THE BIRDCAGE (1996)

Directed By Mike Nichols 
Written By: Elaine May 
Based on An Earlier Screenplay By: Francis Veber, Edouard Molinaro, Marcello Danon & Jean Poiret
Based in the play La Cage Aux Folles by: Jean Poiret
Cinematography: Enrique Lubezki
Editor: Arthur Schmidt 

Cast: Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Hank Azaria, Christine Baranski, Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart, Tom McGowan, Grant Heslov, Kirby Mitchell, Ann Cusack, Trina McGee-Davis

A gay cabaret owner and his drag queen companion agree to put up a false straight front so that their son can introduce them to his fiancée’s right-wing moralistic parents.


this film at the time was a little daring or a bit of a gamble for a mainstream audience. Though it was also self-assured because of the popular cast. Though behind the scenes you had a bunch of heavy hitters. Who managed to raise the bar on a familiar tale and still knock it out of the park. 

Which shockingly had some actors playing against type. Where we have a fun yet more restrained Robin Williams while playing more of a funny conservative grouch. Seeing gene hackman in drag is certainly different and new.

The film also tries to put in some satire of the political culture at the time and while camping up gay culture at least offers a glimpse inside of it and offers representation.

This film also is really the big screen introduction of Nathan Lane as Albert the drag queen lover who has been practically a mother to robin Williams son in the film. Playing a role that was abandoned by Steve Martin last minute due to scheduling problems. Thilough broadway star Nathan lane took it and made it a star-making Role.

Hank Azaria also makes his presence felt in his supporting role as the couples maid, assistant and cook. Who is also part of the slapstick laughs later in the film.

This is one of those films that came around at the right place and right time. As the film and play was already a hit In France and waiting for an American remake for years that never got made which might have been out of fear in the 1989’s to portray a gay relationship. non chalantly with mainstream big name actors. So that when it did come along the culture was a bit more relaxed and if made today might not even bat too many eyelashes.

Luckily it is still hilarious to watch even on this day and age. Even when the Jokes are a little more obvious they still make you laugh. As there is wit on display as well as physical comedy and just plain old slapstick in the third act.

Out of the cast if anyone is flat It’s the young couple looking to get married played by Claista Flockhart and Dan Futterman though in a film filled with flamboyant and over the top characters you need some to be more quiet and seemingly normal to even it out a little. though they come off a little dull and Futterman Looks way older than Flockhart 

While the film is a laugh riot from beginning to the end it also has character moments that come off more serious and dramatic. As even after the so called Macho lesson the scene where lane tries to act like a straight male in a suit is a thing of beauty and partial pain.

You can feel its theatrical roots throughout it truly strongly in The theirs act where everything comes to a head. What truly is amazing is that while it was dating at its time it plays off so cute that now it feels like a more modern comedic classic that the whole family can enjoy. Even if there are times when it feels overloaded with stereotypes. 

It is so styled yet feels so haywire. That while it might seem like it is filling turbulence it’s always smooth sailing. 

Though there is an overwhelming comedic quality with heart and care that had me going to see it in theaters more than once or twice. 

Grade: A-

DOWN TO EARTH (2001)

Directed By: Chris Weitz & Paul Weitz 
Written By: Chris Rock, Ali LeRoi, Lance Crouther & Louis C.K. 
Based on the original screenplay “HEAVEN CAN WAIT” By: Elaine May & Warren Beatty 
Cinematography: Richard Crudo 
Editor: Priscilla Nedd-Friendly 

Cast: Chris Rock, Regina King, Chazz Palmenteri, Eugene Levy, Frankie Faison, Mark Addy, Greg Germann, Jennifer Coolidge, Wanda Sykes, John Cho, Mario Joyner, Laz Alonzo 

After dying before his time, an aspiring black comic gets a second shot at life – by being placed in the body of a wealthy white businessman.


This was Chris Rock’s Big starring movie in the lead after he had a resurgence as a stand-up comedian and came to be a comedy all-star. So a lot was expected with this film. Again virtually a black version and update of HEAVEN CAN WAIT. Starring a Caucasian actor originally Warren Beatty.

He not only stars but helped co-write the script, also directing the film were the Weitz Brothers. Who were fresh off the surprise hit film AMERICAN PIE. So this was a big important opportunity for them at the time. They even cast some for Aathe actors from that film in small to supporting roles here 

While a bit of watering down the material for more of a crossover appeal for audiences. Rock’s humor and It are still there but a bit buried. There is also a lack of bite. As the story seems to be more based on him with his character being a stand-up comedian here. Rather than a football player in the original. 

Unfortunately the film isn’t that memorable but it is entertaining enough while watching it.

Though some scenes of the movie would be funnier if we saw the character who he is on the body of so some do the behavior he does. As they are funny in theory and in glimpses when we do see him as everyone else does. Though Mostly it’s a quantum leap situation where Chris Rock is on the screen representing the character. As he is the star so It’s Expected. Though not as funny.

Though if he wasn’t would he really be the star unless they set up a kind of WHITE CHICKS prosthetics which would cheapen the movie

It shows Chris rock to be a capable enough actor and leading man. It also allows racial humor and observations to work. The film also allows the supporting cast to be funny and ridiculous too especially Wanda Sykes (here you see why so many people found her hilarious. As her comedic skills are on point. And sharp) and Jennifer Coolidge as the more outrageous ones. Hit their marks.

Though they try the Heaven Chazz Palmenteri and Eugene Levy material seems too formulaic and partially takes you out of the film and reminds you of the cheesier parts. Though at least they try to class it up and show another existence. It also feels more in tone with the weak comedy.

The film has a lot of human moments and works as funny and even romantic when you see Chris Rock in the scene that becomes like the show QUANTUM LEAP where you forget who he is supposed to be or at least look like and is more believable even when it is just him in whatever situation.

The film just comes off softer and lighter than you might expect and want.

GRADE: C

COME AS YOU ARE (2019)

Directed, Cinematography & Editor: Richard Wong 
Written By: Erik Linthrost

Cast: Grant Rosenmeyer, Hayden Szeto, Ravi Patel, Gabourey Sidibe, Janeane Garofolo, C.S. Lee, Jennifer Jelsema

Three young men with disabilities hit the road with a jaded nurse driver to a brothel in Montreal catering to people with special needs. Remake of the acclaimed Belgian film ‘Hasta La Vista’.


First off yes this is a heartwarming film that is predictable focusing on a road trip of ill-gotten but understandable means.

This is a rare film that focuses solely on characters with disabilities that seems to only come along every so few years. Even though most of the actors aren’t disabled they sell it through their actions.

Whereas even when it comes to their parents they have to prove their gaining of independence.

While the film does the obligatory scenes of showing them as normal human beings with the same desires as most. Then have to prove to others who are prejudiced against them that they can do things like jokes. The film offers a diverse cast 

This is also a film that is a little lightweight and while it has its little adventures. The strength of this movie is the characters and their different personalities. They eventually charm you so that you are forging for them and want to see what kind of calamities they get into next. 

It’s episodic in brute but as the film goes along the characters grow on you. So that while they might begin as stereotypes. They eventually grow into well-rounded characters. Who you grow to appreciate. 

The film even has an unexpected romance. It truly is an unexpected hidden gem. That gets by More on Emotion than filmmaking.

Grade: B

FUNNY GAMES (2008) (REMAKE)

Written & Directed By: Michael Heneke 
Cinematography By: Darius Khondji 
Editor: Monika Willi 
Production Design: Kevin Thompson 
Art Direction: Hinju Kim 

Cast: Tim Roth, Naomi Watts, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearheart, Siobhan Fallon, Boyd Gaines 

In this English-language remake of a deconstruction in the way violence is portrayed in the media, a family settles into its vacation home, which happens to be the next stop for a pair of young, articulate, white-gloved serial killers on an excursion through the neighborhood.


