The Princess Bride (1987)

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I was so looking forward to this.

The special 30th anniversary showing of my favorite movie of all time occurred today thanks to Fathom Events.  EYG Hall of Fame movie The Princess Bride is the answer I give whenever someone asks me what my favorite movie is.  And I got to see it again today on the big screen.

Let’s get this out of the way first. This movie is…

paragon

Paragon being the highest rating I can give, of course, if anyone doubted it.

The Fathom Event showing of The Princess Bride added a neat little interview with director Rob Reiner, by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, giving us inside stories both before the movie started and after it finished.  It added a wonderful bookend to the film told in that special way that only Rob Reiner can do.

The film itself is a masterpiece.  Adapted from a novel by William Goldman, The Princess Bride is the love story between Buttercup (Robin Wright) and farm boy Westley (Cary Elwes).  After being separated and having Westley supposedly murdered by pirates, Buttercup swears to never love again.  So when Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) came calling, the beautiful young girl just heads through the motions.  However, Humperdinck had dastardly plans that included starting a war with the neighboring kingdom of Gilder.  In order to start this war, Humperdinck hired Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), Inigo (Mandy Patinkin) and Fezzik (Andre the Giant) to kidnap Buttercup.  To the trios chagrin, the Dread Pirate Roberts shows up to throw a monkey wrench into their plans.

The film narrates this story as if a grandfather (Peter Falk) is reading this story to his ailing grandson (Fred Savage) in the most charming of relationships.

This film has more quotable lines than most movies have even memorable ones.  Every few minutes there are iconic lines that the entire theater knows.  Despite that, everyone still laughs at them.  From every “Inconceivable” to “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya…” The Princess Bride is laced with wonderful dialogue and storytelling.

The performances are all top notch.  Elwes and Wright are as believably charming and loving as you will ever see on screen.  Mandy Patinkin and his foil, Count Rugan (Christopher Guest) really bring a powerful emotion to their scenes.  Andre the Giant is remarkable throughout, despite his heavy accent causing some issues with comprehension.  Wallace Shawn, who was reportedly afraid that he was going to be fired and replaced with the film’s first choice Danny DeVito, delivers an absolutely iconic performance that could never be topped no matter whom they may try to hire.

The comedy works today as well as it did back in the 1980s.  The story is timeless.  True love is always a great hook for a fairy tale, and The Princess Bride is one of the best original fairy tales to every make it to the big screen.

Scene stealers Billy Crystal and Carol Kane appeared late in the film as Miracle Max and his wife Valerie, but they are perhaps some of the most memorable moments of the entire film. Crystal reportedly was so funny with his improvisation on his lines that Rob Reiner had to leave the set to keep from laughing.

You cannot pick just one moment from this brilliant film.  I personally love the Cliff of Insanity fencing duel between Inigo and Westley.  There is the Shrieking Eels.  Miracle Max.  Fezzik jogging the memory of the Albino (Mel Smith).  The Impressive Clergyman (Peter Cook) and his “Mawwage is what bwings us togeva today” line.  To the pain.

And the remarkably emotional and powerful final confrontation with Inigo and Count Rugan.  That moment is a sure fire crowd please and never fails to give me goose bumps.

Some of the effects may not be as up to date as we get today, but I would argue that the effects here add to the fairy tale aspect of the film and only make it more charming.  Seeing men in their R.O.U.S. (rodents of unusual size) outfits crawling around the Fire Swamp is so much more preferable to the overuse of CGI in today’s world.  I also find it unbelievably fun when I see Inigo’s wet hair, after Fezzik sobers Inigo up by dumping his head over and over into water, change location on the Spaniard’s face.  Little things like that make this so much more engaging and adds to its charm.

I keep using that word.  Charm (not inconceivable).  That is the best way I can describe this classic.  It is a film that I can practically recite every line word for word, and yet I can watch and be utterly enthralled with every beat.  I love many of Rob Reiner’s early films, but The Princess Bride is in a league of it own.

As you wish.

 

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E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

I was able to attend a Fathom showing of the 35th anniversary of the Steven Spielberg classic E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial today, and I wondered if, since this was a movie that I have not seen for years– check that–decades even, this was a film that would not hold up upon my considerably older eyes.

