Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Movie – Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

A majority of people list Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) as the best of the Trek movies.  While I am of two minds on that, I can definitely say that Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the most entertaining.  Audiences agreed with me since this was the highest grossing Trek film until the reboot almost 25 years later.  While the prior three Trek films had been quite serious, including losses of characters, writer/director Leonard Nimoy decided to lighten things up this time around and actually have a little bit of fun with the characters.  And what better way to do this than to have them be fish out of water stuck in our present?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Movie – Casablanca (1942)

Look at pretty much any movie-related person’s or publication’s list of the greatest films of all time and you will find Casablanca at or near the top.  It is considered one of the all time classic films by both critics and viewers alike.  And considering that this movie partially owes its existence to a quick attempt to cash in on the popularity of The Maltese Falcon, as well as the U.S.’ entry into World War II, that’s pretty damn good.

Nowadays we’re used to top tier movies having months, or even years, of pre-production with every single element carefully planned out.  Casablanca is an example of almost nothing being planned and serendipity providing all the right elements.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Misquoted Movies

“Play it again, Sam” – not said by Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca

“Do you feel lucky punk?” – not said by Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry

“Beam me up Scotty” – not said by William Shatner in any episode of Star Trek

“Elementary, my dear Watson” – not said by Sherlock Holmes in any Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel or story

“Luke, I am your father” – not said by Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back

“Badges?  We don’t need no stinking badges.” – not said in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

“If you build it, they will come.” – not said by the voice in Field of Dreams

“We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” – not said by Roy Scheider in Jaws

“You dirty rat!” – never said by James Cagney in any role

“Judy, Judy, Judy” – never said by Cary Grant in any role

"Life is like a box of chocolates." – not said in Forrest Gump

I’m one of those (possibly annoying) people that loves quoting movies.  You may have noticed that I start every movie category parent post with a quote related to the category.  A small part of what makes a good movie to me is how many lines from it are memorable. 

A lot of other people love quoting movies, too.  The problem is that so many people misquote them that the wrong quotes actually take on a life of their own and replace the real quotes.  This is hardly a new phenomenon.  Shakespeare has been getting misquoted for centuries.  (i.e. It’s not “Alas, poor Yorick.  I knew him well.” that Hamlet says; it’s “Alas, poor Yorick.  I knew him, Horatio.”)

In this category I’m going to review movies that tend to get misquoted.  You may have noticed some quotes above that don’t relate to a specific movie.  In those cases I will select a movie to represent the characters or actors involved.

As I post the reviews, I will come back and add links here for those posts:

Dirty Harry (1971) - (posted February 16, 2011)

Here is a short video of James Cagney at his 1974 AFI Lifetime Achievement ceremony.  The “Frankie” he refers to is Frank Gorshin, who was famous for his impersonation of Cagney.

If you’d like to see the whole speech that this is excerpted from, you can watch it here.

On to the reviews…

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book – Richard Castle’s Storm Season

To date there have been four novels published under the author’s name of Richard Castle – the fictional character on the TV show Castle.  When the show opened Richard Castle was the popular author of a series of thrillers that all had the main character of Derrick Storm.  During the course of the show we have seen the Castle character write the four Nikki Heat novels, which are based on the Detective Beckett character.  What about all those Derrick Storm novels that are supposed to already exist?  The people involved with the show decided to do “adaptations” of these books in the graphic novel format.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Movie – Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

In the seven years since the film Mr. & Mrs. Smith came out, it has become best remembered as the one Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were in together before they broke up their respective relationships to start dating.  This is unfortunate because it is an entertaining film that should be remembered for what is on the screen, not for what happened after it was released.  So what is on the screen?  A good combination of action and comedy, with the added bonus of some great chemistry between two of the most sexually appealing people on the planet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Movie – Raising Arizona (1987)

I first saw Raising Arizona when it came to HBO back in the late 1980s.  I laughed quite a bit and remember thinking those Coen Brothers had a good future as makers of comedic movies.  I had no idea they had already done a dramatic crime movie prior to this one.  This film was the first time I had ever heard of them.  I had seen Nicolas Cage before, but this was also the first time I ever saw Holly Hunter in a movie.  As it turns out, it was her first starring role.  Both she and Cage do great jobs playing stylized characters with very distinctive vocal patterns – something that would become a Coen Brothers trademark.  In future movies both would go on to win Oscars for Best Actor and Best Actress respectively.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Movie – What’s Up, Doc? (1972)

