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Solid Conflict Film
Platoon has many stirring images and characters to experience and explore as it dramatizes elements of the Vietnam war. The acting is solid, though the characters are a bit one dimensional. While it is a visually interesting film, the script and story don't really evolve and make 'progress' towards something more that just a continuous collection of raw, sometimes powerful scenarios that we observe. Yes, there were times when I was completely drawn in to the action and yet it also at times seemed a bit overwrought. Despite it flaws Platoon is definitely worth checking out if you haven't yet seen it.
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
Weak Story, Strong Harryhausen
20 Million Miles to Earth follows the same story as most alien films from this period. In this case it has already been established that the creature is only aggressive if antagonized. So the humans spend the rest of the film doing nothing but antagonizing the creature, unnecessarily provoking it toward destructive behavior as a defense mechanism, only to end up destroying it. I felt sorry for the creature and annoyed with the humans through most of the films 82 minute run time. The film fortunately does move at a decent pace, and the Harryhausen special effects are solid and entertaining. I feel this film could have been so much better with just some slight modifications to the script. If you like this genre of film definitely check it out and see what you think.
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Blue Jasmine Meanders
As others have mentioned here, this story and the characters is very reminiscent of Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire. Blanchette does give a solid performance in the lead role, and the supporting cast members are solid as well. Unlike Streetcar, this film and story seems to meander quite a bit and has some solid moments but is unable to sustain those quality segments/moments throughout and the film can feel a bit redundant and kind of slow at times. Blanchette's Jasmine is an interesting character to observe and watch, and even though we're there for the journey even we are never quite sure what's going on in her head that she becomes the way she does as the film progresses. Blue Jasmine isn't quite a good as some others seem to think, but if you're curious, check it out and see what you think.
The Sound of Music (1965)
It's Actually Getting Better with Time
I saw this film annually growing up, and for the most part I enjoyed it. The music is very tuneful and singable, the scenery is beautiful, and the story is solid as well. It was never a childhood favorite of mine but my Mother always liked watching it so us kids did too. When I graduated high school I left home to go to college and a good 20 years passed before i saw it again. I was surprised upon seeing it as an adult and 30+ years after it's original release just how wonderful it is. It's definitely a polarizing film, and for those many critics the main and singular complaint seems to be that its too sweet, saccharin, unrealistic. I don't completely disagree with them, in many ways those charges can be levelled against most movie musicals. Frankly, that doesn't hold up for me. Sure, there's a little bit of fantasy here, but I do think its very well done. The sets, direction, story, are all excellent and make for a memorable and thoughtful viewing experience. This is a grand film worth seeing, or giving another viewing if you haven't see it in a long time.
A Fun Candy Adventure
I really enjoyed Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory as a kid. I loved the world inside the chocolate factory and very much wanted to visit it one day. I was also really into the stereotyped kids and enjoyed seeing each of the bratty ones get what they deserved. As for Gene Wilder, I think he does a swell job of walking the line between dark and light and really elevates the film. Having recently seen it again I still enjoyed all of the same elements, with the exception of the sets. Wow, the world inside the factory isn't nearly as magical as I remember it. The sets looks downright cheap and amateurish, which weakens the fantasy quotient considerably. Still, this is a film that the kids, and many adults can enjoy.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Sentimental Film Experience
Like many here in the U. S. I grew up watching The Wizard of Oz every year, and every year I enjoyed it immensely. The sets, the music, the story of running away to a far off land somewhere over the rainbow held genuine and deep appeal. Unlike many kids, I was never actually that scared of the flying monkeys, nor did I think the Munchkins were that odd, they were just well dressed little people to me. Oz always seemed so great that I couldn't help but wonder why Dorothy wanted to go back home so badly. Oh well, she did and that was really the engine to propel this story. As an adult it's difficult to separate my history with the film but I will say that the 'lesson' of finding happiness where you started isn't really such a solid outlook to base your life or life decisions on. Nevertheless, I still enjoy The Wizard of Oz.
