Woody Harrelson

Free Birds

Year: 2013
Directed By: Jimmy Hayward
Written By: Scott Mosier, Jimmy Hayward, David I. Stern and John J. Strauss

 

It suddenly dawned on me tonight, on the eve of Thanksgiving, that I haven’t reviewed a movie with a Thanksgiving theme. Over the past couple of years at least I have liked to drop a movie review that correlated with America’s mostly passed over holiday. So suddenly did the realization hit me that I had little to no time to consider an appropriate film. In years past we have reviewed Dutch and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, both excellent movies for the holiday. This year on short notice I had little time to consider before the most practical film of all was suggested by Amber. So, I may have dipped into my children’s fledgling DVD collection for this title that I think works all too well.

There are several films made for my children that I find myself liking just as much as they do. Titles that immediately come to mind are The Croods, Big Hero 6, and of course this film. Pixar makes great films for all ages too but all too often now they are trying to make me cry and it pisses me off. I will never get over that bullshit at the end of Toy Story 3. I’m referencing the scene in which all the toys find themselves in the trash compactor with no hope of escape. Instead of trying to come up with some new escape plan they all hold hands and accept their imminent death in what last for many many seconds before they are saved. Come on Pixar, why don’t you just kick me in the balls and make me cry honestly??? It’s obscene to have this kind of moment in a children’s film and nothing makes me feel sillier than bawling my eyes out in a Toy Story film.

I find that I cry far more often in children films than in adult films these days. I am unashamed of it in most cases but Pixar gets under my skin because they are just laying it on too thick. In The Croods when the dad has to throw his entire family across the gap in the Earth only to be left behind himself I cry like a baby, but that’s different. There’s the father daughter aspect that hits me in the heart and I feel like they earn my tears honestly. Pixar cheats by going too hard for that punch in the gut, and really letting the moment linger.

This movie however does not make me cry at all and in fact it’s quite the opposite as the laughs keep on coming. I think the story about these turkeys time traveling to get themselves off the Thanksgiving menu is hilarious. The two main characters are voiced by Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson making the movie that much cooler. You even have a lot of other great voices filling up other roles like Amy Poehler, Keith David, Colm Meaney, and even George Takei. They all sound fantastic and deliver on a script that will keep you laughing.

It’s easy the older we get to dismiss animated films for being nothing more than babysitters for the youngins but if you sit down and watch some of them with them you might find yourself surprised. I didn’t particularly like Boss Baby, but for every five of those movies there’s a Shrek, Wall-E, an Up and I know I’m starting to contradict myself naming a few Pixar films but those are exceptional films and Pixar has, in the past made some truly exceptional movies.

So if you get bored with parades and football this Thanksgiving day check out this movie with your kids. You will probably be surprised to find out you enjoy it just as much as they do. Whatever you do try to do something to celebrate the family fun day and not move immediately to Christmas. Take some time to eat turkey, congregate with loved ones, sit through at least one ridiculous argument, and honor the memory of a make believe history. If you already have your Christmas lights up shame on you, that’s Friday work. Tomorrow, that’s all about family, fun, some drama and a lot of thankfulness. I hope you all have a happy one and find plenty to be thankful for.

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No Country For Old Men

Year: 2007
Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen
Written By: Joel and Ethan Coen (screenplay) Cormac McCarthy (novel)

RYAN’S REVIEW

2007 was a big year for the Coen brothers.  They won 4 Academy Awards for this film including Best Picture, Best Direction, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Editing.  This movie was a big hit with the Academy and it was a big hit with the audience as well.  Despite that I am not the biggest fan of it.  I think it is a great movie but I don’t feel like it was their best movie.  This seemed to be the time that everybody realized who the Coen brothers were and that bothered me on some level because I had long since been a big fan of their work.  As good as this movie is I still wouldn’t even categorize it as one of their top 5 films and I’m always annoyed when something becomes trendy and people suddenly understand something that had always been there had they taken the time to notice.

