Month: July 2014

Napoleon Dynamite

Year: 2004
Directed By: Jared Hess
Written By: Jared and Jerusha Hess


I was in college when this movie came out, and I cannot stress enough how much of a hit it was with my generation at the time. I specifically remember a stretch of college where it seemed like everybody was talking about Napoleon Dynamite.  I hadn’t seen it.  In a stubborn stance I didn’t watch it because it was an MTV film and I had decided recently that I had outgrown the network. I still feel like that but it wasn’t long until I realized it was the wrong impression to stubbornly hold onto in the case of this film.  This movie is so delightfully weird, does anybody else catch the awkward nature of high school quite like Napoleon Dynamite?

I love this image of Idaho, ten years behind the rest of the country and just taking things one day at a time.  For years Amber has argued with me that this movie was set in the 90’s, because of the clothing styles, trapper keepers, side ponytails, cassette players, and so on.  It’s not though, you see the date on Napoleon’s student ID in the beginning of the film.  Idaho just looks like the 1990s in 2004 because culture is just making its way out there slowly.  Maybe I’m wrong, I’ve spent my whole life in the southeast and Idaho is an enigma to us all down here.  Ask a local around here what they know about Idaho and you are doubtful to get more than potatoes and Boise St.

Maybe one day I can find out for myself what Idaho is actually like but until then I am content to imagine it’s like what we see in this film.  A land more isolated where things are a little bit behind and a little bit different. Not that there is anything wrong with that.  The things I hear about that part of the country are that they live much more relaxed lives and I at least hope that it true. I doubt the high school kids all appear to be in their thirties but that’s part of the strange that makes this movie so appealing.

I’ve read that Jon Heder played this part for only $1,000.  If that is correct it’s a shame because as great as he did playing this part I do think it inhibited him in his career later on. Looking over his filmography it appears like he has been really busy over the past year or so but he hasn’t done anything as significant as this film since. As Napoleon Dynamite he is the very definition of awkward but he manages to pull it off in such a comedic fashion.  What I love the most is how he just runs away so suddenly and with such vigor.  The guy is just so exceptionally weird and it’s awesome.

I was recently asked to name a fiction athlete in a fantasy football scenario.  I blanked and had nobody coming to mind and settled for the first thing that popped in.  I said Uncle Rico, because he just needs a chance. In that scenario you would want someone who believes in himself, check (he’s willing to put money on the fact he can throw a football over a mountain).  You’d want someone who honed his talents, check (love the videos he makes of himself and the enthusiasm he has in them).  You want someone willing to go the extra mile, check (the guy fried his balls trying to travel back in time for another chance to play). Uncle Rico just needs that shot, I’d put him in whatever fantasy game exists and let him win me state.

This movie has a lot of weird characters I find endearing but my favorite is the cage fighter in training Kip.  Who else can rock roller stakes like that? Rex-Kwon-Do can brag about his muscle woman all he wants but Kip brought home “La Fawnduh.”  I think that relationship adds a lot of comedy into the film but I think the scene after the credits was overkill.  It was shot after the movie was finished when it became clear that it would catch on.  The scene cost half as much as the entire film and you can see that in the production of the scene.  I laughed at the ceremony until Napoleon rides up on the horse, it was a bit much.

I don’t love this movie and I don’t like it like I did 10 years ago but it is still fun to revisit occasionally.  I know a lot of people who watch it and simply don’t get it.  There’s nothing to get though. It’s just a weird and awkward comedy that is funny because it is unique.  Many people heard all the fuss over the movie and went in expecting something knee slapping funny but that’s not this one.  This is definitely the kind of movie you don’t want to sit down to expecting more than it will deliver.  It is what it is and you have to appreciate it for what it is.  This is a short movie so I would say it is worth your time but if you haven’t seen it I wouldn’t make any special effort.


I still just love this movie so much. So many people don’t get it. They don’t understand what makes it so funny. I honestly don’t have a magical answer for why it is was so popular, or why I still find it hilarious, but it’s just that. Hilarious. I can’t even count how many times I have seen this movie. It used to play on MTV all the time when I was in college, and like everyone else in the country, all of my friends and coworkers were spouting out lines like crazy.


