Apr 29, 2015

Review: Working Girl (1988)

I felt bad for thinking that Working Girl was a movie about a prostitute. Even the way it began had me thinking that it was, but in truth it's actually a movie about a secretary trying to break into the financial industry. I'm convinced that Mike Nichols was trying to fool me into thinking it was about a prostitute. But anyway, I honestly like movies that are set in the corporate world and I wish there would be more of them. It's not a place that's necessarily all that interesting in real life, but through the magic of movies the business world is one of the most exciting places to work.

On the surface, Working Girl does seem quite good. Mike Nichols isn't always a guaranteed stamp of quality, but he's got some great movies to his name all the same. With Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver also on board, that's a lot of potential. Lots of Academy Award nominations went out to Working Girl too which is never usually a bad thing. Oh and the guy who later co-wrote Junior is the screenwriter as well. That's a good sign too right?

Apr 28, 2015

Review: X-Men: The Last Stand [X-Men 3: The Last Stand] (2006)

After the critical and box office successes of X-Men and X2, what was to be the final film (ha!) of Fox's X-Men film franchise was without a director or any writers. Bryan Singer as well as his writing buddies Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris decided to leave for Superman Returns and leave Fox scrambling. Not only trying to find a director and some writers, but there was also a lot of issues with actor availability which isn't that much of a surprise when you got a big ensemble cast like this.

Zak Penn who had been involved with the story for X-Men came back as a screenwriter and Simon Kinberg who was able to parlay his success with Mr. and Mrs. Smith also got in on the action. Interestingly enough, Matthew Vaughn was actually hired as director but eventually decided to step down. He'd eventually get his chance at an X-Men movie with X-Men: First Class five years later though. Who took his place instead was Brett Ratner of Prison Break and Rush Hour fame. Even though it mostly got mixed reception, X-Men: The Last Stand became the most financially successful X-Men movie yet.

Apr 26, 2015

Review: More Kittens (1936)

Did you really think that Walt Disney and co. would just walk away from the success they had with Three Orphan Kittens? Doesn't really sound like Disney to me, but that's probably my modern cynicism getting in the way. After all, it's just a coincidence that three of the seven Silly Symphonies in 1936 were sequels right? But I digress, with three of the cutest protagonists around and an Academy Award for Best Short Subject the year before, it made perfect sense to do a sequel. Who doesn't want more kittens anyway?

Apr 25, 2015

Review: The Switch (2010)

The Switch is apparently based on a 1996 short story by Jeffrey Eugenides called Baster which originally appeared in The New Yorker. Who'd have thought right? He's the guy who wrote the novel The Virgin Suicides which of course eventually became a feature film in 1999 as Sofia Coppola's very competent directorial debut. The fact that Eugenides wasn't involved with The Switch at all isn't much of a surprise since it doesn't seem like the kind of entertainment that he would typically be involved with if TVS is anything to go by.

The Switch was my second Jennifer Aniston movie in two nights my first Jason Bateman in what seems like ages. I think it's been at least a year since I've seen him in anything and I was glad to finally be breaking that streak. I could be wrong, but I think Paul was the last time I saw him in a movie. I personally like Bateman, but he does unfortunately seem to have a habit of being in mostly bad movies that don't really showcase what he's able to do. Judging from the obnoxious poster, I was doubtful that The Switch would be any different.

Apr 24, 2015

Review: The Object of My Affection (1998)

Whether you like her or not, Jennifer Aniston was huge in the late 1990's and still is to a certain extent even today. Riding the tidal wave of Friends will do that for you. No doubt that Aniston was the most successful at carving out a film career compared to her other Friends co-stars. What's funny is that her TOoMA co-star Paul Rudd also found himself on Friends in a run from 2002-2004 for a total of 19 episodes. That's a nice little small screen reunion if I ever saw one, although I don't think they shared much screen-time together from what I understand.

Based on Stephen McCauley's book of the same name, The Object of My Affection goes into some pretty bold territory. Or at least what I think was probably pretty bold for North American audiences at the time. This is pre-Brokeback Mountain after all. The story of TOoMA can be boiled down to a woman falling in love with a gay roommate which results in all sorts of complications as I'm sure you can imagine.

Apr 23, 2015

Review: Post Grad (2009)

The life of a post grad isn't easy. You've just spent a whole bunch of money on tuition, textbooks, housing if you're unlucky enough to not be able to live with your parents during your studies and everything else a student needs and now you need a job to get yourself on your feet. All for a little piece of paper. The sad reality is that a college degree means very little these days. With so many people competing for the so few jobs that are out there, it's a ton of pressure.

