A Brief Look at Seven of My Favourite Films


Recently (as in about two days ago), a hashtag trended for “your seven favourite films.”  And I took the bait.

One of the best things about seeing people do this is the interesting insight it gives you into people you may admire professionally, and your personal friends & acquaintances.  I love it when I see people put out their love for Joe vs. The Volcano on display (I’m looking at you Josh Raby!).  I like it when I see people that I admire professionally (filmmakers, critics) have even just two or three films overlap with me.

So here are my seven favourite.  They’re not necessarily the best films ever made technically (because really, then Citizen Kane would be on every list because damn that film is technically brilliant), but they are my go-to films when I’m feeling in need of comfort of some type.

Because I could only put one film in any kind of numerical order, I’ve decided to talk about them alphabetically.  Overall they’ll be brief (just like in the title header!!) because at some point in the near future I’ll talk about them at more length.

Here they are.

The Abyss (1989)
Alien (1979)
The American President (1995)
The Boy Who Could Fly (1986)
Joe vs. The Volcano (1990)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Stardust (2007)

How’s that for brief?

I’ll let you discuss what you might think these films mean to me, and how they might relate to each other.  Until I review them in more depth (especially given how deep The Abyss is), have a great time thinking of them!

A Look at “The Peanuts Movie” (2015)


I’ve been badgered into not keeping my thoughts to those in my immediate presence about film, so now I have to write about them.  Here’s the second in what I’m assured will be an ongoing series.

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THE PEANUTS MOVIE (2015)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 87% critic / 77% audience

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I grew up watching The Peanuts on television, like a good child of the 1970’s that I was.  I dutifully watched every holiday special.  I went to the theatres to see the theatrical releases.  I even enjoyed the comic strip, despite my love of Garfield as I got older.

But then something happened as I hit my teens … my zest for watching or reading anything Peanuts related wore off.  Chalk it up to discovering pop & rock music, MTV videos, a growing love of visual mediums (film & t.v.).  But the lustre wore off and I left Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the rest behind … a footnote in my childhood growth.

Then a few days ago, I finally sat my two kids and I down to watch 2015’s the Peanuts Movie.  I had heard good things about it from some film critics that I like/appreciate/respect their opinion.  It had a pretty good Rotten Tomatoes score.

I wasn’t prepared for how much I was going to like it.  I don’t think my kids expected to like it as much as they did, either.

Blue Sky Studios, the makers of this film, is mostly known for producing the ICE AGE movies, a hit and miss series for me.  I wasn’t expecting the total heart that exists in The Peanuts Movie, or the amount of simple humour – some of which actually had me laugh out loud.  Not bust a gut like Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s been known to do to me, but good and honest out loud laughs.  All of the characters were true to what I remember from my childhood.  That sense of innocence not yet spoiled by the real world.  Where those neuroses we all have as kids, as shown through the eyes and actions of Charlie Brown, we know as adults we’ll still have, and yet wish we had been able to deal with them as well as Charlie Brown.

I was surprised that they got me to at least giggle at some of Snoopy’s antics, and actually laugh at Woodstock.  All of the other Peanuts characters got their little moments to shine.  As relative newcomers to The Peanuts, my kids seemed to understand just fine who all the gang were meant to be.  But mostly I loved the movie because it reminded me of something that we should always strive to remember: as Charlie Brown does throughout the film, we must always remain honest and true to who we are.

Blue Sky Studios knocked this one out of the park.  The animation worked, matching the heart and antics of the original (especially the way the kids walk), and managed to make Pigpen actually look as if he’s got a swatch of dirt & dust following him around, like a living entity.

Have to give it a rating? B+.  Have to give it stars?  4 out of 5.  This is the kind of film that will stay with you as a warm glowing memory.

Reasons to see it?  So, so many.  But the heart of it is some of the creativity in it.  There’s a sense of love of the original material, and it shows.

A Look at “Race to Witch Mountain” (2009) … and some thoughts


I’ve been badgered into not keeping my thoughts to those in my immediate presence about film, so now I have to write about them.  Here’s the first in what I’m assured will be an ongoing series.

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RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN (2009)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 43% critic / 44% audience

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First of all, I want to state that I do not have any inherent disapproval of someone or some studio wanting to remake, reboot, or just plain redo an older film.**  This especially goes for films that I hold dear to me in one form or another, whether it be from near worship or just really, really fond memories.

My feelings towards the original “Escape to Witch Mountain” (1975) and “Return from With Mountain” (1978) fall into the fond memories.  I saw both of these films at a drive-in when they came out, because my parents liked me enough to take me.  I had a huge crush on Kim Richards, because she was all shades of cute and awesome – at least to my 8-10 year old self.  They were fun, escapist fare, and while no t.v. Star Trek, it did have Eddie Albert to go along with it.  It even had Uncle Jesse from The Dukes of Hazzard before Dukes even existed!  So, yeah, there’s some fond memories that go along with these films.

So now to current day.  I seriously love me some Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  He’s one of the few deeply charismatic actors that manage their humour, but have more within them that shows.  Doesn’t matter if he’s doing “The Tooth Fairy” or “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” he brings an enjoyment of making the movie along with him that just makes what he’s in that much more entertaining.

