Willem Dafoe

Spider-Man

Year: 2002
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Written By: David Koepp, based on character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie changed everything. Not only in the movie industry itself but for me personally as well. It’s arguably one of the most influential movies of the new century because everything we see today started here. I was working at the movie theater part time when this movie came out doing my Tyler Durden impression and it was a very exciting time. It meant more to me because at that time and place I felt very involved in the experience. As an avid observer I got to see it all unfold and the aftermath has been nothing short of spectacular.

When I was 18 I had a very unique job at the movie theater in which I showed up once a week and built the movies for play in the theater. In a story for another time I actually inherited this job and wasn’t even officially on payroll. It was so cool because I would simply walk into the theater once a week, bypass all the real employees and go straight upstairs. There I would chat with management and then get to work splicing movies together in the projection booth. This allowed me access to screening the movies before hand as well as free entry to any movie I wanted to see which I took advantage of fervently in my teenage years.  It was a fun time in life and I watched a lot of movies. The reason I bring it up now is because throughout that time the most significant movie I built and watched was Spider-Man. I used to save a frame from each movie I built and the frame for Spider-Man was one I actually carried around in my wallet for years. I must have watched this movie in the theater eight times and I eagerly watched the box office returns everyday as it rose to one of the then highest grossing movies of all time.

I grew up as an X-Men fan. Since as far back as I can remember I was watching the cartoon, playing with the action figures, and reading the comics when I was allowed. I had somehow never really been exposed to Spider-Man though. I was aware of him but I had never really gotten into the character. Somewhere along the line as I grew out of being a kid and into a teenager I grew out of my beloved childhood comic characters as well. I was older and too cool for such things as I entered the rigorous social hierarchy of High School. Nevertheless I was really pumped when the X-Men came out and I loved it, but I have always admitted and known it was nothing next to this movie.  This movie was different, and the audience responded in turn. It changed everything for me as the fanboy within was woken and emerged full on in my late teens. I, like many people, became a Spider-Man fanatic. Suddenly it was cool to be into comic book characters again. I ended up reading like the first nine volumes of the original running of Spider-Man in the aftermath of this movie. It gave me a juvenile taste for what would eventually become a healthy appetite in reading comics as an adult.

Would there be a Marvel Cinematic Universe if this movie hadn’t been so successful? I don’t think so and I’d point to that as the number one reason that makes this one of, if not the, most influential movies of the century. This movie seems like an afterthought fifteen years, two reboots, and six movies later but that doesn’t change what it meant for movies going forward back in 2002. Technically X-Men really started the trend a couple years prior but it wasn’t nearly the success Spider-Man was. That X-Men franchise may have had more longevity but it didn’t start the noise about how much money could be made with comic book films. There were more than 400 million reasons to keep banking on superheroes after Spider-Man and in 2002 that was good for fourth highest grossing film of all time domestically if I’m not mistaken. Also important to understand about this movie was that Kevin Feige was an uncredited executive producer on the film. Six years later he would spearhead and oversee the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe one movie at a time. Now Marvel is putting out about four movies a year with no end in sight to success or the creative crossovers that fans have come to love.

It was a wild idea that nobody thought would work but it has worked beautifully. So much so that other studios are scrambling to create their own cinematic universes. Be it with DC superheroes, Transformers, or even classic monsters. All of which have trouble finding similar success but trying nonetheless and too far past the point of no return to stop. Nobody has been able to do what Kevin Feige has done, and would any of it have been possible without the success of this movie? I don’t think so and I think for that reason this has to be considered as one of the most influential movies of the 21st century.

As of this moment we are a couple of weeks away from the newest version of Spider-Man. Spider-Man: Homecoming will be the third version of the character we have had in the last 15 years. It seems like too much even for one of the most popular characters ever but this time will be different. This first franchise has always been my favorite of the Spider-Man films but I’m wildly optimistic about the new film. The main reason being that this film will fully immerse Spidey within the MCU where he belongs. Sony seriously damaged the image of Spider-Man when they rebooted the character but were at least wise enough to throw in the towel before it was too late. They now have a shared interest in the character with Marvel and at least for now we can all sit back and enjoy the magic they make together. We have character after character coming out with his own film and everything working toward one common goal, Avengers: Infinity War. It’s the most ambitious effort to date by the MCU and thanks to this new rendition of the character Spider-Man gets to be part of that party. In a perfect world the same thing would happen with X-Men and Fantastic Four but sadly that is just wishful thinking.

I have always thought Tobey Maguire was the perfect actor to play Peter Parker. His frame and demeanor have always had him cast as kind of a dork and that’s what made him perfect for the part. Peter Parker was a dork, he was the guy who got picked on in school by everybody. That’s what makes him such a great superhero because as a victim of bullying he is out to protect everyone selflessly. The jury is still out on Tom Holland but he is playing a much different Spider-Man. I couldn’t stand the hipster cool guy portrayed by Andrew Garfield in the short lived Amazing Spider-Man franchise. Just like Michael Keaton will always be Batman, Tobey Maguire will always be Spider-Man. I think Tom Holland will be awesome as Spider-Man and I look forward to seeing it, but Christian Bale was a cool Batman too and that still couldn’t take the title away from Keaton, in my opinion anyway. I would have loved to see Tobey Maguire don the suit for a fourth time and was really disappointed when that fell through.

