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.

Beetlejuice

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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.

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!

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

Miracle at St Anna

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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.