Friday, April 2, 2010

#83 Toy Story - the words "modern classic" come to mind

1995. Dir. John Lasseter, starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn.

Writers John Lasseter and Pete Docter must have been really interesting kids to come up with a movie chock full of what kids probably think of in their imaginations...when there are no humans around toys come to life and interact with each other.

But in this story the toys long for partners (Mr. Potato Head really wants a Mrs. Potato Head) and they worry about being replaced...not to mention being destroyed by the crazy kid next door whose life mission, it would seem, is to blow up any toy he gets into his grubby little hands..hmm...maybe it's not a kid's imagination but adults worrying about real grown-up issues like life partners and being deemed obsolete because of younger models or newer technology (Woody getting the boot in place of Buzz Lightyear) and violence in kids.

The animation done by Pixar is just awesome! You know it's a cartoon because the human characters are not drawn too realistically. The toys however, those are rendered with such a skillful eye you would think that your own piggy bank and Mr. Potato Head had come to life!

I loved the reconnaissance mission that the bucket of soldiers did to find out what new toys were being opened. And the line regarding the kid who bought sheets as a gift was hilarious!

I'm sure I have more to say about this movie but it's not coming to me...oh wait, I DO remember one last thing...why does Disney think it a good idea to sell the shaved doll head on the spider legs at their stores? SO scary!

See it again? Yes
Own it? Well, ToysRUs is having a buy one get one half off sale of Blu-Ray editions...why the hell not?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

#88 From Justin To Kelly

2003. dir. Robert Iscove, starring Justin Guarini, Kelly Clarkson.

Auteur and visionary Robert Iscove had thrilled audiences with his seminal, groundbreaking films She's All That and Boys and Girls, but nobody was prepared for this. Probably the greatest movie ever made, From Justin To Kelly redefined the art of cinema. Robert Iscove used two of the world’s brightest young stars to create this masterpiece of American cinema. In doing so he captured the hearts of audiences and critics alike. Lest anyone forget – this movie still holds the record for worldwide box office, and won an incredible sixteen Oscars, including two for Justin Guarini.

From Justin To Kelly has everything: comedy, action, drama, romance. Of course, it’s also a musical – who could forget such classic songs as “Text me Sometime” and “SRSLY NOT INTRSTD”? Only the most hardened cynic could fail to be moved by this film. Let me tell you, when I saw this movie, I wept openly at its sheer beauty and joy, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. See this movie, right now, even if you’ve seen it a dozen times (and really, who hasn’t?)

Position on the list: 24

#87 Spirited Away: I'm see-through

2001. dir. Hayao Miyazaki, starring Rumi Hîragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki. Japanese with subtitles.

Seen it before? No.

Getting all of our anime done in one shot. Actually that's sort of an accident; I had a lot of it at the top of the Netflix queue because they were on "Very Long Wait". So I got a whole bunch of it at once. Oh well.

This movie is a total 180 from the last one we watched: Grave of the Firefiles, which was an unflinching, depressing look at the after-effects of war. This one is more like Alice In Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz or Labyrinth, a fantastic journey into a strange new world. A little girl Chihiro is moving to a new town with her parents. They take a wrong turn and wander down a tunnel and find what looks like an abandoned amusement park. Chihiro wanders into this huge bathhouse, which is populated by all sorts of strange creatures. What follows defies description and reality. Dream logic takes over.

Much like Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke, much of this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I enjoyed this one more because it had more of a whimsical quality. I'm sure this would give little kids nightmares (the witches with the huge eyes, for example) so watch out.

Position on the list: 54
Daniel's favorite part: The stink monster.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

#86 Grave of the Fireflies: That was the night I died.

1988. Dir. Isao Takahata, starring Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi. Japanese with subtitles.

Seen it before? No.

Holy shit... move over Requiem for a Dream, we have a new champion for Most Depressing Movie Ever.

It's the end of World War II in Japan. A young boy (12 or so?) and his little sister (about 4 or 5) are left homeless and motherless when the Allies firebomb their village. They move in with their cruel aunt. She steals food from them, so they decide to go Galt and live in an abandoned bomb shelter. Things get way worse for them.

This is actually based on the autobiography of a guy who based the older brother's character on himself. It's partially the kid's fault what happens to them... he could have worked, or at least tried to. You kind of get the sense that he's not taking the whole "Japan losing the war" thing seriously. I guess he realized that and felt bad about it.

Position on the list: 179
Ill-advised marketing opportunity: The fruit candies that the little girl eats make a special tin with images from this movie on them. Um, guys, did you watch the whole movie?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

#85 The African Queen: Can you make a torpedo?

1951. Dir. John Huston, starring Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn.

Seen it before? No.

This one was fun. Katherine Hepburn plays a missionary living in Africa. World War I breaks out and the Germans burn down the village, so she wants revenge. Enter salty riverboat captain Humphrey Bogart, who seems to subsist on a diet of crackers and gin. His boat conveniently has some crates of explosives on it, so they hatch a plot to blow up a German gunship in a nearby lake. Adventures ensue as they encounter obstacles on the river.

