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Reviews

Two and a Half Men: Why We Gave Up Women
(2012)
Episode 22, Season 9

Why We Gave Up Two And A Half Men
Walden decides to move in with Zoey, which makes Alan suffer a heart attack. He meets the ghost of Charlie who suggests that he makes some serious changes in his life.

This is the third of the season 9 episodes focusing on Charlie's absence, and easily the worst of the bunch. For starters, the first few minutes focus on Walden's family drama which I couldn't care less about. Then since Alan has suffered an injury he talks with a nasal voice the whole time, which gets very annoying. It limits Jon Cryer's acting, who usually does well with even the crummiest material. I cannot stress enough by the way how terrible his character is here. He's turned into such a caricature that even when he's suffering a heart attack he's trying to pick up a 100 dollar bill on the floor. Sure it's a little amusing, but not funny enough to excuse just how far he has fallen.

At the hospital we see Alan lying in a bed listening to everyone talking about him. Evelyn going "I already lost the good son" got a chuckle out of me. Then we hear a voice, who turns out to be Charlie. Except it's not the Charlie we remember, he's ended up in Kathy Bates' body. Okay, I respect Kathy Bates as an actor and she's been brilliant in other roles. But her performance is simply a cheap imitation of someone who embodied the character to a tee. There's a reason they call some roles irreplaceable, and that's because they truly are. I also don't like that he ended up in hell. Why is that necessary? It's already sad he's gone, this is only adding salt to the wound.

Charlie telling him to stand on his two feet and stop sponging off others had potential as an idea, but is not followed through on very well. We see him move into a cheap hotel room, trying to make the best of it. He realizes soon this is gonna be a very unpleasant experience, so Charlie tells him that she was only fúcking with him and wanted nothing more than making him move out of the house. Once again kind of doing him a disservice since he did want Alan to become more independent. Yes he did become increasingly insistent on him moving out, but that's only because Alan started overstaying his welcome.

Of course this leads to him crawling back to Walden. But instead of being honest and saying it didn't work out, he *fakes* a heart attack this time to garner false sympathy. This is taking sponginess to a level that isn't lighthearted or clever, it's actually irritatingly despicable.

I haven't mentioned Walden much. I never have much to say about him, he's the most boring character on the show. Ashton's performance doesn't help either since he seems to have lost his funnybone when joining the series. Depending on the episode he'll either play it too goofy, or he'll look stiff like he just walked into the wrong room. This is a case of the latter instance.

This is the first time I've gotten a glimpse of Zoey, and can already say I don't care much for her. Another character who's dull as dishwater, and Sophie Winkleman should change her name to Wrinkleman with that weird offputting voice she's forcing out. Please stop sounding like a posh high society lady at a cocktail party, for God's sake.

I guess now I can say I've seen this infamous anti-gem, but it sure as hell wasn't worth it.

Two and a Half Men: Thank You for the Intercourse
(2011)
Episode 8, Season 9

Even if you hate the Kutcher years, I wouldn't sit this one out.
After Walden sings some breakfast jingles in the kitchen, Alan starts to realize how much he really misses Charlie. He first reacts by getting sentimental, but then takes it a step further by completely transforming into his late brother.

Everybody knows the show doesn't work without Charlie. The chemistry is just off and the replacement they went with couldn't have possibly been less interesting. I was still curious about this episode however since I wondered if they'd be able to pay more respect to the character than the premiere did.

And you know what? This actually isn't too bad for the Kutcher era. It absolutely still has flaws, but for once I didn't cringe and feel like turning off the television. Jon Cryer portrays Alan's grief with believability and heart. His chemistry with Charlie was the most defining aspect of the show, so it's very important that they get it right. You feel so bad for him when he has his piano taken away from him by the decorators, and afterwards sits alone in the dark depressed over how things have changed. His conversation with Jake is hit-and-miss in terms of jokes, and considered how much Charlie cared for him I expected Jake to sympathize with his father more. Listing off the advice his uncle told him got a chuckle out of me though. Of course they all have to do with sex.

Where the story really kicks in though is when Alan becomes jealous of Walden's luck with women and decides to act like Charlie. He becomes so dedicated to this play he forgets that he's Alan entirely and starts to worry the people around him. The dialogue also imitates very well how Charlie talked, and once again my praise goes to Cryer for how well he captures his spirit. It really goes to show how the show would've been even more doomed if he left at the same time. The highlight is when he talks with Jake and his tutor Megan, reappearing after Springtime On A Stick. This is also the only point Alan shows himself again as he gives them only a dollar for a night out.

I would've liked some more shenanigans from Alan as Charlie since when it ends I was kinda surprised it was over already. Still, the exclamation of "Winning!" is an amusing and satisfying final gag.

Berta has a couple solid lines too.

With that being said, the flaws you would expect are still there. Some of the jokes are kinda annoying and drawn out, like Walden singing Charlie's jingles (Let's face it, his voice is nowhere near as good). And Walden in general remains a boring and overly self-righteous character. He calls himself a good person, yet without Alan's permission he donates Charlie old piano to an orphanage? No matter how much you try to justify it as a decent act, it's incredibly disrespectful. You haven't even *met* the guy, and you are trying to dictate how someone is allowed to remember his brother. Shame on you, Walden.

And although Jake still had his moments, it's noticeable how much they dumbed him down. He was already not the smartest kid anymore by the end of Charlie's run, but now he's practically braindead. Still, Angus T. Jones does the best with what he's got and this is not his worst appearance by any means.

Maybe not a classic, but far better than most from season 9-12.

The Bubble
(2022)

Everybody wants out of the bubble. Me included.
Despite the limitations of a global pandemic, ambitious director Darren Eigen wants to make a new sequel to the Cliffbeasts franchise, something to take people's minds of their troubles. Actors from all walks of life join the project for their own personal reasons, Carol for instance desperately needing a career revival after the flop Jerusalem Rising. But once the production kicks off they start to realize they've made a huge mistake.

It's hard to know where to start with this film. It's a disaster on every single level. I praised Judd Apatow's previous outing The King Of Staten Island for not only its humor, but containing real heart and multifaceted characters.

The Bubble is the total opposite. Almost every single character is either too one-note to catch your interest or unlikable to the point where you don't care about their journeys. In fact, it doesn't even seem to have an arc for most of them.

Dieter hears that he's a terrible actor, but it's never expanded upon beyond that rant. He's supposedly looking for love, but most of the time he's just on drugs or behaving like a sex addict.

Dustin constantly complains about the script, which is simply treated like a running gag. He also has a dipshít son we don't care about and a wife who's more bipolar than a polar bear.

Sean is the only one who genuinely enjoys working on the movie, yet for no reason whatsoever he runs away from the project just everybody else at the end.

And don't get me started on the horribly cringy Tik Tok star Krystal Kris. Why is she there to begin with? Nobody is more than a plot device or one-note stereotype.

The plot is an absolute mess. Every actor is kept hostage on the set for reasons that at best come off flimsy, and it keeps going off in every random direction with no rhyme or reason. You never feel like you're watching a story, it's just a bunch of random stuff that happens, none of it entertaining or compelling in any way. Even the scenes of the fictional Cliffbeasts 6 feel like Saturday Night Live sketches left on the cutting room floor.

But the worst, the absolute worst part of all is the humor. It is genuinely hard to believe this is coming from the same guy who gave us the scene of Steve Carrell waxing his chest, "Know how I know you're gay?" and Jay Baruchel's hilarious traumatized reaction of witnessing a birth. COVID must have made Judd completely forget how to be funny, since nearly every single joke in here reeks. I can remember one single part that was legitimately funny, and we already saw it in the trailer.

Other than that, we get lazy jokes about the virus, people Tik Tok dancing left and right, drup trips that are actually boring and people screaming as loud as they possibly can. This is the pits.

The acting is a mixed bag, though maybe not all of it is their fault given the awful material they had to work with. Even those who've been good in other projects are mostly mediocre or even downright bad.

Leslie Mann gives a performance that mistakes being obnoxious and yelly as being funny. Karen Gillan has little else to do but complain about how bad the working conditions are, which makes her one-note. I also couldn't care less about her boring fling with the pretentious superfan Zaki.

And I won't fault anyone for loving their daughter, but Iris Apatow makes me cringe every second she's onscreen. She feels like a newcomer making her first awkward baby steps, except she's already had lots of prior experience. The fight scene between her and Galen Hopper near the end was utterly embarrassing.

Keegan-Michael Key and David Duchovny seem to enjoy themselves, but even they can't lift this up to watchable levels. One of the few chuckles I got was simply because of how the line was delivered, not the line itself. This is a huge lowpoint for both involved, and I sincerely hope their talents get utilized better in the future.

Even the music sucks! Every part of the soundtrack is too over-the-top and largely consists of bloated pop songs that you'd shoot at the radio if you heard them come on. Plus what the hell is up with all the Tik Tok sequences? They give such a gross sense of cheapness, especially when the aspect ratio gets cropped to make it look like a legitimate Tik Tok video. Social media doesn't automatically equal funny, you have to put some actual thought into incorporating it or else you make a total ass of yourself.

And lastly, despite the thin plot and lack of tension or stakes, this thing still runs at over 2 hours. This movie is tiring after 30 minutes, so imagine having continue sitting through it after that point. The pain is so bad I'm just waiting for Leatherface to burst into my living room and put me out of my misery.

Don't waste your time on this phoned-in trash, not even for free.

Mass
(2021)

A time for healing or prolonged pain?
Sometimes when tragedy strikes we don't know how to react. Is the appropriate reaction anger? Sadness? Hopelessness? Or a mix of all three? We are shown two sets of parents, the first pair (Jay & Gail) belonging to the son who got shot and the other (Linda & Richard) to the son who killed him. Both are obviously trembling with pain and traumatic feelings from the event, but because they are on the opposite side of the debate can't seem to find a common ground.

The conversation starts off in a civil manner, if only on the surface. They are trying to create a good atmosphere so when they finally start talking about the subject they gathered there for it won't be so hostile. But it's clear very early on that there's too much hurt and explosiveness hidden underneath for things to proceed neutrally.

Linda considers showing pictures of her son (The shooter), but changes her mind and shows a jar full of paper frogs he made instead. This hesitation demonstrates that she knows she is walking on thin ice already, but by pulling up the jar is still being direct with not wanting to hide the love that remains for Hayden. This love is eventually what catapults into the conversation becoming especially heated.

Is it fair to expect some form of revenge for your child getting killed? Should the parents of the killer blame themselves for not raising him correctly or neglecting the signs, even when they couldn't have possibly seen the whole picture? The way these questions play out is fascinating as often as it is gutwrenching. Jay starts off as the openminded one while Gail is more sceptical.

