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Becoming a made man?  Not nearly as simple, or really as elegantly enticing as it may sound.  Especially when cinematic life mates Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn are the men attempting to, you know, get made.  What began as a misguided journey in to what I was hoping would be a sequel to Swingers (best movie forever of all the times ever) became a frustratingly entertaining piece of film.  Ricky Slade and Bobby Ricigliano (Ricky Bobby?? No shit…) are two lifelong friends who, working for well-connected Max, are sent to New York to make a drop.  The highest of jinks ensues.  Despite what I may have expected, this directorial debut sufficiently made my collection.  

For the record, I love me some Vince Vaughn.  Man crush, bromance, call it what you like, but he’s become an actor I always look forward to seeing.  Consistently funny, entirely unique in presence among a sea of impostors.  This time around, however, Vinnie Vegas (nickname in progress) makes it truly difficult to enjoy his performance.  I’ve learned to love and appreciate his obnoxious and incessant Ricky.  But holy goddamn, does Vaughn push the limits of reasonable accommodation in this pseudo-follow-up-but-not-really-connected-to-Swingers comedic escapade.  The guy does not know when to shut up, to just STOP TALKING!  It’s as though he took his lovable but verbose Trent and injected him with douche serum.  Still, he makes it work.  All forgiven, yet entirely unforgettable.  One Swingers connection that did make an appearance is subtle but soundly awesome. A license plate, reading “DBLDN11.”  Favreau, you exquisite bastard!        

We can’t exit this entry without at least mentioning the acting debut of one Sean “P. Puff Diddy Daddy” Combs.  Midst a slew of powerhouse thespians (Famke Janssen, Peter Falk, Faizon Love, Vincent Pastore, Sam Rockwell in possibly the greatest cameo in the history of pretend Hotel Clerks), the mogul holds more than his own.  “You turned an Easter egg hunt into a butt-fuck-a-thon.”  Damn right, Diddy. Damn right.  Mr. Favreau has gone on to become an elite filmmaker in this business of show.  From the humblest of beginnings, right?  In this case, a foul-mouthed dark comic crime film, guaranteed to make you feel, well, far more than you might expect.                                                               

directed by Jon Favreau

written by Jon Favreau

released: 2001

favorite lines: “Here’s scenario B for you Bob, see how you feel about this one. Now I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but I think I’m starting to get under Ruiz’s skin as well, OK? It all started with the whole Red Dragon, or the Welsh guy, whatever, they can play it down all they want but you know 200 grand’s a lot of fucking money! It’s a fucking lot of money! OK? 200 grand is definitely a lot of fucking money! And now I’ve got Ruiz calling me fucking Fruit-Pie the fucking magician! Tellin’ me that I can’t fucking call my main man Max, who fucking sent me out on the fucking operation? And what about the Welsh guy? He’s fucking scat all over, they fucking disappear and talk! And you haven’t noticed this either but when he’s not fucking looking at me or you’re fucking doing whatever, I’ve got fucking Jimmy in the mirror with his shit too. It’s fucking coming at me from here, I don’t know where it is! It might be coming this way, it might be coming that way, but the fucking shit’s coming and I’m not gonna be late for the fucking dance man, I’m not gonna be fucking late for the dance on this one!” Ricky Slade

Morgan Freeman vs. Ben Kingsley.  That battle could take place literally in any venue, game, or genre, and I would pay to see it.  This particular instance features these two titans of the silver screen in a rival crime boss capacity.  The Boss vs. The Rabbi, to be specifically respective.  Or respectively specific, whichever you prefer.  Longtime nemeses, yet both vindictive agoraphobics, that proceed to use poor Slevin Kelevra (Josh Hartnett) as their unwilling tool of vengeance.  This dude, talk about wrong place, wrong time, seemingly every time. He already told you, he’s not Nick Fisher, dammit! Somebody cut the guy some slack!  Sure, he’s got a mouth on him, makes you want to punch him a bunch, but still.  Ah, Bruce Willis, excellent.  Perhaps you’re able to rescue this young innocent from – nope, you’re just as menacing as ever.  Outstanding.    

Mistaken identities, merciless retaliation laws, Kansas City Shuffles, spunky sidekicks and clever script that keeps you guessing until the end credits.  A first time Quillification for both director and writer, and, having looked into both their filmographies, am incredibly curious as to why neither artist is getting steadier work.  Get some, Hollywood, toot sweet!  Flashbacks have a staggered effect to their look, keeping a typically depleted formula a fresh feel.  The screenplay is a rapid-fire onslaught of plot twists and various details that, when put together, form a truly satisfying story of revenge.  And, for a movie that is hardly ever mentioned and rarely remembered, if ever brought up in conversation, I’ve never heard a negative word about it.  The deviation from professional critics and real people is impressive, thus providing further evidence that the entire “profession” of film criticism (or any criticism for that matter) is rather useless.  This is why I have never considered myself a critic, considering I write about only those pieces of entertainment that I appreciate and ferociously savor.  Point, Quillify.

