Movie Favorite

THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1991)

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Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 99 min.

Tully Alford has been the Addams family lawyer for years.  He knows how odd the family is, often sees the children Wednesday and Pugsley attempting to dismember each other while their parents watch affectionately, and jumps every time the disembodied hand “Thing” crawls at him across the floor.  But he also knows of Gomez and Morticia’s immense wealth, and as his creditor Mrs. Craven starts harassing him for payments, he concocts a plan to steal the Addams family fortune.  Mrs. Craven’s son, Gordon, will pose as Gomez’s long lost brother, Fester, get close to the family, and rob the vault.  The plan seems perfect, but the Addams family’s unusual customs make operations more difficult than they had anticipated and may even threaten the conspirators’ sanity.

I grew up watching and loving the TV series, and I find this film hilarious.  The comedy is based in silliness and slapstick, and the overall eccentricity of the characters and bizarre, quirky tone of the film make it a lot of fun.  Also Wednesday Addams has some of the best lines in movie history.  One of my favorites!

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

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Director: Charles Barton
MPAA Rating: Not Rated (released before MPAA Ratings)
Running Time: 83 min

When Chick and Wilbur are preparing to deliver two large crates to McDougall’s House of Horrors, they receive a mysterious phone call from a Mr. Talbot warning them of impending danger.  Chick dismisses the phone call as superstitious nonsense and orders Wilbur to help him with the crates.  In the middle of their delivery, however, Wilbur discovers that the crates contain the real bodies of Dracula and the Frankenstein monster and that they are both alive.  Before Mr. McDougall arrives to inspect his merchandise, the monsters have escaped and Chick and Wilbur are arrested.  Joan Raymond, who works for McDougall’s insurance company, arranges for their release so that she can tail them–hoping they will lead her to what she believes to be the stolen wax figures of Frankenstein and Dracula.  Meanwhile, Talbot shows up and announces that he believes Wilbur that the monsters are alive.  He also claims to be a werewolf, which neither Chick nor Wilbur fully believes.  And as if matters weren’t complicated enough, Wilbur’s girlfriend, Sandra, seems to be somehow involved with Count Dracula.  Everything will come together when Chick, Wilbur, Sandra, Talbot, Miss Raymond, and McDougall attend a costume party near Dracula’s mansion.

Abbott and Costello are a classic comedy duo, perhaps best known for their “Who’s On First?” routine. Meet Frankenstein is my favorite of their films, as it combines all of their wonderful slapstick, wordplay, and silliness with a dose of creepy suspense.  Also, Bela Lugosi as Dracula!  If you like silly comedies and classic films, you should definitely check this one out.

THE KING’S SPEECH (2010)

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Director: Tom Hooper
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 118 min

The second son of Edward V, Prince Albert never thought he would ascend the throne.  He was a career military man, and his terrible stutter and fear of speaking in public made him loathe the occasions on which he was called upon to act as a statesman.  But through the gentle prodding of his wife, Elizabeth, Bertie struck up a professional relationship and later friendship with Lionel Logue, an unconventional speech therapist.  Where other speech therapists had failed, Lionel succeeded in giving the prince tricks and techniques for overcoming his stutter and–most importantly–in giving him confidence in his own ability to speak.  As the political climate in Britain grows tense due to George V’s death, Edward VIII’s relationship with a divorced American, and Hitler’s mounting aggression, and with the new prominence of the radio as a means of communication, Bertie’s realizes that his voice will be critical in uniting the nation.

This film took numerous Academy Awards in 2011 including Best Picture.  It is the best film I have seen in a long time.  The cast includes some of my favorite actors (including Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham-Carter, and Colin Firth) all of whom I have seen in many, many films. Yet when I watched The King’s Speech, I forgot who they were.  I forgot I was watching actors; I became so absorbed in the world of the film, and there were no actor mannerisms or vocal cues or anything else to jerk me out of that illusion.  I loved the color, the lighting, the cinematography, the soundtrack, and the screenplay.  I know it probably needs no recommendation since it won so many awards, but I don’t always enjoy award winners as much as I enjoyed this film.  If you prefer action-packed adventure stories, this film may not be for you.  But if you enjoy films with an emphasis on character and relationships, I highly recommend it.