I didn’t hate the overloaded third film like everyone else did and would have easily shown up for a fourth film but studio plans got in the way. The MCU was not only in full swing at the time but it was flourishing as The Avengers was huge. Sony wanted their own universe and they were showing up late to the game. They had plans to make like 6 movies or something like that and build their own universe centered around Spider-Man. There was a really cool idea about making a Sinister Six movie. I was so disappointed in the quick reboot that I was never too interested in what they were doing. I thought it was ridiculous to retell the origin story in the reboot. Had they started this franchise with him already being Spider-Man that would have made more sense. Expecting the audience to watch a rehashed version of the same thing that came before was ridiculous. I don’t even think I saw the second one in the theater, but not many people did.  I quietly relished in the failure of this franchise as an angry fan who still hadn’t gotten over his woes. I feel differently this time around because at least the character is in good hands. I have no doubt the new film will be very good and I can’t wait to see it. I like Tom Holland as a younger Spider-Man, I think it’s awesome they got Michael Keaton to play the villain, and I love that Iron Man is in the film and it’s so immersed in the MCU.

To get back to this movie specifically I think the rest of the cast outside of Maguire deserves a lot of recognition. While there are many great performances to consider you simply can’t top J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. He was perfect with everything from his performance to his look as the character. He was so good in fact that there hasn’t even been an effort to recast the character in any of the new renditions.  I am a big fan of J.K. Simmons and I like him in everything he is in. I am also a big fan of some of the other actors in this movie. I have loved Kirsten Dunst since her amazing performance as a child in Interview with a Vampire. I don’t think she ever quite topped that performance or lived up to the expectations it started but I have always liked her nonetheless. I thought she was a great Mary Jane Watson. I have also been a long time fan of Willem Dafoe who was not the first, second, or even third choice for the part. He has such a menacing and goblin like face already that it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. When he smiles he can look so sinister and his voice is laced with intimidation. A great actor who always delivers.

Writing about this movie has been like a trip down memory lane for me and I have really enjoyed it. Making the experience even more exciting was that when I sat down to watch the movie I had my kids watch it with me. After a lot of initial protest from my eight year old daughter the movie won her over quickly. That says everything you need to know about this movie. It will win you over. It’s an awesome movie that still stands up to the next generation fifteen years later. No matter how good Spiderman: Homecoming turns out to be there will always be a place for this first film. A film that changed so much and opened the door for an entire genre of films, and ultimately a universe of them.

Before anyone gets the wrong idea I haven’t forgotten that Superman and Batman came first, but they simply didn’t change things the way Spider-Man did. If you haven’t seen this then you have missed out. It’s worth your time to watch what started it all. I love this movie and think it should be appreciated by everyone. Even if you don’t appreciate the super hero genre you have to at least respect what this film was able to accomplish.

NEXT MOVIE: Spider-Man 2 (2004)

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Platoon

Year: 1986
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: Oliver Stone

RYAN’S REVIEW

Back in 2003 I was 19 years old, in college, and aggressively involved in the world on a larger scale for the first time. At that young adolescent age my mind was exploding and I was hungry for all the knowledge in the world. For the first time I had stepped out of the world of Ryan (high school years) and started paying attention to the world around me. I was heavily invested in the Iraq War, both politically and emotionally. I was inspired and full of ideas in a way that only the young can be. I’ll never forget the feeling of despair I had when I sat in front of the TV and watched as the Iraq War officially began. I remember that once it had ultimately started I went to my tiny movie collection and put in this movie. I no longer wanted to see the reality of what must be taking place on the other side of the world. Instead I chose to watch the only thing I had that remotely related to the conflict, which was this movie.

Now there are several similarities between the Vietnam and Iraq wars but that had nothing to do with why I watched this film that night. I not only watched this film that night but I watched it every night after for probably as long as two months. This movie drew me in, it taught me something. It was real and a representation of the consequence of such actions. I watched it so much I knew every character in the film and when their character perished. This movie was made by a man who knew, a man who gave up his cushy life to fight alongside the common man who had no choice. This movie was based on the real life experiences of the man who made it, a man who lived through war. That meant something to me as my country entered another war that would undoubtedly lead to dire consequences for so many.

This is the movie that helped me understand war. The movie that taught me that war is more than action and wrong on several levels. There is “the way of war” and it’s an awful thing. No matter the circumstances that bring it about, when war becomes an option it is the innocent that suffer. In the way of war people are fighting for their lives. You have two sides pushed to the extreme and you have people caught in the middle. Who is to blame when horrible and awful things happen? The circumstances are a recipe for mayhem. When war is established life becomes dog eat dog for the people involved. It sucks but that is “the way of war.” Once the point of no return has been crossed the consequences that follow are inevitable.  Wars are fought by the young, especially this war because most of the men serving were drafted. Teenage boys carrying guns through the jungle can’t be held accountable for when they snap under the pressure. The people caught in the middle can’t be to blame because they are just trying to stay alive. There are so many unfortunate circumstances created by war. These things can never be lost on the men making the decision to go to war. People are going to suffer when war becomes necessary, it has to be for good reason or else it is just wrong and there is no justice to it at all.

