Archives for posts with tag: funny

Grade B +

Manny’s Movie Musings: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star in “Shaun Of The Dead,” a British comedy/horror about two best friends who are caught in the middle of a zombie apocalypse in their hometown.  First order of business, find a way to rescue Pegg’s mom and ex-girlfriend, then head to a secure place: The Winchester Pub!  But as everyone knows, there’s what you plan for, and there’s what really happens.  Fans of British comedies and zombie flicks will love this great collaboration of the two genres, giving its core audience lots of funny jokes, zombie action and gore, silliness, and a few well acted scenes of drama.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Shaun Of The Dead” is the scene when Pegg’s group runs into another group of survivors led by Pegg’s friend; and both groups are nearly identical!

— M

Grade B

Josh Gad provides the voice for the main character in “A Dog’s Purpose,” a dog who keeps getting reincarnated, each time getting closer to the purpose of his existence as he keeps coming back.  Most of Gad’s story is spent living in the mostly happy home of a boy, forming a very close bond with him and creating the core emotions of Gad.  Through his deaths and reincarnations (some of the death sequences can be painful to watch for any dog owner who had their companions die in their arms), Gad enjoys the beauty of life and suffers the brutality of it; but eventually he will cross paths with the owner whom he loved the most, and he will finally discover his purpose.

My most memorable, movie moment of “A Dog’s Purpose” is the sequence of Gad being chained up in the front yard of uncaring owners for years until he is abandoned.

“A Dog’s Purpose” can be corny at times, but for dog lovers who also enjoy comedy and drama and rom-coms, this movie is definitely for us.

— M

Grade B +

From the mind of comedian Jordan Peele comes “Get Out,” a story of a black man (played by Daniel Kaluuya) who visits his white girlfriend’s (played by Allison Williams) family in the suburbs and slowly finds out that things are very, very off with her family and servants.

Everything is ok at first: the parents are all smiles and greet Kaluuya with hugs; the father mentions how he would have loved to vote for Obama a third time; the father using various slang to show he’s hip and down with the Negroes, etc.  Then Kaluuya notices the odd behavior of the black servants; the thinly veiled, racist remarks of Williams’ drunk brother; plus a weird dream of Kaluuya being hypnotized by Williams’ mother.  And this is just the start of Kaluuya’s long nightmare that will have him fighting for his sanity and life as the full secret of his girlfriend’s family is slowly unraveled.

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when Kaluuya is told of the family secrets and the heinous plan of what is to be done to him.

“Get Out” is not just a very good suspense/thriller, it is also loaded with social commentary that are insightful, funny, and infuriating.  Examples: a black man’s worry of being caught in a rich, white neighborhood at night; the troubles that black men have to deal with when dating white women; white liberals who are constantly giving examples of how they are not bigots; the physical superiority of black men over white men; the mental superiority of white men over black men; and how trendy it is now to be black, as if the color of skin is some kind of accessory to flaunt.

The subject of race relations is a touchy one, and those who are overly sensitive may want to steer away from this movie.  Everyone else, jump in and watch the movie and have a laugh.  “Get Out” is, after all, a satire.

— M

Grade A

The Disney hit machine is in full effect with a live action remake of “Beauty And The Beast” starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast.

For those rare few who are unfamiliar with the story, Stevens is an unkind, selfish prince who angered a witch who cursed him to live out his days as a hideous beast unless he falls in love with someone who also falls in love with him.  Stevens’ palace staff were also cursed, turning into clocks, dressers, candelabras, etc.  Enter Watson’s father, who picks a flower from Stevens’ palace grounds to give as a gift to Watson; and Stevens imprisons him for theft!  Watson, being the loving daughter, takes her father’s place as a prisoner.  What follows is a very rocky start, to say the least, to an unlikely romance between a beautiful, young lady and a monstrous-looking creature who has much love and kindness hidden deep in his soul, just waiting to be drawn out by the right woman.

But Stevens is on the clock: the witch has given him a rose, and when the last petal falls and Stevens has not met anyone who he has fallen in love with and loves him in return, Stevens and his staff will remain as they are forever.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Beauty And The Beast” is the scene when Watson and Stevens, all dressed up, dance together for the first time, and the song with the same title as the movie is sung by a tea kettle.

It’s been over a decade since I watched the animated version, so I was able to judge this iteration without being prejudiced by its predecessor.  The acting was good, the sets (practical and CGI) were lavish and bright to give hints as to its animated lineage, many characters were memorable and larger than life, and the musical numbers were simply amazing…I felt like I was watching an opera, that’s how intricate and beautiful many of the grander, musical pieces were.  This movie is a must-see for any Disney movie fan.

— M

Grade C+

Dakota Johnson stars in “How To Be Single,” playing a young woman on a break from her boyfriend as she starts a new life in NYC.  She’s on a quest to find herself, to have more adventures, to see what else is out there besides her ex and what he has to offer.  With the help of a wild co-worker played by Rebel Wilson, Johnson gets what she wished for, and all the bad things that go with being single (creepy guys, closed off guys, the lack of true intimacy and connection, etc.).

My most memorable, movie moment of “How To Be Single” is the scene when the new fiancée of one of the main characters is going psycho on the bartender character.  It’s one of the funniest scenes — and the most creepy — of the movie.

Had this movie focused on just Johnson’s and Wilson’s characters, I think it would have been a better movie; but three more characters are given a lot of screen time (a bartender; a nutty online dater; and a doctor).  Then there is the unnecessary scene at the end of the movie  involving a minor character and his daughter that derails the focus off Johnson even more!  With so many characters being juggled, it takes a laser focus and great talent of a screenwriter to make all this work…and it doesn’t, it doesn’t work.  Although there are some good laughs to be had throughout the movie, it’s not enough to save this movie from the realm of mediocrity.

— M

Grade B

Ellen DeGeneres reprises her role as Dory in “Finding Dory,” the sequel to “Finding Nemo.”  DeGeneres has flashbacks of being a young fish and having parents, so she decides to find her parents based on the miniscule clues that her limited memory gives.  With the help of little Nemo and Marlin from the previous movie, Degeneres starts a long, dangerous, crazy and fun adventure that may give her closure, or may find her lost forever.

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when we first see Hank, the octopus (voiced by Ed O’Neill) do his trick of blending in to the environment.  The character easily steals the show in this movie, being the most interesting and most fun to watch with his stealthy, ninja/secret agent moves and tricks.

I found “Finding Dory” to be almost as good as “Finding Nemo,” with Hank the octopus being the most interesting, animated character I have seen in years.  As usual, Pixar has hit another home run, albeit this one doesn’t go as far as some of their other movies have.