JUNO (2007)

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Director: Jason Reitman
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 96 min

Juno MacGuff is not one of the popular girls (she describes herself as “freaky”) but she has the self-confidence, individuality, and snarky sense of humor to make her stand out from the others in her high school.  When she realizes that a one-night-stand with her friend Bleeker has left her pregnant, she briefly considers having an abortion, but instead decides to have the baby and put it up for adoption.  With the support of her family and friends, she finds a childless couple (Mark and Vanessa) and sets off on the adventure of pregnancy.

Juno is a funny, instantly endearing character, whose choices and experiences are both remarkable and genuine.  The story is really a study in relationships–friendships, marriages, romances, and families.  But it is Juno’s wry sense of humor that makes the movie.  This is one of my favorites, and I highly recommend it!

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)

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I watched this old favorite the other day, and since today is Mary Shelley’s birthday, it seemed like the perfect day to blog about it!

Director: Mel Brooks
MPAA Rating: PG*
Running Time: 106 min.

In this parody of classic Frankenstein movies, young Frederick Frankenstein inherits his grandfather’s estate and travels to Transylvania to investigate his grandfather’s work.  Although he swore never to get involved in experimentation with the reanimation of dead tissue, when he discovers a book of instructions in his grandfather’s library, he decides to make a creature of his own.  Unfortunately, his eager assistant Eye-gor has a mishap at the Brain Depository, and things don’t go exactly as planned. . . .

A hilarious blend of slapstick comedy, witty wordplay, and just general silliness, this movie never gets old.  Actually, I probably laugh more now than I did the first time I saw it because I know what jokes are coming up and start cracking up early.  If you haven’t seen this movie, and you enjoy silly ridiculous comedies, I highly recommend it!  Also, Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Peter Boyle, and Teri Garr.  Need I say more?

*This was rated PG before there was PG-13.  Nowadays, it would probably have qualified for the slightly higher rating.

THE INCREDIBLES (2005)

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In the “Glory Days,” Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and other superheroes used their powers to protect the citizens and keep the world free from crime.  But when a series of lawsuits force all of the supers to stop their hero work and adopt their secret identities as their only identities, Mr. Incredible (Bob Parr) finds himself stuck in a miserable, dead-end job, listening to police scanners at night just to try for a little excitement.  Elastigirl (Helen) disapproves of her husband’s moonlighting hero work, because every time he gets caught, they have to uproot the family and go into hiding somewhere else.  After a moment of violent anger loses him his job at the insurance company, Bob discovers a message from a mysterious woman named Mirage who addresses him as Mr. Incredible and offers him a high paying job capturing a government-designed attack droid.  Bob tells Helen that his company is sending him to a conference, and flies off to a volcanic island to meet Mirage.  But it quickly becomes clear that there is more going on that a simple government mission.  In the end it will take all of the Incredibles–Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Violet (who can turn invisible and create force fields), and Dash (whose power is speed)–to take down the super villain and save the world from destruction.

This is one of my favorite movies of all time.  The characters are brilliantly imagined, the realistic family tensions weave beautifully into the superhero/action/adventure story, and the screenwriting is hilarious.  It’s a great movie for both kids and adults!

SNEAKERS (1992)

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Director: Phil Alden Robinson
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time 126 min.

I re-watched this old favorite of mine over the weekend.

In the 1970s, Martin Brice and his friend Cosmo dreamed of changing the world.  They used their skill with computers to hack into the financial accounts of organizations with whose political philosophy they disagreed and donating their money to more worthy causes.  It was a thrilling game, and Marty was sure they’d never be caught.

Nearly twenty years later, Cosmo has died in prison and Marty, who never did get caught, is still on the run from the law.  Under the alias Martin Bishop, he runs an organization of brilliant technical and criminal minds who make a living being hired by banks and corporations to test out their security systems—by trying to stage a break in.  They’re the best in the business.  But when the NSA shows up at Marty’s door and threaten to reveal  his identity if he does not help them get their hands on a foreign scientist’s mysterious black box, Marty and his team have no choice but to take the assignment.  When they discover the truth about the black box’s purpose, they realize they are in way over their heads.

This con/spy/heist film is at once hilarious, suspenseful, and incredibly well-acted.  Marty and his team are played by Robert Redford, Mary McDonnell, Dan Ackroyd, David Strathairn, Sidney Poitier, and River Phoenix, and the personalities of the characters are absolutely wonderful.   Also, early 90s computer technology is always entertaining. . . . I highly recommend this movie!