Monday, January 21, 2008

The Unmissables Vol. V

Numbers 41 through 50 coming right up...Timeless classics, whose beauty and inspiration have never gone out of date, and some new, soon-to-be classics, that will live on in film history...

The Godfather Part I - Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather is a classic of our time, starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino in his first movie role. The story of the life of mafia families spans several generations. 8 Academy Award Nominations, 3 Wins, 5 Golden Globe Awards

42. Clerks I and II - Okay, this one is more of a cult classic, but Kevin Smith has created two characters now forever immortalized in his films, Jay and his heterosexual life mate, Silent Bob. The hilarity and raunch is matched only in its wit and profundity. (and maybe its profanity as well). Winner of 2 Cannes Film Festival and 2 Sundance Film Festival Awards.

43. Walk the Line - Joaquin Phoenix steals the film as the tortured Johnny Cash and his road to music stardom, his fall into drugs, and his agony and guilt over the past. Fabulously done, and the soundtrack is great. Nominated for 5, winner of 1 Academy Award, winner of 4 Golden Globe Awards.

44. The Departed - A troubled undercover cop must penetrate the criminal underworld undetected; a crooked cop is already inside the police department; the good cop is trying to uncover the mole inside his department; and a sadistic crime lord is about to bring it all down around them. Martin Scorsese, Leo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlburg, and Jack Nicholson. Nominated for 5, winner of 4 Academy Awards; recipient of 47 other film awards.

45. Borat - Borat has come to America "for make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan", to make a documentary that will change comedy and film and the people Borat meets forever. Gloriously acted by Mr. Sasha Baron Cohen. Nominated for 1 Academy Award, Winner of 2 Golden Globes.

46. The Sound of Music - Julie Andrews plays an almost-nun who is sent to nanny a military man's (Christopher Plummer) children in Austria just on the brink of World War II. The Sound of Music is the true story of the singing Von-Trapp family. Winner of 5 Academy Awards.

47. Gone With the Wind - A breathtaking, epic view of the Old South before, during, and after the devastating Civil War. As seen through the eyes of young, vain, foolish Scarlett O'Hara. Also starring Clark Gable. Winner of 10 Academy Awards.

48. My Fair Lady - One of Audrey Hepburn's best films, also starring Rex Harrison. Harrison bets his friend that he can take a homeless girl off the streets and in six months, pass her off as a duchess at the Grand Ball. The homeless girl? Audrey Hepburn. Winner of 8 Academy Awards.

49. Napolean Dynamite - Napolean's crazy life win Grandma, Tina, Pedro, Kip, and Uncle Rico is a tale so un-epic, you'll love it. Hilarity ensues. Starring John Heder and his hilariousness.

50. Grease - A sweet girl and the school bad boy fall in love over the summer, but are surprised to find that they will be attending the same high school. Can their love conquer their reputations and their egos? Starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, a musical. Nominated of 1 Academy Award, Recipient of 5 Golden Globe Awards.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

3:10 To Yuma

Dan Evans has a failing ranch, a family of four to support, a lot of debt on his back, and he's in a hell of a lot of trouble. Ben Wade is a wanted outlaw the railroads want to bring to justice for all the trouble he's caused them. When Evans signs up to help escort Wade to the prison train to Yuma for $200, he has no idea what he's getting himself into. Wade's ruthless gang will stop at nothing to hunt down their leader's captors to free him.

Evans is superbly played by Christian Bale, who gets too little recognition for his phenomenal roles. Russell Crowe plays the part of Ben Wade and the two make a fabulous, fabulous duo. The two onscreen together is beautiful to watch. When Evans' son gets mixed up in the whole affair, things turn from good to bad to ugly. Is Wade really all bad as he claims? He may just be. And there may be no way out for Evans, who becomes more and more trapped as the plot develops.

3:10 to Yuma is a western, but forget Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, this is like nothing you've ever seen. It's a western with new themes, new characters, and a new plot. Who would've thought THAT possible? Great directing and cinematography, and the script and story and plot are all top-notch. By the way, Ben Foster puts on a particularly great show as Wade's cutthroat right-hand man. You might see parts of yourself in these characters (I particularly loved Evans, Bale really nailed him), or you might not. But there are explosions and shoot-em-ups and even a horse chase. It's a guys action film but with enough drama and emotion for girls too. It's a film about reality and heroism and the courage to do what's right. And sometimes doing the right thing isn't just the most difficult, it might be the most dangerous too.

Conclusion: It's got two thumbs up from me and certainly will be on a top-something list of mine.

Rated: R for violence and some language

  • Russell Crowe, the director, and the producer, all specifically asked for Christian Bale to play Evans.
  • The weekend before shooting was scheduled to wrap, a freak storm dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on the supposedly drought plagued town. Laborers shoveled the snow from the buildings' balconies and roofs and distributed 89 dump trucks worth of dry soil on the ground.


