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

Monday, May 23, 2011

331. There Will Be Blood (2007)


I'm finished.

Paul Thomas Anderson's epic film loosely adapted from Upton Sinclair's "Oil!" is astonishing to behold. Daniel Day Lewis' performance is one of the most hauntingly powerful to ever grace the scree. This movie is a slow, deliberate journey into the heart of capitilist madness in the same vein as "Giant" and "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre".

330. Encounters at the End of the World (2007)


Through our eyes the universe is perceiving itself, and through our ears the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witness to which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.

I freely admit that there is a severe lack of Werner Herzog on this blog. He is truly one of my favorite filmmakers and the only one I know of who can transition seamlessly from documentary filmmaking to traditional and back. In this film Herzog travels to Antarctica to interview the various people who inhabit the uninhabitable continent. He learns a lot of scientific facts along the way, but his focus is on humanity instead of nature as he asks the viewers what makes us so curious about taming the unknown.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

329. Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)


-My service spares my world, and the one I love.
-Why did you try to protect me?
-Because you remind me of her.

I know, I know, this is not what you would call a great movie, but it is the only translation of the Silver Surfer on film who just happens to be one of my favorite comic book characters (my favorite Marvel character by far!). The movie poster just happens to be the first bit of decoration I picked out for my classroom. I've always thought there was something a little motivating about a guy who was willing to give up everything he had including his freedom and the life he knew to save the one he loved.

328. Into the Wild (2007)


You don't need human relationships to be happy, God has placed it all around us.

The amazing true story of a young man who gave up everything he had after graduating from college to head west and then north to Alaska seeking adventure and freedom. I constantly remind my students to take walks and encourage a reconnection with nature. All of the PS3, 3-D Blu-ray, and Facebook in the world can never replace the feeling that you get standing beneath a canopy of trees listening to the sounds of the wind and the animals. My only problem with this story, is that the young man really takes for granted the amazing human connections he encounters along the way. In seeking what was important in life, he disregared much of the love shared along the way.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

327. No Country for Old Men (2007)


-If I don't come back, tell mother I love her.
-Your mother's dead, Llewelyn.
-Well then I'll tell her myself.

Not only are the Coen brothers probably the most consistently flawless filmmakers working today, lucky for us, they are also the most prolific. It is hard to believe, but the Coens have written, produced, and directed three more movies since this one won them their first Academey Award. Another is due out next year. Film fans of the world rejoice!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

326. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)


I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to be the center of attention. I wanted the glory, I wanted the fame. I wanted the pretty girls to come up and say, "Hi, I see that you're good at Centipede."

A documentary about the drama surrounding the world record high score of Donkey Kong. You read that right, and it's just as awesome as it sounds!

325. Meet the Robinsons (2007)


-Why is your dog wearing glasses?
-Oh, because his insurance won't pay for contacts.

After thirteen years, the folks at Disney finally learn the most important rule of CGI animation from the folks at Pixar: All the visuals don't amount to a hill of beans if you don't have an awesome story to tell. This movie is the perfect mix of childhood whimsy, science fiction, and believing in yourself. If you only watch one Disney movie from the '00s, this should be it!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

324. The Astronaut Farmer (2006)


-How do we know that you're not constructing a WMD?
-Well, because if I was building a weapon of mass destruction, you wouldn't be able to find it.

A beautiful fairy tale about never giving up. This is one of the sweetest and most inspirational movie I have ever seen. The plot is a little far fetched, but Billy Bob Thornton's acting and the Polish brothers' whimsy sell every bit of it without fail.

323. Bobby (2006)


We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge. Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution. But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can. Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.

Emilio Estevez directs a very interesting look at the last day of Robert F. Kennedy. Very interesting mainly for the fact that the film (aside from the voiceover above) never actually includes Bobby Kennedy in the movie that is essentially about him. In this manner, it is conveyed that it wasn't just a man who died on that day, but a movement. Even if you aren't interested in the story (you should be by the way), this movie is still a trip to see so many Hollywood stars in one place. It will come in really handy in 20 years when "6 degrees of Kevin Bacon" has been replaced by "6 degrees of Shia Lebeouf".

Sunday, May 15, 2011

322. Cars (2006)


Okay, here we go. Focus. Speed. I am speed. One winner, forty-two losers. I eat losers for breakfast. Breakfast? Maybe I should have had breakfast? Brekkie could be good for me. No, no, no, focus. Speed. Faster than fast, quicker than quick. I am Lightning.

In 2006, Pixar was renegotiating its contract with Disney. All signs pointed to Pixar breaking away and distributing its own movies. This movie was to be the last film that they created with the giant movie studio, and when I saw the trailer I thought for sure that this was exit-door sabotage. Why make a good movie for a company that you felt was ripping you off? Add to this the fact that one of the main characters was being played by fake redneck (it's true, look it up)
Larry the Cable Guy, and my hopes for this film were very low.

