Movie Review – True Romance

True Romance (1993)
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Directed by Tony Scott

While this is a James Gandolfini-centric film series, I acknowledge he has such a minuscule part in True Romance. However, that two-scene appearance managed to stand toe to toe with seasoned film veterans like Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, and others. The film itself has not aged well, in my opinion. There’s a tasteless trans joke and multiple uses of racial slurs. The worst part is that the protagonist is a complete male Mary Sue, able to pull off some of the riskiest maneuvers despite having zero credibility in the criminal element. It’s also a film with big names in minor roles, many of whom get a single scene or just a handful. The fact that Gandolfini could stand out in a movie like this is proof of what an acting talent he was and how he was capable of such great things.

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Patron Pick – Good On Paper

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie, if they choose. This Pick comes from Bekah Lindstrom.

Good on Paper (2021)
Written by Iliza Shlesinger
Directed by Kimmy Gatewood

I want to welcome Bekah as our newest patron even though her first pick was…this movie. I can’t say I’ve ever listened to much of stand-up Iliza Shlesinger’s comedy, so I felt neutral about her going into this viewing. In the last decade, I’ve shifted to listening to podcasts hosted by comedians more than listening to their stand-up, so unless someone appears as a guest on one of those, I don’t really know much about their comedic perspective. Good on Paper opens with Ilza playing a version of herself doing stand-up. I found myself chuckling at the bit, a bit of deception as the film would probably have been better as just a comedy special. Instead, we get a tonal mess in its place.

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Movie Review – Green Card

Green Card (1991)
Written & Directed by Peter Weir

“Romantic comedy” is not a film genre necessarily associated with Peter Weir. He certainly has romance in his pictures (see The Year of Living Dangerously, Witness), but this particular style of movie just isn’t what you would expect from him. This is one of the few films that Weir both wrote and directed on his own, and it appears to have been inspired by French actor Gerard Depardieu. Weir wanted to bring Depardieu to an English-speaking audience after the actor was already renowned in popular French cinema. The leading male role in Green Card was explicitly written for the performer, but it didn’t propel him to immense fame in the States. It would be received with a mixed reception by the critics, seen mainly as light fare.

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Movie Review – Moonstruck

Moonstruck (1987)
Written by John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Norman Jewison

Moonstruck was a continuation of what a strong journeyman director Norman Jewison was. This time he tackles a screwball romantic comedy that at once hearkens back to his days making movies with Doris Day yet a more modern feminist take on the genre. He works from a screenplay written by John Patrick Shanley, who would write and direct Joe Versus the Volcano and Doubt. This was Shanley’s first screenwriting gig, but he’d been writing for the theater since the early 1980s. Moonstruck is an enchanted picture, much like Joe Versus the Volcano; it’s a subtly heightened world where the moon can appear exaggeratedly large in the sky and have a magical effect on the people of New York City.

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Movie Review – The African Queen

The African Queen (1951)
Written by John Huston, James Agee, Peter Viertel, and John Collier
Directed by John Huston

Despite his track record of dark, crime-centric movies, John Huston was also a romantic. That was on full display in The African Queen. This wasn’t Huston’s last film with Humphrey Bogart, but it is considered his last great film working with the actor. He was working with a lighter, comedy type of film. Huston also shot on location in Uganda and the Congo. The African Queen was a Technicolor picture that added difficulty to the production. The cameras needed for the Technicolor process were large and somewhat unwieldy. But in an effort for authenticity, Huston refused to shoot most of the picture on a soundstage.

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Movie Review – The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence (1993)
Written by Jay Cocks & Martin Scorsese
Directed by Martin Scorsese

New York City has played a central role in almost every Scorsese film. I think Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Cape Fear were the only movies at this point that didn’t take place in and around NYC. Mainstream perceptions about Scorsese probably think he’s most concerned with a specific NYC era, but I’ve found he’s interested in the city at all stages of its development. Other than Temptation, this is the film that had occurred the furthest in the past in the director’s filmography. The movie adapts Edith Wharton’s novel The Age of Innocence, set when New York City had a very prevalent aristocracy with its own subculture of ritual & performance in public. This creates tension between our characters’ relationships and their inner thoughts, and it’s on that tightrope the whole film rests.

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Movie Review – Somewhere in Time

Somewhere in Time (1980)
Written by Richard Matheson
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc

I approached this film with moderate expectations but found myself enjoying it quite a bit. Somewhere in Time is a melodrama dripping with maudlin sentimentality. But it’s a well crafted one, so those excesses and silly bits can easily be ignored or enjoyed. The film is based on the novel Bid Time Return, also written by Richard Matheson. Between this film and my Twilight Zone series, I have enjoyed Matheson’s work this year. I’d only previously read I Am Legend, but I think I may need to do a deeper dive into his work. Somewhere in Time feels like a Matheson episode of Twilight Zone, which is stretched out a little longer and gives us a relatively decent tragic love story.

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Movie Review – The Apartment

The Apartment (1960)
Written by Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond
Directed by Billy Wilder

As we come to the end of this Billy Wilder retrospective, we get to what might be the most excellent comedy of his later years. It’s so interesting how we began with the dark & bleak Double Indemnity and come to this comedy-drama. That isn’t to say that The Apartment lacks maturity. It’s a finely developed and sensitive picture about adults and the complexity of relationships & sex. The two films have more in common than what you might think at first glance as they are both about the darker side of adult relationships, one more outlandish than the other.

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Movie Review – Sabrina (1954)

Sabrina (1954)
Written by Billy Wilder, Ernest Lehman, and Samuel A. Taylor
Directed by Billy Wilder

Sabrina is not my favorite Billy Wilder film. I’ve never been a big fan of the romantic comedy, but compared to modern fare in that genre, Sabrina is a masterpiece. This feels like the ur-text of romantic comedies, all of the serendipitous tropes and plot contrivances to work towards a happy ending. The plot couldn’t be more simple, but that is to the film’s favor, keeping the cast pared down so that time is spent developing core relationships. There are side characters that exist to provide comedic relief. It’s all very fluffy & light, a great tasting meal of cotton candy.

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Movie Review – The Slugger’s Wife

The Slugger’s Wife (1985)
Written by Neil Simon
Directed by Hal Ashby

I truly despise this movie. It makes it hard not to dislike Hal Ashby entirely because it is so against everything he made at his peak in the 1980s. The characters are vapid and unlikeable. The story is terrible. I am still trying to make sense of how we ended up here. It’s honestly even more flabbergasting than anything we’ve seen before from Ashby. It is at complete odds with the moral sense the director brought to his early films and is absolute dreck.

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