Thursday, February 18, 2010

Double Feature

Romeo Must Die
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Cast: Jet Li, Aaliyah, Delroy Lindo, Isaiah Washington
Released: 3/22/00


First off, I should tell you this is not a good movie, but you probably already knew that. This is a modern-day version of Romeo and Juliet with Chinese martial-arts superstar Jet Li and the late princess of hiphop Aaliyah as the title characters except their relationship between them in the film feels more like that of siblings than "star-crossed lovers". They're cute together in the movie...but only as friends. There's no chemistry between them and nothing intimate happens between them, not even a simple kiss.

As you may have already guessed, Li and Aaliyah's families hate each other (duh). His family is involved with the Chinese mafia and her father is a mob boss. Needless to say, neither family approves of their "relationship".

So while the "romantic" angle of the film is pretty lame (and non-existent), there is some pretty cool fight scenes, one of the best being the scene where Li uses Aaliyah as a weapon to fight another female.

The film, which is more compatible with the average MTV viewer, has its fun moments, although its a little sad watching it knowing that Aaliyah's life would end at the ridiculously young age of 22 in a plane crash. Hard to believe she would be 31 today. I think she could have had a decent career as an artist slash actress. I absolutely love Try Again, the song she recorded for the film's soundtrack.

This is one of those movies where the trailers looks like the actual film has the potential of being good (or at least entertaining), but doesn't quite live up to expectations.

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Dangerous Minds
Director: John N. Smith
Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Courtney B. Vance
Released: 08/11/95

I remember the first time I saw this film and how badass and hardcore I thought it was. Of course, I was 15 or 16 the first time I saw it and things do change when you get older and wiser. Watching it again recently for the second time was when I only realized how lame this movie is. You probably already know the story: Pfeiffer plays Ms. Johnson, an ex-marine/teacher who is hired mid-semester at an inner-city high school in L.A. The students come from bad neighborhoods and follow their own rules and while "bright", do not care about learning.

This changes when Ms. Johnson comes into their lives and bribes them into learning by giving them candy or taking them to amusement parks when they get the right answer or finish a paper. By the second day, she has already gained their trust and respect for the most part, which I thought was totally unrealistic.

One of the "bribes" or "prizes" or whatever you want to call it she offers is dinner with her at a fancy French restaurant for the students who can identify the poem by Dylan Thomas that is most like a song by Bob Dylan...I think that was the assignment. Three students get it right: two boys and a girl. The girl and one of the boys can't make it, so it's just the other male student and Ms. Johnson dining together at this swank restaurant. This proves what a moron Ms. Johnson is. Okay, first of all, why would she choose a restaurant her students probably don't have the attire for (the student had to steal a coat so he was dressed appropriately) and why did she think these kids would like pretentious French food anyway? These are burger and fries kind of kids! But the real question is, what made her think it was appropriate to take a student out on what would appear a date to the casual observer? God, what a moron! I kept expecting someone from the school board would walk in and see them together, but that never happened. Her ass would have been fired in no time!

If there's one good thing Dangerous Minds gave us, it's the awesome Coolio song Gangsta's Paradise. For a white girl from the Midwest, I love that song way more than I should. I am all about the Gangsta's Paradise: the power and the money, the money and the power, minute after minute, hour after hour....

Friday, February 12, 2010

Zombieland

Zombieland
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin
Released: 10/02/09


In Zombieland, the country has turned into the "United States of Zombieland" as the main character calls it. There are only a handful of people who haven't turned into zombies including the four main characters: Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock played by Eisenberg, Harrelson, Stone, and Breslin respectively. We are first introduced to Columbus who shares with the audience his rules for not becoming a zombie. He meets the Twinkie-craving Tallahassee on his way home and they run into the two con-sisters who are on their way to an amusement park in L.A., the only place where there are no zombies.

The film takes you on a fun ride as the four characters ban together to fight zombies. Yes, there is lots of blood and gore, but it's stylized blood and gore. Believe me, a lot of things make me squeamish, but there's nothing in this movie that makes you want to hide your eyes. One of the best scenes is a cameo from Bill Murray when they crash his house (oh, and there's a great joke at Russell Crowe's expense).

The final scene at the amusement park between the four and the zombies (oh, come on, you knew the zombies would be there!) is one of the best scenes at a theme park since the Griswalds at Wally World in Family Vacation. If you're in the mood for a fun (and good) film, rent this one tonight!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Don't *beep* with the baby-sitter!

Adventures in Baby-Sitting
Director: Chris Columbus
Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Anthony Rapp, Keith Coogan, Maia Brewton
Released: 7/01/87

Ah, yes, Adventures in Baby-Sitting. This has been a favorite of mine for years; I've seen it countless times, it was the movie of choice at slumber parties. I always get a kick out of watching it even though I can pretty much recite the entire thing verbatim and I know what's going to happen in each scene.

