Movie of the Month - October, 2007

September 25th, 2007

Blood Diamond

Blood DiamondAn ex-mercenary turned smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio). A Mende fisherman (Djimon Hounsou). Amid the explosive civil war overtaking 1999 Sierra Leone, these men join for two desperate missions: recovering a rare pink diamond of immense value and rescuing the fisherman's son, conscripted as a child soldier into the brutal forces ripping a swath of torture and bloodshed across the alternately beautiful and ravaged countryside. Directed by Edward Zwick (Glory, The Last Samurai), this urgent, intensely moving adventure shapes gripping human stories and heart-pounding action into a modern epic of profound impact.

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Death at a Funeral

September 24th, 2007

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0795368/

When I went into this movie, I knew nothing about it. I believe that this is the best way to see this particular movie. I sometimes prefer not to know, but I legitimately hadn't heard of this movie before it came out. I saw it under a recommendation of, "Hey, we saw this movie last night and it was very funny." That was all it took (thanks Cagney).

There were very few recognizable faces, and only one actor whose name I knew. The story was ridiculous and heart-warming all wrapped up together. For a movie that featured neither the comedic styling of Mel Brooks nor many (if any) "inappropriate" jokes, I am not sure I have ever laughed that hard at a movie. Consider, if you will, that Death at a Funeral is like Meet the Parents, but funnier...and intelligent.

If you need/want to know what the movie was about, I won't deprive you. But if you will head my recommendation, stop reading here and enjoy the movie.

The movie:
A son attempts what would be a routine funeral for his father, but for a few unforeseen factors. This seemingly prim and proper British family may just be as flawed and...well, normal as any other family. An unfamiliar face in the crowd tries to blackmail the family, a promising young man who is trying to marry into the family accidentally takes enough hallucinogenic drugs to kill a small animal, and everyone keeps asking why the son instead of his author-for-a-brother will provide the eulogy. Family and friends come together to mourn and pay their respects to a man that they all thought they knew. What happens could never have been expected.

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Kung Fu Hustle

September 12th, 2007

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0373074/

The Axe Gang goes where it wants, does what it wants, and harrasses and oppresses whoever it wants. One day the gang shows up in a small town -- a town which tried to stay out of trouble -- to see about a small disturbance. Instead of imposing its will, the Axe Gang discovers the town's secret: Three Kung Fu masters have taken refuge there, unbeknownst even to each other. With damaged pride and reckless determination, the Axe Gang sets out to eliminate the three masters and take over the town. While the war wages, one enterprising young man tries to gain membership with the Axe Gang.

The movie was made in an entertaining style that is satirical of decades of martial-arts movies. Consider it Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with a sense of humor (I hate to use CTHD as an example, but it seems to be the most well-known movie to use the exagerated fight scenes).

This was so close to being a great movie to me. I really liked it and only have one complaint, and it is minor. One of my favorite elements to the movie was the dancing. It was a perfect element to a martial arts movie. Here was another choregraphed scene, dancing not fighting. And can't we get philosophical and say that in many ways fighting could be viewed as a crude form of dance? (Maybe I'm reaching a little bit there.) But the dancing occurs only when the Axe Gang has its confidence and as soon as it sees there is a legitimate challenger to its power, the dancing stops. And that disappointed me, but like I said before, it is only minor.

The plot is completely outrageous. If you do not like live-action movies with ridiculous story lines, Kung Fu Hustle is not a movie for you. If you want an atypical martial-arts movie that might make you laugh, check it out. I really liked Kung Fu Hustle.

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Movie of the Month - September, 2007

September 11th, 2007

Tombstone

TombstoneA sizzling, star-studded cast brings to life the legendary battle to deliver justice to TOMBSTONE! Kurt Russell (Backdraft) turns in a gripping performance as U.S. Marshall Wyatt Earp, and Val Kilmer (The Doors) ignites the screen as the outrageous Doc Holiday. Together, they team up to bring law to the lawless in a notorious showdown with ruthless outlaws at the O.K. Corral! The all-star ensemble also includes Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Dana Delany, Jason Priestley, Michael Biehn, and longtime Hollywood favorite Charlton Heston. Get ready for an explosive, action-packed adventure the Wild West would never forget.

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Cashback

August 29th, 2007

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0460740/

Ben Willis is an Art College student who finds himself with a lot more time on his hands after he and his girlfriend go their separate ways. Not only does he gain the time they would have spent together, but also any time normally allocated to sleep since he is now an insomniac. The end of his relationship with Suzy has left him unable to fall asleep, so at least he tries to be more productive with his nights and gets a job at a local supermarket. Time is Ben's enemy; with each ticking second he has more waking time to think about Suzy. Until he fights back. Ben begins to daydream that he can stop time, everyone and everything stops except him. In his mind he uses this time to draw and paint the people that he sees. In between his daydreaming and the hijinks of other store employees, Ben meets a girl. She works one of the registers, she might be dating one of their coworkers, and she might be the key to Ben getting his happiness (and sleep) back.

I really liked the story and the idea behind this movie. I thought it was neat how the pieces fit together, or didn't fit together. It was one of the movies where just about everything comes full circle, which was entertaining.

My only gripe, and it is a small one, is that Cashback failed me with its execution. I just feel like the movie could have been better, though I am not sure how. See, not much of a gripe at all. The movie was cute and enjoyable, so check it out...unless of course you might be bothered by a few-minute sequence when every woman is fully or partially naked (all in the name of art!).

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August 9th, 2007
Robin Hood Men In TightsRobin Hood: Kindly let me pass.
Little John: Uh, no. Sorry, but a toll is a toll, and a roll is a roll, and if we don't get no tolls, then we don't eat no rolls.
Little John: I made that up.
Robin Hood: It's very fascinating. But I'm afraid I'm going to have to hurt you.

The Weather Man

July 30th, 2007

Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0384680/

The Weather ManChicago weatherman David Spritz (Nicolas Cage) is living the life most of us dream of: he's a celebrity, makes a six-figure salary working two hours a day, and is on the short list for the meteorologist job on a national morning show. But his professional successes are overshadowed by his personal failures. He's divorced from his wife, his kids are slipping away from him and even his Pulitzer Prize-winning father (Michael Caine) won't take him seriously. Part American Beauty, part About Schmidt, The Weather Man takes a closer look at living a meaningful life in a fast-food world.

Initially I was afraid that The Weather Man would be just like The Family Man, and not just in title. In the former, Nic Cage plays a man with a successful career and an unsuccessful family life. In the latter, Nic Cage plays a man with a successful career and no family life to speak of. The Family Man is about that successful business man realizing there is more to life than his career. And I was afraid I would get that same plot line here, but I didn't. Frankly, the story in The Weather Man was almost the exact opposite.

Nic Cage's character is a very good weatherman, but he feels that he doesn't make the people around him happy by being a weatherman, so he overcompensates until he alienates everyone in his life. He hardly knows his two children and struggles to find ways to relate to them. He tries to get back into his ex-wife's good graces, but always seems to screw things up. That made the movie frustrating to watch, but the part played to Cage's personality very well.

I read some reviews that praised Cage, but while I thought it was a good part for him, I was not blown away. The movie got progressively better and I think it ended very well and saved what could have been a trainwreck of a movie.

As it started out, the movie seemed to struggle within itself. Was it a light-hearted family story as the simplistic writing and short scenes suggested? Or was it a very perverse coming-of-age story with an older-than-usual protagonist where the only thing more prevalent than inappropriate adult situations were f-bombs? These were the two phases to the movie, essentially early and late. Once it moved away from that early phase, The Weather Man was easier to watch. It got better over time, but suffice to say that it isn't a movie I would recommend anyone take a family to see.

The Weather Man was a bizarre film, but that ended up being part of the attraction for me. I really liked analysis Cage's character did on himself and there were maybe a small handful of scenes where the writing and direction teetered near genius (primarily the whole inclusion of archery). The movie was flawed -- I won't try to deny that -- but all in all I found it a positive viewing experience. However, I have a hard time seeing anyone liking this movie except 20- 30-something males who are looking for a change-of-pace movie.

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July 27th, 2007
The Ladies ManLeon Phelps: Ya know, when a man works hard his entire life enduring hundreds of ladies, many of whom he does not even remember you'd like to think that at the end of the day he will be given a lot of money, without having had to earn it.

Tenacious D In: The Pick of Destiny

July 26th, 2007

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0365830/

This is A story (not necessarily THE story) about how Jack Black (JB) and Kyle Gass (KG) came together to form the cult-revered musical tandem Tenacious D. The movie starts with a clash between JB and his oppressive father over the importance of rock music. Their fallout (and a vision from Dio) leads a young JB on a journey to his destiny. He settles in Hollywood after a chance encounter with KG upon arrival. KG teaches JB how to be a rock superstar and they team up, but something is missing. And thus they begin their trek together in search of The Pick of Destiny, a mystical guitar pick used by all great rock bands in history.

I had a hard time telling if this movie was geared for the long-time "D" fans or someone else. There were many recycled bits, which may have been homage to the loyal fans or an attempt to get new fans with the same old lines (they worked before, why not try them again?).

There were a fair share of redeeming factors to this movie. There was certainly a good amount of The D to entertain fanboys and fangirls alike. There were some hilarious scenes and great cameos.

I have been a Tenacious D fan for many years. I have followed their journey from a cameo in Bio Dome to a short-lived HBO series and on to a (relatively) celebrated full-length studio album. That self-titled CD was hilarious, but it was also little more than a reworking of old material.

While, as stated above, I am not sure of the target audience for this movie, I can narrow it down. This movie was made for die-hard Tenacious D fans and/or people males age 15-35 who fit the appropriate politically correct term for "stoner." If you don't fit into this small niche audience, it is probably not in your best interest to watch Tenacious D In: The Pick of Destiny.

While still officially a Tenacious D fan, unofficially I think they are in dire need of some new material. Or maybe their famous days are over (as the band only, since Jack Black seems to have no shortage of movie roles these days).

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Movie of the Month - August, 2007

July 20th, 2007

Stripes

StripesArmy will never be the same! When John Winger (Murray) loses his job, his car, his apartment and his girlfriend -- all in one day -- he decides he only has one option: volunteer for Uncle Sam. He talks his friend Russell (Harold Ramis) into enlisting with him. Where else, they figure, can they help save the world for democracy...and meet girls! John and Russell find basic training a snap: they are arrested twice, have endless run-ins with their drill sergeant (Warren Oates) and get into a big mess at a female mud-wrestling match. They even steal a top-secret government vehicle to take some gogeous female MPs on a date, and wind up behind the Iron Curtain. STRIPES is outrageous and fun! And that's the fact, Jack!

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