Saturday, September 3, 2011

16. Born on the Fourth of July (1989) 6/10


Thou shalt not kill, Mom. Thou shalt not kill women and children! Thou shalt not kill! Remember? Isn't that what you taught us? Isn't that what they taught us?

Quality - 3/5
Enjoyability - 3/5

I am ashamed to admit that throughout the two hour plus runtime of this movie I was expecting Tom Cruise to cut his hair, enter a courtroom, and have Jack Nicholson tell him "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!". For some reason, I have always gotten this movie and "A Few Good Men" confused (and combined I guess).

Overall this movie (and Cruise especially) did an excellent job of telling one Vietnam vet's harrowing story. It is quite a shame that the story was such a sad one. The anti-war message was loud and clear, but I felt that the movie lost quite a bit of its oomph as it languished in the doldrums of the homefront. The film never regained the emotional wallop it attained during the young man's pre-war "run through the rain for that one last dance with your high school sweetheart at the prom you were planning on skipping" scene. All the message of "Platoon" with none of the immediacy or originality.

15. Ghost (1990) 7/10


-I love you Molly. I always have.

Quality 3/5
Enjoyability 4/5

I really, really wish I had seen this movie in the theater in 1990. It has the perfect mix of drama and fantasy that is one of the biggest reasons I love movies. The reason I have avoided it for so long, is its relatively simple story and the fact that, either on a VH1 special or referenced in another movie, I had already seen the most famous scenes many times over. One of the film's most impressive feats is developing the believability of the undying love of its main characters in the first fifteen minutes despite the age difference between Swayze and Moore (and the relatively wooden performances by each). Bottom line, if I had seen this film in 1990, it probably would have ended up being one of my favs. Beautiful romance with just a touch of fantasy is definitely gonna win me over.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

14. On the Waterfront (1954) 8/10


-You're getting on. You're pushing 30. You know, it's time to think about getting some ambition.
-I always figured I'd live a bit longer without it.

Quality - 4/5
Enjoyability - 4/5

Marlon Brando originally turned the lead role in this film down. Frank Sinatra would have been his replacement, and it would have been an excellent film. It's got everything: a love story, a dynamic protagonist, a solid spiritual message straight from Galatians, and a real-life historical perspective that is rarely taught about because the problems of "mob rule" in labor still hits pretty close to home today (even though the mighty corporation has taken the place of gun-toting Italians). Yes, it would have been an excellent movie, but Marlon Brando decided to take the role and one of the greatest films in history was born. His performance in this movie is not over-the-top and there are no jaw-dropping moments that could be easily pointed out for reference. Even the famous "'Coulda beena contenda" speech fits as an equal part of a greater performance that is simply flawless from start to finish.

I'll be honest, I never really got the whole "Marlon Brando-the greatest actor of all time" thing, and I still am not willing to back it one hundred percent. Let's just say that after watching this masterpiece, I understand why people say it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

13. The Lost Boys (1987) 4/10


What, you don't like rice? Tell me Michael, how could a billion Chinese people be wrong?

Quality - 2/5
Enjoyability - 2/5

I'm not really sure why this movie is such a cult classic. The only explanation I can think of is that it solidly owns the "so bad it's good" status and is a pseudo-nostalgic trip back to what the the 17-year-old working at Hot Topic thinks 1987 must've looked like. It's not funny enough to be a comedy, geeky enough to be a vampire movie, scary (or gory) enough to be a horror, sweet enough to be a romance, or cute enough to be a kids movie. While researching it, I saw quite a few folks likening it to other '80s fare such as "The Goonies", "The Karate Kid", or "Back to the Future." No, no, a thousand times no. It doesn't hold down the whimsical charm to be remembered in the same realm as those true classics. The screenplay contains no memorable quips (which explains why I've never heard any), numerous gaping plot holes, and never truly commits to being a farce (if that was, in fact, what it was going for).

One last thing: I don't think a movie ever needs more than one "flying over the water/clouds/amusement park/cliffs" shot. This movie contains so many I lost count including three different ones in the opening five minutes. Painful, simply painful...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

12. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) 6/10


I hate the British! You are defeated but you have no shame. You are stubborn but you have no pride. You endure but you have no courage. I hate the British!

Quality - 3/5
Enjoyability - 3/5

After the pure awesomeness that was "Lawrence of Arabia", I expected a little more from David Lean's previous work. Like "Lawrence", it was quite epic, but it lacked the sweeping epic story to go along with the prodding pace, gorgeous locales, and 2.6 hour runtime. The acting was also a little hammy and over-the-top (except for the absolutely perfect Sir Alec Guinness, of course). I guess that one could find some underlying theme of control, militarism, and rule-of-war, but it doesn't really make up for the simply average story.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

11. The Tree of Life (2011) 8/10


-The nuns taught us there were two ways through life - the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow. Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things. The nuns taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.

