Month: May 2012

Felon

Year: 2008
Directed By: Ric Roman Waugh
Written By: Ric Roman Waugh

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie was brought to me one day by a co-worker on a burned disc and I took it without having any idea what it was about. I watched it on my own with little expectations about something I had never heard of and was really surprised at how good the movie turned out to be. This movie has a very real feel to it and the main character is in a situation many of us can see ourselves in if certain circumstances took place. It’s a fascinating movie that offers a look into a world most normal people know nothing about. This movie looks a little low-budget at first but it draws you in and the story hits home on such a personal level. If nothing else, this is an exceptional prison movie because no raping is involved.

When I saw this movie for the first time we were dealing with a lot of break-ins at work and I got to speak to the police regularly during that time. I distinctly remember thinking that Stephen Dorff‘s character should have hit the criminal while he was in his house and not out on the lawn. We have weird laws in this country where people go to jail for defending their homes and criminals are protected. The innocent find themselves defenseless at the hands of criminals when it turns out there is little the police are allowed to do. It’s part of “the pussification of America” no doubt. This movie hits home hard because it is something we can all relate to. Who of us wouldn’t defend our homes and run the risk of accidentally killing the criminal we were victimized by? Then having to face the world of prison that most normal people know nothing about. Prison is a different world all together and most of us can’t even hope to know how to get along inside. There are many little pseudo-societies like this that many of us take for granted. Hobo camps being another example, it must be a different kind of world in that place that most of us can never understand and know nothing about. It’s a place for people that have been forgotten by most and many don’t give them any thought at all.

Part of this movie is loosely based off of actual events that went on in a California prison in the early 90s, but I haven’t done any research into what actually went on there. If any reader does know by all means leave a comment and let me know about it. This movie was written and directed by long time Hollywood stuntman Ric Roman Waugh. Obviously he learned a thing or two about film making during his time working on set, because he put together a great film. Stephen Dorff played his part well but for some reason I keep finding myself just feeling grateful the part went to someone other than Jason Statham. Val Kilmer did extensive research on his role and I think that shows in his performance. I have always like Kilmer, it’s because I grew up idolizing Madmartigan. I was a big 24 fan and for a time Marisol Nichols was part of the show. So when I first saw this film I thought it was cool to see her topless, although it was kind of an uncomfortable scene. That is just the shameless pervert inside talking though, the scene really hits home hard for women that find themselves in that position.

Overall I think this is a movie that is more than worth your time. I took a chance on it and was pleasantly surprised; I doubt I will be alone in that experience.  This is a movie that hits home for all of us and we can all relate to it in one way or another. What I find most interesting about it is that Amber was real reluctant to watch it but when we finally watched it together she got sucked in and seemed to really enjoy it.  This is a good movie and you should check it out if you have the opportunity.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I had never seen this movie and I was a little apprehensive about watching it for some reason. I honestly thought it was going to be a cliche movie about doing jail time. I was wrong and I really actually liked this movie a lot. The key to this movie being good is that we can all relate to it. What sends him to prison could actually happen to all of us. That’s what makes this movie so relatable. For me, when a person does something to be in jail I believe that they deserve to be there, but in this instance the man accidentally killed an intruder in the heat of the moment of trying to catch him. They then send him to prison for three years where he gets caught up in prison politics.

I recommend watching this movie if you have never seen it. It can hold your attention the entire time and give you a sense of what jail might be like for a non criminal type like the majority of us out here.

NEXT MOVIE: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Fearless

Year: 2006
Directed By: Ronny Yu
Written By: Chris Chow and Chi-long To

RYAN’S REVIEW

I am a sucker for movies with awesome fight scenes and this one has some of the best I have seen in any.  It is significant for several reasons and is an excellent film.  It is a foreign film that was brought over to the US, so in order to see it you must suffer through the subtitles but it is well worth it I can assure you.  Its original title is Huo Yuan Jia and is loosely based off the real life Chinese celebrity by the same name.  I can’t attest to much of the authenticity of the story but I know that the perceptions about the Chinese portrayed in the film are accurate.  The main authenticity comes from the fact that the real Hua Yuanjia did participate in exhibition fights  with foreign fighters in order to rally Chinese respect and nationality.  I know that he did not die in one of those bouts though, and I know nothing about his life before so I cannot attest to any of that.

In the film we see Jet Li playing the part of Huo Yuanjia who grows up determined to become the greatest fighter in the world.  He becomes a great and mighty champion but becomes drunk on his own success, as well as drunk on indulgence.  His personal glory blinds him from what is right and wrong and he becomes an arrogant person who sacrifices everything on an evening of heated emotion.  In one night he destroys his reputation, loses his best and oldest friend, and in the aftermath of his decision his family is killed in retribution.  The death of his family drives him into deep depression and he begins to wander the country.  He is eventually saved by someone who takes him in and cares for him.  He spends years learning how to live again and becomes a better person for it.  He goes back home with a new ambition, not to fight for glory but to fight for China.  It is a great story whether it actually happened that way or not and there is plenty of great fighting to make an already good film even better.

This film is significant not only because it is one of the highest grossing foreign films in the US but because it is Jet Li’s last epic martial arts film.  I must be honest that I have not seen enough of his work from his native land, but I have seen many of his US films. I will probably one day take the time to see his other epic martial arts films and be amazed at what I had been missing out on, but for now this one is an incredible performance that I really enjoy.  Jet Li is no Bruce Lee, but he is right up there with him as far as being one of the better martial arts actors.  I have been a fan of Li since I first saw him in Lethal Weapon 4. He is a great martial artist in his films and has made a name for himself in the US as an actor who can bring in steady revenue.

Amber is not into the martial arts movies so I am doing this review solo as I have with many of Bruce Lee’s films.  This is a great movie though, and anybody that enjoys these kinds of films should definitely give this one a shot.  It is an interesting and enjoyable film that I think is more than worth your time, and effort as it goes with the subtitles.

NEXT MOVIE: Felon (2008)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Year:1982
Directed By: Amy Heckerling
Written By: Cameron Crowe

RYAN’S REVIEW

I have written in several other posts about what it is that makes us love high school movies likes this one and all of that applies to this film.  This is a great movie that I always enjoy watching.  It is a good insight into life in the early 80s and it sports an awesome soundtrack with lots of music from the time period. What I find most interesting about all movies like this is that no matter what time period it comes out of the kids are always doing the same things.  They are doing the same things now only they have headphones in their ears and cell phones in their hands.  The great high school films are timeless despite being a product of their time period.  This movie came out before I was born but it has always spoken to me despite my growing up in a completely different time.

I think this was the best of all Amy Heckerling‘s films by far. I like that certain songs are used multiple times to express the mood of the character on screen. I also really like how she incorporates graffiti from so many locations.  I love when Judge Reinhold is practicing what he will say to his girlfriend in front of a mirror with “BIG HAIRY PUSSY” written on it in giant letters.  I have always liked Reinhold and I think he is really great in this movie.  He is just one part of a great cast though.  Phoebe Cates is great here too, and she has such an awesome topless scene set to “Moving in Stereo” by The Cars. Jennifer Jason Leigh is very much the main character in the film and I think she does a great job but she scares the shit out of me because I have daughters. Sean Penn is so classic in this film, he has gone on to have such a great career but I think many of us will always remember him most as the stoner Jeff Spicoli. Ray Walston is great as Mr. Hand, playing a teacher that reminds us all of a teacher we had ourselves.   Forest Whitaker has a small role as the star football player at Ridgemont.  Also taking an important career step in this film is Nicolas Cage before he was Cage.  He was credited as Nicolas Coppola in this film and was only cast as an extra.  Before his career took off he changed his name to Cage to distance himself from his famous relative Francis Ford Coppola.

