Monday, January 26, 2015

Ridiculous Coincidences

Director: Peter Chelsom
Cast: John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Jeremy Piven, Molly Shannon, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan, Eugene Levy
Released: October 5, 2001

I didn't see this movie when it was out in theaters, but I did see it on a theater screen on February 13, 2002 when my school screened it for free in the auditorium. My dorm was right next to the building with the auditorium so it was very convenient for me! Other movies I saw there (all free...who doesn't love a free movie?) include Vanilla Sky, Pearl Harbor, Not Another Teen Movie, Training Day, The Mummy Returns, and Legally Blonde. Pretty much any movie that was released in 2001!

It doesn't surprise me that they chose the week of Valentine's Day to screen this movie because it is a romantic comedy, but not as vapid and stupid as most romantic comedies can tend to be. You do need to suspend your belief at times with this film, otherwise you might be rolling your eyes and muttering, "What the...." or "Wait a is that even possible?" If you just sit back and enjoy the movie, it's very easy to do.

Sara (Beckinsale) and Jonathan (Cusack) bump into each other at Bloomingdales while Christmas shopping and both grab for the last pair of black gloves they both want. Even though they both have significant others, they shamelessly flirt with each other (and Jonathan even confesses his attraction to her...but who can blame him, Kate Beckinsale is a very attractive woman and she has a very adorable British accent) and share an ice cream sundae at a place called Serendipity where Sara explains to him why she loves the name of this ice cream parlor and what serendipity means. This all happens within in the first five minutes of the movie so they established the title of the movie pretty quickly!

They continue their quasi-date by going ice skating at Rockerfeller Center. Sara falls and cuts her arm and they make it seem like blood is gushing out of her arm, but in the next scene when Jonathan is putting a band-aid on her arm, there is no scratch on her at all! They are still flirting with each other and it's obvious they like each other and it's like just break up with your other significant others already! Sara, being into things happening for a reason, wants to be sure they are meant to be together and makes him do things only a beautiful woman with an adorable accent could get away with and still have the guy want to pursue her. She does this because when Jonathan was handing her number to her, a gust of wind swept it away and she thought it was a sign they weren't suppose to have any more contact. Instead she comes up with the idea of writing her name and number in a copy of "Love in the Time of Cholera" and tells him she's going to sell it to a random used bookstore tomorrow and if he ever finds it, then it will be a sign. She tells Jonathan to write his name on a five dollar bill and goes to a newsstand to buy something with it and if that bill makes back to her, then it's a sign.

Okay. Let's think about this rationally. I can buy the book being found even though there has to be hundreds of used book stores in New York. Obviously it's a well-known book and there are lots of copies (as we do see in the movie because he checks every copy of it to see if it's the one she had). But how many five dollar bills are in existence and this particular one could easily travel out of the city. Would it be a spoiler to say that both items come back into the movie?

Before they part ways, Sara has one more crazy experiment she wants to try. They go to the Waldorf Astoria where she tells him they will take separate elevators and if they both push the same button and end up on the same floor, then it's a sign they should be together. Why they just don't give each other their numbers and tell them they'll call the other if it doesn't work out with their current relationships, I don't know. So of course we see they both push the same button in their separate elevators (23) even though there are 47 floors. So that would never happen. Let's be real here. That would be really crazy odds for that to ever happen. Except that a father and his kid (dressed in a devil costume even though it's not Halloween....I guess they wanted to symbolize he was a terror?) gets on Jonathan's elevator and the kid pushes all the buttons thus making it take forever for Jonathan to reach his destined floor. He does cheat by checking every floor to see if Sara is there. She waits for him for awhile, but eventually, dejectedly leaves.

A year passes and to show time we have a montage of seasons passing, shadows, sun dials, and clocks. Why they just couldn't have a simple "One year later" on a black screen, I don't know. We see Jonathan at a big gathering where he is being toasted for his current engagement. We never see the woman he is next to, just her hand on his shoulder and we are all waiting with bated breath to see if it is Sara...but as the camera slowly pans over, we see it is not. It is Holly (Moynahan) who has nothing to do except to look pretty and tell Jonathan he's been acting distant lately. Jeremy Piven plays his best friend and gives the toast. Even though Jonathan's set to marry Holly in just a few days, he's still thinking about Sara.

