Big Fish

Who Bought It?: Megan

Why?: I actually saw and liked this movie and decided to purchase it.

Non-Buyer’s Response: Going in, I have no strong feelings about this one.

Megan’s Thoughts:

I was 15 when I bought Big Fish. Having seen it now, 12 years later, I realize I did not actually understand the movie. I just thought Ewan McGregor was cute and Tim Burton is one of my favourite directors and it was quirky and beautiful. I think I was entertained by the film but looking at it now I can see there’s no way I comprehended how much it speaks about life and legacy.

Big Fish (based on the novel of the same name by Daniel Wallace) is about Will Bloom (Billy Crudup), a writer who, as his father Ed’s (Albert Finney) health disintegrates, tries to uncover more about him from the stories and myths he was told as a boy. Stories that Will believes to be made up fairytales but that Ed firmly stands by. There are giants and jumping spiders and a traveling circus. There are legendary-sized fish and Siamese Twins and picture-perfect towns where no one wears shoes and even the water is sweet. Ed lives in a romantic world while Will lives in a pragmatic one.

The flow of story, the humour and the adventure to Big Fish all weave together and make for a thought-provoking film that had me reflecting on my own history afterward. What are the stories I will pass on? What stories of my parents will I tell my children? Would I want to know how I die, if I could?

The cast of Big Fish is just as impressive as the seemingly tall tales of Ed Bloom. Danny Devito as the circus ringmaster Amos. Jessica Lange as Mrs. Sandra Bloom. Steve Buscemi as the poet Norther Winslow. And…wait is that…Miley Cyrus as the little girl that says “Edward, DON’T” as a young Ed Bloom approaches the witch’s house? Yes it is. And she was credited as “Destiny Cyrus.” Thanks for filling me in on that tidbit, internet!

As much as I enjoyed Big Fish there were a few parts of it that made me shake my head. Mostly, Ed’s wife Sandra, and how we never hear from her on the topic of his tales. Instead, she seems to drift in and out of rooms with a vacant smile on her face. I understand this particular story was to be told between Will and Ed, but having Sandra around just made her seem useless and ignorant. Will often mentions how he and his mother were on great terms so a large, nagging part of my brain said: “Then why don’t you just ask your mom to verify these stories if you’re so curious? Shouldn’t she know?” Or if not, should she take some time to sit Will down and be like “Look dude, is it really hurting anyone if these stories are a little embellished? Stop being so pessimistic.”

Also made me shake my head: a 32-year-old Ewan McGregor playing an 18-year-old for a good portion of the movie. I can suspend a lot of disbelief, but that seemed a bit much. However he also had to play a 40-year-old at other points, depending on the flashback. I guess I never would have been happy so fine.

But I take the side of Ed Bloom any day. I am the dreamer, the storyteller, the entertainer. I come from storytellers in the family and the belief that a good story can be better than a good meal. And I’d watch Ed Bloom’s stories come to life again, and I’d like to see what this movie means to me as I get older and reflect on my own legacy. You win this time, ageless Ewan McGregor. I’d like to KEEP IT.

Max’s Thoughts: 

At one point in Big Fish, Ed Bloom tells his son “We’re storytellers, both of us. I speak mine out, you write yours down. Same thing.” It’s moments like these that provide the heart of the movie and moments like this that I was too young to appreciate when I first saw it, just like Megan. Both of us come from families of oral storytellers, and both of us have chosen to write ours down. (I’ll come back to this). It’s a shame Billy Crudup’s Will is a distant, emotionless and unknowable character, both of us were just dying to love him.

We didn’t.  But the two Ed Bloom’s (McGregor and Finney) absolutely put this movie on their collective back. Perhaps it’s because he’s stopped getting the big name, above-the-title roles that he used to, maybe its because its been a while since I’ve watched him in his prime, but I had completely forgotten how charismatic Ewan McGregor can be.


Oh, you.

And Albert Finney… he’s the kind of actor that leaves me at a loss for words. I’ve never seen him be anything other than impeccable and complex. When he plays a mob boss in Miller’s Crossing, he does so with a touch of whimsy. When he’s dumped into a world of whimsy and half-truths like Big Fish, he provides the gravitas needed to ground a movie with its head as far in the clouds as this one. He almost never gets out of bed, yet he is the backbone of the entire film.


 “I was dried out.” Albert Finney, everyone!

Personal storytime: This is essentially a movie about Will Bloom trying to get the “real story” out of his dad before he dies. It struck a chord with me big time. I have one living grandparent (Grandma Adele), and she is the last living member of the generation of my family that was around for what I’ve started calling “The Shamban Creation Legend.” Let me explain, as best and as quickly I can, from the pseudo-legendary stories I’ve heard so far.

My Grandpa Marc was born one of four brothers. Sonny (the oldest), Howard, Marc and Billy. When Sonny was around 13-years-old, their father died. I’ve never heard anything about their mother, but Sonny got a job delivering papers, supporting his younger brothers financially throughout their childhood. I learned recently that my grandpa thought Sonny was his dad until a certain age. Here, the details become hazy, but after being more or less raised by Sonny, all three of the little brothers went on to become very, very wealthy. Howard and Grandpa Marc founded a marketing firm together in the 1950’s and Billy outstripped them both with some kind of manufacturing company that I know very little about.

