THE FRIGHTENERS (1996)

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Christopher

This is a movie I saw when I saw young and remember the story being interesting, engaging, and really enjoying it. Watching this movie now however, makes me question who this movie was actually made for. It feels almost like an Adam Sandler movie where the story feels so childish and kid-friendly but it’s also littered with adult humor and possibly legit scary moments for a kid.

I’ve never really been a big fan of Peter Jackson and this adds to those feelings. I’m not sure how one could watch Frighteners and think, that’s the guy we want to take charge of this giant book franchise. I think the next Jackson movie I want to try is Bad Seed and see if there is anything interesting there. I feel like he has as much talent as George Lucas. It’s there but also not really?

I don’t think I would recommend this to anyone.

Elizabeth

According to Chris, we watched this movie. And I sort of remember it. But last night we finished watching Lost (my first time through) and I can’t make any more room in my brain right now to try to pluck out the memory of watching it.

But I’m guessing it wasn’t good.

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BOUND (1996)

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Elizabeth

I forget when I first saw Bound, but I’m guessing it was probably in high school. But I definitely remember when I first heard of Bound, which was when it was nominated for Best Kiss at the MTV Movie Awards. The kiss was between Violet (Jennifer Tilly) and Corky (Gina Gershon), and given the nature of the kiss I had never seen anything like it. There was just something about two women kissing when I was 10 years old that just totally blew  my mind and I really wanted to see it.

But, I kind of forgot about it. Bound isn’t a movie that you hear about all the time, and when it came out, The Matrix was still in the heads of the Wachowski brothers, who directed both, so it wasn’t as big of a movie as one might expect. When I finally did get around to seeing it, I expected it to be mostly sex with some plot thrown in. But it was actually much more than that, and actually pretty good. Violet is living with Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), a money launderer for the mob. Corky is hired to do work on the apartment next door to their’s, and not long after they meet, Violet and Corky sleep together. Caesar is pretty violent and awful, so Violet comes up with a plan to run away with Corky – they will steal $2 million that Caesar recovered from someone else who stole it from the mob.

The plot gets more complicated as the movie goes along, but is never hard to follow. At first, Corky is suspicious of Violet, which isn’t that surprising since Violet claims to be a lesbian while also being in a heterosexual relationship with not just anyone, but someone working for the mob. But it becomes clear that Violet is genuine and that she really is trapped in this shitty relationship with a pretty evil guy. It quickly becomes Violet and Corky vs. Caesar and the mob, and it gets really stressful, but good.

Bound is a movie you should never watch with anyone you don’t want to see a sex scene with, but other than that it’s definitely worth seeing.

Christopher

I had never heard of this movie and it wasn’t till after we watched it that I even knew it was a Wachowski movie. I really enjoyed watching this. It was scary and stressful and had strong female leads. It was refreshing seeing a gay relationship as the main story between two women. Especially since this came out so long ago. I really wish I had seen it before now but I’m so glad Elizabeth recommended it. If you haven’t seen this, or even heard of it like me, I definitely suggest checking it out. Especially if you like the Wachowskis.

 

A VERY BRADY SEQUEL (1996)

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Christopher

The first Brady movie was fun and surprising to me but I think the sequel is a better movie.

The first movie deals so much with the Bradys being this strange family out of time but in the sequel that’s not really the focus. It’s more about the family, their house, and a lot of characteristics that make them the Brady Bunch. For example a lot of the story is based around this very valuable horse they have in their living room, a prop that was in the original show. I find this plot point very compelling because it rewards people who loved the original show. The horse in the old episodes is just a decoration in the background. The idea that the whole time they were in possession of something extremely valuable is kind of exciting.

This movie is really funny and had me laughing quite a bit. It’s so strange to me that I thought this was part of the original show but I think the reimagined idea of the Brady Bunch was spot on and worth remaking. Had these films just been trying to recreate the original set in the same time period just with different actors, I think it would have been difficult to get through ten minutes of the film.

Watch this movie for suuuuuuure!

Elizabeth

To be honest, we watched The Brady Bunch Movie mostly so we could watch A Very Brady Sequel. You don’t have to watch the first one to enjoy or understand the second one, but I figured we should go for both anyway, even though A Very Brady Sequel is definitely my favorite.

