Kirsten Dunst

Small Soldiers

Year: 1998
Directed By: Joe Dante
Written By: Four different people are credited with the writing of this film.

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a silly movie that only could have come out of the late 90s when technology was changing faster than the populace could keep up with it. A time when the internet was still young and it was vaguely plausible that the government made chips that could turn toys into tiny terminators. I was 16 when this movie came out and liked it enough despite how silly it was. When it made its way into our collection it did so for one reason. It was one of the last things Phil Hartman did before he died. In fact the movie was released after his death in 1998.

I was a big fan of Phil Hartman both from watching reruns of his time on Saturday Night Live and hearing him regularly as a voice on The Simpsons. He was such a talented comedian with such a fantastic voice. The circumstances of his death were so sudden and tragic. His death was so shocking that it floored the entire Hollywood community. He was shot to death as he slept by his wife, who had a sudden break down and committed suicide before police could take her into custody. Words can’t describe how unfortunate and shocking it was. The world was robbed of an exceptional entertainer for seemingly no reason and I still feel the loss if I watch The Simpsons and catch a Troy McClure episode.

This may be a silly movie but even into adulthood I am still a big fan of action figures. As a child I loved nothing more than working my imagination with my toys. Playing out various scenarios I had seen in movies or on TV I could occupy myself for hours with my action figures. I was a big fan He-Man and the Ninja Turtles until I graduated to G.I. Joes before discovering the X-Men toys and never quite growing out of those. To this day it is not unusual for me to display a cool toy I find in my office or around my home. I try to limit these things to my home but now as I sit at my desk at work I have a comic book Negan action figure standing before a mini replica of the Iron Throne right behind me.

So while this movie may be a bit childish I am still inclined to enjoy a film about action figures coming to life to do battle with one another. It’s even more up my alley as the toys in the movies were influenced by some of my favorites. The Gorgonites were heavily influenced by Masters of the Universe and the Commando Elite were obviously influenced by G.I. Joes.

I like the cast of this movie enough to think it noteworthy. Most of these characters didn’t mean much to me at the time but in hindsight it is fun to see younger versions of guys like David Cross and Kevin Dunn. I loved Cross as Tobias Funke on Arrested Development, and though I didn’t like him in this movie I thought Kevin Dunn was hilarious as the dad in the first Transformers film. Even before his awesome series Rescue Me I was a big fan of Denis Leary and I liked him in this film. Kirsten Dunst is nothing more than a typical female teenager in this film but I have always been a fan. Since she gave the fantastic performance as the child vampire in Interview with a Vampire, at some unreasonably young age she was able to stand toe to toe with the likes of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. It was impressive enough to set a lasting impression on me. There is also a small cameo here from the SNL star Cheri Oteri and I loved her because she always made me laugh.

I think Tommy Lee Jones was an awesome choice for the voice of Major Chip Hazard. The 90’s were the golden days for Jones and his voice lent some credibility to this silly film. Originally Director Joe Dante wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger and the cast of Predator to voice the Commando Elites but sadly that didn’t work out.  So they used Tommy Lee Jones as well as actors from The Dirty Dozen.

Also lending credibility with his voice was Frank Langella as the voice of Archer. The man who once brilliantly brought Skeletor to life in an equally silly movie, Masters of the Universe, is someone I can’t help but get behind. At nearly 80 years of age he is still going strong as an actor and that is impressive all by itself. He started acting in the mid 60s and is closing in on over 100 acting credits during his time.

This movie was directed by Joe Dante whose primary career was in television. He did manage to use this opportunity to drop several Easter Eggs from his most famous film within the movie. There are several references to Gremlins within the movie as Gizmo is both mentioned and seen throughout the film. I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of Joe Dante but he did helm a movie I sincerely love. Innerspace has been a life long favorite since childhood and I could never disregard something done by the creator of that film.

