Saturday, June 30, 2012

Postcards From the Edge (1990)

Hmm...this could have worked for my salute to addiction movies.

Synopsis:  Clean and Sober meets Sunset Boulevard. Oh, and it’s a comedy.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Based on actress Carrie Fisher’s best-selling autobiographical novel, POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE is a wickedly witty expose of life in the Hollywood fast lane. In a brilliant comic performance, Meryl Streep stars as Suzanne Vale, a wise-cracking, vulnerable actress determined to jump-start her failing career. As her aging movie star mother, Shirley MacLaine offers the definitive portrait of Hollywood’s gusty glamour queens in scenes spiked with razor-edged humour and searing honesty.”

What Did I Learn?: Ladies, if you suffer from a drug overdose during a wild weekend, and the dude who takes you to the hospital basically dumps you off without leaving his name or contact information, he’s not a keeper.

Really?: So wait...the insurance company won’t let Suzanne work on the movie after she gets out of drug rehab unless she agrees to live with her overbearing mother for the duration of the shoot? Hmm... that smells like a wacky sitcom plot to me!

Rating: Postcards From the Edge is a well-written (kudos to Carrie!) character-driven driven drama with excellent performances from Streep and MacLaine and cameo performances from Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfus, Annette Bening and Rob Reiner. It’s a good film, but a bit lightweight. Suzanne’s drug problem gets shoved to the back-burner (she says she wants to go back to doing drugs, but we never see much evidence of that) and we’re supposed to believe that her addiction is secondary to establishing a breakthrough with her mom. 8/10 stars.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Casablanca (1942)

Bogart Film Fest Movie #5

Synopsis: Bogart fights the Nazis – in boozy nightclubs, with roulette wheels, elegant dinner jackets and catchy piano jazz.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Casablanca: an easy city to enter, but a much harder one to leave, especially if your name is on the Nazis’ most-wanted list. And heading that list is Czech Resistance leader Victor Laszlo (PAUL HENREID), whose only hope is Rick Blaine (HUMPHREY BOGART), a cynical American who sticks his neck out for no one... especially Victor’s wife, Ilsa (INGRID BERGMAN), the ex-lover who broke his heart.”

What Did I Learn?: Casablanca isn’t so hot that you can’t wear suits and even trench coats everywhere you go.

You Might Like This Movie If: You never watched either the short-lived 1983 TV series, or this cinematic turd featuring Pamela Anderson (which I will NOT review, by the way).

Really?: 1) So wait – the letters of transit are signed by DeGaulle? How would they carry any weight in a Vichy France territory if he’s the leader of the Free French in exile? And if Vichy France is a fascist state, why couldn’t the cops simply pick up Laszlo and throw him in the slammer? 2) Does Captain Renault really need to throw a perfectly good bottle of Vichy water in the trash can to indicate his loyalties? 3) I don’t think I’d gamble another Franc at Rick’s if the roulette table somehow wound up with the number “22” twice in a row. 4) Are there any Arab characters in this movie? I don’t remember seeing any.

Rating: Casablanca is deservedly considered a film classic, although it drags as time goes by (sorry, I couldn’t resist), and the symbolism is rather heavy-handed. 8.5/10 stars.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The African Queen (1951)

Bogart Film Fest Movie #4

Synopsis: Gin-swilling grease monkey and uptight prude bond over perilous stunts and terrible ideas.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Filmed in the African jungle John Huston’s legendary World War I classic, which earned HUMPHREY BOGART a Best Actor Oscar is an entertaining mix of romance, comedy and adventure.”

What Did I Learn?: It’s unwise to physically shove a German officer as his men are burning down your adopted village.

You Might Like This Movie If: You’ve always wanted to combine this attraction with this attraction.

