Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Prime of Their Youth

Stand By Me
Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, Richard Dreyfuss, John Cusack
Released: August 22, 1986

Oscar nominations:
Best Adapted Screenplay - Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans (lost to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala for A Room With a View)

I was six going on seven the first time I saw an R rated movie. Haha, see what I did there? Yes, Stand By Me was the first R rated movie that I ever saw. I know for a fact that I must have been six or seven when I first saw this because I remember seeing it on video in the basement of the first house I lived in. We didn't move into the second house I lived in until just before my eighth birthday and the movie had to be released on video when I was six. The only thing I remember from my first viewing was that the body of the dead kid really freaked me out, especially since his eyes were open. I think I was around 10 or 11 when I actually remember seeing this movie in its entirety and appreciated it more. I was kind of raised to love this movie because my mom loooooves it (her favorite scene is the "Train!" scene). It's set in 1959 and the characters would have been only a couple years older than her at that time. I'm sure other people of her generation love it too as it encapsulates a certain time period with the setting and music. This movie had to be marketed to the Baby Boomer generation, right? Preteen kids, as much as I'm sure they wanted to see this, wouldn't be allowed (I've never seen four young boys curse so much until South Park came along!)

This movie is based on a short story by Stephen King called "The Body" which I read about 15 years ago. I've only read it once and I don't remember much about it...I know they made a few changes to the movie. Obviously, the novella is set in Maine, as all King stories are, but they changed it to Oregon in the movie. I believe both still have the same small town name of Castle Rock. And I don't remember this, but I guess Chris was the main character of the novella while he's not in the movie. Being that I've seen the movie at least 30 times, you can probably guess which one I like better. I also think the movie has the better title. I would like to revisit the short story...I just need to locate the book! 

Stand By Me is the quintessential coming-of-age movie and one of the most beloved. It is in my top five of favorite movies of all time and I have recommended it in the past to people who had never seen it and they watched it and loved it, naturally! If, for some reason, you have never seen this (blasphemy!!), I highly recommend it. Plus, you should see it before you read this because there will be spoilers. It is about four twelve-year-old boys who embark on a journey the weekend before they start junior high to find the dead body of a kid who was hit by a train named Ray Brower who was their age. ("You guys wanna see a dead body?") They follow the train tracks that will lead them to the area where the body is and along the way they encounter a "vicious" dog named Chopper and his even more vile owner, tell stories around a campfire, have the ultimate train dodge, fall into a lake with leeches (ugh!!!), and philosophize things such as what kind of animal Goofy is suppose to be. It is these four twelve-year-olds going on the ultimate adventure one last time before they drift apart as friends and it is their journey of self-discovering and realizing who they are.

Gordie Lachance (Wil Wheaton), is the main character who is narrating the story to the audience in the "present day" as a forty-year-old (Richard Dreyfus). He loves telling stories and wants to be a writer (as we see he does become later on). His older brother, Denny (John Cusack) died in a car accident four months earlier and his parents are overcome with grief and barely acknowledge Gordie's presence anymore. Gordie and Denny had a very close relationship even though you would think Gordie might resent him with Denny being the Golden Boy son what with him being a star football player. In a flashback, when Denny tells his parents they should read Gordie's new story, his mother seems interested for a second, but then his father turns the subject back to Denny and his football. Gordie has a brutal dream where he's at Denny's funeral and his dad tells him, "It should have been you." He has lots of doubts if his parents, especially his father, really loves him.

Out of the three other boys, Gordie's closest friend is Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) who is the heart of the movie and the unofficial leader of their little gang. Chris is the one to encourage Gordie to continue on with his writing when Gordie thinks it's a waste of time and tells Gordie he can't be held back by him and the other guys who aren't as smart as he is. Narrator Gordie informs the audience that Chris came from a "bad family", but all we know about that is his father drinks and can get on a "mean streak" and he has an older brother who hangs out with a bad crowd.  Gordie's dad doesn't like Chris and calls him a thief because he stole the milk money at school, but Chris confesses to Gordie that even though he did steal the money, he did feel bad and gave it back, only to find that he was still accused of stealing it and the very next day the teacher he gave the money back to had a new skirt. It's a very heartbreaking scene when he's telling this to Gordie and starts to break down and can't understand how a teacher could do something like that to him. Because of his reputation, he tells Gordie, "I just wish I could go someplace where nobody knows me." I can totally see why the preteen and teen girls of the '80s loved River Phoenix. He was very swoon-worthy! This was his only movie I saw of his when he was alive, but I saw quite a few of them about eight years after his death and I think this one by far is is best and most iconic.

Teddy DuChamp (Corey Feldman) is a bit of a psychopath (just a bit!) and is predicted by Chris to not live past 20 (though when adult Gordie is telling the audience what became of his friends, he is still alive). Even though he has a father who beats him and once held his head against a stove and burned his ear, he still loves him. When they come across the vile man who owns a junk yard they trespass into and calls Teddy's father a looney, this angers Teddy immensely and he defends his father, saying he isn't a looney and that he stormed the beach at Normandy. It's no wonder Chris thinks he won't live very long because Teddy seems to have a death wish. He tried to dodge a train ("Train dodge. Dig it.") and we hear about a story where Teddy almost fell out of a tree, but Chris caught him in time. Teddy has the strangest laugh and loves to speak in military lingo. He has one of my favorite lines in the movie when he tells Vern, "Is it me, or are you the world's biggest p***y?"

The junk yard scene also involves a dog named Chopper who is the "most feared and least scene dog in Castle Rock". When I wrote my review for The Sandlot, I mentioned how that movie reminded me of Stand By Me and they had to have inspiration for the "mean and vicious" dog who lives in a junkyard from this film, right?? And just like in The Sandlot where the dog isn't as mean as they had perceived, Chopper is just a golden retriever who isn't as menacing as he is made out to be.

My favorite character is Vern Tessio (Jerry O'Connell). I. FREAKING. LOVE. VERN!!! I love all the characters and think they're all great, don't get me wrong, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Vern. Vern is HILARIOUS! I laugh every time he's on screen. He's the chubby naive kid of the group who gets picked on by the other kids, especially Teddy. Poor Vern! But without Vern, they would never have their adventure because he's the one who tells them about the dead kid. He's under the porch searching for his jar of pennies (his mom threw away the map he made to locate think he would remember the general vicinity where he buried them, but this IS Vern we're talking about!) when he hears his older brother and his brother's friend talking about how they saw this missing kid, dead in the woods. His brother thinks they should tell the police, but the friend says they'll get in trouble since they "boosted" a car and they'll want to know how they got all the way out there. The kids decide they're going to follow the train tracks that will lead them out there to find the body themselves. They are excited about the prospect of getting their pictures in the paper and maybe being on TV if they find the kid's body.

Haha, here is one of my (many!) favorite scenes with Vern:

Vern is so obsessed with that comb! Later, when they're well into their journey, he asks if anyone brought any food and when nobody remembered to, he says, "What are you looking at me for!? I brought the comb!" And then when they all give their money to Gordie to buy provisions, he only has seven cents! Oh, Vern! ("Sorry Vern, a more experienced shopper could have gotten more from your seven cents.") And when they're crossing the bridge and Vern is crawling on his knees (so funny!) and the comb falls out of his shirt pocket and into the water below and he just looks so dejected and tells Gordie, who's behind him, "I lost the comb."("Forget it, Vern.") In that clip at the end you see Teddy punching his arm and giving him "two for flinching". This will happen again to Vern, but he finally gets to be the one to make Teddy flinch and he is so elated and is gloating that he was finally the one to make Teddy flinch, that in his excitement, Teddy punches him and Vern says, " flinched!" and Teddy just smiles at him and says, "I know...two for flinching!" Oh, Vern, you adorable idiot!