This is the version of the story kicking around in my head, picked up over the course of my life in bits and pieces. Who knows what of it is true? But the whole point of all of this is that the truth isn’t the point. The histories of regular, non-famous families like mine are not usually put down in books or in movies, but passed down from generation-to-generation over the dinner table. They become embellished, surely, but over time they become the story of where you came from, and how you came to be.

Its a story I didn’t realize I wanted to write until we watched Big Fish. Most importantly, it’s a story that I’m running out of time to learn because all four brothers are dead, as are all their wives besides Grandma Adele. Since we watched Big Fish, I’ve reached out to Adele, and the children of Howard, Sonny and Billy (my second cousins I think)  and plan to get a full view of these four men who laid the foundation for the modern iteration of my family.

That was the effect this film had on me. When that happens, I think proper criticism becomes irrelevant. KEEP IT. 

Verdict: KEEP

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Please join us for this next instalment of A Very Special Purge: The DVD Expansion Project

Megan’s Thoughts:

I’m an Amy Schumer fan. I laugh at her jokes, I enjoy watching her interviews, and I find her quick and witty and just catty enough that the mean girl in me is satisfied but not so catty that I’m like “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE.”

Trainwreck is a modern rom com that asks the question: when a career-driven, commitment-phobe partier meets one of the “good ones,” can they change their ways? Oh, except the commitment-phobe is Amy Schumer and the “good one” is a super hunky Bill Hader.

This movie ticked a lot of boxes for me. It has a strong female lead, was written by a woman, it passes the Bechdel Test, the romantic lead isn’t some unrealistic Fabio wannabe, it’s got romance but moreso it’s a comedy and even moreso some of the best parts of the movie were in the drama.

What exceeded my expectations for Trainwreck was Schumer’s performance in the dramatic parts, the character Amy’s unapologetic drive, and her attitude towards sex. Though I should have expected nothing less from Schumer. I had a moment of horrified self-examination during the scene when Amy decides to step out from hearing Aaron (Bill Hader)’s acceptance speech for his award so she could take a call from work. I made several moves similar to that in the past couple years while I tried to impress producers on shows I worked for. Funny, it doesn’t seem to have enhanced my career options, and always ended in an upset husband. I wouldn’t call myself a trainwreck, but there are elements of Schumer’s film that mirror my own tendencies. It made me appreciate how much “growing up” I’ve done in the past few years. I don’t think that was one of Schumer’s goals when she wrote Trainwreck but I think she’d be pleased at my reaction.

Trainwreck is excellent date movie or girls’ night. Schumer is on point, I can’t get over how attracted to Bill Hader I was (am?) and who knew Lebron James was that funny. I was impressed, and considering my husband is the biggest Golden State Warriors fan ever in the history of sports, I saw a lot of Lebron this basketball season. I think having seen him play against the Warriors vs. seeing him in this film was a unique juxtaposition.

I will say, as I usually do, it could have been at least 20 minutes shorter. I miss the days of the 90 min movie. Where did they go? Hey, Apatow, I’ve got a tiny bladder and I refuse to see a movie without a soda the size of my head so we gotta figure out a balance here.

To close, I’d like to share a moment from the showing I went to which was the most satisfying example of life imitating art I have ever personally witnessed. A woman sitting near the front had clearly enjoyed a cocktail or two before the show as, once the trailers started and a preview for Joy came on, one look at Jennifer Lawrence and she slurred: “I LOVE KATNISS EVERDEEN.” For the most part I think the theatre tried to ignore her but as the movie started Drunkess felt the need to comment, talk back and interact with the characters on screen (at one point Amy says something about being a dirtbag or a horrible person in general, to which Drunkess yelled “NO YOU’RE NOT!”) About half an hour in, the most official looking Cineplex employee I’ve ever seen went up to her and, though I couldn’t hear what was said, Drunkess and her man friend were escorted out of the theatre. I don’t know this woman, I don’t know what kind of a day she had, perhaps this was even meant to be performance art…but really, let’s talk trainwreck.

I’d watch this movie again, even if it’s just to see the way Bill Hader holds a subway pole. So my vote is GET IT.

Look at the power stance on that arm!

Max’s Thoughts: 

A brief thought on the woman Megan dubbed “Drunkess”: I felt bad for the guy who was there with her. On to Trainwreck!

When you’re done reading this, you might think “That was a pretty myopic review.” I apologize in advance. Because I went to see this movie for one reason and one reason alone: Lebron James. Megan said it’s a good date night or ladies’ night movie. When we saw it, Trainwreck was both, all at once. Long story short: I was the third wheel on a lady-date between Megan and her friend.

I regret nothing.

