Monday, February 27, 2012

WarGames (1983)

A few years before he was known to everyone as Ferris Bueller, Matthew Broderick played a high school computer hacker in 1983's WarGames. This movie would be the first major stepping stones for both Broderick and his co-star Ally Sheedy, who would later go on to join the ranks of other great 80's actors in the Brat Pack.

Broderick plays David Lightman a high school slacker but gifted computer whiz. After both he and fellow classmate Jennifer Mack (Sheedy) receive failing grades in Biology, David hacks into the school computer and changes their grades. Later, Jennifer comes over and inadvertently helps David find the backdoor into NORAD's central military computer, thinking it's a game. They start playing a military war simulation, not knowing that at any moment they could start World War III.

There are a couple of supporting actors that stand out to me (not all of them but the ones that caught my eye when I watched it):

Dabney Coleman (Principal Prickly in Disney's Recess) as McKittrick

James Tolkan (Principal Strickland in the Back to the Future trilogy) as Nigan

John Spencer (Leo McGarry from The West Wing) as Jerry

Michael Madsen (Vic Vega aka Mr. Blonde in Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs) as Steve

Maury Chaykin (Simply a great, underrated supporting actor) as Jim Sting

and Eddie Deezen (You probably know him as Mandark from Dexter's Laboratory) as Malvin

I always think it's fascinating looking back to the very beginning of any actor or actress's career and see how they got their start in the industry. I can even see some pretty remarkable differences between both Broderick's and Sheedy's roles in WarGames and those in the movies that made them the most famous (Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club respectively). As unrealistic as this movie is (as was just about everything else in the 80s) it really is a great film that gave two young kids a huge break before their work with the great John Hughes.

- This was filmed way back in the day when they still had the old floppy disks. For you young'uns out there, this was before CDs, before 3½ inch floppy disks, and even before 5½ inch disks. These were the big ones, the 8 inch floppy disks.
- You'll notice Eddie Deezen's part right away if you have ever seen Dexter's Lab because he sounds exactly the same as Mandark.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Grey (2012)

When you are lost in the frigid Alaskan wilderness and are being tracked and stalked by a ravenous pack of wolves, you had better shut up and listen to what Liam Neeson has to say. Now it's not quite as cool as Taken but The Grey (2012) is a little more realistic; something I very much respect when it comes to Hollywood films. Bradley Cooper, Neeson's co-star in The A-Team, was the original choice for the starring role.

Neeson plays John Ottway, a man hired to kill wolves that are threatening the lives of oil drillers in Alaska. It is the last day of work for these men and they board a plane for Anchorage. Something goes awry on the flight and they end up crash landing in the freezing northern wilderness. Only seven men survive the crash, Ottway, Diaz (Frank Grillo), Flannery (Joe Anderson), Burke (Nonso Anozie), Hendrick (Dallas Roberts), Talget (Dermot Mulroney), and Hernandez (Ben Bray). They have no real chance of rescue and have to find a way to survive and get back home. Unfortunately that is just the easy part now that they are being hunted by a vicious pack of wolves.

Filmed in Northern British Columbia they definitely captured some realism instead of chickening out and CGing it which is more than I can say for some movie trash out there. There is nothing too original about a story like this but that being said I did enjoy it and I was rather satisfied with the ending. I wish some of the characters were given a little more development but in movie like this someone is bound to get the short end of the stick. There have been some mixed reviews stating that Neeson has simply been beating up a lot of people in his recent films and that may hold true but I still think most of them are pretty good. Some organizations, namely PETA, started boycotts for the film due to the negative way they portrayed wolves and the fact that the filmmakers used four real wolf carcasses as props for the movie. I believe they probably shouldn't have used real wolves, I mean they used computer animation when it came to the wolf attacks anyway so why not use fake wolf carcasses? What harm to the film making process would it really have done? What's done is done, can't do much about it now.

I would like to add that I loved the score for the film, which was written and composed by Marc Streitenfeld. I think it encapsulated the emotion mixed with the serene calm of the beautiful Alaskan wild.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Random Assortment of Valentine's Day Movies Part 3 of 3

And here we have arrived at the final four movies I wish to share with you for this Valentine's Day.

WALL-E (2008) - A romantic movie not involving people? That's right. WALL-E and Eve make the most adorable couple that don't have beating hearts. WALL-E isn't the most glamorous robot but it's his determination and love that win the affection of the highly advanced and rather aggressive Eve.

If you haven't seen this movie, you're missing out. Quick summary: WALL-E is a trash cleaning robot and the Earth is so riddled with garbage everyone has been living on a space cruise ship. We get to listen to the voice acting of Ben Burtt (WALL-E) and Elissa Knight (Eve) along with other roles filled by Jeff Garlin, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Fred Willard, and Sigourney Weaver

WALL-E is tied with every Toy Story movie and Up for my favourite Pixar movies (I know that doesn't really leave many others) but I mean they're all fantastic so you can watch any of those today and it'll all be good.

