Decades Blogathon – Top Gun (1986)

1986

 

I’m going to admit something embarrassing right now. I, uh. . . . yeah, I still haven’t seen the movie Rob, as in the one and only MovieRob, is about to talk about today. Not going to make excuses — I need to change this ASAP, and possibly rearrange my priorities on my Netflix queues, perhaps even start going to church more often — but first I’m going to let my friend Rob tell you why it’s worthy of the Decades blogathon. Rob, the floor is yours! 


top gun

“That was some of the best flying I’ve seen to date – right up to the part where you got killed.” – Jester

Number of Times Seen – Too many to count (Theater in ’86, cable, video, DVD, 8 Mar 2000 and 5 May 2016)

Brief Synopsis  Two top Naval fighter pilots are sent to a combat dog-fighting course in order to vie for the title of being the best team of pilots in the Navy

My Take on it – This movie came out 30 years ago and it still makes men, women, boys and girls want to be fighter pilots because of the way it depicts the glamour of it all.

The way that this film was shot makes us feel like we are in the plane itself and feel the jerking actions of the seat as we try and evade the enemy fighters.

The viewer actually feels like he/she is in the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat and we never want to get out because it’s so much fun being there.

The cats is great with Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Anthony Edwards, Whip Hubley, Meg Ryan, Rick Rossevich, Tom Skerrit, Michael Ironside, Tim Robbins and Val Kilmer all doing wonderful jobs portraying the pilots and their significant others.

The one weak part of this film is the love story between Cruise and McGillis.  It’s pretty cold and doesn’t really genuine as it really should. (I heard that the stars hated each other, so that could contribute to the coldness.)

Cruise and Kilmer also apparently didn’t get along so that probably helped with their on screen rivalry.

The fact that the movie gets our adrenaline pumping so fast due to the aerial and combat footage helps make up for the lack of physical chemistry between the two leads.

This movie has an unbelievable soundtrack and the songs really help create each of the diverse atmospheres depicted in the film so perfectly.

Here are some of the songs:

Bottom Line Great film that makes everyone want to be a fighter pilot. Amazing aerial footage puts us right in the cockpit of those Tomcats and we never want to leave. The love story aspect is a bit weak, but the adrenaline that gets pumping in our veins by the combat footage more than makes up for it. Excellent cast. Amazing music that helps build the different atmospheres created throughout the movie. Highly Recommended!

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – The real Top Gun School gives a $5 fine to anyone in the staff that quotes the movie. (From IMDB)

Rating –  Oscar Worthy (9/10)

TBT: Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

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If you’ve been following along with this segment, you might be aware I’ve spent the last several installments picking titles at random — and in a slight panic, with several of them being decided upon (or even watched) at the very last possible second — so it’ll be nice to reintroduce some semblance of consistency here again, in the form of Holiday Cheer movies. Granted, the next several posts should be fairly predictable. Let’s just say that I’ve graduated from scrambling for random film titles to scrambling to find an appropriate monthly theme. 😉 With all that said, I know this entry today revolves around Thanksgiving rather than Christmas but you know what, I’m prepared to take the flak. You want to hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better. I’m an easy target. 

Today’s food for thought: Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Planes Trains and Automobiles movie poster

Being victimized by public transportation services since: November 25, 1987

[Netflix]

I can’t believe I’ve only now sat down to watch for the first time Steve Martin interact with the comedic genius that was (is?) John Candy. Now the real question: is that something I should have admitted?

I suppose it doesn’t matter as I can say with Del Griffith-like confidence that John Hughes’ classic fits snugly into the brand of comedy I cherish more than any other. That’s not to say, however, that Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the kind of story you can’t find reproduced elsewhere. It’s a tried-and-true road trip adventure featuring two distinct personalities who, despite all odds, wind up growing on one another having endured several days’ worth of mishaps that border on the (amusingly) catastrophic. Replete with sight gags and punchlines that, by comparison to today’s standards, feel sophisticated and novel, Planes is of course capped off with a happy and wholly satisfying ending that epitomizes the feel-good spirit of the holiday season.

