Some Movies I Saw in April

5060964d19b5f54aec7b1a3c41d389c0Here’s some films I’ve either revisited or have seen for the first time in April.

Stripes: I remember seeing this movie long ago back when video stores existed. Bill Murray excels as a slacker who basically joins the army because he’s all out of options. He opts to drag his best friend played by Harold Ramis reluctantly along. “Stripes” goes along the same anarchic, anti-authoritarian vibe that came with fellow classics  like”Animal House” and “Caddyshack” which were made by some of the same people. Murray plays the type of character that made people fall in love with him, his unique comic persona has never been matched. The film doesn’t really know when to quit at over two hours, and some jokes seem dated but with this kind of talent in front of and behind the camera, it’s a must for comedy fans. 3 stars out of 4

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: I’ve never really joined the cult of John Hughes with his famed 80s high school movies. They are good for what they are worth, but I’ve never felt the need to revisit them in any special way. However the one exception for me is this sentimental comedy classic where Hughes left high school and hit the road with Steve Martin and John Candy. The film starts as sort of an odd couple pairing with uptight Martin trying to make it home to thanksgiving with lovable slob Candy. However this isn’t really a one joke premise, it does go deeper and by the end, you realize why for some people this has become a holiday classic. Martin and Candy are perfectly cast in their respective roles, and this film seems to have aged well 4 stars out of 4

Bowfinger: Written by Steve Martin and starring him and Eddie Murphy who in my mind has never been funnier. This  gentle satire on Hollywood filmmaking has Martin playing an Ed Wood type filmmaker who tries to get the biggest star in the world in his little science fiction film entitled “Chubby Rain” to be in it. Murphy plays the star but also a nerdy guy named Jiff who plays his stand in. Murphy shines in every moment he’s in, but I can’t really say he walks away with the movie as the people who make up Martin’s rag tag filmmaking team each get their moment to shine. “Bowfinger” came out at the tale end of the 1990s it didn’t make much of an impact, but it’s worth revisiting if you’re a fan of either Martin or Murphy. 3 and a half stars out of 4

The 3 Amigos: I was on a bit of a Steve Martin run this month, this one film, a favorite of mine as a child starts him along with Chevy Chase and Martin Short as dimwitted silent western stars who unbeknownst to them become saviors of a small Mexican town that is terrorized by an evil land baron, they just think they are putting on a show for the town. This is just a really fun movie, with wonderful gags that are at times surreal, my favorite being the campfire sing-a-long. It’s one of those films that remains sophisticated even though its main protagonists are dumb as a post. 3 and a half stars out of 4

Jason and the Argonauts: A rollicking fantasy adventure based on the legend of Jason and his Argonauts search for the golden fleece. What makes this film so special is the stop motion animation of all the mythical creatures provided by the legendary Ray Harryhousen. For those of you unfamiliar with Harryhousen, he had a wonderful imagination of creatures that he brought life to, influencing everyone from George Lucas to Tim Burton. The story itself is rather bland and ends abruptly after a stirring battle with some stop motion skeletons that is the film’s centerpiece, however the magic of Harryhousen’s unique brand of special effects is timeless. 3 stars out of 4

The Jungle Book (2016): By far the best film I saw in the theatre this month was this impressive retelling of the Disney animated film. With the exception of the young boy who plays the man cub Mowgli in a very impressive performance, this “Jungle Book” is entirely computer animated bringing a jungle that looks authentic, along with all the endearing animal characters voiced by the likes of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, and Christopher Walken to name of few. Director John Favreau creates a wonderful adventure story that captures an energy and tone that feels right to the spirit of the original but also updating it for the this new generation. 4 stars out of 4

Zootopia: After hearing good word of mouth, I decided to see this new Disney animated feature. An impressive and surprisingly subversive animated film that has a pretty good mystery at its core, but also a moral about real prejudice. I have to say I had one of the best moments I ever experienced in a movie theatre when in one specific scene in “Zootopia” where a young Fox is being shunned by some other animals for being different, I heard a little boy in front of me tell his dad that “Those guys are bullies”. You can tell a movie is really onto something when you hear that kind of reaction from its target audience. 3 and a half stars out of 4

Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice: A hot mess of a movie, and one I can’t say I enjoyed. What is this movie doing? What is it trying to say? Where is it going? I don’t remember the last time I felt I was pulled in so many directions the movie wanted to take me to. Look Zach Snyder has some visually compelling ideas, and this is probably more cinematically dynamic than most movies churned out by Marvel who usually opts for flat visuals to keep their films looking more consistent. However, the visuals turn incoherent and repetitive after awhile. Its main heroes, if you want to call them that look mostly like jacked up testosterone fueled pro-wrestlers. Some have argued this film is like a deconstruction of super hero movies, by making  the two most iconic super heroes in history into self-absorbed misfits each with a chip on their shoulders big enough not to realize they are being manipulated into a fight that feels very unmotivated. There isn’t much heroism going on here with the brief of exception of Wonder Woman who is the only one who seems to crack a smile as she seems to be only one who realizes she’s in a super hero movie. Suffice it to say if this is the Batman and Superman for this generation, I’ll take comfort in my old school Christopher Reeve and Michael Keaton movies thank you very much. 2 stars out of 4

 

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