Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Video review

I haven't done a video review in awhile, so here is one I did of Avengers: Infinity War. Warning: THERE ARE SPOILERS!!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

How To Get Away With Murder

Reversal of Fortune
Director: Barbet Schroeder
Cast: Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close, Ron Silver, Annabella Sciorra, Fisher Stevens, Christine Baranski
Released: November 9, 1990

Oscar nominations:

Best Direction - Barbet Schroeder (lost to Kevin Costner for Dances With Wolves)
Best Actor - Jeremy Irons (won)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Nicholas Kazan (lost to Michael Blake for Dances with Wolves)

While watching this movie, I found that pretending it's a sequel/spin off to The Lion King really heightens the movie experience and makes it much more enjoyable. I know what you're thinking: what does a movie based on the true story of a man accused of trying to murder his wife have to do with an animated Disney movie about safari animals? Absolutely nothing, except for the fact that Jeremy Irons is in both of them and every time he spoke, all I could hear was Scar! (Let's be honest, Jeremy Irons will always be Scar to me). It was especially prevalent when we don't see him, but can hear him in voiceover when he's about to tell a story in a flashback scene. All I could think of was that it sounded like Scar was narrating the story and that's when it hit me! What if, after Scar was eaten alive by his hyena minions (I know he killed his brother, but I always thought his death was a *tad* harsh!), he was reincarnated into a skinny Danish-born/British-raised man named Claus von Bulow? (The only thing that doesn't really work is that Claus von Bulow is a real person and obviously real people can't be reincarnated from dead animated villainous lions! That's the ONLY reason why this theory couldn't really work!) But seriously, watch this movie and pretend that Scar has been reincarnated as a human. It totally works too because Claus is a bit of a shady character, and, like I mentioned before, is accused of trying to kill his wife. If this doesn't scream Scar, I don't know what does! There's even a flashback scene where he's petting a baby tiger! And there's a scene where his lawyer tells him he's a strange man and he replies, "You have no idea." Isn't this the same reply he has to young Simba after the cub tells him, "You are so weird." Obviously this is probably a shout out to this movie. 

During the opening credits, I noticed that the movie was based on a book of the same name by Alan Dershowitz and I was thinking, Why does that name sound familiar to me? Then, a few scenes later, it is revealed that the author is in the movie and he is played by Ron Silver. There was something familiar looking about him and I knew he was supposed to be somebody famous and then it clicked. He was one of the lawyers on the OJ Simpson trial and honestly, if I hadn't watched the Ryan Murphy miniseries a couple years ago, I would not have remembered him at all.

This was a murder trial I was not familiar with. And speaking of the OJ Simpson trial, before that, THIS one was the first major criminal trial to be televised in the United States. I guess Alan Dershowitz likes the limelight.

There were two incidents that involved Claus's wife, Sunnny von Bulow (played by Glenn Close), both of which happened very close to Christmas. In 1979, she fell into a coma, but came out of it within twenty-four hours. The doctors were sure that she had suffered from hypoglycemia and told her not too eat too many sweets or go too long without eating. The same thing happened nearly a year later in 1980 and this time Claus was accused of trying to murder her. She was found unconscious in the bathroom in the morning and when taken to the hospital, they discovered she had suffered enough brain injury to keep her in a vegetative state.

Sunny's adult children from her previous marriage thought that their stepfather may have injected their mother with insulin and wanted to have him investigated. They were suspicious of him the first time Sunny fell into a coma. Sunny was an heiress with a lot (A LOT!) of money and they lived in this huge mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. The two had been having marital problems for awhile now and Claus was having an affair which he didn't even keep a secret. I'm not gonna lie; Claus von Bulow comes across as being super shady (and if you come from the school of thought where he's Scar reincarnated, then of course he has the means to kill his own wife if he's already murdered his own brother!) But, on the other hand, Sunny had her own demons and did not follow her doctor's strict orders of no alcohol or overindulging on sweets. She did not take care of herself at all and it is easy to see why she would have ended that way...of course, all the more reason for Claus to have a very good motive to try to kill her! It's understandable to see why Claus was acquitted at his second trial; there was a lot of evidence pointing to Sunny did this to herself, unintentionally. But personally? Eh, I think he probably did it. Even though the movie is based on Dershowitz's book, it doesn't paint Klaus as being innocent, it more or lets you decide if he's guilty or innocent. We're just given the facts they presented themselves in the case. I would have to do some more research on the case, but my instincts says he is guilty.

The movie starts after Sunny is in her permanent coma and we hear from her in voiceover as she explains what had happened to her the first time. The maid was concerned that Sunny had been sleeping all day (to which Claus told her she had been up all night) and insisted she was not sleeping, but rather unconscious. She pleads to Claus to call a doctor, but he only does this after he notices Sunny's not breathing right. A bag of insulin was found in his closet. Of course his lawyer is able to talk it away during the trial.

After he was tried and sentenced to thirty years, he appealed and hired Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz. In the scenes we see him in with his students (which include Annabella Sciorra and Felicity Huffman) it reminded me of the first season of How to Get Away with Murder. Felicity Huffman's character voices her concern about defending Claus since he is "obviously guilty", but Dershowitz tells her it's their job to defend him. One of his students says, "I agree von Bulow is guilty, but that's the fun; that's the challenge" to which Dershowtiz replies, "Now there is a lawyer." Claus doesn't help matters when he repeats jokes he's heard about him with the law students, asking them, "What do you get a wife who has everything? An injection of insulin."

When Sunny was found unconscious, she was facedown on the bathroom floor with her nightgown hiked up. We see scenarios from the defense team of how she could have gotten there with or without Claus's help. We first see the scenario where Claus injected her with the insulin in their bedroom, then dragged her to their bathroom, then we see the scenario where she had been drinking too much the night before and hit her head on the edge of the toilet when she got dizzy and fell while she was in the bathroom. One of the students ask how did her nightgown get hiked up (which would have been been the result of Claus sliding her across the floor if he had done it), and Dershowitz comes up with the possibility that she was about to use the toilet, but hit her head before she sat down.

The real Sunny von Bulow was in her coma for 28 years; she died at the age of 76 in December 2008. I don't know why her family kept her like that for almost thirty years; maybe they thought she would wake up and then be able to accuse Claus of killing her? I feel like after a couple of years, it might be time to pull the plug. It is a little weird to think that when this movie was released (in 1990), she had been in her coma for ten years by then...and would remain in it for another eighteen years. It is a little chilling when we hear Glenn Close's voiceover as the comatose Sunny say, "I never woke up from this coma and I never will." We see nurses in the hospital massage her fingers and give her sponge baths and roll her over so she won't get bed sores. I don't know anything about comas, but it almost seems like abuse to keep someone in one for so long.

While researching this case, (this wasn't mentioned in the movie), I discovered that the daughter Claus and Sunny had together (who was 13 when her mother was found unconscious the second time) stayed loyal to her father, while, of course, her older step siblings thought he was guilty. Awkward! I also read she was disowned by her maternal grandmother because of this, which is sad. At the time of this writing, Claus von Bulow is still alive at the age of 92. Who knows if he'll ever confess if he ever did it before his time on this earth is up.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Candidate for Best Worst Movie

The Disaster Artist
Director: James Franco
Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Jacki Weaver, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron
Released: December 8, 2017

Oscar nominations:

Best Adapted Screenplay - Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (lost to James Ivory for Call Me By Your Name)

I have never seen The Room (not to be confused with Room!), but I am well aware of it from the many reviews (mainly the video one from the Nostalgia Critic) I've read about it. When it came out in 2003, I was not aware of it because it was a very small movie, but over the years its gained a cult following and this is how I became aware of it. I've never seen it because it's more interesting to watch other people's interpretation of it (like the NC review and this movie). I've also never had any interest in watching Troll 2, but the documentary Best Worst Movie is absolutely fascinating. (And while The Room has terrible acting and a lot of things don't make sense, I think Troll 2 may have it beat as worst movie ever).

The Disaster Artist tells the story of the making of The Room. It begins in 1998 where aspiring actor Tommy Wiseau (played by James Franco) meets a fellow actor in his acting class, Greg Sestero (played by Dave Franco) and they become fast friends and move from San Francisco to L.A. to make their acting dreams come true. Tommy says he has an apartment they can both stay in. There are a few shady things about Tommy: he says he's from New Orleans, and while he has an accent, it's not a Southern one. Throughout the movie it's discovered he has a lot of money (hence the reason he's able to afford an apartment in San Francisco and Los Angeles, he drives a Mercedes, and he's able to finance the movie they will eventually produce which will cost about $5 million). He also tells Greg's mother (played by Megan Mulally) that he's nineteen, the same age as Greg and he is definitely way older than Greg!

It is a little weird that real-life brothers are playing friends because even though James Franco is made up to look like Wiseau, he still looks like himself and Dave Franco looks a lot like his brother.

When Tommy and Greg have a hard time succeeding in Los Angeles (did they think it would be easy?), Tommy decides that they should make their own movie. He writes a script which will become The Room (terrible name for a movie; but since I haven't seen the movie, I don't know why it's called that.) The movie is about a guy named Johnny (who Tommy will play) who has a girlfriend named Lisa who he's madly in love with, but she sleeps with his best friend, Mark (to be played by Greg). Tommy makes the comment that Mark is named after "Mark Damon" from The Talented Mr. Ripley, ha! Johnny is so overcome with grief, that he kills himself. Oh, and Tommy's not sure if he's going to make Johnny a vampire or not. (What?) I'm assuming he didn't go down the vampire path.

Production begins in June 2002 and while Johnny and Greg cast the other parts for the movie (and let's just say the actors they got to play those actors in this movie are much more well known than the actors in The Room!), they also buy the filming equipment they need. Since they are buying instead of renting, they are allowed to use the studio. Tommy wants to shoot the movie on both digital and film which is unheard of as both are lit differently and there are other variables that don't make sense to shoot both. I didn't know if he wanted to shoot the movie twice; once on film, and once on digital; or if he wanted to shoot some scenes in film and others in digital. But from day one the movie is set up to be an odd one and it will only get stranger from there.

I noticed that Jason Mantzoukas plays one of the guys who sells them their equipment, Paul Scheer plays the first DP on the movie, and June Diane Raphael plays an actress within the movie. If you know all these names, you are probably familiar with the podcast, How Did This Get Made? where they take a terrible movie (like The Room; I'm sure they've done an episode of it, but I haven't listened to it, but now I really should!) and make fun of it. It's a very funny podcast; I highly recommend it. It can't be a coincidence that all three have parts in a movie based on one of the worst movies ever made when they have their own podcasts about terrible movies.

On the first day of filming, Tommy, the director (he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in The Room), insists on them shooting a scene that takes place in an alleyway on a set made up to look like an alleyway when there is an actual alleyway right outside they could use. He insists on shooting on the set because it's "a real Hollywood film". This is the kind of eccentric person Tommy is. Josh Hutcherson and Zac Efron play the two actors playing the characters (it's kind of weird that they're playing the actors who are playing the characters! It's almost like a double layer of acting - they have to be good as the actors, but terrible as the characters those actors are playing) and I did not recognize them at all until I saw that they were in the movie, then had to go back and re-watch this scene. I have no idea what is up with the character of Denny that Hutcherson is playing (within the movie's movie; God, this is so confusing!) As the actor, he is also confused and asks Tommy how old his character is supposed to be (since he acts very young and juvenile) and Tommy replies, "Fifteen, sixteen, your age" and he replies, "I'm twenty-six." Ha! Oh, please, tell me this is a true story and Tommy Wiseau thought a 26-year-old was a 15-year-old! Of course, most of the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 were almost in their thirties when they played high school students so it's not the craziest thing! Other humorous elements adding to the scene is that Denny has the worst haircut ever so Josh Hutcherson has to wear this hideous wig (I'm assuming it was a wig!) so that's probably why I didn't recognize him. Also, Efron's character's (character's!) name is Chris R. and Hutcherson is asking Tommy why he has to call him Chris R., why not just Chris?

