Sunday, September 30, 2012

September Movie Status

We interrupt the regularly scheduled set of movie reviews to bring you the following post:

I only saw 24 movies this month – a lot less than the last couple of months.  I had some issues around the house that needed to be dealt with which took me away from movie watching.  I also spent time re-watching Castle Season 4 (18 hours).  Finally I was also in a reading mood.  I think I read 10-12 books.

Currently, the two main lists that I am taking movie suggestions from are the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list and a list I put together of every Oscar Best Picture nominee.  You can see those lists by clicking on these titles:  1,001 Movies; Oscar Nominees.  

So far in 2012 I have seen 310 movies that were new to me.  Among those 310 films, 121 were from the 1,001 Movies list and 50 were Best Picture nominees. 

Here are the 24 new movies I saw in September.  An asterisk indicates the movie is from the 1,001 Movies list.  A plus sign indicates it is a Best Picture Oscar nominee.  Highlighted movies are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five.  I will single out the four and five star films in the paragraph below the list.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Movie – The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)

The title “The Year of Living Dangerously” refers to the time period and location that the movie takes place in.  It is 1965 in Indonesia – the year that the dictator Sukarno faced a coup d’etat.  He crushed any opposition, and even worked to drive out any foreigner who was caught in the country.  Imagine, then, the peril that foreign journalists were in trying to cover these events for their home countries.  This concept was an influential one and several other films about reporters in war zones soon followed (i.e. The Killing Fields, Salvador, etc.)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Playing the Other Gender

“Girls will be boys and boys will be girls/ It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world/ except for Lola.” – Lola, The Kinks

You can probably think of a couple dozen movies where a character masqueraded as the opposite sex – Yentl, Tootsie, Just One of the Guys, Shakespeare in Love, etc.  This category isn’t about those kinds of “playing the other gender” movies.  In those cases the character was the same gender as the actor/actress, and their character was pretending to be the other gender.

No, this category is for those rare movies where an actor/actress played a character who was actually a different gender.  An example is the first movie I will review – 1982’s The Year of Living Dangerously.  Actress Linda Hunt played a Eurasian man…and won an Oscar for it.  She is the only actor/actress in this category to do so, although in my opinion there is another who also deserved an Oscar, as you will see when I get to that movie’s review.

As I post the reviews, I will come back and add links here for those posts:

The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
Transamerica (2005)
Hairspray (2007)
St. Trinian's (2007)
XXY (2007)

On to the reviews…

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

This Has Been an Expensive Month

Experiencing the joys of home ownership means also experiencing some of the not so joyful moments.  You have to take the bad with the good.  My furnace’s boiler cracked so I am now the proud owner of a shiny new furnace and someone else is the proud owner of more than $3,200 of my money.

Combine this with $1,200 to keep my vehicle on the road and another $600 for two other things I had to have done to equipment at my house and this has been a damn expensive month.

I probably shouldn’t complain.  I’ve got the financial wherewithal to absorb this.  (Save your money kids.)  This would be a disaster for some folks.  Still, any month where I end up spending $5,000 I didn’t expect to is not a good one.

My new furnace.  Isn't it shiny?  ("Shiny" as in the visual sense, not the Firefly sense.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Castle TV Show, Books, Graphic Novels, and Videos

“There are two kinds of folks who sit around thinking about how to kill people: psychopaths and mystery writers.  I’m the kind that pays better.” – Richard Castle, Castle

Back in March of 2011 I wrote a series of posts about the TV show Castle, which was then part way through its third season, as well as the two books that had been published at that point.  I even included some videos of the cast together at Comic Con 2010 to show how much fun they have with each other.  It is now time for an update. 

In the time that has passed since I did my posts the show has completed four seasons, with the fifth having just aired its first episode.  There have also been two more Richard Castle novels published, as well as a graphic novel “adaptation” of his first Derrick Storm novel.  Another adaptation is on the way next month.

The ideal way to experience all sets of media is to watch Castle Season 1, then read the book Heat Wave, then watch Castle Season 2, then read the book Naked Heat, then watch Castle Season 3, etc.  Rather than make you search for my original posts, I am re-doing them now in order to better present a flow or sequence to follow.  I will separate each season into its own post, as well as tweak the text to improve it a little.  The first two books already were separate entries, so I will not re-post those.  I will have links to them, in the correct sequence, below.

