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Outstanding finale (or is it the finale?)
"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" was supposed to be the final movie in the "Indiana Jones" series. At least that's what director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas said at the time this film hit theaters. But now they've said there will be a fourth "Indiana Jones" film. I really don't know if that's a good idea, because the "Last Crusade" was a fitting end to a great movie series. Harrison Ford returns for his third go around as swashbuckling hero Indiana Jones, this time accompanied by Sean Connery as Indy's father, Dr. Henry Jones. These two actors work beautifully together as they fight off the Nazis in search for the Holy Grail. Two actors from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" reprise their roles to great effect in "Last Crusade": Denholm Elliott as Marcus Brody and John Rhys-Davies as Sallah. Alison Doody is the heroine (good or bad?); Julian Glover is the villain; River Phoenix portrays a young Indy at the beginning to see how this character really got his start. "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" not only has great characters, it also has a decent story (taking place in 1938), plus exciting action scenes and special effects. It's better than the second film "Temple of Doom" and comes very close to topping the first film "Raiders". The "Indiana Jones" series should stay right where it is with the "Last Crusade" as the finale. Unless Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford can prove us wrong and make a really good fourth film in the series, we shall see. I loved all three movies in the "Indiana Jones" series. If the fourth film does gets made, I hope it'll be equally as good as the first three.
**** (out of four)
Prequel to "Raiders of the Lost Ark"
It's funny to call "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" a followup to "Raiders of the Lost Ark". This film is a prequel to the 1981 smash hit, a movie where the events that take place actually took place before the events in "Raiders". Notice at the beginning of "Raiders" that the year is 1936. In "Temple of Doom", the year is 1935. See what I mean? "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is another rollercoaster ride of a movie brought to life by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Harrison Ford is back as archaeologist Indiana Jones who this time searches for a sacred stone that was stolen from an Indian village. Along for the ride is American singer/entertainer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw, aka Mrs. Steven Spielberg) and little Chinese sidekick Short Round (Ke Huy Quan). On their way to finding the stone they stumble across a palace that leads to the gateway of the Temple of Doom run by an evil Thugee cult. The action and special effects are first-rate as you would expect, though the story is a tad weaker than it was in "Raiders". Plus, Capshaw's performance leaves something to be desired. She goes so far over-the-top in some scenes that you'd wish Karen Allen would show up as Marion. Nevertheless, Capshaw isn't all that bad. She does make an impression during the times when she's not screaming. But Ke Huy Quan (now known as Jonathan Ke Quan) comes off better as Indy's young sidekick. The following year he starred in the Spielberg produced Richard Donner directed "The Goonies", but then didn't appear in much after that. "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is great fun only if you can get by Kate Capshaw's simpering wimpering character or the over-the-top violence. I found it to be exciting from beginning to end.
***1/2 (out of four)
POINT OF INTEREST: this was the film that lead to the creation of the PG-13 rating in 1984 (along with Spielberg's other 1984 movie "Gremlins"). Both "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "Gremlins" feature violence that most people felt was too strong for a PG rating, though the MPAA felt that it wasn't strong enough to merit an R rating (other Spielberg movies that got PG ratings that were quite intense were "Jaws", "Poltergeist", and the original "Raiders of the Lost Ark"). So after "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "Gremlins" opened in theaters at the beginning of the summer movie season of 1984 and became two of that year's biggest hits, the MPAA realized a new rating had to be created. The PG-13 rating was born. In August 1984, the first movies were released with the new PG-13 rating ("Red Dawn" and "The Woman in Red"). It's not a new rating anymore. The PG-13 rating has held up very well these last 18 years and it'll still go strong in the years to come. But I'll always remember "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" as the leading factor to the creation of the PG-13 rating.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
This is what excitement is all about!