Meanwhile, Sara is in San Francisco. Her best friend is played by Molly Shannon and her boyfriend, Lars (Corbett) is some goofy exotic flute player who has posters of himself with open shirts and does cheesy music videos. She is still thinking about Jonathan and decides to go to New York to "see what happens". I should mention that Lars asked her to marry her and she said yes.

Meanwhile, Jonathan finds a receipt inside the black glove he kept (Sara has the other) and sees an account number and sees if he can get Sara's information this way. Eugene Levy plays the salesman who works at the store that can help him, but he blackmails him by making him buy $700 worth of stuff so he can get his commission. He starts getting clues on how to contact Sara, but always ends up one step short in which he has to find another way around to get to the next step. But it's all a moot point anyway because....

....the book and the five dollar bill show up! But I already spoiled that for you! Oh and I should also add that there are several scenes where Jonathan and his friend are going somewhere that Sara and her friend are just leaving. Uh-huh. And then there's a scene where Jonathan gets tangled up in a dog's leash and just a few seconds later, the guy and the dog are going around the block...and then Sara gets tangled up in the leash! Oh, movie! So like I said, Jonathan has been checking all the copies of "Love in the Time of Cholera" whenever he walks past a used book store. Holly has noticed this and what is her wedding present to him but that novel! And of course it is THE novel. Awkward! He finally has Sara's full name and her phone number.

Meanwhile, Sara has decided that coming to New York was a mistake and is on the plane to fly back to San Francisco. Molly Shannon has stayed behind to attend a wedding (oh, I forgot to mention that she and Holly are friends....of course they are! They all see each other at the hotel when Jonathan is conveniently out). While waiting for takeoff, Sara buys a pair of headphones and realizes she has Molly's wallet because their looks similar. In an earlier scene, when the two friends are at Serendipity's (because of course), Molly puts the change in her wallet and we see the red ink with Jonathan's name and number on a five dollar bill! Oooh! Sara sees the familiar bill and snatches it from the flight attendant and runs off the plane. She goes to stop the wedding only to find out that it has been called off.

She and Jonathan find each other at the ice skating rink, kiss, get married, and live happily ever after. (Or at least we see they are still together one year later!)

Like I said, you just need to go with the movie to enjoy it because there are too many things that are way too coincidental and would never happen in the real life. But it is a feel-good movie and came out at a time when that's what people wanted most.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

She's Miss United States

Miss Congeniality
Director: Donald Petrie
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Michael Caine, Candice Bergen, William Shatner
Released: December 22, 2000
Viewed in theaters: December  28, 2000

Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) is an FBI agent who is a little on the crass side. She snorts when she laughs; she doesn't care how she looks as she doesn't wear make up and has unkempt hair; and she says and does whatever she wants without thinking of the consequences first. So when they find out the Miss United States pageant (I guess they didn't have the rights to use the Miss America or Miss USA pageants!) is being targeted by a madman who calls himself The Citizen, they need an agent to go undercover. The only viable person is on maternity leave so she can't do it. Even though Gracie is a woman and the right age, nobody even considers her as she is not beauty queen material at all. She has no poise or manners and her looks are all wrong. But when they discover she doesn't look half bad in an evening gown, they decide to use her as their under cover agent. She has now replaced Miss New Jersey (as she was involved in a scandal and pulled from the competition) and is using the alias Gracie Lou Freebush. Kathy Morningside (Candice Bergen) is the head of the pageant and is incredulous about the idea of Gracie being in the pageant but she enlists her pageant coach, Victor (Michael Caine), who gives Gracie a much needed make over and teaches her how to act like a lady including saying "yes" instead of "yeah" and how to glide. Rounding out the Miss United States panel is the host played by William Shatner.

Gracie's makeover includes a lot of waxing, dental care, skin care, hair styling, and make up. Of course she looks good - she's Sandra Bullock! Her partner, Eric (Benjamin Bratt) is amazed at what he sees and you know by the end of the movie they're going to become an item. I loved when Gracie taunted him with her singsongy, "You want to kiss want to hug want to date me." Bullock is great and hilarious with the physical comedy. Yeah, she probably falls one too many times when she's wearing high heels, but to me, it never gets old. And the scene where she's mocking the pageant winners receiving the crown is so funny. I would say the funniest scene is when she's having trouble walking so she gives Victor all these guns and holsters that are hidden under her dress and it goes on for a few minutes! Victor makes a quip about if she has an armed car under her dress as well. Although I also love the scene where they show a montage of the girls saying world peace is the one thing they want most, but when Gracie is asked the same question, she says, "Harsher punishment for parole violators" and then after a very silent pause she says, "And world peace!"