This. I love this. This couldn’t be a better foreshadowing for the movie. It’s very edgy and relates to the target audience, which is obviously the same as MTV. MTV has always had really great designers that are constantly breaking the rules. You get an immediate look at Napoleon, and the character he probably is. He also happens to doodle, scoring a date to the dance by drawing a sweet picture of a girl from school. The sketching is also incorporated in the typography of the title, which I think works incredibly. This handwriting will always be Napoleon Dynamite in my mind; it has become a logo-like mark over the years.

I also want to note that the intro credits in this movie is one of the better ones I have ever seen. I just remember finding it fresh and original. Also, how many times did they have to try and write the ones done in condiments.














NEXT MOVIE: Natural Born Killers (1994)

American Gangster

Year: 2007
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: Steven Zaillian, Mark Jacobson (article)


I thought I was wrong about this movie.  I had seen it in the theater and wasn’t overly impressed but assumed I had to have been distracted.  Nobody agreed with me and after so long I began to question my initial judgment.  When I started it for the second time I found that I wasn’t in the mood for it and it sat on our shelf unwatched until I came up with this brilliant idea for a 4th of July themed series of reviews.  I have now given it my best effort.  I literally put in headphones and watched this movie completely consumed.  I gave over 100% of the two most observant senses and gave the film my best effort, in the name of the 4th of July! However, while I can see why this movie appeals to others I just simply hate it.  I feel like it is the most over exaggerated film cashing in on the pretext of being based on a true story. While I can accept that it is a good film I just don’t think there is anything that distinguishes this movie from other gangster films.

I know that this film is based on a true story.  I am from the area Frank Lucas hails from and he was actually interviewed on local radio stations when this movie was coming out. I think it’s really cool to see a movie about a local guy that really hit it big in the seedy underground of New York but I don’t know about his portrayal in the film.  All I’m saying is that Frank Lucas was not the Godfather and this movie is just all wrong for me.  In so many ways it is just more of the same without anything to set it apart.  I am a huge fan of Russell Crowe and I like Ridley Scott as well.  I am not a Denzel Washington fan.  Yet I find with this movie I don’t like Russell Crowe and I actually think Denzel Washington turns in one of his finer performances.

Of course the character of Frank Lucas is the better part. He is part Godfather and part Robin Hood in this film.  Albeit this Robin Hood doesn’t rob from the rich to give to the poor. He offers herion at discounted rates, and this just messes up everything for everyone.  The real mobsters don’t have the same type of quality heroin and they can’t buy it for what Frank Lucas is selling it to the consumer for.  Boo Hoo and Blah Blah.  The mega rich criminals have been robbed of an opportunity to make even more money and they have to pick on the kind and generous Mr. Lucas, who is just trying to do right by everybody with his generous nature, and reasonable rates on HEROIN.  Gotta love the guy, this Frank Lucas is portrayed in a manner that is totally contradictory to his actions.  I do appreciate his sudden and savage violence but that is only there to wake the audience up during what is otherwise a dismal film.  I can’t stand the man with the noble nature who earns his fortune doing something so despicable.  If you are gonna do it that’s one thing, but if you are going to do it you need to be Avon Barksdale or Stringer Bell and not the Don Corleone/Robin Hood we see in this film. No offense to Denzel, I think he was awesome in this part.  I just think the part was a little over the top and poorly written.

Russell Crowe is an actor that never ceases to amaze me, but I just can’t see it with this performance.  Granted he is great, he is a pro all the way and does his job well but I don’t think he does anything exceptional. To start with he plays the kind of character that nobody is going to like.  Who is going to pull for the straight laced cop among all the dirty ones when he is going after a criminal you are set up to pull for? If you want to make Serpico make Serpico, but don’t put so much of the focus in a film like this on him because it throws off the whole film.  I get that this is a story about both men but I think there would have been better angles to take that could have made a better film. You could cut half of Russell Crowe’s scenes and replace them something that builds up a different part of his character and achieved the same result.  There is undoubtedly more to the man than simply his honesty so let’s note his honesty and move on to more of what makes him character worthy. You have to admit a role is bad if Russell Crowe can’t even make something out of it but I’m sure plenty of people will argue the contrary point.

