Month: August 2013

Little Miss Sunshine

Year: 2006
Directed By: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Written By: Michael Arndt

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a movie I haven’t looked forward to reaching in the collection.  It’s Amber’s movie, and I went along with it because I liked it well enough to concede to it having a place on our movie rack.  It’s been years since I have seen the movie and what’s funny is that as soon as we started the movie I found myself immediately sucked in.  That’s how it usually tends to be as we make this journey through the collection and that’s the point really.  We are making this journey through the DVD rack specifically to reconnect with these movies and remind ourselves of why we bought them in the first place.  This is a perfect example because while I have dreaded watching it, I immediately found myself enthralled and couldn’t look away.

I had started a second paragraph of this review discussing my reluctance to watch the movie on the pretense that it is just too depressing and bleak.  After re-watching the entire film I have gone back and deleted the paragraph because I couldn’t be more wrong.  This movie isn’t depressing, and in fact it is quite the contrary.  It’s uplifting and it’s a beautiful thing to see this family come together to overcome adversity.  Olive is the glue that holds them all together and it’s the love and respect they have for her that motivates them to overcome their own personal issues.  They are all depressed people faced with issues that are out of their hands but try to maintain hope despite that.  Whether they are broken-hearted and suicidal, past their prime and ready for the end, angry at the world and determined toward a dream that ultimately can’t be achieved, broke and unable to achieve the success desired, or just the mother that does whatever she can to hold them together.  They all have serious problems laid before them and it is the little sweet and innocent Olive that forces them all together and makes them a real family again.

The strength of this movie is in the story and in the cast.  At the center of that cast was the 10-year old Abigail Breslin who played her part flawlessly.  Dressed in a fat suit she took a lot of weight on her young shoulders and carried the film to a level it might not have reached with another young actress.  That scream of excitement when she gets the news from the Little Miss Sunshine pageant gets me every time. It’s the shrill excitement and reaction that can only come from a girl her age and she did a great job with it.  Another scene that always gets me in this movie is when she is the only one capable of consoling her half brother who has just realized all his dreams are out of reach.  She doesn’t even have to say anything to him; she just does the sweetest thing in the world and simply hugs him.  Of course there is also her dance at the end which comes out of nowhere and really caps off the movie in an awesome way.  Breslin has continued to work and is developing into a very good actress.  I look forward to what she has to offer in the future and will always remember this role fondly as the one who made her a player in the making.

The best role in this movie aside from Olive is the one turned in by Alan Arkin.  In fact he was awarded the Academy Award for the part in 07 for Best Supporting Actor.  Arkin is a fantastic actor who always does his job so effortlessly in so many films.  He delivered one of my favorite lines ever in this movie when talking about drug use.  He tells Dwayne that it’s stupid to do drugs when you are young but stupid not to do them at his age.  I think he has a hell of a point there and I really liked that mindset of his character. He is a crude and uncouth man but is still a great grandfather to Olive.  He does use drugs but he is just trying to get the most out of life before it is over and I think that’s pretty cool.

I’m not really a fan of Steve Carrell’s career in film; although I think he was great on TV. In most of the movies he makes he is just altogether too stupid or silly for me, but occasionally he shows us that he is better than that.  This is a film where he did just that and I thought he gave an excellent performance. I love the scene when they finally arrive late to the pageant and he runs ahead of everyone in an effort to get Olive signed up in time.  Here he is this man who is so disheartened and depressed he tried to take his own life and he is forced into this situation that oddly enough gives him something to live for.  Something he cares so much about he does everything within his power to make it happen, running all that way without stopping to get Olive’s name in before registration closed.

I really hate to do this a second time but……“Holy shit there is Dean Norris!” I am again baffled to see him when I never knew him before. Of course he is again playing a cop, go figure.  It seems to be his go-to thing but none of that matters at all anymore.  At this point I have only seen the first of the last eight episodes of Breaking Bad and all I can say is that Hank was pretty damn awesome in that episode. In this movie he is only on screen for a matter of minutes but still manages to be really funny.  I love hen he finds the porno mags and is completely distracted from the body in the trunk.  He flips through them with so much excitement until getting to the homosexual issue and doing a complete 180.

