Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Off With Your Face!


Face/Off
Director: John Woo
Cast: John Travolta, Nicholas Cage, Joan Allen, Gina Gershon, Alessandro Nivola
Released: June 27, 1997

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound Effects Editing (lost to Titanic (of course it did))


I think if one was given the choice to watch a "face off" between John Travolta and Nicholas Cage or between Bryan Cranston and Giancarlo Esposito, the latter would be chosen every time. At least that's the one I would choose. That episode of Breaking Bad was amazing and this movie is just so awfully laughably bad. I probably saw it fifteen years ago and didn't much care for it then and had no intention of ever seeing it again, but when I saw that the  comedy podcast How Did This Get Made?, which reviews ridiculous movies such as this one, had reviewed it (the episode came out in May of last year if you want to look for it), I knew I had to watch it again just to listen to the podcast. I sludged through the two and a half hours (TWO AND A HALF HOURS OF OVERACTING FROM TRAVOLTA AND CAGE!)  of this craziness but it was totally worth it to listen to that episode of that podcast. I was laughing so hard; I'm glad I was alone when I listened to it! And of course how could I deny you a review of the movie?  

I'm sure everyone has seen the movie, or at the very least know the basic premise: Travolta and Cage switch faces. Sean Archer (John Travolta) is the good guy. He's an FBI agent and a family man with a wife (Joan Allen) and a teen daughter. Castor Troy (Nicholas Cage) is the bad guy. He's a terrorist, who, along with his brother (Alessandro Nivola) plants a bomb set to go off in a few weeks in L.A. There is history between these two. You see, six years ago, Troy was all set up to kill Archer who was on a carousel with his five year old son. When he takes his aim (and why is he aiming when his target is on a moving object?), he misses Archer (gee you think since he's on a MOVING object?) and only nicks him, but instead kills the kid. While Archer is mourning him (and this time he is off the carousel), you'd think Troy would take the chance to kill him but he doesn't. Because otherwise we wouldn't have a movie! So now we have our characters' backstories! 

We fast forward six years later where Archer is distant from his wife and the daughter is pretty much like Eliza Dushku 2.0 from True Lies where she thinks her dad is really lame. The two sworn enemies are reunited and Archer and his FBI agents have a shoot out with Troy and his minions in an airport hanger with lots of explosions. I laughed so hard when one guy got shot and when he flew back into the wall, you could actually see the wire he was attached to that pulled him back. Troy tells Archer there's a bomb, but won't tell him where it is. This is the first of many face offs (face.....off!) they have. 

Anyway, I'll skip all the boring stuff and get to the good part. Archer thinks Troy has died (he got hurt pretty badly during their, ahem, face off) but he's only in a coma being kept alive by ventilators. Two agents tell Archer they think there's a way that he can stop the bomb and ask him, "What if you could go up to Castor's brother AS Castor" and Archer is all like, "Huh, what are you talking about?" They introduce him to a doctor who says he can do a procedure where he will take Archer's face...wait for it....OFF and then have it replaced with Troy's face. They will also alter his body and give him a haircut so he will match Troy. They are also able to change his voice so he will sound like Troy. (And I'm sure if Travolta tried hard enough, he probably could have done a fine Nicholas Cage impersonation!) The only thing that won't be the same is their blood types....which will be a plot point later! Naturally Archer is hesitant at first, but then he agrees. If this were me, I would say, "Hell, no, you cannot take my face OFF!" (I wonder how many times I'm going to say "face off" in this review?)

I understand they want to find the bomb, but of all the people, why have Archer assume Troy's identify? The guy killed his kid for God's sake and now he's got to look like the man who murdered his son? That has got to have some damaging psychological effects that can never be undone. But I guess he's the best man for the job as he knows the most about Troy and plus the movie just wouldn't be as awesome! 

We see the procedure where the doc effortlessly peels off Archer's face after using a scalpel to cut it and sticks it in a vat of saline or something and does the same with Troy's face and stitches it onto Archer's faceless face. Basically now Nicholas Cage is now playing the part of Sean Archer. He is taken to a very high-security prison that houses the worst of the worst criminals where the other Troy brother is to work on him to see if he can get any information on the bomb.  

MEANWHILE.....apparently the FBI thought Troy was good to be in a coma for a couple more weeks because they just leave him in a room which isn't locked or contained and he isn't chained down or anything in the event he should wake up...which he does! Shocker! Bet you didn't see that one coming! He's not even being guarded! So he wakes up with a bandage on his head and we see a shot of the back of his head as he unwraps the bandage. He touches his face which has been replaced by tissue and blood and bone and whatever else is under your skin and we see blood smeared on his fingers. I'm surprised he didn't scream because I would imagine that would hurt touching your face without the skin. He see's Archer's face in the vat of saline because, you know, it's just sitting there out in the open! Not even under lock and key. Who the hell is running this place? He watches a video of the procedure they did on Archer. You think having his faceless face exposed to the elements would be damaging. He does say he took some pain killers so that explains why he's not screaming in agony. He has access to a phone so we hear him talking to one of his cronies in a muffled voice and they bring the doctor and make him do the procedure with Archer's face now to be put on Troy. The only time we see Troy's faceless face is in the reflection of the doctor's glasses and someone on How Did This Get Made? commented that they put ketchup on Cage's face which is so true because it does look like that. The doctor does the operation, so John Travolta is now playing the part of Castor Troy. He kills the doctor and the two FBI agents who told Archer about the operation, and get this...THOSE THREE WERE THE ONLY PEOPLE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD WHO KNEW THAT ARCHER WAS GOING UNDER THIS PROCUEDURE TO LOOK LIKE TROY AND NOW NOBODY KNOWS WHO HE REALLY IS!!! Hahahaha, I love it. I just love how stupid this movie is.

Between the two actors, I honestly don't know who is worse. They both overact, especially when they play the part of the bad guy. (I guess we should be thankful that they are never both the bad guy at the same time!) It's like Woo told them to give it their usual ten on the scale of overacting, but then drive it up to twenty....which they do. I should mention that Cage was ridiculous and over the top when he was playing Troy and it it HILARIOUS when he is playing Archer pretending to be Troy. But even more hilarious is Travolta. He turns into a total "Whoo!" girl because he is "whoo"-ing all over the place. When he confronts Cage-as-Archer, he says to him, "Whoo-wee, you good-looking!" That line delivery was so hilarious. 

Travolta-as-Troy becomes a hero when he "finds" the planted bomb and defuses it. Margaret Cho is in this movie as an FBI agent and when they're all celebrating she says to Travolta-as-Troy (because Archer is usually a buzzkill), "Sir, did you have surgery?" and he looks worried like she might know something, and then she says, "Did you finally get that stick removed from your ass?" C'mon, would you really say that to your superior who just defused a bomb? It wasn't really Archer and the bomb was never found, but still. Cage-as-Archer sees this on TV and knows he has to escape from prison...which he does with some help and a lot of fighting. He finds out the prison is actually a large barge far from land but he jumps off of it and manages to swim to shore. It cuts from him jumping into the water to dry land where he gets in a car so we never actually see how he got there, but the movie is already two and a half hours long, so I don't care if they didn't show that.

Margaret Cho tells TravoltaTroy that Castor Troy has died and he is happy by this news but when he asks to see the body she tells him it hasn't been recovered and he totally spazzes out and shouts, "It hasn't been RECOVERED yet?" It was so hilarious, but I doubt the movie was going for that.

TravoltaTroy is enjoying the perks of being Archer and starts to romance his "wife" who is surprised by all the attention he's giving to her because the real Archer was always so distant after their son died and was only focused on work. He is not subtle at all at trying to fit into his new identity. (But then again, he was never a subtle terrorist either!) He gets his "daughter's" name wrong (and lusts after her...eww!) and acts all weird and too cool around her. After he beats up a guy who was trying to advance on his  "daughter", he gives her a knife as "protection" in case a guy ever tries to rape her. This will also come in handy later in the movie. 

The most hilarious scene in the movie is when CageArcher goes to Troy's hideaway where he lives with his girlfriend (Gina Gershon) and other cronies and he explains to them that he wants to find "Archer" and take his face....off! And there's repeated lines of "face off?" "Face....off!" So bad, but so hilarious. We find that Troy has a son who is five. He pretty much looks exactly like Archer's son who died (and was also five!) They even pretty much have the same hair cut and color. They are so alike that CageArcher calls him Michael (which was Archer's son's name), but this kid's name is Adam.

CageArcher calls his wife and tells her what is going on but she doesn't believe him, so he goes to his house and she is naturally scared because it looks like the man who murdered her son and is a known terrorist is at her house, but he tells her about the first date they had and tells her to take his blood and get a blood sample from TravoltaTroy and she does and finds out the truth. But by this time, even without the blood sample, you think she would know because TravotlaTroy is now walking around with two goons and you can tell they're bad guys. That Troy guy really does not know how to be subtle whatsoever. 

