Chris Mizerak's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Silver Linings Playbook

When I saw writer-director David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" (2012) with my family in the theater, I thought it was the best film I've seen that entire year. I liked the performances, I adored the writing and the directing, and I enjoyed pretty much everything about it. Now, I've finally seen it from beginning to end for a second time one to two years later. And how did it hold up? It was still good, but it's no longer the great movie that I originally thought it was. While the acting by the all-star cast still holds up, there are certain details in the story that hold up significantly better than others. Before we address what does and doesn't work in this flick, let's recap the plot from the beginning.

Bradley Cooper portrays Pat Solitano Jr., a man with a bipolar disorder who has recently been released from a mental health facility and now has to live with his parents (Jacki Weaver, Robert DeNiro). He learns that his wife has moved out of their place, but is determined to reconcile with her after the event that got him into the facility in the first place by getting his life back on track. He plans on doing so by losing weight, reading literature his wife teaches to kids, and seeing the good (the "silver lining") in all that he experiences regardless of how challenging it may be. His plan is somewhat successful, that is until he meets Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a recently unemployed widow who is also mentally unstable. Because his wife has a restraining order against him, Pat reluctantly makes a deal with Tiffany that if she gives a letter to his wife from him, he'll be her partner in an upcoming dance competition.

What ensues for the rest of the picture is Pat struggling to maintain balance between his commitments with helping Tiffany and being there for his family. An important detail that should be mentioned is that Pat's dad (DeNiro) thinks that his son is a good luck charm because whenever he's home, his favorite football team, the Philadelphia Eagles, always win. When he isn't, they lose. Because of this, it's difficult for Pat to keep his cool since he's going to dissatisfy someone either way. If he's not there for Tiffany for practicing the dance, she gets furious. If he's not there with his heavily superstitious dad, he's discontent as well. By the way, when I say that his dad's superstitious, I mean he's freaking obsessed with the Eagles. He's willing to bet all the money he's saving for opening a restaurant on the Eagles winning a game, that's how much he believes in his team and in Pat. And you wonder why I'm modest.

The funny thing I've picked up upon a second viewing of this flick is that even though Pat's the one that just got released from the mental institution, the people in his life are crazier than he is. I know people that are obsessed with sports, but I haven't come across anyone who's willing to bet everything just for the sake of one team winning a game like Pat's dad. Let's not also forget that likable nut known as Tiffany, who comes out of nowhere to scare the crap out of Pat during a jog around her neighborhood, has seemingly non-existent dinner table manners, and gets non-sensibly mad for no particular reason sometimes. Whether or not it was David O. Russell's subliminal intention to make his family and friends even crazier than Pat remains to be seen. But honestly, I'm not complaining, because it's actually a nice comedic touch in that it adds to the irony of Pat's current lifestyle.

It should also be noted that as Pat and Tiffany spend more time together, they apparently start to form a romantic bond. And honestly, that's my main problem with this film upon second viewing. For me, this is another one of those films where it would have been more appropriate if the writers just made the romance a friendship instead. Personally, I never saw a credible romance here so much as a credible friendship where they try and help each other out. This can best explain why I'm so mixed on the ending. On one hand, I love the payoff with their performance at the dance and their reactions to their scores. Without spoiling anything, it makes me feel better about what I've accomplished so far even if it isn't anything amazing. On the other hand, the last couple shots of the film feel rushed. I think this has to do with the fact that what Pat and Tiffany do together for 75% of the time is argue towards one another. It would have been a better romance for me if they did less arguing and more connecting.

"Silver Linings Playbook" is blessed with a highly talented all-star cast including Bradley Cooper as the main character trying to maintain a "silver lining", Jennifer Lawrence as his enjoyably psychotic girlfriend, and Robert DeNiro in a passionate supporting role as Pat's Eagles-obsessed father. Chris Tucker has a funny supporting role as a friend of Pat's from the mental institution who always keeps getting sent back because his release forms apparently didn't come through. That's Paul Herman in a solid supporting role as Pat's father's gambling friend Randy. You may recognize him as Vincent Chase's accountant from the TV series "Entourage". Everybody in this cast does their part.

Though the central romance may not be for everybody, "Silver Linings Playbook" is above all else a confidently made comedy-drama about a man trying to get his life back on track, even if the people that will help him may not be the best role models. But, that's life. One moment, you're on top of the world. The other, it takes psychos to help psychos.


Man, is it great to have Disney back in top form again. With the exceptions of "Wreck-it Ralph" (2012) and "The Princess and the Frog" (2009), I haven't seen any of Disney's newest animated features since "Treasure Planet" (2002). This is mainly because I couldn't get interested in seeing the films they were producing for the past decade. And with the possible exceptions of "Tangled" (2010) and "Winnie the Pooh" (2011), I don't have that much interest in doing so either. On top of that, Pixar was the king of animation for a while with films like "The Incredibles" (2004) and "Up" (2009). So naturally, when the hype behind their latest animated feature "Frozen" was that it was the studio's best since "Beauty and the Beast" (1991), you bet that I was going to see this movie with reasonably high expectations. And I'm pleased to say that it didn't disappoint.

We follow two royal sisters named Anna (Kristen Bell, from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall") and Elsa (Idina Menzel) with the latter having the ability to create ice and snow. Anna and Elsa are very close to each other, but a childhood incident causes Elsa to be closed off to Anna mainly for her protection and the fact that her icy powers continue to grow. A couple years have passed and the day of Elsa's coronation as the Queen of Arendelle has arrived. When Anna announces her engagement to a prince she just met, an argument ensues between the two sisters that results in Elsa running away, unleashing eternal winter on the kingdom, and building an ice kingdom of her own. Determined to restore her connection with Elsa, Anna sets out to search for her and comes across some colorful characters along the way. She's joined by a mountain man named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven, and a talking snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad).

"Frozen" is a landmark animated feature from Disney for many reasons. For starters, its computer animation is impressively extravagant, especially with the crystal-like textures on the ice and the rich, velvety textures on Anna's green dress. These little details and more like them really make the animation pop out. Also, the film's music and songs are the best from the Disney Studios in a long time. The music and songs were written and composed by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, and the score was done by Christophe Beck. Among the film's memorable tunes, the most special songs include "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" and "Let It Go". No matter which song you think is the best, I guarantee that they're all more memorable that any musicals that have come out in the past decade.

Probably the most significant reason why "Frozen" is such a milestone for Disney has to do with specific details to the story itself. First of all, "Frozen" marks the first Disney animated feature to date that is about the relationship between two sisters. What's even more impressive than that distinction is that the film's screenwriter/co-director Jennifer Lee executes this crucial part of the story perfectly. Lee wisely makes the decision of avoiding the trap of making Elsa an all-out villain and instead making her as human and sympathetic as Anna. It's very rare to pull over a narrative move such as that, especially in a Disney flick, but it really works well here since it compliments off of other bold moves that this story takes. For example, the moral of the story as implied with the ending shows us that there's more behind the meaning of true love than we think we know from all the other Disney fairy tales we've seen. Without giving too much away, it's very refreshing to see an ending like this in a Disney film.

The conclusion of the story between Elsa and Anna is especially rewarding because they develop these characters so well beforehand. Particularly with Elsa, I liked how she struggles to bottle her emotions after this childhood incident shown early in the film and the effects that it has on her personality throughout the majority of the film. As she has a more difficult time controlling her emotions, her powers get more powerful which in turn becomes more dangerous. She lets her overprotection of Anna get in the way of their bond to the point where they've hardly been in each other's company in years. This trait regarding Elsa is clever since it plays off of the optimistic, playful, caring and fearless personality of Anna very well.

And give the Disney Studios credit, it's not every day you see a fairy tale from them in which the characters say you can't just marry someone you just met. This is ironic seeing that that's exactly what happened in the other fairy tales Disney told. And though Anna and Kristoff do initiate a romantic relationship together, the film still stays true to what it's saying to the audience. Regardless, their chemistry still works well even if the dialogue can get a little too awkwardly modern at times. The reindeer and the snowman actually work pretty well as side characters go. They're given solid comedic material and they don't overstay their welcome. While the prince that Anna becomes engaged to is decent, the twist to his character really comes out of nowhere and doesn't work that well for my liking.

For the record, I've enjoyed such films as "The Princess and the Frog" (2009) and "Hercules" (1997) without being overly excited about them. For me though, "Frozen" is the best animated, the best written, and the best sung Disney animated feature since "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1996). I'm absolutely certain that kids will eat this film up with joy and adults will really a magical time as well. Let it be known that Disney is back.

City Lights
City Lights(1931)

For centuries, we've been living in a world that mostly consists of people trying to fend for themselves and obtain whatever necessary resources they can in order to survive. This mindset of how the world works results in the rich being prosperous and entitled while the poor are miserable and shunned. In short, various developments (whether it's the invention of new technologies or events that make us question the unity of humanity) have made us more selfish and isolated from one another. I'm saying this since I believe the primary reason that silent film legend Charlie Chaplin had a lasting impact is because while he confirms that we live in this kind of world, he pulls off something in his films that's very difficult to do. He somehow reassures us that everything will be okay no matter how hard you fall and that there are still people out there who help out other people. And very few films of Chaplin's have proven this more effectively than his 1931 silent masterpiece, "City Lights".

This silent romantic comedy follows Chaplin's famous Tramp character as he meets a pretty but blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) who mistakes him for a millionaire. That night, the Tramp also meets a drunken millionaire (Harry Myers) and saves him from suicide. As a way of thanking the Tramp for saving him from himself, this millionaire immediately considers him a friend and welcomes the Tramp to his mansion. After they go for a chaotic night on the town, the millionaire sobers up the next day unable to recognize the Tramp in the slightest and kicks him out. So, the Tramp runs into the blind flower girl again and starts initiating a special relationship with her. He also runs into the same millionaire a second time and in his drunken state invites him back to his mansion. From there, certain events eventually ensue in which the Tramp does whatever he can to help pay for the blind girl's eye operation by taking advantage of his unusual friendship with this millionaire.

To write, direct or star in a film with or without sound is one thing. But to write, direct AND star in a film that is technically silent yet has a few bits of sound and a musical score is another thing. With "City Lights", Charlie Chaplin had successfully pulled off an intensely strenuous task. On top of the fact that he decided to make a silent picture in the midst of the "talking pictures" becoming the talk of the town, he had to write, direct AND act in this film. Anyone can tell you that it's a monumental responsibility to pull off all three of these tasks and still produce a high quality film. And the reason that Chaplin had rightfully become a major influence on the film industry isn't just because he's written, directed and starred in excellent pictures, but because these pictures are still being enjoyed by modern audiences today even if they are silent. That's the true sign of a timeless piece of filmmaking.

What I particularly loved about "City Lights", as well as with "Modern Times" (1936), is that its direction is emotionally equivalent to an efficient and smooth roller coaster ride. In other words, Chaplin does a fantastic job at switching back and forth between comedic and dramatic moments seamlessly. One moment you're genuinely laughing at the trouble that the Tramp gets into, the other moment you're feeling pity for the troubles he's experiencing. One moment you feel like your hopes are crushed and nothing's going to be okay, the other you feel like all hope is restored and everything will turn out fine. The bottom line is that this is the kind of experience you can expect from "City Lights" throughout.

An example of a scene that demonstrates this emotional experience in action is the boxing scene. The scenario is this. The Tramp has to fight in a "fake" boxing match to win money that will help with the blind girl's financial troubles. A fellow boxer agrees to split the prize 50-50, so that they both technically would win. Unfortunately, this boxer has to bail out of the match since the police are on to him and the boxer that the Tramp has to contend with now says that the "winner takes all". And throughout the match, the Tramp uses a hilarious strategy to try and win the match by hiding behind the referee as much as he can. I won't reveal anything else at this point to those who haven't seen the film yet and want to. All I can say is that this entire scene is representative of the film as a whole: a film that walks steadily on a fine line between comedy and drama and pulls it off perfectly.

What's even more admirable is that it's all done solely through visuals and background music. Seeing that this is a silent film, it makes sense to incorporate some over exaggerated actions namely Chaplin's clumsiness in the restaurant with the millionaire. Like animated films, silent pictures depend heavily on their visuals in able to help the film express itself more strongly since of course there's no sound to assist the visuals. And most of the time, the only way it can pull off such a thing is by over exaggerating certain actions. By doing so, we can get more of an idea visually of what our main character is experiencing and therefore be able to relate to him more. And Chaplin hits just the right note as far as that's concerned.

Chaplin's silent pictures, especially "City Lights", have lasted more than any other films from the silent era and for good reason. Their stories about persevering to the best of your ability no matter what harsh circumstances you're under have been nothing short of inspiring and uplifting. And no one can fail at seeing that.

Jack Reacher
Jack Reacher(2012)

Have you seen crime thrillers such as "Bullitt" (1968), "Serpico" (1973), or even "Dirty Harry" (1971) which center on cops who go beyond the call of duty and even break a couple laws to bring a person to justice for their crimes? If your answer is "yes", then guess what? You've already seen writer-director Christopher McQuarrie's 2012 crime thriller "Jack Reacher". Actually, let me rephrase that. You haven't just already seen "Jack Reacher" before. You've seen every tired plot point and cliché that this film and other films like it use over and over and over again with no trace of evolving whatsoever. Now, if you were a fan of this typical cop picture formula to begin with and don't mind seeing it countlessly, this film may be fine as far as that's concerned. But for the rest of us who aren't, this is pretty much a long sit.

Tom Cruise plays the title character Jack Reacher, a former U.S. Army Military Police Corps officer who is sent to Pittsburgh to investigate the killing of five innocent people. Based on the evidence that was uncovered (Seriously, are suspects really too careless about tracing their footsteps in real-life as films seem to be implying?), the primary suspect seems to be a former U.S. Army sniper from Iraq. The sniper's defense attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) asks Jack to assist her in trying to spare the death penalty on her client by looking for more evidence. Jack is reluctant to do so at first seeing that he can't assist the client after his killing spree in Iraq which he needs to be forgotten, but eventually agrees. What follows is Jack getting closer to the truth with the clues and people he comes across and that's it.

There were only a few things about this picture that worked on me. The acting, for example, isn't that bad although it relies on Tom Cruise's star power more so than characters with actual emotional impact. Also, the screenwriters at least didn't force a love story into the mix between Jack and either Helen or a hooker (whom Jack gets acquainted with later in the picture). And at least the writers didn't force Jack to have a mental breakdown to the point where he has to quit the case and then come back again. There are also a few decent scenes that get a good smirk such as Cruise getting out of a moving vehicle and allowing it to run by itself (I think that scene's in one of the film's trailers). Aside from that, nothing - I mean nothing - about this movie was even remotely original.

You know a film's in trouble when the main tagline for its posters says: "The law has limits. He does not." Seriously, is this the best tagline that they could come up with for their movie posters? I'm surprised they even went with one if that's the case. What's sad is that this pitiful tagline sums up the film and its problems in a nutshell. "Jack Reacher" is simply too derivative. The characters are all recycled out of other films of its type. You have the main character who's basically "Dirty Harry" only played by Tom Cruise. Been there, done that. There's also a soldier from the Army who becomes convicted of a crime on the homeland. Also been there, done that. Someone who works alongside Jack on this case may have actually committed the crime. Wow! Been. There. Done. That.

It's not just the story and characters that bore me to death, since the dialogue is written in the most lifeless way possible just like every other film of its genre. I really don't care about the boring protocol or procedures of police detectives and whatnot, and I will continue not to for a very long time. Can't we just have detectives that get straight to the point with what they have to say, please? I knew this film was going to be dull just by watching the trailers. I can't even think about anything else to talk about that's how little this film mattered to me. All I can say to you is just take my advice for what it's worth and skip this one.

Before Sunrise

You know how most romantic films out there are more concerned about the destination of the central couple's romance (whether or not they get married, ditch their ex, etc.) than the actual connection that they share? In writer-director Richard Linklater's irresistible 1995 romantic drama "Before Sunrise", a highly refreshing approach is taken with the central romance between the couple that we follow. Rather than focus on the destination of the romance, the film instead focuses on the connection that blossoms between these two characters and lets them just enjoy their time together peacefully. Now some of you might think that this method of romantic storytelling is a recipe for guaranteed boredom, and in less confident hands, it might be. But the irony here is not only is this romance just as exciting as such romantic stories as "Casablanca" (1942) and "Gone with the Wind" (1939), it also even surpasses them.

Before I explain further what this film does differently from 95% of the other romantic comedies and dramas combined, let's recap the basic plot behind it. A young American named Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meets a pretty French woman named Celine (Julie Delpy) on a train headed towards Vienna and strikes up a conversation with her. The two enjoy each other's company so much that Jesse invites Celine to join him in roaming around Vienna before his flight back to the U.S. the next day. In any other film, a scene consisting of a man asking a woman to tag along with him admittedly wouldn't warrant any special comments. This film, on the other hand, is one rare exception. I love it when Jesse asks Celine to think ahead 10-20 years to a marriage that may not be special and that she's got nothing to lose by going with him now and leaving whenever she wants. On an acting level and on a writing level, this scene is just one example of how real, natural, intimate, sweet and thoughtful this whole picture is.

The rest of the film, as far as the plot is concerned, consists of just Jesse and Celine roaming about Vienna walking and talking and having a good time while they can. But once again, what makes "Before Sunrise" such an excellent film is that it takes a risky approach with telling its love story and executes it in a believable and genuine way. By not having any forced conflicts in its narrative such as another romantic interest, a misunderstanding, a harmful secret that one of them is keeping, or any distracting plot points of the sort, it feels non-formulaic. By allowing the two characters to talk about anything they like, whether it's about their past relationships or even their views on life, we get to know more about these two and are able to relate to them more than couples in other films. And by having a handful of shots that last more than a couple minutes, one obtains a sense of reality from it as well as an appreciation of what the actors have to accomplish with their roles.

While we're talking about actors, let's further dissect the quality of the performances by Hawke and Delpy as well as the requirements of their roles. Both actors are left with the challenging task of carrying the whole picture without any major side characters or side storylines to reduce their heavy-lifting. These actors must also add enough charm and likability to their characters so that we'll be engaged in any conversations and experiences that they have no matter what. These two tasks alone are simple to describe, but significantly strenuous to execute. Very few actors have the capability to pull off such tasks due to the fact that screen romances have rarely been filmed this way. However, Hawke and Delpy prove that they're up for the challenge and most importantly they succeed.

What's perhaps even more miraculous is that Hawke and Delpy bring to life one of the very best screen couples in motion picture history, one of the top five easily. Everything you could possibly want to be able to love a couple together is present here with Jesse and Celine. Celine is playful, easygoing, adventurous and kind. Jesse is cool, confident, charming and classy. Together, they have genuine chemistry, a legitimate sense of humor, and in general are a great pleasure to watch. In addition to feeling like real people, you can tell that they are having the time of their life with each other. And I think that's the key to any great romance, sharing a strong passion for one another. It's the kind of passion that will even warm the heart of those who have already planned to be permanently single.

I really wanted to see "Before Sunrise" for a long time ever since Siskel and Ebert gave a highly enthusiastic review for it and described it in a way that I knew it was going to be up my alley. It's my absolute pleasure to inform you that my high expectations for this film were miraculously met. The location where this film was set compliments the love story very well. I'm surprised that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy aren't a couple in real-life since they make a fantastic couple here. The acting, the writing, and the directing are all exceptionally well done. This heavily underrated gem generated two equally well-received sequels titled "Before Sunset" (2004) and "Before Midnight" (2013). And all I can say is that my expectations for these follow-ups will be just as high as for this timeless treasure.

Saving Mr. Banks

"Saving Mr. Banks" is the first film of its kind: a Disney film that centers on the making of a Disney film. Then again, I should probably rephrase what I mean by "the first film of its kind". Technically, Disney has released some films based on the Disney Studios itself and its staff before. "Saving Mr. Banks" is a big benchmark for Disney because it's a fictionalized film involving Mr. Walt Disney himself and his staff of musicians and artists. Furthermore, you have Tom Hanks playing the role of Walt Disney, a big-name celebrity playing another big-name celebrity. Not something you see every day, is it?

Having said all that, Walt Disney is not the main character of "Saving Mr. Banks". The film really centers on P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the author of the "Mary Poppins" books. She is not amused with the idea of Walt Disney adapting her stories involving a nanny with a flying umbrella into "a silly cartoon". But because of her temporary financial troubles, she reluctantly takes a trip from her home in England to California to meet with Walt regarding his picture. During her challenging progress with Disney and his employees over the progression of what would later become the film "Mary Poppins" (1964), she recalls memories of her father (Colin Farrell) who worked at a bank and was also a heavy drinker.

A few crucial details about my personal taste need to be put on the table before anything else can be discussed. As you're probably aware, "Mary Poppins" was one of my favorite Disney films of all time and one of the first films I'd ever seen in my life. So naturally, I'll be interested in a film like this that explores the progress of making this film come to life. But, here's the catch. This film was directed by John Lee Hancock and he was the same director that made "The Blind Side" (2009), starring Sandra Bullock. For the sake of being polite, let's just say that I didn't care for that film whatsoever. Fortunate for him, "Saving Mr. Banks" is a much better film than "The Blind Side" if not without its faults.

Tom Hanks is an interesting choice to play Walt Disney in this film mainly because of the fact that this role really tests his acting skills. He has to somehow convince us that he's Walt Disney, someone that's famous to the point that spotting their impersonators (including him) would be pretty easy. What makes the performance by Tom Hanks work in this film is not so much him just physically impersonating Mr. Disney so much as capturing Disney's personality and humble spirit. Emma Thompson makes for a perfect contrast to Hanks as P.L. Travers, a stick in the mud that fears her work will be gravely misrepresented in movie form. She's uptight and stubborn, but in a way that still makes her entertaining and even relatable. In that regard, Thompson hits just the right note with her portrayal of Mrs. Travers.

The rest of the supporting cast is solid particularly Paul Giamatti as a cab driver working for Disney, and B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman as the Sherman brothers. "Saving Mr. Banks" is truly at its best when it focuses on the film's conceptualization process with Travers, the Sherman brothers, Don DaGradi, and Mr. Disney trying to unite on a vision that will please everybody (or at least as close as possible). When the film focuses on the childhood of Mrs. Travers and the relationship with her father, this is when the picture goes downhill. I personally find the flashbacks to her childhood to be completely corny especially when a nanny, which says the same pieces of dialogue as Mary Poppins does in the film, comes into that part of the story. In fact, the dialogue has so many references to the dialogue in "Mary Poppins" that it makes us unable to take these flashbacks seriously. I know what these flashbacks were trying to do, but they simply don't work well enough to belong in a story such as this.

In addition to having corny references to the film that is being made, I felt like the flashbacks didn't serve much of a purpose to the main story between Disney and Travers. Aside from explaining that her father was not the best role model for her, I thought the picture was put to a halt every time it focused on her past since it seemed so conventional with what it was getting across. I also personally felt like Colin Farrell wasn't the man who could do justice in playing the father, which in turn makes the flashbacks all the more unjustified in my mind.

"Saving Mr. Banks" is worth seeing mainly for the acting and the stuff involving the production of the film "Mary Poppins". And on those levels, it succeeds well enough. It's also worth one viewing mainly because we haven't seen Disney release a film like this which shows a little bit of what Mr. Disney was truly like. While he was definitely someone who brought a gift to the world with his magical feature films and cartoons, he was also a superb (even too superb) business man. It's a rather bold step for Disney to make with releasing this kind of film, and within the limitations that they placed upon themselves with their pictures, it's an admirable accomplishment.

On the Town
On the Town(1949)

I really wanted to like "On the Town" (1949), I really did. It starred Frank Sinatra, one of the musical idols my whole family looks up to, and Gene Kelly, the main lead of "Singin' in the Rain" (1952), together. It's written by the screenwriters who would later write "Singin' in the Rain" and "The Band Wagon" (1953), two of my favorite musicals of all time. It's got some catchy songs, nice costumes, exceptional dance sequences, and it had all this good stuff going for it. But the story is so painfully awkward, thin, and unintentionally semi-cruel that it utterly ruined the experience for me.

In New York City, three sailors (played by Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin) begin their shore leave and set out to explore the town. While on a subway, one of them (Kelly) sees an ad for an aspiring actress named Ivy Smith (Vera-Ellen) and decides that he simply must meet her. As they race around the city to find Ivy, they're assisted by two women (Betty Garrett, Ann Miller) whom the other two sailors become romantically involved with. If this plot doesn't sound good to you on paper, then guess what? The story is even worse on film. Don't get me wrong, I don't doubt that there are real-life sailors out there who'd like to meet female celebrities. All I'm saying is that it's simply impractical for a sailor to go to this much trouble for such a woman, especially if it's only for one day.

Even putting aside the implausibility, the pure coincidences, and the complete lack of realism that a plot of this sort is certain to have, I still felt it was an awkward story all the way through. The main relationship between Gene Kelly and Vera-Ellen is equivalent to long fingernails on a giant blackboard in terms of its stiffness. It doesn't help that most of the love story is focused more on when they'll see each other again as opposed to them actually sharing a connection with one another. Furthermore, what was the point to having the third sailor (Munshin) around and what contributions did he make to the plot advancement? Not only is this character completely mediocre, but his girlfriend technically contributes more to the plot than he does. What's up with that?!

Okay, I should refrain from talking about the story and instead talk about the good aspects of this film. The songs, though they mostly repeat the same rhythm over and over again, are beguiling, namely "You're Awful" sung by Frank Sinatra and "On the Town" performed by the six main leads. I particularly admire how the song "You're Awful" progresses throughout. I like how Sinatra starts out with what sounds like an insult towards his love interest and then it becomes a compliment towards her (You're awful - awful nice to be with). Given that this is a musical that obviously depends on its music more than anything else, good tunes are the least that this film can provide audiences and it does exactly that.

The dance numbers aren't bad either, namely the "A Day in New York" dance sequence between Kelly and Vera-Ellen. The way they dominate the area they have to dance in is simply fun to watch. It's not like they're just simply dancing on flat ground either, they have to dance in places where they either have to watch their step or hoist up/climb down a big stair. So that scene pays off pretty well. If "On the Town" had a narrative that was at least tolerable to sit through, maybe it would have had a better chance of working. I give this musical credit for trying to tell a story other than your simple backstage musical plot and whatnot. But based on how much of a mixed bag this film is, it's clear that stories in musicals are still, in the grand scheme of things, a work-in-progress.

The Wizard of Oz

"The Wizard of Oz" (1939) is unquestionably one of the most famous films in the entire world. It's so popular that even the people who've never even heard of films at least recognize the characters. There hasn't even been a year that's gone by in which this film wasn't talked about at least once. This probably explains why many critics and audiences alike consider it "the greatest family film of all time". And while I still enjoy and appreciate this film, I now personally find it a tad overrated. Before we delve further, let's recap the plot for the one or two of you who don't know what it is.

We follow a young girl named Dorothy (Judy Garland) who lives with her aunt and uncle on a Kansas farm. After she gets in trouble with a mean neighbor, her dog Toto is taken away to be put to rest. Luckily, Toto escapes back to her and they run away from home after not getting enough attention from her guardians or their farm hands. Through a series of circumstances, they come back home in the middle of a tornado and they (along with the whole house) accidently get swept up into the tornado. The house lands in a magical world called Oz where she is greeted by Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, and the Munchkins. They claim that she's a hero in that she unknowingly killed the Wicked Witch of the East.

After celebrating her "heroic" deed, the Wicked Witch of the West arrives and tries to claim her sister's ruby slippers. But the slippers are instead transferred onto Dorothy's feet by Glinda, which in turn causes the Wicked Witch of the West to seek vengeance upon Dorothy "and her little dog, too." Glinda tells Dorothy that the only person who can help her get home is the Wizard of Oz. She also says that by following the yellow brick road, it will guide her to the Emerald City where she will find this wizard. During her journey towards Emerald City, Dorothy meets and makes new friends who also want to see the Wizard of Oz. Among these new friends are the Scarecrow who wants a brain, the Tin Man who desires a heart, and the Cowardly Lion who seeks courage.

In my opinion, the best characters in the whole film are the three I just mentioned. It's not simply because the makeup on the actors playing them are unbelievable. It's also not just because they're filled with personality and charm to spare, especially the Cowardly Lion who really cracks me up every time he's on screen. It's mainly because I was able to relate to or identify with them. In other words, the storytellers did a fantastic job in terms of giving these three characters clear goals and motivations. The payoff of the journey for them is absolutely exceptional in that the way they have to earn what they desire is fairly creative. Without spoiling it for the only people who didn't see this yet, the payoff is reassuring, logical, magical, and realistic all at the same time.

Say what you will about some of the special effects in this film, but you got to at least admit one thing. For the time in which it was being produced (the late 1930's to be precise), the amount of effort and detail these filmmakers put into the film's production value has to be seen to be fully appreciated. Nearly everybody is familiar with the film's music and songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg and for good reason. These are very memorable and well-written songs from "Ding-Dong - The Witch is Dead" to "We're Off to See the Wizard", but my personal favorite has got to be "If I Were King of the Forest". I just love the passion that the Cowardly Lion puts into performing this number and it's simply a delight to watch him belt it out with charisma to spare.

The Oscar-winning song "Over the Rainbow" was originally considered to be taken out of the film altogether. While it is a great song, I might understand why that might be albeit for a different reason than the one the executives had at the time. You see, the song is about following your dreams and going to whatever new places you want to go in the world. And yet, when Dorothy is in this magical world which she dreamed of during this number, guess what she's doing when she's there? She wishes she was back at home in Kansas. Sort of a big problem, isn't it? Though it handles the morals with the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion very well, the film seems all over the place in terms of Dorothy's morals mainly because it feels uncertain of what it wants to communicate.

And at the expense of being crucified by fellow filmgoers, I must admit that I'm not a fan of Dorothy at all. I'm not sure if it's because I see a teenager awkwardly trying to play a young little kid. I'm not certain if it's because Judy Garland's acting skills were notably inferior to her singing. I'm also still debating whether or not it may be because she's a bit too whiny for my liking. Either way, something about this character just didn't do much for me. To be fair, how could any teenager play a young child without looking odd? Plus, her singing's still great and she has a couple quotable lines that have been completely ingrained into pop culture today. So for what it's worth, she's not bad, she's just highly overrated.

Aside from that issue which will probably displease most readers, I still think people who haven't seen "The Wizard of Oz" owe it to themselves to check it out and see why it has singlehandedly become one of the most recognized films in history.

The Sound of Music

Who would have thought that the most popular and beloved movie musical ever made turned out to be based on a true story? And not just any true story, a true story that is in some way related to the events of World War II. On paper, taking such a story and transitioning it into musical form would sound like a recipe for disaster. But in the case of director Robert Wise's Oscar-winning "The Sound of Music" (1965), it somehow miraculously comes together very well. It helps that the story itself is a credible one to be put to music seeing that it involves singers. Also, if there's terrific scenery, cinematography, and music to accompany a plot like this, it's all the more reason to celebrate its triumphant success.

Julie Andrews delivers two enjoyable performances in a row (after her Oscar-winning turn in "Mary Poppins" (1964)) as Maria, a free-spirited Austrian nun who seems out of place alongside her fellow nuns. She is sent by Mother Abbess (Peggy Wood) to become the governess of seven children for the widowed Captain Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). His strict disciplinary order in his house becomes a bit excessive for Maria, especially when it comes to the children. After she takes the children out to play and teaches them how to sing, the Captain reluctantly lets down his defenses and eventually becomes enamored with her. However, he's already set to be engaged with a wealthy socialite from Vienna by the name of Baroness Elsa Schraeder (Eleanor Parker). Furthermore, Austria is being taken over by the Third Reich and the Captain is being forced to fight in the German Navy. How will everything pan out for Maria, the Captain and his children?

To reveal anything else regarding the main narrative would involve major spoilers for those who have yet to see it. I've heard that this film doesn't accurately follow the true events it was based on (particularly that the Captain wasn't that strict, some of the names were changed, their property wasn't that massive, one of the characters is fictional, etc.). I've also heard complaints from critics saying that the film is "too sweet" as if implying that there's hardly anything at stake for our main characters save for the Nazi invasion in the final act. And frankly, I'd be lying if I said I didn't see or understand where they might be coming from. But at the same time, I have to be honest and say that I didn't mind.

First of all, you have to realize that this is a difficult kind of film to make. We're talking about a movie musical that is based on a true story, two separate things that shouldn't really be combined. Imagine a musical centered on the Boston Tea Party. Sounds impractical on paper, doesn't it? In the case of "The Sound of Music" which centers on Austrian singers escaping their Nazi-occupied country, it actually works. It helps that it's about singers since it warrants these songs being incorporated into this narrative as the children make progress on their singing skills for the music festival in the climax. Second of all, I felt like the way they handled the love triangle between Maria, the Captain and the Baroness was actually pretty subtle. Instead of being as over-dramatic as a soap opera, it feels as plausible and elegant as something like "Downton Abbey".

When it comes to the film's music, all I can say is that it's Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. No matter what Rodgers and Hammerstein musical you see, whether it's "Oklahoma!", "Carousel", or "The King and I", you can bet that the best part is going to be the music. With songs like the immortal opening title tune, the charming "Sixteen Going on Seventeen", the inspiring "Do Re Mi" (inspiring in that finds a way to basically teach people how to sing), and the epic "Climb Every Mountain", we see this dynamic duo at the peak of their power. There's a good reason why these famous songs have been around for such a long time. They're catchy, well-written, executed perfectly by the singers singing them, and are simply filled with joy and passion all around. If the reprise of "Climb Every Mountain" in the film's final scene doesn't move you, I'm not sure what else will.

The cinematography in "The Sound of Music" is some of the best you'll ever see in film history. Remember in my review of "Bambi" (1942) when I mentioned that forests remind me of that film since it had that deep an impact on me? Well, I experienced an identical reaction with "The Sound of Music" in that mountains and lakes remind me of the Trapp family climbing up the mountain together in the end as well as the mountain, lake, and gardens in the back of the Trapp estate. When the epic scale and grand beauty of the landscapes in Austria are captured as excellent as they are here, these heavenly images will stay with you for as long as you live.

To be completely honest, I'm really rather surprised by how well "The Sound of Music" holds up many years after its release. We all know how outstanding the music is, how scenic the images on screen are, and how good the performances and singing by Andrews, Plummer, and the child and teenage actors are. But the story and the way it's told is very surprising mainly because of how much it grew on me. As I better understood the risks of taking a story that happened in real life and translating it into a palatable musical, the more I appreciated what the filmmakers accomplished. It was a treat and a pleasure to revisit "The Sound of Music" again, and I'm fairly certain that it won't be my last.

State Fair
State Fair(1945)

When people think of the word "musical", one of the first few names that usually come to mind are songwriters Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. The most famous musical they've written was also one of the highest grossing movie musicals of all time, "The Sound of Music" (1965). While I won't address the impact that film has made to American culture, I will instead recommend the fans of that movie to take a look at the first movie musical that the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein brought to the screen, "State Fair" (1945). While this film probably won't please those who detest the musical genre altogether, it has plenty of things that musical fans including myself will like.

The story to "State Fair" is pretty straightforward. The Frake family is getting ready to head to the Iowa State Fair with each family member having their own dreams about the fair. For instance, Margy (Jeanne Crain) is eager to take a break from the same old routine so that she can feel a little less gloomy. Her brother Wayne (Dick Haymes) is looking forward to the fair even though his current girlfriend can't go with him. Their father Abel (Charles Winninger) is prepping his pig Blue Boy to win at the fair and bets his neighbor five bucks that nothing will go wrong during the trip. Their mother Melissa (Fay Bainter) is preparing pickles and mincemeat for the cooking competition. When they all get to the fair, Margy finds love with news reporter Pat (Dana Andrews) while Wayne also finds romance with band singer Emily Edwards (Vivian Blaine). Will their new relationships go well? Will their mom and dad win at the fair?

This story won't be everyone's cup of tea especially if you're not into musicals or love stories, and if you're looking for intense conflicts along with a complex plot and characters. But if you go into this film with the mindset that this is meant to be a light and fluffy musical, then I think you'll like it fine. Though I thought the story certainly wasn't much and there were some odd elements in the narrative (namely the ability of the pigs to "talk" to each other), the four main leads do at least have some sort of likability to them. The chemistry between Haymes and Blaine in particular is the strongest element of the script. Not only does it feel like the most realistic and natural part of the narrative, but they also have a certain charisma on screen together.

But as most of us know, the real selling point of almost any Rodgers and Hammerstein movie musical, such as "The Sound of Music" (1965), are the songs themselves. Luckily for "State Fair", it does not disappoint in this category. Though it's been said that her singing voice was dubbed by Louanne Hogan, Jeanne Crain truly owns it when selling the lovely, Oscar-winning tune "It Might As Well Be Spring". The same can be said for Vivian Blaine for singing the exceptional "That's for Me", save for the dubbing since she sings it herself. Blaine and Haymes bounce off of each other very well in the fun musical number "Isn't It Kinda Fun". In terms of its musical soundtrack, "State Fair" is truly a winner.

The film was shot in Technicolor when it was being made during the end of World War II. And in a time when U.S. citizens were worried about the status of their loved ones fighting the war overseas, films like "State Fair" seemed to be made at the right place at the right time. It has some wonderful music, bright Technicolor cinematography, nice costumes, and at least two charming leads to bring it all together. Regardless of what criticisms modern audiences might have against it, no one can deny that this picture does what it was made to do: provide pure escapism. And on that level, "State Fair" is a nice and pleasant trip.

High Society
High Society(1956)

In 1940, a film called "The Philadelphia Story", starring Cary Grant, James Stewart, and Katherine Hepburn, was released to critical and financial success. It also received six Academy Award nominations, and won two for its screenplay and James Stewart's performance. Sixteen years later, a musical remake to this film titled "High Society" was made, this time starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Grace Kelly. Before I delve into my thoughts on "High Society", I'd like to briefly share my opinion on remakes in general. Unless they are based on a film that was bad and/or improve upon the flaws of their predecessor, I find remakes completely unnecessary and lazy especially when it's a good film that's being remade. So although it is a remake of a well-made comedy, "High Society" works reasonably well for what it is which is light, amusing musical entertainment.

A jazz musician by the name of C.K. Dexter-Haven (Bing Crosby) has recently been divorced from wealthy socialite Tracy Samantha Lord (Grace Kelly, in her final film role before officially becoming Princess Grace of Monaco). Despite this circumstance along with her recent engagement to snooty gentleman George Kittredge (John Lund), Dexter is still in love with her and determined to win her back. Things become further complicated when a magazine sends reporter Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra) and photographer Liz Imbrie (Celeste Holm) to cover the wedding in exchange of disregarding humiliating information about the family. Though Mike is very reluctant to be there, he does become attracted to Tracy as well. Now, Tracy must choose between Dexter, Mike, and George before the big day arrives.

If I could come up with only one reason why you should see this film regardless if you possibly don't care for either musicals or remakes, it would be for the cast. I don't recall another film in history that has brought together Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly all in one film. Kelly ends her impressive acting career here with arguably the only comedic role she's played. One could say she's mostly imitating Katherine Hepburn here and that some of her previous roles (notably Frances Stevens in "To Catch a Thief") technically had even more underlying humor present. She still has fun with this role and has not lost any of the charm or beauty that made people like me love her in the first place.

Crosby and Sinatra also bring their usual charm and star power to their roles, most notably in the film's best musical number "Well, Did You Evah". I liked the chemistry between Kelly and Sinatra, and how he has to take time to warm up to her ways. Even though Crosby and Sinatra are both competing for Kelly's affection, I didn't mind that they were still friendly towards one another. If it wasn't for the star power of Kelly, Sinatra or Crosby, I would have forgotten that there were even actors in this film since the characters themselves are pretty underdeveloped, especially George. George is the type of character that was only created for the convenience of the plot and nothing more. He is an exceptionally poor antagonist to the story because he has no personality to him and he doesn't seem to enjoy being there.

I've already implied that "Well, Did You Evah" was the musical highlight of the film, but how do the other songs written by Cole Porter hold up in my mind? I'd say that with the exception of one or two forgettable tunes, the others range from solid to catchy. "High Society" (the opening tune sung by Louis Armstrong and his band), "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", and "You're Sensational" come to mind when naming other well written songs. If you're a hardcore fan of Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and the musical film genre in general, I think you'll find "High Society" to be fine, fluffy evening entertainment.

Thor: The Dark World

It seems that film goers nowadays have a sudden fascination with the God of Thunder known as Thor. For three years in a row, a film based on the popular superhero has been released each year. In 2011, director Kenneth Branagh released "Thor", a solid introduction for newcomers to the comic book character. Last year, writer-director Joss Whedon brought us "The Avengers" in which Thor battled Loki and his forces with the help of Iron Man, Captain America, and the Hulk. Now, we have director Alan Taylor's "Thor: The Dark World", the latest film on the adventures of Thor and also the weakest.

Summarizing the plot to this sequel is almost pointless given the narrative's sloppiness and confusion. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is back in his home world of Asgard where he is being prepared to eventually take his father's (Anthony Hopkins) place as king of Asgard. His adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is imprisoned in the dungeons of Asgard for his actions in the previous films mentioned earlier. When Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Thor's love interest from Earth, is accidentally transported to another world and a powerful weapon infects her body, Thor must do what he can to save Jane's life before the Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) tries to destroy her.

From that plot summary, it would not sound as if it was too confusing, right? Well, now let's add several subplots into the mix. These subplots involving a romantic triangle with Thor, Jane, and Thor's childhood friend Sif (Jaimie Alexander), exposition regarding Malekith, Jane hitting it off with a man on Earth, Jane's fellow scientist Erik (Stellan Skarsgard) running around naked on television (No joke), and Jane's other assistant scientist Darcy (Kat Dennings) having an intern. What makes the narrative to this film so frustrating compared to the original film is that these subplots either put the narrative to a screeching halt or are not compelling and well developed enough to belong in the story.

The subplot involving Darcy and her intern could have easily been edited out since it completely distracts from the tone that this film was creating. The love triangle between Thor, Jane, and Sif could have also been taken out of the final cut since it was barely even there to begin with. Malekith is one of the most forgettable villains in recent memory due to zero character development, generic designs, and a lack of excitement on screen. Anyone who hasn't read any of the comic books based on Thor will most likely be the first to become confused by the dialogue and the plot of this film since it is that foreign to understand or even get into.

What director Taylor does do well with this follow-up is incorporating challenging dilemmas for Loki between him, his foster mother (Rene Russo), and Thor. Nothing else can be discussed further on this matter since it deals with heavy spoilers, but that part is handled well. Aside from that, "Thor: The Dark World" is a narrative mess.

The Birds
The Birds(1963)

To those who have yet to see Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 horror picture The Birds, I highly recommend checking out the film's original theatrical trailer first. It not only has an exquisite sense of humor throughout, but it also contains an element of truth to what it's trying to say to its audience. What I mean by the past comment I made is that along with preparing us for what type of film The Birds will be, the trailer has a whimsical way of explaining man's relationship and history with the entire bird species. For instance, Hitchcock himself mentions that the turkey is always the guest of honor at Thanksgiving, albeit for the wrong reasons. Hitchcock makes similar statements throughout the trailer that might explain why almost all the birds in this picture are acting the way they do.

But enough on the trailer, what's the story of this film like? Well, the story for The Birds is pretty straightforward and self-explanatory. At a San Francisco bird shop, a young woman named Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren, in her screen debut) meets a man named Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) who is looking to purchase a pair of lovebirds for his sister's birthday. When Mitch is unable to find any before he heads to his hometown in Bodega Bay, Melanie tracks down his address, decides to purchase a pair of lovebirds, and drives down to Bodega Bay herself. Talk about going out of her way for such a trivial matter. I'd say she really likes this guy, even though she claims to have no interest in him.

Once she arrives, Melanie sneaks across the bay via motor boat to secretly drop off the birds inside Mitch's house as a surprise to Mitch and her sister. In the middle of doing that, not only does she get caught by Mitch, but she also gets attacked by a seagull for no apparent reason. Melanie reluctantly stays around Bodega Bay for a while to recover from her unusual injury while developing a relationship with Mitch. She even meets his mother (Jessica Tandy), his younger sister Cathy (Veronica Cartwright), and his ex-lover Annie (Suzanne Pleshette) all in one day. During her stay, the behavior of the local birds begins to become more unusually hostile. Their behavior ranges from attacking innocent children at a birthday party to invading their neighbor's houses and killing them.

Why are these birds attacking everybody? How come they take breaks in between massive attacks? What has humanity done to cause these birds to attack or kill everybody they come across? When will it all end and how? These are just some of the main questions our main characters ask about these sudden occurrences. And while the film doesn't exactly give us an answer regarding why the birds suddenly act this way, the trailer supplies us with the idea that the history between humans and birds was not a pleasant one. We're also given the idea that no matter what we're capable of doing, there's no way in which we could exterminate all of the birds anyways. The reason being is simply that there are many different varieties of birds and each of them are vastly populous.

I won't say whether or not the special effects for The Birds hold up since there's practically no point. Modern filmgoers can easily tell when the birds are really there or when they aren't just by figuring out which shots are filmed in green screen backgrounds. What I will say is that I appreciate how Hitchcock creates suspense in this thriller simply through the usage of silence. This picture doesn't contain a musical score of any kind, but the film does use some very minimal sounds in the background which gives it a realistic feel of sorts. There are sounds of birds far away, cars riding across the roads, people breathing or crying heavily, sounds along those lines. And when there's just silence in some scenes, it contributes to the suspense further. So the usage of sound in The Birds is creative in that regard.

While the love story involving Melanie and Mitch may not be the most brilliant romantic setup Hitchcock concocted, it works okay nonetheless. The conversations involving the birds can also get a little tiresome at times. But to be fair, it is weird that birds would suddenly attack this town at this certain time, so the conversations are justified to a certain extent. What makes The Birds a strong Hitchcock picture is due in large part to the usage of sound and silence, Hitchcock's direction and storytelling, and the overall idea that birds may have been unfairly treated by humans for many years. It's rare that I discuss a film's theatrical trailer in a review, but in the special case of The Birds, it's necessary to demonstrate the possible ideas that this film is trying to subliminally get across. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to prepare myself a chicken salad sandwich - then again, maybe not.


I do not know much about the horror film genre nor do I have that much interest in learning more about it. The reason being is that these films usually have such little versatility that "if you've seen one, you've seen them all" as Debbie Reynolds would say in Singin' in the Rain (1952). But I do know this much, the horror genre would not be what it is today without legendary director Alfred Hitchcock or his highly celebrated 1960 suspense/horror film Psycho. Its infamous shower scene has been acclaimed as one of the greatest scenes in cinema history, and is usually the first (and sometimes only) thing people talk about when having a conversation about this film. But as we all know, we can't call a movie great simply because of one scene, so let's take a look at what the rest of Psycho has to offer.

A young woman named Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is struggling to get married to her boyfriend Sam (John Gavin) because of their financial troubles. When a client at her job entrusts Marion with $40,000 in cash to purchase a house for their daughter, she steals the money and heads out of town to Phoenix to meet with Sam. While on the road, she purchases a new car in exchange for her old one, and then pulls up to an isolated lodging area called the Bates Motel to spend the night. This motel is run by a nervous young man named Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) who lives with his "ailing" mother nearby. Without spoiling anything for those who haven't seen this film yet, let's just say that her stay at the Bates Motel is causing Sam, her sister Lila (Vera Miles), and detective Arbogast (Martin Balsam) to worry about her whereabouts.

As I've stated earlier, any hardcore film buff that has seen this flick should already be aware of the shower scene and its significance in film history. It has constantly been dissected by film historians, Hitchcock experts, and whatnot. It has been satirized many times in pop culture either with the musical score by Bernard Herrmann or the actual visuals and shots themselves or even both. But since that scene contains major spoilers and has already been dissected to death, I will not talk about the shower scene in this review. What I will talk about however is the rest of the film itself which may be even better than most people give it credit for.

For instance, how about the way the film's screenwriter Joseph Stefano handles the character of Marion Crane? Yes, the way the screenwriters develop the character of Norman Bates is also terrific, but more on him later. It's not every day you come across a film in which its main female character is willing to do anything including stealing money to pursue a happy lifestyle of her own. There's a very well directed scene by Hitchcock in which Marion is driving on her way to Phoenix and seemingly imagining what her colleagues at work might be saying while she is away. This particular scene works because we don't know for certain if it's simply all in her head or if it's really unfolding while she is out of town. Did anyone else besides me catch Marion smirking during this scene as if she enjoyed stealing the money?

So we have this twisted characteristic to the character of Marion, and then we also have Norman Bates himself. Norman's mother is so unusually dependent on him to the point that he has to live at home with her next to the motel. If this somehow wasn't surreal enough considering that he should be living a life of his own, he also begins to hate his own mother for what she's become. When we see Marion and Norman having dinner together at the motel, we can clearly see how much of a nervous wreck he has become on a daily basis. The way that Hitchcock and screenwriter Stefano handle the mystery behind Norman's ailing mother is really interesting since it arouses our suspicions that something may not be right in this motel after all.

Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins have never had more memorable roles than here, Vera Miles is completely convincing as Marion's impatient, non-quitting sister, and Martin Balsam plays detective Arbogast as if he were a real, credible detective. The film is loaded with suspense-filled sequences and many elements of mystery even after its most iconic scene has passed. The dialogue here is interesting because while the characters do say some awkward things towards one another, you get the sense that it was supposed to be awkward and are willing to go along with it as a result. Bernard Herrmann creates yet another strong and catchy musical score that joins the ranks of his previous work in other Hitchcock pictures such as Vertigo (1958) and North by Northwest (1959).

There's very little else that can be said about Psycho to those who have yet to see it without spoiling anything about the plot. It should be noted that Alfred Hitchcock decided to initiate a "no late admission" policy for the film since he believed that if anyone entered late, they would not be able to see enough of Janet Leigh and would feel ripped off. That just goes to show you just how passionate Hitchcock was about not just the quality of his work, but also the audience's satisfaction with seeing his work. What else do I need to say? It's freaking Psycho.

North by Northwest

There are a handful of scenarios that each of us hope never to go through because they can cause us so much confusion when we experience them. For me, one such scenario I hope never to be placed under is being mistaken for another man to the point where it gets me into deep trouble. In able for me to explain to my readers why I do not desire to be put under such a circumstance, I must ask them to immediately go and see director Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 spy thriller North by Northwest as soon as they can. Not only will they be guaranteed to have an exciting time watching it, they will also be completely hooked into how the main character of this film almost constantly gets screwed.

Our main character of North by Northwest is advertising executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant). He is heavily mistaken for a man by the name of George Kaplan and kidnapped by two men who work for spy Phillip Vandamm (James Mason). Thinking that he is George, Phillip claims that Roger has been spying on his activities and hires his right-hand man Leonard (Martin Landau) to dispose of him. Though Roger is able to escape being killed by Phillip's men, he is also very drunk while driving home which gets him into deep trouble with the police.

When he is unable to prove to his mother (Jessie Royce Landis) and the police what happened between him, Phillip and his right-hand men, Roger goes to search for this George Kaplan person himself to clear up this colossal misunderstanding. Through a series of ingenious plot developments, Roger finds himself going on the run and traveling all across the United States. Along the way, he meets a young, beautiful lady named Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) who helps him with solving his crisis and becomes his romantic interest. Little does he know however that Eve herself may be associated with Roger getting into this situation to begin with.

Some have considered North by Northwest "the first James Bond movie" in that they share many similarities between each other. Among these similarities are that they both involve secret agents, multiple settings, a daring leading man, a worthy adversary, and a lovely romantic interest for our hero. Looking back at this film again, I can not only see how much the James Bond films were influenced by this film, I can also see how the TV show Mad Men could have been influenced by this as well. They both center on men who work in advertising, are untrustworthy in some way (according to their own family members), and they both fall in love with a woman they just met (Don Draper meets multiple women, but I digress).

North by Northwest is more than a major influence on future films or shows of its genre and other genres, it's also perfect entertainment that stands the test of time many years later. From when Phillip's men first pick up Roger and start his nationwide adventure to the climax at Mount Rushmore and the brilliant payoff that proceeds it, this film is a jolly fun time all the way through. Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman do an outstanding job at keeping the audience enthralled every step of the way with nail-biting suspense and classy dialogue.