Greg Kinnear plays such a loathsome character in this movie that it made me start to dislike him as an actor.  As the dad he is doing the best he can but he is such a misguided and pretentious man.  The kind of guy that doesn’t have a problem throwing his own douche bag opinion on the table no matter what the issue.  The kind of man who has an unreasonable sense of self worth and the overbearing arrogance that goes with such. Despite his redeeming efforts later in the film I still can’t get on board with a guy who tells his daughter ice cream will make her fat in front of everyone. Later in the movie he really comes alive to make his daughter’s dream come true and that is really awesome.  It took a lot of balls to steal his father’s body out of the hospital, and then again to get up on stage and join his daughter’s dance.

One of my favorite things about this movie is how they have to push their car to get it started after it breaks down on the road.  In order to move forward they must work together as a family pushing it; I think the symbolism there is really clever. I like that the movie ends with one final scene of them doing this together to make the trip back home.  There is no telling what lies before them on the road but they are heading into it together, stronger as a family than they ever have been before.

I can’t even say enough about how surprised I am now and how foolish I feel to have dreaded watching this movie.  I don’t know what made me remember it so poorly but I have thoroughly enjoyed watching it again and will probably not wait as long before seeing it next time.  This is a wonderful movie and it stole the hearts of many of us in 2006.  If you haven’t seen it then you have been missing out.  This is a great movie with incredible performances that are worth your time to see.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Me, I bought this movie for Ryan. He was dreading this movie and I kept saying you must be remembering it wrong, this movie is amazing. It hits to every true part of the family paradigm. He, of course, got sucked in again. This movie is one of my favorites. It speaks volumes on the true nature of people. All families are really effed up in their own ways, but ultimately in the end, all you have is each other. Nobody loves you like your family loves you. They accept every messed up flaw. That is what this movie excelled at showing. It is more than worth your time.

littlemisssunshine

This is one of my favorite posters of all time. I have really been looking forward to it. It is like a breath of fresh air. It looks like it was created in Illustrator and not Photoshop for once. Not that Photoshop sucks or anything, but there are just way too many filters that are relied upon when it comes to movie poster designers. In any case, this poster is the epitome of what negative space importance is. It’s really ok to leave some breathing room around a big space like this. It almost leaves you more intrigued to read the rest of the poster. Anyway. I love this poster and this movie.

NEXT MOVIE: The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Ben Affleck as Batman?

Since news dropped that Batman would be featured in the next Superman movie I have been filled with excitement and anticipation.  When that ridiculous rumor that Christian Bale had been offered $50 million to reprise the role got started I was hopeful despite knowing better.  That’s far and away more money than any actor has ever been offered to play any role and it was just wishful thinking.  I never really expected Bale to come back to the role but I was certain that the casting would be great.  Far too much hinges on who is chosen because it’s not just about the Superman sequel, it’s about The Justice League. Warner Brothers has to be smart about how they eventually bring all these characters together and they have already made many costly mistakes.  With one character franchise already failing miserably (Green Lantern) and allowing their most successful character franchise to finish and not be incorporated they are already at a disadvantage. Choosing a new Batman was necessary under the circumstances but was not a decision to be made lightly.  When I woke up this morning and saw the news of Ben Affleck being cast I literally wanted to go into a dark room and hide from the world.

I am literally depressed by this development because it crushes all the hope and optimism I had invested in this movie.  All I want to know is who the hell thought this was a good idea? I know that Affleck has made a nice comeback and showed promise behind the camera but what has he ever done as an actor to garner this kind of significant role? I read this article about how they wanted an older and wiser Batman and an actor with the “acting chops” to pull off the role.  Which one of those qualifies Affleck? Not only has he never come off as wise but who in the world thinks Affleck has “acting chops?” I remember a time when the best role he could get was a small part in Smokin’ Aces, and he got killed thirty minutes into that movie.  I also remember the last time Affleck tried to pull off a superhero and destroyed what might have otherwise been a promising franchise.  I also remember the things I heard about that role including the fact that against the norm Affleck opted to wear shoulder pads in lieu of bulking up for the role.  I literally think this is the worst decision with the Batman character since George Clooney was cast in the role.  I don’t think Affleck will be as bad as Clooney was but I do think he has the potential to challenge Clooney for worst Batman ever.

