Justin Timberlake

Southland Tales

Year: 2006
Directed By: Richard Kelly
Written By: Richard Kelly

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie has been at the center of controversy in our home for nearly ten years. It is one of the greatest disagreements Amber and I have about a film. I think this is a brilliant though complicated movie while she calls it the worst movie she has ever seen.

Richard Kelly called this his “misunderstood child” and I think that pretty much sums it up for this movie. It’s an entirely misunderstood movie that doesn’t even have the support of some of its cast members. It’s a big idea with a low budget and I think that took away from the attention it received. Had it gotten a bigger release I think it would be the center of much greater controversy and conversation even today.

I won’t deny this movie is weird but I like that about it. I like the actors cast in strange roles, I like the randomness of it all and the ultimate point behind the film. I think this movie takes a strong stance against the current events in the mid 2000s and it was during that time that I saw the movie and connected with it. It’s an interesting vision of the future where America actually suffers consequences for its actions. The world has moved on from that time with a whole batch of new and interesting problems but what of the events following 9/11? The world got crazy in the aftermath but kept on turning nonetheless. There were plenty of movies that examined the situation but this one to date has probably been my favorite. A beautiful satire that never really found its voice, or audience for that matter.

Richard Kelly’s first film, Donnie Darko, became a cult classic and I was one of its biggest fans at one time. I thought it was so interesting and ahead of its time. I feel like Richard Kelly is too smart for his own good as a filmmaker. If I remember correctly his father worked for NASA and I have always thought that had to have some kind of influence on his films. There is always something highly scientific about his films. Whether it’s worm holes or fluid karma he has something thrown in there that will befuddle the masses. I myself do not know anything about the science in his movies, it could be all made up as far as I know, but I think it all sounds good enough to work in a movie. I have enjoyed all of Kelly’s movies but this one is by far my favorite.

I think the cast that was assembled for this movie was nothing short of spectacular. I am not really a fan of the actor Dwayne Johnson, but I think he is perfect in this movie. The Rock has climbed out of the ring and into the big arena but I don’t always like what he’s cooking these days. I’m not a fan of the Fast and Furious franchise, and despite all his success I just can’t ever take him seriously as an actor. I think this is one of the most interesting roles he has played and I really liked him in the part. His character is even more interesting upon multiple viewings of the movie because so many of the weird ticks make sense when you understand.

On the other hand, I have always been a big fan of Seann William Scott, which sucks because his career tanked after this movie. American Pie was my generation’s high school classic and Stifler will always be a character I tune in to see. Like The Rock, he too has a really interesting part in this movie that gets better the more you watch it. While I think Scott does well in this movie I tend to think his performance gets lost among the others because some were truly able to shine in a short amount of time.

My favorite stand out in this movie is Cheri Oteri. I used to love her on SNL and the excitable personality she brought to the comedy. Seeing her in this movie as a ruthless and violent villain has always appealed to me. In fact there were several actors in this movie cast specifically contrary to their known personas. Others include John Lovitz and Amy Poehler playing villains. Lovitz particularly is impressive as the cold and silent hitman.

I think Justin Timberlake is fantastic in this movie and love the drug induced scene that plays out like a music video. It’s so randomly placed in the movie and I love that about it. As a teenager I had a natural dislike for Timberlake, and anybody else involved in the boy band phase, but he has long since won me over with shear talent. I am amazed by any celebrity that can do it all. Timberlake is an incredible performer and has made a smooth transition into a good acting career. He has impressive range as an actor and continues to be a successful artist in the music industry. When I mention that this movie didn’t have the support of its own cast it was Timberlake I was referring to, who said something along the lines of having no idea what this movie was about.

Since I was a teenager I had a thing for Sarah Michelle Gellar. Not because of her popular television show but just because I was a horny teen who thought she was really hot. So naturally I liked her in the role of the sexy porn star with the aggressive business plan. I think Mandy Moore was really good as the WASPy wife of Boxer Santaros. It was interesting to see these two actresses of the same popular teen era to play adult roles and do so well.

