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The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Good call for the AFI
Here is one of the titles which I had never been exposed to. Never heard it mentioned in passing, had it recommended by a friend, noticed it in any way, shape or form. Yet there it was, smack dab in the middle of the AFI list. My expectations were decidedly modest, without any big name stars except Myrna Loy (and William Wyler directing, of course). Noting the year of release (1946), and the subject matter, (veterans returning from WWII), I was half-expecting a dated classic, which would stand up as a piece of historical interest, but not really place high on the enjoyable scale. I'm pleased to say that I was way off base. This turned out to be a film chock-full of outstanding performances, wrapped around a script which took its time unfolding. It followed three veterans returning from the war with relative degrees of success. Each had his own set of problems to deal with while readjusting, and each dealt with success and failure in their own ways. I found myself actively rooting for each character to come through, even though I typically am hesitant to embrace Hollywood style happy endings. Scores a 9 / 10. See it with less trepidation and more enthusiasm than I did.
Best action flick in recent memory
Ronin is quite simply outstanding. I've watched it time and again, showing it to friends and coworkers in an effort to get the word out about this above-the-board action movie. As most have already mentioned, the car chases are the set pieces of the film, and are as good as any ever committed to film. And the acting is superb in all of the little ways. DeNiro is his usual great self, but I really enjoyed all of the stellar efforts by a largely unknown (at least in the US) European cast - including Stellan Skarsgaard, Jean Reno and Michael Lonsdale. The newcomer, Natascha McElhone, had me convinced that she was actually Irish until I listened to the director's commentary and it was neat to see Jonathon Pryce back on the screen with Bobby D (Brazil).
Spoilers ------ The plot was at once straightforward and yet managing to twist about enough to recommend a second viewing. The fact that the contents of the case are never revealed is just fine - directors from Hitchcock to Tarantino have respected the use of a Maguffin as a plot device. I loved the fact that, despite the twist that DeNiro had never left the CIA, he and Reno remained on the same side throughout. Great pairing. And the violence to innocent bystanders, rather than being offputting as some have suggested, was actually a detail which I found refreshingly realistic. For once, people weren't able to unload automatic weapons in public places without consequences to the general populace.
Great film. 9 out of 10 and rising...
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Funnier with each viewing
I don't have much to add to the comments already posted here, except to say that if this movie didn't catch your funny bone the first time around, give it a second chance. It gets progressively funnier with each viewing. The quotable lines therein are innumerable and every performance dead-on.
8.5 out of 10 and still rising.
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
In this corner, Jimmy Stewart -- His Challenger - George C Scott
Somehow, despite the fact that there's little of the salacious nature of the screenplay leftover while watching this courtroom drama from the 1950's in the new century, it holds up quite nicely. I suspect that the main reasons reside in the outstanding performances which Otto Preminger coaxed out of all involved. Jimmy Stewart is his usual self (read - great and understated). George C Scott nearly steals the movie with his second half prosecutor, unbelieving in the face of the defensive strategies. And the lesser known faces hold their own (Lee Remick and Ben Gazarra are both quite solid).
The plot seems relatively straightforward to those of us weaned on courtroom dramas and daytime judges, but that's almost a relief.
Overall, a 9 out of 10. Check 'er out.
The Court Jester (1955)
If all of Danny Kaye's roles had been as well-written as this juicy musical script he would have been one of the biggest actors in Hollywood. The songs, the choreography, the comedic timing - all come together to create a near-perfect comedy. The biggest difference between this flick and his lesser known work (e.g. Wonder Man) was the quality of the acting around him. Basil Rathbone plays a perfect straightman foil to Kaye's cowardly jester.
The Chalice from the Palace scene alone would rate this film recommend-worthy. Throw in all of the other memorable scenes and catch-phrases and you get a 9 out of 10.
What's Up, Hideous Sun Demon (1983)
Funny, unseen MST3K precursor
My pops took me to this one when it was showing at our local Fine Arts theater (not that it's fine art, but definitely small theater material).
The basic idea is a voice over of a B movie with comedic intentions. It's been a long time since I saw it, but I recall a send-up of 50's Sci-Fi which was far more humorous than anything Jay Leno has been involved with since. One particularly inappropriate gag with a spliced-in sex toy stands out as a high point.
7 out of 10, and I'd love the chance to see it again.
Rustlers' Rhapsody (1985)
Should get more play. Quite funny.
It's too bad more people haven't had the pleasure of watching this hilarious send-up of the Western genre. For those of you who thought that Blazing Saddles said everything there was to say on this subject, give Rustler's Rhapsody a whirl. I promise you, it'll be worth your time.
8 out of 10.
Just One of the Guys (1985)
Seen it soooo many times
Just one of those cable TV movies which I've seen countless times. Couldn't seem to turn it off, no matter how often it came on (see Airborne). Nothing great, but had some moments. The brother cracked me consistently... up.