Well, those eyes, full of tears, witnessed the fact that E.T. is an indomitable classic that easily holds up from the day it came out.

Everyone knows the story.  The little space alien gets accidentally left behind on earth and finds himself in the backyard of 9-year old Elliott (Henry Thomas).  Elliott lures ET out of the shed with Reese’s Pieces and into his bedroom, where they bond, quite literally.  As ET begins to show signs of illness, Elliott, along with his older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and his precocious sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore), strike up a plan to help the alien “phone home.”

This is simply a magical experience.  EYG Hall of Famer Steven Spielberg at the high of his powers.

Sure, today, the little rubber suit wearing alien may not look as realistic as the CGI creatures we see on a daily basis in Hollywood, but that is part of the charm of this film.  It adds to the feeling of the childish wonder that is a major theme of ET.

Spielberg also does some outstanding shooting of the film, with the camera shooting behind the adults, showing the point of view of the children.  In fact, with the exception of Elliott’s mother Mary (Dee Wallace), we see no adult head-on until the third act of the movie.  It is an intriguing choice that really works, creating a world of child-like wonder.

There is another EYG Hall of Famer who does some of his best work on this film.  The score of ET is done by John Williams and is hauntingly beautiful and unbelievably uplifting.  Although Williams has a huge resume to his credit, the score of ET has to be near the top as his greatest of all time.  The music is transcendent.

The film does not work if not for the performance of young Henry Thomas.  Elliott is clearly a pivotal role, and he is tremendous.  The boy goes through the gamut of emotions, from joy and wonder to heartbreaking sadness.  There were some times when he felt too whiny, but that felt real for the situation he had been placed in.

And yet some would argue that the best child performance of the film belonged to 5-year old Drew Barrymore.  You could see the sparkle in the eye of the little girl every second she was on screen as she delivered each of her lines with such a realistic flair that she was a danger for stealing every scene she was in.

The film rocked the emotional roller coaster, easily making you laugh just moments before it tore your heart out.  E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial not only holds up today, it also shows what a treasure of a film that is was.

It is absolutely a…

paragon

Zodiac (2007)

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This upcoming week will see the end of the Discovery series Manhunt: Unabomber and so I thought this was a good enough reason to watch and review the classic David Fincher movie, Zodiac, that starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo.

I have always had a soft spot for the mystery of some serial killers.  I enjoy shows and films dealing with the mysterious, such as Jack the Ripper and, in this case, the Zodiac Killer.

This is perhaps the best movie dealing with a true life serial killer ever made.

The Zodiac killer terrorized the West Coast for several years starting in the late 1960s by murdering several people and then bragging about it in taunting letters to the police and the newspapers.  Despite years of investigation, Zodiac has never been arrested or revealed.  However, this movie features several aspects of the investigation and it looks at how that investigation impacted the individuals’ lives who were doing the investigating.

Start with Robert Graysmith (Gyllenhaal), who wrote a specific book and named the individual whom he believed was the Zodiac.  Graysmith was a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle when the Zodiac letters started to appear and he found himself obsessed with trying to solve the puzzle of the identity of the killer.  At first, it was just an attempt to solve the case, and later it was for his book.  Graysmith is shown becoming as obsessed with Zodiac as a man can be, having it cost him his job and his second marriage.

Next up is Paul Avery (Downey Jr), a hard drinking reporter for the Chronicle who is in search of the story of the Zodiac and is just as obsessed as Graysmith.  Avery uses drugs and alcohol to cope with the obsession, and when Zodiac sends him a letter threatening his life, Paul starts to go downhill quickly, spiraling into the depths.

Police Inspector David Toschi (Ruffalo) worked the case of the Zodiac since the murder of the cab driver Paul Stine in San Francisco.  Toschi was the face behind the investigation for years, but he was hardly the only cop involved.  The problem was, at the time, the Zodiac’s murders happened in multiple districts leading to multiple agencies in charge.  The sharing of information between different agencies was not done smoothly and it shows how much that hampered the case Toschi was trying to build.

These three actors are tremendous in this film, showing the devastation of the investigation of the Zodiac on their lives. the frustration of trying to work within a system that seemed to be working against them and how some individuals caused suspects to be dropped over the slightest things.

