The Dead Pool (1988) Review

Welcome to Day 3 of Clint Eastwood Week! On Monday I reviewed Play Misty For Me and yesterday I did a double review of A Fistful Of Dollars & For A Few Dollars More. Today I figured I should do at least one Dirty Harry film. Here’s The Dead Pool (the one with Clint Eastwood, not Ryan Reynolds). 🙂

The Dead Pool (1988)

Directed by Buddy Van Horn

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, Evan Kim, Jim Carrey, Guns N’ Roses

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Dirty Harry Callahan must stop a sick secret contest to murder local celebrities, which includes himself as a target.

My Opinion:

Okay, I can’t pretend that The Dead Pool is exactly “good” but I really did thoroughly enjoy it! There’s so much cheesy 1980’s goodness going on in this one & I always have a huge soft spot for that because of my age. Liam Neeson as a horror movie director with an embarrassing ponytail! Guns N’ Roses looking totally out of place in awkward cameos! The most amazing remote-control car ever! Jim Carrey giving a massively cringeworthy performance while lip syncing to Welcome To The Jungle! Patricia Clarkson, um, doing a decent job! (But she’s probably a bit embarrassed as this isn’t the sort of movie she does nowadays).

I know this probably isn’t the Dirty Harry film I should’ve started with. Actually, though, I know I did see at least part of both Dirty Harry & Sudden Impact. My dad is a big Clint Eastwood fan (it’s a requirement by law for American males his age) & I know I saw plenty of Eastwood’s Dirty Harry types of films on TV throughout my childhood as he watched them. I remember very little of them now, though, and wanted to start with Dirty Harry but The Dead Pool is the only one I had available and I don’t have the money to go buying movies just for blog reviewing purposes. Sorry! 😉 So I’m reviewing this one now but I’ll certainly re-watch Dirty Harry if it pops up on TV.

I have a feeling I’ll “like” this one the most of the Dirty Harry films anyway, although I doubt I’ll consider it the “best”. I just liked the feelings of nostalgia I got watching it – I wish I’d seen it at the time. Although I later went off of them, I was a big Guns N’ Roses fan in 1988. And the exact car that we had throughout my childhood was in this! Well, in a different color… Ours was gray & black. Check it out!

Was that a Monte Carlo? I know nothing about cars. I just remember that my dad never took the protective plastic cover off the backseat (probably due to my car sickness & tendency to throw up on car journeys) and, man, that plastic burned my legs in the summer! I hated that. Anyway, back to this cheesy movie… Oh! I really liked Clint Eastwood’s partner in this (Evan Kim). They’re great together so I assumed maybe they were partners in all of them but, damn, I guess not.

So, yeah, Liam Neeson is in this and he’s pretty funny with his ponytail but, let’s be honest – it’s not like this movie is really any cheesier than stuff like Taken so he doesn’t feel totally out of place. Patricia Clarkson plays a news reporter slash love interest for Eastwood slash damsel in distress. She’s fine in this – her character isn’t too annoyingly “in need of rescue”, which is all that female characters often were in these types of movies back then & is probably why this genre has never really connected much with me (or with most women).

Eastwood is good – he’s his usual Eastwood self. I mean, I have no memory of other Dirty Harry films so can’t compare them but get the feeling this one is a little less intense than the others? He seemed angrier in the others. I did read that he didn’t make any more of these after this one as he felt he was too old to keep playing Dirty Harry & that it would start to feel like a joke (he was 58 in this). He didn’t feel awkward in this movie but I think he quit at the right time. Then there’s Jim Carrey… Holy hell! I’d heard his role mentioned before but didn’t realize just how bad he was in this. Hilarious! His lip syncing is probably my favorite bit of the movie, though. Either that or the remote control car… I love the cheesy crap that movies got away with in the Eighties!

Summary:

The Dead Pool is an entertaining Dirty Harry movie. It feels older than it actually is – it’s weird to think that this was 1988 when, in a lot of ways, it feels more like it’s from 1978. It’s not a bad film but, when compared to big blockbusters of the day, this seems very low budget in comparison. I suppose that cop drama TV shows were very popular in the 80’s & this movie almost feels like a long episode of Miami Vice or Magnum, P.I. Oh! Or Simon & Simon! Lol! Remember that?? Actually, no – The Equalizer is probably a better comparison. What’s my point? I have no idea! I mean, a lot of people liked those sort of TV shows so, if you were a fan of those, you’d probably enjoy this movie. I guess my point is that this movie hasn’t aged well. This was out a year after Lethal Weapon yet looks & feels much older. I think Eastwood made the right decision to move on from the Dirty Harry films but I did really have fun watching this one.

