Friday, July 26, 2013
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 35
Adam Riske: Gosford Park (2001, dir. Robert Altman) Back in 2006, I went to a DVD marathon with some friends. We each brought one movie with us and the plan was to watch the movies and barbecue/hang out etc. The only difference this time was that we were going to the house of my friend Cory's friend named Bob, whom I had never met. We were all in our 20s, but Bob was like 50, which was weird. So anyways, at Bob's we watched a few genre B-movies and it was a lot of fun. By the time Bob's friends Derek and Wooh (real name, they were a married couple) came around, I was very drunk. They said they brought Gosford Park. I made fun of them to their face about what a stupid suggestion it was and they were not pleased. I left the room and went outside. While outside, I smoked a large amount of pot (my last time doing that) with Bob and his neighbor and set off some fireworks in Bob's backyard. Wooh came outside to partake and I apologized for my behavior. She forgave me and then I asked her if she wanted to make out. She declined. That's the last thing I remember before blacking out. Cut to the next morning and I woke up on an air mattress. I looked out the window and only my car remained. All my friends had left. I tried to sneak out of the front door and then I heard Bob's voice in the distance call out "You want some breakfast?" I ran out the door and drove home. I am no longer friends with any of those people. I have no idea what happened after I blacked out. Long story short, I finally caught up with Gosford Park and Derek and Wooh were right. It's good. It's my pick this week.
A Monster in Paris (2012, dir. Bibo Bergeron) This French animated movie written and directed by the guy who made Shark Tale -- Hey! Where are you going?! Well, what if I told you A Monster in Paris is produced by Luc Besson? Better? No? Anyway, if you're the kind of person who thinks Pixar is the only studio making good animated movies, and that Pixar isn't even all that good anymore, give this French film a try. It's the story of a flea caught in a science experiment gone awry that is transformed into a 7-foot-tall mega-bug with a gentle heart and an aptitude for music. He befriends a night club singer, who must protects him from a cruel police commissioner looking to capitalize on the public's fear of a "monster" roaming the streets of Paris. The animation is gorgeous, it's got a positive message, the story is original, and the music -- sung by Vanessa Paradis and Sean Lennon; yep, that Lennon -- is catchy in that European 16-kids-to-a-hostel-bed sort of way. The best reason to watch A Monster in Paris: it's a CGI family movie that does its own thing and isn't awash in pop culture references.
Rob Roy (1995, dir. Michael Caton-Jones) 1995 gave us two big-screen epics about rogue Scottish Highlander revolutionaries: Braveheart and Rob Roy. 1995 Hollywood Heath Holland thought that Braveheart was the greatest thing ever because of the fantastic score, the epic battle scenes, and the coolness of seeing Martin Riggs wearing a kilt and cutting people's heads off. I saw Rob Roy around the same time but didn't like it nearly as much as the Mel Gibson-directed film. Well, guess what? 2013 Hollywood Heath Holland never wants to watch Braveheart again but loves Rob Roy. Liam Neeson gives a fantastic performance, but so do his co-stars Jessica Lange, Tim Roth, John Hurt and Brian Cox. Braveheart cost about $75 million to make (which seems like the change that movie studios are finding in the couch cushions these days) and made well over $200 million. Rob Roy was much more modestly budgeted at $28 million and barely earned back its costs. Nearly twenty years later, I find that Braveheart is bloated and very heavy (in every sense of the word), but Rob Roy is a quieter, better acted movie that's more approachable. I still appreciate Braveheart on a personal level for how it affected me when I saw it and the directions it sent my historical interests, but Rob Roy is seriously under-appreciated and is, in my opinion, a much better movie than the one that won all the Oscars.
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983, dir. Terry Jones) So many accolades are lavished upon Holy Grail and Life of Brian that this Python film sometimes gets lost in the shuffle and looks like an also-ran. This is a very funny film. I still remember the first time I saw it at the old Willow Creek United Artists theater on Northwest Highway. There was a young beauty also in attendance at that screening; (with another boy-- Harumphhhhh) she had just had surgery, and she laughed so hard she almost burst her stitches. Five years later, that beauty would be my WIFE.
You got your "Mr. Creosote" scene, which, 31 years later, still packs a punch. (It's only a tiny little mint-- it's wafer thin?). You got your live organ transplants. ("Yes, but I'm still using it.") You got your classroom live sex demonstration. (Professor Cleese's wife is played by Patricia Quinn, Magenta from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, who showed up in Lords of Salem earlier this year,) You also have what was the weirdest thing I had ever seen up until that time: the fake intermission "Find The Fish" sequence (see illustration). I still dream about those people!
The Ice Harvest (2005, dir. Harold Ramis) Harold Ramis is a great filmmaker -- a guy responsible for some of the best comedies of the last 40 years and the director of Groundhog Day, one of the best movies ever made. For some reason, The Ice Harvest is often categorized as one of his "bad" movies, even though it is FANTASTIC. Sure, it would be better to watch at Christmas time (it is one of my December traditions, along with Die Hard, Home Alone and Reindeer Games), but the movie might also provide a good break from big, dumb summer blockbusters. This is a modern-day film noir with the willingness to double down and be really, really dark but not totally bleak. John Cusack does great existential everyman, Billy Bob Thorton goes full asshole and Oliver Platt steals the entire movie. Only Connie Nielsen feels a little miscast, but it hardly matters. This is a great movie. Plus, it's only 89 minutes. When does that ever happen in the summer?