Quality - 4/5
Enjoyability - 4/5

To help me catch up a notch, I'm including this one that I caught a couple of weeks ago in Cary. I am not a huge Terrance Malick fan, but I know the dude can make a pretty movie (and for some reason is a huge fan of shots of the wind blowing long blades of grass). I was intrigued about the buzz surrounding this movie from Cannes to US theaters issuing warnings to moviegoers about the films "slow" content, so I figured I would check it out. It was a pretty doggone good idea. Like those theaters though, I will also issue a warning: This movie has absolutely no traditional storyline either linear or otherwise. It is pretty much snippets of a "normal" 1950s family's life interspersed with classical music montages over Hubble telescope imagery, CG shots of the beginnings of life on Earth, and fantasy sequences with the central character as an adult in present day. At first, I was touched by the film's beauty, but then as the film marinated in my mind, I realized it was much more than a pretty picture. While the movie is very abstract, its themes are very simple (and best summed up by the quote above). Looking back, every (seemingly insignificant) scene tied into that struggle between nature and grace. I was touched by the film's message of love, and it is probably the single most spiritually satisfying movie I have ever seen.

10. Dead Poets Society (1989) 9/10


Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

Quality 4/5
Enjoyability 5/5

By far the best movie I have seen for my new (still quite young) blog. I'm not really sure how I've missed this one for so many years. It's one that I am being constantly recommended and guaranteed that I would love. Who'd a thunk it? They were right. Still, I'm sort of glad that I didn't get around to watching it until now because I probably would have modeled even more of my teaching style around acting than I already do. Robin Williams does an amazing job capturing the essence of an astounding teacher not just because of his outstanding performance, but also because he is an actor by trade. Every day, it is a teacher's job to capture student's attention, imagination, and cognition. This really isn't much different from what a solid actor does when they go in front of the camera or on the stage. Another reason I'm not really sure why this movie passed me by for so long, was that it features Ethan Hawke (my confessed "man-crush") in one of his breakout roles. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Robert Sean Leonard, Josh Charles (of "Sportsnight" fame), and Kurtwood Smith (of "That '70s Show" fame) in awesome roles.

Monday, July 25, 2011

9. The General (1926) 6/10



Quality - 4/5
Enjoyability - 2/5

Maybe it's my penchant for talking in movies, maybe it's the fact that Buster Keaton influenced every physical comedian to come after him so I feel like I've seen in all before, maybe the critics of the time were right when they lamented that this movie was too long and ambitious for Keaton's shtick, but whatever the reason, I have yet to see a silent comedy that didn't bore me to tears. Sure, at the 1926 "nickelodeon" with throngs of laughing folks who had never seen a guy fall down repeatedly on the big screen this probably would have been a trip. I get the importance of this film, but the problem is that everybody that it influenced did it better. Everyone from Bugs Bunny to Jim Carrey improved on Keaton's slapstick comedy. Also, everything I've read puts this movie's runtime at 75 minutes. I'm not sure which version I saw, but it was just over 90. I assure you the extra fifteen minutes didn't help.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

8. One Day in September (1999) 8/10


When I was a kid my father used to say our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized. Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They have now said there were eleven hostages; two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They're all gone.

Quality 4/5
Enjoyability 4/5

It's a little hard to call this movie "enjoyable", but it does exactly what any good documentary should. It engages, educates, and expands. I was aware of the 1972 terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics, but I had no idea the complexity of the kidnapping, the ineptness of the West German government and police, and that there was actually a culprit still alive and kicking today. This movie gets points for blowing my mind and interviewing a known terrorist at an undisclosed African location. Bottom line: if you ever get the urge to watch Steven Spielberg's "Munich", skip it and check this out instead.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

7. The Searchers (1956) 5/10


-You wanna quit, Ethan?
-That'll be the day.

Quality - 3/5
Enjoyability - 2/5

Okay, I get it. This movie took a generation of Cowboys vs. Indians westerns and completely turned the genre on its ear. It dared to show extreme character flaws in its protagonist/hero. It laid the groundwork and influenced directors for the next fifty years; everything from "Star Wars" to Eastwood's "spaghetti" westerns to "Taxi Driver". I get it, but it doesn't make it a good film. I have heard people say this about movies such as "Citizen Kane" and "Gone with the Wind". That they were important but did not age well and don't hold up today, but this is something different. Those films don't stack up because movies have evolved and they are overly slow and tedious, but the films are still quality to productions. "The Searchers" is simply a bad movie.

Bad acting, an offensively simple script, a grand total of zero truly likable characters, and an inexcusable amount of racism and sexism even for the mid-'50s. I don't think I'll ever really "get" John Wayne. I guess he's a hero to those that long for the day where their Black servant was fetching them water while they shot Injuns and their subservient wife was busy with housework for fear of being smacked down. The movie's one saving grace is the camerawork and direction of John Ford. This movie is easily one of the prettiest movies ever filmed, both in terms of scenery and framing. Too bad it was wasted on a movie about shooting people in the back, blaming a girl for her own kidnapping and (implied) sexual battery, and scalping a German guy who just happened to be portraying a Comanche chief.

Friday, July 15, 2011

6. Psycho (1960) 8/10


It's not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?

Quality - 5/5
Enjoyability - 3/5

I know it's pretty much heresy to say in the movie community, but I am just not the biggest fan of Alfred Hitchcock. Don't get me wrong, he definitely made a lot of groundbreaking movies, but I usually don't really enjoy them. He is also the Granddaddy of one of my least favorite genres of movies, the horror/thriller. That being said, this movie is pretty much flawless. The acting, set design, camera work, and "twist" ending were all way ahead of their time, and laid the groundwork for murder mysteries for the next century. Janet Leigh was great, but I don't really think Anthony Perkins gets enough credit for this movie. His wild-eyed, crazed but trustworthy psychopath created an entirely new type of character, and Hitchcock's twist would not have been possible without his pitch-perfect performance.

