Life After Beth (2014)

lifeafterbeth

Life After Beth is the directorial debut of Jeff Baena, the co-writer of the 2004 movie, I Heart Huckabees. It’s a strange mix of horror, comedy and romance, and its small budget relies heavily on the talent of its well established cast. The story, while having a generally interesting premise, isn’t exactly up to par with other successful zombie comedy movies like that of Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, or the more recent Warm Bodies. It succeeds in creating some laughs, as well as showcasing some of the talent of its main actors, Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan, but unfortunately, doesn’t use them to their full potential. Despite a few redeeming qualities, it fails to stand out in an already overly popular subgenre of movies.

Zach (Dane DeHaan) is grieving after the recent death of his girlfriend, Beth (Audrey Plaza), who went on a hike one day and was bitten by a poisonous snake. Zach, missing Beth and feeling guilty about their troubled relationship before her death, sulks around for a few days with her scarf wrapped around his neck, while his parents (Cheryl Hines and Paul Reiser) and brother (Matthew Gray Gubler) insensitively demand that he snaps out of it. Zach develops a close relationship with Beth’s parents (Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly), but once they stop returning his phone calls and refuse to let him in the house, Zach becomes suspicious. He sneaks around outside their house and sees Beth through a window. At first, he thinks that her death was just a hoax and a sad excuse for a break-up attempt, but eventually he realizes that with her extreme mood swings, newly found love for smooth jazz, and slowly decomposing body, Beth has become a walking dead girlfriend.

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Dane DeHaan, an actor who has proven his talent when it comes to playing dark and brooding characters, has a refreshingly new kind of role here that is both comedic and likable. Unfortunately, the material he has to work with isn’t the best. But DeHaan does what he can with it, and his effort is impressive regardless. His character is written in as a guy we don’t know much about despite him having the most screen time out of anyone. The only thing that defines him is Beth. He reacts to whatever is going on with her, but his character isn’t developed enough to be interesting unless she’s present in the scene as well.

Aubrey Plaza does a decent job of juggling the cutesy romantic and the gross, violent zombie sides of her character’s personality. She’s already mastered the dry humor, which has become her trademark in most, if not all, of her roles in movies and TV. That same dry humor is present here, and it fits perfectly in a zom-com. I have to say, it’s nice to actually see Aubrey Plaza smile for once, though. She has way more personality here through her sundress-wearing, boyfriend-loving, flesh-eating character than she does in most of the dull roles she gets stuck playing a lot of the time. It gives a glimpse into what she would be capable of if only given some better material.

Life-After-Beth-Kendrick

Unfortunately, the other actors aren’t given much to do. Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly are strange, overbearing parents who don’t want to tell Beth that she died and would rather go on accepting without question the far-fetched idea that she’s been resurrected “like Jesus.” Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser, and Matthew Gray Gubler, who are very underwritten as members of Zach’s family, are comical in their few minutes of screen time, but that’s about the only purpose they serve to the story. Then we have a random cameo from an awkward, giggly Anna Kendrick, who I guess is supposed to be the cleaner and more alive option for Zach, as opposed to the slowly rotting corpse that is his current girlfriend.

There are certain parts of the story that aren’t explored much, like the reasoning for why zombies love attics and like to cake the walls in dirt, or why the transformation to a zombie is as slow as it is, or hell, why there are even zombies in the first place. Beth seems to be the first one that shows up, but then others start digging themselves up out of their graves as well, which makes it seem like she’s the one who started the whole zombie trend in the first place. But why or how? Who knows. I guess it doesn’t matter much here. I think we are supposed to just accept things without question, I mean, that’s what all the characters do in the movie.

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It’s not all bad, though, there are some genuinely funny parts. I especially like Beth’s crazy mood swings and the way Zach reacts to them. The image towards the end of the movie of Zach and a full-fledged zombie Beth, who has a large, heavy stove strapped to her back, finally going on their hike together is just so weird and darkly funny. The fact that this crosses with what would seemingly be a defining, sentimental moment where Zach has to accept that Beth is not Beth anymore just makes this crazy scene all the more humorous.

Life After Beth succeeds in creating some genuine laughs in this wacky subgenre of zombie romantic comedy. The story overall isn’t that great, however, and it misuses the talent of a lot of the supporting characters. Dane DeHaan and Aubrey Plaza do well with what they’ve been given, but they could’ve done a lot more had their characters been better written. I’d say this is a fun rental at best, but not really worth going out of your way to see.

2/5

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

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Sergio Leone is often regarded as the master of spaghetti Westerns. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is my all time favorite of his films, possibly one of my favorite movies period. I was never big on Westerns until I saw Leone’s work, and I eventually found a growing love inside of me for classic European and American Westerns alike. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is such a great and entertaining film, I can watch it many times over again and never get tired of it. Thanks to some great performances by the three main actors who skillfully portray characters with varying moral degrees, and a story that endures but never falls flat, Leone’s third film in his Dollars Trilogy is arguably the most fun, brilliant, and mature epic of the bunch.

Set during the American Civil War, a lone gunslinger referred to as “Blondie” (Clint Eastwood) reluctantly teams up with a Mexican bandit named Tuco (Eli Wallach) when they come across a dying soldier by chance who tells them of a gold fortune worth $200,000 that is buried in a cemetery. Only Tuco knows which cemetery it is, and only Blondie knows the name of the grave it is buried in, forcing them to trust each other, even after their previous partnership had gone awry. A hired killer nicknamed Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) is also looking for this same treasure, stopping at nothing and killing anyone in his path in order to get to it.

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Blondie, Tuco, and Angel Eyes represent different sides of a person in the pursuit of a great profit. Blondie is “the Good,” and although he’s not necessarily good in the traditional sense, he’s the most moral compared to the other two. Greed still drives him to take part in this journey for gold, but he’s not so greedy that he’s not willing to make a deal and keep it to split the fortune. He also won’t hesitate to kill a man if necessary, but he strays away from killing innocents. So in truth, “good” is a relative term when using to describe him. He’s really just “best of the three,” but of course, that wouldn’t sound so good in the title.

I love watching young Clint Eastwood in Westerns. Not only was he incredibly good looking, but he was also extremely cool. He was also a lot more accessible than the older “get off my lawn” Clint Eastwood, although that one is certainly enjoyable in his own way. Eastwood apparently gave Leone a hard time when approached to play the role, but regardless of how much of a pain in the ass he might’ve been, I’m glad he ended up in it, because it was just meant to be. Clint Eastwood is the man who doesn’t even need a name to make a character memorable.

