Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Angels in the Outfield
Director: William Dear
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Danny Glover, Christopher Lloyd, Brenda Fricker, Tony Danza, Matthew McConaughey, Adrien Brody, Dermot Mulroney
Released: July 15, 1994

Not only is this movie pre-10 Things I Hate About You (which is the first Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie I saw where I knew who he was), but it also predates Third Rock From the Sun by two years, probably the role he was first known for. I remember seeing this in the theater with a friend. It was either this or Rookie of the Year, but I'm pretty sure it was this one, though it's possible I saw both of them. I haven't seen this movie in a very long time so I was a little surprised to see two future Oscar winners as baseball players: Adrien Brody plays Hemmerling and Matthew McConaughey plays Angels outfielder Ben Williams. Both of them probably have less than five minutes of screen time combined with only a couple of lines each. 

Even though he is credited around fourth or fifth, JGL as Roger Bomman is definitely the lead. I could understand if they put Danny Glover first since he was a big name, but JGL should have at least been credited second, come on! 

Roger lives in a short-term foster care home because his mom is deceased and his dad (Dermot Mulroney) is a deadbeat. They don't really explain why he can't take care of his son. He has told Roger in the past that he's going to be his legal guardian, but things never seem to work out that way. He does occasionally keep in touch with Roger and visits him at his foster home to tell him he's heading up north. When Roger asks his father when they're going to be a family again, his father replies, "When the Angels win the pennant." This is a snarky response because the Angels, Roger's favorite team, are just God-awful, so in other words, he's saying that the Angels will never win and they will never be a family. What a nice guy.

However, Roger is bit of a naive and hopeful kid and when he goes to bed that night, he looks out the window and sees a shooting star. He whispers a prayer to God (he may be whispering, but I'm pretty sure his two other roommates can hear him) for the Angels to win. The next day he and his best friend, J.P., who also lives at the foster home, go to a game because it's Kids' Day where kids get a discount on tickets. This is when we first see the angels helping the Angels and the only one who can actually see them in the movie is Roger. Two of them lift Matthew McConaughey so he can catch the ball. They also help a hopeless batter not only hit a home run, but he breaks the bat while doing so. The "angels" look pretty terrifying...that 1994 CGI (wait, was there even CGI in 1994?) looks pretty terrible. An astonished Roger asks J.P. if he saw what he did, but J.P. has no idea what he's talking about, so Roger turns his attention to the large man sitting next to him (and why is this grown man who's clearly not with Roger and J.P. sitting next to two underage boys...I'm just saying, it's a little weird) and asks him if he saw it too, but he said it was just a lucky catch. He gets up to leave and this is when Roger meets the Head Angel (Christopher Lloyd) who calls himself "Al" (because he's wearing an American League baseball cap.) He explains he's there because he asked for help and that only Roger can see and hear him. Of course, he's having a conversation with an invisible man while J.P. is sitting next to him, though J.P. doesn't ask who he's talking to until about two minutes later! If I were that kid and my friend started talking to somebody who clearly wasn't there, I would be interrupting that conversation about five seconds in! I did think it was funny when Roger tells his friend, "You didn't see them? There were Angels in the outfield! And in the infield!" and J.P. replies, "Yeah, nine of them!" They sure had to make it confusing by the team being named the Angels!

Due to the celestial beings, the Angels win the game and a few lucky kids have the chance to get their photo taken with Angels manager/coach, George Knox (Danny Glover). I feel like kids would be more excited to get their photo taken with one of their favorite players then the manager, but this scene is only here for Knox to meet Roger and J.P. While they're getting their photo taken, Roger blurts out about the angels helping the Angels and of course Knox thinks he's insane. Later, when he delivers the photo to Roger he asks him why would there be real angels at the ballgame and Roger replies, "Because I prayed for them. I figured you could use the help."

Knox invites the two kids to a ball game as his guests and while J.P and the kids' chaperone, David, are getting snacks, Al pops out of his fountain drink and Roger freaks out and of course he looks crazy because the people behind him are only seeing a kid freaking out over a soft drink. And he sounds insane when J.P. returns and he tells him, "I just saw an angel in my Coke cup!"

