Sunday, August 13, 2017


Little Giants
Director: Duwayne Dunham
Cast: Rick Moranis, Ed O'Neill, Devon Sawa, Shawna Waldron
Released: October 14, 1994

This movie is very similar to The Mighty Ducks, except just replace hockey with football. There are a few differences, but in the end it's about a group of kids who suck at football but have a coach who believes in them and tells them they're out there to have fun and they end up beating the Big Bad Team in the final game. (Well, in this movie, it's the ONLY game that's played!)

The movie begins in 1964 in the small town of Urbania, Ohio, where we meet brothers Kevin and Danny O'Shea. Kevin is the cooler, more athletic older brother who is a natural at football. So much so that he will go on to win three high school championships, a National Collegiate Title, an All-American title, and a Heisman trophy. The town's water tower boasts it is "The Home of the Great Kevin O'Shea." Danny is the dorky, non-athletic younger brother who wants to play football but is never picked to join either team. Kevin tries to make him feel better by telling him that he's so good it makes Danny look bad.

We then fast forward to "present day" 1994 with Ed O'Neill as Kevin and Rick Moranis as Danny. Kevin owns a car dealership called O'Shea Chevrolet (love how that rolls off the tongue) which is very heavily football-themed and coaches the town's Pee Wee football team, the Cowboys. His assistant coach is named Coach Butz and that made the twelve-year-old in me giggle every time I heard it. Danny runs a gas station and has a pre-teen daughter who is trying out to join her Uncle's team. Her name is Becky, but she goes by Ice Box and she is clearly good enough to be chosen for the team. Now, all the kids should have made the team, but Kevin wants to put together the best team he can so he can win a Pee Wee State Championship. In the end, only four kids don't make the team and they're all devastated and you feel really bad for them. Oh, don't get me wrong, with the exception of Becky, they all suck, but they shouldn't have been left out. You have the kid who can't run and cries a lot, you have the kid who can never catch the ball, and you have the fat kid who farts a lot (clearly the Goldberg of Little Giants) who wheezes when he runs. It's only four kids, so I think he could've found room on the team for them. He explains his reason for cutting Becky is because she's a girl and girls shouldn't play football, but rather be cheerleaders on the field. Even though he's clearly a misogynist, he and his niece do have a loving relationship, but he should have just used nepotism as a reason why he didn't want Becky to join his team. Or, you know, if he had just let everyone join the team who wanted to in the first place, then this wouldn't even be a problem.

With good reason, Danny is angry at his brother and ends up starting his own team, the Little Giants, with Becky and the three other rejects. They start recruiting other kids to play on their team, and they pretty much just recruit any kid they see, no matter if they've ever played or even like football. There's a scene where Danny goes up to a kid named Timmy on one of those mechanical horses outside a grocery store and asks him, "You ever play football?" ("No".) "You like football?" ("No".) "Great, you can be on our team!" There's a kid named Johnny who is having abandonment issues because his dad is always going on business trips and never gets any attention from him. I thought this was going to give us a very poignant and emotional scene, but it's just used for the kid to score a point during the Big Game. His dad has just returned from a business meeting and is walking up to the field to see his son's game and Johnny has the ball and sees his dad and starts running towards him and scores the team a goal. One of the more memorable kids (and I had never seen this movie until now, but even I remember this kid from the trailers!) is Jake Berman who goes by the nickname "The Berminator". He is the little scrawny kid who wears these magnifying glasses which make his eyes look huge. His mother brings him to Danny and explains to him that he was one pound and one ounce when he was born and was in an incubator for the first three months of his life and is allergic to everything. He looks like he would easily snap in half and the mom tells Danny, "I think football is just the medicine for him" and the kid says, "My shrink told her I gotta get out more!" Cracks me up that this ten-year-old has his own shrink. When he shows up for his first practice, he's wrapped in this foam padding with duct tape because his mom didn't think the padding he was given would do the trick.

Since there can only be one team in the town, they decide to have a play-off in a couple of weeks and whoever wins that will get to be Urbania's Pee Wee Football team.

Devon Sawa plays Junior Floyd, the Fulton Reed of this movie. He is recruited by the Giants when they see him at a grocery store throwing individually wrapped toilet paper rolls into a cart. One of the kids says, "What a throw!" Another says, "What a find!" And Becky, who is also there and spying on him through a shelf, says, "What a hunk!" Of course she has a crush on him despite telling herself she's the Ice Box and doesn't get crushes, it's Devon Sawa for God's sake! Every preteen girl of the early '90s had a crush on Devon Sawa. He is one of two names of the young cast I was familiar with. The other one was Kevin's youngest daughter who is played by a very young (like probably five or six years old) Alexa Vega. I didn't even know it was her until I looked up the cast on IMDb. When Danny and Becky go to the Floyd home to ask him to join the Giants, we find out that his mother is Patty, who Danny had a crush on when he was young and we do see her in the 1964 scene. At first, I thought maybe Kevin had married her because we see his wife is also blonde, but nope, here she is, a single mother, and apparently had no idea Danny was still living in the same town (and Danny didn't know she was still in Urbania either).

Kevin finds out from his older daughter (who also has a crush on Junior, because she is also a preteen girl) that Junior is on the Giants and takes Butz (still makes me laugh!) to spy on his brother's team. Danny is alerted by the smart bespectacled blond kid who he hired as his assistant that there are spies and he calls the police to pretend he's an 86 year old woman and warn them about old men in their underwear peeping at young boys. He even uses one of the kids to pretend cry and to tell the police to "Please hurry!" Wow, I cannot believe this movie went there! You really could get away with a lot more in kids' movies from the '90s! There is an article in the paper the next day with the headline, "Local Hero Arrested."

One thing I didn't understand was why Junior never tried out for football in the first place. He is good at it and seems to have a love for it because he asks Danny if he think he can get his brother's autograph. Also, how come we never see a scene of Kevin going to Junior and asking him if he wants to be on the "legitimate" team, the Cowboys? He's good enough he could have made Kevin's team and I'm sure he could have made room for him. Though I don't know if Junior would have accepted the offer because he never seems angry that, aside from Becky, all the kids on his new team suck. If anything, he's very encouraging, so I don't think he would diss the Giants like that.

We also have a reverse Adam Banks situation where a player, who is very good at his sport and is brought in to help the team, starts on the sucky (but "Good Guys") team) and ends up on the really good (but "Big Bad") team. The kid's name is Spike and it was like he was bred in a laboratory for the sole purpose of playing football. He's this huge ten year old who is carrying a refrigerator on his back when we are first introduced to him. We are given these impressive stats about him and football from his dad. Basically he's a lean, mean, football-playing machine. He also refers to himself in the third person. When he has his first practice with the Giants, he says, "Spike's in Pee Wee football hell!"

The acquiring of Spike is amusing, but doesn't quite make sense. You see, when the Play-Off between the Cowboys and the Giants is first brought up, there is a group of old men at a diner who are betting on who will win. While one old man is calling Kevin to tell him about Spike, another old man is calling Danny to tell HIM about Spike. Both brothers are racing to get to Spike's house first to recruit him and Danny reaches it first after Kevin has to stop and wait for a train to pass by. Spike's dad asks Danny if he's Coach O'Shea and Danny says he is, because, technically it's true. Mr. Spike then goes on to gush about what a big fan he is of his and how his family moved to Urbania because of him, clearly thinking he's the famed football player from this town, but is quite surprised by how small he is for a football player. Uh...if this guy is such a fan of Kevin O'Shea, wouldn't he know what he looks like?? Unless he just listened to all the football games on the radio?? think he would have seen a picture of him in the paper? This didn't make any sense at all! However, Kevin tells Mr. Spike he's the real coach and Mr. Spike tells his son he's going to play for the "real" team and Spike is like, "Thank the football Gods!" Now, why did Kevin never do this for Junior and take him for his team? But, like I said, it would probably be a moot point anyway because I don't think Junior would take the bait.