Gracie spends her time with the same women throughout the movie, the most notable one being Miss Rhode Island, a sweet and naive young girl named Cheryl (when asked what her perfect date would be, she replies with "April 25th because it's not too hot or too cold"), who Gracie encourages to be more confident. The girls representing New York, California, Hawaii, and Texas are really the only ones who have dialogue and we see throughout the movie. Not surprisingly, they all make it far into the competition along with Gracie and Cheryl. It is totally random when Miss Nebraska, of all the states, makes it into the top five and is third runner up!

There are a few things that don't make sense. Gracie has had a bad day and wants to quit but Victor and Eric encourage her not to. We learn she hasn't been on a date in many years and doesn't have many friends and she has a line where she tells Victor or Eric (I can't remember who) that they don't know why she is the way she is...but we never do learn why she is the way she is. Although at the beginning there is a scene of her as a grade schooler where she punches a boy for beating up another boy she likes, then when that boy is mad that a girl defended him, ends up punching him too. So I guess we are just suppose to figure she's always been like that, but why we don't ever find out why. There's a scene where Cheryl is suspected of being the Citizen but Gracie doesn't think such a sweet, innocent girl could ever do anything illegal so she takes her out to a club to have some "girl talk" with her and Cheryl tells her that she was "attacked" by a college professor once and while Gracie offers to teach her some self defense moves, we never hear about the incident again. Like, was she raped? It was just really random especially for not having anything to do with the movie. And Cheryl comes off as a very bubbly, friendly girl...not someone who has ever been "attacked" before. It was bizarre! And this is revealed when Gracie asks her if she's ever done anything illegal. She confesses she once shop lifted, then mentions that...which really has nothing to do with doing anything illegal, so I have no idea why they even had it in there.

The pageant takes place in San Antonio so Miss Texas has a lot of supporters in the audience. The look on her face when she learns she's second runner up is hilarious. I am about to reveal who is behind the Miss United States attack plot, so stop reading if you don't want to be spoiler (although who hasn't seen the movie yet?) It is Kathy Morningside and her son, Frank. She is being fired for fixing past competitions and she vows to give them a "show they won't forget" as she has replaced the crown with another crown that has a bomb in it (don't ask me how that's possible). Gracie realizes this right before the crown is to be placed on Cheryl, who has won the competition. It's very loud and Cheryl can't hear Gracie tell her not to take the crown so instead she has to pounce on Cheryl and claw the crown away from her. This results in a hilarious scene where Cheryl slaps her bouquet of flowers at her. Somehow Gracie punches Miss Texas in the nose (and we later see her with a nose bandage!) It's just a chaotic scene and ends with Gracie flinging the crown into the air towards the large Statue of Liberty replica as Kathy pushes the button that controls the bomb and ends up blowing up part of the statue.

The next morning Gracie is awarded Miss Congeniality by the other women in the pageant for saving their lives.

There was a sequel to this called Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. While watching the ten minute look at it on the DVD, I had no recollection of it whatsoever even though I was pretty sure I saw it since I liked the first one so much. However, when I looked at my movie journal for 2005 (this is a journal where I keep track of all the movies I've seen in the theater since 1999), it was not in there! Then I checked my online journal where I've kept track of all the DVDs I've seen since 2003 (I know, I'm a major nerd!) and discovered I saw it on DVD in June 2005. I probably don't remember anything about it because it's been nearly ten years since I saw it and it was awful as it was an unnecessary sequel. Sorry, but I won't be reviewing it!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Worst move of 2014?

The Other Woman
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Don Johnson, Nicki Minaj
Released: April 25, 2014

The Other Woman has to be a serious contender for the worst movie of 2014. Lord, that movie was awful! Carly (Cameron Diaz) starts dating an attractive and successful man, Mark (Coster-Waldau) only to discover months later he's married. His wife, Kate (Leslie Mann), suspects something and confronts Carly about it. At first I thought Mark was cheating on his wife because Kate is the most annoying human being in the world and I am not exaggerating. Leslie Mann is just so painfully unfunny in this. I don't think I cracked a smile once when she was doing her stupid physical comedy. (Okay, I may have laughed at that scene where she and Cameron Diaz are hiding in the bushes and she's pretending Diaz's legs are hers and she's stretching them out like she's in a weird pose...THAT was the only somewhat funny thing that happened in the entire movie!) There's a scene where she's at  Carly's office and has just found out her husband's been having an affair with her and starts having a fake panic attack and asks if she can open a window (they're in a skyscraper in New York City, so she's apparently really stupid!) and it goes on and on and on...and I'm thinking, is this suppose to be funny? Because it's not!