Only some of the cast has been mentioned thus far, but everybody in it contributes something effective.  Lucy Liu, Stanley Tucci, Mykelti Williamson, Danny Aiello.  Then Robert Forster comes out of nowhere to wrap things up, it’s awesome.  Each engrossing in their proper doses; nary a miscast in the group.  However, when Sir Kingsley and President God occupy the scene together, it’s a very special moment. For the record, I’ve never given much thought to what my lucky number might be.  Let’s see, Slevin is taken, so, maybe, thwenty?  Or sifteen, perhaps?  Ooh, nindredsand!  That one just rolls off the tongue.  Yep, with a lucky number like that, everything should be coming up Quillify in no time…                                                              

directed by Paul McGuigan

written by Jason Smilovic

released: 2006

favorite line: “Fuck shit Jesus is right.” Mr. Goodkat

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For relaxing times, make it Suntory time… There aren’t many better ways to emerge from the gigantic celluloid shadow cast by your father than to create an unforgettable film, and in only your second attempt?! The score, complex simplicity (I know, somehow it works), brilliant script, and general ambiance of this story about American fish in a Japanese pond, and the unlikely bond that forms between them, all coexist gorgeously over 102 minutes.  If I could bottle the magic that this movie conjures within me, I’d sell it faster than Coke made with real coke.  Of course, anything that opens with a tight shot of Scar Jo’s magnificent posterior is practically guaranteed to rank among my favorites.  A neglected wife, an actor on the back nine of his career, and the various ways to be found while getting lost.  Dr. Peter Venkman and Black Widow, mixing it up in the Land of the Rising Sun?  I understood all of that just fine. 

Bill Murray, one of the greatest comedic minds of our or any other time, showing that he is more than capable of taking a dramatic role and making it his own.  A joke that will never die is the foreign person in a foreign land not speaking the language and getting into shenanigans because of the language barrier.  It is such a played out gag that I am usually not a fan.  Coppola, however, handles this occurrence with such subtlety, such intrinsic humor and warmth, that it comes across as fresh and objectively funny.  The photo shoot scenes alone are worth the time it takes to consume this dramedic (comatic?) classic.  Damn you, third Lord of the Rings! Just HAD to wait until your final epic to snag that Best Picture statue, didn’t you??  Any other year, this one might have had a chance of giving Oscar a home… Ms. Coppola’s well-deserved Best Original Screenplay award will have to suffice.  One ring to bind them, my plump delicious tokhes!

This movie has become an instant and welcomed piece of escapism in my collection, as I am too afraid, too lazy, too broke, too something that prevents me from traveling to and explore a gorgeous and wondrous country like Japan.  I have friends that have done it, loved it, would go again in a heartbeat. I would love to go, but will probably never make the trip, especially not by myself. Both Johansson and Murray’s characters delve into the experience in their own ways, each displaying the kind of courage and cautious optimism that I would hope to summon if I were to ever walk the streets of downtown Tokyo.  Part of me wants them to make with the sweetest of love.  Just get naughty with it.  There is a gentle comfort, though, in the platonic friendship that they forge, that sex would only complicate things.  Bob whispers something in Charlotte’s ear during the final, melancholic moments.  We the viewer cannot hear what is spoken.  Words said, tears shed, feelings experienced, hopes renewed.  In any and every language, that translates to cinematic splendor.                                         

directed by Sofia Coppola

written by Sofia Coppola

released: 2003

favorite lines: “Well you figure, you sleep one-third of your life, that knocks out eight years of marriage right there. So you’re, y’know, down to 16 in change. You know you’re just a teenager, at marriage, you can drive it but there’s still the occasional accident.” Bob Harris

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2044.  Eye drop narcotics, hover bikes, mild-to-extreme telekinetic abilities.  Grab your shades, people.  The future is looking buh-right!  Even more luminous?  Thirty years further into that future, time travel is created.  Immediately outlawed, sure, but that doesn’t stop the nefarious underbelly of this world to take full advantage of such efficient technology.  Enter, the looper.  Blunderbuss-wielding assassin’s hired to eliminate anonymous targets sent from 2074.  Not a bad gig.  Sweet gun, job takes, like, a second to do, paid in silver bars.  Not bad.  That’s is, you know, until your loop gets closed, then it’s not so great.  Having to off your older self and thus booking your own death date is a… delicate task.  But knowing is half the battle, so I’m torn.  Perhaps through Rian Johnson’s vision, and performances from two of my personal favorites, I’ll be able to unravel this chronologically enigmatic thriller.

Being a sucker for any and all things time travel, it delights me to no end when someone is able to add a twist to the ever-familiar yet eternally intriguing formula.  Johnson, coming off two other pieces of awesome in Brick and The Brothers Bloom, does just that here.

