Movie Madness

My movie reviews and rants at your fingertips.

Monthly Archives: March 2011

Who’s gonna join me at the movies tonight?

I’m a meticulous man by trade. So when I go to the movies, I get steamed that people don’t follow my simple rules. I would show you the video that perfectly sums up my feelings, but unfortunately YouTube doesn’t have it. So here are my rules for going to the movies, and I’ll sprinkle in some stories of the unfortunate souls who violated said rules.

1. Turn off your phone (this means everyone). Not only is it distracting to everyone around you, but it is disrespectful. That said, I would have loved to show the phone of those <expletives> who sat next to me opening night of Inception. I don’t know who they were, but these two guys were wearing matching fedoras. Now, I’m all for expressing yourself, but matching fedoras is a no-no in call circles (especially boy bands). Every time this little punk checked his phone, I wanted to grab it and throw it the length of the theater. The movie wasn’t in 3D, but the image of a phone being thrown across a room during a movie would illicit a response. Those who understood the gesture would applaud, while the 12-year-old tween who got beamed by the projectile would ultimately quiet down herself. If she doesn’t, call an usher to have her escorted out.

2. That was a nice set-up for my number 2 point. Shut the up. During the movie, no one cares what you have to say. The dark of the theater is supposed to mimic the illusion of live theatre. So, dad, stop asking questions because you weren’t paying attention. I love nothing more than to answer them and discuss the movie…after we leave the theater. Now, the occasional one syllable response is funny, but keep it to one per theater per show per year. This isn’t Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Room,

so audience participation is illegal. If you violate this imperative directive, all ushers have been trained to remove you from the theater one appendage at a time. Keep your trap shut for the 90 minutes or so it takes to watch the movie in its entirety. When the movie starts, I want to imagine NO ONE is in the theater. We should all enjoy that luxury.
When I went to see Blue Valentine, a couple of elderly women talked through the trailers (a somewhat forgivable offense), but when the movie started, I actually said something. Now, I’m partly a chicken for not saying something everytime someone disrupts the movie experience, but I am so desperate to hold on to that illusion of isolation, I will pray to every god to smite that person dead.

3. If you know what is going to happen, keep it to yourself. I almost couldn’t go see Love and Other Drugs because someone guessed what the third act was about. Based on the trailer, they weren’t far off. Fortunately, she was wrong enough to give a fresh view of the end. Some people have trouble following this one, more of a problem during home viewings than in theaters, but it should be strictly adhered to. I know the ending to a certain Denzel Washington movie because someone at work was an <expletive>. 

4. Outside snacks are ok, in fact, many encourage it. Being a veteran movie usher/janitor/jack-of-all-minimum-wage-trades, I know that theaters make almost all their green on concessions. Since I’ve been on all sides of this argument, I just wanna leave this at: be smart, be economical, and don’t flaunt it. Open the items quietly and wait for the lights to dim, if you do.

5. These next two are for parents. Dumping your kids at the theater on a Friday night is borderline negligence. Now, I know that you never tell a parent how to raise a kid, but I’m willing to take the bullet on this one. It’s ok that you let your daughter go to Justin Bieber’s concert movie, but have the decency to teach your kids the necessity of quiet during a movie. I don’t know how I learned it, but I learned it at a young age. I learned pantomiming helped. Also, you don’t need to explain your bathroom break during the fight scene. Just now that you will not be caught up on any account. If you are, the ninja ushers will decapitate you. They are blood crazed, so don’t tempt them.

6. Moms and Dads, keep your little addition to your family at home. When I went to see Unstoppable, This little kid proceeded to ask if every train was Thomas the Tank Engine! He kicked the seats, talked throughout the entire film and his parents did nothing to stop it. I was so offended, I almost called child safety services or Cruella Deville to shut him up.

7. Making out, sexual acts, actual sex, and the like are inappropriate for the movie theater realm. Yes, Diner made the idea funny, but this isn’t encouraged at any point. We all break this rule (who hasn’t made out through an entire movie?), but there are some guidelines to follow if you indulge in this behavior. A) Keep it to yourselves B) Keep it quiet C) Don’t be obvious about it or do it in front of a crowd. That’s what the back rows are for.

