Robin Hood (2018)

This Thanksgiving break started today and I went to a Tuesday night opening.  With the available choices of Ralph Breaks the Internet and Creed 2, you may ask, “How did you wind up at Robin Hood?”  I was asking myself that question as well.

The real answer is scheduling.  I planned out the five or so movies I need to see this break and it worked best to see the new version of Robin Hood on the Tuesday night.

And I did go into the film with as much of an open mind as I could.  In fact, about ten minutes into the film, I am making cracks in my head, but I stopped and told myself… keep an open mind, Doc.

Unfortunately, that open mind did not make this a good movie.  I really tried.

Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) caught the thief Marion (Eve Hewson) stealing his horses and they began a whirlwind love affair.  Until Loxley was drafted into the Crusades and had to go to war.  While at war, he tried to prevent crazy military leader Gisborne (Paul Anderson) from beheading the son of Jamie Foxx.  He failed, and wound up being shot with an arrow.  As we find out, Robin, or Rob as everyone called him for some inane reason, seemed to be immune to being shot with an arrow.  Just pull it out.

Anyway, he was sent home and Jamie Foxx followed him somehow.  He apparently knew everything about Loxley and knew of his relationship with Marion, who had believed that Rob was dead.  She moved on with Will Scarlett (Jamie Dornan) making Rob sad.

By the way, there was a scene where Marion and Rob came face to face for the first time and I swear it was a scene right out of The Princess Bride.  Rob asked her why she did not wait for him and Marion responded that he was dead.  I immediately said to myself, “Death cannot stop true love.  All it can do is delay it for awhile.”  Classic.

Back to the “story,” Jamie Foxx wants to train Rob and make him into Batman and send him against the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) to revenge his son’s death, despite the fact that the man who actually ordered his son’s beheading was also still out there.

So Rob got himself an Arrow from the CW costume and continued his training to become a comic book archer.

This thing was hilarious throughout the film, although it had not intended to be.  Some of the dialogue was just horrendous.  The acting was fine for what they were given, but the story was thin and ridiculous and the dialogue was worse yet.

And then there was Ben Mendelsohn.  Poor Ben was just as bad as I have seen.  He was so over-the-top with EVERY line that I wondered if he was being satirical (Hint-he wasn’t).  His performance was laughable and I found him to be a total waste of a character and an actor who has skills.  Just not sure what he was going for here.

The action was okay at times, but it really did not mean anything.  Rob Hood was shot a second time (or was it third?) in the third act and it barely slowed him down.  As soon as the arrow was pulled form his shoulder, he kept going as if nothing had happened at all.

Then, again in the third act, Egerton’s role as Batman Hood is confirmed as one of the characters suddenly becomes Two-Face.  Literally, it was a near exact way that Harvey Dent became Two-Face in The Dark Knight.

Did I mention that Jamie Foxx’s character’s real name translates into “John?”

Jamie Dornan’s character waffled drastically between positions and was never truly a well crafted and realistic person.  He was just written so poorly that Dornan had no chance even with a strong performance.  He was totally inconsistent with his ideas and what happens to him makes ZERO sense.

But sense was not the main component of this movie.  Instead it took the DNA of several more successful movies, including the Nolan Batman trilogy, Princess Bride, Tolkien stuff, and mixed them together hoping to find something that would make this iteration of Robin Hood a viable franchise.  They had a solid cast, but that cast could not escape the wholesale garbage given them to act.  Ben Mendelsohn chewed the scenery every moment he was on screen, only being topped by F. Murray Abraham, whose Cardinal character was so one-note that you could not believe that the writers couldn’t give him SOMETHING to work with.

Oh, and there were a couple of times where it sounded as Mendelsohn’s Sheriff was Donald Trump.  The film took maybe one or two moments where it felt like they were gearing up to set him up as a symbol for the current US President.  Then, the film completely abandoned the point.  They also tried to get Loxley to infiltrate the inner circle of the Sheriff and the Cardinal, which worked like a charm.  Problem was the film also immediately tossed this plot point aside as well.  There was no pay off for any of that in the story.