The two men reunite at the funeral of Archers' boss who TravoltaTroy killed after revealing the truth to him and blaming his death as a heart attack. There's a stand off between the two of them, plus Archer's wife and Troy's girlfriend. Everyone dies except Travolta, Cage, and Allen. There are doves which I guess is a John Woo trademark. The daughter randomly shows up and thinks that TravoltaTroy is her father when she holds a gun at the two fighting men. They each plead at her to shoot the other man. Somehow TravoltaTroy grabs her and has a gun to her head so she knows that's NOT her dad (especially after he licks her face....eww!) and stabs him in the leg with the knife he gave her. He lets go of her and she runs to her mother. The two men continue fighting and somehow end up on speed boats and there's a big boat chase and lots of explosions. Actually, this scene was pretty cool and my favorite action scene of the movie. Another one of my favorite scenes was a few scenes earlier where they are facing off against each other (once again!) and they are back to back with a wall separating them. (It's the one in the above photo). They say the only way to end this is to kill each other, so they get up and face the wall where there is a mirror on each side of the wall so they are looking at a reflection of themselves....as the OTHER person and each aim a gun at the mirror. Oh, the symbolism, I love it!  

So after the boat scene where the boat and two stunt actors go flying fifty feet into the air, CageArcher finally kills TravoltaTroy and gets his face back! He comes home with Adam without discussing this with his wife in advance if she would be okay with adopting the son of the guy who killed HER son and this kid looks EXACTLY like her dead son...so I don't know is she would be down with that, but how can she say no when the kid is standing right there? 

 
I explain an annoying thing one of the characters does in the movie:

video

Saturday, January 30, 2016

You Can Forget All Your Troubles; Forget All Your Cares

Girl, Interrupted
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Whoopi Goldberg, Brittany Murphy, Elisabeth Moss, Clea DuVall, Vanessa Redgrave, Jared Leto, Jeffery Tambor
Released: December 21, 1999
Viewed in theaters: January 22, 2000

Oscar nominations:

Best Supporting Actress - Angelina Jolie (won)


  
This movie is based on the memoir of the same name written by Susanna Kaysen (portrayed by Winona Ryder) who wrote about her time (a year and a half) at psychiatrist ward called Claymoore in the late '60s. This is a book I've always meant to read because I like the movie, but I can never find it.  

Right after high school, Susanna is sent to Claymoore. Her parents are worried about her because she is depressed and has no desire to go to college. When her counselor asks her what she's going to do, she tells her that she wants to write. She sleeps with a professor who is married and a guy she met at a party (Jared Leto) so she is deemed "promiscuous". After trying to kill herself by taking an entire bottle of aspirin and chasing it down with a bottle of vokda (she says she had a headache), she is sent to the ward that helps young women with mental problems. 

There's Polly, a schizophrenic who has half of her face badly burned. She is played by Elisabeth Moss who of course went on to be in Mad Men, but I've never seen that show, so to me, she will always be Zoe Bartlett from The West Wing. She is nicknamed "Torch" by AJ's character. It's been about ten years since I last saw this movie and I remembered she had a nickname, but I could have sworn it was "Flame". Close enough! Also, I'm not sure if she calls her this because Polly has red hair or because her face has been badly burned. Hopefully not because of the latter because that would be messed up, but with Lisa you never know! 

Susanna's roommate is Georgina (played by Clea DuVall...okay, I always thought her name was pronounced "Clee-ah", but apparently it's "Clay-ah"?) who is a pathological liar. She tells Susanna this after she has told her how Polly burned her face. Her account is that Polly had a dog she was allergic to and got a big rash on her face and put some ointment on her face, then lit a match. So how did Polly really burn her face? It's never brought up. 


Sociopath Lisa is played by Angelina Jolie for which she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. You may remember that being the ceremony where she wore a vial of Billy Bob Thorton's blood (remember when they were married? How long ago that seems!) and made out with her brother. Sometimes I miss the crazy AJ. Did you know that when you look at Angelina's IMDb page, this movie isn't even featured as one of her "known for" titles? I'm sorry, but what kind of bull**** is that? When I think of Angelina Jolie in terms of film roles, Girl, Interrupted is ALWAYS the first movie I think of! It's probably a combination of several things: it was the first movie I saw AJ in, she has a very memorable role, and for a long time it was the only thing I liked her in. Oh, and she did win the Oscar so you think that would have edged out, say, Salt to make the cut! Anyway! I digress!  Let's get back to the review of the movie. Lisa has been at Claymoore for eight years and is the ringleader of the five or so girls who have their own little clique. (This includes Polly and Susanna as well as a anorexic girl named Janet and a mentally disturbed lesbian named Cynthia). She has a captivating, charming personality and draws Susanna into her circle of madness. She is also a bully and manipulative and gets a thrill out of taunting those she does not like. I loved Jolie's performance, but I really hated Lisa. She is an awful person. But I could see how the other girls were drawn to her.
The most interesting, disturbing, and tragic character is Daisy. She is played by Brittany Murphy and I'm gong to say it: I think this was her best role. Now I didn't say most iconic or popular, because that would be Clueless, but I do think this is her best acting. If anyone needs a psych ward, it's her. (I mean, they all need one...but she really needs one). And yet, for some reason, she is released early. She has this weird eating disorder where the only thing she will eat is rotisserie chickens from her father's deli and she keeps the eaten carcasses under her bed. She has a private room because she prefers to keep to herself, oh, and did I mention the most disturbing thing of all: her father has sex with her. :::shudder::: So why she is released, I wasn't really sure. But we'll get back to her later.

Lisa invites Susanna into her little circle. She encourages her to fake take her medication, talk back to the staff (which includes Whoopi Goldberg as Nurse Valerie and Vanessa Redgrave and Jeffrey Tambor as psychiatrists), and sneak out with her and the other girls where they go under the building where there is an old bowling lane. This place has the worst security I have ever seen. They do checks every night, but they always do it at the same time, so of course the girls have beat the system because they just stay in the rooms until the nurses have made sure they're in there, THEN they sneak out. Well, duh, if they had their checks sporadically every night, then they wouldn't know when to sneak out. 

After Susanna and Lisa get in trouble for stealing a guitar from the music room and singing "Downtown" to an upset Polly (this must have been my fourth or fifth time seeing the movie and this was the first time I caught that "Downtown" is played in the car radio on Susanna's drive to Claymoore! I had oddly never noticed that before). I had actually never heard of that song until I saw this movie and I just love it. Music is the one thing that makes her happy and it works, except when the male orderly comes over to shut them up so they don't wake anybody up, Susanna and the orderly  end up kissing (she's taking her "promiscuous" diagnosis to heart!) and are found sleeping with their arms around each other and Nurse Valerie catches them in the morning and writes her up.

This prompts Susanna and Lisa to decide to run away to Disney World which is opening soon where Lisa will be their new Cinderella and Susanna will be Snow White (well, she does have the right haircut for it!) They are able to walk right out the doors after their checks (because they know they are at the same time every night!) I'm sure the doors are locked from the outside, but what kind of place that is home to many mentally unstable people don't lock their docks from the inside? There aren't even any night nurses monitoring the halls! As you can imagine, this makes it quite easy for the girls to escape. Lisa has acquired the address to Daisy's new apartment her father bought for her where she now resides with her gray cat, Ruby. 

There has never been any love lost between Lisa and Daisy and Daisy only lets them in because she thinks it's only Susanna who tells her she has Valium. It is clear Daisy hasn't gotten better because the only thing she has in her fridge is mayonnaise and rotisserie chickens and she is cutting herself. Lisa cruelly taunts her about her dad molesting her and the fact that Daisy likes it. Susanna pleads Lisa to stop, but being cruel to Daisy makes Lisa feel superior. 

In the morning, when Susanna comes back with breakfast, Lisa tells her that Daisy hasn't come down yet and the same song has been playing over and over on a loop. The song is "The End of the World" by Skeeter Davis and because of the lyrics; the fact that Daisy hasn't come down yet; and Daisy's all-around well-being; Susanna, as well as the audience, I'm sure, is a little bit concerned. Not finding Daisy in her room, Susanna fears the worst when she creeps down the hall to the bathroom with the door closed. She opens it to find that Daisy has hung herself. After Susanna starts shrieking and crying, Lisa comes up and calls Daisy an idiot and checks to see if she has any money on her. Susanna says she's going to call an ambulance and Lisa says she should call a hearse. Very little concern that her comments from the night before prompted Daisy to kill herself! I am surprised that she didn't comment that Daisy had a tub after all because the night before she asked if there was a bathtub upstairs and Daisy said no. 

Susanna is so distraught by this that she doesn't want to go anywhere with Lisa anymore and goes brought to  Claymoore. Lisa is also brought back a few days later, although against her will. Susanna has a heart to heart with Nurse Valerie who she was quite awful to before she ran away and starts to make progress with her treatments and is eventually released.

