Friday, August 29, 2014

Cloak & Dagger (1984)

Director: Richard Franklin
Starring: Henry Thomas, Dabney Coleman, Michael Murphy, Christina Nigra
Running Time: 101 Minutes

Two years ago Steven Spielberg introduced us to the young Henry Thomas who played Elliot, the kid who befriended a lost alien in E.T. Now we see Henry Thomas in his most courageous role yet, in "Cloak & Dagger" featuring an imaginative young boy named Davey Osborne who loves role-playing games. His mother passed away recently and his father, Hal (Dabney Coleman) is an overly busy colonel in the U.S. Air Force, so he often looks to find aid in an imaginary super-spy named Jack Flack (also Dabney Coleman).

One day on an top secret assignment for some Twinkies, he witnesses a real murder of an FBI agent who passes a video game called "Cloak & Dagger" to him just before he is killed. Ironically, when the police come, the body is gone, and no one will believe him. Soon Davey finds himself up to his neck in hairbreadth escapes, real bullets, and a race against the clock action. His friend and neighbor Kim (Christina Nigra) gets caught in the middle of Davey's wild imagination which she quickly learns isn't as made up as she once thought. In order to rescue Kim, Davey has to return the game to the "bad guys" led by Michael Murphy. Soon it's a race of the clock to get to Kim before midnight to disable the bomb which was wired in her walkie-talkie, coincidentally it's also the same time the creepy old terrorists' flight out of the country is.

Over the years there's no doubt this movie has dated some, for instance the walkie talkies and the large trunks big enough to stash bodies into, two things you don't see much of today. Today a rated PG family film most likely wouldn't carry a child being hunted, threatened, and held hostage over a video game. It's movies like this one that makes me cherish what we had in the 80s and very early 90s. "Cloak & Dagger" is one of the greatest forgotten gems of the 80s, featuring deadly spies, imaginary superheroes, and a real life adventure based on an ATARI game. The well-anticipated twist at the end makes this movie worth watching to the end.This film is suitable for the whole family whose time has finally come to get the recognition it deserves.

My Rating: 10/10 - OWN IT!
Cloak & Dagger (1984) on IMDb
This review was written in part for Forgotten Films' 1984 a-thon

Friday, August 22, 2014

Old Dogs (2009)

Director: Walt Becker
Starring: Robin Williams, John Travolta, Seth Green
Running Time: 88 Minutes

Charlie (John Travolta) and Dan (Robin Williams) are business partners and close friends. Their lives are turned upside down when Dan receives a letter from his ex-wife (annulled marriage) letting him know he is the father of seven-year old fraternal twins. Although he generally hates kids and is clueless on how to raise them, he volunteers to care for them while she is away, at the same time as a their business is at the verge of a huge deal with a Japanese company. With Charlie's help is there any way they can be dad and uncle, meet the kids' expectations, and still land the business deal?

This movie didn't feature Robin Williams as his most comical self, it almost seemed like this was a movie he didn't want any part of and only involved for the paycheck. Sure his quality of work had been slacking in recent years, see Night at the Museum a movie where he plays a museum statue of Theodore Roosevelt, but he still manages to make me smile whenever I watch him. John Travolta in Old Dogs was similar to anything else he's been in, he seems to love being the center of attention and the more he ages the more he wants to see his name in print. Anyone notice that? Anyway I'm rambling on, the plot of this movie was to show how close these two old friends are. When one is in trouble, the other has his back always. When Dan has to take care of his kids, Charlie offers a hand. Reluctantly Charlie also has to open his one-of-a-kind bachelor pad to the three of them.

This movie receives some slack on big movie critic websites, but let's face it, what really makes a good movie? In my humble opinion if a comedy makes you laugh, if a suspenseful thriller keeps you on the edge of your seat, or if a drama makes you tear up... then they are good movies. Old Dogs is a comedy that did it's job, it made me chuckle from time to time. I guarantee as with many movies, there are faults.

Luis Guzman, why is this guy still starring in movies? He has no acting talent, he stumbles in everything he has ever worked on. If anyone can be worse than him, it's got to be Dax Shepard, Gary-the-Child-Proofer(also played Vince on Employee of the Month). Even a new parent would know you don't have to childproof everything in the house for 7-year-olds, but I regress. At least we see some worthy faces; such as Bernie Mac, Ann Margaret, Matt Dillon, and Lori Loughlin.

Consensus: I stand behind this movie, regardless of how many times it's slammed by movie critics across the board. It's a leave-your-brain at the door, sit back, and relax type of movie all the way through. It's less than 90 minutes in length, watch it yourself instead of letting the critics think for you.

