Monday, June 27, 2016

Problem Child

The Good Son
Director: Joseph Ruben
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Elijah Wood, Wendy Crewson, David Morse
Released: September 24, 1993


I have mentioned a few times on here how I was a huge fan of Heath Ledger’s, like a legitimate fangirl. The height of my Heath, ahem, obsession was when I was 18/19/early twenties. HOWEVER, before that, when I was 11/12/13, there were two young actors my age who I thought were soooo cool because they were already Hollywood stars at such a young age and they were soooooo cute, like I was totes in luv with them! You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? Of course I’m talking about Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood, the quintessential early ‘90s child actors! Why do you think I watched My Girl 30 + times? Why do you think I gushed over Elijah so much in my Forever Young review? Being that I was too young and The Good Son was rated R, I was not allowed to see it in theaters...I may or may not have cried about that....shut up! It's so unfair! I did get to see it when it was on video when I was 13. :::rolls eyes:::: It is interesting that 1993's two most popular twelve-year-olds were the leads in a rated R movie. Who exactly was the audience for this movie since their fanbase was way too young? 

Let me tell you a story that proves my fangirlness. As if you doubt me! This probably began in the fall of '93. I decided I was going to write to Macaulay and Elijah with the goal of getting their autographs. Only problem was, I didn't know where to send my letters. I think while the Internet did exist back in '93, I did not have access to it at that time. So I wrote to Disney Adventures, this magazine I subscribed to when I was a kid/preteen. It's where I got all my Hollywood news for kids/teens and they often had articles about Mac and Elijah so I knew they would be a good source for me. I did get a reply back from them and they supplied me with their agents'/fanclub addresses. Macaulay's was located in New York and Elijah's was in L.A., but of course I already knew that much! So I wrote them both letters and I don't remember anything I wrote. I'm sure I told Elijah that I had relatives who lived in Iowa since I knew he was from there (thanks, Disney Adventures!) I do remember keeping the letters only one page and I didn't write anything too psychotic. And I'm sure I asked both of them for their autographs since that was the purpose of my letter writing. I never heard back from Macaulay, but he was a pretty big star at that time and probably got loads of fanmail. However, while Elijah had been in the same amount of movies as Mac (they were each in 8 movies between '90-'94), he wasn't as famous since he didn't have a Home Alone and in March '94 I received an autographed pic of him. So I have thirteen-year-old Elijah Wood's autograph. That's pretty cool, right?  

Major spoilers ahoy! I am literally going to spoil everything. 

Totes adorbes behind the scenes!
This movie stars Macaulay as Henry Evans, an EVIL twelve-year-old demon child. Elijah plays his cousin, Mark, who will find out about Henry's evil ways! Okay, I have to get this out of my system because my inner twelve-year-old fangirl comes out when I watch this movie: OMG THEY ARE SOOOOOOOOOOO CUTE IN THIS!!!!!!! SO. FREAKING. CUTE! I mean, the things Macaulay does in this movie aren't quite so "cute"!

This movie, which is described as a "psychological thriller", is not scary at all. There are a few creepy parts, but, if anything, the movie is funny at times. Unintentionally, of course. There are some pretty horrific scenes, don't get me wrong! Okay, get ready to hear some shocking news: the screenplay was written by IAN MCEWAN!!! Yes, Ian McEwan, author of Atonement. Isn't that crazy?

The movie starts with Mark's mom dying from cancer or something (after he promises her he won't let her die; good job, kid!) and his dad (David Morse) has to go to Tokyo on an important business trip, so his brother, Wallace, who is Henry's dad, is at the funeral and suggest that he let Mark stay with them while he's away since they're "family". Okay, let me just add that Mark and his dad live in the Southwest and Wallace and his family live in New England and aside from his uncle, Mark hasn't seen his relatives in ten years (which is mentioned later) so he hasn't seen them since he was two! Um, wouldn't it be easier and more practical to let him stay in his home state with a friend from his soccer team?

But....whatever...that would just make too much sense! So they drive all the way across the country and Mark meets his Aunt Susan (Wendy Crewson; she's best known for playing the First Lady in Air Force One), and his cousins, Henry and Connie. After they all have dinner, Mark says goodbye to his dad who tells him, "Cheer up! It's Winter Break." Okay, why is he telling his son, whose mother JUST DIED, to "cheer up?" And he's actually the most stable adult in this movie! I am so confused by when this movie is suppose to take place. Winter Break would imply that it's around Christmas, but you don't see the house or anywhere else on the island decorated with Christmas stuff. I just figured they both get a winter break in February.

The first two days the two boys bond and everything seems to be going okay. Henry shows Mark his ridiculously high tree house. This is one of the more well known scenes where Elijah steps on a branch that snaps and Macaulay grabs him and asks, "If I let you go, you think you could fly?" before helping him up. Well, guess what, Dollface? You're about to test that theory in six days! And the answer is going to be NO! No, you can NOT fly when someone lets go of you as you're dangling from a perilous ledge hundreds of feet above the ground!

"Fly, you fool!" 

After vandalizing an old building, they hang out in a graveyard with a randomly placed well where Henry takes out some cigarettes and offers one to Mark who says they give you cancer and Henry says, "Who cares? You're gonna die anyway." LOL! Um, you are TWELVE! OMG! I mean, he might as well light up cuz he's gonna be dead at the end of the week! Henry asks Mark if he saw his mother after she died and says that he got a good look at his kid brother, Richard, after he drowned. He says that people don't like to talk about death and that you have to "investigate" it and that it's "scientific". This is one macabre kid! The next day they get chased by this ugly dog across a bridge. I laughed when Macaulay says, "Nice knowing you!" and they start to run. Okay, who is letting their dog run rampant on this bridge to maul these adorable children? Granted, one of these children does deserve to get mauled! They reach the end of the bridge where Henry closes the gate and barks at the snarling dog and Mark's looking at him funny. You can tell he's starting to sense there's something...off about his cousin.

