Friday, August 28, 2009

That's Just My Opinion

'These Are Our Choices?'

I won't be writing reviews in the next week because of my ten games in a row at the Friendly Confines but I thought I would comment on the releases this weekend at a theatre near you. We are so lucky this week to get a choice between two horror movies that are equally worthless in my opinion. You get to choose between a gimmick movie called 'Final Destination 3-D' and a sequel to Rob Zombie's 'Halloween' an insult of a horror remake. I saw the first Final Destination and I know I don't need to see the sequel because I think I have seen it all already. I don't even care about the 3-D because that has become a joke lately (remember 'Amityville 3-D?). The Rob Zombie remake of 'Halloween' was an ugly and needless remake. Did we really need to know the background of Michael Meyers? Did we need to have it explained to us that Michael is an evil killer because he was raised by redneck hillbillies? Zombie added so much needless crap it was ridiculous! The original 'Halloween', my favorite horror movie of all time, was beautiful, haunting, quick and scary good with minimal story. Then came the sequels with more added story and a lazier style of film making. Now we get a terrible Saw franchise with a new sequel every year. We get a remake of the worst horror movie of all time 'Friday the 13Th'. Where have all the good horror movies gone? Who will be the next creative writer to give us an original and very scary horror movie? The choices now are so slim and boring that our two choices for horror in one weekend are two losers. I haven't seen them but I can see no way of me enjoying them at all. I am not a horror movie prude. I do love a good scary horror movie but the only good ones I have seen are jokey ones like 'Orphan' and 'Drag Me To Hell'. In 1991 there was 'Silence of the Lambs' and it brought a new energy to the horror genre. We need a truly scary and groundbreaking horror movie to wake us up out of this horror stupor.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Grand

The Grand (R)-**

Writers: Zak Penn and Matt Bierman
Director: Zak Penn
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Cheryl Hines, Richard Kind, Ray Romano

The Grand is to poker what 'Best in Show' was to dog shows but the laughs don't come as fast. A poker tournament brings an all star cast together but they are wasted. Also the fake commentators have not one funny line and are nowhere as funny as Fred Willard was in show. Dennis Farina and Michael McKean have the best and funniest material and I liked Ray Romano in a smaller role. I guess Poker on screen in a movie is not interesting enough to make fun of. This movie just falls flat and has more misses than hits. 'The Grand' is now on DVD.

Monday, August 24, 2009

August 17-23

In theatres:

Inglourious Basterds (R)-***1/2
In the Loop (R)-***
Shorts (PG)-**


Excalibur (R) (81)-****
The Breakfast Club (R) (85)-****
Sixteen Candles (PG) (84)-***1/2
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (PG-13) (86)-***1/2
Planes,Trains and Automobiles (PG-13) (87)-***11/2
Vacation (R) (83)-***1/2
Frost/Nixon (R) (08)-***1/2
Mr. Mom (PG) (83)-***
Weird Science (PG-13) (85)-***
Only the Lonely (PG-13) (91)-***
Some Kind of Wonderful (PG-13) (87)-***
Pretty in Pink (PG-13) (86)-***
Home Alone (PG) (90)-**1/2
Uncle Buck (PG) (89)-**
Shorts (PG) (09)-**

The Best of John Hughes

The Best Movies of John Hughes

8.) Only the Lonely
7.) Weird Science
6.) Mr. Mom (Writer)
5.) Vacation (Writer)
4.) Planes, Trains and Automobiles
3.) Ferris Bueller's Day Off
2.) Sixteen Candles
1.) The Breakfast Club

John Hughes-The Voice of a Generation

John Hughes(1950-2009) A Voice of a Generation

It was a a sad and empty day when I heard of writer and director John Hughes death. Here was a film maker I grew up with who spoke to me and my generation after writing some sharp adult comedies. He never spoke down to his audience and he touched a nerve with teenagers with his coming of age movies. He was a talented writer with National Lampoon writing material for adults but his strongest movies were about teenage kids trying to make sense of themselves and the World they inhabited. His teenage characters struggled to make sense of school, family and the stereotypes that held them down. He harvested great talent and future stars giving them a chance to shine and become great actors. His touch with young talent was amazing and his stories were about something. A brief period before those movies all teenage movies were full of sex, bad comedy and teenagers played by adults in their late 20's. Besides the classic 'Risky Business' there was nothing that spoke to teenagers. So in that vein John Hughes was an influential voice in movies that reached many including me.