Speaking of Junior, Becky still has a huge crush on him, but doesn't think he sees her as a girl since she's "one of the guys". She thinks Junior is more interested in her cousin, Debbie who is a cheerleader. There's a scene where Becky and Junior are hanging out at a lake and a couple are in a rowboat making out and Junior is just disgusted by it. This boy absolutely has no interest in the opposite sex at all. Not at this point anyway. This scene kinda reminded me of that scene in Now and Then between Devon Sawa (coincidentally! But that's probably why I was reminded of it!) and Christina Ricci who also plays a tomboy where Sawa wants to kiss Ricci but she's having no interest in it at all, only here the roles are reversed where Becky wants to kiss Junior and he has no interest. In a very bizarre line, Becky tells him that it might be important to learn how to kiss to have kids or a job. Junior points out you don't need to know how to kiss to have kids, which, technically, he's right. But what the hell? You have to know how to kiss to get a job? Maybe if you're an actor...but....huh???? Who is telling this girl that? That makes no sense at all!

Becky wants to be so liked by Junior that she decides to be a cheerleader at the Big Game instead of play in it. :::MAJOREYEROLL:::: You're killing me, Ice Box! All the kids are freaking out because they've lost their one good player (aside from Junior) and some pretty gruesome lines are brought up such as when one kid says, "Without Becky, Spike's gonna open my face and wear it for Halloween!" And when Danny reveals the new uniforms, one kid calls them "death shrouds" and after Danny tells them the uniforms have their names on them (more like nicknames), Jake says, "So the guys at the morgue can identify the bodies."So these Giants have no confidence at all and are pretty sure they are all going to die!

There is a hilarious moment with the Cowboys in their locker room where they are about to pray with a priest that Kevin has brought in, but all the boys are being rowdy and their coach yells at them, "Quiet down for Christ's sake!" OMG, that cracked me up! That was good. The first half of the game, the Giants are sucking really bad. The kid who can never catch the ball puts some tar on his hands (or something..didn't quite catch what it was), but when they have a huddle and all the kids clap their hands together, he also does and his hands are stuck together. D'oh!

Of course Becky ends up playing in the second half after Spike is being a big bully and injures Junior, so she puts on her gear to join the game and there's a cute scene where her dad says, "You sure you want to do this, Becky?" and she replies, "Call me Ice Box" and Junior says to her, "Hey, Ice Box, kick some butt" and she replies, "Call me Becky."

Somehow, (I guess it was the encouraging speech they were given by their coach at halftime), the score is tied and there are only four seconds left in the game. The Giants win it (big shock, I know) with a little play the bespectacled blond kid dubbed "The Annexation of Puerto Rico." Look, despite living in a football-crazed state, I know nothing about football....absolutely nothing. Do I look like I watch the Super Bowl? (Cuz I don't!) Basically, The Annexation of Puerto Rico was taken out of Steve Madden's gameplay book (who makes a cameo in this movie along with Emmit Smith and three other football players whose names I didn't recognize (cuz I don't follow football)) and it's a trick play that involves making the opposing team think someone else has the ball when in fact another player actually has it. I did some research on this and Time did a piece on Film's Seven Greatest Trick Plays which you can read here if you click the link. The Annexation of Puerto Rico made #2 on their list and it is a good read to see what the play is rather than me trying to describe it!

When the Giants win the game, Becky and Junior are holding hands and jumping up and down, excitedly saying, "We won, we won!" There's a moment where it looks like they're going to kiss, but they don't and continue their excited chant. Perhaps it's a good thing they're not going to start anything romantic because Becky's dad asks out Junior's mom and THEY kiss. Okay, seriously if I had a crush on a guy who looked like Devon Sawa and my single dad started dating the cute guy's single mom, I'd be a bit peeved! But Becky never seems angry about it...and she knows her dad likes Junior's mom. It was just very odd. There's a very good chance the guy she likes could become her STEPBROTHER! Ewwwwww! I did read that there was suppose to be a sequel to this movie, but obviously that never happened. I'm sure there's some twisted fanfic about this out there somewhere.

The brothers agree to combine the teams into one big one so everyone can play and they will co-coach it together. I would feel bad if the kids who were really good at football and tried out to be on a team wouldn't even get to play. The Hawks may have lost to the Ducks, but they still got to be on a team and play hockey at the end of the day, so I like that all the kids in this film get to be on a team and represent their town, though I wonder if they were the Cowboys or the Giants? The Little Cowboys? The Giant Cows? 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Off the Grid

Cast Away
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Nick Searcy, Chris Noth
Released: December 22, 2000
Viewed in theaters: 22, 2000

Oscar nominations:

Best Actor - Tom Hanks (lost to Russell Crowe for Gladiator)
Best Sound (lost to Gladiator)

Yeah, spoilers, obviously! So if you've never seen this and don't know what happens, don't read if you ever plan on watching this in the future! 

Not since Rosebud in Citizen Kane has there been another well-known inanimate object in a film until Wilson the volleyball came along in Cast Away. Watching this movie is probably the only time I will ever cry over a volleyball (let's hope so, anyway, or else I have some serious issues!), but we'll get to that later.

I had seen this movie a couple times before. I saw it in the theaters and I've also seen it since then, but it has been awhile. I didn't remember the fate of Wilson and I thought most of the movie takes places when Tom Hanks is stranded on the island. While that is a good chunk of the film, there is a good portion that takes place in the civilized world before and after the island life, but it is a two and a half hour movie.

We first meet Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) in Moscow where he works for Fed-Ex as the person who makes sure packages are getting to their destinations on time. Because of his busy schedule and constant traveling, he doesn't get to spend much time with his girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt). Even the Christmas holiday they're spending together with family is interrupted when Chuck has to fly to Malaysia. Chuck and Kelly exchange Christmas gifts in the car before Chuck gets on the Fed-Ex plane. Kelly gives him a pocket watch that's been in her family for generations with a photo of herself on the inside. Not just any photo, but Chuck's favorite photo of her. Chuck gives Kelly a pager, a journal, and hand towels. It's not until the last minute when he gives her a small wrapped box that is clearly an engagement ring and tells her she can open it when he gets back home. (And pretty much tell him her decision). As he walks to the plane, his last words to her (for awhile, anyway!) are "I'll be right back!" Uh, not quite!

The only other people onboard with Chuck are four pilots. Chuck is in the bathroom when the plane starts diving down and we will learn later in the movie that it is never resolved why the plane went down. There was a pretty nasty storm going on, so that most definitely didn't help matters! The most terrifying part of the crash is that Chuck, who is holding on for dear life in the back of the plane, can see the ocean getting closer and closer as the plane descends at a rapid speed. How he survived the impact, I'll never know (the pilots all seemingly died instantly), but the plane breaks apart and he manages to swim away. He is smart to think to grab the raft, but the cord gets caught on one of the plane parts and he has to swim down to untangle. Just keep in mind he's been underwater for a few minutes already. If that were me, my instincts would have been to just leave the raft because my brain would have been screaming at me to get to air. That is just the first of many reasons why I would never survive in a scenario like this! There is a scary moment where one of the plane's (still moving!) propellor is right behind him and if it doesn't kill him first, it most defintely is going to shred his raft. He starts paddling very fast, but the propellor explodes and blasts Chuck from his inflatable raft. At first, I thought it had gotten the raft, but he manages to get back on it and it's still in one piece, luckily! He has a very harsh ride on the raft with large waves crashing over him while the storm is still raging. The camera pans away so we can see just how vast the ocean is and how there is no land in sight. No land for Noland! Oh, I get it now!

He has washed up on an uninhibited island (which we will later learn was 600 miles south of the the Cook Islands) and his first priority is to get the hell off the island. He traces the word HELP in large letters in the sand only to have it washed away by the tide, then he uses logs to spell it out, but that is to no avail either.

There is a moment during the first few days of his strandedness when he sees a ships light in the very far distance during the night and gets his puny flashlight to signal SOS (which he sort of makes up on a whim). Does he really think anyone will be able to see that? He gets his raft and starts paddling out, but the waves are too powerful and they puncture the raft and he gets a nasty gash on his leg from some coral.

