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Saturday, February 26, 2011



The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is a 2001 comedy film directed by Larry Blamire. It's a send-up of those all '50s B-movies like Plan 9 from Outer Space that have garnered so much ridicule over the years. In The Lost Skeleton, the audience finds themselves amidst a battle between three couples over a meteor containing the ultra-rare element "Atmospherium." As I've done with my recommendations for Clue and Star Wars, I think it will be easiest to break down each character in a bullet-ed list:
  • Dr. Paul Armstrong (Larry Blamire) and Betty Armstrong (Fay Masterson): Paul is the central hero of the film. He's a scientist who's interested in finding the meteor and using the Atmospherium to further the advances of science. Science is his life, and he knows nothing more than expanding the knowledge of science. Paul's wife Betty somewhat serves as our female lead, but the actual female "lead" is a little more open to discussion. She's a good-natured, at-home wife who will do anything to keep her husband happy. Her and Paul are the perfect stereotype for the type of couple you'd imagine in the 1950's.
  • Kro-Bar (Andrew Parks) & Lattis (Susan McConnell): Kro-Bar is an alien male from the planet Marva who's spaceship has crashed on Earth. His ship needs Atmospherium to power itself back to Marva, establishing his and his wife's - Lattis - need for the element. Unfortunately, the mutant that they have held captive escaped in the crash, and they must find a way to capture the creature before it can kill "millions" of people on this strange planet known as Earth.
  • Dr. Roger Fleming (Brian Howe) and Animala/Pammy (Jennifer Blaire): Fleming serves as our main antagonist for most of the film. In the beginning, he's searching for the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, a skeleton with supposedly supernatural powers. When he finds the Skeleton, it tells him that it needs Atmospherium in order to summon all its powers. Fleming steals one of the aliens' weapons - the Transmutatron - and uses it to change a group of forest animals into a woman whom he calls Animala. He uses Animala to help steal the meteor and do the bidding of the Skeleton.
As you can see, each individual character has his or her own reasoning behind attaining the Atmospherium, and the battle to maintain possession is rather stunning.

One of the things you need to know going into The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is that you need to watch it with the right mindset. If you go into the film expecting a solidly good movie in the traditional sense of "good movie," then you're going to be sorely disappointed. You'll just think it's a stupid movie that might be bad enough to be considered entertaining. And that's exactly what the filmmakers were going for. They deliberately attempted to make a film that's "so bad, it's good" in order to poke fun at and pay homage to the terribly laughable B-movies of the 1950s. The screenplay was deliberately written as poorly as one could imagine. The acting was deliberately performed at a very low level. Everything about this film oozes "badness," and that's what makes it so damn brilliant.

Blamire, who also wrote the screenplay in addition to starring and directing, pulls no punches in crafting a dreadfully hilarious script. The basic storyline is pretty laughable on its own. I mean, the main nemesis ultimately ends up being a re-animated skeleton - how can't you laugh at that? But the real beauty of the screenplay is the dialogue. It's absolutely horrendous, and that makes it all the more perfect in a film like this. There's a lot of repetition of seemingly unnecessary words and phrases. For example, the word "science" - or some derivative thereof - is used twenty-nine times throughout the film. Now, that may not seem like much when you read it here, but while you're watching the movie, you're definitely going to notice. Blamire hits the nail on the head in creating the feel of a '50s B-movie, from the terrible one-liners to the low-budget feel. Everything they do is done on purpose, and they go just about as far as they possibly can with everything, from the terrible special effects (see picture to the right) to a pitch-perfect score that enhances the ridiculousness of it all.

I couldn't possibly go without talking about the acting because it's also pitch-perfect. Everyone is so over-the-top that it's almost unfair how hilarious they all are. The cast of this film tends to do a lot of movies together - they were all in this film's sequel (2009's The Lost Skeleton Returns Again) as well as 2009's Dark and Stormy Night, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. They're a very close group, and they have yet to make a bad film, in my opinion. However, it all started here, and The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra still ranks highest among all of their collective endeavors. As I've said in recent posts, a film can have a fantastic screenplay, but poor execution by the cast can result in disaster. In this case, we have a perfectly terrible screenplay - again, because it was intentionally made that way - and it's executed flawlessly by these brilliant comedic individuals. They each play their respective roles to a tee, and you'd be hard-pressed to sit through this film without bursting into laughter.
Remember: don't delve into this film without understanding what you're getting yourself into. If you go in taking it too seriously, you won't get the whole point of the film. Prepare yourself for something that's deliberately bad. This is easily one of the best parodies I've ever seen, and I could watch it over and over and over again and cry with laughter every time. There's a reason that it ranks as the 44th greatest movie I've ever seen. So if you can take it for what it is, this is a definite must-see. I can guarantee you'll enjoy it.

Previous Recommendations:
CLUE (1985)
PSYCHO (1960)
STAR WARS (1977)

(Side note: I'm going to start doing one "movie recommendation" every Saturday night. These will always be films I've already seen and think that other people should see. I know that my past recommendations are pretty well-known flicks, so I'm going to do my best to bring movies you've probably never heard of. Hope you can enjoy my recommendations!)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Movie Review: UNKNOWN


Unknown is a 2011 action thriller directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. It tells the story of Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson), a botanist on his way to Berlin to speak at a biotechnology conference. He and his wife Liz (January Jones) arrive in the city but accidentally leave Martin's briefcase at the airport. When he catches a cab to go back and get it, he gets into an accident that leaves him in a coma for four days, after which he cannot remember many of the events of the accident. As he starts to piece together his whereabouts, he remembers that his wife will be at the hotel. Martin goes to find her but finds that she seemingly doesn't know him and is with another man (Aidan Quinn) who also claims to be Dr. Martin Harris. Because the real (or his he?) Martin cannot provide any type of identification, he's thrown out of the hotel. After returning to the hospital, he's attacked by an unknown man but escapes. Perplexed, Martin finds a private investigator (Bruno Ganz) and the taxi driver from the crash - a girl named Gina (Diane Kruger) - to help him put all the pieces together.

Although I had planned on watching Unknown at some point in time, I didn't really have the intention of paying to see it in theaters. However, my friend Vivian and I decided to go see a movie and agreed to see whatever film was starting next, as long as it wasn't Hall Pass (because I saw it earlier today) or Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (because we're both afraid it might actually be good). Hence, we watched Unknown. I had heard about the mixed reviews going in, so I didn't really have much in terms of expectations. And sadly, it couldn't even meet the low bar I had set.

