Two screenshots should be plenty of information to identify any movie… Right? Take a look and leave your answer in the comments below.
I’m working through several 2015 movies and tying to put my feelings into writing before the Oscars come on in two weeks. My problem is that I have found a couple that I very much enjoyed watching and it is always more difficult for me to write a review of a good movie than one that I despised. So often it is hard to even express why a movie resonates with me, but usually the reasons that a movie is awful come to mind very easily. In the meantime, I am going to share some really good movies that you can watch on Netflix while you are stuck inside during #snowpocalypse.
Rain Man is “definitiely” a very entertaining movie, but it isn’t just funny in certain points. It is Charlie’s character development that keeps the movie interesting. Raymond is steadfast. He is an autistic savant and is unwavering in his personality, his delivery, and his routine. God help you if you mess with his routine.
This film was made before the autistic spectrum was really outlined the way that we have today. We can even see this in Ebert’s review of the film as he compares autistic people to cats. He asks, “Is it possible to have a relationship with an autistic person? Is it possible to have a relationship with a cat? … I have useful relationships with both of my cats, and they are important to me. But I never know what the cats are thinking.” This film was partly responsible for bringing the savant form of autism to light in popular culture, but it did it in a way that didn’t pander to the audience or play on it for emotional trickery, nor does it linger on the sideshow parlor tricks that Raymond’s disorder affords him. Instead it remains focused on this complicated relationship.
There is a moment in “Rain Man” that crystalizes all the frustrations that Charlie feels about Raymond, a moment when he cries out, “I know there has to be somebody inside there!” But who? And where?
It takes some time and work for him to get there, but by the end of the film Charlie find himself loving Raymond, this brother which he never knew he had and of whom he tries to take advantage. How does he get there? Does he find a way to fix Raymond? Some miracle cure that turns him “normal?” No, as anyone who knows someone who suffers from autism, the way to love them is to love them right where they are.
If you do decide to watch this as a family, I would encourage only much older children because the language is pretty salty and there are even a few brief moments of nudity. If you can catch an edited version on television, it may actually make it better, because in this case, those aspects do nothing to drive the story further. This could have easily been a PG-13 movie. The message comes through loud and clear however as we ask ourselves if Charlie is really any more mature than Raymond even though society accepts one but not the other.
If you are a fan of the awards scene like I am you probably saw that Denzel Washington took home the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Golden Globes on Sunday. I think he is very deserving of this honor and so I have narrowed down what I consider to be his top 5 performances. In each case, the title of the film is a link to Roger Ebert’s Original review of the film.
If you missed it, you can watch a great montage of his films and his acceptance speech (warning: His speech is endearing, but he is mostly rambling because he forgot his glasses).
5. Glory (1989)
Let me know if you agree with my Top 5 in the comments below. Maybe you are a big fan of Man on Fire, John Q, Philadelphia, or The Book of Eli, or maybe you think Denzel is overrated and you don’t like him at all. That is fine, you are entitled to your opinion, but I dare you to tell him to his face.
The world lost one of its true creators this weekend. David Bowie was a perpetual outsider, ahead of the curve. He made a career and a life out of living outside the norm as an alien, a misfit, a sexual adventurer, a faraway astronaut. His first film, The Man Who Fell to Earth has become a cult classic. I regret to say that I have not seen it, but hope to rectify that shortly. In the film, he plays an alien from a drought-stricken planet who journeys to Earth in search of water. Ebert remarks, “Bowie, slender, elegant, remote, evokes this alien so successfully that one could say, without irony, this was a role he was born to play.” Ebert remarked about meeting David Bowie and about his quality as an actor.
[He] has an enviable urbane charm. I met him once, and rarely have been so impressed by someone’s poise. If he hadn’t been a rock star he could have had success as an actor, playing roles such as those given to James Fox or William Hurt. Bowie demonstrated that in such films as “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” “Absolute Beginners,” “The Hunger” and “Labyrinth.” … He is … Other. Apart. Defined within himself.