Packages from the downed Fed-Ex plane start floating ashore and instead of opening them right away which I thought he would do, he keeps them organized. I guess he is still optimistic that he is going to be rescued soon and will still be able to deliver the packages. He does start opening them a few days later, though, and a few items prove to be helpful. He uses the bubble wrap from the packages and laces of an ice skate to wrap around his gash. The blades of the ice skate help him open coconuts. We see him trying to open one before he has the skates and it is a chore. I have only seen coconuts with the round brown husk, but they are also covered by a green shell. I usually only get my coconut shredded, so it comes in a plastic bag! They just seem like a pain in the ass to to open, especially when you don't have any tools. He even breaks the rock he's hitting it with and only gets a teaspoon of coconut milk when he opens it because most of it spills out.  He learns to create a funnel and use that to drink the liquid from the coconut. The blades also come in handy when he's sawing branches off of trees. There's a really ugly dress (brown and black...who would wear that thing, whoever it was for is lucky she never received it!), but it does have netting which comes in very handy when trying to catch fish. The tape from many video tapes also proves to be useful for later events. It is 1995 when the movie begins so we are in that transitional period of people still watching videos, but DVDs are just around the corner. I know it is 1995 because the body of one of the pilots washes onto shore. Chuck takes his flashlight and his shoes because he lost his in the crash. They don't fit him properly so he has to cut off the top so he has room for his toes. He buries the pilot (not sure where he got the shovel...) and puts a photo he finds in the pilot's wallet of him with his two sons in his shirt pocket. On a large rock wall he writes the pilot's name and the years of his birth and death.

And, of course, one of the packages he opens is a Wilson volleyball which was intended to be the birthday present for a young boy from his grandparents. We don't see the volleyball again until Chuck is trying to make fire. He's tried to eat fish and crabs, but since he has no fire to cook them with he has to eat them raw and he is disgusted by that. Now as we all know from watching Survivor, unless you have flint or your torch from Tribal Council, it is very difficult to start fire. There have been a couple people on the show who have started it by using their glasses, but Chuck appears to have 20/20 vision. While he is rubbing two sticks together, he gets a very nasty gash on his hand and in frustration he grabs the volleyball and throws it. The bloody handprint looks like a face and Chuck etches in the eyes, nose, and mouth and the rest is history. Haha, I found a meme of a scene of the movie with Tom Hanks and the volleyball and it said, "Still a better love story that Twilight." That made me laugh, because really, it's pretty much true! Also, Tom Hanks and Wilson were nominated for Best Duo for a MTV Movie Award (they lost to the ladies of Charlie's Angels, which doesn't even make sense since there's three of them, but whatever). Wilson got snubbed for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar!

After rinsing his hand in the ocean (and wouldn't that sting with the saltwater? He wasn't wincing in pain or anything) and wrapping his wound with the fabric of the ugly dress, he attempts to make fire again, this time with Wilson "watching" him. Chuck looks at the volleyball and says, "You wouldn't have a match on you, would you?" He finally manages to create fire and is extremely ecstatic. ("FIRE!!!") He is now able to cook his seafood delicacies and enjoy them without gagging.

He does some quick calculations (which is pretty impressive without having a calculator and comes to the conclusion that they're in a search area of 500,000 square miles which is an area twice the size of Texas. Basically he realizes he's f***ed!

Worrying about how to get off the island and making a fire has taken his mind off the tooth that has been giving him pain since even before he flew to Malaysia, but he never make an appointment with his dentist and now that he's not distracted anymore with how to find food or start a fire, the pain is the first thing in his mind and is getting more excruciating by the day. He uses the blade of one of the skates as a mirror to look at the tooth and, in a scene I remember the most from viewing it in the theaters mostly for how much it made me cringe, he uses a rock to knock the ice skate's blade toward his mouth and it knocks out his tooth. It also knocks Chuck out and he hits his head hard on the ground very close to the fire. That part was almost worse for me than the actual knocking out of the tooth, but I remember just cringing and covering my eyes during that whole sequence!

The movie has a time lapse and four years have gone by, now making it "present day" 2000. So he has basically missed out on all the current events that happened in the late '90s. That would be so weird to not know what's going on at all in the world. That would be like if someone had just been rescued from being stranded on an island since 2013 and they'd be like, "Wait, Donald Trump is the President now? How in God's name did that happen?" (That's what I would say!) And then I'd say (half-jokingly, of course!), "Take me back to the island!"

Chuck has lost a lot of weight and has a full grown beard and unruly long hair which has been lightened by the sun. They filmed the movie in two parts where Tom Hanks gained fifty pounds for the first half of the movie, then they took a year hiatus where he shed the weight and grew out his hair and beard and filmed the second part. He has now seemed to adjust to island life, catching fish with ease and maintaining a fire. I think the most difficult part of being in a situation like this would be the lack of social interaction. Even though I only go out with friends about four times a year, I still see people every day with work or going to the grocery store or a coffeehouse or just walking around my neighborhood. I think you're just used to having people around you every day. Wilson represents the only "person" he has and while working on a raft to escape, they have a "conversation". Wilson represents the part of Chuck that thinks it is too dangerous for him to leave and Chuck gets angry and tells Wilson he's rather risk his life on the ocean than stay on this s**thole island for the rest of his life and talking to a damn volleyball and kicks Wilson out of the small hole in the cave he has made home. Even though only a volleyball, Wilson still represents Chuck's only friend and Chuck feels bad the minute he tosses Wilson out and goes out to find him.

The doors from a portable toilet wash up on shore and Chuck uses them as sails / a windguard for his raft which he has fashioned together with logs tied together by the tape from the videotapes. When he has deemed the wind good for sailing, he secures Wilson to a post with the tape and tells him, "I'll do all the paddling. You just hang on!" With his sails he is able to get past the worst part of the ocean with all the twenty foot waves that crash down on him. However, during a nasty storm, he loses the makeshift sails.

During the film there are three instances when the viewer notices something before Chuck. The first is the ship's light in the distance during the first week he is marooned on the island. The viewer is aware of the barge that will eventually rescue Chuck before he is. And, before that moment, the viewer sees Wilson drop from his secured perch and into the ocean while Chuck is asleep on the raft, his back turned to the volleyball. When he awakes a few minutes later, he is scanning the water frantically and when he turns around, he sees the volleyball has floated several feet away. He starts swimming to retrieve his one and only companion, but as he gets further away from the raft (and Wilson is being carried even more further away from him by the waves), he knows he has to let Wilson go. Not gonna lie: this scene made me cry. I felt so bad for Chuck when he gets back on the raft and just starts crying and saying, "I'm sorry, Wilson!" I found this scene to be much more emotional than the eventual reunion he will have with Kelly. Like I mentioned earlier, I had forgotten the fate of Wilson, but I think this is the only way to continue the movie. You need this scene. Wilson is representing a part of his life he has to let go. It just wouldn't work if he still had Wilson when he's rescued and took him home with him. That might be a tad weird.

I don't know how long after that Chuck continues to float before he is rescued, but luckily he is because his raft is starting to fall apart and he is looking like he is knocking on death's doors. It takes four weeks for him to get back to his home in Tennessee. There he discovers Kelly has married another man (Chris Noth) and has a young daughter. Now, if you think about it, four years really isn't that long (unless you're stranded on an island!) so she seemed to move on pretty quickly despite telling Chuck he was her one true love and she always knew he was alive. Think about it: she had to meet the guy, then date him, then get engaged to him, then get married, then have a child and I'm pretty sure the kid is at least yeah, she moved on pretty fast! Maybe if she was only engaged to the guy, then maybe that would have made more sense. I guess they just wanted to let the audience know for certain that they are never, ever getting back together since Kelly has a family now. All the time, Chuck has hanged onto the pocketwatch Kelly gave him and is able to return it to her since he thinks it should stay in her family.

Chuck's friends have a welcome back party for him and they serve crab legs! Seriously, the guy has been stranded on an island for four years with nothing to eat but fish and crustaceans and they think crab legs is the way to go? The movie ends with Chucks at a crossroads (and what a great metaphor because he is now at a crossroads in his own life) and a woman stops and tells him where each road leads and is up to him to decide where he's going to go.

