MGM logo you find the lion with his tail being turned like a crack starter. Welcome to The Great White North. The SCTV spin-off, features Doug (Dave Thomas) and Bob McKenzie (Rick Moranis, Ghostbusters) in an hour and a half of pure zaniness and laughs.Who needs big budget special effects when you got a guy who can fix a car radio using bird feces and spit!

The basic plot..and yes it is very basic, the Brew master played by Max Von Sydow (Victory) plans to take over the world with special ingredients used in Elsinore beer. Of course the plan is foiled when Bob and Doug get jobs at the brewery. The key plot plot is brought to the front by a malfunctioning Boarder Patrol coin-op video game. Bob and Doug are fun characters, and of course at times are over the top, but don’t take it seriously, after all the dog’s name is Hosehead.

This movie is what it is, no brainer fun, just go along for the ride. So, like….grab a beer ‘eh and enjoy the fun.

Once Upon A Time In America

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Everyone’s first thoughts seem to be to compare this film with the Godfather. Everyone knows Godfather I and II as great masterpieces in film history and as well they should be. But don’t cheat yourself out of seeing this film, because you would be doing just that, only cheating yourself.

Believe it or not, I have never seen the American cut of this film, which I understand was hacked and put into chronological order. I guess American studios don’t have that much faith in American movie fans to follow anything a bit different or actually thinking for themselves. Directed by Sergio Leone who was known best for the spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), directs this film. When taking in a film by Leone, just be ready for a drawn out, mood setting scenes which are very well crafted. Being drawn out isn’t a bad thing, just as the water pump knocks back and forth endlessly at the beginning of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, a telephone rings for what seems 5 minutes, setting the mood, increasing tension and peaking curiosity.

Of course accompanying Leone is Ennio Morricone. (who also scored the famous and highly recognizable The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly score….you know you’re singing it in your head right now!) Morricone does the usual masterful almost haunting score for which he won a Golden Globe for. Leone and Morricone are a wonderful team and seems to be meant for each other.

This film stars Robert DeNiro (Best Actor Raging Bull) plays Noodles. The film follows his character and Noodles only knows one thing, never sell out your friends. James Woods plays his friend Max. Woods is wonderful as the flying by the seat of his pants, high strung friend. Joe Pesci (Goodfellas) and Burt Young (Pauly in Rocky) give good performances as well. And if you think you kind of recognize the little girl dancing in the beginning, you probably do know her. This is Jennifer Connelly’s (Blood Diamond, A Beautiful Mind) very first feature film.

This is a wonderful film, and I highly recommend it. I didn’t want to give too much away in this review, for those that want to see it. Remember Sergio Leone is a wonderful storyteller, but tells it his way at his pace, which just adds color and drama to his films. Settle in with a bucket of popcorn or some good red wine…this is good movie making!

Proof of Life

085391905226fDespite negative reviews when this film opened, I actually enjoyed watching this film. This film is about a husband and wife just moving to South America. While building a dam, Alice’s husband, Peter, played by David Morse (Contact, 16 Blocks)  is kidnapped by a local militant group. Enter the negotiator, Terry Thorne. The rest of the film in a nut shell is the negotiating with the group for Peter’s release, with a few side plots and twists here and there.

Alice, played by Meg Ryan (You’ve Got Mail, City of Angels) and Terry Thorne, played by Russel Crowe (Best Actor Gladiator) are the two main characters and through the drama, supposedly develop feelings for one another. This was the only fault in the movie for me. I never did think there was much going on between them throughout the entire movie until they parted ways at the end. It made me feel like I missed out on a big romance, and I didn’t think there was much there as far as a relationship. They either should have made more of a romance and then it would have ended up like Bridges of Madison County with the wife left to choose who to be with in the end, or they could have left out the romance completely and would have been a good political thriller on it’s own.

In all, this was a better film than what the critics made it out to be. Even though the love story falls flat for me, there is plenty of action and drama to keep me more than interested. This isn’t one that everyone should see once in their lifetime, but for fans of movies, I would recommend it.

