Last year, my cousin Brian Hague declared that the movie "Captain America" was soft on Nazis.
He still thinks that's true, but finds its sequel, "The Avengers," to be both a worthy slice of summertime entertainment and a thought-provoking look at life.
Brian also suggests that despite its big stars, big sounds, big budget, big box office and 3-D, "The Avengers" works because of the small details that director Joss Whedon gets right. As Brian explains, these crucial details are what make or break any movie — in any genre or with any budget.
I don't always like Quentin Tarantino's movies, but I do like his taste in films and film music. His latest production, "Inglourious Basterds," uses a track of music from "Kelly's Heroes" called "Tiger Tank."
You can hear it in this clip starting at 1:17. I like this Lalo Schifrin music, although it's too contemporary and way too much like his "Mission: Impossible" background tracks.
I guess I'm just a contrarian. I'm unable to stomach what the rest of the civilized world apparently considers one of the greatest movies of all time.
I'm talking about "Dirty Dancing," a 1987 coming-of-age picture starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. I count "Citizen Kane" and "Amarcord" as among the best films ever made, but I'm sure there are people who can't get through either one without projectile vomiting and that's fine with me. Similarly, I'll be damned if I'm gonna watch "Dirty Dancing" more than once.
My recollection of the film is some dancing, some more dancing, still more dancing, Jerry Orbach determines yep, that's a botched abortion, and then a whole lot more dancing.
I could have saved the show's producers all the expense of mounting a live production. Look, it's clear that today's female moviegoers are seriously disturbed psychologically -- or simply don't mind grindhouse gore -- or else they wouldn't flock to and evidently enjoy the many movies in which folks are dismembered, tortured and otherwise dispatched in some of the most violent means ever put on film.
In my opinion, "Dirty Dancing" didn't need a stage version. It just needed another film sequel -- but this one directed by Wes Craven. And, in a nod to one of my favorite Coen brothers scenes, I've even got the guaranteed megahit title:
"Dirty Dancing III: Nobody Puts Baby in a Woodchipper"
Noting the release of "Fred Claus," a film I saw being shot just up the street from where I work on North Michigan Avenue, got me to thinking about Christmas movies and which ones survive the test of time and become classics.
It turns out that two of my favorite movies also are my favorite Christmas movies: "The Bishop's Wife" and "Die Hard." At first glance, these pictures separated by a span of more than four decades have nothing in common -- but both celebrate the power of faith and redemption in subtle and entertaining ways.
In 1947's "The Bishop's Wife," clergyman David Niven believes that heaven-sent angel Cary Grant is the answer to his prayers for help in squeezing millions from an obnoxious old matron to build a cathedral whose construction she's micromanaging. But Niven's marriage to Loretta Young is headed into stormy seas, and he gets more than he bargained for when Grant charms everyone from a comic-relief agnostic to the bishop's wife -- played by professional Catholic Loretta Young.
Their faith restored, the agnostic turns to religion, the matron gives her millions to the poor, and Niven realizes that his wife has the power to give him heaven on earth.
Another marriage is on the rocks in 1988's "Die Hard," in which New York cop Bruce Willis travels to Los Angeles to attend a Christmas party in the skyscraper headquarters of a Japanese multinational where his estranged wife Bonnie Bedelia is a top executive. When terrorists take over the building, several characters are forced to find faith in themselves.
A cop who has been afraid to fire his gun since accidently killing a kid becomes a hero, a desk-flying police chief learns to respect street cops and Willis and Bedelia symbolically reaffirm their marriage vows when they must snap open the clasp on a Rolex watch she's wearing to drop villain Alan Rickman to his death.
Cerebral use of Christmas music ranging from Run DMC to Beethoven to Sinatra adds greatly to the holiday spirit.
That's why I was taken aback when Bob announced the other day that in his opinion 1995's "Get Shorty" qualifies as the best pacifist motion picture ever made. Again, Bob argues his case pretty well.
By the way, the audio in this podcast illustrates how different a room sounds when filled with dozens vs. occupied by just two. I had done a test recording in a conference room on our floor several months back and it sounded great. It never occurred to me that all of those bodies were absorbing reflected sound waves -- and that with just two people, there'd a be more than a little reverb. Ah, well.
Contributing Editor Brendan Shultz takes time out from preparing himself for the start of high school in a couple of weeks to fill us in on "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." Brendan tells us what he thinks of the film, as well as the theater in which he viewed it.
By the way, I think this guy's a pirate in the making. At one point in his review, he boasts of having availed himself of an opportunity to "shove it to The Man."
Other related websites: A review of the Disneyland attraction by Theme Park Insider includes a paragraph about how political correctness has infected the "Pirates of the Caribbean" attraction in that the "pirates now chase women for food, instead of the original concept of chasing the women to 'pillage' them."
Wikipedia article about the durability of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise.