Opinion Battles Round 19 – Favourite Romantic Comedy

Who doesn’t love a good romantic comedy? And there’s a whole host of great ones to choose from in the latest Opinion Battle at Movie Reviews 101. I had to go with the classic The Princess Bride, which has everything you could want in a movie, including romance and comedy!

Movie Reviews 101

Opinion Battles Round 19

Favourite Romantic Comedy

Romantic Comedies have become the go to date movie where we get to see how people go about getting into relationships. We have had some of the most iconic storylines in recent years and decades with people being able to relate to certain characters involved in the films and this is why they are so popular. Today we are going to be picking our favourites out there, so let’s see what we got.

If you want to take part in the next round of Opinion Battles the subject will be Favourite Clive Owen role which I know is a very small selection but we could get some strange choices. The deadline for this choice is 1st October 2016 and email your choices to moviereviews101@yahoo.co.uk.

Darren – Movie Reviews 101

500 Days of Summersummer

500 Days of Summer is not a love story…

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Star Trek: Voyager Musical Highlights

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This post is part of the Music of Star Trek Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central so check out the amazing music posts that others have already contributed. When I first heard about the blogathon, I wasn’t sure that there was much I could add to the discussion, since most people seemed to be focusing on the original Star Trek series, The Next Generation, and their movies. However, I decided to shine a spotlight on the musical moments in my favorite series in the franchise: Voyager.

For those who don’t know, Voyager is Star Trek‘s incarnation of the Odyssey. Two crews are hurled into the unexplored Delta Quadrant, 70,000 light-years from home: the Federation starship Voyager led by Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and a Maquis ship of rebel freedom fighters, led by Chakotay (Robert Beltran). After their initial encounters with the native aliens leave them stranded, the two crews band together to make the long journey home. Like Next Gen, the somewhat stiff early episodes yield to better and better seasons, and it’s truly gratifying to see all the characters grow into a family. Many episodes rival the very best that Star Trek has to offer, but we’re not here to discuss every little thing I love about this series; let’s talk about the music.

One of the most obvious musical achievements is the opening theme song. While Next Gen recycled Jerry Goldsmith’s incredible score from Star Trek: The Motion Picture for its opening theme, Goldsmith provided an original theme for Voyager, which won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Main Title Theme Music. The soft trumpet and drums immediately set a mood of spacey grandeur, and the brass and strings mingle together as the essence of audible majesty, complemented by lofty shots of the title ship swooping through stellar phenomena. Between the music and the visuals, I firmly consider it the best opening of all the Trek series.

So, that’s the theme. What about the music in the series itself? All of it is excellent, but the most memorable new theme was introduced in the season 3 finale Scorpion, which was a turning point in the series and could be considered Voyager‘s “Best of Both Worlds.” The Voyager crew find themselves in the middle of the Borg’s losing war against an unbeatable super-race known as Species 8472. The music by Jay Chattaway is loaded with bombast, reminding the ear of the high stakes, and the seven forceful notes mix with the background music for a terrific small-screen action piece. You can hear it for yourselves here.

In addition to the instrumental scores, music played a special role in several episodes, particularly for the holographic Doctor (Robert Picardo), who developed a passion for opera. In addition, both Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine and Tim Russ as Tuvok showed their singing chops on occasion, and Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim periodically played the clarinet. Here are some of the most notable musical highlights:

  • In the season 2 episode “The Thaw,” Harry Kim and Tom Paris debate where Harry should practice his clarinet without disturbing his neighbor.
  • In the season 2 episode “Innocence,” Tuvok is stranded on a moon with three alien children and soothes them to sleep with a Vulcan “lullaby” of sorts called Falor’s Journey.
  • In the season 3 episode “Remember,” Janeway is telepathically taught to play an ethereal-sounding new instrument.
  • In the season 4 two-parter “The Killing Game,” a hunter race called the Hirogen brainwash the Voyager crew and make them take part in historical holographic violence. One holodeck is set in Nazi-occupied France, and Seven of Nine is a crooning serenader in a French bar.
  • In the season 5 premiere “Night,” Voyager travels through a vast area of starless space, and in his boredom, Harry performs his own concerto called “Echoes of the Void” while on the bridge.
  • In the season 5 episode “Counterpoint,” a paranoid, anti-telepath race repeatedly boards and searches Voyager, and its charismatic inspector flirts with Captain Janeway while blaring Mahler’s First Symphony during every inspection.
  • In the season 5 episode “Bride of Chaotica!,” the show indulges in the classic cheesiness of the old Flash-Gordon-style science fiction and the exaggerated score reflects the over-the-top histrionics.
  • In the season 5 episode “Someone to Watch over Me,” the Doctor tries to teach Seven of Nine social skills and seems to realize his attraction to her while they sing “You Are My Sunshine” together. During the poignant final scene, the Doctor also sings “Someone to Watch over Me,” alone.
  • In the season 6 premiere “Equinox Part II,” a reprogrammed evil Doctor performs surgery on Seven of Nine, sadistically making her sing “My Darling Clementine” with him.
  • In the season 6 episode “Barge of the Dead” (probably the worst episode of the series), we get to hear a traditional Klingon drinking song.
  • In the season 6 episode “Riddles,” Tuvok becomes mentally damaged, and Neelix plays him a Vulcan funeral dirge, as well as jazz, which Tuvok surprisingly enjoys.
  • In the season 6 episodes “Fair Haven” and “Spirit Folk,” the crew enjoy a holodeck program of a quaint Irish village, with accompanying Celtic background music.
  • In the season 6 episode “Virtuoso,” the Doctor becomes a celebrity when he introduces music to a race that has never heard it before. Lots of opera in this one.
  • In the season 7 episode “Homestead,” Neelix dances to some classic rock ‘n’ roll, and eventually Tuvok indulges him with a parting dance step.
  • The series finale “Endgame” also won Jay Chattaway an Emmy for Outstanding Music Composition For A Series. Here‘s a taste of the underscore from both the pilot and the final episode.