The Brady Bunch Movie is great because it takes the Bradys and puts them in the 1995. A Very Brady Sequel is great because it takes all that basic Brady stuff and turns it on its head. The main conflict of the movie is that Carol’s long-dead husband suddenly shows up at their house. We know right away that Roy (Tim Matheson) is not Carol’s husband, but rather a friend of his. And we know that the horse statue that has always been at the bottom of the Brady stairs was sent to Carol by her real husband, who was apparently an archeologist, and Roy is back to get it because it’s worth about $20 million.

Because the Bradys are the Bradys, they never really suspect anything when Roy first shows up. Carol’s daughters immediately begin referring to Roy as “daddy,” despite looking nothing or sounding nothing like their biological father (Roy explained that away with surgery) and Greg’s sons immediately start looking up to Roy as a cool guy. Roy’s annoyance with the Bradys is thinly veiled, like his disgust with Alice’s cooking (which in one scene consists of what appears to be ground meat mixed with lard and spread on white bread). This leads to my favorite scene, and one that I never understood until much later in life: Alice finds a bag of mushrooms in Roy’s bag, so that night instead of serving him meatloaf with the rest of the Bradys, she makes spaghetti with the mushrooms. Except they’re magic mushrooms, and Alice put all of them in the pasta, and then Roy realizes he’s “tripping with the Bradys,” and the scene goes into an animated tripping sequence.

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The Bradys chalk this up to Alice’s cooking making him sick somehow, so when I first saw this movie, I thought that, too. In fact, I think the very first time I learned of magic mushrooms existing it immediately hit me what that scene was actually about.

Another Brady element that the movie turns on its head is the relationship between Marcia and Greg. With Roy’s presence, the “step” part of their siblings somehow seems more prominent, and they start to look at each other not as brother and sister, but as sexy teenagers. They begin sharing a room and sneak glances of each other changing, Greg accidentally hits on Marcia from behind (heh heh), and eventually they kiss. It’s a pretty hilarious subplot that also leads Marcia and Greg to go on a double-date, where Marcia and Greg flirt with each other and Marcia talks at length about all of the ways she can style her hair, freaking their dates out enough to leave them for each other.

I think these movies are underrated and still totally hold up, especially if you’re at all familiar with The Brady Bunch TV show. Either way, these movies are awesome.

SOLO POST – PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS (1996) / PARADISE LOST 2: REVELATIONS (2000) / PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY (2011) / WEST OF MEMPHIS (2012)

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Elizabeth

Recently, Chris was out of town for about 2 weeks. During my time without him I thought it would be good to watch stuff I wanted to see but knew Chris wouldn’t be interested in. The first day I was alone without him, I scrolled through my queue of movies and found Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, which I had heard about only because it was on a list of Louis Theroux’s favorite documentaries. Not that it’s a subject I enjoy, but anything with “child murders” in the title I knew would be a no-go for Chris. So I started watching it with literally no idea as to what it was about, except child murders. So I really had no idea I was about to go down this crazy rabbit hole that would lead me to three additional documentaries and knowledge that is both empowering and terrifying.

All four of these documentaries are about The West Memphis 3 and the murders that began everything. In 1993, three boys were raped and murdered; one had been castrated. This happened in West Memphis, Arkansas, which maybe is not the most forward-thinking place around. The cops immediately focused in on Damien Echols, who was 18 when they arrested him. They zeroed in on him because the cops immediately thought it was a Satanic killing, due to the boys  being raped and tied up and what appeared to be their clothes wrapped around sticks placed in the mud. The cops contacted the local juvenile detention center cop and asked if he knew of any kids who might be into Satanic stuff and he immediately thought of Echols, who had had run-ins for shoplifting, who wore black clothing and listened to heavy metal music. Jason Baldwin, 16, was his best friend and Jessie Misskelley, 17, was their sometimes hangout buddy. They questioned Misskelley, who is also mildly retarded, for 12 hours without any of his family members present. They only recorded the last 45 minutes, where Misskelley confesses to being there when Echols and Baldwin kill the kids. But the confession doesn’t make sense with what happened and he mostly just agrees and repeats what the cops tell him. The cops arrested all three and sentenced Misskelley to life plus forty years, even though his entire wrestling team testified to Misskelley being a town away at a wrestling match, at which Misskelley also signed and dated a sign-in sheet for. Echols was convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection; Baldwin was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. This was also despite sworn alibis and lack of any physical evidence.

