Maggie Gyllenhaal

Stranger Than Fiction

Year: 2006
Directed By: Marc Forster
Written By: Zach Helm

RYAN’S REVIEW

I don’t really know what to expect from this one. Sometimes I see a movie that leaves an impression on me and I add it to the collection immediately. Occasionally those movies go unwatched after hitting the shelf and that’s the case with this one. I saw it once at my brothers house because it was part of his collection. I think I was really caught off guard by the performance of Will Ferrell. I was not a fan and thought most of what he did was stupid. Seeing him in a serious movie for the first time left the impression that got it added to the collective. Now, I’m sitting down to watch it for the first time in maybe six or seven years, let’s see if that impression was correct or not.

I’m immediately sucked in with this story about Harold and his watch. It’s interesting and gets more so when Harold begins to hear the narration of his life. I was caught off guard by the idea of taking Will Ferrell seriously. I don’t dislike him, on the contrary I think he is quite talented, but some people don’t belong on the center stage. Some people are better as an addition but suffer when they’re the star. I think Ferrell was hilarious in films like Old School and Zoolander but when given the lead in movies like Talladega Nights or Step Brothers he resorts to a weak and ridiculous type of comedy. Here on the other hand he is playing a role where he isn’t trying too hard to be funny because he’s not supposed to be funny at all.

Emma Thompson has such a great reading voice. I can’t say I really see a lot of her work as she specializes in a different type of film but she really does have a great voice. She recently was the voice of Mrs. Potts in Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast. Don’t know if it was actually her singing the big numbers but if it was it only proves my point. Regardless, her voice makes her a perfect narrator for this film. Her imagination’s efforts to figure out death make for some scenes that really catch you off guard and keep the movie interesting.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is specifically cute in this movie. She plays the sassy tattooed girl that gets the attention and admiration of the uptight IRS agent. You kind of feel sorry for him because she is so mean to him but then you remember he’s an IRS auditor. Nobody is thrilled to see those guys, gotta be hard to find love on the job. I like when she finally comes around because it’s a sweet thing between her and Harold.

“Don’t move the plot and see if the plot moves you.” Dustin Hoffman’s words can serve as good advice to all of us now and again. We are all part of a story after all, the story of life. Sometimes in life you move the plot and sometimes the plot moves you. As Harold finds out to his apartment’s woe. He isn’t exactly sure it’s plot, but everything in life is isn’t it? This movie is about life, in a nutshell. I find that life is easier when you try to avoid the plot, but inevitably it will find you.

Harold tries to cling to life while the narrator tries to figure out how to kill  him. Such an interesting dynamic. He has found love and has a whole new reason to live. I love these scenes of Will Ferrell running as he tries desperately to reach the author of his life. He should run more often, he could give Tom Cruise a run for his money. It’s so wild and out of the box for them to speak on the phone. It only gets better when they meet in person.

I can’t say enough about the acting of Will Ferrell in this movie. This movie was over ten years ago and I don’t understand why he hasn’t exercised this talent more. In this movie he goes toe to toe with the acting legend Dustin Hoffman and he holds his own. When Hoffman tells him to accept his fate it’s a magnificent scene. He understands and he gets it. The fact that his character is willing to make the sacrifice makes him all the more lovable.

This is an amazing movie. I feel like I’d need to watch it five times at least to really write about it. It says so much about life and fate and creativity. I love so much about this movie and I love that Harold survives in the end.

The watch is what keeps him alive, that’s beautiful. That’s a fantastic ending and on par with the author’s usual death ending. This is a wonderful movie and I just love it. The love story that lives on with Harold’s life brings tears to my eyes. Didn’t see that coming but it makes me appreciate this movie that much more.

This is a wonderful movie that can hit you in the heart and make you appreciate the creativity of writers. It’s a thoughtfully crafted story that leaves an impression. Will Ferrell should do more movie like this because he really has a talent for it. I think this movie is not only worth your time but worth plenty of your time. This movie is worth multiple views.

NEXT MOVIE: Street Kings (2008)

Donnie Darko

Year: 2001
Directed By: Richard Kelly
Written By: Richard Kelly

RYAN’S REVIEW

What an interesting film this is. It’s a bit strange and to be perfectly honest I have never really been clear on what is going on in the end but I have always liked it nonetheless.  All of the Richard Kelly  movies I have seen have been like this.  They are bizarre but intriguing in an appealing way.  So much of the movies being put out there sometimes are more of the same. So it’s refreshing to see a truly original and different idea. I think I identified with the messages and meanings of this film more in my youth but I still enjoy it today.