The Princess Bride (1987) - Classic. That sums up this masterpiece of a comedic love epic. 

A sick boy (Fred Savage) gets told a wonderful story by his grandfather (Peter Falk aka Columbo). The story follows a humble farm boy Westley (Cary Elwes) and his love Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright). A great adventure ensues where they meet very intriguing characters along the way. There is honestly way too much to summarize in this movie but the story is magnificent and the cast featured two unknowns (Elwes and Wright) in the main starring roles and brings in great talent as the supporting cast.

The cast includes Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck, Wallace Shawn as Vizzini, Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, Andre the Giant as Fezzik, Christopher Guest as Count Rugen, Carol Kane as Valerie, and the fantastic Billy Crystal as Miracle Max. 

This movie has spawned so many quotable lines that you've probably heard most of them and not even known where they came from.
Die Hard (1988) - I think Valentine's Day is too centered on women these days. I like to spring romantic surprises as much as the next sap but sometimes just sitting down and watching an action movie is what I need to do. Not saying that women don't appreciate action movies or their significant others but I say it as a generality, at least on Valentine's Day. 

So this Valentine's Day sit back and relax while watching Die Hard the action classic suited to every holiday, or every day for that matter. John McClane (Bruce Willis is pretty cool himself) is the man every girl should love and the man every guy wants to be. 

Up (2009) - You all know how good this movie is. It was the first animated movie since Beauty and the Beast (which I watched again recently in 3-D) in 1991, and the second in history, to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It embodies one of the greatest love stories I've ever seen and it only lasted 8 minutes. The rest of the movie is a fun kid's movie but the background for all of it is love. 

Carl Fredricksen is a shy young boy who is engrossed in the world of adventure and the reknowned explorer Charles F. Muntz. One day he meets a young girl named Ellie due to their shared interest in the popular adventurer Muntz. They fall in love, get married and spend a long life together. Sadly, one day Ellie falls ill and passes away shortly after, never being able to realize her dream of living in Paradise Falls. After an undetermined amount of time, Carl finds himself surrounded by urban development and is forced to move from his home. The morning has come for him to go to a retirement home and he has blown up and attached a ridiculous number of helium balloons to his house and intends to float all the way to Paradise Falls, just for Ellie. Along with young Wilderness Explorer Russell (who gets stuck on Carl's porch as the house flies up into the air), he finds that adventure awaits him on his way to paradise.

Words don't really do this movie justice and I couldn't really find a nice clip of the full Carl and Ellie story so here it is in two parts. Blogger doesn't seem to like YouTube despite the fact that they are both owned by Google.


If these 8 minutes film doesn't make you cry then I'm not sure I can be friends with you anymore.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Random Assortment of Valentine's Day Movies Part 2 of 3

So here we go again with the second installment of a rag-tag bunch of movies I've watched lately that could apply to Valentine's Day.

It's Complicated (2009) - You can't get a much better pool of talent than Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin but when the hilarious John Krasinski (Jim from The Office) is thrown in there, you get a little something extra for those who may not appreciate the fantastic, but aging, star power. 

When the divorced couple Jane (Streep) and Jake (Baldwin) come together for their son's college graduation things start to become a little difficult to handle when they start having an affair. Jane's soon to be son-in-law Harley (Krasinski) catches on to the affair but has to keep it a secret despite the intense awkwardness of it all. The incandescent Jane has also caught the eye of a quiet and respectable architect Adam (Martin). Simply put, it's complicated.

Yeah it's cheesy line to write at the end of that summary I know. I think I like Steve Martin more when he's more outgoing with his comedy but he is getting older and can pass some of it along to young guys like John Krasinski. Meryl is amazing as she always is, with a ridiculous 17 Oscar nominations under her belt, it's hard to not to be. Alec Baldwin rounds out things nicely (literally, he was a little chubbier then). Although some parts of the movie seem a little forced, it is a rom-com so it's to be expected. Despite it not being a classic there are plenty of laughs and great chemistry amongst the stars. Besides there's a scene where Alec Baldwin smokes a joint then shotguns the smoke into John Krasinski's mouth, what's not to love?

P.S. I Love You (2007) - I don't care if you give me crap on this one, I like it so that's all that really matters. Some people don't like Hilary Swank, I don't mind her, I don't get overtly excited when I see her on screen but I respect her as an actress. Also, I haven't read the book so I can't really compare which one was better but from what I hear the book was (books always seem to be better). I thought there was pretty good chemistry between Hilary Swank and the Scottish heartthrob Gerard Butler. I'm used to seeing Harry Connick Jr. as very suave and confident whereas his character Daniel embodies none of that, so that was a little odd. Jeffrey Dean Morgan did a pretty good job but he wasn't a convincing Irishman, he's just too American.
For those who don't know this story by now, Holly (Hilary Swank) and Gerry (Gerard Butler) are married and are kind of stuck going nowhere, saving for a house and eventually kids. Gerry dies and Holly has to learn to live without him. Those aren't spoilers so quit your whining.

