Archive for January, 2012


I decided today was a feel good movie type of day, and to fill that bill, I went with the 1992 classic, The Mighty Ducks starring the great Emilio Estevez and a veritable who’s who of child actors, many of whom have gone on to lead great acting careers.

The film starts off introducing us to a young Gordon Bombay getting a ‘pep’ talk, “If you miss you aren’t just letting me down, you’re letting your whole team down,” from his coach before heading out to make a penalty shot that would make or break the team’s goal of district champs in 1972. Bombay misses the shot and his hockey career is over before it even begins. Fast-forward 20 years and we see Bombay, lawyer at large 30-1 (he’ll claim 0 since he scored with one of the court officials) thinking his life is pretty sweet. After yet another win in the courtroom he decides to have a little fun with drinking and driving (the first of many lessons in the film) when he is pulled over and sentenced to 500 hours of community service coaching the District 5 youth hockey team.

The team is a ragtag bunch of kids who barely know which end of the stick is used to hit the puck, let alone where they should go once they have that figured out. Bombay takes what he learned from his coach when he played and begins yelling at his team to listen, and when that fails, he resorts to teaching his team to take dives and fake injury in order to raise their chances of winning. It doesn’t work out so well and Gordon is eventually confronted by one of his team members, Charlie Conway, played by an extremely young Joshua Jackson who convinces Gordon, along with some help from Gordon’s old friend Hans, who also owns the local hockey supply store, to develop his own form of coaching which leads to playing hockey with eggs, tying the goalie to the goal and having the team hit pucks at him, and playing catch with a football when warming up for a game.

Once Gordon decides he has to coach his own way and not the way his coach taught him, the team begins to pull together and grow, picking up a couple of figure skaters and a hard-hitting giant of a kid who breaks a lot of windows and can hit the goal one out of every five shots.

The team grows because of a rise in self-respect, respect for each other, and respect for Gordon. They aren’t just kids from a poor neighborhood any more. They’re better than they were, they aren’t District 5, they are the Ducks. The Mighty Ducks and they’re here to play hockey and have fun!

Once the ducks begin playing as a team, they start winning, thus begins the great montage of game clips leading up to the culmination of the film, the district finals against Gordon’s childhood team, and coach, the Hawks. The Ducks already lost to the Hawks early in the season when they were still lowly District 5, but they are more than ready for this final grudge match to claim the title. Throughout the final match we are kept in suspense, as the Hawks are stronger and faster and better players leaving the Ducks behind 2-0 in the first period. The Ducks manage to get their score back up and in the third period we are shown our first glimpse of the now legendary Flying V maneuver. The Flying V is exactly what it sounds like, when viewed from above it looks like the migratory flight pattern that ducks take when heading south. The puck is passed within the V as they fly down the ice and scoring a goal leaving us with a nail-biting 4-4 score. Then the penalty kicks in and the Ducks have one final chance to beat the Hawks. Gordon asks his team who should get to take the final shot and it is decided that Charlie should finish what the team began at the beginning of the season.

This is the time for Bombay to really shine and show his team, Charlie, and the audience watching, what he’s learned through his ordeals from dealing with work, his old coach, and becoming the coach he is now. He pulls Charlie aside and tells him “You may make it, you may not. But that doesn’t matter Charlie, what matters is that we’re here! Look around, who would have even thought we’d make it this far? One, two, three, triple deke. Take your best shot, I believe in you Charlie, win or lose.”

This may seem a little cheesy, but watch it and I dare you not to get a big goofy grin on your face. Yes, it may still be cheesy as heck but it’s a good message and you’ve got to love Disney and their not so subliminal messages to youth and adults alike.

The Mighty Ducks is a timeless story of the underdogs coming up to be heroes. It shows what sportsmanship should be. It shows what hockey used to be. Maybe it’s time for Vancouver to re-watch this classic and learn a thing or ten about what being a sports fan really means.