This Shark is Out for Revenge
When I originally saw Jaws it made quite an impact on me and I found it at times to be both scary and thrilling. Years later, I still find it scary and thrilling, but not quite to the same degree. The technology is very dated but I still have tremendous admiration for the iconic score and sound employed by the film. John Williams went on to compose many iconic film scores and the work he did for Jaws holds up very well. The story is a little thin and there's very little in the way of subtext, but that's ok as there is enough here to make Jaws a fun and enjoyable viewing experience. I do feel it's one of those films that does benefit from the larger screen, but either way it's worth checking out.
Groundhog Day (1993)
Groundhog Day Keep Giving
Groundhog Day is an interesting idea and Bill Murray is well cast for this part, as it needs his particular blend of unsentimental performance so that it doesn't become too sweet and cloying. One can't help but also put themselves in his shoe and imagine how each of us would react if unexpectedly found ourselves in this same situation. Sure, there a romance moving many of the levers here but its balanced by ample levity to keep it honest. The whole cast is pretty solid, including the groundhog. I'm not loving Groundhog Day to the degree that many people seem to, but still its a solid film worth checking out.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
Funny & Engaging Journey
I had limited expectations coming into my viewing of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and ended up being very pleasantly surprised. I have reserved affections for Candy but thoroughly enjoyed his performance here. He never goes overboard but rather delivers just the right touches throughout. Martin is also fairly good here too. Some of the comedy is genuinely funny and the film also has some tender moments that fit in nicely within the larger story but yet never pandering or overly sentimental. The story is actually around Thanksgiving time and I think Planes. Trains, and Automobiles could just turn into an annual viewing tradition.
Holidays with the Griswolds is Fun
Clark Griswold and is odd and quirky family are very special. Nothing seems to ever go as planned and yet Clark is forever optimistic that the next time around it will be better, only it never is. Really, the entire cast of this film is rock solid and together they create a funny, sweet, sad, and touching holiday film. Most of the trials that Clark endures are somehow very relatable, even though I may not have personally experienced all them, I can still relate to most of them. Never really mean spirited, although sometimes kind of harsh, there is an overarching thoughtfulness to the proceedings. If you haven't yet seen this holiday film, it's time to check it out.
Gentle, Well Intended Summer Camp
I don't recall seeing Meatballs when I was younger (although some of the scenes looked familiar) and so I decided to watch it tonight. This was Murray's first leading film role and he does a nice job of creating a perpetually funny, wisecracking camp counselor who among other things befriends one of the less popular kids and helps him to feel good about himself. A lot of pranks and highjinkx take place at this camp and of course there is a rivalry with another camp just across the lake. Overall, Meatballs is a pleasant, feel good film and I suspect that younger audiences (10-18) will enjoy this to a far greater degree than myself or most adults.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Cynical & Feel Good Holiday Film
I've seen It's a Wonderful Life quite a few times over the years and I still really enjoy it. Although my take on it has evolved over the years. My initial viewings had me respond as most viewers who like the film respond - as a positive affirmation of life and the positive significance one life can have on so many others. But as I've grown and seen more of life I can still view it that way but I also see it as a recriminating take on the average person, who without the strong inspiration, leadership, guidance, what have you, of someone else, their cynical, tribal, suspicious qualities can rise to the surface and create a very unpleasant class of people. I of course prefer to focus on the first and far more uplifting aspects and I still derive pleasure from It's a Wonderful Life.
