Month: November 2011

The Chumscrubber

Year: 2005
Directed By: Arie Posin
Written By: Arie Posin

RYAN’S REVIEW

If you are asking yourself “what the hell is The Chumscrubber?” then I will join you.  I find myself wondering that exact same thing sometimes when I grab a neighboring movie off the rack.  This movie has survived on our shelf for years since it came out on DVD and I’m remembering why all over again now that we are watching it. This movie was recommended to us by a friend in college and we were both caught off guard when we really liked it. I can sometimes be too snobbish when it comes to movies and I rarely give these kind of B movies the time of day.  There are things I don’t like about this movie but enough things that I can relate to and appreciate that I felt compelled to own it after seeing it.

I have never been a fan of abusing prescription pills.  They will eat away at your brain and steal your soul.  Most of my experiences with them in the past have been bad and I have personally watched people get lost in the haze created by that crap.  I wish this movie had been about a different drug because I can understand and relate to the escape drugs offer during the vulnerable teenage years, but I think pills are too dangerous.  What I’m saying is if the movie had been about a simple recreational party drug I would feel more comfortable.  Prescription pills, the ones in this movie anyway, are the kind of drug that affect your emotions and change who you are. They aren’t to be toyed with or taken for granted because you can’t control them.  You might think you can but before you know it they are controlling you and you don’t even realize it.

I like the message this movie sends about the dangers of irresponsible parenting though.  This Alpha Dog-like scenario is only possible because of the inattention of the parents. The kids even continually tell their parents that they have kidnapped this kid but they don’t take them seriously and the situation progresses.  This movie highlights a serious problem in our society today because far too many parents fail to understand or pay any attention to their children.  I have mentioned before that I like to learn whatever I can from anything that I can and this movie teaches me valuable lessons about parenting.  If you fail to pay attention to your kids there are dangerous consequences, but it takes more than just attention.  You have to make a concentrated effort to understand them and support them.  These are challenges I face in the future with two girls, and I’m glad I have movies like this to remind me how important it is that I do things right.  As difficult as it might be, as parents we have to remember to put our children first.  It’s easy to get absorbed in out own problems, we are all human, but when that happens it is our children who suffer. Our children are growing, they are developing their personalities and establishing identities of their own. If we as parents ignore who they are becoming then we are equally as responsible when they turn out to have made the completely wrong choices and turned into monsters.  We can’t trust them to make the right choices because they don’t know things as we do.  Some children are better than others in making their own decisions, but when it comes to that it’s all about knowing your child again.  Understanding them well enough to know what they can and can’t handle can allow us to use the appropriate discretion when raising them, and those decisions have to be handled carefully in a well thought out manner. Parenting is no joke, it’s hard as hell and you can’t afford to screw it up because the consequences are too great.  Let’s take a lesson from The Chumscrubber, when we fail to do our part and start ignoring them, our children start getting high on pills, committing suicide, or kidnapping and stabbing each other.

I usually write an entire paragraph all about the cast of every movie but I’m really not in the mood to do that right now.  This movie has a big ensemble cast that is worth mention but I don’t want to go into all of them, there are bigger names and smaller names but they all do their job well.  I must mention Glenn Close not only because she is awesome but because I am a big fan of her work both on The Shield and Damages. I have never heard of Arie Posin and he seems to be a one hit wonder but he made a great movie too many people didn’t see.  I have always felt that movies were better and more personal when the director also wrote the script.  This is a good example of what I have in mind when I say that.

Now that we near the end of this movie that we haven’t watched in so long I am not only reminded of why we bought it but I am proud to own it.  It has truly been too long since I have seen this movie and I will have to make it a point not to wait so long before seeing it again. This is a great movie that gives the viewer a lot to think about. I think you should definitely check this movie out because it is worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I agree with everything Ryan said above. This film really is a hit at suburban American parents. They aren’t paying attention to what their children are doing, they are just too consumed with their own lives.

This movie revolves around the selling of drugs to high school kids. Most of the kids are taking prescription drugs.The ironic thing is, while the kids are the ones abusing the drugs, the adults in the film are probably the ones that should actually be taking the medications. They are all fucked up in their own way. I want to learn from this movie. I do not want to fall through the cracks and be absent-minded when it comes to my daughters, like the parents in this film.

