Day 148: The Terminator

the-terminator-1984The Terminator
Director:
James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn
Rated: R
Length: 107 min.
Release: October 26, 1984
Trailer

Synopsis: A cyborg is sent from the future on a deadly mission. He has to kill Sarah Connor, a young woman whose life will have a great significance in years to come. Sarah has only one protector – Kyle Reese – also sent from the future. The Terminator uses his exceptional intelligence and strength to find Sarah, but is there any way to stop the seemingly indestructible cyborg?

My Thoughts:
What is there to say about this classic 80s action/si-fi movie? It was groundbreaking for its time. No question about it. Phenomenal job by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The whole idea came from James Cameron’s head…and what an idea it was. This film launched one of the most iconic sci-fi action characters of film history. The special effects world would not be the same today without this film.

With all that said, the real question is how does it hold up over time? The first thing you will notice is this movie has the 80s all over it. It’s a real product of its time period and proud of it. The hair, the clothes, the cheesy synthesized soundtrack…everything about it screams the 1980s. If you aren’t a fan of that decade…this film is probably not going to hold up in your mind. The music in particular can become very distracting. I must admit, I even have a hard time with it at some points.

Still, there is something very special about this movie. Arnold’s portrayal of The Terminator is iconic and will remain one of (if not THE best) of his career. He really steals the show in this movie and hits all the right notes to convey a machine that is so cold, calculated, menacing and relentless in its pursuit of its target.

There is also something rather creepy about looking back at a film from the 1980s where they talk about the dangers of computers being interconnected to everything and running everything in our lives…and then turning on us. It would almost be prophetic if it weren’t for the whole artificial intelligence thing. Let’s pray that never happens. 🙂

For better or for worse The Terminator is truly a product of the 80s. Though elements of that decade can become distracting (especially the music) the film still stands as an iconic movie with one of the best characters in action sci-fi history. The Terminator gets 4 stars out of 5.

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Day 143: My Kid Could Paint That

My Kid Could Paint That
Director: Amir Bar-Lev
Starring: Marla Olmstead, Laura Olmstead and Mark Olmstead
Rated: PG-13
Length: 82 min.
Release: October 18, 2007
Trailer

Synopsis:
Four year old Marla Olmstead from Binghamton, New York became the sensation of the art world for her abstract artwork, which have sold for thousands of dollars per piece. The showing of her work started off as a lark, but when the paintings sold without the buyers knowing who the artist was, the media began to run with the story. Through it all, Marla’s parents, Mark Olmstead and Laura Olmstead, want to be grounded in what is best for their daughter while exposing her to whatever positive may come from the experience. But some negative and big name media also surfaces, some questioning whether Marla is the real artist behind the work, and some questioning exposing a four year old to such infamy. Regardless, the fact of this art selling brings up the legitimacy of abstract art being quantified as “quality”, especially if a four year old can produce it but can’t express the emotions or rationale behind its creation. Or is art truly in the eyes of the beholder? Regardless, money, in the art world as is much in life, becomes the great equalizer.

My Thoughts:
Right up front I have to say I love this movie. This is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a long time. It’s the type of film that you could watch with friends and have a very interesting conversation about the film afterwards…and I love that. It presents both sides of an issue, raises solid questions about that issue and lets you decide what side you fall on in the end…and that’s what a documentary should do.

I love how the controversy unfolds in the film. The story starts out about an infectiously adorable girl Marla and her amazing paintings, then (after a story put out by 60 Minutes) the focus of the story changes to the parents, and towards the end the movie starts to focus more on the director himself found caught in the middle of all of this controversy as he tries to make the documentary impartially but finds himself having doubts about Marla being the lone artist of these paintings.

Whatever the real story is (which is left entirely up to you to decide) there is controversy as a result. If Marla didn’t paint them entirely on her own then clearly this is a big scam providing a story behind the truth of the paintings that isn’t true. If it is true and a 4 year old did paint them…what does that say about the modern art world in general. How authentic is the emotional expression and depth behind the art if a 4 year old can do it with no thought of artistic abstract expressionism.

Perhaps the funniest thing about that question is seen in the reaction of those who do love the paintings, believe Marla is the real artist and are willing to pay thousands for them. They say there is some kind of “spiritual” force that moves through her to provide the abstract expressionism they see in the paintings. In my opinion, people will see what they want to see. Instead of realizing either Marla had help or the entire idea of “abstract expressionist” art is a load of crap…they make an excuse that justifies to themselves why it’s still worth the thousands they are willing to pay for the painting. People are dumb.

