Catch Me if You Can is the third installment in Steven Spielberg’s Running Man trilogy. A series of unrelated films with an on-the-run theme. Catch Me if You Can is based on the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr. A teenage con artist who was somehow able to successfully trick people into thinking he was a Pan Am pilot, a Georgia doctor, and a Louisiana lawyer. He started out small by posing as a substitute teacher, but after his parents divorce he begins forging checks. Frank goes on the run under the alias Barry Allen (The Flash) when his cons attract the attention of the FBI. In particular Carl Hanratty, who makes it his personal mission to track him down. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks give terrific performances and Spielberg is the only director who I feel can make this story as fascinating as it is. Plus the opening theme is catchy. The most baffling thing about Catch Me if You Can though, is how clueless people can be. The fact that nobody could figure out the checks were forged. The fact that Frank posed as a pilot without actually flying the plane. The fact that Frank posed as a doctor without performing a procedure. The fact that Frank posed as a lawyer without convicting people. How is it he evaded capture for as long as he did? Still it’s entertaining and even funny the way things play out. Catchy Me if You Can is a fast paced journey into ill gotten success.
Minority Report is the second installment in Steven Spielberg’s Running Man trilogy. A series of unrelated films with an on-the-run theme. Minority Report takes place in a future where crime, including murder, can be stopped before it happens. In other words, PreCrime. A police department that uses three psychic individuals with precognitive (Precogs for short) abilities to predict future crimes. Something that can be good, because you can stop murders before they happen. But also bad, because technically the criminal hasn’t done anything yet. I don’t imagine this future will ever be possible. Tom Cruise plays John Anderton, the police captain in charge of PreCrime. John goes on the run when one of the predictions turns out to be himself killing a man he’s never met. This role fits Tom Cruise very well since he’s always running in his movies. Unlike most high concept science fiction movies though, I was actually able to follow Minority Report very well. Spielberg is really good at presenting high concepts like this in an easy to understand action packed way. Along with the future crimes, this future also includes: personalized advertisements, cars that drive on walls, enormous highways, and glove operated holograms. Some people criticized the happy ending. Which is different from the mostly high stakes tone of the movie, but what else would you expect from Steven Spielberg. The only problem I had with it is that it lead to the mediocre TV series. Minority Report has a future as one of Spielberg’s best sci-fi action thrillers.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence is the first installment in Steven Spielberg’s Running Man trilogy. A series of unrelated films with an on-the-run theme. A.I. Artificial Intelligence takes place in a future where most of the population has been wiped out by global warming. So humanoid robots called Mecha are built in their place. With current advancements in robotics, a less life like version of this could happen one day. One family in particular adopts a robot boy named David as a replacement for their coma stricken son. David was designed to feel unconditional love, but like all robot stories, he becomes self aware. Leading his “mother” to abandon him in the middle of nowhere. David goes on the run along with his robot toy Teddy and friendly robot Gigolo Joe, in order to become a real boy. The story draws many parallels with Pinocchio. It might surprise you to know A.I. was actually Stanley Kubrick’s idea. Before he passed away he asked Spielberg to direct it. That’s why A.I. is bleak and optimistic at the same time. With Haley Joel Osment playing David in his last high profile role as a child star. I avoided A.I. for the longest time (I only knew the Simpsons parody) because I knew the movie’s reputation for being sad, but also schmaltzy. While the ending is kinda dumb, I love my mom too much for it not to make me cry. A.I. Artificial Intelligence is a mixed bag, but probably the best version of Pinocchio we’ve gotten in a long time.
Annie (2014) did what a lot of other famous stories have done in the past. It made its principle characters black. Well just Annie and Daddy Warbucks. The rest of the cast is still primarily white. Annie (2014) also takes place in the modern day. Not even the 1982 Annie took place in modern day. Since the story traditionally takes place in the great depression. Quvenzhané Wallis plays Annie B. B because the original Annie (Annie A.) appears briefly in the movie. The story is mostly the same, only with more contemporary changes. Annie is still an orphan living under Miss Hannigan who gets adopted by a billionaire, but the similarities stop there. Daddy Warbucks’ name is changed to Will Stacks. Since there’s no way a black guy (let alone Jamie Foxx) would be named Warbucks. His occupation was also changed to cell phone mogul. While Foxx and Wallis give it their best, Annie (2014) falls short. Being the youngest award nominee Quvenzhané Wallis is a great actress, but strangely enough, not much of a singer. The songs are the same, but they did something I hate to see in musical remakes. They added new songs. There’s also far too much modern technology and pop culture references. The worst thing about the remake though is Cameron Diaz. Her Miss Hannigan is over the top, cringy, and bizarrely awful. Annie (2014) probably means well, but I’d stick to the 1982 version if I were you.
Remake of: Annie (1982)
Annie has a surprisingly long and storied history. It might surprise you to know that the character Annie is as old as 1924. She made her debut in the creepy comic strip series Little Orphan Annie. A series popular for its socio political commentary. It was creepy because characters had vacant circles for eyes. Annie comics became so popular they spawned an equally popular radio series (as seen in A Christmas Story) and of course a broadway musical. The musical is where we got such iconic songs as “It’s the Hard Knock Life” and Annie’s signature song “Tomorrow.” It was only a matter of time before America’s favorite redheaded little orphan got her very own movie. I first saw Annie in my elementary school music class. Parts of it were fast forwarded, but I later ended up watching it in its entirety. I fell in love with the songs and the story. Annie is all about Annie and her fellow orphans who live under their mean caretaker Miss Hannigan (played by the incomparable Carol Burnett). Until Annie and her dog Sandy are taken to live with billionaire Oliver Warbucks (with Albert Finney in the role). While Annie is a great musical, it doesn’t exactly have a glowing reception. It’s a bit longer then it has to be and not everything outside of music works. The actress playing Annie, Aileen Quinn, isn’t much of an actress, but who cares when she can sing. Music is what we love Annie for. That’s why this version of Annie is such a delight.