 

 

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In 1986 Paramount put out one of the greatest movies of all time. A small film directed by John Hughes, starring Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara, and Alan Ruck, and supported by Jeffery Jones and Baby, sorry, Jennifer Grey. When I first saw this film in its entirety I was probably in 6th or 7th grade watching it on TV. It came out the year I was born but still carried such an impact that when I saw it, I wanted to become Ferris Bueller. I wanted my day off. Only problem? I lived by a small farming town; note that I said ‘by’ as in ‘out in the country’. Roughly 8 miles away from any of me friends, so the point in taking a day off was kind of moot as I wouldn’t have been able to do anything except watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off anyways and become more morose that I lived out in the country and not in the beautiful city of Chicago. But I digress; we’re here to talk about movies.

This past year marked the 25th anniversary of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and that’s a reason to celebrate. John Hughes is the epitome of teen movie directors with a gamut of films under his belt including the pivotal three; Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club. Hughes had a certain type of humor about high school movies and embraced it completely leaving a set guideline for what qualified as a high school movie ever since. You needed the geek, you needed the shy girl, you needed the jock, you needed the character that could float between all the social circles uninhibited. Get your hands on the film spoof Not Another Teen Movie and 83% of the film is an homage to John Hughes’ films.

Hughes wasn’t only a great director as he only directed 8 films, but an incredible writer with an impressive 41 films under his belt by the time he died in 2009. His last completed screenplay was for the Judd Apatow project Drillbit Taylor.

Ferris stood out as an icon for all high school students who saw just how childish and stupid high school was in the 80s and still is today. “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Ferris is all about celebrating life to the fullest and the film conveys that really well in its celebration of the random that made films in the 80s as exciting as they were. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a chase film between Ferris and Rooney, a hero film by means of Cameron’s eventual uprising against his father, a happy family film in the way Ferris and Jeanie make their peace by the end of the film, and an adventure film just in regards to the entire day culminating in the Star Wars Ferrari flight scene.

I think it’s the randomness of the film that drew me to it. The awkward mix of soundtrack choices accentuated by the sudden changes in location make the film seem like the greatest day and longest 8 hours ever to be compressed into an hour and 42 minutes. An official soundtrack for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was never released but all the songs can be found on-line in various places. If you can find them, get them. My favorite song in the entire film is from the Museum scene. The song is a remake of the Smith’s hit ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’ done by The Dream Academy. I liked this one the most because it’s the scene where Ferris and Sloan kiss. I always wanted to kiss Sloan.

One of the most ridiculous scenes in the film is definitely the parade scene in which Ferris ‘sings’ Danke Schoen by Wayne Newton and Twist and Shout by the Beatles. For missing school as many days as Ferris has, this seems a little at risk even for our hero. The parade route goes right by his father’s work; this is after they almost got caught by eating at the same restaurant as his father! But this suspense is what makes the film work. There’s always a chance of getting caught but Ferris is so sure of himself that everything always works out.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has influenced countless millions of youth through it’s duration and will continue to do so well into the future as more and more reissues of the film are released. One big sign of respect to the king of skipping is the band Save Ferris named after the multimedia phenomenon that occurs throughout the film as the community of Shermer rallies around raising money to save the life of the horribly sick Ferris.

Living your life like Ferris Bueller is a great way to live.

When I’m around you, I kind of feel like I’m on drugs. Not that I do drugs. Unless you do drugs, in which case I do them all the time. All of them. – Scott Pilgrim

Love is a many splendored thing. Sometimes love comes easy, sometimes you have to fight the memories of your current love’s exes. Even though you’ve never met them, you still feel like you’re being compared to them, for a little while at the very least. Sometimes you have to fight off these memories in your mind, sometimes it becomes painfully obvious that you’ll have to fight them in real life and fight them hard. Thus it is when Scott Pilgrim meets the love of his life, Ramona Flowers. Little do we know when Ramona first roller blades through our protagonist’s dreams that Scott’s life will be completely flipped around.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World written and directed by Edgar Wright based on the comic by Bryan Lee O’Malley and starring; Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Jason Schwartzman, Anna Kendrick, and Aubrey Plaza. This movie is to young actors what the Ocean’s movies are to the generation before them – a superb ensemble film that highlights the best parts about each of the actors.

