All posts by Charles

I’m a Toronto born Canadian/American transplanted New Yorker who now has found himself writing for TheFilmBox. I love many different types of films from dramas to comedies to certain action and horror films even to some sci-fi and documentaries depending upon the subject matter and how well put together they are. I’m also always up for a great mystery or thriller. My two favorite actors are Harrison Ford and Michael Douglas and some of my favorite filmmakers include: Woody Allen, Sofia Coppola, Spike Lee, Michael Mann, Rob Reiner and Edward Burns. I love movies and always feel sorely disappointed when I see a bad one. I hope that you’ll read and like my reviews and articles on here. (If you do, be sure to share them with and tell as many friends about them as you can.) Furthermore, I hope that I’ll be able to introduce you to some great pictures and directors you may not be aware of and illuminate some interesting aspects of movies you already know really well.

The English Patient

The English Patient: Still A Masterpiece

What I Remembered: Another week has gone by and the 2016 Oscars are approaching. Therefore, once again this week I wanted to focus my attention on another past the Best Picture winner, the 1996 film, The English Patient.

The English Patient was not something that was on my radar when it was first released. This was not only for the fact that I was quite young at the time, but also because independent films did not have as much of a reach as they do today. In fact, the 1997 Oscars was the first time that a majority of the films nominated were those distributed by independent movie companies and not major studios. So, when I sat down to watch the Oscars back then I was largely unaware of that year’s Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress winner. But, once it brought home three Academy Awards it got my attention and I was determined to see it. I ended up watching a picture that I thought was very moving, incredibly well written, extraordinarily well directed and extremely well acted. In short, I thought the movie was fantastic. But after reading the hilarious novel Twins of Tribeca by Rachel Pine where she details what it was like working at Miramax films when The English Patient was being plugged before the run up to the Oscars, my feelings toward it were altered a little bit.

English Patient Fiennes

When you read about the tremendous egos of the actors in the film, the headaches that came with making it, and the incredibly aggressive way in which it was promoted and designed to garner an Oscar, the shine does come off it to a certain degree. However, after taking the time to see it again recently although some of the teflon had been stripped off it, I still found it to be piece of cinema of the highest calibre.

The Story: The English Patient begins in 1945 as World War II is coming to an end. Hana (Juliette Binoche) a French-Canadian nurse decides to stay behind at an abandoned, bombed out monastery in Italy to care for a badly burned and critically injured patient whose identity no one knows. The patient seemingly believes he is English, but cannot remember his own name. Thus, he is known as the “English Patient.” One evening in the monastery Hana is approached by a fellow resident of Montreal named David Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe). Caravaggio was previously a spy for the Canadian military in Africa during the height of the war and a mutual friend has asked him to check in on Hana and her patient. Carvaggio offers to stay with Hana and her patient. After some initial reluctance, she agrees. Additionally two British soldiers one of whom is Indian also join Hana, the patient, and Carvaggio in the monastery.
english patient plane
The patient then begins to tell the story of the time he was a cartographer on an expedition in Libya in the 1930’s shortly before the start of the second world war. It is soon revealed that the patient’s name is Count Laszlo Almasy (Ralph Fiennes) and that he is Hungarian. By flashing back between Almasy telling the tale of his days in Africa and the present day in Italy, the full thread of the film is unwound. Almasy will inform Hana about his affair with Katharine Clifton (Kristin Scott Thomas) the wife of one of the expedition’s members, Geoffrey. Almasy fell deeply in love with Katharine and this affair had deep and lasting consequences for everyone involved.

Technical Details: In my humble opinion, The English Patient was as technically perfect as a film can be. Anthony Minghella did a fantastic job adapting Michael Ondaatje’s novel into a screenplay and his direction was world class. The script and its characters were completely alive and three dimensional, and the atmosphere of Africa and the world pre World-War II, was captured brilliantly. Furthermore, it was expertly paced and edited and there was never a dull moment. Most importantly, though the film was completely captivating and very moving. Finally, the acting was phenomenal.

Ralph Fiennes was incredible as Almasy and Kristin Scott-Thomas was amazing as Katherine Clifton. Moreover, the chemistry between the two of them was electric, which was what made their affair seem so real. In addition to its two stars, The English Patient saw an exemplary performance from Juliette Binoche. (Her Best Supporting Actress Oscar was well deserved.) Colin Firth, Naveen Andrews, and Willem Dafoe were all fantastic and I believe this film is among some of their finest work.

the english patient dance

End Credits: The English Patient was the best of what movies can be. It was intriguing, powerful and exciting and contained all of the elements that make a film great. It was more than worthy of the awards that it attained, especially Best Picture. It can not only stand along side all of the pictures that it was nominated with, but with the great Oscars nominees of years past, all those that followed it, and all those nominated this year. In short, The English Patient was a masterpiece. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should do so as soon as possible.

