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Movie Thoughts: The Music Man

330px-The_Music_Man_(1962_film_poster_-_three-sheet)A lot of critics will cite fictional characters such as Tony Soprano or Walter White as being some of pop culture’s first fully embraced anti-heroes. But could it be that audiences were embracing anti-heroes before Tony or Walter came onto the scene?

Watching The Music Man this time around, I was stuck by how when we first meet Harold Hill, he’s a bit of an anti-hero himself.    The first song establishes that Hill is a con-man, who has possibly had several other assumed identities before becoming the purveyor of boys’ band, and that he’s ruining the territory for the other salesmen.   When he hears that Iowa might a challenge or an untapped opportunity, Hill decides to stop in River City and run his boys’ band con on the town.

He does this by creating and problem and then attempting to solve it via the goods only he can provide — in this case musical instruments.  Watching as Hill avoids providing his credentials to various officials through the play is amusing and shows how quickly he can think on his feet.   But then his attempted courting of Marion Paroo, the local librarian and piano teacher also shows how slick and savvy Hill really is when he puts his mind to it. Continue reading

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Movie Thoughts: Support Your Local Sheriff

 

support_localAs Westerns entered their later period, it feels like the most prominent examples of the genre did one of two things, either deconstruction them () or play them more for laughs (Cat Ballou).

Support Your Local Sheriff is one that plays the genre for laughs.  And while it’s not quite as definitive as Cat Ballou or Blazing Saddles, I have to admit I enjoyed the movie a great deal.

James Garner stars as Jason McCullough, a drifter taking the long way around to Australia (he’s been on his way for four years) who wanders into a gold-rush town of Calendar, Colorado.   The town has a low survival rate for its sheriffs, having gone through three in the past several months. Needing money to afford the rising price of everything in town, Jason takes the job as sheriff and begins to use his unconventional methods to clean up the town.

With Garner, it’s hard not to imagine that Jason is a variation on the character he played in the long-running TV series, Maverick.   And he does a nice job here, looking bemused and offering commentary on the town and its inhabitants. Continue reading

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Movie Thoughts: Batman Begins

Batman_Begins_PosterBatman Begins was one of the first movies I saw in an IMAX theater and it left an indelible mark on me.

I’m a huge fan of Batman: The Animated Series and it felt like on the huge IMAX screen with the perfectly attuned surround sound that several sequences captured the feel of the Animated Series in movie form.   This is especially true of the sequence where Bruce Wayne dons the Batman outfit for the first time and is battling crooks at the docks.   Watching Batman use shadows and darkness to cover his taking out the crooks one by one sent shivers up my spine.

It still does. Continue reading

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Movie Thoughts: The Invisible Man (2020), Scoob

The Invisible Man (2020)

The_Invisible_Man_(2020_film)_-_release_posterWatching Blumhouse’s latest take on The Invisible Man after watching the latest installment of HBO’s I’ll Be Gone in the Night probably wasn’t the best idea.

Or maybe it was because after seeing an hour focusing on the quest to find a real-life sociopath that (until recently) came up empty, spending two hours watching a fictional sociopath get caught in the end was a bit more satisfying.

The Invisible Man is a fascinating, suspenseful film that delights in making you pay close attention to every scene.  Every bit of apparently empty background could have the titular character hiding it, ready to spring out and terrify our heroine, Cecilia.   The movie even toys with the audience a bit, giving us long, lingering shots of empty rooms or hallways, almost as if daring you as a viewer to see if you can spot some clue that the Invisible Man is lurking there.

Escaping from her abusive and manipulative boyfriend, Cecilia is shocked when the boyfriend apparently kills himself and leaves behind a large sum of money to her.  However, before long, Cecilia begins to suspect that Adrian is still alive and trying to pull her strings in an attempt to either win her back or force her to return to him by cutting all her means of support.  Continue reading

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Movie Thoughts: Back to the Future, Part III, The Last Action Hero, City Slickers

Caught up on a couple of movies that I saw in theaters back upon their initial release over the past couple of days.  Some of them I’ve revisited since the theatrical screening, others I hadn’t.

Back to the Future, Part III

Back_to_the_Future_Part_IIIThe fact that the AFI Movie Club list never got around to including Back to the Future still sticks in my craw.  Back to the Future is a far more essential film than, let’s say, Dirty Dancing or Parenthood.  Nothing against either of those film, but they don’t quite entertain me in the same way that Back to the Future does.

Of course, I said the same thing after rewatching Taxi Driver last summer.  (Let’s face it, if you’re picking a movie for a rainy afternoon, it’s rarely going to be Taxi Driver).

All that brings us to Back to the Future, Part III, the final installment in the trilogy.  I’ll go ahead and say that I love Back to the Future, Part II.   The travels to three different time periods and the consequences of time travel are entertaining as all get out to me.  I know that I’m in the minority on this, but I don’t care.  I love the heck out of Part II and don’t care who knows. Continue reading

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Movie Thoughts: Suspicion

Suspicion_(1941_poster)How can a movie as good as this one be so utterly undone by such a discordant ending?

Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion is an enjoyable, engaging movie until the last five minutes when studio interference makes it go completely off the rails.   According to the stories, RKO felt audiences wouldn’t accept that Cary Grant’s character was a murderer and instead of following the original ending of the novel upon which the movie is based, gave us a happy ending of sorts.  Or at least a half-hearted ending wherein Grant’s Johnnie doesn’t try to kill Lina, but instead saves her from hurtling out of the car due as they race along some cliffs.

