Here’s Jack Blogathon 2017: A Few Good Men

Gill, from Realweegiemidget Reviews, is a huge fan of Jack Nicholson. To celebrate, she has invited bloggers to review as many Nicholson films as possible.Β A Few Good Men is my entry into her three-day celebration. Click on the banner below to head over to her site to see the rest of the blogathon entries for today.

A Few Good Men movie posterHere's Jack Blogathon 2017 BannerSynopsis
Navy defense attorney Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), along with JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) and Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollack), are assigned to prove that Harold Dawson (Wolfgang Bodison) and Louden Downey (James Marshall), two marines accused of murder, are innocent and were merely acting under orders.

Review
I will begin by saying courtroom dramas aren’t really my type of movie. I don’t find them very exciting and think more often than not they are fairly predicable. A Few Good Men is a perfect example of this. Story-wise, I didn’t feel invested in the case that the three attorneys were working on. And honestly, I didn’t care for Tom Cruise’s character, Daniel Kaffee. He is the skilled-but-arrogant character that Cruise played often earlier in his career but it doesn’t feel like he grows very much by the end of the film. His biggest step is actually taking the case instead of trying to make a deal and that happens fairly early. Which brings me to my next point: this movie feels too long. Although, that might be because I just wanted to get through the movie quicker since I wasn’t very interested.

The only thing that really kept me invested in this film was the cast. The main three, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, and Kevin Pollak, had such great chemistry. Despite my lack of interest in Cruise’s character, I enjoyed his performance. He brought a lot of energy and emotion to the part. The same goes for Moore. Her performance was so emotionally driven that she made for a good counterpart to Cruise. The dialogue between Cruise, Moore, and Pollak felt very real and genuine. Kudos to Aaron Sorkin for writing such believable, and not too ridiculous banter, between the leads. Despite not being in the film for much time, Jack Nicholson is the standout of this movie. The final scene with Nicholson and Cruise battling it out in the courtroom was absolutely riveting and almost made up for the dullness of the rest of the film.

I thought A Few Good Men was OK 😐 My lack of interest in courtroom dramas aside, I found this to be somewhat enjoyable. Although I didn’t much care for Cruise’s character and felt it ran a little longer than necessary, the performances from all of the actors, especially from the main three and Jack Nicholson, kept my attention long enough to finish watching.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rob Reiner – Director
Aaron Sorkin – Writer
Marc Shaiman – Composer

Tom Cruise – Lt. Daniel Kaffee
Demi Moore – Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway
Kevin Pollak – Lt. (J.G.) Sam Weinberg
Kevin Bacon – Capt. Jack Ross
Jack Nicholson – Col. Nathan R. Jessup
Kiefer Sutherland – 2nd Lt. Jonathan Kendrick
JT Walsh – Lt. Col. Matthew Andrew Markinson
Wolfgang Bodison – Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson
James Marshall – Pfc. Louden Downey
JA Preston – Judge Julius Alexander Randolph

Lightning Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell movie posterSynopsis
Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A perfect human / machine hybrid. However, she has no recollection of her past before becoming the weapon she is today. When she confronts a mysterious terrorist known as Kuze (Michael Carmen Pitt), she soon begins looking for answers about the truth of who she really is.

Review
Ghost in the Shell had the difficult task of luring in fans of both the original 1995 animated film and proceeding anime of the same name, as well as a new audience. Because I have yet to see the original film, I fall into the latter, but found myself right away getting drawn into the movie’s world. What hooked me in the beginning was its fantastic science-fiction neo-noir version of Tokyo. The bright colors from the advertisements, signs, cars, and lights create a stark contrast against the more muted-colored buildings. When it comes to sci-fi films, I like to be sold on the world it is looking to create. Almost every character has some sort of cybernetic enhancement and this movie shows how integral these enhancements have become in this world. Say what you will about Scarlett Johansson being cast as Major, she did a great job in the role. She made her movements rigid and less fluid than what you are used to seeing. This motion sold that she had a robotic body despite her appearance as flesh and blood.

