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Blue Jasmine (2013)
Cate Steals the Show
"Blue Jasmine" is a classic tragedy brought up to date with recent events. And very much the center of this story is Cate Blanchett's portrayal of Jasmine. Every time that she was on the screen, I was riveted in watching an amazing performance unfold. It was a tour de force. And I would be shocked if she was not nominated for an Academy Award.
There is also some comedy by Woody in contrasting people's manners and life styles. But the seriousness of what is happening often undercuts the humor. Because Cate's character moves through the story in such a powerful way, laughter is often held back. While Woody tries to keep things light with music and some funny moments, the story will come back to Jasmine. And she is a character that cannot be ignored.
The rest of the cast is very good in providing the background for Jasmine's tale as it moves back and forth in time. And the locations fit the world of the wealthy or of more average blue collar characters.
But in the end this is about Jasmine and Cate's performance.
Interesting to look at but that's about it
"Sunshine" didn't work for me very well.
1. The basic idea of the movie/MacGuffin was unrealistic and this was pretty obvious to me since I know a little bit about astronomy and physics.
* The first premise of the movie is that the sun is dying/losing power/going dark. Science knows a lot about our sun. The sun will die out in about 5 billion years. And no special object could make it lose brightness. The Wikipedia "Sunshine" article discusses this.
* The second basic premise in the film is that; if the sun was "dying", that the people on earth could do something about it. No bomb that could be carried by a spaceship (even one with the mass of Manhattan) would be able to reignite the sun.
3. The goal of the characters was predictable. They are trying to save life on Earth. It was pretty obvious to me that the movie would not have a depressing ending. So, I knew how the film was going to end after hearing the introduction.
4. A predictable movie isn't a bad thing if the interaction with the characters is interesting. But several of the actors in "Sunshine" were not that convincing.
First we have the captain, Kaneda, played by Hiroyuki Sanada. This was a very important role. But Sanada's English was not very good and that limited his performance.
Cliff Curtis as Searle and Troy Garity as Harvey were not memorable. And this set up another predictable plot point.
5. I knew who was going to die. In the movie some of the crew members need to be sacrificed. It became clear to me that the less effective actors were going to go. And they did. The only exception to this was Trey played by Benedict Wong. He had some good moments but since he caused a major catastrophe, I knew that Trey was also going to die.
6. "Sunshine" at the end turned into a slasher film because a crazy character entered the story. It was not very interesting or scary to me. Frankly, by this time I was ready for the movie to be over.
** What did I like? The photography and editing stand out as being pretty creative. There was lots of movement with the camera and there was quick editing with pictures of crew members. It felt pretty fresh. The sets and special effects of the sun and the ship were well done.
There were also a few moments in the movie that I really enjoyed; a quiet chat between Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy) and Cassie (Rose Byrne); crew members exploring another ship; and the despair of Trey.
** "Sunshine" is interesting to look at but it doesn't have much more beyond that.
The whole film (almost) is now available
Over the years I have been watching increasingly longer versions of Metropolis as new footage has been found and put together in different releases. Finally, in 2010 almost the entire movie was released on DVD or Blu-Ray by KINO. And now that I've seen the complete film, I feel I'm able to do an accurate review.
* The complete Metropolis is one of the greatest movies ever made, silent or sound. Metropolis has a spectacular use of miniatures, impressive sets and special effects for its time. The original music score (in a new recording by KINO) is one of the best I've heard, fitting every mood. The complete story is interesting with its focus on class, the danger of oppression and anarchy. This complete version now has a back story which explains many of the motivations of the characters. There is also plenty of interesting symbolism in Metropolis including from the Bible and about the structure of society.
* But while the restoration of the movie has taken a tremendous leap forward, the new footage has only been partially restored. So, some sections have lots of lines from scratches. It is still watchable though. Hopefully more money will eventually be found to digitally improve the new images. (This kind of digital restoration costs over a million dollars per film so, it's going to take time.)
* But my review is about the movie itself. Now that Metropolis is almost complete, we clearly have a brilliant landmark in the history of film.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009)
I liked the story
Despite the almost unanimous negative reviews by viewers and professional critics, I liked "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt". Why? This movie is a combination of an old-fashioned mystery story combined with an indie film style.
I have been a longtime fan of old detective films and I also like modern low-budget independent movies like "Management" and "Little Miss Sunshine". This combination of styles; old-fashioned mystery and indie low-budget, didn't bother me.
