Star Trek III The Search for Spock

  • Title:  Star Trek III The Search for Spock
  • Director:  Leonard Nimoy
  • Date:  1984
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  SF
  • Cast:  William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Mark Lenard, Robin Curtis (Introducing credit), Christopher Lloyd, Leonard Nimoy, James B. Sikking, John Larroquette
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Mr. Scott, Have you always multiplied your repair estimates by a factor of four?”  — Kirk
“Certainly, sir.  How else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?”  — Scotty

“Sir, your son meant more to me than you can know.  I’d have given my life if it would have saved his.  Believe me when I tell you — he made no request of me.”  — Kirk (to Sarek)

“The word is no.  I am therefore going anyway.”  — Kirk

The film opens with a re-cap of the end of Star Trek II, including the death of Spock, his funeral, and the coffin landing on the Genesis Planet.  It then moves to the Enterprise bridge, a short time after the incidents in Wrath of Khan.  The trainee crew has been off-loaded on a Star Base, Saavik and Dr. David Marcus, are on a science vessel to explore the Genesis Planet, and Kirk and his crew are heading back to space dock at Star Fleet Command to have the ship refitted and repaired.  But Kirk feels haunted, and is mourning his friend.

Meanwhile, a Klingon named Kluge has purchased the Genesis data.  He destroys the vessel that brought it to him, even though he is in love with the female commander and vice versa.

Enterprise returns to space dock, and stands in awe of Excelsior, the command vessel of the next generation of  trans-warp ships.  Then there’s a security alert from Spock’s quarters.  Kirk hears Spock’s voice, but finds McCoy instead.  McCoy is a mess.

When the crew disembarks at the space dock, they find they are all given commendations and extended leave.  Enterprise, now twenty years old, is to be de-commissioned.  Only Scotty is given an immediate new assignment, Captain of Engineering of the Excelsior.  The crew is also told that Genesis has become a political firestorm, so it is Verboten, hush-hush, top secret.  They are to tell no one, anything about it.

Kluge watches Kirk’s tape about Genesis — it’s the same as Dr. Carol Marcus’s from the previous film, but shorter and with narration by Kirk. The Klingon then plans to take his ship to the Genesis planet.

Meanwhile, the USS Grissom, a science vessel, begins scanning the Genesis planet.  The Commander points out something metallic is on the surface.

On Earth, Kirk, Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura drink to absent friends.  Sarek arrives and the others leave. Sarek is upset not only by the loss of  his son, but that Kirk left him there, on Genesis.  Kirk is confused. Sarek explains about the Katra, the Vulcan soul, which can be placed inside another at the time of death. Kirk knows nothing about this – but  explains about the glass wall between he and Spock.  Sarek and Kirk review (at great pain to Kirk) the video logs of Spock’s death in the engine room.  This gives us one alternate take, from Spock’s pov looking out at Kirk, rather than Kirk’s pov looking at Spock in the chamber, and a fast-forward in reverse of the relevant scenes in Star Trek II.  Kirk spots Spock mind-melding with McCoy.  Sarek agrees that Spock probably placed his Katra in McCoy, which also explains his weird behavior.

Kirk attempts to get permission from Star Fleet to go to the Genesis planet.  McCoy, separately, tries to book passage on a civilian freighter or ship bound for Genesis.  McCoy is arrested for his trouble and placed in a Star Fleet lunatic asylum.  Kirk’s told, “no, absolutely not”, even when he explains he holds Spock’s soul in his hands.  Kirk, with help from Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov, rescue McCoy.  Then, with Scotty’s help they steal the Enterprise, leaving the sabotaged Excelsior in the dust.

Kirk and his skeleton crew make for the Genesis planet. Meanwhile, Saavik and Dr. Marcus find a Vulcan child on the planet. He screams in pain, and cannot speak in either English (Federation Standard) or Vulcan. Dr. David Marcus quickly realizes the planet is unstable, it’s aging rapidly, and it will soon rip itself apart. Saavik realizes that Spock is aging with the planet.

The Grissom attempts to contact Star Fleet to obtain further instructions about what to do about Spock and the planet. However, the Klingon Bird of Prey spaceship arrives and completely destroys the Grissom. The Klingon Commander, Kluge, wanted the ship disabled not destroyed and he kills the gunner who made the “lucky” shot.

