As I’ve noted before, I’m far from the target audience for romantic comedies, so normally I would never give Never Been Kissed a second glance. But I’m also something of a completist by nature. The movie was one of ten digital downloads I received free from VUDU (the service’s choice of movies, not mine, obviously), and I can’t stand to have a film in my collection remain unwatched indefinitely. I own it, I can’t get rid of it, I might as well watch it at least once.
Of course, I went into this with no small amount of skepticism. The premise of the film is fairly ridiculous. Drew Barrymore, as a would-be journalist in her mid-20s, is sent back to high school to do some undercover investigative journalism. It didn’t sound like an idea with promise, especially for a rom-com; it might conceivably have worked for a straight-up comedy had it been written with that in mind. But as it turned out, the film was even more pitifully absurd than I had anticipated. Continue reading →
Here’s a confession for you. Despite being 34 years old, and having watched “grown up” movies regularly since I was in high school, and having an interest in critically acclaimed films and filmmakers… I had never seen a Woody Allen movie. He’s been the writer, director, and star of somewhere over two dozen films, many of them quite acclaimed, and I hadn’t seen a one of them. So, with Manhattan Murder Mystery being the only Allen film sitting in my Hulu queue, I decided it would be as appropriate place as any to begin.
Now, not having watched any Woody Allen films doesn’t mean I’m not aware of them. That meant it was no surprise that Allen had cast himself as the male lead, Larry Lipton, and that the character was a nebbishy Jewish New Yorker (of course, in Manhattan, that last is pretty much a given.) Nor was it a surprise that he was once again paired up with his Annie Hall co-star Diane Keaton as Larry’s wife Carol. What was a bit of a surprise was that it was Keaton’s character who was prone to flights of fancy, not Allen’s. When their next-door neighbor dies suddenly, Carol is turned away from the obvious and logical answer of a heart attack. Because the neighbor’s husband, played by Jerry Adler, is acting strangely (by Carol’s interpretation), she concludes that he has committed murder. Continue reading →
The letters in the title Gattaca are all the symbols used to denote different bases in DNA. And if that’s the first thing your brain noticed, then you’re wired in a very peculiar way. But it is, of course, apt for the 1997 film debut of writer-director Andrew Niccol, as this story is set in the near future, on an Earth where it has become commonplace to genetically engineer children before birth to be “perfect specimens”.
Vincent Freeman, played by Ethan Hawke, is not a perfect specimen. He was born the old-fashioned, natural way, and has an assortment of genetic drawbacks compared to his peers (and his engineered younger brother), including a severe risk of a heart condition. Vincent dreams of leaving Earth on one of the numerous exploratory space flights, but the only way out is to be chosen out from among the elite personnel of scientific super-corp Gattaca… and in the eyes of Gattaca, Vincent isn’t just imperfect, he’s invalid. Continue reading →
Oh, how Hulu loves to dig up obscurities. And just once in a while those obscurities ought to remain buried. I enjoy animated features, and I’m a big fan of Arthurian legend. So when I saw Camelot: The Legend in Hulu’s listings, I thought there was a good chance that it would prove reasonably entertaining. It is likely I should have done a little more research into it first.
The film was released in 1998, apparently direct-to-video. When I was younger and would visit the animation sections of video stores, I would often notice shoddy-looking knock-offs of current film properties. I remember seeing The Jungle King on shelves as The Lion King hit theatres, and companies putting out their own takes on public-domain fairy tales such as The Little Mermaid. I suspect that in the case of Camelot: The Legend director-producer William R. Kowalchuk Jr. was attempting to ride the coat-tails of Quest For Camelot, released the same year. Of course, while I haven’t seen that film, I’m aware that it wasn’t a huge success, which makes the notion of riding its coat-tails rather hilarious in hindsight. That may be the funniest thing about this film, which is a sad thing as it tries to be a musical comedy. Continue reading →
It’s still fairly early in December to be getting into full-on Christmas mode yet, so I went looking for a film that had only a loose association with Christmas. What I found was Only You, a romantic comedy from 1992, directed by Betty Thomas. This was Thomas’s feature film directorial debut, and looking at her credits afterward, it might be the high point; what follows runs from Howard Stern’s film Private Parts to Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, with a few Eddie Murphy remakes in-between.