I know Ryan mentioned Glenn Close being in this film, so I thought I would go on and mention some of the other cast-members. Jamie Bell is the main character, the one the story really revolves around. You may have seen him in King Kong (the newer one, obviously) and Billy Elliot. Camilla Belle plays the cute, popular high school girl. You may have seen her in 10,000 BC or When A Stranger Calls. William Fichtner is also in this film and plays the psychiatrist parent of Jamie Bell. He is a very well-known guy and has been in films like The Dark KnightArmageddon, and Crash. The last one I will mention is John Heard, who plays Officer Bratley. If you don’t know, he was the dad in Home Alone. Need I say more?

This film is well worth your time, and isn’t known by that many people. If you do watch it, feel free to chime in down in the comments and let us know what you think about it.

NEXT MOVIE: Cinderella Man (2005)

The Chronicles of Riddick

Year: 2004
Directed By: David Twohy
Written By: David Twohy

RYAN’S REVIEW

Of all the movies we own this one has always been the one people look to and give me that look.  The look that wonders if I really know what I’m talking about or if I’m no longer to be taken seriously.  I believe this is because it’s a Vin Diesel movie.  I would anticipate similar looks if XXX or The Pacifier were seen among our collection but that is not the case.  We do own both Riddick movies and I think they are an exception when it comes to Vin Diesel films.  This was the role that Vin Diesel was made for, but he does manage to ruin things every time he speaks.  What confuses me about Vin Diesel in the role of Riddick is why he feels the need to verbalize himself so much.  He tries to prove he is a badass by the things that he says and this is a mistake.  Diesel already looks the part. He is intimidating, powerful, and badass.  There just really isn’t the need to act so tough with ridiculous and pointless dialogue.  The movie would have benefited if Diesel had taken a page out of Schwarzenegger’s book from The Terminator and just looked tough and kept his mouth shut.  It’s Diesel’s over selling of his character and his bad acting that give this movie a bad wrap, because otherwise it’s a really good movie.

The movie works on a limited budget under the broad scope of Twohy’s imagination but he managed to make it look good all the same.  Twohy took the Riddick character from Pitch Black, which he also wrote the screenplay for, and wrote scripts for three sequels.  I really like the story that he came up with, and I still hold out hope that his other sequels will eventually get made.  The world he created with Chronicles isn’t the greatest science fiction world but I found it interesting and enjoyable.  He wrote a good story and filled it with a ton of action, and it’s the action that really makes this movie worth your time.  Vin Diesel may sound like an F-ing poser every time he opens his mouth, but when he starts fighting that doesn’t matter anymore.  Regardless how ridiculous he sounds when he says “I’m going to kill you with this teacup,” it’s still cool when he actually does it.  Colm Feore plays the part of the lead villain the Lord Commander and I actually found him really surprising in the part.  I don’t usually like him but he really was good as the supposedly unbeatable bad guy. Karl Urban plays the secondary villain, a role he was well suited for at the time. His star has been on the rise of late, he is actually starring in the upcoming Judge Dredd reboot and will be back for the Star Trek sequel. This wasn’t the best role in Thandie Newton’s career but she is such a beautiful woman I hardly think it matters.  Judi Dench agreed to play a part in the movie after Vin Diesel practically begged her to be involved.  He is apparently a big fan of her work and was determined that she be involved. There is also a number of other lesser known actors doing well in bit parts throughout this movie like Keith David and Nick Chinlund.

Now that I’m watching this movie again I guess I can understand why I get that look I mentioned earlier.  This movie does have its fair share of silly lines and campy moments but I still like it.  I guess I’d call this movie a guilty pleasure but at the end of the day I’ve just always been a sucker for a mindless action movie.  I can accept Vin Diesel’s ridiculous performance and the other flaws if the overall story and action make up for it and I think they do in this case.  This movie isn’t going to get a lot of critical acclaim and that’s understandable but there is still plenty of value in a movie that is just fun to watch.  I’ll admit this movie isn’t for everybody, but if you’re in the mood for something with good action that you don’t have to put a lot of thought into then this is the one for you.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Apparently, we used to watch this movie all the time in college. I don’t remember that. In fact, I barely know anything about this movie. I had to ask Ryan a million question about what was going on. Why are his eyes like that? Why are they running from the sun? Why do they steal souls? I was so confused. I guess this a good movie if you like fantasy and science-fiction-y kinds of films. I wasn’t extremely impressed, but I think it keeps your interest throughout. I can’t say you will remember what the movie is about 5 years later, but it is worth the time if you have nothing else to do.