Some Klingons beam to the planet, they find Spock’s coffin with it’s evolved microbes.

Kirk, meanwhile, overhears Star Fleet’s futile attempts to raise the Grissom. He has Chekov attempt to contact the vessel itself but he’s unsuccessful. He arrives at the Genesis Planet, but the Grissom is no longer there (since it was destroyed) and the Bird of Prey is cloaked. The Klingons on the planet’s surface find David, Saavik, and Spock and take them hostage. Kirk again tries to contact Grissom and of course gets nowhere.

Kirk fires as the Bird of Prey decloaks. However, because Enterprise is running with a skeleton crew, largely on automatic control, and has yet to have been fully repaired, it has no shields. Soon, Kirk has no real control over his own ship. Kluge then mentions his prisoners on the planet. Kirk talks to Saavik and David. Saavik lets him know Spock “is not himself but he lives”. A Klingon attacks David (Kirk’s son) and kills him. Kirk collapses in grief.

Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov activate the destruct sequence on Enterprise. Kirk and company beam to the planet, while the Klingon boarding party beams to the Enterprise. The Enterprise is destroyed, while Kirk watches. Kirk and company reach Saavik and Spock. Kirk goes to David’s body. Saavik tells Kirk, David died to save them. Kluge beams down to confront Kirk. Sulu, Chekhov, McCoy, Saavik, and Scotty are beamed up to the Bird of Prey. Only Kirk and Spock are left with the Klingons on the unstable planet’s surface. Kirk fights Kluge as the planet breaks up around them. In the end, Kirk kills Kluge, he goes to Spock and they are beamed up.

Kirk and his crew take the few remaining Klingons on the Bird of Prey prisoner then head to Vulcan. When they arrive, they are met by Sarek and Uhura. Sarek asks that his son’s Katra be re-fused into his body, since Spock lives. McCoy agrees to have this done, despite the danger. McCoy survives the procedure and Sarek more or less tells Kirk that Spock will be alright. Kirk sees Spock, Spock looks questioningly at his crew mates, as if he doesn’t quite recognize them. However, he stops in front of Kirk and says, “Your name is Jim.” It’s implied Spock may have a long recovery ahead of him, but he will be alright.

Despite the loss of Spock at the end of the previous film, The Search for Spock, actually starts much lighter than the previous film did. There’s a certain amount of humor in many of the lines, and the secondary characters actually have things to do (if briefly) and get good lines as well. As it becomes apparent that the Enterprise is to be decommissioned, and that due to Vulcan spiritual beliefs and telepathic abilities, as well as the power of the Genesis Planet, Spock’s new body and his soul can be re-united the tone of the film becomes more serious. However, there are several great character moments after this change in tone. Kirk twice declares his loyalty to Spock and that he would even give his life for his first officer and friend. McCoy also admits that he misses Spock and that he can’t lose Spock for a second time. So, again the film emphasizes the characters and their relationships.

Again, a villain from the original series, the Klingons, is brought back. Christopher Lloyd is a superb as Kluge. John Larroquette, completely unrecognizable under his Klingon make-up, is also excellent as Maltz, Kluge’s right-hand man, even though most of his lines are in Klingon. And, yes, this is the film that introduces Klingon as a functioning spoken language (this would be refined in Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country). Unfortunately, Kristie Alley is replaced with Robin Curtis as Saavik. Nothing against Robin Curtis – but I prefer Kristie Alley in the role. I have no idea why the production crew switched actresses, I’d have to do some research to find out, which I’m not going to do, years after the fact – I wish they had kept Alley. Curtis is very bland, while Alley had a special something in the role.

Overall, I enjoy this film too. It’s the “middle” piece of a trilogy, but I still think it’s really very good. And it’s very much Star Trek, in that it’s about the sacrifices a close-knit group of people are willing to make for each other.

 
Recommendation: See It
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Star Trek IV The Voyage Home
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Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan

  • Title:  Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan
  • Director: Nicholas Meyer
  • Date:  1982
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Action, Drama
  • Cast:  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Kristie Alley, Ricardo Montalban
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Jim, I’m your doctor and I’m your friend, get back your command.  Get it back before you turn into part of this collection [of antiques], before you really do grow old.”  — McCoy

“You are my superior officer, you are also my friend.  I have been and always shall be yours. — Spock

“As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy, than to create.”  — Spock

This is the film Star Trek fans wanted and deserved instead of  Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979). The film focuses on the main characters of Kirk, Spock and McCoy, includes the bridge crew as well (including Scotty) and brings back a villain from the original series.

