#346- The Right Stuff

Quick recap: The mostly true story of America’s first astronauts. And Chuck Yeager, because why not?

Someday, someone will make a 3 hour tour de force about New Kids on the Block and that will be the day no other movie will need to exist.

Fun (?) fact: The astronaut suits were made of leftover fabric and pieces from Cher’s costumes.

fabulous.

My thoughts: I had every intention of loving The Right Stuff, but in the end I just couldn’t do it. What’s not to love, you ask. It’s historical, there are great performances, the music is spectacular and above all, JEFF GOLDBLUM.

I think what ultimately bored me was a lack of suspense. I know, it’s history, and I’m certainly glad director Philip Kaufman didn’t just add an explosion for the hell of it. But there has to be something more than:

a) John Glenn’s wife having a stutter and vice president Johnson wanting to meet with her

b) Gordo being the very last astronaut to go up in space

c) Alan Shapard really needing to pee

d) Gus’s hatch blowing off…..or did it?

John Glenn’s malfunction was the only heartstopping part of the movie, which lasted for 3 hours, mind you. It’s an interesting story, sure. But just not worth my time. Now, with the Chuck Yeager b plot, I have no idea why he was thrown in there but I’m glad he was. I would’ve gladly spent hours watching a biography about him, but only if Sam Shepard can play him. That man can do no wrong in my eyes. Aside from the Yeager throwaways, the movie felt disjointed as a whole. There were really silly comedic parts and avant garde camera shots that just didn’t match with the historical tone of the movie. Pick a lane and stick with it, Kaufman. Movies aren’t meant to be a buffet.

Final review: 3/5

Up next: Fast Times at Ridgemont High

 

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#311- Good Morning, Vietnam

Quick recap: Based on a real story, Robin Williams plays Adrian Cronauer, an Armed Forces DJ adored by the troops. The higher ups aren’t fans however, and want him gone.

Now you’ve just seen 2/3 of the movie!

Fun (?) fact: Good Morning, Vietnam was filmed in Thailand and if you look closely, you can see several signs written in Thai in the background.

Everyone on Twitter

My thoughts: First of all, rest in peace, Robin Williams.

Now, on to business. War is hell, man. It’s what I say for all war movies and although Good Morning, Vietnam has some comedic moments, the phrase is still apt. Pithy, but apt. This movie has Robin Williams in his most Robin Williams-esque role. I read trivia that he ad libbed all of the scenes of him on the radio and I’m not at all surprised. I grew up with him as the Genie in Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire and it was nice to see him at his craziest. I also appreciated that he could turn it on and off because Robin Williams ‘on’ is a little much. Although the real Adrian Cronauer has said that the movie was only ‘about 45% accurate’, it still paints a good picture what went on for men in roles other than soldier. My favorite scene was when Cronauer was in the jeep and his coworker announced to the troops who he was with. Cronauer had given up being on radio because of circumstances I’ll get to in a minute, but seeing how happy he made everyone changed his mind. What struck him though was that this might be their only happiness considering the war zone they were about to enter. Williams never had to say any lines about his epiphany because you could see it etched on his face.

The one thing that bothered me about the movie was that I totally sided with the higher ups in their decision to release Cronauer from his job as DJ. He befriended one of the enemies and although it saved his life, there are reasons why you don’t associate with whomever you please while at war. It doesn’t matter that the kid had a good heart. But I also agree that Cronauer should’ve toned it down for the news releases on air, at least a little bit. At the end of the day, Armed Forces radio serves an important purpose in getting the word out. Really, I’m mostly angry at myself for being an adult and seeing things from a different perspective. Now I’m afraid to watch one of those 80s flicks that takes place at a ski lodge where the stodgy adults want to tear it down and leave the cool teens without a place to snowboard. I think I could totally see the reasoning behind shutting it all down. Help.

Final review: 5/5, but just barely.

Up next: Titanic

#307- Spartacus

Quick recap: Born a slave in Roman times, Spartacus leads a rebellion to free all people.

Look, no one’s denying that it’s torture. But jumping over blades is a great workout, I bet.

