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Casablanca (1942)
A masterwork for all time...
10 November 2004
There is a scene about halfway through the movie Casablanca that has become commonly known as 'The Battle of the Anthems' throughout the film's long history. A group of German soldiers has come into Rick's Café American and are drunkenly singing the German National Anthem at the top of their voice. Victor Lazlo, the leader of the French Resistance, cannot stand this act and while the rest of the club stares appalled at the Germans, Lazlo orders the band to play 'Le Marseilles (sic?)' the French National Anthem. With a nod from Rick, the band begins playing, with Victor singing at the top of HIS voice. This in turn, inspires the whole club to begin singing and the Germans are forced to surrender and sit down at their table, humbled by the crowd's dedication. This scene is a turning point in the movie, for reasons that I leave to you to discover.

As I watched this movie again tonight for what must be the 100th time, I noticed there was a much smaller scene wrapped inside the bigger scene that, unless you look for it, you may never notice. Yvonne, a minor character who is hurt by Rick emotionally, falls into the company of a German soldier. In a land occupied by the Germans, but populated by the French, this is an unforgivable sin. She comes into the bar desperately seeking happiness in the club's wine, song, and gambling. Later, as the Germans begin singing we catch a glimpse of Yvonne sitting dejectedly at a table alone and in this brief glimpse, it is conveyed that she has discovered that this is not her path to fulfillment and she has no idea where to go from there. As the singing progresses, we see Yvonne slowly become inspired by Lazlo's act of defiance and by the end of the song, tears streaming down her face, she is singing at the top of her voice too. She has found her redemption. She has found something that will make her life never the same again from that point on.

Basically, this is Casablanca in a nutshell. On the surface, you may see it as a romance, or as a story of intrigue, but that is only partially correct.

The thing that makes Casablanca great is that it speaks to that place in each of us that seeks some kind of inspiration or redemption. On some level, every character in the story receives the same kind of catharsis and their lives are irrevocably changed. Rick's is the most obvious in that he learns to live again, instead of hiding from a lost love. He is reminded that there are things in the world more noble and important than he is and he wants to be a part of them. Louis, the scoundrel, gets his redemption by seeing the sacrifice Rick makes and is inspired to choose a side, where he had maintained careful neutrality. The stoic Lazlo gets his redemption by being shown that while thousands may need him to be a hero, there is someone he can rely upon when he needs inspiration in the form of his wife, who was ready to sacrifice her happiness for the chance that he would go on living. Even Ferrai, the local organized crime leader gets a measure of redemption by pointing Ilsa and Lazlo to Rick as a source of escape even though there is nothing in it for him.

This is the beauty of this movie. Every time I see it (and I have seen it a lot) it never fails that I see some subtle nuance that I have never seen before. Considering that the director would put that much meaning into what is basically a throw away moment (not the entire scene, but Yvonne's portion) speaks bundles about the quality of the film. My wife and I watched this movie on our first date, and since that first time over 12 years ago, it has grown to be, in my mind, the greatest movie ever made.
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Boyhood Daze (1957)
Best cartoon ever!
7 March 2004
I remember sitting and waiting for hours on end on a Saturday morning just hoping this cartoon would come on. There is something innocent and sweet about all of it, even if some of the language would seem a bit sinister by today's standard. This is exactly what every kid feels when he is sent to his room. I wonder if Watterson got his inspiration for Calvin and Hobbes from this show?

Com Ralph to HQ, Com Ralph to HQ, over...

Ralphie rules!

Ralphie makes one previous appearance in 1954's "From A to Z-z-z-z"
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Not very realistic, but good.
28 February 2004
If any airport in the US were this badly maintained, it would be shut down before you could say 'Thrust Reverser'. The number of thing that go wrong here and the jury-rigged way this tower is put together is almost comical.

Having said that, Keifer's acting is rock solid as always. Kelly McGillis is not so bad, and Buffy takes an unusual turn as a nerd. Not anything I would go out of my way to see, but not bad if you come across it on TV either...

Note: The steering by way of using the thrust on the engines was a real life incident. Unfortunately, the results were not quite so good.

BTW, why didn't Fonzie just bang his fist on the computers to fix them? Ayyyy!!!
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Definitely doesn't suck...
31 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers ahead...