There are several fools all through the movie, but perhaps the biggest is seen in the morons willing to pay for this art.  The truth is either Marla had help and the history of the painting is a load of crap making it not worth the money…or she did make them and the entire concept of abstract art is a load of crap also making it not worth the thousands people are paying. That’s just my opinion, but never the less I found this documentary very very intriguing and a fantastic discussion starter for those interested in the art world even a little bit. My Kid Could Paint That gets 4.5 stars out of 5.

Day 142: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Director: Joe Johnston
Starring: Rick Moranis, Matt Frewer and Marcia Strassman
Rated: PG
Length: 93 min.
Release Date: June 23, 1989
Watch on YouTube

Synopsis:
Erstwhile inventor Prof. Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) has been experimenting with an electromagnetic shrinking machine. He leaves the device unattended in his attic; shortly afterward, it is accidentally activated. Alas, the demon machine is aimed at his children, as well as the son of neighbor Russ Thompson (Matt Frewer). The kids, shrunk to 1/4-inch height, are tossed into the trash bin by the unwitting Szalinski. For the rest of the film, our teeny-tiny protagonists attempt to gain their parents’ attention — and to survive the wilds of the backyard, where all sorts of dangers, from bumblebees to lawnmowers, threaten their well-being. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids features Marcia Strassman as Moranis’ wife, and juvenile players Robert Oliveri, Kristine Sutherland,Thomas Brown, Jared Rushton, and Amy O’Neill. The visual effects are the handiwork of such masters as Joe Johnston, Phil Tippett, and David Allen.

My Thoughts:
Easily one of the most under appreciated live action Disney movies of the 80s. The squeals were not all that great…but the original is fantastic. The first time I saw Honey, I Shrunk the Kids I was as a little kid and it was such a blast to see on a large screen. It stuck with me to this day as one of the best movie experiences I had as a kid.

The best thing about this movie is that so much of it is meant for the big screen. The bigger the better if you ask me. A large screen just immerses you into the predicament these kids are in and adds to the overwhelming sense of how small they really are. Though at times the special effects used to pull it all off look a little dated at times, they still hold up really well and never detract from the story…they only enhance it.

After watching it again the thing I found myself most impressed with was how well this movie was cast. At first glance you would think that the rest of the cast was built around Rick Moranis, but it’s really not. Each character has a solid amount of development and screen time, and each one has some element of relatability.

Rumor has it that Disney is already in pre-production on a possible reboot film. It would be interesting to see…but I’m sure they would screw that up just like Columbia Pictures did with The Karate Kid. Nothing will ever be as good as the original.

At its core, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is a family comedy. Everyone in your family will probably find someone in the cast to relate to and something to laugh about. Really, it’s just a lot of fun and a nice little gem from the 80s that will forever remain a classic in my mind. 4 stars out of 5.

Day 140: A Few Good Men

A Few Good Men
Director: Rob Reiner
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore
Rated: R
Length: 138 min.
Release Date: December 11, 1992
Trailer

Synopsis:
A U.S. soldier is dead, and military lawyers Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee and Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway want to know who killed him. “You want the truth?” snaps Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson). “You can’t handle the truth!” Astonishingly, Jack Nicholson’s legendary performance as a military tough guy in A Few Good Men really amounts to a glorified cameo: he’s only in a few scenes. But they’re killer scenes, and the film has much more to offer. Tom Cruise (Kaffee) shines as a lazy lawyer who rises to the occasion, and Demi Moore (Galloway) gives a command performance. Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, J.T. Walsh, and Cuba Gooding Jr. (of Jerry Maguire fame) round out the superb cast. Director Rob Reiner poses important questions about the rights of the powerful and the responsibilities of those just following orders in this classic courtroom drama.

My Thoughts:
YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!

Okay, now that we have that out of the way…

A Few Good Men is easily one of the best examples anyone could give of a good “court room drama.” Not only does it poses an absolutely stellar cast (see the synopsis above) that delivers amazing performances all around and a fantastic director Rob Reiner (This Is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally…, The Princess Bride) but it has an amazing script that gives the director and the cast a lot to work with.

In a drama (especially a court room drama) the pacing and overall arch of the story is absolutely critical. The unveiling of certain facts as well as tension of the relationships and what is at stake is all critical to gaining an audiences interest and keeping it through the entire film and A Few Good Men does that beautifully.

You realize very quickly that these people should not be working together and they have no chance at all of actually winning this case given the facts presented and what they are up against…yet you know they are right so you find yourself desperately rooting for them the entire time.

The film deals a lot with Guantanamo Bay which always has had a shroud of controversy surrounding it. But I have to say, watching this movie now post 9/11 is really interesting.  The film really touches on deep political questions that are even more relevant today than they were back in 1992. One of the major questions being, to what extent do we turn a blind eye when people in charge of our safety are effectively keeping us safe? I’ll leave the answer to that one in your hands…but it’s interesting to see the question raised in the context of Guantanamo Bay that far back.