"Raiders of the Lost Ark" is what excitement is all about. Directed by Steven Spielberg, this film is a great adventure tale made in the tradition of those old Saturday matinee serials. Harrison Ford put on the fedora for the first of three appearances as Indiana Jones, the archaeologist who has taken us on three great adventures. Here, Dr. Jones goes after the mystical Ark of the Covenant. The action scenes and special effects are spectacular. The film plays like a rollercoaster ride and there's plenty of on-the-edge-of-your-seat excitement. Karen Allen, who plays Dr. Jones' love interest Marion, is a great heroine (easily the best of the series). The villains include a French archaelogist (Paul Freeman), who's kind of Dr. Jones' counterpart; and some really nasty Nazis. This movie is as good as it gets. Great direction by Spielberg, who collaborated with "Star Wars" creator (and good friend) George Lucas to create a brilliant movie series. The second movie "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" followed in 1984, and that was followed by the third movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" in 1989. All three movies are excellent, but "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is the best.
**** (out of four)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
"The Spy Who Loved Me" (aka Bond 10) is one of the very best Bond movies of the 007 series and the second best for Roger Moore (after 1983's "Octopussy"). After disappointing most critics and fans with his first two 007 outings "Live and Let Die" and "The Man with the Golden Gun", Moore gives probably his strongest 007 performance in this film. This time 007 teams up with a beautiful Russian agent and together go after a shipping magnate intent on world domination. One reason why "The Spy Who Loved Me" works so well is the strong performance by Barbara Bach as Anya Amasova (aka Triple XXX). This is one of the very best of the Bond Girls (or should I say Bond Women), a woman who's smart, sexy, and intelligent. Another reason why this film is so good are the villains, and this Bond film has two memorable ones: Curt Jurgens as Karl Stromberg, the reclusive shipping tycoon; and Richard Kiel as Jaws, the indestructible steel-toothed giant (who would reprise the role in the 007 follow-up "Moonraker"). Plus, "The Spy Who Loved Me" is a very well made movie. It has plenty of action, excitement, humor, exhilarating locations, and a well told story. And for once, Roger Moore doesn't disappoint. I liked Roger Moore as James Bond, though he's not the best 007. However, many people consider "The Spy Who Loved Me" as Moore best Bond film. Well I still say "Octopussy" is his best, but "The Spy Who Loved Me" is right behind it. Excellent film with classy direction by Lewis Gilbert, who also directed two other 007 adventures: 1967's "You Only Live Twice" and 1979's "Moonraker".
***1/2 (out of four)
Live and Let Die (1973)
Roger Moore's 007 debut
"Live and Let Die" (aka Bond 8) marks the debut of Roger Moore as James Bond. This is not one of the best in the 007 series, but it's still a mostly entertaining adventure. This time Bond follows the trails of a heroin smuggler known as Kananga (Yaphet Kotto) thru New York City's Harlem, the Louisiana Bayou, and an island in the Caribbean. In the middle of his search he meets a Tarot card reader named Solitaire played by Jane Seymour (her film debut) who just happens to be working for the bad guy. "Live and Let Die" gets good mileage out of the performances by Kotto and Seymour as the main villain and beauty, and Moore is just adequate as 007. But the other actors don't really make much of an impression. In particular, Clifton James gives the film's (and maybe the series') goofiest performance as Louisiana sheriff J.W. Pepper, a character straight out of a comic book. It's impossible not to laugh at this character. Sheesh, he practically had me rolling on the floor the moment when he yelled at that old guy driving that oyster truck "Did ya evea think of gettin' a driver's license boy!" The other supporting actors (Kananga's hencemen) aren't all that impressive either. Still, there's plenty to like in "Live and Let Die". The action scenes are well done, and the film on a whole is fun. Plus, it has an excellent title song sung by Paul McCartney. I've got one big question: where's Q at?
*** (out of four)
Gents Without Cents (1944)
"Slowly I turn, step-by-step, inch-by-inch..."
"Gents Without Cents" is another funny Three Stooges short film featuring the Three Stooges at their very best. The Three Stooges were at their best when Moe, Larry, and Curly were together (I never cared much for the films featuring Shemp or any of the other stooges that starred opposite Moe and Larry). Curly was the real deal in these Three Stooges short subjects, and "Gents Without Cents" is living proof of that. Here, the stooges play actors who act like burlesque comedians trying to find a job. They do find a job, along with three female dancers (and gymnasts), and are forced to put on a show. Uh oh, did Curly just say Niagara Falls?