Really?: 1) Bogie’s Canadian? Was Brooklyn, New York a suburb of Toronto back then? 2) Funny how the missionaries learn about the outbreak of WWI from Bogie and then a band of German soldiers march into their village maybe five minutes later. 3) So wait – out of kindness, Bogie agrees to transport Hepburn, and she bosses him around? And he agrees to her idiotic plan to float down a dangerous river and then blow up a German warship even though there are many chances of getting killed, and it would mean the end of his livelihood? 4) If some Bible-thumping dame poured all of my gin into the river, there’s a very good chance I would throw her overboard immediately afterwards.

Rating: The plot of The African Queen is a bit silly, and somewhat difficult to believe at times (see “Really?”), but the movie is a charming and fun adventure, and Bogart is amazing as the scrappy, and decidedly uncool Charlie Allnutt. Watch this movie for the interplay between Bogart and Hepburn, but don’t take the storyline too seriously. 7.5/10 stars.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Bogart Film Fest Movie #3 (Note: this film is also known as “Treasure of Sierra Madre”, as the VHS jacket indicates)

Synopsis: Bogie goes bananas.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Pure cinematic gold! This triple Academy-Award winner well deserves its status as a renowned classic... Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston and Tim Holt play a trio of Americans on the bum in 1920s Tampico. Pooling their resources, they strike off into the mountains of Mexico in search of gold. Hounded by jungle Indians, a fortune-hunting Texan (Bruce Bennett) and cold-blooded banditos (led by Alfonso ‘I don’t have to show you no stinkin’ badges’ Bedoya), they finally must confront the most dangerous adversaries of all... themselves.”

What Did I Learn?: Don’t ever go into business with a paranoid whackjob.

You Might Like This Movie If: You’ve always wanted to know where this joke (see 04:30), and this joke came from.

Really?: 1) Mexican bandits can’t recognize bags of gold dust? Oh, come on... 2) So wait, Curtin (Tim Holt) saves Bogie’s life twice (once from a cave-in, and again from a gila monster) and he’s still convinced there’s some plot to kill him and grab his cut? I guess that could happen, but really...?

Rating: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a thoughtful, yet exciting action movie (it’s almost a Western) with plenty of twists and turns, as well as two excellent performances from Bogart and Walter Huston. My only complaint would be that I had some trouble believing Dobbs (Bogart) would take a heel turn after Curtin and the old man saved his life a number of times, but I guess we can chalk that one up to gold fever. 9/10 stars.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Key Largo (1948)

Bogart Film Fest Movie #2 (Please click the link to read my review of The Maltese Falcon)

Synopsis: Stupendous storm, grumpy gangsters, irascible innkeeper, pulverized policeman, war widow, boozy broad, homeless hero.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A hurricane seethes outside, but it’s nothing compared to the electrified atmosphere within the hotel at Key Largo. There sadistic mobster Johnny Rocco and his stooges hole up against the storm – and hold at gunpoint hotel owner Nora Temple, her invalid father-in-law and ex-GI Frank McCloud.”

What Did I Learn?: If you and a several innocent guests are being held hostage in your own hotel by a bunch of trigger-happy gangsters, you might wish to keep your mouth shut, and refrain from repeatedly calling the boss “filth”.

You Might Like This Movie If: You still think this song is cool.

Really?: 1) So, Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) hands McCloud (Bogart) a gun and offers McCloud a chance to kill him at the cost of his own life, and all of the hostages egg McCloud on to start blasting? No fucking way that would ever happen – I’m calling “bullshit”. 2) How did those other bad dudes somehow make it from the southern-most tip of Florida into Georgia by the end of the movie?

Rating: Adapted from a stage play, Key Largo is a tense psych-drama with a number of memorable performances; while it’s remembered (especially by Bertie Higgins) as a Bogie-and-Bacall picture, Robinson, and to a lesser degree Lionel Barrymore totally steal the show. My big complaint would be that I had trouble believing certain characters would act the way they do: in real life, hostages don’t throw gratuitous insults at their captors –that’s ridiculous. 7/10 stars.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Big Sleep (1946)

Bogart Film Fest Movie #1 (Shamus re-created a scene from The Big Sleep, and that film was obviously inspired by the 1946 classic, so I figured I would commence a long-planned tribute to Humphrey Bogart. Please click the link to read my review of the 1978 remake, featuring Robert Mitchum as a much older Philip Marlowe).