Other problems with the filmmaking include Tommy making everyone wait for hours when he is late one day and it is so hot that an elderly actress playing Lisa's mother (played by Jacki Weaver) faints from heat stroke; Tommy makes everyone uncomfortable during a sex scene when he walks around the set wearing only a sock to cover himself, then starts berating the girl playing his girlfriend (played by Ari Graynor) because she has blemishes on her skin; and Tommy being such a terrible actor that it took him 68 takes to get his lines right the first day of shooting. Seth Rogen plays the script supervisor who has to keep feeding him his lines.  In a funny scene we see the entire crew reciting the lines for him. This is the (completely terrible) line: "I did not hit her. It's not true. It's bulls***.  I did not hit her! Oh, hi, Mark." The "Oh, hi, Mark" cracked me up every time. Like I said, I've never seen The Room, so I have no idea what the context of this line is, but WHY does he say, "Oh, hi, Mark" at the end of this rant? Was he ranting and just then saw his friend? I am vexed; it vexes me. Oh, and I should also add that Tommy Wiseau is a terrible actor and has this weird, flat delivery. Check it out for yourself. To be fair, everyone seems to deliver their lines flatly. He also keeps laughing during a scene when Mark is telling him about a girl he knew who got beat up. They try getting takes where he ISN'T laughing (since that's what they want to use), but he just laughs every time. When they film the scene where Johnny kills himself, he shoots himself in the head, falls back, but then keeps on moving and moaning even though that gunshot to the head should have killed him!

When they eventually premiere the movie and are watching the scene when Johnny goes into a flower shop and the woman who works there says (in a flat tone), "Oh, hi, Johnny. I didn't know it was you." Seth Rogen's character says out loud, "Who doesn't recognize that guy?" since Johnny has long black hair and is wearing sunglasses inside.

During a lunch break, after she's had her heat stroke, Jacki Weaver's character tells Greg and the other young actors "Even the worse day on a movie set is better than the best day anywhere else." I don't know if I agree with this logic, but let me try my own examples using this template:

The worst Taylor Swift song is better than the best Ariana Grande song. (Yeah, not a fan of the Grande.)
The worst Jurassic Park movie is better than the best Transformers movie. (At least JPIII is one hour shorter than the first Transformers movie!) That was fun. Try your own!

Soon after Greg moves to L.A., he starts dating another inspiring actress (played by Alison Brie) and they run into Bryan Cranston at a coffee shop. Now since this is 2002, Greg is awestruck because he recognizes him from Malcolm in the Middle. His girlfriend introduces them since she knows Cranston from her pilates class and he tells Mark he's directing an upcoming episode of MitM and they're still looking for someone to fill a guest role and that Greg would be perfect for it. However, when he tells Tommy this news, he tells Greg he can either do "the little TV show" or their movie and guilts Greg into forfeiting the guest spot. I was thinking, if Greg did MitM and did a really good job, Bryan Cranston might have remembered him when Breaking Bad was about to start and maybe, just maybe he would have recommended him to Vince Gilligan for the role of Jesse Pinkman (Greg Sestero and Aaron Paul are about the same age), and the rest, as they say, could have been history. But alas, this never happened; Greg was never offered a guest role on Malcolm in the Middle and never met Bryan Cranston. I read it on the IMDb.com trivia page for this movie.

Throughout the shooting of the movie within this movie, we see what day they are on out of the forty days they have for shooting and I laughed when they were on day 52 of 40! It was released in one theater in June 2003. Tommy paid to keep it there for two weeks to qualify for the Academy Awards. Is he really that delusional? Did he really think this piece of dreck could qualify for the freaking Oscars? It grossed $1800 on its opening weekend (and I'm surprised it even made that) and has since made seven million dollars due to its cult following. This movie doesn't really go into HOW it became to have a following which I felt was a missed opportunity.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Baby Steps

What About Bob?
Director: Frank Oz
Cast: Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty, Kathryn Erbe, Charlie Korsmo
Released: May 17, 1991

I have seen this movie a couple times before, but it's been awhile since I've last seen it and while I remember the basic premise and it being a comedy, I had completely forgotten about just how dark it gets towards the end, and wow, does it ever get dark! I just remembered this being a laugh-a-minute riot.

The Bob in question is Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) who has obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, agoraphobia, hypochondria, germaphobia, high anxiety, and who knows what else. I almost feel bad for the guy (I easily become anxious, so I can relate), but my God, is he ever f***ing annoying! He also does some pretty abhorrent things, though many not as bad as what his therapist will do later on in the movie! 

Not surprisingly, with all his conditions and phobias, Bob has a therapist and in the first scene we see him (the therapist) calling Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss), telling him he's leaving his practice and moving out of town and wants to know if he can take on one of his patients. He strokes Dr. Marvin's ego by telling him that Bob needs someone "brilliant" and assures him he is not psychotic. When he hangs up the phone, he grins and says "Free!" I think it's safe to say that Bob also drove his first therapist crazy like he will Dr. Marvin.

