Release Date: September 18th, 1987 (Toronto International Film Festival) Directed by: Rob Reiner Written by: William Goldman Based on:The Princess Bride by William Goldman Music by: Mark Knopfler Cast: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant, Robin Wright, Peter Falk, Fred Savage, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane
Act III Communications, Buttercup Films Ltd., The Princess Bride Ltd., Vestron Pictures, 20th Century Fox, 98 Minutes
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” – Inigo Montoya
I’m going to be honest, this wasn’t a film that captivated me in my childhood like it did most people from my generation. However, I have still always liked it and it’s one of those things I’d leave on if I was flipping the channels in my teen years.
This was the first time I had seen this, though, since probably the ’90s. At least, in its entirety. So revisiting it was kind of a treat and I actually think I’m more fond of it now, simply because they don’t make movies like this anymore.
At its core, this is just a wholesome fairytale. But it’s also full of several characters who have become iconic over the three and a half decades since this was released.
I think that these characters became so iconic because this movie was so well cast, from top-to-bottom.
I also really underappreciated the swashbuckling bits and the camaraderie between the characters, which was so good and natural that one would have to assume that all these people genuinely clicked and enjoyed working together.
As a big wrestling fan, especially the ’80s era, I love seeing Andre the Giant in this. He’s absolutely superb and it makes me wish that he got to do more films before he died, shortly after this.
The Princess Bride is just a really entertaining and fun movie that should work for anyone, regardless of age, gender or generation. It’s kind of perfect in its wholesomeness and its adventurous spirit.
While it’s not what I personally consider a classic, I can see why so many people are immensely fond of it.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: other ’80s family friendly fantasy movies.
Also known as: Dog Day (worldwide English informal short title) Release Date: September 19th, 1975 (Spain – San Sebastian Film Festival) Directed by: Sidney Lumet Written by: Frank Pierson, Thomas Moore Based on:The Boys In the Bank by P. F. Kluge Cast: Al Pacino, John Cazale, James Broderick, Charles Durning, Lance Henriksen, Chris Sarandon, Penelope Allen, Sully Boyar, Susan Peretz, Carol Kane, Dominic Chianese
Artists Entertainment Complex, Warner Bros., 125 Minutes, 131 Minutes (1975 cut)
“Look, Mom, I’m a fuck-up and I’m an outcast and that’s it. You come near me, you’re gonna get it – you’re gonna get fucked over and fucked out!” – Sonny
I’ve probably seen this movie a half dozen times but it’s been a few decades. I always saw this on cable, so it was always the “safe for TV” version and having now watched this again, I realized that I had never seen the beginning of the film, as I never knew there was initially a third bank robber that bolted in the opening sequence of the movie.
It was really great seeing this in full and the way it was meant to be seen without cable television censors getting in the way of the art. Being that this is a Sidney Lumet film, it deserves to be seen as the director intended, as he was a true motion picture maestro.
Seeing this now also made me appreciate how good John Cazale was and it makes me wonder how great his career could have been had cancer not taken his life in 1978. In fact, this was the last film of his that he lived to see released theatrically. But it’s crazy to think about what iconic roles after his death he may have had a shot at playing or what mediocre movies he could’ve elevated had he been cast in place of others.
Additionally, this shows how incredible Al Pacino was in an era where he was still growing as an actor but already displayed the chops that would earn him legendary status.
The rest of the cast is pretty damn perfect too from the cop to the federal agents to the bank teller with the least amount of lines. Lumet did a spectacular job in getting the most out of his cast: utilizing their strengths and personalities to maximum effect.
The majority of the film takes place in one location but this moves at such a brisk pace that it doesn’t bog things down, which can happen fairly easy in pictures without the talent that this one had.
Plus, the cinematography was solid, the musical score was perfect and the film just had the right sort of tone. It felt like real, gritty, ’70s New York City without coming off as edgy or dark like Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Granted, this was a film that had its fair share of violence and perilous, unfortunate situations but even knowing the outcome could never be good for the main characters, you still didn’t give up hope or fall into a sense of despair.
Dog Day Afternoon is a motion picture that deserves its status as one of the best films of its decade. It also boasts some of the best performances by just about all the key actors involved.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: other crime films of the 1970s, especially those starring Al Pacino.
