During a rare mild November morning in 1998, I was sitting at home doing what a good geek should do: reading comic books.
As I made my way through my latest pile of comics from New England Comics, my good friend Nick called. Oh no I thought to myself, he’s finally snapped and is calling to ask for bail money.
Thankfully, Nick wasn’t calling for money, he only to see if I wanted to join him and a few other friends for a double feature. The movies of the day were to be “Antz,” and “The Waterboy,” so I agreed to go, and met the group at Nick’s house. From there we headed to the Showcase Cinema in Randolph Ma. which was packed for a late weekday morning in November. Probably a bunch of kids skipping school.
Stay in school kids!
Anyways, our first movie was “The Waterboy” directed by Frank Coraci. The film starred Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates, Fairuza Balk, Henry Winkler, Jerry Reed, Larry Gilliard, Jr., Blake Clark, Peter Dante, and Jonathan Loughran. Sandler stars as Bobby Boucher, a 31-year-old man who, soon after the film opens, is fired as the waterboy of a championship college football team. He then talks himself into a job with a team of losers, led by the insecure Coach Kline (Henry Winkler).
For me though, Kathy Bates stole the show as Bobby’s mother. Bates had the best scenes in the movie as the possessive and manipulative woman who has kept Bobby away from most of the world in their rural cabin. Mama Boucher and Bobby share the cabin with large animals, including a donkey named Steve. She often serves up giant swamp snakes and other creatures to their occasional guests like coach Klein and Fairuza Balk. I also love how everything she’s ever taught Bobby is followed by “It’s the devil!”
Also of note is Henry Winkler as the luckless Coach Klein. “The Waterboy” was the first time I saw Winkler as something other than the Fonzy, so it was funny to see him as someone who is insecure and scared of others. Winkler had me rolling with his Roy Orbison story and the flashback scenes with Jerry Reed (who was also good). Coach Klein was great comic relief, but I thought he had a lot of heart as well and gave Bobby the closest thing to a father he ever had.
As I sat in the theater, all I could think of was “I shouldn’t like this movie, but I actually do!” I mean, it’s not like “The Waterboy: is a cinematic masterpiece or anything. If I recall correctly, the movie got savaged by critics upon release. But that wasn’t new for an Adam Sandler project. Even today he gets brutal reviews, but today they seem warranted.
Maybe I liked “The Waterboy” because it’s a movie about football, or maybe it’s because we all have a little Bobby Boucher in us. And who doesn’t love a sports underdog study? Then again, maybe I liked this movie because of all the damn cameos from ESPN personalities, Lawrence Taylor, NFL coaches Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson, and of course…
I didn’t know it at the time, but “The Waterboy” turned out to be the last Adam Sandler movie I liked. From here on in, nothing Sandler has done has matched his golden years of “Billy Madison, “Happy Gilmore,” and “The Waterboy.” Those movies worked because plots were kept simple, and the jokes came organically. But ever since, it seems like Sandler is more concerned with writing a joker and nor putting as much time into the plot.
Later that day my friends and I saw “Antz” which was well, what you would expect. But it still features the only Jennifer Lopez performance I like. Later on my buddies an I got kicked out of Pizzeria UNO’s. Not for anything, we did mind you, but because one of us (someone whose name rhymes with Mick) had on a shirt with a four-letter word printed on it. Ah well, at least I got one of my favorite football movies out of the day.
I’ve always been fascinated by space travel. As a kid, I spent hours reading everything I could about NASA and the various space programs around the world. My sixth-grade science project was on the Space Shuttle, and I even dressed up as an astronaut one Halloween.
Over the years I also devoured any movies and tv shows that had anything to do with space flight. One of my favorite space shows is HBO’s “From the Earth to the Moon.”
“From the Earth to the Moon,” was one of the most expensive television miniseries in history. Costing around $68 million, the twelve-part docudrama took viewers back to the incredible era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, culminating with the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.
Along with producers Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Michael Bostick, Tom Hanks served as executive producer/co-writer/co-director/actor and even introduced eleven out of the twelve episodes. Their passion is evident throughout the series, and all of them went to great lengths to ensure “From the Earth to the Moon” would be as accurate as possible.
The ambitious project aired weekly over six weeks in two-hour installments. Each chapter had radically different artistic styles behind the camera. With different writers and directors gave each episode its own tone, look and feel. Each hour of “From Earth to the Moon” plays like a mini-movie, beautifully mixing archival news footage with the new material.
But when “From the Earth to the Moon” first aired in 1998, I wasn’t able to see it, because I didn’t have HBO at the time. I didn’t discover the series until the following year when it hit DVD. It didn’t matter though, I was hooked from the first episode. “Can We Do This?”