Synopsis: Bogie bangs Bacall, bags big, bad, blackmailer.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “LA private eye Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) takes on a blackmail case...and nearly wears out his gumshoes following a convoluted trail peopled with murderers, pornographers, nightclub rogues, the spoiled rich and more!”

What Did I Learn?: 1) Splashing a bit of cold water on your face is just what you need to quickly recover from a savage beating delivered by a couple of hired goons. 2) If somebody remarks that you’re not very tall, the proper response is: “well, I try to be.”

Really?: 1) Um, who pushed the chauffeur off the pier? Believe it or not, Raymond Chandler – the guy who wrote the novel upon which this movie is based – was asked that very question and even he didn’t know! 2) Marlowe says he’s been to college, but he confuses Argentine with Egyptian, and doesn’t know how to pronounce “ceramics”.

Rating: The plot of this movie is indeed convoluted, and doesn’t entirely makes sense (see Really?), but The Big Sleep is definitely a classic detective film noir; Bogart is cool (and funny – the scene of him disguised as a nerdy book collector is memorable), Bacall is sexy, and the two of them enjoy some undeniable chemistry together. The Big Sleep is best enjoyed with your logical left brain turned off, and your right brain keyed to appreciate its hard-boiled, 1940s style.7.5/10 stars.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shamus (1972)

Synopsis: Mustachioed former football player mugs his way through by-the-numbers gumshoe picture.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Burt has never been cooler or sexier than when he’s paired with Dyan Cannon in this lusty, bawdy adventure.”

What Did I Learn?: Attractive women will easily sleep with strange men as long as they’re provided with a cheesy pickup line.

Really?: 1) Why does Burt keep turning down free gourmet dinners? Doesn’t he ever eat? 2) I guess he also doesn’t need that ten grand.

Rating: Burt Reynolds is at his best as he wisecracks through Shamus, but his character is a bit of a jerk who repeatedly strongarms lowlife dirtbags and yells at nearly everyone. My biggest complaint would be the un-creative and repetitive actions scenes: why does Burt keep jumping from high perches, and why couldn’t Barry Beckerman have figured out a different way for Burt to overpower the thugs than to hide and then spring out from the shadows? Once or twice is cool, but Burt’s modus operandi gets old, fast. Even at 95 minutes, Shamus feels too long. 6.5/10 stars.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Brubaker (1980)

Synopsis: There ain’t no glamour in dropping the hammer on a corrupt slammer

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Robert Redford stars in this potent drama based on the real life story of Tom Murton, the prison superintendant who rocked Arkansas politics when he exposed scandalous abuses and murders in a state prison. Posing as a new prisoner, Brubaker discovers vast corruption in a state penitentiary before revealing himself to be the new warden.”

What Did I Learn?: Nobody wants to receive a chocolate prune cake as a bribe.

Really?: 1) Robert Redford poses as a prisoner, and nobody lays a finger on him even though other prisoners get raped and he isn’t a gang member. 2) A prisoner tells Brubaker (Redford) he literally knows where all the bodies are buried, and Redford replies that he’ll take a look tomorrow morning? Gee..what are the odds that dude will survive the night? 3) A prisoner escapes, and instead of say...oh, I don’t know...calling the cops or the state troopers, Brubaker arms several prisoners (albeit trusted ones) with shotguns, and they leave the prison grounds to hunt the man down in a nearby town.

Rating: Brubaker is a gritty, realistic and incredibly engaging film about an idealistic prison warden’s attempt to clean up a thoroughly corrupt hell-hole. I like this movie, although the ending is a real downer and Henry Brubaker never seems to learn that whenever he insists upon doing the right thing (rather than the smart thing), somebody always seems to get hurt. 8/10 stars.

