Thursday, March 30, 2006

 

GUY'S NIGHT OUT: 16 Blocks, he said 5.0


Richard Donner is among my favorite directors for two reasons. He directed "Superman: The Movie," one of my all-time favorite movies that I think is often vastly underappreciated by current audiences. He also directed "The Goonies," another personal favorite that has more to do with my own nostalgia than the movie itself (although it is right fun). Other than those, Donner has had some highs (Scrooged), some lows (Timeline), and some decent, entertaining movies (Conspiracy Theory). I went into "16 Blocks" expecting a diverting action thriller akin to "Conspiracy Theory." What I saw was so much more.

I love when you go into a movie expecting one thing and end up seeing something much better. Like I said, I was predicting that this movie would be something like Donner's previous "Conspiracy Theory" with perhaps a little buddy comedy like his "Lethal Weapon" series thrown in as well. I am glad to report that it is not like either of those. "16 Blocks" is a gripping character study disguised as an action thriller.

The movie starts with washed-up Detective Jack Mosely (Bruce Willis) just coming off an overnight shift. He is tired and intoxicated and on his way home when his lieutenant orders him to escort Eddie, a prisoner (Mos Def) the titular 16 blocks to the court where he is due to testify in 118 minutes. Jack reluctantly agrees but he makes a pitstop at a liquor store on the way. When he emerges from the store, he sees Eddie being held at gunpoint. Jack shoots the gunman. Turns out Eddie is set to testify against some dirty cops. If this happens, it will implicate the entire precinct. Therefore, these cops are not going to allow Eddie to make it to court. Jack wearily chooses to do the right thing and protect Eddie. This plunges them into a real-time cat and mouse chase to get to the courthouse ontime and alive. The 16 blocks they must traverse are crawling with dirty cops led by Jack's former partner, Frank (David Morse).

Jack is burned out and washed up. He is never sober. We learn that he was once a pretty good cop but now he is reduced to babysitting asignments and no one in the department respects him. He has destroyed all of the relationships in his life and he just wishes "life was a little bit shorter." As he and Eddie are pursued by Frank, we gradually learn more about their past partnership. What happened that caused them to no longer be friends? Why is Frank now a hotshot and Jack an embarassment? Is Eddie really being honest with Jack? Did what he claims to have witnessed really happen? Is today really his birthday? If Jack can't do anything right, why is he so concerned about trying to do the right and good thing with Eddie? And can people really change? These are all questions that were racing through my mind as I was completely engrossed in this movie.

Like "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," this movie is a sort of redemption story. Jack has not always done the right thing, but he is attempting to make amends through on this morning. In his final confrontation with Frank, we are given a great illustration of the "cosmic battle" between truth and lie. Jack is repentant for the wrongs he has done in the past and is now defending the truth. He is standing opposite of Frank who is deperately trying to hold onto the lies he has conceived and get Jack to play along. Jack wants truth, and Frank says "F--- the truth!" It is a chilling scene that reminds us of the confrontation that surrounds ut at all times.

Donner directs the movie with a very capable but unassuming manner. His TV roots really show at times, and that is a good thing since he knows when to slow down for a revealing conversation, a luxury more often seen in TV than in movies of this type. Donner turns 76 this month and his direction shows the wisdom that comes with age. He doesn't do anything new, but what he does is top notch. The acting by all three leading men is top notch. Mos Def manages to create a character that is at once funny, annoying, and mysterious. Morse makes a great villain without being over the top about it. Willis, one of my favorite actors, is fantastic as Jack. Willis has a way of making what could easily be, and often are, hackneyed characters compelling. In his review of this movie, Roger Ebert does a good job of capturing in words one of the things I really enjoy about Bruce Willis:
The bedrock of the plot is the dogged determination of the Bruce Willis character. Jack may be middle-aged, he may be tired, he may be balding, he may be a drunk, but if he's played by Bruce Willis you don't want to bet against him. He gets that look in his eye that says: It's going to be a pain in the ass for me to do this, but I couldn't live with myself if I didn't. I always I believe that more easily than the look that merely says: I will prevail because this is an action picture and I play the hero.
What did you think?

