Jeff Goldblum

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Year: 2004
Directed By: Wes Anderson
Written By: Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach

RYAN’S REVIEW

Wes Anderson has only made a handful of movies to date and I love nearly all of them but this one is without doubt my favorite.  His movies tend to be slower and have a very subtle type of comedy to them that just gets me every time. The film is dedicated to Jacques Cousteau and was made as both a tribute and caricature to his films. In this film we see Bill Murray in the lead role playing an apathetic and disheartened rival to “Cousteau and his cronies” that is on a mission for revenge of all things. Somewhere out there is the mysterious Jaguar Shark, that may or may not exist, who killed his right hand man. Things have fallen apart for him and he just flat out doesn’t care anymore.  As he goes on this adventure seeking revenge he encounters financial difficulties, pirates, a small mutiny, and a tragic loss along the way.

I am a huge fan of Bill Murray and think his performance in this film is one of the best he has ever had.  As Steve Zissou he plays a man who was once on top but has fallen from the limelight and is now laughable.  He has lost his drive and now lives carelessly and without inhibition. I love his “scientific purpose” for killing this Bigfoot of the sea. Revenge, a ridiculous notion to take out on a sea creature that may or may not exist, but it jives perfectly with the personality of Steve Zissou.  When Ned approaches him with the possibility of being his son he simply drifts away for a moment and smokes a joint on bow of the ship then returns to immediately pick right back up with the conversation.  The way he treats Ned is hilarious too.  When they sit down to have a drink together he treats this grown man as if he were a child, “no that’s mine, he doesn’t know anything about wine.” Paired with Zissou’s apathetic style is an arrogance that only a man who was once great can have.  I love when he renames Ned Kingsley Zissou and just goes forward with it even after Ned’s reservations. Zissou may be kind of a dick but he is ballsy and that makes him a badass. The scenes when he breaks free to fight the pirates and leads his crew in the rescue of the bond company stooge are awesome.  One of my favorite lines from the movie comes right after he fights off the pirates when he yells “you left your dog you idiots!” Yet Zissou later leaves the dog behind himself after rescuing the bond company stooge. All and all I love this guy; he’s like “The Dude” of the sea only not a pacifist and a lot crazier.  He is an awesome character and I don’t think any other actor out there could have brought him to life in quite the same way as Bill Murray.  Murray is truly a one of a kind artist and person. We must cherish every film he has left in him and with hope there are many more to come.

Wes Anderson uses so many of the same actors on a regular basis that he has practically developed his own troupe.  Owen Wilson is one of his regulars and turns in a great performance as Ned, who may or may not be Steve Zissou’s son.  I think his accent in the film is perfect, it has a draw and twang to it that really adds humor to the things he says.  I’ve read that he modeled the accent after that of Will Patton.  I can see how he tried but there is still a nasally sound to it that makes it sound altogether different from Patton.  Willem Dafoe plays the part of Zissou’s most loyal crewman Klaus, who struggles with the relationship developing between Steve and Ned possibly because he is a closet homosexual.  I think Klaus is awesome and I love the scene in which he confronts Ned and smacks him across the face. Willem Dafoe was everywhere for a while right at the turn of the century but I haven’t seen him in anything significant in quite a while.  That’s disappointing because I think he is a great actor.  He has a role in Anderson’s next movie and I look forward to it.

I am not a big fan of Anjelica Huston but Wes Anderson obviously is because he casts her in everything.  I don’t know this but if I was a betting man I’d put money on the notion that she probably reminds him of his mother as that is the role he usually casts her in.  She has a look that conveys intelligence and dignity and she brings that quality to every role she plays in his films.  As Eleanor Zissou, Etheline Tenembaum, and as the estranged mother Patricia from Darjeeling Limited she is always a strong, wise, and independent woman.  I’m not a big fan because personally I have always thought she looked kind of evil but her roles in Anderson’s film have really made me come around to liking her more.