Because as I suspected, King James was good. A few clips from trailers had piqued my interest, and I love following the off-field lives of athletes almost as much as I love watching them play. The movie itself didn’t exceed expectations for me as it did for my wife. It’s a paint-by-numbers rom-com bloated to 120 minutes with Appatovian improvisational diversions left and right. Some of them pay off. Others don’t. But whatever money and time they invested in getting ‘Bron to be in this movie paid off in full.

He stole nearly every scene he was in, sometimes simply by being gigantic, but usually by playing completely against type. How could Lebron James, a non-actor, have a type? Because he’s a public persona, and we watch him play sports. On the court, he’s an absolute killer, a leader of men and one of the most fearsomely unfair physical specimens I’ve ever seen play any sport. 600 years ago, he’d be riding the biggest warhorse, wielding the biggest two-handed greatsword and striking fear into the heart of anyone who might oppose him.

Here, he plays himself as the tropey-as-fuck “best friend of one of the main characters in a rom-com.” He’s interested in Aaron’s problems, he councils him on how soon he should call Amy back, he gets passive-aggressive when they argue about why Aaron never visits Lebron in Cleveland (“you visited me in Miami all the time!”) It’s great. He seemed at ease.

It was all worth it so Bill Hader could hit a single jump shot while Lebron was talking during their lopsided one-on-one scene and walk out screaming “I scored against Lebron James! I’m never touching a basketball again! I win!.”

That said, I would not have gone to see it if the ticket wasn’t free (Megan’s Note: you’re welcome) and my wife wasn’t already going. I would watch it again if it came on TV but – wait this movie would suck on TV. I would definitely NOT watch it on TV. Maybe again on Netflix. FORGET IT. 

Verdict: GET IT. 

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Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead

Who Bought It?: Megan.

Why?: I’m a huge Philip Seymour Hoffman fan. I bought it without seeing it from the $5 bin at the movie rental store I worked at.

Non-Buyer’s Response: This might be the ultimate “I can’t believe you bought this” one. “Hmm. A sobering, somber PSH movie about matricidal robbery that I’ve never seen? Sure. I’ll buy it.”

Megan’s Thoughts:

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is about brothers Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawke) who organize the robbery of their parents’ jewelry store. The job doesn’t go well, triggering a series of events that sends them, their father (Albert Finney) and Andy’s wife Gina (Marisa Tomei) into turmoil. This dark, gritty crime drama has an all-star cast with an A-List director and a gripping premise. And while I respect the work that came together, the performances, the story…I did not enjoy this movie.

Frankly, it boiled down to one point over and over again: the timeline.

Director Sidney Lumet and writer Kelly Masterson made some choices with the flow of time in this film that had me aching and impatient. We continually flash back or forward to see each character’s arch in the days leading up to or after the robbery, playing on the same moments several times. We actually see the robbery before we see the characters decide to take the robbery on, which made me itch as we watched the brothers discuss their options and hum and haw, all the while I’ve known for 15 minutes that they go through with it. I have some pretty firm beliefs when it comes to flashbacks and playing with timeline in a feature and in general, I hate it. This was, unfortunately, no exception.

However, applause all around for the breathtaking cast. PSH’s manipulative, bullying manner over his brother contrasted against his absolute submission to his wife was nothing short of mesmerizing. But, is a great performance enough for me to keep a film that made me bounce my knee impatiently for 2 hours as we flipped and flopped in time? No. It’s not. No matter how perfect the scenes were when Andy went to his drug dealer’s apartment, or the almost-laugh-out-loud-in-disbelief moment when Gina asked Andy for cab money as she left him, I will never watch this movie again. I’m sorry, Philip Seymour Hoffman. It’s a TOSS this time.

Max’s Thoughts: 

I too have a very strict code when it comes to flashback/flash-forward scenes. I’ll just say Lost isn’t my favourite show. But the flashbacks and flash-forwards in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (BTDKYD), were great. They are exactly what flashbacks are perfect for: Illuminating those little cracks in human perception. They can show us how numerous people see the same thing, and that’s how it works in BTDKYD. It’s very much a flashback style cribbed from Rashomon. And I liked that.

The problem I had with this movie was the pacing. It was all kinds of wrong, which is almost to expect given the toying Sydney Lumet did with the chronology. Yet Pulp Fiction doesn’t have pacing issues. Memento, aka the movie that is only flashbacks, doesn’t have pacing issues. It’s doable, is what I’m saying.

Sydney Lumet was undoubtedly a great director, and this flick proved that, even at 83 years old, he still had a little bit of mustard on his fastball. The actors in his charge shine. Ethan Hawke is particularly bright, almost by way of how well he holds his own in scenes with PSH. Hoffman is such a scenery-chewer that he blows 99% of everyone he’s in a scene with right out of the frame. The guy played a freaking valet in The Big Lebowski and still managed to steal every scene he was in opposite peak-form Jeff Bridges. And yet Hawke, who’s character is basically designed to be overpowered and overwhelmed in every scene he shares with Hoffman, holds up. Marisa Tomei is OK (bonus: she doesn’t appear in a scene without showing her boobs until about 35 minutes in), and Albert Finney has straight up never been bad. In a way, the handling of Finney’s father character is why I think that while Lumet could still throw a fastball, he’d lost plenty of velocity over the years. Maybe the aging ace leaned a bit too heavily on his curveball – in the form of the Rashomon-esque timeline and obsessive portrayal of the Hawk/Hoffman fraternal bond – for his own sake.

