The Lion King (2019)

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Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba                                                                                                            Sithi uhm ingonyama

Nants ingonyama bagithi baba                                                                                                        Sithi uhhmm ingonyama                                                                                                                    Ingonyama

Siyo Nqoba                                                                                                                            Ingonyama                                                                                                                                Ingonyama nengw’ enamabala

The Circle of Life

On the day we arrived on the planet…. Disney was making money, and there is no doubt in the world that the remake of the classic Disney animated movie The Lion King will make all the moneys.

But is that the only reason that they created this “live action” version of the film, or is there something deeper here?

Let’s address the elephant in the room (not literally).  It is hard to call this a live action adaptation when there is nothing that is alive in the actual movie.  This should be defined as “photo realistic” animation.  And, no matter what we call it, the animation is a masterpiece.

Literally, it looks like we have real animals moving around a real landscape in Africa, somehow moving their mouths.  The CGI of the film is nothing short of brilliant and a work of absolute art.  No matter what anyone tells you about the movie, the visuals are some of the greatest work ever to be seen on the big screen.

Now, the rest.

The story itself is nearly a shot-for-shot remake of the animated film.  You know the story… young lion cub Simba leaves his home after his father, the king, Mustafa is killed by his brother Scar.  Scar makes it look as if it was Simba who was at fault so he could assume the throne.  Simba chased off by the hyenas, finds friends out in the world of Timon and Pumbaa (a meerkat and warthog, respectfully) and lives his life until destiny finds him.

Yes, it is basically Hamlet.  It is an all-time classic story.

So why did it feel dull here?

As I said, the movie was basically a shot-for-shot remake of the animated movie, which was amazing, so why is the “live action” version not the same?  Why does it feel as if they sucked out all the emotion and the magic from the film?  Did they actually turn The Lion King into a Disneynature film?

I think part of the problem was the photo realistic nature of the animation did not lend itself to any expression from the faces of the lions.  The mouths were moving, including saying many lines form the original script that never fails to elicit deep emotion, but there was just no expression in the eyes or the faces of these characters and that hurt the feels.  Even the big emotional moment with the stampede did not make me feel much and that scene normally destroys me.

The magic was just not there, which made me find the film to be hollow, albeit a beautifully created hollow film.

The Lion King (2019) did not add enough new to it to justify its existence for anything other than a cash grab.  Sure, all movies want to make money and there is nothing wrong with that, but when you have an IP like Lion King, you bring a level of expectations to the project beyond just the pocketbooks.  Jon Favreau, who did the much better live-action remake of Jungle Book, directed the film that really needed a new vision or something that gave it a purpose beside stunning visuals.

It is hard not to compare this film to the 1994 animated version, because it is so close to it in so many ways. That might be unfair, because that first movie is, arguably, one of the greatest animated movies ever made.  If I had to share one of these movies with someone who had never seen this before, I would pick the 1994 animated film every time.

It is actually sad to me that there are many people who will have this version of The Lion King as their introduction to the film.  While 2019 Lion King is a visual masterpiece, the rest is a letdown.

2.6 stars

Running Scared (1986)

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I was looking for a movie to watch this afternoon when I came across Running Scared, a film from the 1980s starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines as a couple of hard-boiled cops from Chicago.  I remember seeing this movie in the theater and being a big fan of it so it was the perfect choice for this afternoon.

Problem was, on this viewing, I hated it.

I suppose it was the difference of viewing this movie as a 50-year old man compared to viewing it as a 17-year old kid.  Much of the stuff in this movie was much more aligned for the kid, because it did not ask much of me mentally and I had to suspend all kinds of intelligence for the story to come even close to working.  There are no cops like this in the country and, if there were, they would not be cops for very long.

Positives:  Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines are good together and they have all kinds of witty banter.  The dialogue between them was strong and their friendship was heart-warming.

After that, nothing else was worth my time.

Jimmy Smits was the bad guy, Julio Gonzales, and this guy had zero realism to him.  He was a cartoon villain who could somehow keep getting released after clear criminal acts.  The third act showdown is so unbelievable and made no sense whatsoever.

