Billy Bob Thorton

Monster’s Ball

Year: 2001
Directed By: Marc Forster
Written By: Milo Addica and Will Rokos

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a movie of such raw and compelling emotion. For years I have made snide comments about how Halle Berry only won the Academy Award for the few minutes of this film that everyone remembers but I was wrong.  I’m watching it right now and can clearly see that I couldn’t have been more mistaken.  She turned in an impressive performance and now I feel bad for being such a shameless pervert. She plays such an authentic part in this movie. It’s a shame that her skills are overshadowed by the images of her flawlessly beautiful body.  For the record, I have never suggested she had skills when it comes to acting and in fact have been adamant to the opposite for years.  I’m admitting I was wrong now.  She deserved to win the Academy Award for this role.  She did an incredible job with this part and if nothing else a glimpse at her boobs should only be seen as an added bonus to something that was far more impressive.

She isn’t alone in turning in an impressive performance for this film.  They all did.  I am still to this day shocked at how impressed I am by P. Diddy, or he may have still been Puff Daddy then, who knows.  I would never give the guy credit for anything, I don’t really remember why but it has something to do with him simply “not being cool” when I was in high school.  I can’t deny him this film though, he played a smaller part but he played the hell out of it. I don’t understand how this part didn’t transition into more acting roles for him unless he simply didn’t like the job. Also doing exceedingly well in a small role was Peter Boyle.  Peter Boyle was around forever and finished his career in the limelight with an awesome role on Everybody Loves Raymond.  I wasn’t a big fan of that show but it was funny and Boyle specifically brought a lot of humor to it.  His role in this movie couldn’t be more different than the one everybody knew him from at the time and that made the performance even more impressive.

Though the part Peter Boyle plays is small it is arguably the most significant role in the film because the behavior of the other main characters derives from him.  He was a man from a different generation.  A mean and hateful man who spent his life knocking heads as a prison guard.  He passed this meanness down to his son, played by Billy Bob Thorton, who followed in his father’s footsteps to a tee.  He also spent his life as the head of prison security and was equally hard on his own son.  He spent his life trying to live up to his father’s harsh and uncouth standards but when his son, played by the late Heath Ledger, failed to do so he was ashamed of him.  His son felt the shame his father saw in him and it proved to be more than he could handle.  When he made the unfortunate decision to end it all he did so dramatically and put it all on his father’s shoulders.  He loved his father but never got any love in return.  His father did what he was taught to do but his son Sonny came from a different generation and needed more from his father. Sonny did his best to be who his father wanted him to be but his best wasn’t good enough.  In his father’s eyes he was nothing more than a disappointing son and Sonny couldn’t live with that understanding.

Hank took the passing of his son with the stoicism of a man who just bore himself of a cancerous organ but beneath the surface he felt the loss deeply.  When the local prostitute mentions his son to him he suddenly can’t perform and sends her away.  I think the mentioning of his son’s name brought to light that his son was so similar to he himself, even using the same woman sexually in the exact same manner.  When he takes a chance and helps out Leticia he’s going against the grain. He is doing something he would never have done under normal circumstances and in doing so begins to change himself.  They bond through the shared loss of their sons and he inadvertently falls in love with Leticia.  Deep down he did love his son but wanted so badly to continue living up to his own father’s ideals that he buried those feelings.  Leticia brings them back to the surface and his whole life changes. His picking up Leticia and continuing to help her is the first thing he does differently than his own father would have, and by doing so he begins to live life in a whole new manner.