 Every time Roger sees an angel, he starts waving his arms like wings to signify he sees one. Whichever Angel is with an angel, Roger tells Knox to put that player in since they've been given the "magic touch". Because an angel is massaging Adrien Brody's shoulders, Roger tells Knox to put him him, despite him being the worst batter. An angel comes and slows the ball down so he can hit it. Then the ball starts moving around because Al is kicking and juggling it around and everyone just sees a ball go haywire. Because of this tomfoolery, the Angels win the game. Um....how in the hell did the opposing team NOT issue a complaint? There is some serious shady business going on! You would think they would want the ball inspected to make sure there's not a motor inside of it and someone else is controlling it. Because if I were in that stadium, that's what I would be thinking. However, that wouldn't explain how the ball slowed way down when it was being pitched to Adrien Brody. There's a thing called gravity and no way an object could just stay in the air like that. How come nobody is suspicious of THAT? But nobody seems to care or is asking any questions. Knox is so happy that they're winning and wants the kids to come to the rest of the games as good luck charms.

At the next game it is announced that there are more people in the seats than the last five games combined. We get a cute montage of the Angels winning game after game (with ridiculous tactics) with the audience singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." There is a headline in the paper that says "Angels Fly Together." Now you know they took this from D2: The Mighty Ducks as it is also a Disney movie and only came out only months before this one. I can't remember if "Ducks fly together" was uttered in the first movie, but it defintely was in the second one. "Angels fly together" doesn't quite work, because, at least, literal ducks really DO fly together and they are actually real! Angels aren't real and even if they were, would they even fly together? It just doesn't make any sense! Terrible headline.

During all this, Roger learns he's never going to live with his dad and will have to continue living with Maggie (Brenda Fricker), his short term caretaker until he is adopted. Now Brenda Fricker also played the pigeon lady in Home Alone 2 and I think you could say this movie is a continuation of that character. Think about it: this movie only came out a year and a half after Home Alone 2. We never learn her name in that movie, but in this one we find out it's Maggie. Maybe she decided to move to California to get a job helping kids without families after she saw how lucky Kevin was to have a loving family and wanted to help kids less fortunate than him. Doesn't really explain why she has an Irish accent in that movie (she did, right?) and an American accent in this one but you could say she accumulated to living in the United States.

There are no angels to help the Angels in the championship game because it's against the rules. (Oh, so NOW it's cheating if they help?) However, there is a nice moment when Roger, J.P., the players, and the entire stadium start flapping their arms to give support to pitcher Mel Clark (Tony Danza) who used to be the teams' star player, but has been wavering lately. This gives him the confidence he needs and he wins the game.  While it's a touching scene, logistically, it doesn't make any sense how everybody in the stadium has room to stretch out their arms and move them up and down...how do you not intertwine limbs while doing that? Although we do see some close ups and it looks a little awkward how some people are waving their arms so they don't hit the people next to them.

The movie ends with Knox adopting BOTH Roger and J.P. We never do learn anything about his life outside of coaching/managing the Angels. Is he married? Does he have any kids? No clue. I also had no clue that this movie is actually a remake of a 1951 movie. This was a fine movie, but it did get pretty hokey at times. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Independence Day
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Randy Quaid, Vivica A. Fox, Judd Hirsch, Mary McDonnell, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harry Connick Jr., Mae Whitman
Released: July 3, 1996

Oscar nominations:
Best Visual Effects (won)
Best Sound (lost to The English Patient)

I remember all the hype that surrounded this movie when it came out in the summer of '96. I don't actually remember seeing any commercials for it on TV or any trailers for it on the big screen, but I have no doubt that I must have seen many of them because I was super excited to see this movie when it came out. I had bought into all of the hype. It was a big summer blockbuster about aliens coming to destroy Earth and the only people who could stop them were the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park! And the guy from While You Were Sleeping was the President! Yeah! And let's not forget Cousin Eddie! (Though I don't think I knew he was in the movie until I saw it). And everybody else, I don't think I knew who they were.

If memory serves right, I saw this film on opening day. If not opening day, it was at least the second day, but I'm pretty sure it was opening day. I was 15  and saw it with two of my friends. It was a packed theater (I mean, obviously, it was opening day for a huge blockbuster!) It was a lot of fun and the whole audience got into it and I loved it, naturally. I laughed at all of Will Smith's one liners, I pumped my fist at Bill Pullman's awesome speech (well, I didn't literally do that), I jumped at all the alien jump scare scenes, I was in awe of the White House exploding effect, and I cheered when the aliens were defeated (well, I cheered inside).