Prepare for the end of the world as you know it.

It was just a regular day. We planned a surprise part for Rob. He's like, my main dude, but he's leaving for Japan to land a new job. It wasn't that great of a party really, some nasty stuff went down and it kinda went downhill from there you could say. So after there's this big argument between Rob and this girl, there was this explosion. Yeah, I told you it got worse. At first we thought it was another terrorist attack or something, but it wasn't. There were explosions and fires and stuff, we could see it from the roof. We ran out to the street and for a moment, I saw it. It was, well I don't know exactly what it was, but it was huge and it was destroying the city. I thought it was Armageddon. I mean, I thought I was gonna die.

Filmed on a home-movie camera, Cloverfield is about a small group of people who must survive a monster attack on New York City. When you go to see it, be prepared to be scared out of your pants, or at least to wet them. The camera work is shaky and sometimes blurry and sometimes pointed in the wrong direction, but the filmmakers did a crazy-good job on this. I wasn't sure if Cloverfield could live up to J.J. Abrams' hype, but wow, it does. Great choreography and lighting, and the effects were absolutely insane. (I can explain if you saw it and don't understand why I think they're amazing.) I loved the way they used background noise as a soundtrack almost. Deep humming machines, roaring, etc. takes the place of music. Also, the conflict of emotion they're able to evoke from the audience is amazing. Just when you're scared out of your mind, a character will say something utterly offbeat and funny. And you will definitely be scared out of your mind. A New York viewer said he came out of the theater half expecting to see the city in ruins.

Great performances by virtually unknown actors and actresses, really adds to the film and lets you focus on the story. The filmmakers really want you to focus on sounds and the story, so they add elements like blurriness or something when you need to be listening carefully, perhaps to a conversation, that's important to the story. They take a page out of Hitchcock's guide to suspense films and definitely apply the motto "What you don't see is more frightening than what you do see." Anyway, if you won't get annoyed by the shaky camera waving all over the place, go see Cloverfield. Definitely very enjoyable, got a good scare out of me, very well, done, I'd recommend it to the 14-40 age-group since they'll be more likely to be able to handle the seasickness brought on by the camera and still enjoy the film. Most excellent.

Conclusion: See it. Now.

Rated: PG-13 for terror, violence, and some disturbing images (Don't take little kids to see this, okay?)

  • The teaser trailer was shot before principal production began with small digital cameras.
  • The film has no soundtrack whatsoever.

The Butterfly Effect

A butterfly flapping its wings could cause a tornado miles away

Evan, Kayleigh, Tommy, and Lenny are just four ordinary kids, but when a game goes tragically awry, it changes all of their lives forever. Evan is 20-something and a successful college student when his quest to remember the memories he's repressed is fulfilled. But the memories he can now recall should have been left alone, and when Evan discovers a way to change the past, he thinks he can save his friends. But what Evan doesn't know is that any little change he makes in the past creates and entirely different future. Evan is getting deeper and deeper in and there may be no way back.

Evan is played (surprisingly well) by Ashton Kutcher. He does a great job, although the planes of emotion coming from an actor from movies of the Dude-Where's-My-Car-caliber is entirely unexpected. The same goes for Amy Smart, who is a normally comedic actor, but in Butterfly she seamlessly transitions from heartbreakingly tragic to upbeat prep characters. The chaos theory is a great premise for a movie, although the premise has been polluted by some silly plot factors.

Butterfly is shocking to the max. I mean, seriously disturbing. Keep small children and kids under age 16 away from it. There are a lot of under-the-sheet scenes along with themes like massive drug abuse, animal abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, child pornography, suicide, a LOT of violence, and sex, so just be aware. This is a very good movie, or at least I was impressed by it. The acting is very very good and the story is just so so heartbreaking.

Conclusion: If you can stomach the strong, well, everything, then go for it.

Rated: R for violence, sexual content, language and brief drug use.

  • During one of Evan's "flashback" scenes, he can be heard reading part of Ray Bradbury's short story "A Sound of Thunder". In this story, a group of people travel millions of years into the past to hunt dinosaurs. One of them accidentally steps on and kills a butterfly, which dramatically alters the future.
  • Ashton Kutcher did extensive research on psychology, mental disorders, and chaos theory to prepare for his role in this film.
See the trailer here

Monday, January 14, 2008

In the Land of Women

"Women have always been drawn to you," Carter's mother tells him, and unfortunately he's right. At 26 years old, Carter has had one failed relationship after another. Finally, when the girl of his dreams ends their relationship, he decides to escape. To get away from women and away from his entanglements with them, he leaves for Michigan to take care of his grandmother. But Carter's mother is right and by day two he's got three new women in his life, plus his grandmother who insists upon her imminent death, but is in perfect health.