In case you're one of the few people who haven't seen this movie yet (shame on you!), here's a quick synopsis: Shue plays Chris, a senior in high school who is getting ready to go on a date with her boyfriend (played by Bradley Whitford, haha. I remember watching this after The West Wing aired and I was like, "OMG! It's Josh Lyman!"). He tells her he has to cancel because his sister is sick so instead she ends up baby-sitting for Sarah Anderson. Her older brother, Brad, has a crush on Chris, so he decides to stay home instead of going over to his friend Darryl Coopersmith's (played by Rapp) house. Meanwhile, Chris's BFF, Brenda has run away from home and is stuck at a bus station and calls Chris to help her because she has no money. So Chris ends up taking Sarah, Brad, and Darryl into Chicago to pick her up and of course one bad thing after another happens...

It's almost comical how '80s this film is. Exhibit A: when Brenda tells Chris how her stepmom is driving her crazy, she says she's going to "spike her Tab with Drano". It took me a few seconds to remember that Tab is a nasty Cola from the '80s. Exhibit B: Sarah's backpack has a picture of Gizmo on it and in her room in the background you can see a stuffed animal of a blue and purple monster with fangs. A quick search from Google told me it was called My Pet Monster. Exhibit C: When they get stranded on the expressway, Chris doesn't even have a cell phone to call for help (well, she did leave her purse at the house - what an idiot!) But I don't think teens in the '80s had cell phones, not like they do today anyway. While it's true that this film is dated (very dated!), I don't mind. It's like taking a nostalgic trip back to the '80s when I watch this.

I do my "impression" of the bad guy:
video

The scene that ALWAYS makes me cringe:
video

This movie is chock full of ridiculous scenes, but this is probably the most ridiculous:
video

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Send in the Basterds

Inglorious Basterds
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Melanie Laurent
Released: 8/21/09

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture
Best Director - Quentin Tarantino
Best Supporting Actor - Christoph Waltz
Best Original Screenplay - Quentin Tarantino
Best Cinematography
Best Editing
Best Sound
Best Sound Editing

It seems a lot of people had been raving about this film and since it got some Oscar nominations in major categories and because I liked Pulp Fiction and loved the Kill Bill movies, I decided I should check it out.

First of all, if you get really squeamish easily or you're a huge history buff and hate it when movies mess with history, then I would not recommend this movie to you as both factors are quite prevalent in the film. I'm actually quite surprised it had been getting Oscar buzz for Best Picture (and ended up getting a nomination). Not because it's a bad movie, but because it seems like Hollywood takes their Holocaust/Nazi movies so seriously that I thought they would have been offended by the obvious history changes Inglorious Basterds gives them.

Brad Pitt is the leader of the group which kills Nazis. (And really, who doesn't want to kill Nazis?) He's nothing more than a caricature (especially the minute you hear his accent; his Italian "accent" is even more hilarious), but it's the supporting cast who are more interesting than him.

Christoph Waltz has been receiving many awards for Best Supporting Actor as a Nazi with a penchant for dairy products and will most likely win the Oscar unless there's, like, some huge upset. (Which there won't be because the Oscars are boring and predictable like that, but I still love them!) I remember last year I didn't see Milk or Vicky Christina Barcelona until after the Oscars. I completely understood why Sean Penn won his Oscar, but with Penelop Cruz, it was like, eh, she was okay, not the most memorable performance, she was much better in Volver. I kinda feel the same way as Waltz as I did with Cruz. He's good and deserves the nomination, but I'm not blown away by it or anything. (I haven't seen the other nominated performances so I can't tell you who I would like to see win).

Actually, I'm a little sad Melanie Laurent didn't get a nomination for Best Supporting Actress as the French Jew who escapes being killed by the Nazis and gets her own revenge when she hosts a screening of a Nazi-glorified film at her theater in Paris by locking the theater and setting fire to it. Laurent's storyline was my favorite, and believe me, the payoff is pretty awesome. It's worth the two and a half hours just to see the last act.

The movie is a bit long and I felt some of the dialogue was unnecessary - like the scene with Diane Kruger playing the celebrity card game with the soldiers. None of it advanced the plot further in any way and it was like, okay, what's the point of this? But that's Tarantino for you.

While not my favorite movie nominated for Best Picture this year, it certainly is better than others that were nominated. :::coughTheBlindSidecough::::

Grapes of Wrath

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Cast: Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Juliette Lewis, Mary Steenburgen
Released: 12/ 25/93

Oscar nominations:
Best Supporting Actor - Leonardo DiCaprio (lost to Tommy Lee Jones for The Fugitive)

Of course I had heard of this movie, but I had never seen it until recently. It was kinda cool seeing Depp and DiCaprio in a movie together since they're probably two of the biggest actors in the world right now. When I watched the film, all I could keep thinking was how young they looked!