Bob meets with Dr. Marvin and their first session seems to go well. Leo gives him a copy of his book called Baby Steps, telling Bob he just needs to get somewhere "one step at a time" after Bob tells him he gets a bunch of symptoms of anxiety when he's out in public. We learn that he was once married, but divorced her because she didn't like Neil Diamond. (Or maybe it's because she did like him. I forget.) Yeah, I was a bit shocked to find out he was once married, but not at all surprised that he's divorced! When their session ends, Bob freaks out when his new doctor tells him he won't see him until after Labor Day when he'll return from his family vacation. He'll be gone for a month, which seems a little extreme to me especially since they're not going to Europe or any place far away. They're only going to New Hampshire where they have a house overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee. It's a quaint little town, but really, what is there to do for a month? Dr. Marvin assures him he'll be okay and if he does need someone to talk to, he can call one of the other psychiatrists.

Bob tries to get in touch with Leo through the operator but she tells him he is unavailable and can't forward his call. Bob tries to con her, saying that he was supposed to call Dr. Marvin, but lost his number. (Please. Who would fall for that?) She firmly tells him she can't give out the number, but when he asks her if she can call Dr. Marvin, then patch him through to him, she does, which I'm pretty sure is unethical. However, not as unethical as something Bob will do a few scenes later. Bob tries unsuccessfully to figure out where Dr. Marvin is, but to no avail.

In the next scene, the operator calls Dr. Marvin again telling him that his sister is on the other line with an emergency when actually its' a prostitute whom Bob had asked to pose as Leo's sister, then taking the pay phone from her once Leo answers (after thoroughly wiping the receiver with a cloth...after all, he IS a germaphobe!) Wouldn't his sister already have his phone number to his vacation house anyway? And this isn't even the unethical scene I was talking about. No, that comes in the next scene when Bob goes to visit the operator posed as a detective and tells her that he has "questions about a Bob Wiley" and that he had committed suicide, but had left a note mentioning Betty (the operator). First question - why didn't Betty recognize "the detective's" voice as Bob's? Bill Murray didn't change his voice during this scene. Second question - shouldn't Betty be suspicious that Bob supposedly mentioned her in his suicide note? If I were her, I would want to know why he had mentioned me. Obviously this is "Detective" Bob's excuse as to how he "found out" about Betty because that's who he needs the information from. It works too, because Betty immediately gives him the information he needs (I guess that badge he had looked legit!), telling him that a Bob Wiley had called, wanting to talk to his psychiatrist. When Bob tells her he needs his information too because he'll need to ask him questions, Betty says she can't give him his phone number, but she can at least give him a mailing address and that more than satisfies Bob. (Hmmm, I think Betty is going to get fired!) I understand that she can't give him the phone number, but why couldn't she just call Dr. Marvin herself (like she did in the scene two minutes earlier!), explain the situation, and hand over the phone to "the detective"? And if this was really legit and a patient of Dr. Marvin's had killed them self, I'm sure he would rather deal with it over the phone then having the cops come to his vacation home. But I digress.

So Bob takes a bus to New Hampshire and the town the Marvins are vacationing in must be the smallest town in the world because when Bob steps off the bus and starts calling Dr. Marvin's name, the whole family is coming out of a grocery store that is right where Bob is. Leo is surprised to see Bob because he thought he was dead (Betty called him to tell him about Bob). It's obvious Bob has no concept of personal boundaries and at this point I'm thinking they could have easily gone the horror/thriller route. This movie is the comedic version of Cape Fear (which also came out the same year). While both scenarios are my worst nightmare, I'd rather have annoying Bill Murray stalking me than scary Robert De Niro!