This movie came out the same year Survivor premiered and I was reminded of that show while watching it. Can you imagine if Chuck Noland was on that show? I can just see him now in a confession: "These other people have no idea how to survive. They've never set foot on a tropical island. I was stranded on an island for FOUR YEARS. I can make fire without flint. I can catch fish without winning fishing gear." I can also see him getting irritated with the contestants whining about how hungry they are. "We've only been out here for three weeks and everyone is complaining about how "starving" they are! Ha! Try doing this for FOUR YEARS! And we just had a huge feast two days ago!" Oh, and if he gets hurt and the medical team try to take him out of the game, he would tell them, "When I was stranded on an island, I didn't have any doctors to fix me. I couldn't get medical treatment because of some sand in my eye or because I was dehydrated. I got a huge gash on my hand, a huge gash on my leg, I had to knock out a painful tooth with a rock myself. If I get an injury in this game, no way any doctor is going to tell me I have to leave the game." I can see Jeff Probst asking him about his experience on the island in comparison to playing the game at every single Tribal Council. As far as he would get in the game, I think he would make it past the merge because people would want him around because he has experience with the island life, but after that people would get rid of him because his "story" is way too good. If he made the final two (or three depending on which season he would play on!), he would win because people would want to award somebody who literally did survive on an island! Oh, and his luxury item? A volleyball, of course!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Angels in the Outfield
Director: William Dear
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Danny Glover, Christopher Lloyd, Brenda Fricker, Tony Danza, Matthew McConaughey, Adrien Brody, Dermot Mulroney
Released: July 15, 1994

Not only is this movie pre-10 Things I Hate About You (which is the first Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie I saw where I knew who he was), but it also predates Third Rock From the Sun by two years, probably the role he was first known for. I remember seeing this in the theater with a friend. It was either this or Rookie of the Year, but I'm pretty sure it was this one, though it's possible I saw both of them. I haven't seen this movie in a very long time so I was a little surprised to see two future Oscar winners as baseball players: Adrien Brody plays Hemmerling and Matthew McConaughey plays Angels outfielder Ben Williams. Both of them probably have less than five minutes of screen time combined with only a couple of lines each. 

Even though he is credited around fourth or fifth, JGL as Roger Bomman is definitely the lead. I could understand if they put Danny Glover first since he was a big name, but JGL should have at least been credited second, come on! 

Roger lives in a short-term foster care home because his mom is deceased and his dad (Dermot Mulroney) is a deadbeat. They don't really explain why he can't take care of his son. He has told Roger in the past that he's going to be his legal guardian, but things never seem to work out that way. He does occasionally keep in touch with Roger and visits him at his foster home to tell him he's heading up north. When Roger asks his father when they're going to be a family again, his father replies, "When the Angels win the pennant." This is a snarky response because the Angels, Roger's favorite team, are just God-awful, so in other words, he's saying that the Angels will never win and they will never be a family. What a nice guy.

However, Roger is bit of a naive and hopeful kid and when he goes to bed that night, he looks out the window and sees a shooting star. He whispers a prayer to God (he may be whispering, but I'm pretty sure his two other roommates can hear him) for the Angels to win. The next day he and his best friend, J.P., who also lives at the foster home, go to a game because it's Kids' Day where kids get a discount on tickets. This is when we first see the angels helping the Angels and the only one who can actually see them in the movie is Roger. Two of them lift Matthew McConaughey so he can catch the ball. They also help a hopeless batter not only hit a home run, but he breaks the bat while doing so. The "angels" look pretty terrifying...that 1994 CGI (wait, was there even CGI in 1994?) looks pretty terrible. An astonished Roger asks J.P. if he saw what he did, but Roger has no idea what he's talking about, so Roger turns his attention to the large man sitting next to him (and why is this grown man who's clearly not with Roger and J.P. sitting next to two underage boys...I'm just saying, it's a little weird) and asks him if he saw it too, but he said it was just a lucky catch. He gets up to leave and this is when Roger meets the Head Angel (Christopher Lloyd) who calls himself "Al" (because he's wearing an American League baseball cap.) He explains he's there because he asked for help and that only Roger can see and hear him. Of course, he's having a conversation with an invisible man while J.P. is sitting next to him, though J.P. doesn't ask who he's talking to until about two minutes later! If I were that kid and my friend started talking to somebody who clearly wasn't there, I would be interrupting that conversation about five seconds in! I did think it was funny when Roger tells his friend, "You didn't see them? There were Angels in the outfield! And in the infield!" and J.P. replies, "Yeah, nine of them!" They sure had to make it confusing by the team being named the Angels!

Due to the celestial beings, the Angels win the game and a few lucky kids have the chance to get their photo taken with Angels manager/coach, George Knox (Danny Glover).  I feel like kids would be more excited to get their photo taken with one of their favorite players then the manager, but this scene is only here for Knox to meet Roger and J.P. While they're getting their photo taken, Roger blurts out about the angels helping the Angels and of course Knox thinks he's insane. Later, when he delivers the photo to Roger he asks him why would there be real angels at the ballgame and Roger replies, "Because I prayed for them. I figured you could use the help."

Knox invites the two kids to a ball game as his guests and while J.P and the kids' chaperone, David, are getting snacks, Al pops out of his fountain drink and Roger freaks out and of course he looks crazy because the people behind him are only seeing a kid freaking out over a soft drink. And he sounds insane when J.P. returns and he tells him, "I just saw an angel in my Coke cup!"

 Every time Roger sees an angel, he starts waving his arms like wings to signify he sees one. Whichever Angel is with an angel, Roger tells Knox to put that player in since they've been given the "magic touch". Because an angel is massaging Adrien Brody's shoulders, Roger tells Knox to put him him, despite him being the worst batter. An angel comes and slows the ball down so he can hit it. Then the ball starts moving around because Al is kicking and juggling it around and everyone just sees a ball go haywire. Because of this tomfoolery, the Angels win the game. in the hell did the opposing team NOT issue a complaint? There is some serious shady business going on! You would think they would want the ball inspected to make sure there's not a motor inside of it and someone else is controlling it. Because if I were in that stadium, that's what I would be thinking. However, that wouldn't explain how the ball slowed way down when it was being pitched to Adrien Brody. There's a thing called gravity and no way an object could just stay in the air like that. How come nobody is suspicious of THAT? But nobody seems to care or is asking any questions. Knox is so happy that they're winning and wants the kids to come to the rest of the games as good luck charms.

At the next game it is announced that there are more people in the seats than the last five games combined. We get a cute montage of the Angels winning game after game (with ridiculous tactics) with the audience singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." There is a headline in the paper that says "Angels Fly Together." Now you know they took this from D2: The Mighty Ducks as it is also a Disney movie and only came out only months before this one. I can't remember if "Ducks fly together" was uttered in the first movie, but it defintely was in the second one. "Angels fly together" doesn't quite work, because, at least, literal ducks really DO fly together and they are actually real! Angels aren't real and even if they were, would they even fly together? It just doesn't make any sense! Terrible headline.

During all this, Roger learns he's never going to live with his dad and will have to continue living with Maggie (Brenda Fricker), his short term caretaker until he is adopted. Now Brenda Fricker also played the pigeon lady in Home Alone 2 and I think you could say this movie is a continuation of that character. Think about it: this movie only came out a year and a half after Home Alone 2. We never learn her name in that movie, but in this one we find out it's Maggie. Maybe she decided to move to California to get a job helping kids without families after she saw how lucky Kevin was to have a loving family and wanted to help kids less fortunate than him. Doesn't really explain why she has an Irish accent in that movie (she did, right?) and an American accent in this one but you could say she accumulated to living in the United States.

There are no angels to help the Angels in the championship game because it's against the rules. (Oh, so NOW it's cheating if they help?) However, there is a nice moment when Roger, J.P., the players, and the entire stadium start flapping their arms to give support to pitcher Mel Clark (Tony Danza) who used to be the teams' star player, but has been wavering lately. This gives him the confidence he needs and he wins the game.  While it's a touching scene, logistically, it doesn't' make any sense how everybody in the stadium has room to stretch out their arms and move them up and do you not intertwine limbs while doing that? Although we do see some close ups and it looks a little awkward how some people are waving their arms so they don't hit the people next to them.

The movie ends with Knox adopting BOTH Roger and J.P. We never do learn anything about his life outside of coaching/managing the Angels. Is he married? Does he have any kids? No clue. I also had no clue that this movie is actually a remake of a 1951 movie. This was a fine movie, but it did get pretty hokey at times. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Independence Day
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Randy Quaid, Vivica A. Fox, Judd Hirsch, Mary McDonnell, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harry Connick Jr., Mae Whitman
Released: July 3, 1996

Oscar nominations:
Best Visual Effects (won)
Best Sound (lost to The English Patient)

I remember all the hype that surrounded this movie when it came out in the summer of '96. I don't actually remember seeing any commercials for it on TV or any trailers for it on the big screen, but I have no doubt that I must have seen many of them because I was super excited to see this movie when it came out. I had boughten into all of the hype. It was a big summer blockbuster about aliens coming to destroy Earth and the only people who could stop them were the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park! And the guy from While You Were Sleeping was the President! Yeah! And let's not forget Cousin Eddie! (Though I don't think I knew he was in the movie until I saw it). And everybody else, I don't think I knew who they were.