Hughes started out writing material for others with 'Mr. Mom' starring Michael Keaton. The plot was like a sitcom but it had brilliant moments of satire on the role of women and family in society. He followed up with the very funny and classic comedy 'National Lampoon's Vacation' which starred a very young Anthony Michael Hall. This was an accurate look at how messed up family vacations could get. There were moments that were easily recognizable and some that were laugh out loud funny. Then Hughes made the first movie that would change his career and start a string of successful movies that spoke to a new generation.

'Sixteen Candles' was a delightful and smart teenage comedy that was also deep and profound. Hughes found a new bright actress by the name of Molly Ringwald who gives a great and sweet performance. The characters were well written and not your stereotypical shallow characters seen in many high school comedies. These included a geek with heart and feelings played wonderfully by Anthony Michael Hall. There were some very funny and recognizable moments. The Long Duk Dong character was a little bit of a stereotype but also damn funny. Then Hughes would get a little more serious with 'The Breakfast Club' which is my favorite movie of his. The story was simple but the dialogue was truthful and funny. Hughes exposed the usual stereotypical high school labels put on teenagers as we saw the depth and real feelings behind the facades. Teenage movies weren't supposed to be this serious and truthful. Hughes followed up with a deceptively broad comedy in 'Weird Science'. I am one of the only fans of this movie but I urge the naysayers to revisit this movie. Yes this had some stupid moments but also some memorable lines and underneath it all a lot of heart.

'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' is now known as a comedy classic but at the time the movie got bad reviews. This was a funny, extremely entertaining comedy with an iconic character and a great use of Chicago locations. This has to be one of the best movies filmed in Chicago. Again there was some laugh out loud moments but also some heart and perceptive dialogue. It also introduced us to a major talent in Matthew Broderick. After that Hughes made some decent teenage comedies in 'Some Kind of Wonderful' and 'Pretty in Pink' but they weren't as strong as the others. Hughes rebounded with the holiday classic 'Planes,Trains and Automobiles' and exposed a new side of the great comic actor John Candy. All of Candy's other movies aren't anywhere as good as the movies he did with Hughes. Candy was also charming and funny in 'Uncle Buck' and gave his best performance of his career in 'Only the Lonely'.

Then Hughes created a monster in the hugely successful 'Home Alone' where he introduced to another major talent in McCauley Culkin. To me this is not a very good movie but I do admit Hughes knew what audiences craved and knew how to create a hit. I liked this movie the first time but oh now I can't stand it! This was a very over rated comedy but successful in what it was trying to do. John Hughes hit a snag after that writing more broad comedies that didn't work like 'Dutch' and 'Curly Sue' and then sort of sold out writing stuff like '101 Dalmations, and later 'Drillbit Taylor' but there was a reason. Hughes was tired of the spotlight and wanted to spend time on his farm with his family. He was not the Hollywood type and you could see that in his earlier movies that were a little bit different than the norm. He then started to write movies under the name Edmond Dantes. Not many film makers though had that small period of success and made so many iconic movies as he did. He spoke deeply to every teenager including this one. He was one of us and he wanted to show audiences that he cared. He was a great influence on many and helped pave the way for great entertainment including 'Freaks and Geeks'. His movies will always be with us and speak to new generations of families and children forever.

In the Loop

To start off with: In my review of Excalibur I forgot to mention the year that it came out and that was 1981. It was also one of my picks for best movies of 1981.

In the Loop (R)-*** (2009)

Writers: Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Tony Roche and Armando Ianucci based on BBC series
Director: Armando Ianucci
Starring: Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Anna Chlumsky, James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy

In the Loop has what most comedies are missing today and that is smart and funny dialogue. Based on the BBC series this is a delightful and fast paced comedy with wicked lines and nasty characters. You have to pay close attention or you will miss some classic zingers. The whole cast is delightful especially Peter Capaldi and Tom Hollander whose line readings are an example of great comic timing. Also ready and game for the fast paced dialogue are James Gandolfini shedding the Tony Soprano inflections and showing what a multi-faceted actor he is. Also not seen since the My Girl period is Anna Chlumsky who has grown up and become a good mature actress. This movie won't stay with you a long time after but it is great fun keeping up with the dialogue and wicked humor. These are some nasty characters who are funny as long as you don't have to be around them in real life.

Old Favorites Revisited-'Excalibur'

First of all I would like to explain my star rating to you. As my idol Roger Ebert has said star ratings are so arbitrary. To me they are just a guide because I have given movies 3 stars that turn out to be on my best list. I also have changed my mind and bumped up star ratings after more thought or revisiting certain movies. It mostly helps me form my year end lists. My highest rating is 4 stars and I think 5 stars is a ridiculous rating so I don't use that. Here they are:

0 stars-Complete garbage and no redeeming qualities.
1 star-1 1/2-terrible .
2 -fair, a few redeeming qualities.
2 1/2-almost recommended but better for a DVD rental on a rainy day.
3-good, recommended.
3 1/2-excellent
4-highest rating, one of the best movies I have seen. Outstanding.

From time to time I will be going back in time and giving you reviews of old movies that I think are worth a look or should be burned at the stake again. Here is my first old review of one of my favorites.

Excalibur (R)-****

Writers: Rosco Pallenberg and John Boorman
Director: John Boorman
Starring: Helen Mirren, Nicol Williamson, Nigel Terry, Liam Neeson, Patrick Stewart, Gabriel Byrne

When I heard that Bryan Singer was remaking Excalibur(the best movie about King Arthur) I had to look back at one of my favorite movies. I am not too excited that it is being remade because it is a flawless and powerful movie. Excalibur is very cold, dark, violent and very British and I love it for those reasons. Why are most of the medieval movies I see colorful and bright and happy? Hate to break it to you but the Middle Ages weren't a picnic in the park. This movie gets it right with great characters and acting mostly by future stars in the making. Liam Neeson, Helen Mirren(super hot then,still hot now) and Gabriel Byrne are in it when no one knew who they were. The cinematography is lush, stark and beautiful and the action is crisp and well directed by John Boorman('Deliverance' and 'Hope & Glory'). This is a beautiful and grand epic with intrigue and one great scene after another. The battle scenes are also gritty, bloody and enthralling. This movie manages to be beautiful and grungy at the same time. Other film makers have tackled the King Arthur legend and the worst is 'First Knight' with Sean Connery which is soapy, light and romantic. How anyone can depict that period as such is really fooling themselves. Excalibur has also light moments supplied by Nicol Williamson as Merlin. He is hilarious and is the comic relief in a dark, gritty and wonderful movie. Bryan Singer, please don't screw this up!


Frost/Nixon (R) ***1/2

Writer: Peter Morgan based on his stage play
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Rebecca Hall, Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt.

I am doing some house cleaning on 2008 movies so I can publish my best and worst of 2008 article which is coming very soon. I wanted to revisit 'Frost/Nixon' after seeing the real Frost/Nixon interviews which is available on DVD. I must say Peter Morgan and Ron Howard do a pretty decent job of re-creating these interviews. They do make it much more dramatic in the movie when Frost grills Nixon. For example in the movie there is some shouting but in the real interviews it was more low key. The real hook here is the great performances and Oscar caliber work by Langella and Sheen. There is a great supporting cast and a wonderful recreation of the late 70's. This might be Ron Howard's most assured and best job of directing but that doesn't make it his best movie. 'Parenthood' and 'Apollo 13' are his finest movies. I didn't love this movie but I was enthralled by it and glued to the screen. Langella and Sheen are so good and Rebecca Hall, who has impressed me so far, is nice to look at and a good actress and a star in the making.


