Wednesday, February 14, 2018

How I Met Your Mother

Defintely, Maybe
Director: Adam Brooks
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher, Derek Luke, Kevin Kline
Released: February 14, 2008
Viewed in theaters: March 13, 2008

This is a cute movie about a father (Will, played by Ryan Reynolds) telling his daughter (Maya, played by Abigail Breslin) the story of how he met her mother who we also learn will soon be his ex-wife. It kind of plays in the same way as The Princess Bride where a young kid is being told a bedtime story and we see the story being told as well as flashes back to the present moment so we can get commentary from the person hearing the story. Of course, the only difference is that this is a true story being told! Maya tells her dad that she wants the real story of how he met her mother and not just the basic "we met, we fell in love and got married and had you".  He agrees to tell her, but is going to change the names so Maya has to guess who her mother is in the story. There are three women who are candidates to be her mother: a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead. While Will tells her the story, Maya keeps track of the women and crosses a name off once it is apparent that she cannot be her mother.

Now it's been ten years since I've seen this movie so I didn't remember who the mother was, but I did make my predictions after we met all the women and I was right. (Don't worry, I'll give you a warning before I spoil the movie). Now it could be I did subconsciously remember who she was, but it's not brain surgery to figure it out...they don't make it into a big complicated mystery. I correctly guessed who Maya's mother was and I correctly guessed who Will was really meant to be with, but that left one woman remaining and I couldn't remember what her storyline was.

Will starts his story in 1992 when he was a college student (and they make Reynolds and the other cast members look younger by giving them different hairstyles) and had a serious college girlfriend, Emily (Elizabeth Banks). They both live in Wisconsin, but he moves to New York for two months to work on the Clinton campaign because of his passion for politics. They both try to make the long-distance relationship work, but it isn't easy. However, despite the difficulties he decides to propose to Emily when she comes to visit him only to find out that she slept with his roommate back in Wisconsin. She tells him that she doesn't want to hold him back and that they don't share the same future. Maya crosses Emily's name off the list. But will Emily come back into the story in the future?

Another candidate for Maya's mom is April (Isla Fisher) who works the copy machine for the campaign. Will thinks he's met someone who is a Clinton supporter but we quickly learn that she doesn't care about politics and doesn't identify as a Democrat or Republican and is just doing the gig for the money. They run into each other later where Will finds out it's April's birthday and she was supposed to be with her boyfriend, but he ditched her. He takes her to a party she was invited to as a friendly gesture. This is the day before he proposes to Emily and April wants to know how he's going to propose so they role play. She is very touched by his genuine words and realizes how lucky Emily is. Her response after he fake proposes to her is, "Defintely Maybe! I have to think about it." So there's where we get the title. I'm not too crazy about the title; it isn't one that really sticks with you. How I Met Your Mother would have been a better title, but I think that one was taken at the time! (In fact, I wondered if the TV series inspired the plot for this movie which is a lot less convoluted than the TV show).

They go back to April's apartment which doesn't seem like such a good idea since they both have significant others and April even comments how it's nice that they don't have to worry about flirting and being attracted to each other since they are both already in relationships, but then they start making out because they ARE attracted to each other. However they quickly realize what they're doing is wrong and Will leaves quickly. In a later scene, they both decide that even if they were both single, they would never work out and are much better off as friends.

The final candidate for Maya's mother is Summer (Rachel Weisz) who is an old friend of Emily's (who Will has never met) and Emily wants Will to deliver her a package (which we later find out is a diary detailing a brief fling the two women had together). Summer is a journalist who is dating an older man, a well-regarded writer, Hampton Roth (Kevin Kline). She kisses Will the first time they meet which I thought came off a little too strongly and says she only did it because she was "curious".

Two years past and we learn that April is traveling around the world, something she's always wanted to do and she and Will keep a strong friendship as she sends many postcards to him. Will attends a reading from Hampton Roth and runs into Summer. Interestingly enough she is wearing glasses and in an earlier scene Will tells his friends he is attracted to brunettes with glasses (although his first serious girlfriend was a blonde). By this time Will is now running another campaign (for the governor of New York) and Summer writes an article about the candidate which everybody loves. There is a strong attraction between Will and Summer and out of the three possible women who could be Maya's mother, she is the one who is the most aggressive with Will...even before they start dating, even more so than his ex-girlfriend! We get a montage of them being lovey-dovey and starting to date, although I don't think she every broke up with Hampton, though something tells me they weren't mutual.

Will plans to propose to Summer but those plans are dashed when she tells him she was asked to write a follow-up piece on the man running for governor and it turns out he did a political favor for a friend in jail, allowing him to have early parole. Having this published will no doubt ruin his chances to win and Will tells her that he doesn't care if the story is leaked, but he doesn't want Summer to leak the story. He knows it won't look good if the speechwriter's girlfriend brings down the candidate. She tells him that she already sent in the article and they break up. Maya crosses her name off the list. This should leave April as the obvious choice. We see her return to New York and reunite with Will and it's obvious she has feelings for him, but this is right before he plans to ask Summer to marry him. When April finds out he is planning to ask Summer to marry him, she is shocked and angry because Will never told her this and she just thought they were dating and didn't realize how serious it was, but tells him she is happy for him.

A few more years pass and it is 1997. By this time we should be figuring out who the mother is pretty soon. Maya is 10-years-old (according to Wikipedia) and it is "current day" 2008, thus making her born in 1998. He hasn't talked to April in all those years, but they reconnect and she tells him she's dating a guy named Kevin. Will confesses that he's in love with her and she asks him why he never told her and he tells her that she would never be interested in him. Rightly, this makes April angry because it's been pretty obvious she has feelings for him (even Maya knows it!) but he was too oblivious to see it. She tells him she doesn't want him professing his love for her when he's a mess and he further angers her by insulting her for working at a bookstore and tells her she needs "life rehab". Ouch. April pulls a Clint Eastwood from Gran Torino and tells him, "Get off my front porch" before walking inside. Needless to say, things don't end well for them and Maya crosses her name off the list. So now all three women's names have been crossed who is the mother? Though I know because I predicted it several scenes ago.

Okay, even though you may have already figured out who the mother is, I'm going to go ahead and post my SPOILER WARNING for the rest of this review! Read at your own risk!

Will runs into a very pregnant Summer and Maya is horrified that she is the baby and that Will isn't even her father...which doesn't make any sense because if she WAS that baby, then Will wouldn't even be her father, thus wouldn't be in her life. Oh, wait. Unless she thinks Will and Summer still got married (obviously it didn't work out with the father of Sumer's baby) and Will isn't her biological father. I guess that makes more sense. She decides she does not want Summer to be the mother. She tells her dad if she does turn out to be the mother, she's moving away to Canada and she's not kidding! (Spoiler alert: Summer is NOT the mother so Will doesn't have to worry about a runaway daughter!) Out of the three women they make Summer the least likable so right away I knew she wasn't going to make the cut. Emily and April aren't without their faults (the former cheated on him and the latter smoked), but they do have redeeming qualities.

There is a huge plot point from the April storyline that comes into play around this time. At her apartment before they start making out, she tells Will why she has so many copies of Jane Eyre and tells him a touching but depressing story of how she wanted a pair of earrings for her 13th birthday but received a copy of the novel with a inscription her dad wrote inside. She lost or misplaced the book and desperately wanted it back when her father died three weeks later in a car accident and has ever since been collecting copies of Jane Eyre with inscriptions inside of them while looking for her copy. This is why she eventually gets a job at a bookstore. This plot reminded me of cSerendipity where John Cusack is looking for the book Kate Beckinsale wrote her name and number in and sold to a random bookshop. Well, guess what? Will is looking for the book, knowing how much he messed up with April and wants to make it up to her. He eventually does stumble across it and there is a very touching inscription written to "My darling daughter April" from her father. Will goes to give it to April. She isn't home, but her boyfriend Kevin, who she's been with for a while now, is. Will takes the book and leaves. Why he didn't leave it there, I don't understand. I'm sure April would have been thrilled and would have called him. But it just isn't meant to be.

