Tuesday, December 16, 2008

April's Christmas Countdown: #1 A Christmas Story

Sorry I took so long to post this, guys. It's finals week, and even though I haven't been all that busy, I'm still using it as my excuse because it's the only excuse I have.

# 1 A Christmas StoryMy family and I have watched this movie every year for as long as I can remember, and we can quote it like nobody's business. I love this movie because I remember being a kid and knowing exactly what I wanted and being completely focused on getting it because if I could only get that one thing then the heavens would part, God would descend and peace would prevail on Earth. A Christmas Story follows Ralphie Parker in his pursuit of the ultimate Christmas gift: an Official Red Ryder carbine-action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle (aka a BB gun).This movie is childhood to me: humor, sarcasm, angst, concern, bullies, friends, fear, families, embarrassment, all mixed in with the abounding excitement and joy that is CHRISTMAS.Also, whiny little brother + pink bunny suit + leg lamp = awesome.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

April's Christmas Countdown: #2 Charlie Brown Christmas

I love Charlie Brown. Today, he would probably be described as "emo" or something, but I applaud Charlie Brown and his anti-commercial approach to Christmas. He refuses to get an aluminum tree (the equivalent now would be to get a fake green tree) and ends up with a pretty sad looking real tree.

I love that Charlie Brown doesn't let the craziness of commercialness ruin his Christmas. Here's what I really love about Charlie Brown, though: even though Charlie Brown laments that he doesn't have friends or that he doesn't get Christmas cards, all those other kids are there for him at the end. They make his sad little tree into a lovely decorated tree and everyone happily sings carols.
I also love the part where Linus recites the story about Jesus' birth and the shepherds. It always makes me smile. I like Charlie Brown because he reminds me of myself in a lot of ways (except that I'm more positive about most things) especially when he tries to direct the Christmas play. He's just doing it the way he thinks he should be doing it, when it doesn't work, he just kind of goes to hang out with his weedy looking tree. I tend to hang out with weedy looking trees a lot (when I'm not, you know, writing amazing blog posts, and stuff).

April's Christmas Countdown: #3 A Muppet Christmas Carol

Coming in at #3 is another version of the Dickens classic, this time with Muppets! As a child coming from the generation of The Muppet Show and such classics as The Muppet Movie (okay, okay, it's actually from my sister's generation, but come on!) and Muppet Treasure Island.
This movie is hilarious. There are plenty of songs to get stuck in your head and Gonzo as the omniscient narrator (how awesome is that?). What I love about the Muppets is that they are actually there. They aren't cartoons, the actors can interact with them.
Pretty much anything with the Muppets in it is going to be good, and A Muppet Christmas Carol is no exception.

Monday, December 8, 2008

April's Christmas Countdown: #4 How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I know what you're thinking: "Hey, didn't she already have this movie on the countdown?"

Answer: Yes. I did....kind of. #4 is the original cartoon version of the Dr. Seuss classic. While I do enjoy the new, live-action version with Jim Carrey, there will always be a special place in my heart for the original. This version is taken virtually line for line from the original story and adds songs to it. Plus the voice and narration is done by Boris Karloff, how awesome is that!

Also, I love that "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" is sung by Thurl Ravenscroft aka the guy who did the voice of Tony the Tiger in the Frosted Flakes commercials for about 50 years. Just. Awesome.

80's Classic: The Goonies

There are few movies that I will watch over and over and never get sick of. This is one of those movies. Usually I assume that everyone has seen this movie at least once, but I have recently discovered that a good chunk of the latest generation have never even heard of it. Pity.
For those poor, unenlightened people who have never encountered The Goonies, here is a brief synopsis. A group of families living in the "Goon Docks" (in Astoria, WA) are being forced to sell their houses to a developer who plans to demolish them. Mikey Walsh and his band of friends, the Goonies, find a treasure map in his attic and decide to go on one last Goonie adventure to find One-Eyed Willy's treasure so that they won't have to move. The group is soon joined by Mikey's brother Brand, and Steph and Andy (who Brand knows from school). The group is pursued by the Fratellis, who are hiding out following a jail break.
My Commentary: This movie has adventure and fun. What more could you possibly want? The underdogs go up against everyone possible - they defy their parents, they continuously outwit the criminals, they stick it to the uppity rich kid, they have to dodge a pirate's booby traps, and there's even a corporate villian. As if all that wasn't enough, the ultimate goal of the movie is to find a pirate's treasure, what kid doesn't dream of finding a pirate's treasure?