 

There you have it. Star Trek: Voyager excelled at utilizing music both in the score and the storylines, continuing the musical legacy of The Original Series and Next Gen. I leave you now with the funniest musical moment from the series in which the Doctor’s operatic daydreams take a comical turn in Season 6’s “Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy.”

VC Pick: Shallow Hal (2001)

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When searching for the perfect mate,
We aim at the exterior.
With lesser looks, we hesitate
And seek a different him or her.

We never mean to judge them wrong,
For shouldn’t passion please the eye?
And yet how often do we long
For just the person we pass by?

We’ve heard it all, from school to camp,
Of books and covers, and ’tis true.
True love needs not perfection’s stamp
To be the perfect one for you.
______________________

MPAA rating: PG-13

I can never fully predict what kind of movies my VC will like. I wouldn’t have guessed that the Farrelly brothers’ Shallow Hal would be her kind of movie, yet, while it’s not among her favorites, it holds an odd appeal for her, perhaps because of star Jack Black. I do rather understand, though. For me, it’s a lot like 1987’s Mannequin, a film that I recognize as not very good or even funny, yet remains entertaining and milks its unique concept for all it’s worth.

After some bad deathbed advice from his father, Hal Larson (Black) grows up looking only on the outside, choosing his dates solely on their hotness. When the real-life Tony Robbins takes notice of his shallow ways, he gives Hal some positive-thinking hypnosis that causes him to recognize someone’s inner beauty in their outward appearance. Ergo, ugly people with hearts of gold look gorgeous while beautiful jerks look repulsive, though it apparently doesn’t affect people he’s already met. After some unwitting encounters with “attractive” girls, Hal meets Rosemary, who looks like the thin and lovely Gwyneth Paltrow we all know but is really morbidly obese. She finds his unbiased treatment of her refreshing, yet inevitable misunderstandings and the eventual truth threaten their unconventional bond.

What Shallow Hal could use the most is more humor. It’s one of the many comedies that settles for amusing with little chance at laughing out loud, and it confirms that Jack Black is hit-and-miss with his awkward brand of bumptiousness. Jason Alexander as Hal’s buddy is arguably even more shallow than Hal and earns a few chuckles with his unrealistic standards, but much of the humor consists of fat jokes aimed at Rosemary, along with Hal’s oblivious reactions that make her fall for him in the first place. It never verges into tasteless territory, but the comedy only hits its mark half the time.

Yet Shallow Hal has its moments, particularly when it leans toward the dramatic. Hal’s “gift” really does improve his perceptions and offers Rosemary a sorely needed self-esteem boost; as naturally attractive as she is, Paltrow expresses a self-deprecating diffidence both in and out of her fat-suit prosthetics. Hal’s rose-colored vision also provides some eye-opening revelations, a couple of which touchingly hit home.

I can see how Shallow Hal could be mildly controversial but not for the obvious reason. The fat jokes may bother some (though not my VC, who herself is “weight-challenged,” as she says), but as with the much maligned Soul Man, viewers need to look beyond the surface to see the film’s message, which is encouragingly respectful of the overweight and their sensitivities. On the other hand, the film’s message has its own negative. Hal’s “gift” seems to confirm the generality that kind people with great personalities are ugly and vice versa, and the attractive ones are probably nasty deep down. The truth is that personality has little to do with looks, but the film doesn’t go that far.

In Shallow Hal, it’s the humor that’s shallow and the themes that at least try to be deep. My VC does have a soft spot for it, likely due to the ending lesson to love regardless of appearances. Though it could have been much better, its caricatured heart is in the right place.

