Month: May 2014

My Life

Year: 1993
Directed By: Bruce Joel Rubin
Written By: Bruce Joel Rubin

RYAN’S REVIEW

We own this movie because I really like the idea behind it, but if I’m being honest I really don’t like watching it.  What a buzzkill. We tried to watch it but only made it about half way through before throwing in the towel.  It’s inspiring in ways that plenty of other movies are better at but this one seemed to bring something unique to the table.  I remember seeing this movie in the theater, I couldn’t have been more than nine years old at the time.  Even at that young age this movie made an impression on me.  The dying man who leaves a series of videos for his child and fights the disease eating him inside. It’s an incredible story.  I remembered this movie for almost twenty years.  In the back of my mind I had always known that if I were faced with this situation I would do it the way the guy in that Michael Keaton movie did it. A couple of years ago I came across this film for sale in the most random of places and bought it on the spot.  Since, it has sat on our shelf unwatched until last night.

We gave it our best shot, but this movie is difficult to watch.  It’s hard to get into the right mood to something like this. We watched it for a while before giving up and watching a funny sitcom to salvage the evening.  I don’t regret owning it however.  This movie left an impression on me at a young age and I still like the idea enough to justify owning it.  I like Michael Keaton and enjoy any opportunity to see him in something but this one is a bummer.  I can’t imagine myself ever recommending it but I’ll reference it anytime an opportunity presents itself.

AMBER’S REVIEW

How terribly depressing. Depressing. Depressing. How about instead of watching this movie watch Season 3 Episode 15 of The Office, where Michael goes about making his own video for his unborn child. It is hilarious, and in my opinion, a lot better use of time than sitting through this gut wrenching movie. I also hate that it forces you to think about your own children in a “in case of death” situation.

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UGH. This looks like a cover to a Nicholas Sparks book. (Which I know is blasphemous to say, but I also can’t stand a Nicholas Sparks movie or book). I hate anything that just wants to see exactly how much it can make one person cry during a movie. Ryan has a good rule of thumb for these types of movies, if the trailer makes me want to cry, I don’t want to see the movie. There are so many things wrong with this poster. The hands thing. It’s very Sistine Chapel don’t you think? Then the picture of the two of them. A square photograph like image in the middle of a glowing blankness. And then lastly there is the typography. It looks like the only reason they changed the “f” in life was because they thought it was a pretty way to draw an f, so hey let’s awkwardly stick it in the middle of life even thought it has no relative meaning whatsoever. I hate this poster. HATE IT. I think it’s safe to say this is by far my least favorite poster. Of course….we haven’t made it to Southland Tales yet….

NEXT MOVIE: Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

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The Monster Squad

Year: 1987
Directed By: Fred Dekker
Written By: Fred Dekker and Shane Black

RYAN’S REVIEW

I wrote my first paragraph of this review yesterday and really hated what I had put down. I spent the whole day with it in the back of my mind turning it over and over thinking of ways to revise.  I had begun with the correlation this movie had with The Goonies and the obvious influence that’s there.  However, it occurred to me late last night that I was going about the whole thing in the wrong way.  Why the hell was I wasting my time trying to overanalyze The Monster Squad anyway? It is what it is and all that needs to be said is that it is awesome and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

So, upon reconsideration I would like to go a different way with this.  One of the most memorable quotes from this movie is “Wolfman has gnards.” It’s universally one of the most memorable lines from a movie that has become a cult classic. I think it is a really funny line delivered with perfect timing in the heat of the moment.  My only question would be why this was such a surprise.  Of course Wolfman had gnards, he wasn’t Wolfwoman and the squad had already gone over the fact that Wolfman needed pants to cover his “wolf dork.” So it should have come without question because the gnards and the “wolf dork” should go hand and hand.