I'm going to start with the film's positives then go into the problems I had with it. For starters, there's actually a good storyline within the film; however, there's a very fine line between a "storyline" and a "screenplay," but more on that in a moment. The basic plot is effective, albeit a little slow in the early going. For the first ninety minutes, I was bored out of my mind. There wasn't much in terms of action, the story seemed rote and predictable, and all I wanted to do was fall asleep. Fortunately, the story kicks into overdrive in the last twenty to thirty minutes, actually providing a decent little twist. Sadly, it's not enough to save the film, but it was a valiant effort, I suppose.

The acting also isn't all that terrible. Jones and Kruger are easily the highlights of the film, both with their acting as well as their looks (c'mon, they're both gorgeous - get off me). But I'm sure there's few people going to see this movie without wanting to see Liam Neeson get down like he did in 2008's Taken. Don't get your hopes up, people. He has a couple of "fight" scenes, but the first was shot so shakily that I started to get dizzy, and the last is so anti-climactic that I couldn't really get into it. Oh, and then there's his acting when he's not fighting, but that goes into my biggest issue with the film...

Dialogue. Unknown has dreadfully terrible dialogue. Now, a good screenplay comprises of two facets: a good storyline or plot, and strong, realistic dialogue. Unknown has a decent - albeit flawed - storyline, but the dialogue is absolutely atrocious, especially for Neeson's character. The other characters have somewhat realistic dialogue, but something about Neeson's delivery accentuated just how terribly-written his character actually is. Well, his dialogue, at least. There's a couple of lines that had me on the verge of tears with laughter, but one towards the end of the film drove the last nail in the coffin. As the two Martin Harris's engage in battle, Neeson says, "I remember how to kill you...asshole." I know you can't know how bad the line is without actually seeing it, but something about Neeson's delivery of the line - with a deliberate pause between "you" and "asshole" - was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak. Both Vivian and I were laughing. That's not really a good thing when you're trying to create an effective action thriller.

As much as I love Liam Neeson, I can't by any means recommend Unknown. I'm still not sure why he decided to reinvent himself as an action star, but I just hope it's not some kind of warped response to the passing of his wife, the late Natasha Richardson. I mean, this man is an Oscar winner, but now he's settling for this drivel. It's too bad, really. He has so much talent, but it doesn't come out in Unknown. Don't waste your money.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: D+
1.5 Thumbs Down

Trailer Breakdown: THE HANGOVER PART II

If you read my review of the new film Hall Pass from earlier today, then you'll have seen the teaser trailer for the upcoming film, The Hangover Part II. Now, I don't know if Hall Pass was the first movie with which the trailer was played, but it was definitely the first time I've seen it. That being said, the teaser did raise a number of questions, so now, I'd like to issue my first ever "Trailer Breakdown" where I bring you those questions and give my thoughts. If people like this, I'll do more of them as trailers for big-time flicks arise, but let's stick with the present. Everybody saw and loved The Hangover back in 2009. They loved it so much, in fact, that it nabbed the Golden Globe win for Best Comedy or Musical of the year. It did so well at the box office that the Warner Brothers called for a sequel. Here's the trailer, in case you have yet to see it:

So, obviously, there's a few pressing issues (four, to be exact) that immediately come to mind. Let's talk about them, shall we?

1. Where the hell are the guys this time?
Actually, I didn't really think that when I was watching the trailer because I already knew the answer. The gang rocked Las Vegas in the first installment, but this time around, they're taking their talents to Thailand (Bangkok, to be specific). They're going from one end of the spectrum to the other, and to be honest, I'm pretty excited. There's so many stereotypes that go with male American travelers in Thailand that we should be in for quite a treat.

2. What's with Alan's (Zach Galifianakis) shaved head?
Normally, I'd assume that an actor would've just chosen to do their 'do in a different manner. However, this is Zach Galifianakis. The man's almost instantly recognizable because of the exuberant growth on his head and face. To have it all taken off the top is a tad bit shocking, so I'm thinking it has something to do with the film and its story.

3. On that note, what's the deal with the tattoo around Stu's (Ed Helms) left eye?
This also has to be a part of the story. Considering you can make a quick trip to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and find out for yourself, I'll just let the cat out of the bag: the gang is traveling to Bangkok for Stu's wedding. That means it's his bachelor party this time around. However, the tattoo also plays some significance considering some of the press from the film's shoot over the past few months. Originally, the film was to have a Mel Gibson cameo as Bangkok tattoo artist, but Galifianakis urged director Todd Phillips to reconsider the casting. As much as I think the Gibson cameo would've proven priceless, he was released from the film in favor of Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper's co-star from The A-Team. It'll be good, but Gibson would've been perfect, especially considering his recent problems. So, I'm assuming that Neeson will be the one giving Stu this tattoo, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

4. And finally, will the monkey be the new Baby Carlos?
The second I saw the monkey ambling along ahead of our three amigos, I instantly thought back to everyone's favorite sunglasses-wearing infant. He was the rock of the group that brought them together while keeping them from tearing each other apart! (well, maybe I don't really think that, but I had to add a little bit of flavor to this post, right?) So, now that Baby Carlos is safely with his mother back in Las Vegas (we're assuming), we need another small creature to please the girls we take to the theater. The monkey could totally fulfill the cuteness factor they so desperately crave.

I know I didn't answer anything definitively, but I don't really think anybody could at this point in time. It's more just musings that we can think about until we get a longer trailer. Or until the film is released on May 26. Until then, ponder all you want, but I'm sure this'll be a smash hit just like its predecessor.

Movie Review: HALL PASS


Hall Pass is a 2011 comedy directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly. It centers around two married men, Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis), who are given a "hall pass" by their wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), respectively. This pass essentially gives them a week off from marriage, allowing them the opportunity to cheat on their spouses if they so choose. The decision to give the men free reign stems from their obsession with sex, and the two women think that, if they can just get it out of their system, their marriages will ultimately end up much stronger. So, the two men spend six days doing whatever they can to get some action, but they quickly realize that they might be quite a bit out of practice from their "glory days" back in college.

I'd like to start by saying that I didn't have much in terms of expectations going into the theater (my triumphant return to the cinema after a twenty-nine day hiatus as a result of constant sickness). Sadly, my choice of film was not as triumphant, but considering the rest of the drivel currently holding serve at my local theaters, I probably wouldn't have fared much better with another choice. But I digress. I went into Hall Pass not expecting much, and "not much" is exactly what was delivered.

The basic story is about as cliché and predictable as you can imagine. You know from minute one how Rick and Fred are going to handle their new-found freedom, and at the same time, you can see exactly how Maggie and Grace are going to react. It's like getting on a plane. Let's say, for example, you're taking off from Los Angeles and will be landing in New York. Although there may be a few bumps along the road - or, in the air, I should say - you can be pretty sure you're going to end up in New York. Landing in Miami would be a twist in your plans, right? That's exactly how Hall Pass felt. You know your final destination from the opening credits, so it all comes down to the ride to get there.

Unfortunately, the ride isn't all that pleasant. It's not that it's overly terrible; it's just a little dull. The jokes aren't very fresh, and although I chuckled a time or two, there's no point where you'll be rolling with laughter. Not one, single moment. In addition, the amount of raunch is juvenile at best. Some films have handled raunchiness very well (see: 2005's Wedding Crashers or 2009's The Hangover). But Hall Pass's gags were just downright lame, and the laughs simply weren't there.

I don't really blame the actors in the film for the travesty they've created because I'm sure a lot of it has to do with a particularly bad screenplay. That being said, Owen Wilson has done much better work. This is his first film since 2008's Marley & Me, and it's not really resounding very strongly. Sudeikis has a couple of moments, but it's nothing close to making the movie worthwhile. We do get a couple of decent cameos from the likes of Joy Behar (from TV's "The View"), Alyssa Milano, Richard Jenkins, and Kathy Griffin. And there's even a certain amazing stand-up comedian named Bo Burnham for those of you looking closely, but he's not given any reign whatsoever. I was a tad disappointed with that.

Overall, this movie is probably a must-miss. You're not really getting anything entertaining out of it aside from the random cameos which aren't spectacular anyways. The film is just too dumb to be funny, but it's too unfunny to be entertaining. However, if there is one reason to go see Hall Pass, it would be the opportunity to see the new teaser trailer for The Hangover: Part II. ...oh wait, what's that? It's already on YouTube? Well, considering you can find it there - and directly below because I felt like embedding it - there's really no reason to waste your money on Hall Pass. Just kiss your wife and live with the fact that you're married and be happy. That's basically the moral of the story.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: F
1.5 Thumbs Down

Thursday, February 24, 2011



The Amityville Horror is a 1979 horror film directed by Stuart Rosenberg. It's your classic tale of a haunted house that starts with a young man brutally murdering his entire family in the middle of the night. A year later, a young pair of newlyweds, George (James Brolin) and Kathy Lutz (Margot Kidder), moves into the house with the Kathy's three children. At first, everything seems fine and dandy, and although they know about the deaths that occurred only a year before, the Lutz's choose to believe that a house cannot retain any memories. However, a series of incidents start to plague the family, from random acts of horror and violence to a mysterious illness that soon takes hold of George. As all of the events continue to occur, a great strain begins to affect the young newlyweds as they wonder what exactly they've gotten themselves into by moving into this house.

The film actually starts out pretty well, setting the scene with the aforementioned brutal murders inside a rather menacing-looking house (pictured below). At first glance, the house appears to have a face, with the two upper windows providing the eyes. That's the first thing we see in the film as a series of gunshots ring through the night. After that, however, everything starts to spiral downwards. The movie quickly becomes rather dull and uninteresting, as do seemingly every haunted house flick nowadays. We get the standard gags - a door opening and closing on its own, random pieces of the house "attacking" family members (like a window slamming on a child's hand) - and thirty-two years after this movie was made, they all seem boring and rote. At times, it's almost laughable, but I wouldn't even give it that much credit.

What's really laughable is the level of acting in the film. Now, Brolin and Kidder do have moments of semi-goodness, but for the most part, their over-the-top ham-fest is almost unbearable to watch. And the chewing of the scenery doesn't limit itself to our leads. We have a couple performances from supporting actors that rival their own badness. For example, Rod Steiger plays a local priest who knows there's evil within the house. His scenes are so over-the-top and bad that it's hard to take them seriously. He can't get through a scene without yelling at someone, and all I wanted to do was roll my eyes and laugh at him. We also get a short scene from Helen Shaver, one of the Lutz's friends who seemingly understands paranormal activity. As with everyone else, she brings a level of "over-the-top" that's too ridiculous to miss. If you can't tell, there's really not much in terms of acting going on in The Amityville Horror.

If there's anything going right within the film, it's the musical score which garnered an Oscar nomination. Lalo Schifrin helps to set the tone of the film with his haunting score, but it's nowhere near enough to save the picture. I can see why it would grab the Academy's attention, but this trainwreck of a film really shouldn't have gotten any of their attention. However, credit should be given where credit is due, and Schifrin did the best he could with a terrible flick.

Had I been more drawn into the movie, I might call The Amityville Horror "so bad, it's good." However, the lack of interest in any of the situation makes me want to say that it's just a bad film. I had a few high hopes for it going in, considering the film was remade in 2005. The two reasons a movie can be remade are as follows: the original was either very good (in which the studio is trying to cash in on its name), or the original was very bad (in which the filmmakers think they can take the concept and make a better film). I'm gonna have to say that the original Amityville Horror was pretty damn bad, but from everything I've heard, the remake is even worse. Maybe they should've just let this one die on its own.

(On a side note, this is the first "F" grade I've ever given to a film from the 1970s. I thought that deserved mention.)

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: F
Current All-Time Rank: Worst - #89
2 Thumbs Down

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Movie Review: RAIN MAN


Rain Man is a 1988 Oscar-winning dramatic film directed by Barry Levinson. The film opens on Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), a hot-headed yuppie who runs an expensive car business. Upon hearing the news of his estranged father's passing, Charlie and his girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golino) make their way to Cincinnati the funeral. Afterwards, Charlie learns that his inheritance includes only a classic Buick Roadmaster and some prize-winning rosebushes; they $3 million estate, however, has been given to an unnamed beneficiary. Charlie begins to search for answers and learns that the money has gone to Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman), the elder brother Charlie never knew he had. Raymond is institutionalized as a high-functioning autistic, but Charlie decides to take matters into his own hands. In an attempt to attain half of his father's estate, he kidnaps Raymond from the institution and tries to take him back to his home in Los Angeles where a court hearing will determine what is best for Raymond.

This film was the big winner at the Academy Awards in 1989, nabbing eight nominations and four wins (including Best Actor for Hoffman, Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture). Although I don't personally think it's the best film from 1988 that I've ever seen - Die Hard, Beetle Juice, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit rank slightly higher - it's still a fascinating watch that borders the lines of a must-see. There are a few issues with the actual storyline, the most pressing being that the film is entirely predictable. We can see from a mile away that Charlie is going to achieve some sort of major personality change as a result of the time he spends with his brother. I feel like I've seen this type of story dozens of times before, so it's not necessarily original. It's just wrapped in a different kind of wrapping paper, so to speak. However, Rain Man works more as a character drama rather than a plot-driven film. It's not about the fact that Charlie is going to have a change of heart; the important aspect is how he reaches that point. In addition, we get to see a change in Raymond's personality. It's not as drastic, but it's enough to be profound by the end of the film.

