Top 5 Movies: Based on Well-Known Books

November 9th, 2006

Junebug

November 7th, 2006

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0418773/

JUNEBUGRising stars Amy Adams (The Wedding Date) and Ben McKenzie (TV's "The O.C.") light up the screen in this award-winning comedy about love, family, ambition, and the choices that come with each. Worldly gallery owner Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) and her husband (Alessandro Nivola) travel to North Carolina, where she hopes to woo a brilliant, but eccentric, folk painter. During this Southern journey, Madeleine also meets her new in-laws: George's skeptical mother, Peg (Celia Weston); his silent and withdrawn father, Eugene (Scott Wilson); and his surly brother, Johnny (McKenzie). The only welcoming member of the family is Johnny's affectionate, enthusiastic, and extremely pregnant wife, Ashley (Adams). Struggling to balance church socials with delicate business negotiations, Madeleine finds that she must choose what matters to her most. JUNEBUG is the powerful, funny gem that critics are hailing as "one of the best pictures of the year!" (Andrew Sarris, The New York Observer)

This is one of the rare occasions that I have a difficult time actually deciding if I liked a movie or not. The distinction, I guess, could be made by clarifying the wording of the question. Did I enjoy the movie? No, not really. Did I enjoy the story? Not particularly. Did I enjoy the message? I did.

To overuse the word "important" and its variations, I think any story that highlights the importance of family is an important one to see. I would not say that the concept of family is often undervalued, but I would argue that too many times it goes overlooked. Too many movies make money in today's society by focusing on familial faults and their individual disfunctionalities. I admit that I am part of the problem; I support the very movies I describe above. But I can still appreciate the once-in-a-blue-moon appearance of a movie like Junebug.

The movie was drawn out by many (I feel) unnecessary "artsy" camera shots. Full clips of the neighbor woman walking up her yard to her house. Cut scenes to the bugs flying over a small patch of wildflowers. Maybe these were avenues through which the makers of the movie were able to express themselves, but they succeeded in doing nothing more than taking a movie with a too-slow-to-develop plot and draw it out.

The story has left me with some internal conflict. I cannot decide if I am frustrated with the fact that there was much more to the relationships within the family than we are shown or if I actually preferred it that way. Johnny harbors an incredible amount of resentment towards his brother. Is it because George is the all-American son, liked by everyone in town, though he chose to leave North Carolina for more Midwestern surroundings? Or is there more to it? It would surely help us to understand the characters better if we could have a brief monologue by someone to describe for us a few major events that happened years before this story takes place.

The flip side of the coin is that we are better off being left to our own imaginative and investigative devices. If you do not opt to watch Junebug alone, as I unfortunately did, there could be some wonderful conversation born from the movie. This theory is maybe the strongest influence from which I recommend Junebug.

The synopsis provided with the DVD highlights the performances by Amy Adams and Ben McKenzie. Amy Adams earned herself an Oscar nomination for this part. That is pretty expressive on its own, but I will add my admiration to it. I support her nomination; it was well deserved.

Ben McKenzie did little for me. I think his performance was showcased due only to the popularity of the TV show he is/was on as an attempt to get more people to watch Junebug.

I am still on the fence about whether I liked it or not, but either way I think Junebug is still worth seeing once.

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November 4th, 2006
Patch AdamsHunter Patch Adams: What's wrong with death sir? What are we so mortally afraid of? Why can't we treat death with a certain amount of humanity and dignity, and decency, and God forbid, maybe even humor. Death is not the enemy gentlemen. If we're going to fight a disease, let's fight one of the most terrible diseases of all, indifference.

The Rage in Placid Lake

November 2nd, 2006

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0305999/

The Rage in Placid LakePlacid Lake's life has never been normal. From his early years when his mother sent him to school in a dress to challenge the other 5 year old children's 'preconceived notions of sexuality,' he should have guessed that fitting in was not going to be easy.