Besides his progressive, challenging, and remarkable body of work, Bowie also gifted us with his son with Mary Angela Barnett, Duncan Jones, who I believe is one of the most promising up and coming directors working today. He directed two sci-fi thrillers, Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011). Bowie has had such an impact on our popular culture and he held such respect from such a wide array of people, receiving memorial tweets from people like Madonna, Astronaut Tim Peake, Kanye West, and even the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. The world will be a slightly less interesting place with him gone.
As I have read and heard so many people speaking fondly of him, I felt compelled to share my first memory of David Bowie. It was in the 1986 film Labyrinth, I was too young to remember seeing it when it first was released, but I recall renting the film from our local video store and watching raptly as a Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) struggled on a magical adventure to rescue her brother from Bowie’s deceptions as the goblin king Jareth.
Bowie joined forces with Muppet creator Jim Henson, special-effects guru George Lucas, and screenwriter Terry Jones of Monty Python fame to produce this fantasy which reminds me of a strange blend of The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.
It was a great work of Jim Henson and very ambitious. To my young mind it was a swirling and thrilling adventure. Unfortunately, I think I may have lost some of the youthful exuberance that I once possessed, because upon a re-watching a year or two ago, I was amazed at how meandering and drawn out the film is without good reason. It is longer than it should be and is lacking enough of a coherent plot to keep me attached. However, I may still dust it off again, if just to hear the soundtrack as Jareth himself composed and performed a number of songs for the film. Farewell Major Tom, God’s love be with you.
In honor of Robin Williams passing this week, I wanted to share my favorite of Mr. Williams’ films. His humor and exuberance was contagious. I don’t know what took him down the road of taking his own life, I only know that I am saddened to hear of his departure and know that the world is a little less happy with him out of it. Let his life and death be a reminder that even those with the largest smiles on their faces may be dealing with the darkest matters on the inside. If you are dealing with depression, please tell someone about it, get help, you are not alone.
Dead Poets Society takes place in the halls and fields of Welton Academy, a straight-laced prep school. During the opening ceremony, we see students carrying banners displaying the principles of Tradition, Honor, Discipline, and Excellence. This serves two major purposes: it introduces the main characters and establishes the rigid environment which they are about to enter. Robin Williams plays John Keating a bright eyed literature teacher returning to his alma mater, he bucks against the traditions and conservative administrators and parents when he encourages his literature students to “Carpe Diem!”
Before I go any further, I should make it clear that there will be SPOILERS AHEAD. If you have somehow missed this classic, then stop here and go watch it. Bring tissues and be prepared to be moved.
Almost 30 years ago, a nearly unknown filmmaker named James Cameron created a science fiction masterpiece that changed the genre forever and became a landmark film with long reaching influence. As a pure action movie, Aliens is as well constructed and paced as any in Hollywood history. Let’s take looks back at James Cameron’s Aliens, one of the greatest films of our generation.
Aliens is set 57 years after the events of the first film. It begins with Ripley being rescued & revived from hypersleep after drifting in space far longer than she ever expected. After hearing her account of what happened to her former crew on Nostromo, the panel board turns down her story, revokes her space-flight license & makes her aware of the colonisation of the planet LV-426, where the alien spaceship was found in the first film. Things set in motion when the contact with the colony on planet LV-426 is lost and Ripley is requested to join a group of space marines to investigate which she, after initially refusing, finally accepts in order to face & overcome her fears.
Given the task of following up Ridley Scott’s Alien, a lesser director would have simply provided more of the same. Another ship, and another crew to impregnate, stalk and terrorise by an apparently indestructible alien creature. It’s to James Cameron’s credit that, when he wrote and directed the sequel to Ridley Scott’s original, he chose to strike out on a different path, creating a film with its own tone, pace and themes while still adhering to various visual and narrative laws set up in the first film.
In Alien, we got to know the monster; how it grows to maturity inside an unwilling host, how it bleeds acid, and how difficult it is to kill once it’s loose. In that film, we watched a single one of these life forms tear an entire ship out from under its crew, and no matter what steps were taken to defeat it, the alien simply would not die. In Aliens, James Cameron shows us what an army of them is capable of, and by doing so transforms his movie into more than a mere sequel.