With character-driven films, acting is key. If an actor can't make us believe the transformation of their character, then the film loses all of its power because it doesn't have an astounding story to fall back on. Fortunately, our two leads are simply fantastic and entirely convincing in their respective roles. Let's start with Hoffman, who grabbed his second Oscar statuette for his turn as the autistic Raymond Babbitt (his first win came for 1979's Kramer vs. Kramer, for those of you who were wondering). Now, here in the 21st century, I couldn't help but recount one particular scene from 2008's Tropic Thunder as I watched Hoffman's performance. One of the central ideas in Tropic Thunder is the idea that so many actors will go ridiculously deep into a role. In the scene, Robert Downey Jr.'s character is explaining to Ben Stiller's character why you should "never go full retard" for a role. When pressed for an explanation, he continues by referencing Rain Man: "Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man, look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Counted toothpicks, cheated cards. Autistic, sho'." The fact that Hoffman was referenced goes to show just how dedicated he was to his craft in creating the character Raymond Babbitt. While he does have a couple of over-the-top moments that the Academy tends to love, the real meat behind his performance is the subtlety he brings to the screen. There's a number of little ticks that he gives to Raymond that make the performance stunningly brilliant, and he easily deserved his Oscar recognition.

I'd also like to take a moment to talk about Tom Cruise, the only other main character presented in the film. I know that a lot of people nowadays have issue with Mr. Cruise, and considering his media exposure over the past few years, I can't necessarily blame them. However, none of that should take away the fact that he's a very, very good actor. Sure, he tends to play characters that parallel his own personality, and I feel like his role in Rain Man falls into that category. That being said, I'd easily put his Rain Man performance in my top three favorite Cruise roles, behind only 2004's Collateral and 2008's Tropic Thunder. In this film, he makes Charlie's transformation so real and so visceral that we almost make it right alongside him. I started the film absolutely hating Charlie Babbitt, but by the time the final credits rolled, I wanted to shake his hand. That's saying a lot, to be sure.

Rain Man is definitely a movie you should watch. I wouldn't quite call it a must-see film, but it's pretty damn close. It met every expectation I had of it, and although it didn't grade as highly as I thought it would, it's still a very good film that I'm sure you'd enjoy.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: B+
2 Thumbs Up

Tuesday, February 22, 2011



Road to Perdition is a 2002, Oscar-winning dramatic film directed by Sam Mendes. It's an adaptation of a graphic novel of the same name. It tells the story of Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), a muscle man for a big-time bootlegger named John Rooney (Paul Newman) in the 1930s. When John's son Connor (Daniel Craig) makes a mess of a hit with Michael's son Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) secretly watching, both the older and younger Sullivan's are sworn to secrecy; however, Connor doesn't think that the boy will keep his word. While Michael Sr. is out on a job, Connor goes to the Sullivan home and kills Michael's wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and his youngest son, Peter. Both Michael Sr. and Michael Jr. find the bodies of their family and quickly leave town, fearing for their lives. They travel to Chicago in the hopes of gaining the protection and the good graces of Frank Nitti (Stanley Tucci), an under-boss in the Rooney organization. However, Nitti remains loyal to the Rooneys, instead employing a sociopath hitman (Jude Law) to kill the Sullivan men. On the run from the only profession he's ever known, Michael Sr. takes it upon himself to protect his remaining son and exact revenge on the man who killed his family.

The first thing you'll probably notice about Road to Perdition is the massively strong cast. Between Hanks, Newman, Law and Tucci, we have a total of eighteen Oscar nominations with three wins (two for Hanks; 1 for Newman). Add to the mix our current James Bond (Craig) and a very talented young star in Hoechlin, and you've got the makings of a fantastic ensemble cast. Hanks is steady as usual, delivering a performance a little unlike ones I've seen in the past. To be fair, I haven't seen a ton of Hanks' work, but I've seen enough of his real-life outgoing and manic personality that I know how different this role actually is. Hanks drew it back for Road to Perdition, bringing a very quiet performance despite the fact that he's essentially a hitman for the mob. It fit the tone perfectly. Newman is fantastic as he has always been and actually garnered one of his Oscar nominations for his role in this film. Craig continues to impress me more and more. Before his star-making turn in the most recent Bond films, I hadn't really heard of him aside from his appearance in 2003's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, but he actually has some quality acting chops, as shown here (for another look at his acting range, you should check out 2005's The Jacket, where he has a small role). I also can't say enough about Jude Law in this flick. I know a lot of people who don't necessarily care for his brand of acting, but I've always rather liked him. He's not the greatest actor I've ever seen on-screen, but he holds his own. However, this may be a career-best performance, at least in my opinion. The character he brings to the screen is sufficiently creepy and definitely haunting, and Law presents the warped psychology quite well. I was thoroughly impressed.

To add to the fine acting, the audience is also given a fantastic story to follow. Road to Perdition could have easily become your average tale of revenge with Michael Sr. hellbent on destroying Connor Rooney. However, the addition of Michael Jr. to his plans alters Michael Sr.'s overall plan. We learn throughout the course of the story that Michael Sr. was always harder on Michael Jr. because he reminded him too much of himself, and that scared him. He didn't want his son to follow in his footsteps, and that fundamentally changes how Michael Sr. goes about everything in the film. We get to see the bonding of father and son as they forge the relationship that the boy had always wanted, even if it's under such straining and pressing circumstances. This side of the story keeps the film from becoming a rote and predictable film. That being said, I did see the finale coming from a half-mile away (I'd say a mile, but it wasn't quite that far). That might be the only thing keeping Road to Perdition from being an "A+" film, but my knowing in no way took away from the power of the ending. It's the way the movie has to end, so I hope you can see that for what it is.

I also have to give major props to Thomas Newman who composed an excellent (and Oscar-nominated) score for the film. Considering the amount of action and bloodshed that occurs throughout the movie, he could have crafted a heavy-hitting, action-like score; instead, he went with thoughtful, hitting more on the father-son bonding aspect of the story. It's quiet and beautiful and fits the film's tone absolutely seamlessly. Embedded below is a little piece of the score - I hope you like it!

