Sunday, May 1, 2016

Forgive Me

The Fisher King
Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer
Released: September 27, 1991

Oscar nominations:
Best Actor - Robin Williams (lost to Anthony Hopkins for The Silence of the Lambs)
Best Supporting Actress - Mercedes Ruehl (won)
Best Original Screenplay - Richard LaGravenese (lost to Callie Khouri for Thelma and Louise)
Best Art Direction/Set Direction (lost to Bugsy)
Best Original Score - George Fenton (lost to Alan Menken for Beauty and the Beast)



The only thing I knew about this movie before watching it was that it starred Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams and was directed by Terry Gilliam. Knowing that, I knew I was in for an unusual movie since the (few) Terry Gilliam movies I've seen tend to be on the eccentric side. The Fisher King was no exception; it was a very odd movie. It's not quite all set in fantasy, but it's not all set in reality, either. The movie starts fairly normally. Jeff Bridges plays Jack Lucas, a radio personality who was clearly modeled after Howard Stern. He is very crude and arrogant and tells it like it is, with his catchphrase being, "Forgive me!" Inadvertently, he is responsible for the murder of seven people at an upscale restaurant in Manhattan when he tells a recurring caller that he will never be good enough to be seen with the yuppies who frequent it. When he sees this on the news, he knows it is the same guy who he told this to because they play the transcript of the conversation he had with him on the radio. This sends Jack into a spiral of depression and things haven't gotten any better three years later when the movie takes a time leap.

He has since quit his job at the radio station (I thought maybe he was fired, but I think he just quit as he does get an offer later in the movie to go back to work) and now works at a video rental store called Video Spot! (complete with the exclamation point) with his girlfriend, Ann (Mercedes Ruehl). Ah, remember the video rental places such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video? I still go to a local "video" rental place, but it's all DVDs....I remember when these places only had the video tapes like they do in this movie. The world was a very dark and dour time before DVDs and instant streaming were invented. Jack, still depressed and on the bottle a little too much decides to end it one night when he goes to kill himself by jumping into the river after a drunken binge, but is stopped by two thugs who think he's homeless and aren't happy he's in their territory, so they throw gasoline on him. This is when Jack meets Parry (Robin Williams), a true homeless man who, along with his other homeless friends, attack the two young thugs (and also treat them to an impromptu Broadway show by singing, "I like New York in June, how about you?") It is a very odd scene to say the least. Parry manages to scare the two thugs away and Jack sleeps off his drunken state in the basement of an old building where Parry crashes. It is clear that Parry is mentally unstable and Jack just wants to get out of these. On the way out, the landlord tells him that Parry isn't allowed to have visitors and lets him stay in the basement out of the goodness of his heart because of the tragedy. Jack queries about that and learns that Parry lost his wife in the restaurant where the massacre happened three years ago. He immediately feels guilty and wonders, why, out of all the people in New York, he had to meet a man whose wife he had inadvertently killed.

When Jack returns home, his girlfriends asks where he was all night, thinking he was cheating on her. He tells her pretty much the whole truth, saying he was attacked, but leaves out the part where he was about to commit suicide before he was attacked. Ann tells him that if he's not happy with her, he doesn't have to douse himself with gasoline and beat himself up just to get away from her.

Parry is on a mission to find the Holy Grail, which he believes to be housed in a castle-like residence and wants Jack to help him get it. Feeling guilty and responsible for Parry's life, Jack decides to help him. He also learns that Parry used to be a college professor named Henry Sagan and after his wife was murdered right in front of him (of which we see the flashback of and it is an especially brutal scene), he went into a catatonic state. When he woke up, he became the alter ego of Parry and became obsessed with finding the Holy Grail and with the story of the Fisher King. Jack decides not to only help Parry with this, but with also helping Parry get the attention of a woman he's smitten with (Amanda Plummer). Parry knows everything about her because he follows her every day (which is a little creepy). There's one particularly funny scene that made me laugh out loud when the woman is eating at a Chinese restaurant and Parry takes Jack right up to the window where a couple are dining next to inside and keep looking at the two grown men right by the window looking in and Jack yells at them, "Yes, we're looking through the window!" There's also a scene, which I'm sure has to be the most famous from the movie, where Parry is following her in Grand Central Station and then everybody starts waltzing and the train station becomes a grand ballroom. Jack learns that her name is Lydia and finds out where she works and calls her with the disguise that she's won a free membership at the Video Spot! store. He pretends to have Parry working there so he can meet her when she comes in.

The four main characters end up having dinner at a Chinese restaurant (since Parry knows Lydia likes Chinese food) and this is my favorite scene in the movie. It's a bit of a montage where we see Lydia, who is a complete klutz, drop her food, nearly knock over everyone's food and just has about near disasters as the others are trying to keep her from causing any more damage. Ann confides in Jack that Parry and Lydia are perfect for each other and she is right because Lydia is quite quirky herself, an oddball like Parry. They are both so socially awkward, that they really are perfect for each other.

Parry slips back into his catatonic state after he walks past the restaurant where his wife was murdered and has a horrible flashback. Jack thinks the only thing that will snap him out of this will be to retrieve the Holy Grail that Parry has been obsessed over.

It is a very odd, quirky movie, but of all the (few) Terry Gilliam movies I've seen, I would say it's my favorite movie of his, but like I said, I haven't seen that many movies he's directed because the movies he makes aren't really my taste. Since Mercedes Ruehl won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this, I wanted to watch this for my ten movie review of 1991. Speaking of which, we're almost to the end! So far, I've reviewed:
1. Hook
2. Boyz n the Hood
3. My Girl
4. Backdraft
5. Father of the Bride
6. Sleeping with the Enemy
7. City Slickers
8. Point Break
9. The Fisher King

I have only one left and I think we all know what movie that's going to be! There were a lot of '91 movies I could have chosen, so I will just have to review those movies later; just because I did a special dedication to that year doesn't mean that all movies from 1991 are off the (review) table forever!


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hang Ten, Dude!

Point Break
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Lori Petty, Gary Busey, John C. McGinley
Released: July 12, 1991



I would love to know who pitched this movie and how it got greenlit in the first place. Let's have a group of surfers....and make them bank robbers! That is the plot of this movie, basically. We first meet FBI agent ("I AM AN FBI AGENT!") Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) who, along with his partner, Angelo (Gary Busey, who I'm only familiar with from Celebrity Apprentice), decide that he's going to infiltrate the bank robbing surfers and try to get into their crowd so he can stop them. Since Johnny Utah is the younger, more athletic (he is a former quarterback for the Ohio Buckeyes, after all), overall better looking one, they decide that he should be the one to work his way into the surfers' group. Although it certainly would have been funnier if Gary Busey tried to. 

Since the group of robbers are wearing rubber masks of former presidents (and even call themselves the Ex-Presidents), Johnny Utah isn't exactly sure which group of surfers are the bank robbers since this is L.A. and there are a lot of surfers in L.A. The Ex-Presidents have robbed 27 banks in the last three years, but to keep from becoming caught, they never rob the vault, only grab the cash in the drawers so they can be sure they're out in 90 seconds. Although they wield guns, they have never killed anyone. Angelo figured out they were surfers because one of them mooned the camera with "Thank you" written across his butt and he could tell by the tan line that he was a surfer. They also found traces of sand left at the crime scene.

Johnny Utah attempts his first try at surfing and nearly kills himself. He is saved by a female surfer (Lori Petty) who screams at him for being stupid. After tracking down her license plate number, Johnny Utah finds out her name is Tyler and finds out where she works so he can ask her to give him surfing lessons. Through her, he meets Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) who is the charismatic leader of a group of surfers. He and Tyler are a bit of an item, but not since other women openly flirt with him right in front of Tyler. I didn't really get their romantic dynamic. But surprise, surprise, Tyler will end up falling for Johnny Utah anyway. I did find it peculiar that Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze didn't have the other's roles. I feel like Keanu would have been better as the surfer dude, I mean he's Keanu Reeves for god's sake. But Patrick Swayze does have the  long, blond beach hair, so you gotta make him the surfer! 