Not as good as the original of course I think the real weakness of the film is not only going back and repeating something that was never wrong, to begin with just to expose it to a massive audience that might have not seen the film the first time just because it was in a foreign language.   

The remake doesn’t show growth but hey rockstars have to play their classic hits once in a while, Even with new band members. If they are willing to pay you to do it why not.


I think one other weakness this film has is that it is opened up more than the original, with more characters. Who are minor but it opens it up. which in the beginning was scarier and more intense because it was more intimate.


It’s not a shot-for-shot remake but is similar enough. Maybe the film doesn’t affect you because we already saw the original and know what’s going to happen. Whereas when you see the original it’s a shock and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Watching this is like watching an imitation even though it is by the same director. Maybe it is also because whereas there were no stars in the original. So anything could happen and It felt realistic. Seeing stars in this you know it’s just fake and doesn’t penetrate any of my emotions like it seems to be directed to. By bringing well-known actors into the film also gives them nothing to do but whimper in pain for two hours there are no great characters to play or great lines unless you have the villain’s role in this film.


you also notice that in the original the female star was in her underwear for a scene then gets clothed. Here Naomi Watts spends most of the movie in her underwear. Sure it’s great to look at but I guess it was meant to tap into American horror films as usually the females run around naked and in their underwear as they are stalked and killed rarely do they survive. In fact, there is no real violence shown only the aftermath. The only time there is violence it happens to one of the villains.


The main villain also doesn’t speak to the audience as much as he did in the original, maybe it was deemed annoying. The remote scene which seemed daring in the original seems like a gimmick here. Here in making it bigger, it is marketed as a thriller but shot like an art film with attention to detail and colors but with no real shown violence that the audience is waiting for.


It also plays with the conventions of films such as foreshadowing and making an excuse for the violent behavior, breaking the fourth wall, and the illusion that in the end, everything will turn out fine. The false hope that it can all turn around because that’s what happens in the film. They wouldn’t be that messed up.


It plays with the rules that you have come to expect and then just when you think it will follow narratives you have seen it switches it upon you.

The pacing also seems off that it makes the film almost seem boring. Some could look at it as satire. It is obviously a message movie because all that happens in the film makes you realize your own bloodlust and includes you as a co-conspirator in all that happens because you are sitting there watching for entertainment.

SPOILER:


Like the scene where Anna is then taken to the boat where she attempts to cut herself loose with the knife shown earlier in the film, only to have it taken from her as a way to mock the standard Hollywood foreshadowing. She is then dumped overboard and drowns as the two boys discuss school fiction and state the message of the film quite clearly by stating (in reference to a novel they read) “the family was real, the hero was in fiction”, demonstrating that violence is real and what occurs for entertainment happens in reality, however rising above the odds and becoming a hero only happens in fiction. And as a note, all of the killing is off-screen, this is a pro-reality but anti-violence film in its own brutal right

SPOILER END


Now I didn’t exactly write the last paragraph but it is summed up pretty well that I agree with it I say if you didn’t see the original this might be interesting but if you did you don’t really have to bother with this film. Trust me rent the original it’s a lot better.

GRADE: C

THE LADYKILLERS (2004)

Written & Directed By: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Cinematography By: Roger Deakins
Editor: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (As Roderick Jaynes)

Cast: Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J.K. Simmons, Tzi Ma, Ryan Hurst, Diane Delano, Jason Weaver, Stephen Root, Greg Grunberg

A remake of the 1955 comedy, the story revolves around a Southern professor who puts together a group of thieves to rob a casino. They rent a room in an old woman’s house, but soon she discovers the plot and they must kill her, a task that is more difficult than it seems.



This is the first Coen brothers film where Joel Coen and Ethan Coen are both given directing and producing credits. They have shared these duties on all of their films, but Joel has always been listed as the director and Ethan as producer.

A goofy cartoon of a movie that seems like the actors all came to try and do ridiculous characters and accents but soon the fun and craziness become infective and you find yourself transfixed joining in on the fun. The film has certain dark humor that is also goofy and deadpan.

