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The Three Musketeers

"Come D'Artagnan, we're saving the King!"
If memory serves, I'd written this off as a "Prince of Thieves" cash-in at the time (even as a teen, it seemed obvious). But it's an unfair comparison and "The Three Musketeers" is entirely its own thing. This is a spirited, well-mounted adventure with evident chemistry between the lead foursome. Not to mention Tim Curry's undeniable screen presence and Michael Kamen's expert scoring. It's a good story with enough weight but still a sense of fun throughout; and you can primarily thank Oliver Platt for this, because he's clearly having fun. Plus, he's able to hold his own against the bigger names in the cast.

Add in the clanging of rapiers and some wonderfully un-Disney sexuality, Older Me finds this movie a pleasure to watch.

Best in Show

Liked it the first time, loved it the second
Christopher Guest is a comedic treasure. Not only does he know just how to "mockument" the truly mundane (in this case, the show-dogs and their weirdo owners) but his characters are always so run-of-the-mill yet bizarre; they're either out of touch or wacky Midwesterner; people you can't help but laugh at. With Best In Show, it feels like he's playing that to the hilt and I think it's my favorite movie of his as a result

This is an ensemble cast in the best sense, a group of people perfectly at home with the material -- clumsy, ordinary and awkward -- yet they utter some of the most ridiculous things. I don't think I could stand to be around any of these people, but they kept me in stitches the entire time. The only person I can really single out is Fred Willard, and it's because (I have no doubt) he was let loose as the competition's sportscaster and improv'd the whole thing. The guy doesn't let up!

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Satisfying epilogue
A thoughtful, meticulous epilogue we didn't think we needed, El Camino fills in what happened after the credits rolled on Breaking Bad; sure, Jesse Pinkman gets away and maybe there's hope, but he still has to get out of Albuquerque alive. What follows is a harrowing story that calls back to Breaking Bad plot threads and manages to actually give this character's story a resolution. Does Walter White show up? Absolutely, and it doesn't feel cheap or tacked-on.

Jesse Pinkman is a deeply flawed character but his story still needed resolution after the events of the series. This ably does the job and is a worthwhile endeavor all around.


"Who died and made you Einstein? "
One thing I did not expect with Tremors - its premise implying a certain cheap amusement - is unbridled *enthusiasm*. Here you have a throwback monster movie populated with well-defined characters and a script full of setup and payoff, apparently made by people who are enjoying their work. If it were easy to pull off a dumb movie that goes about its entertainment with thought and purpose, everybody would be doing it. And yet, here we have cowboys and gun nuts saving the town from subterranean demon worms. And it's a blast.

A huge part of the reason is its main characters. I love Valentine and Earl; two dissatisfied handymen stuck in jerkwater, USA; they're unlikely heroes but take their flesh-eating predicament somewhat in stride. It's because Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward have an easy chemistry, always solving disagreements with rock-paper-scissors (a comedic gesturing that always had me laughing). I can't imagine living with these guys would be easy, but I kinda want them around in times of crisis.

I can't recommend this movie highly enough, it's beautifully paced, simple and above all: a lot of fun!

Shaun of the Dead

Slackers to the rescue
In the face of an apocalypse, we all wanna be Mad Max . . . But most of us would be like Shaun, the lovable loser who's thrust into a zombie hellscape. An average employee, lousy roommate and even worse boyfriend, he's the last you'd expect to face off against a flesh-hungry mob. It's why Simon Pegg is perfect for this role; the character's pathetic but somehow lovable.

This is how Edgar Wright subverts the zombie movie, by couching it in a relationship crisis. These are characters that are thrust into an unfathomable situation and go about this nightmare just as they do their usual mundane existence. It's played for (highly effective) laughs, no doubt, but also relatable; and the result is a skilled blending of comedy and horror. This is a wildly entertaining movie; irreverent, playful and hilarious.


A tough nut to crack
It's not every day that a movie leaves me feeling conflicted. Normally, a rating will swing favorable or unfavorable and that's that; clear cut. But Brazil? I think I enjoy discussing the movie rather than watching it. And it's not as simple as saying it's too long, or it was a great idea just clumsily executed.

There are wonderful moments, scenes, and set pieces within this film and it will not fail to leave an impression. Much of what happens in this horrible future is far too absurd, just so comically awful and I love the sense of humor. I love that Gilliam's Orwellian nightmare is thanks to the pencil-pushers; misery through bureaucracy, paperwork über alles!