Fortunately for Placid, Gemma, the crayon gobbling scientific genius in awe of no one but her father is also having a few 'blending in' issues. They develop a firm friendship through the years during which their own peculiar parents attempt to drag them up and hurl them into adulthood, and they both discover the binding passion between them is a desperate bid for the elusive … 'Normal life'.

The Rage in Placid Lake is another gem to which my eyes were opened by the power of recommendation (thanks Scottie). It is that same recommendation that I now gladly distribute.

You may or may not have ever heard of Australian Indie Rocker Ben Lee. I cannot say that I am familiar with his catalog of music, but I can say that he was very entertaining as Placid Lake, our young protagonist who struggles to see how, or even if, his pure-bred individuality fits into today's conformist society.

Placid Lake is a rebel without a cause born of wildly outlandish parents who seem not to have their feet firmly planted anywhere near reality. His parents promote every activity for Placid to develop his own identity and to buck the system. After an accident, Placid wakes up in the hospital with a new-found drive to legitimize himself in the eyes of society; he wants to get a job selling insurance. The sharp contrast between his upbringing and his epiphany added cozy comic-relief to an intelligent story about the importance of "self."

The role models in Placid's life were polar extremes. He has his pacifist parents, who spend a little too much time disrobed around the home, and he has his manager at work, who is lost in middle management and has seemingly lost his ability to produce emotion.

The conversations that Placid has with his manager were my favorite aspect of the movie. Yes, his perspectives were narrow and extreme, but the points he made were poignant.

I also enjoyed Placid's best friend, Gemma. Gemma is a beautiful and intelligent young lady who is pushed urgently by her father to stay on track to someday make incredible breakthroughs in modern science. I like how she was written into the story in a way that Placid was able to do soul searching on behalf of them both. She was a first-hand witness to his journey into corporate monotony, from which they both learned valuable lessons about the direction of their lives.

Go ahead; see The Rage in Placid Lake. You won't be disappointed (well I hope not anyway!).

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Brick

November 1st, 2006

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0393109/

BrickThere are not really any "big names" in Brick. The closest would be Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who, if we ignore his hand in 10 Things I Hate About You, is not well known as a movie actor but rather as Tommy on TV's "3rd Rock from the Sun." Please do not let the absence of familiar names and faces deter you from seeing Brick. I thought it was a very clever and entertaining piece of work.

Reading the synopsis provided with the movie (I apologize for not having it available) would tell you to expect an elaborate drug-related plot involving a bunch of high school students. I was drawn to the movie by the trailer from which I had little knowledge of the movie, just an unexplained interest in seeing it. I was hesitant from the synopsis, but it must not have deterred me for too long! What type of ridiculous drug plot could a handful of 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids actually get into? How far fetched is this story line going to be?

Forget all of that. What the creative team did was take a story that has essentially become cliché in modern cinema and breathed new life into it. A disinterested, scorned man receives a cry for help from his ex-girlfriend and avails himself of a few liberties not necessarily intended for private citizens under the law only to find the trail to her is long and ultimately leads to a drug king-pin. So far so normal. What was unique to Brick was the high-school setting. You have kids living with their parents trying to uncover conspiracies between classes. Sounds ridiculous, right? Exactly. It is ridiculous. So get over it and enjoy the movie.

The way the teenagers related the drug plot to their pre-adult existence was well done and ultimately made the movie fun to watch.

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Top 5 Movies: Starring Paul Newman

October 26th, 2006

October 23rd, 2006
LabyrinthJareth: I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

October 23rd, 2006

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0363771/

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The WardrobePrepare to enter another world when Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media present C.S. Lewis's timeless and beloved adventure. With the stunningly realistic special effects, you'll experience the exploits of Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter, four siblings who find the world of Narnia through a magical wardrobe while playing a game of "hide-and-seek" at the country estate of a mysterious professor. Once there, the children discover a charming, once peaceful land inhabited by talking beasts, dwarfs, fauns, centaurs and giants that has been turned into a world of eternal winter by the evil White Witch, Jadis. Aided by the wise and magnificent lion Aslan, the children lead Narnia into a spectacular, climactic battle to be free of the Witch's glacial powers forever!