I know a few people who can not stand Michael Cera. I can understand this, he doesn’t have a whole lot of depth as an actor. If you’ve seen Arrested Development or Super Bad you’ve seen the range in his acting. But the great thing about SPVTW is it works, and it works well. The written character of Scott Pilgrim isn’t the coolest kid, he’s actually quite slow (seeming) but when the going gets tough, this bad ass bass player pumps up the jam and takes aim at the goal! Although he will probably forget what the goal is about fifteen seconds later.

Scott lives with his gay friend Wallace Wells played by Kieran Culkin. Wallace is a gossipy little bitch who is always quick to spread any rumor he hears about Scott off to Scott’s sister Stacey, who is played by the lovely Anna Kendrick, who is always quick to give Scott a good earful. Scott is also in the band, Sex Bob-omb, as previously mentioned, he plays bass. His ex-girlfriend Kim plays drums while his other friend Steven Stills, the talent, plays guitar. They aren’t really good, and the cool thing about the comics is the fact that most of their songs are written out so you can play along!

Through friends of his band-mates Scott’s motley crew end up at a party held by Julie Powers, Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Rec fame, where he sees the girl who roller bladed through his dreams twice, Ramona Flowers. After a couple of horribly awkward conversations with Ramona, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, she finally agrees to go on a date with him.

Fast forward a few minutes in the film and we get our first encounter with one of Ramona’s evil exes. Apparently her seven evil exes have combined forces under the leadership of Gideon, Jason Schwartzman, to get rid of Scott and have Ramona go back to Gideon.

This is where the movie becomes EPIC, early reviews of Scott Pilgrim bashed it for being another video game movie. They were right, it is a video game movie! But it doesn’t try to hide the fact that it is campy as hell but it’s based on a comic, not a game. It’s not Laura Croft, it’s not Super Mario Bros (awesome movie imho), it’s not Resident Evil. It’s a comic movie that follows more faithfully than almost any movie I’ve ever seen. (Personally I see it as a close second to 300 when it comes to movies based on comics in terms of faithfulness.)

SPVTW is a video game movie because they exploit all the things that make games great and shove them in the audiences face. From baddies turning into piles of coins, to 1-ups popping up, to crazy animatics enhancing every sound effect, to the main character getting +10 Charisma and +10 Self Esteem when he finds the power of love.

You couldn’t ask for a better director/writer for this film. Edgar Wright has proved his ability to do amazing work with genre movies with Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and his TV show Spaced. He understood the necessity of being faithful to the comics much in the way that Zack Snyder was with Watchmen and 300. But he was also smart enough to cut out the parts that bogged down the story at the rare times that occurred. Much unlike Zack Snyder with Watchmen.

We haven’t seen the last of Edgar Wright, and hopefully he is able to find another comic or video game to convert to film.

The Stepford Wives (1975)

Posted: January 30, 2012 in Review

Something strange is happening in Stepford.

This is a quick review on The Stepford Wives (1975) starring Katherine Ross and Paula Prentiss each known for their work in The Graduate and Catch-22 respectively.

I’d heard the tagline before, and was always interested in what it meant exactly, now I know. I should state early on, that I have not watched the 2004 version with Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick, this is a view of the original.

Stepford is the stereotypical suburban town that everyone dreamed of living in during the times of Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy. It’s a sheltered town that people either really enjoy, or would hate living in or around. The film even makes fun of itself with the lines;

“Have you heard? A negro family is moving into town! It’s a good thing right? Oh, of course it’s a good thing! Stepford is one of the most liberal towns around!”