Wow! This is by far the greatest of the three films and anyone expecting to be disappointed going in should have a hard time coming out with their expectations met. By some strange coincidence ROTK is the most faithful to the book AND the best of his three Rings films. Almost everything here happens exactly as in the book, with minor exceptions for plot points such as the exact method of Denethor's demise. I was slightly disappointed by Gandalf's out of hand dismissal of Pippin's attempt to swear loyalty to Denethor in honor of Boromir. It always seemed a well done thing and a very emotional point in the book.

I will say that while Sean Astin has grated on me from the first, especially with the cheesy speeches, here he redeems himself totally without reserve. Even though I have never liked the way the character was scripted, I can't think of anyone who would be better placed as Sam. I didn't like that Frodo was allowed to be swayed so easily into abandoning Sam by Gollum, but it was well acted even if not 'in the book.' Sean Astin IS Sam, the same way I can't think of anyone else who could have played Frodo.

All in all, one really fantastic film!
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The Godfather (1972)
Truly awe-inspiring...
5 July 2003
I cannot add anything about this movie that hasn't already been said by people a lot more experienced about movies than I am.

I can say this though. Few movies have ever grabbed my attention and not let go like this one has. Look at the expression on Al Pacino's face when he tells his brother never to take sides against the family again. There is no doubt about the enormous anger he is fighting to control or about what the results will be if he ever loses that control. Look at Marlon Brando as the reserved dignified old Don spending his last moments playing like a child with his grandson in the garden. And look at Robert Duval when Sal pleads for the favor of his life after he has turned traitor to Michael. And last, look at Dianne Keaton in the last scene when she realizes the her husband IS the Godfather.

These are the things that make a movie great. Standout moments of acting by those who define acting. These are the moments that elevate acting to an art form (and film is just as much an art form as painting or music or poetry). This movie is FILLED with just such moments.
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What went wrong?
16 June 2003
I find it hard to understand how someone can take a classic like 'Airplane!' and follow it up with this crap. Basically a rehash of the first genius film, 'Airplane II' recycles the same old jokes over and the few new ones that are there fall flat on their face. If you don't want to taint your enjoyment of Airplane! then skip this turkey.
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Spirited Away (2001)
A Masterwork that will be hard to equal...
19 April 2003
I had never seen a movie by Miyazaki before this one, although I consider myself a fan of Japanese cinema. This movie has made me a fan though, and I do not feel the need to see more. I will see them, but I don't forsee anything topping this. It's kind of like seeing Spielberg's Schindler's List then seeing 'Raiders' films. Or better yet, it's like seeing a Monet's 'Water Lillies' and then seeing his preliminary sketches. I cannot say enough about this film, I know it will be with me near the top of my list for a long time...

BTW, for a kick, watch it in Japanes with English subtutles and hear it the way Miyazaki wanted it heard instead of John Lassiter. There is nothing wrong with the English version, but I like to watch foreign films in their original language.
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Lake Placid (1999)
An 80's throwback...
12 April 2003
This is not a good movie. I try not to say that a lot, but there it is. I'm not surprised to see Bridget Fonda here, only a little surprised to see Bill Pullman, and really surprised to see Oliver Platt (who usually has better taste in his roles than this). I'm certain this stinker is at the top of all their resumes. Good God, this is so bad, I actually would put anything from the 80's above this... STAY AWAY AT ALL COSTS!!!
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Rock Concert (1973–1980)
What great memories!
30 March 2003
Growing up in the pre-MTV era, there was a slew of music video shows including "Rock Concert", "Night Flight", and others who wanted to transfer music to TV. This kind of show is what MTV and VH1 should have been. Every week Kirschner would give a little history of the band and the performance you were about to see then sit back and let the music roll. Some of my best Friday nights were spent watching this show... ;-)
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Grand Canyon (1991)
Screenwriting at it's best...
20 March 2003
This highly underrated film is (to me) what good writing in a movie should be all about. Kasdan takes the search for meaning in our lives and lays it out for all to see and wonder at. The movie is about the divides people create to insulate themselves from the violence and hatred and bigotry of everyday life.

Along the way we are asked question after question about life. Davis (Steve Martin with a great beard) asks himself 'Is my making a violent movie (and by extension our enjoyment of it) causing the violence in society?' Claire asks "What kind of world throws away something as precious as a human life?' Mack is not immune as he asks 'Is it possible to pass beyond the bounds of race and (an even harder step) finance? These are of course not quoted from the film, but generalities. Others ask their questions too, and to be honest it raises more than it answers.