My Rating: 6.5/10
Old Dogs (2009) on IMDb

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: Robin Williams, Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan
Running Time: 125 Minutes

"We're his god damn kids too!"

When loveable and perhaps neurotic Daniel (Robin Williams) decides to throw his son an extravagant 14th birthday party, it's the last straw for workaholic-mom Miranda (Sally Field). His kids mean the world to him, so following a custody battle that he knows up-front always sides with the mother, Daniel decides to do whatever it takes to stay close to them, even if that means dressing up like a sixty-year old woman. Putting together some headlines on the front page of the local newspaper to form the nanny's name: Doubt Fire, Mrs. Doubtfire.

This story of deception goes to show just how much Daniel loves his children. It all goes well for awhile, Mrs Doubtfire becomes a useful asset to the Hillard home, the kids start succeeding in school, the house becomes spotless, and Miranda actually seems unnaturally happy for once in her life. When she starts dating again, to the rich and witty Stu (Pierce Brosnan), the green eyes of jealousy starts popping up which should set off some alarms that something isn't right with her nanny-but it doesn't, she gets in too deep and becomes oblivious to what happens around her, until her birthday dinner that is. That's where everything comes to a screeching halt.

Although Daniel met every single condition the judge told him he had to meet, his recent behavior found him to be unfit  to take custody of his children. While this saddened the mood of the ending, the TV station director saw potential in the great Mrs. Doubtfire and offered Daniel the leading role-after all who else should play her except for the man who created her? At least now his kids can see him daily, and he can entertain the others like he was intended to do. A couple subliminal messages later, not necessarily directed towards her, Miranda finally gave in and let Daniel see his kids on a regular basis - although life as a couple was long over.

In my opinion, this movie was Robin Williams' best performance ever. Of the few films I've seen regarding custody battles, this one always stands out as one with the highest probability of being re-watched. Sometimes parents just don't belong together, they try piecing together a life for the best interest of their children. This can only go on for so long before they get tired of the same nonsense day after day. Would Daniel and Miranda be better suited if they didn't have children at all? It's quite possible that if this movie was rewritten or a prequel was written to before they had the kids, they wouldn't be married and would likely live a happier lifestyle. This is all speculation though since they were married and had three kids.

Consensus: If you haven't seen this movie yet (shame on you), run out to any store that sells movies and buy it immediately. You won't be disappointed with this story. If you liked Kramer vs Kramer (1979) and enjoy comedies based on a similar story, I guarantee you'll like this one too...and hey, if you don't, at least you can cross off another film from the late Robin Williams' filmography. He brought joy to his audience, it's unfortunate he couldn't have that joy in his own life. RIP, Mr Williams. July 21, 1951 - August 11, 2014
"I am not a crook!"

My Rating: 10/10 -- Buy it, own and cherish it forever!!
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) on IMDb

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Director: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck
Running Time: 126 Minutes

This is the story of a deeply troubled but extremely intelligent young man who works as a janitor at one of the prestigious technical schools in the world. Yup, meet Will Hunting (Matt Damon) an orphan living in south Boston and working as a part time janitor for MIT. One day, while he was mopping the floors he came across a equation on a chalkboard that to the surprise of the mathematics professor, Will solved before anyone else on campus.

Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan SkarsgÄrd) sees how intelligent this kid is, and feels he should give him some direction. Using the help of many psychologists before resorting to a former college roommate Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), a psychologist with his own troubles.

The plot may seem repetitive and fairly predictable but the script was written just right to keep you entertained for the full two hours, never a dull lagging moment to be seen. The writers took a typical 21-year old's life and gave him a deeper inside story. Just because someone spends his free time hanging out with friends at bars and getting into fights, and has a rap sheet a mile long doesn't make them a bad person-does it? The performance by Matt Damon was extremely well done, he plays the emotionally damaged kid from a rough part of town, on the outside he looks like he's going nowhere in life but on the inside he's got what it takes to leave town and move anywhere he wants. Professor Lambeau saw this before anyone, Sean knew this but felt Will had to make his own life experiences. This is where I believe Robin Williams deserved the Oscar for best supporting actor. When he told off Lambeau, I swear I could hear every movie-goer applaud in joy.

I've seen many movies starring Robin Williams, mostly comedy pieces though, this being one of his few serious roles I think he did a fabulous job. As I just said, it was a well-deserved Oscar earned. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were best friends, and they made sure everyone knew it. I'm generally not a fan of Affleck, he seems to steal the show more times than not, but the chemistry between the two of them were obviously portrayed greatly in this film. How much he cares for his friend's life, and not being afraid to tell him so was ingenious. Once Will met the gorgeous Skylar (Minnie Driver) it was apparent that even Will wanted more out of his life than working construction and mopping up floors. The bond formed between these two was believable.

Consensus: To some this movie was slow moving, but to me I thought it moved along at the right pace. The story is predictable but the performances given, especially by Robin Williams and Matt Damon were outstanding - well worth the five bucks I paid for it.

My Rating: 8/10 - Matinee !
Good Will Hunting (1997) on IMDb

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jumanji (1995)

Director: Joe Johnston
Starring: Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, Kirsten Dunst, Bradley Pierce
Running Time: 104 Minutes

Starting in 1969, young Alan Parrish and young Sarah Whittle discover a mysterious board game that reluctantly changes their lives. Upon his surprise, Alan finds himself transported into the dark side of the jungles of Jumanji! Twenty-six years later, he is freed by two unexpecting children. Alan (Robin Williams) reunites with Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) and together with Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and her brother Peter (Bradley Pierce) to outwit the game's powerful forces and return to the lives they once had. A combination of breathtaking special effects with a sleuth of magic and thrills bring you the game that must be played to believe!
I was only eight years old when this movie premiered and I thought it was perfect. It's probably among the few childhood classics I can think of, unfortunately over ten years have gone by since I last watched it so with the recent news of the loss of a great Hollywood comic (R-I-P!) I knew I had to revisit this one. It's story still holds up very well as the most entertained I've ever watched, out of the thousands of movies I've seen in my lifetime.
"It's not my turn."

Once the movie begins much like you were playing the game personally you are hooked through to when a player reaches the end and calls out it's name. Some may say this is a children's adventure movie but it's much more, it's got everything: comedy, action, adventure, a time travel science fiction feeling, and even a love story all in one and is definitely not just targeted for children. Not that I'm saying it's not recommended, I only firmly believe children and adults a like will love this movie. It's story of two orphaned kids from the mid-90s playing a game with two kids from the late-60s portrays just how there were two universes set up, and that with every roll of the dice their lives changed each time.

"RUN! It's a stampede!"

The end of the movie marks the end of the virtual universe if you will, it was inevitable that Alan and Sarah would return to 1969 - twenty-some years before their teammates were even born. Flash forward a few years, we see Alan taking over his father's shoe business, alongside Sarah who we see is now an expectant mother, at a Christmas party they meet with the advertising agent who happens to be Judy and Peter's father who wasn't set to start his job until after a ski trip in the mountains that would inevitably turn Judy and Peter into orphans. Alan and Sarah rewrote their future by insisting they start sooner rather than later.
"A law of Jumanji having been broken. You will slip back even more than your token."

Consensus: This movie is a great 100 minute adventure ride for everyone of all ages!

Rating: 8/10 -- Run out and buy this movie, you won't regret it!
Jumanji (1995) on IMDb

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Heaven Is For Real (2014)

Director: Randall Wallace
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Thomas Haden Church, Kelly Reilly
Running Time: 99 Minutes (1 hour 39 minutes)

Some would say this true story was about the son of a small town minister who had been to Heaven and returned to share his experience. Others would say the story is about the father, a confused minister from Nebraska who stopped believing what he preached every week and must find the courage to share his son's experience with the world. It is a story of a seriously ill boy who was diagnosed with a severely ruptured appendix, and had to undergo surgery with very little hope from the doctors that he would survive.

Following the surgery, we see the boy does live on, and quickly jump into how although he was on the operating table for so long he believes he saw his mother calling all her friends to say a prayer for him and his father yelling at God in the church, both oddly enough were in opposite wings of the hospital. This small town minister and his family are poverty stricken and it continues to get worse as the bills pile in while the church administrators (starring Thomas Haden Church and  Margo Martindale) are concerned that their church is going to become something of a circus with the recent attention brought by a 4 year old boy visiting heaven.

I'm not a religious person, contrary to my recent choices of movies, but I've always believed there is a final resting place. Like a child believing in Santa Claus, if you believe there's a heaven you don't need proof that it exists. Regardless, Todd Burpo (played by Greg Kinnear) felt obliged to share the story told by his son that Heaven truly does exist. To most the idea of a heaven i

The movie is predictable. Soon after agreeing to let a news reporter interview his four year son, which by the way sounds like an irresponsible father in my humble opinion, the criticism begins. Those who believe and those who don't. Without starting a debate on Christians vs. Atheists, I'm just going to say this -- Believe in what you want, you don't have to share everything with the world.

Closing comments:
Heaven Is For Real is none other than your typical emotional drama, you've got to take it with a grain of salt that it won't appeal to everyone. Whether you believe it or not, it's just a movie with a happy ending.

-- Rating: 6/10 -- Worth renting for a buck, but I wouldn't want to own it!

Have you watched this movie or read this NY Times best selling novel? Let's discuss below.