Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Movies Of Albert Brooks

All movies starring Albert Brooks and reviewed on the Ace Black Blog are linked below:

Taxi Driver (1976)

Terms Of Endearment (1983, voice only)

Broadcast News (1987)

Out Of Sight (1998)

Drive (2011)

A Most Violent Year (2014)

Concussion (2015)

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.
The Index of Movie Stars is here.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Movie Review: Coyote Ugly (2000)

A trite romantic drama set in the world of bar top dancing, Coyote Ugly lines up and kicks out tired clichés to fill the time between the many scenes of hot women cavorting on the bar to loud music.

Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo) leaves her New Jersey home and overweight toll booth operator dad Bill (John Goodman) to seek a career as a songwriter in New York City. Violet suffers from stage fright, a condition that also afflicted her late mother, and her inability to perform in front of a crowd hampers opportunities to get her material heard. Meanwhile she can't break through the front door of any of the record companies or talent agencies, and her apartment is robbed to compound her misery. Violet does meet handsome Australian burger flipper Kevin O'Donnell (Adam Garcia), and they start a relationship.

Desperate to find some employment, Violet stumbles onto work at Coyote Ugly, a rough and tumble bar owned by Lil Lovell (Maria Bello, portraying the real-life bar owner), where attractive waitresses including Cammie (Izabella Miko) and Rachel (Bridget Moynahan) rev up customers with seductive bar top dances. The timid Violet can't join the dancing but eventually finds the courage to sing along with the jukebox. Kevin insists that she not give up on her dream to be a serious song writer and prods her to overcome her stage fright. Her dad Bill is crushed when he discovers what kind of bar Violet is working at, and Kevin's pushiness threatens to rupture the one remaining good relationship in her life.

Directed by David McNally and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Coyote Ugly is based on a magazine article by none other than Elizabeth Gilbert, who would go on to write more mawkish material like Eat, Pray, Love. The film is an unapologetic excuse to feature plenty of bar top dancing scenes, micro-edited down to artificially create energy and remove any traces of talent on either side of the camera. With a script apparently penned by an uncoordinated army of eight writers, Coyote Ugly is a standard innocent-girl-in-the-big-bad-city-falls-in-love story, the dancing scenes attempting to chase away the dullness but only adding another layer of asininity.

In this world a hip shake and a shoulder shimmy are inexplicably enough to send bar patrons into a whooping frenzy while the alcohol pumps kick into overdrive. The girls prance up and down the bar, spraying customers with water, juggling bottles and breathing fire, creating a wet dream environment for the young adolescent mind. For everyone else, no amount of gyration can cover up the utter banality of both the story and the action at the bar.

The struggle-to-make-it and romance elements are pulled from the laborious drawer. Every career door slams in Violet's face with a thud, stage fright is a hackneyed emotional hurdle, and lover-to-be Kevin is a remarkably charming and available prince in cook's clothing but of course he hides his own deep dark sob story.

Coyote Ugly is saved from being an utter debacle by Piper Perabo, the relative unknown plucked from obscurity and dropped into the lead role for a big budget production. Perabo is much better than the material deserves, and she somehow rises above the dross to deliver a relatively genuine and empathetic performance. Perabo combines small town smarts with a sharp edge and quick wit, and avoids most of the dopey innocence that typically accompanies the role.

The rest of the cast is more consistent with the sluggish story, with Goodman in particular veering towards obesity in both weight and melodrama. Tyra Banks has a small role as a former bar top dancer and LeAnn Rimes appears briefly as herself.

Coyote Ugly refers to waking up sober after a one night stand, and feeling the urge to gnaw off, coyote style, an arm trapped under a repulsive man. The film is not quite that bad, but does leave behind the sense of time wasted chasing an ill-conceived impulse.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Friday, 29 January 2016

The Movies Of Lionel Stander

All movies starring Lionel Stander and reviewed on the Ace Black Blog are linked below:

A Star Is Born (1937)

Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)

Boot Hill (1969)

The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

Terror Storm (1978)

1941 (1979)

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.
The Index of Movie Stars is here.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Movie Review: Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

A comedy about friendship and coming of age, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a deceptively simple story about a high school teen getting a jump start on life as an adult.

Resourceful Chicago high school senior Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) feigns sickness, fools his parents (Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward) and skips school for the day. After some effort, he convinces his uptight and frequently sick friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) to also take the day off. Together they concoct a plan to smuggle Ferris' girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) out of school, from under the nose of principal Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), a ruse that involves driving the precious vintage Ferrari belonging to Cameron's dad. Ferris also spreads rumours that he is practically on his death bed, triggering an outpouring of sympathy that spreads throughout the city.

Both Rooney and Ferris' sister Jeannie (Jennifer Grey) are convinced that Ferris is not sick at all and separately set out to catch him in the act. Meanwhile Ferris, Cameron and Sloane enjoy a day that includes trips to the Sears Tower observation deck, a Cubs baseball game, a meal at a snooty restaurant, visits to the art gallery and the mercantile exchange, and impromptu participation on a parade float. Rooney and Jeannie suffer their own misadventures as they try to uncover what the trio are up to, and Ferris will need all his wits to wrap up the day with no one the wiser.

Written and directed by John Hughes in the heart of his personal golden era, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is the definitive teen dream movie. The film is funny, fast-paced and also the perfect Chicago travelogue, Hughes showcasing the best that his favourite city has to offer on a gloriously sunny day. The central character is cool, calm and courageous, always several smart steps ahead of anyone trying to ruin his day. And the film's mantra of life moves pretty fast -- if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it, may as well be the most perfect pre-written excuse to occasionally step off the treadmill and test all of society's rules.