— M

B+

From the mind of J.K. Rowling comes “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them,” an amazing tale of the adventures of a young wizard (perfectly played by Eddie Redmayne) who goes to NYC in the 1920s in order to retrieve and find homes for fantastic, magical beasts that would otherwise be destroyed by the wizarding community.

Redmayne will face many serious hurdles during his mission: not knowing how to navigate NYC (specifically Manhattan); being unfamiliar with the rules of the wizard community in NY; both wizards and non-wizards fearing the fantastic beasts and wanting them destroyed; and the wizarding community not sanctioning his search, capture, and release (into safe zones) of the beasts.

A larger threat is a powerful force that wreaks destruction and death in NYC, threatening to unveil the wizarding world to the normal humans.  A fantastic, magical beast is blamed; and Redmayne has little time left to prove to the wizards that the cause of the mayhem is some other, supernatural force.  If Redmayne fails at what he must do, a war between normal humans and wizards may erupt; and all the fantastic beasts in Redmayne’s care will be destroyed.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” is the scene when **SPOILER ALERT** Redmayne and his wizard friend/love interest are sentenced to death, and we see the manner in which the execution is carried out.  The executioners mention that it won’t hurt, but I think it will!

“FBAWTFT” was much better than I anticipated, and it is a very good companion piece to the “Harry Potter” movies.  But it does suffer from two huge plot holes — or shenanigans, as I like to call it — that cannot be easily dismissed.  The wizards have the power to reverse any damage to property, and remove memories of magical experiences by normal humans.  In addition, the wizards can wreak such havoc upon the world and there is very little that the normal humans can do about it.  One wizard can probably destroy a small country in a day.  So why do the wizards fear having their existence revealed, and some possible war against the normal humans happening?

— M

Grade A-

In a “Zootopia” type world, a broke Koala (played by Matthew McConaughey) runs a broken down theater and gets the bright idea to hold a singing contest to generate interest in his failing business.  The prize: $1,000 (mostly in trinkets that comprise McConaughey’s meager possessions).  But his secretary, an old Chameleon (the funniest character in “Sing”), accidentally prints out fliers that says the prize is $100,000, and before the mistake is found, the fliers spread throughout the city of…ummm…the city of “Sing.”

Among the hopeful contestants are: a shy, teenage elephant; a mother of dozens of piglets; a porcupine trying to make it as a solo act; a sleazy mouse (or small rat); and a young gorilla who is looking for another life beyond what his gangster father is offering.  Together, they will endure hardships and craziness that will either bring their lives up or have them crashing back down to their bleak existence.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Sing” is the funny and heartbreaking scene of McConaughey washing cars for money.  Stripping down to his underwear, he soaks up car wash soap into his fur and writhes against a car, removing not only dirt but every ounce of his pride and self-respect.

“Sing” is a movie the entire family will like.  It’s not one of the best animated movies (roughly half of the jokes are a bit lame), but it does offer memorable covers of famous songs and enough fun to be enjoyable.

— M

Grade C+

After the mysterious and gruesome death of his beloved grandfather, Asa Butterfield (playing the lead role) discovers that his grandfather’s tales of children with super powers and the monsters that seek to kill them are all true.

What begins as spiritual healing for Butterfield ends as a wondrous adventure that is also terrifying as he is introduced to Eva Green (who plays the title role) and her home for peculiar children.  Each visit strengthens his bond with Green and her charges, especially for a floating, teen girl.  Happiness that has eluded Butterfield in his own world is finally found in “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,” but one mistake will jeopardize not only his own life, but the lives of all his new friends and love interest.  Butterfield and the peculiar children must learn to be brave and fight the monsters that have come to kill them.

My most memorable, movie moment of “M.P.H.F.P.C.” is the scene that shows how the monsters came to be, and why they need to kill peculiar children.  It may be a bit too much for little kiddies, so parents beware.

“M.P.H.F.P.C.” gets a mediocre grade because it has too many shenanigans.  Some of the peculiar children have powers that can devastate an enemy quickly, yet they don’t take advantage of them or they wait until the last minute to use them.  Granted, some are little kids and have never been in combat, but the older children could have easily instructed the little ones on how and when to use their deadly powers.  **SPOILER ALERT** One older child (I’m being nice here, because she looks like she is 25-years-old) has the power to generate so much oxygen from her body that she can float a sunken ship, yet she can only put out about 20 seconds of air to pin the lead monster against a wall, after which the monster is free to do more damage?  Get the hell out.

I found the first two acts of this movie to be entertaining, but the last act — where most of the shenanigans take place — left me questioning what the hell the filmmakers were thinking.

— M

Grade B +

Based on a true story — in Hollywood speak, that means about 25% is true (and I’m being very generous here) —  “War Dogs” is about two young guys from Miami who sold weapons to the U.S. military despite having no business doing so.  Going after the smaller contracts that are peanuts to the Pentagon but worth hundreds of thousands to the young dudes (played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller), their rocky, sometimes hilarious and dangerous foray into gun running bring riches and a feeling of invincibility, a combination that can be lethal.

Greed and more greed puts Hill and Teller into the dirtiest realms of their business, where they will be in the crosshairs of gangsters, the U.S. government, and each other.

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when Hill is trying to buy weed from a bunch of thugs.  After paying, the thugs pretend not to know what Hill is talking about and refuse to give him his drugs.  Hill laughs, calmly walks to his car, removes a submachine-gun from his trunk, and fires off about a dozen rounds in full auto into the air, sending the thugs scurrying away like cockroaches!

“War Dogs” has the same feel as “Pain & Gain” and “The Wolf Of Wall Street.”  The pacing moderately fast, some of the scenes are over the top and outrageous, the tone constantly changes from comedic to serious to scary…overall it has a somewhat hazy, drug-induced, dream quality to it.  This would be a great movie for guys to watch while high on drugs or alcohol.

— M

Grade A

Disney has produced another hit with “Moana.”  Playing the title role, Auli’i Cravalho is a princess of a South Pacific island.  Kind, intelligent, brave and adventurous, her desire to see what is beyond her island home is impeded by her father’s warnings of the dangers that are out in the deep ocean and Cravalho’s duty to stay home and learn how to be the next chief of the people.   She reluctantly gives up her dream of sailing into the ocean far from home…until the plant and fish that Cravalho’s people depend on to survive either die off or disappear.