Yet, when I finally saw the movie, I was assured of the one constant in cinema: Pixar doesn't make bad films. I especially loved it because I grew up watching NASCAR every Sunday and listening to Car Talk most Saturday mornings. I found the movie to be a fun exercise in doing what Pixar does best: having inanimate objects show us the absurdity of our ways and reminding us of the important things in life.

321. Children of Men (2006)


And now one for all the nostalgics out there. A blast from the past all the way back from 2003, that beautiful time when people refused to accept that the future was just around the corner.

Odds are you haven't seen this movie, and that is simply a shame. It is one of the best looks into the not-too-distant future in all of movies. Unlike normal science fiction with time travel, spaceships, and aliens, this simply feels real. The problems encountered in a future without children are simply an amplified version of the problems we already face today: terrorism, bureaucracy, drugs, and the overwhelming power of corporate entities. If you like action, sci-fi, politically conscience, or even simple edge-of-your-seat thrill ride movies, then you are doing yourself a disservice by skipping this film.

Friday, May 13, 2011

320. Clerks II (2006)


All right, look, there's only one "Return," okay, and it ain't "of the King," it's "of the Jedi."

"Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back" was supposed to be Kevin Smith's fifth and final entry into the "Jersey Trilogy" of his View Askewniverse, but it was more of an inside joke than an actual film. It also did not capture what makes his films great, the self-deprecating relationship humor that all started with Dante and Randall in the original "Clerks." This film recaptures that vibe and is probably my second favorite of Smith's movies behind "Chasing Amy". Even if you are not a fan of the films, this one is almost worth it for the "pillow-pants" scene alone!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

319. Deliver us from Evil (2006)


Sooner or later God'll cut you down.

This is probably the scariest documentary I have ever seen. Everyone knows that a handful of Catholic priests and young boys have had a rather checkered past, but to actually hear the first-hand accounts of abuse and witness interviews with relatively unrepentant molesters and defenders was astonishing. This is a super effective documentary in that it refuses to preach to the viewer, but at the same time presents the content in such a way that is completely immersive to the absolutely horrifying ordeal.

318. Flushed Away (2006)


Poor, poor Roddy / Flushed down his own potty / Rita, can't you find it in your heart... to help him?

The British geniuses behind the "Wallace & Grommit" claymation shorts get Dreamworks funding to do a feature length movie in their signature style and have the main characters voiced by Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian Mclellan, and Jean Reno. As awesome as that sounds, what really puts this movie over the top are the slugs. Whenever I discuss osmosis in Biology class, I always draw a "screaming" slug in this style as it awaits the inevitable shaker of salt.

Monday, May 9, 2011

317. Follow My Voice (2006)


"And if you've got no other choice, you know you can follow my voice..."

The picture above is actually not from this documentary (mainly becuase I couldn't find a screencap I liked). It is from the climax of another movie on this blog, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch". This film is simply the story of how the filmmakers of Hedwig convinced awesome musicians to perform songs from that movie for an album that would raise money for the Harvey Milk school in New York (a school for at-risk young people in the LGBT community). Pretty cool little story and lots of performances from the likes of Ben Folds, Ben Kweller, Yo La Tengo, and Rufus Wainwright.

316. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)


You know what? #*$& beauty contests. Life is one $*#&ing beauty contest after another. School, then college, then work... %*#( that. And $*#( the Air Force Academy. If I want to fly, I'll find a way to fly. You do what you love, and %*$& the rest.

This movie is a really witty look at a very dysfunctional family, and that's why most people like it. I appreciate that, but I love it primarily because of the scene preceding the screen capture above. Around this time of year five years ago, I came to the realization that the career I had worked towards my entire life was not going to become a reality. There really isn't anything that can compare to that feeling. It's not the sadness that you get from losing a loved one, or the disappoint that comes with losing an athletic contest. It is a completely gut wrenching feeling of worthlessness that can only be remedied by being surrounded by those that love you. Lucky for me, I found out my news right before my sister's wedding, and, just like Olive comforts Dwayne, I was reinvigorated by the love of my family as it simultaneously grew larger and closer together.

315. Once (2006)


What's the Czech for "Do you love him"?

Goal for today's blog entry: most adjectives in a single sentence.

A simple "boy meets girl" story is thrown completely into pure awesome greatness as the pair share their bourgening connection through beautiful, glorious song.

Goal = achieved. Also, you should see this movie, like, immediately...

Friday, May 6, 2011

314. A Scanner Darkly (2006)


What does a scanner see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does it see into me? Into us? Clearly or darkly? I hope it sees clearly because I can't any longer see into myself. I see only murk. I hope for everyone's sake the scanners do better, because if the scanner sees only darkly the way I do, then I'm cursed and cursed again.

