Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Remember when terrorism was funny?

True Lies
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, Eliza Dushku
Released: July 15, 1994

Oscar nominations:
Best Visual Effects (lost to Forrest Gump)

True Lies is the James Cameron movie sandwiched between arguably two of his most well-known movies, Terminator 2 (1991) and Titanic (1997).  True Lies leans more towards T2 than Titanic, though. They both star Arnold and are action flicks, though True Lies is an action-comedy while T2 is a little more serious.

While a fun action movie, True Lies is a bit of a hot mess. It doesn't have a coherent storyline. It's like there's three different stories in one movie.  A lot of stuff that happens in this movie is really dumb. This movie was made for and intended for the male population, but you can still get a kick out of it if you are not of that camp. You just may roll your eyes more often!

Harry Tasker (Schwarzenegger) works as an undercover agent for the government in the anti-terrorism department called the Omega Sector. Because this is so top secret, his wife, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) and 13 year old daughter, Dana (Eliza "You gotta have Faith" Dushku) don't know about his real job and thinks he is a computer salesman who goes on a lot of business trips.

"Dad, this snow globe is totally not five by five!" 
There's a running joke throughout the first part of the movie that Helen thinks her husband's job is boring and she tells one of her co-workers whenever she needs to fall asleep, she'll ask her husband about his day and that will do the trick. Dana, the rebellious daughter, thinks her dad is really lame. Oh, if only they knew of what he really did and the exciting life he led when he was away.

Before and after:
Tom Arnold Schwarzenegger
Harry's partner is Albert (Tom Arnold) who accompanies him on all his missions. He's the brains behind the operations working with the computers and sound equipment. Harry is the guy who beats everyone up. Makes sense to me! In the first part of the movie they are after a terrorist. There's a big shootout in a public restroom, then Harry is on a horse chasing the guy on a motorcycle. They go through the hotel and into the kitchen, then the guy gets on one glass elevator (still on the motorcycle) and Harry gets on another glass elevator (still on the horse). You think this whole scenario is ridiculous? Just wait, it gets even more ridiculous! The terrorist, now on the roof, sees another hotel across the street and drives the motorcycle across the room, flies across the sky and lands in the pool. Uh-huh. Then Harry tries to do the same with the horse, but being a smart animal, the horse stops short of jumping off the roof and flings Harry off the side of the building, still holding onto the reins.

The terrorist guy is pretty much all forgotten about as we go into the second part of the movie. While going to his wife's work to see if she wants to have lunch with him, Harry stops short when her co-worker tells Helen she has a call from her "mystery guy". Harry eavesdrops and can only conclude that she's cheating on him. He tells this to Albert who in turn tells him, "Welcome to the club." He and Albert put a bug in Helen's purse, then spy on her the next day when she's suppose to meet her mystery man. He is Simon (Bill Paxton) a used cars salesman who is pretending to be a spy so he can hook up with lonely housewives. He invites Helen over to his trailer and tells her he has to fly to Paris on a mission and wants her to pretend to be his wife. By this time, Harry and a whole task force are surrounding the place and blow the roof off the trailer. It's a little ridiculous he has all this hoopla to rescue his wife from a smarmy cars salesman.  After Harry and Albert give Simon a good scare, we never see him again. I know Bill Paxton is a Jimmy C favorite, but I don't think he was really necessary in this movie. Yes, we do get some funny moments (like when Harry imagines punching him in the face) and it does help set up the next (kinda pointless but still needed) scene, but it just seemed to be totally thrown in randomly.

Then we get to part two of the second section which is still focused on Helen. She is brought to an interrogation room where her husband and Albert are on the other side of the mirror and their voices are disguised. They ask her questions about her relationship with Simon and whether or not she slept with him and what her relationship with her husband is like. She understandably becomes angry and asks what that has to do with anything. They tell her to avoid going to jail, she must work for them and complete an assignment when she's called. Of course, this is all a ploy, but it spirals out of control as we'll get to in a minute.