The film opens with a female Vulcan named Saavik in command of a Starship. Behind her, Spock walks around, observing.  She’s on a “routine” training mission, when she receives a distress call from the freighter Korbayashi Maru. To help the freighter, she will have to cross into the Romulan Neutral Zone, a violation of  treaty. She does so anyway, and is immediately attacked by three Klingon fighters, a deadly attack that kills off  the entire bridge crew.

But then lights come up, and Kirk steps out of the smoke and lights, to “grade” her performance. It had been a simulation – the infamous “no-win scenario” character test that all potential command candidates must take at Star Fleet Academy. McCoy informs Saavik that Kirk took the Korbayashi Maru test three times. Later, when Saavik asks what Kirk did, he tells her that he re-programmed the computers to allow a winning result. Saavik then points out this means Kirk has never faced death. Kirk counters he doesn’t believe in no-win scenarios. But the no-win scenario, and facing true death will be a theme of the entire film.

On Earth, Kirk is facing his birthday, without  the  joy  such  an  occasion usually brings.  He receives gifts from Spock and McCoy, but Spock  is soon off  to his command of Enterprise and her trainee crew before McCoy even arrives.  McCoy, noticing Kirk’s attitude, urges him to stop flying a desk and get back to active duty.  Kirk considers this.

Meanwhile, Chekov and Capt. Terrell are looking for a suitable life-less planet to test the Genesis Device, a new scientific breakthrough if it works. They find a dessert world with anomalous readings and go down to take a look.  On the planet, Chekov finds a wrecked Botany Bay and freaks.  But it’s too late, they are captured by Khan and his men.  Khan takes the young of two Ceti eels and places them in the two men’s helmets, which he then screws onto their spacesuits.  The eels go into their ears, allowing Khan to control the two men and get classified information from them.  He takes control of  their ship, the Reliant, then travels to the research lab in charge of  the Genesis project.  Dr. Carol Marcus, and her son, David, are in control of  the project.

Kirk boards the Enterprise, with Spock as Captain, Saavik as trainee first officer, and the crew we know from the series:  McCoy, Scotty, Uhura and Sulu.  They head out of space dock in an impressive and beautiful sequence, for a routine training mission.  But soon they get a garbled message from the Genesis Project research lab.  Kirk is concerned because he was close to Dr. Carol Marcus once, and we will learn, David is his son from his relationship with Carol, though the two men have had no relationship at her insistence.  Kirk takes McCoy and Spock into his office to show them the highly classified Genesis research tape.  Genesis, or new life from lifeless matter, is a type of terraforming that can create an entire planet, sun, and ecosystem.

Spock gives command to Kirk, who orders the Enterprise make best speed for the research lab. They are attacked by the Reliant.  With shields down, Enterprise was helpless, and Scotty’s nephew, Peter, was killed in the engagement.  Other trainees are killed as well, and Kirk and McCoy are visually and understandably upset by this.

Kirk manages to escape the Reliant, makes his way to the research lab, and he, Saavik, and McCoy beam over. On the lab, they discover most of the scientists are dead.  Carol and David, however, are alright.  They soon discover Chekov and Capt. Terrell as well.  Chekov fills them in a bit about Khan, but not all the details.  They beam down to the Genesis Project Cave in the interior of the planetoid that the lab orbits.

Once in the Genesis Project cave, Terrell and Chekov reveal they are still under Khan’s control.  But Terrell commits suicide rather than kill Kirk as he is ordered.  Chekov simply collapses in pain and distress, and the eel oozes out of  his ear.  Khan beams up the Genesis Device to the Reliant.   McCoy begins treating Chekov, who slowly recovers now that the eel is out of his ear and brain stem.

Carol takes the group to see the Genesis cave, a lush forest that even has a sun-like light source.  Saavik and Kirk discuss no-win scenarios.  Kirk then whips out his communicator and contacts Spock and they are all beamed aboard Enterprise.

