Month: December 2011

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Year: 2000
Directed By: Ang Lee
Written By: Du Lu Wang

RYAN’S REVIEW

I find myself asking the same question now that I asked when I saw this movie the first time twelve years ago, “Can the Chinese really fly?” It still doesn’t make sense to me unless this is just some super secret the western world has been kept out of.  This is a foreign film so perhaps it was never meant to be seen in the western world, Ang Lee must have found himself in some hot water for letting the secret out when the movie became a hit in the states. In America (especially the south) we live with certain assumptions about the Chinese, such as them all being capable martial artists with mystical powers, this movie did nothing to dispel such ridiculous ideas.

I remember telling everyone how good this movie was. That it was so good it was worth reading all the subtitles. When it was released in theaters twelve years ago it wasn’t dubbed into English so reading the subtitles was a necessity but it was worth it.  I thought this was one of the best martial arts movies I had ever seen, I had not yet been introduced to Bruce Lee films though.  The martial arts are great despite all the flying around.  A good variety of weapons are used throughout the film as well and there is plenty of fighting.  There is a good story here but long retarding points that feel almost unbearable. That is a mark of the director however, Ang Lee will usually excite then bore the hell out of you with endless landscape shots.  Hulk was the same way, and while I haven’t seen it I imagine Brokeback Mountain is similar. Ang Lee isn’t a bad director, but I am not his biggest fan.  He is apparently in post-production right now for Life of Pi. I read the book a few years ago and really look forward to the film.  It is an excellent book. I found it both moving and exciting and after about fifty pages I literally could not put it down.

The title Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is based on a Chinese proverb about the mysteries that lie hidden within seemingly ordinary individuals.  That’s interesting because it is something we should all consider in everyday life.  Think of all the things you do on any given day that you never tell anyone about, the secrets that you keep to yourself.  Then try to imagine what anybody else out there might be doing and keeping to themselves.  Some people walk through the world with no one ever knowing who they truly are.  It’s what makes the world a dangerous place really, you never know what truly lies in the heart of the people you know.

This is a really cool movie but it isn’t easy trying to get someone to watch a foreign film. It was much easier when it was the big thing twelve years ago.  This is a cool movie and I would recommend it to anyone, it is worth your time to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I have to be honest, I am not quite sure what this movie is really about. The plot has always been lost to me. I think I have seen it like seven times now and every time I try to concentrate on their lips instead of the voice-overs like I should. Come to think of it, I should probably watch it again with subtitles. I don’t know why I haven’t thought about that before.

Having said that, I really enjoy this movie because of the amazing fighting scenes. And the people in the film are just beautiful to look at. I also thoroughly enjoy watching the main character write in Chinese with the brush. I would though, right? Being a designer and all. In any case. I think I may come back and update this post when I re-watch the movie with subtitles. But in the meantime, I still say you should watch it because the fighting is amazing. I mean they fly around and kick each other’s asses. What is cooler than that?

NEXT MOVIE: Cutthroat Island (1995)

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Cold Mountain

Year: 2003
Directed By: Anthony Minghella
Written By: Charles Frazier

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a great movie with fantastic performances and production value.  It tells a compelling story that takes place near the end of the Civil War. Despite my history background I have never been a Civil War buff and while I appreciate this movie it isn’t one that I love.  The movie begins with a very gripping battle scene that sets the tone for the film. I think the love story between Inman and Ada brings the movie down but the rest of the film is good enough to overcome that fault.  This movie is in our collection for one reason and one reason alone, Renee Zellweger‘s performance.  I felt Nicole Kidman was highly overrated at the time and really enjoyed seeing her get her ass handed to her by the ugly chick.  This is one of Zellweger’s finest roles and she earned her Oscar with spades.

