Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Movies That Changed My Life

The title of this post may sound a little dramatic but there are definitely many movies that have impacted my life and that I regularly make references to. These movies also set the standard for their genres. I was pretty young when I saw the first several movies featured below and I think that helped create my love for movies.

Rocky- I remember watching Rocky for the first time and thought it was kind of boring except for the boxing scenes. The sequels that followed got more exciting even though the actual films got worse over time. Regardless of your appreciation for the Rocky movies, few things are as motivating to a young kid as watching one of the many work out montages from these movies. 

Ben Hur- My dad took me to this Hollywood epic when I was about 10 years old and I was entertained by the amazing action, the large scale scenes, Heston's charisma, and the spiritual story behind it. It is still a favorite of mine to this day.

Raiders of the Lost Ark- This movie was a game changer for action and adventure movies. It set the standard for non stop action in movies from start to finish. Spielberg did such a great job with all the details in this movie. I remember getting home after watching it for the first time and I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Psycho- Unlike horror films like Jaws, and Poltergeist, this film didn't deal with creatures under the water or ghosts, but with the human psyche which makes it that much creepier. Hitchcock was a master of suspense. I never liked going down into the basement to get a jar of fruit after watching this movie.

Aguirre: The Wrath of God- While growing up, my Dad frequently took me to foreign films. Some of them were pretty boring but this was one of the more memorable and frankly traumatic ones. This movie portrays the thin line between determination, commitment, and out right insanity. Klaus Kinski still freaks me out to this day.

Shawshank Redemption- I love a good prison movie, especially if it involves an escape, and especially if the prisoner is innocent. This movie is excellent on so many levels and the storytelling is great which explains why it has such a high IMDB ranking.

The Matrix- Most people just think of gun fights but this movie offers so much more. It features action, martial arts, science fiction, style, philosophy, etc. Despite being an action movie it is also expands your mind. "Do you think that's air you're breathing?"

Most Any Christopher Nolan Movie- Speaking of expanding your mind, almost every film directed by Christopher Nolan does just that. He is not the lazy movie-goers director of choice. Be prepared to think and have to sit through a second viewing to make sense of all the details. I like all these films and wish movies like them came around more often.

Thursday, September 17, 2020


I've enjoyed every movie I've seen that was Directed by Christopher Nolan. I am a big fan but there is a regular problem with his movies. They are very complicated with many details to keep track of. Movies like The Prestige, Inception, and Intersteller require multiple viewings to let things sink in and make sense. With the recent closure of movie theaters and social distancing and lower numbers attending them now, the movie industry has been hit pretty hard. I was wondering how they could survive with so few movies out and so few people attending. I think Nolan figured out a way to deal with that. Make a movie so complex that people will have to come back and see it 3 or 4 times to really understand it and to appreciate all the details. 

I saw Tenet recently and enjoyed it (at least the parts I was able to wrap my head around.) I appreciate movies that make you think and expand your horizons. This movie does that while also serving up action, suspense, and style. 

I like movies that make you keep thinking about them after you leave the theater. That was the case with Tenet which I give 8.0 stars to. I also saw Bill and Ted Face the Music this week. I kept thinking about that too after viewing it but mostly about how bad it was and how embarrassed I am for sitting through the whole thing. It is a 4.9 star movie at best. 

Anyway, Tenet is great. John David Washington was good in the main role, but I also loved Kenneth Branagh. He's been great in everything I've seen in him over the last 5 years. I highly recommend Tenet but you may need to take a notepad and see it several times to really appreciate the intricate details.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Catching Up On Older Movies

"DURING THESE UNCERTAIN TIMES" we have not had any movies released in the theaters. As a result, the only company that is getting new movies shown to people is Netflix streaming movies that finished filming prior to the pandemic. Last month while browsing Netflix I got caught up on a couple movies that have been out of the theaters for some time but I had never seen before.

White House Down- I knew this was a rival movie of Olympus Has Fallen. I first wrote about rival movies 12 years ago and you can see that post here.  I wasn't expecting much but for some reason when I watched it with such low expectations, it was actually better than I thought it would be. It was totally fake but I was entertained. It was also odd to see James Woods on the screen since it's been such a long time since I've seen him in a movie.  I give White House Down 6.6 stars.