The movie What’s Up, Doc? is a love letter to the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s.  Co-writer/director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show) sets this film in San Francisco and makes inventive use of a number of famous locations in the city, most of them during an extended and very funny chase scene involving dozens of characters.  This film touches on, or even reproduces, many of the events from classic screwball comedies.  But by making the movie in the 1970s Bogdanovich was able to get away with some jokes that would not have been allowed back in the 1930s.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Movie – Seven Chances (1925)

Seven Chances is not often mentioned first when people are naming the greatest Buster Keaton films of all time, but it is one of my favorites.  It contains a constant sequence of gags capped off by one of the most insane and funniest foot chases in movie history.  Anyone who has seen a Keaton movie knows that he uses his physicality and athletic ability to do any number of crazy stunts.  While this movie doesn’t have some of his wildest, like hanging off a waterfall or having a house fall on him, it does have him dodging a virtual avalanche.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Movies with Funny Chases

“Son, you got a panty on yore head.” – Hayseed in Pickup, Raising Arizona

Way back in 1998 IMDB first created message boards.  They didn’t look like they do today.  They were divided into “Men’s Room” and “Ladies Lounge” and the idea was to give each gender a place to discuss movies.  The real reason for the separation was likely the fact that Amazon had just bought IMDB and they wanted to link to gender-specific products in each message board.

I mention this because the very first post ever made in the Men’s Room was “What is the best car chase in movies?”  All the usual suspects were named.  Since then the same question has been asked several thousand more times (and that’s probably a conservative estimate.)

While I’m not ruling out doing a car chase category in the future, I figured I’d put a little different twist on the subject and recommend some movies that have funny chase scenes in them.

The movies I am going to write about involve a man looking for a bride, a mix up over some suitcases, a bickering husband and wife in a van, and a man just looking to pick up some Huggies.

As I post the reviews, I will come back and add links here for those posts:

Seven Chances (1925)
What's Up, Doc? (1972)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

On to the reviews…

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I hadn’t planned to post today, but as I was reading everyone else’s blogs I just got a hell of a scare.  An earthquake, preliminary estimates of 4.6 magnitude, just hit about five minutes ago as I write this.  The epicenter was only 7 miles from my house.  It was felt as far away as Nova Scotia and New York State.

Those of you in California, or other earthquake prone areas, may be giggling a little bit at how small this is, but for someone who lives in an area that almost never has one, this was a shock.  It’s only the third one I have ever felt in my life, and it’s the strongest, probably because it’s the closest I’ve been to the epicenter.  The last time Maine had a damaging earthquake was 1940.  This is in the range that might start to cause damage.

If you are wondering, I had no damage that I know of.  I’ll need to wait for daylight to look at the outside of my house.  I had no warning.  It was just a literal “boom!” and I thought my new furnace was exploding.  I raced down the stairs and opened my cellar door, but by then the noise was starting to subside.

The weird thing is, it wasn’t really a gradual shaking like I had felt in a lighter earthquake many years ago.  That was a longer rumble that started out as just noise like a truck was driving down my road, then a gentle shaking as the noise peaked, then the noise gradually fading away.  This earthquake was immediate.  There was no noise buildup.  It was an immediate strong shaking that eventually got weaker and stopped.

Anyway, I got my stair work in for tonight, so I guess I’ll go back to catching up on your blogs.

Monday, October 15, 2012

This is My 500th Post

As you can tell from the title of this post, I am celebrating a milestone.  I’d like to thank everyone who takes the time to come here and read my posts, and especially those who join in the discussion by leaving comments. 

I figured for this post I would take a quick look back at some of my favorite recommendations.

Below are my ten favorite movies from among the hundreds I have reviewed.  Please note: this is not a “greatest movies of all time”, or “most technically proficient movies of all time”, or best of whatever criteria you might use for what makes a favorite movie.  I simply go on the impact the movie had on me when I watched it.  Also, this is not my complete Top 10 movies of all time because I simply have not reviewed some of them yet (i.e. Lawrence of Arabia).

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Movie – Heathers (1989)

“Dear Diary: My teen angst bullshit now has a bodycount.”