Best line: (Hal) “You know, there are a few times in a guy’s life – and I mean two or three, tops – when he comes to a crossroads, and he’s gotta decide. If he goes one way, he can keep doing what he’s been doing and be with any woman who’ll have him. And if he goes the other way, he gets to be with only one woman, maybe, maybe for the rest of his life. Now it seems that by taking the other road, he’s missing out on a lot. But the truth is, he gets much more in return. He gets to be happy.”

 

Rank: Honorable Mention

 

© 2016 S. G. Liput
411 Followers and Counting

 

High Plains Drifter (1973)

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Into town the stranger rode,
No history or name.
Revenge was due, a debt was owed,
And yet no other came.
All in town their worry showed
But covered up their shame,
Remembering the episode
For which they were to blame.
The still and sullen streets forebode
A secret, savage aim.
Into town the stranger rode,
And justice did the same.
________________

MPAA rating: R

For someone who loves movies, I do seem to have some glaring blind spots when it comes to expanding my repertoire. I’m a stranger to Tarantino and zombie films (though I don’t really care to be acquainted), and I’ve just recently begun exploring the most recent James Bond, Oliver Stone, and classic Hitchcock. One actor/director I know more by reputation than experience is Clint Eastwood. High Plains Drifter is actually the first western I’ve seen of his, and it confirmed why he is such a commanding screen presence.

Drawing from Eastwood’s experience with spaghetti westerns, High Plains Drifter also borrows certain elements from the likes of Seven Samurai and High Noon. Like Seven Samurai and its American remake The Magnificent Seven, the small desert town of Lago, named for the oddly located lake bordering it, lives in fear of the return of vengeful bandits and looks to a skilled stranger for salvation. Like High Noon, the film builds to the inevitable showdown between the lone defender and the encroaching enemy. A key question that sets High Plains Drifter apart, though, is “Is the town worth saving?” The townspeople in Seven Samurai and High Noon were prone to ingratitude and fear, but the settlers of Lago sit upon a cruel secret that takes much of the sympathy out of their plight.

Eastwood has played many a tough guy for the ages, not least of which is the nameless Stranger who rides into town without a word, backed by Dee Barton’s spookily atmospheric score. When the Stranger proves his grit and his aim by killing Lago’s supposed defenders, the sheriff begs him to protect them, promising him anything he wants in return. Despite his distaste for the town, the Stranger agrees and proceeds to take full advantage of the open-ended offer, ordering free drinks, the entire hotel to himself, and other unreasonable demands that seem meant to punish the town as a whole. The film walks a fine line between the Stranger’s abuse and how deserving the town may be of it, crossing the line on occasion when he freely rapes two women, who unrealistically don’t seem to mind too much after the fact. Except for that needless exploitation, Eastwood’s Stranger proves to be a compellingly mysterious anti-hero, whose intentions for the town itself remain uncertain right to the end. When asked what comes after the showdown, he defiantly replies, “Then you live with it.”

Far from Eastwood’s first rodeo, High Plains Drifter is a brazen western that questions the decency of frontier folk. Aside from Eastwood, Billy Curtis plays his closest ally, the diminutive Mordecai who has also felt the town’s malice, and Richard Bull appears as a shopkeeper, a year before he played the owner of Oleson’s Mercantile on Little House on the Prairie. I can’t say how High Plains Drifter compares with Eastwood’s other westerns (yet), but it’s a somewhat haunting entry in the western genre that gives a whole new meaning to “painting the town red.”

Best line: (the Stranger, after an overdue assault from his rape victim) “Wonder what took her so long to get mad?”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2016 S. G. Liput
411 Followers and Counting

 

Experimenter (2015)

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Our human nature is a lake
Where most content themselves to take
A shallow view for comfort’s sake,
But few will dare the deep.
The poets plumb it with their verse,
And nihilists would make it worse
While sages study to reverse
Its ever-waning creep.

When someone dives and brings to light
A bit of psyche to indict
That questions what is wrong and right,
How often do we balk!
We point the finger, hide from view,
Insist that it cannot be true,
And say we’re wiser than the few
Who failed temptation’s knock.

To fear a truth and disregard
Depravities that perish hard
Will leave us only further marred
By lessons left unlearned.
The depths we’d rather not explore
Are those we most should not ignore,
For by the schemer who knows more
Is human nature turned.
________________

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for one lone obscenity and some subject matter, could even be PG)

I had never heard of the Milgram experiment before Experimenter, but its social impact is considerable. While hearing of the shock-based college study brought to mind Venkman’s similar parody at the beginning of Ghostbusters, the actual experiment touched upon serious questions ranging from the compliance of Nazi subordinates to social engineering and people’s natural reluctance to rebel against authority. It’s thought-provoking research, which inspired an equally provocative film.