Learning of an ancient tale of a demigod named Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) who stole a precious stone that provided life to the ocean and islands, Cravalho goes on a treacherous journey to find Johnson and force him to put the stone back; and hope that would bring balance, peace, and life back to her world.  There will be many challenges for the young princess: she lacks knowledge of deep ocean sailing; she has a mentally challenged chicken as a stowaway; Johnson does not share Cravalho’s eagerness to return the stone back to where it belongs; a swarm of tiny, coconut-headed pirates roam the ocean; Johnson’s magic hook must be taken from a giant crab who will not give it up so easily; and a fearsome god made of lava guards the entrance to where the stone must be returned.  Yup, it’s going to take a team of brilliant writers to get her through all this!

My most memorable, movie moment of “Moana” is the scene when the princess gets a visit from her grandmother at a time when the princess is at her lowest, ready to give up and go home.  It is a touching scene, especially to viewers who have lost a loved one and believe that our spirits go on, and one day we will see them again.

Fully realized, likeable characters; a great story; positive messages; amazing animation; scenes that are very funny and scenes that put a lump in your throat; catchy songs…these are all present in “Moana.”  Bottom line, it’s a great movie that adults will enjoy with their children because, like most Disney movies, it just makes you feel better about life.

— M

Grade B +

Manny’s Movie Musings: Mila Kunis plays an overburdened and stressed mother/wife who has had it with her bratty kids, lazy and cheating husband, a jerk of a boss, and the de facto leader (played by Christina Applegate) of the school that Kunis’ kids attends.   So one day she decides to no longer put in 100% all day every day, instead being satisfied with just getting by; and laying down the law with all those who have abused her and taken her for granted for so long.   What follows is a revelation that no mom is perfect, and it’s okay as long as one loves their children and teaches them to be good people.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Bad Moms” is the scene when Kristen Bell, who plays a mousy mom, finally stands up to her hubby and yells “And I said, I’m going to the fucking PTA meeting with my fucking friends, so stop being such a goddamn pussy and make it work!”  Oh!  Oh!  Ha ha!  “Bad Moms” is a hilarious movie that isn’t just for women, but for anyone who likes irreverent comedies with a lot of heart.

— M

Grade B

Manny’s Movie Musings: Better than I expected, “Be Somebody” is about a famous pop singer (played by Matthew Espinosa) who “escapes” his mom/manager and assorted handlers for a few days and lives the life of a regular teenager in a small town.  He meets a hardworking, talented, down to earth girl (played by Sarah Jeffery); and despite their lives being complete opposites, they hit it off and become friends quickly.   Of course, there is more than a friendly spark between them; but he cannot stay in her world and she cannot be in his world.  If a fine balance isn’t met, then their budding romance is doomed from the start.  “Be Somebody” is not the typical teen movie.  Yes, it has a few cliches; but it also leans toward the melodramatic and serious side, and most of the scenes involve just Espinosa and Jeffery.  This is a movie older teens will appreciate and find refreshing, I think.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Be Somebody” is the scene when Jeffery lets Espinosa in her car so he can avoid a few teen girls who are chasing him.   Completely unbelievable, as she has no idea who he is; and therefore is letting a stranger in her car at night.  Still, it was a cute scene.

— M

Grade B

Manny’s Movie Musings: “G.B.F.” stands for Gay Best Friend.  Michael J. Willett plays a gay, High School student who is still in the closet; his life is turned upside down when he is accidentally outed, and his celebrity status in school quickly rises when the top 3 “it” girls vies for his attention so that each one can claim him as a GBF (purely to increase the cool status of the girls).   Willett goes along for the ride, as the three girls give him protection from all the ignorant hate; but he risks losing who he really is in his mad scramble to be the most coveted accessory to the cool kids.  What sets “G.B.F.” apart from the typical teen comedies is the sharp, wickedly funny, one-liners that come at you non-stop.  My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when a character played by Andrea Bowen is talking about sex acts using acronyms: for example, “hj,” “bj,” and “rj.”  If you don’t know what they are, you’re too young for me to explain them!

Grade C +

Manny’s Movie Musings: “After The Ball” is an interesting retelling of the “Cinderella” story.  It stars Portia Doubleday as the “Cinderella” character, applying for and getting the job as the newest clothes designer for her father’s company…but Doubleday does it as a man.   In her disguise as an effeminate, gay guy, Doubleday creates designs that would hopefully take her father’s company out of mediocrity and bring it back to its former glory days.  But a conniving, mean step-mother and two step-sisters won’t make things easy for our heroine.   “After The Ball” has all the elements of an entertaining Rom-Com (boy and girl meet cute, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, eccentric characters, some heart-felt moments, good laughs here and there), but there’s nothing special about it.  What could have been an original twist on the fairy tale becomes a rehash of “Tootsie” and “The Secret Of My Success.”   My most memorable, movie moment is the first scene when Doubleday appears as a man — it’s astonishing how well she pulls it off.

— M

Grade B+

For the sake of transparency, I have to state that the “Entourage” series on HBO is my favorite series of all time, so I may be a bit positively biased on the movie “Entourage.”

Now that I got that out of the way, “Entourage” (the movie) continues the adventures of four guys from Queens, NYC, in Hollywood where most of them have hit the big time.  Adrian Grenier plays the A-list movie star; Kevin Connolly plays his manager; Kevin Dillon is Grenier’s brother/chef/B-list actor; and Jerry Ferrara is a Tequila business millionaire…and Grenier’s driver.   And let’s not forget Grenier’s once agent and now studio head who is played by Jeremy Piven.

There is enough drama here for all the main players.  Grenier is finishing up a movie that he directed and is way over budget.  Connolly is trying to get back with his ex-wife who is about to give birth to their son; but two women he slept with on the same day will sideline him on his way back into his ex’s heart.  Ferrara has the hots for MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, and a misunderstanding may cost Ferrara a body part.  Dillon is desperate to achieve A-list status; but one of the financiers (played by a creepy Haley Joel Osment) backing the movie that Dillon is in wants him cut out of it.  And the ever high strung Piven is even more stressed due to greenlighting Grenier’s over-budget movie and trying to come up with more money so the movie can be finished.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Entourage” is the scene when TMZ reveals a video of Dillon’s character masturbating during cybersex!

Fans of the show will love this movie.  Many of the characters from the 8 seasons of the show are here.  Doug Ellin (creator of the show) directed and wrote the movie so the movie feels just like the show (fast paced, manic, multiple crises happening, jokes everywhere (most of them work), lots of beautiful women, celebrity cameos every two minutes, and of course, the heart of the story: the bond/friendship/loyalty of the four guys from Queens and former super agent Piven).  If the story ends here, I will be satisfied with that and give Ellin a huge pat on the back for creating a series and a movie that has given me so much joy.  Of course, I’m hoping for another movie.