Something I think is really important to consider about Batman is that the lower half of his face is all that is visible when he is in costume.  This is what made Michael Keaton the best Batman because if nothing else the man had the right mouth and jaw line for the part. My only hang-up with Christian Bale as Batman was that he had no upper lip.  Batman with no upper lip looked silly but the movies were so good they made up for it.  All I can think of now is that enormous chin Ben Affleck has and how stupid it will look jutting out from under the Batman cowl.

I have no reason at all to think I am alone in my outrage at this decision so please someone back me up here.  This is the worst right? Is there any hope at all to be had in the potential this movie did have? I read many supportive comments this morning and was shocked.  I know Affleck has found great success as a director and respect him for it but we can’t let that blind us from the truth.  He is and never has been a good actor and his track record offers absolutely nothing acting wise to explain this decision. So please sound off in comments and let me know if I am right or wrong on this.  I need hope if there is any left to be had because all of mine is gone now.

Life of Brian

Year: 1979
Directed By: Terry Jones
Written By: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin

RYAN’S REVIEW

I wouldn’t call myself a Monty Python fan.  In fact I often feel like the only person around who doesn’t like Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Yes, yes I am that weird person who doesn’t like that immensely popular film. I always get a shocked look when I admit that to people but I just don’t care for it. I have actually even made efforts to revisit the film because I assume I must be wrong about it in the wake of such popularity. However my efforts have continued to be fruitless. Once the initial shock of the person I tell my opinion to relents a bit I explain that while I didn’t like that film I absolutely love this one.  More often than not the response I get is confusion and the other person hasn’t seen or even heard of this less popular of the troupe’s films. I can’t figure out what makes the Holy Grail a more popular film but I for one think this one is far and away a funnier movie.  It’s one I hold dear because I saw it for the first time when I was in college and studying religion extensively at the time and this film about Brian whose life parallels that of Jesus just really hit my funny bone.

This movie is probably often condemned as sacrilege but all it does is point out the basics of the time period.  It’s a silly comedy yes but it mocks things as they were and sometimes plenty of truth can be said in jest.  What I take out of this movie is that there was a time when people weren’t very educated and prone to follow any cause that caught their attention. That and the fact that tons of people were crucified and it wasn’t something exclusive to any one specific person. In a nutshell that ironically seems to actually sum up the time period in a strange way. As always, history is in the eye of the beholder and written by the victors.  It can be a difficult time to accurately depict anything from that time period.  Not that the efforts of historians and archaeologist alike are in vain, but their findings rarely get to the common people who already have their own ideas based on popular belief.  History is an incredible thing and I have always loved learning anything and everything about it but far too many people don’t pay it the attention it deserves. Many people take little or no time to actually understand where history actually comes from and how it is we actually know some of the things that happened long ago, specifically times 1,000 years ago and before.

This is a really funny movie from beginning to end.  When I saw it for the first time I immediately started laughing at the three wise men entering the wrong tent and mistaking Brian for Jesus.  I continued to laugh through all the meetings of the Peoples Front of Judea and into the part when Brian started accidentally acquiring his own misguided followers.  My favorite has got to be the end though when Brian and so many others are all being crucified by the Romans.  The song that they all sing stuck in my head for days on end after I saw it for the first time and to this day I still occasionally find myself singing it aloud.  It’s a song I specifically think about when I am having a bad day and it always goes a long way in lifting my spirits.  If you have never seen it before check out the video posted below.

The irony of this scene alone is what makes it so hilarious. If it makes you want to go whip yourself or get on your knees and beg God for forgiveness then I am sorry.  I’m sorry that you can’t appreciate how funny this is because it is pretty damned funny and I think there is an important lesson within the song.  Life sucks, but there is always potential around every corner for something good to come along.

