Month: January 2015

Pitch Black

Year: 2000
Directed By: David Twohy
Written By: Jim and Ken Wheat, and David Twohy

RYAN’S REVIEW

There was a time before The Fast and the Furious when Vin Diesel had potential to be a good actor. We saw it in Saving Private Ryan and we saw it in this film. Somewhere in the years that followed I think his image went to his head too much. Take the Riddick character for example, he’s much more down to Earth in this movie. Not the “I’m going to kill you with this teacup” Riddick we see in the post-Fast and Furious/XXX franchises sequel to this movie. Somewhere along the line he got too cool for school and it went to his head. The guy started trying too hard and it showed on screen. I haven’t seen the last few sequels to Fast and the Furious and while I hear that they are good I refuse to give them my time. Despite that I have seen enough of Diesel’s work to suffice for my standing opinion. He wasn’t bad back when this movie came out, when he was humble and just getting his career started. Once his persona went to his head he became just another meat head actor. No different than your typical pro wrestler turned actor who can’t branch out of the action and family comedy genres.

While Riddick ultimately becomes the anti-hero in this movie he is hardly the star for much of the film. This works to Vin Diesel’s advantage in this movie. I like the Riddick character and even though Diesel’s performance in The Chronicles of Riddick was much different I still enjoyed that film. Although this film often looks like a cheap made for TV movie you would find on the Sci-Fi channel (I know it’s SyFy now but that still doesn’t make sense to me) it still has a cool story. It made the most of a limited budget and its lack of funding didn’t hurt the movie too much.

This movie does a bit of a balancing act between the genres of horror and science fiction. I have always considered the film to be the latter because it follows into a sequel with zero horror elements within it. There are parts of this movie that can easily qualify it as horror but not enough to sway my opinion. There may be some mega fans out there that want to compare this series to the Alien franchise because of the similarities but that would be a mistake. Maybe the first film of the series in each both feature aliens and a horror/sci-fi genre but that’s as far as any similarity goes. Riddick isn’t that big. In fact I had looked forward to the third film for years but when I read the synopsis that all changed. When I read that they weren’t carrying on the story the second film ended with and instead more or less doing this film again I was really disappointed. So disappointed that I still to this day haven’t seen the latest film and don’t intend to. If anybody out there really feels it was worth something let me know and I’ll reconsider.

I like Riddick. I liked this movie and despite Vin Diesel butchering the character the second time around I liked him in the sequel too. It’s the combination of Diesel’s current persona on screen and the lack of what I perceived to be good story that I haven’t watched the lastest installment. If I want to see Riddick battling monsters and mercenaries I’ll watch this one. I think seeing that in a third film is pointless. The second movie ends with Riddick in position to take over an empire and that was what ultimately gave me hope for the future of the franchise. Instead, as I see it, the franchise took a step backwards instead of moving forward with a story that had a lot of potential. I am aware I could be wrong about this given I didn’t watch the movie. If anybody reading this has seen Riddick and wants to set the record straight leave a comment and let me know if it was any good.

As for this film I’ll stand by it any day of the week. I watched it when it first came out and specifically remember it catching me off guard when I found myself getting into it. It was never one I intended to add to our collection but I really liked the second film despite the campy crap that brought it down. I may have never bought this movie had it not been for the sequel but I think it is still worth your time. It can be hard to make a good sci-fi movie without rehashing old themes but occasionally one can set itself apart from others. I think this movie does do that and I think it is a good movie for the genre.

NEXT MOVIE: Planes, Trains, &  Automobiles (1987) 

Pineapple Express

Year: 2008
Directed By: David Gordon Green
Written By: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Judd Apatow

RYAN’S REVIEW

I gotta be honest. This movie gets lost on me more and more the older I get. It’s occurred to us far too many times throughout this journey through the blog that we own too many movies of this kind. In fact we own so many pothead movies I have half a mind to start a new category and call it “college years” or something along those lines. This many in the collection gives the wrong impression of who we are. I’m a firm believer that a person’s movie collection says something about the person in general. Movies like this certainly say the wrong thing about us, but they are what they are and they are all here for a reason. If serving no other purpose than reminding us of the good ol days these movies all have their place in our collection.

