Month: November 2014

Once Upon a Time in America

Year: 1984
Directed By: Sergio Leone
Written By: Harry Grey (novel) six different men are credited with the screenplay including Sergio Leone.

RYAN’S REVIEW

One of my favorite things to do in the past was browse the movie sections of stores or stroll through a video store to look at all that was available. I loved looking at all the options and picking out something I wanted to buy or something to rent. Sadly as time has moved on this is something I have lost the opportunity to do. Movie sections in stores are shrinking at an incredible rate and video stores are all but nonexistent these days. The closest anything comes now is the recommendations suggested to me on Amazon. I find myself sometimes just scrolling through the images presented to me looking for something I want. I rarely find an older movie that I want and don’t already own but sometimes I see something that I think I should have seen and never did. That’s how this movie came into the collection. I was eventually worn down by Amazon and clicked that order button one day just taking a chance. It was a mob movie and it starred Robert De Niro, James Woods, William Forsythe, and Joe Pesci. Throw in Sergio Leone as director and I found myself wondering how I had managed to miss this one over the years.

Now, after spending three days to watch this movie that has a running time of 3 hours and 40 minutes I came away with only one thought in mind. If you want a looooonnngg and confusing mobster film then this movie is head and shoulders above The Godfather II. I’ll admit that after watching this movie I wasn’t sure exactly what had happened. That’s due in part to the fact I tried to watch it in three different viewings and truthfully when I was sitting down to watch it my attention wavered frequently because the movie is so slow. Nevertheless, even without knowing the ins and outs of the plot I still felt like this movie was better than De Niro’s more famous mob movie from ten years earlier.

I had never seen a Sergio Leone film. His trilogy of spaghetti westerns has long been on my to-do list and I have known his name and reputation for quite a while. When his name popped out to me on the Amazon image I thought it was high time I actually see one of his films. I found his film quite impressive truthfully. Far too drawn out at times and the story telling could have been better but all that was made up for in spades with savage and exciting action. I don’t care for the portrayal of rape in the film because it seems altogether too casual to me. Not necessarily the rape of De Niro’s true love Deborah but of the woman in the bank more so. What he did really offended me, and I specifically didn’t like how everyone was so nonchalant about it as the film went on.

De Niro is a great actor who does incredible in this movie playing varying ages but I don’t like how rapey he is. It was a bit of a shock to me to see De Niro raping women like he does in this movie. I don’t know why because over the years I have seen him do so many violent things in films but this seemed like a line I hadn’t seen him cross before. That’s not all that makes his opium smoking Jewish gangster an unsavory character among all the others he has played in his career, but it is what bothered me the most.

I specifically liked James Woods’ portrayal of Max and wish he had taken more mobster roles in the past. I like James Woods but more often than not he is playing the wrong character. The immediate parts that come to mind are the pimp he plays in Casino and the trainer he plays in Any Given Sunday. Not his fault because both of those characters were specifically written to be disliked. There are plenty of his films I have yet to see and roles like the one he had in this movie give me reason to look forward to them.

I was partially sold on this movie by presence of Joe Pesci in the cast. I am a huge Pesci fan and feel like I haven’t seen enough of him in his career. The opportunity to see him in another mob film was so appetizing but I have to report that I was let down. Pesci is awesome as ever in this movie but his role is merely a cameo. He is only in the movie for maybe 5, 10 minutes tops. A big disappointment but I’ll take anything I can get from Joe Pesci because he isn’t like to make more movies in the future.

I only bring up The Godfather II because so many people have the audacity to call it great. I call it confusing, slow, a weak story, and practically absent of anything exciting. This movie can be a bit confusing too as it is all over the place in both time and tone. However where this movie makes up for all its faults is in the action. When the fire gets lit in this movie explosions happen and it’s hard to predict what might happen next. The action in this film is graphic and worthy of praise. The movie sets the tone early by starting with a bang before it drags out hopelessly but when things do happen they happen in a big and exciting way.