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

 

GUY'S NIGHT OUT: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, he said 5.0


"The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" is actor Tommy Lee Jones' theatrical directorial debut and the first great movie of the year. It is a movie that completely envelopes you in its world, a world that is mundane and fascinating at the same time. Jones finds beauty in what many would describe as boring. Both in the lives of the citizens of a small Texas border town and the landscapes that surround them.

The story shows that every human life is of value. It is a captivating story of both the beauty and absurdity of life and a moving portrait of redemption. The movie begins when two men discover a coyote digging up a body in the desert. This body was that of Mexican cowboy Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cedillo). The first half of the movie shows intercutting stories of how Melquiades came to Texsas and was hired by Pete (Jones), how their friendship formed, new Border Patrol agent Mike Norton (Barry Pepper) and his young wife Lou Ann (January Jones) moving to town, how Melquiades was killed by Mike, the non-investigation into his death by Sheriff Belmont (Dwight Yoakam), local waitress Rachel's affairs with both Belmont and Pete, how Melquiades was seeing Lou Ann, Pete's investigation into Melquiades' death, and the first two burials. This part of the story immerses the audience into the slow and simple pace of life on the border. We meet the townfolks and see how they fill their lives with work and recreational "trouble."

Once Pete discovers that Mike is responsible for the death of Melquiades, the movie really kicks into gear. Pete kidnaps Mike and the two set off for Mexico on horseback (pursued by the Border Patrol) to fulfill a promise to bury Mel (the third titular burial) in his hometown of Jiminez. But this is not a story of vengeance, rather, it is a story of redemption. The story is almost completely linear from here on out and the small town setting is replaced by beautiful countryside. There are lots of long lingering shots of the landscapes that underscore the nature of this journey. It is a journey of redemption as Mike must literally walk in Mel's shoes.

When so many movies are filled with death left and right, it is refreshing to see a movie that focuses on the effects of one man's death, a seemingly "unimportant" man, on the lives of those around him. The movie is a demonstration of the importance of every man's life. It also shows the absurdity of life and death (the movie is filled with black humor such as when Pete pumps antifreeze into the mouth of his friend's corpse in order to preserve it for the remainder of the journey). It shows the importance of relationships (see the haunting request of the old man who had no one). It shows a moving journey of redemption. And it teaches one to value the good things in life (a soap opera plays a touching role in Mike's journey). It is filled with interesting characters who are connected in unexpected, but not coincidental, ways.

Judging by box office receipts, very few people have seen (or are even aware of) this movie, which is why I have spent more time than usual describing the plot. I strongly encourage everyone who has the chance to to see this movie.

What did you think?
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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

 

Failure to Launch, he said 0.0


There are two essential components of a good romantic comedy: romance and comedy. This aptly titled movie fails at both. In order for one to "buy" a romance story, one must feel connected to the characters involved in the relationship. One needs to be able to relate to or empathize with them. One has to care about whether or not they get together in the end. "Failure to Launch" (which felt like the longest movie I've ever watched) gives us two contemptible leads and then expects us to enjoy watching a "romance" unfold that even the characters realize they are faking it.

Tripp (Matthew McConaughey) is a manboy that deserves to be slapped around and told to "grow up and be a man" and Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker) is being paid to be in the relationship as part of some bizarre "job" the movie has made up for her. Let's see taking money to spend time with men, be their "arm candy," and have sex with them. I call that a prostitute, but the movie calls it a recipe for laughs. But something went horribly wrong in the kitchen. The only thing that was remotely funny was the character of Kit (Zooey Deschanel). Her drunken and violent moodswings brought on by a mocking bird outside her window were slightly amusing but nowhere near funny enough to justify this movie's existence.

McConaughey and Parker do not have an iota of chemistry. A burning question I had while watching this movie is "Should we even consider McConaughey an actor anymore?" Yeah, he was pretty decent in "Dazed and Confused" and "Frailty," but he doesn't even seem to be trying anymore. Parker is an actress who annoys me and I have never found her attractive for some reason I can't quite figure out (though I think my mom nailed it saying she is "horsey"). Kathy Bates is one of my favorite actresses and it was heartbreaking to see her phoning it in here. I felt like everyone in the cast was fully aware of how crappy this movie was going to be so they just decided to see how much worse they could make it. And I saw way too much of Terry Bradshaw. I will never be able to look at "NFL Sunday" the same way again.