Though Tom Hanks is top-billed and certainly makes an impression. As it is the first time it seems to be him having fun with a role in a long time. Since it is rare he gets not only a challenge playing a part, but such an off-wall character seems to be liberating for him, but the true star of the film is Irma P. Hall.


One can see why the Coen Brothers choose to remake this. It’s certainly a Hollywood film for them with a big star, but they also subvert the film to their type of humor and have the film be inhabited by the type of characters who are common in their type of films. It was made during what I like to call their Hollywood years.

After the success of O, BROTHER WHERE ART THOU they seemed to be making fluff with big stars which may have been a strategic plan. So in the future, if they wanted to make more personal films they could get better budgets or at least enough financing based on their record of hopefully hit studio films. At least this film lets them further explore the southern culture and satirize it with a bit of nostalgic heart. Like their hit O, BROTHER WHERE ART THOU

The film reminds the audience how successful that film was and explores similar territory not as philosophical or deep. There is enough room for stylistic choices. If there is one thing that is right above this film it’s the rich atmosphere and warm colors that fill the screen. Like a southern gothic tapestry. You could almost taste the scenes.
The Film involves plenty of Memorable characters that you hate to see go. Each could have been a start of there own movie or adventure.


As always with the Coens the film has a great soundtrack, Full of southern charm with gospel hits, Bluegrass, and hip hop.


Prior to filming, Tom Hanks had not seen The Ladykillers as he did not want it to prejudice the way he acted in the remake.


I almost like to think of the Hollywood movies they make as experimental at least for them. With an original idea but in the mode of old Hollywood classic films. The filmmakers are at home with the wild and wacky.


Whereas studio films they have the technicality down pat but when it comes to the more mundane slightly less outrageous aspects to story and character they can do it easily but you can see it makes them uneasy. It shows they are trying to do something completely foreign to them thus experimental

GRADE: C+

THE HUSTLE (2019)

Directed By: Chris Addison 
Written By: Stanley Shapiro, Paul Henning, Dale Launer & Jac Schaeffer 
Cinematography: Michael Coulter 
Editor: Anthony Boys 

Cast: Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Tim Blake Nelson, Timothy Simons 

In this remake of 1988’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” 2 con-women hustle in a small French Riviera town – one for small amounts from average men, and one for higher amounts wealthier men. They bet on what looks like an easy target. The winner gets $500K from him, and the loser leaves town forever.


This is an example of when a film Shows the best jokes of the film in the trailer. Which weren’t very funny, to begin with, but at least leaves the audience intrigued. 

This film is a female remake of the comedy DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS. With Anne Hathaway playing mroe the aristocratic Worldly con woman and Rebel Wilson playing more the sloppy con woman who could stand to learn from Hathaway’s character.

There comes a point in watching the film. Where you can understand the studio loving this idea and getting two stars to be In it but then the script comes along and no one noticed any problems? Or felt it wasn’t with it in the end. Nobody while filming thought this could be better? 

As the film comes across as one extended sitcom as far as set-up’s and its broad mroe physical humor. Leading to many awkward moments in what are supposed to be wide comedic sequences. 

Anne Hathaway is having the time of her life with various over-the-top foreign ridiculousness accents and she looks breathtaking throughout. As always the height of fashion and coming across elegant as a fashion magazine ad. Though there is one scene where she uses a voice that I wish the film or her character had been mroe like that. When she says she likes a bracelet because of how shiny it is 

Rebel Wilson goes over the top. As her character seems constantly sex-starved and crass, but while she can be funny. Many times here she is either the butt of the home or just goes overboard or is used that way. 

They both could have benefited from a better script. Even if half the audience remembers the original film And the twists and turns the film feels lazy in how it gets there.

Even with the update of making their big mark, a Mark Zukerberg Esque tech millionaire who has social anxiety feels a bit too spot-on and modern. 

Though the two female co-Stars do have good chemistry. It also feels like they are trying to squeeze humor from an unfunny movie. Nothing in this film ever feels believable. 

