The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine, died just a few weeks ago. I remember following his “career” when I was in high school. I was always fascinated by the eccentric behavior displayed by the publisher.

With his death, I decided to revisit the biopic from 1996, The People vs. Larry Flynt starring Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love and Edward Norton.

This role was one of the earliest efforts of Woody Harrelson to break away from the Cheers sitcom world. Coming off the Natural Born Killers, this movie placed Harrelson into a new stratosphere of his career. Harrelson was nominated for his first Academy Award for this biopic.

The controversial publisher’s life is examined in this biopic, focusing on his rise to the top of the nudie magazine world and his constant court battles against those looking to bring him down. It is odd to buy, but Larry Flynt was always a proponent of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Wrapping himself in the Constitution, Flynt acted the fool to bring the contempt for his opposition.

Not only is Harrelson tremendous, so was Courtney Love. Courtney Love, playing Flynt’s wife Althea, transformed herself from stripper to eventual victim of AIDS. Althea and Flynt had a complicated relationship but the film does a great job of presenting how much they loved each other. The chemistry between Harrelson and Love was obvious every second they shared the screen.

It was weird to see James Carville, well known Democratic political strategist, appearing as the prosecutor Simon Leis who worked on Flynt’s first trial. Looking at his list of credits on IMDB, he has spent the most of his acting career playing James Carville (he was also in the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford).

The People vs. Larry Flynt was an impressive biopic and truly does have something to say.

RIP Larry.

Kick Ass (2010)

This past Friday’s episode of WandaVision had a scene where Wanda and Pietro made a reference to Kick Ass. It was funny because both the actor who played Pietro in the episode, Evan Peters, and the actor who originated the role of Pietro in the MCU, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, appeared in the movie Kick Ass. It had been quite awhile since I saw the Mark Millar inspired comic book movie.

Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. originated the characters of Kick Ass and Hit Girl in a Marvel Comics book (under the company’s Icon Comics imprint), which was reprinted in Image Comics.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) was a comic book geek who always wanted to be a superhero. One day, Dave decided to order himself a green wet suit and become Kick Ass, posting his adventures online. Since Dave had no specific super powers, his fights as Kick Ass were less than impressive, though the exploits did create an online sensation.

Kick Ass’s efforts drew the attention of vigilante Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his daughter Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), whose revenge campaign against drug kingpin Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) was just beginning. Dave finds himself deep in a violent world of vengeance.

Kick Ass is a remarkably violent and bloody film, anchored by the fun and charismatic characters of Kick Ass and Hit Girl. I have never been a huge fan of the bloody murdering super hero (Punisher type). Growing up with Spider-Man, I have always been of the mind that super heroes do not kill. However, there is no denying the charm of the film and the heroic aspects of the characters, especially Kick Ass, who lacked any measurable skills or abilities for the role. His desire to do good outweighed his own personal danger and that is absolutely what a hero is.

Nicolas Cage was fantastic here. Kick Ass marked a bit of a resurgence for Nic Cage, moving into a different stage of his career. Big Daddy loved his daughter above all else…except perhaps for his vengeance. He is the type of character that could have been fascinating to go into a deeper dive with considering the argument that he is totally off-kilter would not be incorrect. Cage dresses Big Daddy in a Batman-like outfit and the connection to Batman, using his young ward in his fight against crime, is unmistakable. The film touches on, but does not go into great detail, about the moral implications of this partnership.

There are some gay moments and uses in the movie that may not play as well in 2021 as they did in 2010.

Kick Ass does a great job of combining the world of four-color comic books with the brutal world of vigilante heroes. The violence, at times, borders on comical, but there are other times (for example the internet streaming of the torture of Big Daddy and Kick Ass) where the violence was all too real.

Director Matthew Vaughn brings his typical level of style and visual acumen to Kick Ass, overcoming, perhaps, the slightness of the plot. The film was a huge success in the early days of the current renaissance of the comic book movie genre.

Coming to America (1988)

In March, there is a film releasing on Amazon Prime that is a sequel of a movie that came out 33 years ago, which makes me feel really old. Next month see the release of Coming 2 America, the sequel to Coming to America which starred Eddie Murphy as a prince of the African country of Zamunda who comes to New York to find a bride, became something to revisit and remind me of its goodness.