Shorts (PG) **

Writer and Director: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Jon Cryer, Leslie Mann, William H. Macy, James Spader, Kat Deeley

It is time for Robert Rodriguez to go back to what he does best and that is adult films. 'Spy Kids' was good but since then all of his movies for kids have failed in some way. I grew restless and bored by Shorts after awhile. It has some good bits in it but most of it falls flat. Rodriguez is a very talented and creative writer and director but he should be more like his buddy Quentin Tarantino. He should take a breath and take more time out between his movies because he is losing that creative edge. I wasn't crazy about his half of 'Grindhouse' 'Planet Terror' but it was much better executed then this. This might be fun for little kids 5-10 but adults who tag along will be bored. My eight year old nephew liked it but preferred 'Aliens in the Attic' over it. He was excited when he saw Rodriguez's name on screen. He yelled "Robert Rodriguez did this?, he did 'Spy Kids'! I nodded yes and thought yes it sure is the director of 'Spy Kids' and if he doesn't shape up that is all he will be known for.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds (R) ****

Writer and Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger

Leave it to Quentin Tarantino to turn the World War II movie on it's ear. Inglourious Basterds is a highly entertaining and energetic Tarantino masterpiece. My favorite director next to Scorsese puts other filmmakers to shame with his more passionate and exciting storytelling. I can't tell you how many times I have been bored at the movies this year. Whatever you think of his style and movies you have to admit the man is very talented. Whenever I see one of his movies a big smile comes on my face and I start getting goosebumps. I don't say that much about other movies. The man knows how to push your buttons. He is a master filmmaker, storyteller and movie magician.

Brad Pitt is hilarious(especially when trying to speak Italian undercover) as Lt. Aldo Raine but the film is stolen by actor Christoph Waltz (in an Oscar caliber performance) as the evil Col. Hans Landa. I have never seen this actor before but I will now never forget him. He starts out the movie not Pitt in a beautifully orchestrated and suspenseful opening scene that is more powerful than most whole movies. He makes a lasting impression that lingers through the whole movie. The movie is separated in chapters and there are many classic Tarantino scenes that he now specializes in. They are full of dialogue and exposition for long periods of time as the tension builds. You know the scene is about to explode but you don't know when and your palms start to sweat until the scene erupts. Nobody does it better now than he does. He should be mentioned in the same company as Hitchcock, Scorsese and Ford.

There is great support by two beautiful women in Diane Kruger and Melanie Laurent. If you love old foreign movies you will appreciate the middle section set in a cinema palace where the climax will take place. The movie has very few clunker scenes and my rating could go up to four stars. I place this under Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill I & II and even with Jackie Brown and Reservoir Dogs. There has never been a bad movie by Tarantino and I love how he waits a long time in between making movies because he cares to get it right. Some directors could learn by that. Overall this is very entertaining but also not for the squeamish for there are many scenes with knives and heads if you know what I mean. This is a highly enjoyable, funny and suspenseful movie that is easily one of the best movies of the year.

In closing let me say that I am one of Tarantino's biggest fans. A lot of people can't stand him and I regard his movies higher than most. I just appreciate how he tells a story, ratchets up the suspense and tries his hardest to entertain. I am a lot like him because we both worked in video stores but we watched everything when we were younger and we are obsessed with movies. When I was young all I did was watch videos and Cinemax and discovered so many movies that others don't know about. He tries hard to entertain you and I try hard to supply you with great movies you don't know about. You will learn a lot more about my favorite styles, actors and directors and I hope you all discover all the classics I did. I also hope to jazz up my blog because now it looks boring and plain and Tarantino would not like it.

