Movie Reviews

I have always been something of a movie nut, and (take it from the people I ruin movies for {I don’t know why people don’t watch movies with me anymore}) I love reviewing movies. Here, I’ll be talking about old movies, new movies, popular movies, cult movies … whatever I feel like watching.

Start Trek: First Contact Review

I love reviewing old movies, and recently, I had a chance to watch Star Trek: First Contact. Here are my thoughts. YOU MUST READ THIS BLOG! RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!

Wow, this movie is old. Shocking, right? I can’t believe that this movie was made in November of 1996, which made me all of fourteen years old … holy crap, I’m getting old. I had remembered this coming out later, but I was incorrect.

I want to clarify something … just because I like Star Trek movies and Star Trek TNG is one of my favorite shows of all time, that doesn’t make me a nerd. This gets thrown around a lot, but I feel it is untrue. I have known, been friends with, and worked with true nerds, the ones that are proud of it (for some reason), and they do not accept me into their ilk. I imagine it is my disdain for Magic The Gathering, World of Warcraft, or Dungeons & Dragons. It could also have to do with my profound knowledge of NFL rosters or my intense passion for baseball.

Geez. Defensive much? No! OK, maybe a little. I realize that shouting “I am not a nerd!” does not make it … not so, or whatnot, but I feel like the association of nerds with Star Trek is a foolish one. It’s kind of like pairing good coffee with hipsters. They don’t have a monopoly on something good, and neither do nerds. Also, I’m rubber, you’re glue. An airtight defense!

Anyway, on to the trailer.

Pretty good, right?! For me, Star Trek: First Contact is my third favorite Star Trek movie, right behind Star Trek II and Star Trek VI. Obviously that means that this, in my opinion, was the best movie of the new cast.

I feel like this movie has a great villain, the Borg. They’re my second favorite villains in the Star Trek universe behind the Klingons. This movie has very high stakes, and it deals with an intense inner struggle of the main character, Jean-Luc Picard. His struggle is one of hatred and vengeance. You could say that he is Ahab and the Borg are his white whale.

Verdict, oh nerdy one? This movie lived up to my nostalgia, and it’s really fun. It’s high-action, but has enough of those down moments where the characters must consider the repercussions of their actions that makes every great Star Trek movie great (Are you paying attention J.J.?). Anyway, if you’re looking for a movie suggestion, this is one I would make. I think this film would also be a great primer for the non-Trek fan, as I think it’s easy to get caught up in the story.

And for you non-Trek fans, I just want you to know … you will be assimilated.

BONUS: For you Parks and Recreation fans out there, you can see Adam Scott (Ben) at 1:48 in the trailer. That is his entire part.

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Return to Oz Review

In this post, I review this 1985 Disney film, Return to Oz. I look back on it, as I saw it as a child, and I consider how a film like this fits into film history … especially the 80s.

Why again? I remember watching this movie when I was a kid. I don’t remember exactly how young I was, but I was about six or seven. I remember thinking that this film was far more interesting than the musical I’d seen, and I remember how freaked out I was by certain scenes in this movie that are not exactly great for children … unless you enjoy giving them nightmares.

It was a movie I had been reminded about lately, though I’m not sure why, so I decided to go back and watch it as an adult. There’s something interesting about watching movies that had such an effect on you as a child. I’d bet I could probably watch the movie It now and sleep through the night (though I won’t). Some things, when we come back to them, look horrible and defy that nostalgic dream, yet some actually live up to expectations.

A little background. This movie is based mainly on two books, The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, from L. Frank Baum’s famous series. I have not read these books, but from talking to a resident Baum scholar, I am told that this book is a much more accurate portrayal of Baum’s strange world than the 1939 Wizard of Oz. In his books, Dorothy is described as a child, which makes more sense than having a sixteen-year-old Judy Garland lose herself (potentially) in her imagination.

How about this one? Well, I have to say, this movie is pretty campy. Still, it was fun for me, even as an adult (so immature), to watch. The are some special effects, but mostly, it’s done with puppets and the like. I know, for me, I always prefer real objects in films instead of digitized elements, if it can be helped. Yes, I’m looking at you, Star Wars. I found the movie to be creepy and weird, though the conflict was unclear and the villain was a little too easy to defeat. That being said, it has some very dark elements, the darkest perhaps being that this traveling back to Oz comes as Dorothy is about to be subjected to (I believe) electro-shock therapy, to rid her of her memories of Oz. Frightening. Still, I thought it was fun to watch again, though I would not recommend watching this with children that are too young … or maybe today’s children could handle it. I dunno. I’m no child expert.

Bonus thought: This movie makes the best use of a moose head since the great old comedy, Murder by Death.

