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.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

April's Take on Lars and the Real Girl

I'll spare you the plot summary, since Tiffany already wrote one. I just thought I'd share some of my thoughts on the film as well.I saw this film as primarily being about Lars' inability to grow up or deal with people and situations that come his way. Lars doesn't know what it means to be an adult and creating Bianca is his way of manifesting his fears and questions into something tangible that he is comfortable interacting with. As the story unfolds, we learn that Lars had a very lonely childhood with a depressed and distant father and a brother who quickly left for college. As a result, Lars doesn't know how to interact with and be close to people, and describes physical touch as painful. Bianca is his way of interacting with people without getting too close, with Bianca acting as a kind of social buffer between Lars and the town he lives in.
I love this film with it's pink and green color scheme and Northern atmosphere. It makes me want to go play in the snow while thinking about deep philosophical ideas about what it means to be an adult. The best part about this movie is that even though it is heart warming and all that good stuff, it makes you think too. (But in a good way, not in an "ow, my head hurts because that movie was too symbolic" kind of way)

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

Being John Malkovich

I watched this before my computer broke, and I didn't get around to posting it. It called to me like Romeo + Juliet, only this time the result was much more gratifying.Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is an unsuccessful puppeteer who lives in New York with his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz) and her plethora of pets including a chimp and a parrot. After Lotte asks Craig to get a job, he begins working as a file clerk for LesterCorp, a curious business operating from floor 7 1/2 of a nondescript office building. The floor is so named because it is squeezed between floors 7 and 8, with the ceilings being so low that employees have to walk around bent over.While filing, Craig finds a small door hidden behind a filing cabinet. The door is a portal that leads into the mind of actor John Malkovich and allows whoever enters the portal to be a passive observer to whatever Malkovich happens to be doing for 15 minutes before spitting them out onto the New Jersey Turnpike. Craig quickly shares his discovery with co-worker Maxine and the two of them quickly decide to start a business allowing people to be John Malkovich for 15 minutes for $200 a trip. Maxine starts an affair with Malkovich when she discovers the high she gets from being able to sense when someone else is in Malkovich's head. During one of his trips, Craig discovers that he is able to control Malkovich because of his skills as a puppeteer and decides to try to use Malkovich's fame to launch his puppeteer career and in the process woo Maxine.
My Commentary: I know that the premise for this movie sounds weird, and it is really weird. But, I liked it. It was funny and creative and raises an interesting question. What if you really could be someone else? We've all made throw-away comments about how we wish we could be famous like some actor, or brilliant like some writer, but we never really expect that it could happen. Except for those Freaky Friday movies where some crazy switching thing happens, but in this movie, the people aren't switching lives with someone else. They are getting shipped to someone else's mind.
My favorite scene: When Malkovich follows Maxine with the help of a disguise consisting of an "I [heart] NY" baseball cap.

Rating: ****** (6 out of 10)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cool... Citizen... Mockingbird... has been a dangerous place for me! I've been forcing myself to cut back on my buying pattern. Before I did, I had to buy these DVDs:

I will compose a full-scale analysis of each film with in-depth commentary. It will blow your mind!

Check back soon for another update!

Tips from Tiffany

Here is an informative video about how to clean your DVDs!

It's valuable information for any avid film watcher... Take heed!

Tips on Cleaning Your Personal CD & DVDs -- powered by

Oy Vey: Mamma Mia!

What do you get when you combine the musical stylings of ABBA, Meryl Streep, and middle-aged men have in common? Mamma Mia!

Sophie is getting married to the man of her dreams... Much to the chagrin of her mother, played by Meryl Streep. Donna will stop at nothing for her daughter's happiness. However, she could have never bargained for such a tall order: three of the skeletons in her closet are attending the wedding... As Sophie's could-be fathers!

My Commentary: I have to admit, my initial reaction to this film was, "NO WAY am I watching a musical with Pierce Brosnan! It goes against my religion!" Eventually, through the promise of laughter and mind-numbing hysteria, my roommate used her superior intelligence to get me into the theater. You may ask: Was there laughter? My reply: Heaven's yes!

