Month: October 2011

Casablanca

Year: 1942
Directed By: Michael Curtiz
Written By: Julius and Philip Epstein

RYAN’S REVIEW

I was still in high school when I fell in love with this movie, which I think speaks volume about how good the movie is.  It is a classic that can still find an audience 60 years later in the youth of film loving America.  I have heard this called one of the greatest movies ever made and when you see it I think that it backs up the statement.  This movie stars an iconic actor synonymous with a film era, a beautiful female lead, great supporting actors, and a fantastic story.  Casablanca is about love and loss, heartache, desperation, overcoming emotion, and standing up for what is right.  It’s a fantastic and inspiring film that also has a political message about a lesser talked about WWII problem.

During World War II there was a path that refugees took while trying desperately to escape the war and the Nazi concentration camps.  This path is outlined in the beginning of the film and it leads right to Casablanca, where people have to wait until money or influence can get them on a plane to the next stop on the way to safety in America.  Humphrey Bogart plays Rick, an American who runs a nightclub in Casablanca.  Rick is a popular and somewhat influential man in Casablanca. He is a man scarred by a broken heart and turned cynical for reasons we don’t know at first.  Rick is content to mind his own business and stay out of politics until a very famous political refugee reaches Casablanca.  Paul Henreid plays Victor Laszlo, a person of great importance to the French resistance and the Nazis really want to stop him from reaching America.  To Rick’s shock Laszlo is accompanied by the woman who broke him, the long-lost love that turned him into the cynical man that he is.  Ingrid Bergman plays Ilsa, who was Rick’s woman in another life, but left him suddenly and took his heart with her.  The story that goes on from there is captivating and incredible. There are other notable roles in the film as well, Claude Rains is very good as Captain Renault. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet also make great cameos in the film.

Every time I watch this movie I am reminded about how much I love it.  It really is a perfect movie.  It was made during a time when studios still owned actors and Humphrey Bogart was Warner Brother’s guy.  Bogart has an interesting story behind him.  Bogart appeared in something like 40 movies as an extra as he slowly made his way to the top, playing hitmen and mobsters usually.  Warner Brothers didn’t think he had what it took to be a leading man, especially in a romantic film like Casablanca. The guy does look great in a tux though, and he made smoking look so cool.  It should come as no surprise that he eventually died of lung cancer, but he wouldn’t have been the same without the smokes, they were part of who he was.  I have always identified with the character he plays in this film. Rick Blaine had a great influence on the person I was when I was 16-18 and there are still elements of his character surviving in my persona today.  It’s from Rick Blaine that I learned the power of women.  Women hold all the power in reality, they can take a lively man and turn him into a shell by capturing his heart. You can have other women, just as Rick did, but none of them matter.  No other woman really matters anymore when one captured your heart and made off with it. That woman completes you and without her you are a different person. All men who have loved and loss can appreciate this film because we know what Rick is going through.

I have mentioned before that I was raised by movies, in nearly every way the characters that I have watched and studied have made me who I am today.  This movie specifically taught me many things when I had a lot of things I needed to learn.  What makes it such a special movie is that watching it now I can see there is even more I could learn from this film.  It really is a great movie and I hope I have talked you into giving it a chance if you haven’t seen it.  This is a great movie and it is more than worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Honestly, you should already know the value of this film. A true classic. Here are some memorable quotes you probably already know, just maybe didn’t know where they were from.

“Here’s Looking At You Kid.” – Humphrey Bogart

“Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.” – Claude Rains

“Play It Sam. Play As Time Goes By.” – Ingrid Bergman

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world she walks into mine.” – Humphrey Bogart

“Louis, I think this is the beginning for a beautiful friendship.” – Humphrey Bogart

“If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not on it, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon and for the rest of your life.” – Humphrey Bogart

“Kiss me. Kiss me as though it were the last time.” – Ingrid Bergman

“Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble. But it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” – Humphrey Bogart

NEXT MOVIE: Casino (1995)

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Caddyshack

Year: 1980
Directed By: Harold Ramis
Written By: Brian Doyle-Murray, Harold Ramis, and Douglas Kenney

RYAN’S REVIEW

A great classic comedy.  A good example of how well improvisation can work when you get a group of funny people together and they start having fun.  This movie is a sports classic and an iconic comedy.  After more than 30 years since coming out it’s hard for me to imagine anybody who hasn’t seen this movie. Like most great classics it is a timeless film that can be enjoyed by any generation.

