Movies By Request

Movies By Request

The Trigger Effect

Year: 1996
Directed By: David Koepp
Written By: James Burke, David Koepp

Writing about this one has been on the to-do list for some time now so I will do my best to review it by memory.  This movie was given to me by someone close and when I watched it I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to cry.  It’s probably one of the silliest movies I have ever seen if truth be told but things were different in 1996 I guess.  The plot seemed like it would be interesting because at the time Amber and I were giving the NBC show Revolution a try and for a brief moment thought it was really interesting.  This movie is about a family that struggles to make it when things get crazy during a power outage.  What makes it all so laughable is that in a matter of days these people COMPLETELY lose it.

In this movie we see a typical suburban couple. Weakling Kyle MacLachlan and his far too attractive for him wife, Elisabeth Shue are the two typical people living regular lives and trying to raise their newborn child.  Suddenly when the power goes out everything changes and for the extreme worse.  The power is out and the phones are dead, something that happens frequently during snow storms, ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, or really any extreme weather.  It is also something that frequently occurs for a number of different reasons that have to do with some kind of technical problem.  There are frequent cases of people being without power for weeks at a time and I can only hope that they don’t fall to pieces the way these people do when something like this happens.

On day one with no power, weakling Kyle MacLachlan panics and resorts to stealing from a pharmacy to provide his infant child with medicine.  On day two they link up with his long time friend played by Dermot Mulroney and then things get really interesting.  During day two they buy a gun at a ridiculous price, they begin drinking and take smoking back up, Elisabeth Shue strongly considers adultery with Mulroney, and before the night is over they have killed someone in the street.  What’s particularly funny about this last thing is that when the cops arrive MacLachlan specifically ask them “how’s it going out there?” and the cop doesn’t seem to know what in the world he is talking about.  Yet panic still has a firm grip on these people.  In the morning of day three they pack up and head for the hills with as much gas as they can get into one of their vehicles. On the road they run across a car parked on the side of the road and when they stop to steal gas from it an incident takes place with Michael Rooker.  During the incident Mulroney is shot and their car is stolen by Rooker. Nobody will stop to help them and it is MacLachlan who has to stop being such a pussy and buck up.  He travels to the closest house they passed along the way. There he proceeds to hold a father and son hostage at gun point and tries to steal their car.  This is the moment of clarity in the movie where MacLachlan realizes what life has come to (in a matter of only three days).  The movie has about ten minutes left and as it ends the power is back on with no explanation and they are going back along their normal lives.

Now let’s review.  These people lose power for A WEEKEND and they resort to theft, murder, drinking, smoking, carjacking, arms bearing, fleeing their home, and far too close for comfort to adultery.  That’s about the most pathetic thing I have ever heard of and I can’t be quite sure what to make of this film.  As I said, I was interested because we had been watching Revolution but it was nothing like that at all.  These people would be in serious trouble if a blizzard hit town because they seriously can’t handle themselves.  I would say if nothing else the movie might be worth seeing because at one point Elizabeth Shue is wearing a see-through bra.  Shue may have been one of the most attractive women to ever grace the big screen but never really made any significant impact as an actress.  Yet seeing her in that bra did make sitting through this movie worth it if nothing else.

As to NBC’s Revolution I would like to say a couple of things.  We almost got into this show because it was an interesting story but one night we sat down to watch an episode Amber had already seen and everything changed.  I had seen maybe five minutes of the episode when Amber told me there was a surprise at the end and I called it immediately.  I simply said the most obvious thing that could happen and that turned out to be exactly what the surprise in the end was. I didn’t want to see it any longer after that, when a show is that predictable it isn’t worth our time and we were already on the fence about it.  To all this I simply want to say that NBC is like Busch league when it comes to television dramas and this is why we steer clear of them.  NBC, FOX, CBS, and ABC don’t have the balls or creative capacity to make a decent drama series.  They had a foothold early on when TV started getting so good but they seriously fail in comparison to networks like AMC, FX, and HBO.  I will still stand by the comedies that come on these networks but when it comes to putting together a big time serious series they just can’t get it right.  Fox had a hit with 24 over ten years ago but everything they have done since has simply seemed to be rehashing the story lines we saw there.  If you are looking for good dramas take your chances on something FX has to offer or just watch anything that comes on AMC.  They are so far superior that they don’t even compare.

