Monday, February 23, 2015

O Captain! My Captain!

Dead Poets Society
Director: Peter Weir
Cast: Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Josh Charles, Kurtwood Smith
Released: June 9, 1989

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to Driving Miss Daisy)
Best Director - Peter Weir (lost to Oliver Stone for Born on the Fourth of July)
Best Actor - Robin Williams (lost to Daniel Day-Lewis for My Left Foot)
Best Original Screenplay - Tom Schulman (won)



One of the late Robin Williams' greatest and most beloved roles was that of English professor John Keating who teaches at Welton Academy, an all-boys boarding school. This film gave us many quotes such as "O Captain! My Captain" which I saw written as many Facebook status updates as a tribute to Williams the day he died and "Carpe Diem"/"Seize the Day".  

The film takes place in 1959 and it's also Mr. Keating's first year of teaching at Welton. His young students include the shy Todd (Ethan Hawke); his roommate, outspoken Neil (Robert Sean Leonard);  romantic dreamer Knox (Josh Charles); stickler-for-the rules Richard (or "dorky redhead" as I call him!); and rule-breaker Charlie. And there's others I'm sure I'm forgetting. While all the students work together as an ensemble, it's Neil who is the leader and has the most screen time of any of the other young men. His passion is to be an actor, but his strict father (Kurtwood Smith) wants him to be a doctor. I wish I could say that he got his wish and Neil went on to become a successful doctor and I could make a House (because Robert Sean Leonard would go on to play Wilson in House!) joke here, but that doesn't quite happen.

Mr. Keating is unlike any teacher the boys have ever had at Welton Academy. After they have attended their history, science, and math classes with the usual lectures, they become unsure when they're in Mr. Keating's English class and he has told them to rip out the entire introduction of their textbook. The learn about an absurd method about how to rate a poem involving a line graph (please tell me this isn't real!) and Keating tells them it's a load of garbage and to tear out the pages of the introduction. Richard, who had been taking copious notes, is confused when Keating erases the graph off the chalkboard and quickly scribbles through the graph he had just drawn. The boys are all uncertain at first, but then more confidently start tearing out the pages they are instructed to rip out.

Keating tells them about a secret society he once belonged to when he himself was a student at Welton, the Dead Poets Society, where he and other students would meet in secret and read poetry. Neil, the fearless leader, decides to get this tradition rolling again and he and the other students meet in a cave at night to read poetry from a book and recite their own. They also joke around and gossip and philosophize.

Because of Mr. Keating's class and his motto to "seize the days", his young students start feeling more confident. Knox (who would later go on to become lawyer Will Gardner on Good Wife...wow, Welton Academy really is a good school as it produces doctors and lawyers!) gets the courage to woo a girl from a public school who already has a boyfriend (and gets beaten up by him in the process!) Mr. Keating encourages the timid Todd to come out of his shell when he is reluctant to read a poem he has written in front of the class which was assigned to all the students to do. Keating tells him to close his eyes and forget that the other students are in the same room.

Neil, the aspiring actor, tries out for A Midsummer's Night Dream and gets cast in a lead role. In order to be in the play, he must have permission from a parents, so he forges a letter, pretending to be his father. Of course, his dad finds out and is furious and forbids Neil to be in the play. Neil gets advice from Mr. Keating to tell his father how he really feels and he wants to pursue acting instead of a medical career, but Neil never gets the courage to stand up to his father. He still remains in the play and we see his father come in to watch. I thought he might have a change of heart after seeing how happy his son was and how seriously he took acting, but instead he punishes him by telling him he is being shipped off to military school the next morning. Neil fatally shoots himself with his father's gun and we see a heartbreaking scene where his father finds him in his office on the floor behind the desk.

Mr. Keating's ways of teaching is frowned upon by the school board and he is fired. In one of the most memorable scenes of the movie, while he has come back to the classroom to pack up his things while a lesson is going on, we see Todd keep glancing at his former teacher and it is obvious he wants to say something, but is still too reserved to do so. As Mr. Keating is walking away, he blurts out it was unfair he was fired. He stands on his desk in an act of defiance and is followed suit by the other students who also agree with him. In an earlier scene, Mr. Keating had everyone stand on his desk to see the world from a different perspective. The music swells, Mr. Keating is getting tears in his eyes and so am I. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered

Practical Magic
Director: Griffin Dunne 
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Stockard Channing, Diane Wiest, Goran Visnjic, Aidan Quinn, Evan Rachel Wood
Released: October 16, 1998


This is based on a novel by Alice Hoffman. I figured the novel must be much better and more fleshed out than the movie since a lot happens in the film but is quickly glossed over, so I was sure that the book must go more in depth, which I'm sure it does, but when I was reading reviews of it on Goodreads, I was surprised that many people said that the movie was better than the book. Because the movie really isn't that great. It's not sure if it wants to be a comedy or a romance or a dark supernatural thriller...so it's a bit of a trifecta of all three. 

Sally and Gillian Owens (Bullock and Kidman) are sisters who are witches. Just like Sabrina (heh!), they are raised by their aunts, Frances and Bridget (Channing and Weist). Older sister Sally is the more practical one while Gillan is the free-spirit. At a young age, the girls learn of the curse that has overshadowed their family for decades: any man who falls in love with someone in their family is doomed to die. Now that's something you don't want to reveal on the first date! Sensitive Sally is horrified by this news and casts a spell on herself so she will only fall in love with a certain type of man who is seemingly too good to be true that there is no chance he can even exist. Gillian, however, is not phased at all by this and can't wait to fall in love, or, to be more accurate, sleeping around.

When the girls become young adults, Gillian goes on her way to start her tour of having love affairs and breaking hearts. Sally stays back with her aunts in their small town. One days she sees a good-looking man walking down the street and smiles at him. A few minutes later we see them running towards each other and embracing and the next thing we know they are married and have kids. Well, shocker of all shocks, we come to find out her aunts saw she liked him and put a love spell on both of them so they would fall in love. (You could say she drank some Love Potion #9! Yes, I went old-school Sandy Bullock reference for that!) There must be some unwritten prophecy that every Owens woman must have two daughers: one brunette and one redhead with bangs. Because Sally and her husband have two girls who fit this description as well. A young Evan Rachel Wood plays her daughter with the red hair. At first I was confused and thought she was supposed to be Gillian's daughter because she looked so much like her! 

The curse still holds and Sally's husband is killed. It is the most unbelievable death. First, it was laughable because we are meant to think he is going to be killed by being run over by cyclists (he's out in the street during a bike marathon or something), but then we see that he is hit by a car even though he had already been in the middle of the street, frozen as the cyclists go around him. Obviously the car saw there was a person standing in the middle of the road and had plenty of time to slow down. It was just so stupid. But he dies and is never spoken of again. 