Before closing this out I think there is one more random fact about the movie that makes it noteworthy. This movie features the Led Zeppelin song Communication Breakdown. It’s noteworthy simply because it is so rare that Zeppelin songs appear in films. I am probably simply forgetting but I can only recall one other film that featured music from Zeppelin. Any Given Sunday had a really cool segment set to Fool in the Rain. If you can remember a movie that featured Zeppelin leave a comment because I would be interested in knowing.

This isn’t a movie I can ever recall recommending to anyone but I still think there is plenty here to make worth wild. If you are a grown up man child like myself who still has an affinity for action figures and toys then you might like this movie. If for no other reason it is worth your time simply to get a taste of a comedian and entertainer the world was robbed of far too soon. This isn’t an exceptional performance from Phil Hartman by any means but it’s what we were left with and that makes it worth it.

NEXT MOVIE: Smoking Aces (2006)

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with the Vampire

Year: 1994
Directed By: Neil Jordan
Written By: Anne Rice

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is one of my favorite movies of all time.  It doesn’t crack the top three but it falls into the immediate group that follows.  There are many movies I bonded with in my youth that helped me make it through the difficult times.  This is one of them.  This movie is about sadness and loneliness, about emotional torment, and a longing for something not quite understood.  It’s about feelings and frustrations I related to in my youth and it will always be important to me because of that.  I think the movie is well made, well acted, and tells a fascinating story.

I was fascinated by vampires before they became cliché in the aftermath of Twilight and True BloodThe power that comes with immortality and the ability to do anything is enough to infatuate any imaginative teenager.  This was one of my favorite movies and I went on to read the book, as well as the sequel The Vampire Lestat, I remember not liking the book for this film nearly enough but I thought the sequel was incredible.  I need to stress that I read these at a young age because there is something funny I will always remember about it.  When I was reading The Vampire Lestat I was practically unaware of things like bi-sexuality in men.  I remember telling people that the book was awesome but Anne Rice didn’t know anything about how men think and behave. In my youthful ignorance I assumed that because she was a woman she just had the wrong idea about men and how they are.  Naturally in adolescence I was under the hopeful and perverted impression that women might always engage in closer contact nonchalantly and done the things these men in the book did.  When I got older I realized that Lestat and Nicolas were simply French, and possibly homosexual.  I feel stupid about it now but still find humor in how unaware and ignorant I was then.

I think what makes this movie such a successful book adaptation is that the author wrote the screenplay herself.  I was a big fan of Anne Rice at one point and think her role in this film allowed her to enhance and alter the story in ways she hadn’t thought of before.  I have not read any of her work in some time and will admit that when I became enamored with her I was simply a fledgling reader.  It’s hard to give an accurate opinion about how I feel about her now but I thought she was awesome at one point.  I think she wrote a great screenplay to go along with a good book in Interview with the Vampire. I need to revisit it at some point as well but I remember The Vampire Lestat being epic and awesome.  I will eventually reread it one day and if you are a fan by all means offer words of encouragement to get me motivated to do it.  Talk me into it.

As far as the acting goes in this movie I think everybody did a great job but the best performance was given by the very young Kirsten Dunst.  She was only 11 or 12 when the movie was made yet gave such a powerful and compelling performance.  Her role was a hard one because she plays a character that reaches a very old age while trapped in the body of a child. I found myself wondering years later how she didn’t manage to utilize that talent more.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of her but I just thought we would see bigger things from her. I am no fan of Tom Cruise but can’t deny him when he is great.  If I remember correctly he was a big surprise being cast in the role and many doubted his ability.  I think he silenced most of his critics though, as he has continued to throughout his career.  I do not like him but even I have to admit he is damn good at what he does and is seemingly ageless these days. I am a fan of Brad Pitt but don’t think that he is really exceptional in this movie.  His story is the one being told and it makes him the most important character but I think he was out shined by the rest of the cast. I thought Antonio Banderas was great as the ancient and unpredictable Armand. I thought Stephen Rea was good as his main henchman Santiago too.  Christian Slater was on top of the world to an extent at this time and did a good job.  The role he played was initially intended to go to River Phoenix before his untimely death in 1993.  Keep an eye out too for a very young Thandie Newton playing the part of a beautiful slave.  She is such a beautiful woman who seemingly does not age; she has not graced the screen enough throughout her career.