Was there any hope at packaging that reality into a cute little romantic comedy? Maybe, but you could call me skeptical before I started watching it. Vicky Jenson actually does have some pretty significant directing history (if mostly in animation), but screenwriter Kelly Fremon has never written another script since Post Grad which isn't a good sign. On the bright side, there's actually a surprising amount of star talent in Post Grad with actors like Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch and J.K. Simmons. I can't say that I have much experience with Alexis Bledel though.

Apr 22, 2015

Review: Prometheus (2012)

There's no doubt that Prometheus is one of the most criticized big budget movies in recent memory. Its situation is pretty similar to something like Avatar's if you ask me and I'd probably consider newcomer Interstellar as part of the gang too. I guess there's just something about mass-marketed science fiction movies that get a lot of people riled up enough to post "20 Reasons Why [insert big budget sci-fi movie title here] Sucks." Honestly, the vitriol that's been spewed over the last three years against Prometheus has gotten a bit exhausting at this point.

Writing this review, I've now seen Prometheus twice. Being loosely tied to the Alien series which is one of the most important franchises to me on a very personal level, I realize that it's not a perfect movie. That still didn't stop me from enjoying Ridley Scott's return to the same universe that put him on the map in such a big way back in 1979. That goes without saying that I'm very much looking forward to the sequel. I also have no doubt that Prometheus 2 will make a bunch of money despite the spanking Prometheus has gotten over the years on the internet.

Apr 21, 2015

Review: Fly Away Home (1996)

Just to get this out of the way, I love The Black Stallion so much. Carroll Ballard's directing career may not include too many titles, but there's no doubt in my mind that TBS is his crown jewel. OK, I'll admit that I had never seen another Ballard directed film before, but I seriously doubt that my opinion will ever change. I still remember being completely enchanted as a kid watching TBS for the first time and being doubly so watching it again when I could properly appreciate its beauty.

Fly Away Home is my second Ballard film and I was intrigued to say the least before it began. Forgoing horses for geese, it seems like Ballard has a thing for animals doesn't it? He's also done wolves and even cheetahs respectively with Never Cry Wolf and Duma. Even if they are one of my country's national animals, Canada geese don't strike me as the easiest animals to feel empathy for with the experience I've had from their overly-aggressive nature, but I was sure that Ballard had something up his sleeve.

Apr 20, 2015

Review: Three Orphan Kittens (1935)

I'll admit that I'm a full-on cat guy when it comes to pets. I got nothing against dogs or anything, but in terms of choosing either a cat or dog to be my companion at home I'll choose a cat every time. Every time I see a cat outside, I can't not try to see if it'll let me approach it so I can pat it. Everyone does that right? I guess that's what happens when you grow up in a household that had four cats all at once for a time (I know, it's crazy).

So you can definitely understand the position I was in before starting Three Orphan Kittens. Just the title alone gave me images of kittens in a sack being abandoned somewhere. I had a feeling that I was going to end up being "cute-ed out" by some poor little kittens. It looks like the members of the Academy were as well since Three Orphan Kittens went on to win Best Short Subject at the Academy Awards that year.

Apr 19, 2015

Review: X2 [X-Men 2: X-Men United] (2003)

I consider the first X-Men movie to be the beginning of the modern superhero era. With Batman & Robin putting the entire genre into doubt in 1997, here was a movie that wasn't just about action sequences, loud sets and ridiculous villains. Human themes like acceptance and alienation are explored and it also helps when you have a great cast. That especially goes for the Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart connection. Their duality happens to be one of the best things in the entire X-Men franchise.

Even if X-Men is still far from the best superhero movie ever made, it was surprisingly competent. So how do you follow up on something like that? With an additional $50 million approved for the budget, Bryan Singer and producer Tom DeSanto wanted X2 to be like what Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was to Star Wars. Talk about reaching for the stars. I mean, how rare is it that sequels end up being better than their originals? Practically never would be as good a guess as any.

Apr 18, 2015

Review: The Tortoise and the Hare (1935)

Everyone is familiar with Aesop's fable The Tortoise and the Hare, or at least most people should be. It's a story that joins the long list of fairy tales that have been appropriated by Disney over the years. Not that I have a problem with that or anything, I'm just saying. If not Disney, someone else would've done it all and probably not as well as Disney was capable of.