Any Given Sunday

Any Given Sunday: So bad It’s Good.

This week I’m going to deviate from the course that I’ve taken for the last few weeks. Lately my focus has been on Oscar nominees of years past. But, with Superbowl 50 taking place this week I decided to turn my attention to a football themed movie. That would be Oliver Stone’s 1999 film,  Any Given Sunday.

What I Remembered: When this movie was released I went to see it in the theater with a female friend of mine. At the time I was a big fan of Oliver Stone’s past films, particularly JFK and Nixon. I thought that Mr. Stone was an exceptionally talented writer and director. Due to this good feeling, I was interested to see how America’s most political filmmaker would approach the world of professional football. By the time the film was finished, I was disappointed and frankly a little traumatized by all the debaucherous drinking, drug taking and sex I saw along with the nature of the cutthroat world I had seen for the last few hours. As a result, I couldn’t gage the quality of the film and its performances. Thus, I largely forgot about it until recently.

any given sunday pacino

With the 50th Superbowl on the horizon, I thought that I would give it another look. I found a film that had a great many flaws and deficiencies. But, for me it occupies a space very few films do. In short, it’s so bad it’s good.

For those of you whom might wonder what this means, a film I define as “so bad that it’s good,” is one that has a good cast and director, but a poor script and is so inadequately executed that in can be laughed at. That being said, when watching the film you don’t feel as if anyone involved with it saw it that way, as they were making it. Everyone it appears to be working their hearts out, which fills one with I’m ashamed to say, a certain measure of schadenfreude.

The Story: Any Given Sunday centers around a short time period in the season of a football team called the Miami Sharks. The Sharks are members of a professional football league that rivals the NFL, but has similar popularity, influence, and fans. The movie’s main stars are the Sharks aging quarterback Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid), it’s head coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino), it’s owner Christine Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), it’s star running back Julian Washington and its third string quarterback, Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx). It opens with Cap Rooney receiving a vicious sack from the defense of the team the Sharks are playing at home that week. Cap is seriously hurt by the tackle and his second string immediate replacement is sent in. But, when the second string quarterback himself goes down with a bad injury, all eyes turn to Willie Beaman. Although having played in the league for six seasons, Beaman is largely unknown to most of the league and most of the members of his own team including D’Amato. The rest of the film follows Beaman’s attempt to handle the role that has been placed in front of him and how it will affect himself the team and those around him.

Pacino any given sunday

Technical Details: Despite the fact that it was helmed and partly written by a celebrated filmmaker, and had truly talented, excellent actors Any Given Sunday had a lot wrong with it. First of all, the script was weak as the viewer was forced to dive into the world of the Miami Sharks with no backstory given or exposition being told. Some more was revealed as the movie progressed, but not enough to truly understand certain plot points like the type of team the Sharks were before Christine Pagniacci who was the daughter of the deceased previous owner, took over. In addition to this, it contained a great many jump cuts, which made it a little hard to follow. Furthermore, whether it may be true to life in professional football or not, all of the players were portrayed as drug abusing, adulterous, overpaid neanderthals, the coaches as alcoholic loners, and the owner as merciless and money hungry. All of this felt over played and over done by the time the film concluded. Finally, despite the fact that such heavyweights as Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, and James Woods were in it and not too terrible, the acting was pretty bad with most of the performers in it offering one dimensional, less than stellar performances.

Even though Oliver Stone’s past films may have twisted history a little many of them were superbly executed. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, this one was the start of a downward slide by him that has yet to be stopped. Maybe the fact that according to Eric Hamburg’s book about working with Stone called, JFK, Nixon, Oliver Stone And Me, the latter was chasing women, partying excessively, snorting cocaine, and popping viagra throughout the shooting of Any Given Sunday, was what made it so disappointing.

I suppose the one redeeming quality to the film was its portrayal of football itself. The fictional games in it were fast paced, well- choreographed and interesting to watch and the scenes in the huddle were both funny and unnerving. With my football playing experience limited to playground games of two hand touch when I was a kid, I was shocked how utterly brutal and violent football might be at the professional level.

any-given-sunday jamie foxx

Having said all of this though, if you can accept the fact that you’re going to see a bad movie and start laughing at it, it becomes very enjoyable to watch. This especially true when hearing some of the saltiest, foul language I’ve ever heard on film and depiction of the wild drug and sex parties many members of the fictional Sharks partake in.

End Credits: Any Given Sunday was not a good film when it came out and still is not a good one today. But, it is watchable and definitely something anyone planning to see this year’s Superbowl might want to sit down with before the big game. This is because it adds a whole new dimension to the real life action you see on TV or in a stadium when you watch football because it leaves one wondering, “Is this really what it’s like?” Maybe if the movie had had the cooperation of the National Football League it could have been better and addressed the world of professional football in a more realistic, sympathetic way. We’ll never know if the league’s lack of involvement or sanctioning of the project is what made it subpar or if the many attributes it lacks due to an unclear vision on the part of Stone and his team of collaborators. In the final analysis what can be said about Any Given Sunday is what I wrote at the beginning of this piece, it’s so bad it’s good.