There is a lot to like about this 80’s high school flick and it is really fun to watch.  It is a great depiction of life in 1982 and I think that makes it special. They are wearing the crazy 80’s clothes and smoking everywhere. The movie did lead to a television show that ran for a while and Amy Heckerling directed it.  I have never seen it though and don’t know much else about it.  If you haven’t seen this film and have the opportunity I would recommend to anyone.  It is an awesome movie that is more than worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I totally love this movie. It is a classic movie about teens during a certain time period much like Dazed and Confused. There are so many famous actors in this movie that weren’t yet super famous at the time. The amazing Sean Penn plays the stoner that has pizza delivered to class. This movie is a great one because it takes you back to your own high school days and makes you reminisce. I definitely recommend this one. It is light-hearted and fun; a movie that doesn’t make you think too hard about it.

NEXT MOVIE: Fearless (2006)

Fargo

Year: 1996
Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen
Written By: Joel and Ethan Coen

RYAN’S REVIEW

I want to start off by letting you know this, Fargo is not based on a true story. I have to say so because for almost 20 years now my dad and I have argued over it relentlessly.  There have been stories in Fargo, North Dakota that parallel the events in this movie but that does not mean the film was based on them.  You can find stories that parallel the story in this film in nearly every city in the US. There are always men trying to kill their wives and coming up with wild scenarios in order to avoid the blame. The Coen brothers labeled this a true story in an effort to get the viewer more emotionally invested in the story.  It worked too because plenty of people believed it to be a true story. For years there were idiot people searching the back roads of the region in an effort to find the money buried by Steve Buscemi‘s character. Of course it hardly matters whether the events in this film ever happened or not, it takes nothing away from the film that it is fictional.  There are many films that claim to be based off a true story though in an effort to get people more interested in it.  The most immediate example that comes to mind is 2008’s The Strangers which claims to be based on a true story.  It most definitely is not to the relief of us all and was actually loosely based off the Manson Family killings of the 60s, which of course happened very differently.  There are several films that use this technique to sucker viewers though, and I urge all of you to know that going into any film.

The thing about that disclaimer at the beginning is that it does set the tone for the film. It tells you that the film portrays events exactly as they happened and everything feels so real after that.  It’s part of the genius of the Coen brothers, they are such good filmmakers. Their use of accents and locations is specifically interesting and part of what makes them so great.  They are also great when it comes to casting. I have always been a big fan of Steve Buscemi and think that he was great as “the funny lookin guy.”  He is a regular in Coen brother movies but this was his biggest and best role of all their movies he has been in. Peter Stormare, as Buscemi’s partner in crime, is specifically good as well in this film.  He is so stone cold and suddenly violent that he really catches you off guard.  He is a bad guy that might do anything at any moment. I have never been a big fan of Willaim H Macy, it’s something about the way he looks. He is great in this movie though and gives one of his best performances. He may get on my nerves but he is a good actor that has played a key role in many good movies.  Frances McDormand won the Academy Award for best actress for her role in this film and it was well deserved.  She plays such a down to Earth and honest character that nearly everyone fell in love with her.  Her accent is so good too. She is the wife of Joel Coen and can be seen in many of his films.

This film is so intense and dramatic.  You can feel the pressure that these characters are under and that is another part of what makes it feel so real. There are so many layers to the story that give it that feeling too.  Such as the vagueness in which Macy’s character is in such dire need of money.  It appears to be him just needing money desperately for the investment he wants to make but at times it is obvious there is much more to it than that.  McDormand’s Marge and her awesome personality. She has a very interesting relationship with her husband and you can see there is more to the story there too. Who is Steve Buscemi’s character and why is he involved? Shep Proudfoot recommended Peter Stomare’s Grimsrud character to Macy, yet is was Buscemi who does all the talking and work. We never learn anything about the true relationship between those two.