I was told that as a Child and Family Development major I would enjoy this movie's take on the recent social trend of renesting and "adultescence." I am interested in these topics (and in avoiding these trends in my own life), and I was interested in seeing what this movie had to say about them. The answer is nothing. The movie is like that annoying guy in class who always has to say something but doesn't really have anything to add to the discussion because he doesn't really know what he's talking about. You know the guy? Right? Patricia? The movie pats itself on the back for being "socially aware," but all it manages to say is "there is a problem." It says nothing about the problem or life for that matter. A more sophisticated romantic comedy, such as "As Good As It Gets," would have given us something to ponder about. This...nada.

Now, don't think that I hated this movie just because it's a "chick flick" and I'm a dude. I generally don't like labeling a movie as a "guy" or "girl" movie anyway, and I do like good romantic comedies. My favorites include the aforementioned "As Good As It Gets," "When Harry Met Sally...," "Chasing Amy," and the lighter "Return to Me" (with both Fox Mulder and Archie Bunker!). It's just that this movie is not a good romantic comedy. In fact, it's pretty terrible, and most of them over the last several years have been the same way.

(Note: I am about to generalize about the opposite sex. Ladies, I know that many of you have good taste in movies so please don't hate me. I'm generalizing to make a point.)
This movie opened number one at the box office two weeks ago and has remained in the top five. Why do women keep supporting dreck like this? The more money people spend going to see crap, the more crap gets made. I wish that women would rally around good "chick flicks" and shun junk like this.

Many of my female aquaintances justify their liking movies like this by saying that they don't care about the story they'll just see anything with (Insert Male Star) because he's hot, they want a movie that makes them "feel good," ,and they don't want to "have to think about it." Funny, I've heard people describe pornography the same way.

What did you think about this movie?
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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

 

Failure to Launch, she said 1.5


Yes, I admit it, Failure to Launch, was my pick this week. As a female, anything with the Hottie McHotterson Matthew McConaughey is worth 5.50. This classic tale of girl dating guy for money (this has also been seen as ‘on a dare’), then boy falls for girl, girl denies that she is falling for boy, boy finds out that girl is a liar, boy’s heart is broken, boy breaks up with girl in dramatic scene, But he still loves girl, girl realized she can’t live without him, friends rally behind two and get them together in the end….I have seen this movie a thousand times and every time I say, “how ridiculous.” Yet, I keep comin’ back for more!


I felt there were far to ‘bits’ with animals that were painfully symbolic….I mean, not only were the graphics bad but it was shove-it-down-your-throat obvious when symbolism is not even necessary in a romantic comedy. This part I want to throw pop corn at the screen. The desperation was palpable.

Zooey Deschanel and the other side kick were really the only enjoyable part of the movie. What I did like about the movie was its ability to make social alcoholism funny. I would love to hear a kid say, “Mommy, I want a bud light, just kit.” I here by proclaim Champagne Thursdays in the Thompson/Roberson/Rodgers household. Brandon you are more than welcome to join. She did cause me to have a laugh-out-loud/ snort-out-loud moment.

If it is raining outside on Saturday afternoon and there is nothing on tv and your netflix has not arrived and this movie comes on I say half watch it while reading and article in US weekly.
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Saturday, March 25, 2006

 

GUY'S DAY OUT: Raiders of the Lost Ark, he said 5.0


Our fair city played host to Robert Osborne's Classic Film Festival this weekend. There was a very good selection of movies being shown on the big screen. I really wish I could have gone to all of them or at least more of them. I only got to go to the free Saturday matinee. However, it gave me the chance to finally see one of my all-time favorite movies on the big screen. The afternoon was a complete old school theatre-going experience complete with balconies, ushers, a packed theatre completely engaged (no conversations or cell phones here), laughter and applause, and even a cartoon (the classic "What's Opera, Doc?"). There was also an introduction by Robert Osborne himself and a post-film Q&A session with casting director Mike Fenton. It really felt like I was seeing the movie again for the first time. What can I say about "Raiders of the Lost Ark" that has not already been said? Nothing. The movie is a classic that has been seen by almost everybody and their grandma. It's considered a national treasure (it was added to the National Film Registry in 1999). It has spawned two sequels (with an oft-discussed third on the horizon), a television series, at least four book series, a comic book, several video games, a Disney World attraction, numerous homages, and much, much more. Therefore, I will not attempt to write a review of this movie. There's no possible way I could even try to be objective about it anyway. This movie is more than partly responsible for at least two of the five majors I have attempted in college (anthropology and religion. And I 'm certain it influenced me being a film major too). So instead, I present a list of things I love about "Raiders of the Lost Ark," in no particular order.

