The Nice Guys

“A friend of mine posted on Facebook “”If you liked Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, you’ll like The Nice Guys. And if you don’t like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I don’t entirely understand you””. Pretty much. Well complete agreement on the former. I’d tweak the later to “”I probably don’t relate to you very well””.

Anytime I’m thinking of favorite writer/directors, I always forget Shane Black. Well, he’s a favorite simply for having brought a movie like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang into the world (which just keeps missing the cut when I’m picking blog movies, but I need to get to is soon). I keep feeling like it if I watch it another time or two, it’ll rank highly on my top 100 list, and then I forget, until the next time its mentioned.

But I digress. We’re here to talk about Shane Black’s latest offering, The Nice Guys starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, in a fantastic display of bromantic chemistry. Set in the 70’s, the two are a couple of private investigators with very different styles and client bases. The universe collides in a way that they end up teaming up on a big investigation, involving murder and a missing person and the adult film industry, and a rabbit hole that keeps spiraling deeper and deeper.

I’m just going to come right out and admit that I couldn’t quite follow the investigation too well. I’m still not entirely sure how these guys came together or what the ultimate conspiracy was or any of those details. And it absolutely did not matter to me because I would have watched these two boys do anything together for two hours. They were that great together. Gosling in particular exhibited a knack for the comedic that we don’t typically see from him. I would now like to see more. Crowe, I’ve flipped back and forth over the course of his career as to whether or not I like him, but his turn here puts him firmly in the like column. I even forgot that I often dislike him, because the all of the promo banter between the boys had me excited to see it on the big screen (props to the publicity team for a job well done).

Oh and a big welcome to bright young newcomer Angourie Rice, as Gosling’s daughter, and the biggest brain in the organization. Not only held her own against the big boys, but often put them in their place. With the likes of her and Oona Lawrence in Southpaw last year and some of the other young’uns stepping up, I am very much excited for the next generation of actresses. Who run the world?

Back to the movie, if there’s anything really left to say other than gushing (I don’t really think there is). I had a blast and it was very much up my alley: dark, funny, violent, all perfectly balanced and expertly acted. Yeah so to echo my buddy from earlier, if you liked Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, then you’ll certainly enjoy The Nice Guys. If you didnt, then explain yourself before I question our friendship

The Nice Guys – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Pretty in Pink

“There was a point around junior high when my Mom tried to make a regular thing of us going to the dollar movie theater. For whatever reason, it was a rather short lived plan, but I still remember most of what we saw together. When we got home from “”She’s All That””, my Daddy asked her how it was. “”It was fine. It was about prom”” she said, sounding very unimpressed and possibly even a bit annoyed. You could practically hear the eye roll in her voice. While part of me was mad at myself for apparently choosing an unfavorable movie (even before I was the film afficionado I am now, this was a concern), but I was also a bit confused and even upset. How could she dismiss something so big as prom that way? Doesn’t she understand?!

Well fast foward nearly 20 years, and I totally get it now, as I had pretty much the same reaction starting Pretty in Pink (and similar with Say Anything a couple weeks back). Given what my high school experience was, I find it really hard to sympathize with characters whose lives revolved around it. There’s just so much more and so much better that happens after, that I have trouble caring about an event that’s so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

But that’s not really what I wanna talk about. What’s been churning through my mind is the ending. I assume I’m safe spilling a 30 year old spoiler, but if not, just skip the rest of this post. I won’t hold it against you. Starting a new paragraph for spoiler space.

Okay so for most of the movie, Molly Ringwald’s Andie is pining for rich pretty boy Blane (Andrew mcCarthy), while constantly playfull rebuffing the eccentric Duckie (Jon Cryer), her best friend that’s also madly in love with her. However, the ending that you see on the movie today, where Andie gets Blane, isn’t the original ending. As originally written, Andie was supposed to end up with Duckie. Legend has it that the first test audiences booed the ending so badly that the filmmakers were forced to do reshoots to change the ending. Ringwald has also claimed that because she had zero romantic chemistry with Cryer, the original would have never worked.

