Saturday, April 01, 2006

An Officer and a Gentleman

Unusual for a military film, this is very much a chick flick. Along with Richard Gere's handsome, young self in uniform, there is an endearing love story to break through the macho facade. In the beginning, Zack Mayo (Gere) is a college grad with a troubled family history who enters the Naval training program to become a fighter pilot. He is immediately faced with the challenges of assimilating into a disciplined lifestyle and has several run-ins with the other trainees. Sgt. Foley, played by Louis Gossett, Jr. (who won an Academy Award for the role), is a source of constant tension for Mayo. Foley's position as a role model and his enthusiastic teaching of martial arts technique turns out to be the catalyst for Mayo's personality shift.Through all the physical and mental pressure, Mayo relies upon his friend Sid and his girlfriend, Paula. While they have fun together in their down time, Sid's and Mayo's relationship is defined by the serious moments when Sid needs rescuing. When Sid decides to drop out of the training just before graduation, Mayo goes to the lengths of challenging authority to defend him. Their bond has a sad ending, unlike that of Mayo and Paula.
Not only does Mayo stand by his closest friends, but he begins to embody the all-for-one attitude of the Navy. During the final fitness test, his maturity is confirmed when he slows down to encourage the lone female who is struggling to climb the wall. In these moments, we forgive all of Mayo's faults and bad moves and root for him. An Officer and a Gentleman appeals to both our American sense of honor and our human sensitivity. Chick flick or not, it is a classic of 1982.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Body searches and psychoanalysis

Apparently, I was deprived of a classic film experience before watching Stand By Me. I had never heard of this movie before, much to the great surprise of my friends, but I'm glad that I came across it. Somewhat reminiscent of The Sandlot and other such coming-of-age movies, it is one to which all of us can relate. While most of us probably did not go on an expedition to find a dead body at age twelve, we had adventures that certainly seemed as important. This movie is funny, sad, and real.

A young Jerry O'Connell plays Vern, the token fat kid of the group who comes up with the plan for the four boys to go looking for a missing kid. They follow the railroad tracks, on which Teddy, the troubled one, stands before an oncoming train. Gordie, the narrator of the film, has a run-in with the legendary junkyard dog. And Chris, played by River Phoenix, holds them all together with his strong, mature personality. There are plenty of heartfelt moments, a few tearful, and just as many funny ones. A second suspenseful train incident completes the range of emotions that the film contains.

Although I'm not sure, I think Stand By Me may have been the original kid adventure film, prompting a string of them in the '90s. Though it is somewhat predictable in plot, the various stories of the young boys are different and somehow more touching than in other films of its type. Because I relate it to later films like The Little Rascals, this is not a distinctly '80s film in my view. Though it has been created and recreated, the innocence and truth of its storyline and the hilarious mishaps of the bonding among the four friends make Stand By Me a film well worth watching.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Better get yourself a garlic t-shirt buddy

Both Coreys, a love story, and a great soundtrack that includes Steven Tyler and Run DMC, INXS, and The Doors, what more could you ask from a teen 80’s film? How about some vampires?

The Lost Boys is the story of two brothers who move to their eccentric grandfather’s house in Santa Carla, California with their recently divorced mother. While they settle into their new surroundings they find out there is something supernatural about the town they live in. Michael the older brother gets lured into a motorcycle gang by a beautiful girl named Star. Meanwhile the younger brother Sam meets up with two boys in the local comic book store who try to warn him about some of Santa Carla’s nocturnal residents. It starts to get interesting when Michael starts to sleep all day and party all night and try to suck his brother’s blood. Michael doesn’t want to become a full vampire and Sam doesn’t want to become a snack so they turn to the Frog brothers from the comic book store who happen to be amateur vampire hunters for help. Michael’s only hope to save himself and his half vampire love interest Star is to refrain from feasting on his first victim and to kill the leader of the vampires.

The things that make this movie great are the comedy, the songs, and the special effects. There are some pretty good one-liners and practical jokes throughout the film and after watching this film and American Werewolf in London I’ve come to appreciate the 80’s combination of horror and comedy. The soundtrack was also funny when it started to play “People Are Strange” by The Doors as they were entering the town and noticing all the strange residents present even in the daylight. The special effects were great too because again there were no computer graphics and Edgar Frog tells you that, “No two bloodsuckers go the same way.” He’s true to his word and the deaths never get boring.