Nixon

Nixon: As Worthy of An Oscar In 2016 As It Was In 1996

Although they are now mired in controversy the 88th Academy Awards will be taking place on February 28th. Due to this fact, I’ve decided to spend the next few weeks mostly reviewing Oscar nominated films of years past. For me doing this is always an interesting action to take. So much hype surrounds Oscar nominated films, screenplays and performances during the fevered hectic time of awards season that the mere fact that a film, actor or director has received a nomination means that it must be of the best quality. There seems to be no doubt that its merit should be questioned in any way. However, now knowing a little bit about why and how films and actors are nominated for Oscars and seeing how so many brilliant films, actors, and directors have been snubbed over the years, I view the whole process with a jaundiced eye. In my opinion, when it comes to the Oscars sometimes nominees are chosen because they are truly terrific and other times they are chosen because the studio and/or publicity team behind them lobby the academy in such an aggressive way that they are able to finagle a nomination. Therefore, just because a movie, director or actor has been fortunate enough to be nominated it does not necessarily mean that the honor was well deserved. Recently, since it has been so long since Oliver Stone’s Nixon came out I thought that I would see if it had staying power and if it that warranted the many Oscars that it was nominated for, including Best Picture.

Nixon-Anthony-Hopkins-as--001

What I Remembered: Being a self confessed history buff, I was interested about this film when I heard it was being made. Being someone who was nearly obsessed with his film, JFK I was doubly curious. When I saw it in the theater shortly after it came out, what I found was an excellently written, acted, and directed. At the time it was more than worthy of the many Oscar nominations it was given. Taking time to watch it again lately, my view has not changed.

The Story: Nixon is co-writer, producer and director Oliver Stone’s interpretation of the life of the 38th President of the United States, Richard Nixon. It follows Nixon from his boyhood in Whittier, California to his resignation from the presidency in 1974, due to his illegal actions regarding the burglary of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate hotel in Washington, D.C. It features significant events in Nixon’s life as well as significant moments in American history. These range from his work on the Alger Hiss case as a young Congressman to his time as vice president to President Dwight Eisenhower to his three presidential campaigns, to his presidency and up to Watergate and its aftermath. On the personal side, it examines Nixon’s relationship with his wife Pat and his mother, father and brothers. It seeks to paint a complete portrait of the man and his times.

Technical Details: Nixon hit all the right buttons when it comes to technical execution. Oliver Stone, Steven J. Rivele, and Christopher Wilkinson wrote an exemplary script. Though some of it may have been fictionalized particularly Nixon’s interactions with a wealthy Texas oil man named Jack Jones( Larry Hagman). It was heavily researched via scores of books and technical consultants like former Nixon aides Alexander Butterfield and John Dean, and it made viscerally real Nixon and those around him. Furthermore, the film is not advertised as a documentary, but instead was a work of fiction with its roots in history, and therefore it was permissible that dramatic license was taken. Stone’s direction was him at his best as he was able to capture the times that Nixon influenced and the complexity of the man, his allies, and adversaries all while offering an incredibly well- paced and edited film that made subjects some might find boring in other mediums or contexts very interesting and engaging. Finally, the acting was the best it could be. Filled with an all- star cast that consisted of Anthony Hopkins as Nixon portrayed as a tragic figure, Joan Allen as his wife, Pat and James Woods, E.G. Marshall, Bob Hoskins and Mary Steenburgen in various roles. The best actor and actress nominations that Hopkins and Allen got were more than deserved, but two surprising, outstanding performances were those of Paul Sorvino as Henry Kissinger and David Barry Gray as a young Richard Nixon.

Nixon anthony hopkins

All of this having been said, those who have never seen Nixon should not believe that everything they are shown on the screen is fact. The film was merely Oliver Stone’s interpretation of Nixon and his role in American history. It is not the definitive account of Nixon or his role in American history and should not be accepted as such.

End Credits: I started this piece by asking whether Oscar nominated films of years past deserved the honors they were given. When it comes to Nixon the praise that it received from the Academy was more than justified. It contained everything that an Oscar worthy film should have. Great writing, acting, and technical expertise are these qualities and it has those in abundance. It was one of the best movies of 1996 and thus merited all of its commendations. Furthermore, it can stand up against anything that is up for an Oscar today. So, if you would like to, you should spend a few hours with Nixon. It’s some of the best that cinema can offer.

Moon: An Excellent Film, Period

Duncan Jones’ Moon, is already a sci-fi classic.