Now, there are some other little items to explore, so I may need to supplement this later. If I missed anything, please let me know. Also, there are always exceptions to the rules. If you are disabled in a way that necessitates breaking this rules, you have the rare opportunity to ignore theater law. But, those with you don’t share your need, can NOT follow your example.  Sometimes a blind person will go to a movie, but they are more than welcome to have a narrator chosen by Russian Roulette. They deserve to know what goes with all the things they hear. Deaf people should (whether they want it or not) have an interpreter (or find access to Rear Window Captioning. Yes, that’s a link to wikipedia.) so they can more comfortably enjoy the film. Plus, my girlfriend’s mom would get a chance to see Gnomeo and Juliet all the time (You’re welcome Joan, you avid reader of my blog you!).

As a special treat, here is an intro video from my favorite theater chain of all time, The Alamo Drafthouse.

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Sucker Punch

It’s hard to believe Zach Snyder has only been around in Hollywood a little while. His first foray into feature-length filmmaking was the Dawn of the Dead remake. From there, Snyder has done some great things in film. He brought Watchmen to theaters, he gave us the Spartan army, and his next film will be bringing us back to Superman. But with Sucker Punch, Snyder gets a chance to do something original.

Sucker Punch follows the journey of Baby Doll, played by Emily Browning, as she attempts to break out of the psychiatric hospital she’s in before she is lobotomized. After being sent there while trying to save her sister from their abusive step-father, Baby Doll deals with the accidental death of her sister and confines of the hospital. While there, she meets fellow patients Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Rocket (Jena Malone), Amber (Jaime Chung), and Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish). Together, she leads them on a quest for freedom.

Baby Doll escapes the tortures of the asylum by entering a world where the hospital is a brothel and she is a burlesque dancer along with all her friends. When Baby Doll dances, she becomes entrancing, mesmerizing anyone who watches her. This dance of seduction takes her to another world where WWI is still very much alive. In this world, Baby Doll and the girls are actually warriors, playing out their missions with over-the-top action and intentional badassery. Each mission brings them the task of retrieving an item that would help the girls escape. But Blue, the warden/manager of the brothel will stop at nothing to contain them.

If any of this doesn’t make sense, rest assured that it is. Borrowing Inception‘s Dream-within-a-dream concept, we see Baby Doll disappear into her head as she tries to escape her lobotomy (submission to the will of Blue and her step-father). We see the women paraded around as nothing more than flesh, with men mistreating and abusing the women at every turn. The ending could easily be commentary on society, if only that was intentional.

Sucker Punch feels like all Snyder’s other films. Watchmen and 300 feel like the parents of this film. Where both of those films had advancement and depth (and source material), Sucker Punch suffers from a lack of substance. Like most Michael Bay movies, this film is all flash and no substance. Though the film is fun to watch and visually stunning, the necessary elements of a well-constructed plot are absent. The plot is wafer thin and the characters are reduced to boy band/girl band archetypes. Definitely worth a watch, but leave your expectations at the door. I’ll see it again, but next time without the hope of a repeat of any of Snyder’s films. It’s his weakest film. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

The Lincoln Lawyer

Matthew McConaughey has had a rough couple of years. It’s been way too long since he made a great film, like Frailty, and not just another rom-com. Finally, he has found a film to remind us of how talented he is.

McConaughey stars as Mick Haller, a small-time lawyer so busy that he works out of his Lincoln Continental. All is going along fine until a bondsman, played by John Leguizamo, turns him a case bigger than his usual cases. He meets a wealthy playboy realtor named Louis Roulet, a man charged with beating and raping a woman. But what starts as an easy case for Mick, quickly unravels and brings a past case back to life. The stakes keeping getting raised until he finds himself in a very difficult situation.

McConaughey does a great job slipping into the role of Mick. Backed by a cast stronger than most modern law dramas only further elevates him. From Marisa Tomei to William H. Macy, each actor plays his or her character with real honesty. The film starts as most do, but the novelty of a mobile small-time lawyer playing with the rich feels relatable. Rather than focus on the class differences of the characters, it lets honesty and morality decide who is good and who isn’t.

