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A couple months back I was spending some time with friends in Colorado and we were talking about movies. The movie Planes, Trains, & Automobiles came up and was instantly praised by most, if not all, as a “classic,” a “once in a lifetime woman movie.” I couldn’t help but chime in with my humble opinion that it was not good in the least. Immediately I was jumped upon and a heated discussion broke out.

The facts were these:

  1. I watched it, for the first time, on TV with some friends in high school
  2. I was not humored at all, in fact, found the characters very annoying and not grounded in the least
  3. I quite sufficiently enjoy What About Bob?

Now I don’t want to hold my views so tightly that I can’t recant my own thoughts and ideas. So to follow through I grabbed Planes, Trains, & Automobiles off the shelf of the local Blockbuster (vintage!) and decided to give it a go. I purposefully tried to clear my mind of any negative feelings I had to give it good chance. You know what? I semi-enjoyed it. Deep down in there are great performances from both Martin and Candy. But there are still detractors…

One of my big “No”s for the movie, in high school, was that I didn’t find it funny. If this is supposed to be a comedy why was I not laughing? I’m pretty easy to get to laugh, truly. I find most types of humor from sophomoric to pitch-black absolutely hilarious if not chuckle worthy— I still haven’t been able to kick the habit of courtesy laughing. With this second viewing I found myself laughing and many of the things said. Say what you will but Hughes can write some killer dialogue. That being said I think a real misstep is it being a John Hughes movie overall. I haven’t seen all of his movies but I’ve seen enough and read enough to be able to say that I think he was too close to the source material most of the time. When someone writes, directs and produces a movie they can be so caught up in the vision of what it is supposed to be that when an audience is brought in to really decide what it’s worth the results don’t match the vision. I think this is true for many of the music cues in the movie, like that great grab at pathos from Candy, the “You Wanna Hurt Me” speech, that is completely undermined by the 80’s sympathy music welling up underneath.

It’s not the music, I like most music from the 80s, especially from the underrated Better Off Dead. The acting in the scene is great. The editing makes it more dramatic so that sympathize with both Martin and Candy, no easy task. Overall it comes down to two things that I mentioned in the facts. First, I find it hard to sympathize with both characters as both protagonist and antagonist. It is very real according to life, yes. But it is taken to such great lengths for both Martin and Candy that I find it jostling to go back and forth. To carry this on to my next point, I think that What About Bob? does it better. Both have the main characters antagonizing each other (excellent performances all around from Martin & Candy and Dreyfuss & Murray), but Bob? has something PTA doesn’t and that is the excellent audience surrogate of Dr. Leo Marvin’s family. An audience surrogate can be a real game-changer look at Margaret Dumont in most of the Marx Brothers movies, and look at no one in particular in the TV show Stella. Ms. Dumont’s dry nature amplifies the reaction that we as an audience feel towards the absurdity happening on screen, just like the Marvins’ warm welcoming of Bob amplifies our reaction to all that Dr. Marvin and Bob do to each other.

The last point I’ll make is a simple one and I think is to blame for the unshakeable nature of my lack of affection for PTA. I did not see it as a kid. I didn’t see it until late high school. All of my friends who love it grew up watching it. I’ve come to realize that nostalgia is very important but not necessarily the most important thing. I think nostalgia is a major in an idea of being the first. For my friends, Planes, Trains, & Automobiles was the first time they’d seen the formula that later would make What About Bob? and, much later, Due Date. These “firsts” set the stage for what is next to come and give us presuppositions of what we want out of future experiences, movies included. That being said I won’t have my kids watch it until they’re much older. There’s to much language in there for me to choose PTA over Bob?. So guess I’ll perpetuate this view so that my kids and those of my friends can have this same argument for years to come. *sigh* future memories…

I’ll now address the movie directly: Planes, Trains & Automobiles, forgive me for my original misconceptions about your humor, you are definitely chuckle-inducing. I forgive you for your ill-advised music cues, trying to hammer home the way I’m supposed to be feeling during that scene. Thank you for those great performances from nearly everyone involved, especially Martin and Candy. I hope we can learn to be friends, but really I don’t want to invest the time to go much further than that.

