Saturday, February 13, 2010

#49 Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl: More what you'd call guidelines

2003. dir. Gore Verbinski, starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush.

Seen it before? Yes.

There are two people making fantasy/sci-fi movies these days... their names are Goofus and Gallant.

Goofus can't write a good script. His movies are meandering and pointless, and you're constantly scratching your head wondering what's happening.
Gallant writes tight, controlled screenplays where everything makes sense, and there's a good dramatic arc from beginning to end.

Goofus refuses to set down any rules for what happens in his movies, leading to a third act where anything can happen to anyone because whatever.
Gallant makes rules and sticks to them, and these rules can be explained in a few sentences. For example:
There's a chest of cursed gold coins. Anybody who steals them is cursed until all of the gold is returned.
Goofus can't write good characters either. They just do whatever they need to do to keep the plot moving, no matter how idiotic or nonsensical.
Gallant writes strong, identifiable characters with clear-cut motivations.

Goofus is also a bad director. His movies are poorly paced, with lots of dead time. His action scenes are confusing and badly framed, so you can never really get a good look at what's happening. There's usually lots of crappy CGI and gratuitous special effects.
Gallant is more concerned with telling a good story than showing off. His movies are well-paced, and it's always clear what's going on. The special effects are used when appropriate, and look natural and realistic.

Goofus made the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
Gallant made the original Star Wars trilogy.

Goofus made the Transformers movies.
Gallant made the Lord of the Rings movies.

Goofus made Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire. He also wrote the novel.
Gallant made all of the other Harry Potter movies.

Goofus made the Kingdom Of the Crystal Skull.
Gallant made the Raiders of The Lost Ark..

Goofus made the second two Pirates movies.
Gallant made Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl.

Sad, isn't it, that Goofus and Gallant are often the same person?

Position on the list: 220
Drinking game: Drink whenever anyone says the word "Pirate"

#48 Mr. Smith Goes To Washington - and innocence takes a stab in the heart

1939. dir. Frank Capra, starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains.

Seen it before? No.

I have been to DC a few times and the great thing about going is that the national monuments, the White House, and the Capitol Building haven't changed in a really long time. Going to see the Lincoln Memorial back in the thirties is essentially the same as going today except that people walk around these days in t-shirts and shorts instead of dresses and suits. In essence, you feel a great sense of pride that you don't get to feel in places where land is getting demolished and turned into strip malls or gas stations.

Way to go Frank Capra, Sidney Buchman and Lewis R. Foster for sharing a story that (sadly) still rings true today. There is corruption in the government, the people who are supposed to be representing the public are the puppets and the wealthy end up holding the strings. Something to think about...oh, and the shots of J. Smith and his hat (showing how nervous he was around Paine's daughter Susan) was so cute...

Speaking of cute, there's Jimmy Stewart as the naive and optimistic new senator who just wants to help get boys off the streets and thinking about the future of the planet. (I loved that the Governor's 8 children were the ones who conned him into nominating Jefferson Smith for the senator's job). Jimmy Stewart represents the teacher in all of us. We know that the children of today will be the leaders of tomorrow with a bit of guidance, caring and compassion. We know that people are entitled to their opinions but that we should stick up for the little guy. My favorite line from the movie is:
Jefferson Smith: You see, boys forget what their country means by just reading The Land of the Free in history books. Then they get to be men they forget even more. Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I'm free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn't, I can, and my children will. Boys ought to grow up remembering that.
It's not hard to see that children today have forgotten what liberty (and the rights that go along with it) means in its place they seem to value material objects and commercialized ideals...okay, so maybe they haven't forgotten liberty but are merely taking it for granted. Change the line to boys AND girls and we have something more appropriate for today...

Speaking of girls, how cool was it that there was a strong female character in this movie? I LOVED Jean Arthur and her character Clarissa Saunders. I loved that her reason for staying a secretary was to afford new suits - and that she kept on wanting to quit because she realized she could do something else to afford the new suits. I loved that she knew to tell J. Smith about the corruption going on with the creek he wanted his camp to be built around. I loved that she coached J. Smith into holding a filibuster. It speaks volumes about how bright her character was in terms of not being just a secretary but a political player. Even in black and white it wasn't hard to see the envy that came about when Susan called to conspire about taking J. Smith out on the town.

Would I see it again? Yes, and I would show it to my students too!
Would I own it? Heck yes!
Favorite character not mentioned above - The President of the Senate played by Harry Carey. He had a cute demeanor and an all-knowing look about him that made him so pleasant to watch.

#47 Batman Begins - starring the American Psycho

2005. dir. Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson.

Seen it before? Yes.

Watching this movie after having watched American Psycho just creeps me out...Batman is supposed to be the good guy but Christian Bale makes him seem like Patrick Bateman - especially when he is playing the dashing Bruce Wayne. This version of the beginning of the Batman is probably the darkest I have seen. You didn't see Adam West's Batman this bitter. He was benevolent, witty, and charming. And sure Michael Keaton's Batman was bitter about how his parents were killed (who wouldn't be) but not to this extent.

Cillian Murphy is creepy but I think Chad Michael Murray (who is practically Murphy's doppleganger) could have done the role just as well. I love Gary Oldman in this movie and hate Liam Neeson's fact, before this movie I hadn't even known of Batman's enemey Ra's Al G'ul or however you spell it. I had heard of the Scarecrow, of course. The thing about Neeson's character was that he was a bad guy who was trying to get rid of a city because it had turned his mind, to the point of no redemption. He was getting rid of the scum of the earth...and, unfortunately, willing to risk the people who were still good...I was telling Sam while watching that I didn't think Katie Holmes did such a bad job. It's not like she had much to work with. I like Michael Caine as Alfred but he seems too young and too full figured to be Alfred. I always envision Alfred to be a slight tall old man.

Clearly Chicago moments - UNITRIM building, Marina Towers, Lower Wacker, Arkum Asylum, I mean, The Merchandise Mart

Watch it again? Yes, this time I'll try to channel Laurie from Little Women instead of Patrick from American Psycho...
Already own it.

#48 Mr. Smith Goes To Washington: You're halfway decent, you don't belong here.

1939. dir. Frank Capra, starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains.

Seen it before? No.

The senator representing an unnamed state (and an unnamed political party) dies. It's up to the governor to choose a new senator, and at the insistence of his eight horrible obnoxious children, chooses Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), the leader of a Boy Scouts-ish organization. Also he publishes a newsletter called "Boy Stuff" (snicker).

He arrives in DC as this total wide-eyed babe in the woods, but when he accidentally reveals some corruption, he loses his idealism quickly. Jean Arthur plays Smith's assistant/love interest. Claude Rains plays the other senator from the state, who is a hardened veteran of the Senate and is in on the corruption.

The climactic scene here is Smith's filibuster. You know, a filibuster is all well and good if the reasons for doing it are noble like they are here, but really, that's a terrible rule. One person can bring down the entire Congress? What if they're a nut? Or an idiot? or a crook? Boy it's a good thing there aren't any of those in the Senate.

Position on the list: 110
Oops! We forgot to watch the Olympics. Eh, fuck it

Friday, February 12, 2010

#47 Batman Begins: Your friends do not have swimwear

2005. dir. Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson.

Seen it before? Yes.

Bruce Wayne, you idiot. You're not willing to execute one guy, but you are willing to blow up the whole building, likely killing him and dozens of others? Moron.

OK, everybody's seen this one I'm sure. It's the "reboot" of the Batman movie franchise after Joel Schumacher ran it into the ground in the late 1990s. Christian Bale makes a fairly convincing Batman, but he's a little too growly. He's worse in The Dark Knight. He's certainly a better Bruce Wayne.

As for the rest of the cast: The inevitable Michael Caine is serviceable as Alfred. Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy are perfectly creepy as the villains, The Scarecrow and R'as A'l G'u'l. Or whatever, I don't feel like looking up how to spell it. Kudos to them for using two of the lesser known Batman villains, but I don't suppose we'll ever see a Batman movie featuring the Clock King. oh well. Back in aught-five it was fashionable to trash Katie Holmes for her performance as Rachel Dawes, but she's really not bad. Or at least, Maggie Gyllenhaal wasn't any better. Maybe it's just an uninteresting character.