The only good thing I can say about Robin Hood is that it is now out of the way and I can, hopefully, prepare to see the considerably better movies during the remainder of break.

0.85 stars

 

Juliet, Naked

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I had seen trailers for this movie earlier this year, but it never found ts way to any theaters in my vicinity.  However, when I saw this on iTunes, I was excited about getting a chance to see it at home.

And it was a good film.

Annie Platt (Rose Byrne) was becoming tired of her boyfriend (Chris O’Dowd) and his obsession with long absent rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). So when an album of Tucker’s music is unearthed and released, Annie takes the chance to write a scathing review of it.

Her boyfriend Duncan was mad at her, but she received a unexpected response.  Tucker Crowe himself read the review and agreed with her.  They then began a correspondence via e-mail and on the phone.

When she discovered that Duncan had cheated on her, their relationship ended.  However, Tucker’s minor heart attack made things even more odd.

This film is a sweet romantic comedy with a group of solid performances and a well written script.  The story itself feels a bit slight, but I did like the relationship between Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke.  Then, Chris O’Dowd is pretty funny as the obsessed fan who finds his hero in an unexpected place.

The story of Tucker and his gaggle of children that he did not know he had was interesting, but it seemed to be over too quickly.

This is deeper than most rom-coms but, even so, there is not a huge amount of plot.  Most of the film is resolved after the hour and a half.

Rose Byrne is great.  She brings a lot of charm to the movie and the little boy who plays Tucker’s son Jackson (Azhy Robertson) was a nice addition.

Juliet, Naked is a nice film to watch on an evening when you do not have anything else to do.  It might be a bit too slight, but that does not keep it from being a suitable watch.

3.3 stars

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

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Melissa McCarthy has been in a rut for awhile now.  Most of her movie roles over the last several years were similar.  She was playing a “Melissa McCarthy” type.  In the drama St. Vincent with Bill Murray, she showed she had more acting chops than we thought, but we hadn’t seen her take this type of a role since.

Can You Ever Forgive Me is the most unlikely role Melissa McCarthy has ever taken on and she just knocks it out of the park.

Lee Israel (McCarthy) is a down on her luck author, desperately trying to complete her latest book to get some money.  She is behind on her rent.  Her cat is sick.  She is a heavy drinker.  Her agent (Jane Curtin) won’t return her phone calls.     What can she do?

When she finds a letter written by Fanny Bryce, she discovers that there is a market for old personal memorabilia of old time stars.  Lee decides that she would take advantage of this situation and forge these letters by using her own talents as a writer to make the letters very personalized.

I found this movie completely engaging and entertaining.  I thought Melissa McCarthy was astounding as Lee Israel.  The great Richard E. Grant as Jack Hock was amazing casting. The relationship between Lee and Jack was one of depth and realism.  Their friendship was uncertain but different than most you see on the screen.  Two pretty wicked people finding a fellow scammer in each other.

Despite Lee Israel being a unlikable person, you can relate to her and connect with her.  She has problems that all of us have and she is only doing what she can to try and solve them.  She makes bad choices in the long run, but you can understand why.  At first, she was just trying to get the vet to help her cat (By the way, I hated that veterinarian who is turning away this poor sick cat over 80 some dollars.  Screw you, vet).

You can tell that Lee is enjoying her success and the money that is coming with it as the whole act strokes on her ego.  McCarthy does the whole thing brilliantly.

I believe Melissa McCarthy is absolutely an Oscar worthy nominee this year as Best Actress for this role. She should be awarded for taking something different and doing it so well.  It very well could be a career resurgence.

4.85 stars

 

 

 

Instant Family

I saw a review of this movie on Collider Movie Review Talk by William Bibbiani that summed up this movie with one perfect word:  “Lovely.”

That word from Bibs was the ideal word to describe Instant Family, which has a ton of heart, some wonderful moments of emotion and some great family drama.  And it had a bunch of humor that fit right in with the tone of the film.  It was not a “Daddy’s Home” type film that is was marketed as.  It was heartfelt and the humor was real.

Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are a married couple that find that they are missing something and they decided to become a foster family with the idea of adopting.  After meeting a fiery teen Lizzy (Isabela Moner), Pete and Ellie are intrigued.  However, Lizzy comes along with a brother Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and sister Lita (Julianna Gamiz) and the trio is a handful.

I truly expected this to be an entirely different type of movie, but this turned out to be an exceptional film. The acting was spot on.  Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne had an easy chemistry and made a real, loving couple.  Young Isabela Moner is a future star.  She was tremendous as the troubled teen.  She shone every minute she was on screen.

Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro were great together as the social workers assigned to the case of Pete and Ellie and the kids.  They were both entertaining and funny while delivering an important message.

Of course, the message of how important it is to have foster parents is very  vital, but, at times, heavy handed in the movie.  I mean, the film ends with a web address to help provide info for those wishing to adopt children in the system.  It felt too much like an infomercial during the film.  It is not a major issue, but it was noticeable.

In the end, this was a highly entertaining and funny movie with a message worth giving.  There are strong performances and the film thankfully goes in a different path than you expect.

As Bibs said, “It was lovely.”

4.6 stars

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

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I was not a fan of the first Fantastic Beasts film so I was not looking forward to the sequel.  Still, the creative forces behind Harry Potter usually meant that their films were reasonably entertaining so I hoped that I would find the sequel an improvement.

Nope.

I found much of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald to be boring and confusing.  Honestly, there were many moments where I had no idea what was going on and I even took an extended break to go to the concession stand during the middle of the film.  I did not find it engaging at all.

I will say that the opening scene had some cool visuals and grabbed my attention.  Unfortunately, it failed to maintain such an interest.

After his misadventures in New York in the first film, Newt (Eddie Redmayne) found himself grounded, unable to travel internationally.  Still, when Dumbledore (Jude Law) needs Newt to go to France, he finds a nearby bucket and off they go.

Fortunately, Jacob Kalowski (Dan Fogler) arrived with Newt just in time to go with him.  His love Queenie (Alison Sudol) left him when he expressed a reasonable concern over them getting married.  And then Newt had googly eyes over Tina (Katherine Waterston) without ever really looking at her, and trying to avoid his brother Theseus (Callum Turner).

The plot of this movie is all over the place and is desperately confusing.  Despite there being way too many plot threads, I honestly cannot think of anything.  They clearly did not stand out.

Johnny Depp appears as Grindelwald and he is one of the worst parts of this movie.  Grindelwald is very lacking in any real intrigue or interest.  Outside of Depp’s typical weird hair/eyes, there is little to make this guy sinister or scary or intimidating.

Jud Law makes a good Dumbledore in the few scenes that we see him in.  Law is criminally underused.  There are also a criminal misuse of fantastic beasts, which is ironic in a film named Fantastic Beasts.

There are some decent moments, but the bad truly outweighs the good here.  The finale is downright dumb and lacks any true tension.

It was a long movie with the plot making it f3el even longer.  The best part of the original Fantastic Beasts film was the interactions with the four stars, but this film breaks them apart and keeps them away from one another for much of the film.  Redmayne was fine as Newt.  Jude Law was good as Dumbledore and I would like to see an extended role in future installments.  Depp’s character was lacking any pizazz.

I did not feel connected to any character here and so it did not bother me when things happened to them.  This series could really use some characters like Harry, Ron and Hermione.

2 stars

 

Beautiful Boy

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I wasn’t ready to be depressed tonight.

Beautiful Boy is a teen drug movie starring Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell and the pair of them are amazing here.  Unfortunately, much of the movie itself was average at best and felt, at times, manipulative.

However, there is absolutely no denying that Timothée Chalamet nailed this.  He was superb as Nic, the young boy who finds himself addicted to drugs and unable to maintain his sobriety. As good as Chalamet was, I think Steve Carell matched with with every scene.  Carell provided such a remarkably subtle performance filled with nuances that made me believe that Carell was truly David, the father of this boy that, no matter what he did, he just could not help.

The rest of the cast is very good as well, with a special shout out to Maura Tierney as David’s second wife and step-mother to Nic.