I’ve also never been a fan of Jeff Goldblum, at least not as a leading man anyway.  I do like him much more when he plays a secondary character like he does in this film as Zissou’s rival Alistair Hennessey. I think Goldblum has plenty of great scenes in this movie but my favorite is when he meets Zissou on the deck of his ship.  When he casually asks the dogs name before walking over and smacking the shit out of him is so funny.  I like the way asks its name before hitting it and the way he points at it as he stares it down afterwards.  It conveys power from a man who has succeeded so much more than his rival has financially.  Cate Blanchett is a fantastic actress and has a very interesting role in this movie.  Blanchett hadn’t even met her co-stars when she walked onto set and filmed her first scene with them on the beach looking at the glowing Man-of-wars.  She is that talented of an actress though, she’s a pro who can show up and drop a great performance just like that.

It was made out to be a big deal that Bud Cort was cast in the movie but I don’t buy it.  Now I’m not saying he didn’t do a good job because I thought he was excellent as the bond company stooge.  I love the scene after the rescue on the Belafonte when Hennessey asks how they got all his equipment and Cort replies “we fucking stole it,” hilarious.  I simply won’t give Cort any additional credit because I specifically hated the film he is most famous for.  I hear all the time about how it’s a classic and what not but I can’t see it.  As far as I am concerned Harold and Maude is a bleak and demented movie.  Its dark comedy on suicide never really appealed to me and I think the relationship between the two title characters is gross.  You can say love holds no bars but screw that I’m telling you there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to age difference as it pertains to sexual relations.

The ending to this film is so powerful.  When everyone finally sees the Jaguar shark it proves that Zissou wasn’t crazy, and even he himself questioned that at times.  Throughout the entire film he never seems certain that there is actually anything out there but finding it validates him as a person.  He gets emotional for the only time in the film because he realizes he isn’t crazy and he still has the talents he thought he had lost.  I think in that moment he finally allows himself to feel the loss of his best friend Esteban and of his possible son Ned.  It is touching to see this stoic and apathetic character actually feel something. Following that scene is the Zissou sitting outside alone as the audience applauds his newest film.  As he is joined by his crew he walks away triumphantly to whatever new adventure lay before him.  It is an incredible ending to an awesome movie.

This is a movie I usually hesitate to recommend to people because I never know how other people will take Wes Anderson.  I love his films and wholeheartedly look forward to every one he makes but most of the people I talk to don’t really like his films.  Despite that I’m going to say this film is without doubt worth your time because it is one of my favorites.  If you have seen it before please leave a comment to share your own thoughts, I am always interested to hear what other people have to say about a film I don’t know many who have watched.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is absurdly ridiculous in all the right ways. Of course by now you should know, and understand that we really like Wes Anderson. He has an original style and look and I don’t think any other movie carries it as well as this one. It was such a strange, strange film yet so interesting you can’t look away. And furthermore, I will watch anything that has Bill Murray in it. (Side note about Bill Murray. Have we ever mentioned we live in North Carolina? Every year we go down to SC around Folly Beach and vacation and visit some friends. Guess who also vacations around the area? That’s right Bill Murray. And legend has it that he is extremely nice in real life.)

lifeaquatic

This is probably the best I have seen where the designer tried to fit the whole fucking cast in there. I still hate it. But at least there are no floating heads in the ocean surrounding the pod. I have to say I am really disappointed with this poster. I think that they had such an opportunity to do something really cool because of the design and style of Wes Anderson. Boo, I am not impressed with this poster at all. One of my least favorites simply because of the opportunities lost on it.

NEXT MOVIE: Life of Brian (1979)

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The Lost World

Year: 1997
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Michael Crichton (book) David Koepp (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I think this is a terrific sequel.  It manages to up the ante up on everything but star power.  This continuation of the story from the first film is bigger, more intense, and action packed.  Although it doesn’t feature any big name stars and it is a bit too influenced by King Kong. I remember dismissing this movie as simply alright when it first came out but will never forget when I revisited it in college and was blown away.  Nobody knows how to bring it quite like Spielberg and he lays out such great action sequences. This movie is not very highly rated but I think it is really good.  It’s such a bigger story than we saw in the first one and there is so much more dinosaur action.