As philosophical as this movie wanted to be, it never fully examined the themes it was trying to bring across. They were touched on and hinted at several times through the film but it still felt like the message or commentary it was trying to provide was not delved into as deeply as this movie thought it was. I think it is funny that this is the case because a lot of time was spent on exposition. However, it never seemed to move past a superficial level or into any deep exploration of its themes. This also made the movie feel like it was often not going anywhere because there wasn’t enough action to make up for the lack of depth. It’s a shame these ideas never found much ground because the concepts of artificial intelligence and identity are very interesting to me.

I thought Ghost in the Shell was OK 😐 Its futuristic neo-noir world is extremely well realized and Scarlett Johansson was great casting as Major but despite much of its run time is spent on exposition, the themes and commentary it was trying to bring across aren’t explored past high-level concepts. This movie isn’t bad by any means, but there are flickers of good ideas that never came to fruition to make it something special.

Trivia
Several original voice actors from the 1995 animated Ghost in the Shell reprise their roles for the Japanese dubbed version of this film. Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka, and Koichi Yamadera voice their parts as Major, Batou, and Togusa respectively.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rupert Sanders – Director
Jamie Moss – Screenplay
William Wheeler – Screenplay
Ehren Kruger – Screenplay
Lorne Balfe – Composer
Clint Mansell – Composer

Scarlett Johansson – Major
Pilou Asbaek – Batou
Takeshi Kitano – Aramaki
Juliette Binoche – Dr. Ouelet
Michael Carmen Pitt – Kuze
Chin Han – Togusa
Danusia Samal – Ladriya
Lasarus Ratuere – Ishikawa
Yutaka Izumihara – Saito
Tawanda Manyimo – Borma
Peter Ferdinando – Cutter
Anamaria Marinca – Dr. Dahlin

Ultimate 90s Blogathon Kickoff: Encino Man

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Welcome! Welcome, one and all to the Ultimate 90s Blogathon! For the next several weeks my co-host Kim, the mastermind behind Tranquil Dreams, and I will celebrate films of the rad 90s with our fellow bloggers.Β  There is quite a mix of movies reviewed so I’m excited for you to see what is in store.Β  Kim kicked off the blogathon on her site as well with reviews of several of her favorite Robin Williams movies. She is also keeping a page of all the blogathon entries, which you can see here, that way you can get them all at one easy-to-find location.Β  Now let’s get this party started!


Encino Man movie poster

Synopsis
Dave (Sean Astin) just wants him and his best friend Stoney (Pauly Shore) to be one of the cool kids at high school. When they find a frozen caveman (Brendan Fraser) in Dave’s backyard, Dave tries to use their discovery to get in with the popular crowd.

Review
For this blogathon, all the entrants looked at β€œUltimate 90s” as their favorite film from the 1990s. Well I’m going to look at it from a different point-of-view. I’m interpreting it as what movie I think best encapsulates the 1990s. Before I get to my review, here are a few reasons why I picked Encino Man as my Ultimate 90s movie:

  1. The Vocabulary. A good way to figure out what era a given movie is from is by listening to what slang is used. The 90s were littered with terms like β€œdope,” an excessive use of the word β€œbabe,” and creating custom words by adding β€œ-age” to the end of words. Let’s not forget the ever popular β€œas if.” Encino Man has all of the above and then some, which very easily lets the viewer know it very clearly takes place during the 90s.
  2. The Fashion. 90s fashion was defined by bright colors and crazy patterns. Oh, and jean jackets and leftover 80s aerobics outfits. All three of the main characters check these fashion crazes. Plus the girls’ hairstyles are exactly what you remember from the 90s.
    encinoman-hair
  3. Pauly Shore. Pauly Shore hit his heyday with his MTV show Totally Pauly. After Encino Man, he began to work on more movies, which lasted through most of the 90s then slowed down significantly in the early 2000s. So really, the Pauly Shore era is primarily the 90s.
  4. MTV. Speaking of MTV, believe it or not, this TV station actually PLAYED MUSIC at one time in history. Unlike today where it is filled with reality shows. I know this isn’t exactly a great way to tell that a movie takes place in the 90s but at one point in the movie, there is a glimpse of MTV playing music with the MTV logo from the 90s.
    mtv-90s-logo
  5. Freeze frame before credits. It was very common for movies and even television series in the 90s to do a freeze freeze before fading to credits. Encino Man is no exception.

