Tag Archives: Back to the Future

Trouble with the Curve (2012)

This is a film that I had anticipated for a month or two before its release, but, for some reason or other, I never saw it in theaters. I’d never seen a Clint Eastwood film before (unless you count the brief snippet of Fistful of Dollars that appears in Back to the Future Part II!), and the only film I’d seen Justin Timberlake in was The Social Network, so it was interesting for me to get familiar with a couple of unknown (to me) actors. However, the ending result was disappointing.

Clint Eastwood plays Gus Lobel, an old baseball scout who dislikes change and is beginning to have trouble with his eyes, which is a problem when he is asked to scout a potential new player in North Carolina. His daughter, Mickey Lobel, played by Amy Adams, is a successful lawyer who accompanies her father on this scouting job, hoping to help him keep his job and to possibly mend a rough relationship between the two of them. Along the way, they run into Johnny Flanagan, played by Justin Timberlake, an ex-pitcher who was once scouted by Gus himself, who is now scouting for a rival team and takes an interest in Mickey.

Trouble with the Curve struggles with getting the audience to connect with its characters. When Mickey tries to talk with Gus about their rocky past, it’s sudden and almost out of place; there is nothing to make me sympathize with her or to make me angry at Gus for pushing her aside when she was a little girl. Despite Amy Adams’ best efforts, I feel no connection with her character, though she’s certainly a talented actress. I think most of the issue is to blame on the script and her opposing male leads: Clint Eastwood may have once been a great actor, but that appears to have left him with age. His character is flat and uninteresting, and the lack of inflection or variation in his role is upsetting. At least he can blame old age, though…Justin Timberlake’s character is just as bland as Eastwood’s in spite of the fact that Timberlake is certainly likable (I thought he was fantastic in The Social Network), and he has an unusual talent of showing up wherever Gus and Mickey tend to be. In addition to these acting issues, I take issue with the script and the title: the story is convoluted, the relationship between Gus and Mickey just doesn’t work very well in the context of the job at hand, and I have no idea how the title is supposed to connect to their relationship. There is an obvious connection between the title and an event that takes place in the last bit of the film, but I just don’t “get” what relevance a curve or curve ball has to the Gus/Mickey father/daughter relationship as presented in the film.

I didn’t dislike everything about this film, though. As I said before, Amy Adams is certainly a talented actress, and she manages to shine through the film’s issues at least a little bit. There were also several instances of humor that didn’t feel out of place or overcooked, which helped to balance out some of Eastwood’s aged performance – with a performer like Eastwood, filmmakers are able to give him a good one-liner that just puts everything at ease for a moment while you laugh.

This was a film that I desperately wanted to love. I really enjoy Amy Adams and I really enjoy baseball, so I thought that a combination of the two would work really well, and, while it didn’t completely fail, it was still lacking in many ways…it fell short of what it could have been, and most of that could be blamed on the script rather than on the actors. Eastwood is old, and, as much as we want such a well-known actor to keep going strong, I think it’s just about time for him to throw in the towel. I enjoyed Trouble with the Curve overall, but its failures can’t be overlooked.

-Chad

Rating: 2 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for language, sexual references, some thematic material and smoking

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Clue (1985)

I probably first became acquainted with Clue, the film adaptation of the Parker Brothers board game, due to my interest in Christopher Lloyd (Back to the FutureWho Framed Roger Rabbit), who plays Professor Plum. I’ve owned it on DVD for several years, introducing it to various friends who always seem to walk away having really enjoyed it, and for a good reason…it’s too much fun.

The movie opens with the arrival of the butler, Wadsworth, played by Tim Curry, to a giant mansion, followed shortly by all of the characters we’re familiar with from the board game: Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mrs. Peacock, Mr. Green, Miss Scarlet, and Professor Plum. They each had received a letter asking them to attend this sort of dinner party, where a certain “financial liability” will be discussed. When their mysterious host, Mr. Boddy, finally shows up and is killed, the rest of the film becomes a farce in every sense of the word as we watch the guests search for the killer before one of them becomes the next victim.