We next get the sexy dancing scene which is in the movie to have an attractive woman dancing in lingerie. I don't know. It's a guy movie so you gotta have something like that in there. Helen gets her "assignment" where she's suppose to go to a hotel and pretend to be a hooker for a guy who just "likes to watch". After she bugs the phone in his room, they will be set. Now they have made up Jamie Lee Curtis as very conservative, wearing frumpy clothes, pearls, and glasses and has a "Mom" haircut. Her idea of a dress a prostitute would wear is that awful black taffeta number you would find a bridesmaid wearing, but she gets some sense and cuts off the sleeves and ruffles until it's a little black dress, shows some cleavage, wets her hair, puts on some lipstick and she is instantly changed. Who knew Harry was married to such a hot woman? He sure didn't when she stars sexy dancing for him. Yes, Harry is the guy she's dancing for (he's sitting in the shadows), so it's not so creepy that at least it's her husband watching her, although she doesn't know that, so it still it a tad weird. She's wearing black lingerie when she's dancing and I'm sorry, but no woman who dresses like June Cleaver would own underwear like that! She lays on the bed and Harry tells her to close her eyes. She does and he kisses her and she, thinking it's some perverted guy, grabs the telephone and smacks him in the head with it. You would think she would be able to tell her husband's kiss (but I guess it's been awhile since they've been intimate!) This is the moment when she finds out her husband is a spy and as it so happens, at that exact moment the terrorist guy, along with Juno Skinner (Tia Carrere), the villain of the movie, capture them.

In the next part of the movie (which is part 3 of section 2 - the longest section of the movie) we get these gems:
-Harry, who is tied up and been given truth serum tells a guard that he is going to kill him by stabbing him in the throat, then taking his gun and shoot the other guards, and I don't know, it's this elaborate plan he has, but he's telling the truth because he does exactly what he says he's going to do.
- Helen sees a bad guy about to aim a gun at Harry who is preoccupied with other bad guys, so she takes a gun and starts shooting it, but she ends up dropping it and it falls down the stairs and every time it hits the ground and it pointed at the bad guy, it shoots and hits them, but she is miraculously never hit!
-Juno escapes and kidnaps Helen and they are driving across a long bridge over the water. Harry gets  the National Guard - or something like that - and they blow up a section of the bridge to stop the bad guys. Really? We're going to blow up the bridge? The guy driving the car Helen and Juno are in is shot, but his feet are still on the gas, so the two women have a catfight in the car and Harry, who is on a helicopter, has to rescue Helen before the car dives off of the bridge. Luckily, he does.
-There's a funny scene where the terrorist is making a video and the guy recording him sees that the battery is low, but the terrorist doesn't want to be interrupted and has to do his speech again when he is told the battery died.

So now we get to the third - and final - segment of the movie. I don't know about you, but I'm already exhausted and feel like this movie has a satisfying ending with Harry saving his wife's life, but nope! Now he's gotta save his daughter's life! Remember Dana, who we saw a few times in the first part of the movie, but had no screen time in the entire middle section? Well, the terrorists have found her and have kidnapped her. So Harry takes a jet (which of course he knows how to fly) and flies to the hotel she's at. Dana has escaped with the key that is meant to detonate the bomb (did I mention there's a bomb in all this?) and goes to the roof (why do people go to the roof when they're trying to ESCAPE?) and crosses some scaffolding. She's just like that little girl from Adventures in Baby-Sitting who escapes the bad guy by going out the top floor of a Chicago skyscraper. Smart, girls, smart. Meanwhile, Harry is in his jet and destroying everything in his wake....he is going to have one large bill to pay! He sees Dana on the scaffolding and tells her to "jump on the plane". Right. She does and the bad guy also does the same and and he and Harry get into a fight. The bad guy somehow gets strapped onto a missile and Harry says, "You're fired" before releasing the missile where it then flies right into the path of a helicopter that more bad guys are flying and they all burn in a fiery ball. It is so absurd. Harry manages to get himself and Dana down safety and the Tasker family lives happily ever after and Helen even becomes a spy.

There was suppose to be a sequel in 2002, but then 9/11 happened and Cameron scraped the project saying that terrorism just wasn't funny anymore and it's like, Huh? When was terrorism ever funny? But I do kind of get what he's saying. Obviously that was a sensitive time in our history and making an action-comedy about terrorism wouldn't be the best idea. But sometimes the best medicine is laughter in times like those, so who knows, maybe the public would have welcomed it. Or...maybe not.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Beloved Novel of Our Time? Seriously?