While Experimenter is a scrutiny of Stanley Milgram himself as well as a restaging of his most famous work, it begins where his fame did: the shock experiment. As Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) watches from behind a one-way mirror, his assistant brings in two volunteers, one to answer questions and receive electric shocks for wrong answers and one to administer the questions and shocks. The shock-ee is actually part of the ruse and re-creates sounds of pain from a closed room, while the shocker is urged to continue increasing the voltage no matter what. A majority of participants lacked the will to resist and yielded to pressure to deliver supposedly life-threatening shocks, simply because they were told to. Only 35% refused.

The orchestrated scenario forms the beginning of the film but is also intercut with Milgram’s life, including meeting his eventual wife (Winona Ryder). During all this, Sarsgaard speaks directly to the audience, discussing the experiment and his findings like a purveyor of mental provocation. Indeed, that’s how he sees himself and his job as a social psychologist; he’s merely presenting facts for academia and the public to discern as they will and is surprised at the controversy he attracts. More people seem critical of how he tricked his participants than of their actual responses. Later, Milgram tries to diversify his reputation with different social experiments, like confirming the “Six Degrees of Separation” principle that applies to more than just Kevin Bacon, but he’s always pulled back to his original shock experiment, both by colleagues and in the public eye.

Throughout the film are examples of how Milgram’s work was viewed. He’s forced to conduct followup interviews to test the emotional “damage” done to participants. Uninformed strangers complain about how he shocks people, not even understanding the details of the experiment. When Milgram informs his class that President Kennedy’s been shot, no one believes him, thinking it’s just a hoax to elicit a reaction. In addition, the filmmakers employ some curious creative choices, such as changing some backgrounds into stage-like painted backdrops. At certain points during Milgram’s fourth-wall-breaking narration, an elephant appears behind him, suggesting that he is always followed by “the elephant in the room.”

Sarsgaard does an outstandingly muted job in the role of Milgram, as does Ryder as his wife, though their marital struggles are a bit too generic to compare with the social questions presented. I was surprised at some of the minor supporting players: Jim Gaffigan ventures away from comedy as one of Milgram’s accomplices, while Dennis Haysbert plays Ossie Davis, who appeared with William Shatner in a 1976 TV movie about the Milgram experiment called The Tenth Level. Even the late Anton Yelchin appears in a barely noticeable role as an aide to the experiment.

Experimenter‘s deliberate pace doesn’t make it the most entertaining of biopics, but it’s a psychologically stimulating study that, like Milgram, asks difficult questions for the viewer to consider. As one of Milgram’s colleagues posits about atrocities, “The techniques change, the victims change, but it’s still a question. How do these things happen? How are they institutionalized?” The answers may be disturbing, but they are better off acknowledged than scorned. We as humans hate to think of what any one of us could be capable of under the worst conditions, but the worst parts of human nature are not all-inclusive. Thirty-five percent refused to continue the experiment. Would that include you?

Best line: (Milgram) “Human nature can be studied but not escaped, especially your own.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2016 S. G. Liput
410 Followers and Counting

Opinion Battles Round 18 – Favourite Zombie Movie

For the love of brains, be sure to vote for your favorite zombie movie in the latest Opinion Battle. I went the action route by picking World War Z, since I’m not a horror buff, but there are quite a few undead flicks to choose from.

Movie Reviews 101

Opinion Battles Round 18

Favourite Zombie Movie

Zombie movies have become one of the most popular sub genres of horror and while we do get plenty of stinkers we always get to see the best director give us a fresh spin on them. This round we have a large amount of films but which do you think is the best choice.

I will not be accepting any entries for the next round because I will be having a holiday but if you want to enter the round after we are picking our Favourite Clive Owen Roles which has a deadline of 2nd October 2016 and the choice will need to be entered to moviereviews101@yahoo.co.uk.

Darren – Movie Reviews 101

Dawn of the Deaddawn 1

Dawn of the Dead was the second entry of the George A Romero Of the Dead franchise and the film also sent out the message…

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Cartoon Comparisons: Upside Down (2012) / Patema Inverted (2014)

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Right-side up is upside down
To those who smile when they frown,
To those who plunge whene’er they jump
Or rise when tripping on a bump
Or gobble down and up their meals
And sink a little in high heels,
To those who elevate a bit
If they lean over, kneel, or sit,
To those who set a precedent
When they descend on their ascent.
Up and down can be subjective.
‘Tis a matter of perspective.
____________________

MPAA rating for Upside Down: PG-13
MPAA rating for Patema Inverted: should be PG

For the next Cartoon Comparison, I’ve chosen two science fiction films with wildly imaginative concepts that happen to be suspiciously similar. Both the live-action Upside Down from Canada and the anime Patema Inverted from Japan feature the idea of opposite gravities: people walking on the ceilings, objects falling up, and the unlikelihood of two oppositely oriented young people overcoming the hatred of their politically hostile worlds. What differs is the way their worlds interact and the pseudo-scientific “explanation” for the curious gravitational situation.

