"So Let it Be Written... So Let it Be Done"

The life and times of a real, down to earth, nice guy. A relocated New Englander formerly living somewhere north of Boston, but now soaking up the bright sun of southwestern central Florida (aka The Gulf Coast). Welcome to my blog world. Please leave it as clean as it was before you came. Thanks for visiting, BTW please leave a relevant comment so I know you were here. No blog spam, please. (c) MMV-MMXV Court Jester Productions & Bamford Communications

Saturday, October 31, 2009

SNMR 7.12: "Halloween"

Do you really think it's a coincidence that I'm reviewing this movie today of all days? I think not...


I'll tell you what - movie studios would love such bang for the buck more often these days. Consider that this movie was made for just over $300,000 and took only 20 days to shoot. Oh, it also grossed over $50 million at the box office. Impressive, especially when you consider that admission to the movies back in 1978 was dirt cheap in comparison to a movie ticket today.

The story begins with a young boy, Michael Myers, stabbing his teenage sister to death on Halloween night, 1963. Flash forward 15 years later; on a rainy night, Myers escapes from the insane asylum he's lived in since, returning to the house he lived in as a child.

On her way to school on Halloween morning, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is asked to drop off a key at a house her father, a real estate agent, plans to sell. It is the abandoned for years Myers house, rumored to be haunted. As she turns away from the house, she is noticed by the secret resident of the house, who then begins to follow and stalk her all over town...

What separates this film from the host of contemporary horror/slasher films is the subtle creepiness and distinct lack of gore. Carpenter allows us limited points of view: We're either looking out from the killer's eyes or seeing him at a distance for most of the movie. There are only a handful of scenes in the film (involving Myers) that utilize the traditional third party point of view. When we do see Myers from this perspective, he's wearing only a plain, emotionless mask. Add in Carpenter's solo piano music score that quite effectively intensifies the suspense and creepiness.

For a movie debut, Jamie Lee Curtis handles herself like a pro and says (in the extras) that this was the best role she had until "True Lies" came out in 1994. Veteran actor Donald Pleasence (as Dr. Sam Loomis) is okay as the cookie cutter plain psychologist with a premonition of bad things happening. Laurie's high school friends (Nancy Loomis and P.J. Soles) are adequate.

I'm not a fan of the horror movie genre and had never bothered with this movie (still haven't seen any of the sequels and don't plan to) before needing to watch it for this review. Good thing I was able to get it for under $6. I have no idea why this film was so successful at the box office. It's an above average film for the genre but nothing to rave about.

The extras on the DVD version that I watched were fine, especially the "Halloween Unmasked 2000" featurette, with cast and crew retrospective interviews. Seeing/hearing the various theater, television and radio trailers was interesting. How times have changed.

*** out of *****

Halloween (1978, R, 92 minutes), starring Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, Nancy Loomis, Tony Moran and Nick Castle. Screenplay by John Carpenter and Debra Hill. Directed by John Carpenter.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

SNMR 7.11: "Transformers"

Before we begin: Happy 10th birthday, M!!

Since M's birthday happens to fall on a Saturday this year, I decided to let him pick the movie that I would review for today's column. He did a good job. Thanks, M.


"I bought a car. Turned out to be an alien robot. Who knew?" deadpans Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), a slacker high school kid trying to raise cash to buy a car, by selling his grandfather's possessions at school and on eBay. Driving his "new" Camaro, he attracts the attention of Mikaela (Megan Fox), a super hot popular girl at school. Turns out one of his grandfather's possessions is more important than he realizes. Because of this, Sam is sought out by two groups of sentient robot aliens who have been at war for centuries in a quest to posses the All-Spark, a life giving cube of power.

Elsewhere, the Defense Department computer system is being hacked at the highest levels during a cover up attack on a US Military base in Qatar. The Secretary of Defense, John Keller (Jon Voight) recruits a team of young computer experts, led by Maggie (Rachael Taylor) and her friend Glen (Anthony Anderson) to help stop the hackers.

Optimus Prime and the Autobots, along with Sam and Mikaela, join forces with Maggie, Glen, Secretary Keller and the survivors of the Qatar military base attack to battle Megatron and his evil Decepticons to try and prevent them from getting the All-Spark.