In the present day of the story being told, Maya gets upset when her dad reassures her there is a happy ending to the story and she doesn't understand how that can be when he's getting divorced from her mom. Too upset to go on listening to the story, she falls asleep and they continue the story the next morning when they go out for breakfast. It turns out Will attended a party hosted by Summer and guess who is there? Emily! She moved to New York after getting a job. And she and Will start a new romance and get married, thus making Emily the mother. The very first woman we meet is the mother; how do you like that? We get a cute scene where her mother is walking towards them and Maya hugs her and says, "I'm so glad it's you!" and her mom replies with, "Who else would it be?" Will tells his daughter the story has a happy ending because of her. Awwwww.

We find out Emily's actual name is Sara and when I went back to re-watch some of the scenes on Netflix, I paused on the journal entry they show Summer paging through when Will gives it to her. I noticed one of the sentences written is "School started, saw Sara. She is so cool". (This is supposed to be written by some great writer?) Anyway, I thought it was clever that they used the character's REAL name in the journal entry because it goes by in such a flash the only way you can catch it is if you pause the screen. But then I read the rest of the entry and the name Emily is used. Yes, it's true when Will's friend (Derek Luke) is reading the entry to him he uses the name "Emily" but that's because how it's being told in the story. They should have stuck with writing "Sara" for the journal entry. It would have been a fun Easter egg. And even if you do catch it while watching the movie, it's not going to spoil anything because you don't know the mother's real name is Sara. (And by the way, I appreciate that they spelled it correctly, haha, or at least the not so common way!)

So now that we know Emily, excuse me, Sara, is the mother, Will decides it's time to make amends with April, the womanwho probably would have been Maya's mother (thus making Maya a redhead so I knew April was never the mother!) if things had worked out between them. They just never seemed to get the timing right: he was always with someone else or she was with someone else and oh, the fact that he majorly insulted her. We also find out that Will never changed April's name in the story (Summer's real name was Natasha).

Will stops by April's work to give her the book and she is delighted, but when he tells her he's had it for "years" (10 to be precise!) she is not happy and asks him to leave. Maybe he shouldn't have told her that, but I guess you don't want to start a relationship off with a big lie. But don't worry, later that night he and Maya go to April's apartment to apologize and at the last second April forgives him and we know a romance will soon start between them.

So everyone in this movie gets a happy ending except for Summer/Natasha. Will has an adorable daughter and ends up with the love of his life. Maya has a loving mother and father and will soon have a cool stepmom. Emily/Sara has an adorable daughter. April gets her guy and will soon have an adorable stepdaughter. And Summer gets...nothing. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Simple Plan

I, Tonya
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan, Juliane Nicholson, Paul Walter Hauser, Bobby Cannavale
Released: December 8, 2017
Viewed in theaters: January 31, 2018

Oscar nominations:
Best Actress - Margot Robbie
Best Supporting Actress - Allison Janney
Best Film Editing

I remember the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding incident (as it is so referred to in the film), but I don't remember everything. This was a big deal when it happened and it was everywhere. But after it went away, I never really gave much thought about it (or Kerrigan and Harding as they both seemed to disappear, too) until this movie came out. Well, that's not true. I do remember watching a 30 For 30 documentary about this incident a few years ago on YouTube. I was trying to remember if I knew who Kerrigan or Harding were before the incident happened, but I honestly can't remember. I'm not a huge figure skating fan, but I do watch it at the Olympics and I'm sure I was familiar with their names prior to Lillehammer, especially Kerrigan's since she was the favorite that year. From this movie, I learned that Harding was at the 1992 Albertville Olympics, which I had no idea, but, I didn't watch those Olympics.

To be honest, if the incident had never happened, I don't think I would have remembered either Kerrigan or Harding or would have just vaguely remembered them. I looked up women's figure skating at the Olympics to see who medaled. This is what I remembered before I even looked at it: Kristi Yamaguchi got the gold in '92 (btw, I once wrote to her and got an autographed photo back); Tara Lipinski got the gold in '98, and Sarah Hughes got the gold in '02. If somebody asked me who the most famous figure skater of all time is, I would say Michelle Kwan, even though she never won an Olympic gold (damn you, Lipinski! (and that's really the only reason why I remember Tara!)) Kwan was huge in the late '90s and early '00 and I honestly don't know who really took her place when she retired...I really can't name you another famous skater since then.

Of course I remember Oksana Baiul got the gold in' 94 with Kerrigan getting the silver, but believe me, if KneeGate had never happened, I would not have remembered Baiul at all. While I was looking at the list, I saw that Sasha Cohen won the silver at the '06 and I had forgotten about her until I saw her name. I feel like this is how I would have reacted to being reminded that Kerrigan won the silver in '94 if the incident never happened: I would have recognized her name, but I wouldn't have remembered she won the silver. And as for Harding, I wouldn't have remembered her at all as she never even placed at the Olympics. Although, if the incident never happened, the Lillehammer
Olympics may have been totally different...think about it, Tonya Harding (whether or not she deserved to be there) was under a lot of pressure and scrutiny from the press (whether or not she deserved it, and believe me, we'll touch on that later) so I think the broken lace (or whatever was wrong with her skate) was an element of that and she did have added pressure that I think contributed to her crappy Lillehammer Olympic performance. Who knows? If the incident had never happened and no more pressure than usual, maybe Harding could have been the Lipinski to Kerrigan's Kwan and gotten the gold medal. Okay, that's probably unlikely since she was not a darling on the ice (or off of it!) In fact, we learn from the film that the judges' were not too keen on Tonya. But I bet she would have placed better than eighth, although she definitely would have been forgotten.

When the attack happened, I was one hundred percent certain Harding was behind it and knew about it. Now, I'm not so sure. On the one hand, why would she be so stupid to go along with this plot? Her dream is to go to the Olympics and she would have to know if she got caught (which she most likely would), then she wouldn't be able to attend. You can call Tonya Harding a lot of things, but I just can't see anyone who is serious about going to the Olympics jeopardizing by doing something like bashing in her opponent's knee. It just doesn't make sense. On the other hand, I honestly wouldn't be surprised if she knew about it beforehand. There's a scene in the movie where she's at a competition and isn't happy with her scores and skates over to the judges to demand what she has to do to improve her scoring. I have no idea whether or not this really happened and if it did, I have no idea if she actually spoke to them the way she does in the movie!

The film is very interesting and stylistic in the way it is shot and we get the POVs of both Harding (Margot Robbie who plays Tonya from ages 15-44) and her boyfriend-turned husband-turned ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) on how a certain moment occurred. For instance, Jeff tells the audience that Tonya once shot at him with a shotgun and Tonya tells the audience that never happened. There's a lot of fourth-wall breaking, mostly by Tonya, but her coach also does it during a training montage. Even with the seriousness of Tonya being in abusive relationships both with Gillooly and her mother, LaVona (Allison Janney), the movie is played as a comedy, albeit a dark comedy. You feel bad for Tonya for being so abused, both verbally and physically. At one point, her mother even throws a steak knife at her and it lodges into her arm and Tonya has to pull it out. I was in the theater with about five other people (I saw it on a Wednesday afternoon, a great time if you don't want too many other people in the theater with you!) and everyone gasped at that. So while the film does a good job of making Tonya look sympathetic, I don't think she helped with her attitude towards skating. Her coach, Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson) didn't want her skating to ZZ Top and gave her suggestions of things she should do rather than what she wanted to do, but Tonya didn't listen to her. I never knew the judges didn't like Tonya because she came from "the wrong side of the tracks" and one of them even told her they judge on style as well as the performance because Tonya is wearing this horrible pink outfit she had to make herself because she couldn't afford it. Tonya was not a figure skating darling that didn't get any sponsors or had any designers who wanted to make her costumes. It is highly unfair, but I think if she had taken her coach's advice she may have won them over and then maybe she would have been able to do what she wanted, but who knows. She does fire her coach (I think this was after her poor performance at the 1992 Olympics), even throwing her ice skate at her, but does rehire her when her coach comes back to tell her that the Olympics in
Lillehammer is only two years away instead of four and wants to train her to get ready.

