Saturday, March 11, 2006

Terms of Endearment

When you look up “80’s tear jerker” in the dictionary there’s a picture of this movie. I’m not one to cry at movies, but if I were, then I would have been bawling. It’s kind of a comedy/drama, with a lot of laugh out loud moments, but by the end I was really sad. It’s a great cast: Danny Devtio, Jack Nicholson, John Lithgow, Shirley Mclaine, Jeff Daniels. And the acting was amazing. At first, McLaine’s character, Aurora, is seen as the “bad guy”. She’s an overbearing mother who is way too critical of her daughter who says, “Sure would be nice to have a mother somebody liked”. She won’t go to her daughter’s wedding because she doesn’t approve of her husband Flap (played by Jeff Daniels), she won’t congratulate her on being pregnant, and she treats all her males suitors like dirt.
And, then there’s the crazy, ex-astronaut neighbor, Garret (Jack Nicholson). He is absolutely repulsive for the first hour or so. He hits on younger girls, he’s vulgar, and all around an unsavory character.
Flap starts out as a fun loving, smart, hard working college professor. But the marriage starts to break down. Emma (Debra Winger) thinks he’s having an affair, she doesn’t have enough money to pay for groceries, and she’s getting pregnant every 2 years (she has three kids by the end of the movie). Aurora starts having a fling with the astronaut, who actually turns out to be a good guy, and life seems to be ok. But, all is not well.
In the end, Flap makes the family move to Nebraska. Then, Emma gets cancer, their marriage falls apart, and the whole thing gets depressing. But, she has a support system, her husbands does really love her, her mom really is a caring person, the astronaut comes through, and well, things could be worse.
Oh, yeah, forgot John Lithgow. Apparently he was a stand in for another actor who backed out. He filmed his part in this movie during a few days break from filming
“Footloose”. His character is a rather charming banker whom Emma has an affair with in Des Moines.
Great movie. 5 stars, two thumbs up… could make it on to my list of favorite movies of all time.

Check out the trailer:

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Blob

Or, "Why poking things with a stick is a bad idea"

As long as you don’t take this movie too seriously, it’s a good watch. Though it claims to be a horror movie, the passage of time has dulled the impact of The Blob’s special effects and ploys for shocking the audience, and as a result the movie is no longer as frightening as it might have once been. It does, however, continue to excel in keeping the gore factor up, with dismembered body parts and decaying half-alive victims galore.

Most of the allowances for this film have to go towards the plotline and characterizations, most of which seem cheesy by today’s standards (and probably by 80’s standards, as well). The basic story is as follows: a “meteor” crashes to the earth, and an unknown, amorphous life form from within quickly starts taking out townspeople, starting with the unfortunate homeless man who first discovers it. The trio from the beginning of the movie – a jock, cheerleader, and rebel (you can tell by his leather jacket, cigarettes, and motorcycle highjinks – sans helmet), brought together by their discovery of the infected and soon to be devoured homeless man – is soon whittled down to the unlikely duo of the cheerleader and the rebel. Together, they have to rid the town of the blob attacking it, as none of the adults believe their tales of imposing danger.

Some thinly veiled ethical warnings are thrown in haphazardly, as is common in horror movies. The blob immediately goes after the parked couple engaging in underage drinking and the beginnings of premarital sex, and eventually takes out the evil government officials who lose sight of the value of individuals when dealing with national security. In fact, after those deaths, most all of the characters introduced in the beginning of the movie quickly die off, leaving no doubt as to who would end up still alive at the end of the movie.

Oh, did I mention the evil-government subplot? Apparently, the blob isn’t a random alien attack (as I think happened in the original movie), but instead a botched attempt of the US at a biological weapon to use against Russia. The rebel of the movie thus becomes the hero on two fronts, as he not only helps physically take out the blob, but his inability to trust authority figures also saves the town from being wiped out by cold-hearted generals only interested in containing their “weapon” for future use.

If you watch closely (and even if you don’t), almost everything shown briefly in the beginning of the movie comes back to play a part later on, ad infinitum. It becomes a game to predict what will happen next. If something is mentioned and doesn’t seem important, e.g. a jacket zipper getting stuck, you know that somewhere along the line that zipper being stuck will play an integral role in building suspense.

All in all, The Blob is not good horror movie, but it is a good movie to watch and laugh about with friends.

Best quote:
Cheerleader: The front door's locked.
Rebel: [picks up a brick] Don't worry, I got a key.
The trailer (on the left hand side of the screen):

Thursday, March 09, 2006

When Harry Met Sally...