— M

Grade C+

Manny’s Movie Musings: a quirky, mystery/suspense/thriller/comedy that stars Morgana O’Reilly as a criminal under house arrest — her mom’s house!  Angry that she has to be in her estranged mother’s and stepfather’s old, creepy house, O’Reilly sulks and grunts, eats like a pig, drinks like a sailor, and contributes nothing to the family.  But as memories come back of a ghost that supposedly haunts the large house, O’Reilly starts to see and hear things that will make her a true believer.  Working with her parents and her parole officer, O’Reilly will try to solve the mystery of the ghost and what it wants from her.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Housebound”: O’Reilly sitting on a toilet peeing, and we hear her urine streaming into the toilet water.  She hears a noise…her peeing stops; noise stops…she continues to pee; another weird noise near the bathroom…she stops peeing; the weird noise disappears, and we hear her peeing again.  Toilet humor, literally!

— M

Grade C +

The worst adaptation I’ve seen of a Jane Austen story.

Kate Beckinsale plays a widow who has a talent for manipulating people.  With no source of income, she is dependent on the good will of her friends and relatives to keep her and her young daughter from being homeless.  But instead of being humble and grateful, Beckinsale retains her pompous, superior attitude; and too often insults her benefactors openly or behind their backs.  Knowing that she can’t live on the good graces of her friends and relatives forever, Beckinsale spins her spider’s web and attempts to marry off her daughter to a rich man who is kind, dimwitted, and suffers from diarrhea of the mouth.  Adding to the drama is the daughter’s refusal to marry the man, despite Beckinsale’s warnings of what a woman must deal with if she is poor.

There are other complications, of course, and many, many characters in “Love And Friendship” — this is an Austen based movie, after all.  But the running time of 1 hour and 32 minutes should be a red flag to all fans of movies based on the writings of Austen.  With such little time given to tell the story, the fillmakers are forced to rush the story…and it shows, especially in the first few minutes when the audience is force-fed the names of a dozen characters and how they relate to each other.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Love & Friendship” is the scene when the rich, dimwitted man introduces himself to Beckinsale’s relations.  He moves like a hyper child, prattling on almost incoherently as his scatterbrain tries to focus on the conversation at hand, producing the funniest part of the movie.

Compared to the brilliant BBC productions of “Pride And Prejudice” and “Sense And Sensibility,” “Love & Friendship” feels half-baked.  It’s like eating a poorly cooked, 5 pound steak in 15 minutes.  The fine acting did save this movie from a much lower grade — I wanted to make that clear as the actors were not the ones at fault for how disappointing this movie turned out.

–M

Grade A

An allegory about human prejudice, xenophobia, and making our hopes and dreams come true so we can be more than what we are, “Zootopia” is a city in a world where animals have evolved to live in peace with each other.  Predator or prey, large or small, animals no longer have to live their lives based on what they are.   Anyone can be anything as long as they work hard…or at least that’s what the ideals are.  What we see is a bit more…complicated.

“Zootopia” stars Ginnifer Goodwin as the voice of a female, rabbit, police officer who searches for a missing otter.  Difficulties abound in her search because no one takes her seriously.  Her fellow cops believe she is a joke — after all, how can a small rabbit, and a female rabbit at that — effectively do a dangerous, physical job of law enforcement?  But what the other animals don’t see and recognize are Goodwin’s intelligence, never give up attitude, and courage that would put a lion to shame.  With only a sly, hustling fox (voiced by Jason Bateman) as her ally, they search for the missing otter and discover a conspiracy that seeks to destroy the peace between predator and prey animals.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Goodwin, still a bunny, stands up to a bully who happens to be a fox.  The scene may be too intense for very little kids, but it’s a great set up to show the audience what Goodwin is made of.

Another memorable moment of “Zootopia” is the scene when Goodwin tells reporters that some predator animals in the city are becoming feral probably because it is in their nature to be that way.  They can’t help it, they are just born that way.  What a great scene.  Here is a character who has faced prejudice all her life, and now she’s spewing out the same, hurtful things, not realizing that she also harbors some of the ignorant views that she has seen in so many others.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Zootopia” is the scene at the Department of Motor Vehicles, where all the workers are Sloths!  Funny and brilliant!

Once again, Disney has hit a home run, giving us a very entertaining movie (with a lead character that is the cutest Disney had created in decades) that the entire family can enjoy, with the adults probably appreciating the more serious aspects of the movie.

— M

Grade D+

Ten stories in one movie that takes place in one neighborhood during Halloween!  Wow, sounds like a great deal, right?  Wrong!  With a running time of about 90 minutes, including credits, that’s about 8 minutes per story.  There is just no time to set up the stories so that the audience will care for what happens to the characters.  “Tales Of Halloween” is just an orgy of gory deaths that sometimes has a surprise ending that is amusing.  And the special effects isn’t much better than what was seen in the “Tales From The Darkside” t.v. show decades ago.  Almost every story has so many shenanigans that they cannot be taken seriously, further disengaging the audience from the movie.  This is not horror, but comedy; and even as such, it is a failure.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Tales Of Halloween” is the scene when a little alien with a little bag for his Halloween candy keeps saying, “twick or tweet!”  It was a cute, little critter and it made me laugh.

This movie is to be avoided by horror fans, unless you want something silly and gory to watch with your friends as you get drunk and catch up on your lives.

No, Maximus, I was not entertained!

— M

Grade A

Part comedy, part drama, part suspense and part horror — unless you don’t think being unemployed and homeless is horrifying — “The Big Short” is an eye-opening, crazy ride into the world of financial markets and how the world economy collapsed in 2008/2009.

A handful of traders and investors (played by Steve Carell, Christian Bale, and Ryan Gosling, to name a few) have found serious flaws in the U.S. housing market that would cause it to collapse and take the entire U.S. economy — and those of other countries — down with it.  They decide to go “short” (basically a bet that prices will fall) against the housing market.  These men are laughed at and ridiculed by the rest of the traders/investors/banks who take the opposite bet; but eventually the financial apocalypse that so few had the vision to see — and the balls to take advantage of — will come, bringing such a wide swath of destruction that the effects are still felt by the entire world as I write this.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Gosling is trying to do business with Carell to take a large, short position on the housing market.  Carell and his guys ask for the math on Gosling’s findings.  Gosling points to a young, Asian guy and tells Carell and his crew that the Asian guy is his math specialist!  “Look at his face, look at his eyes,” Gosling says.  Ha ha!   Yes, it was a racist comment; but it was also funny as hell.  I’m Asian, and I laughed my ass off — and even if I wasn’t Asian, I’d still laugh my ass off.  Don’t be so sensitive…the world isn’t here to tiptoe around your feelings.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Big Short” is the scene when Carell is in a restaurant asking a manager of a CDO fund (Collateralized Debt Obligation, which is a financial instrument that was filled with garbage a few years prior to the financial collapse of 2008/2009) what he does and what is in his CDO fund and who the manager really works for.   This scene quickly sums up the high level of greed and callousness in the financial markets that helped usher in all that pain for hundreds of millions of workers all throughout the world.   This scene is infuriating to watch.