Book - Heat Wave (posted March 10, 2011)
Castle Cast at Comic Con 2010 (posted March 10, 2011)
Book - Naked Heat (posted March 10, 2011)
TV Show Season 4
(The Castle cast did not have a panel at Comic Con 2012)
Book - Frozen Heat
Book - Richard Castle's Storm Season
TV Show Season 5
Book - Deadly Heat
Book - Richard Castle's A Calm Before Storm
Book - Storm Front
The Castle Cast at the Paley Center
(The Castle cast did not have a panel at Comic Con 2013)
Book - Wild Storm
Book - Richard Castle's Unholy Storm - No full review for this one because I cannot recommend it.  Both the story line (voodoo instead of spy craft) and the shoddy artwork are a disappointment.
On to the reviews…

TV – Castle Season 1

Castle debuted as a Spring replacement on ABC in March of 2009.  It only had time for a run of 10 episodes, but that was enough for ABC to see that it had something good.  They brought it back for a full 24 episode run the next Fall and that’s when the show really hit its stride.  It is now starting its fifth season.  It airs Mondays at 10:00 PM on ABC.

The premise is that a popular crime novelist ends up helping a New York City police detective solve murder cases.  At the same time he is using these experiences with her as the basis for a new series of crime novels starring a character based on her.  There’s much more to it than that, but that is the 50,000 foot view.

TV – Castle Season 2

This season is the one where the show hit its stride.  The writers and actors know who the characters are and they are able to expand on them.  The show plays up the growing attraction of the two leads.  That really gets fun when Castle’s first Nikki Heat book is published.  It’s titled Heat Wave.  If you have not read the post on the book, please do so now.  You can find it here.

TV – Castle Season 3

At the start of this season none of the detectives have heard from Castle for months.  They think he might still be out of town, but they walk past a bookstore display touting the release of Castle’s next book, Naked Heat, and that he will be there signing it.  They get a call that a body has been found.  They are the first cops on the scene, so they start to go through the apartment with guns drawn.  They discover one person in the apartment with the body – Castle.

Video – Castle Cast at Comic Con 2011

What does the TV show Castle have to do with the biggest convention in the world for celebrating all things science fiction, fantasy, superhero, comic book, etc.?  Absolutely nothing.  The show is a mainstream detective drama/comedy with none of those elements. 

So why did they have the cast of the show at the 2011 convention?  Because Nathan Fillion has a huge fan following from a prior science fiction show he did called Firefly.  You may not have heard of it, but in the few short years since it went off the air it has probably amassed the third largest set of fans in the Comic Con community – behind only Star Trek and Star Wars.

Their appearance at the 2010 convention was a big hit so they returned in 2011.  The following four videos are the complete 50 minute panel that the cast held at Comic Con 2011.  Unfortunately, Stana Katic could not make it for this panel, but it does have Nathan Fillion (Castle), Jon Huertas (Esposito), Seamus Dever (Ryan), Molly Quinn (Alexis), and Tamala Jones (Lanie).

Book – Heat Rises

Heat Rises is the third book by “Richard Castle”, the fictional writer on the TV show Castle.  The actual author of these books is speculated to be one of the real authors who have appeared on the show (i.e. Michael Connelly, James Patterson) or one of the show’s creators (i.e. Andrew Marlowe).  Like the first two books, this one has events or plot points similar to things that have happened on the Castle TV show in the prior season.  Thus we see the influence of these events on Castle’s writing because of what ends up in the book.

Book – Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm

To date there have been four novels published under the author’s name of Richard Castle – the fictional character on the TV show Castle.  When the show opened Richard Castle was the popular author of a series of thrillers that all had the main character of Derrick Storm.  During the course of the show we have seen the Castle character write the four Nikki Heat novels, which are based on the Detective Beckett character.  What about all those Derrick Storm novels that are supposed to already exist?  The people involved with the show decided to do “adaptations” of these books in the graphic novel format.

Video – Stana Katic Singing at a European Film Festival

Stana Katic hasn’t ever really gotten a chance to show her singing skills on her TV show Castle.  Apparently one of her fans knows about them, though, because at an appearance at a European Film Festival one of the kids in the audience asked her if she could sing something for them.