Upside Down came first so if there was any copying being done, the live-action film can claim to be the original. Here, as explained by the narration of Adam (Jim Sturgess), two planets orbit each other so closely that there is essentially no sky. Looking up from either world, one simply sees the other planet’s surface, about as far away as a skyscraper, echoing perhaps the folding city street in Inception. One planet is considered Up Top, full of wealth and societal power, while the other is the economically exploited Down Below, though there’s no telling how they were named, considering the potential confusion of “up” and “down.” Luckily, the extraordinary visuals elevate the film’s none-too-subtle class struggle. Even if there were moments that I wasn’t sure what I was seeing at first, the remarkable effects were a marvel to the eye.

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As for the love story, Adam from Down Below happens to meet Eden (Kirsten Dunst) from Up Top, and they share remote romantic rendezvous in the mountains until the government breaks them apart. Years later, as Adam experiments with a practical anti-gravity serum, he seizes a chance to see Eden again at Transworld, the tower-like corporate bridge between the two worlds. The two leads certainly have chemistry, but due to a certain plot point, they don’t get to take much advantage of it, and Sturgess’s behavior can be awkward at times.

Yet Adam’s quest to reunite with Eden without being caught by the authorities leads to a good deal of inventiveness, such as his attempt to weigh himself “up” and pose as a citizen of Up Top. Unfortunately, logic gets in the way at times, including the film’s own invented gravitational rules. For instance, Adam never seems to have a problem with the blood flowing to his head when upside down. Wouldn’t that be both uncomfortable and a possible give-away to anyone who might notice? In addition, one of the planetary laws is that matter from opposite worlds eventually burns, but the time it takes for this to happen seems inconsistent. By film’s end, the conclusion is peculiarly rushed, offering a blanket resolution to crucial issues it couldn’t hope to address and doesn’t try. Upside Down is brilliant in concept, less so in execution, but the visuals alone are worth the watch.

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Upside Down may have come first, but Patema Inverted utilizes the notion of inverse gravity far better, in my opinion. Perhaps the fantastical image of falling up is simply more credible in animation rather than live-action CGI, but it certainly captured the imagination of director Yasuhiro Yoshiura, who previously directed the compelling series-turned-movie Time of Eve. (I was impressed by both Patema and Time of Eve separately but didn’t realize till afterward that they shared the same director.)

Instead of the up-front exposition of Upside Down, Patema Inverted takes its time to show and develop the gravitational anomalies as the characters discover them. Patema is a girl living in a City of Ember-like underground bunker and seems to be one of the few inhabitants to show an interest in the Forbidden Zone, where dust floats upward and “bat people” are rumored to lurk. After a close encounter, she finds herself dangling from a fence with the sky looming “below” her. Luckily, she is saved by the equally curious surface boy Age, who seems upside down to her. Age lives under a totalitarian dystopian government, whose leader is determined to root out the surviving inverts, who made their way underground after a catastrophic accident sent most of them falling into the sky years ago.

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Upside Down basically lacked any sky; there was only so far someone could fall. Patema Inverted, however, makes the sky an imposing threat, a beautiful but dangerous abyss ready to swallow Patema without Age’s assistance. The animation is frequently dazzling, especially when the point of view shifts to contrast Age’s perspective with Patema’s. As Patema ventures into Age’s world and he ventures into hers, the distinction of up and down becomes fluid. The plot even takes some initially confusing twists that challenge the viewer’s perceptions and require some extra thought to fully comprehend. Some might be befuddled, but I found it fascinating. Plus, the musical score is enchanting and perfectly complements the film, including the gorgeous credits song “Patema Inverse,” which is sung in Esperanto and earns a place in the End Credits Song Hall of Fame. Between this and Time of Eve, I’m definitely hoping that Yoshiura continues to create such intriguing films.

I will admit that Patema Inverted seems to draw some inspiration from Upside Down. The cause of the inverted gravity differs (natural phenomenon vs. manmade disaster), but how the two gravities interact is the same: the lesser weight lightens the gravity of the other. This leads to the couples in both films holding on to each other to prevent the other from falling away, and being able to defy gravity by using each other’s weight. Writing about it doesn’t seem to do it justice, but it’s clever, cool, and undeniably similar in both films. As original as Patema Inverted is, I can’t help but wonder how much inspiration it drew from the earlier film. In addition, Patema is also rather slow in its gradual plot progression, and the villain is stereotypically bad for bad’s sake.

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Despite these minor “down”-sides, Patema Inverted is easily the better film. Upside Down may have brought gravitational sci-fi to life first, but its conventional plot can’t compare with the thought-provoking vision of its animated counterpart.

Best line from Upside Down: (Adam) “Gravity, they say you can’t fight it. Well, I disagree. What if love was stronger than gravity?”

Best line from Patema Inverted: (Age, when holding onto Patema) “I get it! Your weight makes me light.”  (Patema) “Girls don’t like it when you talk like that!”