So when I finished the first Paradise Lost, I knew it ended in the mid-90s and I immediately needed to know what happened. I couldn’t believe I had never heard of all of this before. It was so scary to think of these three kids being killed and three other kids being put in prison, one sentenced to death, for something they clearly didn’t do.

Over the course of the next two Paradise Lost movies, they explore possible other suspects and the convicteds’ constant efforts to appeal their sentences. This seems like it should get easier as more and more DNA exonerates them from being anywhere near the crime, but a lot of political and legal red tape keeps getting in the way (like the original trial judge being the only judge to see these appeals and he’s the only one who can allow a new judge to take over). In the end of the Paradise Lost movies, we never find the killer but the convicted are finally freed based on something bizarre called the Alford Plea in which they maintain their innocence but plead guilty and the judge lets them out based on time served. Even though the judge gave a heartfelt speech at the end in which he acknowledged the legal system had completely failed these men, it did little to hide the fact that Arkansas just couldn’t man up and admit that they falsely convicted and imprisoned these men.

A few days after I finished the trilogy, I watched West of Memphis, which is the most recent and is separate from the Paradise Lost trilogy. It was really long, but was also really comprehensive. It also had the most updated information and the hindsight to go with it. They revealed how the defense was able to raise money to hire awesome experts and DNA analysis that further exonerated them but also pointed more and more to one of the victims’ stepfathers. The passing of time also lets this documentary explain that they’ve since found out that the boys were not in fact raped and the one boy was not in fact castrated and all of the crazy injuries everyone thought were ritualistic, like the castration, was caused post-mortem by animals. So in a way, even though these boys still died horribly, it’s slightly less horrible than everyone originally thought. They also did a really good job at explaining all the Alford Plea craziness.

This story is downright insane from every angle, and totally horrifying and scary from every angle. I know there’s a movie about it out now, Devil’s Knot, but these documentaries are so incredible everyone should watch these instead. And I will say I found West of Memphis to be significantly less brutal and probably more focused. But these are stories people definitely should know about.

BOTTLE ROCKET (1996)

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Elizabeth

Oh, how I love Bottle Rocket. I feel like it’s sort of fallen out of style to be a big Wes Anderson fan, and I don’t really know why but I definitely do not care. He’s still one of my all-time favorite directors, and Bottle Rocket is so great.

I think the biggest thing that stands out when I think about Bottle Rocket is how sweet it is. I first saw it a loooong time ago, when I was fairly young, and looking back on it, Bottle Rocket is really more than okay for a younger person. There’s no real sex, violence, or language (just bits of it and allusions to it) and the plot is pretty simple.The relationships also feel very natural and genuine; Dignan (Owen Wilson) is the leader of the group, but mostly because Bob (Robert Musgrave) is a pushover and Anthony (Luke Wilson) lets Dignan be the leader because he knows it’s more important to him. Anthony is close enough to Dignan to never really stand up for Bob, but is also coming into his own more where he cares less about what Dignan is doing. Anthony’s relationship with Inez (Lumi Cavazos) also feels very natural; their relationship is brought on by pure attraction (since they speak different languages), but it stays a relationship because Anthony is genuinely interested in Inez and she genuinely needs a confidant. Also, Anthony reminds me a lot of Chris, so that makes me like him even more.

Bottle Rocket is just such a great introduction to Wes Anderson, not just because it’s his first but because it’s a lot simpler than his other movies but is still signature Wes Anderson. Everything in this movie feels very organized when it needs to be and chaotic when it needs to be. It’s all just laid out perfectly, until something fucks it up, which is very relatable. Bottle Rocket is not the best movie ever and it’s not even Wes Anderson’s best movie, but GOD is it gooooood.

Christopher

I saw the end of this movie on Comedy Central when I was, in middle school maybe, and that was the first time I ever heard of Wes Anderson. The part that I starting watching from, for the first time, was the robbery at the end. I remember thinking to myself, “How does this exist?” (Something I never thought twice about when watching a Ron Howard movie). Through the help of IMDB I quickly found out what the movie was and started watching all the Wes Anderson movies that existed at the time.

If you do not know who Wes Anderson is then start here, I think. Also, the Alamo Drafthouse shows this movie at the hotel it was filmed to raise money for it to stay open. I think Elizabeth and I are going to try to go next time or if nothing else try to stay a night.

