December 24, 2017: 10 Must See Holiday Themed Movies
These holiday themed movies are in no particular order. If you’re wondering why I didn’t include It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s because I’ve never seen it. Yes, you heard it right. Maybe this year will be the year. I mean while I’m at it, I might as well fit in The Hebrew Hammer. Until the next time, cheers with eggnog or hot apple cider or hot chocolate or whatever else you might drink on a cold, winter night.
While not the best rated or most liked version of this story by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (2009), is about Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s easy to find bitterness when the future looks bleak. I envision most people going through this at some point in their lives. Scrooge ultimately has to decide which road he will take. I really liked this version because of Jim Carrey’s voice and the film’s animation.
There are two camps of people: those who enjoy the cold weather in December and those who would rather be somewhere toasty warm. Four Christmases (2008) is a hilarious movie about spending time with your family and wondering if you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. Jon Favreau gives a solid performance as Vince Vaughn’s redneck brother. There’s other funny moments and is a lighthearted movie.
The staple of every holiday movie collection. KEVIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!! Home Alone (1990) is where you realize eight-year olds know more than you think and are able to take care of themselves. This is a big SORT OF. Kevin McCallister turns out to be his parents’ worst nightmare on Christmas, but soon everyone realizes the true meaning of Christmas by the end. It has a few sappy moments, but a great movie for any family.
ALL ABOARD!!!!!!!!! The Polar Express (2004) is another animation movie Robert Zemeckis directed. This movie is about a boy who travels to the North Pole where he learns about himself and what friendship means during Christmas. Again the animation is visually great and you can’t go wrong with Tom Hanks.
I’ve seen this movie more than ten times and probably less than twenty. Little Women (1994) is one of many adaptations about the March sisters from the story written by Louisa May Alcott. You journey into the lives of each sister as they grow up without their father due to the Civil War. It touches upon many subjects and all in all is a good wholesome movie.
Willie is a very bad Santa. I mean what can go wrong. A lot. Bad Santa (2003) is about how even criminals can get a do over. Willie and his sidekick elf, Marcus, commit robberies in department stores but meeting a kid throws a wrench in his holiday game plan. It sends him in a downward spiral, making him face his holiday demons.
This is a movie about time constraints and sloppy work done, but there is nothing to fear because Arthur will make all things better. Arthur Christmas (2011) is about how Arthur’s journey to right the wrong before Christmas morning arrives. It is up to him to that a girl’s missing present doesn’t become just that. Arthur is voiced by James McAvoy and Santa is voiced by Jim Broadbent.
This is a movie I never really appreciated until I sat down and watched it in its entirety. It’s a classic. It’s so funny. A Christmas Story (1983) is freaking awesome. The tongue on the pole, the pink bunny costume, the leg lamp, and Chinese restaurant. Ralphie got a raw deal in life, and even though he has the brattiest little kid brother, he still holds out hope for the BB gun. Christmas miracles do happen.
A character to scare every little kid out there, solely based on Jim Carrey’s make up, but is a great story by Dr. Seuss. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) is how one girl’s actions leads to changes within the Grinch. He learns that there’s more to life than being mean and selfish as he meets the people of Whoville.
This probably isn’t the first movie you’d pick as a holiday movie, but The Family Stone (2005) is one of mine. It’s about a family where the tightness among them is tight despite all their dysfunctions. It centers around a matriarch, played by Diane Keaton, and how she wary of the newcomer, Meredith, which is her son’s girlfriend. The differences are noticeable among them all, but it’s hard to put them aside when nothing said is right and every action taken is misunderstood. A good movie for those who know dysfunction exists in every family.
December 24, 2017: IMDb Genre Recommendations
Here’s a list of the major genres recognized by IMDb. There are many to choose from, old and new, and my examples are ones I’ve recently watched the first time or again because I could and did.
Virtually all scenes contain characters participating in humorous or comedic experiences.
Moana (2016) is an animated movie I absolutely loved. It weaves the story of ancestral lines, familial duty, and individual dreams. It has a female protagonist, Moana Waialiki. She searches for her own destiny, as well as protecting the island on which she lives. The scenes between Maui and herself were the some of the funniest. You can’t beat Dwayne Johnson as Maui and his moving tattoos. The musicality is a highlight as well.
Numerous consecutive scenes of real personages and not characters portrayed by actors. This includes stand-up comedy and concert performances.
13th (2016) does an excellent job breaking down the reality of the current day prison system, and the involvement of the African-Americans in the United States. It has solid, good information that should not be ignored. Historical events occurring 200+ years ago doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant today. It gives insight into the ugliness of race relations and inequality that still bleeds in present day situations, and how politicians use it recklessly to further to their campaign agendas.