A Quiet Place is scary beyond words. It’s the equivalent of a feature length jump scare. I was intrigued the moment I saw the mostly silent trailer. Although I decided not to see A Quiet Place in theaters since I didn’t trust the audience to stay quiet. So instead I watched the movie on DVD and sound proofed my room. A Quiet Place is produced by Michael Bay’s unlikely horror studio Platinum Dunes and directed by the mostly comedic John Krasinski. More intriguing was Krasinski both directing and starring alongside his real life wife Emily Blunt.
A Quiet Place is only 1 hour & 30 minutes with the simple, but terrifying premise of blind aliens hunting humanity using only sound. The Death Angels are grotesque creatures that are difficult to kill due to their dense armor. No explanation is needed for their arrival. Although it could’ve been part of Cloverfield, A Quiet Place is too original to be part of an ongoing franchise. A Quiet Place follows the Abbott family who must remain silent or else risk being killed by the creatures. Krasinski is the survivalist father Lee, Blunt is his caring wife Evelyn, Noah Jupe is their self-sufficient son Marcus, and Millicent Simmonds is their deaf daughter Regan.
The Abbotts have survived for so long by using a sandy path to walk on, using sign language to communicate, and only using sound to lure the creatures away. The opening sets the mood with the tragic loss of the Abbott’s youngest son. Even in this post-apocalyptic future, the themes of parenthood are made clear with the Abbotts having a baby one year later. I was left on the edge of my seat everytime sound suddenly fills their quiet farm life. Especially during the nail scene, silo scene, and birthing scene. Not everyone survives by the end, but the alien’s weakness makes a lot of sense for their hypersensitive hearing. Leading to an abrupt, but satisfying ending. A Quiet Place says so much with so little.
Followed by: A Quiet Place Part II
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde has an even punnier title then Legally Blonde. Although I think “Red, White, & Pink” would have been a better title. Having Blonde in the title twice is kinda dumb. Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde is pretty much the same as the first movie. With Elle Woods still dealing with being taken seriously as a fashion forward lawyer. Only this time with a change of venue. This time Elle takes a case all the way to Washington. If you thought the first movie was far fetched, the sequel is just hard to take seriously. Elle attempts to change a law for animal testing, because she wants her chihuahua’s mother to be present at her wedding. It’s an issue I can get behind, but the execution is a different story. By turning congress into one big party. Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde is not nearly as funny as it was the first time around. They sort of lost me about halfway through with one joke in particular. I still love Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods, but Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde is not a bill I want to sign.
Preceded by: Legally Blonde
Legally Blonde has the punniest title I’ve ever seen. Being a play on the term “legally blind” and referring to the premise at the same time. Legal because it’s about law school. Blonde because it’s about a valley girl. Elle Woods is a sorority sister/president and fashion student who loves pink. Everything goes well for her until her boyfriend breaks up with her. Being a law student, he feels he should marry a Jackie instead of a Marilyn. Instead of let him go, Elle decides to apply to Harvard Law School and become a lawyer just to get him back. Legally Blonde is far fetched, but probably not too hard to imagine. Reese Witherspoon actually plays Elle as friendly, polite, and even smart. Not like a stereotypical valley girl. More like a realistic one. When Elle does become a lawyer, she does it in her own way. By using what she knows. Making Elle Woods an unconventional, but still fabulous lawyer. Legally Blonde has many memorable moments. Elle’s Harvard acceptance video with my favorite line, “I object!”. The bend and snap scene, Elle dressed as a Playboy bunny, and the final court case. Legally Blonde proves that even lawyers can wear pink.
Followed by: Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde
We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story is one of those movies you forget exists. I only watched it because my brother forced it on me. Not being Disney, I just didn’t care. We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story was released in 1993, produced by Steven Spielberg, and is about bringing dinosaurs into the modern world. It’s exactly the same as Jurassic Park, but guess which one became more popular? We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story is just dumber in its choices. Prehistoric dinosaurs are fed brain grain and become smarter. A time traveling inventor with an alien assistant do this to fulfill children’s wishes to see dinosaurs. Juvenile is probably the best word to describe it. Most of the voice actors are especially weird for a movie like this. I’m not sure how Walter Cronkite, Julia Child, Jay Leno, or Larry King are supposed to appeal to children. I also didn’t think the four main dinosaurs were all that interesting. They’re too smart to be funny or memorable. I thought the kids were more interesting. Well mostly just the Lisa Simpson clone (it’s Yeardley Smith’s only other voice role). We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story should remain extinct.
Spy has a simple title, but a lot to offer in its genre. How is it possible no other movie has just been titled Spy? Let alone a serious spy movie. Well Spy once again brings together Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig. A man who (for the most part) knows how to make good female lead comedies. Spy centers on Susan Cooper. A Melissa McCarthy type who works at the CIA assisting her partner from behind a desk. Her partner is your average suave secret agent, but when he’s presumed dead, it’s up to Susan to step in. Even though she’s not exactly what you’d call a traditional spy. Which is why she goes undercover as a crazy cat lady. Spy was actually way more funny then I thought it would be. Melissa McCarthy is also way more physical and badass then you’d think from a comedy with this premise. Action star Jason Statham is also surprisingly hilarious. He really should do more comedies. So if you love spy movies, I highly recommend checking Spy out.