Movie Review – Gardens of Stone

Gardens of Stone (1987)
Written by Ronald Bass
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

There’s a good reason you probably have never heard of this Coppola film. It is bad. Like truly, the bottom of the barrel, not even the fun kind of bad. Yet, it doesn’t make me dislike the director or think he’d completely lost his creative touch. To understand why Gardens of Stone is so bad, you need to know what happened to Coppola during the production. It is no big reveal that Coppola centered his family in his life. You can see this in how he included them in every level of his film’s production. The man kept the people he loved the closest to him.

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Movie Review – The Cotton Club

The Cotton Club (1984)
Written by William Kennedy, Francis Ford Coppola, and Mario Puzo
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

It feels like it cannot be emphasized enough, but for Francis Ford Coppola, the entirety of the 1980s and some of the 1990s was shaped by the failure of One From the Heart. Many of his decisions of which projects to take were driven directly by the massive debt he accrued by spending his money on that critical & box office disaster. His old producer Robert Evans (The Godfather films), brought him to The Cotton Club. 

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Movie Review – Rumble Fish

Rumble Fish (1983)
Written by S.E. Hinton & Francis Ford Coppola
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

In March 1983, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders. By October 1983, he already had another film coming out, a thematic continuation of what was going on in that first film. Rumble Fish, also based on a novel by S.E. Hinton, drew Coppola’s attention more strongly than any of her other books. He identified with the idol worship of an older brother, something he experienced with his older brother August. The director decided he would direct Rumble Fish next about halfway through production on The Outsiders and managed to keep everything in Tulsa with the same crew and many of the same cast members. However, Warner Brothers did not like an early cut of The Outsiders and passed on his next movie. Rumble Fish would become acclaimed in the film festival circuit, with a more minor release, only 296 theaters nationwide.

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Movie Review – The Outsiders

The Outsiders (1983)
Written by Kathleen Rowell
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

The 1980s did not start well for Francis Ford Coppola. Despite some strong entries into his filmography, it didn’t end up too great at the end, either. This decade was a period of change & tragedy for the director, a clear sign that whatever magic had manifested itself in the 1970s would be tempered. One From the Heart was his first entry into the decade, and it was a box office disaster, only making $600,000+ against a $26 million budget. 1983 found Coppola selling his 23-acre Zoetrope Studios to begin paying off the debts One From the Heart left him with. He would spend the entire decade working to pay that debt off, contributing to some of the more unexpected jobs he took. Coppola was still a great filmmaker; they weren’t all hits this time. The Outsiders, though, isn’t a miss and is one of the highlights of the 1980s.

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Movie Review – The Descendants

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The Descendants (2011)
Written by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash
Directed by Alexander Payne

It would take six years after Sideways before Alexander Payne released another film. His longest gap to date between movies. During that time, Payne would get divorced from his wife Sandra Oh; they were together for around six years, married for three. I am no psychoanalyst, and everything I say is complete speculation, but…it sure does seem like the divorce did not sit well with Payne. I say that because from this point on, women, who appeared to have a special place in his previous work, suddenly take on a much darker tone. This film and the next two all feature female characters that are “nags” and absurdly vulgar for no apparent reason other than to add levity to the movie?

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Movie Review – Sideways

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Sideways (2004)
Written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Directed by Alexander Payne

With Sideways, Alexander Payne caused a 16% increase in sales of pinot noir in the Western United States. How many movies can say they did that? It also increased tourism to the Santa Ynez Valley in Central California and decreased merlot sales by 2%. I remember seeing this movie while I was in college with my friend Sam. In the following months, he became more interested in wine, and I benefitted by getting to try a lot of it. I can’t say I like wine all that much. I always seem to get a headache the morning after. I think the magic of this film is that even if you don’t care about it, the writing makes you interested. This is the effect of having a genuine passion; the rest of the world becomes invisible when you are lost in it, yet often you become someone people flock to because of that passion. We all want to feel that way about something.

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Movie Review – About Schmidt

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About Schmidt (2002)
Written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Directed by Alexander Payne

While About Schmidt is credited as being based on a novel that’s not exactly the truth. Payne and his co-writer Jim Taylor had completed this script years before Louis Begley published his book. As early as 1991, Payne offered the script to Universal, who rejected it. The novel came out in 1996, Payne saw similarities between it and his writing, got the rights, combined the two, and we ended up with About Schmidt. This will be the ending of Payne’s first act, a trilogy of movies centered on Midwesterners, finding drama in their often ignored lives while developing his craft as a filmmaker. The stylistic flourishes of Election are muted here, though the film retains the same dry sense of humor. Payne has remarked that his concept behind the film was always “The Graduate at age sixty-five,” a meditation on the pointlessness of devoting so much of our lives to capitalism.

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Movie Review – Election

Election (1999)
Written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Directed by Alexander Payne

There’s something deeply wrong in America. It’s a rotten core deeply embedded in the manufactured two-party political culture wars that go on endlessly. We Americans are petty, spiteful, hateful people. It’s simply the truth. Our elite spin fancy myths that seek to bolster our perceptions, but all you need to do is step back a bit, and you begin to see the fetid sludge come boiling to the surface. We crave the boot of brutal authority just as long as we can glance over and see our neighbor getting worse than us. When I first watched Election as an 18-year-old college freshman, I didn’t really get it. I don’t think the culture as a whole did, as I would hear things about Tracy Flick being such a bitch. She’s the villain of the movie, right? Not at all. She’s the victim. But we so quickly decided she was the bad guy.

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Movie Review – Dora and The City of Lost Gold

Dora and The Lost City of Gold (2019)
Written by Nicholas Stoller, Matthew Robinson, and Tom Wheeler
Directed by James Bobin

Of all the shows I have reviewed in this series on cinematic television adaptations, this is the only one created during my adulthood. Not having children or having spent a lot of time around Zoomers as babies, I don’t really have any emotional attachments to the source material. I’ve seen the numerous parodies of Dora that show up in pop culture, and I understand the show’s concept, though. So I was a bit surprised but intrigued when it was announced that a live-action Dora movie was in the works. I always prefer an unexpected and weird take on a well-known property rather than regurgitating something we all know. This is why I am very interested in the Greta Gerwig Barbie film. It sounds like something that isn’t just a straightforward adaptation. And that’s what we get with Dora and The Lost City of Gold, a movie that balances a genuine love of the show with the ability to poke fun at it.

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Movie Review – The A-Team

The A-Team (2010)
Written by Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, and Skip Woods
Directed by Joe Carnahan

Some of my earliest memories of watching television are of The A-Team. This might be seen as troubling to some because this action series was criticized at the time for delivering a way too sanitized version of violence. This was because no one ever died in The A-Team. No matter what happened to them. They could be bound & gagged inside a vehicle filled with C-4 and blown up. There would be a take after the explosion that showed the person scrambling out of the inferno to safety. In that way, the show was seen as possibly encouraging the youth to do violent things to each other. I have never found any stories of a direct connection between the violence of the A-Team and any act performed in real life. The same cannot be said for the likes of Tucker Carlson and his ilk.

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