All in all, Road to Perdition is a fantastic film that's worth watching for its story and for the fantastic level of acting brought to the table. If you're a consistent reader of this blog, you'll know that I give out my own film awards at the end of each year (here's the awards for 2010, for example). I have not posted my awards for 2002 - I may at some later date - but you should know just how big of a splash Road to Perdition made. (Side note: my personal awards are constantly changeable depending on films I continue to see; that's why this film could make the nominations for its year). After careful consideration, this film stole ten nominations in the awards for 2002, taking the wins for six, including Best Actor (Hanks), Best Dramatic Screenplay, Best Drama and Best Picture of the Year. If those own personal accolades aren't enough to sway you towards watching this film, I'm not sure what else to tell you.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: A
Current All-Time Rank: Best - #85
2 Thumbs Up

Monday, February 21, 2011

Movie Review: THE KING OF KONG

A Fistful of Quarters

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is a 2007 documentary directed by Seth Gordon. It follows Steve Wiebe's attempts to break the long-standing high score on the old Donkey Kong video game. After being laid off, Wiebe started to pass the time by playing the game on a machine in his garage. He started to score higher and higher and took it upon himself to challenge the score set by Billy Mitchell, a famous figure in the retro gaming scene, back in 1982. When Wiebe beats the score, he submits his video to Twin Galaxies, the official record-keeper for video games. However, Mitchell questions whether the video is valid, and Wiebe's short-lived title is revoked (despite the fact that we all know his attempt was legitimate). In response, Wiebe challenges Mitchell to a live, head-to-head showdown, but Mitchell never shows to defend his title, leaving all the pressure on Steve himself.

Although The King of Kong is a documentary, it has the feel of a scripted drama. In the beginning, when we're getting the history of early video gaming, we're not really sure who to like. For all we know, Billy Mitchell could be the good guy in the story. However, once we're introduced to down-on-his-luck Steve Wiebe, it becomes very evident who the audience is going to stand behind. As all of the drama unfolds, the movie develops Mitchell as the true villain of the story, and what a villain he is. I was verbally expressing my distaste with the man purely as a human being. He's such a complete asshole that you almost have to like Wiebe by default.

At the same time, we see the inner workings of the higher-up gaming community that will do whatever it takes to protect their own. Billy Mitchell is gaming royalty, and everyone seemed to be doing whatever they could to protect his record. In a way, Steve Wiebe's journey was an entire uphill battle because of the apparent corruption at the top of this scoring organization. We get a very intense competition that borders on good versus evil. Well, evil is a strong word, but it's the first one that comes to mind.

One of the best parts of the movie, however, is the fact that it moves from a competition between two gamers to a competition between two completely different types of people. The reason we cheer for Steve Wiebe is because we can recognize that he's a much better person than Billy Mitchell who proves himself time and again to be not that great of a guy. This "douchiness," for lack of a better word, propels the audience away from Mitchell and onto Wiebe's side. I haven't rooted for a character this much in quite a while, and that's quite a testament considering we're talking about grown men playing Donkey Kong.

On the whole, The King of Kong is engrossing and wholly satisfying. It's even got a fantastic soundtrack that hearkens back to the '80s when many of these games made their debut. It's definitely worth a watch if you've got eighty minutes to kill.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: A-
Current All-Time Rank: Best - #177
2 Thumbs Up
Addition to Awards

Sunday, February 20, 2011



For the past couple months, Nike and the NBA have been hyping a short film by Robert Rodriguez that was going to be released over the NBA's All-Star Weekend. The short film, which stars Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, is posted below, for your viewing pleasure. My review after the break:

Now that you've (hopefully) watched the video - it's just under six minutes long, so just watch it if you haven't already - I hope that you found it as enjoyable as I did. Yes, I know it's pretty ridiculous, but it has that signature feel of a Robert Rodriguez venture that I absolutely love.

Sure, the story's a little lame, but it's still well-rounded considering how short the movie is. The Boss (Kanye West) wants to take all the power away from the best basketball players in the world, and the Black Mamba (Bryant) is the only one who's eluded his capture. So The Boss sets up a final trial that he hopes the Mamba can't pass, and for a moment, it looks like he might get the best of our hero. You'll have to watch to see what happens.

In terms of acting, I wasn't terribly turned off. Kobe does pretty well with the dialogue he's given - the dialogue throughout the film is snappy and very well-written, as is the norm with Rodriguez fare. Sure, he's not an actor by any means, but I think he did a pretty good job for his first "foray" into the medium. We've got some great appearances from some big names like Bruce Willis and the ever-present Danny Trejo who play their parts to perfection. And even Kanye, who I don't particularly like, does well with his time on-screen.

Yes, this isn't my usual type of review considering I don't review the short films I see, but I felt compelled to do a little write-up for "The Black Mamba." It was ridiculous and far-fetched but wholly entertaining, especially for under six minutes. Kudos, Mr. Rodriguez. You didn't disappoint.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: B
2 Thumbs Up

Finding the Beauty in Bad Movies

Because I'm such a renowned film critic (read: sarcasm), I am often asked my thoughts on individual films. Most of the time, my opinion is received graciously, and although I do tend to butt heads with conventional conclusions (i.e., my thoughts on The Exorcist), the majority of my friends respect my final analysis. However, I did get into a little bit of a tiff with a friend last night over the 2009 film Jennifer's Body, starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. Here's a copy of the conversation (via Facebook comments, for your reading pleasure). Please excuse my terrible blurring skills:
Yes, I admittedly acted in a slightly "holier than thou" fashion, but I think that I presented my case pretty well. (To be honest, I did leave out the last two comments of the short squabble - my friend said, "You know you love me" and I replied with my disdain for people picking fights.) What my friend failed to understand was that even bad movies can be extremely enjoyable. There's a reason for the phrase "so bad, it's good," and this definitely applies to some movies. And those movies are some of my favorite films to watch!

That being said, I would like to start with a disclaimer: not all bad movies are entertaining. I know that the title of this post is "The Beauty of a Bad Movie," but some films just aren't redeemable, no matter how hard you try. For a recent example of such a movie, you might want to try the 2010 faux documentary I'm Still Here. In my opinion, there's a range of bad movies. The upper end of films in the "bad" range are the ones you want to avoid. They might start out well but ultimately offer little. The "bad" movies that you want to see are the worst of the worst. I've found that these movies are often the ones that provide the most enjoyment.

Now onto why these bad movies are actually so good. Let's start with Jennifer's Body since that was the movie that ultimately stemmed this blog. In case you haven't seen it, the basic storyline involves a high school girl (Fox, pictured at right) who becomes possessed by a demon and needs to feed on the bodies of young men in the community. Her friend (Seyfried) starts to wonder what's wrong with her friend and starts to question why so many people have been killed. As I told my friend last night, it's not really that great of a movie, but it's not all that bad, either. I actually gave the film a "C" grade, citing the better-than-average acting for a horror film. It's not quite a train wreck, as my friend believed. There's actually quite a bit redeeming about it if you know what to look for. One of the best parts of Jennifer's Body is the terribly cheesy song performed by the faux band, Low Shoulder. The song quickly becomes an anthem for the small town after the tragedies take place, so the audience gets to hear it over and over and over again. Here's the song, in case you're interested:

It's classically bad but fits the tone of the movie so well that I gave it a nomination for Best Original Song in my personal awards in 2009.

There are two types of "bad" movies that can fall into the "so bad, it's good" range. The first is the movie that you know is going to be terrible from the start. Examples of such are films like 2002's Halloween: Resurrection (#8 on my all-time "worst" list) and any of SyFy's original movies (i.e., Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus or Mega Piranha). I mean, look at those titles? You know you're in for some garbage, so if you're actually taking the time to watch the movie, you might as well find the comedy in it, right?

The second type of movie that can earn the illustrious title of "so bad, it's good" happens to be the movie you actually think might be good. You go into the theater expecting a quality piece of cinema, and you're ultimately disappointed when it turns out to be crap. On initial viewing, you may hate the film, but if you take the time to watch it again, you just might find yourself absolutely loving it for all the wrong reasons. Films that fall under this category include 2008's The Happening or 2010's Skyline.

So, what I'd like to do with the rest of this post is break down a couple of films that I found to be brutally bad but also entirely entertaining. If you've made it this far, perhaps you'd like to join me?

I want to start with that second type of bad movie, and I'd like to call The Happening to the stand. When trailers started airing for M. Night Shyamalan's 2008 venture, it actually looked like it had the possibility to be his return to glory. Boy, was everybody wrong. The movie follows a young, angst-filled couple (Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel) as a sweeping epidemic hits the Eastern states. What appears to be a terrorist chemical attack is causing people to take their own lives within moments of being afflicted. To be honest, I was completely captivated with the film for the first half hour or so. Shyamalan presented a rather harrowing idea, and the tone conveyed a very sinister nature. I was hooked immediately.

Let me set the stage for its ultimate downfall, at least in my circumstance. I saw The Happening on a Saturday night on its opening weekend with my buddy Chris. We saw a late show that happened to be sold out, so we got stuck sitting in the third row or thereabouts. As I said, I was hooked immediately, but one scene sent it spirally out of control. Essentially, the film shows massive numbers of people offing themselves in a wide range of methods. After a while, you the methods get more and more ridiculous until we're finally shown this one (warning - this video contains slightly graphic material):

Up until this scene, I had been quiet and thoughtfully intrigued, but after seeing the lions maul the zookeeper, I couldn't keep myself from laughing. Chris wasn't happy, but I could not help myself. As the film progressed, more and more of the theater began to join my chorus of giddiness. When you throw in the fact that the surviving cast members essentially run from the wind for the majority of the film, you can start to see the comic genius that Shyamalan must have intended (again, read: sarcasm). However, The Happening also offers a little bit of icing on this cake. The performances by Wahlberg and Deschanel are absolutely dreadful, and that only heightens the viewing pleasure for the audience. You couldn't say much against Deschanel at that point, but Wahlberg was already a huge name in the Hollywood scene after crafting himself as a tough badass. Apparently he didn't like the type-casting, so he traded his bravado for a wimpy, soft-spoken school teacher in this one, and it's so vastly different not only from his other roles but also his real-life persona that's it's entirely laughable. So thank you, Mr. Wahlberg, for delivering my sundae with a cherry on top.

The next movie I'd like to talk about is one that you'd probably dismiss by simply reading the title, and for most of the film, I'd wholly agree with your dismissal. It's 1987's Surf Nazis Must Die, which tells the story of a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles where rival surf gangs have commandeered territory along the county's beaches. The most powerful group, the Surf Nazis, are bred of pure evil like their World War II predecessors. They have to fight Irish and Japanese gangs for beach supremacy, but they also find the time to murder an African-American man jogging along the Strand. When this man's mother learns of her son's death, she vows revenge on the Surf Nazis. Now, this movie is absolutely dreadful for the first hour. It's slow, it's boring, and you have very little clue as to what's actually happening. However, the last fifteen to twenty minutes are some of the most brilliantly bad minutes of filmmaking that I've ever seen, and it makes the entire experience worthwhile. We finally get to see the man's mother take his revenge on the Nazis as a prolonged chase sequence (via truck, motorcycle, JetSki and speedboat) ensue. It's ridiculously over-the-top but ends with one of the most perfectly-placed (albeit slightly racially insensitive) lines I've ever heard. I won't give that little gem away at this point, but I was rolling with laughter as soon as I heard it. Surf Nazis Must Die now holds a very special place in my heart.

No conversation about bad movies could ever be complete without mentioning 1958's Plan 9 from Outer Space. Perennially considered one of the worst films ever made, I felt compelled to add it to this list. It currently holds a 65% approval rating on, but here's snippets from a couple of the "Fresh" reviews:
  • "Some things are best watched at 3am, wrapped in the warm glow of drunkenness. Plan 9 From Outer Space is one of them." (Ian Berriman, SFX Magazine)
  • "It's mind-numbingly brilliant in its overwhelming, soul-destroying badness." (Widgett Walls,
  • "Only because it's so awful, it's good." (Randy Shulman, Metro Weekly)
The basic plot involves a group of aliens who are trying to take over the world. Their first eight plans have failed, but they're sure that "Plan 9," which involves using re-animated corpses to bring down world governments, will work... If you're not laughing already, you're not human.

This cinematic gem was brought to the world by none other than Ed Wood, commonly referred to as one of the worst directors of all time. Although I've only seen a couple of his flicks, this remains my favorite in that it's the worst one of the lot. In fact, it ranks as the worst movie I've ever seen. And I could watch it over and over again, and I would enjoy it every single time. There's absolutely nothing clicking in Plan 9, but that's what makes it so "good." The story, the dialogue, the music, the acting, the everything... it's all equally terrible. I laughed so hard the first time I watched it that I cried. Despite being constantly called the worst movie of all time (and I'm sure many people would debate that standing), Plan 9 from Outer Space has developed quite a cult following for the basic reason that it's so bad that it's good.

There's such a "respect" for movies that fall under the category of "so bad, it's good" that some filmmakers have started to make movies intentionally bad for the sole purpose of generating laughter. The most recognizable such film for me is Larry Blamire's parody of 1950's B-movies, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. Blamire and his friends at Bantam Street Productions crafted a screenplay that was as bad as they could muster then performed some pitch-perfect "acting" to give the movie the feel of those bad B-movies from the '50s. I don't want to to go too far into the actual storyline, but it mostly centers around the search for a meteor containing the fictional element "Atmospherium" and a curse around the lost skeleton of Cadavra. It's one of the funniest movies that I've ever seen, and it's because the cast and crew successfully simulated the feel of a movie that's so bad, it's good. If you go in understanding that, I can guarantee you'll be rolling with laughter during The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.