The Descent (2005)
The Descent Sacres Good
A friend picked The Descent as a film for us to see together and I wasn't all that excited about the choice. I was very mistaken. The Descent is a scary fun film. If you're claustrophobic or in general just don't like tight spaces then you might find this film particularly unnerving. The descent down into the tiniest caves and crevices of the earth gave me considerable anxiety. During their exploring of the caves they start to get the feeling that they are not down there alone. Something else is down there but just not sure what it is. That alone creates even more tension and fright to be down a space like that with some unknown creature around. It was at this time that for me it went in a different direction with the creatures becoming the new central element of the story. This is fine but it kind of turned into a more typical killer monster/creature thing. Sure they idea of the creatures being down there is good but the extent to which they are utilized was a bit too much for me. Despite this one criticism, The Descent is definitely a film to check out.
The Others (2001)
The Others Serves Up Solid Suspense
I had little idea of what to expect from The Others and was pleasantly surprised by what it delivered - an atmospheric, evenly paced, visually interesting, well acted tale of suspense. Its unusual to see Kidman in a horror film but she completely delivers here, as do most of the cast. No gore, no bloodshed, or gratuitous violence, but lots of creepy atmosphere and spooky vibes to keep the viewer engaged throughout. The art and set direction are very cohesive and well done, and the same can be said for the costumes, and sound. It's not exactly, but yet kind of a slow-brew suspense yards that unfolds gradually as it draws you in.
All the Kind Strangers (1974)
Middling Backwoods Suspense
All the Kind Strangers has a solid cast, Keach, Eggar, Benson, Savage all give solid and believable performances in the offbeat, somewhat suspense story. Actually the idea for the film is pretty interesting, unfortunately it isn't executed all that effectively. It kind of works but how Keach's character finds himself in this mess is a little questionable, partly because it didn't need to be that way, who would drive their car through the creek like that under those circumstances? Also, while it wouldn't be as easy to escape as the viewer might think, I do feel that he should have been able to so. The ending is a little too 'feel-good' for a movie of this type. Not bad but also not really good either. Check it out and see for yourself.
Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)
This Anne is Solid & Well Done
Anne of the Thousand Days is a period costume drama with many well executed elements going for it. To begin with is the performance of Bujold, she really shines here and creates an interesting and well rounded Anne Boleyn. In addition she looks ideal in the period costumes that have been selected for her. Burton also gives a solid performance. The costumes across the cast are beautifully done as well. The basic story is one we're all now familiar with and it is told fairly well here. Despite the many positives present in Anne of the Thousand Days, I didn't find the whole thing as emotionally compelling as I think they were going for. Still, the is a sold and well done film very much worth checking out.
Entertaining, Oppressive, Memorable
They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Is a very interesting, slice-of-life film that I knew nothing about going into and of course was completely surprised by what it delivered. All of the performances are very strong. The majority of the film takes place in a poorly lit gymnasium packed beyond capacity with desperate folks trying desperately hard to make a few bucks by way of a dance marathon. Between the over-crowded space and the raging desperation by the participants, this film has a very distinct and ever-present vibe going for it. Each character has his or her own story and reason for being there, but the main couple is made up of Jane Fonda and Michael Sarrazin. Yes, it's a heavy film for sur, but one I think is most definitely worth checking out.
Cyborg 2087 (1966)
Mellow SciFi with Lots of Filler
Reading some of the other reviews suddenly explains a lot of what I was feeling during my viewing of Cyborg 2087. I initially responded very positively to the score for this film, only to find out that it was used for other movies and apparently some t.v. Shows as well. That's OK as I still like it and think it works here. I also felt the proceedings had a television feel/quality to it, just expanded. There is a lot of filler here too, like the end fight between the two cyborgs goes on forever. I also felt too much time was given to the teenagers dancing, like literally we were just watching them dance for too long. Also, I find it odd that the doctor seemingly without hesitation agreed to go back with the cyborg in his capsule. Still, Cyborg 2087 was easy to watch and not completely unentertaining.