When I was 19 years old I thought Oliver Stone was a God. Not literally of course but I thought he was head and shoulders above other filmmakers. He was the number one director in my mind and I felt his career was one of the greatest. Those illusions came crashing down a year later when the much anticipated, to me at least, Alexander came out. I had eagerly awaited that movie only for it to claim the highest echelon in the ranking of movies that crushed my soul. That is neither here nor there though as a year prior when I was watching this movie night after night I still had all my hopes and dreams for films invested in this man. Oliver Stone was Private Taylor from this film played by Charlie Sheen. Stone had dropped out of Yale to fight in Vietnam, something admirable that I respected then and still do today. Oliver Stone may be a bit of a conspiracy nut and like all conspiracy nuts he will bend the truth to serve his own purposes but there is still plenty the man deserves our respect for.

I had become infatuated with Stone for the wrong reasons prior to 2003. Like most young adolescent boys I was rebellious and as a movie fan I was drawn to the films that inspired my wild and immature inclinations. I liked to walk the fine line between good and bad and experimented with an aggressiveness that was encouraged by the movies I loved. Stone came into the picture with films like The DoorsAny Given Sundayand of course Natural Born KillersThese movies fueled my endeavors into rebellion, drug use, promiscuity, and profanity. There were several films and filmmakers that had this affect on me but it was Stone I stayed with as I matured from a boy into a young adult. With films like Platoon, Wall Street, Nixonand JFK Oliver Stone inspired me in new ways that molded my personality during the developmental years that continue in college. I have since grown out of the stage I was in when these films inspired me and I no longer see Stone in the same light I did back then. Nevertheless I still hold most of his films in high regard and I will always respect the man. A man that lived the life he does and did the things he has done deserves respect. I know better as an adult than to take everything he made at face value but there are still plenty of things I took away from his films and I appreciate the lessons that they taught me.

I have always found the Vietnam War to be fascinating and prefer the war movies from that era as opposed to the ones from before. There are different themes from those differing generations that I think are important. WWII left Americans with the impression that they were the greatest country in the world and could do no wrong. Many WWII movies I find enhance this theme. As a young man I whole heartedly believed in these all-American ideas as well but when I grew up I felt differently. Vietnam was like a slap in the face to Americans because it reminded them that not only were they not the unbeatable super power who could do anything but they were not even the good guys in some circumstances. Vietnam happened during a time when the children of the Baby Boomers were coming of age and they had different ideas about the state of the union.  The things happening in Southeast Asia were being broadcast on television every evening for the first time and the news was rarely good. It left an impact on the younger generations not only because it was in their face but because many of them were being recruited to fight in the conflict. Vietnam was going on during a cultural change in America. It was not a time where the country united to protect the world for the greater good like in WWII, but a time when the country was bleeding at home and divisions among the public were fueled by the conflict at hand. I feel like WWII films tend to represent the propaganda age of America while Vietnam films represent the realism that the country had to face. Vietnam films usually focus on the reality of war, the consequences that it creates, and the truth that we all need to understand as a people.

This movie taught me many of those truths, and I took them more seriously because the man teaching was one who knew. He was there and had firsthand experience in what he was trying to explain. I still find this film just as inspiring as I did when I was watching it for the first time and I still find lessons in it that we can all learn from. I am no longer the diehard Oliver Stone fan I was in my youth but that is by and large due to growing up. As an adult I am not as infatuated with the stoned and suspicious mind of Oliver Stone. The man’s work is on screen and he made some incredible things, but in the grand scheme of things they spoke to a younger version of myself that went into hibernation years ago before my kids were born. There is often a fine line between brilliance and insanity and Stone danced that line till he fell over into the insane side a long time ago. I am no longer the young and impressionable adolescent who believed in such grand ideas as the JFK conspiracy and believed that with a strong enough voice things in the world would change for the better. The world is what it is; you can only accept it at face value and keep moving forward. Delving into the larger scheme of things is only going to bring you disappointment and amount to wasted time.

There is something from this movie that I always used as an example to suggest Stone’s abilities and it had nothing to do with his take on the war. In this movie Oliver Stone got an impressive performance from Charlie Sheen in the role of Private Taylor, and again a year later in Wall Street. Charlie Sheen is an incredibly interesting person, but that aside, he has never been a particularly good actor. In the years before all his crazy antics in the press I used to wonder how it was that this man was such a celebrity and made such a good living at it. There were so few performances aside from the two already mentioned that I thought were worth anything. Point being, he was not a very good actor. However, I have always believed that a bad actor can be made great in a film by the right director. Hence the impression of Stone I had grew because of the performance he was able to get out of Sheen. In contrast I felt that in 2004 the opposite was true. Despite all the time he had invested in the film Stone made a horrible movie with his Alexander and specifically got an awful performance out of another bad actor, Colin FarrellAlexander, as far as I am concerned, was the end of Oliver Stone’s career for me as a fan because it signified a decline in skill. A couple years prior to Alexander one of the greatest directors ever, Steven Spielberg, had gotten a good performance out of Farrell in Minority Report. If Spielberg could do something that Oliver Stone could not it suggested to me that Stone had lost something, and I still feel like that holds true because in the last 10 years nothing he has done has impressed me as it did prior to Alexander.

