The Back To The Future Trilogy

A Note from Megan & Max:

It’s been a long time. We shouldn’t have left you without a strong post to step to…We know we’ve dropped this project for a while, but it’s been with good reason. We moved in June and our DVD’s were boxed up for a good while. Then…well we simply couldn’t find time. We’ve received a flattering number of requests for more, so after much cajoling from both sides, we finally got back on the horse. 

Now, why couldn’t we find time? We moved right as the order of The DVD Purge Project took us to the first of our trilogy collections. So we weren’t just finding time for one movie, but three. What trilogy, you ask, imaginary reader?

Back to the FutureWho Bought It?: MEGAN!

Why?: GREAT SCOTT!

Non-Buyer’s Response: No criticism from me. This right here is a classic.

Megan’s Thoughts: Back to the Future might be my favourite trilogy of all time. It’s got action, adventure, comedy, romance, science fiction, mystery…what more could you ask for?

Pepsi

I feel those feels, Marty.

I just love Back to the Future. I believe most great movies were made in the 80’s and early 90’s. Movies that gave me unrealistic expectations for my first kiss and unrealistic expectations for my high school experience. I can’t even properly analyze the structure or comment on the special effects (though, so impressed for what they were able to do in the 80’s) because I just have a big shit-eating grin on my face and a spring in my step after watching these three.

I have noticed that I’m most likely to comment, remember or quote the second one, when they go to the future. It’s probably because the first and third are set in the past, and therefore I can’t “look forward” to them. I mean, as of next year, it will be the “future” that Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale created. That’s heavy.

Fashion

This is how we’re supposed to dress next year.

So sign me up for a hoverboard and shoes that tighten themselves and flying cars, this is a big time keep it for me. And when I have kids, and they watch this movie, they too will become huge Michael J. Fox fans, they too will quote Doc Brown, and we’ll be able to point and laugh at the screen at what Zemeckis and Gale thought 2015 looked like. And it will be glorious.

Max’s Thoughts: So every now and again we’ll get to a movie that we obviously are going to keep. For all the stupid comedies and rom-com’s Megan bought because they were super-cheap, we do still own a few classics. Back to the Future is one of them. The first two movies in the trilogy are damn near perfect, and the third one falls just short of that. Whatever drug Steven Spielberg and his friends were on from 1977 (A New Hope) to 1993 (Jurassic Park) were, I want some of it. Unless it was just cocaine (which it probably was). It’s hard to analyze movie structure over the course of a trilogy, but individually, each Back to the Future is a master class on how to write a movie.

The stunning part for me, since I’d never actually seen the first or second movie (sue me), is just how well planned the time-travel elements are across the whole trilogy. There are things foreshadowed in the first film that don’t pay off until the third. Everything folds back in on itself temporally and everything from each movie matters in each other movie. There’s something about watching a time-travel plot unfold and never questioning how they deal with its effects on existence because it’s so well planned out that nearly makes me weep with joy. Like Futurama’s forwards-only time machine in The Late Phillip J. Fry, this trilogy is simply perfect.

No gifs from me, because you’ve seen it all.

Except for maybe this one.

Verdict: KEEP.

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Away From Her

Away From Her

Who Bought It?: Megan.

Why?: It was like $5 in the DVD sale bin at the movie store I worked at through high school plus it was nominated for all sorts of awards!

Non-Buyer’s Response:

Me when I found out we were watching a movie about Alzheimer's disease:

Me when I found out we were watching a movie about Alzheimer’s disease.

Megan’s Thoughts: I am struggling to put together my feelings on this film. Away From Her chronicles Grant (played by Gordon Pinsent, whose voice tugged at my heartstrings as I now realize he was King Babar in the cartoon Babar that I watched as a child) and Fiona (played by Julie Christie, whose gray hair was so magnificent in this film I am actually jealous of it) Anderson’s journey as, after 44 years of marriage, Fiona’s memory fades and they discover she has Alzheimer’s.

Directed and written by Sarah Polley (based on the short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” by Alice Munro) the film weaves perfect moments of the past with troubled times of the present and deteriorating flashes of the future; it’s a heartbreaking look at love, marriage and relationships.

