“Along Came Polly” isn’t a great film. It’s a pretty conventional and predictable romantic comedy released in 2004, directed by John Hamburg and starring Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston. Yet the film has many of the ingredients that make it succeed in the romantic comedy genre, including chemistry between the co-stars and some hilarious scenes that make you laugh out loud.
The story follows Reuben Feffer (Stiller), a somewhat reserved and neurotic risk analyst who marries lovely Lisa (Debra Messing), the woman of his dreams, as the film opens. But on their honeymoon in St. Barts, their marriage falls apart when Reuben catches Lisa cheating on him with her athletic and well-endowed scuba diving instructor. Devastated and heartbroken, Reuben returns to New York City and tries to get his life back on track.
That’s when he meets an old acquaintance, Polly Prince (Aniston), a free-spirited and impulsive woman who shakes up Reuben’s world. Despite their different personalities, they start dating, and Reuben discovers new passions and experiences he had never imagined before. You can pretty much guess the rest of the movie from here.
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Like many good action movies, all of the Bourne films are rewatchable, so it was fun to go back to this film 21 years after its release. The first installment in the Bourne film series was released in 2002 starring Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. It’s the type of role actors dream about. Damon gets the opportunity to explore the many layers of this character while also building a blockbuster Hollywood franchise that certainly paid off nicely. And, who wouldn’t enjoy playing a badass!
The film is an action-thriller film directed by Doug Liman and based on the 1980 novel of the same name by Robert Ludlum. The story revolves around Jason Bourne, an amnesiac who slowly uncovers his past as a highly-skilled and lethal CIA assassin.
The story begins with Bourne found floating in the Mediterranean Sea with gunshot wounds and no memory of his identity. He is rescued by a group of fishermen, and upon examining his body, they discover a small laser projector surgically implanted in his hip, which displays a Swiss bank account number.
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It’s always interesting to rewatch an old film and get a sense of how it holds up. Can you enjoy it as much after all these years? Many classics hold up remarkably well, but that’s not always the case.
“Annie Hall,” directed by Woody Allen and released in 1977, is widely regarded as one of the most influential and important films of the 20th century. The film stars Woody Allen and Diane Keaton along with an excellent supporting cast. The film follows the story of Alvy Singer (Allen), a neurotic New York comedian, and his relationship with Annie Hall (Keaton), an aspiring singer. Many have claimed that the story is semi-autobiographical, though Allen has denied this while Keaton has acknowledged that some of the interactions between Alvy and Annie are similar to her brief, off-screen relationship with Allen.
Diane Keaton as Annie Hall
The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actress for Diane Keaton’s portrayal of Annie Hall. Keaton’s Annie Hall is quirky, endearing, and struggling to find her place in the world. She delivers a brilliant performance worthy of her Oscar, and creates one of those iconic characters frozen it time that we can all fall for again and again. Her performance alone makes it easy to recommend this film to anyone who loves movies.
Classic Romantic Comedy
Some consider “Annie Hall” to be a defining film of the romantic comedy genre, even if the story doesn’t get wrapped in a nice, romantic bow at the end of the film. The story highlights the ups and downs of the relationship between Alvy and Annie. As the film progresses, the relationship between Alvy and Annie begins to deteriorate, with Alvy becoming increasingly neurotic and insecure, and Annie seeking personal fulfillment outside of the relationship. The film ends with Alvy reflecting on the lessons he has learned from his relationship with Annie, though viewers can question whether he learned anything at all.
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“Boogie Nights” is Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece, and it’s not a close call when compared to the rest of his catalogue. Critics loved “There Will Be Blood,” but that film is too long, painfully boring and grossly overrated, saved partly by Daniel Day-Lewis’s typically memorable performance.
On the other hand, “Boogie Nights” is even more ambitious and provides a much more enjoyable experience as PTA explores the seedy world of the porn industry in the late 70s and early 80s. Like all his movies, the film is visually spectacular as PTA recreates the tacky world of the period, while introducing us to a series of memorable characters caught up in the wild world of porn. Unlike many of PTA’s other films, however, “Boogie Nights” also tells a coherent story that skillfully weaves together the lives of his characters and holds the audience’s attention through the end.
I recently re-watched the film for the umpteenth time and came away with several impressions:
Comeback Role for Burt Reynolds
The casting decisions here are flawless, and it all starts with Burt Reynolds as Jack Horner, the porn director who wants to be taken seriously as a filmmaker. Jack lives in a large, mid-century modern house with a large pool and bar in the back. It’s perfect for parties and porn shoots and just big enough for some of his regular actors and actresses to live there. Burt was 61 when he shot this film, sporting a salt & pepper hair piece and beard. He’s older and looks distinguished but still has sex appeal and loads of charisma. Jack serves as a sort of father-figure to the younger actors and actresses and Burt’s understated and nuanced portrayal of Jack is critical to this film. With that context, it was quite shocking to learn that Burt hated working with PTM and disliked the film.
The plot follows the rise and fall of a young, well-endowed kid who dreams of being a star. Mark Wahlberg does a fine job playing Eddie. He’s a sweet and friendly kid working as a dishwasher in a club in the Valley when Jack discovers him. He then takes on the stage name of Dirk Diggler, joining the band of misfits starring in Jack’s films.
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“Michael Clayton” is a slow burn, with an ending that delivers quite a punch. It’s the type of film that many love but doesn’t fit neatly into the modern economics of Hollywood. Studios rarely make dramas like this for broad theatrical release anymore.
George Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a middle-aged lawyer who works for a large law firm as its fixer. He cleans up messes for clients who get into trouble – stuff like accidents, domestic issues, etc. He’s also having his own problems as he tries to dig out of debt from a restaurant venture gone bad due to his alcoholic brother.
Clayton gets pulled into a crisis when the firm’s top litigator Arthur (Tom Wilkinson), threatens to blow up the firm’s largest case by exposing how the client chemical company (fictional U-North) knew its product was killing people. Arthur is a brilliant but troubled lawyer with mental health issues, He strips naked during a deposition while declaring his love for the lead plaintiff, a young, pretty woman from a farm in the Midwest.
The cast in this legal thriller is excellent. Clooney delivers one of his best performances as Michael, playing it straight and leaving aside the playful attitude we see in so many of his popular performances. He’s right out of central casting as the middle aged, big firm lawyer who is doing his best to remain calm as he deals with Arthur and his own issues.
Wilkinson, on the other hand, is brilliant as the manic Arthur who feels liberated by his decision to finally come clean about his client’s misconduct after grinding on the class-action lawsuit for years. He gives us some of the most memorable scenes of the film.
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