Jeff Daniels

Terms of Endearment

Year: 1983
Directed By: James L Brooks
Written By: Larry McMurty (novel) James L Brooks (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a movie that I would never normally go for and in fact had never even heard of it until about six years ago. I was listening to my favorite morning radio show when I heard about it. A funny conversation about the movie caught my attention and I sought out the film to see it for myself. When I saw this film for the first time I was really impressed with the drama of it all. The performances of Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine were very strong and I felt it qualified for a place on the shelf.

Years ago I was riding around listening to my favorite morning radio show, The Two Guys Named Chris. They had gotten a big celebrity interview with Jeff Daniels and spent all morning teasing it. As I drove along and listened to the host, Chris Kelly, interview Daniels he spent most of the time talking about this movie I had never heard of, Terms of Endearment. At one point he asked Daniels what the Oscars were like to which Daniels replied he didn’t know because he had never been invited. He apparently was the only actor not nominated for his role in the movie and it led to an awkward exchange that had me laughing all the way home.

With this interview leaving me laughing I had to see the movie that had amassed so many awards the year before I was born. Little did I know that while the interview left me laughing this movie would inspire very few laughs and in fact I’m unashamed to admit I cried my freaking eyes out. Watching it this time around was even worse because I find myself the head of a family of five and the heartache hits home so much harder.

I dare you to watch this movie and keep your eyes dry. If you manage it I’d question whether or not you actually have a soul because this is the type of movie to suck you in and then bring you to your knees emotionally. As we watched it I literally found myself trying to look away so I didn’t cry my eyes out in front of my wife, but I failed and the tears fell.

I bought this movie and added it to the collection after seeing it for the first time because of the emotional response it got out of me. As life carries on you can almost become numb to things over time but movies like this remind me that I’m still alive because it makes my emotions bleed through my eyes.

Another reason I bought this movie was because I simply marveled at Jack Nicholson. I have never been a fan, and I always admire an actor I don’t like that manages to win me over. One of my favorite lines in this movie is from the scene where Shirley MacLaine went to his house for the first time and mentioned that his home was a bit egotistical. It is decorated heavily with space and astronaut stuff. His reply was something like “there are only 100 astronauts in the whole fucking world and I’m one of them!” That he had a right to be egotistical was hilarious to me and I love that line and scene.

Months later….

OK so we started binging Game of Thrones and it took us a couple of months. Somewhere along the line this post got lost in the shuffle and I couldn’t begin to tack on a finisher now. I don’t even have the energy to read back through this sad and unfortunate film to proofread it so excuse me if there are typos in it. It’s a tough one, but I think it is definitely worth your time under the right circumstances.

NEXT MOVIE: Thank You for Smoking (2005)

 

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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)

Arachnophobia

Year: 1990
Directed By: Frank Marshall
Written By: Don Jakoby, Al Williams, and Wesley Strick

RYAN’S REVIEW

Before starting this film I look it up on IMDB and it is actually listed as comedy/sci-fi/thriller.  That’s an odd combination of categories but no where in there is horror.  I don’t know now if this movie is right for our horror month but phobia is in the title, that has to count for something right? No, I’m only kidding. I bought this movie specifically because Amber is terrified of spiders and I thought it would be a good idea to add it into what we were doing this month.  It’s always a good idea to choose to watch something your wife is terrified of……right? Maybe by the time this movie is over I will be much more scared of my wife than she is of this movie.

We are half way through this movie now and it is absolutely everything IMDB said it was.  While people are dying all around from spider bites the movie still manages to be light hearted.  It’s like a joke that occasionally throws in John Goodman as a punch line. It’s a damn good punch line if I will say so myself, John Goodman is a gem that we should all appreciate every time we have the opportunity.  To get back to the point, it seems I have made a horrible mistake in making this film part of our special month of Halloween.  Not only is this movie not a horror film, but it’s actually a comedy in some twisted way.  Of course I did succeed in one way, Amber is freaking out with fear. Although she is getting angrier at me with each passing spider scene and I know I am going to pay for this eventually.

I have seen this movie before but it has been quite a long time and it didn’t make enough of an impression on me for me to remember much about it.  I knew I was all wrong about what I thought the film was when the spider reached America. The spider climbs out of the coffin it came in and scared first the dog then the cat out of the examining room through a doggy door and onto the street.  Something about that scene seemed specifically intended to be humorous and I realized I had really made a big mistake. Later there was that scene where the two spiders meet and presumably fall in love.  I looked at my wife and wanted to laugh but her eyes weren’t filled with laughter at all.  She didn’t see the humor in that scene. When I looked in her eyes I saw only fear, and searing anger directed right at me.

Holy shit, John Goodman just said, “Oh my God they got the professor.” Obviously this movie is not to be taken seriously but nobody delivers that line better.  John Goodman is just so damn good, if nothing else he makes this whole movie worth wild.

The family is now climbing through a bathroom window to escape a never ending amount of swarming spiders. Is it really necessary to run or flee from something you can simply step on?   This movie is so silly but in the strangest way I have found myself sucked in and can’t look away.