I’ve said it before and I’m not the only one that says it. The most important thing for any comedy to do is to leave the audience laughing in the end.  Whenever a film does that it burns a special spot in our memories and we always think of it fondly when we reflect.  This movie ended with a great scene and a good laugh.  I absolutely love the scene in which tons of people are singing while hanging on crosses and everything seems to be all hunky dory.  Many people were and are probably shocked and appalled by this scene but like the man says, you always got to look on the bright side of life.  Just relax and go with the flow in life; there is always a light side to life no matter how dark things can get. This is a really funny movie and I think it is without doubt worth your time to see it. If you won’t to condemn me for my opinions on the Holy Grail feel free to leave a comment or if you have seen this movie and love it as I did let me know your own thoughts.

NEXT MOVIE: Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Year: 2004
Directed By: Wes Anderson
Written By: Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach

RYAN’S REVIEW

Wes Anderson has only made a handful of movies to date and I love nearly all of them but this one is without doubt my favorite.  His movies tend to be slower and have a very subtle type of comedy to them that just gets me every time. The film is dedicated to Jacques Cousteau and was made as both a tribute and caricature to his films. In this film we see Bill Murray in the lead role playing an apathetic and disheartened rival to “Cousteau and his cronies” that is on a mission for revenge of all things. Somewhere out there is the mysterious Jaguar Shark, that may or may not exist, who killed his right hand man. Things have fallen apart for him and he just flat out doesn’t care anymore.  As he goes on this adventure seeking revenge he encounters financial difficulties, pirates, a small mutiny, and a tragic loss along the way.

I am a huge fan of Bill Murray and think his performance in this film is one of the best he has ever had.  As Steve Zissou he plays a man who was once on top but has fallen from the limelight and is now laughable.  He has lost his drive and now lives carelessly and without inhibition. I love his “scientific purpose” for killing this Bigfoot of the sea. Revenge, a ridiculous notion to take out on a sea creature that may or may not exist, but it jives perfectly with the personality of Steve Zissou.  When Ned approaches him with the possibility of being his son he simply drifts away for a moment and smokes a joint on bow of the ship then returns to immediately pick right back up with the conversation.  The way he treats Ned is hilarious too.  When they sit down to have a drink together he treats this grown man as if he were a child, “no that’s mine, he doesn’t know anything about wine.” Paired with Zissou’s apathetic style is an arrogance that only a man who was once great can have.  I love when he renames Ned Kingsley Zissou and just goes forward with it even after Ned’s reservations. Zissou may be kind of a dick but he is ballsy and that makes him a badass. The scenes when he breaks free to fight the pirates and leads his crew in the rescue of the bond company stooge are awesome.  One of my favorite lines from the movie comes right after he fights off the pirates when he yells “you left your dog you idiots!” Yet Zissou later leaves the dog behind himself after rescuing the bond company stooge. All and all I love this guy; he’s like “The Dude” of the sea only not a pacifist and a lot crazier.  He is an awesome character and I don’t think any other actor out there could have brought him to life in quite the same way as Bill Murray.  Murray is truly a one of a kind artist and person. We must cherish every film he has left in him and with hope there are many more to come.

Wes Anderson uses so many of the same actors on a regular basis that he has practically developed his own troupe.  Owen Wilson is one of his regulars and turns in a great performance as Ned, who may or may not be Steve Zissou’s son.  I think his accent in the film is perfect, it has a draw and twang to it that really adds humor to the things he says.  I’ve read that he modeled the accent after that of Will Patton.  I can see how he tried but there is still a nasally sound to it that makes it sound altogether different from Patton.  Willem Dafoe plays the part of Zissou’s most loyal crewman Klaus, who struggles with the relationship developing between Steve and Ned possibly because he is a closet homosexual.  I think Klaus is awesome and I love the scene in which he confronts Ned and smacks him across the face. Willem Dafoe was everywhere for a while right at the turn of the century but I haven’t seen him in anything significant in quite a while.  That’s disappointing because I think he is a great actor.  He has a role in Anderson’s next movie and I look forward to it.