In this sad time of movies, The Lincoln Lawyer‘s looks great. Had it been released at the holidays or summer, this may have felt a little less sincere, but at its worst moments it is still a 3 star movie. Thanks to the solid script and great performance by McConaughey, it works even better than my liberal expectations. It isn’t a John Grisham movie, but this film, based on the book by Michael Connelly, is successful on its own. A recommended movie for McConaughey fans and fans of courtroom thrillers (one of my new favorites it the subgenre). 4 out of 5 stars.

Rango

It seems hard to believe that Johnny Depp hasn’t done more voice work for animated films. His last foray into animation was Corpse Bride, a delightful Tim Burton stop-motion adventure. Here, Depp sticks to the more light-hearted of the toon world.

Rango, a chameleon looking for adventure, played by Johnny Depp is searching for more depth to his existence. While acting out in his cage, he demands a more exciting world. Seconds later, Rango is sliding down the highway on a piece of glass, abandoned by the family who never notices his absence. Now, stranded in the middle of the desert, he searches for water. Along the way, a wise armadillo points him toward the town of Dirt. Once there, Rango tries to impress the locals until a more serious problem comes along. The town is experiencing a horrible drought, one that could kill the town over with thirst. He quickly becomes the sheriff in charge of solving the mystery.

I admit, I went into the movie a tad curious about how this movie would unfold. It has got a lot of positive reviews from critics, and looked like a simple kids’ movie. What it turned out was a charming and pleasant two-hour movie that thankfully ignores the allure of 3D. Gnomeo and Juliet had a similar concept, but that film ended up in 3D anyway, cheapening the delightful film (it’s better in 2D).

Rango has a few nods to filmdom’s archives. Timothy Olyphant voices The Man with No Name from Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy; Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas appear in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo; and rest of the film borrows heavily from the western genre. But each cameo and nod to those films winks to the audience as an homage to the source material. Nothing about the film feels fake or disingenuine. Director Gore Verbinski and the script allows the characters to flourish and take shape. A delight to watch, fun for all ages. 3 out of 5 stars.

The Adjustment Bureau

Matt Damon as a romantic lead? That’s the core of The Adjustment Bureau, a movie that was set for release last year but was moved. Will the film be able to connect with audiences better now than it would have last holiday season? We’ll never really know.

Damon stars as David Norris, a young Senator who’s up for reelection. After a college reunion stunt costs him the seat, he begins to take a look at his life. Does he want to continue in politics? Am I always going to be the young senator? While preparing his speech for his defeat in a bathroom, he meets a girl. Emily Blunt plays Elise, a ballerina who just happens to hit it off with David. The night ends with them parting ways without exchanging phone numbers, leaving the future of what they have to chance.

Months later, they bump into each other again and try to start something together. Unfortunately, a group of men are trying to prevent them from doing so. These men can manipulate time and the course of destiny, basically making sure fate occurs on the schedule they see.

The movie suffers for many reasons, the first being the shallow characters. Blunt and Damon can do little but stand around since their roles need no depth. The pacing of the movie itself is inconsistent. Big spaces of times get omitted to get the set up for the next piece, leaving many questions with each jump.

The movie itself appears as a science-fiction action film, but here it is more than a sci-fi romance drama. The bland effects and horrible climax leave nothing good to take away from it. Though Blunt is always a joy to watch, I felt this fell flat. 2 out of 5 stars.

Breakdown: Movies That Make Me Cry

Yes, I have been known to cry at movies. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Here are all the ones that made me tear up.

Sword in the Stone– I was young and the damn squirrels were so cute. When the female squirrel falls for the lead male squirrel and he transforms back into a boy, kicked the wind out of me. I cried myself to sleep that night.

United 93– I’ve seen this movie probably 4 or 5 times and everytime I ball like a baby afterward. The movie reenacts the United flight 93 that crashed the plane so the terrorists couldn’t use it as a weapon on September 11.