Ferris narrates the film and regularly breaks the fourth wall, adding to his appeal and firmly pulling the audience to his side and against his adversaries. And Ferris' opponents are easy to boo, with Rooney the worst type of bug-eyed foam-at-the-mouth authority figure, and Jeannie the sibling too worried about what her brother is up to rather than carving her own path (her perspective only changes upon meeting her own rebel in the form of Charlie Sheen).

Building on his break-out success in 1983's WarGames, Broderick finds his perfect role as Ferris Bueller. His boyish charm and the sly but disarming smile are deployed to full effect, and it's impossible to dislike his roguishness. Indeed, a large part of the film's appeal lies in Ferris being universally liked by all the high school factions, an impossible ideal that elevates the character's powers to legendary status in teen circles.

While superficially about a kid who takes a day off, Hughes has a couple of not-so-hidden agendas, and he reveals them early. Not too many high school kids skipping school choose to go to an art gallery, the mercantile exchange, or a stuffy restaurant. Fewer still would propose marriage to their girlfriend. These are literal and figurative adult actions and destinations, and the intrepid Ferris is using his last day off crack open the door to the grown-up world that he and his friends will need to soon live in.

And the greater purpose of the day emerges in the relationship between Ferris and Cameron. Initially Ferris' insistence that Cameron join him in skipping school appears self-serving (he needs to drive that Ferrari!), but Cameron's quietly tortured character emerges as the one spot of darkness at the heart of the film. Ferris' agenda blossoms as the afternoon progresses, and rather than achieving personal fulfillment, his goal is revealed to be much more about providing an emotional lift to a friend in need, the most satisfying act on a most lively day off.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Movie Review: The Freshman (1990)

A crime comedy mixing mobster satire with broad laughs, The Freshman benefits from a fine Marlon Brando performance riffing on his godfather persona, and an engaged Matthew Broderick. The film is astute and entertainingly frivolous in equal patches.

Clark Kellog (Broderick), raised by his wildlife-loving but otherwise obtuse step-father Dwight (Kenneth Welsh), leaves his rural Vermont home behind and heads to New York University to study film making. Within minutes of arriving in the big city, Clark meets the fast-talking Victor (Bruno Kirby), who offers Clark a ride but promptly steals all his money and luggage. Eventually Victor makes amends by introducing Clark to his uncle Carmine Sabatini (Brando), a businessman with a lucrative job offer that can't be refused.

Sabatini professes great admiration for Clark, who is intimidated into accepting a well-paid job as a driver tasked with transferring unspecified cargo from the airport to New Jersey. He also meets Sabatini's daughter Tina (Penelope Ann Miller), and with bewildering speed she professes her love for Clark and starts to talk of marriage. The cargo turns out to be a rare Komodo dragon being illegally imported into the care of the mysterious Larry London (Maximilian Schell), a flamboyant chef. Clark realizes that he has been sucked into an illicit and bizarre scheme involving gourmet meals featuring near-extinct species. He quickly wants out, but escaping Sabatini's web will be a complicated process.

The running joke in The Freshman is that everyone recognizes Carmine Sabatini as a spitting image of Don Corleone, but no one quite gets to say it. Brando mumbles his way through the role and has great fun recreating one of his greatest screen characters, but in this case the crime boss appears to be involved in nothing more serious than arranging over-priced banquets for air-headed rich guests.

The Freshman is filled with this kind of attractive asymmetry, where characters appear to be stereotypes but then step sideways into unfamiliar and quirky territory. Sabatini's pregnant pronouncements can be construed as either profound or simplistic, and his affection towards Clark may or may not be a real surrogate father-son bond, Victor oscillates between scruffy thief and resourceful potential brother-in-law, while Tina innocently combines mobster's daughter with a potentially genuine attachment to Clark. Larry London hints at a Nazi-laced evil past, but he could also be just an inventive cook.

Director and writer Andrew Bergman succeeds for the most part in threading the needle where Clark's ludicrous adventure stays on the right side of plausibly ridiculous. Broderick's fresh-faced, wide-eyed persona is a good match for Brando's dark and domineering boss, and the two create the film's best moments in several long conversational scenes. The Komodo dragon is also excellent and dominates a quite perfect comedy sequence as Clark and his film school friend (Frank Whaley) grapple with the reptile on an eventful trip from the airport to a hidden New Jersey zoo-of-sorts.

Some of the story details are less well constructed, and late on Bergman quick-fries a plot about corrupt conservation officers, while step-father Dwight reappears but is shortchanged into sitting in the back of a car and saying little.

The Freshman is a refined comedy which delivers a range of laughs without taking itself too seriously.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Movies Of William Sadler

All movies starring William Sadler and reviewed on the Ace Black Blog are linked below:

Die Hard 2 (1990)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Green Mile (1999)

Kinsey (2004)

August Rush (2007)

Eagle Eye (2008)

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.
The Index of Movie Stars is here.

Monday, 25 January 2016

The Movies Of Anne Archer

All movies starring Anne Archer and reviewed on the Ace Black Blog are linked below:

Fatal Attraction (1987)

Narrow Margin (1990)

Patriot Games (1992)

Body Of Evidence (1993)

Clear And Present Danger (1994)

Rules Of Engagement (2000)

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.
The Index of Movie Stars is here.

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