Johnny Utah (don't you just love that name?) gets in good with the group and quite likes his new friends. Of course he does since his only other friend is Gary Busey! Speaking of Angelo, he leads Johnny Utah and some other agents on a raid in a house where a group of surfers are gathered. Johnny Utah had a nasty altercation with them earlier when he ran into one while he was surfing and one of the guys punched him. While he was using the beach shower, the same guy and a group of his friends came upon him with the intent to beat him up, but luckily Bodhi showed up and told them to stand down before punching the guy. Johnny Utah and Bodhi followed the car with the fist-happy surfer and thought for sure they had there bank robbers. These guys are not the bank robbers, but rather involved with some serious drugs and were all loaded with guns. There's a big shootout and Johnny Utah gets awfully close to a blade of a lawn mower when one of the bad guy pushes his head towards it. This freaked me out and I had to turn around so I wouldn't see anything too gruesome. But right before he's about to get his pretty face chopped up, Angelo shoots out the motor with his gun. Whew! An undercover cop gets really angry with them because they messed up his assignment because he was this close to finding out where the drugs were coming from. 

Well, if you haven't guessed by now (and, uh, spoilers ahead!), Bodhi and his crew of surfers are the ones pulling the bank jobs.  Johnny Utah begins to have his suspicions about them and while at a stakeout at a nearby bank, he and Angelo nearly miss another heist when Angelo has Johnny Utah go into a nearby sandwich shop and get him two meatball sandwiches because he can't shut up about how great they are and how hungry he is. Seriously, this scene must go on for five minutes! When they see the four masked men, they shoot out their back car window and chase after them. Their car gets stuck as the Ex-Presidents turn into a gas station where they firebomb their car so they can get a new one and Johnny Utah runs all the way there to try to stop them. The three other guys are in the car waiting for Bodhi (in a Ronald Reagan mask) to get in, but instead, he and Johnny Utah have a wild goose chase, running through houses (like actually going inside the house from the front door to the back door). It's a pretty exciting foot chase, I must say. Johnny Utah sprains his ankle after jumping from a long drop and it's clear he can't chase after "Reagan" anymore. We see a close up of the eyes behind the Reagan mask and know it's Bodhi. Well, duh, they wouldn't spend this much time on the chase if it was just some random guy Johnny Utah was running after! 

Now that Bodhi's gang know that Johnny Utah is an FBI agent (He is an FBI AGENT!), the other surfers want to get the hell out of town, but Bodhi has other plans. He blackmails Johnny Utah into joining him on a bank robbery by telling him that someone has Tyler (oh, and she's pretty pissed about how Bodhi lied to her) hostage and the only way he can free her is if he available in the next twelve hours to call it off. So Johnny Utah has his hands tied and is forced to rob the bank with the others. Only since there is no extra Presidents masks (what, they couldn't get a George Bush mask for him? Surely they had those in 1991!), Johnny Utah has to go in sans a mask. This time Bodhi decides he's going to get money from the vault and while doing this, an undercover cop who was one of the customers in the bank at the time, tells the bank security guard to back him up and shoots at one of the surfers...I think it was Brodi's brother who is shot and killed....or maybe it was one of the other surfers who gets shot and killed and Brodi's brother gets shot, but manages to escape...I don't remember! Brodhi kills the undercover cop and somehow manages to escape to an airfield where he has a plane ready to take off for Mexico. Johnny Utah follows him and Angelo is also there and there's a big shoot out. Johnny Utah doesn't want Angelo to kill Brodhi because he needs him alive so he can tell him where Tyler is. Angelo gets shot by one of the other surfers and Gary Busey and his teeth are hamming up that death scene so much that I was laughing...probably not a good thing to laugh over a death scene! But it was hilarious.

Johnny Utah ends up on the plane with Bodhi, Bodhi's bleeding brother, and the pilot. Johnny Utah begs for Bodhi to call off the kidnapping of Tyler and to let her go before he jumps out of the plane just in case something happens, but Bodhi ignores him and jumps out after he's sent his brother. Since Johnny Utah is now a skydiving expert since he's already skydived once before in his life (in an earlier scene), he jumps out of the plane without a parachute and tackles Bodhi in the air, puts a gun to his head and tells him to open the parachute, but Bodhi refuses to open it, saying Johnny Utah needs to open it and in order to do so, he has to drop the gun. Guess who ends up opening it? Yep, Johnny Utah has to sacrifice his gun in order to save their lives. So Bodhi gets away with the money (even though his brother is now dead) and Tyler is safe. We fast forward a year later where FBI agent Johnny Utah has finally found Bodhi in Australia where he's surrounded by cops. There's a huge storm and the ocean has 50 foot waves and Bodhi begs him to let him surf one last time because he was going on about how he wanted to surf that one perfect wave, so Johnny Utah lets him go and we see Bodhi paddle out in the death wave and I guess it's up to interpretation what happened to him, but I'm guessing he probably drowned.

This movie has a lot of fun action, but for the most part, I didn't understand why this movie even exists. Did you know there was a Point Break remake that came out just last year? I mean, was the world really clamoring for a Point Break remake? It does have some interesting history as it was directed by Kathryn Bigelow who would become the first female to win the Best Directing Oscar for The Hurt Locker and later go on to direct Zero Dark Theory. I feel for a surfing movie there wasn't enough surfing, but I guess if I always wanted to watch a surfing movie, I could watch Blue Crush. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I Should've Been a Cowboy

City Slickers
Director: Ron Underwood
Cast: Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby, Jack Palance, Patricia Wettig, Helen Slater
Released: June 7, 1991

Oscar nominations:
Best Supporting Actor - Jack Palance (won)


Spoilers for a 25 year old movie! I don't like to take any chances. 

I'm more than halfway done with my 1991 reviews! I figured since this won an Oscar in an acting category, I should rewatch and review it. I have to be honest: as with Father of the Bride, this movie wasn't as good when I saw it the first time as a kid. I am a little surprised that Jack Palance won the Oscar because comedies hardly ever win Oscars for anything. Although, Hollywood loves to give veteran actors the Oscars, especially in the Supporting category. He was nominated for Oscars two times before this, both in the '50s. While I remembered that Curly, the character Palance plays, dies, I forgot that he died with at least an hour of the movie left and he really doesn't show up until half an hour into the movie so we're lucky if we have at least 30 minutes of the best character in the movie. And that's what Curly is: the best character in the movie. I do remember Jack Palance came back in City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly's Gold to play the twin brother of Curly. I haven't seen that movie in a very long time and I can't imagine I would like it if I wasn't too keen on the original! 

Well, hi there, lil Jake Gyllenhaal!
The movie is about a man named Mitch (Billy Crystal) who just turned 39 and is having a mid-life crisis. He works in radio advertising where he sells time to different companies so they can promote their products on the air. He realizes just how lame his job and life are when he's invited to speak about his job at his son's school and goes on a tirade about how these kids should be grateful for what they have because it's just going to get worse. He then proceeds to describe for them what their next seven decades of life will be like. With each passing decade, everything goes downhill. Playing his son is Jake Gyllenhaal in his film debut. He must have been nine or ten when he filmed this. Interesting his first movie would feature cowboys and horses when he would go on to be in Brokeback Mountain more than a decade later....although he does not partake in any of the roping and riding in this movie. 

At his birthday party (which he wants to cancel, but his wife (Patricia Wettig) insists he have it), Mitch's two friends announce that their gift to him is a two week cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado. His friends are having their own mid-life crises (is that the right plural form of crisis? IDK!) Phil (Daniel Stern) is married to a woman he clearly does not care for and the feeling is mutual...don't ask me why these two people are married if they can't stand each other! She is very controlling of him and has an icy personality. His father in law is a bully and expects him to help him at the grocery store he owns. Ed (Bruno Kirby) has never been able to settle down and get married and seems the older he gets, the younger his girlfriends get. He has recently married a beautiful model, so I'm not understanding how he's having a midlife crisis! Some people are never happy. During the party, a 20 year old who works at the grocery store with Phil arrives to tell him that she's "late" and this is how Phil's wife finds out he's having an affair. I have no idea how the 20 year old found out where Phil was that night and even if she did know, why would she announced that to him in a roomful of people, including his wife? I know it's for the benefit of the movie, but it does not make any sense. This is the best thing that could have happened for Phil because his wife divorces him and he's fired from the job he hates. At first, Mitch wasn't thrilled about the cattle drive and told the others he couldn't go because he promised he would go with his wife to Florida to visit her parents, but she tells him to go, that she doesn't want to happen to them what happened with Phil and his ex-wife. 

