Day 341: Taps (1981)

tapsWe only have so many days left in the year so I am trying to be selective about what films I choose for the challenge. For today’s film, I wanted to clean up my Netflix queue a little so I decided to watch the 1981 military drama Taps. Life at Bunker Hill Military Academy is business as usual with cadets coming in and cadets leaving to bigger and better things under the watchful eye of the acclaimed General Bache (George C. Scott). After being appointed the new Major, Cadet Major Moreland (Timothy Hutton) finds out that the school is going to be shut down in favor of condos. After an accidental shooting takes their beloved general away and speeds up the closing process, Moreland and the cadets take a stand and they take over the school. The film also stars Sean Penn (Mystic River) as Cadet Captain Dwyer, Tom Cruise (Top Gun) as Cadet Captain Shawn, Evan Handler (Sex And The City) as Edward West, Giancarlo Esposito (The Jungle Book) as Cadet Captain Pierce, Ronny Cox (RoboCop) as Colonel Kerby, Billy Van Zandt (Anything But Love) as Bug, Donald Kimmel (As Luck Would Have It) as Billy Harris, Wayne Tippit (Nurse Betty) as Master Sergeant Kevin Moreland, and the film was directed by Harold Becker (City Hall).

cruiseYou know I often wonder if Tom Cruise and Sean Penn knew what kind of megastars they’d end up becoming during the 80’s. They are definitely two of my favorite actors to emerge from that decade along with some others. Timothy Hutton proves in this film that he can give some strong performances because he did in this one. They definitely captured the essence of what it means to be a kid who is forced to try and act like an adult in a world that when they step up for something, they are once again treated like children. That is definitely the eternal struggle for kids who were brainwashed that there are far worse things in life then death by a man who has known nothing other than that lifestyle. The great thing about this film is that it emulates war movies where in the beginning you are gung-ho about the battle at hand then when the film continues on, it starts showing scenes of war is hell as the soldiers begin to crack or in this case the cadets. I loved the cinematography in the film especially the final scene where you may be shocked by what happens or if you are like me you had an idea of what was about to happen. Sean Penn does such an amazing job in the film and I would consider it a stellar performance as well as Tom Cruise who plays that war monger character who is just inching to become Rambo. The film is available on Netflix like I said, but for right now I am going to give the film an A- for a final grade.

Day 238: A Hologram For The King (2016)

coverThere are certain actors in Hollywood that when you see their name attached to a film, it’s more than likely that you’re going to pick it up. Tom Hanks (Bridge Of Spies) is definitely one of those actors and hence the reason I chose A Hologram For The King for today’s film. Alan (Hanks) is a failed US salesman that made the ultimate mistake with one company in his past. Things are falling apart for Alan as he is going through a divorce, he has to find a way to pay for college for his daughter, and he has a small lump on his back. In a last ditch effort, he goes to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to present a new technology to the king in hopes that it will save him. What he actually finds there is not what he expected when he took the chance. The film also stars Alexander Black (Tim) as Yousef, Sarita Choudhury (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1) as Zahra, Sidse Babett Knudsen (The Duke Of Burgundy) as Hanne, Tracey Fairaway (Enough Said) as Kit, Tom Skerritt (Top Gun) as Ron, David Menkin (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) as Brad, Christy Meyer (Snowden) as Cayley, Megan Maczko (The In-Between) as Rachel, Khalid Laith (The Devil’s Double) as Hassan, Amira El Sayed (Schleierhaft) as Hana, and the film was directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run).