Love,

Me

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Year: 2010

Writer: Katherine Fugate (Princess & Me 1 & 2)

Director: Garry Marshall (Overboard, Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, Princess Bride 1 & 2)

Cast: Ashton Kutcher (“That 70s Show,” Open Season, Cheaper by the Dozen, Just Married), Jessica Alba (Fantastic Four, The Love Guru), Jessica Biel (“7thHeaven,” The Illusionist, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry), Jennifer Garner (The Invention of Lying, Catch & Release), Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, All About Steve), Hector Elizondo (Princess Bride, Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride), Emma Roberts (Nancy Drew, Lymelife, Hotel for Dogs), Taylor Swift

Opening Shot: Various shots of LA

I’m not going to beat around the bush. With the movie coming out today on DVD, the time is imminent to tell you that this movie is not good. You’ve seen all this movie has to offer before, it’s just been repackaged into a 125 minute movie that seems sooo much longer. As with many of these kind of intertwining storyline movies you can’t get a real feel for any of the characters. That’s not a problem except that not being a character study leaves it to being an idea study. Which also wouldn’t be a problem but the idea of love throughout a city was already done seven years ago in Love Actually. This also wouldn’t be bad but for the fact that everyone out there has already seen everything they have to say in this movie. This might be a good movie if you’ve never and I mean never have seen any other romantic comedies. Entirely predictable is the name of the game. Obviously I would like some originality when watching a movie. Valentine’s Day does little to satisfy that. There were a few things I spent to movie trying to guess and one of which is trying to guess which character is going to be gay. In quite a few movies these days a supporting character turns out to be gay and in this stink-burger of a movie it’s pretty easy to guess which two because you don’t see them with a female (Julia Roberts doesn’t count). That’s right Bradley Cooper turns out gay, with Eric Dane. You find this out with a beautiful scene where Cooper brushes Dane’s cheek with flowers.

The intertwining storyline has been done many times. I don’t have that big of a problem with the concept, but there needs to be something there. I before I saw this I had just watched Robert Altman’s Short Cuts so it was hard for me to take this Garry Marshall directed piece of shlock seriously, right from the get-go. I don’t want to get too much into Short Cuts but it just came off inspired. Plus, because it’s Altman Short Cuts has some of the best actors of like you know all time, example: Jack Lemmon, Julianne Moore, Fred Ward, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Lili Taylor, Robert Downey Jr., Lily Tomlin,  and one of my favorite musician-turned-actors, Tom Waits. They all deliver great performances from an interesting script co-written by Altman. In Valentine’s Day we get Alba, Lautner, Kutcher, Biel, Garner and a musician-turned-supposed-actor Swift giving typical “meh” performances. I’m not going to lie though although she was slightly annoying I enjoyed Swift’s performance because she was supposed to be like that and she pulled it off really well. The rest of the cast don’t have that luxury.

Enough negativity? A few brief positives? Sure. I like Bradley Cooper, Hector Elizondo, Anne Hathaway, and Kristen Schaal in other things. That’s about it. Marshall was actually able to get some good actors. I was already positive about Taylor Swift’s character.

Rating: F+ or 1 out of 5 stars

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Hello, Thanks for reading!

While Koz will be covering movies… I’ll be covering music. I am a very open-minded music snob… enjoy

I had heard rumor of these guys from multiple sources, one being one of their fellow artists (Laura Marling- whom I adore). This album swept in like a Lion man, and out like a lamb. It is unbelievably refreshing in a sea of mediocre “indie-music” (whatever that means anymore). Rising out of the quickly growing London folk scene, these guys have a sound that is extremely American yet distinctly European. Each song is driven by the lead vocalist Marcus Mumford, his fast acoustic guitar strumming, and stomping bass drum. Really he could be his own one man band, but thankfully that is not the case. Each melody he grittily strains out is encased in a chorus of quick moving electric banjo lines, moving upright, organ, and harmonies.

The album’s single Lion Man is a clear example of the entirety of their sound with a building structure, adding more and more melody to an already catchy folk song building it to a rowdy shanty. You can almost imagine a whole town crammed into the local pub singing out at the top of their lungs over a pint, and stomping the floorboards into submission.

Here is a video of one of their songs Winter Winds. I chose it due to the fact that it shows the scope of what they are capable of, as well as the passion and participation of their fans.