The look of this particular dystopia is both Blade Runner and that 1984 Apple commercial. This is a towering achievement in set design that cannot be ignored, and you could easily get lost in the background details. I think we can all agree with the visuals and overall aesthetic. That's not the problem.

It's the characters. Now don't get me wrong, part of why I love the first act is because of the supporting players. Bob Hoskins and Robert De Niro especially. But eventually we move past those people and the film focuses on the core love story: Jonathan Pryce's dogged pursuit of his dream woman Kim Greist. Pryce is perfect when he's interacting with his insane surroundings, but it's in his quest that the movie really sags. Again, it's not as simple as saying it's boring but the second and third acts pale in comparison to the film's earlier moments. As much as I wanted our protagonist to succeed and find happiness, that journey felt more grind than search. Once the final plot twist was reached, I felt like I'd completed something rather than enjoyed it. And this is a feeling I honestly did not expect.

Many years back, I read Jack Matthews' book on the making of this movie; itself more interesting to me than the actual film. That sounds callous, I know, but the time spent talking about Brazil I'd more engaging than the actual watch. It has a wacky setting, exceptional set design, but characterization isn't there.

For a comedy, I was tasked more than I was entertained. Deep down, I know I'll revisit this in the future (that's just me), but I also know I'll need to be in the right mindset for it.


They focused on the coke instead of the car
I came away from "Driven" with an appreciation for the production design and the effort put into it by the cast. High society and their sun-soaked mansions and party lifestyles. It's convincing. But these characters could've been anybody, that's the problem.

In order to dramatize the coke deal, you have to describe the man and the folly that led to it. But as often as the name DeLorean is uttered in this film, there's little seen of the DMC-12. It's almost literally an afterthought and gives no reason for this guy to go to the lengths he did to try to keep his dream alive. C'mon, some driving shots, showroom reveal, *something*.

I kept thinking this is Boogie Nights without the spark. There just something lifeless about it. That kinda stings; I wanted to like this.

LA 92

Real as it gets
LA 92 is the closest I'll ever get to being glued to the TV as the L. A. riots occurred in real time. It's that good.

Contained herein is a fascinating collection of archive footage; the local news and citizen on-the-ground material is utterly captivating. I wasn't old enough to absorb the full scope of the riots back then, so I'll happily admit that a great deal of what happened was news to me as this film unfolded; and what this documentary does (masterfully) is chart the course of how things got to this point. All of this didn't happen because of Rodney King; it was a series of murders, unrest and misdeeds that forced this community to its breaking point. From the behavior of the police to the utter failure of the court system, this was inevitable.

What's really hard to stomach isn't the violence, the cruelty, or even the community's self-destruction; it's that this is a pattern (an argument that the filmmakers lay out all too well). What happened in Watts happened in South Central, and it happened *again* after George Floyd's murder. We are doomed to repeat this, and I can't imagine a situation more infuriating.

Rambo: Last Blood

Last gasp? Sadly, it looks that way
Things have gone seriously wrong. Here we have a Liam Neeson revenge movie that's been reskinned for the Rambo franchise - to its detriment.

On its own, there's enough cruelty, sadism and violence to keep the blood pumping . . . But this guy could've been anybody. There's no connective tissue between this film and its predecessors, and it's certainly not the John Rambo of old. He goes about his business just as workmanlike as you'd expect, the bad guys pay dearly, but it's all so mechanical. This is a horrible note to end on if this is the last film in the series and an utterly hollow 90 minutes.

A Fish Called Wanda

These are the worst people and I love 'em
Kevin Kline steals this movie. I have to get that out and I'll get back to it in a sec.

A comedic caper full of shaky alliances, double-crosses and petty squabbling, A Fish Called Wanda features an ensemble cast, all seasoned players at home with this material and every last one of them bringing the effort. You find yourself rooting for some (Cleese, in particular), even as they toe the amoral waters in this quest for riches. It's a well-written heist with solid talent and great humor.

And then there's Kline, the Nietzsche-spouting psychopath whose disbelief and confusion make for honestly one of the funniest characters I've ever known. He's abhorrent and absolutely delightful.

I love this movie.

True Lies

A high-end action-comedy that delivers
True Lies made a big impact on me as a teen, and it still stands today; somehow managing to succeed as both a domestic comedy and giant action spectacle. What I found odd about this movie is that it's bookended by an incredible first and third act, while the middle shouldn't work nearly as well as it does on paper. Yet that midsection is eloped immensely by a surprising infusion of comic relief - primarily by Bill Paxton and (even more effectively) Tom Arnold. I can't tell you how taken I was with Arnold's comedic performance here. He's got excellent timing and wicked one-liners, but also the cucked cynicism to really nail the part.