Another one of my favorite Vern scenes happens when they've set up camp for the night and Gordie is about to tell them his story about the sabotaged pie eating contest (that always grossed me out so much when I was a younger, but I can handle it a little bit better now!) and tells them the main character is a kid named Davey Hogan and Vern interrupts and says, "Like Charlie Hogan's brother! If he had one." Then he interrupts Gordie once again after he says the main character of his story, nicknamed Lardass, is a really fat kid because of his glands and Vern says his cousin has something like that and is about to tell a story of his own until Chris tells him to shut up. Then once Gordie has finished the story, Vern says, "I like the story! But there's just one thing I don't understand...did Lardass have to pay to get into the contest?" The looks on the other boys' faces just cracks me up and Gordie tells him, "No, Vern, they just let him in" and Vern is like, "Ohhhh! Great story!"

While the boys are following the train tracks, the film cuts back from time to time to the older high school boys, which include Chris's brother, Eyeball; Vern's brother, Billy; and Billy's friend Charlie (that must be the Charlie Hogan who doesn't have a brother named Davey!) among others. The leader of their gang is Ace (Kiefer Sutherland). Both Billy and Charlie, who said they were not going to tell anybody about the dead kid, blab to Eyeball and Ace about him and Ace decides they're all going to drive out to find the kid and hopefully get a cash reward for discovering the body. Ace and his gang like to do things like play "mailbox baseball", get tattoos with razors, and torment the younger kids. Ace steals Gordie's hat at the beginning of the movie, one that Denny gave to him before he died and threatens to burn Chris's eye with a lit cigarette. He's a real a**hole, that Ace! They reach the dead kid just minutes after the four younger boys have found him. It makes me laugh when Ace mocks Chris after Chris tells them, "We found him first! We got dibs!" and Ace turns to Chris's brother and says, "We better start running, Eyeball. They got dibs!"

The four twelve-year-olds stand their ground until Ace takes out his knife and threatens to kill Chris and Vern and Teddy scamper away. Right when Ace makes his move for Chris's throat, Gordie shoots off a gun. This gun was introduced at the beginning of the journey. Chris swiped it from his dad's drawer and shows Gordie it. We next see it when they're camping out and each kid is standing guard with it after they hear coyotes howling. (And Vern keeps pointing it at every little thing that makes a sound...I was a little scared he might let it go off accidentally!) And then it makes it next and final appearance at this moment. Ace and the others back off, but Ace threatens that this isn't over and he won't forget this. Except that this is the last we hear of the older kids in the movie. I'm sure in the book the younger boys got the s*** beaten out of them! In the end, neither group take credit for finding Ray Brower and they make an anonymous phone call.

There's a very melancholy atmosphere when the four kids return to Castle Rock and say their good-byes and that they'll see each other in junior high. It's like they know that this will be the last adventure they have together before they transition into young adults. Narrator Gordie even tells the audience that he and Chris saw less and less of Vern and Teddy as time went on. The scene where Chris vanishes from the screen after we learn that he had been killed a week ago in the "present day" is more poignant now because of what happened to River Phoenix. Gordie as an adult finishes his memoir by writing, "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?"

They tried to make the girl version of this movie about a decade later. It's called Now and Then and by all rights I should love that movie because I'm a girl and I would have been the right age to see it when it came out, but I remember disliking it immensely! I honestly don't remember anything about it, just that I hated it, so I should revisit it someday and see if I still hate it or if I was being too hard on it.

Stand By Me celebrated its 30th anniversary a month ago. I found this clip from five years ago when it celebrated its 25th anniversary. If you're a fan of the movie and have never seen this, you'll enjoy it, I promise.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Cowboy, Take Me Away

Brokeback Mountain
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Randy Quaid, Kate Mara, Linda Cardellini, Anna Faris
Released: December 9, 2005
Viewed in theaters: January 10, 2006

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to Crash (UGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!))
Best Director - Ang Lee (won)
Best Actor - Heath Ledger (lost to Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote)
Best Supporting Actor - Jake Gyllenhaal (lost to George Clooney for Syriana)
Best Supporting Actress - Michelle Williams (lost to Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana (won)
Best Cinematography (lost to Memoirs of a Geisha
Best Original Score - Gustavo Santaolalla (won)

If you've read my review of Crash and watched the last video I posted in this entry, then you know how much I absolutely hate that effing Crash won the Best Picture Oscar over Brokeback Mountain at the 2006 Oscars. And a lot of people feel the same way as me. I want to quote an excerpt from a tome I have called "85 Years of the Oscars" by Robert Osbourne when discussing the 2006 Oscar ceremony:
It was one of the biggest surprise endings in many years.
 The film the press regarded as most likely to score a triumph in the top spot 
[at the 78th Oscar ceremony] was the one that had been
universally praised since its debut, then voted best by the
Producers Guild, BAFTA, and numerous other 
prize-giving organizations. It was
Brokeback Mountain, a poignant tale
by director Ang Lee about the angst-filled
romantic relationship of two cowboys.
But Jack Nicolson's reaction when he opened the envelope
to announce the winner said it all: Crash

Everyone knows that Brokeback Mountain is by far the more superior film. The fact that Crash won the Best Picture Oscar over it, let alone that it was even nominated, is embarrassing! Unfortunately, a lot of Academy voters are older white men who don't always agree with the gay lifestyle and a lot of voters probably didn't even want to give Brokeback a chance. Which is really sad. Believe me, when this film came out, there were a few people I came across who were all, "Eww! That's gross! They're making out!" Of course, I live in Nebraska :::rolls eyes::: Uh, first of all, who doesn't want to see Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal make out? I'd pay money to see that..and I did! But seriously, it's sad (and kind of pathetic) how afraid of this movie some people were of it. Do they really think they'll turn gay or something if they watch two guys kissing each other? I adore this movie so, so much and it makes me sad that people refuse to see it because of the subject matter. It has been ten years since its been released and hopefully people who didn't want to see it back then have changed their minds and given it a chance.

Spoilers ahoy and if you haven't seen this movie yet, you are missing out!

Can we just take a second and applaud Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal for their brilliant portrayals of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist? I feel like a lot of heterosexual actors would not have taken on these roles as they would probably be uncomfortable with having to kiss or portray onscreen sex with another man, so I think it was pretty brave (and smart, in the end) for Ledger and Gyllenhaal to take the roles of the gay cowboys. Let's not forget they were only in their early 20s when they made this movie. It was a big risk and if done wrongly, this movie could have turned out horribly, but luckily they had Ang Lee at the helm. Thank God he won Best Director. Fun fact: he is the first non-white person to win the  Oscar for Best Director. I can't imagine Brokeback Mountain with any other director or actors (though it would have been pretty amusing if Matt Damon and Ben Affleck had signed on!) 

The movie spans nearly 20 years, starting in 1963 when Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) meet that summer on Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming after being hired by a man named Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid) to herd hundreds of sheep through the mountains. We see them talking about their families, sitting around the campfire and eating beans, and bitching about their boss. And then after a drunken rainy night, Jack tells Ennis, who is sleeping outside in the cold and rain, to get in the tent and we all know what happens next! As my mom would say, Oh, my! At first Ennis is not having any of Jack's advances, but he is the one to, ahem, take control of the situation. The next morning is a bit awkward and they spend the entire day apart from each other until the end of the day when Ennis returns to camp and tells Jack that this was a one-time thing they did and he isn't queer and Jack replies that "It's nobody's business but ours" and that he's not queer either. They continue their strong friendship and sexual relationship on Brokeback until Aguirre suspects something going on between the two of them when he spies on them with his binoculars and sees them frolicking together with their shirts off and cuts their summer short.

The two say goodbye without any fanfare. There is no hugging or even a handshake. They just have a short conversation about what they'll do for the rest of the summer, then walk off in different directions. We see Jack in his truck looking like he's trying to hold back tears and we see Ennis go in an alleyway and start punching a wall and crying out. It is a very powerful scene.

Ennis marries his fiancee, Alma (Michelle Williams), who he told Jack about and they have two daughters, Alma Junior and Jenny. Meanwhile, Jack moves to Texas where he meets a rodeo queen named Lureen (Anne Hathaway), the daughter of a wealthy man who sells large farming equipment. She is a very forward woman ("What are you waiting for, cowboy? A mating call?") and they marry and have a son.