The film explores the dichotomy of the psychological effects the hectic holiday season has on people. Ignoring the isolated incidents that seem to occur on Black Friday, the day where everyone seems to take pleasure in being their worst selves, the days and weeks leading up to Christmas have potential to be some of the most stressful all year. It’s that reality that Hughes taps into using Martin, who plays an uptight and rather uncharitable marketing executive named Neal Page, and his polar opposite in Candy’s happy-go-lucky, perpetually cheerful shower curtain ring salesman Del. While it might be more comforting — beneficial, even — to assign personalities and dispositions to a spectrum ranging from very negative to positive, there’s no denying the stereotype is alive and well during the holiday shopping season.

In Planes, Neal faces one setback after another in his attempts to get back to his family for Thanksgiving dinner, starting with missing a taxi to the airport that almost causes him to miss his flight home to Chicago from New York. This is where he first bumps into Del, who would later laugh about how amusing it was that Neal tried to steal *his* cab. Wouldn’t you know it, the two end up sitting next to each other on the flight, one that ultimately ends up having to land in Wichita due to a terrible snowstorm in Chicago. Del is quick to remind Neal once on the ground that given the circumstances it will be next-to-impossible to book a hotel room anywhere, and the two end up taking a room at some seedy motel miles away, which sets up the iconic “I don’t judge you, so why do you judge me” speech.

Things only get worse from there, as Neal is faced with the prospect of continuing to travel with Del as he seems to be the only way he’s going to get out of this crummy town. They board a train that later breaks down and end up having to cram into a city bus that threatens to fall apart at any moment. Much to our amusement the quality of transit vehicles only adds to Neal’s mounting frustrations. It all culminates in a literally explosive car ride that sees the pair brought to their knees at yet another cheap-o hotel, where the question finally must be asked: “is it me, or is it just everyone else around me that’s crazy?”

Existential rumination aside, Hughes’ judgment of character development couldn’t have been more satisfying. There are so many instances throughout the course of this escapade where we think there’s no way Del can screw things up any more than they already are; there’s no way Neal can possibly be any more unpleasant than he was trying to rent a car. And yet developments belie expectations, but only to a point. There’s a wonderful scene at another rundown motel in which the pair are confronted by their own consciences. It’s not like the humbling process isn’t unexpected. Even if you’re unfamiliar with Hughes’ filmography, it should come as no surprise the slide into relative despair can’t be sustained; this is a road trip comedy after all. Yet it’s the aesthetics of the scene that really impact. There’s something about the faux-wooden interior of this particular room that resonates warmly.

In the end, Planes‘ episodic nature epitomizes the oft-exaggerated emotions and experiences of the holiday season. Whether it’s finding the ideal gift for a loved one, putting together a master shopping list for the big dinner or simply attempting to shoulder the responsibilities of throwing a seasonal party, this time of year presents stress in many forms. Hughes is keenly aware of that reality, and he has a field day with it thanks to the interplay between these comedic greats.

Planes Trains Automobiles Martin Candy Fire

Recommendation: Planes, Trains and Automobiles satisfies on many levels with its diverse and highly effective collection of comedic situations and running jokes. It’s another one of those entries that makes one sorely nostalgic for the days of quality comedy. Thanks to great turns from Steve Martin and John Candy this is a film that fans can re-watch over and again.

Rated: R

Running Time: 92 mins.

TBTrivia: Perspectives are a funny thing. John Candy and Steve Martin have both named this film as their favorite films of their own. Ask other crew members who worked on the film and they’ll describe the shoot as “hellish,” as they were obligated to drive back and forth between locations on the East Coast and the Midwest since each time they arrived at one place the snow they were hoping to find melted too quickly. According to some crew members, John Hughes was in a terrible mood for much of the process as he was enduring difficult times in his personal life.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.filmschoolrejects.com; http://www.haphazard-stuff.blogspot.com 

Wild Tales

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Release: Friday, February 20, 2015 (limited) 

[Theater]

Written by: Damián Szifrón

Directed by: Damián Szifrón

Having a rough day at the office? Car get towed? Is your name Britt McHenry? Wild Tales may be exactly the movie you need to see today.