This is our second movie in a row starring Jude Law and that is ironic given that neither of us really like him.  Anybody could have played his part in this film though, he does nothing to distinguish himself.  When I say that Kidman was shown up by Zellweger I mean exactly that.  Just when you are really sick of the Ada character Ruby shows up and pumps life into the dismal and depressing story.  Ray Winstone is great as the menacing lawman of Cold Mountain while all the men are away at war.  His albino henchman may be creepy but I want to point him out as Charlie Hunnan.  All the Sons of Anarchy fans need to check out what he was doing before he was Jax Tellar, he must had just lost in a tough decision over the casting of a vampire role. Again for the second movie in a row we get to see the beautiful and talented Natalie Portman in a small role. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays a good part as a scandalous preacher in just one of many cameos in the film. Also lending their talents in small roles are Giovanni Ribisi, Brendan Gleeson, Ethan Suplee, Donald Sutherland, and even Jack White of the White Stripes in a rare acting role. These performances collectively make this movie worth your time because they are all great performers.

There is no and never has been a town called Cold Mountain in North Carolina, but there is a Cold Mountain here in our Appalachian mountains.  That doesn’t matter though, it doesn’t change the circumstances of the Civil War that the film covers. I am not a Civil War buff because it feels too cliché, being a southerner and all. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to learn from the conflict though and a need to understand the time period.  This movie is worth your time because it is a good movie.  I don’t think I have done it justice with this review but watch it for yourself and tell us what you think.

AMBER’S REVIEW

My favorite part of this entire film is Renee Zellweger. She is completely amazing in this film. She shows so much range and depth in this film that you almost forget who she really is. She won the Oscar with this film and I honestly feel like nobody earned it more that year. The whole story is really touching. Aside from the love story that is going on between Nicole Kidman and Jude Law, the story that means the most to me happens in Cold Mountain between Zellweger and Kidman. Kidman is a woman who has been pampered and taken care of her whole life, and when that all falls apart, in moves Zellweger to help her get her shit together. I love the dynamic that the two have together throughout the movie. They truly had amazing chemistry.

The war aspect for me is secondary throughout this film. It is important and what is going on in this small town is touching and affects everyone. There is something for everyone in this award-winning movie and I completely recommend it if you haven’t seen it before.

NEXT MOVIE: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Closer

Year: 2004
Directed By: Mike Nichols
Written By: Patrick Marber

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is an interesting movie about love and betrayal and the complexities of human relationships.  The thing about it is, you can make 100 movies like this and they would all be different yet all be the same as well.  That’s just the nature of how human relationships work though isn’t it? Love is personal in a way that makes us all feel our stories are unique but these things typically tend to follow the same patterns.  I don’t really think there is anything that separates this film from the typical story within the genre but that doesn’t mean it is a bad film.  The film is made by a well renowned director and sports an excellent cast.

This film is based on a broadway show that was adapted to the screen by the original writer, Patrick Marber, and from what I understand it follows the play very closely. It was directed by Mike Nichols who is better known for films like The Graduate and The Birdcage. I don’t think he did anything exceptional with this film but he did a good job, he had some good people to work with. Natalie Portman plays one of the four leads and she is an actress truly bursting with talent.  I have never understood her decision-making when it comes to choosing roles but she is great in everything she is in.  I am not a fan of Julia Roberts but she does a good job in this movie and looks great.  I am not a fan of Jude Law either but I suppose he was appropriately cast as the sleazy British guy.  I have always liked Clive Owen but his career seems to be going nowhere.  He was on a hot streak during the mid 2000s though when this film was made, and he does well in this movie.

I do not like movies that center on infidelity, it usually makes for an awful story in which everybody loses.  This is no different yet I do not mind this movie. Although I think it would have been better with some nudity, there is something unfair about an R rated movie about sex with these two beautiful women and neither of them get naked. One of them even plays a stripper, it’s just a tease to those of us who were good enough to sit through this with our significant others.  I may be a lover of movies and found something to appreciate, but the everyday Joe out there must have been really disappointed.   We own it because Amber liked it but I can appreciate something outside my norm if it is worth wild.  This is a good movie but I would never recommend a movie like this to anybody.  Infidelity is an awful thing, we shouldn’t spend our time with it and I personally don’t like watching movies about it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Obviously, this is my movie. When I was in college I randomly picked it out one night at Blockbuster. I hardly ever got to pick out movies, so I was surprised when I actually picked one out that became one of my favorite movies of all time. I don’t really agree with Ryan’s review at all. This is a love story, but it is not a love story like all of the rest. It centers around infidelity and the real world love stories that happen. And if you think this movie plays out like the rest, you would be wrong. I also want to point out that it is true, Ryan hates movies about infidelity, but what he can tolerate is when men cheat on women. He cannot stand to see a woman cheating on a man. It visibly upsets him to the point of sometimes not even being able to finish the movie. Honestly, I am surprised he lets this film sit on the shelf among the others.