The Prince of Tides
Director: Barbra Streisand
Cast: Nick Nolte, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Kate Nelligan, George Carlin
Released: December 25, 1991

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (what? - lost to The Silence of the Lambs)
Best Actor - Nick Nolte (huh? - lost to Anthony Hopkins for The Silence of the Lambs)
Best Supporting Actress - Kate Nelligan (who? - lost to Mercedes Ruehl for The Fisher King)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Pat Conroy and Becky Johnston (lost to Ted Tally for The Silence of the Lambs)
Best Score - James Newton Howard (lost to Alan Menken for Beauty and the Beast)
Best Art Direction (lost to Bugsy)
Best Cinematography (lost to JFK)

As you can tell from my snide remarks, I wasn't a huge fan of this movie. It wasn't the worst thing ever, but I was expecting something different. To be honest, I wasn't sure what I was expecting. I only knew two things about this movie: it starred Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte and it was based on a novel. When I saw the name "Pat Conroy" I assumed that was a woman, but no, it's a man. I'm probably being sexist because my mind immediately assumed it was a woman since while not a romance, it has elements of romance in it. Plus it just seemed like the kind of story a woman would write. (There I am being sexist again). The movie is melodramatic and schmaltzy, but even after two and a half hours I was left saying, "That's it?" According to Goodreads, the book is 679 pages so they obviously left a lot of material out or didn't embellish on it. Apparently the book spans forty years while the movie is maybe a few months with flashbacks. The DVD I had skipped at one point and I missed a good twelve minutes of the movie. This happened the first time Nolte's character goes back to South Carolina. But I'll back up a minute here..

Nolte plays Tom Wingo, a forty something Southern man with an unhappy childhood. He is so over the top and overacts in this and his Southern accent is just the worst! Don't get me wrong, he sounds Southern, but it almost sounds like he's doing a parody of someone with a southern accent. It has that stereotypical vibe to it. I knew this movie took place by the ocean, hence the title, but for some reason, I thought it was Cape Cod or Nantucket, I don't know, I was just getting this Massachusetts vibes, I guess, but no, I was way too north. It's South Carolina. Where, I have no idea, although he does mention he has to drive through Charleston to get home. The Goodreads summary says it takes place in the South Carolina low country wherever that is. But the majority of the movie takes place in New York anyway. Why? Well, because Tom's twin sister, Savannah, lives in New York as a writer and tried to commit suicide. (Not her first time). Her psychologist, Dr. Susan Lowenstein (Streisand), wants to talk to a family member to "fill in the missing pieces of [Savannah's] life" since she has blocked out many of her memories because a lot of them were pretty horrific. Now I am no psychologist, but isn't that a breach of confidentiality? Can a therapist just call a patient's family member and discuss things with them, even if (especially if!) the patient in question is unable to speak for themselves? (Savannah was in the hospital while Tom was talking to Dr. Lowenstein). I'm sure this is better explained in the book.

Like I mentioned, there are flashback, but there's only a handful and they only last about five minutes. It seems like most movies that go back and forth between present day and a flashback will have the flashback for several scenes. A good recent example of this is Saving Mr. Banks. Another good example is Fried Green Tomatoes. Those flashbacks actually seemed part of the movies and not just random clips they threw in at the last minute. The flashbacks in The Prince of Tides were just very quick vignettes; it all felt very jarring. From them, we learn that Tom and Savannah and their older brother, Luke, had an abusive and alcoholic father and a mother who copes with her husband's incessant screaming by feeding him dog food (clever, I'll admit) and sweeping things under the rug. It is mentioned that Luke is deceased but, unless it was mentioned in the 12 minutes of film I wasn't able to see, we never find out when or how he died. 

There's a flashback (that jumps to and from the present) that Tom tells Dr. Lowenstein and it's the first time he's ever told anybody about it. One evening when he and his sister were 13 years old and at home with their mom, three convicts who had escaped from a prison came in and raped all of them. Now I was not expecting this at all. The dark things about this movie had been a father who screamed at his family and a suicide attempt and then comes this very disturbing scene where little kids are getting raped? Where the hell did this come from?  And I was confused...how did these men get out of jail? Was this the first house they came across and it just so happened to be occupied by one defenseless woman and two defenseless children? It just seemed so...random. I have a feeling there's more to this story in the book. At least I hope so! Luke wasn't there when it happened, but he came home while it was happening and luckily he had a shotgun so he was able to kill two of the men while his mother stabbed her assailant. They buried the bodies and the mother told them to never speak of this incident. I can understand why they didn't tell the father (not sure where he was during all this) because he wouldn't care, but I don't understand why they never told the police. A few days later, this is the first time Savannah tries to kill herself. She moved to New York because she wanted to get away from the South (understandably!) and became a poet and author to express her pain through writing...or something like that.