Part of the long running Silly Symphony animated short film series, The Tortoise and the Hare won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short. The lesson that the film's story is supposed to impart is actually a bit ambiguous though. Is it about the dangers of being overconfident? Is it about perseverance or a warning against doing things too quickly? Either way, there's nothing like a good moral to a story.

Review: Top Five (2014)

Top Five is not Chris Rock's directorial debut. That honour actually goes to Head of State which was released eleven years ago to less than satisfactory results critically and financially. Besides directing an episode of Everybody Hates Chris, his next project was I Think I Love My Wife which was as uneven a movie as they come. Could Top Five be a case of third time's the charm?

I won't lie, I had an idea of what I thought Top Five would be like. Fair or not, I thought it would be an ensemble comedy movie, similar to something like This is the End. That was my impression and I was totally ready to accept that. I mean, just check out the cast right? With the likes of J.B. Smoove, Kevin Hart, Whoopi Goldberg, Jerry Seinfeld and many many more, how could Top Five NOT be funny at the very least?

Apr 16, 2015

Review: The Practical Pig (1939)

The Practical Pig is the fourth and final film in the Disney Three Little Pigs animated short film series that all began in 1933. Sadly, it is the second last film that Disney released under the Silly Symphonies umbrella, with The Ugly Duckling being released less than two months later. Mainly used as a way for Disney to experiment, they still managed to walk away with an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film seven times in a ten year period. Only MGM's Tom and Jerry posed a significant threat to this run which is pretty impressive.

Apr 15, 2015

Review: VeggieTales: The End of Silliness? More Really Silly Songs! (1998)

You know how many VeggieTales movies were released since the last sing-along video, VeggieTales: Very Silly Songs? A mind boggling three. THREE! Only one year separates Very Silly Songs and The End of Silliness? More Really Silly Songs! and I find that pretty insulting. It also didn't give me a lot of time to recover from seeing some of my least favourite "songs" of all time a second time. Releasing a sing-along video so soon just strikes me as an easy cop out for Big Idea Productions.

What's even more astounding is that some of the songs that are included in The End of Silliness? are found in films that Very Silly Songs also took its selection from. You're telling me that overlap is somehow justified? No, songs don't repeat but it just proves to me that there wasn't enough quality material to choose from when the makers were selecting the songs for The End of Silliness? I know that it's only two songs that overlap, but it's a matter of principle.

Apr 14, 2015

Review: Legally Blonde (2001)

By all accounts, Legally Blonde wasn't supposed to be much more than a run-of-the-mill chick flick. If you judge it by its cover anyway. It's definitely not hard to extrapolate further from its sorority president main character who happens to be a blonde and decides to pursue a career in law anyway. The question is, how many dumb blonde jokes could we expect a minute? 3? 5? Maybe more? I didn't really expect much of LB anyway, unfair as that may be.

When Legally Blonde was initially released, I wasn't at the age to really be spending my time watching a movie so obviously geared for girls. I actually still remember my little sister watching this movie in the background while I grinded in Final Fantasy X on my trusty PlayStation 2. Time well spent right? All the same, it kind of feels like I'm coming home by watching Legally Blonde for real after all these years and it feels nice.

Apr 13, 2015

Review: Nevada (1997)

There isn't a whole lot to say about this tiny independent film, so I'll just start off with a funny connection that my girlfriend found as we were watching it. She's the kind of person that can recognize an actor and almost instantly make a connection of where she's seen them before. In Casper, Nevada's main actress Amy Brenneman actually played Kat's (Christina Ricci) mother and Garette Ratliff Henson who plays the son of Amy Brenneman in Nevada played Vic, the guy who had a crush on Kat. Talk about a good memory. I can't even remember what I had for lunch.

Anyway, Nevada was Gary Tieche's directorial debut and the only film he's directed in fact. He also wrote it and went on to write the screenplays for several other films as well, most notably The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest. Yeah, not really something I've ever heard of either. Maybe big fans of Rosario Dawson and um, Jake Busey have? Tieche mostly writes for TV now, most recently a Lifetime TV movie called She Made Them Do It.

Apr 12, 2015

Review: Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)

Woody Allen, a workhorse if I ever saw one when it comes to making movies was going through a bit of a crisis when Manhattan Murder Mystery was released in 1993. Although it was down to a slow simmering at this point, his break up with Mia Farrow and all the details that had come out were still tabloid material. I'm not much for celebrity gossip though nor am I going to go into whether or not Allen shouldn't have done what he did. I'm here to review his work and I've always been able to separate a celebrity's personal life from their work.