Directed by Tom Hanks, the opening chaptter is arguably the most linear, condensing the first few years of the space program into an hour-long episode. This one episode told you everything you needed to know about the history of manned space flight and introduced you to all the key players for the rest of the mini-series. From the opening shots of the Vostok 1 launch to Mike Peck sequence. All of it was a joy to watch.
However, as good as “Can We Do This?” is, other episodes have become my personal favorites. For example, episode five “Spider” begins in 1961, as NASA engineer John Houbolt tried to convince management that the easiest way to land men on the Moon will be to use a separate landing craft. It then traces the design and development of the Lunar Module by a team led by Grumman engineer Tom Kelly.
“Spider” also covers the selection and training of the first crew to fly the LEM: James McDivitt and Rusty Schweickart (along with Command Module pilot David Scott), and culminates with their first flight of Spider in Earth orbit on Apollo 9.
Another episode I can watch over and over again is episode seven, “That’s All There Is.” This episode tells the story of Apollo 12, the second lunar landing mission. The entire episode is narrated by Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean (Dave Foley).
I like this episode because of the friendship the Apollo 12 crew share, and how lost friends are never forgotten by the astronauts. Pius, there are some very funny moments involving a camera, and a school field trip.
Finally, there is episode ten, “Galileo Was Right,” and episode twelve, “Le Voyage Dans La Lune.” I see these episodes as the two-part story of Harrison “Jack” Schmitt (Tom Amandes). He was the first scientist to go into space.
But maybe, more importantly, Schmitt was essential in getting the astronaut corp the geology training they needed. Plus I also like how nerdy Schmitt and professor Leon Silver (David Clennon) get on field trips.
All in all, “From the Earth to the Moon” remains one of my go-to space shows. IT’s brilliantly cast and directed, no other mini-series has topped it since. I can sit down and binge watch this series at any time, and I usually watch it at least once a year at least.
Whether you saw it twenty years ago, or are just hearing of it for the first time, “From the Earth to the Moon” is an exceptional piece of television, and well worth your time.
Hard to believe “The Mask of Zorro” just turned twenty years old. It doesn’t seem like that much time has gone by.
The film starring Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, and Catherine Zeta-Jones and directed by Martin Campbell was a big deal for me. I had been a Zorro fan most of my life, but this would the my first chance to see Zorro on the big screen.
I still remember going to see the movie the first Sunday it was out. My friend John and I wanted to see the first show of the day at the National Amusements theater in Randolph Ma, but it was sold out. We managed to get tickets to the 2:00 show, but even that was packed and we ended up sitting in the last row. We sat so far up, that we had to use a different door to get into the theater.
Luckily the sitting arrangement did not take away my enjoyment of “The Mask of Zorro.” This movie was everything I wanted to see and so much more. The film not only reintroduced the character to new generations, but it expanded on what had been done before. “The Mask of Zorro” had a lot of energy, fun, swordplay, and humor. I never felt like the movie talked down to long time fans, or tried to preach at you. The movie simply showed you how good can battle evil, with honor.
My favorite scenes in the movie were the ones between Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who had great chemistry and, an ideal to the right thing. Whether its the dance at Don Rafael’s hacienda, at which the daughter and the dashing visitor take over the dance floor in a passionate paso doble. Or a scene that starts as a duel to the death between man and woman, and ends in a surprised embrace. All of their scenes together were gold.
As John and I left the theater, I couldn’t stop raving about the movie. Then as we rode the escalator up, we saw going down were the rest of our friends. They were on their way to see “Armageddon,” which John and I had already seen. But they said we should come along anyways, so we did. Afterwards I told them about “Mask of Zorro,” and Nick suggested we go see it. I couldn’t say no, so off we went to see the movie once more.
When I was around five or six years old, I got sick at school, and had to stay home the next day. I spent most of the day sleeping, but woke up every few hours to take my medicine. It was during one of the medicine breaks when I turned the tv on and discovered Disney’s 1950’s “Zorro” series starring Guy Williams.
I changed the channel just in time to see Zorro jumping from a rooftop. I didn’t know who the masked man wearing black was, but I definitely wanted to know more. It only took one scene to make me a fan. And as I recovered over the next couple of days, I made sure to catch more episodes of Zorro.
That was a long time ago, but my love of Zorro has remained intact. Since that day in the early 1980’s, I’ve watched every Zorro tv show and movie I could find. I’ve read the original story by Johnston McCulley countless times. Aside from the Guy Williams show, I’m particularly fond of the 1940 film “Mark of Zorro” starring Tyrone Power. But my next favorite Zorro adaptation is none other than the “Mask of Zorro.” And the memories o seeing the movie probably have a lot to do with that.