Release Date: August 17th, 1990 Directed by: Herbert Ross Written by: Nora Ephron Music by: Ira Newborn Cast: Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Joan Cusack, Melanie Mayron, Bill Irwin, Carol Kane, William Hickey, Deborah Rush, Daniel Stern, Ed Lauter, Colleen Camp, Troy Evans, LaWanda Page
Hawn / Sylbert Movie Company, Warner Bros., 97 Minutes
“Richie loved to use 22s because the bullets are small and they don’t come out the other end like a 45, see, a 45 will blow a barn door out the back of your head and there’s a lot of dry cleaning involved, but a 22 will just rattle around like Pac-Man until you’re dead.” – Vincent ‘Vinnie’ Antonelli
Even though My Blue Heaven kind of bombed when it came out, I’ve always liked the movie. I’d even go as far as to say that Vinnie Antonelli is my favorite Steve Martin character. I think a lot of that has to do with it being a real departure from typical Steve Martin while still having his DNA all over it.
Rick Moranis is also great, here. However, he plays the straight character and he’s not too dissimilar from the regular Moranis role. Well, except he’s an FBI agent and a bit of a badass when push comes to shove.
Rounding them out is a good cast of character actors, as well as Joan Cusack, who is pretty dynamite, overall. I like her character a lot and as you get to know her, you start to feel for her while the story makes her character’s journey a worthwhile one.
The plot revolves around an ex-mafioso who has been put into Witness Protection by the FBI. Martin plays the mafioso while Moranis plays the FBI agent assigned to him. Cusack plays the District Attorney of the town where Martin has been relocated to. Martin’s Vinnie can’t keep his hands clean, however, so Cusack’s D.A. keeps trying to throw the book at him while Moranis keeps interjecting, drawing the ire and the attraction of Cusack.
Mostly, the film plays out like a series of gags and funny bits with a simple but nicely layered story bringing it all together.
The best parts are where Steve Martin interacts with other people. He really makes this picture work and on paper, he probably didn’t seem like the best casting but he actually shines and shows his range in the comedy realm. Granted, Moranis and Cusack also bring a lot to the table and they only compliment Martin’s performance, giving him solid people to work off of.
In a lot of ways, this is just a feel good romantic comedy with some crime and a wee bit of action. It’s good, mindless entertainment and reminds me of a simpler time when we could escape into our entertainment and forget the world for 90-120 minutes.
The film has held up well and even though many would disagree, it’s still one of Steve Martin’s best.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other Steve Martin comedies of the ’70s up to the early ’90s, especially Parenthood and Little Shop of Horrors, which also feature Rick Moranis.
Release Date: May 14th, 2019 (Cannes) Directed by: Jim Jarmusch Written by: Jim Jarmusch Music by: SQÜRL Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits
Animal Kingdom, Film i Väst, Kill the Head, Focus Features, 104 Minutes
“That girl is half Mexican. I know because I love Mexicans.” – Officer Ronnie Peterson
Jim Jarmusch is really hit or miss for me.
Overall, I’d say this was a miss but it did keep my interest because one thing I usually like about Jarmsuch’s films are the characters and their conversations. However, while that is good and engaging the first time around, it doesn’t necessarily make a film worth revisiting.
The Dead Don’tDie is pretty much what one would expect from a Jarmusch film about zombies.
It’s weird, it’s quirky and there’s not much else there. In fact, the only real glue that holds this flimsy house of cards together is the cast and their interactions.
While Jarmusch can be labeled as weird, this film seems to embrace its weirdness a little too much. In this film, shit is weird just to be weird.
For instance, you have Tilda Swinton’s character who is a female Scottish samurai that you later find out is an alien when a UFO randomly appears to take her home in the middle of a zombie fight. Why? What’s the point? Why was she there? Jarmusch doesn’t care, so why should we?
You also have a moment at the end where the characters break the fourth wall for no reason other than creating a nonsensical plot twist in an effort to maximize on the weird. It actually broke the film for me and made it irreparable where, up to that point, I kind of accepted it in spite of its goofy faults.