Leo is furious when he sees Bob and tells him he needs to get back on the bus and go back to New York. Bob starts freaking out and Leo makes a deal with him that he'll have a quick session with him in two hours, then he has to go back. Yeah, things don't go exactly as Leo plans! When he tells Bob to take a vacation of his own, Bob decides to stay and take his vacation at Lake Winnipesaukee as well. Leo's family does not help matters at all. They seem to encourage Bob to stay and are overly friendly to him. I don't have an issue with them being nice to Bob, but it seems they go out of their way to include him. For example, Bob's teen daughter, Anna (Kathryn Erbe) decides to take Bob sailing with her friends. Then he gets involved with helping Leo's young son, Sigmund (Charlie Korsmo) overcome his fear of diving. Leo's wife, Faye (Julie Hagerty) invites Bob to dinner. This is actually a pretty funny scene and one I remember where every time Bob eats something, he goes, "Mmm, mmm, MMMM!" He literally does it after every bite he takes. It's really annoying, but also really funny. His family should have known better and not interact with a patient of Leo's. At this point, I am 100% on Dr. Marvin's side.

There's a big rain storm the night Bob has dinner with them and Leo is in a rush to get him out because the next morning Good Morning, America is due to arrive and do a live interview (I understand why they want it live for the context of the movie, but a piece like this on GMA would never be live; they would have recorded it in advance). They're going to be there at seven, which doesn't make any sense. Doesn't GMA start at seven? So if they were doing a live story at Dr. Marvin's vacation home, wouldn't they arrive much earlier for time to set up? Unless they were going to do the story at eight. Who knows. I'm probably putting too much though in this, anyway.

So Bob spends the night (and sleeps in the same room as twelve-year-old Sigmund which seems highly inappropriate) and while Leo is trying to get him out of the house before GMA arrives, it does't work. (Of course it doesn't!) In fact, when one of the producers finds out that Bob is a patient of Dr. Marvin's, she wants Bob to stay and be part of the interview. By this time, you can almost see the steam coming out of Leo's ears. Right away we see why the show is aired live; otherwise we wouldn't see Bob having a panic attack on live TV! When he recovers, the hosts asks him how long he's been a patient of Dr. Marvin's, and he replies, "Three or four days." He claims that Dr. Marvin's book (the reason they're there to interview Leo in the first place) has been helping him, despite only being a patient of his for a few days! Bob ends up taking over the interview, even introducing the other Marvins.

Leo tricks Bob and drives him to psychiatric ward where the director tells him that she can only hold him for 24 hours, then she will need staff corroboration. Leo is not worried in the slightest, because he knows that they will see just how crazy and erratic Bob is, but Bob seems perfectly normal to the staff, telling jokes and talking easily and he is released. This is around the time the movie turns really dark. Since whatever he does to try to get rid of Bob doesn't work, Leo now turns into a murderer. Or at least an attempted murderer since his plan doesn't work. (Probably for the best for everyone). Taking Bob by gunpoint, he leads him into the woods where he straps twenty pounds of explosives to him, both of which he stole from a store (I told you it gets dark!). Bob thinks this is all part of Dr. Marvin's therapy and after Leo leaves after he sets a timer for ten minutes, he is talking it out to himself, thinking the ropes tied around him refer to the emotional knot he has inside himself and if he doesn't untie it, he will explode, hence the explosives. He manages to untie himself, and proud of himself, he walks back to the Marvin's home.

While Leo and Bob were gone, Leo's family had been looking for him and he happily reunites with them, telling them they won't have to ever worry about Bob again. But, surprise! Here comes Bob! Leo's screaming, "No! No!" He's not wearing the explosives anymore and tells Leo that he freed himself from the ropes. Leo asks him where the bags he was wearing are and not even five seconds after Bob tells him they're in the house, we see the house blow up. And it was a nice house. Luckily nobody was inside of it!

The movie ends with Leo in a catatonic state and the family is afraid he will always be this way, but when Bob marries Leo's sister, Lily (who he met at Leo's birthday party....guess they hit it off pretty well if they're getting married so quickly) and during the wedding when the priest asks if anybody objects to this union, Leo stands up from his wheelchair (wearing a robe...they couldn't put him in a suit? I know he's catatonic, but still...) and yells, "NOOOO!" His family, which includes Bob now, are all excited that he's back and can now communicate again.

