Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
Forgot your password?
Don't have an account? Sign up here
Already have an account? Log in here
and the Terms and Policies,
and to receive email from Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango.
Please enter your email address and we will email you a new password.
No user info supplied.
Another quarantine film appreciation class with my kids was a hit ("Labyrinth" also got a thumbs-up. "E.T." got a Meh). From writer William Goldman ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" "All the Presidents Men" "Misery") and director Rob Reiner ("This is Spinal Tap" "Stand by Me" "When Harry Met Sally" and also "Misery") comes a very subversive fairy tale send-up. It's charming and wimiscal enough that the kids will love it and it's witty and subversive that adults will love it even more so. What makes this parody film unique is that while Goldman and Reiner are certainly poking fun at fairy tale tropes, they also tell a fairy tale with genuine charm and sweetness. Compared to other parody films like "Blazing Saddles" or "Airplane" which are entirely mocking and ridicule, "The Princess Bride" is at its heart is still a fairy tale love story. I won't bother summarizing the story, since I'm assuming everyone has already watched this film, but "The Princess Bride" boasts a stellar cast, led by then unknown Cary Elwes ("Robin Hood: Men in Tights" "Glory" "Days of Thunder" "Stranger Things") and Robin Wright ("Forrest Gump" "Moneyball" "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" "House of Cards"). The scene stealing supporting cast has SO many iconic moments! Wallace Shawn shouting "Inconceivable!" and the battle of wits face-off. Peter Cook's speech impaired clergyman. Mel Smith's throat clogged Albino. Carol Kane and Billy Crystal as the bickering Valerie and Miracle Max. Mandy Patinkin's Inigo Montoya is the main standout in the cast, who's performance still gave me chills when he has his final confrontation with Christopher Guest's six-fingered Count Rugen. Patinkin brings a level of emotion to the film that brings unexpected depth and heart. Then there's the enormous André the Giant, who pretty much steals every scene he's in. I also usually dislike wraparound or story bookends, but Fred Savage and Peter Falk are wonderful as a grandfather and grandson reading the story together, which affords lots of opportunities for commentary on the story and to even skip over the boring parts. The film's Once-Upon-A-Time feel is greatly aided is a lush score by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and beautiful photography by Adrian Biddle ("Aliens" "Thelma & Louise" "V for Vendetta") that gives the film a timeless feel. On the downside, the film's villains seem underdeveloped and not all that interesting. Also, the film does have some pacing issues where the story drags a bit at times. Still, those are minor quibbles for a film that really does deserve its status as a classic film that both kids and adults (for different reasons) will enjoy. FUN FACT: André the Giant called almost everybody on set (be they director, producers, co-stars or crew) "boss", a technique he employed to defer to people he liked and go some way towards counteracting the way he would tower over them.
I kicked off my quarantine home school film appreciation course with my children with a viewing of the 1986 classic "Labyrinth." My kids enjoyed the film, found it a bit scary, found it a bit weird, and were utterly mesmerized. Generally speaking, they had the exact reaction I was hoping they would. A young Jennifer Connelly, before she became a great actress, plays Sarah, a 16-year old girl forced by her stepmother (a nice fairytale touch) to watch her baby brother. During a crying fit by her baby brother, Sarah wishes for the Goblin King to take him away and unbeknownst to her, he's real (and played by David Bowie) and does indeed take Baby Toby away. Sarah then has thirteen hours to get through the titular Labyrinth to rescue her baby brother. For whatever reason, I'd never noticed how many similarities this film shares with "The Wizard of OZ." The filmmakers are pretty open about their riffing on that film. Besides a similar plot of a girl's journey across a magical and mysterious land, you also have her meetings a group of colorful non-human friends, facing various challenges, and even musical numbers (sadly the weakest part of this film, considering you have David Bowie). Besides those similarities, there are also smaller nods, such as spotting the Labyrinth in Connelly's bedroom early on in the film and then again at the end, or a moment in her journey where she falls asleep and forgets her quest goal, and how Hoggle, Sir Didymus, and Ludo are pretty clear stand-ins for the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Lion. However, "Labyrinth" is far more imaginative than OZ and is even surprisingly subversive. Once you've seen the Helping Hands, the Junk Lady, the Escher room scene, the Tilekeepers (the creature who move the Labyrinth tiles after Connolly puts marks on them), or the way the film's most terrifying moments are undone at the last moment by revealing their silly true nature (i.e. the tunnel cleaner grinding machine, or the giant metal monster, or the False Alarms, etc.). And if these examples aren't enough to convince you how incredibly subversive a children's film "Labyrinth" is, just take a look at the Bog of Stench scene, where the belching holes in the bog are very clearly representation of human butt-holes. If that's not subversion filmmaking, I do not know what is! And then there is David Bowie's pants... There's no getting around the fact that David Bowie's portrayal of The Goblin King, Jareth, is oddly sexual for a kids film, though maybe it's just his pants. Either way, he does make for an enjoyably scary and unusual villain for a children's film. Much like Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka, Christopher Lloyd's Judge Doom from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", or The Child Catcher from "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", Bowie brings a great deal of menace to his villain without pandering to being a "family friendly" villain. All of this gleeful inappropriateness should not come as a surprise considering the film was written by Monty Python's Terry Jones, who's script is more than just clever mischievousness. It also shows unexpected depth. For example, the character of Hoggle is a surprisingly complicated, with an unexpected amount of depth. Played by Shari Weiser and voiced by Brian Henson, Hoggle is first introduced spraying pesticide to kill fairies outside the Labyrinth. He's a weaselly and cowardly character who demonstrates a genuine inner conflict whether he will help Connelly (out of her unexpected kindness and friendship) or whether he'll remain loyal to Bowie (out of fear). Bringing Jones' imaginative script to life was the Muppet master himself, Jim Henson. This was Henson's third and final feature film as a director. His other two films were "The Dark Crystal" and "The Great Muppet Caper". Jones brings a wealth of clever ideas to the OZ inspired script and Henson, who has a story credit on the script, brilliantly brings them to life in a way that is fun, scary, and endlessly watchable. There's a sense of wonder to the film where real world rules do not apply and anything is possible, and that is where the magic of the film lies. For the rest of the cast, beside Bowie and Connolly, you have Frank Oz (Yoda, Grover, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, etc), Warwick Davis (Willow, Wicket, The Leprechaun), Kenny "Fidgit" Baker (R2-D2, "Time Bandits"), and two other Time Bandits, Malcolm "Strutter" Dixon and Jack "Wally" Purvis. Overall, just as with "The Wizard of OZ" this film doesn't shy away from being scary and weird, as do the most memorable of children's films and books, which helps to make "Labyrinth" something of a flawed classic. George Lucas served as one of the producers on the film. FUN FACT! One of the dance choreographers on the film is Cheryl McFadden. She appeared, uncredited, as one of the masked dancers in the ballroom scene. A year after this films release, she starred on "Star Trek: The Next Generation", credited as "Gates McFadden", playing Dr. Beverly Crusher.
Watching this film, I thought about an earlier quote I'd read from director Jason Reitman comparing his style of films to those of his father, mainstream director Ivan Reitman ("Stripes" "Ghostbuster" "Twins" "Kindergarten Cop" "Dave"). He said "My father wants to take a song you love and play it better than you've ever heard it before. I want to take a song you hate and play it so well, you love it." This is exactly what Jason Reitman has done with the main character in each of his films. In his first film, the protagonist was a tobacco lobbyist, in his next film the heroine was a pregnant teen, and his third film was about a corporate downsizer, all of whom are pariahs the audience learns to love and feel empathy towards by the end of each film. This quote perfectly sums up "Young Adult" where he again manages to make the audience sympathize with a stuck up pretty girl returning to her hometown, a terrific Charlize Theron, who's now a famous YA book author, recently divorced, intending to seduce her high school sweetheart, Patrick Wilson, who's now happily married and with a newborn child. Theron is rude to the local yokels, one of whom is played by a very endearing Patton Oswalt, who crushes on Theron while also becoming something of a sidekick to her schemes (ALA Duckie). Writing this plot summary, this sounds like a run of the mill rom com plot, but it's anything but. Written by Diablo Cody ("Juno" "Jennifer's Body") Patton Oswalt is not a middle aged Duckie, nor is Patrick Wilson just an older Jake Ryan. These are all very real, very damaged, and all too human of characters, which is where the film excels. Reitman has taken a monster of a character and makes you feel for her. Reitman also gives the film and ending that is not a standard rom com "happy ending" yet feels realistic and just the right ending. Free on Amazon Prime right now! Check it out!
Tension filled and rollercoaster of an action flick about a dirty cop who boosts a shipment of cocaine from some drug dealers and then finds his son kidnapped and held hostage until he returns the stolen drugs. The cop shows up at the drug dealer's nightclub to cut a deal and what ensues is an action and suspense filled game of cat and mouse that take place entirely at this one locations and all within the span of one night. Although the characters and story seem secondary to plot devices and action sequences, those action set pieces are a knockout! The action does not let up and that's what makes "Sleepless Night" so memorable. The handheld camera work and the more realistic of fight scene choreography give the film an edginess that is lacking from most polished Hollywood action flicks (i.e. Don Siegel vs. Michael Bay). the anxiety inducing suspense reminded me a lot of "Uncut Gems", so if you enjoyed that Adam Sandler film, you might also enjoy "Sleepless Night". Overall, I'm pretty excited to see what director Frédéric Jardin does next.
Writer/Director Peter Berg is a mainstream commercial director who I love. His film are never masterpieces, but they are consistently enjoyable. From his first major film (and The Rock's film debut), the enjoyably goofy action/adventure film "The Rundown" to his heartfelt movie and TV adaptation of "Friday Night Lights" to directing a new documentary on Chris Cornell. This track record made me excited to see his take on Robert B. Parkers tough P.I. character, Spencer, previously best known from the Robert Urich 80s TV series. Then casting Marky Mark in the lead, where he gets to go FULL-Boston, made me even more exited about this project. However, "Spencer Confidential" is pretty lightweight and immediately forgettable entertainment. I was entertained by Berg's loose adaptation of the Parker character, even if he didn't have the hard-boiled edge of the books. Overall, this film was a disappointment, but I was entertained and so will most viewers if you don't go into this Netflix original with too high of expectations (which I mistakenly did). Alan Arkin, Iliza Shlesinger, Bokeem Woodbine, Marc Maron, Coleen Camp, and Post Malone also appear in the film.