If memory serves right, I saw this film on opening day. If not opening day, it was at least the second day, but I'm pretty sure it was opening day. I was 15  and saw it with two of my friends. It was a packed theater (I mean, obviously, it was opening day for a huge blockbuster!) It was a lot of fun and the whole audience got into it and I loved it, naturally. I laughed at all of Will Smith's one liners, I pumped my fist at Bill Pullman's awesome speech (well, I didn't literally do that), I jumped at all the alien jump scare scenes, I was in awe of the White House exploding effect, and I cheered when the aliens were defeated (well, I cheered inside).

I've seen this movie a handful of times and each time I watch it, it seems to lose a little bit of its initial luster. I think I was just wrapped up in all the hype; I was an impressionable teen, after all. There are still things I enjoy, but I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it to anyone. If I were to recommend a '90s action blockbuster that came out over the Fourth of July holiday, I would tell them to see Terminator 2. That is by far the superior film. And if we were to get even more specific and I had to recommend a Roland Emmerich movie that was rife with American patriotism, I would tell them to watch The Patriot, which is my favorite Emmerich movie and I prefer it over ID4.

At two hours and forty minutes, this film is so dang long! And it doesn't need to be at all! There are quite a few scenes that seem to drag. It's probably so long because there must be as many characters as a season of Game of Thrones! We are introduced to David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum - he's pretty much playing Ian Malcolm 2.0), a computer scientist who is trying to figure out a way to stop the aliens. We then meet President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) who has a young daughter, Patricia (a super young Mae Whitman) and we learn the First Lady (Mary McDonnell) is in Los Angeles. Then we are introduced to Russell Casse (Randy Quaid) who is a crop duster. He pretty much plays Cousin Eddie in this. Everyone thinks he's a whack-o because he claims to have been abducted by aliens in the past (and the government officials never think to interview him about that, because clearly he was right about being abducted by aliens!) He has three children and his oldest son looks and sounds like Keanu Reeves (it wasn't, though) with the long hair and surfer dude speech. I assume we will next be introduced to Will Smith, but no, we get another scene with David and we meet his father, Julius (Judd Hirsh). Then we get another scene with the President and meet some of his staff which include the White House Communications Director (played by Blair's mom from Gossip Girl) who also just so happens to be David's ex-wife, Robert Loggia as a General, and James Rebhorn as the Secretary of Defense. Then we get another scene with Russell and his kids. Will Smith isn't introduced until twenty minutes into the film. He plays Steven Hiller, a fighter pilot. He lives near Los Angeles with his girlfriend, Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox) and her young son, Dylan.

I don't understand how Hiller can be a fighter pilot, because, my God his peripheral vision is atrocious! He walks out to get the morning paper and looks to his left and sees everyone in the neighborhood are packing their cars, then he looks to the right and sees the same thing. Then he picks up the paper and it's only after he's picked it up that he notices the HUGE MASSIVE FIFTEEN MILE WIDE SPACESHIP in front of him! Um...that should have been the first thing he saw when he walked outside! Hell, that should have been the first thing he saw when he looked out the window just minutes before! And to make matters worse, Jasmine comes outside and also doesn't notice the spaceship until Steven points it out to her.

It is July 2 when the aliens start to arrive. The Mother Ship has sent 36 of the huge fifteen mile wide spaceships (you know, the ones fighter pilot Steven Hiller apparently can't see!) to hover around the largest cities in the world. The ones shown prominently in the movie are over Washington D.C., New York, and Los Angeles. David is the one to find out the aliens are coordinating an attack and are not here on a friendly visit. Because of who his ex-wife is, he is able to get to the President and warn him and everyone else to evacuate the White House. I didn't understand why the President was in the Oval Office when he was briefed about the ordeal. Shouldn't that have taken place in the Situation Room? I did laugh when he goes on TV and tells people if they must leave, then do so in an orderly fashion and it cuts to pure chaos in New York. I also laughed when a newscaster says, "LAPD is asking Los Angelenos not to fire their guns at the visitor spacecraft. You may inadvertently trigger an interstellar war." I don't even understand why the word "visitor" is even in that sentence!

A bunch of morons with welcome signs are gathered on top of the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles in hopes that the aliens will take them with them. This includes one of Jasmine's friends who tells her not to go, but she joins the "Party of the century" as Julie Moran from Entertainment Tonight deems the event. Seriously, why is E.T. acting like this is some kind of movie premiere? Speaking of E.T. (the OTHER E.T.), Hiller and the other fighter pilots (including his friend, Jimmy (Harry Connick Jr.)) are getting instructions on how they're going to go after the spaceships and he tells everyone that he wants to "kick E.T.'s ass."

Jimmy is the Goose to Hiller's Maverick because he dies while they are fighting the aliens in their fighter planes. (Spoilers for Top Gun!) After a high speed chase through the Grand Canyon, Hiller and an alien space pod crash and he greets the alien by saying, "Welcome to Earth!" and punching it. A moment I loved when I was 15, and okay, still kind of love it today. He somehow meets up with the President and David who will soon meet up with Jasmine and the First Lady.

We've all seen the scenes of the White House, Empire State Building, and U.S. Bank Tower get obliterated. Oh, and I just love that when the White House blows up and there's a huge fireball, the President, his daughter, David, his father, and all the official White House people are just taking off on Air Force One and trying to outfly the huge explosion...which they manage to do, but barely! This is the best effect in the movie...I think it works that they built miniatures of the famous buildings and didn't use CGI. However, the other special effects (like all the plane and space shifts) do not hold up.

Jasmine is in her car with her son and dog in a tunnel when the U.S. Bank Tower has exploded and when she sees the huge fireball coming towards, she grabs Dylan and takes him to a utility closet or something in the tunnel, which I thought was a really smart thing to do. She yells at Boomer, the dog, to run to them and he jumps over a car and makes it inside the closet so she can close the door right before the fireball goes past them. She later finds a truck that still works and picks up any survivors. This includes the First Lady who was in a helicopter that crashed, but she's still alive, but not for long because she will die from internal bleeding. At least she gets to say goodbye to her husband and daughter.

The President and his crew are taken to Area 51 where he meets an eccentric scientist (who clearly dies in this movie, but just so happens to be in the sequel?)  who has been studying alien life and has this huge spacecraft that's been just sitting around since the 50s. IDK, honestly this is around the time I kind of check out. Hiller has also arrived with his new alien friend and this is when it kills the scientist, but somehow Whitmore can read its mind. Again, IDK.

Okay, so now it's July 4 and the Americans are planning an attack on the aliens and they have told the other countries their plan of attack. I laughed when a group of British soldiers are reading a telegram and one says "The Americans are proposing a counter attack. It's about bloody time!" Of course, this is when we also get the best speech in the history of movies. I'm talking, of course, about President Whitmore's, "This is the day when we celebrate our Independence Day!" speech and everyone cheers. I did love the guy that gives that super intense salute. Oh, man, I laughed so hard at that. But seriously, how great was that speech? Still gives me chills.

For some reason, they let the President of the United States fly a jet to fight the aliens. Um, that would never happen. They would never let the President in any danger. They would get his ass in a bunker or something. But, no he is a noble President and wants to fight alongside his fellow countrymen. It's Quaid who saves the day when he sacrifices himself by somehow making a whole spaceship explode...still not sure how he did that, but he sure did make his children proud.

In the meantime, David has learned that they need to upload a computer virus to the mother ship, which is located in outer space so he and Hiller take the spaceship, which just so happens to work fine even though it hasn't been used for 50 years to outer space....okay, my brain is starting to hurt. This movie is so stupid, isn't it? Anyway, they save the day. Obviously. All the spaceships have crashed and we see these huge eyesores in the grasslands of Africa, in the Sydney Harbour, and among the Pyramids. I wonder how they're going to clean up that mess? No, seriously, how are they going to get rid of 36 fifteen-mile wide spaceships (that must have destroyed the cities they fell on!) You think it would have made more sense to have them blow up, then disintegrate in the air.

Like I said, I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone, but if I could somehow edit my own version of it together of my favorite scenes, which would probably amount to 30 minutes, then I would absolutely recommend those "best of" moments (which would include the explosions and the speech and all the stupid Will Smith one liners among others). I have never seen the sequel which came out twenty years later as I heard it was awful. If it had gotten mixed reviews, I might consider watching it, but no, I have not heard one positive review of it.  Maybe someday I'll watch it, but don't count on a review of it anytime soon. I have looked up the cast and watched a five minute trailer of it. I know Will Smith isn't in it, but his stepson, Dylan is grown up and plays an important role. (I assume he plays an important role). Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox, and Judd Hirsh reprise their roles, but I have a feeling, with the exception of Goldblum, they're probably all only in one scene. Liam Hemsworth in is in it and I think he's the main character. What I gather from the preview is he's dating Patricia Whitmore...who isn't even played by Mae Whitman which is really stupid because she's still acting. I understand why they didn't get the original kid who played Dylan cuz I don't think he acts anymore, but Mae Whitman has been steadily working since she was a little kid! So I don't know if she turned it down or was busy with something else or they just forgot she was in the movie, but she probably dodged a bullet with that one anyway. Oh yeah, and the scientist Area 51 guy is in this even though he clearly died in the first one! Unless it's his twin brother or something? The first one was stupid, sure, but at least it still had some fun moments.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Miracle in the Andes

Director: Frank Marshall
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Josh Hamilton, Vincent Spano, Bruce Ramsay, Danny Nucci, Illeana Douglas, John Malkovich
Released: January 15, 1993

I was not familiar with this true story of a plane crash carrying a Uruguayan rugby team and their friends and family until the movie came out twenty years after it happened. My parents saw it and my mom told me about the cannibalism (oh, we'll get to that later!) I saw the movie a few years later and recently revisited it when I saw it was on Netflix Instant. 

When watching it the first time, when I was in middle school (or high school....I don't remember), it didn't even occur to me that the majority of the actors were caucasian Americans (there were a few Hispanic actors) playing Uruguayans. Now I didn't really have that much of a problem with that as I understand that this was an American production, but still, you're not fooling anyone that Ethan Hawke isn't from South America! I also understand why they're not speaking in Spanish because, again, this is intended for American audiences, but it is weird that this is a South American rugby team and they're all speaking in English...I thought the same thing when I saw that movie about the Chilean miners who were trapped underground and they were all speaking in English too. But seeing as that they had two survivors from the actual plane crash as technical advisors, if they didn't have a problem with it, then neither do I. But it's just so weird.

A small plane (Uruguayan Flight 571) is carrying 45 passengers across the Andes (though the movie was filmed in the Canadian Rockies) to Chile where they will have a rugby match. The 45 people include the rugby team, their family and associates, and five people made up the crew. The date is October 13, 1972, and yes, that just so happened to land on a Friday. (I only know that because Wikipedia told me). The weather is foggy, never a good mix with flying through the mountains on Friday the 13th! Because of the horrible visibility, the tail and the wings broke apart from the fuselage when the plane clips a mountain peak. The plane is still flying, though, with a huge hole, and the unfortunate people in the back are ripped out of the plane along with their seats. I can't even imagine what they were thinking, or the people who were sitting at the front who knew they were inevitably going to crash.

The plane crash lands hard and goes skidding very fast down the snowy mountain. In a way, they were lucky there was so much snow...that probably saved them. It's a bumpy and terrifying ride, but it eventually comes to a stop. Seven people died from falling from the aircraft and another five people died from the crash, including the team's physician, ironically, which would be nice to have one what with all the injuries the survivors have obtained...some much more worse than others. Two of the players are medical students and help assist the wounded. They are able to do this as they only have a few minor scrapes and bruises. The co-pilot is still alive, but has blood all over his face and begs for one of them men to get his gun for him, but he tells him he can't be a part of it. The pilot eventually dies during the first night as well as three other passengers, including a woman who had her foot caught under one of the seats and kept wailing in agony until one of the players told her to shut up or else he'll punch her face. When he learns that she died that night, he feels horrible for being so mean to her. The twenty-seven survivors have laid out the bodies in the snow and the team captain, Antonio (Vincent Spano) has taken charge. The captain's name was actually Marcelo Perez, but I learned that they changed all the names of the dead out of respect. I'll get to how he perishes later.

There is only wine and chocolate (for celebrating a victory when they win the match, I suppose?) for food and they ration it out to one capful of wine and a square of chocolate for all the survivors every so often. They sleep in the fuselage and huddle around each other for warmth and block the gaping hole by stuffing it with the luggage. I got so cold watching this movie! I had to turn my A/C off and put on my zip up hoodie and get my bedspread. There's a scene where we see one of the survivors has frostbite on their feet. This movie shows how Mother Nature (especially in the Andes!) is brutal.

Ethan Hawke plays Nando Parrado, a rugby player whose sister and mother were also on board. His mother died in the crash and his sister has horrible injuries. She is still alive, but not doing well. Nando is unconscious and doesn't wake up until the second or third day. He learns about his mother's death and does his best to keep his sister alive, but she will eventually die from her injuries a week later.

The first full day, they hear a plane but it is too cloudy and they know that if they can't see the plane, then it can't seem them. A couple days later, on a more clear day, they see another plane and start waving around brightly colored clothes. The plane dips one of its wings and they start celebrating, taking that as a sign that the plane saw them and is going to get help. I can't blame them for celebrating, I would also want to hope for the best too if I were out there, but there would also be a part of me wondering if the plane really saw the crash site. Everyone except for Antonio and Javier and Lilliana, a married couple with children back home (by the way, thank God there were no children on that flight!) are the only ones who don't eat the rest of the wine and the chocolates. In fact, Antonio doesn't know that they ate all their rations and is super pissed when he finds out. He tells them that the rescuers could be doing a land rescue and it could take days before they are reached. It turns out that the plane didn't even see them at all. I read on Wikipedia that the plane that crashed was white and it blended in with the snow, thus making it difficult for search planes to spot it.

At least a week has passed and there is no food left...or is there? This is the moment of the movie that everybody remembers. Not the horrific crash, not the dangers of being in the middle of the Andes, but the discussion of eating the dead. I can't blame them - the bodies, being in the snow are well-preserved and they do need to eat, because, what else are they going to eat? Remember, there are 27 people (maybe 26 at this was hard to keep track) who need to eat. They do talk it over and how it will change them. Everyone reluctantly agrees they should do it except for Lilliana (played by Illeana Douglas). I would also say no. Not that I would feel like an evil person for eating another human beings; I do get that it's for survival, but my God! I just can't imagine humans tasting good (uh...maybe that's a good thing!) And they're eating them raw! Ughhhhhh! So disgusting! Eww! When we see the first person (Antonio, I think) cut into the rear end of one of the victims, the piece of flesh he eats looks like cold cuts. (I read that they used turkey jerky). It looks SO GROSS. I would seriously throw up. And the fact that they're eating people they know (and Nando specifically asks the others not to touch his mother or sister, which makes sense) makes it worse. If I absolutely was in this dire situation and had to eat a dead body to survive, I would want to eat someone I didn't know, for God's sake and wasn't a relative or close friend of mine. Guess I would have to eat one of the pilots! But then I would throw it up (I just know I would!) and would eventually die from starvation. I know I would die for a fact because they were stranded in the mountains for 72 days! From October 13 - December 23. A small transistor radio is found on the plane and they hear the news that the search effort has been called off, so it's up to them to get help.

The plane's mechanic survived the crash, but doesn't seem to be much help when he is asked about the radio. He says it needs batteries, which just so happen to be in the tail section. (You think the batteries would be in the cockpit). A few of the men decide to look for it and there's a scary scene where they are walking over a snow covered chasm and the snow falls and one of the men almost falls in the gaping hole, but he is grabbed by another and they form a human chain. Who knows if that really happened or if they added it in the movie. Something that really did happen was an avalanche that occurred in the middle of the night and killed eight people including the team captain, Lilliana (who eventually started eating the dead upon her husband's instinct), and the mechanic. It completely covered the fuselage and those lucky enough not to be completely covered by the snow, quickly started digging through the snow.

The search for the tail continues and this time it is found (along with a few dead bodies, still attached to their seats). The battery, however, is too heavy to carry back to the crash site, so it is decided they will return to the crash site and disconnect the radio and bring it back. Needless to say, it didn't work. Nando and Roberto Canessa (played by Josh Hamilton - he played Clay's dad on 13 Reasons Why if you watched that on Netflix) decide they're going to trek down the mountains to get help. It took them ten days before they finally reached help. In the movie, it is very rushed. Before they leave to get help, Nando (or maybe it was Roberto, I don't remember) gives one of the other men one half of a pair of red baby shoes and tells him that when the shoes are united, then that means they will have been rescued. Um...why are there baby shoes on that plane? There were no babies on that flight! (And thank God!) No way this happened in real life and they were doing it to gloss up the movie a bit, but, again, I ask, why are there baby shoes on that flight? That made no sense at all!