I have always been a big fan of Harold Ramis, both on camera and behind it as well, he has had a hand in many great comedy classics.  Ramis is a writer/director who occasionally ventures out into the movies, most notably Stripes and Ghostbusters, both classic films.  He has great chemistry with Bill Murray, who I have always heard was somewhat difficult to work with.  He is a very strange person with a wild sense of humor but that is what makes him funny.  Bill Murray’s brother Brian Doyle-Murray wrote this film based on personal experience and actually played a part in the film as Lou the caddyshack manager.  I have always been a fan of Doyle-Murray too.  He has had a long and steady career of small roles, some men are great in those small roles and manage to pop up everywhere.  Doyle-Murray was one of those guys for a long time.  Chevy Chase was ultra cool and on the rise when this film came out.  I have heard that he too is hard to work with yet doesn’t have the same caliber of talent as Murray so Chase’s career suffers for it.  He is however part of the cast for my favorite comedy currently on television.  Chase currently plays Pierce Hawthorne on NBC’s Community which is one of the best shows I have ever seen, it is the smartest comedy on television.  Yet Chevy Chase has little to do with what makes Community a great show, he isn’t as funny in his winter years as he was here in Caddyshack. I have never been a Rodney Dangerfield fan but I do like him in this film. He does also play a part in my number 1 all time favorite film, which will remain a mystery until we get to it.

There are also other noteworthy people who should be mentioned such as Ted Knight and Michael O’Keefe.  The roles of Dangerfield and Chase were actually originally going to simply be cameos but things changed as the movie was being made.  There is a great documentary about the making of this film but it pretty much boiled down to anarchy. There was a lot of disorientation and disorganization on set but somehow they made a classic film out of it all.  Like I said before, this is a timeless film that will live on forever, you don’t need me to vouch for it because everybody in their right mind has already seen it and is vouch for it themselves.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is such a classic. I still don’t really like it all that much, but I appreciate it for what it is. I understand why people like it and hold it up so high. Every time that I watch it though, I am less impressed with it. I say watch it because it is a classic, to have it as a notch in your movie belt.

NEXT MOVIE: Casablanca (1942)

The Cable Guy

Year: 1996
Directed By: Ben Stiller
Written By: Lou Holtz Jr.

RYAN’S REVIEW

Ben Stiller doesn’t get behind the camera very often but when he does he gets it right.  He isn’t for everybody and I say this because most of his attempts are considered failures but I have enjoyed them all.  A couple of years ago when Tropic Thunder was coming out it was really hyped and a lot of people were excited about it.  I remember telling people to brace themselves because Ben Stiller movies weren’t for everybody.  I know some people like Amber and I who love Zoolander but there are far more people who thought it was crap.  The Cable Guy is the same way, it was a love it or hate it movie and I do love it.  I think it shows how visionary and intelligent Ben Stiller is as a filmmaker too. This movie made a statement early during a change in our society, when media started taking over.  That’s just not what people expected when going to see this movie in 1996.  They had seen Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura and The Mask and had a certain comedic expectation from him. That’s not really what this movie was about though, it made a statement, and the humor Carrey brings to the role was simply a good bi-product of the film.