Monday, July 11, 2011

5. The Millennium Trilogy (2009)


I would have never done it, Lisbeth. But I understand why you did. I don't know what you have experienced. But I was about to die in that cellar, and you saved my life. Whatever you have seen, you don't need to tell me. I'm just happy that you're here.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 8/10
The Girl Who Played with Fire 8/10
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest 7/10

These three movies adapt Stieg Larsson's popular books of the same name. The first installment introduces the characters and is an intriguing murder mystery, while the second two delve into the background of one of the most protagonists I have encountered in fiction in quite a while: Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth is a punk-hacker-lesbian-bada$$ who just happens to have been taken advantage of by every male figure of authority in her life. She reluctantly joins forces with the editor of the "Millennium" tabloid magazine to solve an old murder, and in doing so discovers a whole world of trouble for herself. While not my usual fare (i.e. there really isn't much of a love story), these movies completely enveloped me in mystery, thrill, and worry for three nights.

Odds are you probably haven't heard of these movies (even if you have heard of the books), and if you have, it's probably from the early ads of the American version from director David Fincher to be released this Christmas. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in movies. The movie already exists. Do we really need to completely remake it for "English-speaking" audiences? Do we really need to throw in James Bond and a cutesy model to play the main characters? Are audiences that lazy that they refuse to read subtitles? This happened before with the 2001 remake of the 1997 film "Abre Los Ojos". You probably know it as "Vanilla Sky". And again with "The Ring", remake of "Ringu". In both cases the films were near shot-for-shot remakes, with English as the main language and recognizable actors and actresses. Wouldn't audiences be better served if David Fincher, Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, and Stellan Skarsgaard had spent the last couple of years creating an original piece of cinema instead of sanitizing a perfectly good film for the masses?

Bottom Line: Don't wait for Christmas, these movies are already out (and readily available at your local Redbox or Netflix). You should see them. Note: A central plot point of the trilogy revolves around one particularly gruesome sexual scene. It is not played for thrills, but is pretty tough to watch. I usually don't like to see that type of stuff, but the films taken as a whole make up for it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

4. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) 8/10


George, who is out somewhere there in the dark, who is good to me - whom I revile, who can keep learning the games we play as quickly as I can change them. Who can make me happy and I do not wish to be happy. Yes, I do wish to be happy. George and Martha: Sad, sad, sad. Whom I will not forgive for having come to rest; for having seen me and having said: yes, this will do.

Quality - 4/5
Enjoyability - 4/5

The first movie in history to be nominated for an Oscar in every category it was eligible.  The movie only has two actors and two actresses and all were nominated for Oscars (Elizabeth Taylor and Sandy Dennis both won, but it probably should have been all four).  This movie seriously has the best straight-up acting I have ever seen on stage or screen.  The entire film is comprised of a single night of drunken fighting, storytelling, yelling, and crying.  That may not sound too entertaining, but the actors involved transcend a normal argument and turn it into something closely resembling art.  The viewer is forced to decide which parts of the story or true during George and Martha's "games" (as they call them), but it becomes quickly apparent that the separation between truth and illusion really doesn't matter.  The movie was adapted from a play which was adapted from a book.  While I don't really have much desire to read it, I can't imagine what these scenes would feel like live.  The raw power of the emotions would be hard to dodge without the tangible fourth wall of the television screen.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

3. Unforgiven (1992) 7/10


Funny thing, killin' a man. You take away everything he's got and everything he's gonna have.

Quality - 3/5
Enjoyablity - 4/5
I freely admit that I am not a huge Clint Eastwood fan either the tough as nails gunfighter actor or the most recent incarnation of crotchety director.  That being said, this movie is pretty cool.  It accomplishes something that's pretty hard to pull off in the "Western" genre, a breath of originality.  The only other movie that I can compare this to is (the far superior) "The Ox-Bow Incident".  In both movies, the viewer is asked to question their moral views and sense of justice.  What is very unique about this movie is the plethora of seemingly random things thrown in to allow for character development and symbolism.  While watching the movie, it teetered on the border of a jumbled mess for a while until Eastwood was able to barely able to bring it all back together.  Gene Hackman's performance was definitely worthy of his Oscar as the sheriff attempting to rebuild a house and his image as a lawful man both end up in failure.  While Morgan Freeman also gave a solid supporting performance, the one thing I couldn't quite understand was why no one made a fuss about a "colored" man with a gun in the all white town of Big Whiskey, Wyoming in 1880.  Still, an all-around solid film rife with rewatchable nuggets of non-violence symbolism.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

2. Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972) 7/10


I am the great traitor. There must be no other. Anyone who even thinks about deserting this mission will be cut up into 198 pieces. Those pieces will be stamped on until what is left can be used only to paint walls. Whoever takes one grain of corn or one drop of water... more than his ration, will be locked up for 155 years. If I, Aguirre, want the birds to drop dead from the trees... then the birds will drop dead from the trees. I am the wrath of god. The earth I pass will see me and tremble. But whoever follows me and the river, will win untold riches. But whoever deserts...