When Roger is on the train to Chicago with no ticket and the police all throughout the nation are going after him for a crime he didn't commit, that's gripping enough already. But Hitchcock and Lehman go even further than that. They also add a love story between him and a potential spy into the mix. Thanks to this subplot, we now start to ask ourselves questions regarding what will happen next. Will she stab him in the back and turn him in? What is her role in getting him entangled into this mess to begin with? Will she do what she can to protect him from being caught by the police? If so, how will she pull it off? In short, this romantic subplot is beneficial to the success of this story since it contributes significantly to the height of the film's drama as opposed to slowing it down.

Of course, that isn't the only reason why the romance between Roger and Eve works unbelievably well. The romance also works splendidly because of the excellent chemistry between stars Grant and Saint. The exchanges of dialogue between them are outstanding, and the way the actors bounce off of each other seems completely natural to me. The first conversation they have on the train to Chicago, when they become better acquainted with each other and Eve subliminally warns Roger that the police are boarding the train, is some of the finest screenwriting in any motion picture I've seen. It's never painfully obvious or needlessly confusing. It always has the right amount of wit, intelligence and charm.

Cary Grant once again proves why he was one of Hollywood's greatest stars with his performance here as Roger Thornhill, arguably his best role in my mind. He's cool, clever, smart, handsome, everything you could possibly want from a leading man and then some. Eva Marie Saint continues Hitchcock's outstanding streak of phenomenal blonde female characters, and joins the ranks of Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955) as well as Kim Novak in Vertigo (1958). Her physical beauty is natural and her wardrobe is lovely, but her character also has compelling features of her own. To talk any more about those features however would be delving into spoilers, so I won't.

All I can say is that North by Northwest is not just one of my favorite films from Alfred Hitchcock, it's one of my all-time favorite films. Everything works from the acting to the screenplay to the direction to Bernard Herrmann's tremendous musical score. Don't miss out on this one.

Shadow of a Doubt

Have you ever had a family member that you dearly love who has been keeping a dark secret about themselves from you for your whole life? If so, then you'll be the first to relate to the main character of Alfred Hitchcock's 1943 mystery Shadow of a Doubt. Our main protagonist is Charlotte "Charlie" Newton (Teresa Wright), a bored teenager in a small California town who has just learned that her uncle (Joseph Cotten), with the same name, is coming to town to visit her and her family. During his visit, she notices that her uncle is acting very odd at times, mainly when he refuses to have his picture be taken by strangers. Things change further when she discovers the last thing that her uncle would want her to discover, that he may indeed be a murderer on the run.

Director Alfred Hitchcock considered Shadow of a Doubt his favorite film out of all the films he made. Coming from the same talented filmmaker who made Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960), that's a high honor indeed. Looking at it again, I can certainly understand why that might be. It's basically a story about a young woman who goes through the most backstabbing situation she could find herself in. That, of course, being that she has a family member whom she can no longer trust because of a crime they committed. What's worse is that she wanted to know what secret this person was keeping from her in the first place. It's devastating because she sees another side to this person that she never thought she'd see and also didn't want them to become.

Shadow of a Doubt tells a powerful story that reminds us that there are going to be family members that aren't always going to be as trustworthy as we think they will be. No matter how hard we try to keep in touch with everyone in our families, there's always going to be difficulty in keeping tabs on each other and trying to know everything about a certain family member. In the case of the relationship between Uncle Charlie and Charlotte's mother Emma (Patricia Collinge), we have a brother-sister relationship in which the brother is trying to keep a secret that would separate him from his sister further.

If there are times in this movie in which you have to close your eyes because the worst thing imaginable is about to happen to these characters, then that means this film is doing its job. The reason being is that through all this dread with Charlotte emotionally separating further from her uncle, there is underlying suspense that indicates that it only gets worse. The screenplay by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, and Alma Reville creates tension all throughout the film and makes these characters feel real. It's fascinating that Charlotte's father (Henry Travers) invites his neighbor (Hume Cronyn) over for dinner every night just to talk about committing the perfect crime. All I can say is it's no wonder Charlotte doesn't react kindly to these conversations at dinner on top of her dilemma with her uncle.

I sincerely believe that films and shows along the lines of Breaking Bad owe their existence to this masterful thriller. Joseph Cotten is chillingly good as the fishy uncle and Teresa Wright is full of life as his most cherished niece. The plot is powerful and very well paced by Hitchcock and his screenwriters. To talk any more about Shadow of a Doubt would only spoil the suspense along with your enjoyment of seeing it firsthand. So by all means, check out this Hitchcock classic and see why it's Hitchcock's own personal favorite.

Modern Times
Modern Times(1936)

When you ask people nowadays whether or not they've heard of a silent film, chances are they probably haven't. But worst of all, they don't have enough interest in seeing such a film because they simply can't stomach the thought of no sound coming from the actor's mouths. However, for those who do know what silent films are, the name that first comes to mind when talking about silent movies is usually Charlie Chaplin, and for good reason.

I cannot think of any silent filmmaker other than Charlie Chaplin whose works have still been able to please nearly everybody who's watched them several years later. So it makes it all the more interesting to note that his last and greatest silent film, Modern Times (1936), isn't really a silent film. Although there is a musical score and a couple bits of sound, it isn't even a sound film either. Basically, Modern Times is basically a silent film and a sound film both at the same time, but most importantly, it's a unique piece of art.

Modern Times follows a factory worker (Charlie Chaplin) who loses his monotonous job on the assembly line after suffering a mental breakdown. He recovers from that breakdown, but he is soon mistaken for the leader of a Communist demonstration and is then thrown in jail. After he prevents a jail outbreak, he is released early for good behavior. While he is searching for a new job, he comes across an orphaned gamine girl (Paulette Goddard) who has recently been experiencing bad luck just like him. With no one else in their lives, these two stick together and do what they can to make it through a modern society in which more emphasis is being placed on industrialization as opposed to the individual.

I do not recall seeing a film that blended comedy and drama quite as well as Modern Times. This really is a film that is side-splittingly funny and heartbreakingly sad both at the same time. Though it is highly unfortunate that Chaplin's character accidentally lands in jail as many times as he does, life outside of the jail cell for him is almost just as harsh and unforgiving. He has significant trouble at performing his jobs correctly and he keeps getting fired from job after job as a result, and yet he still maintains a generally positive attitude and still puts in his best effort anyways.

To create a likable character with those characteristics is no easy task especially considering that this is someone who lands in jail multiple times. But not only does writer-director Charlie Chaplin manage to pull off that tricky challenge, we're also somehow able to relate to the main protagonist in more ways than one. An example of an excellent scene that shows the factory worker's humanity is on the first (and last) day of his new job at the shipyards. He has to find a large wedge for his boss identical to the one in his hand. Without ruining the joke of that scene, let's just say he finds such a wedge in the wrong place. There are similar scenes like that throughout that make Modern Times such a charming silent film.

Another classic scene is when the factory worker has to test out the feeding machine. This feeding machine, of course, is designed to feed the workers their food while they are still on the job, so the company's production increases. And while this scene is very funny and executed exceedingly well, it makes us all the more grateful that no such machine exists in today's workforce due to its unintended consequences. But there's more to Modern Times than the straightforward hilarity and humanity that is melded into it. There is an important and life-changing message about society in general that Chaplin gets across very well.

Modern Times is a film that emphasizes the idea that every person is different and that humans are not machines like society wants them to be. No matter how hard we try, we all make mistakes and we can't please everyone we come across. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, we all come from different backgrounds, and we all have our own unique skills and theories. This film basically reassures even the least talented individuals that not only will everything still be okay in the end, but that it's also okay to stand out from the crowd. Chaplin expresses this encouraging idea to his audience perfectly through well thought out writing with brilliant character development and plotting, and excellent direction that blends perfect comedic timing with tender emotion.

I loved Paulette Goddard as the orphaned gamine who accompanies the factory worker through tough times. I admired how active her character was and how she does whatever she can to either survive or help the factory worker out. By letting her do stuff like stealing bread, finding some sort of shelter, or even landing a job, she becomes a more three-dimensional character and easier for anyone to identify with her. I'm not certain whether the relationship between Goddard's and Chaplin's characters is a romance or a friendship, but their on-screen chemistry works well either way for me. The fact that they're loyal and content with each other's company makes me warm up to them instantly regardless.

Modern Times was a special film in my life the first time I watched it, and it still is now. It was the first silent film I had ever seen, and I couldn't have been more blessed with this film having that distinctive honor. I have only seen a few silent films since then such as City Lights (1931) and The Artist (2011). Though the silent films I just mentioned are well crafted in their own right, it's still going to be exceedingly difficult finding a better silent film that Modern Times. It's funny, sad, relevant, relatable, heartwarming, and easily one of the all-time greatest films.


Director Stanley Donen's 1963 mystery Charade, starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, has often been considered the best film that Alfred Hitchcock had never made. And to give credit where credit is due, Charade does resemble a typical Hitchcock picture in terms of its style and premise. They even got Cary Grant to star in this picture, who starred in many of Hitchcock's earlier pictures such as To Catch a Thief (1955), North by Northwest (1959), and Notorious (1946). Whether or not Charade is truly worthy of comparison to Hitchcock's best films remains to be seen. In the meantime, let's venture forth into the premise behind this picture that Hitchcock didn't make.

A young lady by the name of Reggie Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) has recently learned that her husband has been murdered. The only item in his possession in which the informants were able to recover was his travel bag which is filled with other various items. During his funeral, she notices three suspicious men (James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Ned Glass) attending to see the body simply to confirm that this person is dead. A CIA administrator (Walter Matthau) informs her that these three men are after the money that was in her husband's possession.

He also informs her that her husband was with these men on an important mission to deliver $250,000 in gold to the French Resistance. But they all stole the gold, her husband double crossed these men, and he took all the gold for himself. Now this administrator tells them that not only do these three men want the money back, but so does the U.S. government. The administrator insists that Reggie has possession of the money, but she doesn't know where it is. So these three men are now coming after her to retrieve her husband's wealth. A stranger by the name of Peter Joshua (Cary Grant) helps her out with her dilemma. But not only does he need to know where the money is, he may or may not have been involved with the other three men and her husband in their mission.

It's important to note that Stanley Donen, the director of this film, was best known for directing such beloved musicals as Singin' in the Rain (1952), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and On the Town (1949). With a resume like that, you wouldn't expect a director like Donen to be able to do justice in replicating a Hitchcock picture. But somehow even with his inexperience with Hitchcockian type thrillers, he gets Hitchcock's style down very well here. It helps that the plot to Charade bares many similarities to such Hitchcock classics as To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest. Chief among these similarities being that the main character is trying to evade someone or some people after them for something they didn't do, and finding love with someone along the way whom they can and can't trust.

The dilemma that Reggie gets into is relentless between the three guys interrogating her for information regarding her husband's fortune and Peter's many secrets that he's keeping from her. I admire how well she handles all of this madness that suddenly occurs in her life as a result of her husband's actions. Because of the way she handles this whole situation to the best of her ability, we are able to have an easier time sympathizing with her. And although he basically lies to her more than once, Peter is also worthy of sympathy as well. Without revealing any more about his character, we sympathize with him and the lies he has to tell because he basically has no other option in terms of helping Reggie out.

Are the antagonists in this film that memorable in any way? I'm afraid not, since they're pretty basic character wise and are simply there to progress the story and nothing more. Are there a few scenes that put the film to a halt or slow it down at least? Yes, one scene that comes to mind is when Reggie is conversing with Peter and they literally talk about the movie An American in Paris (1951) for whatever reason. In the end, I'm just not ready to consider Charade a great film yet mainly because it didn't quite blow my mind like some of Hitchcock's best work. I think it could have ended earlier and gotten to the point a tad faster, but that's just me. Any hardcore Hitchcock fans who see Charade will find plenty of things to admire about it, mainly how closely it resembles the work of the Master of Suspense himself.

Strangers on a Train

Have you ever been acquainted with a person whom you thought was just joking around, but was actually deadly serious? In director Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 mystery Strangers on a Train, tennis player Guy Haines (Farley Granger) encounters such a man by the name of Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) on his way back home on a train. Bruno tells him that he has figured out an idea for a perfect crime and the idea goes something like this. Two people like themselves meet on a train for the first time with no connections between them whatsoever. Both of them are aggravated with certain family members that they wish would go away. The "perfect crime" that Bruno has in mind is to swap each other's murders. In other words, Bruno murders Guy's ex-wife and Guy murders Bruno's father.

Thinking that Bruno is kidding about the whole thing, Guy bids him farewell while unintentionally sending him a mixed message. Yes, Guy seems to overlook the fact that Bruno was deadly serious about this plan the whole time. So when Bruno manages to murder Guy's ex-wife, Guy is left in an unfortunate, puzzling situation. Does he fulfill his end of the bargain regardless of the fact that he didn't officially agree to this deal in the first place? Or does he find some sort of way to turn Bruno in even though he knows Bruno might say that Guy wanted to get rid of his wife in the first place and conjure up similar lies about their encounter?

Right off the bat, the first thing I should say about Strangers on a Train is that it has a perfect premise for a plot. I love how Guy isn't sure whether or not Bruno is for real or if he is just joking about this the whole time. If you think about it, the reason this premise is so outstanding is due in large part to its dark sense of humor. There is a crucial exchange of conversation between Guy and Bruno in which Guy is completely unaware of the subtext behind what Bruno is really asking him. It is because of this conversation that Guy fails to see that Bruno wasn't really asking him to murder his father. He pretty much forced him to participate in his diabolical murder plan solely for his own benefits. So the film is well thought through in that sense.

In terms of character development, although the character of Bruno is exceptionally well handled and well performed by Robert Walker, anything else relating to Guy for whatever reason is a bit of a bore. Despite the complicated dilemma he has to face, there really wasn't anything else about Guy that stood out for me personally. He was a little too much of a blank slate character wise. Guy's love interest Anne Morton (Ruth Roman) was not memorable in the slightest and did not really contribute much to the advancement of the narrative. However, there is an entertaining side character named Barbara Morton (Patricia Hitchcock, Alfred Hitchcock's sole daughter) who has a handful of scene-stealing lines to work with.

In spite of the overwhelming feeling that Strangers on a Train is only a good film as opposed to a great one, the film is well directed by Hitchcock as always. The scene involving Bruno's murder of Guy's ex-wife has a superb build-up including a shot where it appears that he is getting closer to murdering his victim, but actually isn't. Another scene that intercuts between Guy's tennis match and Bruno recovering a piece of evidence is also similarly well directed. The climax at the merry-go-round also has a similarly brilliant buildup and of course is loaded with suspense as it should be. With an exceptional plot, scene-stealing work from Robert Walker and Patricia Hitchcock, and Alfred Hitchcock's trustworthy directorial hand, Strangers on a Train is worth catching a single viewing.

The Lady Vanishes

I ask you to imagine that you are getting ready to board a train the following day. In that time before you get on the train the next day, you make a new friend who will also be on the same train that you are going on. When you are boarding the train the next day, someone drops something on your head (whether it's accidental or intentional remains to be seen) and your new friend helps you get to your seat. Your train is now progressing to its destination and your friend is taking care of you for the beginning of your travel. They buy you a cup of tea to heal your headache and you share a conversation in which you learn more about each other. Then, you both go back to your seats and you take a nap. Now, imagine that after waking up from this nap, your friend does not appear to be in their seat.

You ask the other passengers nearby about the whereabouts of your friend. You describe what your friend looks like to them, that way they know who you are talking about. Not only do they claim that they have not seen them, but they also claim that they have never heard of such a person sitting there. You ask any person you can come across on the train who has seen this person when you were with them. They say the same thing as the people you've talked to earlier. You simply refuse to believe what they are saying, and insist that you indeed were accompanied by this person. No matter how hard you try, you cannot convince anyone that such a person was on the train. Are you just imagining things or is there something rather fishy going on in this train ride?

In the case of Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood), the main character of director Alfred Hitchcock's outstanding 1938 British comic thriller The Lady Vanishes, that is exactly the dilemma she is left to face. In her search for the whereabouts of an elderly former governess by the name of Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty), she is accompanied by a young musicologist named Gilbert (Michael Redgrave). She does not care for him at first due to his behavior the night before, but as he assists her in solving this case, that all changes of course. As these two get closer and closer to solving this mind-boggling disappearance, they discover that there is much more behind this disappearance than they expected.

Without giving anything away, there is a big plot development revealed later in the film that is very well built-up and very surprising both at the same time. High praise should be given to Hitchcock and screenwriters Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder for the film's masterful storytelling and pacing. I really admire how they let the story play out as naturally as it did since they made it feel like everything is unfolding right before our eyes. As a result, the film never feels predictable or contrived so much as it feels realistic and full of surprises around the corner. In able for a relatively simple story such as this to still hold up well decades after its original release, it should be able to retain an execution similar to what Hitchcock does here with The Lady Vanishes.

But as terrific as Alfred Hitchcock's direction is, credit must also go to screenwriters Gilliat and Launder for giving Hitchcock a worthy screenplay to work with. I am very enthusiastic over how they wrote and set up the story, so that it could have been possible that Iris was imagining this person the whole time. It just makes Iris all the more sympathetic with her peculiar dilemma and gives each of these other characters a mysterious quality to them. Credit must also go to the main actors of the picture including Lockwood, Redgrave, Whitty, and Paul Lukas as a brain surgeon who proposes that our main character could be under hallucination. The actors incorporate enough charm and intelligence into their characters that they become more than plot devices used to progress the story, they feel like real people.

It had been said that The Lady Vanishes was the film that convinced David O. Selznick, renowned producer of Gone With the Wind (1939), that Alfred Hitchcock had a future in making films in Hollywood and it is safe to say that he was right. After this film became a huge success in Britain where it first premiered, Hitchcock would eventually move to America to work on his first American film, Rebecca (1940), and eventually bring us classics like Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958). In a way, The Lady Vanishes is arguably Hitchcock's first real classic that he ever directed. So any hardcore fans of Alfred Hitchcock's work owe it to themselves to see The Lady Vanishes as soon as possible, if they haven't already.


We currently live in a time when space missions from NASA are being put on hold in light of fixing a worldwide economic crisis. That means those of us who wonder about life outside of Earth now have to resort to sources other than NASA to fulfill that curiosity. Therefore, it is no surprise that films are the most popular source for allowing us to explore the other possibilities of life in our solar system.

By keeping this in mind, one can have a better understanding regarding the massive hype behind writer-director Alfonso Cuaron's latest space thriller Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. While Gravity is certainly on its way towards being an enormous hit, is it truly worthy of the hype and high praise it is currently receiving? The answer is a certain extent.

We follow space engineer Ryan Stone (Bullock) on her first space shuttle expedition with the assistance of soon-to-retire astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney). When debris from a satellite crashes into their shuttle and destroys it, they literally become lost in space with only a limited amount of oxygen and supplies to see them through. Now Ryan and Matt must work together to not only find access to any other satellites they can come across, but find a way to land back on Earth.

Anyone who goes to see Gravity in 3D shall not go unrewarded, since its visuals and atmosphere are truly the finest aspects of the whole film. It may not sound like high enough praise given that most films from Hollywood nowadays are simply special effects extravaganzas. But in the case of a film like this, it is because the visuals have such immerse depth to them that we literally feel like we're in outer space throughout.

A shot in which Ryan is literally floating in the dark recesses of space is truly immersive when seeing it in a theater, since we do feel surrounded by complete darkness. The camera work is impressive as well, with its gravity-defying long takes along with the shots that give us a first-person perspective. This is the kind of visual experience we want when we see something on the big screen and it doesn't disappoint in that regard.

One might even argue that it's solely the visuals that truly tell the story and keep the narrative moving along. In other words, Gravity could have also worked as a silent film because of its crucial emphasis on visuals and silent action, given that there's no sound in space. That is not to discredit the acting of our two main leads or the plot itself so much as it is analyzing what Gravity is mainly about.

With that said, the film's narrative is efficient at an hour and a half with the exception of a couple unneeded scenes. Without giving anything away, there's a scene in which one of the main leads has to communicate with someone who can't speak English. This had the potential to be a deeply effective scene, until one of the characters....bark. There are two to three similar scenes like that which become dramatically distracting in one way or another.

If you really get down to it, the film does become a tad repetitive at times in terms of its narrative. Therefore, Gravity is not quite in the same league as such films as The Right Stuff (1983) or Apollo 13 (1995). But what makes it worth the price of admission is for its focus of visual storytelling. And on that level, Gravity breaks some new ground.


To be perfectly frank, almost all of the films that came out this year have one of the two following characteristics. They have either not been good or are just too dark and gloomy. Director Denis Villeneuve's crime drama Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, is yet another film that has both of these characteristics.

The story behind Prisoners has basically been done to death by Hollywood many times before. A religious man (Jackman), his wife (Maria Bello), and their kids celebrate Thanksgiving at the house of their neighbors (Terrance Howard, Viola Davis). When two of the youngest kids are suddenly missing, a police detective (Gyllenhaal) is called in to help search for the kids.

When he encounters a possible suspect (Paul Dano), based on the clues that the two families offered, the detective tries to get closer to finding them. But due to various plot developments, the religious man decides to take matters in his own hands and his actions lead to various consequences.

I'll give the film credit for the two major things that it does well at. One of them is Gyllenhaal's character. While Gyllenhaal plays his part well, his character is the only one in this story who I personally thought was worth caring for mainly because he kept the plot moving along when it needed to.

Another aspect of this film that I liked was a major subplot that was put into this story. This subplot being that the religious man abducts the possible suspect and tortures him for further information about his child. The consequences that ensue for the religious man as a result of this action are more interesting than the rest of the film itself.

The biggest issue that I have with Prisoners is with how little screen time the mother (Bello) is given. She is only on screen for fifteen minutes at most and what does she do when she's on screen? All she does is lie on the bed, cry over her daughter's disappearance and take her pills. To any females reading this, if your child was suddenly missing, would this be all you would do? I didn't think so. The mother's lack of development is completely unacceptable and inexcusable in this day and age.

For that matter, I wanted to know more about what their neighbors were doing to search for their children. It would have at least made up for the good number of scenes that went nowhere in this flick. It would have also helped me identify with these characters much more. It might even make up for some of the glaringly dumb decisions that are made by some of the characters, too.

I'm not sure that my ideas for improving the film would help. The story was already stale to begin with, not to mention the film's running time of two and a half hours is utterly excessive. In any case, Prisoners feels identical to one dreary and lengthy prison sentence.

The Great Mouse Detective

The Walt Disney Company's 26th full-length animated feature film, The Great Mouse Detective (1986), has been considered one of the better films made in the period between The Jungle Book (1967) and The Little Mermaid (1989). That might not sound like high enough praise seeing that this period was regarded as one of the company's lowest points with duds such as The Black Cauldron (1985) and Robin Hood (1973). But trust me when I say that the praise is well justified in the case of The Great Mouse Detective, which gets much of its entertainment value from an awesome hero and villain.

A young Scottish mouse named Olivia is searching for a detective in London who can help search for her kidnapped toymaker father. With the help of Dr. David Dawson, she searches for a world-famous mouse detective by the name of Basil of Baker Street. Basil accepts the case since he is lead to believe that the main suspect of this kidnapping is his archenemy Professor Ratigan (Vincent Price, giving a fun performance in this juicy role). Ratigan plans on using Olivia's father to help build a robot of the Mice Queen, so he can rule all of England. Will Basil, Olivia, and Dawson be able to stop Ratigan before it's too late and rescue Olivia's father?

The Great Mouse Detective is basically a kid-friendly version of any film or television show based on Sherlock Holmes. As a matter of fact, in the world of this movie at least, Basil lives in the house of the one and only Sherlock Holmes. He even uses Sherlock's dog named Toby to help him solve this case and track down possible clues. There are a few scary scenes in this film, but they're not quite as dark as the previous Disney animated feature The Black Cauldron. One is when we see Ratigan's henchman bat Fidget for the first time in a frightening close-up. Another is when we see one of Ratigan's drunken henchmen get eaten by Ratigan's cat as ordered by Ratigan himself, simply because he calls his boss a rat much to his intense disapproval. These scenes are scary, but in a good way.

And speaking of Ratigan, let's delve further into why I think he's an awesome Disney villain, shall we? Ratigan has a key personality trait that any great Disney villain should have. He just enjoys being evil, meaning that he's having the time of his life committing all the unjust crimes that he does. He basically loves being bad so much that we sort of like his character because he's so content with making his victims suffer. That's one more reason why we like villains in the first place. The central hero Basil is also worth talking about, too. His impressive intelligence and ability to solve crimes with ease is one thing, but to make him charming and fun at the same time is another thing altogether.

The Great Mouse Detective makes for a good evening's entertainment for both kids and adults. Even if it isn't a groundbreaking film for Disney, it's at least a film that is confident and very well-told. The narrative is free of distractions, the animation is good as always, and the characters (especially the hero and the villain) still hold up well. If you're a fan of mysteries and are looking for a way to introduce young kids to them, then The Great Mouse Detective easily ranks as one of your best bets.

Monsters, Inc.

Have you ever wondered why monsters come out of children's closets to scare them? Do you also wonder what monsters do aside from scaring children all over the world? Well, in Disney-Pixar's charming 2001 computer-animated feature Monsters, Inc., we are at least given a clever explanation regarding what the answers to those two questions might be. The film centers around two monsters who work at a place called Monsters, Inc. One monster named Sulley (John Goodman) is the company's top scarer and the other monster Mike (Billy Crystal) is his best friend. At this company they work at, their job is to scare children from all over the world in able to generate power for the monster world.

I know what you're thinking, it sounds like it's an embarrassingly easy job for them, right? Actually, there's a pretty "significant" catch to their job. Apparently, human children are believed to be so highly contagious in the monster world that "A single touch could kill you" according to the company's CEO, Mr. Waternoose (James Coburn). I think younger kids who are frightened by something possibly coming out of their closet will appreciate this twist to the story. The reason being is that it leads to great comedy as a human child named Boo has entered the monster world. In addition to that, our main character Sulley ends up being the one discovering her through various circumstances. While Mike and Sulley try to formulate a plan to get Boo back home, Sulley comes across a discovery that will change their workplace forever.

When I was a kid, I recall having a fear of some sort of monster coming out of my closet. Surprisingly, it's not because I thought it was going to scare me, but because I thought it would eat me alive. So naturally when I was younger, I thought it was hilarious that the monsters in this film are as terrified of human children as the human children are of them. In other words, humans and monsters are pretty much scared of each other. This specific twist to the plot is the main reason Monsters, Inc. is still funny twelve years after its initial release. The comedy is coming from the fact that this brave and curious little girl is scaring the crap out of these monsters, when it really should be the other way around. While it may sound like a one-joke premise on paper, Pixar was smart to deliver variations of that one joke.

The world that Monsters, Inc. introduces us to is bursting with creativity and imagination. I loved how the doors to these children's bedrooms were made into portals for the monster world. It really looks cool when the monsters go into these doors that lead them to the children. It makes the climax, which consists of Mike, Sulley and Boo looking for Boo's door in the factory's warehouse, all the more amazing in the way that it plays out. I also liked how the friendship between Boo and Sulley played out, and I was particularly impressed with how much change Sulley experienced from this friendship as shown in the film's ending.

Monsters, Inc. is a sweet little children's film that, in a way, shows us that something we usually find scary can actually became something we can find funny. While I can't say that it's the strongest or the most non-formulaic film Pixar has made, I can confidently say that it's a film that both kids and adults can enjoy on the same level.


After bringing us the outstanding 1990 crime drama GoodFellas, critically acclaimed director Martin Scorsese, author/screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, and stars Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci team up again for another crime drama five years later called Casino. What's interesting about Casino is that it's basically GoodFellas all over again only set in Las Vegas. It's a good thing no one came up with the idea of naming this film GoodFellas in Las Vegas, since it would make it all the more obvious to us that they're trying to recreate the same movie. That being said, does the fact that Casino bares countless similarities to GoodFellas make it bad? Not at all, it's simply a way of summarizing the movie in a nutshell. Regardless, let's take a deeper look at what we've got.

Casino tells the story of a Mafia member named Sam Rothstein (Robert DeNiro) who is sent to Las Vegas to run a casino funded by the Mafia on behalf of mob families living in the Midwest. His friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) is also eventually sent to Las Vegas to watch his back. The main reason they are both there is to oversee the casino operations which largely centers on illegal activity. Basically, the Mafia has rigged the casino so that none of the customers win anything, and they make millions of dollars off of their money without the customers knowing a thing about it. Essentially, Sam and Nicky are there to make sure that their "skim" goes according to plan. But all of that changes however when a fellow hustler named Ginger (Sharon Stone) enters their lives and eventually interferes with their business to the point where there's no way they could possibly fix whatever costly mistakes erupt.

The first couple minutes of Casino, when we're being introduced to the process of how these Mafia-ruled casinos work, are arguably where the most fascinating part of the entire picture resides. We not only learn that the scamming this casino gets away with on a regular basis is supposedly normal, but we are also given the scary conclusion that wasting money on gambling is the main reason people go to Las Vegas in the first place. It definitely makes people who haven't been to Las Vegas before question whether or not they want to go out of their way to a city in the middle of a desert just to lose vast sums of money. I know that it wouldn't be a town I'd want to go to yet based on what I've seen here. So I thought Casino had a fairly strong introduction based on the kind of world it was introducing us to.

The rest of the film was pretty decent with Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci turning in strong acting just like they did with GoodFellas. However, I felt that most of the main narrative was not as compelling or focused as I wanted it to be. The storytelling simply felt a little fragmented for my taste, and the love story between DeNiro and Stone doesn't help with that either. For the record, I respect that the love story does contribute to the events that take place in the second half of the film. Also, Roger Ebert's comments on how different this love story is compared with the love stories in Martin Scorsese's previous works are justified to a certain degree. Regardless, the love story still didn't do much for me at all and I think a crucial reason for that is Sharon Stone.

I don't think I've seen much of her work and the ones that I do recall seeing aside from this film are Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Antz. In my opinion, from what I've seen, she looks physically great, but her acting is too over-the-top for my liking. I'm having trouble placing my finger on it, but something about her acting just seems inappropriate for the movies she stars in. While I acknowledge that some of her roles including this one require her to be very dramatic, she has the distinction of being too childishly over dramatic that she ends up feeling way out of place in her films, this one included.

While I still think Joe Pesci acts out his role reasonably well here, his role is maybe a little too identical to his work in GoodFellas. And although I do feel that the story does lose focus around the halfway point, for some reason, I still find Casino watchable enough for me to recommend it overall. And again, this is mainly because of the theories this film shows us regarding how a mob-run casino would operate. There's a well-directed scene involving the casino managers asking a customer to leave because he is placing his feet on the casino tables. Without revealing too much, the payoff of this scene isn't quite what you'd expect at first. The same thing could be said for another scene involving the casino managers dealing with someone who is maybe having too good a day at their casino. If that scene doesn't scare you off from playing and winning too much at a casino, I don't know what will.

If you're looking for a story and characters that will impact you the same way Scorsese's earlier films like GoodFellas did, you might be disappointed by what Casino offers. However, if you're looking for a picture with a fascinating premise that introduces creative theories along the way and will settle for something that is at least watchable, then I think you'll like this film fine enough. As for me, though I don't think Casino ranks among Scorsese's best by a good bit and I probably don't have that much interest in looking at it again, I was satisfied enough with seeing it once. Like Las Vegas itself, approach at your own financial risk.

The Great Gatsby

For the record, I have read F. Scott Fitzgerald's original 1925 novel The Great Gatsby in high school for my English class. However, I don't really recollect the story that well five years after having read it. So for this review regarding the 1974 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, I will just look at what the content of the film offers as opposed to comparing and contrasting the film and the book. My overall reaction to The Great Gatsby, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, is as such. I find it to be a very mediocre and average film that gets the tone of its setting and period fine, but ultimately didn't immerse me enough into its surprisingly weak narrative.

The Great Gatsby is the story of a wealthy millionaire by the name of Gatsby (Robert Redford) who arouses the curiosity of his next door neighbor Nick Carraway (Sam Waterston). Nick has received an invitation to one of Gatsby's parties at his massive mansion (which serves as a well-thought through contrast to the little shack where Nick resides) where he personally wants to have a word with him. Gatsby is interested in learning more about Nick and a friend of his named Daisy (Mia Farrow) who may or may not be his former lover. When Gatsby falls in love with Daisy, her husband Tom (Bruce Dern) begins to suspect the worst regarding the true connection between Daisy and Gatsby.

Is that all to the story of The Great Gatsby? Not exactly, there's also two other characters that are put into this story as well who are played by Scott Wilson and the late Karen Black. But to be honest, I had no idea why they needed a decent chunk of screen time, given that they were only necessary for one or two scenes at most. For that matter, the love story between Redford and Farrow really didn't have much meat to it either. It's just your typical love triangle set during the 1920s without any distinctive features of its own which is kind of a letdown.

I'll give the film credit for its inspired cinematography and the way it brings the 1920s to life. I'll also admit that the actors do the best that they can with their underdeveloped roles. Aside from those positive things, there's nothing else about The Great Gatsby that feels.....well, that 'great'. I'm not sure whether or not fans of the book will be pleased with this film, but I'm pretty sure that those who haven't read the book will probably be bored with this picture like I was. There's nothing else I can come up with when talking about this picture, so I'll just end here, move on, and let you take this review for what it's worth.

World War Z
World War Z(2013)

I haven't watched much in the way of movies and/or TV shows centered on zombies. And because I'm not really a horror movie fan, my interest in such films and shows is pretty low. I also don't watch a lot of movies or shows relating to anything medical or health related almost for the same reason as zombie movies and shows. So in a way, I'm one of the least eligible people to talk about a film that combines both of these genres like World War Z, starring Brad Pitt, since I barely have an expertise in these genres of film. But for what it is, I think that fans of either of these film genres will be satisfied enough with certain parts of this film. As for me, while I don't think it's insultingly terrible by any means, I'm basically mixed and indifferent about the whole film altogether.

Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a former member of the United Nations who is currently raising two girls with his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) in Pennsylvania. While Gerry and his family are stuck in the middle of heavy traffic, a massive zombie attack emerges and they basically start an adventure around the world where they discover that the rest of the world is also experiencing massive zombie attacks. Gerry is recruited back to the United Nations to go on a mission in which he basically must find a cure for those affected by this unfortunate outbreak.

Although the plot for World War Z is average at best, I will give this film credit for incorporating a fairly creative twist into its story. Without spoiling anything, the writers came up with a very logical weakness for the zombies in terms of what people or creatures are avoided by them. If you've seen this film already, I believe you'll have a pretty good idea regarding what it is. If you don't, then I'll simply say that the climax in the hospital is all the more captivating because of this creative plot twist. Because of this, we are able to feel the suspense in the climax since we know what our main character has to do and how difficult his task is going to be.

Brad Pitt does his part with his basic role and there is some meat to his relationship with his family. I respect how Gerry and his family feel like a real family based solely on the few conversations they have with each other. Aside from that, I don't recall being that terrified by World War Z in the least. I think the reason for this is that I could tell that the zombies were basically done in uninspired CGI. Remember the shot when the zombies climb on each other and end up being able to hike up a tall wall that no one could climb up? I found shots or scenes like those especially unconvincing and implausible. With the exception of the plot twist, there's nothing else about the story that kept me that invested in watching it. With the exception of the scenes between Gerry and his family, the narrative wasn't deep enough to make an impact on me.

Whether or not you're into World War Z in the end once again depends on your interest in zombies or medical cures for anyone who was turned into a zombie. I respect parts of this film and how some of them were handled particularly with the family dilemmas and the plot twist. However, I didn't get into the rest of the film enough to say that it was worthwhile. Take this review for what it's worth, not my kind of flick.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

"I had taken Horace Greeley's advice literally. 'Go west, young man. Go west, and seek fame and fortune, adventure.' " So starts U.S. Senator Ransom Stoddard's (James Stewart) story of his first arrival to the small western town of Shinbone in John Ford's highly thought-provoking 1962 Western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. His arrival to Shinbone is not welcoming at all as he is brutally whipped and left for dead by a town bully by the name of Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), who basically tells him that the laws created by the U.S. government will not suffice in the West. Ransom is eventually rescued by local rancher Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) and nursed back to health by a restaurant owner, his wife, and their daughter Hallie (Vera Miles).

Even with all of his belongings (law books and documents) scattered and lost, a now healthy Ransom is determined to bestow justice upon this local daily menace and his henchmen once and for all. There's only one problem with his plan to put Liberty Valance behind bars. Apparently, Tom states that in Shinbone, the law books and documents that Ransom uses won't apply to this politically unstable town. "Out here, a man settles his own problems," Tom states to Ransom. Furthermore, many of the townsfolk, including Hallie, can't read or write. However, Ransom does volunteer to teach some of Shinbone's citizens how to read and write. While his voluntary teaching works well so far, the next big encounter with Liberty comes ever so closer to the point where Tom has to teach Ransom how to shoot a gun against his will.

And no matter what the end result of Ransom and Liberty's next encounter will be, it will profoundly change the town of Shinbone permanently. Either way, it makes the whole plot all the more fascinating especially when it comes to dissecting what the main moral behind this film is. Does this story argue for the importance of educating others how to read and write as well as reinforcing law? Does it argue for the importance to defend yourself regardless if you're incapable and unwilling to kill a man? What makes this particular tale all the more interesting is that it answers these certain questions by giving us indirect answers and raising more questions both at the same time. In short, we're given an answer that makes us draw our own conclusions as to why it had to end up this way. Without revealing too much about this climax, it's unforgettable to say the least.

Along with the climax's brilliant and complex payoff, the way director John Ford brings the town of Shinbone to life is also worth examining. By the end of this film, one can obtain a better appreciation of what this town was like between when Ransom first arrived and when Ransom returns at an older age. When Ransom first arrives to Shinbone, we can clearly see how poorly run this town is. The town marshal (Andy Devine) does absolutely nothing about his town's troubles except get drunk at the saloon. The only person aside from Ransom who's willing to stand up against what's going on in Shinbone is the editor of Shinbone's newspaper (Edmond O'Brien). Everyone else is either too afraid to confront Liberty over his actions or too afraid to even admit or say that Liberty's actions are unjustified. When Ransom returns to this town at an older age however, that's a different story.

I appreciate the way John Ford captures the change that the town experiences by simply focusing on the folks that occupy it as opposed to just showing the town physically change. After all, the main way change can be brought about is by being introduced to original thoughts and ideas regarding how we can make life better for all of us. In this case, the citizens of Shinbone agree to put an end to the Western law being determined by gunslingers and let it now be determined by politicians. By analyzing the dilemmas our main characters experience, we can obtain a better understanding of how change is created through this technique as opposed to just being shown shots of a town physically changing. This was not just a well-chosen storytelling decision on John Ford's part, but also on the part of the film's screenwriters James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck.

I also respect how Ford and his writers handled the love triangle between Ransom, Hallie, and Tom. Even though Ransom and Tom are basically competing for Hallie's affection, I admire how they still end up respecting each other as opposed to becoming each other's foes. It just makes these characters feel more real as opposed to just becoming plot devices. It's all the more encouraging since these three all have very strong personalities. I respect how Ransom believes in the written law so strongly that he'll stand up to gunslingers without a gun just to stick to his morals. I found Tom's internal struggle between his beliefs in guns being the law and having Liberty Valance killed for the town's good to be fascinating. The main reason is because he realizes that he isn't going to win either way by having the best of both worlds. Although she can't read or write, I like how tough and defensive Hallie can be and how she stands up for herself.

Many people agree that if there's one quote that sums up The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, it would be this: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." That quote basically means that regardless of the facts, this is the kind of story that people want to hear. But these words won't do justice unless viewers, Western fans or not, see this outstanding film for themselves especially if they want to have a career in politics.

Marvel's The Avengers

It goes without saying that superheroes have pretty much become the main box office draw for today's movie going audiences. From Iron Man to The Dark Knight, superhero flicks seem to be getting more and more popular today than they ever were in the past. A film about one superhero is one thing, but a film about a group of superheroes is a whole different thing altogether. So when Marvel Studio's The Avengers (which features Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America together for the first time) came out last summer, you bet we were pumped to see this picture just to see what it would be like to see a group of classic superheroes under the same roof. Based on the end result, it's a safe bet to say that our money was put to good use and we weren't disappointed.

There isn't much to talk about in terms of the story for The Avengers except that it's basically the type of typical plot you'd expect from a movie of this sort. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the leader of a secret agency called S.H.I.E.L.D., initiates a plan to summon a team of superheroes to do battle against Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his army of creatures from another world and retrieve a powerful energy cube known as the Tesseract. Among the superheroes that are recruited are Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr., once again proving why Iron Man is the coolest superhero in modern cinema), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, who shows just how awesome the Hulk is), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). This teaming of the century must work together to put a stop to Loki's plans to dominate Earth.

The Avengers is not a film you really go to see simply for the sake of the story. Even if you did, you'd only be able to follow the very basic details as opposed to picking up the most minor ones. So don't expect much here story wise that will blow you away. Don't expect much either as far as the other foes are concerned. With the exception of Loki, the creatures that invade Earth and assist Loki in his attempt at Earth's domination are pretty lame. Their CGI design is as generic and lifeless as any other ordinary CGI creation you've seen in any other sci-fi/fantasy action flick in the past couple years. In short, these creatures are so boring in their design and personality that it's no wonder I can't remember them over a month after I've last seen them.

This film is a strong summer entertainment and a fun superhero movie because the novelty of seeing all these superheroes in one place is present in every scene. Writer-director Joss Whedon obviously loves these superheroes as shown with the care he puts into all of the exchanges that they have with one another. As I've hinted at earlier in this review, Robert Downey, Jr. proves why I think Iron Man is the coolest superhero in modern cinema today. Talk about Batman from Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy all you like, I'll take Iron Man as played by Robert Downey, Jr. any day. Why? Because he has the same amount of charm and sense of humor that was present in Will Smith's character from Men in Black (1997).

The exchanges he shares with Captain America and all of the other superheroes are very well done. Along with showing how likably egotistical his character is, the writing that his character is given really shows that there's more to him than just a hero saving the world. One of the things that stand out about him is that he sort of doesn't give a crap about keeping his identity a secret, but instead just simply embraces the fame both with and without his armor. When a superhero does something out of the norm like that, I find it all the more reason to admire the character even more. I appreciate the little risks screenwriters take with a complex superhero such as Iron Man, since I know they're trying to take superheroes to a whole new level and succeed.

Iron Man isn't the only thing I admire about The Avengers though. How about the Incredible Hulk? I haven't really seen the other films based on the Hulk, so therefore I'm not that qualified to officially state that Mark Ruffalo is the best film version of the Hulk ever. But at the same time, I do have to agree with most other critics out there and say that it's going to be difficult topping Mark Ruffalo's version of the Hulk. At first glance, you wouldn't guess that he's the Hulk given that he's doing his best to remain calm at all times. But that's exactly why Mark Ruffalo was ideal casting for this role, because he looks and acts like an easygoing guy when he's keeping his cool. Through his performance, we're able to become more fascinated by the Hulk when he loses his temper in an epic, colossal manner. In short, Ruffalo handles his role of the Hulk like a pro.

Joss Whedon's passion for these superheroes, especially Iron Man and the Hulk, is ultimately what makes The Avengers one of the finest superhero films out there. With The Avengers, it's not just the cool action scenes that keep the audience captivated, even though there are plenty of good ones here. It's also the strong personalities of these superheroes and the union of their clashing egos that keeps the audience satisfied with their investment into this film. Regardless of whether or not you're a hardcore Marvel comics fan and/or a hardcore DC comics fan, The Avengers has pretty much everything you need to obtain from a superhero movie and then some.


What do I know about wine, beer, or other alcohol? Almost nothing. But luckily for me, I didn't need to have much knowledge in that field to have a good time with writer-director Alexander Payne's entertaining 2004 comedy-drama Sideways. One of the many wise actions that this movie takes is putting more of an emphasis on focusing on the main characters of the story as opposed to focusing on analyzing what makes wine so special. I highly admire this decision since the storyline and character development that they ended up with here is so satisfactory that non-alcoholics can have a better chance at joining in on the entertainment as well.

Paul Giamatti plays Miles Raymond, an unsuccessful writer and English teacher who is divorced from his wife and completely depressed. Miles is also a big wine-aficionado who especially endorses of Pinot noir, but really detests Merlot. Miles takes his college roommate and best friend actor Jack Cole (Thomas Haden Church) to the wine country to celebrate Jack's upcoming wedding. While Miles intends to give Jack the time of his life before the big day, Jack intends for Miles to get laid to get Miles out of his deep depression. However, Miles isn't quite that interested in dating someone after his divorce, but will this stop Jack from being persistent over getting Miles laid?

If you've answered 'no', you have probably underestimated what a man is capable of doing before his wedding. Because Jack arranges a double date between Miles and Maya (Virginia Madsen), a waitress at Miles' favorite restaurant in the wine country, as well as between himself and Stephanie (Sandra Oh), a friend of Maya's who works at a local winery. Despite being roped into this against his will, Miles does share a meaningful connection with Maya while Jack has an affair with Stephanie. But the problem with this affair aside from Jack getting married to someone else is that he begins to care more for Stephanie than he does for his fiancée. Will Miles and Jack be able to hold on to these relationships even after their road trip is over or will these relationships crumble?

I won't spoil it, but I will say that there's no clear answer to that last question I asked. In other words, Sideways is written in such a way that it's much more than your average typical road trip movie, since it's very much grounded in reality. All of the main characters either feel like real people or are people we can relate to, especially Miles. In fact, I feel like Miles a little bit sometimes in that I'm occasionally too scared to let anything happen to me to the point that I feel a little discouraged. I can also find myself being like Jack sometimes, too. Even though Jack doesn't make the wisest of decisions, I do respect that he wants to take advantage of certain opportunities to create memories while he still can.

So essentially, what we have here are characters that we can identify with and yet at the same time, not always agree with at least a few of the actions they commit. Again, they feel like people that exist in real life. How many of us have come across, or even are, people who are too afraid to take risks and become lonely and depressed as a result? I know I can confidently say 'yes' to that question. Now, how many of us have encountered, or may even be, a person who thinks that life is short and that you might as well take certain risks since they may not happen again? I can say that there are some inspiring people out there who have this standout characteristic. The reason I went into such detail about that is to further acknowledge the brilliance of pairing the personalities of Miles and Jack.

Miles and Jack serve as terrific contrasts to each other since they are still able to maintain a friendship even though they're sort of opposite personalities in a way. What makes their friendship all the more fascinating is that in the end, they sort of still do need each other to look after each other's backs. As a result of Jack telling Miles to live a little and take a chance as well as Miles telling Jack to choose his actions wisely, Miles and Jack make a legitimate duo. Unlike most duos in other movies where one might contribute more than the other one does, Miles and Jack seem to make equal contributions towards each other. If it somehow doesn't sound like they contribute equally based on what I'm writing, then the actual execution of their friendship on film will be, meaning that it's deeper than we'll give it credit for.

But the dynamic behind Miles and Jack's friendship isn't the only thing about Sideways that makes it a special film. Sideways takes your normal buddy road trip story and adds a couple enhancements of its own that makes it stand out above the rest. For one thing, the film focuses on their experience as well as what they do in the wine country as opposed to focusing on the trip to their destination. What's smart about the approach Sideways takes with their road trip story is that we get a better understanding of what they do at their destination and the wide range of events that occur during their time there. There's a scene where Miles has to get Jack's wallet back from a complete stranger's house which is both suspenseful and hilarious at the same time. With Alexander Payne's carefully thought through writing and direction (especially with the development of Miles and Jack), Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church owning it playing Miles and Jack, and even Virginia Madsen's perfect amount of warmth and humanity to her role, it's not hard to see why Sideways is still fine wine nine years later.


Whenever I go on a hike or take a walk in any national parks or any forest areas, there are only two things that I think about. The first thing I think about is absorbing the beautiful scenery surrounding me, whether it's with the various amounts of trees, or with the cool and cleansing waterfalls, creeks and bodies of water that I come across. The second thing I think about is if whether or not I'll come across any friendly forest animals along the way and maybe even feed them any food I couldn't eat. I guess you could say that I'm into the outdoors. One film that has contributed significantly to my love of the outdoors would have to be Walt Disney's 5th full-length animated feature, Bambi (1942), arguably the finest accomplishment of Walt Disney's career which has already seen many impressive achievements.

The film begins with the birth of a fawn named Bambi who will one day become the Great Prince of the Forest just like his father and protect the other forest creatures from any trespassers. In the meantime, he figures out how to walk and talk and learn more about the world around him. During his childhood, he forms a close bond with his mother and makes many lifelong friends along the way. Among the friends he makes are an energetic rabbit named Thumper, a friendly skunk named Flower, and a female fawn named Faline, who eventually becomes Bambi's future mate. This film basically tracks his life from birth to adulthood when he starts to assume his duties as Prince of the Forest.

When talking about what makes Bambi such a colossal movie going experience, the first thing I would talk about would be the musical score by Frank Churchill and Edward Plumb. I can say without any doubt in my mind that it is one of the best musical scores I have ever heard in any American motion picture I've seen in my entire life. It easily qualifies in my top five favorite film scores of all time I love it that much. Aside from contributing so much to the atmosphere of the forest in this film, the musical score adds a tremendous amount of emotion to the narrative due in large part to the heavenly choir. Whenever I hear that choir, I automatically feel better it's so soothing and healing. Say what you will about the songs not being household names. When the opening song "Love is a Song" plays during the opening credits, my spirits couldn't be raised any higher.

The animation and backgrounds in Bambi are some of the studio's best. Walt Disney and his talented staff of animators took special care and effort into the drawing of the animals for this film. They had to study real-life animals and do the best that they could at capturing the realism of their movements, behavior and personalities. The end results are so superb that even the more unrealistic stuff (ice skating) seems credible in its realism. Much like the film's music, the visuals here are so well drawn out and detailed that you feel like you're in the forest throughout the duration of the film. Remember the shot where Bambi is looking into a stream during the autumn and leaves are falling into the stream and making growing circles? That was a beautiful shot, and luckily for us, there are more shots like that which have similar beauty to them. Because the passion is so strong and present in both the music and animation, it's hard not to be thankful for the devoted artistry that was put into every scene in this film.

Along with the strong visuals and music, another reason I think Bambi holds up very well today is because of the characters. Even though the characters are talking animals, they're all very likable and worth caring for. I admire how curious Bambi is about his surroundings. I enjoy how Thumper speaks before he thinks ("If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all"). I was very amused by how cynical and optimistic a character Friend Owl was. I was also very touched by the strong bond between Bambi and his mom and the meaningful relationship they shared with each other. By the time the most famous scene of this movie comes around (which was known to ruin many childhoods, so I won't delve deeper into it), whatever tears are shed are all warranted because that's how special these characters are even if we're only 45 minutes in.

I also love how the writers handled the film's influential message of how much man's presence can affect the wildlife. They made the wise decision of not making it overly preachy on how much turmoil man is causing to these animals. Instead, the writers simply track the lives of these animals and the biggest events that occur in each of their lives in a non-conventional way. By making this narrative choice for this movie, we're able to love the characters as much as we do and be more involved in the nonlinear and direct narrative. Most importantly, we're able to obtain the message about respecting the wildlife better because we're enjoying how happy these creature's lives can be as opposed to being given a guilt trip about humanity's past mistakes.

With Bambi, Walt Disney proves once again that he's a master at storytelling. He keeps the stories simple, entertaining and straight to the point as great storytellers should. There's no way to avoid the subject matter that the most famous scene of this film tackles, but if it's handled as well as it is here, then it's all the more reason to appreciate films like this even more. Bambi is unpredictable, unforgettable, well-drawn, well written, well-orchestrated, and still remains the greatest film that Walt Disney has ever produced as well as one of my all-time personal favorites.

Lady and the Tramp

Walt Disney's Lady and the Tramp was the first full-length animated feature shot in widescreen. It was shot in Cinemascope as a matter of fact. So in case you notice a difference between a VHS and a Blu-ray of this movie, just remember that the VHS version is literally only showing you half the picture. With that said, does Lady and the Tramp still hold up okay as a movie other than its significance in both Disney and animation history? Well, some specific qualities of this film do hold up better than others. So in a nutshell, it holds up alright though not as well as the best of Disney's animated features.