This was a hard film to watch sitting next to my husband. Every scene I started to wonder what I would do if I was in Grant’s situation. Or what it would be like to be in Fiona’s. Or the people around them. And it hurt to think about those things, but I was impressed that a film could effect me so deeply.

I think this is a great film. Though it could have been at least 20 minutes shorter, I thought it was well done from a performance and technical standpoint. And Canadian to boot! But at the end of the day, I will never sit through that movie again. I’d recommend it, and Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent give absolutely breathtaking performances, but it’s not something I wish to endure a second time.

For me, I’d like to toss this movie.

Max’s Thoughts: Away From Her might be the saddest movie I’ve ever seen. This is two of my worst nightmares wrapped up into one incredibly sad movie: Having my brain deteriorate and watching a loved one’s brain deteriorate. I cried. Like a bunch of times.

I’m not entirely sure if I was moved because I was invested in the characters or because the subject matter of the film forced me to think about some very heavy shit. The timing of us watching this movie, as is generally the case in life, was equally brutal and poetic. About a week ago I spent an hour  with my mom going through her end-of-life directives and some related paperwork. What she wanted done in the event of her brain falling apart came up repeatedly.

And then Away From Her came up in the Purge Project order.

Look, this is a great flick. No matter the actual content, if a movie makes me cry I can offer nothing but a tip of the cap. Pinsent and Christie are great (P.S. Julie Christie is a really hot old lady) and even Olympia Dukakis (OLYMPIA DUKAKIS?!?!?) is solid. But I never want to watch it again. TOSS.

Actual P.S.: This movie is so damn Canadian. Rugged, bleak landscape imagery? Check. Cross country skiing? Check. Lots of snow? Check. Cabins/cottages? Check. Weird sex? Check (old people sex…). Generally bleak filmic worldview? CHECK.

P.P.S.: I hate you for making me cry, Sarah Polley.

Verdict: Toss.

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Anastasia

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Who Bought It?: Megan.

Why?: It’s a great movie with an incredible cast of actors voicing the characters.

Non-Buyer’s Response: Wait. This isn’t a Disney movie?

Megan’s Thoughts: This movie is fabulous. Contrary to many assumptions, including Max whom I corrected several times leading up to and during our viewing, this is not a Disney movie. Fox Searchlight put out this magical wonder based loosely on some history Max knows and that I don’t care about because OH EM GEE GUYS, JOHN CUSACK PLAYS THE BEST HEARTTHROBS EVER EVEN WHEN ANIMATED EEEEeeeeeee!

I think this is a great animated feature. The headstrong Anya (Meg Ryan) seeks a family she is convinced must be in Paris, but she has no memory before she was 8 years old. She befriends two con men – Dimitri (John Cusack) and Vladmir (Kelsey Grammar) – and the three take off on an adventure to meet the Dowager Empress (Angela Lansbury). Meanwhile, convinced Anya is actually Anastasia, the last living member of the Russian Royal family, Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd) plans her demise with his bat sidekick Bartok (Hank Azaria.)

First of all, this:

Anastasia

I WANT TO BE A PRINCESS!

Uh, duh Fox Searchlight, you hit that nail on the head. When this came out, and I was 10 years old, I was like yeah that would be a pretty sweet gig. Surprise Princess! Second of all, Anya/Anastasia is a great female lead; she’s confident, smart, curious and fiercely independent. I loved her and thought she was witty.

Anastasia has heart, it has musical numbers, it has Bartok’s smarmy sass (seriously, he got his own spin-off movie he’s so funny) and after 17 years I still laugh at the jokes.

But when I really think about it, the reason I need to keep this movie is that after all this time I still have a crush on Dimitri. I’m not ashamed to admit attraction to an animated character and he’s right up there with Jim Hawkins from Treasure Planet and Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid.

Dimitri

I wish you’d look at me that way, Dimitri.

Now excuse me, I have to go assure my husband I won’t leave him for a cartoon.

Max’s Thoughts: So anyone with a cursory knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the fall of the Romanov family will have a fun time watching this one. In the film, Anastasia’s family flees during the Russian Revolution and Anastasia herself falls from the train, bonking her head and getting convenient movie-amnesia. In real life, the Romanov family was captured, held in captivity for a while, then murdered in a way that would make Game of Thrones’ Gregor Clegane blush. Together.