I also think this movie drags a bit too much at times.  I think it’s the lack of music that makes it feel so slow.  Music helps a movie move at a specific pace and the absence of any score in this one slows it down for me.  Tommy Lee Jones is incredible and I think he is great in this film but during one of his monologues later in the film I wanted to scratch my eyes out with boredom. The lack of a musical score did nothing to inhibit the movie and in truth the first time I saw it I was so enthralled I didn’t even notice until the second viewing.  I think though, once the shocks have been taken in that attempting to watch this movie again seems mundane.  I loved it the first time I saw it but the more I see it the less enthused I am about it.

So much of the strength of this film lies in the performance of Javier Bardem, and he was absolutely terrifying in the part.  When watching this movie for the first time you literally never know what he is going to do.  He is so intimidating and brutal.  It’s a role that deserved to win the Academy Award and it will live on forever as one of the baddest of the bad.  With his sudden ferocity and unique weapons Anton Chigurh ranks right up there with the greats like Bill the Butcher or Heath Ledger’s Joker. Nevertheless as much as I respect the Coen Brothers and appreciate the performance of Bardem I don’t love this bad guy or this movie.  I bought into it all 100% the first time I saw it but I find myself short of lasting love for the any of it and that is unusual for a Coen Brothers film. I’m a guy that loves a good bad guy and can’t get enough of him, but this bad guy hasn’t stood the test of time for me.  Anton Chigurh is a ruthless and capable hitman but he isn’t the badass boss type of bad guy that I usually find myself shamefully pulling for.

Around this the time this movie came out Josh Brolin suddenly seemed to be in everything. He was in a number of successful films in 2007 and he continues to be a player in the industry today.  I was puzzled seven years ago about it and I’m puzzled still how and why this Goonie suddenly popped into the limelight seemingly out of nowhere.  In 2007 he had significant roles in this film with the Coen Brothers, as well as Planet Terror with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, and American Gangster with Ridley Scott.  How did this happen so suddenly? These are big time directors all of a sudden casting important parts to a guy who had been around but hadn’t done anything significant for over twenty years.  I suppose I have to be wrong, I must have missed some performance that stood out among the rest.  I’m not really a fan of his work so I haven’t ever made any effort to research the matter but sometimes in the back of my mind this mystery needles at me.  If anybody knows the story behind Josh Brolin’s sudden rise into success please let me know.  I would love to satisfy that curiosity without having to actually do any digging to find out.  There is something about him I just don’t like and can’t quite put my finger on it.  He is well cast in this movie though because I think he fits the part perfectly.

I like what Woody Harrelson and Stephen Root bring to the film because they are both two of my favorites but there just isn’t enough of them in this one. Root has his typical pinch hit of a role but as usual he hits it out of the park.  You just never know where he is going to be but you can always trust that when you see him he will be doing great at whatever he is doing. As for Woody Harrelson you can just never have enough of him, and I feel like his part in this movie is altogether too short.

I have been too critical in this review and don’t get me wrong.  I think this is a great film, I’m not contesting that.  I just don’t particularly like it, anymore.  I felt then that it was a shame that most people came to know the Coen’s through this film because they already had a number of incredible films under their belt.  Despite their impressive filmography they weren’t well known by any means to the casual film watcher.  Their movies were never known in the past to be high grossing at the box office but they were often awarded for their work because despite the money it had made they were great films. When people talked about this movie I would tell them to go watch Fargo or The Big Lebowski. I would ask if they had ever seen Blood Simple or Raising Arizona.  I would mention classic scenes from The Ladykillers or Intolerable Cruelty. I know that I’m just an annoying know it all when it comes to films and I take stubborn stances on things from time to time but this one frustrated me.  I wanted people to know that they had been missing out on something great and that No Country for Old Men was only one of many incredible films from these two brothers.  They are smart filmmakers in a class all by themselves, and like many great filmmakers their movies don’t always reach the widest of audiences.  When things don’t involve explosions and special effects not enough people turn out to the theaters.

 

AMBER’S REVIEW

I think this film is incredibly original and extremely terrifying. It’s hard for me to watch a movie Javier Bardem is in because I think he just did such a great job of being a completely ruthless killer. So scary. Also, there was no music in this movie. That sounds like a crazy thing to do, and yet they did it, and it just adds to the creepiness of the whole thing. It takes a strong movie maker to make a decision like no music. I often think about the Coen Brothers and wonder if their creativity tank will ever dry up. I know that I get burned out doing creative stuff all the time, and it makes me wonder what their creative process is like. Wouldn’t that make an interesting documentary?