Lady and the Tramp begins with a happy couple receiving a cocker spaniel puppy for Christmas whom they eventually call Lady. A rather weird name to give a dog, but I digress. Lady is living an enjoyable life with her human owners and her two dog friends in the neighborhood, a Scottish terrier named Jock and a bloodhound named Trusty. On the opposite part of town, a mutt referred to by many as the Tramp (for whatever reason) enjoys living life to the fullest without either an owner or a collar. When these two direct opposites first run into each other, they don't seem to think much of each other (at least Jock and Trusty don't think much of him). But due to various circumstances that Lady undergoes, these two dogs run into each other once more and I guess they decide that they like being in each other's company enough that....they fall in love?

If you noticed my uncertainty in that last sentence, it's because I sort of have an issue with Lady and the Tramp being a love story. In my opinion, I never saw a credible love story here, I only saw a credible story about friendship instead which would have been far more appropriate in my mind. Just based on the events that occurred within this story, I think that Lady and the Tramp falling in love with each other after all this said and done was a bit of a stretch for me. In other words, the main reason why I thought this love story didn't work was because I didn't believe that these two dogs had a plausible romance between each other based on what we were given.

There's another crucial reason why this love story falls short for me, because the love story wasn't that well developed to begin with. A big reason for this was due in large part to Lady's dilemma with her owners expecting a baby. I felt like this part of the story which takes up about 20% of this 75-minute picture just wasn't that interesting. I felt like that part went on longer than it should have and it felt a little tacky overall as proven with the mediocre song "What is a Baby/La La Lu". Speaking of the songs, while I thought "Bella Notte" was an excellent romantic song and "He's a Tramp" was a decent jazzy tune, I thought the rest of the songs ranged from forced to jarringly unnecessary to the narrative.

So that's enough on the negative stuff. What still holds up about this film? Well, I thought that the animation design on some of the dogs, particularly Lady and Peg, was successful at giving these dogs human like qualities. Whether it is with expressing their emotions or having some physical similarities to humans, whoever came up with these designs knew what they were doing. Speaking of the characters, they're pretty good, too. Even though I don't get the humor of either Jock or Trusty, I still think they have plenty of life to them. I also still liked the two main characters enough even though I couldn't buy that they were in love. They still have enough personality to them to work as characters.

My favorite characters in this movie oddly enough are the humans, isn't that weird? I liked Lady's owners in this movie and how they literally call each other Jim Dear and Darling when talking to each other. You can tell that these two are having a happy marriage based on almost every scene they're in. Tony and Joe, the main chefs from the Italian restaurant where Lady and the Tramp eat spaghetti together (and the film's most famous scene occurs) are awesome, too. Though these guys are only present in one or two scenes, they have enough charisma and charm that they look kind of cool even when they're singing the song "Bella Notte" to Lady and the Tramp. If anyone made a scene like that today in live-action where a few people are singing to dogs eating spaghetti, you can bet it would probably look too stupid. But here, it somehow works very well because of the animation and the overall way that scene was handled.

In spite of all the pet peeves I've stated earlier, Lady and the Tramp is a nice little Disney flick for kids and adults to take a look at for a decent evening's entertainment. Will everyone truly get all of the humor present in this film? I know I didn't get a few of the jokes. Is the story going to work for everyone as it is? Like I've stated before, I had my own personal issues regarding the narrative. Does it still have plenty of charm in its characters, animation, and music? I'd say it has enough to make it worthy of a recommendation. So take this for what it's worth. It's no longer one of my favorites from Disney, but it's serviceable enough.


If there is one thing that Walt Disney knew about better than anyone else, it was that the combination of music and animation is one of the most important combinations since bread and butter. This can best explain why most of Disney's animated features are all musicals. It's because Walt Disney strongly believed that music and sound were essential keys towards great animated features and shorts. One could make a good argument that his 3rd full-length animated feature, Fantasia (1940), was created as further proof regarding why he believed music was so essential to the world of animation.

Fantasia is a unique animated feature in terms of its narrative. It starts out with an orchestra taking their places as if they were preparing for a concert. Then, the main narrator of this picture by the name of Deems Taylor emerges and introduces us to a new form of entertainment called Fantasia. We are told that during this new form of entertainment, we will see the images that classical music had inspired in the minds of Walt Disney's massive staff of artists. In other words, we are seeing pieces of famous classical music being brought to life visually based on what Disney's artists think these pieces are about. We are also told that there are three types of musical pieces in this program: music that tells a definite story, music that paints a series of pictures, and "absolute music" that exists simply for its own sake.

This animated feature basically consists of eight separate segments which all are devoted to one of the three types of music. Sometimes, one could make an argument that some segments have more than one of the three types of music, since some segments are more clearly cut in the type of music they're going for than other segments. For instance, the first segment "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" is clearly an example of absolute music that exists simply for its own sake. All this segment composes of is visuals that one might think of whenever this classical music is being played.

But then there are segments like "The Rite of Spring" which could easily count as music that paints a series of pictures as well as music that tells a definite story. The reason I believe this segment could apply to both is because while it tells us the history of the dinosaurs, you aren't exactly sure what to make of the overall main vision Disney was going for with this segment in the end. This is precisely why Fantasia is such a fascinating piece of filmmaking, because what it shows its audience is so unconventional and diverse that it's hard not to admire the fact that it's so unique with its story structure.

After seeing this picture a couple times, I truly have a better understanding of why Fantasia was immensely influential in the film industry, particularly with the medium of music videos. If you think more about it, this film is basically a series of silent animated short films perfectly synchronized to famous pieces of classical music. Fantasia would easily qualify as one of the films I would be most interested in learning more about the making behind. I would be more than eager to learn what Walt Disney's animators thought when he wanted to pursue executing this specific project so soon after the ambitious production of Snow White. I would also be interested in learning the process behind the animation for these segments and how the animators synchronized the animation and music as well as they did, since I know the animation process was probably painstaking to say the least.

Is this a film that will please everyone's tastes? I don't think so, since it's definitely an acquired taste for some. After all, Fantasia is considered a big step for Disney fans to take since it is so different from anything Disney ever did that it could throw them for a loop. Are there some slow moments? I'd say that this film gets off to a little bit of a slow start, but by the time the film's most famous segment "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" with Mickey Mouse comes around, it only gets better. Was the intermission involving the soundtrack corny and unnecessary? While I certainly can say it is by modern standards, I'll be fair by stating that this came out at a time when some audiences had trouble getting used to the then-new Technicolor process and their eyes had to take a break from the bright colors on screen.

In short, Fantasia is truly a film that was way ahead of its time in almost every aspect imaginable. From outstanding segments like "The Rite of Spring" and "Night on Bald Mountain", to the excellent orchestration of the classical music by Leopold Stokowski and his orchestra, to the tremendous craft of the animation. It's one of those rare films in which the only way you can understand its importance in the history of cinema is to see for yourself. So what are you waiting for?


After releasing a film that took years to make and not knowing what the end result would be, many wondered what Walt Disney could possibly create next after his 1st full-length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Well, Walt Disney started lining up more possible projects including more full-length animated features. He was considering many options for his second animated feature including Bambi (1942), Dumbo (1941), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), and even Fantasia (1940), all of which would eventually become animated features later. Then, due to difficulties figuring out how to adapt the other stories to the big screen, Walt Disney finally decided for his 2nd animated feature to be Pinocchio (1940).

This tale starts with a lonely wood carver named Gepetto finishing up on his newest marionette that he has called Pinocchio. He tells his two animal companions, a cat named Figaro and a fish named Cleo, that he wishes that Pinocchio was a real boy. One night, he gets his wish as a magical blue fairy brings this puppet to life. He isn't a real boy yet, but if he is able to prove his bravery, honesty and kindness, he will be one someday. Pinocchio is given a sidekick named Jiminy Cricket who will help him decide what's right or wrong and help make Gepetto proud. Now, Pinocchio is put to the test as he goes on many accidental misadventures such as becoming an actor, going to an island where you're allowed to do whatever you want (with a permanent price to pay, of course), and chasing down a monstrous whale.

As was the case with Walt Disney's previous picture Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940) is exceptionally well animated. The backgrounds are so painstakingly well detailed that you practically notice something new in the backgrounds every time you watch it. In terms of its visuals, it really pushes the envelope for what animated films can do with lighting, color, and other unique visual techniques. The music by Leigh Harline, Ned Washington, and Paul Smith is also worth commenting on. I think it's safe to say that all of us know how immortal and timeless the song "When You Wish Upon a Star" is. I think that playing this song during the opening credits was genius, since it's the best way to draw the audience's attention at the start of a film like this which is surprisingly darker than you might remember it being.

Why do I say that Pinocchio is a slightly darker film than most people will remember it being? Because of the way the story convinces us how wrong it is to do whatever Pinocchio is manipulated into doing. For example, when Pinocchio tells a lie about why he didn't go to school to the blue fairy, his nose keeps on growing whenever he tells lie after lie. Another noteworthy example is when Pinocchio is manipulated into going to Pleasure Island where young boys smoke cigars, drink beer, play pool and other frowned upon activities for kids to be doing. After too much time there, the kids transform into donkeys that will be taken to work at the salt mines. The reasons why they somehow turn into donkeys are surreal to say the least, but let's just say this scene will scare off kids from smoking and least for a while.

I could have done without a few scenes at the beginning, which were solely devoted to showing off the sound effects and the details in Gepetto's workshop as opposed to continue telling the story. In short, Pinocchio gets off to a little bit of a slow start. I also thought that the ending to this film was sort of ripping off the ending from Snow White in a way that was less credible. If you've seen the ending to this film already, you'll know what plot device was used during that scene that I personally don't care for. On top of that, there were certain little details in the climax that didn't add up for me.

Alright, guys. Prepare to detest me for what I'm about to say. I have to agree with Internet video film critic Doug Walker (of the Nostalgia Critic fame) when he said that Jiminy Cricket does not hold up well as a character. But I have my own reasons why I dislike this character. While I do agree with Doug that his sense of humor doesn't hold up well, the main reason I don't care for Jiminy Cricket any more is because he's way too careless, gives up too easily, and thinks he's right about everything. There are more than a few scenes that show just how blatantly inconsistent his character is, and how he switches back and forth between a sidekick with good intentions to a creature whose remarks are unjustified. In the end, I felt like Jiminy was way too inconsistent to the point where his character just didn't work.

Ultimately, what still keeps Pinocchio a good Disney movie more than 70 years after its initial release is the animation, the music, and the way it reinforces the main morals of its story onto its young audience. Even though Jiminy Cricket's somewhat good intentions with his character backfired on me, I still liked Pinocchio himself. I admired how curious he was about the world around him, how positive his attitude was, and how clueless he was about what's good and what's bad. In other words, he felt like a real kid personality wise. This aspect and the ones I've mentioned before are good enough reasons why Pinocchio is a film that any Disney fans should take a look at.


Five years ago, I used to consider WALL-E (2008) my personal favorite Pixar film. I was drawn into the romance between the two main robots. I liked how the first couple minutes of the film were almost like a silent film. I loved the designs on the robots themselves, especially their well-designed and expressive eyes. Simply put, I thought it was an awesome movie. But I have to admit that as time goes by, that declaration I made earlier no longer holds true. Unlike Toy Story (1995) and Up (2009) which still stand the test of time very well, I start noticing more of the flaws in WALL-E than I did five years earlier. That being said, I still do really enjoy this movie and all of the elements that really make it special. And sometimes for a film like this, that's all that really matters.

The movie tells the story of a robot named WALL-E, whose programmed duty is to clean up the massive amounts of garbage left on Earth. He still has to perform his duty even after the human population evaded Earth a couple centuries ago due to its increasing pollution. Unlike similar robots that were built the same way, WALL-E has developed a personality and enjoys collecting anything that looks special (whether it be artifacts of human civilization or mechanical parts used by other units of his kind). One day, he finds a small plant in the middle of nowhere and takes it back to his home. The same day, he also discovers a visitor landing on Earth looking for habitable life. This visitor is also known as EVE, a high-tech robot who is quick at triggering her lasers, but also shares the same curiosity in life as WALL-E.

When EVE discovers WALL-E's plant and a spaceship comes back again to pick up EVE, WALL-E (who has now fallen in love with her) follows her as this ship transports to the Axiom. The Axiom is a ship where the entire human population from Earth is now residing. Everything on that ship is controlled by either robots or any other kind of technology. As a result, the humans on board the Axiom, including the captain himself, are very physically and mentally dependent on technology to say the least. EVE is supposed to transport to the Axiom since this plant may help save Earth. But when the plant is suddenly missing due to various plot developments, it's up to WALL-E and EVE to find it.

In many respects, WALL-E is a film that I should love more than I actually do. It takes advantage of the fact that movies are still, and always will be, a visual art form by making the first couple minutes similar to a silent film. This part of the movie is very well told visually, since we are able to have an understanding of what the plot will be about and figure out for ourselves what WALL-E likes and dislikes. The unique design of these robots also contributes to the strength of the film's visuals since all we really need out of these robots to visually express themselves is their eyes. Unlike in Transformers, where you can't make out any facial details, you can make out anything here that a special effects creation needs to have in able for us to care about them. I really endorse the design of EVE especially, with her blue LED eyes and the anti-gravity technology found in her arms and head. Whoever came up with the design for these robots really knew what they were doing.

So what is it about WALL-E now that prevents me from calling it a masterpiece? Well, I found the film's second half to be inferior to the first. The point when WALL-E and EVE boarded the Axiom is when the film got a little needlessly over dramatic, a little too busy and a tad too silly for me. A specific scene that comes to mind that shows these aspects is the film's climax. There seemed to be way too many subliminal references to other films (specifically 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)), and a clichéd plot device used in many other family films (you'll know it when you see it) which really isn't executed that well here.

While WALL-E and EVE are definitely worth caring about, I never understood why it's big news on the Axiom if robots get into trouble. Is there really nothing else more important in terms of the news other than "rogue robots"? There are similar scenes like that which make too big a deal out of things of that nature that it just becomes more odd than important narratively speaking. With the exception of Mop (who is at his best when contemplating whether or not to continue cleaning the Axiom) and the Captain (who is eager to learn more about Earth), I found that the other characters that Pixar was trying to put into this story weren't developed that well for me. The main antagonist of the second half is especially a disappointment given that it was simply a cheap rip-off of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

The main reason WALL-E works as well as it does is because of the chemistry between the two main robots. And on that level, WALL-E is nothing short of sublime. Even with very little dialogue, WALL-E and EVE are still very likable characters because of their design and their facial expression. They get across a lot solely through their eyes and body language. If anyone can make robots into warm and cute characters with plenty of personality to spare, it's Pixar. The humor is plentiful and genuine. The animation is spectacular, of course. The main characters have plenty of likability to them. These simple reasons along with the others I've stated earlier are enough to make WALL-E well worth 1 1/2 to 2 hours of your time.

This Is the End

I'm going to start this review by going through a few personal theories I have regarding films. It's not that funny when actors play marginally fictionalized versions of themselves in movies. It's really not funny when a comedy deals with subject matter like the end of the world or anything of that sort that really shouldn't be joked about. Comedies are supposed to be light and fluffy, but if a comedy is going to tackle dark material, there still should be light strokes in the mix to balance everything out. The same kind of theory should also apply to comedy-dramas as well. Movies in general should also be meant to provide escapism meaning it gives us pleasant images to look at and have us join pleasant people to be around.

I have no problem with a film that tackles dark territory as long as it has important morals behind it and is taken seriously (as in the likes of Se7en or Saving Private Ryan). I don't even have problems with comedies that do tackle darker material (Zombieland proves how it can be done well). What I do have a problem with is lazily crafted films like This Is the End which tells an "end-of-the-world" story in comedic form to poor effect. Based on what I saw, I can't understand what many critics and audiences have seen in this film that made them think that it was worth their valuable time. I, for one, found This Is the End to be an ugly, mean-spirited picture that made me feel unclean, mentally pained, and (as was the case with Bridesmaids) unable to trust the opinions of critics and audiences ever again.

The story is pretty self-explanatory if you've seen the trailer for this mess. A bunch of famous actors, most of which have appeared in at least one Judd Apatow production, hang out a party held by James Franco. Don't be surprised if there are a lot of celebrity cameos in the first few minutes of the film. Because during this party is when the apocalypse starts and Los Angeles literally becomes a living hell with flames and sinkholes emerging all over the place. Remarkably, only a handful of actors (Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride) have survived while a massive amount of other celebrities like Michael Cera and Aziz Ansari suffer painful (but phony looking) deaths. Will this group still be able to survive by doing almost nothing except stay in Franco's house and have a good time with their limited resources or does fate have other plans for them?

Do I even care about the events that occur within this plot? Nope, not even close. Did I laugh even once in this movie? Only at the beginning at some of the jokes that certain celebrities were aiming at other celebrities. Will everyone get these jokes that I laughed at? Forget about it. If you haven't the slightest bit of knowledge about the pop culture references they're making, you're pretty much going to be left in the cold. But don't worry, it's not like the jokes in this movie resonate for that long anyways. The tremendous amount of pitiful product placement in this film is distracting. Unlike Wayne's World which was able to poke fun at its product placement in just one scene, this film uses shameless product placement (whether it be with Sony Pictures' films, Milky Way, etc.) and does nothing with it except shove it in our faces.

The special effects are similarly awful and not the slightest bit convincing. You can easily tell it was all done by computers just based on how dark they are and how phony the lighting looks. The design of the CGI creatures is instantly forgettable due to the fact that they're so generic and we hardly ever see them anyways. I know that Los Angeles is supposed to literally turn into a living hell in this movie, but maybe they succeeded all too well in making this film as visually uninteresting as possible. Even when Michael Cera is killed by the end of a street light, it looks too stupid.

Our six main actors in the film are all playing themselves, so of course they're not really trying that hard here with their performances. They're all just doing their usual, tired shtick that they always seem to do in whatever other comedies or Judd Apatow films they've done in the past. Emma Watson does have a good cameo here and even though her "character" had the right idea to get out of Franco's place to stay away from our six main leads, I wish we saw her more in this film. In other words, even though Watson gets out of that place no problem, we aren't so lucky since we can't follow her for the rest of the film. Given that she was marketed at having the 7th or 8th top billing in the advertisements for the film, I expected much more screen time for Watson than this.

Aside from the few jokes that I thought were okay, most of the jokes here aren't even that funny. For me, that's the biggest sin a film of this sort can make especially when its central plot is focused on the end of the world. I believe that practically 75% of the jokes deal with excremental humor or are somehow sex-related, and I'm sorry, I have never found this type of stuff funny and probably never will. If this is the type of humor I can expect to get from a film like this, then it makes me hate this film more. As hard as I tried getting into this movie and joining the crowd, This Is the End ultimately left my sense of humor bitter cold and starving to death.

Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3(2010)

After the events in Toy Story 2, our main characters now have come to the realization of an inevitable truth. That truth being that one day, Andy will be all grown up and have to head to college where there will be no time to play with toys there. Even with this certain future event looming over their heads, they plan on enjoying their time with Andy while they still can. So the genius minds at Pixar would have a challenging act to follow with their next sequel to Toy Story. In able for the next sequel to work, they would have to delve more into what the toys will do when Andy goes to college. The end result is Pixar's brilliant conclusion to their groundbreaking Toy Story trilogy, Toy Story 3.

Toy Story 3 places Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the rest of Andy's toys (which are in shorter numbers by the way) in the position that the last film had been building up to: the day when Andy grows up and has to head to college. They all think that there are only three possible places they'll end up going: the attic, the garbage, or daycare. Due to a series of misunderstandings, the toys all end up going to daycare. At first, it looks like life in daycare doesn't sound that bad. The leader of the toys Lotso (Ned Beatty) sounds nice ("No owners means no heartbreak"), and even Barbie (Jodi Benson) has found the love of her life, Ken (Michael Keaton). But then the toys discover not only how rough the children are with the toys, they also discover how much this daycare resembles a prison. Now, it's up to Woody and the gang to escape the daycare before Andy heads out to college.

As Pixar did with the previous installment in the trilogy, Toy Story 3 does what any great follow-up to a great movie does. It continues telling a story as opposed to repeating the original films all over again. Much like Toy Story 2 though, it still feels similar to the original in that the toys get lost....again. Even though the story is still told well here and has enough unique elements in its own story, I personally thought it would have been nice if the toys didn't get kidnapped, lost or misplaced somewhere else for once. That being said, I thought it was an excellent idea adding Barbie's love interest, Ken, into the story since Ken and Barbie's romantic subplot makes for some brilliant comic relief. I like how Ken tries to convince everybody that he's not a girl's toy even though he can't help doing certain "girly" habits like caring about his fashion or even writing with glittery, purple pens.

I also felt that it was a clever idea for Pixar to add the conflict with Buzz Lightyear and how through many complications, he begins to speak Spanish. When he is in this Spanish mode, he is like a whole different person altogether. He is much more flamboyant and openly romantic, as when he dances with Jessie in the climax and during the credits. Plenty of funny moments to be had with this plot development as well. Almost everyone praises the ending of this film and how emotional it is. While I certainly agree with everyone else on the ending, I can also see where some people are coming from when they say that it's highly unlikely for a person like Andy at that time in his life to act the way that he does in the ending. But you know what? If I'm still touched by an ending of this sort, I'm not going to be too picky about certain things behind it.

Toy Story 3 is definitely a worthy final chapter in Pixar's groundbreaking Toy Story trilogy. It's arguably the darkest entry in that it has more than one scary scene in it (the suspense filled climax in the dump). But the darker parts of the film mostly pay off in the end. The sense of humor that was present in the past two movies is still here, the characters are still entertaining, the story is told well, and the animation is well done. Toy Story 3 is a sublime ending to one of the best film trilogies of all time.

Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2(1999)

Toy Story 2 has been considered a rare sequel that actually manages to meet the expectations set from the original film. Not only that, but many critics seem to think that it's also better than the first. Here's what I have to say in response to these two statements. While I definitely agree that it's a very good sequel that doesn't disappoint, I wouldn't go so far as to consider it better than the original 1995 landmark animated feature. That being said, there are plenty of special aspects about Toy Story 2 that make it the kind of sequel you'll rarely come across every day. But before we delve further regarding what specifically makes Toy Story 2 a special follow-up, let's talk about its main plot.

We pick up where the original left off with Woody (Tom Hanks) heading off to cowboy camp with his owner Andy. But when his arm gets accidently ripped, he is left behind. As if things didn't get worse, Woody is kidnapped by a greedy toy collector named Al (Wayne Knight) after trying to rescue one of the toys from being sold at a yard sale. Now, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and some of the other toys are off on a mission to rescue Woody and return back home.

Based on what I've described so far, you might think that this doesn't sound like a sequel that's allegedly better than its predecessor. But then Pixar surprises us with a big plot development, which is that Woody is actually a very rare toy and part of a collection of toys devoted to a show called Woody's Roundup. He even meets other toys from that show including Jessie the cowgirl (Joan Cusack), a horse named Bullseye, and Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammer).

What makes this plot development so strong, aside from giving levity to an otherwise uninspired plot, is that it creates a fascinating conflict for our main character Woody. Woody is basically forced to choose between two hard decisions to make. Either he goes back to his owner Andy with Buzz and the other toys, even though he knows that one day Andy will be all grown up and not have enough time to play with his toys. He must consider doing that or travel with these other toys and go to the museum where they'll be admired by many children all over the world. This kind of dilemma definitely makes the toys question their ultimate purpose in life and yet that's why it's so well thought through. The dilemma that Pixar has created in this story doesn't just affect Woody, it affects all of the other toys. And I think that this conflict that the characters go through is the ultimate reason why this sequel works so well.

But the serious and dramatic dilemma that is created for these characters isn't the only thing that makes Toy Story 2 stand out from other sequels. Toy Story 2 succeeds because it continues telling a story as opposed to repeating the original film all over again. Even though the plot is sort of similar to the original and/or has been done to death in other movies before it, it still flows very well. It has plenty of humorous bits (even though I could have done with less references to other films including the original Toy Story and the Star Wars films), a very cool and thrilling climax (which has a great musical score behind it, if I may say so), and more inspiring character development for Woody and Buzz.

Maybe if most sequels were more like this one, sequels wouldn't be a bad word in the film industry. The animation is still as impressive as the first. The humor is still present here. Remember the scene in which Buzz and the gang cross the road in the orange cones? That was hilarious. Almost all of the best characters from the original are still enjoyable here. Toy Story 2 was originally intended as a direct-to-video sequel. Based on the end result here, it deserved to be released in theaters since it delivers.

Toy Story
Toy Story(1995)

As a child, have you ever wondered at one point in your life what might happen in your room full of toys and dolls while you weren't in it? In Disney-Pixar's landmark 1995 computer animated feature Toy Story, we get that possible answer as the film is about toys that come to life while the owner is out of their room. In case you don't know why Toy Story is an important American film and why it's one of only two animated films to make the AFI's list of the 100 greatest films of all time, allow me to fill you in. It was the first full-length computer animated feature ever made and arguably the best in my opinion. Toy Story was so popular that it is solely responsible for Pixar's big streak of success with other computer animated features such as Up (2009), WALL-E (2008), and The Incredibles (2004). Enough said.

In Toy Story, a group of toys that belong to a young kid named Andy come to life while he's out of the room. They're all led by Andy's favorite toy, a cowboy doll named Woody (Tom Hanks). They've just learned that Andy and his family will be moving away to another neighborhood. Not only that, but his birthday party is being celebrated earlier than expected, which means new toys will be joining them for sure, much to the horror of the other toys. They're afraid that the new toys will be so cool that Andy will no longer want to play with them anymore. Despite this, Woody assures the other toys that everything will be alright and no one will be forgotten. That is until he discovers Andy's newest toy Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), a space ranger action figure who thinks he's the real space ranger that he's based on.

Woody basically becomes so jealous over how cool a toy he is that he tries to do whatever he can to become Andy's favorite toy again. When one of his attempts at getting noticed by Andy accidently goes too far (meaning Buzz gets transported out of the house), Woody tries to rescue him and re-earn the trust of his fellow toys. But through a series of circumstances, Woody gets lost as well right alongside Buzz and they are accidently found by Andy's next door neighbor, Sid. This is a problem for both of these toys since Sid really enjoys torturing and destroying toys. So now Woody and Buzz must get over their differences and work together to get out of Sid's house and back to Andy before he moves.

Basically, what we have here story wise is your typical buddy comedy in animated form. But in my opinion, it's the buddy comedy done right. I'm not saying it just because it's told through a new form of animation, but because the film handles this type of story in the most imaginative and least contrived way. In other words, the basic plot seems to play out naturally and comes off as if Pixar was inventing this type of plot for the first time. There are no plot devices that are forced to the point where it's painfully obvious, everything on screen works within the fabric of the story. The comedic bits, along with being humorous, are very well handled and are necessary contributions to the plot. I loved how in one scene when Woody talks to the toys in Andy's room from Sid's house, the other toys think that Woody murdered Buzz by the end of the scene. That scene and similar scenes were very funny and well done.

There's another crucial reason why the plot for this picture works as well as it does and that is the vocal cast itself. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are irreplaceable as Woody and Buzz, respectively, since they bring so much to the chemistry and dialogue between each other to the point where it's impossible to top them. They do a perfect enough job with what they bring into each of their roles that you couldn't picture hearing any other actors play these two characters. The same can also be said for the supporting cast as well, particularly Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head and Wallace Shawn as Rex. In other words, the actors do a convincing job at bringing each of their characters to life and putting so much personality into them that they help enhance the story further as good acting should be doing.

The way Pixar handles its characters in this movie is also worth noting. For example, even though Sid is having fun destroying toys and is considered evil by the toys, they don't necessarily make him the main villain. In other words, the characters created here aren't exactly clear cut heroes and villains, but they're simply individuals with different personalities. Woody isn't a bad guy because he technically gets Buzz and himself into trouble, he's simply afraid of being forgotten by Andy. That aspect about Woody makes us relate to him even more since we do learn from the mistakes that Woody makes over this misunderstanding. Buzz Lightyear makes for an enjoyable fish-out-of-water type character in that he strongly believes he's the real Buzz Lightyear to the point that being told that he's actually a toy would be nonsense in his mind. In other words, Pixar cares a great deal about its story and characters here.

As you can tell, Toy Story is simply much more than an innovative American film with its groundbreaking animation or even an entertaining family film. It's a film about characters that I'm sure most of us can relate to or identify with. It's a film for everybody to cherish for different reasons whether it be the animation, the humor, the story or the characters. I'll argue that it's still the finest film Pixar's produced yet. In a pinch, Toy Story is a film you should check out immediately if you haven't already.

Mary Poppins
Mary Poppins(1964)

I have to admit that it's rather miraculous that I am able to remember a few of the first movies that I've ever seen as a child. I am able to recall seeing Disney films like Cinderella (1950) and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) for the first time at a very early age. So it's no surprise that I'm still able to recall seeing Mary Poppins (1964) for the first time at a young age and remembering how special an experience it was. What makes it all the more memorable is that I still enjoy Mary Poppins looking back at it as an adult just as much as I did when I saw it as a kid. In my opinion, that's the key ingredient regarding what makes a children's film timeless in the first place.

We follow an unhappy British family led by Mr. and Mrs. Banks (David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns respectively) during the 1910s that are looking to hire a new nanny after their most recent one (Elsa Lanchester) quit. What they get is a magical nanny by the name of Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews in her amazing, Oscar-winning theatrical debut) who changes the entire family's lives forever. The kids (Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber) are taken on adventures beyond their wildest dreams such as jumping into chalk drawings, cleaning their room with the snap of their fingers, and other similar outings which are more magical than they sound. Joining with them on their adventures is an upbeat jack-of-all-trades by the name of Bert (Dick Van Dyke in a highly joyful role). This film basically covers Mary's time with the family until the "wind changes direction", both literally and metaphorically.

What is fascinating about the story for this family film is that it teaches lessons not only to children, but also to adults. In its own unique way, it basically tells every family to meet in the middle between what the children expect from their parents and what the parents expect from their children. That means that parents should be more understanding of their children's playfulness and children should only have so much of a good thing. That's exactly the type of family dynamic that Mary Poppins tries to teach the entire Banks family through her own mysterious yet somehow wise actions. It is a profound and meaningful dynamic for any family to learn and strive for, and it's one crucial reason why Mary Poppins is still an original and unique family picture almost 50 years since it first came out.

But of course, it isn't the only reason why I still love Mary Poppins now. Looking back at it again, I just picked up on how funny, witty and charming this movie really is. At times, the humor bares comparison with some of the greatest comedies of the 20th century like Duck Soup (1933) and Modern Times (1936). Other times, I was displaying an affectionate smile either for the terrific lines of dialogue made possible by writers Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi or recalling just how cool and charming every scene is. Remember the scene with Uncle Albert (Ed Wynn) floating up in the air because he's laughing so hard? Remember the chimney sweeps (including Bert) doing some dangerous dancing on the rooftops? This film contains just one great scene after another and at a running time of more than 2 hours, it all moves exceedingly well. If that isn't a compliment to Walt Disney's master storytelling, I don't know what is.

I briefly mentioned earlier that this was Julie Andrews' acting debut as the main character Mary Poppins and considering that she won an Oscar for her first performance, it's an impressive way to start out her career. Between her superb singing skills, her comfort in the role, and her overall excellent delivery, I can definitely see why she earned the Oscar. I know Dick Van Dyke has received criticism for his British accent, but to be brutally honest, I never saw the problem because I don't know anything about true Cockney accents. I honestly loved Dick Van Dyke in this movie regardless. I thought he had charm and wit to spare, he worked very well with the kids, he always had a positive attitude, he was highly entertaining overall. Even David Tomlinson is outstanding as Mr. Banks. For me, this is the strict parental figure done right. He may be able to tolerate the playfulness of his children for a very limited time, but the filmmakers still made a likable character out of him and somehow make his stubbornness funny.

I think we all know how great the music and songs written by Richard and Robert Sherman are here. We all remember the song "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and the meaning of that unorthodox word. It's practically a word that's used when there's nothing else to say, and there's nothing else I can say about that word except.....the word. How do you like that? There's a reason why this film is one of the only 2 Disney movies to be on the list of the AFI's 25 Greatest Musicals. The fact that it's filled with timeless songs such as "A Spoonful of Sugar", "I Love to Laugh" and the Oscar-winning "Chim Chim Cheree" should explain enough. They're cheerful, they're memorable, they're catchy, the songs and music are basically everything you could ask for from a musical.

Mary Poppins easily takes its place amongst the finest films that Disney has ever put out. The story flows very well at 139 minutes and the fact that it moves more efficiently than most films of that running time is further proof of Mr. Disney's master skills as a storyteller. The music, the acting, the characters, the writing and even some of the special effects all come together in a wonderful family film that is "practically perfect in every way".


Pixar has been on a role with producing high quality animated features. Their features not only contain impressive 3D animation, but most importantly, they tell high quality stories for children and adults to enjoy equally. These great qualities were present in the Toy Story movies, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and WALL-E. These qualities are also present in their 2009 animated adventure, Up. Up was the first film made by Pixar that earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. That is quite the honor indeed considering that the only other animated film that was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar was Beauty and the Beast (1991). And do I think the honor is well deserved? Sure, I'd say it is.

Our main character of this picture is Carl Frederickson (Ed Asner), a 78-year-old man who recently lost his wife due to a terminal illness. He and his wife have always dreamed of going on a big adventure to South America. Now, with the assistance of thousands of balloons attached to his house, Carl takes off on an adventure to South America on her posthumous behalf. However, Carl doesn't realize that he also brought a young Wilderness Explorer along with him. This young boy, aka Russell, wants to earn a badge for assisting the elderly and he thinks he can help Carl even though he claims he doesn't need any help.

This unlikely duo arrives to South America and on their adventure, they come across a tall bird (whom Russell calls Kevin at first, but eventually learns that it's a female) and a dog named Dug who has a collar that speaks on its behalf. They also encounter a lost adventurer that Carl admired when he was a kid who is now at old age. This adventurer known as Charles F. Muntz is searching for the bird that these two have befriended and certain complications arise that cause Carl and Russell to do whatever they can to protect Kevin from the hands of Muntz and his dog minions.

When talking about the positive aspects of Up, the first thing that should be applauded right away is the film's first couple minutes which covers the lifetime relationship between Carl and his wife Ellie from childhood to adulthood. Almost done completely without dialogue, this sublime introduction manages to pack in enough warm emotion and chemistry between Carl and Ellie in a brief amount of time that it's difficult not to admire it. It's so well done that when Carl thinks about Ellie or looks at a picture of her on the walls of his house in the remainder of the film, we already understand the strength of their connection. That doesn't always happen with a film, and it's usually difficult to pull such a thing off. But much like Dumbo or Bambi before it, Up somehow manages to pull it off successfully.

Much like a film that came out before Up called Gran Torino, the main character Carl reminded me a bit of my grandpa, who passed away a few months before this film was released. If you've already seen my review for Gran Torino (2008), you may already understand why in regards to him being genuine but also being a curmudgeon for understandable reasons. Between the main characters of both films, Carl is by far the more upbeat, adventurous one. I know it sounds like an unusual, unfair comparison to make (since I'm comparing a family film to an adult film), but it's simply to give you an idea of what this character is like. Even if he's going on highly unrealistic adventures, you'd completely buy that if a man that age in real-life were on this adventure like Carl, chances are they'd act the same way that Carl does.

Of course, it's not just Carl Frederickson and the film's first couple minutes that make Up a special animated feature, it's the whole film altogether. Say what you will about the story being too silly and implausible at times, it is still told very well. The storytellers knew what they were doing with the character of Russell. In other storyteller's hands, he might have been an overbearing screen presence. But at the hands of Pixar, Russell has just the right balance of charm and innocence. Based solely on the dogs in this film especially Dug, Pixar really knows a lot about dogs and how happy and playful these creatures are in real life. I think it's a safe bet that when we all guess what dogs might say if they could speak, it would pretty darn close to what's brought to life here.

Not since their first feature Toy Story has Pixar produced such a strong animated motion picture. The sky's the limit with what Up does so well. The characters are all relatable and well thought out. The story has many creative fantasy elements with the millions of balloons keeping the house afloat and whatnot. The music by Michael Giacchino compliments the tone of the film very well, especially with the soft moments involving just the piano being heard in the background. The animation is very expressive and colorful as films like this should be. To get straight to the point, Up is a delightful flight.

The Lion King

Out of all the animated features that the Walt Disney Company has produced, the film that seems to be the most celebrated nowadays is coincidentally the one that made the most money. That film being their 32nd full-length animated feature, The Lion King (1994). Now the question that I'm sure almost everybody is going to want me to answer is this. Do I think that the hype surrounding this film is well deserved? While I can certainly say that The Lion King is still a good movie, I honestly think that there are better Disney films out there than this one. I know I'm shocking most of America with the comment I just made, so why do I think that The Lion King is not the best Disney picture like everyone else seems to think that it is? We'll delve deeper into that later, but first, let's look at the main plot.

Mufasa (James Earl Jones), the ruler of all animals in Africa, and his wife Sarabi have given birth to a young lion cub named Simba. His birth is celebrated of course with him being presented to the other animals of the kingdom by a loyal baboon. Mufasa's brother Scar (Jeremy Irons) is jealous that Simba will succeed Mufasa as king and hatches a plan with the hyenas to kill them off and take the throne for himself. After Mufasa is killed in a stampede, Scar places the blame on Simba for his father's death and orders him to get out of the kingdom forever.

Simba almost dies trying to evade his home, but is saved by a meerkat named Timon and a warthog named Pumbaa. Timon and Pumbaa believe that it's okay to stay away from your troubles, and Simba decides to adapt to their laid-back way of life and never go back home. But then, his childhood friend Nala finds Simba and tells him that things are bad back at home with Scar and his hyenas taking over the land and they need him to return and know that he's alive. Given that he thought that he killed his own father, Simba must decide whether or not to challenge his uncle for the throne.

I think the lesson one is supposed to obtain from this story is to learn from your past mistakes. This is also where one of the main problems of the movie resides since this particular message wasn't well delivered. Doug Walker, a popular Internet video film critic, made a good point when he said that this film didn't teach him to learn from past mistakes, but to tell people that he didn't do any mistakes. For that matter, I thought the climax really was the weakest part of the film. Between how unnecessarily confusing the content of the dialogue between Scar and Simba is, the distractingly silly moments with the comic relief and the underlying pop culture references ("They call me Mr. Pig!"), and the battle between Simba and Scar in slow motion, the climax does kind of fall flat in contrast with the earlier parts of the film.

Another big issue I have with The Lion King is that I felt it didn't explain enough regarding why the hyenas are bad news to the kingdom. Sure, the movie tells us that they wipe the land clean of its grass, water, animals and other resources under the rule of Scar. However, we are given no explanations regarding why the hyenas are such bad creatures as the lions are claiming that they are. For that matter, the film also didn't tell us what made Mufasa and Scar rivals to begin with. I know it's nitpicking, but when a film lacks crucial story details like that, I can't help but penalize it for forgetting to explain more.

The animation in The Lion King is spectacular, no doubt about it. Everyone's gone on about how the stampede sequence in particular is outstanding to watch on the big screen and their praise is certainly understandable. The Lion King is a visually impressive film to watch mainly because of the epic scale and depth of the African environments. With the exception of "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" which is a major distraction to the film's tone, the songs by Elton John and Tim Rice are pretty solid. "Circle of Life" is the standout song in my opinion and serves as a worthy introduction to a film of this grandness and spectacle. Hans Zimmer's orchestral score is another big standout for me in regards to the film's music, since it serves as a fitting contrast to the large and absorbing images being shown on screen.

The voice-over work that stood out the most from the all-star vocal cast was James Earl Jones and Jeremy Irons. James Earl Jones incorporates the right amount of authority, humbleness, and class into his performance as Simba's dad Mufasa as we should expect for a role such as this from such a distinguished actor. Even though he's only present for half the length of the film, I thought Mufasa was one cool father figure. He felt like a real dad in both his playfulness with Simba as well as his seriousness with him about how he isn't as fearless as Simba thinks he is. There's a scene between Simba and Mufasa in which he basically states this which is very well handled and very well done.

Very little else can be said about The Lion King that everyone else hasn't already said except that there's a reason why The Lion King is an animated feature that pleases almost everybody. It has comedy, drama, music, and a little bit of something for everybody. As long as movies are a form of entertainment that unifies us all, then a film with something for all of us isn't anything to complain about, is it?


I think it's pretty safe to say that we all have been in the same shoes as the main character of Walt Disney's 4th animated feature Dumbo (1941) at least once in our lives before. Anyone who had either seen this picture or had been picked on and/or bullied in school knows what it feels like to go through whatever the main character goes through in this film. The biggest reason why Dumbo has always been one of Disney's most timeless animated treasures is because so many of us can identify with the sadness and pain that the title character feels from all the unfortunate circumstances he's put under. Obviously, that isn't the only reason why Dumbo still holds up well after all these years, but more on that later.

Our main character of this film is a baby elephant named Dumbo who is ridiculed by fellow circus animals and humans for his enormous ears. His mother Jumbo is the only elephant who is kind to Dumbo and willing to defend him. But when she gets into trouble for trying to protect Dumbo from harm, she gets locked up in a cage and Dumbo is now alone. That's when a circus mouse named Timothy Mouse comes in and becomes his only friend outside his mother. Timothy promises to do whatever he can to help Dumbo overcome his obstacle by making it into his strength.

Right off the bat, I should say that I thought it was ingenious to make Dumbo's best friend a mouse, given that elephants are supposed to be afraid of mice for whatever reasons. I liked how even though sad things keep happening to Dumbo, he's the only elephant in the circus that has a mouse for a friend. That was a very clever idea on the writer's part. I also found Dumbo's relationship with his mom to be deeply touching and emotional. The filmmakers were wise to keep the dialogue out of the scenes between Dumbo and his mom and let the heartwarming images drawn by the Disney animators do the talking so to speak. Remember a brief scene early on when Jumbo wraps Dumbo's ears into a blanket and gently rocks him back and forth with her trunk? That was a cute little scene. You couldn't make this part of the movie better with dialogue since it manages to work perfectly well as it is.

Speaking of great scenes, how about that infamous pink elephants sequence? Make all the arguments you like about how it contributes little to the plot and how a certain scene before it could send the wrong message to kids with Dumbo and Timothy Mouse accidentally consuming alcohol. That pink elephants scene is still a cool scene to watch. Considering the time in which it came out and all of the bright, colorful and surreal imagery being shown on screen, that scene was really ahead of its time in terms of its content.

In regards to the controversy involving the crows that help Dumbo discover his true destiny and whether or not they are racist, I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about. In my opinion, they were just cool, free-spirited creatures who are just enjoying life. On top of that, the main leader of the group was voiced by a white person (Cliff Edwards to be precise, who's also famous for his voice-over work for Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio (1940)), so it makes the argument a tad less credible. Personally, nothing about these crows would've offended me if I was an African-American. If there was a scene that would have offended me if I were an African-American, it would be the Roustabouts song earlier in the film.

I'm shocked that for all the controversy with the crows, how come no one seems to be offended by the Roustabouts scene? It clearly involves African-American slaves setting up the circus tents along with the circus animals. If that wasn't enough for this scene to repel any African-Americans, then some of the lyrics are. I swear I heard these very words somewhere in the song... "We don't know when we get our pay, and when we do we throw our pay away". They're basically saying that they're enjoying being hard-working slaves and that they only enjoy living for that reason. I guess it just goes to show you how complicated race issues can really become, but I just think America was calling racism on the wrong part of the movie.

In the tradition of the best Disney pictures, another one of the film's strengths is in its music and songs arranged by Frank Churchill, Oliver Wallace, and Ned Washington. Along with its wide range of music whether it's softer music or circus music, the film's songs are still memorable to this day especially "Casey Junior", "Baby Mine" and "When I See An Elephant Fly". The music and songs have noteworthy variety to them and they are all handled very well. The animation was intended to be a little less advanced than the three previous Disney films before it (Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia), but it's still well done in its own right. The animation compliments the simple story that is being told well enough. There's no need to remake it and advance the animation further, it somehow works just fine as it is.

Dumbo was intended to be a simpler film than the previous Disney animated features before it both with its animation and its story. And yet, it manages to equal and even top the three Disney films that came before it because it has the best balance of everything that made Disney films terrific to begin with. Even with a brief running time of just over an hour, Dumbo is more evidence that a great film which lasts just over an hour is preferable to a lousy film that lasts around two hours.


Walt Disney's 12th full-length animated feature Cinderella (1950) was one of the first movies that I ever saw as a child along with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Mary Poppins (1964). If there's something we all know from our childhoods, it's that the first few movies we see (especially if they're Disney movies like this) are going to remain in our memories for quite some time. It was a great film to watch as a child, and for the most part, I still liked the film looking back at it as an adult. Unfortunately, due to some serious story flaws, Cinderella doesn't stand the test of time as well as either Snow White or Mary Poppins do.

You know the story to this one. A young woman named Cinderella is forced to work as a maid to her evil stepmother and two stepsisters after her father passed away. Despite the terrible treatment she gets all around from them, Cinderella still remains kind and gentle. Furthermore, she at least has a few animal friends in the form of mice, birds, and other animals in the farm nearby. One day, the kingdom announces that the prince has returned and a ball will be held to celebrate this occasion. Every single person is to attend meaning Cinderella is eligible to go. However, her stepmother does not let her go and gives her more chores to do. That's when her fairy godmother comes in and....well, I think it's safe to say that you know the rest, so I won't spoil the rest for whoever hasn't seen it yet.

So what issues do I have with Cinderella looking back at it as a young adult? Well, let's discuss the biggest issue I have with the entire film. The film makes the serious mistake of placing at least half the focus of the movie on the side characters rather than on the main characters Cinderella and Prince Charming. I'm particularly disdainful of the fact that more than a quarter of the film is focused on the adventures with the mice and the cat and yet we only see Prince Charming for around 2-3 minutes.

Now why did the storytellers of this film feel like this was the right direction to go? They even spend more time on the King and the Grand Duke more than they do with Prince Charming to the point where it should be the King who should be married and not the prince. I realize that it was hard to draw realistic human characters when Snow White was being made and I think the animators did a great job on animating the human halves of the fawns in Fantasia. So there's absolutely no excuse for Disney's storytellers to drop the ball like that on the prince character and deprive him of having any
personality, no excuse for that whatsoever.

In addition to the prince not having enough screen time or any personality, the mice have way more screen time than they should be having and there's only so much of their over cutesiness that I can take. While these mice characters are at least useful to the main plot some of the time, a film that is titled Cinderella is supposed to be mainly focused on Cinderella, not over 25% focused on a Tom and Jerry like subplot. The high-pitched voices on these mice don't help either. In fact, they make the problem even worse in my opinion.

I should probably start analyzing the positive aspects of Cinderella now. Even despite the criticisms that the main character Cinderella gets for not being an assertive enough character, I have to be honest and say that I still liked her enough character wise. I particularly admired how after all the misery she has been put under from her step family, she still maintains her kindness and positivity almost all the time. If that wasn't enough, she also tries to spread that positivity to everybody and every creature around her, so that they can all get along. So for that aspect alone, I think she's a good role model for young girls to look up to.

Of course, I thought the stepmother was a well written Disney villain. Who wouldn't think so? She doesn't need any evil laughter to become more intimidating for our main character. The fact that she simply keeps forcing her do more chores and not even give her any credit whatsoever is enough for me. Even though it's a little unusual that more time is spent with the King and the Grand Duke than on the Prince, I still think that they're enjoyable comic relief and they do keep the plot in motion as characters of this nature should be doing.

The soundtrack by Oliver Wallace has a couple memorable tunes that I'm sure most of us are familiar with such as "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo", "Sing Sweet Nightingale", "So This is Love", and "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes". Though it isn't as richly detailed as the earliest Disney pictures are, the animation here is nice and colorful in its own right. Overall, I think that Cinderella is alright. If this film didn't make the serious storytelling errors that it did and if it focused more on the central characters, then I think Cinderella would be a more timeless Disney picture as a result. But for what it is for the time being, it's still a nice picture with a positive, harmless message for children about the importance of kindness and hard work.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Disney does have a history of producing some dark films in the past. The Black Cauldron (1985) was the first Disney animated feature to be given a PG rating by the MPAA for a reason. Disney has also had a history of showing young audiences some scary stuff in the past. Remember the evil queen's beggar disguise in Snow White or the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence in Fantasia or even the pink elephants scene from Dumbo? Those scenes were memorably creepy. Disney has basically made some dark stuff in the past before. But arguably, the darkest and most adult film the Disney Company has produced so far would have to be their 34th full- length animated feature, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996).

Think of this movie as a darker and more complex version of Cinderella (1950). It tells the story of a deformed person named Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) who is forced to stay in the bell tower of Notre Dame by his evil guardian, Frollo (Tony Jay). His only friends are three gargoyles who come to life when no one else is around. One day, Quasimodo goes out of the bell tower to go to the Festival of Fools, a celebration of all kinds of misfits, against Frollo's wishes. When Frollo's guards publicly humiliate Quasimodo in the middle of the festival, a gypsy named Esmeralda (Demi Moore) comes to his defense just as Frollo orders for her to be arrested.

But luckily, Esmeralda escapes using her magic tricks that are considered illegal. Now, Frollo is on the hunt for Esmeralda determined to "put her to justice" (I put quotations around that since she really didn't do anything wrong per se). Little does Frollo know that Esmeralda has befriended Quasimodo and (as Frollo would put it) "cast him under a spell" of sorts meaning she teaches Quasimodo that it's okay to be different and that gypsies aren't bad people like Frollo claims that they are. Frollo's Captain of the Guard, Phoebus also befriends these two secretly through other various circumstances since he does not approve of the actions committed by Frollo. Will these three be able to put an end to Frollo's madness or fail?

I believe that the most fascinating character in The Hunchback of Notre Dame has got to be the main antagonist, Frollo. Without question, I would easily consider Frollo one of the most complex, adult characters ever concocted by Disney. I personally find it brilliant that he always tries to justify any crimes he commits by claiming that it's all part of God's plan. I also find it clever that he thinks Esmeralda has put a spell on him since he has two intriguing and assuredly sinister plans lined up for when he captures her. He will either burn her at the stake so he can be "cured" of this spell he claims he's under or force her to become romantically involved with him to cure his underlying lust for her. You wouldn't think that this is a Disney flick I'm talking about just based on how I'm describing him, but to be honest, that's why I think he's such a special villain.

The drawing and animation in The Hunchback of Notre Dame is simply sensational. The environments that are brought to life in this film really do feel epic because of the scope and detail of the animation. Much like Beauty and the Beast (1991) before it, one needs to simply look at the film first hand in able to truly appreciate the skilled craft and expertise that was put into the film's animation. The music is also spectacular, praise in particular goes to the strong work of the choir for again making everything happening on screen feel so epic in scope. The best songs in this film have got to be "Hellfire" and "The Bells of Notre Dame" because they really do have that elegant and epic quality to them. In addition to that, these songs keep the story moving along as the best musical numbers should.

The only personal criticism I could make for this film is that I would have liked to see this film go even darker. The reason for that is because the storytellers here did such a good job at taking a story with adult subject matter and churning it into something palatable for kids. They did so well in fact that I would have edited out the parts with the gargoyles and the slapstick moments since they're basically more dramatically distracting than helpful to the plot. I think had the gargoyles and slapstick stuff that was meant to appeal to the kids been taken out, The Hunchback of Notre Dame would easily rank as one of the finest pictures ever put out by Disney.

As it is though, the criticisms wouldn't matter too much since I already think that this is Disney's most underrated animated feature since Alice in Wonderland (1951). In addition to being a visual marvel to feast my eyes on and a pleasure to listen to with such killer songs such as the ones I've stated before, The Hunchback of Notre Dame does an exceptional job at teaching kids the importance of tolerating people of a different culture, religion, race, and visual appearance. This is a remarkable achievement, one of the studio's finest.


After their previous feature Beauty and the Beast (1991) was the first animated feature in Oscar history to be nominated for Best Picture, the Disney Studios would have a tough act to follow with their next animated picture. In able for this next film to at least be in the same league as Beauty and the Beast, it would have to contain characters, songs, music and a story that are just as memorable as what the prior film offered. As it turns out, the result was the Disney Studio's 31st full-length animated feature, Aladdin (1992). This is another highly entertaining Disney animated feature from the Disney Renaissance which contains pretty much everything you could wish for from a Disney flick whether it would be good laughs, thrilling action, cool animation or awesome songs.