My Rating: 7/10

**For a laugh, here’s the clip of Jim Carrey lip syncing Welcome To The Jungle. You have to watch this if you’ve not seen the movie. How utterly embarrassing!

The Truman Show (1998) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from David of That Moment In. Thanks for the review, David! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about The Truman Show, IMDB rank 215 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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Director: Peter Weir
Writer: Andrew Niccol

Stars: Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney

These days, in most cities and towns, avoiding being filmed is next to impossible. We are so used to it now, that we rarely give it a second thought. CCTV cameras line every street, shop and restaurant recording us from every angle. We could probably make a movie about our lives just by going outside. For Truman Burbank though, someone already is.

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Chosen before he was even born, Truman (Jim Carrey) was selected as the first 24-hour-a-day star of a TV reality show, creatively named The Truman Show. The brainchild of eccentric film maker Christof (Ed Harris), the show is an international phenomenon and been on the air for 30 years, documenting every aspect of the man’s life. And what life he’s had. Or rather not had. Christof has carefully orchestrated the world Truman has been living in, guiding the young impressionable mind as a child to remain content with his neighborhood and fearful of the world beyond. That included “killing” his father in a boating accident, an incident so traumatic, Truman can’t go near the water. This is just one of many tricks employed against Truman to keep him where he is.

There are other things that stand out for us, but less so for a man who’s grown up in a sanitized, near perfectly planned environment, which is the greatest set in television history. Everyone in Seahaven (the community Truman lives in) is an actor and they are all in on the con. Truman is married to the wholesome Meryl (Laura Linney), who is eternally chirpy and always within reach of a product to suggest they try, making sure the label and name are clearly visible for the watching audience. This is one of the film’s major conceits, that Truman is the spectacle but we are the consumers.

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Like anyone, things nag at us, and for Truman it is the same. But lately, things have become increasingly curious. A large studio light falls from the sky and crashes on the road in front of Truman. It’s quickly covered up by a radio broadcast talking about an aircraft in trouble, which also help maintain the fear of flying already implanted in his mind (Travel agencies feature posters of airplanes being struck by massive bolts of lightning, claiming THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!). But not long after, while driving into work, the radio catches static and Truman hears the show’s crew tracking Truman’s movements as he approaches. Suspicious. But most troublesome for Truman is Lauren. Lauren, played by Sylvia in the film’s story and by Natascha McElhone in real life, is the love that he was denied. An extra on set, Lauren was never meant to be a regular. From the start, Meryl was cast as the love interest, but this is the thing about love, right? It doesn’t come from casting. It comes naturally, and Lauren overwhelms Truman. Sylvia, though is not happy about Truman’s life and is a member of the “Free Truman” movement which aims to stop the show and the cruelty of the lie. Christof has her removed from the set, forcing her and her “father” to tell Truman her family is moving to Fiji. Truman marries Meryl and life goes on, but secretly, he can’t stop thinking of his one true love. In one of the more revealing moments of the film, we watch as he hides away in the basement thumbing through magazines with pictures of women, cutting out a mouth here, some eyes there and so on. It seems arbitrary at first, and maybe even deviant for a short time until we see that Truman is actually trying to remember Lauren’s face, and is building her piece by piece with the parts of other women. It’s heartbreaking.

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This is the path Truman must take. He must discover his situation and then find a way to be free of it. Without that, the story has no meaning. But what’s impressive about this narrative is the way it makes the viewer consider the world beyond the one in the movie. What does it mean to be a star? Not long ago, it took a lot to be famous. Actors, musicians, politicians and criminals; these were the rare persons that found fame, for good or bad. These days, with reality TV, YouTube, the Internet and social networking, going “viral” and more can make anyone famous. Director Weir is keenly aware of this, and the enormous dome that houses Seahaven and Truman could easily be the metaphor of the fish bowl we all live in.

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That’s the thing about The Truman Show. It raises questions. But the film is a comedy at heart and has its objective to reach, so does not go to places that would make this a truly defining film. Take Meryl, for instance, as the girlfriend first and eventually the wife. How far does she, as a hired actress, go to play the part? Do she and Truman have sex? If so, is it broadcast? How private is Truman’s life? How much will a television audience want to see? Exploring these and more would have taken The Truman Show in a different direction, naturally, but since they are never addressed, it seems like a lost opportunity, and kind of a cheat.