Also, on a side note I know that a lot of women really like Vin Diesel, so that may be another plus to watching this movie. Myself, ehh..he may be pretty to look at but he is a terrible, terrible actor.

NEXT MOVIE: The Chumscrubber (2005)

The Chinese Connection

Year: 1972
Directed By: Wei Lo
Written By: Wei Lo.

RYAN’S REVIEW

Bruce Lee was a God among men.  One of the biggest icons of all time. Probably the biggest icon when you take into account that the main body of his work was done over a two-year period before his death. His physical perfection, his discipline, and his philosophy are all things that every one of us can learn from.  He only gave us four full films before his tragic and untimely death and we must cherish all of them because they are all we have. Die young as a celebrity and you will live forever.  That is especially true for Lee who is still an icon to this day.  He died when he was 32, and he was only then beginning to blossom into the mega superstar he was becoming.  I will discuss Bruce Lee at greater length when we get to some of his other films.

This is a really campy movie and I wouldn’t recommend actually watching it because it isn’t worth your time in that sense.  There are long retarding points to the story that don’t make the movie worth watching.  What makes this film worth watching are the fight scenes, and the skill and choreography of a true master.  Lee is incredible in any and all fight scenes.  He was still developing as an actor and there are plenty of silly scenes where he goes a little over the top, specifically in the film’s opening. This was Bruce Lee’s second film and the first in which he displayed his skill with the nunchuks.  For all practical purposes Lee made the weapons the popular fixture in martial arts that they have become today. As a matter of fact, for all practical purposes Lee is the father of martial arts films in America.  He popularized the movement in American films that is still growing to this day.  He was the best, and the fight scenes in his movies still rival those of today.  People have a natural thirst and desire to see fights. It’s a guilty pleasure for some and an open fascination for many of us but it is there in all of us all the same.

Bruce Lee was the greatest martial artist of all time and everyone should see all of his films to understand why.  Don’t bother wasting time with the story when you watch this one, just fast forward to the fight scenes and enjoy the show.  It doesn’t matter what they are fighting about, Bruce Lee is the good guy and he probably has a really good reason for kicking the asses of all those bad guys.  There are messages about racism in this film and a loose footnote of actual Chinese history but personally I’m not interested in that.  Chinese Connection is my least favorite Bruce Lee film, but all Lee films hold weight with me because there are only four.

NEXT MOVIE: The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

Chinatown

Year: 1974
Directed By: Roman Polanski
Written By: Robert Towne

RYAN’S REVIEW

Most of the movies we own are dear to us in one way or another.  However sometimes I see a movie I find so impressive I feel compelled to own it.  Chinatown is a movie in the latter category.  It was in my college film class that I first saw this movie and it surprised me.  I bought it shortly after seeing it and don’t think I watched again since. It has just quietly sat on the shelf for about six years now and I had nearly forgotten what it was about all together.  Watching it now I am suddenly reminded what it was that compelled me to add it to the collection in the first place.  I am again finding myself surprised how good this movie actually is, and enjoying the mystery.

All I could remember about this film was that it had something to do with water.  That sounds so boring but like I said, this movie is surprising.  It takes place in 1937 Los Angeles, where control over water in the desert climate can get tricky.  This is a fascinating mystery that keeps you guessing all along.  It was nominated for everything back in 74 but only Robert Towne went home with the gold, for writing.  This film is very well-regarded, and it has even been suggested as the greatest movie ever made.  It is considered historically significant because it brought attention to a little known problem out west being the disputes over land and water rights in California.  It also solidified the careers of two rising stars in Roman Polanski and Jack Nicholson.

I will be honest and admit that I do not know enough about Roman Polanski to have a fair opinion of him.  I know that he was involved with a sexual situation involving a minor that he fled the country to avoid charges over, but I know few specifics in regard to what happened. I know that he has lived through quite a bit of diversity in his life and has overcome it all to be very successful despite it.  Polanski survived the Holocaust as a child.  That alone should be enough horror for ten lifetimes of ordinary people but in 1969 chance would work against him again.  His pregnant wife, the movie star Sharon Tate, along with her friends were savagely murdered by the Manson Family for no discernible reason.  It’s not really fair for anybody to have to live through that.  That does not justify his crimes, I’m just noting the unfortunate circumstances he has had to live through.  With this film  Polanski really enjoyed a lot of success, he just barely lost the Oscar to Coppola though, who won for The Godfather II.  Polanski even has a small cameo in the film as the gangster who slashes Nicholson’s nose. It’s a bold move too to slice the nose of your lead star, but I think it had the desired effect.  Nicholson did very well with this role, even with a bandage over his face for most of the film.  I am no Jack Nicholson fan, but I’ll give him the respect he deserves when he is due, and he is definitely due in the role of J.J. Gittes.  It’s one of the marque roles in a long and successful career full of big time roles.