Note: The Irish accents in this movie aren't as bad as people say they are....but they aren't very good. Also for anyone who is a Grey's Anatomy fan might find that when Jeffrey Dean Morgan arrives on screen they start openly weeping because they only know him as Denny.

Friends with Benefits (2011) - This movie is pretty self-explanatory. Jamie (Mila Kunis) is an executive recruiter in New York who has convinced Dylan (Justin Timberlake) to work for GQ. Since Dylan is from the sunny city of Los Angeles, he quickly forms a friendship with Jamie, the only person he knows in New York City. After having trouble with relationships in the past both of them agree to simply be friends with benefits.

In my opinion, far better than No Strings Attached which was also released last year and has pretty much the exact same concept. Mila and Justin have more of a connection than Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. I also think Mila is sexier (although Natalie is beautiful, and a better offense Mila) which suits this type of sex comedy a little better. I love Patricia Clarkson as an actress she seems to be right at home when it comes to comedies.

For the record I think that the whole friends with benefits may seem good in theory but it never ends well. It's just bad news, as much as we may like the idea.

Can't Hardly Wait (1998) - One of my favourite teen movies that wasn't made by John Hughes. It takes place a high school grad party, where everyone was invited. Although I don't know anyone who has ever been to a high school party where it seemed every single student was there, if you know anyone who has, let me know. This party is the last chance that Preston Myers (Ethan Embry) has to profess his love for Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt). Preston's best friend Denise (Lauren Ambrose) is reluctant to go but does so to support him. Kenny Fisher (Seth Green) is a white-boy trying to hard to be cool and vows to lose his virginity before the night ends. William (Charlie Korsmo) also has a plan for the night, to take revenge on the popular jock Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli) for all the crap he's taken from him over the years.
There is so much more going on in this movie than what was briefly described above but that's the point, you need to watch it to see everything. I could be typing forever describing this movie. It was around the start of a lot of actors careers but I don't any of them are particularly known for this movie.

There is also a short cameo by Jerry O'Connell who first got his break in the 1986 drama Stand By Me as Vern.

Roman Holiday (1953) - Let's take it back several decades to the poise and beauty that is Audrey Hepburn. This was Hepburn's first major film role and she starred opposite gallant leading man Gregory Peck.

A young European princess (it's never really established from where) is on a long tour of European capitals when she stops off in Rome. One night she gets fed up with the detailed structure of her life and decides to wander off to explore the wonders of Rome on her own. She meets American reporter Joe Bradley (Peck), who doesn't recognize her, and that begins an intriguing journey that leads them exploring the wonders and beauty of Rome.

Movies are just not made like this anymore, I mean it's in black and white but that's not what I'm talking about. Hepburn brings her innocence and naivety to the film to complement Peck's calm and charmingly stoic demeanor. Eddie Albert who plays Joe's friend and photographer Irving, brings great comedy and balance to the film.

Hepburn won the Oscar for Best Actress in her debut film where the film went on to win an additional two. Also, Hepburn is one of just 11 people to have won an Emmy Award, Tony Award, Academy Award, and Grammy Award in competitive categories. She joins Gregory Peck on AFI's 1999 list of the 50 greatest screen legends of American cinema


Here ends part 2 of this year's list and tomorrow...or maybe later tonight (although I doubt it) I'll finish the list that features a couple animated movies that will leave you a little weepy, but in a good way.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Random Assortment of Valentine's Day Movies Part 1 of 3

So I did one of these sort of Valentine's Day movie lists last year but unfortunately toward the end I didn't really write a whole lot and just started to regurgitate some popular rom-coms over the past couple decades. 

This year my list won't be obscure per-say but won't really include any movies from last year's list.

I'll be presenting you with 14 movies over three installments. Yes the math doesn't split evenly but doing seven installments of two movies each is ridiculous, so let's not get into that.

These movies are not necessarily the best but are just some I've been thinking of lately or ones that I make me laugh. Also movies like Blue Valentine aren't on my list not because they aren't great but because they are depressing. No one wants to watch a depressing movie on V-Day, that's just a huge buzzkill. For those that are in any sort of relationship some of these may be for you. For those single folk, you can simply watch every one of these movies on the day because, let's face it, you've got nothing better to do. You might think it not possible to watch 14 movies in a single day....I beg to differ.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) - Sadly I didn't watch Freaks and Geeks when it was briefly on the air but Jason Segel, of How I Met Your Mother fame, comes into his own in a first real leading role. There is pretty gratuitous full frontal nudity as most of you should know so that may be a little awkward depending on your level of commitment with your significant other. Segel is joined by fantastic leading ladies Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell (if you haven't seen her sloth freak out on Ellen click right here, it's adorable, crazy and utterly hilarious all at the same time) as well as comedian Russell Brand, who seems to just play a slight variate of himself. There is a great comedic supporting cast as well but if I get too much into that I'll be typing all day. 