No_Country_for_Old_Men_poster

I like this poster. It’s very much in the Coen Brothers style. Most important…DO you see how freaking scary he looks? Those dead eyes. This poster is filled with symbolism. The mouth appears to be consuming the body of the running man, and this supports the movie’s tagline…”There are no clean getaways.” The stacked typography is also a symbol for this tagline, and the meaning of the movie. It is staggered and unsupported. It could potentially tumble at any moment. I love this poster and the idea it gives for what the movie is actually about. If you haven’t seen this film, do.

 

NEXT MOVIE: No Time for Sergeants (1958) 

Natural Born Killers

Year: 1994
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: Oliver Stone, the original screenplay that was picked up off the bottom of a pile of rejections was by Quentin Tarantino

RYAN’S REVIEW

It gives the wrong impression, it’s not something I generally admit to people openly, but this is my favorite movie of all time.  Since the very first time I saw it I was in love with it. It is unlike any movie I have ever seen and I think it is indisputably a work of art, despite its content.

As to the content of this movie. This isn’t violence it’s anger, pure unadulterated anger.  Anger at a world that isn’t right.  Anger that manifests itself in a violent response.  Mickey and Mallory are the response to what this world was in 1994 and still is.  It is a violent and evil world; there is no innocence, even among the good.  Everything is mainstream and we all do as we are told.  Mickey and Mallory came from the worse elements of this world and what they turned into was simply reactionary. The response from the world depicted  by the public in this film isn’t off base either, that’s the sad reality of the whole thing.

I don’t think this is a movie that should be watched by a younger audience and I don’t think it’s wise for unsettled people to watch it under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs.  Both of which have caused unfortunate problems in the past and the consequences were grave.  It is an awful thing when people watch a film and do something crazy afterwards. I like it even less when the film is blamed because the actions that follow are on the heads of the perpetrator and not film.  Those people were and are crazy.  If it isn’t the film or song they were listening to that triggered them then it would have been something else.

I myself watched this movie at too young of an age in truth. I was 15 or 16 the first time I picked it up off the shelf at the video store I worked at.  I specifically remembered that my step-father had watched it with my older brother and found it repulsive; saying that the rest of us were never to see it.  More than anything it was the look on his face I remember, and the tone in his voice. Something about this movie made it different. We were forbidden from in it a way that somehow surpassed other such declarations. It was years later when I broke the rules and tasted this forbidden fruit alone in my room.  I can say honestly that it had me from the opening scene and instantly became my favorite movie of all time. It claimed the spot early and has never been toppled.

I have also, as a matter of fact, watched this movie under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs and I’m not afraid to admit that.  I was in college; a time long long ago in a town far far away.  Oliver Stone was under the influence of mushrooms at times before and probably during the filming of this movie.  The influence of psychedelics is obvious even to someone who has never experienced them. The scene when Mickey and Mallory eat mushrooms and get followed by a cop was actually based on something that happened to Stone and someone else while they were scouting locations.  Seeing this movie on mushrooms was like watching a different film and I have thought since that the movie was made to be seen like that.  Obviously it is not something I recommend to people and it’s not an experience I expect to have again as times are different now and youthful experimenting is a thing of the past.

I think this movie gets a bad rap, but it earned that in spades.  The content of this movie is harsh and it’s not for everyone.  I have just always seen through all of the violence and loved what is beneath.  Underneath it all is a relationship that I have always found inspiring.  Mickey and Mallory are two people completely in love and hopelessly dedicated to one another.  Their actions are fiendish and awful, but the connection they share is a beautiful thing.  When I was in high school I would tell people about this and tell them to look at the love story that was underneath it all.  I love their marriage over the river when they bond their blood and send it into the river.  I also love when they finally reunite in prison during the riot, great scene.  I don’t care for the implied rape of the hostage, and the very real allusion to it in the uncut version of the film.  These are really bad people, and these are the kind of things those types of people do.  I don’t condone any of the actions Mickey and Mallory take in the film. I love the characters but in no way think that anything about them is alright. It’s just a movie though, and rooting for bad guys is always a guilty pleasure. These bad guys happen to share a love that I admire and it is the love that gets me with this movie.  There is plenty to love and appreciate about this movie but for me it’s all about Mickey and Mallory.  They have a love for one another that is special.  Sure they are crazy, but they are crazy for each other in a touching way.

At the top of this review I credit Oliver Stone with the writing of this film and I want to explain why.  When Quentin Tarantino was trying to get started he sold two screenplays to earn enough money to get Reservoir Dogs started.  Those screenplays were True Romance and Natural Born Killers.  Both of which turned out to be good films. Good films both of which were about a couple that go on a wild cross country crime spree and kill a lot of people. Yeah the stories are different, but only by variation. Quentin Tarantino has loudly criticized this movie in the past because so much of what he intended was changed, and because…you know, his giant over bloated ego was wounded.  Tarantino is brilliant, but when he starts talking he rarely comes across as anything but an arrogant douche bag. Oliver Stone is an incredible writer in his own rite.  He picked up this screenplay off the bottom of a pile of rejected scripts and redid it in his own way. With all due respect to Tarantino, he is a great filmmaker, but he isn’t even half the talent that Oliver Stone was in his heyday.  I’ll be the first to admit things are dramatically different now and the exact opposite today but in his day Stone was hands down incredible.  He made some outstanding movies that, despite their content or political agenda, were works of art and most of them are absolutely unique in their own way.  This movie for example, is unlike any you will ever see.  If you can look past the surface and see it for what it really is you will see that this is more than a film.  It is the product of an artist who was in his element, with a camera as his brush and an editing room as his studio.

During his heyday Oliver Stone was the type of director that a lot of grade-A talent wanted to work with.  You only need to look over the casts of his films from the 80s and 90s to see that.  This movie was no different and the cast it offers is an outstanding one.  It starts with the lead roles of Mickey and Mallory.  Woody Harrelson is not only an interesting person personally but he is the kind of acting talent that it is hard to not like.  He has seemed to only get better with age and this day in age he is just so flawlessly cool.  He is excellent as Mickey Knox. Mickey is uneducated and ignorant but sly and cunning despite that.  He is vicious in the ways that only a man of lifelong repression can be yet he wins you over with that charming quality that can only be embodied by Woody Harrelson.  Harrelson has the benefit in this film of having an outstanding counterpart in Juliette Lewis. To cast Mallory Knox they had to find someone who could be sexy yet batshit crazy at the drop of a hat.  They couldn’t have chosen better.  Nobody pulls off batshit crazy like Juliette Lewis. She is such a badass, she actually broke Tom Sizemore’s nose while filming their scene in her prison cell. I don’t know what has happened to her lately as she only appears in the most random of films these days and always as a cameo.  She doesn’t capture the big roles anymore and I don’t know why because I have always thought she was an outstanding actress.  Like Harrelson she also has a really interesting back story personally.

Tom Sizemore brings his own element of crazy to this film.  I have always been a big fan of Sizemore but his personal life has loudly been problematic.  He has had significant struggles with drugs as well as anger issues that have led to problems for him before.  I do not condone his personal actions but I have always liked him in the supporting roles he is famous for.  In this movie he fits the part like no one else could have and I think he is really good as Jack Scagnetti.  The name of his character specifically is part of this movie that shows its roots from Tarantino.  Scagnetti is a name Tarantino has used before.  In Reservoir Dogs Mr. Blonde mentions his parole officer is named Scagnetti.

This was one of the last significant acting roles Rodney Dangerfield had as his career came to a close.  That is unfortunate as it was a very unsavory role but like Sizemore he just fit the part so well.  I was never a fan of Dangerfield’s loud style but in this movie he did something dramatic and different.  He plays a sick and depraved man. The type that makes you feel sorry for the daughter that grows up to be a psychotic killer. This was Rodney Dangerfield’s first and only performance in a dramatic film and I think he did an excellent job. Despite the role he plays in this movie Dangerfield deserves the respect and recognition of comedy fans.  He was a one of kind comedian who helped pave the way for those who would follow him.

Rounding out the big names in the cast is none other than Oliver Stone’s good friend Tommy Lee Jones who he shares a birthday with.  Jones is a bit over the top in this film but he did so on purpose.  As a Harvard graduate Jones is a highly intelligent actor who in fact was never schooled in his trade.  Jones never took an acting class but that has never inhibited him.  He has had a long and distinguished career as an actor that he continues to build on.  Jones was hot during the time this movie came out having hit it big winning an Oscar for The Fugitive the year before. This role is a much different part and that only highlights his talent as an actor.  He became a beloved actor playing straight laced types like we saw in The Fugitive or The Client but in this movie he is much more uncouth and heinous. It’s not my favorite role from Jones by any means but I still like what he brings to the table as McClusky.

This movie makes a statement about society, the media, human nature, and American culture in the mid nineties.  I think by and large it is misunderstood, but with good reason.  There is a lot more to this movie than meets the eye at first approach.  If you don’t see anything but the worst in it then you are missing out on what makes it the best.  I love this movie and I have never been afraid to admit it.  I have never been one to broadcast it because it sets the wrong impression but I will gladly mention this movie every time the question of favorites comes up.  This movie is my favorite because it is different, because it is bold, and because it says something about the world.

I don’t generally recommend this movie to people, because it isn’t for everyone and I fear too many just won’t understand.  I don’t argue about it either, the content is too controversial and strong opinions come with it.  A movie like this comes with certain preconceived notions and assumptions that can give people the wrong idea about a fan.  People will think what they think but anybody who doesn’t look deeper into this one is missing out.  It has been my favorite movie of all time since the first time I saw it and I love it just as much every time I see it again.  Watch this one at your own risk, it is what it is and not to be taken for granted.  It’s not like other films but that it part of what makes it special.

 

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan made me watch this when we were in college. I wasn’t allowed to see anything like this growing up. I didn’t know a movie like this even existed until Ryan showed it to me. I have seen it many times now over the years, but even today it sucks me in and intrigues me. The story is incredibly different than anything else I had ever seen, and still today is a great take on the media. It’s even worse today than when this movie was made. Imagine this movie set in today’s world, with social media the way it is today. It was ahead of its time, not even knowing what the monster social media would become.

Natural Born Killers PosterThis poster is cool. I don’t think it does the film justice, but for its time in history, I think it’s pretty cool. The image is set in all black and white, with the exception of his glasses, which also have the reflection of Mallory. There could be so many connections drawn here about the color and the image of Mallory, but I feel it’s all too cliché now, and probably wouldn’t work today. I just don’t feel like this poster is memorable or as special as the movie is. It really gives no allusion to what the movie is at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEXT MOVIE: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

 

 

 

Kingpin

Year: 1996
Directed By: Peter and Bobby Farrelly
Written By: Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan

RYAN’S REVIEW

I’ve always felt there was a golden time for the comedies made by the Farrelly brothers and it was during the mid to late nineties around the time this one came out.  They had so many ridiculous but hilarious movies during that stretch.  This movie was their follow up to Dumb and Dumber and it preceded There’s Something About Mary.  The three of these movies are all crude and a bit silly but I think they were the best that these two brothers have made.  I have always been a fan of Me, Myself, and Irene as well but the sun was setting then on the type of comedy these guys make. In truth this isn’t my favorite of their films but I always find myself laughing and I tend to like it more and more each time I watch it.

This movie really isn’t all that different from Dumb and Dumber when you look at it on the surface. It’s about two idiots driving across country to get to a bowling tournament.  I think Woody Harrelson is awesome and he is one of my favorite actors but I don’t think he is really great in this movie.  I think Harrelson is better than playing such a crude and pathetic character.  I don’t find him funny so much in this one as I do desperate and desolate.  However Randy Quaid plays the Amish guy trying to adapt to the real world and I do think he is pretty funny in this movie.  I have never liked the ugly Quaid brother and have continuously found myself wondering how he managed to get so many roles over the years.  Of course he isn’t getting any now because he is in some sort of strange trouble of late.  I have paid little attention to whatever predicament he is in right now but everything I have heard has been weirder and weirder. He and his wife got themselves in some kind of legal trouble and are currently living in Canada with arrest waiting for them should they re-enter the United States.  Also peppered in the story is paranoia coming from Quaid and his wife claiming they fear for their lives from some sort of actor killing conspiracy.  It’s all rather weird and I don’t know what to make of it myself.