Ennis and Jack continue their romantic trysts in secret only seeing each other about once a year, which does not make Jack happy, but Ennis tells him he isn't able to get away with work and he is afraid of someone finding out about his secret. Jack wants him to drop everything and leave Alma and his daughters and have them run a farm together, but Ennis tells him there's no way that's going to happen because two guys living together could mean a death sentence for the both of them. He tells Jack a story of two guys who lived together when he was a kid and one of them was brutally killed and how his father took him and his older brother to see the man's mutilated body. He said for all he knew, it could have been his dad who killed this man which is terrifying. Ennis doesn't do a very good job of keeping his secret from his wife, however, when he receives news that Jack will be in town and this will be the first time in four years Ennis will have seen him since that summer on Brokeback Mountain. He tells Alma that Jack is an old fishing buddy (obviously "fishing" is code for something else!) and when he sees Jack, he can hardly contain his excitement and they aggressively kiss...right in front of the door where Alma can see them...which she does! Her expression is one of shock, betrayal, and hurt. Michelle Williams' best scene in the movie is when she confronts Ennis many years later, after they have divorced, that she knew he never went fishing because she tied a note to the end of his fishing pole telling him to bring home some fish and when he came back and she asked if he caught any fish and he said he did. She knew he was lying because he obviously never read the note and discovered the note was still tied to the pole and it had never been used. And of course this is when we get the famous, "Jack Twist? Jack Nasty!" line. 

I've seen this film five times now (I own the DVD) and I read the short story by Annie Proulx (and it really is short, about 30 pages) about five years ago. While most movies adapted from novels have to take out scenes, they added scenes in Brokeback such as the Thanksgiving scene, and the scene with Ennis and his daughter at the end. They also added the characters played by Linda Cardellini and Anna Faris. All the well-known lines from the film (you know the ones!) are taken from the text. As I mentioned earlier, I can't imagine anyone else but Heath and Jake playing Ennis and Jack, though they were probably a little too good-looking as the two main characters are described as being plain old Joes. I mean, yes, they're dowdy in the movie and there's nothing glamorous about them, but I wouldn't mind sitting between them around the campfire, just saying! 

Whenever I watch the movie, I always notice a few things I hadn't noticed previously. For instance, the scene when Ennis and Jack are saying good-bye to each other after spending some, uh, quality time on Brokeback, Ennis says something about losing his shirt up there and Jack just mumbles something. Well, of course, we know Jack took the shirt because Ennis finds it in his closet at the end of the movie. (Another great scene). That had flown over my head until now. I also never noticed that Jack never calls Ennis by his name (except at the beginning when they introduce themselves to each other), just calls him "friend". I had especially noticed that when reading the story. Something new I learned recently is about the phone conversation Ennis and Lureen have towards the end of the movie after Ennis receives a postcard back that he sent to Jack with "DECEASED" stamped on it (what a gut punch!) and he calls Lureen to ask what happened. Lureen tells him that he was pumping a tire and it blew up and knocked him unconscious and he drowned in his own blood. While she's saying this, we see an image of Jack being brutally murdered by three guys, either what really happened or what Ennis imagined to have really happened. On a podcast I listened to (there I go again with the podcasts!), I learned that Anne Hathaway had to do two takes of this scene: one where the tire story is true and one where it isn't and Ang Lee sliced together both of them to make the final cut. Very interesting. And very tragic. My take has always been that Lureen knew about Jack's secret life and was lying to Ennis about his death and she knew the real reason how he died.

The relationship between Ennis and Jack is a tricky one and having seen the movies five times and read the story once, this is my own assessment of the two characters: first of all, I don't think of them as being gay or bisexual because I don't think they would label themselves as either one, though technically they would be bisexual since they were both married (and had children) to women. I read somewhere that someone said that Ennis is more toward the straight side of being bisexual while Jack is the opposite and I agree. While Jack was willing to divorce his wife and start a life with Ennis, Ennis did seem to care about Alma and was aware of the consequences if he and Jack shacked up together. He was paranoid that people knew about his secret and even after he was divorced from his wife, he found companionship (for a very short time) in another woman, Cassie (Cardellini). Jack was the only male he had a relationship with, whereas with Jack there's the scene where he attempts to buy a beer for the rodeo clown (before he even met Lureen), the scene where he's in Mexico attempting to fill his void, so to speak, and the scene with Lashawn's (Faris) husband where he hints at them going to his boss's cabin together. Obviously Jack had been with other men. Fun fact: the actor who played that guy is David Harbour whose name I instantly recognized it when I saw it in the credits because I had just watched him in as the police chief in Stranger Things. 

Now, here's the big question: who knew about their relationship? Obviously, Alma did since she saw them making out on her front lawn. And as I mentioned earlier, I think Lureen had a good idea too. Also, Lureen's father made that comment to his son-in-law during the Thanksgiving scene when he states that his grandson should watch football and be a man, as though he's making a jab at Jack. And David Harbour's character must have known or I doubt he would have made an advance on Jack. And I'm pretty sure Jack's parents had an idea, especially his mother, when Ennis went to visit them after their son died. Hmmm, interesting that all the people who I suspect knew about them (Alma notwithstanding) are all a part of Jack's life/storyline. This makes sense though, since he was the one who was more ready to admit to their relationship. I guess he didn't keep the secret as well as Ennis did. 

The aging of the main characters over twenty years' time was done subtly with changes to hair styles (and a little gray) and make up to add wrinkles. Okay, maybe Anne Hathaway's blonde hair wasn't so subtle, but I was willing to believe Heath as Kate Mara's dad, even though she was born four years after him. She plays teen Alma Junior.  

Watching this movie always make me feel so sad. Not just because it has a tragic ending (and even if Jack hadn't died, I don't think those two would have ever had their happy ending), but just seeing Heath Ledger. He was so good in this; his performance is very subtle and quiet. He gets a lot of praise for his performance as the Joker, which he was brilliant as, of course, and won the Oscar for, but I feel like some people forget this performance because it wasn't as epic or the movie wasn't as big as The Dark Knight. But just the fact that he could take on two completely different roles and just own them is a testament about what a great actor he was and it's such a shame we'll never see what else he could have done. I've mentioned numerous times how much I adored Heath Ledger (I was a total fangirl at first (what can I say? I'm a sucker for Australian accents!), but then when Brokeback rolled around, I realized he was actually a pretty good actor and began to actually respect him an an actor). There have been plenty of celebrity deaths I've been very saddened about and got choked up over, but his was the one that got to me the most. I was in a state of shock when I found and I cried every night for two weeks after he died. It is also bittersweet watching him and Michelle Williams together, since they had a daughter named Matilda who turns eleven next month. Eleven! Where did the time go? 

To take this review full circle, let me just add one last thing (and continue my bitching): five, ten, twenty years from now, nobody is going to remember anything about Crash. But whether if people have seen it or not, like what it stands for or not, they'll at least remember Brokeback Mountain. Oh, sure, some might refer to it as the "gay cowboy movie" (and yes, I love the movie, but trust me, I make stupid Brokeback jokes all the time), but I think in the long run this movie will have longevity. Hell, if somebody ever asks me what movie won the Oscar for '05, I'm going to tell them it was Brokeback. And I'll bet you they'll believe me! Okay, from now on, in my mind, Brokeback Mountain is 2005's Best Picture Winner.

There are about 100 songs that remind me of this movie, so I made this clip video and narrowed it down to two songs! And it is no coincidence that both songs feature the word "cowboy"! Speaking of which, how great is the (Oscar winning!) score by Gustavo Santaolalla? It is instantly recognizable. 


I wish I knew how to quit you, Brokeback Mountain! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My Favorite Movie Podcasts

As a reader of this blog, you may have noticed that I occasionally talk about listening to podcasts, so I thought I would share with all of you what my favorite movie podcasts are. As we all know, there are hundreds of movie podcasts out there, maybe even thousands! Sometimes, after I watch an older movie and am curious about what other people thought of it, I will type the movie in at the iTunes store and find if there are any podcasts reviews on it. Depending on the popularity of the movie is how many reviews I will find. If I like a review, I will keep tabs of the podcast and will go back and listen to other movie reviews they've done and if I don't, I just delete it.