This movie in many ways is the Coen brother’s big serious movie of the decade, as much as No Country For Old Men was their big serious movie of the 2000s.  It was a great movie made by great filmmakers as so many of their films are.  We will discuss the Coen brothers quite a bit during this journey through the DVD collection because we own many of their films.  This is one that I always enjoy, it is a great movie. If you haven’t seen it I would strongly recommend it to anyone, it is worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I can still remember the first time I ever watched this movie. We were in college and Ryan had just introduced me to the Coen Brothers. I was completely blown away by this movie. In true Coen Brothers fashion the movie was extremely slow but captivating. The scenery is dead on, the accents are dead on, and the clothes and hair are immaculate. It is in these small details that really make the Brothers what they are.

My favorite part of this movie is when the cop goes to question the two girls that slept with the bad guys earlier in the film. I just completely love the dialogue that goes on during the whole exchange.

If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s a damn shame. You should definitely make this one a priority.

NEXT MOVIE: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Community on NBC

Recently news hit the internet that Community was renewed for a fourth season and I was really happy about it. Although it was only renewed for 13 episodes it was still better than the show getting cancelled.  Sadly from there all the news has been downhill, and now I fear that the show will not only not make it past season four but will probably lose the creative ideas that make it so great.  Community is one of my favorite shows ever, but I can understand why some people don’t get it.  It is a really out the box show with an incredibly different format altogether.  It plays off popular media in a way that really speaks to a generation like mine that grew up completely immersed in that popular media.  The show is so clever and so funny, but I’m afraid it looks like everything is going to change, and not for the better.

Following the news that the show was renewed came the announcement that it would be moved to a different day and time slot.  This should have been terrific news because throughout the show’s entire existence it has had to share a time slot with The Big Bang Theoryone of the most popular shows on television.  The ratings suffer because so many people are tuned into Big Bang, but that shouldn’t be a reflection of the Community’s value.  However, what should have been good news suddenly looked bad when the new day and time turned out to be Fridays at 8:00 or 8:30.  That time slot is the end of any show, nobody is watching television on a Friday night and it ends up being where the networks stick what nobody cares about.  They might as well have cancelled the show if they weren’t going to give it anymore of a chance than that.  Nevertheless 13 episodes was still something to get excited about when the show had been facing cancellation.  Unfortunately the news went on to get even worse from there.

Dan Harmon has been removed as the show front runner; he was fired by the studio.  The creator and main writer of the show, the most important person to the making of the show was let go.  This is the worst news that could have come because how can they possibly continue the show without him? It is his imagination and wit that make the show so great and removing him will make everything about the show different.  I don’t know why this decision was made but I know it was a mistake.  I have heard about several problems between Harmon and Chevy Chase but I can’t believe that is what led to this.  For all I care they could get rid of Chevy Chase and the show will probably be better.  Everything I hear him say about the show is bad and that is a horrible way to conduct yourself in representation of your main employment. Chevy Chase brings little to the show and it is the other characters that really shine.  All he gives the show is a recognizable name that many people remember fondly but those memories faded for me a long time ago.  Chase made some great movies in his day, but he has done little but piss people off and suck for something like the last twenty years.  Comedy Central roasted Chevy Chase once, and I read that people were so nasty to him that they decided to never re-air the episode.  From everything I have read about Chevy Chase he is not well liked within the Hollywood community and if he did in fact have something to do with Harmon getting fired then I will like him even less.

Community is one of the most creative shows I have ever seen and I look forward to it every week.  It is the best show on a night that used to be good for NBC.  However, The Office really sucks now and I haven’t liked Parks and Recreation since they added Rob Lowe to the cast.  If you have never watched Community I would encourage you to start at the beginning and watch the show grow.  That’s the best way to get into it and appreciate how funny it really is.  If you take that chance try to cherish what you have there, because that is probably as good as it’s going to get.  I will still watch the show when it returns but I have very low expectations in the wake of this troubling news.  NBC has made a horrible horrible mistake and I am really disappointed by all of these developments.