John Williams' score. Giant spiders. The Nazi monkey. John Rhys-Davies as Sallah. "Didn't any of you guys ever go to Sunday School?" The 1930s fashions. The whip. That big ol' boulder. Marion's ability to outdrink any man. Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood. "It belongs in a museum." Indy trying to squeeze into a too small Nazi uniform. The burned image on Toht's hand. Snakes (why'd it have to be snakes?). The truck chase. Indy shooting the swordsman. "They're digging in the wrong place!" The silhouette of Indiana entering Marion's bar. Melting Nazis. The red lines moving across the map. Dr. Jones' adoring co-ed students. And that one dude who gives him the apple. "Top...men." Denholm Elliot as Brody. That enormous Nazi who gets chopped up by the propeller. Indy's Arab disguise. Marion decking Indy. "Where doesn't it hurt?" Katanga's crew cheering Indy on as he stows away on the Nazi submarine. How the Paramount logo turns into the mountain in the opening scene. The hat! Sallah mispronouncing Belloq's name. To avoid the wrath of God, close your eyes. The Ark of the Covenant. The leather jacket. Indy with a bazooka. The jokes. "Good God!"..."Yes, that's what the Hebrews thought." The natives. Indy's spelling capabilities. Those creepy clouds while they are digging for the Ark. Toht's coat hanger. Indy turning over all the baskets. "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage." Sallah's singing. Hey, it's Alfred Molina. Indy's home. Booby traps. Bad dates. Pirates. Assassins. Mercenaries. The hints at the past relationship between Indy and Marion. "Professor of archeology, expert on the occult, and how does one say it? Obtainer of rare antiquities." The special effects. George Lucas. Steven Spielberg. Harrison Ford as Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. And of the coolest closing scenes ever.

These are just a few of the many things I love about "Raiders of the Lost Ark!" Do you love this movie too? What are your favorite aspects of the movie? I want to know. Just please never refer to it as "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark!" That is NOT the name of the movie regardless of what was printed on the cover of the video and DVD release. Sorry, just a pet peeve of mine.

As you can probably tell, I had a lot of fun geeking out over one of my favorite movies ever this afternoon.
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Thursday, March 23, 2006

 

V for Vendetta, she said 4.5


V for Vendetta speaks to a wide audience. With dynamite deployment, a dedicated detective, delicate and determined dame, and a delightful don in disguise the film’s dailies are decidedly delightful, dutiful and delectable. There is a nod to the amazing opening soliloquy of V. There are so many things to talk about with this movie the acting, the editing, the special effects and the highly political overarching theme.

Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving play Evey and V respectively. Weaving has a way with words; I venture to say that very few actors could deliver such a complete performance without the use facial expressions. With a slight tilt of the head or raise of the shoulder Weaving was able to translate a verity of V’s emotions through the big screen. Portman’s performance was middle of the road. I have seen her perform better and worse. Evey will not be nearly as memorable as V.

I did feel that the movie was a bit long. If there is one thing I would change about the movie, I would cut about 15-20 minutes and simultaneously add more fluidity throughout the film. There were three major parts: Evey before V, Evey with V, and Evey in Jail/ a big explosion…..maybe the movie was not that blocky but something similar.

The feel of the movie didn’t need ‘Matrix’ special effect so the directors left them out. The lack of special effects gave the movie a more believable tone, contributing to the director’s intent of the actually possibilities of these happenings. The one special effect that I really enjoyed was V’s knife trail (I don’t know the technical term but I thought that it was awesome).

If you didn’t catch it, this movie had a political message attached to it…who says the media has a liberal biased? Not me. If you didn’t catch the political stance of the movie….ummm, were you sleeping? I will not use this movie to go on a political rant; however, I will say that the movie gives the viewer something to think about. No matter the slant of the movie, I enjoy a film that gives you something to take home and chew on. You diffidently get you money’s worth when the movie stays with you longer than two hours.