Aside from an amusing start and an energetic, hilarious ending, this movie actually has a lot of trouble with keeping you interested. After Mr. Boddy dies, the film suddenly loses its jokes and begins to drag a bit as they all split up and search the house. This is a prime example of how films like this rely on the interactions between all of the characters to generate the humor needed to keep the story entertaining. Unfortunately, this was necessary to propel the story forward, and, thankfully, everybody eventually regroups, bringing back all of the fun banter and synergy that makes this film so engaging.

Tim Curry manages to bring most of the laughs to the table; his quirky mannerisms, devilish smile, and comedic timing are extremely funny, especially in the last part of the film when he explains who did it and how. This ending sequence, which involves Curry running back and forth throughout the mansion, spouting off a detailed list of events and observations from the evening’s activities, has always reminded me of a similar scene in comedic playwright Neil Simon’s play, Rumors, in which the main character makes up a story on the spot to a couple of suspicious cops. I can only imagine how many takes it took for Curry to get this scene down…he certainly had the advantage over the play by not having to perform the scene live.

I know that this movie is probably looked down upon by the more well-known critics out there, and that it’s probably not technically a “good” film, but Clue is certainly an exciting one. A brilliant performance by Tim Curry, aided by a supporting cast that plays well off of each other, boosts this film into the top tier of movies based on board games…that was a joke. But in all seriousness, this is a film that I have enjoyed since I was a child, and I hope that you can find something in it that makes you laugh as well.

-Chad

P.S. – This film is available for instant streaming on Netflix. If you have a Netflix account, click here to check it out!

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG


Top Ten Films of 2012

2012 was a good year for movies. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see everything – films like Moonrise Kingdom, The Master, Argo, Les Misérables, Django Unchained, etc. are all films released in 2012 that I haven’t seen yet – but I DID manage to see quite a few. Here is my personal list of the best films of 2012 (click on the titles to view my full review):

 

10. Wreck-It Ralph

This was another film that I had been looking forward to for months on end. I’m not as into video games as some other people, but watching this film was still like revisiting my childhood. The heart of this movie is in the right place, with the main message being “accept who you are because you’re a wonderful person just as you are.” A talented voice cast, a sweet story, candy puns out the wazoo, and a fun score by Henry Jackman make this film everything I wanted it to be…and the animated short shown before the film, Paperman, was just as fantastic.

 

9. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I was late to the whole “Lord of the Rings/J. R. R. Tolkien” party, having only seen Peter Jackson’s film trilogy in the past two years, but I was keen to read The Hobbit and see the movie as soon as I possibly could. While I was disappointed on my first viewing, mainly due to the cartoony special effects that resulted from the higher frame rate (48fps HFR), this film was a faithful adaptation to Tolkien’s original novel, and the return of familiar faces such as Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum is refreshing. The real highlight of the film, though, aside from Howard Shore’s beautiful score, is Martin Freeman, who plays the perfect Bilbo Baggins. While some may find the run time to feel a little stretched, I found it to be justified by the attention to detail to the original novel.

 

8. The Hunger Games

I read Suzanne Collins’ acclaimed Hunger Games trilogy just a few weeks before I saw the film, and I was hooked from the get-go. The film did a wonderful job of adapting the novel, perfectly capturing the dystopian society introduced in Collins’ literary world. Jennifer Lawrence did a particularly outstanding job as Katniss, and the scenes added by the filmmakers to show the control that the Capitol has over the people of Panem and over the Hunger Games do nothing but add to the story in a great way.

 

7. Flight

Robert Zemeckis, director of Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, released his first live action film in more than a decade this year. Flight was something I had anticipated for months, and it quite lived up to what I had in mind for it. Denzel Washington gives a powerful performance as a pilot struggling with drug and alcohol addictions, and the film explores topics such as love, recovery, lies, and responsibility. Zemeckis proves that he still has what it takes to direct a top-notch film that focuses on character and story just as much as it does on visual effects.