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Angel Eyes is “the Bad.” He is ruthless and remorseless in every way and won’t hesitate to cut down anyone in the way of getting what he wants. He is a hired killer, and he always finishes the job, something that he prides himself on. So in this sense, his job is to go around killing people he doesn’t even know, regardless of whether they are bad people or innocent people. He represents evil in the most traditional sense, and he doesn’t have many redeeming qualities to him other than being intelligent and having the skilled capabilities of tracking people down.

Lee Van Cleef, who plays a noticeably different kind of role here as Angel Eyes in contrast to his character in For a Few Dollars More, proves his skill as an actor who can play both a protagonist and a really great villain. It’s ironic that his character’s name is Angel Eyes, because the piercing, evil look in his eyes throughout this movie is actually quite scary. He’s pretty believable as a guy who is so bad, he even kills innocent kids.

Eli Wallach The Good The Bad and the Ugly

Tuco is by far the most dynamic character of the three. He represents “the Ugly.” He’s not good, but he’s not the worst. He’s mostly just selfish. He is the guy who will be your best friend if you have something that he wants, or your worst enemy if you cross him. His character is also the only one whose past is somewhat explored in a scene when Tuco meets his brother, whereas the other two’s motivations and reasons for their acquired traits remain a mystery. I’m not sure why he’s the only character with a backstory, but it works. Bad and ugly are two characteristics that are too close on the moral scale. Without a little bit of backstory, Tuco and Angel Eyes could easily have been interchangeable. They are both out for themselves, and have no problem killing a man if the circumstances deem it necessary. By giving Tuco a past, it separates him from Angel Eyes and gives him an identity that stands out from the rest. You realize that he’s not really an evil guy, but like with any human being, he is motivated by greed.

Tuco is also the wacky, humorous character of the bunch. He made the phrase, “There are two kinds of people in this world, my friend…” famous. He even has a ridiculously long name, Tuco Benedicto Pacífico Juan María Ramírez, which definitely separates him from Eastwood’s “Man with No Name.” Eli Wallach, another great actor who passed away this year, plays the character so well. He had a natural gift for comedy, and he possessed enough range to be able to play this character who wasn’t just black and white. It’s easy to sympathize with him, even after he tortures Blondie by making him walk out in the desert until he dehydrates nearly to death. Now that’s an accomplishment.

The soundtrack to this movie is iconic in itself, thanks to composer Ennio Morricone. Even if you have never seen the movie, you’ve probably heard the music somewhere else before, that whistling sound that changes mediums depending on which of the three men are in the scene. It just fits the picture so well. You would never be able to hear it out of context without thinking about this movie, making it one of the best original themes I’ve heard.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly also features one of the most famous scenes in history, with Blondie, Tuco, and Angel Eyes in a Mexican standoff. The shots cutting away from character to character, close-ups of their eyes moving back and forth between each other, the camera closing in on their hands inches away from their guns as they prepare to draw and shoot–it builds up the suspense so perfectly as you sit there waiting to find out who will live and who will die. Will each man have a gun drawn on him and will they all die? Or maybe two men will team up on the third. It’s hard to imagine this movie being what it is without this scene, it’s probably the best in the whole movie.

I simply love this movie. From Sergio Leone’s direction and Tonino Delli Colli’s cinematography with the sweeping shots of the amazing landscapes, to the backdrop to the Civil War, the contrast of characters, and all the Western clichés, there’s a lot to love here. I know that Westerns may not be everybody’s thing, but I’d still rate this as a must-see kind of movie. Coming from someone who was never big on Westerns years ago, this movie altered my tastes. I have to give my top favorites lists a lot more thought, but I can at least safely say at this point that The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is easily in my top 15, if not top 10, favorite movies of all time.

Netflix: Expiring Soon (August 2014)

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Below you will find some nice long lists of titles expiring on Netflix by the end of this month (August) in the US, Canada, and the UK. For anyone wanting to know what has been added this month, you can find that list here. I try to keep it as updated as possible.

It’s easy enough to get titles for the US thanks to outside sources (i.e. Reddit), but it’s damn hard to find them for Canada and the UK. I actually have to search the Netflix app myself and find expiration dates, which I have gladly chosen to do for my fellow Netflix lovers because I’m absolutely crazy. However, there’s probably a lot that I’ve missed. So, if anyone comes across any expiration dates that are not on this list, please be a doll and leave the title in the comments and I will add it. Thanks and happy Netflixing everyone!

Note: Unless any of these titles are renewed, the dates below represent the date of the last day these titles will be available for you to watch.

 

Netflix US

A few I recommend:

8/26

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Traffic (2000) 

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Toro, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Don Cheadle, Erika Christensen
Genre: Drama

In this Oscar-nominated film from Steven Soderbergh, the issue of drug trafficking can be seen from a number of different perspectives–separate stories that interconnect at some point. All of the stories are fairly well-written and very engaging. Soderbergh’s filmmaking techniques vary from story to story, fitting in well with the different tones each one has and making it easy for the viewer to be able to tell where the story is taking place after a while. This movie is worth seeing for Beneicio Del Toro’s performance alone as an honest Mexican police officer who finds himself mixed up in the world of the Mexican drug cartel in Tijuana. This is one of my favorite Soderbergh films, and I think is definitely worth checking out before its imminent expiration.

 8/31

The Apartment (1960)TheApartment

Director: Billy Wilder
Cast: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray
Genre: Comedy/Romance

C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) loans out his apartment almost every night to executives in his company looking for a place to cheat on their wives, in hopes that it will earn him a promotion. However, things get complicated when he develops feelings for the woman his boss is having an affair with. The Apartment was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won 5, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. Anyone who grew up watching Jack Lemmon in classics like Some Like it Hot, or even more semi-recent films like Grumpy Old Men will love him in this. He’s just one of those endearing characters you can’t help but love. This movie is a great mix of humor and sentimental moments, and I think it was daring for its time, dealing with controversial topics like adultery.

 

Capote (2005)220px-Capote_Poster

Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Clifton Collins Jr.,Catherine Keener, Mark Pellegrino
Genre: Biography Drama

Capote takes place during the time in Truman Capote’s life when he was writing his book In Cold Blood, which deals with the story of a Kansas family who was allegedly murdered by two men named Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Richard “Dick” Hickock (Mark Pellegrino). During his research into the murder, he develops a friendship with Perry Smith, despite the fact that he is a murderer facing death row. Philip Seymour Hoffman pulled off a number of amazing performances in his lifetime, and this is one of his best. There was very little that he couldn’t do when it came to playing different kinds of characters in movies. He played Truman Capote so well in what seemed like an effortless, yet flawless performance and ended up with a well-deserved Oscar for this feat. Even if you don’t give a damn about Truman Capote, watching it just to see Hoffman do what he did best is worth it.

 

Dirty Dancing (1987)220px-Dirty_Dancing

Director: Emile Ardolino
Cast: Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach
Genre: Music/Romance

“Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) falls in love with her dance instructor, Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) while spending the summer in a holiday camp with her family. Dirty Dancing is just one of those iconic movies from the ’80s that I feel like everyone has to see at least once. It’s not the best movie, and it’s not even one of my favorites, but it’s just one of those things, you know, you just have to see. Some people really truly love it, though, and I can’t take that away from them. The dancing is kind of cool and Patrick Swayze was a total boss. Despite some really corny parts and a very predictable story, it’s still pretty entertaining.

 

The Fisher King (1991)220px-The_Fisher_King_Poster

Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl
Genre: Drama/Comedy

Jack (Jeff Bridges) is a former radio DJ struggling with a life-altering mistake he made which cost some people their lives. He meets Parry (Robin Williams), a homeless man who Jack soon finds out is one of the victims of that mistake, and he takes it upon himself to help him get his life back on track. For anyone still reminiscing of Robin Williams’ past movies due to his unfortunate untimely death recently, The Fisher King is definitely one to see. I’ll warn you though, it may give you the “feels.” I’m pretty sure I cried during this movie, and that was before he died, can’t imagine how I would feel watching it now. For anyone who has read my ranking of Terry Gilliam’s movies, you’ll see I put this one in the top 5. It’s worth watching even just to see Robin Williams balance tragedy and humor in one role.

 

The Long Goodbye (1973)thelonggoodbye

Director: Robert Altman
Cast: Elliott Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden
Genre: Crime Drama

Private detective Philip Marlowe (Elliot Gould) doesn’t believe authorities when they say his friend Terry killed his wife. When information turns up later that Terry committed suicide, Marlowe starts an investigation to find out what really happened. As serious as the plot sounds, this movie acts as somewhat of a dark comedy. Elliot Gould plays this character who always has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, he has a cat who leaves him after he buys the wrong brand cat food, and he has female neighbors who are always outside with their tops off. On top of that, he’s just a funny character. He takes everything with a grain of salt and it never seems like he’s worried about any kind of danger he may be in, and surprisingly, that doesn’t take much away from the plot either. There’s also a brief, non-speaking cameo of Arnold Schwarzenegger as he strips down and flexes his uber muscles. It’s random, but funny.

 

Panic Room (2002)220px-Panic_Room_poster

Director: David Fincher
Cast: Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakam
Genre: Sports Drama

A mother and her daughter move into a new house. When three men break into their home one night, they have to try to survive by locking themselves in the panic room, the place that harbors the fortune the men are looking for. Normally, it pains me to have to watch Kristen Stewart try to act, but this is one of the few movies where I actually find her bearable. In addition to that, I get to watch talented actors like Jodie Foster and Forest Whitaker do their thing, as well as a weird looking Jared Leto with cornrows. Panic Room is entertaining and suspenseful. It’s not my favorite David Fincher film, but it’s still pretty damn good.

 

220px-What_About_Bob_filmWhat About Bob? (1991)

Director: Frank Oz
Cast: Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty
Genre: Comedy

Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) drives his therapist, Dr. Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) completely insane when he tracks down him and his family while they are on vacation. This is probably one of the funniest movies I can remember from the ’90s. Bill Murray is so great in this, and it’s a reminder of why he’s so revered in comedy. Him and Richard Dreyfuss play off each other so well, they have a great comedic, yet stressful, kind of chemistry throughout the movie, and it just works. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys comedy, especially those who love Bill Murray from his Ghostbusters days. It’s actually been far too long since I’ve seen this, come to think of it, and I might just have to watch it again myself before it expires.

US Titles (Full List):

8/23
The Shadow Riders (1982)
8/24
Love and Debate (2006)
The Other F Word (2011)
The Road (2009)
8/26
2012: Ice Age (2011)
Traffic (2000)
8/27
Area 407 (2012)
Beneath the Darkness (2012)
Films of Fury: The Kung Fu Movie Movie (2011)
Friends With Kids (2011)
Penumbra (2011)
Queen to Play (2009)
8/28
A Heavenly Vintage (2009)
Running Inside Out (2012)
8/29
Wrecked (2011)
8/30
Buried Alive (2007)
8/31
About Last Night…(1986)
Ali (2001)
Ali G Indahouse (2002)
The Apartment (1960)
At the Earth’s Core (1976)
Azur and Asmar: The Princes’ Quest (2006)
Baby Shower (2011)
The Bad Intentions (2011)
Before the World Ends (2009)
A Beginner’s Guide to Endings (2010)
Bellflower (2011)
Beyond the Grave (2010)
Black Mama, White Mama (1972)
Blood Runs Cold (2011)
Blood: The Last Vampire (2009)
Born Romantic (2000)
Bucktown (1975)
Bugsy (1991)
Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)
Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh (1995)
Capote (2005)
The Captains (2011)
The Captains Close-Up (2013) (TV)
Captains of the Sand (2011)
The Case for Israel: Democracy’s Outpost (2009)
Charley Varrick (1973)
Cochochi (2007)
Coyote (2008)
Cujo (1983)
The Daniel Project (2011)
Deal (2001)
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Doctor Dolittle (1967)
Double Jeopardy (1999)
Drained (2006)
The Eiger Sanction (1975)
El Dorado (1966)
The Eleventh Hour (2008)
Emma Smith: My Story (2008)
End of the Road (2012)
Failure to Launch (2006)
The Fisher King (1991)
Flyboys (2006)
Fool for Love (1985)
Forbidden to Forbid (2005)
Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football (2011)
Foreign Letters (2012)
The Four Year Plan (2011)
Game of Death (2010)
Gasolina (2007)
Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (2009)
Gothic (1986)
H.O.T. Human Organ Traffic (2009)
The Hard Word (2002)
Harriet the Spy (1996)
Harsh Times (2005)
The Haunting (1999)
How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008)
I.Q. (1994)
Island of Grace (2009)
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (2003)
Just One of the Guys (1985)
Kingdom of War: Part 1 (2006)
Kingdom of War: Part 2 (2006)
The Long Goodbye (1973)
Lord of Illusions (1995)
Lust, Caution (2007)
Midnight Express (1978)
The Mummy (1932)
My Summer of Love (2004)
Never Back Down (2008)
O.C. and Stiggs (1985)
Panic Room (2002)
Penelope (2006)
The People Under the Stairs (1991)
Perfidy (2009)
Perpetuum Mobile (2009)
Pinky Dinky Doo (2005) (TV)
Popeye (1980)
Return to the Blue Lagoon (1991)
S.I.S. (2008)
S.W.A.T.: Fire Fight (2011)
The Samba Poet (2006)
The Servant: The Untold Story of Bang-Ja (2011) (mini-series)
Sesame Street (2006) (TV)
Sesame Street: Classics (1974) (TV)
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Silverado (1985)
A Slipping Down Life (1999)
Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Stir Crazy (1980)
Superstar (1999)
Sweet Evil (2010)
Tees Maar Khan (2010)
Thieves Like Us (1974)
The Tree (2009)
Ultimate G’s: Zac’s Flying Dream (2007)
Under Fire: Journalists in Combat (2011)
Unstable Fables: Goldilocks and the 3 Bears (2008)
Vertical Limit (2000)
Vincent & Theo (1990)
What About Bob? (1991)
Who Killed the White Llama? (2007)
Wicker Park (2004)
William Shatner’s Get a Life! (2012)
World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2 (2011)
WWE: The Top 25 Rivalries in Wrestling History (2013)
Yobi, the Five-Tailed Fox (2007)
IMAX Documentaries (8/31):
Arabia (2010)
Dinosaurs Alive! (2007)
Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia (2007)
Legends of Flight (2010)
Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs (2007)
The Ultimate Wave: Tahiti (2010)
Wild Ocean (2008)
30 for 30 Documentaries (8/31):
The 16th Man (2010)
40 Minutes of Hell (2012)
The Announcement (2012)
The Band That Wouldn’t Die (2009)
The Best That Never Was (2010)
The Birth of Big Air (2010)
Catching Hell (2011)
Charismatic (2011)
The Dotted Line (2011)
Fernando Nation (2010)
Four Days in October (2010)
Guru of Go (2010)
The House of Steinbrenner (2010)
Into the Wind (2010)
Jordan Rides the Bus (2010)
June 17th,1994 (2010)
King’s Ransom (2009)
Little Big Men (2010)
The Marinovich Project (2011)
Marion Jones: Press Pause (2010)
Muhammad and Larry (2009)
No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson (2010)
Once Brothers (2010)
Pony Excess (2010)
The Real Rocky (2011)
Renée (2011)
Roll Tide/War Eagle (2011)
Run Ricky Run (2010)
Silly Little Game (2010)
Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? (2009)
Tim Richmond: To the Limit (2010)
The Two Escobars (2010)
The U (2010)
Unguarded (2011)
Unmatched (2010)
Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks (2010)
Without Bias (2009)

