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Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

 People say that if you don’t love America, then get the hell out. Well, I love America.

— Ron Kovic

Memorial Day was a while ago and I wanted to see the picture that nabbed Tom Cruise his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor, Born on the Fourth of July. I saw this a while ago, but I haven’t had the chance to write the review until now. The movie did win Oliver Stone the Best Director Oscar.

Based on the true story of Ron Kovic (Cruise), a man who comes from an extremely religious background, was a wrestler in high school and wanted to be part of something greater than himself. When a Marine Corps recruiter shows up at the school, Ron almost jumps at the chance of signing up and going to fight in Vietnam.

The action cut to Ron’s second tour when his platoon shot up a Vietcong village, but they accidentally killed women and children. They realize that it was ruse for the Vietcong to have the opening salvo on the Americans. During the confusion of sand and bullets, Ron ends up shooting one of his fellow soldiers, PFC Wilson (Michael Compotaro). Ron tries to confess what happened, but his superiors brush the incident under the rug.

In another altercation, Ron is shot in the foot and then in the upper chest, paralyzing him from the mid-chest down. He resides in a VA hospital in the Bronx that looks like a slum then a place for veterans. When he returns to his childhood home, he becomes angry that people are indifferent about the war and what it represents to the country.

The main reason for this review is for the next LAMB Acting School 101, Willem Dafoe. Willem has a small part as a confidant of Ron, Charlie, when Ron lives in Villa Dulce, Mexico. A place where disabled veterans stays, get drunk and have sex with hookers. Charlie questions Ron about what really happened to him in the war and questions everything that Ron believed in.

I was expected to be blown away with Tom Cruise’s performance. I saw glimpses of it, but not that much to keep me interested in it. I have seen a lot of Vietnam movies. It’s like all of them are blurring into one. This particular story is not that intriguing to me and I found myself bored with it. It seems shallow and it doesn’t explore what happens to a person when they come back from the war.

Judgment: I wish I had some glowing words to say about this movie, but I don’t.

Rating: 6.5/10

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The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Today and tomorrow I cast out demons and work cures. On the third day, I will be perfected.

— Jesus

 

After the rapture did not happen last week, I wanted to see the controversial Martin Scorsese film, The Last Temptation of Christ. The only thing that I have heard is the controversy of having Jesus portrayed as a flawed mortal and not the savior most people know. I didn’t realize that it received the Criterion treatment, but I knew that it was nominated for a single Oscar for Best Director. I think that I would have had a strong reaction back then instead of now.

Based on the 1960 Nikos Kazantzakis novel, the movie is a fictionalized account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth (Willem Dafoe). Jesus is a mortal living his life as a carpenter living with his mother, Mary (Verna Bloom). He is haunted by bouts of fainting spells, widespread pain all over his body and the voices he hears. He doesn’t know if it’s God or the Devil talking to him.

His best friend, Judas (Harvey Keitel) visits him to ask him why is he building crosses for Roman so they could crucify his fellow Jews. Jesus takes pity on the people that he has sent on the cross. The villagers think that he is a traitor and should be killed for his actions. Whenever he walks across the town with the cross, people throw rocks at him. He is spat upon by Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey), the local prostitute.

Jesus continues to hear the voices speaking to him. He is conflicted because he doesn’t want to be the messiah. Jesus tries to make God hate him so he could make another person the messiah. He is afraid of every aspect of his life.

He wants to seek forgiveness from Mary Magdalene before Jesus sets off on his journey for absolution. She doesn’t understand why he couldn’t love her and she does for him. While he was purified on his sins, he tries to preach the word of God, but he is not the best speaker to deliver God’s message.

Meanwhile, Judas is sent to kill Jesus, but he doesn’t. He decides to join him on his ultimate mission with the apostles to preach God’s message to the people of Jerusalem. Jesus makes some selfish decisions that could ultimately effected the course of his purpose on Earth.

My first thoughts of this movie are that , why is Harvey Keitel in this movie? He has his regular accent in B.C. Israel. Say what? Ever heard of a dialect coach? I felt like the story was not intriguing enough for me to invest my time with it. Let me tell you, it was a lot of time. The movie is 2 1/2 hours long. I did not feeling anything with the movie. If you have been a regular reader of my blog, then you know that I am not a religious person. Organized religion bothers me that I have to be this person and not myself.

I wish that the movie would have provoked a response, but I think that people are not as easily offended today then they were twenty years ago.

Judgment: This movie should have been dumped into the Dead Sea where it belongs.

Rating: 3/10

Daybreakers (2010)

Immortality is the miracle, we are blessed.