In real life, Rasputin was a controversial figure but he was a notable friend and confidant of the Tsar and was never banished. In Anastasia, Rasputin is a rotting corpse of a man who apparently started the Bolshevik Revolution and has an impossibly adorable bat sidekick.

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“…and then you get REAL crazy with the hips, sir.”

So this is basically a movie about Anya (Anastasia) waltzing through post-Revolution Russia, deftly dodging attempts on her life like only an animated princess can.

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I don’t really know about this one. It was fun, but treated the Bolshevik Revolution (probably the most important non-World-War event of the 20th century) with insensitivity and the wave of a hand. It is all attributed to Rasputin.

The only parts they got right was that there was a Princess named Anastasia once and that Rasputin drowned. But again, it’s fun and Megan likes it, so…a reluctant KEEP.

Verdict: Keep.

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American History X

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Who bought it? Max did, in his previously mentioned Edward Norton Phase.

Why? I liked this movie a lot when I bought it (that will usually be the “Why?” answer when it comes to the DVD’s that are mine).

Non-buyer’s response: Every time American History X is brought up Max gives me a sidelong glance with a creepy grin which makes me believe I will not enjoy this experience.

Max’s Thoughts: I was talking about this last night with Matt Hamilton, who writes The Actress Diaries with Megan and I. American History X has to be an auto-keep, right? Initially this was my thinking. It has the timeless curb-stomping scene (timeless in that it makes me as queasy today as it did when I was 13), the solid performances of Ethan Suplee, Avery Brooks, Chevy Chase’s wife from Christmas Vacation and the Edwards Norton and Furlong. It also has the least realistic dunk in the history of basketball in movies. 

A number of times during American History X, Megan turned to me and asked “How do you like this movie?” Sure, there is a ton of Neo-Nazi rhetoric and hate-speech spoken by the characters therein, but I do not think the movie itself endorses this rhetoric. However, she has a point. This is a movie about racism whose only named black characters are Dr. Robert Sweeney (Brooks) and Guy Torry’s prison underwear-folder, Lamont. It’s a movie about racism focusing on the racist white people. Is that problematic? Maybe. When there’s seemingly 30 total minutes of straight up white power speeches and almost no black voices to balance that out, it just might be.

But I think what always appealed to me about this movie was the fact that (spoilers) Derek Vineyard (Norton) somewhat redeems himself and changes course regarding his opinion of non-white protestants. I always felt my parents saw socio-political issues in black and white terms. You’re either actively for the cause of equal rights for gays or against it. You’re either outspoken against racism or you’re just not helping anything. I always felt like they felt they knew everything there was to know about the people they disagreed with along the political spectrum.

Derek Vineyard’s end shows us you can’t just see a giant swastika tattoo and assume you know everything. A man can’t be judged by the dumb metaphorical tattoos he got when he was young.

No matter how dumb those tattoos might be.

No matter how dumb those tattoos might be.

It’s slow and sloppy at times, but the acting still carries it through. And the nostalgia I have for this flick. Nostalgia-based KEEP IT!

Megan’s Thoughts: I want to delve into a very poignant and smart paragraph or two about why I didn’t like the movie but the fact is: it’s just not my jam. As Max mentioned, several times throughout the movie (normally right after they’d had a Hitler-loving moment) I would turn to Max, so full of confusion, questioning why he would want to watch this movie, let alone own it.

I will never watch this movie again. I did not enjoy it. I did not find it entertaining. I didn’t learn anything about filmmaking or writing from it. I actively hid from this movie at times, shielding my face.

It’s not because the movie was poorly made or didn’t have talent behind it, quite the contrary. It’s just not what I look for in a film. I don’t consider myself that “girly” or “squeamish” but I guess I do draw a line around curb-stomping, rape and just…so much racism. I was impressed at how emotional the film made me, the anger boiling up inside me as I watched, and I do agree with Max’s point that it has a moment where you realize you can’t judge a person by their giant swastika tattoo. But all that said, I respectfully decline keeping it in our collection. It’s a toss for me.

Verdict: keep.

 

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Aladdin

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Who Bought It?: MEGAN!