 

Rank for Upside Down: List Runner-Up
Rank for Patema Inverted: List-Worthy

 

© 2016 S. G. Liput
408 Followers and Counting

World Trade Center (2006)

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Do you recall the sirens?
The smoke-enveloped holes?
The billow blurred
And heavenward
Conveyed the victims’ souls.

Do you recall the terror
Of what was next to come,
The utter hell
As bodies fell
And minds and hearts went numb?

I didn’t watch the pictures
Ingrained on every brain.
I’ve seen them since
And felt the wince
That others bore with pain.

Like me, a generation
Has grown up towerless.
The shock and awe
That once was raw
We’ve had years to suppress.

One might regard us lucky,
The way we understand,
A distance free
From history
That many saw firsthand.

Although the blow is muted
For those younger than I,
We won’t let fade
The price once paid
By heroes when they die.
________________

MPAA rating: PG-13

Last year, I wanted to commemorate 9/11 by seeing the deeply effective United 93, and this year I did the same with World Trade Center, the slightly less acclaimed film from the same year. Based on the real-life experiences of Port Authority police officers John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno, who were buried under the rubble of Ground Zero, World Trade Center poignantly recreates the cavalcade of emotions of that infamous day.

From the first scenes, the film conjures the calm before the storm as everyday people perform their morning routines. Neither Jimeno (Michael Peña) nor his no-nonsense sergeant McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) seems notable in their roles, yet when a plane flies into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, neither hesitates to venture into its lower levels. These early scenes highlight the uncertainty of the moment: conflicting reports of the severity of the damage, falling bodies, officers and civilians alike staring in shock at the smoking tower; and most of the scenes of the building seemed to be actual footage rather than a re-creation.

Despite the potent depiction of familiar events, most of the film is concerned with the aftermath, from McLoughlin and Jimeno struggling to stay alive beneath the debris to their worrying families. While a few scenes are confusing and the pacing becomes a bit paralyzed during their wait, the story still holds a relatable force in each family’s agonizing anticipation and the relieved cheer at any good news. Both Cage and Peña deliver excellent performances, as do Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal as their respective wives, and the ordeal is compelling enough that tears are probable by the end. (Also, Lost alert for William Mapother or “Ethan” as a Marine.)

World Trade Center is an admirable tribute to the first responders of 9/11, an impartial testimony thankfully free of the political messages for which its director, Oliver Stone, is known. I especially respect the religious overtones so often absent or limited in disaster movies; here, they extend to desperate prayers, God-led duties, and even a literal manifestation of Jesus. Even so, with its recognizable stars and anxieties common to most disaster films, it feels like a 9/11 movie, whereas United 93 felt like observing the actual events. Nonetheless, both are worthwhile commemorations of the courageous sacrifices made fifteen years ago.

Best line: (McLoughlin) “9/11 showed us what human beings are capable of. The evil, yeah, sure. But it also brought out the goodness we forgot could exist. People taking care of each other for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. It’s important for us to talk about that good, to remember. ‘Cause I saw a lot of it that day.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2016 S. G. Liput
407 Followers and Counting

My Top Twelve Candy in Movies

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Aw, candy, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. No, I’m not referring to John Candy, Candy Crush, or a girl named Candy. I’m talking about sweets, the confections, desserts, and snacks that help make life worth living. And like most foods, candy has had its place in the spotlight in many, many movies. Thus, before I raid my secret stash, it’s time to count down my favorite uses of candy in movies (No cookies, cakes, pies, or baked goods allowed, for that is another list and shall be told another time.)

 

  1. Die Hard

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Only true fans of the famous actioner would probably remember this tiny but laughable scene. Right before the SWAT team invades the Nakatomi building, one of the baddies named Uli takes his position at a food counter and can’t resist the free candy bars on display. It’s a Crunch bar so I don’t blame him. It’s funny that the actor Al Leong also proved his sweet tooth the next year as the Twinkie-eating Genghis Khan in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

 

  1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Image result for cloudy with a chance of meatballs gummy bears

This movie has no shortage of food, but among the many of types of candy on display is the monkey Steve’s obsession with gummy bears. When giant gummies attack the flying car like buzz droids, Steve goes psycho on them.

 

  1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Image result for narnia turkish delight

Did anyone know what Turkish Delight was before this book/movie? It looks like some kind of rugalach, but no, it’s “a family of confections based on a gel of starch and sugar,” according to Wikipedia. I’m still not sure what it tastes like, but it’s obviously addictive enough to make Edmund betray his brother and sisters to an evil witch. Enchanted or not, I’ve got to try some of that stuff!

 

  1. Up

Image result for up pixar russell chocolate

Apparently large South American cryptid birds are partial to chocolate. Russell’s chocolate bars serve to attract the giant colorful bird he names Kevin and even play a role in the vertiginous climax.