Katic is a little embarrassed, but after a little hesitation she sings a song she wrote herself.  It’s fun to see how she is a little shy at first, but then starts to get into it and sing with a little more passion.  She seems genuinely appreciative of the applause of the crowd afterwards.

Here is the video.  It is part of the larger question and answer session she was having.

TV – Castle Season 4

Note: There are spoilers for Season 3 in this post, as well as a discussion of the status of the Castle/Beckett relationship at the end of Season 4 and the first episode of Season 5.

This season picks up right where last season left off.  Beckett is being whisked into a hospital emergency room.  She took a bullet to the chest from an unknown shooter at the end of Season 3.  After a tense scene, she is going to survive (although it wasn’t ever really in doubt.)

What was in doubt was whether Beckett would remember Castle’s confession to her, just after she was shot, that he loved her and he couldn’t lose her.  She says she doesn’t, but it is revealed in the first episode that she really did.  Her therapist (Michael Dorn) tries to help her address this, as well as the trauma of almost being killed.

Book – Frozen Heat

Frozen Heat is the fourth book by “Richard Castle”, the fictional writer on the TV show Castle.  The actual author of these books is speculated to be one of the real authors who have appeared on the show (i.e. Michael Connelly, James Patterson) or one of the show’s creators (i.e. Andrew Marlowe).  Like the first three books, this one has events or plot points similar to things that have happened on the Castle TV show in the prior season.  This book tackles the equivalent of the big issue from the TV show – the murder of Nikki Heat’s mother.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Movie – The Ugly Truth (2009)

The Ugly Truth is an R rated romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler.  If you’re one of those people who hates Heigl then this movie will not change your mind about her.  If you’re one of those people who hates romantic comedies, this will also not change your mind.  The movie holds little surprise for people who know how romantic comedies work, but what it does have is some refreshingly frank, funny dialogue and some great chemistry between the leads.  And you know what?  Sometimes it’s a good thing to know where a movie is going before you start to watch it precisely because it’s going to show you what you want to see.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Movie – The OH in Ohio (2006)

The OH in Ohio is yet another in the line of somewhat offbeat independent films that seem to attract actress Parker Posey like a moth to a flame.  Notice that I did not call this movie a comedy.  While it was certainly marketed as a comedy, it probably has as much drama in it as it does laughs.  The poor marketing, combined with the offbeat humor that is in this film, seems to be the biggest cause of dissatisfaction among viewers.  They were expecting something like Wedding Crashers and instead got something like, well, I’m not sure what other movie this would be most like.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Movie – Wedding Crashers (2005)

Wedding Crashers is not the kind of movie that anyone would mistake for highbrow.  The Oscars did not come calling.  It did win a number of People’s Choice, Teen Choice, and MTV Movie Awards, though.  It also did pretty well at the box office, especially for an R rated comedy.  This was due to a combination of a mostly appealing cast and some good humor.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Movie – Bruce Almighty (2003)

What if you were given God’s powers?  What would you do?  Maybe you’d have fun for a while.  Maybe you’d even turn evil.  After all, Lord Acton famously wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  On the other hand, Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  Having God’s powers means having to deal with all the issues that come to him, too.  This is the premise of the film Bruce Almighty.  It’s a movie with some good laughs in it, but also a bit of a message.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Movie – Pleasantville (1998)

Pleasantville was an unexpected pleasure for me.  I had watched it figuring it might have some decent laughs, but that was it.  As it turns out, it’s one of those rare movies that starts out as a comedy and turns into a drama part of the way through.  The transition is very gradual, just as the characters in the movie are also gradually changing.  The result is a movie that turned out to have a lot more depth than I expected it to, and I enjoyed that quite a bit.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Movie – Rain Man (1988)

At the time it won the Oscar, Rain Man was the highest grossing Best Picture winner of all time.  (It has since been surpassed by Forrest Gump and, of course, Titanic).  Rain Man actually won four of the five major Oscars – Picture, Director, Actor, and Original Screenplay.  It was nominated for four other Oscars.  It was also the highest grossing movie of 1988.  It’s not often that a film is both popular with movie audiences and critically acclaimed, but Rain Man was.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Movie – A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