An awesome comedy with a pretty stereotypical ending but it's the solid filler that you want to watch. There are a couple "serious" moments in this movie but are always offset with ridiculous humour so you don't need to worry about that.

My Best Friend's Wedding (1997) - Jules (Julia Roberts) tries to win Mike (Dermot Mulroney), her best friend, back from Kim (Cameron Diaz). Don't think that I've spoiled the plot for you, it's been 15 years since the movie came out and you should know this by now. Besides you get to know those details around 10 minutes in. Rupert Everett who plays Jules' gay friend George is probably the only likable character in the entire movie. That being said the music is pretty awesome, especially the restaurant rendition of Dionne Warwick's I Say a Little Prayer. I've never particularly liked Julia Roberts but I don't really have anything against her. The ending is fair and just, but it also makes you feel pretty good.

If you're at all annoyed by the stereotypical manipulative nature of females or can't stand either Cameron Diaz or Julia Roberts than this is probably not the movie you'll want to watch with your partner. It'll make you crabby and no one wants to live with that.

Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) - One of last year's best rom-coms in my opinion, I can't really think of a better one at the moment but there were a couple good ones in 2011. Steve Carell is hilarious as usually but in a rather serious situation. He brings the humour that is sometimes necessary when dealing with separation from his wife Emily (Julianne Moore), but in a tasteful way.....well mostly tasteful. Ryan Gosling has been the straight lead man for a number of years now and it's good to see him in a more light-hearted supporting role, it's takes some of the pressure off and he's a lot more free to show his comedic chops. He gets help in his scenes by the increasingly popular, delightfully charming, and funny in a weird way, Emma Stone. I think the acting of the younger kids, especially between Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) and Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is pretty underrated, not that it was particularly great but it was definitely a lot more enjoyable than most of these types of movies have to offer. Moore never really seems to age but I think her skin is just so pale that no one ever seems to notice. We also see great minor roles by Marisa Tomei, who is also ageless (she basically hasn't changed since My Cousin Vinny) and from Kevin Bacon who plays David Lindhagen (a name you hear much too often throughout the movie).


Bottom line is that this is a funny, real (relatively) and heart-warming movie. I'll probably amend my first statement and say that Crazy, Stupid, Love was the best rom-com of 2011 and I watched quite a few.

Note: For those who may not know, Ryan Gosling spends a decent amount of time with his shirt off showing his ridiculous six-pack. Guys, try doing some exercise before watching it with your partner, it'll make you feel less insecure.

Flipped (2010) - When you think of romantic movies you don't really picture school children as the love interests. Flipped provides a good detour on that sort of thinking providing a wholesome, family friendly, late 50s love story. In 1957, when 7 year old Juli Baker and Bryce Loski meet, Juli knows it's love at first sight. Bryce on the other hand is more than a little freaked out and tries to avoid her kind of cute but more or less stalker-ish persistence. As the years go by he continues his aversion to her but to no avail but soon things start to change and the odd and confusing relationship Bryce has with Julie Baker is flipped upside down.

I know I didn't really do much of a plot summary for the other movies but that's okay. Flipped stars Callan McAuliffe as Bryce and Madeline Carroll as Juli. I'd say that besides Bryce's grandfather Chet (John Mahoney) there aren't really any other memorable characters. Directed by Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally and The Princess Bride amongst many others), you just know it'll be chock-full of romantic goodness.

Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) - This is the only movie on the list that I actually haven't seen yet. It's on my computer I just haven't gotten around to watching it yet. Since it's release in 1990 it has gained significant cult following (probably along the lines of So I Married An Axe Murderer(1993)) but garnered a rather disappointing box office gross. It is the first of the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan rom-com trilogy. For those that are tragically unaware, the other two are Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and You've Got Mail (1998). I love the dynamic between Tom and Meg throughout the years but where Tom has been pretty steady and always relevant in the acting world, Meg seems to have dropped off, not doing much that's notable in recent years. Also, since she got some plastic surgery done, she kind of looks like a scary cat so I'm not the biggest fan these days.

From what I've read about the plot it seems like it might be a little hard to follow at times, but I'd say just watch it. Watching it with another person would be better for two reasons. One, because you happened to find someone to spend V-Day with, and two because it might help to have another brain following the plot just in case you miss something.


There still are more movies to come, that I hopefully get done before the day....unlike last year when I got lazy and finished it like Feb 20th or something.....