Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Remember My Name

Director: Alan Parker
Cast: Irene Cara, Paul McCrane, Anne Meara
Released: May 16, 1980

Oscar nominations:
Best Editing - lost to Raging Bull
Best Score - Michael Gore (won)
Best Original Song - Michael Gore and Leslie Gore for "Fame" (won)
Best Original Song - Michael Gore and Leslie Gore for "Out Here On My Own"
Best Sound - lost to The Empire Strike Back
Best Adapted Screenplay - Christopher Gore (lost to Bo Goldman for Melvin and Howard)

I wonder what Freddie Prinze Jr. thinks about this movie. Because his dad is sure mentioned often throughout it. I've heard of Fame, but I've never seen it until now. The closest comparison I can come up for it is Center Stage or Camp. This is about the New York City High School for the Performing Arts (a bit of a mouthful for a school name!) that focuses on the arts such as acting, dance, and music for young students. We start with the auditions so presumably it's very prestigious to get in, but don't let that fool you...this is no Julliard. First of all, a lot of the kids who made it weren't that great as it feels like they will take anybody and it seems like this school is way overcrowded, so I don't think they're very exclusive in who they choose! We see a lot of different kids auditioning and literally everyone but one makes it into the damn school! I guess they had to have somebody not make it so we get a scene of what that looks like. 

It doesn't surprise me that this was a TV show in the ' ran for six seasons. I've never seen one second of it so I don't know anything about it, but I assume it was a precursor to Glee with all the singing and dancing. The movie follows a handful of students through all four years of their high school career and even at a little over two hours long, there still seems to be a lot of unanswered questions. There's just too many characters and subplots to squeeze into a 2 plus hour movie. The movie does a good job of showing how gritty New York looked in the late '70s.

Let's meet all the characters we follow, shall we? Most of them intermingle with each other. There's Doris, a meek, shy girl who auditions by singing. She's okay at best, but her mother is crying during her audition, I mean tears are streaming down her face like her daughter is freakin' Adele or something. I know she's her mother, so of course she's going to think her daughter is the next big thing, but my God! Her reactions is ridiculous! When we first meet her, Doris has the worst hairstyle I have ever seen in any movie, ever. Her hair is curly, she has bangs, and she's wearing pigtails. It's like, no, honey, no. All three of those should never be on one person. This movie was filmed in 1979, so of course we're going to see a lot of atrocious hairstyles and clothes. Her hair does get a little better once she starts school. Speaking of people with bad hair, she meets Montgomery (played by Paul McCrane, the only member of the young cast I was familiar with...he would go on to have a pretty good TV career; he played Dr Romano on ER and Jack Bauer's brother on 24), another acting student, who has this curly red mop on his head that looks good on nobody. Later on in the movie, it gets a little more manageable but I guess they'e trying to tell us the people with bad haircuts are the ones with no friends? Doris meets Montgomery on the steps outside the lunch room and they bond over being the only students not in the lunchroom at the time. Seriously, that lunchroom crowd was ridiculous. This school is obviously overcrowded (as they will literally let anybody in!) and maybe this was before schools divided lunches into groups, but every freaking student at this school eats lunch at the same time (and they only have a half hour!) From Doris's pov, we see how crowded and chaotic the cafeteria is. The musicians are practicing their instruments, the dancers are stretching, the actors are rehearsing, there are students reading or working on homework (how can they even concentrate, I don't know!), but most of them are just talking and horsing around. This is one of about four or five dance/song numbers where a little ditty is sung about the lunch lady and the food she serves. Yes, it is as stupid as it sounds. Doris can't move an inch without bumping into somebody so that's when she goes out in the hall and sees Montgomery on the steps and they become friends. They practice acting exercises with each other and this includes a scene where they're walking down a busy street and Doris is pretending to be blind and is holding a walking stick while Montgomery is assisting her. Someone puts a quarter in a cup she's holding and she offers to buy Montgomery a cup of coffee...with a quarter! Well, we have certainly come a long way since 1980!

Rounding out the acting posse is Ralph Garci who embellishes his resume. He's the jerk of the group and at a stand-up comedy routine (where he is painfully unfunny...and I don't think that was supposed to be intentional!), he claims he is a "professional asshole." I always assumed Fame was a light-hearted song and dance movie, but this movie gets dark. Ralph has a little sister who gets "attacked" by some junkie. Whether that means physically or sexually or what, I don't know, but that was a place where I didn't expect the movie to go. He starts dating Doris and they go see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Doris, who has always been shy, is super proud of herself when she goes up front to dance to The Time Warp...where there are about fifteen other people up there dancing too. Not that big of a deal, Doris, excuse me, Dominique. She wants to change her name to Dominique DuPont to sound young.

The acting teacher tells that that 50,000 people call themselves actors, but only 500 make a living at it. He wants his students to think of their most painful memory and give a monologue about it. No, thank you. Montgomery talks about his sexuality and comes and Ralph talks about when his idol, Freddie Prinze, died. This is about one of four mentions when he's mentioned. Well, at least in 19 years he can see his son star in She's All That! Apparently he went to the school they attend so I guess this is a real school? I should mention this happens before his sister is brutally attacked.

Irene Cara plays Coco and up and coming dancer/singer. Obviously Irene Cara is probably best known for singing "What a Feeling" from Flashdance which is an amazing song. She also sings the title song from this movie, which, I admit, is catchy, but it is so outdated with all the synthesizers. It also won the Oscar for Best Song over "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton which I think is ridiculous. You never hear "Fame" anymore on the radio, but they'll still play "9 to 5". I think the Academy was on the wrong side of history with that choice. Another song from Fame was also nominated, so I'm surprised they didn't split the votes.

Bruno Martelli, a music student who likes to play around with electronic music (and carries all these bulking machines and amps around all the time...imagine what he could do in the day and age with a Mac!) is the one who created the music and his father, a taxi driver, stops in front of the school and blares the song from the speakers on top of his cab. All the students come out and start dancing and singing....there must be about 200 of these idiots stopping traffic in the middle of the day as they jump up on cars and are just in the way while they get honked at. This scene infuriated me. I absolutely hate when there's any traffic and if a bunch of effing teenagers started streaming out of their school and onto the street and were holding up traffic because they had to dance to a song....I'd be running them over. There is no need to hold up traffic in a busy city. Absolutely ridiculous. This one guy in a truck yells "Move your f*cking parade!" and I was totally on his side.

Coco meets this sleazy guy at a diner who recognizes her as a dancer from some Broadway play and tells her she could go on to better things because she has a "beautiful face and a delicious figure"....eww....He wants to invite her to a screen testing and, seriously, how naive is this girl? Of course he ends up being some amateur porno director and just wants to film her with her top off....which she does, while crying the entire time.

Leroy is a character who originally wasn't auditioning. He was there to help a friend who was...she's literally the only person who doesn't get in and she is pissed when she finds out. I don't blame her, I would be pissed too if everyone else who auditioned got it and they danced just as crappily as I did! My gaydar was pinging hard on Leroy...he was wearing these short shorts and this weird cropped vest and in another scene he's wearing a crop top with his name on it. However, all the women were falling over themselves for him while he was dancing..he was rubbing his crotch, then his butt. Seriously, is that supposed to be a turn on? It's really gross. His audition scene is the only scene Debbie Allen is in. She was much more of a bigger component on the TV show. (Janet Jackson was also on the TV show). Every girl seems to be in love with him and he gets a rich girl named Hilary pregnant and she has to get an abortion. It was obvious they cast the girl as a dancer first because she was a great dancer, but a terrible actress!

Leroy clashes with an English teacher named Mrs. Sherwood played by the late Anne Meara (aka Ben Stiller's mom). She doesn't like him because he brings his "ghetto blaster" (her words!) which are headphones with what looks to be a turn table on his desk. Seriously, these late '70 kids had it ROUGH! And I thought having a discman was a pain in the ass! She tells Leroy that if he can't pass his academic classes, he can't dance. We find out that he can't read...but since he can dance, he can get in! There is one crazy scene where Leroy gets super mad at Mrs. Sherwood, calls her a f**king b*tch, then proceeds to go out in the hall and start breaking all these class trophy cases...and NOTHING HAPPENS TO HIM! No suspension, no being expelled, nothing. It is absolutely asinine. This school is way too tolerant of their students. Later on, they will come to an understanding, although it will take a few more screaming matches to get there.

