Friday, September 25, 2009

Movie #136 - Sleepless in Seattle

"What if someone you never met, someone you never saw, someone you never knew was the only someone for you?"

One of the many romantic comedies written and directed by Nora Ephron. The only difference between this movie and some of her other movies, she cast Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan together. This is one of three films in which the two are paired, and apart from the flop, Joe vs. the Volcano, this movie and You've Got Mail are definitely keepers.

I am not one to openly claim that I like many romantic comedies, but I do like this movie. Not only is it well written and has an elaborate plot, it is well cast, a recipe that makes for a great movie in the end.

To complement Hanks and Ryan, you have appearances from Rob Reiner, Bill Pullman, David Hyde Pierce, Rosie O'Donnell, and Rita Wilson. However, the driving force behind this movie is the work of Ross Malinger, who portrays Jonah Baldwin, the son of Hanks' character. He is the main reason why this romance starts off in the first place and the main reason why it comes to fruition in the end.

Also, to add, Meg Ryan is again bubbly, perky, and beautiful in this film... too bad she looks somewhat scary nowadays with botched plastic surgery and time catching up with her. I believe she would've maintained that level of beauty from her earlier roles if she just let time do what it had to... instead, she caused her own demise.

And yes, I know... I've spoiled the ending so to speak. But Ephron romantic comedy have you seen where the two love interests didn't get together in the end? If you haven't watched this film after 16 years on the video shelves, pick it up. Not only will your wife, girlfriend, or fiancee thank you for it... but you'll definitely show a softer side... a level of sensitivity that she's never seen before.

However, if you are a female reader and want to pick this movie up on a date night with your boyfriend, husband, or fiancee... please don't. It's not fair to subject most men to these films... I am capable of sitting through them at nausea and I seek them out in order to amass more films on my database, however, I wouldn't openly recommend this film to punish men who would rather enjoy films such as Aliens or The Terminator or Rocky IV. There is romance in all three of those films... you'll greatly appreciate it. Get any of those films instead!

Hehehe... I love double standards.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Movie #135 - The Terry Fox Story

"Courage. Heartbreak. Romance. Determination."

One of the greatest true stories of a life that inspired a nation, and now inspires millions worldwide to fight cancer. The story portrays the life of Terry Fox and his determination to raise money for cancer research.

I will not attempt to comment on the compelling life story and tremendous courage, passion, and leadership this many showed fellow Canadians with his Marathon of Hope. However, this movie captured a great deal of that story and did its best to hold true to it.

The movie is cast with Eric Fryer, a real-life amputee who won a Genie award for Best Actor. The Genies are the Canadian equivalent to the Oscars. His portrayal of Fox was spot on and since the film was only made shortly after Fox's death, it must have been difficult to portray such a Canadian hero at the time of production.

The story follows the interaction between Fox and Doug Alward (portrayed by Michael Zelniker). Alward and Fox traveled together throughout the Marathon of Hope and its through the perspective of Alward that part of the story is told. Although Fox is not showcased through much heroism in his treatment of Alward throughout the journey, it shows the pain and suffering Fox had to endure to complete it, not to mention that he didn't intend to be a hero, but just someone who wanted to motivate others and prove a point. I believe he accomplished that as he is known as one of Canada's treasures in history and still impacts the lives of many every September.

There aren't many names in this film as the cast is composed of many Canadian actors. The only true headliner is Robert Duvall, who gives this film credibility and exposure to the U.S. film audience, but his role is more narrative and minimal to the entire storyline. Rosalind Chao (Rika Noda) is probably the only other recognizable name from this cast, known for her minor television roles and appearances.

In the end, I don't think the intent of this film was to make money or win accolades. It was to tell a compelling story, one that everyone in Canada knows about. It did win almost every award available in the dramatic movie categories at the Genies that year, however, telling a brief snapshot of the life and times of Terry Fox was the main reason it was made.

I apologize that I could not find a trailer for this film, but if I do, I will add it to the post afterwards.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Movie #134 - Gremlins

"Cute. Clever. Mischievous. Intelligent. Dangerous."

I remember seeing this film as a child and didn't think twice about it scaring me or not. Was probably already desensitized at an early age with exposure to horror films such as Psycho, The Shining, or The Exorcist, so Gremlins was pale by comparison.