I Can Hardly Wait (1943)
"I Can Hardly Wait" is one of the best Three Stooges short subjects ever. Lots and lots of laughs and slapstick comedy in this one. Moe, Larry, and Curly are perfect here, making me laugh out loud like they did in many of their other films. Oh no, the stooges sleeping in another triple bunk bed? I think anybody who has ever watched The Three Stooges automatically knows what's going to happen when a triple bunk bed is featured. I don't even have to say it. I'm sure everybody knows the final result. Hilarious.
Dizzy Pilots (1943)
My favorite "Three Stooges" short
"Dizzy Pilots" is my all-time favorite "Three Stooges" short. This short 17 minute film makes me laugh every single time I see it. I laughed out loud the very first time I saw it, and I just saw it again last night on AMC and laughed out loud again. In "Dizzy Pilots", The Three Stooges (Moe, Larry, and Curly) play the Wrong Brothers, a trio of inept guys who build an airplane and make attempts to assure that everything goes right or they'll be drafted into the army. The usual slapstick comedy that you would expect from The Three Stooges is very well intact here. Hilarious from start to finish.
How High Is Up? (1940)
"How High Is Up?" is another explosively funny Three Stooges short. Moe, Larry, and Curly find themselves working on the 97th floor of a not yet completed skyscraper that's currently under construction. Ineptitude and slapstick follow. Big, big, big laughs in this one.
Hoi Polloi (1935)
"Hoi Polloi" is one of my favorite Three Stooges shorts. A society man makes a bet with another society man that he can turn Moe, Larry, and Curly into society men. Take a guess what happens next. And boy does Moe go slaphappy in this one! Slapstick comedy at its best and brightest.
In the Bedroom (2001)
Brilliantly acted drama
"In the Bedroom" is a dark drama filled with great performances and a terrific directing debut by actor Todd Field ("Eyes Wide Shut", "Twister"). It's about a college kid who falls in love with an older woman much to the disapproval of the kid's parents and to the jealousy of the woman's brutal ex-husband. Then tragedy occurs, and the lives of all of these people are changed forever. "In the Bedroom" received 5 well deserved Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Tom Wilkinson), Best Actress (Sissy Spacek), Best Supporting Actress (Marisa Tomei), and Best Adapted Screenplay (co-written by Field). The performances are the key to why "In the Bedroom" works so well, and Wilkinson, Spacek, and Tomei are all brilliant. There was only one thing that I didn't like about this film and that was the ending which seemed kind of awkward to me. The movie feels like it ends too soon.
***1/2 (out of four)
Not very good, but better than expected
"Valentine" is another horror movie to add to the stalk and slash movie list (think "Halloween", "Friday the 13th", "Scream", and "I Know What You Did Last Summer"). It certainly isn't as good as those movies that I have listed about, but it's better than most of the ripoffs that came out after the first "Friday the 13th" film. One of those films was the 1981 Canadian made "My Bloody Valentine", which I hated alot. "Valentine" is a better film than that one, but it's not saying much. The plot: a nerdy young boy is teased and pranked by a couple of his classmates at the beginning of the film. Then the film moves years later when those classmates are all grown up, then they're picked off one-by-one. The killer is presumed to be the young boy now all grown up looking for revenge. But is it him? Or could it be somebody else? "Valentine" has an attractive cast which includes Denise Richards, David Boreanaz, Marley Shelton, Jessica Capshaw, and Katherine Heigl. They do what they can with the material they've got, but a lackluster script doesn't really do them any justice. There are some scary moments throughout, however.