I think this movie was a hit on all levels. Direction, writing, and acting were all top notch in my opinion and I think this is an awesome movie.  I think the eventual sequel that was made, Queen of the Damned, was possibly one of the worse movies I have ever seen and to this day don’t understand what anybody was thinking when they made it.  As a big fan of this movie I heavily anticipated the film as it was in production and have never been more disappointed.  I don’t know why they chose to make the third book into a film and not the second.  I had lost interest in the book series by the time I got to Queen of the Damned and didn’t know much about it, but had my doubts it could be as good as The Vampire Lestat. I don’t know why Anne Rice wasn’t utilized again as a screenwriter on the film but don’t know that it would have really made any difference.  The movie is notable only because it was filmed before the untimely death of pop singer Aaliyah. It was released post-mortem for her and did absolutely nothing to give her any kind of legacy.  Which is unfortunate because she had all the potential to become a really big star in her future.

This movie may be old news in today’s vampire madness but this is a real vampire movie.  I don’t pay attention to any of that crap put out these days.  Vampire are creatures of the night, they are killers, and predators.  Not something for a prepubescent girl to ooh and aah over.  Not only that, but the genre they have become today has just gone too far.  I didn’t read the book but need I say more than simply Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer? I think when we start rewriting history to incorporate vampires we are just reaching.  We can do better and I am just disappointed by what we have resorted to over the last several years.  True Blood is a stupid show that used to be OK and now I can’t stand it, the only consolation being that there is tons of nudity.  These days I am so sick of vampire crap I can’t stand it. 

If you find yourself equally as sick of vampires as me yet still want to watch a good old fashioned vampire flick then this is the movie for you.  It’s a good one that came out before vampires became overkill in the media.  This movie is important to me because of the nostalgic feeling it invokes for me but it is a great movie and more than worth your time as well.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Before Ryan would let me watch this movie with him, he made me read The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. It is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. I like her view of vampires. They don’t shine like effin diamonds in the sunlight, thank god. After reading that book we watched the movie, and I was blown away. I really love this movie. It is so interesting. I think for me it was better because you have to remember that this movie came out before the vampire craze of today. I still love it. You also get to see a little Kirsten Dunst kid vampire, which is awesome. She was amazing in this movie.

interview-with-the-vampire-movie-poster

The poster is kind of what you expect it to be for the time. I think the font is in the Trajan family, which really actually works. It has a dark eerie feeling which is nice and appropriate. Some of the text gets lost in the image and that always drives me crazy. But, overall…it’s not a bad poster.

NEXT MOVIE: Intolerable Cruelty

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Year: 2004
Directed By: Michel Gondry
Written By: Charlie Kaufman

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is one of the most interesting films I have ever seen, if not the most interesting. It is like no other movie ever, a true original delivered by one of the most out of the box writers out there.  Charlie Kaufman is on another level when it comes to writing – he is a genius.  This movie is a great example of how imaginative and different he is; it is such a crazy movie. He is more known for his other films like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, but this has always been my favorite of his films, with Adaptation being an extremely close second. On the DVD cover Peter Travers of Rolling Stones magazine is quoted describing this movie as “A smart, sexy, and seriously funny comedy.” That leads me to wonder if he actually saw the film.  I would hardly call it funny at all much less describe it as “a seriously funny comedy.” This movie is about love and loss, pain and heartache, and the emotional roller coaster relationships tend to be.  I find myself having difficulty trying to categorize it because it is so different than everything else. I considered leaving it as a lone “uncategorized” film before settling on just creating a new category for “love story,” but never once considered placing it in comedy.