Why?: DISNEY! But also, I found a copy of the 2004 2-disc special edition in perfect condition for $5 in a gas station bargain bin. If that’s not a miracle I don’t know what is.

Non-Buyer’s Response: Do you believe in miracles!? YES!!! (Still bitter about Olympic hockey).

Megan’s Thoughts: I’m a Disney fan and that’s never going to change. I love the heart-warming stories, the humour, the song-and-dance. It’s nostalgic, it’s simple, it’s lovely. That being said, it’s a WHOLE NEW WORLD (all the pun intended) to re-watch these classics from my childhood now that I’ve graduated with a degree in Screenwriting. Max and I found ourselves pointing out each moment in the story that lined up with Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat” structure (which although I despise the “greater-than-thou” tone of the book, I can’t deny is the best book I’ve read on screenwriting.)

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Oh, hello Cat. Here, let me save you.

Jasmine is one of the more badass Disney Princesses, so the feminist in me didn’t have too hard a time stomaching the way she’s treated as a piece of currency for awhile and has literally no waist. Aladdin (voiced by DJ Tanner’s high school boyfriend) even used the word “smart” to describe her before going on about all the physical attributes that made her the love of his life.

Aladdin in all his real-life glory.

Aladdin in all his real-life glory.

Also, I’m proud to say I am no longer terrified of Snake Jafar. What up, mid-20s! We conquered that fear!

This is a big ‘ol keep for me.

Max’s Thoughts: Speaking of fear conquest: I used to be terrified of anything and everything pertaining to the Cave of Wonders. First of all, it speaks with a voice like James Earl Jones crossed with a thunderclap. Second, there’s the lion-head entrance that can just…like…close its mouth and disappear once you’ve gone in. And third, the floor is literally lava.

Turns out my favourite childhood imagination game coming true is a total nightmare.

Well apparently I’m over that. This has been a big year for me. I made it past the thunderstorm in Jurassic Park for the first time in my life and I didn’t get scared of the Cave of Wonders (or Snake Jafar).

Aladdin is like every Disney movie in that there’s a Princess with a miniscule waist, a would-be Prince who has to go through some journey to become a Prince, and several sentient animals. Oh and there’s also the obligatory super-racist character art.

Ehhhhhhh!

The thing that jumped out to me this time was that while the world and the characters around them were distinctly Arab (or distinctly Arab caricatures), Jasmine and Aladdin are very much white people with some extra shading. They are the only characters who speak without accents and the only ones without comically big noses, comically big turbans or comically big scimitars. Also as soon as Genie is freed, he sprouts an outfit that all but confirms he’s going to Disneyland. Thereby teaching a generation of children that when one vacations, one does so at Disneyland.

But let’s go back to fear for a second. Both Megan and I apparently had some intense childhood fears from this movie. Watching it as an adult I can see why. The entire movie feels like a 90-minute hallucination and a few sequences are downright nightmarish. Even a scene like “A Friend Like Me“, one that’s clearly supposed to play on the lighter side is kind of terrifying in a way similar to an unexpected acid trip.

Look, we’re keeping this movie. Disney is so stingy with DVD/Blu-Ray releases, I have my doubts that we’d ever find another OG copy of Aladdin if we chucked this one out. Plus, there’s a few easter eggs for discerning eyes looking for visual references to past and future Disney movies (Sebastian from The Little Mermaid and background art that would appear years later in Mulan). You just can’t hate on classic Disney, no matter how racist it is or paternalistic it is toward its many princesses.

Verdict: Keep!

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Admission

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Who Bought It?: Megan.

Why?: Uncontrollable lady-boner for Tina Fey.

Non-Buyer’s Response: “The only reason this doesn’t surprise me is that you recommended Date Night.” – Max

Follow-up Buyer’s Response: Date Night is an EXCELLENT movie and I can’t wait to watch it again when we get to the D’s.

Follow-Up to the Follow-Up: Yeah. Can’t wait to get to the D’s. That’s what she said.