Additionally, characters are introduced, relationships are established and not a whole lot comes out of any of it. There isn’t a satisfactory payoff and you’re just left scratching your head for a lot of it. I mean, you want to like characters and you kind of do but none of it matters because we’re all fucked and no one really has a plan, including the cops.
Is this supposed to be a critique on authority or society? I mean, haven’t we gotten that with just about every zombie movie ever made? From Jarmusch, a guy that has made some solid, critically acclaimed films, I guess I expected more than this. For the zombie subgenre of horror, I definitely wanted more than this, as zombies have been done to death, pun intended, and just being weird shouldn’t fly and shouldn’t get you a free pass.
I also feel like this awkward style of comedy dialogue is well past its expiration date.
Rating: 5/10 Pairs well with: other Jim Jarmusch films, as well as other zombie comedies.
Also known as: Scrooge: A Christmas Carol (original script title) Release Date: November 17th, 1988 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Richard Donner Written by: Mitch Glazer, Michael O’Donoghue Based on:A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens Music by: Danny Elfman Cast: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, Michael J. Pollard, Alfre Woodard, John Glover, David Johansen, Mary Ellen Trainor, Mabel King, John Murray, Wendie Malick, Brain Doyle-Murray, Lee Majors (cameo), Miles Davis (cameo), Robert Goulet (cameo), Paul Shaffer (cameo), Buddy Hackett, Mary Lou Retton, Jamie Farr, Anne Ramsey, Logan Ramsey, Delores Hall, Joel Murray
“That’s the one good thing about regret: it’s never too late. You can always change tomorrow if you want to.” – Claire Phillips
Scrooged is my favorite Christmas movie that doesn’t fit in the action or horror genres, even though it has a wee bit of those two things. It’s a comedy starring the legendary Bill Murray and it was directed by Richard Donner, coming off of Lethal Weapon, Ladyhawke and The Goonies.
The film also has an all-star cast comprised of a few legends, a few solid character actors and the always lovely Karen Allen and Alfre Woodard.
It’s a modernized adaptation of Charles Dickens’ most famous story, A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray essentially plays Ebeneezer Scrooge but in this story, he’s named Frank Cross and he is the president of a major television network, stressed out over the live televised adaptation of A Christmas Carol that he is producing.
As can be expected with adaptations of this story, Cross is visited by three ghosts: The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present and The Ghost of Christmas Future. He is taken on a journey through his life and is shown his fate if he doesn’t wise up and change his ways.
There aren’t any shocking twists or deviations from the traditional story structure of A Christmas Carol, other than setting it in contemporary times and modifying some of the smaller details to fit what was ’80s pop culture society.
The film has a good bit of crude humor but it’s nothing that’s off putting or that takes away from the spirit of Dickens’ classic story. In fact, I love the update and frankly, for the time that this came out in and the inclusion of Murray, this was probably the most palatable version of the story that had been adapted. It’s not strict to the source material but it benefits because of that while keeping the original plot structure intact.
Scrooged may feel dated to some and like a product of its time but it is a classic Christmas film for many, myself included, and it doesn’t get old. I think a lot of that has to do with the charisma supernova that is Bill Murray while the kind nature of Karen Allen, as well as the fantastic cast around Murray, make this something unique, special and entertaining.
Plus, there is just something perfect about Danny Elfman’s score in this film. It sets the tone for the picture immediately and it just accents and enhances the movie like a great musical score should.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: other great non-traditional Christmas movies of the ’80s like Trading Places, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,Die Hard, Gremlins and Lethal Weapon.
Also known as: It Had to be Jew, Anhedonia (working titles) Release Date: March 27th, 1977 (Filmex) Directed by: Woody Allen Written by: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman Music by: various Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, Janet Margolin, Shelley Duvall, Christopher Walken, Colleen Dewhurst, Dick Cavett, John Glover, Mark Lenard, Jeff Goldblum, Beverly D’Angelo, Tracey Walter, Sigourney Weaver, Truman Capote, Laurie Bird
Jack Rollins & Charles H. Joffe Productions, Rollins-Joffe Productions, United Artists, 93 Minutes
“[referring to California] It’s so clean out here.” – Annie Hall, “That’s because they don’t throw their garbage away, they turn it into television shows.” – Alvy Singer
I’m not what you would call a big Woody Allen fan but I do find a lot of his films to be amusing. This is one of them and this is also probably my favorite out of the Allen pictures that I’ve seen.