To me, there are three types of movie podcasts: Ones that review brand new movies, ones that review older movies, and ones that just discuss different movie topics in general. I will discuss the ones I listen to in each category.

I admit, I don't go to see movies in the theaters as often as I used to (and that's a whole other topic for a different entry!), but there are plenty of new movies I do look forward to seeing and hearing about from certain podcasts that review the new theatrical releases, so I keep these in my podcast feed and after I see the "new release" on DVD or Netflix (well, I guess by that time it's a new release on DVD or Netflix!), I will always go to the following podcasts to listen to their reviews of those movies, if they have one. And more often than not, if it's an extremely popular movie, they do:

Filmspotting - The two hosts of this podcast, Adam Kempenaar and Josh Larson (or sometimes a guest host if one of them isn't available) review a recent movie, but what makes it more than just a review podcast is that they take a theme of the movie they reviewed and use it to name their other favorite movies with said theme. For instance, when they reviewed Captain Phillips, they each named their five favorite hostage movies. More recently, they had their top five women comic book characters when they reviewed Suicide Squad. I went back in the archives and re-listened to their top five screen redheads after they reviewed Brave. As a redhead, I was tickled by this. Sometimes they'll review a movie from a specific year and then each give their five favorite movies of that year. I remember they reviewed The Breakfast Club and gave their favorite movies from 1985 and gave their favorite movies from 1990 after reviewing Edwards Scissorhands. There have also been tributes to actors after they've passed away. They have done top five best Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams roles. There are so many different categories they've done and it's a great way to discover new movies and it gives the podcast a little something different. One thing I love about this one is that everything is time stamped so if you want to skip a segment you're not interested in or skip the boring sponsor stuff, you can! It's awesome! 

The /Filmcast - That's pronounced The Slash Filmcast. The hosts of this podcast are David Chen, Devindra Hardawar, and Jeff Cannata (and sometimes a guest) and they review a recent movie. But first they begin with what they've been watching followed by movie news before getting into their review. Like Filmspotting, this podcast is also time stamped and the show notes also tell you what they've watched and what the movie news is so if you're not interested in any of that, you can just skip to the review. They first review the movie without spoilers, then give a warning they're about to dive into spoiler territory. Most podcasts I listen have a spoiler discussion at the end of their review. I have listened to some reviews that don't spoil anything, which I understand, but I appreciate it when the reviewers talk about everything because I like to hear opinions about everything in a movie, mostly including the spoil-y stuff. This podcast has a very catchy opening theme, so bonus points for that!

Film Junk - This has three Canadian guys, Sean, Jay, and Frank who talk about a recent movies, then talk about movie news, movies they recently watched, answer questions from listeners, discuss spoilers, and finish up with new releases on DVD. There used to be a fourth guy, but he's not there anymore, so I must have missed the episode where he left. Sometimes they are joined by one of their friends. Often times, before getting into the review, they'll talk about recent experiences they've had involving going to the movies or buying DVDs. I find these stories so amusing, especially when they're told by Jay, who always seems to have a story about buying DVDs. Since they live in Canada, they often cross the border to buy DVDs in the U.S. since they're cheaper and he always has some story about some kind of hassle he has. It is just so funny to hear him vent about them. These guys are huge movie nerds and get into these really big arguments over what the best (fill in the blank here) is. They also have certain rules for organizing their DVD collection and get lots of questions from listeners about how to shelf a certain DVD. These guys would be appalled if they ever saw my DVD collection because it's just totally random. Of course, I only have about 30 DVDs so it's not too hard to find one I'm looking for! They started doing timestamps earlier this year and that makes me so happy!

Mad About Movies - This is a podcast I recently discovered. It's been around a few years, but I only discovered it within the last year while I've been listening to the other podcasts for around four or five years. It has three guys, Kent, Richard, and Brian who review a recent movie. You've probably noticed that all the hosts of the podcasts I've listened to so far are all male. Sometimes they'll have a female guest host, but for the most part most movie podcasts seem to be hosted by guys. As also with the other podcasts, they discuss movie news and movies they've seen recently. At the end of their podcast, someone will give out a DVD recommendation, or sometimes a book recommendation. They have a segment called American Treasures they do every first episode of the month where they nominate an actor or public figure for their American Treasure Hall of Fame. They require that their nominees must be an American citizen (obviously!) and that they must be 50 years or older or be in their line of business for at least 25 years. This podcast also has a catchy opening.

I sometimes do listen to other podcasts that review recent movies, but the above are the ones I will always go to and listen to the most.

There are plenty of movie podcasts that review older movies, such as from the '80s, '90s, and early '00s; you know, before podcasts were a thing. There are a ton of podcasts of people around my age who go back and review movies from the late '80s/early '90s they grew up with, so of course, I love those.

Hey, Do You Remember - I recently listened to a bunch of episodes of this podcast. The hosts, Chris, Donna, and Carlos, are within a couple years of my age and they review so many movies that I grew up with and it's a lot of fun hearing their experiences with these iconic (to my generation, anyway!) movies. Chris, the main host, has the most outrageous stories and I always get a kick out of listening to them. His stories always have something to do with the movie they're reviewing and they're always amusing, so I don't mind them. Nothing drives me crazier when I'm listening to a podcast and the speakers suddenly go off into a completely different subject you don't care about and you're screaming at you're iPod for the to get back to the subject on hand. Surely I'm not the only person who does this! They start their reviews with a history of the movie such as how it got started and how it did at the box office. Some things I already knew, but I often learn something new about the movie they're reviewing. They also share their experiences of what they remember about the movie...if they remember seeing it in the theater and what their reactions were the first time they saw it. If you grew up with movies from the '80s and '90s and have nostalgia for them, I highly recommend this podcast. I'm just waiting patiently for them to review my favorite childhood movie, My Girl!

Action Movie Anatomy - Obviously, from the title, this podcast reviews action movies. The hosts, Andrew Ghai and Ben Bateman (and sometimes joined by a guest host) talk about very popular action movies. There are plenty they've already done and plenty they still have yet to do. They will sometimes review a new release action movie or one that came out within the last decade, but a lot of them are from the '80s and '90s, the Stallone and Schwarzenegger action flicks. Their requirements for the action movies they review are that they must be made in 1981 or after, have at least one explosion, the hero always plays by their own rules, the hero and villain must be the smartest person in the room, and the movie must have a police military, or political figure. After they review the movie, they discuss their favorite part, favorite line, and how they would recast the movie if it was made today. One of them does a really good Tom Cruise and Nicolas Cage impression. They review a lot or ridiculous action movies, so it's a lot of fun.

How Did This Get Made? - Speaking of ridiculous movies, this is a comedy podcast with Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, and June Diane Raphael. They record in front of a live audience and just pick apart and make fun of a ridiculous movie after watching it. Sometimes they do movies I'm not really familiar with, but when they do a big blockbuster like Face/Off or the latest Fast and Furious movie, I always enjoy listening to those. They do any type of movie from any year, so it ranges from what you will get. I remember the first movie they reviewed was Burlesque and I remember listening to this while working and trying not to LOL!

I also want to give a special shout out to Now Playing, which I haven't listened to that many episodes of because they have reviewed a lot of movies I haven't watched or don't plan on watching (such as the Star Wars or James Bond movies...they reviewed all the James Bond that is dedication!) However if you are into a franchise, more likely or not you will find it on this podcast because they review a lot of franchise movies. I listened to their episodes on the Back to the Future movies and there are MANY Back to the Future reviews out there and the one Now Playing did has to be one of my favorites.

