Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zoolander


Zoolander: Unlike some of my other choices, the only Z I could think of was actually one I would have picked anyway, had there been a bunch of other Zs. This is one of my favourite comedies because Ben Stiller does such a fine job of making fun of the ridiculous fashion and model industry. Plus, he and Owen Wilson as perfect male fashion models is as funny as Will Ferrell being a fashion designer who wants to eliminate the Prime Minister of Malaysia. (How does he get Derek Zoolander to do such a task? By brainwashing him to the tune of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax,” of course!) So, yes, it’s ridiculous and Derek is so stupid and funny that you can’t help but love the idiotic things he says. Besides, wouldn’t you at least want to see a “walk-off” judged by David Bowie? And “The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too” is just hilarious, especially the part with the little model of the school that confuses Derek. “What is this a school for ants?” I even remember referencing this movie when I first started working at the library and seeing how tough it was just on my hands to put all the DVDs back in order. It reminded me of Derek saying he’d gotten The Black Lung like his family of coal miners and his dad said, “Derek, you've been down there one day. Talk to me in thirty years.” See, the message is universal!

From this post I also learned two things about the film: First, Brett Easton Ellis claimed this was stolen from his book Glamorama, which I only read the very beginning, otherwise I would have caught that too. and secondly, there’s going to be a Zoolander 2! Hooray!

So watch it, it’s funny.

Derek Zoolander: Well I guess it all started the first time I went through the second grade. I caught my reflection in a spoon while I was eating my cereal, and I remember thinking "wow, you're ridiculously good looking, maybe you could do that for a career."
Matilda: Do what for a career?
Derek Zoolander: Be professionally good looking.

Yay! I made it to the end of Culture Month. Hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I did. Thanks for reading my A-Z April Blog Challenge of movie reviews. I appreciate all the comments and new followers. I’m following back so I can keep up with everyone who’s been painstakingly working on their lists for next year as well, I’m sure.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Y is for Young Guns

Young Guns: was first a movie before it was a band. Now, I remember these movies fondly as a kid because it starred every hip, male actor (Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Christian Slater was in the sequel as well). Emilio Estevez played a pretty funny, charming Billy the Kid. This is why I think a young audience maybe could appreciate this because they would know Sutherland and Sheen, plus the movie isn’t played a lot anymore on cable and, more than likely, the historical reference to William H. Bonny got lost somewhere between 1990 and now. The thing I remember the most about the second movie was the Bon Jovi song which was so “cool” back then. (Jon Bon Jovi as an actor now is fine, but the music, sorry, no. Time to move on.) I always liked western movies to a degree because I’m from the hills of Ohio so it’s pretty much a prerequisite for us there. I just found out that John Locke was in this too – crazy!

Alex McSween: I'm not leaving my house.
William H. Bonney: Alex, if you stay they're gonna kill you. And then I'm gonna have to to go around and kill all the guys who killed you. That's a lot of killing.

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for X-Men

X-Men: This was an obvious choice since the only other X movie I could think of was Xanadu and I only know the song to that one. Anyway, can honestly say that I only know about these characters because of the films (this is true for any Marvel comic movies.) I was never into comic books as a kid so everything I know about Spiderman, Batman and The Hulk are from TV. I know basic stories and I appreciate the comic book stores themselves but I’m not way into them like the boys of The Big Bang Theory are or anything. With that said, I distinctly remember seeing the first the X-Men movie and only knowing who Wolverine was vaguely by name (and hair cut, of course.) Since it’s been forever since I’ve seen the first one and because I saw X-Men First Class on the plane to Florida last year so they’re starting to confuse me in events. The main thing that I liked about the whole theme of these films was that mutants can live in a society and be accepted for who they are somewhere. As with all the Marvel comics, the underdog is always the winner, despite all the painful things that have happened in their lives. That’s why I liked the first X-Men film so much because it showed Wolverine befriending Rogue and their first being helped by Professor X. I liked that Rogue was finally able to find a boyfriend that she wasn’t in danger of killing. I know I’ve seen all of these and I know the characters were awesome so even if comic book movies aren’t your thing, the first film is pretty good and worth seeing just to get a gist of the story.

Rogue: You know, you should wear your seat belt.
Wolverine: Now look, kid, I don't need advice on auto...
[car crashes]

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for War Games and The Wedding Singer

Only four more posts to go – time for W movies! Now, my favourite W television show is, of course, The Wonder Years which I doubt a lot of younger people have seen and really should because of it’s time frame. However, the W films I chose were contenders with Willow, The Witches of Eastwick, Wuthering Heights (Tom Hardy as Heathcliff is so good), The Wizard of Oz (which I am going to assume everyone in the world has seen because it’s so, so good and students like Wicked so much) and my first runner up: Wayne’s World (Part time! Excellent!) But in the grand tradition of SNL and 80’s Brat Pack actors I give you two of the most important W films for Culture Month.

War Games: I chose this movie, not only for the Matthew Broderick / Ally Sheedy aspect, but for the new, cool emerging technology that pre-dated the Internet. Younger audiences don’t have a concept of a time when computers were new and mysterious so I think seeing this would be pretty eye-opening. I’m sure they’d laugh at this idea but considering that by 1983 we had already been sending people to space, it’s remarkable what little we still didn’t have as far as the modern technology we have today. Plus, the concept of the movie is pretty great. I mean, we’re still trying to figure Steve Jobs out, just as David is trying to figure out how Falken thought to begin playing the computer games he created. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this so I found a clip to share (and help learn German!) I don’t even think students now would understand why these computers aren’t using Windows 7. I also love how Jennifer is fascinated by the fact that the computer can talk. Wonder if Ally Sheedy has Siri now. Hhmm.