Allow Argentinian Damián Szifrón to remedy your red-letter-day blues with a different kind of cinematic experience in the form of six short films each dealing with people on the verge of completely losing their cool when put in extremely distressing situations. As an anthology film, Wild Tales mixes comedy, drama and tragedy in a farcical manner only cinema can provide. Last year’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film distinguishes itself as a fascinating collage of circumstances, each one suggesting we all harbor this ability to do ridiculous things when we’re pushed past our breaking point.

Rather than reviewing this feature as a whole I think it’ll be more beneficial to break it down into its individual pieces and rate them individually.

‘Pasternak’

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The first (and shortest) segment deals with passengers on a flight who all happen to have some kind of connection to a man named Pasternak. One man, a music critic sitting adjacent to Pasternak’s ex-girlfriend, claimed that he once destroyed Pasternak on the basis that he had not one lick of musical talent. And that’s just the beginning of this farce. It’s not long before the entire cabin realizes that the flight is nothing more than a trap that’s been brilliantly orchestrated by Pasternak himself (who is the chief pilot) and that their fates lie in his hands. Given that this is the introductory piece it’s put at 3-5somewhat of a disadvantage as the happenstance nature of the plot seems at first a bit farfetched and the performances aren’t uniformly convincing. However, this is a short that significantly improves when you look back upon it and becomes extremely amusing.


‘The Rats’ (‘Las Ratas’)

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Arguably the least effective and least engaging of the entries, ‘Las Ratas’ deals with a scumbag customer who treats his server (an emotionally fragile woman) and kitchen staff (a disdainful old ex-con) with little to no respect. Quickly the server realizes this man, a loan shark, has been the source of her recent misery as he is responsible for the destruction of her family. The lady in the kitchen tells her she should take care of this pest once and for all by poisoning his food — an order of fried eggs with fries, no less. However, the server can’t quite bring herself to do such a thing. The sketch feels a little too forced and just doesn’t click as the others ultimately do. In sequence, however, this one ends up as a considerably darker expounding of the humor 3-0presented in ‘Pasternak,’ and remains a pretty entertaining watch despite its numerous shortcomings. Anyone who has ever worked a kitchen job should be able to identify with these women’s frustrations.


‘The Strongest’ (‘El más fuerte’)

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Wild Tales hits its stride with this outrageous and hilarious showdown in the desert that pits two men of markedly different societal classes against one another in a scene where the description ‘genius’ doesn’t feel too sensational. What begins as a typical case of road rage culminates in a battle for survival as an upper-middle class white-collar worker (let’s just presume he is for the sake of brevity) blows a tire near a bridge and has to stop to fix it. The poorer man he happened to shout obscenities at while trying to overtake on the quiet desert road also shows up at the scene and begins threatening him, thinking the snob won’t escape. Tensions and tempers flare to unexpectedly comical levels, ending in a rather explosive finale where no one really wins. The third segment encompasses multiple emotions — fear, 4-0indignation, bitterness, jealousy among others — while portraying a situation that, while extreme, can be universally identified as an inconvenience. Quite possibly the best of the bunch.


‘Little Bomb’ (‘Bombita’)

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‘Bombita’ may very well translate as the most empathetic of all these farces. Can we all agree that having one’s car towed es un dolor mayor en el culo? Simón is a demolitions expert whose car is towed away while parked along a curb that is not properly marked as a tow-away zone. As a rather emotional man, he makes sure his complaints are heard by the so-called fascists pigs in charge but in so doing his life begins to unravel to a degree the husband and father of a young daughter was never expecting. ‘Bombita’ accurately depicts the way logic and emotion have this distinctly infuriating relationship with one another — though ultimately how emotion usually ends up trumping the former. But Simón is pushed to a point where he finally takes a stand for himself, even though it’s pretty much cost him his family and what was left of 3-5his dignity (not to mention finances). Emotionally charged and engaging like few of the segments preceding it, this elevates Wild Tales‘ ambition to another level, even with ‘Bombita”s absurd conclusion.