This movie takes place before the internet really took off and television and film were one of the main sources of media in our society and they were taking over.  I myself have been heavily influenced by film and can find a semi connection with the Carrey character because of that.  I may not be crazy like the cable guy but I am a product of the generation raised by film and tv.  We are weird people who see our lives in a theatrical sense that drives us to make things more dramatic.  The cable guy takes his new friend to a medieval restaurant and references Star Trek in the same scene for crying out loud, it’s like Ben Stiller is literally mind fucking me.  Amber and I just finished reading a giant medieval fantasy epic by George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire. The irony in my personal life is just really bizarre.

There are many small cameos of significance in this movie by the director and many of his friends.  Janeane Garofalo, Owen Wilson, Jack Black, and Andy Dick all play small roles.  There is even a really young David Cross in the movie. Judd Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann plays the female lead, Apatow served as a writer and producer on the film.  Matthew Broderick plays the lead but he has never really been able to rise to the potential he showed as Ferris Bueller and I think his performance is part of the reason this movie isn’t given higher regard.  Jim Carrey is an entertaining machine and his performance is incredible in this film.  Chris Farley was originally cast in the role and while I love the guy it would have been a very different movie and probably not for the better. Long before I even knew who Jefferson Airplane was, or what happened at the Altamont Speedway I remember watching Jim Carrey’s video for the song “Want Somebody to Love” on MTV.  He was really hitting on all cylinders in 1996 and you can really see the range of his talent in this film.

This movie wasn’t appreciated when it came out but some movies are like fine wines, and they grow better with time.  The Cable Guy is a movie that I have always enjoyed and still consider relevant today, I would reccomend it to anyone, it is definitely worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan likes to go on and on, and I like to keep it simple, I think you guys are aware of that by now. This is one of my favorite movies. Jim Carrey was one of the only guys in Hollywood that my dad let us watch growing up. We must have watched this one a million times. My brother and step sister never liked it too much, but for some reason I really got it. I connected with it. The story is somewhat psychotic, which I love. The movie itself is very dark and mysterious. It keeps you wondering what the hell is going on with this guy?

This film keeps you on your toes and makes you wonder what is going to come next. My favorite scene, of course, is the Medieval Times scene which also, by the way, contains a hilarious cameo by Andy Dick. When I was younger I liked it, but I didn’t really get it. It’s a long story, and I am sure we will get there one day, but Ryan made me watch every last Star Trek movie. I now have a new-found love for the scene that I originally didn’t have. Everything in this movie is related to television and movies and that is one of the things that I love most about this film. A must see if you have never seen it.

NEXT MOVIE: Caddyshack (1980)

The Butterfly Effect

Year: 2004
Directed By: Eric Brees and J. Mackye Gruber
Written By: J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Brees

RYAN’S REVIEW

I have always been a fan of clever psychological thrillers, and this one really surprised me when I saw it for the first time.  This movie not only stars Ashton Kutcher but he served as executive producer as well.  I detest Kutcher, and especially in 2004 when he was popular to the point of being annoying, and for doing nothing.  However, I do like to give credit where it is due and Kutcher did a good job with this film.  The story is interesting and some of the performances are really exceptional.

Movies that are written and directed by the same person, or persons in this case, are usually rare gems in the movie world when they are successful. I can think of several examples by both one hit wonders and by men who went on to make a career of their talent.  I think it is the best directors who write the movies they make actually.  While I may not know the two guys who made this movie I do think it is a better movie because it was directed by the guys that wrote it.  This movie only got made because Ashton Kutcher got on board as Executive Producer and cast in the lead role.  I think Kutcher is a talentless hack, but he carries a lot of weight in the media world despite what I think.  I’m not sure why he is famous, I liked him on That 70s Show but he wasn’t anything special.  I may not remember correctly but he seemed to only be famous for the people he hung out with and for being in a relationship with a woman twice his age and I don’t get that. I get why people liked Punk’d so much but I always thought it was cheap and immature. I think his Harold and Maude thing with Demi Moore is gross, and over publicized. To this day I still don’t think he has done much to explain his popularity, even his role in this film isn’t exceptional.  It’s the other performances and the story that make this film worth wild. I may not like him but I know many people do, and he will only become more popular now that he has been cast in Two and a Half Men.