What follows is really a sub-hunt between Kirk and Khan; Kirk on the Enterprise and Khan on the Reliant. They hide and chase each other in a nebula, because Kirk still doesn’t have scanners or shields and he wants Reliant to have the same disadvantages.  During the engagement, Spock points out that Khan’s fighting style suggests two-dimensional thinking.  Kirk nods, then drops the Enterprise, before coming up behind her, and finishing her off.  Knowing he’s beaten and dying, Khan ignores the “prepare to be boarded” order and ignites the Genesis Device.

The Enterprise had been moving and fighting with impulse power only, and now they need to get out of there quickly.  For, if they are caught in the Genesis Wave, the ship will be destroyed and everyone will die.  Kirk calls down to engineering for more power, and more speed, but engineering’s been hit.  Then he notices Spock has left the bridge.

Spock meanwhile, has arrived in engineering.  Scotty’s injured, McCoy is trying to help, and the engineering core is leaking radiation.  Spock goes to enter the core area to fix it, but McCoy stops him.  Spock distracts the doctor, then knocks him out with a Vulcan neck pinch.  He begins to quickly try to repair the warp core, in a glass chamber, surrounded by deadly radiation.

Kirk arrives, sees Spock slumped over, and has to be held back by McCoy and Scotty, before he enters the chamber and floods the room with radiation.  Spock, slowly, goes to the door.  He reminds Kirk, “The needs of  the many…” and Kirk answers “…outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”  But Kirk, as happy as he is that his ship and crew have now survived, mourns the one he has lost.  Spock then reminds Kirk, “I have been and always shall be your friend,” gives him the Vulcan salute, and tells him, “Live long and Prosper”.  Kirk places his hand on the glass, their hands meet, and Kirk slumps with Spock to the floor, though they can’t physically touch.

Spock, also, when McCoy was knocked out, said to him, “Remember”.  Kirk breaks up while eulogizing Spock at his funeral, then the body is ejected into space, but the torpedo coffin lands on the Genesis planet.  Kirk and Carol look at the planet from the Enterprise bridge, amazed at the beauty.

Star Trek II in many ways might be the best of  the Star Trek films.  With the death of  Spock, it certainly is the most emotional.  But it also deals with emotions and feelings… revenge, fear of growing old and useless, fear of death, fear of  losing those close to us, friendship, and confronting failure.  These are all universal feelings. The film is really good.  Yes, many of the familiar catch phrases are there, but they aren’t used to simply be cute. Rather, Spock’s sayings, especially, become the centerpiece of the film.  It’s a film about friendship first, and the setting is just that — window dressing.  Similar issues could be addressed in any historical setting, such as an early 19th Century British Royal Navy vessel.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Star Trek III The Search for Spock

Spaceballs

  • Title:  Spaceballs
  • Director:  Mel Brooks
  • Date:  1987
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Genre:  Comedy
  • Cast:  Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Mel Brooks, Dick Van Patten,  George Wyner, Joan Rivers
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“You idiots!  These are not them!  You’ve captured their stunt doubles!” — Spaceball Officer

“Preparing ship for Metamorphosis, sir.”  — Col. Sanders
“Good, get on with it.”  — President Skroob
“Ready, Kafka.” — Dark Helmet

Spaceballs is a bit disappointing for a Mel Brooks film.  The best moments are the tiny references to other classic films, and most of the Star Wars references don’t quite work. There’s also a lot of juvenile humor in the film.  One of the more successful things in the film is the use of music, for example when the extremely long Spaceballs ship is first seen at the beginning of the film, the Jaws theme is heard. Later, when Lone Star and company crash land in the desert, the theme to Lawrence of Arabia is heard.

The film opens with the Spaceballs plotting to steal the air from the peaceful planet of Druidia. Over population, huge city complexes, and the complete destruction of nature and industrialization of the planet have used up all the air on Planet Spaceball.  Meanwhile, on Druidia, Princess Vespa is to be married to Prince Valium, who is as boring as his name suggests.  Vespa, wisely runs away from her own wedding.

Vespa is caught by the Spaceballs, and King Roland, her father, offers to pay one million Spacebucks to Lone Star.  Lone Star needs the money to pay off Pizza the Hutt, a notorious gangster.  Pizza the Hutt is a disgusting character.  Lone Star flies through space in his Winnebago, with his best friend, Barf, a “Mog”, half-man/half-dog character played by John Candy.