Escape Room- I was interested in this last year when it came out but missed it in the theaters. I have never experienced an escape room but it looks kind of fun. I'm not a big horror fan but from the previews I knew it also featured a certain amount of mystery and suspense too. I was curious to know exactly what this movie was about so I decided to give it a shot. It ended up keeping my attention as I was trying to guess what would happen next and who was in control of the Escape room behind the scenes. The movie reminded me of winning a ticket to Willy Wonka's Factory but they kill you for real. I suppose it was alright. I give it 6.5 stars.

These movies were entertaining, but due to being so bored over the last 2 months of social distancing I was still entertained and not as picky as usual and therefore more generous with my ratings.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Ranking the James Bond Films

I was so excited for the new Bond film No Time To Die to be released in April and was saddened last month when it was announced they would postpone it's release to November due to the Corona Virus pandemic. At the time I'm writing this it is impossible to see any new movies in theaters.

During this down time, I've been thinking about my favorite 007 movies and I decided to rank them. I am including the bootleg Bond movie Never Say Never Again, but I'm not including the 1967 Casino Royale spoof movie or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which is technically a Bond film.

I didn't really start watching Bond films until the late 70's so I grew up with Roger Moore as Bond, but I have seen every movie multiple times. I appreciate what each of the actors who have taken the role have brought to the table. I love Connery's charisma and power. Lazenby did better than he is given credit for in his one installment. Moore and Brosnan were both good but usually kept their hands clean and relied heavily on gadgets and technology. Dalton was an angrier more brooding version of 007. Daniel Craig revitalized the character by showing a very inexperienced and unpolished Bond who has grown and matured over each installment.

I know many of you will scoff at some of the rankings on my list but it's just how I feel. Several years ago I wrote that I liked Die Another Day but after several viewings it has plummeted due to the invisible car and the windsurfing scene. I know that some of these are not the greatest films but many still have memorable stunts and action scenes so I can kind of turn a blind eye to their weaknesses.

Casino Royale 2006
Golden Eye 1995
Skyfall 2012
Goldfinger 1964
From Russia with Love 1963
The Spy Who Loved Me 1977
Thunderball 1965
Dr. No 1962
For Your Eyes Only 1981
Man With The Golden Gun 1974
On Her Majesty's Secret Service 1969
The Living Daylights 1987
Live and Let Die 1973
Octopussy 1983
Licensed to Kill 1989
Moonraker 1979
Spectre 2015
Quantum of Solace 2008
Tomorrow Never Dies 1997
Diamonds Are Forever 1971
A View to A Kill 1985
You Only Live Twice 1967
The World is Not Enough 1999
Die Another Day 2002
Never Say Never Again* 1983

There you have it. I look forward to November and hope the theaters are able to safely open soon. I also hope No Time to Die ends up with a ranking near the top of this list after I finally get to see it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

3 New Reviews

I flew to Kenya last week which meant I got to catch up on some movies on the plane. I was fortunate to fit in 4 of them and as much as I like watching movies on long flights, I'm sure they would be more enjoyable if the film didn't pause each time an announcement was made over the PA system.

Ad Astra- I love science fiction movies but the previews for this one looked like an even slower version of Interstellar. It was not super exciting but I still liked it. Brad Pitt portrays an astronaut who is sent on a mission to save the earth from electromagnetic flares originating from Neptune. The story develops as we find out his father was a famous astronaut who went missing in that area of space many years before. There were some interesting details in the film showing space travel to the moon and beyond. Any time you have a plot about someone on a mission for the government who is second guessing their motivation it adds some suspense. I liked the first 2/3 more but it was still ok. I give it 6.9 stars.

FYI- I got a second dose of Tommy Lee Jones when I watched The Fugitive which was an awesome 90's action/suspense film. Harrison Ford always seems to be great in everything he's been in. I'm not going to review it, but it's a great movie if you haven't seen it.