Gillian has fallen victim to an abusive man, Jimmy (Goran Visnjic) who likes  to drink a little too much. When she becomes scared, she calls Sally to come get her. Jimmy ends up kidnapping both of them and only wanting to drug him, Sally gives him a sleeping potion, but it ends up killing him. The sisters freak out because they don't want to be put away for murder, so they take him back to their house where they will perform a simple resurrection spell, which, if we've learned anything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is NEVER a good idea! (Unless you die of a supernatural death, of course! And even that is never a good idea.) This involves having to draw a star on the deceased's stomach and Sally uses a can of Readi-Whip to do that which is hilarious.  And I love that she dips her finger in the whipped cream and licks it off. As soon as Zombie Jimmy is alive again, he immediately starts to choke Gillian and Sally hits him with a frying pan, killing him...again. They bury him in their backyard.

A detective named Gary (Aidan Quinn) from Jimmy's hometown comes up to inspect Jimmy's disappearance and is wary of the sisters. Turns out Gary has all the qualities that young Sally wished in the man she could never fall in love with. He can flip pancakes! He has one blue eye and one green eye! His favorite shape is a star because he has a badge shaped like one! I don't want to spoil anything by saying they get together in the end...but guess what? They fall in love!

Jimmy's spirit has possessed the body of Gillian and Sally and her aunts hold an exorcism to get rid of it. In order to do this, there must be a circle with a certain amount of people so they have to invite other women from their small town to help them. Margo Martindale plays one of those women who works at the apothecary shop Sally owns and runs.

The  director, Griffin Dunne, is probably most recognized for his acting roles.  He played Vada's poetry teacher in My Girl and played a judge on an early season of The Good Wife. 

The best thing about this movie was that the small town scenes were filmed in Whidbey Island, Washington...and I have been there before! It is an amazing location. I wish I had known that before I watched the movie because then I would have paid more attention to see if I recognized anything.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

I Take You With Me

Boys On The Side 
Director: Herbert Ross
Cast: Whoopi Goldberg, Mary-Louise Parker, Drew Barrymore, Matthew McConaughey, James Remar
Released February 3, 1995



Spoilers for a 20 year old movie...just in cases! 

This movie came out when I was in middle school and I remember seeing it in the theater with my mom. While I remember that, I didn't remember anything about the movie except the singalong to "You've Got It". And that Mary-Louise Parker's character dies at the end. Well, she was still alive at the end, but it was implied she died although for some reason, I remember a funeral scene. It's funny what your mind chooses to remember and what not to remember. Other than that, I didn't remember anything so I decided to see it again. I didn't even look at the rating on the DVD cover because I just assumed it was PG-13. Nope, it's an R. I was shocked that my mom let me see this movie as a young middle schooler! There is language in this movie that would make even Nancy Botwin blush! 

This movie reminded me a bit of Steel Magnolias (a group of women with a friendship and one of them is dying and one of them has a baby....luckily it's never been the same woman!) and then I realized it's directed by the same director, so there you go. This movie reminded me of a cross between that one and Thelma and Louise since the group of women are on a road trip. (And Whoopi Goldberg even makes a crack about how she's not driving over a cliff for the others). 

Jane (Goldberg) is a lounge singer in New York who has broken up with her girlfriend and has been fired from her job so she is looking to start over somewhere. She meets Robin (Parker) who has placed an ad in the paper that she is looking for someone to accompany her on a trip to California. I can tell you one thing, there is no way I would ever let a stranger join me on a road trip. That could end up either being very dangerous...or very irritating! But both women agree on taking the trip together and drive to Pittsburgh so Jane can see her friend, Holly (Barrymore). While traveling, we see the first glimpses of Robin acting odd. They have to stop at a fast food place because Robin gets sick. She tells Jane it's just allergies, but I knew (or thought I knew!) she had cancer. Well, no, I was wrong. I THOUGHT she had cancer because I guess that's what I remembered, but no, she has AIDS. Because this was 1995 and AIDS was all the rage in the '90s! It was kind of weird she had AIDS because she was this very uptight woman...she didn't look like the type to use drugs of have unprotected sex. I guess they just wanted to show us anybody could get AIDS? I don't even know how she got them.  

Hey, hey, hey, it's McConaughey!
When they pick up Holly, her abusive and drunk boyfriend is with her and won't let her go until he gets his drug money that he thinks she's stolen. Holly hits him with a baseball bat and the women tie him up. While they are gone, he tries to get to a phone, but ends up falling and hitting his head and dies. When they see this in the paper, the other two convince Holly to join them because she can't go back. She reveals to the others that she is pregnant. They make it to Tuscon before they have to settle there because Robin has gotten really sick and needs medical care. I believe this is when Jane and Holly (and the audience) finds out that Robin has AIDS. 

Holly starts seeing an old friend, a young cop played by a young  and pre-famous Matthew McConaughey (who, ironically won an Oscar for portraying a man with AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club. It's like the circle of life, film style!) He finds out about her dead boyfriend and is torn between his feelings for her and obeying the law as his duties as a cop. Even though Holly goes to court and serves a short sentence, they end up married. Oh, and she names her daughter Mary Todd because McConaughey's name is Abe. :::GROAN::::  

Jane and Robin live in a house together with Holly and Abe until they have a fight and Jane moves out.  While at a bar, they meet some people and one of them is a guy (Remar) who appears to be interested in Robin and Jane tells him that she has AIDS just so he already knows and Robin doesn't have to worry about having that awkward conversation so Jane thinks she's doing Robin a favor. One night, Robin and the guy get really drunk and pretty much start having sex outside right in the open. I mean, really! They do make it to a hotel room before clothes start coming off, but when Robin is about to tell him about her condition, he tells her he already knows and that he has come protected. I can understand why Robin was so upset, but at the same time, shouldn't she be relieved that at least he already knows and seems to be okay with it? (Obviously as he has his hands all over her).  It doesn't surprise me that this guy was willing to have sex with her because he seemed like he would do it with anyone...he even makes a comment earlier in the movie about how hot the bar owner's 12 year old daughter is. It was really creepy.

Robin finds out Jane told him about her AIDS and that's why they have a fight t Jane moves out. When Robin's mother comes to visit, she is aghast when she learns that a lesbian (and a black one to boot!) has been living with her daughter! She should meet Keira Knightley's mother from Bend it Like Beckham! 

Like I mentioned earlier, the only scene I really remember is when Jane and Robin sing "You've Got It" to each other in a room full of people. It's a very sweet moment and got me choked up. 

