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.

Last Weekend Roundup

2008-11-24
4:58:28 am

Whew, it’s been a busy few weeks. I was pretty exhausted for most of last week, but Em and I did watch a bunch of movies last Sunday to celebrate the new TV. Instead of watching special effects heavy movies like Iron Man or Transformers we went in the opposite direction and watched a pair of romantic comedies. Not exactly my usual, but I did enjoy both flicks.

The first was a movie that had been sitting near our TV for a few weeks along with Drop Dead Gorgeous which Em borrowed from her friend Lee (hey Lee). It’s called The Sweetest Thing (2002) and stars Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, Selma Blair, Jason Bateman and The Punisher, er, Tom Jane. I’ll be honest, it’s been over a week and my memory’s definitely fuzzy, but basically Diaz falls for Tom Jane in a club and then tries to go after him at what she thinks is her brother’s (Bateman) but is really Jane’s. Plot-wise, it’s a pretty standard romantic comedy, but it’s the flourishes that make this a pretty good flick. Diaz and Applegate have some pretty over the top scenes and they often sneak into annoying territory with their catch phrases and Diaz’s mugging for the camera. But all in all, if you’ve got to watch a RomCom, it’s a pretty good one.

We also checked out Run Fatboy Run (2007) which also falls into the romantic comedy genre and follows a lot of the standard tropes, but I’m a big Simon Pegg fan and David Schwimmer did a great job directing him, Hank Azaria and Thandie Newton. Pegg plays a dude who ran out on his pregnant fiance (Newton) on their wedding day. Now it’s five years later, they’ve got a kid, he works as a security guard at a clothing store where he runs down bra-stealing trannies and Newton’s dating the super succesful Azaria who likes to run marathons. Pegg realizes how big of a mistake he made and now wants to made good by showing people (mostly her, his kid and himself) that he can run a marathon in England (where he lives).

What I do like about RFR is that, even though it is kind of paint by numbers, Schwimmer uses a few different colors than you might expect. Like a lot of other RomComs, we see that Azaria’s maybe not the greatest guy and we do feel good when Newton finally realizes this. But, and this is a SPOILER at the end, after Azaria’s out of the picture and Pegg’s proven he’s a good dude, it’s not like he and Newton just fall in love again. I appreciate that.

So far, I haven’t seen Pegg in anything that I didn’t like, except for the flick that he co-starred with Schwimmer in called Big Nothing which really didn’t do anything for me. He’s even the reason I’m looking forward to Star Trek, though now that I’ve seen the previews, that movie is really making me want to see it, so kudos to the marketing team.

Yeah, I know romantic comedies probably aren’t what you expected to read about in this first post after a slow week, but I’m trying to catch up on what I read and watched over the week. Until next time…