Heath Ledger

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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A Knight’s Tale

Year: 2001
Directed By: Brian Helgeland
Written By: Brian Helgeland

RYAN’S REVIEW

I feel the need to begin this one with a disclaimer; I know it’s a silly movie.  It came out when I was in high school and despite the fact that at the time I was already established as a movie snob I still liked it.  After all, this movie was specifically made for people my age and although my instincts told me to hate it I still became enamored with the fun of the film.  There is nothing serious about this movie but that is obvious from the very beginning when the crowd at the joust is chanting a Queen song.  I liked that they blended classic rock and contemporary comedy with the medieval theme and I think this movie is great for just sitting back and enjoying from time to time.

This movie has a great cast and I think they all have great chemistry that only makes their performances better.  Heath Ledger was a terrific actor that died much too young.  He was just coming into his own as an actor and had he lived might be one of the most sought after leading men of the day.  When this movie came out he was just beginning to really break out.  He had burst onto the scene with 10 Things I Hate About You and then co-starring with pre-crazy Mel Gibson in The Patriot. This movie was his first leading role and I think he was a great choice.  It’s a movie made for his target audience at the time which was specifically the age I was when the movie came out.  His entourage in the movie was made up of great actors as well and he had great chemistry with them.  This was the first movie I had ever seen Paul Bettany in and I really think he stole every scene he was in.  He brought life to what might have otherwise been a dismal movie and I have been a big fan ever since.  His career hasn’t been as big as I think it should be and that continues to confuse me. However I think Bettany is very talented and would really like to see more of him.  I think Alan Tudyk is very funny, especially in this film.  He plays the dumb guy that is quick to anger and I think he is hilarious.  When he is threatening Bettany with violence if he betrays them and can’t even find words to describe what he will do to him I laugh every time.  “PAIN, lots of pain!” is all he can say and I think it’s so funny.  Re-watching the movie this time I specifically spent a lot of time watching Mark Addy.  I like Addy and think he has been great in many movies but it’s funny to look back and watch him in a role like this after seeing him play King Robert on HBO’s Game of Thrones I thought Addy was excellent in that part and it’s interesting to see him in such a different role.

As for the other actors in this film I think Rufus Sewell was good enough as the bad guy.  I do think he is the weakest of all the actors in the movie but maybe it’s just because he is playing the guy nobody is supposed to like. He has that creepy eye thing going on that makes him a good villain, I can relate to his problem as my eyes tend to look the same way once I have had a few too many drinks. One thing I am still curious about twelve years later is “what’s up with Shannyn Sossamon?” This was her first role in a film and I thought the sky was the limit for her afterwards.  I don’t know that she does anything really flashy acting wise but she is such a beautiful woman I figured we would see her all over the place in time. Sadly it hasn’t happened and I don’t know why.  She is still out there but hasn’t done anything really significant in the longest time. Barely worth mentioning is the role of James Purefoy who has a small but significant role in the film.  I only really think he is worth mentioning because he is part of The Following right now and that’s gotten plenty of buzz.

This movie makes a lot of references to The Canterbury Tales but this is not The Knight’s Tale from the collection of stories.  However I still like the references because when the movie came out I was an English 4 Honors class and we spent a lot of time going over the work of Geoffrey Chaucer.  I like that Bettany plays the part of Chaucer and that he mentions immortalizing the summoner and the pardoner in fiction.  Which of course, anybody familiar with the work of Chaucer will remember those two were immortalized as wicked men. Though nothing about this movie is based in fact other than references to Chaucer and the Black Prince of Wales they did loosely make an effort.  There is chapter of Chaucer’s life in which nobody really knows what he was doing and in this story we are seeing what the writer imagined he might have been doing.  Totally fiction but something fun to play with as a writer and a lot of fun to watch as a viewer.

This movie received mixed reviews when it came out specifically because of its use of contemporary classic rock and 70’s style.  I think that was part of what made the movie so much fun though and I still enjoy watching it.  I might be partial to the movie because of my age when it came out but I still think there is plenty to enjoy about this one today. You can’t take it too seriously or you are doomed.  It’s worth your time because it gives us a chance to see an actor that we can’t see anymore and because Paul Bettany was really exceptional. This movie is a lot of fun and if you get an opportunity to see it you should hang out with it for a while and enjoy.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I have always liked this movie. I think it’s nice to have a movie that is set in this time period and is a funny take on it instead of serious one. I really miss that guy, Heath Ledger. He was so attractive and one hell of an actor.

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This isn’t a horrible poster. I don’t think that you really know what the movie is about at all, but not really in a good way. I just feel like the poster is trying to capitalize on Ledger’s beauty. The typography is nice, but not really Knight-like at all. I definitely like the movie more than this poster.

NEXT MOVIE: Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)

10 Things I Hate About You

Year: 1999
Directed By: Gil Junger
Written By: three different writers

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie is out of place in the DVD order because it is new.  I regularly buy new DVDs and the farther we get into the collection the more often we might get new movies that will take a place earlier in the order.  When that happens I intend to review that movie next and it will just be out of place in the blog.

Owning this movie was long overdue, I like it for several reasons.  It was while we were watching and reviewing the Jason Bourne movies that I decided to finally get it.  It was seeing Julia Stiles and wanting more that ultimately got this movie into our DVD collection. She has such an unique look that makes her beautiful and she is talented too.  This was her first movie and probably her most popular film, not including the Bourne movies where she is just a secondary supporting character.

There are other reasons this movie belonged in the collection too.  This was one of the movies I played on a regular basis at Action Video while I was working there.  It’s another one of those stupid high school films that came out when I was in high school but I always liked this one.  It is a funny movie and sets itself apart from the others in many ways.  I am also about to be the father of TWO daughters myself and have a new appreciation for a movie about two sisters.  I think Larry Miller is great as the father of those two sisters, he is really funny in this movie. This movie is also interesting because it gives us a look at three successful actors who were very young at the time.  Of course many of us knew Joseph Gordon-Levitt already from his long career on television as a child, this movie was part of his effort to branch out into films which is going much better lately.  Juila Stiles of course, although she does not work enough today.  I believe this was the first American film for Heath Ledger as well, and his star continued to rise until his untimely death almost ten years later. I was always a fan of Heath Ledger but for more of my thoughts on him see our post for The Dark Knight.

This movie gives me the nostalgic feeling of being 16 again, when all the problems I had only seemed important.  That makes it extra special to me but I still think this movie has a lot of value for anyone who wants to watch it.  This movie is worth your time and I would recommend it to anyone.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I cannot believe Ryan bought this movie. And yes he bought, not me. I didn’t even ask him to get it, I just noticed it came in the mail this past week. This movie takes me back to teenageland. Every time I watch it I think about where I was in my life. It is one of those thinkless movies about a guy who meets a girl under false pretenses, and falls in love with her and then loses her and then he has to find a way to win her back. It’s an okay movie, not the greatest teen flick ever, but what I find most interesting about it is that Ryan loves it and bought it himself.

The Dark Knight

Year: 2008
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Written By: David S. Goyer, Jonathon Nolan, and Christopher Nolan

RYAN’S REVIEW

A good sequel should be a bigger and better version of the original.  One would think that Batman Begins would present a challenge because it was such a great film in its own right.  It seems small in hindsight now, and that’s why The Dark Knight is so great.  It’s so overwhelmingly awesome that you forget how great the first film was.  Christopher Nolan has been on fire and this movie was just another great movie he’s made along the way.  Every movie he has made has been incredible, the only reason this movie was so much more successful was because people love Batman, just as people love Spiderman.  The reboot of Spiderman will probably make just as much money as the original trilogy when it is all said and done.

I remember when I heard Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker I could not believe it.  I had been hoping for Paul Bettany who had been rumored for the role and had just played a great villain in The Da Vinci Code.  Brokeback Mountain dominated jokes and cultural references around the time of the announcement so the choice wasn’t well received all around.  Then his death came out of no where only months before release, it was so sudden, it was almost too hard to believe it was true.  Then his performance hit the theater screens and he went from the Brokeback Mountain guy to a legend, a martyr for the movie industry just as James Dean was.  He received a post-mortem Academy Award that was well deserved but he probably never would have received had he lived. Heath Ledger was one of the greatest bad guys of all time, he actually scared me with his portrayal of the Joker, it was the master stroke of his career.  His death is unfortunate for many reasons but especially for this franchise because Nolan could have made this movie another 10 times with Ledger and Bale again and again and it would have continued to be incredible.

Ledger was so good in this movie that his performance tends to make you forget how good everyone else was. Bale is great again as Bruce Wayne and Batman, his Batman voice was again criticized. Maggie Gyllenhaal filled in nicely for Katie Holmes who turned down more money to reprise the role. Aaron Eckhart was great as Harvey Dent and then later as Two-Face. Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman all return to their respective roles. It is easy for actors to shine when they are part of something so great.  The Dark Knight is such an all around good film, and as always it starts with a great story.  The Nolans and Goyer came up with a great idea and they packed it full of action from beginning to end.  Nolan has a great talent for making something look and feel R-rated without it being so.  His movies have little profanity and little graphic violence. The consequences in all are great and the violence is there but it isn’t graphic.  No doubt that is a skill Warner Brothers has noticed and will continue taking advantage of for as long as possible.

You don’t need me to tell you that this movie was great, no doubt you have already heard that from others.  If you haven’t seen it you should see this and its predecessor.  They are both great films and I look forward to the closing of the trilogy.  The early teaser for next summer’s finale is short but offers a lot to look forward to.  Bane is the villain seen in the trailer, played by Tom Hardy.  The third installment will also feature Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard in roles that are probably misinformation.  Most likely they are playing the son and daughter of the villains in the first film, Carmine Falcone and Rhas Al Ghul. No matter who they are I have no doubt that Nolan will impress us again with his third Batman film. Liam Neeson is rumored to have a cameo return to the franchise which should make my wife happy.  Either way Rhas Al Ghul will return, Josh Pence has been cast as a younger version of the character, giving merit to the notion that Marion Cotillard is actually playing Talia Al Ghul. I have added the teaser trailer to this post following Amber’s review, if you haven’t seen it yet then definitely check it out.  The Dark Knight Rises will be awesome.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I LOVE this movie. This was a no questions asked, we are going to the theater on opening day to see this movie. The hype was already crazy for the movie because of the death of Heath Ledger. What a sad story. If he could have only seen what an amazing job he did all put together. He was one of the scariest bad guys of all times, hands down. If you didn’t know who he was before the film, I very much doubt you could have guessed it was him during the movie. This role, in my opinion, was his greatest. It was intense and thorough and he played the role with such precision.

The story line is very strong and leaves you wanting more in the end. The makeup was out of control amazing, especially for two-face. I know they probably used some computer animation for that, but still I thought it was believable and by far the craziest two-face I have ever seen.

My one and only problem for this entire film is the Batman voice that Christian Bale uses. I am not picking on him, it is true that I am not his biggest fan, but c’mon…that Batman voice was WAY to over the top, I really hope that he tones it down for the next one.This movie is worth watching over and over, and you can bet your bottom dollar we will be in line opening night for the next installment. I am becoming a Christopher Nolan believer.

NEXT MOVIE: Beetle Juice (1988)