PACIFIC RIM (2013)

PACIFIC RIM

Christopher

Guillermo del Toro is one of those directors that is really hit or miss with me, a lot like Ron Howard, although I think I like del Toro more. Pacific Rim was only about the robot fights. The characters, their relationships with each other, the story, and the technology in this movie all don’t make a lot of sense and are not consistent but it really doesn’t matter.

What this movie does best, and I think the big reason why I love it, is that even with all the flaws it makes the Transformer movies look even worse then I had originally thought. I think I saw the first two(?) Transformer movies in college and each time I walked away feeling gross and wasting three hours of my life. After seeing Pacific Rim, I felt for the first time in my life that some great movies/TV shows are going to be made now because of this. Mainly, some pretty badass manga series.

Elizabeth

Pacific Rim is weird, and I mean that in a good way. I really didn’t know what it was about before I saw it; all I knew was it was directed by Guillermo del Toro (and I love Pan’s Labyrinth) and starred Idris Elba. Because I have seen both Daddy’s Little Girls and Obsessed, I can safely see any Idris Elba movie because it could never possibly be as bad as either of those. It’s a theory that keeps proving to be right.

While I definitely liked Pacific Rim much more than I ever thought I would like a robot/monster movie, it has some problems that I think a lot of large-scale, especially sci-fi, movies have. A lot of the characters were under-developed or seemed unnecessary. And I have to say, I was distracted by Charlie Hunnam, who played Raleigh Becket. At first I was distracted because I kept wishing his role had been played by Channing Tatum. Then I was distracted by his weird accent (he’s British with a bad American accent). Then I was distracted by how similar he and the semi-villain, played by Robert Kazinsky, look. Couldn’t at least one of them have dark hair or something?

But anyway, Charlie Day is also in this, which was a weird and pleasant surprise, as he sort of plays Charlie Kelly The Scientist. But, obviously, the best part was Idris Elba. He is so cool. Such a badass. There’s a great moment where he, some kind of commanding officer, is grabbed by Becket, and I swear a little bit of Stringer Bell came out. It’s awesome.

But yeah, Pacific Rim is fun for sure. Worth seeing.

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SHE’S ALL THAT (1999)

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Elizabeth

She’s All That is very weird because it is at once legitimately terrible as well as legitimately funny. There’s hints of irony, but not enough to completely counteract things like Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook) taking off her glasses and plucking her eyebrows for Zack (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and immediately becoming good looking to everyone. Seeing it now as an adult (I don’t think I had seen this since I owned it on VHS in elementary school), I’m not really sure what to make of it. It’s not as bad as I remembered, but it’s not good, either. That, plus the fact that Freddie Prinze, Jr. is not nearly as attractive as I remembered, makes She’s All That very confusing for me.

One thing that truly amazed me was that the entirety of Laney and Zack’s relationship that we see takes place over 8 weeks. I guess they never exchange I love you’s or even have sex, but at least the love part is well-implied. But, as Chris pointed out, 8 weeks is a lifetime in high school and I realized how insanely right he was about that. God, high school sucks.

Christopher

I was not expecting to like this movie but it was pretty funny at times. I think the only thing that I didn’t like was that I felt like there were times that it was supposed to be serious but it was still pretty goofy. The movie that She’s All That made me think of is Better Off Dead. Both are romantic comedies of a sort with pretty weird and funny jokes. I would have never watched this had Elizabeth not recommended it but it was worth the 1h 35m!

Also Torrence High School makes an appearance in this film along with Sarah Michelle Gellar . . . so I can only assume that this is a side story in the Buffy Universe.

THE COOKOUT (2004)

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Christopher

This movie is scary in its hyperreality but the worst part is easily the mother characters. They are insane. One mother, whose son was just the first round pick in the NBA, is so overbearing that she makes her son feel guilty when he buys his own house and wants to move out. She throws a fit but hey he makes it up to her by letting her decorate his house!!!! Yaaaaaaaaaaaay (but she is legitimately happy)!!!!!! She ends up decorating his house with doll houses and a car themed children’s bed? And the son loves it?

The other mom is pissed that her son is not trying to be the next NBA star and instead is trying to be a doctor. And she’s upset about this saying that doctors don’t make enough money? She ends up realizing that her son should be a doctor when someone else tells her that they make money but I’m really not sure what kind of parent would not want their child to be a doctor over a professional athlete. One is a far more guaranteed than the other AND they are helping people!!

