Airplane! (1980)

Great comedy like this doesn’t just fall out of the sky. Much should be remembered about how the three directors worked for years to build a style of comedy in a theater group they would later mold into the 1980 film Airplane! In addition to being laugh-a-minute hilarious, it also stands as evidence that hard work pays off in Hollywood.

The directors of this film, David and Jerry Zucker as well as Jim Abrahams Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker (abbreviated ZAZ) made something to be quintessentially proud of here. They had worked on the Kentucky Fried Theater group together so they had a lot of experience riffing and coming up with improv stuff before they ever directed any movies. John Landis took their humor they had developed and made it into a film called The Kentucky Fried Movie. It is full of dichotomous humor juxtaposing serious settings and scenes with surreal and slapstick humor. Watching the Landis film yields all sorts of influences seen in Airplane! It is a lot more racy however, specifically in its nudity.

This film stars Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty and features Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Lorna Patterson. There are several other cameos by then well-known actors and celebrities. Robert Hays, the lead actor, was an unknown at the time. He does a good job but his role is more of a cog in a larger machine of comedic actors. Leslie Nielsen is by far the most memorable actor in the film. He had been in loads of episodic television as well as films like The Poseidon Adventure. Though he hadn’t done comedy before, Airplane! showed the world he was a closet comedian.

The film is a fairly simple plot derived from the 1957 film, Zero Hour! Note the exclamation mark in both titles. His serious look helps the deadpan humor work so well. The rest of the cast is side-splitting making the film a must watch for any filmcritic or lover of films.

As a kid growing up in the 80’s, this film was alluring to me. Older kids would talk about it and how their parents let them see it. After all, there is a bare breasted woman in it for about 2 whole seconds (the scandal!). Unfortunately I didn’t see it until after I was 10. I don’t recall my exact age but I know it was in my teens. It was the funniest film I had ever seen. Others have come close since, but I think it still hovers around that ranking with me still.

FINAL THOUGHTS
It’s no wonder Airplane! is one of the worlds funniest films. Its three directors took years to hone their comedic skills and work together. Finally, they put their own money up to pitch the idea to movie studios. After persistence and hard work, the film was made and it remains to this day one of the most exciting and funny films ever made. I recommend it to anyone and everyone.

10/10

Amadeus (1984)

The 1980’s produced some amazing films. This one is a historically based well-directed drama film with just enough good comedy to keep you sitting up in your seat the whole running time. For me, this movie is legendary.

A director of a film this historical and entertaining has to be mentioned if for no other reason than to get recommendations of her/his other films to enjoy. Milos Forman directed this film and received much praise for doing so. The film was a commercial success and won the Academy award in 1985 for best film of the year. While is was an amazing achievement for Milos, he already had the multi award-winning One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest under his belt. This is a man who knows human nature well and can make a movie that lets us in on it. Too bad he didn’t direct more films. His directorial choices in Amadeus are very effective and worthy of respect.

F. Murray Abraham is the true star of this show as Antonio Salieri. He weaves feigned jealousy in with out and out admiration for Mozart. It rows into a tapestry of ugliness but one that most of us can relate to with someone in out lives like Mozart. Tom Hulce is Mozart. He has the most annoying laugh in the world but he makes a point through it. Understanding him is understanding Mozart. He brings the title character to life in his antics and also in his tortured times. Elizabeth Berridge I must say looks really good in a push up top! Her wardrobe person is to be congratulated. She is a good choice as the wife who cares about Mozart but at the same time laments her choice to be with one who acts like such a child.

This is the fictional retelling of the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It’s told by a crotchety old man Salieri who was a contemporary. In his dealings with Mozart, he is very jealous because it seems Amadeus can create well received music on demand. Salieri cannot. You get the rise and fall of a hyper-creative and genius musician/composer, his rants and partying are hysterical but I can’t help wondering whether he had some sort of mood disorder. Though talented, his behavior is very erratic and odd at times. It all just adds to the jokes. This is a drama but Amadeus left us a lot to laugh at.