I laughed so hard that I nearly cried. There were even moments of horror. Let me say, for the record, that it should be illegal for Pierce Brosnan to reveal his chest in public. Everyone in the theater grew noticeably uncomfortable. Just keep your darn shirt on!

And I'm making it known that any film with an impromptu wedding automatically receives no higher than a 6 for my rating. Seriously. It's beyond cheesy when someone yells, "Well, we've got the flowers, bridesmaids, and priest! Why don't WE get married instead???!!?" Not cool.

Rating: ***** (5 out of 10)

Interesting Parting Note: Mamma Mia! raked in about $400 million worldwide... Impressive.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tiffany's Take on "Lars and the Real Girl"

Lars Lindstrom lives in the garage next to his childhood home, now owned by his brother’s growing family. He gently evades his sister-in-law’s efforts to visit the house and prefers to keep to himself. On the rare occasion that he does accept the invitation, Lars picks at his food and conversation between family members is (at best) forced. Connecting to his family, co-workers, and churchgoers seems like an impossible task for Lars.

Commentary: I believe that we learn about Lars’ large capacity to love. After suffering the physical loss of his mother and mental detachment of his father, Lars still possesses the most beautiful quality: childlike love. He learns to redefine love as a version that doesn’t involve a transactional give and take process. Lars allows himself to give love to Bianca, without receiving love in return.

Karin, Lars’ pregnant sister-in-law, has a profound impact upon Lars’ psyche. Throughout the film, I couldn’t help but notice that Lars was particularly uncomfortable whenever Karin approached him. His demeanor seemed to exude a frightened, little boy’s persona. Lars’ eyes would drift downwards; his voice would become even more quiet and stilted. He was scared that the pregnancy was dangerous and feared for Karin’s health.

Final Thoughts: Clearly, Lars is terrified that Karin’s pregnancy will cause physical harm. During a checkup with Bianca, he tells Dagmar that pregnancy is dangerous. He shies away from truly living life and his fears take new meaning as Gus and Karin expect their first child. His brother continues to create a life from himself, while Lars is left behind, again. After living through the trauma of his mother’s death and father’s neglect, I believe that Lars fears the same will happen to his unborn niece/nephew.

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

Monday, October 13, 2008

His Girl Friday = Major Headache

Cary Grant, lead hunk of the classic Hollywood era, is paired with the witty Rosalind Russell in the film His Girl Friday. This groundbreaking film introduced overlapping dialogue in film - never before had a script violated the cardinal rule: characters should always complete lines before the next lines are spoken.

The basic plot is filled with twists and turns that spin an intricate web of deceit. Grant plays Walter Burns, a news reporter bent on keeping his ex-wife from remarrying. Russell, Burns' ex named Hildy, has the wit and attitude that mirrors a true reporter: smart, cunning, resourceful, and a force to be reckoned with. Both characters would do anything for a good story.

My Commentary: To be quite frank, I initially enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the newsroom. The clickity-clack of a typewriter mixed with the constant buzz of the telephone put me in the reporter's environment. It wasn't until Grant and Russell started to converse that I began to feel a headache coming on. I love a witty banter anyday, especially when it's written intelligently. However, these two put the Gilmore Girls to shame. I swear the script length was three times longer than the average film.

Another annoying point: Hildy's character arch really disappointed me. She went from a self-sufficient, confident woman to a dependent, damsel-in-distress. Her character didn't even receive a proper marriage proposal. Hildy began depending upon a man to receive her self-worth. It was a typical classical Hollywood move, but insulting nonetheless.

Ratings: **** (4 out of 10)

Just for Laughs: Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny

I love Liam Lynch. I'm not a huge fan of Jack Black. To be honest, the only reason I wanted to see this movie was because Liam Lynch directed it. Tenacious D is a "mock rock" band formed by Kyle Gass and Jack Black.
The movie opens with a young Jack Black running away from home when his religious father scolds his rocking ways. Black migrates to Hollywood where he is confidant that he will form "the world's most awesome rock band". Soon after arriving, Black meets acoustic guitarist Kyle Gass and eagerly begs to be part of The Kyle Gass Project. After extensive "training" including cleaning the apartment, buying weed and a failed gig simulator, Black finds out that Gass is not the famous rocker that he seems to be, but is an unemployed street musician who's parents sent him money for rent.

