Thursday, March 1, 2018

Game Boy

The Wizard
Director: Todd Holland
Cast: Fred Savage, Christian Slater, Beau Bridges, Luke Edwards, Jenny Lewis
Released: December 15, 1989

I had totally forgotten about the existence of this movie (and with good reason!), but was reminded of it when I binged watched a TV show late last year. You're probably thinking it was when I watched The Wonder Years, but it was actually watching The Goldbergs (which, if you think about it, is this generation's Wonder Years) as they had an episode dedicated to this movie. It was more dedicated to the Power Glove ("I love the Power Glove!"), but this movie gets a shout out in that episode when Adam goes to see it. When I watched it, I was like, "Oh, yeah, I remember that terrible movie! I should review it for my blog". And so here we are. Now it's been a long time since I've seen this movie. I may have seen it in the theater; I may have seen it at school (you know, when you had those "free" days, so the teacher just plopped you down in front of some PG-rated movie?); or I may have seen it at home on video or TV. All I know is that this is a terrible movie. Defintely the low point to Fred Savage's other wise impressive young career. (I believe he filmed this between the second and third seasons of The Wonder Years, but don't quote me on that).  Let's see, all before the age of fourteen, he was nominated for an Emmy, hosted SNL, was on Oprah, had a cameo on Seinfeld, and starred in The Wizard. It's like, Which of these things don't belong with the others? 

In case you're not familiar with this movie (and how could you not be familiar with such a classic?!), it's about three kids who hitch hike from Middle of Nowhere, Utah to Los Angeles to attend a video game competition at Universal Studios. It's basically a commercial for Nintendo (including the Power Glove and Super Mario Bros. 3) and Universal Studios mixed into a movie that's Rain Man for children.

Half the time, I literally didn't know what was going on. Okay, I knew what was going on, I just didn't understand how any of this was possible. It absolutely made no sense how three kids (two thirteen-year-olds and one nine-year-old) traveled from Utah to California all by themselves without getting murdered or kidnapped or taken advantage of and the fact that NOBODY seemed concerned that these three young kids were always by themselves. Actually, they were taken advantage of when they hitch a ride with some cattle drivers and they see the kids counting their cash (which is literally less than $30) and pull over so they can rob the kids and leave them on the side of the road.

So I should probably set up the backstory: the nine-year-old is an autistic boy named Jimmy Woods (Luke Edwards) and he's the younger brother to Corey (Fred Savage) and Nick (Christian Slater). Their parents are divorced and the two older boys live with their father, Sam (Beau Bridges) while Jimmy is in the custody of his mother and stepfather, though he lives in a special home for children with mental disabilities. He spends most of his time alone, playing with building blocks and he barely talks, only to utter single words occasionally. (Like "California"). Apparently he had a twin sister who drowned in a river a few years earlier while he was right there and watched it before his very eyes. Eesh, for a movie that is basically a commercial for Nintendo, that is a very bleak backstory! However, for some strange reason, the movie decides to keep this information hush hush until the middle of the movie when it is revealed. Maybe if we had known it right from the beginning, we would understand why Jimmy acts the way he does. Oh, and he's also a video game aficionado and has some mad gamer skillz.

Corey (by the way, everytime someone called Fred Savage "Corey", I would think, Corey is the one from Boy Meets World; this is Kevin!) decides he's going to get Jimmy and they're going to take a little trip to California, for really, no reason at all! And it is quite easy and convenient for him to break his little brother out of a place that really should have better security (in fact, it seems to have no security at all!) They hop into a Hostess truck and get out at a gas station. There are a lot of stupid montages of the two boys (and later three kids) traveling to Los Angeles. One of these is even set to "Send Me an Angel" when they get a ride from the Hell's Angels. I did laugh when the two brothers are spending the night in a place called Goblin Valley and they hear a wolf howl and Corey sarcastically says, "Great."

It's 16 miles to the Promise Land...
When they get to the train station and try to purchase two tickets to L.A. (which is laughable because they only have $27 dollars and it costs over $200) they come across a girl named Haley (Jenny Lewis) who is traveling to Reno, where she lives. No idea why a thirteen-year-old girl is traveling by herself, but she decides to butt her way in with the two boys after she sees how good Jimmy is at Double Dragon and thinks they should travel to the video game tournament at Universal Studios since the grand prize is $50,000 and they can split the prize if he wins. Never mind that you think you would have to sign up for a competition like that. Apparently you can just show up and enter. Which is exactly what happens later in the film. So stupid. Along the way they con people out of money by betting them that the young boy can beat their score at whatever video game is at the diner/gas station/restaurant they come across. So here's a fun fact: while I'm not familiar with Jenny Lewis, I am familiar with Rilo Kiley and she was the lead singer of that band (I guess they're no longer together...I only know one of their songs, to be honest, which is "With Arms Outstretched").

Also traveling towards California to look for the kids are Sam and Nick and a bounty hunter named Putman hired by the mother and stepfather (uh, why aren't they calling in the police for help?) who doesn't want the boys' father and older brother searching for them since he only gets paid if he brings them back. Don't you think more people searching for these kids would make more sense? There's a running gag throughout the movie that whenever they come across each other in the same small town, they slash the other's tires or they take a shovel to the other's car and smash out the headlights.

You're right, Lucas, it IS bad!
One of the best scenes of the movie (and when I say "best", I really mean "worst") is when the three kids come across a kid named Lucas. Oh, yes. If you've seen this movie, you know all about Lucas. Lucas is like the teen idol of the video gaming world. He is the only person that Jimmy is too scared to play against when Corey and Haley try to make a bet that Jimmy can beat them. You see, Lucas has a secret weapon known as the Power Glove. In an extremely horrible line delivery, after he straps on the glove, he says, "I love the Power's so bad!" Bwahahaha! He then proceeds to play a car racing game (I believe it was called Rad Racer?) with the glove. I was really confused because the glove has a numeric keypad on it, but he never uses it. So, what's the point of that, anyway? Now I never had the Power Glove, nor did I know anybody who had it so I've never had the fortune (misfortune?) to ever see it in its glory. However, I heard it was absolutely awful and didn't even work or just barely worked. Doing some research on Wikipedia, I discovered it came out in 1989 (makes sense since the movie came out the same year) and was discontinued in year later! It cost $75, which is equivalent to $148 in today's currency. No way I am paying nearly $150 for something that doesn't even work! Think of all the poor parents of the late '80s who were duped by this thing! I really thought the Power Glove was going to appear again during the tournament, but this is the only scene in the movie where it makes an appearance.

How did these kids
get into a casino?
Haley is a real piece of work. Know why? When they get to Reno, she finds her dad's trucker friend named Spanky and enlists him to play a game of craps (she's familiar with the game because her mother is (was?) a gambler). He listens to her instructions and wins them $400. Guess how much Haley gives Spanky as a thank you? TEN DOLLARS! Yes, ten freaking dollars! WTF, you little snot? I would think $100 would be a more reasonable payment. Also, how the hell did three children get to enter a casino? Were the rules a lot more lax in 1989 Reno? I did learn something from this movie which is that Reno is known as "The Biggest Little City in the World". It really makes no sense that she's from Reno because that is way out of the way on their way to L.A. They should have made her from Vegas, at least that would have made more sense, geographically. Also, Haley falsely accuses a man of touching her breasts, but I can forgive her for that because the man she accuses is Putman and she screams this in the middle of the arcade as he is grabbing Jimmy. He is escorted out of the building, but gets his chance to kidnap Jimmy later when he finds Haley's address and grabs him there. Haley gets her dad's trucker friends to block off the road and stop Putnam from going anywhere and they are able to get Jimmy back and Spanky drives them the way of the rest to Los Angeles. (Though if I were Spanky, I wouldn't drive them anywhere until I got the rest of my deserved money!)

To get ready for the tournament, while they were staying at the hotel in Reno (which they were able to afford with their $390), Haley calls a Nintendo Hotline to ask questions about specific video games that they need help with. I don't know how this Video Armageddon works, but apparently they are getting Jimmy prepared for all 97 (!!!!!) video games that could possibly be played at the tournament. Holy shnikeys, can you image if you had to prepare and study for 97 video games? Even if you LIKED playing video games, I think that would suck majorly! Of course, Lucas has all 97 games and knows them like the inside of his Power Glove (haha, see what I did there?) So what I want to know was there ever an actual Nintendo Hotline kids could call and ask questions to beat certain aspects of a game? I remember there were little cheat books you could buy to help you beat a game and gave you clues of what to do. My brother bought the cheatbook for the PC game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (shout out to anyone else who had that game!) and it was really a godsend and helped immensely. I assume the Nintendo Hotline was a real thing since everything else in the movie pertaining to Nintendo was real and they were just advertising it. I am surprised that they didn't have Haley saying the phone number out loud as she dialed it so it would get more advertisement!

We arrive at Universal Studios where apparently you don't need to purchase a ticket to get into! Spanky just drops them off literally right inside of the theme park and they just walk up to the building where Video Armageddon is taking place and Jimmy is given a number. They go inside where about fifty kids are playing video games on small monitors while the people in the audience (mostly kids) cheer them on. I remember the monitors the games being played on are much bigger, but those will come later in the movie. Right now there's just a bunch of kids playing Ninja Gaiden (whatever that is) on small TV screens. I can't imagine anything more boring than watching that. Well, I can, but that has to be on the bottom of my list of things I would most want to watch! You hear the announcer before you see him and at first I thought it was Christopher Lloyd because it sounded a lot like Doc Brown, but it wasn't him. The kids have ten minutes to play the game and the three with the highest scores will go on to be the final three in the ultimate championship to determine who will be the winner of FITY THOUSAND DOLLARS!! This includes Jimmy, Lucas, and some random girl with braids and glasses

Hey, there, l'il Tobey Maguire
(front left)
The host tells them they will be playing a brand new game and they will convene back in fifteen minutes to start. Haley is angry about a new game being played, but I think that's fair. At least everyone is starting on equal ground. Not only are the kids at Universal Studios, but so are Jimmy's mother and stepdad and Sam and Nick and Putnam. Lucas sees him and points the kids out to him. He's with a posse of his friends which include a young Tobey Maguire with a mullet. He has no lines, though. I guess you got to start somewhere! The kids are chased around Universal Studios and they sort of just run into the undergrounds of one of the rides with King Kong which I'm pretty sure is illegal and anyone doing that would be stopped in a nanosecond, but during this time apparently there was no security at all at Universal Studios. (Why should there be when you can just pop in there without purchasing a ticket?) There's even a scene where the kids are hopping from tram to tram while being pursued by the bounty hunter and nobody blinks an eye or realizes how dangerous this is. However, there is one sensible woman who asks the children, "Where is your mother?"

It's T minus two minutes until the finals are about to start and Lucas and the girl with braids and glasses are ready to take their places. The countdown clock gets down to ten seconds and there's still
no Jimmy which makes Lucas happy, but of course, he makes it at the last second and all three kids are about to play the new game...which is...wait for it.....WAIT FOR IT......SUPER MARIO BROS. 3!!!! WHAT?!??! I LOVE THAT GAME! OMG, can you imagine how excited kids were when they saw this? This was a preview for the game because it actually was't released until two months later in February 1990. When I watched them playing this game, it bought back a lot of nostalgia because I totally remember playing it. And this is when they play it on the huge monitors which is where I remembered that from. You know what I really hated? Those plants that heaved the fireballs at you and the only way you could stop them was if you got the flower power and got your own fireballs to heave back at them. The kids have ten minutes and whoever has the highest score at the end, wins. It looks bad for Jimmy when he loses two of his lives quite quickly, but he makes a quick comeback. Haley keeps yelling at him to, "Get the star, Jimmy, the star!" In the last ten seconds of the game, he gets like, ten thousand points (okay I may be exaggerating a little!) and wins the championship. Yippee.

The movie ends with a sappy scene of the family reuniting and Jimmy going to live with his two older brothers and dad. I have no idea what happened to Haley, though. I guess they just dropped her off in Reno on their way back to Utah. I wasn't sure about how family life. It sounded like her dad was always out on the road being a trucker and her mother was a gambler. Wonder if they split the money with her and she was able to buy a house like she wanted to? Though I don't know if $25,000 would be enough for a house even in 1989?

Yeah, this movie is just absolutely awful. However, I did re-live certain parts of my childhood when I heard Zelda get a shoutout or watched them play Super Mario Bros. 3 or heard two (yes, TWO) New Kids on the Block songs played in the background. Oh, and I loved Haley's wardrobe as it was so '80s.

A couple years ago I did a video review of five of my favorite video/PC (mostly PC) games, so if you haven't heard that, you can listen to it here.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

It Is Written

Slumdog Millionaire
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor,  Irrfan Khan, Madhur Mittal
Released in theaters: December 25, 2008
Viewed in theaters: January 20, 2009

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (won)
Best Director - Danny Boyle (won)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Simon Beaufoy (won)
Best Cinematography (won)
Best Sound (won)
Best Editing (won)
Best Sound Editing (lost to The Dark Knight)
Best Original Song - Jai Ho by A.R. Rahman (won)
Best Original Score - A.R. Rahman (won)

What movie won the Oscar for the Best Picture of 2008?

a. The Dark Knight                b. Wall-e
c. Frost/Nixon                       d. Slumdog Millionaire

If you chose d, you are correct. And hopefully you didn't need to phone a friend to find out the answer! (Even though I literally just wrote it did win the Oscar right above the question!) Slumdog Millionaire takes a popular game show (Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?) and sets it in India where a young man gets on the show and does very well as the questions seem to correlate with his own (very harrowing) life. Not only that, but the questions are also asked in chronological order of the events that happened in his life.

When the movie starts, we get three different timelines. The first is the introduction of Jamal Malik (Del Patel), the eighteen-year Indian Muslim boy on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? with the charismatic host (Anil Kapoor) who pronounces the show's title with an enthusiastic, "Who wants to be a milla-naire!" The second timeline is after the show where he's being smacked around and accused of cheating because he knew all the answers. Being a poor, uneducated kid from the slums, nobody is buying that he could have gotten all the answers right. And the third timeline is any flashback to Jamal when he was younger and how he knew the answers.

The show begins innocently enough. The questions always start out easy, increasing with difficulty with each one. The first question asked is who is the star of a 1973 hit film? Jamal should know this answer regardless because the actor, Amitabh Bachchan is super famous, but we get a flashback of when he was a young kid (around five) and how his favorite actor was filming nearby where he lived. Unfortunately for Jamal, his older brother, Salim, has locked him in a makeshift port-a-potty (which is just a wooden stall sitting atop stilts with a hole in the middle where you do your business) after Jamal cost his a customer (they charged people to use the toilet). In one of the more disgusting scenes of the film, the young Jamal holds his nose (like that's going to work!) and jumps into the lake of crap and swims his way out. He is just covered head to toe in crap and I can only imagine how awful the stench must be. To his credit, Amitabh signs the photo of himself Jamal gives to him
without being grossed out by the sight or smell. It is now Jamal's most prized possession and we will later find out that Salim soon after sold it for money, establishing the rocky relationship between the two bothers.

So here's a fun fact: Amitabh Bachchan is the actual host of the Indian version of Who Wants To Be a Millioniare? (at least for the majority of its run), so I guess that question about him was a shoutout.

The second question is also very easy and should be one that every Indian should know since it's a question asking what it reads on their national emblem. However, Jamal doesn't know it and needs to ask the audience. The two police questioning him find it odd that he needed help with such an easy question while he knew the answers to more difficult questions. The police officer played by Irrfan Khan tells him that his five-year-old daughter could answer that question. Jamal replies by asking them if they know how much a plate of pani puri cost or who stole someone's bike last Thursday. The officers don't know even though Jamal knows both those answers. I guess this is to show up that some questions that are obvious to some, may not be the case for others. However, I think Jamal wasted his "ask the audience" card and should have saved it for another questions (like the last one!) Even if you didn't know the answer, you could probably guess it correctly just by using common sense. The options given were "Truth alone triumphs"; "Fashion alone triumphs", "Lies alone triumph"; and "Money alone triumphs." C'mon, you don't have to be a genius to figure out that one (which is exactly what Jamal tells them in reference to the first question). Total waste of a lifeline, Jamal! You're lucky you did so well.

The show continues and as the questions become more difficult, Jamal's life is about to as well. His mother is killed by a mob of Hindus who are rioting against Muslims. Jamal and his brother run for their lives through the chaos and call for a girl in their age range to join them. The girl's name is Latika and the three of them call themselves the Three Musketeers, the book they've been reading in school. The three youngsters think they've ben rescued when a well dressed man finds them in a junkyard and gives them each a bottle of ice cold Coke. We next see them in a bus being driven somewhere with other young children. At first the "Three Musketeers" are happy as they are eating plenty of food and have lots of equipment to play with (like tire swings) so it looks like an amusement park to these kids from the slums. The looks on their faces when they see their new home is that of pure joy. They conclude that Maman, the man who rescued them from poverty and malnourishment is "a saint". However, that's not the case and Maman is actually training homeless kids to be beggars in order to make money. Not only that, but in the most harrowing scene, he pours acid in some of the childrens' eyes after they've been drugged and sedated to blind them. He does this to the kids with the more beautiful singing voices because blind kids make more money because of the sympathy factor. Jamal finds this out and he and Salim and Latika escape. The two brothers make it onto a train, but Latika is not quick enough and her captors catch up to her which devastates Jamal, but Salim assures him that she'll be fine because she always is.

The movie takes a little break from all its bleakness and horrific moments and gives us a reprieve with some more lighthearted scenes including a montage of the brothers stealing food while traveling on trains through India set to M.I.A.'s Paper Planes. (Remember that song? It only seems like yesterday it was everywhere on the radio). During the montage, as you do, the brothers age so Salim is now a teenager and Jamal is probably eleven or twelve. They end up in Agra by way up Mumbai and pretend to be private tour guides for people visiting the Taj Mahal. Now I have no doubt the Taj Mahal is a sight to behold, but that attraction has to be infested with tourists all the time. They don't get the idea until Jamal is just standing around and a British couple comes up to him and asks him if they can give him a private tour and they'll pay him extra. (I guess they didn't notice he wasn't wearing a name tag like the other tour guides). Seeing the money, Jamal is glad to oblige, although I question his knowledge of the Taj Mahal because he claims it was supposed to be a five-star hotel but the emperor who built it for his wife died before any of the rooms were built and he calls the reflection pool the swimming pool. He tells the couple that the emperor's wife died in a road accident and when they question him and say they thought she died in childbirth, he tells them that she was on the way to the hospital when it happened. The boys also make money by taking photos of tourists in front of the Taj Mahal and also stealing and selling nice shoes that are required to be taken off before entering the premises.

After that nice little interlude, the movie goes back to being grim. They have returned to Mumbai and Jamal finds the boy with the beautiful singing voice who was blinded and finds out that Latika is in training to be a prostitute (at least she got to keep her eye sight!) and is known as "Cherry" on Pilar Street. It's a little disturbing because she can't be more than thirteen years old. By this time Salim has already perfected his thieving skills, but he can now add murder to his criminal record because he kills Maman when they retrieve Latika. He didn't even kill him in defense; it was just cold-blood murder.

The brothers have a falling out, and, to be honest, I didn't quite understand why Salim wanted to kick out his brother, I guess he just wanted Latika for himself. There's another time jump and Jamal is now being played by Dev Patel in the flashblacks, so I'm not sure what happened to Jamal in between those years. He's now working as a chaiwala (someone who serves and sells tea) at a call center (which we learn earlier in the movie when he tells the game show host what he does for a living) and when he covers for someone who needs to use the bathroom, he tries to find Latika and Salim by using the database. Unfortunately, he doesn't know Latika's last name, so he gets thousands of entries when he just types in her first name. Even typing in his brother's full name, he gets fifteen results and calls all the numbers until he reaches Salim. We find out that Salim now works for a crime boss named Javed (who was an enemy of Maman, so he admired Salim for killing him) and Latika is living with Javed in his posh house as his in-house whore, so to speak. She and Jamal have a sweet reunion before Javed returns and Latkia puts an apron on Jamal and tells Javed that Jamal is the new cook so as not to raise any suspicions. Jamal notices that she is watching Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? before Javed comes in and makes her switch the channel to the cricket match. He is such a jerk because he doesn't even watch the television in the kitchen; he goes to the living room to watch the game, so he wasn't even watching it on the TV in the kitchen! In a very low voice, Jamal tells Latika that he will wait everyday at the local train station at five o'clock until she comes, but she says it is too late for that. However, she does attempt to meet him there not that long after only to be found out and captured by Salim and is taken away.

There is an interesting part during the game where they are taking a break after a question about a cricket player has been asked and when Jamal comes out of the bathroom, he sees that the host has written "B" with the condensation on the mirror in an attempt to fool him. When they return from a commercial break, Jamal chooses the 50/50 lifeline for the question and only B and D remain as choices (the Indian Regis Philbin must know which choices get knocked off if the 50/50 is chosen). I have to give the host credit for remaining calm and acting excited for Jamal when he (after a very dramatic pause) chooses D, which is, indeed the correct answer when you know he was furious on the inside. I'm not sure why he wanted to sabotage Jamal and make him choose the wrong answer; is it because he doesn't want to pay him all that money? Do most game shows not want their contestants to win so they don't have to shell out the money? But wouldn't they want that because it's more dramatic when they do win? Hmm, we need an investigative report on this, stat! I know he thinks he's cheating, but I feel like you could find out if someone was being fed answers from an outside source.

That was the penultimate question and they have ran out of time and have to wait until the next evening to continue. I remember when Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? premiered and it was on every weeknight and you would have to wait until the next night if they ran out of time with one contestant. I suppose that makes sense because you don't know how far a contestant will get...they could get all the answers like Jamal or they could flame out by the third question (God, that would be embarrassing). I remember I had the PC game version of it. I probably won it, like once!

Remember how Latkia was watching Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? So now we know why Jamal went on the game show (which he was able to obtain a spot through his job at the call center) since he knows she watches it often. He tells the police officer that he went on the show because he thought she'd be watching. The officer tells him he is free to go. By this time, we are in current time with the timeline and all of India has been watching this young "slumdog" making a killing on the show and are cheering him on. A TV reporter claims that "an estimated 90 million people" will tune in tonight to see if he will win the grand prize of twenty million rupees. Ninety million people; that is insane! I don't think even that many people tuned in to watch the finale of M*A*S*H which is supposed to be one of the most watched shows in American history. Granted, India does have a population of a billion people, but still! Ok, so I just looked at a chart and the finale of M*A*S*H is the most watched episode of American TV and it actually had 125 million people, so okay, I was wrong! That's crazy. But this was back in the day (1983) when there were only, like, five channels, so what else were people supposed to watch? I also looked up the conversion rate for twenty million rupees and it is roughly equal to $308,000. What? That's nowhere near a million dollars! I feel like Jamal is getting gypped here.

Salim knows that Jamal will never give up, so he lets Latika escape by giving her his car keys and cell phone and tells her he'll take care of Javed if he finds out. She is trying to get to the WWTBAM? studios, but the streets are jammed with traffic and people. She ends up getting out of the car and watching the show in a display store window with a crowd.

The last question Jamal has to answer is "What is the name of the third Musketeer?" (The one that isn't Athos or Porthos). Keep in mind that this has been an ongoing theme throughout the film. When we first see Jamal and his brother, they are reading The Three Musketeers in school (or at least, supposed to be reading). When they meet Latika, Jamal says that she can be the third Musketeer and Salim points out they don't even know the name of that one. I definitely wouldn't know the answer to
this question either! I love Jamal's reaction where he laughs to himself and smiles because you know he's thinking, Of course this is the question I would get. The one question he's never known or thought he would ever have to know. He even admits to the host he doesn't know the answer, but wants to continue to play and chooses to phone a friend. See, this is where the ask the audience lifeline would come in handy. True, they may not always give you the correct answer, but I would feel confident that this is a popular book that most people would know the right answer. The host reminds him that if he gets the wrong answer, then he will lose everything he's won so far, which is ten million rupees.

Salim's number is dialed and the audience (both in the movie and in actual theaters when the movie was released, I'm sure!) are on pins and needles as the phone rings and rings. When Jamal tells the host that it's his brother's number he's dialing, Latika hightails it back to the car where she's left the phone and answers right before they're about to hang up. Jamal is glad to hear from her and know that she's okay. He asks her the question and she admits she doesn't know the answer either. Jamal ends up taking an educated guess..and of course he's right. (The answer is Aramis, by the way). The audience just explodes into cheers as well as everyone else in the country who is watching. This is juxtaposed with a scene of Salim killing Javed and his men killing him in return. We all know that Salim wasn't long for this world with the life he chose for himself.

The movie ends happily, though, for Jamal and Latika who are reunited at the train station. And with the twenty million rupees he's just won, he is no longer a slumdog...just a slumdog millionaire! (Wouldn't that be an oxymoron?)

The end credits are one of my favorite end credits along with Return of the King and Kill Bill: Vol 2. The main actors and a bunch of dancers behind them are doing a flashmob dance at the train station to a song composed by A.R. Rahman called Jai Ho, with some very heavy Indian influences. I also love how they show the three actors who played the characters of Jamal, Latika, and Salim. I refer to them as Young (the characters at their oldest!), Younger (the characters as young teens or almost teens) and Youngest (the characters as kids). It is just very cool how the credits are unraveled.

And I'll cap this review with another fun fact: exactly nine years ago today, Slumdog Millionaire won its Oscar for Best Picture (not to mention the seven other Oscars it won) when the Academy Awards aired on February 22, 2009.

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.