The film does have an implied Zodiac.  Arthur Leigh Allen, nicknamed “Lee”, is the film’s choice as the Zodiac.  The film does highlight both sides to the case, though it does make Lee (John Carroll Lynch) look very much like the killer.  Allen is the suspect that Graysmith named as the Zodiac Killer in his book.  In the film, Lynch is amazing as the unbalanced Allan, creating an amazing tone of suspense and eeriness.  You believe that this guy could easily be the Zodiac killer just after a few scenes with him.

Other suspects are investigated though.  One specific suspect, Rick Marshall, leads Gyllenhaal to the home of movie theater owner Bob Vaughn (Charles Fleischer) and one of my absolutely most favorite scenes of all time.  I am not sure the reason it was included since it had nothing to do with the Lee investigation, but it is the creepiest, most frightening few minutes of the film.  Fleischer is as scary as any monster movie creature, and he is nothing but a stoic man.  When he turns off the light in the basement, I feel the same desire to run away as was consuming Graysmith at that moment.  It does not go anywhere, but the scene is just unbelievably epic and atmospheric.

The atmosphere of this movie is unlike any you have seen before.  You feel your skin crawl as these moments unfurl before your face.  The different Zodiac attacks, the interview of Lee at his work, the searching of his trailer, the basement scene, the isolation felt by Robert as he is slipping into his obsession… all of these scenes create such a feel for the movie.  The film is also shot so beautifully as every image in the film helps to create that same feeling of uncertainty and nervousness.

You, as an audience member, can’t help but feel the same way.  There is a distinct feeling of awkwardness or uneasiness as these characters go about their jobs.

The use of the song Hurdy Gurdy Man by Donovan is another example of how the mood of this movie is transferred to the audience.  The song is very creepy and fits perfectly in the movie.

Zodiac is one of my favorite movies of all time.  It is a wonderful film that involves the audience in the mood like few movies can.  There are great performances throughout the film, including some great work that I haven’t mentioned yet such as Anthony Edwards, Bryan Cox, Chloë Sevigny, Dermont Mulroney, Elias Koteas, Phillip Baker Hall, and John Terry.

David Fincher’s masterpiece is certainly a…

paragon

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Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

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Happy Labor Day everybody.  So in honor of Labor Day, I watched a movie that featured some of the greatest labor force in movie history.

The Oompa-Loompas.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is based on a book by author Roald Dahl and contains one of the great performances by the late Gene Wilder.

Reclusive chocolate maker Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) sent out five Golden Tickets in his chocolate bars, giving an opportunity to whomever finds the tickets to come for a tour of his mysterious Chocolate Factory.  Local kid Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) finds the fifth ticket and joins a group of rotten little children in the tour of the factory.

As soon as Gene Wilder limps out of the factory door, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory becomes a magical fantasy.  Not that this is strictly a kids’ movie, because there are multiple moments of darkness involved.  Not only the dubious disposal of the rotten children, but some of the wording that Willy Wonka gives indicates his pessimistic view of the kids whom he had invited into his world.

Each kid paid the price for their greed or their selfishness, their punishments fitting the crime.  Each punishment accompanied with a song from the Oompa-Loompas.

Wonka has some of the greatest quips and one liners in movies.  He quoted Shakespeare.  He made funny quick jokes.  Gene Wilder’s timing was perfect.  Wilder has had some amazing comedic performances in his career (Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Stir Crazy), but there have been few roles more perfect for an actor than that of Willy Wonka.

Jack Albertson’s Uncle Joe provides a nice balance to Charlie, and his dance during the song “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” is a highlight of the film.  Wilder’s “Pure Imagination,” however, is the most iconic song from the film.  “Candy Man” is another well known song from this soundtrack.

I love this movie.  It is funny, a magical trip of music and childlike wonder.  It is Gene Wilder’s greatest performance.  It is absolutely a….

paragon

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Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

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I wish I would have reversed the viewing, because watching Fire Walk With Me would have given me some more insights on the Twin Peaks finale on Showtime.  Despite being 25 years apart, it is clear that David Lynch’s vision continued right where he left off.

Fire Walk With Me was heavily included in the new series, including scenes straight from the film.  When this first came out, there was some outrage at the choice of making a prequel to Twin Peaks instead of dealing with the aftermath of the second season finale.

