Brittany Runs a Marathon
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
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Reviewed 9.3.19 Harrison Ford plays Allie Fox, a man fed up with American commercialism, and his fear of inevitable nuclear apocalypse. His solution is an idyllic and pure existence in the depths of the African jungle. In his blind spot is the truth; he is still born of American idealism. Unfettered ambition. The idea that we can go it alone. That we can invent our way out of everything. And an arrogance born out of white privilege. All this back in 1986, talk about prescient.
River Phoenix is coming to his own on screen, alongside an always stellar Helen Mirren (stuck with an underwritten role in this case). Conrad Roberts adds character as the charming Mr. Haddy. And Ford drops all of his swashbuckling charm, to find the tortured soul of a brilliant inventor, short a few emotional screws.
The film didn't fair well upon release. It's didn't fit the Harrison Ford mold, or perhaps it just hit too close to home for the 'Me Generation,' at their zenith. Also, the mid-80's weren't exactly a great time for risk-taking in major releases. But with terrorist attacks, school shootings, climate change catastrophe...the story is rife for a reboot. Allie Fox would have a field day.
The execution doesn't always equal the concept. But with a forward thinking script, solid acting, a lush setting, and director Peter Weir in his warm-up phase (Dead Poet's Society and The Truman Show were to follow), it's an adventure worth taking, no matter the pit falls.
Reviewed 7.24.19 It's perhaps the most thoughtful (yes, it's a low bar) 80's teen comedy, not written by John Hughes. And although it contains the cheesy styles (special shout out to the big hair and massive mullets!) and music of the time period, it's a fairly accurate portrayal of high-school clique culture. It ain't The Breakfast Club, but there's a reason it was the sleeper summer hit of 1987. Underneath all of the adolescent silliness, the universal theme of popularity and the price one pays for it is well delivered.
If I'd seen it for the first time as an adult, I'd likely feel differently. But in this case, I trust my 12 year-old self. It hit home then, and during this screening it did the same for my 12 year-old niece. So if you're a fan of the teen genre, and/or silly 80's movies, ignore the negative reviews from middle aged critics. It's a teen movie with a capital T.
It also sports one of the quirkier cast profiles. It stars Patrick Dempsey before he morphed into 'McDreamy' on TV's Grey's Anatomy and got 'enchanted' in Disney's blockbuster. Seth Green, as the bratty little brother, would go on to substantial Hollywood success. Add Courtney Gaines (Malachai from 80's horror flick Children of the Corn), former baby boomer star Sharon Farrell, a guy (Dennis Dugan) that wound up directing many of Adam Sandler's most successful films, an 80's Playboy cover model, and the ultimate laughable 90's pop star Gerado (Rico Suave himself!) in his first role and you've got quite the peculiar cast to ponder. And tragically none stranger than Amanda Peterson, who played Cindy Mancini, the character adored by all. In real life she led an unfortunate existence and died young. There certainly is more to life than popularity, on screen and off.
Reviewed 7.4.19 Musician Jack Malek (a charmless Himesh Patel) wakes up from an accident to find that no one seems to remember The Beatles. That setup is a screenwriter's dream. Yet Richard Curtis, best known for penning chick-flick nightmares (Love Actually, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones...yikes!) takes the obvious route. The expected rags to riches story would be acceptable, if it actually mined the deeper questions raised by such an existential crisis. Instead they stick to the surface story of a guilty musician and the effects of his success on his love life. It doesn't make for a bad movie. It just feels like less than it could have been.
There are cheeky asides, like Jack discovering that Oasis doesn't exist either, since The Beatles weren't around for them to rip off. But for every witty observation, there's dialogue that jags on the ear. There's no need for blood-sucking agent Debra (Kate McKinnon, wonderful as usual) to point out she sees Jack as a 'product,' everything she does screams it. In short, it's a fun idea, with shoddy execution. Which is all the more surprising since it's well-heeled director Danny Boyle behind the lens.
Lily James, as Ellie, is the good soul, along with a deceased Beatle in a surprising cameo that will surely split audiences (I liked it). Ed Sheeran, playing himself, is a good sport, adding realism as the artist defeated by The Beatles catalog.
Fab Four fans, like me, will find enough to like about a movie accentuating their genius. But newbies will miss all of the inside jokes, leaving them with a love story short on chemistry. And in the end, the reviews you take are equal to the movie you make (test: if this line doesn't ring a bell, then take a pass on this flick).
Reviewed 6.21.19 This surprise international hit is most memorable for it's ground-breaking subject matter. Released in 1994, it is credited with introducing a positive portrayal of drag and trans culture into mainstream cinema. It's recognized as a landmark film in Australia, where it was filmed, and from where almost every creative contributor has a connection. It received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design, along with six BAFTA nominations, winning for Best Makeup and Hair. It's that creative flair that provides the three male leads their palette, from which they all paint in a distinctive manner. Terence Stamp is the true center, as the seasoned and still searching Bernadette (don't call him Ralph!). Stamp exudes the tired but unbreakable spirit of his character. Hugo Weaving, as Tick, represents a more closeted version of the lifestyle, as a man still battling his identity. Weaving's now famous face brings an abundance of personality to his drag persona. Sex symbol Guy Pearce (Adam/Felicia) provides much needed levity, as the groups loud and proud representative. As they battle their way across the desolate Australian outback, they find its the social norms that are most unforgiving. Enter Bob (Bill Hunter) as their oasis, and a pivotal character in what could have been a one-note script. His openness, like those of the aborigines they happen upon, reminds both the 'ladies' and the viewer that this story is about more than three queens on a road trip. Our worlds grow when we accept the differences in all of us. I wish I could say that the execution is as bold as the subject matter. But the direction meanders a bit, and the editing is far from seamless. Like their dilapidated bus the narrative teeters, coming dangerously close to movie of the week territory. But with refreshing substance, fun performances, and bizarre asides (genital ping-pong tossing anyone?), they bring it all home.
Reviewed 6.16.19 An unabashed and titillating script by Alfonso Cuaron and his brother, which was nominated for best original screenplay, provides a shameless peak at adolescent male sexuality. But it's a head fake, as they adeptly address mortality, the power of past relationships, and our desire to live out our fantasies even if they are deceiving us.
Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal, in an early breakout role) and Tenoch (Diego Luna, already a star back home) are horny young men that are completely preoccupied with sex, and partying their way to it. Their infantilism can indeed be grating at times, but often hilarious too. Enter Luisa (Maribel Verdu), who is married to Tenoch's cousin, and at a pivotal moment in her 28-year old life. Verdu is absolutely spot on, as a woman who married the wrong man, and is left wondering what could have been. Her beauty, and the stimulating subject matter, may have led a less talented actor to come off as a one-dimensional sex goddess. But Verdu imbues her character with emotional depth, hard-earned maturity and a wisdom beyond her years, which doesn't become completely apparent till the memorable reveal in the final scene.
To the puritan eye, it'll be viewed as blasphemous. They're loss. Those less staid will revel in it's sexual freedom and honesty. Team Cuaron pulls of their own menage-a-trois with a deeply human script, shot in a gritty documentary style, and performed in a refreshingly improvised manner. It continually morphs from funny to sexy to dramatic, never once seeming unnatural. No wonder that Cuaron was then offered the third installment of the Harry Potter series, with Oscar gold in his future. Garcia-Bernal was launched to international stardom, while Verdu has received the most Goya nominations of any actor in history.
All of this on an art-house budget. It's on every list of the best Mexican movies ever made. And it's an all-time classic road movie. For the free-spirited, it's a road to self-discovery.