Leslie Nielsen, 1926-2010

This is truly an amazing time we live in.  As I was playing in a freeroll tournament online, the Tweetdeck window I had open to the side started lighting up with the news of Leslie Nielsen’s passing.  Being the cynical person I am, I refused to believe it until major news outlets confirmed the news an hour later.

While Nielsen enjoyed a career that started in the 50s, I, like many of my friends, was introduced to him as one of the stars of Airplane! and Police Squad.  With the release of The Naked Gun, he was firmly cemented in my head as the guy who always played the bumbling straight man.  However, that was not fair to his career.

As I learned more about him each time he released a new comedy, I was astonished to learn about his early career as a dramatic actor, particularly one that played the villain.  About 15 years ago, I found one of his last villain roles while flipping channels – his role as a controlling, vengeful husband in Creepshow.  Seeing the pure malice and homicidal emotions that easily played across his face, I instantly understood why everyone was amazed at his ability to do comedy.As a side note, it seems that every time I find Creepshow playing, it is always during his vignette.

While most online blogs and articles are using some form of the “Shirley” line to end their tributes, I think Mr. Nielsen would approve of the use of his closing line from Creepshow to end this tribute (particularly given the circumstances causing death):

<maniacal laughing> “I can hold my breath a long time…gurgle….a long time……gurgle….”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Who knew when JK Rowling released the first Harry Potter book in 1997 that the world would have 7 books, 8 movies, and a theme park area by 2011?  This is the one case where “synergy” is an appropriate term.  I do not feel that the books would have gained popularity without the movies, and I do not think all of the movies would have been made had the books not been so good.  What is also unique about this time is that we have a book series and a film series that has appealed to everyone and that has a whole generation that has grown up with it.  This an amazing phenomenon.

What has also been good is that the movies have matured as the characters have matured.  This has led to more dynamic movies with complex plots.  Had all seven books been the same level as the first one, this series would not have made it past three movies.  So it is fitting that with the final book we get the darkest, most complex of movies.

Many other have indicated how this is the “Empire Strikes Back” of the series and I agree.  The main characters are on the run and each victory they have incurs a great price.  Emma Watson has been getting a lot of notice for her acting in this movie and rightly so.  For a movie that was essentially a set-up for the explosive final movie, there is a lot of action and a lot of good imagery.

My advice: pay full price, but no need to pay extra for IMAX or (when it is released, 3-D); the movie is big enough on normal screens to satisfy any moviegoer…

Due Date

Ever since the days of Hope and Crosby, moviegoers have been suckers for the “buddy comedy.”  We gladly went with the duo on their many adventures in the “Road” pictures, but soon we wanted something different, but the same.  Enter Martin and Lewis, who remind us of the days of Laurel and Hardy.  Over the years, we see the group expand and contract, but one constant has remained as a thread from the “Road” pictures to Smokey & The Bandit to Midnight Run to Eurotrip to Harold & Kumar Go To The White Castle – get from point A to point B while encountering as many absurd roadblocks as possible.

So here is our latest entry – Due Date.

Due Date is the story of an uptight business man (Robert Downey, Jr.) who encounters a free-spirit actor (Zach Galifinakis) while trying to get home in time for the birth of his baby.  What follows is supposed to be a road trip filled with absurdity and laughter.  Unfortunately, much of this was covered specifically with Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and Tommy Boy.  There are funny moments, but not enough to call it a decent plot.  Unlike the other movies I have named in this review, Due Date is filled with forgettable moments.  Most people will have forgotten this movie exists within the next 5 years.

My advice:  Dollar theater or matinee – I was glad I did not pay full price for this one…

due date

Musical Memory for 11/14 – 11/20

In other reviews and editorials, I think I have made it pretty clear about how important I feel music is to a movie.  There are some directors that even agree with me, going so far as to treat the soundtrack as another character to be woven into the story.  Today’s memory has to do with one such director: Quentin Tarantino.

Just the mention of his name evokes strong reactions regarding his movies.  When being interviewed after the release of Pulp Fiction, he talked about how he wanted a certain sound to go with what was on-screen.  He had done this previously with Resevoir Dogs, the subject of this memory.  In the movie regarding a heist gone sour, Tarantino used 70s music to create links to movies like Dog Day Afternoon.  In arguably the most famous scene of Resevoir Dogs, Michael Madsen is in the process of torturing a cop.  Steven Wright, our “radio” narrator, introduces another classic from the 70s, “Stuck In The Middle With You” by Stealers Wheels.   As the song plays, Madsen starts dancing around and ends up chopping off the ear of the cop.

Just to give you an idea of how powerul this imagery is, I was watching Morning Glory the other day and heard Michael Buble’s version.  As soon as it started playing, I flashed for a second on Resevoir Dogs before returning focus to the movie.

So, whenever I hear “Stuck In The Middle With You,” I think of Resevoir Dogs…