Aside from that I think the only thing that garners serious discussion is Rudy.  What a great “Fonzi-esque” character that wrote the definition for cool in this movie. “Fonzi-esque” is right for Rudy right? Leather jacket, check, Motorcycle/bicycle ridden like one, check, ultra cool and respected by his peers for no apparent reason, check.  He’s Fonzi all the way and anybody that doesn’t know the Fonz needs to Google him. Aside from that doesn’t Rudy in himself represent the changing of the times? Brace yourself people, so much of what you see from him in this film garners R ratings these days.  Not only is he smoking but making bullets in his shop class to boot.  Oh the travesty. I love Rudy in this movie, he represents a time of more honest film making. You would never see a film this day in age where anything he did would be permitted. Regardless of whether or not kids still do such things or not.

The only other thing I want to discuss about this film is the interesting thing I noticed in the credits this time around.  I had never realized it before but when I saw that Shane Black was credited with the screenplay so much more made sense.  Black you might remember has penned some great classic action movie that I own all of incidentally. He wrote really witty dialogue for all of them and that writing went a long way for what made those films memorable to me.  He was credited with the screenplay for both Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2 (the good half of that franchise), as well as Last Action HeroThe Long Kiss Goodnightand The Last Boy ScoutGiven they all start with “L’s” we reviewed all of them close together.  Clever writer who also directed the most recent Iron Man film and has two more directing ventures lined up for the next year or so.

This was an awesome movie and a fixture in my childhood movie repertoire. For years I looked for it to add it into our collection and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t find it anywhere.  Turns out somewhere along the way it fell from grace and was forgotten by everybody that wasn’t of the right age when it came out.  It never even made it to DVD until 2007 when it was released as a 20th Anniversary Edition once it was already well established as a cult classic.  It was largely unsung and a bit of a shock to some when support for it came from all over the place.  It was my generation that made it a cult classic I think, those of us that grew up with it and loved it.  If you missed the boat on this one you may never be able to appreciate how great it is and what it meant to us.  It’s never too late to appreciate something awesome though so if you get a chance you should check this one out; it’s worth every minute of your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This is such a cute movie. Every time we watch a movie about a boy who likes to read and has a big imagination and vocabulary, I automatically think about Ryan and picture him as that little kid. I love the idea that the little girl is the least scared of anyone in the movie, and that reminds me of our oldest daughter. There is a lot to relate to in this movie and I am really happy that it is in our collection.

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I feel like this poster is appropriate for the movie. The typography is bright and in bubble letters. The N is jagged and cutting the plane a little, which I am guessing alludes to the “scary” attributes of the movie. The coloring is cute. I think they did a good job at fitting everyone they wanted to in the poster without feathering out the heads and having them all float there in space. Overall, I think this poster is a good fit for the film. Both are light-hearted versions of a scary movie.

NEXT MOVIE: Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Monster’s Ball

Year: 2001
Directed By: Marc Forster
Written By: Milo Addica and Will Rokos

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a movie of such raw and compelling emotion. For years I have made snide comments about how Halle Berry only won the Academy Award for the few minutes of this film that everyone remembers but I was wrong.  I’m watching it right now and can clearly see that I couldn’t have been more mistaken.  She turned in an impressive performance and now I feel bad for being such a shameless pervert. She plays such an authentic part in this movie. It’s a shame that her skills are overshadowed by the images of her flawlessly beautiful body.  For the record, I have never suggested she had skills when it comes to acting and in fact have been adamant to the opposite for years.  I’m admitting I was wrong now.  She deserved to win the Academy Award for this role.  She did an incredible job with this part and if nothing else a glimpse at her boobs should only be seen as an added bonus to something that was far more impressive.

She isn’t alone in turning in an impressive performance for this film.  They all did.  I am still to this day shocked at how impressed I am by P. Diddy, or he may have still been Puff Daddy then, who knows.  I would never give the guy credit for anything, I don’t really remember why but it has something to do with him simply “not being cool” when I was in high school.  I can’t deny him this film though, he played a smaller part but he played the hell out of it. I don’t understand how this part didn’t transition into more acting roles for him unless he simply didn’t like the job. Also doing exceedingly well in a small role was Peter Boyle.  Peter Boyle was around forever and finished his career in the limelight with an awesome role on Everybody Loves Raymond.  I wasn’t a big fan of that show but it was funny and Boyle specifically brought a lot of humor to it.  His role in this movie couldn’t be more different than the one everybody knew him from at the time and that made the performance even more impressive.