Universally accepted viewing, and aimed specifically for the education and/or entertainment of children or the entire family.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) is another adaptation of the story by Roald Dahl. Who is better as Willy Wonka, between Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp, is anyone’s guess. They were both equally good, playing this kooky character, and I’m not sure who would stand on top of the candy cake. This story reminds me how kids are the products of their environment, and each one seems to have a few of the deadly sins, unless you have the name of Charlie. The kids are less interested in the Oompa-Loompas, and more concerned about the competition among themselves and where they fit into Wonka’s candy filled factory. This movie is a dream for people who want to run around in a house made of candy, eating whatever is within reach, or maybe I’m just speaking for myself here.
Typically features dark, brooding characters, corruptions, detectives, and the seedy side of the big city. Almost always shot in black and white, American, and set in contemporary time.
The Maltese Falcon (1941) is one of the best movies Humphrey Bogart starred in and one of the best mysteries ever made. It’s a whodunit without really ever getting closure for some of the people. It leaves you with scrapes without any ointment to stop the burning. Who knew a bird could be the object of so much attention, but well deserved, indeed.
Numerous consecutive scenes of characters effecting a terrifying and/or repugnant narrative.
It Comes at Night (2017) builds slowly over time, with its focus being on survival in a time of uncertainty. The head of the family, Paul, expects discipline in following his rules to keep them safe. This is put to the test when someone enters into their life, ultimately seeking help, further complicating the line between safe and unsafe. There aren’t any gimmicks to draw the viewer into this movie. What you get is what you see with honest dialogue, raw tension, and ending that leaves you thinking about what you would do in this situation.
Several scenes of characters bursting into song aimed at the viewer while the rest of the time, usually but not exclusively, portraying a narrative that alludes to another genre.
Les Misérables (2012) is an adaptation from Victor Hugo. Let’s all stand and clap at his writing achievement. This musical production is one you either loved or hated. I found very little wrong with it. The cast was amazing with Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and his nemesis, Javert, played by Russell Crowe. The duo of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were perfect to play the Thénardiers Anne Hathaway shined as Fantine as a prostitute and her daughter Cosette, played by Amanda Seyfried. This story has it all: turmoil, revenge, forgiveness, redemption, and change.
Numerous inter-related scenes of a character and their personal life with emphasis on emotional attachment or involvement with other characters, especially those with a high level of purity or devotion.
Her (2013) is not your typical romance movie. When I first heard about it, I thought seriously, how good can a movie like this be? I should’ve known better because of two things. One, it was written and directed by Spike Jonze, and two, it starred Joaquin Phoenix. This involves a writer, Theodore, who falls in love with the voice from his operating system on his phone. He’s not socially awkward to the point of not being able to have friends, but they are few and far between. It’s an intriguing story with undercurrent themes of consumerism and social media.
Numerous scenes and/or a narrative that pertains to a real war, past or current.
Allied (2016) could be seen as a typical love and war movie, and in some ways it is, but it also had an edge to it. The main characters, Commander Max Vatan and French Resistance member Marianne Beauséjour, come together during World War II, working together for a greater cause. It’s after things settle that complications arise. Domesticity only goes so far. This is about one’s loyalty to country and what happens when things appear differently from another angle.
Primary focus is on real-life events of historical significance featuring real-life characters, allowing for some artistic license. Fictional characters, incidents, and dialog should be minor.
Lincoln (2012) is the movie when I realized James Spader had changed quite a bit in appearance. It’s also the movie about the biggest conflicts, Civil War and slavery, the United States government and citizens and non-citizens have ever had to face. Daniel Day-Lewis took the role and carved himself another fine performance. The scope of negotiations to secure the ratification of the 13th amendment might seem simple when looking at it today, but as we’ve currently seen with Congress, there’s ample room for debate between two political parties and factions within even one or the other party. This movie focuses on a small slice of American history and you don’t want to miss it.
Significant music-related elements, such as concert or story about a band.
Baby Driver (2017) was a surprise, meaning that it was that good. I wasn’t sure about the title of it and a half pink/tan one sheet. I learned my lesson. Don’t judge a movie by its one sheet. Baby is a getaway driver for a ruthless crime boss named Doc who controls his future and every move. His dream of living on his own terms is within grasp, but he keeps getting pulled back time and time again. You learn music is an integral part of life. The best scenes were between Jon Hamm who played Buddy and Ansel Elgort who played Baby.