I think this movie is really funny although a bit too much like an accidental sequel to Superbad. This group of guys has an ever growing reputation in the movie industry and it’s fun to see them doing their thing. I do feel like it should have stopped with this movie though. Enough is enough guys, you are better than reliving this pipe dream over and over again. I think this is a funny movie and I love it, but when it has come to the collaborations of James Franco and Seth Rogen since I am more and more not into it. I thought This is the End was cool, but it was a bit too much at the same time.  Things got so crazy with The Interview but I remember long before there was a controversy thinking: “again? come on guys.” I have yet to see The Interview, but I will because I think every American should see it just to spite the North Korean leader. I’m sure when I see it I will laugh but I think both of these guys are too good to waste their talent being silly in the same dynamic as before.

I love all the guys that are in this movie. In fact when This is the End was coming out I remember being so excited and thinking that it was a genius idea. It seemed like there was no way it wouldn’t be the funniest thing I had ever seen until I saw practically the same thing done by Simon Pegg and company in The World’s End and it was hands down funnier. What Simon Pegg did was not just funnier but a lot better than the movie these guys made about getting hammered as the world came to a close around them. That was a disappointment to me personally because I think these guys are better than that, as great as Pegg and his posse are, I expected more than simple pot head circle ideas from these guys.

I referred to this as an accidental sequel to Superbad but that’s not really true. It only feels that way to me because these movies came out so close to one another and were made by Judd Apatow, Evan Goldberg, and Seth Rogen. Like Superbad this movie too is a story of two friends with a third odd ball tie in friend. They both feature the same type of comedy and Seth Rogen in a significant roll. There are also several other correlating actors in both films.  They are very different stories but I’ll never shake the feeling of continuity between these two movies.

I think Danny McBride is a really funny guy. He has a weird sense of humor and it’s not always for me but I like it more often than not. I specifically like his part in this movie and I think he is hilarious as the best/worst friend a guy could possibly have. His fight with Rogen and Franco is epic and awesome. He has the strangest demeanor about him and he can be so funny when he gets into character. Everybody brings something funny to this movie but Danny McBride stands out among the rest.

Craig Robinson and Kevin Corrigan have great chemistry as the two hit men just going about their jobs. Their parts seem similar to the parts played by Bill Hader and Seth Rogen in Superbad. Hader incidentally has a great cameo at the beginning of this film. Also playing a small role is a pre-Hangover Ken Jeong. I’m a big fan of Jeong, he plays a really small part in this movie and he doesn’t partake in any of the comedy, but I like seeing him in this all the same. He has done much better for himself in the years that followed this movie.

This is a silly movie and if you are still in the age range to enjoy it then this is certainly the movie for you. There are plenty of movies like this that really take me back but this one doesn’t really get me like that as the others do. This movie came out as that window in life was closing and the eye of responsibility had already squarely fixed its gaze on me. I was still young enough to really appreciate this one then but today I find myself identifying with Ed Begley Jr. more than anybody else. That is a scary realization in itself. I think this movie is worth your time but watch at your own discretion. Depending on your age and stance in life this movie can be perceived in a variety of ways ranging from really funny to really stupid.

NEXT MOVIE: Pitch Black (2000)

A Perfect World

Year: 1993
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Written By: John Lee Hancock

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie distinctly reminds me of my brother and our youth. It was a movie he liked a lot and for some reason I associated it with him and the feeling I had in looking up to him as a child. I like this movie but it’s not one I really love or identify with. It made its way into the collection in the same way that plenty of movies that truthfully don’t belong have made it in. Amazon Prime suggested it to me with its nice low price and fancy no shipping cost. I looked at it and I thought of my brother, pressed the order button and now it has it’s own place on the shelf.

Now, looking back I think this is interesting because it was a Clint Eastwood film I really liked before I had come to the realization that Clint Eastwood was a fantastic filmmaker. Of course Clint Eastwood has been making great movies for my entire lifetime but I never bought into his tough guy image until Gran Torino . By that time (2008) I was just late to a party that everyone had already had a great time at. I have watched and enjoyed many Eastwood films since coming to the realization he deserved my respect, but this one stands out as one that I appreciated without knowing he was the man at the helm.

Clint Eastwood is a truly gifted director but I have not always been his biggest fan as an actor. Specifically during the time this movie came out I saw him as nothing more than a cliché. The ever grisly and hard faced cowboy. Which is exactly what he is in this film as the wise and experienced Texas Ranger. He does his thing in this movie and there is nothing wrong with his performance but I don’t think there is anything exceptional about it either. If anything it’s a performance that only serviced to harden my stance that he was nothing more than a cliché.

I think the strength of this film is in the performance of Kevin Costner. I was not a big fan of Costner either in the 90s either but I do believe in giving credit where it is due. Costner played a really great part as the quietly intelligent criminal that befriends the little boy and becomes the father figure he himself never had. Costner had great chemistry with the young actor who played Phillip/Buzz, T.J. Lowther.

I like the themes of the movie that even bad people can be good, but in the end they are still bad guys. Butch wins us over by becoming a father figure to Buzz and developing a bond with him that warms our hearts. Yet before it is all over he reminds us why he is a bad guy. It’s chilling when he becomes full on criminal again. So much so that even Buzz, who has grown to love him, won’t stand by and allow it to go on. Butch may have been really intelligent and had a soft heart for kids, but he was a violent and dangerous man all the same.

One interesting factoid about this film is that it references JFK coming to Dallas. Of course JFK was ultimately assassinated in Dallas and it could easily be misunderstood as this movie taking place right before that fateful trip.  It does not however, the movie references too many campaigns and the election year was in 1962 while JFK was killed in 63. I don’t think the year of the setting is actually said in the film but it had to have taken place before November of 1962. I was disappointed to find this out because when I was watching it I felt like it was about something that took place in Texas just weeks before the President was killed. The kind of thing that might have happened. The kind of thing that nobody would really know much about or ever even remember. The kind of crazy story that happens all over the world all the time and gets passed over in the aggressive rush of progressive time. The world keeps on turning and people move on and forget it ever happened. It still is that type of story, it just doesn’t rest in the shadow of such a great American tragedy.

I like this movie but I don’t love it. I think it lives up to the standards of it’s filmmaker’s quality and ability but beyond that it’s not one I expect to find myself talking people into. It’s a cool movie but I wouldn’t suggest going out of your way to see it. This movie would be great for Clint Eastwood and/or Kevin Costner fans but otherwise it will be one I imagine is largely forgotten in time.

NEXT MOVIE: Phantoms (1998)

Paul

Year: 2011
Directed By: Greg Motolla
Written By: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost

RYAN’S REVIEW

I don’t think I had even seen this movie when I bought it on the spot to add to our collection. Did I really need to see it to feel secure in the purchase? I am under the impression that if Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are going to collaborate on something that it will automatically be awesome and it belongs in our collection. I am happy to say that impression didn’t end with this film and I don’t expect it to change with anything these two do together in the future. This movie is a classic example of what happens when a group of funny people get together to do what they do best. This movie is fun and funny; I enjoy it every time I see it.

I first fell in love with these guys when I saw Shaun of the Dead for the third time. I consider it one of my favorite comedies of all time and I never tire of seeing it. It’s a movie I have found to get better with each viewing, the greats are always like that. I liked Hot Fuzz an awful lot too but felt it suffered in comparison. I have never been really interested in British comedy; choosing always to harness a true American mentality when it comes to film and entertainment. We are the greatest, anything anybody else does they are simply copying us (also, I’m from the South, it all plays into this mentality I had when I was young). Of course I have learned time and time again over the last fifteen years as a truly open minded adult that I was horribly mistaken with that line of thinking. My point being, there was a time when I would have turned my nose up to these guys simply because they were British. They, in fact, are part of the reason I am a more open minded and aware person today when it comes to film and entertainment. When this movie came out it was so exciting because it was like they were invading American film with it. They wrote a simple but really funny story and invited all the cool kids to the party.

To voice the alien namesake of the film they got Seth Rogen, such an unbelievably like able guy that when he went before a Congressional panel to talk about Alzheimers disease elected men of official office seemed to be gushing over him. They got some SNL headliners in Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. They got a typical comedy go-to-guy Jason Bateman and brought in other regular comedy stars like Jane Lynch, Jeffrey Tambor, David Koechner, and Joe Lo Truglio. To put a cherry on top of this alien joy ride they throw in Ripley herself just for the fun of it. Sigourney Weaver’s mere presence in this film makes it all that much better given the content.

Two popular British stars who have succeeded in doing their own thing at home decided to head this way and try it out American style. I think they were very successful at it and I think that is the most significant thing about this movie. It’s a fun and funny movie but more than that it represents a significant accomplishment and testament to the talents of Pegg and Frost. Of course Pegg is becoming more and more of a star these days on his own. I like the variety of his work but I’d rather see him with Frost at his side any day of the week.

I was at work one day when I mentioned this movie coming up on the blog and was surprised to hear animosity about the film from a zealously religious friend and co-worker. It gave me pause for a moment but when I gave it some thought I understood. This movie does refute the existence of God by having an alien character that knows more about the universe than we do. I had never given the matter much thought but I understood why it would bother my friend. I think it’s a shame to let something like that rob you of enjoying something so funny but hey, to each his own right?

This movie certainly doesn’t bother me on any moral or religious pretexts and I am happy enough just to enjoy it for what it is. It is a remarkably funny comedy and it’s a lot of fun to watch. I love the ease with which everything regarding Paul seems to make sense. It’s clever writing on behalf of Pegg and Frost; who are great as the comic book guys touring the American nerd hot spots. They made a cool movie and there is no reason to take anything literally enough to blind you from something you could enjoy. You avoid this one and you are missing out on something that is good. It’s a mere step in careers that continue to climb the steps of stardom for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. In the case of these two I’ve found that all steps on the way to the top have been worth our time so far. Good movie that I think any mature adult would enjoy.

NEXT MOVIE: The People Under the Stairs (1991)

As a footnote, I wanted to include video of Seth Rogen’s testimonial before Congress. Amber showed it to me one day and I was both taken with his story and impressed by how he handled himself in such an official setting. He comes in and is naturally funny before delving into a very serious topic. I admire what he stood up to do and I hope he has been able to make headway with his goals. When you watch this, pay note to how the Congressman is responding to him.

Patton

Year: 1970
Directed By: Franklin J. Schaffner
Written By: Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North (story and screenplay) Ladislas Farago and Omar N. Bradley (factual research)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I am generally not a fan of biopics but some men deserve to be remembered. Some men lived head and shoulders above others and occasionally a movie actually does them justice.

While this movie does do justice to General George Patton, it should only serve to inspire actual research into the real man. This movie does an excellent job of showcasing one of the most interesting men to serve this country during WWII but it is still a movie. Even when biopics do justice to their namesakes they still embellish where embellishment is needed for story telling purposes. This movie serves as a good and interesting template for a man who deserves more of your attention and respect.

I have never been a big World War II buff myself but I saw this movie in half a dozen classes throughout my time in school. When history classes cram to fit in the entirety of history into a specific time limit they always cop-out in the end. As the end of semesters and school years came near topics like WWII and Vietnam just get brushed over. More often than not it was the lazy period right before the end when the teacher would just pop in a movie that would “cover it.” In many cases in my experience that was simply playing this appropriately rated film so I and other students would shut up and watch a movie for a day or so. Nevertheless this movie made an impression on me when I was young and it has been part of our collection for a long time.

George C. Scott was a terrific actor whose performance here overshadows a lot of great work he did before and after. He famously refused the Academy Award for the role stating that he didn’t deserve an award for simply acting like a man who really was great. He did deserve the award however because nobody could have brought Patton to life on the big screen quite like Scott. Scott was against the famous opening scene of the film because he thought it would overshadow his performance as a whole. In fact there is a lot of speculation as to where the famous Patton speech the movie kicks off with actually came from. Patton was known for great and colorful speeches that motivated his men but what we see in this film is the product of someone’s writing. Patton also never wore his entire full regalia of military achievements. However in the movie this is how he appears and the speech is what he said. See? Even in a movie such as this you can’t take everything at face value and always remember it is what it is, a movie.

If you enjoy this movie then let it inspire you. Let it encourage you to find out more about the real story behind the film. There is a world of knowledge out there for anyone interested and it can offer you much more than simply something a 2 hour movie can cover. This is a great movie about an important topic, but it is only a taste of a greater story beyond.

I think this is a terrific movie, but it does not cover the entirety of WWII. If you are a high school history teacher I just want to suggest you don’t cop-out on teaching the topic by simply showing a movie at the end of the semester. Otherwise this is a great movie that is worth your time to see.

NEXT FILM: Paul (2011)

 

Passenger 57

Year: 1992
Directed By: Kevin Hooks
Written By: Stewart Raffill, Dan Gordon, and David Loughery

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is one of my favorite action movies of all time and specifically my favorite of all the Die Hard scenario spin off films. I suppose that calls for explanation though, as most of the time when I mention this movie I get that befuddled look like I’m speaking a different language. I am alone in the world where this movie is indisputably awesome and I got here in the simplest of ways.

This was one of the first R-rated movies I was “allowed” to watch. The film that introduced me to both Wesley Snipes, and the word “motherfucker.” How can I not love it right? I imagine the first time I saw it some light shined around my head as I soaked in all the profanity and witty dialogue. I can’t remember specifically when it was that I saw this movie but I imagine it was sometime in the 94-96 era. This movie created a domino effect for my film watching life because after I was allowed to see one, and it was this one at that, the window had opened for so much more. It was hard to bar me seeing films like Die Hard, Terminator 2, and Braveheart when I had already stepped over such a line. The world got so brilliantly exciting and vulgar in my movie watching life that followed.