 

Netflix Canada

8/22
Arjun (2011)
8/23
Requiem for a Killer (2011)
Stella Days (2011)
8/24
The Moo Man (2013)
8/25
Hugo (2011)
8/27
2012: Ice Age (2011)
The Catechism Cataclysm (2011)
8/29
The Limits of Control (2009)
Tales of the Riverbank (2008)
8/31
$5 a Day (2008)
35 Shots of Rum (2008)
Be Cool (2005)
Breakdown (1997)
The Beautiful Person (2008)
Broadcast News (1987)
Broken Embraces (2009)
The Case for Israel: Democracy’s Outpost (2009)
Coach (2010)
The Countess (2009)
Crime is Our Business (2008)
Failure to Launch (2006)
The Great Escape (1963)
Hoffa (1992)
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
Le Dernier pour la Route (2009)
Let’s Make Money (2008)
Loft (2008)
Mia and the Migoo (2008)
The New Daughter (2009)
New Year’s Eve (2011)
No Impact Man (2009)
North Face (2008)
Park Benches (2009)
Pinky Dinky Doo (2005) (TV)
Project X (2012)
Queen to Play (2009)
Sesame Street (2006) (TV)
Sesame Street: Classics (1974) (TV)
Solitary Man (2009)
Stealing Beauty (1996)
Tees Maar Khan (2010)
Tomorrow at Dawn (2009)
Win Win (2010)
Women in Trouble (2009)

 

Netflix UK

8/23
The Moo Man (2013)
8/24
2012 (2009)
8/26
The Perez Family (1995)
8/27
Tuck Everlasting (2002)
8/29
Ella Enchanted (2004)
8/30
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
The Animal Train (1998)
Break Up (1998)
Bruce Almighty (2003)
Bubble Boy (2001)
Camp Nowhere (1994)
The Case for Israel: Democracy’s Outpost (2009)
Castle (2009) (TV series)
Catfish (2010)
Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)
Children of the Corn 7: Revelation (2001)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
The Color of Money (1986)
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
Daddy & Them (2001)
The Daniel Project (2011)
Down in the Delta (1998)
Drunken Tai Chi (1984)
El Mariachi (1992)
End of the Road (2012)
Ernest Goes to Jail (1990)
Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)
Father of the Bride (1991)
Final Encounter (2000)
Finding Fidel: The Journey of Erik Durschmied (2010)
The Flaw (2011)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Great Decisions in Foreign Policy (2013) (TV series)
H.O.T. Human Organ Traffic (2009)
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
The Hurricane (1999)
Il Divo (2008)
Jack (1996)
Katyn (2007)
Mother’s Boys (1994)
On the Line (2001)
A Passage to India (1984)
Phantoms (1998)
The Prophecy 2 (1998)
The Prophecy 3: The Ascent (2000)
The Prophecy: Forsaken (2005)
Rain Man (1988)
The Replacement Killers (1998)
Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)
Rushmore (1998)
Saw VI (2009)
The Secret Life of Birds (2011) (mini-series)
Stakeout (1987)
Spymate (2006)
Tales From the Crypt: Ritual (2002)
Track Down (2000)
Trumbo (2007)
What About Bob? (1991)
When I Rise (2010)
Windfall (2010)

The Expendables 3 (2014)

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No one expects The Expendables franchise to be masterpieces of cinema, but I’d be lying if I said they weren’t at least mildly entertaining. The thing that makes them so appealing to action junkies like me is that you get to see a lot of the biggest action stars from the ’80s and ’90s come together and bring their individual classic badassery with them. However, aside from a few awesome additions to the cast (Banderas, Gibson, Snipes), The Expendables 3, under new direction by Patrick Hughes (the guy remaking my precious The Raid movie), suffers from a lame PG-13 rating, a large and unnecessary addition of newbies, and not enough corny fan servicing to the old school action lovers.

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and Toll Road (Randy Couture) break a former Expendables member named Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) out of a military prison and recruit him to help them with a mission in Somalia. When they arrive, Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) is already there to assist them. To Barney’s surprise, another former Expendables member and enemy, Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who Barney thought he had killed, is there working as an arms dealer and selling off a shipment of bombs. After a shoot-out, Caesar is injured and hospitalized, and this leads to Barney’s desire to exact revenge on Stonebanks, but he doesn’t want the rest of his crew to be killed in the process. After dropping his crew, he meets up with Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer), who helps him in tracking down some new young members for his team. This leads to the addition of an ex-Marine, John Smilee (Kellan Lutz), a club bouncer, Luna (Ronda Rousey), a computer expert, Thorn (Glen Powell), and a weapons expert, Mars (Victor Ortiz). Somewhere along the way, a looney, fast-talking Spaniard named Galgo (Antonio Banderas), joins him in desperation to find work. When the young crew end up captured and held as hostages, Barney has to reunite with old crew in order to save them.

