Before And After A Solid Crime Drama

Courtesy: Hollywood Pictures/Caravan Pictures/Mill Creek Entertainment

Before and After is not as terrible a story as some critics would have audiences believe.  Anyone that watches television newsmagazines such as Dateline, 20/20, 48 Hours, and the ilk will see that the story behind this movie is not as outrageous as it seems.  Nor are the reactions of the community surrounding Carolyn and Ben Ryan when it’s announced that their son Jacob (Edward Furlong) is a suspect in the murder of his girlfriend, Martha.  While this nation’s justice system says that a person is innocent until proven guilty, the townspeople in the Ryans’ community show the same reaction that people in the real world instantly show concerning any crime case that’s spread across the various news agencies.

While Liam Neeson has rarely had very good acting roles, this is one time when he is actually at least somewhat convincing.  And as always, veteran Meryl Streep impresses as the distraught mother trying to come to terms with and make sense of everything when her family’s world is turned upside down.  Alfred Molina shines, too, in the role of shyster lawyer Panos Demeris.  Audiences will love to hate him when he tells Carolyn that Jacob is his client.  And he will defend Jacob, even if it means throwing Carolyn under the bus.

The reaction of the townspeople around the Ryans’ is entirely believable.  One look at the news each night shows just how fast people are to judge, rather than sit and wait for the facts to come out about a case.  They instantly take it on themselves to be judge, jury and executioner, when they don’t have the full story.  And their reactions to Jacob’s family are just as believable.  Despite doing what he did, it makes Ben that much more of a sympathetic character to audiences.  He wasn’t thinking in doing what he did.  He wanted only to protect his son. 

That relationship between Ben and Jacob was the true heart of this movie.  While the main story was a crime drama, audiences learn that a fight between the two is what led up to the alleged murder.  Ultimately, the father-son relationship leads to an ending that is bittersweet at best.  But considering everything that Jacob and his family endured thanks to Martha’s death, it’s understandable that the story would end how it did.  That ending won’t be given away.  But it will leave any true movie lover moved as the last scene fades to credits.

Before and After is not a terrible movie by any means.  Is it the most memorable movie ever made in the crime drama genre?  No.  But it is still a movie that’s worth at least one watch.  Odds are that it was unappreciated by so many critics was that it was based so much in reality, rather than being just another over sensationalistic oversexed crime drama/thriller.  It’s a movie that any fan of more realistic crime dramas will enjoy.

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White Squall Less Storm, More Drama

Courtesy: Hollywood Pictures/Mill Creek Entertainment

Jeff Bridges’ 1996 starring vehicle, White Squall, was originally marketed as an action movie.  But the reality of this high seas story is that it is a coming of age story for a group of young men aboard a windjammer.  That’s not entirely a bad thing, though.  While most of the movie’s marketing is centered around the story’s final climactic storm scene, it’s the story itself that makes this movie worth the watch.

Writer Todd Robinson’s adaptation of  Charles Gieg, Jr. and Felix Sutton’s book The Last Voyage of the Albatross, will keep its audience’s attention for its entire two hour and seven minute run time.  As the young men are learning the basics of seamanship before heading out of port, Robinson foreshadows the troubles to come when one of them comes far too close to accidentally hanging himself.  It rather contradicts the belief that the albatross is a good luck charm.  For those that may not know, this is a direct reference to Samuel Ttaylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. 

Rather than having good luck, the young men have to face Cuban miltiary forces on their way to the infamous Bay of Pigs and even an unstable crewmate who does something so terrible that it makes Sheldon (Jeff Bridges) throw him off of the boat.  They also have to get shots for STD’s after their encounters with a group of Dutch girls to whom they play host to for a short while.  Through it all, the crew becomes close friends, and grow to be men during their voyage, helping to save each other in the final climactic storm scene. 

The only real major downside to this entire movie would be that after the final storm scene, the story drags on for roughly another twenty minutes or so that it didn’t need.  Other than that, White Squall is a good action/drama that still holds its own over fifteen years after its original debut.

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Born Yesterday Reboot Bridges Hollywood’s Past And Present


Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment/Hollywood Pictures

Shakespeare, it’s been said, is the single greatest playwrite of all time.  So many of the movies that audiences have enjoyed since Hollywood’s golden age have been at least loosely based on his works.  In its most basic roots, this remake of the 1950 movie by the same name is itself based on Shakespeare’s Taming of The Shrew.  One could easily go into a long drawn out history lesson, explaining those roots.  But suffice to say that while it’s true that this remake is anything but original, perhaps understanding that its roots are in Shakespearian literature will get audiences interested in the bard’s classic work.  that being noted, those who would instantly criticize this movie should take into account that it’s not the first work to ever rip off another work.