Prince Akeem wanted to find a woman who he loved, who was more than just a subservient, who had a mind of her own. His father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) had an arranged marriage waiting for his son, but Akeem wanted. Accompanied with his loyal servant Semmi (Arsenio Hall), Akeem headed to Queens, New York to find his own potential queen.

To avoid any gold-diggers, Akeem decided to pretend to be destitute, a decision that did not sit well with Semmi. Eventually, Akeem met a woman named Lisa (Shari Headley), who works with her father Cleo McDowell (John Amos) at his fast food restaurant, McDowell’s, not to be confused with McDonald’s. Lisa was already dating a selfish and arrogant jerk, Darryl (Eriq La Salle). Lisa quickly is attracted to the kind and regal nature of Akeem, who takes a job mopping the floor at the restaurant.

Coming to America had always been a favorite of Eddie Murphy’s oeuvre for me, however, watching this film today, I saw some of the drawbacks to it. It did feel long, and I thought there could have been some scenes early in the film that were droppable. It did take Akeem quite a chunk of time to get to New York and he did not find Lisa for awhile. While that makes sense, some of the scenes that were included felt unnecessary.

Still, this movie is very funny and tells a sweet story with Akeem and Lisa. Their relationship felt real and they were very much worth rooting for. I might have liked a little bit more with them, since it seemed as they wound up together pretty quickly. Maybe some of the other scenes could have been edited out to include more of the interactions with Akeem and Lisa.

Eddie Murphy is fantastic here, truly embracing the sweetness of the character of Akeem. He is the most likable character Eddie has ever played, and his sweet attitude bordering on nativity. However, the film does an excellent job of showing Akeem as the fish out of water without letting him cross over into parody.

Murphy and Hall played multiple characters here, including people at the barber shop, and I am not sure that does much for the film. It certainly showed off the skills of these two actors, but it may have taken away from the narrative.

The trailers for Coming 2 America have not looked promising to me, and most times when a sequel comes this long after the original, the results are iffy. Still, Coming to America continues to be a classic and a great film to enjoy.

Synchronic (2020)

I got a message from a friend asking about my review of Bliss. He said he was desperate for new sci-fi. Then he asked if I had ever seen Synchronic. I had never even heard of it before so I watched the trailer and it was definitely intriguing. I went over to Vudu and rented the film so give it a try.

I am really glad Chris mentioned this to me.

Synchronic started Anthony Mackie as Steve and Jamie Dornan as Dennis, two paramedics in New Orleans who respond to all sorts of troubles. There is seemingly a ton of drug related issues in the area. Close friends, Steve and Dennis have a great comradery with each other which is pushed by their individual drama within their lives.

Steve and Dennis come across a series of deaths that have been connected with a new designer drug called Synchronic. Steve, who has received some terrible news, took it upon himself to target the removal of the designer drug from New Orleans. Along the way, he discovered a surprising side effect.

As Steve is pursuing this mystery, Dennis’s family is starting to fall apart as his 18-year old daughter Brianna (Ally Ioannides) disappeared.

This was a gripping story that took elements from a family drama and a buddy movie and engaged it with this science fiction story. While the third act does stretch it a bit too far, the plot here was filled with tension and anxiousness.

I love Anthony Mackie, but to be honest, outside of the Falcon and the MCU, I have not been a huge fan of the movies that he has appeared in. His IMDB page shows him as a solid secondary character, but his lead work lacking despite his clear charm and acting ability. Synchronic is perhaps his best performance outside of the MCU to date. He has great chemistry with Jamie Dornan, who also gives a very strong performance here as the husband struggling with his family. The pairing of Mackie and Dornan is the strength of the film.

There are several disturbing images at play in Synchronic too. There is an element of horror that finds its way into the imagery, building the feeling of uneasiness that is pervasive throughout the film.

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, successful independent film directors of The Endless and Resolution (and Benson has been tapped as the director for the upcoming MCU Disney + series Moon Knight), have received probably their highest profile film to date. It certainly has the two biggest stars that they have worked with as well. There inclusion of the character aspects of the film brought it to a much higher level than many other directors may have taken it.

It is a shame that this movie did not receive as much attention as it deserved. Synchronic is a definite challenging watch and provides some creative ideas with a strong character piece.

Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla (2002)

After anxiously watching the new trailer today for the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong film from Legendary Pictures, I had a desire to se a monster movie. Yet, I could not find one that truly interested me. Then, I discovered something on Vudu that I had not expected.

A 2002 version of Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla.

I remembered watching a version of this when I was a kid and would go to the Sunday afternoon matinee at the local theater which would be playing old Godzilla movies. I loved that so much. I was nowhere near a kid in 2002 though so I did not know what this film was.

The film was a Japanese kaiju film directed by Masaaki Tezuka and it was treated as a direct sequel to the original 1954 Godzilla film. In fact, the human characters in the film used the skeleton of the original Godzilla from that film to create their mechanized robot in response to the return of the King of Monsters. In a battle with the new Godzilla, maser-cannon technician Lieutenant Akane Yashiro (Yumiko Shaku) failed to stop the rampaging Godzilla, leading to the death of several of her squad. Her failure was able to help spur her on in the battle with Godzilla.

This Godzilla looked better than the original Godzilla, looking less like the guy in a rubber suit as many of the Godzilla films did. It had more of a Power Rangers feel to it though.

I have to say, as a huge fan of Godzilla, casting the giant lizard in the villain role, making me cheer for MechaGodzilla is not what I wanted. In fact, I found myself rooting for Godzilla in much of the movie. It appeared that Godzilla may be cast as the villain position in the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong film as well, so maybe I need to get used to it.

The dubbing of the English over the Japanese speaking characters was pretty well done. That usually irritates me, but this film’s dubbing did not bother me at all.

The design of this Godzilla felt more like the Godzilla we are getting in the most recent films from Legendary, looking solid.

The story is simple and the humans are kept at a minimum. The Godzilla/MechGodzilla fights are great and dramatic. This was good fun.

Mystery Men (1999)

With 2021 being poised to be the biggest year of comic book movies/shows ever, I wanted to revisit a film that was base don a comic book that kind of flew under the radar in the early days of the comic book movie renaissance. Mystery Men was based loosely on Dark Horse’s Flaming Carrot Comics.

A group of wannabe superheroes, Mister Furious (Ben Stiller), The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) and The Shoveler (William H. Macy) are on the streets of Champion City doing their best. Unfortunately, their best has not been very good. A run-in with the local star superhero Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear) at an old folks home made it even more obvious.

However, Captain Amazing had done such a great job of superheroing that crime was at an all time low and he was becoming bored. So Captain Amazing worked to get his old nemesis, Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) released from the the insane asylum so he had an opponent to make headlines with. Casanova Frankenstein captured Captain Amazing and the villain planned on causing massive damage to the city.

Mister Furious saw Captain Amazing’s capture and he, along with his friends, recruited more super heroes, including Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo), The Spleen (Paul Reubens) and the Sphinx (Wes Studi). Together the team had to overcome their internal strife in order to save the city.

There are a lot of really fun moments in this movie, which is filled with original characters that have great chemistry with one another. The reason this works so well is that the cast is clearly having a blast playing these off-the-wall characters. Reports indicated that several of the cast were given leeway to adlib their dialogue to add bits to their characters and, since there are several comedians in the cast, it worked pretty fluidly.

There were some shocking moments in the film as well, directly from the potentially incompetence of the heroes. Another example is the fact that The Bowler had her father’s (Carmine the Bowler) skull in her bowling ball. This was shown more clearer than the fate of Captain Amazing. The film has my respect for the risks that it took.

It is a fun and entertaining film that showcases its talent extremely well.

The Addams Family (1991)

There have been several adaptations of the original cartoon created by Charles Addams in 1938. One of the best known, of course, is the TV show featuring John Astin. However, the big screen eventually called as well and The Addams Family arrives, creepy and kooky.

Admittingly, the sequel to this film, Addams Family Values, is considered a better overall film, this 1991 film version had plenty of positives going for it, starting off with a strong cast. Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston were perfectly cast as the head of the family, Gomez and Morticia Addams. Christopher Lloyd was cast as Gomez’s estranged brother Fester. Christina Ricci, a star in the making, stole the show as the psychotic Wednesday Addams.

There were some wonderfully dark and gloriously funny moments throughout the film as Gomez and his “brother” Fester were reunited after a desperate fight from their youth. However, Fester was not what he appeared, as the audience was aware. He was the son of Abigail Craven (Elizabeth Wilson), and he just happened to look exactly like Fester. They plotted, along with Gomez’s family lawyer Tully (Dan Hedaya), to have Fester pretend to have returned in order to get their hands on the Addams family treasure.