Point is, the filming of Manhattan Murder Mystery wasn't an easy time in Woody Allen's life. Allen had directed thirteen movies with Mia Farrow and she originally was going to star in MMM as usual. Diane Keaton was brought in after a fourteen year gap since the last time Allen and her had worked together and the rest is history. Despite Allen's current problems, things were apparently very calm on-set and a lot of that was due to Keaton's presence.

Apr 11, 2015

Review: Three Little Wolves (1936)

You thought Disney was done with short films that were metaphors for brewing tensions in pre-World War II Europe and positioned the Big Bad Wolf as a substitute for Adolf Hitler? They hadn't even started yet. Burt Gillett was gone as director, but in stepped David Hand who was another veteran of Disney cartoons. While you might think that Three Little Wolves might suffer from a downgrade in quality as a third film in a series, you'd be wrong about that just like I was.

Apr 10, 2015

Review: Predators (2010)

Predators was a long time coming before its eventual release in 2010. Robert Rodriguez had penned a treatment back in 1994 while he was busy with Desperado, but got rejected by Fox as the budget that would've been required was too high. Not sure if the numbers were the same back then, but Predators was made on a $40 million, the same amount that was used for Aliens vs Predator: Requiem. One could only hope that the bad lighting that plagued that Strause brothers' production wouldn't rear its head up again.

Robert Rodriguez being involved as producer and writer of the original treatment is intriguing to say the least. More intriguing to me however is Hungarian Nimród Antal (a bit of an unfortunate name in North America due to Looney Tunes) being brought in as director. His directorial debut Kontroll was a cool little thriller which got him some legitimate national recognition. His first two North American movies weren't the best (looking at you Armoured), but I was hoping that Antal could recapture some of Kontroll's cool and dark atmosphere for Predators.

Apr 9, 2015

Review: The Wedding Singer (1998)

There aren't too many comedy figures more reviled than Adam Sandler these days. Grown Ups 2, That's My Boy, Jack and Jill, Just Go with It... should I stop? I could go on, but at this point everyone is familiar with Sandler's unique brand of PG toilet humour. At the same time though, I can't help but be impressed with the operation that he has going on. Adam Sandler has confirmed point blank that his movies are paid vacations. If you were an actor, wouldn't you take a big salary and a bunch of your friends to shoot a lazy, half-assed movie for fun? I know I would.

Going back to 1998, Sandler's fresh-faced career was still young outside of Saturday Night Live. Sure he had made some movies during his time there, but Happy Gilmore  was his first real stand-alone effort. Critics hated it pretty hard, but the people loved it. It's the movie that most people hold as the standard that Sandler had to live up to for comedy movies and The Wedding Singer solidified that even further. The rest is history.

Apr 8, 2015

Review: X-Men (2000)

It's really weird to think that fifteen years have passed since X-Men was first released. This goes back to when Marvel Studios, then Marvel Entertainment Group, had to pretty much beg studios to make their properties into movies. OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but we're talking long before they had the powerhouse status that they have now which is why they sold the film rights for X-Men to 20th Century Fox to begin with. I'm sure they dream of getting those rights back again some day, same as they do for The Fantastic Four.

I don't think that Fox had much confidence in X-Men succeeding though as they were only willing to provide $75 million for the budget. To compare, Batman Forever which had come out five years earlier had $100 million to work with. Just to be a little more current though, Mission: Impossible II had $125 million and The Perfect Storm had $120 million. All that budget goes a long way in making the CGI come alive which was something pretty crucial that X-Men needed to get right. As a result, quite a few things like characters and locations that had original had been planned were cut.

Apr 7, 2015

Review: September (1987)

Woody Allen has one of the most expansive careers out of anyone working in Hollywood today. He's got to be one of the best examples of longevity in La La Land and with all the movies that he's written and directed in his career, it's actually shocking that he doesn't have more clear cut flops than he does. September happens to be one of those rare flops with a paltry gross of only $486,434 domestically. While Allen has had films under perform in terms of their budget before, none have ever flopped as hard as September did.

I wasn't able to find any numbers for the budget of September, but it's still one of the reasons why the film was probably going to fail before it was ever even released. Woody Allen ended up shooting the movie twice since he was unhappy with the initial product. Shooting a movie twice doubles the budget if my calculations are correct. While September wasn't an overly complicated film with only a single location to film in, it went way over schedule and money still had to go out to pay for people and other stuff. Allen was even ready to re-shoot it a third time funnily enough.