I don't know anything about figure skating and I don't know one jump from the next, but I do have a lot of respect for anyone who does it because I know it's not easy even though they all make it look effortless. I didn't know this until I saw the movie, but Tonya Harding is known as being the first American woman to land a triple axel in a competition, which I guess is a very complicated move, so you do have to give her props for that. They do explain what it is in the movie and how when you land you're landing on a very thin part of the blade so it's hard to keep your balance. She successfully attempts this move at a U.S. competition, but botches it in Albertville, blaming it on her blades not being properly attached to her skates.

Tonya has divorced Jeff by the time the she's training for Lillehammer, but tells the audience she still needs him, which I didn't get. There's a competition she's about to skate in, but she gets a warning from a security guard that someone phoned in a death threat to her, saying if she skated, she would get a "bullet in the back" and they can't protect her so she has to back out of it. We later learn that the phone message was sent in by her bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser). I have no idea why he would want to do that or if that's even true, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was because he was a bit of an odd character. Jeff gets the idea to do the same thing to Nancy Kerrigan, to call the arena she practices at in Boston and to scare her with a death threat or a bomb threat so she won't be able to practice and maybe she'll drop out of the Olympics. Well, as we all know, the plan doesn't go that way at all, in fact, it goes much worse, but not as bad as it could have been.

So I always just thought the guy who whacked her in the knee was either the ex or bodyguard, but it was actually a guy named Shane Stant. The movie has it so it's the bodyguard's idea to have him do that and the ex still thinks they're doing the scare Nancy with a phone call tactic. While Tonya does know that they were talking about that, she thinks it has been dropped and definitely doesn't know anything about physically hurting Nancy, but of course, who knows what really happens. The movie plays as a mockumentary at times and we see the major characters (Tonya, LaVerna, Jeff, Shawn and a reporter for Hard Copy played by Bobby Cannavale) all talking to the audience in the "current" day. It is amusing when they're about to get to the clubbing of Nancy's knee because they're all like, "Oh, here's the part you've all been waiting for" and keep calling it "the incident".

It happened a month before the Olympics and I say it wasn't as bad as it could have been because obviously Kerrigan went on to skate in Lillehammer and won the silver. He just gave her one good whack and left, but not before he broke the glass doors to get out because they were locked with a chain. It didn't take long for the police to catch him because they saw security footage of him moving his car every 30 minutes at the skating rink in Boston where he originally thought Nancy was (she was in Detroit when it happened) and they thought it was suspicious and tracked the car down. The entire thing is just insane! As we all know, Tonya also made it to the Olympics despite the media storm showering down upon her and the accusations that she was involved in it which she vehemently denied. I guess she threatened to sued the IOC if she was not allowed to compete and tells the audience that CBS (the network airing them that year) wanted her there for the ratings. Anyway, it's not a surprise she had such bad karma at the Games what with all that was going on. I had no idea when she was sentenced (she pleaded guilty for learning information about the attack after it happened and failing to report it to the police) that she was not allowed to compete in any more competitions. I felt that was a little harsh as she was also given community service and a fine. I just assumed she either aged out of ice skating by that time (she was only 23, so she was still pretty young) or was just ostracized by the skating community (which probably happened anyway).

One of my favorite things about the movie was the way they shot the skating scenes.  It was very cinematic and exciting the way they did it; they should film all figure skating competitions this way! Although having another person skating on the ice with them with a camera might be a bit distracting! I found this clip on YouTube where the director explains how they shot the first scene of Margot Robbie (and other!) skating as Tonya at a competition the first time in the film: 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Eternal Spring

Tuck Everlasting
Director: Jay Russell
Cast: Alexis Bledel, Jonathan Jackson, Sissy Spacek, William Hurt, Victor Garber, Ben Kingsley, Amy Irving
Released: October 11, 2002
Viewed in theaters: October 12, 2002

Spoilers start right away, so there's your warning! 

Even though I've seen this movie before, I didn't remember anything about it. I just remembered the immortality part. If you had asked me what this movie was about before I re-watched it (and I had totally forgotten this movie existed, but then I saw it was on Hulu), I would have said it's about a boy named Tuck who is an immortal. Well, Tuck is the surname of the boy whose name is Jesse (Jonathan Jackson) and the entire Tuck family is immortal. 

This movie felt more like a made-for-TV movie than a theatrical release. For one thing, it's only an hour and a half, and for another, it's just not that grand of a movie. It gets pretty cheesy in parts. I didn't think the acting by the two young leads was particularly great. I believe this was Alexis Bledel's first feature film and this came out during the third season of Gilmore Girls. Plus the all around premise is a little creepy, but I'll get to that later.

The movie is based on a 1975 novel written by Natalie Babbitt. I haven't read it, but I looked up the summary on Wikipedia to note any differences between the book and film. One of the main differences is that the main character, Winifred (who goes by Winnie) is ten in the book and fifteen in the movie. She is played by Bledel. She comes from a very well-to-do family and would rather be playing with kids her own age and getting dirty than wearing her pristine white dress while she practices piano or knits. While we know this movie is not set in the present day, we will learn later that the year is 1914.

One day she goes off into the woods after her uptight parents (Amy Irving and Victor Garber) have told her they're sending her away to boarding school. There she sees Jesse drinking from a spring. It's clear that Winifred has no people skills because she doesn't even try to be discreet that she's flat-out spying on him. She steps out into the open, watching him as he drinks. When he sees her, he's not angry, but you know he's not thrilled that this girl is out here and obviously shouldn't be. He asks her how long she's been there and she replies with, "Not long" and tells him that her family owns these woods after he tells her she shouldn't be out here. She agrees to leave, but wants a drink of water first. He tells her no, that the water is poisonous, which was pretty stupid since he was just drinking from it. When she heads towards the spring, he grabs her and she screams and runs away, exclaiming she's going to tell her father. She doesn't get very far because Jesse's older brother, Miles, catches her and they take her back to their house and their parents, Mae and Angus Tuck (Sissy Spacek and William Hurt). Of course, Winnie is totally freaked out since she's been basically kidnapped and just wants to go home. Mae is being very sweet and motherly to her, telling her they're not going to hurt her.

This is where the movie gets a little weird and makes me wonder if the novel comes off the same way. The Tuck family tell that they will let her return to her home as soon as they can trust her, but they never tell her their big secret until much later in the movie and even then, Jesse sort of just lets it slips out. We learn that Winnie has lost track of the days she's been imprisoned, but don't worry, she's having a grand old time as we see her and Jesse in this super cheesy montage where they're running slow-motion through a field of flowers while flailing their arms. Oh, how that made me cringe! I felt really bad for the actors. I can just imagine the director yelling at them, "Jump higher, move your arms more." Meanwhile, we get snippets of her poor parents who are worried sick about their daughter and get the police involved to find her. 

While Winnie and Jesse are spending more time with each other, they begin to fall in love. At one point she asks him how old he is and he tells her he's 104 years old. She tells him to be serious, and he says he's 17. And technically, both answers are right. When Winnie tells him, "I wish this moment could last forever", he tells her about the water that grants not only everlasting life, but also makes one immortal. When he said they were immortal, I just assumed they could never die of old age or get sick, but no, they can not die of anything. If they get shot in the head? Still alive! If they fall off a cliff? Still alive! If they get bit by a rattlesnake? Still alive (even without the antidote!) They literally cannot die. They're just like Claire, the invincible cheerleader from Heroes! Although, even though she could fall off high ledges and walk through fires and not die, I feel like there is a way to kill her since Sylar had a plan to do so, I just forgot how. Something about taking her brain? But with the Tucks, I get the impression they are immune to any type of death.