Time travel and worm holes are not ideas usually blended in with the typical high school film but that’s part of what makes this one exceptional.  Throw in a creepy ass bunny, a badass argument over the sexuality of smurfs, and teen drug use into the pot and you have taken a weird high school film to the next level. I think the movie had a great cast and an awesome soundtrack.  Those things can make or break any movie and they make this movie better.  This is a marquee role for Jake Gyllenhaal but he is continuing to develop a long and distinguished career.  He is fantastic in this part and he carries the film on his shoulders.  I think his actual sister, Maggie Gyllenhaal, was a great choice to play his sister in the film. They have great natural chemistry with one another that Kelly was able to use to his advantage. I like Patrick Swayze’s part in the film, and better yet how Donnie Darko gets the best of him.  I think Beth Grant was exceptional in the movie, we all know a person like the character she plays and she plays it well. This was the first feature film for Seth Rogen, who plays the lackey of the main bully in the school. Drew Barrymore owns the production company that put this movie in the theaters and it was her direct involvement that got the movie made but I think she overacts throughout the film. What kind of douche bag teacher tells a new girl to pick a seat next to the boy that she likes? There are much better ways to play the part of the “cool teacher.” Noah Wyle plays a big part but who the hell is Noah Wyle right? I think big things were expected from him fifteen years ago but nothing ever came of it.

Richard Kelly is unique, to say the least.  His movies have plot threads that you won’t find in anything else and they are very imaginative. If I remember correctly his father worked for NASA, and I think that explains the complexity of his stories somehow.  He likes to use wormholes and time travel and other types of theoretical science that typical people don’t know anything about. He blends them with really personal and relatable stories though, and Donnie Darko is a perfect example of that. Typical suburban household with a kid on pills but in this house there is also clairvoyance, time travel, wormholes, and the end of the world. His other two films were Southland Tales (2006) and The Box (2009).  I liked both of those very much, though Southland Tales has been at the center of a debate in this household that has been ongoing for about five years now.  Every once and a while I try to trick Amber into watching it again because I can’t believe she actually doesn’t like it but this is always a waste of time.  She hates it every time, and I am surprised every time because I think it is awesome.

This movie was nearly straight to video because studios weren’t sure how to market it for release.  I think when you watch it you can understand why.  It’s not your typical film and it can be confusing even to the people that really liked it. I always recommend this movie but do so real timidly because it isn’t for everybody.  It has become a cult classic over the years and will undoubtedly continue to grow in popularity for the foreseeable future.  While it is weird I do think this this movie is awesome and definitely worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is really interesting. It is dark, and very, very strange. I remember watching this movie in college and thinking it was so great because it was so original. I’m not quite sure I feel the same way about it now. It’s definitely one of a kind and if you like that really weird, dark and somewhat crazy kind of movie then you should see it. I look at it like watching what it feels like to see from the point of view of a guy taking a lot of medication.

NEXT MOVIE: The Doors (1991)

Movies By Request

Criminal

Year: 2004
Directed By: Gregory Jacobs
Written By: Gregory Jacobs & Sam Lowery

RYAN’S REVIEW

I had never heard of this movie before it was brought to me the other day but I was instantly interested when I looked it over.  I usually enjoy movies about con men and I also am a big fan of John C Reilly when he isn’t acting like an idiot.  Con men are such clever and desperate people that they always have good stories worthy of being told.

To be perfectly honest this movie isn’t all that different from many other movies that are about men of similar repute, but like I said, these people always have interesting stories around them.  I think John C Reilly was really good in the part; he can be incredibly talented sometimes. I like him whenever he is doing something serious but I think he spends a fair amount of time wasting his talent acting like a moron in movies with Will Ferrell like Step Brothers or Talladega Nights. Those movies aren’t awful but he isn’t being funny in them; he is being stupid and I usually find that more annoying than funny. I like Maggie Gyllenhaal as well and she does a good job in this film too.  I have never heard of Diego Luna but he has a large part in this film and does well.  There are also a handful of extras including Michael Shannon who bring their talents to the film.

This isn’t the best movie I have seen about con men but everybody plays their parts well and it has a good story to tell. I think it was a good movie I just don’t feel compelled to write very much about it. Overall Amber and I both enjoyed seeing this one and would feel comfortable recommending it later down the road.