Rating: ********** (10 out of 10)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

April's Christmas Countdown: #5 Home Alone

The magic of this movie, for me, is that this situation could conceivably happen in real life. The family has so many kids and they are so late, one eight-year-old can easily get lost in the shuffle (temporarily, of course). The parents soon realize that he is gone and try as hard as they can to get back to him as soon as possible. As a kid, I loved that an eight-year-old was clever enough to foil these two potentially dangerous burglars.
This movie is funny and clever and has just the right amount of holiday appreciation of family.
As far as the sequels go, I remember Home Alone 2: Lost in New York being okay-ish, but far-fetched enough that it wasn't as good as the first one. I can see someone forgetting a kid at home, but getting on the wrong plane? It seems pretty far-fetched to me, but maybe airlines used to be less observant. I've seen Home Alone 3, but to me it just didn't have the same charm as the first one.

April's Christmas Countdown: #6 White Christmas

I know Tiff already included this in her countdown, but this is a holiday classic. How could I not include it? Usually I don't watch the whole movie, just that part at the end where everyone comes together for the show and it's all touching and cute. And yes, very kitch, but that's what Christmas is for, right? Right. Also, some of the best Christmas music ever comes from this soundtrack (or Holiday Inn, depending how you look at it). Maybe this year I'll even watch the whole thing!
In any case, I plan to spend at least one snowy night snuggled in my living room reading a book while listening to the record. (Yes, I mean an actual vinyl record, not a CD)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

April's Christmas Countdown: #8 and #7

#8 How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I usually get sick of Jim Carrey fairly quickly, but he is truly wonderful [delightful, etc, insert positive adjective here] in this version of the Dr. Seuss classic. I also like that it brings more back story into it and actually provides a reason for the Grinch's deep hatred for Christmas. Plus we get to see more of that adorable Cindy Lou Who. I mean, seriously, what more could we ask for in a live-action remake of one of Dr. Seuss' most beloved stories?

It's very Seuss-ian aesthetically and in my opinion in keeps the spirit of the original story intact. It's also funny and family-friendly, as all proper Christmas movies should be.

#7 Elf Buddy (Will Ferrell) is a Christmas elf who finds out that is really a human adopted by an elf after crawling into Santa's bag as a baby. Buddy goes to New York to find his real father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan). Awesome-ness ensues.

This is one of the most endearing movies ever. What makes this such a great Christmas movie is that Buddy (Will Ferrell) is like an enormous child, but in that lovely "I'm seeing the world for the first time and it is super awesome and amazing" kind of way. That attitude starts rubbing off on all the other characters and they start to love Christmas again, too. Ferrell brings off Buddy's excited innocence perfectly and Caan, as the somewhat surely children's book publisher, is an excellent foil.

Actors with the best comeback....

And this is the final pick for actor with the best comeback.  I'm still stunned by his complete "180" in the eyes of the public.  Brilliant stuff...
I wouldn't have believed it if someone hadn't pinched me during the film.  I've always been unimpressed by Robert Downey Jr.'s performances.  Nothing stands out as great.  Perhaps, his music video for Elton John's "I Want Love" was my favorite.  Mainly because he wasn't speaking.  But Robert outdid himself.  I look forward to seeing the rest of the Iron Man trilogy.

Actors with the best comeback....

Saw this film in theaters and got the chills.  Had to add his performance into actor with the best comeback...

I know everyone was watching the late Heath Ledger in Dark Knight, but I believe that Christian Bale was spectacular in this role.  Fantastic change from his time with Newsies - and don't get me started with his anorexic-like role in The Machinist.  Shield your eyes if you have a weak stomach...

Actors with the best comeback....

Yet another actor that had a great comeback - earning him an Oscar for Best Performance!

Daniel Day Lewis won the Oscar for Best Actor in There Will Be Blood.  I haven't enjoyed a performance from him since his stint in Last of the Mohicans.  Glad to see Lewis in a film with a bigger budget.  

Actors with the best comeback....

Here is my 4th choice for actor with the best comeback...

This guy graduated from his Hercules roots and preferred the affection of a real-life doll.

Ryan Gosling, in Lars and the Real Girl, played a charmingly boyish character.  I'm glad he's doing film more regularly instead of television.  

Actors with the best comeback....

Here are my choices for the actors with the best comebacks in recent years... 

Let's start off with the man who has traded in his T Bird leather jacket for some pantyhose:

John Travolta, pictured on the left in Hairspray, went against typecast by donning a wig and fat suit.  I'd hate to see if Travolta did any method acting during filming.  Good comeback - not stellar - just good.

#5. White Christmas

Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen sing and dance their way into the fifth spot...

My Commentary:  Known as one of the most influential crooners of the century, Bing Crosby stars in this wonderful musical.  White Christmas was the top grossing films in 1954 and was nominated for an Oscar in Original Song.  Although many may label this holiday favorite as "kitch", I believe it has an enormous amount of sentimentality.  The holidays wouldn't be complete without it!

Rating:  ******** (8 out of 10)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Top 5 Christmas Films...