Give this movie a chance and Chinatown will speak for itself.  I am always partial to the film noir genre so this movie is real easy for me to like.  I love movies that keep me guessing and really make me think.  Chinatown sports what is apparently considered one of the greatest screenplays ever and the movie is the focal point of many lectures and classes in film schools.  That alone makes it worth your time to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I’ll be honest, I have never seen this movie.  I had never even heard of it and actually had no idea that we owned it.  When we started watching it the other night it was really late and I fell asleep early on.  I am going to watch it eventually because what I did see was very interesting.  I will come back at a later date and fill this entry in with a real review after I have seen it.

NEXT MOVIE: The Chinese Connection (1972)

Chicago

Year: 2002
Directed By: Rob Marshall
Written By: Bill Condon and Bob Fosse

RYAN’S REVIEW

I remember taking Amber to see this movie back in 2002 when we were just a couple horny teenagers.  I took her to see it because I was probably trying to get her into bed but I actually ended up enjoying the movie.  I distinctly remember being really impressed with the film and telling many people how good it was.  This movie isn’t one I would have ever seen on my own because it really isn’t up my alley.  I did thoroughly enjoyed the movie despite all that and I think that’s part of what makes it such a great film.  I especially didn’t think a musical had any place in the film industry in 2002 but was proven wrong.  This movie got nominated for nearly everything and won many of the nominations including Best Picture and Supporting Actress for Catherine Zeta-Jones.  Renee Zellweger, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, and Rob Marshall were all nominated as well.

I have never been a big fan of Renee Zellweger but I cannot deny that she is fantastic actress.  She will be in a couple of our upcoming movies in the “C” section of our collection too.  I happen to like her roles in those movies better (Cinderella Man and Cold Mountain specifically) and I’d rather discuss her at more depth in those posts.  I do not like Richard Gere either, in fact I specifically don’t watch films with him in it, this film being a rare exception.  I think it’s because of Pretty Woman, that damn movie spawned tons of films with the exact same damn premise.  I typically avoid Julia Roberts for the same reason.  I can’t say Gere really brought much to the film. I suppose that it is something that he didn’t bring the film down, but a better actor could have been cast in his role. Catherine Zeta-Jones is great in this movie and really deserved her Oscar.  In this movie she explodes with talent that I don’t think many people even knew she had in her. She is singing and dancing with intensity and she is so seductive. I have always been indifferent to her as an actress though and while she is a beautiful woman she just isn’t really my type. Queen Latifah is great as well in this movie, this performance helped her career greatly at the time when her star was rising.  I am a big fan of John C. Reilly and like him in nearly everything he does.  I am not always a fan of his really goofy movies with Will Ferrell but he has made many great movies as a serious actor including this film. Lucy Lui also makes a great cameo in this movie, but I feel she has never risen to her full potential as an actress. Rob Marshall did a good job with this movie but I haven’t seen any other film he has made.  In 2009 he made what appeared to be a very similar film to this one, Nine, with Daniel Day-Lewis but it wasn’t not nearly as successful.

Amber and I actually took a vacation to Chicago this year and since we are reviewing a movie by the same name I would like to take the chance to say a little about the city.  Chicago can be intimidating because it is so large but it is very tourist friendly.  What really impressed me the most about the city, besides its beautiful architecture and never-ending buildings, was how traffic was handled.  For a town with so many people traffic seemed to be a non issue.  There is a unique network of roads in Chicago and traffic directors on duty during what would typically be rush hour and they direct both vehicles and pedestrians.  Chicago is unique because it is a city that was built to be a city.  Nearly the entire city was destroyed during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and when rebuilding started city planners and architects from all over the country came to help.  The city was designed by the best people available to be a great city and that’s exactly what they made.  We had a great trip and I would recommend it as a vacation spot to anyone looking for somewhere awesome to go.

