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Archive for May, 2009

Animal House (1978)

animal-house-groupAnimal House, the film that invented the modern college movie.  The themes that are familiar started here: the pranks, the misfit fraternity, the evil dean, the preppies, the wide-eyed freshmen and of course the obligatory “defending yourself to the Greek council” scene.  If you watch any college movie made after Animal House, you’ll notice that they all follow the same basic formula, from Revenge of the Nerds to Accepted to PCU (one of my all-time favorite films).  Here it all seems fresh and funnier than the overdone plots of today.  Actually it doesn’t have much of a plot at all, but the characters are so endearing that it doesn’t really matter.  My favorite character in the film is Dean Vernon Wormer (John Vernon); from the music that accompanies his time on screen, to the very sound of his voice, I can’t help giggling with delight.  And although Bluto (John Belushi) often grossed me out, he redeemed himself during the guitar scene (his double take, “is that guy really playing that song” is hilarious).  But we must not forget of course the toga parties.  The only downside is that the movie is still celebrated to this day at actual fraternities, who seem to miss the point.  4 out of 5 monkeys

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house-bunnyMany a stupid comedy gets made in Hollywood now, many of them enjoyable (Knocked Up, Super Bad, Anchor Man), but rarely do they star women.  Tina Fey almost did it with Baby Mama (enjoyed greatly by females who have ever dealt with children – 3 out of 5 monkeys), but there are very few comedies helmed by women that can take it all the way (The Sweetest Thing is another example of a comedy that I enjoyed, but that didn’t knock my socks off.  Maybe because it had Cameron Diaz in it).  So, even though I wasn’t entirely keen on the idea for The House Bunny, I was willing to give it a try because Anna Faris was so amazing in Just Friends.  If only it had been making fun of Legally Blond, I might have been on board.  My first thought was that maybe the producers of the film had censored her in some way, but after learning that she was one of them, I was perplexed.  I adored the “sorority” girls that she mentors in the film (especially Emma Stone), but the minute they became more like real sorority girls, at least two of my monkeys died.  The film got shallow and I was no longer interested. The fundamental flaw of the film is that it suggests that traditional sorority girls are somehow the perfect feminine ideal that we should all aspire to; I found that appalling.  What made the girls interesting was their quirkiness.  By transforming them into shallow, vain sorority girls, the movie invalidates any point that it may have been trying to make.  So, go and see one of the other films that I mentioned and skip this one.  2 out of 5 monkeys.

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The Women (2008)

TheWomenHave you ever been in pain while watching a movie and not because it is a horror film or because you had a bad bag of popcorn?  That is how I felt while watching The Women.  The most disappointing thing about it was that Annette Bening actually took the role after reading the script (as Sylvia Fowler, played by the fabulous Rosalind Russell in the original); gone are the days of American Beauty and Being Julia.  I am hoping that she just needed a paycheck.  Now onto Meg Ryan.  I give her credit for trying to go back to the type of role that people love her in, the women who is a bit awkward and goofy and who often gets her heart stepped on.  But for some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, it just didn’t work.  Oh yes, now I remember, it was Eva Mendes.  Did she watch the original at all?  Joan Crawford made the character fabulous in a very sinister sort of way; Eva just made her trashy.  The ending was the worst with the very rushed labor scene of Edie Cohen (Debra Messing), it was as if everyone knew how bad the movie was going to be and they just wanted to get it wrapped!  Or maybe they were trying to be a little more slapstick and goofball, but Debra Messing is the only one with experience in that department and she was in the bed the whole time.  Oh and why did they cast Jada Pinkett Smith as Alex Fischer, the lesbian character?  Next time cast a real lesbian in the role and see what happens.  My advice, if you are at all interested in seeing this film, see the original.  It’s much more interesting and full of amazing actresses from the 1930’s.  1 out of 5 monkeys

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tellnooneIt makes one nervous when supposedly more sophisticated cultures start embracing the worst in American pop culture, such as arena butt rock, athletic footwear and pulp surprise twist crime thrillers, so I was pleasantly surprised when I sat down to watch the French film Tell No One.  This is a suspense thriller that is well worth watching; even if it’s just for the on-foot chase scene courtesy of Dr. Alexandre Beck (Francois Cluzet).  Eight years after his wife’s murder, Alexandre is sent information that raises some questions as to the circumstances of his wife’s death.  It seems that there was a part of her life that he knew nothing about; could this have lead to her death?  The supporting characters play an interesting role in Alexandre’s world, whether it be as confidants (Kristen Scott Thomas as Helene Perkins – yes, she’s a Brit who can speak fluent French) or torturers (such as bad-ass Zak, played by Mikaela fisher, who can punch you in any organ and make you plead for mercy).  But it all comes down to Alexandre and his choices – because he is a caring doctor to a hemophiliac patient, when he is in trouble, he is able to call on the most unlikely source for help.  If you enjoy thrillers that are also smart and well acted, then you should check out this film.  4 out of 5 monkeys.