I accepted that many of the actors were not the greatest around today, or that the lighting and sound was almost never polished and was often primitive. And that the music soundtrack was just adequate.
But what I very much enjoyed was the story itself. This is a great mystery plot which kept me guessing. And I like those kinds of stories.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006)
A Superhero and the Comedy of Life
My main reason for liking the movie is that with the hundreds of superhero movies that have been done, none of them seem to be about people who have usual problems. Superheroes are almost always completely noble. And super villains are almost always evil lunatics.
"My Super Ex-Girlfriend" was very different. The comedy comes from how a superhero deals with life. I also really cared about the Uma Thurman character. She seemed really lonely in her role as a "savior" who can't even have a quiet dinner without having to save the world. Many of the problems of life; first dates, keeping secrets, breaking up a relationship are touched upon in the movie for our superhero to deal with. And that set up many funny situations.
As for the people who criticized the movie, I think an important thing needs to be remembered. This is not a typical superhero movie. This is an adult comedy which happens to have a superhero. So, if you keep that in mind, I think the comedy works really well.
imho at least, BB ;-)
Match Point (2005)
Woody Allen repeating plots
I've seen many Woody Allen films and for some reason he is able almost completely rehash characters in one movie after another.
In "Manhattan" we have a character who's cheating because he can't control his passion. In "Hannah and Her Sisters" we have a character who is cheating on his wife because he can't control his passion. In "Crimes and Misdemeanors" we have the same thing, again a character who is cheating.
So now I am supposed to be impressed with "Match Point" because there is a character who's cheating on his wife? Well, I'm not.
As for the earlier Woody Allen films, the cheating part was a subplot. There were different stories interwoven, sometimes with comedy, which made those movies more interesting. With "Match Point", the cheating story is the entire film. I knew what was going to happen because this movie followed the pattern already set in the other films right up to the end.
No other filmmaker is able to get away with this repetition. I was more than not impressed with this movie. I was frustrated.
Gojira: Fainaru uôzu (2004)
I like some Godzilla movies but I am not a serious fan. I hadn't seen a Godzilla movie since "Godzilla 2000". That film was OK, but for me the basic Godzilla plot has been repeated so many times that while G2K was good, it was not great.
With "Godzilla Final Wars" we have a different approach to a Godzilla film. It has taken a standard Godzilla story and combined it with every recent popular action film style. You have mutants, space aliens, a matrix type hero, a Japanese anime style bad guy, and even a Chuck Norris kind of hero. There is even a touch of Star Wars.
The special effects combine the usual miniatures of the Godzilla style with clever blends of CGI, Hong Kong action and a touch of Bullet Time.
But while the movie is well made, unlike many recent action films, GFW never takes itself too seriously. The acting is often over-the-top and the characters get to have fun playing with their costumes and their Kung Fu moves. And one action stunt where a person is jumping around a motorcycle and is skidding on the pavement at high speed is so outrageous that it becomes hilarious. But that is an obvious choice by the filmmakers.
The editing of the movie is quick. The music is driving. And the story which gets more absurd with each scene (where baby Godzilla is trying to drive a truck or the Mothra girls start singing) we know a lot of this is for laughs. And then we get to the final climax where our favorite G monster does some great wrestling with the bad guys.
I think of it as a bending of the Godzilla genre as "Kung Fu Hustle" did for martial arts films. Watching GFW was very enjoyable and now I own the DVD.
The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986)
An intense story of a young woman's survival
If the movie lacks anything it is the beauty of the photography in films like "Quest for Fire" and "Windwalker". Otherwise I can't find any serious flaws. It is rare to find a decent movie about prehistoric peoples. "Quest for Fire" is the best movie of this kind in my opinion but "Clan of the Cave Bear" is a close second.
I am not trying to compare "Cave Bear" to the books by Jean M. Auel. To me the film takes the best part of Auel's story and makes a pretty good movie. The later Auel stories become more romance novel fodder and to some that may be more entertaining. "Clan of the Cave Bear" is not romantic. It captures the brutality of prehistory very well for a fiction film. I've seen documentaries about the Neanderthal and was surprised how accurately "Cave Bear" showed that time. The flaws in human nature are shown in all their rawness in this movie. There is prejudice, oppression and abuse in full force. What makes it bearable for me is how the Darryl Hannah character is able to deal with this and eventually over come it.