I am not a big fan of Anjelica Huston but Wes Anderson obviously is because he casts her in everything.  I don’t know this but if I was a betting man I’d put money on the notion that she probably reminds him of his mother as that is the role he usually casts her in.  She has a look that conveys intelligence and dignity and she brings that quality to every role she plays in his films.  As Eleanor Zissou, Etheline Tenembaum, and as the estranged mother Patricia from Darjeeling Limited she is always a strong, wise, and independent woman.  I’m not a big fan because personally I have always thought she looked kind of evil but her roles in Anderson’s film have really made me come around to liking her more.

I’ve also never been a fan of Jeff Goldblum, at least not as a leading man anyway.  I do like him much more when he plays a secondary character like he does in this film as Zissou’s rival Alistair Hennessey. I think Goldblum has plenty of great scenes in this movie but my favorite is when he meets Zissou on the deck of his ship.  When he casually asks the dogs name before walking over and smacking the shit out of him is so funny.  I like the way asks its name before hitting it and the way he points at it as he stares it down afterwards.  It conveys power from a man who has succeeded so much more than his rival has financially.  Cate Blanchett is a fantastic actress and has a very interesting role in this movie.  Blanchett hadn’t even met her co-stars when she walked onto set and filmed her first scene with them on the beach looking at the glowing Man-of-wars.  She is that talented of an actress though, she’s a pro who can show up and drop a great performance just like that.

It was made out to be a big deal that Bud Cort was cast in the movie but I don’t buy it.  Now I’m not saying he didn’t do a good job because I thought he was excellent as the bond company stooge.  I love the scene after the rescue on the Belafonte when Hennessey asks how they got all his equipment and Cort replies “we fucking stole it,” hilarious.  I simply won’t give Cort any additional credit because I specifically hated the film he is most famous for.  I hear all the time about how it’s a classic and what not but I can’t see it.  As far as I am concerned Harold and Maude is a bleak and demented movie.  Its dark comedy on suicide never really appealed to me and I think the relationship between the two title characters is gross.  You can say love holds no bars but screw that I’m telling you there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to age difference as it pertains to sexual relations.

The ending to this film is so powerful.  When everyone finally sees the Jaguar shark it proves that Zissou wasn’t crazy, and even he himself questioned that at times.  Throughout the entire film he never seems certain that there is actually anything out there but finding it validates him as a person.  He gets emotional for the only time in the film because he realizes he isn’t crazy and he still has the talents he thought he had lost.  I think in that moment he finally allows himself to feel the loss of his best friend Esteban and of his possible son Ned.  It is touching to see this stoic and apathetic character actually feel something. Following that scene is the Zissou sitting outside alone as the audience applauds his newest film.  As he is joined by his crew he walks away triumphantly to whatever new adventure lay before him.  It is an incredible ending to an awesome movie.

This is a movie I usually hesitate to recommend to people because I never know how other people will take Wes Anderson.  I love his films and wholeheartedly look forward to every one he makes but most of the people I talk to don’t really like his films.  Despite that I’m going to say this film is without doubt worth your time because it is one of my favorites.  If you have seen it before please leave a comment to share your own thoughts, I am always interested to hear what other people have to say about a film I don’t know many who have watched.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is absurdly ridiculous in all the right ways. Of course by now you should know, and understand that we really like Wes Anderson. He has an original style and look and I don’t think any other movie carries it as well as this one. It was such a strange, strange film yet so interesting you can’t look away. And furthermore, I will watch anything that has Bill Murray in it. (Side note about Bill Murray. Have we ever mentioned we live in North Carolina? Every year we go down to SC around Folly Beach and vacation and visit some friends. Guess who also vacations around the area? That’s right Bill Murray. And legend has it that he is extremely nice in real life.)

lifeaquatic

This is probably the best I have seen where the designer tried to fit the whole fucking cast in there. I still hate it. But at least there are no floating heads in the ocean surrounding the pod. I have to say I am really disappointed with this poster. I think that they had such an opportunity to do something really cool because of the design and style of Wes Anderson. Boo, I am not impressed with this poster at all. One of my least favorites simply because of the opportunities lost on it.