What I Remembered: I first saw Moon about a year after it was released. Being an occasional sci-fi viewer, I thought that the concept of it was intriguing. Furthermore, I find that when a science fiction film is good it can be very illuminating and reveal the true talent of the directors and actors in the film. After all, a well executed movie in that genre has to make a world that is not real or based on any historical or present context, feel real. So, with that in mind know nothing of the director, Duncan Jones, but having great respect for Sam Rockwell after seeing him in Matchstick Men, I was interested in seeing where the movie would go. I came away very impressed as it was not only expertly written, acted, and directed, but was filled with many insights and some tributes to classics like 2001. Having watched it again very recently, my esteem for it has only grown.

moon-movie rockwell

The Story: Moon is set in the year 2035. A company known as Lunar Industries has been able to solve all of the Earth’s energy problems by sending astronauts to the Moon and mining a new energy source called Helium 3. In order to cut expenses, the company has developed a program of sending one astronaut at a time to the Moon, and having that astronaut stay there for a three year period. While on the Moon, the astronaut is responsible for mining the Helium 3 and then sending it to Earth in a space capsule. The astronauts live on a base that has been constructed on the far side of the moon.

As Moon opens, it is here that we meet Sam Bell (Rockwell). Sam is nearing the end of his three year rotation with Lunar Industries and is eager to get back to earth to his wife Tess, and their young daughter, Eve. He has presently lost the live feed that the company was sending him so his only contact with the outside world is through a series of prerecorded video messages. Most of these are from his family and keep him going. His only contact within the base is GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) an artificial intelligence who acts as a kind of caretaker to him. GERTY does everything from cutting Sam’s hair, to administering his medication, to preparing his meals, to even assessing his psychological well-being. As a result, GERTY is a great comfort to Sam.

moon_movie rover

It is implied that the years of continual isolation have begun to take their toll, though. Sam has occasional hallucinations involving a teenage girl, treats the plants that he must tend to as if they’re people by giving them names like Katherine, and by his own admission, is concerned about how much he talks to himself. One morning when Sam has to leave the compound to go onto the lunar surface to fix a problem with the equipment that is used for mining he has an accident in his lunar rover and is rendered unconscious. He awakens some time later, back on the base with GERTY checking on him. Once Sam begins to recover from the accident he will come to learn some disturbing truths and come to realize that everything he thought he knew about his mission, his company, his family, and himself has been wrong.

Technical Details: On a technical level, Moon was almost flawless. Duncan Jones direction was pitch perfect. (It was hard to believe that this was his feature debut. But, after learning that he was the son of the now late and amazing, David Bowie, I was not surprised.) He created the atmosphere of isolation on the Moon with such realism and detail that it was almost awe inspiring. Moreover, he and Nathan Parker penned a top notch story and script. Additionally, Moon was well edited and paced as it moved along nicely with many unexpected twists and turns. Finally, the movie provided some wonderful insights about the dangers of isolation, and the questionable ethical practices that science can engage in in the name of bettering humanity.

Sam rockwell moonHowever without question, the lifeblood of Moon were Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey. Rockwell’s acting was phenomenal considering the fact that he was almost the only face seen throughout the entire piece and watching him never got boring. I was waiting with baited breath to see what he was going to do and what was going to happen next, which is no easy feat. This is a great credit to his enormous talent.

Similarly, although I only heard his voice, Kevin Spacey delivered a fine performance as GERTY. He was able to give this piece of artificial intelligence such a life and- for lack of a better word- a humanity that was endearing. Lastly, the fact that GERTY was the polar opposite of HAL in 2001, was a nice touch as well.

End Credits: Moon is an excellent film not just for its genre. It is an excellent film, period. If you like science fiction films, you’ll love it. If you appreciate great acting, you’ll probably love it, too. If you’re interested in world class film making the picture is a great lesson in how it is done. So, you should take a look at Moon if you have a chance. I highly doubt that you will be disappointed.

Throwback Review: The Siege

The Siege: More Important Now Than Ever Before

What I Remembered: When The Siege was first released in November of 1998, I’m shocked to say that i laughed it off. It’s hard to believe, but even though the United States had only recently survived two embassy bombings in Africa, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the idea of the United States being attacked by fanatic Middle Eastern terrorists and the government enacting severe measures to combat the terror felt far fetched. But, a year and a half later when I caught the film on HBO, I thought that it was a reasonably good thriller, but still something meant for the realm of fiction. However, after the horrific events of 9/11 it took on a new meaning. Suddenly, the New York City of the movie was not too distant from the one I was living in. As somewhat prescient as it felt in those days, seeing it again recently it took on a new significance. After the 2015 horrors of Paris and San Bernardino and the xenophobic reactions of some in the United States, I contend that it is a movie that everyone should see.