Numerous inter-related scenes of one or more characters endeavoring to widen their knowledge of anything pertaining to themselves or others.
Wind River (2017) is one of the movies I always appreciate where it focuses on the interconnectedness between people. The movie has conflict throughout: the FBI and locals unable to see eye to eye, two fathers clashing with each other, the cultural differences between Natives and everyone else. Revenge is a dish best served cold especially in this case because the location is Wyoming during the winter. You finally find out how the girl was murdered, but not before realizing some harsh truths about life. It has a great realistic ending.
Numerous scenes and/or entire background should be based on speculative scientific discoveries or developments, environmental changes, space travel, or life on other planets.
The Martian (2015) is pretty much a feel good movie with a lot of holy crap moments. Matt Damon’s character of an astronaut, Mark Watney, learns to thrive on Mars when he is left alone. A mission is formulated to rescue him and as it gains momentum, it’s not only the space world wanting him to return safely. This is a movie you could watch with your family except small children just because they don’t have the attention span.
Numerous sensational scenes or a narrative that is sensational or suspenseful.
The Butterfly Effect (2004) is a relative oldie in my collection and not sure why it was rated so poorly among some critics. It definitely kept my interest. It stars Ashton Kutcher as Evan Treborn who tries to piece his childhood together one memory at a time. He goes back and forth between past and present time for what you will recognize this is a good thing. Many things happen behind closed doors and this is one of those movies.
Numerous scenes and/or a narrative where the portrayal is similar to that of a frontier life in the American West during 1600 to contemporary times.
The Hateful Eight (2015) is not supposed to be funny, but for some reason I find Quentin Tarantino’s movies more hilarious than not. This isn’t my favorite film of his, but it’s good with its superb cast including Walton Goggins, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Samuel L. Jackson. Never able to narrow down what year exactly this takes place except to know it’s after the Civil War, eight people are forced to face nature’s harsh winter and counter defensive moves among each other. You won’t be disappointed in this over the top movie.
Numerous consecutive scenes of characters portrayed to effect a magical and/or mystical narrative.
Elf (2003) is a gem of a holiday movie about an elf, played by Will Ferrell, that is nothing what you would think these toy makers should look or act like because let’s face it, he’s not an elf. As you can guess, he has some identity issues. He ventures out into the “real world” to find out who he really is and connect with his birth father. Elf is the epitome of a holiday movie: the North Pole, Santa Claus, family, and spirit.
Numerous consecutive scenes of characters portrayed to effect a serious narrative, and can be exaggerated upon to produce melodrama.
Spotlight (2015) showcases the power of a newspaper, especially when it’s willing to dig where few people ever want to dig within religion. The level of sexual abuse is maddening and tragic within any institution, but the Catholic Church seems to be the top layer for the widespread incidences, as you learn in this movie. It has lasting effects for the abused and often little consequences for the abusers. The statistics listed at the end are daunting. It highlights a huge problem called power inequality (racial, social, economic, familial), and until this is fixed it will never be fully rectified.
Whether the protagonists or antagonists are criminals, this contains numerous consecutive and inter-related scenes of characters participating, aiding, abetting, and/or planning criminal behavior or experiences usually for an illicit goal.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) is one kick ass, bad ass, and kill as many people who deserve it movie where Keanu Reeves is John Wick. The level of fighting and vendettas is even better than the first movie. John Wick was born to do one thing, well probably more, but since his family life rug was pulled out from under his feet, he does what he has to do to survive. It’s a simple story with adrenaline filled scenes and great special effects. I can’t wait for the third installment as it’s bound to be just as good in 2019.
Numerous scenes where action is spectacular and usually destructive.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) is a movie for my heart. Apocalyptic movies tends to bring out the best in the downtrodden and worst for the other side. This story is about a the attempt to right the perceived wrongs by a displaced woman, Furiosa, and a man with nothing to lose, Max. They learn to trust each other, and ultimately find a little bit more peace when their road out of hell appears to have ended.
Primary focus is on the depiction of activities and personality of a reason person or persons, for some or all of their lifetime. Events in their life maybe reenacted or described in a documentary style. It should generally follow reasonably close to the factual record.
Lion (2016) is one of those movies I will watch year after year. It has to be one of the best movies based on real life I’ve seen in a long time. It probably struck a chord because like Saroo, the protagonist in the movie, I too was adopted. The movie doesn’t hide the difficulties of some adoptions. The interaction between the two brothers before Saroo’s adoption were the best moments in the film. There are many heart wrenching scenes and the ending is unforgettable. It left me thinking there are no coincidences in this story. With this being the last genre recommendation, I would say put Lion near the top of your list to watch. You won’t regret it. Trust me, you won’t.
