Film Review: A Christmas Story (1983)

Release Date: November 18th, 1983
Directed by: Bob Clark
Written by: Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, Bob Clark
Based on: In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd
Music by: Carl Zittrer, Paul Zaza
Cast: Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsley, Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz, R.D. Robb, Zack Ward, Jean Shepherd (voice)

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 94 Minutes

Review:

“You’ll shoot your eye out!” – everyone in the movie that isn’t Ralphie

This is one of those reviews where my opinion is in contrast to the majority.

I’m just not fond of this movie. It’s not a bad motion picture but I certainly don’t have the spot in my heart for it like the millions of people that feel the urge to sit down and watch this for 24 hours straight every Christmas. Full disclosure, my whole family does that and I’m usually off in the corner staring at my phone.

But that being said, I have seen this movie more than any other because it just plays and plays on my family’s television through our annual Christmas Eve party, Christmas morning and during gift giving time. I mean, it’s just a staple. We actually barely pay attention to it at this point except for the younger ones. But everyone in my family still deems its existence in our lives to be necessary.

Give me ScroogedDie HardDie Hard 2Gremlins, Krampus or hell, this director’s other Christmas classic, Black Christmas. Okay, maybe these film selections aren’t safe for child eyes but I’m not the one having kids. And if I did, they’d see Gremlins at the same age I did: five years-old.

Anyway, this is a cute film but nothing about it is exceptional or worthy of the strange acclaim that it has now. I only consider it a classic because it’s just labeled that and for some reason, it resonates with so many people. But I also think that’s just people succumbing to the power of nostalgia. Plus, I don’t get the nostalgia bug for it because even though it came out when I was a kid, it was a bomb in the theater and only gained traction later on television. The kids that found the film were younger than me and I was probably making out with girls by that time. Eventually, I just saw it on TV. And then it was on all the damn time.

It’s a fair picture. There’s nothing great or off putting about it. It just sort of exists to me. It has a few funny moments but the comedy isn’t superb, by any means. Honestly, the movie is kind of slow and a bit drab. It has a few scenes that have become iconic but overall, watching more than ten minutes at a time, bores me to tears.

But I get that I’m the oddball, here. I just feel like there are so many holiday films better than this one. This feels dated, incredibly overplayed and probably needs to be replaced as the big Christmas marathon movie.

I’d have no problem with Home Alone being on 24/7 on December 25th.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other mediocre Christmas “classics”.

Film Review: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Release Date: November 16th, 1977
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Steven Spielberg
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, François Truffaut, Bob Balaban, Lance Henriksen, Carl Weathers

Columbia Pictures, 135 Minutes, 137 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“I guess you’ve noticed something a little strange with Dad. It’s okay, though. I’m still Dad.” – Roy Neary

So I went to a special 40th anniversary screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the movie theater really shit the bed, as I couldn’t watch it, they were out of most food and the place was a ghost town other than employees who had no idea what this movie was. I ended up going home to stream it instead.

I hadn’t seen this picture in a really long time but I had fond memories of it as a kid, even though it wasn’t on the level of E.T. and Jaws in the early Spielberg years. The special effects were cool and the use of matte paintings for vast expanses still looks magical and taps into the otherworldlyness of the picture.

However, revisiting it all these years later, it just isn’t something that I have as much love for as Spielberg’s other early works. Looking back, I never rented this movie as much as his other films and I really never thought about it until reflecting on it while watching it. Ultimately, it just doesn’t resonate in the same way or at least not as strongly. Also, compared to his other work, it is fairly dull.

The acting is pretty good and you do care about the characters to an extent but some of the things that happen are either nonsensical or kind of horrible when put into perspective. While it is a cool looking movie about wonder and excitement and the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the main character basically goes crazy, scaring away his wife and kids and then abandons them to go away with the aliens and all the while, we’re supposed to feel his amazement and relish in this man’s opportunity to see the stars. Plus, the aliens abduct a child but that’s cool because he comes back seemingly normal. They must be a truly evolved species, stealing kids and other people and then just throwing them back when it suits them.