I specifically liked the scene in which the gangster pulled the old switcheroo on the Police Chief’s baby. The whole scene is incredible. Danny Aiello is so good in the role as a father of four daughters who has had his first son. I love how excited he is to have finally had a son and how much of an ass he is in explaining to his daughters that they now more or less don’t matter because a boy has been born. The shock on his face when he opens up the diaper to see a vagina staring right back at him is hilarious. When De Niro calls with demands it is the easiest thing in the world to get done because he has all the leverage in the world against this man. The real punch line comes after De Niro hangs up the phone and his associate tells him he actually lost the list of baby numbers they used to switch the kids around. Even funnier, and horrible as the same time, is how De Niro just shrugs it off and they decide that any random baby boy will do.

Buying this movie was a shot in the dark for me. In the purchase I’ll call it a swing and a miss but it wasn’t a complete waste. I didn’t really like this movie but I liked enough about it. I am glad to have seen it if for no other reason than that one scene with Danny Aiello was awesome. I also love any opportunity to bash The Godfather II and this movie offers the opportunity to do so. I sincerely think that film is awful despite what anybody says. I loved the first one, it’s one of my favorites of all time but the sequel is garbage. The third film is even worse. There are parts of The Godfather II that are cool. The flashback scenes of a young Vito Corleone that were part of the original book were cool but as I said in my review, everything that happens at present time is awful. If you want a movie like The Godfather II that is better then check this one out. Otherwise I can’t say it is worth any of your time. However, there are few films that are this long that I will ever suggest are worth anyone’s time.

NEXT MOVIE: Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

 

Old School

Year: 2003
Directed By: Todd Phillips
Written By: Todd Phillips, Scot Armstong, and Court Crandall

RYAN’S REVIEW

Ah, what a funny movie.  Is it even possible that more than 10 years have passed since it came out? Just yesterday I was a willful youth and this was the funniest thing I had ever seen. In 2003 I was young and living out my very own Benjamin Braddock scenario of youthful confusion about life and what comes next.  I didn’t care about much back then, but I lived for the movies.  When this movie came out I saw it in the theater at least five times and I laughed harder every time I saw it again. Oh the days when life was different and the hammer of responsibility hadn’t fallen with all its weight.  I love this movie because it takes me back to a time when things were different, and because after all this time it still makes me laugh.

This movie had a really rich cast of comedians and they all made a point to have their own moment or two.  At top billing the three headlining the movie all took this opportunity to seize the limelight.  For years after this movie Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell would make every attempt to recapture the magic they had him in this movie. In that scenario Vaughn was more successful than Ferrell despite how much money the latter has continued to make.  Luke Wilson wouldn’t achieve the same success as the others but this movie definitely made his star brighter.

If there was a problem with this movie it’s that I think it gave Will Ferrell too much notoriety.  I thought Ferrell was hilarious in this movie but his strength was in the type of role he played here.  A funny man among other funny men.  After this movie came out he ballooned as a top billed actor and I have never felt he was funny enough to carry a film by himself.  I have more often than not found his movies to simply be stupid and liked them less and less as they continued to come out.  Anchorman was wildly successful while I was in college but I just never got it.  I specifically remember thinking all my friends were just high and laughing at it because they thought it was supposed to be funny.  I didn’t get it, and little else he did in the years following resonated with me as a fan.  I am not discounting Will Ferrell’s talent, he is a funny man. Yet, I think he shined brightest in a movie like this where the story didn’t center around him and he was simply part of it.

What might be so surprising about this film is that it never landed a sequel.  It was talked about for years with all the other men of this budding group being involved in the next installment.  Rumors abound that there would be a rival fraternity in the next film featuring the likes of Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and maybe Jack Black I can’t remember.  Somewhere along the line it never happened though and to this day has managed to stay sequel free despite other such installments like Ron Burgandy or Dumb and DumberOf course never say never with a comedy though.  This was a really successful movie and I doubt the chance of making more money on it will be ignored forever.

This one doesn’t get old for me and I laugh as much now as I did when I saw it over a decade ago. If you haven’t seen it you have missed out on something funny. Specifically something far funnier than everything that came out in the aftermath of its success from some of its stars. If you are looking for something that will make you laugh then you can’t go wrong with this one.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Oh I love this movie. It is still so funny to me, even though I have watched it so many times. All of these funny people in one place in such a ridiculous scenario. A frat house for adult guys. It’s like their dream come true.

oldschool

This poster is pretty good. There is a blur effect in the background, which is pretty clever because they are pretty much drunk for the majority of the movie and isn’t everything kind of a blur after that much binge drinking? The typography is very collegiate with also helps push home the plot of this movie – the college fraternity. It’s nothing very special, but I think it works for a movie like this.

NEXT MOVIE: Orange County (2002)

Interstellar

Amber and I don’t get out to the theater that much these days. Life with two full time jobs and two rapidly growing children leaves us with little time for such a luxury. It requires the movies chosen to watch to come with a lot of confidence that it will be worth seeing in the atmosphere that has become such a rare chance. Amber surprised me last week with tickets to Interstellar and I was thrilled. I had even told people recently that it there was a movie worth us making to trip to the theater to see it was that one. Christopher Nolan’s newest had all my confidence that it would be incredible and mind blowing. I knew little of what to expect and appreciated that all the more. After such films like Memento and Inception I was certain that this movie was going to be a window into the future of films. Something that would be visually stunning and exciting in ways I could never have imagined.

Ladies and gentlemen, I was wrong. I walked away bewildered and confused as I checked the IMDB rating and saw a high rating of 9.0 out of 10. What did these people watch? I was walking to my car feeling like I had just watched a three hour Lincoln commercial. This movie bored me out of my mind. I specifically feel like it was nothing but a lot of monologues, a lot of crying, and an extremely long running time devoid of any excitement. I actually spent the last 15-20 minutes begging Amber for us to just get up and leave. At a certain point I was just so disappointed I didn’t care how it ended and had no interest in waiting to find out. Unfortunately I suffered through that ending that did nothing to change my already established opinion.

I think the biggest problem with this film is the story. I can appreciate that it was merely a platform to showcase the possibilities of certain scientific advancements but that isn’t good enough. They weren’t amazing enough to compensate for how everything unfolded. I think the biggest problem is how Matthew McConaughey comes to pilot the NASA mission. After a really long set up he figures out some coordinates by looking at the bookshelf and deciphering the code left on the wall from fallen books. OK, I could stick with them through that. Despite how strange that it is it doesn’t compare to how stupid it is when he is arrested at the super secret NASA facility before they more or less say “hey since you are here, can you be out last hope to save mankind?” Did the super secret NASA people not have an actual plan in place to the point they’ll just put everything in the hands of the guy that unknowingly showed up at the gate unannounced? Weak, and frankly I expect better from the Nolan team.

Another big problem I had is the role of Matt Damon. Does he qualify as the antagonist of the film? I think the character wasn’t really that bad of an idea but weak if that is all you are going to offer the audience. Here I was waiting for something to finally happen in the movie and when he makes his move I felt like he was just getting in the way of something that should be getting a lot better any moment now. When the realization that he was all that was going to happen actually donned on me I was so disappointed.

Now, another thing I just can’t deal with. I am no physicist and only vaguely familiar with science in general, but can it really be possible to convey advanced physics by way of Morse Code on a wrist watch? When his daughter figures everything out so quickly I just wanted to throw my hands up in disgust because it was all just so stupid. The new undiscovered fifth dimension being love made me want to scratch my eyes out. It immediately made the whole thing even worse than I felt like it had already been. Who knows? I get the idea that the whole thing hinges on technology and understanding that we haven’t yet acquired but it does nothing to make me hate the movie any less.

I do hate it too. I can find no other emotion for something that amounts to such a complete and utter disappointment. Christopher Nolan you let me down, I still believe in you but I consider this far and away your worst film. I think the robots were cool but that is the only good thing I can say about this movie. When I saw the trailer and the scene in which waves are mistaken for mountains I was so hopeful. I thought it was a glimpse of the possibilities and couldn’t wait to see what else was in store. The imaginative nature of the idea that on another planet waves might behave in ways we would never consider seemed like a taste of more to come. It wasn’t. I couldn’t even appreciate that scene because I was so excited about what else lay beyond that hadn’t been glimpsed in the trailer.

