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On the Waterfront contends for best all time

23 Aug


Marlon Brando is a heavyweight actor that delivers a championship caliber performance that paved the way for actors to see the perfect execution of “the method.” Elia Kazan directs this masterpiece about dockworker and muscle for the local mob Tony Malloy (Brando), who witnesses the murder of a fellow dockworker. Malloy struggles with his conscience after he engages in a relationship with Edie (Eva Marie Saint), the victim’s sister while his brother Charlie (Rod Steiger) pleads with him to look the other way and forget about it, or else become the next “accident.”

On the Waterfront is one of the most important pieces of art in the 20th century.  The film is as relevant now as it was sixty years ago. The actor, the character, and the story continues to inspire artists and audiences to fight the good fight and to do the right thing in spite of the consequences.  It is a contender for the best film all time.


Adam’s Grade: A+

Chuck’s Grade: A+


Young Frankenstein is a much different monster

20 Jun


Rarely can parodies transfer meaning from one generation to the next, but director Mel Brooks with the help of comedic actor Gene Wilder create one of the funniest films of all time. The 1974 film, Young Frankenstein balances satire with originality to transform the 1931 Universal classic horror film into a much different monster that makes audience laugh until hurts.

Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson (Wilder) inherits his grandfather’s castle begins conducting experiments with the help of his lab assistants Igor (Marty Feldman) and Inga (Teri Garr). The next thing you know, Dr. Frankenstein is screaming, “It’s alive!” and the creature (Peter Boyle) with the abnormal brain escapes.

Brooks and Wilder understand how to bring a good story back from the dead. Their attention to detail and their passion for the project separates them from the long list of ordinary comedic artists. Brook’s characters become part of pop culture and the film remains relevant to audiences forty years later.


Adam’s Grade: A+

Chuck’s Grade: A

The Red Balloon

30 Jan


Recently, I read an article that provided a list of films a young person should watch by the time they are 14-years old.  Le Ballon Rouge meaning The Red Balloon was one of them. I missed the article’s prescribed deadline, but I did finally get around to watching the short film. On his way to school, Pascal, finds a red balloon and takes it with him. Soon afterward, the balloon begins to have a mind of its own, and follows Pascal around Paris. The film brought me back to being a kid again. At least for the film’s 35 minute duration. The Red Balloon reminds audiences the adventures a child experiences and the meaning of friendship. The dialogue is sparse, but the simple device of a balloon and special effect help tell a magical story of imagination.  In 1956, it won the Palme d’Or for short film and an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A

A Streetcar Named Desire is the king around here

26 Jan


Rarely do I use the word masterpiece to describe anything, but Elia Kazan’s film production of Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire is closest thing to that word. The main cast provides some of the most talked about and studied performances in film history. The unforgettable name, “Stella!” continues to be part of American popular culture. Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski) and Vivien Leigh (Blance Dubois) electrify the screen with their commanding performances while Karl Malden (Mitch) and Kim Hunter (Stella) hold their own in the face of an intimidating and domineering Stanley. The film touches upon several subjects, patriarchy, marriage, mental illness, domestic violence, homophobia, and alcoholism in a way that has left an imprint on audiences both young and old.

The film set the standard for several generations to come in several filmmaking categories. A Streetcar Named Desire has proved it is “the king around here and don’t you forget it.”


Adam’s Grade: A+

Chuck’s Grade: A+


22 Jan


Chinatown was director Roman Polanski’s last film made in the U.S. before returning/fleeing to Europe. This film is a neo-noir classic written by Robert Towne and is one of the best movies ever made.  Towne’s clever writing captures the voice of a Los Angeles detective story filled with betrayal, greed, and murder. Polanski direction guides Jack Nicholson (Jake Gittes) and Faye Dunaway (Mrs. Mulwray) through a masterful drama filled with suspense and surprise. The two leading actors have an intoxicating chemistry together that creates a sense of danger every time they share the screen, but one of the most memorable scenes (besides the ending) is when Polanski makes an appearance as the unforgettable Man with a Knife. The combination of stylish direction, adept performances, powerful writing, and a mesmerizing soundtrack places Chinatown at the top of my list of great all-time films.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A+

The Gold Rush strikes it rich

10 Jan


One of Charlie Chaplin’s most memorable and successful silent films was The Gold Rush (1925, re-released 1942). It has stood the test of time because it is more than a simple comedy. It is a story about a lonely character that desperately wants to feel loved.