For as cynical as the film tries to be it goes too easily for more a light touch. So that it never rises or comes close to the laughs or being as memorable as the original film. This just feels like an Unneeded modernized update that came perhaps too soon. Coincidently after a successful musical broadway run of the original.

One will say that the film looks beautiful as all the surroundings are picturesque. The film does contain one brief touching moment.

Grade: D 

FATHER’S DAY (1997)

fathersday

Directed By: Ivan Reitman
Written By: Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel
Based on the film “Les Comperes” written by: Francis Verber
Cinematography By: Stephen h. Burum
Editor: Sheldon Kahn & Wendy Greene Bricmont

 

CAST: Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Nastassja Kinski, Julia Louise-Dreyfus, Bruce Greenwood, Haylie Johnson, Mark McGrath, Charles Rocket, Jared Harris, Louis Lombardi, Patti D’Arbanville, Ricky Harris, Dana Gould

Jack Lawrence is a smart aleck lawyer who is one day visited by an ex-girlfriend who tells him her kid was his. Enter Dale Putley, a depressed goofball who is also a writer, meets with the same ex-girlfriend who tells him her kid is his. One day Jack and Dale meet and discover what had happened: they’ve been told the same story and now there’s a question of who the real father is. They learn their son is following a rock band called Sugar Ray around. So Jack and Dale hit the road to Sacramento and find their drunk, love-struck son. Soon after they bring him back to their hotel room, their son escapes and Jack and Dale must use teamwork to find him again, bring him home, and find out which one of them is the real father.

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THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (REMAKE) (2014)

townthatdreaded

Directed By: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written By: Roberto Agguire-Sacasa
Based On the Screenplay of the 1976 film Written By: Earl E. Smith
Cinematography By: Michael Goi
Editor: Joe Leonard 

Cast: Anthony Anderson, Addison Timlin, Veronica Cartwright, Travis Tope, Ed Lauter, Gary Cole, Joshua Leonard, Edward Herrman, Arabella Field, Spencer Treat Clark, Denis O’Hare

65 years after a masked serial killer terrorized the small town of Texarkana, the so-called ‘moonlight murders’ begin again. Is it a copycat or something even more sinister? A lonely high school girl, with dark secrets of her own, may be the key to catching him. This is a loose remake of the 1976 film by the same name based on “The Moonlight Murders” incident in Texarkana

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THE WOLFMAN (2010)

wolfman-2010-werewolf

Directed By: Joe Johnston
Written By: David Self & Andrew Kevin Walker
Cinematography By: Shelly Johnson
Editor: Walter Murch & Dennis Virkler

Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Anthony Hopkins, Guy Pearce, Art Malik

Lawrence Talbot’s childhood ended the night his mother died. His father sent him from the sleepy Victorian hamlet of Blackmoor to an insane asylum, then he goes to America. When his brother Ben’s fiancée, Gwen Conliffe, tracks him down to help find her missing love, Talbot returns to his father’s estate to learn that his brother’s mauled body has been found. Reunited with his estranged father Sir John Talbot, Lawrence sets out to find his brother’s killer, and discovers a horrifying destiny for himself. Someone or something with brute strength and insatiable blood lust has been killing the villagers, and a suspicious Scotland Yard Inspector named Aberline comes to investigate.

 

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BLOOD TIES (2013)

bloodties

 

Directed By: Guillaume Canet
Written By: Guillaume Canet & James Gray
Based on the French Film ‘RIVALS’ (Les Liens Du Sang) Written By: Jacques Maillot, Pierre Chossen & Eric Veniard
Based On The Novel Written By: Bruno & Michel Papet
Cinematography By: Christophe Offenstein
Editor: Herve De Luze 


Cast: Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Noah Emmerich, Matthias Schoenaerts, Zoe Saldana, Dominick Lombardozzi, John Ventimiglia, Mila Kunis, Lili Taylor, James Caan, Griffen Dunne, Yul Vasquez, Jamie Hector, Eve Hewson, Olek Krupa

Two brothers, on either side of the law, face off over organized crime in Brooklyn during the 1970s.

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