This movie was pretty surreal in its awfulness and I have to suggest that you watch it. It’s on Netflix!

Elizabeth

The Cookout is really a tragedy. The biggest real-life tragedy is that this was Farrah Fawcett’s last movie. The biggest tragedy of the movie is the subplot of a dementia-ridden mother not believing that her pre-med son should be a doctor, but rather a professional basketball player even though he’s not good at basketball and doesn’t even seem to particularly like it.

That latter tragedy isn’t presented as a tragedy, though (the dementia is implied by me), but rather an example of the totally insane and unfunny subplots that make up The Cookout, which is supposed to be a comedy. There’s all the insane mothers, the insane racism, the insane sexism, and then also Ja Rule (who got top billing) and his apparently mentally handicapped sidekick thrown in for good measure. I guess the best part about The Cookout is Queen Latifah ends up saving the day, even though she does it by impersonating a SWAT team member, but that’s never addressed so I guess it’s okay somehow.

SPOORLOOS (THE VANISHING) – 1988

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Elizabeth (spoilers!)

The Vanishing is unique to me in that I could easily label it as the scariest movie I’ve ever seen as well as one of my all-time favorite movies. I’ve been wanting to watch it with Chris for so long, and over the weekend I finally bought the Criterion Collection DVD, which we watched almost immediately after I got it. This was maybe my 3rd or 4th time seeing it, and for being such a suspenseful movie, it really does get better with age.

The Vanishing is not about who kidnapped Saskia (Johanna ter Steege), because the movie tells us well within the first act that the kidnapper is Raymond (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu). The movie has more than one timeline going, showing us Saskia and Rex (Gene Bervoets) and their relationship up to the kidnapping, Raymond’s life up to the kidnapping, and Rex’s continued search for Saskia 3 years later, which eventually causes Raymond to reach out to Rex. What The Vanishing doesn’t tell us, until the end, is what exactly happened to Saskia. We know that Raymond must have lured her to his car, but how? We see him try and fail at different attempts to lure other women, plus Saskia is taken at broad daylight in the middle of a busy service station with Rex nearby. We know that Raymond must have drugged her and taken her to his summer home nearby, but then what happened to her? It’s what drives Rex and the movie, and the closer we come to the resolution, the harder it is to even breathe and watch at the same time.

By the time Rex meets Raymond, he’s already gone a little crazy. His search for Saskia has left him in debt, he can’t have normal romantic relationships, he hallucinates, cries out for Saskia. So when Raymond approaches Rex, it doesn’t seem quite as strange that he doesn’t immediately murder Raymond, or try to murder him, or call the cops or something (though Chris, I think, still found it hard to believe that he wouldn’t do that). It’s sort of like hearing about a schizophrenic person shoot themselves in the head in an effort to stop hearing voices. It’s crazy, but if you were able to feel the agony that they felt, maybe the reaction would seem more normal.

Anyway, the more Raymond and Rex talk, the more we learn about Raymond. He refers to himself as a sociopath and claustrophobic. He tells Rex a story of how he saved a little girl from drowning and when he saw how proud his daughter was thought that the only way to validate his unselfish, pure good deed was to counter it with a completely selfish, evil one, so he decides to commit the most horrible act he can think of.

In the end, Raymond never tells Rex what happened to Saskia. Instead he gives him an ultimatum: either Raymond will show Rex what happened to Saskia, by doing the same thing to him, or Raymond will leave and Rex will never know. It’s an agonizing decision that pits what is probably the strongest human instinct (self-preservation) against a strong combination of human emotions (love and curiosity). So, eventually, Rex opts to know, takes a sleeping pill, and the screen goes dark. Later, Rex wakes to find himself in the process of being buried alive; already trapped in a coffin while Raymond piles the dirt on from above. Rex never makes it out, because Saskia never makes it out. Instead we’re left with the image of Rex, alive in a coffin, lit only by the lighter that Saskia gave him, screaming and finally crying out for Saskia.

