ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

JER'S TURN: SELECTING THE TOP 5 JAMES BOND THEME SONGS

JER: I am a huge James Bond fan! I have enjoyed ALL of the different ‘Bond’ variations portrayed by each and every actor that has stepped into the iconic tuxedo and downed a Vodka Martini- shaken, not stirred. The one exciting and anticipated moment of each film’s opening sequence is the new song and the artist(s) that will hopefully make it another classic tune to remember it by. Reportedly, the rock group Kings of Leon has been asked to perform the new theme song once the legal tape is cleared and production of the new Bond film can resume. Until then, we have a great collection of different tracks that have represented the time stamp of its release while also showcasing the talent of the era to best vocalize the film it is recognized for.

With that in mind, I posed the question to myself, if I could only pick and list my top 5 favorite James Bond themes, which would they be and why? Before I began, I needed to remind myself the order of these classic themes that were brought to our ears and by whom… here is the list I composed:

  • DR. NO “James Bond Theme” =Monty Norman/ John Barry
  • FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE =Matt Monroe
  • GOLDFINGER =Shirley Bassey
  • THUNDERBALL =Tom Jones
  • YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE =Nancy Sinatra
  • ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE “We Have All The Time In The World” =Louis Armstrong
  • DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER =Shirley Bassey
  • LIVE AND LET DIE =Paul McCartney and Wings
  • THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN =Lulu
  • THE SPY WHO LOVED ME “Nobody Does It Better” =Carly Simon
  •  MOONRAKER =Shirley Bassey
  • FOR YOUR EYES ONLY =Sheena Easton
  • OCTOPUSSY “All Time High” =Rita Coolidge
  • A VIEW TO A KILL =Duran Duran
  • THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS =a-ha
  • LICENSE TO KILL =Gladys Knight
  • GOLDENEYE =Tina Turner
  • TOMORROW NEVER DIES =Sheryl Crow
  • THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH =Garbage
  • DIE ANOTHER DAY =Madonna
  • CASINO ROYALE “You Know My Name” =Chris Cornell
  • QUANTUM OF SOLACE “Another Way To Die” =Alicia Keys/ Jack White

WOW! It is quite an overwhelming list of classic tunes that have given each James Bond film a certain ‘theme’ of storytelling or adventure- development. Where to begin? The first steps will have to start with a process of elimination…

The drawing of first blood begins as I can immediately knock off the last two themes that include CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF SOLACE. Why? There is nothing about the music, its orchestrations or the vocals that makes me recall them, much less, allows me to place it in any exclusive list. I can comfortably say that I felt they do not rank in the ‘memorable’ themes in my book!

I have been staring at my laptop for a few moments and realize that this isn’t as easy as I thought it could have been. Although I do thoroughly enjoy just about ALL of the themes, I must now draw the line and forge down some more disappointing choices. I will bid ado to THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH… although Garbage did a great job of performance and vocals (thank you, Shirley Manson) I feel that there are better songs that will fight to grab a spot on the top five I have limited myself to.

Can I state some honorable recognitions? It will put my mind at ease if I do. First off, one of the greatest performances comes from Ms. Tina Turner for GOLDENEYE! Great range of vocals with a powerful projection as the song comes to an end. Breathtaking! How could I not include the great Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong for his unique vocal talents on “We Have All The Time In The World” for the film ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE? The added plus is the trumpet solo Armstrong performs on this very mellow and heartfelt theme…one look at this film and you know why this tempo is appropriate to its finale.

What about Nancy Sinatra’s “You Only Live Twice” or Tom Jones’ “Thunderball”??? Dare I leave them out as well? What about the one and only Lulu and her abrasive turn on “The Man With The Golden Gun”? Who can forget the sexy sultry sounds Sheryl Crow provides with the very seductive “Tomorrow Never Dies”? It hurts to say that they will not make my top 5 as well…

“Live And Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings was produced by long-time Beatles collaborator George Martin is a fantastic song, but doesn’t stir me emotionally for what I am looking for to make the final cut either.

Madonna’s “Die Another Day” is too electronic to pass for an orchestrated option that could make the list as well as my thoughts on Duran Duran’s “A View To A Kill.” Great songs, respectfully, but not what I am looking for to make the list.

Three of the remaining themes were sung by the jazzy interpretations of Shirley Bassey, what does that tell you about the voice and delivery of this powerhouse of a woman! “Diamonds Are Forever” has a great melody woven into a classic ‘nightclub’ sound with great horns and strings as well…what about that last note…high and sustained! Perfection! Then there is “Moonraker” with that very recognizable delivery. Unmistakable!

5.  “The Living Daylights” theme to THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987) sung by a-ha. I know I am probably going to get some slack for this one, but the boys from Norway co-wrote (along with John Barry) and brought forth a well design production of vocal backups to lead singer’s Morten Harket. With a reported five- octave range moving from baritone, baritone and finally some falsetto notes… how can anyone deny the memorable “Take On Me” hit the band enjoyed during the 80’s? Orchestra works well with modern keyboards and drum machines along with brass arrangements punching into the song to deliver a very classic theme with a contemporary flare.

4. “License To Kill” theme to LICENSE TO KILL (1989) by Gladys Knight. What? Two Timothy Dalton Bond films in a row? It has nothing to do with the actor in question and everything to do with the fact that composer John Barry was in top form in the late 80’s when it came to writing great music for Bond and selecting the best possible vocalist to present another layer to the final product. Knight’s voice is like a fine- tuned instrument as it comes into the song with some signature crooning delivered with the soulful touch that made her a success throughout her career. Only she can go up against the heavy brass arrangements Barry brought to this particular piece. It almost feels like you might be watching a great tennis match as Knight delivers the ‘bridge’ of the song while the brass fights to be heard as well. The film focuses on revenge and the song spills like the plot: dark, deep and with plenty of feelings! 

3. “Goldfinger” theme to GOLDFINGER (1964) sung by Shirley Bassey. Bassey’s vocals had to be recognized but it was just a matter of deciding which song would rise to the top to best represent her talents. Can you deny the first deliberate punch in the face Bassey delivers when you first hear her utter the words “goooold finga”? Everything else that follows is direct and articulate…every word so accurate you can almost feel the breath escaping the mouth as the song progresses. The song rightfully belongs in what is called the best Bond film of the series!

