Thursday, November 24, 2016

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

Directed by: John Hughes
Starring: John Candy, Steve Martin

So here we are, Thanksgiving Day in America, and what better way to celebrate than with a traditional viewing of one of John Hughes' best! Planes, Trains & Automobiles is about a man, Neil Page (Steve Martin) who is trying to make it to his suburbia home in Chicago. Along the way he meets this obnoxious salesman, Dell Griffith played by none other than the comic genius John Candy.

You never know what the holidays may bring, for Neil all he wanted to do was make it home for Thanksgiving dinner. Dell, however had no body to spend the holidays with, after losing his late wife and taking to the road.

For many years I avoided this film because I thought it was going to be just another road trip flick. I was pleasantly surprised, yes they're on a road trip, but also includes so much dramatic, emotional and truthful subtext. This has since turned into one of my favorite holiday comedies.

RATING: 9/10

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Goodfellas (1990)

Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci

Whether you want to accept it or not, organized crime actually exists, in many parts of the world. Goodfellas is based on a true story, explores the lives of gangsters in Brooklyn, chonicling the events of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta).

As he gets older, he marries and has children, but still continues his long-term relationship with the organized crime family run under mob boss Paulie (Paul Sorvino), and befriends a calm, steady gangster named Jimmy (Robert De Niro) and wild man Tommy (Joe Pesci).

This is surely one of the great films from the gangster film genre. Director Martin Scorsese fully shows this unromantic view on the gangsters lifestyle. He shows that the gangsters do is steal, kill, and don’t associate with many others outside of their family, which in all shows how these character interact with one-another. What Scorsese is mostly showing and telling that these people are scum, and this is so crushing in a beautiful and artful way.

So, which is better: Goodfellas or The Godfather? Of course they're both amazing films in their own right, and both are focused on organized crime, yet each of them give a totally different approach. I feel that The Godfather is focused more on the family-side of things while Goodfellas spends more time with its characters.

RATING: 10/10

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Unfinished Business (2015)

Directed by: Ken Scott
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco, Tom Wilkinson

The Movie: 
Upon feeling unappreciated at a big corporation, a hardworking salesman decides to break off and form his own business. After a slow year on the business front, he and his two associates travel to Europe to close the most important deal of their lives. What began as a routine trip, ends up being a battle against finding out what is truly important.

After watching this, I decided to double take what appropriate rating this deserved.  I opted to go with a solid 7 out of 10, why? Well, despite it's attempt at humor weren't much more than crude sexual jokes, I did find myself laughing throughout this movie. It's not Academy Award quality, but come on, ask yourself when the last time Vince Vaughn or Dave Franco was in a Oscar winning film...right, never.

Bullying seems to be a hot topic these days, not just in schools but in life. It is because of this that the writers intuitively included a back story involving an bullying issue with Vaughn's two kids, in an attempt to grab some emotion from the viewer. Not only the kids, but we saw how bullying is involved in the real world as well. Dan Trunkman and his two colleagues were counting on this important deal to keep their business, the company they were meeting with knew this and in the words of Tom Wilkinson, used them as to fluffers. They knew they were going to hire the bigger and more experienced company way before meeting with Trunkman's company, but insisted on wanting them to travel half way across the world anyway.

Upon first arriving in Europe, the three unlikely businessmen find themselves already off to a bad start, there were no hotel vacancies. Good news for Franco, there was a youth hostel with a vacancy and although Wilkinson may be youthful at heart, but let's face it he hasn't been a youth in many decades, but the owner of the hostel showed him some pity and allowed him to stay in the hostel's business center. Trunkman lucked out and scored a suite at a museum, or did he? Little did he realize that suite was actually an exhibit, an American Businessman exhibit, so he was being watched by the public all day long. To make matters worse, he had a routine running schedule and allowed his daughter to pack his running clothes...which she did, by the way, his wife's workout clothes. Still a routine is a routine, he put on the jogging bra and short shorts and hit the road.

Once realizing they were what they were afraid of, they could've left Europe and moved on with their lives, but they didn't. They had unfinished business to attend to, and although Trunkman had possibly a bigger problem at home they stuck around to get what they traveled thousands of miles for.

RATING: 7/10 (Worth a rent.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Hardball (2001)

Directed by: Brian Robbins
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane, John Hawkes

The Movie:
Conor O'Neill (Reeves) is a down-on-his-luck gambler in debt to dangerous loan sharks. Desperate for cash, Conor reluctantly takes a job coaching a youth baseball team. The "team" turns out to be a ragtag group of tough-talking kids from Chicago's inner city. Secretly, Conor plans to desert the team after he wins a big bet. But the stakes are higher than Conor imagined: The kids need someone to believe in. As Conor wrestles with his past, the kids start to teach him some lessons that will forever change his future -- that responsibility and trust must be earned and hope can appear in the most unlikely places.

It's unfortunate a movie with a little emotion would get so much negative criticism. After watching this movie I was extremely delighted with the entire experience. Anyone who ever doubted Keanu's acting abilities should only watch this movie, especially the eulogy scene to see that critics have been wrong. Strong, emotional, sympathetic, and completely believable. I originally believed this was going to be another story about a typical loser who takes over a group of unfortunates only to find a purpose for themselves, and I expected this to be only mildly entertaining. However I was wrong, this film truly moved me. I'm a middle aged male who doesn't care for too many sappy, emotional films, but I loved every second of this one. I'm especially glad the producers decided not to make it a last minute, win at the last possible second.

With the symbolism between one man's gambling addiction and the street gangs, we learn just how much "showing up" (taken from the film's official tagline) was the best way to overcome our problems, be it in life or on the field. This story is suitable for audiences of all ages, despite some choice words used. Honestly, I would not hesitate to allow my now eleven year old daughter watch this movie and talk about it. Recommended for everyone, sports fans or not.

RATING: 8/10

Monday, November 7, 2016

Pixels (2015)

Directed by: Chris Columbus
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan

The Movie:
As kids in the 1980s, Sam Brenner, Will Cooper, Ludlow Lamonsoff, and Eddie "The Fire Blaster" Plant saved the world thousands of times - at 25 cents a game in the video arcades. Now, they're going to have to do it for real. When intergalactic aliens discover video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterpret them as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth, using the video games as the models for their assaults -- and now-U.S. President Cooper must call on his old-school arcade friends to save the world from being destroyed by PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede, and Space Invaders. Joining them is Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten, a specialist supplying the arcaders with unique weapons to fight the aliens.

So, to be honest, I wasn't expecting much when I went into this one. After all, I came to expect a lot of crap out of Sandler's latest. The man hasn't done a good comedy since what, Happy Gilmore? Nonetheless, growing up I loved going to the arcade - playing classics like Pac-Man, Asteroids, Donkey Kong, and the like - so I actually wanted to see this one. I think it's been at least ten years since I was last in an arcade, do they even still exist? I'm convinced kids today wouldn't even know what a arcade console looks like, with the modern advancements of home entertainment systems.

After losing the national Donkey Kong championship in the 80s, Brenner, played by Sandler becomes a tech support guru while his childhood best friend Cooper, played by James is the President of the U.S. When the world is invaded by the characters in those 80s video games, President Cooper calls upon gamer Brenner to save it.

This movie isn't meant to be taken serious, it's a fun flick remembering arcade games of the 80s. Sure, there's a fair mixture of poor casting and over generated computer graphics, but it doesn't deserve the hatred it's received across the boards.

RATING: 6.5/10