Beyond the big names there are several pop culture icon actors hidden within the film. Such as the “inconceivable!” guy from The Princess Bride, the little medium from the original Poltergeist, and even Kevin Smith pops up for a small role. These three, among others, make up a rich cast of supporting characters. I always think the cast of any film can make or break it and say what you want about this one but it has a really cool cast.

This movie is not for everybody and I can’t recall finding anybody else who has even seen it, let alone liked it. I like it though and I think it stands out for several reasons. I’m not going to get overly political because those days are long behind me now but when this movie came out things were different for me. Back in the days when I was more opinionated this movie stood out to me because of its message and I still like that message today.

Due to the nature of this movie’s controversy within my own home I won’t say whether it is worth your time or not. The battlelines have long since been drawn and opinions are dug in despite my efforts to force conciliation. If you can look past the low budget and the weirdness within then I’d be really interested to know what anyone else thinks about this movie. If you’ve seen it before and you are still with me in this review leave us a comment or send a message and share your own thoughts. If nothing else this is an interesting movie that deserves a bit of discussion. 

NEXT MOVIE: South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut (1999)

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Alpha Dog

Year: 2006
Directed By: Nick Cassavetes
Written By: Nick Cassavetes

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie is based on the real life murder of Nicholas Markowitz in 2000 on the orders of drug dealer Jesse James Hollywood.  This was a real life story worthy of a movie but I am always skeptical about a movie “based on a true story.” There is no such thing as a movie that portrays actual events accurately however people always believe that they do.  Some movies that claimed to be based on actual events never happened at all, i.e. Fargo, The Strangers. Occasionally a movie does a better job, this is one of those.  I’m not saying this is an accurate representation of what really happened to Nicholas Markowitz, but from the little bit of research I have done I can see that Nick Cassavetes took the project seriously.  Films based on real life can try their best to be accurate but they always inevitably rewrite the story for their own purposes. For example, the victim having a three-way in the pool before his execution and the last-minute effort to call off the hit by Johnny Truelove.  Maybe these things actually happened, but it seems like it was added into the story on purpose, for effect.

This is not the greatest movie ever, but I enjoyed it.  There are several young promising actors who give very good performances in this film as well.  Anton Yelchin is on his way to a very successful career and he does hold up well as the centerpiece to this film.  I for one am in full favor of Justin Timberlake’s venture into films.  He is a very talented entertainer and I find his versatility impressive. One of the reasons I like this film is because of his performance.  This was one of his first films and I think he nailed it, it made me respect him more as an entertainer.  I am not a big fan of Ben Foster but he was awesome in this movie, real badass. Emile Hirsch probably deserves mention here but I am not a fan and I didn’t think his performance in this film was anything special. There are also the seasoned veterans who add their talent to the cast.  Bruce Willis can only make any movie better and Sharon Stone has a ferocity that doesn’t age.

This movie was made shortly after the events it portrays and that does tend to bother me under most circumstances.  I think that it’s ridiculous to make a movie before the entire story is told.  This movie for example, maybe there is a more interesting story in the life of Jesse James Hollywood during his life on the run in Brazil.  It’s not prudent to make this film so soon, nor was it to make a movie about Mark Zuckerberg when the guy is still in his 20s.  Is Hollywood so desperate for material that they will make a movie about part of a guy’s life? I like this movie, but I do think it screams of the lack of original ideas coming out of the movie industry these days. I wouldn’t set this film at the top of any “movies to watch” list but if you get the opportunity sit down and check it out, it’s worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is made so beautifully. It completely captures the characters it sets out to. The movie is set up to make you feel sorry for certain characters in the film. You know what they are doing, but there are some in the film (Justin Timberlake) that were portrayed in a light that somehow made him “better” than the others. He hung out with kid and got to know him a little bit. Because this movie is based around a true story it sucks you in a little bit more. People love stories that are based on real life, take reality television for example. People love it. You can relate to real life. I remember the first time I watched it and the desire at the end to see it end differently. It has a surprise ending that may not be expected if you didn’t know the whole story going into.I didn’t know the story. I really like the acting, the story and the portrayal. A definite must see movie.

NEXT MOVIE: American Beauty (1999)