But the tables turn when Linda and Richard dismiss any claims of being aware of Hayden's psychopathic tendencies, and even disregard the accusation that he was a psychopath at all. Richard takes particular issue to Jay's angry questioning, and repeatedly states over and over that Hayden seemed to be doing fine and that he was simply lost and confused. This is interesting since before Jay starts losing his patience Richard mournfully said it was his fault his son became a murderer in the first place. It shows how suddenly your mind can switch over to the line of defense when you feel your integrity getting scrutinized.

Linda takes a very different approach. She's probably the only one of the four who never gets legitimately angry, and tries as best as she can to understand the other point of view. She even beats herself up not seeing the signs through Hayden's behavior earlier. How can you piece together an image of someone you held so dear when they did something so unimaginably horrible?

Jay continues to get angrier and angrier, to where he seems only seconds away from throwing a punch, until he breaks down in tears remembering the details of Evan's death. I love how the audio starts fading out as his pain becomes more unbearable to handle, which is how most of us can feel when our minds are stuck in a black void with seemingly no light in sight.

From there on though the atmosphere changes yet again. Having exhausted themselves from yelling and back-and-forth blaming, they are all just too tired to get upset anymore. They start to realize they are not really mad at each other, they are just mad at the pain and suffering that seems to go around in a neverending cycle. Gail is worried that her son's death wasn't even meaningful since the violence that lead to it still goes on.

Linda inquires Gail to share a fond memory of her son Evan. Jay fails to see the point of it, but she agrees. As she starts telling the story we see her face brighten up for just a moment. Reminiscing about Evan's life instead of his death brings a nostalgic glimmer to her eye, almost like she gets transported back in time. But when we think about the past we often have an arm stuck in the present, so this cherished memory manages to become painful too. Gail's voice cracking as she recalls the tale had me on the verge of tears. The mixture of happiness and anguish feels all too real.

Being thankful for her son being in her life at all instead of feeling angry about his death is what gives Gail the strength to forgive the other couple. There's nothing that can bring her son back, so what could vengeance possibly mean to her? Her compassionateness makes Jay relent as well, and understands that maybe he judged them too brashly.

Oddly enough I think Richard is the one who is gonna have the hardest time letting this go. At the end he's friendly just like the other three, but feels very eager to leave as soon as possible. Maybe he's not quite sure yet if he's processed all that has taken place and needs more time to think.

Linda on the other hand sticks around for longer and comes back to tell a story about Hayden. Unlike Gail's, this one isn't nostalgic or happy at all, but rather a recollection of the most suspicious behavior she saw him display. The regretful look on her face when she says she wishes Hayden would have hit her after telling her to leave him alone almost broke me. She might never fully come to terms with who her son really is, and is trying to apologize for not paying more attention to the way he was changing.

Religion also plays a role. When Jay intently starts listening to a church choir singing upstairs, he gets filled with the spirit of forgiveness. It gives a momentary peace of mind in his heart, like everything is going to be okay in spite of what has happened. When Gail starts holding his hand I also feel the bond between them strengthening. They are no longer bound by the loss of their son, but instead by the love that made them connect with each other in the first place. A beautiful way to end the movie.

L'événement
(2021)

I'm pregnant? Sacre bleu!
Anne is a top student in her class and has a promising life ahead of her... until she gets pregnant after a one-night stand at a party.

Taking place in the 60's, it depicts the story of a girl who's forced to make a very tough decision in a time where you didn't have the freedom to choose. Audrey Diwan does a great job of depicting the social stigma and incredible secrecy Anne is forced to suffer through, just because she doesn't want to let a baby dictate her life. You feel very sad for her situation and root for her to find a way out before it's too late, hopefully without any serious repercussions. The disillusionment she receives from her doctor and friends is upsetting to watch, not to mention she can't even tell her mom (Whose strict parenting is hinted at when she slaps Anne for making a "smartass" comment).

The more weeks that pass by, the more stressed you get. There is a sense of relief when she finally gets to the backalley abortion clinic after raising the money, even though you clench your teeth watching the painful procedure take place.

But as it turns out, it doesn't work and she has to do it all over again. Ouch. Poor Anne. This time her pains afterwards are much worse, to the point where she collapses after the fetus drops out. At least this time someone close by is willing to help out instead of judging her.

As mentioned before in dialogue, she will go to prison if she gets written in for having had an abortion instead of miscarriage. Thankfully the doctor writes down the latter instead.

At the end when she is finally able to resume focus on her studies and potentially ace her exams, the air in your lungs returns at last.

A gripping experience that leaves you with a lot to think about.

Diff'rent Strokes: Speak No Evil
(1985)
Episode 8, Season 8

Interesting social commentary
Arnold and his friends hear about a nationalist hate group called The League Of Social Responsibility. Infuriated by its existence they decide to disrupt an upcoming meeting and throw fruit at them.

At this point in the series they had moved away from tackling racial issues, the last episode to do so being The Executives in season 5. Therefore it was kinda nice to finally get a story like that again near the end.

Both perspectives are handled with great nuance and care. Arnold is quick to anger and wants to attack his opponents, which Drummond warns him against since they still have a right to speak.

But at the same time his way isn't perfect either. Is Arnold expected to keep quiet when there are people who wants to make his life a living pain just because he's black? It's a fascinating conflict, even if the comedy as a result is dialed down. It's actually pretty sad to see Arnold so bitter at Arthur, even going so far as to say he's not his "real" father.

When Sam talks the matter out with him though it's clear it was just something he said in a burst of anger, and ensures that despite them disagreeing he still loves his dad. I've got to admit, even though I'm not a fan of Sam as a character I admire how Arnold has gradually matured as a big brother. At the beginning he was fairly hostile and dismissive of him, but by now a strong bond has grown between them. It's hard not to smile at him rubbing Sam's hair the same way Willis does to him.

After the tension has settled Arnold has made the decision not to throw fruit at The League, despite how much he really wants to. But Drummond learned a lesson too. Maggie (as well as Arnold) convinced him that sitting around doing nothing isn't better, so he decides to protest in his own way by creating picket signs. It's a heartwarming moment when he arrives just as Arnold is about to leave in resignation, and shows them bonding in an effort to stop hate together.

SpongeBob SquarePants: Who R Zoo?/Kwarantined Krab
(2020)
Episode 22, Season 12

Zooned out during the first story, second one was better.
Who R Zoo?

SpongeBob gets kicked out of the zoo after getting too close to the animals. Instead of pouting however, he decides to build a zoo on his own - made out of bubbles.

This is a fairly mediocre segment. While the plot sounds fun on paper, the problems that seem to permeate the newer seasons are present here: the music is way too loud and frequent, the facial expressions are needlessly exaggerated and often used in place of actual jokes.

And when I mean that the music overpowers the lines, I'm not kidding. There were times where a character said something I completely missed due to not being able to hear a word. I thought the point of crisper audio was to make the dialogue clearer.

SpongeBob is also overexcited to an annoying degree, where it seems like he's on caffeine pills all the time.

Still, a few chuckles manage to come through all the noise. I liked Plankton being terrified of the zoo animals with Karen dismissively calling them cute only to be attacked and start panicking herself. Patrick hiding inside of SpongeBob's body was one of the few visual gags that worked.

Other than that, there's not much that stands out.

Kwarantined Krab:

A health inspector comes to The Krusty Krab to see if everything is in order. When he arrives he has a shocking announcement to make: One of the people currently residing there are sick! Everyone are put under quarantine. Which one of them could be infected?

Oh yes, folks. I'm covering the infamous banned episode that Nickelodeon doesn't want you to see. The only reason I'm even able to talk about it right now is because someone was actually able to find an English version of it. With all that controversy aside, is it worth watching in the end?

Well, it's certainly a better attempt at an infection panic story than Fungus Among Us. What makes it work so well is that instead of focusing on how gross the disease is, the humor mostly stems from the interplay and reactions from the characters. Mr. Krabs shows to have a screw loose right away, where he tells a story of how he once locked a sick crewmember on his ship in the freezer. When SpongeBob asks if he was ever let out, Krabs vaguely answers that "someone" probably did. Amusingly dark joke.

Plankton, who was hiding in one of the cups, doesn't care about the quarantine and heads out of the resturant. Only to immediately get blasted with a flamethrower. Mr. Lawrence nails the joke with his usually hilarious screaming.

Mr. Krabs is so intent on reusing his old trick that he asks the other five left at the place (SpongeBob, Patrick, Pearl, Squidward and Mrs. Puff) if any of them would be willing to volunteer for a trip to the freezer. Jesus, Krabs. The ever so noble SpongeBob relents after seeing everyone fighting with each other. The mood becomes melodramatic and he asks them to remember him as full of life. Mr. Krabs interrupting by shutting the door made me chuckle. Mrs. Puff says she can't look, but asks if it still can be described how it's like to be there. That's very cold. No pun intended.

We get a funny reveal where it turns out that the freezer is a giant fun winter wonderland where SpongeBob can ski and do all sorts of fun things.

Patrick is tempted to join the sponge after seeing that he's having ice cream. He comes back, but Krabs is horrified at how infected he looks. He forcefully throws him back into the freezer. Shortly after, Pearl calls out Squidward for scratching his arm and says he's the sick one. Following her daddy's paranoid footsteps, it seems. The best part though has to be how Mrs. Puff gets thrown in just for yawning. Noboby can make a single bodily movement without suspicion at this point.

Finally, Pearl gives Krabs money back from the mall since she didn't spend all of it. If you thought he was crazy before, right now he's so frantic about the Clam Flu that he berates her for accepting change covered with germs. Well, maybe on second thought he's being sensible. There are things in the world more important than money.

Inside the freezer, Mrs. Puff makes Pearl come to the realization that it's Mr. Krabs who has the Clam Flu. Squidward demands they take action, but SpongeBob wants to stay. Until the ol' squid reminds him he'll never be able to make Krabby Patties again.

Once the five of them band together to catch Mr. Krabs we get an energtic chase sequence. Unlike WRZ?, the quick pacing and hectic music fits since the story's been naturally building up to a crazy finale.

The character animation of Mr. Krabs as SpongeBob tries to retrieve him from under the grill is pretty funny. His worn demeanor looks even more demented when his body's scrunched.

After a while, Mr Krabs crashes into a window and a garbage can falls down on Mrs. Puff. Due to her inflatable nature, she managed to spread garbage across the entire resturant. The health inspector comes by and is about to tell them that he actually held the chart upside down and no one there is sick at all. But when he sees everyone got infected by *other* diseases instead he not only quarantines the resturant, but instructs his workers to drop it somewhere safer. It falls down on The Chum Bucket. I feel like they could've ended on a stronger joke than that. We've already seen Plankton's eatery destroyed as a final punchline before.