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moon-movie-image-2I love it when I am surprised while watching a movie, which doesn’t always happen.  While watching the film Moon, I had just this experience.  I would tell you exactly what that surprise was, but that would ruin the movie going experience for you, so go see the film and find out.  I will tell you however that the story is about Astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), who is on a three-year solo mission that keeps him on the “dark side” of the moon.  The only company he has is his assistant, a robot named Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey), who uses smiley faces to show his feelings (made me think of emoticons online, which would have normally made me angry, but it worked here).  When the film begins, Sam is two weeks away from the end of his three-year stint and is more than ready to go.  As Sam puts it, three years is a long time.  Doesn’t sound so long when you first think about it, but putting it into perspective that’s junior high school.  It takes a certain type of mentality to live alone for so long (some people would love it, I am referring to hermits) and Sam is starting to crack.  Frankly, he is a mess and he needs to see his family.  How would you react all alone in the vastness of space?  Would you revel in it?  What would you do in your “down time”?  Get a lot of reading done?  Write a novel?  Or does it take interactions with humans to inspire us to do anything?  Sam Rockwell is a magnificent choice for the role of Sam, few actors could carry such a role and in such an enthralling way.  Go see it and appreciate the interactions you have on a daily basis, even those with your annoying coworkers.  4 out of 5 monkeys

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Trekkies 2 (2004)

Italian Trekkie - nice ride.

Italian Trekkie - nice ride.

Trekkies 2 takes up where the first film left off in many ways focusing mostly on fans in Europe.  The opening credits were sung by Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, so I was totally there.  My favorite thing about watching these documentaries is how sincere the people were; most of them go to these conventions because they are accepted there, they can be themselves.  Anyone who is at all different (especially while in high school) can relate to this.  The film also addressed the issue of going to far and most interviewees admitted that they know one or two of those types.  As one Trekkie put it, “if it’s July and you are super pale, then maybe you need to spend a little less time watching Star Trek.”  One thing that I gleamed from the documentary is that the key to success as an actor is to get a role on Star Trek – you will be working forever!  It was great to see the return of Gabriel Koerner, the uber nerdy kid from the first film, now grown up and married (to an equally cute and nerdy girl) and finding success with designing for Star Trek and other science fiction television shows (battlestar baby).  And let’s not forget the crazy Star Trek tribute bands in Sacramento!  Oh and the horny lady Trekkie’s in Australia – they wrote a poem about one of the male actors, it’s hilarious.  Check out the film and you will see what I mean.  3 out of 5 monkeys

t2

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19042170Yesterday I had the pleasure of viewing a new film from Spain entitled The Anarchist’s Wife, courtesy of the Seattle Independent Film Festival.  The film, sponsored by the consulate of Spain (sweet!), was a love story above anything else set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.  Manuela is the young wife of Justo, a freedom fighter battling against Franco’s nationalists in Madrid, Spain.  As Americans we have no idea what it is like to have civil war on soil the way that Europeans experienced it; the utter destruction that these people faced is unbelievable.  When we had out civil war, we were still pioneers and didn’t have beautiful chapels and historic buildings to destroy.  The story revolves around Manuela’s struggle to keep it together while her world is falling apart around her.  These type of films often make me ponder what I would do in a similar situation.  Whether we are talking about the German or the Spanish situation, which side would you take?  Would you stand up for your ideals or would you do anything in your power to keep your family safe?  Would you join the side that you know is corrupt in order to survive?  Characters like those of Justo believe that if they did not fight, then the future for themselves and for their children wouldn’t be worth living in.  Throw a little passion in there and you have a great film (the leads plain and simple were just hot).  I was also pleasantly surprised to see the little girl (Ivana Baquero) from Pan’s Labyrinth in the film, doing a stellar job once again.  4 out of 5 monkeys

anarchistswife_filmstill6_manuela-maria-valverde-and-paloma-ivana-baquero-2-c2a9-pc292artisan-film

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