But we soon learn Mark is just a scum bag because he has ANOTHER, much younger woman, Amber (Kate Upton who was only cast in the movie because she's Kate Upton). The wife and the mistress soon get a hold of her and she becomes a part of their team to take down Mark. I thought that happened way too quickly. One minute she's frolicking in the ocean with her married boyfriend, the next she's conniving with his wife (and her other competition) and they become good friends. It literally happens within the span of just a few minutes. At least they took some time with setting up Carly and Kate. Carly understandably doesn't want anything to do with Kate because 1) she's married to the guy she thought she liked and 2) she's the most annoying human being ever to be in a movie...she even followed Carly home from work which is just insane.

Oh, and let's not forget Nicki Minaj who is also in this, playing Diaz's secretary. Good God, she is just truly awful! Who thought it would be a good idea to put her in a movie? Probably the same person who thought it would be a good idea to put Kate Upton in a movie because she's hot at the moment.  What is this, Will and Grace, where we're throwing in random people just because they're super famous? Fact: Nicki Minaj can't act!

In a scene where Carly is on a date with Mark (she's keeping up appearances in order to get back at him so he doesn't suspect anything), he flirts with another woman when he goes to the bar to get their drinks. Why is this guy even married? In the same scene, Carly puts laxatives in his drink and we are treated to a delightful scene of him in the bathroom. You think they would have cut to the next scene as soon as we see him get up and run to the bathroom as he looks uncomfortable, but noooo, we had to endure a few extra minutes of disgusting and pointless footage.

Don Johnson plays Diaz's father and he has a thing for younger woman so he ends up with Amber at the end and there's a joke about Carly saying, "I'm not calling her mom." It's crazy to think that Cameron Diaz is twenty years older than Kate Upton!

This movie is just horrendous and please tell me if you've seen a movie worse than this in 2014 because I  will surely be avoiding those movies as well!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Soccer Rules

Bend It Like Beckham
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Cast: Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightly, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Archie Panjabi
Released: April 11, 2002 (UK); March 28, 2003 (US)
Viewed in theaters: April 26, 2003

I own this movie on DVD (I got a good deal on Ebay) and its been in my possession for at least a decade but I hadn't given any thought to it until recently when I started watching The Good Wife (I just finished season 3) and was looking up the cast on IMDb. I was curious to know such things as: What other shows has Will Gardner been in? (Sports Night). How old is Cary Argos because he looks like he's 12....he was 32 in the first season! And then I see that bad-ass investigator Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) played the older sister in Bend It Like Beckham and thought I would revisit it.

This was a small, independent movie that was really popular when it came out. As you can see, it was released in the UK (as it is a British film) a full year before it came to the States. I had heard good things about it and really wanted to see it, but it was only playing at a small theater that only shows foreign and independent movies (I saw it when it was only in select cities; it was later released nationally in August ). That was the first and only time I had ever been to that was OLD. The seats were very uncomfortable. I guess I am too spoiled by being able to recline in my movie theater chairs! But at least this movie wasn't that long. I was living in a small town when I saw Fellowship of the Ring and saw that in a really old, small theater with crappy seats. I should receive a medal for that! At least I enjoyed the movie! 

Bend it Like Beckham centers around Jess (Parminder Nagra) an Indian girl who lives in England with her older sister and parents who are very traditional in their culture and customs. She loves playing football (soccer to us yanks - okay, let's be honest...the rest of the world is right to call it use your feet more in that sport than you do in our American football!) and has a poster of David Beckham (even a person who doesn't know a thing about soccer knows who he is!) on her wall that she talks to everyday when she just needs to vent about something and can't talk to anyone else about it. 

She often plays with her guy friends in the park and is approached by Jules (Keira Knightley in her first major role) who tells her she should play for a  local team and invites her to try out for the Hounslow Harriers. The town they live in is called Hounslow; I had no idea what a harrier was until I looked it up: it's a bird. Who knew? Jules introduces Jess to the head coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Quick sidenote: Who thought it was a good idea to give the three main characters all one syllable names that begin with J?  Joe is impressed with Jess's soccer skills and she is invited to join the team, but when she asks her parents' permission, she is forbidden because her parents don't want her showing her bare skin in the uniform, but mostly it is because her father doesn't want her to get her hopes up in thinking she might be able to get a scholarship at a school to play only to be disappointed when she will be discriminated against which he thinks will happen to her because he has seen it firsthand, so he only wants to protect her which is understandable. 