 

THE BIRDCAGE (1996)

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Elizabeth

After the depressing horrible-ness that came on Sunday, I felt like I was in a movie funk. I just wasn’t really in the mood to watch anything. Luckily, weeks before we got tickets to a special screening of The Birdcage in honor of Nathan Lane’s birthday. It was a much-needed pick me up.

I had never seen it before, and while I knew The Birdcage would be funny, I had no idea just how funny it was. What I love most is the way the characters contrast. You have the two main characters, Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane), flamboyantly gay partners. Armand’s son, Val (Dan Futterman) is getting married to Barbara (Calista Flockhart), the daughter of an ultra conservative senator, Kevin (Gene Hackman) and his extremely mild-mannered wife, Louise (Dianne Wiest). It might seem obvious to have the antagonist be a Republican senator when the protagonists are gay men, but it’s not that simple. Armand and Albert might be a bit stereotypical (Armand owns the drag club, The Birdcage, where Albert performs), but they’re not really an average gay couple. They’re way overboard, between where they live and what they wear and how they talk, it’s all totally over the top. But on the flip side, you have Kevin, who is so comically conservative that he’s way overboard, too, almost a caricature. It’s not about having contrast to create conflict, it’s also about showing these characters as equally ridiculous. Is it ridiculous that Albert meets Kevin and his family in drag, pretending to be Val’s mother (whom Val has never met)? Completely. Is it ridiculous that Kevin would say that he doesn’t agree with killing abortion doctors, but he agrees with the outcome it brings? Totally! This movie just makes everyone look insane, which makes all the interactions that crazier, that funnier.

I need to make a special point to talk about how incredible Hank Azaria is in this, too. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane are totally on top of their game, comedy-wise. Gene Hackman is his usual amazing self, and is really particularly funny and perfect for his role. Hank Azaria plays Agador, Armand and Albert’s “houseboy.” I sort of love that they don’t really explain Agador; we first see him trying to help Armand get Albert to go on stage for a show, and he acts as their sort of maid for the rest of the movie. He’s apparently Guatemalan with the most absurd accent that no one questions. He has this one line . . . one line that made both Chris and I die laughing. Val tells Agador that he needs to get ready and put his shoes on because Barbara and her family are almost there, and Agador is dressed but barefoot. Agador very matter of factly explains to Val that he does not wear shoes because they make him fall down. What is that?? That was the last thing I expected him to say, and I know it doesn’t translate all that well to text, but it was so fucking funny. And of course, so was the inevitable shot of Agador falling on his face because of his shoes.

The Birdcage is great because its sensitive. Armand and Albert are overwhelming, but they’re also obviously in love and have quiet, sweet moments together. I never got the impression that this film is supposed to be some kind of commentary on homosexuality, mostly because it focuses so tightly on just a few characters. I also never got that impression because if you do think that this movie is a critique on homosexuality, then it’s just as much of a critique (if not more) of conservative Americans. It is so great.

Christopher

I remember watching this a few times as a kid and thinking it was one of the funniest movies I had ever seen. It was a good feeling when we went to see this and it was still great! I think I got most of it as a kid but as an adult I definitely got a lot more of the jokes. For example, as a kid, I don’t think I got the craziness of Gene Hackman’s character. I think I just always thought of him as a normal adult? But looking at that now, that kind of makes me look like I thought all adults were insane. This movie is so funny and if you have not seen it, please do it now! I don’t think I’ve ever seen the original but based off of Elizabeth’s reaction to the film I think we might be seeing that soon.

BARB WIRE (1996)

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Christopher

For a movie where you think I would talk about the sex/boobs as much as Basic Instinct, this movie really doesn’t have a ton of good things to say about it in that department. It’s mostly about Pamela Anderson’s terrible acting, a story that makes no sense, and a giant fat man.

To be fair the giant fat guy, Big Fatso was the best part. I kind of want a prequel to Barb Wire just about him, with the same actor of course, Andre Rosey Brown (I just looked him up and he died in 2006 so I guess that will not happen but I think he really was a great actor in this movie. He sold me on his character more than our leading lady, who all I really know about is that she hates people calling her babe. But now I’m kind of sad about Andre and want to see more movie with him in it.)

Elizabeth

This is the poster for Barb Wire. It’s brilliant because that’s pretty much all there is to the movie: Pamela Anderson (Lee), her boobs, dumb words, a gun. That’s it, the end.