“Liberal? Stepford?!”

“Well of course! We were the first community to get a Chinese Restaurant in the county!”

 This film IS a horror/sci-fi, no doubts about it. It starts off good and fun, but once the movie gets rolling and the family moves from New York to Stepford, the soundtrack takes on a new vibe and gives off the typical synth driven horror sounds that became popular in the 70s.

Here’s the Trailer to check out. The audio is very quiet but it’s the best I could find;

There is something strange happening in Stepford as once the family gets to Stepford, Joanna’s (Ross) husband gets invited to join the Men’s Association of Stepford and begins spending more and more nights away from home. Then the other members of the Men’s Association begin paying more and more attention to Joanna. First one of the members, a renowned artist, draws a perfect portrait of Joanna, next she is introduced to a member called Dis as he used to work for Disney Theme Parks who studies her every move and nuance as she moves around the house and town. Finally she is asked by one of the members to read a long list of words under the pretences that he is an accent enthusiast who likes to have recordings of all of his friends so he can get to know their accents as well as his own.

Not much more can be said without giving away the mystery of Stepford. Suffice it to say, the movie is incredibly well shot, as well as having a great cast and script to go along with it.

Once the creep factor sets in, we’re shown a lot of the typical Dutch angles used in horror films to show more dramatic views of the protagonists. As well as putting the main character of a scene in the ‘power position’ on the right side of the screen while having them look off to the right of the screen leaving an open doorway, or ominous shadows occupying a majority of the leftover screen. This happened time and time again, and when coupled with the synth music makes the viewer a lot more nervous for what could happen next.

This film is not just a film for film junkies like myself, it is well written, well shot, well-directed, well produced, etc. It was a blockbuster in its day and continues to have a large cult following even today. It should be stated that ‘cult’ film does not mean the movie didn’t do well in the box office and was subsequently discovered by film nerds who found something to relate to as is the case with Rocky Horror Picture Show. This is really a great movie that stretches the imagination to the sci-fi realm of men wanting to have the perfect wives. Ira Levin who is an amazing screenwriter and has written hundreds of plays that have been made into films wrote the Stepford Wives. If you do watch this, and enjoy it, you need to check out Deathtrap starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeves (A review of which will be coming up soon) and the film the Boys from Brazil in which a group of escaped Nazis try to rekindle the Third Reich by cloning Hitler.

In a final statement, watch this film. You won’t regret it. It’s an amazingly well done movie, another in a LONG list that had no reason to be remade. But it was, and as I said before, it will be reviewed, we’ll see the contrast and comparison soon.

The second of the Millennium Trilogy. By far the most enjoyable due to its driving story, exciting new characters, familiar old characters and distinct lack of rape compared to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

The Trailer:

The Girl Who Played With Fire picks up roughly one year after the end of Dragon Tattoo. We’re reintroduced to Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) as she awakes in a villa somewhere in the Caribbean and meets with a financial planner to discuss her return to Sweden. From the minute she returns we’re acutely aware that she feels like she is being hunted. Lisbeth purchases a new apartment under a company name, WASP, and gives her friend and sometimes lover Miriam Wu her old apartment under the condition Lisbeth’s name is still on the mail box and all her mail would continue to be delivered there.

Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) is meanwhile approached by Dag Svennson, a young journo who has meticulously researched and developed a thesis about sex trafficking in Sweden and the abuse of underage girls by high-ranking public figures. Mikael decides that the next issue of Millennium will be dedicated to Dag’s story and throws himself into the research head first.

However things take an unexpected turn as Svennson and his fiance are found dead in their apartment with all evidence pointing towards Lisbeth as the culprit. This isn’t helped along by the fact that the following day Lisbeth’s ‘guardian’ from Dragon Tattoo, Bjurman is found dead. Again apparently at the hand of Lisbeth who goes into hiding. As Lisbeth is making herself sparse her ‘roommate’ Miriam is kidnapped by a giant blonde German on the premise he believes her to be Lisbeth and is rescued by her and Lisbeth’s kickboxing coach, real life boxer Paolo Roberto.