Unfortunately, that did nothing to help with “Race to Witch Mountain.”

The use of the normally always wonderful Carla Gugino did nothing.  The lacklustre characters that AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig had to work with was almost criminal.  Quite a few other actors of note were in it, most of whom usually do supporting characters well, were just wasted.  A by-the-numbers script didn’t leave director Andy Fickman much to work with.

The worst culprit, and I think it’s safe to say this, is whomever decided that this script/story was a good idea for a reboot.  I get that it’s budget wasn’t a large one.  It’s easy enough to tell this kind of story without a large amount of money to tell it.  Some of the set pieces were interesting, but considering the source material was predominately family-oriented, it says something when the action set pieces scare an 8-year old girl.  And even worse, by the time the movie is over it leaves three people – ages 8, 12, and 47 – all with the opinion that the film was “meh.”

It’s incredibly easy to Monday morning quarterback any piece of literature – film, t.v., art, written – but sometimes you can just *see* that what you have is not going to work the way you think it’s going to.  This should have been apparent during the writing process of “Race.”  It strikes me that if you’re Disney, and you’re going to producing a reboot of a family-oriented film, then you should keep in mind that a certain share of the market you’re aiming for is, you know, kids.  That all important quality of “family-oriented.”  Write things that make kids want to say more than “meh” at your final product.  And keep in mind that no matter what they may act like at times, most kids are not dumb – they can see through fakery and half-assing it.

This lack of caring for the target audience is frustrating to the writer in me: it’s like how can you not see the car/train wreck coming?  What kind of interference did the writers get from the producers? (“We need a really bang up car chase because ACTION!” or “We need a really cool special effects scene to happen about here in the film.  Can you come up with something in a tunnel and small cave?  We don’t have much budget for an actual set but we can effects the s**t out of it!”)  Were the writers given parameters to start with, aside from updating the original novel or film adaptation?

Having had a low budget feature made from a script I co-wrote does lend me a different perspective to something after I’ve seen it.  But “Race to Witch Mountain” left ‘meh’ in the cold, with a lot to be desired.

Have to give it a rating? D.  Have to give it stars?  2 out of 5.  It seriously wasn’t a bad film.  But I’d rather a film be horribly bad in the end than just meh, because meh isn’t that memorable.

Reasons *to* see it?  Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino.  Two pros bringing what they can to lacklustre roles.

Insight


Anyone who happens to follow my blog, or happens upon it by accident, will notice I don’t have any one singular theme, although I do a lot of things from a humorous point of view.  But this year things are a little different.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had a bit of a writing slump with some serious writer’s block — going on about 10 years now.  I’ve managed to write a handful of poems, but nothing major.  Then this political cycle in the U.S. started.  It seems my muse is currently disguised as Donald Trump.

I’ve never cared about Donald Trump prior to his running for the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.  His life and business practices didn’t run in my information circles.  Next thing I know, I’m following him along his haphazardly self-lain mine field of a political run for something that he’s uniquely unqualified for.  My political ideologies skew Democrat/Liberal, but I see just value in fiscal conservatives.  Not Republican, per se, but there’s nothing wrong with doing great things for everyone if you can spend on it smartly.  I, by no means, believe the current Republican Party of the U.S. is what it used to be.  It’s full of the worst kind of politicians (spiteful, and if you don’t believe it just look up Senator Mitch McConnell’s public statements when President Barack Obama was elected – that the Republican’s number one job was to make Obama a one-term president), idiotic (really too many to count, but think Affordable Health Care Act and Benghazi), and so far to the religious right that it’s surprising they haven’t fallen off the flat earth.

So Donald Trump has become my TrumpSpeak muse.  He’s immensely fun to TrumpSpeak, especially when all I have to do is base it off of what he’s actually done in public.  I don’t have to make up any of the circumstance.  Satirical fun at it’s best.

August 2, 2016’s Trump Speak (aka purple heart party time)


Donald Trump: I have a purple heart now. A purple heart, let me tell you, a purple heart is an amazing thing to have. So amazing.  And I already have a heart that’s red and blue, with white blood cells. Little tiny white cells.  So, so tiny.  What do you get when you mix red and blue? I’m not really sure, and let me tell you I have the absolute best, most amazing not sures. Better than anybody else’s. But now I have this purple heart. This wonderful heart that a veteran gave me. He gave it to me because he thinks I deserve to have it. And let me tell you, nobody deserves this heart of purple more than I do. After that vicious, vicious attack, and I know vicious because nobody knows vicious like I do, but after that vicious attack at the dee en cee last week, I definitely am wounded. I feel it right here (points to arm), right where I got dragged through the mud by that Crooked Hillary, trademark pending so don’t try and use that if you’re not me, and nobody is me like I am. I mean I am me and we are me and we are all together, right now. Belittle me if you’d like for this heart that I earned, and I did earn his heart, his big heart of purple. And nobody knows purple like I do. I do purple like no one. Just ask Barney. Frankly, I like this heart. Heart me all you want, people of this soon to be great again America. And for those of you who do like me, ask yourselves, do you really want to heart me?

(original version appears on Facebook)

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