And now here are the movie podcasts that discuss different topics, not just a movie they review:

Battleship Pretension - The two hosts of this show, Tyler Smith and David Bax, are passionate movie aficionados who went to film school and discuss all kinds of different film topics. They talk about many different films that have to do with the topic of their episode. They've discussed things such as their favorite movies scores, blockbuster fatigue, summer/holiday movies (which they use the Entertainment Weekly issue for as a template), best death scene, their favorite movies of the year (and they even did a list of the decade), the Oscars, etc. Every tenth podcast they do a feature on a director or a producer or some big name in movies. Sometimes they dedicate episodes to certain movies, especially if they have a guest (or "friend of the show" as they like to refer to them) on that was involved with that particular film. Before they get to their main topic, they usually start with another smaller topic. This could be a recent movie they've seen or a bad experience they had at the movie theater with people talking during a movies (these types of stories are always my favorite). I really don't mind when they get off topic because they usually get right back to the main topic and their tangents are always amusing. In the past year, they've started doing separate episode just dedicated to movies they've watched lately, but with all the other movie podcasts I listen to (not to mention the other podcasts in general I listen to!), I don't always listen to those episodes because I just don't have the time.

Doug Loves Movies - This is comedian Doug Benson's podcast where he brings out other comedians and B-list celebrities to chat about movies, recent and old. It's recorded in front of an audience once a week. While most of his guests are fellow comedians (and I've heard of some of them because they've been on those lists shows on VH1), he's had a pretty impressive array of actors including Elisabeth Shue, Anna Kendrick, and Michael Cera. (All of who, are, of course, A-listers!) I have to listen to this podcast when I'm alone because sometimes it can get really hilarious that I LOL. There are times when they get completely off topic or there's a visual gag that the audience is laughing at, but the listener has no idea what's going on. That can get annoying sometimes. My favorite part is at the end when they play the Leonard Maltin Game. It's like Name That Tune, but with movies. One of the guests chooses a category and a year that Doug gives them, then after he tells them how many actors are in the movie, they have to try to guess who many names (from the bottom up) they can get the movie in. He also sometimes does a game called Build a Title where he starts with a name of a movie someone from the audience throws out at him and his guests add on other movie titles to the beginning and end so it's all one movie title. For example, if the original movie title is City of Angels, it might end up as Sin City of Angels in the Outfield of Dreams. To be honest, I haven't listened to this podcast in awhile, so it could now be something totally different! I really should go back and listen to some recent episodes.

Screen Junkies Movie Fights - This podcast is always fun to listen to because there's a different array of topics that the moderator and host, Andy Signore, gives out to a panel of three "fighters" and he decides who has the best argument and is therefore the winner. They do a lot of nerd-heavy questions (read: comic book movies) such as "Who should play _____ in the next _____ movie" or "Who should direct the next ______ movie" and while those can sometimes be interesting depending on the questions, I prefer the ones that sway away from those kinds of movies. They've asked questions ranging from "Best live action Disney movie" to "What is Steven Spielberg's WORST movie" and "Best talking animal in a movie" and "Best sports movie." They've done all sorts of different topics and it's always fun to hear the panel fighting it out with each other. They have a rotating panel of different people (which includes at least a few females, so that's exciting because it is mostly guys), but they sometimes have special guests from other podcasts I listen to. Jeff Cannata, who I mentioned previously from the /Filmcast has been on it and Doug Walker, who does Nostalgic Critic. Celebrities such as Elijah Wood, Seth Rogan, and Sam Levine have also been on the show. Whenever a celebrity is on the show, they always win because they always sucks up to them and gives them the point. I mean, usually it's pretty close, but c'mon! This is a podcast, but you can also watch it on YouTube. It is a very fun and amusing podcast.

So as you can see from all the podcasts I listen to and all the movie I watch, that's pretty much all I do with my life! 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Stranger Things

Instead of reviewing a movie, I thought I would do something different and talk about the 8-part big hit series that came from Netflix this summer called Stranger Things. If you have Netflix Instant, this probably popped up on your screen whenever you logged onto the site to get your Netflix Fix. (I feel like the F in "fix" should be capitalized for that!) I didn't check it out until I kept hearing about it through people I knew and podcasts that were talking about it. Since there are only eight episodes; each about 45 minutes (give or take), it took me less than a week to devour them all.

There will be slight spoilers in this review, but nothing that will give anything major away. But even if you are wary of spoilers, you may want to read this until after you've seen the show. And I highly recommend it.

As I was watching it, I couldn't help but get a Super 8 vibe from it. That movie was set in 1979 and had a cast of eleven/twelve/thirteen year olds. Mostly boys, but there was one girl. They are trying to figure out a mystery involving a monster. This show was set in 1983 (1979, 1983, same thing! At least to me!) It also has a group of eleven/twelve/thirteen year olds. Again, mostly boys, but there was also one girl in this. They are also trying out to figure out a mystery involving a monster, but most of all, their mystery involves trying to figure out what happened to their missing friend. Which involves the monster...obviously!

I was listening to a podcast about this show and someone described it as something that would be created if Steven Spielberg and Stephen King collaborated together. I've heard a lot of comparisons of this show to those two and I can see it. There are definitely elements of Close Encounters of the Third Kindd, E.T., The GooniesStand By Me (or "The Body" if you want to go with the original short story title), and It. Although I have never read or seen It because I don't need to be any more scared of clowns than I already am, thank you very much, but I trust those people who say this reminded them of that. But there are no clowns in this show. Thank God! However, there are plenty of jump scares and I probably shouldn't have watched this at night...there were some creepy moments!

The show starts with a very short prologue of a scientist running away from something we don't see. He runs to the elevator and hits the button several times frantically. Of course then when it finally opens, he has to hit the button again several times to close it. It finally does close and it looks like he's escaped from the monster, except the monster is a lot smarter than he thought because...oops...he's on top of the elevator and snatches the man.

In the next scene, we first meet our young characters. They are four middle-school aged boys who are playing Dungeons and Dragons in Mike's basement. Out of the kids, Mike is the main character. At first, I couldn't decide if he was an odd-looking kid or super cute, but in the end, he won me over and I have opted for the latter choice. The actor who plays him, Finn Wolfhard, has a very distinct bone structure to his face and pair that with his very early '80s haircut (and the very early '80s wardrobe!) it makes him look a bit odd, but it is perfect as he is suppose to be a huge dork and isn't suppose to be with the in crowd at school. This kid is absolutely adorable and if I were a twelve year old girl right now, I would have a crush on him. He's soooo cute! Mike's closest friend and next door neighbor is Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), the only black kid in town. (Well, they do live in a small town in Indiana called Hawkins.) He and Mike have known each other the longest out of the four friends and often communicate with each other through Walkie Talkies which reminded me of the two young friends and next door neighbors in Big. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) is the brains of the group, which is saying something since they're all dorky kids! But he's the one who always comes up with the ideas. He's also the fat kid of the group, although I would describe him more as husky than fat...cuz that kid ain't fat! The smallest kid of the group and the one with the least amount of screen time is Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). He's the kid who goes missing hence the limited screen time. This kid has so little screen time he's not even credited in the opening titles! Poor kid! He does show up in flashback scenes in later episodes, but compared to the other kids (and not to mention the other people in the cast), he's not in the series that much.

Will is riding his bike home at night after playing Dungeons and Dragons with his friends when he rides past the laboratory we saw earlier where the scientist was. Something pops up in front of him and startles him and he skids off the road. He ditches his bike and runs home the rest of the way. (They do live in a small town, so it must not have been very far). He enters his house where his dog is barking and calls for his mom and brother, but doesn't get an answer from them...we later find out his brother got home late that night because he was working, but I'm not sure if his mom was there or not. She must not have been. He looks out the window and sees a slow-moving figure from a distance slowly advancing towards the house and it is definitely not human. Very creepy. He gets on the phone to call 911, but he just gets static and a weird sound. When the chain to the door becomes undone, Will runs out the back and into the shed where he gets a shotgun and aims it towards the door. We see Will see the monster, which has snuck up behind him, but we don't see the monster close up. In the next shot, Will has vanished. Where has he gone? Seriously, where is he?

During the course of the show, we follow three groups of characters who take different paths to find Will. In one path, we have Will's mother, Joyce. She is played by Winona Ryder. Yes, a name you finally recognize! She was really good in this and it was nice seeing in her something. I can't even remember the last recent thing she had done. She is a single mother of two who works long hours (so therefore she probably wasn't home that night Will vanished). She tells the local sheriff, Jim Hopper aka Hop (David Harbour) who tells her that Lonnie, her ex-husband, probably has something to do with this because "99 times out of 100 the missing kid is with a parent or a relative." Joyce asks him what about the other time, what happens then, and he tells her that the worst thing that has ever happened in their small town was when an owl attacked someone's head because it thought the hair was a nest. (Ouch!)