The Tramp has fallen for a saloon girl named Georgia that does not share the same level of affection. He attempts to woo her over dinner where Chaplin performs the iconic Bread Roll dance, but she is hesitant because of his status.  Most of the physical comedy takes place in a cabin occupied by Big Jim (Mack Swain), and later a wanted criminal named Black Larsen (Tom Murray). The sequences between the three actors are hilarious, especially when the cabin is teetering on the edge of a cliff.

Chaplin understood his audiences then, and seemingly understands his audiences today because The Gold Rush continues to strike it rich.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A

A Christmas Story never gets old

25 Dec


I cannot remember if I saw this Christmas classic in a theater back in 1983, or (like most people today) watched the film on cable television during a twenty-four hour movie marathon. There are very few movies that could be played over and over again without people getting sick of it. A Christmas Story is one of those films that has become apart of America’s contemporary holiday condition. It is a funny story about a young boy (Ralphie) that only wants one gift under the tree, a Red Ryder BB gun, but every adult he comes in contact with tells him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” The film is a heartfelt, but hilarious journey to a special Christmas morning. This mid-western family captures the highs and lows of the holiday season in a way that resonates with people on many different levels because we are all of these characters in some form and fashion. A Christmas Story never gets old.


Chuck’s Grade: A+

Adam’s Grade: A

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey does not live up to the hype

17 Dec


Director Peter Jackson’s first installment of the much anticipated J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, The Hobbit does not live up to the hype, but it does not mean audiences are going to turn their backs on the second and third parts of the series.  On the contrary, The Hobbit was a respectable film that gave an honest interpretation to the Tolkien’s text, but it probably wasn’t the best decision in this case because of the slow moving exposition, the intentional children friendly sequences, and the repetitive Gandalf to the rescue episodes.

The dwarfs are a fun group to follow, even though you have no idea who is who, and the reprise roles of Cate Blanchet, Hugo Weaving, and Christopher Lee are welcomed back with great enthusiasm, but the anchor that holds the ship from going off course is the appearance of Gollum and the famous riddle game. The Hobbit will be a successful franchise and I expect better things to come.


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: C-

Schindler’s List

16 Nov

Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, Schindler’s List is one of the greatest films of all time. For me, it sets the bar for elite filmmaking. His accomplishments on the screen as well as behind them separate this production from all other films. Each component of the film is irreplaceable.

Based on a true story about Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) and his factory workers. At the start of the war, he is a German businessman that only cares about sex and money, but once he meets SS officer Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), a sadistic psychopath that finds pleasure terrorizing and murdering Jews, his perspective and actions change towards saving as many Jewish people as he can. I remember watching Fiennes’ chilling performance and feeling embarrassed to be a human being.

After each viewing I sit and watch patiently until the final credit rolls past the top of the screen because of the amount of gratitude I have for everyone involved.


Adam’s Grade: A+

Chuck’s Grade: A+

Fast Times at Ridgemont High hasn’t slowed down

21 Oct

Writer Cameron Crowe went undercover as a high school student and write a book about his experiences. Before he published his book, it was optioned for a film, and Crowe was given the opportunity to write the screenplay. The film is a hilarious cross section of the life of four teenagers. Brad (Judge Reinhold), a senior stuck at a fast food job and a dead end relationship, his sister Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a freshman looking for romance, but not with Mark (Brian Backer), and the most memorable characters Spicoli (Sean Penn), a surfer-stoner that keeps getting in trouble with his history teacher (Ray Walston).

This is one of the best high school movies ever. Director Amy Heckerling captures the fun times, the embarrassing moments, and the serious situations that young people deal with day in and day out.  The film continues to connect with new audiences because it was all done with a big smile and smart writing.


Adam’s grade: A-

Chuck’s grade: A+