The soundtrack to this movie is great; lots of '60 favorites. I especially love the song, "The Weight."

Here's a Cinematic Sara first for you: you know how at the Oscars the big 8 include Best Picture, Best Director, the four acting categories, and the two writing categories? Well, I reviewed all the movies that won those awards at the 2000 Oscars for the movies that came out in 1999. They include American Beauty (for Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Original Screenplay - that one knocked out half of them!); The Cider House Rules (for Best Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay); Boys Don't Cry (for Best Actress);  and now I can add Girl, Interrupted (for Best Supporting Actress) to that list! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dalmatian Plantation

101 Dalmatians (1961)
Director(s): Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton S. Luske, and Wolfgang Reitherman
Voice Talent: Rod Taylor, J. Pat O'Malley, Betty Lou Gerson, Marth Wentworth, Ben Wright, Lisa Davis
Released: January 25, 1961



101 Dalmatians (1996)
Director: Stephen Herek
Cast: Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson, Joan Plowright, Hugh Laurie, Mark Williams
Released: November 27, 1996

It seems lately that there has been an explosion of live action Disney remakes taken from their animated counterparts. There was Cinderella last year and Maleficent a couple years ago and The Jungle Book out this year and The Little Mermaid coming out soon. But 101 Dalmatians may have been the first to do it since its live action counterpart came out almost twenty years ago. I can't think of any others that were around that time. Let's get one thing straight though: the remake is really bad. Like, really, REALLY bad. There are a couple of good things (mainly Glenn Close), but for the most part it's really bad! The funny thing is, while I remembered there was a live actin remake in the '90s and Glenn Close played Cruella DeVil, I had no recollection of what happened in the movie. I'm pretty sure I saw it (whether in the theaters or on video, I couldn't tell you), but I just couldn't remember anything about it. I couldn't tell you who was in it besides Glenn Close, I couldn't remember what they kept the same or changed from the animated movies, I couldn't remember if the animals talked. It was like I had totally blocked everything about it out of my head! Or maybe I just never saw it...I really have no idea! 
It's been awhile since I've seen the original animated movie, but I still remembered quite a lot. I did have the VHS as a kid and watched it a few times. I had no idea until just recently that it was based on a book by a Dodie Smith that Walt Disney wanted to buy the rights to. (I also didn't know Mary Poppins was based on a book until I saw Saving Mr. Banks.) 


Pongo, the dalmatian patriarch is narrating the story and calls his owner, Roger, his pet. With the remake, you don't get this clever narration since the animals don't talk. (Not saying that would have made the movie any better...it may have made it a lot worse!) Pongo doesn't want Roger, an aspiring musician, to be a bachelor all his life so he decides to set him up with a fine breed of woman. There's a humorous scene where he's checking out women walking their dogs and all the women look like their canine pets. He spots Perdita, who will be the dalmatian matriarch and she is being walked by an attractive woman named Anita who is around Roger's age. Roger and Anita are played by Jeff Daniels and Joely Richardson in the '96 remake. In the original, Pongo has a red collar and Perdita has a blue one, but for some reason, they couldn't remember that in the remake and Perdita has a red collar while Pongo sometimes wears a black collar and sometimes wear a blue one. So unnecessarily confusing! 

If she doesn't scare you,
no evil thing will!
Both dalmatians and humans meet in the park in both movies. I will say it is a little more realistic in the live action one when Anita plays fetch with Perdita rather than sit on a bench with her dog sitting next to her, which is what the animated Anita and Perdita do. The dogs take a liking to each other, as do the humans, but it is just so awkward and unrealistic in the remake. I think we can believe the animated character getting together so quickly because they're, you know ANIMATED! But '96 Roger and Anita decide they should get married since their dogs like each other and they're getting married in the next scene! It's the most ridiculous thing ever! They could have at least had a little montage of them dating and then six months later they get married. Sheesh. But one thing I do like about the '96 version is that they tell us how Anita and Cruella know each other. In the animated movie, Cruella is an "old classmate" of Anita's. Maybe a former teacher I would believe because Cruella has to be at least a decade or two older than Anita. We have no idea why these two are friends. In the movie, Cruella is a fashion designer. She's not the Devil Wears Prada, but rather the DeVil Wears Dalmatians! Anita works for her so that's how they know each other. Anita has had some inspiration from Perdita for some new outfits and Cruella sees a picture of her and asks her if her dog has short or long hair; if it's soft or coarse. In both movies she lives for fur and is very excited about the prospect of having a coat made out of dalmatian fur. To me, this is what makes Cruella DeVil the most evil of all the Disney villains. She wants to kill and skin puppies, for God's sake!

After Perdita has a litter of fifteen puppies (at first they only think it's fourteen, but manage to save the 15th), Cruella comes over to buy the puppies but is dismayed when she discovers they don't have their spots. If I were Roger and Anita, I would have told her that this batch would never get their spots. But they don't know her cruel intentions and tell her that the puppies will get their spots in a few weeks and that they need to be with their mother. They also tell her that the puppies aren't for sale when she offers them a huge sum of money which makes Cruella irate. A few weeks later she has her henchmen, Jasper and Horace, who are like the animated versions of Harry and Marv, kidnap the puppies when Roger and Anita are taking Pongo and Perdita for a walk. (I didn't quite understand why they didn't take the puppies too...wouldn't they need a walk as much as, if not more than the older dogs? But I'm not a dog owner, so what do I know?) Jasper and Horace are played by Hugh Laurie (yes, Dr. House!) and Mark Williams (best known as Mr. Weasley in the Harry Potter films) in the '96 version. This is when we find out that Cruella has kidnapped a total of 99 puppies from pet stores. Now I realize that London is a big city, but I find it hard to believe that there would be 99 dalmatian puppies at one time. I say this because I've always found the dalmatian to be a rare breed! I have no idea if it is or not, but I've only seen one dalmatian in real life in my entire life, so to me they're rare! But maybe they're not that rare.

Jasper and Horace lock Nanny (played by Joan Plowright in the remake) in the closet as they take the the puppies. It's a little Fargo-esque in the live action one and seems a bit rough for a movie with a G-rating! This is around the point in that version where the movie really goes downhill (not that it was that great, but wow, it gets really bad starting here!), so I'll talk mostly about the '61 version for now.

When they discover their puppies are missing, Pongo and Perdita send out the "Twilight Bark" which is a way to signal all the other dogs in the city. I guess it's like morse code. This is kind of a funny scene because you hear a bunch of dogs barking and howling and we see an overview of London and hear a human voice shout, "Shuddup, would ya?" The message is relayed to a barn with a sheepdog named Colonel, a horse named Captain, and a cat named Sergeant Tibbs. Colonel mistakenly hears the message as "fifteen spotted puddles are missing", ha! Sergeant Tibbs is the one who rescues the puppies and gets them out of Hell Hall, the name of the DeVil place where they're being held. Jasper and Horace are in the same room, but are distracted by a TV program. How you can't hear 99 puppies leaving one room is an incredible feat!

After Tibbs pushes Rolly, the adorable pudgy dalmatian who's always hungry through the small hole, Jasper and Horace notice all the dogs are gone and know that Cruella will have THEIR hide if they don't find them. By this time Pongo and Perdita have caught up with them and take them to a barn where the cows give all the puppies milk. No surprise to see Rolly is happy about that! They get a good night's sleep in the hay and the next day, after getting help from a labrador and seeing one of his pups gets dirty from soot, Pongo gets the idea for all of them to roll in the soot so they look like labradors. Cruella and her minions are in the same area driving around because they've spotted dog prints. Cruella is suspicious when she sees a  bunch of labrador puppies walking towards a truck and getting on the back of it. When water starts dripping on them and revealing their spots she gets in her fancy-pants car and chases the truck only to get in a horrific car wreck with Jasper and Horace and their truck. I couldn't remember if she died or not, but she is fine. She doesn't even go to jail from what we see.