I really enjoyed this film and highly recommend V for Vendetta. I didn't give it a full 5.0 because of the editing.

Remember, you can’t kill and idea!
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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

 

V for Vendetta, he said 3.0


Although writer Alan Moore had his name completely removed from the film adaptation of his comic book "V for Vendetta," his fingerprints are all over it. For full disclosure I must confess that although I am a huge comic fan, I am only a relatively recent Moore fan. I have read his DC Universe stories (LOVED "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" and "Killing Joke" is THE best Joker story ever) and "Watchmen" (which is arguably his masterpiece). Still the movie "V for Vendetta" contains many of the same trademarks of Moore's other comic writings. Notably, the story takes a traditional comic book style setup, a masked vigilante motivated by the horrors of his past, and twists them to show the underlying philosophies and potential for darkness. Other stylistic elements common to Moore's work include recurring background man-on-the-street characters (the people watching TV), signs and graffiti with important messages, dialogue from one scene flowing into the next, dense dialogue, and not a wasted frame that doesn't add layers to the story.

"V for Vendetta," the comic, is on my to-read stack and now I am even more eager to read it because even though the movie seemed very much like an Alan Moore story, it also seemed very much like a Wachowski Brothers story. The creators of "The Matrix" are responsible for writing and producing this movie and, like their previous trilogy, this movie contains lots of stylized and cool looking fight sequences, dystopian futuristic design, and lots of talkin' 'bout ideas and philosophies.

This last element is not a bad thing. In fact, it's probably my favorite thing about the movie. I am interested in reading the comic to see what ideas are in Moore's original story and what was added by the Wachowskis. Watching the movie, one can very easily take it as a commentary on current events. In fact, much of the media is portraying it that way. However, the comic was first published in the early 80s so I feel that many people need to heed J.R.R. Tolkien's advice about not confusing applicability with allegory. If Moore was writing in response to anything, it was much more likely that he was writing against the administration of Margaret Thatcher. (After writing this, I am told by others who have read the comic that quite a bit has been changed. Moore's story is apparently about absolute opposites of complete facism against complete anarchy. The Wachowskis have changed much of the story to be an anti-conservative, anti-Bush "fable"). Comics 101's Scott Tipton provides a nice rundown of the comic for those interested.

Which brings me to another caution one must consider when looking at the film. Moore and his story are British, not American. One will gain much out of this movie if he has a basic understanding of British history, particularly the topic of Guy Fawkes, his failed revolution, and the "holiday" that bears his name. The movie opens with Fawkes and a poem about him, the main action takes place on Guy Fawkes Day, and V's mask is Fawkes' face.

Before I attempt to tackle some of the "message" of the movie, allow me to comment on some of the more concrete elements of the movie. The overall look of the movie is one I really dig. It has a futuristic look without being over the top about it (there are no flying cars). I was reminded of the feel of many 80s sci-fi movies which I felt was appropriate considering that is the decade that the comic was released in. The color schemes reflect the oppression found in the movie. The movie is bit too long and perhaps too talky. It started to really drag in the middle, but it does pick up at the end. A bit more editing would not have been a bad thing.

Hugo Weaving does an excellent job of creating a lead character whose face we never see. Throughout the entire movie, Weaving is behind an unmoving mask. He effectively uses his voice and body language to create the character of V. His alliterative introduction is fantastic! Natalie Portman, or Padme as I am fond of calling her, is good as Evey. I am somewhat sick of this movie being promoted simply as "the movie Natalie Portman shaved her head for," but you can see it happen here folks! I like her better with hair. The rest of the cast is solid too.

V is an intriguing character. Though he is portrayed as a kind of superhero, he is actually a terrorist. I found myself amused by him and at times, almost wanting to like him, but then he would commit another act and I would be aghast at his actions (particularly what he does to Evey). I could not really relate to Evey either for many of the same reasons. The only character I was really able to connect with was Finch (Stephen Rea), the investigator looking into V, but I felt that he was not given enough screen time to really be the anchor that he is. He begins to question his government and the lies it hides behind, but he still tries to do the right thing (at least until the end).