I love gangster movies and typically find something to like about all of them but I have failed to do so here.  I totally immersed myself in the film but cannot find myself wrong in my initial reaction to the film.  I don’t think it does anything at all to distinguish itself and I think it is one of Ridley Scott’s weakest films. Denzel did a great job but he can’t save what just isn’t any good.  I don’t know how accurate this movie is and truthfully I don’t think it matters.  There is too much to the story that we simply don’t see and all this film offers are exaggerated highlights to something that undoubtedly has more to offer. This film threw a bunch of big names on the screen and sold us on the pretext that it was based on a true story.  The key word in that, as always, is “based.” Sure there was a real Frank Lucas, I have heard him on the radio and know it for a fact, but I doubt this is an accurate representation of who the man really was and what he did.

I give this film two thumbs down and regret doubting myself enough to purchase it for the collection. If anybody I know personally is reading this feel free to text me if you want this copy.  I think the movie is so bad I will freely give it to whoever will take it off my hands.  In fact, if I don’t get that message I may just leave it on the curb with a note that says, “take me but watch at your own risk (your time will be wasted).”

Final note on the film: after writing all of this I did the most minimal of research to find that the movie is widely regarded as 99% false.  Basically there was a Frank Lucas and he did sell heroin but beyond that nearly everything you see in this film is false.  That only reinforces the hate I am developing for this film I wasted THREE viewings on.  I can’t bare to have a friend take this off my hands, if you happen to see a copy left on the street with a note on it then you may be looking at the very same one I am about to throw out.


Year: 1975
Directed By: Richard Altman
Written By: Joan Tewkesbury


Some films, no matter when they are made, can be timeless.  That cannot be said for this one.  Nope, getting sucked into this one can feel like getting into a time machine and going right back into 1975.  It’s a perfect image into the time by the way it captured the culture, style, and lifestyle of Nashville in 1975. Having just watched American Hustle, which is set only three years later, I think there is an interesting comparison.  American Hustle is a modern day film set in 1978 and it really looks great.  They had the hairdos and the clothing all right but no matter how good it was it can’t beat the real thing. This movie is authentic 1975, and that is immediately what drew me into the film with no other knowledge of the premise before seeing it.

When I decided to do a themed end of the month for the 4th of July it was mainly just to have a reason to review American Hustle and American Gangster. Both have been sitting on my shelf for a while and this holiday seemed like the perfect time to make a loose connection to get them out of the way.  I mentioned what we were doing on Twitter and one of our followers suggested this film. Do us a favor and follow @patrickcrain73 on Twitter as a thank you for the suggestion. I only had to glance at it on and see the names Robert Altman and Keith Carradine before deciding that I wanted, wait, needed to see it.  I am always interested in a suggestion that I haven’t seen before, especially an older film.  It turns out that this movie is a perfect film for the holiday as it is set during the 4th and I enjoyed watching it.

It was described to me initially as “wholly American.” That was well said as it is an exact description of this film in two words.  There are patriotic places all over the country but none of them will be quite like the homeland of country music.  I love the opening to this film when Henry Gibson, in the part of Haven Hamilton, is recording what I can only describe as the most typical song I can imagine. It’s American in a way that only country music can be.  I am from the South, but despite this I detest country music and don’t particularly like things involving the country music capitol.  Nevertheless when I started watching this film it sucked me in. I let it absorb me when I was watching it and literally felt like I was looking through a window into the world of this city during 1975.  It’s an interesting story that eventually comes together at the end and until that time it’s a lot of fun along the way.