NEXT MOVIE: Life of Brian (1979)

Lethal Weapon 2

Year: 1989
Directed By: Richard Donner
Written By: Jeffrey Boam, Shane Black, and Warren Murphy

RYAN’S REVIEW

I couldn’t even begin to think where I would start with this review before starting the movie but holy shit that’s Dean Norris! I am a big fan of Norris from his role on Breaking Bad but was under the impression that was the only thing I had ever seen him in.  I never thought about how much he had aged and it turns out he was in the background of a few beloved action movies from the late 80s and early 90s.  In addition to this film he played small parts in Total Recall and Terminator 2This might seem silly but it has certainly brightened a bad day to realize this for the first time.  Without even looking I can clearly see in my mind who he played in Total Recall; he played a mutant who fights for the resistance and has some large growth or thing on his face.

images (1) This is the only picture I could find from the movie that showed the character he played.  He’s that guy to the very left who has a little more hair than the version we have now on Under the Dome and Breaking Bad. Exciting right?

As for this movie I think it is a pretty cool sequel.  Not quite the same exact thing as the first film and the heat was turned up quite a bit. This has everything a good sequel to an action movie should have: More action, more profanity, and more nudity.  Not only that but this film had the addition of Joe Pesci, and I’m under the impression that any movie is instantly better the minute Pesci steps on set. This wasn’t his best role granted, but still, you can’t go wrong with Joe Pesci.  The beauty of this movie was that it didn’t have to really be anything special. It only had to be more of what people already loved and that’s exactly what it was.

Mel Gibson and Danny Glover had terrific chemistry and they only got better a second time around.  This movie took everything from the first film a step further and in truth may have taken a step too far.  Far too often second films can be so good that they raise the bar too high, so high that a third film can’t hope to achieve the same success.  Off the top of my head I’m thinking specifically about Terminator 2, X-Men 2and The Dark Knight.  I didn’t dislike the third film in this franchise but I didn’t like it either.  It was all wrong really, everything from the PG-13 rating to the sub par story line.   

We do not own the third or fourth film in this franchise and I never intend to.  I cannot stress enough how asinine I think it is to take a franchise built on an R rating and soften it up to make it PG-13.  I get why they do it because it’s all about money and kids spend money on movies.  Nevertheless I think as adults we deserve movies that are made just for us and this franchise wasn’t for the kids, neither was the Die Hard franchise for that matter.  I don’t care what anybody says, action heroes and their enemies are just much cooler and more believable when they are letting the fucks fly.  Die Hard going to PG-13 was much worse than this was though, at least Riggs didn’t have a catch phrase he couldn’t say anymore because of the new rating.  Murtaugh’s “I’m too old for this shit,” was still acceptable to get the rating but I can’t help but think Die Hard lost something when Willis couldn’t say his tagline anymore because it ended with motherfucker. Not only that but I can’t fathom how John McClane goes from saying fuck every other word to a dialogue absent of the word altogether.

This was a cool follow up to a really cool movie and if you liked the first one there is little doubt you will be satisfied with this one as well.  I like that the bad guys were from South Africa because it is so easy to hate Afrikaners whether they are breaking the law under the shield of diplomatic immunity or simply being racist assholes.  I don’t know if the diplomatic immunity thing is accurate but feel like anybody that would take something from this movie as fact and accurate should probably stand up and bang his head against the wall. Certainly it may exist in some small form but I seriously doubt diplomats from foreign nations are simply allowed carte blanche while they are here.  Nevertheless I do not know and won’t lower myself to researching the accuracy of something from an 80s action sequel.  Regardless, this is an awesome movie that is a lot of fun.  It’s a must see for action fans and it’s without doubt worth your time.

NEXT MOVIE: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)