Now, on to the "meat" of the movie. I hesitate to do this because there is a lot to ponder in this movie, and I definitely would like to watch it again (or several more times) to gain a better understanding of all of it (like "The Matrix"). However, I do know that much of the philosophy of this movie didn't sit right with me because it is not true. The movie is filled with moral relativism. It raises questions (or at least attempts to) about the nature of terrorism and freedom. What makes the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter? The movie seems to say that it's just a matter of perspective. This bothers me. Using this philosophy, one could say there is no difference between the American revolutionaries who instigated the Boston Tea Party and the 9/11 plane hijackers. I cannot equate the two. Doing so would mean that all morals are equal and that there is no right and wrong. This is false. There is right. And there is wrong. There is truth. And there are lies. The movie jumbles them all up and at least somewhat, leaves it up to the viewer to decide what is correct.

If the ambiguity that the movie (or at least much of the media surrounding its release) claims to have were actually there, I might admire it more. I like a story that raises questions for the audience to think about but doesn't tell the audience what they should think. I feel that this movie attempted to do this or wanted to give the air of doing this, but I couldn't help but be bashed over the head with the typical "Conservatives are bad. Liberals are good" rhetoric. And it is not thinly veiled at all.

One idea I can agree with the movie on is the importance of words and their meanings. V and others make reference to how the meaning of words changed as freedom was eroded. This reflects the importance of language. I read this last summer and now I cannot find the author of this quote (I believe it was Francis Schaeffer. I was reading a lot of Schaeffer at the time and this sounds like him but it may not be), but it says:
If you can control how people talk, you can control how they think and what they believe.
Take a look at Noah Webster's original 1828 dictionary and compare the definitions to a contemporary one. Then compare the underlying philosophies of then and now and you will get the idea that this person and this movie are making. We need to be willing to guard our definitions as closely as our freedoms.

This movie challenges many of our ideas and definitions about the nature of terrorism. I think that challenging ideas can be a good thing, but we must use careful discernment in how we process this. We still must think for ourselves and not allow a movie, book, etc. to tell us what to think and believe.

In reading other people's opinions about this movie today, I have noticed many unwarranted superlatives being used in both directions. Some claim this to be among the worst movies ever. Many claim it to be among the best. One message board post I read claimed "I hope this movie changes the world." I couldn't help but laugh. Despite claims of being revolutionary, this movie in the end is simply another manufactured Hollywood movie. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman relays this thought better than I can so I will close with that:
Coming out of V for Vendetta, a friend of mine called it ''radical'' and ''subversive.'' He was awestruck with disbelief that a film with a harlequin terrorist as its hero could actually be released by a major American studio. I was awestruck at his naïveté in a world where fight-the-power anarchy is now marketed as a fashionable identity statement — by the corporations that helped raise a generation on bands like Rage Against the Machine, by the armchair-leftist bloggers who flog the same righteousness day after day. V for Vendetta has a playful-demon vitality, but it's designed to let political adolescents of every age congratulate themselves. It's rage against the machine by the machine.
Entertainment Weekly, 3/15/06
And to those interested in reading some of Moore's work, "Watchmen" is better. Here's praying they never turn it into a movie.

This movie has given me alot to think about and I'm sure it has done the same for you. I want to hear it. What did you think about "V for Vendetta?"
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Monday, March 20, 2006

 

Transamerica, he said 4.0


I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to our many hypothetical fans for my/our sporadic posting as of late. As Patricia noted, we have both been very busy these last few months and Tuesday Movie Night has become highly erratic and rarely on Tuesdays. So, my busy schedule combined with the fact that I have not really cared about most of the movies we have seen lately (thus making me not eager to write about them) is my excuse for my lack of posts recently. Since Patricia ignored "Eight Below," I am going to as well. I will say that I enjoyed it and was entertained by it, but I have pretty much completely forgotten about now. While not bad, it's not really worth a trip to the theater (or even a rental really), but it will be a nice Saturday-night-with-nowhere-to-go-let's-see-what's-on-Disney-Channel movie (I would give it a 2.0 or 3.0, depending on my mood). All that being said, let's move on to the movie in discussion today, "Transamerica."


Dolly Parton's Oscar nominated (and robbed) song "Travelin' Thru" made me want to see this movie. I had heard all of the buzz about Felicity Huffman's performance, etc., but I was left largely unmoved by any of it. Then, I heard Dolly's song (thanks to the free download on iTunes!). Not to overpraise the song (it's good, but hardly among Dolly's best), but I love Dolly Parton and her song helped me get a better grasp of what the movie was about.

