182: Two Weeks Notice

Two Weeks Notice (PG-13) - 2002 - Runtime: 101 minutes
Starring: Hugh Grant, Sandra Bullock
Director: Marc Lawrence

Before Grant was sucking it up with SJP in Did You Hear About the Crappy Morgan's Movie They Made and before Sandra Bullock lathered on a sloppy southern accent to win an undeserved Oscar (yes, I'm still bitter), they actually made a decent romantic comedy! Believe it or not, I'm a sucker for these kinds of movies. And I'm pretty confident that this one pretty much nailed it.

You have a perfect formula: Hugh Grant, playing, well Hugh Grant, and Sandra Bullock playing the highly geeky, but nevertheless charming, opposite who both find they cannot possibly live without each other in their lives. It's pretty easy to see where this is going: Bullock finds herself landing a job for the evil Hugh Grant, who owns a terrible big corporation who doesn't like the environment. And after a few years, she finally gives her two weeks notice because she can't take anymore of Grant's shenanigans. So romance and comedy collide. It's an unstoppable force for me - and as much as I over dramatized the plot, it's good and quite funny at times. The characters work and there is some good chemistry with the two leads. It's a great little rom-com that I found myself really enjoying - if it was playing on TV I'd probably sit down and watch it.

Rating: Rent It!

182: Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now (R) - 1979 - Runtime: 153 minutes
Starring: Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, Marlon Brando
Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Of course I haven't seen this movie. It just never hit my radar. I've only heard quotes from the movie and nothing more. I really didn't know the plot or anything when I sat down to watch it. Which, I think, is the best way to approach these movies (The Godfather was exactly the same way for me and I feel like I have a healthy, objectionable viewpoint on that movie). It's a classic that mimics Joseph Conrad's classic Heart of Darkness story (something I have never read myself) that tries to dig into the depths of human suffering and war. I wouldn't say it's the best war movie (Platoon and Saving Private Ryan have something to say about that), but it's probably the best war-themed drama that's really not about war at all.

For those not in the know, like my dumb self, Benjamin Willard is commissioned with a secret mission to find Colonel Kurtz, a great figure in the Vietnam war who has gone rogue and has severed all communications with the army. Willard's mission is to take out Kurtz because he's beginning to be a liability. And along for the ride is a rag-tag group of kids to escort Willard into the deepest part's of the jungle. It's a classic tale about madness and war.

I was with the whole movie up until the end. I just wanted to kill myself during the last half hour! I enjoyed every bit of the crazy, effed-up things happening when they continually run into outposts along the river that is taking them to the heart of the jungle. The most memorable of all the characters they see along their journey is Robert Duvall's portrayal as the sadistic and maniacal Lieutenant Kilgore. The guy is so crazy that he blares "Ride of the Valkyries" from the helicopters before bombing the crap out of places and after touchdown decides he needs to surf before the whole area is cleared of enemy targets. It's quite memorable and obviously the most quoted part of the whole movie.

Like I said earlier, the movie is fantastic, it's just that I thought the ending was so awful. Brando is supposed to be this decorated hero who went nuts and decided he was the local's deity. Well, Brando is only in the last twenty or so minutes of the movie and I just don't understand what the big deal is about his performance. He spouts out all this philosophical BS that is a bit over my head (I'd have to re-watch it again, maybe I'd appreciate it more) but generally is about the absolutely insanity of the war. I guess I don't have a problem with the monologueing, but it just takes up so much time and seemed to drag. And although I really enjoyed the film, it's not the best one out there dealing with Vietnam - Platoon has that hands down and is the more approachable movie, than Apocalypse Now.

I really enjoyed all the performances. Martin Sheen is fantastic (and Brando is good, but nor worthy of all the praise I see him get for this movie) and Laurence Fishburne is so young (he was only 17!), but is really good. However, the movie gets a few points docked because Dennis Hopper has to come in and crap all over this movie with his retread of Billy from Easy Rider. I mean, he just says "man" after every line and we're supposed to believe he's some hippie guy? It's a total hack performance and one I loathed from the minute he came onscreen.

