Look, Ma! I’m in… the movies!

Ok, it’s more like I’m in my chair and watching the movies, but in honor of all the accolades that advertising gives to movies (like "It’s the best movie…. this year!" – even though they cut out "about making pasta" in the middle of the quote), I decided to edit my quote. ūüôā

I’ve had an exceptional week in regards to watching movies this past week. All the ones I’ve seen, I’ve rather enjoyed for different reasons. I’m going to try to list them off here and why I liked each one. You may or may not agree with me… that’s ok. It’s my opinion that’s important here. ūüėõ Hehehe…

A Scanner Darkly
This was the first movie that I watched last week. Very disturbing story and the way it was filmed and then rotoscoped to be an animated movie just added to the disturbing quality. Good solid performances put in by Keanu Reeves¬†and Robert Downey Jr., but I thought that Woody Harrelson’s¬†was a bit too over the top for an actor of his caliber.

The story follows Reeve’s character, who is kind of a deep undercover agent infiltrating the drug culture that seems to be part and parcel of the way the world runs during the near future. His spiral downward and the outcome of his actions are like a car wreck, hard to look away from, yet compelling just the same.

I had been putting off watching this movie since it first came out. Not sure why, but I think it had more to do with seeing Keanu in something that wasn’t an action movie and forcing me to see him as an actual actor with some talent. I’m glad I finally got around to watching it. The work put into the filming style alone is worth paying homage to.

 

Half Nelson
Sticking with the whole drug culture genre, next up is Ryan Gosling¬†and relative new-comer Shareeka Epps¬†(in just her second movie) in Half Nelson. The chemistry between the drug addict teacher and his student, the sister of her teacher’s former dealer, is fantastic without stepping into the "ewww… creepy" that a friendship between an adult and a child can sometimes lead to.

I normally don’t have a lot of sympathy when it comes to characters in movies that are drug addicts, yet Ryan’s portrayal of Mr. Dunne has many layers and nuances. This guy is someone to watch in the future. His acting ability is amazing and seemingly unforced. The same can be said for Shareeka. You can tell that she’s a rather intelligent girl (Drey) fairly trapped by her environment. Her brother was a dealer that got pinched and didn’t rat on his buddies. His friend (another dealer) now looks out for Drey and is trying to get her into the "family business". She’s resisting, but the lure of easy money and the respect given by¬†her peers is hard to ignore.

Despite the seemingly inevitable conclusion, there’s always hope and I think that’s the message.

 

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
This is another movie that I had been putting off seeing. The reason? I thought that I had pretty much seen the entire movie by watching the trailer for it. While the trailer did have a lot of funny bits, there was so much more to this movie. It was a movie about the importance of family, the strength of true friendship and the excesses that can come from having too much fame.

Will Ferrel¬†turns in a solid performance as Ricky Bobby. I can’t imagine any other comedian in this role now that I’ve seen him in it. This movie is very reminiscent of The Jerk, with Ricky’s modest beginnings as a not-so-bright child, to his sudden rise to fame and fortune (and all the stupid things that brings – just ask any number of flavor-of-the-week rap artists), his fall and subsequent redemption by his family and friends. Hmm… the only thing it was missing was a dog named Shithead.

Ok, despite the fact that now it seems that it was just a redressed version of The Jerk, I still really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone wanting to try to forget about the hassles of your day-to-day grind and recharge with something genuinely funny.

 

Stranger Than Fiction
Will Ferrel¬†turns in yet another solid performance as Harold Crick, an IRS agent that start to hear his life being narrated by an unseen speaker. His boring, routine life suddenly starts to unravel when he hears the voice say that he’s about to die. Will’s range from his superb comedic timing to the emotional roller coaster he puts the viewer through is great. This guy is not your average ex-SNL actor, he’s got some huge talent. He kind of reminds me of Steve Martin actually.

Maggie Gyllenhaal¬†is awesome in yet another movie where, as Allen¬†puts it "is someone who’ll fuck the unfuckable" (to those tender eyes, I apologize… I’ll have to give Allen the ol’ Ivory mouthwash for his potty mouth). Despite their adversarial start (she’s being audited), Maggie’s character, Ana, soon warms to Harold.

Like all stories, Harold’s is either a comedy or a tragedy.¬†His journey to figure out which one it is and what he decides to do once he finds out, makes this movie worth watching. It was good to see Queen Latifah¬†in this movie, but this role barely used any of her considerable acting ability.

 

This Film Is Not Yet Rated
This is the first of two documentaries that I watched last week. I just wanted to watch the opening hook and move on to something else (documentaries usually aren’t my thing), but the hook did its job well. I was trapped by this movie until the very end.

This deals with the arbitrary ratings put on movies by the MPAA in Hollywood. The MPAA is supposedly peopled by "Average American Family" persons, but how would the American public know? In a move that’s supposed to keep them free of pressure and influence from movie studios and special interest groups, their identities are kept secret (yet, strangely, they have direct contact with some production companies). Apart from some shady government groups, what other group do you know of that has their members’ identities secret? They’re rating movies, not trying to cure cancer.

I’m not going to give much more away, but look for appearances by Kevin Smith, John Waters, Atom Egoyan, Matt Stone, and many, many others. The subject matter is fascinating and presented in a very good manner. Watch this if you have any interest in how they come up with ratings for movies and the hoops directors have to jump through in order to appease¬†the ever-changing and completely arbitrary standard the MPAA sets.¬†

 

Shut Up & Sing
This documentary is about the Dixie Chicks and the backlash that happened from some comments made by Natalie Maines about George Bush at a concert in London. Thanks to the American media, things got out of hand and many, many people from the red states got fairly pissed off (their TVs told them to).

Their album sales plummeted and their #1 single suddenly wasn’t getting any more air time and fell off the charts¬†as country music stations refused to play them. That was the easy stuff. A country that supposedly prides itself on the right to Free Speech (so much so that it was their first amendment to their Constitution way back in 1791), seemed to go off on someone that spoke her mind. She wasn’t preaching sedition. She wasn’t calling for Bush’s head. She just said that she was ashamed that he was from the same state as she was. Cut to: People lining up to throw out their CDs, their albums being crushed by a steam roller and various feet, being ridiculed and attacked by the very people that were their fans just days before, and receiving credible death threats.

At the time, the super-strong backlash and being labeled as traitors probably silenced other people that might have had an opinion of their own in America (you remember, the land of the free). The Chicks had a long, hard climb to get to where they are today. Very much worth a watch.

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