Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966)

Director: Richard Lester

Writers: Melvin Frank, Michael Pertwee, Burt Shevelove, Larry Gelbart, Titus Maccius Plautus

Composer: Stephen Sondheim, Ken Thorne

Starring: Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, Buster Keaton, Michael Crawford, Jack Gilford, Annette Andre, Michael Hordern, Leon Greene, Roy Kinnear, Alfie Bass, John Bluthal, Pamela Brown, Patricia Jessel, Frank Thornton, Jon Pertwee

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Something for Everyone!

Plot: A wily slave must unite a virgin courtesan and his young smitten master to earn his freedom.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Sure.

I've seen this a few times over the decades and it's still a fun flick.  The performances are great, especially from Mostel who brings a lot of energy, the songs are catchy and it looks fabulous.  At times it has a Carry On vibe but the jokes are more consistently funny and the film doesn't drag.  It's not a knee-slapper, which is what I keep hoping it'll turn out to be when I watch it about once every ten years, but it's still a delightfully amusing film with a lot going for it.  If you ever get a chance to see the staged musical it's based on, do so.  Being in a room full of people laughing does wonders for your health.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Life (2017)

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Composer: Jon Ekstrand

Starring: Hiroyuki Sanada, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Fergusson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Olga Dykhovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Be careful what you search for.

Plot: A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars and now threatens all life on Earth.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

I remember seeing the trailer early on and thinking it looks like an ALIEN (1979) ripoff.  Now that I've seen it, I can say without doubt that I liked it better when it was called ALIEN (1979).  I gave it the usual suspension of disbelief but it's a stretch.  The big jump in buying into this is that you're to believe a single cell organism from Mars, with the right mixture of oxygen and hydrogen (you know, air) and whatever else causes this thing to grow incredibly fast.  It consumes the only living thing on the space station (a lab rat) before growing even larger and killing and feeding off of the human crew, one by one.  Not only that, it is super intelligent.  Not bad for having such a small start in life and with only hours (perhaps as much as 2-3 days) of growth.  That's the biggest hurdle your thinking brain has to overcome.  It makes it harder still that this takes place in Earth's orbit and it's otherwise more grounded in reality.  Except for the other bullshit like the organism knocking out communication with Earth and the astronauts having to "bypass" or "override" a satellite or some mumbo jumbo typical computer-y bullshit.  You know the kind.  It's an easy out but things don't always work out for these unlucky few.

There is a lot that is derivative of other science fiction horror movies and it only sometimes gets in the way of the storytelling.  As a piece of entertainment, it's pretty good but the weight of the issues above gets in the way sometimes and drags it down.  The thing is the acting is fine, the score, effects, pacing, et al, are done well enough to serve the film.  The problem is in the story.  It's not real enough to be taken seriously but it's also not bad enough to qualify as cheesy popcorn fun.  However, the tail end of the picture was great despite my realizing it earlier than I should've.  It's maybe worth a look but don't get too excited about it. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Troy (2004)

Director: Wolfgang Petersen

Writers: Homer, David Benioff

Composer:  James Horner

Starring: Julian Glover, Brian Cox, Brad Pitt, Brendan Gleeson, Diane Kruger, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Julie Christie, Peter O'Toole

More info: IMDb

Tagline: For Honor.  For Victory.  For Love.  For Destiny.  For Passion.  For Troy.

Plot: An adaptation of Homer's great epic, the film follows the assault on Troy by the united Greek forces and chronicles the fates of the men involved.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

When I caught this in the theater in 2004 I wasn't impressed.  I found Bloom to be an annoying prick, Pitt to be dolled up too much like a pretty boy and the female leads were underwritten and performed rather poorly.  Outside of that I liked it OK.  Cut to ten years later and I watched it again only this time it was the director's cut.  Now either for reasons of seeing it again or seeing this different cut, I liked it.  It was more violent than I remember and the major problems I perceived the first time around weren't as bad the second time.  I'm probably not going to watch it again to figure out exactly what it was.  It's a good film with some good action and performances but I think twice is my limit.  There are far too many movies I haven't seen to let this one slip in once more.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Count of Monte Cristo (1934)

Director: Rowland V. Lee

Writers: Alexandre Dumas, Philip Dunne, Dan Totheroh, Rowland V. Lee

Composer: Alfred Newman

Starring: Robert Donat, Elissa Landi, Louis Calhern, Sidney Blackmer, Raymond Walburn, O.P. Heggie, Irene Hervey, Georgia Caine, Walter Walker, Lawrence Grant, Luis Alberni

More info: IMDb

Tagline: An Eye For An Eye...But Three Lives Must Pay For Mine!