But that is the nature of life. We strive all our lives to find answers to questions we will never totally answer, and in certain cases have to make answers fit to our own needs and desires. As humans we thrive on questions we cannot answer. Some answers are real. Claire and Mack come to realize that even though they could take the easy road and let the state take the baby, their finding it placed the responsibility for her life in their hands. Some answers are not. Davis `Sees the Light' and decides not to make violent films, but the next day turns around and dismisses his epiphany as subordinate to his art.

We all seek answers. This movie does not answer them for; it simply reminds you to keep looking for the answers.
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Children of Dune (2003– )
Much Better...
19 March 2003
Now this is more like it! While the Sci-Fi version of 'Dune' was much better than the pathetic 1984 David Lynch version, I felt it still suffered from the 'gotta be way out there' syndrome. It was decent, but badly directed and overacted (witness the Guild Reps doing Tai Chi when they talk). Overall it was fair but not really notable.

This version is fantastic however. For me, this is what Sci-Fi should be all about. They took two of Herbert's books (Dune Messiah, Children of Dune) and combined them into a mini-series that actually takes the material seriously and doesn't try to hard to be different. I thought Leto was excellently done, Alia even better, Ghanima a little less than I expected. The effects were good, but I thought the story was actually the driving force for a change.

All in all a great effort. Now let's see if they do 'God-Emporer of Dune'
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Ikiru (1952)
A movie you MUST see!
8 November 2001
Ikiru was my favorite Kurosawa film even before I saw it. I had read Roger Ebert?s wonderful commentary at his "The Great Movies" page and told myself many times that I must get it and never quite got around to it. I had purchased "Seven Samurai" and "Hidden Fortress" and found both of them delightful. The former is probably the greatest action movie ever made and the latter has scenes as intense as anything modern directors ever put on celluloid. But somehow while I figured Ikiru to be more my type of movie than any of the samurai flicks, I still held off buying it. I told myself many times to do so, and searched high and low for the DVD, but no American company is willing to come out with a version yet. I finally settled for having one shipped from China and as of this writing it has yet to arrive.

Then I found out a co-worker is dying of cancer. Having read multiple reviews, searched for months for the DVD and visited almost every Kurosawa site out there, I felt comfortable recommending a movie I had never seen when I almost never recommend a movie to people at all. I immediately purchased a copy of the video and the afore-mentioned DVD from eBay; the video for him and the DVD for myself. I received the video last night, banished the wife and kids to bed and for the next three hours sat awed as the story of Watanabe?s life unfolded before me.

I could not have made a better choice. The story takes hold of you and you follow it and never want to let go. There are several slow spots that you have to work through, but that is the point of this movie. This is not a movie to check your brain at the door for. If you are looking for action and adventure with a plot you'll forget about when you try to tell your friends about it the next day, you are in the wrong place. If you want a deep movie that will make you think and re-examine your life then this is your ticket.
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Flash Gordon (1980)
A 1980 version of a 1940 serial and a wonderful guilty pleasure.
15 September 2001
This a definitely one of my guilty pleasure movies. You know, the movies you secretly love to watch but would be too embarrassed to tell your friends about. People think this is a dumb movie and it really is. But it is not trying to be Schindler's List here. DeLaurentis was unabashedly paying homage to the Flash Gordon of the 40's and he succeeded wonderfully. The costumes, the spaceships, the characters are all strictly in keeping with the golden age of Sci-Fi. So sit back, check your mind at the door, and look back on what kids must have felt watching the original Flash Gordon.
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Hannibal (2001)
Um, Well...
28 August 2001
I'd love to tell you how this movie is, but I fell asleep half-way through it, so... The only reason I am typing more is IMDB requires 4 lines for a submission, so the only other thing I'll say is that this movie is IDIOTIC! This isn't suspense, or horror or anything else. Stupid plot, stupid idea, stupid writing...
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Very, Very, Good...
20 August 2001
For the next twenty years, every war (or anti war, I guess) movie will be compared to 'Saving Private Ryan' and not without just cause. SPR is a fantastic movie, delivers a wonderful message, and almost singlehandedly rekindled this country's pride in our WWII veterans. Unfortunately, that also means that excellent movies like this one will be compared and if they do not deliver the same earth-shattering impact that SPR did, they will suffer for it.