80s movies. You know, when I think back about the 80s, I think about Reagan, I think about conservatism, I think about practicality, jobs, fights over labor, etc. The 80s seem like the most buttoned-down years of my life, yet the movies that emerged from the 80s are trippy, strange, and fantastically original. Think about this list: Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, The Neverending Story (that wolf STILL freaks me out), Willow (not to be confused with Willow Smith (or Jimmy Fallon impersonating Neil Young covering Willow Smith, featuring Bruce Springstein)), The Secret of Nimh, and so many others.

I think there’s a part of me that shakes my head at the bizarre movies that came out in that decade, but there’s also a part of me that wishes movies today would seek such unique and strange stories. I mean, how many more remakes do we need? Films in the 80s were odd, but at least it seemed like the movie companies were trying, and yes, not a ton of classics emerged from the 80s, but there are a lot interesting and noteworthy storylines. I wonder how generations going forward will look back on movies from that era.

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My Top Five Favorite Movie Villains

Everyone has favorite villains, and in this post, I will discuss those villains that I believe add the most to their respective movies. Also, I’ll make a distinction between monsters and villains.

So, what is a villain? Well, for this post, we’ll define villains as characters that are capable of making right and wrong choices but choose to do wrong. So, for example, Godzilla or the shark in Jaws are monsters not villains. Same goes for Jack Torrence in The Shining, as he wasn’t exactly in control. Make sense?

Also, villains aren’t just bad guys. They need to be the antagonist. Otherwise, every character in a Quentin Tarantino movie could be considered a villain. That is not what I am talking about here.

What are your criteria? I’m not talking about actors here, I’m talking about characters. My favorite villains are basically judged based on how much I want to see them really get it by the end of the film. Sometimes I find myself rooting for villains (Darth Vader is a good example here), which isn’t what I want to talk about. I’m talking about the most badass villains who roll through their world like Genghis Khan or Vlad the Impaler. I do want them to be complicated, so if I can almost identify what brings about their violences, it’s better.

Now, without further ado, THE LIST!

Honorable Mention. Anton Chigurh
This is the greatest villain in modern movies, and if you don’t agree with me, you can call it … friend-o.

5. Dracula
You may say that Dracula is a monster or is too easy, but he’s capable of making choices, and he’s such a bad dude. There’s a reason vampires have been interesting for so long, and it all boils down to this guy (Note: Since there is no comparison between this Dracula and the people in the Twilight films, we will rename the latter from vampires to simply “People that suck.”). The 1931 film is very slow and awkward at points, because it seemed like they hadn’t quite figured out how to make movies yet, but below is a scene that hits me hard.

4. Stansfield from The Professional
Sadly, this is Natalie Portman’s best movie, and she was twelve. Anyway, Gary Oldman is always an awesome villain, but in this film, he’s frightening. If you have not seen this movie, watch it. Oldman makes this movie, because the protagonists have so much to work against. I don’t consider myself a violent man, but watching this film makes me root for something terrible to happen to Oldman’s character Stansfield. Don’t believe me? Watch.

3. Khan
Khan is one of those characters that you can identify with. Kirk kind of screwed him over, so his lust for revenge is almost understandable. I don’t know that there is a sci-fi movie that is better than The Wrath of Khan, and Ricardo Montalban’s Khan is the primary reason for that. He’s brilliant, he’s cruel, but he’s also pained by the death of his wife. He carries that wound around like Ahab chasing his white whale, though Shatner was not quite as pudgy then. Check out this scene.

2. Harry Lime from The Third Man
Harry Lime’s character, from the adaptation of Graham Greene’s wonderful little novel The Third Man is an excellent villain because he’s charming. You want to like him, you want to defend him, yet when push comes to shove, if he does not get his way, he does horrific things. Orson Welles is amazing in this role, and below is a scene that shows his lack of humanity.

1.Annie Wilkes from Misery
I remember when I first watched Misery. I remember thinking that there was no way I would be frightened of a chubby woman, yet Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes terrified me. This is also why Kathy Bates is my favorite actress. I don’t know what other actress could have pulled this off like her. She’s frightening, she’s powerful, she’s dominating, she’s rigid, and she’s cruel. Annie Wilkes is a truly awesome villain. Also, don’t worry, I’m not using the hobbling scene … but I could. Scary, right?

I just hope no upset fan of my blog ever finds me in a snow mound …

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What’s Up, Tiger Lily? Review

In this post, I review the classic comedy film, What’s Up, Tiger Lily? I also deal with the issues of rating comedies, and I talk about my rating system.