— Charles Bromley

I wasn’t that interested in seeing Daybreakers, because of the back story. The movie was supposed to come out in 2009, but it sat on the self until it was released early last month. I guess, somebody wanted to cash in on the vampire mania that is sweeping the nation. I thought that the movie was different take on the vampire genre with a social allegory.

Taking place in 2019, ten years after a virus mutation turned most of the world into vampires. The humans are an endangered species. Five percent of the world populations are human. There is not enough blood to feed off the human. Vampires are starving and turning into subsiders, Nosferatu-like creatures that live underground. They turn to the head of Bromley Marks, Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) to farm the last remaining humans.

With a month of actual blood left, Bromley turns to the top hematologist at the company, Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) to find a blood substitute to help the vampires from starving. He has been working with his partner, Christopher (Vince Colosimo) to desperately find a solution with disastrous consequences.

On a drive home that night, Edward gets into an accident where he learns that the people in other car are human. When the accident happens, the cops try to apprehend the humans, but Ed feeling sorry for the humans, protect them and let them escape.

Ed’s little brother, Frankie (Michael Dorman) comes home to celebrate Ed’s 35th birthday for the tenth time. Frankie is military enforcer for Bromley Marks to round up any humans to be harvested. He brings home a carafe of pure human blood for Ed. Ed doesn’t want it. He is reluctant to drink human blood.

The next day, Ed’s security system goes off when Audrey (Claudia Karvan), the human that met at the accident scene, offers him to meet her at a place in broad daylight to find a way to stop the blood shortage.

Driving around in blacked out windows, Ed meets Audrey at the meeting place which in another a huge tree. Audrey introduces Ed to Lionel “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe), who used to be a vampire. Ed thinks that this is impossible, but when Lionel tells him his story. The trio try to find a way to harness a way to cure the vampirism.

I thought that this movie was a fascinating take mass consumption, overpopulation, and dwindling food supply. Is this a great movie? No. I had some people with the vamps smoking cigarettes. They are dead. How could they inhale the smoke? Why would the first vampire test subject be strapped to a heart monitoring system? No heartbeat. Why were the doctors in scrubs? It’s not like they are going to catch cooties.

Judgment: An enjoyable film that doesn’t have anything to do with sparkling skinned vamps.

Rating: ***1/2

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Wes Anderson’s foray into animation culminated with the Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on the classic book by Roald Dahl. I was hesitant watching this movie from the trailer for it. I was iffy on the animation. This movie came out around Thanksgiving. By Christmas, it was out of theaters. I found the movie at the cheap theater right near me.

Mr. Fox (George Clooney) is a seasoned thief when it comes to swiping squabs, but in one particular caper, his wife (Meryl Streep) accompanies him to steal chickens for dinner. They are snared in a fox trap and Mrs. Fox announces that she’s pregnant. She wants him to promise if they make it out alive that he would have another profession.

Two years later, he does get out of the profession. He settles down, has a safe job as a columnist He tries to provide a normal life for his oddball son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman). Mr. Fox feels poor that he is living in a hole. He wants to live above ground in the fresh air. Fox’s real estate attorney, Badger (Bill Murray) advices Mr. Fox not to move the family to the new tree, because they cannot afford the tree on his salary.

Ignoring Badger’s advice Mr. Fox moves the family to the glorious tree that overlooks a trio of compounds out in the distance. A family cousin, Kristofferson (Eric Anderson) visits the family after his father has fallen ill with double pneumonia. The lanky fox that does yoga and has a certain lilt to his voice threaten Ash.

When Kristofferson settles in, Mr. Fox is getting that itch to pull off one last job. He enlists the help of his possum super, Kiley (Wally Wolodarsky) to be his associate as they try to implement “Mr. Fox’s Master Plan”.

His three phase plans goes as follows: Phase one: infiltrate Boggis’ (Robin Hurlstone) Chicken House, drug the beagles guarding the property with blueberries laced with sleeping powder, make out with the chicken bounty. Phase two: Bunce’s (Hugo Guinness) Refrigerated Smokehouse, repeat process of phase one.

After their heist, the Fox’s pantry is filled with meat. Mrs. Fox is becoming more suspicious about her husband’s nightly duties. When phrase three in put in place: gaining access to Bean’s Secret Cider Cellar. Kristofferson come along to act as that small Asian guy in Ocean’s Eleven. (The parallels between those movies were not lost on me). There is snag in Fox’s Master Plan when the trio meet a Rat (Willem Dafoe) that has watched West Side Story one too many times, guarding the of bottles. They get into a fight and are almost caught be Bean (Michael Gambon) himself getting into his infinite stash of alcoholic cider.