So the three guys head out to New Mexico where they meet the other people who have also signed up for this adventure: an African-American father and son who are dentists, two Jewish brothers who have their own ice cream line (think Ben and Jerry's), and an attractive woman whose traveling partner bailed on her at the last minute and she's having second thoughts about whether she should stay and everyone implores her to. Before leaving for Colorado they are given riding lessons and learn how to rope calfs. Mitch is the only one who can't seem to, ahem, learn the ropes, if you'll excuse my bad bun. The married couple who own the ranch are not riding with them, instead they tell everyone that they'll see them in Colorado...I guess they got a head start in their car? However, they
decide to leave all these "city slickers" with two unruly cowboys who like to get drunk and randomly shoot their guns at empty beer bottles. We first see how slimy they are when they're trying to "help" Bonnie, the sole attractive woman with her roping skills and pretty much implying that she won't be able to do it because she's a woman. Mitch goes over to try to help her, but doesn't have much luck, because, let's face it, Billy Crystal isn't exactly imposing. Instead, he gets showed up by Curly, who may be nearly forty years older than him, but he is a head taller and a lot more imposing for an old man! He throws a very long knife (Crocodile Dundee would be proud of it!) at one of the guys, nearly missing his groin and tells him they better behave. Needless to say, everyone is scared of Curly.

Curly doesn't have much time for Mitch, which I don't blame him, because on the first morning of their cattle drive to Colorado, he decides he's going to make coffee with an electric coffee mixer and ends up scaring all the cattle and they run away and trample over the camp. I would be pretty angry too! Curly wants Mitch to go with him to help him round up the cattle and Mitch and his friends are sure that Curly is going to kill him. There was a funny line where Phil says if Mitch doesn't come back, then he's going after Mitch's wife. Of course Curly does not kill anyone and over a few days he and Mitch bond with Curly telling Mitch he needs to find that "one thing" that will make him happy and he's the one who needs to figure out what that one thing is. 

In one scene, Mitch has to help Curly deliver a calf and Curly wants Mitch to reach "inside" and pull out the calf while he holds the mother down. I remember this scene because they actually show the calf coming out and it was pretty graphic when I was a kid watching this! After the calf gets cleaned up, he is very cute and Mitch names him Norman. However, the mother cow is dying and Curly shoots him, thus Mitch adopting the calf and feeding him. Not long after, Curly dies while sitting up in some rocks. Mitch thinks he's just "sleeping" while keeping an eye open to watch the cattle, but no, he is indeed dead. I don't know what the husband and wife team were thinking sending them out with an eighty year old trail supervisor and two drunk and misogynist cowboys? Because now with Curly out of the picture, the two unruly cowboys can go back to being jackasses and they get drunk one night and start shooting off their guns. After they take Norman with a gun (and this scene made me so nervous as a kid!), Mitch goes out to try to talk to them. However, it is Phil, who hates bullies because of his former father in law and ends up with one of the guns and threatens them. Nobody - humans or animals - were hurt in this little altercation. They finish the rest of the cattle drive and Mitch, Phil, and Ed all go home changed men. Phil even has a glimmer of a romantic start with Bonnie. Mitch brings Norman back with him after hearing the cattle they had all herded were going to be slaughtered and sold as steaks. He plans to put Norman in a petting zoo. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cold Hearted Snake

Sleeping With the Enemy
Director: Joseph Ruben
Cast: Julia Roberts, Patrick Bergin, Kevin Anderson
Released: February 8, 1991

 
Sleeping With the Enemy is similar to Double Jeopardy and Enough where a young woman is married to a guy who turns out to be a monster. This movie probably has more in common with Enough since Ashley Judd's husband never beat her in Double Jeopardy....he only cheated her and framed her for his "death". You know, "only"! Unlike in Enough, where we get the five minute "courtship" between J-Lo and her soon-to-be abusive husband before they get married, Laura (Julia Roberts) and Martin (Patrick Bergin) are already married and live in a HUGE house on Cape Cod. Also married to Martin is Julia Robert's hair which is a character all on its own. Seriously, her hair should have had second billing! Even though I had never seen this movie before, I knew of it and I knew what was going to happen so I figured she has such long hair because she's going to cut it...which she does, but it's still really long after she cuts it, but it is ridiculously long in the beginning. I don't know how she could stand it, especially living on the beach where the wind is whipping your hair every which way. That would drive me crazy!! And she only wears it braided in one scene. Anyway, why am I complaining about her hair style when I should be complaining about the man she decided to marry! Oh my God, this guy is a complete jackass! Yes, he beats her which is horrible, but even if he never laid a finger on her, I would still think he's a complete douche. He has this really weird OCD complex where EVERYTHING has to be just right. He makes a big show of "reminding" Laura that the three hand towels on the bathroom towel rack need to be in just the right order and placed just the right way. The cans and boxes of food in the kitchen pantry all need to be alphabetized and facing the front and stacked neatly. Everything has to be PERFECT at all times or else Laura will get a beating. And if Martin gets an inkling that Laura has been talking to the handsome doctor with the sailboat, then she will get a major beat down, only for him to "apologize" the next day with a bouquet of roses. 

Now what would possess a woman to stay with a man like this or get married to him in the first place? Laura does explain this to the audience through a woman on the bus when she finally does make her escape. She says before they were married, Martin was very sweet and kind to her and this violent behavior didn't happen until after they were married. And I guess by that point it was too late to leave him because he pretty much had her under lock and key and never let her leave unless it was the three times a week when she was volunteering at the library. She does ask him if she can work there full time and he goes, "Do you not love your house? Why would you want to be working all the time?"

You're probably wondering how she made her escape if he was always watching her. Well, I'll tell you. They go sailing with the handsome doctor one night (which Martin seems okay with even though he (wrongly) thinks his wife is having an affair with him, but whatever). Laura never goes on boats because she has a fear of water because she almost drowned as a child. Uh...she sure is living in a bad place, then! But Martin thinks this will be good for her and help her overcome her fear. On the night they go sailing, a big storm hits and Martin and the doctor have to try to get the boat in order. This takes a few minutes and when Martin looks back to where his wife was sitting, she is GONE! He screams her name and shines a flashlight, trying to find her. But what he doesn't know is that instead of working at the library, Laura has been using that time to take swim lessons at the YMCA in order to plan her escape. Now I don't know how she knew the doctor would take them out on his boat. Supposedly there's a fan theory out there that says she and the doctor had planned this. The doctor is only in a couple scenes in the movie and we never see him and Laura interact. I know this movie is based on a book so maybe there's more to the story there. Or maybe it was just coincidental and this was the perfect opportunity for Laura to make her escape. She hides behind a buoy while Martin is shining his flashlight and the only thing he finds is her lifejacket.

There is a HILARIOUS scene when Martin gets back home and he shatters one of the glass windows of his massive home with a statue, steps outside and yells, "LAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" I was cracking up! It was so overdramatic. And he literally screams it like that too.

So Laura returns to the house in the middle of the night because she already had a stash of cash and a packed suitcase. I wasn't sure if Martin was in the house at the time because even though it's a huge house, it seems really dumb to return. I thought for sure he was going to wake up and she was just going to narrowly escape, but we never see him. She even takes off her wedding ring and flushes it down the toilet. I was screaming at my TV, "What are you doing?!?" First of all, if he's in the house, he's surely going to hear the toilet flush! Second of all, why not thrown the ring into the ocean...duh! I thought for sure this was how Martin finds out his wife is still alive. He will find the ring later, but it's not how he finds out. Luckily, Laura manages to escape without any problems and gets on a bus bound to Iowa where she settles into her new life. There, she rents a house and gets a job at the library. Oh and she also visits her mother in an assisted living residence even though she told Martin her mother was dead. I didn't really get that part. 

Martin discovers his wife isn't really dead when he gets a call from her swim coach from the Y expressing her condolence and he's like, "What are you talking about? Laura never took swim lessons. She didn't know how to swim!" And the woman says, "Your wife was into gymnastics too, right? That's how she said she got all those bruises." Well, since Martin was always beating on her, he knew she had a lot of bruises and that indeed was his wife. And right after the scene he discovers the ring in the toilet. He then goes on a wild goose chase to try to track Laura down and this is when he discovers her mother is still alive.

Meanwhile, Laura has changed her name to Sarah and meets her next door neighbor, Ben (Kevin Anderson) who comes off as a little creepy when he accuses her of stealing the apples from his apple tree, but then says if she makes an apple pie she can bring it over tomorrow night when he makes pot roast. I thought it was a little too soon for Laura to go into a relationship (and so did Laura, but he was a little forceful), but I guess it was a good thing he was in her life as I'll get to that later. Laura is a little standoffish around him at first which makes TOTAL sense as she just got out of a horrible, abusive relationship, but then she starts to warm up around him. Ben is a drama teacher at a local college and takes her to auditorium one evening and there's a montage of her trying on different hats set to "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Runaround Sue". It is the strangest thing to have this cute little montage in the middle of a psychological thriller. It's like they had to have a Pretty Woman-esque montage since they had Julia Roberts and this was her first big role after the movie. 