Jesse tells Winnie the story of the spring, how back in (hang on, let me do some quick math...) 1827, his family found it while traveling and started drinking from it. Everyone, but the cat that is. They quickly realize something is up when their horses are shot at by hunters who mistake them for deer (really?) and they don't die. We also learn that Jesse fell from thirty feet and didn't get one scratch on him and that someone else was bitten by a rattlesnake and was completely fine. Miles's wife left with their two children, saying he "sold his soul to the devil" and called the spring "witch craft" and "black magic". Needless to say, they did not drink from the spring. She ended up in a mental institution because of her ramblings about a spring that grants eternal life. While Jesse seems to embrace his eternal youth and long-lasting life, Miles sees it more as a curse and hates it. He wanted his kids to drink from it too, but that seems pretty cruel as you are permanently stuck at the age you are when you drink from it, and I imagine your brain is permanently stuck at that age too. I don't know how old his kids were, but they looked pretty young in the flashbacks. Can you imagine if you had to be five years old for the rest of your life and could never escape from it? Oh my God, that would be terrible. I'm glad his kids did not get to drink from the water, even though one of them did die when they were a teenager, but the other one lived a full life even if he never saw his dad again. And honestly, being seventeen forever (like Jesse) doesn't sound that great either. Now I realize that when he drank the water he didn't know this was going to happen. I feel like if you were going to be stuck at a permanent age, early thirties is where you want to be. You're old enough where you don't look like a teenager and you don't have to get carded for anything and you can still be an active member of society and you don't need a permission slip for anything, but you're also still young enough to be active and not worry about the psychical downsides of aging. Basically, you're not too young, you're not too old. Actually, this movie reminded me of The Age of Adaline where Blake Lively plays a character who has been stuck at the age of 29 since the early 20th century. Every few years she moves to a different location so she doesn't make anyone suspicious about her non-aging. Because of this, she isn't able to be close to anyone and even her own daughter out-ages her and they tell everyone she is her grandmother. In this film, the Tucks just seem to hang out in a house hidden in the woods and this is why they kidnap Winnie and keep her until they think they can trust her because they do not want her telling anyone about them.

Jesse tells Winnie that she's the first girl he's ever told this to because she's the first girl he's fallen in love with and wants to spend the rest of his life with. He wants her to drink the water. Now, in the book, from what I found out on Wikipedia, Jesse wants Winnie to wait until she is 17 and then drink the water so they will be the same age (remember, she is only ten in the novel!) and then they can get married. I'm not sure if there's a romance in the book like there is in the movie (God, I hope not!), but I guess he just wants someone to spend eternity with.

I don't understand the appeal of wanting to spend ETERNITY with anyone, even yourself. Sure, I understand if you meet your soul mate you want to spend as much time with them as possible and cherish every moment, but think about it - if you and your partner could live forever, then you would take each other for granted, you would be stuck with this person for the rest of your (and your partner's!) life and then you probably wish you could die! Nothing would be special anymore. This is one of the many reasons why I hate Twilight so much. Are we supposed to think it's so romantic that Bella and Edward are going to live forever? I remember one scene in the book where Bella is having a fit because Edward had to leave her for one night, and it's like, relax, you guys are going to spend the rest of eternity together, I think you can handle one lousy day apart, good Lord! There is a really bad line in this movie that could have easily been in a Twilight book - that's how much it made me roll my eyes! When the Tucks are ready to take Winnie home, Jesse tells her, "If I could die tomorrow I would do it just to spend one more night with you!" First of all, let's calm down. The girl is only fifteen. They make this line sound very sexual for a PG Disney family movie! They probably should have changed "night" to "day".

Winnie is seriously considering drinking the water, but after she hears Miles tell his story about how eternal life isn't all it's cracked up to be, she begins to waver. She does like the idea of never dying, but when Angus tells her, "Don't be afraid of death, be afraid of the un-lived life," that is what cements her decision NOT to drink the water.

Ben Kingsley plays a man in a yellow suit who is supposed to be the villain, but he didn't seem very villainous to me. Not until we learn he wants to collect the water and sell it to people "for a price", but Mae hits him in the head with a shovel before he has a chance to. Mae is arrested for murder and is to be hanged, but Winnie and the others know she won't die and then everyone will become suspicious, so they devise a plan to help Mae escape. This is when Winnie has to say her good-byes to the Tucks and can finally return to her family.

The movie ends in "present day" 2002 where we see Jesse on a motorcycle. He looks the same as he did in 1914, only now he's wearing jeans and a leather jacket. We see that he's come to visit Winnie's gravestone which says she lived a good 100 years (1899-1999) and was a wife and mother (and probably grandmother and great-grandmother), so we know she took Angus's advice and lived her life. I was glad the movie went this way and did not have Winnie drinking the water. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Come What May

Moulin Rouge!
Director: Baz Luhrmann 
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh, John Leguizamo
Released: June 1, 2001
Viewed in theaters: June 10, 2001

Oscar nominations:

Best Picture (lost to A Beautiful Mind)
Best Actress - Nicole Kidman (lost to Halle Berry for Monster's Ball)
Best Cinematography (lost to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (won)
Best Costume Design (won)
Best Sound (lost to Black Hawk Down)
Best Film Editing (lost to Black Hawk Down)
Best Makeup (lost to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)

 There are a lot of things I really like about Moulin Rouge!, but there are also a few things I don't like about it. We'll start with the positives first. It's easy to see why this movie won Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Costume Design because it is a visually stunning film. Every set, every detail, every costume is a feast for the eyes. Even though this movie was filmed in Australia in 1999/2000, I certainly felt like I was in Paris in 1900. I also really love the music and all the songs (probably because the majority of them were already songs I was already familiar with), which is a good thing since this is a musical! I would also like to personally thank this movie for only having the actors sing the songs and not sing every single line of dialogue, which is done in Les Miserables, a movie I hate and loathe with all my heart.  (I wanted to go in liking it, I really did, but we're not here to talk about that movie). I own the soundtrack to this movie and I really like it because I get to hear the full versions of the songs. While a few songs do get fully sung in the movie (especially if they're sung by our star-crossed lovers, Christian and Satine (Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman)), there are quite a few we only hear a snippets of here or there, so it's nice to have the soundtrack to listen to the entire songs. There are so many songs in the movie that they made a second soundtrack, but I don't own that one. My favorite song is "Come What May", the love song sung by our two leads. It is so, so, good, the perfect romantic song. Whenever you hear this song, you just want to burst out and sing it. Well, I do anyway. ("Listen to my heart, can you hear it sing? Telling me to give you everything!") I especially love how it builds up in the end with the choir singing in the background and then bam! It just ends. I love that song!  It is the only original song from the movie, although it wasn't nominated for a Best Song Oscar (as you can tell it wasn't from the list above of nominations it received). This is because the song was originally written for Romeo + Juliet, the previous movie Luhrmann had directed, but it was never used. Therefore, it was ineligible, although I don't see what the big deal was. I think it should have been nominated! It would have won! It's kind of ironic that the big musical of that year didn't get any Oscar music nominations.

I think they tried to get all the young MTV audience to see the film with getting five big music stars (Christina Aguliera, Pink, Mya, L'il Kim, and Missy Eliot) to sing Lady Marmalade (and I will admit, at first I had no idea this was a cover of a Patti Labelle song!) The song is actually in the movie for about a minute, if that. It might be longer, but they definitely do not play the entire thing. I remember this video being on MTV all the time when it was released. It's super cringe-worthy if you go back now and watch it. The only good part is Christina's over the top voice and crazy-ass curly blonde wig. I think it was also released as a single on the radio, but don't quote me on that. This song made everyone know what "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?" meant even if they didn't know a lick of French.