  1. Time travel cannot be adjusted (a “corridor” fervently strict in exactly how far back one may go, a sliding scale as time progresses)

  2. Time travel is a one-way ticket (once you are sent to the past, you are stuck in the past)

  3. Both versions of you can exist (a self-explanatory paradox of doom)

  4. Time travel is illegal (Boo!! But yay?)

  5. You can communicate across time (carving a message into a forearm seems to be the most effective method)

  6. The future has infinite possibilities (let the brain-numbing commence)

Bringing his words into mind-bending cine-reality, Willis and JG-L are a fantastic pair, portraying older and younger versions of the same misguided but well-meaning Joe.  Great with the makeup, eerie in their resemblance.  Levitt could actually be Willis’ son.  This kid, though,  Pierce Gagnon. Is there some kind of junior Oscar, an Osckie that we can give young Pierce?  Creepy in the best possible way, emotionally mature light years beyond his age, this Rainmaker has something special.  Thrown in an American-accent spewing Emily Blunt and a grizzled Jeff Daniels and prime Sci-Fi just added another neo-classic to it’s archives.   

The moral of the story pretty much every time seems to be that time travel, for the realest of reals, should just not be invented.  When the situation calls for the systematic killing of children in order to save humanity, I may be inclined to agree.  Depends on which kids, I suppose…  Personally, I’d be stoked, nay, SUPER stoked to meet the me from thirty years in the future.  Assuming, of course, that I’m/he’s a terribly successful writer and this older Q has nothing but good news to deliver.  He comes back as some kind of sexagenarian dickhole, then it’s a one way trip on the blunderbuss!  Harsh, but second chances come along so seldom…                                     

directed by Rian Johnson

written by Rian Johnson

released: 2012

favorite lines: “My memory’s cloudy. It’s a cloud. Because my memories aren’t really memories. They’re just one possible eventuality now. And they grow clearer or cloudier as they become more are less likely. But then they get to the present moment, and they’re instantly clear again. I can remember what you do after you do it. And it hurts.” Old Joe

Ah, road-tripping with the family.  As a kid, I can fondly recall (thanks to selective memory and herbal supplements) cruising through Southern California with the Reinmiller crew.  Mom, Dad, two younger brothers and miles of vacation highway.  We didn’t have a van, or a pageant to get to, or a grandpa encouraging me to “get that young stuff.”  Nobody voluntarily abstained from talking, though some of us probably should have.  Still, I can’t delve into this misadventure without remembering those days gone by… Corpse smuggling, tons of porn, enough “fucks” to satisfy a mob movie.  Am I eleven again?  Is that Knott’s Berry Farm up ahead?  Let’s go!      

Meet the Hoovers! Richard.  Father, motivational speaker, douche nozzle supreme. Sheryl.  Mother, overworked, highly neurotic.  Frank.  Sheryl’s brother, Proust scholar, heartbroken to the point of suicidal. Dwayne.  Sheryl’s son, miserable, mute by choice.  Olive. Seven-year-old daughter, enthusiastic Little Miss Sunshine contender, all-around adorable.  Finally, the scene-stealing elder patriarch of this dysfunctional clan, Edwin.  World War II vet, casual heroin snorter, eternally horny.  Alan Arkin, a legend in his own time. Everything he says is either hilarious or tremendously moving.  The interactions between Edwin and Olive, the training sequences if you will, are cinematic platinum.  Screw gold, right?  Though this film did deservedly receive love from that aureate titan Oscar (nominated for four, won two).  Ecstatic to see a movie with even a shred of comedic value get a Best Picture nod, too.  Flicks about something other than slavery and the Holocaust can be considered among the best?  Get right out of town.

Of course, one cannot view this feature without discussing the absolute ridiculousness that is the child beauty pageant.  Adult pageants aren’t much better, of course.  Then again, there are no less than three singing competition shows on TV as I write this, so clearly I have NO idea what quality entertainment is…  Growing up with only brothers, thankfully this never came up in my little familial universe.  I don’t have anything to contribute to an already cluttered conversation about why shows like Toddlers & Tiaras represent so much of what is wrong with America, people, people in America that indulge in such travesties.  What’s wonderful about Little Miss Sunshine is that, despite enduring difficult and morbid circumstances to get there, the entire family recognizes how awful and creepy the entire ordeal really is.  Church.  Richard’s (Greg Kinnear’s) reaction alone, incredible.  Redeems his whole vibe.  Olive’s final dance, though?  Best. Routine. Ever.  Reminds me of a performance of my own on a recent excursion to Disney World.  “Power of Love,” redefined.             

directed by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris 

written by Michael Arndt

released: 2006

favorite lines: “Are you getting it? Is it going in anywhere? No, don’t show me the pad. I don’t wanna see the fucking pad.” Edwin Hoover

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That’s right, the guy from the penny!  For as long as I can remember, notions like “equality” have always been automatic in the way I see the world. It is the simplest and most logical idea to embrace, yet our history is littered with heinous and abhorrent events involving racism.  As a viewer, and an American, it can be incredibly difficult to watch such stories unfold because, from my perspective, there should never be those sort of conflicts to begin with.  Hating someone based on the color of their skin.  I feel dumber for having even typed that moronic statement.  In a world where such atrocities seem to be perpetually toxic, there have been champions among us, willing to step up and deliver sweet, racially harmonic justice.  Abraham Lincoln is one of those heroes.  With Spielberg at the helm and Daniel Day-Lewis behind the beard, some epic historical drama is about to unfold.

