Take Five
By George Rose
April 28, 2009

Oh my God, they killed everyone but Kenny!

Something wicked this way comes and, no, it's not Voldemort. I've always been under the impression that if things are too good to be true, then something terrible is right around the corner. What goodness am I referring to? This week: the weather has been wonderful, I finished the last college finals I'll ever have to take, I graduate Northeastern University in a few short days and the Red Sox made sissies out of the Yankees and their front-runner fans. The Sox won the 2004 World Series after I came to Boston for college (or so I like to think) and now they are waving me a proud, victorious goodbye as I head back to New Jersey. Goodbye, Boston. Here's lookin' at you, kid.

Naturally, since these last seven days have been rather pleasant, I'm now living in a bomb shelter waiting for the sky to fall or for Bruce Willis to come riding into Earth on an asteroid. Since I finished all my work for the week and don't move back home until after graduation this weekend, I've had plenty of time to take those much needed five-minute breaks I'm always ranting about and watch some movies! Well, that's not true. It's Senior Week (the college kind, not the over-65-years-old discount kind), so I've mostly partaken in bar crawls, late night adventures, final reunions with friends and binging on all my favorite Boston restaurants. It's pretty sad leaving the home I've built these last five years, actually. While I don't have much time right now, I fully expect my first week back in NJ to be spent in bed crying and actually watching movies, though they'll probably be the kind that perpetuate MORE tears (here I come, Notting Hill). I might not have much time this week but just in case you do, here are a few movies that might make this already wonderful week a little better.

Garden State (2004)

Can you tell why I picked this movie? It might have something to do with me moving back to New Jersey after graduation. As many of you should know, NJ is the – wait for it – GARDEN STATE! Only the Garden State I'm referring to has nothing to do with tomatoes. The one I'm talking about – the film – was written by, directed by and stars Zac Braff, in his directorial debut. The film came on the heels of the huge success of his NBC television comedy Scrubs. I was once a die-hard Scrubs fan (when it was on NBC, not now that it's on ABC), but as soon as Garden State came out, I quickly realized I was actually a Zac Braff fan.

Garden State is about a young man named Andrew (Braff) who returns home to New Jersey to attend his mother's funeral. She died many years after the young boy version of Andrew accidentally handicapped her, which eventually led to being placed on psychiatric medication throughout his entire youth. Upon his return to the Garden State, he must deal with the blame he faces as the one who harmed his mother and the childhood his father put him through as a result. It's all very heartbreaking, which you might not expect from the otherwise hilarious comic.

While the film is decidedly deeper in tone than Scrubs, Braff isn't one to skimp on lighthearted undertones. Enter Natalie Portman! Natalie's Sam is the quirky, care-free counterpart that Andrew has been looking for, despite his initial hesitation. After going through several small adventures, the pair realize their old ways only work well when together and that despite the hardships of life, the little moments are always there to help you rebound. With my own return to Jersey just days away, I knew I would need the reminder there will always be little moments – and films – to carry me through the rough transitions. Garden State is the burst of reality that I was looking for.

Waiting... (2005)

Speaking of reality, guess who is going to be working as a waiter for the summer so he can spend time writing and going to the beach? THIS GUY! I'm due for some much needed time off after five straight summer-break-less years at Northeastern University. I've only waited tables once before, for six months, but Waiting... was a close enough depiction that I often refer to it as my own previous experience.

Waiting... stars Justin Long, Ryan Reynolds and Anna Faris as servers working at your nearest generic chain restaurant, Schenaniganz. Dean (Long) is the most educated of the staff and is offered the assistant manager position. The film doesn't try to dive too deep into the psyche of the server but does show many of the on-goings of the chain restaurant business, many of which are more realistic than you'd expect. The servers play pranks on one another, they all hook up and, yes, food is often dropped and put back on the plate. I could NEVER fathom doing such things myself (wink wink) but I have seen them happen time and time again.

Reynolds and Faris are two of Dean's friends and co-workers, but most importantly are two of the key comedic forces of the film. Reynolds has shown the capacity to do both comedy and action (remindeX-Men Origins: Wolverine" comes out Friday, starring Reynolds. SUPPORT THIS FILM!), and he nails the timing in Waiting... He is perverse, crude and shocking; everything Long's every-man isn't. However, everyone is party animal, and after long days of annoying customers (that's right guys, customers don't get to be jerks just because they're paying for the food) the gang is ready to get down and dirty at the expected after party. With a summer of serving ahead of me, I can only hope the debauchery in this film and my past experience repeats itself again.

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)

South Park is the greatest show on television, hands down. Better than Heroes, 30 Rock, or Rock of Love. Only South Park has the ability to entertain me every week with some new pop-culture reference tweaked to the philosophical extreme. The creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have only gained momentum over the show's 13 seasons and show no signs of slowing down. When the show was introduced back in 1997, nobody expected the potty-humor to last over a decade, win Emmys or create a musical movie.

