Grease

     Grease – Last week, I saw an article about the passing of Jeff Conaway (right in the picture) and it made me a bit sad.  In 1978, he co-starred with a young John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John and many other soon-to-be famous actors from the 70’s in a movie called Grease.  This is a great musical and fun to watch time and time again.  This movie takes you back when Americans were cool with cool cars, rock n’ roll, leather jackets, and drive-in movie theaters.  It’s a great big slice of Americana that just makes you feel good.

The plot surrounds the senior year of group of friends in the 50’s and focuses on the budding relationship of local 50’s greaser Danny (John Travolta) and good girl Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) that begins at the beach.  But, when Sandy is transferred to Rydell High, the school that Danny is at, she finds that Danny has a new attitude.  They realize that they are both going to have to change some for them to be together in the end.  Their friends also have some growing up to do as well, but not before some high school hijinks and mischief before they’re done.  As they go through their senior year of high school, working out their romances on dates, the big dance, and the tests to their relationships, they try to see if they can reach the next level in life?

I have to admit that this movie is one of my guilty pleasures.  Many people think a guy liking a musical would have to get his “man card” checked.  But, this is a fun movie full of all of the positive 50’s nostalgia.  There are great songs, dance numbers, and drama to keep you entertained the full time and the ending leaves you feeling good.  The men sing and dance generally like men would.  They are not choreographed into sissy moves.  The girls hold their own with their rebellious sides as they grow up as well.  And, you’ve got all the drama that high school guys and girls have.  Honestly, I still want the car of the leader of the Scorpions gang.  Fire coming out of the tail pipes…Are you kidding me?  I believe it’s illegal now, but I don’t care.  That is cool.  On a night when you just want some great fun with great music, this is your movie.  You’ll be humming these songs for quite some time.

**  Just click the images to check out “Grease” at Amazon.com **


Bridget Jones’s Diary

     Bridget Jones’s Diary – Whoa, is this what you women really think about?  Wow….I’m not a “chick flick” movie watcher and my wife forced me into this one.  The movie was based on a novel of the same name that won the British Book of the Year award and it’s been highly rated with 4 stars at Amazon, rated 80% at rotten tomatoes, and Renee Zellweger was nominated for an oscar for best actress; therefore, I thought it must be a good movie.  So, my wife wanted to see it and, since this blog is about great movies, I have to check it out.  I can’t just post about my certain movie preferences.  Well, I was right not to want to see this movie being a guy, but my wife liked it ok.  Guys, if you want some insight to your wife’s most inner feelings, then check this movie out.  It will scare you.  Oh wait, I actually believe that is an insult to women if this movie represents them.

The plot is a young woman (Renee Zellweger) in her 30’s whose life is off track.  She’s single, fat, smokes, drinks, very silly, and has no ambition or direction in life.  So, after being ultimately humiliated at her family’s Christmas party where her mother tries to set her up with an upstanding lawyer, she vows to get it together.  She tries to cut out her vices and starts dressing sexily which invites the attentions of her vulture of a boss (Hugh Grant), but she begins to gain confidence in the process which leads to the attentions of the lawyer (Colin Firth).  However, the lawyer and boss have a history of hatred due to marital interference.  Ultimately, she starts getting her career and life on track in the process to growing up as a person.

I personally find this movie entertaining, but it is not one that will ever be a classic.  Bridget’s character is just too whiney and insecure.  Frankly, her insane thoughts and actions actually demeans women as she blatantly chases men as a cure for her life (not because she actually cares about them).  She unnecessarily puts herself in embarrassing situations at work and falls for a guy that she knows is bad news in desperation.  While some insecurities and silliness may be true for women, I just give women more credit than the level of desperation presented in the movie.  However, there are romantic gestures and funny moments throughout the movie that saves it from itself.  It’s an enjoyable film and worthy of watching, but it is not the great movie people talk about.  But hey, this is a romantic comedy aimed at younger women in their teens through their 30’s, so what do I know?

** Just click the image to see “Bridget Jones’s Diary” at Amazon.com **


Young Guns

     Young Guns – I’ve mentioned before that Westerns are not my favorite movie genre.  But, I do have a deep interest in famous criminals regardless of where or when they operated.  In 1988, Young Guns came out and was considered the most historically accurate film of Billy the Kid.  Well, it is a loose adaptation of Billy the Kid, but don’t count it as too accurate.  But, this is a fun movie with tons of action, comedy, and intense moments to keep you entertained.  The main reason I enjoy this movie is the carefree way the characters interact.  It’s over the top….guns blazing…fun from the beginning.