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I’m excited to see Wesley Snipes back in action again. He even makes a joke about being locked up because of tax evasion–the reason for his real life imprisonment. In this, he’s a knife-wielding badass, rivaling the already established knife-wielding team member, Lee Christmas. I think it’s cheap, though, that they bring in Wesley Snipes and then immediately hospitalize the only other black guy on the team. What’s up with that? Not trying to bring up a race issue or anything, but I’m just saying Terry Crews is one of the better and more enjoyable cast members. This movie is weighed down heavily enough by people who can’t act worth a damn. If you have to hospitalize someone, why not Randy Couture or something? But apparently there can only be one black guy? Lame!

Antonio Banderas is another great addition to the cast, he was actually my favorite character in this whole movie. He was the only one who was even remotely funny, and he had a very goofy, likable charm to him that was present even in his shoot-out action scenes.

Mel Gibson was one of the best things about this movie. He’s a great bad guy and so easy to hate. Having him on the opposite side was one of the filmmakers’ better decisions. I might even like him more than Jean-Claude Van Damme’s villainous character from The Expendables 2, although Gibson can’t bring the awesome roundhouse kicks that Van Damme brought to the last movie, so in that sense, the fight between him and Stallone’s character was not as good.

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I love Harrison Ford in general, but I didn’t like his character in this. He was kind of dull and I wasn’t sure what his purpose was besides taking the place of Bruce Willis. I’m actually surprised he agreed to do this movie. He had a couple of ok scenes involving piloting a helicopter, but other than that, he was forgettable like many others in this bloated cast. I kind of missed Bruce Willis, honestly, he may do a lot of really terrible movies, but at least he is reliable and delivers his special humorous Bruce Willis-y action in every one.

Stallone was his usual self, but I feel like he brought a lot of overly dramatic performances in a few scenes. Actually, I think the story suffered a bit from being too overly dramatic in some places. For example, when Barney tries to drop his old team members and replace them with new ones, you have your typical montage of characters moping around at home, with some kind of melancholy rock music playing in the background. It was a little bit corny, not to mention, I don’t understand the logic behind dropping a bunch of old members so that a bunch of young people can risk their lives for a mission instead. It was just a sad excuse to add in a ton of uninteresting new people to the story.

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I didn’t think the young cast was really needed for this. I mean, the best part about The Expendables is that it’s nostalgic of all the older action films people have either grown up loving or grown to love, the older and more experienced cast is what makes these movies what they are. Now, it seems, it’s losing itself in the desire to cater to those who have no friggin’ clue about the greatness of B-action movies of the ’80s and ’90s. Yes, I love new action movies also and there are quite a few young action stars I love to watch, but that doesn’t mean that they belong in this movie, especially if they aren’t going to be utilized to their full potential. With that said, Kellan Lutz and Glen Powell were ok I guess, Ronda Rousey had a few cool fight scenes, but her acting and weird facial expressions were a little distracting, and I totally forgot that Victor Ortiz even existed in this, and I don’t know if that’s because he can’t act or he was written as an unmemorable, inconsequential character–probably a little of both.

I also have to add that these movies need a lot more Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jet Li. Arnold is just so ridiculous that I can’t help but love him, but he barely exists in these movies, with the exception of a bigger part in The Expendables 2. Jet Li was only ever really in the first movie, as he checked out pretty early on in the second, and in this one he just shows up towards the end. How are you going to have a martial arts star in a movie and make him just sit on a helicopter and shoot stuff? Come on.

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The Expendables 3 also lacked the obvious nods to some of the actors’ previous roles, which is something that totally made the second movie. The Expendables 2 had a ton of nerdy fan servicing too, even going as far to cast Chuck Norris in a role and give him a line consisting of one of the numerous Chuck Norris jokes that circulate the Internet. It was a movie that was so self-aware of being a rehash of old action stars, it was corny in all the right ways, it made better use of its cast members, it had some great nostalgic dialogue, and it was just an all around better attempt at doing what these kind of movies aim to do.

This movie succeeds in bringing quite a few entertaining action scenes, with some great new cast members and a few that are forgettable. Overall, it lacks the same kind of excitement from the previous movies, and a lot of the better characters don’t get enough screen time. You can’t really expect too much from a movie like this, but coming from someone who actually loves stupid action movies, this wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for in a movie that stars a lot of people I’ve enjoyed watching over the years.

1.5/5

Blade Runner (1982)

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Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is a movie whose brilliance and expertise in the sci-fi genre was never fully appreciated until years after its release. There are still plenty of people who find this movie to be greatly overrated, and that’s ok. Even I will admit to the fact that Blade Runner only grew on me after multiple viewings. Now, I consider it to be one of the best sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen, with many mesmerizing visuals and philosophical themes embedded in a dark, futuristic world.

Based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In 2019 Los Angeles, Replicants who were manufactured by the Tyrell Corporation and were being used for slave labor on off-world colonies are now illegal on Earth following a violent incident. Any Replicant who lands on Earth must be “retired,” a.k.a. killed by “Blade Runners.” Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is one of these Blade Runners who is given the assignment of finding four escaped and dangerous Replicants who are hiding out on Earth. During this mission, he meets a special Replicant named Rachael (Sean Young), who he falls in love with. In the meantime, the group of Replicants, lead by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), are in search of their “maker,” so that they may find a way to overcome the four year lifespan they were given when they were made, and won’t hesitate to kill anyone who gets in their way.

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Blade Runner has one of the best opening scenes, and nothing even really happens in it. Yet, the first scene in the movie is so perfect for this type of story, as it immediately sets the tone, as well as foreshadows some of what’s to come. It opens to a dark and fog filled city landscape—a futuristic Los Angeles structured in fire-belching buildings (resembling a fiery Hell). One can only guess how badly Los Angeles is suffering from pollution. It gives way to the idea that the world has become even more industrial throughout the years, and that industry and technology has completely taken over. The vision of flying cars further establishes these obvious technological advancements. No wonder people are moving to off-world colonies.

The Tyrell Corporation is seen in the background as two large, pyramid shaped buildings. It’s fitting that these buildings be so architecturally unique, because this corporation is responsible for creating the Replicants, and the man who runs it is almost a god-like figure—the “maker,” as Roy Batty refers to him at one point. The pyramid, as it is reflected in the close-up of a blue eye, also represents the symbol of the all-seeing eye of God. This further introduces the opposing symbols of Heaven and Hell, a recurring theme throughout the movie. Inside one of these pyramid-shaped buildings is a man in a dark, smoke-filled room, resembling any scene you’d see in any old noir film, giving this movie the ominous, detective-like feel that it’s meant to achieve.

