93. This is Spinal Tap (1984) – It is 1982, and the metal hair band Spinal Tap has fallen on hard times. Once the kings of arena rock, they are reduced to playing at smaller and smaller venues, ultimately sharing a billing with a puppet show. Director Rob Reiner creates a new genre of film with this classic “mockumentary” playing director Marty De Bergi, maker of a “rockumentary” about the fictional British band Spinal Tap. The best thing you can say about the dim-witted band members is that they are loud. As Nigel (Christopher Guest) explains, they have special amps that go to 11 rather than 10 on the loudness scale because 11 is one more. Lead singer David St. Hubbens (Michael McKeon, whose face can barely be seen through his flaxen hair) flails away on guitar through such Tap classics as “Big Bottom” and “Sex Farm.” And check out guitar player Harry Shearer as he tries to pass through airport security and has to remove the “metal object” in his pants. This clever comedy features a treasure trove of cameos and mocks everything in the music industry and its players on every level, including the Yoko Ono-type girlfriend who overthrows the band’s manager and takes over. This movie is not for everyone, but I have always found it extremely entertaining. Kudos to the stars for getting out there on stage in the requisite 80s spandex. 4 cans.
94. Saturday Night Fever (1977) – Tony Manero (John Travolta) is ill-suited for much in life. The almost 20-year old Brooklynite hangs out with his friends, has a dead-end job in a paint store and doesn’t have big aspirations for the future – but put him on the floor at the local disco, and he is magic. Travolta in his iconic white suit, the BeeGees and other disco artists blasting away on the best-selling soundtrack and the woefully miscast Karen Lynn Gorney as his dance partner (she neither sounds like she is from Brooklyn or Manhattan, and she isn’t much of a dancer, for that matter) – these are the things we remember about this classic movie. Tony lives at home with his ever disapproving parents (his father mocks him when Tony tells him he got a raise, to which Tony counters, “I don’t see them handing out raises at the Unemployment Office”) and his only escape is on the dance floor, where he dominates the disco. For all his bravado, Tony is actually a sweet soul, trying to understand the world and his place in it. I distinctly remember seeing this movie for the first time with one of my all-time favorite B-movies, “Lifeguard,” back in the days of the double feature. Travolta brings a sly, sweet sexiness to the otherwise loutish Tony in the role that launched his career. Skip the truly horrible sequel, “Staying Alive,” and see the original. 4 cans.
95. Clara’s Heart (1988) – Before he became the – wait for it – legendary Neil Patrick Harris, the very young NPH played David Hart, a lonely preteen boy in an unhappy family who develops a close bond with the family’s housekeeper, Clara (Whoopi Goldberg). When David’s baby sister dies suddenly, the relationship between his parents deteriorates, and Clara is his only friend. She becomes his confidante, advisor and parental figure, exposing him to her world of Jamaican friends, music and the warmth that he lacks at home. Harris is terrific in the part, and Whoopi is understanding yet authoritative as she tries to guide young David. The last scene had me in tears. 3 ½ cans.
96. Gone Girl (2014) – In the Neil Patrick Harris Double Feature here at Gordon Cinema, Patrick has a minor role as a rich man in love with Rosamund Pike’s Amazing Amy Elliot Dunne, the missing and presumed dead wife of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). His part is small, central to the story and not at all like the innocent young man he plays in “Clara’s Heart.” The Gillian Flynn book on which this movie is based is one you can’t put down, and the suspense of this movie is nearly as good. Nick and Amy are the ideal couple on the surface, but when she wants out of the marriage to the oblivious and cheating Nick, she plots a clever way to escape and blame her husband for the crime. I don’t want to give away the plot, but the story is captivating and the twists just keep on coming. Let’s just say I don’t anticipate a sequel to this love story. 4 cans.