We follow a young man named Aladdin and his pet monkey Abu who are sick of being poor and always having to dodge the guards all for the sake of stolen food. They dream that one day they'll be rich enough to put an end to all their troubles. But when they meet a princess named Jasmine who doesn't care for life in the palace because she never goes anywhere and is being forced to marry another prince, things change. After a series of events occur, Aladdin is thrown in the dungeon and a fellow prisoner offers him a way to escape in exchange for doing a task for him.

Now, Aladdin has to go to a secret place outside the city of Agrabah called the Cave of Wonders where he must retrieve a magic lamp. This magic lamp contains a highly energetic and fully animated genie (Robin Williams) who can grant Aladdin almost any three wishes he would like. So Aladdin wishes that he was a prince, that way he can try and marry Jasmine. But an evil sorcerer named Jafar and his parrot Iago want Aladdin's lamp and will do anything to get it. Will Aladdin be able to outsmart Jafar and win the princess or not?

Want me to summarize why to see Aladdin, if you still haven't, in two words? Well, than those two words would be Robin Williams. Robin Williams was naturally born to voice the genie in this film and I'd guarantee that no matter how hard you tried, you couldn't find another actor that could compete with the high energy and witty comedic style that Williams incorporates into the Genie character. It's been said that much of the dialogue by Robin Williams was improvised or added in even though it wasn't in the original script. To be honest, I couldn't tell the difference between what was and what wasn't in the script since Williams does such a great job at making all of it sound natural. That is precisely how inspired the casting of Robin Williams in this role is.

It's not just Williams that makes Aladdin such an entertaining Disney flick, but I also thought that Aladdin and Jasmine had good chemistry between each other. I like the conversations they share with one another regarding how frustrated they are with the lives they're currently living. I don't know about you guys, but when Jasmine basically states that her life of luxury is similar to prison since she can't go outside the palace walls, that's when I thought "maybe being a prince or princess isn't such a good idea". The reason being that in some areas of the world, there's a good possibility that some prince or princess may have no choice but to live that lifestyle. If that somehow wasn't enough to steer you guys away from living a royal life like Jasmine, she's also being forced to get married against her will. Suddenly, a normal lifestyle is sounding excellent to most of us, isn't it?

Jafar is another worthy addition to a list of the best Disney villains out there. I admire how he basically enjoys being the most diabolical douchebag to everyone he is around. If there is one thing about some of the greatest Disney villains out there that makes them great including Jafar, it's that they enjoy whatever evil things they're doing. Because they're able to get so much thrill and enjoyment out of what they're doing, that makes us all the more entertained by them in the process. You'll practically love to hate this guy.

If there's one thing about this picture that I didn't care for story wise, it would be in regards to Aladdin lying to Jasmine about him being a prince in general. I didn't really care for this part of the story much since most of the dialogue that results from it can be a little too cringe worthy and painfully obvious for my taste. Also, the clichéd conflict between Aladdin and the genie that results from this part of the story feels forced and unnecessary. I simply felt that it was one routine plot device that didn't need to be in this part of the story at all.

Given that it's one of the highest grossing animated features of all time, I think it's safe to say that there's little more to explain about why Aladdin is such a great Disney animated feature. We all know how great the songs by Alan Menken, the late Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice are especially "Friend Like Me", "Prince Ali", and "A Whole New World". The fast paced, highly energetic, and colorful animation is perfectly suited for a film of this style. I've already gone into detail about Robin Williams' performance, the character of Jafar, and the relationship between Aladdin and Jasmine. You guys have probably seen it many times before, and as far as I'm concerned, you guys deserve to continue seeing it a few times more.

Beauty and the Beast

As we all know, The Little Mermaid (1989) was the film that started the Disney Renaissance, the period in the 1990's which saw the Disney Studios returning to producing high quality animated films again. Many have debated which film from the Disney Renaissance was the best. A lot of people say that it's The Lion King (1994), and others say that it's Aladdin (1992). But in my opinion, the best animated feature from this era is the Disney Studio's 30th full-length animated feature, Beauty and the Beast (1991). This was the first Disney animated feature to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture and that honor is well deserved. It's the Disney animated fairy tale done to perfection and it's also a phenomenal movie musical.

Most of us know the story to this one. A young, spoiled prince is transformed into a beast by an enchantress after his selfish behavior towards her in a beggar disguise. This spell on the prince also affects his servants as they are transformed into household objects (candlesticks, clocks, teapots, etc.). He is to remain a beast for the rest of his life unless he earns the love of another person in exchange for their love before his 21st birthday.

We are then introduced to Belle, a beautiful young woman who loves to read books and dreams of a better life than the one she is currently living. She is tired of a repetitive life in the village she lives in. Although a town hero named Gaston has interest in marrying her, Belle could care less. Her father heads out of town, but gets lost along the way and stumbles upon the Beast's castle. When the Beast takes him prisoner for trespassing and Belle discovers the Beast's castle searching for her father, Belle volunteers to take his place and save her father's life. At first, neither of these two have any interest in getting to know each other. But as time passes and certain events take place, these two eventually start to open up and develop feelings to one another.

Beauty and the Beast has some of the most breathtaking animation and visuals the Disney Studios have ever put out. It's the type of drawing that simply needs to be seen in able for one to truly appreciate the craft behind it. Some well-drawn scenes include the introduction with the stained glass windows, the "Be Our Guest" number, and the ballroom scene. If you want further proof why I believe 2D animation is superior to 3D animation, then take a look at what this film has to offer since it is a visual marvel to look at.

Another aspect about Beauty and the Beast that is done perfectly is the music and songs by the colossal teaming of Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman. Every song in this feature is a classic from the excellent opening musical number "Belle" to the hilarious villain song "Gaston" to the timeless musical number "Be Our Guest" to the immortal title tune. There's a good reason why this is the only Disney animated feature on the AFI's list of the 25 Greatest Musicals. All of the songs contribute to the story as great musical numbers should, they all have memorable melodies and rhythms, and they all enhance the enjoyment of the picture more.

But of course, the spectacular animation and music aren't the only things about Beauty and the Beast to love. There's also the film's high quality storytelling and tremendous characters. Belle easily ranks as the finest Disney female leading character in that she wants something more out of life than a prince, which is more than can be said for all of the other Disney princesses. With his physical attractiveness serving as an ironic contrast to the Beast's deceiving outer looks and his willingness to do whatever it takes to force Belle to marry him, Gaston makes for an excellent even underrated Disney villain.

And while I'm still on the subject of the film's main characters, I should talk about the Beast himself. I must compliment the storytellers on a job well done with making the Beast a complex creature that is stuck in between basically being either a hero or a semi-villain. You can tell that he's stuck between doing the right thing and doing something that will only please himself especially in the first half of the film. The character of the Beast was very well thought through between the way he was designed by the animators and the way the Beast conveys his internal struggles from this spell. Everything about this character was handled impeccably.

The other side characters are very well done. I personally liked Lumiere, the candlestick, the best. I liked his elegant charm which is shown in full display when he's singing in the "Be Our Guest" musical number. I also liked his simple mindedness when it comes to how long it takes for someone to develop a romantic relationship. Cogsworth is another great side character between his loyalty to the Beast and how he sometimes needs to act as his conscience some of the time. Also, the film's central message about looking past the outer looks of certain people or creatures and into their soul is a virtuous message to get across to kids. Sometimes, what we all seek for in life is in the last place we'd look at and what Belle eventually discovers in the Beast is no exception.

Beauty and the Beast is a true Disney classic and is easily one of the studio's finest films. The animation is stunning, the music is sensational, the characters are excellent, and the story is well told and well-paced. It's also one of the rare Disney films in which adults will not only enjoy as much as kids will, but maybe even more than their kids. Definitely see this film if you haven't already.

The Little Mermaid

No Disney animated fairy tales came out in the period between Sleeping Beauty (1959) and the Disney Studio's 28th full-length animated feature, The Little Mermaid (1989). As a result, the animated features that came out during that time, such as Robin Hood (1973) and The Black Cauldron (1985) to name a few, were significantly inferior both critically and financially to the films produced during the Golden Age like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Bambi (1942).

The Little Mermaid is an important film for Disney in that it restored the Disney Studio's profitability as well as the quality of their animated features. This film was basically responsible for starting the era known as the Disney Renaissance, a period from 1989 to 1999 which saw such landmark animated features such as Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992). But aside from its importance to Disney, does The Little Mermaid still hold up well compared to the best Disney flicks? Let's take a closer look.

We follow a teenage mermaid named Ariel who is fascinated with the human world and collects any random discoveries (such as forks and pipes) she finds that is related to life out of the ocean. One night, she saves the life of a human prince after his ship is destroyed and falls in love with him. There is one problem regarding Ariel being in love with this human, her father King Triton hates humans and has told Ariel never to go to the surface again. But Ariel has already fallen completely in love with this human prince that she's willing to do anything to be with him, even if it means going to see the sea witch Ursula about it.

Much has been said about the film's main character Ariel. While some critics and audiences praise Ariel for how independent she is as a character compared to her predecessors, there are others who say that she isn't the best role model for young girls to look up to. Personally, I can easily see where both sides are coming from. Along with the main character from Alice in Wonderland (1951), Ariel was one of the first leading female Disney characters who doesn't rely on any other creature or person to make decisions for her. In fact, she commits more than one rebellious action in this movie such as saving the life of a human prince and seeing the sea witch against her father's wishes. That's the first time we've seen a Disney princess do something like that and whether you like her or not, at least give Ariel credit for being more assertive than all of the Disney princesses before her.

But on the other hand, Ariel is considered a Disney princess which means little girls will look up to her as a role model. The problem with little girls looking up to Ariel as a role model of course is that she is a teenager who doesn't make the wisest decisions to say the least. That's not to say that she's a bad character by any means, it's just that her character may send the wrong messages to little children. Despite the unintentional flaws with her character, she still has good spirit.

What surprised me is how well developed her father, King Triton was. It's very rare to have a parental figure in a Disney animated fairy tale to be fully developed and have a dilemma of their own. I particularly like how he has trouble figuring out what to do with Ariel and how he has a certain amount of guilt whenever he feels he was being too hard on her. Personally, I thought his character was very well handled. The other characters are awesome as well particularly the main villain Ursula. On top of her unique design and the obviously wrong advice she gives Ariel about what men really like about women, she's having a blast being evil and the fact that she's having fun with whatever she does makes her all the more enjoyable as a character.

Of course, the music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman is phenomenal. We all know and love the songs in this movie like "Under the Sea", "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (a great villain song for Ursula), "Les Poissones" (the chef in this song is hilarious), and "Kiss the Girl". What makes these songs so good is that they keep the story moving along as good musical numbers should and they are all really witty both in their lyrics and their rhythm. The voice acting is well done except for whoever voiced the prince since the voice-over work for the prince was really bland and monotone.

The animation is a return to form for the Disney Studios. After a couple of animated features with sketchy drawing like 101 Dalmatians (1961) and Oliver and Company (1988), The Little Mermaid has much more impressive detailed animation than anything that came out since Sleeping Beauty (1959). Come to think of it, almost everything about The Little Mermaid is a return to form for the Disney Studios, isn't it? From the animation to the music to the story to the characters, The Little Mermaid has enough terrific things about it that one can be willing to look past the flawed message the film provides and just enjoy it for what it is. This is a highly entertaining Disney animated fairy tale that would only be the beginning of an outstanding new era for Disney.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a significant piece of American film history for many reasons, chief among them being that it was the first full-length animated feature ever made. This film was also responsible for influencing other landmark fantasy/sci-fi flicks such as The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Star Wars (1977), and the gratitude from critics and audiences alike for its existence will not cease for quite some time. That being said, does Walt Disney's 1937 animated landmark film hold up as a piece of cinema today aside from its importance and our memories of watching it as a kid? My answer to that question is yes.

I think it's safe to say that most of us know the story to this one. An evil queen has learned from her magic mirror that her stepdaughter Snow White is considered "the fairest one of all" and this causes the queen to be jealous. She becomes so jealous in fact that she sends out her loyal huntsman to kill her stepdaughter. But the huntsman is unable to pull off this task and orders Snow White to run away and never come back. Lost, confused, and alone, she finds a cottage in the woods which is occupied by seven little dwarfs where she seeks shelter and protection from the queen's evil plans.

The story behind the making of this picture is simply amazing. The production of this movie lasted for 4 1/2 years and during that production, many complications aroused. From the seemingly endless increase in the production's costs to the skepticism from everybody (including Disney's growing staff of animators) regarding whether or not anyone will watch a feature length cartoon (mainly because many feared that the film would run out of gags or the colors would be too bright).

If that didn't sound dramatic enough yet for whatever reason, they didn't settle on the names of the dwarfs until under a year before the film came out and the film itself was completed 2 1/2 weeks before its release (imagine the amount of work they had to do with the advertising and whatnot). Just hearing what I just said alone, it's miraculous that the film did outstanding financially and critically. Otherwise, the Disney studios would have probably gone out of business due to the film's costs. It really is an amazing success story and is sure to give those who currently resent the Disney Company's ways a better respect for what Walt Disney himself had accomplished.

As for the quality of the film itself, it still holds up pretty well. The animation is still as breathtaking and impressively detailed as it was in 1937. It's all the more outstanding if you look at the landmark black-and-white Mickey Mouse short, Steamboat Willie (1928) and look at the very basic animation used in that short and then look at the more realistic animation in this film. By doing that, you can obtain a much deeper appreciation of just how far the animation studio had come during that era. The progress that studio made from Steamboat Willie to Snow White is unbelievable. It truly does have to be seen to be believed.

The music from Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline, and Paul Smith is filled with songs we all know and love from "Heigh Ho" to "Someday My Prince Will Come". Even though Snow White's singing voice may be a little too much for some tastes, the songs still have nice lyrics and a terrific melody to them. The background musical score is simply wonderful from beginning to end. It really gives this landmark achievement in filmmaking the epic scope and memorability that it rightfully deserves. Ever since this film, most of Disney's animated features have been musicals and one could easily say that Snow White started a great tradition. It further explains why animation and music are practically peanut butter and jelly in the film industry.

The characters in this movie that hold up the best are easily the seven dwarfs. Nowadays, I feel like I talk similarly to the way Doc talks in this feature in that he mixes up his words more than a couple times but still makes wise decisions. I think we all know someone in our own personal lives who acts like Grumpy. As for Dopey, he rightfully deserves comparison with the great pantomime clowns like Charlie Chaplin and Harpo Marx. The storytellers did a great job at bringing the personalities of the dwarfs to life. Snow White and the prince himself are a little underdeveloped character wise, but to be fair, it was difficult drawing these characters around the time this film came out.

If it wasn't for the existence of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, we probably still wouldn't know what kind of films to make for our kids, and we probably wouldn't have much in the way of either animated films or sci-fi/fantasy films. Many of us including myself will be forever grateful for what Walt Disney and his staff of animators have accomplished with this film. It was a very good film to see during my childhood and it was worthy revisiting it as a young adult and appreciating it as a giant landmark in the history of American filmmaking.

Alice in Wonderland

Have you ever dreamed of a world that is the exact opposite of your world in almost every way imaginable? Have you dreamed of a world where "the books would be nothing but pictures"? Have you dreamed of a world where "the flowers would talk for hours"? In the case of Alice, the main character from Walt Disney's 1951 animated feature Alice in Wonderland, that's exactly the kind of world she wants to escape to. After she sees a white rabbit with a coat and a pocket watch who claims that he's "late for an important date", she becomes curious about where he's going and follows him into a rabbit hole.

This rabbit hole leads her to a world called Wonderland which is basically the kind of world she was talking about escaping to. In other words, this world is very much the opposite of the world she came from in that any sense of logic seems to be completely absent in this world. Whenever she takes just one bite or sip of a single food or drink, respectively, she literally either shrinks too much or grows too much. Throughout her adventures in Wonderland, she discovers many other unusual inconsistencies (such as animals running around in the ocean to "get dry"), comes across some insane characters (the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the Cheshire Cat) and realizes that maybe she was better off in her world than in this world she dreamed of.

If there is one thing that I have learned from this film, it is that you get what you wish for sometimes, for better or worse. Hopefully, the next time Alice thinks of a dream place that she would like to explore, she'll think of a place where everything that takes place makes much more sense than it does in Wonderland. If you think about it, Alice in Wonderland is basically a cautionary tale of sorts in that it shows us the consequences of not thinking about every single little detail regarding what you want. In Alice's case, she didn't think any magical world such as this would be this wacky or nonsensical.

It's not just the main moral one learns from this story that makes Alice in Wonderland hold up well after at least 60 years. Another key element that makes Alice in Wonderland hold up as well as it does is the main character herself, Alice. Out of all the female lead characters that were created while Walt Disney was alive (which includes Alice, Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora from Sleeping Beauty (1959)), Alice is easily the best developed one of the bunch in my opinion.

What sets her apart from her other counterparts is that she has a sense of independence. Unlike Aurora and Snow White who basically allow any creature in sight to basically make decisions for them, Alice makes all of her decisions by herself regarding if she wants to stay or go somewhere else as well as what's right or wrong. I also think that Alice is a more identifiable character than any of her other predecessors in that she has a certain curiosity not just for this world, but for everything else in general. I think I am able to identify with someone who wants their curiosity to be fulfilled rather than someone who wants to be married and live happily ever after.

Though the film's songs by Oliver Wallace may not be quintessential Disney music, it's still pretty good. I liked the songs "In a World of My Own", "All in a Golden Afternoon", and the title song well enough. The song "Very Good Advice" was weird though in my mind since it was basically a combination of singing and crying, and if you're not into that type of stuff, this song isn't for you. The animation may not be as detailed as something like Bambi (1942), but that's okay since the style of the drawing and the backgrounds definitely fit for this kind of world. In other words, the animation works very well as it is.

The famous scene between Alice, the Mad Hatter and the March Hare does a very good job at further demonstrating how unpredictable and wacky the inhabitants of Wonderland really are. The fact that the Mad Hatter notices a full cup of tea, believes it's empty, and everyone apparently has to move to another seat on the table because of it is just one of a couple of instances that prove how wacky these characters are. The final act when Alice meets the Queen of Hearts also proves the wackiness of Wonderland very well, too. The way the Queen of Hearts orders her servants' heads to be chopped off for the silliest reasons is simply brilliant. To be frank though, I could have done without an earlier scene between Alice and the caterpillar since it was more tedious than interesting.

I really liked watching Alice in Wonderland when I was a kid and I still enjoy watching it now even despite the fact that it's for different reasons than when I was young. I guarantee that other Disney animated fairy tales that came out at that time (like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) or Cinderella (1950)) would be even better if the main characters for those films were as well developed as Alice in this film. Because of the film's strong moral, strong lead character and the crazy, imaginative world it shows us, Alice in Wonderland is an underrated Disney gem that you owe it to yourself to take a look at.

Escape From Alcatraz

Don Siegel's 1979 prison drama Escape from Alcatrez stars Clint Eastwood as the latest prisoner sent to the maximum security prison Alcatrez after his previous escapes from multiple prisons. He learns from the prison's warden (Patrick McGoohan) that no one has ever escaped from Alcatrez (alive at least). He is lucky enough to meet up with two of his pals (Fred Ward, Jack Thibeau) from back in the day and befriend (as well as make enemies with) many other inmates no problem. When he starts to discover that the concrete in his cell can easily be chipped away, he talks to his two close friends regarding a possible escape plan.

Based on what I've seen in most of Clint Eastwood's films, both before and after this specific film, I couldn't help but make a simple observation (even if it is a biased one at that). As far as the characters are concerned in the films Eastwood stars in, Eastwood has the distinction of easily having the most interesting character in the whole film. That's usually because no one in the supporting cast really seems to be trying to be as memorable as Eastwood. Maybe they're intimidated by Eastwood or maybe they weren't given much to work with in regards to their characters in the first place. In other words, all of the other characters in a film starring Clint Eastwood, with the exception of Eastwood, have the distinction of being a little too basic and plain.

I'm bringing up this specific observation since in this movie, Eastwood now appears to be on the same level as the rest of his supporting cast. However, the entire cast this time, including Eastwood, are all equally forgettable and average. So basically the tables have turned this time around. We've gone from one character (Eastwood's) stealing the show to every cast member being on the same level. In other words, there's consistency but there's also not much in terms of character development. Every character in this film is very basic but also pretty bland, which is sort of a letdown given that prison pictures like this should at least be entitled to some interesting and memorable character development. I mean there should at least be something else interesting going on other than the escape plan, right?

Speaking of the escape plan, yes, the escape plan is at least interesting enough to watch. I'm trying to resist making comparisons between older films and films that came out later when reviewing films like this. But for the sake of how forgettable this film is and how there isn't much else to say, I'm making a rare exception. The escape plan sort of reminded me a little bit of the way Andy Dufresne escaped in The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Both Andy and the characters here are picking at concrete and getting rid of the concrete through walking around outside in the dirt. Both Andy and these characters also find some way to hide their escape plan without the guards becoming even the slightest bit suspicious of any change in their jail cells.

Come to think of it, there's more than one similarity between this film and The Shawshank Redemption, isn't there? The main character in both films befriends an African-American who has at least been serving two life sentences. The main character in both films also befriends someone who found a pet animal. The main character in both films is also bullied and publicly harassed by a fellow prisoner as well. It's almost as if half of The Shawshank Redemption was inspired by this flick. I'm not penalizing The Shawshank Redemption by any means, but I'm just complimenting this film for inspiring that film in more than one way.

There really isn't anything else that I can talk about Escape from Alcatrez except for this. Aside from the fact that I'm making it sound like I hate it, I don't think that it's as bad as I'm making it sound like it is. What I am saying however is that Escape from Alcatrez is an average prison drama at best. There's nothing seriously wrong with it aside from the fact that it just isn't that memorable as a whole. I'm just saying in the end that it's just not a film I would honestly recommend seeing. But if you do go to see it, it's watchable at the very least.

The Dictator
The Dictator(2012)

The only saving grace of Sacha Baron Cohen's latest comedy The Dictator is that there are a few select jokes that I really liked. Unfortunately, at least 75% of the jokes I liked either came from the film's trailers and commercials or have already taken place in the first few minutes of the film. Now don't get me wrong, I think Sacha Baron Cohen has proved himself to be a gifted comedic talent. I thought Borat (2006) was one of the funniest movies of the past decade. Furthermore, I do respect that Cohen is changing his comedic targets in this film from random normal people (like what he did in Borat) to celebrities to prove his versatility as a comedian. However, this new approach he tries really backfires resulting in this picture becoming a big comedic misfire for Cohen.

Sacha Baron Cohen plays Haffaz Aladeen, the ruler of the North African Republic of Wadiya who treats himself to whatever he pleases much to the resentment of his people. Aladeen is forced to travel to the United Nations Security Council in New York City in regards to his plans to attack Israel with nuclear weapons his country is currently working on. When he arrives, he is kidnapped by a hit-man hired by Aladeen's uncle (Ben Kingsley), who wants to overthrow Aladeen and become the country's new ruler.

Aladeen is able to escape after the hit-man accidentally burns himself to death trying to burn him. But because his beard had been shaved off (much to his horror), he can't go back into the hotel room where he's staying due to other circumstances relating to his identity. It is then that he comes across a protester (Anna Faris) who offers him a job at a grocery store. He reluctantly accepts knowing he has nowhere else to go and through his relationship with this protester, he eventually realizes that he might have a change in heart in terms of his values.

So I've said earlier that there are a few scenes that I did laugh at, what are they you say? One of them is when Aladeen and his partner Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas) are on a helicopter ride with a regular American couple and this couple thinks that Aladeen and Nadal are hatching up an attack on New York City in the vein of 9/11. That scene had good comic timing and was executed well. Another funny scene is when Aladeen is competing in his nation's Olympic games and running a sprint of some kind. As soon as this "race" starts, he shoots all the other competitors with the gun he used to start the race and the finish line is intentionally sent closer to him so he can win the race no problem. This scene is hard to describe, but it's in the film's trailer in case you need to see it to believe it, which I would recommend.

Unfortunately, for all the few good jokes that did work in this film, there are an even greater number of lame jokes that miss their targets completely. An example of which is when Aladeen accidentally walks into the Death to Aladeen Restaurant which is filled with people from his country that he thought he executed. A waiter (SNL cast member Fred Armisen) asks him what his real name is because apparently it's crucial that a waiter knows your name in a public restaurant (sarcasm intended). What results from this situation is a lousy comedic skit that obviously feels like a lame, overlong SNL skit with Aladeen reading the signs in the restaurant as if they were his name. Nothing about this joke works, the waiter was too dumb and unfunny for my liking, and any real-life restaurant devoted to wishing for a dictator's death would be lucky to have any business at all.

A similarly awful joke occurs later in the movie when a pregnant woman is in labor at the grocery store where Aladeen and the protester work. As you sadly would have guessed, these two actually help her deliver the baby in the store. What happens from there is not only disturbing and disgusting, but is also without the slightest bit of humor. Aladeen's cell phone gets stuck inside the women who is pregnant, the way they yank the baby out looks like it would hurt like hell, and the payoff involving the baby's gender is not funny, it's just offensive to people of that gender. Another equally awful and repulsive joke occurs during the climax when Aladeen is trying to get into his hotel room and stop the signing of a specific contract. I won't give anything else away other than this joke feels as tacky, disgusting, and unfunny as the other bad jokes before it.

The only thing about this film that upsets me more than the inconsistent humor is the equally pathetic and uninspired story. The Dictator is frustrating because it did have some potential based on the first couple minutes, but as soon as Aladeen goes to America, it all goes way downhill from there. The love story between Faris and Cohen is clichéd, forced, and boring. The story completely meanders all over the place and loses focus. On top of that, the story has nothing new to bring to the table. It basically has elements of your typical Prince and the Pauper storyline crossed with every other raunchy romantic comedy ever made. It's all the more disappointing since the reasons Cohen's humor was so great in Borat was because it was unpredictable and it was in real-life which isn't the case with this picture.

The Dictator is definitely one of the biggest letdowns I've seen in a while. Save for a few jokes and the different approach Cohen attempted, I thought this film was a complete waste of time. I would say this is one comedy you can easily skip.

Fast & Furious 6

For the record, I have only seen the last two movies of the Fast and the Furious franchise all the way through including the latest one, Fast & Furious 6. So therefore, I am not qualified to make comparisons between this and the previous installments of the film series. I'm going to judge it based on the content as it is, and just like the previous installment that I've seen (which is Fast Five (2011) by the way), Fast & Furious 6 is a pure and corny summer popcorn movie that gives the audience exactly what they want. What does the audience seem to want, you ask? It seems to be hilariously ridiculous, over-the-top action sequences that defy physics and gravity on an enormous scale that it somehow ends up being enjoyable in the end.

It's almost pointless to go over the plot synopsis in an action flick like this since it will no doubt be overshadowed by all the loud explosions and chases that take place later in the film. Regardless, I'll fill you in on the basics. Our hero Dom (Vin Diesel) has learned from security agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) that his girlfriend (Michelle Rodriguez), who allegedly died in one of the previous films, may still be alive and may be working for a British criminal (Luke Evans). Dom, his FBI agent-turned-criminal friend Brian (Paul Walker), and Hobbs reunite the team from the previous installment as they go on a mission to basically take down Shaw and bring Dom's girlfriend back home.

I've said that this is a film that people will go to see exclusively for the action scenes and I still stand by that statement. And guess what? In terms of the explosions and chases that this film offers, they don't disappoint. They're fast, loud, laughably implausible, gravity-defying, cool, intense, basically everything you could wish for in an action sequence. Remember the climax in Fast Five where the cars are dragging a massive vault from a police station in Rio? Remember how they dragged that vault around practically like it weighed zero pounds and yet caused damage on the roads they were on? Well in Fast & Furious 6, there are two scenes in the tradition of the one scene I just mentioned that share the same level of goofiness and unrealism.

One scene has Dom saving his girlfriend in mid-air in the middle of a separate highway bridge. This stunt is so dangerous that even attempting that stunt in real-life is certainly going to result in death since it's practically impossible. Another scene is the film's climax in which the cars of the good guys are chained to and weigh down an airplane that is trying to take off for the bad guys. I won't give anything away other than this: wherever this scene was filmed, it had to be the longest runway in the entire world. Based on how long this specific scene lasted, the runway at least had to be 20 miles long in able for everything that happened in this scene to take place. Otherwise, they probably should have crashed into something at least 2-5 minutes in since I doubt that there's a runway that long somewhere in the world.

So basically, this picture does its part when it comes to the stupid, fun, action-packed chases and explosions. I do still think it would be nice to see an action/adventure film again, in the tradition of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), in which the story was just as compelling and easy to follow as the action scenes themselves. I'm not saying that this story is terrible so much as I'm saying that it's forgettable. On top of that, it's usually much easier to catch every detail of the action sequences than it is to catch every detail of the screenplay, which certainly doesn't help much.

I also thought that the main antagonist was pretty weak as well. I simply didn't find anything interesting at all about this guy. His dialogue doesn't make him threatening in the slightest, it just makes him annoying as heck. In my opinion, he would have been much more intimidating if he was just simply mute. If you're going to create an antagonist for a story, make him a good villain, give them dialogue that actually makes them either more threatening or more entertaining, put actual effort into making the villain a legitimately scary person. To be fair, at least the other characters are still somewhat interesting.

The best way to describe Fast & Furious 6 is that it is purely a popcorn summer movie. It's a film where you obviously shouldn't even bother following the plot since there's practically no point. It's a film in which the only way to enjoy it is to just simply have fun with all the stupid stuff that happens on screen. If you let yourself be open to an action film that delivers on what it's supposed to deliver and nothing more, then you'll find enough to like about this flick. For me, it's a personal guilty pleasure.

Witness for the Prosecution

In writer-director Billy Wilder's 1957 courtroom drama Witness for the Prosecution, we follow an elderly lawyer (Charles Laughton) with poor health who takes on a criminal case, much to the dissatisfaction of his private nurse (Elsa Lanchester). This case requires him to defend a man (Tyrone Power) who is accused of killing an old, rich lady (Norma Varden) whom he had developed a fond friendship with. He's accused of the crime because she made him the main acceptor of her will.

This case becomes more complicated when the defendant's German wife (Marlene Dietrich) basically testifies against her husband because she's actually married to another man. The lawyer finds this particular part of the case strange because wives should naturally be supportive of their husbands no matter what. From there, many more complicated issues take place with attempting to solve this case that it all leads up to a shocking finale.

This finale was so famous that the filmmakers literally put up a disclaimer at the very end of the film telling its audiences not to talk about it or give away the film's secret. You don't see that type of disclaimer nowadays anymore, do you? While I can't say that this is one of the most shocking endings ever, I will say that I do appreciate the filmmaker's attempt to keep the ending a secret as much as possible. That's more than I can say for all the movie trailers and commercials today which seem to give away too much about certain movies, though that's another subject I'll plan to tackle another time via editorial.

One of the aspects about Witness for the Prosecution overall that I liked was the relationship between the lawyer and the nurse. I just like how this lawyer sort of does whatever he can to disobey his nurse's advice and how much this nurse unintentionally drives him nuts. I thought they handled that relationship very well. Neither of them came off as bad simply because they disagreed with each other, they just constantly got in each other's way so to speak.

As far as courtroom dramas go, I don't think that Witness for the Prosecution is the strongest film I've seen from this genre, but I still think that this is a pretty good picture in its own right. The storytelling is pretty well focused and the acting by the likes of Laughton and Lanchester are well done. However, I'm split in regards to what I feel about the main case itself. Sometimes I was really interested in the developments that arose in the case. Other times, I wasn't either due to being unable to understand certain parts or just finding the characters involved in the case not that interesting.

This doesn't put the film to a complete halt by any means, it just makes the better parts of the picture stand out more. As a whole, Witness for the Prosecution does what it was intended to do. If you like courtroom dramas in general, this film does the intended purposes a film in this genre are supposed to do and if you'll settle for that, then you won't be let down by any means.

The Princess and the Frog

It's been awhile since Disney has made either a 2D animated feature or a retelling of a classic fairy tale. So naturally because I'm a big Disney fan, I was really looking forward to seeing the 2009 Disney animated feature The Princess and the Frog for many reasons. Among the reasons were that I preferred 2D animation over 3D animation, it's the first Disney animated feature with an African-American princess (an accomplishment of sorts), and it was directed by the same talented directors of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin (John Musker and Ron Clements). And right off the bat, I must say that this film did not disappoint. This is the kind of film I wanted to see from Disney for a long time, and I finally got it.

The Princess and the Frog tells the story of Tiana, a young waitress in New Orleans who has dreamed of running her own restaurant ever since she was a kid and is working day and night to make her restaurant a reality. Tiana's childhood friend Charlotte and her father are excited to welcome Prince Naveen of Maldonia by making him the guest of honor at the Mardi Gras masquerade ball. Prince Naveen has been cut off from his family's fortune unless he learns the value of hard work and does less partying.

On the way to the ball, he and his assistant Lawrence meet Dr. Facilier, a voodoo witch doctor who at first convinces them that he can make their lives better, but only makes Lawrence's life better. In other words, Facilier turns Naveen into a frog and Lawrence is given a voodoo charm which transforms him into Naveen when he puts it on. With this series of events, Facilier is intending the disguised Lawrence to marry Charlotte in order to basically take over New Orleans.

When Naveen (as a frog) meets Tiana and thinks that she is a princess because of her costume, he asks her to kiss him to break the spell. Although Tiana doesn't like frogs, she agrees to help (against her will) in exchange for his help with money needed to fund her own restaurant. Unfortunately, the kiss backfires as Tiana herself is transformed into a frog and they both are sent to the bayou. In the bayou, they meet an alligator who wants to be a trumpet player and a firefly that is in love with a star in the sky. These two help out Naveen and Tiana by leading them to someone who can undo this curse.

As you could probably tell by the lengthy plot description that I just gave, there's a lot that takes place in this plot. Considering that this is a kid's flick, maybe there's a little too much going on and I'm not sure if some younger viewers will be ready for a film with a plot this busy. To be fair though, the stories and the characters are interesting and clever enough for adults (and even kids as well) that it makes up for that flaw. The songs by Randy Newman are a mixed bag. While some songs like "Almost There" and "Friends on the Other Side" are pretty good, other songs like "Gonna Take You There" and "Ma Belle Evangeline" either don't sound that great or are instantly forgettable.

The animation in The Princess and the Frog is the kind of 2D animation that I wanted to see from Disney for a couple of years now, and it did not disappoint visually. It has a similar style of the unbelievable animation seen in Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, but it has its own innovative animation techniques as well. As I stated before, I liked the characters in this film. The real standouts for me were the villain Dr. Facilier, Charlotte, Prince Naveen, Tiana, and the alligator. They all have a certain charm to them, and I was able to identify with whatever they were passionate about. Like Prince Naveen, I'm used to living the good life and like Tiana, I do enjoy cooking.

It was a great pleasure to finally see The Princess and the Frog at last and I really hope that the Disney Studios does continue to make more 2D animated films in the future. On top of the fact that I've practically grew up on 2D animation, I feel like this style of animated film is more emotionally involving for me than 90% of the 3D animated films out today. I am looking forward to the next time a 2D animated film like this is made from Disney since I know that this is a step in the right direction for them.

Star Trek Into Darkness

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I am not sure that I am the most qualified person to review a film like Star Trek Into Darkness since the only thing Star Trek related that I've seen other than this is its predecessor that came out four years ago. So I won't be making comparisons to this and other Star Trek pictures, but instead just judge it for what it is which is pure summer entertainment. And on that level, it delivers on what it promises to offer us all the way up until the climax.

When Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) violates the rules of using the starship Enterprise to save the life of fellow officer Spock (Zachary Quinto), Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) has to reassume command of the Enterprise. But when Pike is killed during an ambush of an emergency meeting at Starfleet Command by a former Starfleet agent (Benedict Cumberbatch), Kirk reassumes command of the Enterprise and sets out on a mission to hunt down this Starfleet agent. Among the others who join him on his mission are Spock, communications expert Uhura (Zoe Saldana), chief medical officer Bones (Karl Urban), chief engineer Scotty (Simon Pegg), and a science officer named Carol (Alice Eve) who may or may not be related to this agent they are pursuing.

What I like about the two Star Trek films J.J. Abrams has directed so far is that you don't really have to know too much about the Star Trek universe going in. The reason for that is since it pretty much introduces us to the Star Trek universe in a way that it still gives us a basic understanding of what Star Trek is all about. We are able to recognize the basic personalities of the main characters, Kirk and Spock. Kirk is rebellious but courageous, and Spock always seems to be the wisest man around in any situation he finds himself in. We get the basic idea about what is taking place in the plot regardless of our knowledge over some of the words used in the dialogue. Basically, these Star Trek films meet in the middle between those who know the Star Trek universe well and those that don't.

Another wise decision that was made by J.J. Abrams when making both of these films was to cast little-known actors into these famous roles. By casting less famous actors into the roles of such characters as Kirk and Spock, that only makes the characters they play really stand out even more. There are a handful of very well made action scenes in this flick, chief among them when Kirk and the wanted Starfleet agent travel to a rival ship of the Enterprise by "space jumping" from one ship's airlock to another. If you go to this film for the simple reason of just seeing the action scenes, then there are scenes like the one I just mentioned that should satisfy the bill fine.

There are a few big issues that I have with this installment. One is that the story as a whole is pretty mediocre and nothing that spectacular. To be fair though, the story is at least told reasonably well. I simply felt that the plot was filled with one too many clichés and didn't have very much in the way of surprising developments. Additionally, there are some scenes that either go nowhere or don't make much sense. A scene in which the wanted Starfleet agent saves the lives of Kirk, Spock, and Uhura only to be arrested by them particularly comes to mind when talking about scenes that don't make much sense.

The other big issue I have with Star Trek Into Darkness is the final act. I'll try not to give too much away, but they use the story cliché in which a certain character is falsely presumed to be done. Without going further, I just got to say that this cliché is really getting old fast. The only times that this cliché has worked was with some of the Disney films and E.T., and they worked because the storytellers prepared us ahead of time that there's the possibility that they will be brought back to life. Here, it feels forced and distracting. Unless there's something creative you could do with this cliché, I highly recommend that this plot device be retired permanently.

Aside from those pet peeves, Star Trek Into Darkness does exactly what it sets out to do, which is to continue telling the simplified story of the Star Trek films and shows as well as deliver solid summer thrills. If you'll settle for just that, then you won't be disappointed by what this film offers. I know that even though I know very, very little about the Star Trek universe, this film was able to please me enough.


What would you do if you were offered an illegal drug that is basically a brain steroid? What if this same drug allowed you to pretty much learn everything about the world faster, enhance your memory, and outsmart other people? In the case of the main character played by Bradley Cooper in the 2011 drama Limitless, he does indeed take this type of drug after the brother of his ex-wife offers a dosage to him and the pill works its magic on him.

Given that his profession is writing books, he is able to write books much faster than he ever did thanks to this pill. Not only that, but is able to learn many different languages as well as learn more about the stock market. He is able to make many successful investments in the stock market to the point where he becomes a successful businessman. This attracts the attention of a powerful businessman (Robert DeNiro) who is seeking an adviser on a possible merger.

As a result of these pills, he is able to obtain more knowledge as he consumes more of those pills and is able to get back together with his girlfriend (Abbie Cornish). However, he also gets into trouble with someone who may be associated with the death of his ex-wife's brother soon after he got the dosage of pills. Furthermore, these pills may obtain a deadly side effect after a certain amount of consumption. Basically, many different things take place in the plot from there and half of them are pretty forgettable.

The plot of Limitless does have a pretty good setup and it delivers on what it promises some of the time. Other times, it's either a tad more complicated than it should be or it simply is completely forgettable. Let's talk about the good stuff first, except for the premise which I already mentioned was interesting. I like all of the film's visual effects in the opening credits, whenever the main character takes his pill and literally expands his vision, or even in a pointless but cool montage that is similar to what the opening credits did. I'm sure many certain visual techniques were used to give those specific shots a really cool effect and in the end they payoff very well.

Bradley Cooper does a decent job as the main character. Is it extraordinary work? Not really, but it gets the job done. He convinces us that this pill is literally changing his life in more ways than one and opening up doors that he never though he'd open. We could completely buy that his character really knows what he's talking about once he takes the pills and that he has all of this knowledge. I really like how they don't make his character into a socially awkward nerd, but just simply make him into a smart person who seems to balance everything out and doesn't resort to extreme stereotypes.

However, the romance between Cooper and Cornish as well as the side story with the gangsters hunting for Cooper are instantly forgettable. Although the storytelling for both stories is relatively decent, there's nothing really original about either side story that stands out for me. Both of these side stories feel more distracting than beneficial to the main plot, especially when they're executed in a mediocre fashion. My theory is that if you're going to add side stories like this, you might as well do them well.

The reasons to see Limitless once are simple: Bradley Cooper's character, the creative main story, and the film's intriguing visual effects. If that's enough for you to see this film, then you won't be disappointed. I know I personally was satisfied enough. As long as you don't expect a masterpiece, I think you'll be satisfied enough as well.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Let's be honest here, the news in general nowadays is extremely depressing especially for countries in the Middle East. Whenever there's news relating to a country in that area of the world, you can practically count on it not being good news. But yet, there's always a chance that not all hope is lost for any place where there seemingly is no hope. That's when a film like Salmon Fishing in the Yemen comes in which proposes that very idea with its story that follows characters who try and find a positive story in an area in the Middle East.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen follows a British fish expert (Ewan McGregor) who, much to his skepticism, helps a financial adviser (Emily Blunt) with advice regarding a project to bring salmon fishing to the Yemen which would be financial supported by a religious leader (Amr Waked). These two are assigned to work on this project, so that the British Prime Minister's press secretary (Kristen Scott Thomas) can have a positive, upbeat story that will help improve the relationship between Britain and the nations from that part of the world.

They both go to meet this religious leader, who sincerely believes that fishing basically creates peace among man, to discuss their plans towards making his ambitious dream a reality with the resources available. As this project progresses, many things take place. The fish expert's busy wife (Rachael Stirling) divorces him. The adviser's boyfriend (Tom Mison) is missing in action while fighting in Afghanistan. A meaningful connection between the expert and the adviser takes place meaning that, I'm not making this up, they fall in love.

As you can tell from that last sentence, you can already tell what the main problem I have with this movie is, the love story. Personally, the regular story with the two trying to help make the religious leader's dream a reality was good enough already. So, why do we need to force a love story in the mix? Now don't get me wrong, I like these two characters well enough and the chemistry that is there isn't bad. The reason I'm mixed about it is because the developments in this love story, particularly in the third act, are awkward, forced, and clichéd.

I'm especially baffled by what the boyfriend of the adviser does at the end of the picture. I simply don't get why he would do what he did in the ending. It doesn't make sense and it was hardly built up earlier that he would eventually do this. Basically, he and also the expert's wife were just used as plot devices and that frustrates me, because there was practically no point to these characters whatsoever outside of making this love story awkward. In other words, I though the filmmakers blew it with the film's uninspired ending particularly in regards to the love story.

Enough about the negative aspects of the film, what is it about Salmon Fishing in the Yemen that makes it worth recommending overall? For one thing, I do think that the character of the religious leader is well thought out by the writers and well performed by Amr Waked. Instead of making him a comical Indian stereotype like the ones you'd see in sitcoms like 30 Rock or The Big Bang Theory, they simply just make him a person who looks for peace in his country through something he's passionate about: fishing. I like how he says that fishing is basically a religious experience in that a lot of faith is involved when trying to capture fish. Makes sense, doesn't it?

Speaking of faith, there's a well thought out plot detail in this film regarding the status of the fish expert's faith and a brilliant payoff for that as well. I won't give too much away other than that sometimes little things can be a big deal for some of us. Come to think of it, this picture's main plot is sort of a spiritual experience, isn't it? Think about it, this picture is about two people from one country looking for good news for another country in which all hope seems to be lost there. The main romance involves two people who have trouble with their boyfriend or wife, but are able to find happiness with each other. Is it pure coincidence? I think not, I think it seems to be all intentionally tied together with the same theme regarding the importance of faith.

In the end, the best way to sum up Salmon Fishing in the Yemen in a nutshell is that it is a spiritual experience. It shows us that sometimes, faith is necessary to get through life in a way. Will it always come from big events? Not necessarily, but it can come from something nonetheless. That's what the film is all about, and it consistently sticks to that message all the way through. And for that, it is worthy of checking out.

Enemy at the Gates

You know how most of the movies revolving around World War II usually tend to focus specifically on the battles taking place in either Germany or Japan? With Jean-Jacques Annaud's 2001 war drama Enemy at the Gates, we get to look at battles taking place in a country that surprisingly seems to be glanced over in the crowded genre of WWII films, Russia. For all the territory that Russia claims now and considering how much that country was affected by the war, you would think that more WWII movies would be made about Russia than there actually are. I guess it sounds like there isn't much after all, but let's take a look at what we've got with this film anyways.

Our main character of this picture is a Russian sniper (Jude Law) who is sent to the front lines of the Battle of Stalingrad to battle against the invading Germans. We learn from the first scene that this particular sniper was taught by his grandfather to shoot a rifle when he was a kid. Naturally because of his practice when he was very young, he is able to save the lives of both himself and a political officer (Joseph Fiennes) due in large part to his rifle skills. As a result of the sniper's actions, the political officer decides to make the sniper a heroic icon for the nation to look up to during the war and raise the army's confidence.

Between the propaganda for this sniper going well, the other Soviet snipers wiping out the Germans, and the sniper as well as the political officer entering a love triangle with the same women (Rachel Weisz), everything seems to go well for the sniper afterwards. That is until the head (Ed Harris) of a German Army sniper school is sent into Russia to take him out. The rest of the film in a way becomes a game of cat-and-mouse between these two snipers from opposing forces as they try to take each other out.

It's refreshing to see a war film like this in which the focus of the story is not really just on many people from one side battling other people from another side, but is instead on one person from each side trying to take each other out, especially when it deals with snipers like here. There's a well-directed scene in this film in which the German sniper has the Russian sniper trapped behind a refrigerator. If the Russian sniper tries to run to either side, he'll pretty much be dead. But his love interest just happens to come in to notice that he's completely screwed and they need to come up with a plan to outsmart the sniper.

I won't give anything else away from that scene. All I'm going to say is see it for yourself and you'll see why it's a very suspenseful and well planned scene. I also liked the music by James Horner in this picture, and I admired how the music made everything feel epic and very important. Ed Harris does justice with his performance as the film's main antagonist and he does a good job at convincing us how smart a sniper his character is. In my opinion, he plays the best character in the entire flick. However, I can't say that the other characters are boring by any means since they're all okay at best.

It would have been nice if the film showed more regarding how this sniper became more famous through the press and showed us at least some of the other sniping missions he allegedly went on. Besides the main antagonist, the characters in this picture seem pretty basic personality wise. In other words, there really isn't a whole lot to these characters in terms of their depth. Then there's some war movie clichés that this film is guilty of having, chief among them, the characters having no Russian accents so much as English accents and practically speaking the English language more so than Russian. There's also some tired plot clichés like someone appearing to be dead even though they later come back to life that take away from the experience a bit.

I can't say that Enemy at the Gates is a classic war flick yet, but I can say that it is a pretty good one at that. It looks at a part of World War II that is otherwise inexplicably glossed over in Hollywood, it has plenty of thrilling scenes like the one I was describing earlier, it has a good score, and the villain isn't bad either. That's enough for a recommendation from me.

The Company Men

If there is one thing to be said about John Wells' 2010 drama The Company Men, it would be that it came out at the right time it needed to come out...during the Great Recession. The reason it came out at the right time was because it was about the effects of the Great Recession on the American people. As far as that particular aspect is concerned, The Company Men accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, inform us of its effects. Unfortunately, that's all it really does well and what's worse, this film came out a little too late to truly make an impact on the audience especially considering how a better film on the Great Recession called Up in the Air came out a year earlier.

The Company Men follows three employees (Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper) who have recently been let go from the same corporation due to downsizing in the middle of the recession. One (Affleck) sees his life of luxury with his wife and kids deteriorate, as a result of being let go and being unable to find jobs that suit his needs, to the point where he might have to rely on his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) to help him out. One (Jones) has been friends with the CEO (Craig T. Nelson) since the very beginning, but now finds this friendship challenged due to the CEO's inconsistent future plans. And the third one (Cooper) is severely struggling to find a new job due to his old age. This film basically follows the paths that these three take to get back to normal.

Like I hinted at before, The Company Men does its part at informing us of how harmful the Great Recession is to the lives of the American people. The story seems to be told reasonably well and they keep the main focus on whom the story should be focusing on: the three main characters or at least the crucial people in each of their lives. The acting in general is okay. While I wouldn't say that there were any standout performances in this picture that I could really praise, the actors do their part at taking these characters seriously and giving them the respect they deserve.

I guess the main problem I personally have with The Company Men is that it just isn't that interesting. While the actors don't do a poor job with playing their characters by any means, the characters they play just feel bland and forgettable. There's no real complexity to their personalities and there's nothing really unique about these people that I've seen in other movies, they just simply feel plain and boring. Ben Affleck's character in particular is just one-dimensional and straight up lame.

While the story does tackle relevant subject matter, it's executed in a predictable and unsurprising manner. Because the characters simply don't seem three-dimensional, we're sort of watching something that keeps moving along but doesn't emotionally impact us in the slightest. We know exactly what will happen at least 10 seconds before it happens. We know what the outcomes for the characters will be. We know what the future relationship between certain characters will be. We pretty much know how everything will pan out, regardless of how uninterested we might be. There's no real point in even watching this film if that's how we feel about it.

Does The Company Men do anything horribly besides having a predictable story and boring characters? I don't think so. It's just simply average at best. I don't think it would be too harmful if you rented it just once, but it probably wouldn't do much either. If you'll settle for a film that simply informs at a relevant time, this should do just fine. If you want something more special than just that, then you'll have to look elsewhere.


Ever since 1989 when they released The Little Mermaid, the Walt Disney Company had been on a roll with producing high quality animated features again. From such landmark animated features such as Beauty and the Beast to heavily underrated animated films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Disney had practically returned to top form. And while Disney's 1997 full-length animated feature Hercules may not bare comparison to the best Disney animated films that came out during that time, it's still an entertaining enough picture in its own unique way.

The film starts with the Greek god Zeus (Rip Torn) and his wife Hera celebrating the birth of their son Hercules with the other gods of Olympus, including his evil brother Hades (James Woods). Hades wants to take over Mount Olympus and believes that Hercules will stand in his way. So, he sends his minions Pain and Panic to kidnap baby Hercules and make him drink a potion that will turn him mortal. However, young Hercules still obtains his unusual strength from Mount Olympus and becomes adopted by farmers.

As he grows up, he has trouble fitting in with other people due to his strength and wants to finally find out where he came from in the first place. He is able to learn about his real past from Zeus' statue in the Temple of Zeus and also learns that he can reclaim his place on Mount Olympus if he can become a "true hero". Hercules is then sent to find a satyr by the name of Phil (Danny DeVito) who has been known to train some of the finest heroes Greece has ever seen, but has retired due to one letdown too many. But Hercules convinces him otherwise and Phil trains Hercules into a possible hero.

When Hercules is older and ready, he and Phil decide to head for the dangerous city of Thebes so that Hercules can perform "heroic deeds" to get the attention of the Gods. On the way, Hercules meets a damsel-in-distress named Meg whom Hercules eventually starts to fall in love with even though he doesn't know that she's secretly Hades' minion. As Hercules starts to become a celebrity of sorts for all the "heroic deeds" he does for the citizens of Thebes, he eventually begins to realize what it really means to be a true hero.

I personally thought it was kind of funny how the reason why Hercules was a misfit when he was a teenager was because he was too physically strong. I liked that scene when teenage Hercules accidentally destroys an entire temple (where Greek citizens hang out and apparently "shop" at as well) all for the innocent sake of catching a Frisbee. That scene in a way shows a potential downside to being unusually strong on a physical level. For the record, I'm not saying that exercising isn't important, I'm saying that excessive exercising might not be important.

Another aspect about the story of Hercules that I liked was the message it was getting across. That message being that a true hero is someone who doesn't simply defeat many of their evil opponents, but is someone who does something brave that no normal person in their right mind would have the courage to do. In other words, a true hero is a person who does the right thing that no one else will ever do. While Hercules did stand up to enormous creatures that no one else would stand up to, it was, at first, technically more for showing off his strength rather than doing something beneficial for humanity.