Plus, as with much of David Lynch’s work, this was tough to understand.

After seeing the third season on Showtime, Fire Walk With Me makes considerable more sense.  Many of the images, from the green owl ring to the Black Lodge fit in nicely with the narrative from the series.

There are plenty of unanswered questions, but you are going to get those in anything by David Lynch.  Chiefly among them include what ever happened to Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaacs), who was assigned to investigate the murder of Teresa Banks.  The Banks killing was the first known victim of Bob (Frank Silva).  This “Blue Rose” case was the beginning of the movie before it abruptly switched to the last week in the life of homecoming queen and all around great girl, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee).  Laura was not what she seemed.  She was involved in a second life of sex and drugs.  As she spiraled out of control, she desperately reached out for someone or something normal.  Her best friend Donna (Moira Kelly) she had to distance herself from when she realized that she might be dragging Donna down with her.  And her secret love James (James Marshall) did not understand the complexities of her life.

Laura had been sexually abused and raped by Bob since she was 12 years old, and when she discovered that Bob was possessing her father Leland (Ray Wise) and that Leland had been the one abusing her, things went off the track.

The story of Laura Palmer is a tragic one, full of violence and sadness.  Watching the movie after seeing the series places a new emphasis on many thing, including the role of Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) in what happened.  One wonders when she became what we saw in season three.

I do not think you can understand or appreciate this movie without having seen the Twin Peaks series.  The first two seasons for sure, but the third season helps as well.  That limitation does make this a niche viewing, though the basic story of Laura Palmer and her descent into darkness transcends the series.  You will have a deeper understanding if you are a Peaks fan.

There is little to no humor in the film that one could say is repeatedly depressing.  In fact, it does look upon some very disturbing ideas and images that simply do not include humor.  In this way, it is considerably different than the Twin Peaks series.

Looking back on the film, I thought this was better than the last time I saw it.  Perhaps the increased knowledge of the mythology of Twin Peaks may have helped that out.  There was so much darkness here that you must be in the proper place to deal with such a tragic story.

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Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind: 40th Anniversary Release

Forty years old.  I had a chance to go to the theater and see Steven Spielberg’s classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind on the big screen.  It is a wonderful science fiction story, even though Spielberg himself in an interview that proceeded the movie claimed that it was not a Sci-fi film.

Line worker Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) was involved with a shocking encounter with a UFO one night and he found that his entire life had changed.  He became obsessed with the sighting and was determined to recreate the moment.  Despite the pleas of his wife Ronnie (Teri Garr), Roy seemingly was slipping deeper and deeper into the world of madness.

Roy was not the only one.  Jill (Melinda Dillon) and her son Barry (Cary Guffey) also wound up having the same encounter, and Barry soon disappears.  Jill’s cries of alien abduction were seen as a potential cover story, but she was just as obsessed with finding her son.

The visions of the Devil’s Tower tormented both individuals, to the point where Roy’s wife and three children were fleeing from him in fear, not for their safety, but to avoid his apparent insanity.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a beautiful movie with amazing visuals.  Honestly, this is the main driving force for the film, because the story itself was really pretty cruel. Roy’s basic choice of the UFO over his own family is a dangling thread that is never fully dealt with in the movie.

There is also no reason given for the aliens to be doing what they are doing.  They are abducting people, but they seem to be friendly and like to play music.

And what music.  EYG Hall of Famer John Williams does tremendous work here, creating such a musical backdrop that rivaled the visual imagery on the screen.

I have to say though, I am still wondering about the fate of the children left behind and deserted by their father.  I thought Brad (Shawn Bishop) was especially compelling in his performance seeing his dad lose it and understanding what that meant more than his younger siblings.  What would happen to this boy?  How would this situation affect him? It is a question that I haven’t been able to get out of my head, and this is one of the reasons why Close Encounters does not translate as well to today’s world…at least in that area.

The rest of the film was wonderful and beautifully done.  The special effects for 1977 were amazing and they still hold up today in the world of CGI.  This is one of Spielberg’s great films and most of it truly deserves that credit.

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Close Encounters Of The Third Kind: 40th Anniversary Release

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

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Fifty years ago, there was a classic film released that really changed the genre.  Produced by and starring Warren Beatty, Bonnie and Clyde loosely told the true story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, notorious bank robbers during the 1930s.

Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty), an ex-con, is caught by Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) trying to steal her mother’s car.  Enamored by his criminal lifestyle, Bonnie joined him in a bank robbery as the pair began a love affair.

The Barrow gang added Clyde’s brother Buck (Gene Hackman), Buck’s wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons) and mechanic C.W. Moss (Michael Pollard), and they moved around Texas and the central states robbing banks and getting into shootouts with law enforcement.

This movie was groundbreaking because of the violence that it showed.  For the time, the violent shootouts were very graphic and the blood was shown as well.  Of course, it was tame in comparison to today’s standards, but this film led the way in what a movie could show.

Beatty and Dunaway had tremendous chemistry with one another and you truly believed that these two were the wild loves.  This was also one of the first films that shows their main protagonists as criminals, anti-heroes.  Bonnie and Clyde are extremely likable and easy to support.

The ending was a dramatic moment that came out of nowhere.  SPOILERS.  The ending was just like real life.  In a set up, Bonnie and Clyde are gunned down in a hail of bullets by police officers including Frank Hamer (Denver Pyle).  Then the movie ended right there leaving the viewing audience shocked and wanting more.  I teach plot in my literacy class and we talk about the climax of a story being followed by falling action.  There was no falling action or conclusion here.  It took the climax of the film and just threw up the “THE END” on the screen.  There was not even any boxed text like you see in other real life stories where they have info on the screen for the audience to read.  It was just done.  That made this ending all the more unbelievable.

Bonnie and Clyde was a great film with a shocking ending and two extremely charismatic leads.  The film won two Oscars as well.  50 years later, this film certainly holds up.

vintage

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Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein (1948)

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I was always a fan of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.  I loved the “Who’s On First” routine.  I loved all of their other movies.  But when they came across the Universal monsters, the pair took it to another level.

This film also boasted the appearances of Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot (who would become the Wolfman) and Bela Legosi who is the Count.

These actors truly make the film work by playing their individual monsters straight.  They are not played for humor.  In fact, that straight play works extremely well with the lines delivered by Lou Costello.

There is more slapstick comedy here than the normal Abbott and Costello movie.

Dracula has a plan.  He wants to revitalize the brain of Frankenstein’s monster by replacing it with a viable (and simple) brain.  And whose brain do you think is the one that will work?  That is right.  It is Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello).  With the help of a beautiful lady scientist (Lenore Aubert), the Count looks to lure Wilbur into the spider’s web.

This is one of Hollywood’s first horror/comedy mash-ups.  There is a lot of humor here, without sacrificing the scares.  It is also one of the better examples of the Universal monsters coming together in a movie (which also included the voice of Vincent Price as the Invisible Man making a special cameo).  The Dark Universe stumbled out of the gate with The Mummy.  Perhaps they should look at this as an option, at least with the narrative.

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Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Carrie (1976)

Carrie

This weekend sees the debut of Stpehn King’s The Dark Tower in theaters so I figured I would add one of the greatest King adaptations to the list of Classics reviewed here.

Carrie starred Sissy Spacek in the title role of a sad, put upon high school girl, who finally gets asked to the prom.  Problem is, Carrie is being set up by the mean kids.

Kids can be really cruel, and they think and do some of the meanest things just for the laughs of it.  And they can target the weaker and the different.

However, they mess up, because Carrie was anything but weak.

She was a telekinetic.  That means that she can move objects with her mind and I have always believed that TK is one of the most powerful of all super powers.  And Carrie turns this film on its head with her TK powers, changing the movie from a psychological horror movie to a revenge story.

Piper Laurie is utterly brilliant as the overbearing religious mother Margaret White.  She was just as cruel as the high school kids, but in a different way.  Locking Carrie in the closet was a terrifying scene, and Margaret earns her end.  Piper Laurie, who would eventually be on Twin Peaks, received an Oscar nomination for her role.  She was chilling.

There is a great cast around these other awesome actors.  John Travola, William Katt, Amy Irving, Betty Buckley all have important roles and have great performances here.  Brian DePalma directed the adaptation, creating some iconic imagery that continues to be a horrifying look at high schoolers and their lives.