6.5 out of 10.
Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)
Chuck at his Cheezy Best
Cheesy goodness from the king of crummy American karate, Mr. Chuck Norris! See Chuck train in his front yard! See Chuck beat up a biker bar full of potbellied Heck's Angels! See every cliched moment between two cop partners, ever, replayed on the screen by Chuck and some other guy. See the Sam Elliot look-alike do a bad Sam Elliot impersonation! See David Carradine use his Tai Chi to bore you into submission! Best of all, see Chuck get buried alive in his pick-up, wake up, pour a beer over his head, and bust outta there!
7 out of 10.
No Time for Sergeants (1958)
Shining example of comedic film
Take the gentle good humor of the Andy Griffith Show and cross-pollinate it with the biting wit of the Marx Brothers. Toss in a dash of the snappy banter of His Girl Friday. Mix well and bake at 350 for 90 minutes. You should get an outstanding, hilarious take on Army life titled "No Time For Sergeants". Serve warm.
9.5 out of 10.
The Princess Bride (1987)
One of the Best of the 80's
The Princess Bride is a near-perfect fantasy/adventure/comedy, and one of the best films that the 1980's have to offer. Based on a hilarious book by S. Morgenstern and scripted by William Goldman, Rob Reiner showcased a deft touch for directing material which required just the right tone to work. The casting made the film, IMHO. Cary Elwes was a dashing Wesley, Robin Wright a beautiful Buttercup, Andre the Giant was born to play Fezzick. And that's not even mentioning the great cameo by Billy Crystal.
By following the spirit of the superb source material, The Princess Bride proved a winner. 10 out of 10.
George Washington Slept Here (1942)
Classic Benny, baby
I actually prefer this version of the "Home restoration from Hell" concept to the more famous "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House", despite the presence of the ubiquitous Cary Grant in the latter. Perhaps it's because I saw this one first, or because it came first. Whatever the reason, I found Jack Benny to be quite humorous in this starring turn, although the old caretaker nearly stole the show from under him.
8 out of 10.
Legends of Porn II (1989)
This is a nice little collection of older porn clips from the 70's and 80's. Recently released on DVD, it's a good starting place to check out the films of yesteryear's stars.
7 out of 10.
The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
Disney as Looney Tunes - Loved it!
The Emperor's New Groove is quite simply the most entertaining Disney movie in recent memory (Fantasia 2000 notwithstanding). The deadpan humor of Spade, Goodman and company delivered in... well, spades.
Patrick Warburton basically stole the show, however, as the goofy and less-than-threatening henchman Kronk.
Highly recommend this insta-classic from Team Mouse. Check it out.
8.5 out of 10.
Seems Like Old Times (1980)
Chevy Chase, wherefore art thou?
Early Saturday Night Live
National Lampoon's Vacation
Seems Like Old Times
A few examples of why I continue to give Mr. Chase a chance, despite Cops and Robbersons, Vegas Vacation, his television show, and countless other duds.
And, as mentioned in several other posts, Charles Grodin gives an excellent performance as well. (My other favorite of his being Midnight Run)
7.5 out of 10.
The Long Riders (1980)
Where the Western meets the Warriors!
This is one of my top five all-time westerns, right up there with The Searchers, Rio Bravo, and The Wild Bunch. Walter Hill hit his zenith with this take on the James/Younger gang. The Minnesota-Northfield raid alone is worth the price of admission. The casting of brothers in all major roles makes for some interesting moments of recognition, but shouldn't be considered a major point either for or against the film.
9.5 out of 10 and here's to wishing Hill could regain this form!
Recall this one fondly from my childhood. It was one of my mom's faves, but don't hold that against the movie, which was good fun and quite humorous if memory serves. Worth a look-see. 7 out of 10.
Ah, what memories. My first Adult rental. First DP on the video screen. Second and third DPs on the video screen. The Hedgehog directing traffic like an old pro.
Definitely worth a look if you get the time
6 out of 10.
Hung fan kui (1995)
Jackie takes America
Okay, so this isn't the best Jackie Chan movie ever. Not his best fighting (Drunken Master 1 & 2), stunts (Supercop) or overall picture (Shanghai Noon). But it is the one that finally brought him to American audiences, and for that it should be cannonized.
Beyond that, this is one pretty good action flick. Some great "Jackie uses household objects to kick bad-guy butt" scenes, and some nice stunts, including one which broke his ankle and added to his lore.
8 out of 10. You go, Jackie!
First Knight (1995)
Let's see, a big budget update of the Arthurian legend with Sean Connery as King Arthur. How could you go wrong with this starting point?
Well... you could start by casting Richard Gere as the least compelling Lancelot in the history of film, and then put him into the obstacle course straight out of "American Gladiators". Throw in a stone faced Guinevere by Julia Ormond and a lame script with insipid dialogue and voila. That's not even mentioning the handheld crossbows that the villains sport, perhaps the least inspiring misuse of a historical weapon since the exploding cannonballs in "Cutthroat Island".