Joshua: Shall we play a game?
David Lightman: Oh!
Jennifer: [giggles] I think it missed him.
David Lightman: Yeah. Weird isn't it?
Jennifer: Yeah.
David Lightman: [typing] Love to. How about Global Thermonuclear War?
Joshua: Wouldn't you prefer a nice game of chess?
[Jennifer laughs]
David Lightman: [typing] Later. Let's play Global Thermonuclear War.
Joshua: Fine.

The Wedding Singer: Pretend the movie Jack and Jill never existed and Adam Sandler had just left SNL two years ago and put out Happy Gilmore a year later. When this movie came out, Sandler was still new to the movies. His creating an overly-emotional, mullet-wearing, wedding singer set in the 80s named Robbie, was the funniest thing ever. I still think a lot of it is pretty good even though I’ve seen it tons of times. I know Sandler is revered by kids on the Kids’ Choice Awards so more than likely anyone in their teens and twenties who hasn’t seen this would like it. (Especially since the 80s or still retro, or something, I think…) Anyway, the beauty of the film is Sandler’s dialogue and acting. Drew Barrymore was a perfect choice in casting for Julia and the whole romantic comedy was cute, different and funny without being overly gross, stupid or annoying. Plus, after seeing this, you will never hear songs like “You Spin Me Right Round” quite the same, again – just watch the opening credits. Ah, still love it! Also, not sure if everyone in their 20s and teens would get the importance of Billy Idol being in the film but I saw a student wearing a Siouxsie and the Banshees shirt the other day so  while I hated the idea of kids not getting “our” music years ago, now I’m glad that it’s still living through to new generations. (I think I’m getting wiser in my years.)

Linda: I've been talking with my friends the last few days...
Robbie: Oh, boy, here it comes.
Linda: ...and I think I've figured out what's been bothering me. I'm not in love with Robbie, now. I'm in love with Robbie, six years ago. Robbie, the lead singer of Final Warning; I used to come watch you when you were in your silk shirt and Spandex pants, and you would sing into the microphone like you were David Lee Roth.
Robbie: I've still got the Spandex; I'll put 'em on right now.
Linda: The point is, I woke up this morning and realized I'm about to get married to a wedding singer? I am never gonna leave Richfield!
Robbie: Why do you need to leave Richfield? We grew up here. All our friends are here; it's the perfect place to raise a family.
Linda: Oh, yeah - sure! Living in your sister's basement with five kids while you're off every weekends doing wedding gigs at a whoppin' sixty bucks a pop?
Robbie: Once again, things that could've been brought to my attention YESTERDAY!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides: Was one I liked enough to go out and read the book a long time ago because the story was so unique and disturbing and beautiful all at the same time. A seemingly perfect family full of beautiful girls in a suburban neighbourhood end up being overly protected by their parents. The Lisbon girls are fascinating to the neighbour boys, one who narrates the story. At the beginning, the youngest sister seems to be the most unstable and she attempts suicide but during a rare party that their parents allow them to throw, Cecilia succeeds in killing herself, leaving the parents to keep the other sisters even more protected from the outside world. After Lux (Kirsten Dunst) is reluctantly allowed to go to prom, bringing her sisters along, they stay out after curfew and their parents remove the girls from school and end up keeping them prisoners in their own home. After months of witnessing Lux’s affairs on her rooftop, the boys receive a letter asking them to help them escape the house. When the boys arrive at the house, Lux chats with them while, quietly, each sister takes her own life. Yes, it is disturbing but the movie is so beautifully done that the tragedy in the story is handled in such a way that you understand and completely sympathize with the girls. Since it’s not on cable a lot, I’m not sure that a lot of female students would have seen this film before. I just appreciate it for the story craft and the American family saga aspect of it.

Narrator: So much has been said about the girls over the years. But we have never found an answer. It didn't matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls... but only that we had loved them... and that they hadn't heard us calling... still do not hear us calling them from out of those rooms... where they went to be alone for all time... and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Underworld and The Usual Suspects

Aside from The Untouchables for U movies, I know that for a TV category I can include Ugly Betty. But, as is my way with this list, I will proceed to discuss vampire and crime films.

Underworld: A leather cat suit, weapon wielding vampire is an awesome vampire. Selene not only has to fight Lycans but she has to save her human-Lycan boyfriend too. And while some of the acting isn’t great in the first film (Kraven reminded me of a soap opera vampire more than anything with his button up shiny club hopping shirt) it’s still a really good movie. It’s not like a 10 star film but it’s just good, solid entertainment that sticks to some vampire and werewolf lore (coffins, night time, silver bullets) but it makes them all modern and part of a militia. Plus, they look cool. Hence, I think students would like this more than the Twilight films because while the romance is very similar, the action and concept is more fast-paced. Plus, Michael (Scott Speedman - Ben from Felicity and Selene (Kate Beckinsale) are much more interesting characters in that they play major roles in the war – you know, they fight and stuff and don’t just talk about it.

Selene: Lycans are allergic to silver. We have to get the bullets out quickly, or they end up dying on us during questioning.
Michael Corvin: What happens to them afterward?
Selene: We put the bullets back in.

The Usual Suspects: What makes a movie great? Put Kevin Spacey in it to play a creepy criminal. (Saying that, I just realized that I forgot to mention Se7en in my S post. Horrible!) Anyway, while it’s been forever since I’ve seen this movie, I remember the basics and how cool it was to go through the story wondering, like everyone else, who was Keyser Söze. (I won’t spoil the ending for you.) The story is told through one survivor’s account of how a mass murderer ended up killing a crew of criminals who were trying to smuggle money from a drug boat that Keyser Söze’s rivals are after. So while it sounds like another Ocean’s Eleven there’s a lot more suspense and trying to figure out what’s going on with these criminals. The end is just the best and it really isn’t something you expect when you first see it. It’s another one of those that changes the way films are made where you’re following an unreliable narrator without realizing it. Brilliant film that I really need to see again soon.

Verbal: Who is Keyser Soze? He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Soze. You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And like that, poof. He's gone.

T is for Time Bandits and The Toy

This category includes Terms of Endearment, Trainspotting, The Truman Show and two T movies that I personally loved as a kid.

Time Bandits: This movie is about the strangest one I saw as a kid. It took the whole dark fantasy element but made it funny with a kid and a gang of little men who travel through time with their beloved map. While Kevin just wants to stay in Ancient Greece with Agamemnon (Sean Connery who graciously agreed to do a wonderful role for a B movie) his friends are busy trying to escape the Supreme Being who is chasing them. It’s a basic fighting against evil movie but it’s so strange and dingy that it can’t be seen as a wonderful land to live out their dreams. So while this movie isn’t the best film ever made it really does have an interesting take on the time travel journey story. I still distinctly remember this being on HBO when my babysitter got it at her house – we watched the end of Firefox and then this movie came on. It was so weird and great for a first movie experience. I’m not sure how many young audiences would like it since they’re use to a lot of CGI but they may as well see it from a science fiction perspective because it is fairly different.

Kevin: Who was that man?
Fidgit: That was no man. That was the Supreme Being.
Kevin: You mean God?
Fidgit: Well, we don't know Him that well. We only work for Him.
Randall: Shut up!

The Toy: Richard Pryor is Jack Brown - the new “toy” that young Eric Bates (Scott Schwartz who was Flick in A Christmas Story) wants in his extremely lavish life. His father (Jackie Gleason) agrees to pay Jack just to keep him around to entertain Eric. Eric, of course, is a rich kid who is ignored most of the time so he’s never disciplined and doesn’t know how to make friends. After a lot of comical incidences with Eric driving Jack completely mad, they end up becoming friends and Jack helps him to win back his father’s attention. I always liked this because the story was cute as a kid but as an adult, of course, I understand how critics felt it was racist for putting Jack into a slavery situation. That would be an interesting take for young audiences to watch it and see what their reaction is to regarding friendship and class. I just always thought Pryor was funny so I liked this – especially seeing him running around in a Spiderman costume.

Jack Brown: Why me? Of all the stuff in the store, why did you pick me?
Eric Bates: You made me laugh. I wanted a friend who made me laugh.
Jack Brown: So of all the toys in the store you wanted a friend. If you want a friend, you don't buy a friend, Eric, you earn a friend through love and trust and respect.
Eric Bates: Come see my train!
Jack Brown: You're not listening to me, Eric, you don't order your friends around, you ask them.
Eric Bates: Oh. You wanna come see my train, friend?
Jack Brown: No.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

S is for The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me

I had to take an extra day to get this entry finished. Sifting through S movies was the hardest: Sixteen Candles is my first honourable mention because, well, we all love it. It’s John Hughes gold, the dialogue is great and Molly Ringwald reins supreme as the Brat Pack Queen. Next is Scrooged because Bill Murray as Xavier Cross, a modern (in 1988 modern) version of Ebenezer Scrooge is hilarious. So I Married An Axe Murderer was one done when Mike Meyers was really funny and the Scottish accent bit wasn’t stale.  Say Anything… is John Cusack gold that I love but I just didn’t put it at the top of the list because I have only seen it a handful of times (tragic, I know.) I’ve seen Some Kind of Wonderful more and I still appreciate the Brat Pack, kids from the wrong side of town going out with the preppy kid theme that these 80s movies do. Another one along the 80s lines of Brat-Pack-ness is St. Elmo’s Fire which I like but it’s not one of my favourites because every single character has something I don’t like about them (just my opinion, guys.) Secret of NIHM was one of my absolute favourite cartoons as a kid. Steel Magnolias is one of my favourite Southern gal, chick flicks (and I’m pretending that I didn’t hear about them doing a remake.) Singles is the 90s grunge era, Generation X defining movie that has an awesome soundtrack but it isn’t as great when I see it now as it was when it first released.  Everyone loves the wonderful creepiness and brilliant acting of Silence of the Lambs that was the last film to win the Big Five Academy Awards. And since I’m a Stephen King fan (I didn’t really realize how much my favourite films are all adaptations of his writing until I started doing this list) my first runner up is The Shining because that movie is awesome and weird and Jack Nicholson is such a good psycho. Along with this great King classic, I’ve chosen the other two films that I will watch every time it’s on and never get tired of it.

The Shawshank Redemption: First of all, this movie has Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman headlining, so you know it’s going to be good. Yes, it’s hard to watch in parts because of the horrible things that happen to these prisoners, but that’s what’s great about this film – you sympathize completely with a man who is in jail for murdering his wife. Heck, you even like all the prisoners and you hate the warden, the guards and the brutal prisoners who make Shawshank Prison more of a nightmare than prison is to begin with. The story is about hope, friendship, being a good person no matter what situation you’re in, and just overcoming everything that anyone or any place tries to drag someone down. The best is the ending, of course, and it makes me cry every time with that last scene on the beach when Andy and Red meet up again. Heart-breaking, funny, engaging, suspenseful and surprising - just wonderful storytelling. And, by the way, I love that King’s characters all are intertwined by location – during the climax of the film, Dolores Claiborne tells her husband that he’ll end up in Shawshank prison.

Andy Dufresne: How can you be so obtuse?
Warden Samuel Norton: What? What did you call me?
Andy Dufresne: Obtuse. Is it deliberate?
Warden Samuel Norton: Son, you're forgetting yourself.

Stand By Me: I don’t know about the rest of you, but I would go as far as to say this movie is about the best teenage films they’ve made so far. Even as a “sensitive” girl, I never minded the boy language and humour because the film’s theme is enough for both genders to appreciate. Our buddy and Sheldon Cooper’s nemesis, Will Wheaton is Gordie Lachance, the young narrator and future writer (see why I love this so much?) The main object of these boys’ lives is to see a dead body and get their names in the paper for finding the missing kid, Ray Brower. River Phoenix stars as Chris Chambers, the “thief” and the bad kid in town (what a performance this was too.) So while the story is simply about four boys going on a journey together, the connections between them, the funny incident with Chopper the dog, the leaches, and the personal troubles the kids face make their experience so much more than a story about “the first time I saw a dead human being.”  Even though the film is set in 1959, the theme of being with friends whom you share a strong experience would be one that any young audience could enjoy.

Gordie: Do you think I'm weird?
Chris: Definitely.
Gordie: No man, seriously. Am I weird?
Chris: Yeah, but so what? Everybody's weird.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Reality Bites and Romeo + Juliet


Only nine more letters to go – this Culture Month is moving right on along, isn’t it? Well, then, on to the Rs. Reservoir Dogs is the first contender, especially since it’s another Tarantino gem that is brilliant in its own right. There’s Risky Business, a movie that we all need to see to remember Tom Cruise back in the 80s. I also like Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Romancing the Stone (I’ve seen that so many times!), Roxanne which is one that students should see if they’re leaning Cyrano de Bergerac in English as I did, and finally our troubled teenage hero and heroine of the 1950s, James Dean and Natalie Wood, in Rebel Without A Cause. If I do my TV show list next year, I’ll list Roseanne because I still love watching The Conners. But luckily the two Rs I’ve chosen for today are ones I’ve seen tons of times and that hold a special place in my teenage past.

Reality Bites: Long live 1994 and the cynical, grunge era of young adulthood in the Generation called X. I absolutely lived this film when it came out and Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke were just the coolest people on the planet. I had the soundtrack, I knew all the lines to the movie, I thought everyone was hilarious and I thought that Ben Stiller ruining a video diary was just the worst criminal act a preppy businessman could do to an edgy, independent girl like Lelaina. (And no, you can say her name without thinking about how Sammy says it.) The thing that was great about this movie was we understood how the characters felt. We were supposed to get a job and have a career and know what to do with our lives but we didn’t want to be big corporate money grabbers. We had music and books and a college education and a cultural awareness that made us so much better than all of that. (Heck, I still feel that way.) So I think the reason why students should see this, is just to get an idea of how people their age felt not so long ago. It’s a culturally important movie, in my humble opinion, just as Singles because it is very aware and definitive of the time frame it’s set in. And again, it’s has a lot of great songs and funny quotes.

Troy Dyer: Did he dazzle you with his extensive knowledge of mineral water, or was it his in-depth analysis of, uh, uh, Marky Mark that finally reeled you in?

Romeo + Juliet: I was actually just watching a performance of the play at the Globe Theatre on Sky Arts earlier tonight and I realized I know that play so much because of this 1996 version. On Twitter this week people were saying that Shakespeare’s language is too archaic and it alienates a whole generation who can’t get engaged in literature like this. I know it’s difficult but I taught it when I was teaching in the public school and kids understood it. It’s all about presentation and giving them the tools to understand how to enjoy these plays. I mean, the greatest writer in the English language can’t just be disregarded in education. Students have to be aware of who had inspired countless other writers since the Elizabethan era. And movies such as this one give young audiences a visual that they can relate to so the timeless themes of the play doesn’t become an obstacle. While it’s probably not the best Shakespearean acting of all time, the point is that it’s edgy, fast, modern and presented in such a way that the audience can understand and love what the characters are going through. I always loved Claire Danes as an actress so I was super pleased to see that she had been chosen for this role. Leonardo DiCaprio, of course, was the best choice as Romeo in 1996 and I still remember seeing this in the theatre when girls oohed and aahed over him when the first scene shows him on the beach. What was the best part (though I didn’t understand it at the time) was that this was the first time many of those kids had been exposed to Shakespeare so they didn’t know the play. That meant that this whole funky movie with guns called “swords” and a modern soundtrack was entertaining despite the language difference. I’ve heard people complain that Shakespeare shouldn’t be modernised but that’s the beauty of his work – it’s timeless. It can be appreciated generation after generation if people are creative and give in to interpretation as literature is intended. *walks away from lecture podium* Oh yeah, and Michael from Lost plays Mercutio and he dances in drag. Best part of the whole movie!

Anchorwoman: A glooming peace this morning with it brings. The sun for sorrow will not show his head. Go hence and have more talk of these sad things. Some shall be pardoned, and some punished. For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for…?

The only Q film that I could think of that would remotely fit into this category is Quigley Down Under. I’ve only seen this maybe once or twice a long time ago so I honestly can’t say much about it, let alone really give it a proper review. I remember Tom Selleck as a cowboy in Australia and him saving Laura San Giacomo from dying out in the desert. These are all fine movie qualities so if anyone has seen it enough times to give it a thumbs up or thumbs down, I’d like to know. It got 6.6 users rating on IMDB while Mean Girls received a 6.9 so, that must mean it’s a pretty good by that comparison.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Pretty in Pink and Pulp Fiction

I pretty much love every P movie on the list today. First, there’s Parent Trap, the original with Hayley Mills which is just spot-on cute, Disney entertainment and has a lot more heart than the remake (even though I don’t dislike the remake my any means.) Another Hayley Mills movie that I love is Pollyanna which, again, is another Disney classic that has an Anne of Green Gables vibe. I also love Purple Rain, Peggy Sue Got Married, Postcards from the Edge, Pleasantville, Point Break, Prozac Nation, Parenthood, and the third contender for the top two spots: Princess Bride. So my top choices are films that I’ve seen a million times and still love and consider the most important viewing during Culture Month.

Pretty in Pink: But, Missus P., surely everyone has seen this movie. Oh, contraire. There are plenty of people who have not seen this, which is a travesty to young girls everywhere who need to understand how social class and the power to have a self-created wardrobe can make you an amazing woman. Molly Ringwald, our 80s, Brat Pack queen is Andie Walsh the poor, motherless girl who, you guessed it, loves to wear pink. She has a best guy friend, Duckie Dale (who is still the hippest dressing male character) who is in love with her but she has a new romance with the “richie” boy Blane. (Say it with me, “Blane? His name is Blane? That’s not a name, that’s a major appliance!”) So, while Andie has to deal with her beat-down father, she also has to contend with the snobs at her school who can’t stand her or the fact that she is going out with Blane. It’s just a cool high school clique, girl triumphs over everything that tries to get her down. The punk/goths against the preppy/rich kids. What more could you ask for? And now, I love this movie. I’ve even seen the Psychedelic Furs sing the theme song live in Orlando. It’s just an awesome movie and, again, James Spader is great as a bad guy. (I do not condone, however, making a tacky looking pink trash bag of a dress to wear at your prom. Please buy something vintage such as the dress she got from Annie Potts and go with it.)

Andie: I don't know what I'm doing!
Iona: Wishful make-upping!

Pulp Fiction: I’ve been waiting through all these posts to finally get to this film. It was the most amazing thing when I first saw it and I still to this day love to watch it and say the lines to the movie. In the past, I wrote college papers on what was in the briefcase, I’ve nominated this as a best movie for as long as I’ve had blogs (which, coincidentally, is about the same time when the movie came out.) Because it was the first movie we had scene that wasn’t in sequential order, now the general public takes it for granted when movies do it now. Tarantino is a master at dialogue and just the comedy involved with the dark, violent, disturbing nature of the movie makes it likeable. You like every single one of these main characters who are nothing but drug dealers, killers and thieves. It just has something so many movies don’t have and that’s innovation. It’s different, it’s entertaining, it’s solid. 12 years later I am catching scenes that look off and the age of the film but all in all, it’s still completely cool. All star cast (Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Walken, Bruce Willis…), cool, off-beat soundtrack, nothing paranormal or CGI to ruin the blood and guts (see what I did there?) or the story. I don’t know if it’s not being as revered these days so younger audiences wouldn’t have seen it (plus a lot of them wouldn’t know how cool seeing John Travolta again was when he made his comeback in this movie.) There’s a lot of movie blood but knowing how this film was made and who the actors are these days, it’s not as shocking as it may have been in 1994. Seriously, just watch it. A+ film. (I had to choose through a lot of great dialogue for one quote too.)

Jules: [Jules shoots the man on the couch] I'm sorry, did I break your concentration? I didn't mean to do that. Please, continue, you were saying something about best intentions. What's the matter? Oh, you were finished! Well, allow me to retort. What does Marsellus Wallace look like?
Brett: What?
Jules: What country are you from?
Brett: What? What? Wh - ?
Jules: "What" ain't no country I've ever heard of. They speak English in What?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Ordinary People

Os to choose from today included The Outsiders, which is on the 9th grade curriculum in Florida schools so I know most students have seen the film, Office Space, which has become a staple (get it?) in American society that I’m going to skip going on about it again), and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which is an incredible film that students should see, especially after reading The Odyssey. My main focus was, again, on the two that are very powerful and special films that young audiences may or may not have (well, they more than likely haven’t) seen before.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Now, I remember my parents watching this years ago when I was too young to understand the magnitude of it. Since it came out in 1975, I had to make sure I did watch it as an adult to appreciate the spectacular performance that only Jack Nicholson can give. I always felt like this movie was about breaking points and how someone of power can dismiss people’s needs. Popular culture has given Nurse Ratched a special place (what an awesome, evil nurse name, right?) and even if people haven’t seen the film, they get the reference, and remember how Jack Nicholson said her name. While McMurphy is a criminal and thinks he can get out of a prison sentence by opting to go to a mental institution. This means that a sane person who isn’t in charge, can see how bizarre and wrong things are in this place that the patients accept. The tension between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched grow more and more volatile and by the end, McMurphy, who thought he could outsmart everyone, ended up being treated the worst and given a medical procedure that only someone with severe mental illness would have been given at the time. The ending is heart-breaking and triumphant at the same time. It’s definitely one that needs to be seen at least once in your lifetime.

McMurphy: I must be crazy to be in a loony bin like this.

Ordinary People: This is one of my all-time favourite movies and I watch it every time it’s on TV. It came out in 1980 so it still has that 70s vibe to it that is one of the best things ever. The story is also something I love to –the basic story of a family who has to deal with stress. The stress that is on this family is the tragic death of the oldest son, Buck. The film is in the point of view of the younger brother, Conrad, who ends up so depressed by the boating accident that he tries to take his own life as well. The film starts after these two big events and while the kind, supportive father, played by Donald Sutherland is doing the best he can, and the bitter, non-compassionate mother, played by Mary Tyler Moore cannot get past what has happened to Buck or how Conrad reacts to it. With the help of psychiatrist, played by Judd Hirsch and his girlfriend, played by the lovely Elizabeth McGovern, 30 years before she was Cora Crawley, Conrad begins to figure out why he is taking the death of his brother so hard. It’s a great story, very sad, but rich in the human experience that it’s so worth people knowing about and watching.

Conrad "Con" Jarrett: You woulda visited Buck if he was in the hospital.
Beth Jarrett: Buck would have never been in the hospital!

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for The NeverEnding Story and Natural Born Killers

Some good Ns today: Napoleon Dynamite (a movie that my students taught me to appreciate – “your Mom goes to college!”), Nacho Libre (cracks me up every time), Nightmare Before Christmas (obviously a number one N for the list) and other films I liked such as Never Cry Wolf and Norma Rae. Again, I chose the ones I have watched the most and ones which I think students probably haven’t seen before.

The NeverEnding Story: I just started singing the theme tune in my head the minute I typed it out. Now, I know this movie got referenced on Family Guy but due to the age and not as amazing special effects as modern movies have, I’m guessing some haven’t seen it. Watching it today we go, “Wow…that looks so bad” in spots (not that I don’t say that about movies these days too) but the overall story and magic of the movie is what I think kids, at least, should see. The best part of this is that Bastian enters the world of the book. It’s an amazing fantasy adventure that promotes reading – what’s not to love? There are some sad parts, some bizarre parts, but all in all it’s such a good movie that I love watching even today. I mean, how many of us didn’t hope that we got swept up in some mysterious land where we had to save the fate of its people, then end up flying on Falcor just to chase away the bullies in our school? My favourite though was always Atreyu and Artex (and that scene still makes me cry.) I also loved the concept of “The Nothing” that threatens Fantasia. After watching it a couple of years ago I finally put the movie on closed caption just to figure out what Bastian named the Childlike Empress – Moonchild. His mother’s name was Moonchild? Okay, then. All these years I never understood what he said so I assumed it was Jennifer or Heather or something very feminine and 80s movie cool. Oh well, doesn’t ruin my love of the film any less.

Atreyu: Do you have a cold?
Morla, the Ancient One: No, we are allergic to youth.

Natural Born Killers: This movie is full of violence and cursing and crazy crap going on. No, it’s not for everyone but when I first saw this in 1994 (before Pulp Fiction came out, mind you) I was absolutely amazed. Written by Quentin Tarantino and edited/produced by Oliver Stone is puts together the absolute insanity that can be caused when two lunatics fall in love and decide to go on a mass murdering spree. Again, pretty intense, but the way it’s handled it’s dark comedy way (I mean the abusive father is Rodney Dangerfield and the dutiful, useless wife is Edie McClurg, otherwise known as Grace from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.) Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis are Mickey and Mallory Knox the infamous Bonnie and Clyde type couple that the public absolutely adores because of the media reception that they’ve gotten. Robert Downey Jr. is Wayne Gale, the Geraldo-type news anchor who is so over the top stupid that he he doesn’t realize that no one cares about him or his journalism style. The movie was quite different in many respects from things most standardized audiences had seen and it made you cheer for the two most cold blooded killers in fictional history. But that’s the point. Why would we care about these two? Do we sympathize with them because of the things that happen to them that made them the way they are? Or do we hate society just as much as they do and are happy when the crooked cop, the buffoon prison warden and the annoying news anchor get theirs in the end? Not everyone can get past the movie blood to like the film and today I see it as a silly looking movie at times but, man, as a teenager, it was quite a remarkable thing. Hands down, one of the best soundtracks in a movie too.

Mickey: You'll never understand, Wayne. You and me, we're not even the same species. I used to be you, then I evolved. From where you're standing, you're a man. From where I'm standing, you're an ape. You're not even an ape. You're a media person. Media's like the weather, only it's man-made weather. Murder? It's pure. You're the one made it impure. You're buying and selling fear. You say "why?" I say "why bother?"

