Friday, February 25, 2011

MacGruber (2010)

MacGruber (2010)
Directed by: Jorma Taccone
Starring: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer

Every single review I’ve read about MacGruber said that it was a terrible movie.  I’ve met people that said they hated it, and apart from the few examples of some friends, I’ve never met anyone else who enjoyed the movie.  I don’t know if people refused to see the movie because of the reviewers stigma, or if they just didn’t care to see it.  Honestly I was pretty surprised when I heard that they were making a movie out of this particular SNL skit.  MacGruber as a skit was pretty funny the first time I saw it, and they varied it in some humorous ways.  The formula of the skit was a MacGyver knockoff in which MacGruber is always trying to disarm a bomb in a control room.  The skit varies in who is with him and where the control room is located.  The people with him were always either Kristen Wiig or Maya Rudolph and the person hosting SNL.  Examples of hosts that played a part in a MacGruber skit were Shia LeBeouf (plays MacGrubers homosexual son), Jeremy Piven (plays MacGrubers doubtful Assistant), and Betty White (plays his Grandmother).  Here and the links to Hulu where you can watch the full length skits:

There were also other skits besides these three, which you can also watch online.  They even had the real MacGyver play his father, which was probably my favorite skit of all.  You’ll notice that most of them are basically the same type of skit only varied to a certain extent.  So when I heard that they were making a movie out of these skits, I was pretty skeptical of how the movie would turn out (which is how, I believe, all mainstream reviewers were as well).  Before we continue on to the movie, we should speak about the current Saturday Night Live cast.  Will Forte is no longer on the cast, however, when he was, I actually really enjoyed the cast.  I stopped watching SNL for a long period.  I had followed it all the way to when Will Ferrell was on the cast.  Then I stopped watching the series because it really lost its touch.  Then came the new cast with Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen, Tina Fey, Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Bobby Moynihan, Kenan Thompson, and of course Will Forte.  I’ve left out other great additions to the cast, but these actors really brought SNL back from the dead.  Will Forte skits were pretty original and he really brings a special type of comedy to his acting which we can see in MacGruber.

The movie opens to a desert scene in which a convoy carrying a special type of nuclear weapon is attacked and the bomb is taken by the antagonist of the movie.  The antagonist is named Dieter Von Cunth and is played by Val Kilmer, who plays his part rather well.  This scene sets up the premise of the plot, and shows a typecast bad guy for the film.  The next few scenes involve the resurrection of MacGruber.  MacGruber went into hiding because Dieter von Cunth had killed his wife.  The name of the villain in this movie is a joke in itself.  Pretty self explanatory, but the use of the German name combined with a word that is a homonym for a profanity makes the name rather humorous.  The first time we meet MacGruber, his former colonel and Lt. Dixen Piper (played by Ryan Phillippe ) come to ask for his help.  When Piper describes MacGruber, we get the first sense that this movie is mocking MacGyver and all other Ex-military super soldiers.   Here is Piper’s description of MacGruber:

“The Legendary MacGruber. Former Navy SEAL, Army Ranger and Green Beret. Served six tours in Desert Storm, four in Bosnia, three each in Angola, Somalia, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Sierra Leone. Recipient of sixteen Purple Hearts, three Congressional Medals of Honor, seven Presidential Medals of Bravery and starting tight end for the University of Texas, El
Pretty ridiculous, but it adds to the comedy of the movie.  If you add up all the tours he went on in that statement, it adds up to a total of 25 tours.  The average tour length in the military is 6 months to a year, so he was probably in the military for 12.5 to 25 years.  For those of you that haven’t seen the show MacGyver, the whole basis is that he uses gadgets made out of random items to solve the particular problem that he’s in.  This is the basis for MacGruber, except MacGruber can’t make any of the gadgets he makes work out.  The best gadget he makes is the use of a celery stalk, but you should discover the use yourself.  

The funniest elements of the movie are the situations that occur.  The film has a series of situations that eventually lead to MacGruber fighting the antagonist.  These include getting his outfit and car back, building his team, building his new team, finding out info on Dieter von Cunth, staking out a coffee shop, raiding a Warehouse, crashing a party, hanging out at MacGruber’s house, going to Vicki’s house, and finally the end scene.  Broken down, it sounds pretty simple, but each scene is really treated like individual SNL skits that fit together really well.  A lot of people don’t know this, but Will Forte was actually one of the writers of the movie’s script.  You can see his kind of humor in little additions to the plot.  The best addition that I thought was one of the funniest scenes in the movie is when some guy makes fun of MacGruber’s car.  He gets the license plate number off the car and repeats it over and over to himself.  Later in the movie when MacGruber is crashing Cunth’s party, Ryan Phillippe’s character is flipping through MacGruber’s notebook and it has nothing but sketches of KFBR392 (the license plate number) with creepy childlike voices repeating the numbers.  A small addition to the plot, but it really came out of nowhere which can be the best type of humor.

