Airplane (1980)

Great comedy like this doesn’t just fall out of the sky. Much should be remembered about how the three directors worked for years to build a style of comedy in a theater group they would later mold into the 1980 film Airplane! In addition to being laugh-a-minute hilarious, it also stands as evidence that hard work pays off in Hollywood.

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The directors of this film, David and Jerry Zucker as well as Jim Abrahams Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker (abbreviated ZAZ) made something to be quintessentially proud of here. They had worked on the Kentucky Fried Theater group together so they had a lot of experience riffing and coming up with improv stuff before they ever directed any movies. John Landis took their humor they had developed and made it into a film called The Kentucky Fried Movie. It is full of dichotomous humor juxtaposing serious settings and scenes with surreal and slapstick humor. Watching the Landis film yields all sorts of influences seen in Airplane! It is a lot more racy however, specifically in its nudity.

This film stars Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty and features Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Lorna Patterson. There are several other cameos by then well-known actors and celebrities. Robert Hays, the lead actor, was an unknown at the time. He does a good job but his role is more of a cog in a larger machine of comedic actors. Leslie Nielsen is by far the most memorable actor in the film. He had been in loads of episodic television as well as films like The Poseidon Adventure. Though he hadn’t done comedy before, Airplane! showed the world he was a closet comedian.

The film is a fairly simple plot derived from the 1957 film, Zero Hour! Note the exclamation mark in both titles. His serious look helps the deadpan humor work so well. The rest of the cast is side-splitting making the film a must watch for any filmcritic or lover of films.

As a kid growing up in the 80’s, this film was alluring to me. Older kids would talk about it and how their parents let them see it. After all, there is a bare breasted woman in it for about 2 whole seconds (the scandal!). Unfortunately I didn’t see it until after I was 10. I don’t recall my exact age but I know it was in my teens. It was the funniest film I had ever seen. Others have come close since, but I think it still hovers around that ranking with me still.

FINAL THOUGHTS
It’s no wonder Airplane! is one of the worlds funniest films. Its three directors took years to hone their comedic skills and work together. Finally, they put their own money up to pitch the idea to movie studios. After persistence and hard work, the film was made and it remains to this day one of the most exciting and funny films ever made. I recommend it to anyone and everyone.

10/10

The Accountant (2016)

I love watching a film I know hardly anything about that has mediocre scores on Rotten Tomatoes and that surprises the hell out of me to be on my best films of the year list. Watching the Accountant was like that for me.

This is one of Riley’s Great 100 films. In this episode, I read my review of the excellent film “The Accountant.”

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The Accountant
Cast

Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal

Directed by

Gavin O’Connor

Written by

Bill Dubuque

Other Info

Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
R
Fri 14 Oct 2016 UTC
128min
IMDB Rating: 7.4

The rest of this review may contain spoilers

This is a film of two worlds: 1) a history and upbringing of an autistic boy and 2) The path of adulthood and a career for that boy after becoming a man. As it turns out, high functioning autistic people make ingenious accountants. Ben Affleck is this man and he is so good, many underground crime bosses use him to “uncook” their books. Let me reiterate, he is really good at it.

We are catapulted from stories of his youth where his father mercilessly trains him to fight a exist alone to his life as a criminal accountant who’s cool as a cucumber. If you heard he was doing well and not getting caught year after year, you might think to yourself, “Ok, so what’s the problem. This guy has it made.” Wrong. There are some real issues that would prevent the average person from being happy in his shoes. First, he can’t have relationships. His autism gives him tunnel vision and he is literally unable to walk away from projects. He attempts a relationship with Anna Kendrick but it never really pans out because of his disorder. In more than one way, it gets in the way.

In this film we see what Affleck’s character can do as a result of his father’s horrifying training. He is a machine when it comes to fighting. He is able to see details no one else does and this makes him not only an accounting weapon but also what we might call a para-military soldier and killer.

So, these are just some if the amazingly creative particulars written into this gem of a film. Affleck is at the top of his game. There are many shoot-em-ups from which he generally emerges victorious. I loved every minute of this film. They say people with autism are on a different level than the rest of us. This film shows that shouldn’t be looked down on. Someone with autism, trained in this way, could save the world. Would he be happy though? The jury’s still out.

10/10

Soap, Gum, and Doing What You Love

runtime: 3m 23s
Keep doing those hobbies, topics, and pet projects that excite you, even if they bring in little or no money. If you’re a writer, write on that stuff you’re most passionate about, despite the popularity “ranking” of the subject matter. Even something as droll as chewing gum has produced rewards in due time.

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I read about Wrigley, the famous gum mogul, tonight on a website. He started selling soap as his main source of income, but kept a secret hobby of making it in the chewing gum market began in his basement. He never thought chewing gum would bring in enough money to be a big business, so he poured himself into the soap as his career. After a time however, the soap didn’t sell as he had hoped. Before long, he would be in chewing gum orbit.