Quality - 3/5
Enjoyability - 4/5

When I started this blog, this movie was an auto-include.  The consensus best movie from one of my favorite directors, Werner Herzog.  I love his ability to switch seamlessly from documentary to traditional filmmaking and back.  This was his first big movie, and it definitely foreshadows his ability to master both fields.  Herzog uses historical fiction to invite the viewer into a first-hand account of a doomed conquistador's expedition.  He wrote the screenplay after hearing stories of Pizarro's possibly insane Lieutenant Aguirre.   He also freely admits that the camera used by the 7 person crew to film the mostly improvised movie was stolen from his film school.  The one drawback from this film is the absolutely horrible dub.  Like many movies in the late '60s and '70s the vocal track was completely dubbed in later (many by different actors).  It baffles me to think how amazing Klaus Kinski's performance would be in this movie if I could actually hear his voice in the horrors of the Amazon jungle instead of a random German dubbing it in later.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

1. Raging Bull (1980) - 6/10


-She says he's pretty.
-Yeah, well, you make him ugly.

Quality - 4/5
Enjoyability - 2/5

I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again: For the most part, Martin Scorsese makes doggone-near perfect movies about people I really don't care about. This movie is amazing. The way Scorsese films the fights is visionary and influenced nearly every action or sports movie that came after it. The choice to film in black and white actually made the film feel more genuine because it felt like a documentary instead of historical fiction. This is also aided by the amazing performances of Robert Deniro and Joe Pesci who both turned in probably the best performances of their career as troubled brothers.

Now, as for the subject, I just do not find the story of a real-life wife-beating, alcohol-abusing, boxer with no redemption appealing. Sure, his story was dramatic, interesting even, but I would much rather devote my time to someone who did even an ounce of good for this world (or even those around him).

Friday, June 24, 2011

365. Toy Story 3 (2010)


Thanks, guys.

note: I usually try to avoid spoilers, but I just couldn't do it with this one. If you haven't seen this, then do so. That is all.

The best movie of 2010, and nothing else even came close. Pixar pulled off something that pretty much no one else has ever done before (I'll admit it, even George Lucas). They created a trilogy of films that build on each other without ever losing their stride, getting progressively better, and creating characters that hold so much sentiment with viewers that I would would be willing to bet the scene pictured above elicited more tears than any movie of this generation. Maybe it is because I'm such a stickler for suspending my disbelief, but I actually thought that they might "kill off" the main characters in their penultimate episode. I still get a little misty when I think about my elation when the aliens scooped in with "the claw" to save our heroes. That final scene with Andy playing with the guys one last time, and individually explaining them to Bonnie mirrors what is going on in everyones head as they transition away from the wonders of their childhood imagination. And that final shot... I really can't explain how I felt when Woody issued that final "So long, partner".

It probably didn't help my emotions that this was also the first movie that I was accompanied by Abby. She had watched the previous Toy Story's on DVD and was quite a big fan of the characters. Being about a month short of 2 years old, I think she did marvelously. I know that she probably watches too many movies for a 2-year-old, but I really value that we share this love. We talk about her movies, and she learns so much. I also love how our tastes are so similar. We visited the Magic Kingdom today. After flying through Cinderellas castle to pay her respects, she wanted no part of the whole Princess treatment. She wanted to see Buzz, She was crushed when she was too short for Stitch's ride, and she drove the Tomorrowland racers better than I did.

Things I learned while doing my 365 day blog:
1. Writing a solid blog entry every day is tough.
2. People really need to watch more of these movies.
3. Lots of people read (nearly 7000 views) without commenting.
4. I love movie quotes.
5. Apparently I said something really profound in my Anastasia blog as it was my most viewed entry with nearly twice the views of the second place entry.
6. I really need to see more movies before 1990.

With #6 in mind, next week I will begin my new blog. For the next year, I am going to attempt to watch 100 movies that I am ashamed for having not seen. I figure that is pretty much 2 movies per week, which is a large step down from last year. Still, I will actually have to watch the movies this time. I have compiled a list 100, but feel free to recommend any if you didn't see them in my 365. I will rechristen this blog simply "Will's Movie Blog". See you next week!

364. Mother and Child (2010)


-To take something that comes from you, made of you, and part with it forever and ever.
-I don't want it.
-I didn't want you either.
-I'm not you.
-And yet here you are, 20 and pregnant and single, just like I was. You see, I didn't want you, and now, I can't take a breath without thinking of you, and wanting the best of the best for you.

A drama centered around the maternal relationships (or lack thereof) of three women and the quest to make things better. This movie features truly amazing performances from Samuel L. Jackson, Naomi Watts, Annette Bening, and Jimmy Smits. It also features another awesome performance from Shareeka Epps who first gained notice with a slew of critical awards in "Half Nelson" (she should really get more quality work). The three stories end up intertwining in unexpected but very moving ways. This was the biggest surprise of awards season for me last year and is why I put a lot of stock in the Independent Spirit Awards.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

363. Lovely, Still (2010)


It feels like, you've been here my whole life.