Still, the story meanders around and, at times, feels more self-important than it needed to feel.  It felt a few times that my emotions were being manipulated and they were not just seriously reacting to the situations happening on the screen.

This is base don a true story, based on both the book written by David Sheff and the book written by Nic Sheff.

Still, the reason to see this is for the masterful performance from these two actors. Timothée Chalamet is amazing considering how young of an actor he is.  Steve Carell has improved with every outing and he matches his young co-star with every glance.  The performances make this much more compelling than it had a right to be.

3.1 stars

Widows

I liked the new Steve McQueen directed film, Widows.  I wanted to love it.  Unfortunately, I just could not get to that level.

Widows was fine, but I went in with high expectations and the film was not what I expected it to be.

When her thief husband (Liam Neeson) and his crew are killed in a robbery gone bad, Veronica (Viola Davis) gets stuck between her grief and loss and the people whose money was taken.  Veronica organized the wives of the crew to help her pull another job to get the money needed.

First of all, Viola Davis is the bomb.  She has a moment at the beginning of this movie after her husband is killed that might have guaranteed her another Oscar nomination.  She let loose a cry of anguish, only to pull it back insider her.  Viola Davis was absolutely tremendous in this movie and deserves all the credit.

In fact, the entire cast was very strong.  I really liked Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Cynthia Erivo, and Brian Tyree Henry.  There were also great cameos from Robert Duvall and Jacki Weaver.  Acting here was top notch.

Fact is that Widows was considerably more of a slow build than I expected or than what this film sold itself as in its promotional material.  It turned out much slower than I thought it was going to be.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, but I got a little bored early as there were so many characters to set up and introduce.

The other problem was there was a twist that I won’t spoil, but I saw coming a mile away.  Anytime that happens, the film takes a hit in my eyes.

The subplot of the political race between Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) and Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry) felt forced and out of place here.  I’m still not sure how it really fit into the narrative and seemed too convoluted for what it was worth.  Colin Farrell’s character was all over the place in motivation and was not filled with common sense.

I really liked the tension and the higher stakes than your typical heist movies.  Usually, a heist movie is just a fun time in the robbery, but this was ugly and nasty.  It felt much more realistic than most heist films and I appreciated that fact.  Thing was though that the heist does not appear in the film until the very end of the movie.

I wish the film’s material and script could have brought it as much as Viola Davis did.  She was just awe inspiring with her performance, bringing pain and grief as well as anyone.  The performance elevated the material.

3.5 stars    

Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard is one of my favorite movies of all time.  When someone asks me what my favorite movies are, this is one of the first couple that comes out of my mouth.  I absolutely adore this movie.  This year is the 30th anniversary of the release of Die hard.

It is clearly going to be…

paragon

The highest rating I have.

Let’s talk about this fantastic movie a bit.

I was a huge fan of Moonlighting the television program starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd so I was excited to see Bruce move into the world of film.  I had gone to see him in Blind Date, but that was anything but one of my favorites.

Then Die Hard came along.

It is just a brilliant action movie. One of the best, if not THE best action movie in history.  There are so many perfect beats in this film.

First of all, Bruce Willis is spot on.  He is so believable in the roll of everyman cop John McClane who finds himself in impossible situations in Nakatomi Plaza in California.  he is funny, witty, smart and brave and as easy to relate to as any protagonist you are going to find.

Then, we have one of the greatest villains in cinema history as well with Hans Gruber, the film debut of the brilliant Alan Rickman.  Hans was menacing and frightening without ever being over-the-top.  He was perfectly played by Rickman in his sinister manner.

The writing of the film is astounding.  Every little detail comes back and pays off.  There is nothing that is superficial in this movie.  “Fists with your toes”- a small unimportant conversation John has on an airplane leads to him running around the building with bare feet.  An off hand remark from Ellis (Hart Bochner) about Holly’s (Bonnie Bedelia) watch comes back in the final confrontation with Hans.   Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) and his story of being unable to use his gun pays off in a big way.  Every little detail is there for a reason and it is a wonder to watch.

The action is amazing. The fight sequences are off the charts, as is the major knock down drag out between John and Karl (Alexander Godunov).  Although I have a hard time buying Karl surviving that final fight with John, it is worth it for the last scene with Al.