If you like 80’s horror/comedy check this film out here:

"It's not that they're stupid, it's just they don't know anything"

Stand and Deliver

It's your basic "encouraging teacher gets through to unreachable students" stories that gets shown in public schools every once in a while; along the lines of "Dangerous Minds," "Renaissance Man," "The Principal," and "To Sir, With Love" (feel free to name others).
Of these movies (from what I remember of the ones I've seen), Stand and Deliver is the most obvious about bashing the audience over the head with it's societal commentary. The students only fight their teacher minimally, and otherwise are accepting and willing to learn. Thus, the fault of their inadequet education lies not within their own mindsets, but instead is entirely a product of society; They aren't flawed, the system is.
Still, the characters are developed well enough that the audience is invested in them, and that makes up for any lack of originality in the plot. The teacher's humor and sarcastic way of talking shows how much he cares, and it's worrying when he suffers from a heart attack, because its cause is partially the fault of the stress from his teaching job; a job that he's only doing to help out his students.
My favorite line from this movie was said by the "bad boy" of the movie, upon entering class late (after everyone but the teacher has left), right after the teacher has given a sort of inspirational speech about what they'll be trying to achieve in his class.
Angel: Hey, I'm the first one here.
Angel: (sees the board) What's cal-coo-lus?
Though this is "based on a true story," it's a bit embellished. If you're interested, wikipedia has a nice description of the real events that took place:

Meryl Streep anyone?

So, when i was watching the Oscars i learned that Meryl Streep is the most nominated actor. That's pretty impressive (even if she's not the actor with the most awards). So, i decided to see her in action last weekend. I checked out Plenty. Unfortunately i didn't pay it full attention, and it's kind of a complex movie. It deals with an English woman in post WWII Britain. She has some mental issues.... "a desire to lose control" is how she describes it. She is violent, unfaithful, selfish and just seems to be a very unstable character. Streep portrays this very well, however, and "Susan" becomes very believable, and almost understandable.
The biggest tension in the movie is created by Streep's attraction/attachment to three different men. One a husband, one a physical affair and one a "soul mate". the first is an English diplomat, a well to do caring sort of guy. The second is slightly less developed, while the third is Sam Neil. The two meet while both are working for the French resistance during the war. They had a quick affair while in the midst of a war, and Streep’s character never seems to be able to move beyond this. She always needs something to fight for, some cause, and she struggles to lead a meaningful existence without some sort of conflict.
Susan (meryl streep) builds one lasting friendship with Alice, played by Tracey Ullman. Alice is another complex character, who claims she is a novelist at heart, but really seems to be little more than a talkative, flirtatious distraction. It is a slightly uncharacteristic role for Ullman, she usually produces comedies. But, her character does provide slightly entertaining moments.
Not really a fun movie to watch, and I probably should have paid more attention. But, the acting was good, and the situations compelling. 3 stars.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Blind Date

Being the huge Bruce Willis that I am, I just had to check out Blind Date. It is one of his few movies that I had not seen before. Going into the movie, I had high expectations because it's Bruce and I have rarely been disappointed by a movie with Bruce in it. And I was not disappointed this time; this movie is full of humorous moments and funny antics. It has a pretty stellar cast too: besides Bruce, there's Kim Basinger, John Larroquette, Phil Hartman, and William Daniels.

Bruce plays Walter Davis, a workaholic who doesn't have much of a life to speak of besides work. He needs to find a date at the last minute for a business dinner, so enter Basinger as Nadia Gates. She is his sister-in-law's cousin, and she comes with one warning: do not let her drink, or she will turn crazy. Well, of course, this warning is not heeded and craziness insues. The craziness gets worse when Nadia's psychotic ex-boyfriend, David shows up.

Nadia literally ruins Walter's life in one night: because of her outrageous behavior at the dinner, he gets fired; because of the threats from David, he pulls a gun out and gets arrested. Then, he goes to drop her off at a friend's house in a sketchy neighborhood, and while there, some hoodlums start stripping his car. It is pretty funny to see him in the next scene driving down the freeway with no doors, no roof, and sitting on a box for a seat.