The best love story I have seen in a very long time, and odds are you haven't even heard of it. If you value touching stories of true love with just a dash of whimsy you should find this movie immediately. Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn give career capping performances akin to Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn in "On Golden Pond".

In other news, with the 365 blog coming to an end on Saturday, I am going to change the format of Will's Movie Blog. During the next calendar year I am going to attempt to watch 100 movies I have never seen before that are inexcusable and write a short review/rumination. The first entry will be early next week - Raging Bull.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

362. The Fighter (2010)


That guy did not just get off the $*#%in' couch. If he did, I'm gonna get a couch like that.

I really need to rewatch this one before I make the final call, but I'm pretty sure this will end up being my favorite sports movie of all time. It is already my favorite boxing movie of all time. It simply does everything that "Rocky" did better and I can root for Micky Ward a whole lot easier than I can Jake LaMotta. I was literally jumping around and boxing in my seat in the theater during the movie's penultimate fight. It also didn't hurt that four actors gave probably the best performances of their careers. Mark Wahlberg was perfect as the strong silent Micky Ward. Christian Bale was amazing as Micky's brother and trainer Dicky. Amy Adams can do no wrong in my book, and actually made be believe she could be a cursing, hard-ass, New Englander. I didn't know much about Melissa Leo before this movie, but she gave the best acting performance of the 2010 as Micky and Dicky's manager and mother.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

361. (500) Days of Summer (2009)


The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Especially you Jenny Beckman. B#*$&.

The best love story of the new millennium is so good it actually warns its veiwers with the above statement as well as adding that it is "not a love story". Joseph Gordon-Levitt emerges from his "Tommy from 3rd Rock" image as the perfect "everyman" and Zooey Deschanel is mesmerizing as the object of "everyman"'s affection. The non-linear style works perfectly as the viewer is never actually sure whether the opening disclaimer was true or simply misdirection. I have talked to some who felt the ending was a little too sugary, but I felt it was the only way the movie could've avoided the "indy-hipster-depressing" file of movies.

Monday, June 20, 2011

360. Adventureland (2009)


-I think somebody was trying to write "Satan Lives" on that wall but they spelled it "Satin Lives".
-One of those textile worshiping cults no doubt.

This movie makes me sad. Not because Jesse Eisenberg was awesome, or it pretty much felt like a post-college sequel to "Freaks and Geeks", or because it is very funny. It makes me sad because it showed me the potential of Kristin Stewart. If only a certain piece of blood-sucking Mormon propaganda hadn't turned her into a lifeless shell of a damsel in distress, she could have been the next great queen of indy cinema. If only....

Sunday, June 19, 2011

359. Avatar (2009)


-I see you.
-I see you.

The further I am removed from seeing this movie in the theater the more I see its many faults. It is not the movie I want to rewatch to the extent I thought I would. It is most definitely "Dances with Wolves" in outer space. The simple message of environmentalism was applied with a sledghammer. Still, this movie is a perfect example of what you want to experience at the theater. Sure, it'll never be a film class subject, but the the movie does something that other movies only dream about. It transports the viewer to another world. It is probably the best looking and best sounding movie ever made, and sometimes a super simple story that lets its technology do the work is a really, really good thing.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

358. Away We Go (2009)


-Do you promise to let our daughter be fat or skinny or any weight at all? Because we want her to be happy, no matter what. Being obsessed with weight is just too cliché for our daughter.
-Yes, I do. Do you promise, when she talks, you'll listen? Like, really listen, especially when she's scared? And that her fights will be your fights?
-I do. And do you promise that if I die some embarrassing and boring death that you're gonna tell our daughter that her father was killed by Russian soldiers in this intense hand-to-hand combat in an attempt to save the lives of 850 Chechnyan orphans?
-I do. Chechnyan orphans. I do. I do.

Yet another criminally underseen movie. If this movie had been released during awards season instead of June, it would have garnered so much more attention. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are perfect as a young couple who are facing the realization that they need to grow up quick. Their impending pregnancy leads them on a cross-country journey to find a job and/or a home so that they can raise their child like responsible adults. Along the way they meet up with their friends who they thought were now taking on that "responsible" role only to find them squandering in their own forms of immaturity as well.

Friday, June 17, 2011

357. Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)


Is this the United States Congress, or the board of directors of Goldman Sachs?

"If you're not a Democrat by the time you are twenty, then you have no heart. If you're not a Republican by the time you are thirty, then you have no head." I have heard this quote many times before, and I guess I have about 9 days to prove my cephalization, though my hopes aren't high. I just see the "right-wing" mindset of one completely based in greed. I understand the argument that capitilism is what made this country great, but one could also say that slavery made assisted in this country's rise to power in the same way. Just as we realized the error of our ways with abolition, I believe that we are well overdue for a change in our ideas about personal property, incorporation, and doing what's right for the common good instead of a single person. We were pretty close over the past 5 years or so, but when the bubble of the "credit era" truly bursts, the only option will be revolution.

Wow that was quite a rambling take on a movie. I guess that's what you get after driving with Abby and Angie for 6.5 hours in Friday afternoon traffic.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

356. Food, Inc. (2009)


A culture that just uses a pig as a pile of protoplasmic inanimate structure, to be manipulated by whatever creative design the human can foist on that critter, will probably view individuals within its community, and other cultures in the community of nations, with the same type of disdain and disrespect and controlling type mentalities.

It is a rare find to discover a documentary that is at the same time timely, thouroughly entertaining, and exceedingly informative. This is probably is important movie to be released in the new millennium. You may not want to hear about the pain and cost that goes into your food, you may not want to change anything about it once you do, but you owe it to yourself and your environment to at least be educated.

355. Inglourious Basterds (2009)


You probably heard we ain't in the prisoner-takin' business; we in the killin' Nazi business. And cousin, business is a-boomin'.

Quentin Tarantino's first period piece is a success mainly due to the outstanding performances by Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, and Melanie Laurent. Brad Pitt owns his role as Lt. Aldo Raine a hyperconfident, John Wayne-swaggering, leader of a brigade of Jewish-Americans out to kill out Nazis. Christoph Waltz won a very deserving Oscar for his turn as a German "Jew-hunter". Melanie Laurent's performance as a theater owner turned revolutionary didn't garner as much attention, but it is her role that truly anchors the crux of the movie. Also, only Tarantino could find a way to write a thoroughly entertaining movie about World War II and actually have the cajones to give the War an alternate ending.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

354. Star Trek (2009)


-I may throw up on you.
-I think these things are pretty safe.
-Don't pander to me, kid. One tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in thirteen seconds. Solar flare might crop up, cook us in our seats. And wait till you're sitting pretty with a case of Andorian shingles, see if you're so relaxed when your eyeballs are bleeding. Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.
-Well, I hate to break this to you, but Starfleet operates in space.
-Yeah. Well, I got nowhere else to go, the ex-wife took the whole damn planet in the divorce. All I got left is my bones.

Hollywood remakes are often simply a cash grab. Throw something familiar up on the screen and people will flock to it regardless of its quality. Probably due to the fact that Star Trek has had a consistent fan following for nearly the past fifty years, it was able to avoid this fate. J.J. Abrams not only delivers a respectful addition to the Trek canon, but arguably its best feature film. The characters (especially McCoy and Kirk) are captured with near flawless perfection that never approaches satire, and the screenplay (aside from the sorta-lame villian) is exciting from beginning to end. All in all, this is how you reboot a franchise.

353. Up (2009)


Thanks for the adventure. Now go have one of your own.

Think about all of the television shows and movies that you have watched that have moved you to tears. Now think about the amount of time and effort the shows creators put towards your emotional investment. It usually happens around the end of a movie or could be as long as years in a television series. The guys from Pixar did it here in 12 minutes. I would put the first quarter-hour of this film up against any nearly any piece of narrative entertainment as the fastest successful emotional wallop in history. The rest of the movie is not bad either.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

352. Observe and Report (2009)


Let me ask you something - how much did they get paid to storm Normandy, how much did King Arthur get paid to kill Merlin, how much did they get paid to invent Television? Nothing. They did it because they knew it was right.

A couple of years ago, I was finishing up my Masters in education. I never like to say anything negative about my alma mater, but I can only say that the science education department at ECU is lacking in MANY respects. My biggest problem was a professor who gave me an incomplete and a C after a semester of no grades or feedback in her two online classes. I turned in all assignments on time, simply received no feedback. She gave me an incomplete because she didn't grade my papers and a C because she didn't like me for some reason (probably because she could tell I was too smart to push around). Nonetheless, after much hard work (and help from friends at ECU and education administration) I graduated with my degree. Still, I felt more ill will for this professor than I have ever felt in my life. I pride myself in being a relatively loving and nonviolent person, and it really troubled me to have the thoughts I was having.

That being said, this movie served as amazing therapy during this hard time in my life. I'd classify it as a guilty pleasure dark comedy. Seth Rogen portrays a bipolar mall cop with delusions of grandeur. Do you really need to know anything else?

351. Battle in Seattle (2008)


I don't blame you. I mean, I do, but... $#*@, you're not the problem. You're just doing your job, i guess. The people I'm really trying to fight are the ones who destroy so much, and they hurt so many lives. Not just one. Literally, millions. And no one ever points a gun at them. You know, they just seem so, unaccountable. Untouchable. Just seems kind of @*#$ed that you're... You and me are the ones that have to fight each other.

Yet another underseen movie. It pains me so much that "Grown Ups" sells out theaters, the Twilight movies have people lining up, and movies like this get ignored. I know you may not always agree with critics, but if we all stop seeing bad movies, they won't make them any more, and more money and time can be devoted to quality films.

This movie is pretty much a dramatization of the outstanding documentary "This is What Democracy Looks Like". Regardless of your opinions about the World Trade Organization, I think we should all be able to agree that the freedom to assemble is one of the most important rights we have. In 1999, protesters in Seattle learned that this right could be easily removed if you stood in the way of rich people and their money.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

350. Fanboys (2008)


Time for you to get mauled, boy. - Quote spoken by Ray Park, who played Darth Maul... I'm a geek....