Home Fries (1998)

Synopsis: Cute-as-a-button starlet makes a questionable career choice.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Dorian Lever wants to romance unwed mother-to-be Sally Jackson. His brother Angus wants to kill her. So... you want fries with that?”

What Did I Learn?: It’s always a good idea to check with Mom before you decide to kill somebody.

You Might Like This Movie If: You often judge a film by its title.

Really?: 1) Does the US National Guard really possess helicopter gunships in its arsenal, and are Guard pilots really allowed to take them out on joyrides? 2) So wait – Sally (Drew Barrymore) not only had an affair with Henry Lever, but she also heard his murder take place on her drive-thru headset? That’s a coinky-dink.

Rating: Home Fries is a very strange hybrid: part screwball rom-com, part morbidly black comedy with a bit of slapstick thrown in for good measure. The script is quite dumb, but I’ll barely recommend this film because it has a goofy charm and the actors (especially Catherine O’Hara) do their best to make it work. 5.5/10 stars.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sweet and Lowdown (1999)

Synopsis: It’s 5% beautiful guitar jazz, 95% Sean Penn acting like an assclown in a white suit.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “In the 1930s, Emmet Ray ruled as the second greatest jazz guitarist in the world. But offstage, and particularly in regards to his relationship with women, he was the undisputed king. Academy Award-nominee Sean Penn stars in this richly textured comedic portrait.”

What Did I Learn?: Generally speaking, chicks don’t like to leave glamourous nightclubs in order to watch trains or shoot rats at the dump.

Really?: I realize Ray is supposed to be an insensitive, selfish jerk, but would he really reveal his attitude towards women (“love ‘em and leave ‘em”) right in front of his new girlfriend? (I also realize the film is supposed to a bit quirky, so I’m not even going to mention the scene of Ray falling through a ceiling into a room full of counterfeit money).

Rating: Sweet and Lowdown is my favourite type of Woody Allen movie: one in which he either doesn’t appear, or basically makes a cameo appearance. The film is funny and well-written, and Sean Penn provides a bravura performance as the talented-yet-loathsome Emmet Ray, but it wears thin after awhile. It’s tough to watch a self-destructive, unlikeable turd alienate everyone in his life. 7.5/10 stars.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Breaking Away (1979)

Synopsis: Italophile innocent idles in Indiana, hopeless Hoosiers hustle, Cutters commence cycling!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “This charming, Academy Award winner (1979, Best Screenplay) cycles high on comedy as four friends come to terms with life after high school. When top-notch cyclist Dave (DENNIS CHRISTOPHER) learns that the world’s best bicycling champions are always Italian, he attempts to turn himself into an Italian, driving his parents (BARBARA BARRIE, PAUL DOOLEY) crazy. But everything changes after he meets the Italian racing team – an encounter that ultimately leads him and his friends (DENNIS QUAID, DANIEL STERN, JACKIE EARLE HALEY) to challenge the local college boys in the town’s annual bike race.”

What Did I Learn?: 1) Used car salesmen really don’t like to hear the word “refund”.  2) A bowling ball stuck to your hand can be quite useful during a university cafeteria brawl. 3) “Everybody cheats”.

Really?: 1) I have a bit of trouble believing the former high school quarterback would hang out with a couple of un-athletic losers, or that the three of them would hang out with Dave, who spouts phony Italian all the time. 2) I wonder how the folks at Cinzano felt about their brand being used to represent a slimy racing team that pushes Dave into a ditch during a critical moment.

Rating: Breaking Away is a brilliantly-written, funny and surprisingly timeless coming-of-age movie about four dead-end, post-high school kids trying to enjoy one last carefree summer in Bloomington Indiana. Highly recommended. 10/10 stars.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In the Company of Men (1997)

Synopsis: It’s like a low-budget Fight Club, except there aren’t any special effects, and Tyler Durden is an ass-kissing corporate climber instead of a terrorist.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Chad (Aaron Eckhart), furious about the way women are ruining his man’s world, enlists his wishy-washy co-worker (Matt Malloy in a callous plan to date then dump a vulnerable secretary (Stacy Edwards). Both horrifying and hilarious.”