By far, the most interesting character in this entire picture is the villain Hades. Yes, I realize how clichéd picking the villain as the best character of a movie can be, but I can't help it. The villains are usually more fascinating characters than most heroes, and the villain in Hercules is no exception. I thought that the animation design of Hades in particular was really cool and the way the color of his flame/hair reflected his emotions (red symbolizing his anger, blue symbolizing that he's calm). But of course, James Woods' voice-over delivery is really what makes this character complete. I admire how Hades doesn't talk like your normal Disney villain would talk, but instead talks similar to a businessman.

I don't think the story to Hercules is really that original save for a few little touches, and there are little to no surprises regarding where the plot will go. Just like most other Disney films, you can easily predict how everything will turn out in the end without any problems. I personally could have done without a few side characters particularly some of the sidekicks, like Pain and Panic, which were only created for the sole purpose of killing some screen time.

Although I didn't mind the style of the animation or the music in this film, it may not be for everybody. I can understand where people are coming from when they say that they didn't care for the music. I will admit that black gospel music mixed with Greek mythology is an unusual mix to say the least. Personally, I found at least two songs that I liked and at least one song that I didn't care for. Some people say that the animation style is weird, but honestly, I wasn't too bothered by it either since I thought the style was unique.

Overall, as far as Disney animated features go, Hercules is okay. It's light and fluffy, but it won't leave much of an impact as something like Beauty and the Beast did. If all that you need is simply an entertaining enough film to show to your kids, then Hercules should do the trick no problem.

James and the Giant Peach

There seems to be a split reaction from critics and audiences alike when talking about Henry Selick's 1996 stop-motion animated feature James and the Giant Peach. While the critics (particularly Gene Siskel) highly praise this picture and call it a wonderful children's fantasy, the audiences don't seem to care much for it maybe because it's too weird for them like many of the films made by Tim Burton, who is also one of the film's producers. Personally, I don't know what to make of this film even after seeing it plenty of times except that I can see where both sides are coming from.

Before I delve into my own opinion regarding the pros and cons of this flick, let's look at the film's plot which was based on the children's story by Roald Dahl, who also wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We follow a young British boy named James (Paul Terry) whose parents were killed by a rhinoceros (don't ask how or why since the picture never explains that). He is forced to live with his two despicable aunts (Miriam Margolyes, Joanna Lumley) where he has to do all kinds of chores (he practically does more work than those two ever seem to do in five seconds), and be humiliated in more ways than one.

One day, a mysterious man (Pete Postlethwaite) who "knows more than just his name" gives James a bag of magical "crocodile tongues" which he claims will help put some happiness into his sad life. But when James accidentally lets these magical tongues loose, James and his aunts soon discover a peach on a dead tree that grows so gigantic that it's even bigger than the tree from which it grew on. The aunts plan on using their giant peach as a tourist attraction so they can make good profits off of their discovery, while James still has to continue doing chores.

One night, James crawls inside a large hole in the peach and discovers a group of human-sized bugs including a grasshopper (Simon Callow), a centipede (Richard Dreyfuss), an earthworm (David Thewlis), a spider (Susan Sarandon), a ladybug (Jane Leeves), and a glowworm (Miriam Margolyes). Like James, they dream of getting out of his aunt's place in England and heading to New York City where his parents always dreamed of going. And that's exactly what they do through a series of elaborate, fanciful scenarios such as rolling away into the Atlantic Ocean, using Miss Spider's silk to capture and tie a hundred seagulls to the peach stem so the peach can fly, and battling a mechanical shark and skeleton pirates under the icy seas of the Arctic Ocean.

Whether you like this children's fantasy or not, there are certain things about this picture that you got to give the film credit for. For one thing, regardless of how implausible the story can be most of the time, I do respect the creativity and the imagination that was incorporated into this story. I admire how this film had the courage to simply let its imagination run wild regardless of our skepticism and our knowledge that no such scenarios could take place in real life.

The stop-motion animation is impressive in its own right particularly with the highly detailed and imaginative character designs. The voice-over work from the likes of Simon Callow, Richard Dreyfuss, and Susan Sarandon are very well done and truly bring these characters to life. The songs by Randy Newman, with the exception of "My Name is James" which I thought had embarrassing lyrics, are pretty solid with the standouts being "Family" and "Good News". Like much of the best films made by the Disney Company, the strength of the film lies in the visuals and the audio.

Now I will say that the storytelling in this film is not very consistent and is filled with major plot flaws that can't be glossed over. For example, I think that the film's writers made the aunt characters way too evil. If any parents of a child knew they had relatives who treated children the way these two aunts did, they should not have even allowed custody of the child to these people in the first place. Let me put this in another way, anyone who has relatives who taunt a child over the death of their parents or starve the child to death by feeding them non-food should not just simply pretend they don't exist, they need to have an intervention with them immediately for the benefit of the child.

There are also some scenes that don't really go anywhere story wise. For example, the dream sequence with James as a caterpillar being chased by his aunts and the rhino that killed his parents is pretty pointless. To be fair though, there have been dream sequences in other films that are much worse than this, and they at least prepare us ahead of time for that type of scene. While the battles between the shark as well as the underwater skeleton pirates are decent, they both go by a little too quickly and neither leaves much of an impact.

As long as you leave your common sense and logic out the door, James and the Giant Peach will fill the bill just fine as far as family entertainment goes. Kids and adults alike can admire the creativity of the story, the unique animation in the tradition of The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), the colorful characters including the centipede and the grasshopper, and maybe find one or two good tunes out of it as well. It's far from the Disney Company's greatest picture, but it's an interesting one at that.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Writer-director John Hughes' 1987 comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a typical buddy road trip comedy, but it is one that is done fairly well. Anyone who has seen a bunch of road trip movies in their lifetime will not find much here that is surprising per se. However, the execution of this particular road trip movie is worthy of appreciation from fans of such a film genre. Of course, I am not just saying this because there are two worthy comedic leads to pull it off, but there is also quality storytelling and jokes in this film as well.

Steve Martin plays an everyday businessman on a business trip in New York who is trying to get home to Chicago and return to his wife and kids in time for Thanksgiving. However, a traveling salesman (John Candy) constantly keeps getting in his way through an assortment of difficult, unfortunate circumstances that keep occurring unexpectedly. Whether it's through accidentally stolen cabs, flights being cancelled due to the weather, or anything of that sort, he somehow keeps getting screwed in funny and spectacular ways. On top of that, he always seems to end up sticking with this guy on his longer-than-usual trip to Chicago.

Basically, this businessman is undergoing the commute from hell. What should have been a simple two hour flight becomes an unimaginably complicated three day extravaganza. It's not like the guy he's accompanied by is mean or anything. In fact, he seems to be a pretty nice guy, but this businessman just has no patience talking with him especially in a time like this when all he wants to do is get home safely. But as the traveling nonsense keeps continuing, these two eventually start to learn more about each other as well as start to respect each other and who they are as people.

What makes Planes, Trains and Automobiles stand out from all the other road trip comedies out there is its execution. In other words, the best way to sum up this appropriately named comedy is that it is everything that could possibly go wrong with traveling of any kind during the holidays particularly Thanksgiving. The inconvenient situations that make this businessman's trip back home get progressively worse and worse all have phenomenal comedic timing.

The way this story progresses is also great since we can identify with the unbearable circumstances this guy is going through, especially if we have had traveling troubles before in our lives. I know I had an unfortunate flying experience not too long ago, my first time flying alone as a matter of fact, where I arrived to my destination five hours late. Anyone who has been through situations like the one I've experienced recently will appreciate this film's storytelling since it acknowledges how tough traveling has sadly become.

Having said all that, while I do acknowledge that this is a well-crafted film, I would not yet say that it is a great film. Even though I did laugh plenty of times, I guess I just expected to have a couple more laughs than what I actually got. Additionally, although Martin and Candy are good in their roles, their relationship is pretty easy to predict where it will go which in turn sort of prevents the chemistry from being natural. Overall, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a lot like The Odd Couple (1968) in that it is a buddy comedy that is good, ideal evening entertainment and nothing more.

The Odd Couple

I like comedies such as Gene Saks' 1968 picture The Odd Couple, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, largely because its comedy does not come from excremental humor or people hurting themselves badly like most films do today (I still do not get what is so funny about that stuff anyhow). Instead, its comedy comes from the spoken words and the payoffs of the situations the film's main characters find themselves in. A quality script is certainly the difference between good comedies such as this and...well, all the other "comedies" out there.

In The Odd Couple, we follow Felix Unger (Jack Lemmon), a guy who has recently split from his wife and ends up trying to commit suicide in various ways, but fails miserably. When his group of pals including sportswriter Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) gets wind of this and tries to think of a plan to prevent him from committing suicide, Oscar volunteers to let him move into his apartment. While Felix does agree to stay in Oscar's apartment given that they were both separated from their wives, problems eventually start to emerge between the two while they live together.

For one thing, Oscar takes extremely poor care of his apartment. To say that his apartment is filthy is an understatement especially when he is using his couch pillows to wipe off whatever's on his hands. This causes Felix to become obsessive with cleaning the apartment which in turn drives Oscar nuts over how picky Felix is about everything. And as you can probably guess, more situations like this occur between these two to the point where they literally drive each other crazy. And you can certainly bet that you will want to continue watching the film from there since it does not disappoint.

Something that you should keep in mind before you see this picture is that this was based on a Broadway show and it was written by the same screenwriter of this film, Neil Simon. Now, I am not mentioning this to make comparisons between the play and the film. If you already know I feel about making such comparisons especially if I am unqualified to do so, you already know I am not going to do such a thing. I am mentioning this since the film does have a stagy feel to it, meaning it feels like we are stuck in one setting throughout the film.

I am not saying the stagy feel of the film brings it down by any means. Some great films like Rear Window (1954) and 12 Angry Men (1957) are successful since the filmmakers and storytellers take advantage of the fact that they only have one setting to work with. This film manages to work well with its very minimal amount of settings because it further contributes to our understanding of the frustration these two guys are having towards each other.

The script by Neil Simon with its sharp dialogue and clever plotting is very well done, of course. Credit should also go to Lemmon and Matthau for the high quality delivery of their performances. The supporting cast is also pretty good as well, particularly Herb Edelman as a friendly police officer who maybe worries a little too much. That's John Fiedler (aka Juror #2 in 12 Angry Men) as one of Felix and Oscar's poker buddies, just for the sake of pointing out a familiar face. Even the picture's musical score by Neal Hefti has a catchy beat to it and adds a nice touch.

If there was one criticism I needed to make about this picture, it would be that all that Monica Evans and Carole Shelley do with their performances as two British girls that Felix and Oscar date is just giggle a lot. I felt like the scenes with the British girls just did not seem to really get anywhere because it just felt so awkward and the fact that these girls just giggle the whole time didn't help much. On top of that, their characters did not really contribute much to the plot. The bottom line is that their characters put the narrative to a halt and let the film down just a little bit.

Other than that, The Odd Couple is a story about two polar opposites that is done right. The story is well told and there is a fair share of good laughs that you will get from watching this flick. To declare this a masterpiece would be a bit of an overstatement, but this much can be said for sure. If you are looking for a quality comedy to watch with your friends or family one night, this could be a possibility since it delivers on what it promises: a light, fluffy film for all to enjoy.

The Thomas Crown Affair

I should probably start my review for the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair by confessing that I did not see the original 1968 version of the film starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. I mention this for the sake of informing my readers that no comparisons between the remake and the original will be made here even though I do know that another version exists. With that being said, I honestly think that while the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair, starring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo, mostly succeeds at offering two hours of escapism to the audience, it suffers significantly from the fact that it is straight up forgettable.

In The Thomas Crown Affair, we follow a wealthy businessman by the name of Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) who feels bored and is looking for a little challenge in his life whether it would be betting on a golf putt or racing on a catamaran. One day, he constructs a heist to steal a highly valuable painting from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Enter investigator Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) and Detective Michael McCann (Denis Leary) to try and solve his crime. When Catherine catches on quickly that Mr. Crown committed the crime, a game of cat-and-mouse ensues between the two as they fall in love with each other. Now, she must decide whether to turn him in or become his wife.

As you can tell, this is the kind of fluffy plot that a great director like Alfred Hitchcock would have had the pleasure of helming. Among the positive aspects of this picture, I liked the heist at the beginning of the film in terms of its execution and the way it unraveled itself. I thought Rene Russo in general is physically attractive in this picture, and the performances from Pierce Brosnan and Denis Leary are alright.

Aside from those elements, there really is not much to talk about with a film like this. The film just basically does what it was created to do and that is pretty much it. Because this film is so fluffy and mechanical, it offers very little that would be memorable a week from when it was last watched. Basically, about 90% of this picture has been erased from my memory it leaves so little an impact.

Do not get me wrong, I like fluffy entertainment as much as the next person. To Catch a Thief (1955) is a classic example of fluffy entertainment done to perfection. All I am saying is that if you are going to make quality Saturday matinée entertainment in the tradition of such films, do your best at making it a memorable enough experience. Give me quality storytelling that is focused and always engrossing, give me an interesting romance that feels real, and make sure the characters in the film actually contribute to the main plot.

Instead, this film provides us with a story that has decent potential at the beginning, but then slowly goes downhill as it progresses. I did not think the chemistry between Brosnan and Russo was that great to me since I thought that relationship felt too routine and too familiar. Additionally, I felt like I did not really get to know about any of the characters save for Denis Leary's, who does have a good bit at the end about what he really thinks of his current occupation.

That's Faye Dunaway as Thomas Crown's psychiatrist, and you could say it is interesting to note that she decided to star in both versions of the same film. Having said that, I thought there was no reason why the scenes with the psychiatrist were needed because those scenes did not contribute to the plot in any way, shape, or form. There are a few other scenes like this in which I did not know what was supposed to be accomplished from them. Between that and the lackluster chemistry, this film could have benefited greatly from better story editing.

In the end, I think The Thomas Crown Affair, for all the complaints I've just made about it, is an ideal example of a film that is perfect for rental. It's one of those films that are basically a mixed bag that contains both things to like and dislike. It's good for rental since you can skip over the parts you don't really care about and fast forward to whatever it is you like from it, but just don't consider this film a must-see.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

It's no wonder why Mel Stuart's 1971 children's fantasy Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is considered a family favorite. I mean, think about it. What kid wouldn't want to go on a tour of a magical candy factory and get the opportunity to test out the factory's latest inventions? Even if there are some people out there who don't for whatever reasons, this film offers something that is "scrumdidilyumptious" for everybody.

Despite the film's title making it sound like it's the story of the candy factory's leader Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder), he actually isn't the main character. Our main character instead is Charlie (Peter Ostrum), a young boy who has to take care of his poor family by delivering newspapers in his town. When he hears that Willy Wonka, the world's greatest candy manufacturer, has hidden five golden tickets in five of his candy bars and that the lucky five who find it will be given a tour of his factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate, his seemingly crushed hopes are restored and he takes part in the worldwide search for these tickets.

When he finds one of these golden tickets, he and his beloved Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) join the other lucky four for the tour of a lifetime. The other four kids include one who eats excessively, one who chews gum constantly, one who keeps wanting more and more things, and one who watches television all the time. These other kids are very spoiled to say the least and let's just say they deserve whatever unusual punishment they get from Mr. Wonka and his employees, also known as Oompa-Loompas.

One of the aspects about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that has always stood out for me, and I assume others as well, is the film's music. Just like some of the best children's musical fantasies out there, this picture is filled with timeless songs, chief among them "The Candy Man", "Pure Imagination", and the Oompa-Loompa songs. These songs written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse have a wonderful melody and witty lyrics which will definitely help them last a long time.

The acting by the ensemble cast is also worthy of mentioning. The child actors who play the lucky five children who tour Wonka's factory do an exceptional job at bringing these characters to life and convincing me that they really do have these certain qualities and/or extreme tendencies. No other actor but Gene Wilder could have brought the eccentric genius known as Willy Wonka to life any better. The same thing could be said for Jack Albertson's portrayal of Grandpa Joe in terms of convincing me that he's still got it after lying in bed for 20 years. I even liked Roy Kinnear's performance as the father of the kid who always wants more since his character doesn't take his child that seriously and yet he always gets her what she wants.

The production design and the way the filmmakers bring this magical factory to life is nothing short of inspiring. Even though a few props like the lollipop-shaped balloons are obviously fake by today's standards, I didn't mind since I still respect the lengths the filmmakers were willing to go with certain visual details of the production. For example, I thought the area with the chocolate waterfall and the candy garden along with Wonka's office where everything is in half were really cool.

There are a few criticisms about this picture that I need to address. One is in regards to the film's first half which isn't quite as good as the second half. Even though this part of the film is good enough in its own right, I think there was too much time spent on the worldwide hysteria of this golden ticket search. Additionally, considering that this is a kid's flick, I found a few details regarding the ending to be needlessly complicated. Without giving anything away, I felt that there were a few plot details that it didn't prepare us for that well.

Here's another thing I need to get off my chest. It isn't regarding the film so much as the audience's reaction to a certain scene in this film. I'm talking about the famous tunnel scene where Wonka and his guests are on a boat and the boat goes through a tunnel with objectionable projected images. This scene is referred to by some as one of the scariest scenes in film history. While I agree that this scene comes out of nowhere and I do believe it's a cool scene, I disagree with the interpretation that this scene is "scary". I personally just think this scene wasn't supposed to be frightening as most people are making it out to be since it felt like the purpose of that scene wasn't necessarily "scaring us". But that's just my personal take on the scene.

As for the film as a whole, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is unquestionably a real treat. For its timeless soundtrack, great ensemble cast, and phenomenal production design, this family film is worthy of repeated multiple viewings. I know I'm personally not done watching it yet after seeing it at least 25 times, and I'll look forward to revisiting it again sometime soon.

Side Effects
Side Effects(2013)

Whether or not you like Steven Soderbergh's latest psychological thriller Side Effects largely depends on whether or not you think the subject matter its story revolves around is interesting enough for your taste. In this case, you'd have to be especially interested in the field of medicine and the biological effects of whatever specialized pills we consume. I think this subject matter is just as interesting as anything involving government and law, and if you already know how I feel about those, you already know it's not good news. While I believe Side Effects is far from terrible, I do believe it's a missed opportunity given the strong premise that it had.

The premise of Side Effects goes something like this. A woman (Rooney Mara) with severe depression learns that her husband (Channing Tatum), who has served a four-year sentence in prison, is finally coming home. Despite this seemingly joyful reunion, she still feels deeply depressed and attempts committing suicide. When her psychiatrist (Jude Law) gets wind of this, he suggests that she tries out a new prescription drug to cure it. The drug seems to work at first, but when a side effect of this drug causes her to be a crucial part of a murder, complications take place in which the psychiatrist is basically considered the suspect. In able to prove his innocence, he must basically figure out how he became the suspect.

Now this is a very good premise and I'm supportive of a plot with this amount of simplicity and complexity to it. In addition to that, I thought the plot twist in the second half of the film was very well planned out and takes me by surprise as it should. Jude Law and Rooney Mara in general do a good job with their performances. In a nutshell, I feel that these are truly the best elements of the film.

What I was let down by and the reason why I have such a mixed reaction to this picture is the execution. While the film does have a good setup that arouses my curiosity, the delivery of that promising premise falls flat and is simply straight up dull. I'm not sure if it's because the characters are bland and underdeveloped or if it's mainly told in such a lifeless and boring manner or if it's both, but something about the execution doesn't make it even close to as interesting as it should be. Instead of being on the edge of my seat like I should be, I was on the verge of going to sleep the film got me that bored.

Maybe it is like I stated earlier in that any movie or television show relating to certain subjects such as this as well as government and law automatically turn me off. Why? Because anything regarding health, government and law is not what I consider fun. I watch movies and television shows as well as play video games for a good reason which is to mostly escape from that nonsense. My bottom line is if you're going to create some form of entertainment in which the focus is on someone related to professions such as this, you better put in a massive effort to satisfy everybody in your audience regardless of their intelligence.

While Side Effects does at least try to have a cool setup and has a real good plot twist, it just doesn't really deliver on what it promised all of its viewers. I felt like I didn't get to know any of these characters at all, I felt like nothing on screen was that thrilling, and I felt like nothing was really accomplished from this. Maybe I felt this way because the film's direction didn't do a good job at telling me how I should feel about what happens. I know there is good potential in Side Effects, but it's basically not confident enough in itself to the point where I lost confidence right along with it.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

You can at least expect this much going into Benh Zeitlin's drama Beasts of the Southern Wild, you'll be introduced to a place that you've never seen before and you'll be entranced by how a handful of people can survive living this way in the environment that they are in. That level of fascination with this part of the world that we never thought we'd see is truly one of the film's best qualities. I just thought that the rest of this film seemed to be missing something in its story to make it interesting enough overall.

Beasts of the Southern Wild centers on a five-year-old African-American girl (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her ill yet hostile father (Dwight Henry) who try to brave through a big storm coming to where they live in the isolated place known as the "Bathtub". Why is the place they call home called the "Bathtub"? Well, these two along with a handful of other folks are cut off from the main land of Louisiana by a dam. But these people aren't willing to give up their homes yet and fend off any help from the mainland by sticking together and securing their territory. While that is taking place, a bunch of enormous hogs/"beasts" who have been frozen for many years thaw out and eventually roam towards their land. No, I swear I am not making that last sentence up.

As you can tell from the plot synopsis, this film is definitely an artsy-fartsy type of flick and either you like this picture a lot or you simply think it's too needlessly weird. Unfortunately, I think this film is a tad too needlessly surreal. However, there are two things about this film that I do admire. One is that the very young kid who plays the main character was able to live up to the task of leading the film and successfully pull it off. After all, I don't think I could ever recall meeting any young child who behaved similarly to the child in this film.

Another thing that I admire about the film is once again the environment it introduces us to. Imagine trying to live one day in these characters shoes. Imagine not being able to shop for produce at a grocery store and instead produce whatever food you need where you live. Imagine living on land surrounded by water and that land being flooded. Imagine how they navigate through the water or land they are near. I know those are living conditions that I couldn't fathom the idea of living the way they do. It's very interesting to see that being put on screen.

The reason I just couldn't warm up to this picture I guess is because I had trouble figuring out what direction this story wanted to go. Though they do connect the story of our main characters to the "beasts" roaming the land, in the end, the film simply could have been better off without that sidetrack with the "beasts" since it doesn't pay off that well for my taste. For that matter, I felt like I barely knew anything about the characters in this film at all. I just didn't really feel like anything about these people were really that special or interesting enough. As a result of this underdeveloped aspect, we don't really know what kind of cause these people are fighting for or even if it's worth all the trouble.

I think the reason why I'm reacting harshly to the film's usage of these beasts and the underdeveloped individuals in it is because I feel that Benh Zeitlin's direction is pretty weak since it's doesn't give me a clue regarding what it's supposed to be about. Is it a controversial statement to leave people on islands alone? Is it a coming-of-age story for the main character and her ill father? Is it trying to tell us that we will undergo an ice age like the dinosaurs? Basically, the film is claiming its one thing, but it suddenly becomes the opposite. Either I had no idea what mindset I'm supposed to be in when watching this or the film is simply confused in its storytelling.

Regardless, Beasts of the Southern Wild just isn't my type of film as it is. Maybe if the film had a more clear idea of what it wanted to be, I might have appreciated the skill behind it more. Maybe if it didn't throw in certain themes that feel useless to the film's main plot and if it gave us a better idea about who these people are, I might have been more interested in the story being told. In the end, the film as a whole is definitely an acquired taste.

My Left Foot
My Left Foot(1989)

The best way to describe a film like Jim Sheridan's 1989 drama My Left Foot is that it is a film that satisfies and dissatisfies both at the same time. On one hand, it does what it's supposed to do which is look into the life of the story's main character. On the other hand, I felt that something about this story was missing and I ended up really wanting much more than what I got.

Let's focus on what's good about this film first and foremost: Daniel Day-Lewis himself. No one else but Daniel Day-Lewis could have successfully pulled off the role of a disabled Irishman who can only move with his left foot and yet become an inspiring artist. The way that he disappears into his character and convinces us that he has these physical and mental struggles is nothing short of expertly done.

Daniel Day-Lewis isn't the only cast member of this picture that delivers impressive acting, Brenda Fricker is also exceptional as his mother who tries her best to figure out how to take care of her son. Fiona Shaw is also pretty decent as a doctor who forms a special bond with the main character. These three performances are basically the best aspect of this film.

Despite that praise, I feel that the storytelling and screenplay for this film is very much a double edged sword. Like I stated earlier, while the storytelling is very efficient and keeps moving along, I could make the argument that it moves a little too fast. What I mean by that statement is that I felt there were parts of the story that felt incomplete in my mind.

For example, the main character has a relationship with this one woman in the chronological end of this story given that the story's told through flashbacks. We only see this certain character for about 10 minutes at most and we are given no reason why she's necessary to the plot. In addition to this, while I felt that we got to knew the Day-Lewis character okay enough, I knew little to nothing about everyone else to the point where I forgot about them.

I really had no idea what I thought about this picture immediately after watching it and I still have no idea if I still like or dislike the film even while writing the very review you are reading. While I can't say there's anything really terrible about it and recognize the acting skill behind it, I could also say that there aspects of this film that are completely forgettable. It really is a close call, but in the end, I'm afraid that due to its lack of making an impact on me, I can't recommend My Left Foot.

Dead Poets Society

"Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary." "You must strive to find your own voice because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are going to find it at all." "I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way."

These inspirational quotes from Peter Weir's drama Dead Poets Society best sums up what this film is all about. It's a film that any student currently in high school or college will probably appreciate immensely due to the main ideas it shares with them. It's also a film that inspires us to live our lives in a way that better satisfies our dreams and desires.

Dead Poets Society follows a group of students (Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke chief among them) in their senior year at an all-male Vermont prep school led by a strict headmaster (Norman Lloyd) who wants to maintain "tradition, honor, discipline and excellence" in the school as much as possible. He makes the students recite this phrase about the school's four main principles on a daily basis. He assigns the students work that's either overwhelming, discouraging, or doesn't make much sense. The students are hardly even allowed to go off campus. Talk about a prison like lifestyle at that place.

These students are just plugging away trying to get good grades to move on from Welton Academy and go on with their lives. But when this group of students attend an English class with a teacher (Robin Williams) whose teaching methods are unorthodox by Welton standards and whose life morals to the students are very profound, they become influenced and inspired by his lessons to the point where they incorporate his advice into their own lives. One of the students (Leonard) uses this advice in his own life by becoming an actor despite his father's (Kurtwood Smith) disapproval. We'll talk more about Smith's character later as well as Lloyd's.

Let's focus on what's good about the film first. The performances from the students in general are pretty decent since I bought them being completely entranced by what the teacher teaches them and I also believed that they were learning from what they have been taught. Speaking of the teacher, Robin Williams also turns in a solid dramatic performance as the insightful teacher. Even though we don't know for sure how he came to obtain this knowledge, whatever he's teaching his students sounds like very good life skills.

What really makes Dead Poets Society special though is what it teaches the audience. After seeing this movie, some people may no longer like being in strict, conventional environments such as school again. Some people may want to pursue careers that personally make them content with their lives. So I guess you could say this film will leave an impact of some sort to anyone who watches it.

So what do I dislike about this picture? While the characters played by Norman Lloyd and Kurtwood Smith were sort of meant to be antagonist roles, I felt no sympathy for either character at all. In fact, the screenplay succeeds all too well at making these two characters so hateful and unpleasant to the point where you just want to punch them in the face for causing you so much hatred. The reason why these two characters bother me is because they're simply being jerks without having any motivations behind their actions whatsoever. There are also similar characters that are in this picture that are just so hateful and bossy that you just can't stand being in their presence.

I forgot to mention that these students secretly revive a literary club called the Dead Poets Society (hence the reason for the film's title) in which the teacher used to be a part of when he was a student at Welton. They attend these meetings in a cave off campus where they read poetry and writings and what not. I thought that these meetings didn't really work that well for my taste since I simply thought they were a little too weird to watch.

Overall, the reason why Dead Poets Society is worth one viewing is because of the message it tells its audience regarding how to better live your life. As I've stated earlier, the group of people that will be most affected by this film, for better or worse, is definitely high school and college students. I feel like this is the demographic that will most likely take these theories to heart and use them every day of their lives especially during their rebellion state. I know I was at least affected by it when I saw it as a teenager, and even if I've obtained some harsh facts about reality, I won't forget the morals Dead Poets Society conveyed to me.

The Help
The Help(2011)

One of the most important reasons why writing in general is a very good life skill is because it is one of the many ways in which we can express ourselves and tell everyone else how we are feeling and explain why we are feeling this way. Editorials and reviews on certain subject matter, like what you are reading right now, are great examples of writing on a personal level. Sometimes, it's definitely tough doing so given the backlash you think you will get from what you write. In the end, it's good to express issues and concerns from both sides regarding a certain issue. A great example of a film that demonstrates the importance of this theory effectively is Tate Taylor's racial drama, The Help.

The film is set in Mississippi in the early 1960's and centers around a young white college graduate (Emma Stone) who has just landed a job as a journalist. When she has learned that her favorite childhood maid (Cicely Tyson) has quit working for her family and notices that her friend (Bryce Dallas Howard) has an extremely negative attitude about African-American maids, she decides that she wants to write a book about the lives of these maids and learn more about what they undergo on a daily basis. Among the maids who agree to share their experiences with her are a maid (Viola Davis) who has lost her son and forms a special bond with the daughter of the white woman she works for, and another maid (Octavia Spencer) who is a good cook but has an unfortunate reputation of being fired frequently due to her back talk.

The biggest reason why I enjoy The Help as much as I do is really because of the ensemble cast and the characters they play. Emma Stone is a very likable actress and I enjoy her in most of the films she's in, but I think that this is probably her finest role yet. On top of the fact that she successfully proves that she's capable of this sort of dramatic acting, her character is interesting as well since her motivations regarding why she is writing this book make her credible. In fact, I'd like to see Stone in more dramatic roles in the future rather than in comedic roles like in Easy A or Crazy, Stupid, Love. since I know she's got great potential and has good looks to accompany it.

I also thought Viola Davis gave an exceptional performance in this picture and her relationship with the daughter of whom she works for was very well handled. I liked the connection that they shared and that the kid liked spending time with her more than she enjoys being with her actual mother. This relationship also effectively demonstrates the struggles African-American maids have with raising the kids of white housewives and how it affects them emotionally.

Bryce Dallas Howard seems to be having a blast playing the cold-hearted, racist antagonist and she's enjoying every minute of being on screen. Octavia Spencer also turns in an impressive performance as a maid who may be too honest to everyone around her, for better and worse. I also liked Jessica Chastain's performance as a Marilyn Monroe type housewife who is shunned by all the other women in the area who hires Spencer to help her with her cooking, but treats her with much more respect than anyone else who's hired her. Most of the ensemble cast which also includes Mary Steenburgen as a writing editor and Sissy Spacek as Howard's more patient mother are very good.

I would be lying to my readers if I said The Help was without flaws since there are a few, but they're not too hurtful. One criticism is that the little bits of excremental humor (toilet humor, hurling, things of the sort), while it's better than most films out there, seems to be real forced and feels out of place especially in such a strong dramatic story such as this.

Another criticism and probably the aspect of the film that I most could have done without is the romance between Stone and Chris Lowell as her boyfriend. This part of the film feels much more forced and sort of puts the plot to a halt. While it's not really terrible and doesn't dominate the picture at all, it was unnecessary in the plot to begin with.

The main reason to see a film like The Help is for the sake of the talented ensemble cast and the colorful characters they bring to life. The Help is also well worth seeing for the main moral which inspires us that writing is an important means of expression and a way of making your points of view heard to other people. Even if you're not a fan of racial dramas, I honestly think you should check it out so you can have a better perspective of whatever overwhelming dilemmas these characters undergo.

Once Upon a Time in America

Sergio Leone's 1984 crime drama Once Upon a Time in America has been made out to be the next great crime epic in the tradition of The Godfather. Only instead of following an Italian crime family like we did in the The Godfather movies, we follow a Jewish mafia for three decades. Given the praise critics and audiences have been bestowing upon this picture, I expected to be blown away by this. But sadly, I thought this film in the end was a huge, huge disappointment. Just like Scarface a year earlier, this is yet another ripoff of The Godfather that does nothing except demonstrate everything that is dull and lifeless about the crime film genre.

I have no idea how to sum up the story for this picture aside from saying that it's about five guys (Robert DeNiro, James Woods, James Hayden, William Forsythe, Larry Rapp) in the Jewish mafia and the events they undergo from the 1920's to the 1930's during the Prohibition era. The first problem I have with Once Upon a Time in America is the film's story being told in non-chronological order. I don't have a problem with films that use different storytelling methods as long as I'm able to have a basic idea of what's happening in the plot. If I can't understand the film's plot which is the case with this film, then how am I expected to get into the plot and care about the characters involved in it?

While I realize that this part of the picture is intended to show us how the characters came together, I thought the first hour or so of this nearly four hour picture really sucked mainly because I didn't care for the acting from the kids and teens playing the main characters. I just felt that the acting was too painful to sit through and the lines they were given were absolutely terrible.

Furthermore, I thought the film's sound editing and Ennio Morricone's soundtrack were incredibly annoying. During the first flashback Robert DeNiro's character has in this flick, the phone is ringing and it doesn't stop ringing for at least 10 MINUTES! Not only that, but the phone's also ringing IN THE FLASHBACK!! While I realize that it's doing something that hasn't been done before, it's still unbelievably obnoxious to listen to. Along with the soundtrack being extremely repetitive, there are also similar sound editing pet peeves that kept adding up to the point where I couldn't stand listening to this film.

The only positive aspects I could come up with in describing the quality of this film is that the acting by DeNiro and Woods are pretty good and that the production design of this film is authentic to the eras that the plot was set in. Aside from that, there isn't much else to say about this film except that it's a boring letdown. Along with the overly confusing and long story, the annoying soundtrack, and the lousy first quarter of the picture, I also found the ending to be similarly awful in that it closes on a very creepy and unnecessary freeze frame/close-up of DeNiro's face.

I realize that this film is considered to be one of Leone's finest films, I recognize that many critics and audiences highly endorse this flick, and I know it's considered one of the best of the crime genre. If you still enjoy this film, that's fine. I won't hold anything against you because you like it and I think it's great that you're happy with this film. After all, you're entitled to your opinion. In the end, Once Upon a Time in America just isn't my type of film and it didn't meet my expectations at all.

Kramer vs. Kramer

I'd like to warn my readers that if they are going to see the 1979 Oscar-winning drama Kramer vs. Kramer for the sole purpose of seeing Meryl Streep, then they should be prepared to be disappointed since she's not in the movie a whole lot like the posters are claiming. Even though she has claimed one of the two top billings for this movie, she's only in it for about half the length of the film at most. I know such a comment is a little unusual to make, but I think it's important that I mention it now before my readers read the rest of this review. With that said, let's continue to talk about Kramer vs. Kramer.

As far as all of the Best Picture Oscar winning films go, Kramer vs. Kramer is one of the films that I'd only consider okay at best. While it is undeniably well acted and the story is pretty well told, there are still some personal pet peeves that I had with the film. We'll dive into my pros and cons later, let's talk about the film's story first.

Dustin Hoffman plays a very busy advertising executive who has just landed an important assignment that will lead to a big payday. When he gets home late and tries to tell his wife (Meryl Streep) the good news, she tells him that she wants a divorce and leaves him. Whatever reasons why their relationship had deteriorated and whether or not he had been working overtime for the past few years aren't really analyzed or explained that well. There's a scene with the couple in a coffee shop where they act like a happy couple for the first couple seconds, but then they abruptly and forcefully act hostile towards each other that proves that weakness. Anyways, let's keep going.

This divorce becomes a serious issue for him in that he has to take care of their child (Justin Henry) all by himself and the fact that he has too busy a work schedule to take care of him. When they become forced to spend quality time together, they don't care much for each other at first. But to the surprise of very few people in the audience including myself, they start to warm up more to each other. So when the time comes in which the parents have to battle for custody of the child, the child is left with an unbearable situation to undergo.

So what is it about Kramer vs. Kramer that doesn't work that well? Well, as I stated in the introduction, Meryl Streep really isn't given much screen time especially given the fact that her character put this story into motion in the first place. Considering that she started the plot's conflict, she should have been given more focus and depth than what she actually got. Noting that the film lasts more than an hour and a half, I honestly think that she was only in the movie for about half an hour which is very weird. While the writers do handle Hoffman's story fairly well, they could have done much more with Streep's.

But that isn't the only significant problem that I have with this flick. I realize the comment I'm about to make might sound unfair, but as long as reviews such as this are meant to express one's feelings, I feel that it's best to simply say it. I didn't like the kid that the parents were battling over since he came off as sort of an unlikable brat. He's too whiny and fueled with negativity, he causes a lot of trouble, and when he gets himself hurt, I felt no sympathy for him since he sort of had it coming due to the arrogant, careless behavior he commits. While you could argue that he's going through a terrible situation for a child, I could also counter argue that he could have been less obnoxious.

So that's enough complaining about the film's weaknesses, what do I like about this film that makes it worth looking at altogether? As I stated earlier, the film has some very good performances behind it. Dustin Hoffman is believable as the busy father who tries to reconnect with his son in the midst of this unfortunate separation. Jane Alexander is very warm and likable as his neighbor who also has to take care of a child on her own and tries to support him when he most needs it. Although Streep's character isn't really that well thought out, she does the best she can with her performance and it shows.

Despite the fact that there are some plot points that weren't clarified, the storytelling is still efficient and straight to the point as good storytelling should be. I wouldn't say that this is the most original idea for a movie, but it does satisfy 1 1/2 to 2 hours of my time well enough. I think if the kid were less whiny, if the wife was more developed and had more screen time, and if we understood why the relationship went downhill in the first place, Kramer vs. Kramer would have been even better. As it is though, it's decent if far from great.


I honestly expected to be a little spellbound by Alfred Hitchcock's 1945 mystery Spellbound given that they are some talented talents behind it. I mean this film's got stars Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck, and director Alfred Hitchcock behind it. Given that I have reasonably high expectations based on their work, I wanted to get into this film for the sake of those people involved. Unfortunately, such talented people as these can't save a disappointingly dull film such as Spellbound.

In the film, we follow a psychiatrist (Ingrid Bergman) at a mental hospital who is considered by her fellow doctors as one of the best. She and her fellow peers welcome the new director (Gregory Peck) of the hospital, but fairly soon, she begins to notice some peculiar aspects about him. She notices that he has a unusual fear of seeing dark parallel lines and a white background together. In addition, she eventually finds out that he isn't who he claims to be and that he has a serious case of amnesia. When she also learns that he accidentally committed a murder, she tries to cure him of his mental struggles by learning more about his past.

I should mention the few aspects of this picture that I found were decent. One thing is that there are a few eye-catching shots that I thought were well executed. There's a shot in which is similar to the type of camera shots you see in today's first person shooter video games, where someone is pointing a gun at one of the main leads and we see through their point of view. I thought that shot and similar shots like that were worthy of praising. I also don't find the performances from the leads that bad and I thought they were doing whatever they could to keep the film moving.

So what did I think made Spellbound as disappointing as I'm claiming it to be? Well, my problem with Spellbound can be summarized as such: it's boring beyond belief. Why do I find it boring? I thought the direction seemed to indicate that everything that was happening in the plot was not the slightest bit interesting. The screenplay by Ben Hecht didn't give its characters anything fascinating to talk about and hardly did anything to get us invested in following the plot.

This film is basically trying to force us to avoid emotionally attaching to it as much as possible. What's worse is that it succeeds well at doing just that. About 10 to 20 minutes into watching this film, that's the point where I completely lost interest in following the narrative since it is told in such a lifeless manner between the boring conversations the characters have and the boring things that are being captured on film.

I believe this is definitely one of Alfred Hitchcock's weakest films because of its lack of emotional involvement, because of its uninspiring direction, because of its lame script, and because of the fact that the story that was being told wasn't that good to begin with. Maybe I didn't pick up on something in the main plot, maybe I followed it just fine enough, either way I expected much more from the talents involved that what I got. Unless you're a hardcore Hitchcock fan and just want to look at it for the sake of seeing all his flicks, I'd definitely say there are much better Hitchcock films to check out.

Gran Torino
Gran Torino(2009)

I'll start my review of Clint Eastwood's solid drama Gran Torino by telling a personal story. About two months after this picture came out, my grandpa passed away at the age of 85. My family has always been telling funny stories involving my grandpa when he was younger and I remember being really impressed by them. Naturally, when we saw this picture after his passing, my family was reminded a little bit of grandpa through the main character played by Eastwood and they really fell in love with this movie. While I can't really praise it as highly as my parents do, there are still certain things about Gran Torino that are done very well.

Clint Eastwood is ideal casting as Walt Kowalski, a retired Korean War veteran whose wife has recently passed away. This unfortunate event naturally makes him a more grouchy old man than ever before. In addition to his escalating feeling of disconnection from his son and his family (who may I add really don't seem to give a crap that Walt's wife is gone), he doesn't like how his neighborhood has transformed into a dump dominated by poor immigrants.

One night, one of his neighbors (Bee Vang) is put under pressure from a gang led by his cousin (Doua Moua) to try and steal Walt's beloved Ford Gran Torino. After Walt catches him and scares off the rest of the gang, his neighbor's family offers to repay him for the good deed by practically forcing him to let the kid do whatever jobs Walt desires. Walt reluctantly agrees although he wants nothing to do with his neighbors, but then he eventually forms a respect for the guy who tried to steal his car as well as his older, wiser sister (Ahney Her). When certain complications ensue between these two and the same gang, Walt makes it his duty to protect the neighbors from harm.

Like I've hinted at before, the biggest reason Gran Torino works is because of Clint Eastwood. It's not just the fact that some aspects about his character is very similar to my grandpa, it's also the fact that he's convincing at bringing this character to life and that we would buy whatever reactions his character would have towards certain situations like his neighbors intruding on his property ("Get off my lawn"). I also thought John Carroll Lynch was entertaining as Walt's Italian friend/barber and the conversation that they have together in that one scene in the barber shop was done very well.

I wish I could say the same for the rest of the cast, but I'm afraid I really can't. I thought the Asian actors weren't really that convincing at delivering with their performances. With the exception of Her getting some exceptional lines, I really believed that the Asian actors seemed to have trouble basically speaking their lines and expressing the emotions their characters were experiencing. I simply didn't feel that they were up for the tasks given to them, or that they were ready to tackle them in the first place.

Additionally, I really found the characters of Walt's son's family to be way too cold-hearted and mean-spirited to like. While I do get the impression that they were intentionally supposed to be bitter, I feel that the film succeeded all too well at making them unlikable to the point where they should have just edited out the scenes with these characters rather than show them at all. The fact that the film doesn't really dive into why Walt and the family of his son can't get along with each other doesn't really solve this problem either.

Although the flaws with the Asian actors and the family of Walt's son are too significant to ignore, most people will probably go see this movie mainly for Clint Eastwood. On that aspect alone, there's plenty of aspects about Eastwood's performance in this picture that many people will like.

The fact that Eastwood's character reminds my parents a little bit of my grandpa is one reason why me and my family respond to this picture the way we do. This film basically reminds us of a crucial member of our family who is stubborn and crusty on the outside, but is also affectionate on the inside as well. Sometimes, that's what a film can become, a reminder of a certain aspect of your life that even if it's gone permanently will never leave you.

The Lincoln Lawyer

No matter how skeptical some of you out there might be towards Matthew McConaughey's acting ability or his film career, even you've got to admit that Matthew McConaughey is actually pretty good as the main character of Brad Furman's courtroom drama/thriller The Lincoln Lawyer. He brings enough of a certain charm to his character and proves that he is able to handle acting in a drama not to mention holding his own against the talented supporting cast he has to work with.

The Lincoln Lawyer stars McConaughey as a defense attorney whose latest case has him defending a wealthy playboy (Ryan Phillippe) who is accused of brutally beating a prostitute. As he tries to find evidence to prove that his client is innocent, certain complicated developments and discoveries ensue in which he becomes convinced that something even more sinister is taking place as he gets closer to proving his client's innocence.

Just as I've hinted at earlier, McConaughey is supported by a worthy ensemble cast which includes Marisa Tomei as his ex-wife, and William H. Macy as his investigator. Although there are some questionable story sidetracks (which I will tackle a little later), the story for the most part is relatively straightforward and well told. The director Brad Furman was wise enough to not bore me with lame writing. What he does instead is keep the plot moving along, keep me interested in where the plot would go, and he also makes sure the actors do their part just like he should.

So what aspects about this picture do I not care for? Well, this film is guilty of making some unusual film making and storytelling choices. For example, the film is mostly shot through the "shaky cam" technique in which the camera work is intentionally not still to make it seem more "realistic". While this type of film making technique would be fine in a film like Saving Private Ryan or any other action flick, it seems wildly out of place in a film like this where all the events that ensue within the plot are not as chaotic.

Another odd aspect is the film's soundtrack which is largely composed of rap music. While you could make the argument that the music is meant to represent the lawyer's clients in a way, I could also argue that the film's central focus is not on the clients but on the lawyer himself. Furthermore, I'm not sure a lawyer such as this one would really be listening to that type of music. I just feel that this soundtrack doesn't fit with the story that's being told and as a result, it comes off as inappropriate in my mind.

I also found Ryan Phillippe's performance as the lawyer's client to be pretty lousy. I didn't buy him as an innocent man, neither did I buy him as a villain. Additionally, the character he plays is either really bland or very whiny (half his dialogue is insisting that he didn't commit the crime which gets old fast) which isn't a good balance. There are also some story sidetracks in which I didn't fully understand the purpose of them. For example, the lawyer's negative relationship with Bryan Cranston's detective character or the necessity of Michael Pena's character to the central plot. Plot points like these feel more distracting to the plot than beneficial.

Aside from my personal issues with the film, the positive aspects of The Lincoln Lawyer ultimately outweigh those flaws and the film delivers on what it sets out to do which is satisfying two hours of my time. If you're looking for a solid courtroom drama/thriller to satisfy your spare time, The Lincoln Lawyer should fill the bill just fine. It's no 12 Angry Men, but it's good enough.

Basic Instinct

There are many aspects, both good and bad, that you can pick up from Paul Verhoeven's 1992 erotic thriller Basic Instinct. On one hand, the premise of the film is kind of interesting and has a certain amount of complexity to it. Also, the film works okay enough as far as erotic films go with Sharon Stone flaunting out her body. On the other hand, the film is really cheesy and over-the-top at times as well as really dull in others. So if you're guessing that I think this film has an inconsistent feel to it, you'd probably be right.

Basic Instinct follows a police detective (Michael Douglas) with a troubling past who is trying to solve the recent murder of a rock and roll star. The only eligible suspect so far is a book writer (Sharon Stone), whose stories are about women murdering men, who was the last person to see him. One of her own stories seems to play out in the same way that this victim was murdered. Naturally, the police suspects that she did it. The plot thickens however when the detective falls in love with the writer and learns some new developments about the case.

In case I haven't mentioned it in any of my earlier reviews, let me get this off my chest. With a few exceptions, I really do not care at all for films centered on police detectives, cops or characters involved in similar professions since I find them to be boring, forgettable, and formulaic. While there are exceptions that either have interesting cases or characters, the rest of them just don't do a thing for me especially in terms of story, characters, and dialogue.

Keeping that in mind, while I find whatever takes place in the police department to be fairly formulaic, it wasn't boring and whatever dialogue was being said wasn't as much torture to listen to as I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be too difficult to understand what was being said like other films of this genre, but luckily it was easy to understand what was being said, so that must count for something.

On top of that, the story has a reasonably intriguing complexity to it and so do the two main characters. The hero and villain in this film are not clear cut, which is fairly authentic of real life. In reality, it's not crystal clear who the heroes and villains are, one culture may consider certain "heroes" villains, and vice versa. In other words, the screenplay was wise enough to put that aspect into the story.

If you go see this film solely for looking at Sharon Stone's physique, you won't be disappointed since she really looks good in this film. I wouldn't be surprised if some viewers were reminded of the blonde women Alfred Hitchcock used in his pictures especially Kim Novak. I know I detected some similarities in terms of looks and wardrobe between Stone and the typical blondes Hitchcock used in his films.

From what I've said so far, it sounds like this should be a good movie given my personal tastes. But sadly, Basic Instinct is one of those films in which the premise alone is better than the actual execution. One huge issue I had with Basic Instinct is the quality of the acting. I found the acting in this picture to be really weak. While the characters of the two leads are fascinating, the performances aren't executed well enough to do justice to the written characters. I also don't find the two leads (especially Douglas) either that believable or even that subtle/natural with their delivery.

Furthermore, the performance by Jeanne Tripplehorn as a psychiatrist helping out Douglas' character is especially unconvincing, considering that I never believed that her character had enough experience in studying psychology to the point were she would become a professional one at such a young age. I simply didn't buy it at all, and the only point to her character existing in this film is solely for a plot twist that is used later in the film. I think she was of no importance to the plot whatsoever.

Because of the disappointing acting quality, I don't really buy whatever ludicrous events take place in the plot as a result. Therefore, I can't take anything in the plot as seriously as the film seems to want me to. While the screenplay has its fair share of intriguing elements, there are also some elements of the screenplay especially with its dialogue that feels really cheesy and doesn't even sound the slightest bit realistic. As a result, that's how the film becomes inconsistent in terms of its delivery.

In a nutshell, Basic Instinct definitely seems to be a mixed bag. While it has a good idea of what it wants to be, it seldom delivers on the promises it makes mainly because the acting is so mediocre to the point where it interferes with my ability to believe what's happening on screen. I'd only recommend this film if you're solely interested in checking out Stone's body. It's not much of an endorsement, but that's the highest praise I can give to this flick.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

To start a review for special films like Milos Forman's excellent 1975 Oscar-winning comedy-drama One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, I might as well forget about trying to make an introductory paragraph to prepare my readers for what I think about the film I'm reviewing since I can't think of anything else to say at the moment besides the film being great. Instead, I'll just dive right into looking at the film's main plot and go from there.

Jack Nicholson gives what is arguably his greatest performance as Randle McMurphy, a criminal who tries to avoid prison by pretending that he has a mental illness and get admitted into a mental hospital in hopes that he will avoid hard labor. He soon discovers however that spending time in a mental hospital can be just as unpleasant as being in prison. This is due in large part to the strict authority of Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) whose mandatory group therapy sessions causes the other patients to feel humiliated about themselves. Now, Randle is determined to convince some of the other patients to join him in his rebellion against her practices.

From the moment he first appears on screen, Jack Nicholson simply delivers an outstanding performance here. Whenever his character claims to enjoy taking his medication in a sarcastic manner or whenever he is faking illness to his fellow patients and then is suddenly bursting with energy assuring his colleagues that everything's okay, one would not be surprised if cartoon animators were influenced by this type of charismatic, expressive performance. I really do believe Jack Nicholson's performance is worthy of such a comment.

Louise Fletcher seems to be subliminally having a great time portraying the icy Nurse Ratched and really does a terrific job at making the character as harsh and unforgiving as a person can be. The performances from the other patients are also unbelievably convincing from Sydney Lassick as Cheswick (a man with significant temper issues), to Christopher Lloyd as Taber (an excessively hostile patient), to Brad Dourif as Bibbit (a young man with a stuttering issue), and even Will Sampson as "Chief" (a deaf, mute American Indian) whose character has the best plot twist.

What ultimately makes One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest such a great motion picture experience is the well written screenplay by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman and Milos Forman's direction which brings it all together. On top of the fact that the script contains some inspired, humorous comedy in which the laughs are truly genuine, it also contains some emotionally intense drama in which you truly feel what the characters are going through.

Director Milos Forman tells this story about a rebel going up against an overpowering system in just the right tone. Although Nicholson is considered the protagonist and Fletcher is considered the antagonist, Forman was wise enough to make it so that it isn't as clear cut as just that. In other words, we can't completely say that Nicholson is the hero since he's basically serving a prison sentence for his past actions, and neither can we completely say that Fletcher is the villain since all she's really doing in the first place is her job and her duties. I think that this aspect of the picture is cleverly put together since it enhances the drama even more and makes it seem more realistic.

To get straight to the point, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is an all around triumph in storytelling, writing, acting, and directing. But most importantly, it is a film in which everything comes together and works to the film's advantage in terms of both its comedy and drama. It is a great American film and one of the finest films to come from the 1970's.