Though the part Peter Boyle plays is small it is arguably the most significant role in the film because the behavior of the other main characters derives from him.  He was a man from a different generation.  A mean and hateful man who spent his life knocking heads as a prison guard.  He passed this meanness down to his son, played by Billy Bob Thorton, who followed in his father’s footsteps to a tee.  He also spent his life as the head of prison security and was equally hard on his own son.  He spent his life trying to live up to his father’s harsh and uncouth standards but when his son, played by the late Heath Ledger, failed to do so he was ashamed of him.  His son felt the shame his father saw in him and it proved to be more than he could handle.  When he made the unfortunate decision to end it all he did so dramatically and put it all on his father’s shoulders.  He loved his father but never got any love in return.  His father did what he was taught to do but his son Sonny came from a different generation and needed more from his father. Sonny did his best to be who his father wanted him to be but his best wasn’t good enough.  In his father’s eyes he was nothing more than a disappointing son and Sonny couldn’t live with that understanding.

Hank took the passing of his son with the stoicism of a man who just bore himself of a cancerous organ but beneath the surface he felt the loss deeply.  When the local prostitute mentions his son to him he suddenly can’t perform and sends her away.  I think the mentioning of his son’s name brought to light that his son was so similar to he himself, even using the same woman sexually in the exact same manner.  When he takes a chance and helps out Leticia he’s going against the grain. He is doing something he would never have done under normal circumstances and in doing so begins to change himself.  They bond through the shared loss of their sons and he inadvertently falls in love with Leticia.  Deep down he did love his son but wanted so badly to continue living up to his own father’s ideals that he buried those feelings.  Leticia brings them back to the surface and his whole life changes. His picking up Leticia and continuing to help her is the first thing he does differently than his own father would have, and by doing so he begins to live life in a whole new manner.

We see the change begin when Hank and Leticia find themselves in the heat of the moment and have that wildly satisfying sex scene. Hank usually bangs women from behind in a distant manner like we see with the prostitute. Sex is nothing more to him than a source of pleasure and he performs in a completely impersonal manner. He begins this way with Leticia taking her from behind but then turns her around to face him during the act.  That change of positions is significant because it conveys that he sees her more than just an object to stick his dick in. They don’t just hardcore fuck but touch on something more. This racist man doesn’t just do what comes natural to him but he connects with this woman in a way he wasn’t ready for.  He falls in love with her as she rides him in all her vulnerability.  They have such an honest and interesting affair during this scene, and it needed to be graphic to convey what they were both going through.   She needed someone; she needed to feel loved and deep down so did he.  He was hard on his son because his dad was hard on him but deep down he loved him.  Deep down he feels the loss of his son as painfully as Halle Berry feels the loss of her son and they comfort each other with that shared pain.  It’s a beautiful thing really and I have noticed it more now than I ever have before.  This movie came out in 2001 and during those teenage years I only saw a beautiful woman’s boobs, but now I can see it for what it is.  I feel like I have just seen this scene for the first time because I have looked at it with different eyes.  Through the eyes of a perverted teenage male the symbolism of this scene is wasted.

This movie is almost dramatic to a fault but it is such an excellent film.  That authentic feel that drives the whole thing home is there.  This movie looks like a glimpse into the real life of a person we would otherwise never know anything about. That quiet guy who sits alone in the diner, the type of guy who never says anything and when he does it doesn’t come across as friendly. That man has hardships too, drama thrives in the lives of us all, but we will never hear about what that man is going through because he would never share his thoughts with anyone. This glimpse into his life is an interesting one.  I love the mismatched relationship that develops between Hank and Leticia because the underlying racism offers such a dynamic element to it. Hank and Leticia would never meet one another under most circumstances but when fate brings them together their lives are forever changed.  It is a change for the better as we see the emotionless and empty Hank find purpose in life again and something that looks like happiness.  The unlikely couple have been through the ringer but together they find a way to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.