This led to a series of very funny bits. However, most of the best comedic moments were stand alone moments or side scenes. For example, Wednesday is electrocuting her brother Pusgley (Jimmy Workman), the tour of the Addams graveyard or Thing getting a job.

The problem with the film, which does make it lesser than Addams Family Values, is that the story itself it disjointed and does not blend well together. The coincidental aspect of the film, especially the resolution of the story, is hard to buy. Overall the plot feels as if it could require some tightening.

However, the cast and their performances are great and the humor really works most of the time that The Addams Family is a fun watch that does hold up over the years. The effects for the time are fine and being funny helps to cover any holes that might be in the plot. The sequel is better, but this is a solid start.

Apollo 13 (1995)

One of my favorite Ron Howard movies of all-time, Apollo 13 does a tremendous job of telling the story of a “successful failure” for NASA in 1970.

The true story of the crew and their families of the Apollo 13 moon mission made a truly dramatic and thrilling film, anchored by an amazing cast of actors. The cast included Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton as the three-man crew of the Apollo 13, Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise, respectively. The cast also included Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Kathleen Quinlan, Xander Berkeley, Christian Clemenson, and Jean Speegle Howard.

In 1970, the Apollo 13 mission launched with the intention of landing on the moon. The space program had started to become less interesting to the public at large with the space race with the Russians over. Still, the mission was scheduled. Two days prior to the departure, intended pilot Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) was grounded because of his potential exposure to measles. Replacing Ken with Jack Swigert, Apollo 13 continued on its path.

Unfortunately, during the routine stirring of the oxygen tank, an explosion severely damaged the space shuttle and put the astronauts’ survival into question. Working with a desperate purpose, NASA tried to return the crew safely back to earth.

There are a couple of thing to say about Apollo 13 right off the bat. First, this movie does a remarkable job of creating tension and anxiety in a situation where we already know turned out to be a success. As the crew was making their reentry through the planet’s atmosphere, I was on the edge of my seat despite knowing that they made it in real life. In fact, every time I have watched this movie, I have tears in my eyes when they make it back. The film and its crew do an unbelievable job of building that uncertainty despite our prior knowledge. A big part of that, I think, has to be the score from James Horner. It does a fantastic job of amping up the mood of the film for the audience.

A second major win Apollo 13 has going for it was how it was able to take what could have been boring technical sections and turned them into exhilarating scenes. Whether it be Ken Mattingly in the simulator or Jack restarting the engines, these technically charged moments were thrilling as any.

The special effects of the film are great. It does some of the best work at portraying the environment of outer space and its effects on the characters. The film looked great, but it was not over-the-top with its effects. The effects played well into the story of this crew and their survival tale.

The use of real-life news footage was expertly woven into the film, and the movie brilliantly transported us back in time to 1970s, not only in word, but in tone. Everything about this film felt accurate and of the time, which is an achievement.

Apollo 13 is a tremendously entertaining and engaging movie that holds the audience’s attention with a great script, powerful actors and characters who are using their intelligence to solve literal life and death problems.

Big Hero 6 (2014)

I had some time tonight and found this on Starz. It had been awhile since I had seen Big Hero 6 so I put it on as I was working on the last list.

What a great film this is.

Hiro (Ryan Potter) and Baymax (Scott Adsit) have one of the best relationships you could ever see in a movie. The connection between them so sweet. Baymax unwaveringly caring for Hiro after the death of his brother is as wonderful as you can get. Baymax helps Hiro work through his anger and leads him past the grief.

And he does it in a movie that is laugh out loud funny.

I remember guessing the identity of the villain when I first saw the film back in theaters, but that does not prevent my love for Big Hero 6. In fact, the look of the villain was just one more aspect of how this remarkably cool animated movie was.

Disney Studios took a little known Marvel property and adapted it into an Oscar-winning animated movie that is for all the family. Plus, there was a fantastic yet unexpected Stan Lee cameo at the post credit scene.