There are a few issues such as the unfunny (though I guess somewhat necessary) grossout moments, and the pace while much calmer could nevertheless stand to be toned down a little. But overall, I enjoyed Kwarantined Krab. The coincidences to the ongoing pandemic will unnerve some people, but if you can look past that this is still nothing more than a wackily entertaining SpongeBob toon. While the apprehension towards airing it on TV is unsurprising, it was unfair to exclude it from the latest season box set. Hopefully these final words will be outdated in the future with the hopes that this episode no longer gets treated the way Mr. Krabs treats his crew: Like the plague.

Solitary Man
(2009)

Playing solitaire with yourself all the time
Ben Kalmen had everything. He had a successful job as a car salesman, a perfect wife, lots of friends and a daughter who loves him. But after he's caught by the police after tricking customers and told by the doctor to have developing heart problems his life starts to steadily go downhill. And now, 6 years later, he's turned into a womanizing sleazebag who acts like a wise, noble old man, but will stab anyone in the back if he gets an opportunity to.

This movie is very hard to watch. Not in the terms of graphic content, but rather like a slideshow of regretful moments you would you could erase. The problem is that Kalmen doesn't get that his way of living is self-destructive. He has no job, he no longer has a wife, and his heart is getting worse by the minute, so what the hell right? Go your own way, do as you please. But as he keeps on losing more and more connections, even ruining his relationship with his new girlfriend, he pretty much stands alone. As a solitary man. Or did that already happen much longer ago?

Michael Douglas gives one of his most earnest performances as someone who has so many faults and has such an unlikeable personality you should hate him. But I don't. Instead, I feel pity for him. That he's so far deep into his hole that every time he manages to dig himself up, more earth falls down on him every time he makes decisons which range from bad to worse.

The only one who doesn't give up on him even when he's at his lowest is his oldtime friend Jimmy Merino, played with sublety by Danny DeVito. The speech he gives about how he has managed to stay so faithful to his wife is beautiful. There's so much truth in what he said.

To get back on Kalmen, even when he's at his most cunning however, there's something about him that draws you in. Doesn't he have a weird amount of charm for being such an up-and-front douche bag? It makes you realize how he got away with it for so long. Why people labeled him as the most honest car dealer, because how can a smile like that do any wrong? And how bad can he be if he gives you useful life advice?

But it's just a fascade. He covers his own insecurities and flaws up by trying to glide through life like a careless, free-thinking playboy. No matter how bad things get, anything is better than confronting those issues. The question is just, how long can he do it before it finally destroys him?

If you hate watching character dramas about people with larger-than-life egos, I still recommend giving this one a chance. It's so much more than just watching a movie about someone behaving like a highclass jerk. It's about all of us. How any of us can feel like the solitary man, by yourself in an area of vacuum.

Michael Douglas is our day and age's most relatable big star.

Soul Man
(1986)

The most misjudged movie of all time?
A white man becomes black to get in at a Harvard law school.

This interesting hypothetical idea was made into a movie which goes by the name of Soul Man. When it came out, people hated it. And I mean hated it. It was criticized for its premise and many people got upset over the movie relying on black stereotypes for jokes. But is it really as offensive as it's reputed?

Well, no.

Personally, I don't have a problem with potentionally offensive humor. One of my favorite comedies of all time is Borat after all. If executed by the right people, it can be hilarious and maybe even thoughtprovoking.

When we are first introduced into Mark Watson, he's your regular ambitious teenager. He's gotten in at Harvard - the university to end all universities! But after his father gets some ill-adviced suggestions from his phychiatrist, he decides not to pay for his son's studies. So now Mark can't afford to go to Harvard! Failing to scramble in money, he only sees one option left: you see, since the only foundation which still accepts foundations are only for black students... he has to become black himself! With the help of some bronzing pills.

The thing I like the most is how the character of Mark progresses throughout the movie. He starts off thinking pretending to be black is an easy game. We get some fairly amusing bits where he tries to talk or act in a "jive" manner in order to fit in, only to embarrass himself instead. Or in one scene, two other students show their racist bias by assuming he's great at basketball just because he's black, only for him to cause the team to lose the game instead. I think him failing to score a single hit drives home the point perfectly. Another good example is the "sympathizer" Whitney, who claims to know which stereotypes are true and which are not. As well as pretentiously talking about how she's erasing barriers and how there is no black and white, only "grey", and that she understands all the struggles they go through. We even hilariously see her act the same around a Native American after Mark decides to cut ties with her.

Probably my favorite scene in the movie however is when the truth about Mark's skin color is close to coming out, and he has to juggle talking with his parents (who knows he's white, but since he can't show he now looks black he has to wear a skimask) and talking with Sarah, who still thinks he's black. It's a comedy setup as old as time, but still handled in a zanily funny manner. Gordon in the middle trying to keep the situation under control makes it even better.

The movie very nicely balances between the humorous and the serious elements, and even has a bit of romance in there too. It doesn't pretend to be much more than what it is, a silly "what if" comedy. But at times, it's very meaningful as well. Not all of Mark's struggles with being black are played for comedy, and as the movie goes on and he has to suffer more and more prejudice, we start to feel his guilt. It also makes the cute blossoming romance between him and Sarah sadder. He's living his life as a lie. Sooner or later the elephant in the room has to be addressed. It never feels too heavy though, it wouldn't be a comedy in that case. The drama kicks in wherever it's neccessary.

I can't close out without mentioning the top-notch acting. C. Thomas Howell is an incredibly likeable lead, and makes you root for, but also appropriately cringe at a lot of his character's actions. Arye Gross as his friend is great as well, and makes an otherwise stock friend character compelling. James Earl Jones as the Harvard professor is nothing short of priceless. Jones excellently knows how to use his voice for humor as much as intimidation. I'm pretty much a newcomer to Rae Dawn Chong (who I've seen in Jeff, Who Lives At Home, but it was a long time since I saw that), who gives possibly the second best performance next to Earl Jones. She's so charming you almost want to melt, but also a chick with sass, the best possible combination. Everything about Sarah as well is likeable, and the chemistry between her and Howell in the film makes the romance above convincing.

The soundtrack is done in classic 80's style, with some nice montage music and a main song track which will never go out of your hea- I'm a sooooooooul maaaaaaaan!

*cough* Sorry about that.

The movie ends with a message delivered so sincerely you wouldn't expect it to come from a movie which has been a subject to so much controversy. Even after all the struggles Mark went through pretending to be black, including getting stopped by the police and thrown in jail for no reason, he knows it's still not the same as actually being black. Because if it ever got too hard for him, he could always just switch back. But not everyone has that option. Is it too late to say the audience completely misunderstood the picture's intentions?

To take a break from the praise, it's still not a perfect 10/10 by any means. At times the movie seems to drag a bit, scenes maybe going on a little too long and with a multitude of pauses where you just get to look at Mark having an expression which says "I'm confused right now." It's perfectly logical and fits, but just a tad bit overdone. There's also not a lot of humor before the main plot starts, since it's too focused on setting the premise up. And finally, it could have used some more Leslie Nielsen. Sure he doesn't play a laugh-riot personality this time, but he was funny for the little time he had. He seemed to be a bit wasted.

Brother or bro, I don't care who. See it if you've got an open mind.

Hangman
(2017)

Disappointing low in Pacino's career
Let me note this before starting my review: just because a thriller has a gimmick doesn't have to mean it's bad. If it's executed in a way that's thrilling or at least entertaining, it can work. Seven has the 7 deadly sins, Saw has the bathroom, Phone Booth has the phone booth, Buried has a man buried alive inside a chest... Another thing that made me give this movie a chance: Al Pacino is my all-time favorite actor. I would watch anything just as long as he's in it. He manages to lift up a movie even if it isn't all that special, or bad even. Brittany Snow, adorable in Hairspray. Until now, that was the only movie I had seen her in, but recognized then that she had potential. Karl Urban was decent in Ghost Ship.

But this movie falls apart almost as quickly as it starts. First we have a car sequence, poorly shoot and indulgent. The cinematography, looks godawful. Editing is bad. I didn't give up there however, some movies get off on the wrong foot at first. Trust me, if I hadn't gotten past the first 30 minutes of Maps To The Stars, I wouldn't have come to realize what a genius satire on the Hollywood nightmare it was. With this movie however, your lack of patience is easily justified.

First off, the acting. The acting is terrible. There's really no getting around it. Karl Urban is more wooden than a teen who attempts planking. I swear to God, he has the EXACT SAME facial expression throughout the entire movie. There's one flashback where we see a little anguish in his face, but other than that it never changes. There's subtle acting, and then there's not even trying. He must have realized it's not a good script, since he doesn't convince me that he's feeling whatever he's feeling. The movie makes it a point to remind us that his wife was murdered, and yet it doesn't seem to affect him all that much, he just looks slightly frustrated and bored.

Brittany Snow is also very wooden. She tries to show a little more emotion than Karl Urban, but her line delivery is adequate at best. Her character also is the equivalent of crammed in. "Hey, you know what we need? A journalist character!" "Cool! Does she report on anything of substance?" "Report?" Sarah Shahi as Captain Lisa Watson, for the few scenes she appears in, is awful. Every time she gave out orders, it was so eyeroll-worthy I would rather watch my short films from when I was little. At least I tried to act.

I won't spoil who plays the Hangman, in case you somehow want to see this movie, but the guy who plays him once he reveals himself is the worst actor in the entire movie. Anyone who reminds me of the villain in Feardotcom is an instant no-no, and that is certainly the case here. I'll get more to that later. But by far, the biggest letdown in the entire movie?

Al Pacino himself. I've said before that Al Pacino can never do wrong in my eyes. Sure, he seemed a little confused in 88 Minutes, but he was still kinda fun to watch at least, and in the scene where he recalls a trauma he is great. When it comes to the Dunkaccino scene in Jack And Jill, I'm sorry, but that will always be hilarious to me. He made what could have been so awful weirdly funny.

So it pains me to say this is the first instance of "bad" acting from Pacino. Now, I say "bad" since it's not upsettingly bad, it won't make your heart tear apart. But it saddens me how lost he is in this role. He mumbles almost every single line, and doesn't look to believe the material he's given. Even though Pacino is tired in Insomnia, there is a nuance to his tired look there. You can tell he hasn't really lived life for years, there's years of rotten experience and pain behind those eyes. It's one of his greatest roles. He mentions in this movie as well how he barely sleeps, but it doesn't feel nearly as important. There's no real character purpose for him to be tired, other than the obvious "he's old". Is he tired because he's depressed? Because he's working a lot on the case? Because he feels like sleeping is a waste of time? We never know. So this is by far Pacino's weakest performance to date, and yet he's still the best actor in the entire movie. That kinda tells you how low the bar is set.