This is a great film, that tells an original story about the way we love, and the way we lose it, and the way we handle ourselves when we do lose it. I completely recommend this movie if you have ever loved someone.

NEXT MOVIE: Cold Mountain (2003)

Cliffhanger

Year: 1993
Directed By: Renny Harlin
Written By: This movie started out as “Gale Force” (Die Hard in a hurricane), it went through several re-writes.

RYAN’S REVIEW

I grew up in a family that had a thing for cheesy action movies.  Movies like this were our bread and butter, what we sat up watching on Friday nights before we were old enough to drive and go out on our own.  I have to admit I have a special place in my heart for movies in the “Die Hard-genre,” for the simplicity of them.  When the terrorists are just white guys who want money, with no racial or political motives.  You don’t have to be Jack Bauer to handle these terrorist, simple police training a la John McClane will suffice, or in the case of this movie simply being a rescue worker with muscles coming out of your ass will do.

I am a Stallone fan no matter how ridiculous some of his movies are. I do think it’s time for him to hang it up though.  His time has come and gone, it is time for him to move into a different phase of his career.  This movie is one of my favorite of his actually, I really like the “Die Hard scenario” in this setting.  Stallone is an interesting person because he has had to overcome so much to be successful with his face paralysis. During his birth a doctor improperly used a pair of tongs to pull him from the birth canal and incedently paralyzed part of his face, including the insides of his mouth.  In the beginning of his career he specifically wrote the first Rocky with little dialogue to mask his difficulty speaking.  What I really find interesting about him is how he can literally do the exact same thing over and over again on multiple platforms and continue to be successful.  He made Rocky 6 F-ing times and Rambo 4 for crying out loud, and people are still paying to see it. He has gotten old though, as unfortunate as that is, and he needs to stop trying to turn the clock back by juicing.  He was caught with roids a few years ago when shooting Rocky Balboa. Stallone was great in his hey day, but it’s time for him to admit to himself that that time is over.

The bad guy was originally going to be played by Christopher Walken which would have been awesome but he bailed at the last-minute.  I am a huge Christopher Walken fan and I have to think that it would have made for a better movie.  I am also a big John Lithgow fan though, and think that he was awesome as the bad guy in the movie.  Walken may have been a little better, but that’s not to discredit Lithgow’s performance because Lithgow is always good.  He is incredibly versatile.  He was so funny and silly on 3rd Rock From the Sun yet so ruthless and cold as the villain in this movie. There is only one reason I think Walken might have been better, and if you want to know what it is check this out.

Michael Rooker plays the other leading part in the film and I have always been a fan of his as well.  I did not like his most recent performance on The Walking Dead, but I enjoyed several of the movies he was in earlier in his career.  Renny Harlin directed the movie and I have liked many of his movies as well. He is never going to be considered a really serious filmmaker but he has made some great action movies. Like I said though, I come from a household where we spent a lot of time on stupid and mindless action movies.  We owned nearly every variety of the “Die Hard Genre.”

In the aftermath of Die Hard many movies were made with the exact same formula.  A group of white terrorist hijack something in an effort to extort lots of money in a variety of settings.  Let me provide some examples….there’s Steven Seagal vs. the white guy terrorists Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey in Die Hard  on a Boat (Under Siege), Christian Slater vs. white guy terrorists John Travolta  and Howie Long in Die Hard in the Desert (Broken Arrow), Nicholas Cage vs. white guy terrorist John Malkovich in Die Hard on a Prison Plane (Con Air), Harrison Ford vs. white guy terrorist Gary Oldman in Die Hard with the President, on a Plane (Air Force One), even Howie Long had his own Die Hard in the Woods (Firestorm),  and this one of course, Die Hard in the Mountains.  There are probably several I am forgetting, there was one with Van Damme in a hockey arena, ah I could name them off forever if I try.  These movies are all simple, there is nothing to learn from any of them, but sometimes it’s good to just sit back and relax.  These movies come in handy then.