I've seen this movie a handful of times and each time I watch it, it seems to lose a little bit of its initial luster. I think I was just wrapped up in all the hype; I was an impressionable teen, after all. There are still things I enjoy, but I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it to anyone. If I were to recommend a '90s action blockbuster that came out over the Fourth of July holiday, I would tell them to see Terminator 2. That is by far the superior film. And if we were to get even more specific and I had to recommend a Roland Emmerich movie that was rife with American patriotism, I would tell them to watch The Patriot, which is my favorite Emmerich movie and I prefer it over ID4.

At two hours and forty minutes, this film is so dang long! And it doesn't need to be at all! There are quite a few scenes that seem to drag. It's probably so long because there must be as many characters as a season of Game of Thrones! We are introduced to David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum - he's pretty much playing Ian Malcolm 2.0), a computer scientist who is trying to figure out a way to stop the aliens. We then meet President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) who has a young daughter, Patricia (a super young Mae Whitman) and we learn the First Lady (Mary McDonnell) is in Los Angeles. Then we are introduced to Russell Casse (Randy Quaid) who is a crop duster. He pretty much plays Cousin Eddie in this. Everyone thinks he's a whack-o because he claims to have been abducted by aliens in the past (and the government officials never think to interview him about that, because clearly he was right about being abducted by aliens!) He has three children and his oldest son looks and sounds like Keanu Reeves (it wasn't, though) with the long hair and surfer dude speech. I assume we will next be introduced to Will Smith, but no, we get another scene with David and we meet his father, Julius (Judd Hirsh). Then we get another scene with the President and meet some of his staff which include the White House Communications Director (played by Blair's mom from Gossip Girl) who also just so happens to be David's ex-wife, Robert Loggia as a General, and James Rebhorn as the Secretary of Defense. Then we get another scene with Russell and his kids. Will Smith isn't introduced until twenty minutes into the film. He plays Steven Hiller, a fighter pilot. He lives near Los Angeles with his girlfriend, Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox) and her young son, Dylan.

I don't understand how Hiller can be a fighter pilot, because, my God, his peripheral vision is atrocious! He walks out to get the morning paper and looks to his left and sees everyone in the neighborhood are packing their cars, then he looks to the right and sees the same thing. Then he picks up the paper and it's only after he's picked it up that he notices the HUGE MASSIVE FIFTEEN MILE WIDE SPACESHIP in front of him! Um...that should have been the first thing he saw when he walked outside! Hell, that should have been the first thing he saw when he looked out the window just minutes before! And to make matters worse, Jasmine comes outside and also doesn't notice the spaceship until Steven points it out to her.

It is July 2 when the aliens start to arrive. The Mother Ship has sent 36 of the huge fifteen mile wide spaceships (you know, the ones fighter pilot Steven Hiller apparently can't see!) to hover around the largest cities in the world. The ones shown prominently in the movie are over Washington D.C., New York, and Los Angeles. David is the one to find out the aliens are coordinating an attack and are not here on a friendly visit. Because of who his ex-wife is, he is able to get to the President and warn him and everyone else to evacuate the White House. I didn't understand why the President was in the Oval Office when he was briefed about the ordeal. Shouldn't that have taken place in the Situation Room? I did laugh when he goes on TV and tells people if they must leave, then do so in an orderly fashion and it cuts to pure chaos in New York. I also laughed when a newscaster says, "LAPD is asking Los Angelenos not to fire their guns at the visitor spacecraft. You may inadvertently trigger an interstellar war." I don't even understand why the word "visitor" is even in that sentence!

A bunch of morons with welcome signs are gathered on top of the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles in hopes that the aliens will take them with them. This includes one of Jasmine's friends who tells her not to go, but she joins the "Party of the century" as Julie Moran from Entertainment Tonight deems the event. Seriously, why is E.T. acting like this is some kind of movie premiere? Speaking of E.T. (the OTHER E.T.), Hiller and the other fighter pilots (including his friend, Jimmy (Harry Connick Jr.)) are getting instructions on how they're going to go after the spaceships and he tells everyone that he wants to "kick E.T.'s ass."

Jimmy is the Goose to Hiller's Maverick because he dies while they are fighting the aliens in their fighter planes. (Spoilers for Top Gun!) After a high speed chase through the Grand Canyon, Hiller and an alien space pod crash and he greets the alien by saying, "Welcome to Earth!" and punching it. A moment I loved when I was 15, and okay, still kind of love it today. He somehow meets up with the President and David who will soon meet up with Jasmine and the First Lady.