Where Alien was a comparatively slow horror thriller that prowled like a lion in undergrowth, Aliens was a war film that sped from one set piece to the next, slowly building up to a roller coaster of bombastic action. That Aliens is bigger and louder has led some to suggest that Cameron’s sequel is superior to Scott’s original, while others prefer the latter’s reliance on atmosphere and quiet suspense. But I’d suggest that, rather than either being superior, the two films complement one another in a way seldom seen in cinema.
Alien was metaphor for sex and encountering something traumatic that could barely be comprehended, a monster that violated as well as killed, that rendered its victims chillingly powerless. Aliens is about facing trauma head on, and gaining closure in the process. In Aliens, Cameron quickly establishes that the events of the first film had caused Ripley to lose everything. By returning to LV-426, the now terraformed planet of Alien, Ripley is able to confront the trauma of her past, and in the final battle with the alien queen, ultimately overcome it.
It’s also worth noting that, where Alien was cut off from any sense of society, Aliens gives a greater sense of social order. We even see the ant-like hierarchy of the aliens themselves, with soldier aliens protecting the egg-laying queen. We even learn that the aliens can, in a basic way, be bargained with, as Ripley threatens the queen’s eggs with a flamethrower. With a quiet nod from the queen, the soldier aliens back away.
As a pure action movie, Aliens is one of the best constructed and paced in Hollywood history. Its first hour methodically reintroduces Ripley and the outfit of cocky Colonial Marines who will accompany her to LV-426. Once the action starts however, the film peels back the layers to reveal a display of pure action and suspense. Then there’s Cameron’s endlessly quotable script and broad, memorable characters. Wisecracking space marines have since become a cliché of cinema and video games. Cameron’s, headed up by Hicks, Hudson and Vasquez, are the original and still the best. And let’s not forget about that creepy android (or Artificial Person) Bishop, or the slick company representative Carter Burke. We can trust them… or can we?’
As for this film’s technical achievements, Aliens’ art direction & set designs may not have surpassed the artistic levels set in the previous film but it certainly comes close. However, the one category where this film sets a new benchmark of its time is in its state-of-the-art visual & sound effects. Visual effects are absolutely groundbreaking and that’s one part which has since become a trademark in James Cameron’s films. Sound always plays a big role in combat & horror films and is impressive here as well, be it the sound of guns blazing, aliens shrieking or explosions. Cinematography successfully creates a more evolved atmosphere of what existed in the original film. Editing is cleverly done & it successfully manages to keep the viewers gripped to their seats for 2.5 hours which goes pretty unnoticed. And finally, the score perfectly balances the tone of the film and stays in sync with the film’s content. It’s loud, terrifying, suspenseful & also touching wherever & whenever it’s supposed to be. Splendid work by composer James Horner.
Cameron’s biggest achievement in Aliens was in creating a film that dovetails so perfectly with the original Alien. Watched back to back, Alien becomes the first act to Cameron’s lengthier story. Ripley encounters the xenomorph and all the horror that comes with it in the first film, and through a mixture of circumstance and bravery, is able to put those horrors to rest in the second. This gratifying sense of closure is one reason why the attempt to create a second sequel was always doomed to failure. With Aliens, Cameron had already created an arc for Ripley’s character that was both satisfying and logical, and demonstrated that the aliens themselves, apparently indestructible in Scott’s movie, could be killed after all.
Like Cameron’s later work, Terminator 2, what makes Aliens more than just a sci-fi action thriller is the underlying emotional connection between the characters, particularly between Ripley and Newt. There are also semi-romantic undertones between Ripley and Hicks, but they are wisely kept as undertones. A full-blown romantic subplot would have interrupted the movie’s lightning fast pace. By the climax, we’re not only on the edge of our seats because of the action and tension, but because Ripley, Newt, and Hicks have come to mean something to us. When Newt is taken by the aliens to their nest, necessitating Ripley’s climactic confrontation with the Queen, it ups the stakes even further in a climax that already approaches the harrowing urgency of Alien. And the climactic battle between Ripley and the Queen is not only human vs. alien, but two mothers pitted against each other in defense of their “children.”