I waited for the DVD of this movie and am glad I did. With my family neatly tucked into bed, headphones on so I could listen at a respectable volume, on a 36" TV, I think I got as good a show as any I could have gotten from a theater. At least there wasn't some moron behind me talking. The story is as intense as any I have ever seen, the acting wonderful, and the scenery so authentic looking, I think it may even surpass that other movie. The JU88's and Stuka's used in the film were all of course computer generated, but were used sparingly enough that I didn't even bother to look for flaws, but they did look grand for the time I did see them.]

Oh, and BTW, Ed Harris is one of the two greatest actors alive today. Hands down and no argument. I leave the other for you to fill in because I'll bet you can't think of more that equal him.
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Abby Someone... (Spoilers)
15 August 2001
Warning: Spoilers
"Best Ever" is a phrase that has been tossed around so much these days that it really has no meaning. I like to try in my life to give descriptions of things without resorting to cliche, but here it is just impossible. So you don't think I'm gushing, there are two moments in the film that I feel fall flat, but that will be described later. This wonderful film is without a doubt my favorite comedy ever, bar none. Is it any wonder it is listed every time someone starts ticking off Frankenstein films?

Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Terri Garr, Peter Boyle, and all the rest of the cast are wonderful actors and for Wilder, we must (quietly!) enter the realm of genius. But Marty Feldman is the person who made this movie the delight it is. In almost every scene he is in, he steals it with such enthusiasm it makes you wish he had made many more films.

One of the two places I spoke of earlier is the Transylvannia Station scene. I just don't think it's relevant enough for many people to get in this day. For those who don't know, it's a reference to the immensly popular (in the forties) song "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" with it's line "Say little boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo-Choo?" and it's reply "Track 29, oh and would you care for a shine?"

The other place is stage show with The Monster dancing and singing "Putting on the Ritz." Fans generally throw tomatoes and say nasty things about me when I say this, but I really feel it falls flat and is only there for an excuse for The Monster to be captured by the authorities. As I think of it though, I am hard pressed to say what COULD have replaced the scene though, so...

So, for a good time that you shouldn't take too seriously, throw this movie in, sit back and laugh your rear off when you hear "HE VAS MY BOYFRIEND!"
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Almost Famous (2000)
Coming of age movie? **(Spoilers)**
26 July 2001
Warning: Spoilers
It's usually pretty hard to tell the exact moment I fall in love with a movie. In 'Almost Famous' it was easy. It's right when William Miller tells Penny Lane she has been traded to Humble Pie for $50 and a case of beer. She looks crushed for a moment, a couple of tears run down her face and then (in the best tradition of jilted lovers everywhere) smiles and asks what kind of beer it was.

I grew up in the 70's. I caught Rock & Roll at the tail end that Lester Bangs speaks of. It was the point where people stopped being interested in making Rock for the sake of the music, and started to turn into the hair metal bands like Loverboy and Night Ranger. The movie's Stillwater, while being totally fictional, would make a nice fit between Creedence and early Bad Company with a little Lynyrd Skynyrd thrown in. I don't know how to put it other than this movie FEELS like the 70's. Everything is right. It was like remembering listening to the radio as a teenager and experiencing a pure moment of happiness when The Eagles came on.

As a coming of age flick (I never that that at pushing 40, a COA flick would impress me) this one rules. But it's not just William that grows up here. Pennny, Russell, and everyone in the band, and both his mother and sister come out of this movie a little older and wiser than when they started. All in all, I would rate this one as a must have for the DVD collection.

Best Line from the movie?

"I've got to go home..."

"You are home"
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Moulin Rouge! (2001)
A 'Road to Wellville' for the new century
10 June 2001
If it weren't for Nicole Kidman looking more beautiful than any person ever has in any movie ever and what's his name singing 'Your Song', this movie would have gotten a 1 instead of the 2 that it did get. It is so 'out there' that it is almost incomprehensible. The acting is bad. Yes, I understand is is arty to use modern songs in a past era, but there is a point and I don't think Kurt Cobain would much approve of using 'Smells like Teen Spirit' as part of (basically) a vaudeville act. On a good note, the hidden references to modern songs are many and there is much that is amusing about the way they are used, but it does NOT make up for what is overall an attempt to get into the Guiness book of records for the most surrealistic picture ever. I think that 'The Road to Welville' might have actually been better. At least I sat through the whole picture. But then, I was younger then so...