"Keep the change, you filthy animal!"
I love how Mama Evans, who lost her toddler son in a "freak accident" (or so she thinks!), lets her twelve-year-old son and nephew run amok on this island...let's hope they don't fall off any cliffs! Or fall out of tree houses! Or fall into any wells! Or get mauled by a dog!

Kevin McCallister shows Nat Cooper this contraption he made that shoots steel bolts. They test it out and Henry aims it at a cat and Mark tells him, "Just give her a good scare" and he's says, "Sure" in a sinister voice and shoots the gun and the bolt goes into a tree near the cat...and the cat doesn't even flinch! Um...if something came whizzing past my cat's head, he would get the hell out of there! But, WHAT? He tried to kill that cat? Somebody needs to SLAP that kid across his adorable and cherubic face! Ironically, it's Mark who will get slapped later on. Poor Mark. I just want to give him a hug and some hot chocolate and a puppy. There's no other Elijah Wood character I feel worse for than Mark Evans; it's true! His aunt and uncle are absolutely atrocious to him. They don't listen to him and if they do take five seconds to shut up and hear what he's saying, they don't believe him and call him a liar! They hit him and they lock him in rooms!

The adults in this movie, they're what the French call "les incompetent". This includes a child psychologist named Dr. Davenport that Mark's aunt and uncle got for him to talk to. This woman is probably the worst child psychologist in the whole New England area. Nothing too bad happens at their first meeting; Mark just tells her that he let his mother die. Aww, poor kid, you gotta stop beating yourself up about that. Oh, yeah, Mark thinks his mother is coming back, "maybe not as herself", but in some form she is going to return to him. Cuckoo! He wakes up in the middle of the night when he hears something and sees a woman walking barefoot in a white robe. He thinks it might be his mom and starts crying when he realizes it isn't and when his aunt comes over to comfort him, he says, "It is you! You came back!" The camera pans above so we see Henry looking down at them, not looking very pleased by the moment his mother and cousin are sharing. This scene helps my theory why Henry is the way he is, but I'll get to that later.

"Look what you did, you little jerk!"
The third day is when things start to get a little tense between the two cousins. They're playing with Henry's bolt gun and he kills the dog that was chasing them the other day. Mark gives him a horrified/disgusted look to which Henry tells him, "I was only trying to scare him" which is a lie because he specifically said he was targeting the dog as he aimed the gun toward it. That was no accident! They put the dog in a burlap sack and heave it into the well. The dog wasn't huge, but it was a lot bigger than the sack they were carrying. The producers could have at least tried to make the bundle the size of the dog! 

We get another bonding moment between Mark and Susan talking about their deceased loved ones. Henry wants to show Mark something in the shed and it's so obvious Mark doesn't want to go with him. Henry apologizes about the dog and once again says it was an accident and asks him, "You don't think I would do a thing like that on purpose, do you?" (YES!) He introduces Mark to "Mr. Highway" (a real original name as we'll soon find out!), this dummy that's dressed in his dad's clothes. He tells Mark that if he helps him, then he'll promise him "something amazing, something you'll never forget." Well, with temptation like that, who can resist? I guess Mark's curiosity outweighs his common sense and he helps Henry carry the dummy to an overpass and hoist it up where Henry then proceeds to push Mr. Highway (who is apparently suicidal) off and into oncoming traffic below. After they watch a ten car pile-up (and nobody even notices them!), they run and hide from the police in a drain pipe. Realizing that he was being used as an accessory to murder, this is when Mark knows for a fact what a f**ked-up cousin he has. They have a very interesting conversation, but I will come back to that later when I attempt to psychoanalysis this movie. Get ready for that! Luckily, Mark is NOT a murderer because nobody was killed or seriously injured in the "accident" as we see on the news later that night. He goes to tell his uncle, who's in his office, but is stopped when Henry comes up to him and threatens that if Mark says anything, he will only twist it around to make it sound like it was Mark's idea.  

Cutest fight ever!
The two boys get into a fight after Henry's little sister comes into their room and Henry grabs her by the ears to teach her a lesson about entering his room without permission. Mark attacks him and they get into a hair pulling brawl. It's interesting that whenever they get into a physical altercation, it's always Mark who starts them. Henry threatens that something might happen to Connie before Susan enters the room and tells them to stop fighting and Henry puts on his boyish charm and says they were only playing. Please, kid. You're not fooling anyone with your blond hair and cable knit sweater! His mom says, "It looks like you two were trying to kill each other!" (Since when does pulling someone's hair look like you're trying to kill them?)

Henry causes more mayhem when they're all eating lunch the next day, announcing to his parents that Mark wants to move into Richard's room. Mark knows this is a sore subject, especially for Susan, and vehemently denies this but they're not even listening. Okay, if I were him and was offered another room on the third floor instead (they live in a ridiculously massive house), I would jump at the chance because I wouldn't want to stay in the same room as some psychopath! No, thank you! Even though I feel really bad for Mark, I do laugh every time Henry goads him. I just think it's so funny. ("I don't want to move in there." "Now, Mark, don't lie.") I'm a terrible person! Poor Mark. 