I have read the book that this movie was adapted from but admittedly don’t remember it as well as the first one.  The book was written after the success of the first film and at the encouragement of Spielberg.  Michael Crichton didn’t want to write a sequel initially but relented to public demand over time.  From what I remember this movie does not follow the book very closely.  Most notably there is no trip to the US where a T-Rex destroys San Diego. What I remember from the book more than anything was how it was nonstop action almost to a fault, like all Crichton books I have read. Don’t get me wrong I like them and think Crichton was a terrific writer but his books can be exhausting.

I do think the story from the book was a better one than what we see in the film. In the book the rival company from the first film comes back into play.  I don’t understand why they did it differently for the film.  In the first film we see Dodson meet with Wayne Knight’s character and practically orchestrates the entire problem that goes down at the park. Yet in this film we simply see the company of Ingen having internal problems and trying to make as much money from the situation as possible.

One thing I think was really cool about this movie was that it showed us “Compies.” Compsognathus are those little dinosaurs that we didn’t see at all in the first film.  They are really prevalent in the first book.  In the book they are quite a surprise as they come in handy disposing of dino fecal matter.  Also, if I remember correctly I think John Hammond in the book is actually eaten by Compies when he falls down and injures himself.  This movie begins with the them attacking that little girl and I think it is significant for the film. It’s a new dinosaur to the movie franchise that seems small and insignificant but proves to be more dangerous in numbers.  I am a big fan of Peter Stormare from his work in Fargo but saw his death by Compies a fitting end in this movie.

The biggest flaw of this movie I think, aside from the trip to San Diego, was the fact that it required Jeff Goldblum to be the star.  I thought he was great in the first film as Ian Malcolm but he was simply a side character in that one.  In this movie he just gets on my nerves more often than not.  Naturally he is scared but does he have to bitch and moan about it for the whole film? Despite how good of an actress she is I have never really been a fan of Julianne Moore.  She is good in this movie though and has one of the most gut wrenching scenes in the film.  When she has fallen on the glass and it’s slowly breaking beneath her I once found myself forgetting to breath while watching it. One of the best roles in the film goes to Vince Vaughn and I think it is a shame that his character’s role is over before the end of the movie. This was before Vince Vaughn became a really recognizable name and I think it’s to the credit of Spielberg for noticing good talent that he is in this movie.  Spielberg had to screen a copy of Swingers before allowing the Jaws theme to be allowed in the movie and after seeing it decided to cast Vaughn in this movie.  Another bright spot in the cast is that of Pete Postlethwaite who is great as the intimidating group leader set on hunting a T-Rex.  Something about his determination and the way he carries himself tells you that this guy will have no problem hunting and killing the greatest predator of all time.  As things go on these islands though, there is no end to the problems everyone is unprepared for.

I think this movie sports many great scenes and sequences that make it worth wild.  The T-Rex attack on the groups vehicle is incredible, and the pursuit of the T-Rex afterwards will keep you on the edge of your seat.  I love when all the survivors run into the velociraptor zone and are quickly picked off by the cunning pack hunters. I love the overhead shot of all the men running through the tall grass while the raptors descend on them from multiple sides.  However, as great as these scenes are, they seem moot after the closing of the film.  I think the closing takes a lot away from the movie and had a lot to do with why the movie wasn’t as well received.  Having a T-Rex on the loose in downtown and suburban San Diego was a little ridiculous and too much like what we see in King Kong/Godzilla movies.  Not only that but I just don’t think it would be that difficult to dispatch that dinosaur on the lose within our own country.  Where are the authorities to shoot the thing down? It’s just a giant lizard and it’s not indestructible yet it’s just roaming through the city unabashed and allowed to cause all the destruction it can.

