Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Sophie’s Choice (1982) ****


R, 150 min.
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Writers: Alan J. Pakula, William Styron (novel)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Peter MacNicol

I saw Alan J. Pakula’s “Sophie’s Choice” as a child. It may have been my first real experience with The Holocaust. I don’t think I even saw the entire movie. Certainly if I did, the whole love triangle stuff between Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol flew far above my innocent mind. But, the choice Sophie had to make in the concentration camp. Well, that stuck with me. I was devastated that such a thing could be asked of a person.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—RoboCop (2014) ***½


PG-13, 117 min.
Director: José Padilha
Writers: Joshua Zetumer, Edward Neumeier (also 1987 film), Michael Miner (also 1987 film)
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Samuel L. Jackson, Aimee Garcia, John Paul Ruttan, Patrick Garrow

“RoboCop” is the umpteenth remake of an 80’s classic in recent years. For the most part they haven’t been a half bad bunch of films. “RoboCop” might be the best of the bunch.

That may be because the original “RoboCop” wasn’t exactly a masterpiece of cinema, but it was based on some pretty profound social commentary. What held the original back was that it was more intent on becoming one of the hardest ‘R’ rated movies of the decade in terms of bloody violence.

So now comes “RoboCop” the reboot rated PG-13 for a public that has become totally desensitized to its violence. In truth, I believe this still should’ve been rated ‘R’ even though it isn’t nearly as graphic as the original. Its story is almost identical to the original, although its themes are quite different.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Muppets Most Wanted (2014) ***


PG, 107 min.
Director: James Bobin
Writers: James Bobin, Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Ty Burrell, Tony Bennett, Hugh Bonneville, Jermaine Clement, Sean Combs, Rob Corddry, Mackenzie Crook, Céline Dion, Lady Gaga, Zack Galifianakis, Josh Groban, Salma Hayek, Tom Hiddleston, Tom Hollander, Toby Jones, Frank Langella, Ray Liotta, James McAvoy, Chloë Grace Moretz, Usher Raymond, Miranda Richardson, Saoirse Ronan, Til Schweiger, Danny Trejo, Stanley Tucci, Christoph Waltz
Voices: Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, Peter Linz

At the beginning of “Muppets Most Wanted” the entire muppet cast sings a musical number about the fact that they’re making a sequel. During the song they admit that sequels aren’t quite as good as the original. “Muppets Most Wanted” isn’t as good as its predecessor, simply titled “The Muppets”, but it retains the same spirit captured by that one, inspired by the original “The Muppet Show” television series.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Visitor (1979) **½


R, 108 min.
Director: Michael J. Paradise
Writers: Ovidio Assonitis, Lou Comici, Robert Mundy, Michael J. Paradise
Starring: Joanne Nail, Paige Conner, John Huston, Lance Henriksen, Shelley Winters, Mel Ferrer, Glenn Ford, Sam Peckinpah, Franco Nero

I’ll admit it. I’m not above film snobbery. I’ve been known to praise movies that are a statement against the mainstream and nothing more. I like to see things in movies that I haven’t seen before. One of my favorite against the grain directors, Werner Herzog, has said that we are starving for new images. While many arthouse films are predicated on the ideal to provide these original images, not all of them do it well.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Longest Yard (1974) ***


R, 121 min.
Director: Robert Aldrich
Writers: Tracy Keenan Wynn, Albert S. Ruddy
Starring: Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter, Michael Conrad, Jim Hampton, Harry Caesar, John Steadman, Charles Tyner, Mike Henry, Jim Nicholson, Bernadette Peters, Pervis Atkins, Tony Cacciotti, Anitra Ford, Michael Fox, Joe Kapp, Richard Kiel

Long before 7’2” tall actor Richard Kiel portrayed one of the most famous James Bond henchmen in “The Spy Who Loved Me”, he appeared in a smaller role in the Burt Reynolds prison football comedy “The Longest Yard”. You wouldn’t have noticed from his performance as Jaws in the two Bond films in which he appeared, but Kiel had a very clear speaking voice. Seeing him speak in “The Longest Yard” is somewhat shocking, because you’re really expecting him to sound a little more like he has marbles in his mouth.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Under the Skin (2014) ***½


R, 108 min.
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Writers: Walter Campbell, Jonathan Glazer, Michel Faber (novel)
Starring: Scarlett Johansson

“Under the Skin” is one of those cerebral sci-fi flicks that leave the majority of viewers cold. It’s meant to. I’m sure many people will go into this film expecting something like Scarlett Johansson’s recent “Lucy”. After seeing this bleak film set with the backdrop of a beautiful but bleak Scotland winterscape, many will wonder what they just saw. Some will complain that it was slow and depressing and that nothing happens. This opening paragraph is for those people who will feel that way. You can stop reading now.