Month: March 2015

A Fistful of Dollars

Year: 1964
Directed By: Sergio Leone
Written By: Several people are credited with both story and screenplay

RYAN’S REVIEW

Having just seen this movie for the first time in my life I’m ashamed to have had such a high opinion of myself as a movie fan. How is it that I see nearly everything for my entire life and make it 30 years without seeing this? I have always been aware of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western trilogy but never took the time to sit down with it. I have never been a big fan of westerns and I never really took to Clint Eastwood when I was younger. What a fool I was. Having seen this movie for the first time I now have a whole new perspective on all the movies that followed. This is an incredible movie, Clint Eastwood was a certifiable badass, and it set the bar high for the movies that would follow suit.

I have mentioned before that I was a late comer to appreciating Clint Eastwood. I grew up watching men like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone play the part of the hero and I never understood what people was in Eastwood. It was lost on me in my youth how this skinny man, who old even when I was young, was perceived as a badass. When I got older I remember watching Dirty Harry with inexplicable preconceived notions about Eastwood and not being impressed. It wasn’t until 2008 when I saw Gran Torino that I understood what everyone else already knew about. Older old man Eastwood was intimidating as hell in that movie and I grew a new appreciation for him. It lead me to decide that I would eventually watch his “Man with No Name” trilogy and I have finally gotten around to starting it. One thing I want to make clear, now I understand.

I understand now why everyone saw something in Eastwood that I did not. It all started here, 20 years before I was even born, back in 1964 when he and Sergio Leone started a three year journey together. This movie not only opens my eyes to what I was missing in Eastwood but it gives a whole new perspective for me to all the action movies that followed. How Eastwood’s drifter strolls into town and starts playing two sides against one another was awesome. It’s the type of idea and the kind of film that influenced everything that followed.

I have never been much of a western fan and probably never will be, but I admire what is awesome. This movie is really awesome and I hope I can encourage others to check out what I somehow missed for 30 years. I look forward to watching the next two installments of this trilogy. Thoughts will follow with each film.

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Pleasantville

Year: 1998
Directed By: Gary Ross
Written By: Gary Ross

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was a recent addition to the collection and didn’t happen until after we had started this blog. I always liked and appreciated this movie but never liked it enough to add it into the collection. Though, given an opportunity to write my thoughts about it, Pleasantville suddenly had a significant reason to be part of our collection. I think the problem with this movie is that it is incomplete. It’s a movie that I think could have been so much better. I think it’s a great idea and great concept trapped between the bookends of a bad story. I think the beginning and end is where this movie fails. Had it been written differently it may have been great as opposed to being somewhere between good and just alright.

This is such an interesting movie. I like to think of it as a representation of the simplicity of innocence. In this society where everyone is completely innocent of the world we see that ignorance really is bliss. In Pleasantville everything is pleasant because the citizens are completely and hopelessly unaware of anything beyond their normal routine. They go about their days as complacent as cattle chewing grass in the pasture unknowingly waiting for their inevitable slaughter. Not that these people are heading to the slaughter, this isn’t a horror movie. However, the people in this movie are just as empty headed as those cows. Completely innocent of knowledge, curiosity, sexuality, and even the basic elements in some cases. It’s so perfect in Pleasantville they’ve never even had a fire, or rain for that matter. Everything in Pleasantville is pleasant until real life people come into the little town and put ideas in the heads of those complacent cows. It starts with something as simple as sex and moves on to the much more dangerous threats to pleasantness, knowledge and awareness.

I love the scene when the dashing young Paul Walker drops off Reese Witherspoon after she just blew his mind on their first trip to Lover’s Lane. The chain reaction that is started can be seen coming by that dopey look on his face as he drives away. Lost in the magic of first time experience he comes to a stop sign and notices a rose that is no longer black and white but suddenly brightly colored. Something new has been introduced into the world of Pleasantville and change has already started on some levels. When Tobey Maguire’s character shows up to basketball practice the next day the whole team is getting the scoop from Walker and there is a terrific scene where suddenly they can’t play basketball very well anymore. Before learning about sex the boys on the Pleasantville basketball team had not only never lost a game but they had never even missed a shot. The natural order of things in the town was immediately disrupted by carnal knowledge. In fact when the mother, played by Joan Allen, touches herself for the first time she not only turns from black and white to color but when she has an orgasm the tree outside her home bursts into flames. For the first time in the history of the town there was a fire. The firemen literally have to be called to action by “cat!” and then have to be shown how to operate the firehose to put out the blaze.

It’s not long after the people of Pleasantville become aware of themselves that they begin to ask questions about everything else. They start to wonder about the world beyond Pleasantville which until this point had never even existed (geography classes consisted of lessons on Main street). They open their minds with books and begin broadening their horizons on many different levels. As the characters change emotionally so do they physically because when they awaken new things within themselves they turn from black and white into color. As the people begin to change so does the world around them. Now, there is nothing pleasant about this change to the black and white folks of Pleasantville. The men that hold dear the never changing status of the town as a representation of innocence and values do not take kindly to seeing their young people walking around in live action colors and filling their heads with new ideas. It was bad enough when these kids were screwing around with one another on Lover’s Lane but when they start going there just to read to one another things progress to a new level. There is a scene where Tobey Maguire takes his girlfriend to Lover’s Lane and the kids there aren’t screwing around anymore but simply reading from the newly available books in the library. As they further broaden their minds the innocence they had in them dwindle more. There is an obvious allusion in this scene to Eve and the Serpeant when Maguire’s girlfriend offers him a red apple as they read together. It represents the loss of innocence and the end of paradise.

When the characters change from black and white into color they have become enlightened to something. Something inside of them has awaken for the first time and it manifests in their change to color. It can be different for all of them. For some of them it’s as simple as becoming sexually aware but that’s not the case for everyone. Reese Witherspoon’s character doesn’t change into color until she begins to learn and experience new things through reading. Tobey Maguire changes when his character finds his courage and stands up to some black and white boys harassing his “colored” mother. The Mayor of Pleasantville, played well by J.T. Walsh, is forced into change when he breaks his pleasant demeanor and exhibits actual anger in front of everyone.

I feel like it’s in the climax, after the Mayor turns to color, when everything in this movie had built up to something but it just didn’t deliver, or simply missed its mark. This is a fascinating movie with awesome ideas but they don’t deliver when they need to. I like how the change resonates with society as a whole in this movie and what that says about society in general. For example, as more people become “colored” the town finds itself divided almost as if in a race war. I like watching the effects of sexuality being introduced into an innocent society and the change that awareness creates. The problem is it all goes nowhere. After the entire town fulfills the change from black and white to color the story stumbles to an ending. It’s vaguely suggested that Pleasantville is no longer an isolated town but now part of the world as a whole, which makes no sense at all. Tobey Maguire goes back to reality, without his sister, and then understands how to help his mother deal with the disappointments of life. It concludes a separate story from the beginning of the film and has no real barring on what went on through the majority of the film, which hadn’t properly been concluded already. The conclusion doesn’t make sense in so many ways, it isn’t even mentioned in reality that Reese Witherspoon’s character is practically gone forever. Not only that but what difference does it make how the story concludes in the real world? The story is about Pleasantville, it’s a waste to end a movie like this with son and irrelevant mother bonding in reality. What happens in reality seems insignificant to all of the themes presented while the movie is taking place in Pleasantville. That’s why we never owned this movie before and what makes this movie a miss when it could have been a hit.

Despite the problems I see in the beginning and end of the movie I still like the film. I grew up watching shows just like Pleasantville because that was what my dad was into. Before the days of TVLand and the streaming opportunities of the internet I remember when shows like Pleasantville were seen regularly because they were the shows played in syndication much like more current shows are now. The Andy Griffith Show, Leave it to Beaver, Happy Daysand the list goes on and on. These shows were the background noise of my life as I grew from a child into a small person. Some of them I couldn’t stand but there are a few classic shows I really do hold dear. The Andy Griffith Show and The Honeymooners are two that I specifically love. So the fact the Don Knotts has a part in this movie makes it especially endearing to me. Knotts was an incredibly funny man and I grew up laughing at his antics. He continued to act in some capacity for the entirety of his life working both in voice and stand in acting up till 2005, only a year before his death in 2006 at the age of 81.