Rating system, you say? Well, first things first. For me to review movies, I must first develop a rating system. I’ve been thinking about stars or buckets of popcorn or whatnot, but I decided to go with a system where I try to value the movie based on where I’d be willing to see it. So, here is how it breaks down:

  • “Theatre One”: This is a great movie. You should watch this movie any chance you get in theater. This is the kind of flick to see on opening night and then come back the following day.
  • “Dollar Theatre”: This is a good movie. It’s fun, and you should go out of your way to see it.
  • “Laptop-Worthy”: Laptop-Worthy movies are just that. You’re bored, and you need something to kill time? Try these.
  • “DMV Phone”: If you’re absolutely desperate, and you can watch movies on your 4″ phone, these movies can be appropriate.
  • “NEVER EVER EVER”: There is never a time that is appropriate to watch these movies.

Does that make sense? Well, on with the review.

The Movie. I realize this is an old movie, and it may seem weird to review old movies, but there’s a ton of great old stuff that people need to be informed of. I hadn’t heard of this movie until I saw this video featuring Alton Brown talking about the movie.

Now, if you know me, you know that I love all things Alton Brown … he’s kind of my hero. Don’t know him? Be ashamed, then go watch every episode of “Good Eats” on YouTube. Anyway …

So, this movie is hilarious. As the preview shows, Woody Allen just took an old Japanese spy movie, edited it, and dubbed in silly vocals to make a ridiculous picture. It reminds me a lot of Kung Pow: Enter The Fist in that way. No, this movie will not make you smarter or impress your hipster friends, but if you’re looking for a knee-slapper, it does a decent job.

Rating comedies? Rating comedies can be tough, which is why my rating system is functional for me, because it does not matter if I feel the movie is artistic or silly, complex or simple. In this regard, I rather enjoyed watching this film, and while it is tough to rate on qualities like acting, sound, direction, etc., I feel like I can talk about it for its writing and innovation. In these two categories, I think it’s quite good.

Verdict? To me, this movie is a solid Laptop-worthy. It will not blow your mind, but if you’ve got nothing to do tonight, have a friend over, make some chili-cheese dip, and turn this thing on. You’ll enjoy it … and if you don’t, if you can’t enjoy a silly movie for being silly … I don’t know what to tell you. Just remember that smart people like silly things too.

Oh! Almost forgot. One perk about this movie is that you can watch the entire thing for free on YouTube here. Enjoy!

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Hitchcock Review

Alfred Hitchcock

Good evening. I don’t remember when I first saw my first Hitchcock flick, nor do I remember which it was, but I know I loved it. I was a teenager, and for the next while, I ravenously pursued and watched every Hitchcock film I could get my hands on. When I think about his movies, I think of homemade popcorn, Mountain Dew, and my parents’ basement. I still watch his movies any time they get played in theatres. Psycho to this day still freaks me out, though my personal favorite of his is Lifeboat.

Hitchcock set a standard of classic films for me. He wasn’t a one-trick pony either. He didn’t just live in horror and suspense. He could tell a beautiful love story, a baffling spy thriller, or a politically-charged drama. So, naturally, when I heard they were doing a biopic of him starring the great Anthony Hopkins, I knew I had to see it.

The movie. I watched the movie Hitchcock on Christmas day. Hopkins was brilliant, and Helen Mirren was equally sensational playing Hitchcock’s wife, Alma. The cast was solid across the board (it’s a shame Scarlett Johansson couldn’t star in a Hitchcock film … she would have been perfect for it), and I was thoroughly engaged from minute one.

The movie centers on the making of Hitchcock’s most famous flick, Psycho. But that’s not what it’s about (though the tidbits about the inspiration, Ed Gein, were fun). It’s a soul-stirring and real love story between two very flawed and human characters. Hopkins becomes Alfred Hitchcock, with all of his famous flaws, and Mirren’s Alma is no saint. The characters are highly conflicted, yet easy to identify with, and since the movie is set in the broader conflict of making a controversial film, the tensions of the personal and interpersonal conflicts come to a breaking point.

My review. Awesome. This movie is brilliant. Watch it. You should have watched it already, and if you have, watch it again. This, besides Hannibal Lecter (though for a moment, I questioned which role I liked more), was Hopkins best character. Watch it.

The indictment. So, when I went to the theatre on Christmas to watch this film, the building was quite packed. There isn’t a whole lot to do on Christmas, it turns out. I figured Hitchcock would be equally packed, and when I was directed to theatre one, which in my experience tends to be the BIG theatre in the place, I was quite pleased. Turns out, in this particular theatre, theatre one is a very tiny one. Not only that, besides myself, there were only four other people (two couples) who showed up to see the movie.

Five people? I mean, I’m sure Battleship or Gangster Squad or whatever else crap movie this year would have been packed to the gills. It’s frustrating. Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson was only a limited release as well. What’s happened, movie goers? Do we not hold any standards anymore? If there are enough bright colors, explosions, and breasts, do they have us? Eugh. Conflicted, real film characters seem to be going out the window … because they don’t make the money … because they don’t interest movie goers.

I don’t know. I was sad when I only saw five people in that tiny theatre, and I don’t understand it.

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