BTW, I'm not kidding about the Nicole Kidman thing. Incredible!!
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Shrek (2001)
Funny, but un-necessarily vulgar
25 May 2001
This is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen, flat out. I do mean that, my wife and I have no children, but went to see it because it looked good and we like movies of this sort (A Bug's Life, Toy Stories 1 & 2, etc). I thought Mike Myers was great, Eddie Murphy greater and Cameron Diaz funny as all get out. The sight gags, puns, in-jokes, and slight jabs at Disney were almost perfect.

But did we really need to see a Donkey urinating on a fire to put it out? Or Shrek catching his dinner by passing gas in the water? Or the incessant 'Ass' jokes? I know kids find that kind of thing funny, along with the gross out stuff like eyeballs in the martini and the earwax candle; but come on, couldn't we come up with something a little less low-rent? It's easy to come up with toilet humor, try coming up with something just as funny (like Pinnochio lying about being a real boy to save himself) that's not disgusting.

I would have given this movie a 10 if they hadn't actually shown Donkey peeing on the fire. As it sits, a solid 7
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I must not get it...
12 April 2001
Mark Twain once said 'A classic is a book that is often talked about but never read.' I get the feeling that most of Stanley Kubrick's films fall into this category. I have seen most of Kubrick's films now and I really have to say I think they're not very good. There are exceptions; 2001 and Lolita stand out as great films. But the wife and I bought this one tonight and I really think this a pretty boring movie. It has it's points, it has irony, it could probably even happen. I think however, the acting sucked, the jokes were out of place and ill timed (and yes maybe a bit too subtle) and it has lost most of it's relevance today. I put it in the category with 'A Clockwork Orange' and the apallingly boring 'Eyes Wide Shut
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Seven Samurai (1954)
A definite must see...
20 March 2001
I was surprised by this movie, not because it was so old, but by the sheer number of devices apparently taken from it to be used by other movies. From the opening scene of riders being shown silhouetted against the sun (seen in Young Guns) to the end with Katsushiro breaking down and crying in the middle of battle (think Matt Damon in Saving Private Ryan) they are all here. This is not simply an action movie that happens to be Japanese. It's a virtual bank of every scene in every war movie ever made. And it works wonderfully
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Ladyhawke (1985)
Not your average sorcerer movie...
12 January 2001
This is actually a lot better than expected. Unlike every other sword and sorcery movie I've ever seen, this one actually has a respectable plot (consider the deplorable "Beastmaster" comes from this era), good actors, and wonderful scenery. A very young Matthew Broderick, and a very young and unknown Michelle Pfieffer teamed with Rutger Hauer do acting as good as anything I've seen in an "A" movie. There are enough plot twists in this movie to keep you guessing all the way to the end. Go rent it and sit down for a pretty enjoyable evening.
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The Joyriders (1999)
Not a bad little movie...
4 January 2001
I caught this movie on cable (of course) at about 4:00 in the morning. I thought it was well done, if a bit preachy, and it's nice to see a film today where the bad guys actually do get to realize they are doing wrong. Martin Landau is a fantastic actor, Kris Kristofferson seems a little boring, but does his job. The real treat is the three kids who think they're the toughest thing on the street but end up realizing they're nothing but children with a bit of growing up left to do. The only flaw I can really see is that nobody is really as nice as Kristofferson's character. Nobody. Give it an A for effort though, and if you get stuck with insomnia one night, look for it.
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The Gauntlet (1977)
Ok, so it ain't Hamlet...
1 December 2000
I think this movie must have set some kind of record for number of rounds fired in a film. Yeah, even the idea is stupid and Sandra Locke couldn't act her way out of a wet paper bag. But it is fun to watch and besides... Did you ever see a house just disintegrate?
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Don't even bother...
23 November 2000
There are word's to describe how bad this movie is, but they escape me right now. A few that do pop to mind however, are manipulative, boring, pedantic, and totally lacking the charm of the original. Of course, since I fell asleep during the third 15 minutes of it, I may not be a perfect judge. This movie is so predictable, I was telling my wife changes they probably made on the way in. 5 out of 6 guesses were correct. And of course, it has been updated to today's "sensibilities." Yes sir, there is nothing like resorting to having a guy kiss a dogs butt for a few laughs. And to increase the merchandising value, we have the jet powered, flame shooting sleigh. I could go on and on, but I need to go and try to put this sad chapter of my life behind me...
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