Saturday, February 11, 2006

May the farce be with you

"Once upon a time warp..."

When a movie starts with that line you know that you are not supposed to take it serious at all, so I sat back and relaxed as I watched every 80's sci-fi movie made a mockery of in the 1987 movie Spaceballs.

You are caught up on the story which mockingly starts in chapter 11 instead of chapter 7 like the older Star Wars films with the classic scrolling text set against deep space. Basically the Spaceballs under the leadership of President Scroob and Lord Dark Helmet are trying to obtain planet Druidia's abundant air supply by kidnapping the planet's princess. The only ones that can save Druidia and the wayward Princess Vespa is Lone Starr and his faithful sidekick Barf the Mog (half man half dog) with a little help from the small, green, and wise Yogurt.

This movie was highly entertaining with a star studded cast that included Mel Brooks, who also wrote and directed it, Bill Pullman, John Candy, Rick Moranis, and the voice talents of Joan Rivers, as C3PO's female counter part Dot Matrix, and Dom De Luise as Pizza the Hut. There were also two great cameos that made my night from sound effects wonder Michael Winslow from the Police Academy flicks as a radar technician and John Hurt from Aliens who says "Oh no... not again" when another alien pops out of him but in this film he dances like the WB frog across the diner countertop.

I also enjoyed the film for its exageration, literal humor, and the way some of the characters spoke directly to the audience. Dark Helmet resembled a characature of Darth Vader with a very enlarged dome-like helmet. When the radar got jammed it was because Lone Starr launched a jar of jam at the radar dish. Then after the plot was explained in detail through dialogue Dark Helmet breaks our fly on the wall perspective and asks the viewers "Everybody got that?".

Many references to many earlier sci-fi thrillers such as Star Wars, Star Trek the TV series, Indiana Jones, Aliens, and Planet of the Apes were made but I won't assume I understood or caught them all so I invite you to watch the film and see if you find anymore. You at least will have been amused for 96 minutes if you enjoy what my mother calls "stupid humor" but I have to agree with Lord Dark Helmet and say I liked it "because good is dumb".

Role reversal in Mr. Mom

Mr. Mom is a family comedy about the role reversal one family encounters when the father gets laid off and the mother goes back to work. I didn't know it when I started watching the film, but the story was written by John Hughes. Also, Grace, the secretary from Ferris Bueller's Day Off makes an appearance as the grocery store check out lady. What a coincidence! It is funny to watch the father in this family struggle with playing the role of "mom"; he makes many mistakes his first day on the job. First, there is the incident at his son's school where he goes in the exit and an irritated mother yells at him "Drop off's at the south, moron!" Then he attempts grocery shopping with the kids and manages to knock over several displays and lose one of his kids. I loved the scene where Jack, the father, ironed his kid's grilled cheese sandwich to warm it up and then stapled his other kid's blanket back together--hilarious!!

While this movie is very comedic, there is a more important theme to be extracted from it. It displays one of the strongest stereotypes present in our society to this day: that of the wife as the mother and housekeeper and the husband as the breadwinner and head of the family. This movie, although humorous, does a good job of displaying the other side of this stereotype. It is important to note that role reversal in today's society can work much better than it did in this movie. This movie is 23 years old, and today's society is definitely more accepting of a father who chooses to stay home and a mother who chooses to go to work. That is not to say it is common; it would probably still be thought of as a rare practice. However, many families today make this dynamic work, while still others function with both parents working.

Overall, this movie is good for a laugh as long as you don't expect much. It doesn't require much thinking on the viewer's part, and some of the attempts to be funny don't work as well as others. But it is still worth watching if you are in the mood to be entertained and get a few laughs out of it.

Check out the trailer here:

What's your major malfunction?