What Did I Learn?: Marketing backstabbers really love to wear crisp, white dress shirts – even when they’re at home, watching TV.

Really?: 1) Hold on...Howard accidentally hits on the wrong chick, she accepts his invitation to grab a drink, and he then promptly forgets about her? Come on... 2) I can maybe understand Chad and Howard agreeing to use a chick for meaningless sex, but for both of them to go along with a plan to deliberately hurt a vulnerable girl? I’m not sure I buy the premise of the movie.

Rating: I have mixed feelings about In the Company of Men. On the one hand, a pre-Thank You For Smoking Aaron Eckhart delivers an amazing performance as one nasty corporate Iago, and ICM demonstrates that you don’t need a lot of money to make a movie that’s interesting, and compelling. On the other hand, neither Chad nor Howard are terribly likeable, and the subject matter makes for a rather dark (and not entirely believable) comedy. 7/10 stars.

Monday, June 11, 2012

All the President's Men (1976)

Salute to Journalism Movie #4 (A bit of trivia: the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in falls on June 17th of this year).

Synopsis: Intrepid, truth-seeking reporters make lots of phone calls, and um...attend lots of boring meetings.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, two young Washington Post reporters, picked up the Watergate story from the beginning. They stayed with it, through doubts, denials, discouragements. Gradually they saw where the trail led – and they got scared. All the President’s Men is their story.”

What Did I Learn?: If a potential source of information is nervous, and reluctant to spill the beans about a major conspiracy, a little stalking and harassment will work wonders.

You Might Like This Movie If: This is your all-time favourite song.  

Really?: This category doesn’t really apply, as the film is a true story and almost non-fiction, but I have to wonder: All the President’s Men is 135 minutes in length, and yet we learn nothing about either Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein (to say nothing of Nixon or his cronies) as characters.

Rating: All the President’s Men is a smart, well-written account of the Washington Post’s investigation of the Watergate scandal. It’s probably the most realistic of the Salute to Journalism movies I’ve reviewed, and well worth watching: Redford and Hoffman deliver terrific performances, and the scenes of Woodward/Redford meeting Deep Throat/Hal Holbrooke are genuinely paranoid and spooky (and later copied in any number of movies and TV shows, including The X Files). My only complaint would be that the movie focuses entirely on the chase and doesn’t offer a lot of insight into Nixon's cabal or the reporters who broke the story. While Woodward is told at one point that their lives are in danger, not much actually occurs in this film, so a bit more character development would be nice. 8/10 stars.

The Paper (1994)

Salute to Journalism Movie #3

Synopsis: World’s most self-destructive editor manages dysfunctional newsroom crazies.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A behind-the-scenes look at work, marriage and other forms of combat.”

What Did I Learn?: A clipboard and a confident attitude will get you into any building in the world.

You Might Like This Movie If: The word “Paper” was all you needed to hear.

Really?: 1) So wait...Michael Keaton has a job interview with a rival newspaper (one that will provide more money and better hours at a time when he’s starting a new family) and he steals its front-page story? I have a hard time believing any sane individual would ever do that. 2) Aside from Fargo, has there ever been a film featuring a pregnant woman in which she doesn’t give birth?

Rating: I’m not a huge fan of Ron Howard’s films, but The Paper is a fun, engaging and surprisingly-well written semi-character-driven movie  about a day in the life of a New York tabloid. The Paper is strengthened by some wonderful performances: Keaton does a masterful job of holding everything together, Marisa Tomei is spunky and sexy even when her character is on the verge of giving birth, Randy Quaid and Robert Duvall are quite likeable, while Glenn Close nearly steals the movie as the bitchy managing editor with a heart of gold. I like this film, but the ending at the hospital seems a bit contrived, and I have a lot of trouble believing a guy on a job interview would rip off his potential employers. 8.5/10 stars.