rs-231797-Screen-Shot-2016-03-10-at-9.57.54-PMBefore I get into the review of the film, the one thing that I want to get out of the way is that I loved the cinematography. Yes, there is a lot of amazing shots of the desert and what not, but one of my favorite scenes comes towards the end of the film. There is a scene where Tom Hanks is underwater and it just looks absolutely amazing. According to Rotten Tomatoes the critic consensus is, “A Hologram for the King amiably ambles through a narrative desert, saved by an oasis of a performance from the ever-dependable Tom Hanks.” I would have to agree with the critics because it is a rather enjoyable ride through a culture shock. You see Tom Hank’s character grow from someone who doesn’t know the customs of the culture to eventually someone who understands the way their world works. He has to travel around the red tape and navigate his way through their world, but he gets the job done. One of the relationships I loved seeing in the film was the bond of friendship that developed between Alan and his driver Yousef. It starts off a little shaky because Alan just treats him like a crazy driver, but the relationship that soon develops is great and full of comedic gold. One of my other favorite aspects from the film is the soundtrack believe it or not. It features music from The Talking Heads, Chicago, Electric Light Orchestra, and more courtesy of Yousef for the most part (minus The Talking Heads track, that seems to be the overall theme of the film). I really enjoyed watching the film and I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of Mr. Hanks. I am going to give the film an B+ for a final grade.

Day 200: Alien (1979)

alienBelieve it or not, I was never a huge fan of science fiction films growing up as a kid and in fact I preferred horror movies over them. With all the talk of a new Alien film, I figured what better time than now to see all the films in the franchise and start with the film Alien. A space merchant vessel known as the Nostromo is heading back to Earth after a routine pick up of whatever the cargo is. The crew is nice and asleep in their pods during the long and strenuous travel when they are awoken by MOTHER which is the ships computer. They discover that there is a distress signal from somewhere in space and protocol says that they have to investigate. After investigating the call, one of the crew members is attacked by something and they bring aboard a master alien specie that is takes no prisoners. The crew has to figure out a way to get safely home and away from the alien before it’s too late. The film stars Tom Skerritt (Top Gun) as Dallas, Sigourney Weaver (1492: Conquest Of Paradise) as Ripley, Veronica Cartwright (The Witches Of Eastwick) as Lambert, Harry Dean Stanton (The Green Mile) as Brett, John Hurt (Hellboy) as Kane, Ian Holm (The Fifth Element) as Ash, Yaphet Kotto (The Running Man) as Parker, Bolaji Badejo as the Alien, and the film was directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner).

alien 1So, I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised with how much I really liked the film. One thing I noticed about spaceships in space carrying humans and that is all of them are run by a computer that malfunctions. For example in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Hal 9000 runs the ship and basically kills everyone while MOTHER runs the ship in Alien and she’s not very helpful.  Humans will never learn throughout time that we should never trust a computer. Nevertheless, the computer in this film is obviously the least of their troubles as they are being chased around and killed by an amazing H.R. Giger designed Alien. Now that is a pretty scary scenario if you ask me, but the beauty of the film wasn’t how much you saw the alien, it was where the hell was he. The film gave you that Jaws effect where you are wondering where on this creepy ship is that scary alien. When it’s time to go, they give you the alien on the ship. The film contained a small cast, but this cast is as brilliant as it gets with the likes of John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton, etc. As I said above, I was never a huge fan of Sci-Fi films so I avoided watching these, but I am glad that I started because it has a brilliant story and sets. The cinematography and the editing of the film is also a strong point for the film. That is why I am going to give the film an A for a final grade.

Day 137: Zodiac (2007)

zodiacI was searching for a film to watch and I was going through a whole entire list before the film I chose caught my eye. I have always been a sucker for films that are based on true stories because real life can be scarier than fiction. The film I chose for today is called Zodiac and it stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Prisoners) as San Francisco Newspaper cartoonist Robert Graysmith. In the late 1960’s into the 70′, a killer appeared in Northern California calling himself the Zodiac killer. He would murder his victims and he would send letters to local newspapers. Robert Graysmith became so intrigued with the case that he followed it. Unfortunately, a suspect was never found and no one was ever arrested. When everyone else stopped looking, Graysmith took the reigns and decided to investigate himself coming close to identifying the actual killer. The film stars Mark Ruffalo (Avengers: Age Of Ultron) as Inspector David Toschi, Anthony Edwards (Top Gun) as Inspector William Armstrong, Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) as Paul Avery, Brian Cox (Troy) as Melvin Belli, John Caroll Lynch (Ted 2) as Arthur Leigh Allen, Chloë Sevigny (American Psycho) as Melanie, Elias Koteas (Shutter Island) as Sgt. Jack Mulanax, Donal Logue (Blade) as Captain Ken Narlow, Ione Skye (Say Anything…) as Kathleen Johns, and the film was directed by David Fincher (Fight Club). 