For those not at all knowledgeable about the financial markets, “The Big Short” can be confusing despite a few segments where celebrities — playing themselves — explain things in a more simplified form.   But this will be easily understandable by all: there were a lot of shenanigans going on in the U.S. government, the ratings agencies, the traders/investors/brokers, real estate companies, banks, investment banks, and last but definitely not least, the numerous people who took out housing loans who had no idea what they were getting into.

Bottom line: whether you’re into stocks or bonds or currencies or commodities, it’s gambling.  Know exactly what you’re getting into.

— M

 

Grade A

When I first heard about the movie “Ant-Man,” I thought “You got to be kidding.  Ant-Man!  Of all the Marvel superheroes to make a movie about, you do Ant-Man!”  Well, I’m glad Hollywood made this movie, because it’s one of the best superhero movies ever made.

Paul Rudd plays an ex-con who is trying to live a straight life and provide for his daughter, who is living with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend.   Redemption comes in the form of Michael Douglas, who plays a former superhero and creator of the Ant-Man suit that allows the wearer to shrink to the size of an ant.   Douglas tasks Rudd with donning the Ant-Man suit so that he could infiltrate a highly secured building and steal a weapon prototype so that it could not be sold to the bad guys.  Rudd has but a few days to train, and his chances of coming out of this mission alive is slim…but he has high hopes!

One of my memorable moments of this flick is the scene when Ant-Man is fighting Yellowjacket — both hero and villain are in their tiny mode — within a toy, train set.  From the perspective of Yellowjacket, we see this enormous, noisy train bearing down on him, an impact sure to cause major catastrophe.  In the next shot, from the perspective of humans, we see the toy train simply and quietly fall off the tracks.  It was hilarious!  This is genius filmmaking!

My most memorable, movie moment of “Ant-Man” is the scene when Rudd accepts Douglas’ offer of redemption.  Rudd tells Douglas that he wants to do what’s right, and he has given up his criminal ways of breaking into places and stealing s@#t.   He asks what Douglas wants him to do.  Douglas says he wants Rudd to break into a place and steal s@#t.  Ha ha!

“Ant-Man” is a well-written (it better be with four screenwriters!) action/comedy that is matched with talented actors and a very good director.  Rudd plays an extremely likeable character that the audience will root for from the first minute that we see him.  There are many funny moments and the jokes are delivered with expert timing.  If you loved “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” you’ll love “Ant-Man.”

Yes, Maximus, I was very entertained to the point that I didn’t mind you throwing your swords at me.

— M

“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” takes place about three decades after “Return Of The Jedi.”  A new threat to freedom and the Republic has risen: The First Order, led by Dark Side of The Force practitioner Snoke and his right hand man, Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver).  A weapon more powerful than the Death Star has been created that can destroy multiple planets at the same time from a great distance; and The First Order is on the verge of using this weapon to wipe out the Senate and the Republic, as well as the Resistance which is lead by Leia Organa (played by Carrie Fisher).  Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill), last of the Jedi Knights, is nowhere to be found; and the hopes of the Resistance and the Republic lie within BB-8, a droid that hides a map that can lead the Resistance to the whereabouts of Hamill.

Unfortunately for the Resistance, BB-8’s owner has been captured by TFO, and the droid is forced to fend for itself on a desert planet.  It wanders the sand dunes until it is rescued by a young woman named Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) who, with the help of John Boyega (playing the ex-Stormtrooper character of Finn), makes the dangerous journey to bring BB-8 and it’s precious cargo to the Resistance fighters.

Second place for my memorable moments of this movie is **SPOILER ALERT HERE** the revelation of who Kylo Ren is: the son of Han Solo.

Top honors for my most memorable, movie moment of “The Force Awakens” is **SPOILER ALERT HERE** the scene when Harrison Ford (playing Han Solo) confronts Driver to bring his son home and into the Light Side of The Force.  Driver confesses to Ford that he is torn between the Light Side and the Dark Side, and he needs Ford’s help.  Driver presents his lightsaber to Ford, who holds it along with his son.  Driver suddenly activates his lightsaber, and the blade goes through Ford’s body, killing him.  What no bounty hunter, gangster, or Stormtrooper could do, the son of Han Solo has done.  I can’t say I was shocked as I kind of saw the set-up for it, but…it was hard to accept that the cocky pilot, hero, pirate and rebel is gone.

Other Episode VII movie moments that deserve honorable mentions are: 1) the introduction of the Millennium Falcon by Ridley, who calls the ship garbage; 2) a Stormtrooper wielding a baton that can parry a lightsaber; and 3) the appearance of a female Stormtrooper — no, not Captain Phasma, but a low-ranking Stormtrooper (the voice is clearly that of a woman).

Writer/director J.J. Abrams and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan have brought their talent and love to the third set of “Star Wars” movies, finally freeing “Star Wars” fans from the shadows of Lucas’ failures.  But before you start raising your Force FX Lightsabers into the air in triumph, “Empire Strikes Back” is still the best “Star Wars” movie so far; and “The Force Awakens” does stumble a few times.  Boyega’s Finn is too often the clown, ruining a great character (a soldier with PTSD seeking redemption and peace).  Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber (the one he lost when his father cut off his hand in “Empire…”) is in a chest owned by a character with small eyes and big glasses — what the hell!  Boyega’s lightsaber duel with Driver, and Ridley’s lightsaber duel with Driver produces so many unanswered questions that fans were forced to seek answers elsewhere (such as comic books or the novels) — hey, if I have to go online for answers, then the filmmakers didn’t do their jobs.  And some of the questions are still unanswered because some of the “answers” are just guesses.  Then you have rookie mistakes by Abrams in showing the face of Kylo Ren too early in the movie (which ruins the mystery of what is behind the mask) and an ending which belongs in a television series instead of the movies.  Oy!

Have we “Star Wars” fans been freed from the vile clutches of Lucas only to fall into hands of The First Order led by J.J. Abrams?  Difficult to see, always in motion is the future.