This makes me wonder what other films from my childhood that I loved would be crap in my eyes today.

stale

 

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Harry and the Hendersons (1987)

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Earlier this week, Collider Live brought up Harry and the Hendersons and Josh Macuga stated how much he liked that movie. So when I came across it on Netflix tonight, I thought I would watch it.  I had seen pieces of the film before, but never the whole thing.

It is very much an 80s movie.  It is an action/comedy similar to many of the movies we saw during the 1980s.  There is some definite silliness and the plot is fairly formulaic, but there is a charm and a heart that takes the film to a higher level than it might have been.

Coming home from their camping trip, George Henderson (John Lithgow) and his family hit a legendary Bigfoot with his car.  Believing that they had killed the beast, they put the corpse on the roof of the car and took it back to Seattle, Washington with them.

However, turns out, the Bigfoot was not dead and a late night ransacking of their kitchen looking for food was in line for the Sasquatch.

As the family tried to determine exactly what they were going to do, they discovered that the Bigfoot, nicknamed Harry, was more than just an animal.

John Lithgow was solid in the role of George Henderson, the man who at first tried to get rid of the Bigfoot, but eventually came around to love the creature.  Don Ameche played Bigfoot museum manager Dr. Wallace Wrightwood and David Suchet (who played Hercule Poirot) was big game hunter Jacques LaFleur, who had been chasing Bigfoot for decades.  These are both fairly typical characters that fit into the 1980s films like this one.

Harry was the fish out of water type character here as the Hendersons struggled to re-find Harry and then get him safely back into the woods.  Harry, played by Kevin Peter Hall (who was also the Predator in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film), is very lovable in a realistic way.  No CGI here, only practical effects and they help give Harry his charm.

There is not much to the movie beyond the message of family and respecting life, even animal life, but it is an enjoyable watch with some cute comedic moments.

While it may not be an all-time classic, it is certainly worth a lazy Saturday night watch on Netflix.

funtime

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The Godfather Part II (1974)

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I had only seen the original Godfather once before I watched it earlier today, but I had never seen The Godfather Part II at all.  I can see why some people believe that the movie is one of the greatest sequels ever made.

To be honest, though, I found the original to be my favorite of the two.

The Godfather Part II tells two stories concurrently.  One was the ongoing events in the life of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) as he continues his ascension into the position of head of the Corleone crime family.  The second story gave us the background of a young Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro) growing up in Corleone, Italy and how he started moving up the ranks to become the Godfather.

Pacino and DeNiro are at the peak of their skills in this movie as their performances are amazing.  The film feels like a continuation of the story started in The Godfather and seamlessly flows on.  There are some shocking moments that I could not believe were happening.  I am impressed that, despite over 30 years since its release, I had not heard the details of a couple of the story points (in particular, the one dealing with Diane Keaton.

I must say there were two problems I had with the film.  It did feel a little long, especially in the first hour or so.  The film picked up in the second half as many things happened that I did not see coming.

The second issue is that Michael Corleone has become such an unlikable character that I found it harder to support him as the protagonist.  I know the theme is how life choices can be unavoidable and can take someone down a bad path, but he is almost unrecognizable from the first film.   While that is a fascinating development for a character, I wanted someone to root for and that was lacking.

However, as a character piece on the development of a villain, The Godfather Part II is harrowing.  Al Pacino deserved to have won the Oscar for this performance, though he did not.

I feel like a major gap in my movie viewing has now been filled as I cannot say any more that I have not seen Godfather Part II.  I do not plan on watching Godfather Part III any time soon though.

vintage

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The Godfather (1972)

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I wanted to do something special for the 200th Doc’s Classic Movie Review and so I chose one of the great movies in cinematic history, The Godfather.

I had actually only seen The Godfather once and it was just a few years ago on the big screen at a Fathom Event so it fits right into the idea for #200.

Francis Ford Coppola directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Mario Puzo, who wrote the original novel that the film was based upon, that told the story of the five families of organized crime in New York, specifically about the Corleone family, led by Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando).  Corleone was aging and a failed assassination attempt slowed him down even more.  His son Sonny (James Caan) initially would make decisions, but  eventually, the power of the family would fall down to Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), war hero who wanted to stay out of the family business but only found himself pulled back in.

The film is beautifully shot and the imagery we get is as iconic as it comes.  The music is a perfect blend with what we see on the screen.  The music paints us a picture of the family and its continuous growth.

Michael Corleone changes dramatically as the film progresses, starting as the young man back from war who wanted to stay free of the family business to the vicious, cold-blooded Don at the end, taking steps that even his father would not take.

Marlon Brando and Al Pacino are revolutionary in their performances.  Both men are simply astounding and deserve every accolade that they received.

The remainder of the cast is spectacular as well.  We have James Caan, Abe Vigoda, Diane Keaton, Sterling Hayden, Robert DuVall, Talia Shire, Richard Castellano among others.  There is not one misstep among the cast.

The Godfather was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won for Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Godfather is one of the greatest movies ever made.

Next up is a movie that I have never seen… The Godfather 2.

paragon

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Point Blank

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Looking over at Netflix this evening and I came across a film called Point Blank starring the Falcon and Crossbones.  That is, of course, Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo, and it was a somewhat short film so I thought I would give it a chance.

So, Frank Grillo’s character, Abe, was being set up to take the fall for the assassination of the District Attorney and he winds up in the hospital when his brother Mateo (Christian Cooke) hits him with the car on their attempted escape from the scene of the crime.  Mateo kidnaps the nurse-on-duty, Paul’s (Anthony Mackie) pregnant wife Taryn (Teyonah Parris) to ensure the help of Paul to break Abe from custody.

Paul agrees to do whatever it takes to get his wife back; however, the story takes an unexpected turn when it looks as if the status quo is not what he expects.

I like both Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo so I had hopes for this film.  The problem was this… the movie wants you to relate to and cheer for Abe and Mateo as the career criminals because they had hearts of gold and that they stumbled into the conspiracy of the film.  Yet, I could not find myself rooting for either one of these characters because Mateo kidnapped a pregnant woman and held her at gunpoint.  Both of them kept the woman in their custody despite the potential danger that they might have exposed the unborn child to.  I had a hard time getting past that.  Maybe the other people who were framing Abe for the D.A.’s murder were worse, but that does not make it better for me.  The only people in the film who you could root for was Paul and Taryn.  And truthfully, I was a little uncertain about Paul.

The third act of the movie stretched credibility beyond reasonable levels as Abe and Paul launch their attack to get their revenge and retrieve the now-in-labor Taryn, respectfully.

The tone was all over the place.  It would be moving along with a seriousness of the situation and then, suddenly, something funny, almost slapstick-like would happen, feeling completely out of place.

Anthony Mackie was fine here, as was Frank Grillo, but the story really betrayed them.

2.2 stars

Crawl

Crawl Movie Poster

After seeing the new movie Crawl, I know one thing for damn sure.  I ain’t never going to Florida.  They’ve got hurricanes, floods, and giant killer alligators everywhere.

Count me out.  I have now learned that I am really damn scared of giant alligators trying to eat people.  Who knew.

This is a simple movie that is done so well.  It is tense and frightening.  It is a white-knuckle ride as soon as the alligators show up until the last minute of the movie.

As a hurricane is preparing to strike Florida, Haley (Kaya Scodelario), a top-line collegiate swimmer, hears from her sister that their father Dave (Barry Pepper) would not answer the phone.  Haley heads out to his house to try and find him.  She winds up trapped in the crawlspace of the house with him, flood waters rising threatening them with drowning, and several vicious alligators swimming around.

I was actually jumping in my seat throughout the movie.  Every time the alligator lunged at Haley or her father, I felt the stress and nerves.  This was the way jump scares were meant to be done.  You build up the tension and earn the release.  You don’t fake them, set them up and not pay them off.  This film does the jump scares so well, I wish other films would follow this blueprint.

The visual effects are tremendous in Crawl too.  The alligators look beautiful and every tooth is scary.  This had to be a rough job to work as the house continued to fill with water.

Yes, this is a simple story, but the movie does a great job of being what it is.  It is a thriller/horror film and it brings the fear and the suspense.  The performances from father/daughter, Scodelario and Pepper, are powerful, especially in the world of peril.  They display so many emotions and they shared a very strong and emotional scene dealing with their relationship that helped frame their characters better.

So long to Florida…

4.5 stars

Stuber

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I loved Kumail Nanjiani’s last major film, The Big Sick, which was basically the story of how he and his wife got together.  This one is not as much of a true story, or at least I hope it is not.

Kumail Nanjiani plays a mild mannered man named Stu, who uses a rental electric car to drive for Uber in hopes of making some extra money.  When he picks up Vic (Dave Bautista), a desperate police officer whose vision is blurry from eye surgery that day but who is anxious to investigate a lead he received about the man who killed his partner, little does Stu know that he is going to be dragged into a night of violence and danger.

Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista make a really good comedic team, as they have a very strong chemistry with one another.  They play off each other impressively throughout the film and both actors are so likable that you can overlook some of the ridiculous situations that the film drops them in.

While many of the moments are ridiculous, they are usually pretty funny and I have said it many times before.  Funny can make things better.  You can overlook flaws if you are laughing at them.  Stuber has some very solid jokes and situations that are funny.

Not only are they funny, there are actually a bunch of buddy cop film tropes that are flipped upside down, almost in an attempt to subvert them.  As soon as something looked like you knew where it was going, the film turned it around.  I appreciated the way the film tried to keep things original.  It was not always successful, but the attempt was welcomed.

One of the problems was Kumail Nanjiani got a little annoying at times.  His characterization of Stu was somewhat over-the-top, leading to a lot of yelling.  I have had problems with other actors whose performances wind up being just yelling (Kevin Hart, Will Farrell, Melissa McCarthy etc) and bringing the volume down some would help make it more subtle.

Dave Bautista has improved every time he is on screen and this is a big step for him as he is a co-lead of the movie.  Bautista has thrived lately in the supporting cast, but this is a good turn for the big man.  He shows that he has some decent comedic timing as well.

The supporting cast was strong too.  Natalie Morlaes played Vic’s daughter Nicole, whose big art opening was the same night as the chaos that was happening.  Vic is not shown in much of a positive light and you can see how his partner’s death devastated him.  Betty Gilpin is Becca, Stu’s friend and secret love.  Jimmy Tatro (from American Vandal) was Richie, Stu’s boss at the store he worked at and who tormented Stu constantly.

Iko Uwais (from The Raid series) is the villain Tedjo, but there is little to the character and is there simply to fight with Bautista.  Unfortunately, there is too much shaky cam going on here for the fight scenes to be worthwhile.

To be fair, Vic breaks so many laws and police officer conduct that I can’t believe that he is allowed back on the job after the night, but that is best not mentioned or thought about.

I had a good time watching Stuber mainly because of Bautista and Nanjiani.  It is not a film with a plot that can hold up to a ton of scrutiny, so just sit back and enjoy the humor.  Otherwise, the plot may just ruin the film for you.

3.5 stars

Train to Busan (2016)

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Holy cow.

I have never been much on foreign films where I have to read the subtitles, but I had heard enough of the online community rave about this movie (from Collider’s Perri Nemeroff to the Top 10 Show) that I had it on my queue over at Netflix.  Looking though for Doc’s Classic Movies Reviewed #199, I came across Train to Busan and thought I’d give it a chance.

Holy cow.

I am so glad that I chose to watch this.  You become so invested in the characters and the story unfolding here that you forget that you are reading the movie.

A group of passengers boarded a train in an attempt to escape the sudden outbreak of zombies plaguing South Korea.  The word was that the city of Busan had been a safe haven so far, or so they heard.  The train was not free from the monsters and the uninfected passengers struggles to remain one step ahead of the horde.

This just well may be the best zombie genre movie that I have ever seen.  I loved those comedic zombie movies such as Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead, and there has not been a dramatic zombie film that I would put on their level.  Train to Busan is the one.

Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) is a fund manager who was escorting his daughter Su-an (Kim Soo-ahn) to his estranged wife in Busan.  Seok-Woo couldn’t care less about anyone else and his work was taking him away from Su-an consistently.

Sang-hwa (Dong-seok Ma) and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong (Yu-mi Jung) are also on the train.  Other passengers include a pair of elderly sisters, a high school baseball team, Yon-suk (Eui-sung Kim), a CEO who was out for himself and no one else, among others.

You really get connected to these characters which make it all the more difficult when they succumb to the zombie herd.  Some of the deaths are heroic and others are downright cowardly, but they all provide an emotional burst that I had not expected.

Little Kim Soo-ahn was absolutely spellbinding as Su-an.  She gave the performance of a lifetime in a role that would be challenging for any adult to pull off.  She showed us her fear, frustration, disappointment, grief, and a deep look into the heart of the little girl who showed her father, by example, just what a jerk he was being.

The action was tense and stressful.  Choreographed beautifully, the zombies were true threats inside the restrictive confines of the train cars.  You can’t help but feel claustrophobic as the film moves along.  It does have some of the same beats as Chris Evans’s sci-fi epic Snowpiercer, but the zombies provide a more threatening presence than Snowpiercer had.

Bloody, violent and chaotic, Train to Busan is on-the-edge-of-your-seat action from early on in the right up to the very end.  You’ll be holding your breath throughout the film.  It is an amazing piece of work.

paragon

 

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Midsommer

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Uuuuuuuuuuuugggggggggg

The new A24 film Midsommer is a horror movie that disturbed the heck out of me.  Honestly, I feel that I need a shower after seeing it.

Not saying that it was bad.  I am having so much trouble processing how I feel about it.  This is from the director Ari Aster, who also directed last year’s Heredity.

Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) are a couple who are having problems with their relationship.  After a terrible tragedy in Dani’s life, they go with a bunch of friends on a midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village.  It does not take long to discover that there are some horrific traditions beneath the surface at the village that you would not expect.

The setting of the mysterious village is amazing.  It is beautifully shot and the bright light around the area sets a fascinating contrast with the darkness happening among the people of the village.  The people feel very much like a cult and some of the traditions and rituals are skin-crawling.

The acting is fine, but I do have to say that I found Florence Pugh’s crying to be way over the top.  There were two instances of it and I found both to be very unlikely that anyone cries like that.  Still, the rest of the time, she is great and it is through her eyes that we see some of the worst things that happen.

One of the worst parts of it is inside your own mind.  There are plenty of pictures drawn on walls in this village, like hieroglyphics or such and they are disgusting and creepy.  Then, you see places in the film where things are happening that may be echoing the pictures on the wall, but the film does not confirm it.   It is like, wait…what?  and the film just keeps on going.  It takes the horror inside the mind of the viewer.

I thought the film dragged a bit.  It was a long film and I think it helped introduce the village, but there were too many spots that felt unimportant.

I am still processing what I feel about Midsommer because of some of the visceral images that we get in the film.  The movie tells the story of the eventual break up of our main characters and it takes it into a path that you simply do not expect.  It is a beautifully shot film but it is a challenging and difficult watch.

I liked the movie, but I do not know if I am going to continue to like it as I process more.

3.2 stars 

Spider-Man: Far From Home

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 3 has ended with the 23rd film in the franchise, Spider-Man: Far From Home, which not only has to be a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, but it has to follow Avengers: Endgame and show what the world of the MCU was like moving forward.

I am happy to say that it was a tremendous success in both ways.

I loved this movie and I was laughing and thoroughly engrossed from the beginning, right through two MASSIVE post credit scenes.

Writing a review for this is going to be pretty challenging because I do not was to reveal any spoilers and the film is filled with them.  Do the best you can to go into the film as fresh as you can be.  Of course, you need to have seen Avengers: Endgame because this takes events directly from that movie.

Peter Parker (Tom Holland) fresh off the events of Endgame, is back as Spider-Man.  However, Peter and his classmates are taking a school science trip to Europe and Peter wants to go on vacation from his web head alter ego.  Ignoring a phone call from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Peter wants to tell MJ (Zendaya) that he likes her and he is planning how he is going to do that.

Fury arrives in Europe to recruit Peter to help them fight these monsters from another multiverse called the Elementals.  Fury wants Spider-Man to join forces with a hero from that other multiverse, Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), who gets dubbed Mysterio by the media.

That’s about all I can give you without spoiling it.  This info was in the trailers but there is so much more here.

Tom Holland is the best Peter Parker/Spider-Man we have ever had.  He is so charismatic and funny that you connect with him easily.  You understand the internal struggle Peter is having between wanting to have a normal life and tell the girl he likes that he likes her and the responsibility of being Spider-Man, a hero seemingly handpicked by Tony Stark to be the next big hero.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck is perfect.  I absolutely love the characterization of Mysterio in this movie.  I don’t want to go into any details for those who may not know much about Mysterio so that you may remain in the dark.  Gyllenhaal brings such a gravitas to the role and you believe the relationship that develops between Peter and Quentin.

Zendaya’s MJ really takes a gigantic leap forward from the background/comedic character that she was in Homecoming.  MJ is someone who could now be a leading woman in this franchise.  She is so beautiful in every shot she is involved in and I loved the reasoning for her to develop.  She and Tom Holland have undeniable chemistry and the early awkwardness makes you believe this is a high school romance.

The rest of the cast is great too.  The running gag of the romance between Ned  (Jacob Batalon) and Betty (Angourie Rice) was cute and felt real.  We get some more subtle development for Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori).  Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and May (Marisa Tomei) have a relationship that makes Peter feel a bit uneasy.  The cast in fantastic.

The visuals are brilliant, especially in the action scenes.  The visuals at the end literally had me sitting in the theater with my mouth agape.  It was a Spider-man scene that I so loved and made me realize how important that aspect of the character was to me.  The originality of the film’s action was truly a gutsy attempt.

Director Jon Watts deserves a ton of credit for his second Spider-Man movie.  I have seen many people comparing this to Homecoming.  To me, while I love Homecoming and I think that Michael Keaton’s Vulture is brilliant, Far From Home exceeds Homecoming in many different manners.

Post credit scenes… there are two… and they are mind blowing, including a couple of shocking cameos.  No spoilers here, but they were both epic and changed the way the MCU will be moving forward.

The only criticism I have is a spoiler so I cannot reveal it here.  Let’s just say it is something that happens in the third act and is a fairly disappointing trend.

Spider-Man is going to be a huge factor in the Phase four of the MCU, and this film does a lot to show that is the case.  The acting is spot on, the action is special and well designed, the CGI is exceptional, and the story does well in capturing the ideas of Spider-Man and Mysterio.  Stay through the credits.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is so much fun and filled with drama, humor and excitement.  This is the second coming of age story featuring Spider-Man and his ensemble and it is the best one yet.

5 stars

(Yes, I may not be as unbiased as I should be, but it is a great movie)

 

My Cousin Vinny (1992)

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My Cousin Vinny becomes the 198th film reviewed in the Doc’s Classic Movie Reviewed section at EYG.  I had seen a video on YouTube from a lawyer who was looking at how accurate the film was in courtroom procedures.  It did very well, with many scenes being considered great for even teaching how to do things.

Joe Pesci is Vinny, the lawyer, and his fiance is played by Marisa Tomei.  They have to go down to Alabama to be the lawyer for his cousin Bill (Ralph Macchio) who, along with his friend Stan (Mitchell Whitfield), have been incorrectly charged with murder and they need Vinny’s help.

The problem is that Vinny has never won a case and has plenty of things he had no clue about.  The judge (Fred Gwynne, famous from The Munsters) has it out for Vinny because of the way he dresses and acts.  Vinny, from New York City, has troubles around Alabama as the “fish out of water” and unable to sleep.

My Cousin Vinny is one of the best in court films you are going to find, with the lawyering that is done by Vinny is so entertaining that it is engaging and thrilling.  The film is very funny and has some of the best dialogue you are going to find.

There is a ton of chemistry between the entire cast here.  The ensemble is tremendous with the exception of the public defender with the stuttering problem.  I dislike that character and I actually fast-forwarded through his part.

Marisa Tomei won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in this movie, and her scene as the witness in the trial is one of the best scenes in the movie.

My Cousin Vinny is a fantastic movie and I love watching it any time I can.

vintage

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Singin’ In the Rain (1952)

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I found a Top 10 Show Re-list this morning and it was Top 10 musicals.  I like musicals so I was excited about doing the list.  I was also looking for a film to make #197 in the push toward 200 in the Doc’s Classic Movies Reviewed section here at EYG so I decided that Singin’ in the Rain, which I thought I had seen as a youngster, would work well.

I was completely engulfed in this movie.  I loved it from the opening until it was finished.  I do not remember anything from the film, except of course for the iconic song and dance of Gene Kelly with his umbrella, singing and dancing in the rain, spinning around on a lamppost.  That I recognized and remembered but everything else was new.

I had no idea the number of songs that I recognized that were actually in this movie.  My toe was a-tappin’ as each new song came up.

The film started with a huge surprise as well.  A voice … the first voice I heard int he movie.  It was Aunt Harriet!  Aunt Harriet, played by Madge Blake, from the 1966 Batman TV series, was there playing a reporter on the red carpet.  She was uncredited, but she was unmistakable.

Singin’ in the Rain tells the story of two movie stars of the silent film era, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), and their shaky transition from stars in silent pictures to the world of talkies.  The film also focuses on the relationship between Lockwood and a fledgling stage actress Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds).

My personal favorite character was Cosmo Brown, played brilliantly by Donald O’ Connor.  He was the supporting and comedic break the film needed and every time he was on screen, I was laughing out loud.  His sensational routine during the song “Make ’em Laugh” was astounding.  He had great chemistry with Gene Kelly as well as the pair’s performance of “Moses” was another highlight of the movie.

Gene Kelly practically glowed throughout much of the movie.  His face was as bright as a sun and he was clearly having a great time.

Every dance routine was breathtaking and as good as anything you could see today.  The finale production of Broadway Ballet is as extensive as ever and the fact that this was 1952 only make the accomplishment all the more amazing.

I will admit that the character of the studio head R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell) was not very realistic.  I expect the head of a studio to be more dispassionate of the art and more about the money.  R.F. was very supportive of his stars and of his actors and would have been a great boss to work for, if such a Hollywood exec actually existed.

But that is a minor gripe as the film was just tremendous from start to finish.  I loved this movie and I can see why it is mentioned among the greatest films, not just musicals, made in history.

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The King of Comedy (1982)

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I noticed that the Doc’s Classic Movies Reviewed section here at EYG is reaching a milestone.  This is film number 196 reviewed in the section so we are on a path to 200.  Number 196 will be Martin Scorsese’s early 80s film, The King of Comedy.

While the movie itself flopped at the box office, The King of Comedy received positive critical reviews.  The King of Comedy is a dark comedy featuring Robert DeNiro as downtrodden sad sack, Rupert Pupkin, a wannabe comedian whose start as an autograph hound put him in the orbit of famous late night talk show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis).

In order to get rid of Rupert, Jerry tells him to contact his assistant and he would have him on his show.  Jerry had no intention of following through on that promise, but Rupert was fairly delusional.  Living in his mother’s basement, Rupert would fantasize about meetings with Jerry and a deep, close friendship between the two men.

After being turned away from the offices of the show, Rupert decided to abduct Jerry and use him as a bargaining chip to get everything he wanted.

DeNiro is solid here, but I really did not like Rupert.  He was a sociopath and delusional.  In the third act, you are given a window into the background of the character and you understand him more, but for most of the movie, he is an annoying man who simply would not listen to what people were telling him.

Sandra Bernhard was a co-star of the film as Rupert’s friend Masha who was an obsessed fan of Jerry.  She was downright crazy and she helped Rupert accomplish the kidnapping of Jerry.  Some of the scenes between Bernhard and Lewis are hilariously awkward.

The ending of the movie leaves the audience wondering exactly what happened as the last few scenes could either be reality or more of the delusions from Rupert.

The character of Jerry Langford feels as if he were a Johnny Carson-type, and it is known that Scorsese offered the part to Carson at first, but Johnny turned it down.  Jerry Lewis was very stoic throughout the film and I could have used a little more fire from him during parts of the movie.

But DeNiro is wonderful in a very off-putting performance.  The King of Comedy shows how the life of a celebrity is difficult and how they sometimes have to deal with the crazy fan/stalker and how they could turn to a danger in a heartbeat.

The movie holds up today and actually would work extremely well in the toxic environment of social media and the dangers of fandom.  Though it is one of Scorsese’s least successful films, The King of Comedy is a strong work that is deeper than first glance.

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Yesterday

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Yesterday…all my troubles seemed so far away.  Now it looks as though they’re here to stay.  Oh I believe …in Yesterday.

Prophetic words for Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), the main character in director Danny Boyle’s newest film about a world where everyone, except for Jack, has forgotten who the Beatles were and had never heard any of their music.

As a Beatles fan, the idea is just horrible.  Just the idea that the world would not be able to listen to “Hey Jude”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” or “Yellow Submarine” is a thought that would bother me to no end.  That is, of course, what Jack is faced with.  What would you do?

After a freak worldwide blackout, Jack is hit by a bus and ends up in the hospital.  When he awakes, he is missing his two front teeth and the rest of the world has lost the memory of George, Paul, John and Ringo.  Not a fair swap.

Jack, who is a failing musician, suddenly realizes that he has access to some of the greatest songs ever written and nobody would be the wiser so he begins recreating the songbook of the Beatles.

I’m torn by this movie.  Most importantly, I love the music of the Beatles and it was great listening to these songs throughout the film.  Himesh Patel does a great job performing these songs.  Many times I hate it when I hear people doing the Beatles because…well, just because.  I did not mind Patel’s versions of these songs.  Obviously, that would have been a death knell for the movie had I not liked the songs.

However, there are just so many plot holes or things left open that, in retrospect, tear apart this reality.  Other musicians are referenced, but how about all those musicians who had been inspired by the Beatles?  When they were not there, what happened to them?  This was just one thing that popped into my head while watching the movie.

There was another major question that comes along late in the third act that would constitute a spoiler so I will not mention it, but let’s just say that, after Jack visited this specific person, I really wondered what was going on.

Lily James played teacher and part time manager for Jack, Ellie and she was charming and lovely.  They had a great deal of chemistry with one another, but the way their relationship worked through felt very odd and not natural.  I did not like the development of that story arc.  On the whole, I enjoyed both Patel and James’ performances, but I would have preferred a different resolution to the story.

One performance that I was not overly fond of, unfortunately, was Kate McKinnon who played Debra, an agent who is looking to cash in with Jack’s musical skills.  The best description I have heard of this performance was from Collider Live host Kristian Harloff who stated that she was “in such a different film.”  That was exactly the way to say it because she was so over-the-top that she pulled me out of the film every time.

There were some very funny jokes in the film though.  There was a running joke about other items/people who the world had forgotten besides just the Beatles and that worked every time.  Ed Sheeran has a cameo throughout the movie that really work as well.  He has a great self-deprecating way about himself in the film and he embraces the jokes well.

Yesterday had several positives going for it, and it has its share of problems.  When I wasn’t thinking too hard about it, I enjoyed the movie, but when I was thinking back, more holes and problems came up.  I think the positives out weigh the negatives and, as I was walking out of the movie, I felt satisfied.  That is certainly the long and winding road to a recommendation.

3.6 stars