I'll freely admit that I purposefully stayed away from this movie during its theatrical run two years ago because I really didn't think that it would be any good. Plus, I remembered watching the Transformers cartoons as a kid in the mid 1980's and owning many of the toys and didn't want to ruin the nostalgia of it.

This past summer, M asked me if we could see the sequel in the theater. I reminded him that we hadn't seen the first movie, so what would be the point of seeing the sequel first? Coincidentally, around that time I happened to be shopping with V and M at one of the stores where I buy a lot of my DVD's and saw the two disc version of Transformers for around $10. I knew that was a good price and, bowing to my weakness for inexpensive DVD's, caved and bought it.

We watched it that night and thought it was cool. Somewhat grudgingly I had to admit that I was impressed. With Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay as executive producers and with Bay directing, I should have realized this would be a well made and fun movie. The special effects, especially the mind-blowing transformations of the robots into their earthly vehicular forms and back again, are stellar.

The screenplay, written by ALIAS alums Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, has a better than expected storyline, hailing back to the 1980's cartoons. We get a good back story while bringing out the human elements. Of course, with a special effects laden movie like this, the story and actors play second fiddle to the CGI action sequences, battle sequences and explosions, which the actors generally acknowledge.

The cast has a good mix of veteran actors and up and coming stars who work well together. One thing I thought was very cool - that the same actor who voiced Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) for the 1980's cartoon was brought back as the voice of Prime in this movie, further linking the animated and live action versions.

The special features DVD has some excellent behind the scenes interviews with many of the cast and crew mixed with short featurettes on how some of the scenes were created. I always enjoy this stuff and would have liked to see more of it on the disc.

**** out of *****

Transformers (2007, PG-13, 143 minutes), starring Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Rachael Taylor, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, Jon Voight, John Turturro, Anhony Anderson and Peter Cullen (voice). Story by John Rogers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Screenplay by Roberto Orci and Robert Kurtzman. Executive Produced by Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay. Directed by Michael Bay.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

SNMR 7.10: "Confessions of a Shopaholic"


There isn't a store in the world or a sale small enough to bypass the notice of Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) who is a shopaholic in denial and up to her eyeballs in debt because of it, as her many credit card bills attest. Bloomwood is a journalist who dreams of writing for 'Alette,' her favorite fashion magazine. Not only does she not get the job, she doesn't even get an interview because the position was filled internally. Another interview she stumbles into for a financial advice magazine goes horribly wrong... That night, in a drunken state, she mails two letters: one thoughtful and well written and one, well, not so thoughtful. Predictably the letters get mixed and before you know it, the most unlikely person is writing a financial advice column.

I had thought about going to see this movie during its theatrical run but kept deciding against it for whatever reason. While I did enjoy the movie, I'm glad I got to see it for free. "Confessions" certainly is a breezy puff piece, and if you can accept that, you'll enjoy this movie more. Despite it's light airiness, the film does raise three relevant issues: 1] that we live in a buy it now, pay for it later and don't give a second thought about it society (until the bills start rolling in); 2] because of #1 how easy it is to get swept up into financial troubles with the use of one of more credit cards (believe me, I know about this) and 3] exactly how collection agencies and debt collectors do not operate, thanks to the FDCPA or Fair Debt Collection & Practices Act. This I know all too well as I am someone who has worked extensively in this field for most of my adult life.

I think that I liked this movie as much as I did because I can relate to points 1 & 2 and appreciate the humorous look at #3.

Isla FIsher is good in the role of Rebecca Bloomwood. Hugh Dancy was also believable as the tough editor with a soft spot for the cute redhead. It took me a bit to realize who was playing the part of Alette and it turns out to be Kristin Scott Thomas, normally a decent actress but here with a very bad French accent. Joan Cusack and John Goodman were nothing short of brilliant in the 'oh-my-gawd-those-are-your-parents?' role. I really didn't care for dose of common sense and best friend Suze, played by Kristen Ritter. Not the character, per se, but I think they could have chosen a better actress for the role. Robert Stanton does a great job with his smarmy debt collector character, Derek Smeath.

***½ out of *****

Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009, PG, 105 minutes), starring Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Krysten Ritter, Joan Cusack, John Goodman, Kristin Scott Thomas, John Lithgow, Leslie Bibb and Robert Stanton. The screenplay was written by Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth and Kayla Alpert based on novels by Sophie Kinsella. The film was directed by P.J. Hogan.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

SNMR 7.9: "True Lies"


Helen Tasker (Curtis) thinks her husband Harry (Schwarzenegger) is just a boring computer salesman. What she doesn't know is that he's really a super spy for the U.S. Government's "Omega Force" a CIA-like unit. When Harry finds out that Helen is being seduced by a horny used car salesman (Paxton) he decides to take matters into his own hands, enlisting his partner Gibson (Arnold). Oh, yeah there's an Islamic terror group operating out of the Florida Keys that is threatening to blow up major US cities with stolen nuclear warheads. Conveniently Harry will use his James Bond-like skills to foil the bad guys and rescue his wife and daughter from the terrorists

This is one of those movies that is just plain fun to watch. I remembered just how so in preparing for this review, as I hadn't seen this movie in about five years. Aaaahnold will never be given credit for being a half decent actor but he is because he can play the serious action hero and he can play the softer roles with unexpected comedic timing.

What makes this film a winner is the standout performances of the supporting cast. Tom Arnold and Bill Paxton are fantastic as the wise-guy sidekick and the smarmy used car salesman aka wannabe secret agent. Jamie Lee Curtis had never done a big screen action flick like this before and handled herself quite well as Mrs. Aaaaahnold. Even the cameo by Charlton Heston is good. If the film has a weak link it would be Tia Carrere as bad girl Juno Skinner. But even she manages to fill her role adequately.

Sure the Arabs as bad guys story is well worn, even for a film that came out in 1994, years before Al-Queda, The Taliban, Osama BL and 9/11 but it works nicely. The screenplay has some clever lines and is fast paced.

James Cameron's abilities as a big time action director have never been in question as far as I'm concerned. His resume of writing, producing and directing is right up there with the big boys of big action, Spielberg and Lucas.

If you haven't watched this movie in a while, it's definitely worth a rental. I used to own it on VHS and recently added the DVD version to my library, well worth it for under $10. However, I would love to see Cameron come out with a two disc version of this movie with more special features than the current DVD edition has to offer.

***** out of *****

True Lies (1994, R, 141 minutes), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Arnold, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, Eliza Dushku, Art Malik and Charlton Heston. The screenplay was written by James Cameron, based on a screenplay by Claude Zidi, Simon Michael and Didier Kaminka. Directed by James Cameron.


Saturday, October 03, 2009

SNMR 7.8: "Sunshine Cleaning"


Rose Lorkowski (Adams) is a single mom trying desperately to make ends meet so that she can send her son to a private school. She learns of a possible opportunity through her high school ex-boyfriend and Mac (Zahn), who is a police officer and whom she's having an affair with. The job opportunity: crime scene clean up. She rakes in her slacker sister Norah (Blunt) to help and together they start the business. All is going well until an unfortunate accident derails the company.

This offbeat comedy drama didn't get a wide release in theaters (at least in my area anyway) so you may not have even heard of it.

Both Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are decent in their performances here. Alan Arkin is good as the salesman father, adding a bit of levity to the film with his schemes. Sunshine Cleaning is Megan Holley's first writing credit, according to imdb.com. It's not bad for a first screenplay. I thought the characters could have been developed a bit more, for example the relationship between Rose and supply store owner Winston (Collins) which is clearly hinted at but goes no further. Christine Jeffs, in her third directorial assignment, does a good job keeping the story moving, given the material, but does nothing to wow you. The story does have a decent ending, wrapping everything up in a semi-satisfying fashion.

After watching this film I still wasn't sure what to make of it. You know, did I like it or not? The answer is that it's a good movie but not great. What was helpful for me was a short featurette of an interview with two women who have their own real life clean up business and could relate to personal experience some of the situations from the movie.

I had wanted to see this movie when it played in the theater, but never did, and I'm glad. When Cleaning came out on DVD I bought it solely because Amy Adams is in it, as I've enjoyed the other movies I've seen that she's been in. This movie is a decent rental choice.

**½ out of *****

Sunshine Cleaning (2008, R, 91 minutes), starring Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Steve Zahn, Clifton Collins Jr. and Mary Lynn Rajskub. Written by Megan Holley and Directed by Christine Jeffs.