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That is not to say the movie lacks depth, because that would be a mistake. Both Christof and Truman are exceptionally rich characters and Ed Harris and Jim Carrey are astounding in their roles. Christof in not a cold person, but the show is a product and the ratings are the heart. Without Truman, his world collapses, an empire he’s built for thirty years. Likewise, Truman is a child, no matter his age. His experiences are real to him, but they are aseptic, manufactured, free of conflict. There is a palpable father/son relationship in their design, but more like a god and that god’s subject just beginning to question its existence.

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Weir’s bigger message may be directed at the viewer, and one perhaps lost in the art of the film’s presentation. How closely do we really know our own world? How much do we take for granted? Life is a continuous stream of peripheral activity that goes invariably unchecked. How much of it should we question? Truman starts to see oddities, and because he doesn’t know anything but what he’s been presented, his questions are weak and with no frame of reference. Imagine that it began to rain only on you and nobody else. What do you think it could mean? A miracle perhaps? This is a dilemma Truman must face.

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And this is really all about him. Truman is a wonderful character. He’s honest, sensitive, inquisitive, and because we know his situation, he’s also sympathetic. We want to see him win. There is tremendous joy in watching his discovery. Throughout the movie, we see the audience of the show and given a glimpse into how Truman has impacted many personally. Some wear buttons and have posters that read, “How’s it going end?” We may think we get an answer to that question, when the time comes, but in truth, that answer is not so clear. Where is Truman now?

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Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Kelechi of Confessions From A Geek Mind. Thanks for the review, Kelechi! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, IMDB rank 75 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

**I’ve received 3 remaining IMDB guest reviews to post but have a lot still outstanding. Let me know if you still wish to review the movie(s) you’ve signed up for. If not, I’ll add them back to the list of available films. Thanks!**

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How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! / The world forgetting, by the world forgot / Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! / Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.” – Mary

I have nothing but good memories about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  See what I did there?

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is not your usual and conventional romantic film.  The ‘boy meets girl’ concept is a familiar and overused trope in the film world. But with the added sci-fi twist involving memories, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ignores the trend and takes the audience on a mind bending and surreal experience that is full of charm, wit and most importantly, sentiment.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as Joel and Clementine.  After spending two years together as a couple, the relationship turns sour. They undergo a procedure that erases their memories of each other.  Trouble is, as impulsive they were in committing themselves to the procedure, they rediscover what they had in the first place.

“Random thoughts for Valentine’s day, 2004. Today is a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap.” – Joel

The unique quirks in this film are displayed in its brilliant visual concept.  It taps into the surreal nature of the mind where it’s never consistent or logical.  Its visual complexity and how each scene transitions unto the next are handled seamlessly.  Most scenes don’t contain any CGI effects, just clever camera movements!  It may feel jarring at first but once your mind gets to grip with the concept, it’s a rewarding experience.

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There’s something very low key about the technology used in the film by Lacuna Inc.  2015 and swiping on everything that has a screen size over four inches has become the norm.  With its ease of use and simplicity, you can’t imagine how we coped before!  But for a film that came out in 2004, the technology is a little clunky with CRT monitors straight out of the 80s or 90s, a time capsule reminder of the evolving past we use to belong to…and it wasn’t that long ago!  It never looks sleek, state of the art or high tech – there are many functional parts in order to make it work and it does its job. The film doesn’t dwell on how the procedure works except for acknowledging that the effects are on par with a night of heavy drinking.  It gives us as the audience a basic understanding of what it does, mapping personal items with emotional connections, which form as part of the erasure development process.  Because of this, the essence of the business by Lacuna Inc. is small scale and experimental.  It’s not seen as a global attraction like something out of Total Recall with its tongue-in-cheek advertising.  In fact, it’s the opposite where the experience is a more personal and intimate, like visiting your local doctor.

While the film doesn’t explore in great detail about Lacuna’s operations, the film does raise some ethical questions. There’s never a feeling over who is held accountable for its practices.  The characters of Patrick (Elijah Wood), Stan (Mark Ruffalo) Mary (Kirsten Dunst) and Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) are quirky individuals who have used the memory erasure technology for their own gain and advantages.  A great example of this belongs with Patrick who steals Joel’s personal items to make a good impression with Clementine.  It completely backfires on him but what he essentially does is commit identity fraud.  The actual procedure happens at night in the comfort of your home while you’re asleep.  So is it right that the technicians raid your fridge or dance on your bed with great freedom while you’re undergoing your treatment?  You will wake up without any recognition that they were there the night before but there’s a certain level of trust to be had to accept the strange and intrusive circumstances.