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Movies By Request

The Great White Hype


Year: 1996
Directed By: Reginald Hudlin
Written By: Tony Hendra Roy Shelton

There are more movies made about boxing than any other professional sport.  I think there is a very good reason for that and it is simple.  Boxing movies are awesome, even if they are all the same. I have said as much before in my post on Cinderella Man but I think deep down we all have an instinctive desire to see fights. The men that choose to spend their lives as fighters always have interesting stories to tell as well.  Yet all boxing movies seem to follow a similar template, and this movie is no different.  It covers many elements of the boxing world that we see in others films, but the redundancy of boxing story lines somehow never seems to be a problem. I often find myself realizing this is the same thing I have seen before but still loving it in all boxing films, and or TV shows in the case of Lights Out. I was a really big fan of that show and disappointed to see it cancelled.  My main point here is that while they all might be so similar they are usually interesting in other ways.

This movie specifically makes fun of the racial element in the sport.  I despise racism but do enjoy the humor that can be found in stereotypes across the board.  We all fall into stereotypes, it doesn’t necessarily always have to be about race, but it is funny so long as it is in good humor.  There is a big difference between making a joke about a stereotype and making a racist joke.  I think this movie made fun of racist behavior albeit in a crude manner at times.  One of the times I laughed the hardest was when Samuel L Jackson accused a reporter of being racist.  He responds by saying he is Jewish to which Jackson then accuses him of being an “Uncle Tom.” The reporter says Jews can’t be “Uncle Toms” and Jackson turned to look at his cronie Jon Lovitz playing a Jewish man and puts the question to him.  Lovitz defensively says “we can be!” and it is just such a funny exchange.  This movie is about race all the way through and I did think it was really funny, but these kinds of films watched by the wrong people always send the wrong message.  I have found in my experiences that racist tend to feel validated by comedies or tragedies about race when in fact they should be humbled by them.  I don’t understand the disconnection but it is a disappointing reality about some people.  Racism at the root is a product of ignorance and people who embrace it are often not clever enough to see the error of their ways.

I remember always wanting to see this movie during my Action Video days but somehow never getting around to it.  So I was pleased when a co-worker brought it in among a stack of other films the other day.  I had completely forgotten about the film altogether and was glad for the opportunity to see it.  I was even happier to have liked the movie as I anticipated I would long ago.  Samuel L. Jackson has a charisma that reaches out to everyone and I am no different.  I have thought he was awesome for almost twenty years now since I first saw him in Die Hard with a Vengeance as an eleven year old. I had yet to see Pulp Fiction, that one was off limits for me until I was old enough to seek it out myself.  Nevertheless I have thought he was great since then and he has done nothing to dissuade me from that opinion.  If anything he has only made his image greater in my eyes as he has now become such a key figure in the Marvel movies as Nick Fury.  As to this film he is what would easily be expected, awesome.  As the key figure of a really large cast he does great with a powerful and commanding presence at all times. He is funny in this movie while playing a really flamboyant and enigmatic boxing promoter; he is exactly what he should be in that role.

Of this large cast that includes many notable actors I think the best one playing a supporting role was Jamie Foxx.  He is another actor that is very charismatic and good in most of what he does.  He plays someone kind of stupid in this movie and pulls it off well.  As a big and lifelong fan of The Shield I also really enjoyed seeing Michael Jace in a movie. He played Julian Lowe on the show and I thought he showed great range as an actor throughout the series.  The rest of this cast is made up of other notable actors who do a great job.  Among them are Jeff Goldblum, Cheech Marin, John Rhys-Davies (Gimli from Lord of the Rings), Jon Lovitz, and Damon Wayans (the first one).

I am glad that at long last I have finally seen this movie and I really enjoyed it.  It was a fun and funny movie that didn’t let me down after I had waited so long to see it I had actually forgotten about it.  I am grateful that my co-worker lent it to me to see and I would recommend it to anybody looking for a fun boxing comedy to see.

Movies By Request

O Brother, Where Art Thou

Year: 2001
Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen
Written By: Homer (The Odyssey), Joel and Ethan Coen

RYAN’S REVIEW

More than anything this movie reminds me of my time at Action Video when I was 16. This movie was one of our hottest renters on a regular basis even long after it had been released on video.  I didn’t watch the movie then and apparently haven’t seen it ever before. The soundtrack from this movie was played relentlessly by my father when it came out and that probably had a lot to do with why I didn’t see it.  I had also yet to discover who the Coen brothers were at that point in my young movie watching life.

The Coen brothers are two of the best in the business and they are unique because they do it all, on all of their movies.  They write all their films themselves, then direct, produce, and edit all by themselves as well. They always create interesting characters and write really clever dialogue for them. This film is no different either; it is clever and extremely well written.  The Coen brothers took the classic epic poem “The Odyssey” by Homer and loosely rewrote the story to take place in the Deep South during the Great Depression. The movie stars George Clooney, who the Coens have had success with a few times.  I have never liked Clooney though; all I can ever see is the worst Batman of all time no matter what he is in.  He plays a good part in this film, but I detest him nonetheless.  John Turturro is another Coen regular and I think he is great in just about everything he does.  John Goodman, yet another Coen regular, has a fantastic role in the film and he is probably my favorite thing about the movie. Tim Blake Nelson was appropriately cast for his role in the film; the Coens have a gift for finding the right people.

This movie is immensely popular, in fact it is one of the more popular films made by two of my favorite directors.  I can completely see what people like about it too but I have just never liked this one and always have a hard time trying to watch it.  I detest country music to the point that I kind of go a little insane in my head every time I hear it, I loathe the sound of it.  It’s a personal issue I have that I can’t really explain.  While I know that the music in this movie isn’t country, it is country enough to set off one of my weirder and more insane tendencies. The number one song from this movie is a good song, I can admit that, but I just cringe every time I hear it and it has a knack for getting stuck in my head for days. Beyond that I don’t really like the coloring technique the Coens used or the time setting of the film.  Not to mention Clooney, despite all his witty lines in the film it is still Clooney. I can clearly see that this is a great film and I know why people like it so much.  I just have really weird reasons for never giving it a chance and those same reasons prove too much to get past for me while watching it.

Do not take my advice when it comes to this movie.  Give it a chance yourself and you will probably find that you feel completely different than me.  I have weird and unusual reasons for not liking this movie and even I recognize how ridiculous that is.  Every single person I know disagrees with me on this and thinks I’m crazy for not loving this movie. Based on that reality I’m going to suggest that while I may not like this movie, it is still more than likely worth your time.

Movies By Request

The Assassination of Richard Nixon

Year: 2004
Directed By: Niels Mueller
Written By: Niels Mueller and Kevin Kennedy

RYAN’S REVIEW

I despise Sean Penn to the point that I specifically avoid seeing any film that he is in but when one of my co-workers brought this one in I decided to make an exception.  It was an exception I am glad that I made and I unfortunately have to admit that Sean Penn really is as talented as everyone says.  I’m not sure what it is about him but I just can’t stand him. Until now the only film I have ever been able to stomach him in was one of his first films, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. This film is a good forum to showcase his talents though because his performance is the center of the film and he plays the part very well.

I think one of the scariest realities of life is how sometimes we are all subject to the insanity of others.  The people murdered by Samuel Byck had nothing to do with him or with the President he was actually trying to kill.    Richard Nixon didn’t have anything to do with Samuel Byck either but when life became too difficult for him the President became the center of his fixation and his insanity. I did extensive research on Lee Harvey Oswald while I was in college and I was immediately reminded of it when we started watching this movie.  There are many similarities to be seen between the two men but the most striking is the nature of their insanity.  They have certain opinions about how things are supposed to be but they themselves don’t even conform to them. Sam for example quits one job because they “forced him to lie”(actually just doing the job of a salesman) yet lied about being married to get his next job. These men have nothing and no one but for some reason they think they are the ones who have everything figured out.  When they become overwhelmed by the realities of life and how things are going they think they can fix everything by taking out the guy they perceive to be in control of it all.  That guy isn’t in control of everything despite his position as the figure head of the country and these men never understand that.  There is always another politician standing in line to take the job and he isn’t going to change anything either.

This movie chronicles the events leading up until Samuel Byck’s (Biche in the film) attempt to hijack a plane to fly into the White House and kill President Richard Nixon.  In the months before the attempt we see his decent into madness and desperation. He has trouble at work and a failed marriage that he is unable to accept when it is over. He also has big plans for a new business that he is certain will solve all his problems but they fall through after he quits his job. I don’t know how accurate the events leading up until the attempted hijacking are but the hijacking in itself happened exactly the way it is portrayed from what I was able to find out. Byck’s plan was fruitless in real life not only because he wasn’t really prepared for what he was doing but because the President wasn’t even in the White House on the day of the attempt. The movie starts off slow and seems a bit overly dramatic at times but I found myself compelled to keep watching and unable to look away.  This is the kind of movie that I can tell will get better with each viewing and offers a lot to learn about human nature and what desperation can do to some people.

As much as it pains me to admit, Sean Penn is fantastic in this movie and I have to accept how talented he is.  He single handedly carries this film on his own and it is his performance that kept me glued to the screen for the whole 95 minutes. I think this was a great movie and I can already tell I will be thinking about it for days to come.  I enjoy a good movie about a true story but keep in mind what I always say; no film is ever an actual accurate representation of real events. For example this film was originally intended to be a completely fictional story until producers realized that it was so similar to something that actually happened. This film did an exceedingly good job of converting the story to parallel the real events however and I would recommend it to anyone.

Movies By Request

Criminal

Year: 2004
Directed By: Gregory Jacobs
Written By: Gregory Jacobs & Sam Lowery

RYAN’S REVIEW

I had never heard of this movie before it was brought to me the other day but I was instantly interested when I looked it over.  I usually enjoy movies about con men and I also am a big fan of John C Reilly when he isn’t acting like an idiot.  Con men are such clever and desperate people that they always have good stories worthy of being told.

To be perfectly honest this movie isn’t all that different from many other movies that are about men of similar repute, but like I said, these people always have interesting stories around them.  I think John C Reilly was really good in the part; he can be incredibly talented sometimes. I like him whenever he is doing something serious but I think he spends a fair amount of time wasting his talent acting like a moron in movies with Will Ferrell like Step Brothers or Talladega Nights. Those movies aren’t awful but he isn’t being funny in them; he is being stupid and I usually find that more annoying than funny. I like Maggie Gyllenhaal as well and she does a good job in this film too.  I have never heard of Diego Luna but he has a large part in this film and does well.  There are also a handful of extras including Michael Shannon who bring their talents to the film.

This isn’t the best movie I have seen about con men but everybody plays their parts well and it has a good story to tell. I think it was a good movie I just don’t feel compelled to write very much about it. Overall Amber and I both enjoyed seeing this one and would feel comfortable recommending it later down the road.

Movies By Request

Spring Forward

Year: 1999
Directed By: Tom Gilroy
Written By: Tom Gilroy

RYAN’S REVIEW

When we watched Deliverance a few weeks ago I spent some time at work discussing it the following day.  Naturally Ned Beatty was discussed at some length and I even played the Steve Goodie song for everyone to hear. Turns out the discussion prompted one of my co-workers to bring this movie in and suggest I see it. After being assured he wasn’t sodomized in this one I said I’d be happy to check it out. I had never heard of this film before but I happen to value the opinions of the people I work with and as a lover of movies I am always interested in being introduced to something that would have otherwise slipped past me. I have said several times that a movie is usually better when it is written and directed by the same person.  This is no different, this may have been the only feature length film made by Tom Gilroy but he had a good story to tell and did a really good job with it.

From the very beginning you can see that this movie offers a lot to learn from.  This is a real movie about real people and I usually like films like this.  These films don’t get wide release, they don’t make millions of dollars, and generally they are seen by a much smaller audience but that doesn’t diminish their value. This movie has a lot to say about human nature, about growing as a person, and about dealing with the difficult circumstances of life. That’s a recipe from a great movie that can help us all grow to be better people.  These two men start out very differently, but throughout the year that takes place during the movie they learn from one another, and they develop a bond that makes them both better people. The changing seasons bears a lot of symbolism in this film and I specifically like the subtle changes you can observe in the characters as the year progresses. I now understand how Ned Beatty managed to have a career beyond Deliverance. He shows so much honesty and range playing the part of Murphy dealing with his obvious discomfort over his son’s sexuality and grief over his death.  Liev Schreiber does a good job playing the part of Paul, who somewhat becomes the son that Murphy always wished he had.  Schreiber is one of those actors who is consistently good but can’t quite make it to real stardom.  It’s probably because his name is so difficult to pronounce.  I think he was particularly good playing Sabertooth in the Wolverine movie; he was the best thing about an awful movie.

I really like that at the end of this movie it is Paul who finds himself chasing someone who wants to quit through the woods to bring them back out with a little hope.  His relationship with Murphy has taught him a thing or two; he has grown as a person.  As Murphy hangs his hat he leaves Paul to carry the torch in his stead, leaving a man where he had met a boy.  Like I said earlier, there is plenty that all of us can learn from what these men learn from each other. This was a great movie that I really enjoyed watching.  I would like to thank my friend and co-worker Erin for letting me borrow it.


Movies By Request

We decided a few weeks ago to do some movies outside the collection for those who occasionally suggest films to us.  While this blog is mainly for the movies that we own, what they mean to us and how they have influenced our lives, we watch movies all the time.  I think it’s rather obvious but I have come to really enjoy writing about these films so we are going to start writing about some new ones on occasion.  These films will be put in their own category “Movies By Request” much like the “Movies Not To Watch” that we occasionally post.   The movies in this section will be ones suggested to us through friends, Facebook, and comments on the blog. For the first “Movies By Request” we have seen a film someone suggested to us on Facebook.

The Yakuza

Year: 1975
Directed By: Sydney Pollack
Written By: Paul Schrader and Robert Towne

RYAN’S REVIEW

When Amber told me someone had suggested this film on Facebook I had never heard of it but was immediately interested because of the title alone.  I am very interested in criminal organizations of all kinds and the Japanese Yakuza is an organization I don’t know enough about.  I find Japanese culture really fascinating though and really enjoy films that do a good job contrasting our two very different ways of life. I am also already interested in this film because it was directed by Sydney Pollack.  We don’t own any of his films and when he died a few years ago I remember wondering why we hadn’t seen more of his films.    

This is the kind of movie that I can see will get better each time I watch it.  It has a deep and significant story that you can pick up more with each viewing. I am a huge fan of movies about something real and this movie definitely qualifies there.  It has a story that focuses on the nearly forgotten problems that preceded Japan’s economic boom in the 1970s and the changes that came after. The screenplay was written by long-established and well-known Hollywood screenwriters Paul Schrader and Robert Towne.  Robert Mitchum did a great job playing the Bronson-esque retired detective Kilmer.  The co-staring role was exceptional because Ken Takakaru was cast.  Not often were Asian actors given significant roles in American films at the time.  I like to think that Bruce Lee and his success the year before with Enter The Dragon paved the way for Takakura in this role.  He did a great job and was specifically good in the climactic ending when he and Kilmer clean house at the Yakuza gambling den.

This movie reminds me a lot of the Roger Moore James Bond films because many of them were made in the same era.  There are no similarities as far as theme or plot go but in the style of the movies.  The cinematography of the decade is where the similarities are. As viewers today we typically demand more action, more blood, and more death from our action films.  I tend to prefer the honest action films of our fathers though, the movies like this where the hero could be an aged man enjoying his retirement. The movie can indulge the story more because viewers had more patience back then.  It makes for a better movie all around and that is the case in this film.

This film was brought to our attention by Lionell on Facebook who said that it was his favorite film.  I am happy he took the time to respond to the question because I enjoyed the movie and hope I have encouraged others to see it. If you have a movie you would like reviewed feel free to let us know and we will work it in.