Weird things start happening at their home. Joyce gets a phone call with just static on the other line, but she very faintly hears Will's voice, but the wires in the phone burn. Will's favorite song, "Should I Stay or Should I Go" by the Clash plays off and on to get Joyce's attention. The lights flicker on and off as if somebody is trying to communicate with her and in a funny scene at the store she works at, Joyce buys all the Christmas lights. At least this was set in November, so she could just say she was getting ready for Christmas! She finds she is able to communicate with Will by having him answer yes and no questions with flicking the lights once or twice. I kept waiting for her to set up an alphabet system and sure enough she paints the alphabet on her wall so Will can spell things out for her. Of course, everyone thinks she's crazy, including Hopper and Mike's mom who comes over to offer her support and comfort for the grieving mother. But mostly, Lonnie, her douche bag ex-husband who left her for a younger woman and never spends time with his sons.

Then there's Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), Will's older brother, who does help his mom and sheriff search for Will. But he soon takes a different path with Mike's older sister, Nancy (Natalia Dyer). She is a straight-A student, the goody two shoes daughter. She used to be deemed "cool" by Mike's friends until she started dating the super cool dreamboat Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) who has the most perfect and amazing hair ever known to mankind. Can you the blame the girl for falling for him? I can't! If I were a high school girl in the '80s, I would have a crush on him, although he is a bit of a douche bag, but then he ends up not being one. Nancy becomes involved with the monster mystery when her friend, Barb, also goes missing under mysterious circumstances. They were at Steve's pool party and Barb was by herself while Nancy was giving it up to Steve in his bedroom. Jonathan, a photographer, decides to be a creep when he's lurking in the woods near Steve's house at the time of the party and takes photos of Nancy without her shirt on through the window. He also takes photos of Barb sitting on the diving board, nursing a cut she got on her hand from slicing a beer can sideways with a knife, but it cut her. I'm not sure exactly what they were doing either because this is a party thing and I'm not cool enough to have attended any parties in my day (well, plus, I hate parties!) or if this is an early '80s things and I was a toddler during this time, so therefore I wasn't drinking beer! The photos prove to be helpful as there is an odd figure behind Barb and they believe it to be the monster.

Then there are Will's three friends who meet a strange girl named Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown...maybe her parents were fans of My Prerogative?) They find her, hair shorn and wearing a hospital gown in the same spot where Will went missing. They ask her who she is, but she doesn't seem to talk except for one word syllables like "yes and "no", though over the course of the show she does talk more, but still very limited. She has 011 tattooed on her forearm, thus her name. Mike says they can call her "El" for shore. Me thinks it's a shout out to Elle Fanning who was in Super 8. Maybe that's a stretch! The boys take her back to Mike's basement where he gives her some dry clothes and she starts to take off her shirt and the boys, especially Dustin, start freaking out and tell her to change in the bathroom. I was cracking up over that.

Mike has an idea to have Eleven go to the front door and tell his mom she's lost so she can call someone, but Eleven, clearly scared, tells him no, so he lets him stay in his basement where he has a little fort she sleeps in and sneaks her down food. She really takes a liking to Eggos. The boys soon find out Eleven is very special as she has telekinetic powers (like Carrie, another Stephen King shoutout!) I was just waiting for when she was going to use her powers on the two bullies, Troy and some other kid whose name I don't remember. They relentlessly pick on Mike, Lucas, and Dustin. They call Dustin Toothless because he is missing his two front teeth and has a lisp. Eleven uses her powers to humiliate them and humiliate she does. So much in fact that the bullies come back for retaliation. Troy is clearly a sociopath as he tells Mike to jump off a cliff into the lake that is high enough that it will kill anyone who will jump off from there. In fact, we had a scene in an earlier episode where Hopper tells someone that if someone jumped from this cliff, their bones would shatter when they hit the water. Troy tells Mike that if he doesn't jump, then he will cut out Dustin's remaining teeth with the pocket knife he has. Even the other bully tells Troy that this is wrong, but Troy doesn't seem to care and decides he wants to be a murderer at age 12. Good going there, kid. They encountered the bullies when they were looking for Eleven, who had run away. Mike had to know she was close by or else he wouldn't have jumped, right? Surely he knew that jump would kill him! Because he does jump, but she manages to save him with her powers, and also breaks Troy's arms which was awesome. Because he totally deserved it.

As you may have guessed, the three different paths cross and everyone is working together to figure out the mystery. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say the end is left open for a second season. If you love anything about the '80s, the fashion, the music, synthesizers (which play a big part in the score), and movies from that era, you will enjoy this immensely.

I read that the show was pitched to about 15 different networks before finally it was taken to Netflix because nobody would take it. I bet all those networks are kicking themselves now. But I prefer it being on Netflix. Much easier to access and you have all the episodes at your disposal and you can watch whenever you want to; you're not bounded by a schedule. It's no wonder I've been with Netflix for over ten years now, wow!

The young cast was on Jimmy Fallon and they did a hilarious skit where Jimmy played cool guy Steve and then "Barb" showed up. OMG, I was laughing so hard. If you missed it, you should defintely check it out on YouTube...I'm sure you can find it there. There are major spoilers, though!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pool of Rejuvenation

Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Wilford Brimley, Don Ameche, Jessica Tandy, Hume Croyny, Brian Dennehy, Steve Guttenberg, Maureen Stapleton, Gwen Verdon, Tahnee Welch
Released: June 21, 1985

Oscar nominations:
Best Supporting Actor - Don Ameche (won)
Best Visual Effects (won (really?!))

People who saw the teaser trailer for Cocoon before it was released were probably really confused and were probably wondering what the hell this movie was about! I would have thought it's about nautical exploration as you see something covered with barnacles and seashells and crustaceans crawling all over it.

Those pods, or cocoons, you might say, are from outer space, specifically a planet called Antarea and have been housing aliens in the depths of the ocean for thousands of years. About a hundred centuries ago, they had an outpost on Earth and when it was time to leave, they were able to retrieve everyone except for the ground crew. A team of four aliens from Antarea have come to Earth to retrieve them. They disguise themselves as humans (good idea if you're an alien visiting Earth!) God, this movie sounds so weird and crazy, but for some reason, I kinda love it. Among the disguised aliens are Walter (Brian Dennehy) and Kitty (Tahnee Welch - she is Raquel's daughter). Along with two other aliens (disguised as dudes), they pay a guy named Jack (Steve Guttenberg), who has a boat to take them out to sea every day for a month. They offer him a nice, hefty sum and since Jack is low on money he is happy to oblige. Hmm, I wonder if the creators of Third Rock From the Sun got their inspiration from this movie? I couldn't help thinking of that show when I was watching the scenes of the aliens disguised as humans!

Each day after the Antareans have collected the cocoons, they return to the house with the indoor pool they're renting and put them in the pool. You know, they never do tell us how these aliens pay for the house and boat they're renting for about a month! Maybe they've been disguised as humans for decades and have gotten jobs to accumulate money to pay for all of this. They do come from a planet where you never get sick or die, so they are immortal. Before he finds out the truth about what the pods actually are, Jack questions Kitty about them and she tells them that they are extremely rare large snails shells and they are taking them to a maritime museum to study them.