Although there's dozens of movies I could probably reference in this post that haven't already been mentioned, I think I'll cut right here. We don't need too much overkill on this. However, I would like to point out the common thread from the breakdowns of the movies I did mention: laughter. Even when a movie gave me every reason to hate it, I was able to find ways to laugh at it. Sure, it may not have been the reaction intended, but you're still being entertained if you're laughing (unless, for some reason, you hate laughing; if that's true, you're definitely not human). In a day and age where it costs twelve dollars to see a movie - and even more if you're dabbling in the third dimension - it's no longer wise to walk out of a theater. Back when tickets were two bucks, I could understand leaving when a movie sucked, but when you're dropping as much dough as we are today, it's almost financially irresponsible to leave the theater. So if you're stuck with a bad movie, sit it out and look for ways to laugh at it. Any movie can be made absolutely hilarious - trust me, I've tried with quite a few. But there's no point in stewing over a bad flick when there's perfectly good and acceptable chuckles to be found.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Movie Recommendation: STAR WARS

(Episode IV: A New Hope)

(Disclaimer: this post could very easily turn out quite long, so just know that going in...)

Star Wars (or as its now know, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope) is a 1977 science fiction film written and directed by George Lucas. The basic synopsis of the film resides in the struggle of good against evil - in this case, the Rebellion against the Empire, respectively. The film opens on a Rebel spacecraft being pursued by an Imperial Star Destroyer. We immediately meet two of our main characters: a human-like droid named C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and a smaller, rounder droid called R2-D2 (movement by Kenny Baker). R2 has been given the secret plans of the Empire's newest weapon, a space station known as the Death Star, by Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) just before the Imperials board the ship and take her prisoner. The two droids escape in an escape pod and land on the desolate planet, Tatooine. They are subsequently bought by a local farmer who instructs his nephew Luke (Mark Hamill) to clean them and prepare them for work. As he does so, he stumbles across Leia's message to a man named Obi-Wan Kenobi. R2 eventually leaves to find Kenobi, and after a series of incidents, Luke and C-3PO find their counterpart and the old man as well. Obi-Wan (Alec Guinness) tells Luke that he knew his father when he was still a Jedi Knight and tells him that a Jedi called Darth Vader (acted by David Prowse; voiced by James Earl Jones) "betrayed and murdered" him. Obi-Wan finds the message from Leia, and we learn that she's urging him to take the secret plans to her home planet of Alderaan. When Luke finally agrees to accompany him, the two set out for Mos Eisley in order to find transport. They find Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) in a local bar, and the two agree to take the group to Alderaan.

Essentially, I've given you the opening bit of exposition for Star Wars with the above synopsis. I could go forward with the rest of the storyline, but then I'd be giving away the rest of the flick for those of you who by some chance have yet to see this piece of classic cinema. I wouldn't want to do that, now would I? I think I've introduced all the major players in the story already (except for Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin...), but I'm sure I'll touch on everyone in more detail momentarily.

I'm actually at a little bit of a loss as to how I should start this post. I feel like everything that's ever going to be said about Star Wars has already been said by someone else, so there's little light I could shed on its overall greatness. This is probably the most-watched film of the ones that I've "recommended," so I honestly doubt I'm going to sway anyone in one way or the other in terms of actually watching it. I do know a few people who've never seen any of the Star Wars films, but there are so many out there that are absolute fanatics as well. I'm going to try to give a little bit of a different reasoning for watching this movie aside from the fact that it's an absolute classic. I'm sure I'll go into some of the more commonly known knowledge about the film, but let me give my personal take on it first.

Until I re-watched the movie today, it had been years since I had seen Star Wars in its entirety. I'd catch little bits here and there on television, but I'd never actually sat down to watch any of the films all the way through. I used to be absolutely obsessed with the entire franchise - granted, I do hold more love for the original trilogy, but I also have mad love for the prequels while so many others do not. (Side note: I do have one friend who thinks the prequels are better than the originals, but that's just silly.) I used to be able to quote every line in the movie, but those days are long past. Since I've been running this blog, I had started to wonder whether this film deserved to be ranked so highly on my list of greatest films of all time. As I tried to recall everything from memory, I couldn't quite see why I had ranked it so highly, so I figured I'd give it a shot to defend itself. Ladies and gentlemen, I say to you know that Star Wars has officially cemented itself in its spot on that list.

Now, you can talk about the various amount of accolades this movie has received over the years. It currently holds a 94% fresh rating on Users on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) have rated it as the fifteenth greatest film of all time. Hell, let's just talk about all it got back in 1977. Star Wars became only the second film ever to pass the $100 million gross mark (the first was 1975's Jaws), so you know that it was a smash hit with audiences. And the following year, it garnered a whopping ten Oscar nominations, winning six (all technical, save for John Williams' rousing score). However, here are the four nominations it didn't win: Best Supporting Actor (for Alec Guinness), Best Original Screenplay (for George Lucas), Best Director (also for Lucas) and Best Picture of the Year. This was an absolutely gigantic film back in its heyday, and its no wonder that it has developed such a following.

That all being said, let's talk about my personal reasons for why Star Wars is such a good film. Let's start with screenplay, as I often do. As I thought back on the movie before re-watching it today, I remembered the story to be relatively good but nothing terribly fascinating. I remembered it as being rather rote and conventional, to be honest. However, as I watched it this afternoon, all those thoughts immediately went out the window as those bright yellow letters started to scroll across the stars.

Aside from being memorable, the opening crawl also serves an important purpose: it catches the audience up on all the action. This is especially important considering Lucas decided to create "Episode IV" first, rather than starting with the first saga chronologically. So, even though audiences back in 1977 were essentially seeing something brand new, they must have had an immediate familiarity with the story; I believe the opening crawl has a lot to do with this. A quick story: my dad once told me that when he first saw Star Wars in theaters back in 1977, the entire audience booed the moment Darth Vader first steps on-screen. Before you see him, there's really no warning that he's the villain aside from the fact that he's wearing all black (although, all of his stormtrooper minions are clad in white, so that could throw things off). Like I said, the opening crawl establishes familiarity with the story, allowing the audience immediately to differentiate between good and evil.

Another reason Star Wars succeeds so well is that George Lucas successfully crafted an entire universe and made it all believable. When Avatar was released in 2009, many praised James Cameron for creating an entirely new world with a new language and all that, but I'm sure much of the same should have been said for Lucas's imagination back in 1977. I mean, the thought process that must have gone into creating this entire universe boggles the mind. As you move into the successive sequels and prequels, you really get a sense for how intricate everything is, but for one film, Star Wars is pretty damn intricate. Even the dialogue seems original and fresh, but familiar enough that we're not scratching our heads wondering what the heck they're saying. So kudos, Mr. Lucas, on your creative originality.