Because of the brilliant acting, directing and writing…this one is getting 4.5 stars out of 5. It’s the perfect example of a classic courtroom drama.

Day 138: 3:10 To Yuma

3:10 To Yuma
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale & Ben Foster
Rated: R
Length: 122 min.
Release Date: Sept. 7th 2007
Trailer

Synopsis:
Rancher Dan Evans heads into Bisbee to clear up issues concerning the sale of his land when he witnesses the closing events of a stagecoach robbery led by famed outlaw Ben Wade. Shortly thereafter, Wade is captured by the law in Bisbee and Evans finds himself one of the escorts who will take Wade to the 3:10 to Yuma train in Contention for the reward of $200. Evans’s effort to take Wade to the station is in part an effort to save his land but also part of an inner battle to determine whether he can be more than just a naive rancher in the eyes of his impetuous and gunslinging son William Evans. The transport to Contention is hazardous and filled with ambushes by Indians, pursuits by Wade’s vengeful gang and Wade’s own conniving and surreptitious demeanor that makes the ride all the more intense.

My Thoughts:
Hollywood remakes…sometimes we love them…often we just end up hating them. Depending on how big the original was and how long it has been since its original release can have a big impact on how the public takes the update. Often, if it’s been decades since the film was out and it didn’t have a monumental impact on the industry then it’s likely many people have forgotten the original film all together or they didn’t even know the film was a remake in the first place. At times they might re-title the film to make it look like a fresh idea (like 1961s The Absent Minded Professor remade in 1997 and simply titled Flubber) but often they will keep the same title. Great examples of such films are Scarface staring Al Pacino, Fun With Dick and Jane staring Jim Carrey, Gone in 60 Seconds starring Nicholas Cage and The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser.

Love them or hate them one thing you can be sure of is when Hollywood gets bored they look to the past to revive long dead cash cows. You can be the judge of whether or not each of these updates are handled with the care they deserve (let alone if they deserved the update in the first place) but one older film I’m glad was re-addressed is 3:10 to Yuma.

The original 3:10 to Yuma was made back in 1957. It is a classic western flick from the hay day of Hollywood westerns. However, being 50 years old it had become a bit dated and lost much of its appeal and attention that it once had. I was very open to a remake, if done right…which they did. Perhaps the most ironic part of this re-make is that the two leads aren’t Americans…they are Australian. As ironic as that is, Bale and Crowe do a great job taking these classic American characters and making them their own while staying true to the spirit of the original.

Over all this movie has kept the story and the core themes explored in the original very much the same, which I greatly appreciated. I am finding that, because of movies like this the western movie genera has been making a come back. I don’t know that it will ever be as hot as it was in the 1940s and 1950s when it seemed as if a new western movie was coming out every weekend (not unlike action movies in the 80s and early 90s or like the comic book super hero/graphic novel movie craze today) but I have seen an increase in good modern westerns that touch on great themes like courage, respect, and doing the right thing even if you have to do it alone, which is what 3:10 to Yuma is all about. If this trend continues I can’t wait to see what else Hollywood will come out with next. 4 stars out of 5.

Day 137: Balls of Fury

Balls of Fury
Director: Robert Ben Garant

Starring: Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken and George Lopez
Rated: PG-13
Length: 90 min.
Released: August 29th, 2007
Trailer

Synopsis:
In the unsanctioned, underground, and unhinged world of extreme Ping-Pong, the competition is brutal and the stakes are deadly. Down-and-out former professional Ping-Pong phenom Randy Daytona is sucked into this maelstrom when FBI Agent Rodriguez recruits him for a secret mission. Randy is determined to bounce back and recapture his former glory, and to smoke out his father’s killer – one of the FBI’s Most Wanted, arch-fiend Feng. But, after two decades out of the game, Randy can’t turn his life around and avenge his father’s murder without a team of his own. He calls upon the spiritual guidance of blind Ping-Pong sage and restaurateur Wong, and the training expertise of Master Wong’s wildly sexy niece Maggie, both of whom also have a dark history with Feng. All roads lead to Feng’s mysterious jungle compound and the most unique Ping-Pong tournaments ever staged. There, Randy faces such formidable players as his long-ago Olympics opponent, the still-vicious Karl Wolfschtagg. Can Randy keep his eye on the ball? Will he achieve the redemption he craves while wielding a paddle? Is his backhand strong enough to triumph over rampant wickedness?

My Thoughts:
It’s been far to long. About time I posted another movie review…right?

So I decided to detach from the action/suspense/mystery genera (since I’ve had more than my fill of it thanks to Mr. James Bond) and watch something on the lighter side of life. Thus, I watched Balls of Fury.