The Dark Knight

Year: 2008
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Written By: David S. Goyer, Jonathon Nolan, and Christopher Nolan

RYAN’S REVIEW

A good sequel should be a bigger and better version of the original.  One would think that Batman Begins would present a challenge because it was such a great film in its own right.  It seems small in hindsight now, and that’s why The Dark Knight is so great.  It’s so overwhelmingly awesome that you forget how great the first film was.  Christopher Nolan has been on fire and this movie was just another great movie he’s made along the way.  Every movie he has made has been incredible, the only reason this movie was so much more successful was because people love Batman, just as people love Spiderman.  The reboot of Spiderman will probably make just as much money as the original trilogy when it is all said and done.

I remember when I heard Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker I could not believe it.  I had been hoping for Paul Bettany who had been rumored for the role and had just played a great villain in The Da Vinci Code.  Brokeback Mountain dominated jokes and cultural references around the time of the announcement so the choice wasn’t well received all around.  Then his death came out of no where only months before release, it was so sudden, it was almost too hard to believe it was true.  Then his performance hit the theater screens and he went from the Brokeback Mountain guy to a legend, a martyr for the movie industry just as James Dean was.  He received a post-mortem Academy Award that was well deserved but he probably never would have received had he lived. Heath Ledger was one of the greatest bad guys of all time, he actually scared me with his portrayal of the Joker, it was the master stroke of his career.  His death is unfortunate for many reasons but especially for this franchise because Nolan could have made this movie another 10 times with Ledger and Bale again and again and it would have continued to be incredible.

Ledger was so good in this movie that his performance tends to make you forget how good everyone else was. Bale is great again as Bruce Wayne and Batman, his Batman voice was again criticized. Maggie Gyllenhaal filled in nicely for Katie Holmes who turned down more money to reprise the role. Aaron Eckhart was great as Harvey Dent and then later as Two-Face. Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman all return to their respective roles. It is easy for actors to shine when they are part of something so great.  The Dark Knight is such an all around good film, and as always it starts with a great story.  The Nolans and Goyer came up with a great idea and they packed it full of action from beginning to end.  Nolan has a great talent for making something look and feel R-rated without it being so.  His movies have little profanity and little graphic violence. The consequences in all are great and the violence is there but it isn’t graphic.  No doubt that is a skill Warner Brothers has noticed and will continue taking advantage of for as long as possible.

You don’t need me to tell you that this movie was great, no doubt you have already heard that from others.  If you haven’t seen it you should see this and its predecessor.  They are both great films and I look forward to the closing of the trilogy.  The early teaser for next summer’s finale is short but offers a lot to look forward to.  Bane is the villain seen in the trailer, played by Tom Hardy.  The third installment will also feature Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard in roles that are probably misinformation.  Most likely they are playing the son and daughter of the villains in the first film, Carmine Falcone and Rhas Al Ghul. No matter who they are I have no doubt that Nolan will impress us again with his third Batman film. Liam Neeson is rumored to have a cameo return to the franchise which should make my wife happy.  Either way Rhas Al Ghul will return, Josh Pence has been cast as a younger version of the character, giving merit to the notion that Marion Cotillard is actually playing Talia Al Ghul. I have added the teaser trailer to this post following Amber’s review, if you haven’t seen it yet then definitely check it out.  The Dark Knight Rises will be awesome.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I LOVE this movie. This was a no questions asked, we are going to the theater on opening day to see this movie. The hype was already crazy for the movie because of the death of Heath Ledger. What a sad story. If he could have only seen what an amazing job he did all put together. He was one of the scariest bad guys of all times, hands down. If you didn’t know who he was before the film, I very much doubt you could have guessed it was him during the movie. This role, in my opinion, was his greatest. It was intense and thorough and he played the role with such precision.

The story line is very strong and leaves you wanting more in the end. The makeup was out of control amazing, especially for two-face. I know they probably used some computer animation for that, but still I thought it was believable and by far the craziest two-face I have ever seen.

My one and only problem for this entire film is the Batman voice that Christian Bale uses. I am not picking on him, it is true that I am not his biggest fan, but c’mon…that Batman voice was WAY to over the top, I really hope that he tones it down for the next one.This movie is worth watching over and over, and you can bet your bottom dollar we will be in line opening night for the next installment. I am becoming a Christopher Nolan believer.

NEXT MOVIE: Beetle Juice (1988)