The lines are quotable as can be.  Everyone knows the iconic “yippee etc etc” line but one of my own favorites is when John is on the roof and trying to call for help on an emergency channel and the cops are not believing him.  His response to “Sir, this line is reserved for emergency calls only” is “No f#*king sh#t lady, do I sound like I’m ordering a pizza?” I lose myself laughing every time I hear that.

The ridiculousness of the other LA cops and FBI agents add into the feel that John McClane must keep going because no one else will be able to stop these terrorists.  Paul Gleason, who plays Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson, gives his lines with such a dry delivery that he is one of the funniest parts of this movie.

Very few films have been done so well and Die Hard continues to be the class of all of the following Die Hard sequels.  It is one of the great movies of all time and will always have a place on my own top 5 list..

The Other Side of the Wind

EYG Hall of Famer Orson Welles’ final film, a film that had been locked away, mostly completed, for 40 years, has finally been released on Netflix.  And it is some kind of movie.

The story of how the film came to be is almost more of a tale than The Other Side of the Wind.  I would certainly recommend that if you plan on watching this movie, you take the time to watch the documentary, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead as well.  It makes for a very important companion piece to this movie.

The Other Side of the Wind is about a legendary film director who had been self-exiled to Europe for years, returning to Hollywood to get his final passion project filmed.  The narrative of this movie is told through two lenses.  One, the struggles of the director, Jake Hannaford (John Huston), trying to get through the filming with money troubles, struggles with actors and with the Hollywood machine.  Two, the film that he has made is used as a “film within a film” and helps to show the artistry and the imagination of Hannaford.

Now, many people assume that the film is basically an autobiographical tale of Orson Welles himself.  Welles had denied this, but it does seem to be pretty obvious that the character of Jake Hannaford is based strictly on the director.

Apparently there were some scenes of the nearly completed film that were damaged and had to be replaced with photos and voice over.  These scenes feel as if they would have been important for the conclusion of the movie unfortunately.  Of course there is no way around that and what they did with those scenes is the best they were going to be able to accomplish.

There are so many truly visionary shots in this film that you could break down countless numbers of them for analysis.  The scenes fly fast and furiously through the film and you are never allowed to linger on anything for long.  It is certainly an impressive feat of film-making and the creative process.  It changes perspectives, black and white to color, and points of view as easily as you can imagine.

It is slight on story and may be too inside Hollywood to truly reach a wide audience.

John Huston is tremendous here as Jake and the relationship between him and Peter Bogdanovich’s character, Brooks Otterlake, is compelling.

While Welles never put together the ultimate final cut of this movie, those who did paid tribute to his overall vision and presented the world with a film about moviemaking that is chaotic, wild, jubilant and full of the proper amount of satire.  This feels like an appropriate end to a legendary career.

4.2 stars

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

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The Netflix original documentary They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead tells the fascinating tale of the efforts of EYG Hall of Famer Orson Welles and his attempts to finish a film called The Other Side of the Wind, a film that has now been released on Netflix as well.

Alan Cummings narrated the documentary, which joins a group of wonderful docs from 2018.

Fast paced and engaging, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead uses archived footage of Orson Welles to show us truths about the legendary filmmaker that we have never known and to tell the story of the struggle to make this movie as a way of a comeback.

This documentary is not about Citizen Kane.  Sure, it is mentioned, but it is not what is being investigated here.  Instead, we see Welles’ conflicts with Hollywood and the movie business, especially the money providers, in his desperate attempt to get his movies made.

In fact, because of the money, an almost finished cut of the film The Other Side of the Wind wound up locked away in a vault for decades…even after the death of Welles.

Directed by Morgan Neville, this documentary really made me want to watch The Other Side of the Wind on Netflix myself, which is what a good doc about a movie should do.  The Other Side of the Wind will be my next watch soon.

3.7 stars

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

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Claire Foy is the next actress to take up the role of Lisbeth Salander, the woman who arrived first in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  This is the next film featuring the character.  Unfortunately, there seemed to be a lack of what made Lisbeth such an original character in her past offerings.  Here, in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, she is basically just another action hero.