The reason the live action movie gets really bad at this point is because literally nothing happens and it's so boring! Well, things happen, but very stupid things. It's like an animal-esque Home Alone where animals try to stop Horace and Jasper with stupid hi jinx. A squirrel crosses the wires in their car so that it will start on fire! A woodpecker keeps knocking on the door only to confuse them when they open it to find nobody there! A raccoon puts a rock in the exhaust pipe of their car! A dalmatian puppy pees on a magazine with Cruella on the cover! It's all just very stupid. And it gets really boring fast since the only humans are Jasper and Horace and you're just watching a bunch of animals. Sure, the puppies are cute but watching a bunch of puppies isn't very exciting. At least in the animated version they have personalities and can talk! I got so bored during this time that I started playing with my phone. It felt like it was twenty minutes before we see Cruella again. Glenn Close obviously did her homework because she has the great maniacal laugh; the cool, stiff Cruella posture with the back arched when she laughs; she has her mannerisms down, she calls everyone "You fools, you idiots!" You could tell she was getting into the character and was having fun with it. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical Comedy (she lost to MADONNA for Evita?? Are you kidding me? Granted, I have never seen Evita but I know that Glenn Close is a better actress than freakin' Madonna! Now if she had lost to Frances McDormand for Fargo, THAT I would understand!) The movie sucks, but Glenn Close as Cruella DeVil is great and I can see why she was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Cruella gets apprehended by the police (after falling into a vat of molasses...which did not happen in the animated movie) along with Jasper, Horace, and Mr. Skinner who she has hired to skin the puppies. (Haha, get it, he skins animals and his name is Mr. Skinner? Yeah...) I did laugh when she tells them that they won the gold, silver, and bronze in the awards for biggest idiots and Horace asks, "Which one of us won the gold?" and she just goes off on them. That was pretty funny. She does go to jail and all the puppies are okay (as they are in the animated version, but we all knew that).
99 puppies = 99 problems!

In both movies, Roger and Anita take all the puppies in because apparently nobody is claiming any of the other 84 puppies. With Pongo and Perdita, they have 101 dalmatians! They decide to move to a bigger place so they have enough room. Roger tells Anita that they'll have a Dalmatian Plantation! I kept waiting for Jeff Daniels to say "Dalmatian Plantation" in the remake, but he never did! Those words were never uttered! What the heck? Don't get me wrong, puppies are very cute, but I would NOT want 99 puppies. God no! That seems like a nightmare! I don't think I'd even want fifteen! In the '61 version, they are able to buy their Dalmatian Plantation with the money Roger made from his hit song about Cruella DeVil and in the '96 version Roger is a video game designer and used Cruella as his villain and it made lots of money for them to buy a huge mansion in the country.

101 Dalmatians was the highest-grossing movie of 1961!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What a Way To Make a Living

9 to 5
Director: Colin Higgins
Cast: Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Dabney Coleman
Released: December 19, 1980

Oscar nominations:
Best Original Song - Dolly Parton for "Nine to Five" (Lost to Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford for "Fame")


I have long been familiar with the snappy song, "Nine to Five" sung by Dolly Parton, but had never seen the movie she had sung it for and starred in until just recently. While I knew it was a workplace comedy, I really never knew what exactly was about and now I think that Horrible Bosses got its inspiration from it...although that movie was a lot darker! 

Violet (Lily Tomlin), Judy (Jane Fonda), and Doralee (Dolly Parton) all work at a place called Consolidated Companies and their boss, Mr. Hart (Dabney Coleman) is, and I quote, "a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot." I'm not really sure what they do at this place, but there's lots of writing of reports and answering of calls and making of copies. 

Violet has been at the company for eleven years. She has by far the most experience out of anyone else and knows everything there is to know about the company. She is expecting to be rewarded with the big promotion Mr. Hart will be giving to someone soon. Judy is the new woman at the company and Violet shows her around and introduces her to everyone and warns her about Mr. Hart and tells her to watch out for Roz, the office snitch who goes and tattles on Mr. Hart anytime she hears a piece of gossip. Doralee is Mr. Hart's secretary and everyone hates her because they think she's sleeping with the boss. He sexually harasses her and when she tells him that she's a married woman, his reply is that he's married too and that's what makes it perfect for them to have an affair. 

Violet is beyond furious when she learns that the promotion has gone to a man who has been at the company five years less than her. Mr. Hart explains to her that he got the job because people would rather deal with a man than a woman in that particular situation (whichever that might be...I'm not sure what the promotion was for!) Judy is furious at Mr. Hart when a woman gets fired for being overheard by Roz that they are getting unfair wages. Doralee is furious when she learns that Mr. Hart has been spreading rumors that they are having an affair. The three woman get a drink, then later smoke a joint and share their fantasies about getting even with their jerk boss. Judy's fantasy is to hunt him down and mount his head as a trophy kill on his office wall (where he keeps his other trophy kills like deer). I would have thought this would be more apt to Doralee's fantasy because she's the one who keeps a gun in her purse! (She is from Texas, after all!) She threatens Mr. Hall that if he continues to tell people they are having an affair, she'll take her gun and change him from a rooster to a hen with one shot! Doralee's fantasy is that she wants to turn the tables on Mr. Hart and give him "a taste of his own medicine" and be the one to sexually harass him and oogle his body. This seems like a lame fantasy. I would imagine somebody in her position would rather call out their harasser as being the pig they are. Although at the end of her fantasy, she's roasting him over a fire like a pig. Violet's fantasy is that she's like Snow White (dressed in a similar costume) and Mr. Hart is akin to the Evil Queen and she poisons his morning coffee. There are animated animals in her fantasy which I'm impressed they could do way back in 1980. I didn't think being able to mix live action and animation was achieved until 1988 with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? 

The next day, Mr. Hart is rushed to the hospital right after Violet gives him his coffee. She freaks out and thinks she's poisoned him when she realizes she's accidentally put rat poison in his coffee instead of the sweet and low. You see, the rat poison and sweet and low are both kept in boxes of the same color and size and are kept in the same cabinet on the same shelf...wtf? I don't know if this is just a plot device or if people were really that stupid in the early '80s and kept food and poison in the same cabinet! I'm hoping and guessing it's the former! What really happened is that Mr. Hart fell out of his chair and hit his head. He had been having trouble with his office chair in prior scenes. He spilled his coffee and never drank it, but Violet has no idea and she and Judy rush to the hospital where Doralee took him.

Mr. Hart is fine and walks out and in the same room he was in, they bring in a man they're trying to revive, but he dies. The women arrive when the doctor talks to a police officer telling him the man in the room has died and he thinks it was poisoning. This mistaken identity reminded me of the scene in Adventures in Baby-Sitting when the doctor tells Elisabeth Shue that the young man with the stab room died, but he was actually talking about another person and not Brad. Violet is sure this means jail time for her and wants to get rid of the body before they can do an autopsy on it and confirm that it was indeed poisoning. When no one's looking, she takes the body on the gurney and wheels it to her car and puts it in the trunk. They find out the body isn't Mr. Hart, and confused, sneak it back to the hospital. 

The next day all the women are confused, but relieved when Mr. Hart comes to work, quite alive. They discuss the matter in the bathroom and are glad to get on with their lives. They had checked under the stalls and nobody was in any of them, but when they leave we see Roz the snitch had been there the whole time with her feet up on the toilet taking notes with toilet paper! OMG, is this woman for real? I would hate to work with someone like her! She, of course, snitches to Mr. Hart and he confronts the women and threatens to have them all prosecuted for attempting to kill him and will only forget about it if Doralee sleeps with him. 

During this time, Mr. Hart's wife is on a cruise so the women decide to kidnap him in his own house. They keep him tied up (though he is free to move around in the bedroom) and bring him his meals and always have somebody at the house to watch him. They find a way to blackmail him when Violet discovers he's been embezzling money and want to keep him tied up until they have evidence to prove it. Their only obstacle is Roz because after a few days she starts to get suspicious on where Mr. Hart is since she sees him every day. They finally send her to Paris when they tell her Mr. Hart wants her to go there to learn French. (I don't know why you would have to go all the way there just to learn the language...haven't these people ever heard of Rosetta Stone? Haha!) 

While Mr. Hart is "away", the three women pretty much run the place and make up new rules and even give the office a new makeover. The women who was fired unfairly is given her job back and a daycare center is put in. When Mr. Hart is finally released after the women know he will not snitch on them, he gives the Chairman of the Board a tour of the places and all its new amenities even though Violet has to explain everything since Mr. Hart has no idea about any of it. The Chairman is so impressed by what Mr. Hart did that he sends him to Brazil to oversee their operation. Everyone is happy except for Roz who never got to say goodbye to him.

When this movie came out, Dolly Parton was 34, Lily Tomlin was 41, and Jane Fonda was 43. With the huge Granny glasses and the awful old lady hair cut she has, I would have guessed Jane Fonda to be closer to the age she is now - which is nearly 80! I don't know why people dressed so horribly and had terrible hair cuts in the early '80s...why would you want to look two decades older than what you actually are? Don't get me wrong, I love the '80s, but I'm kind of glad I was a baby/little kid during it! 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Man and His Cat

Harry and Tonto
Director: Paul Mazursky
Cast: Art Carney, Ellen Burstyn, Larry Hagman, Geraldine Fitzgerald
Released: August 12, 1974

Oscar nominations:
Best Actor - Art Carney (won)
Best Original Screenplay - Paul Mazursky and Josh Greenfield (lost to Robert Towne for Chinatown)




I discovered this movie through a podcast I listen to called Battleship Pretension where two hosts in their early thirties discuss a topic involving movies. They both went to film school so they seem to be reputable in discussing film...much more than I am, anyway. On this particular episode, they were discussing movies with animals as the main focal point. As you can imagine, there were many movies with dogs brought up, but only a few with cats and Harry and Tonto was one of them. They both praised the movie so I typed it down on my "Notes" section of my iPod Touch under a list of movies to watch. (Otherwise if I didn't, I would probably forget about it!)