The sex scenes of the movie are most likely the most awkward and funniest sex scene that I have ever seen.  It starts out with Mr. Mister playing Broken Wings, and the song just fits the theme of the movie perfectly.  The soundtrack of the movie is also part of the whole joke.  The movie may use present day songs, but they are usually cut off to MacGruber playing 80’s songs on his Blaupunkt removable player.  You’ve never seen anyone who loves Blaupunkt as much as MacGruber when he says, “How dare you!  That was a blaupunkt!  You owe me a Blaupunkt!”, after one of Cunth’s men destroys it.

MacGruber’s character has some great one liners that aren’t always funny by themselves; it’s that he repeats them over and over that make them funny.  Of course some of them too are just funny by themselves.  These Memorable ones include some profanity, so be prepared:
1.)  Time to pound some Cunth!
2.)  ...dead at the age of who the fuck cares.
3.)  MacGruber don't play like homie, and homie don't play that game.
4.)  Well, they were fucking great guys. And this is a fucking asshole of a day.
5.)  There's a big difference between winging it and seeing what happens. Now let's see what happens.
6.)  So, my face is a vagina, huh? Well, I bet you wish your nose was a dick... so you could use it to fuck butts.
7.)  Your god can't save you, but I can.
8.)  You're loco, man!  Subtitles: "You're crazy, man!"
9.)  No, leave it….I…like…holes.
10.) Yeah, I’ll take the X5 (slams bartenders head on the counter).  He didn’t know anything.
11.) I got a better idea.  How about no fucking way.

The best part of the movie is the acting by Will Forte.  He real put himself into this role.  I’m not going to say that his acting was something like Oscar worthy, but for this particular role, no one else could have done it better.  When he has just lost his whole team, he is so funny trying to get Piper to join his new team.  That whole scene of the movie is great, and I suggest you watch it multiple times to really enjoy it.  This movie also has you not thinking about any other skits or movies that Will Forte has been in.  You only think of him as being MacGruber.  This is different from say Mike Myers in roles like Wayne in Wayne’s World (1992) and the Austen Powers movies.  When I see Mike Myers, I don’t really see him as a British spy, I can only see him as Wayne Campbell (or Dieter).  Kristen Wiig also plays her part well.  The song she plays is really funny, and you can watch it on youtube:

I would actually like to hear the reasoning behind not liking this movie.  You obviously know my reasoning behind liking it, so hopefully I’ve spread the word for people to go out there and check it out.  This type of humor isn’t for everyone, but if you liked movies like Anchorman (2004), Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), Get Him to the Greek (2010), and/or The Hangover (2009); then I could see you enjoying this movie.  Watch it and let me know what you think!

A Message for Fans:
At the end of the movie, his last line is “I do”.  It’s a little hard to hear, but I heard it the second time watching it.  Next time watching the movie, try to find more one liners than I could.  I’m sure there are other funny ones out there.

A Message for Non-Fans:
I’ve heard that it has cheesy humor.  The reason that this movie didn’t get much attention is because the pretentious reviewers hated it and it spread to other reviewers like a disease.  This is why I stress the point that you should see a movie and judge it for yourself before saying, “It looks stupid,” or “I heard it was stupid.”  I’ll admit that it does have some potty humor, but it still has enough hilarity in it to make it enjoyable.

Potential Topics to Discuss:
Saturday Night Live
Will Forte/Kristen Wiig as an actor/actress
Over the top action films

Monday, February 21, 2011

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Directed By: Rob Reiner
Starring: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher

The separation of feminine versus masculine movies has become more and more apparent over the years.  A group of guys can drive to the theatre, watch some TNT-fueled Ass-kicking by watching movies like The A-Team (2010) or The Expendables (2010) and get their testosterone pumpin’.   Or the ladies can have a ladies night out by watching movies like Sex and the City (2008) or the Twilight Saga (2008-?) and scream at the hot boys on the screen.  Given that both cases are huge over-simplifications and I’d never go so far as to label movies as Gender specific, rarely did we have Romance movies that wouldn’t gear towards a specific audience.  Enter the Romantic Comedy genre.  Geared towards no specific audience, what better way to bring in more people than to make them laugh while following a love story.  That is where When Harry Met Sally fits in.  It has its subtle and apparent humor as well as the typical cute romantic story line.  Rob Reiner adds a different blend of directing towards this film with the whole movie progressing forward with intermittent clips of real life couples.  These couples tell their stories about how they met which adds to the overall theme of love in this particular film.  But what separates When Harry Met Sally (1989) from newer Romantic Comedies?  Examples of newer Romantic Comedies are movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), Knocked Up (2007), etc.  These movies rely on the comedy of the plot to keep the audience entertained and the romance is then understated.  What I enjoy most about When Harry Met Sally is that the movie has a great balance of comedy and romance.