It almost felt like they didn't know how to end the movie. To be honest, I was surprised that Faye decided to stay with Leo after he tried to murder a man. I feel like that would be a deal breaker! 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Teen Tropes

Not Another Teen Movie
Director: Joel Gallen
Cast: Chyler Leigh, Chris Evans, Jaime Pressley, Randy Quaid
Released: December 14, 2001

You might find Not Another Teen Movie amusing if you are familiar with '80s and '90s teen movies. I saw this movie about a year after its release and while I remembered most of the '90s teen movie references, I did not remember there being any '80s references, although I did remember that Molly Ringwald makes a cameo toward the end, so that should have been my first clue! This may be because I've only seen two of the '80s movies parodied in this: The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (the latter is probably one of the more funnier scenes of the movie as it has the parents of "Ferris" telling their son not to have a party while they're gone and people are literally bringing in speakers and kegs as they tell him this). On the other hand, I've seen all of the '90s teen movies that are spoofed in this two or more times except for Varsity Blues which I've only seen once. (Isn't that the movie Michael Scott shows to his employees in The Office when they have a movie day?) I do love that the characters in this movie attend John Hughes High School. That was a nice touch.

While many teen movies are made fun of (and, for some reason, American Beauty is part of this. I know there are teens in it, but that doesn't make it a teen movie. They make fun of the weird neighbor kid and his fascination with the plastic bag.), She's All That gets the most ribbing which is more than fine with me, because, my God, that movie is TERRIBLE! And this movie shows just how ridiculous it is. Seriously, go back and try to watch that movie. It is unwatchable.

Our main character, Janey Briggs, is played by Chyler Leigh (she played Lexie on Grey's Anatomy). She is 90% Laney Boggs from She's All That (look at her name and she follows most of Laney's storyline) and 10% Kat Stratford from 10 Things I Hate About You (her father (Randy Quaid) won't let her younger brother date until she does). And I guess she's also whichever Molly Ringwald character has a best friend who's in love with her (I really need to brush up on my '80s teen comedies!) as she has a best friend named Ricky who literally tells Janey that he's in love with her every chance he gets (not to mention he reads a poem aloud in class titled "10 Things I Love About Janey", heh).

It's really weird seeing Chris Evans (easily the most well-known actor in this) in this because I'm used to seeing him in a)big blockbusters or b) more serious movies and not stupid stuff like this. While there are some funny and clever elements to this movie, I gotta say the bad outweighs the good and there's a lot of cringeworthy moments in this movie. I especially felt bad for him during theVarsity Blues spoof. But this was his first movie and I guess you gotta start somewhere when you're not yet an established actor. I also felt bad for the girl playing the foreign exchange student, but we'll get to her later. Chyler Leigh also has a really embarrassing first scene (think American Pie). I suppose there'a a reason why this is the first movie (or one of the first) for many of the main actors!

Evans plays Jake who is modeled after Freddie Prinze Jr.'s She's All That character. 
His girlfriend, Priscilla (Jaime Pressley) has broken up with him, and,  just like in She's All That, he makes a bet with his friends to find the most unattainable and unattractive girl at their school to transfer into the Prom Queen. This scene is quite humorous as he's suggesting truly hideous girls to his friends for them to choose for him such as a hunchbacked girl with warts all over her face, conjoined twins, and an albino girl with red demon eyes, but when they suggest Janey Briggs he is so repulsed by the very idea of trying to make her into someone popular and that it will never work. Janey is deemed ugly because she has glasses, wears her hair in a ponytail, and has paint-splattered overalls. Despite all these terrible aspects of her physical appearance, she is obviously a very attractive girl (just like Rachael Leigh Cook is in She's All That) and I do give the movie props for pointing out just how stupid it is.

Jake does whatever he can to get Janey's attention and this includes serenading her (obviously taken from 10 Things) and he picks Aerosmith's "Janie's Got a Gun" since her name is in the title and when he starts singing it in front of her and the entire school, all the students start freaking out and Janie is tackled by the campus security. Yeah, something tells me they would never be able to get away with that scene in today's world!

Of course, Janey will get a makeover courtesy of Chris's sister, Catherine where she literally takes Janey's glasses off and lets her hair down and she is automatically "hot". Catherine is modeled after Sarah Michelle Gellar's character in Cruel Intentions (they even share the same name, just spelled differently) and she has some weird attraction to her brother. When she's trying to make out with him and he tells her they can't do that because they're related, she replies, "Only by blood." Of course in the movie it's spoofing, she responds, "Only by marriage" since they're step-siblings. Still gross in both scenarios. There's also this really weird scene where, after Jake's dad learns the his girlfriend broke up with him, offers to let his own mother "comfort" him if you know what I mean. Ewww...and what movie is that spoofing from? I mean, I at least get the Cruel Intentions joke, but what teen movie has a mother being attracted to her own son? Because I've never seen that one, luckily!