This movie takes place in Florida, which means senior citizens aren't too far away and not far from the house with the pool housing the cocoons is a retirement home called Sunny Shores. Often trespassing to swim in the pool are three of its residents: Ben (Wilford Brimley), Art (Don Ameche), and Joe (Hume Croyny). They invite Ben's 12-year-old grandson, David, to come with them one day, but when they see people moving into the house, they abort. Later, they see them unloading the pods (covered up) and think they are up to some shady business and decide if they're up to something illegal, then they won't feel bad about breaking into their pool while they're away. The first time they swim in the pool after the mysterious new neighbors have moved in, there are four cocoons in the pool. They wonder what these strange-looking rocks are, and after determining they're harmless, they all get in the pool. After a few seconds of swimming, they all declare how great they feel and are soon splashing and jumping into the pool like little kids. We get a montage of this with very '80s-sounding music. What is happening is that the cocoons are giving out a life source which makes the old people feel rejuvenated. So much so, that they are ready for some action with their wives/lady friends. Mary (Maureen Stapleton) is Ben's wife, Art is wooing Bess (Gwen Verdon), and Joe is married to Alma (Jessica Tandy, who was married to Hume Croyny in real life. There was a cute behind the scenes featurette where he referred to her as "Jessie". I totally "ahhh"-ed over that.) The ladies join the men in the pool, and soon, they too, start to feel younger and livelier than ever. Mary is able to climb a tree with her grandson. Ben, who failed his eye test pre-pods, returns and is able to read the last line of the smallest print. And most remarkable of all, Joe, who had cancer, soon finds out he is cancer-free.

The older gentlemen want their friend, Bernie, to join them, but he refuses, thinking it unnatural. In a sad scene, when he finds his wife, Rose, who had been suffering from severe dementia, has passed away, he rushes her to the pool, begging her to wake up, but it is too late for her.

Jack discovers his passengers are really aliens when he decides to be a creep and spies on the attractive Kitty through the keyhole while she's getting undressed. Kitty, who has a knack for knowing when someone is spying on her (this is the first of two times when she sense someone peeping at her). Instead of seeking a naked woman, Jack sees a glowing alien. Now this movie won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects and if you watch this movie in this day and age, they look pretty bad (hence my "really?!" exclamation). I suppose for 1985 they were a cinematic achievement. Jack is freaked out at first, naturally, but decides to help the aliens with their mission when they tell him they're going to get their friends back with or without his help and that they can just hire another person with a boat. He must really need that money! We see him in a later scene reading a book called "The Complete Book of Extraterrestrial Encounters". The aliens never seen concerned when humans figure out who they really are. This happens again when the three gentlemen are swimming in the pool, then hide in a closet when they see the house guests have returned early. They take off their human forms and this is the second time when Kitty (as an alien) senses someone looking at them through the closet. It's just too bad she doesn't have this extra sense when she's in her human form. While the older gentlemen do tell the police about what they saw, they don't believe them and Walter tells them that he won't press charges against the trespassing senior citizens and laughs off the crazy story. The pool-dwelling senior citizens soon become friends with the aliens and we get another montage (with a very '80s-sounding song called "Gravity") of them playing cards together and the senior citizens grooving at the dance floor at clubs. Art even shows off by break dancing.

Everything comes to a horrible halt when other residents at Sunny Shores hear about this magical pool from Bernie and soon it is overcrowded with senior citizens who are taking out the cocoons (now covering every floor inch of the pool) and abusing them in the process. It's a pretty horrible scene. (Horrible in the way they're treating the cocoons; not the way it was shot). Because of all the people in the pool at once, they have sucked all the life force out of the cocoons and the aliens have died.

Since they now have room on their spaceship due to the cocoons not being able to make the trip back, Walter offers all the residents of Sunny Shores to join them to come back with him and Kitty (and the two other aliens whose names I don't even remember because they're really not important characters) to Antarea, a planet where you never grow old and you never die. All of them are quick to accept except for Bernie who opts to stay and live out his last days on good old Earth. I'm sure the staff of Sunny Shores will be delighted when they find out they no longer have a job since the retirement home is now empty. Ben doesn't tell his daughter because he knows she won't believe him and think he's crazy, but he does tell his grandson. I have a hard time believing any grandparents would leave their grandchildren behind, knowing they'll never see them again just for a chance of immortality. I feel given the choice of living forever, but never being able to see your loved ones again or spending your last days on earth surrounded by loves one, most people would choose the latter. Sure, Ben would be with his wife and his friends from Sunny Shores, but we did see him spending a lot of time with David in the movie, so he obviously had a bond with his grandson. And it's not like Ben or Mary (or any of their friends) were knocking on death's door even though they were old.

But they decide to be selfish and leave their family and get on the spaceship. Seriously, would you go to another planet? You don't know what you're going to find when you get there. All these old people may be getting scammed! They're too naive! And even if where they were going did provide immortality, who would want to live forever? I feel like that would be more of a curse than a blessing. As I was watching this, I couldn't help but think of that whole Heaven's Gate cult fiasco. Do you remember this? It happened in 1997. All of these people were in a cult and followed this crazy old man named Marshall Applewhite who had 38 other followers kill themselves by drinking poisonous Kool-Aid so they could reach a spaceship following the comet, Hale-Bop. One detail I remember was that they were all wearing Nike shoes. It was so weird. I'm surprised they haven't made a movie about this yet. The voyage to outer space in Cocoon isn't as dark since they don't kill themselves, but they do all seem to be brainwashed by the idea of immortality.

They were on a boat in the middle of the ocean when the spaceship beamed them up. The authorities thought they were capsized and drowned and there's a funeral for all of them. Even though they are told they will never return to Earth, they do in the 1988 sequel called Cocoon: The Return. Way to make their journey anti-climatic! I saw it 12 years ago, but I don't remember anything about it. Ron Howard must have gotten angry letters about Ben and Mary leaving their grandson behind, because when they come back to Earth, they opt not to return to Antarea and live out the rest of their days with their family. (I read the summary on Wikipedia).

Whenever Jack was helping the Antareans collect the cocoons from the ocean or any other time they were out in the ocean, they were always surrounded by dolphins. Obviously the life force attracted them. Or maybe dolphins just hang out with people in Florida; IDK! I have to tell you my amazing dolphin story. It only lasted for about five seconds, but I love telling this story. About four years ago I was in Destin, Florida with my brother and his wife and we were on a boat and this dolphin poked his head out of the water right next to our boat. Of course I didn't have my camera ready so I couldn't snap a pic! But he was so close to us, I could have reached out and petted him, but I didn't because I respect nature and I didn't want to get my hand bitten off. Even though they look very friendly, they are still wild animals! We did see a lot of dolphins and I got plenty of videos and pics of them, but we never saw one poke its head out of the water again.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Buckmans v. Bravermans

Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Dianne Weist, Rick Moranis, Martha Plimpton, Joaquin Phoenix, Jason Robards, Keanu Reeves
Released: August 2, 1989

Oscar nominations:
Best Supporting Actress - Dianne Weist (lost to Brenda Fricker for My Left Foot)
Best Song - "I Love To See You Smile" by Randy Newman (lost to The Little Mermaid for "Under the Sea" by Alan Menken and Howard Shore)

Earlier this year, I watched all five seasons of the TV show Parenthood which is based on this movie. I haven't seen this movie in a very long time that I didn't remember anything about it to compare it to the TV series. I'm pretty sure the last time I saw this movie was when I was a kid so I probably found it really boring because it's mostly about grown ups and their problems...oh, sure, there are kids with their problems, but I'm sure I found that boring too! I find the TV series to be far superior. Of course, they had five seasons to tell different stories and the characters could all have bonding moments with each other. In the movie, they only have less than two hours and you only see the relationships between husbands and wives or mothers and children; you don't really see the relationships between the grown up siblings like the TV show did so well.

It was fun to compare the movie characters with their TV counterparts. So let's compare the Buckmans (from the movie) to the Bravermans (from the TV show)! Gil (Steve Martin) and his wife, Karen (Mary Steenburgen) are the counterparts to Peter Krause's Adam and Monica Potter's Kristina. While in the movie, this family is the main focus, the TV show had enough time to spend on all the families. The main difference are the kids. Gil and Karen's oldest is a nine-year-old boy, Kevin who has "emotional problems" and needs to attend a different school to get the attention he needs as well as go to therapy. Max, from the TV show, is obviously his counterpart and has been diagnosed with Asperger's. While Max has an older sister, Kevin is the oldest and has two younger siblings, Taylor and Justin who are just there to be annoying and bad child actors. Just like in the TV show, the Buckmans are avid baseball fans and Gil wants Kevin to play on the Little League team even though his son doesn't like it. While watching a game, Gil has a daydream where Kevin is the valedictorian at his college graduation and says, "I'm the happiest, confident, most well-adjusted person in this world. And I owe it all to my dad." That daydream quickly changes, however, after Kevin has dropped the ball and loses the game and everyone is heckling him. He tells his dad, "You made me play second base!" and Gil has another daydream where Kevin is shooting a gun at college students from a bell tower and yells the same line. Yeah, I don't think the studio would be able to get away with a scene like that in this day and age! Perhaps a little too dark. Just like Christina got pregnant in the TV show, Karen also becomes pregnant. When she tells Gil the big news, he's not very excited because he's just quit his job (because they gave a promotion to someone who had been there less years than he had), and worries about money and finances, but in the end everything turns out fine.