It's a great adventure film, notable for being made most outside of the Hollywood studio system. Much of this was shot on location in Africa, which was practically unheard of in the early 50's. Oh and apparently this was the inspiration for the "Jungle Cruise" ride at Disneyland...

Position on the list: 212
Method acting: Bogart was drunk for most of the filming. He won Best Actor.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

#84 Glory: You won't get anything if we lose

1989. dir. Edward Zwick, starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher.

Seen it before? Yes.

I think they made us watch this in U.S. History in high school...

It's the story of the first company of black soldiers in the Civil War. Matthew Broderick plays the commanding officer Robert Gould Shaw - the movie is largely adapted from his letters. The first obstacle to overcome is prejudice; the army doesn't even want to give them guns at first, because they didn't think black soldiers could be trusted with them. But eventually they get guns and uniforms, and Morgan Freeman gets to be a non-commissioned officer (side note: Is it just me, or has Morgan Freeman been the same age for the last 25 years?) and they go fight in real battles.

I have nothing, really, to say about this one. Performances are great, battle scenes look realistic, it's all pretty well done.

Position on the list: 240
Hey! It's that guy!: Bob Gunton, who was the Warden from The Shawshank Redemption, and a whole bunch of other parts.

#82 The Lion King - the only non-PIXAR Disney animated cartoon on the list

1994. dir.Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane.

Seen it before? Yes, like a million times thanks to my sister.

It's funny watching something you haven't seen in ages...especially when it's an animated feature. You might remember the plot - think Hamlet, evil uncle wants to rule the country but young heir ruins his plans...solution - get rid of the king and the kid...but you forget the players. In this case I forgot that Matthew Broderick was the adult Simba or that Moira Kelly was the grown up Nala...Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin are hyenas and Nathan Lane is Timon. Hilarious!

The backdrops are magnificent. It makes you want to visit Africa or at the very least watch Planet Earth and focus on the African animals. I personally loved the songs. Because, after all is said and done, this is a movie for KIDS! The songs are catchy to the point of whimsy. They are written in a way that kids can easily pick up the tune. What kid do you know who grew up in the 90s didn't learn "Hakuna Matata?" Even Daniel started singing it after watching the song on the tube.

As for plot holes...Sam pointed out a few but left out the one thing he harped on the longest (probably) and that was the part about how Simba could make a good king when he had just finished singing about how great it would be to be king and not care about everyone...I tried (in vain) to point out that the reason he would make a good king (later) is because Mufasa (James Earl Jones) taught him/showed him what it was like to be a good king. Just because a kid says something like, "I'm going to be a great ruler and not listen to anyone or care about anything but myself" doesn't mean that he's not going to change his mind when he's an adult.

Fun facts -
James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair are reunited as, fittingly, the king and queen of the lions.
Timon and Pumbaa were originally supposed to sing "Can you Feel the Love Tonight" to each other...but Elton John thought it would be ill advised
Some of the Disney people were calling this movie "Bamlet" since the story resembled the movies Bambi and Hamlet.

See it again? Yes
Own it? Once it comes out of the vault I will! =)

#81 Sleuth - How many scenarios can you think of?

1972. dir. Joesph L. Mankiewicz, starring Lawrence Olivier, Michael Caine.

Seen it before? No.

A mystery author discovers his wife is having an affair with a hairdresser and devises a plot to get even...and that's pretty much all I can say about the film without ruining it for the rest of you who want to watch. Don't read about the film (I didn't). Just head on over to your local library where I'm sure they'll have a copy...I mean, come on, Wheaton barely has a lot of things you can find at other libraries but it had this movie!

I thought it was good if not creepy. Lots of costumes and characters without pulses - a life-size doll that could roll it's eyes and laugh and a ballerina; just to name a few.

This movie reminded me of a DDA or an HDA (for all you non-speechies out there that means Dramatic Duet Acting and Humorous Duet Acting) that just went way over time.

See it again? Now that we know where to get it sure
Own it? No need.

#83 Toy Story: Made in Taiwan

1995. Dir. John Lasseter, starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn.

Seen it before? No.

Level one idea: Children's toys are alive, and have their own adventures when nobody's looking. Level two idea: they are anxious about being replaced by newer and more interesting toys. Level three: They execute reconnaissance missions during birthday parties, Christmas, etc. to check out new toys. When one kid's Woody doll (voice of Tom Hanks) gets superseded by a Buzz Lightyear doll (voice of Tim Allen), Woody has to cope with his inadequacy.

This was a groundbreaking movie, and it ushered in a whole new era of 3-D computer animated movies. This movie came out one year after Lion King and represents a sort of changing of the guard. Disney's increasingly ridiculous 2-D animated films were getting dragged down by crappy songs, marketing-driven characters, and poor storytelling. Eventually they discontinued them because they thought traditional cel animation was obsolete. Well, no, you idiots, it's not - people weren't flocking to the PIXAR movies because they were computer rendered, it's because they were good movies, with good stories.