The final four months of Lincoln’s life.  Specifically, the President’s quest to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.  No small feat, considering the abject stupidity of far too many old white men for far too long.  I’m not political enough or historically inclined to recognize any inaccuracies that may occur (I’ve read reviews accusing it of containing as such), so I just delve in, anxious to learn anything I can.  For example, if Tommy Lee Jones’ impeccable portrayal is to be believed, then I was completely unaware of how objectively cool Thaddeus Stevens was.  Or that George Pendleton?  Extra evil with a side of douche.  Boom, knowledge attained.  Of course it’s Lewis that gobbles the scenery as our Sixteenth President, causing this viewer borderline anxiety for every appearance.  Honest Abe manifests as wonderfully as I have always hoped, full of humor, optimism, and a subtle rage that yearns for true and lasting equality.  Every word worth clinging to, each scene bringing history to life.  The man should just get an Oscar every year, regardless of whether he is in a movie or not.

Beyond the politics, though inextricably connected to it, this focused biography also shows previously uncharted (at least for me) aspects of Lincoln’s life.  The familial dynamics between him, his wife, and his three sons during their final months in the White House.  Grieving one, guiding another, raising a third.  So, two boys, but you get it. I found a different trio to be much more infotaining, though I love me some JGL (do NOT get it twisted).  Bilbo, Lotham and Schell, Lobbyists for Hire!  I smell a spin-off.  For every lesser known facet of his concluding moments, no matter how effective and well-crafted they prove to be, President Lincoln’s most heartbreaking instant looms throughout.  Two and a half hours, you know what’s coming, but it still hurts.  It’s Titanic all over again, goddammit!  I suppose it’s time to go. Though I would rather stay. We all would have preferred that as well, sir.           

directed by Steven Spielberg

written by Tony Kushner

released: 2012

favorite lines: “At all rates, whatever must be proven by blood and sacrifice must have been proved by now. Shall we stop this bleeding?” Abraham Lincoln

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NZT-48.  A nootropical escape.  A wonder drug for the perpetually in between.  Finishing a novel in four days? Done.  Learning the piano in three?  Absolutely.  Fluent in a new language after hearing a few words?  You got it, Professor Isaac Einstein!  Knowing everything about everything?  Possibly the most tempting superpower in imagination.  Motivated, fearless, and getting smarter by the day?  Not sure I could say no to that.  Pills have never been my scene, but I would consume these like Jelly Bellies if the results were anything like in this movie.  Boundaries be damned, if Roberto DeNiro was my boss I’d probably feel Limitless too.  Until he spoke, then I’d crumble like a trembling infant.  Til then, though, look out.     

It starts with a struggling writer.  Right away, I’m invested.  Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) becomes my best friend, with all his flaws and righteous case of writer’s block.  A celluloid reflection, albeit an infinitely more handsome one, allowing for instantaneous connection.  Catching up with an ex-brother-in-law introduces our scruffy hero to the magic tablet, capable of enhancing how much brain power the user can access.  I’ve heard the number a few different ways.  Sometimes it’s that humans can only tap into 10% of their mind, here it is 20%. Either way, apparently there is a whole lot of gray matter that we the people do not have the combination to.  One pill and Eddie is hooked.  Some house cleaning, various errands and a murder later, Morra is able to take NZT-48 every day.  Confidence skyrockets, the girls cannot get enough, vast amounts of wealth now at his brilliant fingertips.  Eddie is able to rule the world blissfully and without remorse forever and forever.  The End.  Damn you conflict, must you bring EVERYTHING to a devastating end? The inevitable crash is tough, but Neil Burger’s direction and an engaging script make the lows and fun as the highs. 

Yes, the blackouts, headaches, vomiting, and probably death are valid reasons to pause before riding the NZTrain.  But wouldn’t it be so much easier, so much better, if you just knew?  Knew exactly what to do, when to do it, in ways that are profitable to yourself and anyone you care about.  Pharmacists, I’m talking to you.  Get on this.  Now.  I’d like my limits to vanish, my potential to finally emerge, my future set.  As the bard once said, “Haters gonna hate,” so there’s that hiccup.  Definitive bliss.  Horrendous pill addiction.  Weighing, weighing…  Perhaps the moral of this mind-expanding thriller has been lost on me.  If only there was some sort of boost to help me understand.  An adaptation for television might help.                     

directed by Neil Burger

written by Leslie Dixon

released: 2011

favorite lines: “Your deductive powers are a gift from God or chance or a straight shot of sperm or whatever or whoever wrote your life-script. A gift, not earned. You do not know what I know because you have not earned those powers. You’re careless with those powers, you flaunt them and you throw them around like a brat with his trust-fund. You haven’t had to climb up all the greasy little rungs. You haven’t been bored blind at the fundraisers. You haven’t done the time and that first marriage to the girl with the right father. You think you can leap over all in a single bound. You haven’t had to bribe or charm or threat your way to a seat at that table. You don’t know how to assess your competition because you haven’t competed. Don’t make me your competition.” Carl Van Loon