Beyond Charlie Sheen this movie offers a very rich cast of actors. Tom Berenger gave one of the best performances on his career playing Sgt. Barnes. The role of Barnes was initially meant for Kevin Costner, who I think could have pulled it off well but Berenger made it his own. Willem Dafoe gave an equally good performance as Sgt. Elias. Dafoe is such an interesting actor and continues even until today to show a range and diversity as an actor that is impressive. Stone intentionally cast Berenger and Dafoe in roles contrasting what the public was used to seeing them play. Berenger, who usually played good guys, was cast as the ruthless and cruel Sgt. Barnes while Dafoe, who usually played villains, was cast as the crusader Elias. An interesting idea that worked well and brought more diversity to the careers of both men.

In the roles of other Sergeants were long time Stone collaborator John C. McGinley and the scariest man ever, Tony Todd. McGinley never reached that upper echelon of stardom but he played so many terrific parts over the years. Tony Todd plays a small part in this movie but his presence in anything should never go unnoticed because when you fail to notice Candyman he comes up behind you with a hook and kills you. Johnny Depp played the translator Lerner in one of his first roles ever. Stone reportedly met with him during casting and immediately predicted his future fame. In fact he considered casting Depp in the lead role of Taylor but didn’t because Depp was so young and unknown at the time. Keith David plays one of the biggest parts of any of the grunts in King. I am a big fan of Keith David and like just about everything he has ever done. Also as another grunt was future Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker whose part was small but shouldn’t go unnoticed.  Kevin Dillon played Bunny, the sadistic grunt who by the end nobody knows what to make of. Dillon probably had high hopes for his career in 1986 but he turned out to be the less famous brother of his not so famous older brother Matt Dillon.

The making of this movie was quite an incredible thing that went a long way with how the final product came out. As a veteran Stone didn’t just cast actors and put them in the jungle. He went farther and put them through an actual boot camp in the Philippines that ended the day before shooting. He didn’t want them to have any down time after the camp because he didn’t want them getting soft again before shooting the movie. It was a rigorous shoot that had some actors feeling like they had actually been in the war by the time they got home. Charlie Sheen reportedly kissed the ground upon his return to the States. These guys went into the jungle and did it the hard way; the way it should have been done to get it right. Even the fun stuff during this shoot was hard on the actors. In the scene where King takes Taylor to “meet the heads” the actors had been actually getting high all day on potent Filipino weed. By the time they actually shot the scene they were all stoned out of their minds and some were even feeling sick. An interesting story that I’ve always figured had to play into the long term drug use of the young Johnny Depp and Charlie Sheen. I don’t know but if I had to guess I’d wager Oliver Stone was the guy who introduced Charlie Sheen to his favorite drug of choice, cocaine. I imagine the Filipino weed was merely a stepping stone for Sheen as he moved onto coke and ultimately…tiger blood.

This movie is important to me because it taught me something that I will never forget. However this movie is important for many more reasons because it was a great movie and it accomplished what it intended to. The screenplay for this movie was written back in the 70s when Stone returned to America and didn’t appreciate how the war was depicted in John Wayne’s The Green BeretsIn that sense it succeeded in depicting a more realistic view of what the war was actually like. It wasn’t alone in trying to send that message as a few films about Vietnam came out around the same time. Most notably, Full Metal Jacket came out the following year. Both are great movies but they should not be compared because they are so different. Platoon was a film about the Grunts while Full Metal Jacket was a film about the Jarheads. The significant difference there was that men were drafted into the army while the marines are a branch made up of volunteers. That makes all the difference as one film is about men who chose to serve while the other is primarily about men who had no choice in the matter.

The Vietnam War was a fascinating chapter in American history and a true example of how history is never used enough going forward. Had the powers that be reflected on history during the development of the conflict in Vietnam the whole thing may have never happened. On the flip side, had the lessons from that conflict specifically been learned the US may not have entered another long war to force democracy down the throats of people who had no interest in it. It is difficult to fight a war on the other side of the world for reasons that mean little to the inhabitants. Guerrilla warfare is hard to combat, the British learned that over 200 years ago but somehow the lesson seems lost on the US. When the enemy can be anybody and can come from anywhere bad things will happen all around to everyone involved. The soldiers fighting under the pressures of their lives being on the line can’t be held accountable for the things that happen nor can the inhabitants who at some point may just get fed up and take up arms against the foreign soldiers in their country. It is the “way of war” and war never goes well. It’s not an action movie and it’s not a video game. When it happens people are going to suffer and someone’s hands are going to get dirty.

Movies are made to entertain but they are so much better when they can actually teach us something at the same time. This movie can do that and I appreciate it more for that very reason. This is a great film and it doesn’t need my stamp of approval on it because it has plenty already. If you haven’t seen this movie then you are missing out. If you don’t know the incredible history of the Vietnam War you are missing out, but you’d need a lot more than a movie to learn about that. As time moves forward things get lost behind us but it is important to never forget the lessons the past has to offer. This movie, for me at least, represents such a lesson and that makes it worth everybody’s time. This is an awesome movie and I think everybody should see it.