I liked the plot too. R'as A'l Gh'ool's plan made sense, in an implausible comic-book sort of way. Question - if the insanity powder was an inhalant, and all they had to do was vaporize it to activate it, and it was in all of Gotham's water supply, why didn't anyone exposed to steam go crazy? Like when they took showers, for example? Another nitpick is Lucuis Fox. He just happened to have built all this totally useful Batman stuff, for no reason? Isn't that conveeeenient.

The film was shot in Chicago and it's totally obvious. Batman files by the Sears Tower at one point, and there are car chases on Lower Wacker. At the end of the movie the Batmobile plows right through a bunch of columns - Hey, those are load-bearing! You'll destroy the whole city! It's kind of jarring to see Arkham Asylum CGI'd in over where the Merchandise Mart is supposed to be and the weird triple-decker El running right down LaSalle Street. And wait a minute, if it's public transit, why did Wayne Enterprises build it? The movie seems to imply that Bruce Wayne's father built it with his own money, but why would he do that? Train systems are ridiculously expensive. Anyway, it's a good movie. Still like the first Michael Keaton one better.

Position on the list: 105
Car chase to nowhere: Why did Batman drive up the parking ramp? It didn't help him escape or anything. I think he was just showing off.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

#46 Planet Of The Apes - oh earthlings, what the hell did you do?

1968. dir. Franklin J. Schaffner, starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans.

Seen it before? No.

This movie is hilarious because apes are in charge of a planet and humans have evolved to not being able to speak...a reversal of the world today, how ironic. If you take the movie too seriously you feel beaten down by a seemingly political agenda. If you take it as entertainment you find yourself going Damn that Charlton Heston is good looking but the man can't act...oh crap, I think I agree with Sam again on this one. I remembered that Roddy McDowall was in this movie but forgot he was actually one of the apes. Like Sam I thought the movie was set in what looked like the southwestern part of the USA.

Cute moment - when Charlton Heston kisses Zira
Most annoying character - Dr. Zaius...speaking of which, even though I am not as "schooled" on the Simpsons as my husband is I couldn't get this song out of my head for some reason.
No, I didn't know that it was earth...the movie was made before I was a thought...and I didn't watch Marky Mark's remake either...

Would I watch the original again? Sure, I found it both sad yet funny
Would I watch the remake? I heard it was awful
Last thoughts...CRIKEY there was a television series?!?!?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

#45 The Conversation - Shirley who knew?!?!?

1974. dir. Francis Ford Coppola, starring Gene Hackman, Cindy Williams, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Frederic Forrest.

Seen it before? No.

The plot seemed simple...a man who is good at intercepting conversations overhears a plan that sounds like one thing and ends up being totally different. He's wracked with guilt over an assignment gone wrong which leads him to push away anyone who wants to get close to him: his girlfriend (Teri Garr), his assistant, even his neighbor. Not wanting history to repeat itself he goes above and beyond his initial orders.

This movie bored me to tears in terms of pacing...I kept finding myself thinking, "is it over yet?" (must be a Coppola thing - read Lost in Translation - but the finale was different than I expected and that's all I really have to say about that...Harrison Ford was in this movie too but not a first billed player. Cindy Williams always seemed just so sweet as Shirley in Laverne and Shirley so it bothered me that she would be having an affair (she is married in the film). I also found myself thinking, since Gene Hackman's character was 44 on his birthday, "why does Gene Hackman look so old?" Turns out he was 44 when the movie was other words, the cranky man IS old. Harrison Ford at the same age or Sean Connery he ain't!

Watch it again? Don't believe so
Own it? Um, no

Sunday, February 7, 2010

#46 Planet Of The Apes: Get your stinkin' paws off of me, you damn dirty ape!

1968. dir. Franklin J. Schaffner, starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans.

Seen it before? No.