Wow! I'd heard good things about Full Metal Jacket (and bad things too). But i must say, i really was impressed. It seems to be the basis for most war movies since. The opening scene is of all the marines getting their hair cut. Can't help but think of the scene in GI Jane when Demi Moore cuts her own hair off. Next, there is the evil drill sergeant, who doesn't seem quite as evil as some of the more recent ones. He dishes out push ups and verbal insults, but doesn't seem to truly hate his men. He even seems proud of Pile when he turns out to be a good shooter, and qualifies for actual combat. He seems to accept Joker's intelligence, even if he doesn't always admire it.
When all the men recite their "prayer": This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine, etc,etc. I was reminded of a similar scene in the recent movie "Jarhead". I guess it's just kind of a marine thing.
There were a few very striking scenes. When Pile shoots himself in the head and we see the results in full graphic detail, it's a little disturbing to say the least. The special effects throughout the movie are pretty good, we see blood spurting out of people, in slow motion, on various occasions.
The next really striking scene was the sniper scene. Cowboy and his "navigator" realize they made a mistake adn try to change course. "8 Ball" tries to cross a sort of no man's land, only to get shot down. He doesn't die immediately, but continues to be shot and moans repeatedly. Then another soldier joins him, and gets the same fate.
The climax of this scene though, is when the viewer realizes that the sniper is a woman. Throughout the movie different issues are delved into. Religion is addressed when Joker admits he doesn't believe in the Virgin Mary. Race is addressed with the hooker who is wary about sleeping with a black man. And in the scene with the sniper the viewer comes face to face with their own gender stereotypes. Who doesn't expect a young man in his mid twenties to be doing the shooting?
The emotional punch comes when she begs to be shot, repeating over and over and over again, "Shoot me, shoot me, shoot me" Ugh.
Another big issue is the idea of "collateral damage". Joker asks one of the marines how he can shoot women and children. He replies, "Easy, you just don't lead 'em as much".
So, all in all a though-provoking, gruesome, well made movie. I give it 4 stars.

And here is the trailer:

Friday, February 10, 2006

I'll Be Back.....

Ahhh so many of my questions are answered after finally seeing the first Terminator movie! I have seen the second one about a dozen times, and I had only a vague idea about the plot of the first one. Again Schwarzenegger dazzles with explosions and gunfire, and with minimal dialogue (probably a good choice). His mission is to travel back through time to assassinate the mother of John Connor so that he will never be born and grow to become the leader of the human rebellion in the future. This hunt takes the audience through two hours of dark and suspenseful scenes with near death escapes of John’s mother, Sara Connor. The special effects are not as impressive as in the second film, but they are still good enough to make viewers get lost in the story. I think James Cameron chose his shots wisely because he lets you see just enough detail to be convincing, but leaves some to the imagination, whereas in T2 they go overboard with letting the audience see everything because they had the technology to do so. Sometimes this “less is more” nature about a film can enhance the experience, and I think it has an effect in T1.

The weirdest aspect of T1 for me was the fact that Schwarzenegger’s character was evil, as opposed to him being the hero in T2. My familiar idea of the “good” terminator made it hard for me to make the transition to rooting against him, but the character Kyle Reese has very likeable qualities to take his place. However, there is that whole mind game of John Connor sending Reese back in time who actually ends up impregnating Sara Connor with John!!!!!! Anyway, overall the film was entertaining and I recommend seeing it whether you have seen T2 or not. This film is definitely an 80’s sci-fi icon.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A great link

Here you all go:

A great link to help you decide what film you might want to watch:

It has over 500 films of the 80s indexed.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

hope and glory (or, how i wasted two hours of my life)