To be fair, the film does very little to develop any other of the characters besides Hiro, Baymax and (somewhat) Fred (T.J. Miller). The rest of Big Hero 6 are regulated to the back burner and team member status. I think that was okay as the story was really the story of Hiro and Baymax more than it was the superhero team Big Hero 6. There is only so much time available to the movie and they used it wisely to cover Hiro and Baymax. I know there is an animated series of Big Hero 6, so I would assume that the others would get their background there.

Baymax was one of the most original and creative characters to make the big screen. His dedication to Hiro as his personal healthcare companion is inspiring and you can’t help but love the huggable robot. His character design is amazing, presenting him as what looks like a big pillow. Baymax endures himself to the audience almost immediately and his using tape to plug holes or seeming like he is drunk when his battery is low just makes us love him more.

Big Hero 6 is absolutely filled with that Disney magic. It is wonderful.

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Was flipping through Roku TV last night and I came across Sam Raimi’s classic Spider-Man. This was my favorite super hero movie for quite awhile (until the recent expansion of the MCU). I love Spider-Man and this felt like the most iconic version of the Web-Head.

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is struggling through his life, trying to make way with his lack of money, classwork and relationships, all the while hoping to continue his alternate life as the Web-Swinger. However, when a lab accident turned mild manners scientist Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) into the psychotic, metallic armed Doctor Octopus, Peter has to battle him to save the city.

Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock is nearly perfect. The film took the character and gave a bit of a twist to him with the arms being somewhat sentient and mentally suggesting, if not controlling Octavius. It allows Doc Ock to have a moment of clarity at the end of the film which helped the story and resolution (making if different than Raimi’s previous Spider-Man movie).

I don’t know if it is because of how much I like Tom Holland, but Tobey Maguire felt more miscast in the role of Peter Parker than I had ever felt before. Maybe it was the age thing, with Maguire being older than he was playing. He was fine as Peter, but there was just something about him that bugged me with this viewing.

Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson also did not feel as perfect as it did back when I first saw this movie. I mean, she does not ruin anything for me, but she would not be my prime choice for MJ despite her undeniable beauty.

Spider-Man 2 has what is arguably one of the greatest sequences in comic book movie history. The Spidey-Doc Ock train fight is as good as it gets. It perfectly encapsulated everything good about the character of Spider-Man and how he relates to the people of New York. His never say die attitude and his determination to save the people on the train under any circumstances is astounding. Then, the reaction of the people on the train to their savior was iconic. Tears were in my eyes when that kid said, “We won’t tell nobody” about Spidey’s mask being off. So much emotion being shown by the people involved… it is truly one of the best scenes in any super hero movie.

The film is based on the iconic comic book run of “Spider-Man No More” starting in Amazing Spider-Man #50.

We see more of Peter Parker and what makes him tick in this movie. We see the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane, between Peter and his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Peter and Harry (James Franco). Putting Octavius as a scientific inspiration to Peter was smart as well, because it gives them a deeper connection than just hero-villain.

There are all kinds of Sam Raimi flares scattered about the the movie. His flavor is unmistakable and tehre are scenes that are pulled directly out of previous Raimi work. The scene in the operating room where Doc Ock’s tentacles first come to life is a perfect example of Sam Raimi’s style. I am anxious to see how Sam Raimi’s style translates into the MCU with Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.

Of course there is also perhaps the greatest bit of casting in comic book movie history is here as well as J.K. Simmons reprised his role as J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of the Daily Bugle. Simmons steals every scene he is in and is completely tremendous as JJJ. You can’t talk about the original Spider-Man trilogy without mentioning J.K. Simmons.

Spider-Man 2 has the feel of a comic book come to life. The fantasy of the hero swinging through the city, sacrificing for the unknown is powerful. I have heard some criticism that this film does not hold up, but I would disagree whole-heartedly. This is still one of the best Spider-Man movies of all time and it laid the groundwork for what the character could possibly be on the big screen.

A Christmas Story (1983)

Yesterday I watched Elf, which was a beloved Christmas movie that I had never seen. I knew a few scenes but I had never watched the whole film. Tonight, I removed another Christmas classic from the list of Christmas movies that I had never seen before, A Christmas Story.

Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) wanted a a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas more than anything. As he tried to figure out a way to get the Old Man (Darren McGavin) and his mother (Melinda Dillon) to get him a Red Ryder for a present, Ralphie had to make his way through a challenging childhood, dodging a bully Scut Farkus (Zack Ward) among others.

