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Roger Ebert dead at age 70

roger ebert

I truly love movies. Back in the day, when I had time, it really didn’t matter what kind of movie was in the theater, if I had time I would go. I saw Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (one of the worst movies of all-time!!!). Nope, I wasn’t drunk. I went to the movies because I loved all of it. In the late 1980s, the sound systems got better. We got stadium seating and nice comfortable chairs. I really and truly love going to movies.

In both high school and college I took film criticism courses. I learned about jump cuts, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and D. W. Griffin. I learned about lighting and how it can tell a story. I simply loved movies but when I read about movies in the newspaper (we had newspapers back then) I despised the contempt most film critics had for just about everything. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about see Richard Corliss from Time Magazine.) Then, somehow, there was Roger Ebert. He was a guy who can enjoy a regular movie.  The rest of the film critics, at least to me, seem to hate movies and love to find flaws which they can pick apart. It wasn’t that Roger Ebert didn’t see the flaws. He did. But he was able to see past the flaws and enjoy the movie anyway.

Almost none of the formal, stuffy-nosed critics liked the 1977 classic Star Wars. Roger Ebert did. As a matter of fact, Ebert was with us, the regular folks. He loved it. That may be one of the reasons that I truly enjoyed listening to and reading Roger Ebert. He was genuine.

I will truly miss Roger Ebert. As a matter fact, the last year or so, I’ve been following his tweets. He embraced technology, another aspect to enjoy about his personality.

My heart goes out to his family.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Roger Ebert loved movies.

Except for those he hated.

For a film with a daring director, a talented cast, a captivating plot or, ideally, all three, there could be no better advocate than Roger Ebert, who passionately celebrated and promoted excellence in film while deflating the awful, the derivative or the merely mediocre with an observant eye, a sharp wit and a depth of knowledge that delighted his millions of readers and viewers.

“No good film is too long,” he once wrote, a sentiment he felt strongly enough about to have engraved on pens. “No bad movie is short enough.”

By |2013-11-03T18:22:18-04:00April 7th, 2013|Movies|Comments Off on Roger Ebert dead at age 70

Contraband – why?

I’m sure that I’ve mentioned this before, but I really love movies. I’m probably one of the few people who can say that he has seen Attack of the Killer Tomatoes three times in the theater. It was an awful movie and the guys who were making it knew it was an awful movie. Contraband is not awful. It just isn’t that good. For me, this is disheartening. I love movies in which one character outsmarts everybody else. I can’t remember the first movie that I saw with that kind of formula, but the movie Hopscotch with Walter Matthau is the first one that I can think of off the top of my head. Of course, all of the James Bond-type movies are exactly like this.

Our hero, Mark Wahlberg, is a famous smuggler who has now gone legitimate. His brother-in-law, Andy, is played by Caleb Landry Jones, who is terrible in this movie. Jones’ character has gotten into the business and is in trouble. He has had to dump a shipment of cocaine and now the bad guys are after him. So far, we’ve seen this movie before. Mark Wahlberg to the rescue. He confronts the bad guys. Personally, I didn’t think the bad guys seemed to be all that bad. Why doesn’t our hero break open a can of whoop ass and call it a day? Well, for some reason, he doesn’t. Instead, he has to come up with some ungodly sum of money or badness will rain down on his family. He decides that he’s going to do one last run. Surprised?? He’s got a go to Panama and pick up some phony money. Up until now, the movie is somewhat believable. From here on out, you really need to suspend any connections with reality.

Once in Panama with his crew, our hero rushes to make the drop-off. Unfortunately, the counterfeit money is bad. It’s made with terrible paper and our hero has to go and find the big boss. The big boss is so laughable as a character that it almost completely ruins the movie. (Think of drug runner from Romancing the Stone who was supposed to be a parody of Latino druglords.) The big boss convinces our hero to help with a daylight assault on an armored vehicle (this just happens to be going down right now, great timing!!) which turns into a shooting match with the police. Everybody dies except for our hero and his smuggling buddy. Surprised? Our hero somehow comes away with a rolled-up drop cloth (turns out to be a Jackson Pollock painting) and loads of counterfeit money. Oh, did I mention that his best friend, who is supposed to be protecting our hero’s family back in Louisiana while he is in Panama dodging bullets, is actually the mastermind drug dealer behind the bad guys? He is the same best friend who tries to make a move on his wife. Kate Beckinsale, as the wife, is very nice to watch, but does almost nothing to help this bad script. He then somehow almost kills his wife, who we are supposed to believe is dead, but who is really not. Confused? Don’t be. The movie really divorces itself from reality. A wife who has been hit over the head, wrapped in plastic and then nearly drowned in wet cement can wake up in the hospital a couple hours later just fine.

If you like these kind of movies, check out last year’s Mechanic with Jason Statham or, from a few years back, Gone in 60 Seconds with Nicholas Cage. Both are much better movies. I give this movie a C – which probably reflects grade inflation. 🙂 (The commercials are highly deceptive and really do not give you any flavor for what the movie is about.)

By |2012-01-30T13:29:36-04:00January 30th, 2012|Movies|Comments Off on Contraband – why?

John Hughes dies

I thought I’d say a few things about John Hughes who died this week. I like to consider myself a movie buff. I’m probably one of the few who can happily say that he is watched and laughed at Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! more than once. I’m one of the guys who stays after the movie’s over and watches the credits. (Although I watch the credits, I don’t memorize the credits. I don’t care who the key grip was.)

I only really knew John Hughes as a director. Now that I’ve done some reading, it looks as though I actually knew his writing just didn’t recognize it. He wrote National Lampoon’s Vacation in 1983. He also wrote Class Reunion in 1982. I was lukewarm on both of these films. He wrote Mr. Mom, also in 1983, which starred Teri Garr and Michael Keaton. I would give this movie a solid B. It is worth a rental.

John Hughes really made his mark on me and Hollywood with a series of films that he did in the mid-to-late ’80s. He managed to portray the good, the bad and the ugly of being a teenager or young college student in movies that were funny and sad. They were heartwarming without being sappy. The Breakfast Club, 16 Candles, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (my personal favorite, a must see for anyone who likes this genre) were simply strokes of genius. The premises of his movies were simple, like The Breakfast Club, in which several teenagers have Saturday detention. How can you make an interesting movie out of that? Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was about a guy who skipped school. Big deal. Yet somehow John Hughes was able to make these ordinary occurrences extraordinary. He found the right combination of actors to make his stories engaging. Somehow the bad guys weren’t all that bad and the good guys weren’t all that good. Everyone was okay. His screenplays were written in such a way that the story unfolded the way teenagers and young adults would have wanted it to unfold and then to end. His movies hit a nerve, not in a bad way but in a good way.

He made the careers of Molly Ringwald, Matthew Broderick, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy. (Remember her?) John Candy actually worked with Hughes in eight films.

He made some other good films, like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (John Candy and Steve Martin). Home Alone was a huge hit for him.

Sometime in the early ’90s he stopped directing films and just wrote screenplays. He wrote Dennis the Menace, Flubber, 101 Dalmatians, Home Alone 3 and Home Alone 4, to name a few.

In my opinion, John Hughes told a generation of Americans (who are now between the ages of 35 and 50) that it’s okay to be different and that‘s a great legacy to leave.

By |2009-08-08T22:29:30-04:00August 8th, 2009|Movies|Comments Off on John Hughes dies
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