NEXT MOVIE: Pleasantville (1998)

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Year: 2003
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Written By: Robert Rodriguez

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie made it into the collection by way of the “Mexican Trilogy” pack that came out with its counterparts El Mariachi and DesperadoI am a huge fan of Robert Rodriguez and loved his first two films when I was younger. As I have gotten older my love of exaggerated action movies has faded and truthfully I found this film a bit disappointing when it came out. I was in college at the time and I was really excited to see this franchise return to the big screen. The movie fits in with the trilogy really well but I have never found it overly impressive.

I appreciate the style of Robert Rodriguez and his efforts to make incredibly badass Mexican heroes. I grew up watching and loving action movies. When I was younger, exaggerated action only fueled my adolescent imagination and El Mariachi and Desperado were two I specifically got into. Robert Rodriguez, along with others like Renny Harlin and John Woo, really had a knack for these kinds of movies. Now that I’m older though I’m not so into them. If it was a film I fell in love with as a kid then I still get into it but when it comes to something new it just seems silly to me.

This movie came out right around the time that I could just no longer tolerate such films and even it’s connection to two others I loved couldn’t get me on board with it. I think there is plenty to like in this movie and it is cool as only a Robert Rodriguez film can be but it’s just not one I’m interested in anymore.

Johnny Depp does his best to be super cool in this movie and he has his moment in the end when trying to take on the bad guys in a gun fight with no eyes. I think the movie centers around his character far too much though. The Mariachi, “El” that is, just isn’t in this movie enough and when he is he is just far too supernatural. When this movie came out Johnny Depp was still the cool guy for my generation. The same year this came out he was also in Pirates of the Caribbean and I have never felt he was the same since. Since playing Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp has been an agent of Disney and lost the cool guy persona my generation came to love. Gone were the movies like Blow and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, to be replaced by a series of films in which he seemed to wear progressively more and more make-up. A trend that continues in his career and marriage with Disney. He was still cool in this movie but I have never been a huge fan of his portrayal of this overly cheesy and catty CIA operative.

There isn’t enough of Salma Hayek here either and when she is it’s a bit too exaggerated. Now all can be forgiven in the face of such a flawless beauty but there is just not enough of her in it. This movie isn’t lacking in cast at all and in fact I think it is the saving grace of the film. I may have outgrown this type of movie but I can still appreciate it for what it is. Rodriguez never fails to get a terrific cast together. In this movie are many of his regulars such as Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, and Julio Oscar Mechoso among others. Rodriguez takes a lot of pride in his heritage and I admire his loyalty to it when casting films.

Antonio Banderas is as cool as ever in the hero role. A bit too supernatural this time around but it is a role he pulls off well. As I said earlier though, there isn’t enough of him in this movie as too much of the film focuses on Depp’s character and near the end too much screen time is dedicated to the other mariachis. Why try to make Enrique Iglesias into a badass when he is only going to take screen time away from a guy like Banderas? I like Mickey Rourke and Willem Dafoe in this movie. I have always been a fan of Dafoe. He was everywhere when this movie came out if that offers any explanation as to how he got this role and it didn’t go to an actual Latino actor. Eva Mendes is flawlessly beautiful but has never really been able to rise to any big time roles.

This movie is what it is. It’s an overloaded action movie that will suffice if that is what you are in the mood for. There are better movies for the occasion but you could do worse by not giving this one a chance. It has plenty of moments to appreciate and keep you interested. I don’t know this this movie is really worth your time but if you are a fan of the series it is still a must see.

NEXT MOVIE: Orange Country (2002)

 

Mississippi Burning

Year: 1988
Directed By: Alan Parker
Written By: Chris Gerolmo

RYAN’S REVIEW

The best movies are the ones that teach us something.  The ones that get into our core and change the very fiber of our being for the rest of time. This movie did that for me. It taught me an invaluable lesson about racism that I will never forget. The message this movie sends is one that has been preached by many films but it is one I only needed once. It has soured my opinion some to other movies along the same lines but I hope each and every one of them did for others what this one did for me.  The world was an uglier place in 1964. It’s an unfortunate reality that the world is still that ugly 50 years later, but I hope with every lesson a film like this delivers that we will be that much closer to what the world can be.

There is plenty of ugliness in this world but I think racism would just about give anything a run for its money at being the worst.  To have hate in your heart for another person based on nothing more than their skin color is despicable.  To judge a person you do not know for preconceived notions that are unfounded is awful.  Worst of all is being so blinded by hate that you physically and emotionally hurt other people to perpetuate some ridiculous idea created by hateful and evil people.  It just blows, in every way possible.  Nothing makes me sicker than to see this ugliness in the world.  I do not judge people for what they were raised to believe but I believe we should all try to be better.  When you settle for the norm or go on with a mentality you know to be wrong you aren’t being better but simply bringing us all down by being worse. The world will never change unless we change ourselves but we can’t do it alone.  It’s a sad reality that as long as ignorance is still prevalent in our society that we will have to endure unnecessary hatred and judgment.