Otherwise, a great, great movie that needs to be seen. It's a movie that delves into the dark parts of the human soul and has a lot of great characters. I will have to watch this one again sometime in order to fully "get" the ending and appreciate it more, but for now, I feel pretty confident to give this one an own it!

Rating: Own It!

182: Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde (R) - 1967 - Runtime: 112 minutes
Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman
Director: Arthur Penn

Another classic, this one I was actually looking forward to! Supposedly, this movie was one of the first to go there as far as violence. A classic that took two very unimportant and small figures in the 30s crime wave and made them legendary. From what I've heard, much of what is portrayed in the movie is completely false to who the real Bonnie & Clyde were. Nevertheless, it has made its own impact on American cinema and culture and is a classic crime drama, even if the violence may seem timid by today's standards.

The movie starts out unexpectedly (for me): Faye Dunaway lying naked in her bedroom, looking bored as hell. She looks out her window and see Clyde trying to steal her mom's car and decides to follow him around. A blossoming relationship begins and together their crimes escalate, culminating in murder and their own tragic demise. It's a story that's pretty familiar to these types of movies. The glorification of criminals, and no doubt Bonnie & Clyde were symbols, much like Dillinger. But not nearly as successful. But the one thing that stood out about them: sex appeal. I think that's what makes them so fascinating, that Bonnie was involved in all these crimes (supposedly not as much as the movie would like you to believe). And despite what the movie glorifies - they show them as pretty lame criminals, who get away by sheer luck sometimes. They team up with Clyde's brother, Buch (Hackman) and his wife and soon they're all wanted.

The acting was really good - Beatty has an affable charm that's infectious. He plays Clyde like a wide-eyed puppy in some scenes, but you can tell that much more is happening behind the eyes. There's hints in the movie that Clyde has homosexual tendencies and is quite impotent - B&C don't even have sex until the very end of the movie. They're all a bunch of misfits and it's simply amazing that they survived as long as they did in the movie. Which is to say that while I dug must of the movie, I found it all to be a bit pointless. After watching Public Enemies and loving it, I found their story to be a glorification and total fabrication of the truth (or so I'm told from Maggie and Wikipedia, the two most important sources of information). It just seemed that the movie wasn't going anywhere and I was just waiting for the ultimate demise. Which is sad, because I think the characters are wonderful and their is an interesting story to be told. I guess I was hoping for more action-driven story. But as a character piece, it really is strong. To say the least, I'm a bit mixed when it comes to this title.

I wouldn't say this was something that's a must-see, but if you like crime dramas and haven't checked this one out, it's worth your time. A bit dull at times, but nonetheless intriguing. Just don't expect a lot of crazy heists and getaways, this one's more about the characters and the impact they have on each other.

Rating: Rent It!


182: The Blind Side

The Blind Side (PG-13) - 2009 - Runtime: 129 minutes
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Kathy Bates
Director: John Lee Hancock

I remember seeing the trailer for this movie on a sports blog I read and thinking to myself: "Oh, this seems like a tired, clichéd, true-story drama that will probably make $40 million at the box office." Boy, I was wrong. And I finally got down to seeing this one (it's on the Oscar list! Damn you Academy, for trying to draw in mainstream America!) and it's just as bad, if not worse, than what I expected.

Sandra Bullock, in her Oscar-winning (Really? Oh brother, this win is so staggeringly baffling that it would take another blog post to articulate how much I loathe her performance) role, plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, a real southern firecracker who does her duty as a human being and offers home and family to a lonely and lost boy. Now mix in a little bit of race issues and slap "true story" on the poster and apparently that's enough for America to consider it one of the best movies ever.

I find myself in the minority on this one and I've actually argued with people who consider this a great movie, one that deserves all the accolades. And you know what? Most people's main argument after I tell them my feelings on the movie? "Well, it's based on a true story - it's pretty amazing!" That's the best they could come up with?

The movie is all candy coating and no substance. I've heard the book is really, really good and it's from Michael Oher's viewpoint. The movie, instead, takes the general idea of a rich, white Christian family going against the grain and adopting a poor black boy and turns the whole movie into this central theme. It's a bit sickening to be manipulated like this, especially when you know you're being manipulated. Like when the movie only portrays Oher as a near-mute bumbling idiot. Yeah, he's shy, but he's so shy he can't talk? And he's so completely baffled by an enormous house and white people and their Christian schools that it renders him speechless? Seriously, the dude does not talk until that last thirty minutes! And when Bullock mentions how the boy is changing her life - where's the evidence? She's a completely nice person throughout the movie and doesn't change at all. She just has one more person to love and take care of.

I just absolutely hated the movie - it takes a wonderful story about someone making a change in their life, albeit with help from a loving family, and turns it into all glitzy, feel-good schlock. And for those that claim this is a sports movie, it is not. This movie has maybe one scene on the gridiron and that's not even the focus of that scene. I thought Bullock's performance was okay - she seemed to put on a thick southern accent and walk around like a robot sometimes, nothing too special about it. The movie takes place in the south, so of course Kathy Bates has to show up and drag the movie down even further with her PG-version of Adam Sandler's mom in Waterboy (that foosball is the devil!). There's not even any real drama or tension in the movie! The family seems to accept Oher without any hesitation and there's a brief scene with  her ritzy, Stepford wife friends that casually throws out the whole class issue, but it's glossed over.

And talk about long! This movie was over two hours! Granted, it went by fairly quickly, but sheesh! This movie did not have to be that long - it's an amazing true story and the fact that so much of the real drama was simply swept under the rug, says a lot about this movie. If you want to feel good about yourself and the world, this is good distraction from the it, despite what people persist and what the movie poster says. I would not recommend this to anyone and I'm sure in ten years or so we'll all feel really silly about how much love this movie got.

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague!

182: Fistful of Dollars

Fistful of Dollars (R) - 1964 - Runtime: 99 minutes
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch
Director: Sergio Leone

I can see why people regard Clint Eastwood as a badass. He's completely convincing as "The Stranger" (or Joe, as he's credited in this movie) in this awesome, very much action-packed, western. I've only seen two of Leone's westerns, but I've thoroughly enjoyed both of them. They're just really good - I don't think I like the "classic" era of westerns - the ones from the 50s and before - they're just not action-oriented like Leone's and seem to drag at certain points. So hooray for Leone for making me a fan of certain kinds of westerns.

Much like most westerns, the story is simple: Eastwood walks into a town and sees that there's two rival families vying for control - so he manipulates both families against each other to clean up the town. It's a great premise for lots of action and great shootouts. The Stranger has only what seems like noble reasons to shake down these two awful gangs. We're given no history or background, just that he's a man looking to make some money and dole out some justice. Eastwood is perfect in this flick - he certainly can play the enigmatic lone gunman well.

I just thought the whole movie flowed so nicely - the action scenes are engrossing and you're rooting alongside The Stranger as he outsmarts and outguns his enemies. I would not hesitate to recommend this one and am definitely going to be watching this one again sometime. It's even got me excited for the rest of the "Dollars Trilogy" by Leone!

Rating: Own It!

182: High Noon

High Noon (PG) - 1952 - Runtime: 85 minutes
Starring: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges
Director: Fred Zinneman

Another western! I was knocking these down one day, it was somewhat satisfying. I think I've come to appreciate westerns with this whole project - when they're good, they're really good. But sometimes they're just plain awful (coughTheSearcherscough), even though people seem to hold them in regards as great movies. High Noon is one of those highly regarded movies, and while I don't think it's great, it ends up somewhere in the middle - not exactly bad, but not something I would watch over and over.

The story is simple: Gary Cooper plays Marshall Will Kane who's all set to retire and leave town. But when an old enemy gets pardoned and is set to arrive back in town on the noon train, Kane is forced to confront the man with only himself. Much like On the Waterfront, the movie is more of an allegory about the blacklisting that happened in Hollywood. Kane searches high and low throughout the town finding anyone to help him deal with this no good criminal, Frank Miller. Of course, no one wants to fight the good fight, instead they plead ignorance and, in some cases, justify the return of Miller. The hotel owner is actually quite mad at Kane for cleaning up the streets - he was busy when Miller was running the town, his place was full of drunkards and outlaws, but now it's empty. There's a bit of subplot involving Lloyd Bridges as the up and coming new Marshall, and his lover, who was the former lover of both Kane and Miller. It's not as intriguing as it might sound, because the movie doesn't spend that much time with that story.

In fact, the movie takes place in real time. So the movie starts at almost an hour and half before the noon train arrives. The movie is all about Kane trying to rally the troops, to no avail. It's not quite as tension-filled because you know in the end he's going to have to fight Miller and his posse alone. But the movie does a good job of creating that tension and showing the struggle of Kane trying to convince the town of all the good he's done. He even struggles to convince his new wife (Grace Kelly), but the movie doesn't spend too much time on their relationship for me to care.

All in all, this one was pretty good. It's a great tale about standing for what's right and all that crap, but I wouldn't say that it's so good it's worth the high praise it gets all the time. If you haven't seen it yet, definitely seek it out to rent!

Rating: Rent It!

182: True Grit

True Grit (PG) - 1969 - Runtime: 128 minutes
Starring: John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby
Director: Henry Hathaway

I kept getting this movie mixed up with another Wayne western, The Searchers. They both share somewhat similar themes and feature Wayne in fairly similar roles. I was actually looking forward to this one - the Coen brothers' are remaking the movie and I've heard this was a good western. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to wait until Christmas to find out if this could be a good western, because this version is not good at all.

Wayne plays Rooster Cogburn (every time I hear that name I think of David Sedaris's' redneck brother, the Rooster, hehe), a rough and tough Federal Marshall who doesn't answer to nobody. When Mattie Ross's father is murdered, she tracks down this ruthless Marshall to help her find the man. They're also joined by a Texas Ranger and throughout the story we learn that Rooster (hehe) is not as cold-hearted as he'd like us to believe. In fact, he's a down-right softie. This is sounding awfully familiar, right?

It's a fairly straightforward and somewhat unrewarding movie. You know how things are going to end up and the search for the killer isn't as action-packed or bloody as it should be. I will say the ending was pretty great, but between the set up and the end, there's very little meat on this one. In fact, the best part of the movie is Mattie. She's a very headstrong young woman who knows what she wants. She's not afraid to get dirty and is essentially one of the boys. I was expecting a very timid little girl when I first heard the plot, so it was a nice surprise to see a different take on the whole damsel in distress. Basically the whole movie revolves around Mattie butting heads with Rooster and the other guy, the Texas Ranger (who is not memorable at all). I liked the discourse between her and Rooster, but some of it got a bit tiring. You can only have so many scenes where Rooster doesn't think Mattie is up to snuff and time and time again she proves him wrong. When will men ever learn?

I have heard that the book this movie is based is much more violent and uses Mattie's point of view to tell the story. The movie, however, is obsessed with Wayne and his performance as Rooster. Which isn't a surprise, but it made the movie less effective as a narrative. Instead of Mattie being an empowering figure, she's reduced in some scenes to a whiny little brat. I would hold out on the Coen brothers' version this Christmas because they're staying more faithful to the book and it's the Coen brothers, 'nuff said.

Rating: Not Worth Paying For!


182: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (PG) - 2009 - Runtime: 88 minutes
Starring: Jason Lee, David Cross, Zachary Levi
Director: Betty Thomas

I was just as surprised as everyone else I talked to at how much I enjoyed the first Alvin movie. Granted, I enjoyed, not loved, the movie. The chipmunks were cute and Jason Lee used to be a skateboarder, so I have to watch whatever he does. So I was at least mildly interested in the sequel and this one was not even half as good as the original.

It's like they took the formula that made the first movie a success (lots of song and dance numbers, followed by cute CGI chipmunk shots and a disgruntled Dave) and threw it out the window. Dave is completely absent from this movie save for a few scenes. The songs (which, although I do not like musicals, had their charm in the first movie) are brief and rarely seen. And there's just not enough of the cute chipmunks messing around. They took the fun out of the movie, which is the only thing this movie had going for it. I feel sad that kids got roped into this sequel, because it's by far one of the worst I've seen compared to the original. The brilliant David Cross couldn't even save this one! Usually he's good for a few laughs in these popcorn movies (I absolutely loved him in She's the Man!) but he's just flat - picking up a paycheck, I guess.

