Natalie Portman

Mars Attacks!

Year: 1996
Directed By: Tim Burton
Written By: Jonathan Gems

RYAN’S REVIEW

In 1996 I was 12 years old and spent a lot of time at work with my dad wandering from movie to movie in the theater he worked at.  I spent years doing this in my youth but 1996 specifically sticks out because it was when I first started paying attention to trailers and anticipating movies before they came out.  In 1996 I had my eye on the big summer blockbuster that year, Independence Day. From the moment I first sat in the auditorium and saw that incredible image of the White House being blown up by a flying saucer I don’t know that I had ever wanted to see something so bad in my life.  At 12 years old I don’t think I had ever seen anything quite so devastating on screen and the preview promised what my mind built up to be the most awesome movie ever.  I waited with an anticipation that grew at a rate only a 12 year old’s imagination can keep up with.  When the movie finally came out I was seated in the first row of a crowded theater and my mouth was watering.  Two and a half hours later I walked out of the theater disheartened and depressed.  I had suffered through my first major disappointment from a movie and I will never forget that feeling.  The previews had implied such wide spread destruction and I had imagined battles that would dazzle my eyes and satisfy all my hopes and desires.  What I saw seemed more like a drama than an action movie and I felt like I had already seen all the exciting parts in the previews.  It was a learning experience because at that young age I had to learn to deal with the let down of something I had built up to much in my head.  In 1996 my parent’s divorce was still a recent thing and that is a devastating thing to the life of any child.  My response to the personal turmoil was to hide in movie theaters by myself and forget about what was going on in my life.  I only say that to stress the fact that Independence Day being such a letdown was significant to me and the memory has stayed with me very clearly.  I would have to wait another five months that year before my faith in films was restored, and it was this movie that restored it.

For everything Independence Day lacked this film had in spades.  Nobody was safe from these aliens; they came to take over and they didn’t pull any punches.   This movie may be silly but it gave me everything I had wanted from Independence Day and I loved it. This movie had a better and bigger cast and although it was just a comedy it offered more chaos and battle than I had seen in the first film about an alien invasion.  The President in this movie wasn’t the unlikely hero who went into action but a more realistic air head continually making stupid decisions at the behest of his equally air headed staff. The aliens don’t simply destroy our cities and overwhelmingly remain out of sight but strike fast and hard with manipulation and ruthlessness. I love how the aliens run through town blasting everyone into dust while holding a translator that keeps broadcasting what they are saying, “STOP! We are your friends.” I love the simplicity of the aliens in this film.  They look just as we typically expect aliens to look, little bodies with big heads.  They ride around in flying saucers that are nothing fancy and they use guns that look like toys yet bring us to our knees when they attack.  These aliens have no remorse and laugh at our efforts to be welcoming and forgiving.  These aliens are simple and even humorous to a degree and I think it’s interesting that they still manage to be more threatening than anything we saw in Independence Day. Yeah maybe the aliens in that film looked creepy with their slimy tentacles and telepathic capabilities but we barely see them, and they are just lame next to these guys from the canyons of Mars.

I am a huge fan of Tim Burton but despite the Danny Elfman score I have never felt this movie really felt like a typical Tim Burton film.  The elements are there, the way the flying saucers land specifically being the obvious work of Burton but it still feels different.  The movie is so colorful, and while Burton can be colorful there is usually darkness that goes along with it.  The content of the film notwithstanding this film doesn’t feel dark at all and in fact it might be one of the “brightest” films Burton has ever made.  It doesn’t have that gloom that tends to linger somewhere or the other in all of his films.  Plenty of people he has worked with in the past are on board in the cast of this film but no one he is specifically synonymous with like Johnny Depp or Michael Keaton. This was before he married Helena Bonham Carter and started casting her in all of his films.  If I’m not mistaken, when this movie was made he was married to Lisa Marie, who played the alien in disguise that infiltrated the White House. Nevertheless, while this seems to be against the grain a bit for Burton it still undoubtedly has his stamp on it.  He is a great filmmaker and I have specifically loved many of his movies.  This isn’t even in the conversation of his best films but I think anything he has done does deserve some honorable mention if it was entertaining.  This movie may be silly but it is definitely entertaining and I think it’s worth mentioning when discussing his career.