My First Blog

I am Vincent Snavely and this is my first blog so be patient with me. I will first explain the title of my blog and what that means. When you want a recommendation on a movie to go see do you want it from a stuffy critic or a regular guy who loves movies? I am here to give a simple and clear perspective on the movies that I enjoyed and the ones I despised. I have two simple rules on if a movie is good or not. 1.) Did I enjoy the movie? 2.) Did I find the movie dull, boring, laughable or stupid. I won't bore you with stuffy big words like most critics and go on a critique of every minute detail. I am not going to dissect every little nuance and scene. I will just tell you if I enjoyed the movie and had fun or if I didn't. Most people go to the movies to have fun not to intellectually critique every moment and technique. I will give that perspective from my vast knowledge of movies but I will not bore you. I will not explain the plot and give away stuff like most critics. The reviews will be simple and short. Not all my tastes in movies are for everyone. That is why we all have an opinion. I will just try my best to tell the genre of film and if you might enjoy it. For example if I like a gory horror movie I will tell you to see that movie if you like horror. If you don't stay away from that movie. We are not all sheep and have the same type of movie we like.

I read all the critics and reviews and most critics anger me because they think too hard and come in with a negative outlook. Some are pompous windbags that look for every little flaw in a movie and attack it without an open mind. Some automatically think all foreign films are great no matter what. The critics I like are Richard Roeper and Roger Ebert and Michael Phillips is growing on me. They are not stuffy, their writing shows that they are open minded and love movies and they are fun to read. When I was a kid I watched Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert religiously. When I was little and missed one of their shows I threw a tantrum(even when I was in college). They were the two most influential critics ever and there was one reason why. They showed their love and passion for movies without talking down to people. It is as simple as that and what made them special over the stuffy windbags. They championed smaller movies great ('One False Move') and insufferable ('My Dinner With Andre') and they opened my eyes to little known masterpieces. I miss Gene Siskel very dearly and every movie I see since his death I wonder what he would think of it. I must say that Richard Roeper was a tremendous replacement. There are other good ones but none will ever reach Siskel and Ebert's greatness. They were just as important to me as the directors and stars of my favorite movies.

I do see a lot of movies and maybe I see too many. I see every movie even if it gets bad notices because I do sometimes like bad movies. Remember the key for me is if I enjoyed the movie. I don't care about cliches or predictability or if a movie has flaws. The key is simply did I enjoy myself. I have many favorite movies and I can't give them all to you because there too many to tell in a short time. Some of them are 'Vertigo', Raging Bull', 'On the Waterfront', 'Almost Famous' and 'The Wanderers'. I am not a big fan of costume epics(Stanley Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon' is my favorite) or War movies and Westerns don't bowl me over. That doesn't mean I don't have movies I love from those genres. It just means that I don't gravitate towards them. I am a big fan of unpredictable and original movies and I love dark dramas. I used to hate horror movies but now I love them. The important thing I stress is not all movies I love are what everybody loves and vice versa. David Lynch's 'Dune' (84) is the movie I hate the most but some of my friends love it. I like 'Ishtar' and everyone hates it. Just to get a few things straight I hate 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' not a big fan of 'Titanic', 'Home Alone', 'Out of Africa', 'Gandhi' or 'Driving Miss Daisy'. I hate the Friday the 13Th and Saw series and I can't stand Pauly Shore.

I will publish a blog almost everyday with my reviews of new movies and old classics. I will also review some of my favorite movies that no one knows about or got negative reviews. I have eclectic tastes so be prepared to get recommendations that might make you scratch your heads. Please don't hate me if I steer you to a movie you hate. Like I said we all have different tastes in movies. I just love movies and want to share my thoughts with whoever will listen. I do give star ratings but that is just a guide and my opinions do change over time. Of the movies from the late 70's to present day I have seen about 250 movies from every year. I am brushing up on the old classics so I will review those. My netflix queue has 400 movies so there you go. Every year I come up with a list of my favorite and least favorite movies of the year. It will take time because I catch up with movies on netflix until I see almost all of them. For example my list for 2008 will be ready in September so bare with me. I might also review television shows that I have seen or books also. I hope I don't bore you and I hope you all enjoy my blog. My first review will be of Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglourious Basterds' and a look at the 1978 movie. So have fun at the movies and I look forward to your feedback and don't hold back with your opinions!