Face/Off

Year: 1997
Directed By: John Woo
Written By: Mike Werb and Michael Colleary

RYAN’S REVIEW

When I was in my early teens this was probably one of the coolest movies I had ever seen.  It didn’t seem so cheesy then, and fifteen years ago this idea seemed like maybe something we were close to achieving in the real world. It all seems a bit silly watching it now, but this movie does bring back fond memories for me, and it was intricate in my evolving love of action films.

The world was so different in 1997, yet still the same.  It was an interesting time, but I can’t really remember the time period well enough to talk intelligently about it. I was 13 then, and that seems like a million years ago now.  I do remember loving this movie though, and that it was a hit.  In a year like 1997 this was a successful film.  It didn’t matter how ridiculous some of the film is, it made a lot of money despite that.  It might be ludicrous that every time these guys shoot at each other something explodes, and it might not be possible for Castor Troy to smoke a cigarette with no lips. These two guys might have serious and unprecedented operations that they are immediately healed from but none of that matters.  All that matters is how cool everything in this movie is. At least consider how awesome it must have been to a thirteen year old in 1997 watching it.  Castor Troy dressed as a priest and seducing a chorus girl is awesome, his two golden guns are awesome, above all else he is a cool and calculating villain and that is awesome too.  I think Nicolas Cage‘s performance as Troy in the earlier part of the film was his best role of the “trilogy.” Cage made three action films in a row during this time with The Rock and Con Air coming out right before this one and the three films are known as Cage’s “action trilogy”.  Cage has an interesting ability to deliver ground breaking performances in one film then turn around and make the stupidest wastes of time out there.  This was fifteen years ago though, and all three of these action films were well received.  Cage’s star was shining bright in 1997 and no matter how absurd some of his movies were people still paid to see them. I particularly like this one and The Rock, I did like Con Air for a time but grew to find it too cheesy.  They were all cheesy, but the action made up for it, it was a time that only explosions mattered, before heavy duty CGI and excessive green screens.

Ah, and now to John Travolta. Who I happen to think was great in this film, and many others.  I have always been a big fan and the news coming out this week has been quite the shocker.  I’m not surprised despite my admiration of his films.  If nothing else, Grease and Saturday Night Fever should have thrown up some red flags in the 70s right? Travolta is currently facing two lawsuits charging him with sexual misconduct against men.  It has opened the flood gates apparently and similar stories are popping up everywhere. Travolta has been around forever and is actually known for having one of the more long lasting relationship in Hollywood with his wife Kelly Preston so these are really serious allegations. Personally, I don’t care if Travolta is gay, but sexual misconduct is what it is and I hope the allegations aren’t true.  I think Travolta plays a great bad guy and obviously John Woo does too because he has used him in that capacity a couple of times, no pun intended. Travolta and Cage both have to play two different parts in this film and I think they both do a great job with the role reversal.  Gina Gershon is also worth mentioning in one of the female leads.  She is so smoking hot and never worked enough, she should have been cast in so many more roles.

John Woo directed this film and he was a really notable action director at the time. Although he has great vision and imagination when it comes to action, it is all so over-exaggerated and foolish.  To give him some credit, he did a great appreciation for style and good monologues that he used in a fantastic way.  Those proved to suffice during his heyday. John Woo’s movies might seem silly now but they meant a lot to me when I was younger. They were good fun mindless action movies to just sit back and enjoy when there was nothing better to do.

This movie is really really cheesy from beginning to end but it still has its merits and is still thought of favorably. I think this movie is worth your time, if nothing else let it take you back to a different time, a time before the world changed with the internet, terrorism, and the 24/7 news.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I find it really ironic that we are at this movie when John Travolta is under so much fire for sexual harassment. I don’t think I ever really saw this movie until I was out of college and caught it on television one day. I thought it seemed pretty cool and interesting. It’s not a movie that is like other movies. But, because we are snobs here, I have to say after watching it for the blog, I am thoroughly unimpressed. Everything seems implausible to me and makes me laugh. I’m sorry, but an action movie that makes me laugh during the serious scenes isn’t doing something right. This movie is cheesy at best and if you want to waste some time on it go ahead.