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Often, in that beginning scene (yes, I’m still talking about the first scene), there are quick cuts to extreme close-ups of a blue eye, where the cityscape and fire are reflected. The eye is an important connection to the film’s narrative, acting as a motif popping up throughout. Looking into the eye becomes the only way for people to tell the difference between humans and Replicants, as the eye involuntarily reacts to things that evoke empathy in a person. Eyes are also linked to memories, and when someone dies, those memories are lost, “like tears in rain,” as Roy states in his end monologue. Eyes are also what Ridley Scott refers to as a “two-way mirror.” They perceive a lot and they give away a lot. This is why the Replicants are often shown with glowing retinas in the film.

Both humans and Replicants struggle to delay death. Mortality is something they have in common, the fact that Replicants can perceive mortality in a similar way to how humans do goes to show that although they were artificially made, they were made so innately human, with memories to boot. Even Rachael doesn’t know at first that she is a Replicant. There’s also hints that lead to questioning of whether or not Deckard is even human. Whether he is or he isn’t is not of dire importance, however, but the question of what it means to be human is important. While the characters with authority are telling you that those who lack empathy are not human, it becomes clear that Replicants, even Roy, sometimes show more emotion than the seemingly dull, human Deckard.

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I could honestly go on and on about the themes and symbols in this film–the use of eyes, religion, corporate power, humanity, technology–but then this would end up being a ten page analysis instead of a review. Let’s just say that this film is pretty deep, and the way these themes are laid out before the viewer is brilliant. Although there is action in it, it is not an action-packed film. In my opinion, it’s better off that way. It achieves the depth of a clever sci-fi without being bogged down by inconsequential action scenes.

Despite there being seven or so different cuts of the film, the theatrical cut and the final cut are the two that I’ve seen. The theatrical cut was weighed down by admittedly bad narration from Harrison Ford, as well as a Hollywood “happy” ending. The final cut excludes any narration, has an ambiguous ending, and includes a couple of scenes that are left to the viewer’s interpretation. I find the differences in these cuts to be quite important to the quality of the film as a whole. If I had seen the theatrical cut first, I probably wouldn’t have even liked this movie as much as I do. Of course, there are some people who prefer this version for their own reasons, but I look at it as more of a dumbed down version of the film. I don’t need people to spell out the meanings of things in movies for me, I prefer to come to my own conclusions about what’s going on. It doesn’t matter if I’m wrong, at least I have ideas of my own, and the beauty of films like this is that a lot of it is open to interpretation.

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The visuals are incredible, and the world that Scott has created here is beautiful in its own dark way. Everything is detailed and adds to the bigger picture of a culturally mixed (yet dominantly Asian), polluted and futuristic world. Often times, visual effects and set designs in sci-fi movies from the ’80s and earlier date really fast, but this one still holds up. I still find it to be one of the most visually appealing movies I’ve seen.

Harrison Ford doesn’t give his most energetic performance here, but I like to think that was intentional. It adds to the ambiguity of his character and promotes the question of whether he is actually human or a Replicant. Also, it allows for a more shining presence of the Replicants. Rutger Hauer really steals the show in this one, the scene with him and his maker, as well as the rooftop scene are a couple of my favorites. Sean Young and Daryl Hannah also give equally impressive performances as beautiful and troubled Replicants.

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Blade Runner has become a sci-fi classic despite some polarized views of whether or not it is deserving of its status. It took me a few viewings, but it has become one of my favorite sci-fi movies of all time. Full of some great visuals, meaningful images and quite a few underlying themes, it succeeds as a quality dark and futuristic film, and one of director Ridley Scott’s best.

R.I.P. Robin Williams

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I was devastated to hear the news of Robin Williams’ death. He was always a symbol of my childhood, and honestly, I think a piece of my childhood just died with him yesterday. You know that an actor is great when he has such an impact on people’s lives, that you feel almost like you’ve lost a long time friend, even if you’ve never met him. That’s how I felt yesterday.

To me, Robin Williams wasn’t just a comedian. He represented a sliver of hope in worlds that carried heavy misfortune. He often played the hopeful characters, the light in a dark room. In Aladdin, he was the genie granting wishes to a poor thief. In Good Morning, Vietnam, he was a radio DJ making troops laugh despite their position in a violent war. In Dead Poets Society, he was a teacher who inspired students to find their own voice and “seize the day.” Good Will Hunting, Jack, Patch Adams, The Fisher King, Hook, Awakenings, Mrs. Doubtfire, the list goes on and on and on.

He was the man who could take a bad situation and turn it all around. That is what he symbolized to me. So to hear that he died in such a way is absolutely heartbreaking, but it goes to show that depression can affect even those who have been given the gift of creating laughter and hope for other people.

I can only hope now that this man has found his peace. I thank him for being that light for me in dark times, and for taking part in making my childhood one that was filled with wonder and laughter. The world had lost a wonderful and inspiring talent yesterday, but he will live on eternally in the amazing characters he brought to life on screen.

“Carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.” – Dead Poets Society

Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon – Sabotage (1936) – Justine’s Movie Blog

Thank you to Rob (Movierob) and Zoe (The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger) for letting me participate in your Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon!

Check out my review for one of Hitchcock’s lesser known films from 1936, Sabotage. While you’re at it, read up on some of the reviews that have already been written (and there’s plenty more to come). Hitchcock has made a large quantity of films in his career, and a lot of them are what I would consider to be “must-sees” for movie lovers everywhere. So what better time to become acquainted with them than the month of his birth?

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For our next Alfred Hitchcock review (our 18th so far), here’s a review of Sabotage by Justine from Justine’s Movie Blog.  If you don’t already follow her site, I urge you to do so, she reviews such an eclectic gamut of films so there is always something interesting to read.

Thanks Justine for being a part of this!

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Before director Alfred Hitchcock took his movie making talents to the United States, he was making classic films in his home country in the UK. One of these films was called Sabotage. Sabotage isn’t one of Hitchcock’s most well known movies, but it is, in my opinion, one of his most well made, and what I would consider an unpolished gem. Based on Joseph Conrad’s novel, The Secret Agent, Sabotage is purely a thriller, exposing Hitchcock’s special talents when it comes to presenting suspense in film through the use…

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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I was never really big into the Ninja Turtles when I was younger, but having an older brother who was, I had no choice but to watch the ’90s movies over and over again. I have to say, they weren’t so bad. Sure, if you look at them now they are obviously dated and aren’t made up in the impressive CGI technology that filmmakers today often abuse, but they had a lot of heart, and they were enjoyable enough even for a kid like me who didn’t carry around a Ninja Turtle lunchbox and own a million action figures. This most recent rendition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles doesn’t quite have the same kind of appeal as those older movies, however. Its failures reside in a lack of focus on the grossly CGI’d mutant heroes themselves, a main character who simply cannot carry a movie, a villain with nonsensical motivations, and a story that is extremely uninteresting in general.