One of those movies, like Soylent Green or The Sixth Sense, where everybody in the entire world knows the twist ending. If you've seen the Simpsons episodes "A Fish Called Selma" or "Deep Space Homer", you know what I'm talking about:
Troy McClure: Oh my God, I was wrong
It was Earth all along!
It's such common knowledge by this point that even the cover of the DVD gives away the ending. Thus I was pretty surprised that my wife didn't know they were on Earth. I think she needs to go to remedial Simpsons school...

In any case it should have been obvious from the start. Four astronauts are on a mission to another planet. Due to relativistic time dilation, centuries pass by outside the ship but only a few years inside. The ship crash lands in a lake, in a desert that looks suspiciously similar to the southwestern USA. The sky is blue, there's vegetation just like Earth's. They find a tribe of humans, then they get captured by apes riding on horseback. Why didn't the astronauts figure out that it was Earth? How stupid were they? And how did they crash land on Earth anyway? Aren't space missions usually planned pretty carefully?

Charlton Heston is the lead astronaut, and the only one who survives most of the movie. He really truly was an awful actor. He chews the scenery, and he does this stupid thing with his teeth the whole movie. I think Troy McClure would have done a better and more subtle job.

So then we move into Obvious Political Allegory Land. The apes think the humans are stupid, because they can't speak or reason. Blah blah blah, they re-enact the Scopes trial, the Salem Witch trials, the HUAC hearings. I hate that, when they sledgehammer in political content to make the movie more "serious". It's a freakin' talking ape movie! Damn you! Damn you all to hell! (sobs)

Position on the list: 227
Something I did like about this movie: The score. It's random and atonal. Very 1960's.

#44 Requiem For A Dream - Which was what exactly?

2000. dir. Darren Aronofsky, starring Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans.

Seen it before? No.

Req⋅ui⋅em  [rek-wee-uhm, ree-kwee-, rey-] Show IPA
1. Roman Catholic Church.
a. Also called Requiem Mass. the Mass celebrated for the repose of the souls of the dead.
b. a celebration of this Mass.
c. a plainsong setting for this Mass.
2. any musical service, hymn, or dirge for the repose of the dead.

I believe the only word to describe my state at the end of this film is disturbed. The four main characters in the movie are all trying to achieve some sort of dream and coincidentally all have to deal with the effects of addiction to drugs. Frankly I thought the movie was well done. There were a few things I hated:
- the perpetual "3-second" drug montage...there were so many it was SO overkill
- Marion at the end of the movie...degrading doesn't even cover it though my research on the film says nothing about whether Connelly did this herself or if there was a body double...I'm thinking the former, hence no'd be able to read about a body double...In 2009 Matt Mueller of claimed "Her climactic humiliation is one of the grimmest movie sequences of the last 30 years."
- Not ever hearing the third thing that Tappy said was essential for JUICE...which apparently was "no orgasms"
- the doctors in this movie were absolutely horrid...the one treating Ellen Burstyn for her desired weight loss told her he could fix it but didn't tell her any effects; Jared Leto's doctor sent him to prison instead of trying to fix his arm; ECT therapy on EB's character when she wouldn't eat with seemingly no anesthesia...ARGH!

I think CNN had the best review of the movie. Sam thought that this would be a great scare tactic for DARE students...I find it funny that he and I shared sentiments pretty much exactly like a comment I saw on AVClub about this movie by kiddo80
21 JAN. 2010:
"I remember saying right after I saw this that they should replace the DARE program with this film, show it to 12yr olds, scare the ever living shit out of them. "It's all fun and games at first, kids!" Of course I'm sure many schools would be sued for emotional distress afterwards...since I was 20yrs old and felt like suing Darren Aronofsky (sp?) for emotional distress."
Parents would absolutely sue schools for emotional would never be allowed to be played. I think even private schools would have issue with this movie.

Would I see it again? Going to go with the majority on this one and say, NO
Would I own it? The thought of having it in the house and showing it to Daniel and future Bell children is something I will NEVER fact, Daniel isn't allowed to watch this movie until he's out of the house!