Never mind that the movie has spent the previous ninety or so minutes setting up so that we, the audience, will doubt Johnnie’s word on everything, undermining his every good intention by revealing he’s a liar and hinting that he’s eliminated people in the past to get out of debt or for some kind of financial gain.  The film even shows us how he could and probably did off his old friend, Beaky, who has a severe allergic reaction if he drinks too much hard liquor.  Continue reading

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Movie Thoughts: Gidget

gidgetI’ve never been a big fan of the ending of Grease.

It’s not that the songs aren’t catchy to close the show.  It’s just the message that the musical sends to teenage girls is one I can’t quite behind.  Basically, it’s do whatever it takes, even if that means changing your entire personality to get the boy.

Watching Gidget, I couldn’t help but wonder if Grease’s borrowing Sandra Dee’s name for its title character wasn’t some kind of homage or shout-out to the actress and her role as Gidget.  Certainly, the way Gidget is portrayed here makes the Rizzo’s “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” take on a different level of meaning.

Made in 1959, Gidget kicked off the beach movie era and may have also ushered in the era of teenage sex comedies.  While Gidget isn’t quite as ribald as Porkies or the American Pie series, the film isn’t exactly “pure as the driven snow” either.  Continue reading

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Movie Thoughts: Tank

tankposterI’m not sure how Tank got on my radar years ago — was it the preview on the front of multiple VHS tapes our family rented, the box at the video store, or someone else?  All I know is the selling point of a guy who owns his own Sherman tank busting his kid our jail sounded like a can’t miss prospect.

My parents eventually allowed me to see the movie — or at least some of it.  I’m fairly certain, though I can’t be sure, that family viewing night probably ended the one time James Garner’s Zach Carey dropped an f-bomb about the apple cobbler served in the base mess hall.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first — the level of swearing in this movie is pretty high.  In addition to the f-bomb detailed above, the movie also has both Garner and co-star Shirley Jones using the word “a*****e” (I can only imagine how their use of colorful metaphors clashed with the persona each actor had crafted during their tenures on television shows).

Tank is also advertised as a comedy, even though it’s not necessarily as hilarious as the trailer or the soundtrack would want you to believe.

Garner stars as Army Sargeant Major Zach Carey, a soldier who does things by the book and is looking forward to retiring in two years and setting sail on a boat he wants to purchase.  He owns a restored Sherman tank that he moves from assignment to assignment with the family. Continue reading

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Movie Thoughts: John Wick

johnwickThe unwritten code of Westerns is that you don’t ever, under any circumstances, harm a man’s dog.

This code also applies to the retired hitmen.  At least, that’s what John Wick tells us.

An elaborate revenge story is kicked off when a trio of guys break into John Wick’s home to steal his car and end up killing his dog as well.   Little did these guys know that Wick is a retired hitman who recently lost his wife to cancer and that the dog was a gift from her so he would have something to care about besides his grief and pain.

What follows is an hour plus of John pursuing the ringleader of this gang of idiots through multiple layers of organized crime and the use of a large amount of ammo.  One area I’ll give John Wick credit for is that the movie occasionally sees our hero running out of ammo and having to reload.

The film gives us a good backstory for John, detailing how he was one of the most feared hitman out there and the circumstances that led to his retirement.  An early, memorable scene finds John digging up his basement to unearth a suitcase full of gold coins that he will use to finance and pay-off various figures during his long vendetta.   The coins are even used to pay a cleaning service to remove the bodies of half-a-dozen or so men who come to John’s home after the mafia puts out a bounty on his head.

John Wick is a clever, entertaining revenge flick that has superbly choreographed action sequences and just enough character insight to make us root for its central anti-hero.  I’m not sure why I hadn’t seen it before watching a few weeks ago.  But after watching it, I can see why the movie has garnered a following and prompted two sequels and an upcoming fourth entry.

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Movie Thoughts: Men in Black International

mibinternationalWith the comedic chemistry on display between Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson in Thor: Ragnarock , reuniting them for a potential reboot to the Men in Black franchise seems like a no-brainer, right?

Which is why it’s a bit of a head-scratcher that Men in Black International isn’t funnier or more engaging than it turns out to be.

Thompson plays a young woman who has an encounter with an alien and the infamous MIB young in life.  Avoiding being neutralized, she makes it her goal to find the famous agency and become part of it.   It’s in the first half-hour or so as we see Thompson’s Agent M (as she will become known) trying to find the infamous shadow organization that this latest installment is at its most fun and clever.  But it’s once she finds the agency and becomes a probationary agent that things become a bit less fun overall and the movie grinds to a halt a bit.

Which is kind of a shame because Hemsworth’s Agent H, who is living off the fame of one famous night three years before where he helped saved the Earth from invasion, seems like he should be a lot of fun to spend screen time with.  He’s arrogant, brash, and at-times in over his head. And while Hemsworth and Thompson clearly have chemistry, the script doesn’t really do them many favors once they get together.  There isn’t quite the same level of odd-couple chemistry that made Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith work so well.

A CGI-alien voiced Kumail Nanjani livens things up in the last hour a bit.  Indeed, I found myself wishing that maybe a spin-off series with the CGI alien and Agent M might be in the offing — or a web-series at least.

As with other entries in this series, the story hinges on retrieving an alien item before various nefarious parties get hold of it. The script tries to give us a bit of a twist with a potential mole inside MIB, but I’d honestly guessed the identity of this player long before the script gets around to filling in H and M.   It’s as the movie is wrapping up and  possibly setting up a new franchise that things start to get interesting again.  Though given that the film didn’t set the box-office on fire, it seems like it may have been too little, too late.

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