And now, the story. A serial killer constructs a game where he hangs his victims while filling out another letter on the hangman game. It sounds fairly interesting, but the execution is painfully dull. The implemention of the hangman game is not well-used. Sure, the victims (mostly) get hung and letters slowly are filled in, but otherwise this is nothing more than a standard cop thriller. We see the detectives doing incredibly simplistic police work and running around from place to place to check out who's been hung next. The dumbest part is when they save a woman from getting hanged, and we don't even see them asking her any questions about what she saw, if she knows how the killer looks like, the last thing she remembered. You're supposed to be experienced detectives and you don't go through basic police procedure?

The twist ending where it turns out Pacino (Oh, his character is named Archer by the way) mistreated the Hangman killer during a childhood trauma where his father hung himself, is so cliché and obvious it's actually kind of laughable. Not just a trauma, but the most obvious one you could ever think of! Originality is lowest on the list. The scene where Archer dies is meant to be emotional, but it's ruined by bad execution, and we then get Karl Urban attempting to look like a badass shooting the killer dead making a constipated face. And by the end? Karl Urban's character gets a note where it's implied the game is not over. OOOOOOOOOH! Fûck this movie. It's not quite as crappy as The Son Of No One, but it's pretty close.

And lastly...

Ruiney.

Karl Urban plays a character who literally calls himself Detective Ruiney.

Boy.

More American Graffiti
(1979)

Watchable, but doesn't capture the spirit of the original
When I saw American Graffiti, I felt literally transported back to the 50's. It had wonderful characters and dialogue yes, but it's most of all the feel of it that really made it special. A kind of nostalgic vibe you only get once in a while. It might not have been his first, but it's this movie which put George Lucas on the map. I dare even say it's better than the movie which really made him famous (Star Wars). How could it ever possibly be beaten by the sequel?

Well, it couldn't. But I did hope it would give me some of the same warmth and charm of the original.

It did in some parts, and in some it did not.

This is probably one of the most disappointing sequels I've seen to a comedy, especially considering what a classic the first Graffiti is. It's almost infuriating at points how much it did wrong, and it doesn't make me feel like it was really needed.

But let's go over the upsides at first.

1. The acting. The actors who returned were really good, and some of the newcomers weren't bad. Anna Bjorn as Eva was by far the best new one in the cast. She brought her own unique presence to the movie, even though you have no idea what she's saying most of the movie (which is kind of the point). And I liked her scenes with Paul Le Mat. Cindy Williams, Charles Martin Smith and Ron Howard were the best performers.

2. Terry The Toad. Terry nearly saves this movie. Always down on his luck, he's easy to root for, and even though his storyline is just as depressing as almost all of the other ones in it, he brings some humor with his various attempts to escape and taunting the general.

3. It does have its funny parts. Most of the humourous moments are not laugh-out-funny, if any of them are, but even through all the seriousness they still managed to interject some light comedic glimpses. Toad is mostly the one who made me chuckle, but Cindy Williams still shows some of her comedic talent as well.

And now, for the problems.

1. The story and the tone. Basically, it goes like this. Terry and a lot of other soldiers are fighting in Vietnam, while other people are at home protesting the war, but getting beaten down when they try. Among these people is Laurie's brother Andy. There's also John Milner as a racing car driver, who is starting to slip with his driving. He also gets to hang out with Eva, a foreign exchange student. He can't understand a god-damn word she's saying but starts to like her. Debbie and Lance are living the wild hippie life. Now, I have nothing against a racing car movie if I actually want to watch a racing car movie, but watching car racing by itself a lot of the runtime is not exciting. I care more about the character development, and they spend way too much time showing off the racing.

The overall Vietnam storyline could have worked if they didn't forget the fun tone of the original. But there's not much fun to be had here, it's just depressing. Not even just the war, we see Steve and Laurie fight a lot more this time too, and not as much of them being romantic towards each other. The first movie was realistic, but it wasn't a complete downer. This one however is way too serious. It also tries way too hard to be a gritty anti-war statement. All the protests and the brutal war scenes feel excessively used, and it's almost like watching a war drama instead of you know, a comedy. That's why I didn't laugh or smile that much, it's very difficult to make a comedy about the Vietnam war and yet also realistic at the same time. Which they didn't succeed with.

2. The directing. This is what really brings the movie down. The style in the first movie was nice and simple. Clear wide shots, close-ups when neccessary, and good-looking but not overly flashy. Here we have the director pulling out so many tricks out of the hat it becomes a headache to watch. Seriously, SPLIT SCREEN? It would have been one thing if we followed several characters at the same time (which still would be pointless), but we have it for one character only. It's annoying as hell, and only makes it harder to follow the already shaky camera work.

3. The soundtrack. Just like the directing, it makes the movie harder to follow. The way the music is incorporated into scenes make them tedious to watch, and feels like it's there to show off some great hits rather than fit into the contexts of the scenes. I get that it's the 60's, but putting in 60's songs just because it's the 60's is not enough, you gotta use them in a way that flows smoothly, gives the audience an almost newfound appreciation for them.

4. The use of Debbie. This really annoyed me. Instead of the wonderful chemistry with her and Toad, since Toad is gone on war they come up with a different solution: they give her the blandest and most uncharismatic boyfriend you can think of. There was nothing about their relationship that was believable, and Lance was nothing but a bland, boring jerk. John Lansing was passable enough, but his character was completely uninteresting and weighed it down. They even make Debbie herself less captivating, since they don't play off each other well.

5. The pacing. God, this movie was slooooooooow. Whenever it didn't focus on Toad, this movie moved at a snail's pace. It felt like at least 2 and a half hours, especially when we cut to Debbie and Lance's storyline, or worse, Rainbow and her friends. I thought it was cool Mackenzie Phillips took on two roles this time, playing both her and Carol. But man, their characters were so forgettable I forgot about pretty much all of them as soon as the movie was over.

More American Graffifi is worth watching if you're a really huge fan of Ron Howard and Cindy Williams, and they don't do a too bad of a job developing Toad and John Milner's characters. And even though I mentioned there wasn't as much romantic energy between them, I still cared about Laurie and Steve enough I was glad when they finally reconciled. But in general, it's not a lot to hang in the Christmas tree. Bob Falfa, Carlos and Carol are there if you're wondering, but they are pretty much cameos.

Out of Africa
(1985)

Savannah be with you
Not wanting to be left alone, Karen decides to marry Bror, but only for financial purposes. (This is not a secret, she straightup tells him right away) She establishes a plantation in Africa, but to her dismay her husband decides they should grow coffee. She eventually meets the happy-go-lucky hunter Denys, who she develops a complicated relationship with...

At first I couldn't get past Meryl Streep's accent. It was so offputting at first, to where I wondered "What the hell is she doing?". But once I got past that she turned out to deliver a very good and believable performance. I'm glad this movie avoided the cliché of making the husband a jerk to the point where it's no wonder she has an affair. He's not a very romantic type, but he's not cold. He's busy, but he doesn't do it out of spite. He's neglectful, but he doesn't treat her like dirt. Unfortunate circumstances just lead her to spending a lot of time at home with him away at war.

The settings have a personality of their own, giving a nice look at regular life in an African country, which shows people with their own little quirks. I'm glad they didn't exaggerate it as much as possible making it out to be the most difficult place to live on earth, because it's so clichéd at this point. This is not a movie about poverty. In fact, Karen even proves to provide some medical help to those who need it. Rather, it's about trying to make the best of what you've got, and someone who will make you happy and do anything to be with you.

Unfortunately for Karen, she doesn't fully get her wish in either of her relationships. Her husband often goes off to war and rarely stays at home. She starts to develop some feelings for him, but they slowly die out as he doesn't help out with the farm and she contracts syphilis from him. Denys becomes the man she really starts to love, and they always tell funny or tragic stories to each other. But he's an adventurer. He always wants to be somewhere else. So even though she might sound selfish when she tries to prevent him from living out his own dreams, it's understandable. She always gets abandoned.

When Denys then dies in a plane crash, she gives up on the farm and returns to Denmark. You're left wondering where destiny will take her, and if she ever will love again or rather stand alone in fear of being abandoned.

Streep and Robert Redford have electric chemistry with each other. Their shared joy and passion is realistic and handled with just the right balance. They only have one serious argument in the entire film, and it's not emphasized by over-the-top yelling and arms flailing. They are rather just sad, frustrated over their own clashing ideals and contemplative. We see Redford moving his finger over the map in starts and stops, taking Karen's words in but not budging. The scene asks an important question about what an act of love really means. Is it really love to stop doing what you love in order to make your lover happy? Does love mean never putting away too much time to yourself?

Throughout the movie Streep narrates the events, which can prove a killer or a winner with some. While at times a bit sappy, Streep's narration proves to work very well. The closer where she reads up a letter provide the perfect bittersweet finish to a classic tale.

A little bit Oscar bait at times, but a relaxing naturally paced romantic drama.

Amityville 3-D
(1983)

A house so scary it will jump out of the screen
The movie starts off with two people trying to contact their dead son through a seancé. The room starts moving and they not only hear their son's voice, but also see a ghost! But suddenly, it's revealed to be a bluff. They are in fact long-time debunkers who always manage to uncover so-called "supernatural" happenings and expose them as fake. But as soon as they start spending a little too much time in the Amityville house, weird stuff starts going on...

We are three movies in and have reached the dreaded 3-D gimmick. But unlike some other examples, it's actually pretty good. Sure, the 3D shots look pretty goofy and is used bizzarrely at times (with a frisbie coming at the screen), but the story is intriguing and the scenes contain some good suspense. There are some really creepy scenes throughout. John and Melanie's daughter turning around with a blank stare and continuing up the stairs, the elevator starting to act up, and the house punishing Melanie even when she avoids making stupid horror mistakes. Which thank God never happened with her. Yes, there are some other characters who make the typical dumb mistakes you find yourself gritting your teeth at, but it's always good to have a lead as well who's not as stupid as the other ones. Candy Clark has proven herself to be a great talent. After her charming performance in American Graffiti (as well as disappointing performance in More American Graffiti, but that's more the fault of the script), she plays Melanie with such charisma and emotion that you want to see her in more dramatic roles. The look on her face when she's terrified is bone-chilling. You're right there with her.

After Melanie drops out, the second half revolves around John, his wife Nancy and their daughter Susan. It's not completely the direction I expected the movie to go (I thought they would have Melanie on the other end of the line helping out John), but it still works. Nancy is likeable too, and you feel scared for this family's lives.

The climax is where you get what you've been waiting for. The house going totally nuts and going out of its way to try and get everyone. While at the same you are also hoping everyone will be okay. It also features the most hilarious example of 3D, with an ominious swordfish almost stabbing John. The house gets ruined, and I mean DEMOLISHED. Completely. And who's gonna want to rebuild it? By this point it's pretty obvious this house won't be nicer to any residents no matter who they are. Since this franchise is far from over however, we know that not to be true.