WARNING: May be some spoilers!

April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is a struggling, but ambitious news reporter in New York City where a bunch of criminals called the Foot Clan run rampant. In the midst of witnessing a Foot Clan robbery, she spots a strange figure who she believes is a vigilante working against the clan. She tries to explain what she saw to her boss (Whoopi Goldberg) and co-workers, but no one believes her. After an incident in a subway station where Foot Clan soldiers take some people hostage, April finally gets to see the Ninja Turtles in full form and up close, however, they erase any pictures she takes of them, leaving her with little as far as evidence goes. Her obsession to figure out who they are leads her to piece together their origins. She remembers seeing her father and a man named Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) experimenting on turtles in a lab. She realizes that these turtles were once her “pets” who she named after Italian Renaissance painters. She eventually visits Sacks to learn more, but unknowingly gives away information of their existence to the man who is the protégé of the evil Shredder (Tohoru Masamune). Now, with the help of Leonardo (voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), their sensei, a rat named Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub), and her former co-worker, Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett), she must stop Shredder and Sacks from carrying out their master plan, which involves the mutagen that runs through the Turtles’ blood.

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It’s pretty obvious that Michael Bay has put his imprint on this movie, despite him not being the director, which I’m thankful for, because if he was, this movie would probably be three friggin’ hours long. It has its usual Bay product placement (i.e. Pizza Hut), objectification of women, some flashy CGI and action scenes for those with short attention spans, and some questionable humor.

Megan Fox, whose face is looking kind of Botox-y in this movie, is pretty much the main character, except that her purpose is somewhat useless minus piecing together the Turtles’ origin story. She may not be so skimpily dressed this time around, but her looks are still the main focus of her character. She is the object of affection for Will Arnett’s character, Vernon, who gets distracted by her butt whilst plummeting down a huge snowy mountain in a big truck, as well as Michelangelo, who makes weird comments throughout the movie like, “She’s so hot, I can feel my shell tightening!” I feel bad for her if a wimpy older dude and an ugly turtle teenager are her only prospects for love. So why is she the focus of this story if she’s so uninteresting? I have no idea.

Now let’s take a look at the villains of this movie for a moment. First, we have Eric Sacks, a guy whose mentor is a Japanese martial arts master, but who doesn’t know martial arts himself. The only thing he can do is be very bad at using a gun, and be easily defeated by a microscope-wielding Will Arnett. He’s also rich, and lives in a giant castle-like mansion. You want to know what his main motivation is for carrying out his master plan? To get rich. Well, to get more rich, because, you know, living in a big ass castle just ain’t enough.

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Then, we have Shredder, the Turtles’ arch nemesis. I’m not really sure what his motivation for being evil is, but I’m guessing it’s the usual wanting to rule the world kind of thing, except here it’s just ruling New York City. Why anyone would want to do that is beyond me. My Freudian explanation would be that Shredder has deep psychological problems and is scarred emotionally and physically, so now he wants to overcompensate by giving himself unlimited power over a large group of people…or something to that effect. But really, I’m the one overcompensating for the fact that his character wasn’t developed much at all. I don’t remember what his suit was like in the ’90s movies or wherever else, but in this, he can eject and recall knives at will, which seems kind of cheap considering he’s actually quite skilled in good old-fashioned fighting, Splinter being the only one who can almost match him.

Let’s move on to the Ninja Turtles. They all still have the same general personality traits. Leonardo is the reasonable leader, Raphael is the serious tough guy, Donatello is the intellectual, and Michelangelo is the goofball. Some differences here are that Michelangelo, while being goofy, is actually a bit perverted and creepy. Raphael is scary as hell, like someone working as a muscle for the mob or something, Donatello has glasses…just because, and Leonardo is…the least interesting. I also don’t get why they’re so gross looking. I guess maybe the filmmakers wanted to make them more realistic, as if actual turtles evolved into bipedal humanoids but still maintained the same texture of skin. It’s okay, though, I can run with it even though they appear significantly less friendly. Their personalities weren’t really developed much either, considering the movie didn’t take the time to flesh them out.

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The humor in this movie was mostly corny but I did have a couple of laughs. There were quite a few parts where Megan Fox would scream ridiculously at the top of her lungs, and that was just so over the top it was funny. There’s also an elevator scene where the Turtles start beatboxing in synchrony, which I found to be one of the more humorously endearing scenes in the movie. There were a few other one liners here and there, so it wasn’t all bad in that regard.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles falls short in a lot of ways, partly due to the script, direction by Jonathan Liebesman, as well as the obvious taint that Michael Bay has put on it. Coming from someone who is not as big of a Ninja Turtle fan as a lot of others, it was generally disappointing and I think this movie could’ve been a lot better. I only wonder if the long time fans feel the same way I do.

1/5

On the Waterfront (1954)

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With Elia Kazan as director and Marlon Brando playing the leading role, it’s easy to accept On the Waterfront as one of the greatest American classics, as this film already has a lot going for it with those two names alone. However, this film doesn’t just stand on the shoulders of one of the most influential filmmakers and one of the greatest actors of all time, as it so easily could’ve done. Instead, it succeeds with an engaging story, well written dialogue, talented supporting characters who help drive the plot, and a timeless message that is just as powerful today as it was back then.

On the Waterfront is a story about union corruption, as the union boss, Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), controls the waterfront, and in turn, is the main factor in whether or not regular men can find work on any given day. Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) is one of those workers. His brother, Charley (Rod Steiger), is close to Friendly, and therefore, Terry has no problem finding work. However, it is also because of Charley and Friendly that Terry ruined his chance at becoming a championed boxer, as he threw a fight so that Friendly could win a bet he placed against him, an incident that Terry still resents.

Terry finds himself amongst a large group of workers who have accepted that they must play “deaf and dumb” when it comes to the immoral and violent actions of the union boss. Terry unwillingly becomes a plot device in the murder of Joey Doyle, a man who Friendly has killed so that he won’t testify against him in front of the Waterfront Crime Commission, an agency that suspects Friendly of being responsible for a number of murders. When Terry becomes close with Joey’s sister, Edie (Eva Marie Saint), and upon the ever growing influence that a priest, Father Barry (Karl Malden), has on him, he finds himself becoming more aware of his conscience and begins to consider testifying against Johnny Friendly, even though being a “rat,” or a “canary,” as they call it, is not only frowned upon by the general community, but could also get him killed.