I honestly cannot remember if I ever read these books as a kid. I, like many, have felt a slight itch to read them now, since the movie release was somewhat of a reminder that the books even existed. I wanted to see the movie first, though. I wanted watch with attention devoid of geeky "this-is-nothing-like-the-book" bias.

As I lay in bed on my lazy Saturday afternoon watching The Chronicles of Narnia, I definitely had the longing to be sitting in a dark movie theater, losing myself in the action on the giant silver-screen. Seeing it on DVD was not a bad thing, but I think if I had taken the time to see it in the theater it would have definitely been a good thing.

In the "books we read as children turned movies" category, The Chronicles of Narnia was geared more towards children than Tolkien/Jackson Lord of the Rings movies.

In the "books my children may or may not have read turned movies" category, The Chronicles of Narnia may have even been a little less sophsiticated than Harry Potter. Forgive me for saying that in The Chronicles of Narnia it seemed that a few more things were a little far-fetched. I know it seems ridiculous that I say that a young boy, his brother and sisters leading a war against an evil witch is far fetched, though the fauns and centaurs they lead into battle and a completely different story about an entire school of young wizards were completely acceptable.

Some of the effects were flawless. The CG lion was masterfully done, as were most of the panoramic views. There were so many beatiful scenery shots, but some appeared lazily done. Maybe the design team had to cut a few corners, but the kids looked too blatantly super-imposed at times. This is a petty complaint, and my only one really.

I had fun watching The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I enjoyed it thoroughly and recommend it to anyone with young kids who are yet to go through the phase where they repress their imagination or anyone who has already come out of it.

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Movie of the Month - November, 2006

October 20th, 2006

The Rage in Placid Lake

The Rage in Placid LakePlacid Lake's life has never been normal. From his early years when his mother sent him to school in a dress to challenge the other 5 year old children's 'preconceived notions of sexuality,' he should have guessed that fitting in was not going to be easy.

Fortunately for Placid, Gemma, the crayon gobbling scientific genius in awe of no one but her father is also having a few 'blending in' issues. They develop a firm friendship through the years during which their own peculiar parents attempt to drag them up and hurl them into adulthood, and they both discover the binding passion between them is a desperate bid for the elusive … 'Normal life'.

| Buy it from Amazon | Discuss it | My review |

Lucky # Slevin

October 16th, 2006

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0425210/

Lucky Number SlevinSet in the New York underworld where nothing is as it seems, Lucky # Slevin is an action-packed, "fun-as-hell roller coaster ride" (Venice Magazine). When down-on-his-luck Slevin (Josh Hartnett) stumbles into a running feud between the city's most feared crime bosses (Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley), he ignites an all-out war. Tracked by a mysterious assassin (Bruce Willis) and distracted by his flirtatious neighbor (Lucy Liu), Slevin must try to cheat death by turning the tables on the gangsters. "If you take the best parts of Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects and The Professional, what you get is Lucky # Slevin" (Shawn Edwards, Fox-TV Kansas City).

This is the movie that put Josh Hartnett on the acting map for me. His earlier works have been easy enough to avoid and consider yourself lucky if you've been able to do so. I do hope this is a transition on his part into better roles; he was entertaining. His quick-witted quips keep you laughing and help you avoid the need to wonder what on earth is going on in the movie. They fill you in due time, even though I wouldn't be surprised if you figure out the ending before it unfolds; you wouldn't be the first.

It seemed a little silly to have Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley in roles such as these since they were relatively small roles. But they definitely added big names to draw attention to a movie more people should see.

I feel like I should have more to say about this movie, but I can really sum it up by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed Lucky # Slevin.

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