What the movie is about is dealing with all of the effects one's family and upbringing have on his or her life and how one chooses to cope with that as an adult in his quest for meaning and happiness in life. This idea is manifested in the movie in the form of Bree (Felicity Huffman), a transsexual on the verge of a sex change operation. A week before the scheduled surgery, Bree gets a phone call from a teenage son (Kevin Zegers) she never knew she had. Bree's therapist forces her to deal with this issue so Bree sets off for New York to bail her son out of jail. A cross-country road trip follows that explores Bree's past and Toby's past as we follow their budding relationship. The trip involves inevitable pitstops at the childhood homes of both Bree and Toby in which we learn much about why these characters are the way they are now. As someone who studies families, I found lots to analyze in these scenes.

The movie does a good job of defining the characters, making them seem like real people, and making me care about them. A teenage hustler and his transsexual father sound like outrageous characters meant for a cheap comedy. Although the movie is somewhat of a "dramedy," (and there are quite a few laughs) the characters are moved far beyond caricatures or types and made into complex individuals.

This is a very enjoyable movie that combines a fun, comedic roadtrip with an intense character study. While the roadtrip to discover oneself it nothing new, the movie presents it with a fresh voice that is supported by very solid acting from all involved. The soundtrack is filled with folksy, twangy music that really captures the spirit of backroads America and of course, Dolly closes the film with the aptly titled "Travelin' Thru." Thanks Dolly for motivating me to see this movie.

I hereby publicly resolve to be better about posting reviews from here out. Patricia's habits seem to have rubbed off on me. Tomorrow night, we are seeing "V For Vendetta," a movie I am actually very interested in. And I still have to see "16 Blocks" (by one of my fave directors, Richard Donner). So maybe now we finally coming out of the late winter dry/early spring dry spell we movie fans must suffer through each year.

One more thing:
CONGRATULATIONS PATRICIA ON BEING ACCEPTED TO GRADUATE SCHOOL AT PERDUE!!!

What did you think? Has a song ever made you decide to see the movie before?
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Monday, March 13, 2006

 

Transamerica, she said 3.0


So, I took a vacation. I traveled to the mid-west and thankfully made it back. Brandon and I, because of out hectic schedule, temporarily moved Tuesday Movie Night to Sunday Movie Matinee. My number one choice for this week was vetoed so I was forced to pick another. Transamerica is the humorous and tragic story of a transsexual traveling across the country with ‘her’ recently discovered hustler son. Felicity Huffman performed a she-man with remarkable easy and Kevin Zegers played a white trash17 year old boy named Toby longing to make it big in LA as a Porn Actor…

The 80’s inspired costume design accented the trashy and awkward overtone of the movie. Bree’s oversized bows juxtaposed the unwashed wizard t-shit Toby wore through the majority of the movie. The pace of the movie staled out in the endless trek Bree and Toby took from New York to L.A. The actors, from the grandmother, to the therapist, to Bree, sold their characters with such truth that throughout most of the movie I found my self cringing with both embarrassment for the character and personal shock. The entire situation was extremely uncomfortable and that penetrated through the screen. The directors were seemingly on a shock and awe campaign with nudity. As I have said before, I have no problem with nudity in a film as long as it blends seamlessly with the movie. The majority of the frontal nudity popped-up (teeheehee) out of no where and was quite a shocker.

Overall Transamerica was good. The characters were real which was refreshing. The middle was boring…but, a travel movie is hard to pull off because of the required time in a movie car with two or three people.
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Friday, March 03, 2006

 

If she picked the winners...


Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney, Syriana
not only was the movie intellectually stimulating but Clooney did a great job - however, over all in this category I am not that impressed

Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Wiesz, The constant Gardener
I personally think that this category is stacked. i would be satisfied if any of these ladies were given the award with the exception of Michelle
Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
I personally think he is one of the best actors of our time and whether he wins or not he is by far the best actor in this category.

Best Actress: Kira Knightly, Pride and Prejudice
She is a dream to watch on the big screen. This was a great performance for a classic story.

Best Picture: Crash
by far one of the most riveting movies this year. I hope it wind...if not, I may cry

Even if the academy doesn't agree with me, we all know that I am right!

Who would you pick?
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