In case you have not noticed, I am a very huge fan of director Alfred Hitchcock and the films that he makes. So naturally, you would think that I would really like the 1940 mystery Rebecca, the only film in his career to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, right? But unfortunately, that's just not the case. In fact, I don't really think the Academy Awards are a really credible source to find the greatest films of all time since a couple of them don't even hold up that well. I'll go even further by saying that after the two times I've seen this particular film, I've been very underwhelmed by it.

Rebecca tells the story of a young woman (Joan Fontaine) who meets and falls in love with a wealthy widower (Laurence Olivier). These two get married within a few weeks and he takes her to his massive mansion with a great number of employees where they'll spend their honeymoon together. The housekeeper (Judith Anderson) does not seem to be very fond of the new bride and as this couple spends more time there, she begins to become haunted by the memory and presence of his first wife to the point where her husband seems to be affected by the memory of his wife as well.

From what I just described, the plot wouldn't sound like a Best Picture Oscar winner, would it? Regardless, critics and audiences seem to declare this as a very good film. While I do admit that this film is far from terrible and that I was invested in the film for about the first couple minutes, it later became too silly and too redundant for my taste. I'll describe more of what I disliked in a moment.

What do I like about Rebecca that is worthy of mentioning? I think the black and white cinematography is pretty sharp and it serves the underlying dark tones of the widower's castle-like mansion pretty well. The performances by Laurence Olivier and Judith Anderson are very strong and their characters enrich the drama as they are supposed to. I also thought Franz Waxman's musical score had the right tone for this type of dark story that was being told.

Having stated all that, I think the film does go downhill when the newly married couple gets to the mansion since the film then operates on a mechanical, repetitive narrative rhythm and basically sticks to that rhythm for the rest of the picture. The couple has a strange conflict, but then everything's okay again. The couple has a strange conflict, but then everything's okay again. The film practically repeats itself and the narrative as a result becomes less and less interesting, and therefore becomes more of a chore to watch than a pleasure to watch. I didn't even really know what happened in the last half hour of the picture, that's how inconsistent the narrative becomes.

For that matter, the conflicts or thrilling parts of the picture were the characters suspect something unusual is happening in the mansion aren't really that exciting. Maybe the reason why is because the story wasn't that thrilling in the first place due to the fact that I don't know if its supposed to be scary. I'm not sure what to feel and how to feel about the events that take place, and as a result, I kind of give up caring and get bored by the film.

While I wouldn't go so far as to say that this is a bad Hitchcock picture, I would say that it is an overrated one due to its repetition and lack of any real thrills or anything really interesting for that matter. Given the films that Alfred Hitchcock has made throughout his distinguished career, there are films that he has made that are far more deserving of the Best Picture Oscar than Rebecca.


One of the many great aspects about Alfred Hitchcock's pictures is his interest in the characters that are involved in the film's stories. Because the characters in his films are so fascinating, such as L.B. Jeffries in Rear Window or Frances Stevens in To Catch a Thief, we share his fascination with these people as well. While his 1964 mystery Marnie may not bare comparison to his very finest films, you can at least be sure that the story being told and the characters on screen are probably going to be interesting enough to make the experience worthwhile.

Tippi Hedren plays the title character Marnie, a mentally unstable young woman who has an intense fear as well as hatred for men, thunderstorms, and the color red. She's also a thief who steals money from the companies she works at and changes her identity every time she does. She successfully gets new jobs at other companies with her fake identities and her fake resumes.

But when she gets a job at a company run by someone (Sean Connery) who knows a little bit about her activities and she gets discovered by him when she tries to pull off another theft, he admits to falling in love with her to the point where he won't turn her to the police under the condition that she marries him. Although she reluctantly agrees, he begins to suspect something may not be mentally right with her after all and that he needs to know why she is acting the way she is.

Marnie definitely has an interesting premise and for about its first half to two thirds, it mostly delivers on the promises it makes and the plot twist at the end is very cleverly built up. I also think Hedren and Connery were pretty solid in their leading roles since they were able to incorporate enough intrigue into the people they play. There are also a few very well directed scenes, one of which includes Hedren's character trying to rob the vault inside Connery's character's office that is solely done through visuals and no sound which was built up in a clever manner and well timed in its execution.

Having said that, the direction in the film's last third to half does lose its momentum a bit and some unnecessary complications with the plot ensue. One of which is Diane Baker's character who is supposed to be the former sister-in-law of Connery's character but I don't really know what her purpose in the plot is. She's kind of made out to be some sort of antagonist, but she is not well developed enough to be really called that for sure and for that matter she serves no purpose to the plot since she doesn't really do anything. In other words, her character is pointless.

I would also be lying if I said the narrative was clear. In fact, around the time the two main characters get married and the conflicts start in ensue, the story starts to become more heavily layered to the point where it becomes a bit more difficult to keep track of the narrative. Furthermore, I didn't think there was any real reason why the plot needed to become more layered in the first place since a handful of scenes don't really have that much of a purpose to them. There's one scene in which Marnie puts an animal in danger that had no point to it whatsoever.

Another problem that I had was the film's unconvincing special effects. There are some shots in which Hedren is riding on a horse or Hedren and Connery were riding in a car that were obviously fake because of the dated green screen effects or whatever they used for a background in those scenes. Whatever props they were using to film those certain scenes feel really fake and out of date for me.

Like I stated earlier, Marnie is not one of Alfred Hitchcock's best films because of those certain pet peeves with the plot. But for anyone who's a fan of Hitchcock, there are a handful of aspects to like about the film such as the creative premise and some well directed scenes that should keep hardcore Hitchcock fans like myself satisfied enough.

Blue Velvet
Blue Velvet(1986)

When trying to figure out the first thing to say about a film that leaves me at a loss for words trying to describe it such as David Lynch's 1986 mystery film Blue Velvet, I should probably say something like this. The director of this film really knew what he was doing, since Blue Velvet is certainly a new movie going experience for me. If you take a basic Alfred Hitchcock picture but add some foul language and a handful of objectionable images (severed body parts, nudity, or anything of the sort), that's pretty much Blue Velvet in a nutshell. While I can't really say it's a masterpiece yet, I can certainly say that it's a reasonably fascinating piece of film making.

Blue Velvet tells the story of a college student (Kyle MacLachlan) who comes back to his hometown to visit his sick father. One day while in town, he comes across a severed ear while walking in a field and takes it to a local police detective (Dean Stockwell) for further investigation. When the detective's daughter (Laura Dern) secretly provides him with information regarding the case and who may be involved with this particular situation, he becomes further intrigued by the case and eventually becomes romantically involved with a suspicious nightclub singer (Isabella Rossellini) who is related to a dangerous criminal (Dennis Hopper).

Although it tackles subject matter that films back then would not dare look into, this film plays like it almost could have come out in the 1950's since the settings and the character's costumes are very much similar to that era. I find it very clever that they never tell us what time this story is set in, they basically let us come to our own conclusions. It could be the 1950's, it could even be the 1980's when the film first came out. Either way, I like it when a film doesn't tell us what time the story's set in since it makes the story feel more like pure escapism therefore making it feel more timeless. Ranging from joyful and innocent to dark and murky, David Lynch really nails the atmosphere to this picture and the setting he creates is a crucial reason why this film is so unique.

While I wouldn't say the story is something completely original that we haven't seen done before by the likes of Hitchcock or Scorsese, it's attention getting and surreal in its own right as it keeps going along. After all, not very many films come along in which a nightclub singer notices a stranger in the house and then forces them to make out with her. How unusual is that? Little details like that to the story make it stand out even more.

I'd be lying if I said there weren't certain aspects of the story that could have been done better or that there weren't parts of the film that were goofy. In fact, after the film's over, I never understood why the college student was interested in the case or why the detective's daughter wanted to share the information that she did with him. In short, I didn't understand the motivations behind their actions and I didn't really get to know much about them as individuals.

In addition to that, I personally thought that Dennis Hopper was a bit too over the top and inconsistent with his performance. There's one scene in which his character is supposed to be dangerous and menacing to the person he's with, but instead I saw someone who was acting too goofy and silly to be taken seriously as a real threat. Furthermore, if you take out the obscenities he utters and cruel behavior he commits, I don't really see a powerful or complex antagonist so much as a plot device to keep the story going. In other words, he's kind of formulaic and doesn't leave even the slightest impact on me.

Even though the characters are a little bit underdeveloped in terms of their motivations and though there are some parts of the story where I felt lost trying to keep track of every detail, why do I still feel that Blue Velvet is worth checking out? One reason is because the story is fairly involving and the storytelling is for the most part relatively straightforward. Another reason is because it's pretty well directed by David Lynch with a handful of scenes that really keep the viewer glued to their seats in wondering what other surreal problem will ensue next. I think the biggest reason why I liked this film however is the film's atmosphere and how it suits whatever events are taking place in the plot.

Some critics have complained that it's too unbearable to sit through scenes in which Rossellini's character is undergoing some sort of embarrassment or torture, there's a scene in which Rossellini is standing naked in someone's front yard that turns some people off. It never offended me though and I thought it contributed to the escalating intensity in the drama. So depending on your tolerance for such scenes, Blue Velvet delivers on its promise on showing us something that hasn't been seen before, and this aspect is enough for me to recommend at least one viewing.

Rain Man
Rain Man(1988)

I really have mixed feelings towards Barry Levinson's 1988 Oscar-winning drama Rain Man. On one hand, since I am autistic, I do respect Dustin Hoffman's performance as the main character since it gives me a better appreciation of how far I have come with my autism and how much I have been able to succeed at in life. On the other hand, there are certain aspects about this movie that I found tedious and not very pleasant to sit through. While I don't think it's bad, I don't think it's Oscar worthy either.

Rain Man is basically a typical road trip movie which follows a young, selfish car salesman (Tom Cruise) from Los Angeles who learns that his father has just passed away and goes to Cincinnati to inherit his fortune. When he finds out that all he inherited was his Buick convertible and that $3 million is going to his autistic brother (Dustin Hoffman) who he didn't know he had, he takes him on a road trip back to Los Angeles in hopes of making an arrangement with his attorneys to inherit some of his money. Along the way, he learns that his brother despite his social difficulties has a great memory and some extraordinary math skills.

Like I stated earlier, Dustin Hoffman does a good job at portraying an autistic person who does not warm up to any last minute changes and has to have strict routines. However, the character Tom Cruise plays is so cold-hearted and mean-spirited that it becomes extremely difficult to feel any sympathy towards him at all. Furthermore, it also becomes difficult to truly buy that he's experienced any sort of change at the end of the picture. Maybe it was intentional, maybe it wasn't. Either way, they've succeeded all too well at making him completely unsympathetic.

The main narrative is not only pretty predictable, but the story that's being told is for the most part a mean-spirited one. I think the reason the story is so mean-spirited is again because of the Tom Cruise character since he's basically interfering with a dead man's will to please only himself with little to no regard for his brother. He's taking advantage of his brother's math intelligence by using him as a tool for winning thousands of dollars at the casinos. No kidding! This isn't entertainment, this is downright despicable.

Because the salesman's brother is autistic, he has some unusual behavior issues such as repeating what he said over and over again which can get old for the viewer pretty fast. Between the salesman being just so unpleasant to everyone around him and because of his brother's repetitious tendencies, the film as a result becomes sort of unbearable to sit through. It doesn't help that Levinson's direction isn't that strong either, the film kind of runs out of gas just after the two main characters hit it at the casinos.

I respect the filmmaker's attempt at telling a story involving autistic people since I do think everyone who has this symptom deserves to be heard out to a mass audience. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that this is the right story to tell that involves autistic people especially considering how this is mainly just another average road trip movie. There's a good movie to be made out there about people with autism, I just wish it were much more serious and more likable than Rain Man.


As contrived as the statement I'm about to make might sound, I can't help but say it. Moneyball is unlike any other sports movie I've seen in awhile. Why? Because it does something completely different that most other films of its genre usually don't do. It doesn't really focus on the team's athletes or coaches that we mainly see when we go to watch certain sports games (baseball, football, etc.). Instead, it focuses on the general managers and the scouts that are responsible for the athlete's and coach's fates on the team (whether they stay on the team, whether they go somewhere else, who should be on their team, etc.).

In Bennett Miller's sports drama Moneyball, we follow the Oakland Athletics baseball team's general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) as he is struggling to figure out how to improve the team in the middle of the 2002 season after a handful of key players have left. Despite their unfortunate financial limitations, he hires a recent economics graduate (Jonah Hill) with interesting theories regarding the value of the players and makes him his assistant general manager. Together, they analyze all the players in the league and try to scout players who are able to get on base and play ball.

Because I know very little about the world of sports, between its complicated statistics, game rules, etc., I'm not really the most eligible person to state whether or not the film is authentic to the real-life story it was based on or if it feels authentic in terms of capturing how the sports managing and scouting process goes. Having said that, based on what I saw, I felt that it was pretty realistic in my mind and I think writers Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian did a very good job at capturing what this process may most realistically be like.

I never thought I'd see the day in which Brad Pitt plays a sports general manager in his career anytime soon. But it looks like that day had come, and he actually does a surprisingly good job with his performance since he is convincing with his willingness to do whatever dirty strategies it takes to make this team better. The only performance to be more surprising than Pitt's is Jonah Hill's supporting performance as the assistant GM. Not only is he able to hold his own alongside the likes of Brad Pitt, he convinced me that he's knowledgeable in the area of sports and that he believes in the theories that this character believes in.

There are a few significant weaknesses to the picture though. One is the story sidetrack involving Billy's family which includes his ex-wife (Robin Wright) and his daughter (Kerris Dorsey) that feels too underdeveloped to the point where it's a distraction to the main plot rather than a necessary part to the film. The other part of the story that could have been better developed involves the team's athletes and coaches. I think I would have liked it if the film delved more into the issues and conflicts of the team members on the field and obtain some of their perspectives as well.

Aside from those notable nitpicks, Moneyball is a film hardcore sports fans owe it to themselves to take a look at. It not only respects their intelligence in this field, but it brings them something new that they've been waiting to see for a long time: a more behind-the-scenes look behind one of America's most beloved sports - baseball.

The Usual Suspects

Do you like films that don't tell stories in chronological order? Do you like films in which the editing seems completely random? Do you enjoy being totally confused and lost? Do you like not knowing the answers to everything and understanding very little? Do you like films that are a pain in the neck to follow? Are "cops and robbers" stories your idea of a good time at the movies? If your answer to all these questions is "yes", then this movie's for you. If not, then I would NOT recommend that you check out Bryan Singer's 1995 drama The Usual Suspects. Why? Because all those qualities I've mentioned before are all present in this film.

We begin The Usual Suspects with a very eventful night in which many criminals are killed and a boat ends up being blown up. The next day, two FBI agents (Giancarlo Esposito, Chazz Palminteri) come to the obvious conclusion that something serious went down that night. When they discover a survivor (Kevin Spacey) of the incident, they interrogate him for more information regarding the events that took place that night. They also ask him about the events leading up to this incident and the other people (Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, Kevin Pollak, Benicio del Toro) that were involved.

From this plot synopsis alone, you wouldn't think it would be a very confusing movie as I'm making it out to be, but yet somehow it just is. The editing style is sort of similar to Pulp Fiction in that the story is told in non-chronological order, so maybe that contributes to the confusion a bit. It doesn't help either that half of the picture is set in the office of a police department where the dialogue is uninteresting and foreign to understand.

For that matter, the story that's being told is kind of boring as well. In other words, maybe it's not just the editing and the direction that makes it all so confusing. The fact that I just don't care enough about what's happening on screen also adds to my confusion even more. So maybe it's just an unfortunate combination of boredom and my complete disinterest in the subject matter this film tackles that probably explains why I can only remember so little.

There are only a few things that are decent about The Usual Suspects that I should probably mention. One is Kevin Spacey's performance which is interesting because by simply looking at his eyes through the picture, it looks like his character is sad all the time. I'm not saying he's on the brink of crying, I'm saying he looks deeply depressed. By the time I got to the film's famous plot twist, I admired what Spacey has done with his performance even more.

There are also a handful of scenes I liked because of their creativity and their execution. There's a scene in which Spacey, Byrne, Baldwin, Pollak, and del Toro surround a police car to steal the cop's money and badge that's ingenious from start to finish. There's another scene in which the same five guys are in the middle of a business deal gone wrong. Baldwin is holding a gun in each hand and ends up killing two people at the same time. This scene is really cool in its execution that I couldn't help but admire it.

Aside from those aspects, I didn't find much in The Usual Suspects that really satisfied me. Like I've mentioned earlier, the plot is basically impenetrable and more confusing than it needs to be. Even when I did relatively understand what was happening, I didn't find it that interesting. Ultimately with all this said and done, The Usual Suspects ends up being a film that's too smart for its own good.

Good Will Hunting

One of the most important things a person should know is that everyone is different and we all have our own life story. Sometimes, a person with certain skills and talents comes from the last place we think we'd find them. In the case of the main title character in Gus Van Sant's 1997 drama Good Will Hunting, Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a gifted mathematician even though he's only a janitor at MIT. Although a mathematics teacher (Stellan Skarsgard) on campus recognizes his impressive skills, Will doesn't seem to be interested in pursuing a future as a student and would rather hang out with his pals (Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Cole Hauser) instead.

This all changes however when he gets into a fight with someone who bullied him as a kid and faces the possibility of going to jail as a result of his actions. When the teacher gets wind of this incident, he offers to bail Will out under two conditions: 1) he studies mathematics under his supervision, and 2) he sees a therapist regularly. Although Will agrees to this deal, he isn't thrilled with the idea of seeing a therapist and doesn't take his first few therapists seriously.

But when the teacher is able to hire his former college roommate (Robin Williams) to give a shot at getting through to Will, Will eventually starts to open up about his past and his current relationship with a British student (Minnie Driver) at MIT. Through their therapy sessions, they start to learn more about one another and realize that they both share important things in common.

Good Will Hunting is an inspiring, if not particularly surprising, tale about learning to plan for the road ahead and figuring out where you want to go in life with committed performances from the entire cast, and a script by co-stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck with a handful of enjoyable moments. Good Will Hunting is also a well crafted character study about a young man who has the potential as proved through his math skills, but just doesn't have the direction towards where he wants to go in life. In a way, all the people that Will comes across are all there to help him. Between his girlfriend, his friends, the therapist and the teacher, they all shape him in more ways than one.

The first two-thirds of the film are very well done and naturally play out with the chemistry between Damon and Driver as well as the relationships Damon has with everybody. Then comes the last third of the movie which relies too heavily on the formula most other movies follow, with the love interest possibly leaving town and the main character experiencing some sort of downfall in which everyone in the audience then knows what will happen next and how everything will be resolved in the end.

I've always disliked it when a film resorts to very clichéd plot devices like this since it takes away the natural authenticity the film had before that point, and since it feels too safe to the point where even the slightest bit of creativity is discouraged due to an excessive fear of failure on the filmmaker's part. In particular, it doesn't work in the last third of this movie, since they don't give us a good enough reason why these events need to happen in the first place, it just feels really forced and heavy-handed.

Other than that "normal" plot flaw with the film's last third and a few brief slow spots, I liked what Good Will Hunting had to offer. I thought its message regarding the importance of figuring out your life goals and dreams is a good moral to reinforce to teenagers and young adults. Although there is a generous amount of profanity in the film, the dialogue and the situations the characters undergo were well thought through by writers/stars Damon and Affleck.

Even despite its predictability, the story that was being told had a certain originality to it and the characters were fairly engaging enough to make the drama in the story stimulating. As long as you don't expect too many surprises, with the exception of one or two, there's enough substance in Good Will Hunting that makes it worth checking out.

Reservoir Dogs

I really wanted to get into Quentin Tarantino's 1992 directorial debut Reservoir Dogs especially after having seen his later works and being really impressed by them. Unfortunately, due to a handful of big, unavoidable obstacles to overlook, my desired satisfaction from this picture was not met. After watching it, I couldn't help but feel that while it does attempt to do something different in terms of its style, it ends up having an incomplete feel to it.

The story of Reservoir Dogs is your typical "robbery gone wrong" routine with eight guys attempting to execute a planned diamond store robbery but it ends up failing miserably. The difference is that we never see the actual robbery in action, we just see the events happening before and after the heist. Now this is an interesting approach to telling this type of story and I give Tarantino credit for attempting this unique style of storytelling. However, I'm not sure this storytelling style helps the main narrative make more sense. If anything, it just makes the film feel more incomplete and empty.

It's not the only crucial aspect that makes this picture feel empty, the characters are also pretty weak as well. Without giving away the ending to this film, I have no problem with a film that ends the way Reservoir Dogs ends as long as I'm able to be interested enough in these characters. But something about the quality of the character development in this picture just does not satisfy me, either they aren't developed enough or there's little that's interesting about these guys.

Some critics have complained that the violence in this film is basically too intense, too gruesome, and there's no real reason for it to be in the film. I actually don't mind the violence too much, since I've seen much more gruesome films than this and since such things as violence and gore don't bother me that much. As far as I'm concerned and as weird as this may sound, an over dependence on excessive profanity bothers me a little more than a small amount of violence and gore.

I honestly think the biggest issue I have with Reservoir Dogs overall though is that it doesn't know where it wants to go dramatically and as a result there's no real drama or real focus in the story. It really does have a disjointed feel to it and while I recognize the new things they are trying narrative wise, it simply doesn't come together as a whole.

The acting isn't bad though, the performances from Harvey Keitel and Lawrence Tierney in particular are pretty good. I don't think Reservoir Dogs is a disaster, I do see a decent flick in this film, I just think its execution is a bit weak and inconsistent. Maybe if the story and characters were more strong, and the filmmakers had a better idea of what they wanted to make, I'd like this film more. But for right now, I can't recommend Reservoir Dogs, but I admire what it's trying to do.

Dial M for Murder

Alfred Hitchcock was not only a legendary director and a master at using suspense, he was also an expert at making films for the mystery genre. While his earlier mystery picture Rope (1948) tried its best to feel like one continuous uninterrupted take, its story was not really that exciting to suit the style Hitchcock was trying to go for. If there was a film that would have been better suited for that style with minimal editing and settings, then that film would be Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 mystery, Dial M for Murder.

In Dial M for Murder, we follow a former tennis player (Ray Milland) who has secretly discovered that his wife (Grace Kelly) has been dating another man (Robert Cummings). One day, he meets an acquaintance (Anthony Dawson) of his and makes a deal with him: if he commits the murder of his wife, he will pay him a generous amount of money. But when the murder plan goes terribly wrong and his wife ends up killing the hired intruder, the tennis player must come up with another back-up plan to get rid of his wife or else she will discover that he was behind the attempted murder the whole time.

As you can tell, the story of Dial M for Murder is relatively simple and basically a typical murder story that Hitchcock would bring to the screen just like Rope before it. The difference is that this picture is much better in terms of its execution and has much more going for it. It has better storytelling, less predictability even though it's not too hard to figure out where the plot will go, and more memorable scenes especially with the famous murder scene in which Grace Kelly defends herself with a pair of scissors.

Like most of his pictures before it (including Rope), Dial M for Murder shows us how there's no such thing as getting away with the perfect crime especially when you secretly have so much pride with committing it. While Rope was probably better at proving how this theory can be correct, this picture certainly has a smarter main villain since he actually tries harder in terms of keeping the murder a secret as best he can as opposed to the villains in Rope who are obviously showing weaknesses in hiding their murder.

I always seem to enjoy Grace Kelly in all the movies I've seen her in and this film is no exception. Despite not knowing for certain how the intruder got into her apartment, she still seems to be pretty smart and is a pleasure to watch. Not to mention she's attractive to the point where we wonder why her relationship with her husband is suffering to the point where she had to see another man.

Speaking of which, this film never did tackle why the relationship went downhill in the first place, did it? I didn't think so. Furthermore, I hardly remember the other characters, Kelly's other love interest included. They're not terrible, they just don't add a whole lot or leave an impact in any way. The film also sort of gets off to a slow start and you only start to get interested once the murder plan starts to take effect which is around 20-25 minutes in.

Once Dial M for Murder gets going though, it's a fairly solid film for its genre. It keeps you interested in how things will pan out for the main antagonist as well as his wife. If you're a fan of Alfred Hitchcock like me or a fan of mysteries, I think you'll like what Dial M for Murder has to offer just fine. Is it a masterpiece? Not quite, but for what it is, it's pretty good as a whole.

Django Unchained

Ever since he made his landmark 1994 film Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino has proved himself to be a master at screen writing especially in terms of writing dialogue. Tarantino is an expert in making the conversations the film's characters have just as thrilling as the bloody violence that ensues within the film's plot. This aspect is present in some of his greatest works, Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds, and it is also present in his latest picture, Django Unchained. While this film may not be in the same league as his best works, it still has plenty for Tarantino fans to enjoy.

The best way to sum up the plot of Django Unchained is that it is what Inglourious Basterds would look like if it were a Western set just a few days before the Civil War. We follow an African American slave (Jamie Foxx) who is freed by a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) that disapproves of the idea of slavery and they make a deal. If the slave helps the hunter track down three wanted brothers and kill them, the hunter will help the slave rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from a harsh yet classy plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Like I hinted at before, this picture bares more than a few similarities to Inglourious Basterds in that they both star Christoph Waltz in a supporting role, and they both tell stories about brutally treated minorities obtaining their vengeance on their "superior" enemies. While Inglourious Basterds had Waltz played a menacing German officer and the Jews getting revenge on the Nazis, Django Unchained has Waltz playing a good guy and the African American slaves getting revenge on their white masters.

Also like Inglourious Basterds before it, Django Unchained has a handful of scenes that poke fun of events that happened during that time as well as add a little spin to it. For example, there's a scene in this film that involves members of the Ku Klux Klan and the size of the masks that they wear. I won't give away too much, but the way that scene plays out is nothing short of hilarious. There's another scene in which someone kills one white master and then lets the slaves kill the other white master that's also pretty clever.

Some people may not be able to stomach the concept of slavery and the depiction of it here. But if you can handle it, the filmmakers do an effective job at showing us just how horribly we treated slaves back then and make us appreciate that we no longer will treat each other that way. Considering how this film is about blacks getting revenge on the whites, I think the best performance in this picture ironically belongs to Christoph Waltz as the bounty hunter since there's a certain charm and cleverness to his character that brings this film together.

The soundtrack in this picture is strange since the music they play in the background is a bit out of place for what is happening on screen. With the exception of the opening tune, it just simply doesn't suit what's being shown on screen that well and is more distracting than beneficial. Additionally, I think the last third of the picture didn't do much for me since I felt it was a bit excessive and pointless. I personally felt they could have ended the film 30 minutes earlier and I would be more satisfied.

Ultimately, Django Unchained is a good if not great Tarantino flick with another enjoyable performance from Christoph Waltz, clever humor, and a mostly accurate, brutal depiction of slavery before the Civil War. Depending on whether or not you are able to sit through whatever this picture will throw at you (slavery and bloody violence), Django Unchained delivers on what it promises.


You got to give Alfred Hitchcock credit for one aspect regarding his first Technicolor feature Rope (1948) and that is the honorable attempt at trying something different in terms of telling his story. With Rope, he tries to film the entire picture as if it were one seamlessly continuous take. Although I can clearly tell when the film may have been edited through close-ups of the backs of the character's suits, I at least respect what he's trying to attempt and that ambition alone is one of the best parts of this picture. The rest of Rope however, if you really think about it, is pretty boring especially by Hitchcock standards.

We start Rope with, no surprise, a murder which is committed by two college students. One of them (John Dall) has complete confidence that they have committed the perfect crime, the other (Farley Granger) does not and becomes rather nervous. Other than the fact that they've committed a crime, why is Granger so nervous? Because Dall had the very head-strong idea to invite the victim's family, their friends, and a detective (James Stewart) over for a dinner party to basically make sure their crime is basically untraceable. Yeah, no wonder Granger is so nervous. One might be so wise as to say this is a very unwise idea and that this effectively proves why pride is a sin in a scenario like this.

As you can probably tell, the story of Rope, while efficiently told at a running time of less than an hour and a half, is not really that interesting or groundbreaking. Hitchcock has basically told this type of story many times before and there's no real twists to this one to really make it stand out. Because there's no surprises, you can easily predict where the plot will go and you'd probably be right.

The characters in this film are also pretty lame with the exception of James Stewart since he recognizes how unpleasant this dinner party seems to be. There's nothing really wrong with these people, but I just don't find much in these characters that make them very memorable. They all just deliver whatever lines they have to say and just get off screen as soon as possible. Some of the conversations the characters have are relatively pointless, there's one conversation where they're talking about movie stars that immediately becomes distracting.

Once again, the only aspects about Rope that seem to work are its underlying ambition to make everything on screen feel like it's happening in real-time and James Stewart's performance. Aside from that, there isn't much here that will truly satisfy fans of Alfred Hitchcock. Maybe if its story had more plot turns or drama, I would be more impressed with the style Hitchcock was trying to go for here. As it is, Rope is an experiment that tries something new, but ultimately seldom delivers on its early promise.


In 1952, the British magazine Sight & Sound had asked the world's best film critics to put together their lists of the ten greatest films of all time. Every ten years since then, they've continued doing this poll and Citizen Kane has kept on maintaining its #1 spot since 1962. But as we've all heard last year, the outstanding streak of Citizen Kane has been put to an end as another film has taken over the #1 spot in its place. That film is none other than Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 classic, Vertigo.

Now many people are probably curious about my answer to this question: is Vertigo really the new Citizen Kane? My personal answer to that question is yes. With all due respect to Citizen Kane, I always thought Vertigo had a more intriguing, complex story, more compelling drama, and is just as artistically accomplished in its cinematography as Citizen Kane ever was. Like I mentioned in my review of Rear Window, no list such as the Sight & Sound's can change the fact that we all have our own opinion regarding what our favorite film is. But in regards to this particular development, I think Vertigo being crowned the #1 film on the list is a step in the right direction.

In Vertigo, we follow John "Scottie" Ferguson (James Stewart), a retired detective with a great fear of heights, as famously shown in the opening scene when he's hanging on the edge of a rooftop, who reluctantly agrees to do a case for an old college friend (Tom Helmore). This case requires him to keep an eye on his friend's wife (Kim Novak) who is allegedly possessed to commit suicide. One day on the job when he sees her try to commit suicide by jumping into the San Francisco Bay, he rescues her and takes her to his home to rest and recover.

What later results is a relationship that quickly becomes one of the most unique and fascinating love stories ever put on celluloid. I'm going to avoid giving away the big plot twist in the middle of the picture. Just let me tell you that it's not only surprising the first time you see it as it should be, but it also adds more drama and complexity to the rest of the picture, including the central romance, as a good plot twist should do.

James Stewart once again shows us his unbelievable versatility as an actor. With this role as well as his work in Rear Window and It's a Wonderful Life, we see the typically charming James Stewart persona with a little dark edge. Stewart is one of the few actors we can connect with no matter how dark certain characters he plays are. Whether he's wishing he was never born, intruding on his neighbor's privacy from a safe distance, or in this case falling in love with someone that reminds him of another person he loves, we somehow can find some aspect about his characters that we can relate to or identify with.

Kim Novak is also very good in this picture. I forgot to mention that she plays two characters in this film and she plays them both equally well. The other character she plays is another love interest that looks very identical to his other love interest to the point where that reason alone is why she loves her. If it sounds like it's complicated to describe, then it's easier to watch and obtain the connection between the two love interests first-hand since it's a crucial part of the plot twist.

I've stated earlier that Vertigo's Technicolor cinematography was artistically accomplished and I stand by that statement. Just like Hitchcock's earlier film To Catch a Thief, the colors just really pop out at you, especially with the scenes at the flower shop and the hotel room with the turquoise light. It's not just the colors and the lighting that make the cinematography exquisite, it's also the way they were shot particularly with the innovative shot known as the dolly zoom. This is basically when the camera is physically moving away from the subject while zooming in on it, which in turn enhances the distance or the height of the subject significantly.

The musical score by the great Bernard Herrmann is also fantastic. It enhances the mystery, the emotion, the drama and the mood of the story tremendously, but it also is very memorable and sticks in your mind for the next couple days, weeks, or months as great musical scores should. Often considered not only one of Hitchcock's finest works but one of the finest films in general and deservedly so, Vertigo stands the test of time very well and holds up to multiple viewings. So if you like Citizen Kane, you'll pretty much like this even more.

Zero Dark Thirty

Well, I hope some of you really like films about the CIA and their long investigating processes, otherwise you're probably not gonna like The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow's latest film, Zero Dark Thirty. Most of this picture isn't even devoted to the mission in which America went after one of the most wanted men in the world: Osama bin Laden, it's more devoted to the person who tried to track down the whereabouts of the al-Qaeda members in hopes of obtaining information on the man most responsible for the September 11 attacks. While there are some aspects to respect about this picture, there are also some annoying aspects as well.

After a pointless opening with no visuals and only audio of a phone call on September 11 to start us off, we follow newly appointed CIA officer Maya (Jessica Chastain), who was apparently recruited straight out of high school, as she accompanies fellow CIA officer Dan (Jason Clarke) in interrogating someone with links to al-Qaeda members close to Osama bin Laden. From there, Maya progresses from a newcomer to a professional investigator as she tries to get closer to finding the whereabouts of this public enemy so we can finally do what we've sought out to do for 10 years, avenge the 9/11 attacks.

There's no use asking me whether or not I think everything in the film is based on fact since I couldn't understand what was going on 50% of the time, but more on that later. One of the things I like about this movie is Jessica Chastain's character since she does actually have some underlying warmth and likability to her. After seeing Homeland, I've been skeptical regarding whether or not I'd like CIA female characters anymore. But with Zero Dark Thirty, I was able to identify with the protagonist in terms of what she was going through and most importantly, I actually cared what happened to her. So I guess that has to count for something, doesn't it?

I also thought the film's final act was very good and was the point when I really started to become interested in what was happening. That's partly because I knew something big was going to result from this and despite my knowledge of the result of the climax through the news and "60 Minutes" in real-life, the film brings the excitement of that event to life. Through some superb documentary-style filming techniques, we're truly taken along for the ride as the military comes ever closer towards finally claiming their much desired prize which they've been searching for a decade long.

But for these two major positive aspects of the picture, you do have to pay a certain price to get to them, don't you? That price being the actual investigating process. For a film that runs a little more than two and a half hours, this big chunk of the picture feels way too long. I think this part of the film would have been much better if the storytelling was more direct and less broad, and if the dialogue sounded like conversations normal people have instead of authentic CIA dialogue that's too smart for its own good to the point that it's practically a foreign language.

To be fair though, I know it's not easy trying to tell a true real-life story of this nature and I realize they're trying to recreate the story as realistically as possible so that it resembles a documentary. I also realize that it was not easy finding and interrogating these enemies in reality and that they want to capture just how frustrating the process is. If you don't mind this certain storytelling approach and admire its authenticity, that's fine. All I'm saying is it's just not what I call cinematic entertainment since it's too exhausting to keep up with and follow.

From what I've said in this review so far, you'd think I might dislike Zero Dark Thirty. I actually think Zero Dark Thirty is okay, it's certainly better than most films of its genre largely because its such an important story in American history and Kathryn Bigelow wisely treats and tells the story with the utmost maturity and seriousness. Also, the film was wise enough to make the main female character a likable person even though she is put under very pressing circumstances, and that's rare for a genre like this to do. Overall, there's enough here for me to give Zero Dark Thirty a pass. Just know what to expect and don't set your expectations too high.

To Catch a Thief

Sometimes a film comes along in which after you've seen it, you felt like you've been on a very nice vacation. Alfred Hitchcock's 1955 classic To Catch a Thief is one of these films since watching it is similar to being on a great vacation. You get to see some beautiful sights, go on some potentially dangerous yet fun adventures, hang out with some very likable people who you hope to see again soon, and have a temporary escape from reality. These are reasons why we like to go on vacations and these are also reasons why we like going to the movies in the first place.

The relatively simple story of To Catch a Thief goes something like this. John Robie (Cary Grant), aka "The Cat", is a famous jewel thief who is now retired and runs a vineyard in the French Riviera. But when a series of robberies occur which resemble his style, almost everyone believes that "The Cat" is on the prowl again. However, "The Cat" claims that he is innocent and in able to prove it, he will go searching the French Riviera for potential victims and catch the real thief in the act. During his search, he comes across a wealthy woman named Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis), who may be the real thief's next target, and her daughter Frances (Grace Kelly), who eventually falls in love with "The Cat".

Probably the biggest reason why To Catch a Thief is such a memorable movie going experience is because of Grace Kelly. I absolutely adore Grace Kelly to the point that I would consider her my personal favorite actress ever, even if the main reason was because of her work in this film and Rear Window (1954). Grace Kelly simply looks spectacular in this film, between her natural beauty, her elegant wardrobe, and her lithe physique, she is literally eye candy every time she's on screen.

Not only that, but her character is charming as well. I love that she's fascinated by people who are potentially criminals and that the possibility of danger turns her on. I also like how unpredictable her character can be at times. For example, you'd never guess when the first kiss between Grant and Kelly occurs or who makes the first move, either way I was pleasantly surprised by the way the scene played out.

If this film had to belong to one character, it would no doubt be Grace Kelly's, but the other characters are pretty good, too. Cary Grant is ideal casting for his role since we completely buy that there's a typical charm and coolness to "The Cat", and Jessie Royce Landis is fun in her supporting role with the way she carelessly and excessively spends her money.

The Technicolor cinematography in To Catch a Thief is just first-rate. The way in which the French Riviera was shot and put on film is nothing short of exquisite, especially with the nice blue ocean and the richly detailed architecture of its buildings. The cinematography also does great justice to Kelly's costumes. When the colors and texture of her dresses just pops out at you to the point where you want to touch them, you realize just how great the Technicolor process was during that era.

I really love To Catch a Thief and I think it's one of Alfred Hitchcock's most underrated works. If this film is not a suspense-loaded powerhouse like most of his works seem to be, it's because it doesn't need to be. This film is meant to be both a romantic love story and, most importantly, pure escapism complete with charming characters, eye-popping scenery, and a great story to accompany it. So, for what it's meant to be, To Catch a Thief is an impeccable delight.

Rear Window
Rear Window(1954)

Alfred Hitchcock is without question the most influential director in film history. More than most directors out there, he seems to recognize that the most important elements of a timeless motion picture are a great story and great characters to accompany it. Very few films of Alfred Hitchcock's demonstrates these essential aspects more successfully than his 1954 masterpiece Rear Window, which is not only his greatest film, but is also my personal favorite film. Period.

In Rear Window, we follow L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries (James Stewart), a professional photographer who is confined to a wheelchair after undergoing an accident trying to photograph a big race car crash. With nothing to do in his temporary state except look forward to visits from his gorgeous girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and his wisecracking nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter), he kills time in his apartment by keeping an eye on his neighbors in the middle of a summer heat wave. When he begins to become convinced that one of his neighbors (Raymond Burr) has possibly committed a murder, he tries to convince Lisa and Stella that something rather fishy is going on in his neighborhood.

Everything about this film is simply perfect. The screenplay by John Michael Hayes is impeccable, from the witty exchanges between all of the characters to the conversations these characters have in regards to dissecting what it is about this neighbor that makes them suspicious. On top of that, I really love these characters since I can really relate to them and identify with whatever issues/conflicts they have with their lives.

The acting is also terrific, from James Stewart's intriguing complexity to his character, to Grace Kelly's natural beauty and wonderful screen presence. But it's Alfred Hitchcock's direction that truly makes this film so amazing. Hitchcock does great justice to this picture in terms of telling the story, bringing these colorful characters to life, and incorporating nail-biting suspense when it's most needed. When you're seeing a character sneak into the antagonist's home and you're automatically on the edge of your seat and caring about what happens to that character, you know the director is doing his part.

What also makes Rear Window stand the test of time so well is that you can see it again and again, and not only enjoy it as much as the first time you've seen it but also notice something new that you didn't notice before. For example, you might pick up underlying messages regarding the consequences of invading one's privacy, notice the relationships/similarities between a certain character and the environment they live in, or whatever other original analysis you can randomly obtain.

Rear Window is a must-see for anyone who loves movies. I am aware that everyone's entitled to their own opinion regarding what is the greatest film ever made. I'm proud to say that this is my choice and I look forward to repeated viewings of this picture in the very near future.

Miracle on 34th Street

When a nice old gentlemen (Edmund Gwenn) who works at the Macy's store and claims he is the one and only Santa Claus (aka Kris Kringle) is sent to an asylum, a lawyer (John Payne) who is friends with the person (Maureen O'Hara) who hired him comes to defend him and prove that he is the real Santa Claus in the sweet holiday fantasy, Miracle on 34th Street. Gwenn delivers an impeccable, convincing portrayal of Santa Claus and uses the right amount of gentility and kindness that is necessary for this type of role. Natalie Wood is also pretty good in her first major film role as the daughter of O'Hara's character who, like her mother, has lost faith in the Christmas spirit.

Wreck-it Ralph

A video game "villain" (John C. Reilly) who is tired of always being beaten by the game's "hero" (Jack McBrayer) and tired of being the bad guy leaves his game and goes on a game-hopping adventure across the arcade. On his adventure, he meets a tough sergeant (Jane Lynch) in a first-person shooter and a playful racer (Sarah Silverman) in a girly cart racing game in Disney's new computer animated feature, Wreck-it Ralph. There are no surprises to this story at all and you can see what's coming even before it happens, but Wreck-it Ralph does have a creative idea for a story and the world it introduces us to is very imaginative which is enough to make it a solid overall kiddies' film.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is quite the adventurous archeologist, he goes on some risky, dangerous adventures all for the sake of some rare artifacts. Naturally, this makes him the perfect person for the government to summon to seek the long-lost Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis get their greedy hands on it. That's the premise of what is rightfully considered the greatest action/adventure movie of all time, Raiders of the Lost Ark. This spectacular collaboration between director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas has it all: perfectly timed action sequences that put today's action films to shame, catchy musical score from John Williams, outstanding script and dialogue written by Lawrence Kasdan, and very entertaining characters (which is very rare for this genre).


Popular 1980s sports comedy takes place at an exclusive golf course where we follow a young caddy (Michael O'Keefe) pursuing a caddy scholarship, a new member (Rodney Dangerfield) whose rude behavior infuriates a regular member (Ted Knight), an unambitious golf pro (Chevy Chase), and a groundskeeper (Bill Murray) in hot pursuit of a trouble-making gopher. If this sounds like the plot synopsis for four different movies combined into one, you're probably right since that's exactly what Caddyshack felt like to me. While I found some of Rodney Dangerfield's wise-cracking dialogue funny, I thought the film immediately ran out of humor halfway through.


After he loses his job, his car, and his girlfriend, an ordinary guy (Bill Murray) and his best friend (Harold Ramis) decide to join the Army and enter basic training in Ivan Reitman's military comedy, Stripes. But since the sergeant (Warren Oates) of their platoon has to deal with a load of goofballs, including our main two characters who don't take the training seriously, he will do whatever means necessary to man them up, even if their way of impressing him is unorthodox. It loses some momentum in its last half hour, but Stripes for the most part is a fun comedy with Bill Murray delivering some of his comedic best.


Don't be put off by the title of Steven Spielberg's historical drama, Lincoln, since it is not exactly a biopic about the life of the 16th President, but rather a look at his last months in office when he was doing whatever it takes to put an end to the Civil War, unite the divided country, and abolish slavery. Daniel Day-Lewis is ideal casting for the role of Abraham Lincoln since he not only physically looks the part, but he is also able to bring Lincoln's personality to life. Tommy Lee Jones is also outstanding as Thaddeus Stevens, who supports Lincoln's view towards slavery. There are many slow spots and its ending is a bit weak, but Lincoln is able to recapture history with solid results.

Tower Heist
Tower Heist(2011)

After a wealthy business man (Alan Alda) betrays everyone that lives in his building, a group of guys who live in the building (led by Ben Stiller) and an experienced thief (Eddie Murphy) plan on robbing his luxury apartment in Brett Ratner's comedy caper, Tower Heist. Let's face it, even though most of the picture takes place in that skyscraper, there is an unshakable sense of deja vu with this formulaic story, and in my opinion, this type of story has been told funnier and better. Eddie Murphy has a few good lines here, but there's not enough here to make it worth seeing all the way through.

Men in Black
Men in Black(1997)

A streetwise New York City cop (Will Smith) is given the opportunity by an agent (Tommy Lee Jones) of a secret government agency that keeps track of the whereabouts of Earth aliens to join him on a mission to save the planet from an alien terrorist (Vincent D'Onofrio) at large in the sci-fi comedy, Men in Black. What makes Men in Black high quality summer entertainment is the way in which Tommy Lee Jones keeps a straight face in the midst of the ludicrous events surrounding him, and Will Smith's hilarious reactions to the things he learns in this new world that he didn't know even existed. D'Onofrio is also completely convincing as the main villain both in his dialogue and his movements.

Seven Psychopaths

A heavy-drinking writer (Colin Farrell) tries to finish his screenplay about seven strange criminals and gains his inspiration from his "friend" (Sam Rockwell) who steals dogs for a living in Martin McDonagh's crime comedy, Seven Psychopaths. Well, at least I can say that Woody Harrelson is amusing as a gangster who cares more about his Shih Tzu than anything else. Other than that, this is a strange, inconsistent picture with a very scatterbrained plot and a character played by Sam Rockwell that becomes too overbearing and obnoxious.

X-Men: First Class

When a superhuman dictator (Kevin Bacon) is on the rise during the Cold War, a U.S. government agent (Rose Byrne) summons a group of mutants later known as the X-Men (led by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) to try and prevent him from starting World War III in the entertaining superhero flick, X-Men: First Class. It's a bit overloaded with special effects extravaganza for my taste, but X-Men: First Class is able to make up for that with a script that succeeds at being engaging for non X-Men fanatics, and a mostly outstanding cast including McAvoy and Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and January Jones as Emma Frost.


When a talented but difficult actor (Dustin Hoffman) is informed by his agent (Sydney Pollack) that no one will work with him and fears that his career is finished, he disguises himself as a woman and lands a role on a daytime TV soap opera. From there, many complicated situations take place including his secret love for his soap opera co-star (Jessica Lange), his current romance with another woman (Teri Garr), and constantly balancing out the lives of his alter ego as well as his own normal one in Sydney Pollack's entertaining comedy, Tootsie. Had it not been for the dated, repetitive 80s background music, I would have automatically considered Tootsie to be an instant comedy classic, but as it is, few films like this have showed us just how challenging an acting career is for some.

Some Like It Hot

After two musicians from Chicago (Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis) witness a mob shootout and fear that they may be the mobster's (George Raft) next targets, they disguise themselves as members of an all-girl musical band heading to Miami. But when both of them fall in love with the band's lead singer (Marilyn Monroe), many uproarious complications ensue in writer-director Billy Wilder's timeless comedy, Some Like It Hot. Even though this film claims that "nobody's perfect", Some Like It Hot ironically manages to be a perfectly delightful treat in its own right. The timing of the jokes through Wilder's direction is impeccable, the screenplay has no trace of fat in its plotting, and Marilyn Monroe was practically born to play her iconic role as lead singer Sugar Kane.

The Apartment

C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is working his way up the company ladder by allowing executives to use his apartment for their romantic affairs. But when he starts to become romantically involved with the girlfriend (Shirley MacLaine) of his boss (Fred MacMurray), many complications ensue in writer-director Billy Wilder's outstanding comedy-drama, The Apartment. What a terrific movie going experience this picture is, very few films have combined comedy and drama as well as it is done here through Billy Wilder's impeccable writing and directing, and three excellent lead performances. This film also does a tremendous job at capturing the adultery that can take place in the workforce and how it can make going to work unpleasant for some.


When six Americans find protection in the Canadian ambassador's (Victor Garber) home amidst the 1979 Iran hostage crisis and the likelihood of their discovery draws near, a CIA specialist (Ben Affleck) comes up with the idea to rescue these six from Iran by posing as a fake Canadian film crew in director Ben Affleck's drama, Argo. While it lacks an emotional pull and connection to these characters, that doesn't prevent Argo from being a well-made thriller with efficient storytelling and production values that are faithful to the style of that era. On the basis of its suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat climax, Affleck is proving himself to be a promising filmmaker.

Almost Famous

A teenage rock journalist (Patrick Fugit) for the Rolling Stone magazine is assigned to write an article about an up-and-coming rock band (led by Billy Crudup and Jason Lee) and accompanies the band on tour in writer-director Cameron Crowe's comedy-drama, Almost Famous. Sometimes, the test of a truly great film is that it still entertains us regardless of our knowledge of the subject matter that it blends into its story, and that is certainly the case with Almost Famous. This is a delightful, warm, and well-written love letter to rock and roll with terrific direction by Cameron Crowe that manages to pull tricks up its sleeves when we least suspect it, and an equally outstanding cast (Kate Hudson in particular as the band's biggest fan) to pull it off.


When a mob from 2074 wants to eliminate someone, they send their target 30 years into the past where a "looper", or a professional gunman, wipes them out. When one such "looper" (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has to "close his loop" or execute his future self (Bruce Willis), his future self goes on the run in the complex sci-fi/action flick, Looper. While a cheesy plot element with one character prevents it from being in the ranks of the most definitive time-traveling pictures like Back to the Future, Looper is nevertheless an intriguing film in its own right that convinces us that combining organized crime and time travel is a double-edged sword.

Trouble with the Curve

An aging baseball scout (Clint Eastwood), who is starting to lose his vision, reluctantly takes his daughter (Amy Adams) on one more scouting trip to North Carolina where they soon meet another hot-shot baseball scout (Justin Timberlake) in Robert Lorenz's sports picture, Trouble with the Curve. Whenever the film works, it's mostly due to Amy Adams' charming screen presence and the way she is able to match wits with Mr. Eastwood. In fact, Amy Adams is really the only reason to watch this movie at all, since the script and Clint Eastwood's performance both have a dominant "been there, done that" feel to it and both contain a lack of further ambition.


If you were to combine The Sixth Sense, real-life events such as the London bombing and the Thailand tsunami, and intertwining stories of three people affected by death and the afterlife in different ways, you would most likely end up with Clint Eastwood's heavy-handed drama, Hereafter. On top of the fact that the three stories are neither compelling, realistic, or plausible, Hereafter also fails to provide an answer to the big questions it raises, which in turn causes us to feel ripped off after all the time and work we invested in watching it.

The King's Speech

Tom Hooper's remarkable historical drama tells the true story of King George VI (Colin Firth), who is sworn in after the death of his father, King George V (Michael Gambon) and after a scandal ends the reign of his brother, King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce). The biggest problem with him taking over the throne is that he suffers from a speech impediment which causes him to struggle with public speaking. Since he cannot avoid public speaking, his wife, Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), urges him to work with a speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) whom he eventually forms a permanent friendship with. Anyone who has struggled with their communicative and verbal skills will find The King's Speech nothing short of inspiring and uplifting.


David Anspaugh's sports drama tells the true story of Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin), a young man who dreams of playing for the Notre Dame college football team, but whose academic and financial struggles interfere with his ability to accomplish his dream. Like most films in the sports genre, you can easily predict where the story of Rudy will go and end up with very few surprises. But unlike most sports pictures, this isn't the old story about a disorganized football team that eventually goes to win the championship. Instead, this is a story that shows a passionate kid's strenuous journey towards becoming an official member of the team.


William Wyler's epic historical drama tells the story of a Jewish prince (Charlton Heston) whose Roman friend (Stephen Boyd) betrays him by making him a slave and separating him from his family. Once he earns his freedom, this prince is determined to seek peaceful revenge on this traitor and find his family. William Wyler's Ben-Hur has such a grand, epic production (especially with its exciting chariot sequence) and compelling drama between Heston and Boyd that it makes up for its tedious second half with its meandering narrative and its tedious subplot with the lepers.


Three brothers (Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke) sell moonshine and bootleg their way to the top in Prohibition-era Virginia while a deputy (Guy Pearce) is hot on their trail in the crime drama, Lawless. With the exception of the decent production values and the work by Guy Pearce and Jessica Chastain (the love interest of Hardy), Lawless is both lifeless and useless. John Hillcoat's direction is messy, the screenplay doesn't even try to get the audience emotionally involved, Shia LaBeouf is miscast in his role, and Tom Hardy is miserable onscreen and basically looks like he wants to be somewhere else.