Of course Disney did market the crap out of this one; it almost diverges into "toy commercial" land in some parts - Woody says to Buzz Lightyear: "You're a cool toy!" grrr. kill.

Position on the list: 159
A-113: The minivan's license plate. Also they were playing "Hakuna Matata" on the stereo. grrr. kill.

#80 The Night of the Hunter - Don't trust the wolf in sheep's clothing

1955. dir. Charles Laughton, starring Robert Mitchum, Billy Chapin, Sally Jane Bruce, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish.

Seen it before? No.

Robert Mitchum plays a bad, bad man dressed as a preacher who seduces people with words, marries widows and slays them for their money. This time his pray was Shelley Winters whose husband was executed for stealing a great amount of money. Everyone in the town believes Harry Powell (Mitchum) is benevolent to a fault and only wants to help the recently widowed Willa Harper raise her two children, John and Pearl. But we see the truth. The man is cold, calculating and manipulative. He rebuffs Willa. He calls John a sinner and does a whole slew of bad things while telling nosy neighbors Icey and Walt Spoon that Willa turned him down, etc.

Sam's least favorite character is probably my favorite. I loved Lillian Gish's Mrs. Cooper. She was smart, sassy, and generous. She took in John and Pearl when they had no where else to turn. And believed John over the words of Powell.

I think this movie is worth seeing. I hated every grown-up in the movie except for Mrs. Cooper. I thought it was annoying that people ate up every word Powell said. Watch the movie and you'll see what I mean. I won't blow the ending for you.

Watch it again? Yes
Own it? No real need to.

#79 Network - was a surprise

1976. dir. Sidney Lumet, starring Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall.

Seen it before? No.

I say that because I actually liked it despite thinking it moved slowly in the first few minutes. Faye Dunaway plays Diana Christensen a woman producer who comes to the network with spectacular and sometimes insane ideas of how to bring ratings up including making a cranky former anchor (Peter Finch) the prophet/vessel for how people in America really feel..."I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"

William Holden was excellent as Max Schumacher, Howard Beale's best friend, Faye Dunaways' lover, and Beatrice Straights' unfaithful husband.

This movie is supposed to be a satire for how network television works but I found it to be eerily similar to what probably DOES go on in network television (ahem, FOX). The shows Diana was pitching in the movie are similar to today's Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, the psychic guy who swears he can channel the spirits of deceased family members, and any other court television program (read - junk) you can think of. They exploit their fired news anchor by putting him BACK on television not once but multiple times as a prophet for goodness sakes. He's bitter and he's tired of bullshit and he claims to be the only person in America who is willing to tell the truth on television. Too bad no one on air today is willing to tell the truth. They might end up like Howard Beale.

Watch it again? Yes
Own it? Meh

#78 Yojimbo - how to get rid of two gangs by selling yourself to both sides...

1961. Dir. Akira Kurosawa, starring Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai. Japanese with subtitles.

Seen it before? No.

Toshiro Mifune plays Sanjuro - a warrior who comes to a town where two gangs are duking it out so that one gang can rule and terrorize the town. What he does is interesting. Instead of leaving, which would have made the story end that much sooner, he sells his fighting skills to one gang and then the other in an attempt to eradicate both gangs and in essence free the town of gang activity.

The sword fights were underwhelming, cheesy and fake. It was like watching old Jackie Chan movies where he karate chops a guy (barely touching him) and the sheer force of the wind knocks him down.

Parts of the story irritated part in particular was when the guy bet his wife in a game, lost her, and then wouldn't take her back because she was damaged...ARGH! Men suck!

See it again? That's ok
Own it? That's ok too.

#77 Snatch - Don't mess with Pikeys...and their dogs.

2000. dir. Guy Ritchie, starring Jason Statham, Brad Pitt, Alan Ford, Dennis Farina, Benicio Del Toro.

Seen it before? No.

Jason Statham is hot. I love his voice. I love his body. And in this movie he plays narrator as well as a boxing match promoter. The story starts with his narration but there are about a zillion other characters who get introduced at the beginning and it involved a diamond, a big diamond.

Brad Pitt is hot too, of course. You can't understand half the crap that comes out of his mouth (surely intentional). Even the subtitles didn't appear when Brad Pitt would talk. His role was part Fight Club and part Inglorious Basterds. You'll see why if you watch. Has Brad Pitt always acted like that? The answer would be no. Watch Thelma and Louise, Legends of the Fall, Mr. and Mrs. Smith or Interview with the Vampire and you'll know the difference.

Benicio Del Toro is a creepy looking guy. And unfortunately none of the movies I have seen him in have changed that opinion. Oh well.

Dennis Farina does a lot of swearing...a far cry from his Catholic studies at St. Michael in Old Town, yes, that's right folks, he went to school and church where I do.

See it again? Yes
Own it? Sure
Funniest part - the three incompetent thieves riding in the car