There's not much else to say except that Zachary Levi does a pretty good job at playing the dork, but once again, there's not enough character moments to truly enjoy - they rushed through this movie like it was their business to get to the end. I know for sure I'm going to skip the third for shizzle.

Rating: Not Worth Paying For!


182: Vertigo

Vertigo (PG) - 1958 - Runtime: 128 minutes
Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

I'm quickly becoming a fan of Hitchcock. I didn't know how I'd take to this director, having only seen Psycho, but I've quickly grown fond of his directing style and the way he handles mystery. The man has four movies in AFI's top 100 and he's possibly the most iconic and revered filmmaker of all time, so dude knows how to make a movie. Okay, enough love, let's get to the movie, which is by far the most intriguing and best Hitchcock movie I've seen so far!

James Stewart plays John Ferguson a former detective inflicted with vertigo (ahh doy!) after attempting to chase a suspect across San Francisco's rooftops and almost falling to his death. There's a neato visual trick that Hitchcock employs to give this sense of vertigo - it's pretty cool and totally gives me the creeps. It must have been cool to watch on the big screen!

Sidebar! Sometimes I do wish I had been around to see movies on the big screen for the first time. Like Star Wars, or hell any of those big blockbuster movies prior to the early nineties. Even older stuff like this movie or Wizard of Oz. I hope that the theater going experience never changes - I love everything about it! The best part of watching a movie in the theater? That feeling you get after the previews have finished and you finally remember that, oh yeah! The movie! Hell yeah! It's a good feeling and even though movie trailers are like crack to me, I love when they end and I settle into my seat for an experience. Oh god. I just re-read this little rant and can't believe how cornball cheesy it is! Jesus, I sound like an gibbering fanboy who probably cuts out photos of his favorite movie stars and draws himself into the picture. I just hope Maggie doesn't find out about my secret storage closet where I live out my movie fantasies with the stars!

Back to the movie! So Ferguson gets a request to tail his friend's wife - to see if she's gone off the nutter, not for infidelity. Pretty strange, right? Well, this is only the beginning and soon Ferguson starts to fall for this bird (who is a completely enigmatic beauty, if that makes sense to anyone) and finds himself completely drawn into her world. But things escalate and her insanity gets the best of her (she thinks she's a reincarnation of some Spanish mistress! Not that there's anything particularly wrong with that, it's just that this Spanish mistress has suicidal tendencies) and Ferguson can't help her when he's needed the most. Things get weirder from there, but I don't want to spoil it!

It's a great story and there's a great twist, but there's so much that's good in this movie I don't know where to begin! James Stewart gives a truly terrific performance and so does Kim Novak. Ferguson is obsessed with this woman and it shows. I guess I really can't explain too much without delving into the story - but that's what makes it so good! There's a mystery to unravel and Hitchcock works his magic to keep you questioning what really is happening. But I wouldn't say that this is best part of the movie. The tone and atmosphere and cinematography are all so excellent. I loved every frame and shot - it's a compelling mystery that you also become obsessed with watching.

I can see why Hitchcock is so popular - I would love to visit some of his other, lesser known movies. He's great and I definitely recommend this for repeat viewings!

Rating: Own It!

182: Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition (R) - 2002 - Runtime: 117 minutes
Starring: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Daniel Craig
Director: Sam Mendes

This one was a suggestion by someone whom I don't fully trust their judgment on movies, so I was very hesitant to watch this one. I'll admit, gangster movies are not my cup of tea - they have to be really, really good for me to enjoy. And while the movie has a few strong points (namely the atmosphere), it was entirely a forgettable experience.