** (out of four)
Collateral Damage (2002)
Pretty good actioner
"Collateral Damage" is a movie that was supposed to have opened back in October 2001 but was postponed because of 9/11. The reason was obvious: this film has to do with terrorists and terrorism, and it was a wise decision to move its release date back. Nobody wanted to see a movie with terrorist themes so soon after the tragedy of 9/11 hit so close to home. But remember, "Collateral Damage" was completed long before 9/11. I'm guessing we will not be seeing another movie about terrorism for a while. But I went to see "Collateral Damage" trying not to think about the real life attacks that we all witnessed. I was able to put that behind me for the duration of the film, and therefore I found the movie to be a pretty good action picture. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a Los Angeles fireman who witnesses his wife and son killed by a bomb explosion set off by a Colombian terrorist. Schwarzenegger decides to take matters into his own hands to avenge the loss of his loved ones by going down to Colombia and track down this hideous bad guy. "Collateral Damage" has not fared well at the box office and in a way I can see why. We're coming up on the six month anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and some people refuse to see a movie about terrorism. That's very understandable, especially for those who lost loved ones on September 11. I don't know if this film would have fared better if it had been released before 9/11. We'll never know. But on the basis of what I saw while watching "Collateral Damage", I think it's a well made action movie. Schwarzenegger is good too. I felt sympathy for his character. And director Andrew Davis ("The Fugitive") keeps the flow of the action going not allowing the film to get boring. "Collateral Damage" is not the best film of Schwarzenegger's career, but I still found it to be a good movie.
*** (out of four)
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
Wildly entertaining Disney picture
"Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" opened in theaters back on June 23, 1989. This was exactly the same day the first "Batman" movie opened. While "Batman" exploded to an opening weekend record (at that time), "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" opened in the #2 spot and it held its ground very well through the rest of the summer finishing as the surprise sleeper hit of the summer of 1989. And what a surprise this film turned out to be. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" is a very funny, wildly entertaining comedy/fantasy about a nutty professor who's working on a device to make objects shrink. In the beginning, all this machine does is blow things into little pieces. But thanks to a little fate, the machine starts operating the way its supposed to, and four kids find themselves in the path of the machine. They are shrunk to the tiniest of sizes, end up being swept into garbage, and have to find their way back home by going through the backyard which to their point of view looks like a large jungle. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" has alot of special effects. Some of the effects look good, other effects look really fake. If this movie had been made today the effects would have been more elaborate. But who cares if the effects look fake when the movie is so much fun. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" is lots of fun. The performances are terrific. Rick Moranis is perfect as the nutty professor who has to find his two kids (as well as the two kids from next door) and fix up this mess. Marcia Strassman shines as Moranis's wife, and Matt Frewer is hysterical as Moranis's next door neighbor who's big plans for a weekend fishing trip go down the drain when his kids suddenly disappear (of course his two kids are two of the four kids that are shrunk). The four young actors playing the shrunk kids are all terrific, and the movie really belongs to them. Those kids are played by Amy O'Neill, Thomas Brown, Jared Rushton, and Robert Oliveri. Haven't seen much of them today, but they're all excellent in "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids". This is a Disney film that I could watch over and over again because it's so much fun. And I'm not a child. Kids should like it too. I don't think it's too scary even though there are a couple of scenes with the kids in perilous situations. Nevertheless, "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" is a movie for the whole family. Skip the two sequels "Honey, I Blew Up the Kid" and "Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves" as well as the TV series of the same name. They don't come close to matching this one for all out fun.