97. The Rose (1979) – Bette Midler delivers a knockout punch as the title character, a burned out rock star, fueled by booze and drugs, who is disintegrating before our eyes. Based loosely on the iconic Janis Joplin, the story centers on a woman who seemingly has it all – money, fame, adoring fans – but is lonely, tired and living the lifestyle of the rich and addicted. Alan Bates is her tough manager and Frederic Forrest is the limousine driver she hijacks who becomes her love. But all eyes on Midler here, please, as she commands the stage, grabs the mike and attacks the full-length performances with gusto. I can only hope that they got her in one take for “Stay With Me Baby,” a plaintive wail of a song into which Midler pours every ounce of energy, every muscle twitching and every note a cry of desperation. Wow! Midler won a well-deserved Oscar nomination for this bravura performance. 4 cans.
98. Ricki & the Flash* (2015) – Speaking of rock stars…under the category of “Meryl Can Do Anything,” here actress-icon Streep portrays an aging rocker with family problems. Her daughter (her real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer) is thinking of killing herself, her son is getting married to an uptight woman and isn’t inviting Mom to the wedding, her other son is coming out of the closet, much to the consternation of his family, her ex-husband (Kevin Kline) has picked up the slack for the much-traveled and largely absentee-Mom “Ricki” (actual name – Linda) for years, and his lovely wife (Audra McDonald) has been the one person to try to keep Ricki’s kids connected to her with a myriad of kindnesses. But forget the story and think about Meryl rockin’ out with Rick Springfield, a skill she handles with typical Meryl aplomb. Director Jonathan Demme decided to allow Ricki and her band, the Flash, to perform whole songs, and they do a more than credible job with the likes of Tom Petty, and, in a memorable and most appropriate scene, they take on Bruce Springsteen’s “My Love Will Not Let You Down.” I liked this movie more than I had anticipated, though I’ll admit that had Demi Moore or Sandra Bullock played the lead, I probably wouldn’t have given it 4 cans. Rock on, Meryl. You really can do anything, and you NEVER disappoint.
99. The Perks of Being a Wallflower* (2012) – I actually couldn’t identify any perks for poor high school freshman Charlie (Logan Lerman). He has a host of issues in his past and he is quiet, intelligent and overlooked by nearly everyone, until he strikes up a friendship with seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam, half-siblings who have their own issues. He falls for Sam (Emma Watson) but is saddled with needy Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman), but he really likes Sam. I’m glad I don’t have to go through high school in today’s world, where kids seem remarkably mean, yet the same time vulnerable, insecure and full of false bravado. Everyone has their past, but what will the future bring to Charlie and his friends? This movie is captivating enough that the viewer wants to know the answer. 3½ cans.
100. Shattered* (2007) —This suspenseful drama had plenty of twists and turns, enough that I cannot provide much detail on the plot. Maria Bello and Gerard Butler are a handsome couple with a daughter whose world is turned upside down when Pierce Brosnan abducts them and informs them he has kidnapped their daughter. If they don’t follow his orders, she will be killed. How far do you go to protect your family? The couple is put to the test, and he, in particular, has to come up with ways to follow the orders without putting his life or his wife and daughter in more jeopardy. Brosnan is cold as the perpetrator, and Butler and Bello look suitably scared to death. I had never even heard of this movie but decided to watch it, and I’m glad I did. I just took a deep breath from all of the excitement. 4 cans.
101. Greg Louganis: Back on Board* (2014) – This documentary traces the famed Olympic Gold Medal-winning diver Greg Louganis in his quest for perfection and peace of mind. Always a bit of a loner, Louganis found solace on the diving board, competing in 3 Olympics and missing a fourth only because the US boycotted the Moscow Games in 1980. His superb style and technical prowess even as a teenager surely set him apart from other athletes. The fact that he is a gay man who has lived with HIV for decades also set him apart, and here he recalls the issues around the illness and his attempt to live his life, earn a living and find happiness. You can’t help but feel for this man, who has faced a myriad of challenges and come undone by trusting the wrong people. The good news is that his life seems to have settled down as of the time of the film, and he has found that happiness is possible outside of the pool. 3 cans.