We've all seen the scenes of the White House, Empire State Building, and U.S. Bank Tower get obliterated. Oh, and I just love that when the White House blows up and there's a huge fireball, the President, his daughter, David, his father, and all the official White House people are just taking off on Air Force One and trying to outfly the huge explosion...which they manage to do, but barely! This is the best effect in the movie...I think it works that they built miniatures of the famous buildings and didn't use CGI. However, the other special effects (like all the planes and space ships) do not hold up.

Jasmine is in her car with her son and dog in a tunnel when the U.S. Bank Tower has exploded and when she sees the huge fireball coming towards, she grabs Dylan and takes him to a utility closet or something in the tunnel, which I thought was a really smart thing to do. She yells at Boomer, the dog, to run to them and he jumps over a car and makes it inside the closet so she can close the door right before the fireball goes past them. She later finds a truck that still works and picks up any survivors. This includes the First Lady who was in a helicopter that crashed, but she's still alive, but not for long because she will die from internal bleeding. At least she gets to say goodbye to her husband and daughter.

The President and his crew are taken to Area 51 where he meets an eccentric scientist (who clearly dies in this movie, but just so happens to be in the sequel?) who has been studying alien life and has this huge spacecraft that's been just sitting around since the 50s. IDK, honestly this is around the time I kind of check out. Hiller has also arrived with his new alien friend and this is when it kills the scientist, but somehow Whitmore can read its mind. Again, IDK.

Okay, so now it's July 4 and the Americans are planning an attack on the aliens and they have told the other countries their plan of attack. I laughed when a group of British soldiers are reading a telegram and one says "The Americans are proposing a counter attack. It's about bloody time!" Of course, this is when we also get the best speech in the history of movies. I'm talking, of course, about President Whitmore's, "This is the day when we celebrate our Independence Day!" speech and everyone cheers. I did love the guy that gives that super intense salute. Oh, man, I laughed so hard at that. But seriously, how great was that speech? Still gives me chills.

For some reason, they let the President of the United States fly a jet to fight the aliens. Um, that would never happen. They would never let the President in any danger. They would get his ass in a bunker or something. But no, he is a noble President and wants to fight alongside his fellow countrymen. It's Quaid who saves the day when he sacrifices himself by somehow making a whole spaceship explode...still not sure how he did that, but he sure did make his children proud.

In the meantime, David has learned that they need to upload a computer virus to the mother ship, which is located in outer space so he and Hiller take the spaceship, which just so happens to work fine even though it hasn't been used for 50 years, to outer space....okay, my brain is starting to hurt. This movie is so stupid, isn't it? Anyway, they save the day. Obviously. All the spaceships have crashed and we see these huge eyesores in the grasslands of Africa, in the Sydney Harbour, and among the Pyramids. I wonder how they're going to clean up that mess? No, seriously, how are they going to get rid of 36 fifteen-mile wide spaceships (that must have destroyed the cities they fell on!) You think it would have made more sense to have them blow up, then disintegrate in the air.

Like I said, I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone, but if I could somehow edit my own version of it together of my favorite scenes, which would probably amount to 30 minutes, then I would absolutely recommend those "best of" moments (which would include the explosions and the speech and all the stupid Will Smith one liners among others). I have never seen the sequel which came out twenty years later as I heard it was awful. If it had gotten mixed reviews, I might consider watching it, but no, I have not heard one positive review of it. Maybe someday I'll watch it, but don't count on a review of it anytime soon. I have looked up the cast and watched a five minute trailer of it. I know Will Smith isn't in it, but his stepson, Dylan, is grown up and plays an important role. (I assume he plays an important role). Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox, and Judd Hirsh reprise their roles, but I have a feeling, with the exception of Goldblum, they're probably all only in one scene. Liam Hemsworth in is in it and I think he's the main character. What I gather from the preview is he's dating Patricia Whitmore...who isn't even played by Mae Whitman which is really stupid because she's still acting. I understand why they didn't get the original kid who played Dylan cuz I don't think he acts anymore, but Mae Whitman has been steadily working since she was a little kid! So I don't know if she turned it down or was busy with something else or they just forgot she was in the movie, but she probably dodged a bullet with that one anyway. Oh yeah, and the scientist Area 51 guy is in this even though he clearly died in the first one! Unless it's his twin brother or something? The first one was stupid, sure, but at least it still had some fun moments.