The funniest role in this movie has to go to one of the funniest men to ever grace the screen, Bill Murray.  Murray is just so deftly funny when allowed to do as he pleases and that is what he was allowed to do in this movie.  When filming the movie Murray would glance over the script to get a gist of what was going on and then simply winged it when the camera started rolling.  Nearly all his lines in the movie were improvised and that is where a comedian like Murray is at his best. I love the crazy hair he has in the end of the movie, it only adds to the humor of his character.  There is only one other role from this film that really matters and it’s that of Vanessa Angel.  She never really quite made it as a successful actress but geez what a smoking hot woman. She is merely sex appeal in this movie and she does a great job of looking really sexy.  When I was a young teenager I would often watch her on the television show Weird Scienceand I really liked seeing her in this film.

If you are a big fan of bowling, and/or crude and pervasive sexual comedy then this is the movie for you.  I think it’s really funny and I specifically think there are a few noteworthy performances that make it worth your time.  If you’re Amish, I’d steer clear but otherwise take the R rating into consideration when thinking about this one.  All in all though I would say that it is worth your time. Nothing significant here, just plain old dirty and perverted fun.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I absolutely do NOT care what anyone says about this movie, I love it. I think you can’t go wrong when a movie has both Woody and Bill. (Do I really need to say their last names?) This movie is funny. It makes no sense, really in the scheme of things, but even still it is a really funny movie. I have loved it for as long as I can remember.

kingpin

I can’t take this seriously. I mean [in my best Amy Poehler voice] really? The chick is bending over and it’s not even proportional  Ok I don’t even care. You guys, I love this movie and this poster is crazy ridiculously BAD, but I just don’t care. I love this stupid movie.

NEXT MOVIE: Knight and Day (2010)

Grass

Year: 1999
Directed By: Rob Mann
Written By: Solomon Vesta

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a documentary about the history of marijuana in the United States, and it is narrated by Woody Harrelson. I don’t know if I even have to write a review after that opening line. It sounds so awesome already that no doubt you are already Googling how to stream the movie online right now. There was a time in college when I just had to have this movie in the collection. It does tell an interesting story about a part of American history though. There is a lot of great footage from the last 100 years relating to the situation at hand. This documentary is both humorous and informative; I have always enjoyed watching it.

I don’t think this is an appropriate forum for discussing the debate over marijuana. I think this documentary does a great job letting us know that marijuana isn’t as dangerous as we have been lead to believe. It does not offer any alternative point of view though, but its objective was not to turn anybody off of the drug. I am not against the personal use of marijuana and I don’t think there is anything wrong with as long as it is used responsibly. I don’t see the point in debating the issue though because I don’t really expect anything to ever change. I think making a fuss about it is just blowing a lot of hot air that gets young kids noticed in all the wrong ways. In this world there are potheads and there are idiot potheads. So long as there are idiot potheads out there doing stupid things there will be people blaming it on the substance they were under the influence of. Truth is, stupid people do stupid things whether they are high or stone cold sober, but that isn’t what you will hear once the lab results are in. If pot is in the system it is because of the pot and it is another number they can add to the tally of evidence they have against the drug.

This movie isn’t one I relate to as much now that I am a working adult and parent with lots of responsibility, but it reminds me of the good old days. This is a well made documentary and those are always fun to watch. If you manage to get a chance to see this one then take a minute to watch it. It is worth your time to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

MARIJUANA IS BAD!! DUH NUH NUAHHHHH! I don’t have anything to say about this movie. It is the history of grass in America narrated by hottie Woody Harrelson. He wears clothes made out of hemp. Cool.

NEXT MOVIE: Guess Who (2005)