I mentioned that this movie has soured me on others along the same lines and I’d like to clarify that statement.  I just don’t like seeing racism, and I prefer not to see it because I find it ugly.  It’s no different than seeing rape or adultery in a movie.  Some things will just turn me off of a film because I don’t care to see it.  With racism I have learned my lesson about it and I don’t care to pile on by choosing to watch more of the ugliness.  I hope they never stop being made because each and every one has the opportunity to teach someone and that’s great.  I just don’t need that lesson anymore and choose to avoid seeing those films for the most part.  This movie is enough for me but I still find this one hard to watch again.  It’s a great movie all around but I don’t think it is fun to watch.  The Klansmen make me sick to my stomach and though it is awesome to see them get what is coming to them the damage they had already done can’t go unnoticed.  I wish this world hadn’t been this way and wasn’t so similar today in various ways but it’s an unfortunate reality we have to live with.  It’s incredibly difficult to change someone’s opinion about anything once they have set their mind to it.  I am thankful for the people out there who want to fight the battle but personally I think you are just fighting.  It’s like the war on drugs, it’s unwinnable.  You can no more make someone feel a way they don’t than you can stop them from doing something they want to do.  You can preach and punish all you want but at the end of the day haters are gonna hate and hopheads are gonna get high.

I think with this movie that the lesson I have learned from it is more important than the movie itself.  It’s a very good film that is based on real events.  There are the Hollywood elements added in as they are in all movies based on true stories but the messages the film sends are clear and authentic. Gene Hackman is incredible and should have won the Oscar but lost to Dustin Hoffman for Rainman. Frances McDormand is great in everything she does and I’m a big fan of Willem Dafoe.  I think all the KKK members were perfectly cast, R. Lee Ermey and Michael Rooker fit in accordingly.  There is also a young Eddie Winslow in the movie playing an inspiring part.  That is all I want to say about the film itself though.  I think it is a terrific film and I appreciate what it taught me but I believe what it taught me was more important than the film itself.

This movie is worth your time.  If you watch this movie and don’t feel sympathy in your heart there is something wrong with you.  There is a valuable lesson to be had from this movie and if you manage to not get it you need to see more.  If you can’t feel how awful the content of this movie is then you need to open your mind and see it again.  We can all be better as people and as individuals.  This is one of the movies that taught me to be a better person and a stronger individual.  I hope you watch it and get as much out of it as I do.  We can’t change the world but we can change ourselves and we can raise children to be smarter than our parents were and we are.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is incredibly moving. A movie that makes you want to stand up for something, too. It is a really hard movie to watch. If you are a black person or a white person, it’s hard to watch. There is a huge lesson to be learned about this movie, about people and natural born rights. I wasn’t alive during this time and I am so thankful for that, because my whole motto in life is “Live and Let Live.” I don’t understand why people had and have hatred for other people for no reason at all. It burdens my heart. This movie tells an amazing story and it is worth watching for sure.

mississippi_burning

I am really impressed with this poster. I don’t think it effectively draws in curiosity or anything, but I do think it is really well designed. I am always a fan of a grid design. I think the colors are simple and well suited for this movie. You have two big names and they are evident and at the top and it also gives you an idea of what the characters look like in the film. For this poster to be done in 1988 is also impressive, I feel like it is a little ahead of its time. Another note here. I feel like the simplicity of this poster alludes to the seriousness of its nature.

NEXT MOVIE: Money Talks (1997)

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Year: 2004
Directed By: Wes Anderson
Written By: Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach

RYAN’S REVIEW

Wes Anderson has only made a handful of movies to date and I love nearly all of them but this one is without doubt my favorite.  His movies tend to be slower and have a very subtle type of comedy to them that just gets me every time. The film is dedicated to Jacques Cousteau and was made as both a tribute and caricature to his films. In this film we see Bill Murray in the lead role playing an apathetic and disheartened rival to “Cousteau and his cronies” that is on a mission for revenge of all things. Somewhere out there is the mysterious Jaguar Shark, that may or may not exist, who killed his right hand man. Things have fallen apart for him and he just flat out doesn’t care anymore.  As he goes on this adventure seeking revenge he encounters financial difficulties, pirates, a small mutiny, and a tragic loss along the way.