The movie is about a seventy something man, Harry (Art Carney) who travels from New York to Los Angeles with his cat, an orange tabby named Tonto. His building is being torn down so he is forced to move. At first he stays with his oldest son, but decides to travel cross country. At first, he plans to fly but when he learns that Tonto will have to be separated from him on the flight, he refuses and takes a taxi to a bus stop and will travel that way. But after he realizes that Tonto needs to use the bathroom (and won't use the toilet when Harry holds him over it...pretty sure NOBODY likes being touched when they need to use the restroom!) and asks the driver to pull over so his cat can relieve himself. Tonto ends up running away and Harry tells the bus driver to go on without him and the driver tells him he has to go so he won't be late to the next destination. He tells Harry there's another bus coming in another hour. Tonto does come back to Harry, but instead of getting on the next bus, he rents a car. Keep in mind this is 1974 and his license expired in 1958, haha!

Along the way, as you do while on a roadtrip, he meets new people and reconnects with some familiar ones. His daughter, Shirley (Ellen Burstyn) lives in Chicago and he finds out his old girlfriend, Jessie (Geraldine Fitzgerald) who he dated long before he married his wife is still alive and living in an assisted care facility with Alzheimer's. He picks up two hitchhikers, which is never a good idea, but it seems even worse considering it's the '70s! There were some shady people in the '70s! He picked up a teenaged girl and a guy in his twenties. The guy kept sprouting off verses from the Bible. He was a little freaky. I've no doubt Harry was relieved when the Bible-thumper said he was going to get a ride with someone else who was heading his way. Harry thought the girl, Ginger, was going with him but she told him they had just met on the car before his. Harry doesn't seemed concerned that a sixteen year old (and later we actually learned she's fifteen!) is running away and they stay in a hotel together and she's standing around in her underwear in front of him! I don't think she was trying to seduce him; I think she was just clueless. She later meets Harry's grandson and they seem to hit it off. 

Harry also meets a hooker on the way. He tells her she's too beautiful to be a hooker and she says she's a high-price one. She also says she's been with men older than him! I think it was implied that they had sex...I'm not sure though. Maybe this was why the movie was rated R even though we don't see anything. There is no nudity or violence and maybe there was a couple of curse words, but I don't really recall. There was some sex talk, so maybe that's why it was rated R? I feel like if this movie was made today, it would be rated PG. Speaking of the time it came out in, everything must have been cheap in the '70s...I know about inflation, but there's a scene where a homeless man asks Harry for thirty five cents so he can buy a coat. What the what? Did coats seriously costs 35 cents in the NINETEEN seventies? That cannot be right! 

Even though Tonto is with Harry throughout the movie, I wish there was more of him. Half the time, he feels just like a background character. I was wondering if we were ever going to get the story behind the name and we do when Harry is arrested for peeing in a potted plant on a street in L.A. (and in front of a window so I'm sure the people inside the building got a pleasant view!) His cell mate is a Native American man and he explains that Tonto is named after the character from The Lone Ranger, the radio show. I knew I was familiar with that name and when he said that I realized I knew it from the Johnny Depp remake (never saw it though, looked awful!) Interesting that it was a Native American man he told it to. Makes me wonder if he had a cat named Schindler, would his cell mate have been a Jewish man? I also wish we had gotten backstory on how Harry acquired Tonto. The one scene where Tonto is really a focal point is the one I mentioned earlier when Harry takes him off the bus to relieve himself and he gets lost and Harry is really worried that his cat has ran away. 

Harry walks Tonto on a leash and if you know anything about cats, they do NOT like to be on leashes. I know because I've had experience with a cat and a leash before. Let's just say he did not want to be led around by me and wanted to do his own thing and explore the shrubs and pounce on bugs. When he didn't have Tonto on a leash, Harry was carrying him around in the most awkward way: one hand under the front legs of the cat with his back legs dangling down. I felt bad for the cat cuz it didn't look too comfortable. I did love it when Tonto would curl up on the dashboard when Harry was driving his car...totally something a cat would do, though it seems dangerous to let a cat roam a car since they might get down by the gas and brake pedals. I also love the scene where Harry is on the bus next to a fat man eating a sandwich. He is holding Tonto and you can tell he's trying to hold him back because that cat wants that sandwich! He ain't acting! It cracked me up when he took his paw and swatted at the sandwich. That's something my own cat, Milo would do. 

At the end of the movie, as you would expect, Tonto dies of "old age". I put that in quotes because Tonto, according to Harry in a voiceover, was eleven years old when he died. What the what? Since when is eleven old for a cat? That's more "mature", but not "senior". Unless, like people who are living longer these days than forty years ago, maybe that's true for animals too? Then he says in the voiceover that Tonto was 77 in people years. That is so wrong! Because I had a cat, McKenzie (the one who hated the leash....he was a very independent cat! (Well, that's all cats!)), who died when he was 18 and on the cat conversion chart I looked at, said he was 80 something in human years. Obviously, Harry must have been going by the dog chart where you multiply the age by 7. I don't even know if that dog conversion is even accurate anymore, but it most certainly isn't for a cat! McKenzie would have been 126 years old when he died if we went by his cat conversion chart. I checked a cat age conversion chart and it said an eleven year old cat is 61. My cat, at age 18, was 89! A little more believable than 126! Milo is 49 going on 54...poor thing! They age so fast. 

I do wish there was more backstory and interaction with Tonto, but I do understand that the latter probably wasn't alway the easiest. There's a scene where Harry puts down some water for Tonto after they come back from their walk and you know the director wants the cat to drink the water, but he just sniffs it and walks away. Ha! This is the reason there are tons more movies with dogs...you can train a dog, you can't train a cat. They're gonna do what they wanna do! 

Art Carney won Best Actor for this movie, which is a bit surprising considering he was against Jack Nicholson for Chinatown and Al Pacino for The Godfather Part II. I hoped at least he thanked the cat! Or cats, I should say since I read they had two playing Tonto. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Ode to 'Joy'

Joy
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper, Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd, Isabella Rossellini, Elisabeth Rohm
Released: December 25, 2015
Viewed in theaters: December 29, 2015


I saw this movie with my friend Cameron. He has joined me for a couple of video reviews you've all had the pleasure to watch. (All fifteen of you, haha!) You may remember our video reviews of the last two Twilight movies. We were originally going to see Sisters, but it was already sold out for the evening shows, so we decided to see this one instead. (And before you ask, we didn't even consider seeing Star Wars: A New Hope and Force Awakens or whatever it's called!) In a way, I think it worked out for the best because I probably wouldn't have seen this movie until it was released on DVD and I'm glad I saw it in the theater because I really enjoyed it. I had no idea what this movie was about going in. I just assumed it was a Christmas movie since it opened on Christmas Day and was called Joy, but, spoiler alert....it's not! (Although there is a scene that takes place at Christmas). We joked that it was the sequel to Silver Linings Playbook since it had the same director and Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, and Bradley Cooper were in it.

The "Joy" in question is the name of our main character (Jennifer Lawrence). This movie is based on the true story of a woman named Joy Mangano (never heard of her!) She's struggling with her finances and being a young, single mother of two while living with her grandmother (Diane Ladd), her mother (Virginia Madsen), and her ex-husband, who she's still friendly with, lives in the basement. At first, I thought her mother was sick and bedridden because all she did was stay in her room and watch soap operas, but later in the movie, she's walking around with no problem. There seemed to be something off mentally with her mother.

Joy works at an airport but has to quit when they change her hours and she can't work those because of her kids. She and her older half-sister, Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm who I didn't recognize at all because she had dark hair) help out at their dad's (Robert DeNiro) auto-repair shop. Rudy, their dad, who has been married twice and is all about being in love, has joined a dating service. At first, I was so confused by this scene because he would call a number and leave a four digit number and a voice would give him a four digit number of a potential match and he would call that number and talk to the woman. It seemed very complicated. I was wondering, Why doesn't he just join eHarmony or Match.com? Then I remembered that this being based on a true story, it probably isn't "current" day! (I don't remember if it gives us a date, but I'm guessing it started out in the late '80s/early '90s). He meets Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) and they are just having a laugh over their rhyming names. Trudy is a widow of a wealthy businessman and she and Rudy hit it off quite well that she invites Rudy and his family to spend the day on her yacht. She tells him to bring the wine, but not red wine because it will stain the teakwood floors. Joy's ex, Anthony, who is well-meaning, brings a bottle of red wine. It ends up spilling (who didn't see that coming?) and Joy mops the deck, but when she wrings out the mop with her hands she gets lots of nasty cuts with the glass shards. This inspires her to come up with an idea for a mop where one doesn't have to wring it out with their hands and the mop head is detectable and can be thrown in the washing machine. The year is 1995 when the finished product is ready. I can tell I have never mopped until the 21st century. I have never in my life even known of a mop that you had to wring out with your own hands. Never mind glass shards, who would want to touch that nasty mop head with the dirty water? Ewww! 