Would be weird, in theory.  People scuffling all around up in you.  Pets soiling your floors.  Unspeakable acts of eroticism and debauchery occurring within your walls.  No shelter from the storm, you are the shelter.  Ah, but the lives you would witness.  The sounds you would hear.  The enigmatic unfolding of the human condition that would provide your view.  A dying father struggling to bond with his rebellious son, for example.  Yes, that would make for quite the scene.  A sumptuous feast from an evocative buffet.  A sparkling gem gleaming from an already glistening collection.  And this little kid that keeps hugging everyone… imposing in his adorability!    

Kevin Kline, as per usual, exudes brilliance as George Monroe.  After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, George decides to finally construct his dream house.  Atop a gorgeous cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, piece by piece this domicilic puzzle is completed.  The actor playing George’s son Sam is one of a… certain distinction.  Gear down, Hayden haters.  Before he was cosmically despised in his portrayal of Anakin Skywalker, prior to damn near demolishing a beloved franchise, he was cast here, and critically revered for it.  In this role, an angsty, self-loathing pest of a teenager?  Exquisite.  So hey!  Legacy in tact?  Especially after trying his hand at prostitution in this drama.  Good times.                                                                 

There is an almost ethereal peace within this film.  A tranquil beauty rarely conveyed on film.  Being a son without a father instantly weaves my tale into the celluloid.  I am a very lucky kid to have had a father like mine, and watching a good man try to redeem his place as patriarch provides an often needed emotional cinescape.  In addition to telling a very moving paternal story, an unfairly touching tale of rekindled love unfolds.  Like persistent tickle unfair.  Kristen Scott Thomas, you unquenchable thirst!  Transforming tragedy into substantial inheritance, developing an ocean view palace from a calamitous diagnosis.  Bad things happen, good people die, life moves on.  Upon further Quillification, Life as a House may actually be a most courageous existence.  Nothing remotely weird about it.    

directed by Irwin Winkler

written by Mark Andrus

released: 2001 

favorite lines: “With every crash of every wave, I hear something now. I never listened before. I’m on the edge of a cliff, listening. Almost finished. If you were a house , Sam, this is where you would want to be built: on rock, facing the sea. Listening. Listening.” George Monroe

Pants, Mr. Carrey, most certainly on fire.  If this film is any indication, it is staggering how often we lie to each other on a daily basis. Most instances seem innocuous enough, the whitest of deceptions intended to simply move our day along.  But take that ability away, replacing it with one that can ONLY produce absolute truth??  Let the hilarity ensue.  Gimmick-fueled and emotionally driven, this axiomatic comedy reinvigorates that age-old maxim: the truth shall set you free.  And make you laugh, cry, re-examine each of your familial relations.

Jimothy Carrey makes the transition into full blown family comedy with this adorable romp.  As Fletcher Reede, successful lawyer and absentee father, Carrey balances his otherworldly mannerisms with heartfelt delivery during his 24-hour trek of inescapable verity.  Fletcher can’t tell a lie, cannot ask a quesiton if he knows the answer is a lie, can’t even write a lie, unwillingly faithful to the whims of Veritas (or Aletheia depending on your inclination).  Fickle vixens, the both of them.  Thanks to a birthday wish made by his five year old son Max, Reede goes from confident attorney to a whimpering wad of regret like only a tragic clown can.  Carrey nails it, which in my book is par for the comedic course.  For serious.  No lie. 

Truth is, this is one of those feel good, fallback comedies that is always in season. Not unlike previous Carrey-Shadyac collaborations Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Bruce Almighty, this is a lighthearted, relatively breezy chucklefest that never disappoints.  Dialogue is memorized by the second viewing, favorite scenes logged away for conversational bonding purposes, cinematic memories made.  Even Cary Elwes and his breathy goofitude contributes to the film’s success.  An admirable journey, but the saddest truth of all is that lying is a crucial part of the modern world. Honestly, at least for 86 minutes, it’s fun to live in a world where telling the truth is not an option.  Merely the

word.                                                                      

directed by Tom Shadyac

written by Paul Guay & Stephen Mazur

released: 1997

favorite lines: “Simmons is old! He should’ve been out of the game years ago but he can’t stay home because he hates his wife! You’ve met her at the Christmas parties. She’s the one that gets plastered and calls him a retard!” Fletcher Reede

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Please, do not read this.  What follows is not a loving tribute to an entertaining cinematic experience.  Rather, consider this a warning.  A cautionary message in hopes that this film we never be seen again.  This sequence of calamitous happenings depicts severe child abuse, reckless endangerment of minors, and a hopeless attempt to find some semblance of even a pseudo-happiness in a horrific nether realm of heinous familial tragedy!  But that Jim Carrey… hilarious!!  To be fair, everyone is their own brand of effective in this tumultuous tale.  Streep, Hoffman, Law, Browning, the Entertainer.  Class acts all around, which is why it is so tragic that they be sentenced to depict such a… well, you’ll see.  If you dare, abandon all optimistic expectation.  Deep breaths, all together, and bear witness to this deeply disturbing and darkly comic ordination.  Lemony, for all his ominous foreboding, may have been right after all…          