 

6. Life of Pi

This is a film that I sort of went to see just on a whim, and I’m glad I did. With gorgeous visuals that looked fantastic in 3D (something I don’t say often), Life of Pi excels the most in its storytelling. While the ambiguity of the ending may not appeal to some people, I found the film to be a thoughtful exploration of faith and of religion in general, leading me to look at my own relationship with God. It sort of melds the biblical Book of Job with Robert Zemeckis’ 2000 film Cast Away, and it definitely sparked my interest in reading the book it was based on.

 

5. Skyfall

In anticipation of this film, I first watched Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale, which was entertaining in its more muted kind of way, and Quantum of Solace, which was pretty disappointing. I still had high hopes for Skyfall, though, and it exceeded every expectation I had set for it. The action was fun, Javier Bardem as the villain sent chills up my spine (and also brought a couple of laughs), and Daniel Craig and Judi Dench both gave outstanding performances in their respective roles. The length wasn’t an issue to me because I was too caught up in the entertainment of the film to care.

 

4. Lincoln

Does Spielberg make bad films? I’d answer that with a “no” (I have an argument in favor of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). With 2011’s War Horse and his newest film, Lincoln, he has taken a step back from the typical sci-fi/action/fantasy films he is known for and has focused more on period dramas – both of which were fantastic. If Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln doesn’t win the Academy Award for Best Actor, I won’t know what to think. Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones also deliver standout performances in a film that is just as engrossing and fascinating in its exploration of politics as a good action film is in its exploration of shooting and blowing things up. Spielberg is a true master.

 

3. The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan set the bar high with 2008’s The Dark Knight, and this conclusion to the acclaimed trilogy did not disappoint. Tom Hardy as Bane was sinister and terrifying, Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were both welcome new presences, and the return of the familiar faces – i.e. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman – was satisfying and well-done. The Dark Knight Rises perfectly concluded Nolan’s trilogy.

 

2. The Avengers

There are so many ways that this film could have gone wrong. I mean, think about it – they took four characters from four separate films and brought them together into one super-film. In the hands of a less-capable director, it could have easily been one of the worst movies of the year, but with Joss Whedon at the helm, it ended up being one of the best. Smart dialogue with exciting action and a great story, The Avengers proved that an ensemble cast like this could work just as well in a film as it does on television.

 

1. Looper

Well-choreographed action sequences meet a smart script in this film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. As a time travel movie, it explores the consequences of our actions and the true cause of evil, and it spends just as much time in contemplation as it does making you sit on the edge of your seat.

 

Well, there you have it. My top ten films of 2012. What were your favorites of 2012?


Back to the Future (1985)

Note: This film was the main topic of discussion on Episode 0 of my podcast, The Cinescope Podcast. Give it a listen for a more in-depth discussion!

Back to the Future is my all-time favorite movie. From the plot, to the actors, to the special effects – I love everything about this film, ever since I first saw it when I was ten years old. Time travel has always fascinated me, which might be why this film appealed to me in the first place. It by no means handled the concept of time travel perfectly, but it deals with the idea of travelling through time and the consequences of it in a way that is fun and full of life lessons.

There are so many positive things that can be said about this film because it works on so many levels: it’s a comedy, it’s a romance, it’s an action-thriller, and it’s a science fiction film. The cast meshes together incredibly well, with the highlights being Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox. Fox has a natural comedic timing that works really well in this film…which comes in handy because he manages to make something very awkward (his mother falling in love with him) something extremely funny. Christopher Lloyd is perfect as the eccentric inventor Doc Brown, bringing laughs with his wild exclamations and goofy behavior. The detail paid to the period and to the changes made between times (i.e. “Twin Pines Mall” to “Lone Pine Mall”) is terrific; one of my favorite aspects of this movie is the attention given to setups and payoffs, i.e. a plot choice made early in the film being explained by the plot later. Every choice made in the making of a movie has a purpose (or, at least, it should), and director Robert Zemeckis does a splendid job of making sure there’s a reason for everything he does.