So of course when the helicopters arrive, the baby shoes are reunited and everyone is rescued. Well, the remaining survivors are rescued. In the end, only sixteen out of the forty-five people who were on that flight survived the 72 day ordeal. It is pretty amazing that even that many people did survive!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Boston Strong

Patriots Day
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, Michelle Monaghan, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist
Released: December 21, 2016

This movie is based on the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, which I'm sure everyone remembers as it only happened a mere four years ago. I thought I remembered everything about this incident, but apparently not because there were things in the movie that I found myself going, "Wait, I thought it happened this way!" or "Wait, I don't remember that happening!" But I'll get to those later. Mark Wahlberg (a native Bostonian as you all know) does not play a real person, but his police officer character, Sergeant Tommy Sanders is suppose to represent the everyman Boston police officer during this tragic event.

Everyone else, to my knowledge portray real-life people. Before the day of the Marathon we are shown the home lives of a few different characters. Even though they tell us the last name of the family/person we're viewing, I didn't know who any of these people were. I didn't remember the names of the terrorist brothers, but once I saw the title card say, "Tsarnaev residence", I knew it was them because I remember them being Russian and sure enough we see them along with the older brother's wife (played by Melissa Benoist...who I did not recognize until the interrogation scene because she wears a hijab and that was the first time the camera lingers on her. I guess I forgot that the wife was American). We see a young married couple and a young Chinese man who's attending MIT and showing his parents his new car via his phone. I had no idea who these people were and thought maybe they were victims of the bombing. Well, they were victims, but they weren't the ones who were killed by the bomb like I had thought. I had to remind myself who died because I only remembered the police officer, who wasn't killed by the bomb, but who was killed the following night by one of the brothers, and an eight year old boy died from the blast. Two other young women also died from the blast. Except for the police officer, there is no mention of the deceased by name and they don't have anyone playing them which I thought was a smart choice. The only mention of the deceased is when the young boy who died is covered by a table cloth from a restaurant and they are unable to remove him until they are sure there isn't any bomb residue on him. I'm sure this happened in real life (otherwise why would it be in the movie?) and I can't imagine being the parents of that boy who took him to see the Boston Marathon, but weren't able to take him home because two low-lives (one who has a young daughter!) took his life.

For two bombs going off, it is very fortunate that not more lives were lost that day. The majority of the devastation came from injuries, the severest being lost of limbs. The couple that is shown the night before the Marathon are actors playing a real life couple who both run the race every year and had to have their legs amputated. Saunders is near the finish line when both bombs go off (which were only 13 seconds apart...a fact I did not know) and his wife is also there because she had come down to bring him something. He will feel very guilty for putting her in harm's way, but she tells him it wasn't his fault. During all the commotion, the race is (surprisingly) still going on and runners are running into the confusion and they have to block the area.

John Goodman plays Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis and Kevin Bacon plays Richard DesLauriers, special agent in the Boston field and both head the investigation to find out what happened. You get a glimpse of what happened behind the scenes. It seemed to happen really fast because the bombing happened on a Monday and by Friday the older brother was killed and the younger one was caught. But we see the process of trying to find out who set off the bombs is a painstakingly slow as several people are scouring over security footage (and they used real footage) of every angle from where the bomb went off. Someone alerts the two men in charge when he sees footage of a young man in a white hat looking away from the camera (as though he knows a bomb is about to off) a second before everyone else does. They try to find other angles where they can see "White Hat" and Saunders tells them which business security camera to look up and they find a few more angles of him as well as him standing next to someone wearing sunglasses and a black hat and holding a backpack (the older brother) who they assume are together and are the bombers. Even though they have clear photos, they can't find them in the criminal database as they have no records. Now what I didn't know is that the FBI agent did NOT want to release the photos of the suspects because if they were wrong and they weren't involved, they would be raked over the coals by the public. He wanted more evidence that these were the bombers. They just wanted a little more time to figure out, but then it turned out FOX News (of course it was FOX!) got a hold of the photos and were going to release them in a few hours, so they decided they would go ahead and release them before the media did so they could get them out there their way.

The only person shown being killed is Officer Sean Collier. Like the other characters the day before the bomb happened, we also get a glimpse into his life. I remember a police officer being killed by the suspected bombers, but I guess I thought it was from a shoot out. I didn't remember that he was sitting in his car in front of MIT and the younger brother came up to his car and motioned for him to roll down his window and when he did, he shot him and stole his gun. That's scary. The thing that shocked me the most from watching this was what happened next because I did not remember this AT ALL. In fact, I don't think I even knew about this until I watched the movie. This is when the young Chinese student comes into play. We see him in an earlier scene having dinner with a new friend and he's telling her what it's like living in a new country. I was wondering what he had to do with this story and this is when we find out. He's sitting in his car, looking at his phone, when the older brother comes up to his window and motions for him to roll it down. Both brothers hijack the car with their new gun and make Dun Meng, the young Chinese man drive them. This seems like a big part of the story, was it even in the news? How could I not know this happened? They make him get out of the driver's seat and into the passenger seat so the older brother can drive. As they're driving, they tell him that they bombed the Marathon and are planning to go to Manhattan and bomb Times Square. They also talked about 9/11 being an inside job by the government (now I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person...I am all about the JFK and TWA 800 conspiracies....but the 9/11 one, I never got that one).

Speaking of 9/11, we get a comment from a news reporter saying that the bombing is the worst act of terrorism in the U.S. since 9/11 and I'm thinking, "What?" Because it seems like that's a pretty big gap between 2001 and 2013, but then I realized all the 40 million shootings in those years weren't linked to terrorism groups...we just have a bunch of idiots who live in this country. Before the race begins, there is a moment of silence for the victims of the Newtown, CT school shooting and I had to remind myself that had only happened four months prior and in just a few short hours they would have their own tragedy. I've seen the Boston Marathon bombing be compared to 9/11 on a few occasions and aside from the terrorism aspect and when they shut down the city of Boston that day (like when they shut down all the airports), I've never really understood that. I was reminded more of the Oklahoma City bombing. I am always amazed at the amount of people who refer to 9/11 as a "bombing". There were no bombs involved in 9/11! Let me tell you a true story....the week after 9/11 happened, my school had a banner saying something along the lines to donate blood or money for the victims of the 9/11 bombing. And I see it and I'm thinking, Huh...I don't remember any bombs being reported. Anyway, I'm getting way off topic...

The brothers stop at gas station for snacks and this is when Dun Meng makes his escape. He has already pleaded to be let go and they can have his money and car and he promises he won't tell anyone, but the brothers refuse. You know that since they have already told him who they are and what they plan to do, that they have no plans to keep him alive once they don't need him anymore and you know he knows this. While the younger brother is getting snacks, the older brother has the gun in the side pocket of the car and is looking out the window. We see Dung Meng getting ready to escape. Now I just thought he had to open the door and that was it, but he also had his seatbelt on, so that gave the bomber notice that his abductee was getting ready to leave, but luckily Meng manages to escape and runs to a gas station across the street and screams at the manager to call the police. When the police arrive, Meng tells them he was abducted by the two brothers who were involved in the Boston Marathon bombing and his phone is still in the car an they are able to track them down. Saunders tells Meng that he was very brave to do what he did and I have to agree...if I had done that, I would have over thought it and would end up dead. Meng was just sitting in his car playing with his phone when he was hijacked and I told myself that I would NEVER just sit alone in my car while on my phone. Well, just a couple days after I saw this, I found myself in a parking lot with my phone trying to locate a place I was looking for. Now it was broad daylight, but I still locked my car! So starting now I will NEVER sit in my car, night or day, and look at my phone!

When  the police locate the bothers, they have a big shootout and many bombs are involved so right there the police knew that they had plans to bomb other places. This is when the older brother is killed, which I remembered. What I don't remember is that the younger brother ran over him with the car! He was aiming at the police who had gotten a hold of the older brother, but jumped out of the way when the car came towards them. He gets away and the next day is devoted to looking for him which I remember, especially since I watched it on TV when they had located him in the boat. That would be so scary to be the guy who owns the boat and find the one person everybody in the city is looking for is hiding in your boat! In the film, the owner of the boat notices something wrong with his boat and calls the police, but I watched a documentary about this whole ordeal and they interviewed the guy and he said that he actually went up to his boat and saw the kid (I think he was sleeping?) and then called the police, but in the movie, it's Saunders who discovers him.