That night, the parents go out to dinner and the three kids are left....wait for it....HOME ALONE! Connie announces they're going to play hide-and-seek. Henry turns out all the lights not even after his parents are out of sight. Mark runs into Henry who shines a flashlight in his face and says, "Hey, no fair!" and Henry does the creepy flashlight lighting up his face move and says, "No fair? What do you think this is, a game?" Yeah, L'il Frodo, what do you think this is, a game? Even though they were both in the same room at that moment, the next scene shows both of them in separate parts of the house looking for Connie. You think Mark would stick with Henry to make sure nothing happens...duh. After he hears a scream from the attic he runs up and sees Connie pinned down by Henry. But she's laughing and he's just tickling her.

After an adorable scene of Mark reading Madeline to Connie (he convinced her to hear a bedtime story instead of keep playing their game), Henry mocks him with, "That was a darling story, Mark." So mean, but so funny! (And it was darling!) He tries to enter her room, but Mark does his best "You shall not pass!", but fails because his cousin just shoves him aside. Henry once again threatens that something might happen to his sister and Mark sleeps on her floor to "watch" her, only this doesn't quite work because when he wakes up the next morning, he finds out that Henry has taken her ice-skating and he runs all the way to the pond where Henry has flung his sister towards the thin ice and she falls in. Funny how a little girl stands on the ice and falls in, then when two grown men skate out with axes to get her out, they don't even fall through. Huh?! Connie is fine, but Mark figures it's probably time to tell someone and when he does tell his aunt, she only slaps him and says how dare he accuse her beautiful, adorable, angelic, precious, most cherished son of doing something so monstrous and to NEVER come to her with these LIES again! Poor Mark! So he calls his dad and pleads for him to get back soon because "Henry's been doing things, terrible things!" and "He's got everyone fooled...everyone thinks he's this great kid, but he's really evil." I laughed so hard at his dad's response: "EVIL!?!?!?" That would probably be how I would react too. I mean, that's a pretty loaded word! Poor darling Mark; nobody believes him. His dad tells him to tell Dr. Davenport so he goes to her house only to find Henry is already there and she's like, "Mark! Henry says you two have been having some problems!" and he goes, "HE'S the problem!" and "He's got you fooled like everyone else!" and runs off. Henry pretends to be "concerned" for Mark, saying he scares him sometimes and Dr. D asks him to explain everything, so Small Wonder is like, "Everything?" It is presumed that he tells her everything "Mark" has done, although I do wonder why she never called the parents and told them to keep their nephew under lock and key. But seriously, this woman, who is suppose to be a child psychologist (and she's pretty old so she's probably been doing this for quite a few years!) can't tell when she's being manipulated by a child! In the words of Mac's best friend from another movie, "Dr. Davenport, are you sure those are yours?"

Later, Mark tells his cousin, "Sooner or later, they're going to find out about you" and that he already told his mom, but Henry isn't concerned because "She's my mom, not yours" and Mark is like, "No, she's my mom now" and I'm thinking, Let's not goad the sociopath! This does not make Henry happy and he says, "Hey, Mark, don't f**k with me." And this is after he tells Mark that his mom is maggot food. OMG, what did Elijah ever do to you, Macaulay? Besides replace you as a last minute presenter at the '94 Oscars because your dad was being too difficult and wanted all these changes, so they yanked you from the spot.

That night, Mark wakes up to find Henry's bed empty (WHY IS HE STILL SHARING THE SAME ROOM WITH A PSYCHOPATH!!?!) and goes downstairs to discover the refrigerator door open and Henry sneaks up on him and insinuates that he might have put something in his family's food and Mark starts throwing everything in the garbage disposal while Henry gets his parents. I'm pretty sure this is a crime punishable by death in Hobbiton! "Young Mr. Frodo, not the spaghetti and meatballs!" And we all know there's going to be hell to pay if he throws away any cheese pizzas! Okay, all stupid jokes aside, it actually is quite a disturbing and sad scene. They see Mark as this disturbed kid who's just gone off the deep end and is accusing their son of trying to poison them.

We need to talk about Kevin Henry
After last night's incident and what Mark told her, Susan finally decides to get a clue and snoop around in Henry's creepy Unibomber shed. There she finds a rubber duck that belonged to Richard. The worst thing Henry does is offscreen. I'm guessing this takes place in the year before the movie is set (they never really tell you when it happened). We learn that his little brother (who I think was at least two?) drowned in six inches of water when Susan was giving him a bath and left the room to answer the phone. (Why couldn't she just let the phone ring?) We also learn that Henry was the only other person in the house. Hmmm... Now Henry never admits he killed his brother (who is played by Rory Culkin in a photo), but it's pretty obvious. When his mom straight out asks him if he killed Richard, he says, "What if I did?" That is cold, kid! When he comes in the shed, his mother confronts him about the duck and asks him about it, saying, "You know I was looking for this" and Henry tries to put on his boyish charm again, saying he wanted something to remember Richard by and can he have it back and his mom is like, "No, you can't have it BACK!" and they get in a tug-of-war with the duck and he grabs it and runs to the well and drops it down there.

Okay, it's time to psychoanalysis this movie. There's this scene earlier where Mark is talking to Dr. Davenport and he asks her what makes people evil and she tells him that's "a word people use when they've given up trying to understand someone" and "There's a reason for everything." Mark doesn't think there's a reason for Henry's evilness; he thinks it's just the way he is. As much crap as I've given the good doctor, I'm actually on her side here. I think there is a REASON for why Henry is such an awful child. I just don't think they executed it as well as they could have. (Way to drop the ball, McEwan!) I think he killed his brother because he was jealous of the attention his parents were giving him. When his mom questions him about the duck he  says, "It was mine before it was his." He did not like that his little brother had his old toys, but most importantly he did not like that his little brother had his parents' attention. This is evident by the way Henry is extremely jealous any time Mark has a bonding moment with Susan. There is a very telling line Henry tells Mark in the drain pipe after the traffic accident he causes. Mark is clearly upset about what has just happened and Henry says to him, "I feel sorry for you, Mark, you just don't know how to have fun" to which Mark replies with an astounded, "What?" and Henry says, "It's because you're scared all the time. I know. I used to be scared too. That was before I found out." This right here tells us that Henry wasn't ALWAYS a little turd and that once upon a time he was a "normal" kid, or at least not a little terror! Mark says, "Found out what?" and Henry tells him, "That once you realize you can do anything, you can fly. You're free. Nobody can touch you". He gives his cousin the philosophical advice of, "Mark, don't be afraid to fly" to which Mark just stares at him in horror and tells him, "You're sick." Maybe if Henry had been an only child, he would have been okay?