It’s totally fucking terrifying. The concept alone is horrifying: the person you love getting kidnapped and the only way you find out what happened to them is to experience it yourself, and then learning that you’re both going to die by means of suffocation through being buried alive. Great. But what’s also terrifying is the way Saskia is taken. Eventually, her actual abduction is shown. Saskia is Dutch and outgoing, and Raymond, who is French, compliments Saskia’s French, which she knows is bad. Flattered, she strikes up a conversation with him and notices his golden “R” keychain, which we previously saw Raymond’s youngest daughter give him for his birthday. We also previously saw Saskia making fun of Rex’s keychain, so she asks Raymond where she can buy one herself. Raymond tells her that he’s a salesman for them and has a box in his car, so she follows him there. There is a box in his car, but it’s full of tiles that his wife gave him for his birthday to fix up the summer house with. While he digs through it, he casually tells Saskia to sit in the car. She hesitates, then sees a picture of him with his (all-female) family, smiles, and sits in the passenger seat. And that’s when Raymond violently drugs her with chloroform on a handkerchief before she can scream. It’s so realistic; before we’re shown this we have to wonder why on earth Saskia, who is smart and already with a man she’s in love with, would ever get into super creepy Raymond’s car. But the language barrier, along with Saskia’s trust that Raymond’s family life speaks anything to his character, eventually does her in. And while I still feel fairly confident that I wouldn’t get into a stranger’s car (especially after seeing this movie a few times), the way it’s presented here doesn’t seem totally impossible. And that’s totally scary.

The Vanishing also plays with the familiar the-villain-doesn’t-seem-evil-because-he-seems-normal idea, because he’s a professor with a wife and two daughters that all seem to love him. But The Vanishing doesn’t do much to try to convince us that Raymond is normal; it’s pretty clear from the start that he’s psychotic. But what makes his seemingly normalness scary is how his family factors into his plan. His oldest daughter screams outside their summer house after seeing spiders; after asking a neighbor if he heard screams (he didn’t), Raymond uses this to determine that screams from his summer house won’t be heard. His youngest daughter’s admiration for saving the drowned girl gives him the idea for burying someone alive, and the keychain she gives him is what catches Saskia’s attention. And his wife’s gift of tiles further lures Saskia to her death. They all play a part in Saskia and Rex’s nightmare by doing nothing more than being a loving family.

Please see The Vanishing, but please make sure you’re seeing the 1988 Dutch version, not the (apparently) horrible 1993 American remake, which is hopefully coming up for us soon . . . if Chris can handle it.

Christopher

I was expecting to like this movie but I was not expecting it to freak me out as much as it did. It’s horrifying. I think what this film does best is making you feel like you know what’s coming and putting a little twist on it. If I had seen this movie in high school I would not have been able to sleep for a week. I’m glad Elizabeth is so fond of it though cause this is definitely not the kind of movie I tend to watch on my own. Please watch this if you like thrillers.

GROWN UPS (2010)

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Christopher

It took me forever but since Grown Ups 2 is now in theaters I felt that we had to watch this. It really is an all-star cast! I would say all the main male characters, other than Chris Rock MAYBE, starring in any movie, makes it an instantly shitty film. All completely worth watching. Of course the biggest one out of them being Adam Sandler. It really feels like he might be some sort of Antichrist. He’s pretty shitty and I feel that Grown Ups is further truth of this. The whole movie is about a group of friends coming together for a reunion of sorts once their basketball coach dies. Everyone is really mean and shitty to each other. But, the whole time no one really makes fun of Adam Sandler and at one point Adam Sandler starts slapping Kevin James’ character with a pancake I think? The whole time Kevin James just has to accept it? Oh but it’s because Kevin James is FAT!!!!!

– Kevin James: His whole character revolves around this. Every time he opens his mouth you already end the joke by saying, “CAUSE HE’S FAT!!!!!”

–  Chris Rock: He’s the feminine one. He cooks for his wife who has a job and he’s not good at basketball. Every time he speaks it ends with you knowing he’s less of a man because his wife just makes fun of him.

– Rob Schneider: He’s the spiritual guy who loves old, old women. He has one really hot daughter who all the other guys want to have sex with and he has another daughter, who looks more like him, and everyone just makes fun of the whole time. But of course they do! Why would they be nice to someone that UGLY!!!

– David Spade: hahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahaha he’s supposed to be a ladies man?

– ADAM SANDLER: So he has demon sons who don’t love nature, so Adam Sandler tries to get them to go outside and play like he used to as a kid. Adam Sandler did raise them to act this way but for some reason he just thinks they’re dumb. Adam Sandler is supposed to be good at basketball?? He only shoots bank shots?

Finally, what I think is truly the worst part about this film and really any film with any of these guys is that they are all so shitty to their wives/girlfriends (I guess Chris Rock is the only exception in this movie). I wonder if these guys know that IF YOU DON’T LIKE SOMEONE DON’T BE IN A RELATIONSHIP ESPECIALLY MARRIAGE WITH THEM.