Then we have another dancer, Lisa, who is always being chastised by the dance teacher for "not sweating enough" and while she enjoys dancing, isn't ambitious about it enough to make it into a career. The teacher tells her she's not a good fit for the class and while at a subway station, Lisa is about to walk in front of an oncoming train, but at the last minute just kicked her dance clothes on the tracks.

I think I mentioned everybody. As you can see, there are a lot of characters and some get a lot more screen time than others.

The movie ends with the graduation ceremony where we the final song and dance scene.I assume it's the graduation ceremony, but nobody is wearing their robes and caps. I guess there was a re-make of this film in 2009 which I had no idea. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Bubble Girl

Everything, Everything
Director: Stella Maghie
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose
Released: May 19, 2017

This is a subpar movie based on a mediocre book. The only reason I was aware of the movie is because I read the book. The only reason I read the book is because I read the author's other book called The Sun is Also a Star which I really liked and that's why I decided to check out her first book. I wouldn't say Everything, Everything blatantly rips off from The Fault in Our Stars, but there are a lot of similarities. They're not just both young adult novels about two teens meeting and falling in love, but in both books the teens have medical issues, it's just one of then who has a health problem in this story while they both had cancer in Fault. 

Maddie (Amandla Stenberg) is an eighteen year old girl who has SCID - severe combined immunodeficiency. If you've ever seen the Bubble Boy episode of Seinfeld then you know what it is, although while Maddie isn't confined to a bubble, she is confined to her house in Southern California (which is really nice since her mother is a doctor). Everything in the house is always kept clean,  the door is air-locked, her nurse is the only person from there outside who is allowed in and she has to wash her hands thorougly before coming into the main part of the house. Despite her mother (Anika Noni Rose) being a doctor, she sure does have a lot of free time to spend with her daughter. True, technically her daughter is her patient, but something tells me she doesn't get paid for taking care of her. They spend time a lot of times playing games and watching movies. In her free time, Maddie reads a lot and posts book reviews online. She takes online classes for school. She's into architecture  do so she builds a lot of intricate models of different buildings. I guess when you're confined to staying indoors, there's only so much you can do. 

Things get more interesting when a new family moves in next door from New York and a romance soon blossoms between Maddie and the boy, Ollie (Nick Robinson). Of courser their bedroom windows face each other and Ollie writes his phone number on the window so they can start texting each other....although they use IM in the book, which is a little surprising since the book came out in 2015. Does anyone remember IM? I used to use it all the time and now I wouldn't even know how to get it on my computer. I will say the movie was clever in how they filmed the text conversations. There are a lot of these sprinkled throughout and instead of just having the literal text come up on the screen so we can read what they're talking about, they have Maddie and Ollie having a dialogue in one of Maddie's models. 

I feel like if most teen guys found out that the girl they had a crush on was confined to living indoors forever and wasn't allowed to touch other people, they would find someone else, but not noble Ollie. He likes Maddie and thinks she's beautiful and he is going to pursue her. There is absolutely no chemistry between the two actors so I never bought they had this great romance. While her mother is at work (finally!), Maddie convinces Carla, her nurse, to let Ollie come over. She tells him as long as they keep a distance between them. Now does Carla stay in the room to supervise the two teens madly in love with each other (and she knows how Maddie feels about him)? No, she gives them their privacy and of course they end up standing only inches apart from each other. They end up kissing the next night when it's Carla's day off of work and Maddie's mom is at work. 

In the book, there is a whole thing about Ollie's father being a drunk and angry all the time because he was fired from his previous job (the reason they moved) and taking it out on Ollie's mother. This is barely glossed over in the movie. When Maddie sees Ollie's dad pushing around Ollie, she runs outside to help him. (Really? What does she think she is going to do?) She's only outside for less than a minute and it's her first time being outside since she was diagnosed with SCID as a toddler. Between that incident and Maddie's mom finding something that Ollie left at the house, she soon finds out that her daughter has had company over and fires Carla and hires a new nurse who is super strict. Not only is Ollie forbidden to step foot in the house again, but Maddie must cut all ties with him and can't even text or speak to him on the phone anymore. 

She decides that she would rather live her life despite all the consequences than not live her life at all and buys two airplane tickets to Hawaii (she applied for a credit card online). She chooses Hawaii because she wants to see the ocean. Uh....she even mentions earlier in the movie that she only lives three hours away from the ocean and has never seen it. Exactly! Why are you wasting your money on plane tickets to Hawaii when you can literally take a day trip to see the ocean? She talks Ollie into going with her and he agrees. Of course he is concerned about the health risks, but she sells him a lie that she's been taking these trial pills and they've been helping her. 

We get the obligatory montage of them in Hawaii doing all the cliche Hawaiian things: going to the beach, cliff diving, dancing at a luau, roasting a pig, eating a pineapple, walking through a volcano - well, maybe not all of those were shown, but we see Maddie having a great time as she experiences being outside for the first time. The next morning after a cringe-worthy sex scene (they didn't even show anything, but it was still super uncomfortable - probably from the lack of passion since it was like platonic friends having sex...ewww), Maddie feels faint and is rushed to the hospital. Her mother is called and rushes to her side.

When we see Maddie wake up, she is back in her bed at home. Not sure how long she was in the hospital, but it was probably for a few days. Maddie knows she must break up with Ollie for good because it's not fair for him to be in a relationship with her. Her mother supports her decision and tells her she's doing the right thing. 

I think now is a good time to go into spoilers, so if you haven't read the book or seen the movie and really care that much, then be warned! SPOILERS AHOY!

Perhaps you've already figured out the little plot twist. To me it was clear that there was nothing wrong with Maddie and she never had SCID. This is the most obvious when she rides on a plane from L.A. to Hawaii and is perfectly fine. Planes are just metal tubes filled with germs...they have to be a literal death trap for someone who really does have SCID. There's also the fact that she spent all that time outside on the beach and she's touching Ollie a lot. True, she does get sick, but her doctor in Hawaii tells her it's because her immune system is underdeveloped from not being exposed to outside elements her entire life. She never had a life-threatening illness. So while I did correctly predict that much, I never in my life suspected that her mother was purposely lying to her daughter for her whole life and keeping her from leaving the house. Maddie realizes this when she ransacks her mom's office looking for any documentation about her illness, but can't find any at all. Maddie's mom confesses that she had a scare with her when she was a baby and while everything was okay, she was convinced that something was wrong with Maddie and she had to protect her from everything, especially after her husband and son were killed in a car accident. (Again, something that is featured more prominently in there book and glossed over in the movie). I don't know if we were suppose to feel any sympathy for the mother (probably not since Maddie didn't seem to), but she is cray-cray! She treated her own daughter as a prisoner, never ever letting her leaver her own home! They never mention the M word, but her mother totally had Munchausen's right? I'm surprised Maddie didn't realize it being a movie buff and all. Surely she's seen The Sixth Sense, right? 

One thing that doesn't make sense is that Carla tells Maddie that she always suspected that something may be up and that she thought that Maddie may have never been sick. (Though to be fair, that might just have happened in the book and not the movie; I really can't remember if we get this scene in the movie). So if that's the case, why didn't she alert the authorities? I suppose she didn't want to step on any toes, but she's a nurse and probably never saw anything really truly wrong with Maddie, so you would think she would want what's best for her and that would probably mean not being cooped up in her house all day, no matter how amazing her house is. 

In the book, we see Maddie's mom going to a therapist and trying to get help, but that doesn't happen in the movie. Instead Maddie flies to New York (where Ollie has moved back to with his sister and mother) and they are reunited. I guess Maddie is going to live with him and his family now? Or are they going to get their own apartment together? Yeah, they don't really tell us what's going to happen to them, just that they're back together and we're supposed to be happy for them. So...good for Maddie, I guess? She isn't sick and she no longer has a relationship with her crazy psychotic mother. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

My Pet Raptor

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Director: J.A. Bayonne
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard Howard, James Cromwell, Rafe Spall, Toby Jones, BD Wong, Jeff Goldblum

Spoilers ahoy!