On the pretty short list of movies wherein I read the book prior to the movie's release. When I learned my favorite director was filming an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick book, I was intrigued. Dick writes dystopian science-fiction that has been the inspiration for many films (Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, etc.), but Linklater makes movies about teenagers getting high in Austin and people sitting around and talking a lot. Suffice it to say, I was intrigued and, thus, read the book. Linklater's choice to use rotoscope technology as he had in "Waking Life" to animate over the actors' performances was ingenious. It allowed a near perfect translation of the drug-filled landscape of the story and one of its toughest set-pieces: the stealth suit used by cops to conceal their identity that constantly makes them look like different people.

While not the most rewatchable movie in the world, this still serves as a perfect complement to the novel (I actually picked up on a few things I had missed in the book), a cautionary tail for drug users, and an expose' of the often-times corrupt and politicized worlds of rehab and the "war" on drugs.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

313. Southland Tales (2006)


Revelation 21: And God wiped away the tears from his eyes, so the new Messiah could see out to the new Jerusalem. His name was Officer Roland Taverner, of Hermosa Beach, California. My best friend. He is a pimp. And pimps don't commit suicide.

Let me begin by saying, I am not suggesting that you see this movie. You probably won't like this movie even if you do watch it. I'm not really even sure what it's really about. Still, I get a freakin' kick out of this movie! This is what happens when you give a young director lots of money because his first movie (Donnie Darko) quickly became a cult classic. It is a raw jumble of ideas, actors, and alternate universe that makes for an excellent philosophical look at our world today through bizarro scar-faced Justin Timberlake glasses.

312. Stranger than Fiction (2006)


-Listen, I'm a big supporter of fixing potholes and erecting swing sets and building shelters. I am *more* than happy to pay those taxes. I'm just not such a big fan of the percentage that the government uses for national defense, corporate bailouts, and campaign discretionary funds. So, I didn't pay those taxes. I think I sent a letter to that effect with my return.
-Would it be the letter that beings "Dear Imperialist Swine"?

One of the smartest ideas for a movie ever. A writer (Emma Thompson) is struggling with how to kill off the protaganist in her long overdue novel when she learns her character is actually real. The character (Will Ferrel in his best film ever) also happens to hear the writer's voice narrating his life. Existential hilarity, romance, and heartbreak ensue as the poor man's life is affected by his new found "gift" and the discovery of his impending doom. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Queen Latifah, and Dustin Hoffman perfectly round out the cast to make this film a satisfying sci-fi film for those that enjoy truly good romantic comedies.

311. The Departed (2006)


-This is unbelievable. Who put the *$&#in' cameras in this place?
-Who the %*$&are you?
-I'm the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy.

Martin Scorsese directs a film about the cops vs. the mob in Boston. This movie probably has the single greatest male cast of any film this side of "JFK". Leonardo Dicaprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, and you might as well throw in Jack Nicholson in what could be remembered as one of his last truly great performances. The screenplay is super tight and the twists and turns ensure that this movie will be remembered as one of Scorsese's best and not just the one that finally got him his Oscar.

Monday, May 2, 2011

310. Dreamgirls (2006)


And I am telling you/ I'm not going./ You're the best man I'll ever know./ There's no way I can ever go./ No, no, no, no way... / No, no, no, no way I'm living without you./ I'm not living without you./ I don't want to be free./ I'm staying, I'm staying,/ And you, and you,/ you're gonna love me.

This is actually a pretty average movie musical musical, but there were two aspects that made it absolutely amazing to me:
1. Much like my "Brokeback Mountain" viewing, I was heavily influence by the audience I saw this film with. I caught the movie at the Southpoint Cinema in Durham with a near sold-out crowd of about 60% middle-aged African American women. The live theater experience created an atmosphere of female empowerment that was so palpable that I didn't mind the rants, raves, and cheers along with the movie.
2. Jennifer Hudson. I'm sure she still has back pains from carrying this movie the way she did. Eddie Murphy's performance came close to this level of committment, but none of the other actors approached her honesty and emotion.

309. Fast Food Nation (2006)


It is a sad fact of life, Don, but the truth is we all have to eat a little $*%& from time to time.

A jumble of slightly interconnected stories about the fast food (and especially burger) industry directed by Richard Linklater and based on Eric Schlosser's nonfiction epic of the same name, "Fast Food Nation" is a funny, and often scary look at the things we eat and the high cost of the dollar menu. The film culminates with a beginning to end tour of what really goes on in a meat processing plant that will have even the most hardened carnivore think twice about a McDouble. Stay tuned though, much more to come in documentary form near the end of this blog!