This movie will have you laughing pretty much from beginning to end. David makes a fool of himself the whole time, so this is good for a laugh. He is constantly crashing into buildings: first a pet store (he winds up with a monkey in his backseat), then a paint shop, and finally a flour factory. So you can imagine what he looks like by the end: painted rainbow colors and lightly coated with flour. The ending of the film was more involved than I expected. I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, it comes down to Walter and David vying for Nadia's love, and who do you think she's going to pick? Walter, of course! After the comedic struggle, there is a passionate underwater kiss between the two of them, sealing the deal. It is very cute, although it could be argued that today, this scene has become overdone. Overall, this movie is cute and funny. It is also a plus to get to watch Bruce when he was so young--such boyish good looks he had then!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Little Darlings

This coming of age tale has everything you would expect from a movie about summer camp food fights, smoking in the bathroom, rivals from opposite sides of the tracks, and wagers as to who can lose their virginity before summers end. Well, almost.

Angel (Kristy McNicol) is a streetwise girl who is determined to not let the name fool anyone; she is constantly at odds with Ferris (Tatum O’Neal – Pre-drugs and John McEnroe) an upper class, well-traveled debutante. Of course the girls share a cabin with a rag tag group of campers (including a young Cynthia Nixon from Sex in the City.) One rainy day the girls are talking about boys and decide to live vicariously through the two girls and make a bet as to who will lose their virginity first. The girls accept the wager and the cabin follows suit by choosing sides. Angel sets her sights quickly on a heartthrob from the rival boys camp across the lake, ironically named Randy (a young Matt Dillon.) While Ferris’ affections find an older man, Gary a councilor at camp (Armand Assante.)

Ferris’ advances become inappropriate and as the summer goes on stories about her relationship with Gary spread and become exaggerated as her various bunkmates become obsessed with the possibilities. Ferris is questioned about the validity of the stories –and Gary faces termination, she eventually admits it was all a lie.

On the other hand Angel and Randy’s relationship escalates quickly and on one rainy day they sneak off to a boat house and carry out her side of the bet. The whole experience is so unloving and traumatic that she denies anything happened. Neither girl wins the bet.

Angel and Ferris are ostracized from the rest of camp for the remaining weeks and bond with each other. Angel concedes that Ferris may have been right all along and sex should be saved for someone you love. They both decide that winning a contest is not enough motivation to make such an “adult decision.”

This film is unique because I think it’s the first time young girls are portrayed in the same manner as young boys are, interested in sex. Both girls are constantly lying to each other and their fellow campmates, and the lies almost get Gary fired or even arrested. They see how their actions do affect other people’s lives. I recommend this film, since many people I’ve talked to had never heard of it, both lead actresses give great performances and it may be worth renting just to see what Matt Dillon looked like before he had veneers.

"Do I have an Uncle?"

In one of John Hughes’ finest family films “Uncle Buck” he explores the relationship between Buck Russell (John Candy) and his estranged brother’s family. After Cindy Russell’s father has a heart attack she and her husband Bob (Buck’s brother) are frantically searching for someone to watch the kids. Since they have recently moved from Minneapolis to a Chicago suburb (a Hughes trademark) they have limited options. Conveniently Buck lives in Chicago, yet Cindy is less than thrilled to have him in charge of the children.
Buck arrives in the middle of the night and when the children awake to find their parents gone, and an Uncle they’ve never met in charge of their care they are slightly shocked. Buck is a bachelor, relies on horse races and gambling for his income, and has little or no domestic or child rearing skills. However he quickly wins the hearts of Miles (Macaulay Culkin) and Maizy (Gabby Hoffmann.) Tia the Russell’s 15-year-old daughter however is a bit harder to break through to. There are a lot of funny scenes with Buck and the two youngest children, however the real important relationship is between Buck and Tia.

Angry that her family moved and her mother seems to choose her carrier over the family she is very cold and rebellious. Buck and Tia are constantly at odds with each other. Eventually Buck is on the way to bring Tia home from a “cheerleader slumber party” she snuck out to, when he finds her walking alone because her boyfriend “Bug” has tried to rape her.
Buck and Tia bond and teach, “Bug” a lesson, they also teach eachother how important family is and that the biggest family charity case can be your closest ally. This is an unconventional family film, because it is not the perfect family on the outside. Candy’s portrayal of Uncle Buck makes him impossible not to love. In one scene he toys with the idea of taking Miles and Maizy to cheat on a horse race.
I recommend this film to anyone that is a fan of John Candy or Hughes films, it is filled with hilarious moments and happy endings, the way a family comedy should be.