While I’ve seen all of the famous scenes from Annie Hall time and time again in documentaries and shows about movies, I’ve never seen this film in its entirety and in the proper sequence with all of the narrative context. In some ways, this film is actually kind of genius in how refreshing, original and authentic it feels. But I also didn’t know, until now, that this was sort of autobiographical in regards to Allen and Diane Keaton’s real romantic relationship a few years before this movie.
What makes this work so well is the natural chemistry between Allen and Keaton. But even then, Allen had solid chemistry in his scenes with Shelley Duvall and Carol Kane. It’s hard to say that he’s a great actor when he’s essentially just playing himself but his natural charm works wonders in this picture and it gives a certain life to scenes that may have felt dry if played by someone else.
Diane Keaton was lovable and fun in the picture and I think she is the real glue of the film, even more so than Allen. The reason being is that she just radiates a glow that encapsulates anyone on the screen with her. You clearly see the woman that Woody Allen is legitimately infatuated with.
From a narrative standpoint, this is Allen writing what he knows most intimately. But even then, I don’t think that this authentic tale would have had the magic without the performances in the film. This is lightyears better than a standard romantic comedy but I feel like that’s because the main players felt very at home with the material and they took this very seriously, where most romantic comedies tend to by cheesy and lacking depth in the performances of their actors.
Allen certainly knows how to direct and it is very apparent here. He gets the most out of everyone on screen, including himself. It’s easy to write about your life but it’s difficult to make something so genuine.
In the end, this is a fun, cute, lighthearted picture that presents romance and comedy in a unique way that is very much Woody Allen. He’s had similar films but nothing that hits the right notes in quite the same way.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: other early Woody Allen films.
Also known as: They Live and Drive in L.A. (working title), Daddy’s Cadillac (Germany) Release Date: July 6th, 1988 Directed by: Greg Beeman Written by: Neil Tolkin Music by: Jay Ferguson Cast: Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Carol Kane, Richard Masur, Heather Graham, James Avery
Davis Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 88 Minutes
“Les, that license in your wallet, that’s not an ordinary piece of paper, that is a driver’s license, and its not only a driver’s license, it’s an automobile license, and it’s not only an automobile license, it’s a license to live, a license to be free, a license to go wherever, whenever and with whomever you choose.” – Dean
The world and all of its cultures are diverse enough to provide us with countless types of cheese. In fact, I love cheese. Who doesn’t love cheese? So being that I am a cheese connoisseur with an incredibly diverse palate, there is still just one cheese that I have to put above all others: ’80s cheese.
License to Drive is ’80s cheese that is so robust, with a beautiful texture and a richness to it, that it’s place in history can’t be denied. Is it the best example of ’80s cheese? Well, no. But it is still a good, solid example of its flavors and characteristics.
In the late ’80s, there was a powerful union that nothing could stand against: The Two Coreys, or just simply, The Coreys. While both of them were uber popular on their own, the Earth’s gravity sort of shifted when they started teaming up to do movies. This was their second film. The first was The Lost Boys, which is considered by many to be a classic. License to Drive isn’t quite a classic but it is still a fun romp with The Coreys that doesn’t pit them against vampires but instead pits them against the fascist system that makes it hard for slackers to get their driver’s license.
Frankly, Corey Haim’s Les is quite the shithead. All he cares about is getting his license but won’t put in the work to study for it. He doesn’t even know basic stuff and completely bombs the written test. However, he lies to his family and friends but that backfires. So what does he do? He steals his grandpa’s car because all he cares about is wooing Heather Graham. The film plays on and Haim doesn’t seem to learn anything or grow up. But it’s an ’80s teen movie that puts more emphasis on materialism and being cool than it does on life itself.
It’s the wacky adventures that make this work though. Haim and Feldman are good together and both have charisma. Heather Graham is also fantastic in this, even though she is drunk and passed out for a big portion of the movie. The real highlight for me though, was the sequence of Corey Haim taking his driving test with James Avery a.k.a. Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I’ve always enjoyed Avery but this is one of the best things he’s ever done. I mean, he’s perfect in this, even if he only has a few minutes of screen time.