The humor is icing on the James Cameron cake: high production values, impressive effects and thrilling action. The stunts here are nuts!

Office Space

"We don't have a lot of time on this Earth. We weren't meant to spend it this way!"
Instantly relatable for anyone who's ever toiled in a cubicle with a thirst for rebellion. Office Space is Mike Judge's scathing rebuke of the tyrannical corporate culture, conveniently delivered via late-'90s workplace comedy. Herein is a fine collection of first-rate character actors given incredible dialogue to work with and a sense of humor that suits this setting to a T. All of these middle-managers are equally loathsome, yet I can't tell you how many times I've quoted them in real life.

This is worker-bee wish fulfillment that's second to none, a temporary salve for those desk-jockey blues; an ageless revenge fantasy. It's easily my favorite of Judge's films, quotable beyond belief, and silly in all the best ways.

I love this movie.

Free Guy

Easygoing and surprisingly deep
Full disclosure, I walked into Free Guy with guarded apprehension. It's GTA online, "buy more Disney!" generic gamer culture - all of which I've had my share.

But it's a Ryan Reynolds movie, and that means an inherent affability; I ain't immune. Plus, there's the anti-corporate greed aspect of the story - I had no chance. Most of the jokes landed, the world is visually inviting and I easily enjoyed myself.

I also have to give it credit for a novel (read: hilarious) cameo. I won't spoil it but it's a great one.

National Geographic Video: Secrets of the Titanic

Even when unsalvageable, she never fails to fascinate
I went through a brief Titanic phase as a teen and it was largely due to this special. Here, the grand oceanliner is portrayed as a monument to human achievement, and then the film promptly plunges you into the deep to survey what remains of her today (in '86 at least). The sight of the ruins almost make this kind of a ghost story, by virtue of the robotic camera footage and Martin Sheen's server narration detail of the ship's final moments before sinking. This is a fascinating documentary and an excellent starting point in anyone's Titanic research.

Toy Soldiers

Astin, Wheaton, et al bring the effort
At the outset, what promised to be a mere Die Hard clone (the '90s were lousy with them), Toy Soldiers is a solid thriller in its own right. Marketed to the teen crowd, it has a good cast, genuine suspense and a reassuring father figure (Louis Gossett Jr., in this case) in this boy's school setting. I can honestly say I didn't know how these kids would get out of this (sadly, not all of them) and I was engaged throughout.

Much better than advertised.


Now that you mention it, I am entertained
Here's an odd case of a somewhat forgotten blockbuster (Best Picture winner, no less). I remember seeing Gladiator in the theater; it was huge. And then . . . Poof. No one talked about it.

I guess that's why I wasn't expecting much from it today, but that's a clear underestimation. I was enthralled by the battle scenes and absorbed by this man's tragic story. To that end, Russell Crowe is an excellent choice for this noble-to-a-fault general; he's charismatic, wounded and I honestly believed he had it out for Joaquin Phoenix for real. That revenge thirst is nothing to sneeze at.

I was interrupted at one point, and actually kinda pissed that I'd have to wait to finish it. That's how you know the movie's a winner.

Muppets Haunted Mansion

A Gonzo story? I'm listening ...
Muppets Haunted Mansion: my wife's favorite IP and Disneyland ride blended together; she was happy as a clam throughout. And to an extent, I enjoyed this vicariously through her. I liked it; it's a decent holiday special, good message, it's got plenty of feels.

But I couldn't shake the feeling that this is all that Disney plans to do with the Muppets: advertise other Disney stuff. That vertical integration has already leeched onto The Simpsons (cross-breeding it with Star Wars and Marvel) and that's toxic for these characters.

It's not lost on me that I should be happy we're getting new Muppet content at all, but at what cost? There's a GEICO commercial that features Animal, and it's not bad; and this property absolutely needs more pop culture visibility. But it feels dirty if they're just pimping the Mouse's wares.

I hope I'm wrong.

Le pacte des loups

Crazy like a fox-... i mean wolf
Oh man, there's a lot going on here. A detective story about a monster rampaging the French countryside, a mash of competing genres (romance, horror, martial arts, political) . . . And Monica Bellucci thrown in for good measure. Makes you wonder how they sold this project to investors (how much cocaine it took to grease those wheels?). And yet, it all comes together somehow. Despite his lack of dialogue , Mark Dacascos was the enigmatic allure for me, and I'll admit I was disappointed when his part of the story came to an end. The fight scenes are engaging, the locations really help this setting come to life, and the story is just crazy enough to work. Bottom line, it's a trip, and well worth the time.