To better market the soap as a novelty, the family started adhering a small package of his tasty gum to each soapbox they sold. After a short time people were buying the soap just to get the gum. You know the rest of the story. Spearmint chewing gum and gum in general is synonymous with his name.

I think the energy in our jobs and in our writing, should not always be spent on what we think will sell, but rather on our pet projects we truly feel invigorated about. We may find, as Wrigley did, that other people like them as well and they may even end up paying us money to continue doing them! Thanks for the life lesson Mr. Wrigley and thank you for Wrigleys chewing gum.

Wrigley’s full history

Two Lovers And a Bear (2016) – My Audio Review

Enter Hemingway, Melville, London … you will like what’s being served at this table. We’ve heard of nature being our indifferent enemy but what to do when that enemy is our own nature. We have not yet begun that process in film and literature, but it’s here in this film … along with a few others through the years.

Two Lovers and a Bear (2016)
R | 1h 36min | Drama, Romance | 16 December 2016 (USA)

Set in a small town near the North Pole where roads lead to nowhere, the story follows Roman (DeHaan) and Lucy (Maslany), two burning souls who come together to make a leap for life and inner peace.
Director: Kim Nguyen
Writer: Kim Nguyen
Stars: Dane DeHaan, Tatiana Maslany, Gordon Pinsent

I almost always love the film when the director also wrote the film. In this case it is Kim Nguyen doing both artistic roles. My hat goes off to him, and I assume he wears a hat also because like me, he is shaved bald. (Gotta love the brother!). I don’t know much about him other than he is known for this and two other films and he is a Canadian: War Witch (2012), Two Lovers and a Bear (2016) and The Marsh (2002). I would put stock in him because this film is something quite different than we are used to seeing. Human v Nature/Human v Self. It’s a gritty psychological drama and God forbid IMDB plot keywords would let us toil in ignorance of these features:

“Plot Keywords: sex on table | sex scene | topless female nudity | female nudity”

Yes, Orphan Black star, Tatiana Maslany, bares her breasts. That’s the easy part of nature no one is too worried about.

All these facts plus the plot basically is two lovers at the North Pole in a barely functioning town. Why they are there is not explicitly mentioned, at least not as much as the breasts are displayed. 😉 There is something about an abusive father in her past and he … likes the drink and he likes the hard drink. Sometimes you gotta just go “right now.” Other times maybe your demons are better dealt with by a heater. This couple is fraught with demons and they decide it’s time to go into the snow, into the storm but not without the help of a very helpful? bear. Dane DeHaan seems to like him. BTW DeHaan is there and does a good job as such. Not much more is needed from the, I wonder if he even likes the White Stripes.

This is no family movie. It’s also not a sweet romance, unless you think of Moby Dick as romantic. Having said that, there is a lot to think about romance here, maybe how “not” to support a lover with baggage. For a gritty tale of love? turmoil and t*** on a table, I do recommend.

9/10

Streaming on Amazon video for $3.99

At time of publishing, July 2017, this film is streaming on Netflix.

My text-based review above was published first on my blog Riley on Film

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

In Spider-Man movies there are constants and there are variables. This film is no different from any previous reboot or sequel that way. The variables are basically that, Peter Parker is a junior in high school. He’s in love with Liz, not Mary Jane. There a new villain named Falcon and the entire film revolves around the Avengers and Tony Stark. See, there are some difference even though it’s another Spidey flick.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
PG-13 | 2h 13min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi | 7 July 2017 (USA)

Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man when a new threat emerges.
Director: Jon Watts
Writers: Jonathan Goldstein (screenplay), John Francis Daley (screenplay) | 10 more credits
Stars: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr.

I used to be put off by superhero movies because of the gargantuan budgets they burned up. I’ve recovered from that now. I go into them like a 16 year old kid just wanting to be entertained and you know what I am much much happier! Having said that, just like always, I am in shock about how much money was burned to make this film. No doubt they will make it back, so it’s ok. It is exciting and there is a lot to awe at. The effects alone are worth a ticket. The story is where I struggled. There are a few twists that you may find to be poor-writing as I did. I won’t get into spoilers but they revolve around a certain un-named-here family member of Liz.

The director is known for Cop Car (2015) and was born in 1981. Nothing wrong in being a young director.

The cast is a palette of thousands along with the 12 credited writers. The main three are Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, and Robert Downey Jr. Tom Holland reminded me so much of Lee Evans in Mouse Hunt:

You might also remember him from There’s Something About Mary

Holland was great: young, little, eager, wiry. I loved him alongside Naomi Watts’ as her oldest son in the Impossible.

He has come a long way! I don’t know what else to say. There won’t be an Oscar but hey this is Spider-Man, WHO CARES? He kicked ass. Go Holland.

Robert Downey Jr. and Michael Keaton were just themselves playing the roles we are used to from them. No changes or surprises. Notwithstanding, great!

For comic book fans and people just out to have a fun Summer day at the theaters, I recommend this to you. It’s not perfect but I know most will not mind that, I didn’t.

9/10

My written text of this episode appeared first at my text-based site Riley on Film.