zodiac 2This is a long film, but it’s a film that is very intriguing especially when it’s a true crime story that has never been solved to this very day. I watched the film because it starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo because all three men are some of personal favs. At first, I kept wondering how they would close a movie that has no ending in real life. The killer has never been caught so how do you write an ending to that especially when there is none? Do I like the way they ended the film? Essentially, I kind of do and I kind of don’t, but it’s something that I am willing to accept (of course, you’ll have to watch it for yourself). Jake Gyllenhaal is brilliant in the film as this kind of neurotic obsessed guy that kind of reminds me of his role a little in Nightcrawler. The case they are all investigating and researching is kind of destroying there lives because they are way to attached to the idea of breaking it open and catching the guy. You see the characters literally falling apart right in front of your fac while the killer stays free. There are several theories and several accusations that have been made as to who the killer was, but the characters in this film believe in the guy they are after. I have to admit that I was a little creeped out watching this film in the wee hours of the night so it definitely gets bonus points for that reason. I am going to give the film an A- for a final grade based on performances and just the pure creepiness of the film.

Day 87: All The Right Moves (1983)

all the right movesSince the beginning of this bog, I don’t think I covered a film that starred Tom Cruise (Top Gun) who was one of my favorite actors from the 80’s. For today’s film, I chose All The Right Moves which stars Cruise as Stefen Djordjevic, a kid from Ampipe, a steel town in Pennsylvania. You see in Ampipe, there are only two options it seems for most of their residents, you either work in the dying steel mills or you go to college. All Stefen ever dreams of is to have the chance to get out of Ampipe and so he uses football as the means to an end. The only problem is that Stefen’s attitude and his high school coach Nickerson (Craig T. Nelson) stands in the way of his escape. The film also stars Lea Thompson (Back To The Future) as Lisa, Charles Cioffi (Shaft) as Pop, Gary Graham (Alien Nation) as Greg, Paul Carafotes (Fight Club) as Salvucci, Christopher Penn (Best Of The Best) as Brian, Sandy Faison (Guiding Light) as Suzie, Leon (Cool Runnings) as Shadow, Jonas Chaka (Biker Boyz) as Mouse, Keith Diamond (Dr. Giggles) as Fox, James A. Baffico (Dawn Of The Dead) as Bosco, and the film was directed by Michael Chapman (The Clan Of The Cave Bear).

all the right moves 2This was your average early 80’s teen flick that happened to star a future megastar and one of the finest women of the 80’s. While the scene between Thompson and Cruise isn’t very long, it surely is a really good one. Tom Cruise was well he is Tom Cruise so he puts on the performance you would expect from him and have seen in all of the movies he has been in. Lea Thompson is great as the first under appreciated girlfriend who has to make a tough decision later on in the film even though it could be the end. The football parts of the film are pretty good, but the real story of this film is the town itself. There was a time in this nation when certain production heavy cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit were in big trouble because production was moving elsewhere and you see that touched upon in this film. People are getting laid off and one character whose in high school even resorts to armed robbery because he feels he has no other option. So, while the film is essentially about the struggle of two characters who are looking to get out of this town, there is a bigger picture around it. I didn’t understand the title of the film because clearly Cruise’s character makes all the wrong moves, but it all works out for him in the end because even Coach wakes up. I liked the movie and so I am going to give it an B+ for a final grade.