Even though many fans will be divided over which is a better film between Ridley Scott’s Alien & James Cameron’s Aliens, there is no denying that both films are masterpieces & immortal for their contribution to horror, action & science-fiction genres. And looking back, Aliens is indeed a perfect follow-up to Alien, not just because it explores the elements of the original beautifully, but also because it places greater emphasis on staying true to the original by following it up with an equally mesmerizing story rather than something made just for financial gains, like most sequels of today. Highly entertaining, immensely satisfying & a spectacular roller-coaster ride of non-stop action, Aliens refuses to age even after three decades and continues to rank amongst the most intense & fulfilling pieces of action films, ever. Although Aliens is strong enough to be a standalone film, it still would be a wiser move to visit the original by Ridley Scott before moving on to this one. Despite their differences, Aliens feels very much of a piece with Alien, and in retrospect, this is where the series should have ended. Unfortunately, opportunities to continue milking a franchise for box office profits often supersede creative integrity, but the shortcomings of the following installments do not diminish what Ridley Scott and James Cameron achieved with Alien and Aliens.
Any horror fan worth his salt has a deep respect for John Carpenter. Although most of his recent efforts have lacked originality and quality, we have to give him his due. His filmography is impressive to say the least. I know that my generation can credit Mr. Carpenter with a few soiled Fruit of the Looms because of the likes of Halloween, Christine, In the Mouth of Madness, They Live, and The Fog. But horror is not his only instrument. He also directed, Big Trouble in Little China, Starman, Escape from New York, and Escape from L.A.. However, I would count his 1982 classic, The Thing, as the film that encapsulates Carpenter’s style and ability above all his other works. This film, over 30 years old, still watches very well. The pulsing suspense and gory visuals are still effective even to my eyes which have now seen “superior” computer generated effects. It isn’t nearly as scary to me as it was when I first saw this film at 14 or 15 without my parents permission. In fact, I probably owe some of my dislike for dogs to this film, but it is a worthwhile film nonetheless.
This story of a small group of researchers braving an Antarctic winter at a remote research outpost is brilliant. After the seemingly deranged man with the rifle blows up his helicopter and shoots one of the researchers as he continues to hunt this seemingly innocuous canine, he is quickly taken out by a sharpshooter with a pistol. The men quickly put two and two together and determine that the men in the helicopter were part of a Norwegian research outpost some miles away. Radio communications are failing and even with a blizzard rolling in, MacReady and his team decides to go and investigate. They arrive to find a disturbing bloodbath.
The corpses of the Norwegian outpost members are strewn across the site, and several of them are grotesquely (and inexplicably) deformed. Much of the outpost has been torched in Kerosene as well, leaving some of these “bodies” burned. The initial scope of the Norwegians investigation is not known because all of their research is in another language, however after a little more probing, it’s revealed that the Norwegians had discovered the site of an ancient Antarctic crash, and they managed to excavate some sort of extra-terrestrial relic.There’s really no other word to describe it. The plot is refreshingly simple: R.J. MacReady (played by Kurt Russell) and his colleagues are startled one afternoon as a dog comes running across the frozen wasteland that surrounds their station. What catches their attention about this particular situation, though, is that the aforementioned husky is being pursued by a helicopter. A man with a rifle is leaning from the open door of the helicopter, trying desperately to kill the dog. MacReady and company emerge as the helicopter lands, and they try to make sense of the situation.
Carpenter has built some suspense as we see the damage that this creature could cause and we know that the Norwegian camp was destroyed. However no one knows what this alien relic might be and many of the team are skeptical about the existence of any alien life forms. Especially those which are able to kill and copy any organism they encounter. However, our thirst for gore is quickly satisfied after returning from the abandoned site. Some of the bodies were taken for examination and the sweet and friendly puppy which has been roaming all over the facility is put to bed with the other dogs in a kennel. We soon become privy to a disgusting transformation as this dog’s face blows off and begins splitting open, snarling, sprouting tentacles and devouring the other dogs in the kennel. The commotion is stopped as MacReady calls for a blowtorch and the freaky scene comes to a relatively peaceful end. However, this gives the scientist, played by my favorite diabetic Wilford Brimley, enough information to connect the dots and calculate with his impressive 80’s computer that there’s a 75% chance that one ore more of their party members is, in fact, the alien, and if this alien were to make it to the mainland all mankind would be infected in 3 years time.