I mentioned earlier that there are plenty of life lessons found in this film, the most prominent of these being a quote said multiple times: “If you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” It’s about standing up for yourself and for others, about taking control of your own future, and about the strength of friendship. It’s about believing in your abilities and about doing anything for the people you love…and it teaches all of this without preaching or losing any entertainment value.

I’ve spent hours on this review…I’d never have dreamed that it’d be so difficult for me to put my opinion on this movie into words. I once read a film review by Adam Smith over at EmpireOnline.com that said, “To put it bluntly: if you don’t like Back To The Future, it’s difficult to believe that you like films at all.” I agree completely – it wouldn’t be far off to say that Back to the Future is the film that kicked off my interest in cinema in the first place. It’s timeless in the way that it still attracts audiences even today, more than 25 years later, and it never fails to bring smiles and constant laughter every time I watch. I can’t recommend this movie quite enough, and, if you happen to know me personally, you should strive to watch it with me…I give quite the commentary.

-Chad

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG


Flight (2012)

With films like Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump under his belt, as well as my favorite Christmas movie, The Polar Express, Robert Zemeckis has long been my favorite director. However, his exploits in the field of motion capture animation over the past decade, while memorable and still of great quality, left a little more to be desired. When I saw that he would be directing Flight, his first live action venture in over a decade, I knew it would be on my list of must-see films. Now that I’ve seen it twice, trust me: it should be on your must-see list as well.

Flight has very little to do with actual flight, though it does feature a rather fantastic (and sobering) crash sequence. Focused around an airline pilot who successfully crash-lands a doomed plane, saving 96 of the 102 people on board, the film focuses more on the pilot’s substance addiction and personal growth than on anything else. Denzel Washington stars in his best role (my opinion) as Whip Whitaker, who, after landing the plane, is thrown into the middle of an investigation to see whether it was his actions that caused the plane to fall out of the sky in the first place or whether it was simply an equipment malfunction within the plane itself.

The stress of the investigation worsens Whitaker’s already bad reliance on alcohol, and we watch his world fall apart as a result. He is divorced from his wife and estranged from his son, and even his new friendship with a recovering heroin addict, Nicole, becomes strained when his over-drinking becomes a threat to both himself and to those around him. In the end, Whitaker is given an opportunity to make a decision…his choice will surprise you and is highly reflective of the change inside of him.

Flight is about love, recovery, lies, and responsibility. Denzel’s all-star performance, as well as excellent performances from Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, and a particularly fun one from John Goodman, make this film more of a character study than anything else.  It is yet another high-quality film at the hands of Robert Zemeckis, who appears to step right back into the swing of live-action as if he never left it. It is thoughtful (and the ending is very Forrest Gump-esque, if I may say so) and makes you want to question your own character: do I do anything like this that alienates me from the people I love? The ending is one of my favorite endings of any film I’ve seen in quite a while; Denzel’s final monologue is one of the best I’ve ever heard.

It’s so good, everyone. Go see it!

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity and an intense action sequence


Looper (2012)

It’s no secret among people who know me that Back to the Future is my favorite film. The concept of time travel has always fascinated me across all mediums. That being said, time travel movies are abound with flaws, and, much as I love it, Back to the Future is no exception. Wouldn’t people in the future have remembered Marty interfering in the past? How would this affect their future selves? Wouldn’t your past self being killed kill your future self immediately? These issues are addressed in Looper, a smart and exciting time travel film that gets things (mostly) right.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in one of his best roles to date as a looper named Joe (what’s a looper? Watch the movie!). His future self, played by Bruce Willis, is sent back for Joe to kill, but things go awry and Willis escapes, endangering Young Joe’s life and threatening the future of the world. Next unfolds a tale that explores not only time travel and the affects it has on an individual but also the themes of parenthood, good vs. evil, and love.