This movie came out twenty years ago nearly to the day...and did you know that Drew Barrymore turns 40 this month? She was a very young 19 when she was in this movie and yet it seems like she had already been around forever! 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ridiculous Coincidences

Serendipity
Director: Peter Chelsom
Cast: John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Jeremy Piven, Molly Shannon, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan, Eugene Levy
Released: October 5, 2001


I didn't see this movie when it was out in theaters, but I did see it on a theater screen on February 13, 2002 when my school screened it for free in the auditorium. My dorm was right next to the building with the auditorium so it was very convenient for me! Other movies I saw there (all free...who doesn't love a free movie?) include Vanilla Sky, Pearl Harbor, Not Another Teen Movie, Training Day, The Mummy Returns, and Legally Blonde. Pretty much any movie that was released in 2001!

It doesn't surprise me that they chose the week of Valentine's Day to screen this movie because it is a romantic comedy, but not as vapid and stupid as most romantic comedies can tend to be. You do need to suspend your belief at times with this film, otherwise you might be rolling your eyes and muttering, "What the...." or "Wait a minute...how is that even possible?" If you just sit back and enjoy the movie, it's very easy to do.

Sara (Beckinsale) and Jonathan (Cusack) bump into each other at Bloomingdales while Christmas shopping and both grab for the last pair of black gloves they both want. Even though they both have significant others, they shamelessly flirt with each other (and Jonathan even confesses his attraction to her...but who can blame him, Kate Beckinsale is a very attractive woman and she has a very adorable British accent) and share an ice cream sundae at a place called Serendipity where Sara explains to him why she loves the name of this ice cream parlor and what serendipity means. This all happens within in the first five minutes of the movie so they established the title of the movie pretty quickly!

They continue their quasi-date by going ice skating at Rockerfeller Center. Sara falls and cuts her arm and they make it seem like blood is gushing out of her arm, but in the next scene when Jonathan is putting a band-aid on her arm, there is no scratch on her at all! They are still flirting with each other and it's obvious they like each other and it's like just break up with your other significant others already! Sara, being into things happening for a reason wants to be sure they are meant to be together and makes him do things only a beautiful woman with an adorable accent could get away with and still have the guy want to pursue her. She does this because when Jonathan was handing her number to her, a gust of wind swept it away and she thought it was a sign they weren't suppose to have any more contact. Instead she comes up with the idea of writing her name and number in a copy of "Love in the Time of Cholera" and tells him she's going to sell it to a random used bookstore tomorrow and if he ever finds it, then it will be a sign. She tells Jonathan to write his name on a five dollar bill and goes to a newsstand to buy something with it and if that bill makes back to her, then it's a sign.

Okay. Let's think about this rationally. I can buy the book being found even though there has to be hundreds of used book stores in New York. Obviously it's a well-known book and there are lots of copies (as we do see in the movie because he checks every copy of it to see if it's the one she had). But how many five dollar bills are in existence and this particular one could easily travel out of the city. Would it be a spoiler to say that both items come back into the movie?

Before they part ways, Sara has one more crazy experiment she wants to try. They go to the Waldorf Astoria where she tells him they will take separate elevators and if they both push the same button and end up on the same floor, then it's a sign they should be together. Why they just don't give each other their numbers and tell them they'll call the other if it doesn't work out with their current relationships, I don't know. So of course we see they both push the same button in their separate elevators (23) even though there are 47 floors. So that would never happen. Let's be real here. That would be really crazy odds for that to ever happen. Except that Jonathan has a father and a kid (dressed in a devil costume even though it's not Halloween....I guess they wanted to symbolize he was a terror?) who gets on the elevator and the kid pushes all the buttons thus making it take forever for Jonathan to reach his destined floor. He does cheat by checking every floor to see if Sara is there. She waits for him for awhile, but eventually, dejectedly leaves.

A year passes and to show time we have a montage of seasons passing, shadows, sun dials, and clocks. Why they just couldn't have a simple "One year later" on a black screen, I don't know. We see Jonathan at a big gathering where he is being toasted for his current engagement. We never see the woman he is next to, just her hand on his shoulder and we are all waiting with bated breath to see if it is Sara...but as the camera slowly pans over, we see it is not. It is Holly (Moynahan) who has nothing to do except to look pretty and tell Jonathan he's been acting distant lately. Jeremy Piven plays his best friend and gives the toast. Even though Jonathan's set to marry Holly in just a few days, he's still thinking about Sara.

Meanwhile, Sara is in San Francisco. Her best friend is played by Molly Shannon and her boyfriend, Lars (Corbett) is some goofy exotic flute player who has posters of himself with open shirts and does cheesy music videos. She is still thinking about Jonathan and decides to go to New York to "see what happens".  I should mention that Lars asked her to marry her and she said yes.

Meanwhile, Jonathan finds a receipt inside the black glove he kept  (Sara has the other) and sees an account number and sees if he can get Sara's information this way. Eugene Levy plays the salesman who works at the store that can help him, but he blackmails him by making him buy $700 worth of stuff so he can get his commission. He starts getting clues on how to contact Sara, but always ends up one step short in which he has to find another way around to get to the next step. But it's all a moot point anyway because....

....the book and the five dollar bill show up! But I already spoiled that for you! Oh and I should also add that there are several scenes where Jonathan and his friend are going somewhere that Sara and her friend are just leaving. Uh-huh. And then there's a scene where Jonathan gets tangled up in a dog's leash and just a few seconds later, the guy and the dog are going around the block...and then Sara gets tangled up in the leash! Oh, movie! So like I said, Jonathan has been checking all the copies of "Love in the Time of Cholera" whenever he walks past a used book store. Holly has noticed this and what is her wedding present to him but that novel! And of course it is THE novel. Awkward! He finally has Sara's full name and her phone number.

Meanwhile, Sara has decided that coming to New York was a mistake and is on the plane to fly back to San Francisco. Molly Shannon has stayed behind to attend a wedding (oh, I forgot to mention that she and Holly are friends....of course they are! They all see each other at the hotel when Jonathan is conveniently out). While waiting for takeoff, Sara buys a pair of headphones and realizes she has Molly's wallet because their looks similar. In an earlier scene, when the two friends are at Serendipity's (because of course), Molly puts the change in her wallet and we see the red ink with Jonathan's name and number on a five dollar bill! Oooh! Sara sees the familiar bill and snatches it from the flight attendant and runs off the plane. She goes to stop the wedding only to find out that it has been called off.

She and Jonathan find each other at the ice skating rink, kiss, get married, and live happily ever after. (Or at least we see they are still together one year later!)