— M

Taking place after “X-Men: The Last Stand,” Hugh Jackman (playing mutant Wolverine (special powers of healing factor, heightened smell, almost indestructible, Adamantium-laced bones and razor sharp claws)) is on a fast track to nowhere, living the life of a vagabond and trying to forget a painful past that include Jackman killing the only woman he ever loved.  He is without a group, without a purpose in life, and without a reason to live.  But life has its twists, and Jackman is given one in the form of a Japanese woman (played by Rila Fukushima) whose employer has tasked her with bringing Jackman to Japan.

Hal Yamanouchi plays Rila’s employer, a man whose life was saved by Jackman during the end of WWII; a man who knows of Jackman’s powers; a man who is dying and wants to thank Jackman by giving Jackman the gift of mortality.  It’s unclear why Jackman refuses Yamanouchi’s offer, but he does.  Jackman is attacked by a woman the same night of his refusal, and he soon finds his healing factor is severely impaired when he sustains multiple wounds from Yakuza gangsters while protecting Yamanouchi’s granddaughter.   Jackman must not only try to solve why the young woman is under attack by Japanese mobsters, he must also unravel the puzzle of what is happening to his healing power before his enemies find a way to kill him and the woman he is protecting and falling in love with.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Wolverine” is the scene when Jackman faces The Silver Samurai, a large robot fully armored with Adamantium and wielding double Adamantium swords that can superheat in seconds, giving the swords greater cutting power.  ** Spoiler alert here**The Silver Samurai cuts off Jackman’s claws with one stroke of its superheated sword!  That was shocking and very painful to watch.

**Spoiler alert here**First runner up for my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Jackman rips open his chest to remove an object that is attached to his heart which is the cause of his damaged, healing factor.  For those not in the know, Wolverine does feel pain.  Now just imagine what it must feel like to slice your chest open with a very large scalpel and reach into your chest and pull out a miniature robot that is attached to your heart, all without any anesthetic.  My palms get sweaty just trying to remove a splinter from my finger!

I’ve read many comic books that has the Wolverine character, and he is one of my two favorite comic book characters, so I expect much from a movie titled “The Wolverine.”  Were those expectations met?  No.  I like the movie, but it did not live up to the hype.  One of the problem I have: samurai swords, for the most part, were used to successfully parry against Wolverine’s claws.  That is absolute garbage.  Wolverine’s claws would have sliced those swords like they were made of butter.  The “making of” documentary has someone explaining they needed to have the swords withstand Wolverine’s claws so that they could have more action sequences of Wolverine fighting the samurai and ninjas.  Bulls@#t.  All the movie had to do was have some of the swords laced with Adamantium so they wouldn’t break easily against Wolverine’s claws.  That explanation would have sufficed.  But instead we get some crappy excuse about how they wanted Wolverine to be challenged and not easily defeat the enemy swords…sounds to me like the screenwriter and director were challenged instead.  My biggest problem of “The Wolverine”: he doesn’t live up to the bloodthirsty, borderline psychotic mutant who loves to slice his enemies to pieces.  The people involved in this movie go on about how this is a darker movie than the other Wolverine movies and we get to see a different, meaner side of Wolverine, blah blah blah.  This movie is rated PG-13!  And the PG-13 rating of this movie is a severe hindrance to this NC-17 rated character.

In a nutshell, this movie is like a Lamborghini Aventador forced to drive in the side streets at no more than 20 m.p.h.  Ooh, aahh, look at that fancy car going almost as fast as a little girl’s bicycle.

— M

 

“I’ve been dying a little bit each day since you came back to my life.”  “I truly, deeply love you.”  “…being around her is intoxicating.”   If you’re like me, you’ll find these lines in “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack Of The Clones” nauseating.  This is dialogue I expect from a first time screenwriter who is still in Junior High School.

Co-wrote another mediocre screenplay, George Lucas has.   One of my greatest fears is that Lucas writes or co-writes another “Star Wars” screenplay; and my fears came true again with this movie.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.  And so, my fellow “Star Wars” fans, we again suffer through another Episode that had so much promise that went unfulfilled.

Ten years have passed in the “Star Wars” universe since Episode I.  Thousands of solar systems have left the Republic (the Separatist Movement); intergalactic war is imminent.   Hayden Christensen (playing a teen-aged Anakin Skywalker) is now a powerful, Jedi apprentice, learning from Ewan McGregor (playing Obi Wan Kenobi).  Both are tasked with unraveling a mystery as to who is trying to kill Natalie Portman (playing Senator Amidala).  This leads to an awkward, ten year reunion between Christensen and Portman, leading to awkward banter, leading to awkward flirting, leading to a cringeworthy romance.  Let’s get this straight: Christensen and Portman are good actors; but no matter how good your actors are, if they are given a s*#t script, you will get a s*#t performance.   It’s like giving a Ferrari low-grade fuel that’s been sitting around for 5 years.

Anyway, as Portman and Christensen are making kissy faces at each other, McGregor investigates a bounty hunter involved in Portman’s assassination attempt.  This leads him to a planet where a clone army (clearly, the predecessor of Stormtroopers) has been ordered by a Jedi Knight for the use of The Republic.  Who exactly ordered this army, and why?  The overall plot of “Attack Of The Clones” is a good one, with a bit of mystery and a few plot twists; but most of all it contains the evolving relationship between Portman and Christensen, and Christensen’s slow descent into the Dark Side of The Force .  In the hands of a skilled screenwriter, this movie would have soared to new heights that would have approached the level of “The Empire Strikes Back.”  Instead we got Stevie Wonder behind the wheels of a Lamborghini.

Please give me a few moments to suffer in silence as I ponder on what could have been…

Okay.  On to Manny’s memorable, movie moments.  One such moment is the scene when we see jet packs come out of R2-D2’s legs and he starts flying!  That was super cool!  I’m sure we were all geeking out with that scene!

And for my most memorable, movie moment of “Attack Of The Clones”…Yoda’s lightsaber duel with Count Dooku!  I think every “Star Wars” fan yelled out “holy s*@t” when the little dude lit up his green saber and went off on Dooku!  In “Empire Strikes Back” Yoda said “Judge me by my size, do you?  And well you should not.  For my ally is The Force, and a powerful ally, it is.”  He was not kidding.