This film was directed by Rob Riener and written by Nora Ephron. It stars Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, and Carrie Fishcher. I would like to start by saying that this happens to be my friends favorite movie and she watches very often and she recommended it to me. At first I had my reservations because I am not a big fan of Meg Ryan but since I was held up in my house with the flu I gave it a shot.
This film starts off with Harry and Sally on a trip to New York. Sally drops him off and they part ways. They really dont like each other at first. 5 years late as fate will have it they meet again in an airport...both in relatiohships...Harry is getting married. The are on the same flight and they chat but still don't seem to be fond of each others personalities. They part ways again! So another five years pass and we learn that Sally seperated from her man and Harry is getting divorced. Sally and Marie (Carrie Fischer) are in a bookstore and what do you know? Harry and Sally meet again and this time become friends. So pretty much over a span of a few months their friendship builds and they like each other...but only in the friend way. They both complain about finding love when in reality the two are meant for eachother. Their two best freinds Marie and Jess find love and well, so do Harry and Sally. Hope I'm not ruining the movie for you but I think its kind of obvious what happens in the guessed!
The film is all about the trials and tribulations of love and relationships. These two "friends" have feelinings for each other and they just can't make a move. They are a match and it takes them are really long time to figure that out! The film was a really cute romantic comedy and if your a girl I would recommend it. If your a's a good film but more of a chick flick. I got some good laughs, especially in the diner orgasm scene which is the most famous from this movie. Its pretty funny! Overall, it's a good film that's cute and if you want to watch a carefree movie that I think this is the one for you. I can see now why my friend likes it so much. It may not be my favorite but I can say I watch a more notable film of the 8o's!


Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Colors. 1988. dir. Dennis Hopper

“There's two bulls standing on top of a mountain. The younger one says to the older one: ‘Hey pop, let's say we run down there and fuck one of them cows’. The older one says: ‘No son. Lets walk down and fuck 'em all.’” – Bob Hodges to Danny McGavin

That is the moral of Colors… that is, if you are a cop. Robert Duvall plays the compassionate veteran Hodges, while the hotshot rookie McGavin is played by Sean “Cicone” Penn. Both officers are assigned to the LAPD program CRASH: Community Resistance Against Street Hoodlums. Their main job is not necessarily to serve and to protect; their main job is to hunt down gang members and suppress their rival violence.

Some may view Hodges as a crooked officer, as he often lets people go in exchange for favors later down the line. He has no problem bending the law, because doing so helps him sleep at night. McGavin, on the other hand, strictly follows the law. He is obsessed with taking down criminals, as it is a productive outlet for his sadistic streak. Hodges knows the streets however and teaches McGavin how the hoods run. Another metaphor for his approach is letting little lone fish swim away, so that they can lead him to the large schools (I like Pisces better than Taurus, that’s why I use my metaphor, not his). However, is this always right? Wouldn’t this lead to more trouble down the road?

At first, it looked like this film would be a Training Day precursor, but it’s actually quite different. It is a great crime/buddy-cop drama focusing on the two main rival gangs of Los Angeles: the Bloods and the Crips. So if you’re a member of either gang, please, watch this film. Also, if you’re a fan of Ice-T, watch this film because he provides the excellent theme song (which wasn’t even on any of his LPs). Overall, this is my feel-good film for Spring Break, but you don’t have to take my word for it (cue Reading Rainbow music).

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Down By Law

Down By Law. 1986. dir. Jim Jarmusch

You may have seen inspiring films of prison escape like The Shawshank Redemption. Well, this movie isn’t like that…

Zack (Tom Waits) is a recently-fired DJ who gets set-up to deliver a Jaguar from one part of town to another. What he doesn’t know is that the trunk holds illegal contents… Jack (John Lurie) is a pimp who visits a hotel to check up on a possible new recruit. When he gets there, he is framed for a crime he didn’t commit… Bob (Roberto Benigni) is an Italian tourist who accidentally kills a man by throwing an eight ball to his head. The common strand among the three is that they end up in the same New Orleans jail cell.