Bubble Boy

Silly beyond belief. And yet . . .
Bubble Boy has all the makings of a disposable comedy, something you'd expect to see on cable and maybe (what the hell) give it a shot. And that's how it gets ya. The film has an outsized heart, the story of an immuno-compromised kid that defies his station in life and goes on a quest for the girl of his dreams. Along the way, we're met with some of the funniest supporting characters the early aughts had to offer. I was ready to dismiss this movie at first glance but I'm relieved I didn't. It's a blast.

The Fly

Like a Marvel origin story gone horribly, horribly wrong
A slow burn horror movie, extremely well-written and disarming in how it presents itself.

Two people in relaxed conversation at a party, a relationship blooms and then a scientific discovery. There's a warmth here before things take a serious (and painful turn).

Brilliantly staged as a tragic love affair, The Fly is wholly grotesque and utterly heartbreaking; the script is taut and economical and the performances from Goldblum and Davis help center the sci-fi aspects of the story. No matter how things get for Goldblum, however badly he's diseased and disintegrating (here's where the makeup and effects take center stage), it all comes down to a couple's shared trauma. And it turns out this is an excellent foundation for a horror movie.

The Crow

There will be blood
I never had a goth phase growing up and I can't stand The Cure, but god help me, I love a good revenge flick. To that end, The Crow is as pure as they come; an attractive couple with a bright future, brutalized and murdered by a street gang; a kid with an absent mother; a good cop in a rotten system.

All of these characters exist in what is quite possibly the worst city there could be; an oppressively dark cesspool, somehow more dreary than Seven, more rainy than Blade Runner, cloaked in death. Just thinking about this depiction of Detroit is depressing, but it's what makes The Crow so well-realized, gives its antihero definition.

This is a movie I didn't want to like but can't help it. Brandon Lee personifies the roles, his life tragically mirroring that of the title character, all of this weaving into the film's tapestry. This isn't a movie, it's a cultural artifact, morose and impactful in its own right.


Well, I'm dazzled
It's not every day you hear me applauding a musical, but Chicago is the rare exception. The songs are great, the dance numbers are entertaining and every member of this cast is ideal - up to the task and at-home with the big Hollywood spectacle. The trivia goes that Catherin Zeta-Jones wanted a short hairdo so people would believe that that's really her pulling off those moves, and I respect the hell outta that. The footwork is crazy, and in those outfits? Please. I can't think of a weak link in this chain of performers. I loved the setting, I loved the story, I just plain enjoyed the show.

The Mitchells vs the Machines

Colorful, chaotic and endearing
A robot uprising of the humorous kind, The Mitchells vs the Machines came at me from behind and got its hooks in. A Netflix animated flick I had no interest in (my 11 year-old felt differently) and ended up fully in its embrace. The father-daughter storyline is handled with care even azs the Mitchell clan is hunted by robots and giant Furbys (you read that right). The animation's vivid and the characters well-drawn (no pun intended) while the sentiment is heartfelt. Lord and Miller are becoming household names they've been killing it.

Edward Scissorhands

Darkness and pastels; a bittersweet love story
In between Batman movies, Tim Burton offered up this unassuming fairy tale, and it's entirely in his wheelhouse. Edward Scissorhands brings the old monster movie to the cookie-cutter subdivision, a place that's ripe for satire. I absolutely love Alan Arkin and Dianne Wiest in this, they don't bat an eye at this knives-wielding misfit as everyone else in town gathers up the pitchforks at the first sign of trouble. Johnny Depp is a believably overgrown child while Winona Ryder (to her credit) sells the romance. This is a fable with a gothic heart; funny, moving and thoroughly entertaining.

Kindergarten Cop

For this cop, patience is a virtue, and he's running out
If Twins was a suggestion that Schwarzenegger can do comedy, then Kindergarten Cop is explicit proof. He goes from perp-busting to completely out of his depth in a classroom full of kids . . . And it feels like a natural move; nothing forced about it. Credit here to Ivan Reitman who knows what he's doing, but also to Arnold's chemistry with the tiny terrors; it is charming as hell. The surprise here is Pamela Reed, who holds her own as the staryu's unlikely partner, and has some of the script's best lines.

This is a heartfelt comedy with appeal for young and old alike; an expert use of a movie star's towering stature.

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