I am a huge fan of Bill Murray and think his performance in this film is one of the best he has ever had.  As Steve Zissou he plays a man who was once on top but has fallen from the limelight and is now laughable.  He has lost his drive and now lives carelessly and without inhibition. I love his “scientific purpose” for killing this Bigfoot of the sea. Revenge, a ridiculous notion to take out on a sea creature that may or may not exist, but it jives perfectly with the personality of Steve Zissou.  When Ned approaches him with the possibility of being his son he simply drifts away for a moment and smokes a joint on bow of the ship then returns to immediately pick right back up with the conversation.  The way he treats Ned is hilarious too.  When they sit down to have a drink together he treats this grown man as if he were a child, “no that’s mine, he doesn’t know anything about wine.” Paired with Zissou’s apathetic style is an arrogance that only a man who was once great can have.  I love when he renames Ned Kingsley Zissou and just goes forward with it even after Ned’s reservations. Zissou may be kind of a dick but he is ballsy and that makes him a badass. The scenes when he breaks free to fight the pirates and leads his crew in the rescue of the bond company stooge are awesome.  One of my favorite lines from the movie comes right after he fights off the pirates when he yells “you left your dog you idiots!” Yet Zissou later leaves the dog behind himself after rescuing the bond company stooge. All and all I love this guy; he’s like “The Dude” of the sea only not a pacifist and a lot crazier.  He is an awesome character and I don’t think any other actor out there could have brought him to life in quite the same way as Bill Murray.  Murray is truly a one of a kind artist and person. We must cherish every film he has left in him and with hope there are many more to come.

Wes Anderson uses so many of the same actors on a regular basis that he has practically developed his own troupe.  Owen Wilson is one of his regulars and turns in a great performance as Ned, who may or may not be Steve Zissou’s son.  I think his accent in the film is perfect, it has a draw and twang to it that really adds humor to the things he says.  I’ve read that he modeled the accent after that of Will Patton.  I can see how he tried but there is still a nasally sound to it that makes it sound altogether different from Patton.  Willem Dafoe plays the part of Zissou’s most loyal crewman Klaus, who struggles with the relationship developing between Steve and Ned possibly because he is a closet homosexual.  I think Klaus is awesome and I love the scene in which he confronts Ned and smacks him across the face. Willem Dafoe was everywhere for a while right at the turn of the century but I haven’t seen him in anything significant in quite a while.  That’s disappointing because I think he is a great actor.  He has a role in Anderson’s next movie and I look forward to it.

I am not a big fan of Anjelica Huston but Wes Anderson obviously is because he casts her in everything.  I don’t know this but if I was a betting man I’d put money on the notion that she probably reminds him of his mother as that is the role he usually casts her in.  She has a look that conveys intelligence and dignity and she brings that quality to every role she plays in his films.  As Eleanor Zissou, Etheline Tenembaum, and as the estranged mother Patricia from Darjeeling Limited she is always a strong, wise, and independent woman.  I’m not a big fan because personally I have always thought she looked kind of evil but her roles in Anderson’s film have really made me come around to liking her more.

I’ve also never been a fan of Jeff Goldblum, at least not as a leading man anyway.  I do like him much more when he plays a secondary character like he does in this film as Zissou’s rival Alistair Hennessey. I think Goldblum has plenty of great scenes in this movie but my favorite is when he meets Zissou on the deck of his ship.  When he casually asks the dogs name before walking over and smacking the shit out of him is so funny.  I like the way asks its name before hitting it and the way he points at it as he stares it down afterwards.  It conveys power from a man who has succeeded so much more than his rival has financially.  Cate Blanchett is a fantastic actress and has a very interesting role in this movie.  Blanchett hadn’t even met her co-stars when she walked onto set and filmed her first scene with them on the beach looking at the glowing Man-of-wars.  She is that talented of an actress though, she’s a pro who can show up and drop a great performance just like that.

It was made out to be a big deal that Bud Cort was cast in the movie but I don’t buy it.  Now I’m not saying he didn’t do a good job because I thought he was excellent as the bond company stooge.  I love the scene after the rescue on the Belafonte when Hennessey asks how they got all his equipment and Cort replies “we fucking stole it,” hilarious.  I simply won’t give Cort any additional credit because I specifically hated the film he is most famous for.  I hear all the time about how it’s a classic and what not but I can’t see it.  As far as I am concerned Harold and Maude is a bleak and demented movie.  Its dark comedy on suicide never really appealed to me and I think the relationship between the two title characters is gross.  You can say love holds no bars but screw that I’m telling you there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to age difference as it pertains to sexual relations.

The ending to this film is so powerful.  When everyone finally sees the Jaguar shark it proves that Zissou wasn’t crazy, and even he himself questioned that at times.  Throughout the entire film he never seems certain that there is actually anything out there but finding it validates him as a person.  He gets emotional for the only time in the film because he realizes he isn’t crazy and he still has the talents he thought he had lost.  I think in that moment he finally allows himself to feel the loss of his best friend Esteban and of his possible son Ned.  It is touching to see this stoic and apathetic character actually feel something. Following that scene is the Zissou sitting outside alone as the audience applauds his newest film.  As he is joined by his crew he walks away triumphantly to whatever new adventure lay before him.  It is an incredible ending to an awesome movie.

This is a movie I usually hesitate to recommend to people because I never know how other people will take Wes Anderson.  I love his films and wholeheartedly look forward to every one he makes but most of the people I talk to don’t really like his films.  Despite that I’m going to say this film is without doubt worth your time because it is one of my favorites.  If you have seen it before please leave a comment to share your own thoughts, I am always interested to hear what other people have to say about a film I don’t know many who have watched.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is absurdly ridiculous in all the right ways. Of course by now you should know, and understand that we really like Wes Anderson. He has an original style and look and I don’t think any other movie carries it as well as this one. It was such a strange, strange film yet so interesting you can’t look away. And furthermore, I will watch anything that has Bill Murray in it. (Side note about Bill Murray. Have we ever mentioned we live in North Carolina? Every year we go down to SC around Folly Beach and vacation and visit some friends. Guess who also vacations around the area? That’s right Bill Murray. And legend has it that he is extremely nice in real life.)

lifeaquatic

This is probably the best I have seen where the designer tried to fit the whole fucking cast in there. I still hate it. But at least there are no floating heads in the ocean surrounding the pod. I have to say I am really disappointed with this poster. I think that they had such an opportunity to do something really cool because of the design and style of Wes Anderson. Boo, I am not impressed with this poster at all. One of my least favorites simply because of the opportunities lost on it.

NEXT MOVIE: Life of Brian (1979)

Inside Man

Year: 2006
Directed By: Spike Lee
Written By: Russell Gewirtz

RYAN’S REVIEW

Let’s face it; the bank robbery movie has been done to death.  This movie quickly gets the regular things out of the way and then distinguishes itself quite nicely. Early on we see a time jump that clearly lets us know that the police are clueless; they have no idea who perpetrated the crime.  So we are left to wonder as the robbery unfolds how exactly the criminals manage to succeed and what exactly they are after.  This one will keep you guessing and intrigued all throughout. It has an excellent cast and a wild story that threads a great web of mystery.

I have never really been a fan of Spike Lee, although I do like that all his movies are referred to as “A Spike Lee Joint.” I do not think he is a bad director; I have just never been a fan of his specifically.  In fact I think this is the only movie he has made that we own.  I have never seen Malcolm Xbut it has been on my list of movies to watch for over ten years now.  It is completely possible I have just not seen enough of his work; I just haven’t liked the few that I have seen.  This one was incredible though, he did an excellent job in putting the film together.  His camera angles are all great, his sets look good, and more importantly his movie kept me interested and guessing the whole time.

I’m not a big Denzel fan either but I cannot deny his talent. He has a great track record and will be remembered forever for his talent, but I have just never been a fan.  Personally I feel that he brings too much racism into his films. I specifically hate racism and it always bothers me.  He has always had a knack for playing the black man being persecuted, a role that needs to be played.  My problem comes specifically from his role in Remember the Titans.  He was great in that movie but there was one scene where he got into a confrontation with Will Patton.  It bothered me because Patton played a character that was on Denzel’s side, yet Denzel treated him like he was being judged.  I know that is how the character was probably written but still feel Denzel overplayed the part and was trying to get a specific point across.  For whatever the reason it bothered me. I can’t think of any other immediate example but that one is specifically the reason I don’t like him.  He has also made many movies I have enjoyed and this one is one of them.  Denzel fits the part well and delivers his performance as a seasoned pro.  I am not a fan of his but my opinion should not matter because his talent speaks for itself.

This was another good role for Clive Owen in 2006 but for whatever reason I find myself wondering “what happened to Clive Owen?” in 2012.  I have always like Owen but his career seemed to fizzle out somewhere over the last few years.  In fact, looking over his track record it is arguable that this was the last movie he made worth any salt.  He is listed as filming the sequel to Sin City and I am very hopeful for that. (Check that, in the time it has taken to publish this post -waiting on my wife’s input- Clive Owen’s part in Sin City 2 has been recast. Josh Brolin is now playing the part that Owen played in the first movie. It makes sense because in the first movie he is said to have a new face, but it still blows. I’d take Owen over Brolin any day.) Despite Owen’s drop in popularity I think he undoubtedly has more to offer as an actor. Speaking of actors who have fizzled out, I think this was a great role for Jodie Foster as well.  I have always liked Foster and I think she was really badass in this movie.  I am a really big fan of Willem Dafoe and I like any movie a little bit better when he is in it.  I spotted Daryl Mitchell in a small supporting role and wanted to mention him because he was awesome in Galaxy Quest

Movies are always a little bit better when they center on Nazis somehow and I love how this movie brought that into the story line. As the story unfolds things only get more interesting. The cops don’t know what was going on, they know who did it but can’t prove it, anybody can be a suspect, and no money was taken.  This is a crazy mystery for a long time and then it all comes together so perfectly.  There was a larger game being played in this one and it kept us all on the edge of our seats.

I think this movie is worth your time because it is awesome.  There is something deep down inside of all of us as movie fans that undeniably make us love the bank robbery movie.  This one manages to bring something new to the table so it is something we should all be in to.  The bank robbery movie may have been done to death but this movie proves there is still something great to be offered in the scenario.  If you haven’t seen this movie then you should give it a chance and I hope you enjoy it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This is a really cool movie. Denzel is such a likeable actor. What I mean by that is even when he is playing an unlikable character, you still like the job he did acting that part. He is that good. I am aware that Ryan doesn’t like Denzel Washington, but here we split and disagree. I really like this movie and I think you would too.

insideman

This movie poster is SUPER cool. It looks like the designer had free range to do something really creative. They have all of the needed information, but it is arranged in such an unusual manner. Love it. I love the colors, I love the fonts, and I love the grid. LOVE IT.

NEXT MOVIE: Interview with a Vampire