The two become equals and decide to compete in an open mic contest, but they first need to write an epic song. While trying to write, the two find out the darkest secret of rock - The Pick of Destiny - a pick with supranatural abilities, carved by a wizard from Satan's chipped tooth. Tenacious D decide to go on a quest to steal it. The rest, as they say, is magical history.My Commentary: If you are easily offended, or if you really hate the F-word then it would not be a good idea for you to see this movie. Tenacious D's self proclaimation that they are the greatest rock band in the world and their rock opera style of telling a story kept me laughing through the whole movie. This is by no means an amazing film, but it cheers me up and provides a few laughs if you need them. Plus it was directed by Liam Lynch, which is reason enough for me to watch this movie. It also features cameos from Tim Robbins, Amy Poehler, Ben Stiller and best of all, Dave Grohl as Satan.
Rating: ***** (5 out of 10)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bomb of the Week: Romeo + Juliet

I don't know what compelled me to watch this. I watched it sometime in late junior high or early high school and I remember thinking: "This is kind of a crappy movie." But for some reason, as I was looking for movies to watch, it seemed to jump out at me today and I thought, "It couldn't possibly be as bad as it seemed in junior high could it?" It was worse.

I assume that everyone knows the basic Romeo and Juliet plot, so I'll just dive straight into the premiss of this version. Romeo + Juliet is an attempt to update the Shakespeare's play for a modern audience, with Leonardo DiCapro and Claire Danes as the title characters. The movie is set in a Verona modeled after Venice Beach, CA, and rather than fighting with swords, the characters wield guns from fictional brands like "Dagger" or "Longsword". The dialogue remains the original Elizabethan.

My Commentary: The idea of updating Romeo and Juliet re-emerges every few years to alternately dismal and successful results. Attempts range from the famous (West Side Story) to the forgettable (The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns). This movie falls more in the "waste of time" category. The premise is a potentially good one, but trying to pair Shakespeare's Elizabethan with sunny California just doesn't gel right and the movie falls flat. Perhaps with an updated interpretation of the text the movie would be better, but I wouldn't count on it - while Danes and DiCapro manage to bring off decent performances, the rest of the characters seem clownish and heavy-handed.

Rating: **** (4 1/2 out of 10)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Pick of the Week: No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men follows Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), sheriff Ed Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) and Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) as they pursue and elude each other through the cities and back roads of Texas. The madness begins when Moss finds the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad and he decides to take an unattended satchel full of cash. Moss soon realizes his mistake when Chigurh, a hitman hired to find the missing satchel, comes after him in pursuit of the cash. Amazing cinematic action ensues as none of them are willing to give up or walk away.

My Commentary: A lot of people who I talk to get this movie mixed up with There Will Be Blood because they were both up for Oscars last year and both sounded like dark movies. To be honest, both movies are dark, but There Will Be Blood is much darker. The characters in No Country for Old Men provide much more of a balance. The three main characters reflect three types of people. There are people who are good (Sheriff Bell), people who are evil (Chigurh) and people who fall into a vague middle ground (Moss). I love this movie because the characters are very real and organic. Even the seemingly indestructable hitman, Chigurh, has to take a few hours out of the chase when he gets shot in the leg with a shotgun.

One of my favorite things about this movie is that even though Moss stumbled on this situation by accident, he is by no means the usual bumbling good guy who just barely gets out of whatever scrape he has gotten himself into. The guy knows how to defend himself and he is definately one smart cookie. Chigurh, however, is just absolutely terrifying. Sheriff Bell and Llewelyn Moss are needed to balance him out and keep the movie from being too over the top.

Go see this movie if for no other reason than because the Coen Brothers made it. That should be reason enough, really.

Rating: ******** (8 out of 10)