‘The Proposal’ (‘La Propuesta’)

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What gives Wild Tales such an air of authenticity is its ability to dabble in the realm of the tragic as well as the comedic. While comedy certainly dominates and is varied in terms of lightheartedness and absurdity, no segment thus far is neither as solemn nor as real as ‘La Propuesta.’ It deals with the son of a wealthy man named Mauricio and the consequences the youth must face after running down a pregnant woman while drunk during the course of a random night. He returns home and confesses to his parents, who in turn contact their lawyer. As Mauricio knows his son would not survive in prison he arranges that his groundskeeper take the fall, for payment. Unfortunately the scheme fails to convince the local prosecutor and Mauricio is forced into negotiating exorbitant prices to keep his son out of prison. What price would 4-0you pay to keep your family out of this kind of danger? The moral dilemma everyone in this segment faces is depicted with heart-wrenching attention to detail. It may not be the most enjoyable experience but it’s another highlight of this anthology.


‘Til Death Do Us Part’ (‘Hasta que la muerte nos separe’)

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The final several (long) minutes of Wild Tales takes us to the world’s most ridiculous wedding reception, where Romina discovers her minutes-old husband, Ariel, has been cheating on her with one of the wedding guests. I’ve never been married but I’ve also never quite understood the term ‘bridezilla.’ Until now. ‘Hasta que la muerte nos separe’ is easily the least-disciplined of the lot and overstays its welcome by several minutes, as the conclusion is neither particularly believable nor inventive. The build-up to it — the fall-out between the newlyweds and their families — is a good bit of fun that epitomizes Szifrón’s intent to lampoon common stresses that have the potential to bring out the worst in people. He really goes overboard on this one, using the heightened emotions that weddings tend to extract (not just out of individuals but as a collective of loved ones who have various levels of 3-0concern) as a springboard to end Wild Tales on a decidedly cartoonish note. It’s not that it’s poorly done. It’s just, well   . . . a bit too wild for it’s own good.

Recommendation: Wild Tales serves as a delightfully sensational take on human behavior, psychology, and interaction. The format is an ingenious decision on the part of Szifrón and each segment stands on its own in terms of its thematic content and emotional heft. If you’re seeking out something different from the usual cinema fare (I know that’s such a general recommendation, but I can’t say anything more in fear of spoiling this thing for you) allow me to point you in the direction of some theater that might happen to be playing this. Or when it comes out on DVD, be sure to give it a rental. You shouldn’t be disappointed.

Rated: R

Running Time: 122 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

The Wind Rises

The-Wind-Rises-Poster

Release: Friday, February 21, 2014

[Theater]

Hayao Miyazaki’s final film is poetry in motion. It was also Oscar-worthy this year, receiving a nomination for Best Animated Feature. Unfortunately the spotlight fell upon Disney’s Frozen in a move no one is really going to call surprising. It is unfortunate only because this is a film that deserves more than just the tip of the hat. Its a hats-off kind of motion picture event, not just because of the gorgeous animation but due to its epic sweeping narrative that has the presence of mind to include a heartfelt romance, engaging historical context and a dreamlike, thought-provoking perspective.

The Wind Rises is the Japanese artiste’s eleventh outing as a director whose filmography dates back to 1979 and includes the likes of critically and commercially successful animations such as Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso and Spirited Away. If Miyazaki’s other works are as colorful and emotionally satisfying as this film — and according to major sites, they seem to be that way — we are looking at a unique director insofar as he’s in a tier of consistently satisfying filmmakers that a great many will fail again and again at breaking into.

His swan song concerns the fascinating life and career of a hardworking and intelligent Japanese youth named Jiro (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the English language version), as well as his quest for finding love and happiness in the arms of a woman.

