Legend (1985)

Legend (1985)

Original Theatrical Release: April 18, 1986
Director: Ridley Scott

Jack (Tom Cruise) is a boy at one with the forest, embraced by the Elves and other faerie creatures. He is pure of heart and has fallen in love with a girl, Lili (Mia Sara), and has decided to let her see a Unicorn up close and personal. Lili, overcome by wonder, touches one of the horned creatures of myth and unwittingly lures it into a trap set by the forces of Darkness (Tim Curry). One unicorn is felled and its horn chopped off, plunging the world into an ice age from which it may never recover and Lili is abducted by Darkness and his minions, leaving Jack to save the world, the woman he loves and the remaining unicorn from a terrible fate.

This is one of those films that sort of just slipped through the cracks. Against films such as Willow, Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and others, this movie was swallowed up and lost in the shuffle. Because of its sometimes-meandering story, it doesn’t hold up against those other films all the time. However, the visuals and the mood captured by Ridley Scott still hold up after all these years. I recently re-watched this film, since I hadn’t seen it in more than a decade, and I was extremely impressed with how almost none of it looks cheesy – even by 1980’s standards.

The acting style used by all of the actors is very Shakespearian and fits the tone of the piece well. Everyone is very dramatic and classical. Evil creatures wave their hands and belly-laugh as they take delight in that evil. Darkness, played by the very-talented Tim Curry, looks like something that stepped out of Hell. Jack, played by a very young Tom Cruise, crouches in his forest rags and does somersaults and climbs on trees. The landscape is surreal and fantastical and embodies everything fantasy – which makes sense because Ridley Scott reviewed many classical fairy tales in order to get the right feel for the film. He definitely succeeded on that front.

If anything, give this film a shot just to look at it. The story is a bit more complex than people think, so take your time to analyze all that Legend has to offer before dismissing it. Is it the most perfect fantasy film? No, not by any means – but its voice is one that should be heard.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Legend

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Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) lives a charmed life, despite being born with a lower I.Q. than most – as well as a physical deformity of the spine which forces him to wear corrective leg braces. Gump’s mother (Sally Field) pushes and encourages him enough that he eventually sets out on his own and ends up witnessing lots of events in recent history that have shaped the world. On his journey of self, he chases love – in the form of Jenny Curran (Robin Wright), his childhood friend and crush – and also experiences war, happiness, loss and the gamut of the human experience, proving that despite his setbacks, Gump is wiser than most of us can say we are.

I remember seeing this back around the time it first came out, and I remember being blown away. So, I figured I’d revisit it, since it’s on Netflix, and to tell you the truth – Forrest Gump holds up pretty well over time.

Forrest Gump, the character, is one of Tom Hanks’ better roles. I’m no Hanks hater by any means, but he has a particular style that doesn’t lend to camouflaging his own personality. When I see him in films, I have a hard time separating film Hanks from real-life Hanks that I’ve seen. In Forrest Gump, this isn’t a problem.

Much like Billy Bob Thornton’s role in Slingblade, this is one of those times where you wonder if they’d have been able to make a film like this nowadays. There are some questionable messages in the film that critics would pounce on in present times, but for the time it was made it was a nice reflection on the Baby Boomer generation.

The movie is based, of course, on the novel of the same name by Winston Groom from 1986, although in the book, Forrest Gump is a pretty different character. Also, there are a few different events in the book that never made it to the movie version – like when Forrest went to space (would’ve been strange to see Hanks in space in Forrest Gump as well as in Apollo 13, amirite?!)

The only thing that didn’t really hold up too well was when it showed footage of Forrest in the old newsreels and footage from things and events that Forrest was privy to witnessing as history in the film progressed. You could really notice it. Other than that, though, the cinematography was great and the pacing of the film was really well done.