This movie does have a terrific cast but I tend to think it’s the actor’s names rather than their performances that jump out at you.  With few exceptions, Jack Nicholson was great playing dual roles in the film.  Although his performance as the President is hands down the better of the two and I think it is part of what makes the movie so great.  After the Martians turn Congress to dust Nicholson says he “wants the American people to know they still have 2/3rds of their government left and THAT AIN’T BAD!” Martin Short was quite funny and it was cool seeing a young Natalie Portman with all the talent she has always had. I really liked Rod Steiger and Paul Winfield as the two opposing Generals.  Winfield being the Colin Powell of the two and Steiger playing a more General Turgidson type. Jim Brown showed promise as an actor, like he does whenever given the opportunity.  Otherwise I don’t know that anyone else did anything well enough to really distinguish themselves.  It was great to see so many popular actors all together on screen because it’s always fun the more stars you have in the film.  Also noteworthy is that this was the last film Michael J Fox was in before the news of his condition would eventually be divulged.  He would continue acting on television for several more years but this was his last significant film role.

This movie will never get the credibility it deserves, or at least the credibility it has in my eyes for beating the pants off of Independence Day. Incidentally I have reason to think I’m alone in my criticism of Independence Day because somebody must have liked it.  Not only did it make lots of money at the box office but as we inch closer to 20 years later it has been in discussion for a sequel recently.  There are two versions of the sequel written, one with Will Smith reprising his role and one without.  I’m guessing that it will be lame for obvious reason, and while I have had my ear to the ground I haven’t heard one word about these Martians coming back.  Not that it would be a good idea either, one and done was good enough for this film and anything more would only sully what it was.  If you are with me on this, if you felt the pain of disappointment from that big alien invasion blockbuster, then check this movie out.  It’s better, more satisfying, and on top of everything else it will give you plenty of good laughs.

On a bottom side note I just wanted to mention that this film also offers a great shot of New York featuring the Two Towers of the World Trade Center.  It’s the kind of thing that I never gave any thought to when I watched the movie in 1996, but watching it now could give any American that odd feeling of loss.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This is one of those movies most people can watch over and over. I remember seeing the trailers for this when it first came out. I thought it looked ridiculous. It turns out it was ridiculously funny. There are so many things in the movie that don’t really make sense, but ultimately I think that it made it that much funnier. I used to watch this on Comedy Central all the time when I was younger, but I haven’t seen it in a while. It was really nice to be able to sit down and watch it last night.

marsattacks

This poster couldn’t fit better with the movie. I think it is very, very clear what the film is about and I think it even shows Tim Burton’s style. The wig of the Martian, the cloak of the other Martian. The typography for me is a little cheesy, but at the same time it works because it resembles the font choices of other sci-fi alien invading movies. I think this poster has too much going on, but at least they didn’t try and fit the entire star studded cast into a group. They chose some of them to highlight and then neatly fit the others into boxes across the bottom, which I appreciate. Overall I like this poster and movie.

NEXT MOVIE: Masters of the Universe (1987)….oh yeah, the movie with Dolph Lundgren

Heat

Year: 1995
Directed By: Michael Mann
Written By: Michael Mann

RYAN’S REVIEW

When Christopher Nolan made The Dark Knight this was the movie he turned to for inspiration, the bank robbery scenes anyway.  That was a big part of why The Dark Knight was so awesome and it says something about how awesome this movie is in its own right.  Movies about cops and robbers are always popular and this is one of the best ever made regarding the two.  It was made by a great filmmaker, it had an outstanding cast, and it doesn’t fail to deliver on the action.

In 1972 Al Pacino and Robert De Niro were both part of the same movie, The Godfather: Part IIAlthough they played characters living in completely different time periods and never shared any screen time together.  For the next 23 years both of their careers ballooned and they were the go to guys for mobster parts.  Yet in all that time they both made many mobster movies but never collaborated.  After all that time it became a really big deal that they were in this movie together and their first collaboration did not disappoint.  In fact I happen to think the scene in which they meet for the first time is one of the coolest I have ever seen.  There is so much build up, the music is just right, and then they are finally face to face and everything seems so natural and perfect.  I happen to think they did really well working together but they are both grade A professionals when it comes to acting and know how to do their jobs. This movie was almost twenty years ago now and these two men have continued their careers throughout that time.  Not with quite so much success mind you but they still wield a certain level of power in their industry.

I read that this was a movie Michael Mann spent over ten years trying to get made.  When you put that much time into something you really have to make sure you have the right people and I don’t know that a finer cast was ever put together.  The good guys and the bad guys alike could not have been better cast in any part.  I really like Mykelti Williamson and Wes Studi as Al Pacino’s main guys on his side.  Ted Levine has always creeped the hell out of me but he manages to play a convincing good guy in this one.  Val Kilmer plays one of his best roles in this movie. He is a total badass as De Niro’s right hand man. When you are casting bad guys I don’t know that you could have done much better in 1995 than Tom Sizemore and Danny Trejo.  Sizemore is one of the most intimidating guys ever.  He has an absolute look of insanity in his eyes; he fits into this movie nicely. There is one scene where a guy takes notice of the crew and Sizemore just stares him down and the guy quickly looks away. Sizemore wasn’t who the witness wanted having a good look at him.  I am a big fan of Danny Trejo; I have really enjoyed his rise to fame in recent years.  Jon Voight, Dennis Haysbert, and William Fichter are all great as well and bring a lot to the film.  There is a really young Natalie Portman here proving that she was always an exceptional actor.  Ashley Judd is smoking hot in this one and that served her well during the late 90s. I do not like the part that Hank Azaria played in this one but I am a big fan of his and love how often he pops up in different types of movies. He shot his scenes for this movie during his days off while filming The Birdcage, one of the funniest movies I have ever seen.

In preparation for this movie Michael Mann did a lot of research.  The story is somewhat loosely based on a real relationship between a high profile cop and criminal that took place in the 70s.  I don’t know much about the real story but it was one that Mann was always personally interested in.  When prepping his actors for their roles he actually arranged for the good guy actors to have dinner and interact with real police officers and also had the bad guy actors meet with real life criminals. This kind of preparation went a long way as we can clearly see by the performances of the actors.

This was a really awesome movie that I always enjoy.  It’s a long movie and has slow points here and there but the action makes up for any boredom that might be incurred. I would recommend this movie to anybody and it is definitely worth your time to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan makes me watch this movie all the time. Well, not really…but since it is so freaking long it feels like forever every time we watch it. It’s a great movie with a good storyline and amazing actors. It takes forever to finally get there, but it can be worth it to sit through the movie. If you like movies like this, go for it.

NEXT MOVIE: Heist (2001)

The Darjeeling Limited

Year: 2007
Directed By: Wes Anderson
Written By: Wes Anderson

RYAN’S REVIEW

Some movies can just speak to you in ways that you can’t really put into words.  Sometimes a film can coincide with your life so well that you feel an instant bond with it. Wes Anderson films typically revolve around people with suppressed emotions and difficulty coping with dramatic circumstances.  I was going through similar issues in 2007 and while my issues were completely different from those in the film it put me at ease nonetheless. Wes Anderson movies do that to me though, he has an interesting method when it comes to storytelling.   This film is also set in India, which is another reason I really like it.  There is a lot of emphasis in the film on India culture and I have always been very interested in India.  It is a very rich and diverse culture that has been cultivated for thousands of years.

Wes Anderson is the kind of director that draws a lot of talent to any project, even when he travels to the other side of the world.  This film has many of his regular stars.  Bill Murray makes a small cameo in the beginning, this was his fourth collaboration with Anderson.  Anjelica Huston in her third film with Anderson as the mother of the three brothers.  As the brothers he has Owen Wilson, who has worked with Anderson on all of his films. Jason Schwartzman plays the youngest brother, he also frequently works with Anderson. I am a big Jason Schwartzman fan, he is a really talented and funny entertainer.  Adrien Brody plays the middle brother and I am a big fan of his as well.  I didn’t like Brody at first but he has continued to impress me with his range as an actor, he just keeps making good movies.  What really makes Wes Anderson movies great is the fact that they get better each time you see them.  He is a true filmmaker, being involved in all aspects of production.  It’s the movies that are made by men like Anderson that tend to be my favorites.  In many ways he is very similar to the Coen brothers that way.

This is a really good movie but it isn’t one I usually recommend to anyone.  Wes Anderson makes such a unique film that I never feel confident trying to persuade someone to give one their time. My favorite Anderson film is far and away The Life Aquatic, but I love them all and this one is probably either second or a close third behind The Royal Tenenbaums. If you give this one a shot I hope enjoy it as much as I did.  This isn’t really a good enough review for a movie I love so much, you will have to excuse me.  I have  recently cut caffeine out of my diet, it blows.

AMBER’S REVIEW

If you know anything about us, you should know this. We are HUGE Wes Anderson fans. I believe the first one I ever watched was The Royal Tenebaums and I have been in love with his films ever since. This one is a more recent installment compared to the rest that we own. The whole concept of this movie is very strange and weird in true Anderson fashion. Most of his films revolve around weird and unusual family situations that are completely outside of the normal family unit. In this one, their father dies and their mother has joined a convent. The three borthers (Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody) go on a journey to bond and to try to find their mother that left to become a nun and didn’t attend their father’s funeral. The movie is filled with strangeness that cannot be explained and is completely worth watching.

One of the best things about Wes Anderson is that he loves working with the same people. He takes these actors that I feel he finds “worthy” and uses them in different films and in different scenarios. It always works out and they always perform so well and different every single time. He loves Schwartzman, Wilson (both of the Wilsons), Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, and has even made Ben Stiller into someone he usually is not. I love this film and this guy. All of his films are worth watching and this one is no exception. You have to see it, it’s not even a suggestion.

NEXT MOVIE: Darkman (1990)

Cold Mountain

Year: 2003
Directed By: Anthony Minghella
Written By: Charles Frazier

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a great movie with fantastic performances and production value.  It tells a compelling story that takes place near the end of the Civil War. Despite my history background I have never been a Civil War buff and while I appreciate this movie it isn’t one that I love.  The movie begins with a very gripping battle scene that sets the tone for the film. I think the love story between Inman and Ada brings the movie down but the rest of the film is good enough to overcome that fault.  This movie is in our collection for one reason and one reason alone, Renee Zellweger‘s performance.  I felt Nicole Kidman was highly overrated at the time and really enjoyed seeing her get her ass handed to her by the ugly chick.  This is one of Zellweger’s finest roles and she earned her Oscar with spades.

This is our second movie in a row starring Jude Law and that is ironic given that neither of us really like him.  Anybody could have played his part in this film though, he does nothing to distinguish himself.  When I say that Kidman was shown up by Zellweger I mean exactly that.  Just when you are really sick of the Ada character Ruby shows up and pumps life into the dismal and depressing story.  Ray Winstone is great as the menacing lawman of Cold Mountain while all the men are away at war.  His albino henchman may be creepy but I want to point him out as Charlie Hunnan.  All the Sons of Anarchy fans need to check out what he was doing before he was Jax Tellar, he must had just lost in a tough decision over the casting of a vampire role. Again for the second movie in a row we get to see the beautiful and talented Natalie Portman in a small role. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays a good part as a scandalous preacher in just one of many cameos in the film. Also lending their talents in small roles are Giovanni Ribisi, Brendan Gleeson, Ethan Suplee, Donald Sutherland, and even Jack White of the White Stripes in a rare acting role. These performances collectively make this movie worth your time because they are all great performers.

There is no and never has been a town called Cold Mountain in North Carolina, but there is a Cold Mountain here in our Appalachian mountains.  That doesn’t matter though, it doesn’t change the circumstances of the Civil War that the film covers. I am not a Civil War buff because it feels too cliché, being a southerner and all. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to learn from the conflict though and a need to understand the time period.  This movie is worth your time because it is a good movie.  I don’t think I have done it justice with this review but watch it for yourself and tell us what you think.

AMBER’S REVIEW

My favorite part of this entire film is Renee Zellweger. She is completely amazing in this film. She shows so much range and depth in this film that you almost forget who she really is. She won the Oscar with this film and I honestly feel like nobody earned it more that year. The whole story is really touching. Aside from the love story that is going on between Nicole Kidman and Jude Law, the story that means the most to me happens in Cold Mountain between Zellweger and Kidman. Kidman is a woman who has been pampered and taken care of her whole life, and when that all falls apart, in moves Zellweger to help her get her shit together. I love the dynamic that the two have together throughout the movie. They truly had amazing chemistry.

The war aspect for me is secondary throughout this film. It is important and what is going on in this small town is touching and affects everyone. There is something for everyone in this award-winning movie and I completely recommend it if you haven’t seen it before.

NEXT MOVIE: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Closer

Year: 2004
Directed By: Mike Nichols
Written By: Patrick Marber

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is an interesting movie about love and betrayal and the complexities of human relationships.  The thing about it is, you can make 100 movies like this and they would all be different yet all be the same as well.  That’s just the nature of how human relationships work though isn’t it? Love is personal in a way that makes us all feel our stories are unique but these things typically tend to follow the same patterns.  I don’t really think there is anything that separates this film from the typical story within the genre but that doesn’t mean it is a bad film.  The film is made by a well renowned director and sports an excellent cast.

This film is based on a broadway show that was adapted to the screen by the original writer, Patrick Marber, and from what I understand it follows the play very closely. It was directed by Mike Nichols who is better known for films like The Graduate and The Birdcage. I don’t think he did anything exceptional with this film but he did a good job, he had some good people to work with. Natalie Portman plays one of the four leads and she is an actress truly bursting with talent.  I have never understood her decision-making when it comes to choosing roles but she is great in everything she is in.  I am not a fan of Julia Roberts but she does a good job in this movie and looks great.  I am not a fan of Jude Law either but I suppose he was appropriately cast as the sleazy British guy.  I have always liked Clive Owen but his career seems to be going nowhere.  He was on a hot streak during the mid 2000s though when this film was made, and he does well in this movie.

I do not like movies that center on infidelity, it usually makes for an awful story in which everybody loses.  This is no different yet I do not mind this movie. Although I think it would have been better with some nudity, there is something unfair about an R rated movie about sex with these two beautiful women and neither of them get naked. One of them even plays a stripper, it’s just a tease to those of us who were good enough to sit through this with our significant others.  I may be a lover of movies and found something to appreciate, but the everyday Joe out there must have been really disappointed.   We own it because Amber liked it but I can appreciate something outside my norm if it is worth wild.  This is a good movie but I would never recommend a movie like this to anybody.  Infidelity is an awful thing, we shouldn’t spend our time with it and I personally don’t like watching movies about it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Obviously, this is my movie. When I was in college I randomly picked it out one night at Blockbuster. I hardly ever got to pick out movies, so I was surprised when I actually picked one out that became one of my favorite movies of all time. I don’t really agree with Ryan’s review at all. This is a love story, but it is not a love story like all of the rest. It centers around infidelity and the real world love stories that happen. And if you think this movie plays out like the rest, you would be wrong. I also want to point out that it is true, Ryan hates movies about infidelity, but what he can tolerate is when men cheat on women. He cannot stand to see a woman cheating on a man. It visibly upsets him to the point of sometimes not even being able to finish the movie. Honestly, I am surprised he lets this film sit on the shelf among the others.

This is a great film, that tells an original story about the way we love, and the way we lose it, and the way we handle ourselves when we do lose it. I completely recommend this movie if you have ever loved someone.

NEXT MOVIE: Cold Mountain (2003)