"Cave Bear" also shows some of the ritual of stone age culture with the Shaman and the hunting rites of passage. There is some beauty in that culture. But the bottom line for these people is survival and that was a very difficult thing to accomplish. They were scratching and clawing (literally) just to eat and raise children. And sadly we know that they are doomed (except for a few Neanderthals who possibly interbred with Cro-Magnons).
This kind of documentary approach in "Cave Bear" will not thrill those who want a stone age comedy-romance, "Caveman", or a special effects absurdity of prehistoric people fighting lots of dinosaurs, "One Million BC", (which is historically impossible). But if you can appreciate an intense story of a young woman's survival in the wild and her experience with a lost stone age culture, then I recommend "Clan of the Cave Bear". 9/10
Superior Sci-fi Film
Like Total Recall, Impostor was based on a short story by Phillip K. Dick. (Dick's stories were also the inspiration for Blade Runner and Minority Report.) In my opinion Impostor is a solid science fiction film.
The core of these stories by Dick has to do with the nature of reality and Impostor is no exception. If we have memories implanted in our minds, how can we tell what is real and what is an artificial memory? Added to this in the movie is the change in a society that comes from years of war. Can we have freedom and human rights when anyone can be a spy? This combines two great traditions in sci-fi; illusion vs. reality (Total Recall) meets taking over our minds and bodies by an alien power (Invasion of the Body Snatchers).
Add to the great story concepts is superior acting by Gary Sinise and Madeleine Stowe. The supporting cast is good with Vincent D'Onofrio playing a complex character. Is he a villain? Nothing is as it seems.
With all of these positive comments, I cannot give the film a 10/10. This is a low budget film which first started as a short film and grew into a feature. While the story of Impostor IMHO is superior in some ways to Minority Report and much better than typical sci-fi, the lack of money for Impostor shows.
The director, Gary Fleder is no Speilberg, Ridley Scott or even Paul Verhoeven. Sometimes the pace of the film seemed to need tighter editing. The script in the central part of the film could have used more work to learn more about this world. And the music was just ok in supporting the action and emotion of the film.
Still Miramax was right to decide on making this a feature film rather than a short subject or straight to TV film. Impostor has some great sci-fi story ideas and good performances. 8.5/10
Starts With a Bang; Ends in a Whimper
The culture of the "People, all the People" has been Ken Burns' great theme. In the first two thirds of "Jazz" he eloquently presents these grand ideas. From Armstrong and Ellington to Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman we are swept along in a vibrant, multi-layered story of something special that would change the world.
But once the documentary reaches the 50's, the tale takes a radical turn. There is a lot of focus on drugs and broken lives. This may be important but these sad endings lead the film on a downward emotional spiral. (I understand why Spike Lee detests jazz musician's stories focusing on drugs.) But at least the music is good.
When the so called jazz music of the 60's and beyond is revealed, we see that the climax of this film is a betrayal of its beginning. The "People's music" has vanished. We see that "real" jazz is elitist and narrow and for the most part is a musical dead end.
We find that "real" jazz is played on acoustic instruments such as trumpets and saxophones. So, electric jazz guitarists are almost never mentioned as well as any electric keyboard players. And the only correct modern style comes straight from Be Bop. We hardly hear any Latin jazz or Fusion.
The great music promoter John Hammond once said that his most satisfying discovery was George Benson. Of course we never hear about Benson because he was popular and he plays electric guitar. No, instead the film's ending becomes an overblown promotion of Wynton Marsalis who since he acts as the film's "senior creative consultant" brings the great story down to an example of petty ego.
Overall "Jazz" has seven excellent episodes about a vital part of history and its effect on the world's music. Enjoy these and after that I would gently suggest to quit while you're ahead.
As Good as It Gets (1997)
It's Sort of a Wonderful Slice of Life
What kind of movie is As Good As It Gets? There is no easy answer. It isn't a simple romance or road picture and doesn't have clear cut heroes and villains. It is a slice of life with people trying to deal with tough breaks and for the most part As Good As It Gets does its job well.