Albert Finney’s Charles Hanson is the real protagonist of this movie. In about 20 minutes of screen-time, the skeleton of a really great movie about the father of two sons who rob the family jewelry store becomes visible. Without spoiling the ending, Charles’ arc is the heroic journey, and Lumet failed to fix this critical flaw in (I assume) Masterson’s script. This isn’t a movie about two brothers. It’s a movie about a father. But Lumet doesn’t throw 98 MPH anymore. So we got the curveball that was Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. TOSS IT. 

Verdict: TOSS.

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Who Bought It?: No one!

Why?: It’s not on DVD yet!

Wait, what’s happening?: Max and I have decided that on top of reviewing our DVD collection, we should include new movies we see. Once we each give our opinions, we’ll both say whether we’d GET IT or FORGET IT (and this will hopefully keep Megan from buying every movie ever made.) So enjoy this maiden voyage of the DVD Expansion Project.

The Rules: Just like with the DVD Purge Project, for a DVD to gain a positive ruling (here: “Get It”), only one of us needs to vote positively. For a negative ruling, there must be consensus.

The Movie: Spy

Megan’s Thoughts: I walked into this movie with low expectations. I wasn’t a fan of the trailers; I thought it was going to be a feature where all the jokes were about how ugly/fat/uncoordinated Melissa McCarthy was. And I like Melissa McCarthy, I didn’t want to see her insulted for two hours.

Thankfully, my interpretation of the trailers was wrong.

Spy is about Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy), a deskbound CIA analyst stuck at her basement computer while she aids a top agent in his dangerous missions. But when her partner Bradley Fine (Jude Law) falls into danger and agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) goes awol, she steps up to go undercover and take down Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) before the sale of a nuclear bomb can be finalized. It’s a rock-em sock-em action flick where the jokes fly as fast as the bullets.

The cast in this movie is on point. I did not know Jason Statham could be so funny, and Rose Byrne brought sass and swagger to the evil Boyanov. Susan’s sidekick and (best?) friend Nancy (Miranda Hart) had me in stitches as she jumped into the action to assist Susan on her mission and, on her own time, chase after 50 Cent. Nancy might actually be my second favourite character, behind Susan Cooper, and I’ll be binge watching more of Hart’s work.

For the record this is my favourite Melissa McCarthy role so far. About halfway through the movie they unleash her character from the desk/beginner agent version that is given lame fake identities and wears a lot of cat shirts into an insult-wielding, gun-toting boss bitch so quick on the quips I couldn’t keep up. It was outstanding. It’s the same brand of insult comedy that I enjoy when I watch something with Tina Fey behind it.

Well done to writer/director Paul Feig, who also directed Bridesmaids and The Heat. I’ll be keeping a close eye on his next project if this is the kind of material he’ll be churning out. Oh wait, it’s the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters. I’m in.

Knowing that I missed some of the jokes because I was too busy laughing at the one previous, and needing to relive the airplane scene between McCarthy and Byrne again and again and again, I’d go ahead and say this is a GET IT for me. It checks a lot of boxes I look for (namely, female characters that don’t just talk about boys.) I’d watch it again for sure.

Max’s Thoughts: The CIA in the world of Paul Feig’s Spy is a strange place to work. One minute you’re helping a gorgeous field agent take out terrorists, the next an office bat gives you pink eye. Feig is no stranger to Melissa McCarthy, as Megan noted, and I think he really knows how to wield her. Most importantly, once that switch from meek desk jockey to “boss bitch” happens, he gives McCarthy a weapon she doesn’t seem to get to use enough: Her mouth.

So many of the roles she has been given/chosen boil down to “look at how fat this lady is!” Or to put it another way, I don’t need to see Bridesmaids to know which one of the bridesmaids poops in the sink. She does her fair share of prat-falling in Spy, but when push comes to shove, it’s usually Susan Cooper doing the shoving. Her answer to her blown cover is to insult her way back undercover. It’s beautiful at times.

Feig has as long a relationship with Judd Apatow as anyone in Hollywood, so it doesn’t surprise me that this feels like something out of the Apatow oeuvre. It ticks all the boxes from the brilliant character work of big names like Allison Janney and Jude Law to the random but effective 50 Cent cameo. Every bone in my body went into this movie expecting to hate it, almost wanting to hate it. But I laughed. A lot.

And for a comedy, that’s all it really comes down to. All that said, I don’t see myself watching it over and over, and when it comes to buying a comedy on DVD, that what it all comes down to. FORGET IT. 

Verdict: GET IT.

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airplane Who bought it? Max. This is a very special edition of The DVD Purge Project because I just bought this the other day (I had it on VHS) so it jumped to the front of the line because A comes before B. Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead will have to wait.

Why? Surely you can’t be serious.

Non-Buyer’s response: I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.