We join Lisbeth as she is in pursuit of a MacGuffin that gives the possessor the ability to control the nuclear weapons of the world.  The man who invented the technology (Stephen Merchant) is being chased, and his son August (Christopher Convery) knows how to access the info as well.

Lisbeth is in a race against her sister (Sylvia Hoeks) in a twist that is revealed in the trailers, but should have been held back.

There are a ton of action beats here, some decent, but others just silly.  The film is really more of a Mission Impossible or a James Bond type of flick. There is less darkness in the movie and Lisbeth is no where near as harsh as she was in the previous movie.  Where as the other movie showed Lisbeth taking to a serious extreme and being more psychological, this was more action/adventure.  I think this did not work as well for Lisbeth than the previous way.

Claire Foy continues her strong work this year.  I liked her as Lisbeth, or at least, what they let her do as Lisbeth.  I think she would have been a great actress to take this character to another level, but the film does not want to let her do it.

There were many scenes where I was bored during the movie.  It did not grip me the way I had hoped it would.  There were too many scenes where I was rolling my eyes wondering how that was even possible.  The Girl in the Spider’s Web was too predictable and too poorly executed and took a character that could be an original female protagonist and made her into just another action hero.

2.7 stars

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch

You’re a mean one… well, maybe not that mean.

The Grinch is the newest version of the Dr. Seuss classic children’s book, How the Grinch Who Stole Christmas and this film is an animated film from Illumination, the company that brought us the Minions.

Benedict Cumberbatch voiced the Grinch and he does a nice job. The problem is that the Grinch seemed to be an alright dude early in this film.  He had some bad things happen to him, but I did not think that his heart was three times too small.  He was just lonely.  I would have liked to see the Grinch be more rotten early here.

The film followed the book pretty closely, except of course that there is way more added, because it is a short book, and the original animated version was around 20 minutes long.  This film is 86 minutes which requires a bunch more to the story.  Unfortunately, most of the additions were weaker than the parts from the actual story.  The middle of the film dragged a bit, making it feel longer than the 86 minutes.

The animation is wonderful and the colors are beautiful.  The film looks great.  The voices are really strong as well.  Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, Angela Lansbury all do good work with voices.  I was not a huge fan of Pharrell Williams as the narrator.  His voice was not as deep or tense as Boris Karloff from the original.

This is a fine version, although fairly unremarkable.  There are some funny bits, but it is stretched out too much.  There is great animation and strong voice work.  The film will probably be loved by a lot of the kids watching it, and it is passable for the adults.  It could be worse.

3 stars

Overlord

J.J. Abrams newly produced horror/thriller is awesome.  It is tense and exciting and about as dramatic as you are going to get.

How could you go wrong by combining a war movie fighting Nazis with a monster/zombie movie?  It is like peanut butter and chocolate.

Overlord had a strong young cast (including Agents of SHIELD’s Fitz, Iain De Caestecker).  There is Jovan Adepo (from Fences and mother!), Wyatt Russell (Everybody Wants Some), and Pilou Asbæk.  There are some good performances here as these actors brought more to these roles than you might expect.

The story takes place as US Forces were preparing to invade France during D-Day in World War II.  What we did not know was that a small team of US soldiers needed to be dropped into a village in France to destroy a tower if the US Forces had any hope of landing on the beaches of Normandy. However, once they found this village, the crew found more than what they thought they would.

Overlord is a violent film with some serious gore involved.  The tension is tight and the anxiety was real.  Jovan Adepo had the feeling of a star, commanding the screen throughout the movie.  He reminded me of a younger John Boyega.  I can see this young man being a real star for years to come.

The effects are very strong and the war scenes are put together very well. There may be some real stretching of the disbelief in a few scenes.

This is a fun film with a great atmosphere.  You are engrossed with the heroes, who are surprisingly three dimensional, and are in fear of the villains.  The film is a B-level movie, but that does not make it a bad thing.  It is a lot of fun.

4 stars

Copycat (1995)

Copycat

I do like serial killers.  Always have.  They fascinate me.