 

  1. Caddyshack


 
In a scene that made you rethink what exactly a Baby Ruth looks like, a swimming pool is quickly cleared when people see an unidentified candy bar floating around and leap to the worst possible conclusion. Bill Murray, you slob you.

 

  1. Chocolat

Image result for chocolat film

I haven’t seen most of the movies with candy in the title, like Hard Candy, Candyman, Like Water for Chocolate, or Looking for Mr. Goodbar, but Chocolat’s place on this list should be self-explanatory. While I have some issues with the film itself, it’s a true love letter to the seductive power of chocolate.

 

  1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial


 
A classic example of product placement, Elliott lures E.T. out with a trail of Reese’s Pieces. If I visited a strange planet with treats like that, I’d be happy too. Mars, Inc., no doubt regretted their decision to not allow M&M’s to be used instead.

 

  1. Grave of the Fireflies

Image result for grave of the fireflies fruit drops

On a much more sober note, the Sakuma Drops in Grave of the Fireflies serve as a slowly depleted vestige of Seita and Setsuko’s life before the war. Eventually, the fruit drop tin takes on far sadder and more bitter contents. Commemorative tins like the one in the film are now collector’s items.

 

  1. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang


 
Two words: toot sweets. This underrated childhood classic features an entire musical numbers dedicated to Dick Van Dyke’s newly invented confection. Let’s not forget also the Child Catcher, who lures children with promises of lollipops.

 

  1. Wreck-It Ralph

Image result for wreck it ralph sugar rush

In the world of the Sugar Rush racing game, ruled by King Candy, there’s all manner of sweets as part of the landscape and the population (Laffy Taffy, Sour Bill). Many elements seem suspiciously similar to the Candy Kingdom in the cartoon series Adventure Time, but both are a sweet tooth’s dream.

 

  1. Forrest Gump

Image result for forrest gump chocolates

“Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.” Enough said.

 

  1. Willy Wonka/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


 
Was there ever any doubt? The late Gene Wilder brought Willy Wonka to life, and his incredible edibles did justice to Roald Dahl’s candy-centric book. From the Wonka bar that holds the Golden Ticket to the Everlasting Gobstoppers and the entirely edible Chocolate Room, it’s enough to make any candy lover drool. For all its missteps (ahem, Johnny Depp), the remake does get the candy side of the story right. As Charlie Bucket says, “Candy doesn’t have to have a point. That’s why it’s candy.”

 

Runners-Up (though I’m sure I’ve missed some so feel free to mention others):

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Lex Luthor’s weird Jolly Rancher scene

Bedtime Stories – A lame Adam Sandler movie made memorable by raining gumballs.

The Breakfast Club – What goes well with white bread, butter, and Cap’n Crunch? Pixy Stix!

Empire of the Sun – “Would you like a Hershey bar?”

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – “Gummi bear? It’s been in my pocket; they’re real warm and soft.”

The Garden of Words – Beer and chocolate for breakfast? Someone’s depressed.

The Goonies – Still need to see this movie, but I know there’s a scene with a Baby Ruth.

Hop – Why did this movie ruin jelly beans?!

The Hunt for Red October – I’ve heard that the jelly beans being eaten were a reference to President Reagan’s love for the candy.

The Iron Giant – Hogarth tricks Agent Mansley with a laxative chocolate bar.

Little Shop of Horrors – In Bill Murray’s hilarious cameo, he gleefully cheers for a candy bar during his dental appointment.

Pokémon: Jirachi Wish Maker – Jirachi can be annoying when it says “Candy!” over and over.

This Is the End – Everyone claims the world’s last Milky Way bar.

Tootsie – Dustin Hoffman tries to regift the chocolate-covered cherries he received as “Dorothy.”

Two Brothers – Guy Pearce comforts one of the tiger cubs with lemon drops.

 

For the record, here’s a list of my personal favorite candies, and those of my VC. What are your favorites?

My Favorites                                              My VC’s Favorites

12.  Mr. Goodbar                                       12.  Jelly beans
11.  Kit Kat                                               11.  Nestle Crunch
10.  York peppermint patty                        10. Snickers
9.  Hershey bar (preferably Dark)               9. Chocolate-covered potato chips
8.  Truffles                                                8.  Mounds
7.  Nestle Crunch / Buncha Crunch              7.  York peppermint patty
6.  Cherry cordials                                     6.  Bridge mix
5.  Chocolate-covered potato chips              5.  Reese’s peanut butter cups
4.  Twix                                                    4.  Cherry cordials
3.  Reese’s peanut butter cups                    3.  Truffles
2.  Chocolate-Covered macadamia nuts       2.  Sno-Caps
1.  M&M’s (Peanut or Pretzel)                      1.  M&M’s (regular or dark)

You can probably tell I love chocolate, and to conclude, here’s the reason why I enjoy screaming the word “Chocolate!” every now and then.