Megan’s Thoughts: Admission is a cute movie. It’s got a cute premise and a cute romance and a cute cast and it’s just so pinch-your-cheeks-until-they-ache cute. Which is nice, if you’re into that sort of thing. Tina Fey rolls out the awkward comedy and doesn’t disappoint as Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan and I was pleasantly surprised to see Lily Tomlin as Portia’s off-the-grid mother, Suzanne. Paul Rudd rounds out my favourites of the flick as the loveably goofy (does he play anything else?) John. Watching Rudd and Fey play off each other was a satisfying moment for comedy.

But is it just me, or is it always a mistake if Tina Fey doesn’t write the material she performs? There’s that “Fey Flavour” I crave, as a huge fan of both Mean Girls and 30 Rock. I want that so-mean-but-doesn’t-make-sense insult, I want pop culture references, I want gay jokes that don’t make me cringe. That’s my fault for wanting something that Admission never promised to deliver.

And to be frank, I wish Portia had been written with more balls. Throughout the movie she’s either chasing after a man or a child and when she’s not actively chasing, everyone interrupts her and she can’t get a word in edgewise. I yelled at the TV a few times to try and help the poor lady, to no avail.

I do think it’s worth one watch, but I’m not gonna go back for seconds. So let’s put this DVD out of its misery and give it a toss. (I’m so sorry Tina, please still love me?)

Max’s Thoughts: Megan covered most of it. As strong as Tina Fey is as a real person and as strong as her characters tend to be, Portia is everything that feminists hate in female leads. She has a great, secure job and is very intelligent, but despite that, she clearly needs both a man and a child to validate her sense of self. I don’t like it.

The raw charisma of Rudd and Fey carries 95% of this movie, and the few scenes that neither of them are in just don’t work. The only scenes I really laughed out lout at were scenes that featured both leads. Fey and Rudd are undeniably talented and great, and The Princess Bride’s Wallace Shawn was an inconceivable breath of fresh air, but that’s not enough to make this a good movie.

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He’s going to Yale? Inconceivable!

There’s a few twists beyond the normal rom-com (all of which Megan called about 10 minutes in) that made it not terrible, but beyond the redeeming qualities of Fey, Rudd, Tomlin and Shawn, there is not a ton worth keeping. Thus LET’S TOSS IT MEGAN!

Verdict: TOSS IT! 

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Across the Universe

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Who Bought It?: It’s always Megan. Every damn time.

Why?: Honestly can’t remember if it was given to me or if I bought it.

Non-Buyer’s Response: I never would have bought this movie. Every damn time.

Megan’s Thoughts: I remember how excited I was to see this movie when it came out in theatres. My musical theatre friends and I spent months watching the same trailer over and over. We researched Julie Taymor (who is an inspiring power-house of a woman). We saw this movie the weekend it opened.

I was disappointed when I saw it in theatres, but was also impressed by the production values of the film (I suppose I should have been, with the estimated $73 million budget.) This time around, my disappointment was harder to ignore.

Though I think the Beatles lend themselves well to a musical, it was as if Taymor played a game of “how many songs can I shove into 133 minutes. The answer is: a shit ton and not all of them belong, even if they were probably super fun to sing and stuff.

Having just seen Absolute Beginners, I found myself having similar thoughts of confusion and boredom during the movie. Though I suppose it’s a movie about Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), we sidestep into at least five other characters lives that take us down distracting detours from what, at its heart, is a love story?

I have so many questions, and so few answers, and now they’re all buzzing in my head and I will probably lay awake for an hour tonight just trying to understand why, when Jude was kicked out of the states, he was able to get back in on a whim. Or why Prudence was even a character. Or why Max (the character) was all bugged out with his PTSD and then suddenly was ok and driving a cab again and isn’t life grand? Or why we got on a bus with Bono.

Because I suppose what got to me the most, what I couldn’t get behind, was that I think Taymor was trying to make me believe that “all I need is love.” And I’m not buying it. I feel like if I was more familiar with The Beatles, if I was truly a fan instead of a casual observer of their work, maybe I’d feel differently. But that’s why this is a toss.

Though it’s almost worth keeping for Joe Cocker.

Max’s Thoughts: Megan mentioned Julie Taymor. Powerhouse or not, she’s the director responsible for the beautifully boring Frida and the stunningly gory (but somehow still boring) Shakespeare adaptation Titus. After seeing those two flicks and now seeing Across the Universe I have concluded that Taymor’s aesthetic is much better suited for the stage, where she produced the brilliant musical The Lion King. Megan covered most of what’s wrong here: there’s simply way too much going on. At around the 35 minute mark we were introduced to a new character (whose name I still don’t know, but he was the black guitar player) and I said “Who the fuck is this guy? I don’t even know the British dude’s name yet!”