Max’s Thoughts: It was frustrating to watch this with Megan, because apparently I’ve spent the past 5 years writing comedies with someone who doesn’t understand how to laugh. She laughed out loud like… five times. FIVE TIMES!?!?! This is Airplane! The essentially-consensus funniest movie ever. I’m pretty sure this means Megan is legally dead. Or a robot.


The resemblance is uncanny.

That Airplane! is a foundational, classic comedy is such a fundamental movie truth, I can hardly see the reason to get deep on this one. So I won’t. One time I tried to count the number of jokes Abrahams and the Zucker Bros attempted. Every now and again, when it comes up, I’ll claim the number is something ridiculous. In reality, I lost count. That is the ferocity and speed with which this movie hits you with jokes. It makes 30 Rock’s “6 jokes per page” rule look like child’s play. Try 6 jokes in 10 seconds of screen-time. This movie is like a self-reloading machine gun that fires jokes. If 8 jokes miss, 3 will hit. It’s a film so ridiculous and specific, yet so broad it holds up 40+ years later. Fun fact: This was a direct spoof of a hyper-specific genre of movie that was basically only around in the 1970’s. They used to make these boilerplate “Airport” dramas where a plane would be in duress and yada, yada, yada. Basically what happens in Airplane! And people still find it funny despite never having seen Airport 1975 (a real, actual movie title)It was an otto-matic KEEP IT from the start. And I didn’t even get into the Kareem-eo (that’s cameo+Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It doesn’t always work).

Megan’s Thoughts: Max almost divorced me partway through this movie because I “wasn’t laughing enough.” Then I started nervous laughing because my lack of laughter was making him mad and I felt like I was ruining the movie for him. But he knew my laughs weren’t real laughs. It was a vicious cycle.

Look, it took me too long to see this comedy classic. Yes, it’s true, I didn’t see Airplane! until 2015. Most of the jokes I’d already heard in other context. And I’m not usually a fan of “spoof” movies. I don’t like any of those Scary Movie or Epic Movie or what have you – it all just gets too over-the-top for me. Comedy is hard. Even the best comedies don’t please everyone – and what does that even mean, the “best” comedy? There’s no formula, no rules, which is why I’m so addicted to writing it in my own screenplays.

I’m sorry, world. I feel like I let everyone down by not loving this movie. I picked a bad week to quit…ok, whatever this isn’t working. It’s a toss for me.

Verdict: Despite Megan, it’s a keep!


Becoming Jane

Becoming Jane

Who Bought It? Megan!

Why? I had an unhealthy obsession with James McAvoy which started after I saw him in “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Being sexually attracted to a half-goat man is pretty heavy, so I grabbed this one knowing he would play a full human and probably say romantic things.

Non-Buyer’s response: Spoiler alert. This movie sucked.

Megan’s Thoughts:

Max is wrong, but if I’m being honest I’m not sure how wrong he is. It’s been several days since we watched Becoming Jane and it has taken me this long to write a post because I was not sure if I would toss or keep this movie.

Becoming Jane is a bio-pic of a pre-fame Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) and her romance with a young Irishman (James McAvoy). Set in 1795, the young Miss Austen dreams to “live by her pen” and marry for love (the shock, the horror!) Mama and Papa Austen (Julie Walters and James Cromwell, respectively and most admirably) are worried for her future and try to marry Jane to a well-off suitor.

That smile is here to fuck shit up.

That smile is here to fuck shit up.

But into Jane’s quiet life waltzs the roughishly handsome and devilishly charming Tom LeFroy (Mr. McAvoy, I’ve been waiting.) After some initial annoyance and disagreement, the two fall madly in love with each other but struggle to find their happily ever after, as LeFroy is broke and lives off his uncle who will not accept Jane’s lack of status and wealth as a contribution to the family. Sadness follows.

I do not believe in “spoiler alerts” when it comes to biopics. The information from this movie has been available for literal centuries so I feel no remorse if I let slip a couple details.

Just lemme grab my bag.


Things don’t go well. They try to elope, Jane realizes Tom has family he must provide for that will surely starve if his uncle cuts him off as he and Jane have very few prospects for financial gain. And neither of them feel they can accept their actions determining the fate of so many others. Devastated, but secure in their decision, they part ways and Austen remains a single woman for the rest of her life. Which I thought was pretty badass. She got to live one of her dreams, as she became a famous author.

And the epilogue really tugged at my heartstrings.

I thought the story was touching, the performances were beautiful and I’m always a sucker for a period piece, dreaming of those drafty houses and rolling meadows and no cell phones. It was so very pleasant.

Now all that being said this movie, as Austen’s writing, is drawn out, long, and occasionally seems a bit pointless. It’s slower than any of the movies we’ve watched so far, and since my go-to review has been that I could cut out 20 minutes you can only imagine what I could do with that one. But all of this aside, I’m still not sure how I feel about the movie because…

Max was a typical “dude” about it.

