Judging from the commercials, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is the story of Denzel Washington heroically saving a plane full of passengers from certain death, but the film’s barn-burning crash sequence is over by the 25-minute mark. What follows is an intense portrait of a self-destructive man in what seems like a death spiral.
Category Archives: Movie Reviews
Patton is a bigger-than-life film about a bigger-than-life figure and it will be remembered for a bigger than life gesture by its star when George C. Scott refused to accept a Best Actor Oscar for his performance. Scott didn’t believe he deserved this award. The rest of the civilized world, with good reason, begged to differ.
The opening credits of Broken Flowers is like porn for postal geeks, as we follow a pink envelope through virtually the entire process of it being mailed, sorted and delivered. I was oddly reminded of the little girl in the red coat from Schinder’s List as I watched this pink beacon sail through a sea of white and manila envelopes.
I, Robot was a series of stories by the late Isaac Asimov about a future society where robots serve humans and are governed by the now immortal Three Laws of Robotics.
- A robot will never harm a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot will always obey the commands of a human, except where those orders conflict with the first law.
- A robot will preserve it’s own existence, except when doing so would conflict with the first or second law.
These laws became so famous within the science fiction community that if you wrote a story with robots, you were in danger of being bombarded by letters from outraged 13-year-olds if your robots didn’t obey Asimov’s Three Laws.
Good Morning, Vietnam
There was indeed a disc jockey named Adrian Cronauer who worked for Armed Forces Radio in Saigon during the early years of the Vietnam War. Aside from that fact, this film pretty much deviates from reality from that point forward. If it happens in Good Morning, Vietnam, you be be pretty sure that it didn’t happen to the real Cronauer. This is really the story of what would have happened if you had somehow plunked Robin Williams back in 1965 Vietnam and set him to work for the military radio network.
That’s not to say it’s a bad movie. In fact, it’s the best movie on the pure comic side of William’s filmography, specifically because the role of this DJ perfectly matches the comedian’s unbridled improvisational humor.
It’s difficult now to even imagine a time, a little more than a decade ago, when Philadelphia was a daring, breakthrough film. In structure and style, this movie is a wholly conventional courtroom drama. In 1993, its frank treatment of homosexuality and AIDS was culturally groundbreaking. That’s probably the true genius stroke of this film, taking an edgy, uncomfortable subject and couching it in a familiar setting.
I have to confess that I didn’t see Philadelphia until this year, largely because at the time the movie was released, my oldest brother had less than a year to live and the subject struck a little too close to home for me. Finally seeing it, a decade removed from the real life events, I could appreciate the movie for what it was without dwelling on the subject matter.
The Wild Bunch
It’s interesting to think that 1969 saw two landmark westerns that covered much the same territory in vastly different ways. They were both set against the twilight of the old west and both dealt with train robbers for whom time had fatally passed them by. While Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was a breezy, nostalgic comedy, The Wild Bunch is a mostly somber contemplation of violence and mortality.
Sam Peckinpah‘s signature film may have been shockingly violent for its day, but its actually fairly tame in that department compared to modern action movies like Die Hard. However, if the graphicness of the violence is not up to modern standards, the sheer body count of this picture, as well as the callous randomness of the death, is still capable of shocking.
Foul Play was Chevy Chase‘s first movie after leaving Saturday Night Live and it remains his best film to date. Unlike his SNL and Caddyshack co-star Bill Murray, Chase never really stretched beyond the basic character he plays here, which isn’t that different than the characters he played on SNL.
Star Trek: Generations
Even though Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country effectively passed the torch to the Next Generation cast, the powers that be at Paramount apparently decided that the torch needed even more passing.
My guess is that Rick Berman lacked the faith that the new cast could carry a film franchise without an assist from the original show. Whether that position has any merit is debatable, but the end result was Star Trek: Generations, whose merit is equally debatable.
Saraband, probably the last film from the legendary Ingmar Bergman, re-unites us with Johan and Marianne, whose divorce we watched unfold 30 years ago in 1973‘s Scenes from a Marriage. The film plays out in the form of ten extended two-handed dialogues. Bergman is able to wring an amazing amount of drama out of this deceptively simple structure.
Scenes from a Marriage
If I may grossly over-simplify the Ingmar Bergman worldview: we’re born, we die and in between, we treat each other like shit. The legendary Swedish filmmaker is a sheer master at pointing a camera at people and wringing buckets of genuine, truthful misery from them.
Scenes from a Marriage is a three-hour distillation of a six-part mini-series he did for Swedish television. Despite its significant length and the fact that most of the film is comprised of extended dialogues between two people, the film holds your attention in an iron grip.
Musicals use their plot as a connector between songs. Porn films used plot, back when they had one, to connect the sex scenes. Similarly, Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles uses what plot it has as a framework upon which to hang a non-stop barrage of sight-gags, puns and just plain jokes, most of them very funny.