Like I said, you just need to go with the movie to enjoy it because there are too many things that are way too coincidental and would never happen in the real life. But it is a feel-good movie and came out at a time when that's what people wanted most.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

She's Miss United States

Miss Congeniality
Director: Donald Petrie
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Michael Caine, Candice Bergen, William Shatner
Released: December 22, 2000
Viewed in theaters: December  28, 2000




Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) is an FBI agent who is a little on the crass side. She snorts when she laughs; she doesn't care how she looks as she doesn't wear make up and has unkempt hair; and she says and does whatever she wants without thinking of the consequences first. So when they find out the Miss United States pageant (I guess they didn't have the rights to use the Miss America or Miss USA pageants!) is being targeted by a madman who calls himself The Citizen, they need an agent to go undercover. The only viable person is on maternity leave so she can't do it. Even though Gracie is a woman and the right age, nobody even considers her as she is not beauty queen material at all. She has no poise or manners and her looks are all wrong. But when they discover she doesn't look half bad in an evening gown, they decide to use her as their under cover agent. She has now replaced Miss New Jersey (as she was involved in a scandal and pulled from the competition) and is using the alias Gracie Lou Freebush. Kathy Morningside (Candice Bergen) is the head of the pageant and is incredulous about the idea of Gracie being in the pageant but she enlists her pageant coach, Victor (Michael Caine), who gives Gracie a much needed make over and teaches her how to act like a lady including saying "yes" instead of "yeah" and how to glide. Rounding out the Miss United States panel is the host played by William Shatner.

Gracie's makeover includes a lot of waxing, dental care, skin care, hair styling, and make up. Of course she looks good - she's Sandra Bullock! Her partner, Eric (Benjamin Bratt) is amazed at what he sees and you know by the end of the movie they're going to become an item. I loved when Gracie taunted him with her singsongy, "You want to kiss me....you want to hug me...you want to date me." Bullock is great and hilarious with the physical comedy. Yeah, she probably falls one too many times when she's wearing high heels, but to me, it never gets old. And the scene where she's mocking the pageant winners receiving the crown is so funny. I would say the funniest scene is when she's having trouble walking so she gives Victor all these guns and holsters that are hidden under her dress and it goes on for a few minutes! Victor makes a quip about if she has an armed car under her dress as well. Although I also love the scene where they show a montage of the girls saying world peace is the one thing they want most, but when Gracie is asked the same question, she says, "Harsher punishment for parole violators" and then after a very silent pause she says, "And world peace!"

Gracie spends her time with the same women throughout the movie, the most notable one being Miss Rhode Island, a sweet and naive young girl named Cheryl (when asked what her perfect date would be, she replies with "April 25th because it's not too hot or too cold"), who Gracie encourages to be more confident. The girls representing New York, California, Hawaii, and Texas are really the only ones who have dialogue and we see throughout the movie. Not surprisingly, they all make it far into the competition along with Gracie and Cheryl. It is totally random when Miss Nebraska, of all the states, makes it into the top five and is third runner up!

There are a few things that don't make sense. Gracie has had a bad day and wants to quit but Victor and Eric encourage her not to. We learn she hasn't been on a date in many years and doesn't have many friends and she has a line where she tells Victor or Eric (I can't remember who) that they don't know why she is the way she is...but we never do learn why she is the way she is. Although at the beginning there is a scene of her as a grade schooler where she punches a boy for beating up another boy she likes, then when that boy is mad that a girl defended him, ends up punching him too. So I guess we are just suppose to figure she's always been like that, but why we don't ever find out why. There's a scene where Cheryl is suspected of being the Citizen but Gracie doesn't think such a sweet, innocent girl could ever do anything illegal so she takes her out to a club to have some "girl talk" with her and Cheryl tells her that she was "attacked" by a college professor once and while Gracie offers to teach her some self defense moves, we never hear about the incident again. Like, was she raped? It was just really random especially for not having anything to do with the movie. And Cheryl comes off as a very bubbly, friendly girl...not someone who has ever been "attacked" before. It was bizarre! And this is revealed when Gracie asks her if she's ever done anything illegal. She confesses she once shop lifted, then mentions that...which really has nothing to do with doing anything illegal, so I have no idea why they even had it in there.

The pageant takes place in San Antonio so Miss Texas has a lot of supporters in the audience. The look on her face when she learns she's second runner up is hilarious. I am about to reveal who is behind the Miss United States attack plot, so stop reading if you don't want to be spoiler (although who hasn't seen the movie yet?) It is Kathy Morningside and her son, Frank. She is being fired for fixing past competitions and she vows to give them a "show they won't forget" as she has replaced the crown with another crown that has a bomb in it (don't ask me how that's possible). Gracie realizes this right before the crown is to be placed on Cheryl, who has won the competition. It's very loud and Cheryl can't hear Gracie tell her not to take the crown so instead she has to pounce on Cheryl and claw the crown away from her. This results in a hilarious scene where Cheryl slaps her bouquet of flowers at her. Somehow Gracie punches Miss Texas in the nose (and we later see her with a nose bandage!) It's just a chaotic scene and ends with Gracie flinging the crown into the air towards the large Statue of Liberty replica as Kathy pushes the button that controls the bomb and ends up blowing up part of the statue.

The next morning Gracie is awarded Miss Congeniality by the other women in the pageant for saving their lives.

There was a sequel to this called Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. While watching the ten minute look at it on the DVD, I had no recollection of it whatsoever even though I was pretty sure I saw it since I liked the first one so much. However, when I looked at my movie journal for 2005 (this is a journal where I keep track of all the movies I've seen in the theater since 1999), it was not in there! Then I checked my online journal where I've kept track of all the DVDs I've seen since 2003 (I know, I'm a major nerd!) and discovered I saw it on DVD in June 2005. I probably don't remember anything about it because it's been nearly ten years since I saw it and it was awful as it was an unnecessary sequel. Sorry, but I won't be reviewing it!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Worst move of 2014?

The Other Woman
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Don Johnson, Nicki Minaj
Released: April 25, 2014



The Other Woman has to be a serious contender for the worst movie of 2014. Lord, that movie was awful! Carly (Cameron Diaz) starts dating an attractive and successful man, Mark (Coster-Waldau) only to discover months later he's married. His wife, Kate (Leslie Mann), suspects something and confronts Carly about it. At first I thought Mark was cheating on his wife because Kate is the most annoying human being in the world and I am not exaggerating. Leslie Mann is just so painfully unfunny in this. I don't think I cracked a smile once when she was doing her stupid physical comedy. (Okay, I may have laughed at that scene where she and Cameron Diaz are hiding in the bushes and she's pretending Diaz's legs are hers and she's stretching them out like she's in a weird pose...THAT wa the only somewhat funny thing that happened in the entire movie!) There's a scene where she's at  Carly's office and has just found out her husband's been having an affair with her and starts having a fake panic attack and asks if she can open a window (they're in a skyscraper in New York City, so she's apparently really stupid!) and it goes on and on and on...and I'm thinking, is this suppose to be funny? Because it's not!