***1/2 (out of four)
Easily the best "Batman" movie
"Batman" opened to record breaking numbers when it first opened back in June 1989, and deservedly so. This is easily the best film in the series. None of the sequels come close to topping this one for great fun. The plot: Batman tries to save Gotham City from the outrageous villain Joker. Michael Keaton is terrific as Batman/Bruce Wayne; Kim Basinger shines as the beautifully seductive reporter Vicki Vale; and Jack Nicholson gives arguably the craziest performance of his career as the Joker. Directed by Tim Burton, "Batman" is one of the best looking movies that I've ever seen. The Oscar-winning production design is eyepopping and mindboggling. I love movies that have production design that takes you to a world like no other seen before (like Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner"). The Gotham City look in this movie is unforgetable. The special effects and music score (by Burton regular Danny Elfman) are superb too. "Batman" is great fun from start to finish. And boy do I love that Joker's laugh! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
**** (out of four)
Best "Friday" movie after part 4
I thought the "Friday the 13th" movies should have stopped after the fourth movie which was subtitled "The Final Chapter". The fifth film, subtitled "A New Beginning", was a disaster. However the sixth film to follow, "Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives", was an improvement over part 5. And it's still better than the other films that followed afterward, making it the best "Friday the 13th" movie after "The Final Chapter". This movie is just the same old stuff that we saw in the earlier movies: Jason Voorhees stalks and kills people around Camp Crystal Lake (which has been renamed Forest Green for this film). So, big deal. To Jason it will always be Camp Crystal Lake no matter what. The question is how many people Jason will kill and how he does them in. But this film has one major element that the other movies in the series lacks, and that is humor. The humor is handled very well here, and it helps the film to be much better than it could have been. Plus one thing that I was glad to see once in a "Friday the 13th" movie, none of the characters using drugs for a change. However, those elements can't make "Friday the 13th Part VI" a masterpiece. It doesn't even top the first couple movies in the series. It's all too familiar with all the violence and gore. And therefore, I have to give "Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives" thumbs down. But not a big thumbs down like "Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning" or any of the movies that followed this one. It has some good things working for it. As far as the acting goes: Jennifer Cooke is pretty good (and very attractive) as the heroine, but David Kagan comes off very annoying as her father the sheriff.
** (out of four)
Very funny movie
"The Pink Panther Strikes Again" features that totally inept French Inspector Jacques Clouseau, played by the great Peter Sellers, bumbling through another chapter of comic misadventures. This time the zany Clouseau has driven his former superior--ex-Chief Inspector Dreyfus, played by Herbert Lom--insane. Dreyfus gains control of a doomsday device and demands that Clouseau be turned over to him. The thin plot has some slow stretches, but the humor is solid.
*** (out of four)
Black Hawk Down (2001)
The best movie of 2001!
Here's the movie that I'll be rooting for at Oscar time (that's only if it gets a Best Picture nomination which it should). "Black Hawk Down" is my choice for the #1 film of 2001. This may be the best war movie that I've ever seen. There have been great war movies made in the past like "Saving Private Ryan" and "Platoon", but "Black Hawk Down" got to me like no other war movie ever made. Maybe the fact that our country is at war right now made me think about our U.S. soldiers and the fight that were in because of the horrible September 11 tragedy. So you can see that this is an important film to see right now. "Black Hawk Down" is a powerful motion picture about the true story of a U.S. military raid that went disastrously wrong in Somalia in 1993. Director Ridley Scott shows us the horrors of being in a war and how bloody it can get. It's heartbreaking. "Black Hawk Down" has an impressive cast of actors playing the soldiers. Josh Hartnett comes off much better here than he did in "Pearl Harbor" as the leader of a squad which includes Ewan McGregor ("Moulin Rouge"), Tom Sizemore ("Saving Private Ryan"), and William Fichtner ("The Perfect Storm"). Sam Shepard also stars as the major who gives order to the soldiers. "Black Hawk Down" has plenty of action but this movie is not about action. It's about war and the soldiers who fight in it. This is Ridley Scott's best film to date. It's better than his Oscar winner from 2000, "Gladiator". Though he didn't win the Best Director Oscar for that film (which went to Steven Soderbergh for "Traffic"), if nominated for Best Director this year, Scott would be my personal choice for the Best Director Oscar for "Black Hawk Down", because he did an outstanding job on this film. However, that will be tough to come by (Ron Howard of "A Beautiful Mind" and Robert Altman of "Gosford Park" are currently the front-runners for the Best Director Oscar). Scott produced the film with Jerry Bruckheimer, and what an amazing turnaround for the long-time producer after the disappointing "Pearl Harbor". Remember in my review of that film, I complained that the film was ruined by the directing job of Michael Bay. I had said that Steven Spielberg or James Cameron would have done a better job if one of those guys had directed that movie. Ridley Scott is another one. He could have made that film better too, and his direction on "Black Hawk Down" is proof of that. Bruckheimer redeemed himself by choosing Scott to direct this film and he did himself some good in that department. Good job by all. "Black Hawk Down" is a great movie that's powerful and emotional. It's my favorite movie of 2001.
**** (out of four)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Brilliant war epic
Five years after "Schindler's List", director Steven Spielberg delivered another powerful motion picture drama, "Saving Private Ryan". This movie (set during WWII) tells the story of a group of soldiers (led by Army captain Tom Hanks) who go into France to find a private who's three brothers were killed in action, and send him home. The opening 30 minute D-Day sequence is one of the most harrowing movie scenes ever filmed. The story is exceptional, the directing is brilliant, and the acting is excellent. Tom Hanks is terrific as usual, and is supported by an outstanding cast which includes Matt Damon ("Good Will Hunting"), Tom Sizemore ("Black Hawk Down"), Edward Burns ("She's the One"), Vin Diesel ("The Fast and the Furious"), Adam Goldberg ("A Beautiful Mind"), Jeremy Davies ("Twister"), Barry Pepper ("61*"), Giovanni Ribisi ("subUrbia"), and Ryan Hurst ("Remember the Titans"). Some of these actors have gone on to bigger things since this movie but they're all good here. Popular TV star Ted Danson (TV's "Cheers" and "Becker") and veteran character actor Dennis Farina ("Midnight Run" and "Get Shorty") even turn up in cameos. "Saving Private Ryan" should have won the Best Picture Oscar for 1998 because it's a war movie that's harrowing and powerful. It did go on to win 5 Oscars including Spielberg's Best Director win. It's one of the best war movies ever made.
**** (out of four)
Schindler's List (1993)
Steven Spielberg have made movie masterpieces left and right. His movie classics include "E.T.", "Jaws", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "Close Encounter's of the Third Kind", "Jurassic Park", "Saving Private Ryan", and "The Color Purple". I love all of those films. However, "Schindler's List" is his #1 masterpiece. The movie that would finally win him the Best Director Oscar after losing and being snubbed by the Academy for years, "Schindler's List" takes place during the Holocaust and tells the story of Oscar Schindler, the real-life German war profiteer who saved the lives of more than 1,000 Polish Jews. This is one of the most powerful movies ever made, lasting over 3 hours long and shot in beautiful black-and-white. Winner of 7 Academy Awards (including Best Picture), "Schindler's List" features spectacular performances by Liam Neeson as Oscar Schindler, Ben Kingsley as Schindler's Jewish accountant, and Ralph Fiennes in one of the scariest movie performances of all time as an evil Nazi commandant. A harrowing, powerful film that will live on forever, "Schindler's List" is an outstanding movie that I'll never forget.
**** (out of four)
The Color Purple (1985)
Spielberg's first drama
Steven Spielberg wanted to win an Oscar so bad that he figured that he wouldn't win by directing special effects epics (he was nominated for three of them: "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", and "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial". So he decided to get very serious by directing "The Color Purple", a period film with no special effects. Spielberg's first serious drama is a remarkable movie. But the Academy voters who voted back in 1985 still didn't give Spielberg any respect. "The Color Purple" received 11 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, but Spielberg was unfairly snubbed when he wasn't nominated for Best Director. It got worse on Oscar night when this film didn't win a single Oscar. It got completely shut out. That wasn't right. "The Color Purple" should have won a couple of Oscars including one for Whoopi Goldberg's spectacular film debut as Celie, a woman who suffers at the hands of an abusive husband (frightfully placed by Danny Glover), then gets stronger throughout the film thanks to some special friends. Oprah Winfrey also made her film debut here and gives a great performance as Sofia, one of those friends' of Celie. Since I'm from Chicago, I had already known Winfrey from her talk show (which at the time of this films' release hadn't gone nationwide). Like Goldberg, what a film debut! Margaret Avery is terrific as Shug Avery, another friend who also happens to be the mistress of Celie's rotten husband. All three actresses received well-deserved Oscar nominations for their work here (Goldberg for Best Actress; Winfrey and Avery for Best Supporting Actress). Set in the south during the first half of the 20th Century, "The Color Purple" is a film so strong that it made me cry at the end. It also made me laugh at times too. Why Academy voters were so hard on not nominating Spielberg for Best Director is a mystery that still puzzles me today. But Spielberg would eventully go on to win two Oscars years later for "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan", making him one of the best movie directors of all-time. But he should have gotten nominated for this movie. The job that he did going from special effects blockbusters like "E.T." to a serious drama like "The Color Purple" was remarkable.
**** (out of four)
"1941" was Steven Spielberg's first comedic film. It's also the Oscar-winning director's first really bad movie, and today it still stands as his worst film. Although I didn't hate "1941" as much as most people, I still don't think this is a very good movie. I always ask myself "Steven Spielberg made this?" It's hard to believe that he made this film. "1941" is a slapstick comedy of inept proportions that takes place at the time Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941. A big all-star cast is featured here (Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi are two of the big stars, appearing in this right before "The Blues Brothers") and are all pretty much wasted. The action scenes and special effects are this film's only virtue. That should come as no surprise since Spielberg is an expert at action and special effects pictures. But his attempt at comedy falls flat on its face. The comedy here is just too clumsy for it to all work. "1941" isn't awful, just not good. I'd love to know what Spielberg was thinking of when he made this.
** (out of four)
Silly disaster flick
"Starflight: The Plane That Couldn't Land" is a silly made-for-TV disaster flick that could have been titled "Airport '83: Trapped in Space". While the film is modestly entertaining at times, it's just too preposterous to believe. The plot: a hypersonic jet takes off for Australia and ends up stuck in outer space by accident. Director Jerry Jameson fared better with "Airport '77", and the cast (Lee Majors, Hal Linden, Lauren Hutton, Tess Harper, Ray Milland, etc.) have done better work than this. Not a real bad movie but not a real good one either. This movie originally aired as a three hour movie on TV; the home video version was edited by about 30-40 minutes and retitled "Starflight One".
** (out of four)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
A Beautiful Film
After critics' came down hard on his last film ("How the Grinch Stole Christmas"), director Ron Howard comes back with a bang with "A Beautiful Mind". Academy voters out there reading this review, listen up! You unfairly snubbed Howard of a Best Director Oscar nomination 6 years ago for his brilliant "Apollo 13", and if you decide to snub him of a Best Director nomination this year for "A Beautiful Mind", you will be sorry. Howard should be nominated for his directing job on this film because he did a great job. Let me say that again. A GREAT JOB! The film should also get a nod for Best Picture too. It's one of the very best movies of 2001. "A Beautiful Mind" tells the true story of John Forbes Nash Jr., a man who is one of the world's greatest mathematicians, and a victim of schizophrenia. From undergraduate days at Princeton to his winning of the Nobel Prize, we follow Nash on a journey that takes him into the far reaches of mathematical discovery, and into a bewildering labyrinth of hallucinations and madness. Russell Crowe brilliantly portrays Nash in what I think is the best performance of his career. He's sure to win another Oscar nomination this year (we'll see if he can duplicate what Tom Hanks did several years ago and that is win back-to-back Best Actor Oscars; Crowe has a very good chance of doing that). A great supporting performance is turned in by Jennifer Connelly as Nash's wife Alicia; she'll get a Best Supporting Actress nomination. These two key performances by Crowe and Connelly make "A Beautiful Mind" the great film it is thanks primarily to Howard's direction and Akiva Goldsmith's wonderful screenplay (based on Sylvia Nasar's book). "A Beautiful Mind" might give "Lord of the Rings" a run for the Oscars come this March. It's a great movie.
**** (out of four)
Best in Show (2000)
"Best in Show" is a often hilarious mockumentary that takes us into the world of dog shows and some of the dog owners who prepare for the event. The only thing that separates this movie from real dog shows is that the dogs in "Best in Show" act more sane than their owners! Funny stuff from a top-notch cast that includes Eugene Levy (who co-wrote the film), Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Michael McKean, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, and Christopher Guest (who co-wrote with Levy and directed). They're all funny, but Fred Willard steals the movie with his explosively funny performance as the dog show announcer who says the most outrageous things. Plus the dogs are cute too. "Best in Show" isn't exactly the laugh riot that I expected, but there are laughs and it's worth seeing.
*** (out of four)