"Come What May" may be my favorite song, but I also really love the mash-up of love songs Christian and Satine sing to each other called "Elephant Love Medley" (which gets it name since Satine lives in the statue of an elephant.  By the way, have you ever noticed it looks a lot bigger from the inside than it does from the outside?)  It begins with the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" and ends with Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" (I say Houston's version, and not Dolly Parton's because they definitely belt it out ala Whitney) with songs like "Heroes" by David Bowie, "Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong", by Joe Cocker and  and "I Was Made For Loving You" by Kiss sprinkled throughout. And of course you have the singing moon serenading them at the end. The moon has to be a homage to Georges Melies (right time, right country), but I am always reminded of Mac Tonight, the singing moon in the McDonald's commercials from the '80s. I know it's totally weird, but that's what I think of when I see a singing moon!

Another song I really love is when Christian sings "Your Song" to Satine. Being as this is a musical, it's a good thing I love so many songs! There's a mix up with him and the Duke (Richard Roxburgh), a man powerful enough to make her a "real actress" and if she seduces and sleeps with him, then her dream will become a reality. However, Christian is not the Duke, but rather just a lowly writer who wants Satine to read his play because she's the star of the show, "The Sparkling Diamond". The thinking is if Satine likes it, then she'll promote it to Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent), the owner of the Moulin Rouge. Satine is acting like a damn fool in her "seducing", but when Christian starts singing, she immediately stops her barking and writhing on the floor and really takes notice of him for the first time. This clip is a great example of how visually stunning the film see the titular red mill, the set of the elephant room (inside and out), the singing moon, and just the all-around prettiness of the movie.

How can that scene not a put a smile on your face? I'm not the biggest fan of Ewan McGregor, many of his movies I either haven't seen or just didn't care for, but I can't blame Satine for looking so smitten when he starts singing and continues to be enamored with him throughout the song. However, when the song ends and she exclaims that she's in love with a young, handsome, talented Duke, he has to let her down by telling her he's just a writer and she's not interested in him. Here is this super cute guy who just sang her a love song and the music scratches (it does, literally) when he tells her he's not the Duke and suddenly she's not interested anymore. Crazy redhead!

However, don't fret, because Christian does win her heart when they sing the songs in the "Elephant Love Medley" and they fall in love. Just like in Baz Luhrmann's interpretation of  Romeo + Juliet when they fall in love by looking at each other through a fish tank. This makes the Duke, who wants the beautiful Satine for himself, very jealous.

The play Christian has written is the story within the story, but with much more Indian influences. It's the same premise as the movie: a young woman must choose between a poor young sitar player who loves her dearly or the powerful Maharaja. Obviously Christian took the saying "write what you know" to heart. In the play, the character Satine plays chooses the sitar player because she is in love with him, but the Duke is outraged by this and demands that it be changed so she chooses the more powerful man because it rings more true.

Now I will tell you about the things I did not like so much about the movie. If you can get past the first fifteen minutes, then you're home free. I say this because the first fifteen minutes are probably the hardest to get through. We're quickly introduced to Christian and what his story is and why he's come to Paris. It's not that I mind they tell this quickly to get to the meat of the story, I just hate the way it's shot. I swear, they must change shots 100 times in a minute. It's just very quick, quick, quick and it gave me whiplash. It has a very frenetic pace about it and there are certain times where I'm thinking, "What the hell is going on"? This includes Kylie Minogue as a fairy. (Yes, I realize Christian is seeing this because he had just drank some absinthe). I guess the point is to make like the viewer seem like THEY just drank some absinthe! Once Satine is first introduced, the cameras linger on her for awhile and from then on the film moves as a more manageable pace. It does pick us back in its frenzy state during the "Roxanne" tango scene, but at least that's only a few minutes and makes sense in the context of the movie.

And even though I think Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman are great as Christian and Satine and I can't imagine anyone else playing them and I think they're super cute whenever they sing to each other, I just couldn't get invested in their relationship. It may be that I never bought that they fall in love with each other after just sining a song to each other. The movie begins with Christian telling the audience, "The woman I dead." It literally starts out by telling the audience that one of the main characters will die. Also, the way he says it is soooooo over dramatic that I laugh whenever I hear it. Probably not the emotion they were trying to evoke! You know, I have to wonder if anyone got mad because this movie was "spoiled" for them even though it's the first thing you find out when you watch the movie. That would be hilarious. I can't even remember if I knew Nicole Kidman's character died in this before I saw it. However, I certainly knew the minute the film started! So when Satine DOES die (she had consumption), it never makes me cry. And, if for any reason you may forget that she dies, they definitely remind you throughout the movie what with her either fainting (she falls off of a  swing perched pretty high at one point, but luckily is caught) or coughing up blood every now and then. I have watched this movie a handful of times and not once has it ever made me cry. I think the closest scene where I do tear up is during the big performance when Satine starts singing "Come What May" to Christian.

Zidler tells Satine that she "must hurt him to save him" and that she needs to tell Christian she doesn't love him anymore and for him to leave. Otherwise, the Duke will kill him. She does this and tells Christian that she wants to be with the Duke, but he knows something is up and refuses to leave without learning the truth. He shows up during the big performance and finds Satine behind the curtain getting ready for her next scene. He demands her to tell him that she doesn't love him. Meanwhile, one of the Duke's cronies have found them and is about to shoot Christian, but the curtain opens and they find themselves on stage. Zidler, who is playing the Maharaja, tells the audience that he is not fooled and even though he's changed his disguise and shaved off his beard, he knows it's the penniless sitar player. You have to give him props for coming up with that so fast. The audience seems satisfied with this and is enjoying the show which is not the show anymore, but rather real life being played out before them. It is very amusing watching their reactions. When Christian says to the Duke,  "This woman is yours now. I've paid my whore!" and throws some money down, everyone gasps. Christian, who has been hurt by Satine, tells her some pretty harsh words and walks off stage and down the aisle of seats. He's crying, she's crying. One of the main performers (played by John Leguizamo), who is in the rafters, shouts out, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return!" Satine starts singing "Come What May" and Christian stops and turns around, the starts sining. This is the only scene that really gets me. They're all singing and in love and everything is great and the audience is eating this up. The only one who isn't loving it is the Duke and he sees and grabs the gun and is about to shoot Christian, but his plans are thwarted when Zidler punches him in the face and he ends up tossing the gun which goes through a window and hits the Eiffel Tower with a clink. Everyone is happy, but then, oh yeah, we're reminded Satine isn't long for this world as she dies on stage in his arms while the audience applauds, thinking it's part of the show. Poor Christian. He really did love her until her dying day. Oh my God, I just went to Tumblr to check out what people were writing/posting about Moulin Rouge! and someone wrote, "I would like to die like Satine in Moulin Rouge: being applauded, covered in petals, and in the arms of Ewan McGregor." Haha, that's good, that made me laugh.

I was surprised to find out that Baz Luhrmann has only directed five movies in the span of twenty years. I would have guessed a lot more! Before Moulin Rouge! he directed Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet and after there was Australia and The Great Gatsby. I would rank his movies, but I can't because I've never seen The Great Gatsby and it's been way too long since I've seen Strictly Ballroom and Australia. The only thing I remember about Australia is when Hugh Jackman hosted the Oscars and talked about Robert Downey Jr. being nominated for an Oscar for Tropic Thunder and that he is "an American actor playing an Australian actor playing an African-American character" and then made a joke and said that he is "an Australian playing an Australian in a movie called Australia." Yes, that made me laugh very much. I would say with certainty that Moulin Rouge! is Luhrmann's most known movie (although, I guess some people would argue that R+J is). Moulin Rouge! is an insane movie at times and just never stops, but at least it knows what kind of movie it is and embraces it.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Rumble in the Jungle

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Director: Jake Kasdan
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas
Released: December 20, 2017
Viewed in theaters: January 7, 2018

Since this is still fairly new, there will be spoilers!

