I Watch A Lot Of Movies: The Beach, Glory Daze, House II & Take Me Home Tonight

The Beach (2000) is one of those movies that I remember coming out, but don’t remember hearing much about. For some reason I thought it had a sci-fi element to it, but instead it’s about a secret island split between a bunch of hippie pot farmers and some bad ass dudes with guns. Leonardo DiCaprio finds out about the island and sneaks his way in where he soon becomes part of the gang. It’s kind of an interesting idea that gets really weird towards the end.

See, Leo left a map with someone and that’s a problem because the guys with guns don’t want anymore people to join the hippies. The boss lady finds out about this and stations Leo on a ledge so he can watch for newcomers. While doing this, Leo loses his damn mind.

The problem isn’t so much in the story or the turn it takes at the end, but in how long the movie goes in one direction showing how life on the island is and THEN switches to this descent into madness kind of thing. The meandering part is kind of fun to look at as you get interested in how life on the island works, but then the tone and mood shift and it’s almost like you’re watching another movie set in the same world as the first. At the end of the day, the performances are solid and Leo does well with an uneven script, but I’m not sure if I’d recommend checking The Beach out if you haven’t already seen it.

We’ve all got types of movies and stories that we’re suckers for and Glory Daze (1995) fits like three of my preferred subgenres. First off it’s got Ben Affleck, an actor I seem to like no matter what he’s in. Second, it’s an “end of college” movie which I’ve been a sucker for since I saw PCU and Animal House. And finally, it’s a 90s movie about the kind of existential crises Gen Xers had when looking at their future in the real world.

Affleck plays a tormented art student who lives with a group of his friends that include Sam Rockwell and French Stewart in a party house. Most of them are on the verge of graduation, but Affleck doesn’t know what he wants to do with the rest of his life and tries convincing his friends to stay on for one more year in the house to party and put off joining the real world.

Like I said, I’m a sucker for these kinds of movies, but I think it’s actually pretty good. Affleck hits a lot of the same notes that he would go on to hit in Chasing Amy (the movies actually shares some similar themes and beats at times) and the movie is funny, but there is a heart in it that I found appealing. It’s about fear of the unknown, discovering the truth of the world and trying to make the best of a bad situation. Sure, it’s formulaic at times, but it reminds me of a lot of the movies I liked in my high school days.

As I said in today’s Ad It Up, I know I saw and enjoyed the first House movie, but I don’t actually remember much about it. I think it had a dude fighting monsters in another dimension after opening a door in his house. House II: The Second Story (1986) one is about a guy moving into his treasure hunting great grandfather’s house that’s decked out in Incan stuff, finding his undead grandfather and trying to keep a crystal skull out of the hands of some demons. Or something.

The poster, which is awesome, might make the movie seem like a creepy horror movie, but it really feels like a campy family friendly romp. The main guy and his friend just kind of run around with a zombie as different rooms in their house turn into crazy locales.

The film also has a pretty fantastic cameo by John Ratzenberger as a repairman who doesn’t bat an eye when an Incan warrior tries to kill him and also fights it off like a boss. Also, there’s a tiny green dog-bug thing that I wish was my pet.

It’s so, so goofy, but if you like that kind of thing, do yourself a favor and check out House II on Netflix Instant.

When I saw trailers for the 80s-set Take Me Home Tonight (2011), I figured it would be your average throwback with lots jokes that are only funny if you’re living in 2011 and the kind of attitude that pokes more fun than pays homage. Thankfully that’s not the case. There are only a few of those anachronistic-style jokes, but for the most part, it’s a coming-of-age, finding-yourself story that just so happens to be set in the late 80s. They don’t even seem to look down on the decade that gave us big hair, strange clothes and rolled up jacket sleeves. Those things are in the movie, but they’re not the focus. It’d be dishonest if they weren’t there.

I was also happy with how some of the usual tropes of this kind of “telling my high school sweetheart I like her story” were handled. You’ve got Topher Grace telling a lie after meeting the girl of his dreams that comes back to bite him in the ass. But, he actually has a really good argument for why he lied. It’s an honest conversation that you rarely see handled so well in this kind of thing.

Like I said, I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories and really liked the performances by Grace (who I’ve liked since That 70s Show), Anna Faris who I didn’t even recognize with brown hair at first, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer, Chris Pratt and Michael Biehn. Add in a setting that’s not usually handled this way and I’m in. Give it a look.

Still Waiting…for a good follow up to Waiting

Back before I moved out here in 2005, I went with a couple of my friends who also worked at the Bagel Place (which has since been demolished and rebuilt as something…very different)to see Waiting… starring Ryan Reynolds, Justin Long and Anna Faris. It’s basically a look at a day in the life (though a crazy one) at Shenaniganz, an Applebees-like restaurant. Even though it wasn’t the same kind of restaurant we worked in we could totally relate to hating jerk-hole customers, relating to each other and playing games to make the day go by quicker (though, they didn’t involve balls).

Anyway, I’m a big fan of the movie. I worked with a lot of people during my 7-ish years at the bagel shop just like the people in the movie. Plus it had the above mentioned actors along with John Francis Daley who, like everyone else, I loved in Freaks and Geeks and a bunch of other actors I would eventually come to know and love like Chi McBride, Luis Guzman, Vanessa Lengies (yeah, I like Stick It, deal with it) and even Dane Cook who I like much better as a comedian, but whatever.