The film opens with a young boy going for an early morning joy ride in a single-propeller plane mounted to the top of his parents’ home before things take a turn for the ugly. As it so happens, this all occurs in a dream sequence. One of the focuses of Miyazaki’s film is that Jiro tends to live a life filled with these. Unfortunately he is also acutely near-sighted, a condition that disqualifies him from ever becoming a pilot. So he decides to dedicate his life to working on planes. In time he would carve out a career as one of the world’s leading aerospace engineers. His efforts almost single-handedly propel his country into the forefront of technological advancement during the years of World War II.

The Wind Rises is filled to the brim with gorgeous animation. You’d have to dig deep to find another film not made by this master of animation that is as vibrant and passionately detailed as it (okay, one that’s also not this year’s Oscar winner). The sky is a robin’s egg blue canvas upon which planes streak like paintbrushes in little strips of white, diving and soaring. The places in which major character developments occur epitomize the romanticism in Miyazaki’s farewell film. Sunsets bleed oranges and reds. After watching, one tends to carry around in their memory vivid snapshots of the film’s strongest images, including the one found on the movie poster.

Color doesn’t just apply to the artwork, though. Characters bubble with eccentricities, and this includes our protagonist. Although Jiro remains as a relatively static character in terms of his genuine likability and affection for aircraft, it’s his obsession that makes him a curious specimen. As previously mentioned, he daydreams often and is frequently teased about this by some of his peers, including another brainiac named Honjô (John Krasinski). Jiro’s boss straight out of school is a comically short and ill-tempered man (Martin Short) who grows to appreciate Jiro as a company asset. This man’s greatest quirk is his hair, bouncing up and down whenever he moves or yells. Other, lesser characters are also imbued with some cartoonish elements as well.

What really distinguishes this anime, though, is its level of realism. A great many films that fall into the category of ‘anime’ tend to really overdramatize the stories they tell — such is the appeal of the genre. Characters’ voices are manic, their mouths and bodies move frenetically and the action surrounding them often can be chaotic to the point of causing headaches. By contrast The Wind Rises is patient, perhaps even a little plodding at times. At over two hours in length, it’s a sprawling journey that not only pays homage to a troubled nation in a time of great crisis, but one that features a tender love story at its center.

When in the earlygoing Jiro helps save a young girl named Naoko (Emily Blunt)’s maid by carrying her from the site of a train accident following a massively destructive earthquake, he seems to win her affection then and there. It would be many years before a chance run-in with the same woman, Naoko, would reunite the two. The couple’s passion for one another feels real and honest; sweet and worth the time required to buy into it.

Slow pace aside, The Wind Rises is a breathtaking production wherein style beautifully complements the spectacle.

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4-0Recommendation: Here is a thoroughly engaging film that many should spend the time watching, in whatever format they possibly can. It’s historically significant and emotionally rewarding. I, for one, have a great deal of homework to do as I attempt to go back and invest myself in Miyazaki’s other equally praise-worthy films that have been created over the course of several decades.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 126 mins.

Quoted: “Airplanes are just cursed dreams, waiting for the sky to swallow them up.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Fast & Furious 6

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Release: Friday, May 24, 2013

[Theater]

This is my first time reuniting with the crew of car-crazed criminals since 2003, when 2 Fast 2 Furious riled up critics and seemed even to repel some of the fans of the original. I’ve gotta say, this was a hell of a way to get back in touch with them. With the way Fast and Furious 6 doles out action sequences and adrenaline rushes you’d think these aspects of film were going out of style, and even though this strategy reaches proportions that would have Sir Isaac Newton doubting the legitimacy of his life’s work, there was a surprising ease with which I was able to ignore the implausibility of the action and just enjoy the ride, as well as the views along the way.

The problem with these films is that in any given installment, the magic at any moment can be easily ruined if you were to just take a step back and think about what’s happening. . . particularly in the action sequences. People are able to jump further, survive higher and higher falls, and escape gunfire as if they have just graduated from a class on How To Dodge Bullets, as instructed by Keanu Reeves. Make no mistake, there’s a certain invincibility to these lead characters who have become lovable (or at least a gruff, thuggish approximation to ‘lovable’). Not to mention, their car-handling skills are otherworldly.