Jess pretends to get a job so she can say she's at work when she's really playing soccer. She wears street clothes over her uniform and hides a bag with her athletic shoes in a bush outside her house. There's one scene where she has literally stepped out her front door...and her family is still inside...and unzips and takes off her hoodie to reveal her uniform. Good Lord, at least wait until you're out of sight from your house!  She is caught by her sister when her mother asks her to pick Jess up at work but when Kalinda gets there she learns that Jess doesn't work there. Even though she begs Kalinda not to say anything, she is still found out when her parents find out she bought new soccer shoes instead of shoes for her sister's upcoming wedding. Joe comes to talk to her parents saying how great a player Jess is and that she would be a great asset to the team, but her parents still refuse and they are angry with Jess for lying to them. This doesn't deter Jess and she even fabricates a story about staying with a friend for a few days so she can go to Germany to compete in the first international tournament for the Harriers. Now, everyone has heard of lying to one's  parents about sleeping over at a friend's house when they're really at another place they shouldn't be, but lying to your parents about being at a friend's house when you're in an entirely different country seems a bit extreme! But she keeps up the charade by calling her parents from her hotel room and telling them lies about her day. She probably would have gotten away with it except her father sees an article in the sports section about the soccer team heading to Germany and he puts two and two together and discovers Jess has lied...again.

Not only does Jess have to deal with her angry parents, but Jules is also angry with her and has stopped talking to her after she sees a drunk Jess almost kiss Joe at a nightclub, she gets jealous and angry. Jess is confused because Jules told her she didn't like Joe like that. And even though Jess didn't kiss Joe, Jules thinks she did. It's very typical high school drama.  

By far, the worst character is Jules' mother. They were obviously trying to make her the comic relief of the movie, but some of the things she said was just so stupid and narrow-minded, it made me cringe. Like Jess's parents, she also hates that her daughter plays soccer but only for the reason that it is unladylike and she is worried that Jules will never have a boyfriend because she thinks her waif of a daughter is going to get so bulky from playing soccer that no guy will want to be with a girl who is bigger than him. Then she overhears Jess and Jules arguing about what happened in Germany with Joe, but she misinterprets it as them having feelings for each other and thinks Jules is a lesbian (and when she finds out she isn't, she's very relieved, which I found very insulting for the gay community!) But Jules does admonish her for saying there's nothing wrong with being a lesbian. But probably the most cringe worth moment is when she drives Jules to Kalinda's wedding and sees Jules and Jess hug and freaks and rudely tells Jess to take her "lesbian feet" out of her shoes. (Jules gave Jess a pair of her shoes to wear to the wedding). It's like, geeze, lady, could you be any more homophobic? I guess you could say at least she's not racist as she was always very nice to Jess before she thought she was dating her daughter! 

The same day as her sister's wedding is also when a scout from the States is coming to see the girls play and potentially offer them scholarships. With her father's permission, she is allowed to play as long as she makes it back to the wedding. By this time she and Jules have made up. By the end of the movie, Jess and Joe are making out and Jules seems totally fine with it...okay. The scout offers them to come to California and play for Santa Clara (or as Keira Knightly pronounces it, "Santa Clah-rah!" I laughed so hard when she said that). At the airport when they're getting ready to leave, they see Becks and Posh so of course they think that's a sign for good things to come. End movie.

Speaking of Posh (my favorite was always Ginger, naturally!), Victoria Beckham has a song on the soundtrack (which I own because I love the song "Inner Smile"). I think it's played during the club's not very good or memorable and it's a good thing she's found success in her fashion line. Another former Spice Girl, Mel C (aka Sporty) also has a song on the soundtrack and it's actually pretty decent. A lot of the songs have an Indian influence (and made me think of the music in Slumdog Millionaire). There was even an Indian-inspired cover of "The Power of Love" (sadly not on the soundtrack), the Celine Dion power ballad, which ironically is also a cover although no one probably knows that because it is much more popular than the original! 

So if you're a fan of The Good Wife and have never seen it, you may get a kick of seeing Archie Panjabi in an entirely different role from Kalinda.