Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Episode 14: "Memphis Belle"

"Memphis Belle" receives the distinct honor of being the first movie watched on our new monster TV. It will forever be remembered for that, at least for this writer.

Anyway, "Belle" is based on the true story of a B-17 bomber and its crew who successfully completed 25 missions during World War II. After their final mission, the crew was brought home to the States as heroes and (most) spent the remainder of the war selling bonds. The real-life Memphis Belle was recovered from a scrap yard in 1946 and, after years of being a mainstay near the city it is named for, is currently undergoing restoration.

The film follows the crew as they prepare for and subsequently go on what will be their last bombing run. Each of the 10 crew members is extremely well cast. Sean Astin (pre-"Rudy"), Matthew Modine, Harry Connick, Jr., D.B. Sweeney, and Billy Zane (pre-"Titanic") all play their parts to a tee. Perhaps the biggest star at the time, Eric Stoltz, shows here why he was considered to be a contender for The Next Big Thing. His portrayal of Sgt. Danny Daly brings depth and poignancy to the film. David Strathairn and John Lithgow, respectively, play the crew's commanding officer and the Army PR guy brought in to sell them to the American public. No one involved is a true movie superstar of any sort but all together they make a strong, competent team.

It's been a while since I had watched this movie and I was quickly reminded of why it works. There are really only 12 characters in the whole movie but each of them is, for lack of a better term, incredibly HUMAN. John Lithgow is a little out there but the rest of these guys seem like your next door neighbors. And that's why "Belle" works where other war-era movies fail. It's not just that you root for the characters, it's that you BELIEVE in the characters and you feel like you know them. During the action sequences, which are spliced together with real footage from WWII dogfights, you get tense and you care about the boys in the plane. Aside from "Saving Private Ryan," (which is like the Michael Jordan of modern war movies) I feel comfortable calling "Belle" one of, if not the, best. A+.

Best character: Eric Stoltz, Danny Daly
Connick (in his first film role) and Astin are both excellent as well.

Best scene: The Letter Reading scene
Straithairn drags Lithgow into his office and forces him to read some of the letter he has received from those who've had a loved under his command die. The words are spoken over real dogfight shots, making a very powerful and sobering impact.

Best line:
McVey - "Has anyone seen my St. Anthony's medal?"
Daly - "Isn't he the Patron Saint of lost things?"
McVey - "Ya I can't find it."
(For all it's merits, "Belle" is not exactly a quotable movie.)

There needs to be a Blu-Ray version of this soon,

"Memphis Belle" through Lindsey's eyes:

So I'm writing the review for this WAY later. We watched this a couple of weeks ago and I'm the worst wife ever. I've been totally bringing this project down with my busy work schedule. I love how I read his review and thought, "This was the first movie we watched on our new TV?" That right there, shows how much movies mean to Brian and not so much to me. Brian helps me stay aware of the movie world.

I have mixed feelings about this movie. I definitely appreciate it and I understand why people like it, but I was soooo incredibly stressed out the whole time. In a movie like that, I need to know what happens. I was too drawn into the characters that I just couldn't enjoy the movie because I was afraid of death. Gosh, I'm nervous in my heart just thinking back on that evening.

When I wasn't stressed out, I was trying to figure out where I had seen all the characters before. Goodness, there were a lot of familiar faces. While watching the movie, I inserted lines in my head from their past movies. "The Cutting Edge" guy yelled out "Toe Pick!" occasionally throughout the flight. Then the nerd from "Can't Buy Me Love" yelled out "Look, it's the African Ant Eater Ritual!" as they flew over their target. I've got to keep myself entertained when my mind wanders.

I would definitely recommend this movie and MAYBE I would like it more the second time, now that I know what I'm getting myself into.

"The Cutting Edge" may replace "Rockin with Judy Jetson" on my list,


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Episode 13: L.A. Confidential

"L.A. Confidential" is a crime-thriller set in the 50s. It follows the detectives of the LAPD and the cast of characters that surround them. Every one of the characters, with the exception of Golden Boy Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), is dirty in some way, but the corruption of some exceeds all else. And that's kind of how "Confidential" goes: everyone is dirty and at times it turns into a circle of betrayal. Yet the characters (for the most part) are so likable and so smooth that you don't mind rooting for a dirty cop, just as long as he's not as dirty as the next one. In fact you kind of don't like the one clean cop because he's such a tool. Eventually, through some incredible investigate twists and turns (and one of my favorite "I'm dying but I'm going to trick the bad guy into outing himself to everyone else" scenes ever), the real bad guys are exposed and the good guys, though flawed, shine through. It is a stylish piece of film noir that is, in all honesty, fun to watch despite it's subject matter. (I really don't even know what "noir" means, I just feel like it's the type of description that a film like "Confidential" would garner.)