All the actors of fit perfectly for the film. Roberto Benigni does an excellent job portraying Roberto Benigni: a hyper, optimistic short guy who speaks poor English. His acting comes natural to him, and he becomes the beating heart of this black and white film. Tom Waits suits his role as the Louis Armstrong-voiced DJ who probably listened to too many Tom Waits records. He is a lovable loser, whose stumbling walk makes him appear shorter than his six foot frame. His acting style is directly influenced by his music: drunken, disheveled, and charming. His 1985 album Rain Dogs provides some of the music for the film (maybe Jarmusch thought he would have a lower overhead by paying one of the actors for music credits, too). John Lurie also comes from a music background (he is the leader of the New York “fake jazz” band, the Lounge Lizards, as well as composer for the scores of many Jarmusch films). Lurie is pure downtown New York hipster: he gives off a menacing aura, his mouth looks like he plays the alto sax way too much, and he probably does heroin. At least two of those assessments are true, which makes his onscreen presence that much more commanding. Although one may assume he was cast for the role for the same reason Waits was, no one else could have done the role quite as well.

Down By Law is a wonderful prison escape film. The majority of the first half focuses on Jack and Zack, leading one to believe that the film is headed for a depressing climax. However, Bob brings his natural, Italian sunshine onto the screen and brings all of the characters redemption. Maybe it doesn't reach those emotional highs like Shawshank, but then again, I haven't even seen Shawshank so I wouldn't be able to compare.

Less Than Zero

Less Than Zero. 1987. dir. Marek Kanievska.

“Calling Mister Oswald with the swastika tattoo…”

By now it has become apparently obvious that I like to rent films that have some sort of reference (be it intentional or not) to music. To make the point even more delicious, the 80s was one of my favorite decades for music. It was such a fertile ground for artists. Thus, as a big fan of Elvis Costello, I rented this film and had a big smile on my face when I saw a newspaper clip with the words “Party Girl” in big, bold letters flash across the screen. There was even a Husker Du poster, which was the second cinematic manifestation of their name I’ve seen on film (the first was in Mighty Ducks 3)… but I’m writing a film review, not a paean to the saving grace of rock and roll.

Less Than Zero is another teenage film. However, it is not one of those carefree films where everything turns out perfect in the end. It is a film about cocaine and crack addictions, the shallow emptiness of hard partying, broken families, and huge amounts of expendable income. This is what happens when the American Dream turns into a surrealistic nightmare.

Clay (Andrew McCarthy) returns home from college to find his ex-girlfriend, Blair (Jami Gertz), and his ex-best friend, Julian (Robert Downey, Jr.), in a dysfunctional relationship. They found solace in each other when Clay left… and they found solace in cocaine. Clay tries to help his friends, but it may already be too late…

Without getting into too many details, this film provides a warning to both children and parents of the 80s. All of the teenagers come from affluent, broken homes in Los Angeles. Without that warmth and compassion from their parents, they end up doing bad things. Julian attracts the most trouble. After running up a huge debt with Rip (James Spader), he is forced to pay him off by doing “favors” for him. Less Than Zero shows the dangers of addiction in a shocking, vivid portrayal.

This is a decent film with some fine casting. Robert Downey, Jr. probably took enough cocaine to method act his way throughout the film. Also, James Spader has that slightly charismatic, intimidating look which he used in many of those 80s films (such as Pretty In Pink). The soundtrack is actually not that great, though. Very much the 80s I’d like to forget.

Straight To Hell

Straight To Hell. 1987. dir. Alex Cox

This film is terrible. If Elvis Costello, Joe Strummer, Dennis Hopper, and the Pogues were not in this film, I would have turned the television off at the fifteen-minute mark. It is that bad.

Four bank robbers flee from a crime scene only to get stranded in the desert. With nowhere to go, they hide their money and take shelter in a nearby town. The locals are a bunch of weird coffee addicts and incest kids, mostly with thick Irish accents (courtesy of the fine pub band, the Pogues, who also provide a pretty decent soundtrack). Eventually, the bank robbers are invited as the grand guests of the McMahon family and they spend their time witnessing strange events.

The actual genre of the film lies somewhere between spoof comedy, western, and musical, as characters randomly burst into song in the kooky desert. Actually, the most moving part of the film (perhaps only moving part) is when Cait O’Riordan (Mrs. Elvis Costello at the time) led everyone in singing “O Danny Boy.” Not long after this touching scene, the bank robbers decide they want to kill everybody, so they arm themselves with malfunctioning machine guns provided by a land developer (played by Dennis Hopper).

Looking at the film through an ethical standpoint, it could be deduced that “Greed is bad,” as the bank robbers end up betraying each other for the loot (I don’t want to list any spoilers, but Courtney Love dies… and it is awesome). Almost everyone dies at the end, either due to greed or natural evil impulses brought upon by too much incest. If you want definitive Cox, stick to Repo Man. Overall, I really cannot recommend this film to anyone (except for those who enjoy seeing Courtney Love die… cause really, it was pretty awesome).