December 3, 2017: AFI Genre Recommendations
Here’s a list of the major genres recognized by AFI. There are many to choose from, old and new, and my examples are ones I’ve recently watched the first time or again because I could and did.
Animated includes images primarily created by computer or hand and the characters are voiced by actors and actresses.
Zootopia from 2016, a 3D computer-animated comedy, is a movie I thoroughly enjoyed. It involves a rabbit named Judy, striking out on her own in a city called Zootopia, to be part of its police force. She finds herself having to work with her enemy, the fox, in order to solve a crime, while also proving herself to the police chief. The humor is on point, and is a movie for almost all ages.
Fantasy is when live-action characters inhabit imagined settings and/or experience situations that transcend the rules of the natural world.
The NeverEnding Story (Die unendiliche Geschichte) from 1984, a fantasy, is a movie that keeps on giving. It involves Bastian, a child who is routinely picked on, and finds refuge in a book. He becomes entranced in the story, and specifically the characters of Falcor (flying dragon) and Atreyu (warrior child). The movie has gotten flack for its special effects and ending, but back in the day it completely captured my attention and heart. It still does. The nostalgia of the 80s.
Gangster centers on organized crime or maverick criminals in a twentieth century setting.
Black Mass from 2015, a gangster movie, is a book adaptation. It’s about the relationship between James Bulger, known as Whitey, and the FBI, in particular with agent John Connolly. It is one of the best acting performances by Johnny Depp. The other one that comes to mind is when he played John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester in Libertine. It’s a movie I didn’t have a hard time watching because the FBI and gang activity are personal interests, but even if they weren’t, it had enough dramatic tension to fill a large table of beer mugs.
Science Fiction marries a scientific or technological premise with imaginative speculation.
Snowpiercer from 2013, a science fiction movie, is based on a graphic novel. It’s about different economic classes that live on a train where the distinction between the poor and rich is a very clear line. It only takes one person to rally the crowd, and when Curtis gains foothold outside his living quarters, there’s nothing that will stop him. It’s quite serious from start to finish, as many science fiction films are, because usually something is in peril. There’s no falling asleep in this movie.
Western is set in the American West that embodies the spirit, the struggle, and the demise of the new frontier.
Unforgiven from 1992, a western, is one of my favorite Clint Eastwood movies. He plays Bill Munny, a man who wants to be left alone to live out the rest of his life in peace. Yet, life often gives you what you don’t want. It has great acting and the premise of less is more is part of why this movie plays so well on the screen. Known as an efficient director, there is a purpose for everything you see and don’t see in this movie.
Sports has protagonists who play athletics or other games of competition.
Battle of the Sexes from 2017, focusing on the sport of tennis, tackles serious matters with the right amount of humor interspersed throughout. We’ve heard about the tennis match in 1973 between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Seeing this movie is the closest I’ll get to the whole experience and events leading up to it. The fact I had a better understanding of the hardships women faced in sports is a testament to the movie. Emma Stone’s performance is Oscar worthy, and of course, Steve Carrell did well playing an unlikable character.
Mystery revolves around the solution of a crime.
Se7en from 1995, a mystery, is about the seven deadly sins. It makes you wonder who the hell is responsible for this murder streak. For what it is worth, it’s a little ironic given the bad guy is now being portrayed in Hollywood as a bad guy. It has cost him two roles now, which I’m not too happy about him leaving, but karma comes to mind. Getting back to the movie, it goes into the darkness of what people can be and do if you aren’t paying attention. So pay attention to it all and maybe see how you stack up with the deadly sins.
Romantic Comedy includes development of a romance leading to comic situations.
Midnight in Paris from 2011, a romantic comedy, is a movie I enjoyed because you hardly go wrong with Woody Allen. It involves a couple vacationing in Paris. Gil is a screenwriter who finds his inspiration while being transported back to the 1920s at midnight. It has a dreamy quality to it and worth seeing. You also can’t go wrong with watching the recreating of 1920s Paris.
Courtroom Drama has a system of justice playing a critical role in the film’s narrative.
Primal Fear from 1996, a courtroom drama, is a movie that involves religion and murder. It can’t get any better than this, but wait, there’s a lawyer hiding the shadows ready to take on this case. Okay, it does get better. The need to control the situation, by both the lawyer and defendant, makes it tense. Sometimes you watch movies to be appalled by human action and this is one of them.
Epic is large-scale, set in a cinematic interpretation of the past. Their scope defies and demands, either in the mode in which they are presented or their range across time.