Despite most of it being relatively welldone though, there are a few flaws with the movie. First of all, when I say Melanie drops out, I mean they completely forget her character once she has nothing important to do anymore. She sees a creepy photo, and then she's out of the movie. I hate when that happens. Why do so many movies establish an important character, and then randomly drop it?

The acting was mostly really good, but when it came to the teen characters it was pretty bad. Including Meg Ryan, although it was pretty funny to hear her talk about ghost sex. It seems like 80's movies have a habit of making teenagers as obnoxious as they possibly can, with the typical teasing and calling people cowards left and right. The glass spinning scene in particular makes everyone except Susan look like complete dicks. Maybe it's just because I hate peer pressure so much in real life, but scenes like that are so annoying to watch.

Amityville 3-D still shows some signs of life in the franchise, and the living house remains scary. It gets crapped on because it's not as classy as the first two parts, but if you like supernatural horror it's a good watch.

Gone with the Wind
(1939)

A classic not to be forgotten
Scarlett has been in love with Ashley for as long as she can remember. One day to her misfortune, she finds that he's about to get married with her mild-mannered cousin Melanie. But she isn't one to give up. Even after the wedding has happened and everything, she still continues to try and pursue him. Melanie knows that she's smitten with Ashley, but "smitten" isn't a strong enough word in this case. She's dead set he's the man of her dreams, no matter what he says. In the wake of it all, a Civil War is also close to erupting, and a mysterious gentleman (or so he says) pops up: Rhett Butler. Little does she know what kind of trouble she'll get into with him as well...

Where to start with Gone With The Wind? The Citizen Kane of romance dramas. Except even better. But every occasion I watch a movie with the length of three hours or more, I always need as much concentration as possible. Not even when I paused the movie did I check my phone for messages, who cares about those anyway? They could wait.

And what I got was one of the most unique love stories ever put to film. Especially during the time it was made. During the age of sentimental romance movies starting to blossom (until they exploded in the 40's), Victor Fleming gave us one of the darkest ones of the type ever put to film. True, there is love here, and I experienced several different emotions throughout the movie. But it's not the kind of love that makes you feel happy.

Vivien Leigh plays one of the most unlikeable characters you'll ever witness. When she isn't pursuing Ashley no matter how many times he rejects her, she comes up with ways to screw people over however she sees fit, either because she's in a bad mood or is looking to get something out of it. The most devious thing she does is cheat Frank out of possibly a life-long happy marriage and forces him into a miserable one which puts his life short instead. Even though she did it so her family could raise money to survive, it was a horrible and rotten thing to do. She's completely blind to how much her cousin Melanie loves her, and sees her as an enemy instead due to her committment to Ashley. But it's an amazing character. You absolutely love to hate her, and as nasty and cunning as she gets, you can't stop watching her. Leigh gives a perfect performance, managing to get on your nerves, but never makes it feel unbelievable in any way.

So when Rhett arrives, you think they're practically perfect for each other. Both selfish and with no other goals in mind than their own. But because Rhett doesn't let himself be taken for a fool, he's the one who manages to upset her the most. Even from the scene where they first meet, she hates him already as soon as he gets snappy. Scarlett can't stand that someone calls her out for all her flaws, even when it's affectionate. That's right, for all the teasing Rhett does truly love her. But his bag of tricks with buttery words and kisses do nothing as long as she's in love with Ashley. Clark Gable plays his role with such intensity that he pops out of the screen. He's in practice just as bad as Scarlett, yet there's something about him that's less grating, and rather strangely magnetic. With his classic mustache and smile, you're almost fooled into thinking he really is a proper gentleman. But when he does get angry and fed up, he's scary. The night scene where he sets somber at the table is full of eerie dramatic tension, especially when he hold his hands against Scarlett's ears, attempting to take control of her. By that point he's completely given up. He's through with being a gentleman. Enough is enough. So when we get to the very awaited goodbye at the end, it feels earned. You entirely understand how sick he is of Scarlett's countless mind games. She's flip-flopped from adoring him to looking back at Ashley, and when she blames him for the death of their daughter, that's just too much to take. Anyone would leave at that point.

And yet... you don't wish Scarlett a life of misery. Near the end when she's really, really been through more than anyone is able to endure, and when she's down on her last legs, it's hard not to wish it wouldn't end this way. You get the rug pulled away from under you, making you feel sympathy for Scarlett just when it's all too late.

We still get a glimmer of hope. Tara. The land of Tara. Will she finally get a new fresh start and become a better person? Or is this land the only thing she'll hold onto? The audience is left figuring that out for themselves...

Now when I've gushed about the brilliantly innovative story, there is still so much left to talk about. This movie lends itself for endless analysis.

The supporting cast, much as they have to live up to the towering Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, they all range from admirable to great. It's not only Leigh and Gable who give amazing performances, that honor also goes to Olivia de Havilland. She plays someone with such a relentlessly good heart that you're almost amazed how much awfulness from Scarlett and even Ashley to some extent (it turns out he was cheating on her) she is able to forgive. But some people just naturally are like that. Even after someone has committed such a large amount of mistakes, they try to see the good in the person. Havilland's natural performance gives a lot of humanity that's needed to a someone so settled down as she is. Similarly to Anastasia: The Mystery Of Anna, we get some heartbreaking scenes which show her possibly standing on her last legs, soft-spokenly uttering as much as she still can.

Trevor Howard as Ashley has been criticized, seeing as he sounds miserable all the time. But I thought it fit the melancholy of his character, who has to go through quite a lot of tough shìt in war.

To get into the territory of controversy, I can't deny it: I love Hattie McDaniel as Mammy. Even though she's based on a stereotype (How hard could it have been to give her a name?), McDaniel gives her character a warm, lighthearted charm that makes it easy to sympathize with her. She cares about people a lot, and is filled with tears when she has to deliver some particularly bad news. Hattie was truly a one-of-a-kind, and I believe that even if you dislike the way her character was written (which is fine with me), McDaniel deserves all the respect she can get.

Big Sam doesn't show up a lot, but Everett Brown plays him with a similar amount of likability.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Prissy. Now, as for the performance itself, I actually found it kinda cute. Butterfly McQueen's squeaky voice is a joy to behold, and she's a natural comic talent. But man, the way her character was treated throughout the movie... ouch. It was hard to watch. You see Scarlett treating the rest of the black characters just fine, but when Prissy even make the slighest fùck-up, she bullies her and even threatens whipping! I felt incredibly sorry for Prissy, and wish she had been given at least a little bit comfort from some other characters. Unlike most of the things in the movie, the cruelty directed at her character didn't seem to serve a lot of purpose for the story and got jarring to watch. Luckily that's the only real flaw in this fantastic movie.

I watched the restored version, so I got to hear all the music compositions before, inbetween and after. I love that all the long old movies have breaks like these. Not because I would be getting impatient, but it really gives you a sense of how big the movie is, and you get to really appreciate the score more as well. I know they were basically there so the audience could take a rest, maybe go to the bathroom... but it adds a lot. Nowadays you never see long movies do this anymore, and any movie closing in on 4 hours is very rare.

If you've never seen Gone With The Wind, I can guarantee you won't regret it if you do.

Total Recall
(1990)

Don't recall this movie
Total Recall is an Arnold classic. While most of his movies are fun to watch, this probably has the most impressive story out of them.

It's a good ol' remnant of the past kind of tale! Quaid has a charming and sex hungry wife, but a very routine job. He has a weird recurring dream about Mars and also keeps seeing ads on TV about Mars, so he gets tempted to go there. Of course, it's not the "real" Mars, but a very realistic reconstruction. Lori tells him not to go, but he ignores her and decides to go anyway. He also gets the opportunity to change his identity for fun, and he picks a secret agent on a deadly mission (Why on earth anyone would want to choose this on their vacation is beyond me), but something goes wrong. He starts speaking in prophetic terms, and the people behind the program erase his memories so he won't remember Rekall.

Now here's where it gets a bit tricky: After people start acting fishy towards him, including one of his co-workers, it turns out his wife is not his real wife, but intended as a permanent distraction so he would forget about who he used to be and what he did on Mars.

And that's where I'll stop summing up. This movie is full of imagination and beautiful exemplary visuals of a strange futuristic society where some people look like freaks due to suffering from a lack of oxygen. Which is thanks not only to the iconic sci-fi writer Philip Dick, but also Paul Verhoeven, who perfectly balances the scary and the absurd. And in some ways, the world is still the same as it always was: a big power holding a monopoly on all its citizens to the result of everyone else having it worse off, but the capital itself kicking back with no considerable worries and caring for nothing but themselves. Verhoeven portrays society as bleakly militarized, with unflinching realistic violence and red-lit but broken surroundings.

Even looking aside the politics, it's still a remarkably wellmade and entertaining film. Michael Ironside turns in another iconic performance as the no-nonsense villain Richter, whose crazy glare and commanding attitude is as effective as it always was. Arnold is ramped up to 100 percent, showcasing some of the most expressive faces he has done in his career. Sharon Stone first gives the vibes of a little-too-familiar kindhearted wife, only to later turn completely ice-cold once we found out she's not who we thought she were. The scene where Quaid starts to fight an unknown foe and it shows to be her I could predict due to the shadow shape, but nevertheless the revelation is expertly done. It's from here that Stone really starts to shine, and comes off as possibly the deadliest villain in the movie.

In terms of acting, there is not a single dull spot. Rachel Nicotin gives a memorable portrayal as Melina, the real wife of George Quaid. Mel Johnson Jr. Was very over-the-top in his role, but in a way that still works.

I think I'll stop at here. Movies regarded as high-quality by a lot of people is usually not my forte, as I feel like I'm repeating what a lot of others already have said. But if you haven't been convinced yet, go see it! Do it for Mars. Do it for Arnold.

Pink Floyd: The Wall
(1982)

Wall of pain
I'll try my best to sum up the plot of a movie which really doesn't follow any regular conventions. Basically, it's about the rock star Pink, who in later years has isolated himself so much from people he's continuously going insane, either sitting in a cathatonic state in front of the TV, or having violent outbursts. This is accompanied mostly through visuals, and almost exclusively dialogue and music taken from Pink Floyd's album The Wall.

I always like to watch a movie sometimes which challenges my senses. Which really takes you on a ride and never lets go. Having read only the one-line summary about the film, I didn't know what to expect. At first, I'll admit I was a little confused. Is it supposed to be like this the whole time? The dialogue was weirdly low at times, while the music was MUCH louder by comparison. I was starting to get a bit worried this would be one of those movies everyone else loves, but I don't get. My least favorite kind of disappointment.

And then... It suddenly clicked for me.