He fidgeted and sighed heavily and rolled his eyes every five minutes. I didn’t think he’d enjoy the movie per say but it seemed to downright offend him. Which effected my experience. Thinking back on it, I remember it more and more fondly (though that can be the case for many things. The most distance you have, the less the shit stinks.) But I can’t toss some good McAvoy romance moments because Max rolled his eyes a bunch, and I’d like to see if I enjoy the movie if I watch it alone, or with some girlfriends. So for now, it’ll stay in the collection.


No James, you’re MINE. Or…you’re my DVD.

Oh right and you see McAvoy’s butt. Yeah, I’ll keep it for the butt.

Max’s Thoughts:

Let’s clear something up. I wasn’t offended by the movie, so much as I was offended by the overwrought way the characters said just about everything. Right off the bat, Hathaway performs some kind of letter she wrote to her sister’s fiancee about how great her sister was. Everyone was entranced. But it was exactly as you’d expect something written by “Jane-Austen-When-She-Was-Young-And-Nobody” to be: florid, long and dancing around a point. I guess in this aspect Jane, the overbearing wordiness of it all, mirrors the writing style of the real Jane Austen, so maybe there’s a meta-ness to the thing that made me hate this movie. But that doesn’t change how sleepy this whole thing made me feel.

It’s so freaking “by-the-numbers-period-piece.” You’ve got your love story between two people from different enough classes that it’s uncouth that they should marry (though it’s worth noting for all of you who aren’t landed gentry, that all of the people in this movie will appear to be degrees of rich+white, which they are), you’ve got an impressively large family and young, well to-do Brits just prancing around having a great time.


I say!

I don’t really have a ton to say. Becoming Jane bored me and surprised me in just two ways.

1) A movie about Jane Austen is somehow about her desire to marry a man rather than the writing she produced that changed the world.

2) SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS: The love story doesn’t end with our hero and heroine together.

BACK TO SPOILER FREE: Those two thoughts aside, all I could think was “Why am I supposed to care about this person? Just because you tell me she’s Jane Austen?” She doesn’t do anything to propel herself toward her goals (we don’t even see how she goes from “ahahahahah you think you can write? You’re a woman, stupid” to “you’re the Jane Austen? The novelist?”), she just pines away after James McAvoy all movie. Not that I can blame her.

Hard TOSS IT! from me on this one. Call me when they make a biopic about how Jane Austen even got her work published in such a patriarchal society.

And you can see James McAvoy’s butt any time you want on the Internet.

Verdict: Keep it (for now.)

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Barton Fink

Who Bought It? Max. (Three in a row!) And yes, I realize this is out of order, but apparently we put Barton Fink on the shelf out of order when we unpacked.

Why? This is actually part of a Coen Brother’s triple-feature DVD that I bought mainly because I wanted the other two movies (Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing). But I do enjoy this flick and I have some pretty emotional connections to it.

Non-Buyer’s response: I was supposed to watch this movie for a homework assignment 5 years ago. I did the assignment by using the 21st century version of Cliff Notes: forums. I’m glad I can finally cross this one off my list.

Max’s Thoughts: This post is dedicated to Brian Hendricks, our film studies professor at UVic. Brian passed away not too long ago and he had an immense impact on both of our lives. It was in Brian’s class “The Writer in Film” that I first saw Barton Fink. So here’s to Brian Hendricks, the teacher who not only accepted my screenplay about a writer trying to write a screenplay based on a fictional book mentioned in Barton Fink in lieu of an essay, but who gave me an ‘A’. 

I’ll get to Barton Fink in a moment, but first I’m going to paraphrase two things Brian Hendricks said that will stick with me forever.

1) “You know more about movies and TV just by living in the 21st century than I did when I got my Masters in Film Studies back in the day”

2) “Just go out and make stuff.”

The first one is just a truth I hold to be self-evident and the second one is a philosophy I try to live my life by. Now, onto Barton Fink. But to talk about that, let’s talk about Miller’s Crossing. That’s one of my favourite movies mob movies ever, and it’s a part of the three-fer DVD, so this is an automatic KEEP IT even if I absolutely hated Barton Fink. 

But I don’t. Legend has it that Joel and Ethan Coen wrote this ode to writer’s block while suffering a crippling bout of writer’s block trying to finish Miller’s Crossing.  As a result, this is probably the world’s greatest piece of writing on writer’s block. It’s entirely self-indulgent, overly long, and mostly too slow, but for someone who identifies as a writer watching this movie, I’m like “THIS MOVIE IS ABOUT ME!”

Barton Fink is almost like a Stephen King book in that it’s about a writer, some people die and it takes place mostly in a hotel. Let’s start with Barton himself, played by John Turturro, in all of his early 90’s jittery-probably-insane glory.



Barton writes a play about fishmongers, about “the common man” and it’s a hit. So he gets hired to go to Hollywood and is immediately told to write a “wrestling picture” (which apparently used to be a thing). He meets up with W.P. Mayhew (Frasier’s dad John Mahoney playing a fictional version of William Faulkner, near as I can tell) for some help. Also there’s John Goodman as Charlie Meadows, an insurance salesman who, let me assure you, totally could tell you some stories. Really, not a lot happens that I can talk about without spoiling the ending. But when it all happens at the end, it happens SOOOO hard you guys.