As the trio outsmarted Rat and get away, the three owners have an emergency meeting about Mr. Fox robbing their stocks. They want to kill him. When they fail to do so, they decided to dig them out. Fearing for their lives, the animals decided to dig deeper into the ground. The farmers want to kill the Fox by any means necessary. This threatens the other inhabitants of the land to band together for one common goal to stop the farmers before they destroy all of their homes.

In my opinion, the crude 70s stop motion capture threw me off a little bit. These lanky stick figure miniatures were distracting. The beginning of the movie got off to a rocky start where the characters were overtly quirky to be quirky. When the whole community bands together, that is when the movie was getting real good and I forgot everything about the weird brisk walking, pooling tears in the eyes for a moment. I had a good time with this movie.

Judgment: This movie might not work for kids, but is perfect for adults.

Rating: ****

Finding Nemo (2003)

If this is some kind of practical joke, it’s not funny, and I know funny. I’m a clownfish.

— Marlin

The last couple of Pixar movies that I have reviewed, I had a lukewarm response to most of them. The creators are trying to have the action more grounded, but they always have to cock it up with putting kiddy stuff in it. Finding Nemo is the last great Pixar movie in my opinion. This #149 Move of All-Time on IMDb won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It was well deserved.

A clownfish, Marlin (Albert Brooks) moves his wife, Coral (Elizabeth Perkins) and their 400 eggs to the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. When they get there, the community is threatened by a barracuda that takes Coral and almost of all of her 400 eggs, saved one.

Marlin tries everything in his power to protect his son, Nemo, perhaps overprotecting him. It’s understandable. Nemo is eager to go to his first day of school. Marlin is worried that the children are going to make fun of Nemo’s shorter fin, which they call his lucky fin.

His new friends want to explore the open ocean, which is forbidden. When Marlin comes to take Nemo away, Nemo wanted to be on his own. He swims up to a boat near by. Nemo is caught by the swimmers and taken with them.

Frantically searching for Nemo, Marlin bumps into the scatterbrain Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) to tries to take him to where the boat was last seen.

A shark sneaks up to the duo, Bruce (Barry Humphries). He brings the two into a Sharks Anonymous meeting with Anchor (Eric Bana) and Chum (Bruce Spence). Marlin sees a clue to help find Nemo. One of the divers drops his mask with his contact information on it. He needs someone that could read it. That someone is closer then he might think.

Nemo wakes up in a fish tank at a dentist’s office. Nemo meets the creatures that inhabit the tank Bloat (Brad Garrett), Gurgle (Austin Pendleton), Bubbles (Stephen Root), Peach (Alison Janney), Deb (Vicki Lewis), Jacques (Joe Ranft) and Gill (Willem Dafoe). A pelican, Nigel (Geoffrey Rush) pops by the office window to chat about the goings on at the office.

Nemo learns that he is going to be the pet of the dentist’s niece, Darla for her birthday. He has limited time to escape before he is torn away from his father forever.

The look of this movie is absolutely gorgeous. The effects of the water, the sun rays beaming into the water, the vibrant colors of the Great Barrier Reef were fantastic. The textures of the landscape made my jaw drop. I swear, I thought that some scenes were live action. At the end of the movie, I weep like a baby. I hate myself for crying. I’m a sucker to a final reunion. It’s not like I’m spoiling the ending. It’s obvious.

Judgment: If you want to watch the best Pixar movie of the Aughties, watch this .

Rating: ****1/2

Inside Man (2006)

My name is Dalton Russell. Pay strict attention to what I say because I choose my words carefully and I never repeat myself. I’ve told you my name: that’s the Who. The Where could most readily be described as a prison cell. But there’s a vast difference between being stuck in a tiny cell and being in prison…

— Dalton Russell

Considered Spike Lee’s most critically and commercially successful movie of his career, Inside Man is not your average bank heist movie. I own this movie on DVD for a while, but I never cracked it open and watched it. I have given it to former co-workers to watch, but I never did because it came out of a subscription I had with Columbia House a couple of years ago. Watching it now, I don’t know why I waited this long.

At first, you think that this would be a typical bank robbery, but it’s not. A masterful criminal, Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) and his crew holds up a Manhattan Trust Bank disguising themselves as painters armed with AK-47s and smoke bombs.

Det. Fraizer, (Denzel Washington), a hostage negotiator that is in some hot water over a drug dealer, check cashing and $100 thousand missing dollars is assigned to the case with his partner, Det. Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor). They rendezvous with Capt. Darius (Willem Dafoe) to let the duo know about what is going on.

The robbers usher to the hostages to the bank vault level to confiscate their keys, cell phones and clothes. The hostages are asked to change into the identical painter coveralls the robbers have on. These are not your ordinary robbers.

With all the news coverage about the robbery spreads to the news, the chairman of the bank, Mr. Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer) calls a “fixer” Madeline White (Jodie Foster) to protect special items in his safety deposit box.

They all come together to try to diffuse the situation. There are more layers to the movie when Dalton strings Frazier along like a puppet. He always stays one step ahead of him. It’s a cat and mouse game.

Nothing is what it seems to be when the purpose of the robbers is not about money, but it’s about a person getting their due justice. It’s a morality play that is reminiscent of the legend of Robin Hood.

The performances were solid across the board. The dialogue is quick and biting. The action keeps you on your toes with twists and turns.

The only gripe I have about the film is that the film wrapped up to nice and neat with any loose ends are solved. Nothing is left to the imagination of the audience to think about when the end credits begin.

Judgment: A solid psychological thriller that keeps you on your toes.

Rating: ****

Antichrist (2009)

antichrist_ver8

What do you think is supposed to happen in the woods?

— He

This is the first time that I have ever seen a Lars Von Tier movie in its entirely. His latest effort, Antichrist has people taking about the disturbing images, with it. Presented at the Cannes Film Festival, it received a mixed reaction, but Charlotte Gainesbourg won the Best Actress Award. My reaction is this is a masterwork.

The movie is broken up in chapters like a book with a prologue and an epilogue. In the beginning, an unnamed married couple (Willem Dafoe, Gainesbourg) is having un-simulated sex in slow motion, black and white and the swelling score. You think the movie is going to be typical avant-garde fair, but it has a purpose to service.

During their torrid sex session, the couple’s toddler walks into the room and catches them. He decides to play around the room while they don’t notice him. He climbs to an open window and falls to his death.

Distraught after their son’s death, she collapses on the ground. She spends a month in the hospital. When she comes home, she has full-blown panic attacks. He is a therapist and he tries to help her out with several exercises. Nothing seems to work.

He wants to get to the root of her panic attacks. She suggests the woods, a cabin that they have in woods in Eden. When they get there, they both have strange dreams. They don’t know if they are real or not.

She who was a former grad student was researching the origin of man and woman, good and evil, nature for her thesis paper. She believes that there is a battle between and man. She may be at the center of it.

I didn’t know what to think of this movie. I thought that it was going to be another pretentious art picture. This movie is different from anything I had ever seen. The images of sex, disturbing behaviors and the dreams evoked a visceral response within my being. I cannot describe it. I think that this movie is brilliant.

Judgment: If you have a low threshold of blood and gore, I would suggest not seeing this movie.

Rating: *****

The Boondock Saints (1999)

boondock_saints

Now, you Irish cops are perking up. That’s two sound theories in one day, neither of which deal with abnormally sized men. Kind of makes me feel like Riverdancing.

— Paul Smecker

Many people have heard of Troy Duffy’s movie, The Boondock Saints for a while, since the it was released almost tne years ago.

Everybody generally know the story of the numerous delays with the release of the film because of Columbine. Duffy saying that studios were fighting over the movie to get to produce it, etc. Duffy’s ego almost leaving him broke and all that being in the documentary, Overnight. Personally, it wasn’t worth it.

The McManus brothers, Murphy (Norman Reedus) and Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) are local Irish vigilante heroes living in Boston. When their mutual friend, Doc’s (Gerard Parkes) bar is threatened to be shut down by the Russian mob, the brothers kill the henchmen.

The police are all over the case, including the kooky Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) along with Detectives Dolly (David Ferry), Duffy (Brian Mahoney) and Greenley (Bob Marley).

The brothers turn themselves in and they become unlikely heroes of the neighborhood. Another friend of theirs, “Funny Man” Rocco (David Della Rocco) joins the brothers to dole out their own form of justice.

Every time that the groups kills the scum of Bostonia, Smecker knows everything that they have done. When he comes to the scene, there is a flashback to what happened.

There are some ridiculous situations. They are not professional hitmen, but they could hang upside down falling out of the ceiling and shoot up the entire room. WTF! They are deeply Catholic men, but they are killing people. Would that conflict with their religious beliefs?

I read that this movie has a sequel coming out this year. Why? It’s a gratuitous display of guns, violence and gore that is not necessary. The plot meandered. There was no point in their motivations.

Judgment: This movie is cult classic, but I beg to differ with that assessment.

Rating: **1/2

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