If you must, meet Violet, Klaus, and Sunny.  An inventor, a reader, and a biter.  The terribly unlucky, probably doomed, Baudelaire orphans.  After a mysterious fire kills both their parents, the siblings are shipped about between various guardians with varying enigmatic personalities. Uncle Monty, lover of reptiles, keeper of a secret.  Odd, but lovable.  Aunt Josephine, sweet in her way but afraid of everything. Rightfully so, this is a horrid reality in which these poor children live!  Then, of course, the worst of the worst.  The deplorable, the objectively awful, Count Olaf.  Or is it Mr. Stephano?  Captain Sham, perhaps?  No matter who he is or pretends to be, one thing is certain: he wants the Baudelaire fortune and will do anything to obtain it.  Moments after legally adopting the children, Olaf unleashes a homicidal scheme to shuffle the youngsters form this mortal coil.  Dark?  Pitch black seems more apt in describing this piece of celluloid.  Dammit if I didn’t enjoy every frame.   

Yet another in a long list of novels that I have not had a chance to read yet, Lemony Snicket pens thirteen books in the literary Series of Unfortunate Events, and this adaptation covers the first three.  Brimming with deception, greed, and abhorrent nefariosity, the gimmick works wonders.  Perhaps the movie did not receive quite the love that the novels did, which means no sequels, which is another sort of unfortunate.  Gothic and absurd in fantastic and stylized ways, the timeless yet somehow anachronistic world that has been brought to life takes the child entertainment genre and twists it until it’s bruised.  But where does the story go once the film ends?  Do the children ever unravel the conundrum behind their parents’ incendiary demise?  Will I ever have the money to purchase the complete set so I can find out for myself?!?  The endeavor of the struggling writer… an unfortunate event in and of itself.                                             

directed by Brad Silberling

written by Robert Gordon

released: 2004

favorite lines: "Sanctuary… is a word which here means a small, safe place in a troubling world. Like an oasis in a vast desert or an island in a stormy sea." Lemony Snicket

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Why is it so difficult to adapt a video game into a movie?  Mario?  Mortal Kombatants?  Street Fighters?  Prince of Persia?  Double Dragons? Anybody?  Perhaps it is because most video games take more than the standard hour and a half to two hours to complete.  To be truly faithful, the film would have to be eight hours long, which I’ll allow.  The active versus passive nature of each medium could factor in as well.  Maybe it is a problem of finding a balance between satisfying the hardcore gamers and reaching as broad an audience as possible.  Both sides are certain to agree that when it comes to Lara Croft and her tomb raiding, Angelina Jolie was the only woman perfectly equipped to portray the bad ass adventurer.  Yes, that sort of equipped.

Having yet to actually play any game from the Tomb Raider series (though I will soon, thank you GameFly), I journeyed into this quest both blind and terribly curious as to what all the fuss was about.  One brief shower scene minutes into the movie quelled that curiosity.  Wealthy and intelligent, gorgeous and deadly, Lara Croft is one of a kind. Finding joy in scouring the Earth for various relics, antiquities, and rare artifacts belonging anywhere but in the hands of the bad guys.  An even sexier Indiana Jones, if you will.  This first feature film follows Lara in a race against an ancient order known as the Illuminati to find the Triangle of Light.  See critics, there’s a plot!  In one corner, Ms. Croft and her double Ds pistols.  In the other, a young Jorah Mormont and the current James Bond, greedy for the unspeakable power the Triangle wields.  A global trek in the truest sense, the treasure hunt travels to Cambodia, Italy, Russia, leaving the viewer to feel as if they have been raiding right along with Lara.  Worse places to be, right?  Most of the Resident Evil series, I’m asking you.

Time storms, all-seeing eyes, cement monkey soldiers and a sentimental cameo by Papa Jolie himself, Jon Voight.  A very cool, rather brilliant piece of casting putting Voight in the role of Lord Richard Croft, Lara’s deceased, and apparently quite deceptive, father.  Having battled through some real life drama, when the two of them share the screen, there is real emotion permeating through.  A little piece of cinematic history woven into a generally well-received and, more importantly, fun adaptation.  The final freeze frame is on a level of awkward with Poolhall Junkies, but still, a thrilling ride. Enough of an impact was made to garner a sequel, one of only a select few video game motion flicks to ever be granted such a bonus.  The Cradle of Life awaits, more tombs beckon to be raided, and more Jolie, I think we can all agree, is officially a requirement.  Right up there with more cowbell.  Press Start to continue.

directed by Simon West

written by Patrick Massett & John Zinman

released: 2001

favorite lines: “Why would I try and cheat you out of anything now?  I need you to get the piece so I can steal it from you later.” Lara Croft

The Luna Temple. Long lost chamber containing Alexander the Great’s most prized possessions, and possibly the one place Lara Croft was not intended to raid.  The iconic and vivacious heroine’s irrepressible will to explore leads to her to this newly uncovered vault, and almost to her doom.  Tomb doom, that’s never good.  She does get to punch a shark, though.  Looks like somebody reached the next level of video game adaptation success, eh?  Storming into the realm of duologies, Angie JoJo returns as Tomb Raider extraordinaire, and this time?  It’s personal, as is tradition.