For your own sake, generate some real holiday "mooshiness" by watching the films on my Top 5 Countdown...  Starting tomorrow...

April's Christmas Countdown 2008!

Even though I really don't have time for this, I am committed to you, dear reader. So here it is, my top ten Christmas movies. (Even though it was only supposed to be five, so I'm doing two per post) Also, the order is kind of loose.

#10 Scrooged
One of the better interpretations of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray is the cold and ruthless TV programming exec. Frank Cross. Cross overworks his secretary, Grace, and abandoned his family and girlfriend (Karen Allen) in favor of career advancement. He is visited by three spirits (including David Johansen and Carol Kane as the ghosts of Christmas past and present respectively) Lots of sarcasm and laughs along with the classic happy ending make this a holiday must-see.

#9 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Out of the seemingly infinite number of Rankin/Bass holiday specials, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is my favorite (aside from the Snow Miser/Heat Miser song from The Year without a Santa Claus). I love that there is an elf who wants to be a dentist who befriends a reindeer with a bulbous, glowing red nose. (Who comes up with this stuff?!)

And who can forget about the island of misfit toys? (Um, me. For some reason I thought that it was in one of the other specials.) Also, did anyone else think that "Hermey" was actually "Herbie"? I believed this for years, but a couple years ago someone said that it is actually "Hermey".

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

"I'm here to erase Joel Barish. He's boring. Is that enough reason to erase someone?"

Clementine Kruczynski wants to erase Joel Barish from her mind. Every memory, every look, every touch, every feeling... Gone. Within one night, Joel Barish is wiped from existence in every sense.

After an unsettling encounter with his ex, Joel realizes (with the help of his friends) Clem's actions. He decides to make an appointment with the same clinic. Through a brain mapping procedure, Joel sees his memories with Clem disappear. As he relives each moment, he comes to regret his decision. If only Joel could wake up from this nightmare before his love for Clementine disappears forever.

My Commentary: As hard as we might try, it's impossible to deny the change that someone makes in your life. People make an imprint on your soul - whether you'd like to admit that or not. The connection that is made between two people cannot be prevented.

Rating: ********* (9 out of 10)

Author's Note: Watch this film at least 3 times before you critique it. It's quite the cinematic experience. The line between memory and reality blurs and blends within seconds. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is worth the confusion. Buy it. Love it.

100 Movie Spoilers in Under 5 Minutes... MUST SEE!

This video puts Roger and Ebert to shame. Brilliant. Just. Brilliant.
Warning: These are "spoilers", which means endings and twists will be revealed.
We are not liable for anyone upset for the information presented. You have been warned.

The Secret Life of Bees

Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) runs away from home, accompanied by her friend Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) seeking answers about her mother's death. Lily and Rosaleen soon find refuge with the Boatwright sisters, August (Queen Latifah), May (Sophie Okonedo) and June (Alicia Keys). Rosaleen helps May in the kitchen while Lily becomes August's apprentice beekeeper.

My Commentary: This is a great movie with a stellar cast, but make sure to bring a couple of tissues just in case because not all of this movie is the heart-warming love-fest that the preview makes it out to be. The story is set in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement and the conflict violently intrudes upon the lives of the characters. Ultimately though, the ending still gives you that nice, warm, satisfied feeling without too much saccharin-sweetness.

Rating: ******* (7 out of 10)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Indiana Jones: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Typical Indiana Jones format in that there is some incredibly unusual/valuable/intriguing item that some "other" (such as the Nazis or Russians) has stolen for some vague reason. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) obtains/loses said item and inevitably goes back to teaching until the next adventure. This time the item is a crystal skull of uncertain origin, the "other" is the Russians, led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). It is soon revealed that Raiders of the Lost Ark alum Marion Ravenwood Williams (Karen Allen) and Indy's old pal Harold Oxley (John Hurt) have "disappeared" aka captured after discovering the skull in Peru. It is up to Indy and Marion's son Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) to find Marion, Oxley and the skull before the Russians discover the secrets of the skull. My commentary: The more I watch this movie, the more I like it. Initially, I was a bit disappointed by the shiny new computer effects, but they are pretty cool. As much as I like Harrison Ford in the role of Indy, I probably wouldn't object if he moved on from the role (if the franchise keeps going). Heck, I would have been content with just the original three movies, but Crystal Skull is a better continuation of the original series (aesthetically) than say, Episodes 1-3 of Star Wars compared to Episodes 4-6 Rating: ****** (6 out of 10)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Raising Arizona v. Fargo

Joel and Ethan Coen, recent winners of four Academy Awards for No Country for Old Men, have established themselves as today's directing/producing powerhouse.  Recently, I've begun watching their work and will provide commentary for some of their first works: Raising Arizona and Fargo.