Perhaps the greatest part of Looper is that it makes mistakes. I know how strange that sounds, but, considering the fact that time travel is a difficult subject to cover properly, this film succeeds in making a film that, for the most part, follows the rules of time travel without over-complicating things. Unlike in Back to the Future, time travel in the world of Looper, while illegal, is not accessible to only one person; it asks the question, “what would time travel be used for if everyone knew about it?” and envisions an answer that is both thrilling and slightly disturbing. But that’s the fun in it!

I don’t want to go too in-depth (mainly because it’s been a while since I’ve seen it and don’t want to get things wrong), but Looper is an all-around great film that features fine performances from Gordon-Levitt and Willis. There’s action aplenty, but it also contains plenty of quiet, contemplative moments that make you question the true nature/cause of evil and the consequences of the decisions we make.

-Chad

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content

*MAJOR SPOILER; don’t read unless you’ve seen the film*

P.S. – Because I love time travel, I love pointing out mistakes in time travel films. Looper‘s biggest flaw is its ending: if Young Joe kills himself, then the Bruce Willis Joe never would have existed, which cancels out the entire film because Old Joe wouldn’t have been around to travel back in time. Just a fun error!


Captain America: The First Avenger (2010) – Alan Silvestri

Really, if I chose any soundtrack other than Alan Silvestri’s Captain America: The First Avenger for today, I don’t know if I could call myself an American.

The score to Captain America is one of my favorites of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, helped along by the fact that Alan Silvestri (Back to the FutureWho Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump) is also one of my favorite film composers, and nothing quite says “America” like the Cap’s main theme (as far as film themes go, that is).

Most of the Captain America score is pretty excellent, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t hear lots of Back to the Future and Night at the Museum throughout. For example, compare the opening seconds of “Hydra Lab” with “George to the Rescue – Pt. 1” from Back to the Future (click titles for YouTube links). Captain America’s “Farewell to Bucky” is the track that sounds especially like some bits of Night at the Museum. Sure, it’s a little disappointing, but the theme itself takes away a lot of that disappointment for me…it’s just too darned American/fun.

I really don’t have too much to say about this one; it is what it is and it does it well. Sure, it borrows freely from Silvestri’s other scores, but it still manages to be one of the better superhero soundtracks that I’ve ever heard…certainly not the best, though. But with a main theme like this and a song composed by famed Disney composer Alan Menken (Beauty and the BeastAladdinTangled), called “Star Spangled Man”, how can you go wrong?

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

1. “Captain America Main Titles”    0:56

2. “Frozen Wasteland”    1:53

3. “Schmidt’s Treasure”    3:01

4. “Farewell to Bucky”    2:50

5. “Hydra Lab”    1:54

6. “Training the Supersoldier”    1:08

7. “Schmidt’s Story”    1:59

8. “Vitarays”    4:25

9. “Captain America “We Did It””    1:59

10. “Kruger Chase”    2:55

11. “Hostage On the Pier”    2:46

12. “General’s Resign”    2:18

13. “Unauthorized Night Flight”    3:13

14. “Troop Liberation”    5:06

15. “Factory Inferno”    5:06

16. “Triumphant Return”    2:16

17. “Invader’s Montage”    2:16

18. “Hydra Train”    3:27

19. “Rain Fire Upon Them”    1:39

20. “Motorcycle Mayhem”    3:05

21. “Invasion”    5:09

22. “Fight on the Flight Deck”    3:30

23. “This is My Choice”    3:26

24. “Passage of Time”    1:35

25. “Captain America”    1:08

26. “Star Spangled Man”  2:53

27. “Captain America March”    2:36

Total Length: app. 74 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad