Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Punch-Drunk Love

Year: 2002
Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written By: Paul Thomas Anderson

RYAN’S REVIEW

Since growing out of puberty I have had little interest in the work of Adam Sandler. Any time I come across one of his many films I feel reaffirmed in my lack of interest and learn more and more to ignore him all together. Yet on the rarest of occasions he branches out from toilet humor and does something different. Under those circumstances I have been pleased with a couple of his performances and I really think he is capable of more than what he typically does. There is a youthful spirit still alive inside of me that wants to love Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore despite how ridiculous I find most of what he does. I think Adam Sandler is a terrific actor but his typical work is garbage. Albeit garbage that makes tons and tons of money so who am I to criticize? I might think his humor is juvenile and pathetic but he continues to succeed at it despite what I think. Though, in the 13 years since this film came out I wish we had more of these kinds of films and less of his Happy Madison studio crap.

This is as different a role as Adam Sandler has played in his entire career. He isn’t funny but dramatic, playing a character that couldn’t be any more awkward and painfully depressed. As Barry, the bullied brother of several older sisters, he is so alone in the world and so desperate for a connection with someone. People like Barry can so easily become victims, and that in a nutshell is Barry’s problem. He grew up as the victim of his older sisters and has matured into a victim of the world. A tortured soul suffering in the madness of his own self loathing and isolation. When he tries to confide in people he feels betrayed, be it from a brother-in-law or a phone sex operator. Barry is a weird guy, and when weird things happen to weird people the story is always an interesting one. I love how weird and strange Barry Egan is and this is without doubt my favorite performance ever by Sandler. I love his random dancing in the supermarket and how he rises to the occasion as a badass when his girlfriend is threatened. Sandler made a pile of dough acting like a moron but this role clearly proves he could have done anything he wanted to a lifetime ago. As Egan he is such a different and original character. With his mannerisms, his awkwardness, and his insane tendencies Barry Egan is a portrait of desperation and of longing. I love this character and I enjoy watching him overcome his problems to find something hopefully on the path to happiness.

Something that I will never forget about this movie is the performance of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and how blown away I was by it. I had known about him and respected him prior to seeing this film but I had no idea he had badass inside of him. I have wholeheartedly loved several of his performances but in truth he never really reached his full potential as an actor. I was really disappointed to hear about his death and the manner of it. I felt like it tarnished his character and reputation in the worst of ways. My heart breaks at anybody that goes before their time but when you poison yourself to death with drugs I don’t think pity is necessary. Nevertheless the man was a terrific actor and he left us with many great performances. With his role in this film he showed me that he had more range than I thought he was capable of. He scared me as this pseudo gangster mattress man. I’d seen him do so many things yet never imagined he was capable of a role like this. I love when an actor does that. Hoffman is an anomaly for me. He has done what I most admire about actors by being incredibly diverse but he has also done what I most despise most about celebrities by falling victim to a despicable addiction all the same. He has come full circle as an actor for me in such an interesting way.

In truth, Paul Thomas Anderson is such a smart filmmaker I think I could watch this movie ten times and still not cover everything in a review. For example, so subtly Luis Guzman starts wearing a suit. It is remarked in the film that Sandler never wears a suit to work but once he does Guzman subtly in the background starts wearing one as well taking his lead from the boss. It’s an example of the small little details that Anderson doesn’t overlook as a director.  Anderson is the type of filmmaker we don’t get enough out of as an audience. Too much of the audience leaves the show confused and for those of us that get it we are too demanding as fans. I like Paul Thomas Anderson but I’m not an obsessive fan of his. I only say so because I am under the impression he has a crazy fan base, which I think is understandable. I’ll never forget once while I was in college I mentioned either this movie or Magnolia in class once. The most unlikeliest of people approached me afterwards with something along the lines of “So you’re into PTA?” I’ll never forget that because it took me way too long to realize he was referring to a filmmaker and what had prompted the conversation all together. Point being, I’m under the impression there is a network of fans out there dedicated to the guy. I get it though; this guy can make such compelling movies. I was never a fan of There Will Be Blood, but maybe it is due a reviewing. This, and Magnolia, prove to me enough that “PTA” is an exceptional filmmaker worth watching at all times. I have yet to see his latest film but this movie is starting to inspire me to watch a few things again or for the first time.

This is such a weird film, but I love it so much. It is a beautiful film and I love what Anderson is able to do with silhouettes in shot. The story is surprisingly interesting, the type that you can’t convey when you are trying to tell someone about it. A great director and filmmaker can do that to you. He can inspire you with something so magnificent that you can’t even find the words to describe what you are feeling. In this movie we get a glimpse of a life none of us lead but we feel like we were there in the thick of it. That’s the mark of an exceptional story teller and the really exceptional ones are the ones that only do it randomly. If you are unfamiliar with the work of Paul Thomas Anderson then you really have something to look forward to because there are several movies that might blow you away.

I think this is without doubt Adam Sandler’s greatest film. Given the recent box office disasters he has been making is it possible that everyone else is beginning to notice what I saw beginning when Little Nicky  came out 15 years ago. The Waterboy was only mildly good at best and even then I was beginning to think I was outgrowing him. When Little Nicky came out I felt like the writing was on the wall only nobody wanted to admit it. I have always felt like people would like things because they thought they were supposed to like them. One of the biggest examples that immediately comes to mind is Ron Burgundy I have never understood what people saw in that movie other than the fact that they thought they were supposed to like it. I have had a disappointed opinion of Sandler since 2000 so I’ll be the first to admit that it’s possible he has made some really funny movies I haven’t seen. I have seen enough of them to stay solid in my opinion though. I think he is better than the juvenile toilet humor he spends his time making. It is because of this movie that I feel that way. This movie proves Sandler is capable of more and I hope that one day we see more of it.

I have never successfully talked anyone into watching this movie. I have talked with many people who have already seen it and loved it but I have never actually been able to talk someone into seeing it for the first time. I have even loaned it out a couple of times and had to ask for it back unseen after an unreasonable amount of time. I think that it’s because it’s  easy to read the synopsis and not be interested. It’s also easy to start this movie and immediately find it boring but you have to preserver in this one. You have to let this one suck you in and take you for a ride. Give this movie your time and attention and I absolutely guarantee that not only was it worth your time but that you will probably really enjoy it.

NEXT MOVIE: The Purge (2013)

Magnolia

Year: 1999
Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written By: Paul Thomas Anderson

RYAN’S REVIEW

I’m going to take a bit of a different approach in reviewing this film.  I think it is an incredible movie and a tribute to the talents of Paul Thomas Anderson and the actors he cast in the film.  To begin this review I am simply going to start by answering the biggest question the film poses.

Why do frogs fall out of the sky?

For a long time I thought this was just an ironic scene and gave it no more thought than that.  I found the movie to be so compelling that when this scene came up out of left field I just went with it.  It’s an interesting scene in which I have never seen any like it before and thought it was incredible even without understanding.  When watching the movie again for this review I was able to find a definite answer after minimal research.  The movie makes well over 100 references to Exodus 8:2 all throughout the film.  In the Bible, Exodus 8:2 states “If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country.” I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the deeper meaning of this verse and how it plays into the movie.  Who exactly is refusing to let go to the point that frogs fall from the sky? It’s clearly not Julianne Moore’s character because she goes the extra mile letting go.  The molesting game show host Dad practically let’s go of his secret that he actually did it.  Is it Tom Cruise refusing to let go of his hate for his father? Is Claudia refusing to let go of her drug habit? The hate she has for her father? I turned all these questions over in my head before going to the internet for outside answers.  After a quick and easy search I found this quote from Anderson on the matter.  The page has great info on the biblical verse and how it plays into the film.  However, after reading what Anderson said I am convinced that the verse doesn’t actually have anything to do with what the characters are going through.  I skimmed the quote but if I got it right he simply wanted the bizarre element of frogs raining from the sky and kind of worked backwards with the 8 and 2 references. As far as I am concerned none of this really matters.  I thought it was awesome when it started raining frogs and could really care less what the meaning behind it was.  This is a movie on a platform all by itself and I felt like something this out there fit in nicely.

With that big topic safely taken care of it’s time to cover the rest of the film.  I am a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson and this is far and away my favorite film of his.  I loved his choice in music and how effectively he synced it into scenes and kept the flow of the movie going.  I thought he wrote an interesting story rich with compelling characters that all tie together in interesting ways.  This movie is incredibly powerful from beginning to end and the strength is from the writing.  Anderson poured a lot of heart and soul into this script and he handpicked the actors that would bring that script to life.  This is an excellent movie and that is usually what happens when a filmmaker is given the kind of free reign Anderson was allowed when making it.

I think one of the greatest performances in this film has to go to Julianne Moore.  I have not always been her biggest fan but in a role like this you simply can’t argue with her talent.  She plays character so torn over the circumstances her life has reached.  She married a rich man for his money but fell in love with him as he was dying.  She has fallen so deeply in love with him that she can’t forgive herself for her motives in the past, and the actions that came in conjunction with those motives.  She doesn’t want his money she just wants him but she can’t get what she wants.  Her guilt drives her desperation and ultimately leads her to the decision she makes in the end.  Powerful performance by Julianne Moore, I don’t know how she got snubbed for an Oscar nomination.

Tom Cruise wasn’t snubbed and I have always considered his role of Frank TJ Mackey to be what made me turn my tune on the guy.  I had liked a few of his movies over the years but I had never considered him a serious actor despite that.  In this movie I felt he played a drastically different part as well as showing an emotional range I didn’t know he was capable of.  He plays the kind of man that I think we are all programmed to hate but as the movie progresses you see sides of him that make it difficult to hate him.  He is a douche bag trying to teach other douche bags how to manipulate women but underneath all of that he is a man running from who he is.  At a young age he was thrust into a situation that not many young people would be ready for and he grew up with hate in his heart.  The pain of watching his mother slowly die of cancer coupled with the hate he had for his father when he ran out on them turned him into the person we saw on stage in the beginning. When he finally reaches his father as he is dying the emotions that pour from him are nothing short of powerful.  In the end he mans up too to do what needs to be done, and I specifically like that about the character. Going to the hospital where his father’s wife has been taken shows he has let go of some of his hatred and suggests his life will probably be different going forward. It may not have been enough for everybody.  I’m sure plenty of people left the theater hating the man whose slogan was “respect the cock, tame the cunt,” but it got me to come around.  I hate that slogan though; cunt is an awfully ugly word.  Cruise did get nominated for best supporting actor for this part but lost that year to Michael Caine for his role in Cider House Rules.  I specifically remember watching the Oscars that year and Caine calling out Cruise. Telling him not to be upset because winning the award for supporting actor would probably mean a pay cut for him as a leading man.

I can’t stress enough how much all of the actors played such great parts but after the top two already named my third favorite role has to be that of John C Reilly.  I think Reilly is an incredible actor although he is prone to lowering himself to stupid roles such as the ones we saw in Step Brothers or Talladega Nights.  When he plays a part like this I think I am always blown away by what he is actually capable of.  I love his cop monologue in the beginning because the whole time you assume he is speaking to someone but when the camera zooms out he is just there alone, being weird.  He’s a weird guy in this movie but that is what I like about him.  A good cop but not one good enough to be taken seriously by his peers.  He is a man looked over by nearly everyone despite his efforts.  He is lonely, and as lonely people get he is desperate for companionship to the point that he will ignore a woman’s blatant drug problem to spend some time with her. So many of the characters in this movie are desperate and Reilly is right up there.  I really happen to like his relationship with Claudia and thought it was a nice part of the story.  They are both people ashamed of themselves and looking for someone in one another that they need so badly.

Both Phillip Seymour Hoffman and William H Macy should not go unmentioned here.  I think both brought a lot to the table in this movie but their parts are overshadowed by others to an extent.  Hoffman more so than Macy because I didn’t find anything particularly compelling about his performance.  Hoffman is a great actor and always great to have on hand.  Even without doing much his presence alone brings weight to the film.  Macy had a much more interesting character and in truth I really like the part.  I am not a big fan of Macy but can’t deny his talent.  My favorite part of his in this movie is when he talks about being struck by lightning and how much it hurt.  Also the random moment in the beginning of the film when he so casually drives his car through the window of a store, hilarious. Melora Walters played the part of Claudia and although I have never seen her in anything else I really thought she played a terrific part.

Rounding out this terrific cast were Philip Baker Hall and Jason Robards playing the hated and dying father’s. As all people want near the end they are looking to make things right in their lives before it’s finally over.  The sins of these two were unforgivable and both men went to their graves without being exonerated. Even in small roles this film found great talent to the cast.  Alfred Molina is in a small role as Donnie the Whiz Kid’s boss Solomon Solomon.  Luis Guzman, who has appeared in a few Anderson films now, played one of the adult contestants on the game show. Patton Oswalt played the scuba diver seen earlier in the film who is accidentally picked up and dropped onto a forest fire by a fire fighter. Robert Downey Sr. can even be seen in the background of this movie as well as many others that would take forever to name individually.

This is a beautiful film that has a voice of its own and it can speak directly into your soul. It’s about irony, fate, desperation, longing, regret, and death.  It’s a glowing example that life is different for all of us and all of our story lines pose problems that are more important to us than any other.  Life is challenging for all of us and though our problems are all very different they are no less real and overwhelming for us in our darkest moments.  This movie captured life in a very accurate way for me and then capped it off with something crazy, because that’s life, it’s crazy.  Sometimes we all hit the boiling point at the same time and when that happens it’s raining frogs, whether it’s only metaphorically or not.  This is an incredible film and although it is very long it is worth every minute of your time to see.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie truly is an interesting and intriguing movie. This is the film that made me literally hate Tom Cruise. Is it just me or does anyone else think that he was just a little too believable in this role? Like enough to not be a role at all, but more like real-life? It is a sort of compliment. I mean, the dude is amazing at what he does; I just hate that damn character so effin much.

magnoliaI just couldn’t bring myself to write another review of yet another cast montage poster, so I decided not to show the infamous one with the big magnolia flower with the cast in the leaves. Instead, I found this gem. I really, really like it so much better. This is a teaser poster and it really does its job. It just shows a bunch of falling frogs and has the title, which has no apparent relevance to the falling frogs. I’m intrigued, anyone else?

I am a HUGE fan of design not following grammar rules. YES titles are “supposed” to be capitalized, but when it’s designed on a poster, NO it doesn’t HAVE to be. I think it makes the design softer and prettier. I wouldn’t like to hang this one up or anything, but I like it so much better than the magnolia leaf design.

NEXT MOVIE: The Majestic (2001)

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)

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)