I would have to say the greatest performance in this film was Jesse James playing the part of the wild and crazy 13-year-old Tommy.  He was so sadistic and violent when he got angry that he actually scared me.  It was a very impressive performance coming from an actor so young.  I like Ethan Suplee as the gothic roommate, and I liked Amy Smart but she really disappeared after this movie.  This movie was made better by these performances but it was already a good movie because it is a clever idea. Clever movies have been made less and less over the last 10 years in favor of more recognizable and rebooted movies that will make more money. We have to appreciate the clever ideas because they are scarcer now more than ever. This is a good movie and it is worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is very interesting. I really like the concept of the film and the people who are in it. This movie revolves around the childhood of this kid (the older version played by Ashton Kutcher) that constantly blocks things out. Some of them make sense as to why he blacked out and others are more vague. When he is older he realizes he has this ability to recall the past and change it. He got the ability from his father who ultimately ended up in a mental institution. The guy that plays the super crazy and demented Tommy (Jesse James) is probably the most outstanding actor in this film. I feel like I am actually, very terrified of him and the others that are around him.

I really recommend this film if you haven’t seen it. It is interesting what he tries to accomplish in order to change the lives of the characters involved, and while he wants everyone’s life to be perfect, he soon realizes that life isn’t like that. You can’t make everything perfect for everyone.

NEXT MOVIE: The Cable Guy (1996)

10 Things I Hate About You

Year: 1999
Directed By: Gil Junger
Written By: three different writers

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie is out of place in the DVD order because it is new.  I regularly buy new DVDs and the farther we get into the collection the more often we might get new movies that will take a place earlier in the order.  When that happens I intend to review that movie next and it will just be out of place in the blog.

Owning this movie was long overdue, I like it for several reasons.  It was while we were watching and reviewing the Jason Bourne movies that I decided to finally get it.  It was seeing Julia Stiles and wanting more that ultimately got this movie into our DVD collection. She has such an unique look that makes her beautiful and she is talented too.  This was her first movie and probably her most popular film, not including the Bourne movies where she is just a secondary supporting character.

There are other reasons this movie belonged in the collection too.  This was one of the movies I played on a regular basis at Action Video while I was working there.  It’s another one of those stupid high school films that came out when I was in high school but I always liked this one.  It is a funny movie and sets itself apart from the others in many ways.  I am also about to be the father of TWO daughters myself and have a new appreciation for a movie about two sisters.  I think Larry Miller is great as the father of those two sisters, he is really funny in this movie. This movie is also interesting because it gives us a look at three successful actors who were very young at the time.  Of course many of us knew Joseph Gordon-Levitt already from his long career on television as a child, this movie was part of his effort to branch out into films which is going much better lately.  Juila Stiles of course, although she does not work enough today.  I believe this was the first American film for Heath Ledger as well, and his star continued to rise until his untimely death almost ten years later. I was always a fan of Heath Ledger but for more of my thoughts on him see our post for The Dark Knight.

This movie gives me the nostalgic feeling of being 16 again, when all the problems I had only seemed important.  That makes it extra special to me but I still think this movie has a lot of value for anyone who wants to watch it.  This movie is worth your time and I would recommend it to anyone.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I cannot believe Ryan bought this movie. And yes he bought, not me. I didn’t even ask him to get it, I just noticed it came in the mail this past week. This movie takes me back to teenageland. Every time I watch it I think about where I was in my life. It is one of those thinkless movies about a guy who meets a girl under false pretenses, and falls in love with her and then loses her and then he has to find a way to win her back. It’s an okay movie, not the greatest teen flick ever, but what I find most interesting about it is that Ryan loves it and bought it himself.

Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid

Year: 1969
Directed By: George Roy Hill
Written By: William Goldman

RYAN’S REVIEW

I have never been a big fan of westerns and don’t own many, but I do love the classics. Newman and Redford were so iconic in the title roles.  For a long time I had a poster hanging in my home of the final shot of the film where Butch and Sundance go out fighting.  This is a great movie but there isn’t much I can say about it that hasn’t already been said. Newman and Redford are great, the story is great, and the movie is a lot of fun.