I have to commend Lindsey for sitting through this movie without falling asleep or playing Hearts on her iPhone. When I think of "Confidential" I think of how slick it is and how well it flows. It moves seamlessly from scene to scene, the settings are spectacular, and the dialogue stylishly works that classic 50s vocabulary without getting too bogged down. The performances by Pearce, Russell Crowe (before he was really Russell Crowe), Danny Devito, and especially Kevin Spacey are incredible; incredible enough to make an awful actress like Kim Basinger look so good that she even won an Oscar. But I forget how convoluted the story line is and how hard it can be to follow. I love that type of movie where you really have to pay attention to connect the dots, where you have to know all the character's names to understand what's happening. As long as it's an entertaining story, I am always in for that type of movie. Lindsey, on the other hand, is not. The fact that she was still awake when "Confidential" ended is a testament both to the movie's strength and Lindsey's commitment to this little experiment. (That is, this blog, not our marriage. :)) B+.

Best character: Jack Vincennes, Kevin Spacey
Not even close. Mid 90's Kevin Spacey is incredible (as we'll discuss when we get to "The Usual Suspects").

Best scene: The "Rolo Tamosi" scene
No spoilers here but when someone dies and utters the words, "Rolo Tamosi" to his killer, I kind of got chills the first time I saw it, knowing that those two little words would lead to the villains demise. Brilliant.

Best line:
Ed (after Bud hangs the District Attorney out a window to get a confession): "Was that how you used to run the good cop/bad cop?"

Russell Crowe owes his career to this movie,

"L.A. Confidential" through Lindsey's eyes:
I can see why people like this movie. It was interesting and entertaining, but I don't care to see it again. The only movies that I am willing to see over and over are comedies and horror/suspense. That is why this experiment is just a little dreadful at times. I would never pick out a movie like this. I'll sit through it, but the whole time, I'm ready for the ending so I can start talking again. It's just not my thing.

"L.A. Confidential" caught my attention because of the time period. If it was set modern day, I would have been incredibly bored. I love that 50s glamour. I also really loved the house that Kim Basinger lived in. I thought about that quite a bit during the movie. There were a set of curtains that draped in the middle of a doorway, very interesting decorating idea. Everything looked so elegant...for a Hooker House.

Brian was right, it was hard to follow at times. I whispered several questions to Brian when my mind came back from thinking about curtains and attempted to follow the movie. I liked how it all came together and it didn't make me too stressed. The ending wrapped up nicely and I only had a couple of questions once it was all over. Overall, it was pretty good for what it was. "Confidential" held my attention for about 75% of the movie.

Brian...I'm ready for a comedy,

Friday, December 4, 2009

Episode 12: "Can't Buy Me Love"

I apologize for the lateness of this review. We watched this a month ago and I'm just now taking the time to write. "Can't Buy Me Love" is one of my favorite childhood movies. Oh the plot is just perfect: cool high school teenage girl dates the nerd, so that he will pay for her fancy outfit that was ruined by wine. Seriously, every little girl dreams of being a cool high school teenage girl with a white suede bikini/mini skirt outfit. That Cindy Mancini. She was captain of the cheer squad and the most popular girl in school. Cindy Mancini was my goal. Actually, in my heart, it's still my goal. Even though I am now an adult with a career, I still look up to That Girl. I will always admire that cute, popular, high school cheerleader.

Sadly, watching this movie with a bunch of adults, killed my love. It is definitely "made for tv" movie quality, along with most movies I adored as a kid. The whole entire crowd bashed this movie. They are still bashing it. Seriously, I was the only one who wasn't tortured. Where did all of those fans go? For so long, I couldn't find a girl around my age that didn't adore this movie. Even at my high school dances, my friends and I would set aside a song for the African Anteater Ritual. I needed the support of my fellow Cindy Mancini fans during this viewing. After watching "Can't Buy Me Love" with this crowd, my memories of this movie aren't all joyful.

I may be too sensitive for the critcism of this project after all,

I...I have very little to say about this movie. Seriously, readers, heed this warning: DO NOT watch this movie. I totally get why adolescent girls loved this movie growing up. I do. I understand everything Lindsey said about it. But trust me: absolutely NOTHING good can come from watching this if you are over the age of 12. I beg you to listen to me. There were at minimum two girls besides Lindsey in our viewing party who grew up loving this movie. And both of them were on suicide watch by the end of the night.

It is terrible. This is how terrible it is: Our friend, Laura Beth, was heading to Africa for a for a few weeks and we told her she could choose the movie we'd be watching since she was headed out of the country; it just had to be from Lindsey's list since it was her turn. When "Can't Buy Me Love" mercifully ended, I was kind of mad at Laura Beth for picking this thing. I know that makes no sense but that's how bad it was; it confused the "logic" portion of my brain with it's terribleness.

The most shocking thing about this movie is that two people involved with it actually have legitimate acting careers! Seth Green is featured in his really ugly youthfulness and has gone on to a funny, productive career (soon to be killed by appearing in the John Travolta Poo-Poo Special of the Year, "Old Dogs). And headlining-star Patrick Dempsey has managed to squeeze out a career despite having this trainwreck on his resume. That's the best or worst thing about Hollywood, however you want to look at it. If you're a good enough looking human, you will get multiple chances at this Showbiz thing. I guess that's the moral of the story. Or something like that. I'm not really sure because I'm still kind of messed up by the terribleness of this movie. F.

I bet Seth Green doesn't claim this movie,