Six Movies I’ve Seen Recently

Even with all the Halloween Scene posts I’ve been doing this month, I still watch non blood and guys flicks, I just don’t necessarily have the time or energy to do lengthy posts about all of them. So let’s just jump right into it. Let’s just assume there are SPOILERS in all these reviews.

SPECIAL (2006)
I remember hearing about this Michael Rapaport movie about a guy who gains superhero-like powers a while back and thinking it sounded interesting. I dig superhero movies, even when they’re not about known characters and I like Rapaport. Movies like this can be an interesting take on elements of comics and superheros that norms might not have experienced before, but geeks like us have. Special does something like though. See, in Special, Rapaport is a comic book fan who takes part in a pharmaceutical study. He thinks it’s giving him super powers, when really it’s just messing with his mind. To be honest, I turned it off with about 20 minutes left because it was crazy-depressing. Rapaport is such a sad sack lunatic, that he’s hard to watch. For a while you’re not sure whether he really does have powers or not, but by the time I turned it off, after you’re convinced he’s just nuts, I’m not sure how things are supposed to make sense. For instance, when we see him in a chase scene, are we seeing the whole thing through his mind or not? Or the invisible fight? How did these work in real life? I don’t often go in for the “comic book readers as a community” thing, but I do feel like this movie doesn’t help paint comic book fans in any kind of positive light. Eh, moving on.

THE TV SET (2006)
After being disappointed with Special, I wanted to watch something I had heard good things about recently. When I was still at ToyFare, Justin, just told me he watched The TV Set and dug it. See, it’s written and directed by Jake Kasdan who was a director and producer on Freaks & Geeks and is about a producer trying to get his show off the ground only to find his vision being trampled on at every turn thanks to TV executives. David Duchovny is the producer while Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) are the execs giving him trouble. There’s even a brief appearance from Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg (Howard). As a creative person who likes the idea of creating art and just letting it speak for itself, it was hard watching a man’s vision get picked apart and seeing him try to fight for his ideas, but ultimately losing. But unlike with Special, the downer tone didn’t bother me because it reads like a cautionary tale. Not necessarily one that says “don’t get into TV because THIS can happen,” but more along the lines of “hey, heads up, this friggin happens.” The TV Set should be required viewing for anyone looking to get into the TV business and also is kind of a perfect meta bookend for Freaks & Geeks fans.

breakout posterBREAKOUT (1975)
Sometimes I go through the Netflix Instant Watch movies and just look for a certain actor. One of those actors is Charles Bronson, because he’s a badass. One of those movies is Breakout, which gives us the story of a woman trying to get her husband (Robert Duvall) out of a Mexican jail with the help of Bronson and his right hand man Randy Quaid. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t paying a ton of attention so I missed a lot of the intricacies of the plot. See, Bronson cons a bunch of people in order to pull off this prison break, with all kinds of twists and turns that I didn’t get all of. I will say that Bronson is the man, no doubt about that and it was a lot of fun seeing such a young Quaid and I didn’t even recognize Duvall as I’ve probably never seen a movie where he was this young. Anyway, you can do a lot worse when going through movies from the the 70s starring badass mothers.

FAME (1980)
As I’ve talked about before, I’m a big Kevin Smith fan and love listening to his Smodcast podcast. And, Smith is a big fan of Fame, having talking about it on several occasions. That combined with the new movie coming out and the fact that I’ve been hogging the Netflix DVDs with horror junk, I thought it’d be nice to put Fame at the top of the list so we could watching something on Tuesdays when you don’t watch anything else. And man, what a weird movie this is. You’ve got the message of how hard the life of a performer can be (graduates as waiters instead of actors, photographers looking to take advantage of girls, alcohol) mixed with these over-the-top dance sequences that flow out into the streets of New York or completely take over a lunchroom. Now, I know that performing arts kids can be dramatic, I did musicals in high school and knew plenty of them in college too, but this is just nuts. Though, I do appreciate the fact that it’s a practical musical, one in which the singing and dancing can practically take place in real life. In the end I liked the movie and was glad I had heard Smith talk about it so I wasn’t so surprised by all the intense craziness so I was ready for it, but I did find it a little unfocused. I didn’t have a grasp of who our main characters were until the fourth year and I feel like some of the characters were dropped as it did zoom in on our few main characters. Ah well, good stuff. I’m guessing the remake isn’t as hardcore and the new version of the theme song sucks all the energy and life out of the original. Fail. Oh, also, Alan Parker, who directed Fame also directed Pink Floyd’s The Wall, weird right?