I know the new Jurassic World movies get a lot of flack, but I still enjoy them. I think they are much better than Jurassic Park's two awful sequels, but that isn't a very high bar to cross! Look, there are a lot of stupid things in this movie that don't make any sense at all, but we'll cover all of those. As you may remember, in the previous Jurassic World, which only took place three years prior, many people were killed after everything went to hell at the dino theme park. The park is gone, but the dinosaurs still roam the island where there's a volcano that's expected to erupt "at any moment." Hang on one second. Nobody checked with a geologist first to see if opening this park (that was only open three years before the volcano would erupt!) on this island would be a good idea? (Obviously, it was NOT a good idea with or without a volcano!) So even if dinosaurs hadn't gotten loose and killed a bunch of visitors, both people and animals would have died in the inevitable volcano eruption. That's really reassuring.

There's a global debate over what should be done about the dinosaurs. Do they deserve the same recognition as other endangered species? Should they be protected from the volcano or left to die on the island, as Ian Malcom (in a cameo reprised by Jeff Goldblum) suggests because they should have never been cloned in the first place. Of course Ian Malcolm is going to be against the rights of the dinosaurs. He's had two harrowing experiences with them. (Though I don't believe that The Lost World or JPIII are canon in this rebooted Jurassic universe, but correct me if I'm wrong).

Our two heroes from the previous movie, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) go to the island to help an operation get the dinosaurs safely off of it. I understand why Owen is there because he has a relationship with Blue, one of the raptor he raised and trained in the previous movie. By the way, while I remember one raptor (there were four total) being killed in that movie, I don't remember two more also being killed, but apparently Blue is the only living raptor left. (Hmmm, I went back and read my review for that movie and I do mention only one raptor remains alive). It's a good thing Blue was the one who lived because she seems to have the best relationship with Owen. We see training videos of Owen working with the raptors when they were babies and Blue is the only one to show any sign of empathy. When Owen sees what would happen if he was vulnerable the other raptors try to attack him, but Blue tries to comfort him. And, yes, it is very cute. It doesn't make much sense for Claire to go, but ironically she is the one who has to persuade Owen to help her rescue the animals, namely Blue. When did Claire become such a bleeding heart for these animals? She never seemed to care much about them in the first movie; she only cared about the profit they brought in. But in this movie she is all about their rights and saving them. I will say she does seem more soft-hearted towards the herbivores, though!

Hey, that staff looks familiar!
She is recruited by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who is - get this - the partner of John Hammond. Uh...why were we never told this in Jurassic Park? Because they just made him up for this movie, that's why! He and his assistant, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) have a plan to move as many species as they can to another island. However, while Lockwood's intentions are pure, Eli's are not and right when we met him I knew he was going to be a bad guy. In fact, a lot of the predictions I made about this movie came true, that's how transparent it was. He wants Claire and Owen to help him because Owen is the only one who can get Blue. Eli has plans to create a new dinosaur using Blue's DNA and the DNA from the Indominus Rex, which, you may remember, was the genetically created dinosaur from Jurassic World who was the one who started all the havoc and was eventually done in by the T-rex. The movie starts with two guys locating and collecting the remains of the I-Rex underwater. They and the little bubble contraption they're in are swallowed whole by the mosasaur, the huge aquatic dinosaur that makes a great white look like a guppy. When one of the men is trying to communicate with them, telling them he is going to shut the underwater gate, he (obviously) gets no reply. This guy has to be the stupidest person in this movie (although he has some contenders!) because when the other men on the truck are waving and screaming at him, he shouts, "What is going on? I can't hear you!" Uh...what do you THINK is going on? Let's see, you're on an abandoned island where dinosaurs are roaming freely and people are frantically shouting at you and telling you to get on the truck. Seriously, you would have to be a moron to not understand that there is probably a big dinosaur with big teeth somewhere in the area, and sure enough, the T-rex is right behind him. The other men make it to a helicopter and are able to fly away and they send down a rope to the man who manages to climb on it, just barely missing the chomping jaws of the T-rex. As they were flying over the water, I knew right away that the mosasaur was going to jump up and grab him, but I also thought he was also going to take the helicopter down with him, but it manages to fly away. I did re-watch the trailer and that scene is in it, so maybe subconsciously I must have remembered that, but I honestly didn't know it was in the trailer. There is another scene from the trailer that I remember vividly and I'll talk about that when I get there.

What is it with the new Jurassic movies creating new species of dinosaurs? Are the dinosaurs that actually roamed the earth not scary enough? Do we need something more ferocious than the T-rex? It used to be that the velociraptor used to be the true villains of these movies, at least the first movie. I remember them in TLW, but don't think they were as prevalent and I'm sure they're in the third movie, but I don't remember anything about that movie (which is probably for the best!) But in these new movies, they have decided to make raptors friendly and cuddly pets. Okay, maybe not quite, but they have strangely become dinosaurs we're rooting for. They're still dangerous, but if you're Chris Pratt or a friend of Chris Pratt's, then they will not try to kill you. I guess this is why we need new dinosaurs to be the Big Bad.

This new dinosaur is to be called the Indoraptor and Mills has plans to create it to be trained and used as a weapon for military combat. This was brought up in Jurassic World by that movie's bad guy played by Vincent D'Onofrio and I was thinking to myself, Wait, where is he? before I realized, that duh, he was the bad guy in that movie, so of course he had a vicious death! Let it be known that if you are a bad guy in the Jurassic movies, you will get a horrible, gruesome death, although still not as  horrible and gruesome as the woman who worked for Claire and watched her nephews when they came to visit the park.

A paleo-vet working on her very first patient
Claire and Owen join a team led by a man named Wheatley (Ted Levine). He is a terrible character, pulling the teeth out of sedated dinosaurs to make a necklace and just treating the animals inhumanly all around, so you know he's going to get a horrible death. (Spoiler alert: he does!) There are two new characters who are brought in to help Claire and Owen. They are really there to serve a purpose: when the movie needs them, they show up, when they aren't needed they conveniently find a way to get a rid of them (and no, I don't mean they get eaten by dinosaurs...since they are on the good guy's team, they don't die). They are tech nerd Franklin (Justice Smith) who is there to help them with anything computer related and Zia (Daniella Pineda) is a paleo-veterinarian  who has never seen a dinosaur in her life...huh? She is there to help Blue who gets shot by one of the men who is there to aid in the capture the animal.

The volcano erupts and our heroes manage to make it on a boat that has secured many, but not all of the dinosaurs. (I actually have no idea how many dinosaurs were on the boat and how many were left on the island to perish). There is a really sad scene of a brachiosaurus bellowing and crying as she is being swallowed up by smoke and fire. Wasn't that how Little Foot's mother died in The Land Before Time?  If a baby brachiosaurus had come up to her, I surely would have lost it! (Although, technically, Little Foot and his mother were apatosauruses, which are (I think?) the same thing as a brontosaurus? IDK. It's a good thing I'm not a paleontologist! We do see a mother and baby triceratops which share a very tender Dumbo-esque moment which is very cute.

The boat is sailing back to the California coast where Lockwood's massive mansion is located. This house makes the house in Home Alone look like a shack. It's a residence, museum, and laboratory all combined in one huge building. There's also an underground system of cages where they keep the dinosaurs in. They have come to the building to be auctioned off.