I love this movie and still enjoy watching it, but I don’t know that I can tell just anybody that it is worth their time. It does hold a certain sentimental element for me because when I was a kid playing with G I Joes it was this scenario I always acted out.  My favorite Joe would be the one who had to defeat all the others one by one and all the “Die Hard” movies influenced how the action played out.  This one was a popular one because I could have them climbing of the furniture. So, as I was saying, I can’t say this is worth your time,  but if you give it a chance I think you I will like it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I might have written a real review for this movie. Maybe it could have been the best review I have written so far. But, that isn’t going to be the case here. The night that we watched this movie was the night that The Help came out on onDemand. I had spent all day trying to figure out how to get Ryan to watch it with me. I read the book and missed it in the theaters, so I have been patiently waiting for the DVD release date. Well, after much debate and arguing I guess you already know who won. Instead of getting to watch an uplifting movie about race relations, I was forced to watch Sylvester Stallone try to save a woman who ultimately plummeted to her death. And the whole time I sat there sulking, and thinking about how awesome Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls was for making fun of it.

I can’t say if I love it or hate it, because even though I watched it, I wasn’t really paying attention to it, because I was so mad that Ryan won and his pregnant wife didn’t get to watch the movie she had desperately been wanting to watch since finishing the book.

For the record, I still haven’t seen The Help. (I still love him, but don’t you think he owes me?)

 NEXT MOVIE: Closer (2004)

The Client

Year: 1994
Directed By: Joel Schumacher
Written By: John Grisham

RYAN’S REVIEW

The Client is the film adaptation of John Grisham‘s novel by the same name.  It’s just one of several movies that were made during the 90s based off of his books.  Some of the other movies being The Pelican Brief, The Firm, A Time to Kill, The Chamber, and The Rainmaker. I do think this one was one of the better of those films, although A Time to Kill was also particularly good.  I read most of these books when I was a teenager as well, I don’t remember much about them now but I do remember liking this book.  It’s hard not to like such a great story though.

I was almost of an age with the Brad Renfro character the first time I saw this movie and that was probably what got me interested in reading John Grisham’s books to begin with. The cast of this movie was obviously really well thought out because so many stars are in it, the casting of the Mark Sway must have been challenging because of his age.  Brad Renfro came out of no where and blew everybody away, he seemed to have a lot of promise but has practically been a one hit wonder.  He has starred in a few other notable films but his performance has never matched this one.  It was a tough role for such young inexperienced actor because the film centers on him.  He was surrounded by a lot of talented actors and actresses in the movie though.

Tommy Lee Jones is great at this kind of role.  He fits in nicely as the powerful man who like to monologue as he leads his subordinates around like geese in a flying V.  He played similar roles in The Fugitive and U.S. Marshalls.  I am always in favor of Susan Sarandon being the female lead in any movie. She is not only beautiful but very talented.  She had an interesting ability to get more beautiful the older she got.  This movie is literally loaded with stars in smaller parts after that.  Mary-Louise Parker, William H. Macy, Kim Coates, Anthony Edwards, Will Patton, and several others.  The cast alone makes the movie worth seeing but you should see it because the story is awesome.

This is also like a window into 1994 too, that makes it interesting. You can see the style of clothing on several levels of society. You see smoking in a hospital and smoking by children, two things that are rarely if ever seen in media today.  Mark’s mother mentions her minimum wage pay as $5.00 an hour, that gives us insight into the  economics of the year.  There are plenty of things that this movie can remind some of us about and give others insight into what life was like 17 years ago.