I don't know what it was, but I reached a certain point where I gained a much better understanding of what the film was trying to communicate, how the heavy reliance on lyrics for telling a story actually enhanced it instead of hindered it. It's not even just the lyrics which make it work so well, but the actual mechanics of at which moments a certain song is used as well. The dreary kind of music used in scenes where the police is mercilessly beating people down and even going so far as to rape some of them. And whenever you reach a shocking moment (that bear in mind, you're never prepared for), the music sounds panicky and invoke a sense of terror. I don't think I ever startled more than when a groupie enters Pink's room, and he sits there completely motionless, only blinking when he stares at the TV. Not even when she oddly enough sucks his fingers he gives any sort of reaction, outside of maybe a small hand gesture for her to leave him alone. He doesn't say a single word either. And then just SUDDENLY, HE STANDS UP! And starts screaming, throwing and turning over objects, trying to hurt her just for being there, and finally throws out his good ol' tube. Interestingly enough, his line when throwing out the TV set is the only line he had that was written specifically for the movie. And even though you're wondering what he means when he says it, it really emphasizes the craziness of the whole situation.

Fortunately, there are some explanations provided for why he has reached a mental state where he's trapped inside himself, and won't let anyone in. As a child, he was rejected and had a mother who didn't care about him, a school which nothing more than reprimanded him, a father who died in the war, and had to witness the destruction of all things good, tons of lives lost to a cause worth nothing. And the relentless school teacher? That's his step father. His life has been a nightmare all along, and we see him trying to connect with other people but never going anywhere. The TV which he mindlessly watches becomes his only comfort in life.

But one can't go without mentioning the beautiful animated sequences, which overflow with such creativity and unforgettable visuals. There is the iconic scene where two flowers carefully approach the other, with relatively calm music playing. And then, as they violently fùck each other the sound gets louder, and it's suddenly kinda scary to watch. I don't even know why it is, but something about it is so bizzarre you are taken aback. The album cover and poster for The Wall are represented as well.

The poster shows up as a screaming face emerging from the wall, and even though it's brief all three times, it's just as terrifying as you would imagine it. That poster still makes the list of one of the scariest posters I've seen next to Zazie. As for the album cover, it manifests itself in several forms. First as unbreakable, a wall which Pink tries to get through, but just won't relent no matter how much he tries, and then at the end when he finally breaks the wall, as a symbol of freedom. He's finally broken the evil circle, he will no longer stay isolated from everyone.

I have to applaud the bravery of Alan Parker for taking on this project. Nobody understood it at the time it came out, and sadly, Parker himself thinks he failed as well. Don't worry, Parker. We understand now what you were trying to do, and if you ask me, you succeeded.

Top Gun
(1986)

Let's ride into the danger zone
Pete Mitchell, a.k.a. Maverick is known as a Navy pilot who's not afraid to take risks. Mostly because he creates the risks himself. His controversial reputation should get him kicked out, but instead he gets accepted into Top Gun, an elite fighter school. But to get accepted turns out to mean more just being a joyriding daredevil...

Top Gun is without a doubt the most macho movie ever made. I could name all Arnold action movies on one arm, and none would even come close. You get everyone talking tough towards each other, sweaty half-naked bodies, lots of shower discussion sequences, everyone acting like their own ladies' man, and absolutely fearless attitudes. Save for Goose.

Of course, this means it's going to be very cheesy. I found myself laughing at points because of how hard everyone tried to be cool, and the music choices for the romantic scenes. Best of all though has to be Maverick pulling off his smile every time he get uncomfortably close hitting on Charlie. Oh, Charlie is a woman. Don't worry though, there are plenty of homoerotic undertones throughout anyway. I love the friendship between Maverick and Goose, they are the kind of friends who get silly with each other as often as they act endearingly sympathetic towards each other's struggles.

It was actually pretty sad when he died.

Which brings me to arguably the most interesting section, that being when Maverick starts to feel some guilt. He's not invisible anymore. And he realizes jet pilot flying is not a game. Cruise shows some of his refined acting skills when we see him unable to move on, his confidence dropping like a domb in Hiroshima. It makes him more sympathetic, since we know that anyone who goes through a tragic event can get to that point.

The best performance goes to Tom Skeritt, who is very likeable as the instructor Viper. He avoids being the cliché character who makes life even tougher for Maverick, instead serving as his mentor. When everyone else thinks he's nothing more than a dangerous nutcase, Viper believes in him.

Kelly McGillis does a good job as the love interest Charlie, and her character is also decent for the most part (I'll get to the latter later on), and while the scenes between her and Maverick do follow the regular conventions, you believe in the chemistry between them.

The music is welldone, with lots of memorable tunes playing (especially during the training sequences), really managing to get you pumped up. They do overuse Danger Zone a little, but it's still a great song.

Do I have anything bad to say about the film? I guess the first thing would be that at first I didn't really get into the characters. It felt like they were just showing off to each other or doing spit-takes at first, which made me feel like the writers were having a little too much fun trying to be clever. But after a while you start to like them, and Iceman goes from ice cold to well... medium-temperature water.

I thought the only weak part of the last act where Maverick feels guilty over himself is how Charlie reacts to it. It's like, wow! Ease up! The man has been through a lot of shìt! Maybe the best way to motivate someone who's been through a tragedy isn't to harshly call them a coward. I would've liked to see her offer an apology at the end. But thankfully, Viper comes with some very nice advice and understands how he feels.

I think that's all I have to say. It's unpretentiously fun, go check it out.

Regarding Henry
(1991)

Lost his memory, but gained something else
Henry Turner is not a very nice man. In fact, he has an infamous reputation as a scummy lawyer. Not only that, but he's generally loveless towards his wife and daughter as well, and shows no signs of caring about anyone but himself. After going to the store one evening, a robber holds him up. When the robber gets impatient with Henry, he shoots him; once in the chest, once in the head. But in a stroke of luck, Henry survives! Only he can't speak, and can't remember anything from his past life...

Mike Nichols makes another fine film. Something he gets very well is how to let the actors dominate the screen, that great performances speak for themselves. And Harrison Ford is nothing short of fantastic. He would be very entertaining playing a scumbag in a film throughout, as we get some nasty funny lines when his ego rises to his head. Especially in the scene where he reprimands his daughter instead of apologizing to her like patient wife Sarah Turner asked. But where I'm even more impressed is how he portrays the same person attempting to master the power of speech again and connect pieces of his previous life. The portrayal is dead-on realistic and very respectful, and really makes his newfound innocence and change of conscience shine through wonderfully, delivering both the funniest and the most heartfelt moments of the film. I did see it coming he would go into a porno theater, but his facial expressions and mixed confusion/curiosity makes it hysterical. Something this movie succeeds with is its positive energy. You just feel so warm inside seeing Henry reconnect with his family and having an overall pleasant and charming personality. The humor is simple, but very funny in a cute kind of way, like the scenes between Henry and his assistant, and him saying to his wife before sex "I don't know if I can do it like the guy does in that movie". Completely without any intention of impressing her, just genuine nervosity over how he will perform.

A movie like this can very easily be sad and a Debbie downer to sit through, but films like this one, 50/50 and Untouchables prove that doesn't have to be the case. I find a light and endearing movie like this portraying someone with a sickness or mobility problem much more true-to-life than an overdramatic piece of tear fluff like My Sister's Keeper. You really care about this family, and you love seeing them looking at life from the bright side, and turning Henry's memory loss into a good thing.

As expected, there does happen something unfortunate though, that being when Henry finds out his wife was cheating, and then that he cheated on her himself. But they don't extend it any longer than neccessary, and it's completely understandable considering what a jerk Henry was before he suffered memory loss. And best of all, it ends happily.

Everyone in the cast perform greatly. Annette Being is admirable as Sarah Turner, who just like Ford conveys the sweetness inside her character. Then we have Kamian Allen as Henry's daughter Linda, who is so adorable in the role that it's truly a shame she's never appeared in another movie. But of course, I can't conclude this review without mentioning Bill Nunn as Bradley. What a great presence. The way he talks and crack jokes reminds me of people I've had as assistants myself. They really do make the same kind of corny jokes and laugh and smile a lot. Besides being a funnyman, he also offers some great wisdom, showing he really cares for Henry as a friend and wants him to live a happy life together with the family.

Before this movie I didn't even realize what a range Harrison Ford has as an actor. We all know him as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, but here he really transforms into someone entirely different, who's down-to-earth and instantly very likeable. If he wasn't nominated for an award, he got snubbed.

About Schmidt
(2002)

A tender character study
Warren Schmidt has worked in the insurance industry for many years, and now it's time for his hard-earned reward: retirement. But what is a reward to some is a showstopper for others. What will he do now? How will he proceed in life? Warren gets even more to think about when a tragedy happens with his wife as well...

Jack Nicholson is one of those actors who's admired for his larger-than-life performances, but can also be surprisingly sensitive when he wants to be. In this movie, he deplays the most natural acting he's ever pulled off in his career. Everything we see and feel with this character feels completely real. He goes about his daily routines, he engages in smalltalk (keeping his own little grievances mostly to himself) and has a somber expression and drooping eyes which show he's not getting younger. It blurs the line between watching someone acting and just... watching someone. Warren is very softspoken, and keeps a lot inside. The only time he gets a chance to express himself fully is to Ndugu, his donor child. This provides an interesting choice of narrative, where we get to follow a spiritual journey expressed through his letters, and Jack's slow, methodic narration works quite well. He's shown as more much more likeable than some of his other characters too, where he seems to get annoyed by a lot of things, but also genuinely cares about people. He wouldn't be on his daughter's case about her new boyfriend if he didn't care about her. Even more so when his wife Helen passes away, he doesn't want her to grow into a life full of disappointment. Randall is the pretty-boy type he absolutely hates: making money in dishonest ways, acting so perfect and polite that it's almost like a joke, and as he finds out later on, has a family full of freaks. But no matter how much he hates him, Jeannie loves Randall, and won't do anything to let him interfere with their happiness. The movie smartly sometimes makes you side with Warren, other times doesn't. In a way I can understand Warren's problem, there's something about Randall that seems very fake, and that he's too full of himself to be a decent partner for his daughter. In another, Warren doesn't rule over her anymore. If she loves him that much, she has the right to stay happy that way.

Warren's soul searching trip with his van ranges very often between comic and deeply sad. When he arrives at his old childhood home only for it to be turned into a tire shop, you gotta smile at how he doesn't mind it in the least and just happily talks about his memories to the shopkeep. Or when he arrives at his old school and shares a motto with the other students that leaves them confused. But when he meets up with two other travelers, things turn dark. After he gets some time alone with John's wife Nicki, she starts to psychoanalyze him, and sees right through his happy fascade right away that he's been unhappy for a long time, and feel like he's accomplished nothing. Mistakenly taking them as inviting words, he kisses her. Obviously, she's shocked that a lonely old man kisses her out of nowhere and throws him out. Now, I'm not saying that he was right to kiss her, because that was literally the worst thing to do in that situation. But what kind of right does she have to psychoanalyze him like that when he was just having a good time, laughing and enjoying their company? For the first time in long, he seemed to legitimately enjoy being with people, and not having to worry about anything. And so we follow him as he briskly leaves to do his healing elsewhere. One of the most touching scenes in the film is when he looks up at the stars, forgiving Helen for cheating on him when he constantly rejected her, and also questioning if she stayed with him because she loved him, or did it because she didn't want to hurt him.