The movie goes through phases in which both Harry Burns (played by Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (played by Meg Ryan) meet with each other in life.  It starts out with the first time they meet in College, where both are riding together to New York City.  Meg Ryan is driving this old beat up Subaru (classic!)  and waits impatiently for Billy Crystal.  As soon as he’s in the car, the relationship that they share starts to get its foundations.  I found the character of Harry as the funniest because of his modest humor.  When he’s eating the grapes and spitting out the seeds, he spits the first seeds right onto the window, and doesn’t say anything about it.  That is funny to the audience because its something we can relate to.  Its not ridiculous humor, it’s funny for its modesty.  Harry is also a very open person.  He describes his sexuality and his "dark side" very freely with Sally, a person to whom he’s just met.  Now does this describe your average college male?  I’d say probably not.  However, what better way to break the ice then to act like Harry Burns.  His rules for men/women relationships are classic.  Here are the rules:

1.)    Men and Women can’t be friends because the sex part gets in the way.  No man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive.
2.)    Unless both of them are involved with other people, then they can... This is an amendment to the earlier rule. If the two people are in relationships, the pressure of possible involvement is lifted... That doesn't work either, because what happens then is, the person you're involved with can't understand why you need to be friends with the person you're just friends with. Like it means something is missing from the relationship and why do you have to go outside to get it? And when you say "No, no, no, no, it's not true, nothing is missing from the relationship," the person you're involved with then accuses you of being secretly attracted to the person you're just friends with, which you probably are. I mean, come on, who the hell are we kidding, let's face it. Which brings us back to the earlier rule before the amendment, which is men and women can't be friends.
3.)    There are two kinds of women.  Low Maintenance and High Maintenance.

The second time that he meets Sally is on an airplane, and he appends his rules like they are part of some sort of constitution.  This creates the effect that they continued talking right where they left off in New York.  They still retain their personality, but act more “mature”.  Costume and hair changes represent the advancement of the years, of course.  They both have a significant other in their lives at this point, which leads them away from any type of interest in one another.  It’s only until after both of those love lives leave them that they finally run into each other a third time and become friends.

What happened to Billy Crystal?  I remember watching him throughout the early to mid nineties, watching him host the Oscars for a couple years, and then poof, haven’t seen him in many movies since.  I find that a shame because I always enjoyed watching him act.  I think the last thing I remember him in was Analyze That (2002) or his voice in Monster Inc. (2001).  I mean, are there people out there that exist that didn’t enjoy him acting?  Of course, I’m biased towards him because I enjoy his acting, but maybe we haven't seen him because he decided to retire.  Some actors enjoy acting for their entire lives, while others make a decent buck and a decent flick, and are happy with their lives.  I should say, however, that they are thinking about making another Monsters Inc., and Billy Crystal’s voice works very well for his character.

What happened to Meg Ryan?  Time happened, that’s what.  Some people can take it, others can’t.  I can’t say that she didn’t need surgery.  That is completely her choice.   However, there are some things that you can’t fix.  Age is one of those things.  There are, however, numerous interesting to watch movies out there that suggest the opposite.   Some people actually come out looking years younger after surgery, and what we must realize is that it’s a gamble.  I prefer people to age naturally, but that’s my opinion on the matter.  Otherwise, I think Meg Ryan films ended somewhere after You’ve Got Mail (1998).

The best line of the movie is when Harry realizes that he loves Sally and runs to tell her the following:
“I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

To end this article, all I have to say is just enjoy watching the movie.  It can be very enjoyable to watch with your significant other or even by yourself.  There is really nothing to notice/pay attention to because it’s a rather simple plot.   Because of this, the article was pretty hard for me to write.  Not personally, but intellectually.  This movie is pretty self-explanatory, I’m sure I could spend maybe 10 minutes and have the entire movie summed up pretty well.  I had to discuss some random aspects, so the article may have jumped around a bit.  So if you’re ever confused while reading this article, ask questions, and I’ll answer them to the best of my abilities.

A Message to Fans:
If you enjoyed this movie, you'll also enjoy You've Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle.

A Message to Non-Fans:
Could be seen as too romantic for some, I can see that.  You may disagree that it has a good balance of humor and romance, however, even after Harry tells Sally he wants to spend the rest of his life with her, he tells a joke about the New Years song.  If you absolutely hate romance films, then take the easy road and stay away from this film.

Potential Topics to Discuss:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Moon (2009)

Be Aware!  In order for me to properly write about this movie, I need to write about the plot; which will contain some major spoilers!

