John Turturro

Gung Ho

Year: 1986
Directed By: Ron Howard
Written By: Edwin Blum, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel

No trailer was available.

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a movie about culture clashes and I always enjoy those because they can teach us so much about the differences between us. In this movie it is the efficient and hardworking culture of Japan versus the “me first” attitude of the American culture. I think this is a great movie that doesn’t get enough recognition today. It has a timeless quality to it and it is a movie we can learn from so it should have more of a presence in our culture today.

I have been hearing a story my entire life that revolves around this movie. When it came out in 1986 my dad was managing a theater that it was playing in. My mother and grandmother had gone into to see the movie one night and I think it was during the baseball scene that my grandmother created an uproar in the theater. When George Wendt knocked down the Japanese player everybody in the theater started cheering and apparently it really bothered my grandmother, who has never feared to speak her mind. She stood up in the theater and let the cheering people know exactly what she thought of their reaction. It wasn’t an appropriate action in truth, what Wendt’s character did was cheap and shameful. Later during the movie my dad came to investigate what he had heard about and he sat down with my mom and grandmother and asked them to point out the crazy person who had made everybody angry. It became an awkward situation that both parents talked about for some time. Making it even funnier is that I hear a completely different versions of this story regularly from my long since divorced parents.

There is another story about this movie that I will also be telling for years to come. I got into Twitter a few months ago after a long time of refusing to give it a chance. I am not big on social networking and Twitter seemed like the stupidest form of the new communications form to me. I was wrong though, and I can admit that now. I got into Twitter specifically for this blog and we have gained a lot more traffic since I started. Well, about a month or so ago I saw that Ron Howard had retweeted someone who had tweeted him that they were watching one of his old movies. Well I checked the shelf and saw this movie coming up so I tweeted him that we were watching it soon. Howard retweeted me and responded that he really enjoyed making the film. Now I know that isn’t really a big deal in the Twitter world but it was a huge deal to me. I grew up watching Howard on The Andy Griffith Show and then on Happy Days because my dad was a huge fan of both shows. As a child Howard became even more endeared to me with films like Willow that I thought was the greatest thing ever as a young boy. I have lived most of my life in North Carolina and we all love Ron Howard down here. I actually go to Mt. Airy regularly for work and The Andy Griffith Show is still a big deal there. The loss of Andy recently was sad news all around and he will always be remembered fondly here, just as Ron Howard will always be thought of in high regard.

In this movie we see two very different cultures clash. When they begin they run into the typical problems between two peoples but by the end they learn to appreciate one another. The actions of the American are based mostly on arrogance and ignorance. Americans do not like foreign people coming in and telling them how to do things, or that they don’t do things the right way. There has always been a certain air of superiority that comes with being an American. It’s not our fault really; it’s just part of growing up in post WWII America. I like to think that we always have the ability to be better though and I think you can see that in this film. The Americans have their flaws but they do eventually earn the respect of the Japanese and vice versa. The American spirit to never give up in the face of adversity is a quality I think most of us are proud of, but we have been spoiled by freedom and prosperity. This movie may be twenty six years old now but I don’t know that the things we see in this movie have really changed much sad as that is. Of course I have always grown up in the south, maybe things are different in other parts of the country but I have my doubts. This movie is also still relevant today as it gives an idea of how long the automotive companies were a problem for America.  The economic crisis that has ensnared the U.S. in recent years can be directly tied to, among other things, the automotive industry.

I am a big fan of Michael Keaton and he does a great job in the lead role. Mimi Rodgers plays the female lead opposite Keaton and does well. This film also has a good supporting cast playing the American workers including John Turturro, George Wendt, and Ron Howard’s little brother Clint Howard. Clint Howard is often cast in his brother’s films; he also casts his parents frequently. I didn’t notice his mom in this one but you can see his dad, Rance Howard, as the town mayor that greats the Japanese when they arrive. The Japanese cast was all great as well and they actually reprised their roles on a short lived TV series based off the movie.

This is a movie I always enjoy watching and I think it is still relevant today. It was made by one of my all time favorite directors, starred an actor I really like, and told a story I learned from. I think this movie is more than worth your time and I would recommend it to anyone.

 
AMBER’S REVIEW

I think the first time I ever saw this movie was last year some time. I was surprised, like I usually am when we come to a movie that I have never seen before. I like to think that I have seen all of the movies that “we” own, but I am always surprised when we come across one that I haven’t. This was one that I wished I had been watching for a lot longer. I thoroughly enjoy this movie.

Ironically, this movie shows how Japanese and American cultures interact. I say ironically because we just reviewed Guess Who, which also revolves around race relations. Gung Ho shows how the cultures are different and alike and how those cultures value things differently. In Japanese culture, it is important to show your work ethic. That you are a contributing member of a team working toward a goal. Your honor is a stake. I think for Americans, life is more important outside of work. The fun times you have with friends and family. Work is mainly something that you do to make money in order to do the things that are more fun to do. We look at hard work differently. Neither one is better than the other and I think we can all learn to be better, adopting the positives from each other.