I looked up the book's synopsis on Wikipedia and there was a paragraph about the rape scene. Tom and Savannah were 18 when it happened, which is still horrible, but it seems like the movie had them be 13 for the shock value. It sounds like they knew one of the guys who assaulted them before he went to prison so there is some history there and the older brother doesn't kill the men with his shotgun, but instead the family apparently owns a pet tiger and he released it on the men and they were mauled to death instead of shot to death. I'm almost kind of intrigued to read the book now.  It's gotten a lot of good reviews on Goodreads and not surprisingly everyone says it's better than the movie. (Well, duh!) 

Tom's wife back in South Carolina (Blythe Danner) is having an affair and Susan's famous concert violinist husband is having an affair and eventually Tom and Susan will have an affair with each other.  He stars flirting with her first, but she wants to keep things strictly professional. So she does this by inviting him to dinner at the most expensive, most fancy, most romantic French restaurant. Because that screams "business meeting". She also invites him to one of her and her husband's pretentious dinner parties at their fancy penthouse and the film doesn't even try to make the husband have any depth. He was just a one-dimensional jerk. I can only hope he's better written in the novel! He acts like he's better than Tom and insults him being Southern until Tom takes his one million dollar violin and threatens to drop it from the balcony unless he apologizes to him for the way he treated him and his wife for cheating on her. This is the last we see of the husband and when Tom and Susan's passionate love affair begins. Now I thought this is what the movie was centered around (from reading the back of the DVD box), but the entire romance lasts about ten minutes (maybe it was longer, but it seemed like ten minutes) and it's all done as a cliched montage: there they are making love in bed, there they are making love in front of the fireplace, there they are making love in a bubble bath, there they are having a picnic, there they are having fun outside playing football, there they are horseback riding. And end montage. (Okay, maybe some of those scenes didn't happen, but I can't remember if they did or not!) Then we get the scene where Tom goes back home and says good-bye to Susan and she cries and hugs him and then they go on with their lives. He returns to his wife and three daughters in South Carolina and I don't know what happened to Susan. She probably went back to her jerk of a husband for all I know. And then the movie ended and I was like, "Seriously? That's it?" 

Here's some other random tidbits about the movie: George Carlin plays a gay man who is a friend of Susan's and throws fabulous parties. It was really weird seeing him in this because I knew him as a comedian and while the movie may try to attempt to throw a funny line or two in there, it is no way a comedy. It just felt like very random casting.

There's a lot of screaming and yelling and shouting in this movie. My God, EVERYBODY SCREAMS AT EACH OTHER ALL THE TIME! IT'S SO OVERDRAMATIC! Tom screams at Dr. Lowenstein, she screams back at him; Tom screams at his mother, she screams back at him; Tom screams at his wife, she screams back at him; his father screams at everyone in the flashbacks. I bet that 75% of Nolte's acting is just shouting at someone! 

I cannot believe this movie was nominated for Best Picture. It is a hot mess! And Nick Nolte nominated for Best Actor is laughable too as he overacts in pretty much every scene. Skip this one. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, Nate Parker, Lupita Nyong'o
Released: February 28, 2014

I'll first write this review with no spoilers, then give a huge warning when I'm about to go into that territory because I don't want to spoil this movie for anyone who hasn't seen it and may want to. 

I love my air disaster movies (Air Force One, Executive Decision, Flight) and this was no exception. It was a lot of fun although there were many scenes where you would be left wondering, "Huh...that seems implausible." 

Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks, a federal air marshall who is an alcoholic with a depressing family history. He's on a flight from New York to London when he starts getting texts from someone who claims they're on the plane and tell him they're going to kill someone every 20 minutes unless he puts $150 million into an account number he is given. He knows the person isn't fibbing he's on the flight because he told Bill he saw him smoking in the bathroom. The kicker is that the account number is in Marks name so it looks suspicious and that he's behind the whole thing.

For a movie called Non-Stop, you think of non-stop action and it makes me laugh a bit because there are several scenes of long stretches where it's just Neeson texting and reading his received texts. This is just another movie in a string of films I've watched where texts messages or e-mails or Tweets will be typed out on the screen instead of them just showing a shot of the phone and what's being written on it. The other text happy movies have been The Fault in Our Stars, Chef, and Fruitvale Station and I'm sure there have been others as texting is a huge way of communicating. Don't get me wrong: the texts are threatening and there's eerie music, but they're not the most action-packed scenes. 

And every twenty minutes someone does die, but we never see who's behind it and it's always either a set-up or made to look like an accident like when the pilot dies of what looks to be a heart attack, but he was actually poisoned. 

There were many people who could have been the suspect because they looked suspicious or Marks had had an earlier encounter with them so all through the movie I was wondering who it was. At one point, I was pretty sure I knew who it was (and I'll get to that in my spoilers), but I was wrong. The movie had me guessing the entire time and by the third act I was dying to know who was behind it. This person (or persons...don't want to  spoil it) put a bomb on the plane because they wanted to prove how dangerous flying was and how crap airport security is. 

Marks finds the bomb and puts it in the back of the plane with a bunch of luggage covering it and demands the pilot (the one who didn't die!) to fly to an altitude of 8,000 feet because somehow that will....I don't know, do something so the entire plane won't explode. The bomb does goes off and there's a huge hole in the plane and the landing is a little bumpy but everyone survives (except for the bad guy (or guys!). Please. There is no way in hell anybody could survive a plane crash like that. It was so ridiculous. At one point this young girl sitting next to Marks begins to fly out (because the entire ceiling of the fuselage is gone!) and he hangs onto her and pulls her back in. If this happened in real life, everyone would be dead. But despite that, it was a fun movie and I enjoyed it a lot. Now for the spoilers...


Okay, so at one point I was pretty sure Julianne Moore was the bad guy, or at least working for the bad guy since we never see her text him. She's sleeping right next to him when he receives his first set of texts and then later she and a flight attendant (Michelle Dockery) are looking at a screen for anyone using their phone to see if they can see who's texting Marks. So I thought it was her husband or someone who was texting Marks and she was keeping an eye on Marks. There are a few suspicious things like she is insistent about sitting in a window seat and sits next to him and she doesn't answer him when he asks what she does for a living. There is a scene in the movie where she does become a suspect and he questions her, but it was all a red-herring. Or you could say a red-hairing. Sadly, I can't take credit for that joke...I heard it on a podcast of a review of this film. 

There is a man Marks bumps into when he's getting out of the taxi at the airport and the man asks him where he's flying and I'm thinking, "Hmm, this could be a suspect" and then we are introduced to a bunch more people that could be potential suspects, but in the end, he was one of the two bad guys! So it was the first guy Marks has any dialogue with in the whole movie. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Deja Vu

Groundhog Day
Director: Harold Ramis
Cast: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Stephen Tobolowsky, Chris Elliot
Released: February 12, 1993

Before I get into my review, I just had to mention that I saw Edge of Tomorrow about a month ago, which is like a sci-fi Groundhog Day where Tom Cruise lives the same day over and over again to figure out how to win the war against aliens. His co-star, Emily Blunt, plays a character named Rita, which is Andie MacDowell's character's name in Groundhog Day. Now it had been awhile since I last saw Groundhog Day, so I didn't remember her name in the movie, but I was listening to a podcast movie review of Edge of Tomorrow and one of the hosts mentioned that Blunt's character was named Rita as a shoutout to Groundhog Day which I thought was really cool. It's just too bad I couldn't appreciate that while I was watching the movie! And if you want to go deeper, Tom Cruise's character's name is William, which can be shortened to Bill, which rhymes with Phil, which is Bill Murray's character's name....except that Cruise goes by Cage, his character's last name.

Edge of Tomorrow is just one of many narratives where the same day is repeated over and over. I'm sure Groundhog Day wasn't the first to do that plot line, but I'm willing to bet it's the most famous. And whenever someone mentions Groundhog Day, you think of the movie, not the actual holiday which is probably the stupidest holiday ever. (Sorry Groundhog Day fans!) I can never remember if it's six more weeks of winter if the groundhog sees his shadow or not...and let's be honest...there's ALWAYS at least six more weeks (if not more!) of winter when it's only February 2nd...duh! 

So we all know the basic plot: Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors is sent to Punxsutawney, PA, home of Groundhog Day and the actual groundhog (also named Phil) who does the predicting. He goes with his producer, Rita, and cameraman, Larry (Chris Elliot). Phil thinks the job is beneath him and just wants to get it over with and go home. Only he can't because they get stranded there when a blizzard hits. The next morning, he wakes up to the same song playing from the previous morning ("I Got You, Babe", the Sonny and Cher classic) and thinks the radio station accidentally put on the broadcast from yesterday, but when he looks out the window, there is no snow and he  has the same interactions with the same people from yesterday. There's a funny scene when he asks a woman where everyone is going and she says, "The Groundhog Day festival" and he says, "Is Groundhog Day everyday now?" He then repeats the same day over and over for who knows how long. Another funny exchange is when he asks the woman who works at the inn he's staying at if she ever has deja vu and she tells him she'll check with the kitchen.

At first, understandably, he is annoyed and confused, but then he just learns to accept it because there's nothing he can do about it. He learns small details to watch out for. The first few days, he keeps stepping into a deep puddle when he's crossing the street, then remembers it's there and jumps over it. 

He goes through different phases of how he reacts to his time loop. He feels invincible because whatever he does, will be erased when he starts anew the next "day". He recklessly drives a car and ends up in jail, only to wake up in his B&B room, he steals money and goes shopping, he eats a bunch of fattening food and desserts just because he can. (Hey, why not!) He asks an attractive woman where she went to school and what her English teacher's name was and the next day pretends to be an old classmate and sleeps with her and doesn't have to worry about her calling him the next "day" because she won't remember him.

Then he starts being interested in Rita and takes her out to a fancy dinner. She tells him she studied French poetry in college and he comments how useless that was, then the next "day", he takes her out again and this time when she tells him what she studied, he fluently says something in French, impressing her very much. They have a near perfect evening until the end when she suspects that he's only interested in sleeping with her and storms off. He tries to repeat this perfect day over and over, but to no avail and ends up getting slapped by her many times in a montage. 

This makes him depressed and he's tired of being in his constant time loop, so he decides to kill himself...many times. He runs his car off a cliff, he jumps from a building, he electrocutes himself...only to find himself waking up in the same bed again each morning. 

He then goes into an almost existential phase when he gives a homeless man money who's been there since day one and he's always ignored. He later finds the man passed out on the sidewalk and takes him to the hospital where the nurse tells him he's passed away. The next few times, he tries to help the man by giving him lots to eat, but whatever he does, the man still dies because that was his time and Phil no longer feels like he's in control of everything. 

One of the most memorable characters and sequence of events is when he meets an old classmate, Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky) who is an annoying insurance salesman. They filmed the five or six scenes one right after the other so they would have the same cars in the background. It's fun and interesting to see how Phil reacts to Ned each time. The very first time, before the time loop begins, he's annoyed and wants to get away from him. The first few times after the time loop, he's still annoyed and tries to avoid him, but whatever he does, Ned still finds him. He punches him one time, he becomes the annoying one and scares Ned off, then towards the end, he befriends Ned and gives him a hug and buys insurance from him. 

Of course when Phil realizes what's important in life (and wins Rita's heart), he is freed from his repeating day. I'm sure everyone, after seeing this film, has pondered what would they do if they were in a situation like Phil's. It would drive me crazy if I was repeating the same day over and over again, but on the other hand, it would be a great way to read more books and watch more movies and just do and learn more things. (Phil learns French, how to play the piano, and reads some classic books). It would be nice to have more time to do things and not have to worry about a deadline. And if you screwed up on something, it would disappear the next day when you would get a clean slate. On the other hand, any relationships you might make would not last as the person(s) would not remember you the next day. I would definitely not want to be stuck in a small town with no way to escape like Phil was because, for one thing, I would miss my cat!, and I would rather just be home where I have everything I need and can go forever repeating the same day! Well, maybe not forever! 

I started this by bringing up Edge of Tomorrow, so I'll end with another thought concerning it. Groundhog Day will always be the go-to repeating-the-same-day movie and I like it better than Tomorrow, although that was a good movie, but there is something I loved about Tomorrow that didn't happen in Groundhog Day and made the movie a little different: there were several times where the audience would be in a new scene with Cruise and Blunt and you figured this was their first time there too, but then you learned that they had already been in that situation several times before. I thought that was nicely done and always kept me wondering. Just add Run, Lola, Run (although her repetition only lasts a mere three times!) and you have the perfect trifecta of time loop movies.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


How To Train Your Dragon 2
Director: Dean DeBlois
Voice talent: Jay Baruchel, Gerald Butler, Cate Blanchett, America Ferrera, Dijmon Hounsou, Craig Ferguson, Kristin Wiig, Jonah Hill
Released: June 13, 2014
Viewed in theaters: June 29, 2014

Spoilers ahoy!

Much like the first movie, I loved this one too, and much like the first movie, I cried during this one as well. Also, like the first one, I saw this one at nine in the evening to avoid young children talking or crying or kicking the back of my seat. Unlike the first one, I did not see this one in 3-D, but that's only because the theater I saw it at wasn't showing it in 3-D! Otherwise I would have as I kept seeing the obvious scenes that were meant for the 3-D viewers and how cool it would have been to be able to see it that way.

I probably should have seen the first movie before seeing this one, but I thought I didn't need to since I saw How To Train Your Dragon twice, but I sure couldn't remember how Hiccup lost his leg...or even that he did lose his leg!

 The sequel takes place five years later (I thought they should have made it four years since it's been four years since the first movie!) and the village where our hero, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Barachel) lives has become littered with dragons now that everyone owns one. The town, once fearful of dragons, now has a dragon feeding-station, a large stable for the dragons to sleep, and a fire prevention device.

Besides Hiccup and Toothless, his fiercely loyal dragon, we are re-introduced to some old familiar characters such as Stoic (voiced by Gerald Butler), Hiccup's father and the town's chief; Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera), Hiccup's girlfriend; Hiccup's ragtag team of misfit friends (voiced by many including Kristin Wiig and Jonah Hill); and Gobber (voiced by Craig Ferguson), the chief's right hand man. We are also introduced to some new characters, mainly the film's villain, Drago (voiced by Dijmon Hounsou) who wants to control all the dragons. I guess because his name is "Dragon" without the N, that gives him the right. I first heard his name as "Draco" and was thinking, "Harry Potter already did it!" And we are introduced to Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett), Hiccup's mother who he thought was deceased all these years. She has a Scottish accent (by the way, I love that both Hiccup's parents have strong Scottish accents and he doesn't) and when I first heard her in the trailer, I was curious to see who voiced her.

We learn of her backstory where she has become a savior for dragons who have become hurt or neglected and need care. Everyone thinks she was killed by a dragon because the last time anyone saw her (when Hiccup was a baby), she was cornered by a dragon and carried off by it, but it never had any intentions of hurting her. Valka is reunited with her family (complete with a cute Scottish ditty she sings with her husband) and they're off to stop Drago from controlling all the dragons. There's a huge fight between his alpha, a humongous black dragon, and Valka's alpha, a humongous white dragon and Drago's dragon wins, thus making him in control of all the other dragons. This is yet another reason why I wished I had seen the first movie because I remember a huge dragon being in the movie, but don't recall if it was the same kind.

Toothless, under Drago's control, is ordered to kill Hiccup, but Stoic dives right in front of his son right before Toothless breathes fire, killing Hiccup's father. That was the scene I cried at (and several scenes after I was still crying!) It would be bad enough to have our main character lose his father, but have him die at the cost of his beloved friend is really a punch to the gut! Like Hiccup, I was even angry at Toothless for what he did, but Valka, being the voice of reason tells her son that it's not Toothless's fault; that he was tricked into doing it.

Now the town has no chief and no dragons, but Hiccup steps up to take his dad's place and defeat Drago and free the dragons from the hypnotized state they're all in. Not only does Hiccup become a hero, but so does Toothless, who fights through the mind control of the alpha and defeats the alpha, thus becoming the new alpha. Now Toothless doesn't kill the ex-alpha since he is a million times smaller, but the ex-alpha retreats into the water like a whimpering puppy.

The first movie came out the same year as Toy Story 3 (2010), so I knew it had no chance of winning the Best Animated Movie Oscar, but I hope it can win it next year for this movie because it's such a great movie and deserves to! I'll see you in another couple years for How To Train Your Dragon 3

Sunday, July 6, 2014

This time we're saving Mr. Banks, not Private Ryan

Saving Mr. Banks
Director: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak, Collin Farrell
Released: December 20, 2013

Oscar nominations:
Best Score - Thomas Newman (lost to Steven Price for Gravity)

This is the story of how Walt Disney (portrayed by Tom Hanks) got the rights to P.L. Travers' (portrayed by Emma Thompson) beloved book that the movie Mary Poppins is based upon. Now I had no idea Mary Poppins was based on a book. I always figured it was an original script. It's been a long, long, LONG time since I've seen it, but I would have figured I would have read the book or at least heard of it, right? In fact, it's been such a long time since I've seen it that I had no idea who the "Mr. Banks" in question was until I realized it's the father from the book she wrote. 

I suppose no other studio could have made this movie other than Disney since they have the rights to Mary Poppins, the songs from it (you hear a lot of familiar classics!), and Walt Disney himself. I have a feeling this movie would have gone into darker territory if another studio had made it. It sounds like Disney (the studio) took a few liberties with Saving Mr Banks. True, they do make P.L. Travers very unlikeable, but they do give her a few moments of redemption and scenes where you kind of feel sorry for her, but it sounds like she was a lot worse in real life than how they portrayed her in the movie. Disney wants the rights to her book, but she will have final word in the script. I can understand an author wanting to protect her script, but some of the demands she bestows upon them is a little ridiculous. For one thing, she insists the color red not be present in the movie. And she just doesn't mean wardrobe, but anything that is red. The movie never tells us why she has such an aversion to the color red, like she does with pears. Since it's been so long since I've seen Mary Poppins, I don't know if they caved in to that ridiculous demand, but I'm guessing not since she also insist that there be no animation or musical numbers and, well, I know for a fact that both of those are in the movie! I'm guessing the scenes where she's dancing and singing along to Let's Go Fly a Kite with screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford), and the Sherman brothers, the music composers (Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak) did not actually happen in real life! In fact, she disliked them so much that when they made the stage production of Mary Poppins, she insisted only that British writers and composers be part of the team so she wouldn't have to work with the people from the film.

We see a scene where it's mentioned that Dick Van Dyke is being mentioned for the role of Bert and Travers is just appalled at this and we all know he got the role. There's another scene where they sing a song for her (and of course she hates it) and there's a made up word in it and she mentions how she hates it because it's not a word and we see one of the composers quickly cover the sheet music with the title "Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious". There's cute little scenes like that.

The movie flips back and forth between writing the script for Mary Poppins and P.L. Travers' childhood in Queensland, Australia, where she was known as Helen Goff before adopting her pen name and we can kind of see why she ended up the way she did. Both her parents were pretty horrible at being parents. Her mother, despite having three young children, tried to commit suicide (but didn't) and her father (played by Collin Farrell) was a drunk who could never keep a job and that caused the family to have money problems. He loved Helen very much and told her to always keep her active imagination and Helen returned his adoration and was crushed when he died. Travers was her father's name and thus the reason she used it as her surname for her writing.

The movie shows her more tender side by having her befriend her driver (Paul Giamatti) who takes her to and from the studio and her hotel while she was in L.A. She's cold to him at first, but overtime they develop a very nice friendship, which surprise, never happened in real life! And I mean that Giamatti's character did not exist in real life.

Travers was not invited by Walt to the premier of the movie (which I guess really happened in real life - in fact, I heard that Walt was on vacation the two weeks she was there to help work on the script because he couldn't stand her!), but she attends it anyway because it is her book being made into a movie. She watches the movie and cries because she's just so overwhelmed by emotion, and Walt, who is sitting behind her, puts a tender hand on her shoulder, and again I can guarantee this never happened in real life. I don't know if it's true, but I'm willing to bet it is, I heard that Travers hated the movie! It's too bad she was such an unpleasant woman because I remember being charmed by Mary Poppins and now that I know it was written by her, it kind of tarnishes the movie for me. Looking at her Wikipedia page, I found a lovely quote that pretty much confirms how much a horrible person she was: "Travers died in London on 23 April 1996 at the age of 96. According to her grandchildren, Travers "died loving no one and with no one loving her." Yikes! How can a woman like that write a charming story like Mary Poppins! Good thing when I think of Mary Poppins, I think of Julie Andrews!