AMERICA’S SWEETHEARTS (2001)
Remember how I said I hog the Netflix? I do, it’s a fact. But anytime Em and I try going through NetBox to find something to watch, it takes FOREVER. It’s not that our taste in movies is so wildly different, it’s just that the movies on Instant Watch tend more towards my weird tastes than hers. So, when we came across America’s Sweethearts starring John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julia Roberts and Billy Crystal. The idea is that John and Catherina are big time movie stars who break up and break down, essentially, but they still have a movie premiering that they need to do press for. Like The TV Set, Billy Crystal co-wrote the story based on his experiences in Hollywood, so it’s another kind of insider look and seems to gel with things I’ve read. Crystal plays John’s agent while Julia is Catherine’s sister/assistant. It boils down to a romantic comedy, but it was a good enough one to pass some time. Plus, as you know, I love me some John Cusack.

side out posterSIDE OUT (1990)
Are there any other sports movies about volleyball? It seems like the people behind Bring It On and Stick It should be working on one right now, though stay away from Ultimate Frisbee, I’ve got something in the works (ie, I want to eventually make something). Anyway, I had heard about Side Out before somewhere, saw it was available on the NetBox and just decided the hell with it, I’m doing this thing! And, it was just okay. I’d still rather watch Bring It On or Stick It. The story follows C. Thomas Howell as a guy working for a bank or something (I can’t even remember what the actual job is). He’s serving papers to a rad beach dude and ends up playing volleyball with another guy. They get their asses kicked, then train and get pretty good, but the other guy gets hurt and the rad beach dude takes his spot. You’ve absolutely seen this kind of movie before, but this time you get Howell and Courtney Thorne-Smith and even Kathy Ireland for a few seconds. Good enough for a few beers and a watch, but I’m not counting the days till I watch it again.

Best Of The Best: High Fidelity (The Movie)

For a few years now I’ve been on this absorption kick, trying to watch as many new movies and TV shows, read as many new books, comics and trades and listen to as much new music as possible. And by “new” I mean new to me, not necessarily brand new. This has probably been going on since right after college. In college I didn’t have a lot of money, but I’d still check out new movies at the theater and on the rare occasion when I could rent something, so that left me to peruse my personal DVD collection and those of my friends’. Well, one movie that I saw in high school, which spurred me on to read the book and then eventually watch the movie over and over again was High Fidelity (2000).

When I first saw High Fidelity in high school I was pretty enamored with the idea of working in a record store (still am really). I also really liked the idea of Top 5 lists, discovering new music and hanging out with music nerds and musicians. It wasn’t until I read the novel that I realized how weird of a guy Rob (the main character, played by John Cusack) is. Saying the dude has relationship problems and issues with women is like saying Michael Myers is irked by promiscuous teenagers. Anyway, Em and I watched High Fidelity on the car ride back to Ohio about a month ago (well, I recited every line in my head while she watched it for the first time on our portable DVD player). It was probably the first time in three years that I watched it. I used to watch it about once a month my Junior year of college when my roommate would be away from the room at night, it was his copy, so I had to buy my own once he graduated later that year.

It’s funny how different I look at things now that I’m older. I still love all of Jack Black’s lines and still want to a own a magical record store that doesn’t go bankrupt, but I look at Rob a lot differently now. I see how damaged he is and wonder what happened to him. I’m also glad that things worked out for him by the end of the movie, but also wonder if they stuck. Maybe when he turned 40 or 50 he flipped out and went through another crazy decade or something. Basically, I’ve been thinking about how these characters that were so important to me when I was maturing, dealt with further maturation, cause this growing up stuff can really suck.