I guess I assumed this was a reboot of the 1995 movie with Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, and Kirsten Dunst (you can find my review of it here), but it's actually a sequel. It picks up twenty years after the first movie left off. There are enough little shout outs and references to the first movie to satisfy fans of the original, but if you've never seen that one, you won't be lost watching this one. This is its own movie and while the premise is the same, there are enough differences so this isn't a carbon copy of the '95 film.

This one begins in 1996 and a teenaged boy named Alex hears the familiar Jumanji drums (well, familiar to the ones who have seen OG Jumanji!) and he finds the cursed board game. He takes it home with him even though he wonders outloud, "Who still plays game boards?" (Okay, so then why did you take it home with you?) The next day he opens the game and it has magically turned into a video game which he starts to play. We don't see what happens to him (but you can probably guess if you've seen the trailers to this movie!) and instead it cuts to twenty years in the future and we are introduced to our four main characters who will be played by more famous people in about twenty minutes (well, I wasn't familiar with Karen Gillan, but not everybody can be on the same fame level as The Rock!)

Four high school students (two boys and two girls) find themselves getting detention that day. Let's see, we have the jock, we have the weird loner girl, we have the popular girl, and we have the smart kid. We're just missing our Judd Nelson and we would have The Breakfast Club! They are left without any supervision to clean out a room in the basement of the school and they're supposed to take staples out of papers. One of the kids finds an old Nintendo (??) game console with the Jumanji game. I'm not really sure how that game found its way there, but let's not ask silly questions.  There is a TV conveniently located nearby and the two boys hook up the game. They start to choose characters to play in the game. When one of them tries to pick the first character he sees, it won't let him choose that one. We will later find out why that is. They get the girls to join them (by the way, I have never known a game console to have more than two controllers, but I don't play video games, so what do I know?) and the kids are sucked into the game.

This is when we can sit back and have some fun. We had the first twenty minutes or so to introduce us to the characters as their true teenaged selfs, but now we can watch what we all came to the theaters to see. It is very amusing because all the kids have turned into a character that is the complete opposite of who they are. Spencer, the main character and smart kid (he got detention because he wrote the jock kid's history paper) chose an avatar named Dr. Bravestone. He is played by The Rock, excuse me, Dwayne Johnson. Sorry, but he will always be The Rock to me. So we have this nerdy, scrawny kid and he becomes The Rock - you can't get any more opposite than that.

The jock kid is named Fridge and he's very tall and athletic. He's in detention since Spencer did his paper. We get a little backstory that these two used to be friends, but then drifted apart. He chooses a character named Finbar who's a zoologist and is played by Kevin Hart who is known for being short. There's a funny scene where he says, "The top two feet of me is missing!" The character he chooses also is not strong and has no speed, not at all what Fridge is used to in the "real world".

Martha is the awkward girl who doesn't like to interact with anyone and gets detention because she refused to participate in gym class and insulted her P.E. instructor in the process. She becomes Ruby Roundhouse "Killer of Men" (played by Karen Gillan) and becomes a badass who has all the fighting skills, including "dance fighting", whatever that is. She is very self-conscious because she's wearing a halter top, so she's baring some skin and doesn't approve of her outfit for being in the jungle. Her character is obviously an homage to Lara Croft.

Then we have what is probably the best change of all. Bethany is a whole bunch of cliches of the popular teenaged girl. She's self-absorbent, she's constantly taking selfies of herself, she's on her phone during class (the reason she gets detention), she says she is "too pretty" to do any work. If I went to that school, she would be the one person out of these four that I would hate the most. The others don't bother me, but she is just a terrible person. She chooses to become Professor Shelby Oberson whose main strength is being a cartographer, or a "map doctor" as she will later say. Turns out Shelby is short for Sheldon and she is appalled when she finds out she is now "an overweight middle-aged man" (played by Jack Black). Yes, it is very hilarious watching Jack Black play this role. Even though they're now in this video game and they have no idea how they got there and no idea how to get home, the only thing Bethany is worried about is her phone. ("Oh my God, you guys! Where's my phone?") We also immediately see Bethany/Jack Black get eaten by a hippo. The movie knows that she is our least favorite character and we want to see her get some comeuppance.

However, she is not dead (and is still a middle-aged overweight man!) as she comes crashing down from the sky. The kids soon realize that the three bars tattooed on the inside of their arms represent the three lives they get in the game. They will each go through two of their lives, making it more suspenseful if they will get home alive (of course they do, I didn't go in with any spoilers, but even I knew they would all make it out okay). Some of their lives are used for sacrifice, but we have a couple lives that are wasted, for example, when Fridge/Kevin Hart gets into a fight with Spencer/The Rock and Fridge pushes Spencer off a cliff. C'mon, why are you wasting lives like that?

The kids also realize that they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. This is when we find out that Finbar's weaknesses include "strength" and "speed". And cake, for some reason. This game seems very lopsided. If this was a real game (but not TOO real!), nobody would want to be Finbar and EVERYBODY would want to be Dr. Bravestone. His weaknesses are "none". He has no weaknesses! Everyone knows that when you choose a character in a video game, you have at least one weakness or else everybody would want to be that character. We see that Ruby's weakness is "venom" (and she will later sacrifice one of her lives when she is bit by a snake), but isn't EVERYONE'S weakness venom? Anyone can die if they have venom in their system. When Finbar eats a piece of cake (which he thought was bread), he explodes. That makes sense because that is his weakness and for some weird reason, in the game, it kills him. But eating cake won't kill the other characters

They learn that the only way to return home is to return a jewel that was stolen by the bad guy, Van Pelt (played by Bobby Cannavale) - yes, that name may sound familiar because that was the same name of the hunter who was part of the game in the original. They must return it to a huge statue and avoid Van Pelt and all the other dangerous elements along the way. Okay, can I just say this game sounds like something I would have fun playing? I played Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis back in the day (more of a PC game than a video one), and I love those games where you're on an adventure and have to figure out how to get to your next destination. Those fighting video games ala Mortal Kombat? No, thank you.

They come across a pilot named McDonough (played by Nick Jonas). Now you may remember when
our heroes were still high schoolers in 2016 and were about to play the game, they couldn't choose the first character that popped up. That's because it was chosen by teen Alex from 1996. The four characters were trying to find the missing piece to their map and they soon realize that Alex is their missing piece. He tells them he's been there "a few months" (and that really confused me!) and that time is a bit wonky where they are. (Apparently!) We get a shout out to Alan Parrish, the Robin Williams character from the original when he brings them to a shelter in the jungle that Alan built when he was sucked into the game (I guess whether you're sucked into the board game or the video game, it's still the same location). Alex/McDonough tells them he's already used two of his lives trying to cross the canyon. There's a huge hangar full of choices and he's already tried the hot air balloon and the jet, but got shot down both times. I really love the scene where they go to the hangar to attempt to cross the canyon. This really is like a video game. I mentioned Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis earlier and there is a moment where Indy needs something and in order to get it, he needs to have his partner, Sophia, distract this guy so he can get what he needs. This scene totally reminded me of that. Well, not TOTALLY as there was no crazy flirting or fight dancing in the Indiana Jones games! In the film, there are two guards they need to distract so the hot girl in Jack Black's body teaches the awkward girl in the bombshell's body to flirt with them. She ends up being terrible at it, but luckily her skills of "dance fighting" comes in and she beats them up while "Baby I Love Your Way" (the reggae version by Big Mountain) starts playing. Totally random song choice, but I like that song. She single-handedly kicks their asses and anytime a woman kicks some ass, I'm all for it, especially when it's a redhead (but I may be biased!)