Plot:  After greedy men have Edmound Dantes unjustly imprisoned for 20 years for innocently delivering a letter entrusted to him, he escapes to get his revenge on them.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

It's OK.  It's got that stagy quality you'd sometimes get from epics of this era where the acting is sometimes melodramatic to a fault.  The sets and costumes look great, though.  The picture was never dull so it's got that going for it.  It's not a very rousing rendition of the classic Dumas story but I couldn't help but think that if this picture were handled by Warner Bros. instead of United Artists and then putting some better actors in the leads (like Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains), then you'd have a much more enjoyable movie.  Donat does OK but he's not bringing the vigor and charisma I think this character needs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Director: J.A. Bayona

Writers: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow

Composer: Michael Giacchino

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, Jeff Goldblume, BD Wong, Geraldine Chaplin, Peter Jason

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Life finds a way.

Plot: When the island's dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen and Claire mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Probably.

This is just as dumb as JURASSIC WORLD (2015) but it's just as good, too.  Stupid shit happens in this movie that defies screenwriting gymnastics but it doesn't matter.  The dinosaur action is great and it's a lot of fun and that's what this franchise is supposed to be all about.  The first half is on the island and the second half is in Northern California.  There seems to be a lot more dinosaur action in this one than the last one but then it's been three years since I saw that one.  Goldblum isn't in it much but he always brings it so I'll take what I can get.  There's a delicious tease at the end for the next film.  It's too bad that this franchise will never see an 'R' rating.  I'm sure a lot of fans would love to see what they could do with no restrictions.  I'd be upset with myself if I didn't say how great it is to see Ted Levine on the big screen again.  That guy should be in everything.  And one more thing, apparently Claire discovered better shoes to run in. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Dictator (2012)

Director: Larry Charles

Writers: Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer

Composer: Erran Baron Cohen

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, John C. Reilly, Sayed Badreya

More info: IMDb

Plot: The heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.

My rating: 6.5/10

If you saw the trailer then you got a good deal of the good gags but you MUST see this for the truly outrageously hilarious shit.  I about lost it when Cohen is attached by Busty Heart's massive mammaries.  The scene lasts about two minutes and it's one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. 

As it progresses the fight gets wilder.  There's a spoof of the axe and the door scene from THE SHINING (1980) and if that weren't enough, they even go for a RAGING BULL (1980) reference that had me in tears.  There are about three or so great belly laughs but it's the little gags that suffer.  There aren't that many good ones outside of what you see in the trailer.  I was even often bored which didn't make sense.  This is a silly, raunchy comedy but a lot of the jokes were weak.  It felt like they should've kept working on the script until it was a much tighter and funnier flick.  I'd still recommend it because there are some very funny and clever gags that work well enough to justify the dips in quality.  Ben Kingsley fans will be disappointed as he's in a role that doesn't bring an ounce of funny.  Any number of actors could've done that role as well (or better) as he did and that's not something I thought I'd say about that guy.  However, John C. Riley is fucking hilarious in his brief two minutes.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Grudge Match (2013)

Director: Peter Segal

Writers: Tim Kelleher, Rodney Rothman

Composer: Trevor Rabin

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Kevin Hart, Kim Basinger, Alan Arkin, Jon Bernthal

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A rivalry 30 years in the making.

Plot: A pair of aging boxing rivals are coaxed out of retirement to fight one final bout, thirty years after their last match.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I had a little trepidation going in but I shouldn't have been.  It's a fun movie with a good share of comedy, thanks to De Niro and Hart, pleasant drama and emotional weight.  De Niro is great fun and he's full of energy...the opposite of Stallone.  At first I thought Stallone was phoning it in but then he's being true to his character, Henry.  Henry left the game thirty years earlier after fucking up his relationship with the big love of his life.  He walked away from the only two things that mattered to him and he's spent three decades in a blue collar job, living simply and accepting his lot in life.  When he finally does perk up and show some life, it's even more noticeable and effective.  I just wish he hadn't gone too dull for most of the picture.  The story works nicely and the performances are good.  I loved the funny business during the credits with Dante (Hart) and his sales pitches to celebrities.  They're hilarious.  I'd like to see a spinoff with Dante and his over the top shenanigans. Don't listen to the 30% Rotten Tomatoes score.  If you're a fan of any of these people then you'll probably dig it.