Now that his mom has figured out his EVIL ways, Henry has plans to off her. Wait a minute...he killed his brother, tried to kill his sister, and is now planning to kill his mother? Makes the line "I made my family disappear!" sound REALLY creepy! But first he must work on his "crying" skills so he can at least pretend to be sad when she "accidentally" dies. When he asks Mark if he cried at his mom's funeral, Mark says, "You wouldn't hurt her!" and Henry goads him, once again making me laugh. He says, "Do you really think I'd hurt my own - oh, wait. I just remembered. She's not my mom anymore, she's your. Isn't that what you said? She's your mother now. My mom, your mom, what the hell? We'll both miss her." This displeases Huck Finn so he grabs a pair of scissors and lunges at Richie Rich, threatening to kill him. Well, at that moment, Wallace comes in the room and sees his nephew pinning his son down with a pair of scissors at his throat. This does not look good for Mark. His uncle grabs him and says, "This is serious; you could have hurt him!" and Mark's like, "He's the one who wants to hurt people!" Uh huh. Says the kid wielding the sharp object at the other kid's throat! And Henry's like, "I'm sorry you don't want to be friends, Mark!" Nicely played, kid. 

Despite Mark's pleas for help, Wallace locks him in his office and tells him he's going to call Dr. Davenport. He ends up breaking a window with a chair when he sees Henry and Susan going for a walk. His uncle and Dr. D try to stop him, but he just runs past them out of the room.

By this time, Henry has pushed his mom off a cliff and she manages to land on a narrow ledge a few feet down. Henry is about to throw a heavy rock at her, but Mark shows up right at that second (what great timing that kid has!) and attacks his cousin. They fight dangerously close to the edge of the cliff (and this time it actually looks like they're trying to kill each other!) while Susan climbs back up. She gets back up just at the moment her son and nephew start to tumble off the cliff and she runs and grabs both of them. We now have what is probably the best ending ever in cinematic history. Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but this ending is amazing! She has to choose between her first born, her own flesh and blood, who she still loves despite his, uh, horribleness. And then there's her nephew, who she does like, but he's not even blood related to her! And the last time she saw him was ten years ago. Poor Mark; no wonder he looks so terrified! While Henry has a pretty good grip on her and is saying, "Mom, I need your other hand" and "I love you, Mom", Susan's grip on Mark is slipping (he's only holding onto her with one hand while Henry is using both of his). She knows any second Mark is going to slip so she looks at Henry with a sad and apologetic look and lets go of him. I mean, she made the right choice. Her son pretty much admitted he killed his little brother and he tried to kill her, let's not forget that! And if her nephew hadn't shown up at that point, she'd be dead...I think she owes him that much! And I am cackling evilly as he screams while he plummets to the rocky shore below. That's got to be a pretty horrible way to go, but the little sh*t deserved it. Okay, do yourself a favor and watch this brilliant video. It is so hilarious!

So it's been almost 23 years since this movie came out and I was wondering if Macaulay and Elijah have talked about their experience on this movie (besides the adorable behind the scenes feature on the DVD they did while they were filming it) and the answer is yes, yes they have. The Internet and YouTube are amazing tools. I found an interview Macaulay did with Larry King about ten or eleven years after The Good Son came out. People could call in and ask questions. One woman asked him how he made such a switch from being in a movie like Home Alone to The Good Son. He said it was a movie he really wanted to do because it was different than anything else he had ever done before (although I could argue that Kevin and Henry aren't that much different!) He wanted to see if he could play a part like that and if he could "go to those places". I had a feeling he was going to add more, but stupid Larry King had to change the subject completely! Ugh! Elijah did a Q&A a couple years ago and someone asked him what it was like working on that movie and he said he was really excited about it because it was the first really "dark" movie he had ever done. (Although I would argue Radio Flyer is pretty dark and that came out a year and a half prior). He said his mom was okay with him being in the movie since he did not play the evil kid. (Very interesting since Mac's dad was adamant about his son playing the evil kid!) He talked about the ending where he and Macaulay are hanging off the cliff and said while it was a fun scene to shoot, it was also scary because when he was suppose to be slipping, the stunt person would move the cable he was attached to and drop him a little bit. He said this scene was filmed over Lake Superior in northern Minnesota (which I already knew) and that below them were "safety boats", only they had to keep them out of frame so they weren't exactly that close. Okay, I'm sorry, but if someone fell from that cliff and hit those rocks, I don't think any "safety boats" are going to be any help! But I suppose they had to cover all their bases and of course everything was safe. They're not going to let two twelve-year-olds hang off of a cliff if they didn't think it was safe!

1993 just called!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Daddy Dearest

My Father the Hero
Director: Steve Miner
Cast: Gerald Depardieu, Katherine Heigl, Dalton James, Faith Prince, Lauren Hutton, Steven Tobolowsky
Released: February 3, 1994



If you have any recollection of this movie, you're probably either thinking, "Oh, it's that movie Katherine Heigl was in when she was 14" or, "Oh, that's the movie with the really creepy premise", or, perhaps both thoughts crossed your mind. This movie is actually a remake of a French film called Mon Pere Ce Heros (take a wild guess what that translates to in English) which Gerald Depardieu also starred in as the dad. I've never seen the French version so I have no idea if they executed it better or not.

Andre (Depardieu), who lives in Paris, is taking his fourteen (almost fifteen!) year-old daughter, Nicole (Heigl) on a trip to the Bahamas. Nicole lives in New York with her mom (Lauren Hutton) so Andre hardly sees her. Nicole is  your typical bratty teenage girl and is not impressed or happy that her father is taking her on an all expense paid trip to the Bahamas. This movie came out about a decade before Grey's Anatomy aired on TV and Katherine Heigl was fourteen when she filmed it. Obviously, this was one of her very first roles.

Nicole sees a cute boy at the hotel when her father is checking them in and she's staring at him while she's walking and runs smack into a table. This is one of the only truly funny scenes in the movie. She sees the boy again when she's out on a private beach and sees him snorkeling. He comes up to her and asks her how she got there because it's a private beach and that a "kid" like her shouldn't be trespassing. Nicole gets very indignant and tells him she's 18. The guy, whose name is Ben, is probably in his early 20s (I don't remember if they ever get an exact age). She desperately wants to impress him, so when she sees him at an outdoor party their hotel is having for all its guests, she tells him that the older man she's with is her boyfriend! Ugh, gross! She also admits that she's not really 18, but 16, so while she's closer to her actual age, she's still lying! Ben calls Andre her "sugar daddy" and Nicole makes up this elaborate story about how she used to be on the streets hooked on dope and Andrew was the one who saved her and took her in and that's how they met.

There's only one person who knows that Nicole is actually Andre's daughter and that's Diana (Faith Prince),  a woman who stalks rich and handsome men at fancy resorts, looking for her next husband. She has her claws set on Andre even though he already has a girlfriend back in Paris (who is played by an uncredited Emma Thompson in one scene...I don't blame her for wanting to be uncredited!) Everyone else has heard the rumors that this man in his fifties has a teenaged girlfriend and naturally they're all disgusted by it. Nicole told Ben that she and Andre have to pretend to be father and daughter when they go on vacation so people don't think their relationship is weird (you think?!), so everyone thinks that's just a charade they're putting up when Andre tells them she's his daughter.

There's a scene where Andre plays the piano to a room full of people and they all start leaving, when, of all the songs he chooses to sing, is called "Thank God For Little Girls". Yeah, a little creepy! He soon finds out what's been going on and is furious at his daughter as he should be. His daughter is the reason everyone thinks he's a child molester. However, he goes on with her plan because...I have no idea...apparently Nicole still needs to pretend to be dating an older guy to impress Ben. I don't even know why she's trying to impress this guy, anyway. They're never going to see each other again after this (unless Ben is from New York....I really can't remember where he was from).

He ends up being Nicole's first kiss and I'm sure if he knew the girl he was kissing was actually fourteen he might be a little skeeved out! Her father is up on the balcony to witness it...because that's every girl's dream...to have their father watching their first kiss!

This movie is so bad and so disturbing on so many levels. And it's not just that, I honestly don't care about any of the characters. I found them to all be boring. When we get Andre calling his girlfriend in Paris and asking her to marry him and to have a child, I really did not even care! Sure, it was amusing to see Katherine Heigl in one of her first roles, but it's really disturbing that she had to wear that bathing suit with her butt hanging out! Seriously, no girl on vacation with her own father would wear that! Skip this one! 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

It's a Long Way to the Top If You Wanna Rock and Roll

School of Rock
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Sarah Silverman, Mike White, Miranda Cosgrove
Released: October 3, 2003


This movie is every grade-schooler's dream come true. Actually, it's probably any student's, no matter what age, dream come true. Who wouldn't want to go to school for three weeks where all you do is listen to music and rock out in a band? Sounds a lot more fun than learning about math and history! 

Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is in a band called No Vacancy and they are getting ready to compete in the Battle of the Bands to win the coveted $20,000 Dewey so desperately needs so he can pay his friend and roommate, Ned (Mike White) rent money as at the moment he is flat broke. Ned's girlfriend, Patty (Sarah Silverman), who also lives in the same apartment, keeps harping on Dewey to get a job and pay Ned back and also keeps harping on Ned to stop letting people walk all over him. Dewey tells them that as soon as the band competes in the competition, they will win and he can give them the money. Unfortunately things don't turn out so well for Dewey because he finds out the next day that he has been voted out of the band and replaced with a guy named Spider. They tell him his solos go on way too long and the crowd surfing needs to stop (and never seems to work as he always lands on the floor - ouch!) Dewey is understandably furious by this and tells them he's going to start his own band. In the meantime, he needs to figure out a way to make money and that opportunity comes knocking for him when he receives a phone call from Principal Mullins (Joan Cusack) from Horace Green Prep School asking for Ned Schneebly because they need a substitute for their fourth (or maybe it was fifth?) grade class right away because the original teacher broke her leg that day and all the other subs aren't available. When Dewey asks her how long it would be and how much it pays, she tells him, not thinking it strange this man is asking her these questions. Dewey tells her Ned just got home and then pretends to be Ned on the phone and accepts the job. He is able to come into the school without proof of verification of who he is. 

The principal introduces "Mr. Schneebly" to the class and Dewey attempts to write the name on the blackboard, only he can't spell "Schneebly" (and I'm not sure if I'm spelling it correctly!) so he erases all the letters except the first one and tells the class to call him "Mr. S." The first day, he lets the kids have recess all day long and just do whatever they want. All the kids think this is the greatest thing ever, except for Summer (Miranda Cosgrove) who is a strict follower of the rules and wants to learn and snides her new teacher for not teaching them anything when her parents pay $15,000 a year for her to attend this school. At the end of his first day, Dewey is so excited he's finally free and high-fives everyone and runs out of the class and out the building. He's almost worse than the students when they're finally free for the day. 

The next day, the kids have music class and Dewey listens in. He is impressed that the kids are actually pretty good and gets a brilliant idea. While he has been putting up posters, advertising for band members for the new band he wants to start, he hasn't gotten any prospects. During the music class, he runs to his van where he keeps all his instruments and sets up a drum set, a guitar, a bass guitar, and a keyboard. When the kids return, he tells them, "I heard you in music class. You can really play. WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME?!" Like the kids know he's looking for people who can play instruments! He gets a kid named Zach to play the electric guitar. Zach tells him he only plays classical music because his dad thinks rock music is "a waste of time" and this greatly offends Dewey. He has Lawrence, the shy Asian kid who was playing the piano, to play the keyboard. He asks Katie, the girl who was playing the cello, to play the bass guitar. And for the drums, he has "class rebel" (for a prep schooler!) Freddie on them. When he has the kids start playing together, he becomes very excited and knows he has found his new band. He tells the students they are going to start on their new project called Rock Band. (Best school project ever!) He tells them that this is a school project and it's a requirement and that "It will test your head...and your mind...and your brain!" They will be competing with other schools in the state and if they win the top prize, it will look very good on their permanent records. He says the project will be next semester and they should start now to get a leg up on the competition, but not to tell anyone, not even their parents they're working on it. 

He has plans for the kids just to practice all day, but changes the schedule when he finds out they have never heard of the many rock groups he's a huge fan of like Led Zeppelin ("You've never gotten the Led out?") or AC/DC. He adds "Rock History" and "Rock Appreciation" to their morning schedule. Since there are about 15 students in the class and four of them are in the band, the remaining kids feel left out and Dewey tells them, "Just because you're not in the band doesn't mean you're not IN the band!" He needs back-up singers and adds two of the three girls who try out as part of the band. Summer is the third girl who didn't make it because her singing voice is absolutely atrocious. Later, he adds Tomika, a girl who is self-conscious about her weight and was too shy to try out, to join Marta and Alicia ("Don't bogart the mic, Alicia!") as the back-up singers. The kids involved in the band plus Summer are the main focus and the other kids are more ancillary characters. Dewey gives them all jobs so they can feel part of the project. One kid is in charge of graphics; he has a few kids in charge of security detail; Billy, the adorable kid who reminds me of an elementary schooler Kurt from Glee wants to be the band's designer; and the two blonde girls are groupies and their job is to worship the band and name it. Summer was assigned a groupie but after finding out what a groupie was, she was not happy with her "job" and Dewey made her band manager. 

I feel a little bad for the kids who aren't IN the band because when he takes those kids to sign up for the Battle of the Bands, the other kids have to stay behind and play a video Dewey made where he's teaching the class so if the principal walks by, they can play it and act like nothing is wrong. It is so hilarious and so wrong that he's taking all these grade-school kids in a van to a very seedy neighborhood. Like that doesn't look suspicious to anyone! Unfortunately they didn't make it in time and aren't allowed to be part of the competition. Summer, being the mastermind she is, gets an idea that all the kids should be visiting from a hospital with a terminal illness and that seals them the gig. When they're returning to the school in Dewey's fan, the Led Zeppelin song, "Immigrant Song" is playing, and if you have the DVD (like I do because I love this movie!), there's a very interesting story behind it. Apparently the band hardly ever give the rights to their songs and Richard Linklater and Jack Black really wanted to use it for the movie so Linklater shot a video of Jack pleading for them to let them use it. Behind him are a bunch of people who were extra in the Battle of the Bands sequence. They sent it to the band members and were thus granted permission. I had actually never heard of that song until I saw this movie, but I absolutely love it! And of course it was popularly covered when Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (US version) was released. 

It is so funny because every time "Edge of 17" by Stevie Nicks comes on, I will say to the person next to me (if I'm with someone, like at work or with a friend), "This song reminds me of Joan Cusack in School of Rock." Because it does! Every time! I love that scene where she's singing that song. Unlike "The Immigrant Song", I was familiar (you could say...."hauntingly familiar", haha!) with this song, although, I will admit, I'm pretty sure I found out about it AFTER Destiny's Child sampled it for "Bootylicious" ("Kelly, can you handle this? Michelle, can you handle this? Beyonce, can you handle this? I don't think they can handle this!") and that sang only came out two years prior to this film. Yeah, I really need to take "Mr. S"'s rock history class! I love Joan Cusack in this movie; I love that scene where she's discipling that young girl and even when she's trying to be nice, she comes off as strict. She asks the girl if she wants a hug and the girl shrinks back and wails, "I promise I'll be good!" 

After three weeks of getting the kids ready for the big day - they listen to rock music and watch videos of legendary guitarists and drummers to get inspired - things come crashing down the day before the Battle of the Bands, and also the day of Parents' Night when the real Schneebly is puzzled why he has a check from Horace Green and Dewey has to confess to him what he's been doing before Ned calls the school to say they made a mistake. Dewey has to make a presentation at Parents' Night and sees the police have come to pay him a visit because Patty got Ned to spill the beans about what's been going on and she called the cops on Dewey. All the parents are understandably concerned that an impostor has been posing as their children's substitute teacher and demand to get answers. 

The kids know they've worked too hard and don't want to miss the competition so they get the bus driver to drive them to Dewey's apartment (how they know where he lived, I'm not sure!) and head to to the venue where the Battle of the Bands is being held. They make it just in time to set up and perform as they are performing after No Vacancy who is currently performing. Principal Mullins and the parents of the kids find out what's going on so they also go to the venue and demand to be let in, but the guy won't let them in without tickets. The guy who replaced Dewey in No Vacancy is wearing this leather shrug and after he performs he starts hitting on Principal Mullins and it is the most hilarious/awkward thing. 

The School of Rock (the name of the band the groupie girls decided on) perform their song that Zach wrote. Originally they were going to perform an indulgent song that Dewey wrote, but he (rightly) decided that Zach's song was the right choice for them. All the parents and Principal Mullins and the audience love them and the song, so when No Vacancy wins the competition, everyone is dismayed except for one random dude who yells, "Yeah, No Vacancy!" The movie has a happy ending with Dewey and Ned starting their own "School of Rock" and teaching music lessons to kids. 

For the ten year reunion of the movie in 2013, Jack Black and the kids (now in their early twenties!) performed the same song for a group in Austin, TX. 


Here's the song from the movie:




And here it is being performed at the ten-year reunion....notice how Zach is shorter than Jack Black in the first video, but taller in this one, haha! 


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

An Incredible Journey

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
Director: Duwayne Dunham
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Sally Field, Don Ameche, Jean Smart
Released: February 12, 1993


The last time I saw this movie was when it was released in theaters. I don't particularly remember seeing this in the theater, but I must have. I was a kid when it came out and it is a kids' movie, plus I had a cat that looked like the cat in this movie. Or maybe I saw it in school or at a friend's house. Who knows? All I know is I did see it when I was a kid! I know I saw it because I remembered that all the animals (SPOILER ALERT!) make it home. I wish I remembered how I reacted to this when I first saw it, because watching it this time, I'm surprised I didn't have any memories of being traumatized by this movie! I mean, I wasn't TOO traumatized watching it this time because I knew the animals made it home safely, but the first time I saw this? I didn't know. Or maybe I did since it was a Disney movie and that meant it would have a happen ending? 

If you were a kid in the early '90s (weren't the '90s the best?), chances are, you've seen this movie. I never knew (until now) that this movie is based on a book called The Incredible Journey that was published in 1961 by Sheila Burnford. In fact, Burnford is the last name of the mother and her two kids in this film. There was a movie of the same name that came out in 1963, so I guess you can say this is a remake. But this is the one I'm most familiar with as I grew up with it. 

We start the movie with meeting the family. Okay, let's see if I can get this straight: Laura is the mother to Peter and Hope. She is getting married to Bob, who is the father to Jamie. Each kid has their own pet. Chance, an American bulldog (voiced by Michael J. Fox), belongs to Jamie, the youngest of the kids. Sassy, the Himalayan cat (I HAD A HIMALAYAN CAT!!!) (voiced by Sally Field), belongs to Hope. And Shadow, the old and reliable Golden Retriever (voiced by Don Ameche) belongs to Peter, the oldest. Peter and Shadow look alike as they have the exact same hair color! Wikipedia says that Jamie is the woman's biological son, but I got the sense he's the guy's son. I have also heard that he is the biological son of both of them and they are getting married, like, five years after the fact. Who the hell knows? 

The three animals can talk to each other, but the humans can't hear them because that would just be silly! One thing I like about this movie is they don't use weird and creepy CGI to move the animals' mouths when they're talking. It's possible they didn't have the technology to do that back then, and thank God! I know of movies that use real animals and when they talk, they look so weird and unnatural (like Cats and Dogs). You know they filmed the animals first, then the actors came in and did the voice overs and you can tell they had to improvise a few times and it resulted in some funny moments.

In the first act of the movie, we learn that Chance is very rambunctious and is always getting in trouble. Sassy finds him very tiring and her motto is, "Dogs drool and cats rule." (My cat would agree with her, ha!) And Shadow is my favorite because he's the wise old leader, although he does some pretty bone-headed stuff in the movie. Well, he is probably my favorite because I love Don Ameche. He was the perfect person to voice Shadow. If I could have any famous grandfather, I would want it to be Don Ameche. Yes, I know he's no longer with us. He died at the end of 1993 and he was 85 so he was quite old when he did this movie. 

The family is moving to San Francisco for a little while for Bob's job (never sure how long they're there), but they must leave the animals with a family friend, Kate (Jean Smart), who lives on a ranch, so she has a bigger open space for the animals to run around and play. Since they'll be living in an apartment, there won't be any room for the animals. Now I can understand leaving the two dogs on the ranch, but they couldn't bring the cat? Although this would probably result in a fight amongst the siblings. 

One thing that doesn't make sense in this movie is that while the animals can communicate with each other and understand what the others are saying, they don't understand when the humans talk to them. Except for simple commands like, "Stay". They don't understand that their stay on the ranch is only temporary and that their owners will be back to get them, and at the very least, come back to visit them every weekend until they move back to their house. When Kate has to go on a cattle drive about a week after the animals have been there, Shadow decides that he's going to cross the entire state of California (okay, I'm not entirely sure how long this journey took) to find his way back to Peter and the others and Sassy and Chance join him. Okay, now, these animals aren't the brightest bulbs. You think they would know their owners are coming back for them, but they seem to think they've been abandoned or forgotten or something. Shadow knows that Peter would never abandon him and thinks he may be in trouble and may need him. So they decide the only reasonable and rational thing to do is to embark on an incredible dangerous journey. If this happened in real life, there is no way these animals would survive. But, luckily, this is a Disney movie.