I don’t typically like to write reviews of a film after only one viewing.  There is always more to see when you look beneath the surface of anything and when a film garners multiple viewings you will undoubtedly notice twice as much as you did the first time.  I don’t know if this is the type of film that garners multiple viewings but I definitely feel like I will have more to say about it after a second viewing. However, the fast approaching holiday isn’t providing the time for such. This is a movie I intend to watch again and it will be relatively soon as we are entering the “N” section of our DVD collection following the “holiday themed” reviews.  When that time comes around I will add to this review and Amber will lend her voice to it as well.  For now I mainly want this to serve as a recommendation to see a film that captures what the 4th of July is all about.

If you are looking for a movie that sets the tone for the 4th of July this is a much better option than the most obvious choice.  Yes, Born on the Fourth of July was an impressive film but it’s such a buzz kill to watch.  Not only will it not fill you with patriotic pride but it will seriously bum you out. It fits the bill if you’re looking for something political but you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of the flag with that one.  So as this holiday approaches and you get bored during the day waiting for fireworks that evening a movie might be in order. When you go looking for a film that sets the tone avoid Born on the Fourth of July and look for Nashville.  Nashville will give you something fun to pass the time with and it will get you in the mood for the show later that evening.

American Hustle

Year: 2013
Directed By: David O. Russell
Written By: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell


When we watched this movie for the first time it immediately had me with the initial caption: “Some of this actually happened.” This movie goes against the grain and doesn’t claim to be based on a true story but simply admits “some” of it actually happened.  That’s incredible because nothing annoys me more than a movie that promotes itself as “based on a true story” despite how many several liberties that were taken with the truth.  So right off the bat this movie makes a statement.  It’s honest and that says a lot about the type of filmmaker David O. Russell is.  This is another stellar movie added to his already impressive resume.

I don’t know what parts of this movie are true and what parts are fiction.  In truth I don’t care and won’t look it up to find out on principle.  I don’t think it matters what really happened in this story.  All that matters is this story.  This story is awesome and it is brought to life by some actors that turn in some really impressive performances.  I think this movie looks and feels like David O. Russell’s version of Goodfellas. Christian Bale reminds me so much of Robert De Niro in this movie both by his mannerisms and voice.  The content may be different but the way these two stories are told are similar with the voice over and biographical feeling.  Nevertheless, I’m not criticizing, when something is great it is great and there is no disputing this one.  Both films are great and I can’t think of any scenario in which the two of them being similar is a bad thing.

I wasn’t a fan of Bradley Cooper when he first came around. I remember seeing him for the first time, in the days before The Hangover, playing Aiden in one of the later seasons of Nip/Tuck. The show had really gotten awful by that point and his character didn’t leave a good impression with me.  Despite the initial impression I received this guy has never ceased to distinguish himself, especially in collaborations with David O. Russell. I really like the character dynamic Cooper brings to this film. He is kind of brilliant but kind of stupid at the same time.  He is a goofy looking guy with his curls but he might snap and go a little crazy at any moment. Men who get into cocaine are like that, spur of the moment insanity. They start slow but over time it goes to their head before they know it. Cooper pulls it all off nicely. Great performance from an actor who has earned my respect over time.

Amy Adams continues to be flawless and incredible.  She is a beautiful woman who brings true talent to all her performances.  She has specifically shined in David O. Russell films as she was also great in The Fighter. She fits into his films so deftly, and brings it each and every time. In this film she looks so incredible in those dresses. She plays such a dominant female role and I specifically like that about her.  She isn’t just a pretty face in this movie she is another badass in a film about badasses.  She plays Bradley Cooper for a chump and owns him at every turn.  She is a strong female lead and she should have won the Academy Award for the part.

Christian Bale, second greatest Batman after the first, never fails to be incredible no matter what he does. Despite not having an upper lip the man has done well for himself. As I mentioned earlier, in this film he reminds me implicitly of one of the greatest. I do not know if it was intentional or not but it is so spot on that I feel like it had to be. It’s amazing the things he does to his body for his roles.  We have seen him on each edge of the spectrum and in between.  He has been anorexic in The Machinist and The Fighter, he has shown the in between as a muscular Batman, and we have seen him put on the weight for this film. He put on over 40 pounds for this film. Bale continues to build what has already been an impressive career.