We all know how the story ends and the perpetrator is caught. The movie ends with the real footage of David Ortiz giving his speech at the April 20, 2013 Red Sox game against the Royals and we see the Mayor of Boston, Ed Davis, and other people who helped make Boston safe. Then we see clips of the real life couple who lost their legs talking as well as a father and son who were separated (who were also featured in the movie). I really didn't think it was necessary to have these talking heads in there because it felt like I was watching a documentary and an entire new movie was starting. This should have been in the special features portion of the DVD. And believe me, there are TONS of documentaries on the Boston Marathon bombing to watch if you want to find out the many stories that come from it. I think having the baseball speech was the perfect place to end it, as well as have the in memoriam photos of the four people who lost their lives. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fallen Star

O.J.: Made in America
Director: Ezra Edelman
Released: May 20, 2016

Oscar nominations:

Best Documentary (won)

At a running length of seven hours and forty-seven minutes, this is the longest film to ever win an Oscar. I was surprised it was even up for an Oscar since it watches more as a miniseries than as a film. It was first shown as a five part miniseries on ESPN, but it also got a theatrical release which made it eligible for the Oscar. When it was shown at Sundance, there was only one intermission! What kind of bs is that? A nearly eight hour movie and only one intermission? At least there were two intermissions at other places it was shown theatrically. I watched it on Hulu and it took me about a week to get through it.

This movie chronicles the life of O.J. Simpson. Now when I think of O.J. Simpson, the first thing that comes to my mind is the Trial of the Century and that part of his life was a huge chunk of the film, but they also discuss his early life as a football player who became a beloved national symbol and then a superstar athlete and celebrity. I was in middle school when the murders occurred and a high school freshman when the not guilty verdict was read. I'm trying to remember if I even knew who O.J. Simpson was before all this occurred or if this was my first introduction to him because I honestly don't remember. It's possible I had heard of the name because I believe at that point he was a commentator for one of the big networks during football games so I probably heard it when my dad was watching football games and I was doing something else. By this time he would have played Nordberg in the three Naked Gun movies, but I honestly don't remember when I saw those and I'm sure I wouldn't have remembered him from them even if I had seen them before the trial. I'm pretty sure I was familiar with the name, but didn't know much about his life until the trial.

I would rank the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial as one of the most significant cultural events that ever happened during my lifetime. If you are old enough to remember this, then you remember what a big deal it was. And if you were too young/weren't born yet, this documentary is a great way to find out about it. In fact, there were many things I had forgotten or didn't even realize while watching it. (And some things I was reminded about earlier when I had watched the FX series The People vs. OJ Simpson).

They interview everybody and anybody who was involved in Simpson's life, whether it was his football career, personal life, or his trial. The only person they didn't get to interview was Simpson himself.

The first part of the documentary began with his college and professional football career, the part of his life I was the least familiar with. He played for the Buffalo Bills in the '70s and the documentary reiterates what an icon he became and how everybody loved him. Apparently he did some pretty impressive things during his football career, but I don't know anything about football. Being so well loved by everybody made it easy for him to transition into Hollywood. He was in a handful of films, but I've only seen/heard of The Towering Inferno and the Naked Gun movies. (And I'm pretty sure he was the one who started the fire in The Towering Inferno! (And yes, I made that joke when I reviewed that film.)) He was the spokesman for Hertz and I feel like I remember the networks showing these commercials over and over again because I know I've seen them, but they were first aired before my time. They interviewed the director or someone who was involved in the commercials and he said that since a black man was the star of the commercials, they had to make sure everyone else in it was white. This was in the late '70s - a different time for all!

There were lots of things I didn't know about Simpson that I learned in this documentary. I knew he was married before he met Nicole Brown, but I didn't know he had a daughter who drowned right before she turned two. I also didn't know his father was gay. And while I knew Nicole was younger than him, I guess I hadn't realized how large the age gap was, especially when they met. He is twelve years older than her and they met when she was 18, so he was 30 when he was going after an eighteen year old. Ewww. They interview a few of his friends from childhood and high school and they tell stories about how charming he was and how he could talk his way out of any situation.

Race plays an important part in this documentary as it did with the trial. They take the time to rehash the Rodney King beating and how that played a vital role in the trial. At the time, I was way too young to understand how it was connected, but this documentary it makes perfect sense. If you don't know, Rodney King was a young black man who was beaten by police and it was caught on video. This happened in 1991 Los Angeles. The police men were not held responsible and this incited outrage among the black community. I can't blame them; that was pretty infuriating. One juror member on the O.J. trial was interviewed and admitted her not guilty vote for Simpson was payback for that. His lawyers (especially Johnny Cochran) did a great job of making race the number one priority in a murder trial that I remember thinking at one point during the whole ordeal, Wait, weren't two people brutally murdered? It was really unfortunate for the prosecution that Mark Fuhram was the first cop to be on the scene and he had a history of saying some terrible, racist things. The defense team aka The Dream Team used that to their full advantage and ran with it. And it certainly paid off as we all know. The prosecution also made some very dumb mistakes, most notably the gloves. (Sidenote: I've recently just finished the first season of This is Us and every time I see Sterling K. Brown in a scene, I just shake my head and think, Oh, Charles Darden, why did you have O.J. try on the gloves?) Having him try on the gloves was so stupid! Of course they're not going to fit! Do you know how easy it is to try on a glove and make sure it doesn't fit? All you have to do is stiffen your hand. I've also heard he stopped taking his arthritis medication and that made his hand swell up. At least that moment gave us the great line, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit!"

Even with that bone head move, I still puzzle over how Simpson was acquitted. Everyone and their grandmothers knows that he did it. I'm sorry, but you have to be stupid or in complete denial if you think he is innocent. Because if he didn't kill his ex-wife and Ron Goldman who was at the wrong place at the wrong time, then who did? The details of their gruesome murders are explained while very, very graphic photos are shown. Nicole was nearly decapitated because her throat was slashed so viscously. And let's not forget that Simpson had a record for domestic abuse and even spied on his ex once when she was with another man. Everyone interviewed in the documentary say they believe he did it or if they don't flat out say that he did it, they insinuate that they believe he did. EVERYONE. His (former) friends. His former manager. People from the defense team. The jurors.

The last part of the documentary goes into detail about how Simpson ended up in jail. Ironically, he got away with murder but he didn't get away with a robbery! This is schadenfreude at its finest. In 2008, he was sentenced to 33 years in jail for breaking and entering into a Las Vegas hotel room of a man who had a bunch of Simpson memorabilia from his football days. Simpson claims that all this stuff was stolen and wanted it back. (Is it considered a robbery if you're taking back stuff that was yours in the first place? Hmmm. Although he did take other stuff that wasn't previously his). They interview the guy who had the memorabilia and he said he went to the front desk and asked for security because he was "robbed by O.J. Simpson" and that everyone started laughing at him. To be honest, I would probably have had the same reaction. I would also probably have said an off-color joke like, "Well, at least he didn't kill you!"

Let's just pretend we're living in an alternate universe where Brown and Goldman were never murdered and O.J. Simpson was best known as being one of football's greats and the Trial of the Century never existed. If the Las Vegas robbery still happened in this timeline, no way in hell he is sentenced to 33 years in jail. He would have only had a slap on a wrist and probably would have to pay a fine. Even though a gun was involved, nobody was hurt and the whole thing was told as a dumb heist with a bunch of idiots.

But we don't live in an alternative universe and he wasn't sentenced to 33 years in prison for breaking and entering or robbing a man or having a gun, no he was sentenced to 33 years for murdering two people. How stupid do you have to be? He literally got away with murder (TWO murders!) and goes and does something stupid. Here's a lesson for you: if you get away with murder, don't do stupid stuff!

This was a very compelling documentary and I highly recommend it. You can find it on Hulu. Take a week and watch an hour every day. I learned a lot of things about Simpson's past and football days that I never knew. I also learned a lot about the Trial that I wasn't aware of or just forgot. There's so much in the documentary (obviously, it's nearly eight hour long!) that I only just scratched the surface with this review.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

7th Movie Montage

I have made my seventh overall movie montage! Please enjoy! And if you have missed any of my other movie montages, click on the "montage" tag and check them out!