As Good As It Gets begins by showing us a bigoted, rigid novelist played by Jack Nicholson. The main object of his scorn is an artist (Greg Kinnear) who happens to be gay and the only person who can tolerate our bigot is a waitress (Helen Hunt). Now the film gets into very heavy details about the problems of the artist and the waitress and how Nicholson's character could care less. This worked well for me because the performances were good, including a supporting part by Cuba Gooding Jr (oh, and the dog is cute too). Also, the script was well written and the pace felt right.
As Good As It Gets brought up many topics and presented them in interesting ways. Can a bigoted person change? Does a single mother with big financial problems take money as a main consideration when looking for a partner? For a Hollywood movie the handling of these weighty subjects leaned more toward reality than fantasy. Still, the age difference between Nicholson and Hunt as well as the final scene take some strong suspension of belief. On a positive note, the style of the picture moved from drama, to comedy, to a road picture and landed as a romance shifting smoothly from one mood to another.
Appreciating As Good As It Gets depends if you are not expecting a lot of action or a straight forward story. If you are willing to give the movie a chance and enter the lives of its characters then your effort will be well rewarded.
Stealing Beauty (1996)
Stealing Time in Italy
There is one reason to see Stealing Beauty and that is if you enjoy pleasant stories about tourists traveling in beautiful places in Italy. Enchanted April and Wings of the Dove come to mind as example of this type of film. The Northern Italian countryside (near Sienna) is very nice and helped me through this routine teenage girl coming of age story.
Bernardo Bertolucci is a fine director but there isn't much for him to work with here. There are bits about the affairs of artists old and young and their out of wedlock children. There is a brief sequence illustrating that cinema is medium for voyeurs which states the obvious, that we like to watch. But nothing is examined in any depth. The story revolves around who is sleeping with whom. None of the acting is that special except for the world weary character played well by Jeremy Irons. Otherwise, it is as light as a summer breeze.
Stealing Beauty is about people who are on a permanent vacation. (No one seems to have a job.) There are some warm moments of friendship and again all with the charm of Italy as a background. Frankly, after the movie my feeling of envy was very strong. I wanted to spend a summer in that house and soak up the beauty there, though I wouldn't steal to get it.
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Galaxy Quest wants to be many things and for the most part is enjoyable. It starts out as a biting satire of Star Trek, then becomes a child like space fantasy with sight gags and ends as a sci-fi action picture. It is a light weight entertainment done reasonably well.
Since this is mainly a comedy, was it funny? I thought the beginning was but found myself only laughing with one or two people in the theater. Was it exciting? Not until the last half hour. In the middle part you wonder if this is a dream. Also there are physical comedy gags with transporters so it's not "serious" yet. The ending is a straight action/fantasy picture. You know the kind where you kill 20 bad guys, don't get a scratch and you realize that you love the woman beside you and start kissing her madly.
The actors do their best to try to keep up with all of the plot shifts. One problem for me was that to be funny in the beginning their acting had to be over the top. This didn't blend well when toward the end they try to act sincere. Sigourney Weaver does the best job being sexy, funny and believable. Tim Allen handles the comedy well but as an action hero? I don't think so. And the poor aliens that are being saved, the Thermians, got on my nerves after a while but this is sci-fi after all. The film making, special effects and music were alright. The crash landing ending is completely unbelievable but so what, this is a comedy, I think.
Galaxy Quest is a juggling act blending sci-fi, comedy and action. It's kind of like The Wizard of Oz in outer space. You definitely know you're not in Kansas but you never forget you are in Hollywood.
The General's Daughter (1999)
I disagree with the movie critic's rough treatment of The General's Daughter. While it is an uneven mystery/thriller, it does enough things right to provide suspense and a few surprises. The first thing that impressed me was the photography showing sweeping panoramas. Also, the pacing and music fit. Once the story gets going, it has some good scenes that build to a powerful ending.
One problem with the movie is that Travolta and Stowe get off to a slow start. Travolta's southern accent belonged in a Chevy Chase movie and at first Stowe and Travolta's characters are out of sync. After the first half hour, the accent and the actors get things under control. It helps that there is a fine supporting cast with James Woods, Clarence Williams, James Cromwell and Timothy Hutton. Also, new comer, Leslie Stephanson, has some gut wrenching scenes toward the movie's end.
While not up to the standard of A Few Good Men, The General's Daughter has some of the same themes, career officers whose moral compass has gone very wrong. Too much of the story focuses more on sleaze than ideas. But in the end the film is a mystery about betrayal. It deals with rape in a way that's shocking but says things that needed saying including supporting a women's right to be protected from brutality.
The General's Daughter has mystery, some action and its story has some depth. The movie has problems but the efforts of many talented people break through. The story with the power of a sledge hammer presents powerful scenes toward the end making the film well worth watching.
A Well Made Action Film
Eraser shows that an action film can have some connection to real people and still be exciting. Schwarzenegger plays a special agent for the witness protection program. Vanessa Williams takes part in a botched FBI sting operation which results in her life being in great danger. The scenes that follow, gradually become more like a James Bond movie but never become absurd. For instance our heroes can be hurt badly which creates a sense of danger. Also, there was something that is often lacking in an action film, suspense, such as when they access a high security computer. As for the few humorous moments, they are never allowed to overpower Eraser's gritty mood. For these reasons, this is a Schwarzenegger film I would recommend to someone who does not usually like his movies.
The film makers including, director Chuck Russell, do a good job in building the story naturally to well shot action scenes. Vanessa Williams, James Caan and James Coburn are effective. Schwarzenegger's physical acting is pretty good while his accent continues to be difficult to understand. There is humor from Mafia types being used to help our hero which feels natural and lightens things up a bit. The special effects showing an energy weapon were interesting in a sci-fi sort of way.
The national security conspiracy story with the big bang ending is pretty basic with a few plot twists. There is no romance like in The Bodyguard which might have given the film more depth.
Some action fans may be disappointed that Eraser wasn't more outrageous but this is why I liked it better than True Lies. Eraser has real characters in real world situations but still had plenty of excitement and for that alone I would recommend it.
True Lies (1994)
An Action Comedy?
True Lies right away did things that let me down. Start with a James Bond kind of hero played by Schwarzenegger who can't be shot but can mow people down by the dozen. Right after this, we see that he has two side kicks for comic relief. This immediately tells us that none of the good guys will be killed which would spoil the comedy. So there is really no tension in the story, no danger.
As for the comedy, you either laugh or you don't. There were a few funny moments but most of the jokes missed. For my taste give me the more serious Brosnan Bond or a straight comedy such as Hot Shots Part Deux.
In spite of this, there are good moments. Jamie Lee Curtis is sympathetic and sexy. Schwarzenegger is ok (thanks to Cameron), as is Tom Arnold. Paxton is pretty good and his character could be the center of a better movie than True Lies. Tia Carrere shows what a bad actress she is and the rest of the evil guys are so so.
Cameron does know how to do fantastic action/special effects scenes and True Lies has some good ones toward the end. They were great to watch. It was a bit under cut by the good old boy line, let me borrow your jet for a while. The nuclear explosion was ridiculous but these movies have to blow things up.
There are pieces in True Lies that are likeable and entertaining. Enough of them to make the film barely worth watching.
Total Recall (1990)
Good Action Sci-fi and then there's Arnold
Total Recall is in the tradition of several Alfred Hitchcock films about the wrongfully accused man. But it has a twist, a premise about memory and reality from the author Philip K. Dick which gives the movie a deeper message. But all of this is quickly overwhelmed by the action which is often very violent. The enjoyment of Total Recall depends upon whether you like that kind of thing. In the 90's this violent style has been copied many times. What I thought was overdone in 1990 (the violence) now feels more mainstream.
Total Recall's mood is quickly set by the quick pace between scenes and powerful music. The most surprising thing is that director, Paul Verhoeven, gets a fairly decent performance out of Schwarzenegger (as long as you can put up with that accent). I actually believed that he fit into the scenes. Sharon Stone and a supporting cast of bad guys do a very nice job. As for the action, it is well choreographed and the editing is sharp.
The first half of Total Recall which is on earth is pretty believable (except for Arnold's calm reaction after being shot at by his wife). The scenes on Mars are less convincing because the sets and some of the special effects don't look very real. Also, Arnold's acting limitations are allowed to show when he uses a hologram to play hide and seek with the bad guys.
Problems aside, Total Recall is a quality action film. It is also fairly good sci-fi (is it real or just a dream). If you enjoy this type of movie and can handle graphic violence, then I recommend it.
A Few Good Men (1992)
A Good Looking Man and Woman
As I watched this run of the mill courtroom plot unfold I kept wondering. What is the incredible appeal of Tom Cruise and Demi Moore? Both of them did do some fair acting in A Few Good Men but just as often they just looked good. The camera loves them, especially with the fine direction and photography in this film.