On July 12, 1998, I was in the middle of a summer season. The FIFA World Cup in France was nearing its end; I was fighting with my college over a parking spot they charged me twice for; a time displaced Hal Jordan appeared in Green Lantern; my first car was on life support; I had seen Bruce Willis save the world three times; my ex girlfriend started dating my co-worker; and my relatives from New Orleans were visiting Boston for the first time.
The oldest daughter, Veronica, was about 15 months older than me. This was the fist time I’d met her, and discovered she was very shy. But that first day I also learned she was a big movie fan, and when I told her I worked at Blockbuster, we talked movies for over an hour. I had to work that night, but before I left I told her my friends and I went to the movies a lot, and she’d be welcome to tag along, or just the two of us could go.
Me and my big mouth.
On the afternoon of the Brazil vs. France World Cup final, Veronica decided it would be a good idea if we went to the movies to see “Lethal Weapon 4.” I wanted to be nice, so I told her sure, the game was at like 3 in the afternoon, we could see a movie that night. She replied, “No. I looked at the times and there’s one at 2:45.” I tried to counter with a later show, but she insisted on the 2:45 showing.
Things only got worse from there, because once in the car she shut off WZLX and put in one of her CDs. I couldn’t tell who’s CD this was, all I know for sure is that the singers were a boy band, and considering how many boy bands were around at the time, it could have been anyone. That was bad enough, but then Veronica opened the sunroof and lowered her window, and blasted the music. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: she knew every word to every song.
Anyways, when we got to the theater, we found out the 2:45 was sold out. The next available show was 3:30. I bought our tickets, and asked her if she wanted something to eat. Veronica ordered a burger, nd she sent it back two times because she didn’t like the way it was cooked. Once the trailers had started, she wanted popcorn, so out I went to the nearest concession stand. But during all of this, all I could think about was whether Brazil was beating France.
After waiting in line for a while, I finally got the popcorn and headed back inside. By then, Danny Glover had already found the Chinese family and brought them home. Veronica tried to bring me up to speed on what I missed, but we got interrupted by a shouting scene between Chris Rock and Joe Pesci. Come to think of it, they weren’t fighting at all, but were discussing rotary phones for reasons I don’t recall.
For the rest of the movie, Veronica would talk to me about random stuff. But even when she wasn’t talking to me, she’d be talking to the screen, For instance, when Chris Rock was talking to Danny Glover about spending Christmas together, Veronica decided to join the conversation by saying out loud “He doesn’t know he’s dating his daughter!” The pople behind us started saying “keep it down,” and “shhh,” but it didn’t stop her from talking over most of the movie.
The ride back to my aunt and uncle’s house wasn’t much better. Veronica said she wanted to drive, and I was too tired to put up much of a fight. Most of the 20 minute drive home was uneventful, but as we got closer to our destination, Veronica hit a corner too fast, and spun us out. Luckily we didn’t go into the reservoir to our right, and didn’t hit any other cars. After we made sure we were both okay, Veronica swore me to secrecy because her dad didn’t want her driving in Boston.
Now she tells me.
Going to see “Lethal Weapon 4” was an awful experience, but I also realized I needed to give the movie another shot. When it was realeased on home video I decided to watch it, and to my surprise I really enjoyed it.
Even with some over the top action scenes like the highway chase, I would say this movie was better than “Lethal Weapon 3,” thanks to the whole “We’re one happy family” ending. It may have taken me a few extra months, but I finally enjoyed “Lethal Weapon 4.” But it still doesn’t make up for Brazil losing to France in the final.
A couple of weeks ago, I told you about a first date in 1998 with a girl named Kristin that involved seeing the movie “The Horse Whisperer.” Suffice to say it wasn’t the best start to that relationship. But our movie dates did not get much better from there.
The second time this girl and I went to the movies, was to see the romantic comedy “Six Days, Seven Nights.” I don’t remember who chose the movie this time. But once we decided on the day and time, I do remember thinking to myself “It has Harrison Ford, and its directed by Ivan Reitman, it has to be decent.”
Yeah, about that…
Harrison Ford and Anne Heche starred in “Six Days, Seven Nights” in what I guess was supposed to be an opposites attract story set on a South Pacific island. Ford plays Quinn Harris, a man who decided to simplify his life by moving to paradise to become a charter pilot. Heche plays Robin Monroe, a high-powered New York magazine editor. In the film, Heche and her boyfriend (David Schwimmer) go to the tropical isle on a much-needed vacation, and upon arrival he proposes marriage, which she accepts.