There was a remake of Carrie a few years ago, but it was a basic reshoot of the original done with lesser performances.

This is one of the best horror films of the 1970s and arguably the best Stephen King adaptation to date.

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Carrie

Batman and Robin (1997)

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This was my least favorite movie for a long time.  Then Movie 43 came along and took its place, but that does not mean that this travesty is not still one of the worst movies ever created.

Joel Schumacher directed this turd and helped kill the Batman franchise.  After the series had been resurrected by 1989’s Batman, this, the fifth of the series, drove the nails into the coffin.  The only benefit of this is that it forced the WB to put this franchise aside until Christopher Nolan came back to the Dark Knight trilogy.

Again, this is not an excuse for why this sucked so badly.  It is just a fact.

George Clooney took over the Batman suit (fresh with bat nipples) from Val Kilmer.  He was hamstrung by the tone of the film.  The Batman series had been moving back toward the camp that the 1989 Batman left behind.  The Batman from the sixties had its detractors and the image of the character from the comics was very dark.  With the comedic tone and the campiness of the new film, Batman and Robin started in trouble.

Then, things were just went so badly.  Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze was a terrible choice.  Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy?  Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl (who was Alfred’s niece)?  A script that was so crammed full of horrid dialogue and ice puns that you could not stand it.  A Bat credit card (how does that work in the first place?)  Bat ice skates?

The whole Alfred is sick storyline was nothing but a way to force Batgirl into our world.  Chris O’Donnell played Robin as if he needed a slap across the face.

There was product placement galore.  Some of the worst examples of product placement in any movie (maybe better than the Transformers, but.. hey what isn’t?)

Oh… and Bane.  Well, maybe I really don’t have to go into how terrible this version of Bane was.

This version of Batman was too jokey to be taken seriously and too stupid to be funny.  The neon colors are vomit inducing.  The action is poorly filmed and does not make up for the ridiculous script.

These are some actual quotes from Batman and Robin:

“Let’s kick some ice! “- Mr. Freeze

“Tonight, hell freezes over! ” – Mr. Freeze

“Hey, Freeze. The heat is on.” -Batman

“You’re not sending ME to the COOLER!” – Mr. Freeze

“Chicks like you give women a bad name.” -Batgirl

“Let me guess, Plant Girl? Vine Lady? Huh? Hand over the diamond Garden Gal, or I’ll turn you into mulch!” -Mr. Freeze

“It’s the hockey team from hell!”  -Robin

“I hate to disappoint you but my rubber lips are immune to your charms.” -Robin

 

There were actually a bunch more Mr. Freeze lines that could have been included here, but you get the idea.

I’ve talked about this piece of crap for too long already.  If there was any doubt, this one is …

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Batman & Robin

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Fast Times At Ridgemont High

TCM presented a showing of 1982’s comedy classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High today through Fathom Events and it gave me a chance to see the film.  Though there were several scenes that I was familiar with, I do not believe that I ever saw the entire film until today.

Fast Times was a film based on a book from then 22-year old Cameron Crowe, whom went undercover as a high school senior and wrote an expose on what he saw.  The book would become a high school comedy filled with a great cast and some real life situations that caused a stir.

There were plenty of references to drugs and to sex.  In fact, according to today’s pre-show, the film was initially rated X, until there were some cuts made to bring the rating down to R.

And you can see why the film was rated that way.  It had characters that spoke in a matter-of-fact manner about many sexual situations as well as there being plenty of nudity and simulated drug use.

However, the film was more than just that.  In fact, though most of the characters appear to be the typical stereotyped characters we have come to know from these high school movies, the Fast Times characters were actually quite well developed.  You could understand the basis for the choices these young people made and the film did not shy away a frank illustration of the youth culture of the times.

Plus, Fast Times is really funny.  Led by Sean Penn’s iconic stoner Spicoli, there are some great comedic performances here.  It was also wonderful to see the late, great Ray Walston as Spicoli’s foil, Mr. Hand.  That relationship was over-the-top, but it was sweet and surprisingly realistic. It is the type of teacher-student adversarial relationship that other films have tried to include but with which they failed miserably.