Depp plays the title character. Gilbert lives with his family in a small town in Iowa. His family consists of his massively obese mother, his older sister, his bratty younger sister, and his mentally-challenged brother (played by DiCaprio). In fact, Leo was so convincing that if I didn't know who he was, I would have thought they got a real mentally-challenged boy to play the part. (I'm not sure if this is a compliment or insult to DiCaprio...) He was probably nineteen or twenty when he made this movie, but looks no older than fifteen! He received his first Oscar nomination and perhaps he would have it if he took five-time Oscar winner Australian actor Kirk Lazaruz's advice about never going "full-on retard". I know I would take all my acting advice from a five-time Oscar winner!

Kidding aside, this film follows Gilbert Grape and how he copes with his dysfunctional family while dealing with his own personal life. He's having an affair with an older, married woman (Steenburgen) but starts a relationship with a free-spirited girl (Lewis) who's passing through town with her grandmother.

It's definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of Depp or DiCaprio.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Everybody's a little bit racist sometimes

Crash
Director: Paul Haggis
Cast: Matt Dillon, Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Thandie Newton, Brendan Fraser, Terrance Howard, Ryan Phillippe, and a lot of other people...
Released: 5/6/05
Viewed in theaters: 5/24/05

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture - (Won - ugh!)
Best Director - Paul Haggis (Lost to Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain)
Best Supporting Actor - Matt Dillon (Lost to George Clooney for Syriana)
Best Editing (Won)
Best Original Screenplay - Paul Haggis and Robert Moresco (Won)
Best Song - In the Deep (Lost to Hustle and Flow for It's Hard Out There For a Pimp - heh!)



Ever since Crash won the Oscar for Best Picture nearly four years ago, I've always had a burning rage for this film, especially since it stole the Oscar from the rightful winner, my beloved Brokeback Mountain.

This is what I wrote on my Live Journal on March 6th, 2006, the day after the Oscars:
Ugh, I had the worst dream last night: I dreamt that Crash won Best Picture and....oh, wait a minute! Crap! Seriously, when Jack Nicholson said "Crash," I thought he was JOKING! I thought he had misread it. I thought I had misunderstood him. But nooo...Crash had won. I said "WHAT THE F*CK?" out loud when I realized Crash had indeed won. I wanted to cry. There is NO WAY IN HELL Crash is best picture material. Yes, I thought it was a good movie and tackled important issues, but to me, it was only slightly better than an after-school special. Brokeback Mountain was the best movie of the year, and at least the Golden Globes and Baftas among others agree with me. Hell, Crash wasn't even nominated for a Golden Globe.

I wrote that four years ago and has my opinion changed after seeing Crash for a second time? Well, there's only one thing I don't agree with anymore about what I wrote: Crash is NOT a good movie. In fact, I found myself rolling my eyes quite a lot while watching it again recently. But more on that later...

Brokeback Mountain should have won the Oscar that year. Don't agree with me? Well, why don't we compare the two movies' accolades, shall we? Brokeback received an 86% fresh rating (which, IMO, is way too low) at Rotten Tomatoes, while Crash got a 76% rating. Okay, ten points difference, but now look at this: Brokeback won twenty best picture awards including the BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Independent Spirit Award. Crash, which wasn't even nominated for a Golden Globe, won less than ten best picture awards, but one of them was tied with Munich and two wins were from the Black Movie Awards (I had no idea there was such a thing) and the Image Awards, and of course Brokeback isn't going to win those because there are no black people in that movie! Yes, Crash did win the SAG award for Best Ensemble, but that isn't the biggest surprise since everybody was in that movie. And if everyone was so great in that movie, why did it only receive one acting Oscar nomination when Brokeback received three, the most out of any movie that year, hmmmm? That fact that Crash won the Oscar over Brokeback is just embarrassing! Pretty much everyone deems it the worst Best Picture Winner of All Time (or at least from the last decade) and all the critics had been predicting Brokeback to win (in fact EW's article about the Oscar nominees that year was called 'Mountain' Tops) and why wouldn't they? Everything was in its favor.



When Crash won Best Picture, my reaction was the same as Thandie's

There were two factors, in my opinion, that helped Crash win the Oscar. One was from the support Oprah sprewed its way. Remember when she had the Crash cast on and was gushing over them? It was no secret she was Team Trash...oops, I mean Crash. She even had the gall to call it "the most important film since Citizen Kane." Shut up, Oprah. Okay, does that make any sense to anyone? What do Citizen Kane and Crash have in common anyway, besides both starting with the letter C? The other major factor was homophobia, unfortunately. I'm sorry, but when certain Academy members said they refused to watch Brokeback, then you know that played a major part in the voting.