2. “Nobody Does It Better” theme to THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977) sung by Carly Simon. This is a personal note from my end. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is my absolute favorite film of the series…period! A lavish film with a cross- country trek through Egypt, Roger Moore as Bond with the beautiful and exotic Barbara Bach as ‘Agent XXX’ also presented Bond with one of his most memorable villains: the metal- mouthed ‘Jaws.” I love what composer Marvin Hamlisch did with presenting a 70’s touch of contemporary groove but not sounding like a more time-stamped sound that maybe LIVE AND LET DIE and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN had for the mid 70’s. A simple piano with the tickling of the right keys necessary to introduce the soft spoken vocals of Ms Simon before a crescendo coming from both her singing and the introduction of the accompanying orchestra. A bit more on strings than any horns, the deliver is strong but not overpowering. The song would receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Song.

1. “James Bond Theme” theme to DR. NO (1962) orchestrated by Monty Norman/ John Barry. The theme is iconic and recognizable anywhere you hear it. The slight punches of horns to open up the theme is quickly followed by the very distinctive guitar riffs before exploding into a ceremony of horns accompanied by a very jazzy background of percussion. The theme was first heard in the opening credits of 1962’s DR. NO and became a staple in most of the Bond films to follow. A variety of different arrangements and variations would be taken on by following composers as well as satires and other takes to the classic orchestration. The music presented here forth could only set you up with an imaginary mental picture of the quintessential playboy of the early 60’s…a man’s man who drank vodka martinis, smoked expensive cigarettes and knew how to woo the women with a wink of the eye. He was a gentleman as well as England’s celebrated spy working for King and country. The music spoke for it’s composed year, using a fusion of jazz with just a dash of radio rock and roll…just two years prior to the USA’s introduction to the Beatles. That is why it is number one in my book!

JOHNNY CHAZZ: The James Bond movies were certainly entertaining, but took an awful turn for the worse after about 1983's "Octopussy". Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig were all disasters playing the role and I would doubt that they would know the difference between an Extra Dry Martini and a Gin Fizz. Thus, I cannot agree that I have enjoyed all of the actors to have put on the iconic tuxedo. Still, we are here to discuss the top 5 songs associated with the Bond films, so here are mine ranked from 5 to 1:

5. Sheena Easton’s performance of “For Your Eyes Only” written by Bill Conti was always a favorite of mine. Most people remember Sheena for “Morning Train” but I like to think of the Bond theme as being her ace.

4. “All Time High” will always be a favorite of mine from “Octopussy”. Rita Coolidge really had an amazing voice and it was so fitting at the time this film was released.

3. “From Russia With Love” (Main Theme) was just outstanding – and if you can ever hear the version sung by Matt Monroe, it is even better. The tune fit considering the relatively slow pace of the film with a proper air of romance and intrigue.

2. “Goldfinger” – Shirley Bassey’s version is and always will be nothing short of remarkable.

 
1. Dusty Springfield’s performance of "The Look Of Love" for “Casino Royale” is undoubtedly the bet tune ever written for a Bond film. The tune was written by Burt Bacharach with lyrics by Hal David. Nina Simone would later record a version of the standard as well as Janis Hansen from Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66. This alone tells us that it was truly one of the best songs not only in a Bond film, but ever to hit the airwaves.
                 (Being that JC lives in Las Vegas and I (Jer) live in California…the conversation continued on by way of the telephone…this is a condensed version of JC’s additional comments to be placed on his behalf)

If an honorable mention can be made… or upping the top 5 to include a number six…my choice would be “A View To A Kill” performed by Duran Duran. Like Jer’s thoughts of “The Living Daylights”, my choice to select “A View To A Kill” is nostalgic. It reminds me of high school and the 80’s and the fact that the video showcasing Duran Duran in and around the Eiffel Tower was brilliant.

JER: A great choice of themes with a couple of surprises coming from JC. For some reason or another, I thought you would go with some of the older hits like “Thunderball” or “You Only Live Twice”… you always seen to go with the retro before the contemporary, even thought you still went with “Goldfinger” and “From Russia With Love.”

As I mentioned previously…this was a tough list to compile. I almost went with Rita Coolidge’s “All Time High” as well as Duran Duran’s “A View To A Kill”.

If JC gets an honorable mention slot, then I will take advantage of one as well. It is not a theme…but, like JC’s choice to go with another song featured in a film (Dusty Springfield’s “The Look Of Love”) I am going to go with ANOTHER tune from THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS soundtrack. My choice is The Pretenders’ “If There Was A Man.” Appearing at the ending credits of the film, the smooth ballad and Chrissie Hynes’ vocals demanded that I stay in my seat until the song was over! It gave me chills then and it gives me chills now just thinking of it. Again, another fine example of a wonderful collaboration of vocals and orchestrations melding to create a beautiful piece of music.
A wonderful segment that includes all of the BOND themes!

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Well friends, tune in next week when JOHNNY CHAZZ takes a spin at the roulette wheel to find out if he gets the pay-off or breaks even before collecting! Until then, keep it right here and we will SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

JOHNNY CHAZZ' TURN- ON A RANT: THE HUNT FOR OCTOBER

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Take a moment and log onto Fandango.com and type in your local zip code. Now, what is playing today near you? Well, I did just that yesterday and what happens each and every summer happened again, thus leaving me longing for those months that end in ‘B-E-R. Let’s discuss:

The films playing at my local Regal Entertainment theater as of today, June 21, 2011 are as follows: “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”; “Green Lantern 3-D”; “Super 8”; “X-Men: First Class”; “The Hangover II”; and “Bridesmaids”. Now let’s break down each one to determine if we should feel inclined to pay to see any of these.

In theater #1 we have “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”: Jim Carrey in the role of a businessman whose life begins to change after he inherits six (6) penguins turns his apartment into an igloo circus. His professional and personal life is also affected. Well, in this one it is likely that you will get exactly what you can expect: another ridiculous Jim Carrey movie where he overacts and provides us with physical comedy that is no longer funny. The penguins might be cute and we may perhaps feel sorry for Carrey in this role having to put his life back in order, but this animal “poop and scoop” behavior is too much and simply insults an audience unless you are between the ages of 2 and 8. There is no way to endorse something like this or to ever think about heading to the box office to spend over $10 on a ticket.