The Story: The Siege opens on then- President Bill Clinton holding a news conference about the bombing of a United States facility in the Middle East (It is very similar to the bombings of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1995.) then to the United States government capturing the terrorist leader responsible for the attack and holding him without trial. After that, it cuts to F.B.I. agent Anthony “Hub” Hubbard (Denzel Washington) and his partner a Lebanese born naturalized American citizen named Frank Haddad ( Tony Shaloub). They are both members of the joint FBI/NYPD Terrorism Task Force and they are called upon to negotiate at the scene of a bus that has been taken hostage by terrorists of Middle Eastern origin who claim to have a bomb on board. To Hub and Frank’s great relief when the bomb on the bus goes off, but it is a dud filled with blue paint. At the conclusion the incident, Hub and his fellow agents and officers at the Task Force receive a statement from those responsible for the incident to “Release Him” or the city of New York will face more terrorist attacks. At first having no information about the capture of the terrorist mastermind of the assault in the Middle East, Hub and Frank don’t know what to make of the communication, but go to visit the bus to see if it can yield any clues. At the site where the bus is being held in evidence, Hub meets Elise Kraft (Annette Benning) a C.I.A. agent who has a peculiar and suspicious interest in the bus and the group that Hub is investigating. Elise is not very forthcoming about why she is there. But, when a second bus is bombed she, Hub, Frank and all of their colleagues will become engaged in a struggle against an enemy they cannot identify and will have a very difficult time bringing to justice. The results of this battle will be the borough of Brooklyn being placed under martial law, Muslim and Arab Americans being put into detainment camps and the actions of a fanatical U.S. Army General (Bruce Willis) going to far to try to end the crisis.

bruce willis the siege

Technical Details: The Siege had a tremendous lot of technical merit. Edward Zwick (Glory, Love And Other Drugs) did a fine job directing as he was able to create the feel of a city and country under siege with incredible realism. (This was especially unsettling when seeing the terrorist attacks on Broadway and at an elementary school that the movie depicted.) At the time it may have felt out there, but now it feels eerily close. Furthermore, the script penned mostly by him and Lawrence Wright( The latter was a writer who would end up authoring an excellent book about 9/11 called The Looming Tower.) was very well- crafted and structured. Finally, the cinematography was top notch as was the overall mood of the picture.

For all of these attributes the acting in the film was the linchpin of it. Nearly all the actors in it delivered extraordinary performances. Denzel Washington, Annette Benning, and Tony Shaloub were at their incredible best and although Bruce Willis received a Razzie for his work in The Siege, I did not think he was THAT bad. Additionally, I was tremendously impressed with French actor Sami Bouajila who played the character of Samir a Palestinian who has a murky relationship with everyone involved, very convincingly.

Even with these admirable qualities though the movie did have some flaws. Namely, it lacked character development to some degree, did not clarify certain elements and plot points, and wrapped up a little too quickly. That being said, those deficiencies don’t taint it too much.

the siege

End Credits: The Siege is not a perfect film, but one that I strongly urge everyone to see right now. At a time when the world is faced with the scourge of ISIS, seeing how some of the characters are able to face a group similar to it with strength and stoicism and without fear id something that we should all do. At a time when certain presidential candidates are making incredibly dangerous, prejudiced statements against all Muslims and Arabs- not just those that follow the insane radical ideology of a few- and threatening to ban all Muslims, this film should be viewed to see how far such rhetoric can go when put in practice. Finally, when the question of how to balance security with individual rights once again one people are starting to ask, seeing how it is balanced in this film is worth taking a look at.

The Siege may have seemed improbable at the time it was released. It may have seemed frighteningly somewhat similar in the Fall of 2001. But, now in a country that has been at war with radical Islamist terrorism for fifteen years, and when those radicals have become more vicious than before, and their acts and perversion of their religion have led to xenophobia and prejudice in certain circles, it is painfully accurate. Therefore, regardless of your religion, heritage, or political persuasion, you should see this movie. Doing so, has never been more important.

5 Reasons Why Star Wars The Force Awakens Might Be Good

5 Reasons Why Star Wars The Force Awakens Might Be Good

So, it’s come to this. We are now just days away from the premiere of Star Wars The Force Awakens. As one a time fan whose adoration of the franchise was ruined by the prequels, I am definitely going into this new installment with a good deal of skepticism. Previously and given the tremendous veil of secrecy that naturally surrounds the film, I put forth 5 Reasons Why The Force Awakens Might Suck and there were good reasons for those fears. However, there is also a chance that this new tale about life a long time ago in a galaxy far far away could resurrect the greatness of the original trilogy. Therefore, here are 5 Reasons That Star Wars The Force Awakens Might Be Good.
jj abrams directing star wars
1. J.J. Abrams Is The Co-Writer and Director: In all honesty I’m not the familiar with J.J. Abrams work. Even though I haven’t seen much of what he has done, he is a Spielberg protege and he has been involved in the creation of a number of well-received movies and television series and I’m sure all that praise is not without merit. One need only look at the love people had for his revival of Star Trek to be given a feeling a hope at the fact that he has been intimately involved with every aspect of The Force Awakens. However, more than his successful track record, his biggest asset is being a life long Star Wars fan whose world was forever changed when he saw the first movie in 1977. He has such an obvious love and appreciation for the series that he may have delivered a movie that will satisfy and inspire fans and critics alike. And, who knows maybe it could even be on the level of the originals that were not only entertaining, but actually imparted some deeper philosophical messages like whether there is a god, what gives life meaning, and redemption.