Finding Dory (2016)

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Image result for finding dory

 

Not knowing where you’re headed
Or even where you’re from
Can lead you to frontiers remote
And thrills to keep yourself afloat
And friends you never thought you’d meet,
And yet you still feel incomplete.
You may seem empty-headed,
But none should think you dumb.

With memories returning
And hopes you can’t subdue,
You may pursue the past one day
In hopes that what you lost will stay.
The blanker slate is worry-free,
But most would fill it happily.
The answer to your yearning
Is waiting there for you.
_____________________

MPAA rating: PG

Of all the studios churning out unnecessary sequels to films widely considered untouchable, I trust Pixar the most. Finding Nemo is one of my most beloved films, animated or not, and when a sequel is announced for one of your favorites, I think most people are torn between excitement and fear of disappointment. I wanted Finding Dory to be good, but how could it compare to the original? Luckily, as they’ve proven in every case but Cars 2, Pixar isn’t content to drop the ball for sequels and managed to create a worthwhile story dedicated to everyone’s favorite forgetful fish.

From the very beginning, as the adorable short film Piper segues to an equally adorable baby Dory, Finding Dory cleverly builds a film based entirely on a single line from the first film: Dory’s brief mention of family and the quickly forgotten question “Where are they?” It seemed like a throwaway gag at the time, but Dory is no throwaway character. We see in repeated flashbacks how her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) struggled to train and encourage her to overcome her short-term memory loss, and the separation that follows highlights what a disability it is. As hilarious as Dory’s antics are, I never really considered how vulnerable and directionless her condition made her. It’s no wonder that Marlin’s mission filled such a void in her life, and now it’s his and Nemo’s turn to help Dory find her own family, which happens to lead them to the Marine Life Institute in California.

One thing that should be said of Finding Dory is that Pixar has not limited themselves for believability. A gleeful absurdity runs through many parts and particularly during the hilarious climax, not unlike the off-the-wall creativity in Inside Out. But whereas that was inside a girl’s head, this is ostensibly the real world, and a greater suspension of disbelief is required as fish jump between every body of water in sight, big or small. Most examples can be easily overlooked, but it is odd that the first film made an epic quest out of the distance between the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney, while this one transports the characters from Australia to California within minutes. I guess the destination is more important than the journey in this case. Other questions abound, like “Do whale sharks really speak whale (when they are actual sharks, not whales)?” and “Does underwater echolocation really work outside the water too?” But if you just roll with the filmmakers’ indulgences, none of these should affect one’s enjoyment.

The animation is just as spectacular as the first film’s and greater in many cases, especially a first-person slide-away that heightens the trauma of the moment. Seeing the diversely populated exhibits at the institute reminded me of the wonder I always relished whenever I’d visit an aquarium as a kid. That was always my favorite kind of field trip, and Finding Dory reminded me how much I miss those visits, though I have an entirely new view of those innocent little touch pools. The voice cast is also superb, between the return of Ellen DeGeneres as Dory and Albert Brooks as Marlin, and the addition of a host of supporting players, from barking sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West) to the grumpy octopus Hank (Ed O’Neill), whose lithe acrobatics facilitate most of the out-of-water experiences. My VC can’t stand the sight of octopi, and while she has yet to see Finding Dory, I’m hoping Hank will alleviate her dislike a bit. I would have liked a little more backstory for him (Could the next movie be Finding Hank?), but he’s a welcome addition, especially on a visual level.

Image result for finding dory

In a way, Finding Dory is like a much improved version of what Cars 2 attempted: giving a popular side character the spotlight to have an adventure of their own and affirm their worth. But whereas Cars 2 had little to say about Mater other than “he’s a lovable idiot so love him,” Dory’s situation has far more depth and empathy. Essentially a fish version of Leonard from Memento without the benefit of tattoos, she’s a constantly rebooting blank slate whose desire to remember is both heartbreaking and warmly resolute. Even if I don’t quite agree with her assertion that “the best things happen by chance,” Dory remains as endearing and sincere a presence as ever.

I won’t try to pretend that Finding Dory is as good as its predecessor, but I’ve seen Finding Nemo countless times. I remember crowing with laughter at Dory speaking whale, yet when you know a film practically by heart, sometimes it loses something and you wish you could see it again for the first time. Above all, Finding Dory let me laugh-out-loud with these characters again and many new ones besides. For example, I never expected Pixar to pull off such a hilarious parody of a scene from Alien and the unrelated casting of Sigourney Weaver just made it better. Finding Dory filled in gaps I didn’t think needed answering and brought me somewhat of that same feeling I had watching the first film as a ten-year-old. If a sequel had to be made, I’m glad it was this one.

Best line: (Dory) “Sigourney Weaver is going to help us!”

 

Rank: List-Worthy (joining Finding Nemo)

 

© 2016 S. G. Liput
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