This movie has a terrific cast. The leading duo of Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon are good enough and supported by a great group of actors. The Pleasantville parents are played by Joan Allen and William H. Macy. The late Paul Walker played the popular jock in the Pleasantville high school. Jeff Daniels gives a great performance as the soda shop owner who finds new meaning to life in making art. I have always specifically liked J.T. Walsh as the town mayor and antagonist in the film. Walsh was any many movies I grew up watching throughout the 90s and this was one of his larger roles. Unfortunately Walsh died nearly right after making this movie in 1998 of a sudden heart attack. It’s a shame because he may have just been hitting his stride as an actor but we will never know now.

There is plenty more to say about this movie but I have said enough already. I like Pleasantville despite how I feel about the beginning and end. If I were to consider this movie by listing pros and cons it would be an easy decision because no matter how it tallied up the side that counts Don Knotts is gonna win. I’m glad we own this movie if for no other reason than he makes his last appearance on screen in it. When it comes to whether or not this movie is worth your time I’m iffy. I like it but I’m excusing plenty of problems for various reasons. Despite that I think there is enough in this movie to more than make it worth your time. It’s interesting and offers plenty to think about with a few laughs thrown in the mix.

NEXT MOVIE: Poltergeist (1982)

Platoon

Year: 1986
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: Oliver Stone

RYAN’S REVIEW

Back in 2003 I was 19 years old, in college, and aggressively involved in the world on a larger scale for the first time. At that young adolescent age my mind was exploding and I was hungry for all the knowledge in the world. For the first time I had stepped out of the world of Ryan (high school years) and started paying attention to the world around me. I was heavily invested in the Iraq War, both politically and emotionally. I was inspired and full of ideas in a way that only the young can be. I’ll never forget the feeling of despair I had when I sat in front of the TV and watched as the Iraq War officially began. I remember that once it had ultimately started I went to my tiny movie collection and put in this movie. I no longer wanted to see the reality of what must be taking place on the other side of the world. Instead I chose to watch the only thing I had that remotely related to the conflict, which was this movie.

Now there are several similarities between the Vietnam and Iraq wars but that had nothing to do with why I watched this film that night. I not only watched this film that night but I watched it every night after for probably as long as two months. This movie drew me in, it taught me something. It was real and a representation of the consequence of such actions. I watched it so much I knew every character in the film and when their character perished. This movie was made by a man who knew, a man who gave up his cushy life to fight alongside the common man who had no choice. This movie was based on the real life experiences of the man who made it, a man who lived through war. That meant something to me as my country entered another war that would undoubtedly lead to dire consequences for so many.

This is the movie that helped me understand war. The movie that taught me that war is more than action and wrong on several levels. There is “the way of war” and it’s an awful thing. No matter the circumstances that bring it about, when war becomes an option it is the innocent that suffer. In the way of war people are fighting for their lives. You have two sides pushed to the extreme and you have people caught in the middle. Who is to blame when horrible and awful things happen? The circumstances are a recipe for mayhem. When war is established life becomes dog eat dog for the people involved. It sucks but that is “the way of war.” Once the point of no return has been crossed the consequences that follow are inevitable.  Wars are fought by the young, especially this war because most of the men serving were drafted. Teenage boys carrying guns through the jungle can’t be held accountable for when they snap under the pressure. The people caught in the middle can’t be to blame because they are just trying to stay alive. There are so many unfortunate circumstances created by war. These things can never be lost on the men making the decision to go to war. People are going to suffer when war becomes necessary, it has to be for good reason or else it is just wrong and there is no justice to it at all.

When I was 19 years old I thought Oliver Stone was a God. Not literally of course but I thought he was head and shoulders above other filmmakers. He was the number one director in my mind and I felt his career was one of the greatest. Those illusions came crashing down a year later when the much anticipated, to me at least, Alexander came out. I had eagerly awaited that movie only for it to claim the highest echelon in the ranking of movies that crushed my soul. That is neither here nor there though as a year prior when I was watching this movie night after night I still had all my hopes and dreams for films invested in this man. Oliver Stone was Private Taylor from this film played by Charlie Sheen. Stone had dropped out of Yale to fight in Vietnam, something admirable that I respected then and still do today. Oliver Stone may be a bit of a conspiracy nut and like all conspiracy nuts he will bend the truth to serve his own purposes but there is still plenty the man deserves our respect for.

I had become infatuated with Stone for the wrong reasons prior to 2003. Like most young adolescent boys I was rebellious and as a movie fan I was drawn to the films that inspired my wild and immature inclinations. I liked to walk the fine line between good and bad and experimented with an aggressiveness that was encouraged by the movies I loved. Stone came into the picture with films like The DoorsAny Given Sundayand of course Natural Born KillersThese movies fueled my endeavors into rebellion, drug use, promiscuity, and profanity. There were several films and filmmakers that had this affect on me but it was Stone I stayed with as I matured from a boy into a young adult. With films like Platoon, Wall Street, Nixonand JFK Oliver Stone inspired me in new ways that molded my personality during the developmental years that continue in college. I have since grown out of the stage I was in when these films inspired me and I no longer see Stone in the same light I did back then. Nevertheless I still hold most of his films in high regard and I will always respect the man. A man that lived the life he does and did the things he has done deserves respect. I know better as an adult than to take everything he made at face value but there are still plenty of things I took away from his films and I appreciate the lessons that they taught me.

I have always found the Vietnam War to be fascinating and prefer the war movies from that era as opposed to the ones from before. There are different themes from those differing generations that I think are important. WWII left Americans with the impression that they were the greatest country in the world and could do no wrong. Many WWII movies I find enhance this theme. As a young man I whole heartedly believed in these all-American ideas as well but when I grew up I felt differently. Vietnam was like a slap in the face to Americans because it reminded them that not only were they not the unbeatable super power who could do anything but they were not even the good guys in some circumstances. Vietnam happened during a time when the children of the Baby Boomers were coming of age and they had different ideas about the state of the union.  The things happening in Southeast Asia were being broadcast on television every evening for the first time and the news was rarely good. It left an impact on the younger generations not only because it was in their face but because many of them were being recruited to fight in the conflict. Vietnam was going on during a cultural change in America. It was not a time where the country united to protect the world for the greater good like in WWII, but a time when the country was bleeding at home and divisions among the public were fueled by the conflict at hand. I feel like WWII films tend to represent the propaganda age of America while Vietnam films represent the realism that the country had to face. Vietnam films usually focus on the reality of war, the consequences that it creates, and the truth that we all need to understand as a people.

This movie taught me many of those truths, and I took them more seriously because the man teaching was one who knew. He was there and had firsthand experience in what he was trying to explain. I still find this film just as inspiring as I did when I was watching it for the first time and I still find lessons in it that we can all learn from. I am no longer the diehard Oliver Stone fan I was in my youth but that is by and large due to growing up. As an adult I am not as infatuated with the stoned and suspicious mind of Oliver Stone. The man’s work is on screen and he made some incredible things, but in the grand scheme of things they spoke to a younger version of myself that went into hibernation years ago before my kids were born. There is often a fine line between brilliance and insanity and Stone danced that line till he fell over into the insane side a long time ago. I am no longer the young and impressionable adolescent who believed in such grand ideas as the JFK conspiracy and believed that with a strong enough voice things in the world would change for the better. The world is what it is; you can only accept it at face value and keep moving forward. Delving into the larger scheme of things is only going to bring you disappointment and amount to wasted time.

There is something from this movie that I always used as an example to suggest Stone’s abilities and it had nothing to do with his take on the war. In this movie Oliver Stone got an impressive performance from Charlie Sheen in the role of Private Taylor, and again a year later in Wall Street. Charlie Sheen is an incredibly interesting person, but that aside, he has never been a particularly good actor. In the years before all his crazy antics in the press I used to wonder how it was that this man was such a celebrity and made such a good living at it. There were so few performances aside from the two already mentioned that I thought were worth anything. Point being, he was not a very good actor. However, I have always believed that a bad actor can be made great in a film by the right director. Hence the impression of Stone I had grew because of the performance he was able to get out of Sheen. In contrast I felt that in 2004 the opposite was true. Despite all the time he had invested in the film Stone made a horrible movie with his Alexander and specifically got an awful performance out of another bad actor, Colin FarrellAlexander, as far as I am concerned, was the end of Oliver Stone’s career for me as a fan because it signified a decline in skill. A couple years prior to Alexander one of the greatest directors ever, Steven Spielberg, had gotten a good performance out of Farrell in Minority Report. If Spielberg could do something that Oliver Stone could not it suggested to me that Stone had lost something, and I still feel like that holds true because in the last 10 years nothing he has done has impressed me as it did prior to Alexander.

Beyond Charlie Sheen this movie offers a very rich cast of actors. Tom Berenger gave one of the best performances on his career playing Sgt. Barnes. The role of Barnes was initially meant for Kevin Costner, who I think could have pulled it off well but Berenger made it his own. Willem Dafoe gave an equally good performance as Sgt. Elias. Dafoe is such an interesting actor and continues even until today to show a range and diversity as an actor that is impressive. Stone intentionally cast Berenger and Dafoe in roles contrasting what the public was used to seeing them play. Berenger, who usually played good guys, was cast as the ruthless and cruel Sgt. Barnes while Dafoe, who usually played villains, was cast as the crusader Elias. An interesting idea that worked well and brought more diversity to the careers of both men.

In the roles of other Sergeants were long time Stone collaborator John C. McGinley and the scariest man ever, Tony Todd. McGinley never reached that upper echelon of stardom but he played so many terrific parts over the years. Tony Todd plays a small part in this movie but his presence in anything should never go unnoticed because when you fail to notice Candyman he comes up behind you with a hook and kills you. Johnny Depp played the translator Lerner in one of his first roles ever. Stone reportedly met with him during casting and immediately predicted his future fame. In fact he considered casting Depp in the lead role of Taylor but didn’t because Depp was so young and unknown at the time. Keith David plays one of the biggest parts of any of the grunts in King. I am a big fan of Keith David and like just about everything he has ever done. Also as another grunt was future Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker whose part was small but shouldn’t go unnoticed.  Kevin Dillon played Bunny, the sadistic grunt who by the end nobody knows what to make of. Dillon probably had high hopes for his career in 1986 but he turned out to be the less famous brother of his not so famous older brother Matt Dillon.

The making of this movie was quite an incredible thing that went a long way with how the final product came out. As a veteran Stone didn’t just cast actors and put them in the jungle. He went farther and put them through an actual boot camp in the Philippines that ended the day before shooting. He didn’t want them to have any down time after the camp because he didn’t want them getting soft again before shooting the movie. It was a rigorous shoot that had some actors feeling like they had actually been in the war by the time they got home. Charlie Sheen reportedly kissed the ground upon his return to the States. These guys went into the jungle and did it the hard way; the way it should have been done to get it right. Even the fun stuff during this shoot was hard on the actors. In the scene where King takes Taylor to “meet the heads” the actors had been actually getting high all day on potent Filipino weed. By the time they actually shot the scene they were all stoned out of their minds and some were even feeling sick. An interesting story that I’ve always figured had to play into the long term drug use of the young Johnny Depp and Charlie Sheen. I don’t know but if I had to guess I’d wager Oliver Stone was the guy who introduced Charlie Sheen to his favorite drug of choice, cocaine. I imagine the Filipino weed was merely a stepping stone for Sheen as he moved onto coke and ultimately…tiger blood.

This movie is important to me because it taught me something that I will never forget. However this movie is important for many more reasons because it was a great movie and it accomplished what it intended to. The screenplay for this movie was written back in the 70s when Stone returned to America and didn’t appreciate how the war was depicted in John Wayne’s The Green BeretsIn that sense it succeeded in depicting a more realistic view of what the war was actually like. It wasn’t alone in trying to send that message as a few films about Vietnam came out around the same time. Most notably, Full Metal Jacket came out the following year. Both are great movies but they should not be compared because they are so different. Platoon was a film about the Grunts while Full Metal Jacket was a film about the Jarheads. The significant difference there was that men were drafted into the army while the marines are a branch made up of volunteers. That makes all the difference as one film is about men who chose to serve while the other is primarily about men who had no choice in the matter.

The Vietnam War was a fascinating chapter in American history and a true example of how history is never used enough going forward. Had the powers that be reflected on history during the development of the conflict in Vietnam the whole thing may have never happened. On the flip side, had the lessons from that conflict specifically been learned the US may not have entered another long war to force democracy down the throats of people who had no interest in it. It is difficult to fight a war on the other side of the world for reasons that mean little to the inhabitants. Guerrilla warfare is hard to combat, the British learned that over 200 years ago but somehow the lesson seems lost on the US. When the enemy can be anybody and can come from anywhere bad things will happen all around to everyone involved. The soldiers fighting under the pressures of their lives being on the line can’t be held accountable for the things that happen nor can the inhabitants who at some point may just get fed up and take up arms against the foreign soldiers in their country. It is the “way of war” and war never goes well. It’s not an action movie and it’s not a video game. When it happens people are going to suffer and someone’s hands are going to get dirty.

Movies are made to entertain but they are so much better when they can actually teach us something at the same time. This movie can do that and I appreciate it more for that very reason. This is a great film and it doesn’t need my stamp of approval on it because it has plenty already. If you haven’t seen this movie then you are missing out. If you don’t know the incredible history of the Vietnam War you are missing out, but you’d need a lot more than a movie to learn about that. As time moves forward things get lost behind us but it is important to never forget the lessons the past has to offer. This movie, for me at least, represents such a lesson and that makes it worth everybody’s time. This is an awesome movie and I think everybody should see it.

NEXT MOVIE: Pleasantville (1998)

The Return of Negan!!!!

I’m going to deviate from our typical theme of movies to talk about something else I’m into. I am an avid fan of the comic book The Walking Dead. To the point that I spy out the covers of upcoming issues hoping for a glimmer of what might be to come. As of yesterday I saw something so awesome I can’t contain myself and I have literally nobody to talk to about it that would even begin to know what I was talking about. “I like The Walking Dead too, you are talking about the coolest character? You mean Daryl right?” AHHHH!!! These fans of the TV show (the show is different and I do like it) drive me nuts, much like the hardcore fans of HBO’s version of Game of Thrones who know nothing about what they are missing out on. Blah blah and so forth but the reason for all of this is the issue coming out in two months. The cover of the May issue displays an image of Negan standing before an open jail cell.

225px-Issue_141_CoverFor those of you who don’t know. This is Negan, the greatest bad guy ever. The TV show will ruin him because he is way too cool for the limitations of network TV. Any fan of the show should start reading now so they can see how awesome the baddest bad guy really is. Nevertheless he has been locked away for years following the war in the comic book. This cover implies that Negan is finally getting out.

When the war was ongoing I actually found myself hoping Negan would kill Rick, claim Carl as a begrudging protegé, and we would follow him through this world of the apocalypse. Sadly that wasn’t how it panned out but I was content with the fact that Negan at least lived and still had the potential to wreak havoc again.

After seeing this cover I am going to be antsy for two freaking months while I wait to see what happens. I miss this guy; I need this witty badass whose capable of anything. I need the profanity, I need the violence, I need Lucille, I need the pure unadulterated understanding of the world he lives in, I need the control he has over everything, and I need more of his story. Life is a bitch but something about this guy helps make it easier once, sometimes twice and month on “Walking Dead Wednesday.”

I love this story and as agonizing as it is to wait month by month for the story to progress it never fails to let me down. Now that I know Negan is getting out of jail sooner rather than later I am excited. It’s like a motivating force somewhere in the back of my mind constantly reminding me I have something really cool to look forward to, in a couple of months.

I cannot wait to see what Kirkman has in store for Negan as he gets back out into the world but one thing is for sure. I have absolutely no doubt that he is going to do something awesome. Is there anybody out there with me on this? Where are the other fans who can appreciate conversation about how awesome Negan is? I literally have a Negan action figure on my desk at work and I am constantly making references from this awesome bad guy that nobody gets. Who else is as excited as I am at his possible return to action in the comic? I need some dialogue.

Planet Terror

Year: 2007
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Written By: Robert Rodriguez

RYAN’S REVIEW

When this movie came out on DVD I bought it on the spot having not yet seen it. I watched it frequently after getting it and often fell asleep with it on. This movie goes back to menu when it’s over and that song plays over and over again if you don’t turn off your television. I have slept many a night with that song playing nonstop like a personal soundtrack through my dreams. It has been burned into a brain in such a way that when I am old and everything else is gone I will probably hum the tune from this film. I love the song and every single time I pop in the DVD I get this funny feeling from that music. It sucks me in and pulls something inside of me to the surface. That score, as much as anything else, is what makes this an awesome movie for me.

Another obvious thing that makes this movie awesome is the intro. Let me pose a question for anybody reading this now. Is there anything hotter than Rose McGowan in the opening scene of this movie? She is as sexy as any woman I have ever seen, barring my wife of course, dancing on stage to the music by Robert Rodriguez. I don’t understand why she has had such a limited career in acting over the years. I can’t really find any flaw in her talent and she is hot enough to pull off plenty of roles but for some reason she has been limited to films, more or less like this one. This was an intentional B movie and it was fitting for her being cast as she is mainly a B actress. I don’t understand why though. I think she is awesome in this movie and she portrays one of my favorite heroines of all time.

You can say whatever you want about Rose McGowan, but she is a badass as Cherry Darling. Not only is her opening dance scene smoking hot but when she gets her new leg she is an utter badass. I love when she launches herself over the wall and starts mowing down the infected soldiers while utilizing her dance moves. In a movie like this is doesn’t really matter how reasonable it is for a go-go dancer to suddenly become such a badass.  All that matters is what is and this just so happens to be really freakin cool.

I have written many times throughout this blog that when Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino collaborated on these Grindhouse films that Rodriguez proved to be the better filmmaker. Tarantino made what amounted to a 2 hour chick flick with a thrill ride at the end in his half of the collaboration, Death Proof. With this film Rodriguez not only made an awesome film, he did it all himself. He wrote this film, directed it, produced it, edited it, and even wrote the music for the film. It may have been an intentionally campy B movie but with this film he showcased a hell of a lot of talent. It’s one of the reasons I consider him such an incredible filmmaker. One thing Rodriguez never forgets as a filmmaker is the cool factor. I’ve always been a proponent of the cool factor in any movie. If it’s not cool then what good is it? You can just about guarantee that when Rodriguez gets behind camera what he produces will look cool. It may come out as overkill and sometimes even silly but it will be cool and you can take that to the bank.

This movie, if nothing else, is cool and that all starts with the cast. Rodriguez always gets a good group of latino actors into all his films but acting side by side with them are always A list actors. In the part of his misunderstood Latino badass he cast Freddy Rodriguez, no relation. He may have looked silly riding that tiny motorcycle at one point in the film but he fought with the ferocity of a samurai when wielding his butterfly knives in the hospital on his way to save Cherry. In the bad guy roles he has A list actors Bruce Willis and Josh Brolin. Now I have mentioned before I didn’t understand what rock Josh Brolin suddenly crawled out from under but it was right around the time this movie came out he did so. After doing nothing really noteworthy since 1985 in The Goonies he burst onto the map in 2007 with five films, this among them. Bruce Willis is an actor welcome in just about anything. I remember when I saw him in the G.I. JOE sequel I felt like these days he would do just about anything for the paycheck but movies since have proved he’s still got it. I hate what he continues to do with the Die Hard franchise but I could never honestly criticize Willis. He has been an awesome actor as long as I have been alive.