Lawrence of Arabia from 1962, an epic historical drama, is a movie that kept my attention. As with many epic movies, it’s a long one of around 3 hours and 40 minutes. It’s about a British Lieutenant, T.E. Lawrence, following his own path during WWI. He disobeys commands, and rallies warring Arab tribes together for the sake of attacking a Turkish port. It’s worth seeing. It won best picture of the year and six other Oscars.
October 23, 2017: More Halloween Movies
October 21, 2017: 9 Halloween Movies for Every October and 1 TV Special
While I haven’t watched animated movies for a while, I thoroughly enjoyed watching every movie listed below. From the Peanuts characters to vampires to trolls to the undead, the stories and characters will keep you entertained. These just aren’t for people with kids because I’m living proof you’re never too old to watch a movie for a younger audience. They are listed by release date.
(Yes, I realize It’s a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a television special.)
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
Monster House (2006)
Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015)
The Boxtrolls (2014)
There’s many Halloween movies one could watch. I hope to watch a few new ones for the purpose of recommending or reviewing them before next year’s Halloween is chasing me. Here’s my list of Horror movies that are timeless wonders until that time comes. The lists are in order of release year. Enjoy and happy horror movie watching.
Psycho (1960) has one of best string of first act scenes in a horror movie. Everyone will remember to be wary of taking showers in motels. The movie seeks to answer what really happened to the character, Marion Crane, after she left her job in a mad hurry. The story continues to involve her sister, Lila, and her boyfriend, Sam, as they unravel the mystery. The ending is one of the best, but this is why Alfred Hitchcock is known as “the master of suspense.” There are five movies in this franchise, including the remake with Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn in 1998.
The Exorcist (1973) is about a mother fighting for her daughter’s life, basically demonic possession, with the help of two priests. If entities jump from one person to another, the ending has a definite creepiness to it. On a side note, Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair injured their backs in different scenes so the level of authenticity is definitely present. The are five movies in this franchise, not including the re-release in 2000 showing the staircase scene of the spider walk.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is about a group of friends, including two siblings, who encounter a family of freaks or the more technical term of being a psychopathic family. Leatherface: a man donning human flesh as a mask, wielding a chainsaw, being extremely tall, has all the traits of one scary &#*^@^&$. This script is very loosely based on Ed Gein, a Wisconsin serial killer, and surprisingly more serial killers are located in the pacific northwest and in some southern states. The commentary is worth the listen. There are seven movies in the franchise, including remakes and spin offs focusing on Leatherface. The latest one was released this month, featuring Stephen Dorff and Lili Taylor, although I haven’t seen it.
Halloween (1978) is a movie most people watch around this time. This is another favorite of mine. Some are for personal reasons. Others are purely for creative reasons. I met Jamie Lee Curtis once. She’s zany as you think, but in a good way. Listening to the commentary on the DVD/Blu-ray between John Carpenter and herself was priceless. From the opening scene to the last, it cemented my belief some people are wired to be evil. There are ten movies in the franchise, including the Rob Zombie directed ones, and the eleventh coming out in October 2018.
The Shining (1980) is about a haunted hotel that has negative effects on those who stay there. A writer, Jack Torrance, with his wife and son stay at Overlook Hotel in the dead of winter. Odd phenomenon occur as time passes, alarming Jack’s wife most of all. Yet, all bad things must come to an end. This is the only movie made, although there was a television mini-series made in 1997.
Friday the 13th (1980) brought the words of Camp Crystal Lake and name of Jason to the forefront of slasher films. The movie follows camp counselors, and one by one they are hunted by an elusive killer. There is nothing wrong about a mother’s love for her adult child, no matter how many worms he has crawling on his face, and the bond is stronger than the strongest glue. There are twelve movies in this franchise, including spin–offs focusing on Jason and Freddy vs. Jason, and the remake in 2009.
Halloween II (1981) is another movie most people watch around this time. This is one of my favorite sequels. It is one of the few horror movies that holds a candle next to the original and not have its flame blown out. The nightmare continues for Laurie Strode in the hospital. There are ten movies in the franchise.
Gremlins (1984) is about those adorable, little creatures called mogwai. The movie is completely absurd when you force it into the realistic cupboard, but that’s what is great about it. There is no way an animal would change its genetic makeup at such an accelerated rate from light, water, and food. It forces you to suspend your reality. The lessons learned by small town U.S.A. still rings true today. Do not possess something you are not fully prepared to handle. You might find yourself unable to deal with the unintended consequences. Who can forget Stripe? The badass leader? There are two movies in this franchise, not including the latest one to be released at a TBD date.
Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is about one of my favorite evil characters in contemporary horror cinema. Yes, 33 years is not that long ago. Freddy Krueger had all the elements of being terrifying and alluring. His exaggerated mannerisms were a part of his darker psyche. He paid the piper long ago and now he’s wanting to collect through revenge. There are nine movies in this franchise, including the spin-off focusing on Freddy vs. Jason, and the remake in 2010.
Hellraiser (1987) is about a woman who finds it increasingly hard to resist her past lover who escaped the clutches of the Cenobites from hell. He convinces her to restore him back to life by offering sacrifices to the demons. The leader is known as Pinhead. As some deals are made, others are broken. When is the last time you would trust a demon? The answer would be never. There are nine movies in this franchise, not including the latest one to be released this year.
October 6, 2017: Could I Watch These Movies Without Any Guilt, Today?
I’ve done some thinking lately about xenophobia in Hollywood. I’ve seen a few movies riddled with it. Midnight Express demonizes Turkey. Return to Paradise paints Malaysia with browns and blacks. Brokedown Palace portrays Thailand in a poor light. Oliver Stone has since apologized to Turkey and its people. Billy Hayes, whom the movie is based, has taken a firm stance of his love for Turkey and its people through interviews and finally returning there in 2007 to further repair the damage that was done by his book and movie adaptation.
Is watching these types of movies going to prevent people from visiting any of these countries? It wouldn’t for me, but it might for some. I’ve seen these movies over ten years ago, but not once did I think of the secondary consequences and influences it might have on viewers. Sure, it reinforced my standard of not smuggling drugs out of foreign countries. Is twenty years harsh punishment for a first offense drug charge? Yes, to me, it is. Is death warranted for a first offense drug charge? No, to me, it isn’t.
I’m less certain if it is careless for a screenwriter or writer to sensationalize a certain ethnic or racial group or write scenes riddled with fictional violence. I used to think it was careless without any room for exceptions. People write what they know, what is familiar to them, and sometimes the topic is open to great criticism. Is giving harsh criticism to a screenwriter or any writer fair when they write from the heart? I’m not sure anymore.
Because of the current racial tensions, I thought about not recommending these movies. Then, I thought I’m letting someone else dictate what is and isn’t suitable for me to watch, and worse yet, blog. We all have opinions and even more so rampant with social media. I realize not everyone is going to agree with me nor do I want this. People aren’t robots without emotions. We don’t need followers without thinking for ourselves. So, I’m thinking for myself in this blog. I’m kicking the dirt in the air and seeing where it lands.
Despite the xenophobia and criticism, I’m recommending Midnight Express with Brad Davis as Billy Hayes and Return to Paradise with Joaquin Phoenix as Lewis McBride. I watched them for the stories, but what stayed with me through all these years was the performances by these two actors.
Midnight Express is a movie adaptation from the non-fiction book by the same name. The movie was directed by Alan Parker and written by Oliver Stone. In addition to Davis, there are solid performances by John Hurt and Randy Quaid. The Turkish prison guard, Hamidou, is still excellently played by Paul L. Smith. The movie starts with the arrest of Billy Hayes and progresses with his time spent in a Turkish prison. You see how he deals mentally and physically with his incarceration even during those times when all hope seems gone. Despite the movie being released in 1978, it’s a commentary even today of not going into another country without being fully aware of their culture and laws. The only downfall given by Roger Ebert from Chicago Sun-Times was feeling sorry for Billy Hayes. I was one of the viewers who did feel sorry for him so this reinforces why I’m recommending this solely based on Brad Davis’s performance.
Return to Paradise is a movie written by Wesley Strick and Bruce Robinson. It is a remake from a French movie called Force Majeure from 1989. The movie was directed by Joseph Ruben. The movie is about three friends who visit Malaysia on vacation, and because of their carelessness one is arrested and sent to Malaysian prison. The acting by Vince Vaughn and David Conrad is not on the same caliber as John Hurt, but they served a necessary purpose. Besides the question of whether Lewis McBride will be released from prison, it includes what would you do for your friend. This is when talk flies out the window, and action is the only thing having importance. The major downfall given by Peter Travers from Rollingstone were the B-rate suspense tricks used in the movie. I was one of the viewers who was moved by the emotionally charged ending so this is why I’m recommending this solely based on Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. He’s only gotten better in his roles since this one in 1998.
And there you have it, my long overdue two movie recommendations, and yes I could watch them again.