Of course, everybody tells Ralphie that the Red Ryder BB gun would only lead to him “shooting his eye out.”

A Christmas Story was a nostalgic trip back to a simpler time and is filled with humor. Poor sad sack Ralphie never seemed to catch a break and you could root for him easily. You knew things weren’t going to turn out okay though. So when he has his major confrontation with the bully, you cheered for him.

There was a lot of humor in the movie as Ralphie tried his best to navigate through his youth. The scene with Flick (Scott Schwartz) got his tongue froze to the metal pole during recess is an iconic moment and still plays wonderfully.

The film was imaginative and included plenty of fantasy scenes directly from the head of Ralphie. These scenes gave the film a true magical, almost dreamlike state. This set the tone for the film and showed the audience what to expect.

The performances were all solid, especially from the parents, Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon. They were an old fashion couple, but their relationship felt real even among the fantasy. The whole battle over the leg lamp was some of the best scenes of the film not directly connected to Ralphie.

Speaking of Ralphie, Peter Billingsley was perfect as the young boy. His bright blue eyes shined through each scene he was in and his child performance has to be considered one of the best of all time.

A Christmas Story is clearly Christmas classic and I am glad to have finally added it to my list of watched movies.

Home Alone (1990)

An iconic movie is on the docket next as I revisited the John Hughes classic Home Alone. I had been wanting to rewatch Home Alone for a little while now, and, with it on Disney + and a season for Christmas movies, I played the film.

It really is silly. The things that happen just are not really possible. However, I think that is part of the fun. It is an escapist fantasy where the audience can cheer for this little boy who is trying to protect himself and his house from these crooks. Sure, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) could not have set up all of those booby traps for the Wet Bandits and these traps would potentially kill Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern)– at the very least concuss them.

The whole set up for the family heading off to Paris without Kevin is a series of coincidences and happenstances that have to all happen for the plot to work. Again, you suspend that clear doubtful situations because it is fun. Catherine O’Hara as Kevin’s mom Kate adds credibility to the story with her mere presence. Her character makes a ton of mistakes, but you can relate to her easily, from the stress from holiday family gatherings and rushing to the airport to her mama lion determination to make it back to her son.

Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are veterans who bring a great amount of charisma and chemistry with one another. They fall right into the same type of comedic pairing like Abbot and Costello, able to bounce back, almost cartoon-like, from these devastating slapstick booby traps.

By the way, how about the scene of the whole family rushing through the airport and arriving mere minutes before the plane is to depart. That sure is a picture of a bygone era. No way that would happen in today’s society of being at the airport hours ahead of time. It was the first thing I thought as I watched that moment in the movie.

Home Alone is an enjoyable film with a breakout performance from Macaulay Culkin and a group of wonderful actors surrounding him. I did not even mention John Candy, John Heard, and Roberts Blossom, who all are significant actors in the cast. It is similar to the Road Runner/Wile Coyote situation in the Looney Tunes cartoons.

It is a classic.

Elf (2003)

I had never seen Elf.

Honestly, I was not in a big hurry to watch it wither. You see, I am not a big fan of Will Farrell and this felt like just more of the same. I have liked a few of Farrell’s films, but not enough to search out any past films of his to watch.

Some of my 7th grade students found out that I had not seen Elf just today, and they were shocked. Then, tonight, I was listening to the Top 10 Show with John Rocha and Matt Knost and they each had Elf at their number one on their lists of Christmas films from the 21st Century. I had thought that I would eventually watch the film, so I decided I would watch it tonight. Get it out of the way.

I was thoroughly thrilled and unbelievably charmed. I see what everybody has been saying. Elf is wonderful.

Will Farrell played Buddy the Elf, a human baby who accidentally winds up in Santa’s (Ed Asner) sack and returns with him to the North Pole. Once there, Buddy is given to Papa Elf (Bib Newhart) to raise. Papa Elf does all he can for Buddy, but it soon becomes clear that Buddy was not a regular elf.

Once he discovered the truth, Buddy is told about his real father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan), an executive at a publishing house in New York, who had no idea that he was Buddy’s father… or that Buddy even existed. So, Buddy took off from the North Pole to go to New York and find his father. One problem. According to Santa, Buddy’s father was on the naughty list.