Set in the wilderness of Arizona, Edwina "Ed" (Holly Hunter) and H.I. "Hi" McDonnough (Nicholas Cage) meet at a local jail.  Ed is a police woman in charge of fingerprinting Hi after he is arrested for convenience store robbery.  The two fall in love and marry, only to discover that Ed is unable to conceive.  Ed and Hi embark on a journey that begins with kidnapping and ends with a bounty hunter.  Will the couple survive parenthood or die trying? 

My Commentary:  I'm probably not the first to question Nicholas Cage's acting abilities, but my goodness, get this guy a dialect coach!  His accent was extremely distracting throughout the film.  Holly Hunter is the redeeming character in Raising Arizona.  In one of my favorite scenes, she abandons Hi at the convenience store after watching him in mid-robbery garb (complete with hosiery and pistol).  Hi is forced to outrun the authorities by foot - with a pack of stray dogs on his tail - all for a package of Huggies.  

Rating:  ***** (5 out of 10)

An event not based on true events, Fargo is set in winter-laden Minneapolis tundra.  The film revolves around the events set in motion by Jerry, played by William H. Macy.  Money problems bring out the worst in people and Jerry is the prime example of that notion come to life.  He employs two men to kidnap his wife, demand a lump sum, and divvy up the cash accordingly.  Of course, nothing goes to plan and people are brutally murdered by woodchippers, axes, and hand guns.  

My Commentary:  Like Drop Dead Gorgeous, this film was emerged in Minnesotan culture and dialect.  France McDormand performed the best faux Minnesotan accent I've heard.  My favorite scene went like this:

Rating:  ********* (9 out of 10)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hardcore chick flick: P.S. I Love You

I know that we've been pretty harsh with chick flicks in the past, so you might be wondering why we insist on continuing to watch these films. I certainly can't speak for Tiffany, but I think that I am eternally searching for a decent chick flick. One that will make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, but not so sweet and mushy as to make my teeth hurt. With that said, I'm still kind of on the fence with P.S. I Love You.
Basically, the plot is this: Holly's husband Gerry has just died and (understandably) she is doing very not well. On her 30th birthday, Holly gets a cake and the first of several letters that Gerry pre-arranged for her to get on specific days in specific ways after his death. The letters take her on a journey of re-discovery.

My Commentary: Okay, so this movie is pretty close to the edge as far as overall gooey-ness goes, but I kind of liked it. HOWEVER, I think that the reason that I liked it was because I haven't watched any hardcore chick flicks for a long time. What I liked about this movie is that *almost* every time it started to get to the point where I would want to puke, something horrifyingly embarrassing happened to Holly, lessening the awkward/sappy/sad level of my movie watching experience. So while the movie wasn't exactly good, it wasn't as painful as it could have been. Rating: ***** (5 out of 10)

Friday, October 31, 2008

April's Top 10 Movies for Halloween

No plot synopsis or explanation for why they are my favorite. Well, there's some reasoning, mostly just a list. Tell us your Halloween favorites in the comments!

10. Texas Chainsaw Massacre - The original or the remake, really. The original is pretty ballsy since it has about 10 minutes of nothing but Leatherface chasing the girl through the woods. The only thing I actually like about the remake is the little "archive" clip at the beginning and at the end.

9. Evil Dead 2/Army of Darkness - Classic. Enough said.

8. The Descent - Terrifying. This movie really freaks me out, I can't even watch it. I've only seen it once.

7. 28 Days Later - I usually hate zombie movies, but I love this one. Most zombie flicks feature very lethargic zombies who are simply after brains for whatever reason. I love that in this movie the zombies are incredibly quick and mostly just super angry and alive rather than the usual "living dead" billing that zombies generally get.

6. Nightmare on Elm Street - I know the movies ended up pretty sketch, but the first few work for a Halloween movie marathon with the lights out.

5. The Shining - Classic. I just can't pass up Jack's decent into madness, especially the part when Wendy finds the huge stack of papers that say nothing but "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

4. Nosferatu - Black and white, silent horror. Is there any better kind? Has to be the scariest version of Dracula that I have ever seen. Most of the other portrayals of vampires are too sexy to be all that scary.

3. American Werewolf in London - I think this movie is more funny than scary, but since it's about werewolves, the horror element is inherent in the plot. I can't pass up the clever use of music just before David turns into the werewolf (Bad Moon Rising - CCR and Blue Moon - Sam Cooke). Favorite line: "Aw, David you're hurting my feelings."

2. The Crow - Not so much horror as incredibly awesome. It takes place the day before Halloween, which is enough to give me an excuse to watch it every year. There are three sequels, but best to stick with the original, I think.

1. Psycho - I usually don't associate this with the "horror" category per se, but rather with psychological thriller, but it's pretty horrifying just the same, don't you think? This is also my favorite Hitchcock film.