Thursday, August 28, 2008

Unmissable Movies

Every once in a while, as I am flipping through the channels, I'll come across a movie that I can't turn off for one reason or another. I've had about three come on cable in the last week.


Trading Places. 1983 This is still one hell of a funny movie. Eddie Murphy's break out role (along with 48 hours). Great premise, great fun. I can't get enough of it even after all this time. In this crowd-pleasing 1983 comedy of high finance about a homeless con artist who becomes a Wall Street robber baron, Eddie Murphy consolidated the success of his startling debut in the previous year's 48 Hours and polished his slick-winner persona. The turnabout begins with an argument between super-rich siblings, played by Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche: Are captains of industry, they wonder, born or made? To settle the issue, the meanies construct a cruel experiment in social Darwinism. Preppie commodities trader Dan Aykroyd (perfectly cast) is stripped of all his worldly goods and expelled from the firm, and Murphy's smelly derelict is appointed to take his place, graduating to tailored suits and a world-class harem in record time. Eventually the two men team up to teach the nasty old manipulators a lesson, cornering the market in frozen orange juice futures in the process. Director John Landis (The Blues Brothers) doesn't have the world's lightest touch, but he hits most of the jokes hard and quite a few of them pay off. Trading Places is also a landmark film for fans of Jamie Lee Curtis.


Galaxy Quest. You don't have to be a Star Trek fan to enjoy Galaxy Quest, but it certainly helps. A knowingly affectionate tribute to Trek and any other science fiction TV series of the 1960s and beyond, this crowd-pleasing comedy offers in-jokes at warp speed, hitting the bull's-eye for anyone who knows that (1) the starship captain always removes his shirt to display his manly physique; (2) any crew member not in the regular cast is dead meat; and (3) the heroes always stop the doomsday clock with one second to spare. So it is with Commander Taggart (Tim Allen) and the stalwart crew of the NSEA Protector, whose intergalactic exploits on TV have now been reduced to a dreary cycle of fan conventions and promotional appearances. That's when the Thermians arrive, begging to be saved from Sarris, the reptilian villain who threatens to destroy their home planet.
Can actors rise to the challenge and play their roles for real? The Thermians are counting on it, having studied the "historical documents" of the Galaxy Quest TV show, and their hero worship (not to mention their taste for Monte Cristo sandwiches) is ultimately proven worthy, with the help of some Galaxy geeks on planet Earth. And while Galaxy Quest serves up great special effects and impressive Stan Winston creatures, director Dean Parisot (Home Fries) is never condescending, lending warm acceptance to this gentle send-up of sci-fi TV and the phenomenon of fandom. Best of all is the splendid cast, including Sigourney Weaver as buxom blonde Gwen DeMarco; Alan Rickman as frustrated thespian Alexander Dane; Tony Shalhoub as dimwit Fred Kwan; Daryl Mitchell as former child-star Tommy Webber; and Enrico Colantoni as Thermian leader Mathesar, whose sing-song voice is a comedic coup de grĂ¢ce.




Nothing In Common 1986. David Basner has it all, one of the largest advertising agencies, a great career and beautiful women (yummy Sela Ward and the equally yummy Bess Armstrong)Then one day his world falls apart when his mother leaves his father. Now, he must balance his life between his mother, who is happy with her newfound independence, and his father, a recently laid off salesman who is hard-headed, stubborn, and hides a lot from David. Now David must cope with the downfall of his family and his life and reconnect with a father who has ignored him most of his life. Sela Ward is awesome, Tom Hanks is very funny and Jackie Gleason (in one of his last roles) shines as Max Basner. Great, cute film.

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