Moon (2009)
Directed By: Duncan Jones
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey

If you’ve ever thought about what it would be like to have “Cabin Fever” or being alone for years, then I’d suggest watching this movie.  Sam Rockwell does an amazing job portraying the effect.  I would say that this movie and Cast Away (2000) were pretty effective at portraying how humans are affected when left alone.  The effect of being by yourself is exemplified more in this film when we see the before and after effect of each clone side-by-side.  We’ve all thought about what it would be like if we were to be alone for years at a time.  Tom Hanks in Cast Away (2000) started talking to a Volleyball and Sam Rockwell learns how to play Ping Pong well.  However Rockwell plays a character far from a Fed Ex Employee stranded on an island.  His character works voluntarily by himself on the Moon.  He is an employee of a multi-national corporation called Lunar Industries that gives Earth all the power that it needs.  This power is called Helium-3 fusion (I know, it sounds like a product that Gillette makes), and surprisingly this type of power has been purposed.  If you know anything about chemistry or physics, you can look up the Wikipedia article on Helium-3 and read all about what has been suggested.  Here is a Scientific American article that provides an overall explanation that is understandable to someone that hasn’t studied chemistry or physics.

Let’s just say that it actually was possible.  Okay, so we learned how to induce two Helium-3 particles to fuse together to make Helium-4 and release energy.  A huge corporation controls this whole process and provides 70 percent of the Earths power.  I think I would be correct in saying that this corporation would probably make a decent amount of money.  So why would a company go through all the trouble to clone and genetically engineer hundreds if not thousands of said clones to die after three years just so they wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of training new people?  I mean come on!  Make a bunch of clones, sure!  But train a new guy every three years, now that’s ridiculous!  My sarcasm aside, here is a graph portraying the only feasible option to use clones:
Note that after a certain time, the cost of training people and sending them to the moon would one day cost more than the original price of cloning one man.  This, however, would probably take years to occur depending on the price of “cloning”.  I hate taking this realistic approach to judging a movie (especially a science fiction movie), however this one loop hole needed to be addressed.  Now that we have that out of the way, we can move on to discussing the actual movie.

Moon is a movie that I never expected to enjoy as much as I did.  I say that because it has a pretty freaking depressing plot.  The movie starts out with Sam Rockwell’s character (named Sam Bell) doing his daily routine.  His beard and long hair suggest how long he has been on the Moon.  It then shows us what he does, how he fills up his time, and the extent the loneliness has affected him.  He is so lonely that when he meets his clone, all he wants to do is touch him because he hasn’t touched another human being in what he believes is years.  We’ll get to what I mean about “what he believes” later.  We see him talking to his plants, to himself, and to his only other counterpart on the base; GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey).  GERTY is an interesting character in this film, because he perpetuates Lunar Industries plot to use clones for their process on the moon.  GERTY’s parallel to HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was enjoyable, and it was a relief to see a robot that doesn’t end up murdering or plotting against humans.  The best thing about GERTY, however, was “his” use of emoticons (For the layman, an emoticon is a facial expression pictorially represented by punctuation and letters and is usually used to express the users mood; for example; J ).  These emoticon faces with Kevin Spacey’s voice, make GERTY a main character in the movie.  The relationship that GERTY and Sam share is crucial to understanding why GERTY ended up betraying the corporation and helping the newly awoken clone to escape.  GERTY lived with so many Sam Bell clones that he became more and more human.  His emotions force him to want to help out the decaying Sam Bell.  I say decaying, because that is really what is going on with his character.  It looks like radiation poisoning, but I’m sure it’s just his genetic code being unwound or something science like that.

The most confusing scene to me in the movie was when Sam burnt himself with hot water while filling up a cup.  During this scene, he sees a woman sitting a few meters away from him, which is why he burnt himself.  However this woman wasn’t the same actress who plays his wife Tess.  I don’t know if this was supposed to be some sort of hidden message, or just some random girl his mind made up.  He could have potentially seen the same person outside on the moon when he crashed his lunar rover.  I couldn't find a picture on the internet, but the random girl is a brunette that could be played by the same actress who plays his daughter.  I'd suggest watching the scene and letting me know what you think.  The person he saw outside on the moon looked like it had an astronaut suit on, so it could have been another clone or just a figment of his imagination.  Most likely he was just going crazy, but it’s just an interesting thought.  Perhaps he was programmed to go freaking crazy so that he couldn’t have done anything wrong?  (I know, that doesn’t make sense)  Also, it could have been a side effect of genetically engineering clones to die after a certain time, but what would I know; I’m not a cloner.

I would’ve liked to have known which clone he was, or what cycle of clones the base was on.  I thought about it a little bit, and judging from the original Sam being there for three years, and his daughter being born while he was there, we can extrapolate which clone he was.  So when Sam called his daughter near the end of the movie she was 17 years old (the actress who played her was that age).  If we say that his daughter was born near half-way through his contract, then 15-16 years had passed since the original Sam left the moon base.  Now here is the tricky part.  How long do these clones really last?  We could say three years, however GERTY wakes them up and they think that they’ve been in an accident while they’ve been on the base.  The point is that we don’t know how long these clones last.  For closures sake, let us say that they last for two years.  That would mean that the Sam that is dying would be the eighth clone and the Sam that heads to Earth is the ninth.   In the scene where GERTY lets him log on to see his contract, we can see videos of previous clones getting “disposed of”.  I have yet to count them and see how many different clones I can see on the screen, but it’s all just food for thought.

Moon uses two camera shots overlaid to create the effect of two Sam Rockwell’s.  Special mention should be given to Rockwell for acting so well during these shots.  His reactions are perfectly executed and it seems like someone is actually hitting him when his “clone” hits him.  I watched the special features on how they did it, and they used an interesting method to film the part where he is wrestling himself.  The double that they used for Sam Rockwell wore a green mask and then they filmed Sam Rockwell making a “struggling” face.  They then digitally put it over the green mask and voila!  Sam Rockwell has an identical twin.  It’s pretty interesting when movies use the same actor to play identical twins (or in this case clones) and then to put them into the same shot.  Some examples of movies like this are Nicholas Cage in Adaptation (2002), Leonardo DiCaprio in The Man in the Iron Mask (1997), Eddie Murphy in Bowfinger (1999), Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap (1998), and Edward Norton in Leaves of Grass (2010).  The interesting thing about older movies is they didn’t have the technology that we do today, so you really have to give credit to those movies.  I have yet to see Leaves of Grass, but I’ll probably watch it just because Edward Norton is in it (We all have our favorite actors). There are numerous other examples, including a handful of fighting/karate movies where the protagonist and antagonist are played by the same person (probably an ego thing; no one can beat me except myself).

All in all, Moon was rather enjoyable.  Who knows if it is a comment on corporate policy, cloning, or a thought about who would win in a game of Ping Pong against yourself?  Moon didn’t really have much advertising in the United States, and that was a shame because this movie deserves more recognition.  I think Sam Rockwell will become more and more of a mainstream actor and will probably stop getting parts as a villain in Iron Man 2 (2010), a villain in Charlie’s Angels (2000), a villain in the Green Mile (1999), a backstabbing con man in Matchstick Men (2003), and a hilarious Guy in Galaxy Quest (1999).  Also, if you haven’t seen Choke, and like author Chuck Palahniuk, then I suggest watching it.

A Message to Fans:
I’m there with you.  I’m not against you.  If you find that I’ve said anything here that offends your vision of how Science Fiction should be talked about, at ease!  I don’t write about movies that I find stupid, ridiculous, or boring (unless I’m writing a special article).  I really liked this movie, so don’t feel threatened.  If you disagree with something I said, let me know your version, I would love to hear about it!  Now that we’ve got that settled, here’s something to notice next time you watch Moon.  When the two clones are wrestling, watch the clone’s face that is in the headlock.  You can barely notice that it’s digitally put into the shot.

A Message for Non-Fans:
Like I have said before, if you don’t like Science Fiction, then I wouldn’t say that this movie isn’t for you.  It focuses more on the depressing nature of Sam Rockwell’s character more than the fact that the setting is on a moon base.  If you liked Sam Rockwell in other movies like Choke (2008), then you’ll enjoy his acting in this movie as well.

Interesting Fact: The director, Duncan Jones, is the son of singer David Bowie.

Potential topics to discuss:
Cloning: A reality?
Sam Rockwell as an actor
Helium-3 Fusion
Flow of the Film
Kevin Spacey as a voice

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sunshine (2007)

Sunshine (2007)
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis

If someone were to tell me about a science fiction movie called Sunshine, I would tell them that I would pass on watching it.  To me that sounds like a low budget horror science fiction movie about the sun getting a mind of its own and starting to rain vengeful rays of sunshine upon us all.  Or it could be a romantic science fiction about two astronauts who look into the sun…and fall in love.  But the real movie is far from either of those.  After all my stipulation about what the hell this movie could be about, I decided to watch the trailer for it.  The trailer is what really brings the audience in.  I had been looking for a good sci-fi movie to watch because I was on a role of watching very entertaining sci-fi flicks.  The first was Pandorum (2009) and then I re-watched Event Horizon (1997).  Pandorum had a “twist” ending that made it worthwhile, and I laughed once again at watching Event Horizon.  I made up a tag line for that film that fits it perfectly; “The crew of the USS Event Horizon built a hyperdrive, a hyperdrive that could go faster than the speed of light.  They just didn’t know that this hyperdrive would take them….to Hell.  Come watch Event Horizon this August and prepare to take a trip…a trip…to Hell.”  You have to add the accent of the movie announcer guy to make it hilarious.  So after I watched a classic sci-fi and a newer sci-fi, I was looking around for another one.  A friend suggested to me that I watch Sunshine, and that’s where our story begins.

The preview was actually done very well.  It didn’t give any plot away as movie these days are prone to do.  It used the theme song from Requiem for a Dream, and I think that a lot of previews like to use that song to grab the audience’s attention.  The first line we hear in both the movie and the preview is, “our sun is dying”.  A brief but descriptive line about why the movie exists.  Walking into this movie, you can’t think about the science of it.  A lot of people just can’t stand the fact that sci-fi movies aren’t real.  But if they were, they would be incredibly boring.  Think about the two main issues with space films: Gravity and Space being a vacuum.  Realistically, we have no technology to create artificial gravity on a ship (although 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) suggested a very interesting method).  Apollo 13 (1995) used zero gravity, but one would need a huge budget in order to create that effect.  Most of the expenses come from the use a large aircraft that has the set built into its fuselage and flies in a parabolic pattern, which causes a freefall effect and thus zero gravity.  Then we have space as a vacuum.  If a ship were hit, there would be no fire in space.  Fire requires oxygen to propagate, so if a ship were hit by a “photon torpedo,” you wouldn’t get to see much.  Which brings me to my point: who cares?  We’re watching a movie, not a documentary on a set of astronauts that saved us all by restarting the Sun.  If you can’t stand the fact that they’re ignoring the laws of physics; then get used to it, because it happens all the time.

Now that we’re passed the real life comparisons, let’s move on to the actual movie.  Danny Boyle once again does a great job directing.  The plot was interesting to me because you don’t see many of these types of sci-fi.  The film industry went through a phase for awhile about missions to Mars and I’m sure that because of Avatar, there’ll be newer sci-fi’s about ships going to other galaxies.  So a sci-fi about a Mission to the Sun was pretty out there for a science fiction.  Though, I wouldn’t necessarily call this movie a science fiction; I’d actually refer to it as a Pseudo Religious Sci-Fi Horror.  The Science-Fiction Genre is kind of a given seeing as how the film is about a space ship traveling to restart the sun, but I’d like to focus on the Religious and Horror aspects. 

Whether you agree with me or not on some points that I make, you have to agree that this film has major religious attributes.  The sun becomes a metaphor for god to some key characters in this film.  They only differ in the way that they interpret it.  If someone feels connected to a God by staring at the Sun, then I’d say, “Good for you!”  However, Boyle does a great job in interpreting how these people feel connected to it.  You have three central characters that perform these light purifications.  You have the ship’s Captain, the ship’s Psychologist, and the crazed Captain from the other ship.  Each of the three people represents the extent of religion here on earth.  Respectively you have the devout worshipper, the preacher of the gospel, and the religious fanatic.  The Captain is really the only one who is directly “purified” by the Sun.  He ascends to “heaven” by direct exposure of the Sun’s rays.  The Psychologist explains at the beginning of the movie what the Sun means to him and he brings the Captain unto his belief.  Before the Captain dies, the Psychologist has the utmost need to know what he sees.  To him, he wanted to know what "heaven" looked like.  In the end he sacrifices himself just so he can glimpse upon the Sun.  Finally there is the crazed Captain.  He kills for the Sun.  He sees himself as an angel sent to stop all others from destroying what was “set in motion”.  In my opinion all three are great examples of how Religion is performed in our age.

The Film surprises you on the sudden horror attributes it has.  For one, you don’t expect a guy coming onto their ship to try and kill them all.  You don’t expect to the antagonist of the film to be a man whose skin is melting off.  The whole atmosphere of the film starts out pretty bright, and as the film progresses, the atmosphere becomes darker and darker.  I found this ironic seeing as how they were getting closer and closer to the sun, but it adds to the intensity of the plot.  In those dark points of the film you have the bright points when the religious characters purify themselves through the filter.

The film has an interesting lineup of actors, among them Boyle uses Cillian Murphy again (He cast him in the 2002 horror film 28 Days Later).  Cillian Murphy is an up and coming actor in my opinion.  For instance, he’s shown up in some major films since his major role in 28 Days Later.  Among these there are notable films such as Cold Mountain (2003), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2010) and Tron: Legacy (2010).  Interestingly, he has taken out his British accent and replaced it with the one that we’re all used to in all the movies since 28 Days Later.  The thing I found entertaining in his character was that he was supposed to be playing a brilliant physicist, but it really didn’t show. Boyle also uses Chris Evans (Fantastic Four (2005), The Losers (2010), and the upcoming Captain America).  Chris Evans’s character was the only one that actually cared about their mission to the Sun.  It seemed like everybody else didn’t base their decisions as well as he did.  It was surprising seeing him play a role where he wasn’t playing:
A)     A Jock

B)     A Superhero

C)     Some type of Comedic Relief

 The rest of the cast was pretty typical, and included one more big name actor; however I will leave it up to you to see if you can recognize him.

This seems like a movie that I would enjoy watching in high-def.  Even in standard definition, the views that they render of the sun are pretty fascinating.  I never really imagined what the surface of the sun would be like, however they create a very intriguing look at how the surface would look.  The film definitely offers a lot of impressive visuals, and I would almost see the movie just for them alone.

A message for Fans:
I understand the debate people have on movies like this.  Some fans of science fiction can’t stand how movies don’t account for their science.  A bit of advice; just go with it.  It’ll be worth it in the end.  You should enjoy the movie for the same reason that Trekkie’s enjoy Star Trek.  Because it’ll never happen in our life time and this is what we get.

A message for non-Fans
If you hate science-fiction then I wouldn’t say that this isn’t a movie for you.  It has many different types of messages in it so it can be enjoyed for more than just the fact that it’s about a space ship going to the Sun.  Try and watch it the same night you’d watch a horror movie, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Topics to Discuss:
Religious Aspects of the Film
Science of the Film
Other Sci-Fi’s this reminds you of
Danny Boyle movies

Friday, February 4, 2011

What About Bob (1991)

What about Bob? (1991)
Starring: Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty
Directed By: Frank Oz
Produced By: Laura Ziskin & Bernard Williams

What About Bob is one of my favorite classic Bill Murray Films.  It is an original nineties comedy focused around two central characters.  A lot of people either have not seen it or saw it way back when and don’t remember it.  However, this is a movie that I enjoy watching every now and again because of its satirical humor.  People quoted What About Bob just for those certain scenes that we remember.

The two central actors of the film are Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss.  I actually have not seen Richard Dreyfuss in much lately besides the occasional supporting roles in movies like Red (2010) or W. (2008).  Bill Murray has always been an actor that I appreciate seeing in movies, ranging from Caddyshack to Ghostbusters to even Lost in Translation.  I’ve found that people either love Bill Murray (like Wes Anderson) or just flat out don’t care for him.  I’ve heard people say things like, “I love his comedy, but I can’t take his drama.”  That excuse can be applicable to many different actors or actresses.  One such example was Will Ferrell in Stranger than Fiction (2006).  Will Ferrell had the label of comedy written all over him, and he played a serious role in this film.  I must admit that when I watched the scene in which he’s flailing the lamp around the room narrating what he does, I couldn’t help but laugh at it.  I only saw the actor from Anchorman finally being who I recognized him as: the film comedian of my generation.  However I must say that he actually did a wonderful job playing a drama role in that movie and that I enjoyed Stranger than Fiction.   Like Will Ferrell, Bill Murray retains his comedy roots in What About Bob, which makes the film a must for fans of Bill Murray comedy or the man himself.

Less thought of in the film is Richard Dreyfuss.  A lot of people think that the central character in this movie was Bob Wiley (played by Bill Murray), but I would actually say that Dr. Leo Marvin (played by Richard Dreyfuss) was the protagonist of the movie.  The movie is actually about the eventual downfall into insanity of Dr. Leo Marvin perpetuated by Bob Wiley.  Bill Murray’s Character plays the important role of making us laugh, however in a few scenes Dr. Leo Marvin has subtle satirical humor.  Of these is my favorite scene of the movie: 
Dr. Leo Marvin had just dropped Bob off at the insane asylum and upon his return home his wife gives him a phone call which is the psychiatrist that he just convinced to take Bob into custody.  The Psychiatrist tells him to return and when Leo returns, she tells him that she can’t keep him because he convinced her entire staff that he wasn’t insane.  Leo is then forced to take Bob back to Lake Winnipesaukee and on the return drive Bob starts to drive Leo crazy.  Leo lets out a yell, stops the car and gets out going to the passenger side of the car.  He opens the door and yells “Get out of the car!”
However, this shows my favorite scene in that Richard Dreyfuss pronounces that last line as, “Get outta ba daaaar!”  Here’s a YouTube clip that plays the scene:

Richard Dreyfuss plays his role as a psychiatrist with so much satire.  He plays a typecast Psychiatrist.  In the first scenes you can really see this when he says the typical “how does that make you feel?” while his index finger lies so menacingly on his chin and lips.  That represents the perfect image of a psychiatrist to me.  The final scene I will reference Richard Dreyfuss is during his characters interview on Good Morning America.  He is so nervous about Bob being on his interview with him that he responds to a question with an answer to a different question.  Richard Dreyfuss then looks at the floor and makes this perfectly “what the hell did I just say” face.  This reminds me of second-hand embarrassment.   Much like I Love You, Man (2009), we feel the characters embarrassment when they do something stupid.  Dr. Leo Marvin saying that was nowhere near Paul Rudd’s character leaving a message on the phone in I Love You Man; however it still represents that kind of a joke.

There is so much to say on what Bill Murray does in this role.  As Emma Stone said in Zombieland (2009), “This guy has a straight line to my funny bone!”  Bill Murray has a lot of memorable one liner’s in this movie including:
·         I want!  I want!  I need!  I need!  Gimme!  Gimme!
·         Mmmmmm.  Mmmmmmm. Mmmmmmm.  Fay this food is so delicious!  Mmmmmmm.  Mmmmmmmm.  Etc. (The scene is him eating dinner at the Marvin’s house and him saying mmmm over and over till Leo yells, “Would you stop that please?”)
·         Leo, I see salt and pepper.  Is there a salt substitute?
·         I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful... I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful... I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful...
One liner’s are a great thing for a movie to have.  I believe that the reason the movie Anchorman was so successful is because the entire movie is just full of memorable one liner’s.  The problem with newer and newer comedies is that the preview you see is nothing but the funniest parts.  It’s like a broken record when you go to see them at the theater.  You just chuckle when you see the scenes you previously laughed really hard at.  Then when you leave the theatre, you leave with the feeling of “that was okay.” 

Before getting back to Bill Murray’s performance in this film, we need to understand the different roles that he gives in his movies.  Here’s a flow chart that I think explains a typical Bill Murray Performance:

I was going to include three Genres, but even in movies like Broken Flowers and Lost in Translation, one still finds humor in either his mishaps or his nature.  Thus I included Drama into the Dramedy Genre by the role of serious.  Anyone who’s a fan of Wes Anderson knows that there is a 95 percent chance that Bill Murray is in one of his films.  Much like Tim Burton loves using Johnny Depp, Wes Anderson loves using his troupe, Bill Murray being one of them.  You’ll notice that I included What About Bob into the Central Character Role in a Comedy Genre.  If you’ve seen the other movies that are included with that, you’ll notice that his humor is pretty much the same in those films as well (to a certain extent). 

The Character of Bob Wiley is appealing to us because he represents every kind of crazy that we have seen.  Bill Murray once again does a wonderful job at being comedic in the sense of playing a character that is nowhere near who he actually is.  His character is built on dependencies, intelligence and fears.  Bob Wiley is dependent on having a psychologist.  We see at the beginning of the film that he has learned techniques from previous Psychologists in order to cure what he believes is every psychological disorder known to man.  He is dependent on his fish Gil as really the only thing in his life that represents a relationship.  However, Bob Wiley is an intelligent man.  He finds out eventually using his comedic cunning that Dr. Marvin is vacationing at Lake Winnipesaukee.  Some people could say that he is intelligent enough to fake all these symptoms or know all of the drugs used to treat these symptoms.  He is intelligent enough to be a psychologist already because he knows so many methods that the all of his previous Psychologists have used.  Bill Murray acts out his fears in the most comedic sense possible and this is really self explanatory if you've seen the movie.

I enjoy watching What About Bob even to this day because of the feeling the movie gives.  It has that early nineties feeling.  The quality of the film is not today’s super hi-def 1080p 3000 Hz ultimate extravaganza goodness, and you know what?  That’s okay.  In fact it just makes the movie even better because that’s just how we like it.  It’s pretty hard describing the feeling that the movie gives, but I guess you could say that it’s like remembering a time that was literally not too long ago.  I’m sure you get the feeling when you watch other movies like Beetlejuice (1988), The Breakfast Club (1985), or other late eighties/early nineties flicks.

A Message for Fans
We all love Bill Murray.  Some of us like him enough just to go see any movie he’s in.  If you’re a fan of any of the actors that I mentioned, then you need to rent this movie and watch it again!  It’s classic Bill Murray and a classic Film.  If you do end up watching it again, listen to the names Bob and Siggy call each other when they’re playing “Tourettes”.  Some of them are pretty funny.

A Message for Non-Fans
I understand if this movie isn’t your kind of humor.  It’s not that some people “don’t understand” the humor, it’s that they don’t care to.  Some people would rather watch movies like You Don’t Mess With the Zohan (2008).  Personally that humor doesn’t appeal to me, but to some it does.  However, let me tell you this.  Give it a chance!   At least read what I’ve said here and try to see it the way I do, and maybe you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.

Potential Topics to Discuss:
Characters in the Film
Bill Murray
What this movie represents to you