Chewie force awakens
2. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo And Princess Leia Are Back: Although, it appears that the crux of The Force Awakens will focus on the story lines of the new characters in it, the fact that the three stars of the original trilogy are returning is another reason to peel back some cynicism. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia were truly beloved characters portrayed astoundingly by the actors who played them. All three of them may have a limited impact on this film and the state we are going to find them in probably is not wonderful, but they will be there and it will be good to see them. Furthermore, over the course of the film they maybe able to work their way out of whatever entanglements they find themselves in, which could be exciting. Finally, the fact that all three of the actors who were in the original movies came back to be in this film is a good sign as they must have felt the material was worthy enough to reprise their respective roles.

Lawrence kashdan
3. Lawrence Kasdan Co-Wrote The Screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan is an absolutely excellent filmmaker and script writer. One need only look at Grand Canyon and The Big Chill to see how extremely talented he is. More importantly though, Kasdan was involved in the writing of The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of The Jedi. Both of those movies were fantastic and the fact that he has had a hand at writing two Star Wars pictures before means he knows the territory very well. This time he may have delivered a screenplay as good as Empire and Jedi. That is an exciting prospect for any past or present fan and I hope that it meets expectations.

jj abrams bb8
4. Abrams Went Old School: While watching 60 Minutes the other night J.J. Abrams was featured in a segment that showed he employed a limited use of C.G.I. A lot of the new characters that he created for this film were produced organically and all the explosions were real. This is about as close to how Star Wars and its successors were made as possible. In fact, one of the biggest reasons that A New Hope blew everybody’s mind was no film like it had ever been done before and a tremendous amount of that had to do with how it was shot, how all of the creatures in it were created and how incredibly real it all looked. For me, an enormous drawback of the prequels aside from the wooden acting and campy dialogue, were that everything looked so fake and shot on a green screen. If Abrams was able to create a Star Wars similar to the original with as much realism than it could be great.
Millimum Falcon The Force Awakens
5. The Trailers Have Been Good: Movie trailers can be a very deceptive thing. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a trailer for a movie that looked interesting that than turned out to be terrible or seen a trailer for a movie that looked awful and turned out excellent. (The Royal Tennenbaums and Mr. Brooks come to mind when thinking of the latter.) But, the trailers that have been released for The Force Awakens have all been interesting and intriguing. Furthermore, based on the little footage that has been shown, the movie appears to lack the shortcomings of the prequels. That being said, you never know with trailers. But it is yet another reason to believe that the force very well may be strong with this one.

So, therein lie my 5 Reasons For Why The Force Awakens Might Be Good. You may disagree with me and in a few days most of us will have formed our opinions, and all the mystery surrounding the movie will be over. But, whichever way it goes, I do have to give some credit to J.J. Abrams for even undertaking this project considering all of the risks that it entails. Stepping in to helm a beloved franchise with a black mark on its legacy is no easy feat and for that alone he should be given a pat on the back.

5 Reasons Why Star Wars The Force Awakens Might Suck

5 Reasons Why Star Wars The Force Awakens Might Suck

With the premiere of Star Wars The Force Awakens just days away and a tremendous amount of secrecy surrounding it, one fact is certain. That fact is that The Force Awakens is bound to make a great deal of money. But, like with other recent cinematic interpretations of life in a galaxy far far away, a lot of gross at the box office doesn’t necessarily mean that the quality of it will necessarily be all that good. As one who spent most of his early childhood obsessed with the original trilogy and was at first extremely excited and profoundly disappointed by The Phantom Menace and the films that followed it, I’m coming to this latest part of the Star Wars saga with extreme skepticism. In my mind, the chances of this one being well done and able to capture the magic of the original are about 50/50. I hope my worst fears are not confirmed, but here are 5 Reasons That Star Wars The Force Awakens Might Suck.
jar jar binks goofy
1. The Prequels: The Force Awakens may bear almost no resemblance to the prequels released in the late 2Oth and early 21st Centuries. It is set in a different time with different characters, has a different director in J.J. Abrams, and obviously has a different storyline. However, it does share one similarity with its predecessors. Like The Phantom Menace, Attack of The Clones, and Revenge of The Sith, it is a new Star Wars movie. It is not The Empire Strikes Back or Return of The Jedi that we came to love. As a result, there is a very good chance that it will be unable to match up to the movies that inspired us all so long ago. It may be hard to remember now, but the world was thrilled about the Phantom Menace being the first new Star Wars movie before it was actually seen. There seems to be similar hype about this one and like those movies it may be unable to deliver. Finally, the mediocrity of the sequels was so hard to stomach that even if The Force Awakens is excellent, people like me maybe so jaded from the prequels that we’re unable to appreciate the attributes of this one.