August 28, 2017: Movie Recommendations/Reviews
I decided to rent a few movies this weekend, Lost City of Z and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, because a part of me wanted to see if they deserved the lack of interest during opening weekend and long after they left the theater. My overall general conclusion for both movies is no, but I do have a few suggestions along the way I believe would have made them better. If you haven’t seen the movies yet, and can tolerate the minor mishaps I comment on, then by all means, watch them because I did and survived.
This blog contains general spoilers for those not familiar with these stories.
I watched Lost City of Z first, on a Friday night, when I was boned tired. It probably wasn’t the greatest time to watch a 141 minute long movie, but I did it anyway. The story is about the British explorer among his many other titles, Percival (Percy) Fawcett, and his repeated attempts at discovering a lost city in South America he believes exists. His explorations take him deep into the Amazon where insects and animals are not the only ones to prove dangerous. The script, written by James Gray, is based on the book by David Grann, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. It is also directed by Gray. The main cast is Charlie Hunnam as Percy Fawcett, Robert Pattinson as Henry Costin, Angus Macfadyen as James Murray, Sienna Miller as Nina Fawcett, and Tom Holland as Jack Fawcett.
A movie of this magnitude would have done well for itself by splitting it into two to capture adequately all the parts of the story or going back into the script and focus on one or two parts of the story. The heart of this movie should have focused on exploration and survival meaning the majority of the story should have concentrated on Fawcett’s time in the Amazon.
The veins found in the arms and legs of any story are important, sub-stories so to speak, but were too haphazardly thrown into the main story to make it beneficial. The letter correspondence between Fawcett’s wife and himself could have proven to be touching, but all you really got was voice over in the end. I’m not expecting love letters to be written between Percy and Nina because that is not what this story is about nor do I think this was in his nature to write these kinds of letters. I mean here was a husband and father who was away from his family where he missed significant parts of raising his children. It might have given him a little more depth to know the part of him that was not steeped in his desire for exploration did exist. Movies are known to sometimes stray from actual events in order to improve it.
The scenes relating to the World War I did not advance the story in any meaningful way although I’m more undecided about the debates over the authenticity and purpose of his missions. I think it would have been just as sufficient to have a single antagonist before he went on his first mission as seen in the movie to comment on the sentiment during that time when non-white people were viewed as savages. I wasn’t turned off by his speech later in the movie, but it wasn’t a make it or break it scene for me.
There’s quite a of span of time between his missions so titles referring to a timeline, dates in particular, would’ve been helpful. This coupled with smoother transitions between the locations in the Amazon to his home in England would have made it appear less choppy and more tolerable.
The last scene of the movie was neither here nor there for me. It didn’t have the same kind of impact as the other parts of the movie. I think because it didn’t solely focus on Fawcett and his son, Jack, and what was clearly obvious to them. By the end of this film, I realized I could’ve had a little more insight into the workings of Percy Fawcett as a person. I wonder how it would’ve played out had Brad Pitt or Benedict Cumberbatch took the role instead. I’m not saying this was sub-par because of Charlie Hunnam because it was far from it. He’s a good actor with adequate range so yes, I recommend this movie.
(87% Rotten Tomatoes/6.7 out of 10 IMDb)
I watched King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, on a Saturday morning, when I was still bone-tired. This too proved to be somewhat of a challenge, but not as much due to the pacing of it, and it was 126 minutes. The story is about the son of King Uther Pendragon, Arthur, who sends him away in a boat to safety, after he is attacked by his own brother, Vortigern. It is in the brothels where Arthur is raised and ultimately finds his true power and calling when he reaches adulthood. It is directed by Guy Ritchie who also had a hand in the script along with several others, and for all intents and purposes it is a “not think too hard” kind of movie. The main cast is Charlie Hunnam as Arthur, Jude Law and Vortigern, Eric Bana as Uther, Djimon Hounsou as Bedivere, and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as The Mage, Aiden Gillen as Bill, and Tom Wu as George.
This is a typical Guy Ritchie film with traits of a catchy soundtrack and scenes where he likes to incorporate time sped up or replaying how things actually happened. I was not bothered by the CGI effects although this bothers some people immensely. I can suspend reality and say those are actually gigantic elephants destroying castles and bridges or those look like actual sets even though I know they are not.
The story continues with Arthur finding friendship and loyalty among his peers including a prostitute named Lucy. He protects her until she needs no more protection, but soon finds his own life is in peril. I personally liked the character of Vortigern. He seeks the one thing he will never have when compared to Arthur and that is power and how he gets his power. The gross looking sea creatures that entice whoever will listen to them were also my favorites.