If you watched this movie and loved it please explain to me why. I was just so utterly bored and disappointed that maybe my opinion is overly negative at the moment. If this wasn’t an incredibly boring movie in which little actually happens tell me I need to see it again. I will need strong encouragement to ever try to get through this again. If you are on the fence about seeing it I would suggest you jump to the “No” side and spare yourself the loss of ignorance. If you don’t know how boring it is you can’t feel the disappointment I personally felt. If not then seek another opinion or make your argument by leaving a comment.

Office Space

Year: 1999
Directed By: Mike Judge
Written By: Mike Judge

RYAN’S REVIEW

I like this movie but I have never loved it.  In fact I have always found its overwhelming popularity to be a bit of an enigma.  It’s in the collection because I found at a really reasonable price one day and I am such a big Mike Judge fan I felt I owed the movie another chance.  I didn’t love it anymore than I did before after buying it but I at least found more to like about it.

Mike Judge is mostly famous for his creation of the two obnoxious but popular characters Beavis and Butthead.  I missed the ball on that one being too young to see it for the most part.  When I did see it I thought it was funny but I didn’t particularly like it. The reason I am a huge fan of Mike Judge is for the other character he is less famous for creating, Hank Hill.  King of the Hill is one of my favorite shows of all time and as a character I have found Hank Hill to be very influential on me. In life I literally try to emulate Hank Hill to a certain degree.  Hank always did what was right, he gave 110% with everything, and he was the kind of man who earned the respect of those he met.  Those are qualities I respect and took special care to learn from during my formative years watching the show. I often look at life decisions and think “what would Hank do?” If I can figure that out I trust in whatever decision I make. I specifically take pride in professionalism, the fundamentals, honesty, integrity, and the value of hard work. I learned to love these things from Hank Hill and the inspiration I have found in that character is always with me.

As to this movie I think it is easy and fun to watch but nothing significant.  I don’t particularly care for Ron Livingston or Jennifer Aniston but there is nothing wrong with the performance of either in this movie. I like several of the other actors in supporting roles but none as much as my favorite actor of all time.  Stephen Root plays the part of Milton and is as hilarious and universally talented as ever.  Root has a long history with Mike Judge as the two worked together for a long time as voice talents for King of the Hill. Judge voiced several characters and most notably Hank Hill while Root did the same and mainly voiced Bill Dauterive. Root has gone on to find plenty of success both as a television and film actor.  What makes him my favorite actor of all time is simply his diversity. He is a highly prolific actor and he seems to find something unique to bring to every role he plays.

I know this is a disappointing review.  I barely talked about the film at all but no matter how much I try I have just never been able to love it like so many do.  It’s a good enough movie to pass the time with but that is all I will give it.  If you would like to voice your outrage over my lack of enthusiasm about it feel free to leave a comment and let everyone else who reads this know how wrong I must be.  Since I am knowingly in the minority here I will say this movie is worth your time despite how I feel about it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Everyone seems to love this movie and that includes me. I know how Ryan feels about it, but I seem to like anything that Mike Judge touches. Most of you already know why this movie works and is funny, so let’s move on to the poster.

officespace

What’s better than this poster to support this type of movie? A guy in a suit covered in post-it notes. That’s great. Work Sucks. That’s great. This poster matches the movie. It’s a simple premise, but it completely works.

NEXT MOVIE: Old School (2003)

Night of the Living Dead

Year: 1968
Directed By: George A. Romero
Written By: John A. Russo and George A. Romero

RYAN’S REVIEW

Here is the last of our Halloween movies that we had planned to do last month during October. We chose 6 movies to review and watched all of them but never found the time to write down our thoughts on this one. We had planned to publish this review on the day of Halloween because it is so legendary but opted with Nightmare on Elm Street instead. After watching Freddy’s debut film we changed our mind because it just seemed to fit so well with the day. I think this movie is great for Halloween but in today’s society zombies are bigger than Halloween and seemingly welcome year round.

We live in a zombie society these days in a pulp tense but almost in a literal sense as well. America is an apathetic and sedated society. When you take a step back it almost seems like we are all the walking dead just going about our routines blindly without noticing the world around us. It’s probably why they have become so popular. Take away the gore and half of the fans might as well be looking in a mirror when they sit down to watch The Walking Dead or go to the theater to see the newest zombie film.