But we soon learn Mark is just a scum bag because he has ANOTHER, much younger woman, Amber (Kate Upton who was only cast in the movie because she's Kate Upton). The wife and the mistress soon get a hold of her and she becomes a part of their team to take down Mark. I thought that happened way too quickly. One minute she's frolicking in the ocean with her married boyfriend, the next she's conniving with his wife (and her other competition) and they become good friends. It literally happens within the span of just a few minutes. At least they took some time with setting up Carly and Kate. Carly understandably doesn't want anything to do with Kate because 1) she's married to the guy she thought she liked and 2) she's the most annoying human being ever to be in a movie...she even followed Carly home from work which is just insane.

Oh, and let's not forget Nicki Minaj who is also in this, playing Diaz's secretary. Good God, she is just truly awful! Who thought it would be a good idea to put her in a movie? Probably the same person who thought it would be a good idea to put Kate Upton in a movie because she's hot at the moment.  What is this, Will and Grace, where we're throwing in random people just because they're super famous? Fact: Nicki Minaj can't act!

In a scene where Carly is on a date with Mark (she's keeping up appearances in order to get back at him so he doesn't suspect anything), he flirts with another woman when he goes to the bar to get their drinks. Why is this guy even married? In the same scene, Carly puts laxatives in his drink and we are treated to a delightful scene of him in the bathroom. You think they would have cut to the next scene as soon as we see him get up and run to the bathroom as he looks uncomfortable, but noooo, we had to endure a few extra minutes of disgusting and pointless footage.

Don Johnson plays Diaz's father and he has a thing for younger woman so he ends up with Amber at the end and there's a joke about Carly saying, "I'm not calling her mom." It's crazy to think that Cameron Diaz is twenty years older than Kate Upton!

This movie is just horrendous and please tell me if you've seen a movie worse than this in 2014 because I  will surely be avoiding those movies as well!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Soccer Rules

Bend It Like Beckham
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Cast: Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightly, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Archie Panjabi
Released: April 11, 2002 (UK); March 28, 2003 (US)
Viewed in theaters: April 26, 2003





Kalinda!
I own this movie on DVD (I got a good deal on Ebay) and its been in my possession for at least a decade but I hadn't given any thought to it until recently when I started watching The Good Wife (I just finished season 3) and was looking up the cast on IMDb. I was curious to know such things as: What other shows has Will Gardner been in? (Sports Night). How old is Cary Argos because he looks like he's 12....he was 32 in the first season! And then I see that bad-ass investigator Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) played the older sister in Bend It Like Beckham and thought I would revisit it.

This was a small, independent movie that was really popular when it came out. As you can see, it was released in the UK (as it is a British film) a full year before it came to the States. I had heard good things about it and really wanted to see it, but it was only playing at a small theater that only shows foreign and independent movies (I saw it when it was only in select cities; it was later released nationally in August ). That was the first and only time I had ever been to that theater...it was OLD. The seats were very uncomfortable. I guess I am too spoiled by being able to recline in my movie theater chairs! But at least this movie wasn't that long. I was living in a small town when I saw Fellowship of the Ring and saw that in a really old, small theater with crappy seats. I should receive a medal for that! At least I enjoyed the movie! 


Bend it Like Beckham centers around Jess (Parminder Nagra) an Indian girl who lives in England with her older sister and parents who are very traditional in their culture and customs. She loves playing football (soccer to us yanks - okay, let's be honest...the rest of the world is right to call it that...you use your feet more in that sport than you do in our American football!) and has a poster of David Beckham (even a person who doesn't know a thing about soccer knows who he is!) on her wall that she talks to everyday when she just needs to vent about something and can't talk to anyone else about it. 


She often plays with her guy friends in the park and is approached by Jules (Keira Knightley in her first major role) who tells her she should play for a  local team and invites her to try out for the Hounslow Harriers. The town they live in is called Hounslow; I had no idea what a harrier was until I looked it up: it's a bird. Who knew? Jules introduces Jess to the head coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Quick sidenote: Who thought it was a good idea to give the three main characters all one syllable names that begin with J?  Joe is impressed with Jess's soccer skills and she is invited to join the team, but when she asks her parents' permission, she is forbidden because her parents don't want her showing her bare skin in the uniform, but mostly it is because her father doesn't want her to get her hopes up in thinking she might be able to get a scholarship at a school to play only to be disappointed when she will be discriminated against which he thinks will happen to her because he has seen it firsthand, so he only wants to protect her which is understandable. 

Jess pretends to get a job so she can say she's at work when she's really playing soccer. She wears street clothes over her uniform and hides a bag with her athletic shoes in a bush outside her house. There's one scene where she has literally stepped out her front door...and her family is still inside...and unzips and takes off her hoodie to reveal her uniform. Good Lord, at least wait until you're out of sight from your house!  She is caught by her sister when her mother asks her to pick Jess up at work but when Kalinda gets there she learns that Jess doesn't work there. Even though she begs Kalinda not to say anything, she is still found out when her parents find out she bought new soccer shoes instead of shoes for her sister's upcoming wedding. Joe comes to talk to her parents saying how great a player Jess is and that she would be a great asset to the team, but her parents still refuse and they are angry with Jess for lying to them. This doesn't deter Jess and she even fabricates a story about staying with a friend for a few days so she can go to Germany to compete in the first international tournament for the Harriers. Now, everyone has heard of lying to one's  parents about sleeping over at a friend's house when they're really at another place they shouldn't be, but lying to your parents about being at a friend's house when you're in an entirely different country seems a bit extreme! But she keeps up the charade by calling her parents from her hotel room and telling them lies about her day. She probably would have gotten away with it except her father sees an article in the sports section about the soccer team heading to Germany and he puts two and two together and discovers Jess has lied...again.

Not only does Jess have to deal with her angry parents, but Jules is also angry with her and has stopped talking to her after she sees a drunk Jess almost kiss Joe at a nightclub, she gets jealous and angry. Jess is confused because Jules told her she didn't like Joe like that. And even though Jess didn't kiss Joe, Jules thinks she did. It's very typical high school drama.  