Almost Famous is another non-teen movie they spoof when Janey jumps off a roof and into a pool at a party (again, I know there are teens in Almost Famous, but that doesn't mean it's a teen movie!) and when she climbs out of the pool, SOAKING wet, Priscilla pours water on her and she runs away, crying. This is similar to a scene in She's All That when Freddie's ex-girlfriend pours her drink on Laney and she runs away, crying.

One of the worst scenes is when Janey's younger brother and his two friends are crawling in the vents to have a peek at two girls taking a shower together (and, of course, they are lathering each other up) in the girl's locker room. They also spy on a girl using the toilet and let's just say it's not as erotic as the two girls sudsing each other up. Now while this is going on, it cuts back to an English class where the teacher is about to read a poem but when a student makes a fart noise with his hand and everyone laughs, the teacher makes the comment, "Is this what your generation considers humor?" He continues to go on about what real comedy is and how this generation only seems to find toilet humor funny. I don't know what's wrong with the girl, but she has a very bad case of diarrhea; so bad that both she and the toilet end up falling through the floor and landing in the classroom where all the excrements land on the teacher (and there are a lot!) I do get the joke of this scene, but it was really gross (I, for one, do not find toilet humor to be funny, especially when it's that disgusting) and if this is a spoof from a teen movie, I don't think I've ever seen it. I know there are sometimes gross scenes in those movies (like that one from She's All That - if you know it, you know it; if you don't, I'm not going to make you lose your appetite to tell you. It wasn't as visually disgusting as this one, but it was still really gross and unnecessary.) The logistics of this scene doesn't make any sense. I have never heard of/seen a gym on the second floor of any school. Gyms are always on the ground floor! I felt bad for the girl on the toilet. The actress, I mean. I don't know who she is or if she went on to have some sort of career. I don't see anyone credited as "Girl on Toilet" in the credits so I can't look her up. Can you imagine taking this role and having your friends and family watch it? You could not pay me enough money to do that. I still have some dignity! Of course, maybe she took the role and didn't tell anyone and persuaded everyone she knew that she heard this movie was terrible and not to see it!

But she's a non-character and her role is a small one. The girl who plays the foreign exchange student (who is based off of the overly-sexualized Nadia from American Pie) is in a few scenes and she is from some random country because her accent seems to change in every scene. She is also naked in every single scene. At first, I thought she was just topless because we first see her sitting down, but no, she is completely nude. When she is standing, they do have certain object strategically placed in front of her so not everything is showing. I don't know the actress, but she's gone on to have a pretty good steady career (so maybe that helped her!) and I know it was her choice to be in the movie. I don't have a problem with nudity in movies, but this was a little much and they just wanted it in there (along with the toilet scene) so it could be as raunchy and gratuitous as they could make it. I feel like the movie goes for shock value more than actual humor.

Since Molly Ringwald represents the '80s teen movie cameo, they needed someone to represent the cameo for the '90s teen movies and that person would be...Melissa Joan Hart. Now, she's more affiliated with '90s teen TV than movies as the only movie I can think of her in is Drive Me Crazy, which might be just as terrible as She's All That. I don't think they even made fun of it in this movie, so all the more puzzling why she's even in this. She makes her appearance during the pool party scene when a kid starts slow clapping after Janey runs away and tells him that he can't start a slow clap at any moment: it has to be the right moment and he'll know when he sees it. (Which will happen when our two leads realize they have feelings for each other). Is the slow clap a trope in teen movies because I can't think of any examples. Unless it was in Drive Me Crazy and I don't remember (I will admit that movie didn't always hold my attention!) I know the slow clap is a thing in inspirational sports movies like Cool Runnings when they crash, but then they are able to get up and walk to the finish line carrying the bobsled.

When I reviewed Independence Day, I said if I could make my own edited version with just the really good scenes, that's what I would recommend to people. It's the same with this movie. There are some really funny and clever things in this movie and if I could just make an edited version with the truly great scenes from this movie, that's what I would do and leave all the other crap (literally, in some scenes!) behind.