jj abrams r2 d2 star wars
2. The Force Awakens Release Date Was Pushed Back:
Since I have not kept a watchful eye on when this film was bound to come out I’m not quite sure when it was slated to be released. But, what I do know, is that its release date was pushed back to December 2016, when it was meant to come out earlier. When it comes to movies this is generally not a good sign. A movie being released later than expected can sometimes be due to the fact that world events seem putting it out after a real event like it has just occurred to be in poor taste (This was the case with O and Phone Booth.) or because the studio behind it feels that it could be more successful financially if it is released at a particular time of the year. But, more likely it means that the movie had some serious issues with it that need fixing before it can be released. I’m sure there are instances where doing this has worked well. But, many times when seeing a picture that showed great promise, and then turned out to be bad this is often a reason given for its lackluster quality. Remember that Star Wars: A New Hope was released on May 25, 1977 because it and films like it tend to do well during the Summer Blockbuster period. According to what I’ve seen in the trailer, The Force Awakens appears to fit a summer release better than a holiday one. Perhaps, they didn’t release it in the summer because of problems. If that is so, that doesn’t bode well.
Anakin-Skywalker haydon christenson
3. The Producers And Director Are Considering Reprising Anakin Skywalker: In recent months, a spate of stories stated that J.J. Abrams and the producers are considering having Anakin Skywalker from the prequels come back in the next two films after the Force Awakens to play Darth Vader. If that is true, even though that story arc won’t be present in this film, it doesn’t leave a good taste in my mouth. Reawakening anything from the prequels whether it be actors, dialogue or story lines is not promising. The prequels were terrible and the acting was a big part of why. Therefore, they should stay way from anyone that was involved with them. The fact that they’re even thinking of this means that this film could contain all of the things about the prequels that the public did not like. or even if they don’t, could end up being just as weak.

han and leia sad
4. Han Solo, Leia and Luke May Be Present, But They’re Not The Central Focus: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and the chemistry between the actors portraying them were a big part of the success of the original three films. Fans of Star Wars came to love all three characters and the reason for that was how wonderful Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fischer were at playing them. It appears that in this movie all three of them will have a focus, but they won’t be the central focus. Instead the story appears to aim most of its attention at brand new characters that we’re all unfamiliar with. Unless the actors playing them render fabulous performances and the script is excellent, they may not be able to engender the same kind of good feelings that the original stars did. If that happens, no matter how good it may be to see Han, Luke and Leia again they won’t be able to make up for the lack of connection we may feel to the characters that they’re interacting with.

Return-of-the-Jedi_party
5. Return of The Jedi Will Be Forever Altered: At the end of Return of The Jedi, the Empire has been defeated, the Galaxy has been liberated, Han and Leia are together and Luke has redeemed his father. Although we were all sad to see it end, this was a solid conclusion to a brilliant set of movies that left us feeling happy. This film by its very nature will undo all of that. Based on whats been shown and leaked to the public, the years since the victory of the Rebel Alliance have not been kind especially to those characters we came to love. As good as this movie could be, it may prove too difficult to see that the conclusion of The Return of The Jedi will be seen differently from the moment that The Force Awakens starts. For fans of Jedi like myself, that may be tough to see.

I haven’t seen the original trilogy in sixteen years because the prequels forever altered my preconceptions about its origins. My preconceptions about The aftermath of life in the galaxy after the fall of the Empire will no doubt be changed by this film and its sequels, and that may mean I won’t like it.

So, there are my reasons that Star Wars The Force Awakens Might Suck. I hope that I’m proven wrong, but I’m not exactly cautiously optimistic.

Throwback Review: Planes, Trains And Automobiles

Need To Get In The Mood For Thanksgiving? Try Planes, Trains And Automobiles

With Thanksgiving coming up I started to try and recall movies that featured the holiday and found myself going blank. After a quick Google search, I was surprised that there were quite a few movies where Thanksgiving was prominent. (This was surprising to me considering the plethora of Christmas films that exist and the fact that what looked like a dreadful movie by Garry Marshall was entirely devoted to New Year’s Eve. Due to this fact, I thought almost no films featured that day) But, most of the films on the list looked pretty awful or were not of my taste. The Ice Storm definitely being the latter. Still, I did find a few that were good and that have a definite way of putting one in the mood for Turkey day.   Planes, Trains, And Automobiles is my focus this week.

steve martin john candy planes trains and automobiles

What I Remembered: I first saw this film when I was barely out of diapers. Back then I liked it a great deal and thought it was pretty funny. But, given my level of comprehension at the time I’m not that surprised at my reaction. I saw parts of it off and on in my younger years and was doubled over with laughter at particular points and actually unsettled by others. Now, being a grownup I recently decided to take another look at the entire picture. What I came away with was a piece that had moments that were extremely hilarious, a story that was good, and had poignancy, but that also felt stuck in its time period and could be nauseatingly schmaltzy and saccharine.