The Seven Year Itch

While his wife and son are on vacation, a working man (Tom Ewell) becomes attracted to his neighbor (Marilyn Monroe) and becomes a victim to his own crazy thoughts in writer-director Billy Wilder's comedy, The Seven Year Itch. This contains one of cinema's most famous scenes with Marilyn's white dress blowing up in the air. Marilyn Monroe is simply fabulous here and this film truly belongs to her. However, whenever she's off screen, the picture falls flat considering the fact that Tom Ewell's character is one note and his act (which takes up about 80% of the picture) gets tiresome and repetitive.

The Descendants

When his wife goes into a coma after a terrible boating accident, a lawyer (George Clooney) who lives in Hawaii struggles with raising his two daughters (Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller), learns some unfortunate facts about his wife, and has trouble deciding whether or not to sell his family's land in Alexander Payne's tragic yet hilarious comedy-drama, The Descendants. This is a phenomenal picture with standout performances by Clooney and Woodley along with a script with plenty of twists in its plotting. The Descendants also makes us realize just how unpredictable life can be and makes us wonder what we would do if we were in his shoes and had to undergo the same situations as he did.

The Blind Side

A homeless African-American teenager is taken in by a white family (led by Sandra Bullock) and eventually becomes a professional football player in the sports drama, The Blind Side. The fact that this was based on a true story doesn't impact me in any way since I found The Blind Side to be just as believable as a fictional made-for-TV movie. On top of the fact that the script is too formulaic to the point where the drama disintegrates completely, the teenager's story not only gets completely sidetracked by Bullock's character (who is subliminally demanding an Oscar with this role), but he also comes off as a mostly mute bore. What in the world was going on in the Academy member's minds when they approved of Oscar nominations for this mess?!

Glengarry Glen Ross

A group of salesman are forced to enter a do-or-die selling contest in which the losers become fired in Glengarry Glen Ross, James Foley's adaptation of David Mamet's award-winning play. Given all the big talents involved including Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, and Alec Baldwin, I was really looking forward to seeing this picture. Then I actually saw it, and suddenly, my anticipation completely diminished. Glengarry Glen Ross is extremely tedious because its dialogue and script are completely monotonous. Most of the time, the characters are basically repeating the same thing over and over again to the point where you realize these aren't people, these are broken records. What a big disappointment considering its many great talents.

The Hunger Games

In a future North America where an evil city has divided it into 12 districts, a teenage boy and girl from each district are chosen to compete in a public event in which they must fight each other until only one survives. Under the mentorship of a former champion (Woody Harrelson), a poor teenage girl (Jennifer Lawrence) who volunteered to save her younger sister faces a tough journey ahead of her in The Hunger Games, Gary Ross' adaptation of the popular novel by Suzanne Collins. The bottom line on The Hunger Games is that it is effective at depicting and placing us in the center of an unfair future world that we don't want any part of, but I wish the film was more fully fleshed out with its script and had less unnecessarily weird costumes/makeup.

Lawrence of Arabia

David Lean's extraordinary historical epic tells the true story of a British military officer (Peter O'Toole) who is sent into Arabia to aid the country's many tribes and their leader (Alec Guinness) with their rebellion against Turkey. Lawrence of Arabia is epic in every sense of the word especially with F.A. Young's mesmerizing cinematography of the vast Arabian dunes and Maurice Jarre's equally incredible musical score. The cast, which includes Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, and Jack Hawkins, is sensational given that they had the strenuous task of carrying a four-hour picture and making it go by fast. To simply put, Lawrence of Arabia is a truly grand, epic spectacle.

Captain America: The First Avenger

A skinny young man (Chris Evans) who is eager to serve his country volunteers to become a part of a program in which he goes up against an evil organization led by a Nazi (Hugo Weaving) and becomes a famous American hero in Captain America: The First Avenger. To be certain, Marvel's Captain America is an efficiently crafted superhero flick with impressive art direction and solid acting. But it is also very formulaic and doesn't do anything original that hasn't already been done to death before in other superhero pictures to make it really worth your time. It's not bad, but it's a missed opportunity to really bring something new to the table.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Think of this picture as another version of Forrest Gump complete with the exact same screenwriter Eric Roth. David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button tells the unusual story of a man (Brad Pitt) who is born in his eighties and ages in reverse, and the events and characters that become a part of his life throughout the 20th century. The scenes at the hospital during the hours before Hurricane Katrina are too heavy handed, forced, and dull for my taste, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is for the most part an engaging dramatic fantasy epic with solid direction and an equally admirable cast.

127 Hours
127 Hours(2010)

A professional hiker/mountain climber (James Franco) in the middle of an isolated area in Utah sees his current adventure take a disastrous turn when a enormous rock goes down a crevice and pins his hand to a big wall of stone in 127 Hours, Danny Boyle's gripping, suspenseful drama based on a true story. It's tough taking a story of a man who is trapped in the same setting for a certain number of days and making it into a compelling picture. But just like Rear Window and 12 Angry Men before it, 127 Hours succeeds at just that thanks to Boyle's tight direction and Franco's one-man show performance.

Million Dollar Baby

A tough boxing trainer (Clint Eastwood) reluctantly decides to train a woman (Hilary Swank) with high spirits and eventually becomes won over by her undying determination toward boxing in the sports drama Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood's finest hour as a director. Director Clint Eastwood and writer Paul Haggis take a simple story, add an original twist to it, and execute it in impeccable fashion. Credit goes to Haggis and Eastwood (both for his directing and acting) as well as Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman, as Swank's co-trainer, for their Oscar-winning performances.

Blazing Saddles

Mel Brooks' Western spoof tells the story about an African-American railroad worker (Cleavon Little) who is appointed as the new sheriff of a town scheduled for demolition to make way for a railroad by a corrupt politician (Harvey Korman). Since none of the town's citizens will support their leader, the new sheriff enlists the help of a drunk gunslinger (Gene Wilder) to help save the town. Blazing Saddles is wildly zany, crude, offensive, and yet is consistently uproarious. For a comedy of this nature, the fact that it keeps the audience laughing from start to finish is all that really matters and there are many big laughs to be had here. Where else will you see an African-American dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan or a Native American tribe surrounding an African-American family?

Blood Diamond

A South African fisherman (Djimon Hounsou) who is taken away from his family and forced to work in the diamond fields finds a rare pink diamond that is very valuable. When a smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio) who sells diamonds for financial interest learns of his discovery that is safely hidden, they embark on an unusually strenuous journey together to recover the diamond in Edward Zwick's action drama, Blood Diamond. The performances by DiCaprio and Hounsou are fine, but the character Jennifer Connelly plays is unnecessary and dramatically distracting. Furthermore, the story is very silly especially considering the amount of violence involved for the sake of bloody diamonds. The more you think about what the meaning of the violence is, the less the film dramatically works.


Captivating drama about the life of 18th century musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) as told from the point of view of aging fellow composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham). As Salieri recalls how such an unrefined man like Mozart was able to create music to please everyone instead of a more disciplined man like himself, he is extremely jealous of Mozart's natural talent and yet he also admires Mozart's work. Milos Forman's Amadeus is much more than just a costume drama showing off the filmmaker's ability to recreate an historical time and place, it is also a rich human drama that confirms that any person can be given groundbreaking talent regardless of whether or not they deserve it.


Considered by many to be an influence for the sci-fi film genre (particularly Blade Runner), Metropolis is the story of a city divided between the working class citizens and the city's masterminds who determine what work the citizens do. When the son of one of the city's creators becomes romantically involved with someone from the working class, a series of events occur that leads an evil scientist to plan the city's self-destruction. Through observing the picture's art direction and inspiring images, one can understand why this silent film is visually important. But after all this said and done, the rest of the picture somehow didn't captivate or thrill me as much maybe because it lacks emotional involvement and its direction is too slow for my taste.

The Social Network

Outstanding drama from director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin shows us the creation as well as the expansion of the successful website known as Facebook and the events that take place to its socially troubled founder Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) during that time. The Social Network is successful at being both a captivating story about an anti-social person changing socialization permanently as well as an effective cautionary tale that demonstrates the consequences and risks of mixing business with friendship. Sorkin unquestionably deserved an Oscar for his perfect screenplay, Fincher's direction is impeccable, and long careers await for promising newcomers Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, and Rooney Mara.

The Aviator
The Aviator(2004)

Martin Scorsese directs this biopic about the life of Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), a millionaire who made ambitious films in Hollywood, designed and tested new airplanes, and dated some of the most famous actresses including Katherine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale). His high ambitions and stress of perfectionism alienates his agent (John C. Reilly), the actresses he dates, the head (Alec Baldwin) of Pan-American Airlines and the senator (Alan Alda) of Maine. The overall production value of The Aviator is admirable and the picture is okay for about the first half, but then comes the overbearing second half when the character becomes more aggravating to the point where the entertainment completely disintegrates.

Midnight in Paris

Writer-director Woody Allen's charming romantic comedy/fantasy stars Owen Wilson as a Hollywood writer who takes a business trip to Paris with his fiancee (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. When the writer decides to take a midnight walk one night, he literally becomes transported to Paris circa the 1920's where he meets some of the world's most famous writers like Ernest Hemingway and shares a special relationship with a woman (Marion Cotillard) from that period in time which he admires tremendously. With more than a few surprising performances (especially by Wilson as the typical Woody Allen character) and an outstanding script which shows that everyone has their own past era that they would rather be in, Midnight in Paris is a real treat.

A Night in Casablanca

Easily the Marx Brothers' weakest picture, A Night in Casablanca has the trio running a hotel in Casablanca and trying to prevent a group of Nazis from stealing hidden treasure. Harpo Marx is the only one who gets any of the film's laughs here, but frankly, the laughs are in very limited supply. Not only are the jokes unfunny, they're sort of stale and tired. On top of the humor being uninspired, very little effort was put into the storytelling and direction to the point where it feels like nobody was trying at all.

Horse Feathers

Another hilarious winner from the insanely talented Marx Brothers stars Groucho Marx as a newly appointed college professor whose son (Zeppo Marx) has been a student at that college for 12 years. After he learns that the college is in trouble due to its lackluster football team, he goes to a speakeasy to find and hire two talented football players. Instead, he ends up hiring a bootlegger (Chico Marx) and a mute dog catcher (Harpo Marx) with typically funny results. This highly humorous sports comedy has many classic scenes including Groucho taking over a classroom lecture, and the climactic football game that doesn't just dishonor the game's rules, it turns the game upside down and inside out.

Monkey Business

The four Marx Brothers (Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo) star as four stowaways on a cruise ship who accidentally become bodyguards to opposing gangsters (Harry Briggs, Rockliffe Fellowes) and enter a relationship with each of their loved ones (Thelma Todd, Ruth Hall) in Monkey Business, one of the Marx Brothers' funniest pictures as well as their most underrated. The Marx Brothers are in peak form here doing what they do best: keeping the audience laughing all the way through. Monkey Business contains many of their greatest gags including Harpo hiding from the ship's crew by participating in a puppet show and all four Marx Brothers trying to impersonate Maurice Chevalier.

A Day at the Races

An animal vet (Groucho Marx) pretending to be a doctor and a mute jockey (Harpo Marx, of course) try to help the owner (Maureen O'Sullivan) of a financially unstable medical facility and her servant (Chico Marx) pay off their debts by betting on a big horse race in the Marx Brothers' comedy, A Day at the Races. While some unnecessary musical numbers and an underdeveloped romance between O'Sullivan and Allan Jones keep this comedy inferior to the Marx Brothers' best work, A Day at the Races, like its predecessors before it, still contains more (as well as bigger) laughs than most of the comedies that are being made today.

In the Heat of the Night

A racist but just southern sheriff (Rod Steiger) must work with a northern African-American detective (Sidney Poitier) to solve a challenging murder case in Norman Jewison's intriguing mystery, In the Heat of the Night. The case itself is not really the main reason to see this picture. The big reason In the Heat of the Night gets its entertainment value is for the dialogue and exchanges between Steiger and Poitier. The picture does an effective job at proving that even though these two are almost polar opposites, there are certain aspects that they both respect about each other.

Coyote Ugly
Coyote Ugly(2000)

There are only two very small redeemable qualities in this comedy-drama about a girl (Piper Perabo) with dreams of becoming a singer/songwriter who lands a job at an unusually juvenile nightclub instead. One is the song "Can't Fight the Moonlight" in the film's climax and the other is Perabo's physical appearance. Everything else about Coyote Ugly however is unbelievably bad from the recycled script, to the pathetic acting, to the editing which seems more at home in an action flick rather than here, all the way down to its murky camerawork. It was completely obvious through every single overdone, desperate scene that this picture was doomed from the start.

Osmosis Jones

A widowed zoo worker (Bill Murray), who takes extremely poor care of his body and doesn't seem to be trying to take care of his daughter (Elena Franklin), unwisely eats a contaminated egg and lets in an intruding virus (voiced by Laurence Fishburne). Now, it is up to a white blood cell cop (voiced by Chris Rock) and a cold pill (voiced by David Hyde Pierce) to stop the virus and his evil plans in the live action/animation mixture, Osmosis Jones. The animation portion of this picture is interesting largely due to the imagination that went into creating this world. Too bad the story (and the rest of the film for that matter) is kind of one-note with its subject matter and excremental humor.

Black Hawk Down

Ridley Scott's war drama recreates the true story about a team of American soldiers sent into a city in Somalia to prevent a civil war by kidnapping the people responsible for their city's self-destruction. When two American helicopters are shot down by their enemies, the surviving soldiers find themselves trapped in enemy territory for 15 hours non-stop. The bottom line on Black Hawk Down is that it does a masterful job at recreating the brutal battles that took place during this long day. But when compared to films like Saving Private Ryan, this picture comes off as mediocre since it significantly lacks an emotional pull with its characters and story.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Jim Carrey stars as a man who has recently learned that his ex-girlfriend (Kate Winslet) has gone to a place where it is possible to erase one's memory of a certain person and has erased her memories of their relationship. When he decides to get the same procedure done to himself as well, he begins to regret his decision after all the happy memories he relives in his mind in Michel Gondry's challenging, compelling romantic sci-fi feature, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A little more background on why the central relationship was deteriorating and a little less manic editing would have been nice. Otherwise, this is a fascinating blend of science fiction and romance which convinces us that no matter what we do and how hard we try, we cannot escape love.

The Color Purple

Steven Spielberg's deep, emotionally uplifting drama follows forty rough years in the life of a Southern African American woman (Whoopi Goldberg) and her harsh "marriage" to a selfish farmer (Danny Glover) who basically treats her similar to a slave. Even though she lives a mostly unhappy life, her hope is redeemed whenever her sister (Akousa Busia), the wife (Oprah Winfrey) of the farmer's son (Willard E. Pugh), and the farmer's mistress (Margaret Avery) visit her and share valuable life lessons. The Color Purple is a strong emotional experience with an equally admirable cast of characters (especially the ones played by Goldberg and Glover) and a spiritually rousing climax.


13-year-old Josh Baskin (David Moscow) makes a wish at a fortunetelling machine one night and wishes that he was "big". The next morning, Josh (now Tom Hanks) gets his wish and discovers that he has grown into a man overnight. Now, Josh and his best friend Billy (Jared Rushton) hide out in New York City and Josh lands a job at a major toy company run by a kid-at-heart (Robert Loggia). Through his expertise in knowing what toys kids will like, Josh rises to the top of the business and wins the heart of a fellow employee (Elizabeth Perkins) in Penny Marshall's tremendously entertaining comedy-fantasy, Big. Along with being a good cautionary tale for kids to be careful with what they wish for, Big is simply a very funny comedy with a superb script by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg.

Saving Private Ryan

Steven Spielberg's unflinchingly realistic, horrifically brutal, and absolutely profound anti-war drama follows a squad of American soldiers (led by Tom Hanks) during WWII with the assignment to rescue a soldier (Matt Damon) whose three brothers have been killed in combat and take him home. As they go further into enemy territory, the squad begins to question why they should risk their lives for the sake of one soldier. Saving Private Ryan remains an incredible achievement for its unforgiving look into the brutality of war as shown in the film's first 24 minutes which are bloody, intense, and unforgettable. After seeing this film, one should obtain a better appreciation of just how much misery these soldiers were put through during battle.

The Sixth Sense

A child psychologist (Bruce Willis) is given one of his most challenging patients yet, a troubled six-year-old (Haley Joel Osment) who claims he can see the spirits of the deceased. The psychologist is the only one who knows about his secret and the more that he examines the kid's unusual gift, the closer he gets to uncovering another deadly secret in writer-director M. Night Shyamalan's thriller, The Sixth Sense. Without giving anything away, The Sixth Sense is one of the few films that requires a second viewing since it contains one of the most shocking climaxes/plot twists in movie history. By seeing it a second time, one can have a better appreciation of the well crafted filmmaking that was put into this picture.

The Best Years of Our Lives

William Wyler's Oscar-winning classic follows three World War II veterans; a sergeant (Fredric March), a bombardier (Dana Andrews), and a sailor who lost his hands (brilliantly played by Harold Russell, a real-life veteran who lost his hands) who become friends as they return home to their loved ones. All three have a tough time adjusting back to their normal lives. The bombardier sees his marriage to his unsupportive wife (Virginia Mayo) deteriorating, the sailor has difficulty adjusting to his new handicap around his family and his fiancee (Cathy O'Donnell), and the sergeant sees life with his family literally flashing before his eyes. Excellent performances (especially by Russell), impeccable directing and writing, and relevant morals make The Best Years of Our Lives a must-see.

Peggy Sue Got Married

A middle-aged woman (Kathleen Turner), who has just divorced her high school boyfriend (Nicolas Cage), attends her high school class reunion and then gets transported back in time to when she was a teenager in 1960. Given that she has learned much more since she was in high school, she takes advantage of this unexpected time warp by correcting the mistakes that she has made in the past in Francis Ford Coppola's Peggy Sue Got Married. Kathleen Turner is convincing as a 43-year-old woman who is trapped inside her own 18-year-old body, but I wish the main narrative was less meandering and more simplified. This picture could have had some potential had it not been for its broad storytelling.

A Christmas Story

Charming adaptation of Jean Shepherd's memoir about a young boy living in 1940s Indiana who wants a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas despite his mother's (Melinda Dillon) disapproval ("you'll shoot your eye out"). During the days before Christmas, he unsuccessfully tries to ask his teacher and Santa Claus about his desired gift, a feud occurs between his parents over an unusual lamp, and many more highly humorous situations take place. Anyone who remembers their childhood well and how much they wanted to have certain toys will cherish A Christmas Story since it captures the humor, the innocence, and even the pain that is present in one's childhood.

A Fish Called Wanda

Four people (Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Tom Georgeson) team up for a big jewel heist. Once they successfully pull of the heist, they start to double cross each other for the jewels and even involve a British attorney (John Cleese) in the process in Charles Crichton's highly humorous comedy, A Fish Called Wanda. Kevin Kline delivers a very funny performance as a henchman who refuses to admit and accept responsibility for his stupidity. A Fish Called Wanda contains one laugh-out-loud comic scene after another including the famous fish and chips interrogation scene.


An honest New York cop (Al Pacino) tries to stand up against corruption in the police force in Sidney Lumet's drama, Serpico, which is supposedly based on a true story. Let's not beat it around the bush, there are too many films about cops or detectives and I am frankly getting very tired of them. The fact is that criminals and "ordinary" people are more fascinating characters than cops since their theories are more interesting. Since Serpico does very little with its story and characters to keep us watching what's on screen, that must mean that it's just another dull, stale cop drama.

The Godfather, Part III

Francis Ford Coppola's conclusion to The Godfather film series pick up fifteen years later after the events of Part II, with an elderly Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), who is now divorced from his wife Kay (Diane Keaton), trying to redeem himself from his sins in the past by helping a Vatican bank out of financial troubles. Meanwhile, Michael has trouble getting out of the mob, and Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia), the son of Michael's dead brother Sonny, becomes attracted to Michael's daughter (Sofia Coppola). It's good to catch up with these characters again, but a captivating and engaging narrative, that made the previous Godfather films so special, is sadly not present here.

The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan's conclusion to his Batman trilogy picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight took place and introduces two new characters causing trouble in Gotham City to the point that it will cause Batman (Christian Bale) to reemerge. One is the mysterious, seductive Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and the other is a dangerous masked terrorist known as Bane (Tom Hardy) who is determined to take over and destroy Gotham City. It has compelling performances from both regulars in the franchise (Oldman, Caine) and the new additions (Hathaway, Gordon-Levitt). Unfortunately, The Dark Knight Rises is completely inferior to its predecessors due to confusing plot points, a meandering middle act, and a villain whose dialogue is hard to comprehend.

Donnie Brasco

An undercover FBI agent (Johnny Depp) accepts an assignment in which he must join the Mafia through an experienced hit man (Al Pacino) and earn his trust. It is under his supervision that the agent becomes more useful in the world of organized crime. However, the more time the agent is undercover as the gangster, the more his personal life with his wife (Anne Heche) and his kids deteriorates in Mike Newell's crime drama, Donnie Brasco. It starts off pretty well with Pacino teaching Depp the ropes of life in the Mafia and some of the rules of organized crime. But then, the film's narrative quickly loses its focus and interest, and it hardly does anything to involve us back in.

Inglourious Basterds

Writer-director Quentin Tarantino's outstanding WWII revenge fantasy follows a group of American/Jewish soldiers (led by Brad Pitt) whose sole purpose in Nazi-occupied France is to kill as many German soldiers as possible. When these soldiers find out that Adolf Hitler himself is attending a movie premiere, they plan to wipe out everyone that is attending. Little do they know that the movie theater's Jewish owner (Melanie Laurent), whose family was murdered by a German officer (Christoph Waltz), has plans of her own to terminate the Germans. Inglourious Basterds is violent and silly, but it's meant to be and it's mighty proud of its violent silliness. This is a tremendously entertaining revision of history with a monstrously brilliant turn by Waltz as an unpredictably sinister Nazi officer.

The Bucket List

A billionaire (Jack Nicholson) and a mechanic (Morgan Freeman) in the same hospital room both learn that they have half a year to live. When the mechanic writes a list of goals he wants to accomplish before he dies, the billionaire takes matters into his own hands and takes the mechanic on an adventure to live their last days to the fullest in Rob Reiner's The Bucket List. It's an inspiring idea to pair up Nicholson and Freeman, it's too bad they paired these two legends up with the wrong script. The problem with The Bucket List is that its story is implausible and unrealistic, not to mention that it never convinces us that the two leads were terminally ill and suffering badly. Death is nothing to joke about, but when they're doing activities like skydiving, that's practically what the film is doing.

Cool Hand Luke

Paul Newman delivers one of his finest performances in the rousing prison drama Cool Hand Luke as Luke Jackson, a man who is sentenced to a chain gang after damaging parking meters while under the influence. Although the captain (Strother Martin) of the gang will stop at nothing to make sure Luke gets his mind right, Luke is still determined to remain resilient and refuse to give in even under pressing circumstances. A fellow inmate (George Kennedy) eventually admires Luke's never ending rebellion after such situations as a fistfight and a game of poker. With committed work by Newman and Kennedy along with an equally superb script, Cool Hand Luke is a highly enjoyable prison drama that does not fail to communicate.

Paths of Glory

Stanley Kubrick's emotionally devastating, powerful, and provocative anti-war masterpiece follows a French colonel (Kirk Douglas) who leads his troops on a suicidal mission during WWI. When this mission is a complete disaster and some of the troops don't even leave the trenches, the French general (George MacReady) in charge of initiating the mission orders that three random soldiers be terminated for cowardice. Disapproving of the general's unorthodox order, the colonel tries to do his best to save the lives of the three selected soldiers. Examining the unfortunate realities of war and how it can lead to corruption for some people while never losing sight of its strong range of emotion, Paths of Glory is a powerful motion picture experience.

The Graduate
The Graduate(1967)

A recent college graduate (Dustin Hoffman) who is uncertain about his future reluctantly ends up in an affair with the wife (Anne Bancroft) of his father's business partner (Murray Hamilton). When he is forced by his parents to go on a date with the partner's daughter (Katherine Ross) and he falls in love with her, this forces the partner's wife to do whatever she can to sabotage the relationship in Mike Nichols' romantic comedy, The Graduate. I'll give the film solid credit for one aspect, its creative cinematography and camera work. However, this aspect can't hide the fact that the chemistry between Hoffman, Bancroft, and Ross is so painfully awkward, thin, and unfunny to the point where I had to look away from the screen for most of the picture.

Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy(1992)

A student (Sara Gilbert) at a private high school becomes best friends with an orphan (Drew Barrymore) and lets her move into her household. As she becomes used to her friend's lifestyle, this orphan (for no reason at all) plans to kill her friend's ailing mother (Cheryl Ladd) and seduce her friend's father (Tom Skerritt) in the erotic melodrama, Poison Ivy. If you are going to see this film for the sole purpose of simply looking at Drew Barrymore's body, you won't be disappointed with this film as far as that aspect is concerned. Otherwise, Poison Ivy is a very silly, dumb picture for everyone else with an overly melodramatic plot and a pathetic execution.


A powerful, head-strong warrior (Chris Hemsworth) from a mystical world is banished by his father (Anthony Hopkins) to planet Earth where he must live among humans and learn what it really means to be a hero in Kenneth Branagh's superhero action film, Thor. While one can't overlook its story's significant flaws and its excessive number of characters, Thor is still nothing except a fun Saturday matinee entertainment with Hemsworth delivering a convincing portrayal of the warrior Thor and Natalie Portman giving an irresistible performance as a scientist eager to learn more about Thor and his world. Also, it's very rare today to have films of this nature that have Shakespearean-style dialogue.

Iron Man
Iron Man(2008)

When wealthy weapons inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is kidnapped and forced to build a weapon for the enemy, he builds an indestructible suit of armor to escape their territory. Once he is free, he takes his powerful suit (as well as add a few enhancements to it) and goes on a mission to put an end to his enemies' plans in Jon Favreau's superhero flick, Iron Man. Downey Jr.'s highly entertaining, charismatic performance as Tony Stark/Iron Man is more or less the main reason to see this picture. He's probably one of the few superheroes known to exist that could care less about keeping his alter ego a secret and that's what makes him one of the most intriguing superheroes to date.


Robert Altman's black comedy about two surgeons (Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould) at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War who try to keep the good times rolling under pressing circumstances such as the war as well as some strict officers (Robert Duvall, Sally Kellerman). The performances by Sutherland, Gould, Duvall, and Kellerman are admirable and it has a few amusing elements. Unfortunately, the film as a whole is not really that funny and kind of a missed opportunity due to Altman's meandering, confusing and unfocused direction.

The Dirty Dozen

A U.S. Army Major (Lee Marvin) is assigned by his fellow officers to train a dozen prisoners serving life sentences, so he can lead them into a dangerous mission in Nazi occupied France in this captivating WWII drama. Robert Aldrich's The Dirty Dozen is a highly entertaining feature with a fascinating, original story about prisoners trying to redeem themselves by serving for their country and a terrific all-star cast that includes Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, George Kennedy, and Donald Sutherland.

Five Easy Pieces

Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson) was raised from a family of musicians and used to be a pianist with good potential. But instead of chasing that dream, he keeps switches jobs and girlfriends to the point where he becomes completely unhappy with his life and all his responsibilities. After he learns that his father is permanently ill, Bobby and his current companion (Karen Black) go on a road trip to Alaska to visit his family in Bob Rafelson's heartbreaking drama, Five Easy Pieces. This is one of the definitive films of the 1970s which shows us a man who is unable to fit in with his family or with his friends to the point where he becomes an independent misfit and a victim of society's harsh expectations.

Easy Rider
Easy Rider(1969)

Two drug addicts (Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper) take their motorcycles and venture on a massive road trip all across America where they search for some good times and good thrills in the 1969 surprise box office smash, Easy Rider. Like Bonnie and Clyde before it, Easy Rider is a film about two people representing freedom and becoming unlikely heroes for the counterculture audience of the 1960's. This picture is basically an authentic look back at that period in U.S. history that convinces us that sometimes freedom means going on a big road trip regardless of everyone else's disapproving opinions.

Stalag 17
Stalag 17(1953)

Writer-director Billy Wilder's enjoyable prison comedy-drama takes a look at life at a German POW camp populated by American sergeants and run by a deceiving commandant (Otto Preminger) and sergeant (Sig Ruman). When one recent escape plan goes wrong and the camp's wiseguy (William Holden) thought the plan was going to go wrong anyway, the other POWs begin to suspect that he is secretly informing the Nazis of their escape plans. Stalag 17 is unquestionably one of Billy Wilder's most entertaining features thanks to a fantastic script that shows us what prisoners of war would do to kill their time while in enemy territory and Robert Strauss' hilarious, scene-stealing performance as "Animal".

Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

A paranoid general (Sterling Hayden) issues an order to a U.S. bomber with nuclear weapons (piloted by Slim Pickens) to drop a bomb on Russia and cuts off all means of communication. Now, the president of the United States (Peter Sellers) and one of his top Pentagon advisers (George C. Scott) must find a way to clear up this misunderstanding with the Russian leaders in Stanley Kubrick's dark comedy, Dr. Strangelove. Given the scary subject matter it satirizes, Stanley Kubrick dared to make a comedy about something that should not really be satirized about. But thanks to a game cast (especially Sellers in three roles and Scott as the adviser) and a smart script, Kubrick successfully pulls it off.

A Streetcar Named Desire

Elia Kazan's melodramatic soap opera about a Southern belle (Vivien Leigh) who goes to New Orleans to visit her pregnant sister (Kim Hunter) and her immature brother-in-law (Marlon Brando). Although she is repulsed by the childish, destructive behavior of her brother-in-law, this Southern belle does become attracted to one of his friends (Karl Malden) who is much more understanding. I will say that the acting by the four leads are well done, but not only is this picture not pleasant to watch, but the dialogue is hardly understandable. In the case of a film like this which depends on the dialogue to keep the story in motion, that therefore makes the story just as uninvolving for the viewer.

Mystic River
Mystic River(2003)

Three childhood friends (Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins) reunite after learning that the daughter of one of them has been murdered. Since one of the three is coincidentally a police detective, that makes him the most eligible person to solve the case along with his partner (Laurence Fishburne). As they go deeper into this investigation, they begin to suspect that one of the other two may have committed the murder in Clint Eastwood's mystery, Mystic River. It has strong performances by Penn and Robbins, but Mystic River as a whole is only mediocre at best. Either stories involving police detectives just aren't interesting for me or the direction is very meandering.

The Deer Hunter

Don't let the title of this war picture deceive you, Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter is the coming-of-age story of three steel workers (Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage) who celebrate a wedding and go on a deer hunt before they head to Vietnam. After they undergo the brutal torture of Vietnam, the three head on different paths that will change their lives permanently. The pacing of this film is a bit too slow for my liking, but The Deer Hunter is able to redeem itself with its horrific look into the events these three undergo in Vietnam including being forced to play Russian roulette.

True Grit
True Grit(2010)

A smart fourteen-year-old (Hailee Steinfeld in an impressive debut) hires a heavy drinking U.S. marshal (Jeff Bridges) and an out-of-state Texas ranger (Matt Damon) to track down her father's killer in the Coen Brothers' entertaining remake of the 1969 John Wayne Western, True Grit. The biggest reason this remake works so well is due in large part to the Coen Brothers' sharp, smart script. Steinfeld, as I stated earlier, delivers a strong performance as the young woman and Damon is fun comic relief as the Texas ranger, but Bridges was kind of difficult to understand to the point where his work here is overdone.

The Godfather

Acclaimed by critics and audiences alike as one of the greatest American films of all time and rightfully so, writer-director Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather stars Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, the head of a Mafia family whose youngest son Michael (Al Pacino) has just returned from the Marine Corps with his girlfriend Kay (Diane Keaton). After a series of events occur such as an assassination attempt on Vito, Michael is reluctantly driven back into his family's business as he becomes prepared to take his father's place. For its impeccable writing, directing, and acting as well as for its captivating, unbiased look into the lives of people involved in the Mafia, The Godfather is an offer no film fanatic can refuse.

The Big Lebowski

The easy lifestyle of laid-back Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) who hangs out with his bowling buddies (John Goodman, Steve Buscemi) is interrupted when two guys break into his apartment thinking that he is a millionaire with the same name. Now, the Dude goes to the real millionaire Jeff Lebowski and the millionaire wants the Dude to deliver $1 million in exchange for the millionaire's kidnapped wife in the Coen brothers' The Big Lebowski. Like the main character himself, this picture is wildly uneven and meandering with its main storyline to the point where the film becomes tedious. Furthermore, the Dude is an overrated character since all he basically does is whine about his dirty rug.

Raging Bull
Raging Bull(1980)

Director Martin Scorsese's brutal yet captivating sports biopic about the rise and fall of middleweight boxer Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro). La Motta is famous for using his rage in his violent boxing matches, but he cannot control his rage outside of the ring to the point where his relationships with his brother (Joe Pesci) and his second wife (Cathy Moriarty) deteriorate. Raging Bull is unlike any other sports drama I have seen since it does what very few of its kind ever do, it explores an athlete that goes from winning to losing with both his professional and personal lives. Raging Bull also shows us that sometimes an athlete like La Motta obtains greatness mainly because of the madness and fury that lies within.


A college dropout (Charlie Sheen, before his "winning" phase) enlists in the Army and is sent to Vietnam. He serves under two commanding officers: one is Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) who is bloodthirsty and just wants to take down his enemies, the other is Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) who has his doubts about winning the war let alone believing in its cause. During his experience in Vietnam, he begins to realize just how much of a living hell being a part of this war is in writer-director Oliver Stone's groundbreaking war drama, Platoon. What makes Platoon a standout over other films made about the Vietnam War is that it is actually told by Stone himself who was a Vietnam veteran. This explains why the screenplay is detailed in describing to us what it was really like in Vietnam.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

A journalist (Daniel Craig) seeks the help of a young, troubled computer hacker (Rooney Mara) to track down a missing woman in director David Fincher's highly enthralling thriller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. After her great supporting work as Mark Zuckerberg's ex-girlfriend in Fincher's previous picture, The Social Network, Rooney Mara gives another remarkable performance here as the hacker. In fact, her performance is more or less what makes this picture worth seeing since she plays an outstanding female character who basically has the personality of a man with her minimal yet efficient social skills and an intimidating amount of intelligence and persistence.


A detective (William Peterson) with the ability to think like the killers he tracks must work with serial killer/psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox) to track down a serial killer (Tom Noonan) at large in writer-director Michael Mann's thriller, Manhunter. "Fans and critics alike consider Manhunter to be far superior to The Silence of the Lambs", so it says on the DVD to this film. Not only do I strongly disagree with this statement, but I found it enormously boring to the point where I had significant trouble trying to keep watching. Watching Manhunter was similar to sitting through a biology class and having an exhausting time trying to understand what the instructor is saying to you.

Moonrise Kingdom

Once in a while, a film comes along that makes you look back at your childhood and think to yourself, "Yep, that would be the best thing I could have said and done in that situation as a kid". Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, about two twelve-year-olds (Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward) in love with each other who run away into the wilderness together and cause the young girl's parents (Bill Murray, Frances McDormand), the local sheriff (Bruce Willis), and the Boys Scout troop leader (Edward Norton) to hunt them down, is one of the films that fits this description. What makes Moonrise Kingdom worth seeing is for the chemistry between Gilman and Hayward which captures childhood at its most sophisticated.


Two ordinary men (Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell) find themselves chained up in a filthy bathroom with no ideas regarding how either of them ended up there. Now, these two men must try to figure out what happened before they ended up in the room, so they can figure out the man responsible for their unnecessary imprisonment in the gruesome horror film, Saw. I will give the filmmakers credit for at least one thing: the premise makes us feel grateful that we are not in their shoes and makes us wonder what we would do in their situation. That being said, Saw is not that pleasant a film to sit through because it is so grungy, painful, repulsive, and downbeat in terms of its subject matter.

The Pianist
The Pianist(2002)

Try not to be deceived by the title of Roman Polanski's The Pianist since it is not about a pianist entering some sort of musical competition. This picture is actually the true story of a talented Jewish pianist (Adrien Brody) who spent five years trying to survive during the Nazi's occupation of Poland during WWII. You got to give Roman Polanski credit for at least one aspect of this picture, he is able to bring the brutal events that took place during this time to life similar to the way Steven Spielberg brought the Holocaust to life in Schindler's List. However, unlike its obvious comparison Schindler's List, The Pianist feels half-baked and I think it could have been edited shorter and more emotionally involving on the script level.

Dirty Harry
Dirty Harry(1971)

"You've got to ask yourself one question: 'do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?" This classic quote of course is said by Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood), a San Francisco cop who has his own brand of justice and does not care about a citizens' rights. His new assignment is chasing down a psycho (Andy Robinson) who will keep on killing the city's citizens unless he is paid $100,000. But when he is unimpressed with the way the major is handling the situation, Callahan put matters into his own hands in Don Siegel's thriller, Dirty Harry. Clint Eastwood truly deserved to go to superstar status after his work here, too bad the rest of the film (including the story and the other characters) is weak by comparison.

Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver(1976)

Have you ever felt that you were part of a cruel, dark world that views your existence as insignificant and is filled with selfish people whom you can't connect with? Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), an ex-Marine who works as a night time cab driver in 1970's New York, is one such person who feels this way. As his isolation and dissatisfaction with society increases, he is determined to save a young teen (Jodie Foster) from a pimp (Harvey Keitel) and win the love of a presidential campaign worker (Cybill Shepherd) in Martin Scorsese's magnificent drama, Taxi Driver. With Robert De Niro's outstanding central performance, Bernard Herrmann's terrific final score, and Martin Scorsese's excellent direction, Taxi Driver ranks as one of the most socially relevant films from the 1970's.

Fast Five
Fast Five(2011)

The fifth installment in The Fast and the Furious film franchise is nothing except just a straight up fun summer entertainment with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker returning as ex-thief Dom and former cop Brian. Together, they assemble a team of the finest racers to pull off a complex heist. But frankly, not very many people will go to this type of film for the sake of the plot. They will go to see this type of film for the sake of all the crazy, intense action and car chases that the filmmakers have to offer. So on the action level, Fast Five does deliver on what it is designed to do and therefore makes Fast Five appealing even to those who have not seen the other films in the franchise.

Y Tu Mama Tambien

While their girlfriends are on a trip to Europe, two pals (Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna) look forward to a summer of drugs, alcohol, and sex. One day during a wedding, they meet the wife (Maribel Verdu) of one of their cousins and invite her on a road trip to a made-up beach. Much to their surprise, not only does she join them on their excursion, but she has sex with both of them therefore causing tension that may destroy their friendship in Alfonso Cuaron's foreign language drama, Y Tu Mama Tambien. While Cuaron provides us with some interesting insight, the three lead characters are pretty thin (since all they really care about is getting laid or having a good time) and the plot is your usual road trip fare with barely any surprises.


A car salesman (William H. Macy) hires two kidnappers (Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare) to abduct his wife and hold her for ransom. But when things go terribly wrong and a series of murders take place, a pregnant police chief (Frances McDormand) is hot on their trail in director Joel Coen's crime drama, Fargo. Frances McDormand deserved her Best Actress Oscar for her great work here and so did siblings Joel and Ethan Coen with their Oscar-winning screenplay which tells a fascinating story in which you never really know what direction it will take next.

Original Sin
Original Sin(2001)

A successful Cuban salesman (Antonio Banderas) gets married to a woman (Angelina Jolie) from the United States who has many secrets about her dangerous past in the erotic drama, Original Sin. This is an unbelievably boring and poorly crafted picture that lost my interest right from the beginning. Michael Cristofer delivers neither an engaging screenplay nor decent direction that at least keeps the audience interested. I thought the editing was very sloppy and made the uninteresting plot not only worse but confusing. Even the people who want to see this picture for the sole purpose of its sexual content between Jolie and Banderas should look elsewhere.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Writer-director John Huston's 1948 Western follows three prospectors (Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt, Walter Huston) searching for gold in the remote Sierra Madre mountains. Although they pledge that any gold they find will be split three ways, the prospectors (especially Bogart) eventually start to become more paranoid and distrustful of each other to the point where every man must fend for themselves. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is the ultimate cautionary tale of how greed can corrupt anyone to the point where they become an entirely different person altogether, and John Huston does an outstanding job with his screenplay and direction at bringing this vision to life. Bogart and Huston give some of their career best work here.

Anchorman - The Legend Of Ron Burgundy

San Diego's number one news anchorman (Will Ferrell) and his pals (David Koechner, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell) see their world turning upside down when a newswoman (Christina Applegate) enters their news station and goes from covering inferior news stories to becoming co-anchor in the comedy, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. While many audiences today might call this a quotable comedic masterpiece, I honestly found it to be very inconsistent, childish, and not really that funny. The uneven screenplay by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell switches back and forth between sounding very smart and sounding extremely dumb, the useless, desperate cameos aren't funny, and the climax doesn't work either.

Jurassic Park

A millionaire (Richard Attenborough) invites two dinosaur experts (Sam Neill, Laura Dern), a scientist (Jeff Goldblum), and his two grandchildren (Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazzello) to preview an amusement park on an island. Much to their surprise, this park contains real, live dinosaurs that are genetically created and cloned by man. After many complications take place, the tour takes a disasterous turn when the park's security shuts down and causes the dinosaurs to roam free. Now, the humans must find a way to get back to safety and civilization in Steven Spielberg's thrilling sci-fi adventure, Jurassic Park. Spielberg does an incredible job both at convincing us that the humans are in the same world as the dinosaurs and delivering on the suspense.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

A mean, green creature (Jim Carrey) who detests Christmas plans on robbing everything Christmas related from the town of Whoville in director Ron Howard's adaptation of Dr. Seuss' classic children's story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I sometimes admired Jim Carrey's work here as the Grinch, but he is the only redeemable quality of this misguided disaster. Sure, the Grinch's makeup is alright, but did we really need the ugly makeup on the Whos? Furthermore, did we need such story sidetracks as Cindy Lou Who losing interest in Christmas or how the Grinch came to hate Christmas through school? Even the songs and the production value in this version are unpleasant. See Chuck Jones' classic 1966 animated TV special instead, it's easily 10 times better than this.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

A lady loving secret agent (Mike Myers) from the 1960's and his sworn enemy (also Mike Myers) have themselves cryogenically frozen in case either of them return. In 1997, these two become thawed out and return to do battle with each other. However, they soon discover just how much things have changed in the past 30 years in the occasionally funny comedy, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Whenever the picture is at its best and supplying the audience with laughs, it is mainly because of the screenwriting for the parts whenever Austin Powers' nemesis, Dr. Evil is on screen more so than Austin Powers himself.


Sigourney Weaver returns as Ellen Ripley, the last survivor of the alien attack in Ridley Scott's 1979 hit Alien. This time in writer-director James Cameron's Aliens, Ripley learns that the planet where she discovered the alien has been colonized by a few humans. She volunteers to join a group of marines sent to investigate and during their investigation, they come across a young little girl (Carrie Henn) and Ripley makes it her mission to protect her from the aliens. The main reason why this sequel to Alien manages to live up to the original is due in large part James Cameron's strong script and direction which keeps us compelled even at moments when we start to feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

Source Code
Source Code(2011)

What would you do if you were in someone else's body in the last 8 minutes of their life? Furthermore, what would you do if you have to relive that moment over and over again until you are able to save the lives of a million U.S. citizens? In the case of one soldier (Jake Gyllenhaal), this is exactly what he must do in the preposterous yet thoroughly compelling sci-fi thriller, Source Code. This is the kind of film you would get if you combined Groundhog Day with Inception, but what makes this mixture work well is Duncan Jones' clever direction and good chemistry between Gyllenhaal and his love interest, Michelle Monaghan.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as the Terminator, only this time he is the good guy protecting Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her son John (Edward Furlong) from an advanced terminator (Robert Patrick) that can self morph and self heal in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, writer/director James Cameron's exciting sequel to the 1984 hit that meets the expectations set by the original. It is not just the impressive action sequences that make this sequel special, it is also the fact that the screenplay adds more depth to both the human and robot characters that makes this film a blast. The advanced terminator is a very good villain mainly because it is basically indestructible.

The Terminator

In 2029, humans and dominating machines are at war and the future of humanity is at stake. When a machine known as The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) travels back in time to the year 1984 to kill a future resistance leader's mother whom is named Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), a member of the resistance force (Michael Biehn) travels back to 1984 to rescue her from being killed before she gives birth. That is the basic setup for the thrilling sci-fi action flick, The Terminator, which deservedly put director James Cameron on the map. Schwarzenegger is absolutely convincing in his embodiment of a future machine disguised as a human.

The French Connection

Director William Friedkin's Oscar-winning crime drama about a New York cop (Gene Hackman) and his partner (Roy Scheider) tracking down and trying to stop a French drug lord (Fernando Rey). The storytelling occassionally loses its focus at times and it has a few confusing plot points, but The French Connection is still a well made thriller that delivers on the suspense especially with its famous car chase with the cop trying to keep up with a subway. This film was also deservedly famous for its documentary style camerawork which convinced the audience that what was happening on screen was reality.

The Wild Bunch

A group of Western outlaws (led by William Holden and Ernest Borgnine) head for Mexico after a disasterous bank robbery while a former friend-turned-enemy (Robert Ryan) pursues the group to bring them to justice in Sam Peckinpah's Western, The Wild Bunch. Due to its overlength, this film is not exactly the classic that critics claim it to be. All the same though, The Wild Bunch is a fun time with plenty of satisfying and thrilling action including an ingenious train robbery and chase, an enthralling destruction of a bridge, and exciting gun fights in the opening and closing acts.


"As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster." These words are spoken by a half-Irish, half-Sicilian man named Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) who grew up living a life of organized crime and claimed that it was "better than being president of the United States". He is brought into the world of crime by leader Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino) and he earns his reputation in the crime family thanks to his mentor James Conway (Robert DeNiro) and his unpredictably crazy partner Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci). GoodFellas is a very compelling, insightful crime drama that earns its reputation as one of Martin Scorsese's greatest achievements as a director. It's not every day you see a gangster picture that almost convinces you that a life of crime is better than an ordinary life.


Based on a true story, director Barry Levinson's Bugsy looks into the life of a despicable mobster (Warren Beatty) who goes to Los Angeles on business and eventually enters a relationship with an actress (Annette Bening). One day during a drive in the desert, he develops an idea to start building a city in the desert which would later become what we know as Las Vegas. On one hand, the film is well made and the director does his part as far as the storytelling's concerned. But on the other hand, this picture is just unpleasant to watch due in large part to how much of a sleazy, alienating scumbag this mobster is, especially when we are forced to watch all his crazy behaviors and painfully awkward decisions.

L.A. Confidential

Here's another terrific film noir about the dark side of Los Angeles in the tradition of Chinatown. In writer-director Curtis Hanson's enthralling crime drama L.A. Confidential, we follow three different cops, one whose brand of justice is too violent (Russell Crowe), one who does his job by the books (Guy Pearce), and one who likes being a cop for the sake of publicity (Kevin Spacey). When a multiple murder takes place at a coffee shop and one of LAPD's officers are involved, these three will have to work together to bring out the LAPD's source of corruption. For its impeccable script, outstanding direction and sensational acting, L.A. Confidential is a must-see for every fan of film noir.

A Clockwork Orange

Dark, disturbing and socially relevant sci-fi film from Stanley Kubrick tells the story of a young murderer (Malcolm McDowell) who is sent to jail and eventually goes through a behavior modifying program. In this program, he has to undergo a process that includes watching very gruesome movies which results in his brain becoming completely brainwashed to the point where he becomes a different and non-violent person. However, when this "new person" tries to fit back into society, he becomes the victim of his prior victims and their memories of the "old person" they knew. It is not for every taste, but A Clockwork Orange is a powerful cautionary tale that shows us the potential consequences of trying to permanently end violence.

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction(1994)

One of the 1990's most influential films and rightfully so, Pulp Fiction intertwines the stories involving two professional hitmen (John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson) who have conversations on many subjects and a boxer (Bruce Willis) who ends up accidently killing his opponent. It is challenging to describe a film of this nature, but all I can simply say about Pulp Fiction is that it is an extraordinary piece of filmmaking. This is thanks to both writer-director Quentin Tarantino's incredible use of dialogue in which we are captivated by the character's conversations and for the film's original story editing which proves that a story can be engaging even if it isn't told in chronological order.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Think of it as sort of a Western version of Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid follows two outlaws (Paul Newman, Robert Redford) and their bank and train robberies during the final months of their lives. They are accompanied by their girlfriend (Katherine Ross) who is also a school teacher. Some of the filming techniques (particularly in the opening scene) are decent and there are some good shots of the western landscape. Otherwise, I do not really understand why this film was so popular except for the two leads' star power. There is no emotional pull, no real originality, and no way the direction kept me from being bored.


Have you ever wondered where the human species originated from? In director Ridley Scott's new sci-fi flick Prometheus, a group of future scientists and explorers take an ambitious journey to a distant planet where they believe the answer to this common question rests. But as they soon discover while exploring this planet, its species are not friendly to outer life forms. Prometheus is one of the most captivating sci-fi flicks in recent years not just for its haunting visuals and brilliant acting by Michael Fassbender as the android, but also for its main ideas regarding the natural order of life, how every organism begins and ends life in a similar way, and that we all come from unexpected places.

The Departed
The Departed(2006)

As the Irish mafia becomes more powerful in Boston, the head of the local police force (Martin Sheen) decides to send in an undercover agent (Leonardo DiCaprio) to monitor the activities of the mafia's leader (Jack Nicholson). Meanwhile, one of the police officers (Matt Damon) is secretly undercover for the mafia. As the tension between the police and the mafia get worse, both rats are determined to find and reveal each other in Martin Scorsese's enthralling crime drama, The Departed. With the exception of its weak ending, this is an entertaining entry from Martin Scorsese that in a way shows its audience the consequences that result from being on both sides of a conflict.

Ocean's Eleven

A group of eleven thiefs (led by George Clooney and Brad Pitt) team up to steal $150 million from an underground vault that covers three Las Vegas casinos which are all owned by the same owner (Andy Garcia) in Ocean's Eleven, an entertaining remake of the 1960 crime film. This film does nothing except show the audience that you do not need big car chases or gun play to have a fun time at the movies. Sometimes a low-key film like this gets its entertainment value from letting us figure out what parts of the heist were planned and what parts were improvised.

The Dark Knight

Writer-director Christopher Nolan's dark, thrilling follow-up to Batman Begins has Batman (Christian Bale), Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) trying to save Gotham City from the hands of the Joker (Heath Ledger) whose wisecracks and sinister ways are causing the city to destroy itself. If not the greatest superhero flick ever made due to its overlength and an occasionally meandering plot, then The Dark Knight is at least one of the most powerful and entertaining with Heath Ledger's remarkable work as the Joker and the film's main moral which suggests that a true hero does not show off bravery but does something right.

Minority Report

Steven Spielberg's imaginative sci-fi action thriller stars Tom Cruise as a detective in the year 2054 who works for "Precrime", a unit designed to arrest murderers before they commit a crime. The crimes are determined by three psychics who can see into the future and are usually never wrong. But when the detective discovers that he himself is identified as the future killer of someone he has never met, he goes on the run with one of the psychics (Samantha Morton) as he tries to uncover the identity of his victim and determine if there is corruption in the Precrime unit. The advanced arguments about the pros and cons of having such a system in the future is more or less why Minority Report is a success.

U.S. Marshals

Sequel to the 1993 action hit The Fugitive has Tommy Lee Jones once again playing the relentless, unstoppable U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard. This time, the "suspect" is Mark Sheridan (Wesley Snipes) who is accused of killing two FBI agents, and Gerard is paired up with an FBI agent (Robert Downey Jr.) to find the fugitive. Basically, U.S. Marshals is The Fugitive all over again only far more easier to predict and therefore it is a major letdown. This is an unquestionably routine, formulaic cop-buddy action picture with nothing that is either new, inspired, compelling or fun.

Double Indemnity

An insurance agent (Fred MacMurray) is persuaded by a shady woman (Barbara Stanwyck) into murdering her husband so she can collect his accident policy. When their planned murder is successful, the insurance agent's boss (Edward G. Robinson) goes on an investigation of this case in writer-director Billy Wilder's outstanding film noir drama, Double Indemnity. Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck are great, of course, but Edward G. Robinson is just as terrific as the insurance investigator who seems to know exactly how everything happened even without knowing for sure.