Fresh, Original, Kind of Scary Too
Sigourney Weaver makes her major screen debut here and does a really solid job of it. She's a smart, tough as nails character that you can't help but root for her. The art direction, sets, sound, and special effects all come together seamlessly to create a highly atmospheric world that itself is like another character. Of course we can't leave out the monster, who is very menacing and a lot to deal with. I feel like Alien really set the standard for future sci-fi/horror films and held a high degree of influence on subsequent film makers. It's been a minute since its original release and for the most part it has held up well. If you haven't yet seen it, then you'll want to check it out.
This Gun Full of Hit & Misses
What can I say about The Naked Gun. To those of you who love this film I am so happy for you. As for me, I found the whole thing very hit or miss, which is par for the course form this type of film, they can't all be winners and I was well aware of that going in. Now that doesn't mean that they're all misses, because that isn't necessarily the case either. Actually, most of the jokes fell smack dab in the middle, not good and not bad either, just there. Unfortunately, I need more winners to enjoy or recommend a viewing. If you think this film might be up your alley, then go ahead and check it out. If you already think this film won't be your thing, then skip it and move on.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Raiders Has Lots Going For It
When I first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark back in 1981 I was quite taken by it. I reveled in the excitement of the adventure it took me on. Having seen it again recently was a slightly different experience. In part because I've grown and changed, and perhaps also because I've since seen so many other films copy elements of this film that it didn't possess that same sense of originality of adventure. Harrison Ford and solid and likeable here. Raiders of the Lost Ark is still fun and still provides a sense of adventure. I also think it is the best of the series as well and worth checking out, in particular on the big screen if possible.
Mommie Dearest (1981)
Mommy Dearest Does Entertain if You Let It
Mommie Dearest made a lot of waves during its original release, people seemed to either love it or hate it. After finally seeing it I will just day that I found it entertaining. Dunaway's resemblance to Crawford is uncanny, really. As for Dunaway's actual performance, it is quite good and I think she was worthy of a bit more positive recognition that she received. The production values of the film are very high and overall well done. Then there's the story: we have no way of knowing if Crawford is depicted accurately or not, but we do know that is was based on the book of the same name by Crawford's daughter, so the viewer should accept that it was based on that source material prior to viewing the film and level any issues with accuracy against the book, not the film. If you're curious about Mommie Dearest check it out and decide for yourself.
Kinda Sad, Kinda Creepy, Kinda Good Too
I did not see Carrie during its original release but did check it out recently (40+ years later) and was pleasantly surprised. Spacek does a really nice job and she grows on the viewer. All of the other performances are fairly solid as well. The one thing that struck me as odd is that when Carrie is finally able to exact some type of revenge on her tormenters, she oddly does so very indiscriminately, including those persons that were kind and wanted to help her. This aspect bothers me a little as Carrie does possess a sympathetic side and that is not something the character would do. Other than that, Carrie is worth checking out for yourself.
The Endless Summer (1965)
All Surf and Nothing but the Surf
I like surfing and love the world and sport of surfing. The idea of the endless summer and these two guys actually in pursuit of it excites, inspires, and motivates me. The surfing results of their singular, dedicated quest for the endless summer is well captured and presented here. I don't recall anyone else mentioning it but in addition to the title of this film I absolutely love the poster! That image, those colors, that title together is a work of art that speaks volumes. There's no real dialogue here just the filmmaker narrating over the images and action. If you're into surfing then you will enjoy this film. If you're not into surfing you will not likely enjoy as much but if you're genuinely curious then definitely check it out and see what you think, who knows, it just might inspire you too!
Free Willy (1993)
Willy is Middling at Best
Free Willy made quite a splash when it came out and enough people loved it that two more sequels followed. It didn't really work for me then and it still doesn't work for me know. The initial idea for this story is good but unfortunately the producers and writers don't take the time to really develop it past that initial idea. The acting in general is average and there are quite a few cliches littering the slight story that they have managed to piece together. Many of the scenes just feel flat out pandering, like they went for the most obvious shot choice rather than taking the time to come up with something fresh. I did not see either of the two sequels and have no intention to.