HEAVEN IS FOR REAL (2014)

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Christopher

I just tried writing a post for this movie and it came out almost unreadable while also being about five paragraphs. I think that’s proof that this, along with other religious movies I’ve recently seen (The Encounter series) are just confusing to me. They are religious based but the people in them are mean or unrealistic about situations. It just feels like a perfect example why I don’t care about any of this. I’m glad religion can be comforting to people but that’s just not me.

This movie is bad and it’s a lot of fun to make fun of. You don’t even have to make fun of religious stuff in it, there are plenty of other elements that make no sense or are just shit all around!

Elizabeth

How do I even know where to start with Heaven Is For Real? I guess I’ll start with the title, as that sort of sets the tone. I know it’s based on a book, but that aside, I really don’t know what the filmmakers thought they were accomplishing by naming their movie Heaven Is For Real. Naming your movie that and then turning right around and adding “Based On a True Story” is a bit of a conflict to me. Because no matter what your religion is, I think it’s safe to say that no matter what anyone believes, as far as we know, the existence of heaven has never been proven. Proving that heaven exists would be a pretty big deal, so I think everyone would know it by now if the story this movie is based on were true. So we’re supposed to agree with the message of the movie (that heaven is real, in case that wasn’t obvious) based on nothing more than what a fever-ravaged 4 year old son of a preacher says. This does not sound like the start to a life-altering movie.

To get the plot out of the way, Greg Kinnear plays Todd Burpo. Todd Burpo. Burpo. The Burpo name is mentioned at least 13 times throughout the movie (we counted) and their mailbox with the Burpo name is shown probably half a dozen times:

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So in case you might forget that they have a shitty name like Burpo, the filmmakers are always ready to remind you. Todd Burpo is a pastor in some kind of Christian church, along with his wife Sonja (Kelly Reilly), son Colton (Connor Corum), and daughter Cassie (Lane Styles). The Burpos have impending money issues looming over them, which is constantly told to us but you would never know considering their lush, expansive farmland and gigantic house:

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Todd injuries himself during a softball game. That’s fine, not a big deal. Except he fucked himself UP during this softball game. This is the injury he gets from sliding into the base:

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Is that his bone sticking out? From sliding into base? At an amateur softball game? Uh, okay. This injury also causes Todd to have crazy back spasms (not sure about the connection there) and take time off from the church. Around this same time, Colton and Cassie come down with what appears to be the flu. Cassie gets better, but Colton doesn’t. In fact, not only does Colton not get better, his parents keep him in the house for 4 days with a 103 degree fever. UH WHAT?! They live in Nebraska, not some middle of nowhere cabin somewhere. And didn’t Todd just go to the hospital because he hurt himself playing fucking softball, but their 4 year old having a fever of 103 for 4 days isn’t enough to warrant a hospital visit? Whaaaaaaaaaaat? I’m not a doctor or a parent or anything close to those, but I can say that if Chris, who is an adult, had that high of a fever for that long I would take him to the hospital sooner than that. This serious lapse in parenting and judgment made it reallyyyyyyy hard for me to have any kind of sympathy for the parents after this point.

So, turns out, Colton has a burst appendix and is given emergency surgery, but he survives without issue. Afterward, though, Colton starts dropping weird hints that he’s seen heaven. Todd eggs him on and probes him a bit until Colton tells him that he saw Jesus and heaven and various dead relatives. It’s never explained why this happened even though Colton didn’t die . . . but whatever. Todd is down to believe him so he tells the family and the church and the inspiration just goes from there!

But before I go further I need to point out something really important. Heaven Is For Real is blue. I mean that literally. It is the bluest movie I have ever seen. It’s bluer than I Know Who Killed Me and bluer than the Viagra world that all those commercials take place in. The amount of blue in this movie is unreal, and for that reason I have compiled a small (comparatively, believe me) sample of how insane and awful this art direction is:

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All those pictures, like the one directly above, of Todd preaching are from different scenes, by the way. It’s as if it was required that he wear a blue shirt against that insane blue background. What’s most annoying about all the blue, besides how distracting it is, is that there doesn’t seem to be a reason for it. The blue doesn’t seem to symbolize anything or designate anything or anyone as anything. Everything’s just . . . blue. For no reason.

On an off we also get flashes to Colton’s version of heaven:

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Which includes giggling angels and a very white Jesus. Todd believes Colton more and more as he gives Todd more details about what he saw, like seeing a young version of Todd’s grandfather (whom Todd said he was extremely close to, but was Colton’s age when he died, so he was 4?). Colton also claims to have seen his would-be sister, whom Sonja lost in a miscarriage. Even though this not-real sister is unnamed due to the miscarriage, she can apparently talk and walk and hug Colton. So how does that work? If you have a miscarriage, the fetus ends up in heaven in the form of the human it would have been but still ends up nameless, instead of with the name it would have been given? What the fuck is that?

No one seems to take into account during this whole time that Colton had a really high fever for multiple days and then was put under sedation for major surgery during the time that he had these visions. When I was in second grade I had to be put under sedation for a non-surgical thing, and I remember feeling like I was talking to my mom the whole time. I’ve since assumed I felt that way because I was freaked out and my mom is comforting. Wouldn’t it make sense that Colton, raised as a hardcore Christian with all the beliefs of heaven thrown in, turn to his own ideas of heaven and Jesus at a time of serious distress like that? It’s totally legitimate, and it also doesn’t mean that Colton didn’t see what he claims to have seen. But I guess that would just be too logical of a route to take, so instead everyone just starts to believe this not-dead kid went to heaven.

Also, I think it’s worth pointing out something weird. The Heaven Is For Real Blu-ray (yeah, we got the Blu-ray for this) came with a few trailers, most of which came from the same Christian-based studio. But the last trailer was for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Chris and I both thought that was a weird change, but then again, Heaven Is For Real was very successful, so it sort of made sense. But then we started the movie, and there’s Spiderman everywhere!

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Why so much Spiderman? Is Marvel in cahoots with this Christian movie studio for some reason? I don’t normally think twice about product placement, but all the Spiderman stuff, especially with the trailer in the beginning, was just distracting.

So no, obviously Heaven Is For Real is not good. Not remotely. But it’s super funny and watchable, so I would certainly recommend it for that.

And lastly, here’s a shot of the scene where Todd Burpo finally uses all of his ministry and intellectual resources to get to the bottom of what’s wrong with his son:

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BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD (2011)

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Elizabeth

What appealed to me about Bobby Fischer Against the World was that it was on a subject I knew nothing about. I don’t know how to play chess and I don’t really know anything about it and I only knew the most very basic of facts about Bobby Fischer. And it really was great learning about him and seeing all the awesome archival footage. But, I did not think Bobby Fischer Against the World was good.

I think the biggest flaw was the movie’s lack of perspective and criticism of both chess and Bobby Fischer. If you were an alien watching this movie, you would think chess players are the most respected, talented, and worshiped people on the planet. But here’s what Bobby Fischer Against the World fails at highlighting: chess is a board game. That’s it. I’m not saying it’s an easy board game and I’m not saying that you don’t have to be a genius to master it. But nothing changes the fact that it is just a goddamn board game. Everyone talked so pretentiously about chess and what an untouchable figure Bobby Fischer was that you would think it would have some greater impact, but no, again, it’s just a game. Now I understand that it’s important, sometimes the most important thing, to a lot of these people that were interviewed. And that’s all well and good. But the documentary totally failed at giving any outside perspective. What did non-chess players think of Bobby Fischer? They emphasize how important he was in America, yet they pretty much only talk to other famous chess players who knew him personally. I find it hard to believe that there was a huge chess craze at some point in this country with no other evidence than someone who was already obsessed with chess saying that there was one. Maybe it’s true, but since I’m only going by what was presented here, I don’t buy it.

One of my favorite documentaries is King of Kong, about various Donkey Kong tournaments and the drama surrounding it all. King of Kong handles its subject delicately; it makes fun of the fact that all of the subjects are obsessed with archaic arcade games while still being very sensitive and empathetic to them. Yeah, it’s goofy that the whole thing is about Donkey Kong, but that doesn’t make the subjects’ struggle any less legitimate. Because Bobby Fischer Against the World never even really acknowledged that chess was even a game, it really lacked that kind of perspective, and was obviously devoid of all humor.

Bobby Fischer seems extremely interesting and probably pretty crazy. I would like to know more about him, and although the archival footage was so great here, I would really prefer to see something that was just about Bobby Fischer, rather than something that worshiped him.

Christopher

I LOVED WATCHING THIS!!!! Now, I don’t think the movie is very good; it’s very one-sided and never criticized this really not nice guy, however, I found it insanely interesting. I love chess. I’m not very good at it but I enjoy playing. I knew Bobby Fischer was a great chess player, I did watch that Hollywood movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, but I think because of that movie I just assumed Bobby Fischer had died a while ago. I didn’t know how just insane he was and how he didn’t live in America anymore. But all that wasn’t very interesting, it was just sad. I loved all the crazy chess shit! What a crazy weird world. I love finding stuff like that in real life.

AWAY WE GO (2009)

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Christopher

I definitely liked this movie more than I thought I was going to. It was still a little too cute for me but I think it had interesting moments. I think the idea of trying to decide on where to raise a child would be best decided by visiting multiple places. However I just think the idea could of been a little more developed. They visit different states but they only really base their experience there off the friends they already know there. Not the landscape or the city or the food or the school system.

I hope this did not make Elizabeth mad! I tried to make a point this time. Also if you are at all interested I think you should check this out it just wasn’t for me.

Elizabeth

Well I don’t know what Chris is going to say about Away We Go, but I know he was not into this movie despite my best efforts. But it’s so good!

I love the concept of this movie. Verona (Maya Rudolph) and Burt (John Krasinski) are a young, unmarried couple a few months away from having a baby. They find out that Burt’s parents are moving to Belgium for two years right after the baby is born, and because Verona and Burt only live where they do to be near his parents, they decide to use the opportunity to find a city to settle down in.

What I loved most was the relationship between Verona and Burt. It felt both real and unreal to me. When I first saw this movie about 6 years ago, I liked Verona and Burt as a couple but thought they kind of over-exaggerated their relationship. Like there’s just no way two people like that can just be in love like that. But luckily now that I’m with Chris I know that their relationship is realistic, and it made me feel sort of at home watching it.

MACGRUBER (2010)

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Elizabeth

I think I had been a little afraid to see MacGruber. Even though all of my instincts told me it would be funny (based on the cast and crew alone), I was still afraid it wasn’t, I guess based on the reception it got when it first opened. But a lot of people also hate Hot Rod, and I love Hot Rod, and MacGruber was made by a lot of the same people as Hot Rod, and that should have been enough for me.

MacGruber is not perfect but it’s insanely funny. It knows how to hold onto jokes and when to let them go. It’s enough of a parody of action movies (and obviously MacGyver) to be recognizable, but also constructs its own weird world and jokes. Will Forte plays MacGruber, who never goes by another name. He’s after Dieter Von Cunth, played by Val Kilmer. On paper, the name Dieter Von Cunth might seem stupid, but it cracked me the fuck up every time someone said it. Not to mention Val Kilmer. Come on. MacGruber is part of a 3-person team, including Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) and Vicki Gloria St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig, also another brilliant name). They’re after Cunth because he stole a nuclear warhead and also because he blew up MacGruber’s wife at their wedding.

One of my favorite jokes was that MacGruber assigned all the undercover work to Vicki, even though all of it involved being a man (and sometimes a large man). It’s just so goofy and weird, and Vicki is always terrified to do it so seeing her stand there in too-big clothes looking extremely nervous was just so funny to me.

I don’t really know why MacGruber wasn’t a huge hit. But then again, I don’t really know why Will Forte isn’t a superstar by now.

Christopher

I always thought I would hate this movie but since I listened to Will Forte’s WTF episode and watching Nebraska, I really admire him right now. So, I was far more interested in him than I have ever been and I’m glad because this movie is worth seeing! It’s really bizarre and a few jokes might fall short but I think it’s insanely consistent with their jokes, and not in an over the top way like everything Seth MacFarlane does. I also just like seeing Val Kilmer being in something new other than Twixt.

REPULSION (1965)

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Christopher

This is the kind of movie I have always loved. It’s so quiet, it takes a while for the tension to build, and the story takes a little deciphering. And I guess I’ve never really thought about it before but Roman Polanski might be one of my favorite directors. His characters and stories are so fantastically interesting. I really hope Elizabeth and I try to watch through his filmography soon. I have also been wanting to see this movie because some good friends of mine used to have the poster hung up in their house. I always thought it looked so interesting and I have a lot of great memories attached to it. I’m not sure why I didn’t watch it back then, especially since I did watch The Tenant back then. But getting back, I always thought, based off the Repulsion poster, that the movie was about a bunch of girls killing guys for family stuff?…I’m not sure why I thought that but it’s nothing like that and if you have never seen it, it’s so fucking worth it!

Elizabeth

There’s not a ton of plot to Repulsion, but not in a bad, Tree of Life kind of way. It’s basically about Carol (Catherine Deneuve) being left alone in the apartment she shares with her sister and going from nearly-insane to without-a-doubt-insane. It’s scary, but what makes it so scary is how realistic it is. I’m not going to pretend to know what it’s like to be schizophrenic or have any kind of really severe psychotic disorder. But I do know what it’s like to be scared of things that can’t hurt you and what it’s like to be so insanely depressed that you can’t leave your apartment and that’s really all I need to know to understand how true to life this is.

Carol is cripplingly shy and disgusted by men. But she’s also gorgeous, so she’s in constant conflict with how she looks and who she really is. There is one man in particular, Colin (John Fraser), who borderline stalks Carol despite not knowing her long at all and despite her constant apathy toward him. He tells her he’s miserable without her, which is both absurd and pathetic given their relationship (or lack thereof). But would Carol have to put in so much effort to get rid of Colin if she were ugly? Would Colin have pursued her so hard? Would he have been so blind to her apathy and rejection of him? Of course not, and that’s a really interesting point I think Polanski made by casting Deneuve. She’s just a gorgeous woman, of course she loves men! Of course she’s flirtatious and wants to get married. Just look at her! The fact that everyone, including her sister, seems to completely miss that there’s something wrong with Carol I feel is almost 100% due to the way she looks. We really don’t get any back story to Carol (which I love) but I like to imagine that she’s really always been this way and everyone’s always been oblivious to her because she’s always been pretty.

But the reason I love that we don’t have a back story to Carol is because it honestly doesn’t really matter. She has nightmares of a man coming and raping her, of the walls coming alive and grabbing her, but we don’t know what’s at the core of all this sexual imagery. Was she molested as a child? Raped? Walked in on her parents having sex? We don’t know and because of that we can’t justify anything. Maybe Carol was raped or maybe Carol was just born with a mental disorder. It doesn’t change anything happening in the story of this movie, so we don’t need to know. I love that Polanski could have chosen to explain it away, to make Carol a lifelong victim of men (if she had been raped), but he chose not to because that’s not the focus. The focus is what’s happening right now, because Carol is going crazy right now.

I read somewhere that every woman needs to see Repulsion. I’m not sure I agree with that. Obviously there are all kinds of cases you can make for Repulsion having a feminine edge and being about men and women, but what’s so great is that while this particular story is specific to those themes, it doesn’t have to be. Carol could easily be afraid of something else, or someone else (children? old women?), and the results would still be the same. The feminism of Repulsion shouldn’t be disregarded, but it’s also not the end-all be-all for it, either.

I don’t think every woman needs to see Repulsion, I think every person should see Repulsion.

ROAD TRIP (2000)

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Elizabeth

So, Road Trip is not funny. I thought it was funny the first and last time I saw it, which had to have been around when the movie came out, which would have put me in middle school. And that sort of makes sense because this is another good example of a film made by and with adults that seem to squarely focused on a middle school (and male) audience.

I didn’t think Tom Green was funny in 2000 and I don’t think he’s funny now. I couldn’t wait until people stopped caring about him because he was so annoying. Luckily, that did eventually happen and I pretty much never thought about him again until we watched this. I’m not one to say that comedy has to be smart to be funny, or that comedy has to be anything to be funny, but for me at least, Tom Green’s humor is just too gross and stupid. Unsurprisingly, Tom Green didn’t modify his style at all for Road Trip, because he didn’t have to.

So, here’s the premise. Josh (Breckin Meyer) is in college in New York and has a long-time girlfriend, Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard) in college in Austin (curiously, she goes to the University of Austin, not Texas, I guess UT didn’t want to be involved?). Josh and Tiffany maintain their relationship by talking on the phone everyday and sending each other videotapes of themselves talking. After three days of being unable to reach Tiffany, Josh determines that they have broken up despite being best friends/dating since they were 5, and therefore has sex with Beth (Amy Smart). The next day, Josh feels great about himself until he gets a voicemail from Tiffany, apparently one of a few, to tell him that her grandfather died and she’s been out of town at the funeral and unable to get in touch with him. Now Josh feels bad when he realizes not that he’s a total piece of shit, but that his longtime girlfriend didn’t dump him out of nowhere. Around the same time, Josh’s friends beg to see the sex tape that he and Beth made because, yes, they made a sex tape. When they put the tape in and see it’s instead Josh talking the camera, he finally puts two and two together that the sex tape was mailed to Tiffany and he has like 48 hours to get it back before she gets home from the funeral. Josh claims a plane ticket from New York to Austin is too expensive, so he decides to drive instead because that definitely makes sense. Making even more sense, Josh does not have a car, so he and his friends Rubin (Paulo Costanzo) and E.L. (Seann William Scott) hit up their acquaintance, Kyle (DJ Qualls), for his car and the four of them set out on the 1,700+ mile car ride.

The road trip itself is full the of the genre standard: their car gets totaled purely from their own stupidity, they run out of money, they make lots of sex jokes. But things get straight up weird when the guys show up at an all-black fraternity along the way. Rubin somehow knows the secret handshake for the fraternity (Was he part of the Ithaca chapter? Was he full of shit? Either they didn’t explain it or I missed it completely), granting the guys access to the fraternity to crash for the night. When they walk into the dining room and see that there’s only black guys there, they immediately start acting like weird, sheltered children who have never seen a non-white person before. They’re nervous and scared, despite the fact that the frat guys are just acting like normal frat guys. Then there’s a joke that I couldn’t even believe. Rubin (I think, maybe it was one of the other guys) says, after they’ve all sat down with their food, “The food here’s not bad, actually.” First of all: actually? Because they’re black, these guys expect the frat’s food to be gross? What? But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is his friends’ reactions to that statement: they slowly turn to him and look at him with both disgust and betrayal. The look they give him would make you think they’re in a frat of cannibals, not just regular black guys. Are these guys that racist and immature? Well, yes, apparently.

The only real funny part of the whole movie is a goofy subplot with Beth. After the guys leave, Beth goes to Josh’s room and discovers Tom Green there instead. He tells her Josh went to visit his girlfriend who goes to college in Austin, Massachusetts. Beth keeps asking him to repeat himself until finally she says, “Boston?” and he agrees. So Beth takes a bus to the University of Boston, finds another student with the same name as Tiffany’s, and accidentally ruins her life by telling this Tiffany that her boyfriend has cheated on her. It’s not the best or funniest subplot, but it’s certainly the best this movie has to offer.

Christopher

This movie used to make me cry with laughter whenever it came up. I don’t know what happened to that movie but that is not what we watched. I suppose that means I’ve matured, though, and I’m thankful for that but geeze, Tom Green is pretty unbearable in this movie. I think the best part was the unnecessary nudity but even that couldn’t make me watch this again.

On a sidenote though I recently watched Snowpiercer and holy fuck it was fantastic! There are a few aspects of the film I don’t think really worked but all the greatness immediately made me not care about that stuff. Have you ever watched the train episode of Adventure Time? It’s kind of an adult version of that. WATCH IT NOW, NOT ROAD TRIP!

RUNAWAY BRIDE (1999)

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Christopher

I remember watching this movie multiple times as a kid because my sister had the VHS and I feel like she watched it a lot. So maybe I just watched it once and it was on a lot in the background. However, I completely forgot, or didn’t get at first, that Richard Gere is a terrible person in this movie and there is absolutely no reason that his character and Julia Roberts’ character could fall in love. The whole movie I was excited to see how that would happen but it just kind of happened? Like all adults are mean to each other until that moment where they realize their hate is actually love? I’m not sure, it’s really fucking confusing.

ALSO and this I really didn’t remember but most of the movie takes place in Baltimore and they mention the Orioles!

Elizabeth

I’m pretty sure I have a VHS copy of Runaway Bride in my old room at my mom’s house right now. It was never a movie I super loved, but it always felt very pleasant and enjoyable to me (especially compared to Pretty Woman). It came out when I was in elementary school and I’m not really sure when the last time I had seen this was (maybe early college?) but whenever I did see it again, I remember thinking that Maggie (Julia Roberts) was kind of a jerk, considering her biggest character trait is leaving men at the altar. But watching it again, I see there is a villain here and it is Ike, played by Richard Gere.

So Ike is a journalist from New York of some kind, with apparently nothing to write about, until he hears about Maggie from a drunk guy in a bar. Even though Ike doesn’t follow up on any sources, doesn’t know Maggie, doesn’t even live in the same city as Maggie . . . he uses Maggie’s story of leaving behind three different men at the altar as a platform for his anti-female column. It’s craaaaazy how misogynistic this column is, especially considering Ike is supposed to be somewhat charming. Luckily his boss, Ellie (Rita Wilson), fires Ike for his lack of journalism abilities, which Ike immediately blames on the fact that Ellie is his ex-wife, despite the fact that they’re amicable co-workers and she’s happily remarried. WOMEN!!!

In order to save face somehow, Ike decides to go to Maryland where Maggie lives and is engaged once again to do a story about her. From there he essentially stalks her and talks to all of her exes without her, as if that will give him some kind of unbiased perspective. But the issue here is that Ike doesn’t want an unbiased perspective. He wants everyone to agree with him, that women are manipulative bitches who will step on anyone who gets in their way. It would be hard to find a group more perfect for that than a group of men all dumped by the same woman. So Ike goes around fucking with everyone in Maggie’s life, including her alcoholic father, until finally Maggie decides to work with Ike so that she has a say in how he portrays her. This gives Ike an opportunity to tell Maggie a fucking dumb, hypothetical marriage proposal he thinks is perfect:

Look, I guarantee there’ll be tough times. I guarantee that at some point, one or both of us is gonna want to get out of this thing. But I also guarantee that if I don’t ask you to be mine, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life, because I know, in my heart, you’re the only one for me.

Gross, especially coming from a huge asshole that hates women like Ike. But, naturally, this is all it takes for Maggie to fall in love with Ike and because Maggie is beautiful and quirky, Ike just naturally falls in love with her, too, despite the fact that he met her in the first place because she keeps leaving men. Maggie and Ike then have the great idea to use Maggie’s wedding – less than a week away – for the two of them, rather than Maggie and her original guy. Because nothing says Happily Ever After like two people hating each other, falling in love, and getting married, all within about two weeks. You already know the rest: Maggie leaves Ike at the altar, some time passes, they get married for real.

It’s just so bizarre to me that we’re supposed to look past how insane and awful Ike is, and not just that, but also think he’s charming and caring the whole time. What? Maggie’s not great, either, but at least her character doesn’t actively go around hating people. I don’t think there will ever be a need for a third Julie Roberts-Richard Gere movie, but if there is it would be nice if their characters were actually equal and remotely on the same page.