The Aviator

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The Aviator, deservedly nominated for Best Picture, and in my opinion, a much better film than the winner that year, Million Dollar Baby.  This is a film about Howard Hughes and in particular his love for aviation. The film begins in Hughes “directing” era when he is making Hells Angels. While in production of his film Hughes is constantly pushing the boundaries of aviation and eventually buys TWA and challenges Pan Am’s monopoly on international flights. Of course the Hercules…more commonly known as the Spruce Goose…is included in the film as well as the congressional hearings and Hughes eventual demise due to his obsessive compulsive disorder.

This movie has a stellar cast highlighted by Leonardo DiCaprio’s (Titanic, Gangs of New York) portrayal of Mr. Hughes. DiCaprio is wonderful at having an attitude about not caring about money, when ever there is a problem, his solution is to “buy” it or hire someone to fix it. For example hiring Professor Fitz, played by Ian Holm (Lord of the Rings), to monitor clouds for in teh background in the movie  Hells Angels. DiCaprio is also great in slowly introducing the obsessive compulsive side of Howard Hughes. From being paranoid about washing his hands to the extreme side when he has locked himself in a room, totally naked, trying to avoid any type of germ. Personally, I thought Leonardo DiCaprio could have won an Oscar for this role. I though both he and Don Cheadle (nominated for Hotel Rwanda) were better than Jamie Foxx in Ray, but we all have our opinions.

The other outstanding performance, which did result in an Oscar, was Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth) playing Katherine Hepburn. She was incredible with her accent and the way she carried herself in general. As I mentioned this film has a great cast, and many very nice performances…..Alan Alda (MASH) was nominated as best supporting actor for his role as Senator Brewster, Alec Baldwin (Beetlejuice) as Juan Trippe, and even a small role for Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) playing actor Errol Flynn.

Behind the camera is Martin Scorsese (Best Director The Departed), and usually what ever he is involved with turns out nothing less than great. Again, another Oscar could have been won here as I thought for directing, he did a much better job and took more risks than Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby. (Although I never mind seeing Clint Eastwood win anything, he has become an American icon.) For instance, look at the first hour of the Aviator, there are no greens in the movie to reflect a look and tone of the time. No your TV does not need adjusting, even the green peas on the plate are blue. The Aviator with it’s grand scale and top notch cast needed a great director like Martin Scorsese, as where I believe there are a handful of directors that could have done Million Dollar Baby.

As much as I have mentioned the word Oscar here, it did take home 5 Oscars and deservedly so. If you have not seen this film, this is really a great movie and worth watching. It will give you an appreciation of what Howard Hughes did for the field of aviation and the airline industry. At least see this once.

Solaris

solarisNo question, this film falls into one of those “absolutely love it” or “absolutely hate it.” This is a story about Chris Kelvin who travels to a space station near Solaris after receiving a disturbing message from a friend. It is requested that he show up and investigate some strange happenings that are going on aboard the space station. He of course gets wrapped up right in the middle of what is going on. 

The screenplay was adapted by Steven Soderberg (Best Director Traffic) from the novel by Stanislaw Lem and the film is produced by Titanic producers James Cameron (Aliens, Terminator 2) and Jon Landau along with Rae Sanchini. Soderberg does a magnificent job behind the camera as well. This story slowly pulls you in, peaks your curiosity and makes you do a bit of thinking yourself. The flash back shots are particular nice done with a completely different color palette of warm colors to contrast the cold blues of space.

George Clooney (Best Supporting Actor Syriana) is perfect as the cool headed, deep thinking Chris Kelvin who tries to sort things out in his own mind what is real and what is not. You can almost see the turmoil in his eyes as he deals with his “visitor.” Viola Davis (Doubt) plays Gordon, who is perfectly cast and holds her own, standing up to Clooney, and as a character you think she is the type of woman that would actually win an argument. The surprise performance to me comes from Jeremy Davies (Saving Private Ryan) who plays Snow, who is far out on the edge, coming across very introverted, unsure of what to say and has many personal “ticks.”  

If you start watching and you are bored with it in the first 30 minutes, it may not be for you. So which side did I fall on, I absolutely loved this movie. It is beautifully shot, very well acted with great characters to follow, and is though provoking on so many levels. I hate to compare it to the great sci-fi 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I liked this movie that much. If you like it once, you will like it again and probably see new depth to this film each time.

“There are no answers. Only choices.” –Gibarian