Now, Fast Times is far from perfect.  There was a decisively missing plot, as the film was really more of a series of scenes involving these characters.  The film gets away with that because these characters are so likeable, but the story structure was definitely lacking.  There were also some seriously lacking of parental figures for these kids.  Were they all just roaming around freely?

I enjoyed seeing the special presentation of Fast Times today, and I can see where many of the film’s ideas and concepts were copied and used with lesser extent in the years since.

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Fast Times At Ridgemont High

Rear Window (1954)

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The Alfred Hitchcock classic Rear Window is one of his best films ever.  There is something isolating about it and it brings us along to feel the anxiousness displayed by James Stewart.  We see everything happening in our own POV, knowing the truth but not exactly sure what is happening.

James Stewart plays photographer L.B. Jefferies, currently confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg, who spends his day staring out his window at the apartment complex and wondering about the lives of the people he sees.  When something strange happens in one of the windows across the way, Jefferies has his imagination run away with him… or does he?

Hitchcock creates such a great mysterious story that we try to work out at the same time as the main character.  He does it with a tremendous amount of suspense and tension.  James Stewart does a remarkable job of conveying that.

Grace Kelly is here as well, playing Lisa, Jefferies girlfriend who has been trying to get him to allow her into his life at a deeper level.  She is beautiful and it is an awesome when she joins in with Jefferies’ attempts to uncover what exactly was going on.  It showed their relationship in a strong way.

Raymond Burr played Thorwald, the neighbor whose behavior makes Jefferies think he has done something dastardly.  Burr does a great job with less, creating a wonderful antagonist for Jefferies, even though you are unsure if he has done anything wrong at all.

Rear Window is one of Hitchcock’s greatest films of all time and it holds up today.  It is am amazing film.

paragon

 

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Coach Carter

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I had a chance to go to an education conference and we were lucky enough to have a chartered bus to travel from Iowa to Minneapolis.  On the trip home, we put in a movie that starred Samuel L. Jackson named Coach Carter.

Coach Carter is a basketball coach that takes a job at his old school, a school that is one of the worst school in the state in way of graduation and education.  There are several young players who have their own struggles with dedication, as well as the other typical troubles that face the typical high school student in this type of sport movie.

Coach Carter was a pretty entertaining film for one main reason.  It was Samuel L. Jackson.  Jackson is always good, even in poorly written, cliche-ridden sport movie.  Jackson had a presence and he was very believable in the role.  Without him, I am afraid that this movie would have been considerably worse.

Most of the movie’s younger actors, including a young Channing Tatum, were not very good here.  Tatum has improved dramatically as an actor and seeing him this way is a stark reminder of how much better he has become.

As an educator, there were a lot of things that were illogical or downright wrong about what goes on in the movie.  The principal and the teachers were doing and saying things that made no sense, but, ironically, much of what Coach Carter says and does was almost exactly what, ironically, was talked about at my conference.

In the end, Coach Carter is a fun time despite its problems.  And as the first of the “classic” reviews, Coach Carter gets a….

funtime

Doc’s Classic Movies Reviewed

Hey.  So, I want to start writing up some reviews for the site that give you my thoughts and opinions on other movies that occurred prior to the movie reviews on EYG.  This might be some that I had already reviewed back before the site came here to WordPress or it could be films that I have never reviewed before.

I have used the term classic in the heading of this section, but that does not necessarily mean I am only reviewing classics.  Clue could be reviewed, (ok…Outlaw?) or something that is like the original Ghostbusters, or Star Wars or Monster Squad or ET or Casablanca… etc.

In fact, I have never seen Casablanca, but I do believe it is one of the films to be included in the Fathom special series.  Films like that could get a review.

You could get cult classics- such as Rocky Horror or The Evil Dead.

I could review the “classic” films such as The Room or Birdemic: Shock and Terror.

Or even just old movies that I hadn’t reviewed before.  Films on Netflix or Amazon or one of the many other streaming services available today.

We are taking the term “Classic Movies” and stretching it quite a bit.

I am also going to change my rating system for these reviews.  Instead of using the stars, I am going to use the following classifications (in the following order).

Paragon

paragon

Vintage

vintage.png

Classic

classic

Fun Time

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Meh

meh

Overrated

overrated

Stale

stale

Putrescent

putrescent

Let’s see what this brings us.