I haven’t enjoyed this movie as much this time around but it still has plenty of aspects that make it worth your time.  I think the movie would have been better had it followed the book more closely but it is good enough I suppose.  It can’t live up to the original film but nothing ever will.  No movie about dinosaurs can ever be good enough to excite us the way seeing them the first time did.  They have been trying to continue this franchise for over ten years now and there is still occasional talk about a fourth film but nothing they can do can ever recapture what they achieved the first time.  The third movie in the franchise literally did everything it could in an effort to be successful but still didn’t even live up to this one much less the first one.  However I still think this movie is good enough to tell you that it’s worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I definitely like the first one way better than this sequel. I still really like a good action flick that involves dinosaurs. I couldn’t believe that anyone wouldn’t like a movie that involves a bunch of dangerous dinosaurs chasing people around.

lostworld

Here is the poster for this sequel, and if you can remember from the last one, I was a big fan. And I really like this poster too. I normally don’t like most of the designs that came out in the 90s, but both of these posters are really working for me. They are simple and iconic, and in my opinion that is exactly what a successful movie poster does.

NEXT MOVIE: Jurassic Park III (2001)

Jurassic Park

Year: 1993
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Michael Crichton and David Koepp

RYAN’S REVIEW

I was nine years old when this movie came out in 1993.  At the time my father was the manager at the Uptown Theater in downtown Washington D.C. and I was there when this movie premiered there. The theater only had one huge screen with a large auditorium and a balcony. I sat on the first row of the balcony to watch the movie and for two hours and seven minutes my mind was blown.  It is still to this day the largest screen I ever watched a movie on and I don’t know that anything I had ever seen as a nine year old was more exciting than this movie about dinosaurs. I’ll never forget how I felt after seeing it for the first time, it was probably pivotal at my age in my development as a movie fan.  I was so exhilarated; I remember immediately thinking about how awesome the inevitable sequel would be.  I had suddenly discovered the coolest thing that had ever existed, the velociraptor, and here I had spent nine whole years thinking it was the T-Rex.

As I grew up I only came to love this movie more as I was able to understand more with my growing maturity.  Eventually I read the book and was at first disappointed by how different it was but by the end came to love it as well.  Michael Crichton is a good writer but he tends to wear me out as a reader sometimes.  His books are fascinating and always have exciting stories but they are just so nonstop with danger around every corner.  Things never cool down and the danger around every corner can sometimes be exhausting.  Crichton of course was already a very successful writer long before he conceived the idea for this story. So successful that when he approached movie studios with nothing more than the idea for the book he was immediately offered tons of money for film rights.  Four studios fought over the right to make the film, each with a director in mind to attach to the project. So Crichton had his pick of who would make his book into a film even before he wrote it.  He ultimately chose Universal Studios who had Steven Spielberg penciled in to direct and I think we can all agree he made the right choice.

Nobody captures excitement and adventure quite like Steven Spielberg and his people.  He brought along David Koepp to work on the script, John Williams to work up the musical score, and Kathleen Kennedy to produce.  This group of people can almost be likened to a mathematical equation that equals success because they have created it time and time again.  They know how to make great and long lasting movies and did that again when they got together for this one.  Spielberg even tapped one of his other resources for this film by bringing on George Lucas to finish direction when it came time for Spielberg to work on his next film, Schindler’s List. I mentioned in a previous post that Spielberg had a great knack for growing as a filmmaker and adapting to the times and new techniques.  He did that with this movie as the technology used to bring all the dinosaurs to life was very new at the time.

I have always liked the cast of this movie although none of the actors used were really big names.  Sam Neill has never been much of a leading man but I thought he was great in the part.  Most of the other films I have seen Neill in have been horror films and he is awesome in those. The number one that comes to mind is In the Mouth of Madness which I remember being particularly scary. Laura Dern was the female lead and she is another I would not call a leading actress.  Although she has starred in the lead of her own television show on HBO, EnlightenedAlthough the show has been cancelled after two seasons.  I haven’t seen much of it but Amber seemed really interested at one time.  Jeff Goldblum has a large enough role to almost be considered a lead and he probably had the most recognizable name among the cast. I have never been a fan of Goldblum but I think he fit the role of Ian Malcolm really well.  The only problem with him in the role was it required him to be the lead actor in the sequel. I think they could have been more prudent in choosing, but they didn’t know that at the time because the sequel hadn’t been written yet.  Of his two rounds playing the part I think we saw him do better in this film.

