Mike Kueber's Blog

November 3, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #52 – Easy Rider, Marty, Double Jeopardy, Good Will Hunting, The Pursuit of Happyness, and The Human Contract

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 8:15 pm
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Saturday Night at the Movies #52 – The Human Contract, The Pursuit of Happyness, Good Will Hunting, Easy Rider, and

The Human Contract (2008) is a drama about a highly successful, hard-charging advertising executive with a rocky personal life (and anger-management issues) resulting from childhood incidents that he never came to terms with.  It stars Jason Clarke, who looks and acts strikingly similar to the star of the previous movie that I watched – Gerard Butler in P.S. I Love You.  Fortunately, Clarke’ co-star Paz Vega is ten times more attractive that Butler’ co-star Hilary Swank.  The Human Contract is Jada Pinkett-Smith’s directorial debut, and she also wrote the screenplay.  The Rotten Tomatoes critics score it at 25% and the audience score isn’t much better at 32%.  I loved it, not only because of Vega, but because there are a lot of things about Clarke’s character that I relate to.  For a romantic lead, however, he seems to have run into an ugly stick.  I give it three stars out of four.

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) is described on its Netflix jacket as a tearjerker.  Unfortunately, it fails to deliver the tears because something Will Smith’s character fails to ring true.  How can a young couple, like Smith and his wife Thandie Newton, be so responsible and hard-working as individuals and as parents, yet end up in such dire straits, with Thandie abandoning her family and Smith ending up homeless?  Paradoxically, this implausible story is ostensibly inspired by the true story of Chris Gardner learning to be a successful stock broker while raising his child and being homeless.  The Rotten Tomato critics score it 66%, but the audience totally bought in at 88%.  I don’t buy it, and give it only two out of four stars.

Good Will Hunting (1997) is a coming-of-age movie that brought Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to the world’s attention.  Unknowns Matt and Ben co-wrote the screenplay and won an Oscar for their effort.  Akin to the first Rocky movie, the screenwriters insisted on leading roles for themselves in the movie even though the producers preferred Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio.  Rob Reiner was successful, however, in suggesting that Damon and Affleck revise the plot from a thriller (Damon being coerced to join the FBI) instead a relationship movie.  Lucky for me because I hate thrillers and love relationship movies.  Robin Williams and Minnie Driver co-star and he won a Supporting Oscar while she was nominated.  Damon plays the title character, a 20-year-old loser who happens to be a genius, Affleck plays his best friend, and Williams is his therapist.  The essential character, however, is Minnie Driver as Damon’s Harvard girlfriend.  She makes everything possible for Will Hunting.  I recently commended the closing line in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  The closing line in Good Will Hunting is not in the same league, but it is one of the best ever – “Sean, if the Professor calls about that job, just tell him, sorry, I have to go see about a girl.”  Rotten Tomato critics score the movie at 97% and the audience gives it 92%.  I give it three and a half stars out of four, and hold back a half-star because the set-up is too implausible – I can’t imagine a diamond like Damon to live in obscurity for 20 years.

Double Jeopardy (1999) is a well-made, albeit unremarkable, crime thriller that reminds me of The Fugitive because it involves Tommy Lee Jones chasing a convicted, on-the-run murderer, Ashley Judd, who he comes to realize is innocent.  But there is no romance and no serious relationships, so I give it only one and a half stars out of four.  The Rotten Tomato critics agree with me and give it 25%, while the audience likes more at 68%.  Incidentally, the movie incorrectly asserts that double jeopardy would preclude prosecution against Ashley Judd for killing her husband even though she was previously convicted of the same thing.  Actually, she could be prosecuted because the first conviction was a mistake (he wasn’t dead) and any subsequent actual murder would create a separate offense.

Marty (1955) is a romantic drama set in NYC, with Ernest Borgnine as a 34-year-old Italian butcher who can’t find a wife because he is fat and ugly.  Then he meets a 27-year-old “dog” at a dance, and the two losers seemed to be kindred spirits who enjoyed each other’s company, but his friends and family oppose the romance for their own selfish reasons.  This contrasts with a movie I saw earlier this week – Good Will Hunting – in which lower-class friend Ben Affleck pressures his friend Matt Damon to leave the lower-class neighborhood behind.  Betsy Blair plays the so-called “dog” even though she was good-looking enough in real life to be married to Gene Kelly.  She was nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar, and the film won the Best Movie Oscar, while Borgnine won as Best Actor over an illustrious group of nominees – Frank Sinatra, James Dean (who had died by the time of the ceremony), and former best actor winners Spencer Tracy and James Cagney.  The Rotten Tomato critics score it at 100% and the audience gives it 86%.  I love the setting of 1954 NYC and suspect I lived there in an earlier life, except that in 1954 I was a baby living in North Dakota.  I give the movie four out of four stars.

Easy Rider (1969) is a classic on-the-road movie about the counter-culture movement in the 60s.  It stars Peter Fonda (also co-writer and producer) and Dennis Hopper (also co-writer and director) as two hippies from Los Angeles who decide to travel by motorcycle to Mardi Gras.  Along the way, they enjoy the hospitality of a conservative rancher in Arizona and a libertine commune in New Mexico before finding themselves in a Texas jail with a drunk lawyer (Jack Nicholson, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor).  The Rotten Tomato critics score it at 85%, and the audience likes it almost as much at 80%.  I agree, and give it three stars out of four.  The music is great and the story of kids wanting freedom from an oppressive Establishment is inspiring.  The writing, however, is not great, and Wikipedia reports that there was not much of a script and most of the dialogue was ad-libbed.

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