First Friday Films | Take Four

First Friday Films | Take Four
The Oscar Race continues...

I'm still enjoying the run of substantive scripts and political plot lines gracing our megaplexes. It's only a matter of time until movies stop grasping for Oscars, go back to sucking, and I retreat back to the Film Society and obscure world cinema waiting to be discovered on the library shelves, but for now...

Into the Wild
When the film ended and I sat glued to my seat, tears in my eyes, and a knot in my stomach, I knew the experience would haunt me. I didn't expect, however, that it would still be haunting me weeks and weeks later. The genius behind this haunting experience is most definitely Sean Penn (the film's screenwriter & director, and a golden idol worshiped by yours truly), but not to be overlooked is Emile Hirsch who nailed the role of Chris McCandless.

For me this is a love story. It's a love story about Chris's passionate affair with nature, his fling with the freedom of the open road, and the eternal quest to find an authentic self. I have a wanderlust in me that will not be satiated, but I believe that deep within every person is the desire to be free and live authentically. For Chris McCandless that meant hitchhiking, living off the land, spending years of his life virtually alone and in search of...something. Not many take it to that extreme, but there is something profoundly, universally human about this film. I've heard from friends that have read Krakauer's book (I haven't yet) that it's a bit different than the film. It's definitely on my to-read list. Oh and Eddie Veder's soundtrack, it should be noted, is a character in the film in its own right.

Dan in Real Life
Cute, funny, lame, plays out like a poorly written sitcom, but Steve Carrel is sweet, super good looking, and quite charming. Because of him, even this mildly inane film is worth watching. Dane Cook, however, WTF? Doesn't he have beer cans that need crushing against a forehead or something? Run along.

Lions for Lambs
"Rome is burning, son!" Rome is burning and I'm glad this movie stepped into the fray. This movie is such an awesome surprise. Knowing that Cruise produced it (his first project as head of United Artists), Redford directed it, and Streep acted in it, one would assume it's a liberal flick preaching to the liberal choir. Not so much. The brilliance of this film is that it's perfectly balanced. Perfectly. If you go into this movie thinking George Bush is right, America is infallible, and we're taking the right approach in the "war on terror"'ll leave feeling validated and represented by this film. If you go into this movie thinking George Bush is doing incredible harm, America deserves better, and we need to pull out of Iraq'll leave feeling validated and represented by this film. Brilliant.

The three stories told in the film take place simultaneously and all in the course of about one hour. You watch a conservative senator have a heated conversation with a liberal journalist. You watch a passionate university professor have a debate with an apathetic young student. You watch two U.S. soldiers stranded in the snowy mountains of Afghanistan, eventually both killed by Taliban fighters. Redford is never shy about cramming metaphors down your throat and this movie is customarily thinly veiled. The message? "The problem is not with the leaders who started this, the problem is with us. They bank on your apathy. The build entire strategies around it." The point? Have the conversation. This movie doesn't provide answers, it only starts the conversation. It doesn't tell you if the soldiers died in vain. It doesn't tell you what the apathetic young student decides to do with the challenge posed by his professor. It doesn't tell you what story the journalist publishes. It only starts the dialogue that every person in America, if they would stop consuming long enough to be citizens again, should be having.

In the film, in a debate about consumerism in our culture, a college student flippantly asks: "When did Americans not want big homes and high walls?" The profound response came from a classmate: "July 5, 1776. December 8, 1941. September 12, 2001." We need to have this conversation now. The immediacy created by telling all three stories in real time in about an hour is Redford's not-subtle way of telling us the time is now. In the time it takes you to watch this film, two more soldiers, albeit fictional characters in a film, have died. And many soldiers and citizens have lost their lives in the time it took you to read this post? Start the conversation. Start by seeing Lions for Lambs.

American Gangster
I can't get enough Russell Crowe. I really like him and I really like the films/roles he chooses (A Good Year as a possible exception). This script is so tight and so perfectly woven that even though the movie feels eight hours long, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. I honestly cared to know what happened to each character and it's a rare film that can hook you like that. What's more is that I'm not terribly interested in gangster thriller films...and yet it held my attention through to the very end. Well done.

As an undergrad I trudged through this epic in its original old English verse and when I first heard Hollywood got its hands on it I was interested in the way we're interested in car accidents. You don't want to look and but you're oddly compelled to rubberneck. From what I understand, Beowulf is supposed to be seen in 3D. I didn't watch it in 3D and perhaps that explains the annoying half-animation slash half-human situation I was faced with. Very confusing. And yet, like a train wreck, oddly compelling. The cinematic style grew on me and sometimes, when I let my eyes relax and cross a bit, it got better and was almost 3D. Angelina Jolie, it goes without explanation, is wicked hot in her gold body paint (and CGI hips). My goodness. But even my crush on her, I'm sorry to say, wouldn't get me in the theatre a second time.