Regardless any reason there is no denying the simple fact that zombies are popular. They make for great media and Amber and I have been sucked in for a while. (We do have a zombie apocalypse bag packed in our closet and a plan of action should the dead start rising today). We are big fans of The Walking Dead comics by Robert Kirkman, as well as the show, and we also read the Empire of the Dead comic by George A. Romero that ties into this film. None of what we see today would have been possible without this film. This film is legendary for a number of reasons but most importantly it created the zombies that have become so popular today.

With this film George A. Romero created something new. Though in the movie the dead are only referred to as ghouls; they quickly took the title of zombie afterwards. Prior to this film zombies had been in films before but weren’t the flesh eating dead we know today. Romero created a new type of monster with his ghouls and did it without using masks or costumes. These zombies weren’t the living zombie under the spell of a voodoo witch doctor but recently deceased people who rose from their graves to eat human flesh and can only be killed by destroying their brains. The rest is history. Romero himself has made six films in this series but zombies have become so popular there is no end to the media they have invaded. Later this year we will even see a classic story invaded by zombies when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies hits theaters.

I love this film because it is so groundbreaking. Not only in its creation of modern day zombies but because it was so aggressive. This movie was graphic in a way people were unaccustomed to in 1968 in more ways than one. It was violent, bloody, and it starred a black man for crying out loud. Yes this movie, if I’m not mistaken, was the first to star an African American in the lead. Granted he doesn’t survive in an end that must have blown people’s minds in 1968, but he is the star of the film. He opened the doors for many actors to walk through and that can’t be taken for granted. This movie also opened the doors for the industry in general by raising the bar of what was deemed acceptable.

Let me take this opportunity: Thank you George A. Romero! As a fan of more graphic content, when it is necessary, in media I appreciate this movie all the more for what it did for films. It was so bold and inventive. Even today when I watch this movie I am shocked by its graphic nature, but that is what impresses me. Here I am, nearly 50 years later and it still has the potential to surprise me. That’s amazing and that’s exactly what makes this movie so significant. One of my favorite movies of all time is Romero’s sequel to this one, Dawn of the DeadHowever, it would have never been possible without this, and this was pretty damn good in its own right.

This movie is the only reason that we have read Empire of the Dead by Romero. A couple of years ago Amber got me half of the available volumes of The Walking Dead comics for Christmas. I think I was dancing around the door when the Barnes & Nobles finally opened following the holiday. I had already burned through something like 8 volumes immediately, unable to stop or put them down. Once I bought every other volume up until 17 I was going mad at the possibility of waiting six months for the continuation of the story. Suddenly one day I realized if I went to an actual comic book store I could probable get a couple issues of what had come out before the next volume was available. A volume is six issues of the comic. Typically an issue comes out once a month, so you can consider each volume usually six months of compiled material. I love the series and even though it is maddening to wait for the next issue now on a monthly basis it never fails to surprise me with where it goes.

Once we started visiting the comic book store once a month we naturally got interested in more that was available. We now read several comics on a regular basis as issues are released and George A. Romero’s Empire of the Dead is one of them. I was not initially interested in reading another comic about zombies as I was already so aggressively invested in The Walking Dead. Yet when Amber brought home the debut issue one day I found myself reading it that evening. Despite my lack of enthusiasm it was the fact that it was rooted in this movie that got me to keep reading it as it came out. In the story of Empire of the Dead people have been living with the dead for a long time and have rebuilt a different sort of society set in New York City. They catch and train qualified zombies for pit games, the zombies have a low level of thought and organization, the Government is actually run by vampires so on and so forth. One of the main characters in the comic is the daughter of Barbara from this film. She believes zombies are capable of higher thought because her mother was not actually killed by the zombie brother that pulled her through the window in the film but saved by it. It’s neither here nor there but this story has kept me invested specifically because it is rooted in this film.

This movie really doesn’t need any input from me, it speaks for itself. It is an incredible movie that will never be forgotten and it is simply the beginning of an ongoing story that that is still going strong 46 years later. If you have seen this movie then it is never a bad idea to check it out again when Halloween rolls around. If you haven’t seen it then what are you waiting for? You have missed out on something that is awesome.