My initial reaction is WTF, team Duckie all the way! We’ll put personal preference aside (still team Duckie!), and try to look at this from a character perspective. To me, Andie picking Blane shows that she’s a more shallow and superficial character than I feel the movie would want us to believe. It’s the choice that mainstream conformity choice, and shows that she values other’s opinions too highly. Again, keep in mind, I was the high school outcast, so while I definitely sympathize with wanting to be with the popular guy, I know now that solidarity amongst the freaks and geeks is where it’s at. So, no, Andie ending up with Blaine just didn’t sit right with me on that level.

Then I watched the featurette on the DVD that discussed the ending controversy with key members of the cast and crew, and I can sort of see the argument, on some levels at least. One of the main themes of the film is classism, and by putting Andie with Blaine, you’re showing that these differences can be overcome. I’m all for that. But then wait, if that’s your argument, then the battle is won in Blane’s mind as he’s the one who overcame the prejudice for them to be together (Andie always wanted it). Except Andie is our protagonist. Shouldn’t the battle have been hers? Doesn’t this then just reduce her to a trope of a lovestruck high school girl, with no real growth? Although, for a converse view from the storytelling side, we do spend the whole movie watching her try to get him, so of course it makes sense that viewers would be frustrated to not see that happen.

Yeah I’m still not sure I buy it. I mean, I get why the decision was made. I just think that Andie going with Duckie, even if it wasn’t romantic (thus skirting the chemistry argument), and she chose to hang with her best good friend, would have been a more compelling and possibly even a powerful ending. And I just like Duckie so much better. How could you not choose the guy who spontaneously busts out with the most endearing dance in the middle of a record store? Actually, you know what? Andie doesn’t even deserve Duckie. It’s cool that she goes with Blaine because Duckie deserves far far better, and I really hope he got it.”

Less Than Zero

“I kinda have mixed feelings on Brett Easton Ellis as a person. He’s said some kinda insensitive things and made some questionable choices, none of which we’re going to discuss right now. But as a writer, he’s brilliant. Well maybe not necessarily brilliant, but certainly fearless and more than a little missed up, which is exactly up my alley.

My love of American Psycho is no secret, especially coming off seeing it on Broadway recently. (Also on the list of things we will not discuss, the level of my giddyness during the act 1 “”Hip to Be Square”” finale). So of course, that’s not the only one of his that I’ve read. Less Than Zero and Rules of Attraction are also on my shelf. I remember them being equally dark, but not quite to the levels of disturbing as Psycho of course. At least for today, we’re looking at Less Than Zero.

This one actually came first (movie and book) and I even noticed a sly nod to it in Psycho’s book. In what would prove to be true Ellis form (at least based off the three that I have read) is that there isn’t a whole lot of through plot, mostly a lot of isolated scenes. The movie tries very hard to tie in a more coherent storyline than I remember there being (granted, it’s been a while since I read it).

So in the movie, Andrew McCarthy’s (hey remember him from Pretty In Pink the other day?) Clay has come back home from college over Christmas. He finds his old girlfriend Blair (Jami Gertz) has picked up some rather bad habits we’ll say, but not quite as bad or to the extreme as his best friend Julian, Robert Downey Jr, in a role that would prove somewhat prophetic for his life, given his well documented struggles with addiction.

Anyways Julian is coked up to his eyes and indebted up to his ears. Clay is torn between trying to save his friend and escaping back to his new life. Again, I don’t really remember much from the book, but I at least got the impression that what was on film was pretty tame in comparison. Mostly because not a whole lot happened on film. It’s one of those movies that has sort of been forgotten to time, and there truly are so many better films to spend your time on. Except for the haunting glance at a young RDJr, I think I’d rather spend time rediscovering the book than watching the movie again.”

Money Monster

“I’ve recently started to realize that while I typically say that my favorite genre is action (especially going towards action comedy), the truth is my favorite my be more thriller. I think to some extent, it took a while to figure out that it could be it’s own genre, and not a subset of horror or drama and not limited to a subgenre like psychological thriller (which may be my favorite flavor of the genre), and not just a generic adjective like “”suspense””. Part of the realization that this genre is my jam is how excited I’ve been getting for them. Money Monster, case in point. Just the edge of my seat feel the trailer gave me had me really antsing to see this, probably one of the top of my list of the summer besides the big name tentpoles. Anyways, I managed to squeeze this one in on an NYC day trip, between a matinee of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and an evening show of American Psycho!!!!!!!!!