You kind of don’t care about these details when you’re a kid but as an adult, the film leaves me with more questions than answers. I’m not just going to accept that they are some space travelling further evolved beings and that they can just do whatever they want. Fuck these aliens, they’re assholes. And we’re America, we don’t trust our neighbor.

And who’s to say that these returned people aren’t implanted with a chip that will make them wipe out humanity so that the aliens can steal our limestone to build an amusement park on their homeworld? Our government doesn’t even like our neighbors from the south moving in and they’re just going to be like, “Aw, fuck it… these guys are cool. Besides, we can’t build a wall around the sky.”

In all seriousness, Close Encounters is a pretty good flick with great effects and yes, it does bring out your inner wonder. However, it doesn’t hold up as well as the other Spielberg classics. That’s okay, though. This was a precursor to E.T. and if making this film helped to make E.T. a better picture, it served a noble purpose. I mean, E.T. is pretty close to perfect.

Film Review: Slap Shot (1977)

Release Date: February 25th, 1977
Directed by: George Roy Hill
Written by: Nancy Dowd
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: Paul Newman, Strother Martin, Michael Ontkean, Jennifer Warren, Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson, David Hanson, Melinda Dillon

Pan Arts, Kings Road Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 123 Minutes 

slap_shotReview:

It’s almost the 40th anniversary of Slap Shot, so why not revisit it?

Slap Shot is what I consider to be the greatest hockey film of all-time. No, it is not a Disney family movie and it is crude, violent and often times profane. However it is also lovable, approachable and pretty much timeless. It also embodies the spirit of manliness and old school small town hockey unlike any other film. Albeit the more modern Goon has become a pretty close second.

This film has two great things going for it. First, it has Paul Newman in the lead role as an aging hockey player/coach that loves his team and his teammates as much as he loves the sport that pays his bills. Second, it has the violent iconic trio known as the Hanson Brothers, who are willing to take out any obstacle and pummel any opponent that gets in their way. The other characters are also equally awesome in their own ways and to be honest, this is the most entertaining sports team ever assembled on film.

The movie follows the Charlestown Chiefs, as they watch their town crumble after the closing of the local factory and the news that they are being sold and disbanded following the season. It is also a fight against the system and a fight for the sake of fighting in a world becoming neutered by political correctness. Additionally, it brings a bit of 70s era commentary on the aftermath of the free love movement and societal fears of homosexuality. It is a much more politically and socially conscious film than what it appears to be on the surface.

Slap Shot is also unique in the fact that this testosterone-fueled cinematic romp was written by a woman, Nancy Dowd. While that may seem odd, especially for the time, she did a more than spectacular job of capturing the essence of hockey and the thought process of manly men in a world changing around them. Dowd went on the be a writer for Saturday Night Live during its heyday. She also wrote several screenplays throughout the 70s and 80s – most notably Coming Home. She was also an uncredited contributor to the scripts of North Dallas Forty, Ordinary People and Cloak & Dagger.

The director of the film was George Roy Hill who won multiple Oscars throughout his career. His best-known pictures were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Great Waldo Pepper, A Little Romance and Thoroughly Modern Millie. He also did the critically-panned Chevy Chase film Funny Farm. Not really being nominated for anything for his work on Slap Shot, I feel like Hill got snubbed. While it wasn’t necessarily a “picture of the year” sort of movie, it has gone on to become much larger than a run of the mill cult classic.

Slap Shot is a glorious film representing a bygone era for the sport it is based on, as well as the culture of that time. Its message still rings true today and if anything, the underlying political and social current of the film still feels authentic and honest. Often times, comedy can make a point and hit a mark much more effectively than a dramatization. And despite all of that, it is still a thoroughly entertaining movie and a classic sports comedy unlike any other. Slap Shot is a unique gem of a film.