Ben gives Laura a disguise so she can visit her mother. He turns her into a man by giving her a fake mustache and a man's wig. However, her "man's voice" is the worst excuse I've ever heard. She didn't even try to attempt to deepen her voice. But she is able to visit her mother without any questions and tells her mother it's her. I should mention that her mother is blind. It was really funny when she's feeling her daughter's face and her fingers run over the fake mustache and she gets this really concerned look on her face and Laura has to explain she's in disguise. While she's visiting her mother, Martin is there at the exact same time and there are close moments when they almost run into each other, but they never do. At one point, Laura is using the water fountain and Martin is right behind her. The fountain isn't working right so Laura has to hit it a few times so when Martin goes to use it, it hits him right in the eye. 

He has asked the receptionist to let him know if a young woman visits Chloe (Laura's mom) because he wants to "surprise" her and right after Laura leaves in her disguise, the receptionist tells him that a woman hasn't visited Chloe, but a young man just did and he goes tearing after her. Um, I'm pretty sure they're not allowed to divulge that information. I can't remember if this was before or after he almost smothered Chloe with a pillow when he was pretending to be a police officer and asking her questions, saying how her daughter was in trouble and he needed to know where Laura was. She tells him the info he needs and he almost kills her, but luckily the nurse comes in with her pills, so he's just acting like he's fluffing her pillow and puts it back behind her head. 

So far by this point, the movie isn't too scary. The only time I felt any real suspense is when she went back to the house to get her clothes and money because I was for sure she was going to be found out. But the next scene when she goes home after Martin has discovered her freaked me out! They were using all the scare tactics in the world. I kept going, "OMG! OMG! OMG!" First of all, she goes to take a bath and she notices that all her hand towels are perfectly lined up. We had seen a scene earlier in her new house where she at first makes her hand towels look neat, then she purposely messes them up as well as just throw her cans of food into her pantry. So had she hung up her hand towels neatly out of habit....or was there somebody in her house?? We then get a lot of fake out jump scenes where she sees her closet door is open and she creeps over to check it out, but right before she does the fire alarm goes off because she forgot about her toast...dumbass! She then checks her pantry....it is the scariest scene involving a pantry I have ever seen! She opens it up....and it's all messed up just like she initially had it. Whew! But later....she opens the pantry again and it's ALL ORGANIZED!!! Plus her kitchen hand towels are orderly too. I was for sure Martin was going to sneak up on her, but she just turns around and he's there, but it wasn't a scare jump. He has a gun and is about to use it when there's a knock at the door. Remember when I said it was a good thing Ben was in her life? Well, at this moment he pretty much saved her life. Martin tells Laura to make him go away and hides behind the door with the gun pointed at her while Laura opens the door with the chain still attached and says it's not a good time for him to come over. It is SOOOOO obvious that she's in danger and I thought for sure he was going to call the police, but instead after the door closes, he breaks it down and attacks Martin who proceeds to knock him out and is going to shoot him, but Laura manages to get the gun away from him. There's a struggle, but Laura ends up with the gun and is pointing it at him and calls the police telling them she just shot an intruder, then shoots her husband AT LEAST three times and then falls into a heap beside his body, dropping the gun right by him. But guess what? He's not dead yet! He has just enough life left in him for him to grab the gun and point it at her and shoot her. Luckily she used all the bullets and there was none left. Everyone knows that after you kill (or "kill" a bad guy), you never put your weapon by them! Cuz chances are they're not quite dead yet! But then he finally dies. And she can finally live her life with Ben. Let's hope he's not a psycho! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Going to the Chapel

Father of the Bride
Director: Charles Shyer
Cast: Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Martin Short, Kimberly Williams, George Newbern, Kieran Culkin, BD Wong
Released: December 20, 1991

I remember seeing this in the theater and liking it well enough, but after watching it again recently, I found it to be very saccharine. I also didn't understand why the father, George Banks (Steve Martin) was freaking out so much that his daughter was getting married. I can understand he thinks it's pretty soon since she announces she met someone when she was living abroad in Italy and they've only met six months ago, but he seems to be having a hard time of letting his "little girl" go. I feel like most fathers would be happy if their daughters met someone they loved and it would be an added bonus if the guy was financially stable (and this guy was more than enough financially stable!) 

So it's funny that when I first saw this I had no idea who Diane Keaton was (I was barely eleven, how was I suppose to know who she was?!) and when I saw that her name was behind Steve Martin's (I DID know who he was!) in all the promotional posters, I just assumed she was the actress playing the bride. Makes sense to me: the movie is called Father of the Bride, therefore the two title characters must be the two first billed actors! I don't know how long it took for me to realize my mistake. Of course, Diane Keaton plays Nina, the wife to George. The bride, Annie, is played by Kimberly Williams (now Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and this was her first movie role at the age of twenty. I mean, that's pretty cool to act with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton in your first movie. 

After Annie announces she's getting married to a man she met when she was in Italy, her mother is happy for her, but her father immediately starts asking her questions such as what does he do (he's a computer programmer who's very good at his job and very rich), how they met, how long they've known each other, etc. I can understand where the guy is coming from. It would be one thing if Annie came home and said she met a really great guy and they're dating and things are getting serious, but she comes home and drops the bombshell that she's getting MARRIED! So I can understand why he was a little concerned, but even after meeting Annie's fiance, Brian (George Newbern) and seeing he's a stand up guy and cares for Annie, George is still resigned about his daughter getting married. 

Before and after:
Steve Martin Short
The entire movie is about planning the wedding and George's reluctance about it. I can't really blame him when he learns how much this thing is going to cost. Even though the Banks live in a nice house (although it's not a huge mansion like the new in-laws live in!) and drives a super nice car, he acts like they are poor and can't pay for the wedding. However, this wedding seems like it's going to drain them of their life savings so he goes about making some cut backs, such as cutting the original 500 people invited to the wedding to no more than 150. Which makes sense to me...who needs 500 people at their wedding? Who even knows 500 people? The Banks have the reception at their house and the wedding planner, Frank (Fraaaanc) and his assistant (played by Martin Short and BD Wong) insist on the most ridiculous things. They're going to build a tulip garden and a pond for swans; they start sawing away the ceiling in the house to make room for more light. I would most certainly not want people coming into my house and start messing around in it, just hacking away at the structure! George does not understand why the cake (pronounced a totally different way by Franc!) has to be $1200. And I agree. I love weddings; I've been to a few amazing ones in my life, but I don't understand why people spend a fortune just for one day! It's completely ridiculous! 

Speaking of ridiculous things, there's a scene where George and Annie go to meet Brian's parents (without Annie and Brian there, which I thought was really weird) and they live in Beverly Hills in the biggest mansion on the block. When George uses the bathroom, he sneaks into an office and starts looking at a checkbook sitting on a desk, only to find he's trapped because one of the three dobermans who live there is growling at him and he has to crawl out the window and Nina is the only one who sees him when he's climbing down, so she has to distract Brian's parents. Then somehow, George still has the checkbook in his hand (I don't know why he didn't leave it on the desk!) and it somehow gets thrown into the pool and he has to try to reach for it and while he's doing that, two dogs from each side of him attack him and he falls into the water. It's completely ridiculous and we never hear the repercussion of what happened! The only thing we hear about it is when Annie and Brian have had a fight and she tells her father that Brian told her this crazy story about what happened and of course its' all true. Annie seems a little high strung because she was about to end her engagement with Brian just because he bought her a blender for their kitchen. She thought it meant he wanted her to be his little housewife and she's all about being an independent woman, but as Brian explained to George, he knew Annie liked a banana smoothie and just wanted to buy her a blender just in case she ever wanted to make one. I mean, if you were willing to end your engagement over THAT, there's no way that couple is going to last! But of course, George talks to Annie and she forgives Brian and the wedding is still on. Ha, if I were her dad, I would be like, You're damn sure the wedding is still on....do you know how much I've already spent and all the construction work they've done on the house? 

The wedding at the church is very nice and one of the last moments George shares with his daughter when he walks her down the aisle because at the reception at the Banks' he can't seem to have a chance to talk to her. At the reception, their house is crowded with people and for some reason when they're about to eat, he has to stand in line...you think they would let him go to the front of the line since he's the freaking father of the bride! His wife seemed to be able to get her food pretty fast. Then, since there are so many people, the cops come to tell them they need to have all these cars removed from the premise because they don't have a permit to double and triple park all these cars on the street. You would think they would have realized this BEFORE the day of the reception and gotten on that. So George gets his young son, Matty (Kieran Culkin) and his little friend to move all the cars onto lawns. 

It's announced Annie is about to throw her bouquet before and and her new husband are to leave for their honeymoon. George tries taking a short cut, but he just misses her by moments. She does, however, call him from the airport...from a pay phone, haha, oh, 1991! She calls to tell him thank you and that she loves him. Aww, how sweet, but seriously, she couldn't find him at the wedding to say these things? 

This movie has some humorous moment and some sweet moment (like when George plays basketball one on one with Annie while the song "My Girl" is playing), but overall, I found it a little flat. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

We Didn't Start the Fire

Backdraft 
Director: Ron Howard 
Cast: Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert DeNiro, Donald Sutherland, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rebecca DeMornay, Scott Glenn, J.T. Walsh
Released: May 24, 1991

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound (lost to Terminator 2)
Best Sound Effects Editing (lost to Terminator 2)
Best Visual Effects (lost to Terminator 2


Backdraft is probably the most famous movie that features firefighters. Well, it's the only one I can think of besides Ladder 49.  I have seen it before, but it's probably been ten or fifteen years. It's about two brothers who followed in their father's footsteps as a firefighter, but they don't get along. They are Stephen (Kurt Russell) and younger brother, Brian (William Baldwin). I knew a Baldwin was in this, but for the longest time I thought it was Stephen Baldwin (there is a Stephen Baldwin, right?) because I kept hearing the name "Stephen" in the movie and just associated that name with the Baldwin in the movie, but then I looked it up to double check and it's William. Seriously, I can't tell those Baldwins apart if you lined them up...the only one I really know is Alec. Fun fact: Brad Pitt was up for the role of Brian.

The movie starts out "twenty" years ago in 1971 when Stephen and Brian are kids and their dad is about to be a hero and put out another fire. He manages to save a little girl from the fire, but something terrible happens when he goes back in and there's an explosion and he dies. This all happens in front of little Brian's eyes who was there when it happened. I was so confused because the dad was played by Russell and he died within the first five minutes of the movie. I'm thinking, Uh, why did they bill Kurt Russell first when he's only in the movie for five minutes? But he also plays Stephen as a grown up so he is in the movie for more than five minutes. But I just thought that was weird. I'm sure there are examples where the same actor played a parent in the past, then played one of the grown up children in the future.

Stephen has no fear and will take on a fire head on and doesn't always listen to rules and protocol. One of the most famous images from this movie is the one I posted above when he goes into a burning building before they've got the hose ready. He knows there's a child in there and he knows there's no time for the hose to be set up. He is hailed a hero, but often chided for his reckless behavior. Stephen is separated from his wife, Helen (Rebecca De Mornay) who he still has feelings for, but she is fearful of his life. They have a young son.

Brian was out of the firefighting game for awhile, but has come back to it. On his first big fire, Stephen tells him to stay at his side, but during the fire, Brian sees a human and ends up leaving his brother's side to rescue a life. Only it turns out the life he "saved" was a mannequin. There were a few in the building that was on fire, so it must have been an old department store. When he comes out with the human form wrapped in a blanket, the photographers take photos, thinking it's a real person. His picture is in the paper and he is hailed as a hero even though he knows the whole thing is a fraud.

Once grown up and firefighters in Chicago, they must find out who is behind a series of malicious fires being set and killing people. DeNiro plays the veteran firefighter and arson investigator who is on the case. I didn't really like this plot line of the story. We already have a movie about firefighters; why do we need to add a murder mystery to it?

It must be a requisite for movies with firefighters in them to play the song "Heat Wave." Because that song was also played in Frequency where Dennis Quaid played a firefighter.

The fire scenes were very impressive. I have strong respect for firefighters who go into burning buildings to save people. I could never do that! I was a little confused that Stephen could go into burning building without a mask...seemed kind of dangerous, but maybe they wanted the audience to be able to see his face. Apparently, one of the cameramen wore a flame-retardant suit and went into the fire to actually shoot from a firefighter's POV. The film is a little overheated (pun intended!) with its plot, but overall has a nostalgic feel to it...even though I never saw it in theaters, I do remember it when was released. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Heaven Couldn't Wait For You

My Girl
Director: Howard Zieff
Cast: Anna Chlumsky, Macaulay Culkin, Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, Griffin Dunne
Released: November 27, 1991
Viewed in theaters: November 28, 1991



SPOILER ALERT!!!  (I don't know why I need this because I feel like everybody knows what happens...but just in cases!) 

OMG, you guys, I love this movie so much!! This was my favorite movie as a kid, and, no joke, I probably watched it AT LEAST 30 times within two years of its release date (and I only saw it twice in the theater). Needless to say, I did own the VHS (hehe....that's a video tape for those of you who don't know...and if you don't know what a video tape is, go Google it!) Surprisingly, I don't own it on DVD. I don't know what happened to the VHS copy I had....probably wore it out since I watched it so many times! The last time I saw it was nine years ago so it's been awhile but of course I remembered everything since this movie is pretty much embedded in my brain. As I watched the movie, small details came back to me such as the grandmother randomly bursting into song or the hippie couple in the poetry class. 

I think I related to this movie because I was the same age as Vada (Anna Chlumsky), the main character. We probably only had one thing in common (we both liked to write) as I would never randomly just go to the doctor like she always did. Since she grew up in a funeral parlor and her dad, Harry (Dan Aykroyd), is an undertaker, Vada is obsessed with death and dying. She always thinks something is wrong with her and that she must be dying hence all the trips to the doctor's office (to which she even questions him if all his medical certificates are even legit.) 

I read the film's novelization before I saw the movie so I knew what would happen to Thomas J (Macaulay Culkin), Vada's best (and only) friend. But I wonder if I hadn't already known, if I would have picked up on it because there are so many clues! First of all, the whole girl's life is surrounded by death since her dad is an undertaker and her house always has a dead body in it whether it's in the basement getting embalmed (so creepy...I would freak out too if I got locked in that basement!) or if it's in the funeral parlor on display for a service. Then we get that scene where a small coffin is coming through the house and she asks her dad if it's for a child and he says, Of course not, that it's for someone who was really short. Then we get that scene of her and Thomas J in the garage when they come across a photo of her deceased mother and heaven is brought up and Thomas J asks her what she thinks heaven is like and and she explains to him this wonderful place to which he replies, "That doesn't sound so bad." Looking back, it's pretty obvious she's going to lose someone close to her. 

The film takes place during the summer of 1972. I'm not sure if there was any significant reason why that year was chosen. I had no idea it took place in the '70s when I first saw it, I had just assumed it took place in "present day" 1991 so I was a little indignant when I found that out because how can I relate to kids growing up in the '70s? As much as I would have loved to see it take place in '91, the film would be significantly different as there are little touches that add to the decade it's set in. Obviously, the soundtrack for one thing. Also, her dad watches All in the Family and there are references to The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family. And the wardrobe is very '70s. The one character who wears the most '70s style clothing is Shelly (Jamie Lee Curtis), the makeup artist who gets a job at the funeral parlor (only she thinks it's a beauty parlor when she interviews for the job and is a little skeeved out when she realizes her mistake, but takes the job anyway). She's always wearing something crazy like bell bottoms or denim jumpsuits with lots of loud, ugly colors that you can only find in the '70s. 

Vada is not having a very good summer (and it's about to get a lot worse!) After Shelly starts working at the funeral parlor, her dad begins to date her. Vada does not like this because she is no longer getting all of her dad's attention and because she does not want a replacement for her mother who
died when she was a baby. But having another female in the house turns out to be good for Vada who is usually around males all the time because Shelly teachers her to put on makeup (she's always wearing a ton herself) and when Vada finds herself "hemorrhaging" one day, she starts to freak out because she thinks she's dying (of course!) and Shelly has to explain to her the joys of being a preteen girl. (Was Vada sick that day in health class when they separate the boys and girls and have a talk with each group?) Shelly is also the one to be worried about Vada's "sicknesses" and tells Harry she's concerned about her, but he thinks it's just a phase she's going through.

Harry and Shelly get engaged, but we don't see the proposal onscreen, instead we find out the same way as Vada: when they are at a carnival and Vada wins a fish in a ring toss and while Shelly is holding the bag with the fish in it, Vada notices the diamond ring on her finger and asks Shelly where she got it with adding hopefully if she won it. (Um, I don't think so!) That's when her dad tells her they have something to tell her and Vada is very upset by this news. She decides to run away and after spending hours in a tree, she decides to go home and as she hops down, the camera pans to show that she was in a tree in her own yard the whole time!

Vada steals money from the secret stash Shelly keeps in her trailer. But this is before Vada finds out her dad is dating Shelly so itst not out of spite, but rather out of desperation as she needs $35 to pay for a writing class that her teacher, Mr. Bixler (Griffin Dunne), who she has the hots for, is teaching over the summer. I love the scene when she gets out her class photo where she's looking adoringly at her teacher and starts singing "Wedding Bell Blues". She asked her dad for the money but he refused to give it to her because she's always starting different hobbies, but never sees any of them through. When you put the DVD in, there's a journal on the home screen where you can select to play movie or go to a scene and this confused me so much because for the life of me I couldn't remember Vada keeping a journal so I figured I just must have forgotten about it (blasphemy, I know!) but there is no journal! That didn't make any sense! She does have a notepad she takes to the writing class so that would have made more sense. A mood ring or a bee hive would have made more sense!

Her first day at the writing class is so funny because she's this young kid in a class full of grow ups who are writing about very adult things. I love it when after that guy reads his poem about "You did not smell my rose, you did not see my painting", etc., that one woman goes, "Maybe she was out of town." And I love the awkward look on Vada's face when that blonde hippie woman is reading a poem about spending a night with her boyfriend, who's also in the class. "I can't fight it, there's no point. I wake up and light a joint." And after that Vada reads her cute little poem about ice cream. And I love the scene where they're all in a circle holding hands, trying to feel each other's "auras" and the one guy gets jealous when his girlfriend is having a moment with another guy.

BFFs
The mean girls in Vada's neighborhood make fun of her for being with the dorky Thomas J and when the nice, new girl invites her to her dad's movie theater, they snide her and tell her not to invite Vada or she'll have to bring her boyfriend. I never understood why Vada was such a recluse for being friends with him. I mean, yeah, he was a bit of a pansy because he was always worried about getting in trouble with his parents (like that night of the bingo game when Vada wants him to come with her and he says he'll get in trouble if he's out by himself after dark) and he was allergic to everything (like chocolate....and bees) and he was accused of being a pacifist, but he didn't seem that bad! He seemed a little naive and dumb at times (like when Vada decides to run away to Hollywood to live with The Brady Bunch and he wants to live with them too and she tells him they already have enough kids so he'll have to live with the Partridge family and he's like, "Ooh, really?") and he definitely lets Vada push him around (her threatening  to punch him if he doesn't close her eyes before they kiss), but I never understood why the other kids were always so mean to him. Even Vada is pretty horrible to him too and she's suppose to be his best friend. She is definitely the alpha of that relationship. Don't get me wrong, she is very fond of him, but she can be a bully towards him. They never explain how long they've been friends or why they're friends as they're so different, which I thought they did, but I guess I remembered wrong. (Maybe that was from the book?)

Macaulay, no!!!
My Girl is the first movie I remember completely bawling my eyes out at. Like, I was a total wreck when I first saw it (and I was prepared for what was going to happen, but it will still so sad!) I have since cried at countless other movies, but this was the first one where I remembered having to brush the tears out of my eyes so I could see and tears were streaming down my cheeks one after the other. This movie is very traumatizing! After watching it the other night for, oh, I don't know, the 50th time perhaps, I thought of a way the filmmaker could have made the death scene even more effective. So we already know the scene with the bee hive and the missing mood ring has already been established when Vada and Thomas J are playing with their new water syringes and Thomas J starts knocking down the bee hive because he wants one (um...I guess he didn't know he was allergic to bees?) and Vada notices her mood ring is gone so they start looking for it until Thomas J looks up and sees the swarm of angry bees and yells for them to "run for their lives" (no kidding, kid!) Then several scenes later we see that scene where Thomas J goes back to the woods to look for Vada's ring and he finds it, but not before all the bees start attacking him and there's an ominous slow-mo shot of his glasses falling off.  So what I would have done is take that scene out completely as well as the next scene where a police officer comes to the house to speak to Harry. (I never did understand why the police came to their house...wouldn't they have gone to Thomas J's parents' house? Why did they need to tell the undertaker?) So by this point you know something serious has happened. I think it would have been way more effective if the audience was finding out exactly the same time as Vada when her dad tells her. Just imagine if it had went from the scene where Thomas J asks Vada if she'll think of him if she doesn't marry Mr. Bixler then to the scene where her dad comes into her room to talk to her. Can you imagine the gut punch that would have? Let's make this sad movie even more sad! When her dad comes in, you can tell he's very upset and he's acting weird because he asks if the fish she's feeding is the same one she won at the carnival. Well, duh. We already know from the two previous scenes we saw that something horrible happened to Thomas J and we are pretty much confirmed his death by the way her dad is acting, but just imagine if we didn't have those scenes. We would have no idea why her dad was acting this way. That scene is already so sad the way it is, but just imagine if we were getting the devastating news the same time as Vada!


Usually from this scene until the end of the movie, the tears are streaming down my face nonstop but whenever I watch it, there's always just some little moment that makes me sob even more. The first time I saw it, it was his parents' expression at his funeral after Vada has come down and starts yelling for someone to put on his glasses that really got me. This time it was when Judy, the nice new girl, comes to the door and tells Shelly she wants to tell Vada she's really sorry about what happened to Thomas J. I'm sitting home on my couch, just crying and thinking, Oh, what a sweet girl! :::sob!::::
Oh! And let's not forget the scene where Thomas J's mother returns Vada's mood ring to her and Vada tells her that her son will be okay because her mother will take care of him. I might just start crying right now! Oh, and the poem about the weeping willow, of course. Gets me everytime. This movie is so sad, you guys!!! But I love it so much! 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Increase the Peace

Boyz n the Hood
Director: John Singleton
Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Angela Basset, Nia Long, Regina King
Released: July 12, 1991


Oscar nominations:

Best Director - John Singleton (lost to Jonathan Demme for Silence of the Lambs)
Best Original Screenplay - John Singleton (lost to Callie Khouri for Thelma and Louise)

Spoiler alert....there are characters who get killed in this movie that heavily features gangs!

I first saw this movie in 2009, months before I started this blog so it had just missed the cut off date for me to review it after seeing it the first time, but I figured now would be the perfect time since I consider it a culturally relevant film from 1991. At 24, John Singleton was the youngest director ever to get a nomination for Best Director. That's really young and this was not only first movie he directed (well, duh, he was only 23 when he directed it!), but it was the first thing he directed, period. I had always just assumed he did music video work, but IMDd lists nothing previous to Boyz n the Hood. 

I was curious to see other young directors (as in under 30) who have also been nominated for directing Oscars. Alright, so after doing some research on Wiki, I'm back with some cool facts! Nobody in their twenties has ever WON a Best Director Oscar. The youngest winner was 32 years old, some guy named Norman Taurog for some movie called Skippy. This was back in 1931, so back then he probably would have been considered old, haha! In more recent times, the youngest winner would probably be Sam Mendes who was 34 when he won for American Beauty in 2000. (He is the third youngest Best Director winner). That's still a whole decade older than John Singleton who has held the record for the youngest Best Director nominee (and remember, there are more nominees than winners overall!) for the past 24 years. Before him, the youngest Best Director nominee was Orson Welles who was 26 when he was nominated for Citizen Kane in 1941 (hmmm...I always pictured him as an old man!) Since him, there's been a handful of 29 (M. Night Shyamlan! Ha! Remember when he was nominated for one for The Sixth Sense?) and 30 year olds (Spike Jonez for Being John Malkovich and Jason Reitman for Juno).  Okay, sorry, I just like statistical facts like those. It is very impressive that John Singleton was nominated when he was that young.

Another interesting fact about his nomination (and this one shocked me a little) is that he is the first black director to be nominated! I was thinking, Wait a minute....Do The Right Thing came out two years BEFORE this movie...did they forget about Spike Lee? And then I had to double check and found out he wasn't...oops.... Then I was thinking, what about Sidney Poitier? He was surely nominated for Best Director, right? No....he did win for Best Actor (that must be what I was thinking of), but has never been nominated for any directing work. I mean, maybe I shouldn't be that surprised....this is the same organization that was called out for being racist at this year's Oscar ceremony! So John Singleton holds two pretty distinct Oscar firsts.

The movie starts in 1984 when our main character, Tre Styles, is ten years old. He lives with his mother (Angela Bassett) in South Central L.A. who is going to school for her masters. Tre is a bright kid but, because of the aggressiveness he sees in the older kids around his neighborhood, he gets into a lot of fights because that's how he's learned how to act when he wants to intimate someone or if he doesn't agree with someone. His mother told him if he gets into one more fight, then he will be sent to live with his father who lives in a rough neighborhood. I felt like he would have gone to live with his father regardless since his mother was so busy with going to school and completing her work. His father (Laurence Fishburne - yes, his parents are Ike and Tina Turner!) Furious Styles (yes, that is his name; no, he's not a superhero) is a strict parent, but tells Tre he is lucky because most of the boys in his neighborhood don't have a father to teach them responsibility like Tre does.

Tre becomes fast friends with three other boys his age in the neighborhood: Doughboy (whose real name is Darren, but they call his Doughboy because he's fat, I guess); Ricky, who's Doughboy's half brother (they have the same mother, but different fathers, neither which is in their lives); and Chris. There's a scene where the four boys are walking along a train track and one of them asks the others if they wanna see a dead body. Sound familiar? Okay, that cannot be coincidental! That is so Stand By Me! There's even a fat kid in the mix! The dead kid they see is even in a similar position as the dead kid in Stand By Me; kinda hidden in the brush. Only the dead kid (well, he's more of a dead teen, but it's all semantics) in this movie was shot by a rival gang member while I think the dead kid in Stand By Me was hit by a train, right? I don't remember...and I've seen that movie many times. That's really sad. It's sad that I don't remember is what I mean, but it is also sad that a kid died from getting hit by a train. Anyway, I'm getting way off track...haha, I made a pun. Anyway, very cool John Singleton is a Stand By Me fan.

In one scene, two police officers come over to the Styles house after a burglar has fled after Furious shot at him. There's a white cop and a black cop and you think the white cop is going to be a racist jerk, but he just asks for the statement and when he goes back to the car, it's the black cop who is racist, pretty much telling Furious that he wasted their time since nothing was taken and that it's too bad he didn't shoot the perpetrator so there would be one less n-word to worry about. When the cop says hello to Tre, Furious tells him to go back in the house and the cop asks him if something is wrong and Furious replies, "Yeah, there is. It's just too bad you don't know what it is." This cop will come back later and he will not have learned his lesson.

The movie jumps forward seven years to "present" day 1991 where Tre is now 17 (and now played by Cuba Gooding Jr. BTW, does anyone know how to pronounce his name? I'm not sure if it's Cue-ba or Koo-ba because I've heard it said both ways. I've always pronounced it the same was as the country). Out of his three childhood friends, he's become closest to Ricky (now played by Morris Chestnut). There's a reason for this. Doughboy and Chris were caught shoplifting and were sent to juvie. They were there for seven years which seems a little extreme for minors unless they were caught with guns, but we're really never told the whole story. After the time jump, the first scene we see is a welcome home party for the two kids. Doughboy is now played by Ice Cube and Chris is now in a wheelchair (and played by someone not famous, or I should say by someone who did not become famous). They're both gang members, both affiliated with the Crips party. (Which probably explains why Chris is paralyzed since he was shot.)

So here's something crazy: Laurence (or "Larry" as he was credited!) Fishburne is only seven years older than Cuba and he's playing his father! Furious is suppose to be a young father as he was seventeen when Tre was born, so when Tre is ten, the age difference makes sense since Furious is suppose to be 27 and Fishburne was 29 when he filmed this. If they did age Fishburne in the time jump (to the ripe old age of 34!), then I didn't notice anything. But you have to remember Fishburne was playing someone older than he actually was and Cuba was playing someone younger than he was as he was around 22 when he filmed this. I can't imagine anyone other than Laurence Fishburne playing Furious, though, he is so good. I read that Eddie Murphy was offered the part or considered for it. Thank God that didn't happen...I can't see that at all!

When I re-watched this, I remembered that one of Tre's friends died at the hands of a gang member and for the longest time I was convinced it was Doughboy (and technically he DOES die, but it's off screen), but as the movie went along, I realized I had remembered wrong and that it was Golden Boy Ricky who gets shot. It's really no secret that Ricky and Doughboy's mother prefers Ricky over Darren. Ricky has gotten the opportunity to get a scholarship to USC to play football and the scene where his mother tells him that if he gets in, then he will be the first person in their family to attend college, that's when I knew he was the one who was going to die. And I was right.

There's a scene earlier in the movie where the four guys are at a street racing event and Ricky gets in a scuffle with a Blood member. (We know he's a Blood member because he and his other cronies are wearing red). The Blood member is walking past Ricky and shoves him and they get into a fight and Doughboy asks the Blood members if there's a problem as he's flashing his gun to them. The Blood members eventually leave them alone, but a few minutes later, the leader shoots his gun in the air, scaring everyone away.

Tre and Ricky drive back home together and on their way back they are pulled over by the cops. The very same cops that came to the Styles house seven years ago when there was an attempted robbery. That racist black cop I mentioned earlier? Still a self-hating racist cop! If Tre recognized him, I couldn't tell. But what are the odds that he would meet up again with the same cop from seven years ago? And they live in South Central L.A. where there must be tons of cops all the time. It seems a little implausible that he would run into the same two cops from his childhood.

The Blood member is still angry at Ricky for confronting them and has somehow found out where he lives and the other boys see their car in their neighborhood and know nothing good can come out of
RICKY!!!
this. Ricky doesn't think anything of it; he just thinks they're trying to scare him. Um, they're in a gang...they will kill you over anything! It's so stupid...you can accidentally bump into someone or say the wrong thing to someone and the next moment you're shot dead. Ricky may have been book smart (he did get a high enough SAT score to get into USC), but I don't think he was as street smart as his brother. He's just standing out in the alley scratching some lottery tickets. I'm thinking, get your ass somewhere where you're not out in the open! But like I said, he didn't seem to be too concerned about his safety. Tre sees the Bloods first and yells "RICKY!" to warn his friend, but it's too late and in a very brutal scene he is shot dead. His friends take his body back to his house. Now while his friends' and his girlfriend's reactions were heartbreaking, it was his mother's reaction that really got me. At first, she is confused as to why everyone is screaming and crying and when she sees her son's body on her couch (and thank goodness it had plastic over it!), she breaks down and pleads for him to wake up. Really sad stuff.

Drenched in his friend's blood, Tre goes to his house to get his gun. His girlfriend, Brandi (Nia Long) sees him and pleads for him to tell her what's happened to Ricky but he won't talk to her. Furious tells him he can't leave this house or his life will be over, everything he's worked for to try to get out of this town for a better life. Tre tells him he won't do anything but ends up sneaking out to join Doughboy and the others to get revenge on the guys who killed Ricky. However, Tre realizes his father is right and he doesn't want to go down this path of violence and asks for them to pull the car over so he can get out.

Somehow, Doughboy and the others manage to find the Bloods eating outside a fast food place. (The town they live in must not be that big... or maybe gangs have their favorite hangouts?) They kill all of them in the parking lot and Doughboy personally gets out himself to "finish the job" while the other guys are yelling at him to get back in the car before they get caught. The next day we see a scene with Doughboy talking to Tre saying how he knows his days are numbered since someone will want to seek retaliation for the lives they took...although how would they know it was him since he killed all the people and there are no witnesses? Maybe the one Blood leader took notes. Who knows how this gang stuff works. But he's right and we see text written on the screen that Doughboy was murdered two weeks later. As this is shown, Doughboy is walking across the street after talking to Tre and vanishes. It's another shoutout to Stand By Me when it's mentioned River Phoenix's character dies and we see him disappear. Except I thought Doughboy was suppose to be the Vern!

Tre was able to get out of L.A. when he is accepted to a college in Atlanta along with his girlfriend.

It's a respectable movie for a first time director though things are a little heavy-handed at times. For instance, the very first scene shows a neighborhood and the camera lingers on a stop sign for a few seconds. The message is very blatant! 

Monday, March 21, 2016

'Hook' Me Up

Five years ago I reviewed ten teen movies that came out when I was a teen. (I reviewed them in April and May of 2011 so you can check them out in the archives if you so desire). I decided it was about that time to review ten more movies with a theme and this time, I thought, why not go with ten movies all from the same year? For a lot of cinemaphiles, I know that 1994, 1999 and 2007 are huge movie years. (Just between you and me, while there are certainly movies from 2007 that I like, I never saw it as a huge movie year). I almost thought of reviewing ten movies from '99, but decided not to since it already gets a lot of attention (perhaps another time though?) I wanted to do a year that has a lot of great movies, but also never really gets talked about that much as a great movie year.

The year I chose was 1991. Yes, good old nineteen hundred and ninety one. While I do remember seeing movies in the theater prior to this year, this was the first year I remember seeing quite a few movies in the theater. A lot of these choices do have some nostalgia factor towards my childhood (like the one I'm reviewing below). There are a few I will review that I didn't see in the theater because I was way too young, but did eventually see them later and really liked them. There are even a few that I will be seeing for the very first time (like a certain Oscar winning movie!) Just click on the "1991" tag after you read this review and check out some of the other AMAZING movies from 1991 that I've already reviewed such as Terminator 2, Thelma and Louise, Beauty and the Beast, Fried Green Tomatoes, JFK, and The Prince of Tides. (Well, maybe that last one isn't so amazing, they can't all be great movies. But even that movie has a certain 1991-ness to it, for a lack of a better word).

So let's hop into the DeLorean and go back to 1991 for the next ten reviews! Our first stop is...

Hook
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Smith, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, Charlie Korsmo
Released: December 11, 1991

Oscar nominations:

Best Art Direction - Set Direction (lost to Bugsy)
Best Costume Design (lost to Bugsy)
Best Sound Effects Editing (lost to Terminator 2)
Best Makeup (lost to Terminator 2)
Best Song - "When You're Alone" by John Williams and Leslie Bricusse (lost to "Beauty and the Beast" by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman)


While I remember seeing this movie in the theater, I really don't remember what I thought of it. I don't have any recollection of loving it, but I also don't remember hating it. I'm sure I thought it was long because I was surprised to find out when I watched it on Netflix last week that  it was two hours and twenty one minutes. That seems a bit long for a movie aimed at kids. Not that it's just for kids, but I guess it's a family movie. I definitely feel like there are places you could trim 21 minutes so you just have a nice, even two hour movie.

There have been a ton (probably over a ton) of Peter Pan adaptations for film and TV. To be honest, I think Hook is the only one I've seen...I don't think I've even seen the actual Disney animated Peter Pan movie that's from 1953. Well, I probably have seen it but don't remember since I was probably a kid when I last saw it. And I did see that season of Once Upon a Time when they did a storyline about Peter Pan. And I also saw Finding Neverland, but wasn't that more about the author? Well, the point I'm trying to make is that I'm not really a Peter Pan fan. However, I do like the concept of Hook which is what if Peter Pan grew up? In this world, Peter Pan is Peter Banning (Robin Williams) and he is married to Wendy's granddaughter. He's a lawyer (I guess that's why he had to change the last name or otherwise nobody would take him seriously!) and has two kids, Jack and Maggie. The catch is that Peter doesn't remember who he really is. His daughter's school puts on a production of Peter Pan and that doesn't ring any bells for him. He doesn't go around bragging to his kids how he used to live in Neverland with the Lost Boys, pirates, and mermaids. (If he did, they'd probably think he was insane!) Instead he has become someone who is so wrapped up in his work and doesn't have time to go to his kids events. He promised his son he would attend his baseball game, but wasn't able to because of work.

"Peter, you've become a pirate!" 
He and his family fly to London to attend an event honoring Grandma Wendy (Maggie Smith) for her charity work with orphanages. Wendy is 95 and while watching this, I was thinking, wow, Maggie Smith looks like she was in her 80s when she filmed this...but I knew that was impossible because this movie was filmed 25 years ago and that would mean she would be well over 100 and I know she is not that old! (A quick look at Wiki told me she's currently 81). She was actually 56 when she filmed Hook and was made up to look older. I had no idea who Maggie Smith was until she played Professor McGonagall, so I'm sure I believed that a 95 year old woman was playing that part when I saw it as a kid! Wendy remembers who he is and is aghast when he yells at his kids for bothering him when he's on the phone. I have to side with him on this one; there's nothing more annoying than when you're trying to talk on the phone and the people in the same room as you can't give you the respect you need!

When Jack and Maggie are kidnapped by Hook (Dustin Hoffman) while Peter and his wife are at the event with Wendy, Wendy has to remind Peter of who he is by showing him the book his story is
based on. Of course, he doesn't believe her. Later that night we see a small glowing object that we all know is Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) flutter in, trying to get his attention, but annoyed and thinking it's a really big firefly, Peter takes a rolled up newspaper and starts swatting her. Luckily (and for some odd reason), Tinkerbell has the strength of the Hulk and grabs the newspaper and starts swatting at him! For a movie that is a quarter of a century old, the effects of fairy Julia Roberts in contrast with life-size Robin Williams still hold up. There's some pretty clever gags such as she makes her home in a doll house. The one thing I found weird about Tinkbell is that they altered her voice. At least, I think they altered her voice. It sounds very squeaky. There's no way that was Julia's real voice! They must have wanted it to sound more like it was coming from a fairy. With her super-human strength, Tinkerbell flies to Neverland, carrying a passed out Peter Pan in a blanket.

The set of Neverland looks like it would be really fun to play on, like if it was a big playground, but it looks like it would be a pain in the ass if you were working on this movie. There's a lot of extra (which include many kids who are NOT good actors!) and there's just so much stuff going on all the time. Hook wants to have a duel with Peter in order for him to get his kids back and when Peter takes out what Hook thinks is a weapon, it's actually his checkbook and he asks Hook how much he wants for their return. Tinkerbell tells Hook that Peter needs three days of training in order to regain his memory and then they can have their real duel and Hook agrees to these terms.

Tinkerbell takes them to the Lost Boys who are all making fun of him because he's old and out of shape. They really don't have the right to call him out on the latter because one of the Lost Boys is downright fat and needs exercise way more than Peter! However, Peter slowly starts to remember who he is (and he can fly!) Now when someone wants to fly, all they have to do is think of one happy thought and they will soon be soaring in the air. To no one's surprise, Peter's happy thought is his children. Duh. Who didn't see that one coming? However, Hook has gotten to Jack (Charlie Korsmo) first and is trying to make him into a mini-Hook. Also, if you think Jack looks familiar, he would later go on to star in Can't Hardly Wait (part of my ten teen movies that came out when I was a teen - look at that, full circle!)  as the nerdy teen who wants to take revenge on a bullying jock at a party, but instead ends up getting drunk and singing a Guns 'n Roses song.

By this time, you're getting a little tired and thinking, Okay, it's time to wrap up. Peter has gotten back his children and now all he has to do is defeat Hook....but we get two psyche outs where we think he's going to, but doesn't, because he doesn't want to kill someone in front of his children, I guess? IDK. But on the third attempt (ugh!), it's SuperWoman aka Tinkerbell who kills the pirate by dropping a huge statue of a crocodile on him. Peter is able to fly him and his children home. Thank God...I was sick of being in Neverland! They are reunited with Grandma Wendy and the wife/mother and everyone is happy. I think Peter even quits his job, but I can't remember for sure, but it seems like something he would do.

Oh, here's a fun film fact: this film was Gwyneth Paltrow's debut. She has a ten second role as young Wendy. She still looks exactly the same. However, I doubt she will grow up to be as cool as Maggie Smith (she didn't!) Have you ever visited Gwynnie's site, Goop.com? I was snooping over there for poops and laughs and it just made me roll my eyes! Apparently she thinks women (I say women because pretty much everything on there is geared towards females) who follow her are all rich....and maybe they are. You can buy stuff on her site, but it's so expensive! She sells these "dusts" that range from $55-$65. There's "moon dust", "brain dust", "spirit dust", "sex dust".... what is this stuff? I mean, nobody actually buys this crap and believes it works, right? RIGHT?!??! There's a recipe for a "morning smoothie" and it begins with reasonable ingredients like almond butter and and almond milk, but then it says you need one of those "dusts"...who the eff is going to pay for a $60 smoothie??? Not to mention some of the other ingredients include things called "ashwagandha" (which is $17) and "cordyceps" (which is $35). Not to mention all the other ingredients. I bet this smoothie comes out to almost $1000! So ridiculous. Go away, Gwynnie the Pooh! Nobody needs you or your stupid, expensive smoothies and "dusts!"

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Hook has its fun moments, but is way too bloated (like that fat kid!) I really can't compare it to other Peter Pan movies because I haven't seen any of them. I suppose it's better than the one that came out recently because I heard that one is just plain awful. However, I'm not sure how it compares to the one with Jason Isaacs.