Well, i was procrastinating on Sunday, after the Superbowl, and decided to check out "Hope and Glory". I vaguely remember seeing some of it during my childhood, but i wanted to see the whole thing.
Wow, was that a tedious way of spending an hour and 53 minutes. The story follows a stereotypical English family during WW II. They live in a row house with a little back garden, identical to almost every row house in the lower class suburbs of London, or many other large English cities. The parents are middle class and appear to have the typical marriage: they have good times and bad times. They occasionally feel as if they have wasted their lives, and search for something more important. The three children fit the typical teenager, tween and youngest child roles. The father goes off to war (big surprise), the family struggles to come to grips with the danger that surrounds them. It is as if every WWII stereotype was combined into one movie. We have love stories, air raids, tragedy, and a happy Hollywood ending. Everything happens!We start with the 15 year old (looking very mature for her age) sneaking out of the house to rendezvous with a Canadian soldier, while her younger brother joins a gang of hoodlums (all boys of 8 or 9). He learns to swear, and gets to peer into a girls pants. What?!
Then it turns out the mother never really like her husband that much, and we can sense an affair of some sort (maybe only emotional) coming on.
But, before any of that can develop the house gets burned down, the daughter reveals that she's pregnant and the movie spreads itself so thin that the viewer begins to wonder if there could possibly be any more catastrophes or diverging story lines.
Some of the character development is reasonable. The movie basically follows the development of the boy, Bill, who goes from being quiet and innocent to being a bit mischievous. If the story stuck with Bill, and how he was affected by the war, it might be a good watch. He is an interesting character. We see him develop mentally and, to an extent, sexually. We see the effects of the war on him. Unfortunately we don't just see Bill, we see every other character, and the movie tries to develop 6 or 7 full-fledged story lines. It's just way too much to take in. We also see the developing love story between Bill's sister Dawn, and the Canadian soldier Mac. At first she claims she's only in it for the physical side, a confession that appalls her mother. But then the viewer realizes it's something more, at least to Mac. He proposes, only to be turned down and throw the ring away. Right on cue, Bill finds the ring. And Mac goes AWOL and is allowed to marry the heavily pregnant Dawn, only to be carted away by military police as soon as the ceremony is over.
Oh, and there’s a continuing theme of cricket. Bill’s father teaches him how to throw a ‘googlie’. Bill practices it throughout the movie and, in the last scene, bowls out his inebriated father with a well placed throw. So cheesy it’s not even funny.
I'm sorry, but this movie had way too many things going on, and was slightly implausible. And ridiculously long. So, i give it 2 and half stars out of 5.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Steve Martin & John Candy: can't go wrong

Having seen only a few snippets of it here and there on TV, I decided to watch the entire film Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Steve Martin (Neal) and John Candy (Dell) are no less than the comic geniuses they are expected to be. The ultimate odd couple, they are stuck together in various uncomfortable sleeping situations and modes of transportation as Neal tries to get home to his family for Thanksgiving and is trapped by Dell's annoying presence. Although the dilemmas that arise are predictable in that too-many-coincidences-in-a-row kind of way, the comedy makes it worth watching.

Underneath the hilarity, though, there is a sentimental tone. Neal's wife and kids are waiting for him to come home, which is shown throughout, and they have an emotional reunion at the end. Also, Neal and Dell come to understand, and perhaps like, each other. It is refreshing to see this relationship develop between two strangers. Planes... is one of those movies I could watch over and over, mainly because the pillow scene will never stop being funny. Watch this movie if you like lighthearted, no surprises, feel-good comedy.

P.S. - Grace (Rooney's secretary) from Ferris Bueller makes an appearance as the clerk at the rental car agency. These two movies also have the same writer and director, John Hughes.

Everybody Gotta Die Sometime...

One of the most accalimed and honored war movies ever, Oliver Stone's Platoon is a captivating look at both war and the struggle to retain one's humanity during the Vietnam War. The film was engrossing and the cinematography makes the viewer feel like they're in the jungle with the characters--fire fights are frantic and disorienting, often obscuring the sources and targets of gunfire, giving the viewer a sense of what it must have been like to live through those events. Additionally, Chris Taylor, the main character, finds himself being pulled between his two commanding officers, Barnes and Elias, as they attempt to pass on their polar opposite views on war and life itself to the rest of the platoon. The outcome to this struggel is essential for Taylor's humanity to remain intact.

With state-of-the-art special effects, this movie still holds up to modern war movies. Aside from a few scenes, this movie could pass for one released in the late 90's or early 00's. Furthermore, the issues of the loss of humanity dealt with in this movie can still be applied today, sauch as with the war on Iraq. Set during the Vietnam War in the late 60's, this is not a distinctly 80's film, which helps to hold it up, as all the costumes, music, etc. are circa the 60's, rather than the 80's.

Overall, I'd recommend this film to others. Anyone who enjoyed Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan, or Black Hawk Down will enjoy Platoon as well.