This is the best performance I have ever seen given by Will Farrell. One of my issues with him is that he is too chaotic as an actor. I have found him loud and really playing the same character. However, I found this to be the most subtle and in control Will Farrell has been. Buddy was so filled with innocence and a joy of the unfamiliar world that was unfolding before his eyes, and Will Farrell brought this to this character in spades. He was totally charming and easy to love and I couldn’t believe how much I was enjoying the performance.

The film was really funny as well. I found myself laughing out loud throughout the movie. Again, I have always found Will Farrell humor to be forced and unfunny. This was not how I found Elf. It was such an easy watch and so light and pleasant. I had a big smile on my face the entire time and even had a few tears in my eyes at the end.

Elf was not perfect, but I thought it was near so. The one area that felt rushed was how quickly Walter turned from angry, negligent father who wanted no part of Buddy, to father who is willing to leave his job to find his oldest son. It did not feel gradual. It felt like a switch was thrown and that was the one area that I had a problem with.

That was about it for negatives. Everything else worked extremely well and I could not believe how much I loved this movie.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

There really are not that many major Thanksgiving movies. Compared to the other holidays, Thanksgiving does not have nearly enough representation. Historically, the most well-known and one of the most beloved Thanksgiving movies was starring Steve Martin and John Candy and it was called Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

This was a movie that I had actually never seen until tonight.

Neal Page (Steve Martin) was trying to get home to his family for Thanksgiving, but it seemed as if the fates were conspiring against him. It started when Del Griffith (John Candy) stole his taxi and only went downhill from there.

Neal met up with Del, the shower curtain ring salesman, at the airport and they wind up trying to find their way back to Chicago. However, Neal was finding that the trip with Del was more than he could handle.

The comedic timing of this movie was beautifully executed and there was remarkable chemistry between Steve Martin and John Candy. Both men showed their extremely strong comedic skills. Candy’s character was a lovable, annoying oaf that would get on Martin’s last nerve.

While you could understand the frustration Martin would show towards Candy, you wanted him to not be so mean. Candy reveal a lot of depth to this apparently surface character. This was not just one of those annoying characters that have been used through the years. Candy’s Del Griffith was more than what you could see, and that depth took this movie to a different level.

The writing was sharp. The dialogue flowed. The movie is funny. You would wonder what else these two men could have happen to them.

John Hughes is the director of this film and you can certainly get the feel of him in this.

The reactions of Steve Martin are just perfect here. You can relate to him and, yet, you don’t blame the extremely likable Candy. The pairing worked so well that despite the movie being a little predictable, you go along with it. The strength of these two make the film what it is.

I will say that I was just a little disappointed with the ending of the film, simply because I wanted to know something more about what happened to them (in particular, Del). It is a minor complaint, but I did want more when the credits started to roll.

This is definitely a classic Thanksgiving movie and I am glad that I finally had the chance to watch it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Impossible (2012)

The Impossible is directed by J.A. Bayona and features Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, along with a younger pre-Spider-Man Tom Holland in a true survival tale set during the terrible tsunami that struck Thailand in 2004.

Henry Bennett (Ewan McGregor) and his family were on vacation in Thailand when the massive wave struck the beach resort that they were staying at. Henry and his two youngest sons were together but his wife Maria (Naomi Watts) and oldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) were separated from them. Maria was injured badly and Lucas struggled to keep her as safe as he could.

Honestly, the reunion between the family members is one of the most satisfying, most emotional moments you could hope for in a major motion picture. It gets me every time.

The Impossible really highlights how strong of a young actor Tom Holland was and it was clear that the kid was going to have himself a bright future in the world of cinema. While the Web-Head action was still several years away, Holland’s character here showed definite signs of being heroic. Holland was a clear standout here and carried most of the emotional baggage of the film, having to change between feelings instantly.

Naomi Watts received an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination for her gritty, dirty and desperate performance as Maria. The vulnerability she showed in the role and her remarkable connection with Tom Holland provided some of the film’s best scenes.

There are some criticisms of the film for choosing to highlight the terrible Indian Ocean tsunami and to focus on a white British family, but I think that is stretching things a bit. There were some great moments that showed the strength of the local people of Thailand and how they raised up to help their fellow humans.

Based on the true story of Maria Belón, The Impossible was a powerful film. Admittedly, the title of the movie is not as equally powerful, leaning toward the side of generic. Fortunately, there is not much else generic of The Impossible.