This is an interesting story and I am happy to have appreciated it for what it really is for the first time.  I remember watching this movie long ago and actually paying attention well enough to know it was good but I hadn’t seen it in probably ten years since.  Somewhere during that time the memory of the movie’s value got lost in favor of the immature memory that preceded it. I love a movie so much more when I can revisit it like this. When watching it again feels like watching it for the first time and I get a whole new perspective on it. I think this movie can teach us something about love.  About what burying our feelings can do to us as well as how taking chances can change our lives.  There is also something to learn about racism and how much better life can be when old and outdated perceptions are put behind us.  Don’t make the same foolish mistake I did and let this movie linger in the back of your mind as nothing more than a guilty pleasure and with perverted intent.  If you get the opportunity to see it again you should look deeper into it and see how great it is.  This movie is more than worth your time and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it myself.

On a side note, in case anybody is curious as to the film’s title.  It’s mentioned in the movie that the term “Monster’s Ball” is for the party they throw for a rookie prison guard the night before his first execution.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I can’t help but be curious if other people watch this movie simply for the sex scene? I mean, I think this movie is incredible, but the sex scene between Billy Bob and Halle Berry is the only thing that most people take away from it. It tells a story that is close to the heart and can be very real in some places of the country. This movie was included in the year’s Oscars and I think most of it was well worth nominating.

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The tagline for this movie is “A Lifetime of Change Can Happen in a Single Moment.” So, really, I am not the only one who seems to only remember the sex scene. I am not a fan of this poster at all. I don’t know what it is about at all, and I don’t see anything drawing me in further. The typography is boring and just simply justified. I see that they are trying to get both main characters into the forefront of the poster, probably to let the viewers know who is in the movie, but this just doesn’t work for me. They break it up with a horrible brush that makes no sense to me. The colors are all wrong too, and if you are going to make that choice creatively, it at least needs to make sense. I think the eventual DVD cover did a much better job at promoting this movie. This great flick was not accompanied by a good poster, and that’s a shame.

NEXT MOVIE: The Monster Squad (1987)

Jack is Back

I have largely been quiet about TV shows in the past month or so but not for any lack of watching.  We have been avidly watching a few new shows we really enjoy and while it’s not currently my favorite of the crop I can’t help but love the return of one of my favorite action heroes on 24.  I feel like the first four weeks were mostly more of the same but the fifth hour really turned up the heat and made things interesting. For the first time I can remember the pompous asshole opposed to Jack (this time played by Tate Donovan) simply realized he was wrong and manned up to the mistake.  If that isn’t 24 breaking new ground I don’t know what is.  In truth I have felt a lot of this show’s return has been nothing new but I am not complaining about that.  Not until I saw the 24 beep across the screen for the first time in years did I realize how much I dearly missed the show.  Yeah it got redundant, yeah there wasn’t new ideas being brought to the table as much as simply new scenarios, yeah Jack Bauer is a bit too invincible, but who the hell really cares? Under most circumstances I turn my nose up to this kind of thing but in the case of this show I will always be willing to make an exception.  This show originated and started during a time when TV series were making their largest leaps as far as budget, story lines, and character development go.  As far as I am concerned 24 was a pioneer series that consistently raised the bar for what TV was capable of and I am really happy to have it back.