Now that being out of the way, this update of Taming of The Shrew, Pygmalion, and of course 1950’s Born yesterday may not be the best remake ever crafted.  But it is still a good escape for the course of its near two hour run time.  Anyone who has ever seen Pygmalion or My Fair lady, or even The Taming of The Shrew will enjoy seeing Billie (Griffith) become a more self assured woman, from the ditzy character that she started out as.  And being that John Goodman is so known for good guy roles, it was nice to see him take a heel turn for once.  And female audiences will cheer Billie for her reaction after she’s beaten by Harry at one point.  Her reaction is one that so few battered women have, and should serve as an example of what they should do.  It showed that she had become a truly empowered woman.  That final moment of her growth is perhaps the most powerful.

The budding romance between Billie and Paul (Johnson) is cheesy to say the least.  But when placed against her treatment by Harry, it makes Billie that much more of a sympathetic character.  Both male and female audiences will find themselves cheering for her, not wanting her to give up on herself, although they know that Paul won’t let her give up. 

Perhaps the funniest part of the movie isn’t so much in the story or its romance subplot.  It’s in the spoof of Washington politics.  When Paul teaches Billie what to say at a gala, he reveals just how little most beltway insiders really know, and how they let political jargon do all the talking, rather than themselves.  Even fans of National Public Radio will laugh at how the story pokes fun at NPR and the talking heads in the media as a whole.  There is more than just a grain of truth to this joke.

Born yesterday is a remake.  There’s no getting past that.  There are those who would throw jabs at the entire thing simply for the sake of being a remake.  But as shown, it does have its share of high points even with its general lack of originality.  Given, it’s not exactly original.  But in its defense, those who would criticize it shoudl also criticize Reese Witherspoon’s 2001 movie, Legally Blonde.  That movie is a near direct take off of this remake.  At least in the case of this remake, audiences are given a means to actually do what movies are meant to do for viewers.  It gives its viewers the ability to suspend their disbelief and escape into the story if only for the single watch.

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Gone Fishin’ Proves Comedy Can Be Funny And Family Friendly

Courtesy: Caravan Pictures/Hollywood Pictures/Mill Creek Entertainment

In the world of comedies, there are buddy comedies and then there is “Gone Fishin’.”  This outrageously funny flick will bring the entire family to tears with laughter.  It’s one part “Dumb and Dumber” (only funny) and one part “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”  It proves that comedy can be funny without going blue.  That’s thanks both to the writing of uber writer/director/producer J.J. Abrams and Jill Mazursky, along with the acting of Joe Pesci and Danny Glover.
“Gone Fishin’” was originally released in 1997.  Much like so much other comedy of the 90’s, it was comedy that for the most part was family friendly.  So having it brought back to light on blu-ray is like unearthing a relic from a bygone era.  Both the writing team of Abrams and Mazursky, and the acting duo of Pesci and Glover are to be commended for their parts in bringing this near Three Stooges-esque story to life.  Joe Pesci was a laugh riot in his own right throughout this movie.  Considering his resume, he was a natural choice.  That resume includes a pair of teamings with Glover in Lethal Weapon 2 and 3 in 1989 and 1992 respectively. 

Given, the story behind “Gone Fishin’” makes suspension of disbelief next to impossible.  But the movie’s comic elements more than make up for that fact.  Every time that Joe and Gus turn around, something else goes wrong for them.  For instance, watching their boat get pulled away by a train after the same train nearly destroys it comes across as almost cartoonish.  It’s simply one of many funny moments for the whole family.  And Joe and Gus themselves are funny.  Their mannerisms, their facial gestures, all of it combined make for plenty of laughs for the entire family.  Again, one can’t help but make at least light comparisons to the style of comedy that made the Three Stooges popular.    

“Gone Fishin’” is a funny movie.  There are those who would compare it to the pair’s teaming in Lethal Weapon 2 and 3, and automatically slam it.  So be it.  But that comparison isn’t entirely fair as that is comparing apples to oranges.  If anything can be said of the movie that’s bad, it’s Joe Pesci trying way too hard to come across as a New Jersey native.  And while his comic delivery is over the top, to say the least, it’s so over the top that it’s funny.  Even though it may not be the most memorable of comedies, “Gone Fishin’” is still by and large a great, fun, turn off your brain comedy for the whole family any day of the week.

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