Mighty Joe Young– another Disney movie, this one a remake. For some reason, when Joe saves the boy from the ferris wheel and almost dies, I got choked up

Stop-Loss– Being in the military, this movie had me crying for half an hour after it was over. It was almost too hard to watch.

Elephant/Bowling for Columbine– both movies had me breathless when the shootings are shown. Elephant reenacted and dramatized the event, where Bowling for Columbine showed footage of the shooters walking around the school. Scared the shit our of me.

Of all the movies on this list, I only really recommend Elephant and United 93 Bowling for Columbine was great but a bit incomplete in its message. Stop-loss was the same story. Mighty Joe Young and Sword in the Stone, I haven’t seen since I was in elementary school, so I couldn’t tell you what I really think of those.

Breakdown: Favorite Horror Movies x2

Before I get ahead of myself, I should say I do enjoy horror movies. Ever since I forced myself to watch the Halloween movies to get over the fright, I didn’t turn back. They all aren’t brilliant movies by any stretch of the imagination, but they are my favorites.

1. The Thing– I mentioned this one before in my Winter movie breakdown, but it definitely deserves a spot here. Kurt Russell does a great job despite a horrible hat.

2. Session 9– This one pops up on many of my lists, and for good reason.

3. The Exorcist– one of my all-time favorite movies. A horror movie that ended up being nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

4. Halloween– John Carpenter does a great job of building suspense with this one. It was this franchise that got me hooked on horror movies.

5. One Hour Photo– I made the mistake of making this a date movie. Following the obsessed mind of a man utterly alone is something I could relate to all too well. Robin Williams has rarely been better.

Believe me, the list could go on and on. But these are my absolute desert island top five. If I had to make a list of favorite obscure horror movies though, it would be:

1. Teeth

2. Antichrist

3. The Serpent and the Rainbow

4. Eraserhead (not sure if this is horror, but it is definitely bizarre)

5. Freaks

Take Me Home Tonight

When Topher Grace started to venture into film towards the end of That 70’s Show‘s run, he expressed a personal need to do films he believed in and not doing something merely for the paycheck. Since then, he has starred in films from various genres. He became Venom in Spiderman 3, he fought with Adrien Brody in Predators, and now he’s after his high school crush in the 1980’s set Take Me Home Tonight.

Grace plays Matt Franklin, a recent MIT graduate who doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. Stuck working at a mall Suncoast Video, Matt runs into his high school crush Tori. Too proud to let her know his current job, he lies and tells her he works for Goldman Sachs (which in itself is a joke in today’s climate). When she mentions a party, he calls up his best friend Barry (Dan Fogler) and so the adventure begins. The boys, with Matt’s twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris) in tow, head off to the party.

Matt spends most of the time at the party attempting to keep up his rich facade while Barry looks to live the night to its fullest. Matt runs into Tori, and ends up joining her friends at a second party with Barry not far behind. As the night goes on, Tori and Matt get to know each other and Barry gets into one scrap after another. Meanwhile, Wendy questions whether she wants to go to graduate school or stay with her boyfriend.

The film does a good job at capturing the feel of ’80s. The vibe is eerily reminiscent of Less Than Zero and similar films from the period. The costuming and architecture are right, yet in a post-modern the kind you can see still today kind of way. The soundtrack is purely hits from the 1980s, even if some of the songs feel a bit off on years. Based on my observations, and a few other sources, I pinpointed it to be 1988.

The jokes are more subtle and dry, but there are some jokes aimed for big laughs, mostly by Fogler. Despite most of the jokes falling flat, the film rarely reaches for clichés to ease the action. The plot is something we’ve all seen before, like a pre-Clinton era Can’t Hardly Wait. But where this film deviates is that Matt isn’t a naive high schooler, but a college graduate pushing up against the expectations of adulthood.