The remainder of the movie is admittedly a bit of a mess both literally and narratively. As many of the researchers are attacked and infected paranoia abounds as the group starts to become suspicious of one another. Carpenter does an absolutely flawless job of building the tension between each of the characters, and the audience is never really sure about who’s human and who isn’t For those seeking answers this can be frustrating and disappointing. However, the real “monsters,” in many ways, are the people themselves. Many of them are willing to resort to murder to ensure that they don’t become infected. The setting plays a great role here too, as a blizzard sets in that causes a massive whiteout. They characters are surrounded and trapped not only by the oppressing elements but also by uncertainty and terror. It makes for a chilling atmosphere that constantly keeps you on the edge of your seat.
In addition to all of that clever storytelling, The Thing boasts some of the best special effects I’ve ever seen. Again, this was filmed in 1982, and, in my opinion, everything looks more realistic than the CGI-splatter fests that we see in so many horror movies today. When the alien life-form is taking over something, it’s an extraordinarily gory process—it almost makes you want to puke. It’s one of those movies where you can tell that everyone involved was simultaneously taking it seriously and having fun with it. Despite it’s over the top nature, though, it feels necessary; we, as an audience, believe that the transformation would be a gruesome process. I’m certainly not going to post any clips from the film although there are plenty out there to showcase the gore even more than these pictures have. However without the rest of the film, it all seems to be simply pointless blood and death.
It is surprising to me that this out of all of Carpenter’s films is the only one currently in the IMDb Top 250. However this could be due to the recent release of the prequel which isn’t even worth the pixels I might use to review it. The Thing was not well received when it was released. It debuted at 8th and never improved. It received praise for it’s technical achievements but overall lackluster reviews. It only lasted 4 weeks in the theater. Though, in it’s defense, it was competing against Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. And two other much more family friendly alien movies which were released two weeks prior: E.T.: Extra-Terrestrial and Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. John Carpenter considered The Thing one of his biggest failures saying, “I take every failure hard. The one I took the hardest was The Thing. My career would have been different if that had been a big hit…The movie was hated. Even by science-fiction fans. They thought that I had betrayed some kind of trust, and the piling on was insane.”
While I would not encourage everyone to see this film, if you are a fan of the horror genre or are just in the mood for a good cringe, The Thing, is well worth the few dollars it will cost you to snag the DVD. You can also check it out on Blu-Ray, but I would encourage you to have a vomit bag ready because I don’t know if you can handle all that high definition carnage. It will become a regular especially when Halloween, or that winter blizzard, comes around. Have you seen The Thing? What do you think about it? Want to praise Kurt Russell for rocking one of the silver screen’s best beards? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter or Facebook.
Favorite Action Movie
I’ve got to be quick about this one. I’ve worked all day and I am going back to work tonight at midnight and I need to rest sometime, so I have to post this now. I’ll try to add some kind of reason or explanation later, but for now I’m just going to put a clip here. My favorite action movie is Die Hard.
Favorite Love Story In A Movie
I can’t say that I’m an expert on romantic novels or films. I’ve seen my fair share, but I am not as fond of this genre as some others may be. That being said, I believe that When Harry Met Sally is, the wittiest and most funny romantic comedy out there in film land. The movie came out in 1989, but for some reason, I think this is one that will stand the test of time and entertain audiences for decades to come.
Like all good romantic comedies, this film thrives on its witty dialogue and cleverness and isn’t overly sentimental. In other words, there is that perfect equilibrium between scenes of sheer poignancy and scenes of brutal comic relief. The actors, of course, have a lot to do with the film’s success and appeal. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal are perfect for the roles assigned. They are truly an odd couple, but each one of them brings their charisma and charm to the screen. Harry is the character we all find obnoxious but can’t help but loving and Ryan is just quirky and adorable.