Bigger, Longer & Uncut is a masterpiece with trace amounts of feces along the edges. The songs are original, clever and hilarious (Blame Canada was nominated for a Best Song Academy Award) and the plot, well, it's apocalyptic. After two of Canada's biggest celebrities, Terrance and Philip, start making potty-mouths out of the American children – including Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman –mothers everywhere start a war against the pair. This only makes sense since most parents refuse to ever take responsibility for what their kids are watching. God forbid they simply spend more time with the child! In any case, when the Canadian superstars' blood is spilled on American soil, it summons Satan and his mistress (Saddam Hussein, of course), and the fate of the world is once again placed into the hands of our four young heroes.

The movie doesn't take as many direct jabs at pop-culture as the show itself does, but the jokes are non-stop and only get better with every new song introduced. You won't find any silly, slapstick humor here, but if you're looking for smart and witty animation, you needn't look any further than South Park. For some, it can be a lot to handle (the cartoon is rated-R). To give you better insight into the minds of Parker and Stone, it might help to inform you that these two appeared at the Academy Awards in women's clothing, tripping on mushrooms. They look conformity and expected standards in the eye and laugh hysterically, both on and off screen. Their current season is something I hope you are all watching weekly, but if you're looking for some of their old-school jokes without the many hours needed to catch up on earlier seasons, Bigger, Longer & Uncut is the dose of doodie you need to unblock.

Thank You For Smoking (2005)

There are many films that have quotable lines. Then there are films that are so jam packed full of quotable lines that they mostly get forgotten and are replaced by the more relevant, underlying theme of the movie. Thank You For Smoking is one of those films and is about much more than smoking. It's about a way of life; the Nick Naylor way of life.

Nick is a smart ass spokesperson and lobbyist for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, played effortlessly by Aaron Eckhart. It is his job to make sure the anti-smoking loudmouths of the nation don't hinder the business or create new laws that would prevent further production. This becomes difficult to do while screwing a news reporter (Katie Holmes) who has it out to take him down or while bringing his questioning son on a business trip. What allows Nick to remain confident and successful is his mantra in life, the lesson viewers will be hard pressed to forget after the credits roll – in order to uphold freedom, we need choice.

He argues this point by elaborating that it isn't so much about whether smoking is bad for you (most smokers will agree it isn't good for their body), but about giving people the right to decide for themselves. His method of getting to this point is to beat his opponents in each argument by making them appear wrong. He preaches "if you're wrong, then I'm right," and to make them wrong, he pulls a flip-switch mid argument. While the naysayers say smoking is harmful and should be banned, Nick teaches the world that harmful things are impossible to avoid and it's up to the person facing the obstacle to decide for themselves. He doesn't claim cigarettes to be healthy, since picking a side is grounds for failure. Only by allowing people to choose and granting them that full freedom can the American way be fulfilled.

Maybe my opinion of the film is biased, since I myself am a smoker (I swear I'm really quitting this time!), but in honor of Nick I have one request: watch the movie and judge it for yourself. The lesson might not apply to you with regards to smoking but it will apply to some part of your life and I bet you'll win your next argument.

The X-Men Trilogy (2000-2006)

Two big things happen in the coming week. Next Tuesday I take a break from the Take Five article and do the monthly Uncanny Update (for all my fanboy friends out there). Also, this Friday is the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which I demand you support and stop downloading. Because of these two upcoming releases, and the recent Blu-Ray DVD release of the X-Men Trilogy (it's about time, since only the third film has available for high-definition purchase since Blu-Ray's birth), I felt it was worth adding to this week's Take Five. I know I should have surprised you all with a final fifth title of the week but recommending this box-set before Wolverine comes out is much more beneficial to you than another comedy that makes me laugh or Mandy Moore movie that makes me cry.

Given the word-count-limitation and my selection of three films to occupy one recommendation, there isn't much room for individual plot or analysis. What I will tell you is that the first two films in the series are amazing, while the third satisfies in at least its action sequences. You'll be hard pressed to find someone who would consider these films better than The Dark Knight, but you'll also be hard pressed to find a super-hero fan that doesn't know a little something about the X-Men. These films aren't meant to conquer the kinds of struggle Batman faced against the Joker, since there are far too many mutants in the X-Men world for there to be such a deep look. However, as far as summer popcorn flicks go, you can't go wrong with this trilogy. The action is intense, the special effects are top-notch and the cast includes so many great actors: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

There are simply too many great actors in these films to list. Jackman is carrying the torch of Wolverine into a new franchise, which itself is a prequel to this series. You don't need to see the X-Men trilogy to understand what happens in Wolverine, but by watching these films first you will be able to see why they bothered giving him his own series. Jackman is ferocious and I thank God every day that Dougray Scott didn't land the role instead (he chose to do Mission: Impossible 2 instead). In any case, fate had it out for Hugh and now we get to reap the benefits! Go buy the Blu-Ray trilogy and see Wolverine in theaters this weekend. If you only listen to one of the last five recommendations, listen to this one. But like I said before, it's all about making your own choice. I know what mine is and I'm no less than 100% sure I'm making the right one. See all you die-hard fans at the midnight screening!