Friday, June 8, 2012

I Love Trouble (1994)

Salute to Journalism Movie #2

Synopsis: Pretty Woman and old fart investigate a train wreck. Well, two if you include the I Love Trouble screenplay.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Screen favourites Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman, The Pelican Brief) and Nick Nolte (48 Hours, Cape Fear) team up to deliver high-voltage star power to this action-packed comedy hit! Roberts and Nolte are Chicago reporters working in hot competition – and she’s not about to give him a break.”

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, brand new cub reporters are provided with unlimited expense accounts, can travel across the USA without checking in with the office, and might even see their mugs plastered all over the newspaper delivery trucks if they file a few good stories early on.

Really?: 1) I guess you can’t hit anything with a submachine gun, even if you’re a professional assassin. 2) So wait...Roberts and Nolte keep finding dead bodies, and neither of them ever think to call the cops and report the stiffs? 3) So, the criminal mastermind is a political fixer, and Nolte knows the guy? Gee...that’s convenient. 4) Don’t these two ever work on other stories besides the train derailment? 4) Has the Wisconsin dairy industry ever been known to engage in dirty pool, let along murder and arson? And why are they so gung-ho in protecting their bovine growth hormone if they know it leads to cancer in humans and they’ll face mega-billion dollar lawsuits in years to come?

Rating: I Love Trouble is a nice, little romantic comedy that’s severely undermined by a heavily-contrived script (Nolte and Roberts are forced into a cheeseball Vegas wedding ceremony to avoid a contract killer, for crying out loud!) and a lack of romantic chemistry between the two leads – Nolte is just too old for sweet Julia. The film does its best to channel Tracy-Hepburn, but it instead feels more like the final season of Moonlighting, when the charm was long gone and Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd both wanted to move on. 6/10 stars.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Broadcast News (1987)

Salute to Journalism Movie #1

Synopsis: Hilarity ensues as unlikeable Type-A newsroom turds grapple with relationship issues.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket:Broadcast News is a romantic triangle in a fresh and fascinating setting. It’s the newest film masterpiece written, produced and directed by the Academy Award winning director of ‘Terms of Endearment’ James L. Brooks.”

What Did I Learn?: Good-looking and shallow will always triumph over smart-but-socially-awkward. (Then again, I already knew that).

Really?: I’m still not entirely sure why Aaron (Albert Brooks) would assist Tom with facts and arguments during a live, Breaking News broadcast instead of letting him fail from his own mediocrity.

Rating: I wanted to like Broadcast News more than I did. James L. Brooks is an intelligent filmmaker, and this movie is a smart, well-written satire of the late 1980s network news biz. Still, Broadcast News is only sort-of funny, and its biggest problem is the main love triangle plot between Holly Hunter, William Hurt and Albert Brooks. While I applaud (James L) Brooks for resisting the urge to turn one of the male leads into a “bad guy”, it’s rather difficult to root for either of them, nothing gets resolved, and I found that I didn’t particularly care how it ended, or which newsman Hunter picked. 7/10 stars.

Purple Rain (1984)

You may notice I have added an additional line to this review: “Would It Work For a BAD MOVIE NIGHT?” You’re only going to see this question in reviews of movies I can’t recommend because I want to be fair to them: some films are absolutely God-awful, but they’re fun God-awful (I’m looking at you, Showgirls). My friends and I have enjoyed many an evening subjecting sub-par movies to well-deserved ridicule over pints and pizza.
Synopsis: Foppish weirdo with purple motorcycle pursues leather-clad starlet.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Take a richly-human story of survival and triumph, a now soundtrack by the hottest bands around and the startling premise and musicality of rock superstar Prince – the man who lived the music – and you’ve got what may be in Rolling Stone’s words ‘the smartest, and most spiritually ambitious rock-n-roll movie ever made.’”

What Did I Learn?: Prince can’t act, even when he pretty much plays himself.