It truly hurts how criminally underseen this movie is. Especially since it is pretty much about my friends (and me). If you have any smidgen of geek in you (or love someone who does), then you owe it to yourself to see this movie immediately. Still not convinced?
Top 5 reasons to see "Fanboys":
1. Kristin Bell dressed in the infamous "Slave Leia" costume.
2. It took over 3 years for the movie to finally be released because of the "controversial" boy-with-cancer storyline.
3. Seth Rogen plays 3 completely distinct characters.
4. A van modded to with an R2 unit
5. William Shatner

Friday, June 10, 2011

349. The Clone Wars (2008)


You're reckless, little one. You never would have made it as Obi-Wan's Padawan. But you might make it as mine...

I admit. I am a sucker for all things Star Wars. This movie is a little annoying, but it has Yoda, Jabba the Hutt, and R2-D2. No amount of whiny new character or crying baby Huttlet can take away from the chance to see those characters in new stories. .... at least for me....

Thursday, June 9, 2011

348. Wall-E (2008)


Wait, that doesn't look like Earth. Where's the blue sky? Where's the-the grass?

With every movie that the Pixar animation studio makes, I find myself saying the same thing: "It's gonna be hard to top that one". Inevitably, their next film will blow me away. I've said it before, but it bears repeating. Pixar's undefeated streak is something that no one has ever pulled off in the history of movies (not to mention other artistic venues).

Wall-E is a prime example of Pixar's genius. They were able to pull of an animated "children's" movie with no dialogue for the first twenty minutes. It even begins with a "West Side Story"-esque montage aerial view with no action or gimmicky introduction. This develops into one of the most heartfelt romances of the new millennium (between two robots no less). Throw in a wonderful message of environmentalism and love for our planet and you have quiet the piece of movie magic.

347. Australia (2008)


-Missus Boss, I sing you to me.
-And I will hear you.

The saddest part about this movie is that it is only Baz Luhrmann's fourth movie in the past twenty years. With his "Red Curtain Trilogy" (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo+Juliet, and Moulin Rouge!) he transported the viewer to his stage using many elements that are common place in live theater. With "Australia", Luhrmann transports the viewer to the sprawling epics of the Golden Age of American cinema. In the same vein that "Gone with the Wind" celebrated Southern culture and "Giant" celebrated Texas, this movie celebrates the strength, will, and determination of the people of Australia. I don't recommend it much because it is a different kind of movie than is normally made today (and that is off-putting to many viewers), but if you yearn for the Hollywood epics of yore, then you should most definitely see this immediately.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

346. Bigger Stronger Faster* (2008)


Steroids?! I love it if they're on my team!!

Not sure how you feel about the whole Performance Enhancing Drugs in sports debate. This movie is an excellent place to start. An impressively even-handed and entertaining look at steroid use, this documentary succeeds because of its personal story of the Bell brothers and their struggles with sports, body-building, wrestling, and drug abuse. Once you're done with the movie, check out Wikipedia for a pretty tragic epilogue to the Bell brothers' story.

Monday, June 6, 2011

345. Death Proof (2008)


-Did any of them survive?
-$#*%. Two tons of metal, 200 miles an hour, flesh and bone and plain old Newton... they all princess died.

Quentin Tarantino's fifth film and the second half of the old-school "Grindhouse" double feature is a really underrated gem of a movie and has the single greatest car chase to ever grace the silver screen. This is probably Tarantino's simplest movie but it combines the greatest things about his previous movies to make it more than just a 45-minute classic car chase. It's got "Reservoir Dogs"-style breakfast table banter, "Pulp Fiction"-style music, "Jackie Brown"-style supercoolness, and "Kill Bill"-style grrrl power action.

344. Iron Man (2008)


-I'm Agent Phil Coulson with the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
-That's quite a mouthful.
-I know. We're working on it.

Producers, directors, and writers please take note (although judging by the new X-Men movie and Green Lantern it looks like most of you already have). THIS is how you make a comic book movie: quick origin, witty banter, LOTS of rock-n-roll action, and sometimes it's okay to kinda ignore the "love" interest (I'm lookin' at you random Batman movie). It also doesn't hurt to cast recovered addict and playboy (and all-around amazing actor) Robert Downey Jr. as your alcoholic playboy superhero.

343. Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)


What? Han Solo ain't never had no sex with Princess Leia in the Star War!

Easily Kevin Smith's best non-Jay & Silent Bob film. This movie succeeds because he wrote about what he knows best: average down-on-their-luck workers with too much time on their hands and an unlimited capacity for making pop-culture references, d*#&-jokes, and speaking in monologue. Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks anchor the audience firmly to the story, but the performances of Jason Mewes, Craig Robinson, Justin Long, and Jeff Anderson bring absolutely side-splitting performances that make the movie (and it's HOURS of outtakes) supremely rewatchable.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

342. The Garden (2008)


It's a pretty simple idea: Land, people, food, happy days.

Manipulative and one-sided just like a good "call-to-action" documentary should be. After multiple viewings, I freely admit that this doc kind of ignores pretty important things like, you know, law. Still, it highlights one of the lost arts of mankind: growing food for your family through sweat equity. My daddy may not be the most outwardly environmentally concscience individual, but this is one thing that he still does to this day. The backyard garden is where I learned many lessons about respect for the land, hard work, and sustainability. Anyone who denies the power a simple garden can have (regardless of the law in some cases), has simply never worked in one.