Philosophy aside, I actually got into an argument with someone in the middle of a movie for my film class in college over High Fidelity. The movie was called Mifune (1999) and is from Denmark. The main woman in the movie is taking care of her mentally handicapped brother who’s obsessed with Toshiro Mifune, an actor in many an Akira Kurosawa film. I think there was something about aliens too, but who can remember all those subtitles? Anyway, I got into an argument saying that the main female character was Laura from High Fidelity and whoever I was with was completely convinced I was wrong. Well, I went right home and IMDbed her and was right Iben Hjejle was in both, so suck it whoever that was. Knowing that, it explains a few of Laura’s vocal ticks that always made me curious.

So, I guess I haven’t really explained why I like High Fidelity so much, but I’m not really sure if I could. I don’t know how into the movie I would be if I hadn’t fallen in love with it when I was younger. It’s like, I didn’t like Reality Bites when I first saw it because I thought Ben Stiller shouldn’t have been such a pussy, but maybe if I was really into the idea of making films that would have been enough to keep me hooked. I should check Reality Bites out again actually, it’s been a while. Anyway, I used to wonder when I was in high school if I would still really like movies like Empire Records and Dazed & Confused when I got older, because I watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High with my dad one time and I don’t think he enjoyed it as much, probably because you remember things like Phoebe Cates’ boobs and not that abortion stuff. Well, luckily for me (at least so far) I still like a lot of those movies. It’s a weird combination of quality and fondness, I’m guessing, with a sliding scale depending on the flick. High Fidelity still strikes a chord with me, but I wonder if 50-year-old TJ will be reclining in his hoverchair and still enjoying watching John Cusack go through his Top 5 Break-Ups Of All Time on my holo-glasses with the same enjoyment as I do now. If not, I at least hope I’ll still remember all of Jack Black’s lines. Let’s just hope I’m not wearing a Cosby sweater while watching.

Oh, and anyone wonder how close the movie is to the book, it’s super freaking close. Like, so close they turned the book into the script word for word. Well, it’s not British, but everything else is in there, just peep the deleted scenes for scenes from the book that didn’t make it into the movie (I love the stuff with the jilted wife trying to sell her cheating husband’s record collection). There was also a musical on Broadway that I missed out on, but Ben saw, hopefully he (or anyone else who’s seen it) will comment. Hopefully next there will be a video game to continue the slow media evolution of this property. Just think of how much fun it’s be to kick the shit out of this f#cking Ian guy in a myriad of different scenarios? Get working on that Flash dudes.

Also, check out this video I just discovered on YouTube, I’ve never seen it before!

Kurtzman and Orci’s The Legend of Zorro (2005)

Leave it to fate to present me with one of the few movies written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci that I haven’t seen after writing a post about them.

Usually I don’t like to watch movies I haven’t seen before on TV, but I’m guessing there weren’t a lot of scenes cut out of The Legend of Zorror for TBS on Saturday. I did have to suffer through two hosts who annoyed the crap out of me. Why do networks find it necesarry to put people like this on as hosts of a movie? Even if the movie is sponsored by someone specific (in this case San Diego’s Sea World), just show a bunch of extra commercials or videos of Shamoo launching people through the air. If they’re not going to add anything to the movie (like Dave Holmes does), then skip it.

Anyway, rant aside, I remember liking the original 1998 Mask of Zorro quite a bit, especially the legacy aspect of the hero (I’m a sucker for that). The funny thing is that I don’t even remember this movie coming out. Ah well. We catch up with Zorro who’s been married to Catherine Zeta-Jones for 10 years and they have a kid, so he gave up being Zorro (or maybe just for a short time, I’m not completely clear on that as I missed the first 10-15 minutes). Anyway, he gets pushed to far and finally gets to Zorro some dudes and it’s awesome.

The sword fights are cool, there’s explosions and fireworks, Antonio Banderas is awesome as always, Catherine Zeta-Jones is super pretty and also kicks some ass, the kid is pretty good at kicking ass himself AND Michael Emerson (that’s right, Ben from Lost), is in it. This is the only thing I know that I’ve seen him in after seeing him on Lost and he’s good in this too. The movie’s directed by Marin Campbell who also did Goldeneye and Casino Royale and is, as of now, slated to direct the Green Lantern movie I am really looking forward to. Like Rush Hour 3, it’s a great popcorn movie and I will make a point of watching it again if I stumble across it on TV again. Once again, well done Kurtzman and Orci, your record remains untarnished (I should really give Mission Impossible III another watch, it’s just so hard buying Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a villain!).