Remember, this is a movie about a writer writing stuff.

In a movie about a writer trying to write some stuff.

There’s always been something about the little distractions Barton deals with trying to write – his peeling wallpaper, that damn mosquito, the noisy neighbours – that spoke to me. There’s also the point about his inability to write about anything except for that one thing. Even his wrestling picture is about fishmongers. He thinks he was put onto this earth to write about the common man, to give him a voice. But Barton does not know the common man. At least not the Barton we get to see. He sits holed up in dank rooms, being paid very fine 1940’s-money to write movies. The only people he interacts with are movie producers, hoity-toity NYC broadway types, and Charlie the Insurance Salesman (pictured above, going door-to-door).

Being this out of touch while lacking the self-awareness to realize it is the worst nightmare of Max the Writer. So this one hits home. Again: KEEP IT. 

Megan’s Thoughts: I post this entry in dedication to the late, great Brian Hendricks. It was his class I was supposed to watch this movie for. He was the kind of professor we all looked for at university – a wealth of knowledge, full of inspirational phrases and no fucks to give about your physical attendance if you could mentally attend in your assignments, discussions and creations. Of the two quotes Max paraphrased, the second is how I’ve lived my life since University, well into a time when I should maybe stop saying “stuff” and have a more precise idea of what I’m making but alas, I write and film and create based on my gut, and it will forever be “stuff,” and some other people enjoy my “stuff” and that feels good. So thank-you, Brian. You made me watch a lot of weird movies.

I both enjoyed and disliked Barton Fink. I liked it, because it sparked such a discussion with Max and I that I started to forget what the movie was “about” in the most basic sense of plot. I was lost in the metaphors and imagery and what it all MEANS, man. While Max believes the hotel represents Fink as a person, I believe it represents his mind. And the shoes outside all the hotel doors represent all the ideas Fink is not allowed to access while he is contracted to write this “wrestling picture” but still exist and live. We only ever see inside one room, his room, and the rest of the ideas are locked away. They’re active, as Fink’s subconscious (Chet, the bellhop, played by one of my all-time favourites: Steve Buscemi) continues to shine those shoes and fill their needs, but they are not interacted with.

I can’t talk much more about it without giving away the entire movie, so I’ll stop there on my representation rant.

But I disliked Barton Fink because oh man, at times, does it drag. I’m a Coen Brother’s fan. My mom and I quote Fargo in our common vernacular. I dressed as “The Dude” for Halloween. I almost bought cowboy boots after I saw True Grit. But I could feel the Co-Bros (you’re welcome for turning two remarkable filmmakers into a cutesie minimized word like I’m on The Hills)  sitting in that room with Fink, throwing ideas at the wall, and it felt like they just stuck a lot of ideas in one place. And while I’m all for an artistic shot to set the mood, I laughed out loud when we cut to waves crashing on a rock.


This seemed so out of place in a movie about writer’s block.

It seemed so ridiculous. I agree with Max that it is entirely self-indulgent, overly long and too slow. I’m glad I watched it, but I’m not sure I’ll ever watch this again. But I can’t bring myself to discard any Co-Bros, whose films spark discussion and ideas in the Russell/Sussman house. So I suppose, twist my arm about it, I’ll keep it.

Verdict: KEEP IT. 

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Battle Royale


Who bought it? Max (Hey! Two in a row!)

Why? Come on. Duh.

Non-buyers response: This is another one of those movies where Max gets this mischievous grin on his face when he talks about how “excited” he is for me to watch this. I’m filled with dread.

Max’s Thoughts:

Here’s the thing: Megan was never going to like this movie. My hope was she’d, at best, appreciate it. Battle Royale takes place in an alternate version of the 1990’s where Japan has seen a rise in student-based rebellion and revolution for various movie-dystopia reasons. As a response to this and in an effort to (I guess) make the kids respect their elders, the BR Act was passed, forcing one middle school class a year into a little game of fighting to the death.

Actually, I’ll just let the most Japanese minute of film I’ve ever seen explain it.

This was one of those “formative” movies I’ve talked about here before. I watched it during that period in high school (overlapping The Edward Norton Period) where I started to really think about making movies. To me, Battle Royale played like a successful experiment in turning the most unappealing thing ever (child murder) and making an entertaining movie about it. An exercise in what you can get away with. Something that should be taught in film class rooms next to Le Chien Andalou when it comes to “here’s what you can get away with if you do it with enough artistry.”

Takeshi “Beat” Kitano is phenomenal as the ruthless Teacher, inserted into the source material (the crazy-ass-and-better-than-the-movie novel by Koushun Takami) just to give the legendary Kitano a role. Along with the character, they forced, via flashback, a psuedo-sexual relationship between Kitano and the main girl Noriko. But it’s worth it to have him in the film.


…till there’s only one left. Nothing’s against the rules.”

As you can tell from the embedded clip up there and as Megan found out, it’s a bit of a satire. That’s what Battle Royale 2 was missing, and that’s what any planned American remake would likely be missing too. The lack of seriousness and the overall campy nature of it allows this plot of child-on-child murder to play out without just feeling horrible. It has it’s moments though.