A man named Eversol (Toby Jones) is heading the auction and he has brought a bunch of his wealthy clients from all over the world to the mansion to bid on the dinos. What exactly do they plan to do with these dinosaurs? We do hear that one man wants to buy a baby triceratops for his kid. (And major points to that kid if he names his new pet Cera). What happens when that baby grows up? I suppose a lot of these people are going to exploit these animals and have people pay to see them. We know the theme park in Jurassic World was open for ten years, but I always imagined that not even one percent of the world's population ever got to see it because the tickets had to be astronomical, not to mention the flight to Costa Rica. So there's probably a huge mass of people who have never even seen a dinosaur (like the veterinarian who has specialized in dinosaurs!) I do wonder about the one man who wanted to buy TWO carnivores. There's something shady with him. Also, how do these people plan to take their new pets home? How does the man from Indonesia plan to take his ankylosaurus home? (The one he got for a great deal for only ten million dollars. Seriously, does that seem pretty cheap to you for paying for a dinosaur? I know the ankylosaurus might not be as well known as the T-rex or a stegosaurus, but it was still an extinct creature brought back to life! Even the 21 million that was paid for another dinosaur (was it the allosaurus?) still seems quite low.) I would love to know who would have bidded on the T-rex and what they planned to do with that monstrosity. However, before we get a chance for her to be put up on the bidding block, all hell breaks loose.

As a "special treat", they bring in a prototype of the Indoraptor to show prospective buyers. It is not for sale as it still needs to be tweaked by the geneticist, Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong). The Indoraptor looks similar to a raptor, but is bigger, as we will later see the two fighting each other. It is supposed to follow human command, which I find laughable because this thing does not look like it's very obedient! All the dinosaurs are brought out in cages and this one is snarling and snapping at the bars. Eversol demonstrates the effects of the new species by pointing a laser at some poor guy sitting in the front row (and he looks a little nervous!) The dinosaur locks on to him and when a trigger sound goes off, that is his signal to attack. I really thought he was somehow going to get out and kill the guy (not to mention everyone else in the vicinity), but that doesn't happen...yet. He does try his darnedest to get out! Even though this is only a prototype and not ready to be put on the market ( I don't think it will ever be ready!), it goes to an Eastern European guy for almost $30 million. I want to know what this guy plans to do with that creature!

This is around the time Owen makes a distraction by unleashing a stygimoloch, a human-sized dinosaur that starts butting into people. Everyone runs out and the Indoraptor is left alone in its cage where Wheatley sees it and decides to sedate it and get one of its teeth for his necklace. In one of the stupidest scenes in the movie, as Wheatley is attempting to pull one of the teeth, we see the dinosaur open its eye, then close it again and almost smile in a cartoony way. It literally made me groan out loud. Why do we need that scene? Of course we know the dinosaur is still awake and is pretending to be out. Of course we know that this character, who has already been established to be a villain is going to get a horrible and gruesome death at the hands (or should I say teeth, haha) of this evil and terrible creature. We don't need the cute hints that this Big Bad is about to strike. It's so dumb. Well, of course Wheatley realizes the dinosaur is not out and gets his arm bitten off before being killed. The Indoraptor gets out of his cage where he kills and attacks Eversol in an elevator. There were about four other people in there as well and I assume they probably got it as well. I feel bad for them because they really didn't do anything wrong...

So now we have this creature (said to be the scariest in the Jurassic franchise...don't they say that with every new creature they create?) loose in the mansion. The only bad guy still alive is Eli and he has smothered Lockwood with a pillow. As with every movie that preceded this one, a child comes into play. This time, it's a young girl named Maisy who is the granddaughter to Lockwood. She spends most of the movie whispering, "Grandpa, Grandpa!" We assume she's the daughter of Lockwood's daughter who was killed in a car accident. But then we soon learn that she is not his granddaughter, but rather a CLONE of his daughter and Hammond cut his ties with him because he thought what he did was "unholy". Yeah, cloning humans...probably not a good idea. I mean, look how it worked out for Michael Keaton in Multiplicity.

Claire and Owen join up with the girl and they all get chased by the Indoraptor around the mansion. Supposedly this thing has a keen sense of smell, but somehow can’t sniff its prey out when they’re all literally right below its nose. I know she’s just a scared little kid, but Maisy does something really stupid that puts her as another contender for the stupidest person in the movie (though, she is a clone, so at least she has that excuse!): she runs away from Claire and Owen (who has a gun) and hides under the covers in her bed. Like that’s really going to help you. Also, her room is easily three times the size of my apartment. The shot of the claws reaching towards her in the bed is the one I remember from the trailer and I remember thinking, How is she going to get out of this one? I knew she was going to be okay because while the kids in Jurassic movies come very close to their demises, they never get killed off. At the very last second, Owen comes in with his gun and shoots the Indoraptor, but it doesn’t seem to affect it and when he runs out of bullets and is about to be cornered, who should come in and save him? Blue, his trusty pet velociraptor. I saw this coming a mile away. The two dinosaurs fight and the Indoraptor ends up falling into a glass ceiling and impaling itself on the horns of a triceratops model. 

Meanwhile, the other animals are dying from a poisonous gas that has been let lose and Claire wants to free them, but doesn't  know if she should, but Maisy steps in since they’re clones like her and they also are alive. Mmm, I don’t know if that was such a good idea, but I did feel bad for the dinos, so I may have done the same thing. We see them all running out of the building and of course Eli gets his comeuppance when he gets eaten by the T-rex. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the T-rex eat anyone: I don’t think she had any human snacks in Jurassic World. It looks like the next movie is going to be about all these dinosaurs running amok on the West Coast and I’m sure plenty havoc is to be had. It also looks like the T-rex made her way to a zoo because she is shown roaring at a lion who roars back at her. Please…that lion would be shaking in its fur! 

Throughout the film I noticed some callbacks to the first movie. When they return to the island and are looking at the brachiosaurus in awe (the first dinosaur that dinosaur vet Zia has ever seen) is very similar to when Alan and Ellie see the brachiosaurus (in fact, it might even be the same one). The scene where they’re running away from the erupting volcanos and all the other dinosaurs join them reminds me of the scene where Grant, Lex, and Tim are running away from the flock of Gallimimus. The scene in this movie is a little more alarming because not only are they trying to not get struck by hot spewing lava rocks, but every type of dinosaurs is running in their direction: not just ostrich-sized ones. It’s really a wonder nobody got trampled on. And the scene that gave m a real flashback to Jurassic Park was when Maisy, who is running away from the Indoraptor, gets into a dumbweighter and is desperately trying to shut the door and manages to pull it down a second before it reaches her. This obviously reminds me of the scene from the original movie when Lex gets into a pantry with the same kind of door and wants the raptor to come to her to get it away form Tim, but she can’t shut the door and it ends up attacking her reflection. 

I did learn some new things from this movie: I learned about dinosaurs I’ve never heard of before like the aforementioned ankylosaurus, and stygimoloch, the baryonyx, and the carnotaurus.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Tribal Lines

Dances With Wolves
Director: Kevin Costner
Cast: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A.  Grant
Released: November 21, 1990

Oscar nominations:

Best Picture (won)
Best Director - Kevin Costner (won)
Best Actor - Kevin Costner (lost to Jeremy Irons for Reversal of Fortune)
Best Supporting Actor - Graham Greene (lost to Joe Pesci for Goodfellas)
Best Supporting Actress - Mary McDonnell (lost to Whoopi Goldberg for Ghost)
Best Art Direction-Set Direction (lost to Dick Tracy)
Best Cinematography (won)
Best Costume Design (lost to Cyrano de Bergerac)
Best Editing (won)
Best Score - John Barry (won)

This is one of my mom's favorite movies, if not her favorite. I don't know what her favorite movie is currently, but at the time of its release, Dances With Wolves was definitely a favorite of hers. In fact, I made her guess what my next film review would be, telling her it was one of her favorite movies. Dances With Wolves was her second guess, after Legends of the Fall, which I didn't even know was one of her favorite movies!

I think my dad bought the VHS (which was on two tapes since it is a three house movie!) for my brother and me to give our mom for Mother's Day or her birthday. And even though, I swear, she was always watching it (though it may have seemed that way to me because it was so long), I had never seen this movie in full, only bits and pieces. My mom claims she had no idea Kevin Costner directed this movie, though I think she probably just forgot because she did admit it's been awhile since she last saw it. She's seen it several times and, as I told her, it says "Directed by Kevin Costner" right smack dab in the middle of the screen during the opening credits. It's kind of hard to miss!

If you remember (and you probably don't because this was eight years ago!), I posted my thoughts on seven Best Picture upsets and Dances With Wolves was one of them, winning over Goodfellas. Even though I prefer Goodfellas, I don't mind it losing to Dances With Wolves (unlike, say, Crash winning over Brokeback Mountain, just to give an example!) because it does feel like an Oscar-winning movie: it's a sweeping epic that's three hours long. It does have that feel of an Academy-Award winning movie. However, and I expressed this in the video, I think it is ludicrous that Kevin Costner
won Best Director for his first movie (he's only directed two other movies besides this one: The Postman, which I've never seen, and Open Range, which I remember liking) while Martin Scorsese, well already an established director by then wouldn't win an Oscar for Best Director for another sixteen years! Sometimes the Academy is really stupid.

One of the main reasons my mom loves this movie is because she loves the Native American culture and thinks she would have liked living in a teepee and being part of that community. I don't know how she would have fared, though, because when we went camping when I was a kid, it was only for a weekend! But we would sleep in teepees and ride horses, so we got a little bit of the experience. Of course we didn't kill any buffalo (although they did serve buffalo burgers at the lodge!); we cooked our hot dogs over a campfire. Not exactly like living like a Native American, but close enough.

Dances With Wolves takes place during the Civil War in 1863 and Lieutenant John J. Dunbar (Kevin Costner) has badly wounded his leg to the point that it needs to be amputated. He would rather die than lose his foot (I would too; the pain would be less severe!) and tries to commit suicide by riding to the front of enemy lines, but is instead hailed a hero because he is able to distract the enemy (who fail to kill him) and the Union soldiers are able to attack successfully. For his act of bravery, he is given a horse named Cisco and transfer to any station he desires. He chooses Fort Hayes because he wants to see the frontier before it disappears. Before he heads out, he is given medical care and is able to keep his foot. I guess whatever they did to it really worked because it doesn't become a problem again for the rest of the movie. He is then transferred to Fort Sedgewich, which is the furthest outpost. It is located in Colorado before Colorado became a state. I always thought this movie took place in South Dakota (before it became a state), but the majority of it was filmed there. I should note that Fort Sedgewich is very close to the Nebraska border so there being no mountains in the movie is not a problem.

Fort Sedgewich is deserted, but he plans to stay anyway. He keeps a journal and whenever we hear voiceover from Kevin Costner, it's Dunbar reading from his journal. Costner's voiceover in this movie is as good as Demi Moores voiceover in Now and Then, which, is to say, absolutely terrible. He sounds like he's reading from a script (yeah, yeah, I know he's supposed to be reading from a journal, but you know what I mean) and I found it very cringe-worthy. Some actors are very natural doing voiceovers and some...are not.

He has his first encounter with Indians when a few from the Sioux tribe try to steal his horse, but always fail. One of them, who is named Wind in His Hair (Rodney A. Grant) comes all the way up to Dunbar on his horse and announces (in the Sioux language Lakota), "Do you see that I an not afraid of you?" Dunbar decides to pay the Sioux camp a visit to sort everything out which I don't think is the best idea. While they are a peaceful people (unlike the Pawnee who are portrayed as savages, killing and scalping anyone they come across who is not one of their own), they do not trust the white man. On his way to the camp, he comes across a white woman with unruly hair dressed in Native American garb who is bleeding profusely from her wrists. At first I didn't know what was going on, but we later learn that her husband was recently killed so maybe she was trying to kill herself? I was also confused why they cast a white woman (Mary McDonnell) to play a Native American, but she is supposed to be white. We also learn later that her (white) name is Christine and her family was killed by the Pawnee, but she managed to run away and was taken in by the Sioux. Being that she is the only woman in this movie (aside from another (authentic) Native American woman, but she is married), it is pretty obvious there's going to be a romance between her and Dunbar. I'm sure there are other women in the tribe, but we never really see any. They end up getting married. The Sioux believe since they are both white, that's why they ended up together, which is probably true, and probably because she is literally only the single woman in a one thousand mile radius!

Dunbar brings the wounded woman to their camp, but he is told to get the hell out of there. Of course he doesn't understand what they're saying, but he definitely understands the tone and body language of Wind in His Hair. Later, there is a powwow between the main Indians and the Chief, Ten Bears, sends a group including Wind in His Hair and Kicking Bird (played by Graham Greene) - he's the one married to the only other visible woman, to go to the white man and see what he wants. They don't believe him to be dangerous because he hasn't tried to kill any of them and did bring back one of their own. We see a couple scenes of the Indians trying to communicate with Dunbar and while humorous at times (the scene where Dunbar shows them how he makes coffee is amusing), it is also frustrating because of the language barrier. I must say, for someone who has never spoken Lakota in his life, Dunbar sure learns it pretty fast cuz he is speaking it fluently by the end of the movie. Hell, he's speaking it fluently by the middle of the movie! I'm not sure the movie's timeline, but it can't be more than a year.

To help with the communication, they decide to bring Dunbar to their camp and ask Christine, whose Indian name is Stands With a Fist to help. She is reluctant to speak the white language, unsure if she is able to remember how. She was probably five or six when she was taken in by the Sioux and never used English again after learning Lakota. I also wonder if she remembers that her birth name is Christine. The audience only knows it because we get that flashback scene. We never see her tell Dunbar that she was once called Christine. She is able to communicate with Dunbar, but her English is broken and her language is stilted. It would have to be challenging to be a native English speaker, but yet playing someone who is fluent in another language and English is difficult for them. When John introduces himself, Kicking Bird thinks he said "Dumb Bear" when he said Dunbar, ha!

Stands With a Fist obtained her name as a young girl. There was an older girl who would call her names and beat her, but one day Christine knocked her down by punching her in the chin. She stood with her fist out and asked if there was anyone else who dared to call her a bad name. She probably acquired her Indian name not long after she joined the tribe, but what did they call her before that day? Did she tell them her name was Christine? Also, what did they call Indians before they received their names or were they all born with their given names? There is a young kid named Smiles A Lot. Did he get that name because he was always smiling as a baby? What happens on days when he's not having a good day and not smiling at all? Am I asking really stupid questions? Probably. My Indian name would be something like Spends Too Much Money on Coffee or Irritable Redhead in the Mornings. Yes, I realize those are both about four words too long for an Indian name. If you didn't already know, Dances with Wolves is the Indian name that is given to Dunbar. They have seen him with a (relatively harmless) wolf who comes around to his camp and has received the nickname Two Socks because of his white forepaws. Now I'm sure you're thinking the same thing I am: Why is it Dances with Wolves and not Dances with Wolf when there's only one wolf? (Yes, there is a different wolf at the end, but we never see Dunbar interact with it). Maybe Dances with Wolves just sounds better or maybe if you dance with one wolf, you dance with all of them? Again, am I asking stupid questions?

Dunbar establishes a good rapport with the Sioux tribe. Like I mentioned earlier, he starts to learn Lakota and pretty much becomes a fluent speaker. Buffalo seems to be scarce lately and the Sioux needs to find some before they starve. Now as we all remember from what we learned at Natural History Museum Day Camp (well, this is what I learned when I attended, and by the way, it wasn't called that even though that's exactly what it was), the Indians used every part of the buffalo. Not only were they used for food, but their hides were used to make their clothes and teepees, the bones were made into tools or weapons, and so on. In the middle of the night, they hear a herd of buffalo go roaring past them, but when they go to find them in the morning, the soldiers have gotten there first, leaving a field of dead buffalo, only having taken their hides and their tongue. I understood why they took the hides, but why the tongues? Is that a delicacy? We know it is soldiers who did this because there are wagon wheel tracks. This angers the Sioux immensely because not only are the buffalo all useless to them now, but it is a huge sign of disrespect in their culture. To them, the buffalo is a sacred animal that provides them with many of their necessities. This is just one of the many times Dunbar feels ashamed of his fellow white man. In one of the saddest scenes of the movie, we see a lone baby buffalo bleating pitifully. If you are an animal lover, this movie will break your heart because this movie is not very kind to four-legged creatures! This includes the Pawnee tribe killing their dogs when they attack the Sioux camp and Cisco, Dunbar's beloved horse being shot and killed by the soldiers when Dunbar goes back to Fort Sedgewick to gather some things, only to find it being swarmed with soldiers. They also kill the wolf just to show the audience that these guys are real pricks. I didn't understand why the wolf didn't run away when it was being shot at, because it did take a few attempts before it was actually hit. I don't think Two Socks was very bright!