Encino Man is far from the best film of the 90s, and it hasn’t aged extraordinarily well because it is so very clearly 90s but that is why I still enjoy it. This film is a snapshot of the 90s. As a child of the 90s, it takes me back in time. The lighthearted story keeps the movie from becoming too serious but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like there is much of a conflict either. Although I guess that isn’t the worst thing for a comedy. The plot is not the most original, an unpopular kid want to be popular and try to win the girl of his dreams, and filled to the brim with cliches but Sean Astin, Pauly Shore, Brandan Fraser bring an undeniable charm to the film. All members of the cast feel like they are enjoying themselves, which comes across and makes a better experience for the audience. It is very easy to turn this film on, sit back, relax and have an enjoyable ninety minutes.

I thought Encino Man was GOOD πŸ™‚ It may not be the most exciting or the most genre-defining teen movie but it still has a certain appeal to it. This could have easily been a terrible film to try to ride the rising popularity of Pauly Shore. Instead, Shore’s trademark personality and Fraser’s antics create a fairly pleasant experience that acts as a time capsule of being a teenager in the 90s.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Les Mayfield – Director
Shawn Schepps – Story / Screenplay
George Zaloom – Screenplay
J. Peter Robinson – Composer

Sean Astin – Dave Morgan
Pauly Shore – Stoney Brown
Brendan Fraser – Link
Megan Ward – Robyn Sweeney
Robin Tunney – Ella
Michael DeLuise – Matt Wilson
Patrick Van Horn – Phil
Dalton James – Will
Rick DuCommun – Mr. Brush
Mariette Hartley – Mrs. Morgan
Richard Masur – Mr. Morgan
Ellen Blain – Teena Morgan

Lightning Review: When Harry Met Sally…

When Harry Met Sally... movie posterSynopsis
Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) have known each other for years and are very close friends. They want to move their relationship forward but fear that sex would ruin their friendship.

Review
When Harry Met Sally… is a widely beloved romantic comedy, and it isn’t hard to see why. Being one who doesn’t watch a lot of romance films, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this movie. A big part of that is the chemistry between the two leads, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. Their conversations and their back-and-forth feels smooth and natural. It’d be easy to forget you weren’t watching a movie but two actual, long-time friends bantering. Of course, this feeling of comfortability would not be possible without the well-written script by Nora Ephron and crisp directing by Rob Reiner. Together, they have managed to make what is essentially a ninety-minute Seinfeld episode. If you think about it, this movie is about nothing. The simplicity is ingenious, which might be what I like best about it. There is no, conflict. There is no big hurdle Harry and Sally need to overcome. This is a movie about a man and a woman being platonic friends. The whole sex-ruining-the-friendship part is a driving force for the story but it is only brought up sporadically and doesn’t significantly impact it until the end.

I thought When Harry Met Sally… was GREAT πŸ˜€ The leads, the directing, and the script dovetail harmoniously to create a simple yet touching story. This truly sets a standard for romantic comedies that many films are still trying to touch today.

Trivia
The stories told by the couples during special segments throughout the film were real stories, collected by Rob Reiner for the film.Β  Harry and Sally’s segment was completely improvised by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.

Favorite Scene

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rob Reiner – Director
Nora Ephron – Writer

Billy Crystal – Harry Burns
Meg Ryan – Sally Albright
Carrie Fisher – Marie
Bruno Kirby – Jess
Steven Ford – Joe
Lisa Jane Persky – Alice
Michelle Nicastro – Amanda

Lightning Review: Predator 2

Predator 2 movie posterSynopsis
In 1997 Los Angeles , Lieutenant Harrigan (Donald Glover) is in the middle of a gang war when, unbeknownst to him, he is targeted by a Predator (Kevin Peter Hall). He must figure out why his squad members are disappearing while dealing with a government official, Special Agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey), who is taking over his investigation of the cartels.

