Throwback Thursday: Amelia (2009)

The standard narrative of the biopic is as follows: the person was born on x date, they accomplished a,b, and c, and died on y date. They are known for (fill in the blank). The final product can go one of two ways. It can be an exciting and entertaining deep dive into the subject. Or, it can turn it into a paint-by-numbers story that comes straight out of a basic internet search.

The 2009 film, Amelia is based on the book East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart by Susan Butler. Starring Hilary Swank as Amelia Earhart and Richard Gere as her husband, George Putnam, the movie tell the story of the life and legend of the groundbreaking pilot.

The problem with this film is that it is boring. The inspiration and pride that should come from the tale is non-existent. Though the actors do their best, their best is not enough to save this tepid chronicle of an American legend.

Do I recommend it? Not really.


Throwback Thursday: Runaway Bride (1999)

When we pictures our wedding day, we picture a happily married couple, ready to spend their lives together. The image that does not come to mind is the bride leaving her groom at the altar.

In the 1999 film, Runaway Bride, Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts) is engaged for the 4th time. Having dumped her previous fiancés on the day they were supposed to say “I do”, she is now engaged to local high school coach Bob Kelly (Chris Meloni). Ike Graham (Richard Gere) is a reporter from New York who has heard about this supposed “runaway bride” from a colleague. Smelling a potential story, Ike decides to visit the small town in Maryland that Maggie calls home.

Using charm and writers intuition, Ike is able to get the scoop on his latest subject before she can convince her friends and family to keep their mouths shut. Along the way, Ike falls for Maggie and she begins to develop feelings for him. The impending question is, will she go through with the wedding and if she does not, how does Ike play a role in her 4th avoidance of the big day?

As romantic comedies go, this movie is pretty standard. But what makes it stand out is the re-pairing of Gere and Roberts. Almost a decade after Pretty Woman was released, it is their chemistry and on screen compatibility that slightly elevates it above others in the genre.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer Movie Review

The definition of a macher is one who get things done. Or it can be used to refer to a person who is overbearing, depending on the person being spoken of.

Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere) is a macher. The title character in the new film Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, Norman calls himself a fixer. He often drops names of the wealthy and powerful in hopes of getting a foot into their world. When he buys expensive shoes for Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), a low-level Israeli government official, Norman has no idea how his world and his reputation will change in the next three years.

Written and directed by Joseph Cedar, this film has almost universal quality to it. Every culture, every religion has their own version of Norman. My problem is that despite the stellar cast, this film was for the most part unappealing. There were some laughs to be had, but not as many as I anticipated. Not that I expected a Marx Brothers-esque narrative, but I was hoping for a few more laughs.

Do I recommend it? I may have to lean toward no on this film.

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer is presently in theaters.

Throwback Thursday-Movies Celebrating Their Silver Anniversaries- Pretty Woman (1990), Goodfellas (1990) And Problem Child (1990)

For a movie to be remembered and talked about 25 years after it’s initial release, it has to be something special. While there are some movies from 1990 that are barely worthy of one viewing, Pretty Woman, Goodfellas and Problem Child are worthy of multiple viewings, especially 25 years later.

In Pretty Woman, Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) is a business man who is in Los Angeles for a week on business. Desiring company for the week, he hires a prostitute, Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) to join him for the week.  What starts out as a business transaction becomes something much more.

In terms of rom-coms, this movie ranks as one of the best. While the formula is simple, the story is just enough to keep the viewer engaged to the very end.

Goodfellas is the gold standard of gangster movies. Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) is a small time gangster. When he teams up with James Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), their goals become much bigger.  As James and Tommy begin to climb up the mob hierarchy, Henry begins to feel resentful. To bring his partners down, how far will he go?

While I am not normally a fan of the gangster movies, this movie is an interesting tale of how far we will go to achieve our goals, even it means betraying our closest allies.

Junior (Michael Oliver), in Problem Child, is well, a problem child. He has been adopted and returned to the orphanage several times. The nuns who run the orphanage know all too well what Junior is capable of. Ben (the late John Ritter) and Flo (Amy Yasbeck) are unable to have children the old fashioned way and turn to adoption. They hope to adopt a sweet, loving child. Instead they get Junior.

I remember thinking, that as a kid, this movie was incredibly funny.  While it does not stand the test of time as other movies from the early 1990’s do, I still have fond memories of this film.

I recommend all three.

Flashback Friday- From The Bright Lights Of Broadway To The Silver Screen-Chicago (2002) & Hairspray (2007)

Hollywood has a long tradition of making movies from Broadway musicals.  While movie musicals flourished during the golden age of movie making, the fervor for movie musicals has slowly dissipated over the past thirty years.  Hollywood has tried to resurrect the genre, but only a few of these movies have been successful.

In 2002, a movie was made based on the hit Broadway musical Chicago.

Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) are on death row, accused of murdering their significant others. Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) is the hot shot lawyer whose job it is to keep his clients famous and away from the  gallows.

I saw the musical on Broadway years ago. The movie is very true to the stage show. It is subversive, entertaining and a commentary on how fame and the justice system makes for strange bedfellows.

In 1988, indie filmmaker John Waters introduced the world to the movie Hairspray and a new leading lady: Tracy Turnblad.  Tracy is zaftig teenager in 1960’s Baltimore who just wants to dance on the local teenage dance show. But there are obstacles to her dream. In the early 2000’s, Hairspray was transferred to the Broadway stage and in 2007, it returned to silver screen, but as the musical.

Taking over from Ricki Lake in the original movie and Marissa Jaret Winokur on Broadway was Nikki Blonsky as Tracy. In the traditional John Waters style, John Travolta and Christopher Walken play Tracy’s parents, Edna and Wilbur.

While I did enjoy this movie, it is a very colorful, sort of family friendly version of the original movie. It looses some of the biting satire and subversive quality with the 2007 movie.  But, over all, it’s not bad.

I recommend Chicago, but maybe not Hairspray.

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