They don't have to wait too long before another herd of buffalo come their way. This is probably the best scene of the movie, if not the most memorable. There were 3500 buffalo used in the scene, all of them real. The only fake buffalos were the animotronic ones they used for the ones who went down after being killed be either a bow and arrow or a rifle, Dunbar's contribution to the tribe. One buffalo charges after the young Smiles A Lot and Dunbar aims his gun to shoot it, finally getting it to go down just before it reachers the youngster. I read to make the buffalo charge, they had his favorite treat waiting for him. Speaking of treats (uh, maybe), the Indians celebrate by eating the liver (ugh!) of one of the buffalos and they let Dunbar have a bite of it.

After Dunbar aka Dances With Wolves is caught by the soldiers, then freed by the Sioux who ambush the soldiers and kill them, he decides staying with them would be too dangerous because he is now a wanted man, so he leaves with his new wife, Stands With a Fist who goes where he goes. In a callback to the earlier scene when Wind in His Hair announces he is not afraid of Dunbar, he now rides his horse atop a cliff and proclaims, "Dances with Wolves! I am Wind in His Hair. Do you see that I am your friend?" The film ends with a silhoute of a wolf howling.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Adventures in Baby-Sitting

Uncle Buck
Director: John Hughes
Cast: John Candy, Macaulay Culkin, Jean Louisa Kelly, Gaby Hoffman, Amy Madigan, Laurie Metcalf
Released: August 16, 1989

This is a movie I haven't seen since I was a kid and I've probably only seen it a couple times which is probably why I have no nostalgic attachment to it. I know a lot of people who were kids/teens when it came out love it, but despite a couple of funny scenes, I wasn't overly fond of it. I did not find the titular Uncle Buck (John Candy) to be charming at all. This movie, which was directed and written by John Hughes, is probably best known for giving him the inspiration to write Home Alone and have Macaulay Culkin (who plays Buck's nephew) star in it. Probably one of the more well-known scenes in this movie is when Macaulay is asking John Candy a bunch of questions, rapid fire. We learn that thirty-eight is his record for most consecutive questions asked. 

Uncle Buck is called upon to watch his brother's and sister-in-law's kids when his sister-in-law's dad has a heart attack and they need to go to Indianapolis to see him. Buck is their last option because their neighbors are out of town. The Russell family recently moved from there to a suburb of Chicago and fifteen-year-old Tia (Jean Louisa Kelly) is not happy about it. She is a surly teen, the typical teen girl from every '80s movies. (Harry and the Hendersons is another good example of this). She is really nasty to her young siblings, Miles (Culkin) and Maizy (Gaby Hoffman). I mean, she almost makes Buzz McCallister look like an upstanding older brother! She also doesn't take too kindly to her Uncle Buck.

I did think it was funny when Buck, who lives in Chicago, is driving to their house and going over the kids. He thinks Tia is probably nine or ten by now and can't remember the "other ones'" names,  thinking they're either Larry and Betsy or Larry and Jennifer. This makes it very obvious he hasn't seen his brother in awhile. Mrs. Russell has never been fond of Buck because he almost burned their house down. In a later scene, Buck will find a wedding photo of them with the photo folded and he discovers it has been folded to hide him. I almost feel bad for him, but at the same time, I don't blame Mrs. Russell for doing that because if I had a brother-in-law like Buck, he would probably irritate the s**t out of me!

Buck's brother asks him to come as soon as he can, so he arrives in the middle of the night and the parents just leave without even saying goodbye to their kids, which is really weird. I mean, at least the McCallisters honestly just forgot about Macaulay, but in this movie, his parents knowingly leave him and his siblings without saying good-bye! Since they left so urgently, you would think Mrs. Russell's father was on his death bed, but I think he was okay at the end of the movie. I was surprised that she gave Buck a blank check, instead of just giving him a set amount in cash. Yes, maybe she didn't have enough money on her, but still... you would think a guy with no job and who likes to gamble would take advantage of that blank check, but it actually doesn't go anywhere. I don't think he accepts it anyway, just tells her he'll use his own money.

One of the best gags of the movie is when Buck has arrived at the house and is looking around the living room. He accidentally knocks a plate off a mantle, but it doesn't break. He thinks it's an unbreakable dish and smashes it against the piano to prove his point, I guess, but of course it smashes into a million pieces.

You would think that since Buck was the last person the Russells wanted to baby-sit their kids, he would be terrible with the kids, but he's actually very responsible with them...for the most part! He makes sure they get to school on time, bush their teeth, etc. He's not great at packing school lunches, though, because he gives Miles a cucumber, a pickled egg, sardines, and a jar of milk in his sack lunch. He sure doesn't know how to take care of dogs, though, because he feeds the Russells' dog four or five times a day and gives it beer to drink!

The two younger kids take a liking to him, but he and Tia butt heads right away. When Buck drives all the kids to school, she is embarrassed to be seen in his car which is a hunk of junk that leaves a trail of smoke wherever it goes and backfires everytime it stops, making everyone think that a gun has gone off. He asks Tia what time he should pick her up and she tells him she'll get a ride with a friend. He doesn't accept this, tells her he can call the school and find out when she gets out. He says that if she's not there then he'll drive her to school tomorrow in his pajamas and robe and walk her to her first class. See, if I were him, I would have let her get a ride from a friend and if she wasn't home by four, then I would pick her up from school from then on. I know Tia is awful and is rude towards her uncle, but I don't think Buck is helping with things either. His goofing off and childish charm may work for the younger kids, but it's not doing any favors for him with Tia. He treats her like a little kid. Things don't go any better when he picks her up and sees her kissing her boyfriend, Bug. Now Bug is a total douche (with a name like that, you would have to be!), but he overreacts when he sees them kissing. John Hughes must have thought teens love kissing their boyfriends/girlfriends in front of their parents (or any other relative) because this also happens in The Breakfast Club alwhen Molly Ringwald kisses her charming new beau (yes, that was sarcasm) in front of her dad. Tia is kissing Bug because she knows it pisses off Buck, and she'll do this again in a later scene.   

One thing I don't understand about Buck is that he has no problem giving Tia ultimatums (he tells her she can go bowling with them or get her head shaved), but can't seem to discipline the younger kids. When they both want to sleep in the same bed with him, he lets them, letting them take up all the space so he had to sleep on the floor. For Miles' birthday, he makes a stack of pancakes the size of garbage lids. (He has to use a shovel to flip them over, for god's sake!) At first I thought he was making a giant pizza. When he is called to the school to talk to the principal because Maizy said a bad word, he defends her and pretty much tells the principal, who's a horrible old lady who has a stick  up her butt (and a huge wart on her chin) to pretty much go f**k herself. Actually, that may have been better than what he actually said which was, "Take this quarter, go downtown, and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face!" I mean, I know the old lady was terrible, but I think he may have crossed the line there.

There's a couple of sexual innuendos that went right over my head as a kid. One of them is when the neighbor, Marcy (played by Laurie Metcalf aka Aunt Jackie from Roseanne) comes over while Buck is in the laundry room with the door closed. He's trying to get the washing machine lid to open, but all she hears is a bunch of banging and him saying things like, "Open up for daddy" and "I'm gonna shove my load into you whether you like it or not!" Yeah.... Then, there's another scene where Buck is talking to his girlfriend, Chanice (Amy Madigan) on the phone and he starts mentioning how he gave names to certain parts of her body, like the dimples on her butt are named "Lyndon" and "Johnson" and her breasts were named "Mickey" and "Minnie" after they spent some time in Disney World. I don't even want to know that story, but it actually gets worse. He proceeds to say, "And Felix was what we called your-" It then goes to another scene where we see a cat meowing. Ugh, movie! Did you really go there? And why would you give a male name to a female part of the body? Never mind, let's move on. This is disturbing.

I don't mean to sound mean, but I was surprised Buck had a girlfriend. He obviously doesn't take care of himself, he doesn't have a job, his personality is grating, he's been with her for eight years and won't commit to her. She wants marriage and kids, but he's not into that. I really don't understand why she's still with him. When Tia finds out that Buck has a girlfriend she take advantage of this information and uses it to get back at him when Chanice calls and Tia tells her he's with Marcy and they usually stay out late. 

When we first meet Marcy, she is wearing the most hideous outfit that any movie character in movie history has ever worn: brown boots, brown stockings, brown leather skirt (obviously fake leather), gold and brown blouse, brown leather vest made out of the same material as the skirt, and a brown and gold headband. I mean, this outfit is HIDEOUS! I did love when she introduced herself to Buck: "Marcy Dahlgren-Frost...Frost is my married name. I'm single again, but I never bothered to lose the Frost." She is very rigid and formal when she says it, so it's a great play-on words. However, in the next scene we see her in, she's coming on to Buck and dancing with him, so what the hell happened to her being cold and aloof? Of course, when they're dancing, Chanice chooses that moment to come over and sees them and accuses Buck of cheating on her. He soon realizes that Tia had something to do with it when she tells him, "It hurts when someone screws with your life, doesn't it?" Not cool, Tia!

Tia does come around to her Uncle Buck when she realizes he was right about Bug only wanting one thing. When he finds out that she snuck out of a house to attend a party, he goes to get her while asking Chanice to watch the kids. This is after their fight, but Chanice only agrees to do it because there are kids involved. Buck finds the house the party is at where the teens are listening to the current hit (in 1989!) "Bust a Move". He finds a locked bedroom where he believes his niece and Bug are in and gets in by drilling through the doorknob. It is revealed that the girl Bug is with is NOT Tia, so Bug is a huger douche, cheating on his girlfriend. Although, they had probably broken up after Tia wouldn't have sex with him, so he just went after the first girl he saw. They trick the audience by showing Bug making out with a girl on the bed with curly hair, but you never see her face until she sits up in bed (luckily she wasn't naked!) when Buck enters. I was wondering why she was passively whispering, "Stop it, please" and "I don't want to do this" as she lay there like a ragdoll as she lets Bug take off her pants. It now makes sense since it was a different girl so they had her whisper so the voice wouldn't give it away she wasn't Tia. If it had been Tia, she would have been much more assertive and probably would have kneed him in the balls. Nothing happens between Bug and the girl, but this doesn't stop Buck from kidnapping him and throwing him in the trunk of the car (we never do see how this happens!) Buck really hated Bug. Not only did he threaten to murder him (or, you know, castrate him with a hatchet), after he lets him out of the car, he hits him twice with a golfball. It's surprising that he didn't suffer a concussion or die!

Tia confesses to Chanice about the lie she told her and Buck and Chanice get back together. The parents come home the next day and everyone is happy and Tia has a new favorite uncle.

Just think: Macaulay Culkin can thank this movie (or John Hughes, really) for letting him retire at the ripe old age of 14! (Yeah, I know he did a few movies when he was older, but you know what I mean!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Cooking Class

No Reservations
Director: Scott Hicks
Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Clarkson
Released: July 27, 2007
Viewed in theaters: August 4, 2007

I haven't seen this movie since the theaters, so the only thing I really remembered was the rivalry between chefs Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Nick (Aaron Eckhart), although the rivalry seemed to be one-sided, and that they fall in love. (But even if I had never seen the movie, I could tell you that was going to happen). I had completely forgotten that Abigail Breslin was in this and plays Kate's niece, Zoe, who she takes in after Zoe's mom, Kate's sister, unexpectedly dies in a car accident. This is the second movie Abigail Breslin has been in where she plays a young kid who loses her parents in a car accident (her dad is out of the picture in this movie) and has to be raised by her aunt. She was also in Raising Helen where that happens and she and her two other siblings have to be raised by Kate Hudson. At least in this movie, she's an only child and CZJ is older and more mature and makes a steady income as a chef. (Although didn't Kate Hudson have some fabulous job working at a fashion magazine in NYC...God, that movie was so f**king stupid!) 

When we first meet Kate, she's been seeing a therapist. She tells him her boss makes her see him and hasn't the "faintest idea why" she needs to see a therapist, but it's soon clear to the viewer why she may need to see one. She is the head chef at a trendy Manhattan restaurant called Bleeker 22. Her job is her life and she takes it seriously.  She is very focused on her job and wants everything to be perfect, so she usually ends up doing everything herself, coordinating all the dishes so they're perfect. I have to say, watching this made me super hungry! There are some delicious looking dishes in this, especially that pasta dish that Nick makes for Zoe. The desserts look mouth-watering too, although they also look much too gorgeous to ruin! If I had to choose my favorite movie that revolves around food, it would be Chef

Kate hates leaving the kitchen, even to talk to customers who love her food and want to compliment her, but her boss, the owner of the restaurant, Paula (Patricia Clarkson) makes her go out to the dining room to talk to her admirers. However, she does not take well to any criticism and we see an example of this when a customer tells her that his foie gras isn't cooked properly. This is a dish that Kate has cooked probably well over a hundred times in her life and she knows it's properly cooked. She even tells him exactly how she cooked it. The guy tells her he's going to go somewhere else and she insults his intelligence by telling him there's a hot dog stand down the street. Her boss, who witnessed the whole thing, tells her that if she wasn't one of the best chefs in the city, she would have fired her a long time ago because apparently this wasn't the first time Kate had gotten into an argument with a customer. Paula tells her she needs to remember that "the customer is always right." Whoever came up with that motto needs to be bitch-slapped, because, you know what? The customer is NOT always right. Sometimes the customer needs a giant dose of reality like this guy did.

Kate is expecting her sister and her niece, Zoe, to arrive for a visit, but on the way, they get into a car accident and Kate's sister dies. Kate goes to visit Zoe in the hospital and tells her that her mother is dead, although Zoe already knew that. Kate goes back to work the next day, surprising everyone because they thought she was going to take a few days off. When Paula catches Kate crying in the cooler, she orders Kate to take a week off. It does make sense that Kate would want to go back to work after a tragic event because work is her life and it's something she can focus on and not think about her sister's death. I would imagine if you took a week off after someone close to you died, it's all you would think about and you would almost want something to distract you. However, Kate doesn't have much time to be distracted by her sister's death because she's now the sole guardian of Zoe (something she knew about since Zoe was born as we see in a letter she reads from her sister..unlike Kate Hudson in Raising Helen who had no idea she would be the guardian of her sister's kids). Although, I feel like if your dead sister's daughter was living with you and you were now raising her, then all you would think about was your dead sister. Everyday when you woke up and fed your niece breakfast, you would think, Oh, yeah, my niece lives with me because my sister is dead. Or when you take your niece to her first day of school, you would think, I have to take my niece to school because my sister is dead. Geeze, this got really depressing. Not to mention that Kate is reminded of her sister every time Zoe brings out a photo book of her and her mom.

I have no idea where Zoe and her mom were from; I'm guessing upstate. Or maybe New Jersey or Connecticut. It was in driving distance of Manhattan, at least. Zoe has to start at a new school and has to wake up Kate so they're not late. The school starts at, get this, nine o'clock. NINE O'CLOCK!!! Is this a real thing? Do schools actually start at 9:00 in Manhattan and if so why couldn't I have grown up in Manhattan and gone to a school that starts at nine, rather than eight? Surprisingly, even though their school doesn't even start super early (and anyone who says that nine am is early needs to STFU right now!) they are still late because Kate sleeps in. (I can't really blame her because most morning she wakes up super early to go to a fish market). Despite that, they probably would have made it on time, but Zoe insists she can't leave without her scarf, even though Kate tells her she can borrow one of hers and they'll look for it later. Zoe needs to have her scarf, not just any scarf, but a certain one. So while Kate is going through her boxes, Zoe is just sitting there, watching her. This kid is, what? Eight, nine, ten years old? She is old enough to help her aunt look for the damn scarf!

When Kate goes to the restaurant during her required week off to check on things, she discovers that Paula has hired a new chef, Nick, who is trained in Italian cooking. He is very different from the no-nonsense Kate who keeps order in her kitchen. He's joking around and singing Italian opera music, telling the other cooks to join in with him and everyone is smiling and having a good time. This infuriates Kate because she thinks Nick is trying to steal her place. Like I mentioned earlier, this rivalry is one-sided because Nick has no intention of doing that and just wants to work with a great chef like Kate. He even tells her that he'll leave unless she tells him to stay. Paula pleads with her to get along with Nick and Kate grudgingly tells Nick that he can stay.

Even though (probably moments before she died) Kate's sister told her that Zoe "eats anything, she's a vacuum cleaner", Kate finds that not to be true. Zoe doesn't seem to have much of an appetite. It probably doesn't help that she just recently lost her mother at such a young age, but it also probably doesn't help that Kate would do horribly if she were on Top Chef and the challenge was to feed a group of school children. She makes Zoe a fish dinner where the entire fish still intact, head and all. I'm not sure I would want to eat something that was staring back at me. Even though I like fish, that dish didn't look appealing to me, so I can't blame Zoe asking to be excused.

Kate brings Zoe to work with her where she just hangs around, out of the way, while the other chefs work. This is when Nick makes the aforementioned pasta dish which she gobbles up. Zoe is often brought to the restaurant where she ends up helping with peeling vegetables or whatnot. At one point, when Kate is away from the station, Zoe takes a whiff of one of the two truffles laying on the cutting board and throws them both away. Luckily, the garbage is only full of vegetable peels, so Kate is able to fish them out and use them since there weren't any used Kleenex or anything really disgusting in there. I've never had truffles in my life (it's possible I've had truffle oil, but I know it's nowhere near the same thing!), but I know they're super expensive. When Kate is dealing with the truffle seller (who is obviously selling them illegally because during the scene, another cook, who is pregnant, starts to go into labor and when Kate tells him to dial 911, he says, "No police!") he tells her the white truffles are $2200 a pound!

When Zoe is working in the kitchen, all I can think of is, there's got to be some child labor law that wouldn't allow that. Sure enough, in a later scene, Zoe's principal asks to speak to Kate and tells her that Zoe often falls asleep in class and has told her friends she's working late hours at the restaurant. The principal tells Kate that she's going to have to stop this, otherwise she's going to have to call Child Protective Services. Kate promises it won't happen again, but when she tells Zoe, Zoe gets angry and says she likes working in the kitchen, but we learn she's really upset because she misses her mother.

Zoe tries to play matchmaker and suggests that Kate invite Nick over for dinner on Sunday as neither of them work that day since the restaurant is closed. He and Zoe make pizza, telling Kate that they don't need her help and they'll let her know when dinner is served. Now I don't know about y'all, but when I make pizza, I just buy some Boboli pizza crust, put some sauce, cheese, black olives, and pepperoni on it, and throw that sucker in the oven. Not Nick, a true chef. He makes his dough from scratch. The three of them have a "safari" picnic where they've laid a blanket out on the floor and Zoe's stuffed animals surround them. It's a cute scene and we see a beginning of a spark between Kate and Nick. Shortly after, they start dating. When Kate asks him how they're going to work together now that they're in a relationship, Nick tells her, "We'll do what we always did: you tell me what to do, and I'll go behind your back and do whatever I want." When they kiss, Zoe moans about how it's "so embarrassing." Little girl, please, this is so what you wanted.

Things go south when Paula offers Nick Kate's job. Kate thinks this is what he wanted all along. Nick tells her he didn't accept the position, but it's too late and the damage is done. He has quit working at the restaurant and they have broken up. When Zoe goes missing and isn't at home or school or the restaurant, Kate asks for Nick's help to find her, which they do at her mother's grave. (I'm not even going to get into the logistics of how Zoe even got to the cemetery...I'm presuming her mother is buried in her hometown, wherever that is. Did Zoe steal money from her aunt and take a bus there? Did she hitchhike there?) Nick and Kate have a heart to heart and she apologizes to him, but he tells her he wants to thank her for going after what he wants and has gotten a job as an executive chef in San Francisco. Kate congratulates him, but you can tell she's not thrilled about this news.

After Kate quits her job (she quits before she can get fired because after sending out two steaks that aren't rare enough for a picky customer, she takes out an uncooked stead and slams it on his table, asking, "Rare enough?"), she goes to Nick's apartment and tells him she doesn't want him to go to San Francisco. In the end, they open up their own bistro that is brimming with customers. In an earlier scene, where they were all cooking together, they said they would have a restaurant named Kate and Nick and Zoe's. This is what they name the bistro. Terrible name. First of all, who wants to say, "Hey, let's go to Kate and Nick and Zoe's for lunch"? No one. Way too long. It's a ridiculous name for a restaurant. The logo of the restaurant is very confusing. It's an upside down triangle that says Bistro in the middle and on each of the three sides it has the three names. Zoe's the only one that is in possessive form. The triangle moves, so you can have any name at the top, while the other two names are on the sides. We see Zoe fix the triangle so it has her name on top and it says "Zoe's Bistro" and not "Kate Bistro" or "Nick Bistro" which just sounds weird. Why didn't they just name the damn bistro "Zoe's Bistro" and just be done with it? I bet you they dropped the "Kate and Nick" and just called it that. Their customers are able to see them from the kitchen and they all applaud when Kate and Nick kiss. Uh...I feel like in real life, most customers would not want the cooks doing that while they're preparing their food!

I like the clever double meaning of the title, even if they did take reservations at Bleeker 22, so the "No Reservations" doesn't work for that. Kate used to have reservations about dating/being in a relationship, but that changes once she meets and gets to know Nick. We know this because her therapist asks her how long it's been since her last relationship and she tells him it was three or four years ago. There's also a seemingly nice and decent-looking divorced man named Sean who lives in her building and has asked her out a few times, only to be turned down. She tells him she doesn't date people from her building, which is actually a good enough reason, but shouldn't that same rule apply to people she works with? I think dating people you work with is worse than dating people you live in the same building with because it would be harder to avoid them at work if the relationship didn't work out. I did feel a little bad for Sean when he sees Kate and Nick get back from a date.

Despite the tragic subplot, it's a cute movie with delicious-looking food and lots of popular Italian music. Sure, it's predictable because you know the main characters are going to end up together even after they have a fight and break up, but would you really want it any other way?

Since Bleeker 22 is a trendy restaurant in Manhattan, I thought I would tell you about the trendy restaurant I ate at the one time I visited Manhattan with my mom, my friend, and her mom. We usually ate at the hotel's restaurant or Seinfeld-esque diners, but on our last night we ate at a very nice Scandinavian restaurant, Aquavit. The menu was very interesting and the meal was served in courses - some of them were only a bite, literally! The first thing was a little square of raw salmon arctic. Next we had barely cooked tuna with a little dot of beet sauce served on a glass tile. We were then served bread and I had Swedish dry bread. The next course was the first course aka the appetizer. I had the lobster roll with a yogurt base dotted with salmon roe eggs, which looked like orange tapioca. It came with a shot of ginger ale mixed with vodka. My next course, the main course, was the seafood stew. Its was covered in a dill sauce with a piece of lobster, tuna, salmon, scallion, and thin slices of cucumber and potato. Before we got dessert, we were served a tiny sorbet to cleanse our palate. It was butter cream and Japanese lemon with bits of chopped up citrus fruit. For dessert, I ordered the arctic circle which was goat cheese parfait with a lemon filling in the middle topped with a blueberry sauce and chocolate on the side. The very last thing we had were petite fours; there was coconut marshmallow, chocolate-covered fava beans, and a cranberry jelly square. I know some of these things sound questionable, but I promise, everything was absolutely delicious and it was the most sophisticated restaurant I've ever been to in my life! No idea how much the bill cost!