Maybe this is what watching Game of Thrones is like for people who haven’t read the books.

Across the Universe is the classic story of a boy and a girl from two different worlds. Boy meets girl, boy licenses a bunch of Beatles’ songs and uses them to woo her, girl loses brother to The War, boy loses girl, girl gets arrested for protesting The War and everyone is dancing, terrifying puppets.

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Seriously you guys. Nightmares. All the nightmares.

Seriously, how much did this movie cost? Between licensing the music and building about a thousand motorized sets and then the costumes, there was clearly not enough money left in the budget for actors. Eddie Izzard (above, being terrifying as Mr. Kite) is arguably the film’s biggest and best star, and it shows.

Taymor doesn’t handle her inexperienced actors well (this was Sturgess’ first major role and it remains Joe Anderson’s only major role). So much attention is paid to blocking and choreography, it comes at the expense of the actors’ ability to perform. Amidst all the dancing and clockwork-like human movement, there is little true emotion or humanity. Everyone’s going through steps. Everything’s a dance. Everyone plays their part in that machine nicely, but it leaves the movie feeling like there’s a vacuum where its humanity should be.

Bonus brownie points for a few great moments. I’d never realized how much I needed to see Joe Cocker as a Cuban (Puerto Rican? Italian? Dominican?) pimp until now. Taymor also committed to film two of the most hilariously inaccurate sports scenes I’ve ever come across, one of football and another of bowling.

But my favourite moment from a movie I want to toss is at the end, when Jude returns to America to the tune of “Hey Jude” (yeah, this flick doesn’t use the songs in a particularly creative way), Max first sees him while singing the screamy “HEY JUDIE JUDIE JUDIE JUDIE JUDIE WAAAOWWW!” part of the song. That was awesome. But still. We’re going introduce this one to my silver hammer.

Verdict: 

It’s just really tarnished.

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Accepted

Who Bought It?: Megan.

Why?: The humour really spoke to me when I was 17.

Non-Buyer’s Response: No criticism. I saw this movie a while ago and liked it.

Megan’s Thoughts: Baby Jonah Hill! Justin Long! I don’t know why I have such an obsession with Justin Long. Actually, I do. But it doesn’t make any sense. My reasons are: he was in Galaxy Quest (which I’m gonna go ahead and say, spoiler alert, we’re keeping that one when we get to the “G”s) and he dated Drew Barrymore for awhile, and she is in my top five favourite actresses of all time.

But the reason I’m pondering my love for Justin Long and using exclamation points when I talk about Jonah Hill is because I don’t really know what else to say about this movie. I had a couple laughs, it was a good enough time, but considering how many movies I love that I don’t have in my collection and how many movies I haven’t seen that have made their way in, I’m surprised that this one, of all movies, landed on my shelf.

Thumbs up for some giggles and an all around well-cast flick but I need the shelf space and probably don’t ever need to see this movie again. It did make me feel pretty good about all that time I spent struggling to get into University though. But I say toss it.

Max’s Thoughts: Who doesn’t want to run shit? Everyone wants to. I think that’s why this admittedly mediocre movie speaks to me. Justin Long’s Bartleby doesn’t get in to college so he just says “whatever” and starts his own college. It’s goofy, and watching Jonah Hill in this movie from 8 years ago is a nice reminder that he was always great, even before he was “two-time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill.” It’s Hill who carries most of the big laughs for me in Accepted, but that’s a fact that I believe speaks volumes to Justin Long’s abilities as a straight man.

There’s only one role in Long’s career that I can remember him playing for overt laughs. When he was gay pornstar Brandon St. Randy in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, he stole the few scenes he was in. Other than that, he’s been the straight man in everything from those Mac vs. PC commercials to Waiting. And he’s great at it. Other than the timeless comedic duo of chubby-goofy-guy (Hill) and attractive-goofy-guy (Long), there’s not much great about this movie. Despite that, I want to keep it, because of how good Long and Hill are together.  Oh, and also because Lewis Black is given like…20 minutes of screen time to yell and spit.