The movie A Fish Called Wanda opened in the U.S. to not much fanfare in July of 1988.  By August it was getting such great word of mouth that its box office was increasing each week, not decreasing.  By mid September it actually became the number one movie at the box office.  When Awards season came around it received three Oscar nominations (including Best Director and Best Original Screenplay), and had a win for Kevin Kline as Best Supporting Actor – one of the very few times a comedic performance has won an Oscar.  Over the years this movie has been named one of the top comedies ever made by such entities as the American Film Institute (AFI), Premiere magazine, Bravo, Total Film magazine, and Reader’s Digest.  I consider it one of the funniest films I have ever seen.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Humor – Call Me Maybe

I just got home from the local GM dealership.  I own a Saturn, but when GM got rid of the brand they also got rid of the service, which was top notch.  Now I have to use the regular GM service which is, let’s just say, nowhere near as good.

I tell them what work I need.  They set up a 1:00 PM appointment.  I ask if that will give them enough time for the work.  They say yes.  I say I’ll be waiting for it.  They say no problem.  When I get there I tell them to ignore a “Service Engine Soon” light.  It has been coming on now and then for six years.  When they do a regular oil change it goes away and doesn’t come back until another oil change is needed.  A few years ago they spent a couple of hours trying to figure out what was causing the light and never came to a conclusion.  So I go in today and tell them NOT to bother with the light because I don’t want to sit around for nothing.

Two hours later they come out.  I figure they’re just about done with the work.  Nope.  They are there to tell me they think they’ve got the light tracked down to one of two things.  What about the work I brought it in for, I ask.  Oh, they haven’t started on any of that.  In fact, they’ll now have to keep the vehicle overnight.  And it will be around 900 to 1,000 dollars when all is said and done.

So since I need to get into my house, and since I need my house keys to do that, and since the house keys are on the same keychain as my car keys, I tell them I need to get the keys from my vehicle.  Oh, it will be a little while.  They’re working on another car, but when they are done with that, they can get the keys from mine.

All in all, I had held it together pretty well.  At this point, though, I told them I wanted my keys and if I needed to go get them myself, I would.  They brought them out pretty quickly.  I’m now home and badly in need of a laugh.  Because I’m not in the best mood to write a movie review, I figured I’d share this funny video with you all instead.  You may have already seen it, but it’s funny enough to watch again, especially for the reactions of the people on the left.

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid ever hearing this song before, first, congratulations on achieving the near impossible, and second, it’s a song titled Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson.  The man on the right is catching people unawares with his performance on chat sessions.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Movie – Porky’s (1982)

Porky’s was only the second R rated film I ever saw.  My brothers-in-law took me to see Semi-Tough when I was 13, but it really wasn’t that bad in regards to content.  Porky’s, on the other hand, was raunchy from beginning to end.  I saw it at a drive in and my sister, my female cousin, and I all laughed our asses off.  I’ve seen the film a couple of times since then, when I was more “mature”, and I still found it to be very funny.  When American Pie came out and everyone was talking about the raunchy humor in it, I kept thinking to myself that those people really needed to see Porky’s if they wanted to see what raunchy humor was all about.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Movie – Private Benjamin (1980)

Private Benjamin was the first script ever written specifically for Goldie Hawn and it was also the first film she ever executive produced.  She collaborated with Nancy Meyers (who co-wrote the screenplay) and the results were good.  Not only was this film one of the biggest box office hits of 1980, it also received three Oscar nominations – Goldie Hawn for Best Actress, Eileen Brennan for Best Supporting Actress, and Meyers (and others) for Best Original Screenplay.  In 2000 the American Film Institute (AFI) listed this as one of the 100 best American comedies, and in 2006 Premiere magazine listed it as one if the 50 best comedies of all time.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Movie – When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

The story for When Harry Met Sally had a hodgepodge of sources.  It originally grew out of a disagreement eventual director Rob Reiner and eventual screenwriter Nora Ephron had about whether men and women could be good friends without sex getting in the way.  Many of their points ended up coming out of Harry’s and Sally’s mouths.  This is fitting because those characters were loosely based on the two of them.  No, they didn’t have a romance, but Reiner was dark and depressed sometimes and Ephron was upbeat and very precise when she ordered things.  Reiner, lead actor Billy Crystal (Harry), and lead actress Meg Ryan (Sally) also contributed quite a few ideas that made it on the screen.  The result is one of the very best romantic comedies ever made.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Orgasms Are Funny, Especially in the Movies

“YES!...YES!...YES!...YES!...YES!...YES!...Oh God!...YES!” – Sally Albright, When Harry Met Sally…

Hollywood seems to be kind of uptight about showing an orgasm at the end of a sex scene, but they have no problem throwing in an orgasm if it’s humorous, especially if it’s one where there are witnesses.  The pinnacle of these kinds of scenes is, of course, Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.  When later movies had a funny orgasm gag they were invariably accused of ripping off When Harry Met Sally.  The thing is, it was hardly the first movie to have a scene like that in it.