102. Amy* (2015) – Last month I watched the Brian Wilson movie, “Love & Mercy.” This month I have seen “Spinal Tap,” “Ricki & the Flash” and “The Rose,” so clearly I am on a music-movie kick. This documentary is about the transcendent talent of British singer Amy Winehouse, a jazz-loving, hard-drinking chanteuse whose short life exploded into fame and misfortune between 2003 and her death less than 10 years later. Winehouse wrote her own songs and burst on the scene as a teenager, eventually reaching the kind of scary superstardom where cameras flash in your face constantly. When she moved into her first flat, she aspired to write songs and smoke weed all day, the beginning of the inevitable drug and health problems that plagued her. She started out so strong, but by the time she hooked up with Blake Fiedler and married him, she was bulimic and began using drugs that included heroin. Her song “Rehab” was written after the first intervention by family and friends, one that she rejected, but she did finally go to rehab, occasionally stayed clean, but eventually lost her battle. Her desire to stay out of the spotlight was impossible to achieve once she became so famous so quickly. And her talent burned bright, albeit briefly. What a loss for all of us who love real music. 4 cans.
103. In the Land of Women* (2007) – Carter Webb (Adam Brody) lands in the land of women when his actress girlfriend breaks up with him and he seeks refuge at the home of his grandmother (Olympia Dukakis), an older woman waiting impatiently to die. Feeling the loss of his relationship and immersed in a desire to write the story he has contemplated since he was a teenager, the 26-year old finds himself establishing new relationships with an attractive neighbor recently diagnosed with cancer (Meg Ryan) and her teenaged, confused daughter (Kristen Stewart). Carter knows he shouldn’t get involved with either of them, but they are all lonely and confused and drawn to each other. In the end, they all come to realizations about themselves that help each to grow. Brody is a lanky, charming actor, best known for playing Seth Cohen in the TV show “The OC” years before, and he doesn’t have that much of a stretch here. Can’t give this one more than 3 cans.
104. Catch and Release* (2006) – Gray (Jennifer Garner) finds out more about her fiancé after his sudden death right before their wedding than she knew about him while they were engaged. He had money and a secret life that she needs to reconcile to move on, but instead she moves in – to her fiancé’s house, with his semi-slacker roommates Sam and Dennis (Kevin Smith and Sam Jaeger). Also staying with them is good friend Fritz (Timothy Olyphant), who provides the perfect vehicle for revenge sex for Gray. Aside from the fact that I found Kevin Smith to be overacting and and Garner’s lips distracting, I just basically didn’t like the story, so 2 cans is all I can muster here.
105. Date Night (2010) – Date night is not a great night for married couple Claire and Phil Foster (Tina Fey and Steve Carell), who take someone’s reservation at a posh restaurant, only to become the victims of mistaken identity. It seems “the Tripplehorns” are in trouble, and now the bad guys – who are actually bad cops – are after them. This is a comedy-action movie, so there are car chases and crashes, shooting (it always amazes me when shooters can obliterate the windshield and yet no one is harmed), a dunk in the river and whatever other mayhem can ensue. Fey and Carell are just an ordinary New Jersey couple spending an evening in Manhattan, but under some extraordinary circumstances. I liked this movie better in the movies. Somehow revisiting it reminded me of how preposterous it was, and how difficult it is for me to suspend my sense of reality. So, when the airbags went off in the car and then the next scene had them driving it again without them, I found that a little tough to believe. Moderately amusing, and a few great scenes of Mark Wahlberg without his shirt. 3 cans.