Lone Star succeeds in rescuing the princess and escaping the Spaceballs, but runs out of gas and crash lands on a desert planet.  They are rescued by “Dinks” who appear to the Seven Dwarfs music from Snow White. The dinks bring Lone Star, Dot Matrix (the princess’s personal droid), Princess Vespa, and Barf to a secret temple, where they meet Yogurt, practitioner of The Swartz.  The scene where the four approach the huge statute of Yogurt, terrified, is reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz.

The transformed Spaceballs ship, which had turned into a gigantic maid, starts to remove the air from Druidia, but Lone Star uses the power of the Swartz to reverse the air flow, then he flies into the ship, finds the self-destruct and destroys it.  The head and arm land on another planet, where two apes on horses are disgusted by the Spaceballs claiming out of it’s nose.  Yes, it’s a reference to the original Planet of The Apes.

Soon, Lone Star takes Vespa and Dot back to planet Druidia.  Once again, Vespa is ready to be married. She, however, has doubts when she’s told by her father than Lone Star turned down the one million spacebucks.  At the last minute, Lone Star arrives and he and Vespa are married.

A constant joke throughout the film pokes fun at Star Wars merchandise, as nearly everything is “Spaceballs the _____ blank”, where blank is the actual item, such as “Spaceballs the towel”, etc.  This joke gets old quickly and is over used.  Another slightly funnier joke, that’s still used a lot, is not only is there a “Mr. Coffee” but also a “Mr. RADAR”, etc.  And several characters, especially among the Spaceballs, talk to the audience and break the fourth wall.

Overall, not the best of  Brooks’ films by a long shot, but it still has some very funny moments.  If  the leads had been Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn the film may have been much more funny, but that wasn’t possible.

Recommendation:  Eh, see or not, doesn’t much matter
Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Spider-man

Running Scared

  • Title:  Running Scared
  • Director:  Peter Hyams
  • Date:  1986
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Genre:  Action, Comedy
  • Cast:  Billy Crystal, Gregory Hines, Jimmy Smits
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I don’t mean be a cop, I mean quit, retire, be a regular person.”  Danny
“Regular people suck.”  — Ray
“Maybe. But they hardly ever get shot at.”  — Danny

“Careful gets you killed in this business.”  — Captain Logan

“47-63 — Pursuit has left the Interstate, now we’re on the L.”  — Danny

Running Scared is a fast, funny, buddy cop drama with plenty of action, shootouts, and a great car chase on an elevated train track. The film is mostly set in Chicago (and filmed on location in Chicago and Stokie, Illinois) with a brief interlude in Key West, Florida (also shot on location). Detective Danny Costanzo (Crystal) and Detective Ray Haughes (Hines) are two wise-cracking, wild and crazy Chicago cops. They bust a drug pusher with $50,000 and figure they can use him to get to Julio Gonzales (Smits) a drug kingpin with plans of becoming the first Hispanic godfather of Chicago. While taking the pusher, Snake, in; the two cops: stop at the aftermath of a jumper, stop by the funeral of Danny’s Aunt Rose, and nearly get mugged until they point out they are the cops.

Once Snake has been taken in to the station house, they convince him to wear a wire to set-up Gonzales. However, the planned bust turns into a disaster, when not only is Snake killed, but Danny and Ray walk into a DEA investigation and mess it up. Their captain, Logan, is ticked and gives the two detectives a month of forced vacation. Did I mention it’s the middle of winter? Danny takes part of his inheritance from his Aunt Rose and he and Ray head to Key West for some R & R. Danny even considers buying a bar in Key West and retiring there, giving up being a cop.

However, before the two cops can retire they have to return to Chicago. Once in Chicago again, they decide to finish the Gonzales case. Again, the two become wild, though Danny also starts becoming careful because he’s actually given his notice to retire in thirty days. Both the captain and his partner point out that, “Careful gets you killed.”

Meanwhile, Danny’s ex-wife, Anna, has told him she’s getting re-married to a dentist. Danny, clearly still in love with her, isn’t happy about the idea.

Detectives Costanzo and Hughes continue to work the drug case, now saddled with training their replacements, the two narcotics officers from the messed-up DEA bust. There is a fantastic car chase with Ray and Danny in their new undercover police car, a yellow taxi cab, which goes from the airport, down I-190, and on to the L tracks. The L chase feels like a roller coaster ride and is a lot of fun. The filming of the chase is also extremely well done. However, Gonzales decides to get rid of the two officers; his men find their car while they are on stakeout and flip the car into a garbage truck and crushes it. The detectives, however, are fine.