The last act involves him spending time with Randall's family, a band of misfits, but none of them more so than Roberta. Not only is she one of those talky types who will utter any kind of nonsense without second thought, but she's uncomfortably open about sex as well, much more than Warren is used to, going so far as to assume the reason Randall and Jeannie stick together so well is because of their lively sex life. Kathy Bates provides some needed comedic relief in her role, and despite the somewhat annoying nature of her character is fun to watch. Nothing is more memorable than when she sits down in the jacuzzi together with Warren, whose look on his face is that of Oh-God-what-the-hell-am-I-getting-myself-into, and gets up as soon her flirting goes too far. He reacts exactly what a person who wouldn't want to find him/herself in that situation would do, and it's priceless.

The final conclusion is the wedding, where you wonder if Warren will do something to stop it or not. Will he blindly accept his daughter's happiness or steadily refuse and protest in front of everyone?

He opens his speech rather negatively, re-iterating what he and his wife have said about their daughter's boyfriend, that he's up to no-good. But then he cops out and instead delivers a speech dripping with such intensity and heart that you'd be crazy not to believe it. But Jeannie knows her father, and that despite how convincing he came off, none of it was genuine. And Warren isn't happy that he didn't go through with it, and takes a miserable piss afterwards, in disbelief over what he just did.

But just when things look the bleakest and Warren's had nothing but disappointments, he gets a letter from a nurse taking care of Ndugu, who's made a drawing where they hold hands. You start to tear up along with Warren, who is crying over someone ever making such a sweet gesture for him. Just by telling a small child pieces of his life, he's found someone who gives it meaning. A reason for him to not give up, to enjoy what he's been given.

Rated X
(2000)

The Estevez brothers give you something X-tra
Jim Mitchell has a tough childhood. If he's not getting beaten by the principal in school, he's getting beat by his father at home. But through it all, his brother Artie always sticks to him. As he enters film school, he develops his passion for movies. But when presenting his documentary-type of short, his teacher objects to the gratuitous content. "There's nothing artistic about it, it's just smut". Instead of discouraging him however, it gives Jim an idea: making his own pornographical films! Artie is skeptical, but gets convinced to help out. And so begins the tale of the most famous porn directing duo in history...

Directed by and starring Emilio Estevez, along with Charlie Sheen. It's a fascinating story. It presents the industry pretty neutrally, which I thought was a wise move. It's not a morality tale, it doesn't pick any sides one way or the other. Mostly it's about the relationship between these two brothers, and how working so closely can bring two people closer just as much as it can tear them apart. Estevez' portrayal is sympathetic. He shows every side of his character with seamless conviction. He shows a man who had a dream. Not everyone's dream, but his dream. His frustration in having to put with his brother's antics is very authentic, and seeing as how he and Charlie in real life couldn't get along sometimes, it feels very personal. Charlie Sheen shows all the sides of his character flawlessly. As he spirals out of control more and more, we are concerned in the way of seeing a close friend throwing their personal well-being out the window. And he even gets scary sometimes, showing flashes of his performance in Under Pressure. Sheen shows a lot of range, where we think he has to be nuts, but also is hard not to feel a bit bad for. Artie could have a normal, well-working life headed out for him, but as soon as fame got to his head, he changed into a completely different person. And even Jim becomes a different person when he's so scared for his family's safety after getting several death threats that he takes a gun and shoots his brother multiple times. I'm told that this is not exactly how it happened. Even so, it stands out as a very powerful and heart-crushing scene. How could their bond have deteroriated this badly?

We also see Nicole De Boer with a very good turn-out as Artie's wife. She is one of the few really pure people, whose marriage with him goes so sour that she has to fear for her life.

Admittedly, the performances are what mainly make the movie. At times it's very slow-moving, especially in the middle. It doesn't grind to a complete halt, but creates a feeling of restlessness, like they didn't know what to fill the scenes out with. Once Jim and Artie are forced to contront their problems (both have a drug addiction, and Artie is emotionally unstable), it really picks the pace up again. And there's also use of slow motion, which is distracting when it's used so many times.

I have to wonder why this was only produced for Showtime. Right now it at best reaches obscure classic status when it deserves much wider recognition. It's not just a movie about how porn became popular. It's strangely enough, a story about family. Didn't expect me to say that with a title like Rated X, did you?

Lethal Weapon
(1987)

A superb action classic
Martin Riggs is an unstable man. He lost his wife a long time ago, and is always on the edge no matter who he encounters.

Roger Murtaugh is a family father who has been in the force for many years. He has a relatively tidy life, but feels a bit anguished over turning 50. When a woman jumps out of a window in what looks like a suicide but might be something else, Riggs and Murtaugh have to work with each other. To their dismay.

This is an iconic staple in the buddy cop genre. The chemistry between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover is said to have rarely been replicated as well, and it's easy to see why. Gibson is impressive as the unstable cop and approaches his character with both a darkly humorous and tragic quality that makes him so engaging to watch. The scene where he's so close to really pulling the trigger on himself is both intense and heartwrenching. He doesn't do it, but you can tell he thinks he might as well. Unsurprisingly, he's not the greatest choice trying to talk a suicidal person out of jumping off a building. They both land happily, but could very well have been fatal. Gibson teasing the guy and telling him to jump if he really wants to is disturbingly hilarious, and such is Murtaugh telling Riggs to kill himself if he really wants to die that badly. Murtaugh anger/fear over his unstable partner is very realistically portrayed, yet you can't help but smile when Glover yells in at the opponent, who is equally compelling as the down-to-earth cop who loves his wife and kids, but doesn't like feeling like a dinosaur.

There's not much mystery around who murdered Michael Hunsaker's daughter even if the movie does a good job hiding it, but the journey there is what grabs you. The two cops slowly learning to trust each other chasing down people who are connected to the murder is very fun watch, and even more so the scene where Murtaugh shows Riggs his home and family. I like how Riggs starts to grow on Murtaugh, but is immediately disturbed again when he talks about how killing has been a part of him since he was a child.

The last third is when the action takes a faster tempo, and Gary Busey gets a time to shine as Joshua, the man who had Hunsaker's daughter murdered. With his cold intimidating stare and playful delivery as he tries to keep control of the situation makes him a memorable villain. The final fight scene where he faces Riggs is gritty and intense, where you can feel the two of them trying to bite each other's ears off.

I predicted he would stand back up and getting killed for real after Riggie lets him go with the police to arrest him, but the fact that he was shot by *both* partners is what makes it so cool. In trying to overcome each other's differences, they became one and the same. It's pretty odd though how the other cops just stood there and let the fight play out not knowing who will win. Did they think it was so cool they don't care if it went one way or another?

The final part is Riggs coming to his now friend's home with a present getting ready to leave right away, but Murtaugh insisting he stays and endures his wife's bad cooking with him. It's apparently so bad they used the joke thrice.

As a fan of the genre, this is one of the best in its kind. The action, drama and comedy mix together perfectly and makes it a highly satisfying experience. You can never get too old for this shìt.

Stereo (Tile 3B of a CAEE Educational Mosaic)
(1969)

Cronenberg enters the stage
A couple of people at an experimental clinic are daily practicing their mindreading techniques on each other with a bizarre narrator describing all events.

Yep. That's pretty much the best way to sum up David Cronenberg's feature debut. One thing you'll notice at first it's that it's shot in black-and-white, the only one of his films where that's the case (probably so he could afford to make it). The second thing is that there's virtually no sound. You can actually hear a *little* bit of sound if you really turn the volume up, but it's not recommended lest you get the narrator's booming voice blasting at you.

As with most of Cronenberg's work, it's beautifully shot. The superb use of frog perspective, the pans showing the isolated, lonely hall filled with lonely people. The theme of warped psychology would occur in many of his later movies, and is present here as well. The test subjects turn into manic creatures in the name of science, even getting pills so they'll be able to have sex with anyone regardless of their original sexual preference. The story as you can see is erratic, but it nevertheless is intriguing.

The highlights are quite absolutely the people in the experiment going insane, demonstrating man's tendency of deprivating behavior, another Cronenbergian element. And at first, the odd-sounding narrator might be a source of minor amusement.

Despite having a few things going for it however, this is not a flawless movie. The biggest hurdle for many will be the narration, which is so bundled up in technical jargon that it becomes nearly completely impossible to understand at times. If that's supposed to be the joke, it's a little too inside and not quite funny enough. The problem with it as well is that you don't understand the greater purpose of the experiments the scientist (never onscreen) performs on these subjects. Since this is not your usual silent film, which often has music and an easy narrative flow (which this doesn't), you never really get to know the characters, even though you're always following them. You see them laughing and eating, but you have no idea who they really are besides one woman always acting jumpy and another always looking monotone (who gets to narrate a little as well). The change to different narrators is a nice touch, but they all are equally confusing.

I recommend it if you're curious how the master started and want to see the early stages of the themes he would later explore in more eleborate detail. It's interesting enough to stick out with throughout. If you are about to start checking in Cronenberg however, it might be best saved after you've watched some of his more famous work.

Stir Crazy
(1980)

You'd have to be stir crazy to give this a miss
Skip Donahue and Harry Monroe are two life-long friends whose lives aren't going the way they wanted. Skip isn't making a penny on playwriting, and Harry just got fired from his waiter job. But Skip gets what initially sounds like a very good idea: travel to Hollywood and start over! But just as they get a new job, they are framed for armed robbery when two criminals steal their bird costumes. They go to prison, but they are here and they are Bustin' Loos- whoops, wrong movie.

Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor has to be the most brilliant comedy pairing in cinema history. Their energetic yet very different acting styles mesh together fantastically, and makes this film as memorable as it is.

Already at the start when one of the cooks in the kitchen accidentally gives the guests Harry's hard grass, I am laughing already. His reaction both over how hard it was to obtain and what will happen if the guests get high is hysterical. Gene Wilder's first scene is similiarly uproarious when he keeps following an actress in hopes of casting her in one of his plays, where he's blissfully unaware of the provocative nature of his comments. Wilder showcases such a friendly innocence that he's as endearing as he is hilarious.

But I don't think any part got to me more than when the two of them are going to prison and have to act "tough" to survive. Their over-the-top mannerisms with Harry walking in a very exaggerated manner and Skip making ninja sound effects made me laugh so hard I snorted. That's an accomplishment generated from a truly brilliant comedian.