An orb taken from the Luna Temple is actually a map to the location of Pandora’s Box.  Oh Panda Boo, you crafty bitch.  Sure that box of yours may have created life, but it contains something far more destructive.  In fact, something that can provide the exact opposite of life.  Nature is all about balance though, isn’t she?  Light and dark, pleasure and pain, Breaking Bad and Keeping Up With the Who Gives a Shit. Of course, some douchenheimer believe he can harness what resides in that box.  Lara can’t let that box be opened, WON’T let that box be opened, not if her undeniable charm and continually impressive weapons proficiency has anything to say about it.  Those shadow guardians, too.  Freaky evil jackanapes, pardon the term.  Time has only ripened Croft’s ability to kick ass and look good doing it, and with a partner in King Leonidas, all that’s left to say is… This… is… Tomb Raider II: Straight Raidin’ It!!!   

A change in both writer and director delivers a different but equally gratifying viewing experience.  Behind the chair it went from Con Air to Twister with a sleek ease, maintaining a similar vibe from the first movie. Immense, extravagant action, blatant sexuality, a light dusting of humor, overt sexiness, and various global destinations.  Lady Croft and crew migrate to exotic locales like Greece, China, Tanzania.  The alarmingly bleak Kazakhstan.  This leaves the third film room to only travel to Iowa, Baja California, and Canada. Production ceased before it began.  A solid trilogy would have been pretty cool, though.  Jolie could still rock a mean Lara, should the opportunity arise.  The video game is getting a reboot, why not the film series?  Plenty of graves yet to be marauded, a plethora of caverns to dissect, entire hemispheres to be explored.  As long as any future titles agree to uphold the saga’s tradition of creative and entertaining adaptation, I’m game.          

directed by: Jan de Bont

written by: Dean Georgaris

released: 2003

favorite line: “Everything lost is meant to be found.” Lara Croft

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Haters, as the kids say, are gonna hate.  And holy crap did the haters have a field day with this one!  Easily the most scorned flick to grace the Movie Q to date, this modern day bedtime story causes even this relatively easy critic second guess my cinematic instincts.  To a point, a tragically dissatisfactory point, I am HUGE fan of M. Night Shyamalan.  Despite some unfortunate choices during the more recent section of his directorial career, Shamma-Lamma-Ding-Dong has proven himself to be more than capable of weaving true visionary-level films.  Both behind the pen and the lens, the Philadelphia-raised filmmaker is responsible for some objectively fascinating features. Lady in the Water, possibly in my opinion alone, is among them.  Discovering one’s purpose can be a difficult and confounded process, not meant to be completely understood by those experiencing it.  Here is no exception.  But go ahead, dive in.  It’s bathtub comfy.         

Cleveland Heep, stuttering handyman and unlikely hero, is rescued from drowning by Story, a Narf from The Blue World, an underwater haven.  Story is here to reinvigorate the relationship between humans and her kind that has long been forgotten.  As the sea nymph’s narrative unfolds, several apartments in The Cove complex became crucial pieces necessary to help save Story.  One piece in particular, the vessel, is a writer, one whose work will alter the course of human events for the infinite better.  Most critics found this message narcissistic on Shy Mulan’s part, since this fable came from his celluloid quill. Finding the few skills I possess to lie within the realm of the written word, the underlying concept of a writer saving the world is an appealing one.  Perhaps those willing to only dole out negative criticism and not contribute anything from their souls are simply bitter.  Fact is, no one, ever, will craft a tale about a critic who saves the world.  Not ever.  After all, baby IS on the half-tip. 

Self-indulgent to a certain degree, sure.  Night Sky and Moon casting himself as the writer destined for martyrdom could be interpreted in a number of antagonistic ways.  I’m tempted to agree, but I’m more tempted to say “Good for you, sir, way to stick it to the man!”  Creative, unique, different, I’m in.  A talented cast, imaginative script, terrifying quasi-wolves and psychotic monkeys fuel this mystically infectious tale.  There is just something about it, this furthering of an inventive scribe’s filmography.  There are enough idiosyncrasies, M. Night signatures (how the camera tells the story, striking angles and haunting sequences), in this movie that I consider it one of his triumphs.  As touching as it is creepy, as humorous as it is enigmatic.  Open your mind, your heart, your nearest aquatic pathway.  This one may surprise you.                        

directed by M. Night Shyamalan

written by M. Night Shyamalan

released: 2006

favorite lines: “Man thinks they are each alone in this world. It is not true. You are all connected. One act can one day affect all.” Story