Then Gonzales takes Danny’s ex-wife hostage, demanding his stolen cocaine (which Hughes and Costanzo found at the airport) as ransom. The climax of the film is in a building identified as the Illinois State Building (but it looks like a really nice shopping center). Anna is in one glass elevator, and Danny has to take the other. Meanwhile, Ray sneaks in the back way, discovers all the county sheriffs tied up and has to use the window washing equipment to get into the building. There’s another huge shoot-out and Gonzales is killed. In the end, both Danny and Ray decide to stay in Chicago and continue to be police detectives.

Overall, this is a fun film. In definitely has roots in Beverly Hills Cop, The French Connection, and other buddy cop films of the time, but it’s still fun. Crystal and Hines have a great relationship; and the film is full of their wisecracks and jokes. Neither appear to be realistic Chicago cops; but the film is enjoyable to watch. The car chase on the L is also a definite must see.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5
Next film:  Sabrina

The Purple Rose of Cairo

  • Title:  The Purple Rose of Cairo
  • Director:  Woody Allen
  • Date:  1985
  • Studio:  Orion Pictures / MGM
  • Genre:  Drama
  • Cast:  Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Dianne Wiest
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I’m sorry about the money.  I had no idea.” — Tom
“That’s OK, it’s not going to be so easy to get along without it in this world.”  — Cecilia
“I guess I’ll have to get a job.” — Tom
“That’s not going to be so easy, either.  Right now, the whole country is out of  work.” — Cecilia
“Well then, we’ll live on love.  We’ll have to make some concessions, but so what.  We’ll have each other.” — Tom
“That’s movie talk.” — Cecilia

“I’m confused.  I’m married.  I just met a wonderful new man, — he’s fictional, but you can’t have everything.” — Cecilia

The Purple Rose of Cairo is set in the 1930s in a small town in New Jersey.  Cecilia (Mia Farrow) is a waitress, and not a very good one at that.  Her husband is a bum, not only in the sense that he’s unemployed, which he is, but he treats her terribly — he beats her when he’s drunk, he’s disrespectful to her all the time, he takes her wages and spends them on gambling, beer, cigarettes and other women. And Cecilia isn’t even a good waitress – her customers scream at her and tip very little, if anything.  Her boss screams at her as well.  Cecilia has one escape, one place where she can relax, get away from her awful life, and dream of some place, some thing, better — the movies.

So once a week, at least, she goes to the local single screen movie theater and watches the movie that’s come to town.  And she knows all about the various actors — their names, their roles, who they’re married to and divorced from.  In short, Cecilia is a fan of the movies.  But look at her life:  this is before TV, and the film itself was made before the Internet, computer gaming, or on-line gaming (a “computer game” in the 1980s would have meant an arcade game like Pac-man, or maybe a system attached to the TV with cartridges of games, such as Atari or Intellivision).  Theatre would have been too expensive for a waitress in the ’30s (heck it’s too expensive for a waitress now) – if her small town even had one.  And, yes, they had radio in the 1930s, but in the major cities like New York, not in small towns, like Cecilia’s home in New Jersey.  Besides, maybe she prefers the visual element and the fantasy of film.

One day, Cecilia catches her husband with another woman — she tries to leave him, but loses her job as well.  When she bumps into one of the local “ladies of  the evening” on the street, she realises she has no skills, no job, and no where to go, and she reluctantly goes back to her husband.  But at one point, she ends up at the local movie theater, watching the same film, The Purple Rose of Cairo, over and over and over again.  She’s watching the film, quietly crying, when suddenly, the character of Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) in the film, looks at her and addresses her, before stepping out of the film to meet her.  Tom and Cecilia run off.

The other actors in the film are perplexed and try to figure out what to do, being unable to move the story along without Baxter.  The movie house is in a panic.  Audience members are demanding their money back as the actors on the screen do nothing but talk to each other and insult the audience.  The theater owner calls the producer of the film in Hollywood and RKO (the studio that produced “The Purple Rose of Cairo” in the film). Soon, Hollywood types and the actor who played Tom, Gil Sheppard, are in New Jersey trying to figure out what’s happened.  Throughout the film we get snippets of what’s going on, on the screen and with the execs from Hollywood (such as the Tom Baxter character forgetting his lines in Chicago, and eventually Tom Baxter’s trying to get out into the real world in Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit).