Skip and Harry's personality differences contrast in really funny ways where Skip is forced to take every beating with a smile on his face but suffers in agony whenever the deputy Ward Wilson is out of sight... while Harry doesn't even try to mask his angst and flips out at every turn.

While Wilder and Pryor absolutely steal the show though, it's helped even more by a great supporting cast. Joel Brooks is likeable as Len Garber, the optimistic lawyer, and JoBeth Williams is cute as a button in the role of Meredith, cousin of the lawyer. We also have Craig T. Nelson, but he's not playing opposite of JoBeth. Instead, he goes against type and plays a real bàstard of a deputy who makes Skip and Harry's time in jail hell. He's so entertaining in his sadistic obsession with making sure they don't come out as strongwilled heroes in any way. This guy isn't interested in being a Coach.

Finally, my mentions go to Miguel Ángel Suárez and Erland van Lidth, who later become very important to the plot. I don't want to spoil too much, but Erland was wonderful as the large brute who's hard on first glance, but a very gentle and trusted companion once you get to know him. He makes a memorable entrance in the jail cafeteria, where everyone gets scared shîtless and run away from him.

It's true as with most plot-heavy comedies however that the laughs are not quite as frequent in the third act. And normally this is a huge draw for me. But in this case, even though I still wish there had been a few more gags thrown in, it works. It actually gets a bit suspenseful and you're wondering if the convoluted plan these pals come up with will work. The directing is very skillful, where you have characters popping in and out of various places seamlessly. Tom Scott's score also helps increase the tension.

The love story between Skip and Meredith works so well even though they only get to see each other on brief visits, simply because he's such a charmer. Who could say no to that sweet face and such genuine, tender affection. When JoBeth jumps up with glee when Skip remembers to invite her to his next play, you smile together with them. Even Len who was confused at first over the blooming connection between them lets out a chuckle.

This is a classic feel-good comedy worth watching whenever you need some cheering up. Don't forget to check out See No Evil, Hear No Evil as well!

North by Northwest
(1959)

An exciting thrillride
John Thornhill has a typical busy day of work, and will later go to the opera with his mother. But suddenly he gets kidnapped by two spies, and they continually adress him as George Kaplan, which both confuses and angers him. He's brought into the palace of Lester Townsend. He forcibly gets gin poured into his body, and wakes up in a car driving off towards the end of a cliff. Realizing they are trying to murder him, George steers the car away and tries to drive the best he can while drunk. The police stops him for driving too fast and throw him in a cell to sober up. The police don't believe his story. Neither does the court. How will John escape from his kidnappers, and who is George Kaplan?

The movie introduces John pretty interestingly. You hear him talking so fast it gets hard to keep up, and I'm thinking "Whoa, this is not gonna be the whole movie is it?". But as soon as he gets kidnapped, he starts talking at a more reasonable tempo. Hitchcock gets a funny little cameo where he's about to take the bus, but it closes the door on him. John's irritation and confusion is merged very well by Cary Grant, and you immediately fear what is going to happen to his character. The banter between him and his mother makes for some of the best lines in the movie, Jessie Royce Landis comically depicting the mother's nonchalant and careless attitude. She has such a hard time taking her son seriously that she casually converses with the men chasing him.

Once John says goodbye to his mother, we are introduced to another figure: Eva Kendall. The introduction between them is perfectly done. John is happy to finally talk to a sane person, and a beautiful woman nonetheless. Eva has the blend between cute and sassy that I love. She can tell right away John is lying, but feels sympathetic towards his plight. The part after that when she seduces him is hands down one of the most erotic sensual scenes I have seen maybe... ever. The soft way she talks and slowly caresses him is so irresistably sexy that you'd lose any semblance of skepticism just like John. It wouldn't surprise me if Hitchcock got a little sweaty filming it.

Hitchcock also manages to catch you off-guard by moments after seeing Eva slip a note giving away where she and John are hiding. Yet she also helps him to escape right after. It cleverly instills doubt in a character the audience were tricked into liking at first. Why does she help both sides at the same time? Something's fishy.

It gets even fishier once we found out George Kaplan doesn't exist whatsoever, and yet Eva tells John where to go to "find" him. You find yourself begging for Eva to tell him the truth or for John to see something is wrong. You can tell she doesn't want to do it either, so you realize she's actually just as conflicted as the audience now is.

And as John arrives to the location, we are treated to one of the most iconic and eerie scenes of suspense in history. First it's so quiet... so dreadfully quiet. You see a helicopter hovering ominously in the background. Later, when John is practically ready to give up and call it a day, the helicopter becomes a murder weapon. What can be scarier than right into the open getting chased by a helicopter trying to catch you in its blades, with no one around to help you? The ground perspective with John hiding among the crops with the threat flying above him makes you feel like you're put into the same seat.

The situation gets even scarier when John realizes there is no one left to trust, including Eva. John's underpressed anger over Eva betraying him, and trying to stop her from pulling any more phoney tricks is excellently conveyed both through Cary Grant's acting and the dialogue. "I thought it might be best if we stick together. TOGETHERNESS? Get the picture?" When he heads to the auction Grant shows his comedic abilities as his character tauntingly either raises the bid to unreasonable levels or lowers it so much it's insulting. But there's some sadness in there too. You can tell how hurt and disappointed he is that a lady who might have been the love of his life turned out to be a traitor.

And it only gets weirder and weirder. John is later met by a goverment agent professor, who reveals George Kaplan doesn't exist, and it's just a distraction from Eva Kendall, the real goverment agent, and he has to cover for her. To be honest, I didn't realize at first when Eva shot him at the Mount Rushmore visitor center it was only staged. It was such a shocking turns of events that you think of Eva being just as much of a villain as the spies themselves. Hitchcock has cleverly disoriented me once again.

Eva sadly has to continue going along with the spies (whose names are Philip and Leonard, which first now I remembered to mention), despite the obvious danger she's putting herself into. John is knocked unconscious and brought into a hospital by the professor, who doesn't want him to help Eva, or get any more involved. As soon as his back is turned, John escapes and goes after Eva. The scene of John listening to Philip and Leonard just outside their house is amazingly tenseful, and in the style of Rear Window shows how exciting and scary it can be observing people you just know are up to something. The sweat drops continue when John has to get inside the actual house and warn Eva what the spies are planning to do with her if she goes with them on their private plane.

And equally as iconic as the crop chase is the climax on top of the Mount Rushmore, which despite the odd rule that they were not allowed to show the people climbing on the Founding Father's actual faces, it makes great use of the menace of the mountain, doubling the threat by having to worry about both falling to the ground and getting caught by Leonard and Valerian. Hitchcock makes it look just hopeless enough that when Leo and Val are stopped, you breathe a huge sigh of relief. Interestingly however, John helping Eva up so he won't fall is seamlessly transitioned to getting her up to his bed. It made me raise my eyebrow initially, but I quickly appreciated the original way the tension resolved. And if Hitchcock hadn't angered the censors enough already, he ends the film by simulating sex with a shot of a train driving into a tunnel. It put a huge smile on my face.

North By Northwest is the essential Hitchcock masterpiece. The stakes are as high as they can possibly get, with flawless acting all around the board, a story which takes a lot of thrilling twists and turns, and with a brilliantly crafted score by Bernard Hermann. Hermann compliments his director's talent so massively that it reads like a giant love letter. The cinematography is very colorful and full of personality, which makes the movie very pretty to look at.

Well, having Eva-Marie Saint also helps of course.

The Mummy's Hand
(1940)

Different, but good
Steve Banning and Babe Benson are on vacation in Egypt. But unfortunately to them, they have so little money they can't afford to go back home. Suddenly Steve finds a broken, but intriguing historical vase that he decides to purchase. Babe thinks he's nuts, but Steve has a hunch that it might be a huge moneymaker. The vase is confirmed by Dr. Petrie to be authentic, but Andoheb claims it's a duplicate, in order to discourage them from going on the trip. Ignoring his words, Steve and Babe go in search of a treasure, with fatal consequences...

Hearing me describe it you might notice I didn't use the word "mummy" once. Well, I think the reason might be that I not only see this as a good mummy movie, but also a very exciting adventure. In a smallscale way, it shows the sense of wonder traveling to a mythic place can have. Steve and Babe also make for wonderfully likeable protagonists, with Dick Foran playing the sensible and collected straightman, and Wallace Ford playing the goofy sidekick, who manages to balance the fine line of being a nice bit of comic relief while not just standing in the way as a foil. When it really comes to it, he shows a nice bit of bravery despite being so scared. Most of the best lines in the movie also comes from him, especially right after he's saved Marta: "Oh, that's just like a woman. When the shooting's all over and everything, they pass out." Of course, he proceeds to pass out himself.

Besides those two, Cecil Kellaway as Mr. Solvani the magician is a blast. He brings a lot of charisma to his character with a fun, eager attitude as expected, his creative display of magic tricks. Then you have Peggy Moran as Marta Solvani, who becomes an unexpected travel companion. I say unexpected because Andoheb (portrayed nicely by a very Karloff-like George Zucco) tricked her into thinking Steve and Babe are swindlers! So she comes with them on their trip to make sure her father doesn't get swindled. Predictably, a romance between her and Steve starts developing, but they have enough believable chemistry together that you actually buy into it. I even like the love interest here more than the first one. Marta has just the right amount of sass and likability, and Moran gives a colorful performance. The scene where she "introduces" herself to Steve and Babe by entering their apartment with a gun and shoots six warning shots stucks out as both one of the most memorable and amusing moments in the movie.

The plot is pretty similiar to the first one. You have the mummy Kharis, who was buried alive when he tried to revive his loved one with tana leaves, so ever since then he's just rested in his tomb, waiting for someone to set him free. You have the expeditionists, who go there in site of the lurking danger. The last act is also nearly identical in how it plays out and how it ends. And if you think the flashbacks with Kharis look extremely alike the ones in the previous movie... well, that's because they're using archive footage! Most likely they needed to save some money, so they used old material hoping nobody would notice. Sorry, but we did. Everybody noticed.

However, what's makes this one stand on its own anyway is not only the fact that most of it takes place in the desert (the original kept things mostly at homebase), but it adds a lot more humor into the script. There are scenes of tension, but also scenes where you see the characters relaxing, and Babe offering one funny line or two. At the same time, it takes itself seriously enough that you sit there in suspense hoping the good guys will make it out. Tom Tyler brings his own interpretation as a mummified creature, with his iconic walking style and the uneasy black stare. It's not a role which requires a ton of acting skills, but he's still a fairly imposing Kharis.

The director Christy Cabane does the most with a low budget. The scenery is very nice to look at, and it's nicely framed and shot. There's a particularly good-looking image of a wolf howling at the moon in the bane of night. The ancient temple has an air of mystique and intrigue.

I won't force your hand... But you should see The Mummy's Hand.

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