I actually get the itch to watch the DVD every time we eat at one of those TGIFriday’s-type (that’s can’t be the way to write that), though I usually don’t ’cause, you know, I’ve got a lot of other stuff to watch. Anyway, when I heard that the sequel, Still Waiting… came out I was cautiously interested. I put it at the top of my Netflix queue and got it the other day.

Well…

It’s not a good movie. The guy who’s supposed to be the Ryan Reynolds-type character just isn’t as good of an actor and can’t play off the lovable jerk character (also, making him kinda racist probably wasn’t the best choice). Overall, the characters just aren’t as real or interesting as the ones written in the original (even the few recurring characters), which is strange because, as far as I can tell, it’s the same guy who wrote the original (Rob McKittrick who also directed that one, but not this one).

I can’t say I’m disappointed or surprised because, hey, it’s a straight-to-DVD sequel to a movie that didn’t do all that well in the first place. I did appreciate the fact that Justin Long popped up in a cameo. Uh, I guess the following counts as a SPOILER, if you care. I like that he came back for this movie, but I’m not sure if I like the scene, where he basically tells the bartender that his life still ended up shitty after quitting at the end of the first movie. He sure gives a hilarious performance though and I was actually thinking “It’d be interesting to write a movie that starts where movies like Waiting and Empire Records end, with the guy leaving his dead end job and seeing how well they actually do with that” and then that essentially happened.

Oh well, I’ve still got the original, which is still rad, so who cares? Anyone else see it or even want to?

Four Movies I Dug

2009-02-21
5:28:59 am

It may come as a bit of surprise, but my movie intake has almost trickled to a crawl lately. The movies in this post have been vied over a period of almost months. I’ve been a lot more tired lately and haven’t been staying up as late, but I’m still watching for you, my faithful readers (also because I’m half-addicted to movies, I think). So, here we go:

 

NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST (2008)

I didn’t LOVE Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, but I liked it about as much as I thought I would. I’m a sucker for told-in-one-night movies like Can’t Hardly Wait and the like. Plus, this one stars Michael Cera and Kat Dennings who is crush-worthy in my book (don’t tell Em). The basic story isn’t all that mindblowing, it’s your basic “two people who are dating other people meet each other, fall for each other, have a few difficulties, but SPOILER get together in the end” flick, but what’s fun for me is in the details. Aside from the solid performances and guest spots by the likes of Andy Samberg, Seth Meyers, Jay Baruchel, I like the New York club setting and the smaller details like Nora’s dad SPOILER owning Electric Ladyland studios. I have no idea if the club/band life the movie puts forward is accurate, but I think the idea of following a mystery band around town to be really cool, though familiar (I can’t quite put my finger on why/where from). I also had music geeksplosions when they went to Electric Ladyland. And, I gotta say, I was surprised that this movie, which is based on a book that I haven’t, but now want to, read not only had a sex scene but also a number of gay characters (oh, and the creepiest stripperish dance scene involving an actual girl that I can remember). I guess teen movies have changed a bit and I think it’s pretty cool.

THE HOUSE BUNNY (2008)

I can’t exactly say The House Bunny surprised me, because, well, I kind of thought I would like it. You’ve got Anna Faris starring in a Fred Wolf (SNL, DIRTY WORK!!!) directed movie that mixes Playboy and sororities on a college campus in which the main point of the flick is to turn nerdy sorority girls (including Kat Dennings, Rumor Willis and Emma Stone) into hot chicks. I’d say that’s a pretty killer combination. And, as far as I’m concerned, it lived up to my expectations. Oh, plus it had Colin Hanks who I haven’t seen in anything but Orange County, but I liked that flick and he’s good in this too. Really, if the above description doesn’t tickle your fancy, you won’t dig this movie. If it does, dive on in and have a good time. I wouldn’t rank it in my top five comedies or anything, but it’s still worth a watch.

ALIEN RAIDERS (2008)

Alien Raiders is one of those movies that makes its way into the Wizard building and somehow found it’s way to my hands, probably because everyone knows I’m the horror guy in the offices. Anyway, I knew nothing about this movie and had absolutely no expectations (in fact, I can’t even remember why I watched this instead of something else like, say, Triloquist, which is in my “to be watched” pile). So, I was pleasantly surprised by this mix of Thing and The Mist (basically, “who’s the alien in a grocery store”). I was surprised with how in to this movie I got (I even put a comic down to watch it). For a much better review than I could give, check out my favorite blog on the web Horror Movie a Day. Also check out the comment section for what will be a now reduntant comment, plus a comment from the screenwriter!

DISTRICT B-13 (2004)

Compared to the rest of these flicks, B-13 here is an oldie, but it’s still a goody. Man, I had a great time watching B-13. It’s directed by the guy who just did Taken which I hear is pretty rad and want to check out. Anyway, the story is set in the near future, something about a ghetto in France where undesirables live. The intricacies of the plot escape me at the moment, but there’s an undercover cop and a crook working together to both get a bomb back and save one of the guys’ sister. The story itself isn’t the cool part though, I was a fan of the action scenes, many of which involved my personal favorite YouTube search of free running (or parkour if you’re nasty, or French). I caught this on Netflix’s amazing instant watch and can’t recommend it more to action fans. Seriously, go check it out NOW.

Okay, hope you enjoyed these brief movie reviews. Look for more trade and movie reviews soon!