This movie is more like a journey than a story. It’s a journey through the mind and memory that is made perfectly.   Charlie Kaufman really outdid himself with this one, and Michel Gondry did an excellent job funneling Kaufman’s ideas onto the screen. I am not familiar with Gondry but this movie alone makes me interested in anything else he has ever made.  He had a great cast to work with on this film as well.  I have always been a fan of Jim Carrey’s efforts to take more serious roles and I think this is his best one. He does an excellent job in this movie and he deserves more recognition for the role.  Opposite Carrey was Kate Winslet, who is such a wonderful actress.  She is beautiful even with those awful colors died in her hair and she brings her talents to the screen in top form.  She is probably one of the most natural actresses I have ever watched and she has the ability to really bring a character to life in unique ways.  Kirsten Dunst is on hand in this movie as well with a great scene where she is braless in a tank top.  I have always admired Dunst, although I think her greatest performance was her first one, when she was a little girl in Interview with a Vampire. Dunst doesn’t do enough movies of late and that is a shame, I have liked many of her films.  Elijah Wood was trying to distance himself from the role of Frodo Baggins around this time to avoid being typecast but I think he made a mistake choosing this one.  He plays such a creepy guy that I think it hurt his image. He then went on to play an even creepier guy in Sin CityI think Tom Wilkinson brought a lot to the film with his role as the doctor who specializes in erasing unwanted memories. Mark Ruffalo did a decent job but nothing distinguishing and I haven’t figured out quite what people see in him as an actor.

This movie has such an interesting story and we can all relate to it.  Who hasn’t been through a messy break-up they would love to forget.  Who hasn’t lost a loved one and been overwhelmed by the grief and heartache? When Carrey’s character finds out what his ex has done it hurts him, he feels the pain of that loss and can’t live with it.  He decides to go through the same procedure and realizes in the middle of it that he made a horrible mistake.  When we exit relationships the reasons for the break-up are the freshest things on our mind and it seems like erasing them would be an easy decision.  It comes with a cost though, Carrey soon gets to the memories that made him fall in love with Winslet and he isn’t willing to sacrifice those. He desperately does everything he can in order to save the love of his life from being erased but ultimately fails, sort of. I think the overall theme of the movie is that true love finds a way, and it does as we see.  Sometimes certain people belong together.  Relationships are a rocky business and they can sometimes take all our strength to persevere.  I think it takes an understanding of that in order to make a relationship work, and all too often people aren’t lucky enough to figure it out.

This movie taught me a lot about love, and even more about relationships.  In an interesting way it has always had a strange ability to make me fall so much more in love with my wife and that makes me appreciate it even more.  This movie doesn’t hold a spot in my favorites of all time but I do think it is one of the most amazing films I have ever seen.  I love this movie and encourage anybody I can to see it.  I know very few people who have seen it though so I would like to take the opportunity to encourage anybody that reads this to go out of their way to see it.  It starts off kind of slow but quickly turns into something completely different, it is an awesome movie that is more than worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ah, finally. We get to my list of all-time favorite movies. This is in my top five. I love this movie with all of my heart. I asked myself what I would say about this strange, original movie and here is what I think. I am not a huge fan of romantic comedies. I don’t really like the same ol’ same ol’ storyline that you can practically predict. Instead, I like the movie that shows what love is really like. This movie is a love story, but not in the classic way. It is a love story in a true way. The way that real love is nuts. You do things you never thought possible when you are in love. Love is absurd and makes people nuts. This film shows that.

This movie always makes me love Ryan more than I already do. I know how we were at first. All crazy in love. If there were such a technology such as memory erasing, we both would have done it already. But, in my heart I know without doubt we would find our way back together, somehow. It’s sappy, but it’s true. I love this movie so much because it reminds me how much I love Ryan.

Of course I think you should watch this film if you haven’t already. It is clever and witty and includes all the little details that make a movie worth watching and re-watching.

NEXT MOVIE: EuroTrip (2004)