Verdict: Keep it.

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Absolute Beginners

ImageWho Bought It?: Megan, of course!

Why?: David Bowie + $2 Superstore Bargain Bin + the promise that it was a “flashy, extravagant rock musical!”

Non-Buyer’s Response: “This is the reason you don’t buy movies you haven’t seen.” – Max

Megan’s Thoughts: This may be a flashy, extravagant rock musical but it did not entertain me. After sitting through this 2 (but felt like 6) hour movie I found I had one big question: what was this movie about? Seemingly unable to keep itself on track, the plot twists from one character to another and touches on subjects of racism, economy, fascism and never seems to land anywhere. Though the production aspects were quite impressive (including a 10-minute one-take scene where our protagonist Colin (Eddie O’Connell) weaves in and out of the streets of London’s night life) it did not make up for the fact that the themes proved too difficult to juggle.

And David Bowie was only in like…10 minutes of this movie. I vote to toss.

Max’s Thoughts: I like to think of myself as a pretty astute viewer of film, but I have no clue what this movie was about. Was it about a girl? Was it about the invention of teenagers by marketing? Was it about London? Was it about Jazz? “A movie about everything is inevitably really about nothing at all,” is something I thought to myself after watching both Tree of Life and I Heart Huckabees and I think it applies here, though the lack of technical prowess present in Beginners demands it be a cut below those two films. The sound was poorly mixed and it seemed like all the dialogue was recorded off-set after they’d finished filming everything. I felt like there was something missing from the sound design. Maybe the proper reverb or a missing effect on the music and singing that would have made it feel like it was coming from within the scene rather than from within a studio. Maybe just better actors. There’s a reason I’ve never heard of anyone in this movie not named David Bowie. This movie is neither flashy nor extravagant, as my wife just said, but rather slow-moving and dreary despite all its flashing lights and wailing trumpets. TOSS IT!

Verdict: Toss.

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25th Hour

25thhour

Who Bought It? For the first time, Max.

Why? Max loved it in high school and it’s one of those movies that inspired him to write movies. Also: it’s a Spike Lee joint with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Anna Paquin, Ed Norton, Clay Davis from The Wire and former Baltimore Raven Tony Siragusa (Goose!).

Non-buyer’s Response: “It’s hard to argue with that cast.” – Megan

Max’s Thoughts: This is the movie that features the (in)famous “Fuck you” speech. For that, and that alone I believe it is worth owning. Beyond that, I watched this movie during my Edward Norton phase (various points throughout high school) and loved it. I hadn’t watched it since I was 18. Watching it now, it feels slow and the pacing is all off. At times, it is pitch perfect, but too many scenes drag, and there are too many interstitial scenes (Norton as Monty walking up to his apartment for a superfluous 10-second tracking shot) that serve no purpose outside of atmosphere. There is something to be said for atmosphere and tone, two things that 25th Hour has in spades, but it’s not everything. There’s also something to be said for letting a scene breath and take its time, but too much of any good thing is no good at all.

I’m still voting to keep it because I feel like there is a ton to learn in this film as a sound designer and editor, and some pretty good data regarding what not to do as a writer. It’s worth noting 25th Hour is based on a novel and adapted for the screen by Game of Thrones show-runner David Benioff, and it feels not unlike one of that shows slower, more uneventful episodes.

Megan’s Thoughts: This was my first time watching 25th Hour and I think Max over-hyped it for me. Some scenes were gems that will stick with me: Monty (Edward Norton) and Frank (Barry Pepper) discussing what they’ll do when Monty gets out of jail, when Monty and his father (Brian Cox) have their “last supper,” when Monty asks Frank to “make him ugly” and the sound cuts out so all you hear is birds chirping. And yet, I feel that one viewing is enough. At 135 mins, I could see it cutting down to well below the two-hour mark and holding its story. I’m glad I saw it, and I think it’s a great example of, as Max mentioned, learning how to let a scene breath and creating atmosphere, but it’s not a movie I’m hankering to see again and again. My vote is to toss it, but we agreed when we started this venture that it had to be unanimous to throw anything away.

Verdict: Keep it.

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