She patents the design and has some prototypes made with some money she asked Trudy to invest in (Trudy agreed after Joy passed the test she gave her). Unfortunately, when she tries to take it to stores and sell them, her product gets declined. One man tells her that he doesn't want to sell a mop for twenty dollars to his customers that will last a lifetime when he can sell five or ten dollar mops that will need replacing every few years and that way the customers will have to keep coming back. Joy and her friend Jackie try to sell the mop outside a K-Mart by Jackie being the salesperson and Joy being someone who is being sold the mop. They get a crowd of curious onlookers who seem to like the mop, but are quickly caught by the police and the mop is confiscated. 

It kept bugging me whenever I saw Jackie because the actress looked so familiar and I knew that I knew her from somewhere, but I just couldn't place it! When I looked her up, I realized it was Daya from Orange is the New Black. She has such a distinct accent and distinct facial features, but I guess she's unrecognizable to me if she's not in her prison garbs or pregnant, haha! 

Joy arranges to meet with Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), an executive at QVC. When he sees and hears about the mop, he tells Joy to have twenty thousand of them made and Joy has to take out a second mortgage on her house. She still owes Trudy money and Trudy does not want to invest any more until she knows the mop will make money. Neil takes Joy on a tour of the set and tells her they only have celebrities hawking the products. The only celebrity I recognized was Joan Rivers. She is played by Melissa Rivers who looks EXACTLY like her mother (perfect casting, right?), but I don't think she has her mother's voice down...she tried, but Joan had a very distinct sound to her voice. 

There's a big scene at Joy's house where everyone is gathered in the living room to watch the big debut of Joy's mop and I just knew something bad was going to happen. And it did! The guy promoting it had no idea how to use it! They get no calls or questions for the mop and they go straight to the next product (the most hideous evening gowns I've ever seen!) The whole segment is less than twenty seconds! Did they not give the guy a tutorial on how the mop is used? Not surprisingly, Joy is pissed. At first I thought Neil was trying to sabotage Joy, but that doesn't make any sense because they want their products to sell. I watch Shark Tank; I know how it works! Joy goes to the QVC office and demand the she be the one to sell it on TV. She does and they sell like hot cakes. 

This, however, is not the end of Joy's troubles. She still has a rack of debt to pay and she finds out that the manufacturing company is taking credit for her designs. There's a bunch of legal battles she's fighting. She goes through one obstacle after another. There are several times when she just wants to give up, but by the end she fights for what is hers and emerges victorious. We see her in the future, in her forties, helping others patent their ideas. (Why is this woman not on Shark Tank?) I got a very Cate Blachett-like vibe from an older made-up Jennifer Lawrence. 

Cameron and I both agreed that this was our favorite Jennifer Lawrence performance. I have not seen the last two Hunger Games movies, but I hated the last book so I'm willing to bet that's not going to change my mind. 

During the movie, somebody behind us started snoring! Really loudly! It was quite distracting. And then all of his friends were giggling so that made it even more annoying. This movie was not boring at all so I don't know what his problem was. I guess that was bound to happen at a theater where you can recline all the way back in the seats. They even have a commercial for the theaters of some old guy in his pajamas telling his son he's ready to see the movie. Like, are they trying to encourage people to fall asleep and snore and annoy people who are trying to watch the movie? Great marketing! (That was sarcasm in case you could't tell!)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

You Had Me at Hello

Jerry Maguire
Director: Cameron Crowe
Cast: Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renee Zellweger, Regina King, Jay Mohr, Bonnie Hunt, Jerry O'Connell, Kelly Preston, Jonathan Lipnicki
Released: December 13, 1996

Oscar nominations: 
Best Picture (lost to The English Patient)
Best Actor - Tom Cruise Cruise (lost to Geoffrey Rush for Shine)
Best Supporting Actor - Cuba Gooding Jr. (Won)
Best Original Screenplay - Cameron Crowe (lost to Joel and Ethan Coen for Fargo)
Best Editing (lost to The English Patient)





There's a lot going on in Jerry Maguire. This movie is two hours and a half hours and it does lag at times. Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is a sports agent who works at a huge agency, Sports Management International, who represent the best and brightest in sports. He is all about his career and making sure his clients are the best at their profession and making sure they have all the endorsements to make them even more money. Jerry, narrating the movie, tells the audience that he is missing something in his life and has an epiphany. He thinks instead of all the agents taking in as many clients as they can, that they should only take a few clients so that they can have more one on one time with them and get to know them better and really understand what they need and want. He writes a 25 page "mission statement" and delivers it to all the agents at SMI. This results in him getting fired. He tries desperately to keep as many clients as he can, but loses the majority of them to a sleazy agent, Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr), who fired Jerry. Jerry manages to keep two clients: Frank Cushman (Jerry O'Connell), an up and coming star quarterback (think Tom Brady) and Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. I know nothing about football so I'm not really sure what a wide receiver does...not really sure what a quarterback does either. I also thought the cardinals were a St. Louis team...but I guess that's baseball. I didn't know there was a cardinals football team. Rod has two kids with a third on the way. He is a spokesperson for a mattress company, but his wife, Marcee (Regina King) tells Jerry that  they want Rod to have the four major advertising spots which are shoe, car, clothing line, and soft drink. That's where the big money comes in. While Jerry is on the phone with Rod, he loses all of his potential clients because they are hanging up since Bob Sugar is getting to them faster. This is the famous scene where Rod tells Jerry, "Show me the money" and Jerry screams "SHOW ME THE MONEY!" while in his office and everyone is looking at him like he's a lunatic.

"Show me the money!" is just one of the many quotable lines that help make this movie memorable. We also remember the more sappy, "You had me at hello" and "You complete me." (The "You complete me" line was a call back to when Jerry and Dorothy are in the elevator with a deaf couple who are signing to each other, and Dorothy, who knows sign language, tells Jerry that the guy had signed "You complete me" to his girlfriend). And there's also "Help me help you" and "Did you know that the human head weighs eight pounds?" This is the movie where everybody in the world learned (and still remembers!) that fact.

The "romance" between Jerry and Dorothy (Renee Zellweger...I think it's fair to say that this is the movie that helped launch her career) is interesting at best. At the start of the movie, he is engaged to another woman (Kelly Preston). Dorothy works as a secretary (I think?) at SMI and has a crush on Jerry. She read his "mission statement" and tells him she liked what she read and believes in him. When he is fired and leaves the company, Jerry asks if anybody is going to join him and like an idiot, Dorothy tells him that she'll go with him. I don't know if this is suppose to be romantic, but I thought she was really stupid for doing that. Okay, she probably doesn't get paid much at this job, but it's better than going somewhere where you'll get paid less...or more likely, nothing at all. (I never did understand exactly how that worked...did Jerry ever pay her out of his pocket?) She has a six year old son, why is she leaving this place that at least gives her health benefits? And, at this time, she knows Jerry is engaged to another woman. But over time Jerry and Dorothy become close and Dorothy is thrilled that her son, Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki), really likes Jerry and almost treats him like a dad. In a way, I think Dorothy was looking more for a father for her son than a husband for herself. It's good she was looking out for her kid, but it's almost as soon as she saw Jerry and Ray bond, she wanted it to make it work with Jerry so her son could have a father who really cared for him. It's even obvious that Jerry prefers Ray over Dorothy because there's a scene where they're in bed with the TV on and Dorothy is trying to talk to Jerry about something important and Ray comes in asking if he can watch TV with them. Dorothy says, "Not now", but Jerry says, "Sure, come on in." And the kid comes in. Oh, I should mention that Jerry broke up with his fiance and married Dorothy after they go out on, like, one date. I did love it when Dorothy's sister, Laurel (Bonnie Hunt), gives her the advice of, "Don't cry at the start of the date...cry at the end like I do." Haha! Because Dorothy was crying because she just so overwhelmed with happiness. 

Jerry has had many girlfriends. While he's great at friendship, he is horrible with intimacy. No wonder he and Dorothy break it off about a week after they got married (when they had only known each other for two weeks prior...gee no wonder it didn't work out! And I had no idea how much time had passed in this movie!) 