There is much more here than just good looks. Behind Demi and Tom is a great performance by Jack Nicholson. It is terrific acting moving from charm, then contempt to flaming anger. Nicholson alone really helps this movie. This is not to take away the efforts of the film makers who do their job well. And by focusing on the pretty faces or emotions of the actors we can overlook the movie's shortcomings. Speaking of emotional performances, I was moved by the one by the corporal accused by the military played by Wolfgang Bodison.
Don't expect an insight into military life here. The depth of many of the characters is pretty thin. Also, this has all been done many times before and in more exciting ways (See the Caine Mutiny or No Way Out). Still, there are more positives than negatives with A Few Good Men and it is certainly worth watching just to hear Nicholson say, "You can't handle the truth!".
Mrs Brown (1997)
Love Does Not Conquer All
Some believe that marriage is too important a decision to be left in the hands of lovers. No where is this more clear than with love among royalty and it certainly was true 150 years ago. At that time the Queen of England, Victoria tragically becomes a widow. She is very lonely but eventually finds companionship. So begins Mrs. Brown, but sadly a new tragedy slowly unfolds because Victoria's companion is her servant, Mr. Brown. That he can never be anything else but her servant is understood but his heart takes much longer to learn.
Besides this powerful premise Mrs. Brown works because John Madden's direction and the editing keep things moving, with many beautiful images shown along the way. The acting by all the major characters is very good. Judi Dench is very subtle in showing many different moods. It is no surprise that she was nominated for a best actress Oscar.
A haunting musical score adds to the feeling of the film. It is an excellent accompaniment for what should have been a happy story of love which simply could never be. Mrs. Brown is not heavy handed with its message. It is a tale of the heart and in the end the center of the film is not the Mrs. but the Mr. Brown, for his patience, endurance and care.
A Great Sci-fi Comedy Treat
This is one of the best sci-fi satires ever done. Woody Allen is in top form combining sharp one liners, physical comedy and right on jabs at our view of science, sci-fi stories, politics and shallow pop culture.
Starting out with making fun of the desire to freeze one's body to prolong life, Woody takes direct aim at health food fads and an oppressive police state as well as Marxist revolutionaries. Best of all, Woody predicts that sex and drugs in the future will change in a big way.
The comedy ideas flow non stop and drift off to beauty pageants and chattering teeth! Allen's dry wit and sarcasm serve him well. Diane Keaton is a terrific ditzy counterpart. Her Marlon Brando impression was great.
The sets and special effects are minimal but adequate. The quality of the film making is often basic but it show cases the comedy routines very well.
Sleeper is great fun because of Woody Allen's brilliant comedy talent. This is a film treat you should not miss.
Forces of Nature (1999)
A Good Road Picture with a Romantic Touch
After the last bunch of Julia Roberts/Meg Ryan formula romances, Forces of Nature was a refreshing change. This is first a road picture with almost as many pitfalls as Planes, Trains and Automobiles. So the relationship between Affleck and Bullock is more stormy than warm and there is a touch of reality that isn't covered up in the typical style of a romantic film.
Forces of Nature cleverly juggles the road relationship between the stars with the wedding build up in Savannah Georgia. The surprisingly good special effects build on themes of life's unpredictability as well as creating some magical scenes. I especially liked the dry humor of the movie, because if you don't cry, what can you do except laugh. Also, there is a bit of light shed on the pressures of weddings and the problems of marriage mostly done in fun.
Bullock has a tough role with a very wide range from wild to sympathetic. She pulls it off fairly well. While Affleck is not the greatest actor, he was believable enough. The chemistry between the two was slow to warm up but that goes along with the film's plot and then the sparks do begin to fly. Also, the many supporting character actors weren't too over the top which was a welcome change.
There was little about Forces of Nature that I was unhappy with. It was a bit heavy for a romantic comedy but every love story doesn't need to end like Pretty Woman. Nature's message seems to be that sometimes all you can do for someone is wish them the best. This different type of romance really grew on me. I recommend it.
The Joke's On Us
Election seems to start out in the teenage high school film mold. But in scene after scene it keeps breaking out of the limiting stereotypes. This is a great film about life taking in its ups and downs.