While I love this band, I have to wonder how they will follow up this album without sinking into folk oblivion? It is very hard for folk musicians to stay pure to what they do, while creating music that builds from the last, and grows into something lasting. I have no doubt that they will figure it out, and their fans will only push them forward. These tunes are music BY the people FOR the people, and I believe this is the best album of the year so far.

Until next time

CS

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Writer: Troy Duffy (The Boondock Saints)

Director: Troy Duffy

Cast: Billy Connolly (The Boondock Saints, Muppets Treasure Island, The Last Samurai), Peter Fonda (The Easy Rider, The Limey)

I had to write about this as soon as I got fifteen minutes into it. In my time here on this earth I’ve seen a lot of movies. Some of them have very good, some have been very, very bad. The Boondock Saints sequel is in the latter category. This movie carries a heavy R rating that holds it down from being the best kids movie ever! Let me explain. The script is atrocious with the kind of “witty comments” that can look good on the page but fall flat when spoken. This is made worse by the actors that Duffy got to play the people that are supposed to be “funny” and even “slightly amusing.” The acting done by the filler-actors (i.e. the local agents, specifically in the movie) is so over-the-top I would expect it in any kid movie made within the last twenty years. But we come to actors like Billy Connolly, Peter Fonda, and Judd Nelson who have some impressive movies on their resumès. In this movie it seems like another paycheck for them. Kind of like Jeffrey Tambor appearing in Funky Monkey. They bring a certain curiosity to the film. Why did they choose to star in the film? Was what they were paid enough to star along side some hamming actors?

This is only for huge fans of the first one but even then will probably disappoint. The movie follows a mysterious killing of priest of Boston that is meant to look like the MacManus Brothers having come out of hiding to kill again. The Brothers catch wind of this in Ole Ireland and  get on a boat headed to the states where they meet a Spanish kind of kick-a kind of guy called Romeo. Romeo, played by Clifton Collins Jr., chews up any lines or scenes that get within reach. After five minutes of him onscreen his performance became somewhat of a guilty pleasure. The plot involves some sort of underground mob thing with Judd Nelson that’s really just a way of getting Billy Connolly back into the story and explaining where he comes from. Also there’s a special agent played by what’s-her-face from “Dexter” who was Willem Dafoe’s protegé. Which brings me to the only part I actually enjoyed wholeheartedly. Beware of a spoiler for a movie you probably shouldn’t waster your time with: Dafoe shows up and talks to “Dexter” lady about going on a mission to free the brothers who by the end of the movie are in prison. They look out over the prisoners in the yard and see plenty of their calling left to be fulfilled. Yay, another sequel to live up to expectations!

Rating: Watch it, but only in an MST3K kind of way, making fun of it. DO NOT WATCH with a hardcore fan. I cannot imagine what kind of torture that would be.

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Year: 1947

Writer: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger (The Life & Death of Colonel Blimp)

Director: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger

Cast: Deborah Kerr (The King & I, Casino Royale (1967), From Here to Eternity), Jean Simmons (Howl’s Moving Castle, Inherit the Wind, Spartacus, The Blue Lagoon, Guys and Dolls), and Sabu (Jungle Book (1942), The Thief of Bagdad)

This film is about the weakness of humanity in trying times. I don’t want to say it’s about the weakness of faith even though that’s what it may be about. I might just be wanting to see past it. The film is absolutely beautiful with a cast that does everything they can to correctly portray these characters that were once only words on a page (it’s based on a novel of the same name).

Deborah Kerr’s Sister Clodagh is forced to lead four other sisters to the Himalayans where they attempt to set up a school at a former palace. The loneliness as well as the presence of Mr. Dean, a masculine government agent, lead to the sisters breaking apart and turning on each other. Honestly, I would have to see this film a second time and read the book to properly break it down. I highly recommend seeing this film, perhaps as a companion piece with Doubt. This film represents, to me, a time in our film history that is gone, only seen faintly in recent films. Its subtlety in the way it’s acted, the way the story unfolds and the way it’s shot, not only the cinematography but also location and on-set shooting, is rarely seen. It reaches to the deepest of the human experience to the core of what happens when our faith is challenged.