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In essence it is a clandestine and artificial relationship of convenience.  Someone from your inner circle will be informed about the procedure and you (or them) are expected to live with that knowledge, such as Joel’s friends. While the Doctor or any of his team can preach about how wonderful the process is, the real issue is the aftercare.  At times there’s a lack of professionalism within the group and if they’re not accepting their responsibilities and the consequences from their actions, would you want to undergo an experiment like this?  I certainly wouldn’t.

Clementine: “You know me, I’m impulsive.”

Joel: “That’s what I love about you.”

However, the sci-fi element is secondary to the actual plot because its main focus is on Joel and Clementine.  When they are first introduced, they are complete opposites both in personality and character.

Joel acts more like an introvert.  He’s quiet and unadventurous.  He’s comfortable within his own head.  He’s clearly talented and likes to draw but otherwise his life is pretty mundane.  Clementine on the other hand is more of an extrovert – outspoken, forward and defiant.  It’s a relationship that probably shouldn’t work but their qualities make them attractive.  Clementine brings excitement for Joel, allowing him to do something out of his comfort zone.  Joel brings stability and reassurance, accepting Clementine’s personality for what it is without compromise.

The greatest strength of the film is that their relationship is presented as honest and real.  Nothing feels clichéd or predictable.  When their relationship does fall apart, you can’t help but go through the motions with them and the actual reason for the break up will seem silly as an outsider.

Cleverly, Joel’s erasure of his memory occurs backwards from the time of the break up, ending to where he met Clementine for the first time.  You see Joel’s world literally falling apart, a visual representation of the hurt and anger he was experiencing – a scene helped with brilliant visual effects.

But are all memories bad?  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind says no and over the course of the film, Joel changes his mind despite being physically powerless to do so.  With the help of Clementine (the dream version in his head) he runs and battles against the deletion by creating scenarios in his mind where the machine couldn’t find him.  On the flip side, the real Clementine who already had the procedure is not the vibrant, confident girl that you witnessed at the beginning of the film.  She’s lost, manic and feels disconnected.  Her new boyfriend Patrick might be saying all the right things to her but it fails to put her mind at ease.  Something is missing in her life but she can’t remember what.

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That’s what special about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  Memories both good and bad can define a person.  It shapes your personality and character.  What this film has in abundance is the acknowledgement of sentiment, living and embracing your life.  The negative memories will hurt, as they should do but it portrays the positives ones as something you should hold onto and treasure.  It makes life worth living.

For Joel and Clementine, being together is what made them whole. The film does strike a chord even if this is not your type of movie.  There are plenty of identifiable and personal moments that you as the audience can relate to.  Lacuna Inc. may have perfected a procedure to erase your thoughts but there is no perfect formula for love and at times, it can’t be explained.  If your relationship is based on a lie (e.g. Patrick and Clementine), then the foundations will crumble.  What Joel and Clementine have is something magnetic that kept pulling them together in every bizarre situation without them realising it.  That is something that Lacuna Inc. didn’t count on.  They were so busy fulfilling a misguided duty that in the end it exposed their own hypocrisy and business practice.  To them everything was a quick fix without addressing the real problem.

“Come back and make up a good-bye at least. Let’s pretend we had one.” – Clementine

Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey are fantastic and once again it proves that Jim Carrey is a man of many talents.  He’s not limited to comedy and can do something dramatic.  For me, this is up there with his performance in The Truman Show.  It’s great to see him as an everyman character.  He’s famous for playing eccentric characters, but in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he underplays it.  He is often reacting to the dream scenarios around him rather than being the direct cause of it.  The technicians from Lacuna Inc. deliver the eccentricity and humorous nature of film.  Joel and Clementine deliver the heart.

Aided with a beautiful soundtrack by Jon Brion, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a deep and emotional exploration on the nature of relationships.  It breaks down each moment of Joel and Clementine’s relationship into sizable chunks because in the end, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.  The ending is left up to the audience to interpret which can be viewed as optimistic or pessimistic but it’s a film worth watching again and again because of the underlying messages it conveys.  It’s a wonderful, unique and enjoyable movie.

Or as Joel would say, it’s nice.