Sunday, April 15, 2012

M is for Mean Girls and Mr. Mom

Again, a few Ms to choose from and they’re all really good: Misery, Mystic Pizza, The Muppet Movie, Muppets take Manhattan, Mommie Dearest, Mannequin, Mermaids and MST3K: The Movie. There is also two of my very favourite TV shows: My So-Called Life and The Mighty Boosh. Seriously, I should do a TV theme next year just so I can write about how much I love both of these shows. But I chose two movies, per this year’s theme, that I would watch over the rest if given the option.

Mean Girls: I’ve mentioned this movie a couple of times already so it’s a given that I would put this up on the Culture Month Hall of Fame. If girls haven’t seen this movie yet, they just so, totally need to. It’s not for boys, no. But for us gals, it’s hilarious. Cady, the new girls from Africa, starts public high school only to meet two very odd “art freak” students who hate “The Plastics.” After the Queen Bee, Regina George, asks Cady to sit at their lunch table one day, Cady’s friends Janis and Damian decide that Cady should spy on the three popular girls for a laugh. Of course, in the process of trying to spy, Regina ends up betraying Cady (as she has done with Janis is the past) so Cady and Janis plot to destroy Regina’s queen bee status. In the meantime Cady gets so caught up in girl world that she hangs out with Janis and Damian. It’s just one of the funniest teenage movies about frenemies I’ve seen and, as previously I’ve mentioned, most students who have seen it say that it reflects how horrible high school girls can be with one another. The cast is brilliant (like all star, SNL cast member, cast plus Amanda Seyfried in her first movie, and one of the best performances by Lindsay Lohan). The best part is the dialogue though - I just love it.

Damian: My nanna takes her wig off when she is drunk.
Ms. Norbury: Your nanna and I have that in common.

Mr. Mom: I don’t think this movie gets the credit it deserves because I hardly ever hear anyone talk about the movie – they just make a reference to the title is a man is taking care of a child. I use to watch this a lot when it was on cable because Michael Keaton and Teri Garr are so good together. Caroline was a stay-at-home mother, until she had to go back to work once her husband, Jack, lost his job at the car factory. Jack had no idea what to do with the three kids at home, going to the store (Video clip here), doing housework, and dealing with the nosey (and lonely) female neighbours. But after a little while he really got the hang of being a terrific “mom” and taking over for Caroline. What he doesn’t get use to is Caroline’s new boss Ron (Martin Mull who played Leon on Roseanneanother one of my very favourite shows.) Ron ends up trying to hit on Caroline who, in turn, quits and returns home from the business trip so she can get back to her family. I like this movie because it’s funny to see Batman (before he was Batman, of course) as a soap opera watching, coupon clipping father. The day-to-day life with the funny twist is what makes this movie so cute. I always liked the scene with Kenny and the Wooby (Video clip here). It was just little parenthood incidences that made me like the movie so much even as a teenager because there was just about a typical 80s family who are “hit so hard by these trying economic times” (sound familiar?) And, yes, I have the video clip for the following quote too. Good stuff.

Jack Butler: Wanna beer?
Ron Richardson: It's 7 o'clock in the morning.
Jack Butler: Scotch?
Ron Richardson: Not during working hours. Ooooh, sorry pal.
Jack Butler: No problem. Come on over here Ron. Let me show you what I'm doing, taking advantage of some of the time off. To, uh, add a whole new wing on here. Gonna rip these walls out and, uh, of course re-wire it.
Ron Richardson: Yeah, you gonna make it all 220?
Jack Butler: Yeah, 220, 221. Whatever it takes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Less Than Zero and The Lost Boys

There were some good Ls to chose from today: Labyrinth, Lucas, The Last Unicorn, Legend, Lean On Me, License to Drive, Little Women and, of course, The Lord of the Rings trilogy (for crying out loud, guys, watch this, would you?!)

Less than Zero: Loosely based on the Ellis novel, this movie was always one of my favourites because it depicted that shallow, rich kid in Los Angeles that we saw a bit too glamorized in other television shows like 90210. Robert Downey Jr. is Julian, a druggy who continues to try and pay back his dealers, just to end up getting deeper and deeper into a dangerous world of debt. This movie is particularly good for the fact that most students remember Downey as Iron Man but we’ve known for a long time of his acting chops that we thought were lost long ago. (Granted he’s playing another non-sober character that just works for him.) Andrew McCarthy and Jamie Gertz (also in Lost Boys) plays Blair, the poor little rich girl (sound familiar, Gossip Girl fans?) who is going to end up just like Julian if she isn’t saved ultimately saved by the hero, Clay played by our beloved Andrew McCarthy (or, Blaine, as you may know him from Pretty in Pink.) I really like the odd, messed up friendship that these three characters share and I like how Clay had gone to college in the East to get away from these fools, only to be thrown right back into the drama during his Christmas vacation. Of course, as is in Pretty in Pink as well, no one can play a bad guy like James Spader who is Rip (great name for a bad guy), Julian’s creepy, evil drug dealer. Plus, the soundtrack is pretty good in this film too. If you read the book, I warn you, it’s not exactly what you’d expect after seeing this film.

Blair: Did you talk to Julian yet?
Clay: No.
Blair: Clay, I asked you to talk to him.
Clay: Okay, I'll call Betty Ford, you want me to get him a room, fine.
Blair: No, just talk to him, I mean, he's your friend, too.
Clay: It's funny. When you called me, I thought I was coming home to see you.