341. Pineapple Express (2008)


It's almost a shame to smoke it. It's like killing a unicorn... with, like, a bomb.

Easily the greatest "stoner" comedy of all time. Seth Rogen's comedic timing and screenplay combine with James Franco amazing ad lib and acting chops to turn create a masterpiece of immature gobbledygook. Bonus points for casting Rosie Perez as a crooked cop and Danny Mcbride's amazing star-turning role as Red.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

340. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)


-I knew you'd be watching.
-I thought we would meet only in death.
-This is our destiny.
-Kiss me.

Daring, unique, and magical take on the classic "boy meets girl" scenario. Not my favorite from Boyle, but it won him an Oscar, so I'm not complaining!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

339. Waitress (2008)


Dear Baby, I hope someday somebody wants to hold you for 20 minutes straight and that's all they do. They don't pull away. They don't look at your face. They don't try to kiss you. All they do is wrap you up in their arms and hold on tight, without an ounce of selfishness to it.

This movie is a uniquely beautiful look at female empowerment. It is also the only movie to be able to brag that it stars Andy Griffith, Matlock, Capt. Malcom Reynolds, and Richard Castle. For all of its awesomeness, the movie is overshadowed by the tragic story of its writer/director, Adrienne Shelly who was taken from this world just as she was putting the finishing touches on this film. Her story is seriously too sad to recount (feel free to check it out on wikipedia if you like), but her memory lives on in this touching love letter to her daughter.

338. Amazing Grace (2007)


Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly. I'm a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.

One of the most underseen movies of recent years about one of the most understudied periods in world history. Who knew that the origins of the song "Amazing Grace" coincided with the end of African slavery? This is definitely an awesome way to learn.

Monday, May 30, 2011

337. Enchanted (2007)


-Now she thinks that you and I...
-Yeah, something like that.

I'll admit, I was a little leary when I saw the first trailer for this film. Angie and I saw it in the theater because it looked like a harmless little musical and I loved Amy Adams in "Junebug". Boy did she win me over in this movie. Everyone involved succeeded in not simply lampooning the Disney Princess genre, but outdoing it. The "talking" chipmunk in real life was hysterical, and Adams performance was seriously Oscar-worthy. The songs are the type that you catch yourself singing days later and the performances (including Cyclops, who can simply never get the girl...) are pitch perfect.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

336. For the Bible tells Me So


If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. - Joseph Goebbels

Brave, eye-opening documentary about homosexuality, tolerance, love, and what the Bible really says. A good movie (documentary or otherwise) dealing with Christian issues is very rare. A movie that actually teaches me something about my Christian faith is even rarer. Even if you don't check this movie out, always remember that only "ye who is without sin" should cast stones.

335. Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains (2007)


Thank you Mr. President!

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. - Galations 6:9

I could say that this film earned a spot on this list because of its awesome direction by Academy Award-winning feature film director Jonathan Demme, but I'd be stretching the truth a bit. I freely admit that my love for this movie comes from my ever-growing respect and admiration for its subject. I've often heard many negative things about President Carter during my life, and, not being old enough to remember his Presidency, I usually do not try to defend him. I still don't quite get it though. This man left his farm in Georgia to become governor and then President, championed peace and equality for all at every turn, and has been working his butt off for the past 30 years with projects such as Habitat for Humanity, various charities, and raising awareness about the plight of the middle east. This film captures Carter's work ethic, not just with signing checks and decision making, but with his hands and feet as he still is not afraid to truly work hard to get jobs done. This movie also inspired me to begin collecting his many books and I find them priceless works of inspiration, spirituality, and just plain common sense.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

334. Juno (2007)


Yeah, I'm a legend. You know, they call me the cautionary whale.

Amazing soundtrack, awesome performances from all involved, and one of the tightest screenplays this side of Kevin Smith/Tarantino make this a near perfect romantic comedy/drama/teenage-coming-of-age film.

333. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)


None of this is easy - for any of us - but we do it... Oh! We do it for you! So don't you dare tell me how we don't care.

JC Chasez, Keri Russell, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Ryan Gosling were all members of the "All New" Mickey Mouse Club in 1989. I realize most of those young people have gone onto fame and fortune, but one's talent outshines all of the rest in my opinion. In movies like "Full Nelson", "Blue Valentine", and this Ryan Gosling has cemented himself as one of the best actors of the new millenium. I freely admit that I expected this movie to be a screwball comedy in the style of the Farrelly brothers. Boy, was I shocked. The acting of Gosling and the screenplay from Nancy Oliver actually pulls off a whimsical romance/drama about a young man and his internet-ordered love doll. I am still shocked by the magic that this film attains...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

332. Sicko (2007)


If we can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people.

This movie approaches the greatness that Moore attained with "Bowling for Columbine" and "Roger and Me". The biggest difference between this movie and those movies though is that is that I don't understand the controversy. I disagree with those that support unlimited gun rights, but I understand their position. I disagree with those that say uncontrolled free market capitalism leads to the best for all involved, but I understand their point of view. I simply do not understand why we can't make health care as free and universal as education, the fire department, police department, road construction, and defense. Still, it feels like I've written this blog before because I have. Feel free to check it out if you like:

The Last Unchecked Freedom in the Land of the Free