The story in itself is actually pretty simple: we have secret plans to a massive, planet-destroying space station hidden inside a droid, and the plans need to be delivered to the Rebellion before their secret base is found. That's really all there is; everything else is exposition and added fluff. Fortunately for us, that added "fluff" is some pretty engaging and captivating stuff, and a lot of that has to do with the extremely well-written characters with interesting and compelling backgrounds. Let's break down the major characters, shall we?
  • Luke Skywalker: He's a down-home boy living on the desert planet Tatooine with his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. We learn that he wants to leave Tatooine and enlist in the Academy so that he can ultimately join the Rebellion and fight the Empire. However, his uncle thinks he would end up just like his father - dead. As Luke meets Obi-Wan, we learn that Luke's father was actually a Jedi Knight, and the same possibilities run through his veins. When his guardians are slaughtered, he joins Obi-Wan and starts to learn the way of the Force, the energy that binds the universe. Luke is a little hot-headed and very headstrong, but ultimately has a very kind heart and knows what is right.
  • Han Solo: Solo is the captain of the broken-down but ultra-fast Millennium Falcon. Like Luke, he's also hot-headed and headstrong, but he cares much more about himself that does Luke. Han dabbles in some illegal spice running that left him with a bounty on his head, so his major motivation throughout Star Wars was repaying his debt. Deep down, he knows what's right, but he thinks that looking out for himself and his co-pilot Chewbacca should take precedence over everything else.
  • Princess Leia Organa: Leia is the daughter of a bureaucrat from Alderaan, which explains her ties to the Rebellion. She's very headstrong (seems like a common thread with our young leads) but is very capable of acting when she needs to. For example, when you watch the film, listen to how she speaks when she's around Vader and Tarkin in the early parts of the film and how it differs with how she speaks when she's around Han and Luke. She has a sense of entitlement, but that probably comes from her apparent lineage...
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi: An aging man living in solitude on Tatooine, Obi-Wan essentially comes out of nowhere to start this epic adventure. Soft-spoken in his old age, he still carries quite a presence. He plays the role of mentor for Luke, and his wisdom drives Luke's decisions throughout the film.
I'd go into detail on some of the other characters (i.e., Vader or C-3PO), but I think their stories really come out more in the later films. However, every actor in this movie brings his or her A-game, creating a character that's so original and so engaging that it's hard not to cheer or boo for them, depending on their side of the fight.

The real selling point of Star Wars, however, is the musical composition crafted by the always-brilliant John Williams. If you noticed my post for Williams' birthday, you'll have seen that the score for Star Wars ranks as my third favorite of Williams' compositions. This, along with the score for Jaws, are probably the most instantly recognizable scores ever placed within a motion picture, and that's saying quite a bit. Here's a little taste, in case you're so deprived that you've never actually heard it:

Overall, I'm not really sure what more I could possibly say about such an iconic film. Star Wars is exciting. It's fun. It's adventurous. It's original. It's groundbreaking. It's totally worth your time. So please, if you haven't already seen it, give it a shot. It may not be the greatest flick you'll ever see, but I can guarantee you'll be entertained. Isn't that what movies are all about?

Previous Recommendations:
CLUE (1985)
PSYCHO (1960)



Little Children is a 2006 dramatic film directed by Todd Field. It centers around the seemingly depressing lives of two people living in the suburbs. When Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) starts to take her daughter to the local park, she hears the other mothers talk about the stay-at-home dad who brings his son nearly every day. After taking a bet to try to get his phone number, Sarah goes to meet this man and learns his name is Brad (Patrick Wilson). Rather than just getting his number, however, the two exchange a brief kiss, much to the chagrin of the other mothers who view that as a poor example for their own children. The kiss served as a spark for the two adults who start to see each other - just as friends - in public places so that their children can play. One day, while they're at the public pool, a registered sex offender named Ronnie McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley) comes to swim, causing quite a stir among the hundreds of patrons. Ronnie himself is constantly harassed by an ex-cop named Larry (Noah Emmerich), who happens to play on the same late-night touch football team as Brad. But I digress... Eventually Sarah and Brad take their relationship to the next level, engaging in a full-blown affair as they realize that they're not happy with their respective partners. The two carry on as best they can, and soon, a deep love arises between them, forcing them to question what they should do about the rest of their lives.

I felt as though Little Children has two separate storylines that casually cross time and again until they finally collide in the film's climactic moments. We have the story that I've laid out above - Sarah meets Brad, and they begin an affair - but we also have the story of Ronnie, a man who was imprisoned for indecently exposing himself to a child. We see his re-acclimation into society, and it's just as tumultuous as you can imagine. With Larry constantly harassing him and his mother, it's difficult for Ronnie to carry on any semblance of real life. He attempts to go on a date but finds a way to screw it up. All he has is his "mommy" (cue the Psycho references...). In the end, everything does come together, but for most of the film, I felt as though I was watching two separate films that had somehow been edited into one. And personally, I wish I would've had a little more time with Ronnie's story because it fascinated me that much more. That's not to say that the two storylines aren't good - in fact, they're very, very good. We're given a very raw sense of the emotion that each character is feeling, from our top-billed cast to the supporting players. The screenplay is very well-written and was, in fact, nominated for an Oscar as well. That should tell you a little bit, if you put any stock in the Academy's choices.

As I've said before, a well-written story can fail if the acting isn't any good, but Little Children definitely delivers. Both Kate Winslet and Jackie Earle Haley earned Oscar nominations for their roles (neither won), and both were definitely deserving of that honor. Haley is actually a little more reserved than many of us have seen him in the past few years (for those of you who may not recognize him, he played Rorschach in Watchmen and Freddy in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street). And I'm pretty sure everybody knows who Miss Winslet is by now, right? Patrick Wilson also does a good job, but he's not all that astounding. To be fair, I've never been over-the-moon about any of his performances, but he's solidly good in most everything he's done. We also get a stellar supporting performance from Jennifer Connelly as Brad's suspecting wife. And if Little Children did anything, it gave us all the perfect term to illustrate Miss Connelly's looks: she's a "knockout."

We're also given a rather stirring score from ten-time Oscar nominee Thomas Newman. It follows the flow and the tone of the film very well, fitting each scene and situation to a tee. I don't really have a ton to say about this, but it was good enough to warrant mention within this post.

Overall, I think that Little Children is one of those films that I'll probably have to come back to in a month or two. I feel like I missed some critical piece because I felt like the ending should have had more of an emotional impact on me. Then again, I could be completely wrong. I'll still probably revisit the movie at some later date, but as of right now, it ranks pretty highly in my entire film repertoire. I'd say it's prospects could only go up from here.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: A-
Current All-Time Rank: Best - #180

1.5 Thumbs Up

Addition to Awards