Meanwhile, Tom is, Pinnocco -like, is enjoying the fun of being a “real” person — though he’s a bit confused about the real world.  But he’s convinced he’s in love with Cecilia.

The film moves back and forth between Tom and Cecilia’s romance, Cecilia’s “real” life, and the Hollywood execs trying to figure out what to do.  Gil Sheppard (the actor who played Tom, also played by Jeff Daniels) arrives and meets Cecilia.  Soon Cecilia’s in the midst of a love triangle, or quadrangle if you include her own husband.  Tom tells Cecilia he’s fallen in love with her over and over again.  Before long, Gil is also claiming he’s in love with Cecilia.

Tom, having discovered his money isn’t real, takes Cecilia to the movie theater.  He takes her into the film and brings her to the Copacobana for a date, then takes her for a night on the town, which is shot in a Art Deco, 1930s-style montage sequence.  After their date, he takes her back to the ‘real’ world.  There, they run into Gil.  Gil also claims to be in love with Cecilia, and that he will take her away with him to Hollywood.  Cecilia is forced to make a choice – and she does, she chooses Gil.  Tom, the perfect romantic hero, goes back into the film.  Gil has her go home to pack, and when she returns to the movie theater, he and all the Hollywood people have gone.

Soon, Cecilia is back in her old life.  And the last shot of the film is her face, lit by the light of the silver screen as she watches Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance to “Cheek to Cheek” in Top Hat.  Cecilia smiles, just a little bit, as she watches the film, with a Mona Lisa smile.

Cecilia is a representation of the audience; and how film writers and producers perceive the audience (this is, after all, a Woody Allen film).  She’s not dumb – she knows that actors play the characters in the films she watches, and that the films aren’t real.  But the escape they provide is something important – not hope exactly. Because Cecilia also knows, especially after her experience with the fictional Tom and the actor Gil, that no White Knight will ride in to town, and take her away from all this.  But films provide some time away from her awful life – her awful job, her terrible husband, and her boring small town.  In short, it’s a chance, for a few hours a week, to pretend she’s someone else, or to pretend there actually can be a happy ending.  It’s a brilliant commentary on movies, really.

Oddly enough, one weird thing about watching the film now, is that even though it’s a period piece, it does look a bit dated.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but it does.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  The Ref

The Princess Bride

  • Title:  The Princess Bride
  • Director:  Rob Reiner
  • Date:  1987
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Genre:  Adventure, Romance, Comedy
  • Cast:  Cary Elwes, Robin Wright,  Fred Savage, Peter Falk, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal, Peter Cook, Andre-the-Giant
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“You fell victim to one of the classic blunders.  The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia.  But slightly less well known is this – never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.”  — Vizzini

“We’ll never survive [in the Fire Swamp].”  —  Buttercup, the Princess Bride
“Nonsense, you’re only saying that because no one ever has.” — Westley

“You know how much I love watching you work – but I’ve got my country’s five hundredth anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Gilder to frame for it.  I’m swamped.” — Prince Humperdinck

The Princess Bride is one of my favorite films of all time.  It’s a film I actually owned a copy of on VHS, then replaced with a DVD.  I absolutely adore this film — it’s smart, fun, intelligent and chock full of fun and quotable lines.  The film actually has two storylines — the frame story of a grandfather (Peter Falk) reading the story of The Princess Bride to his grandson (Fred Savage) who is home sick.  The growing relationship between grandson and grandfather adds a sweetness to the film, as does the young boy’s growing interest in the story.  The main storyline, though, is the story of Westley and Buttercup, two young lovers separated by fate who simply must end-up together.  However, what prevents the story from sinking into typical romantic comedy is the intelligent, witty dialogue and the simply gorgeous cinematography.  The film pulls itself together in such a way that it just works incredibly well.  It’s also shot in a very storybook style, which ranges from castles with interiors that obviously look like sets, to some simply wonderful sunsets, and some great scenery when Buttercup and Westley first meet again. (The wide shots of the castles are no doubt real ones in Ireland and England where parts of the film were shot).