The Coreys were once the epitome of teenage cool and this was a cool movie, even if it was nonsensical and sort of soulless.
Plus, I loved his parents, as Carol Kane has always made me laugh and Richard Masur is just fun to watch in these sort of roles.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: Other movies featuring both or just one of the Coreys: The Lost Boys, Dream a Little Dream, National Lampoon’s Last Resort, Lucas, The Goonies, The ‘Burbs.
Also known as: Tooken (working title) Original Run: March 6th, 2015 – current Directed by: various Written by: various Music by: Jeff Richmond Cast: Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane, Jane Krakowski
Little Stranger Inc., Bevel Gears, 3 Arts Entertainment, Universal Television, Netflix, NBCUniversal Television Distribution, 45 Episodes (so far), 22-36 Minutes (per episode)
*Written in 2015.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a television show that was created by the team that bought you NBC’s 30 Rock. Originally intended to be aired on NBC, once the network pretty much abandoned comedy (see how poorly they handled the final season of Parks & Recreation) it was sold to Netflix with a two season order. So far, only one season has aired on the streaming service.
The show stars Ellie Kemper from The Office and a slew of other actors who appeared on 30 Rock in some form or another. The main cast is comprised of Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski. There are also a ton of cameos: Tina Fey (one of the co-creators), Jon Hamm and Kiernan Shipka from Mad Men, as well as Tim Blake Nelson are some of the most notable.
If you are a fan of 30 Rock, which I mostly wasn’t, the show will delight you as it captures the same tone and humor. Personally, I found this to be a better show overall than 30 Rock but it was too similar in style and felt like more of a spin-off or extension of that show creatively, as opposed to being something fresh and unique. It was littered with a lot of Tina Feyisms and almost thought itself to be too clever, witty and quirky.
The show is very lighthearted and positive all around. Despite the fact that the premise is about a young woman who is freed from an underground cult bunker after fifteen years, it doesn’t focus on that dark subject matter too deeply. It shows a strong and powerful female character, robbed of a decade and a half of her life, taking on every challenge in an effort to live the life she was denied. In a nutshell, it sends a positive message to all that life is something to be cherished and enjoyed and that the relationships we have with people are precious.
However, the show also kind of pushes the envelope too hard with its positive message, as on multiple occasions we see Kimmy meddling in the lives of others. Yes, it is in an attempt to help them and to push them in a better direction but ultimately, she oversteps her bounds more often than not. While her intentions are always good and noble, she is like a helicopter mom to every character on the show. Maybe season two should deal with the potential negative consequences of her good intentions. Where this show gives a template for a great role model, it is counterintuitive for the fact that she is an overenthusiastic busybody.
To give an example, there is a point in the show where Kimmy takes it upon herself to get the angsty teenage daughter she is a nanny to, to go live with her other parents against the girl’s wishes. She uses some trickery in her plot. In the end, she isn’t the girl’s parent and if this isn’t overstepping some moralistic bounds, despite her good intent, I don’t know what is. Just because someone thinks they know what is right for someone else, doesn’t give them the right to force fate against that person’s wishes.
This also ties into the fact that Kimmy pretty much pushes her employer into divorcing her cheating husband. While the husband is a scumbag, it is the wife’s decision and although Kimmy can give her two cents, as a friend, she went beyond that.
I’m not attacking the show, I found it really entertaining and a good choice for some weekend binge watching. These are just the thoughts I had, as I watched each episode unfold. And it shouldn’t be taken too seriously, as it is just a sitcom.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a show worth your time for the most part. There isn’t a lot of good comedy airing on television these days. I just hope the extreme positive nature of the show doesn’t breed a new generation of busybody know-it-alls.
I will certainly watch season two when it starts streaming. Besides, it is kind of hard to deny myself the magic that is Tituss Burgess. And I love everything that Carol Kane does. I also hope that Jon Hamm reemerges, as well as Kiernan Shipka. Tina Fey can leave her Marcia Clark impersonation behind though.
Couldn’t get very far into the second season. I pretty much abandoned the show, as it just started to get really redundant and had already ran its course for me.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: NBC comedies of the ’00s: The Office, 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, etc.