Now back to the movie, I can attest that this movie can be enjoyed by anybody because I like it.  As I said before this is a movie that isn’t really up my alley.  It’s based on a Broadway show, there’s signing and dancing, it stars an actor I specifically don’t like, and actresses I’m not all that fond of. For all intensive purposes I should hate this movie but on the contrary I like it.  The songs aren’t bad, the choreography is very good, and the performances are great. This was a great movie and it is more than worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan’s crazy. I totally took him to see this to get him into bed. I really don’t remember if that’s the truth of it, or if I just really wanted to see this film. I was still in high school when this came out and I was taking a film critique class, in which we watched Guys and Dolls. I thoroughly enjoyed that one so much, that when I saw this trailer on television, I just knew that I had to go and see it. I am so glad we did. I remember being blown away by how good it actually was. The music fits so well into every scene so seamlessly. Most musicals just piss me off because it is just singing and dancing and no plot, a lot like the recent abomination on television: Glee. (My good friend Jessica would kill me for saying that.)

If you aren’t that into musicals, I get that, but this one is different. This one is worth watching. I even have the soundtrack and can sing all the songs, and that is very unlike me. Check this one out. If anything, you get to see a bunch of hot ladies dancing around in hardly nothing. I also want to mention the outstanding performances of Queen Latifah, Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere.

NEXT MOVIE: Chinatown (1974)

Casino

Year: 1995
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Nicholas Pileggi

RYAN’S REVIEW

Naturally, I love mafia movies.  This isn’t the greatest mafia movie, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great.  It’s a movie made by people made to make mafia movies and that’s what makes it great.  This movie might remind people too much of Goodfellas but I can’t really see how that is a bad thing.  Goodfellas was a great movie and I for one really enjoy any opportunity to see more of Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci together, especially with Scorsese at the helm.  Goodfellas and Casino were both based on books written by Nicholas Pileggi, who also served as screenwriter for both films.  I have not read either of the two books but have researched Goodfellas to some degree and it’s not that far off  as far as accuracy goes but there is plenty of insight available into that one. Henry Hill is still very much in the public eye but as a celebrity instead of a criminal.  A celebrity for being a criminal.  Casino is loosely based on real events and people in Las Vegas but all the names were changed, including the name of the main hotel.

De Niro may have been the headliner in this film but it was Joe Pesci who stole the show.  I mean Pesci was scary as Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas but he turned up the heat in Casino.  He was so violent and sadistic, and he is so good with the F word. I am a really big fan of Joe Pesci, he showed remarkable range throughout his career.  Pesci’s performance was great but that doesn’t belittle De Niro’s performance.  This was De Niro’s eighth collaboration with Scorsese, they knew how to get it done at this point. De Niro is an incredibly versatile actor and he can do anything but it is in this genre that he is really in his element.  At the end of the day he will always be the Godfather and he belongs in mafia movies. In the same notion Scorsese belongs behind the camera of mafia movies.  Scorsese is a fantastic director and I have always admired his films.  Scorsese has never been shy about violence and gore throughout his career and he isn’t with this film either. This is a graphic movie, it can be suddenly violent but that is part of the thrill that comes with a movie like this. It’s also heavy on the language, the F bomb is dropped somewhere far past the 400 times mark, mostly by Pesci.

This movie had a very rich cast beyond Pesci and De Niro though.  Sharon Stone is great in the female lead. You could really start to see her age in this movie but she still looked beautiful. Sharon Stone is a great actress and she has had a long successful career.  James Woods, Kevin Pollack, and Frank Vincent also play their parts respectively too.  I imagine it’s easy for great actors to shine when they are working with such an interesting story.  The history of Las Vegas is as dark as this movie would lead you to believe and there is a fascinating story there to study.

This is a long movie at just under three hours but still well worth your time.  The performances are great and the story is interesting.  Watching it now has actually inspired me to read the books by Nicholas Pileggi, so hopefully by the time we get to Goodfellas I can report the historical accuracy of the film. In the meantime enjoy this film, it’s a great movie.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I thoroughly enjoy this film. It is an intriguing tale and set in a time and place that most of us don’t really know that much about. Sure, some have visited Las Vegas, but have you ever ran a casino? Anyway, the voice-overs in this film are Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci. The combination of the two of them are great. It puts a dual perspective over the film. The story is really intricate and interesting, I really recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it. I know they often play it on network tv, but please don’t watch it there. Movies like this should never be played on network television. You need the extras like cussing to really drive this one home.

NEXT MOVIE: Chicago (2002)