#AdamSandler666

Elizabeth

Since you’re reading this blog, I think I can safely bet that you’re smart. So you’ve probably heard that Grown Ups is bad and you probably assume as much. But I have news for you. Grown Ups is much, much, much worse than you could possibly imagine.

Grown Ups is so actively unfunny and boring that I often forgot that what we were watching was supposed to be a comedy film rather than just scenes of Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider sitting around in various locations in a Sandler-led circle jerk. All these guys are supposed to be playing recently reunited childhood friends that are going to supposedly remain friends, yet they can’t stop shitting on each other . . . most notably on Kevin James, because his only character trait is being fat and most notably not on Adam Sandler, who, as co-producer and co-writer, is obviously the mastermind behind this cash cow.

But what I want to really focus on here are the women of this movie. Did you even know that Grown Ups had women? I’d honestly just rather they didn’t. In this movie we are supposed to be believe that the pathetic characters of Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, and Kevin James are supposed to be married to Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph, and Maria Bello, respectively. And that David Spade is a for real ladies’ man. It’s totally fucking insane. And then there’s the way they’re treated, with Salma Hayek getting the brunt of the awfulness. Her character, Roxanne, is married to Adam Sandler’s character, Lenny. Roxanne and Lenny have managed to raise utterly abhorrent children. Roxanne is a fashion designer of apparently great success, as her new line is set to premiere soon at Milan Fashion Week. Unfortunately for Roxanne, Milan Fashion Week coincides with her husband’s masturbatory, insufferable friend reunion, so she can’t go. Let me rephrase: Lenny does not allow her to go. Lenny does not allow her to do her job. So she can stay with him and their terrible children while he spends most of his time without them and with his absolutely shitty friends. Once Roxanne concedes to this, she finds out that Lenny long ago cancelled the Milan trip, without ever discussing this with her. BUT HEY IT’S OKAY, BECAUSE SHE’S JUST A SIMPLE WOMAN. It’s absolutely fucking maddening. Why did you do this, Salma Hayek? I absolutely hope she got paid a shit ton for this, or else I will not be able to tolerate her ever again.

I can’t even go into the fact that we discover Rob Schneider has a hot daughter that all the guys want to sleep with and a normal looking daughter that all the guys constantly make fun of, because just thinking about Grown Ups is making me clench my jaw in anger and I’ve already been to the dentist once this week.

TRUE ROMANCE (1993)

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Elizabeth (spoilers!)

There’s a few things I noticed right off the bat with True Romance. First of all, how many people are in it. Here’s a rundown of the most notable cast members: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Michael Rapaport, Dennis Hopper, James Gandolfini, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore, Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer, Samuel L. Jackson. What’s amazing about a cast as giant and great as this, the movie still feels small; it’s not bursting with giant personalities.

Second of all, since we recently watched Badlands, I noticed pretty soon how the score from True Romance sounds almost identical to that of Badlands. I mean, just check out this sample of music from Badlands and compare it to this sample of music from True Romance. Now, I haven’t really looked into this. Maybe this was intentional. I’m not sure. At first it was distracting, but then when you consider the stories of the two movies, it started to make sense that the music would be so similar. 

True Romance has a great overarching story, but it’s really a movie of scenes. It just has some great scenes. Some of the actors only appear in one or two scenes, making the movie feel like it’s almost made up of vignettes. Chris had warned me about one scene in particular, a fight between Alabama (Patricia Arquette) and Virgil (James Gandolfini). Now, it’s a scary situation for sure, but it’s really just kind of awesome. While James Gandolfini can obviously overpower Patricia Arquette, there’s no rape or sexual assault of any kind involved in the fight, making Alabama and Virgil weirdly on the same page. Because, at least physically, there’s nothing stopping Virgil from raping Alabama; it would have completely defeated her. But he doesn’t, making the fight between a giant man and a petite woman about as fair as that could get. And at first, Virgil just whales on her, not really caring that she’s a woman, beating her up like one would imagine he beats up anyone. He’s trying to get information out of her, but no matter how much he beats her, she doesn’t give in and actively provokes him. Finally, while Virgil takes a break while they both catch their breath and he goes into a pretty great monologue on the feeling of killing people, Alabama spots a corkscrew that’s fallen out of her purse and stabs Virgil in the foot. She also breaks a bust over his head, which has surprisingly little effect on him. The fight moves into the bathroom, with Virgil throwing Alabama into the glass shower. Alabama rubs soap in Virgil’s eyes, hits him over the head with the lid from the toilet bowl, then uses her lighter and hairspray to throw a fireball at Virgil’s face. When she finally gets him down, she shoots him repeatedly with his own shotgun. It’s brutal. But it’s so fucking badass. Up to this point, I was a little annoyed by Alabama, thinking she was just kind of dumb and going along with whatever the men around her said. But everything changed with that scene, and the movie got even better.