However, Executive Producer Steven Spielberg got a great deal of flack back in 1984 when this movie was first released. Coming off of his box-office and critical success with E. T. The Extra Terrestrial, Gremlins was marketed as a holiday film, especially with cute Gizmo on the poster.

Parents unwittingly took their young children hoping to see a feel good story, only to be surprised to watch a film filled with violence and death. Yes, although cute and silly, Gremlins is actually a very violent movie, but made to be more of a dark comedy... something that is quite common in the here and now.

Despite the protests of the select few who got offended, this is a great movie from the 80's. Another member of the quintessential 80's films, its also a classic to enjoy during the Christmas season because its unconventional and definitely worth a laugh instead of the warm, fuzzy feeling from some of the other Christmas standards.

The cast itself is somewhat forgettable. Zach Galligan is the protagonist. Also, see if you can spot a young Corey Feldman and even Judge Reinhold is here - he's in almost every 80's film. Many young boys were distracted by the casting of Phoebe Cates - who didn't have a crush on her back in the 80's? I was only 4 years old when this film was released, but later developed that crush too watching these various 80's films over and over again in the early 90's.

The true star of this movie is the special effects utilized to create Gizmo and the entire cast of Gremlins monsters. Using specially designed puppets and animatronics, this type of technology was cutting edge before CGI was ever used on a regular basis. In addition, the cute character of Gizmo was accomplished by the voice over work of Howie Mandel... way before Bobby's World or Deal or No Deal.

In the end, the most infamous aspect of this movie is the rules. The Gremlin rules... coincidentally, similar rules that pertain to me:

1. Keep them away from water.
2. Keep them away from bright light.
3. The most important rule. No matter how much they cry, no matter how much they beg, never, never feed them after midnight.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Movie #133 - I Know What You Did Last Summer

"He's got a hook on them..."

One of those summer thrillers from 1997, this movie was the start of the wave of successful teen and young adult movie actors and actresses.

From this movie you have Jennifer Love Hewitt, who at the time was known for her work on Party of Five, but is know a recognized movie and television actress with her recent success on Ghost Whisperer.

Next you have Sarah Michelle Gellar, who has recently quieted down on leading movie roles and is probably living off her syndication money from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In terms of long-term acting potential, you have Ryan Phillippe, who has not only appeared in some critically acclaimed films over the past decade, but has shown that he can act in some serious roles, action movies, and even dark comedies. He has showcased the most versatility and could end up being the most recognized member of this film cast.

The one with the least success thus far is probably Freddie Prinze Jr. I believe he was originally in line to become the next Keanu Reeves, but his time might have passed to supplant Reeves in the roles in which solid acting and even facial expressions are not necessary. Prinze Jr. has chosen some poor roles since this movie, especially with a recurring role in the Scooby Doo franchise... yikes!

Other cameos from semi-stars you might recognize are Bridgette Wilson (Mrs. Pete Sampras), Johnny Galecki (known for his roles on Roseanne and the clever comedy The Big Bang Theory), and even Anne Heche, who seems grossly out of place with these younger stars.

In the end, they made a sequel to this film, which they only made because of the success of the original. The cast and popularity of these teenage / young adult actors is what sold this movie... not the plot or storyline. I also discovered that they made another sequel sans Hewitt - probably a straight to video type of thing, but hopefully, with some nudity. Hey, you gotta have a positive somewhere... this is a 14-A horror movie. Back when I was 17, this was a total rip-off.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Movie #132 - Spaceballs

"May The Farce Be With You."

You have to hand it to Mel Brooks. He took one of the biggest franchises in movie history in Star Wars and made one of the most clever spoof comedies. Not only was Brooks able to accomplish such a feat, but he used a large movie production budget and was very respectful to the Star Wars franchise in the jokes that were told.

This is definitely how movie spoofs should be made. The Airplane franchise is another set of movies that does it right. More recently, the disastrous movies such as the ones made by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer are horrible. Poor examples of super spoofs in which every movie of the summer is made into a spoof segment of the film. Stay away from these films.