In the meantime, Mikael has turned his attention slightly from the sex trade story to proving Lisbeth innocent and finds information stating that Lisbeth is actually being pursued and framed by an underworld boss known only as Zala.

It’s at this point where the movie really starts rolling, becoming an intense flick that absorbs all your attention, there is no chance of getting away from this film once you’re drawn in. The detective work is enthralling and as we find out more and more about Lisbeth’s past and her connections with Zala we’re finally able to see how dangerous things could become.

Again, for risk of spoiling the film for those who are planning on watching it (Should be EVERYONE) I’m letting this plot summary end.

The interesting thing about The Girl Who Played With Fire is that it isn’t directed by Niels Arden Oplev, the director of Dragon Tattoo. He apparently had to resign from this post due to time constraints so the position was picked up by Daniel Alfredson. Alfredson’s name is not unfamiliar coming out of Sweden as he is the elder brother of Thomas Alfredson who directed the powerhouse vampire film Let The Right One In (2008). I was surprised that this film had a different director since they both look like they are the work of one director. I credit this mostly to the subject matter of the film and the fact that as far as I know, both films follow the books very closely. When a director has a good story to work from, especially when said work is from a series it’s hard to deviate from the central themes and emotion already famous in the written format.

While the main characters of The Girl Who Played With Fire are carried over from Dragon Tattoo I feel it’s the new characters in the story who really help drive the story along. From Paulo Roberto and Miriam’s side story to the introduction of the blond behemoth dead set on destroying everything connected to Lisbeth with a chilling cold demeanor all the way through to discovering who Zala is and why he is relentless in his hunt for Lisbeth.

Tune in shortly for the final review of the Millennium Trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

First things first, this is a review of the 2009 Swedish film, directed by Niels Arden Oplev and based on the novel by Stieg Larsson. Not to be confused with David Fincher’s 2011 film of the same name also based on the novel by Stieg Larsson. Also, I have not yet had the opportunity to read the books by Larsson at this point in time so this is a straight review of the film, not comparing it in any way to the book as I have no frame of reference on that stand.

Secondly, this is the first of three reviews which will continue with a review of the second and third films from the millennium series including The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest.

If I were to sum up The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in one word, it would be infuriating. Two words would include disturbing and three words would end with Amazing.

Infuriating because the major premise of the film is violence towards women. As I grew up I was instilled with the principles of chivalry and taught how to be a gentleman. Whenever I am presented with stories of abuse or any kind towards the fairer sex I get a sick feeling in my gut and have a hard time imagining what would drive someone to hurt someone physically or mentally like that.

Disturbing because of the amount of abuse we are shown as an audience. There is one scene in particular that is shown no fewer than three times through the film that is so visually and audibly disturbing that I’m sure my face was showing the amount of disgust I was feeling.

Amazing because the acting from every single actor in this film is jawdroppingly good. I have always had a respect for foreign films because a lot of the time they aren’t held under the same censorship laws that Hollywood films have to follow to a T for the risk of being rated unfairly high or not being released at all. This allows films based on highly graphic books to be more true to the original material. I also enjoy watching foreign films in their original language with subtitles. Some people have issues with this saying they can’t read and watch at the same time, but the language used in this film makes it easy to follow along and after the first five to ten minutes of allowing yourself to adjust to reading while watching you don’t even realize you are reading. The characters are incredibly well-developed and you feel such a connection or aversion to each one that by the time the credits begin rolling you want to find out what happens next.