Their love story is one that we’ve seen play out on the screen dozens of times since, but I don’t think any film has ever or will ever portray the issue better. The question it poses is one of universal importance, namely, can women and men ever be friends? It appears so, but what happens when you introduce sex to the equation? Does it negate the friendship or does the intimacy make it too awkward to continue just being friends? I’ll leave that for you and your friends (male or female) to discuss over a nice cup of coffee. If you haven’t seen the film, go now and watch it. Seriously, I will wait right here. If you won’t go watch it, I’ll just say that with heaps of quirky, funny dialogue, a script that Nora Ephron will forever attempt to duplicate, and clean directing from the extremely talented Rob Reiner, When Harry Met Sally is a highly enjoyable film that has held strong over two decades after its creation.
In contrast to many of the weeping romantic comedies and melodramas that I mentioned in yesterday’s sad movies post, this one is not a weeper. Instead, it takes a clear-eyed, almost cynical view of love and companionship, and creates around it a charming tapestry of bracing wit and crunching dialogue. So save the violins and the handkerchiefs for romantic comedies less sure on their feet – whose deficiency in wit must be made up for by a wave of melodrama and manipulation. This movie is manipulative too, but it’s the laughs along the way we remember here, not the big kiss or the grand embrace. This film is put together so well, that we just know that Harry and Sally were meant for each other. They have been unlikely friends for years. They share all the details of their love lives, but have never been together. They fear it will change their relationship. But in a moment of weakness, they find themselves in bed together and it does change everything. Not sure how to handle the situation, Harry and Sally have a fight and grow apart. But eventually, Harry comes to his senses and realizes that there is a woman with whom he can be friends. She is the same woman that he has known, we could even say loved, for years. In the end, we have a beautiful love story of two friends who overcome the obstacles in their path and find love.
A Movie That Makes You Really Happy
I didn’t want to cheat on this one like I did on day one, so I was struggling between two films that really make me happy. The Princess Bride and Blazing Saddles. However in my wrestling between these two choices, I realized that each of these films makes me happy for a different reason. Looking deeper, I found that I have at least two categories that I use to classify happy movies, those that are ridiculously funny and those that are heartwarming. Therefore, I’m not cheating by putting forward a selection for each of these types.
If we’re going off of pure funniness, then the winner would be Blazing Saddles. I must admit that I saw this movie at much too young an age. I was a latch-key kid, spending several hours alone at home every night after school before my Mom and Dad got home from work. That gave me time to explore my parent’s collection of films. I probably saw this before I turned 12, but growing up in a town that is still to this day visibly divided by the railroad tracks, I understood the racial dynamic. I probably shouldn’t have been allowed to see it till High School, but I don’t think I was irreparably damaged. This is one of those films that has entered my vocabulary, one that my dad and I quote back and forth… “What’s a dashing urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?”… “They darker than us!”… “Oh, lordy, lord, he’s desperate! Do what he sayyyy, do what he sayyyy!” Even though this film contains innumerable racial slurs, I think the point (if it has a point) is really about racial equality. The film is also quick to make references to other films and actors to make some of its gags. And since this was one of the few comedies in that home video library, I would watch it over and over again and was forced to do research on some of the jokes (Hedy Lamar, Randolph Scott, Cecil B. DeMille). Because of that, I owe a great deal of my love for film to this movie because it started me digging into the film industry.
Standing in stark distinction to Blazing Saddles, I didn’t see The Princess Bride until I was in college. It is a movie that my kids have already seen and is also tremendously quotable. It has everything; action, adventure, humor, pirates, torture, and of course, true love. Cary Elwes delivers the most outstanding performance of his career as Westley, the love-struck servant to Buttercup (Robin Wright), a beautiful woman living in a misty romantic fantasy world. She also gives one of the best performances of her career in her film debut here as Princess Buttercup. The thing that makes this movie so great is the quality of comedy relief of the entire supporting cast. Wallace Shawn is absolutely hilarious as Vizzini, the bonehead villain who is completely convinced that he has the whole world figured out, Andre the Giant delivers a lumbering but highly impressive performance as Vizzini’s enormous, idiot sidekick, and my personal favorite, Mandy Patinkin creates one of the most entertaining and likeable characters to ever see the screen. “My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!”
What movies make you happy, however you define that? What do you think is the funniest movie you’ve seen? Leave me some comment love below, or on Facebook or Twitter. This is all more fun when you join the discussion. And if you decide to take the challenge, let me know so I can follow your choices.