If any one line from the movie Heathers can possibly sum up what a viewer should expect in both plot and presentation, it may be that one.  When Heathers burst on the scene at the end of the 1980s it was the anti-John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles) teen movie.  It showed teenagers as the venal, vicious, violent little creatures that they can be…and put a smile on your face while doing it.  Think the Mean Girls (2004) were mean?  They were pussycats compared to the Heathers in this film.  It is an irreverent, funny, very dark, “they did not just do that” kind of movie.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Movie – Beau Pere (1981)

Beau Pere is the kind of movie, like Talk to Her, that makes some people uncomfortable because they find themselves understanding or even empathizing with someone that they would have otherwise condemned.  In this case, the person who inspires such emotions is the character of Remi, played by Patrick Dewaere (Going Places).  Remi finds himself in a relationship with his teenage stepdaughter Marion (Ariel Besse).  It’s not just that plot point that might bother some people, but also the way the entire story is presented.  Writer/director Bertrand Blier (Get Out Your Handkerchiefs) handled it with sensitivity and seriousness, not lurid B movie tactics.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Movie – Freaks (1932)

The movie Freaks was controversial even when it was released in 1932.  After negative reaction to the original version the studio cut almost 30 minutes out of it and tried to make it not quite as horrific.  It still ended up being banned in the U.K. for 30 years and in some states in the U.S.  So why am I recommending it?  Because it is a piece of cinema history that plays differently today than it did when it first came out.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Movies That Could Never Be Made Today

“They don’t make ‘em like they used to.” – Lament from every person who’s gotten old enough to dislike the current movies, shows, plays, books, music, games, etc. that are coming out today.

Over the years there have been movies made that for one reason or another could never be made today.  Usually that reason is that the subject matter is one that modern audiences would not want to pay money to go see.  Sometimes it is not the subject matter, but the way it is treated that would cause offense.  In both cases studios would simply avoid giving the go ahead for these kinds of movies nowadays because they don’t want the controversy, nor to lose money.

For this category I’ve got movies about circus freaks, a relationship between a stepfather and his teenage stepdaughter, and a dark comedy about teen suicide.

As I post the reviews, I will come back and add links here for those posts:
On to the reviews…

Monday, October 8, 2012

Movie – XXY (2007)

XXY was Argentina’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2008, although it didn’t make it to the final nominations.  It did win its home country’s Silver Condor (Best Picture), as well as Spain’s Goya (Best Foreign Film), and a host of other countries’ and festivals' Best Picture awards.  I say all of this because I had never heard of this film until it showed up as a “new to DVD” movie in Netflix.  Luckily I decided to watch it and discovered a great performance from a young actress named Ines Efron.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Movie – St. Trinian’s (2007)

When I first watched this film I didn’t realize what a British institution the St. Trinian’s stories were.  As an American I had never heard of them.  I found out afterwards that a set of cartoons of the misbehaving St. Trinian’s girls were widely circulated in the 1940s.  These were followed by a series of popular movies in the 1950s and 1960s, and even a revival in 1980.  Finding this out helped explain to me how this little comedy, starring at the time relatively unknown actresses, could attract such a notable cast of adults in supporting roles.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Movie – Hairspray (2007)

The 2007 film Hairspray is not a direct remake of the original 1988 John Waters movie of the same name.  It is actually a film adaptation of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical, which was itself a musical adaptation of the non-musical 1988 movie.  I have not seen the original film, but a friend who was a big fan of it also watched this version of Hairspray and found that he liked it even more than the original.  I feel that Hairspray is a lot of fun and one of the best musicals of the 2000s.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Movie – Transamerica (2005)

The title “Transamerica” has multiple meanings.  The literal meaning is accurate in that it is a road movie where two people drive across the country, learning about each other as they go.  It’s also a play on words because one of those people is a pre-op transsexual and the other doesn’t know that.  Nor does he know that this woman he is with in this comedy/drama is actually his biological father.  I’ll explain.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Movie – The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

I can’t remember how or why I rented this film back in the mid 1990s.  Maybe the cover looked interesting or maybe the description sounded like it would have some good laughs in it.  In either case I ended up getting a lot more than I bargained for when I watched this film.  While it does have comedy in it, it also has some drama.  While it does have a couple of flamboyant characters, its heart is really the more reserved, worn down by life character.  The result is that I found that the movie simultaneously has some depth to it, while at the same time it still knows how to have fun.