2013 Movie A Day Review #2: The African Queen

In Uncategorized on February 13, 2013 at 2:06 am

the african queen

IMDB Description: In Africa during WW1, a gin-swilling riverboat owner/captain is persuaded by a strait-laced missionary to use his boat to attack an enemy warship.

#65 on AFI Top 100

The African Queen does not break any new ground when it comes to story. It is the basic good girl / gruff guy story. But as often happens in films, the simplest things, when done properly, are usually the best.

The legendary John Houston takes a very basic script and works it with his normal delicate balance of wit and suspense. Humphrey Bogart, though not his best role in my opinion, still outshines most actors working today. And Katherine Hepburn is outstanding as the prim and proper lady forced totally out of her element. There is obvious onscreen chemistry between these two Hollywood legends, and that is one reason the movie works so well. When you have a limited script to work with, the actors must use facial and body expressions to portray their feelings.  Don’t take the limited script to mean it is not a good script, because it is exactly what it needs to be.

The running time of the movie is just at an hour and half, which is exactly where it needs to be because any longer and the storyline would be stretched thin. For the time the film was shot, it is a visual feast. The African jungles and wetlands come to life under Houston’s expert eye.

The ending is a bit contrived, which does leave the viewer a bit disappointed, but overall, this is a film anyone who enjoys storytelling in its purest form can enjoy immensely.

A strong 4 out of 5 stars

2013 Movie A Day Review #1: Young Guns

In Uncategorized on February 11, 2013 at 8:47 pm

young guns

IMDB Description:

A group of young gunmen, led by Billy the Kid, become deputies to avenge the murder of the rancher who became their benefactor. But when Billy takes their authority too far, they become the hunted.

An expression you will see a lot in my reviews is “I don’t get it”….this normally will refer to how I can not understand a movie carrying the popularity it does. Young Guns is a fine example of this expression. Not that I thought the movie was bad, it was just I did not think it was THAT good to earn the cult like status is has garnered throughout the years.

Granted, it does have a stellar cast for the time it was made (think of putting Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman in a movie together today and that is what the cast of Young Guns was back in it’s time). But to me, only one of the big stars of the movie is properly cast (Lou Diamond Phillips). The other big 3 of the film are totally out of their element. Charlie Sheen is obviously in it just for the payday, Keifer Sutherland looks like he needs to be woken up every time he is saying his lines, and worst of all is Emilio Estevez, who is just flat out annoying.

The best parts of the movie are Terrance Stamp and Jack Palance, but their roles are so minor it is not enough to make the overall viewing experience enjoyable. The secondary love story between Sutherland’s character and the Chinese slave is totally unnecessary, and actually drags the movie to a halt whenever it is onscreen. Plus, the five minute peyote using scene is just typical Hollywood trying to make drugs look funny and cool (a trend that continues to this day in films).

If you have not scene Young Guns, it is worth watching once, because the story of redeeming a father figure is good enough to get you through the movie. But you will most likely not want to go back for a second helping of the film.

2 out of 5 stars

Project 400 In 365 #10: Larry Crowne

In Uncategorized on November 14, 2011 at 2:36 am

When you look at it on paper, this movie should be a breath of fresh air into the dull, effects laden madness Hollywood turns out today.  There are no explosions or slow motion action shots.  There are no gratuitous sex scenes.  There is no over the top cursing.  Taking these things out of a movie can make for some great viewing (Taken and 21 are two prime examples of this).  On paper, this is a film you should like….but, as they say in sports, that my friend is why games are not played on paper.

The  issues with this movie are plentiful, starting right off with the concept of the film itself.  Yes, you can see why the company (which is obvious just a Target clone) Larry Crowne works for would not advance him because of not having a college degree, but NO company is going to fire you for not having a degree if you are good in the position you are in.  The notion that “you have reached an advancement ceiling and therefore we are going to fire you” is ludicrous.

If that was the only issue, I could over look it.  But this movie is so inconsistent in both its message and delivery, it is painful.  Larry Crowne goes to register for college, and just happens to bump into the dean of student affairs and the dean tells him which classes to take….adding about the Julie Robert’s taught class “you will really like the teacher” with a dirty old man voice.  No meeting with counselors to set up a schedule or even determining what Crowne will actually be studying.

Now, let’s jump to the Julia Roberts character, who manages to be completely unlikable and totally forgettable at the same time (a rare movie feat).  I am actually stunned Roberts agreed to play the role as terrible as it is written.  She has a no working husband (you never really do figure out what Bryan Cranston does for a living in this) who is addicted to porn, and obviously has been for a quite some time.  But it takes a night of 30 seconds of making out with Crowne to realize you want to get a divorce from him? Combine this with the absolutely ridiculous treatment of her students in class, and you just want to start jamming pencils in your eyes so you will not have to watch anymore.

Oh, but it does not stop there.  You have to add the wacky neighbor, in this case Cedric The Entertainer.  It seems he won $500,000 in some type of game show, and now never has to work again in his life.  Instead, he simply runs a 365 day a year yard sale in his nice neighborhood.  Yeah, I will give you a minute to digest that one.

The entire time I was watching this, I could not stop thinking “why?” As in, why did such a talent like Hanks not spot these glaring missteps and fix them? There is a great story buried in the pile of garbage that is this script.  I would love to have been told the story of  Crowne setting out to find a new path in life through college in middle age.  That is a story I would sit down and watch and enjoy.  But that is not what you get here.  Instead, you get a half-hearted middle ages crisis tale.

1.5 out of 5…simply because as bad as the script is, Hanks is still completely engaging in the role.