This was my third time seeing the movie. It had been quite awhile since I'd last seen it. I remember enjoying it the first time I saw it. I don't really remember the second time...it was probably on TV and I was just casually watching it. But this time, I was kinda bored. There were still some enjoyable moments (like the one when Rod is in a public place (the airport, I think?) and two girls come up to him thinking he's Hootie from Hootie and the Blowfish!), but mostly I was wondering when it was going to end. I remember thinking how cute Ray was the first time I saw it, but now I just found him too saccharine. He was just there to be cute and sprout useless information. And help Dorothy score a man. I found myself more invested and interested in the Jerry and Rod relationship rather than the Jerry and Dorothy one. I totally cringed at the scene where Dorothy is talking to Laurel in the kitchen after Jerry has spent the night and is babbling on about how much she loves him and she "loves him for the man he wants to be and the man he almost is!" and, of course, Jerry is in the hall eavesdropping on them and Ray says really loudly, "Hi Jerry!" Well, what was she thinking? He was in the house. Why not wait to tell her sister AFTER he is gone. Duh. Dorothy may be the "oldest 26 year old" as she calls herself, but she's also the dumbest! 

As for Cameron Crowe movies, I prefer Almost Famous to this one. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Seeing is Believing

The Polar Express
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Tom Hanks, Nona Gaye, Peter Scolari, Michael Jeter
Released: November 10, 2004
Viewed in theaters: December 23, 2004

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound Mixing (lost to Ray)
Best Sound Editing (lost to The Incredibles)
Best Original Song - "Believe" written by Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri (lost to The Motorcycle Diaries for "Al Otro Lado Del Rio" written by Jorge Drexler)


I remember reading this book by Chris Van Allsburg around the Christmas season when I was younger and loved looking at the beautiful illustrations. This book was so popular that one year my brother and I (and I think are friends also received the same things from their parents) each got a sleigh bell. As you remember from the story, if you can hear a sleigh bell from Santa' sleigh, then that means you believe in Santa. Well, of course anyone can hear a bell....unless you are deaf, so that would be a very cruel gift to give a deaf child! I'm sure I was very proud I could hear my bell! I haven't read or looked at in years, but I'm sure my parents still have it somewhere in their house. I've refreshed my memory by looking at it on Amazon.com since it lets you look at a few of the pages inside the book. The movie does a very good job of creating the same color palette the book uses and it's like the story coming to life. Since the book is only 32 pages, you know they embellished to add length to the movie. Since I haven't read the book in so long, I'm not totally sure what was added, but I have my guesses.

Tom Hanks voices multiple characters in the movie, just changing his voice slightly so each character has their own sound. He voices the conductor, Santa Claus, the hobo ghost (or it is a ghost hobo?), the boy's father, and the main character as a grown up narrating the story. We never learn his name (IMDb has him listed as "Hero Boy" in the credits) but we learn he is having doubts about Santa Claus which is why he is picked up by the Polar Express which stops right in front of his home on Christmas Eve. I would be scared s***less if some huge, rumbling freight train pulled up right in front of my house! Miraculously, the boy's parents or younger sister don't seem affected by the train! He is hesitant to board the train when the conductor invites him on and the train leaves without him and he runs after it at the last minute and boards. His was the second to last house the train stopped at. The last stop is for a boy named Billy, a couple years younger than the narrator, who also hesitates to board (I guess these kids were all taught about Stranger Danger!), but decides he wants to get on when the Polar Express starts chugging along again. He sits alone in the train car connected behind the one all the kids are in.

Even though the train has many children riding it on the way to the North Pole, there are only a few children that the film focuses on. Besides the main character and Billy, there is an African-American girl in a pink nightgown (I should point out that all the children are in their pajamas and robes -which hardly seems to be proper Arctic attire if you ask me!) who befriends the narrator and a really annoying nerdy, know-it-all-kid who has one of those grating voices. I would have loved to throw him off the train! I don't remember if they were in the book (I don't even remember if Billy was in the book - I really need to read it again!), but I'm guessing they were added for the movie.

There's a scene in the book where the children are served hot chocolate (I know this for a fact because I saw a picture of it on Amazon!) This scene is also in the movie, but there's this really weird song and dance that doesn't quite look right. It looks like they filmed the children in the train and that looks fine and normal, but then when they add the dancing wait staff and their hot chocolate machine, it looks like they were sloppily pasted on the "normal" photo. It just looks very jarring to me and the waiters are doing these awkward flips that don't look natural at all....even for a computer animated movie. The song is pretty bad too, if you want to call it a song. I do love the song called "Believe" at the end credits that Josh Groban sings. Very beautiful Christmas song. I wasn't familiar with the song that the three kids sing when they're outside the train looking at the stars.

Having a ticket is a very big deal when one boards the Polar Express so when the young girl goes into the next car with the assistance of the conductor to give Billy a cup of hot chocolate, our main character sees that she has left her ticket on her seat. Instead of hanging on to it and keeping it safe for her until she returns, he decides he needs to return it to her right that minute. Yes, I realize this scene is here to fill out the movie more, but the rational part of me doesn't understand it. While trying to cross the cars, the blowing wind whips the ticket out of his hand and it goes on a little adventure through the snowy woods. At one point, a bird catches it and tries to feed it to her babies. Um, I'm pretty sure birds know that paper isn't food! However, the ticket makes its way back. This whole thing would have been avoided if the dang kid had just kept the ticket in a safe place! But, nooo!

There's also a subplot with a hobo living on top of the train who's really a ghost. I'm pretty sure he's not in the book. The kid is up there with him for a good ten to fifteen minutes in nothing but his robe and slippers...he's not even wearing a hat or mittens. One would think he would get frost bite, or at the very least, be shivering, but nope! He seems to be just fine. I guess one doesn't get cold when one is a computer animated character!

If I were a little kid and saw this movie, I think I would have reservations about boarding the Polar Express. That train is a death trap! It nearly crashes several times while going down steep inclines, it nearly falls into cracking ice, the main character almost gets killed when he's on top of the train with the hobo and they're skiing along the cars and nearly smash into a tunnel...and don't get me started when they get to the North Pole, another death trap destination! The main character, the girl, and Billy get separated from the group when they get back on the train and that train car separates from the others. They end up on a swiveling platform that leads to different tunnels, but each tunnel is separated by a bridge over a deep chasm where you will certainly fall to your death if you fall!  There is a huge, swirling slide that actually looks like a lot of fun, but you're moving so fast you're getting lots of g-forces so that could kill you if you get out of control and crash. There are a lot of ways one could die in this movie! Oh, and let's not forget when they're in the air blimp controlled by the elves and nearly crash in that!

I love how the elf to kid ratio is like 1000 to 1. When Santa Claus makes his big appearance, all the elves cheer and applaud and act like he's some big rock star even though they see him every other day of the year! If I were one of those kids, I would have been pissed at the elves! They're standing one on top of the other and nobody can see over them. I'd be like, Hey, let me get a look at Mr. C.; you guys get to see him ALL THE TIEM BECAUSE YOU LIVE HERE! But of course, Santa comes over to the main character and the other kids and greets them personally and our protagonist is chosen to be given the first gift of Christmas. Which is a sleigh bell he loses because there's a hole in his robe pocket. If I remember right, this was part of the book. Luckily, Santa knows where he lives. Although Santa's big red bag is heaping with presents, it certainly didn't look like it was enough presents for all the kids of the world.

The Steven Tyler as a rocking elf was totally unnecessary and dated the movie, though I suppose some people would consider Aerosmith timeless. And it would make sense Steven Tyler is an elf since his daughter is the elfin princess, haha! I thought the scene where the elves and kids are singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" was really cute.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Trading Holidays

Switchmas
Director: Sue Corcoran
Cast: Elliot Gould, David DeLuise, Angela DiMarco, Elijah Nelson, Justin Howell
Released: November 1, 2012

This is another Christmas gem I found on Netflix. It reminded me of a kids' version of The Holiday. Remember that movie where Kate Winslet lives in London and Cameron Diaz lives in L.A. and they decide to switch houses for the holidays? This wasn't a TV movie though, it was a small independent movie. I watched the trailer for it and it was called All I Want is Christmas. I  guess that was an earlier name for it. That name is way too generic and Switchmas is much more clever and more rememberable. 

In this film, 12 year old Ira Finklestein is a Jewish kid who lives in Hollywood with his movie producer dad and party planner mom. He loves Christmas and wants to do all the traditional things people who celebrate Christmas do around the holidays such as decorate a Christmas tree, sing Christmas carols, and look at Christmas lights. He is looking forward to a trip to Aspen for winter vacation because this will be the first time in his life he will see snow. However his dad gets an opportunity to make his big break as a director as he gets a big "name" to headline his weird sci-fi holiday movie. They have to cancel because Jennifer Cameo can only film during that time. Since both parents will be busy they decide to send Ira to Florida to visit his grandparents who he hasn't seen in a few years. 

Meanwhile, Mikey Amato is a kid the same age as Ira who lives in Chicago. He lives with his single mother and since she has to work over the holiday break, she's sending him to Washington where her sister lives with her family. Mikey hasn't seen his aunt, uncle, or three cousins for 5 years. His dad can't take him because he'll be with his new girlfriend. 