So, we walk next door to theater #2 and see the title “Green Lantern 3-D”. Here we have another summer sci-fi based on comic book movie that is regurgitated on the screen year in and year out. Starring Ryan Reynolds the plot follows a test pilot who is given a mystical green ring giving him; well let’s call them “superpowers” so that he can be the one who saves the universe from destruction. Yet, as in any other summer sci-fi film it is a guarantee to crumble apart after the first 20-30 minutes due to a lack of vitality, performance, writing and believability. We can call this just another lackluster effort thrown on screen for summer movie-goers who think this is worth both $10 and 2 hours of their time.

Theater #3 blesses us with the showing of the new “Super 8” – a trailer I have seen over 100 times on television in the past two weeks. Still, the trailer is typical for Abrams by not giving away too much about the movie. Director J.J. Abrams along with the presence of Spielberg brings us a cast of no-namers in “Super 8” who begin noticing strange things occurring in a small town and begin to investigate the phenomenon. Unfortunately, this film has the look of taking us through an experience only to let us down at the end. Is this just a marriage of “Blair Witch” meeting “E.T.” and “Stand By Me?” Child actors are dull and the genre here is appears to be completely overdone while totaling lacking the element of suspense of surprise.

Theater #4 finds us on a collision course with “X-Men: First Class”. Another super-human, super-hero movie? The action here is always full-blown and there is complete lack of character, cinematic technique, and only provides us with yet another does of mutant battles on screen that offer little in the way of audience satisfaction. Next please.

We head over to theater #5 and see the sequel “The Hangover II” as if the first one was not forgetful enough. This goofy and careless movie focuses on the years after the bachelor party in Las Vegas as the friends and pals all plan for a wedding that turns into a nightmare. It is a movie that is cheap looking, devoid of talent, offers unnecessary violence and is just plain raunchy. Here is a prime example of a movie, a director, writers and a cast that really want us to be shocked by what they can do on screen. What is shocking more so is the fact that anyone would ever spend a dime to go and see it.

The last theater is #6 and is showing “Bridesmaids”. Kristen Wiig is “Annie” who is neither talented nor funny, plots to make her way through the rituals of a wedding with other bridesmaids as her own life is falling apart. This is a “Saturday Night Live” cast at best and very rarely does anyone from that show really make an impact on the big screen in the cinematic-quality sense. This is just another movie that tries to show us how funny the female-sex can really be on screen. It neither qualifies as great comedy nor as anything memorable.

How sad that summer films rarely give us any reason to go to the movies anymore. Audiences today should expect nothing and by doing that may be satisfied that you get precisely what you expect out of summer films. Herein lies the pathetic trend that has been predictable for the past decade or longer showing no sign of relief. Maybe this is why we have, at least in recent years seen an academy-award nominated film appear during the summer months since it tends to stick out like a sore thumb and remain in the minds of movie-goers for months afterwards and sometimes up until the awards. Still, summer movies leave a great deal to be desired and continuously leave this critic hunting for OctoBER!

JER: Let me see if I can help better define what my buddy JC is implying… all Summer films are crap- filled, popcorn chomping, bloated pieces of fluff thrown at us to help numb the sweat glands that boil over during the months beginning in May and ending around September! Whew!

JC has never been a fan of Summer films, with maybe only a very slim select few that might have raised a curious eyebrow or caused a knee-jerk reaction of what could only be determined or defined as a “chuckle”…I don’t know, it could have been gas! In his opinion, the months ending with ‘BER’ could only refer to October, November and December; thus the Fall to Winter films in which the Academy of Motion Pictures takes a serious look at the caliber of films that would deem worthy of the title of “For Your Consideration” aka ‘possible future Best Picture nominated films!

As much as I now wait (with hope) for a great Summer film to blow me out of the water…I find myself paddling amongst shallow puddles. I almost fear to say the same of the Fall and Winter line-ups at times.

The Summer films, for me, were what I looked forward to…maybe years ago. It now seems as if all we get are endless sequels to films that boasted ‘no more sequels’ (SCREAM 4, PIRATES 4, TRANSFORMERS 3) a slew of ‘comic book’ action films (THOR, GREEN LANTERN, X-MEN, CAPTAIN AMERICA) and you can’t forget a family film or two (MR POPPER’S PENGUINS, CARS 2) and that’s about it…really?

Summer films of the past consisted of GHOSTBUSTERS, THE ROAD WARRIOR, JAWS, E.T.: THE EXTRA- TERRESTRIAL, THE BLUES BROTHERS, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, GLADIATOR, INCEPTION, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and STAR WARS! These were the kind of movies (films) that caused an emotional stir…a sense of excitement that could only be experienced within the dark walls of a movie palace: a theater.

I can present a confession in that I am very interested in both SUPER 8 and X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, though.

SUPER 8, judging by the trailer, reminds me of the era hay-days of Steven Spielberg… mixing what looks like a little CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND with a little E.T.: THE EXTRA – TERRESTRIAL. I honestly miss those kinds of films. Remember the Summers that POLTERGEIST, BACK TO THE FUTURE, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, INNERSPACE and GREMLINS were released? Fun movies…repeat…FUN! Oh…and original, too! No remakes,‘re-imagining’ or rip-offs. Were they Academy Award- nominated hits? No…they were ‘blockbusters’ that ruled the screens and created talks amongst friends and drove fans to fill the theater seats by the thousands. I actually have enjoyed the run of J.J. Abrams’ films including MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III and the new STAR TREK film…even the produced CLOVERFIELD! I believe that Abrams captures a sense of fantasy and magician- theatrics that Spielberg presented within the 80’s. I, for one, am looking forward to viewing SUPER 8 soon.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS looks like the same kind of action packed fantasy fun we have come to expect from the franchise. X-MEN came to the screen long before we began experiencing the congestion of comic book films that have churned through since its original release in 2000. If done right, I enjoy a series to take us through different avenues and roads with past story lines and gap-filling plots to allow us to tie a full story together. X- MEN: FIRST CLASS is another reminder of what a “fun” Summer film was once defined as. I’d buy a ticket for this ride!