Reign Over Me
I realize this came out eons ago...but it was another Redbox impulse rent. I like Adam Sandler in dramatic roles. I think that when he wants to, he can make pretty decent movies (
Punch Drunk Love, for example). Not to say that Happy Gilmore isn't a modern classic among the likes of Gone with the Wind. I thought Reign Over Me is tastefully done. It's a quiet, sweet movie about friendship and grief. I've posted before about my fascination with films portraying male friendships and this is another good example. Don Cheadle is flawless and completely steals the show.

I didn't do nearly enough blow in preparation for this bizarre flick, nor was I drunk enough. I attended a free sneak preview and once I figured out how to block the noise of sticky children running up and down the aisles (I guess their parents dropped them off and were back home in the barn), Enchanted was pretty funny. I mean, let's be honest, it's stupid and contrived, but somehow it ended up being really funny. You have not lived until you watch a hamster play charades for three minutes straight. What?!

I'll never say no to Patrick Dempsey (even in a ball gown) and Susan Sarandon is wicked hot (not pun intended) in her witchy get-up. I also like that it tried to turn the tired fairy tale on its head. In other words, not to ruin the suspenseful ending for those of you dying to see it, the princess kicks ass and saves the prince's life. That's what I'm talkin' about.

August Rush
Cynics beware, don't bother with August Rush. If you're not willing to suspend judgement and let yourself be swept up in a dazzlingly magical story, spend your money on American Gangster. If you are willing to let yourself be charmed, romanced, and flat out seduced by the idea that anything is possible, you must. see. this. movie.

The fact that there is a harmonic connection among all living things on this planet (harmonic patterns throughout the entire cosmos, for that matter) is nothing new or controversial. What is beautiful to me is the way that this film took that harmonic concept from the abstract universal and translated it into something extremely specific and personal. In the case of August Rush, two musicians fall in love, have a one night stand, a child (put in an orphanage), and a passionate emotional connection even though they have no contact with each other outside their one night together. Ultimately, it's music that brings all three people (the musician lovers and their child) together after 11 years have gone by.

I knew what I was getting into with this movie and I was very willing to be charmed, romanced and flat out seduced by a happy ending. So between Jonathan Rhys Myers (ranked securely in my Top Five Sexiest Men on Planet Earth. Match Point, anyone? Don't make me gush about the Tudors (Google an image search and I promise you won't be disappointed)) and this refreshingly sweet script, I was not disappointed. Lovely all around.

High School Musical 1 & 2

Before your mouth gapes in shocked horror at the fact that until 23 November 2007 I had never heard of High School Musical, consider that: A) I'm not a bubble gum popping thirteen year old; B) By intentional choice my only media outlets are PBS and NPR; C) I don't read Rolling Stone, Teen Beat, or InTouch; and D) I'm not a bubble gum popping thirteen year old. To reiterate. And yet, as of 07 December 2007, I have sincerely requested that both DVDs be stuffed in my Christmas stocking.

So I'm at my parent's house for Thanksgiving weekend and having just finished a non-fiction memoir about the Rwandan genocide I found myself detoxing by flipping through no less than 500 channels on the boob tube. With approximately two seconds on each channel I can't say I caught much of anything...until I fell in love with Zac Efron. Two seconds. That's all it took. Turns out the Disney Channel was playing High School Musical 1 & 2 back to back all. day. long. All! Day! (And no, I won't tell you how many times I watched them). Not only were they airing these addicting treats back-to-back, there were little pop-up bubbles displaying random behind-the-scenes facts about the cast, crew, and the experience of making the movies. So yes I'm like three years behind, but I bet you can't tell me that the milk cartons in the cafeteria were actually filled with Sprite or that the stairs in the high school were not painted red, but covered in sticky vinyl.

So speaking of my tasty jail bait, Zac has an overly-acted but rockin' dance solo in the second film and it's totally Footloosesque (floppy haired Kevin cracks open a cassette tape case, beats the steering wheel with his fists, shakes his little acid washed booty...I'm flushed at the thought). Speaking of, the world wide web told me Zac is working on a deal to remake the classic dance flick and play the Ren McCormick role. Cute as he is, not quite sure how I feel about that. I will tell you how I feel about the confirmation of High School Musical 3, however. Giddy as a bubble gum poppin' tweenyboppin' school girl.

Ramblings from the Route | Musical Meanderings

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