Nitpicking time.  Wasn’t it nice for the insect army of Geonosis to let Portman keep her utility belt during the execution scene so she could slip out a pin to remove her shackles and escape?  Didn’t you find it odd that McGregor didn’t bother to help out Yoda during his fight with Dooku?  Yes, McGregor was wounded, but he could still wave his hand and move things around.  What about Portman’s decoy (played by Rose Byrne) who was a few feet away from a huge explosion that destroyed a large ship?  A few minutes later into the movie, she’s right as rain.  Yoda mentions early in the movie that it is impossible to see the future.  WTF, George!  In “Empire…” Yoda and Luke saw the future (Han and Chewbacca being tortured in a city in the clouds, Leia being the other hope)!  George Lucas had Yoda say this to cover his ass re: why none of the Jedi Knights — none, none, all these years — foresaw Anakin becoming Darth Vader!  And one doesn’t have to be clairvoyant to see that Anakin Skywalker is a bad egg — just look at his face, his attitude, the things he says, his reckless actions, his disregard for authority.  What about…never mind.   I should know better than to ask when dealing with a writer/director who spends hours finding the right pattern on a piece of clothing for a character that shows up for only two seconds, yet does not put in the time necessary to turn in a script absent silly lines of dialogue and plot holes.

Yes, Maximus, I was entertained, but equally disappointed.  A movie this important to “Star Wars” fans, with a gigantic budget and thousands of people working in it should be as close to perfect as possible.  No excuses are acceptable.  So here are your grades, George Lucas: Special Effects — A; Sound Effects — A; Costumes — A; Sets — A; Direction — B; Screenplay — F-.

Now go home and get your shine box!

— M

 

 

Written and directed by George Lucas — six of the most fearsome words to movie fans, these are.

“The Phantom Menace” is the first part of the prequel trilogy to the “Star Wars” movies.  Lucas goes way back here…before Luke Skywalker was born, before Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, before the dark times, before the Empire.

Senator Palpatine (who would become the Emperor) has created a false threat — a phantom menace — about a growing conflict involving taxation of trade routes and embargos and invasion and war, all to set in motion events that will allow him to rise in power as he promises to bring order throughout the galaxy.   Put into this turmoil are two Jedi Knights — Liam Neeson and his apprentice, Ewan Mcgregor (playing a young, Ben Kenobi) — who, throughout their mission, encounter the droids R2-D2 and C3PO, a young Anakin, and Anakin’s future wife (played by Natalie Portman).

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when we are first introduced to R2-D2.  Portman’s ship is under attack, and her deflector shield has been damaged.  Four Astromech droids are sent outside to mend the broken parts, and three are quickly destroyed by enemy laser beams.  R2-D2 is the last droid standing, and it manages to bypass the thingamajig’s energy particle dilithium crystal thingies to repair the damage.  R2 saves the day, setting a precedent that will last all six episodes.

As most “Star Wars” fans may have guessed, my most memorable, movie moment of “The Phantom Menace” is the lightsaber duel between McGregor and Ray Park (playing Darth Maul).   Whatever problems the movie had — and it had plenty of them — they all went away when Darth Maul emerged and his light staff lit up to fight  Neeson and McGregor.  Unfortunately, when the duel was over, we were again in the world of Lucas’ shortcomings.

I want to be fair to Lucas.  I believe the man is a genius when it comes to filmmaking.  It’s not that he lost that ability, it’s that he lost his focus: instead of focusing on the story and characters, he started focusing on the costumes and special effects and sound effects and action sequences.   There are parts in “Episode 1” that shows his talents: the droid army entering Naboo’s capital is similar to the Nazis entering Paris during WW II; the duel between the Jedi Knights and Darth Maul; and Lucas’ great use of the subject of a government creating threats to instill fear in those they govern, in hopes the people will give the government more power to supposedly provide greater protection for the people.

All of the good things above are crushed by the following: Jar Jar Binks (and his way of talking that sounds like a black buffoon of early movies); horrible dialogue throughout the movie (“Are you an angel?” — I almost throw up every time I hear that line); the Trade Federation who sound like stereotypical, old Jewish men; the character Watto who sounds like a stereotypical Arab man; enemy droids who talk like idiots (“roger roger”); the lack of emotion on Anakin’s mother when Anakin leaves her (was she not capable of acting like a distraught mother who may never see her young son again — in which case it’s Lucas’ fault for not casting someone who was capable of doing so — or did she have the talent to do so but Lucas didn’t see a need for all that drama, in which case it’s Lucas’ fault for lacking the vision to know that the separation scene should have been more emotionally devastating).   Okay, I’ll stop beating a dead horse.

“The Phantom Menace” is light years away from being in the same league as “The Empire Strikes Back,” but it still has to be seen by every “Star Wars” fan because it’s part of the story, whether you like it or not.  We’re stuck with that movie…search your feelings, you know it to be true.

— M

 

 

More secretive than the CIA or MI6 or the Mossad or the He-Men Women Hater’s Club, I give you “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”  Led by Michael Caine (manning a desk) and Colin Firth (as lead Kingsman field operative), the spy organization keeps an eye on world threats and puts an end to them in a quick and violent way.

The biggest threat facing the world and the Kingsmen is a billionaire madman (played with a lisp by Samuel L. Jackson) who is planning to kill most of the population in order to save the planet.  Further down the list of concerns for the Kingsmen is their need to find new agents to train.

Enter Taron Edgerton, who plays the son of a Kingsman who died saving Firth.  Edgerton also displays natural, raw talents to be a good spy, so Firth takes him under his wing to learn the trade and see if Edgerton can finish at the top of his class in order to become a Kingsman.

And so, we have these two stories intertwined and mixed with a heavy — and I mean heavy — dose of rated R violence and language to give the audience an extremely entertaining, fast moving, very funny (“Kingsman” is an action/comedy, after all) movie that will surprise you in many ways.

Second place for my memorable moments of this movie I will give to the church massacre scene.  Describing the who, how and why will spoil too much; so let me just say that the body count in this church is about the same as the entire “Rambo III” movie.  I’m not kidding.  I’ve seen about as many violent movies as your typical politician sees hookers, so I’m used to seeing carnage on screen.  But this church scene had me stunned.

Taking first place among my memorable, movie moments of “Kingsman” is the scene when Edgerton comes upon the prison cell of a Princess.  He’s about to get her out, when more pressing matters demands his attention.  He tells her he’s off to save the world.  And her reply?  “If you save the world, we can do it in the *@#hole.”  Whoa!  Whoa!  Now that’s what I call a reward!  And that’s a Princess I can get behind and give my full support!

Fans of “Shaun Of The Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “Kick-Ass” will enjoy “Kingsman” and therefore should give it a try.  And yes, Maximus, I was very entertained.

— M

 

The seventh movie in the “Fast And Furious” series has Vin Diesel’s and Paul Walker’s crew under attack by Jason Statham, who plays the brother of the main bad guy that Diesel and Walker took down in the previous movie.  “Furious 7” opens with Statham leaving the hospital where his brother is in a coma; a hospital that Statham destroyed single handed, with bodies of special response team police lying dead and wounded.  This is a clue that we’re in for a violent, outrageous, ridiculous, extremely unrealistic, and entertaining movie.

Deciding to take the fight to this shadowy assassin/gangster/terrorist, the fast and furious crew travel the world to find and put a world of hurt to Statham.  But there is another part to this story: there is something called God’s Eye, which allows the user to usurp tech devices that have cameras and GPS to find anyone anywhere.  Statham has it, the CIA wants it, and the CIA is willing to help the fast and furious crew find Statham in return for retrieving the God’s Eye.   Game on.

One of my memorable, movie moments is the scene when mixed martial arts champion Rowdy Ronda Rousey fights Michelle Rodriguez.  Completely unbelievable, as Rodriguez’s character lasts for a few minutes against Rousey, and the fight was a draw.  I love Rousey, and I enjoy anything she’s in!

Another of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Dwayne Johnson is carrying a mini-gun ripped from a Predator drone and fires thousands of rounds at bad guys.  The problem is…based on the feeding belt that was attached to the mini-gun, it only had a couple of hundred rounds left.  Military advisers?  We don’t need no stinkin’ military advisers!  Oh, yes you do, director James Wan, yes you do.  But then again, “Furious 7” is basically a live-action cartoon, and not to be taken too seriously.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Furious 7” is the final scene.   SPOILER ALERT here, albeit not much of a spoiler as it is shown in the music video “See You Again.”  Walker and Diesel, each in his own car, say their final goodbyes, and they drive off, taking different paths.  The camera follows Walker’s white Toyota Supra, and pans upwards into the heavens.

Paul Walker, I’ve enjoyed your movies; and from what I’ve read, you were a good person.  May you be happy and at peace, surrounded by friends and relatives who have gone before you.

— M

The final movie of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, “Return of The Jedi” bestows upon fans the rescue of Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford), the truth of the connection between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill), a massive, Rebel Alliance offense against the Empire’s new Death Star; and the long-awaited, final duel between Vader and Skywalker.

For the hundreds of millions who have seen this movie countless times, there’s almost nothing I can say that you haven’t already read or heard about.  For those who still haven’t seen the movies, what are you waiting for? Take 6 hours of your life and watch Episodes 4 through 6.

So what’s so special about this Special Edition?  An enhanced, Sarlacc monster (you know, the big mouth in the desert that looked like an angry anus), a new song and dance number in Jabba’s palace (which I thought was not in the same tone as the rest of the scenes in that place, and therefore made the movie worse, new celebration scenes and music at the end of the movie, and a bunch of little things here and there that most won’t notice…ksjgl…wlodkwwwlloosp0-0%$…sorry, I fell asleep.  Okay, let’s keep it moving.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Return of The Jedi” is the scene when Vader’s helmet is removed.  After 9 years of the “Star Wars” trilogy, we finally see what is behind the mask!

Second place for my memorable moment of this movie is the scene ***Spoiler Alert*** when Mark Hamill realizes that Leia (played by Carrie Fisher) is his sister!  She is the person whom Yoda referred to in “Empire…” when Yoda said there is another hope.

Taking third place among my most memorable moments of “Return…” is the scene that had Fisher in the Slave Girl outfit that put a smile on so many young boys.   Princess Leia/Carrie Fisher was at her hottest!

3 years after “The Empire Strikes Back,” George Lucas and company ties up the first trilogy in a mostly satisfying way.  Ewoks, eh, I could have done without them.  I would have preferred the original vision of having Wookies instead of Ewoks.  Sadly, the Special Edition didn’t replace the midget bears with Wookies.  On the upside, “Return of The Jedi” is the movie that had the least tampering when it comes to the Special Edition.  And that is a good thing, because Lucas has a tendency to keep changing the first 6 “Star Wars” movies.  I’ll take this movie as it was, flaws and all, back in 1983 when it first came out, the same year my parents took me to the movies to see it.

Flaws are usually not a good thing, but they are part of what makes us what we are.

— M

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My parents bought me these 2 items when we saw the movie in 1983

I saw this movie for the first time at the drive-in movie theater, and I loved this amazing work of art ever since.  “500 Days Of Summer” states from the very beginning, “This is not a love story.”  Is this statement a “red herring,” or is it an accurate description of the movie?

“500…” stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man who quickly falls in love with a co-worker named Summer (played by Zooey Deschanel).  This being in the genre of Romantic Comedy, you just know things aren’t going to go smoothly: Levitt is a romantic, and Deschanel doesn’t believe in love.  Despite their differing viewpoints about love, a romance is started, albeit one that is based on rules that they are just friends, keeping things casual, and Deschanel’s crystal clear explanation that she’s not looking for anything serious.

What we have here is a role reversal, where the man takes on the stereotypical outlook of a woman with respect to relationships; and the woman takes the stereotypical stance of a man regarding love and romance.  This isn’t an original idea, but director Marc Webb and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber did a brilliant job with it and the many other little and big things in the movie that make “500…” stand out high and above the endless rom/com crap that is out there.

One example of the filmmakers’ brilliance is their witty and clever use of non-linear storytelling, i.e. going back and forth in time.  Lesser writers and directors would end up with a choppy and incoherent movie; but in the case of “500…” it gives the movie energy and mystery, drawing the audience further into the story.

My most memorable, movie moment of “500 Days Of Summer” is the sequence that has Levitt going to a rooftop party thrown by Deschanel.  The screen splits into two, and on the left we have Levitt’s “expectations” of how the party will go between him and Deschanel; and on the right we have the “reality” of how things will actually play out.  As far as I know, this is the first time I’ve seen this technique used, and it is used skillfully.  And the sequence is heartbreaking.

Taking second place for my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Levitt and Deschanel are first getting to know each other and telling each other a bit about their past.  Deschanel blurts out that in college, her nickname was “anal girl.”  Levitt’s reaction was appropriate!

Third place for my memorable, movie moment of “500…” is the dancing sequence the morning after Levitt has sex with Deschanel.  Ah, love, when it works, that dancing sequence is how most of us feel.  And when it doesn’t, well, the movie shows that side, too.

An honorable mention goes to actor Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays Levitt’s younger sister who has a mind much older and sharper than her brother’s.  She gives him great advice that he, unfortunately, usually doesn’t take.

“500 Days Of Summer,” to me, is an honest look at how fun, painful, confusing, blind, inspiring, beautiful and destructive love can be. For those who have been there and back, and managed to survive those broken-hearted moments, this movie is for you. But those who are still recovering from bad relationships, you may want to keep away from this masterpiece.

I leave you all with something I told some of my friends: if you want to find that diamond, you have to do a lot of digging in the dirt.

— M

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