I don’t know very much about the true story this film is based on but I do know a little.  I have always had a deep fascination with organized crime and have studied its history often.  In the studies I once came across Butch Cassidy in an encyclopedia of mobsters.  Butch Cassidy used to go around to farms out west and tell the ranchers that they needed to pay him for protection or else their cattle would be stolen.  If they didn’t pay then he would steal their cattle and blame it on others.  It was simple extortion but it was something the American mob did fervently in its early days and I have always found the correlation interesting.

You don’t need me to tell you to see this film because you have no doubt already seen it, if you haven’t then I would hope you can take my word for it at this point.  This movie is worth your time and I think you will enjoy it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I get why this movie is loved, I do, but it is not for me. I have seen it about a dozen times now, but every time we watch it I find myself dozing off or thinking about something else. I understand it’s value, it’s just not a movie that I love. Having said that, it is still one of those movies that you need to see before you die.

NEXT MOVIE: The Butterfly Effect (2004)

Burn After Reading

Year: 2008
Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen
Written By: Joel and Ethan Coen

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is not the best Coen Brothers film and in fact it isn’t even one of their better ones but there is a lot to like about this film.  It has an awesome intro that is very funny but overall the film tends to go up and down.  I may be somewhat biased in my criticism though. While I always think highly of the Coens I do have a big problem with infidelity and so much of this film is about infidelity. I am a child of divorce and grew up as the inadvertent victim of infidelity and because of that I get uncomfortable and weird when seeing it.  Like all Coen Brother movies there are a lot of weird things going on in this one, but the positive aspects make it worth our wild.

There is a great cast on hand in this one. John Malkovich gets the movie started with a great outburst and his character is so constantly funny.  Brad Pitt is hilarious and he plays his part well but I felt like this was when we were really starting to see his age.  He was 45 when this movie came and trying to play the part of a much younger man.  He is still great and his character has one of the best moments in the film (with Clooney, coming out of the closet). What makes it so funny is the look on his face when he pops out of the closet. He has this expression that is ready to explain it all “no big deal man I was just hanging out in here.” Francis McDormand is great in this movie. I really don’t like her character and she looks awful but she is such an amazing actress.  I think J.K. Simmons is great in everything he does, and he is fantastic as the CIA director.  George Clooney and Tilda Swinton also star in the film but I don’t really care much for either.  I tend to think Richard Jenkins brings more to the film actually.  For my thoughts on the directors see my posts for Blood Simple or The Big Lebowski They wrote this movie at the same time they were writing No Country for Old Men. I’ve read that they actually alternated days, working on Burn After Reading one day and No Country the next.

This is a really funny movie but it’s that dark comedy that doesn’t appeal to everybody.  There are also a few scenes that could rival the work of Trey Parker and Matt Stone a la Clooney’s project going on in the basement.  Better yet Clooney’s character in general is a bit much, such a devious pervert. I don’t mind recommending this movie but it’s R rating does need to be taken seriously.  This movie has a lot of great laughs and really memorable scenes, it is definitely worth you time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is great. It starts out on such an interesting note that you have to keep watching it, just to see how it all comes together. One of my best friends was raised as a Mormon, and in that opening scene they say a line that is one of our all time favorite lines. “I have a drinking problem? Fuck you, Peck, you’re a Mormon. Compared to you we ALL have a drinking problem!” After this line, I was hooked in for the entire movie. It connects all these people in different scenarios into one big story, in true Coen Brothers fashion. The only thing I didn’t really like about this film was the fact that Brad Pitt maybe was a bad choice for his role. I think he did a good job at it, but ultimately I think it would have been better to have him played by someone younger. This movie is worth watching, because all Coen Brothers movies are worth watching.

NEXT MOVIE: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)