The plot, as mentioned, is the basic origins of Billy the Kid and his early adventures.  Billy the Kid (aka William H Bonney), played by Emelio Estevez, is a petty thief when taken in by John Tunstel, a British cattle rancher and store owner.  Billy joins up with his band of “Regulators” to protect Tunstel’s assets.  But, the Lincoln County war is about to begin as Tunstel has enemies with the well-connected Irish cattle rancher and store owner named Murphy.  In the American Old West, men solved things with guns (well, in the movies anyway.)  After Tunstel is murdered in an ambush by Murphy’s men, the “Regulators” become deputies to serve warrants against the ones behind it.  Billy can’t wait for arrests and courts and begins to administer justice on his own.  Unfortunately, this turns them into outlaws and they’re on the run.  But, Billy isn’t stopping until Murphy, the main person guilty in Tunstel’s murder, is delivered justice.

This movie is given 4 stars by Amazon, so saddle up and get your pistols ready.  The beauty of this western is its light-heartedness.  There are serious moments, but even the most intense moments are usually broken up with some good one-liner humor or comical statements.  Emilio Estevez plays Billy the Kid with a youthful charm with mean streak that seems to sneak up on you.  Honestly, he’s so good that I can’t picture the real Billy the Kid being much different.  But, his loyalty to friends is refreshing.  The ending is pressure packed as it is the Regulators against the world.  But, they’re not giving up without a fight.  Will justice be done?  Will our heroes escape?  You’ll be pulling out your own 6-shooters trying to help.

** Just click the image to check out “Young Guns” at Amazon.com **


Spirited Away

     Spirited Away – If you love animation, like me, then you will be denying yourself an amazing experience if you have not seen this film.  Spirited Away is a brilliant animated film by the famed Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.  Does everything this man film turn into gold?  If not everything, almost everything.  In Spirited Away, Miyazki takes you into an amazing fantasy world that you have never seen.  It will absolutely blow you away.  The sights and sounds in this film will touch all of your senses from start to finish.  You will not be able to look away for a second.  At the time of its release, Spirited Away became the biggest movie in Japanese history and took over Titanic as the top grossing film world wide.

The plot is about a 10 year old girl, Chihiro, who is moving with her parents to a new town when they become lost and end up at an abandoned carnival.  She wanders off while her parents eat food that was strangely prepared.  A boy, Haku, sees Chihiro and warns her to leave before night.  She runs back only to find her parents are turned to pigs.  Chihiro is now trapped in this fantasy world of spirits and monsters and must “grow up” to survive.  Haku tells her she must work for the cranky witch, Yubaba, at Yubaba’s bath house to find a way to save her parents and get home.  Her adventures in the bath house brings out her inner strength and abilities that even she never knew she had.

This animated film is an all-time classic and won the Academy Award for best animated film in 2002.  Spirited Away has 4.5 stars by Amazon and achieved a 97% with Rotten Tomatoes rankings.  An amazing fantasy tale like this can not be given justice in this blog and Hayao Miyazaki’s fantasy needs to be experienced to truly enjoy all that his imagination presents.  It is truly a blast to your sensations. While originally intended for children, I believe the story transcends ages.

Understanding that the Japanese have many spirits, it was interesting to see the variety of spirits and the various ideas of their existance.  I admit, being married to a Japanese wife helps to understand what the spirits are and what they help or protect.  This helped me to understand the reactions of the bath workers and how they handled certain ones.  This was very interesting to me as an American.  In my defense, I was watching the Japanese version instead of the English translated one released by Disney.  Therefore, I needed plenty of translation help.  Regardless, this film completely blew me away and I had to actively seek out his other works.  Was this Hayao Miyazaki’s best?  Maybe, but I’ve seen several others and they are definitely vying for the title.

** Just click the images to see “Spirited Away” at Amazon.com **


The Wrestler

     The Wrestler – As a kid, I was a huge wrestling fan.  I knew them all and went to the shows.  To me, they were real heroes and bad guys.  I got older and understood it was “fake” or “scripted” and ultimately lost interest.  This 2008 movie absolutely moved me.  I don’t watch wrestling these days, but I still have that part of my childhood in me that has fond memories for these guys.  Even if you are not or were never a wrestling fan, I believe this movie is OUTRAGEOUSLY great and I think you will think so as well.   Do not miss this movie.  Mickey Rourke puts in the performance of a lifetime.

The plot is an aging wrestler from 80’s fame, Robin Ramzinski (aka Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson) played by Mickey Rourke.  He is now past his prime and coping with the reality of his life.  His popularity and fame are gone and he’s trying to survive on the local circuit.  The business is still in him and he struggles with letting it go.  He’s going broke and having to work a part time job at a grocery store just to survive.  After a medical condition effectively ends his career, he has to reconcile his life with family, friends, work, and the fact that he’s now alone in this world.   But, the real world for Randy is harder than the wrestling life that he’s in.