A History of Violence

In a small town in Indiana, a diner owner (Viggo Mortensen) lives a quiet life with his wife (Maria Bello) and their two kids. One day however, two crooks walk into his diner and attack some of the customers which leads him to kill the two intruders in self defense. When he immediately becomes hailed as a local hero, this attracts the attention of a mysterious man with facial scars (Ed Harris) who insists that the diner owner is someone else. Is this a case of mistaken identity or does this diner owner have a secretly violent past? A History of Violence is an interesting film with its fascinating ideas regarding how a person's violent past will usually come back to haunt them no matter what.

The Godfather, Part II

The Godfather: Part II is a rare sequel that is able to live up to the expectations set by the original and no sequel to any other film has met the standards set here. This time around, we follow both young Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro) in the early 1900s when he fled from Sicily to America where he barely makes a living for his growing family, and his son Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in the late 1950's who further expands his family business regardless of what it does to his family. Unlike most sequels, The Godfather: Part II is a success because it does something most sequels never do. It simply expands the story by continuing the story where it left off as well as give us more background on the past.

Jerry Maguire

A successful sports agent (Tom Cruise) is suddenly fired from his job after writing a memo about clients being more important than profit. The only people who stick with him are a single mom (Renee Zellweger) who is in love with him and a football player (Cuba Gooding Jr.) who wants him to "show him the money" in the sports comedy-drama, Jerry Maguire. For the most part, writer-director Cameron Crowe does a solid job at taking the romance between Jerry and Dorothy as well as the sports story with Jerry and Rod both hanging by a thread to accomplish their goals and combining them together so that neither storyline upstages the other.

We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story

A group of four dinosaurs travel into the future to New York City for the sake of entertaining the children who want to see them. When these dinosaurs run into an evil circus owner, two kids whom the dinosaurs have befriended are determined to save them in the animated kids' film, We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story. Sure, the storytelling is somewhat efficient to suit its short running time, but as far as I'm concerned, the film overall does nothing more. It has no humor, no emotion, no memorable character, no decent song, no depth, nothing at all to keep the adults interested.

The Black Cauldron

An assistant farmer with dreams of becoming a warrior is sent out on a quest to search for (as well as destroy) a magical, powerful black cauldron. He needs to find the cauldron before it falls into the hands of the evil Horned King who intends to use its power to unleash an army of dead warriors and rule the world. Notable for being the first Disney animated feature to receive a PG rating from the MPAA, The Black Cauldron is an ambitious animated film to be sure with a story that tackles darker subjects than your usual Disney fare. Unfortunately, the film lacks the magic, depth and emotion in its story and characters that made the earlier Disney classics so special.


Entertaining computer-animated comedy from DreamWorks follows a giant ogre named Shrek (Mike Myers) who values his life of isolation. One day, his private life is intruded by many fairy tale characters thanks to the evil Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow). Now in able for Farquaad to get his swamp back to normal, Shrek must go on a quest and rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), whom Farquaad intends to marry. Joining Shrek on his journey is a faithful if very talkative donkey (Eddie Murphy). Both a hilarious yet affectionate satire on fairy tales as well as a fresh and bright modern fairy tale itself, Shrek is an absolute delight for both kids and adults with its genuine humor, incredible animation, and great voiceovers.


Charming, clever children's film about a young orphaned pig who is taken to the home of a kind farmer (James Cromwell) where he becomes friends with all kinds of animals. But when he discovers that most pigs end up eaten, he is determined to become useful at the farm by learning how to herd sheep. Babe is a likable little family film which teaches us all that we can be different and that no one tells us what our fate should be. James Cromwell delivers a remarkable low-key performance as the farmer who in a way practically treats the pig as if it were an equal.


With the end of their senior year at high school drawing near, two nerds (Michael Cera, Jonah Hill) are determined to become cool with their fellow classmates by illegally buying alcohol for a big 'end of high school' party with the help of their friend's (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) fake I.D. in this occasionally funny Judd Apatow comedy. Superbad starts off well with funny comic work by Jonah Hill and the amusing dialogue between him and Cera, but then the film takes a rough detour and adds a useless subplot with two cops (Bill Hader and Seth Rogen) that is as unfunny as a lousy SNL skit. What's worse is that it makes up for about one-third of the picture, which in turn nearly ruins the fun factor of the picture.

Pokemon the First Movie - Mewtwo vs. Mew

A powerful psychic Pokemon named Mewtwo challenges the greatest Pokemon trainers to a battle in the anime feature, Pokemon the First Movie. Sometimes you know your movie is in trouble when the title looks grammatically incorrect to the point where it is almost incomprehensible. Furthermore, you know an animated film is in trouble when the animation looks like it was made for TV and the voiceover work sounds like actors who never went to acting school. Add to this a story that is not involving, understandable or fun and adding a message about violence being wrong to a film about a phenomenon that basically glorifies violence and you have yourself a huge contradictory misfire.

Men in Black III

When Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) as well as the universe are under grave danger from Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), Agent J (Will Smith) must travel back in time to 1969, team up with younger Agent K (Josh Brolin), and save the universe in the third entry of the Men in Black film series. Josh Brolin and Michael Stuhlberg deliver solid performances as young Agent K and an alien who sees into the future. Unfortunately, the film gets off to a bad start with a lackluster first half and hardly redeems itself in the long run with uninspired humor, and tired chemistry between Smith and Jones.

Sleeping Beauty

When a young princess is cursed at birth by an evil witch, three good fairies are determined to do whatever they can to keep the princess from avoiding the spell's fulfillment in the Disney animated fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty. To be certain, this film has some solid background music and a unique style of animation that is visually pleasing. Unfortunately, when compared to Disney's earlier animated classics, Sleeping Beauty has little to offer. The story is basically the same as Snow White only with fairies and a spinning wheel replacing dwarfs and a poison apple. The characters are boring and underwritten (especially the princess, who is only on screen for about 10-15 minutes), and the story's inconsistent flaws (particularly in the second half) are glaringly idiotic.

King Kong
King Kong(2005)

When a vaudeville actress (Naomi Watts) is offered a starring role in the latest picture by a wildlife filmmaker (Jack Black), she accepts it and ends up going on the adventure of a lifetime. In this adventure, they arrive to an unknown island which has dangerous creatures around every corner and is home to a giant gorilla. This big ape not only kidnaps the actress, but it also starts to become attracted to her in Peter Jackson's King Kong, a remake of the 1933 adventure that manages to be faithful to the original version as well as add something new to the story. Unlike the original, this version focuses more on the relationship between the ape and its captive as well as deliver some very intense, suspenseful action scenes.

Dirty Dancing

A teenager (Jennifer Grey) spends her last summer as an adolescent with her family at a resort hotel where she meets a dance instructor (Patrick Swayze). Despite her father's (Jerry Orbach) belief that this dance instructor is a low life, she is already in love with him and they have plans to take dance lessons together. Dirty Dancing is best known for its finale with the Oscar-winning song "I've Had The Time of My Life" and it is unquestionably the best part of the film. However, I found the rest of the picture to be deadly dull. The quality of the directing is poor since it is completely scatterbrained, the chemistry between the two leads was lackluster, and I was never convinced that the setting was 1963.

The Emperor's New Groove

When a selfish young emperor (David Spade) is transformed into a llama by his power hungry adviser (Eartha Kitt) and sent into the dangerous jungle, he seeks the help of a poor farmer (John Goodman) to help him find his way back to the palace in the Disney animated comedy, The Emperor's New Groove. Here is an animated feature that has trouble deciding what tone it wants: does it want to be a satire on most Disney features or does it want to be a Disney feature itself? Since both elements are established poorly here, the film as a whole does not work especially considering that its "hero" should really be the villain based on the way the character was established with David Spade's comic persona.


The first Disney animated feature based on a true story, Pocahontas tells the story of the race defying romance between an Indian princess and a European settler. During their romance, a war starts to break out between their people and it is up to them to stop this hatred and convince them that there are other ways of tolerating other people. Pocahontas contains well meaning morals about the importance of tolerating different individuals and respecting mother nature, and the animation here is stunning as in most Disney animated features. Too bad the central romance between Pocahontas and John Smith is without any passion whatsoever, the songs are forgettable, and the ending does not work.


Mel Gibson stars on both sides of the camera in this Oscar-winning epic about a medieval Scottish soldier (Gibson) who begins and leads their country's revolt against the repulsive English rule in hopes of obtaining freedom to their country. Both a rousing drama about a passionate man who fights for what he believes in and a strong emotional experience in which you truly feel the intensity and brutality of the events taking place (especially with the graphic battle scenes), Braveheart earns its reputation as one of the last great epic entertainments to come from Hollywood in a while.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

When a ring with dark powers is discovered by a midget (Elijah Wood), a wizard (Ian McKellen) orders him to go on a quest to the only place on Earth where he can destroy it. Along with the wizard, he is also accompanied by his friends (Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd), two human warriors (Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean), an elf (Orlando Bloom), and a dwarf (John Rhys-Davies). Its production values are admirable, but I personally had trouble warming up to this picture since it is simply too busy both with the story and the characters. If you're going to tell a story about a powerful ring, at least use a minimal amount of characters with plenty of charisma and keep the story simple and focused.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The third entry in the Harry Potter film saga has Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) learning that a man named Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), who may be Voldemort's right hand man, has escaped from the Azkaban prison. Although Harry's close friends start to believe that Sirius will come to Hogwarts to kill Harry as a way of seeking revenge for defeating Voldemort, Sirius isn't the only trouble at Hogwarts this year as the prison's soul-sucking guards, aka the Dementors, have also escaped Azkaban. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ranks as the finest installment in the series since it represents a major turning point in the series where the story takes a darker turn and the drama becomes more enthralling.

Peter Pan
Peter Pan(1953)

Walt Disney's animated feature Peter Pan tells the story about a boy who never grows up and takes three children to the enchanting world of Never Land where they do battle with Peter's nemesis, Captain Hook. The best musical highlight is easily "You Can Fly", with Peter and the three children flying over London, and the villain Captain Hook and Peter Pan's sidekick, Tinker Bell rank as the best characters in the picture. It's far from the ranks of Bambi, Snow White or Fantasia, but there's enough in Peter Pan to keep the whole family pleased.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Director Peter Jackson's Oscar-winning finale to The Lord of the Rings trilogy has the Fellowship finishing their journey to the place where they can destroy the powerful ring and end the conflicts related to the ring once and for all. It is rare to have epic productions made today and I admire Peter Jackson's attempt at bringing us a film with such a quality. However, I just feel this story about a powerful ring is extremely silly and the characters, with the exception of Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), are frankly too dull to make us care. I think if this trilogy had trimmed out a great number of characters and story sidetracks, I may have liked these films more and I would be less impatient with the second half of this film.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The second entry in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy has the Fellowship splitting into three groups as they continue their journey to the only place in the world where they can destroy the powerful ring. Among the new allies that accompany the members of the Fellowship are a creature named Gollum (Andy Serkis) who once used the Ring and a walking, talking tree named Treebeard (John Rhys-Davies). Although it has some of the same flaws as The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King, The Two Towers easily ranks as the best in the series and that is due in large part to John Rhys-Davies' performance as the bloodthirsty dwarf Gimli who steals every scene that he is in.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

An 11-year-old boy (Daniel Radcliffe) who is miserable with his aunt and uncle discovers that he is the orphaned son of two powerful wizards and accepts an offer to attend Hogwarts, a school in which students learn magic. At his first year at Hogwarts, he makes new friends, goes on new adventures beyond his imagination, and learns about his mysterious past and why he is so famous in the world of wizards. For a children's fantasy that lasts two and a half hours, it is amazing how fast Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone goes by and how much imagination, drama, and humor were put into telling this compelling story.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

Part one of the finale to the Harry Potter film saga has Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) searching for the scattered pieces of Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) soul and then destroying them to prevent their nemesis from remaining immortal. When compared to the previous installments in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 ranks as the weakest film in the series since not much really goes on in the plot that is either thrilling or has dramatic interest. I guess that is a price a film like this has to pay for making us wait for the finale.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2

The epic conclusion to the Harry Potter film series has Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emma Watson) and the rest of the students and staff at Hogwarts at war with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his allies from the Slytherin team including Professor Snape (Alan Rickman). Meanwhile, the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort draws ever closer. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 is a most satisfactory finale to an overall splendid film series that is packed with nail-biting thrills. The biggest pleasure with watching the entire film series and part of why this saga will be missed by many is the progress of seeing the three leads (Radcliffe, Grint, Watson) mature and feel more comfortable with their roles.

A Night at the Opera

One of the Marx Brothers' best comedies has Groucho, Chico and Harpo helping a young new opera singer (Allan Jones) come to America in able to continue his romance with the leading lady (Kitty Carlisle) of the opera company and further build his reputation as a great opera singer. A Night at the Opera marked a big change in the Marx Brothers' film career when their films started to have a central love story, more musical numbers and their trademark anarchic humor was more restrained. Despite the limitations of this new formula, this picture contains some of the team's most hilarious comedic work especially the classic cabin room scene ("Is it my imagination or is it getting crowded in here?") and Chico, Harpo, and Jones disguising themselves as war heroes.

Animal Crackers

An African explorer (Groucho Marx) is the guest of honor at a weekend long party held by a wealthy woman (Margaret Dumont). Also showing up at this party are a musician (Chico Marx) and a "professor" (Harpo Marx) who is mute and chases girls around. During this weekend, a painting is stolen, the musician and the "professor" secretly cheat in a card game, and more typical nonsense takes place in the Marx Brothers' second feature, Animal Crackers. While its lackluster second half keeps it from being in the leagues of their best work, you got to give the Marx Bros. credit for still being able to give us at least a few great laughs for every picture they make.

The Producers

Faded Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) faces financial trouble and depends on some cash from wealthy old ladies in exchange for sex. But when his new accountant (Gene Wilder) suggests that he could make more money with a flop than with a hit, Max takes this theory to heart and makes Leo a co-producer as he creates a scheme to produce the worst show in town. Will they be able to pull it off or will their brilliant scheme backfire? Regardless of how things turn out, The Producers is an uproarious satire on show business that is even more impressive given that it was Mel Brooks' directorial debut. It has perfect comic timing, impeccable writing, and hilarious work by Mostel and Wilder.


Light, cheerful musical about a romance between a greaser (John Travolta) and a new girl from Australia (Olivia Newton-John) during a very eventful senior year at high school in the 1950's. Grease is a fun time mostly due to tuneful songs like "Summer Nights", "Greased Lightning", and "Hopelessly Devoted to You" along with the chemistry between the greaser's best friend (Jeff Conaway) and the leader of the Pink Ladies (Stockard Channing). In fact, I felt that Conaway and Channing should have been the central stars to the film more so than Travolta and Newton-John since the love story between Travolta and Newton-John lacked a certain spark.

Gone With the Wind

Producer David O. Selznick's epic four-hour drama about a young Southern woman (Vivien Leigh) madly in love with a gentleman (Leslie Howard) who is already engaged to another woman (Olivia de Havilland). Devastated by this fact, she meets another gentlemen (Clark Gable) whom she enters a romantic relationship with. During this endlessly complicated romantic triangle, the Civil War takes place and changes everything in the Old South forever. Gone With the Wind is truly epic in every sense of the word in regards to its production and its spectacular recreation of the events in the South during the Civil War. If only Vivien Leigh's character's inability to make up her mind weren't so monotonous.

My Fair Lady
My Fair Lady(1964)

After an English pronunciation expert (Rex Harrison) meets a poor flower girl (Audrey Hepburn) and is appalled by the way she verbally speaks, he bets his companion (Wilfred Hyde-White) that he could transform her into a lady who speaks proper English within six months in the famous musical, My Fair Lady. To give credit where it's due, some of the musical numbers live up to their word of mouth especially "With a Little Bit of Luck" and "On the Street Where You Live". But due to its excessive length, Harrison's never ending dismissal of Hepburn's speaking, and Hepburn's annoying complaining, My Fair Lady did not deserve to be the main Oscar winner especially when compared to another musical hit of the same year, Mary Poppins.

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

The sequel to the 1977 mega blockbuster has Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) meeting the acquaintance of wise Yoda (Frank Oz) who gives him advice on how to use the Force and become a Jedi. Yoda's wisdom to Luke will better prepare him for his next encounter with Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) in which he learns a dangerous secret about his past that affects both him and his nemesis. The Empire Strikes Back ranks as the finest entry in the Star Wars saga since we see the actors further maturing into their roles and the story taking more unpredictable turns as well as tackling darker and deeper themes.

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

The 1977 mega blockbuster (that is practically responsible for all the special effects extravaganza that we see today) tells the story of young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) going on a quest across the galaxy to rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from the hands of the evil Darth Vader (James Earl Jones). He is accompanied by space rogue Han Solo (Harrison Ford), the wise Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), and two robots (C3PO and R2D2). The story is formulaic and the leading actor is mediocre at best, but Star Wars does have a memorable score by John Williams, and great performances by James Earl Jones and Alec Guinness.

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

The final episode of the Star Wars film saga has our heroes Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) rescuing Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the hands of Jabba the Hut, and Luke confronting Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) and the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) once and for all. Meanwhile, a bunch of bear-like creatures called Ewoks help support the good guys in their battle against the Empire. Return of the Jedi is at its best whenever Luke, Darth Vader, and the Emperor are on screen together, but it doesn't help overcome the simple fact that this picture is overdone especially when you're watching the digitally enhanced version of this film.

The Prince of Egypt

Visually incredible animated feature tells the famous story of Moses (Val Kilmer), a Jew who was raised by the royal Egyptians in a time when Jews were slaves under the hands of the Egyptian leaders. He and his brother Rameses (Ralph Finnes) are determined to eventually take over the throne, until Moses discovers the truth about his past. After he abandons his life of royalty, he eventually returns to Egypt telling new ruler Rameses that God demands to let his people go. What makes The Prince of Egypt a pleasure to watch is simply seeing its unbelievably well drawn animation and listening to memorable songs like "Deliver Us" and "Through Heaven's Eyes".


A worker ant (Woody Allen) feels he does not fit in with the rest of his colony and goes on an adventure to explore the world outside the colony in the computer animated feature, Antz. While it may have a big name vocal cast including Sylvester Stallone, Gene Hackman, Sharon Stone, and especially Woody Allen, Antz does not overcome the fact that its story is heavily cliched and predictable. Woody Allen has the most interesting character in the entire picture to be sure, but I doubt that kids will dig this film since it may be too talky or boring for them.

Super 8
Super 8(2011)

J.J. Abrams' exciting, affectionate tribute to films made by Steven Spielberg like E.T., Close Encounters, and The Goonies, about a group of friends who witness a train wreck while filming a home movie. They eventually discover that the cause of the accident is also the reason for many weird disappearances and events that have been taking place in their town. What makes Super 8 well worth seeing is for its emotionally rich characters, particularly the ones played by Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney. In fact, the humans are more compelling than the actual creatures causing the unusual events.


A pet lizard named Rango (Johnny Depp) faces an identity crisis when he accidently ends up in a lawless town in the desert called Dirt. When the lizard accidently saves the day, he is appointed as the town's new sheriff and ends up being Dirt's last hope. Either you get into this film for its animation techniques and Johnny Depp's voiceover work or you don't. The latter best describes my opinion of this strange, heavily cliched, unfunny animated Western that simply did not take off for me.

Back to the Future

Robert Zemeckis' entertaining sci-fi comedy about high school student Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) who accidently travels back in time by mad scientist Doc Brown (brilliantly played by Christopher Lloyd) into the 1950's and interferes with the future of his parents (Crispin Glover, Lea Thompson) when they are teenagers. Now with complicated problems on his hands like the bullying by Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) and his mom-to-be's crush on him, Marty must reunite his parents-to-be or else he will cease to exist in the 1980's. Exploring both the rules and consequences of time travel as well as showing us the majesty of seeing our parents when they were young, Back to the Future is the definitive film about time travel with a well written screenplay and convincing special effects.

A Bug's Life
A Bug's Life(1998)

The second computer animated feature from Pixar, who brought us Toy Story, tells the story of a colony of ants who are tired of having to gather food for a group of grasshoppers. So, a rebellious worker ant leaves the colony to search for bigger bugs. When he does stumble upon some big bugs however, he does not know he actually discovered circus performers. Its premise sounds interesting and I used to like this film okay as a kid, but now A Bug's Life is forgettable, emotionally uninvolving, and has nothing here that is very much fun or new.

The Iron Giant

One of the finest non-Disney animated films to date, The Iron Giant is the story of a nine-year-old boy who befriends a friendly fifty-foot robot from outer space. He teaches his new friend the ways of humans and tries to keep him a secret from a paranoid government agent who wants to terminate the robot since he sees it as a potential threat. Sharing many similarities with E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, The Iron Giant is another thoroughly enjoyable children's sci-fi fantasy about a boy's friendship with a creature from another world. Writer-director Brad Bird does a great job at telling this story of a metal robot with colorful characters and a great range of humor as well as emotion.

The Incredibles

After many lawsuits have forced superheroes from doing public deeds, a former superhero (Craig T. Nelson) has trouble settling into normal suburban life with his wife (Holly Hunter) and their kids. But when a mysterious call asks for his help, he accepts hoping to return back to his glory days. The Incredibles ranks as one of Disney-Pixar's most entertaining features since it is very insightful into what the lives of superheroes would look like especially if there was a whole family in which everyone (including the newborn) has superpowers. The voiceover cast including Nelson and Hunter is superb, the action sequences here rival even the best ones in live-action, and the screenplay is full of wit.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Wonderful children's sci-fi fantasy from Steven Spielberg tells the story of an alien from outer space who is stranded on earth and not sure how to get home until he befriends a 10-year-old boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas). While Elliott tries to keep his discovery a secret and find a way to get him home, the creature is able to communicate with him telepathically and they begin to learn from each other. The alien still remains the most fascinating special effects creation in movie history since it seems to be a seamless cross between a young child and an old adult. On the basis of this film and with Close Encounters, director Steven Spielberg convinces us that perhaps we can befriend outer life forms after all.

Ghostbusters (1984 Original)

A group of four scientists (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson) start a successful business in which they get rid of New York City's most fearsome ghosts and monsters in the occasionally funny sci-fi comedy, Ghostbusters. Bill Murray easily steals the show with his hilarious performance here. His role is the type of role that Groucho Marx would have felt at home in. In fact, I wish more effort had been put into the screenplay's jokes instead of putting more effort on the dated special effects.

The Birdcage
The Birdcage(1996)

When a gay couple (Robin Williams and Nathan Lane) learns that their straight son is getting married to the daughter of a political couple (Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest), they must decide whether or not to support the marriage and pretend to be straight for the sake of their son. Many more funny complications ensue in Mike Nichols' fun and fluffy comedy, The Birdcage, which gets most of its enjoyment from the hilarious work by the four leads more so than its uninvolving love story between the two that are actually getting married.


Disney-Pixar's computer-animated comedy about a rat (Patton Oswalt) with dreams of becoming a chef who teams up with a clumsy human to make some tasty dishes in the kitchen of a legendary chef's famous restaurant. But since rats are not allowed in the kitchen, they must try to keep their teamwork a secret from their fellow chefs. With the exception of a few awkward lines of dialogue, Ratatouille is another fun animated feature from Disney-Pixar that contains clever comedic scenes showing how a human and a rat work together in the kitchen and an inspiring message which literally states that "anyone can cook".

Up in the Air

Smart, relevant, and highly enjoyable comedy-drama by writer-director Jason Reitman stars George Clooney as a man whose busy profession is helping other companies with downsizing their employees. When he's not traveling for business, he enjoys the company of another busy traveler (Vera Farmiga) whom he enters a special relationship with. But when the company's new up-and-comer (Anna Kendrick) wants to make significant changes to the company like using computers to fire employees, Ryan dreads the thought of losing a lifestyle that he cannot live without. Up in the Air is a special film since it shows us a man who travels around the country yet gets nowhere with his life and since it examines the pros and cons that result from having a line of work like this.

Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump(1994)

Tom Hanks rightfully deserved his Best Actor Oscar for portraying Forrest Gump, a man who despite his low intelligence finds himself at the center of the biggest events of the second half of the 20th century. Throughout his life experiences, he shares special friendships with Jenny (Robin Wright), the girl he loved since he was a kid, his Army buddy Bubba (Mykelti Williamson) who knows everything about shrimp, and his Vietnam commanding officer Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise). Leave it to director Robert Zemeckis to visually convince us that its hero was part of these events from the past and screenwriter Eric Roth for telling an inspiring story of how anyone can live a great life full of accomplishments.


Timeless American masterpiece tells the story of an American nightclub owner (Humphrey Bogart) in Casablanca who unexpectedly reunites with his ex-girlfriend (Ingrid Bergman) and her new husband (Paul Henreid) who are looking to escape from Casablanca to America. Once the two former lovers renew their love for each other, they must decide whether they go to America together or if she goes there alone with her new husband. What's not to love about this picture? Its endlessly quotable script and dialogue, Bogart and Bergman's career best performances, and the film's main idea towards what love really means deservedly make Casablanca essential viewing for every film lover. "Here's looking at you, kid."

Slumdog Millionaire

When an orphan living in the slums competes for 20 million rupees on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and is one question away from winning the top prize, he is accused of cheating. Is this young man from the streets really cheating or could he really have gained such knowledge just by coincidence? Slumdog Millionaire has an interesting message stating how some smart people can come from the most unexpected places. However, it is an overrated film (especially considering the number of Oscars it won in 2008) since it lacks emotionally compelling characters and it goes on longer than its predictable plot needs to.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

When a famous cartoon character named Roger Rabbit is framed for murder, a washed-up private eye (Bob Hoskins) reluctantly helps Roger to prove that he is innocent in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Robert Zemeckis' groundbreaking and seamless combination of animation and live-action. This film is just visually spellbinding to watch and the way that it convinces us that cartoons and humans live in the same world is remarkable. It is also fun to spot cameos from the classic cartoons of the past including the inspired pairings of Donald Duck and Daffy Duck as well as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny.

Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane(1941)

Who would have thought that the first feature film by writer-director Orson Welles would be what many critics consider today as the greatest film of all time? While this story of the life and death of a newpaper publishing tycoon (Orson Welles) is far from my personal pick for the greatest film ever made, Citizen Kane still earns its reputation as an important landmark in filmmaking. Orson Welles, co-writer Herman J. Mankiewicz, cinematographer Gregg Toland, and editor Robert Wise have created a fascinating film that looks into the life of this American citizen through different points of view.

Sunset Boulevard

"I am big. It's the pictures that got small." This quote which is spoken by former silent superstar Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) best describes her current career status, until she meets a young screenwriter (William Holden) who is also struggling with his career. Desperate for work, she hires him to write a comeback project for her and even goes so far as to make him move in with her to make sure she gets her way. Writer-director Billy Wilder's satire on Hollywood is dark and bizarre yet juicy and brilliant since it shows us the negative aspects of fame and how it can lead some faded stars like Norma to complete and utter desperation.


Martin Scorsese's first family film tells the story of an orphan in Paris who goes on a quest to unlock a secret that was left to him by his late father (Jude Law). This secret may connect him to a famous filmmaker (Ben Kingsley) who fears that all his work has vanished. Given the praise that other critics are bestowing upon this film, I honestly found Hugo to be one of Scorsese's weakest films. It relies too heavily on the use of older, more original films to try and disguise the fact that they are not telling an original story, this adds to the film's strange style significantly. I also felt no sympathy towards the title character since he never makes bright decisions and comes off as an unlikable brat.

The General
The General(1927)

After he is rejected from enlisting in the Civil War since he is too useful at home, a Southern railroad engineer (Buster Keaton) who loves his train as much as his girlfriend finds out that both have been kidnapped by Northern spies. Now, it is up to the engineer to pursue and catch up to his train, rescue his sweetheart, and take his train back home. That is the plot for Buster Keaton's highly entertaining and perfectly timed silent comedy, The General, which is literally an exciting train chase with hilarious and clever gags on the side. By hardly reacting and always keeping a straight face throughout, Buster Keaton makes the gags around him become even more hilarious.

Duck Soup
Duck Soup(1933)

My personal candidate for the funniest comedy ever made, Duck Soup is the Marx Brothers at their peak with Groucho Marx as the newly appointed leader of the financially poor country of Freedonia. He declares war on their neighbor country Sylvania just for the fun of it, while two spies (Chico and Harpo Marx) from Sylvania become members of his cabinet. Once in a while, a comedy comes along in which does not need a properly structured storyline to be funny since the physical and verbal humor guides us through the madness, and that is certainly the case with Duck Soup. In a time where humor mostly consists of foul language and sex-related jokes, it is refreshing to look back at a work of genius like this with its famous mirror scene and its classic peanut stand scene.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

When their daughter (Katharine Houghton) comes home engaged to an African- American doctor (Sidney Poitier), a married liberal couple (Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy) must figure out whether or not to put aside whatever prejudices they have and approve of their marriage. Enjoyable if not a must-see, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was certainly daring for its time given the racial conflicts that happened during that era. Its message about being able to enter a meaningful relationship from someone of a different race still remains relevant for today's audiences.

Schindler's List

Steven Spielberg's terrifying, emotionally powerful drama based on the true story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German businessman who saved the lives of more than 1,000 Polish Jews from being shipped to death camps during the Holocaust by letting them work at his factory. Just as he would later do with Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg recreates a piece of history that no one wishes to remember and gives us a better understanding of its horrific brutality so that we do nothing of the sort again. For Spielberg's impeccable execution, the haunting black and white documentary style cinematography, and its important message about tolerating other individuals of a different race or religion, Schindler's List should be seen at least once.

The Green Mile

After making an impressive directorial debut with The Shawshank Redemption, Frank Darabont's second feature is another adaptation of a prison novel by Stephen King. This time, we follow John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a man wrongly convicted of murdering two girls and sentenced to death at Cold Mountain Penitentiary. Soon enough though, the guards discover that John might not only be innocent, but they also discover that he has magical healing powers. One might complain that it is too long and the fantasy element of the story is hard to believe, but that does not stop The Green Mile from being just as strong, emotional and spirit-lifting as The Shawshank Redemption.

It's a Wonderful Life

Frank Capra's timeless holiday masterpiece stars James Stewart in one of his finest roles as George Bailey, a banker who is deep in debt and is coming close to either committing suicide or (even worse) wishing he was never born. But when a guardian angel (Henry Travers) comes down to Earth to help George, he shows him what life would be like if he was never born and shows George that he has truly had a wonderful life. It's no wonder that It's a Wonderful Life is a film mostly everyone sees again and again every holiday. This is one of the most inspiring and spirit-lifting movies ever to come out of Hollywood. It is a perennial classic not just because of its emotional impact and impeccable execution, but also because of its immortal message about life being worth living despite its fair share of obstacles.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Frank Capra's comedy-drama stars James Stewart as a bright, honest man appointed to fill in a seat in the U.S. Senate who has plans for building a boy's camp in the state. However, his future plans become interfered by the corruption lying within the Senate, but he is still determined to make sure his voice is heard to his fellow Senators. Of all the films made about politics and our government, none have been more educational, more inspiring, or more entertaining than Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Leave it to James Stewart, writer Sidney Buchman, and director Frank Capra to make a film about our country that even people who usually detest politics are sure to enjoy.

The Shawshank Redemption

"I guess it comes down to a simple choice really, get busy living or get busy dying". This quote is spoken by Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who is convicted of two murders and sentenced to a life term at a Maine state prison even though he claims he is innocent. During his life sentence, he shares a special friendship with a fellow inmate (Morgan Freeman) who is also serving a life sentence. However, The Shawshank Redemption is more than just a prison picture, it is a surprisingly inspiring film about maintaining faith even in the most hopeless places as Andy is able to have a successful life behind bars. This is an impressive directorial debut by Frank Darabont that inspires us to dream beyond our own physical and mental imprisonment.


The film that deservedly put Steven Spielberg among the ranks of the greatest Hollywood directors, Jaws tells the story of an Atlantic town being terrorized by a great white shark. When the number of shark attacks keeps escalating, a police chief (Roy Scheider), a shark expert (Richard Dreyfuss), and a local fisherman (Robert Shaw) are determined to take down this devilish shark. Leave it to director Steven Spielberg to create a thriller that will scare millions from swimming in the ocean again with its nail-biting suspense and its terrifying villain. But what's equally impressive is that this picture has enough time to flesh out its characters while building suspense towards the shark's next attack.


After he fails to protect a mafia informant from danger, a police detective (Steve McQueen) must redeem himself with his new assignment in which he must track down the assassins of the informant. That is the basic setup for the action picture, Bullitt, which is heavily overrated and really bored me to death. The story was completely uninteresting and uninvolving, the characters are really dull, and the action scenes are routine and not very exciting especially compared to today's action films.

Lost In Translation

Writer-director Sofia Coppola's magnificent comedy-drama about a struggling actor (Bill Murray) in a midlife crisis who goes to Tokyo to star in a whiskey commercial. During his spare time, he shares a special relationship with a young woman (Scarlett Johansson) who is also currently dissatisfied with her life. Lost in Translation is a meaningful film that shows us that sometimes the most meaningful friendships are the ones that come at the most unexpected times and need very little in able for the relationship to work. Murray was born to play this type of role, Johansson is surprisingly just as terrific, and the way that this film balances low-key humor with gentle emotion seamlessly is nothing short of outstanding.

Batman Begins

Engaging, thrilling Batman movie from writer-director Christopher Nolan traces the origins of the legendary hero of Gotham City and how he came to obtain his extraordinary powers. Christian Bale makes the finest Batman yet since he best understands the dark aspects to the Batman character. Furthermore, Liam Neeson is brilliant here as the man responsible for Batman's amazing combat skills and yet who also may be responsible for Gotham City's current corruption. Based on this film and with The Dark Knight, no filmmaker seems to know more than Christopher Nolan about the true spirit of Batman.

High Noon
High Noon(1952)

On the day of both his retirement and wedding, a marshal (Gary Cooper) learns that a gang whose leader he arrested once is coming back to his town for revenge. Everyone there including his new wife (Grace Kelly) urges him to leave town while he still has a chance, but the marshal is too proud of his glory days to run away and insists on fending them off. Gary Cooper is excellent as a man whose conscience tells him to protect his citizens regardless of how much they think they don't need him, Grace Kelly is always a welcome screen presence, and the story is also pretty solid as well despite the climax's predictability and the redundancy of the middle act.

On the Waterfront

Marlon Brando stars in one of his most famous roles as Terry Malloy, a former boxer who works on the docks for a corrupt union boss (Lee J. Cobb). After he witnesses a fellow dockworker murdered by his boss's right hand men, he feels responsible, especially when he becomes romantically involved with the dead dockworker's sister (Eva Marie Saint). On the Waterfront is best remembered for Brando's famous "I coulda been a contendah" speech as well as his whole performance and this picture truly belongs to Brando's Oscar-winning performance as well as the main storyline.

Seven (Se7en)

Director David Fincher's dark, disturbing and haunting thriller follows an experienced detective (Morgan Freeman) who is just about to retire and a new detective (Brad Pitt) who is about to take his place. These two have to work together to solve a series of murders connected with the same murderer whose victims may represent the seven deadly sins (gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, pride, lust, envy). Is it pure coincidence or is the killer indeed trying to prove to all of us that we commit some sort of sin on a daily basis? Se7en is a fascinating mystery that improves with each viewing both for its social significance about human nature's tendency to be taken over by temptation or guilt and one of the most shocking climaxes ever put on film.

No Country for Old Men

Scary, unpredictable crime drama about a Vietnam veteran (Josh Brolin) who comes across two million dollars while wandering through the bloody aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong. After he takes the money, a relentless and brutally sinister killer (Javier Bardem) is on his trial. Meanwhile, an aging sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) who keeps track of the aftermaths of this cat-and-mouse chase has trouble accepting the escalating violence that is taking place in his town. No Country for Old Men is not only a tremendously exciting entertainment with remarkable acting (especially by Bardem), writing, and direction, it is also the definitive document on violence being an unforgiving every day reality with human nature.

Carnival of Souls

After she inexplicably survives a car accident in which her other friends are killed, an antisocial young women (Candace Hilligoss) decides to go on with her life and accept a job as a church musician. During this time, she starts to have strange visions of a creepy man and becomes drawn to a deserted carnival for which she blames for her recent nightmares. That is the basic plot for this dated, dull, depressing, and dreadful horror film. Due to its poor acting and directing, its lack of scares or tolerable characters, and an uninvolving plot, Carnival of Souls had no chance of being good even if it was a made-for-TV movie.


To many filmgoers, this horror film about a six-year-old murderer escaping from a health institution on Halloween to relive his murders is the standard for modern horror films. To me, this major influence on a film genre that I deem overrated and monotonous only demonstrates the uselessness of this genre. The villain is a complete bore and did not scare me one bit even with his hockey mask. The characters here are unintelligent to the point where it's simply offensive. The film's only redeemable quality is with its music and even that aspect is mediocre at best.


Roman Polanski's tribute to film noir detective films stars Jack Nicholson as a private eye assigned by a water department engineer's wife (Faye Dunaway) to keep an eye on her husband since she suspects that he may be cheating on her. What results is a case in which may explain why the water department in 1930s Los Angeles is so corrupt and why there is a heavy drought. Chinatown is a triumph with excellent work by Nicholson and Dunaway, and a compelling script by Robert Townes with its complex characters and unpredictable plot.


Writer-director Christopher Nolan's mindbending sci-fi action flick is set in a world where it is possible to invade into another person's dreams and steal their ideas. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a professional dream thief who is given his most complicated task yet, to plant an idea into someone else's dream. Inception works well on two different levels. On one level, it takes us to a new world full of imagination and shows us what it would be like to live in a place where we are able to look into one another's dreams. On the other level, its story while complex to follow on the surface at least keeps us interested all the way through.

The Maltese Falcon

Humphrey Bogart stars in one of his finest roles as Sam Spade, a tough private eye who has his own distinct way of doing his detective work. He is assigned by untrustworthy Brigid O'Shaughnessey (Mary Astor) to solve a case in which he has to help her find a rare falcon shaped jewel statuette. The Maltese Falcon is a difficult film to follow, but it is through repeated viewings that it only becomes more clear. This was John Huston's directorial debut, and on the basis of this film and with his later film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, no one knows more than he does about how greed can make or break a person.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Jim Carrey stars as a private eye specialized in cases involving animals who is assigned to investigate the kidnapping of the Miami Dolphins' mascot as well as the disappearance of some key team players including Dan Marino. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is occasionally funny at times mostly thanks to Jim Carrey's insane, goofy antics. However, the film as a whole is a missed opportunity to really satirize pet detection especially considering that this is basically more of a satire on football instead. This film also could have been better if its supporting players were as fully realized as the pet detective and if the picture didn't lose its way in the second half.

Total Recall
Total Recall(1990)

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a future construction worker who discovers through a memory implant that he is really a secret agent and goes to Mars for his next mission in this wacky, fun sci-fi action flick. Total Recall is actually quite satirical both with its humor and whenever it seems to poke fun at itself with the crazy implausibility of its plot. Its action scenes are exciting and very intense, and the way the film constantly keeps us guessing as to what is real and what is not is fascinating since we never really know for sure whether or not this is all a crazy dream.


The wife of a movie theater owner starts to suspect that her husband is a paid terrorist and a government agent begins to spy on the couple. That's the premise of Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Sabotage and to get straight to the point, this Hitchcock film absolutely bored me to death. It is not just because the plot never really gets anywhere and contains no suspense, it is mainly because of the same issue that I had with watching The 39 Steps regarding the extremely poor sound and picture quality.

The Fugitive
The Fugitive(1993)

Intelligent, intense action thriller about a doctor (Harrison Ford) who is sentenced to death in prison for murdering his wife. While he is being sent by bus to prison, the bus collides with a train (one of the greatest train wrecks ever depicted on film). After surviving the crash, he goes on the run to find the real killer to prove his innocence. Following his every step is a relentless U.S. marshal (Tommy Lee Jones) who will stop at nothing to catch him. The Fugitive is a brilliant action thriller with one perfectly timed action scene after another, and Tommy Lee Jones' remarkable performance as the brutally clever marshal. What's most important about The Fugitive's success though is its smart screenplay.

The Rescuers Down Under

Bernard and Bianca (Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor), the two heroes of the 1977 Disney animated feature The Rescuers, return in Disney's first full-length animated sequel, The Rescuers Down Under. This time, the two heroes go to the Australian outback to save a little boy kidnapped by an evil poacher (George C. Scott) who is searching for a rare golden eagle that the boy has befriended. The Rescuers Down Under remains the pinnacle for Disney's sequels with its thrilling, improved animation (particularly with the flight scenes) and solid voice over work. It is also a great pleasure catching up with those two mice characters again.

Robin Hood
Robin Hood(1973)

Disney's adaptation of the Robin Hood legend with many different animals playing the characters, Robin Hood is played by a fox, Prince John is played by a lion, etc. Compared to Disney's earlier classics and especially the 1938 adaptation of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn, this is frankly an embarrassment. Not one song from this picture is either hummable or preferable to silence. The characters and even the animation are stale, lazy, and seem to be recycled from other Disney films particularly The Jungle Book.


Animated Disney feature about a young woman from China who disguises herself as a man and takes her ailing father's place in the emperor's army to do battle against the invading Huns. Mulan has a few satisfying moments of humor and drama along with a well meaning moral about family always coming first over your country's pride. However, it also contains some awkward, poorly written dialogue, forgettable songs, an unconvincing villain, and unnecessary comic relief from Eddie Murphy as the dragon Mushu.


Spectacularly drawn, visually eye-popping Disney animated feature about a man who is raised by apes in the jungle after his parents are killed. When human explorers show up on the island and he becomes attracted to the professor's daughter, he is torn between going back with his own kind or staying with the gorillas that raised him. The animation and the fast paced action scenes are truly remarkable and visually thrilling. Unfortunately, this film also has some weak comic relief particularly the one played by Rosie O'Donnell.

The Rescuers
The Rescuers(2014)

Pleasant Disney animated feature about a pair of mice, Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Bianca (Eva Gabor), who attempt to rescue a little girl named Penny from evil diamond hunter Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page). It is understandable why this was the first of Disney's animated films to have a sequel, because the two mice are such lovable characters and have excellent chemistry between each other. With Newhart and Gabor's terrific voiceover work and fun supporting characters like Orville the albatross, The Rescuers is easily the most satisfying animated feature since Lady and the Tramp.

The Land Before Time

Disney alumni Don Bluth's animated feature about a young brontosaurus who, along with other young orphaned dinosaurs, is determined to seek out the Green Valley, a place with plenty of food and shelter. While its constant action limits its character development, The Land Before Time is an enjoyable enough animated film with a few cute characters like Ducky that will please children and maybe adults, too. The musical score and animation is also pretty good as well. Keep in mind that there are a couple of scenes that may traumatize some young kids.

Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo(2003)

A nervous clown fish (Albert Brooks) is accidently separated from his son (Alexander Gould) and goes on a long search through the large ocean to find him. Along the way, he is accompanied by a friendly Regal Blue Tang (Ellen DeGeneres) with short term memory loss. We've practically heard this story many times before and there is only so much of this picture's cuteness I can tolerate, but Finding Nemo has a few fun characters like a great white shark who is also a vegetarian and a surfer turtle who's still got it at age 150 and Albert Brooks is ideal casting as the clown fish.

101 Dalmatians

Disney animated feature about two dalmatians who give birth to a litter of fifteen puppies. Their litter is stolen by the evil Cruella De Vil who wants the skin of the puppies for her new fur coat. Now it is up to Pongo and Perdita, the parents of the litter, to rescue their 15 puppies as well as 86 others that Cruella gathered up. While I liked its charming and clever insight into a dog's universe as shown in the solid first half of this picture, 101 Dalmatians becomes a broad, uneven picture with a story that's been done to death and a sagging second half that goes on and on.

The Jungle Book

Walt Disney's final animated feature tells the story of Mowgli, a child raised by the jungle's animals who has to leave the jungle to avoid the dangerous tiger Shere Khan (George Sanders). Although the panther Bagheera (Sebastian Cabot) encourages him to go, Mowgli still wants to stay in the jungle especially with his new friend, Baloo the Bear (Phil Harris). The Jungle Book has solid voice work and a few catchy tunes including "The Bare Necessities", but the magic that made Disney's earlier features so special is missing here with lackluster animation, a dull lead character, and a plot that feels more like a party than a story.

Top Hat
Top Hat(1935)

Wonderful Depression-era musical has a dancer (Fred Astaire) and a wealthy lady (Ginger Rogers) in love with each other, until she gets the wrong idea that Astaire is the married man of her friend (Helen Broderick) who is actually the wife of Astaire's manager (Edward Everett Horton). Still a timeless, cheerful musical holiday seven decades later, Top Hat has classic songs by Irving Berlin such as "Cheek to Cheek" and "Piccolino", and irresistible chemistry between Astaire and Rogers. What is most amazing about Top Hat though is that the dancing between the two stars not only use minimal editing, but the two stars make the dancing look easy and they appear to be having great pleasure in each other's company.

42nd Street
42nd Street(1933)

Early backstage musical about a Broadway director (Warner Baxter) with failing health who is determined to put on one more big show. But when the leading lady (Bebe Daniels) breaks her ankle, it's up to a replacement (Ruby Keeler) from the chorus and the leading man (Dick Powell) to go on with the show. While I liked a few songs like "Young and Healthy" and the title tune, 42nd Street is basically a routine, heavily cliched backstage musical that has no real time to develop its underwritten characters or add something more to its stale plot.

Shall We Dance

Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical has a ballet dancer (Astaire) in a fake romance with a musical comedy star (Rogers) for the sake of publicity. But pretty soon and to the surprise of no one, this fake romance eventually becomes real. Shall We Dance has a few amusing moments including a musical number with Astaire and Rogers dancing on roller skates, but as Debbie Reynolds once said in Singin' in the Rain, "If you've seen one, you've seen them all". In other words, if you've already seen Top Hat or Swing Time, there is no real need to see Shall We Dance since its story and characters are basically derivative of elements from their past two pictures.

Swing Time
Swing Time(1936)

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers pair up for this musical about an engaged bachelor (Astaire) who misses his wedding day, but is given a second chance by his bride-to-be (Betty Furness) if he is able to raise $25,000. But once he meets a dance instructor (Rogers), he starts to become more attracted to her than the bride-to-be. Here's another hit from the inspired pairing of Astaire and Rogers, Swing Time contains some splendid musical numbers like "The Way You Look Tonight", "A Fine Romance", and especially "Never Gonna Dance" which captures the magnificent duo's dancing skills at their most emotionally satisfying.

The Band Wagon

Classic backstage musical stars Fred Astaire as Tony Hunter, a faded movie star who hopes to make a comeback on Broadway with a fun, fluffy musical written by his old pals (Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray). However, when his director (Jack Buchanan) puts heavy-handed dark themes into the play and pairs Tony up with a very tall co-star (Cyd Charisse), he seriously questions whether or not this comeback project will succeed. The Band Wagon is a colossal triumph with its catchy and witty songs including "That's Entertainment", a song that stands for all show business, and a smart, funny script by Betty Comden and Adolph Green that does for Broadway what Singin' in the Rain did for Hollywood.

Meet Me In St. Louis

Vincente Minnelli's musical tells the story of a family who faces the possibility of moving away from their happy and cheerful lives in St. Louis all the way up to New York. Meet Me in St. Louis has some memorable musical numbers with the best being "The Trolley Song" and director Vincente Minnelli knows how to bring a musical visually to life with the settings and the bright, colorful cinematography. But what makes Meet Me in St. Louis so special for me is its story since I could personally identify with what the family was going through and how they were feeling.

An American in Paris

Vincente Minnelli's Oscar-winning musical tells the story of an American painter (Gene Kelly) living in Paris who falls in love with a French woman (Leslie Caron). However, he doesn't know that she's the girlfriend of a popular French nightclub performer (Georges Guetary) whom is his close friend. I liked the musical numbers "S'Wonderful" and "Stairway to Paradise" as well as the rich Technicolor outdoor cinematography of Paris. Unfortunately, the central romance between Kelly and Caron is painfully awkward and dreadful to the point that I just had to look away for a generous portion of the film.

Mouse Hunt
Mouse Hunt(1997)

After their father passes away, two brothers (Nathan Lane, Lee Evans) inherit his fortune which includes his string factory and his old mansion which they eventually find out is worth millions. In able to keep the value of the house intact, they must get rid of a relentlessly clever little mouse that manages to outwit them in every way imaginable. That is the premise for Mouse Hunt which is basically a live action cartoon extended to a feature length time frame. While a few gags involving the little mouse have solid comic timing, the rest of the film gets old real fast and overstays its welcome by at least half an hour.

The Gold Rush

Charlie Chaplin's charming silent comedy has the famous Tramp character participating with a fellow prospector in the Alaskan gold rush and in a would-be romance with a saloon girl. When his partner prospector stumbles upon some gold and then forgets where he hid it, he needs the Tramp's help to retrieve it back. For a silent film that is almost 90 years old, it is remarkable how well The Gold Rush stands the test of time. Chaplin's skill as a filmmaker as well as a comedic genius are unquestionable here with classic comedic scenes such as the dinner roll dance, Chaplin eating his shoe, and the literally cliff-hanging climax at the cabin.

The Artist
The Artist(2011)

A silent film star (Jean Dujardin) sees his career take a downfall thanks to the rise of talking pictures. Despite this obstacle, he shares a special friendship with a new actress (Berenice Bejo) whose career is determined to make her into the next big movie star in this charming tribute to the glory days of silent cinema in the form of a modern silent film. Dujardin and Bejo look so much like silent film stars with their bright, big smiles that they add to the effect of their performances which will forever change and mature silent movie acting. With its remarkable black and white cinematography and authenticity to the films made during that time, The Artist is a rare film made today that takes away our awareness of watching a present day film and completely transports us to a magical place in the past.

To Kill A Mockingbird

In a small Alabama town in the 1930s, a highly respected lawyer (Gregory Peck) agrees to defend an African-American accused of raping a white woman. Meanwhile, his children go on some little adventures of their own such as exploring their neighborhood's haunted house in To Kill a Mockingbird, the film adaptation of Harper Lee's beloved novel. While I have to admit that the combination of these two stories not only feels forced but makes the picture feel uneven, I do admire certain aspects of the picture such as Gregory Peck's Oscar-winning performance as the lawyer and the important life lessons that the film is conveying to the audience. I would have admired the film more if they put more focus on the court trial.

12 Angry Men (Twelve Angry Men)

A group of twelve jurors must come to a unanimous decision as to whether or not a teenager from the slums is guilty of killing his father. All the jurors believe he is guilty except one (Henry Fonda) who doubts that he committed the crime based on the evidence and convinces his fellow jurors to reconsider. What later results is a hot and long day of arguing, re-examing, and persuading each other in regards to this person's fate. 12 Angry Men remains the pinnacle of all courtroom dramas since no other film of its genre has explored the frustrations, the doubts, and even one's personal knowledge that are associated with the decisions that real-life jurors have to make.


Alfred Hitchcock's romantic spy thriller about the daughter (Ingrid Bergman) of a Nazi spy who is assigned by an American secret agent (Cary Grant) to woo and wed the leader (Claude Rains) of a Nazi group hiding out in Brazil, so they can get inside information about their activities. The assignment grows more complex when she starts to enter a serious romantic relationship with the agent while in the middle of her relationship with the Nazi leader. Seamlessly combining an intriguing, complex love story along with Hitchcock's gifted use of suspense, Notorious is a terrific melodrama that shows a strong woman dealing with a difficult romantic circumstance while showing loyalty to her country.

The Conversation

Basically a different version of Rear Window, Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation stars Gene Hackman as a sound expert who is hired to listen to and piece together a young couple's conversation and realizes that it is a plot for murder. Gene Hackman delivers an effective low-key performance as the sound expert and The Conversation does explore the consequences as well as the loneliness of people whose sole occupation is peeking into other people's lives. However, it is also a bit too challenging to understand and too slow in pace that it becomes difficult to keep us compelled.

Singin' in the Rain

Gene Kelly stars in this timeless musical masterpiece as a silent film star working on his first talking picture with his romantic co-star (Jean Hagen), his best friend (Donald O'Connor), and a promising new actress (Debbie Reynolds). Many complications arise during the production, among them are his co-star's obnoxious voice and the microphones capturing the wrong sounds. Will their first "talkie" be a success or a disaster? This picture is a pure delight from start to finish with wonderful musical numbers including the title tune, "Good Morning", and "Make 'Em Laugh". Singin' in the Rain also has an equally delightful script by Betty Comden and Adolph Green that is hilarious yet affectionate at capturing Hollywood's rough transition into talking pictures.