Ira has a stopover in Chicago and he meets Mikey in a room in the airport where both boys are wearing passes so the airline knows they are unaccompanied minors. They start chatting and Mikey says he wishes he could go somewhere warm and Ira gets jealous when Mikey tells him he's going to a town called Christmastown! What could be better for a kid enamoured with Christmas? Since both boys are the same age and both have dark hair, Ira gets the idea for them to switch jackets and passes and gives Mikey his glasses (luckily his mom gave him his extra pair). They also exchange phone numbers. It's off to Florida for Mikey and off to Christmastown for Ira.

Even though Ira's grandparents haven't seen him for a few years and Mikey's aunt, uncle, and cousins haven't seen him in a few years, I found it hard to believe that they didn't immediately know they had the wrong kid because you think they would get school photos each year or have Facebook. But both kids go with each family without question.

Christmastown is the kind of place Ira has dreamed about going to for years. There's snow, everything is decorated with lights, his "family" has a huge Christmas tree, and he gets to go to the Christmas carnival the next afternoon with his "cousins". I thought there was going to be an awkward moment when Ira gets a crush on his "cousin" Claire who's about his age, you know like a George Michael Bluth/Maebe Funke situation. He never gets a crush on her; if anything, Claire seems to have the crush on her "cousin" - and she really thinks he's her cousin! But she does find out his secret a few days before the cat's out of the bag and they're just really good friends.

Ira still celebrates Chanukah every night by creating a makeshift menorah. He bribes his oldest "cousin",  Jessica, into taking him, Claire, and Kyle to the Christmas carnival by giving her $50, all of his spending money his parents gave him for the trip. He has a credit card his dad gave him that he's only suppose to use in emergencies and since all his spending money is gone and there are tons of shops to buy Christmas ornaments, trinkets, and goodies, he declares this an emergency. 

At one store that sells all holiday things, he buys a mini menorah. Claire comes into the store when the saleswoman is wising him a happy Chanukah and calling him Ira, the name on the card. Claire questions him about that and be says Ira is his dad's name even though Claire knows him as "Uncle Steve". After a bully, Jack the Jerk, trashes the items Ira bought and has his dog chase him (it was established earlier in the movie that Ira is afraid of dogs), he calls Mikey, telling him he wants to trade back, but Mikey is having a grand old time in sunny Florida with his "grandparents". 

After getting a pep talk and some inspiration from a Jewish Santa, Ira gets the idea to put on a holiday pageant show after Claire shows him her secret spot, an old rundown stage. This is when he reveals to her that he is not actually her cousin and he knows about productions because his dad is in the movie business. They began working on the script (Claire even writes her own song) and casting for the pageant. Everything is ruined, however, when Jack the Jerk and his bully friends have totally trashed the stage and all the props the day of the play. The night before, Ira and Claire were putting up fliers for it and happened to come across Jack's trailer park home where he lives with his mean father. Right away we figure out why Jack's such a bully. His father is threatening to take Killer, Jack's dog, back to the pound because he can't afford to feed another mouth. Feeling sorry for Jack, the two kids take Killer back to Claire's house so he doesn't have to go to the pound (and Ira finds out he's actually a very sweet dog). Jack, not realizing they were only trying to save his dog, thinks they kidnapped him even though he told him to run away. (He saw Killer walk off with Ira and Claire). This is why he trashes their stage play. But after Claire gives him a good lecture, he and his friends help out with the production.

Meanwhile in Florida, Mikey is pretending he knows the words to a Jewish song (he just inserts random words into the medley) and is enjoying his spare time at the pool, the beach, or the tennis courts with his "grandparents". He falls off a fence while climbing it and breaks his arm. His grandparents call the parents and they fly out to Florida where they eventually find out that their son is not there. they find out where Ira is and the parents, the grandparents, and Mikey all fly to Washington just in time for the play. It seems a little implausible that Ira's parents could fly from L.A. to Florida to Washington in one day what with having to go through airport security and driving to their locations and the airports and still making it in time for the play, but whatever. Mikey's mom is also there because her sister thought it would be nice to fly her out so she could spend the holidays with her son. Even though Ira has been found out, the play goes on and it's a big hit and his father is very proud of him.

This was a very cute, charming little Christmas (and Jewish!) film. The only thing I really didn't like was when they spent time with Ira's father and mother on the set of the movie with their difficult star. I found those scenes to be boring and wanted to get back to the kids, especially Ira's story.  The tagline of the movie is "Jingle all the oh vey!" which cracks me up

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Very Short Engagement

Holiday Engagement
Director: Jim Fall
Cast: Bonnie Somerville, Shelley Long, Haylie Duff
Aired: November 28, 2011

I can't help myself; I'm addicted to these TV Christmas movies that can be found on Netflix. I've actually watched more movies than I will be reviewing. Some are just okay in that they aren't even that great (or that bad!) to deserve a review. They're just middle of the road holiday movies. There have been a couple I've started then stopped watching after ten minutes because I didn't want to waste the time on them.

Holiday Engagement is entertaining and it's also kind of bad at the same time which makes it a perfect movie to review! It's also the first one I've watched that takes places during Thanksgiving rather than Christmas as you may have noticed by the air date. Although there are several mentions of Christmas. This TV movie aired on the Hallmark Channel, but wasn't as schmaltzy as one may think. 

Hilary (Bonnie Somerville) is going to her parents' home for Thanksgiving. She is suppose to be bringing her fiance, Jason, who her family hasn't met yet. They've been dating seven months and got engaged a month ago. (Okay, if you get engaged within less than a year of dating, I feel like that's a warning sign!) Hilary lives in L.A. and I'm not sure where her folks live, but it can't be too far away since she drove there. Hilary's fiance is a lawyer and therefore a workaholic and he's not sure if he can make it and she tells him he has to because she needs to prove to her family that he's real! Apparently her mother, Meredith (Shelley Long) thinks that Bonnie has made him up! 

A few days before they are to arrive at her parents', Jason breaks up with Hilary, telling her that she's been a "mistake." Ouch! He tells her they are not compatible and he has plans to move across the country for his work and she has reservations about leaving California. She tells her friend that she cannot face her family without bring her fiance and her friend gives her the idea of getting a guy through Mate.com (I think that's what it was called) and bribe him with the two tickets she won to Mexico on a radio show she gave the right answer to to a trivia question. Naturally, Hilary is appalled by this idea and does not want to bring a potential murdered home to her family but when her mom leaves her a message for her, telling her how she hopes she's not disappointed "this time", Hilary posts an ad for a fake fiance.

Now earlier in the movie there had been some foreshadowing as Hilary, a writer, and her friend (the same one who came up with the idea for the ad), a photographer are interviewing people about their jobs...or something, I really don't remember. They interview a guy who's dressed as a cell phone trying to get people to come to the store that sells them. He told them he was an actor. Well, it doesn't take an idiot to figure out he's going to come back into play here and will be the one to answer the ad. Especially when the audience sees how attractive he is once he takes off his headpiece. He is David and David is the one to answer the ad and Hilary hires him since she already met him and he's the most normal out of all the weirdos that applied for the job.

They manage to con her family although there are awkward moments when Hilary's dad is asking "Jason" for some legal advice and David is not too familiar that aspect of his new identity. I think there was something shady going on with her dad cause he be asking some shady questions! 

Hilary's mom, who is pushing for all her daughters to be married (one is and the other two are engaged) asks her if she and Jason have set a date and feeling the pressure, Hilary tells her they are getting married on December 21st and this makes her mother over the moon happy. Obviously she panicked, but WTF? Why not tell her that they have set the date for Christmas of NEXT year so you don't have to worry about getting fake married in less than three weeks? What an idiot! Also, if I were David, I would be very afraid that some strange woman wants to fake marry me. 

Hilary's mom is the worst. She's one of those who think woman need to get married and not only that, marry a guy who has a good job so that he can support her daughters. She set up her youngest daughter with a foot doctor even though she was in love with a waiter, but I guess she broke up her daughter and the waiter and got her to start dating the doctor who she says is a nice guy, but she's not in love with him. Of course, Meredith is happy that Hilary is getting married to a lawyer. But when it looks like Jason has bailed on her, Meredith gets angry with Hilary and tells her that she has nothing to show for herself. Sheesh, what a bitch! But Jason comes back...I forget why he left in the first place, obviously this movie didn't stay with me that long! 

If you think that Hilary and David fall in love over the course of this Thanksgiving weekend, you would be...correct! (Gee, who didn't see that coming?) And then the REAL Jason comes to apologize to Hilary (I had totally called that one), but Hilary dumps him to be with David. She also patches things up with her mom who apologizes for the way she acted. And the kicker is that she and David actually get married on the December 21st date they set up. Really? Like, you couldn't date for a year, then getting married...like normal people?