Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Princess Bride (1987) "A special book"

“This is true love - you think this happens every day?” - Westley

It absolutely is true love and no, it does not happen often, let alone every day. I really loved this movie! I am without a doubt a comedy girl, so this movie was a perfect fit. My favorite movie is Robin Hood Men in Tights, so when I had the chance to see another comedy starring Cary Elwes I jumped at it. And I am really glad I did because it was hilarious and the British Isles scenery quite beautiful. A sick child (Fred Savage) is read a story by his grandfather (Peter Falk). The movie flashes back and forth between the boy’s bedroom and the story, a technique I found very engaging and one that allowed for another level of comedy. I was consumed by the story, forgetting that it was a narrated book, until it would flash back to the bedroom. In the tale, a very adorable Westley (Elwes) falls in love with Buttercup (a stupid name, played by Robin Wright). Westley’s goes off to make his fortune and Buttercup, believing him to be dead, becomes engaged to Prince Humperdinck (an awesome name, played by Chris Sarandon), who wants to kill her. He hires three fumbling criminals, Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), and Fezzik (Andre the Giant) to do this. They fail because Westley rescues her (of course he didn’t die!); he then has to go and rescue her again from the Prince who has reclaimed her (she is kinda a problem). The rest of the movie is the humorous series of events that unfold in his, and the now helpful Inigo and Fezzik’s, quest to successfully rescue her.

The narrative was in a storybook and not portrayed as trying to be real, so the cheesy lines, overdone acting, and R.O.U.Ss are both tolerable and funny. Some of the humor comes from this absolute absurdity. So you have to laugh and accept the fact that everyone is very polite and pleasant to their enemies before they try to kill each other. Westley is always cool, calm, collected, and courteous, Fezzik and Inigo are just so loveable, and Buttercup, well, she is simply there, helpless, waiting, suicidal, and irritating (I may not be hiding the fact she was my least favorite character of the group). Frankly, Westley is too smart for her and she was mean to him in the beginning, but who am I to stand in the way of true love?

The characters with minor parts actually have some of the best lines in the movie. Miracle Max and the Lady who ‘boos’ are both highly developed, funny, and great for the small amount of time they are on screen. It was also hilarious to see well-known actors (such as Billy Crystal as Miracle Max) pop up for brief roles throughout the movie.

Now for a couple things that I randomly noticed while watching this movie. Did anyone else realize that Westley does not seem to blink in the movie? Whenever there was a shot of him and Buttercup talking and his face was easily seen, he never blinks. Also, it seemed to me that Westley and Buttercup were like the same (except the gender part, of course) person. Call me crazy but they both have long blonde hair, similar bone structure, are pale, and just look really alike! Maybe that is why they like each other so much, but then that is just creepy. These quirks absolutely do not change my opinion on the movie, they are just odd.
Everyone should see this movie! I don’t really care if they want to, they just need to. It does not seem very 80’s as there are no clothes, lingo, or hair of that time in it, but these would not fit in with the plot anyways. It is timeless and I don’t think, or hope, that it will go anywhere anytime soon.

Beetlejuice (1988) "The ghost with the most"

“It obviously doesn't do any good to pull your heads off in front of people if they can't see you.” -Juno

It’s always nice when movies provide life…or, uh, death lessons. Even though I doubt this was Tim Burton’s goal when he directed this movie, I’d have to say his primary goal, of creating a lasting, entertaining film, was achieved. The film begins by following a nice couple in a small town. The viewer is creatively drawn in by scanning a realistic model of their quaint town, until Burton rather quickly offs the couple. So, okay, it’s another ghost movie. For someone like me, who does not like scary movies at all, it’s a good one. It is creepy while still having funny moments. As Adam and Barbara (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) learn the ropes of being dead, a new family moves into their home and turns everything upside down for the ghastly pair. Well that’s just freakin annoying, isn’t it? So, obviously they try to scare them away, but such a nice couple can’t suddenly become frightening, so that is where Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Bete…(yea I won’t do it), comes in on his white horse to save the day, right? Yea right! He is an evil dead guy with intentions that follow suit, and yet I can’t totally hate him. When he starts terrorizing the family, he has to go! Then the family and the ghosts live, or exist, I guess, together happily ever after. Yea, I love happy endings, no matter how haunted they are!

“Barb, honey... we're dead. I don't think we have very much to worry about anymore.” -Adam

Except your acting, of course. Alec and Geena did not seem to be very committed in their acting jobs. They, along with Winona Ryder (playing Lydia, the girl in the family who could see them and befriended them), appeared pretty flat, unemotional, and monotone. On the other hand, some of the other actors did a much better job portraying their characters. Michael Keaton (Betelgeuse, I can say it now, it’s been long enough), reminded me of a desperate used car salesman in his over-the-top performance as the frantic bio-exorcist. Catherine O’Hara (Delia) was perfect for the uptight, selfish, neurotic mother and Jeffery Jones (Charles, her husband) obviously needed some immediate stress relief. Finally, Glenn Shadix (Otho) did a good job as the arrogant and frankly full of crap counterpart of Delia. Even with some mediocre acting, I would watch the movie again and again. I think this says something about the artistic aspect of the movie and the scenes. I especially enjoy the scene at the dinner table when the possessed diners sing Day-O, the end scene when Lydia dances to Jump In the Line while floating in the air (even though if I was floating, with an awesome song playing, and dead football players dancing behind me, I would be a lot more into it), and any scene with the afterlife offices and waiting room (they were visually amazing!).

All of the small, creepy details were obviously thought through and much appreciated. For example, the case worker, Juno, died because her throat was slit and whenever she smokes, the smoke comes out of her neck. And Betelgeuse’s makeup, yuck! It was not overly done, but still got the point across. Not to mention the model that Adam built. I like that the movie seemed to revolve around this unifying element and kept coming back to it.
I was truly impressed that I really was not constantly reminded that this was a movie form the 80’s (except for a couple of hair-dos). Several of the other films I have watched are so obviously 80’s that it would be impossible to miss (I am not saying that is a bad thing, though). I think this helps make this movie timeless and anyone who looks for a little comedy with their horror or vice versa will enjoy it. All in all, I walked away from watching this movie wanting my own pair of friendly ghosts and with a new appreciation for Tim Burton’s work.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rocky lll (1982)

"Yo Adrian"

"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done"

In the wake of winning the title of heavyweight championship against Apollo Creed in Rocky ll, Balboa has become a legend, an icon in the world of boxing. Everywhere he goes he’s noticed by fans, the media and by aspiring boxer Clubber Lang (Mr. T). Balboa is getting a big head and becoming to superficial with all this fame. " I pitty the fool Balboa" and I challenge you to a fight, Balboa accepts Clubbers Lang's request. Mickey, Balboa's trainer aint to happy bout this. He tells Rocky that he cannot win because he doesnt have that hunger anymore as a fighter, and that Clubber will eat him alive. This whole movie is how Rocky needs to find that hunger he once had and get the "eye of the tiger" look back. He trains with once nemesis Apollo Creed to regain the heavyweight championship.

Clubber Lang

Whats your prediction for the fight? "Pain"
Im gunna whoop that fool ! and eat em like meat.
Im gunna beat you like a dog,
Ayy ! sucka look at me when im talkin to you.

Can you blame this guy for having the determination and the drive to want to be the best. Yeah he is cocky and arrogant but this is what champions need to become great. In the movie is is considered a villain because he beats the great Italian Stallion.

Rocky Balboa

Yeah Rocky has an iron jaw, Rocky has the strength of a bull, but he has cinderblocks on his feet.The montage of Rocky and Apollo training together is a classic. Apollo teaches Rocky all his secrets to get him light and quick on his feet so he can move "gracefully" around the ring. In the beginning of the montage Apollo clearly is way ahead of Rocky with Agility and footwork, and by the end Rocky beats him sprinting on the beach,and then they joy-fully hug each other splashing around in the ocean. This sets the tone for the rest of the movie showing that The Italian Stallion has his hunger back and is more well-rounded then ever before.

Its fight night and at the sound of the bell Clubber is stumped with all of Balboa's new techniques. The two heavyweights battle with hundreds of punches thrown, Clubber is clearly gassed at the end of each round while Rocky is not even near exhaustion. Rocky hits Clubber with a thundering blow and knocks him out cold. After all of this excitement as Rocky is claimed the new Heavyweight champion, Apollo asks for one last fight in a deserted ring Champion Vs. Champion...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Staying Alive (1983)

If you looked at the notes I took on this film, you'd probably see a lot of curse words, and "ethics" in huge capital letters underlined. In short, I wanted to punch things.

Apparently, Staying Alive takes place 6 years after Saturday Night Fever. Tony Manero (John Travolta) is a young dancer looking to make his big break on Broadway. He continues to get rejected in show biz, and makes his living teaching dance and waiting at a club. There, lots of edgy women with poofy hair and red lipstick come on to him, but he rejects them all, like the noble hero we'd like him to be. Tony's a good guy. He likes his women with substance because he's a genuine Italian guy. Or so we think.

We see him with Jackie, (Cynthia Rhodes , 80's dance flick queen) and they seem like a pretty cute couple, right? That is until he falls in love/lust with the English soloist, Laura (Finola Hughes) while attending Jackie's show. He then proceeds to follow her to her dressing room and woo her with his suave Italian ways. This is when things started going downhill for me. Then again, I'm very biased against polygamy...or players! I frikken hate players man! Call me whatever, but I'm repulsed by cheating men in general. The concept of TV shows like the Bachelor/Bachelorette makes me throw up a little.

Who will win?

So then we have this back and forth thing where he blows off poor, faithful Jackie to hang out with Laura the rich British dancer. One night, while standing up Jackie, he sees Laura with a wealthy looking guy and get's super offended. She asks him what did he expect, that their perfect date and one night stand meant they were in love? Apparently, he thought so. So he goes back to Jackie, which is routine whenever Laura sends him with his tail between his legs. But then, here's what really gets me...he get's ticked at Jackie for the way the guitarist in her band looks at her. Of course, you'd think he'd figure out where his true feelings lie, but he continues to come when Laura calls. Eventually, Jackie walks away from him too. Yeah! She sure showed him! Oh, never mind, she fell for his puppy dog face yet again and is now helping him learn the male soloist's part. Can we get a strong female character in here please?

Whatever. All goes well, Tony gets the soloist part and dances with a seething Laura. We dance montage our way up to opening night of "Satan's Alley", where who else plays the devil in a red skin tight unitard, but Laura. There are lots of gyrating demons. Everyone is shiny and drenched in glitter and oil. Typical Sylvester Stallone, I'd say. Tony gets to dance the part of the soul sent to hell. Great metaphor, huh? At the end of a very provocative number, Tony kisses Laura. WHAT? And all Jackie has to say is "Why'd you have to go and kiss her?", which he responds to by kissing Jackie. Are you confused? Exactly.

I guess what really gets me is that the movie revolves around Tony, and he doesn't ever really redeem himself. No one likes to see the hero as the least pick a girl at the end! Even his impromptu solo where he flings Laura off stage and ascends into heaven didn't do it for me.
I recommend this for anyone that enjoys a good dance flick. It did have some pretty cool sequences, and the neon skin tight leotards were quite enjoyable. I'm a pretty big fan of dance in the 80's, especially the whole aerobic movement they had going on for them. Dancers back then seemed much more sweatier, grittier, and muscular than they do today. The movie definitely portrayed the show biz industry in the 80's (everyone and their mom wanted to be a dancer on Broadway). Today, dance on Broadway is much more toned down due to the rise of contemporary shows that call for less spectacle.

Ladies, if you're like me, any depth or sentimental value in the movie is overwhelmed by Tony's disgustingness. But if you can look past that, then more power to ya. Maybe you have to be a Saturday Night Fever fan to appreciate Tony's character. I do give the movie credit that it could stand alone without there ever being a prequel. But did Stallone really expect me to be rooting for Tony in the with his final lines?

Tony: Do you know what I wanna do?
Jackie: What?
Tony: Strut.

And so, Tony busts out of the theatre and proceeds to strut through Times Square as the credits roll. Personally, I prefer his bad ass self in Pulp Fiction. If you're looking for substance, you're not gonna find it in Staying Alive.