Alas, this is what we slap ten bucks onto the box office counter for. By now, those who are going to this film are either die-hard fans or critics just waiting to tear Hollywood a new one for allowing yet another installment to happen. As far as my readings of many reviews have gone, though, there are far fewer detractors of this film than I was initially expecting.

Fast 6 opens furiously, a bird’s eye camera following Dom and Brian as they race along a tightly winding ribbon of road cutting into Spanish cliffside. As it turns out, this brief chase is headed towards a finish line of a different sort. Brian has recently become a father, and Dom cautions him before he goes in to greet his child that this very moment marks a turning point in both their lives.

No kidding.

Of course, the Fast franchise has never been big on subtleties. This one line that Dom says is a huge foreshadowing of things to come; namely, the rest of the film’s mayhem.

One quiet afternoon the Hulk. . . er, rather, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s larger-than-life Luke Hobbs appears on Dom’s dapper doorstep, with a simple mission objective: “I need your help, Dom.” It is precariously cliche, but only in its execution do we truly find ourselves buying back into the fantasy of high-priced cars, the chasing and racing thereof, and of the lavish lifestyles that have only become more so as the series continues to expand. Initially reluctant to gather up the crew again, Dom finds himself with no other option.

Armed with the knowledge that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is indeed still alive, our crew — which has also expanded to include a few more babes and a few more goofy rapper-turned-actors — converts into some sort of quasi-military operations unit in the hunt for a secretive weapon that can power down an entire military operation for 24 hours. But that mission is second to finding and rescuing Letty from her British captors led by the coldhearted Owen Shaw (Luke Evans).

At this point it’s clear in Justin Lin’s direction that he wants the crew to transcend their affinity for stealing and pimping out their vehicles. The car aficionados (this term will forever apply at least to Dom and Brian) dart from one exotic location to the next, falling into occasional grapples with the enemy in random spurts of street racing. Not having seen the previous several, I had the impression that the street racing segments in this film were less a part of the chase than they were obligatory plot elements to keep the title relevant, even though it’s been clearly expressed that the stakes have never been higher for Brian, Dom and company. Taken by themselves, these extensive scenes are still Fast & Furious-worthy, and are bound to keep the attention for anyone who’s ever been a fan.

As the movie progresses the action is perpetually amplified to the point of becoming mind-numbing. The climax is utterly ridiculous. But this IS version number six we are talking about here. And because it is number six, it is far more surprising to me that there remained this much entertainment value in the story when it could have dived into far inferior, and more well-worn territory. Perhaps this had been the case in a few films in its history, but this time around there is plenty of material worth savoring. The fight sequences are impressive; the locations beautiful.

Performance-wise? Well, given that Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson (whom I’ve never been a fan of), “The Rock” and Vin Diesel all are acting on the same screen together — it could be much, much worse. Thankfully, screenwriter Chris Morgan devotes sufficient time to each of these guys to make them all a part of the raucous conversation about street racing evolving to the next level. I suppose if the stakes are going to be raised for every film, so too should the acting quality. Luckily, the two blend fairly well.

There may not be anything to remember other than how long it takes for a plane to lift-off (this part was perhaps the epitome of how the suspension of disbelief has been taken for granted with these films), or how Vin Diesel can survive so many NASCAR-style crashes, but by the time you get to thinking back on the film, maybe you won’t care too much.

(Oh, and by the way, it pays to stay for the credits.)

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3-5Recommendation: For fans especially, Fast & Furious 6 fires on most, if not all cylinders. It is alternately an adrenaline rush and a sentimental story that does a nice job summarizing the places we’ve been thus far. But it is safe to say we are far from the finish line with it all. Go see it on the big screen; your T.V.’s stereo system won’t really do this thing justice.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 130 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com