Deposit accepted. Harboring a fugitive.  With “the child.”  No matter how you phrase it, pregnancy is hilarious!  At least, in the highly capable hands of Judd Apatow it is.  Scares the bejesus out of me, and I’m at an age when I should probably start considering the reality of furthering my essence.  “Spreading my seed” sounded too raunchy…  For better or worse, I see a lot of myself in Seth Rogen’s Ben Stone, consummate stoner and reluctant father-to-be. Thankfully I’m married, so at least my wife knows exactly how cuckoo banana pants I really am before baby comes rampaging through our peaceful bliss of a life together!!  Breathe, Quinnjamin, it’s only a movie…     

The phrase “all-star cast” is one that I wish I was creative enough to repackage and never use again, but this neo-RomCom features no less than FIFTEEN noteworthy comedic voices.  Just one after another, flooding the air with all kinds of ha ha.  I’d list them all, but I fear you may resent me for wasting your time naming names, then there’s the awkward afterward.  I will mention two casting , as they stick with me like breakfast on Sunday.  Ryan Seacrest ups his cool quotient with me infinifold with his scene-stealing cameo.  Always respected the guy, but thanks to Apatow, I’d now like to binge watch something with him.  Then of course, the wonderful, the caring nurturer we all hope our fathers are, Harold Ramis.  Since my father passed, I seem to emblazon my consciousness with patriarchal roles that remind me of him.  Mere minutes of screen time, and his part as the elder Stone may rival that of Dr. Egon Spengler.  I know, I know. Bold statement.

As frightening as the thought may be, Knocked Up delivers an honest, heartwarming, and genuinely funny portrayal of the miracle of life. It elevates the romantic comedy genre to a different level, one that more accurately reflects the modern, unplanned birthing event.  And who knows?  Maybe when our time comes, this whole baby thing won’t be that scary, huh?  Just follow the film’s lead.  Trip mushrooms in Las Vegas, read the baby books, can’t be that tough.  Yeah. Feeling OK about whatever is coming down the – wait, wait, they’re not actually showing the baby’s head come out… no no NOOOOO!!!!!

directed by Judd Apatow

written by Judd Apatow

released: 2007

favorite lines: “Please take the chairs away. I don’t like them. The big one is staring at me and that short one is being very droll.” Ben Stone

Sounds like most of my collegiate sex life!  Or was it hug hug boom boom… Iron Man and Doc Holliday, tag team crime solvers – no, wait.  Sherlock Holmes and an unfortunate Batman, cruising the streets, finding bad guys, and really just barely getting along in Hollywood’s ticklish underbelly.  Either way, here are two of the greatest actors in the history of the cinematic realm (in my humblest, in my humblest), Robert Downey, Jr. and Valentine (?) Kilmer, joining forces, kicking ass, even making out a little bit.  From the mind of once underrated now carving out his own corner of La La Land, master craftsman Shane Black, comes this criminally hilarious story of inadvertent identities, severed digits and intersecting homicides.

In truth, Harry Lockhart and Perry van Shrike are the men in charge of deciphering this murder mystery, their bravery and intelligence outweighed only by their witticisms.  Harry’s is a small-time thief who flees a botched robbery directly into an acting audition.  Johnny Law… evaded!  Gay Perry (not my idea, it’s his nickname!) is a little-to-no nonsense private investigator, always eager to let Harry know how moronic he can be.  Oh hey, I just got that.  Harry and Perry.  Freaking adorable.  Four days in SoCal have never been so engaging.  Almost obscenely so.  Call me a sucker for well-written conundrums.  Not to my face though, I’m sensitive.  Fast paced, incredibly funny, terribly clever and thoroughly original in presentation, this flick deserves so much more attention than it has received.  Sleeper hit, redefined.

Black has the knack for a wordsmith attack and, I’m hoping, a fan of rhyming.  This is one of those under the radar movies that, whenever mentioned, evokes an über-positive reaction.  Rightfully so, as virtually every aspect of this one is empirically outstanding.  The music, the script, the action, the funny, the unforgettable characters.  The fantastic way RDJ not only narrates but does so with such a unique flare.  The freeze frames, the interactions with both the audience and particular flashbacks.  All great, all the time.  He also wrote AND sings the song that plays over the end credits!  Track called “broken,” it’s beautiful.  Oh, if possible, the movie might be better with the commentary turned on.  Features Mr. Black, Chaplin and the Saint.  Ridiculous.                              

directed by Shane Black

written by Shane Black

released: 2005

favorite lines: "And that’s how she got to the same party as me. Oh shit. I skipped something. Damn it. This whole robot bit. I made a big deal, then I like totally forgot. Fuck, this is bad narrating. Like my dad telling a joke. ‘Oh, wait back up. I forgot to tell you the cowboy rode a blue horse.’ Fuck. Anyway, I don’t know if you want to see it now, but here’s the fucking robot stuff for your viewing pleasure. Can I say “fuck” more?” Harry Lockhart