I picked this as a great 100 because it had a huge impact on me in 1985 and I believe strongly it could resonate the same way with new audiences here in 2017. I’ve always said as a teacher I’d rather have a student who asserted her/him self and tried her/his best than a gifted prodigy who can follow the rules. The latter is Amadeus. I love the way this film presents this musical genius. What a great way to become more familiar with his life and times. I’ve seen in multiple times and will always go back to it. Tom Hulce (plays Amadeus) did some things after this but decided in the past 10 years to seclude in Seattle. IMDB tells us he his happy there and feels better than living in Los Angeles or New York. I’ve also admired his comedy work in National Lampoon’s Animal House.

10/10

The Theory of Everything

The-Theory-of-Everything-Poster-2I went in to see this movie while on vacation in Las Vegas with my lovely wife. I expected a romance. Having known of Stephen Hawking and his ultimate divorce, I imagined the film would delete that and sugar coat his romance prior to him becoming confined to a wheelchair. I had it only partly right. The director focused on their romantic relationship in the early years, the late sixties and seventies. You see how they meet and get a feel for what he was trying to with his theory of everything. It is quite touching and certainly the stuff of chick flick type of movies. At the same time, I enjoyed watching that part so it may be suited fpr guys as well, or guys that want to cuddle with girls. It’s after all that is established and they are in a relationship that the disease hits and it hits powerfully. You might call it exquisite pain for the protagonist and the invested audience.

After doctors give Hawking 2 years to live, you see he and his wife have learned to get along. The movie is still a love story but takes on a new dimension of a family. Yes, they are able to have children. Hawking becomes a famous author we follow him through more and more sophisticated wheelchairs. My wife at one point said to me, “This is where you say thank God for technology.” Through the use of a special machine, he learns to speak again through typing. There is also a running theme throughout about religion. She has it, he doesn’t. It makes for some interesting interplay at chosen points in the movie. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if he ever renounces atheism or not. Either way, he delivers a powerful speech on the topic. This is a tear jerker, a romance, and an inspiring film to boot. I give in 5/5 stars.

Slow West

Title: Slow West
Genre: Action, Mystery, Romance
MPAA Rating: R
Year: 2015
Director: John Maclean. Known now for writing and directing this film. A newcomer to watch!
Top Billed Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” Michael Fassbender, “Prometheus,” and much more, and Ben Mendelsohn, known for the tv show “Bloodline.”
Brief Synopsis: When traveling across territory, it helps to have a partner. Everyone has different gifts and needs so choose as your needs require. In the West, anything can happen and often does.
My Word to the Wise: A succinct, plain but totally enjoyable Western movie with amazing actors and pistols! Just what a western aspires to be.

The rest of this review may contain spoilers.

My only final thought for you on this movie is the freshness of it. It isn’t bland in any way but the elements of the classic Western roll off like a conveyor belt onto a claim jumper’s plate. It is a strong story brought to life with incredible sets and costumes. Finally, the director is taking his first shot at writing and directing and I declare he has scored a bullseye. This film aims to be a thoughtful Western and on those criteria, I say it succeeds. It lost no star with me.

Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

This film works quite well as a regret piece. As a teacher, I have plenty of these. The kids I hear about who slipped through the cracks, got into crack or other drugs and somehow never made it in life. Nick Cage’s character wonders what more he could have done. The truth is, in any human endeavor or job you lose some.

Director Martin Scorcese has done more for film than most living directors of our time. Who can forget his Taxi Driver or more recently, Hugo. His work spans the human spectrum and always brings us men who have a vision of themselves they try to live up to, with mixed results.
Nicholas Cage and Ving Rhames are in this film. They make a great duo in the parts they do together. Rhames is the tough free-spirit who tries to get Cage’s character to cope and adapt. They never go away, the ones you lose.

This film is like a dream. It consists of a simple premise: a medic is haunted by the patients he couldn’t save. You might argue it was the first protagonist who could say, “I see dead people.” In the end, we are left with more questions than answers. I like that sort of film, it makes you work. Finally the conclusions are yours and the film helped you get there on your own.

This is not a feel god film but it weaves a web of somber moods that present a point of view. The mystery of death is approached but never addressed. It’s more about those left behind and how we can get stuck in depression and regret when people die, robbing us of our own happiness.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This film is one that makes you think. Due to the nature of its premise there are sections that drag on a little. There are also things that are not explained which can be frustrating. I recommend it for its content but also simply because it is a Scorcese piece.

8/10