This was a popular movie when it came out and I think it will stand the test of time for years to come.  I am not typically a fan of Joel Schumacher, he ruined the Batman franchise, but he managed to not screw this one up.  This movie is worth your time and I would recommend it to anyone.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I had never seen this movie before, heck I didn’t even know that we owned it. I was immediately sucked in. The story follows 2 kids that accidentally witness a mobster’s attorney’s suicide. However, before the suicide he confides in the boy that he know where some bodies are buried. I would hate to be this kid. He is put into a horrible position. The kid is a great little actor and is a badass kid that isn’t very well off. He wears Led Zeppelin cut off t-shirts and cusses. He isn’t a stupid kid, however and when he feels like he is being pressured by the FBI he decides to find an attorney to take care of things for him, played by Susan Sarandon. (Ryan is hopelessly in love with her, I think it’s the red hair.)

This movie is worth your time. It is interesting and holds your attention well and has some really notable people in the film. I know I wouldn’t want to be in this kids position.

NEXT MOVIE: Cliffhanger (1993)

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Year: 1981
Directed By: Desmond Davis
Written By: Beverley Cross

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie is a classic, and I think they made grave mistakes when they remade it.  I couldn’t even finish watching the remake it was so bad.  And for what? It was actually a good idea to remake this movie, Clash of the Titans was made way ahead of its time in 1981.  The special effects weren’t really there for what the filmmakers had in mind and they used several different film techniques to compensate for that fact. The way I see it, all they had to do was redo the original but they went way off base and tried to create something new.  The movie should have been awesome but it ended up being a disappointment.  Some people obviously liked it though because there is a sequel in the works right now.

This movie is in our collection not only for being a classic but because it was one I watched frequently as a child.  It came on TV a lot right around the time I was starting to watch more than just cartoons on the tube so it garners a certain nostalgic feeling for me.  Greek mythology was so fascinating to me as a child but it isn’t something I find so interesting these days.  This is an awesome movie but I don’t feel compelled to write too much more about it.  I think it is worth your time to see it because we shouldn’t forget the classics or the originals.  This one may be campy and silly at times, and Harry Hamlin was never leading man material but it’s a good movie despite that.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This is a very classic movie. When you see the special effects in it, you want to kind of laugh and think what were they thinking, but I bet it was really state of the art during the time. We watched this film in high school at some point when we were going over Greek mythology. It is somewhat interesting, but I wouldn’t watch this one over and over. I honestly didn’t even know that we owned it until Ryan said that it was coming up next.

I don’t know whether to suggest that you watch it or not. If you are interested in these kinds of topics and films, then yes of course go for it, but if not, I doubt this movie will keep your interest.

NEXT MOVIE: The Client (1994)

Cinderella Man

Year: 2005
Directed By: Ron Howard
Written By: Cliff Hollingsworth

RYAN’S REVIEW

I distinctly remember having no interest in seeing this movie when it came out back in 05, but I saw it in the theater despite that.  I went to the movies with my brother and it was his suggestion. I only agreed on this one because Russell Crowe had recently got in trouble for beating someone up. I don’t remember what the circumstances of what he was in trouble for were but it was for beating someone up for something.  I remember liking the idea of a guy in the news for beating people up having a big budget movie where he was a boxer in theaters.  Thinking back to it now I find myself wondering if that was indeed a coincidence or an interesting plan for publicity.

There are more movies made about boxing than any other sport and not all of them were made by Sylvester Stallone.  Men who dedicate their lives to fighting often find themselves in interesting situations in life.  The lives they live can be so dramatic yet so inspiring, either way their lives are often story worthy.  It takes a special type of person to choose a life of fighting, of hurting and getting hurt. Those people are fascinating and we all love the opportunity to observe them from a distance, and to cheer for them when they are punching the shit out of the other guy. James J. Braddock was one of these interesting men and he lived not only an interesting life but through a very interesting time in our country’s history that we should all remember and learn from, The Great Depression.  Braddock was an inspiring fighter during a time when many people were in serious need of inspiration. This movie does a really good job of capturing the desperation of the Great Depression without going too far and becoming overly sappy.  Times were harder than most of us can imagine today and it took a hard person to survive it.