106. Masquerade (1988) – The gorgeous Rob Lowe is Tim Whelan, a young yacht skipper who meets the very wealthy Olivia Lawrence (Meg Tilly) and pursues a relationship with her. Tim has a bit of a shady past, and he is having an affair with his captain’s wife, but that doesn’t seem to hamper his pursuit of the quiet Olivia. But this movie, written and directed by Dick Wolf long before he created the “Law & Order” franchise on TV, is full of suspense, as their relationship deepens and you wonder if he really loves her. Saying more would ruin the plot, but I can recommend this movie, which is nowhere near the level of suspense of a “Gone Girl” but compelling nonetheless. Tilly is very bland as Olivia, and they have her looking almost matronly, but Rob Lowe in the 1980s was eye candy for sure (and still…). 3½ cans.
107. St. Elmo’s Fire (1986) – Speaking of Rob Lowe, here he is reprobate Billy, a sax player, recent graduate of Georgetown, and part of a tight group of friends in their early 20s trying to transition between college life and real life. Billy is the heartbreaker, as Demi Moore’s Jules tells him, because he always lets them down. Jules has her own issues – a drug and alcohol problem and overspending, sleeping around and waiting for her “Stepmonster” to die. Alec (Judd Nelson) is the responsible, steady one, who happens to be cheating on his live-in girlfriend Leslie (Ally Sheedy), who knows better than to marry him. Would-be author Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) is secretly in love with Leslie and won’t pursue other women because of his feelings for her and for his best friend, Alec. His closest relationship is with the hooker he passes on the street, who, like everyone else, assumes he is gay. And speaking of unrequited love, Kirby (Emilio Estevez) is head over heels for Dr. Dale, a woman a few years older whom he once took to see a Woody Allen movie. The final member of the crew is Wendy (Mare Willingham), daughter of a wealthy family and in love with her polar opposite, Billy. The movie embodied the emergence of Hollywood’s Brat Pack, and these people were in the news and on the screens frequently. We have all been in that transition period, where we know we have to leave college behind and make our way in this world, yet we cling to the bonds we have made with our college friends, many of which (the bonds, that is) last a lifetime. And this crowd is probably going to stay together, linked somehow, for life. The music and the cast make this movie watchable, and I enjoyed a stroll down memory lane. 4 cans.
108. Nothing In Common (1986) – Continuing my stream of 1980s movies, here we have a little Garry Marshall-Tom Hanks gem. Hanks has played in many movies I have enjoyed, but this one seems to have been overlooked since I rarely find anyone who is familiar with it. David Basner (Hanks) is a 30-something ad exec who he loves working with his team and chasing women, and he’s good at both. He’s trying to land an airline account and the exec (Sela Ward) whose father owns the company. And then one day his mother leaves his father (Eva Maire Saint and Jackie Gleason) and David is forced to face family responsibilities, the truth about the relationship between his parents and how it has affected him. You’d never know from this description that this movie is equal parts comedy and drama (the advertising scenes in the office draw the most comedy). David leans on his old high school girlfriend (Bess Armstrong) for emotional support even though they have both moved on. Gleason is terrific as irascible Max Basner, still trying to sell children’s clothes and ignoring his failing health. David has to balance his work and family life for the first time. 4 cans.
109. Sex Tape* (2014) – You have to give Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz props for nearly baring it all this comedy about a couple trying to revive their sex life by recording themselves going at it in every possible way for three hours. In these days of “the cloud,” the video gets uploaded to a server and the couple make a mad dash to see who is behind the incident and how they can get it back. This isn’t the kind of movie I generally watch, but it is less prurient than comedic in nature. Having seen it once, I’ll likely never see it again. 2½ cans.
110. In the Bedroom (2001) – Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson are Ruth and Matt, a long-married couple leading quiet lives in their Maine community when their world is rocked by the tragic death of their son, Frank. Frank had been dating Natalie (Marissa Tomei), a not-quite divorced woman with two young children whose nasty husband did not take kindly to the presence of another man. With Frank’s death, Ruth and Matt’s lives become quietly desperate, as their cope with their grief and the restrictions of the legal system. This is a slow-moving drama where feelings are sublimated by the main characters as they try to live their lives through their everyday activities and their grief. The performances by the leads all received Oscar nominations for good reason. Not cheery, but well done. 3½ cans.