Knives Out- I wanted to see this when it was released, but it was only in African theaters for less than 2 weeks. Of all the movies I saw, I was by far most excited to watch this one. I really liked it. It was like an American version of Poroit and was sprinkled with plenty of current events and pop culture to make it comical and entertaining on another level. The talented cast was very diverse and I was entertained by all their performances. I still have a hard time hearing Daniel Craig speak with a southern accent as he also did in Logan Lucky. He certainly breaks the James Bond mold with this performance. I'm sure I would have enjoyed this movie even more in a relaxed setting as opposed to an airplane. It's kind of stressful when you start a movie and know you will be pushing it in order to finish by the time the plane lands and you have to disembark. I give it 7.9 stars.

Ford vs. Ferrari-   I had heard this was a good movie but I am not a car guy and had no intention of seeing it. I'm glad I decided to watch it. The acting was great and the movie was well done. It was much more than a historic film about car racing. I liked how they captured the rivalry between these two car manufactures and their drivers and the subsequent races that took place in the mid 60's. Bale was so emaciated for this role that he looked almost like he did in the Machinist. Matt Damon was also very likable in this. It was interesting to have the villains be business executives but it was still very intense and well done. I give it 8.0 stars.

Monday, February 3, 2020

The Invisible Guest

Usually when I decide to watch a movie on Netflix, I spend more time scrolling through options than I do actually watching anything. I get frustrated when I just want to watch a movie but most of the recommendations are TV series. Even if they might be good, I'm not looking for a long term binge relationship, I just want to watch a 2 hour movie. I finally found a good one this week.

I watched a foreign film on Netflix that is not really new, it came out about 4 years ago. It is a Spanish film called Contratiempo. The English title is The Invisible Guest. It is a murder mystery about a successful businessman who is being tried for the murder of a woman he had been having an affair with. He claims he was set up and recounts the events that led up to his current situation with a high power attorney who is attempting to help him clear his name.

The story quickly gets interesting as he confessed about an auto accident that happened while he is having an affair. The other driver died but the main character and his girl friend don't dare to call the police for fear of what will happen too their careers and marriages so they end up rationalizing the situation and just disposed of the evidence.

The rest of the film features the complications that develop as he attempts to hide his secrets. The Invisible Guest has plenty of twists, turns, and suspense. Anyone who likes Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock, or M. Night Shyamalan films should enjoy this well made mystery.

Not only is this a well made and suspenseful movie, but you also get culture points for watching a foreign film. I speak Spanish but those I watched it with don't but they didn't have any problem following along with the subtitles. I give The Invisible Guest a solid 8.0 stars.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

You may have noticed that the final Star Wars movie has generated some controversy as well as lots of money. It's been my observation that casual Star Wars fans liked it but many of the hard core fans (those who might own Jedi robes) were upset with it. I think I may have liked The Rise of Skywalker slightly more than The Last Jedi just because there was less Rose Tico who picked up the mantle of Jar Jar Binks in my opinion. I also struggled with Luke's portrayal in the last movie as well as the whole useless side story of sending Finn to the Galactic version of Monte Carlo for no reason.

I felt this movie made some course corrections from the prior installment. You can tell JJ Abrams was back at the Helm and trying to make changes back to how he envisioned the Star Wars universe compared to Rian Johnson's efforts in The Last Jedi. There were definitely some aspects I did not care for like the overkill of having an infinite number of Star Destroyers with planet destroying capabilities. The death star threat is getting old since they've used it in most of the movies. I'm all for a quick pace and lots of action but it felt rushed like they were cramming too much stuff in the movie without enough character and story development. They could have made two final movies like Harry Potter and The Hobbit did for their final installments. If they did, it would not have been so rushed and they would make twice as much money by dragging the movies out a little longer.

One thing this movie had going against it was that fact that we've been spoiled getting Star Wars movies every two years for some time now. I remember how excited everyone was for The Phantom Menace after a 16 year Star Wars fast. That movie had some of the worst dialogue in the entire series yet I was just excited to see Darth Maul and hear the sound of light saber fights so I enjoyed it when it came out. With each subsequent viewing it's flaws became more apparent and it dropped in favor with me. If we had to wait 10 years between these installments I don't think the fans would be so critical of this last movie.

The special effects were great as usual. Overall the Rise of Skywalker was entertaining and was a nice attempt to bring closure to the series, even though I'm sure there will be more prequels, side stories, and future Star Wars movies that are sure to follow.

I give this movie 7.4 stars in honor of the series but I am still confused and unsure of how much I liked it.
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