The film is true to its characters and even more true to the period its in, but the funny isn’t all there. A laugh-out-loud comedy this is not, but a smart homage to the ’80s. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

The Second Time Through: the Occasional Necessity of Rewatching

You ever seen Dragonball: Evolution? I have…twice. Before you question my credibility, let me explain. The first time I saw the film, I had too much Mountain Dew and needed something easy to follow and pretty to look at. Despite having the exceptional Emmy Rossum, the film had garnered nothing positive in the realm of critical or commercial success. But despite all that, I gravitated towards it that fateful Thursday night a year ago. When the credits rolled, I was left surprised at how tolerable it was. This film, a stinker to its core, had managed to help me by having a horrible reception. My lack of expectations gave me cause to say I enjoyed it. Months later, when an opportunity came to rewatch it, and I was left bored and feeling cheated. This time, my own feelings of the film ruined it for me. Thankfully so, since the film isn’t a good film at all. But this was just another example of a theory I’ve been practicing since high school: the rewatch.

Rewatching can occur for any number of reasons. Mulholland Dr. and Daredevil required it because I couldn’t get through them the first time. Like in the case of Dragonball: Evolution, I had to see if this was actually as good as I thought.

Rewatching a film is described as this: having seen a film, a repeat viewing can be to either 1)strengthen your like of a movie 2)re-evaluate your previous assumption or memory of a film 3)to see if it worth buying or 4)to see something new or different about the film, like another layer ora different aspect.

A week ago, I saw the movie Gnomeo & Juliet with my girlfriend. I had trouble enjoying the film because I had something weighing on my mind that wouldn’t let me let go and enjoy the film. The more I think of the film, the more I like it. But because I wasn’t it an accepting mindset, I didn’t review it here so I could do it at a later point fairly (I’d give it a 3 if you really want to know). Other movies have suffered this same fate, Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

I usually make it a point to rewatch a movie for reason #3. Since my DVD/Blu-ray collection is close to 400 titles, I’m learning to rely on the rewatch more and more to remove unnecessary purchases (Do I really need to own a movie from the Twilight franchise?!). Every since high school, I learned that buying a DVD was an investment. Buy only the ones you really love to watch, and rent the ones you don’t watch more than once every couple of years.

Some films that I buy I love because of reason #4. David Lynch, Darren Aronofsky (minus The Fountain), Tarantino, Nolan, Fincher, and Tarsem are all directors who rely on this. Movies like Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky or some of this year’s best picture nominees (Black Swan, Inception) are perfect examples of movies that need multiple viewings. There is too much to absorb in one viewing. These directors and films could be Champions of the Rewatch.

Some movies, at least for me, are either strengthened or weakened by the second viewing. Like my first example, the rewatch allowed me to see the film as the dud it is. However, certain films that I didn’t enjoy the first time I warmed up to the second time through.

I know a certain reader will declare blasphemy, but Hulk was one of those such movies. When I originally went, I had high expectations and the end simply undercut everything I was hoping for. After the film, I went on a 10 minute screaming session about how absurd the last moments of the film. Years later, I revisited it and loved it. Easily one of my favorite Marvel movies. (Sorry Andrew, it’s how I feel)

Another big example of this is Citizen Kane. Similar to how the industry received it during its first release in 1941, I shrugged it off. I thought it was bland and old and long. Boy was I wrong. The second and third time through was when it really hit me. This movie has some brilliant quotes and probably my favorite black and white movie ever.

Sin City suffered a similar fate, but I had been so enraptured by the source material I couldn’t keep them apart. Rewatching it allowed me to see just how well crafted it was and how faithful it was to the source material. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind somehow scared me. It was way too relatable for comfort. But fortunately, the rewatching helped me love it as it is.

On the flip side, movies can lose their discovery feeling and lose a lot of its fun when you know what’s coming the second time through. Movies like City Island and Sunshine couldn’t keep up the tension for me the second time through.

Not all movies can sustain you multiple times through. Like I mentioned in my post about Will Ferrell, The Repeated Appeal of Will Ferrell, I touched on how some movies are subject to an even more rare reason: to memorize and quote. This for the occasions involving cultural and possibly educational purposes. Anchorman and Borat quotes are all over today’s slang. Familiarity with these things keep us in the group as opposed to out of it. Thus, Netflix and Redbox staying where you can see them.

All in all, there are many instances when a rewatch is necessary for film. It isn’t always going to give the desired result, but it happens more than you would think. So go rerent Titanic and call me in the morning.