Ever notice how the second paragraph of my write ups is usually where I give the quick summary? Yeah, this post is no different. Directed by Jodie Foster (her highest profile flick behind the camera to date), we’ve got George Clooney as the host of a live spectacle of a financial tv show and Julia Roberts as the producer running the whole damn thing. One day during filming, a guy posing as a delivery man (Jack O’Connell) breaks in, straps a bomb to Clooney’s Lee Gates, and demands answers to the stock crash that lost all the money he’d invested, going off a bad time from Gates. The whole thing is a high tension hostage situation as Clooney tries to keep his head (figuratively and literally) on life tv, with his faithful producer in his ear who is also trying to wrangle answers for the desperate man in front of her.

The one big, but surmountable, flaw is that I couldn’t quite follow exactly what was going on with the stock market scandal. However, I did know enough to grasp that them saying that millions of dollars were lost due to a “”computer glitch”” wasn’t gonna fly. So as they’re working to figure out exactly what happened, I never fully got what that was. But it didn’t quite matter because the effect was achieved, in that the character’s reactions were enough to convey what was important about each puzzle piece.

And yes, the characters are what made this. I mean, yes, I loved the suspense. The tension kept me on the edge of my seat and I was only partially sure of how it’d resolve throughout. But without characters you care about, suspense means nothing, with their fates not mattering. Really, I don’t know that it was so much the characters themselves (there wasn’t really a whole lot written on the page for them) as the strong cast behind them. I shouldn’t have to sell you on Clooney and Roberts by this point in their careers, and O’Connell has been such a promising up and comer. I really think I liked him best, giving some sympathy to his character (similar to what Barkhad Abdi did in a comparable position in Captain Phillips). I love that once again (after working with director Angelina Jolie in Unbreakable) he’s working with some top notch peeps in the biz, which will hopefully translate to even more greatness to come from him.

So the summer keeps on rolling and I’m liking what I’m seeing so far. We’ll see if the momentum keeps up (although I’m wary of some releases coming down the line), but for now it’s a fun time to be at the movies.

Money Monster – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Thelma and Louise

“I resisted this movie for years. YEARS. I knew it was a classic, of course, but I also knew that it had a reputation for being the ultimate chick flick. And we all know I don’t do chick flicks. A friend finally sat me down to watch it some time back. I don’t remember how he convinced me, but knowing us, I’m pretty sure alcohol would have been involved. My first reaction was “”why didn’t anyone tell me this was so dark?”” I mean really, had I known that it actually took some fairly twisted turns and wasn’t a feel good girlie movie, I would not have put up the fight that I did.

If you only have a surface familiarity with the flick, as I did, then you at least know that it’s Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon on a road trip. And Brad Pitt shows up at some point (in his first star-making role) and he’s all sexy. So you get why my hesitation, yeah? But that’s not the whole story. First off, a big part of the reason the gals go on the road to begin with is because Davis’ Thelma is in an abusive relationship with a controlling husband, so Louise (Sarandon) drags her to a girls weekend. Along the way, Thelma wants to really enjoy her short breath of freedom and the two end up at a honky tonk/dance club/fun place where bad things happen. Thelma gets a little too friendly with a patron who ends up wanting a little too much from her, and it results in Louise shooting the man dead in order to rescue her friend. Convinced that it won’t be seen as the clear case of self defense that it should be, the women turn full Bonnie & Bonnie and go on the run. And it’s there on the road, running from the law and getting into deeper and deeper trouble, that they really find that sense of freedom they were both looking for.

Okay that ended on a cheesy note, but the point is, there are real stakes and real issues, and these are formidable and full realized women. Yes, yes, yes, and yes! That alone is reason enough to make this a must see. That and Brad Pitt *swoon*

I remembered when I first saw it, my friend and I quickly determined which of us was Thelma and which was Louise. And I promptly forgot. It took all of five minutes on this watch to quickly remember that I a _totally_ a Louise: the one who plans and thinks through everything and is dictated by logic more than whim.