This is the scene where the others also learn that Alex hasn't just been there for "a few months". In the span of a minute, he starts spouting off all these '90s references and catch phrases ("getting jiggy with it" and "fly as Cindy Crawford" were the main ones I remembered), so when someone asks him what year he thinks it is, he replies with "1996" and is shocked to learned that his new friends are from twenty years in the future and the others are shocked to learn he's been there that long (he's been there since before they were all born!)

After the guards are down, they go in the hangar to choose their method of travel. Alex wants to use the school bus which was laughable there was even a school bus in there, but they decide on the helicopter. Obviously, this is a game where you need all five characters to beat it. Alex couldn't have made it without the other four and our four main characters couldn't have made it without Alex. Fridge/Finbar has to sacrifice his life when he drops the jewel and in order to get it back, he's killed by a stampede of rhinos (there are some pretty brutal deaths in this game!)

Bethany/Sheldon also sacrifices her life when Alex was stung by a mosquito (his weakness...which is a pretty terrible weakness to have in the freakin' jungle!!) and gives up her second life so he can have one. There's an ongoing joke through the movie where Bethany (in Jack Black's body) has a crush on Alex (because he's played by Nick Jonas) and keeps flirting with him. It is a nice moment that she sacrifices her life for Alex, but you know that if he didn't look like a pop star, she would not have given her one of her lives!

As they get closer to placing the gem in the statue, Martha/Ruby Roundhouse needs to retrieve it in a pit of snakes (super gross) after it's been thrown in there. Our bad guy, Van Pelt shows up and makes her give him the gem, but she purposely gets bitten by a snake and sacrifices her second life (although was it purposely? I feel like she would have gotten bitten by a snake even if she didn't intend to...if you're standing in a pile of snakes, most likely you're gonna get bit!) It was a smart move she made because she falls out of the sky right by the statue and she and Spencer/The Rock are able to place it in its rightful spot and they all yell out, "JUMANJI!" They have won the game and everybody is able to return to their old bodies and where they left off.

The four teens return to the high school and are wondering where Alex is. They go to his childhood house, which used to be boarded up and dreary and is now freshly painted and looks warm and inviting. They see a man in his thirties drive up and right away they know it's Alex. Three different people played this character: somebody played him as a teen in 1996, Nick Jonas played him when he was in the game, and he's played by Colin Hanks as an adult. He knows immediately who these kids are and explains to them that he was sent back to 1996 where he left off so it's nice that he didn't waste twenty years of his life! He tells Bethany he named his daughter after her, "after the person who saved his life".  Awww.

The movie ends with Fridge smashing the video game with a bowling ball, but, c'mon, we all know there's gonna be a sequel!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Little Children

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Rick Moranis, Matt Frewer, Marcia Strassman, Kristine Sutherland, Amy O'Neil, Robert Oliveri, Thomas Brown, Jared Rushton
Released: June 23, 1989

I hadn't seen this movie in a very long time, but I have to say I really enjoyed watching it again. And while there are a few effects that seem very obvious, I think it still holds up quite well for when it was made. If you look at the cast, you may only be familiar with Rick Moranis, but if you ever watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you may notice Kristine Sutherland's name. She played Buffy's mom on that show, Joyce Summers. In this she plays the neighbor to Moranis's scientist character, Wayne Szalinski. 

He has invented a machine that shrinks things, or at least it's supposed to, but it's not quite working. Instead of shrinking things, it explodes them as that is what happens when he tests an apple. We see him giving him a presentation about his new invention, but people in the audience keep leaving and the joke is made that the only thing he's shrinking is the audience. It's actually not a bad idea what he's invented...just think of how much cargo you could get on a ship if everything were greatly reduced in size...of course, you would just have to be able to get those items back to their normal size. And just think how convenient it would be if you moved! You could literally pack up everything you owned into a suitcase! I love it! Although, you probably wouldn't want terrorists getting their hands on this machine. That could spell trouble. This is a movie that could have gone either way - either comedy or flat out horror. But since this is a Disney family film, it's mostly a comedy with a few suspenseful moments. Let's just say if this were the real world, these kids would be dead, dead, dead, and dead! In fact, I was shocked to find out (according to IMDB, not sure where the actual source came from) that there were originally FIVE kids and one of them drowns during the scene the sprinklers are accidentally turned on. Yikes! This is a Disney movie! They're normally not known for being so dark. And I want to know if this kid was part of the Szalinski clan or the Thompson family or if he (or she) was just a another kid from the neighborhood. For what kind of movie it is, I think they made the right call by not adding such a morbid detail!

Wayne Szalinski is so ahead of his time that he even invented texting before texting existed! Well, a very early draft of it. From the kitchen, his children can let him know that it's time to eat, and in return, he can type a message from his computer in the attic where he works and let them know when he'll be down and it's printed out. He just needed to invent auto correct because "I'll be down in five minutes" came out as "I'll be down on fine mimicks."

We have the Szalinskis and the Thompsons who live next door to each other, but don't seem to like each other and the kids aren't really friends with each other. Big Russ Thompson (Matt Frewer) is the one married to Sutherland's character, Mae, and he hates all the noise coming from the Szalinski side since it's usually early in the morning. He has two sons: Little Russ (Thomas Brown) and Ron (Jared Rushton). He finds out his oldest son didn't make the football team (but we later find out he actually quit) because he's too scrawny and is trying to help him with his self-esteem about his size (ah, you see what the movie is doing?) It was bugging me so much because the kid who played Ron looked so familiar to me. I know I had seen him before, so I looked him up. He played Tom Hanks's friend, Billy, in Big, which came out the year prior. Only in that movie he's a redhead and he's a blond in this one. He's a little jerk, always fighting with everyone and causing arguments, although he will have a touching moment later on in the film. The Szalinski children include popular high schooler Amy (Amy O'Neill) who is planning on going to the mall later that day because she is sure she is going to be asked to the dance by the guy she likes. Meanwhile, Russ Jr., who's the same age as her, has a crush on her. Amy's little brother, Nick (Robert Oliveri) is a few years younger than Ron and he's just like his dad: a major nerd and super smart, and he owns it. In fact, he tricks a neighbor kid into mowing the lawn for him, which is his chore. 

Their adventure begins on a day when Wayne is at his convention and his wife (Marcia Strassman) is out and the Thompson family is getting ready for a camping trip and the two adults are too busy to pay any mind to their kids. Ron is playing with his baseball and hits it right into the Zsalinski's attic where it conveniently lands right in front of the shrinking machine. His older brother takes him next door so he can explain what happened. The two young boys go upstairs and when they don't return (because they've been shrunken!), their older siblings go up to see what's going on and they shrink too. Somehow the machine activated when it was hit by the baseball and shrinks all the kids. But before it did that, we see it shrink a couch.

When Wayne comes home, Quark, the Szalinski terrier, barks to lets him know that something is up, but I didn't understand why he didn't go over right to the kids. The damn dog never indicates where the kids are, even though he can smell and hear them while people cannot hear the shrunken kids yelling. I just felt like Quark never tried hard enough to get Wayne's attention about the size of the kids, but I know there would be no movie if Wayne found them and fixed the situation. However, Quark will come in handy in a later scene when Wayne almost becomes a cannibal! Even though I've seen the movie before and know that everything turns out all right in the end, I thought for sure Wayne was going to step on all the kids when he entered the attic. His feet get pretty close to them. The special effects are a lot of fun and this looked like it would have been a fun movie to be in. When Wayne comes home and sees his attic is a mess, he grabs a broom and starts sweeping. All the kids are running from the bristles, but then they grab hold onto them when they can't outrun the broom and are dumped from a dust pan into the outside trash, which is located in the backyard for some weird reason. Don't most people keep their trash in the garage, then bring it out to the curb on trash day? The kids get out of the trash bag and slide down a blade of glass which looked like a lot of fun. Not as fun as the water slide from The Goonies, mind you, but who wouldn't want to slide down a blade of grass?