Final judgement - One bad movie.
One out of 10.
Debbie Does Dallas Part II (1981)
It's the Law!
Debbie Does Dallas 2 was the first Porno that I ever owned, although I didn't know that was the title until years later. A friend copied it off for me, and I'm sure I pretty much wore the video tape out during puberty, along with a host of other 70's schlock porn.
This was a longtime fave for everyone to poke fun at, with the major scene being Debbie's jail adventure.
Cop - "Take off your shirt" -
Debbie - "No"
Cop - "It's the Law" - She does
Cop - "Take off your pants"
Debbie - "No"
Cop - "It's the Law" - She does
Cop - "Take off your socks"
Debbie - "No"
Cop - "It's the Law" - She does
Cop - "There's one way out of here - (hint hint)"
Debbie goes down on him without comment or complaint.
Great flick, in it's own nostalgic way.
8 out of 10, and I'm in no way prejudiced.
Deep Inside Jeanna Fine (1992)
One of the great Adult magazine moments of my puberty was my first Hustler - Featuring Jeanna Fine "in Fine Form."
So, I'll admit to being a bit prejudiced. That said, this is one nice little adult title. Check it out. The first scene alone is worth the price, IMHO.
8.5 out of 10
Romeo Must Die (2000)
Jet Li rules!!!!
I'd love to be objective here, but we all know that's not gonna happen. Jet Li is quite simply the most exciting thing to happen to movies in a long time. Intense, dramatic, funny, he has more presence than any comparable American star. And the action... Fuggedaboutit.
Enough with the hyperbole. Oh, who am I kidding. The best I can do after coming home from this action fan's dream is restrict my comments to the flick at hand. Romeo Must Die fulfills a healthy dosing of Jet Li jonesing. The fighting scenes are awesome, combining a comedic flair that Jet has rarely displayed before with his expected high flying, lightning fisted, bone-crushing martial arts. I particularly enjoyed the x-ray homage to the cult hit Streetfighter series (Sonny Chiba fans unite!) and the melee where he utilized his girlfriend to circumvent his code of honor (which wouldn't allow him to hit a woman).
What about the plot? Not really any better than your average Hong Kong release, but at least it's in original language English (which Jet can actually speak, by the way. Is there nothing the man can't do?) Anyhoo, in this outing he steals a car, gets out of jail, gets revenge, gets the girl, and kicks everybody's arse and all in the most stylish manner possible. The bad guys are all decently tough (except that wussy white guy who was behind everything - I swear I thought he was a girl at times). Delroy Lindo and that rapper dude both held their own, as did the Chinese contingent.
Overall, I gotta give it a 9 of 10.
Go see it and be happy that you did!
Ride with the Devil (1999)
The most engaging film I've been to in a year full of superior movies!
I thought that I'd already seen all of the really good films that this year had to offer, but Ride with the Devil proved me wrong. It stands out from the rest with its fluid weaving of history, drama, unexpected humor and characters all set against a striking backdrop of one of the blackest periods in American history - The Civil War. Most of the action takes place in and around the area of the midwest where I grew up, but I'm not as familiar with the particulars of historical accuracy as I'd like to be. To me, that's not the real point anyway. The movie was based on a novel, set in the 1860's, and focuses on characters who fight for the south in the war. One of the best things about the film is the way that it portrays the two sides, glorifying neither while allowing the audience to see the forces that drove so many men to kill one another - loyalty, friendship, vengeance, fear.
As an American, a movie like this will really make you think about your country and its sometimes inglorious past. Wonder what you would have done in the same situation. More than most films do for me, at least.
The acting is solid, something I was worried about with the relatively unproven cast. Even Jewel acquits herself admirably. And the direction by Ang Lee is superb. Most of the action takes place in the early going, and she handles the frenzy as well as any grizzled director could hope to do. I don't think I've ever seen a war movie directed by a woman, so kudos to Ang for breaking ground with such a stunning piece of work.
9.5 out of 10. Go see it and make yourself think.
La cité des enfants perdus (1995)
This movie will dazzle you.
I love this movie! I saw a preview for it on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, of all places, and was intrigued enough to order the DVD. Great call. This movie captures the imagination with its completely original storyline and incredible visuals. I swear they had to have built an entire city just for this movie. I don't know how they accomplished it on the typical budget for a European film. The plot? I don't think I could describe it. Not doing any justice, at least. A big part of the fun is untangling the many unusual characters and figuring out how they relate to one another.
My favorite subtle trick of the movie? The casting: A horde of perfectly gorgeous children contrasted against the ugliest bunch of adults one could hope to find (Notable exception - the hot French lady in the bar). This movie encourages repeat viewings, as each will lead to a better understanding of the complex, odd world that has been created.
9 out of 10.