I looked over a ratings chart yesterday that suggested the show isn’t currently a hit with its target audience but I don’t think these numbers tell the whole story.  I think in the case of a show like this more and more people are simply recording it so they can watch episodes back to back.  24 can be difficult to watch week to week maybe more so than most television shows. I think the veteran fans know this and are simply waiting for the right time to jump in and catch up.  I couldn’t do this myself because I feel compelled to see the show air in “real time” and refuse to even pause it during our viewings.  Seeing this show back on the air reminds me of the good old days in college when my wife and I had the kind of time to watch entire seasons in one or two sittings.  I love Jack Bauer in a sentimental way that makes me giddy to see him back on the air. Only Jack Bauer can break a co-hort out of a super secret prison, shoot innocent civilians to create a diversion, and somehow still hold the cards to strong arm the President of the United States into putting him back to work.  I freaking love it, and I can’t wait until he gets back into the field next week to do his thing.

I thought it was a bit silly when the show started but “the Chloe with the dragon tattoo” has grown on me a bit.  I thought her character was ready for the axe long before the show ran its course but somewhere along the line 24 just wouldn’t be right without her. There are not enough of the classic characters still left alive so she is needed, but the woman has had about three too many makeovers during the run of this series. I think given her position as Jack’s technical aide it was only natural for this most recent makeover to have her look as much like Lisbeth Salander as possible.

Speaking of classic characters, there is one that we haven’t seen since season 3 and I have never understood why.  That would be Jack’s partner Chase Edmunds, played by James Badge Dale.  Yeah he lost his hand in the end of season 3 but it was reattached and he is referenced a few times during the following seasons.  In season 4 he is mentioned as having married Jack’s daughter Kim and in season 5 he is mentioned as having left her to return to field ops.  I thought during the show’s last season when Jack was on the run that it would be great writing to bring him back into the fold to lead the hunt.  As we heard long before he is back out there somewhere in the field and who better to hunt down Jack than the man who worked alongside him. I thought it would have been a great idea but it all turned out to be wishful thinking. He was a great character and for whatever reason we have never seen him again.  If there is a bigger fan out there than me who actually knows anything about why please leave me a comment and let me know.

I am in a state of mind lately where this show can literally do no wrong.  I’m just that happy to have it back and to hear Jack’s regular references to millions of lives being at stake. It’s been fun and I hope the ratings pick up. At the very least I hope the executives at FOX have the wherewithal to see value over dollar signs.  I never watch anything on FOX because unless it’s a popular animated series they just don’t seem to have the patience to wait on any show to gain a following.  It’s a tough industry for TV series and there is so much quality stories being aired.  You have to have patience to let something develop and gain an audience.  I would love to see this return for 24 transition into more because I sincerely love it.  I want a follow up where Jack is welcomed back home to the US and all forgiven just before he is thrust into yet another day of peril.

A Clockwork Orange

Year: 1971
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick (screenplay) Anthony Burgess (novel)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I have been on a Stanley Kubrick kick lately and watching many of his films.  It has brought me to this one, a film I haven’t seen in over ten years. As a teen that liked to walk the fine line this was obviously a movie that drew my attention; it drew the attention of all of us that walked that line even 30 years after its release.  I remember that despite my appreciation for this type of film at that tender and influential age that this movie seemed too much for me.  I found value in so much that was inappropriate at that time but this film was more than I could stomach.  I have since considered it an enigma and it had a sort of taboo quality to it.  Now, for the first time since I was a teenager I am revisiting the film.

I can never love this movie because I find the rape scenes too disturbing but despite that I could never deny how incredible of a film it is.  What a wickedly sexual film. Only Stanley Kubrick could have made it.  What other director out there would have the balls to do such a thing? Has there ever in all the history of film been a man bold enough to have his star fight off a woman with a porcelain penis before killing her with it? Where did the man even find all the props for this film? The suggestive art was easy but where did the Jesus quartet come from? This is typical of Kubrick in truth but this is far and away the most pervasive sexuality I have seen in one of his films, and I’m considering his last film when saying so. The sexuality is pervasive but effective nonetheless.  It’s what makes this movie stand out.  It’s what made me think it would be so cool to watch when I was a teen.  I can only hope I’m not the only teen that found it to be too vile and offensive.  To think any of them out there are identifying and being influenced by it is an alarming thought. The extreme nature of the film can leave a lasting impression and to an extent overshadow what is otherwise a work of art.  Stanley Kubrick was one of the most compelling filmmakers of all time and the body of work he left behind is incredible.  This movie as much as any shows his talent and boldness as a director and filmmaker.