I am a big fan of Wesley Snipes, and this is my favorite of all the characters he has played. So much that I heard from him in this movie stays with me today. Phrases like “always bet on black” and “gotta go gotta go” are literally uttered by me on a regular basis. Sometimes when the opportunity presents itself I’ll look to one of my siblings and ask “what did we learn from Wesley Snipes?” The answer always being “always bet on black.” Snipes has played many great characters in the past, Simon Phoenix and Blade among his best, but John Cutter is always my favorite. For me it goes no farther than when the country sheriff asks him,” I don’t know Mr. Cutter what would you do if you were me?” To which Snipes responds in a tone of confidence and aggression, “KILL MYSELF!” Gotta love John Cutter and the jazzy music that overtones his ass kicking and smooth talk.

I am also a big fan of Tom Sizemore, on screen only. He has an unsavory and uncouth personal life that I choose to ignore because it is so disappointing. I rarely see him in a movie role that I don’t like him in and that all started in this movie. In this film he plays Sly Delvecchio, that’s D-E-L….VECCHIO, John Cutter’s best friend and comic relief for the film. His name Sly was actually a pun because Sylvester Stallone turned down the role of John Cutter when it was first offered.

Charles Rane is not insane……Charles Rane is not insane. Bruce Payne is not a star. Yet I still to this day think he was awesome as the ruthless and monotone British terrorist in this movie. Actually, Bruce Payne has a long filmography that includes over 73 credits yet this is the only one I have ever seen, or heard of for that matter. Nevertheless when you do something memorable it can live on forever and regardless how this movie is remembered it will always live on with me in some capacity as I will never forget it. I love Charles Rane as a bad guy. A man who isn’t afraid to simply jump out of a sixth floor window to get away from police, and then get up and keep running as if he is super human. I love the scene when every one on the plane is frantically buckling their seat belts and Rane simply grips the corner of a wall. He doesn’t even grip a reasonable handhold and he doesn’t have to because this man is fearless, and impossible to be injured by something as simple as the lack of a seat belt.  Rane is a bad guy who will shoot his own man rather than have him used as leverage against him. He is calm, cool, in command, and utterly relentless in his desire to create pointless havoc. He also turns out to be quite the quiet badass when it comes to throwing punches with the karate savvy John Cutter. Rane is only dispatched after a furious number of kicks to the balls as he holds on with seaming ease to an open door frame on a flying jet. This no name villain/actor from a no name film sets the bar high for bad guys and that as much as all the other reasons is why this movie is one of my favorites.

It’s worth noting that this was one of the first film appearances by Elizabeth Hurley. Who does little more than carry a really large gun and look really hot. She is so young in this movie it took me a while to realize it was actually her. When I saw the movie for the first time I didn’t know who she was and when she blew up in the later 90s I felt like she looked altogether different than she did in this film.

I love this movie and I have so much fun every time I watch it. Despite how ridiculous the Die Hard scenario is on an airplane there have been so many made. Off the top of my head I can think of two other films just like this one although they both suck in comparison. Air Force One featured Harrison Ford as President John McClane and Executive Decision gave us an awesome surprise early death for Steven Seagal but made Kurt Russell an unlikely John McClane in the same scenario. It’s so silly to have this Die Hard scenario play out on an airplane anyway. Where there are so few places to hide and a very real danger should a gun actually be fired while in flight. Despite all this it keeps happening, i.e. Air “Taken” that came out recently with Liam Neeson as that guy with a “specific set of skills.” I didn’t see that one and won’t because the whole thing is so stupid. These movies are for amateur film watchers who watch movies to turn their brains off and see lazy story telling.

This movie is only endeared to me because it was in my youth that I fell in love with it. I think Wesley Snipes is both funny and badass as John Cutter. No matter what role Snipes has ever played he has brought his own swagger to the role. I have always felt that one of the most important parts for any character in film whether good or bad is the cool factor. People can say whatever they want about Wesley Snipes but the man has cool factor and nobody can take it away from him. Snipes brings his coolness to this movie with John Cutter and by extension the movie is cooler. While this movie is nothing original I do think it has more merit for being made before the countless others that have more or less the same premise. The John Cutter fan inside of me wants you to see this movie. Is it worth your time? The question would have to be is any action movie like this worth your time? Well there is a time and place for everything and if you find yourself with an opportunity to see this movie I think your time will be well spent.

NEXT MOVIE: Patton (1970)