But her work soon comes calling, and her editorial services are needed in a nearby island. With a deadline looming, Heche hires Harrison Ford to fly her over to Tahiti for what I think was an emergency photo shoot. I’m not sure there is really such a thing as an emergency photo shoot, but at the time I went along with the premise.
Anyways, the duo run into a storm or maybe Harrison Ford’s bad luck with planes struck here first. Either way, their plane crashes on an uninhabited island, and Ford and Heche find themselves in a fight for survival. Had it been just them against the elements, I would have been more invested in their fates. But the main plot lost me when pirates showed.
Meanwhile, back on the resort island, Ford’s friendly masseuse/girlfriend, played by Jacqueline Obradors, and David Schwimmer, mourn their missing lovers and seek consolation, or something, in each other’s arms. I hate to say it, but these two had more chemistry than the leads. They also had the funniest moments in the film.
By the way, Harrison Ford and Anne Heche are declared dead extremely quickly in this movie.
Sitting in the theater that night was the first time I thought Harrison Ford looked bored in a role. At no point during “Six Days, Seven Nights” did I believe he was having fun. There are even moments after they crash where I think his anger towards Anne Heche is real. The lack of chemistry between the two was mind-blowing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the two didn’t speak between takes.
I wasn’t the only one in the theater who had issues with the film, as quite a few people left during the movie and never returned. My own date seemed confused by “Six Days, Seven Nights.” Not that the movie is confusing, it’s a pretty straight forward plot.
But as we waited for our dinner after the movie, Kristin looked at me and said “So did Harrison Ford and Anne Heche like each other?” and I said I guess, since the two characters end up together by the end. Kristin wasn’t sold though, and told me that she didn’t get what either character would find attractive about the other, as they seemed to bring the worse out of that person.
After two rough movie nights, we decided to stick renting movies from the Blockbuster where we worked. Over the next couple of months I got Kristin into the James Bond movies, and she introduced me to movies like “An American in Paris,” and “Murder by Death.” So I guess something good came out of paying to see “Six Days, Seven Nights.”
Ahh, the crazy things you do for a girl.
Twenty years ago I was a young 20-year-old college student who had just asked a new girl out on a date. Shockingly, she said yes, and suggested we go to the movies. Being a gentleman, I told her she should pick out the movie she wanted to see the most. Unluckily for me, this was the same week
a little movie called “The Horse Whisperer” opened in theaters.
The film was directed by Robert Redford, and was based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Nicholas Evans. In the movie, Robert Redford plays Tom Booker, a talented trainer with a remarkable gift for understanding horses. He’s hired by Annie MacLean (Kristin Scott Thomas) to help her injured teenage daughter Grace (Scarlett Johansson), and her horse following a tragic accident.
One thing I have to admit, is that “The Horse Whisperer” had one hell of a cast. The supporting cast includes: Chris Cooper as Redford’s brother Frank, Dianne Wiest as his wife, and Sam Neil as Kriistin Scott Thomas’ husband, Robert. And in a very small role, Kate Bosworth plays Judith, Grace’s friend who died in the tragic accident which opens the film. Like I said, this flick had an impressive cast.
So what did I think of “The Horse Whisperer”?
Well, Let me put to you this way: By the time Robert Redford turns down Kristin Scott Thomas over the phone, I was already looking at my watch. During the trip Kristin Scott Thomas and Scarlett Johansson take to Montana, I’d gone to the concessions stand twice, and took the scenic walk back to my seat.
When I sat back down with my new bucket of popcorn, my date said to me, “Don’t leave again, it’s about to get good.” I wondered how she’d know that, and over the dinner later I found out she had read the book. But sitting in the theater that afternoon, I didn’t believe this movie was about to get any better.
Sure, the performances were solid. Especially by Kristin Scott Thomas and Robert Redford. And the cinematography was stunning. Montana is a beautiful place, and looked great in the movie. But as for horse whispering, as far as I could tell, all it involved is Robert Redford staring at the horse until the horse gets what Redford is trying to accomplish. And let me tell you, there are a lot of scenes of people staring at the horse.
But eventually the horse succumbs to Robert Redford’s charms, and so does Kristin Scott Thomas who ends up falling in love with him. I think she considers staying in Montana, but cooler head prevail. Redford even gets to Scarlett Johansson, who seemed to have a better relationship with his character than with her dad played by Sam Neil.
Clocking in at 170 minutes, “The Horse Whisperer” was a marathon of a movie. But as far as first dates go, it was definitely memorable. So was the first kiss that night when I dropped her off at her place. So while the movie wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, the rest of the date was.