Thursday, October 06, 2011

My Week In Movies - In a Train or In a Bed

Cedar Rapids (2011) I wasn't expecting much from this office place comedy but I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I'm naming this the best new movie I saw this month. The film follows the antics at a regional insurance convention. Sounds fun, don't it?! The cast is great with Ed Helms as a guy who is uncomfortable leaving his hometown to go to the convention in the big city. You just can't seem to go wrong with John C. Reilly as a crazy loud mouth associate who actually has quite a loyal heart. I was most surprised with Anne Heche, who I usually find to be somewhat of a talentless hack who's been riding off Ellen DeGeneres's gay coattails for the entire duration of her career. Heche is funny, sweet and sincere in this role as another convention attend who has more than one side to her personality. The other lead character is played by Isiah Whitlock Jr. who I'm not familiar with but was apparently in the HBO series The Wire. He's very funny in this picture too. Together, the ensemble make great friends and the film's story of friendship is a refreshing overtone to this cute, funny movie.

One Day In September (1999) There was a show on Current TV (yes, that's a real thing) that was counting down the 50 Documentaries You Should See Before You Die. I made it through all 5 hours of the show and had pleasantly seen a good number of the films featured on the show. There was also a list of films that I wasn't familiar with that looked really good. This was one of them. The Oscar winner for Best Documentary of it's year, this edge of your seat doc takes a look at the hostage situation that played out over the course of less than 24 hours at the 1970 Munich, Germany Olympic Games. I thought the film itself was a little disjointed and hard to follow at points, but the true life story itself could not be more gripping. The style of the film shifts from journalistic to cinematic at strange times and looses some of it's momentum in the process. But this is an excellent documentation of the horrible incident that occurred on that day and it's as action packed and intense as any cop drama you'll ever find.

Barely Legal (2011) With Netflix Streaming, I'll click on random movies and give them 5 minutes of my time to see if they can win me over. Usually, these modern day sex comedies are all horrible - shot on video and filling large portions of their run time with gratuitous shots of semi-pretty girls in various stages of undress. Barely Legal won me over in the first couple of minutes with a script that indicated there was someone with a sense of humor sitting behind the keyboard. Three female friends who all share a birthday decide they are all going to loose their virginity on their upcoming 18th birthday. While this is kind of a tired plot, it's the first time I've seen it done with the girls as the heroes of the movie. They throw a party and spend the next 90 minutes running into all sorts of problems that stand between them and the sheets. It's technically a bad movie. The production values are very low, the acting is not very good at times and the whole movie takes place inside one house. But there is some clever dialogue, a couple of really good visual gags and a good sense of humor that keeps things rolling along smoothly. If you're interested in seeing a Wii controller inadvertently used as a marital aide, then this is the film for you. This is the closest I've seen somebody nail the vibe of an old school 80's T&A flick in quite some time.

The Train Robbers (1973) There's a few names from classic Hollywood that will bring me to a picture without knowing much else about the movie. Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant and John Wayne to name a few. So, when I saw that John Wayne co stared with my current classic movie crush Ann-Margret, I was on board. Even though Wayne didn't really make comedies, he's such a fun presence on the screen. I especially love his movies from the 1970's where they have a touch of classic Hollywood mixed with modern cinema. The Train Robbers is great and has an old fashioned feel to it, even for 1973. Wayne and his buddies escort Ann-Margret to the hiding place of stolen gold which her dead husband was responsible for. She plans to turn the gold in to clear her hubby's name and The Duke and Co. split the reward money. Along the way, there is some good old fashioned shoot-outs, chummy cowboy banter and the star attraction: the beautiful Mrs. Ann-Margret.

Carnal Knowledge (1971) So then the following night, I followed up The Train Robbers with another Ann-Margret picture, Carnal Knowledge. This is a tale of two buddies played by Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel. The film follows them through four different stages of their lives. Starting in college and ending after each of the guys is divorced, the segments of the film represent the different stages of love throughout one's life. Candice Bergen plays a love interest in their college years. I've always loved her in Murphy Brown and other movies I've seen her in young or old. She's great here. Later on in life, Nicholson meets up with Ann-Margret who at first is supposed to be older than him but quickly she looks as lovely as ever. There's a bit of nudity on the part of Mrs. Margret here which I wasn't expecting...but I can't say I'm complaining either. The film is slow at times. It actually reminds me of some of Woody Allen's more serious pictures as far as style and pacing. It feels very influenced by Annie Hall and Manhattan, except that Carnal Knowledge was made many years before those two.

Vanishing of the Bees (2009) My wife seemed disappointed in me that I invested an evening watching a documentary about honey bees. Little does she know the effects of the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder. A few years ago, beekeepers started discovering empty beehives with no trace of dead bees to be found. Not much is known about the disorder but there are many theories most of them leading to the way mankind has treated this planet. Cinematically, there's not much to BEE had in this documentary, but the information here will have you BUZZING with anger and alarm.

September Movie Count: 24
Best New Movie: Cedar Rapids
Best Rewatch: The Muppet Movie
Worst Movie: Paul
2011 Movie Count: 155

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