Apr 6, 2015

Review: An Easter Carol (2004)

When trying to decide what Easter-themed movie to watch this weekend, I went with a VeggieTales video for the sole reason that it would help me advance in my quest to see every VT movie ever made. At the time of writing this, I believe that there is only one other Easter-themed VeggieTales video and it too is actually a Christmas story that's been retooled for Easter (VeggieTales: Twas the Night Before Easter). Anyway, only one more Easter VeggieTales to go after this thankfully, but it'll have to wait until next year.

Apr 5, 2015

Review: Pi (1998)

I haven't quite seen all of Darren Aronofsky's films yet, but I've always admired his ability in making them disturbingly memorable. Unless you're a robot, it's impossible to forget Requiem for a Dream which made me want to stay far, far away from any kind of drug forever. And ever. The Wrestler is probably my favourite of them all though with such an unexpectedly moving performance courtesy of Mickey Rourke.

Pi was the film that started it all for Aronofsky. Shot on a budget of only $60,000, it was bought by Artisan for $1 million and made over $3 million in North America in a limited release. Not a bad return at all. Including home media, it's done extremely good business for such a "small" movie. I love shoestring budget successes like this and it goes to show that you don't need loud action sequences or a bunch of CGI to get viewers on the edge of their seat.

Review: The Bone Collector (1999)

Just about anybody can see the similarities between The Bone Collector and Se7en, both of which are about cops hot on the trail of a serial killer. David Fincher's 1995 mystery/thriller film performed very well critically and at the world box office with a total gross of $327.3 million. You also of course had the 1991 Silence of the Lambs if you go back even further, so clearly there was an appetite out there for murder/mysteries during the 90's. The Bone Collector was there to capitalize on that before the turn of the century.

Angelina Jolie was a fast rising star at the time after two Golden Globe Award wins in 1997 and 1998. On the other hand, Denzel Washington was already a solid star in Hollywood with titles like Philadelphia, Courage Under Fire and Cry Freedom among others. With a promising cast and an experienced director in Philip Noyce, I thought there was a lot to be hopeful for as the credits began. The only question mark really was in regards to writer Jeremy Iacone. Was there a reason why he's pretty much never worked in Hollywood ever again?

Apr 3, 2015

Review: The Big Bad Wolf (1934)

After the huge success that Three Little Pigs was in 1933, Disney trotted out some big guns in a direct sequel featuring even more classic fairy tale characters. By combining The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood into one short film, it was sure to bring out even more of an audience right? It would appear that the law of diminishing returns hit The Big Bad Wolf relatively hard and it wasn't able to achieve the same level of success as its predecessor. That didn't stop Disney from making even more sequels though.

Review: Novocaine (2001)

Who doesn't love Steve Martin? He's had a long and successful career as a comedic actor and I suppose he's earned his "repose" that I would say began in the early 2000's. It hasn't all been bad by any means, but two Pink Panther movies and two Cheaper by the Dozen movies in one decade? That's disappointing to say the least. All the same, Martin's done enough in the rest of his filmography to make up for those movies if you ask me. Plus he's still as funny as ever on Twitter.

Novocaine didn't end up really setting the box office on fire when it was released despite a highly publicized romance between Steve Martin and costar Helena Bonham Carter that developed during filming. I suppose it's because black comedies are a pretty hard sell. "Morbid humour" is pretty niche I think and that's exactly what Novocaine is all about. Writer/director David Atkins never even really found anymore work in Hollywood besides a failed TV series starring French Stewart playing a take on Atkins himself as a struggling Hollywood writer. Talk about irony.

Apr 1, 2015

Review: Wide Awake (1998)

Wide Awake was the second film that fledgling writer/director M. Night Shyamalan did after Praying with Anger. That raises the question of, Shyamalan did movies before The Sixth Sense? Apparently he did. For real though, I don't think many people know that Shyamalan directed and wrote this 1998 family comedy/drama in the first place, let alone know that it even exists. It got me thinking about what kind of bizarro universe we're in where there's an M. Night Shyamalan movie with Rosie O'Donnell in it? It hurts my head just thinking about it. 

Like all M. Night Shyamalan movies, Wide Awake has spiritual themes. There aren't any supernatural underpinnings like there are The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable or The Village though. It might be hard to believe, but this is straight up family-themed comedy/drama with a little bit of coming-of-age as a side platter. It was actually filmed in a school that Shyamalan attended himself and his parents were on-board as associate producers. Withheld from release for three years for some reason, it didn't make a lot of noise at the box office.