John Candy planes trains and automobiles

The Story: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles focuses on its two central characters Neal Page (Steve Martin) and Del Griffiths (John Candy). As the film begins, we meet Neal who is a marketing executive from Chicago. He is presently in New York on a business trip that has been unsuccessful. He is running to make it to La Guardia airport during rush hour for his flight back home and while trying to hail a taxi, loses it to an unseen man carrying a huge trunk full of something. (It is also implied that it is only a few days before Thanksgiving and that Neal is a family man eager to get him to his brood for the holiday.) He arrives late to the airport and believes that he has missed his flight until he sees that it has been delayed. While reading a magazine as he’s waiting to hear news about his flight he notices a man sitting across from him at the gate. The man is looking at him as if he recognizes him. Neal sees the trunk beside the stranger and realizes that he is the man who stole his cab. When the man introduces himself as Del and asks Neil where he knows him from, Neal with an annoyed look on his face, tells Del that he took his cab to the airport from Manhattan. Del apologizes and offers to buy him a coffee, but Neal declines.

When his flight finally boards, Neil finds that due to the fact that the flight was overbooked his first class seat is unavailable and he has to sit back in coach. There he finds a chaotic and irritating scene made worse by the fact that Del will be his seat mate for the entire trip. Del is chatty and slightly annoying and it’s only until Neal politely asks Del to cease talking that he stops. But, Del continues to be irksome when he takes he shoes and socks off and keeps unintentionally resting his head on Neal’s shoulder while he sleeps. The flight is diverted to Wichita due to weather and Neal finds himself stuck in the airport for the night. When Del offers to help him get a motel room through a business contact (It is surmised that Del is a traveling salesman.) Neal reluctantly agrees. Neal will now find himself paired with Del both by intention and chance for the rest of his trip home where they will use many means of transportation and undergo many different setbacks, so that Neal can be with his family on Thanksgiving. Along the way, they will learn about a great deal about themselves and each other.

Technical Details: Planes, Trains, And Automobiles was not an incredible film, but it was not bad. John Hughes writing and direction were more than competent and the pacing of it was done well. The script itself was packed with moments that were humorous, realistically uncomfortable when there were arguments, and times where it was poignant especially the ending. Arguably, the most laudable aspect of Hughes direction was his ability to capture the atmosphere of the United States before Thanksgiving and the headaches that come with travel, with tremendous realism. In addition, a great highlight of the movie were the performances of Steve Martin and John Candy. Steve Martin was excellent as the slightly dispirited, often aggravated, Neal. While John Candy was both someone that you could be sympathetic to and abraded by. Playing these two characters was no easy feat as if it were not done well Neal could just come off as a self- centered mean jerk and Del could just be some idiot you could have the misfortune of being trapped with. It was a credit to both actors talent that they were able to pull of making both characters so understandable and agreeable.
planes trains and automobiles pillows
However, the movie’s strongest point was its comedic moments. The famous “between two pillows” scene in the motel room was extremely funny as is the one in the rental car. But, by far my favorite moment occurred during Steve Martin’s f-bomb laden tirade when he goes to the rental car counter after being dropped of in the rental car lot, finding his car not there and then having to walk back to the airport. In that moment, having to deal with the exasperatingly perky rental car clerk is a moment I’m certain many of us have had, which is why it is so funny.


For all of its merits though, Planes, Trains and Automobiles did still have some deficiencies. First of all the movie was and is completely trapped in its era. The phone calls made on pay phones, the way credit cards, are processed, the look of the costumes and the feel of the airports, planes, cars, buses and trains featured in it, scream 1980’s. This undoubtedly dates it. Secondly, some of the scenes of Neal’s family desperately awaiting his return felt and still feel almost revoltingly overly sentimental. Finally, although the end of the film and the big truth about Del that was revealed in it and was somewhat moving, veers towards being schmaltzy once (Spoiler Alert) Neal is reunited with his family for the holiday.

End Credits: Planes, Trains, And Automobiles was and mostly still is, a good movie. It is full of humor, well- acted and because it has a slightly serious underpinning to it, is more than just your average everything is going wrong kind of comedy. When you add the fact that the whole thing is set on and around Thanksgiving it is a good way to get you in the mood for the upcoming holiday season. So, if you’re looking for a movie on Thanksgiving and want something that captures the moment that you’re in, you should try Planes, Trains, And Automobiles. It was not the greatest movie ever made, but it is more than worth seeing.