This film also has some wonderful sword fights.  The fight between Westley and Inigo Montoya is wonderful! I really enjoy it every time I watch the film.  But there’s also some wonderful fight scenes between Montoya and the evil Count Rugen.

Overall, the film is just enjoyable.  Simply enjoyable.  It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s romantic.  The good guys are good because they treat other people nicely and well, and the bad guys – Vizzini, Count Rugen, and Prince Humperdinck are bad guys in part because they treat other people terribly.  Humperdinck’s motivation is also to start a war between Florin (his country and home to Buttercup) and neighboring Guilder.  And a bit of wordplay with the names of  the country as well – Florin and Guilder are two coins in a former Netherlands currency.  Florin is also the name of an old two-shilling coin in the UK that’s no longer in use.

If by some chance you haven’t seen this movie, it’s an absolutely must-see.

Recommendation:  See it!  Also good for all ages without being overly sweet.
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Producers

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

  • Title:  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Director:  Steven Spielburg
  • Date:  1989
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  Adventure, Action
  • Cast:  Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, River Phoenix, Denholm Elliott, John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • Format:  R1, NTSC
“That cross is a important artifact, it belongs in a museum!”  — Young Indy
 
“Nazis, I hate these guys.” — Indiana Jones
 
“I wrote it down in my diary so I wouldn’t have to remember!” — Henry Jones, Senior
 
“You call this archaeology?”  — Henry Jones, Senior

It’s always hard for me to say which is my favorite Indiana Jones movie — “Raiders” or “Last Crusade“.  “Raiders” introduces the great character, and Marion is a great, feisty, independent woman, and it has a good plot — but the snakes still gross me out.  On the other hand, “Last Crusade“, is, again, like “Raiders” a great adventure, set in relatively short “episodes” that span the world, from Indy’s childhood in Utah to his working as a college professor, to Venice, to Berlin, to Austria, to the hiding place of the Holy Grail. But “Last Crusade” also brings back the great secondary characters of Marcus Brody and Sallah who were missing from “Temple of Doom“.  And there’s the great relationship between Indiana Jones and Henry Jones, Sr.

Which is why, though it wouldn’t exist without “Raiders“, Last Crusade slightly edges out “Raiders” as my favorite.  “Last Crusade”, at its core is about a father and son journeying to discover each other as much as it is a great adventure tale about a search for the Holy Grail.  And the film, as I briefly mentioned before, brings back Marcus Brody and Sallah, both from “Raiders” and both sorely missed in “Temple of  Doom“. And neither character just appears just so they can be listed in the credits — both have important parts to play in the plot, especially Marcus. Sean Connery, is perfectly cast as Indiana Jones’ father.  I love the relationship between the two — prickly, yet fun. “Last Crusade” is a fun adventure-filled movie, with lots of great and quotable lines. But it also has heart — when Henry Jones Sr. thinks Indy has died he is truly crushed, and we feel his pain. When the Nazis shoot Indy’s father in front of him to force Indy to get the Grail, it’s a shocking moment, and we feel Indy’s shock and pain — not to mention he’s about to lose his father. Indiana ends up obtaining the Grail to save his father, not for his own aggrandizement, like Harry Potter with the Philosopher’s Stone in that film and book. In other words, he didn’t want it to keep it.  And like the Stone, the Grail heals Henry Sr.

And isn’t Julian Glover just a perfect villain?

River Phoenix really is well cast as young Indiana Jones.  The opening sequence is also great — not only is it full of adventure itself, but we see Indiana become our Indiana, the hero we love.  The transition from the treasure hunter putting the hat on Indiana to the shot of Harrison Ford in the rain, attempting to recover the same artifact, is perfect. And speaking of great shots – the first shot of Sean Connery as Henry Jones, Sr, as he steps into the light is also perfect.  And what can be a more satisfying a ending to a movie than our heroes, Indiana, Henry, Sallah, and Marcus, as riding off into the sunset?

The structure of the film, like Raiders, is again of short episodes, linked into a longer story, which keeps the film moving and the adventure level high. In some ways, the film is a chase film, as much as it is a Quest. And it’s also a Quest of characters of the Joneses coming to know each other as well as the Quest for the Holy Grail.

Recommendation:  See it!  And, again, a great film for kids and teenagers.
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Indiscreet