Arthur escapes the fate brought upon him by Vortigern when he receives help from The Mage. He then goes through rejection and attraction to the sword until he finally accepts his fate his father bestowed upon him when he died. The power of the sword, Excalibur, is realized during a fight when all seems lost. There are more chase and fight scenes to carry the movie to a satisfactory end. It includes enough sorcery to advance the story. The ending is predictable due to the story, but even without knowing the full story, it is set up where you can deduce what will happen. Arthur goes on to fight his uncle, Vortigern, for the crown. The sword finally belongs to him, and he is surrounded by his most loyal friends. He bears the crown his father once wore and starts the next chapter of his life.
(28% Rotten Tomatoes/7 out of 10 IMDb)
If you didn’t stop reading this blog, then you actually got to the good or should I say bad when compared to other King Kong movies. While I enjoyed watching King Kong in action and the gigantic animals and insects, it was the dialogue that was hard to ignore. John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, and the rest of the cast did as best they could with the material. Maybe, I am being too harsh. It is another “not think too hard” movie. The best part was seeing Miyavi, the actor who did such a great job in Unbroken, and who I hope is in more movies and not just for two minutes. If you want to see this solely based on the fact you like King Kong, then watch it. If you are expecting something else, then don’t.
July 8, 2017: JJ Feild Quote
July 4, 2017: Cillian Murphy Quote
July 3, 2017: Movies Coming to a Theater Near You
There a few movies I’d like to see in the theater being released this year. I’m not sure I will get a chance to see them all, but here is a brief description and its major cast.
Dunkirk is about Allied soldiers who find themselves surrounded by the German Army during World War II. It is written and directed by Christopher Nolan. It stars Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy who I think are phenomenal actors. I’ve already watched Peaky Blinders twice now. It also has Kenneth Branagh (the actor who has done many Shakespeare movies and convincingly I might add) and Harry Styles (I only know him for being the ex-boyfriend of Taylor Swift and singer of One Direction that I’m not into, but hopefully this movie will catapult him into a different spotlight).
Battle of the Sexes is about the infamous tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in the 1970s. It is written by Simon Beaufoy and directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. It stars Emma Stone (The Help and Birdman) and Steve Carrell (Can it get any better than 40 Year Old Virgin or Incredible Burt Wonderstone?) as well as Elizabeth Shue (forever tied to The Karate Kid) and Sarah Silverman (hilarious in A Million Ways to Die in the West).
Wind River is about an FBI agent who tracks a killer with the help of a game tracker on an Indian Reservation. It is written and directed by Taylor Sheridan. He’s the actor who played the Deputy in Sons of Anarchy. He is responsible for writing Sicario, which is a great movie from start to finish, and Hell and High Water, which I have to still watch. It stars Jon Bernthal (Fury and Sicario), Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister to the Olsen twins that starred in Godzilla), and Jeremy Renner (anyone remember his role as Jeffrey Dahmer? Or the more notable role in Hurt Locker?).
The Mountain Between Us is about two people stranded after their plane crashes. They must come together to survive when they realize no one is coming to rescue them. It is an adaptation from the book by Charles Martin and scripted by J. Mills Goodloe. It stars Kate Winslet (Red headed beauty in Titanic and Orange haired crazy in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and Idris Elba (Thor, Prometheus, and Pacific Rim). It also has Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding and The Family Stone) and Beau Bridges (Max Payne and Bloodline).
Gook is about the time right before and during the Los Angeles riots in 1992. Two Korean American brothers form an unlikely friendship with an 11 year old African American girl. The brothers find themselves having to band together to defend the store with the girl during the riots. It is written and directed by Justin Chon. It stars Simone Baker (American Horror Story), Justin Chon (Twilight series), Curtiss Cook Jr. (Bull), and David So (You Tube).
Thor: Ragnarok is about the fictional superhero who fights for his own survival on the other side of the universe, and must also save the Asgardian civilization from a new threat, Hela. It is directed by Taika Waititi and written by Eric Pearson and story by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, and Stephany Folsom. It stars Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek), Tom Hiddleston (Midnight in Paris and another ex of Taylor Swift), and Cate Blanchett (the spell bounding portrayal as Queen Elizabeth). It also includes Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Mark Ruffalo, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Ferdinand is about a bull mistaken for a dangerous beast. He is captured and is determined to return to his home with the help of a team of misfits. It is an adaptation from the book by Munro Leaf. It is directed by Carlos Saldanha. It stars Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire and Nurse Jackie), Kate McKinnon (SNL who does a superb job portraying Justin Bieber), and David Tennant (menacing as Kilgrave in Jessica Jones).
Rotten Tomatoes Says…
Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Films