I will also admit to an interest in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON and the final installment of the Potter series; HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS PT II and that pretty much makes the rest of the Summer list for me.

THE SMURFS??? Starring Neil Patrick Harris??? A remake- re-imagined CONAN: THE BARBARIAN that looks like some UFC rogue took on the role originated by Arnie and supplied by a heavy metal ear- piercing soundtrack layed over the film’s trailer quickly defused any interest what so ever. Please do not forget that both these films will be available through the wonderful world of 3-D! Be still, my heart!!

Well, I could go on, but why should I? I quickly type my last few words as I reach across the laptop for a paper bag to help express my true feelings as reality hits me! We are in mid- June and I haven’t been excited about running to the theaters to catch anything at this point. Remain optimistic? Maybe I will wait for the BERs as well!

So ends another chapter as we dispense more of the honest opinions…as we see it! Tune in next week when I take a stab at a topic of choice. So until then…SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

JER'S TURN: REMEMBERING DIRECTOR/ WRITER JOHN HUGHES

JER: There are a selected few I remember actually shedding real tears for at the loss of  Hollywood’s talented actors or directors from over the years… some that immediately come to mind are John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Jim Henson and Michael Jackson…as well as “friends” Tony Curtis, James (Mr. Scott from STAR TREK) Doohan and Leslie Nielson. There is one director who made a very strong and impacting impression on both my outlook at life and the way to enjoy and endure my difficult teenage years was through the films of Mr. John Hughes. I remember logging onto MSN the morning of August 6th of 2009, when my morning was interrupted by the flashing blurb: “Director John Hughes, Dead at 59.” My heart stopped for a moment and my vision blurred from the unending stream of tears I couldn’t wipe fast enough to read the news…

I shudder at the fact that FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF is celebrating it 25th anniversary as of June 11, 1986…that’s this past weekend, folks! I was a mere Junior in High School when I ran to my local theatre to catch this film its opening weekend! With wonderful memories and echoing laughs from the past, I would love to pay tribute to a man who gave us many laughs, many tears and loads of entertainment!

John Hughes graduated Glenbrook North High School in Glenbrook, Illinois in 1968 and began writing for ‘National Lampoon’ magazine two years later. With the magazine’s successful presentation of ANIMAL HOUSE in 1978, John was asked to teleplay five episodes for its TV spin- off ‘Delta House’ in 1979. Having now moved into the ranks of actual film screenplays (National Lampoon’s CLASS REUNION in 1982) Hughes would take the magazine’s name to a higher and broader level of success with his new script entitled, simply: VACATION (1983).

 Based off the actual cross-country antics he experienced with his family, VACATION, starring Chevy Chase and a young Anthony Michael Hall, became a big Summer hit and would give Hughes the boost he needed to actually take the helm as a director to a newly written script of his about a teenage girl coping with the trials and tribulations of her dysfunctional family and awkward rituals of high school…all while turning a year older…16 CANDLES (1984).

16 CANDLES would introduce us to the basic building blocks of the “Brat Pack” (a group of preppy and well known teenage actors from the 80’s) by introducing us to performers like John and Joan Cusack, Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald. The film built a huge word-of-mouth success the Summer of ’84, which ultimately became another financial hit for Hughes!

It wouldn’t be but a year later that John Hughes would capture a mesmerizing blend of comedy and drama by a simple telling of a Saturday’s detention gathering of a nerd (Anthony Michael Hall), a jock (Emilio Estevez) a rebel (Judd Nelson) a basket-case (Ally Sheedy) and a princess (Molly Ringwald)…all high school stereotypes gathered for THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985.) The film went beyond just the telling and goings-on of that fateful detention day…it spoke about the perceptions and defenses held by adolescent stereotyping, without getting to know the true person behind the mask held up by society’s standards. Once the mask was removed, they understood and related with each other as the conclusion comes to plain and unanimous agreeing: School carried a huge peer pressure and acceptance weight, parents truly do not understand and that everyone has problems…no matter what your background or group-class you belonged to. The film become another hit for Hughes as both writer and director and cemented the “Brat Pack’s” future for a few more years to come…Enjoy the following clip including moments from THE BREAKFAST CLUB to the theme song of "Don't You Forget About Me"


Hughes was not stingy with his unlimited fountain of entertaining screenplays. He would allow his scripts to be directed by new and upcoming talent. Such writing credits of Hughes that should be recognized are EUROPEAN VACATION (1985), PRETTY IN PINK (1986) and SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL (1987).

Continuing his streak of directing his own stories, he saved two screenplays for himself during the mid 80’s. He began with a comedy throwing in the sci-fi laced boy-fantasy question: “What if you could make a girl, actually make a girl?” The answer would lie within WEIRD SCIENCE (1985) bringing back favorite ‘geek’ actor Anthony Michael Hall and introducing us to Bill Paxton (ALIENS, TITANIC) along with Robert Downey Jr (CHAPLIN, IRONMAN) and every adolescent boy’s dream come true, the gorgeous Kelly LeBrock as ‘Lisa.” The film was a big budget push for Hughes, working with high- end special effects for the first time and with producer Joel Silver (MATRIX, LETHAL WEAPON) another big Summer draw would ring sweetly for the Hughes camp! The second punch would come the following year.
Here is the classic music video from Oingo Boingo (with Danny Elfman on vocals)

1986, as mentioned previously, brought forth a boy named Ferris Bueller. An odd name, no doubt… but gave hope where hope was needed. Everyone needs a day off! Adults, teenagers…it didn’t matter the ranks, backgrounds or social status. Moreover, Ferris taught you how to get that day off and relish in it! Introducing us to a pre- DIRTY DANCING starlet, Jennifer Grey as Ferris’ jealous sister and Charlie Sheen as a burnt-out druggie at a police precinct (hmm, does life imitate art or vice versa?) the film carried on the staple of what would be the Hughes formula of success: Root for the underdog and every nerd gets his day!

Throughout the course of the late 80’s, John Hughes would continue on with a string of successful ‘contemporary’ classics like PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBLIES (1987); SHE’S HAVING A BABY (1988) and the enduring UNCLE BUCK (1989). These three films would prove a certain maturity for Hughes, both as a writer and a director. Now moving away from the high school years of film and story telling his attention would focus on family, friends and growing up. His last film, CURLY SUE (1991) was a cute and loving film starring Jim Belushi about a con artist in the pint- size form of a little girl. Though it did moderately well, it did not ring in the dollars of its predecessors. Somewhat disappointed by its non-acceptance, Hughes would not return to directing again…almost disappearing from the likes of Hollywood.

Although the cameras wouldn’t point and shoot by Hughes’ command, his screenplays would continue. It is bittersweet to know that many films carried the Hughes sticker without the general public knowing this was the very same man who had given us 16 CANDLES and THE BREAKFAST CLUB not more than a decade ago. The screenplays that followed worth honorable and entertaining mention are: THE GREAT OUTDOORS (1988), CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989), HOME ALONE (1990), BEETHOVEN (1991) BABY’S DAY OUT (1994) and the Disney live-action film 101 DALMATIONS (1996).

John Hughes died on August 6, 2009 at the age of 59 suffering a heart attack while walking the streets of Manhattan. Just prior to his death, Hughes became the documentary subject of four Canadian filmmakers in DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME who searched for Hughes since dropping out of the spotlight in 1991. Interviews with former cast members and friends would help piece the man that few really knew on a personal level, while keeping his private life away from the public.

Ringwald, Hall, Nelson & Sheedy
 On March 7, 2010, a tribute to his work was presented during the 82nd Annual Academy Awards ceremony. Clips of his most memorable films flashed before the viewing audience followed by cast members of several films that were Molly Ringwald (16 CANDLES, PRETTY IN PINK), Matthew Broderick (FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF), Macaulay Culkin (HOME ALONE, UNCLE BUCK), Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy (THE BREAKFAST CLUB), Anthony Michael Hall (16 CANDLES, WEIRD SCIENCE) and Jon Cryer (PRETTY IN PINK). All gathered to recognize and thank the man who made them who they are…Mr. John Hughes, we will not forget about you! 
 Enjoy this clip from the original airing of the Academy Awards

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Undoubtedly this was a shock to many fans and to the industry when the news of Hughes' death was released. You are certainly not alone, Jer, when you mention the films of Hughes having such an impact on your life outlook and helping you to endure those difficult and bizarre teenage years we all go through.

I can remember the first time I saw "The Breakfast Club" being in 1985 in Trafalgar Square, London at an 11:00 pm showing. I remember a very cool combination of having the choice of paying 3 pounds to sit in the front, 4 pounds in the back and 5 pounds in the middle - almost theater-like in a way. To add, I saw the movie with a girl that I had a pseudo-crush on during high school and could not believe that the only way I could "go out" with her was if we were 8,000 miles from home.....a very surreal night. Oh, and the film was absolutely sensational - Yet, this is where I jump ship.

My teenage years ended and adulthood began rather quickly for me. I got over "geekdom" and really have not found the subject worth visiting for well over 20 years. Thus, what I yearned for and rather expected on screen began to change - dramatically. I am not sure that Hughes ever really had much of an impact on me after about 1985 and here's why:

Hughes films, at least in my mind target teenagers. Now this may sound cruel, but I am not sure that teenagers then or even today are that interesting of an audience or character to discuss unless those characters have a complexity about them (i.e. "The Last Picture Show"; "Stranger Than Paradise"; "The Graduate" etc.). Certainly the films starring what I call "kids" today are not only abysmal, but leave me searching for Excedrin migraine medication.

After "The Breakfast Club", it is a reach for me to find any significant film that he made which had any impact on me personally. "Ferris Bueller" was a hit, but as far as I am concerned, Broderick should stick to the stage and not film. The movie was cute and fun, but that's the extent of it. It does not shock me in the least to see it come on TBS or TNT 20 times a year. However, to ever find this flick on TCM or AMC would be a long shot.

"Vacation" and the rest of the Chevy Chase films associated with it are bearable for about 15 minutes. I cannot classify this as a strong film or even more so a strong movie. It is silly and dopey - and I guess that works for some, but not for me.

Ringwald & Cryer "Pretty In Pink"
Hughes found somewhat of a talent in Molly Ringwald, but I find that too many people think too highly of her acting talents and her films. "Pretty in Pink"? No way. Nothing was "duckie" about this - but then again, maybe everything was. This "brat pack" that Hughes began to form was almost embarrassing and is even more so today. Teenage actors have no business dominating screen time unless it is merited - and in no way did the likes of Molly Ringwald or Jon Cryer ever live up to their billing. A director must rely on the talent of his cast at some point to drive the narrative or plot and I am not sure that he ever really had the cast to truly make his films "great".

"Sixteen Candles" is bearable and somewhat intriguing in spots. The film labors however and the ending is entirely predictable. Thus, it remains linear and forgetful.

During the late 1980’s, John Hughes would "bless us" (sarcastic) with movies as you mentioned, Jer, such as: PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBLIES (1987), SHE’S HAVING A BABY (1988) and the enduring UNCLE BUCK (1989). These however are not "classics" and in no way, shape or form resembles what a "classic" film should be. What makes them classics? The performances were bleak, the writing was thin, the humor was short-lived and complexity of character was void. Character development rarely happens in John Hughes films unless we talk about his work pre-1986 and that might be limited to one film. I am utterly confused....

Culkin in "Home Alone"
"The Great Outdoors?" "Home Alone"? "Baby's Day Out"? These are movies that (well at least 2 of them) rank in my bottom 100 of all time and offer absolutely nothing to an audience in terms of cinematic value. Box office hits do not qualify as good films - we have seen that time and time again. These movies were senseless, pointless and belong in somewhere in the Dollar Tree cart at the back of the store.

I am now extremely nauseous. You see, what is "funny" in one medium simply is not in another. It almost seems like Hughes wants to take an "animated" idea and move it to the screen with cartoon-style gags and other things that are just not that funny. I draw a line at this point - a line that separates A from B....it really is that clear.

I know that you are an avid fan, Jer, of the work of John Hughes. I also know that his films meant a great deal to you and to others and that his passing away a year or so ago was quite saddening.

Art remains subjective and I respect your opinions and feelings regarding his works. However, I must remain true to my own opinions as well and critique this director as I would any other.

John Hughes, as you can tell by now, is not exactly high on my list of directors. I find his work forgetful and uninspiring. I find his characters to be thin and devoid of complexity or motivation. I find his directing style to be commercial and once too often done. Hughes had a habit of repeating his genre over and over. As a director, the bottom line is that his work was marginal at best and I am not sure it even reaches that level. I can only think about two movies that I would ever think of re-visiting: "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club". My question is what happened to Hughes after that?????

JER: My definition of “classic” in the sense of certain films of John Hughes, is that they are memorable and impactful… both for within its time and the generations that followed. Classic, to me, is that it has stood the test of time. The films speak from a very 80’s representation: its music, its clothes, its hairstyles, its language but moreover, for the fight of every teenager’s rightful place in society is also represented within the silliness and humor portrayed from within.

Yes, none of the films mentioned can stand along side what others perceive as “classic”- titled films like GONE WITH THE WIND or SOUND OF MUSIC, however, every generation tries to find its voice from within the use of film. Did we not once have REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and did it not speak to its generation about the life and times of its generation? Didn’t EASY RIDER do the same? What about AMERICAN GRAFFITI or GREASE?

I would like to believe and argue my point as these films rightfully belonging in the ‘classic’ naming for what it meant to grow up as these films were being released. In the 80’s, Hughes kicked off the genre of teenage films…although other writers were looking to add more raunchy humor and nudity (PORKY’S, THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN) and soften the ‘life lessons’ that maybe Hughes was trying to convey in his writing and directing. Hughes is not Orson Wells or Cecil B DeMille…but his archive of stories and characters definitely made a stronger impact in American pop culture than maybe other films that have won Best Picture! Do not forget that I included the word ‘contemporary’ prior to the word classic, thus underlining a newer kind of cinematic acceptance.

Now, let’s address the actors, JC… the actors proved to be exactly who they set out to be. Sometimes over-the-top, sometimes bland... but very real…or identifiable, is the best word needed here. Broderick, Ringwald, Cryer and even Culkin served their duties by acting in memorable moments captured both in the minds of fans and on film to last a lifetime. Maybe their careers aren’t thriving by today’s standards, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t carve a big wedge out for the roles presented and forever remembered for… just like a good John Hughes film should be remembered for! The dialog wasn’t Shakespeare, but it never set out to be.

Let me make a brief and quick observation…let’s talk about THE BREAKFAST CLUB for just a moment. In a generation capturing films and translating them into Broadway- bound plays (YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, SPAMALOT) there lies a grand opportunity to be taken by adapting THE BREAKFAST CLUB for stage! The story basically all takes place within the school library, so you just need one set throughout the entire presentation… the story focuses on five characters that each present its own complexities and personalities, slowly unraveling themselves to the viewing audience… there is a nice blend of rebellious tension, misunderstood- youth representations, humor and tears. A ‘play-like’ dialog roll-out of words that works as a narrative point by the cast as they reveal what they know of each other and slowly unveil their own personalities to each other as the story unwinds. Hopefully, someone will hear my cries and look into a serious adaption, just remember to give me the credit for the idea, OK?

Well, as I dust off room on my mantel for my upcoming Emmy, we close another counterpoint bout! What are your thoughts? Any special memories that these films conjure up for you or do you share JC’s point of view? We always welcome your comments and suggestions. Thank you so much for your feedback! Tune in next week when JC takes the pilot’s seat and flies us over uncharted cinematic territory…until then, we will SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

JOHNNY CHAZZ' TURN: RECOGNIZING DIRECTOR MIKE NICHOLS

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Let's pay tribute to another director this week - this time in the name of.......Mike Nichols. This week it is my honor and privilege to discuss his works, film style and his viable career.

Perhaps what I really enjoy about the films of Mike Nichols is the fact that his genre is dramatic in nature while maintaining interpersonal relationships as the main premise. Nichols loved the line from “Philadelphia Story” stating “The time to make up your mind about people is…..never.” What a great line - and how appropriate that someone like Mike Nichols would be impacted by it. Nichols uses characters in his films and their quirky and questionable relationships as teaching tools and as mirrors per se for his audiences to reflect on as well as identify with. Simply put, Nichols always seemed to have a knack for what the film-going public both wanted and needed to see on the screen.

His first film “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966) is not only what I would consider a perfect film in every way, but presented audiences then and today with the harsh truth of what lies beneath oft seen destructive marriages. It was mainly Nichol’s theater background that led him to this project. Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and the small, yet supportive cast were a phenomenal foursome turning the screen into a stage production and back again. The lighting, the music, the timing and the screenplay were first-rate. This film took home five (5) awards including costume, cinematography, art direction and two acting awards. As a side note, on the set of “Who’s Afraid….”, when asked about Mike Nichols, Richard Burton was quoted as saying “He appears to defer to you and in the end gets exactly what he wants. He conspires with you rather than directs you to get your best.”

Nichols then followed with “The Graduate” (1967), and albeit although it does not qualify as a “cult” film, it is one that will go down as symbolic of the time period and symbolic of what every teenager and adult either goes through or years for. Nichol’s received an Academy Award for best director for this film. It is debatable whether this film was meant as a mockery or as a celebration of such counterculture, but the film remains nothing short of outstanding.

How interesting these first two films were as they really were quite similar. We have primary characters that are tied to their families, but long to be independent at any cost. The idea of having a love affair is simply taboo and the emotional timing in both films are paralleled. Characters are caught in an endless maze leading to virtual insanity. The attitude is, in essence – satirical and sardonic. This continual focus on political, social and gender themes that makes the films of Mike Nichols work time and time again. Sexual tension and saying those things that should not be said are other themes we are faced with when viewing his work on screen.

It is probably the theatrical background of Nichols that allows him to direct film so well. Let’s be real honest – some of your best films ever to hit the big screen are shot with minimal sets, low lighting and on limited locations. The focus and intensity remains on performance, character motivation, timing and adaptation.

Nichols also has worked with such tremendous performers who have carried his plots such as: Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate”, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Jack Nicholson in “Carnal Knowledge”, George C. Scott in “The Day of the Dolphin”, Alan Arkin in “Catch-22”, Meryl Streep in “Silkwood”, and “Postcards from the Edge”, Robin Williams in “The Birdcage” and more.

Director Mike Nichols is what I would call a “serious” director with an eye for talent, and ear for what is in tune and a sense of what audiences identify with, fear and crave. Nichols has always taken real chances on screen and dives into the personal lives of his characters head first. Additionally, Nichols always felt that his job as a director was divided into a multitude of facets: Working with the crew, working within the budget, working with the studio and marketing & promotion. Thus, the idea of Nichols as a “celebrity” really is something he has never felt I would imagine. This is precisely the reason why I pay tribute and homage to this individual this week and hope that you will have a chance to re-visit or to see for the first time any of the films I have listed below.

Here are some of my favorite Mike Nichols films during his career and my assigned ratings for each:

1966 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – Picture Points (10/10)

1967 The Graduate - Chazz's Picture Points (8/10)

1973 The Day of the Dolphin - Chazz’s Picture Points (7.5/10)

1983 Silkwood - Chazz’s Picture Points (8/10)

1988 Biloxi Blues - Chazz’s Picture Points (7/10)

1988 Working Girl - Chazz’s Picture Points (6.5/10)

1990 Postcards From the Edge - Chazz’s Picture Points (7/10)

1996 The Birdcage - Chazz’s Picture Points (7.5/10)

1998 Primary Colors - Chazz’s Picture Points (7/10)

2004 Closer - Chazz’s Picture Points (8.5/10

JER: A notable recognition to a very worthy and respected director in my eyes. I was a little taken back with the small number of films Mike Nichols has directed, but it only holds forth that “less is more” with the impact those few films have made in American cinema. My unfortunate conclusion with his catalog of films is that, like Woody Allen (discussed in the previous blog posting of HANNAH AND HER SISTERS) Nichols’ films began to lose its credibility in the later years…leaving his earlier films as notable gems!

My contemporary knowledge of films introduced me primary to Nichols by way of GILDA LIVE (1980). This documentary “live in concert” showpiece was a capturing of one of the greatest female comedy character actresses coming from the original ‘Saturday Night Live’ cast; Gilda Radner. The film explored several sketches of her more memorable comedic creations, while also giving us a peak at the backstage mayhem that kept the sanity on stage together. This was Gilda’s shining moment captured wonderfully with great documentarian skill.

SILKWOOD (1983) was his cinematic follow- up. With a strong cast represented by Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell and Cher; SILKWOOD focused on actual events that occurred at a plutonium processing plant and how Karen Silkwood (Streep) blew the whistle on the questionable operations. Nichols would soon become not only a director of some great comedies, but of such dramatic achievements as well.

Shifting gears, I hate to be the ‘kill-joy’ of the group, but I must mention two films that were most displeasing to me by Nichols. A literal one-two punch with back-to-back disappointments.

The much anticipated arrival of 1994’s WOLF seemed to have had all of the right elements: Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer, a modern- day werewolf film with state-of-the-art special effects for its day and a notable director helming the project. How could this go wrong, right? Good question! It was bad right from the beginning only to continue a quick decline with a laughable duel between Nicholson’s wolf character and another ‘wolf’ played by James Spader!

After finally spitting up the last of this nauseating experience, I am force fed another tainted plate of bile with the indigestible presentation of 1996’s THE BIRDCAGE. I know this film has a particle following of sorts, but I was a huge fan of the original French LA CAGE AUX FOLLES and I just couldn’t sit still for this apparent passable ‘comedy’…using the term loosely.  Robin Williams and Nathan Lane are great comics and actors, respectfully. The use of Williams’ ad-lib improvisational skills and Lane’s blubbering antics just didn’t size up the way the original cast portrayed this lovable characters. Sorry, but someone should have padlocked that cage!

OK, now that I got that out of my system…let me touch on some of my favorites without sounded redundant to JC’s list.

THE GRADUATE (1967) seems very dated by today’s means, but the storyline still works well with the acceptance of ‘cougars’ perusing younger men. Great acting from Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft.

I loved GILDA LIVE (1980) and I hope it makes its way to a decent anniversary DVD edition sometime soon. Moving on!

HEARTBURN (1986) A great blend of comedy and drama supported by the dueling forces of Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep!

BILOXI BLUES (1988) The second of the semi-autobiographical events on Neil Simon’s life, Matthew Broderick plays Eugene as he goes from young boy to young man while serving in the trenches of WWII.

WORKING GIRL (1988) Nominated for BEST PICTURE, yet another superb blending of comedy and drama is stirred and served in the telling of a young secretary (Melanie Griffith) who has more than just a ‘body for sin.’ The cast is rounded off nicely with Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver.

With that said. I share my final thoughts… Nichols is still a very highly respected director, but might have fallen from cinematic grace, to a certain degree. But don’t worry, Sir…for you are not alone. Your unfortunate companions include Woody Allen, John Landis, Brian DePalma, Francis Coppola…just to name a few.

The curtain draws on another passionate presentation of our love for cinema and the players responsible. Join us next week when I, Jer, takes the wheel on a ‘bumpy ride’ through that wacky road we call HOLLYWOOD! As always we will SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

JER'S TURN: FILM RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK- HANNAH AND HER SISTERS

JER: Greetings readers…both JC and I are coming out of a Memorial Weekend and really didn’t have much time to put thoughts together because JC was also out of town. With that said, we carried through with me kicking things off again this week. My ‘Recommendation of the Week’ is more diverse, yet selective this week. In a fit of desperation with the desert lifestyle, seeing that I currently live near the Palm Springs area in California...I long for a little East Coast state of mind! I love my L.A., don't get me wrong, but it's good to leave the hustle and the heat and take on a cooler and sophisticated route that made me select this week's contender, HANNAH AND HER SISTERS.

Woody Allen, by this point, had already made a reputation for acting/ writing/ directing intelligent and thoughtful comedies, but really fine-tuned his craft with HANNAH! A Superb cast: (Best Supporting Actor winner) Michael Caine, Barbara Hershey, Diane Weist, Mia Farrow, Max Von Sydow and Allen... the dialog is engaging and smart. I would love to spend a day with any one of them and talk classic art and stroll through a museum discussing the fall of the social and artistic view of the Western Civilization within the last century! (You see what I mean?)

To give you a brief summary of the storyline, HANNAH (played by Mia Farrow) is the eldest daughter of three sisters growing up in New York. The other two sisters are Lee (Barbara Hershey) and Holly (Diane Wiest). There is a complexity to involving ourselves in the lives of these sisters… marriage, divorce, happiness, neurotic behavior, dating and raising a family.

Hannah, the sister, works as a balance point for the family. She is stable, a loving wife and mother and supporter of her younger sisters’ lives. However, things begin to go ‘off- balance’ when Hannah’s husband Elliot (Michael Caine) falls in love with Lee. A ‘courtship’ almost begins as Elliot tries to pursue Lee. Not knowing exactly how to perceive things, Lee is also involved in a relationship with stuffy-shirt Frederick (Max Von Sydow). Hannah’s ex-husband Mickey (Woody Allen) thinks he might be dying and re-enters Hannah’s life to try to do right by her for his wrong-doings. Meanwhile, Holly is single and in need for a little attention as we follow her desperate attempts at capturing men’s attention.

A great infusion of drama, heart-break and comedy... HANNAH was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, winning three for Best Supporting Actor (Michael Caine), Best Supporting Actress (Dianne Wiest) and Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen). It still remains to be a peaking point for Allen that, alas, has failed to reproduce since. So, pour a nice glass of wine and snuggle up to a comfy coach and enjoy this modern classic!

JOHNNY CHAZ: It is sensational to see you highlight a Woody Allen film this week.

The truth is Jer, that if you spent any time with these characters (key word: characters) - you would spend about 10 minutes discussing art and culture and the rest of your time playing psychiatrist to their internal struggles, unreasonable relationship demands and maniacal childhood memories whilst going home alone and feeling suicidal.

These characters hate NYC when they are there, and love it when they are not - that is the bare truth. This is ultimately happens when people are unhappy with "who" they are. These are, bar none - neurotic (perfect example would be the Diane Weist character), corrupt (internally) New Yorkers.

Hershey truly overshadows Mia in this film - at least that is my opinion. Michael Caine is also wonderful in his role and Woody Allen's appearance saves the film ultimately.

What is sad though is that this is, for many - their first experience and look at a Woody Allen film. We have seen Woody Allen slowly dwindle and become weak as time has marched on. As in virtually any other film out there, the 60's and 70's were, without a doubt the finest hour for Woody Allen. Between 1976 and 1979 we were treated to such gems as: ANNIE HALL, INTERIORS, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, HUSBANDS AND WIVES and MANHATTAN which are all films that rank in my top 200 and one of them in my top 2 of all time. Then, we see some experimentation in the 1980's - audiences became bored and needed something "visual" to entice them - and less writing. Along comes ZELIG, “Hannah and da Sistaz”, and of course RADIO DAYS. I enjoyed them all - ZELIG the most out of the three, but the "feeling" - the "aura" just was not there for me the way it was in the 70's. We then move into the modern era with disasters like "SMALL TIME CROOKS, THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION and the ultimate disaster, MATCH POINT. Scarlett Johannsen is no "muse" and never will be. Can we really compare her to the likes of Diane Keaton in the scenes of ANNIE HALL? No, no no. Still, I will give some credit to VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA as that was a nice blast to the past mirroring the work of Woody Allen in the 70's.

With HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, we have a decent blend of comedy and drama. All 3 of these actresses are very good in this film. As a matter of fact, probably one of my favorite moments in the film is towards the end when the three women are having lunch and the camera pans around giving us a real inside look at the characters. Another saving grace in this film is Woody himself as his character finally jolts some energy into a lackluster film at that point. His wittiness, hypochondriac behavior and his facial expressions are priceless.

I always looked at HANNAH AND HER SISTERS like this: A decent way to kill a couple of hours in your day; Good performances; nice blends of comedy and drama; little substance and marginal writing. It does not surprise me that Woody Allen was never really a big fan of this film - in fact, he scorns it. And what is it with 80's and 90's films that always have to take place inside someone's dining room over Thanksgiving dinner? Pass.

HANNAH AND HER SISTERS is a good film, but in this critic's opinion - not nearly one of Allen's best. Still, it is a much more appealing piece of work than what Allen is placing on the screen in this modern era. I hate to say this, but frankly I find it a little dull - the sets, the aura, the energy and the writing just simply do not compare to the likes of ANNIE HALL or MANHATTEN.

And why does the film feel the need to give us a title prior to each scene detailing what the next scene was going to be about? That is ridiculous. A Screenplay nomination and winner in 1986? How did that happen? It would have never been nominated if it had been released 10 years earlier - and that is a guarantee.

In sum, I guess the way I look at HANNAH AND HER SISTERS is this way: You know when you go out for a fabulous dinner and then the next night you eat all the left-overs from that meal in the fridge? Maybe that's what has happened in this film - we get the same elements, but not as tasty. We get decent characters, but little plot. We get people on the screen backstabbing one another, but the audience really cannot "mentally" get into this film - thus creating an experience that really is not that enjoyable. Leftovers - a blend of prior Woody Allen films tossed onto a cutting board and then cut-up up with a $9.95 Slap Chop kitchen device.

It is lines like: "I don't want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light." that make the early Woody Allen films so great - so stylish, and so opinionated that something such as HANNAH AND HER SISTERS simply cannot compare on any level.

Film Grade: 6.5/10

JER: With all due respect, I think that you are still fully giving HANNAH the respect it deserves. I will agree with you, JC, that Allen just cannot seem to capture the essence of the winning characters and stories he once had complete control of…but HANNAH is still a wonderfully made film in my eyes.

I will agree with your comments about the films that followed…I couldn’t get on the MATCH POINT bandwagon. I couldn’t see what everyone enjoyed about that depressing work. Don’t get me started on VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA! What was that all about???

A film I will mention discovering most recently was 2002’s HOLLYWOOD ENDING. This probably as close to ‘classic’ Woody Allen as we will get. Now that movie brought the funny along with the neurotic while keeping a pulse on Allen’s creative story writing and character development.

The focus here will remain on HANNAH AND HER SISTERS. A sophisticated, humorous and complex story wrapped up with equally sophisticated, humorous and complex characters…a fun film to watch and relish in the classic telling of Woody Allen’s point of view of life in New York with three sisters!

We will kick things off in high gear next week when JC takes the wheel with his subject of choice…so, until then, we will SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!