     The movie is shot in almost a documentary style.  The camera work is intentionally rough following Randy from encounter to encounter as we take stock in Randy’s life from the past, present, and future.  This is a subtle, but brilliant way to shoot the movie because you almost feel like you are there.  His one base of comfort lies in a aging stripper Cassidy, played by Marissa Tomei.  Rourke and Tomei are outstanding.  All I can say is that it takes a lot to touch my emotions and this movie was able to get there.  This movie was 10 times better than I expected.

Universally, this movie was critally acclaimed and won numerous awards by various movie groups.  The wrestling industry thought the movie was extremely power and told their story, especially wrestlers that came from that 80’s era.  Obviously, not all wrestlers suffer the same fate, but most were touched by this film as well.

Do not miss this powerful and emotional movie.

** Just click the images to see “The Wrestler” at Amazon.com **


The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

      The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly – This Italian western classic is a must see.  Widely considered top 10 on any great western movie list you can find, you can not go wrong with this film.  This movie is the 3rd and final installment of “The Man With No Name” trilogy.  A collection of westerns where Clint Eastwood’s character did not really have a name.  The best thing is that they were all great movies.  When it initially came out, critics were not too impressed though.  However, this movie has stood the test of time and is now  considered a classic…just like the other 2 (A Fist Full of Dollars & For A Few Dollars More…reviews are here of these 2 as well.)

The plot is that the American Civil War is going on.  Clint Eastwood, who is sometimes called “Blondie” in this film (The Good), is teamed up with Tuco (The Ugly), who is a wanted man.  Blondie turns him in to collect the reward money.  As they try to hang Tuco, Blondie shoots the rope and they escape together to split the money.  Well, they part ways in an unfriendly way and Tuco is seeking revenge.  In the process, they discover the location of Confederate gold treasure.  However, Tuco knows the location and Blondie knows the exact spot in that location.  So, they are forced to go together.  On the way, they stumble into a Yankee prison camp run by Angel Eyes (The Bad) and he’s after the treasure as well.  They manage to escape and work their way to the treasure….Now, our 3 gunslingers must figure out who gets what……BANG!!!

You’ll discover over time that I’m not a huge western fan, but this is an excellent film.  There are twists, turns, and violence on every level.  There is drama as we follow our heroes on their journey.  There is comedy with the relationships between Tuco & Blondie as the one liners flow back and forth.  Any of the movies in the “Man With No Name” Trilogy is excellent and I have the collection.  This trilogy is not sequels, but stand alone movies involving the same character.  My list of western movies that you’ll find here will be somewhat limited, the ones that I do enjoy are outstanding with a great script, action, and suspense.

**  Just click the image to see “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” at Amazon.com **


Jaws 2

    Jaws 2 – “Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water.”  This 1978 sequel to the horror classic holds up pretty well and brings back those second guessing about going swimming at the beach.  Normally, a sequel is a disappointment and to many Jaws enthusiasts, this one is too.  But, lets get real.  Jaws was one of the greatest horror movies of all time.  Do you really think the sequel could top it?  No.  Ever heard of Casablanca 2, Wizard of Oz 2, or any sequel to any great film that topped the original?  So, now that we’ve eliminated faulty expectations, the film is actually very good.  Yes, there are some holes in the plot that anyone can point out if they nit pick every detail from the original Jaws.  One blogger I read, was actually following the time line of kids age change and that the film was made only 3 years later.  Are you serious?  Come on….Movies are to be enjoyed.

The plot is…is….well, a giant shark eating teenagers.  Our head man Brody is now fired and working another job in Amity, but he keeps worrying about shark attacks.  Clearly, he hasn’t gotten over nearly becoming an appetizer from the previous attack.  Of course, the local leaders again ignore his crazy warnings.  Apparently, the memory is quite short there.  Well, you guessed it.  Another great white shark is lurking and hungry for some tasty humans.  But, the older teenagers want to go sailing out to the lighthouse, including Brody’s kids.  And, the the new Jaws says, “Yummy, come to daddy.”  When Brody finds out, he’s off to chase the kids to bring them back.  In the meantime…CHOMP!!!  After a couple of snacks, Jaws has got them where he wants them, but Brody shows up in the nick of time…and it’s Man VS Shark, round 2.

Granted, it is not equal to the original Jaws, but that is not to be expected.  But, the tension & suspense is still there and the set ups for our beloved shark are still gripping.  The music still sends chills down your spine with anticipation.  Some of the best parts of this film is the moments waiting and wondering….Is he there?  Is he gone?  Woo hoo….CHOMP!!!!  In fact, if arrogant teenagers annoy you, you will find yourself pulling for the shark…(I admit it…I did).  So, get the original Jaws and then watch this great movie, Jaws 2.  Rated 4 stars by Amazon purchasers and, frankly, it’s cheap.  Hard to beat that.  These movies are great to watch back to back as well.

** Just click on the image to check out “JAWS 2” at Amazon.com **