This film is a total tongue and cheek bash on old school kung-fu movies. It’s not ment to be taken seriously…it’s a comedy. A rather over the top comedy that does a great job making fun of many old school classic martial arts film greats like Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme and of course…Bruce Lee. In fact the title is a little wink at arguably Bruce Lee’s greatest kung-fu films Fists of Fury from released in 1971.

It has a stellar comedy cast that does a great job portraying an absurdly slap stick American spin on the world of underground tournaments…of ping pong. Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken and George Lopez all do a great job. However, are just the beginning of this talented cast featuring great cameo appearances from a variety of comedy stars including James Hong, Terry Crews, Diedrich Bader, Thomas Lennon & Patton Oswalt among others.

There is a little bit of sexual humor in it on occasion, but for the most part it’s slap stick kung-fu comedy at it’s best. Walkin, is the perfect villain…because he portrays the opposite of what a traditional kung-fu villain would be and it plays so perfectly into the comedic tone that is intended.

Over all, I laughed a lot…and for a comedy, that’s a good thing. Then again, I don’t mind stupid immature humor as long as it isn’t raunchy. Now, if you don’t like immature, slap stick humor it’s doubtful that you’ll like this one. My guess is you’d likely just find yourself repeating the phrase, “That’s so stupid,” through the whole film and suck all the comedic life out of the room there by ruining the movie for those in the room that enjoy this type of comedy…like myself. This one gets 4 stars out of 5.

Day 136: Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace
Director: Martin Campbell

Starring:  Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric and Judi Dench
Rated: PG-13
Length: 106 min.
Released: Nov. 14th 2008
Trailer

Synopsis:
Is there solace in revenge? Bond and “M” sniff a shadowy international network of power and corruption reaping billions. As Bond pursues the agents of an assassination attempt on “M,” all roads lead to Dominic Greene, a world-renowned developer of green technology. Greene, a nasty piece of work, is intent on securing a barren area of Bolivia in exchange for assisting a strongman stage a coup there. The CIA looks the other way, and only Bond, with help from a retired spy and from a mysterious beauty, stands in Greene’s way. “M” wonders if she can trust Bond, or if vengeance possesses him. Beyond that, can anyone drawn to Bond live to tell the tale?

My Thoughts:
Finally…the Bond movie era of the Goulson Movie Marathon comes to a close. Now I can finally write about something else…like…Finding Nemo or something. Not sure what yet, but is not going to be the start of another collection and it will not be about explosions and car chases.

Anyway, what a journey the James Bond franchise has taken. Quantum of Solace didn’t get as many rave reviews as Casino Royale did, but I feel much of that is because the film is not intended to be a stand alone movie. The Bond films through the 80s and 90s where all about wrapping it up by the end of the movie. They stood on their own, but to understand the new direction the franchise is taking with Daniel Craig you need to view each film more as a chapter in the larger story that is unfolding. Quantom of Solace is a chapter…a very chritical one that sets up all the other films to come. It doesn’t stand much on its own, but when we connect it with Casino Royale and the movies to come I can only imagine we will come to see how it plays a more important role in setting up the story for an epic battle between MI6 and a new villainous organization…Quantum.

The film ties in a lot with Casino Royale, picking up right after the previous film’s end. Great chase scenes, fights and explosions…but still very grounded like Casino Royale. Though the villain isn’t as memorable in this one, you need to keep in mind that this film is setting up the larger picture. This villain is just a small fry. He’s big enough for the story at hand, but he has others he is reporting to and it’s good to keep that in mind.

It also raises some interesting questions about the nature of revenge, the consequences of living a life of violence as well as governments and businesses working with unsavory people for political or financial gain. One of my favorite lines is “Yeah, right…we should only deal with nice people.” It’s a funny line, but actually speaks to a very sad truth.

Really the only irritation I have with Quantum of Solace is that it raises far more questions than answers. We see Bond snap pictures of all these major players in this new secret organization…and have no clue who they are or what they want exactly. We don’t know why it exists in the first place…just that they “have people everywhere.” Watching it makes me want to see the next chapter that much more, because this organization looks far larger and more devious than anything Bond has faced yet.

It reminds me a bit of the earlier Bond films where Bond faced off against the evil Soviet organization “SPECTRE.” Now, it isn’t fair to compare the two exactly, but it is fun to see the big bad antagonists of each film slowly reveal more about the larger enemy much like in the olden days. I can’t wait for the head of this organization to finally show us their face and see Bond take him/her on directly.

For a while it seemed as though the franchise was over with Quantum of Solace to be it’s last film. Luckily that will not be the case.  There will be another Danial Craig Bond film called Skyfall coming out in 2013 and I can’t wait. For being a good set up story for the films to come and making me excited to see Bond take on this new villain…Quantum of Solace gets 4 stars out of 5.