Fun (?) fact: Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, feeling saucy, originally wrote a scene in which Crassus seduces Antoninus by asking if he preferred ‘snails to oysters’. Seeing as that is blatantly sexual, the whole thing was cut until the restoration in 1991. Although the film had survived, the audio hadn’t. Tony Curtis, who played Antoninus was up for dubbing the lines but Laurence Olivier, who played Crassus was not, seeing as how he was dead. His widow remembered that Anthony Hopkins did a spot on impression of him, though, so he filled in the few lines.

Just a dude oiling another dude and talking shellfish. No biggie.

My thoughts: My movie opinions are absolutely swayed by how I choose to view them. A movie watched on a cell phone late at night is not the same as sitting in a dark theater. There have been plenty of films on this list that I would’ve given a much higher rating to had I watched them with an audience or at least somewhere on a big screen. Spartacus is proof of this. I had the privilege of seeing at the Music Box Theater in Chicago, a wonderfully old place. Before the movie started, we were treated to a man playing the organ, which set the mood for the epic we were about to watch. From the second the names flashed on the screen, people clapped and cheered and I knew I was in the perfect place. I wish all movie experiences could be like this one was.

At over a 3 hour run time, Spartacus is a true epic. It’s directed by Stanley Kubrick which I never would’ve guessed, although his attention to detail is very obvious here. I was entertained every second, which is a very difficult feat to pull off in these long films. I can’t think of any scene that felt out of place or filler material. The acting was phenomenal, of course, especially Kirk Douglas (Spartacus) who was able to make me forget about his chin for a few moments.

The more I stare at it, the weirder it looks

I didn’t know much about the movie going in, except for the famous ‘I am Spartacus’ scene ( which was kind of cheesy,tbh), so I had no idea how it would end. After the big battle, I kept expecting a miracle to happen, maybe with Varinia saving the day or something. I loved how dark it got in that final scene, Varinia holding up their son to a dying Spartacus on the cross. As much as I would’ve loved for them to live happier ever after, it was so much more powerful this way. And, honestly, it makes the film Braveheart look like garbage. The plot is basically the same with both heroes sacrificing themselves at the end, but I really sympathized more with Spartacus, who felt a need to free his people, compared to William Wallace who only fought once his love was killed.

Spartacus is meant to be seen like I watched it a few nights ago. I can imagine Stanley Kubrick spitting in disgust at the thought of how we mostly watch movies now. It should be an experience. Something to value.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Pickup on South Street

#302- Braveheart

Quick recap: A mostly fictitious tale of William Wallace, the man who (maybe?) freed Scotland from England.

Fun (?) fact: ‘Braveheart’ was actually Robert the Bruce’s nickname, not William Wallace’s. He, unlike Wallace, is considered a Scottish hero and many Scots were angry with the way he was portrayed in the movie.

Come to think of it, they probably don’t care for Groundskeeper Willie either

My thoughts: Oh, Braveheart, my first ‘grown up’ movie I fell in love with. Speed was actually first, but there was just something more mature about a hunky, shirtless Mel Gibson than a bus that couldn’t slow down. Knowing what I know now about the film’s take on historical events as well as what I’ve learned about Mel Gibson, I worried that Braveheart wouldn’t have the same impact as it did on 11 year old Me. Fortunately, it totally holds up.

I don’t know if it’s a fair comparison, but in my mind, Braveheart and Shawshank Redemption are always grouped together. Both are ‘epics’ and both are universally loved. Despite the MANY historical inaccuracies, it was hard not to fall in love with Braveheart all over again. It’s an uplifting film (um…besides all the blood and torture) like Shawshank ,and a message that any toddler could grasp. And as much as I don’t want to admit it, it’s the kind of movie that sticks with you long after it’s over. Mel Gibson may be an ass in real life, but he is a hell of an actor. He absolutely nails the role of William Wallace. It’s those blue eyes, I think. How does he do it?

Treating Braveheart like a folktale (think Robin Hood) is the best way to go about enjoying this movie. William Wallace is larger than life and there are several nods to this in the film. I was a little put off by the fact that Wallace essentially freed Scotland because his wife was murdered but I think the point is that the desire was in him all along. I’m glad that it still holds up, over 20 years later, even if it is mostly not true.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Faces