OK Jeff Daniels has just had his climactic battle with the queen upon which she was electrified to death in the end.  It’s so awesome in the strangest way, both ridiculous and dramatic.  It seems this fight isn’t over though; there is still a king to be dealt with.  Uh oh, Jeff Daniels is trapped and the king is dodging the wine bottles he is throwing.  Is it going to come after him? Is he going to relive his oldest and scariest memory for real this time as an adult? Oh he has escaped and now has a spray paint can and lighter he is using as a blow torch. Could this man vs. spider fight be any more riveting? Wait for it, wait for it…..it’s happening right now, that king spider is crawling on him and he can’t move.  He’s a baby in his crib all over again but this time he is going to die.  The spider is taking it’s time, critical bad guy mistake……..paralysis conquered, Jeff Daniels launches king spider into the fire. It’s finally over, wait no it isn’t! The spider leaps from the fire and readies for another attack, this time in flames.  Jeff Daniels finally kills it by shooting it to death with a nail gun…..a nearly horrific moment, and here is John Goodman catching Jeff Daniels as he falls just in time to stop you from really feeling fear and remembering that this movie is kind of funny.

The movie ended on the most light hearted and happy go lucky note I may have ever seen.  I was so off base when I thought this was a horror film and I feel ridiculous for it now.  In the strangest way I actually liked this movie though and can’t say that I feel like I wasted my time.  It was silly but I think it was obviously meant to be like that.  The film was made by the Spielberg crew (Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall) so maybe it was made to mock Jaws in a certain way.  I don’t know this; it’s simply an idea because when I wrote about Jaws I discussed how the film had created an entire genre of movies about killer animals.  Regardless I found myself entertained by this movie and at the end of the day that is all that really matters.  Amber hated it with a passion and during the next few days I’m sure to find out just how much she hated it.  Halloween is a season for scary things and under these circumstances this comedy/sci-fi/thriller had just what was needed to scare her.  I’m going to call this a success despite my mistake and be happy with it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

EWH, EWH, EWH.

I fucking HATE spiders. I know that a lot of other people are like me too, but I can’t stand those little gross fuckers. This movie was ridiculous. It was weird and funny at times, but ultimately it was a really stupid movie. Having said that, it still creeped me out to a very uncomfortable degree. I hid my eyes and did that shudder thing you do when you see something just so so so so so so GROSS.I hate that Ryan made me watch this.

arachnophobiaThis poster is actually pretty nice. It’s very slightly asymmetrical, except when it comes to the moon and the dangling spider. It shows the little town that the movie takes place in and then gives you the image of a moon (creating the mood of the film) and a spider hanging from the web above its head. It forces you to look there. There is nothing really special about the title and in fact it reminds me of a lot of Stephen King typography. The colors are nice and for the most part so is the imagery, so I am actually about to say that I like this poster. I don’t shudder and hate it, so that’s saying a lot coming from me.

Dumb and Dumber

Year: 1994
Directed By: Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrelly
Written By: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly, and Bennett Yellin

RYAN’S REVIEW

This film has given me almost twenty years of laughter and I am still laughing as we watch it now.  It’s worked out well that we reached this movie now as there has been talk of a sequel recently in the news. For whatever reason Jim Carrey‘s star has been falling for some time and he is beginning to revisit his old characters in an effort to get back on top.  However what I heard was that Carrey was watching this film and had an idea for the sequel and called the Farrelly brothers about it. That is an idea that intrigues me and I am very hopeful for the next film.  I am a big Jim Carrey fan and I would really like to see him get back to superstardom.

This was one of the roles that turned Carrey into a superstar in the mid 90s.  It gave him a lot of freedom to just do his thing and be funny and that’s exactly what he did.  He has great chemistry with Jeff Daniels, who also brings a lot to the movie.  I am a big fan of Jeff Daniels too, who is starring in a new HBO series that I am really looking forward to.  I saw a trailer for the show that set quite an impression, you can check it out here if you like. Together Carrey and Daniels made a duo that will always be making people laugh. Word is that Daniels is on board for the sequel so it will be really cool to see what these guys can come up with when they try it again. Lauren Holly looks fantastic in this movie. Although, as I said in a recent post I am not really a fan of hers.

I used to think the Farrelly brothers were two of the funniest filmmakers out there but as I have gotten older I have felt differently.  While they have made many really funny films that I loved and laughed at in my adolescents. Their movies tend to always center on a character suffering from some sort of disability.  Be it a film like this making fun of stupid people, fat and ugly (Shallow Hal), disabled (Kingpin), Siamese twins (Stuck on You),  or even the mentally handicapped (There’s Something About Mary and Me, Myself, & Irene). As I have grown older and matured these don’t really seem like appropriate things to make fun of so I don’t hold these two in such high regard any longer. I still enjoy a couple of their films but these are not appropriate things to laugh at, and I think it sets a bad example for younger generations.

If you haven’t seen this movie then where have you been for the last eighteen years? It is a timeless comedy that people will always be laughing at. This is a good movie to check out now with the possibility of a new sequel being made.  I have never seen the prequel movie made with different people and I haven’t heard very many good things about it. This movie is definitely worth your time, it has non-stop laughs and a great soundtrack.  It is worth a lot of your time if truth be told.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This is one of those few movies that my Dad let us watch when we were growing up. I can almost recite this movie word for word. I love it. I think it is hilarious in a way that no other actors could achieve. It takes me back to a place of being a child and thinking that farting and setting a fire was the funniest thing on Earth. If you haven’t seen this movie, then you are probably living under a rock. Or you are 15. In either case you need to see this film before they do the next one. I think it might be really cool to see those guys re-visit this after so many years. I am really looking forward to it.

NEXT MOVIE: Edward Scissorhands (1990)