I wrote everything above a couple of weeks ago when I was watching the film and my feelings have changed after mulling it over in that time.  In the oddest way I simply haven’t been able to get the film out of my head.  The magic of a Kubrick film right? The kind of film that leaves an impression on its viewer. The type that gets into your head and swirls around till your entire perception of it has changed.  I approached this film in a negative way and too early felt repulsed by the graphic break-in scene again, just as I had when I was younger.  Nevertheless I persevered and appreciated the film more in the end.  I didn’t love it then but simply marveled at what a great filmmaker Kubrick was.  As the past two weeks have progressed I have come to feel so differently.  I keep re-watching scenes in my mind just as our dear narrator would “viddy” films in his own mind.  The more I have thought about the movie the more I have come to like it in ways I never would have imagined.  I am still bothered by the rape scene because it is awful but I can overlook it now in light of becoming aware to the larger greatness of the film. I now feel like I love so much about this movie.  I love the strange dialogue, which Amber and I only understood once turning on subtitles; I love the boldness, the perversion, and the wickedness of the world that it conveys.  This movie is wicked, but this is a wicked world we live in and I think that Kubrick understood that about this world.

One of the things that really makes this film terrific is the performance of Malcolm McDowell. As Alex, or 6655321, McDowell played the greatest part of his career.  He has the most evil smile I have ever seen and his delivery of the slang dialogue is flawless.  One of my favorite scenes in the film is the awkward one in which he returns home after being released from prison.  He stands there so strangely casual with his parents for the longest time before inquiring about the random guy sitting in the room that nobody has mentioned yet.  ” Hey dad, there’s a strange fella sittin’ on the sofa munchy-wunching lomticks of toast.” The slang that he is speaking is a combination of languages called Nadsat.  It’s much easier to read than to listen to and once we turned on the subtitles for this film we got more out of it. It’s a fascinating language in truth and it makes the film interesting as much as anything else about it.  A truly unique dialogue that sets the film apart, but so much about this movie sets it apart from others.

I have let this review sit too long now and the movie isn’t as fresh on my mind.  As much as Amber and I both enjoyed it I’m going to leave this one as is for now instead of watching the film again.  I will undoubtedly be watching the film again in the future and may put some more thoughts about it down then.  Otherwise until that time don’t waste your time reading what I have to say when you could be watching this movie yourself.  This is a crazy one and once you get through the worst parts of it you will see a film that is as complete and incredible as any that has ever been made.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan wouldn’t watch this movie for the longest time. All he knew for sure was that they raped someone and he said it was too horrific to watch again. There are other films like that too, Reqiuem for a Dream, The Exorcist. I am sure, eventually; we will see all of those as well. Having now finally watched A Clockwork Orange, I have to say that I was incredibly blown away. I honestly feel like Kubrick was immensely ahead of his time. I could only imagine the craziness that he could create with today’s technologies. But then again, it’s hard to tell if he would be considered special in today’s time. But back then….he was a genus. Ryan has always said he was off put but how bad they are, and believe me, they are…but it is nothing we haven’t seen done. I think it was new and considered risky back then. I also was intrigued with the whole trying to correct his brain thing. Having just read A Brave New World, it reminds me that these things don’t always work. And of course it doesn’t here. Sometimes, evil is just evil.

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I like the simplicity here. The use of negative space is so refreshing. Like I can breathe while looking at it. I like the way the character is sort of breaking out of the mold of the A, and also metaphorically in the film and in time. The cue ball is an eye ball which alludes to the evil within. The font, although wouldn’t be used today is very iconic for its time. I am equally pleased with the movie and poster.