There’s really so much to say about True Romance and all of its great characters, but I just have to say that I can’t help but find my favorite character to be Floyd, played by pre-superstardom Brad Pitt. Floyd is the roommate of Dick (Michael Rapaport), who is the best friend of Clarence (Christian Slater). Floyd is a stoner; he sits on the couch, smokes weed out of a bear honey bottle, smokes Dick’s mail, tells the bad guys where the good guys are without a second thought, and always just wants someone to share a bowl with or watch TV with. He’s simple but really a fantastic character that is so funny.

I really regret only seeing True Romance now and not in high school. I would have been totally obsessed in high school. But it’s better late than never, and True Romance is too good to ever say never to.

Christopher

I’ve been wanting to watch True Romance with Elizabeth and since we just watched Badlands it seemed like the perfect time. It’s funny how I look back at my movie watching career because in hindsight I think True Romance is one of my most watched movies. When I saw it in high school I became so obsessed. It was one of those movies I saw and immediately wanted to show my parents, which in hindsight probably wasn’t a great idea because of the sex and violence and the fact that I don’t think they really enjoyed it. But to me, at that age, I thought it was so perfect. It really had everything I was looking for in a film back then: a ton of famous actors, sex and nudity, violence, and a love story. I’m glad it still holds up with my old age. I think it’s probably a little too cheesy but man it has too many good memories behind it.

I’m also glad we got to watch this ’cause I truly love James Gandolfini, he’s such a badass. I guess that doesn’t sound that great when talking about this film. Gandolfini’s character completely fucks up Patricia Arquette’s character. This scared me so much cause I really couldn’t understand hurting a woman.

Really I’m just glad that Elizabeth didn’t hate it.

OH, also I remember this time in college that this girl was so convinced that Gary Oldman’s character was played by Val Kilmer. It was one of those situations where I was trying not to sound like a dick but I was trying to tell her that she was wrong. And it really wasn’t a matter of trying to be right, I just didn’t think that someone should go through life thinking something is one way when it’s not . . . I wonder if she still thinks it’s Val Kilmer. Also it’s weird that you never see Val Kilmer’s characters face this whole movie; I wonder why he took the role.

CHINATOWN (1974)

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Christopher

Chinatown was a movie I saw in high school around 1am and didn’t really think much of it because I didn’t remember a lot of it. Especially years later. When I saw that it was on Netflix I really had to see it because I knew being older that I would probably like it a lot more. I honestly think that there are not too many movies better than this. What makes this movie great, really is the story. Story is absolutely everything and it’s kind of insane how people forget that. Please see this movie and love it as much as I do. It’s easily the best movie I have seen since Elizabeth and I have started this blog.

Elizabeth

There’s obviously a lot of great things going on with Chinatown, but I think my favorite part might be the basic concept of it. It’s an intricate, compelling story about something boring. I mean, just take this line from the movie’s Wikipedia: “The film was inspired by the California Water Wars, a series of disputes over southern California water at the beginning of the 20th century by which Los Angeles interests secured water rights in the Owens Valley.” I mean, at least for me, that doesn’t sound like something I’d be super excited to see a movie about. But for a movie that deals so much with 40’s (I think)-era Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, it’s incredibly interesting and exciting.

I think Jack Nicholson usually plays at least a little bit of an asshole, and as Jake Gittes he still does, but there’s something different about him. Maybe it’s seeing little Roman Polanski slice off part of his nose, but there’s something weirdly vulnerable about Gittes. And it’s an interesting contrast to Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), who also comes off as a bit of a badass/possible asshole until it’s revealed just how vulnerable she is, and how amazing it is that she’s able to even be anything as a person, much less a badass, after what she’s gone through.

As a writer, there are certain movies I can understand writing. Not to say that I think I could write them, but it’s like I can empathize with where the story has come from. That always really interests me, but Chinatown is in the opposite category, where I can’t remotely conceive of how one writes a story as layered as this. And that’s always even more interesting to me.