I really recommend this movie. I really enjoy almost everything Ron Howard makes and this one is no different.

NEXT MOVIE: Half Baked (1998)

Movies By Request

O Brother, Where Art Thou

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

RYAN’S REVIEW

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

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

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

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

The Big Lebowski

Year: 1998
Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen
Written By: Joel and Ethan Coen

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is my second favorite movie of all time.  I think it is a perfect movie. The performances are great, the screenplay is great, and it is made by a pair of the greatest filmmakers in the industry today. This may be my personal second favorite movie of all time but it is well-loved all around. There is actually an annual Lebowskifest for fans of the film which has gotten so big that the cast reunited for it this year and made an appearance. It is a great movie made by great movie makers, the Coen brothers, and it is their vision and creativity that make this film so great.

I was a history student in college when I fell in love with this film.  It’s because I watched it during that era of life that this film is so endeared to me.  It’s a smart movie and history plays a large part in the story really.  This movie is set at a specific time, during the First Gulf War.  The Gulf War was the first “major” military conflict the United States had entered since the fighting ended in Vietnam nearly 20 years prior. Here we have a story centered around a relic from the Vietnam era. The Dude is an old school hippy still doing his thing, getting high and bowling, enjoying a White Russian now and again.  He doesn’t have anything and doesn’t really care, he is just living life.  His best friend Walter Sobchek is a former soldier obviously still living in the past. After all “he didn’t watch his buddies die face down in the muck so that he could go on and live in the present.” His other friend Donnie the pacifist, he is out of his element. These are the men that represent different sects of American society during a very dramatic time in our history.  That isn’t what this movie is about though, this is just who the characters are.  These guys manage to get caught up in an unusual chain of events, something that happens in many Coen Brothers films.

The cast is fantastic in this movie, another Coen Brothers trademark.  Jeff Bridges is iconic as The Dude.  He is a good actor but at the end of his career I think this character will be the one that stands out the most.  That also goes for John Goodman, who is always great and is a Coen Brothers regular.  He is crazy and completely over the top as Walter Sobcheck and it is awesome.  There are many Coen Brother regulars in this film actually. Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Peter Stormare, and Jon Polito are some of the other Coen Brother regulars in this film.  Buscemi doesn’t stand out in this film because he is always in the background but he is the kind of actor that makes everything he is in a little bit better.  There are many directors that like to work with him on a regular basis and there is good reason for that.  Phillip Seymor Hoffman is overwhelmingly enthusiastic and very funny as the Big Lebowski’s assistant Bran. John Turturro is classic as the Jesus.  Sam Elliot provides another interesting character to the mix.  Tara Reid is young and sexy. Julianne Moore plays a very weird Maude Lebowski but she plays the part well.  Everybody is at there best in this film, the Coen Brothers have a great ability to get the best out of their actors.

When you watch this movie for the first time you really can’t be sure what will happen next and where it is all going.  When you watch it again you catch things you didn’t see the first time, and the more you watch it from then on the better it gets.  That is really what makes a movie special, when you can watch something over and over again and still find new things to love about it.  I have probably watched this movie over 100 times and I still think it is awesome when I watch it now.  This movie is more than worth your time, in fact it’s worth your money, attention, and respect.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This is a hard movie for me to write about. I love it so much, but I doubt that I can find the words to tell you how truly awesome this film is. Everyone I know who has seen this movie loves it, or at least likes it. I have never met anyone that has seen it and tells me that they hated it. This movie is just so perfectly made. I love the Coen Brothers so much and think that they make the most amazing films. They are filled with interesting story lines that haven’t been done before, they have humor and drama were needed and they usually end pretty perfectly.

The people in this film are what really make it. The movie wouldn’t have been the same without Jeff Bridges as the Dude. He will always be The Dude, or the Duderino, or Duder, what have you. Walter is played so well by the infamous and Coen Brothers loved John Goodman. I think he is definitely my favorite character in the movie. He plays his role with such ease, as if he really was that person, not even acting at all, it was so effortless. The others, Phillip Seymor-Hoffman, Juianne Moore, Tara Reid, John Turturro and of course Steve Buscemi all played their roles to the “t” and it makes for such an interesting movie.

The plot centers around the most relaxed person in the world, “The Dude” getting confused with another person, named “Lebowski” simply because they have the same last name. The story follows along what happens to him after his rug gets pissed on by the people assuming he is this “Lebowski” character.

Memorable Quotes:

“See what happens Larry? This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!” -Walter

Maude: “What do you do for recreation?”
The Dude: “Oh, the usual. I bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback.”

“Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules? Mark it zero!” -Walter

“What’s this day of rest shit? What’s this bullshit? I don’t fuckin’ care! It don’t matter to Jesus. But you’re not foolin’ me, man. You might fool the fucks in the league office, but you don’t fool Jesus. This bush league psyche-out stuff. Laughable, man – ha ha! I would have fucked you in the ass Saturday. I fuck you in the ass next Wednesday instead. Wooo! You got a date Wednesday, baby!” -The Jesus

NEXT MOVIE: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)