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Marlon Brando’s Oscar-winning performance is undeniably one of the things that makes this film so great. Being the talented actor that he was, Brando lost himself in the character of Terry Malloy. His scenes with the lovely Eva Marie Saint, who had her film acting debut in this and also won an Oscar for the role, are emotional and very important to understanding the transition that Brando’s character goes through during the film. She is his conscience. Even though he knows he should keep his mouth shut, his growing compassion for a woman whose bravery and persistence in trying to bring the men who killed her brother to justice is the driving force for Terry in coming to terms with what’s right and wrong. Terry is a man who rarely vocalizes what he feels, and so his actions, facial expressions and body movements are what guide the audience in understanding Brando’s character and his transformation. Leave it to Brando’s superb acting skills to be able to say something without having to really say it.

Terry also has a dynamic relationship with his brother, Charley. In an equally convincing performance by Rod Steiger, it’s clear that Charley is trying to look out for him, but he’s also the force which has held Terry back from becoming something more than a pawn in a corrupt blue collar world. Charley also has to come to terms with the idea that his brother is becoming a threat, as he catches wind of the possibility that Terry might testify against the union boss. He tries to brush it off, claiming that Terry is just a confused kid, but when Friendly orders Charley to either convince him or kill him, he becomes torn between his loyalty to his boss and his love for his brother. There is an iconic scene in the back of a cab where Charley pulls a gun on his brother while trying to talk him into silence. Terry reminds Charley of the effect he had on his future, thinking back to the day when Charley ruined Terry’s chances of becoming a successful boxer, claiming, “You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley.” It’s a great scene with some wonderful dialogue and two emotional performances.

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There’s also a couple of great performances by Lee J. Cobb as the heartless and corrupt union boss, especially in some of the end scenes when he gets into a physical brawl with Terry as his impending indictment leaves him crazed and violent. Karl Malden as Father Barry is the ultimate symbol of goodness, as he tries to gather the union workers together to stand up to evil and corruption, but he’s also not afraid to have a few beers or punch a guy in the face if he has to.

The ending is testament to the film’s message of standing up to evil. All that it takes is one brave man to face and share the truth in order to bring corrupt forces to their knees and rally the people to stand behind him. At first, it didn’t seem as though it was going to go in that direction, as people ignored Terry after his testimony and even a young boy who helped Terry take care of Joey’s pigeon coop took sad revenge out on him by killing the pigeons. Terry was also the only one not hired that day on the docks. However, the people gained respect for him once he confronted Johnny Friendly and is almost beaten to death by his thugs, declaring that they won’t work unless he does too.

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This story parallels that of director Elia Kazan’s personal controversial experiences with the House Committee on Un-American activities, where he acted as a witness and named eight former Communists in the film industry during a time when artists in Hollywood were being blacklisted for their alleged involvement in this party. This is an action of which a lot of people hadn’t forgiven him for almost 50 years later. When Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro presented him with an Honorary Academy Award in 1999 for his film achievements, there were some film industry professionals in the crowd who refused to applaud. So I think it’s safe to say that there are definitely a lot of cons to being a “canary,” and some of this is shown to us in Kazan’s film.

Controversial politics aside, Elia Kazan was a great filmmaker who introduced a few big names into Hollywood and influenced many others. On the Waterfront is one of his greatest achievements. With a strong story, memorable characters and some amazing performances, I think this film has earned its place as an American classic.

Fading Gigolo (2014)

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“What the hell did I just watch?” That was the first thought that went through my head as I was sitting through the credits of John Turturro’s vanity project, Fading Gigolo. Aside from the always reliable Allen-esque performance by the man himself, and a couple of “ha ha” moments, I couldn’t help but think there was a point here I must’ve missed.

Murray’s (Woody Allen) bookstore is closing. Being short on cash, he takes advantage of his dermatologist, Dr. Parker’s (Sharon Stone) query of whether or not Murray knows a man who would be willing to have a ménage à trois with her and her friend (Sofia Vergara). He references his friend and former employee, Fioravante (John Turturro), a man who has no experience as a gigolo, but who is “good with women.” Fioravante at first thinks this plan is absurd, asking, “You want to turn me into a ho?” But, after a few successful runs, realizes that he enjoys the extra money. Murray eventually introduces Fioravante to a widow of a Hassidic rabbi named Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), a woman whose loneliness persuades her to go against her religion’s strict laws of modesty by allowing Fioravante to give her a back massage. Meanwhile, Dovi (Liev Schreiber) a neighborhood patrolman who is in love with Avigal, is suspicious of her actions and follows her and Murray around, leading Murray to be interrogated by a Jewish court. Fioravante eventually develops strong feelings for Avigal, and vice versa, and he begins to question the morality behind what he is doing.

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This movie is–for lack of a better word–strange. It requires suspension of disbelief. I mean, it’s a little bit crazy to think that women as beautiful as Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara would ever have to pay a man for sex, much less some older guy who looks like John Turturro. Also, Woody Allen as a pimp–enough said. Then, the whole Hassidic Jew aspect of the story felt out of place. It seemed a bit like it was making fun of the religion. And is it really necessary for something as extreme as meeting a woman whose religion doesn’t even allow her to show her real head of hair be the reasoning for Fioravante to find a human connection and question what he is doing? Or was that even her purpose to the story? I’m not sure, it might’ve gone over my head. Or maybe the only reasoning for it was for Woody Allen to have a platform for which he can make the same old jokes about his religion. On top of that, there’s hardly any kind of transformation that Fioravante goes through. The ending hints that the main character has, in fact, learned nothing.

Another thing that bothered me about this movie was John Turturro’s performance. This is a guy who has a shining personality that often comes through in a lot of his off beat roles. I can think of quite a few I’ve liked from Coen brothers’ or even Spike Lee’s movies. Hell, his roles in numerous crappy Adam Sandler movies and…dare I say it? Transformers movies…are more interesting than this one. You would think since he wrote and directed this he would’ve given himself a better personality. He’s like a zombie. I don’t know if he was trying to be mysterious or cool, but it didn’t work. Instead, it looked as though he was in some kind of stupor the entire time.

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If it weren’t for Woody Allen doing what he does best (playing himself), and for the more sentimental and endearing part that Vanessa Paradis played, this movie would’ve really missed the mark, in my opinion. I’ll even give credit to Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara for somehow being able to pull off women who want to have sex with a catatonic man exceedingly well.

Fading Gigolo is somewhat similar to your run-of-the-mill Woody Allen movie, and maybe its biggest problem is that it’s not actually a Woody Allen movie. It has some of the same quirkiness, but not as much cleverness. As much as I like Allen and Turturro in general, this movie’s story unfortunately falls flat due to its off balance comedic and sentimental tones, a misplaced and strange focus on the flaws of Jewish society, and a main character who is neither believable nor memorable.

1/5