Nick, our nerdy smart kid calculates that they are a quarter of an inch tall and are sixty four feet from the house which is the equivalent of 3.2 miles (I would have guessed a lot more for how small they are!) This movie could never be made today. Why? Because Nick's calculator also shrunk with him and that's how he was able to figure out the dimensions. If a kid in a current take of this movie was shrunk, they mostly would likely have their phone and could just text their parents and tell them that they can be found on the stone in the middle of the yard. Sure, it might take them awhile to text the message! It would be fun to see a current update on this story, but you would need to find a way to make it so it's not so easy for them to fix the problem.

Ron, our little turd of a character, is whining about how they're supposed to go fishing and Amy replies, "Yeah, right! How are you going, as bait?" And when Amy says, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto," Ron replies with, "I don't think we're on the food chain anymore, Dorothy." There's a few famous movie quotes in this movie. When they realize that Quark can possible hear them and start whistling to get his attention, Russ doesn't know how to whistle, so Amy tells him, "You just put your lips together and blow."

The majority of the movie takes place in the backyard "jungle". They come across a stream of water which is most likely dog urine (eww!) The kids are separated when Nick is nearly attacked by a bee, but Russ saves him and they both jump on the bee's back and it flies around the backyard several times. We even see them past Wayne and they're screaming at him, but he's just trying to shoo the bee away. The special effects don't quite hold up. It's obvious they shot the actors on the back of a large mechanical bee in front of a green screen.

Now around  this time, Wayne has discovered what's going on and know the kids have been shrunk. His shrunken couch is his first clue that his machine work. I laughed when he told his wife that his machine works and she asked him if the kids knew and he's like, "Yeah, they know." When he does tell her what happened, he just tells her, "I shrunk the kids", omitting the "Honey" from the title. Wayne figures out that he threw out the kids with the trash and they're now somewhere in the backyard. While wearing binoculars, he uses stilts to walk on the grass which doesn't make any sense to me. Sure, there's less area on the leg of a stilt than someone's shoes, but HE COULD STILL SMASH ALL OF THEM TO SMITHEREENS! He will eventually be hooked up to a contraption that swings him around the yard so at least he's not putting any weight on the ground. When he's on the stilts, this is when the sprinklers are turned on accidentally, (and this is when the fifth character would have died), the kids have to run for their lives. Amy nearly does drown, but Russ Jr. saves her by giving her mouth-to-mouth (something he learned in French class - this will become a big joke in the movie).

After Amy is saved by Russ, she starts to see him in a new light. There is a really odd scene we see with the Szalinski parents expressing their concerns for their children when it starts to get dark and there has been no sign of them yet. Is Mrs. Szalinski worried that her kids are only a quarter of an inch tall and could be killed by insects, birds, or small rodents...which mostly come out during the night? Or that the weather could kill them, especially if it rains? Or just the fact that if a person or even a dog or cat walks across the backyard, they could be squashed? No, she's worried that it's dark and that her teenage daughter might be getting it on with the neighbor boy. First of all, before this moment Amy and Russ had never really interacted that much before, it's not like he was her boyfriend. And even if he was, their younger brothers are with them and they're super tiny. I don't think they would even be thinking about that. Now, they do kiss, but that's as far as it goes. But shouldn't have she been worried about a lot more things before she was worried about that? The kids find a Lego piece and end up spending the night in it (very cool!)

They are now closer to the house because they had help getting to the Lego piece. They had come across a huge Hostess oatmeal cookie (you know, the ones with the cream filling in the they even still make those?) The kids are excited and run towards it as they are super hungry. Ron had even mentioned that he was so hungry that he could eat a corn dog the size of a truck and his brother comments that a regular one WOULD be the size of a truck! Now, I don't know how long this oatmeal cookie had been lying in the grass, but it is a shock that it wasn't SWARMING with ants. However one ant does show up and they run away, scared. This is a baby ant (not sure how they know that) and it's bigger than them! Somehow they tame the ant, name it Anty (how original), and use a piece of the cookie to guide it towards their house until they reach the Lego and decide to camp out in it. They tell Anty to go home, but the ant has bonded with them, especially Ron, who's crying as he tells Anty to "Go on!" and "Get out of here!" He even tells Anty that his mom will never let him keep him and I'm thinking, Uh, it's an ant...she probably would't even know if you had one!

The next morning the kids are awoken to a terrifying site when they are attacked by a...scorpion! Uh, what the hell? Do most people find scorpions in their backyard like that? I have never (thank god!) seen a scorpion in real life in my life. It just seemed very out of place. The scorpion attacks Ron who is still in the Lego while the other kids have managed to escape. These Legos weren't exactly accurate because there are two holes which Ron manages to escape out of one since the other hole is blocked by the arachnid. Oh, and who should come to the rescue? It's Anty! There's a fight between a baby ant and a full grown scorpion. Yeah, it's the most unfair fight ever, but Anty puts up a good fight. Even though the scorpion backs up and scuttles away when the kids start throwing dirt at it, it's not enough to save Anty, who got stung. Yes, Anty died! While watching this, I said outloud, "He died?", then burst into tears. No, I didn't burst into tears, but my voice wavered and I did feel really sad! And I HATE ants! They're so disgusting! I once had an ant infestation in a place where I used to live and I had to buy a whole bunch of Raid, and oh, God, it was so gross. They were everywhere. But this made me feel really bad for the kids who had grown an attachment to this little gross insect. But I guess it's better for the ant to die, than, you know, an actual human being!

RIP Anty
June 22, 1989 - June 23, 1989
The kids are so close to their home now and even see Wayne's face peering down at them as he continues the search for them the next morning, but of course he can't hear them when they're yelling at him. There's still one more obstacle the kids have to get through (at least in the backyard) before they make it out of there. Remember when Nick got a neighbor kid to mow the lawn for him? Well, it just so happens he comes over the next morning and the Szalinski parents hear the sound of a motor when they're trying to fix the shrinking machine and realize the terrible thing that's going on in their backyard. They're screaming at the kid to stop, but he's wearing headphones and can't hear them. We have another near-death experience where the kids are nearly hacked to death by the blade, but it stops just in the nick of time.

The kids call for Quark again and he comes out to rescue him. When they called for him the other day, he tried to go to them, but he was scared off by the Thompson cat. This time, he just trotted by the cat. Go, Quark! The kids grab onto his fur which more looks like shag carpet when
we get a close up of it and Quark brings them into the kitchen. Here is the scene where he finally brings attention to Wayne when Nick falls into a bowl of Cheerios and Wayne unknowingly scoops his youngest child up onto his spoon and is ABOUT TO EAT HIM and Quark, thank God, bites his leg so he drops the spoon and then notices the minuscule child in his Cheerios. Can we just all give Quark some major kudos here? A man was about to EAT HIS CHILD, but Quark saved the day! Yay, Quark! For the kid in the bowl of Cheerios scene, they had the actor swim in a tank filled with water and food thickener to make it look like milk and the Cheerios were tractor tires with foam around them. I love it!

Now that Wayne has found the kids, all he has to do is bring them back to their original size, but first he wants to test his machine on a living organism to make sure it's safe. There's a funny scene where the dog runs out of the room when he hears that. Wayne is about to do it himself, but Mr. Thompson (the Thompson parents are well aware of what's going on and come over when they find out their kids have been found) tells him he'll be the guinea pig since Wayne needs to control the machine. Of course, everything is fine and the machine works on him and the kids are returned to their normal size.

Despite some outdated effects and the fact that the insects look super fake, and the parents didn't really seem that concerned about their kids being super small, I really enjoyed this movie and had a lot of fun watching it and it was a lot of fun to go back and revisit it. And let's give it up for Quark one last time!

Good dog!