By far, the worst character is Jules' mother. They were obviously trying to make her the comic relief of the movie, but some of the things she said was just so stupid and narrow-minded, it made me cringe. Like Jess's parents, she also hates that her daughter plays soccer but only for the reason that it is unladylike and she is worried that Jules will never have a boyfriend because she thinks her waif of a daughter is going to get so bulky from playing soccer that no guy will want to be with a girl who is bigger than him. Then she overhears Jess and Jules arguing about what happened in Germany with Joe, but she misinterprets it as them having feelings for each other and thinks Jules is a lesbian (and when she finds out she isn't, she's very relieved, which I found very insulting for the gay community!) But Jules does admonish her for saying there's nothing wrong with being a lesbian. But probably the most cringe worth moment is when she drives Jules to Kalinda's wedding and sees Jules and Jess hug and freaks and rudely tells Jess to take her "lesbian feet" out of her shoes. (Jules gave Jess a pair of her shoes to wear to the wedding). It's like, geeze, lady, could you be any more homophobic? I guess you could say at least she's not racist as she was always very nice to Jess before she thought she was dating her daughter! 

The same day as her sister's wedding is also when a scout from the States is coming to see the girls play and potentially offer them scholarships. With her father's permission, she is allowed to play as long as she makes it back to the wedding. By this time she and Jules have made up. By the end of the movie, Jess and Joe are making out and Jules seems totally fine with it...okay. The scout offers them to come to California and play for Santa Clara (or as Keira Knightly pronounces it, "Santa Clah-rah!" I laughed so hard when she said that). At the airport when they're getting ready to leave, they see Becks and Posh so of course they think that's a sign for good things to come. End movie.

Speaking of Posh (my favorite was always Ginger, naturally!), Victoria Beckham has a song on the soundtrack (which I own because I love the song "Inner Smile"). I think it's played during the club scene...it's not very good or memorable and it's a good thing she's found success in her fashion line. Another former Spice Girl, Mel C (aka Sporty) also has a song on the soundtrack and it's actually pretty decent. A lot of the songs have an Indian influence (and made me think of the music in Slumdog Millionaire). There was even an Indian-inspired cover of "The Power of Love" (sadly not on the soundtrack), the Celine Dion power ballad, which ironically is also a cover although no one probably knows that because it is much more popular than the original! 

So if you're a fan of The Good Wife and have never seen it, you may get a kick of seeing Archie Panjabi in an entirely different role from Kalinda.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Treat your friends like your enemies and your enemies like your friends"

Toys
Director: Barry Levinson
Cast: Robin Williams, Joan Cusack, Michael Gambon, Robin Wright, LL Cool J
Released: December 18, 1992

Oscar nominations:
Best Art Decoration-Set Decoration (lost to Howards End)
Best Costume Design (lost to Dracula)



I said I would have another holiday movie review for you and I have delivered on my promise. Well, sort of. While Toys begins and ends with a Christmas song called The Closing of the Year (a song that I love, love, love and is probably one of the only good things about the movie!), the rest of it really has nothing to do with Christmas. It's been at least a decade since I've seen it, so please forgive my memory. You would think a movie that came out in December and has TOYS in the title would have something to do with Christmas! So I'm glad I at least gave you a true Christmas movie review with the remake of Miracle on 34th Street. Next year I will just have to make it up by doing THREE Christmas movies! 

I really don't know how to describe this movie. It is a flustercluck, for one thing! I feel like I am doing disservice to the late Robin Williams by this being his first movie I reviewed since his passing. I will have to make that up by watching and reviewing one of his better movies in the future. This one is just  weird with plenty of moments where you might go, WTF? 

Williams plays Leslie Zevo and Joan Cusack plays his sister, Alstatia (I'm still not sure how you pronounce that!) Their father, owner of Zevo Toys, a company that manufactures and sells toys, dies and his brother (Michael Gambon) takes it over. Why his brother, a stern, no-nonsense general, is the beneficiary of the toy company and his fun-loving and child-like son is not is because he doesn't think Leslie could be a successful leader. 

Mr. Zevo must have made a fortune selling his cheap toys because his children live in a house that pops out from a story book (and there's even a dollhouse replica in the living room) and they have their own butlers, maids, and Leslie drives a Cadillac. Mr. Zevo even has his own wind-up (life size) ambulance to take him to the hospital for God's sake. I have no idea how he made such a fortune selling such crappy-looking toys, but it apparently worked so well that he was able to afford tons of workers who just sing and dance to a song called "The Happy Worker" (sung by Tori Amos) while they wait for large, colorful machines to spit out toy parts so they can assemble them. He can even afford to pay some guy whose job it is to hold a "Ducks Crossing" sign so people stop to let TOY duckling cross the street, I am not kidding you. The movie never states when it takes place. I was thinking maybe it was the '50s because most of the toys are those plastic wind-up toys of yore, but MTV and video games are also featured so therefore that makes it in the "present" day...or at least in the '80s as I was listening to a podcast (How Did This Get Made?....I highly recommend listening to this one, it's from September 2013) and they mentioned it took Barry Levinson ten years to write it! 

Another way they waste money (but still seem to have overloads of it!) is that they make a lot of joke toys (large attachable ears, fake vomit, hand buzzers, smoking jackets (those are jackets that literally smoke), etc...) and they pay people to research them. There is a really long scene where Leslie and the others are wearing white lab coats while going over different kinds on fake vomit and they are taking it seriously! Now the joke is that while they are discussing vomit, the room they are in is getting smaller because the General needs more room for a project he is working on. I don't understand the appeal of any of the toys that are created at this place. I can't see any kids wanting to play with them. The only visual appeal to the movie is the house they live in and the rolling green hills where they live. (Which I thought was filmed in England, but that was actually filmed in Rosalia, Washington.) 
Levinson must have had his heart set on very particular actors because this family doesn't make any sense at all. The General has a British accent, but everyone else is his family is American. They do sort of address this by him blaming his father for raising him in Britain and that's why he sounds different from everyone else. His (now deceased) wife was a Jane Fonda lookalike and yet they have a son named Patrick who looks like LL Cool J.... I'm guessing he was adopted? And then there's Alstatia who is just an odd character. She eats sandwiches with vitamins or applesauce (ugh!) only between the two slices of bread. Patrick makes a comment that she always looks the same age whenever he sees her. We later find out (spoiler alert!) that Alstatia is a robot that Leslie's dad had built for him because his mother died when he was young and he wanted to make sure Leslie had somebody to take care of him. So many questions! Why did Leslie's father make his son a grown up sister? (Remember, Patrick commented how she never ages, so it wasn't like Mr. Zevo built a robot every year to grow up with Leslie). And why is he selling all these crappy, cheap toys when he can make robots that look like real human beings? Just think how much richer he could have been...and he made a fortune selling crappy toys and paying his employees to pretty much do nothing! 

The General wants to make war toys and video games to train kids for war in the future...IDK...it's so weird. And then there's a toy war with the General's toys against the Zevo Toys. It is the stupidest thing! There was a funny line where Leslie says, "Let's fight fire with marshmallows!" because all the General's toys come equipped with guns while you just wind up the Zevo Toys. He does give an amusing speech to his "troop" of toys where he begins with, "Four stores and many Christmases ago..." the speech has some clever dialogue, but it goes on way too long. And another question concerning Alstatia, why didn't they use her in the toy war since she is a freaking robot and can just be rebuilt. I guess since we find this out AFTER the toy war (I cannot believe I just wrote that!) ended, they didn't want to ruin the surprise for the viewer. 

While this movie is called TOYS, it is not for children! Not just because some innocent toys become victim in the toy war, but because Robin Wright plays Leslie's love interest (she was hired by his father the day before he died because he wanted them to get together, which is really creepy if you think about it) and there is a really awkward scene between them where you can't see it, but you  can hear it because the General has his men spying on them and her bra is covering the small robot that is their eyes. And they have one conversation and are pretty much in love the next scene, it is so ridiculous and stupid! 

This entire movie is ridiculous and stupid! The only good thing about it is the "Closing of the Year" song. And that's the only Christmas thing related to it! 



Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Classic Remake

Miracle on 34th Street
Director: Les Mayfield
Cast: Mara Wilson, Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott, Richard Attenborough
Released: November 18, 1994



Last year I reviewed the original Miracle on 34th Street for my holiday movie review. I wanted to review this remake at the same time, but last year, for some reason, this one seemed to be difficult to find. So that is why I am reviewing it this year and I do plan on having another holiday movie in the near future.

In this version, Mara Wilson plays Susan, the young girl who is skeptical about Santa Claus being real. This is because her mother, Dorey (played by Elizabeth Perkins), told her he wasn't. Although she does talk like an adult, I didn't find Wilson's Susan as irritating as Natalie Wood's Susan. The most annoying moment for Susan in this movie is when she tells her mom's boyfriend, Bryan (played by Dylan McDermott), that she's trying to cut back on sugar when he offers her a candy cane. But that's not as bad as original Susan telling Kris Kringle that she refuses to pretend to be an animal because she's a girl and she can't have an imagination! Ugh!

The movie is very similar to the original and starts out with Dorey firing the Santa at the Thanksgiving Day Parade because he is intoxicated and hiring a man who calls himself Kris Kringle (played by Richard Attenborough) who happens to be available and tells him to be "himself." He is so good at the job of portraying Santa that he is hired as their Santa at the department store she works at, Cole's, which is a fictitious department store. Now if you remember, the original was set at Macy's, but apparently Macy's did not want any part in this remake so they didn't get their permission to be used. Ouch. And just like the original, Santa tells parents where they can find toys if they can't find them at Cole's or where they can find toys for cheaper if they are too expensive. The rival store in the original was Gimbel's; the rival store in this one is called Shopper's Express. Shopper's Express, really, writers? Couldn't think of anything more original?

Alison Janney has one scene where she plays a shopper who asks the manager if he knows that his Santa is telling customers to shop at other department stores. She has a very strong Brooklyn accent (I'm guessing...I'm not very good with East Coast accents, but whatever it is, it is very exaggerated. I did find one source saying that her character is from Long Island). I wasn't really aware of her until 1999 when she was in Ten Things I Hate About You and American Beauty, and of course, probably best known for The West Wing when it premiered that year, so it was amusing seeing her in a small role five years before she become really well-known. Speaking of people who were in this movie before they became more known, Jennifer Morrison from the TV series House and Once Upon a Time plays an elf at the Cole's Santa display. She was probably around 14 or 15 at the time and I didn't even recognize her and it wasn't until I was looking through the cast on IMDb that I saw her name and looked up to see who she played.

In my review of the original, I questioned whether or not they had any scenes where there is actual proof that Santa IS actually Santa, but even though he owns a Santa suit, claims his name is Kris Kringle, and gives an explanation of how he can visit every child in one evening, there is no proof that this movie takes place in a universe where Santa Claus really does exist. And tell me, why would he be giving advice to parents on where to find toys for his children when his elves make them, hmmmm?

The bad guys from Shopper's Express team up with the guy who was Cole's original Santa (and apparently this is the only gig he has....I wonder what he does in the off season?) and it is soooo obvious that they are bad guys by the way they talk and look. The ex-Santa harasses Kris and even makes a comment about him liking the kids a little too much. Whoa, family movie remake of a beloved classic Christmas film, did you really just go there? Kris is arrested for assaulting and hurting the man and is sent away in handcuffs. In the absolute worst scene of the movie and probably the worst scene of just about any movie in history, we see a shot of the ex-Santa who opens his eyes, then winks right into the camera to let all the young kids watching know that he is okay and is faking being hurt. OMG it was sooooooooo bad. SO TERRIBLE. I cringed when I saw that. It just catered to all the little kids out there and apparently someone thought they were too stupid to know that it was all just a set up so they had to have the actor wink into the camera. I wouldn't have minded if he just opened his eyes to let them know he was faking being unconscious, but my God that wink was just truly horrible film making. Seriously, if I were reviewing this movie on a podcast, I would tell everyone that this movie loses a star just for that scene. It is that bad. And the movie actually isn't too bad, but that one little scene just ruins it for me. If you're going to break the fourth wall, you need to be more clever about it and this movie wasn't that kind of movie to do that. Just awful.

Kris is released, but he has to pass a sanity test but doesn't since he still firmly states that he is Santa Claus. Bryan plays his lawyer and must prove that Santa Claus does exist and the man he is defending is him for Kris not to be sent away. This movie was good practice (hehe...pun!) for Dylan McDermott since he would play attorney Bobby Donnell in The Practice three years later. Do you think David E. Kelley took Michelle and the kids to see this movie and when he saw Dylan McDermott defending Santa he knew he had to have his next TV show be a courtroom drama and McDermott was going to play one of the lawyers. Totally fanfiction, I know, but it's amusing to think that's the way The Practice came to be.

I thought it was a smart move when Bryan questions the prosecutor's wife because when asked if she has told her children that Santa is real, she says yes and since she is under oath, admits that it was her husband who first told them that he is real and that the Santa their kids visited at Cole's was the real Santa. Let's be honest: the old man can't prove he's Santa. The prosecutor questions a man who has been to the North Pole and he claims he has never seen any sign of Santa Claus living up there and Kris bursts out indignantly, claiming that of course he has never seen anything because his workshops are all invisible. Please. A reindeer is brought into the courtroom. (Where do they find reindeer in New York? Where do they find reindeer in the United States? Aren't they only native to, like, Norway and the North Pole? My parents visited Norway and my mom said she had reindeer at a restaurant they ate at. I was very appalled. And this was when I was 14 and knew Santa wasn't real and I was still appalled!) Anyway, Kris is asked to make the reindeer fly and he laughs and says they only fly Christmas Eve. Oh, how convenient! I'm not buying for one second that this guy is Santa Claus, but good on him for wanting to make Christmas a wondrous, magical time for children. There is a nice little montage where people all over the city display signs of saying they believe which may or may not have gotten me a little teary-eyed. It was scenes like that that made me like the movie.

The judge receives a one-dollar bill from Susan in a Christmas card with the motto "In God We Trust" circled and comes to the conclusion that even though the court can't prove that God is real with any real evidence, they still believe in him and that means people can still believe in Santa even if there is no evidence (or very weak evidence) that he is real. So he is allowed to be a free man and everyone is happy.


As in the original, Susan tells Kris that she wants a family and a house. She gets this when her mother marries Bryan on a whim (I don't understand why they just didn't get engaged, but whatever) and find out the house Dorey plans on using for a catalog has been set up for them to purchase by Kris. Nothing like paying for your own Christmas present, especially when it's a house! Personally, I thought the house was ugly with its ridiculously slanted roof, but it does have a gingerbread house feel to it so I can see why it was chosen for the movie. Inside, was a different story (hey, I made another pun!) as all the rooms were lavishly decorated. We are left with the implication that Dorey is pregnant as Susan has also wished for a baby brother.

And it's been twenty years and we have not yet seen another remake, but I'm sure we will get another.




Monday, December 8, 2014

That Bitch Ain't Right

Gone Girl 
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Missi Pyle
Released: October 3, 2014
Viewed in theaters:  November 6, 2014


Hmmm....better safe than sorry, right? SPOILERS AHOY! 

Back in early 2013, I read the massively popular book (which I first heard about from the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast as Linda Holmes raved about it several times) which I was fortunate to read for free and without having to wait for it at the library because my mom's book club was also on the pop culture bandwagon and read it for their book club so my mom bought the book and I was able to read it after her. I enjoyed the book, but in a way, I wish I hadn't read it because it would have been interesting to see the movie not knowing what happens because there are lots of twists and turns. Nevertheless, knowing full well what happens, I still enjoyed the film very much and thought the adaptation from novel to script was flawless, although it probably helps that the author, Gillian Flynn, also wrote the script. She is a former writer of my favorite entertainment magazine, Entertainment Weekly and not surprisingly they loved both movie and book. But I think that has more to do with that they're both legitimately good and they're not trying to kiss one of their own's ass. Although that would have been awkward if they had hated the story and had to write a negative review.

Nick and Amy Dunne, a couple married for four years are played by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Now I'm sure everyone already knows that Reese Witherspoon bought the rights for the movie and was going to play Amy, but David Fincher said he didn't think she was right for the role and cast Pike instead. Although Witherspoon is the much bigger name (I only recognized Pike from that forgettable Tom Cruise movie a couple years ago, Jack Reacher, in which she plays a forgettable character), I think it was a smart decision. I don't know if Witherspoon could have pulled off ice queen as well as Pike does, and I don't think she and Affleck would have complimented each other as well physically since she is so tiny. Also, having two huge stars might have been a little distracting.  

Luckily Amy is anything but an unforgettable character. She is the daughter of wealthy New York parents who made their fortune writing a book series called Amazing Amy which is based after their daughter and the character grows up with her, except that she always seems to be one step ahead of the real Amy. She and Nick were both writers for magazines and moved to Nick's home state, Missouri, when his mother became sick. Amy is unhappy and bored. She finds out Nick has been cheating on her with one of his creative writing college course students. On the day of their fifth wedding aniversary, Nick comes home to find not only that Amy is gone, but that it looks like there has been a struggle in the house and the police find a lot of blood that has been mopped up in the kitchen. Needless to say, Nick becomes suspect #1 in his wife's disappearance. Now if you hadn't read the book, you would have no idea if he was innocent or guilty. There are little clues that seem to indicate that he is guilty such as he is trying to throw the police off a trail that leads to his father's house that a clue Amy left for him (something she did every year for their anniversary) that leads him there. However, the police on the case (played by Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit) are keeping a sharp eye on him and find a journal there written by Amy indicating that she is fearful of her husband and afraid that he is going to kill her. It is found in a furnace, partially burned. Nick is painted even more guilty when he is shown smiling at a press conference held for Amy's disappearance (you have to feel bad for the guy; he was told to smile!) and he is ripped apart by Missi Pyle's Nancy Grace-esque TV national news reporter. He becomes harassed by the reporters and can't leave his house with running into them. Even his twin sister, Margo (played by Carrie Coon) questions whether he had anything to do with Amy's disappearance when she finds out he's having an affair.

Affleck hires a New York attorney who is famous for winning difficult cases for his high-profile clients. He is played by Tyler Perry and so I'll just insert my joke about Ben Affleck really needing the Tyler Perry Hidden Immunity Idol that nobody will get unless they watch Survivor.

YOU ARE NOW HEADING INTO SPOILER TERRITORY! GO BACK IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED. DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARM YOU! SERIOUSLY, IF YOU HAVEN'T READ OR SEEN GONE GIRL AND HAVEN'T BEEN SPOILED THUS FAR, DON'T RUIN IT FOR YOURSELF! THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS AHOY!

I'm sure there's very few people who haven't read the book or seen the movie (or both), but I want to cover all my bases! After all that wondering over whether Nick is guilty or not, we go back to the day of the disappearance, only from Amy's POV because she is very much still alive and driving away from her old life and telling the audience that she has set up her husband to take the fall for her "death". Although maybe I shouldn't put that word in quotes since her plan is to eventually commit suicide and have her body found in the river. However, she keeps putting off that little task. She has gained weight and changed her appearance so nobody recognizes her since she is all over the news. Since deciding not to kill herself, her plan changes. She has money, but it will eventually run out...although it runs out much quicker than she anticipates since she is robbed. She seeks help from an ex-boyfriend (played by Neil Patrick Harris) who has a creepy obsession with her and used to stalk her. We find out that Amy has had other interesting conflicts with ex-boyfriends in her past and that she is a master manipulator. In fact, the more we learn about Amy, we find out she is basically a sociopath. In the end, Amy (after killing Doogie Howser who she blames for keeping her captive and was the one who kidnapped her) goes back to Nick and keeps on manipulating him and they continue being a married couple.  This one is sure to get a few nominations come Oscar season.