If you haven’t seen this one yet – do. It’s a classic.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

The Giant Mechanical Man (2012)

The Giant Mechanical Man (2012)

Janice (Jenna FIscher) is a quirky, listless thirty-something with no real ambition in life. She can’t hold down a decent job and she can’t seem to find a guy who doesn’t conform to every cheesy stereotype of men that exists. Enter: Tim (Chris Messina), who is almost entirely the same way as she is except for the fact that he dresses up in stilts and silver paint as the Giant Mechanical Man.

This movie doesn’t really contain much in the way of any surprises, despite the cool-sounding title. The street-performing aspect of Tim’s character is part flavor and part symbolism.

I know that some hard-working folks will chafe at the film’s underlying message, which seems to poke fun at what the world deems as being “successful”, but most people will just think of this as another light-hearted, quirky rom-com….which it really is underneath it all.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some good things about it, and Topher Grace’s character is sleaze-and-cheese-o-riffic…but this doesn’t push any new boundaries.

Neither does the acting, for that matter. Pam, er…I mean, Jenna Fischer (sorry, couldn’t resist) is OKAY as Janice but I get the feeling that she’s just playing herself. Chris Messina can’t help but come across as arrogant and cocky when I think he was supposed to be likable.

I would say, give it a watch at least once but it doesn’t really have a lot of staying power. There are other films that have a similar message out there that are more poignant, like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Vanilla Sky.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Eagle VS Shark (2007)

Eagle VS Shark (2007)

Lily (Loren Taylor) is a socially awkward girl who has a crush on Jarrod (Jemaine Clement), who is equally socially awkward but thinks of himself as a Renaissance Man. Jarrod reveals to her that he is going to confront a bully who tormented him in grade school, and so the two of them return to Jarrod’s hometown where Lily meets his family and sees how Jarrod is trying to live up to the legacy of his amazing-but-dead brother, Gordon (Taika Waititi).

I had been wanting to see this for the longest time, because I love almost anything that Jemaine Clement is in. (Gentlemen Broncos was the only one I didn’t really like as much as some others) I was not disappointed.

The film is New Zealand’s mostly successful answer to Napoleon Dynamite. Though not set in the midwest, with all its quirks and interesting characters, New Zealand can definitely hold its own in the zaniness department.

Jemaine Clement is in top form here, playing the loser-who-thinks-he’s-awesome role that he’s so good at playing. Loren Taylor plays a really good wallflower, but she gives her character depth so she’s not just a one-note song.

The film is filled with lots of quotable lines and moments that had me laughing. There was lots of awkward humor, which was great, and Jemaine and Loren really played well off one another.

If you like Napoleon Dynamite at all, then this is going to be right up your alley. Check it out.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)Original Theatrical Release: July 27, 2001
Director: David Wain

It’s 1981 at Camp Firewood in Maine, and it’s the last day of camp. Beth (Janeane Garofalo) has a crush on the nerdy astrophysics professor, Henry Newman (David Hyde Pierce), who is trying to save the camp from a piece of Skylab. Meanwhile, other campers and counselors all have their own piece of drama to play out in the camp’s microcosm before the big talent show that will wrap up the summer.

When I first watched Wet Hot American Summer, I only caught the end of it, and I was really confused. For one, I had never heard of it. Second, I thought it was a real 80’s movie and I was trying to do the math in my head because I saw that Paul Rudd was in it. Obviously, I figured it out and then watched the film in its entirety but they did such a great job making it feel vintage that it felt less like a spoof on those classic 80’s flicks and more like it was one of them.

This film showcases a lot of talent; The aforementioned Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Janeane Garofalo, Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, A.D. Miles, Christopher Meloni, Molly Shannon, Ken Marino, Bradley Cooper and others. Most of these actors work well off each other, and you can see many of them together in other films like Role Models.

David Wain did an overall good job on directing this, but the story was sort of all over the place. For what it is, it does well, however disjointed some may find it. As a Mainer, it was a delight to see all this quirky action taking place, seemingly at random, in Maine. There is a scene where the characters “go into town” and end up in Waterville, Maine…and it’s just so ridiculous that it had me cackling.

If you like silliness, partake in this film. If silly is not your thing, then you should probably stay away. Rumor has it, by the way, that Wain is working on Wet Hot American Summer 2. Can’t wait!

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Wet Hot American Summer

Date Movie (2006)

Date Movie (2006)

Original Theatrical Release: February 17, 2006
Director: Aaron Seltzer, Jason Friedberg

Julia Jones (Alyson Hannigan) is feeling like she will never find someone. Her multi-ethnic parents (Eddie Griffin and Meera Simhan) want her to marry Nicky (Judah Friedlander) but Julia doesn’t want to resort to being with someone she doesn’t love. In comes the dashing Grant Funkyerdoder (Adam Campbell) and she feels like she has met the man of her dreams, but first she has to overcome the schemes of his gorgeous best friend and former lover, Andy (Sophie Monk), who has never quite let him go.

These types of movies generally have been overdone. The first Scary Movie or two were great, but some others (Dance Movie) were just terrible. This is somewhere in between.

Next to Not Another Teen Movie, which I think is a lot better, the jokes in Date Movie generally work but most are considered too lowbrow to have any real staying power. There are some genuine laughs to be had, especially if you “get” this kind of humor (or maybe are a terrible person like I am). There’s a scene where Julia and Grant are out on a date and they “romantically” beat up a bum together and take what meager possessions he has. That’s the kind of stuff you’re going to find in this flick. However, some of the gags fall flat and don’t even live up to the original source material, much less surpass it.

They riff on films like Hitch, Napoleon Dynamite, Kill Bill and more…and that’s kind of where this movie fails. Not because they didn’t do a good job riffing on those films, but because it would have been more successful if they had just stuck to riffing on actual date movies like Hitch and Sleepless In Seattle. That’s why Not Another Teen Movie is so much better. They stuck with their premise.

Hate it. Love it. I think it’s okay, and not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It’s worth watching just to see Judah Friedlander and Alyson Hannigan, for sure.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Date Movie

 

Vanilla Sky (2001)

Vanilla Sky (2001)

Original Theatrical Release: December 14, 2001
Director: Cameron Crowe

David Aames (Tom Cruise) is a successful publisher who inherited the majority of his father’s money and business and lives a carefree life where nothing ever goes wrong and everyone caters to his every need. During David’s posh birthday party, his friend Brian Shelby (Jason Lee) shows up with who could very well be the girl of David’s dreams – Sofia Serrano (Penelope Cruz). David has to decide if she’s worth changing his life for. However, there are consequences to every action, and a very manic and depressed “fuck buddy” of David’s, named Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) waits on the sidelines in quiet anger and desperation.

Let me first tell you that I am often not a fan of Tom Cruise. Or Cameron Diaz. Or Penelope Cruz. About the only actor I initially liked in this movie in other projects is the amazing Jason Lee.

None of that matters, though, because this movie completely blew me away.

It’s a remake of the Spanish film Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) in which Penelope Cruz reprises her role. Many think that Abre Los Ojos is far superior, but to each his own. I felt that Vanilla Sky hit harder with me under Cameron Crowe’s direction.

I rented this one night on a lark, not really knowing what to expect. Tom Cruise turns in one of the most memorable performances of his career, donning makeup that makes him look disfigured throughout the film when he’s not wearing the facial prosthetic/regenerative mask. Cameron Diaz has mostly unimpressed me (aside from There’s Something About Mary) but she was perfect for Julie Gianni’s moody, depressed character. Jason Lee was awesome as Brian, the best friend character….and Penelope Cruz was charming as the independent Sophia. Oh, and KURT RUSSEL. Seriously.

I have seen this movie so many times that I can quote it by heart. It made me laugh, it made me cry. The music was amazing (I bought the soundtrack after seeing the film), the cinematography was gorgeous.

This is a highly underrated film and didn’t get much attention when it first came out. I think it has staying power and an extremely strong message that I definitely identified with. It’s commentary on life, on love, on material possessions and existential thought. Go see it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Vanilla Sky