Only You stars Andrew McCarthy during what might have been the peak of his own career, at least of the post-”Brat Pack” years. Which is to say, it was made after Weekend at Bernie’s and before Weekend at Bernie’s II. McCarthy plays Cliff Godfrey, a well-paid dollhouse designer for a major toy company. He has plans to take his fiancee on a trip to a tropical island for Christmas, but when he calls her to tell her he’ll pick her up, he gets a message from one of her friends instead. She isn’t there, she won’t be there. He’s been dumped. Continue reading →
Science fiction is a genre that is known, especially nowadays, for presenting a “big idea” in the subtext that it’s trying to get across. Most of the critically acclaimed science fiction films, and most of the ones that are remembered for years past their release, have an element of this. But every so often it’s nice to be reminded that science fiction can just be fun as well, and The Fifth Element takes this approach while not completely ignoring the other.
Directed and written by Luc Besson, this film was reportedly his homage to the science fiction comic books he had grown up on. It doesn’t fall far from the source. The Fifth Element is fast-paced, colorful, and a lot of fun. Continue reading →
This is no doubt just the 1980s nostalgic in me speaking, but I miss the days when Tom Hanks was willing to just turn in a completely goofy comedy. I’m a big fan of Big, I liked The Man With One Red Shoe, and Dragnet was a lot of fun. His few forays into comedies lately seem to be more of the romantic comedy type (and Toy Story). Released in 1990, Joe Versus the Volcano sounded like it would be one of those early goofy Tom Hanks movies. I’ve seen parts of it before — I remember my parents renting it when it came out on VHS, but I was 12 and didn’t pay much attention — but I figured it would be a good film to watch in full, especially as it also stars Meg Ryan, who has a proven track record with Hanks (this would be the first of their films together).
Written and directed by John Patrick Shanley (his first film as a director), Joe Versus the Volcano certainly has its goofy elements. But it also has just a little bit more to it. Continue reading →
Mary Shelley first published the story of Frankenstein in 1818. The story of a scientist tormented by the life he had created easily captured the imagination of the public. In 1910, Thomas Edison created the first film inspired by the characters, which I reviewed earlier this month. Universal Studios released their version in 1930, and Boris Karloff is still the iconic version of the monster. Since then, dozens of films have been released that are either direct adaptations of the novel, or inspired by Universal’s film, or just use the characters in some form or other. There is no shortage of films with which to compare the novel to, but for this edition of “Version vs. Version”, I decided to go with the 1994 film, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh. Marketed as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, it purports to be closer to the original novel than other films.
In some ways, this is accurate. In other ways, it really, really isn’t. Continue reading →
It’s time. Time for me at last to finish off the three-pack of films I started on back in April. Time for the quarterly installments of that three-pack to crossover with the Halloween season. It’s Worrell time.
Yes, it’s time for the fourth installment in the Ernest P. Worrell series, starring Jim Varney (and the third watched and reviewed here, as the second film is a Christmas movie). 1991′s Ernest Scared Stupid, directed as always by John R. Cherry III. This time the film eschews the relative level of realism (so to speak) of Ernest Goes to Camp in favor of some fantasy fun, set on Halloween. Hey, I never said my Halloween Haunters all had to be scary, or serious, or even smart. Continue reading →
Pure Luck is one of those movie titles that seems like it could have more than one meaning, but really has only one possible interpretation. Nobody ever makes a film about somebody who has supremely good luck, ergo, we know from the title that it’s going to be about bad luck. That it stars Martin Short, along with Danny Glover, just shows how justified this expectation is. Nadia Tass directed this 1991 comedy, and like a lot of Martin Short films, it seems to have flown under the radar. It’s not a spectacular comedy, but it’s far from bad.
Sheila Kelley plays Valerie Highsmith, daughter of a corporate millionaire, who is vacationing in Mexico. But Valerie has supernaturally bad luck — or at least as bad as any luck you can walk away from can be. At one point she falls six stories off of her hotel room balcony, lands on a canopy, and walks away without a scratch — and without viewing this as unusual in the least. Her bad luck soon catches up with her, however, when she gets mugged and hits her head, losing her memory. A month later, she’s still amnesiac, missing, and her father (Sam Wanamaker) is desperate to have her located and brought home. Continue reading →