Carter's story is sweet and both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Kristin Stewart and Meg Ryan pull the universal mother-daughter, love-hate relationship off to a T. Like Waitress, this is not your average romantic comedy. In fact, it's difficult to call it one at all. The humor is there, and the romance, but it just doesn't have the same feel. In some ways it seems very linear, but in others it is so discursive.

Kudos to both Ryan and Stewart; Ryan nailed a role I didn't think she could pull off, and Stewart (most famous for her starring role in The Messengers) is a great addition to the film. But Brody's character is witty and lovable, and also flawed. Brody finally got a starring role in something and got to act his age. Well, almost. This is a film about growing up and the meaning of life and individuality and finding out what you really want. And it's not just Carter's journey, he takes along everyone he meets along the way, including you.

Conclusion: If you can handle to randomness and the unconventional-ness, it really is a pretty awesome film.

Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, thematic elements, and language. (Again, don't take little kids to see it)

See the trailer here


Once upon a time there lived a Waitress. Named Jenna. But Jenna's life was not a storybook life. She makes minimum wage and her husband is repulsive. She is saving money to run away from him, but when Jenna finds out about her unwanted pregnancy, everything changes.

Jenna is played by Kerri Russell, who gives a superior performance, very well done. The characters here are absolutely amazing. I'm not sure who wrote the script and the characters for this film but a thousand kudos to them, because they're excellent. The characters are sometimes quirky yes, but very real and you can really identify with them. Jenna is a fabulous character and her development is extraordinary.

Waitress is very well acted, with pleasing appearances by Andy Griffith and Eddie Jemison, as well as great performances by Nathan Fillion and Jeremy Sisto. Sisto is Jenna's horrible husband, and Fillion is the alternate love interest. This isn't your typical romantic comedy. It's such a bright setting juxtaposed with the black humor. But it is extremely original. I really, really enjoyed this movie and I would recommend it to just about anyone. It does have some themes that might induce questioning from small children, like adultery, domestic violence, etc., and if those themes are particularly provocative for you, you might want to steer clear of this one.

Conclusion: Waitress will draw you in, play with your emotions, and you'll love it. PS: It's not really a guy's movie. No explosions.

Rated: PG-13 for sexual content (Earl and Jenna), language, and some thematic elements.

  • The movie took only 20 days to shoot.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Superman Returns

Picking up where Christopher Reeves left off in the 1980s, director Bryan Singer resurrects Superman from obscurity to one of the best Superhero movies in a long superhero movie streak. When scientists find the remnants of Superman's home world, Krypton, Superman leaves Earth to search it out. Five long years later he returns to find the world in chaos and Lois Lane a mommy, engaged to be married, and a Pulitzer Prize winner for a piece entitled "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman". When Lex Luthor devises a sinister scheme that will kills billions for his own profit, Superman must rise once more to save mankind. But Lex Luthor nearly killed him once before and Luthor may have more than one trick up his sleeve. Will evil triumph or will Superman overcome? See Superman Returns and find out.

I very much enjoyed Routh's Superman. He did an excellent job, no overacting, which was a relief, and he really plays the part so accurately. Plus, he's a Reeves look-alike. Anyway, he really did a good job. Bosworth was enjoyable as Lois Lane, but Kevin Spacey's performance as Lex Luthor really is fabulous, as well as being wonderfully entertaining. James Marsden also costars as Lois' fiance and as always delivers a great performance.

In addition, the effects are impressive and the story is very well done and moves along well. Also, we are not really formally introduced to any characters, but it's as though we just come in to the middle of the story and are expected to know the characters already, which furthers Singer's concept of a sequel/remake. And the script isn't stupid either, which is a relief. I can't get over Routh's performance, he really does pull his role off very, very well. I like the subtleties of his acting. The reintroduction of Superman is great. It's dramatic and entertaining and manages some great comic relief as well.

Conclusion: Definitely see Superman Returns it's entertaining and not what you'd expect.

Rated: PG-13 for some intense action violence. It's okay for kids 8 and up, it's certainly not scarier or more violent than Lord of the Rings, so...

  • The last line of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) (the one before "Returns") is Superman saying to Luthor, "See you in twenty." That scene was filmed in 1986. Coincidentally, twenty years later, in 2006, the next Superman movie was released.
  • Bryan Singer wanted Christopher Reeves to make a cameo appearance in the film but Reeve died before filming began. Singer then decided to dedicate the film to him.
  • Brandon Routh put on 20 pounds of muscle for the movie.
  • The corn on the Kent farm was grown by the crew in Australia, a particularly difficult feat since Australia was in the middle of a 7-year drought.


Find out which films to absolutely skip and which you can't miss. THese are my opinions on current films and timeless classics