One thing this very good script shows is that people often do things and don't really know why. From being an over achiever and running for a school office or falling in love to having an affair many characters make decisions or are driven to do things which they can't explain. Another insight is that people's lives often collide with very unpredictable results. Love, respect or resentment can come and go very quickly because someone with little warning shows up or leaves. Mixed up with this is the unpredictability of getting caught or not breaking the rules and how this can completely change a life.
The boredom of a midlife crisis is well played by Matthew Broderick as a teacher. Reese Whitherspoon does a fine job as the over achieving student who may be looking for a father figure and seems to have been seduced by her former instructor. Both characters are afraid and resentful of each other but can't admit it half the time. Included are well written supporting characters from the jealous lesbian to her clueless good hearted brother with all the main characters giving their point of view and getting swept along in a plot with many surprises.
It is refreshing to see a movie with teenagers and not have someone pretending to be in charge or to have smart kids and dumb adults. Yet, with all the reality of the movie, it is light and very often funny. It is a joke not only on the movie's characters but on ourselves as well.
The Nutty Professor (1996)
The Nutty Professor takes an old idea and fills it with great energy. The comedy is all over the map. It is silly and gross but also touching. On top of this, is a great performance by Eddie Murphy who is able to create 7 characters.
The pace of the film felt right. Murphy's professor begins as somewhat dull and a little depressed. This bit of seriousness and the university setting in a few minutes builds a solid story. Because of this, the script can bring in pretty wild comedy without seeming too overdone.
The special effects and dream sequences help make the Jekyll and Hyde story more believable and interesting. But even better is the terrific makeup which is so good that we forget that half of the cast is being played by Eddie Murphy. What I liked the most was that I really began to care about the professor, especially when he is cruelly insulted by a nightclub comic.
The Nutty Professor is not a masterpiece. Sometimes Murphy's Buddy Love gets too obnoxious and the gross humor gets a little stale. But the film had a tough hurdle to get over, trying to improve on a mediocre Jerry Lewis film. Considering this, I am amazed at how good this movie is.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
A Sci-fi Action Classic
Terminator 2 has become the standard for sci-fi action films and it has not yet been surpassed. The backbone of T2 is its great script. It blends thrills and compassion better than any film I've seen. Obviously the terminators deal with most of the rough stuff but Linda Hamilton is a revelation. She is fiery, powerful and loving. The balance of action with human themes of faith, endurance, and sacrifice is almost perfect.
While the special effects look a bit dated, the action scenes are still incredible. How they got trucks and helicopters to do these things still amazes me.
It's inevitable with the success of The Matrix to compare these two films. The background stories of the two movies are very similar, machines take over the earth. Where T2 shines is that all of it's character's motivations make sense. The Matrix throws loads of comic book/cartoon images at you and then has characters do silly things. Lots of Matrix fans tout its Messiah themes but they are done in a very shallow way. Terminator 2 also deals with the theme of the prophet but it is more subtle and true. Linda Hamilton is just great playing this role until the end when Schwarzenegger steps in to make a final sacrifice.
While Arnold's acting limitations are well covered up, they are still there. And the cute lines like "Hasta la vista baby" are over done. I also wish it were less violent. But I admit it seems almost mainstream compared to recent action films.
Why quibble about a few minor problems? Terminator 2 has a terrific performance by Linda Hamilton. It is amazingly an anti- war film, blending many positive values with the action. It is masterfully made and still looks incredible.
Not Quite Right
It's strange how a movie that has so many things going for it just did not feel right. In some ways this is a typical serial killer story yet there are a few twists. We have a killer who is the opposite of an intense Anthony Hopkins type of character. A lot of Switchback feels homey like a trip to the mountains or telling stories at a local small town café. Without the murder scenes, this would be some interesting buddy road picture.
Danny Glover is very good in Switchback. He seems relaxed and natural. The problem I had with the movie was Dennis Quaid. I was very surprised at how one dimensional his performance was. There were moments when he did not seem at all believable as his character. A better actor could have helped to elevate the quality of Switchback. It shows how one important thing going wrong can hurt a movie.
The rest of the cast were alright finishing off the rustic, western feel of the film. That atmosphere was also helped by good scenic photography and small towns where you could almost smell the coffee being made. The action and suspense were well done and there were a few bits of humor thrown in that also loosened up the story.
I can only imagine how good Switchback would have been with an excellent lead actor but as it stands, it is a decent crime thriller.