The Trailer:

The main character of Dragon Tattoo is Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), an ingenious hacker who, through a round about way, becomes involved with Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), the head investigator/reporter for the publication, millennium which specializes in ousting high-ranking public and political figureheads. Mikael gets framed for libel against industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström. He is sentenced to three months in prison, and ordered to pay hefty damages and costs. Soon afterwards, he is invited to meet Henrik Vanger, the retired CEO of the Vanger Corporation, unaware that Vanger has checked into his personal and professional history; the investigation of Blomkvist’s circumstances has been carried out by Lisbeth through her current gig for Milton Security. Blomkvist is offered a hefty paycheck and proof against Wennerström if he agrees to write the Vanger family history. This leads into some hearty detective work into the Vanger history including murder and the disappearance of Vanger’s niece Harriet 36 years ago.

Little is known of Lisbeth’s past and she does nothing to remedy this for anyone she meets. She is secretive and apparently a very strong and driven woman. We do know that she was entered into a psychiatric ward at the age of 12 after dousing her father with gasoline and lighting him on fire for beating her mother severely enough to cause brain damage. When she was placed in the ward she was diagnosed as legally incompetent thus needing a guardian to control her finances and essentially her life from that point on. Her current guardian suffers a stroke and she is placed under the guardianship of the scum of the earth, a lawyer named Nils Bjurman who uses his power and control over Lisbeth to beat and sexually abuse her.

While doing his research, Mikael realizes he needs help. Vanger’s lawyer suggests Lisbeth and the two begin working together and quickly discover they are on the path of something much darker and deeper than they had originally suspected.

There is little more I can say about the plot without giving anything away. Suffice it to say that The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a definite nail-biter of a film that leaves you wanting more. There are more questions left unanswered by the end than were answered throughout the 2 hour+ film almost demanding you watch the next. Which you should do as all three films are currently available on Netflix’s Instant Viewing. EDIT: Also available on Amazon Prime Instant Viewing!

I just watched the Redband trailer for the upcoming movie FDR: American Badass and I must say this has the potential to be one of the worst movies that will come out in the next year.

View the Trailer and we’ll continue from there.

Saying that this could be one of the worst movies to come out this year may be a bit of an understatement but there’s one thing I must also say. There is no amount of money you could pay me to NOT watch this movie. Not only does it feature Barry Bostwick as FDR, but it also stars a hodge podge of some of the greatest comedy actors to grace, in many occasions, the small screen through TV movies and sitcoms including but not limited to; Ed Metzger, Paul Wilson, Lin Shaye, Kevin ‘Hercules’ Sorbo, Bruce McGill and Ray Wise.

The thing that is appealing to me about FDR is it’s obvious grasp of the campy movies from the 70s and 80s that it’s embracing all too well. This is a prime example of what grindhouse films used to be; bad makeup, worse acting, terrible writing and a boat load of fun. Movies like this can’t be, or are extremely hard to take seriously. Compare the poster for FDR:

Against the poster for the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter:

The two don’t even come close to eachother. But based on poster alone, which are you more likely to see? A dark semi-vague movie that you assume is about Honest Abe hunting down Vampires (Please don’t let them sparkle!) or would you rather see some movie that features a guy in a freaking wheelchair weilding a Tommy gun?

I’ll take the Tommy gun please. From everything floating around the internet Abe is going to take a bit more heat since it’s based on a book. It always seems that people get in a fuss over book adaptations, with FDR, you’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s straight up new material.

FDR has the potential to take over a spot in my heart that has up to this point been filled with a love for the fake movie trailer for Werewolf Women of the SS which was made by Rob Zombie as a teaser trailer shown with the Grindhouse Double Feature presented by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez in 2007.

I always hoped Werewolf Women of the SS would get made but now I think I may be able to be happy with FDR: American Badass. Regardless of the ridiculous plot that FDR has, Nazi werewolves spreading the polio virus, it is exactly what you would expect from a film that appears to take a lot of lead from the films of Russ Meyer through the 60s to early 70s.

I will always have a soft spot for films like this in my heart, campy films are super enjoyable as long as you aren’t expecting to get much out of it. I’ll see you in the theaters on release day for this one for sure.