So, as you can see, I've detested Crash since that fateful day. I think one day the Academy is going to realize what a huge mistake they made because Brokeback is an iconic cinematic masterpiece that will endure the test of time while nobody will care about or remember Crash within the next ten, fifteen years. However, to be fair, I decided I should give it a second chance and that's why I watched it again and I hated it more than the first time I saw it! Of course, it hadn't won the Oscar yet and wasn't a threat when I saw it for the first time, but seeing it again made me realize that people who are saying it's one of the worst Oscar winners ever are right: it's just not a good movie. Sure, it does tackle important issues like race, but take a movie like Do the Right Thing that does that also...and so much better!


Crash and Burn

While it's clever how the story lines connect and intertwine with each other, they end up in a nicely tied ribbon and it's just too coincidental that I found some of them hard to believe. Take for instance Howard and Newton who play an upper class black couple who are stopped and frisked by racist cop Dillon. He inappropriately touches Newton and the very next day it just so happens that she's been in a horrible car accident (they never tell us what happened) and she's trapped in her upside down car which is just seconds away from exploding...:::rolls eyes:::...and who should be the cop on the scene that saves her? The very same one from yesterday who groped her! What are the odds of that! And remember, they live in L.A. Now if this film had taken place in Nowhere, Idaho, then sure, I could believe that, but L.A.? C'mon!

It's evident Haggis doesn't think his audience is smart and has to spoon feed us obvious things. Take for instance the Mexican locksmith who lives in a shady neighborhood and stupidly tells his daughter that if she wears this invisible cloak it will protect her from gunshots. He's asked to fix a lock for a Middle Eastern man's shop but tells the man he needs to get the door fixed first. The shop is broken into and the shop owner blames the Mexican and takes his gun down to his neighborhood to shoot him. Of course his daughter sees he's about to get shot and believing she's invincible, jumps into her dad's arms to protect him. :::cue slow motion and swelling music::: Of course the guy shoots the moment the girl jumps in his way, but she's okay and there's not a scratch on her. Well, later, we get a camera shot of the shop keeper's daughter putting the gun away next to...get this - a box of blanks. Well, duh.

I will never understand how this film managed to win Best Picture, but how did it also manage to win Best Original Screenplay? It's awful! The "dialogue" sounds more like social commentary than dialogue and doesn't sound natural at all. It sounded like the characters were on a radio talk show debating these issues.

However, there is one scene I did like and that was the one between Ryan Phillippe and Larenz Tate in the car. I thought that was really well-done. So there you go, I at least said one positive thing about the movie!

Crash tries too hard to be serious, but ends up being more eyeroll inducing than anything. Nobody will ever convince me that this film deserved to win the Oscar. Worst. Best. Picture. Winner. Ever.

Oscar Nominations!

In this blog entry I posted my predictions for the Oscars nominations. Let's see how I did, shall we?

Best Picture:

"Avatar"
"The Blind Side"
"District 9"
"An Education"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Precious"
"A Serious Man"
"Up"
"Up in the Air"


I got 7/10. Not bad. I had Nine, The Hangover, and Invictus instead of District 9, A Serious Man, and The Blind Side. BTW, The Blind Side seemed to come out of nowhere. I certainly had a WTF!? reaction when I saw it listed. It was a decent movie, not Oscar-worthy though. It was more like a made for TV movie than anything. I've only seen half of the movies on here, but there really isn't one movie I'm rooting for like there was when I watched the 1998, 2000, 2004, 2006, and 2009 Oscars. Hopefully by the time I do my predictions I will have seen more movies to get a better feel of which one I like the best.

Best Supporting Actress:
Penelope Cruz, "Nine"
Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air"
Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Crazy Heart"
Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"
Mo'Nique, "Precious"


My worst category; I only got 3/5. Gyllenhaal just came out of nowhere and I didn't think Nine would get any acting nods. I had Julianne Moore and Samantha Morton instead.

Best Supporting Actor:
Matt Damon, "Invictus"
Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"
Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"
Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones"
Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"


I got 4/5...instead of Plummer I had Alfred Molina.

Best Actress:
Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"
Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"
Carey Mulligan, "An Education"
Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious"
Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia"


Whoohoo! 5/5!!!!! I am so good at this!

Best Actor:
Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
George Clooney, "Up in the Air"
Colin Firth, "A Single Man"
Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"
Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker"


5/5 again! Of course, I think everybody had these five down for their predictions.

Best Director:
James Cameron, "Avatar"
Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"
Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"
Lee Daniels, "Precious"
Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air"


4/5...I had Clint Eastwood instead of Lee Daniels.