I love that Michael Biehn is in this movie. It’s one of the reasons it stands out to me. I have always been a fan of the original Kyle Reese and I have never understood why his career didn’t take off in other ways. He is part of one of my favorite parts in this movie. When the surviving group arrives at the BBQ joint his deputy, played by cult icon Tom Savini, asks him if he’s sure about this. In his hand Savini shakes a box label “All or Nothing Box.” When Biehn confirms Savini dumps the box full of badges on the hood of the car while Biehn tells everyone they have now been deputized. I love the concept of the “all or nothing box” and how obvious it is utilized in this movie. After arming all of them he walks up the hill and tells them, “don’t shoot each other, don’t shoot yourselves, and most importantly (he turns to face them) don’t shoot me!” Such an awesome actor how is it that Michael Biehn didn’t do more with his career? I don’t know the answer to that so if anybody does know please enlighten me, and I will not accept that he just isn’t a good actor when so many others made it and he didn’t.

I’m unfamiliar with Marley Shelton, and still haven’t seen her in anything else since this movie, but she is great as the nurse with her three little friends. I used to have a poster hanging in my home of her character Dr. Block holding up a syringe, mascara running down from her wild looking eyes, with the tag line “just a little prick.” I loved that poster but Amber won’t let me display it in our home anymore and I to agree it’s probably a bit much for our young children. I still have it though and one way or another it will one day have its place on display again.

I love how aggressive this movie is. It’s aggressive in so many ways. It is aggressively exaggerated and aggressively obvious at times. I think it is interesting to look back at a movie like this in 2007 and hear the big bad guy, Bruce Willis, claim to have been the soldier who killed Osama Bin Laden. Of course we know now that not only was he not dead in 2007 but he somehow continued to live his lavish lifestyle while alluding capture for more than a decade. My main point is that this movie now stands in an interesting place historically as it represents a time when we had no idea what had become of the world’s greatest enemy. The number one villain in American history had been unaccounted for for so long that a movie like this aggressively puts forth one of the many theories to what had to have happened. It represents American thinking in such an interesting way. The idea that he had simply gotten away wasn’t considered or accepted by the public as the great almighty United States would never allow such a man to escape punishment. We know now that not only did he do just that but he lived unencumbered for longer than anyone thought was possible.

I feel compelled to wrap this up now but I could never say enough about this movie. I’m not even satisfied with everything I have covered so far but have let it sit to long. It’s time to release it into the world. There is more to say about this movie though, and I encourage any film fan out there to see it. See it to compare the styles and abilities of Tarantino vs. Rodriguez. See it to learn the kind of thing the American public had about Osama Bin Laden 6 years after 9/11. See it because it is a cool movie that is fun to sit back and enjoy. It would be easy to pass of the Grindhouse films as a camp and nothing significant but that would be wrong. These movies are special because there is so much to get out of them. So much to enjoy about them. This is one of my favorite movies ever and I suggest it to all but the faint of heart that I simply don’t think could handle it.

One more thing because I can’t deal with the fact that I didn’t fit it in. Naveen Andrews is awesome in this movie and Hollywood needs more of this guy. I liked what he brought to the role and he has one of the coolest deaths in the film. Bound to spark argument, I am no a fan of Lost. I think J.J. Abrams is a terrific filmmaker but also a wizard when it comes to duping people into watching something like mindless zombies. Lost equals the carrot on a stick Abrams held in front of the American public for years before he could get his hands onto bigger and better things. I watched three seasons of it and to this day consider every hour of every episode I watch wasted and spitefully hold a grudge for the time I lost. I have had people argue with me about the show till they were blue in the face but as I am to understand the ending was just as vague as everything else on the show. You don’t put f-ing polar bears in the jungle and make the audience wonder why for years with no reason why, motherf-ing YEARS! My question to anybody is, “how is that good enough for you?” To this day I am still puzzled by the people who talk about how great it was. Nevertheless I consider J.J. Abrams to be quite capable and look forward to what he does with Star Wars.

NEXT MOVIE: Platoon (1986)