Grade: B+

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Year: 2009

Writer: Mike Reiss (The Simpsons Movie, Ice Age 3)

Director: Donald Petrie (Just My Luck, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Miss Congeniality, Richie Rich, Mystic Pizza, Welcome to Mooseport)

Cast: Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Connie & Carla), Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, What About Bob?, American Graffiti, Mr. Holland’s Opus), Harland Williams (Dumb & Dumber, RocketMan, Meet the Robinsons, Half Baked), Rachel Dratch (“SNL,” “30 Rock,” Spring Breakdown, Dickie Roberts: Former Childhood Star), Caroline Goodall (The Chumscubber, The Princess Diaries, Schindler’s List, Hook)

Opening Shot: Largely forgettable and meaningless shots of Greek ruins. I know it’s supposed to be that Nia Vardalos’ Georgia’s life is in such disarray that it’s like the Greek ruins where she decided to stay after she lost her job teaching at some college. I wonder if you can already sense my distaste for this movie. Georgia’s life sucks. After losing her teaching gig she is now, at the beginning of the movie, about to lose her job as a tour guide and she hasn’t “had sex in like forever.” “Forever is a long time.” That’s what this movie feels like. The cast is filled out with a few great comedians and character actors. Harland Williams and Rachel Dratch have both done far better things. Caroline Goodall and Richard Dreyfuss have both done better things. All four of these aren’t given much to work with. Even Dreyfuss who is the lead male actor, as Irv, isn’t given much to do but go on and on about his dead wife and be a mentor character to Georgia. There is one actor who does a lot with the little he’s given. That’s Jareb Dauplaise from such fine films as Transformers 2 and Epic Movie. He overacts like a pro.

Let me break it down. The scenery is beautiful. It’s shot in places that have rarely been seen in movies. The movie isn’t that bad, it’s just wearing because it’s been done before. In order for a comedy to work there has to be a certain level of unpredictability, but the “jokes” are fill in the blank typical jokes that I’m assuming Mike Reiss stole from other romantic comedies. Look at Donald Petrie’s oeuvre thus far. Miss Congeniality and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days were both pretty enjoyable films and so was Richie Rich (when I was 10). But Just My Luck and Welcome to Mooseport? Well My Life in Ruins joins those in the “meh” category of movies. By “Meh” I mean why bother.

Grade: D-

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I am nearing seeing one thousand five hundred different movies in my life. I’m at 1495 and will review the last few films until I reach the milestone of 1500. The first on the list The Escapist. A little gem of an Irish Film.

Year: 2008

Writer: Rupert Hyatt & Daniel Hardy

Director: Rupert Hyatt

Cast: Brian Cox (from X2, Bourne Supremacy, Adaptation, The Ringer), Joseph Fiennes (Running with Scissors, Shakespeare in Love, Enemy at the Gates), Seu Jorge (City of God, Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), Dominic Cooper (The Duchess, Mamma Mia!, The History Boys)

Opening Shot: Medium Shot of Brian Cox. It’s lit from above. It cuts between this and black for the first 30 secs. Cox is looking down, rather forlorn.

Let me put you in the right mood to watch The Escapist. It takes place in a prison and is about a few of the prisoners’ attempted escape. It will immediately draw comparisons with Shawshank Redemption, but Shawskank it is not. We’re dropped into what we find out is the escape attempt. Jospeh Fiennes’ Lenny Drake waits ready to swing a pipe to dig through a shower drain with Seu Jorge’s Viv Batista and Liam Cunningham’s Brodie. The mood is tense based on the music and the handheld camera shots. We’re then thrown into the prison where Brian Cox’s Frank Perry, Damian Lewis’s Rizza, Lenny, Viv, Brodie, along with others all have certain roles and relationships with each other that change when the new prisoners arrive. The new prisoner we focus on is Dominic Cooper’s Lacey who becomes Frank’s cellmate after his cellmate dies. The basic plot is that Frank Perry must escape from his life sentence because he has just found out that his little girl has fallen deathly ill.

Every so often the mostly static shots of the prison give way to the handheld suspense of the breakout. This keeps up the pace and makes the ending so much better. Some of you who see it may be able to call the ending outright but I went along with the yarns of the story and was pleasantly surprised. The ending, without giving anything away (except by drawing attention to it), works on its own and makes the movie better like a good ending should. Even without the ending the movie would be enjoyable. The acting is pretty solid. It’s well shot and the cinematography adds to the differing parallel plots. The time period is very pastiche. There is no way to tell the time period because of the lack of windows in the prison.

Grade: B-

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