Tom Hanks plays Michael Sullivan, a lackey for a mob boss, John Rooney (Paul Newman), who treats him like a second son. When Michael's son witnesses a man being dispatched by Michael and his partner, Connor Rooney, the son of John, it sets off a chain of events that will change their lives forever. The movie starts off interesting, I was immediately drawn into the tone and atmosphere - it's no wonder this movie won an Oscar for best cinematography - it's simply a visually stunning movie. But as far as the story goes and where it leads? Eh, I found myself checking the time on the DVD player so I could get on with the rest of the day. There's very little character development - lots of stares and long looks between Michael and his son. It's all very heavy-handed and not at all interesting. It's seems like the movie is trying to force upon you the importance of the relationship between father and son. I get it! But c'mon! I don't need to hear the gangster version of Cats in the Cradle!

And as for Jude Law playing a sadistic assassin? He wasn't at all menacing and it seemed a bit odd. I never once felt afraid or feared that the Sullivan boys would end up dead. I mean, duh, that's the end of the movie if they're dead! But! You have to create a little bit of tension and fear! But this assassin felt completely flat and not at all interesting. In the end, the movie was not at all very climactic and a bit of a snooze. Lame! Sam Mendes wanted the last twenty minutes to have only around six lines of dialogue, which is fine. But, if you want to get all poetic and shit, you better have some compelling drama!

Go ahead and find the graphic novel this movie was based on - I'm sure it's ten times better! It goes without saying I will not be taking any more suggestions from this guy!

Rating: Not Worth Paying For!

182: The Searchers

The Searchers (G) - 1956 - Runtime: 119 minutes
Starring: John Wayne, Vera Miles, Natalie Wood
Director: John Ford

I had a bit of a western movie marathon a couple of weeks ago (I know! I'm just catching up to the movie reviews! It's been crazy! Exclamation points!) and thought, after watching Leone's masterpiece Once Upon a Time in the West, I would start to enjoy this genre a bit more. Boy, was I wrong! Well, at least with this movie - The Searchers is considered a classic (number 12 on AFI's Top 100!), but I feel it's outdated and frankly, quite boring. Maybe I'm a fan of Leone's westerns more so than the typical American-made western, but I just thought this was dull and a bit overrated!

The story goes like this: John Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, a Civil War veteran who has a nasty streak and plays by his own rules. He becomes obsessed in finding his niece after she's captured by a local Indians, who killed the rest of his niece's family. He's followed by a young, strapping lad, Martin, who is part Indian himself. They spend years looking for her and the supposed moral ambiguity is that his niece has been assimilated into the tribe after more than a couple of years. Martin and the audience aren't quite clear what Ethan's end game is - does he kill his niece or bring her back to her original family? It's a complicated question and there is quite a bit to dissect in this movie - but I feel like a lot of it seems glossed over and overshadowed by John Wayne's performance. He plays this character too straight - I never once felt how conflicted he was or what fueled his hatred and racism for the Indians besides revenge. I don't think this movie is bad - it just dragged a bit and much like Ethan and Martin, the search seems hopeless and endless.

It's a tiring movie, and I found myself opening up the laptop to check my email and my blogs because I was bored. I usually don't do this, because I want to be invested in the story, but this one was so hard to get into. And the ending was not satisfying, either. It just seems too simple and clean for the complicated mess that is on the horizon for Ethan's family. Re-integrating someone who's been assimilated into a culture is complicated, but the movie doesn't even address the issue. The credits roll when possibly the most important part of the movie is happening. I hated the movie for that and in the end was increasingly more annoyed by Ethan and his actions. I remember reading the back of the cover and it came across as saying Ethan has a hard shell, but deep down, he's a softie and through this journey, he realizes his humanity. No effin' way! I call bull on that, because we don't see any change in him other than not killing his niece! That's supposed to be the grand humanitarian gesture? That he didn't kill, but rather brought her back into a society that pretty much hates who she is (because let's face it: she's been raised as an Indian, not a white person).

I've heard the book deals with these issues more delicately and leaves things a bit more ambiguous, so I would rather you check out the book than this movie. I felt the whole movie didn't go far enough to address racism, etc. and on top of that - it was pretty dull. There's not a lot of action (for a western, that's bad!) and the characters seemed to lack any depth - even Martin, who's partly Indian! But we didn't see too much of his side of the story, which would have been great! Alas, it's not worthy of a rental - skip this western!

Rating: Not Worth Paying For!