Jennifer Lawrence is phenomenal, plain and simple.  I wanted to be on the edge, I’m weird when it comes to trendy things and nobody has been trendier than Jennifer Lawrence for the last several years.  Nevertheless her performance speaks for itself.  Her accent is what shocks me so much in this film, it’s incredible.  Not only that but I refuse to acknowledge how hot she is because when she first came around I thought she was too much younger than me. I’m weird about that and it’s different as the years have passed. Nevertheless she makes it hard not to notice with this performance and I doubt anybody did. She plays the kind of woman that all men and women fear alike.  The unpredictable kind that can pretty much get whatever she wants and knows it.  She is intimidating in all the ways that only a beautiful woman can be.

For this whole film I kept telling Amber how much Christian Bale reminded me of De Niro.  Imagine my surprise when he actually showed up in the film.  I didn’t know prior to this although I should have.  I love his part in this movie and I love what he brings to this film.  Nobody does mobster like De Niro and I am happy to see how exceedingly well he can still pull it off. De Niro is just one of many gems playing a smaller role in this film. I remember an episode of Louie that was all about how uncomfortable Louis C.K. was acting in films.  I thought there was something to that episode and I had seen something into his real persona.  I doubt that now because he brings so much to this film with his performance.

The only thing that got Jeremy Renner on the poster for this film was that hairdo.  Otherwise I think his role in the film isn’t all that different than the ones turned in by De Niro and Louis C.K. and maybe they could have just as easily been that fifth person headlines for the film. Now don’t get me wrong, that hairdo is a thing of awesome and maybe he deserved that listing. Not only that but he is in the now, really hot at the moment and he does bring something significant to the film.

It’s not lost on me that two significant actors from Boardwalk Empire are in this film about Atlantic City. Shea Whignam, who plays Nucky Thompson’s brother Eli, and Jack Huston, who plays the assassin with no face Richard Harrow, both appear in the film.  That is another connection between Martin Scorsese, who serves as Executive Producer of the HBO series, and David O. Russell.  I am now inclined to think that Russell may be the second coming of Scorsese and if that is true then this man is only getting started.  We have a lot to look forward to from him and the actors he has drawn to himself.  In a time where marketable drives the movie industry it is nice to know that there are still men out there making art.  Making films that are more than just about making money and about lasting forever.  That is what we have in David O. Russell, a director that will make something unique and exceptional no matter what he has decided to do.  I have faith that he will continue to make the great films of the future and I can’t wait to see them.

This isn’t a movie that I need to recommend because it’s too recent to have been overlooked. It was a great film that received a lot of well deserved attention and respect.  It has no real connection to the 4th of July theme I suggested earlier other than having “American” in the title.  It might be a bit of a stretch but I was just looking for any excuse to watch this movie again and write a review about it.  I love it and I think it is proof that extraordinary films are still being made. This movie is worth your time to see.  If you somehow missed the boat then it’s never too late to climb aboard and see what you were missing.


I really, really enjoyed this movie. It is put together in such a beautiful, artistic way. Everything about this movie is beautiful. I think the entire cast was incredibly on point and the story keeps you interested until the end.


The poster on the other hand, it could be better. Honestly, we like to say that everything could look better, and because I like this movie so much I am finding it hard to actually bash this one. I think it does what it needs to, but it also depicts some of the classic “no-nos” that I have been preaching to you guys for years. There is a MONTAGE of the cast. I hate to admit, but with a cast like this you almost have to put them all on the poster. Some people are going to come simply because they see Jennifer Lawrence’s name and others the same for Bradley Copper. Still, I think there were other ways they could have gone about it instead of putting them in the Mighty Ducks “flying V” and then feathering out the edges into black. The typography is intentional and it works for this period piece.

I still kinda of like it which makes me have some serious inner fighting people. I can’t decide. What do you guys think? I need your thoughts on this one!