Review
One of Predator‘s strongest features is its simplicity. A team of commandos is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Predator 2 tries to keep the same simplicity but in an urban jungle instead of a lush, green one. It’s an interesting concept to move to such a dramatically different environment but I don’t think the film fully took advantage of the setting. Maybe it was the way the Predator hunted this time wasn’t as exhilarating or maybe it was the film’s pacing. Either way, I didn’t feel the suspense I felt in the previous movie. The film has a good cast who do what they can with what little script they are given. Danny Glover is a good follow up to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch. I particularly liked Bill Paxton as the quick-talking Jerry Lambert. The character’s attitude is much some of Paxton’s other characters I like, such as Private Hudson in Aliens or even more recently John Garrett in Agents of SHIELD TV series. Similar to the Xenomorphs in Aliens, Predator 2 expands on the Predator’s as a species, apparently called the Yautja (e-wat-ya), more by showing they hunted a variety of species, not just humans, as well as expanding their arsenal.

I thought Predator 2 was OK 😐 It tries to be simple like Predator but it doesn’t have the same thrill or suspense so it ends up feeling dull at times. The great cast does well but they can only do so much with the little material they have to work with. This is a rare case where the plot was too simple and to have a twist or two would have kept it interesting.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Stephen Hopkins – Director
Jim Thomas – Writer
John Thomas – Writer
Alan Silvestri – Composer

Kevin Peter Hall – The Predator
Danny Glover – Lieutenant Mike Harrigan
Gary Busey – Peter Keyes
Ruben Blades – Danny Archuleta
Maria Conchita Alonso – Leona Cantrell
Bill Paxton – Jerry Lambert
Robert Davi – Captain Phil Heinemann
Adam Baldwin – Garber
Kent McCord – Captain B. Pilgrin
Morton Downey Jr. – Tony Pope

Lightning Review: Keeping Up with the Joneses

Keeping Up with the Joneses movie posterSynopsis
Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis) and his wife Karen (Isla Fisher) are an average suburban couple but when Tim (Jon Hamm) and Natalie (Gal Gadot) Jones move in across the street they get mixed into the crazy world of espionage.

Review
I was immediately drawn to Keeping Up with the Joneses once I saw who it starred. With names like Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, Gal Gadot, and John Hamm, this film boasts a talented cast list. With the exception of Hamm, all of the above actors have been some of my favorite films. Keeping Up with the Joneses offers some pretty good laughs but doesn’t seem to fully utilize the talent its cast possesses. However, that’s not to say they don’t do well. All four of them have great chemistry with each other. Either in pairs or all of them together, each scene made me at least smile with enjoyment, if not laugh a little. But that is all the reaction they earned. I think that was my biggest disappointment in this movie is there aren’t many stand-out or laugh-out-loud moments. It was enjoyable but mostly forgettable. Despite being veterans of comedies, both Galifianakis and Fisher are fairly forgettable when compared to their roles in other films, such as The Hangover or The Wedding Crashers respectively. Hamm and Gadot seem to have fun as the more serious counterparts to Galifianakis and Fisher. They played to their strengths better than the other members of the cast, turning out more of the memorable moments than the others.

I thought Keeping Up with the Joneses was OK :-|. I know I might have painted the picture that I didn’t enjoy the film a whole lot but I did. It just left me underwhelmed where I was expecting more from such a talented cast. Keeping Up with the Joneses plays it safe. It was a good comedy that walks this weird middle ground where it is not too exciting while never becoming drab either. It’s actually pretty impressive how ordinary it is.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Greg Mottola – Director
Michael LeSieur – Writer
Jake Monaco – Composer

Zach Galifianakis – Jeff Gaffney
Isla Fisher – Karen Gaffney
Jon Hamm – Tim Jones
Gal Gadot – Natalie Jones
Matt Walsh – Dan Craverston
Maribeth Monroe – Meg Craverston
Michael Liu – Yang
Kevin Dunn – Carl Pronger
Henry Boston – Patrick
Jack McQuaid – Mikey
Patton Oswalt – Scorpion
Ming Zhao – Scorpion’s Girlfriend