Really?: 1) Morris and his idiot henchman/best buddy decide to use the word “what” as a password? 2) I had a bit of trouble believing Appollonia would be so-forgiving-so-soon after Prince tricks her into jumping into a lake of freezing water. 3) So wait...Prince’s mom shoots his abusive father, and there’s later a scene of her at his hospital bedside? How did she get out of jail, and why would anyone let her into the hospital?

Rating: Purple Rain begins with a triumphant performance of “Let’s Go Crazy” and then plummets downhill, fast. What a mess...I happen to like Prince’s early music, but this film is simply atrocious. The acting sucks (except for Morris Day of “The Time”: he’s the funniest and least threatening on-screen villain since Francis from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, and he easily steals every scene he’s in), the storyline is practically non-existent, and Prince’s character is a selfish, at-times violent (he strikes his girlfriend on two occasions) and rather unlikeable jerk. I cannot recommend this movie. 4/10 stars.

Would It Work For a BAD MOVIE NIGHT?: Yes.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fight Club (1999)

Synopsis: While I would love to post a synopsis, I’m afraid that Rules #1 and #2 prevent me from discussing this movie.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A ticking time-bomb insomniac (Edward Norton) and a slippery soap salesman (Brad Pitt) channel primal male aggression into a shocking new form of therapy. Their concept catches on, with underground ‘fight clubs’ forming in every town, until a sensuous eccentric (Helene Bonham Carter) gets in the way and ignites an out-of-control spiral toward oblivion.”

What Did I Learn?: The best way to rid yourself of a troublesome extra personality is to, um... shoot yourself in the head and hope you don’t hit anything important.

Really?: 1) See “What Did I Learn?”. 2) Gee...these guys pound the crap out of each other day in-and-day out, yet it’s funny how nobody dies (except for the dude who was shot by the cops), or suffers from serious brain damage from all that fighting. 3) I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but it’s also funny how nobody addresses Edward Norton’s character by the “wrong” name until near the end of the film.  

Rating: Fight Club is an extremely imaginative, engrossing, funny, and visually stunning film with some very interesting insights into mass marketing, and the uncertain status of men in a soulless, “single-serving” world. (I’ve always found it funny how some Canadians will say they love Fight Club’s anti-corporate message, but then miss the fact that it’s also rather anti-feminist).  FC is an almost-great movie that’s a bit too long, and by the end it becomes increasingly difficult to suspend one’s sense of disbelief. 8.5/10 stars.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Falling Down (1993)

Synopsis: Dilbert finally snaps.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The freeways are clogged. Terror stalks our cities. And at shops and restaurants, the customer is seldom right. The pressures of big-city life can anger anyone. But Bill Foster is more than angry. He’s slipping over the edge. And ready to get even.”

What Did I Learn?: 1) If you’re going to beg for spare change and claim you haven’t eaten in days, it might be a good idea to finish your hotdog, first. 2) The best offence is a good D-Fens. (Come on – that was funny!)

You Might Like This Movie If: You’ve always wanted to see this scene kicked up a notch.

Really?: 1) I had a bit of trouble believing two gang-bangers firing sub-machine guns couldn’t hit a stationary target (wearing a bright, white shirt!) during a drive-by shooting. 2) I realize Bill Foster (Michael Douglas) has been unemployed for a month, but how many people would walk around with a giant hole in their shoe? 3) A bazooka? Oh, come on...somebody filmed that scene to create a more enticing movie trailer.

Rating: Falling Down is an enjoyable film with excellent performances (Robert Duvall is quite likeable as a henpecked, and world-weary cop struggling to make it through his last day on the force, while Michael Douglas is superb as Bill Foster: a frustrated, Type-A engineer who's also struggling - and failing - to hold on to his deteriorating middle-class lifestyle) and a number of very funny scenes. Alas, the first half is far superior to the second; Bill’s crimes quickly escalate in their severity, he becomes progressively nuttier, and it becomes obvious Falling Down isn’t going to end well. 7/10 stars.