We see the change begin when Hank and Leticia find themselves in the heat of the moment and have that wildly satisfying sex scene. Hank usually bangs women from behind in a distant manner like we see with the prostitute. Sex is nothing more to him than a source of pleasure and he performs in a completely impersonal manner. He begins this way with Leticia taking her from behind but then turns her around to face him during the act.  That change of positions is significant because it conveys that he sees her more than just an object to stick his dick in. They don’t just hardcore fuck but touch on something more. This racist man doesn’t just do what comes natural to him but he connects with this woman in a way he wasn’t ready for.  He falls in love with her as she rides him in all her vulnerability.  They have such an honest and interesting affair during this scene, and it needed to be graphic to convey what they were both going through.   She needed someone; she needed to feel loved and deep down so did he.  He was hard on his son because his dad was hard on him but deep down he loved him.  Deep down he feels the loss of his son as painfully as Halle Berry feels the loss of her son and they comfort each other with that shared pain.  It’s a beautiful thing really and I have noticed it more now than I ever have before.  This movie came out in 2001 and during those teenage years I only saw a beautiful woman’s boobs, but now I can see it for what it is.  I feel like I have just seen this scene for the first time because I have looked at it with different eyes.  Through the eyes of a perverted teenage male the symbolism of this scene is wasted.

This movie is almost dramatic to a fault but it is such an excellent film.  That authentic feel that drives the whole thing home is there.  This movie looks like a glimpse into the real life of a person we would otherwise never know anything about. That quiet guy who sits alone in the diner, the type of guy who never says anything and when he does it doesn’t come across as friendly. That man has hardships too, drama thrives in the lives of us all, but we will never hear about what that man is going through because he would never share his thoughts with anyone. This glimpse into his life is an interesting one.  I love the mismatched relationship that develops between Hank and Leticia because the underlying racism offers such a dynamic element to it. Hank and Leticia would never meet one another under most circumstances but when fate brings them together their lives are forever changed.  It is a change for the better as we see the emotionless and empty Hank find purpose in life again and something that looks like happiness.  The unlikely couple have been through the ringer but together they find a way to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.

This is an interesting story and I am happy to have appreciated it for what it really is for the first time.  I remember watching this movie long ago and actually paying attention well enough to know it was good but I hadn’t seen it in probably ten years since.  Somewhere during that time the memory of the movie’s value got lost in favor of the immature memory that preceded it. I love a movie so much more when I can revisit it like this. When watching it again feels like watching it for the first time and I get a whole new perspective on it. I think this movie can teach us something about love.  About what burying our feelings can do to us as well as how taking chances can change our lives.  There is also something to learn about racism and how much better life can be when old and outdated perceptions are put behind us.  Don’t make the same foolish mistake I did and let this movie linger in the back of your mind as nothing more than a guilty pleasure and with perverted intent.  If you get the opportunity to see it again you should look deeper into it and see how great it is.  This movie is more than worth your time and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it myself.

On a side note, in case anybody is curious as to the film’s title.  It’s mentioned in the movie that the term “Monster’s Ball” is for the party they throw for a rookie prison guard the night before his first execution.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I can’t help but be curious if other people watch this movie simply for the sex scene? I mean, I think this movie is incredible, but the sex scene between Billy Bob and Halle Berry is the only thing that most people take away from it. It tells a story that is close to the heart and can be very real in some places of the country. This movie was included in the year’s Oscars and I think most of it was well worth nominating.

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The tagline for this movie is “A Lifetime of Change Can Happen in a Single Moment.” So, really, I am not the only one who seems to only remember the sex scene. I am not a fan of this poster at all. I don’t know what it is about at all, and I don’t see anything drawing me in further. The typography is boring and just simply justified. I see that they are trying to get both main characters into the forefront of the poster, probably to let the viewers know who is in the movie, but this just doesn’t work for me. They break it up with a horrible brush that makes no sense to me. The colors are all wrong too, and if you are going to make that choice creatively, it at least needs to make sense. I think the eventual DVD cover did a much better job at promoting this movie. This great flick was not accompanied by a good poster, and that’s a shame.

NEXT MOVIE: The Monster Squad (1987)

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Love Actually

Year: 2003
Directed By: Richard Curtis
Written By: Richard Curtis

RYAN’S REVIEW

It’s Christmas time and we have the happy coincidence to start the month with a Christmas themed film.  We aren’t going to do a themed month for the holiday like we did in October but this just happened to be our next film and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  This is a movie I have no qualms about admitting to how much I like.  It’s a chick flick if I have ever seen one and it took Amber quite a while to twist my arm into seeing it.  Once she did I was thoroughly surprised with how much I enjoyed the film and it’s provides me with a rare opportunity to recommend a film I normally wouldn’t.  This movie may fit every possible requirement to qualify as a chick flick but the movie is both funny and heartfelt.  It’s a touching film that even the most stone hearted man might find himself both laughing and crying over.

There could be plenty to cover in this film but I’m inclined to keep it simple on this one.  While I did like the film, it is what it is and I am not going to over analyze a chick flick.  I specifically like Bill Nighy in this movie.  He is a really funny actor that I have liked in many movies but in this one he is just over the top funny.  “Kids, don’t buy drugs….become a rock star and they give them to you for free!” I love the guy that randomly buys a plane ticket to America to marvel the women here with his British accent.  The fact that it works so well for him is hilarious because it is probably true.  While exaggerated in this movie there is still plenty of truth to the idea that American women will fall all over any English guy just because of his voice.  I love the stand-in actors played by Martin Freeman and Joanna Page. The way they keep having small talk while simulating sex scenes is hilarious.  It’s really funny that this guy is building up the courage to ask a woman out while he is going through the motions of sex with her.  The casual way he responds to the director’s suggestion that he massage her breasts is so funny.  It’s a bit sappy, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to really liking the Colin Firth story line too.  That part of the story is in full blown chick flick mode but it’s clever and touching all the same. I normally wouldn’t admit to it but the story line got me on a deep down lovey dovey level that doesn’t surface very often.

There is one part of this film that I absolutely hate and it’s the Andrew Lincoln/Keira Knightley/Chiwetel Ejiofor story. The film starts with Knightley and Ejiofor getting married and Andrew Lincoln is Ejiofor’s best man and best friend.  Lincoln is secretly in love with Knightley though and the story culminates at the end with Lincoln secretly professing the love he knows he can never act on for Knightley to her. I think that Ejiofor would be justified in beating his best friend into the dirt after that scene and always regret that it doesn’t happen when I watch the film. What kind of man has feelings like that for his best friend’s wife and then has the nerve to tell her such after she is already married? It’s bad enough that he simply feels that way but it’s the kind of feeling you take to your grave.  His little moment in the end when he lets her read his feelings while his best friend sits unknowingly upstairs is shameful.  It’s cool to look back at this movie now that Andrew Lincoln has reached stardom as Rick Grimes on The Walking Deadbut it’s disappointing to see him play such a douche bag.  Yeah you can look at this movie and say things like “he didn’t actually do anything wrong” or “he never acted on his feelings” but he did.  His actions would only lead to an inevitable affair later down the road one way or another.  They could pick up this story line for a sequel and call it “Divorce Actually.”

There are plenty of other great story lines and performances in this movie as well.  I typically despise Hugh Grant but must admit he delivered a good performance in this movie as the British Prime Minister.  I also specifically like the casting of Billy Bob Thorton as the American President.  He seems to be a bit of a combination President merging qualities from both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.  A blasphemous thing to do politically from an American point of view but they can get away with it in a film set in Britain.  I have always been a big fan of Alan Rickman but his role in this movie isn’t the best.  It’s not because of his performance just because of how the role was written.  I feel bad for this guy really because any of us can fall victim to what he went through.  He doesn’t go out looking to start an affair but when a really attractive woman relentlessly pursues him he is powerless to stop it.  He is in the wrong to pursue at all, clearly, but like the previously mentioned American President he was just couldn’t stop himself in the face of a woman throwing herself at him.

Now that I have already mentioned doing this review briefly it didn’t take long for my thoughts to quickly add up.  The last thing I want to mention is the role of Liam Neeson.  A very nice story that he performs well in.  I have joked many times since seeing this movie that my wife is in love with Liam Neeson because of how she reacted to the part.  I’ll set the record straight now. Amber isn’t really in love with Liam Neeson, but this is the movie that started the joke I use to annoy her so.  I like Neeson but don’t understand why he has lowered himself to some of the silly type of film roles he takes now.  I’m specifically talking about Taken and its sequel.  I have heard so many people talk about how good those movies were and I want to look at all of them and ask “why???” Liam Neeson isn’t Jack Bauer or John Rambo and that’s all aside from the point that I think the time for movies like Taken was in the 90s.  Liam Neeson can do better. We see that he is capable of more in this movie specifically, and I literally think he is doing himself a disservice with his action roles.

This is a good movie and a perfect one to see during this holiday season.  There is no shortage of good Christmas films out there and this one belongs in the rotation of such.  When it comes to a chick flick, a guy could sit through a lot worse because not only does this movie not suck but it is quite funny.  So, gentlemen, if you want to please your spouses this holiday season with a film geared more toward her taste than yours then check this film out.  I know it is probably a really appetizing idea to see Christmas Vacation for the 100th time because it never gets old but this one will make her really happy and you will probably find yourself laughing much more than you would have expected.  This movie is without doubt worth your time to see.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I never wanted to watch this movie, let alone love it as much as I do. This is one of my absolute favorites. I really love how it takes different love stories all going on in the same area and ties the people together. The ultimate message of the story is that “love actually is all around us.”

loveactuallyLet’s montage another poster you guys! They managed to fit 10 different people on this poster. And on top of that they gift wrapped the poster. Ugh I hate it. I think it would have been prettier and more effective if it didn’t look like such a cheesy holiday movie poster. The home screen for the DVD is beautiful. It shows a sliced up heart moving in pieces. It is really a strong graphic. I think it would have suited here too. And these people have all already made such a name for themselves that their faces aren’t even needed. I think they could have listed them and it would have been just as effective as their faces.

I am sorry to have to say I hate this poster when I love the movie so much. It’s unfortunate, but true. The typography of the title is okay, not amazing, so at least it has that.

NEXT MOVIE: Machete (2010)

Intolerable Cruelty

Year: 2003
Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen
Written By: Several contributors including the Coen brothers

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie came out during a time when I had recently discovered the Coen brothers and thought they were the greatest duo in the business.  For that matter, I still think they are two of the greatest filmmakers out there but I do not think this was their best movie.  I think it is a good movie that features so much of what makes them great.  The elaborate set design, the witty dialogue, and the interesting characters that are always featured in their films are all in this one. The Coen brothers are also really great when it comes to casting their films.  This movie, like many of their others, is driven by the powerful performances of the actors they chose to cast.

The main two stars of this film are Catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney.  I have never been a fan of either really although I have enjoyed many of their movies. This movie was Zeta-Jone’s follow-up to her Academy Award winning role in Chicago. She showed an incredible amount of talent in Chicago so I cannot say she isn’t a good actress but I have always thought of her more as just a pretty face.  She is a very beautiful woman but I always felt that was all that kept her in the movies because outside of Chicago I don’t think she has had a stellar career. She plays her part in this movie well but I don’t know that there is any honor to be had in playing this role well.  She is a cruel and bloodsucking woman in this movie and this part is probably a big part of why I don’t care for her that much.  Clooney is good in this movie as he is good in many movies but I just cannot stand the man.  No matter what he does or how many good movies he makes I will never get over his horrible stint as Batman in one of the worst movies of all time, Batman & Robin. He destroyed the Batman franchise with that role, he should be ashamed of himself.

I think some of the other actors, even in the smallest of roles, manage to outshine the stars of the film a bit.  I think Cedric the Entertainer was hilarious as Gus Petch and really thought this was the beginning of great things to come from him. I haven’t seen him in anything lately but I do think he is really funny. Geoffrey Rush is an amazing actor who is as talented as they come.  I love the opening scene when he catches his wife having an affair.  He has such a great accent that works well for both humor or evil and I like how it gives him diversity as an actor. I am a fan of Richard Jenkins and he is in many Coen brothers movies.  I think he is really funny in this one playing the part of Freddie Bender.  I don’t necessarily think Billy Bob Thorton did anything spectacular in his role but he was a hot commodity at the time this movie came out.  I have never understood it but the guy was so popular. I guess a lot of it had to do with his relationship with Angelina Jolie, which was weird enough to keep everybody interested.

Watching this movie now I can see what it was that I liked about it ten years ago.  It is clever and well made.  Today I don’t really care for it quite as much because it is all about divorce.  There is nothing funny about divorce and I specifically don’t like movies about it.  This one mostly mocks the practice of money grubbing marriages though so I don’t know that it really qualifies the same way.  These are loveless marriages all about sex and philandering and greed.  It’s still divorce though and all these kinds of divorces do is sully something that is already dirty.

Despite that this is still a good movie and I think it is worth your time.  It may not be the best Coen bros’ movie but it is still a Coen Bros movie and this means there is something to it.  These guys are the best even when they aren’t at their best.  It’s been ten years since this movie came out now and I think there is a good chance in another ten years it will be a movie nobody remembers.  So check it out if you have a chance and let us know what you think.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I still love these guys, but this is by far my least favorite of the Coen Brothers movies. I love all of their films. They are witty and interesting tales. Like books made into incredible movies, except they wrote the books themselves and you can see every single detail that is their style throughout their films, much like a Tim Burton film. I just didn’t like the whole story. The movie was shot well and is interesting enough, but I didn’t really love the story of divorce lawyers and marrying for money. I figure that this story has already been told, and usually the Coens’ stories are so original.

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This is a very clean poster. Nothing really special. You have the movie tagline, followed by an off center picture of them, and then the billing and title at the bottom. I love a nice sans serif font, so I don’t hate this poster, it is actually really nice, but I just don’t think that it is anything special.

NEXT MOVIE: I, Robot (2004)

Bad Santa

Year: 2003
Directed By: Terry Zwigoff
Written By: Glenn Ficarra

RYAN’S REVIEW

I’ve said before that sometimes vulgarity can be a necessity for adults, in this case I think this movie will fill that need for an eternity if need be.  This movie goes a little over the top for 87 of its 91 minutes but you should know that going in, it lives up to its name.  I was in college when this movie came out and thought it was hilarious, as a father I feel a little different about it.  I still enjoy it now, but I feel bad about it.  This movie is dirtier than it needs to be and while it might be funny that doesn’t make it right.

I remember when this movie came out Billy Bob Thorton was considered really popular, this was either during or shortly after his relationship with Angelina Jolie.  It was a really weird union if I remember correctly, needless to say it received a lot of press.  Bernie Mac is here in top form.  He was an incredibly funny man who made all the movies he appeared in better.  He died much too young, I was very upset by the sudden loss.  Bernie Mac’s sudden death, along with the fact that John Ritter died during filming have led people to declare this movie cursed. Regardless of any curse or misfortune, the untimely loss of both of these men was unfortunate. Tony Cox is very funny in this movie as well, he is a talented actor.

This movie seemed funnier to me in college than it does to me now but I think it is validated by the fact that the Coen brothers were involved in the movie as Executive Producers. If you want to indulge in awful things and enjoy something dirty then check this movie out.  If it is Christmas time then start playing this movie when you want your parents to leave, but at some point during the season do turn it on after the kids have gone to sleep and you are sick of all the fake holiday spirit.  It’s sad, but in many ways Billy Bob Thorton’s Santa Claus is the true face of today’s Christmas.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Who doesn’t love this movie? WHO? I think this movie is a breath of fresh Christmas air. It is light and funny and finally gives us a Christmas movie that isn’t all filled with feelings. Well, okay maybe it does give you a little bit of feelings, but they aren’t the usual tidings of joy. I think this movie is perfect. They picked a perfect actor for the leading role and I think he epitomizes every Santa Claus in every mall of America. And also I would like to give a shout out and kudos to the lates John Ritter and Bernie Mac. Both were awesome and both were lost in untimely manners. This film is one that I MUST watch every Christmas. It is crude, it is wrong and it is perfect.

NEXT MOVIE: Balls of Fury (2007)