Young Wa-keen Feenix!
Then we have the single mother family. Helen Buckman (Dianne Weist) is the sister to Gil. She is divorced and has two teen kids: a sixteen year old daughter named Julie (Martha Plimpton) and a son named Gary (played by a VERY young Joaquin Phoenix...he must have been 13 or 14. In fact, he was so young, he's not credited as Joaquin, but rather by Leaf Phoenix, which I guess was a childhood nickname...thank God he changed it back!) Obviously the TV counterpart of this family is the one with Lauren Graham and Mae Whitman and the boy. I call 2016 the Year of Lauren Graham because not only did I watch Parenthood, but I also watched all of Gilmore Girls and I'm super excited for the revival coming on Netflix in November. Super, super excited! By the way, have you ever noticed that LG's character in Gilmore Girls (who also has the same initials as her portrayer) dated her daughter's high school teacher and LG's character in Parenthood dated her daughter's high school teacher? Anyway, back to the review. Julie moves out of the house with her boyfriend, Todd (Keanu Reeves) and they get married much to Helen's dismay. This was probably my favorite of the family dynamics just because there were so many funny moments. Julie and Todd takes some x-rated photos and when they go to get them after they've been developed, Julie realizes the photos she has are her mothers and her mother has the scandalous photos. You couldn't do a scene like that now since nobody ever gets their photos developed anymore since everything is digital! They get into a huge fight and Julie threatens to move out and Helen tells her if she does that, then she can never step foot in their house again. Once Julie has all her stuff packed and is heading for the door, Helen says, "I'm here if you need me! Call me if you need anything!" After Julie gets into a fight with Todd, she moves back in until Todd comes back and apologizes and they get back together again. There's a funny scene where Todd asks Helen, "Where's my wife?" and Helen tells him, "She's still at school....she has cheerleading practice." That just made me laugh out loud...or LOL as the kids say! (Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention they get married?) The movie father of this family is much more of a douchbag than his TV counterpart. At least in the TV show, he attempted to get to know his kids, but the one in the movie has his own new family and doesn't want anything to do with his kids. There's a sad scene when Gary calls his dad and asks if he can stay with him for a few months, but is denied permission so he breaks into his dental office where he works and vandalizes everything. When Helen finds a porno videotape in a sack he's always carrying around (and disguised with a Back to the Future cover), she understands her son needs a man in his life to help answer any questions he has. She asks him if he wants to talk to his Uncle Gil about anything (after she asks him if she can answer any questions he might have) but he doesn't want to. Finally she gets Todd, probably the last person she wants talking to her son. There's a really funny exchange where Todd tells her that Gary got his first boner and asks her, "Do you know what that is?" and she replies, "If memory servers." It's a bit of a running joke that it's been a long time since Helen has any action.

To be honest, I wasn't sure if Nathan (Rick Moranis) or his wife, Susan (Harley may remember her as Jeff Daniel's wife in Arachnophobia) was the Buckman siblings, but after some research, I found out that Susan is the Buckman. I knew this family was the movie counterpart to Julia and Joel. They also have a young daughter, Patty, who is very bright and they teach new things to. Nathan is way more annoying than Joel, though. In fact, I never found Joel to be annoying. Julia was a lot more like Nathan than she is like the more easy going Susan who wants a divorce from Nathan because he is too focused on making sure their daughter is superior than all the other children her age (and he looks down on all his nephews and nieces because they're not as smart as his daughter). Susan wants to have more children, but Nathan says they needs to focus on Patty. She tells him she's leaving him, but he wins her back when he serenades her in front of the middle school class she teaches. There's a scene where Patty is at her cousin's birthday party and Gil is showing all the little kids the thumb trick where it looks like his thumb is being separated (ha, I remember when my friend's dad showed me that and I was completely amazed). I thought for sure Patty was going to tell him how he really did the trick, but instead she screams and runs away. I thought this girl was suppose to be super smart?

Larry (Tom Hulce)'s TV counterpart is Dax Shepard's Crosby. He's a bit of a free spirit and introduces his family to his son, Cool, who's black. The TV show makes a lot more sense where Joy Brant shows up and introduces Crosby to the son he never knew he had. Here, he just shows up with the kid, who's at least five and says he met his mother who was an exotic dancer and had a one-night stand with her. We never see or hear from the mother. Larry gets into some money problems with gambling and has to get help from his father (Jason Robards). Speaking of the parents, while Papa Buckman has a good amount of scenes, their mother is hardly in the movie so they utilized Bonnie Bedelia in the TV show much more better!

The movie ends at the hospital and we see a woman giving birth, though they don't show who it is. We are suppose to think it's either Karen or Julie, who has announced she and Todd are expecting a child. When the woman and her baby are about to be revealed, the camera pans to all the family members. When you see Karen holding a baby, you think it's Julie, but then you see her standing next to Todd holding a baby. That's when you realize the only person you haven't seen yet is Helen and the man who comes out to announce that the baby is a girl is the man she's dating who is also Gary's biology teacher. It was kind of jarring to see they were having a baby since they had only been on one date, but whatever. I felt like they just did it to surprise the audience because I sure as hell wasn't expecting that. I wished it had just been Julie having the baby and we would have seen a nice moment between her and her mother, but instead they had to go for the surprise ending even though I feel like Helen was too old to be having children by then.

So I think the TV show is much more superior, but like I said, they did have five years of story telling to better flesh out the characters and story lines and I guess the show wouldn't exist without the movie. I do think the kid actors from the TV show are much, MUCH better than the kid actors in the movie. I did wonder why it took so long for them to make a TV show based on the movie because it seemed so perfect for a television series. The movie was released in 1989 and the show didn't start until 2010. Well, imagine my surprise when I found out there was a Parenthood TV show before the one we all know and love with Lauren Graham and Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia and Monica Potter and Dax Shepard and Erika Christensen and Joy Bryant and Peter Krause and Mae Whitman and Ray Romano and Michael B. Jordan (okay, I won't list the entire cast!) and all the others we love. This show came out in 1990 and aired for one season on NBC. (Which also aired the 2010 version...I guess enough time had passed! Or maybe NBC has the rights to it). Instead of giving new names to the characters like they do in the updated version, all of them have the same names, but are just played by different actors (though a couple of the kids came back to play the same's not like they'll be cast in anything else!) Imagine my surprise when I found out Leonardo DiCaprio played Gary. Of course, this was before he was famous so nobody cared. And since they didn't care, they didn't watch. I'm old enough to remember 1990, but I DO NOT remember this Parenthood TV show at all! I didn't know who Leonardo DiCaprio was until 1996. MAYBE 1995...I don't remember, but I definitely didn't know who he was in 1990! I guess the show had decent reviews, but was cancelled because of low is the case when shows are cancelled.

Here is the opening credits of the 1990 TV show. I think the song they use is the same one that is used in the movie. It is sung by Randy Newman and it sounds exactly (to my ears, anyway) like the song he sang for Toy Story.  Also, I had no idea Thora Birch (who played the daughter of the Steve Martin Character) was the Cher of her younger years as she only goes by "Thora". Hilarious. What ever happened to Thora Birch? Last time I saw her she played Kevin Spacey's daughter in American Beauty and that's been a long time now!

And because I love it so much, here are the opening credits for the 2010 TV show. I like this song much better before they changed it for the last two seasons...I don't even remember what that song was called or how it went, but I like this one much better: