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Archive for June, 2008

  • TAKEN (September 19th)

What’s odd is that for a movie hitting in September, I had a difficult time finding a poster (quoi?! I know, right) but I did find this trailer, which makes me much happier, actually. Liam Neeson is a dad that sends his 17 year old daughter off to Paris for a vacation and she and her friend get kidnapped. Liam Neeson has some sort of mad super skills to really hurt the guys that did this, so he sets off to find his daughter and totally beat some dudes up.

Pros: Whoa, Liam Neeson, who is getting on up there but still smokin’; pissed Liam Neeson is hot; Pierre Morel, the director, also directed Banlieue 13, one of my favorite French movie crack films; Liam Neeson kicking butt is going to be rad, y’all.

Cons: The daughter and the wife, just from the trailer, bore me to tears. More Liam, please.

  • EAGLE EYE (September 26th)


Two people get set up for something another. Whatever. Guns. Action. I’m there.

Pros: Shia LaBeouf is adorably charming in a geekish sort of way; this is from the guy who directed Disturbia which actually wasn’t a half-bad Rear Window rip off; I’m not expecting greatness here, just mind-numbing action.

Cons: Billy Bob Thornton is still alive?; that lady’s voice on the phone doesn’t creep me out, it just annoys me to no end; I am afraid, eventually, they will find one million and one ways to sequelize this.

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Here on 1,416 and Counting I normally do old movies. They usually haven’t been in a theater in years. However, this doesn’t mean I don’t keep up on new movies; it’s just that some of them (like Beverly Hills Chihuahua) strike me as not worth my time, suicide-inducing or a movie you couldn’t pay me to see. So this week, while I catch up on reviews and get my business in order with Netflix, I’m going to be running movies I’m absolutely itching to see in the theater by release date.

So here’s the first five movies I’m dying to see…

  • WANTED (June 27th)

Boy meets girl. Girl tells him he’s supposed to really be a super-secret assassin. Girl and boy shoot things. Woo!

Pros: Directed by the guy that did Night Watch and Day Watch; features my Russian crack-actor Konstantin Khabensky in a minor role; Angelina Jolie (with guns!); yummy James McAvoy; Morgan Freeman dropping f-bombs (God curses?); Thomas Kretschmann; the whole movie just screams “whee, let’s shoot things!”; cool gun fight scenes; yummy James McAvoy; …shirtless James McAvoy. Mmm.

James McAvoy. Yup.

Cons: Guns defy the laws of physics. Hmm. But there’s still James McAvoy, right?

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I was talking to a good friend of mine (and sometimes 1,416 and Counting commenter) about her thoughts on Empire Records.  Her answer?

“Where do thoughts come from?  They just appear!”

What makes Empire Records so infinitely watchable is the sheer fact that not only is it light-hearted fun, but it’s quotable like very few other movies.

Empire Records isn’t overly complicated.   A group of cool misfits work at the hottest independent record store around.  They’re the kind of artsy types you envied in high school, and their much put-upon manager Joe is privy to one heck of a secret:  The guy that owns Empire Records is planning on selling it to a large corporate chain called Music Town.   When one erstwhile employee discovers this, he takes the nightly deposit to Atlantic City and attempts to make more money in the hopes of saving the Empire, only to lose big and come home empty handed.   All this craziness leads to a chain of events in one major day for the store that affects everyone involved.

One of the great qualities of Empire Records is that while it’s got an awful lot of characters in it, it does two things remarkably well:   it makes you care about every character, and every character’s story ties up nicely at the end of the day.   With a bunch of employees, a stuck up, almost totally washed up pop star coming into the store plus his manager, a thick-skulled shoplifter who introduces himself as “Warren Beatty” and a cavalcade of nutty customers, that’s a lot of ends to tie off.

And then there’s all the various drama:   Rex Manning Day occuring at the store, where the washed up singer comes to sign autographs and two of the female employees are very excited about Rex appearing there; the deposit getting gambled away by Lucas (Rory Cochrane); the battle to save the Empire from corporate interference; the love triangles; one employee’s suicide attempt, and so on and so forth.   You never feel swamped, though – just intrigued and like you’re along for the ride.

Plus, this movie has Renée Zellweger and Liv Tyler before they were all famous and some such.  (Although it does beg the question, what the hell ever happened to Rory Cochrane, who played Lucas?  I thought his career would have fared better than it has.)  Another goofy highlight is Maxwell Caulfield playing Rex Manning, the cheesy, arrogant pop star, which is probably Caulfield’s best known role besides being the straight-laced exchange student in (…gulp) Grease 2.

I really cannot think of one movie that’s quoted more than this one amongst my group of friends.
Seriously, the movie’s like one big cookie jar of one-off jokes and zingers that work well in almost any situation.    Nothing inspires a laugh in my circle of friends more than, “But…it’s Rex Manning Day!

Said friend mentioned at the top of this post?   She still has Empire Records on tape where she taped it off TV way back in the day (and I’m talking when we were in junior high school together).   Does shrieking at each other, “Shock me, shock me, shock me with that deviant behavior!” ever get old?   Not really.   Empire‘s one of those movies that’s best shared amongst a group of friends on a night when you really just need some sugary-sweet fun – and over the years it’s never gotten overly cloying or nasty.   Every time I watch it, it’s just as good as the first time around when I was probably 13.

There’s been 10 years of sustained viewing of this record and I’m still not sick of it, that’s for sure.

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Oh, good God.

Talk about formulaic.

Seriously, the acts are virtually the same, just with different little puzzles and similar parts. It’s like watching the first movie, but not. I certainly don’t mean that in a good way, quite frankly.

I can imagine the meeting of the minds on this one:

Jerry Bruckheimer: Okay, guys – what did we not cover in the last National Treasure movie?

Nicolas Cage: Ooh, the Civil War!

Crazy Jon Voight: That’s right! We didn’t talk about the Civil War at all!

Jerry Bruckheimer: Hmm, I like where this is going. Throw some buzzwords at me. Give me some ideas, gentlemen.

Nicolas Cage: Abraham Lincoln!

Crazy Jon Voight: John Wilkes Boothe!

Nicolas Cage: Mount Rushmore!

Crazy Jon Voight: Queen VICTORIA!

Nicolas Cage: PARIS!

Jerry Bruckheimer: I like all this, I like it. I think it’s going to be hot, gentlemen. Let’s just work all this into a script and see what we get.

Someone needs to have an intervention with Nic Cage. And by “intervention”, I mean, “stop him for his own good”, because heavens to Betsy, my instinctual reaction to someone’s face should not be to cower under the chair in terror and scream “Dear GOD, what is that THING?!” When I first saw Cage, my first reaction was some pseudo pearl-clutching followed by “…What’s wrong with his hair? No, really…what’s wrong with his hair?” He looks disgusting. I don’t just mean in the stinky, looks like he could use a shower or ten kind of department, although that’s part of it. He looks like he’s about to be slapped on an embalmer’s table somewhere after his liver’s exploded during a rough weekend in Vegas.

So, Ben Gates is back – and this time, he and Riley are in all sorts of trouble. Riley owes a ton of back taxes to the government after a shady accountant does him wrong; Ben has lost Abigail after a rocky relationship. Then a odd character comes forth, stating that he has the missing page of John Wilkes Boothe’s diary, implicating a family member of Ben’s in the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Of course, Ben and his father are determined to clear their family member’s name, but the shady character (Ed Harris) is using Ben to help him find a treasure. (Are you shocked yet? No? Really?!)

The problem is that National Treasure 2 is the exact same movie as the first. Literally you can pretty much track the second from the first, right down to the discoveries timed simultaneously, Riley offering up pertinent information at exactly the right time, hidden compartments, etc. It feels like an odd sense of déjà vu watching this one, because it feels like it’s the same movie, but it’s not.

You kind of have to mentally shake yourself a bit to remember that you didn’t accidentally take too much NyQuil or something when you weren’t looking.

Jon Voight is so remarkably atrocious in this. He’s playing the doddering old fool, but he’s Jon Voight, so he’s a little crazy to begin with. And add in the fact that it looks like someone gave him a strong sedative before sending him to film his parts and you have a slightly stunted, completely slow looking performance.

What in the hell was Helen Mirren doing in this movie? And could Ed Harris have phoned it in even more? Both of them look like they’re slightly dazed all the way through it, as if they’re trying to mentally communicate, “Bruckheimer hypnotized me and forced me to be in this movie; send help. For the love of God, send help”. Ed Harris isn’t very convincing as a bad guy, mainly because he doesn’t do that much bad stuff, and I think it’s practically a contract stipulation with Harris that if you write him in as a villain, he must have a “conscience” or whatever that thing’s called that gives you a moral compass – or at least a damn good reason for doing whatever the character’s doing.

Even at the end, the discovery of the “treasure” is so cheap – because you know from the start exactly how it’s going to happen because you watched the first movie already (probably). The first movie was a fun cheese-tastic kind of thrill ride, and this one falls flat, mainly because you already know what twists and turns are coming for you right around the bend.

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There is no question: M. Night Shyamalan must be stopped. He has to be saved…from himself.

Back in the day, I used to read the Fametracker message boards, before the moderators and posters had an epic all-out internet battle, and the posters on there would always forget how to spell Shyamalan’s name. Thus, he became “Shamalamadingdong”, and to this day, I can’t really look at his name without thinking, “Okay, Ding Dong, whatever, lay your next bad movie on me. Bring it on, sucker!”

There’s really no way, I don’t think, to give an accurate review of this movie without explaining what’s going on, so I’ve cut it below to save those of you who actually care the horror of being spoiled.

Elliot (Mark Wahlberg) is a mild-mannered high school science teacher who has a rapidly disintegrating marriage. He’s trying to keep it together, but then the news comes that terrorists have attacked Central Park with an unknown bioweapon. His school is dismissed quickly and he teams up with fellow math teacher Julian to get the hell out of the city before anything bad can happen to them.

What follows is the old survival story, where Elliot attempts to understand, process, manage and identify the problem and save himself, his wife and others.

Now, here be the spoilers.

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What do you do when you live in East Germany right as the Berlin Wall is going to fall and your devoted Socialist mother drops into a coma, only to awake after the fall of the Wall?

Why, you lie to her and make everything like it was before.

Alex is devoted to his mother, Christiane, who suffers a nearly fatal heart attack on the cusp of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  She falls into an eight month long coma during which East and West Germany are slowly merging, and when she wakes up, the doctors inform Alex that he must prevent any strong excitement from entering his mother’s life, lest she suffer another heart attack.   Knowing his mother’s devotion to the East German socialist cause, Alex determines to take her home and make it like nothing ever happened.   Of course, with the influx of people, products and ideas from the West, this makes Alex’s decision none too easy, one that is not supported by his sister and her boyfriend, and one that often leads him to insane ends to convince his mother that her beloved country is still intact.

With moments of comedy, like Alex buying Western foods at the supermarket and pouring the contents into the canisters of defunct Eastern foods, and poignancy, like when Alex and his sister realize his long-lost father who left the family years before is still close by, the film mixes the highs and lows of a family caught in an extreme situation nicely.   It also is more than just the simple plot details, as the film takes an extraordinary situation to examine  what an ordinary family has made of their collective lives.

Overall, it’s a well done dramedy with a nice wrap-up at the end.   I was thoroughly surprised by how much better it was than I was expecting.

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I know it’s been forever and eight days since I’ve updated, but I promise there’s some good stuff coming. I have been working on real-life stuff, shockingly enough, and hopefully I can get some good stuff up tonight.

In the next few days, you’ll probably see a few changes to the blog in the sidebar and the header, but nothing too major. Just some late spring cleaning going on.

What I want to know is content-wise, is there anything you’re just clamoring for that I’m not giving you? Tell me, my sweets, so I can get on it posthaste.

Sorry for the delay, dearest visitors – apologies all around.

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