Lost Boys: I didn’t realize I liked vampire films this much but since this is my second mention of a film that people should see to compare to Twilight. Someone online recently was saying that Lost Boys was funny because it didn’t stand the test of time. I don’t really agree with that – the film is categorized as “comedy/horror” so it wasn’t supposed to be scary (even though I distinctly remember watching this as a kid at my friend's house during a slumber party and her little sister was scared out of her mind.) As someone put it Lost Boys had a cool factor, a great cast and an awesome soundtrack. They were a biker cult, killers, those who cannot be trusted. That is what a vampire movie needs – a danger factor. People don’t want to be vampires because eternal life in “the blood sucking Brady Bunch” would, well, suck. Kiefer Sutherland is a good bad guy and he’s a great vampire. Granted this movie has some hokey shots, questionable yellow eye/makeup tricks and odd costume choices (even though I wanted to be hippie-chic like Star) but all in all it’s good, solid entertainment. I watch this every time it’s on. Plus, hello, it has Echo and the Bunnymen’s version of “People are Strange” during the opening credits. And most importantly, this film stars Corey Haim during his prime. Rest in peace, Corey, you will always be missed.

Alan Frog: He's a vampire all right.
Edgar Frog: All right, here's what you do: get yourself a good sharp stake and drive it right through his heart.
Sam Emerson: I can't do that; he's my brother.
Alan Frog: OK, we'll come over and do it for you.
Sam Emerson: No!
Edgar Frog: You'd better get yourself a garlic T-shirt, buddy, or it's your funeral.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for The Karate Kid

The Karate Kid: I haven’t seen the remake with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith even though I hear it’s not bad. There’s nothing that compares to this classic original when it comes to the New Jersey accent, black eye and boyish charm of Ralph Macchio. Plus, Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi is just superb acting/casting (the broken English and delivery of the lines is hysterical.) Even though it’s coined as a martial arts film, I never really thought of it that way. As a kid, I just loved the story of the kid who moves to a new town, without a father, and without a way to protect himself from some of the worst bullies the 80s has to offer. I mean, really, the build up for Daniel to kick Johnny’s butt at the tournament is so great. The pay-off for seeing Daniel go through a change from a lost kid to a strong young man is what makes this film superb. If young audiences have only seen the 2010 version of this film, they will really be pleasantly surprised to see how well the chemistry between Daniel-san and Mr. Miyagi work. The development of the characters and their bond makes that movie so much more than a martial arts film. Plus, there are so many great scenes and quotes in this movie too. I mean no one will ever think of karate without thinking of, “wax on, wax off.” Ah, the wisdom of Mr. Miyagi.

Daniel: Wouldn't a fly swatter be easier?
Miyagi: Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.
Daniel: Ever catch one?
Miyagi: Not yet.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jawbreaker and The Journey of Natty Gann

Of our Js we have a mix of iconic and lesser known. Of the major films, there is Jaws and Jurassic Park as well as Jewel of the Nile, Jacob’s Ladder, Jackie Brown, Jane Eyre (so far, I’ve only seen this William Hurt version), Jerry Maguire, JFK (one which kids should watch because of its historical significance), Johnny Be Good and Jumpin’ Jack Flash. I went with the ones I’ve seen the most and learned to appreciate much more than the others.

Jawbreaker: This one is another chick flick about the four high school girls who are pretty, popular and ridiculously sadistic. Much like Heathers, “The Flawless Four” play a prank on one of their friends by putting a jawbreaker in her mouth to gag her during a fake kidnapping – the friend ended up dead. But that doesn’t deter the leader of the gang, Courtney (Rose McGowan) who decides to act as if nothing has happened. After the class geek, Fern Mayo discovers that the girls have covered up a murder, Courtney convinces her to join them by turning her into an exotic, popular girl at their school. The heroine of this film is Julie who turns against her friends by discovering an recording of Courtney admitting to the murder. All in all it’s another over the top films that doesn’t quite catch the same vibe as Heathers but it’s interesting to say the least, just because of the wicked popular girls and frenemies theme. Plus, Marilyn Manson is in it as a shady character in a club – good casting!

Courtney: We just killed our best friend! Do you realize what this means?
Marcie: You're a shoo-in for prom queen?

The Journey of Natty Gann: So I watched this movie a ton of times as a kid and I still love it when it’s on cable (all too rarely, I might add.) It’s a Disney movie that has beautiful scenery and such a great story that is based on the girl who finds a companion in the most unlikely of companions – a wolf. Set during the Depression (so there’s some nice costuming and set creation done here), Natty Gann’s father has to find work so he travels from Chicago to work as a lumberjack in Washington. He leaves Natty behind and lets their landlord know where he is and asks her to watch over Natty. Instead Natty is reported as an abandoned child and she has to travel across the country in search of her father. After letting the wolf loose from brutal dog fighters, the wolf decides he can trust Natty and he helps her along the way as well as, get this, John Cusack! It’s just a good story and I love the earthiness to it and the Annie-theme of orphaned (sort of) Depression era kid. It’s fascinating to see her travel like the ton of other hobos had to back in that time and it’s captivating enough for a younger audience due to Disney standards. I don’t know – I just like it and I think most students would like it too. And might I add, recently when I watched Race to Witch Mountain for the first time, Meredith Salenger (Natty Gann) had a cameo appearance where she plays a news reporter named Natalie Gann. Bless you, Disney, and your Easter eggs.

Natty Gann: I'm cold.
Harry: Buck up kid, will ya?
Natty Gann: I'm bucking!
[turns to Wolf]
Natty Gann: I'm bucking, right?