So with this thriller where at the heart of the story is a serial killer who was copycatting some of the most infamous serial killers inhistory, well, that film is one for me.

When you throw in the powerful casting of Sigourney Weaver and Holy Hunter into the mix, it only gets better.  Then, there is a creepy performance for the ages from Harry Connick Jr.  to make it all the more intense and suspenseful.

After being assaulted and nearly killed by obsessed killer Daryll Lee Cullem (Connick Jr), Dr. Helen Hudson (Weaver) wound up an agoraphobic.  However, Helen, a clinic psychologist specializing in serial murders, cannot stay out as she made several calls to the police, trying to give assistance on a new serial case.

Detective M.J. Monahan (Hunter) was the only one who was taking Helen’s calls seriously, and enlisted the sometimes unwilling aid of Helen to find the copycat killer (William McNamara).

The first time I saw this years ago, I was on the edge of my seat.  I will admit that I was not as filled with anxiety this time around.  Age will do that to you.  However, I still enjoyed the film and the performances of these actors.

I very much liked how Weaver’s character used her smarts to outwit the copycat killer at a point in the film.  She should be shown as intelligent and when she confronted him, Weaver showed how much of a bad ass she really could be.

Some of the other police officers did some really dumb things, which I felt was just because the plot needed them to be dumb.  That is a drawback to the writing.  Other than that, I liked Copycat very much and had a good time watching it.

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Copycat

 

The Birdcage (1996)

As the country approaches an important vote on Tuesday, I looked back at a film, where at its center, was love and acceptance of differences.

The Birdcage starred Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as a middle aged gay couple who run a drag club in Miami.  Armand (Williams) had a son Val (Dan Futterman) who had fallen in loved with a young girl (Calista Flockhart) and wanted to get married.  The problem is the girl’s parents were extremely conservative, with her father being Senator Keeley (Gene Hackman) who had co-founded an organization for the morals of the country.

Val returned to see his father and “mother” Albert (Lane) to get their help to convince the Senator that they were a typical family.

Meanwhile, Senator Keeley’s co-founder died in the bed of an underage black prostitute, creating a huge scandal.  Keeley decided to escape the press by taking his wife Louise (Dianne Wiest) to meet Val and Val’s family.

There are a lot of uncomfortable moments in The Birdcage, a film based on the French film “La Cage aux Folles,” when the characters are being forced into situations that they simply are unable to exist within.  One could argue that the selfishness of Val and Barbara are really on display here, throwing their parents’ feeling away.  Val is downright cruel to the overtly emotional and practically on fire flaming Albert, never once really considering the feelings of the man he considered a mother.  Armand had to do so much damage control, but, in that damage control, we see the real and deeply caring relationship between these two men and you understand how Armand could live with the temperamental Albert.  The scene where Williams finds Lane sitting on a bench and gives him the palimony agreement is such a beautiful scene of love between two people that it really underscores the idea of the film.

Albert and Armand are willing to do anything for Val, even what might be uncomfortable or mean, because they love him and they accept him.  Val’s learns that lesson as the film moves on and when he finally cuts through the crap, we understand that he sees what he has done and that he had the power to straighten it out.

The film is remarkably funny, with the robust scene stealer Agador (Hank Azaria) as a Guatemalan house boy dominating every scene.  Robin Williams truly anchors the wild performance of Nathan Lane and keeps everything under control.  He still has his share of laughs, but it comes from his dry wit and the situations instead of his normal hectic manner.

Gene Hackman is spot on as the conservative senator who finds himself smack dab in the middle of an unbelievable scandal.  His sweetness toward “Mother Coldman” shows that he is not a bad man, just one who may not see the same way as the others.

The film shows that there is the possibility of people of different lifestyles to come together and help one another instead of immediately entering into hatred.  The lesson that Val learns is a lesson that much of the country these days need to learn as well.  The Birdcage is a wonderfully funny, engaging film that celebrates individuality.  When Armand, Albert and even Agador tried to be what they were not, the struggles for everybody involved was obvious.

This is a great movie that is eminently rewatchable.

paragon