I always love a movie that surprises me and this one definitely did.  I am a fan of both Russell Crowe and Ron Howard but didn’t really like their earlier collaboration with A Beautiful Mind so my expectations for this one were low.  This movie proved to me that they both still had a lot to offer in their careers.  I think this is just one of many fantastic movies from Russell Crowe, he seems to get better with age too. He apparently took quite the beating during the making of this film and sustained several injuries on set.  I was raised in North Carolina not all that far from Mt. Airy, in fact I have to go there for work often and pass right through old Mayberry.  I grew up watching Opie Talyor, then Richie Cunningham, and then the fantastic movies made by Ron Howard.  Howard is an interesting person because he has spent his whole life in the business.  There is a lot of talk about what stardom can do to children with the problems of so many celebrities but Ron Howard has only gotten more successful as time went on.  Ron Howard did a great job with this movie by really capturing the struggles on all levels of society during the Depression, and the boxing matches were wicked.

The rest of the cast to this film was great as well.  Renee Zellweger is such a fantastic actress, and she brings a lot to the film as Braddock’s wife.  The film industry chooses beauty over talent far too often and we don’t have enough actresses like Zellweger because of it.  I think Paul Giamatti falls into the same category oddly enough, he has had to work really hard to get where he is, and it is his talent that got him there. He brings a lot of emotion to this film in a seemingly effortless fashion and it is his performance that helps captivate us with the Braddock character.

As in all boxing movies you need a loud mouth opponent to hate.  Hating the other guy makes us fall in love with our hero even more.  In this film that opponent is a former real life heavyweight champion Max Baer and the film may have taken some liberties with the character to fit him in the mold of the bad guy.  Max Baer is actually the father of Max Baer Jr. who played Jethro on the original The Beverly Hillbillies, and needless to say he and the Baer family weren’t thrilled with the portrayal of their patriarch. He was portrayed as a brutal man who wanted to hurt men more than beat them, a rude and despicable man.  Craig Bierko played the part well whether it was an accurate portrayal or not.  This movie may be “based on a true story” but that doesn’t make everything in it true, and we as viewers must always understand that.

I think I have rambled on about this movie enough now but I hope you give it a shot if you haven’t seen it.  It’s got a great and inspiring story, great performances, and was made by a grade A professional in Ron Howard.  Historical accuracy not withstanding there is still plenty to learn about our own nation’s history with this film.  The poverty on all social levels was true, the homeless taking up residence in a shanty towns they named Hooverville, after President Hoover, was true, and James J. Braddock really was a nobody who managed to beat the world heavyweight champion and inspire the masses during tough times. All that makes for something worth seeing, this movie is definitely worth your time.

One final note about Ron Howard.  I mentioned his early work on The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, but failed to mention some of his more recent work in television, Arrested Development. It is probably one of my all-time favorite comedies and it did not last long enough.  It was an intelligent comedy that people weren’t ready for and it didn’t get the ratings it deserved. With the lack of ratings it only made it three seasons before being shut down by FOX. If you have never seen it then you should go out of your way to buy it and watch every episode multiple times.  If you have seen it then I have fantastic news for you.  The show is reuniting for six episodes that will be aired on the internet via Netflix.  It’s awesome because we get more of the hilarious Bluth family, and interesting because it is being offered the show via internet only.  This signals big changes in the industry that will also eventually affect how we receive all viewing media.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Wow, Ryan wrote a book. First of all let me just say that I can’t stand Russell Crowe. I am the only person that I know that doesn’t like him. I also hate movies about boxing and wrestling. I never want to watch them and I dread it when a new one comes out because I just know Ryan is going to make me watch it. However, this movie is more than worth your time. It is the classic cliché boxing movie, but it is so worth you time for the uplifting power that it has. It will take the problems in your life and make them seem like little details in your life.  I also love the fact that it is set during the Great Depression. Sometimes, in America, especially right now, we think we have it so hard, but in reality we just have no idea. Nothing really compares to being that poor. This movie is heart-felt and well worth your time.

NEXT MOVIE: Clash of the Titans (1981)