I think the strength of this cast lies in all the supporting roles because they had many good people filling in the smaller roles.  Samuel L. Jackson was relatively unknown when he was in this movie.  It wouldn’t be till the following year when he was in Pulp Fiction that his star really began to rise.  I thought he was great as the chain smoking park technician in this movie.  I also particularly like Wayne Knight’s role in the film.  This was probably the highest point in Knight’s career as he was starting to get plenty of face time on Seinfeld as Newman.  Long after Seinfeld Knight saw a dip in his career and as far as I know it is all but over now.  I read an article a few years back that he had lost A LOT of weight. So much so that he was barely recognizable as all his time in the public eye was as such a heavy man.  I read that he was having a hard time getting roles because of his weight loss but he was happier to be in shape and living a healthier life.  I think that is great for him and I hope Wayne Knight is still keeping it up and doing well, but I miss him in parts like this.  Richard Attenborough also brought a lot to the film in his role as the park’s creator.  Although his portrayal in the film is much different than it was in the book.  In the book John Hammond was a real ass and I think all readers were really pleased when he is eaten by some of the smaller dinosaurs in the park.  Of course in the film he lives and not only that but he has that great grandfatherly quality that Attenborough has himself so he is very likable. Joseph Mazzello also played a great part but he has had a hard time transitioning his success as a child into anything else.  He is still out there popping up here and there but hasn’t done much of any significance.

This movie will always be important to me for more reasons than how awesome it might have been.  I will never forget the premier of the film when I was there at the Uptown in 1993.  I don’t remember seeing them all specifically but Jeff Goldblum was there, both of the two child actors, Laura Dern maybe, and I did see Muhammad Ali who attended.  Although I didn’t see him I know that Vice President Al Gore was there as well because I met a Secret Service agent that was there to guard him.  While waiting for the movie to start the VP had taken over my father’s office and when I went there looking for my dad I found my father wasn’t in there but there was a man in a suit standing guard outside.  He was a really cool guy who humored my fascination in what he did with plenty of conversation.  I will never forget it for as long as I live because at nine years he was quite possibly the coolest guy I had ever met in my entire life.  He showed me his gun and even took the clip out to show me the bullets he used.  I doubt this was something he was supposed to or even allowed to do but he left such an impression on me.  I was quite lucky to meet one who was nice to me instead of being a hardass, as I imagine most Secret Service members are and should be.

I don’t have to tell you anything more about this movie because you most likely already have plenty of your own ideas about it.  This is one of those films that simply everybody saw at the time because it was that popular.  Both the film and the book are worth your time and I would suggest investing some in both of them.  Universal Studios is still trying to harness the bank-ability of this film franchise and there is always talk of a fourth film in the works.  Over the year I have heard all kind of ideas thrown out there, even one as wild as velociraptors equipped with laser technology that allows them to fight humans in battle.  I doubt a film like that will ever be made but I am sure we will eventually see a fourth film in the franchise.  Will it match up to this one? Of course not but that doesn’t mean that somebody else won’t pick up the torch and do something significant with it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This classic movie is a movie that everyone should have seen by now. Who doesn’t love a good story about dinosaurs? I really like this movie. I still don’t mind watching it when it comes on television. It’s a fun ride and a classic flick.

jurassicpark

I really think this is a successful poster. Who needs to show a poster filled with dinosaurs? I love that they decided to simply use the park logo as the focus for this poster. It tells you everything that you need to know. This logo is still iconic today, just as I said about the Ghostbusters logo. People automatically know what this is when they see it. Overall, I think this poster deserves a big kudos. It took a risk being so simplistic, but this works on so many levels. Love it.

NEXT MOVIE: The Lost World (1997)

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.