NEXT MOVIE: Fargo (1996)

Eyes Wide Shut

Year: 1999
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Arthur Schnitzler, Stanley Kubrick, & Frederic Raphael

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was Stanley Kubrick‘s last film; he died four days after turning in his final cut and never lived to see it released in theaters.  He spent over a year making this movie and it was said that he worked so hard trying to reach the deadline that he literally killed himself working on it.  Kubrick was renowned for being a perfectionist and was notorious for taking a really long time in both the filming process and in editing. His work always paid off though and he made some really great films in his time.  This movie was a project that he had wanted to work on for a long time and I have heard he considered it one of his best films.  I don’t agree with that, it hardly competes with Dr. Strangelove, but it is an interesting film nonetheless.

This film is about marriage, sexuality, and the struggles that come from making a lasting relationship work. The couple in this movie never actually cheats on each other, but the thought alone is enough to drive the man of the relationship crazy.  I think that the idea of his wife cheating even being a possibility, in addition to his own latent desires for other women is what drove him crazy. In the end their relationship is strong enough to survive the situation though and it is sex that seals the survival.  If nothing else I think the excess sexuality in this film is a cherry on top for Kubrick’s career.  Kubrick was also known in several films like Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey to show obvious and blatant sexual references with various objects like planes and space ships.

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were married in a really media obsessed relationship when this movie came out. They both signed contracts to work on the film as long as Stanley Kubrick had need of them and for the entire making of the film the whole plot was shrouded in secrecy.  All people knew about it was that it had something to do with sex and it sported this couple that everyone was obsessed with. Their performances weren’t anything exceptional that I could see but their presence in the film did add quite a bit to the anticipation for it.  I loathe Tom Cruise but can admit he is one of the best actors out there and has great decision making skills when it comes to choosing his roles. I haven’t always been a big fan of Kidman either but she looks great in this movie and is naked quite a bit. Sydney Pollack plays one of the better roles in the film, he fit his part perfectly.

This isn’t a movie I will sit down and watch for fun or anything but it was interesting to revisit it again. The fact that it was a great filmmaker’s last movie makes it worth everybody’s time but it’s the kind of film I think you should only see once.  I doubt many would really want to see it again but it is worth one time around.  It is a bit of a long movie and has themes that can easily confuse most viewers. I enjoyed watching again but wouldn’t recommend it to everyone.  I would selectively choose who to suggest this film to and I might never find a person I think really needs to see it.  It may surprise you though, this film has an ability to draw you in and it is a very mysterious thriller.  If nothing else, this was the last film made by one of the greatest filmmakers ever and that alone makes it worth your time to see it at least once.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I had never seen this movie before watching it with Ryan the other night. I found it to be extremely interesting and it has stuck with me for days. It’s one of those movies that kind of lingers and you think about it and think about it and maybe even relate to your own life. I think that if I would have seen this film before I was married it wouldn’t have had the same effect that it did this time. Ryan and I have been together off and on a total of 10 years now. I will tell you this unmarried couples…it doesn’t matter how long you date someone, marriage is different than dating. It is hard and it is complicated, but it is beautiful. This movie portrays what a real marriage looks like. All marriages have their secrets. I think we [married couples] can really relate to this film. It is crazy and interesting, and I love how it shows how consumed you can become with thinking about your spouse cheating. They never even cheat on each other, but the thought of it alone was enough to almost drive them crazy.

I really enjoyed this film, in that it was really interesting and telling. I think I would only recommend this one to married couples. It is one of those movies that will keep you thinking well after the ending credit.

NEXT MOVIE: Face/Off (1997)