By the time Kate's neighbor comes over to feed the animals, he doesn't see them and assumes that she must have taken them with her on the cattle drive. He tells her this when she gets back and she panics and calls the family and the park service to ask them to keep an eye out for the animals. The guy pretty much tells her that these animals have no chance of surviving in the wilderness. I know exactly how those kids felt when they were told their pets were lost. When I was a freshman in college, my mom came to visit me with some bad news: she told me my cat, McKenzie (the Himalayan), had gotten out of the house and had been missing for five days! She tells me this right after she buys me lunch and of course I can't eat because I start crying! It was one of the worst days of my life...this was actually even worse than the day Mac died several years later because at least I was prepared for that. Later, that evening, after my mom had gone, my dad called me and told me that Mac had come back! You don't know how happy I was. Okay, my story doesn't sound as dramatic as this movie where the animals are lost for at least a week (again, not sure about the timeline with this movie) and my cat wasn't lost in the wilderness...not like these animals were.

The three pets are able to survive by having Sassy catch fish for them. There's a weird side story where she's obsessed with her weight and only wants to eat "low fat" things. Um, she's a f***ing cat; since when has a cat ever cared about its weight? NEVER, that's when. My cat is always hungry and I will hear it from him if I'm late feeding him! Cats love to eat and the more food they have, the happier they are. I found that storyline to be a little sexist since she was the only female animal and of course the female animal is obsessed with her weight...so stupid! I did laugh when they're first at the ranch and Kate feeds them and when she put food in Sassy's bowl; Chance just gobbles it up. When I brought Mac to my parents' house and my brother brought his dog, Maggie, Maggie would always eat from Mac's bowl and it would freak my brother out that his dog was eating cat food!

 Chance nearly has a run in with a bear and the animals run away. This won't be their first run in with a wild animal. They have to cross a stream, but Sassy, being a cat, doesn't want to get wet and decides to find a better space to cross. She finds some rocks close enough she can leap over to get to the other side, but slips into the rapids and proceeds to go down a waterfall and when Shadow and Chance run down to where she is, they don't see her and presume she is dead. The whole thing is quite traumatizing! It's obvious it's a fake cat that goes over the waterfall (well, duh) and when there's a wide shot of a cat in the rapids, but I heard that when they used a real cat in the water for the close-ups, they filmed it in a small pool. I know cats hate water, so I feel so bad for that cat! I'm guessing they used several cats to be Sassy, so I at least hope they found one of those rare cats that like water (though this cat doesn't look too happy and I don't think it's acting!), or else I would feel so bad for the poor thing!

Shadow and Chance are sad for a few seconds, then move on. The audience (which is probably mostly full of children, mind you) is also left thinking Sassy has died because we don't see that she is actually alive for quite a few more scenes. A man who has a cabin in the woods (hmmm, sounds suspicious!) is fishing and sees Sassy's limp body near the water and picks her up. It is only AFTER she stirs that he exclaims, "You're alive!" Okay, why would you pick up an animal if you thought it was dead? I'm telling you, this guy is a little weird. He takes her back to her cabin where he gives her food and water and dries and brushes her coat. Feeling better, Sassy is able to rejoin Shadow and Chance when she hears them barking and there's a happy reunion between the three animals.

Good thing Sassy wasn't around when the mountain lion was after the two dogs or else they would have been embarrassed about being scared of a cat and she would have never let them hear the end of it. In order to get rid of the mountain lion, they put a plank over a rock, like a teeter totter, and when the mountain lion is on one end of the plank, Chance's job is to jump on the other end, sending the mountain lion flying into the air and over a cliff into a river. The whole thing is so hilarious and ridiculous because it's an obvious large stuffed animal that goes flying through the air.

Meanwhile, back with the humans, the dad/stepdad feels horrible and is putting up fliers to post around the city for any information about their lost pets. There is a stroke of good luck when they get a call saying the animals have been found. What happened is that the animals find a little girl who is lost in the woods and stay with her overnight (this girl, who must have been no older than six or seven was spending the night in the woods; her parents must have been so terrified!) The next morning, the animals hear a search party calling for the little girl and Shadow goes to alert them. Chance doesn't want him to alert them (then how is the little girl going to be rescued, duh?) because they will only take them to the pound and as a dog who came from the pound, he never wants to go back there again. The people in the search party recognize the animals and have them taken to an animal shelter and the Burnford family is called with the good news.

Except, it isn't exactly good news because moments before the Burnfords arrive, the animals have escaped! Stupid animals! Shadow even says that he has a feeling they should go back, but they keep trudging on. OMG, can you imagine if you were one of those kids and you were about to be reunited with your lost pet only to find out that they ran away? I would be inconsolable!

But, finally, the animals have crossed into the city limits and they are almost home (again, no idea who much time has passed since they escaped from the animal shelter). They are crossing some railroad tracks and Shadow falls into a deep pit covered by wooden planks. He is too old and too tired to get out and tells the others to go on without him. Chance tells them they aren't leaving without him, but Shadow still won't budge. We don't see the outcome of what happens as we next get a scene of the Burnford family back at their house. They're all outside when they hear a familiar bark! Why, that sounds like Chance...but it can't be! But here comes Chance running over the hill and everyone is so happy! And moments later here comes Sassy trotting over the hill and everyone is so happy! And then everyone is looking hopefully at the hill waiting for Shadow to come...but nothing. We wait some more...and nothing. Oh, if only Chance and Sassy could talk to tell them if Shadow was behind them or not! Peter looks so sad and says that his dog was old and probably didn't make it. He turns around, dejected, to head back in the house. And then...finally....we see Shadow coming over the hill. Peter's parents and siblings see this before he does and they all gasp and he turns around and sees his dog is still alive and smiles and breaks into a run to hug Shadow....OMG....cue the tears....CUE THE TEARS! This entire scene makes me cry, but, OMG, this moment! Always gets to me!