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Superman II (1980)
An Excellent Sequel
This is one of the few sequels that actually eclipses the work of the original. In this edition of the Superman series, the caped superhero must battle three supervillians and his nemesis Lex Luthor, while learning to cope with his feelings for Lois Lane and the responsibilities that come with being a hero.
The potential for having too many storylines is present in this movie, but the plots and subplots are skillfully crafted together, and an interesting, entertaining movie is the result.
The acting, writing and directing are all excellent, and this movie is appropriate for the entire family, as it's full of funny, exciting and intriguing situations and sequences. I would recommend this movie to all audiences.
*** and 1/2 out of ****
The Searchers (1956)
One of the Best
This is widely considered to be one of John Wayne's best films and with good reason. His character, Ethan, is obsessed with tracking down a band of Native Americans who killed members of his family and abducted his niece. It is apparent from his unwavering dedication to his quest that he will either catch up with and kill the Indian Chief responsible for the raid against his family or die in the effort.
The Searchers is an incredible character study and the way in which Ethan is consumed with desire for vengeance is fascinating. This is a much darker role than the usual John Wayne character, but he plays the part extremely well. This is also one of the last and one of the best collaborations between Wayne and director John Ford.
Little Caesar (1931)
THE Original Gangster Movie
Little Caesar is a movie that has to be judged in its historical context. It is the original gangster movie that launched countless numbers of imitators, and although it's not up to the standard of some of the later films of the genre, it remains very enjoyable viewing. Especially noteworthy is Edward G. Robinson's performance as the determined Rico.
The characters are somewhat one-dimensional, but they are skillfully and efficiently used in telling the story of Rico's rise to power. I would highly recommend this movie to film buffs and those that are big fans of the gangster genre.
Modern Times (1936)
Although I must admit that I usually have very little patience with silent films, this was a touching and often humorous effort by Charlie Chaplin. It is easily one of his best films.
Even though this is a comedy, it's difficult not to sympathize with the plight of Chaplin's character and the series of hard-luck episodes that he must endure. There are funny moments, but it seems, at times, that the social commentary of the film overpowers them. The repetitive and draining nature of factory life, as portrayed in one of the opening scenes, is likely all too familiar to those who earn their livings in this way. Unemployment, homelessness and just plain bad luck are other elements that are explored throughout the film.
On another note, the film doesn't remain completely silent since there are several instances when music or dialogue can be heard. It's a type of hybrid silent/talkie similar to The Jazz Singer.
Overall, this is a good film that should be viewed and enjoyed by film buffs, but I would give a somewhat reluctant recommendation to casual film fans since it does require patience to allow the story to develop.
Can't Hardly Wait (1998)
An Entertaining, Enjoyable Film
First of all, if you haven't been in high school in the last 10 or 11 years you don't need to read any further. You will probably hate this movie. However, if you have attended high school recently you might want to check this film out.
Going into this movie I wasn't expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. The movie was funny and I pretty much enjoyed every minute of it. The characters, although somewhat shallow, are interesting and distinct from one another. The acting isn't bad, and the soundtrack is one of the best from any film in the 90s. No one will confuse this with one of the all time great films, but it can be solid entertainment for a night.
Have Rocket -- Will Travel (1959)
Not the Stooges' Best work
Avid fans of the Three Stooges will likely be disappointed by this feature length film. There's no Curly and no Shemp, but on the plus side, there's no Joe Besser either. (Joe DeRita is much better suited to this role than Besser was) By the time this film was made, the Stooges' act was well past its prime and most of their gags had a "seen it before" quality to them.
There are some entertaining moments for those die hard stooges fans as the Moe, Larry and Curly Joe are sent into space and encounter Alien life forms. However, there are few laughs and a better bet would be to watch one of the many brilliant Stooges' shorts from their glory years. It's a shame that the trio didn't begin doing featured films earlier when the team was still intact and the jokes and sight gags fresh. This is recommended only for those completely obsessed with the Stooges.
Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)
An Enjoyable Movie
Sure it's childish and immature. Sure it's devoid of any significant social commentary. This film may not belong in any top 100 list of films(except maybe my own), but it's fun and I never get sick of watching it.
This is easily my favorite Tim Burton film, but the real talent in this picture is Paul Reubens as Pee Wee Herman. From the beginning of the movie, he is full of energy and it's difficult not to smile as he gets up in the morning or has a memorable confrontation with his nemesis Francis.
Be prepared to laugh and enjoy yourself when you watch this movie and for those of you who think I'm an idiot for loving this movie, I have one thing to say: "I know you are, but what am I?"
Back to the Future (1985)
One of my Favorite 80s Films
This film is the first in a very tight trilogy of movies that really fit well together. It is funny, enjoyable and just plain "awesome".
Michael J. Fox is perfect in the role of Marty McFly as he inadvertently goes back in time. The damage that he causes by his presence in the 1950s threatens his very existence. In order to avoid completely disappearing, he must reunite his mother with his nerdy father, George, during their teenage years.
Mr. Strickland, Biff, Marty and George McFly are very memorable characters and this is a film that you will want to see multiple times. Each successive viewing will likely reveal some detail that was missed the previous time. This film is really well done and I would recommend it to almost any audience. I'd give this picture *** and 1/2 out of ****. This movie was best viewed in the 1980s, but watching it now adds another dimension to going back in time. Definitely make seeing this stylish, slick, funny and enjoyable film a priority.
American Graffiti (1973)
An Enjoyable Teenage Comedy
American Graffiti is a film that really showcases George Lucas' writing talents. The characters are funny and well-developed and the story is interesting even though it's just an average day cruising for these teenagers.
The real beauty of this film is how the stories of different ordinary characters are combined to make an extraordinary film. You get to see the pranks, the aimless wanderings, the joy and the angst of these teens in one particular night of their lives. There are a lot of funny moments in this movie and even the times when it isn't funny, it always maintains the attention of its viewers. The soundtrack is very good and I would have to recommend this film to most viewers. I'd give this movie *** out of ****.
An American in Paris (1951)
An Enjoyable Musical
If I were to pick my favorite film genre, musicals would not be it, but I really enjoyed this movie. It was funny, entertaining and full of expertly done music and dance sequences.
In this film, Jerry Mulligan, played by Gene Kelly, is a struggling artist in Paris. He attracts the attention of a wealthy older women who offers to be his patron. She's interested in his work but takes an even stronger interest in him personally. Jerry goes along with this arrangement until he falls in love with another women, who also happens to be dating one of his friend's acquaintances.
This is a good movie, but some of the day dream sequences seem like filler material that don't add to the plot or the overall enjoyment of the film. The ending sequence in particular is too long and should have been shortened.
Overall, this is a very good movie that has a lot of entertainment value and other than a few sequences, I can't really find much fault with it. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys musicals or classic films.
Sullivan's Travels (1941)
One of the All Time Greats
Sullivan's Travels is a movie that transcends the typical comedy. When I watched it I didn't think that it was a comedy; I thought it was a drama with some comedic moments. The second time I watched it, I found it to be much more humorous. This film balances out its comedy with doses of human suffering, while at the same time never losing its light-hearted qualities.
John L. Sullivan, played by Joel McCrea, is a powerful movie director who is famous for making comedies. During the film, he has a crisis of conscience and decides he wants to do a drama about poverty and the human condition. Since he has never know poverty himself, he sets off in disguise to research what it's like to live as a poor street tramp. He's soon joined by a very lovely and devoted Veronica Lake, who thinks that he's someone down on his luck.
There are a lot of priceless moments in this movie. One has to wonder if Preston Sturges, in making this film, was questioning and ultimately justifying his decision to make comedies. This is one of his best movies and one of the best films of all time. **** out of ****
High Fidelity (2000)
A Good, True to Life Film
High Fidelity is one of those rare movies that offers equal doses of humor and despair. Rob, played by John Cusack is trapped by his past rejections and failures, especially those involving the opposite sex. He explains his past by addressing the camera often which is reminiscent of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
After breaking up with his current girlfriend, the two employees at the record store that he owns are the only people that offer consistent companionship for him. These two unusual individuals are, like Rob, seemingly going nowhere in life. Although he appears to only tolerate them, these two employees are a sort of surrogate family for him.
The screen play, acting and directing are all very good in this picture. There are times when the movie is laugh-out-loud funny and there are other times when the desperation and despair of the characters is evident and felt by the audience. All of the main characters grow and advance during the course of the movie, and it has a reasonably good resolution. I would recommend this film.
What Dreams May Come (1998)
A Manipulative Mess of a Movie
I began watching this movie with an open mind and was prepared to find something worthwhile about it and I did. The special effects were very impressive. The rest of the movie, however, was an entirely different matter.
The onscreen emotion was completely forced and artificial and didn't appeal to me at all. Unfortunately for this film, (and its tortured viewers) that was all there was to this movie--false emotion and special effects. For good measure, the writers of this movie threw in some ridiculous idea about what Heaven and Hell are like and how people end up there.
The acting, writing and directing were all poor. If I could have taken one 30 second glance at the special effects and missed the rest of the film, I would have been much happier. As you can probably tell, I would recommend that you avoid this movie.
Carlito's Way (1993)
A Great Movie
This is not just an excellent gangster movie-it's an excellent movie. Pacino's voice over narration really works in this case since the majority of the story is told as a flashback.
In this film, Carlito, played brilliantly by Al Pacino, is trying to go straight after years of being involved with various gangs and the mafia. However, the ties he has with his past are too strong, and he keeps getting drawn back into the world and lifestyle that he is trying to leave behind.
Brian De Palma does a great job of directing this film and the acting is very good. (Especially Pacino and Sean Penn)This is one of the best gangster movies of the 90s.
Annie Hall (1977)
An Excellent Comedy
Annie Hall is a cleverly crafted film full of intelligent, subtle comedy. Woody Allen's insights on relationships in this movie are funny because they often ring true. Just about any audience member can relate to some portion of the film even if he or she doesn't get all of the references and jokes.
This is a funny movie that never descends into slapstick. Not all casual viewers will be able to appreciate this picture, but most film buffs will love it.
The Wild Bunch (1969)
A Great Western
If you're looking for a movie that's full of action with a compelling story and strong characters, this is a good picture to see. However, this movie definitely earns its 'R' rating as it contains graphic violence, and is not something suitable for all viewers.
In this movie, a group of outlaws band together to run one more caper before some of the members retire. Complicating matters is the fact that one of their former members has been released from prison to hunt them down.
The acting, directing and script are all extraordinarily well done. This movie contains some very memorable sequences that will stay with you long after you have seen the film. I recommend it to any Western fan who can stomach the 'R' rated content.
The Omega Code (1999)
A Decent Apocalyptic Film (For once)
This film is undeniably flawed, but it does contain an intriguing premise and story line. The idea that someone would use the Bible Code to try and conquer the world is an idea that has not been utilized before, at least to my knowledge.
The characters definitely could have used some refinement, as they never really are fully developed during the movie. The acting, although not academy award material, was tolerable and did not detract from the story.
Overall, this is an interesting film that has good special effects, especially considering the budget it used. Although it has little competition-considering some of the terrible Apocalyptic movies that audiences have been exposed to-this is one of the better end times movies.
Bug Buster (1998)
Katherine Heigl is beautiful as always. That's about the only positive comment I can make about this film. This movie is revolting and insulting, and the supposed jokes and gags aren't even unintentionally funny.
If you want to see a movie about insects that infest and devour people from the inside, then this is the film for you. If you want to be entertained, see something else.
Andy Hardy's Double Life (1942)
A Typical Andy Hardy Movie
Like most Andy Hardy movies, this film is fun, uplifting and entertaining. It's hard to watch it without smiling.
In this edition of the series, Andy, played by Mickey Rooney, is preparing to depart for college. Before he leaves, he encounters one of his typical adolescent crises as Polly Benedict(his ex-girlfriend) and her visiting friend decide to teach him a lesson. Ann Rutherford returns as Polly, and her friend is played by Esther Williams in her studio debut. The acting, writing and directing are all very good in this picture.
Although this type of movie might not appeal as much to modern audiences, it is still a good film worthy of your time, and if you enjoy Andy Hardy movies, I would certainly recommend that you see this one.
Scary Movie (2000)
This Film has its moments
For those of you who haven't seen previews for this movie, don't let the title fool you. You are much more likely to be offended by this movie than scared by it, but then that's the point of this horror movie spoof.
There were portions of this movie that I thought were extremely funny. There were other times when the jokes, especially involving sight gags, went too far. The audience that I viewed this film with was in agreement with me on much of what I found distasteful as evidenced by the groans I heard around me.
The acting is actually quite good and ideally suited for this type of film. This movie is better than I expected it to be, but it isn't spectacular. You will probably get a lot more enjoyment from this picture if you have seen the movies it is parodying.
If you are offended by crude humor or are planning to watch a movie with someone else who is, I would definitely recommend that you avoid this film. However, if you are willing to risk the excesses of this movie, there are some laughs to be had.
Life Begins for Andy Hardy (1941)
A Good Edition to the Series
Although I have enjoyed every Andy Hardy movie that I have seen, this is probably my favorite entry in the series. It is admittedly a departure from the usual light-hearted comedy of the Hardy movies, but in this case, it works.
In the film, Andy leaves his sheltered small-town life for the city of New York in order to decide whether he wants to go to college or directly join the professional ranks. Andy's dilemma hit home with me when I first saw this film a few years ago since it was a decision that I was facing myself. Many younger viewers will probably be able to relate to the issues and problems that Andy must deal with as he attempts to make the transition from carefree adolescence to adulthood.
Mickey Rooney gives a good performance as Andy Hardy, as does Judy Garland in the role of Betsey Booth. This picture is not as cheerful as most entries in the series, but the most melancholy aspect of this film is the fact that it is Garland's last appearance as Betsey. Betsey is one of the most entertaining characters in the series of movies, and it's unfortunate that she only appears in three of the films.
Overall, this is a very good, although different, entry into the Andy Hardy series of movies.
You Can't Take It with You (1938)
It's A Wonderful Life Part I
No one in the history of cinema has been as effective at delivering emotionally upbeat films as Frank Capra. You Can't Take It with You is no exception.
In this film, as he later does in It's a Wonderful Life, Capra contrasts the importance of friends, family and generosity with coldness, greed and material gain. It's funny, touching and overall great entertainment.
This is a great feel-good film, and if you enjoyed It's a Wonderful Life, I would highly recommend that you see this one too.
A Perfect Murder (1998)
A Very Forgettable Movie
While I was watching A Perfect Murder there seemed to be something wrong with this film that I just couldn't figure out. Then I realized that I didn't care about the characters and what happened to them.
In order to have an effective thriller, the audience must have empathy with the characters and that just doesn't happen in this case. This movie had definite promise, as any film with Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow would, but the characters that they play are not likeable, and it's difficult to get into the film and the plot twists that it takes. This isn't a terrible movie, but it's definitely not something to get excited about.
The Untouchables (1987)
One of the Best Films of the 80s
The Untouchables is a visually and emotionally compelling movie that effectively draws the viewer into the clash between Elliot Ness and Al Capone. It's unusual that this film has received so few accolades considering the number of stand-out acting performances and the numerous memorable sequences in the film.
In the movie, Elliot Ness is determined to win the battle with his nemesis Al Capone and against corruption within the law-enforcement agencies. In order to do this, he brings together a group of men who can not be bribed or in other words, are untouchable. Sean Connery is excellent in his role of a veteran cop who tries to teach Ness what it will take to defeat Capone. Robert De Niro, as Al Capone and Andy Garcia, as a talented rookie cop, give good performances, and Kevin Costner gives a subtle, underrated performance as Elliot Ness.
Brian De Palma's direction, although somewhat derivative, (Many techniques and film sequences were taken from earlier and foreign films) is very impressive.
I highly recommend this film, especially if you are a fan of the Gangster movie genre.
High Expectations Almost Doom Film
Getting people to watch this movie was not going to be a difficult task for George Lucas. He could have shown home videos of himself mowing the lawn and it still would have made millions of dollars if he had attached the Star Wars label to it. That said, he also had an almost impossible task of living up to the sky-high expectations of devoted Star Wars fans, some of whom were known to buy tickets to other movies just so they could see PREVIEWS of the upcoming Star Wars entry. In addition, Lucas also had to introduce and set up five other movies with this film. (Three of which are already made, with two more promised to come)
Given that this is the first of six movies, it's not really fair to rate it by itself. It will be more appropriate to judge how it fits in with the next two movies. Since I don't have the luxury of viewing those next two films yet, I'll have to rate this picture based solely on its merits. The special effects are spectacular, (what did you expect?) but the story, dialogue and characterization leave much to be desired. When you analyze this picture, you realize that nothing really happens. The characters just move in circles, presenting information and details that the audience presumably needs for future films.
Even though the special effects are a strong point in this movie, they are sometimes over-used. An example is the pod race. This sequence is at least three times too long, and extremely boring. Its only purpose seems to be to showcase Lucas' talent for visuals and does nothing to advance the plot. It could have just as easily been removed completely and it wouldn't have been missed. The same could be said for the character of Jar Jar, although a reworking of his personality would have been more appropriate.
The dialogue is clumsy and full of tired expressions that went out 6 years ago. Example: "That has got to hurt." (If it went out of style 6 years ago here, just think how old that expression has gotten a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away)
Part of the reason so many Star Wars fans were disappointed with this entry was Lucas' failure to understand his audience. Most of the people (this writer included) who were anxiously awaiting the release of this picture were big Star Wars fans as children when it originally came out. However, most of those audience members have grown up and presumably have become more sophisticated in what they find humorous. This could explain why so many people strongly dislike Jar Jar's attempts at humor.
Overall, this isn't a bad picture. It's not a great or even a very good one, but it doesn't belong on any worst films lists, if only for the tremendous visual appeal that it offers. This movie suffers from high expectations, but perhaps the next film in this series won't endure the same fate.