Pictured: The most ironic way to fend off a rape

It’s an easy KEEP IT for me. One of my all time favourites.

Megan’s Thoughts:

Max was correct in his idea that I wouldn’t like this movie but I actually enjoyed it far more than expected. It probably helps that my expectations were severely lowered with all of Max’s aforementioned lead-up grins (I’m beginning to think he does that on purpose so I won’t hate his movies.)

What I liked most about Battle Royale (which I’ve fondly nicknamed “The Original Hunger Games”) is, as Max put it, its ability to take a terrible subject matter (child murder) and make it entertaining. As a filmmaker we’re always looking for creative ideas and fresh takes on old news and I’d go out on a limb and say there may never be another take on child murder that would be green lit in this industry.

That’s what you’re worried about right now?

My second favourite part about this movie was that behind the crazy plot, the violence, the insane premise was that these characters were middle school kids, and even though they were murdering each other they still had some teenage tendencies. The boys were sex-crazed, they were all obsessed with popularity and some of the girls were straight-up bitches.

Boo, you whore.

beforeyoudieBut, violence aside, this movie did have its flaws in my opinion. It could have been at least 20 minutes shorter, with too many wide-angled pans of the scenery and some of the love confessions scenes dragged for eons, but that could also be my North American attention span, which has been whittled down to less than the amount of time it takes before you can skip a YouTube ad.

Overall, I don’t know that I’d watch this movie again, but I’d recommend anyone in film to watch it at least once. And frankly, it’s a pretty badass movie to talk about (and makes me feel cooler than talking about Hunger Games) therefore I’d go ahead and KEEP IT just for the novelty.

Verdict: keep.

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Battle: Los Angeles

onesheetWho bought it?: Max.

Why?:  Because this was our first date movie.

Non-Buyer’s Response: What were we thinking?

Max’s Thoughts:

Here’s what I was thinking: This is a bad movie that won’t be boring or sad but ultimately won’t be able to hold our interest and maybe we might kiss. It had worked for me before. It didn’t work here. At least not in the actual movie theatre. Megan has a silly rule about paying for movies and paying attention.

So Battle: Los Angeles is an interesting movie, but not a good one. I can almost see an attempt at a franchise here, a multi-film arc telling the story of the world fighting off this alien invasion. At the end of Battle: LA, the American Army figures out how to kill the aliens, so in subsequent films (Battle: Tokyo, Battle: New York City, Battle: Paris, etc.)  we’d see other cities and other nations fighting and using the intel collected by Aaron Eckhart, Ne-Yo and Michelle Rodriguez in the first film. That obviously didn’t happen. This movie bombed completely and signaled a shift in how willing we were to pay to see Aaron Eckhart in stuff.

It was one of those film that made you realize how important that “movie formula” everyone professes to hate actually is to your viewing experience. There’s a certain structure, a certain way things have played out over the course of 1,000’s of movies, and therefore a certain way that the audience needs things to play out to feel like they’ve seen a movie. Battle: LA misses the beats all over the place. The first act was over in a flash and the second act seemed to occupy 90% of the movie’s run time. When major beats like that are missed, audiences feel something is bad about the movie, even if they can’t put their finger on it. Or at least I do. I almost fell asleep. There were some good visuals along the way. That’s about all I can say about it. Can’t wait till we get to District 9 so I can watch a really good alien flick.

The best visuals had a noted lack of Eckhart.

The best visuals had a noted lack of Eckhart.

Obviously we have to keep it because it’s a sentimental favourite. And because somehow, someway, Michelle Rodriguez survives this entire movie, which is a rarity. She’s basically a female Sean Bean and she made it through a movie where half of the team dies in a single chopper accident like 30 minutes in. Good for her.

In a show where everyone was already dead, she still dies.

Megan’s Thoughts:

Dear god this is a horrible movie. I forgot how bad it was, probably because the first time I saw it, I was so excited/nervous to finally be on a date with Max that I didn’t notice. I chose the dinner spot, he chose the movie.

I’m a big Aaron Eckhart fan, and I don’t mind a good alien flick now and then. But Men in Black is more my style, this was closer to a war movie. And I’m not a fan of war movies. I get sad and anxious and frustrated. And Battle: Los Angeles is two hours of explosions and shaky camera. I had to close my eyes a couple times to stave off motion sickness. And frankly, it had some pretty ridiculous lines.

My favourite:

“Maybe I can help. I’m a veterinarian.”
(While the doctor is literally standing right behind Aaron Eckhart.)

However, I can’t deny that this movie will always resonate with me and I’ll keep it forever. I think Max chose it because he thought I might ignore my “DO NOT DISTRACT ME WHILE WATCHING A MOVIE” rule. I made it very clear before we went in that I am not the type to sit at the back and make out or whisper sweet nothings in your ear. If I pay to go to the movies, I’m going to watch the movie. Granted, given my previous statement of not remembering how much I disliked it, maybe I wasn’t paying as much attention as I set out to.

Verdict: Keep it.

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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!


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?


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.


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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