Mel Brooks did it right with this film. The cast is remarkable in the use of top actors of the 80's such as John Candy, Rick Moranis, and Bill Pullman. Also, the other cast members are pretty good too such as Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, and Joan Rivers. Mel Brooks is also in this film along with some clever cameos from John Hurt and George Wyner.

Of the Brooks films, this is one of his best. I appreciate his brand of humor, because its creative and unique. He utilizes a basis for his plot, but takes the film into a whole new direction, telling an entirely different story that is only loosely based on the original film.

For you Star Wars fans out there... you'll love the use of various references from the franchise such as the Schwarz instead of the Force, Yogurt instead of Yoda, Dark Helmet instead of Darth Vader, and Pizza the Hut instead of Jabba the Hutt. Overall, Star Wars fans should enjoy this movie, not only for its farce comedy, but for the efforts made to pay homage to the original franchise.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Movie #131 - The Siege

"On November 6th our freedom is history."

I recently caught this 1998 film by Director Edward Zwick, and I noticed how prophetic this film was. Released three years before September 11, 2001, a day in which similar attacks on the U.S. was orchestrated by terrorists, Zwick's film discusses a number of major issues related to government policy and reactionary measures made during the fictional terrorism threats to New York City.

The reason this film was so compelling was that I watched it in 2009, during the post 9/11 era. Looking back, the reaction of the government and the paranoia that ensues in the film is quite similar to what the U.S. and other first world countries decided to do in order to combat terrorism.

Martial law was a very close reality for Americans and the threat that they faced in the days, weeks, and months after 9/11 were real. Zwick's commentary to how society would crumble and the removal of constitutional rights and freedoms on its own citizens due to racial profiling is still abundant today, albeit to a lesser extent. However, shortly after 9/11, this was a reality for many people and thus, this film is a must see for how accurate the commentary truly was.

Although the action sequences, suspense, and acting of this film are top notch with roles portrayed by Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, Annette Benning, and Tony Shaloub, the movie takes some wild turns in the end, almost like a rush to finish the film. Throughout the movie, you are compelled to find out what happens - but in the end, you are left wanting more.

If you ever want to see a fictional 9/11 story, this is one to watch. There have been many 9/11 films documenting the heroic stories of the passengers of the planes and the World Trade Center victims, but this film looks at a fictional representation of what could happen if the terrorism threat in the U.S. becomes real.

Looking back at recent history, Zwick's predictions and conclusions aren't off base and it shows that fiction can become reality at times. I won't use this post to comment on my personal views of the state of society in relation to 9/11, but I urge readers to seek out this film to see its fictional parallels to the events that followed this important time in our history.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Movie #130 - A Fistful of Dollars

"This short cigar belongs to a man with no name. This long gun belongs to a man with no name. This poncho belongs to a man with no name. He's going to trigger a whole new style in adventure."

One of the quintessential Western movies of all time, A Fistful of Dollars introduces us to not only one of the greatest characters portrayed by Clint Eastwood, but probably one of the better set of films from this genre. Included in this Man with No Name trilogy are For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

What makes this film great is the contrast between the Eastwood character and Gian Maria Volonte (Ramon Rojo). Volonte is a villain in two of the three trilogy films and his great performances is what drives us to root for the protagonist in the end.

In fact, the Eastwood character in all three films isn't entirely good, he just has an ideal moral standard that he lives by, but in the end, he's either a bounty hunter or a petty thug in most cases. However, in the West, having a moral standard is quite rare, hence the character is compelling.

You can obviously tell that I am quite biased to these films. In a prior post, I believe I claimed that For A Few Dollars More is the best of the three films. I think its the tandem of Lee Van Cleef with Eastwood opposite Volonte that makes that film work.

Sergio Leone does some masterful work in this trilogy. Leone was definitely the king of the "spaghetti westerns" and its unfortunate that he didn't do many other films for U.S. release. However, this lack of exposure probably led to the cult status that has followed the Man with No Name trilogy. Had Leone done more films in this genre, I think he'd do just fine with the quality of work and the cinematography used for his films.