The other surprise (since I had clearly forgotten) was that Harvey Keitel and Michael Madsen are both in this. Keitel is the cop following behind our ladies, so not too much of a stretch there. But tough guy, Reservoir Dog Mr Blonde Michael Madsen is Louise’s boyfriend. And a completely sweet and doting one at that. What? So unexpected for someone who I love for his recurring bad boy roles in Tarantino films. And a different take on the bf trope that I can get behind.

It’s interesting looking back on this film 25 years after it was done and seeing what has changed in the world and what hasn’t. Maybe in today’s age, the ladies would not have felt the need to flee in terror, and they could have felt their voice had been heard. Or maybe the world hasn’t come as far as I would like to think. If nothing else, I’d hope this movie would help keep that conversation going.”

Boys Don’t Cry

“Oh man, this was such a heavy watch. And given recent news happenings, it’s so relevant too. Hilary Swank won her first Oscar for her leading role here as Brandon Teena/Teena Brandon. Set in Nebraska in 1993, Brandon has just started tryin to assimilate into his life as a boy, instead of the female Teena he’d grown up as. He befriends some small town teens his age and falls in love with the lost and beautiful Lana (Chloe Sevingy, in one of her best and Academy nominated roles). Then the trouble starts when the group finds out about Brandon’s past.

I’ll admit that I was kinda unimpressed with the first half. Yeah it was interesting seeing life through the eyes of a character with a wildly different life than mine, but not a lot was happening. He made some dumb teenage mistakes, but nothing too remarkable. It was almost exactly at the halfway point that the drama kicked up. Secrets were exposed, fear overpowered, and traumatic events occured. The story was so gripping.

Swank tends to get much of the props for this film, and rightfully so, followed by Sevingy. But I just wanna take a moment to call out Peter Sarsgaard. His is not an easy role to inhabit, and he did so fearlessly.

I hadn’t realized or forgot that this was based on a true story, which just heightened the emotional impact all the more when the afterward details were revealed. This is one of those that you don’t watch unless you’re in the right headspace, lest you fall deeper down your rabbithole. But it’s also something that shouldn’t be ignored, today as much as ever.”

Finding Nemo

“This is one of the most beloved Pixar movies out there. And that’s saying something because pretty much all Pixar movies are greatly beloved. For me, I did always enjoy it, but it was never really top of the list (hello there, Toy Story). So it kinda follows that Nemo wasn’t as fresh in my head as some of its Pixar brethren. In the hopes that I wouldn’t feel like the amnesiac Dory when watching the sequel next month, I wanted to take a trip under the sea to visit our favorite clownfish family once again.

The first thing I forgot about was the supporting voice cast. Of course we all remember Ellen Degeneres as Dory (best character ever), and Albert Brooks as Marlin (whose voice keeps me thinking Tom Hanks). But we’ve also got Allison Janney, Willem DaFoe, Elizabeth Perkins, and Geoffrey Rush, most of whom play characters that I had completely forgotten about. Of course I remembered some of the plot points of Dory and Marlon’s adventures, but Nemo’s misadventures in the dentist office and his colorful cast of comrades were new all over again for me.

I also have a new appreciation for Crush, the turtle, after having visited him at Disney World. If you’ve never done Turtle Talk with Crush at either park, add it to your list (especially if you need a break to sit down in an air conditioned room for a while). What it is, is that you sit in front of a digital aquarium where our favorite turtle dude swims in and takes questions from the children in the audience. It’s adorable and clever, and was such a highlight of my Orlando trip last summer. We weren’t able to fit it in last time in Anaheim, but I’m certainly prioritizing it next time.

So onward to the sequel! Oh, we’ve still got another month? Just keep swimming, then!”

Purple Rain

“I’m guessing I don’t need to explain the current events that inspired watching this movie. I’ve never really been a Prince fan. I only just downloaded When Doves Cry like two days ago, and passed on Purple Rain because it was 8 minutes long. Doves is now the only song from The Artist on my iPod. Don’t get me wrong, nothing but mad mad respect for him as a musician, just not so much my thing.

With his passing, some theaters had a re-release of the film in the theaters. I didn’t actually make it to those. The first week happened too quick for me to work it into the schedule. The second week, I struggled with making work. I tried, but I didn’t wanna push Keanu to the second week, which would have been the only way the schedule Tetris worked. But then I checked Best Buy, and turns out not only was the DVD cheaper than movie admission, there was a 2-pack with Fame (which I also hadn’t seen) that was somehow a buck cheaper than that. Score!

So, I get that for people who are fans, if you don’t really separate Prince from the Kid (his character here), I get why this film is something special. The story is partly autobiographical, and there’s a lot of great concert footage. For someone like me who doesn’t exactly idolize the man (yet I stress, still much respect!), it isn’t anything too special. In fact, there were aspects of it that I downright didn’t like. Specifically what I didn’t like was some of the abusive nature of the romantic relationships, The Kid with Apollonia and between The Kid’s parents. The latter is meant to be antagonistic, so it’s fine, the former is the highly romanticized center of the film. And it’s perfectly okay for her not to challenge him when he slaps her for suggesting she may exert her independence? Uh uh, no. Dawn does not approve.

I think I did ultimately make the right call in watching at home instead of at the theater (especially with the bonus movie). For me, it wouldn’t have warranted the full theatrical experience, and I was very much okay with my smaller screen and apartment of distractions. For those that are bigger fans of the man, I can see how special it would have been to see him on the big screen one last time.”

Captain America: Civil War

“The buzz I’d heard in the days leading up to this movie’s release was that Captain America: Civil War is the best film in the Marvel Comics Universe and that it gets everything right that Superman V Batman got wrong. To which I reply possibly, and emphatically hell yes!

Since this was the only film to see this weekend, I couldn’t really justify a Thur night screening that would leave me with a completely open Saturday. Instead, I decided to make a day of it. I opted for the smaller independent theater that I love to support when I can, and called up a friend to join. I even got an ice cream and a cider there (calories don’t count when you’re supporting local business!) and we went for balcony seats, which I always kept forgetting about (totally baller seating BTW). Turned out to be a very wonderful way to spice up my Saturday movie plan, and the film even met expectations (bar was very high, so I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say exceeded).

Before seeing it, I kinda dreaded this write up because it’s been trickier and trickier to find a worthwhile angle for the MCU films. They’re good, but a bit formulaic, so there’s not much new to write about each time. As it happens, I needn’t have worried. There was def enough new going on that warrants discussion.

I’m trying to resist doing this as a straight up comparison to BvS, but the fact is so much of what went right here is doubly right when viewed side by side. Three big things I want to call out: the humor, the battle sequences, and the character balance. Zack Snyder, take notes.

Let’s start quickly with the sense of humor. I was laughing throughout. Not the riotous laughter of a smart but naughty comedy, but the appreciative chuckles of a clever line of a dialog or unexpected situation. So many one liners tossed out, during conversations, during fights, breaking up tension and giving the audience a good time. DC is rumored to have mandated a “”no joke”” policy, in a misguided attempt to recapture The Dark Knight’s “”darkness””, which only resulted in eliminating a sense of fun. Zack Snyder, takes notes.

Now let’s talk about the battles and action sequences. I often consider myself an action junkie, having been raised by my Daddy to love the genre. But the thing is, outside of a straight up action movie, I’m usually bored by the action sequences in a big tentpole film. I think the difference is just in the creativity and mentality behind it all. Superhero movies especially tend to be a big yawn in that area. However with Cap here, these were some of the best battles I’ve ever seen. Yes, the aforementioned humor had something to do with it, but that wasn’t it. There were actually interesting things happening. It wasn’t just people destroying things mindlessly, or proving how strong they were (though there was one example of that which I would have been happy to have continue for the duration of the film *swoon*). No, these were smart characters who were in control of their powers, and they had interesting ways of fighting. Add in the teamwork element playing off each other’s strengths to do something unexpected, or conversely having to counter abilities when fighting Avenger vs Avenger, we had things that were different, were thoughtful, and looked pretty damn cool. Zack Snyder, takes notes.

Okay so what did I mean by character balance? How often has one of the pitfalls of a superhero flick been “”too many characters””? You’ve always got the one dude shoveled in that didn’t need to be there, that just adds an extra half hour to the movie (Venom in Spiderman 3, Doomsday in BvS, half of the undeveloped Xmen in The Last Sand.) There’s a lot of major characters in this movie, some of whom are being introduced into the world for the first time. That should have spelled disaster, but somehow it all worked. I’m still trying to figure out what the winning formula was, but I think it comes down to a few things. First and foremost, the bulk of the story was channeled thru one guy, Cap. Sure, filtering the story through him meant that we had a clearer intended “”right side”” than the publicity would have hoped for, but it kept things focused. Next, everyone tied back in to the same story. Even if you did have side motivations (Black Panther wanting to avenge his father, Scarlet Witch’s guilt over collateral damage), it all came full circle to where they all stood on the primary issue of UN oversight for the team. Lastly, no one was used more than they needed to be. The urge to stuff each sequence with every character was staved off. Not everyone was in every battle. Different people were brought in at different times. No one outstayed their welcome or usefulness. Zack Snyder, takes notes.

A point of discussion that came up with my buddy afterwards was about the role of the gals in the movie. On the one hand, we couldn’t definitively identify a scene where it passed the Bechdel test, especially since there were only 3 major females in the film. However, all three were fully developed characters, who were tough as nails and not damsels in distress (Bucky Barnes was as close to a damsel as we got, and he ain’t no dame), and at no point did they ever wear objectifying outfits. Given those points, we ended up agreeing that yes this movie did count as a step in the right direction, so we can add another point to the win column for Cap. Zack Snyder, take notes.

And smartly, Marvel has decided to let their guys lay low for a bit and make way for other characters for the next couple years. Personally, I’m now really excited for Black Panther after he got a stellar introduction here. Oh and speaking of stellar introductions, Spider-man! Young’un Tom Holland injected such a new energy, played great off RDJr’s Iron Man, and even managed to steal much of one of the biggest and best scenes in the whole thing. Thank you, Sony, for realizing that you weren’t doing the webbed one any favors by keeping him, and wisely relinquishing him to those who could do him justice. You may be the unexpected true heroes here.

There you have it. Marvel knocks it out of the park yet again, and brings back my excitement for the genre that seemed to have been gasping for breath. Well done, Team Cap. Well \m/ done.

Captain America: Civil War – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Say Anything

“I think we all know the iconic image from this movie: John Cusack in a tan trenchcoat, standing in front of his car, outside his girlfriend’s house, holding a boombox over his head, blasting Peter Gabriel. And while it’s not officially a brat pack film, it’s one that those not of that era may not be too familiar with otherwise.

It’s mostly your typical teen romance. High school underachiever falls in love with the valerdictorian, and eventually finds the courage to ask her out after graduation. The two spend the summer together before she goes abroad. Meanwhile, this new relationship has her at odds with her father, who is also being investigated by the IRS. She’s torn between being there for her dad or exploring this new but likely temporary relationship. Sounds pretty sappy, yeah?

And yeah, it is. Very sappy. But you know what sells it? John Cusack. He is so sweet and (I know I overuse this adjective) charismatic, that you root for this underdog and fall in love with him too. Also, the script by writer/director Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire, you know, that Cameron Crowe) is pretty solid. It does have some pretty memorable lines (“”I gave her my heart, and she gave me a pen”” being my favorite).

It’s not so silly as other 80s teen flicks, but it is a lot more introspective. That’s something Crowe has always been pretty great at: giving us male characters that aren’t afraid of experiencing emotional rollercoasters on screen. I know I often champion films with strong female protagonists, but it’s worth pointing out that the men folk can be underwritten too, even if they’re generally more prominent. Crowe doesn’t underwrite them. And that’s why we (or I at least) love his characters and his films.”