The oldest movie I can think of is 1973’s Sleeper.  I saw it on broadcast TV way back when I was too young to even understand what those big silver balls that people were rubbing were doing to them.  It was only years later that I remembered that and realized that rubbing them were probably giving them orgasms.  It’s been far too long since I saw that film for me to review it, though, and I could be wrong about whether there was an actual orgasm scene.  Another film that predated When Harry Met Sally that had a scene like this is 1981’s Modern Problems, but it’s not good enough for me to recommend.

I’m going to do something a little different with this category header.  I'm listing all the movies I'm going to review ahead of time.  I am doing this so you can see which movies I thought of.  If you can think of a movie older than 1980’s Private Benjamin, or even other movies with funny orgasm scenes that I may have forgotten, please let me know in the comments.  If I’ve seen the film and like it enough to recommend, I may end up reviewing it.

American Pie and Amelie have been previously posted, but I did not refer to the scenes in my reviews.  In American Pie Tara Reid’s character is receiving pleasure from her boyfriend.  Her parents call her down to dinner, but she doesn’t hear them.  Her father goes up to her room, but just as he is about to open her door and catch her, she yells out, “I’m coming!”, and he figures she means down to dinner so he leaves.  In Amelie the title character imagines how many people are having sex in Paris at that very moment.  This is followed by a very quick montage of a bunch of couples in the throws of orgasm.  It comes back to Amelie, she smiles and then says, “Fifteen”.

As I post the reviews, I will come back and change the movie titles into links to the posts:

American Pie (1999) - (posted August 16, 2012)
Amelie (2001) - (posted May 4, 2012)

Meanwhile, this video is very fitting for the topic of funny orgasms.  I saw it way back before there ever was a Youtube.  I figured it had to be there now, because pretty much every video seems to end up there sooner or later.  I had a hell of a time finding it, though.  I hope you like it.  (Don't worry; there's nothing explicit in it.  Watch it all the way to the end.  There’s a big payoff, so to speak.)

On to the reviews…

Monday, September 3, 2012

Movie – The Expendables 2 (2012)

I debated with myself over whether I should recommend this movie or not.  While I felt it was not as good an overall movie as the first film, there were scenes within it that were more fun than anything we saw in the original.  I finally decided I would recommend it, although mostly for people who are fans of the 80s action heroes that appear in it.  Both Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger have larger roles in this film, and this leads to one of my favorite scenes in the movie.  On the other hand, Jet Li’s role is reduced to being no larger than these two.  I will explain below.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

August Movie Status

This month I finally achieved a goal I had been working towards for 14 years – seeing every single film on the IMDB Top 250 since the end of 1998 (currently 524 different films).  Long before I started using the 1,001 movies and Oscar nominees lists, I printed off the IMDB Top 250 at the end of 1998.  Back then it wasn’t so top heavy with new movies and had a lot more classics on it.  I used it as suggestions for movies to see now and then.  I kept printing it off at the end of each subsequent year.  Around 2005 I had seen pretty much all the films…except for one entry from the 1999 list that had never been released in the U.S. – the 1998 Yugoslavian screwball comedy Crna macka, beli macor aka Black Cat, White Cat. 

Over the years I continued to watch the new films that showed up on each year ending list, while trying to find a copy of this one film. I finally tracked down an all regions Korean import DVD at the end of 2011.  Since I knew there would be new entries from the 2011 year end list to see, I set this movie aside.  I finally completed the last of the new entries from 2011 by seeing A Separation yesterday.  Right after doing that I sat down to watch Black Cat, White Cat and finally completed my 14 year long quest.  Sure, there will be some new movies on the 2012 year end list, but I will stay caught up on them as I go along. 

For anyone interested in seeing my combined and weighted 14 year IMDB Top 250 list of 524 films, you can find it at my Lists from Chip site here.