In the end, A Fistful of Dollars is a delight to watch and you'll just be sucked into the machismo that it exudes. As a suggestion, seek out the Japanese film Yojimbo (1961), which is what the story of this film is based on. If you don't want to go back that far, seek out Last Man Standing (1996) starring Bruce Willis and Christopher Walken. Its the exact same film with an updated cast and plot, but same concept. However, you'll like Leone's rendition of this story - its the most entertaining.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Movie #129 - Brewster's Millions

"An American excess story."

After doing some research for this blog post review, I learned that this movie is a remake of a number of films of the same title from the early era of movies. This film has been made in different varieties in 1914, 1921, 1935, and 1945, with the 1985 version being the latest. There is also rumours that another remake is in the works for 2012 release, but I'll stick to what I know.

The concept of all of these films, including this version is that Richard Pryor's character of Monty Brewster inherits $30 million, but must spend it in 30 days in order to inherit $300 million that he is entitled to. Also, there are stipulations. He must not inform anyone that he has to spend in this fashion and he cannot buy anything that he can keep after the 30 days are over - removing the aspects of buying property, investments, etc.

Probably everyone's dream of the 1980's, to learn of a distant relative that has given you such a windfall. The act of spending the money itself is entertaining due to its extravagance. I enjoyed the plot of this quirky 80's film and its cast of comedic actors to provide support to Pryor's character.

In addition to Pryor, you have supporting roles offered by the likes of Stephen Collins, John Candy, Jerry Orbach, Lonette McKee, and Hume Cronyn as his ominous distant relative. Pryor is a treat to watch in this film, despite the fact that the humour and comedy throughout the film are actually quite limited.

The quest to spend this money is both frustrating and creative. $30 million is quite a sum, especially if you cannot keep anything and have to spend every penny. So if you've ever dreamt of doing this in your lifetime, this is a movie that you will enjoy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Movie #128 - U-571

"You won't come up for air until it's over!"

Great premise to this movie. If you are an avid fan of the History Channel, you have probably seen a number of documentaries on the effort to retrieve the Enigma device, a machine that allowed the Nazis to be able to communicate without detection - one of the key strategic advantages of the WWII U-boat campaign.

Although the U-571 film itself was fiction, it is based on various true missions in which the effort to obtain the Enigma device and its relevant code books to decipher the code were made by the Allied forces.

Cast with a solid team of actors, Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, and Jon Bon Jovi are the headliners. There are some solid support roles offered by David Keith, Jake Weber, Jack Noseworthy, Will Estes, and Erik Palladino.

The film starts off fairly slowly as we learn of the plot and the mission to be undertaken by the cast. With unforeseen changes to the original plans, the remaining cast members are forced to use the U-boat that they have raided to escape the Germans.

Once that part of the story begins, the movie itself becomes scripted and predictable. With a submarine movie, apart from torpedo scenes and compelling moments with depth charges, the movie isn't really exciting anymore. Maybe I am just a little jaded with this film, considering I watch the second half of it almost every time its on television. I've probably seen the chase scenes more than 10 times at the very least.

In the end, what's amazing is that the sailors of WWII actually had missions like this and that our grandparents' generation had to endure such events in their lives. For that alone, this movie is a must see, maybe not for its acting or overall quality as a film, but for its historical references to what did in fact occur during those U-boat / Enigma campaigns.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Movie #127 - Mortal Kombat

"Choose your destiny..."

One of the more popular movies of my youth, at 15 years old, this movie was a must-see. Especially since everyone was either playing this game at the elite level at the arcades or at least had a copy of the game either on Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis.

Unfortunately, similar to all of the video game movie adaptations that you see nowadays, Mortal Kombat was a poor rendition of the very popular game. Although the film itself had some strong special effects for 1995 and was well-cast in terms of martial artists who could act, the storyline and plot behind the game was somewhat silly.

Characters portrayed by Christopher Lambert (Rayden), Robin Shou (Liu Kang), Linden Ashby (Johnny Cage), and Bridgette Wilson (Sonya Blade) were the good guys of the story while Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Shang Tsung) was the leader of the bad guys. The plot behind this film - a battle between good and evil, the final battle to decide who will rule the world.

Beyond the video game plot, I enjoyed the action sequences in this film. The martial arts is top notch, however, this film would've been more enjoyable had the scenes been shot in full speed and not riddled with slow-motion sequences. Shou and Ashby are solid martial artists and this is also enhanced by the stunt work and choreography utilized in the film. Mixed in with a soundtrack that everyone remembers from 1995, and you definitely have a high octane film on your hands.

Lambert is still a creepy dude in this film and every warm-blooded male probably had a thing for Sonya Blade, either on screen or in the video game. Wilson was a perfect casting for Blade as she had the build and look, and was quite a popular female actress during the middle part of the 90's as she is known for her role in Billy Madison and for marrying tennis superstar Pete Sampras.

If watched today, this film is quite silly, even in comparison to some of the recent video game adaptations. Back when I was 15, I probably thought this was one of the best movies of the year, watching it with a bunch of friends in high school and probably sneaking in candy and snacks into the theatre. Back when kids used to go to movie theatres instead of downloading them or buying bootlegs at flea markets, of course.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Movie #126 - Under Siege

"It's not a job...It's an Adventure!"

Somewhat of an odd tagline considering this movie has a number of other themes to play on. Steven Seagal was at the top of his game in this movie and unfortunately for his career, was the beginning of the end. Also cast in this film was Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey, who in the early 90's were the best villains money could buy.

For Jones, Under Siege was a string of films in which Jones was grossly over exposed. From 1989-1994, Jones completed 13 films. All of which are overshadowed by his solid performance in The Fugitive. However, his maniacal role in this film suited Jones' ability to act serious. Providing support on the evil side is Gary Busey, who was coming off of his success on Lethal Weapon and Predator 2. Unfortunately, Busey's career as a villain didn't really take off as most would've expected - probably a product of poor career management and role selection.

The concept of this movie is good. Capturing the retired battleship with nuclear warheads within the arsenal. Pitting a number of rogue special operations soldiers against a cook in Seagal's character. Although we later find out that Seagal is actually a former Navy Seal, its funny to see the reactions everyone has to his "cook" moniker.

I remember watching this film when it first came out on VHS at a birthday party. My friends and I were 12 years old and Baywatch was definitely a popular television show of that era. Erika Eleniak was a nice bonus to this film, full of action, violence, and suspense.

Unfortunately, for Seagal's career, Under Siege represented the high point of his accomplishments. His Casey Ryback character was one of his best and his role on this film was well cast and suited for his persona. He quickly made other films to follow that were poorly done, including a sequel that was ill-advised.

Seagal is hoping to rejuvenate his career on television for A&E (Steven Seagal: Lawman). He is portraying himself as a fully-commissioned deputy in Louisiana. Early reviews are mixed, but seeing Seagal in a similar light to Dog the Bounty Hunter might just work in the end.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Movie #125 - To Sir with Love

"A story as fresh as the girls in their minis. . .and as tough as the kids from London's East End!"

I must admit, I haven't seen this movie since I was probably around 15 years old, back when my older sister was obsessed with movies from the 60's and 70's. I am happy to convey that there isn't much to this film. Teacher tries to reach out to a bunch of troubled kids and succeeds in the end.

Although this plot line is similar to many films that have been produced in recent years, its obviously one of the first movies to try to do it. You can loosely tie this plot line to films such as Dangerous Minds, although I'm sure the original producers would not want to be affiliated with such a bad film from the 90's.

As you can see from the trailer below, Sidney Poitier is the main driving force behind this film's promotion. In the 60's, Poitier was one of the most highly coveted actors of his generation, starring in a number of pivotal movies of the era such as Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? and In the Heat of the Night - all made in 1967 like this film. Poitier is an acclaimed actor and won an Academy Award in 1963 for Lilies on the Field and was nominated for 1958's The Defiant Ones.

However, as you can see with the promotion of this movie, the producers intended to position it more as a teen angst film, casting a British pop singer, Lulu as one of the characters who also sang the famous score of the movie. In the end, this movie accomplishes that feat, however, the adaptation intended probably wasn't captured. There are too many fluff 60's scenes: inopportune dance sequences, singing montages, etc. The film doesn't have an identity and because of that, it falls flat for intention. Poitier looks grossly out of place in this film and I believe its one he'd be willing to hide from his dramatic acting resume.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Movie #124 - Bee Movie

"On November 2 Hold on to your honey."

Back when I still had The Movie Network, I was watching movies every couple of days. I decided to give Bee Movie a chance, even though I think I've grown out of the CGI type of cartoons. Despite this lack of enthusiasm to watch the movie, I found it quite entertaining. I've noticed a trend ever since Toy Story - all of these CGI films are actually geared more to adults than children. Adults are the ones with the money, the ones who have to sit through countless repeat viewings of these films on DVD, and they are the ones who buy the kids the merchandise, clothing, and toys.

All that being said, the film would be quite entertaining for the kids and for the adults who think or still act like children. The film is cast quite well, with an abundance of recognizable names including Jerry Seinfeld, Renee Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Chris Rock, and Kathy Bates. You'll also get quite a few celebrity cameos with Ray Liotta, Larry King, Sting, Oprah Winfrey, Megan Mullaly, and even Michael Richards.

Originally, I wasn't sold on the fact that Seinfeld could produce some good voice over work. He's no Robin Williams, but he does a good job emoting and providing intonation in his voice. Children love it when the character voices are quite animated (no pun intended) and he does a good job with it. Ideally, from the adult perspective, having a plot, well-written comedic script, and a happy ending for the children in the audience helps bring this movie along. However, when you've seen one summer blockbuster cartoon, you've seen them all.

Despite having a clever cast and a strong plot, this movie is similar to every other cartoon that is generated every quarter year or so. Children are a large marketing target, and unfortunately, also have short memories. Because of this, movie corporations are churning out children's cartoons at an alarming rate due to the technology available. Gone are the days of the hand drawn cartoon movie epics - hello to the movies you can make in 3-6 months using a bunch of Mac computers.

Don't get me wrong, I like the fact that the new technology makes larger panoramic cartoon shots and allows the producers to spend on voice over talent budgets, but scripts still need to be fresh and dynamic. Despite being somewhat predictable, Bee Movie is a fun film for the family and one of the better CGI cartoons I've seen recently. That being said, I've only seen three in the past five years, so that may not say much either!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Movie #123 - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

"Steve Martin had no reason to panic...until John Candy came along."

One of the funniest movies of the 1980's, the continuous exchange between Steve Martin and John Candy is superb. I picked up this movie on DVD a couple of years ago when I first decided to start flying for work - having to travel to San Diego by plane for the first time in my life. Knowing the type of trip Martin and Candy had to go through in order to get to their final destination, made me feel a little bit better.

Written and directed by John Hughes, the 80's was his decade. I think I rhymed off a number of his key films in another recent post, but Hughes was definitely one of the best directors of that decade... and then, once the 90's hit, Hughes was obsessed with Home Alone and Beethoven. Being a pseudo-professional writer myself, maybe Hughes was just suffering with a decade long version of writer's block, but he churned out way too many of the cute, family films and forgot what his success was built upon. Teen angst and witty comedy.

As for Martin and Candy - they are a great tandem as both can deliver a punchline and are both physical comedic actors. With Martin, you are given the persona of the serious, businessman, almost somewhat snobbish in nature. With Candy, you are given the Uncle Buck persona, the gregarious every man who is very annoying.

Whoever decided to put these two together on the same screen was a genius. Martin and Candy drive this film and the trials and tribulations of their journey, causing them to rely on each other more makes this film even funnier than originally intended.

My favourite scene is depicted in the photo above, showcasing the moment in which Martin and Candy are forced to share a hotel room bed due to lack of funds. Its a classic scene and one that breaks up all of the laughs - especially the reactions the guys have when they discover that they are in a romantic embrace.

In the end, you'll enjoy 93 minutes of hilarity with these two guys taking you through their adventure. Have fun - it definitely makes traveling more bearable.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Movie #122 - Star Trek: The Motion Picture

"The human adventure is just beginning."

After many years of syndication, 1979 marked the return of the crew from the Enterprise. This time, on the big screen. The much anticipated return of Star Trek and its original crew was definitely exciting for all Trekkies. Unfortunately, I am too young to remember this film on the big screen for I was not born yet, however, I have watched this movie many times and believe its a good one. It definitely does not rank that high in terms of the entire lot of Star Trek films, inclusive of the TNG group and the most recent prequel completed by J.J. Abrams, however, its a good start.

Nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Visual Effects and Original Score, this film brings back the familiar crew to their leap to the big screen. The storyline of this film is a little weak, but what was to be expected for a long hiatus from television and a big budget. The story behind this movie is that a planetary force is making its way to Earth and the Enterprise is sent to investigate and see if they can stop it from destroying the planet.

Although compelling and beautifully shot despite the limited special effects of the late 70's, the story is extremely slow and the drama that we were accustomed show with the television cult classic was lost in this drawn out, 2.5 hour version of a poorly edited television episode. The graphics are top notch for the era, however, most of the budget went to making this film a cinematic piece as opposed to creating a solid plot or developing the characters further beyond what we knew of them in the show.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what was done in other Star Trek films as well. I am a big fan of Gene Roddenberry, but he always assumed that movie-goers watching his movies knew about the characters involved. However, character development is the biggest aspect lacking in many science fiction blockbusters - we spend too much time worrying about the special effects and the action sequences, we forget that some fans just want a good story to be told.

Despite this flaw, the first installment of the movie franchise is a hit overall. Its much better than Star Trek III, and probably better than IV and V as well. I liked VI and obviously, everyone enjoys the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which is one of my personal favourites as well.

This movie does have some new cast members in the likes of Stephen Collins (known for his role as the father on 7th Heaven) and Persis Khambatta (a former Miss India from the early 60's). Both characters are developed as the main side storyline of the movie and you gravitate towards the romantic background offered by these two side characters from the main cast. However, even with these strong performances of these side cast members, the main cast is very limited in their reprised roles.

The Spock / Kirk play between characters is not focused upon in this film as opposed to the contrast in the television show and further sequels. The poor ranking of this film in the Star Trek franchise can probably be attributed to the lack of interaction between Kirk and Spock, as the focus is on attempting to develop Collins' character of Commander William Decker.

In the end, this is a good movie to start a Star Trek marathon off from (which by the way is taking place on Labour Day weekend 2009 in Canada on Space Network), however, it could easily put you to sleep as well - which for some isn't necessarily a bad thing... but only if you are narcoleptic.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Movie #121 - Robocop

"Part man. Part machine. All cop. The future of law enforcement."

One of my favourite movies coming out of the 1980's, only because I am a big fan of science fiction and I like action movies that have some possibilities for the future. Coming off the popularity of The Terminator just a few years earlier, Robocop is a movie about a cyborg police officer who is used to clean up the crime-riddled futuristic version of Detroit.

The futuristic predictions of this movie are definitely those being used or implemented today. There is references to GPS tracking devices, large scale photon weapons, metallic armor, and even cybernetic technology. Also, RC driven technology is portrayed throughout this film, quite an imagination from Paul Verhoeven and his production crew.

Verhoeven's big break into mainstream Hollywood was through the cult success of Robocop. Through the first installment, Verhoeven was able to get other projects such as Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Showgirls, Starship Troopers, and Hollow Man just to name a few. Unfortunately, all had mixed success with Basic Instinct and Total Recall being his most renowned.

Peter Weller, on the other hand, didn't really parlay his role as Robocop into other successful roles. Coming out of small roles on television and B-rated movies, Weller was cast to play Robocop, a role that curtailed his ability to land bigger roles shortly afterwards. Weller was type cast into science fiction roles throughout his career and even the Robocop role in the unsuccessful sequel in 1990.

This film does have a strong supporting cast, with appearances from Ronny Cox, Miguel Ferrer, Paul McCrane, and Kurtwood Smith. All went onto solid cast members on television, most notably Ferrer on Crossing Jordan, McCrane on ER, and Smith on That 70's Show.

In fact, its Smith's role as the main villain that makes me laugh the most whenever I watch this film, because Robocop is getting his ass kicked by Foreman's Dad and the surgeon from ER. Quite funny when you start crossing more notable roles into other bodies of work. It ends up becoming a fun game when you start referencing previous roles for various actors in movies and television. I suggest you give it a try - the game itself tends to be quite fun when you know this much about movies and television.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Movie #120 - Die Hard

"It will blow you through the back wall of the theater!"

One of the more entertaining films to come out of 1988, this film created the persona that Bruce Willis now utilizes in almost every one of his action movies. Definitely one of the crown jewels of Willis' career, the Die Hard franchise has been a box office success overall, and has some memorable moments for action movie fans everywhere.

If you watch this movie with a keen eye, you notice that the film was shot in a stretched lens, probably to make Willis look a little slimmer and taller, something that was pure illusion. Leading up to his Die Hard role, Willis was mainly known as a big time television actor, especially in his role on the romantic drama Moonlighting opposite Cybill Shepherd. That show started Willis' career and ran from 1985-1989, but was the stepping stone Willis needed to get into the big screen roles.

After Die Hard, Willis was over exposed fairly quickly both on the screen and off the screen. He quickly made a number of forgettable movies, too many to name here, and married Demi Moore, who was also one of the "it" female celebrities of the early 90's. Together, Willis and Moore became one of Hollywood's 90's power couples and thus, Willis movie career took off.

However, going back to Die Hard, this movie was both action packed, witty, and quite clever in its overall delivery. The concept of holding a bunch of people at the penthouse of a high-rise business building on Christmas Eve was intriguing and made for great suspense. The stars of the show, however, were the villains that were cast to contrast Willis (Alan Rickman and Alexander Godunov), and the supporting roles offered by the likes of Reginald VelJohnson and Paul Gleason. Other cast members such as Bonnie Bedelia and William Atherton provided some consistency in the sequels to follow, but were also strong in this film.

Without Rickman, though, the McClane character would not be as favoured, without a great villain. In Rickman, the casting was perfect. Although born of Irish and Welsh descent, Rickman is a chameleon type actor, similar to the likes of Gary Oldman or even Johnny Depp. Rickman immerses himself 100% into his character and has portrayed a villain in many strong roles over the years. His portrayal of Hans Gruber in Die Hard is one of the main reasons to enjoy this movie and this boosts the approval rating for the protagonist in the end.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Movie #119 - Metro

"San Francisco's top police hostage negotiator is about to get more than he ever bargained for."

This movie was a bomb at the box office and is definitely not a good representation of Murphy's overall body of work. In his career, Eddie Murphy has made a number of bad movie projects, Metro is one of those films. Although I have not seen his most recent box office disaster, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, critics and fans alike have made that decision for me. However, I'll stick to reviewing this film, for I know Murphy at least deserves to be slaughtered for each film individually.

With Metro, the movie is way too long with too many slow spots in between. As shown by the trailer below, it was originally marketed as a comedic action film, similar to the Beverly Hills Cop franchise or even the Lethal Weapon franchise. However, this movie falls flat, from cast members to production quality - showing the level of expertise Murphy has had in choosing some of his major roles.

Metro was supposed to be one of those films that allowed Murphy to jump back and forth from goofy, comedic roles, to action-packed summer blockbusters. Instead, many blamed Metro for fans to forget the box office success of The Nutty Professor from 1996, and recall the disastrous films such as Vampire in Brooklyn and Beverly Hills Cop III shortly before and Holy Man, Life, and Bowfinger shortly afterwards.

Overall, if you cut out the crappy films, Murphy's career is filled with gems such as the Beverly Hills cop franchise sans #3, his voice over work with Mulan and the Shrek franchise, and his more recent work like Dreamgirls. However, everything always comes back to Pluto Nash, which is Murphy's version of Waterworld, the film that will forever follow Kevin Costner.

Unfortunately for Murphy, this film sees better acting from both Michael Wincott as the villain and Michael Rapaport as his rookie cop partner. However, as previously mentioned, this movie drags on and the violent, action scenes are misplaced throughout the duration of this film.

If you take my advice, do not see Metro as it falls in line with some of the poor decisions Murphy made in the mid-90's. If you want to see some stellar work, go through Murphy's earlier stuff or seek out episodes of his time on Saturday Night Live or even his stand-up work. I actually hope that he goes back to doing that, because he ranks up there in terms of delivery and quality of jokes. Maybe in the latter part of his career, he'll dust off the microphone, but I think he desperately wants to win his Oscar first... maybe a sequel to Pluto Nash just might be in order.

Just kidding!